CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Think great political discussions today.
That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "Meet the Press Daily." But THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now, and good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much. We have a big show on THE BEAT tonight. Trump donor Ambassador Sondland under fire for not revealing the clearly incriminating phone call that he apparently had with Donald Trump, his lawyer speaking out. We`re going to get into that later.
Donald Trump`s defenders, meanwhile, are downplaying the mounting evidence of bribery. Giuliani responding to Donald Trump talking about an insurance plan and did that Roger Stone jury is now beginning its deliberations. We have the report on all of that and how it relates to the Mueller probe ahead.
We begin right now with a major development in this impeachment case against President Trump. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who as you know, has been so careful throughout this process that for months she was opposing the plurality of her members who wanted impeachment. Well she is out there making a very clear case.
I want to show you right now at the top of our broadcast as she stepped out to the cameras today and made it clear. The Speaker says "Congress can impeach President Trump for bribery."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Quid pro quo, bribery. The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance. That`s bribery. It`s perfectly wrong. Its bribery - bribery and that is in the Constitution attached to the impeachment proceedings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s bribery. That`s the Speaker of the House making headlines today. Pelosi making it plain that she views this as a potential way to impeach Trump. An article of impeachment would be based on the accusation that Trump demanded Ukraine investigate the Bidens in exchange for money as a bribe. In this case, it`s your money. Remember that`s Donald Trump misappropriating money that taxpayer dollars were supposed to go to this other country.
Now this is new. This is the first time Speaker Pelosi has made this specific bribery case against Donald Trump. She`s obviously the top Democrat in power. And several other key Democrats have also recently discussed bribery as the article of impeachment that they may lead with against Donald Trump. So this is all brand new this week. Pelosi brand new today. That`s why it`s news tonight.
If you happen to watch THE BEAT some of this may sound familiar, because we have been reporting out the constitutional case here about this for some time. In fact, I wrote in October - on October 20th about why bribery makes a strong constitutional case for impeachment.
Now at the time the Democrats had not said a lot of core legal rationale, especially in public. But the Constitution`s answer, I wrote, was staring them in the face. Donald Trump`s actions regarding Ukraine fit one of the few offenses the Constitution specifically lists as impeachable - bribery.
We wrote that then. We reported it here on THE BEAT and it is interesting, obviously, to then see now the Congress looking at this as one of the potential articles of impeachment. An increasing number of witnesses, of course, are part of the evidentiary reason for that. In that sense this is pretty straightforward.
You have now more and more people out in public stating the evidence that would support a bribery case and you have more Democrats getting on board with the bribery argument.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): The President broke the law. This is a very strong case of bribery.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): President Trump was indeed soliciting a bribe. It`s extortion.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If you sought to condition, coerce, extort or bribe an ally, if this is not impeachable conduct, what is?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So that`s how the case is being outlined. What is the evidence for that case? Well again with these hearings kicking off we`re learning more and more. It`s quite fast the way this is coming in.
Let me show you just a couple of highlights. A key witness in the bribery plot here now in hot water today. Trump`s million dollar donor and handpicked Ambassador Mr. Sondland, who I mentioned earlier is facing evidence about the call that he had with Donald Trump about Biden investigation.
Now, remember, he already spoke to Congress in private and reportedly did not raise address or honestly talk about this call. He also originally testified in his private appearance that there was no bribery. Then he pulled something what we call a "Reverse Mulvaney." He changed his testimony after other witnesses came forward and moved over into the bribery camp.
Today, the AP reporting that another U.S. official heard that Donald Trump was on that call. This was all in the midst of Ukraine plotting. I should mention that`s an AP article. MSNBC as of this hour has not reported that story.
More on Sondland will be in this show tonight. I have something special to look at a problem with Trump`s defense about it. But before Sondland testifies next week, we are also going to hear from a key witness tomorrow, that`s the former Ukraine Ambassador Yovanovitch, who testified she was also facing a part of this plot, smeared by Trump and Giuliani, pressured to back up the Trump administration in public, threatened in terms of her career.
Democrats basically are going to dig into all of this and why that is part of the plotting. Now then you think about what happened this week. I can tell you this is new today. The new numbers we have in. Those hearings were seen or heard by over 13 million Americans across all the different news channels, suggesting this story continues to break through.
I want to bring in our experts right now. Juanita Tolliver, from Center for American Progress Action Fund, Robert Litt, former General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and NBC News Correspondent, Heidi Przybyla in the Congress. Good evening everyone.
Juanita, Speaker Pelosi is known to be a careful strategist to think first, to huddle with her folks and then come out. When you see her make that very clear, very aggressive bribery case today what does it mean to you?
JUANITA TOLLIVER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND: It means that she knows that she has the information needed to see it through, Just like she waited to hold a vote on this, just like she waited to begin proceedings, she knew the conditions what she needed and as soon as she got them she moved.
So this is her moving on this. After yesterday Ambassador Taylor`s revelation about what his staffers told him, the fact that you also have another staffer coming out today saying they can corroborate this story means that she feels comfortable in moving her caucus in this direction.
And what is interesting here is that is going to likely yield results. We know that one of those staffers who worked for Ambassador Taylor is being deposed later this week. And so what is going to come from that is additional corroborating information which is going to drive this forward.
MELBER: And Juanita this is a storyline. And the question for any investigation is what`s the evidence for the story and how do you tell it. And so thinking about her again embracing what could be one of the articles of impeachment - a big deal - bribery, it`s right there in the constitution and then looking at the way that she is taking on Trump in public - the communication.
Take a look at this noticed moment today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: The President has something that it is exculpatory. Mr. President that means you have anything that shows your innocence then he should make that known and that`s part of the inquiry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TOLLIVER: Look, she knows he is watching, as much as he said he is not. She knows that he is watching this with bated breath, huddling with his team in the White House every single day and she is making the case directly to him. Hey, if you got something put it up. It`s not everything you`ve done has obstructed this process every step of the way, and I am not backing down. This is Pelosi, again she sees her mark and she`s going after it with full force.
MELBER: Robert, I wonder what you think given your experience as a government lawyer at the highest levels of the way the Speaker made the case today. That there was something Trump wanted to help him get re- elected. He demanded it, as she said, in return for money and she says that`s bribery.
ROBERT LITT, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL FOR THE DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I think there`s a very clear mapping of this under the bribery statute. The bribery statute says it`s a crime to solicit anything of value in exchange for the performance of official duties.
And in this case, the thing of value was you was the President`s desire to have Ukraine aid him in his re-election efforts. The official act was the withholding of the aid and the solicitation is what we`ve seen both in the transcript and in the other testimony that we`ve had about Trump insisting that there was a linkage between the two.
So I think as you had - as you said earlier, it`s very easy to fit these facts into the framework of bribery statute.
MELBER: So this - just to be clear, if this were say a governor who wouldn`t have the type of quasi immunity that Presidents tend to have in our federal system or at least that`s the way DOJ has treated it. Would a governor be in trouble, could the governor go to jail for something like this?
LITT: Absolutely. A governor, a county official, any kind of government official who uses his or her power to take or withhold actions in exchange for something of a value to them.
MELBER: Heidi, out on the Hill. A lot of debate I want to show a little bit of the highlights back and forth. Take a look these.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): These liberals here in Washington continue to try to throw baseless allegations and accusations at the President.
PELOSI: The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections.
SCALISE: It`s a disgrace. I think people saw yesterday. They don`t have anything. There are no impeachable offenses--
PELOSI: Bribery, and that is in the Constitution attached to the impeachment proceedings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Look, for some time now, Speaker Pelosi has known that she has firsthand fact witnesses starting with the Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney who acknowledged that the aid was being withheld for political investigations that the president wanted. So they felt that they had the goods for some time.
Now whether the actual article of impeachment is going to read or be labeled "Writ Large Bribery", we don`t know for sure right now. But what we do know is that they`re narrowing the messaging.
That they feel that the message that needs to be communicated to the public in order for this to be understandable is to use words like bribery instead of, quite frankly, the Latin phrases that we`ve been using quid pro quo, because you don`t have to speak Latin to speak the language of bribery.
It is the President himself, his words that they believe fit into that bribery framework. And you saw that laid out by the Democratic counsel in the hearing with Ambassador Taylor. Let me give you a few examples of how the President was speaking the language of bribery in their view.
He used words according to Sondland like stalemate. If the if the investigations were not performed they`d be at a stalemate. That Sondland said that he is a businessman and that Zelensky - the Ukrainian President had to "pay up" before the President Trump cut the check.
That Zelensky had to go to a microphone and do it himself. That Giuliani wanted the words Burisma in there. And that they wanted to Zelensky in a box. These are all the instances and the language of bribery and the Democrats want us all to start using that language instead of this more obscure quid pro quo language--
MELBER: Right. Well, not just language--
PRZYBYLA: --that is not understable to lot of people.
MELBER: --I think he really went through and that was very interesting reporting. Now you`re talking about the way that the hearing was trying to pin down what each of those things meant if there was a plot.
I would just say and as reminding viewers, this is more than just language. We think a lot in politics and campaigns about framing and branding and yada yada. We`re talking though about what is the reason to remove a sitting President.
PRZYBYLA: What is the crime?
MELBER: Right. If Congress does that and the reasons the Constitution gives - and I`m going to in a member of Congress to get into this, is bribery, treason or a high crime. The first two were very much defined at the time. The third is a catch all. All of you please stay with me.
Let`s turn to a member of the Intelligence Committee, Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro. Good evening, sir.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Good evening. Good to be with you.
MELBER: Great to have you. You are on this key committee. And my first question for you Congressman is, why is the Speaker and the Chairman of your committee making this case explicitly about bribery right now and do you think that could be one of the articles of impeachment?
CASTRO: Yes, it could very well be. And I think the reason that Speaker Pelosi mentioned bribery and it`s likely that there could be other things as well in the articles of impeachment, is because President Trump was trying to take out a political rival. The way he tried to do it was by withholding military aid in exchange for a favor.
As he said, he asked directly for a favor. That favor was to investigate a political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden and the company that Hunter Biden had done work for, Burisma.
MELBER: And let me ask you a short question and then a longer follow-up. The short question is, do you think that Donald Trump obstructed justice in the Mueller probe?
CASTRO: I do.
MELBER: I know you do. Right? Let me ask you this way, because we`ve talked about that and you`ve been clear on that. How do you have a set of articles of impeachment against the President that does not include that in addition to Ukraine, if you and others are on the record saying that that was that bad?
In other words, even if Speaker Pelosi and others think that the messaging might be better to be more focus. Do you have an obligation, as someone who`s said that it`s that bad under the Constitution under your oath to make sure that that`s included?
CASTRO: Yes, I think that`s a fair question. And we`re not at the part - obviously, where we get - where we`ve drawn up the articles of impeachment yet. And that`s something that the Judiciary Committee will probably take up first before the whole body takes it up. But, yes, I thought that there was obstruction of justice in the Mueller probe. So it`s a discussion that we`ll have to have.
MELBER: Stay with me Robert. I`m curious what you think of what the Congressman just said. You are the kind of person who would often, frankly, be an expert witness at one of these hearings as a former DNI counsel. The Congressman says that there is a reason to include all of that. I wonder what you think.
LITT: Well I think that Mueller`s report laid out a very strong case that the President did obstruct justice. I think whether or not to include that in the Articles of Impeachment is a political calculation rather than a legal one. It`s a question of what Speaker Pelosi and the Judiciary Committee think is the most effective articles of impeachment to send to the Senate for trial.
I do want to make one additional point on the bribery, if I can, and that is that it`s important to understand that the bribe doesn`t have to be paid. You heard Representative Jordan and others yesterday making a big point about the fact that the aide was eventually released. The meeting took place. But the bribery statute makes it a crime to solicit a bribe even if the bribe isn`t actually paid, and that`s a point that should be emphasized all the time.
MELBER: It`s such an important point you make. Again, it`s not prejudging where all the evidence will show. But you`re defining the terms, which is how a lot of court cases work and certainly how an impeachment process is going to work.
We heard a lot about people saying, well, if he didn`t pull off his whole plot, does that make him innocent? As you say, the answer is obviously no. You and I were discussing earlier whether governors should go to jail for something like this. Governor Blagojevich is incarcerated right now for trying to sell the vacant Senate seat in Illinois, where he was governor and he had that power, and Barack Obama vacated his seat to become President.
As everyone knows Congressman that seat ultimately was not effectively sold because the investigation stopped Blagojevich from doing it.
CASTRO: Yes. No, that`s right, and that`s a great parallel. That seat was never actually sold to anyone and yet the governor ended up in jail and that`s the point that I was making yesterday in the hearing. For example, with attempted robbery you would still be charged, attempted murder, you`d still be charged.
Here with it with bribery, it doesn`t matter whether actually there was an acceptance or not. The President made that offer or tried then he`s guilty and it`s a crime.
MELBER: Congressman before we lose you, what do you think is the next most important thing we might learn or that you want to get at in these coming hearings?
CASTRO: I think that that`s pretty clear. It`s the interview with Ambassador Sondland and what he says about that conversation that he reportedly had with Donald Trump that was overheard in that restaurant. Remember there`s a witness who says I overheard a conversation that Donald Trump was inquiring about the Burisma and Biden investigations.
It was a conversation between the President and Ambassador Sondland. The committee is going to ask Ambassador Sondland very directly what happened in that conversation.
MELBER: I got you. And that`s going to be a big answer, I think people are going to be waiting to hear. What I`m going to do is think the Congressman and counselor Litt and Juanita. I want to thank each of you. Heidi, hang with me for one more moment. I want to play one more piece of business, so thanks to everybody. Take a listen to one of the Republican defenses today
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The only person I saw yesterday doing the job that they were elected to do was to President of United States. The question is nothing is there is impeachable and we should not be putting our country through this. We`re less than a year away from an election--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I showed the top Democrat, Heidi, there`s the top Republican in the House. I wonder if you could give us your reporting on that part of the defense that we`re hearing.
PRZYBYLA: The defense is, really at this point that you can`t prove it. Right? Because there is nobody who is sitting in a room with Trump when he said let`s do a quid pro quo. However, you`re seeing all of these fact witnesses now who are going to come forward who were there, including the individuals who heard the President themselves on the phone pushing for investigation.
So what this is really a preemptive attempt to try and form the narrative early that none of these guys have any credibility because it was all hearsay. Well this Sondland conversation which has now been exposed actually undercuts all of that, because that is the whole point. Is that the Ambassador was cut out. That it was hearsay because he was being pushed aside. Marie Yovanovitch was being pushed aside.
And now we have proof that the President was conducting all of this personally on an unsecured phone call in Kiev, which is one of the most notorious places for our lines to be tapped for surveillance by the Russians.
MELBER: You lay it out. It`s a lot there Heidi Przybyla, I wanted to get that last piece from you with the Republican leader. Thanks for your report tonight.
PRZYBYLA: Thank you.
MELBER: Coming up a new witness to a different phone call the one we`re just discussing. Well they`re breaking their silence. Also Fox News handling the damning testimony against Trump`s robbery plot like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIAN WHITON, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SENIOR ADVISOR: A bunch of deep state crybabies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washed up bureaucrats.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW": Professional nerds who wear their bow ties--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is this with the water bottle?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Water bottles and professional nerds, that`s later on tonight. Also conservatives have a new defense. It involves incompetence. And what the jury wants to know as they deliberate right now in the Roger Stone trial. We have all that up ahead.
I`m Ari Melber you watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: A Trump donor has suddenly become the most famous Ambassador to the European Union ever. Hotel mogul, Gordon Sondland now caught in the middle of this impeachment probe under heat, as several witnesses say he was plotting with Trump on the phone. Tonight news breaking, a second official overheard Sondland talking to Trump, one of the new revelations from the impeachment hearing
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM TAYLOR, ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: In the presence of my staff, at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations.
The member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now Sondland has already revised his private testimony about some of these issues. He claimed his memory was refreshed by what other witnesses said, which moved him over into the camp of people describing bribery. But, apparently, did fail to mention this incriminating phone call.
Now as Sondland stock has fallen, President Trump has gone from shouting out Sondland`s great work to suddenly having memory problems.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, Thank you, Gordon. Where is he? Great job, good.
Let me just say, I hardly know the gentleman.
The text message that I saw from Ambassador Sondland who is highly respected was, there`s no quid pro quo.
REPORTER: Do you recall having a conversation with Sondland?
TRUMP: I don`t recall. No, not at all. Not even a little bit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Donald Trump is spinning this impeachment defense so hard, he now claims he doesn`t remember this famous person. The maneuver is not very believable here. It`s widely known as a Mariah Carey move, for when the singer took a question about a rival singer Jennifer Lopez a.k.a. J.Lo, and then plausibly claimed she didn`t know her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIAH CAREY, AMERICAN SINGER-SONGWRITER: I love Beyonce. Beyonce is [Foreign Language]
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I don`t know her. That clip was classic shade which worked, because obviously Carey knows who Jennifer Lopez is and Trump knows who Gordon Sondland is, which makes Trump whole claim look weak.
And to paraphrase J. Lo "Don`t be fooled by the bribes that he got. He`s still, he`s still Gordon from the block." And on Gordon`s block people are not built for defying investigators. They talk. The stakes are high for Sondland talking to Congress. Live TV it will be appointment viewing next week.
We`re going to get into all of this with a very special guest the former top national security official when we`re back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: Joining us now Tim Edgar, former national security intelligence official. He advised the director of national intelligence under Presidents Bush and served on the Obama National Security Council and is now with the Brown Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Thanks for joining us.
TIM EDGAR, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL UNDER BUSH & OBAMA: Sure. Great to be here.
MELBER: Let`s start with very simply this Mariah Carey defense. Does it work to claim you don`t know or don`t remember someone that you do know?
EDGAR: I don`t think it works at all. It`s pretty clear that Ambassador Sondland was absolutely key to this whole scheme to try to pressure Ukraine to start this investigation. And he`s only turned on him since he`s changed his story to tell the truth.
MELBER: What happens then when if someone comes out as expected and confirms a lot of this stuff? Do you still need John Bolton in the sense of evidence or is that pretty devastating because he was the point person on some of this?
EDGAR: You know, I think it`s helpful to have John Bolton. But the evidence is getting pretty overwhelming at this point. I mean we have the call itself. That was very suggestive, very incriminating despite what Trump says about reading the transcript. I read it. It`s pretty damning.
And now we have a lot of witnesses coming out and saying, yes, and actually it was even a little bit worse than this. There was no clear communication to the Ukrainian officials that they had to play ball on this investigations or they weren`t going to get their aid to fight the Russians.
And just to point out that`s how serious that is. I mean this is a national security issue. This is not just a kind of a political football that we should be treating in that way.
MELBER: You`re saying how serious it is when the President basically seizes or steals military instruments, in this case military funding.
EDGAR: Yes. That`s right. I mean, this isn`t selling a Senate seat. This is selling for $400 million in military aid to a country that`s an ally of the United States as it`s fighting against the Russians.
MELBER: I think you`re making the - you`re referencing the selling of the Senate seat in Illinois--
EDGAR: That`s right.
MELBER: --which came earlier in the show. Viewers remember that. I mean, what you`re saying is that thing that put that powerful politician, that governor in jail, he`s still incarcerated. He got years in jail for that. You`re saying this thing Trump did - the evidence supports it is worse than that?
EDGAR: To me it`s worse, because we`re talking about national security. We`re talking about you know basically selling the national security of the United States for a political favor - for a corrupt political motive. And I really don`t see anything more serious than that. When you come to the issue of bribery or extortion, shakedown whatever you want to call it.
MELBER: Yes. And I want to underscore what we`re hearing from you is, your view objectively substantively on the issues. You`ve been at the highest levels there, including in the in the Bush national security team.
EDGAR: That`s right.
MELBER: So it`s striking hearing that from you. I want to play a little bit of the other criticism of Sondland from - excuse me not Sondland - of the case thus far, which has been, oh, maybe some of these witnesses only have secondhand knowledge. Sondland would appear to be different than that. But take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): Officials alarmed at the President`s actions was typically based on second hand, third hand and even fourth hand rumors and innuendo.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We`ve got six people having four conversations in one sentence and you just told me this is where you got your clear understanding.
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): Well, we`re not in a court gentlemen, and if we were, the Sixth Amendment would apply and so would rules on hearsay and opinion and most of your testimonies would not be admissible whatsoever--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A, what is your view of the general objection that some people are not firsthand witnesses to everything they`re describing. And b, how will this shift, because even if people find that persuasive, as mentioned, Sondland was on the call in the room et cetera?
EDGAR: Well that`s exactly right. I mean, we`re going to hear directly from Sondland. The witnesses that overheard the conversation, that`s not hearsay, that`s their direct recollection of what Trump said. The transcript of the call from July, which as I say is very damning, that`s certainly not hearsay.
What we have is a huge number of witnesses who are all saying the same thing. Some of them are more peripheral. Some of them are more central. But the question is where`s the other side? There`s no other narrative here. There`s no other explanation for holding up this military aid other than the very simple one that we`ve already received.
And, in fact, we`ve gotten from Mulvaney, from the Chief of Staff, essentially confirmation of that saying, yes, of course we use foreign aid for political purposes. Get over it. So I don`t think the hearsay objection really matters when you`ve got so much overwhelming evidence from people where it`s direct evidence and where it`s all pointing in the same direction.
MELBER: And Tim, finally, did you ever think in law school you`d be discussing hearsay objections on the national news?
EDGAR: I didn`t. And it`s just a terrible time for our country. I mean, we`ve had real problems you know during the Bush administration, huge controversies over warrantless wiretapping, the war on Iraq, major issues. But the differences with this, we have a corrupt personal political motive.
And that`s why I think you`re seeing national security experts and officials, regardless of their political views or affiliation, just reacting with a certain amount of horror here, because that is you know misusing the national security system for a corrupt personal political motive.
We haven`t seen that since Watergate - since Nixon. And you know to see that sort of dismissed as if it`s not important it really makes a lot of people pretty steamed.
MELBER: A sobering account and I know it comes from your concerns and your public service, and thank you for coming on "THE BEAT," sir.
EDGAR: Sure. Happy to be here.
MELBER: Appreciate it. Right, now the jury is still deliberating in this Roger Stone WikiLeaks trial. We could get a verdict any time. You know how that works. Only the jury knows. We have new developments on that later tonight.
And right now we`re going to get in to the rebuttals and whether bribery is suddenly OK in some places, when we come back.
MELBER: A lot of Donald Trump`s media allies are taking a certain view of how to cover this current impeachment era. They are blaring headlines like this as one way to deal with - well, I should say, a lot of the newspapers have headlines like this. But in the right wing echo chamber it looks a little different.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITON: What looks like a bunch of deep state crybabies.
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: This endless parade of washed up bureaucrats and Foreign Service officers--
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Self-important, uncompelling, well seemingly more important than they really are bureaucrats--
LIMBAUGH: A bunch of professional nerds who wear their bow ties and they have their proper diplo speak.
MARK LEVIN, "UNFREEDOM OF THE PRESS" AUTHOR: These two guys who are testifying, I couldn`t tell if they were doing a job interview, talking about their great grandfather and his wife or they were homeless guys.
RAYMOND ARROYO, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I don`t know.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: This look like a water bottle. Do you guys see that?
ARROYO: I mean the fish are not this hydrated. Look.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Professional nerds. And while everyone knows these hearings have been a major story I don`t think there`s any denying it. Fox News has also been focusing on a lot of other things that critics say could be distractions - reports on winter snow, a college student selling donuts, a controversy about a college newspaper, wild boars in Italy. So a lot of other news getting in there, while arguing impeachment maybe isn`t interesting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BILL BENNETT, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: There`s no burglary, there`s no break-in, there`s no tapes, there`s no dress, there`s no sex, there`s no Monica Lewinsky, just interest just isn`t there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BENNETT: Plus, most important, there`s no crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: But this only works if you have a consistent message and that can be hard depending on the evidence piling up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: I think that William Taylor was a very impressive witness and was very damaging to the President.
ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: Asking for a favor in return for doing a legal obligation - releasing the funds - is pretty clearly a violation of the criminal bribery laws. Republicans may not want to acknowledge that, which is why they`d rather undermine the witnesses than address the merits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I am joined by NBC News Senior Political Editor Mark Murray and host of the "Make It Plain" podcast radio host, Mark Thompson. The Marks.
REV. MARK THOMPSON, HOST, "MAKE IT PLAIN": You are two Marks, you have to say which is which, because people may not know.
MELBER: Well, Mark and Mark--
MARK MURRAY, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: I like it.
MELBER: It`s very close to Marquee Mark (ph), which is and in Spanish, so there`s something there.
THOMPSON: Yes, there is something.
MELBER: Mr. Thompson--
MELBER: You see there the nuance, because the facts are so strong that even people who might be expected to be rooting for Trump or softening for Trump - Mr. Wallace said, no some of this testimony is tough. On the other hand, there is a lot of effort by Trump`s allies to just get on to something else.
THOMPSON: Yes. Obviously, Chris Wallace and Judge Napolitano know that there`s life after Fox News and they want to sustain some type of integrity. They really have no choice, because this is compelling testimony. It`s going to get worse. You`re going to have the ambassador tomorrow.
And from what we`ve all heard she has a photographic memory. She`s going to give a lot of detail. I think we`re going to have the two individuals who can speak to the call which was the bombshell news from Taylor`s testimony on yesterday. I think we`re going to have them shortly.
And I don`t agree with Bill Bennett. This - what Taylor did the other day when he talked about that call and everyone over here. And that`s the real hearsay, Trump - everybody hears what Trump says, because he talks so loud on the phone to me.
This is a security issue. You`re restaurant in Ukraine and you`re screaming over the phone. I need Biden. I need Biden information. I mean it`s just insane. And we know his history of just talking on unsecure lines. But to me that`s the Butterfield moment.
When Butterfield was asked in the Watergate hearings is there a taping system? And Taylor is saying there was another call and several people heard it in his own voice not on tape. I think that`s pretty compelling.
MURRAY: Yes. To Mark`s point, I do think that we just - these hearings just began. And while Wednesday you`re going to have Gordon Sondland go on. And to me, that actually might be the most pivotal testimony yet on whether or not he can actually confirm yes or no this conversation happened with the President. Here`s what we actually discussed.
But to overall point of conservative media, I do think that it is important to look at how conservative media is playing out this story. Because at the end of the day, if there is going to be impeachment and removal from office, a conviction - those 67 votes, you`re going to see a sizable number of Republican defections.
And as long as those are the messages, it`s going to be very hard for Democrats to be able to convince people that this was a really difficult situation and rises to an impeachable offense.
MELBER: Well, and this scandal on the substance is a national security scandal. And we had seasoned government officials, including former Republican administrations on tonight speaking to the import of that.
On the political programming side, this also is a very now - very 2019 conspiracy theory echo chamber type scandal, because Donald Trump ultimately didn`t care whether Hunter Biden was literally jailed in a Ukrainian prison, which sounds a little a little silly to even say out loud, but rather that that image. That meme could be on Facebook, that that idea would be so good, that programming.
And so I put for you Mr. Murray - the other Mark, this parts of the hearing yesterday that we pulled that actually seemed to echo some of the right wing media, but they`re in government. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: The Ukrainians brought me substantial evidence of Ukrainian collusion with Hillary Clinton, the DNC, George Soros--
NUNES: Who worked with Ukrainian officials to collect dirt on the Trump campaign, which she provided to the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is plenty of evidence to show that the Clinton campaign was actually colluding with the Russians. They were colluding with the Ukraine--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In this Oval Office meeting on May 23rd after the Zelensky inauguration, didn`t he lament that the Ukrainians were out to get him?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Yes. They`re speaking a lot to the conspiracy theories, as you pointed out, that not only on the Internet that go on Fox News, but they`re really talking only to their own audiences.
And, obviously, if you`re a Fox News viewer you know exactly what they`re talking about. When it comes to Ukrainian and Hillary Clinton and Alexandra Chalupa and all of these kind of going down the list, Devin Nunes who actually also was yesterday was talking about star chambers. And to me it does really emphasize and underscore just the difficulty of all the different defenses that they`re trying to juggle.
THOMPSON: Oh, I would agree. I don`t think they have anywhere to go. As someone once said in court if you have facts you argue facts. It is about process you argue process. If neither works for, you just pound on the table, and that`s all they`re doing right now, is pounding on the table.
This is very dangerous. And now there`s this conversation about well let`s have a trial and draw it out for six, eight weeks and hurt the Democratic primary. How is handling a trial for the President`s misbehavior going to hurt the Democrats? That`s insane. So there - as usual they`re flailing. They don`t know what to do. There`s a panic.
And you better be careful, because this could affect the Senate, this could help flip the Senate for the Democrats, depending on how a vote, how they behave in trial.
MELBER: And whether it does or not, it certainly puts pressure on senators to be in the spotlight about what do you stand up for.
We hear from Republicans, I know you do in the Congress who say, I get it you want us to come on Trump every day. We have a life and a career before that, we have other things to do. That`s fine. But now you, at a constitutional level, have to be answerable to what you think these charges, these cases mean if it gets there. Mark Murray, Mark Thompson, thank you both.
THOMPSON: Thank you.
MURRAY: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead. Breaking news we`ve just gotten the "Washington Post" on another Trump official breaking ranks and testifying. We`ll explain. And we`re still watching potential verdicts could be tonight in Roger Stone trial, up to 20 years he`s facing, when we come back.
MELBER: Breaking news on impeachment coming out right now from "The Washington Post". Mark Zandi who is a career budget official over at the Office of Management and Budget is going to break with the White House and is now expected to formally testify in weekend depositions.
This would be the first budget official to cooperate with the impeachment probe. And "The Washington Post," in this new report, notes something very interesting. It is this person`s signature that appears on the formal letters that actually dealt with the delay of the money going to Ukraine.
Federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner joins me. When you look at this individual, how important are they as having their hands on the actual instruments, the actual execution of delaying the money.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Ari, if I am Mark Zandi, a 10 year OMB employee who has worked with both - under both Republican and Democratic Presidents, I am looking down the street to see if the bus is headed my way under which I will be thrown.
Because as "The Washington Post" just reported, as you indicated, Zandi`s signature appears on one of the what they call apportionment letters, which is basically one of the letters designed to put a hold on the money that Congress had designated to go to Ukraine for its own protection against Russian aggression. So I am scud (ph).
MELBER: Well, I was going to say so, this is key. This is the cash for the thing Trump wanted. This is what we opened the show with Speaker Pelosi for the first time making the case. That the whole point of this she said quote that`s bribery, because it was money in return for the election help. And you`re saying it`s important now - that the Congress is going to have the person who actually had their hand on the money.
KIRSCHNER: And the question has got to be, Mr. Zandi who was it that authorized you or directed you to sign that letter, putting a hold on those funds that were supposed to go to Ukraine, while frankly, Ukrainian soldiers died as a result of Russian aggression.
I`m quite sure Mr. Zandi, who sounds like a low level bureaucrat, didn`t make this decision on his own. Maybe he even made it in protest. We`ll have to see. But this is the money piece of the bribery scheme that you`ve been talking so much about, and it could be a really important piece.
MELBER: Well, and you reference bureaucrats. There has been some deriding of different people for that where they sit in the org chart. Mr. Limbaugh called some of them "professional nerds." The problem with that is, these bureaucrats, these nerds, these individuals they are the people who make the federal government run. They are the people who get the money out, who get the work done, who back up the Pentagon and the diplomats and all that stuff.
And so what happens if this person goes into the Congress and says, they confirm the fact that the money was held up, which would go to the executing of the plot. But they don`t know why. You can`t imagine that Trump or Mulvaney would probably brief this bureaucrat on the reasoning.
KIRSCHNER: He may not know to the top of the food chain. But you can bet he`s going to be able to tell Congress, who was it that provided you this apportionment letter, who was it that directed you to sign it, and did they provide you a reason as to why all of a sudden $400 million appropriated by Congress is being held up.
I predict Mr. Zandi, even though he has served under both Republican and Democratic Presidents, as of tomorrow, we will hear the President calling him a Never Trumper..
MELBER: Well my last question to you is, we did a fact check earlier on why obviously attempted crimes are still crimes. But putting that legal frame aside, if this individual says that there was an unusual and specific freezing of the money, does that make it worse, because it shows that they actually were doing this plot? They weren`t just discussing it.
KIRSCHNER: Yes. The plot really did come to fruition and the only reason, Ari, that the money was ultimately released was because they got caught. And here`s the thing. If you get caught by the whistleblower outing you, and you are righteously holding that money - withholding that money from Ukraine, you don`t have to change course.
You could, say, listen the whistleblower was out to lunch. We made a decision--
KIRSCHNER: It was righteous, it was appropriate and we`re going to stick with it. Not when they got caught, that`s when they released the money.
MELBER: Yes. You make you make a great final point there which is everyone can link arms and explain what happened if as some have said, if there`s exculpatory material. Briefly before I let you go any thoughts on this Roger Stone trial?
KIRSCHNER: Yes, there were some interesting developments today because we got a little bit of a glimpse inside the jury deliberation room. They sent two notes out and both notes had to do with count three of the indictment. There are seven counts.
The first one is obstructing justice by basically obstructing the congressional inquiry. Then there are five counts of lying to Congress and then there`s a witness tampering for basically telling Randy Credico do not testify, Forget what you heard, threatening him. So this one pertained to count three, which was that - the allegation is that Roger Stone falsely testified to Congress that Randy Credico was his go between to Julian Assange.
Here`s the problem, the way the prosecutors drafted that count of the indictment, there was a deficiency that was exposed today by the jury, because Roger Stone never testified that Randy Credico was his go between.
He testified that a person that I will not name was my go between. And the problem is, it wasn`t until after my testimony was complete, when his lawyer sent a letter saying, by the way that go between - that right person that was unnamed is Randy Credico.
MELBER: Interesting about that Glenn, as you`re pointing out as sometimes it is juries, who are citizens, who find out things and nail things and then the whole the whole system has to so the system. There is working there. We`re keeping our eye on the trial. I got to fit in a break. I have a little more it when we come back. Glenn Kirschner, thanks as always.
KIRSCHNER: Thank you.
MELBER: As promised, an update on that Roger Stone trial. Six days the Washington jury started deliberations today in the case. I can tell you now, five hours went by they didn`t reach the verdict. They did ask those two questions, we just discussed, and that means they are done for the night, but will be back deliberating tomorrow morning.
I will be back tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Hope you`ll join us for THE BEAT. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END