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Bloomberg apologies for Stop and Frisk policy. TRANSCRIPT: 11/18/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Nancy Soderberg, Timothy Edgar, John Flannery, Danya Perry

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Big week. We have a lot on this show. I can`t wait to banter with you on a less busy night, Katy Tur. I will see you soon.

Katy Tur, MSNBC HOST: Bye.

MELBER: The Trump White House is bracing for another week of public impeachment hearings. Even more accounts than we heard just last week. Eight separate witnesses will face off. That includes the most high-ranking Trump official who initially backed Donald Trump`s Ukraine plot, GOP donor and Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

He faces the impeachment probe after, of course, famously revising his testimony to ultimately be more incriminating against his boss, President Trump. Well, tonight I have a special report that we`ve been working on with everything you need to know about the man who might be the most pivotal witness in these whole hearings. That`s coming up tonight.

Also new developments on how impeachment investigators are going after Trump for allegedly lying under oath. But our top story now on this eve of the next round of impeachment hearings is how Congress is so quickly grinding forward in the impeachment probe.

Consider where Congress is just tonight, balanced between those three witnesses who spoke last week - you probably caught some of their testimony. It was also caught by over 13 million Americans. And then look at the witnesses this week starting tomorrow - eight of them.

Now in a typical congressional schedule, these kind of investigative hearings could easily take over a month. And let`s be clear, in a criminal probe like from DOJ, and I`ve covered my share of them, this kind of thing would take at least six months to a year or more.

And I mention that, because as you may have heard, Chairman Schiff has argued his committee is doing exactly that style of probe, because unlike, say, the Russia investigation or Clinton`s Whitewater issues or of course Watergate, there is no special counsel on Ukraine. There is no special counsel or DOJ operation that is revealing evidence or facts or testimony for Congress to review.

Congress is gathering all this itself. And Congress is pressuring witnesses itself, and it`s getting some results. Take the heat on Gordon Sondland. It`s moved him towards more admissions about the Ukraine plot in private. And so this week Americans will hear from him for the very first time.

He is going to be something of a reluctant star witness who was on board and helping execute at least for a time Rudy Giuliani`s famed shadow foreign diplomacy. Sondland wasn`t a typical ambassador. He had this access to the highest levels of the administration and the President.

"The Wall Street Journal" has obtained new evidence today about how it worked, and that is pretty damning stuff, that Sondland will almost surely be asked about this week. And I`m going run through it with you briefly before we turn to our experts.

I`m about to show you this new written evidence that multiple officials, including Mr. Sondland basically saw Donald Trump`s call with the President of Ukraine as a premeditated operation to get Ukraine locked in to investigating the Bidens. Again, this is based on what they said, not any other criticism.

Sondland, e-mailing before the infamous Ukraine call that he talked to the Ukrainian President just now, "He is prepared to receive the President`s call, will assure him that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and turn over every stone." And you have Mick Mulvaney responding in these newly leaked e-mails. "I asked the National Security Council to set up the call for tomorrow."

Now this is important, because consider how the house Republican lawyer picked at certain details in his questioning, offering a kind of defense by emphasizing things like the Ukraine President brought up Giuliani first. Didn`t bring up Donald Trump bringing up Giuliani, that somehow maybe this was just something that was kind of unfolding in front of the President, that Trump wasn`t pushing a planned bribery conspiracy to get something from Ukraine, but things just popped up.

Now lawyers make those kind of defenses all the time, and they can work if they`re true. So why am I telling you this right now? Because these newly leaked e-mails fact-check that attempted narrative. They offer contemporaneous evidence that these top Trump officials were prepping and coordinating and executing the premeditated plan to do what Giuliani had been cooking up, to get these probes of Biden and the DNC done by a foreign government.

Now in our constitution, if those probes were a bribe, extorted in exchange for military aid, well, that`s impeachable. And maybe this is why today some Trump allies are now arguing these public hearings are exposing things they prefer stay secret.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Having this all come out into public has weakened that relationship, has exposed things that didn`t need to be exposed. This would have been far better off if we had just taken care of this behind the scenes.


MELBER: Would it be better off behind the scenes? Well, it depends who you`re talking about, right? Senator Ron Johnson, of course, has two roles in this scandal. As a Senator, he would vote in any trial of President Trump.

But he is also an effective witness, basically, because he spoke with key players in the scandal, including, guess who? Mr. Gordon Sondland, who allegedly told Johnson the military aid was linked to those probes, meaning linked, like a bribery plot.

Now Johnson says, according to these accounts, that he actually called President Trump to demand answers. That he was pushing back in real-time, and then Trump denied it. So, again, not casting any aspersions here, that may be a good thing for the Senator. That may be a good thing for people who didn`t want this to happen. But we have other witnesses who say the opposite.

So who knows right? Well, impeachment investigators are going to try to figure that out. They`re going to try to ultimately know with enough evidence for the public to make up its mind.

Meanwhile, today, also the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell offering up a preview of a potential timeline for any trial.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It looks to me like the House is going to be on this until Christmas. Then it comes over to the Senate. It displaces all other business. The Chief Justice of the United States is in the Chair. Senators are not allowed to speak. They have to sit there and listen, and I`m not sure how long it will go on.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Nancy Soderberg, Ambassador to UN under President Clinton; Timothy Edgar, former White House and NSC official in multiple parties, a Senior Fellow at Brown University`s Watson Institute. We should mention he is also the author of "Beyond Snowden" and Former Federal Prosecutor and Congressional Counsel, John Flannery. Good evening, everyone.



MELBER: Mr. Flannery, on the investigative footing, I begin with you.


MELBER: Your view of the power of these emails, because they were written by the principles, and they look bad.

FLANNERY: When I was a kid, there were a lot of these movies in which the ceilings would come in on the good guy and the walls, and that`s what we have here. And these emails are powerful, because they remove some of the phony arguments which you sometimes hear in courtrooms and you`ve certainly heard on the Hill, which is, "Well, what about this? And what about that? And have you proven this? And could it be this and the other thing?" All hypotheticals without any evidence.

And the burden of a prosecutor usually, and I think the House is taking this seriously with Kaufman and Schiff is to close off those holes, because this is an important undertaking. We`re talking about perhaps removing a President of the United States, a rare occasion and historic occasion with unprecedented misconduct.

And so the fact that not only do we have Rudy starting this in 2018, but we have Sondland in this embarrassing situation of having text messages and e- mails and communications that show that he had this deal he thought hammered out before the telephone conversation on July 25th between the President and Zelensky.

So we have a very damaging set of facts here. I mean, this would be a plea bargain in real life. And I can`t believe there hasn`t been a delegation that`s gone to the residents today and said maybe we should talk about this.

MELBER: Well, you`re echoing something that a fellow prosecutor in the same justice department you served in said on this program, David Kelley, who was SDNY U.S. Attorney. He said citizens would plea on this information. You wouldn`t go to trial with this much evidence.


MELBER: The President, obviously, is different and the Senate trial is a different structure. Nancy, just to take a step back on the diplomacy given your great expertise and your service, had you ever seen anything approaching this in any of your work in government where you have this donor diplomat saying we`ve got it. We`re going to have this foreign government go after your domestic rival. We just need a call about it.

No, I`ve been in government service for decades and never seen anything like that. What`s unusual in particular about this whole particular episode is the President using almost $400 million in critical aid to Ukraine for his personal benefit. And that`s what this is all about. And I think it`s high time that the supporters of the President stop trying to hide from the truth.

And they should know by now, look at all the people who have already gone to jail from trying to lie about this. They need to just say all right, the President held up aid for political gain, and they can argue that`s not an impeachable offense, that the Senate won`t convict them. But they can`t try and - if they haven`t seen by now, and we have eight witnesses coming forward this week, all of whom are going to say that this was what happened.

MELBER: So you`re convinced on that - just the way you`re putting it. You`re convinced the public evidence shows that President Trump was abusing the U.S. taxpayer dollars to try to extort election help?

I think that is exactly what happened, and they can spin it however they want. But the facts are that the President held up $400 million of aid in exchange for dirt on the Bidens. Now that`s the facts.

Now the Republicans are going to argue, as Nikki Haley already has, well, nothing really happened. The aid went through, and there was no investigation of the Bidens. Well, that`s because the whistleblower blew the whistle and they decided they better back off. And the defense is not clear from the president.

You have a different trial balloon every day. One minute it`s well, nothing really happened. And the next minute, this stuff was legitimate.

MELBER: Trial balloon, no pun - trial balloon, no pun intended.

  SODERBERG: Exactly. So I think what they really - this is serious. I don`t think the president takes this seriously enough. He`s tweeting - he is intimidating witnesses, other obstruction of justice.

MELBER: Yes, let me--

SODERBERG: And the Democrats are racking up the obstruction of justice charges--

MELBER: Let me bring in Tim on this as well, because I want to give him a turn. And Tim take a listen to what the Secretary of State said.


REPORTER: When Ambassador Yovanovitch was on the Hill on Friday, the President made a tweet while she was appearing saying that everywhere she went bad. Is it an assessment you agree with?

MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I don`t have anything to say. I`ll defer to the White House about - on particular statements and the like. I don`t have anything else to say about the Democrats` impeachment proceeding.


MELBER: Tim, this comes amidst new report that there`s a lot of strain here between the President and his principles, including the Secretary of State. A senior administration official - I`m reading from NBC, it says, "the view was that Trump just felt rein your people in, get control."

Your view of that in that propriety, and I`ll remind viewers you have a lot of experience, like others on the panel, including being a national security official for George W. Bush.

TIMOTHY EDGAR, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL UNDER BUSH & OBAMA: I mean, I think there is just an undercurrent of rage inside the national security apparatus. The State Department professionals are being mistreated, intimidated for telling the truth. And then their boss, the Secretary of State, instead of standing up for them, defers to the White House.

Now, of course, it was difficult for him to say anything else at that point. I think people understood that. But they feel alone. They feel like they`re under siege, and they`re not being protected by the Secretary.

And so, I think that`s really what`s going on here is that you`ve got pretty unanimity among the national security professionals who served for many, many years or decades out of patriotism that when they come out and tell the truth and cooperate with an important inquiry, that they`re going to be attacked by the President, and that they`re not going to get backed up by their boss, Secretary of State.

MELBER: And you`re saying that`s wrong?

EDGAR: Absolutely. I mean, Mike Pompeo, he needs to stand up for his people. And if the President doesn`t like that, then fine. He can be fired, or he can be forced to resign.

SODERBERG: I have to just - let me just jump in here too. I mean, this is the Secretary of State failing to stand up to his own employees who are being vilified by this process. And that cowardice statement from the Secretary you just played, this isn`t about impeachment. This is about the President of the United States attacking his ambassador for no reason. That`s not impeachable, I mean, that`s just abuse.

MELBER: And let me bring--

EDGAR: Yes, and it`s not the first time. I mean, we`ve seen that--

MELBER: Well, Tim--

EDGAR: --the intelligence community. Yes.

SODERBERG: And Pompeo is trying to figure out whether he wants to be a Trump loyalist and be able to run for the Senate or be Secretary of State. And that is no longer tenable. He has to pick. Either represent the building or get out and go run for the Senate. But he is trying to do both, and it`s not working.

MELBER: And Tim, that brings us back to the point that you and Nancy are agreeing on, which is in your experience, which as we mentioned is in national security in both parties, there are obviously intense policy debates, and they become democracy debates about what to do with our foreign policy. That is - how a democracy is supposed to happen, and it goes on.

But when you see this level of undermining of the independent career public servants, be they at State or Pentagon or anywhere else, is that in your view rise up to also a part of what the Congress says maybe the President overstepping his authority?

EDGAR: Sure. It`s part of the overall abuse of power. I mean, we saw that with Sondland in the first place with Giuliani. They were trying to bypass the system that set up to safeguard our national security with the National Security Council, with the interagency process.

And of course, the person in charge of that, John Bolton is no liberal. He is a fierce conservative Republican. And so the point is, though, that he was loyal to his people. He was loyal to the process in a way that Trump found inconvenient. So he tried to go around him.

MELBER: And Tim, Nancy advised me earlier, this is serious. So I may get on her bad list, but I would have to mention. Mr. Bolton could be grammatically upset to even have the sentence with the word "liberal" and his name in the same sentence.

EDGAR: That`s right, that`s right.

MELBER: If you know Mr. Bolton.

EDGAR: Sure.

MELBER: And so it goes beyond the ideology. Flannery is coming back for another item. I want to have one more question here to the Ambassador. Take a look at Speaker Pelosi, who is someone you know from her work, from her oversight, from her time on the Intelligence Committee, putting the challenge to the President today. Take a look.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The President could come right before the committee and talk - speak all the truth he wants - that he wants to--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t expect him to do that.

PELOSI: If he wants to take the oath of office or he could do it in writing. He has every opportunity to present his case.


MELBER: We`ve got about 30 seconds, Ambassador. What do you see her doing there?

SODERBERG: she is inviting the President to put the evidence forward, and apparently the President is willing to consider that. This is an administration that has refused to let people with firsthand knowledge testify. The one who knows the most is the President, and I hope he does it.

He is under investigation apparently for not telling the truth under the Mueller investigation. So this is his chance to come forward. The truth will catch up with him. The sooner he puts it out there, the better.

MELBER: Striking. Striking accounts of people who have been national security officials, Soderberg and Edgar, my thanks to you. John Flannery comes back.

SODERBERG: Thanks so much.

MELBER: I`m going to fit in a break. But let me tell you when we come back, my special report of the man at the heart of this impeachment scandal, Gordon Sondland. We`re going get into a lot, including some things you may not have seen.

Also, later tonight, new reporting on investigators looking into whether, as mentioned, Donald Trump did lie under oath, and what do you do about that?

Also, new calls for Donald Trump`s Attorney General to not only be rebuked, but formally impeached. We`ll tell you why that has hit a new level and we`ll play some of the sounds you`ll understand where he is coming from.

And later, there are new plans - in the story we brought you earlier on THE BEAT. "The Hill" saying it will correct or revise some of John Solomon`s work on Ukraine in that publication. I have that story later tonight. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MELBER: We`re beginning a historic week in the impeachment probe. Nine witnesses now set to testify. No one more anticipated, though, than this man, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a hotel magnate who had no diplomatic experience thrust into the center of this impeachment crisis.

He will be the first official to testify in public who has full-blown firsthand knowledge of the beginning, middle, and end of the alleged bribery plot. And so now we have a special report on Sondland`s transformation from an Oregon businessman to this Ukraine confidante of so many senior Trump officials.

And we`re going to reveal how some of the traits he exhibited in business, including his appetite for risk and his interest in power would catapult him into this historic scandal. Newly obtained e-mails shows how Sondland was acting as Donald Trump`s first-hand person on all Ukraine plotting, briefing the White House on every move, a scandal that has followed him all the way back to Oregon.


MELBER: Protesters chanting "Tell the Truth" as he hit the airport earlier this month. You see them right there. Sondland is the founder of Provenance Hotel. This is a boutique chain across the U.S. And there is an introductory video we want to show you when he first won that ambassador position, citing that work in his business and what his millions had earned him, a taste for some of the finer things.


GORDON SONDLAND, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Hi, I`m Gordon Sondland, the new Ambassador to the European Union. I started in the commercial real estate business and pretty soon discovered the hotel business, which then led to creating my own hotel management company.

I`ve been a pilot since I was 15 years old, and now really enjoy flying jet aircraft. I`m also a lover of art. We`ve been fortunate to loan a couple of paintings to the White House.


MELBER: And that`s nice, if you have paintings to loan, why not loan them to the White House? But Gordon`s business record shows he also would push boundaries. It was an early version of his private equity firm`s website that you could get a two-day turnaround for any project needing cash, saying they abhorred red tape.

While tax records reveal that while he claims to live in Seattle for tax purposes, the state has no income tax. He has also raised two children in Portland and registered his cars there and generally lived there. I want to be clear. The states have not suggested those were illegal choices, but they show an aggressiveness that gets him right up to the line in business, and we`d soon learn in other endeavors.

As Ambassador Sondland was pushing limits again, look at this. Did you hear how he was renovating his official residence in Brussels with your money, thousands of taxpayer dollars on furniture, rugs and custom woodwork. One American official saying it was like, "A real 18th Century Jefferson in Paris type of behavior."

Now politically Sondland is a life-long Republican and he had been in the more establishment Bush wing of the party. He supported Jeb Bush in the 2016 primary against Donald Trump.

But after Donald Trump won the nomination, Sondland then began fundraising, doing an event in Portland. When there was a backlash, he initially pulled out of that and announced he wouldn`t support Trump`s candidacy, citing the attack on the Gold Star family and the evolving positions on values.

So that`s what he said in august of 2016. Then Trump won, and Sondland went on to donate a $1 million to Trump`s inaugural committee through four different companies, which was seen as a way to hide the actual public backlash that he`d, of course, experienced before. And then he wanted to become an ambassador.

A Trump official saying Sondland was clamoring to do it. One Oregon insider dubbing him a guided missile for getting access to the most powerful person around. His efforts worked.


SONDLAND: I`m very excited about being President Trump`s selection to be the United States ambassador to the European Union. The team at the USEU is second to none. Each and every one of the bilateral ambassadors, whether they be political or career appointees, have extraordinary diplomatic, business, and people skills.

President Trump has asked us to accomplish a great deal in the coming years. I look forward to it.


MELBER: While, Sondland was laying on the praise just there for the career nonpartisan diplomats, think about how that looks right now. Because he soon showed a very different approach - and that was lodge before long before he found himself at war with the same nonpartisan diplomats over his plotting.

But take a look at something that I`m going to show here you may not have seen. This new ambassador with all of this money and owl this plotting and all the claims for how he was going to do business, well, he struggled with the actual job with diplomatic expertise, or even naming foreign heads of state.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a favorite leader, though? Angela Merkel, Theresa May?

SONDLAND: Margaret Thatcher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Margaret Thatcher? Well, she is long gone. Anyone today? Emmanuel Macron?

SONDLAND: Abraham Lincoln.


MELBER: Abraham Lincoln - ha, ha, ha. But those who actually knew Sondland from his days in Oregon politics say this was always going to be rocky. These are people who knew him back in the day. One strategist describing him as notoriously unencumbered by self-awareness, and others saying he was basically viewed as a rich but naive player who struggled to navigate Oregon politics, let alone a national diplomacy.

"You think you`re going to be able to navigate Ukrainian and D.C. politics", this insider said? "Unbelievable. That takes some confidence." It`s not only Oregon that would say this - people there in that political space.

Take someone you`ve now heard of, the former top Russia Advisor Fiona Hill. That she raised counter Intel concerns, he was giving out official`s personal phone numbers and texting, which she was concerned, would be exfiltrated by Russians easily, making this proclamation all the more telling.


SONDLAND: We are calling out disinformation and we continue to closely monitor and counter malicious cyber activity and disinformation to safeguard the integrity of our democratic institutions.


MELBER: His colleagues thought he wasn`t safeguarding his own texts and phone calls. And of course, think about it, today we`re reading his e-mails in "The Wall Street Journal." There may be something about the way he conducted himself that left him open to more evidence being gathered.

Now other aides also were concerned about what he was doing on substance. NSA Adviser John Bolton removed Sondland`s name from the people who were going to attend Ukrainian President`s inaugural, and then it was reinserted. Apparently Bolton was overruled at a higher level, like Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, there is testimony that Sondland informed people he was assigned to be in charge of Ukraine. Now was the EU ambassador so eager to be in charge of Ukraine? Well, take a look at some light that might be shed on this from his wife, who told Fortune he wanted to be ambassador because he loves to do deals, and there is some video that gives context to this, that I think impeachment investigators might be interested as well.

This is back in 2016, Sondland saying how he learned to do politics, and how he learned to be good at - wait for it - using quid pro quo. This was when he was working between the parties in Oregon. Take a look.


SONDLAND: The governor knew that I had a relationship with the Bush White House and asked me to work on a myriad of projects quietly to enable the state to receive certain federal money for very specific projects. There was always a quid pro quo. The Governor would help the President with something and the President would help the Governor with something. And it was very transactional.


MELBER: There was always a quid pro quo. Sondland in 2016 also said he saw less of that approach to politics than he as a millionaire donor thought that was a shame.


SONDLAND: There is less ability to understand what someone else needs and figure out what you need and make a deal. And it`s unfortunate because I think everyone loses in the process.


MELBER: Does everyone lose in the process? Well, take a look at something else. Sondland speaking to a Ukrainian news outlet - this is in July, and it`s one day after Donald Trump`s now infamous call with Zelensky that Sondland was so integral and involved with. And look at what he says here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With me is U.S. Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland. He`s going to talk with me about his - how often he visits Kiev, what he likes to do here, and who he spoke with today. Thank you so much for joining us.

SONDLAND: Hi, Carrie (ph). How you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m good. Thank you.


MELBER: It starts out nice enough there. Sondland also confirms that he has insights into the Trump/Zelensky relationship.


SONDLAND: I had a wonderful hour-long meeting with President Zelensky that followed on the heels of his telephone call yesterday with President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he give you insight in what they spoke about?

SONDLAND: Absolutely.


MELBER: Absolutely. And now it gets really interesting, because Mr. Sondland, perhaps he can`t help himself, or perhaps he just wanted to brag a little bit in this once obscure media interview, but watch what we`re about to show you here, something he might regret.

He says out loud here on camera, for all of history to know, that he was speaking with President Trump right before Trump called Zelensky, and he doesn`t tell any of those extra details about the request for a Biden probe.


SONDLAND: I actually spoke with President Trump just a few minutes before he placed the call. And not only did the President call to congratulate President Zelensky, but also to begin the collaboration of charting the pathway forward with the U.S.`s support of Ukraine.


MELBER: The pathway forward, though, did not involve him publicly disclosing what we now know. That it was based on getting the investigations Trump wanted, that Sondland kept the Trump aides in the loop about Ukraine, getting political probes going. That pathway, in public, didn`t include any admission of the investigations.

Remember, Mr. Sondland changed his very testimony about that, which we`ve shown you in our graphic where he moved from no bribery to bribery because it turned out that ambassador Sondland himself was solved in the bribery plot, and he remembered that earlier this month. He was even confronted by protesters the day after this memorable switch occurred.


REPORTER: What compelled you to change your testimony?

SONDLAND: I didn`t change my testimony. But I can`t answer any questions.

REPORTER: You did not change your testimony at all?


MELBER: That day Sondland could walk away. And he did. But here`s what`s different tonight. Ambassador Sondland`s days of walking away from these questions ends, as he faces impeachment investigators this week with more e-mails and more evidence and more knowledge than even he has about his own role in all of this.

They know things he doesn`t, which is probably why he thought he could dodge in his past testimony. On Wednesday, Mr. Sondland will face investigators who can press why he downplayed this plot so much that he did have to change his testimony under, yes, perjury exposure. Why he cut out apparently incriminating details of the call with Trump? Even as Ambassador Taylor and other witnesses testified under oath about those damning details.

So as we look back on Gordon`s promotional details, which ask which Sondland will America see on Wednesday? The smooth high-flying multimillionaire Trump donor ready to make a deal? The businessman turned political confidently telling everyone how things really work, and there is always a quid pro quo?


SONDLAND: There was always a quid pro quo. The Governor would help the President with something and the President would help the Governor with something. And it was very transactional.


MELBER: It was very transactional. Or will America meet a different Sondland, that newly hesitant witness who came back to revise his testimony when he saw it conflicted with, yes, those diplomats he used to praise. Because he or - I don`t know, maybe his lawyers realized in a factual fight with those diplomats, with the bill Taylors of the world, Sondland would lose.

The idea of that witness, a Sondland who just says I can`t spin anymore. I`m going tell all, a potential John Dean for the Trump era, if you will? The idea of that witness scares this White House the most. President Trump already preparing for that possibility, distancing himself from his hand- picked Ukraine point person, much as he`s distanced himself from past fixtures when they no longer prove useful.


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 tell you, I hardly know the gentleman.

The text message that I saw from Ambassador Sondland, who`s 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.


MELBER: Which Mr. Sondland shows up and what Sondland does this week could shape his place in history, his own legal exposure, and of course that of President Trump. But I know what you might be thinking after all of this.

Interesting new details, but wait a minute, aren`t the outlying to the alleged Ukraine bribery plot already here and simple? Extort election help for money. Well, the question is how Sondland will explain it under oath. Will he be honest, even if it incriminates? Will he be dodgy and obfuscating?

To quote someone with more legal experience than Mr. Sondland has shown thus far, Dwayne Michael Carter, "What`s understood ain`t got to be explained. But you don`t understand me, so let me explain." When you`re facing heat, you have to decide how to explain your story. And as Lil Wayne continued, "It`s scary, but don`t lie, no tale fairy. Be real, extraordinary. Perry Mason facing the barrel if he tattle. But my god is my judge, no gown, no gavel."

If you unpack that, it sounds pretty gangster. Facing threats if you tell the truth. But that is where we are right now. And I mean that seriously, a President applying gangster tactics of threatening witnesses in public as they testify, under oath, about the truth to the American people.

For Mr. Sondland, the truth is largely already out there. He helped execute this Ukraine plot. He pushed the investigations before and after the incriminating call. He doubled down in other private calls with President Trump, and he initially joined the denials on the cover-up.

So now that this truth is spilling out, what will he do? That`s the evidentiary question hanging over this week`s hearing. Will the person who was in the room trying to execute this bribery plot step up and confess? We will all be watching, because, again, what`s understood ain`t got to be explained.

We`ll be back with a lot more in 30 seconds.


MELBER: Turning to another important story tonight. There are new calls for Attorney General Barr to face his own impeachment. That is a move, that`s obviously far more serious than the calls that recuse or be held in contempt.

A top Congressman saying, "Barr is a liar who delivered one of the most partisan screeds ever uttered and should face impeachment and lose his law license." It`s about a speech he gave to conservative legal group where he departed from the usual discussion of law or precedent to making nakedly ideological attack on people who he may disagree with.

Now this is highly unusual for an Attorney General.


WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Immediately after President Trump won election, opponents inaugurated what they called the resistance. The fact of the matter is that in waging a scorched earth, no holds barred war of resistance against this administration, it is the left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and undermining the rule of law.


MELBER: Barr is asserting without much specific evidence that people who happen to be liberal are against the rule of law. Now, again, people can say that wherever politically, but the Attorney General is supposed to be nonpartisan and non-ideological in his public work. He also impugned the motives of Congress conducting its lawful investigative role.


BARR: The sheer volume of what we see today, the pursuit of scores of parallel investigations through an avalanche of subpoenas is plainly designed to incapacitate the executive branch and indeed is touted as such.


MELBER: Barr didn`t need to make this address so combative or newsworthy. These kind of legal addresses aren`t usually in the news at all. And critics are pointing to the timing amidst reports that impeachment has strained his relationship with Trump, that Barr reportedly declined to give a press conference clearing Trump of any Ukraine wrongdoing.


MELBER: And after cameras caught Barr having what looked like at least an animated discussion through the windows of the White House, you see it right there.

MELBER: I am joined by Danya Perry, who is a former U.S. Assistant Attorney in the famed Southern District of New York. Thanks for being here.


MELBER: have you ever seen an Attorney General do anything like that?

PERRY: I have not. This was, as you say, a highly unusual and very partisan speech. He did not need to be - to deliver that kind of screed, as you say. Not just the shredding of norms and not just sort of a new gloss on executive power and on the erosion of that power, but really sticking it to the Democrats, and as you say, the people who have shredded those norms and violated the rule of law. It was highly unusual.

MELBER: When you hear the phrase "by any means necessary," what does that invoke roughly?

PERRY: I mean, that`s authoritarian. That`s a strong-mankind of a statement.

MELBER: I mean, it generally refers to something that is beyond lawful. And so to have a person who enforces the laws, who, everyone, I think knows who follows the news, who is also embroiled in some very suspicious use of domestic police powers, including being criticized by a judge for going after the guy who replaced James Comey, for reviewing the Russia probe in a way that many people is suspicious, for doing his foreign diplomacy.

For him to then say, oh, it`s the critics doing it. This is classic projection technique, classic thing of accuse the others of what you`re doing. And yet I want to play something else that hasn`t yet gotten as much attention from the very same speech about his view that anyone who happens to be liberal, which is a lot of the country, more people voted for Clinton, for example, than Trump, that they are politically religious zealots seeking to make change by any means necessary. Take a look.


BARR: So-called progressives treat politics as a religion. Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the state to remake man and society in their own image. They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of the collateral consequences and the systemic implications.


MELBER: Your view?

PERRY: Look, he gave a speech not too long ago along the same lines in front of a religious organization. It`s the same kind of thing. The timing on this is particularly worrisome given that we are smack in the middle of these impeachment proceedings. And he can be seen to be projecting a message.

So in total, it`s worrisome and it is certainly highly irregular to use a term we`ve been hearing a lot.

MELBER: And doesn`t this feed the suspicions that what he is doing is not on the level? I mean, isn`t he opening himself up to that?

PERRY: Look, he has opened himself up. As you say, investigating the investigators, declaring total exoneration with respect to the Mueller report, he`s put himself out there. And this is just a continuation it would seem of the same.

MELBER: Yes, Danya Perry, a lot of people know your former office, SDNY. I appreciate you coming on THE BEAT. hope you`ll come back.

PERRY: Happy to any time. Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate your expertise.

Up ahead, my take on a different story. Michael Bloomberg says he was wrong about stop and frisk. I`m going to tell you why he is wrong.

And first, breaking now, Democrats say there is evidence Trump might have lied to Mueller, and it`s actually intersecting with the entire impeachment probe.


MELBER: Breaking news on impeachment tonight. Congressional Democrats` top lawyer in federal court raising the serious prospect that Trump may have committed a new crime by lying to Mueller in the written answers about WikiLeaks. This is the House General Counsel saying there is now an immense need for Congress to see the underlying grand jury evidence that the DOJ under Trump has blocked.

Noting the Roger Stone trial produced new evidence that President Trump gave untruthful answers to Mueller, and that`s crucial for Congress to decide if trump should, "remain in office. Democrats invoking impeachment, that`s the height of Congress` power to try to get this evidence on how Trump told Mueller he just didn`t recall any communications with anyone understood to be a representative of WikiLeaks or his contacts with Roger Stone specifically."

These are new developments in a long-running story, while trump lies the all the time and we all know that, there are signs he misled Mueller, which is different, even the very careful Bob Mueller acknowledges as much in his testimony.


REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): And there were many answers that contradicted other evidence you had gathered during the investigation, isn`t that correct Director Mueller?


DEMINGS: Director Mueller isn`t it fair to say that the President`s written answers were not only inadequate and incomplete, his answers showed that he wasn`t always being truthful?

MUELLER: I would say generally.


MELBER: I`m joined now by federal - Former Federal Prosecutor John Flannery, who is back with us. Your view of this story, which actually finally combines some of the loose ends of the Mueller probe, our President`s going to be rewarded for ducking an interview and lying in their written answers and the unfolding impeachment probe, which we don`t know where it`s going to go.

FLANNERY: Well, there are a couple of things about this. One is, this means that Mueller had this information from Gates when he closed down his investigation. And that`s very disturbing. And then we have the sworn statement by the President saying that I don`t have any conversations. And the question, as you indicated was, did you have any conversation or any knowledge directly or indirectly with Stone.

MELBER: Bingo.

FLANNERY: Having anything to do with Wikipedia, DCLeaks.

MELBER: So that`s what I`ve been waiting to ask you.


MELBER: How many times have you read the Mueller report?

FLANNERY: Too many times. But it`s fascinating actually.

MELBER: More than once?

FLANNERY: More than once, yes.

MELBER: Me too.

FLANNERY: Not in there.

MELBER: And I don`t recall the Mueller report ever saying point-blank whether or not you go to the more difficult questions of what do you do about it, which are difficult. There are people, yourself included, who argued he should have been more aggressive. There is an argument under the statute for him to be less aggressive.

But why didn`t the Mueller report, which is lengthy, say point-blank on this core question about WikiLeaks and what Stone was up to, which they knew, Donald Trump, according to the evidence lied.

FLANNERY: Yes. Well, do all roads lead to Barr, our corrupt Attorney General? Perhaps. What do we have for a government department of justice anymore under a person like this? And he`s the one who censored it from the first day. He wrote that letter, misleading the entire nation about what the report was about. And then we get a report that stops at the water`s edge of trump and his family and finances that we`re still fighting about those things.

But it`s very interesting in this question here because we have maybe two witnesses who know about this. We have Cohen saying that he overheard a conversation between stone and Trump about WikiLeaks at a separate occasion, and we have this one by Gates and additional material that was brought out at the trial.

MELBER: Yes, that`s - I`m going jump in, John, and say that`s a serious part. Mr. Stone now may be incarcerated partly over this.


MELBER: So if the Mueller prosecutors thought it was that important that someone is literally going to lose their liberty, wasn`t it important under the special counsel rules that they put it in the report so people know the facts? I give you 20 seconds.

FLANNERY: Well, I wonder if the Zen question here is that, was this such a strong prosecution after the search and so forth that the government had to let it go forward despite what Barr would have rather do which is to bury it. And what about those other 14 referrals? And so the shocking thing is--

MELBER: You said Zen?

FLANNERY: --we`re never going to get at the truth until these guys are gone.

MELBER: Right. Did you say Zen question?

FLANNERY: Yes, it`s a Zen question.

MELBER: Like a spiritual level question?

FLANNERY: Well, I will tell you one thing. The spirit and soul of America has been seriously threatened by these guys. And I think we have to start thinking about that way. Because these are--

MELBER: A warning, John Flannery. I got to spiritually fit in a break. But you`ve got two segments. I love you. Thank you for being here.

FLANNERY: I love you too. Thank you.

MELBER: Up ahead, an important civil rights story we haven`t hit yet on Michael Bloomberg, when we come back.


MELBER: Another important story in the news tonight, stop and frisk. Mike Bloomberg ran and won the New York Mayor`s race as a Republican and that`s how he governed on civil rights, pushing a form of stop and frisk policing that was so discriminatory that the courts struck it down.

A few facts. The data shows minorities stopped under the program were not more likely to be arrested for crimes, but in over 600,000 stops in a year, 87% of those targeted were minorities. Put another way, there are about 1 million black men in New York. Bloomberg`s program ran about 350,000 stops of black New Yorkers in a year.

So statistically every black man who spent a few years in New York was more likely to be stopped than not without having done anything wrong. That`s racial profiling. That`s what Bloomberg created and defended in court, and defended after the court struck it down, and defended again this year, standing by the program even as it drew a trump endorsement.


TRUMP: I would do stop and frisk. I think you have to. We did it in New York. It worked incredibly well.


MELBER: He`s talking about the Bloomberg plan, and that`s the context for this news. Bloomberg announcing he`s suddenly sorry for pushing stop and frisk policing and he regrets it as he runs for President as a Democrat.

When Mike Bloomberg had power, he used it to push this policing for 12 years. When he lost power, he continued to defend this type of policing, taking up the same civil rights turf as Trump. What`s changed? Well, today Bloomberg wants more power. And he`s trying to convince democratic voters what he would do with it. The problem is on this issue, they already know.


MELBER: Before we go, an important update to a story we brought you right here on THE BEAT. Conservative writer John Solomon has kicked off much speculation about the Bidens and Ukraine with his writings in "The Hill." Diplomats announced the articles as false and nonsense. And Solomon had left "The Hill" as we reported, but his writing is remaining on the site months into this scandal.

"The Hill" was standing by them saying, "Well, they were opinion pieces." But the news tonight is "The Hill" is revising this policy. And they say they will update, annotate or correct his writings as necessary which comes after public reporting and a lot of criticism, an interesting update. We`ll stay on that story.

That does it for me. I`ll be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. But don`t go anywhere, "HARDBALL" starts now.