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John Malcom on The Beat. TRANSCRIPT: 11/21/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Neal Katyal, Michelle Goldberg, Ryan Goodman, John Malcolm

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: We don`t know it is kryptonite is.

MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO JEB BUSH & JOHN BOEHNER: He could be a modern-day Jimmy Carter, bringing this - government is honest and true--

TODD: Well it`s funny you say this. Jimmy for its worth Jimmy Carter`s media consultant has been e-mailing me for months saying there`s only one guy that is - looks like he can pull off a Carter right now and it was Pete Buttigieg and he said this Jerry Raphson said this to me a year ago.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: But if you see his numbers start moving in New Hampshire too then you`ll see more attacks.

TODD: Heidi, Michael, Maria Teresa. Good to see you all. Thank you. That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll back tomorrow with more "MEET THE PRESS DAILY." BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. We join you tonight at an inflection point in this impeachment probe of Donald J. Trump. Moments ago, the House Intelligence Committee just wrapped up what has been this week of blockbuster impeachment hearings. Some surprises, some corroboration. We have everything covered for you tonight.

Also, a special report from the fallout on Gordon Sondland and other key witnesses, flipping on Donald Trump. I`ve been working on that for several days with the team here. I want to get into that soon.

But we begin with the newest and the boldest. Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff sounding downright angry and emotional in these closing arguments, effectively pleading with patriotic potential Republicans to evaluate what he says is this damning new evidence against President Trump.

And reminding them he, along with Speaker Pelosi, had many, many times resisted calls for impeachment based on other issues and other grounds, but he changed his mind because of what you and Americans have been seeing across the country, because of the brazenness of the Ukraine plot, asking the Ukranian President for dirt, the day after Bob Mueller testified about that 2016 interference.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The day after Bob Mueller testified - the day after Bob Mueller testified that Donald Trump invited Russian interference, the day after that, Donald Trump is back on the phone asking another nation to involve itself in another U.S. election.

That says to me this President believes he is above the law, beyond accountability. And in my view, there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical President who believes they are above the law.


MELBER: Above the law. That is how Chairman Schiff has closed this jam- packed set of impeachment hearings over this - basically these two weeks. What comes next? We can tell you. They`re writing a public report to detail the key findings, which will include evidence drawn from today`s testimony from Donald Trump`s former expert Fiona Hill who detailed the bribery plot.


FIONA HILL, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL DIRECTOR: Ambassador Sondland leaned in basically to say, well, we have an agreement that there will be a meeting, and specific investigations are put underway. And that`s when I saw Ambassador Bolton stiffen. Later he said that he had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney in return for investigations, this meeting would get scheduled.

DANIEL GOLDMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL: And was he specific at that point later about the investigations that he was referring to?

HILL: He said investigations in Burisma.

GOLDMAN: What did Ambassador Bolton said to you?

HILL: When I came back and related to it to him, he had some very specific instruction for me and I`m presuming that that`s--

GOLDMAN: What was that specific instruction?

HILL: Specific instruction was that I had to go to the lawyer`s - to John Eisenberg, our senior counsel for the National Security Council to basically say you tell Eisenberg, Ambassador Bolton told me that I am not part of the - this whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up


MELBER: Wow. Today America also heard from a diplomat, David Holmes, testifying about overhearing this now infamous phone call between the people who were doing the plotting, between President Trump and Gordon Sondland about getting the Ukraine investigation.


DAVID HOLMES U.S. POLITICAL AFFAIRS COUNSELOR IN UKRAINE: Yes, he clarified whether he was in Ukraine or not, and he said, yes, I`m here in Ukraine, and then Ambassador Sondland said he loves your ass. He`ll do whatever you want. He said - he can do the investigation.

GOLDMAN: So you heard President Trump ask Ambassador Sondland, is he going to do the investigation?

HOLMES: Yes, Sir.

GOLDMAN: What was Ambassador Sondland`s response?

HOLMES: He said, "Oh, yes, he`s going to do it. He`ll do anything you ask."


MELBER: Holmes` account adding to the evidence we have been hearing, including for Mr. Sondland himself, the star witness who has become the John Dean of this Trump impeachment probe, something we previewed for you, because it is very rare that you have a senior appointee to the President admitting the details of a criminal plot or cover u, and in this case implicating just about everyone above him.


GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes. I followed the directions of the President. We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt.

Mr. Giuliani`s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. He had to announce the investigations. He didn`t actually have to do them, as I understood it. Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.


MELBER: It was no secret. Not to the people who were plotting, using the powers of the United States, Pentagon money, the State Department, international diplomacy and security and missiles to try to take out Joe Biden, to try to cheat in the election.

If this looks and sounds more serious right now after the evidence, that`s because it is. If people who are normally quite measured, leaving caveats and open minds sound more definitive, that`s because the evidence has led people there.

This week we`ve heard testimony from people from the very top, from the middle, and down in Kiev and Washington, people in the lower rungs of the bureaucracy. On the key points of what`s been happening, they are all corroborating the same story line; President Trump undercutting U.S. national security to try to cheat in the next election.

The American public is still getting the evidence, it`s still seeping in, it`s still fostering debates that will spill out at Thanksgiving dinner tables and over weekends to come. The question is what the American people will demand and what they`ll think about what their Congress ultimately does.

I want to get into our impeachment coverage with Neal Katyal, Former Acting Solicitor General of United States. He`s argued dozens of cases for the Supreme Case; Michelle Goldberg, Columnist for the New York Times, who has been pushing in our writings on what the Congress should do on the case for impeachment. And Law Professor, Ryan Goodman, who was former special counsel to the General Counsel of the Defense Department, bringing that Pentagon expertise.

Neal Katyal, we have done a lot of iterative reporting and analysis - you and I, this panel and a lot of our colleagues here across different cities throughout this week. My opening question to you is to broaden out, not just the latest, not just this afternoon, but now that the Intelligence Committee says they`ve gathered this first primary trench of evidence and witnesses, what does it, taken together, mean to you?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think that the witnesses all week, I think, have given a lot of testimony. It can only be described as perfect and beautiful. It is literally in a repeat of what the whistleblower report said and then what the July 25th transcript of that phone call between President Trump and the President of Ukraine said.

So all of those key details that launched this investigation have now been corroborated, including most powerfully, Ari, as your setup piece said, the testimony of Gordon Sondland. Sondland was supposed to be the defense witness. He was supposed to be the guy that exonerated Trump.

Trump kept saying, hey, I want Sondland to testify, I want him to testify. He`ll exonerate me. And Sondland, Trump`s own guy, put the knife into his back, essentially, and said, there was a quid pro quo. He was acting at Giuliani`s direction and Giuliani was acting at the President`s direction and that this wasn`t about corruption, it was about just the announcement of an investigation.

MELBER: That brings me to a follow-up. I`m going to read the headline on the screen here as we take in what`s just happened. Impeachment witnesses confirm Ukraine bribery plot. None deny it, which speaks to the exact point you`re making, whether Mr. Sondland was going to hold onto the initial denials that he had given, he retracted.

Or whether the White House could find anyone in any wing - I mean, Donald Trump has found people lie for him as you know in many other forums, but they couldn`t find with the cooperation of Republicans in Congress a single person to go under oath and deny this plot.

KATYAL: Exactly. That`s where the collapse of the defense on the Republican part is. I mean, for a while it was, "oh, this is all secondhand, thirdhand information, never happened. Now we`ve got all these firsthand witnesses all saying, "yes, you know what? It turned out. It did happen." So the White House is now back to one of two defenses.

One, the Mulvaney defense, "get over it." Or number two, the throwing up of smoke and mirrors saying, "oh, this is about Russia and Ukraine and this and that and 2016 and CrowdStrike and all of this stuff," and on that, boy, I can`t imagine - I mean, Dr. Fiona Hill`s testimony today was devastating and blew that apart.

MELBER: Michelle, you`ve sat with us at this table before and made an argument that there was an overwhelming case and the question was whether Democrats would prosecute it. Over these two weeks on this issue they have, your review of it.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think the case is obviously overwhelming. I don`t think it`s complete. I don`t quite understand the need to rush this. I do understand that they don`t want to let this be dragged out for a year as they fight, over various subpoenas in courts, particularly courts that are stacked with judges appointed by Donald Trump.

But I do think it`s a problem that Congress essentially accented to letting this administration treat subpoenas as if they were optional. And there are all these pieces that Republicans are now going to say, well, this little piece hasn`t been filled in. We don`t know exactly who gave the order to Mick Mulvaney.

There are little pieces of this about kind of Mick Mulvaney`s communications with Rudy Giuliani; Rudy Giuliani`s communications with Donald Trump that could be filled in if people testified as they`re supposed to when they`re subpoenaed. And so I wish that at the very least they should be subpoenaing, I think - again I`m a humble columnist. I understand that there`s people who put on trials who understand what they`re doing.

I don`t understand why Lev Parnas, for example, who has been indicted, kind of Giuliani`s henchmen in Ukraine, who is now cooperating with prosecutors and who is now speaking to journalists or at least his lawyer is speaking journalists. Why isn`t he there talking about what he and Giuliani were doing in Ukraine and really who was paying for it?

MELBER: So you think this is - there is a tinge of impeachment legal Goldilocks here. But you think initially they were going too slow and now they`re going too fast?

GOLDBERG: Well I thought that they should have started these proceedings a long time ago. But I think once they start them--

MELBER: That`s what I`m saying, too slow, now too fast.

GOLDBERG: Well, once you start them, I guess, I don`t really see why the full spectrum of corruption in this administration can`t be plumbed at more length instead of trying to basically get these hearings done in two weeks.

MELBER: Yes. Ryan, take a listen to Fiona Hill today, working so closely with Bolton on these concerns.


HILL: and I`d asked if there was anything that we could do about it. And Ambassador Bolton had looked pained, basically indicated with body language that there was nothing much that he could do about it, and he then, in the course of that discussion, said that Rudy Giuliani was a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.


RYAN GOODMAN, NYU LAW PROFESSOR: Right. So I think that this was devastating today. I agree with everything that Neal that said. The fact that you can even run that banner that says nobody disputed the fact that it laid the foundation for Adam Schiff to basically give, I thought, a closing argument that was spectacular.

And the reason it was spectacular is because the foundation had been laid. He said the words undisputed. So it`s just clean facts. People flipped, they confessed. Sondland confessed a national TV to being involved in the crime or the abuse of power. But I would say crime easily, bribery extortion, Hatch Act violations. They`re just several--

MELBER: You see several felonies here.

GOODMAN: Absolutely.

MELBER: Right.

GOODMAN: That line up perfectly with it--

MELBER: And that goes to something you know about Hill, angry with Sondland. Hill, basically, the nonpartisan veteran looking at this donor interloper, who in her view and others, was in over his head. Although, he says, he may have been, but he had support from the top. This was the exchange about that. I`m curious given your Pentagon experience how you view these kinds of tensions. Take a look.


HILL: He was being involved in a domestic political errand and we were being involved in national security foreign policy. And those two things had just diverged. So he was correct. And I had not put my finger on that at the moment, but I was irritated with him and angry with him that he wasn`t fully coordinating. And I did say to him, "Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up," and here we are.


MELBER:  Here we are.

GOODMAN: Absolutely. And what she was is just, I believe, powerful. I thought that was the most powerful moment of the entire day - maybe of the entire two weeks. What they had done is had this irregular channel that was serving this domestic political errand, which is to try to help Donald Trump win the 2020 election and they had merged into it U.S. national security. And that`s just incredible, it`s utterly explosive, if that is not an impeachable conduct what is?

MELBER: And so that goes to Michelle`s fair point about process and fact finding, Neal, which is - I want to play for you another key moment today where you have - excuse me from yesterday. But we have Gordon Sondland basically saying, look, let me be clear - under questioning, they dragged that a little bit.

Donald Trump`s goal had nothing to do with national security, foreign policy, anything on behalf the United States, or its people, its defense. This was all about extorting election help going after Biden. I`ve heard this euphemism interference.

Let`s be clear whether the Congress finds this impeachable or not, this was more than interference. This is an alleged bribery plot to take out the Bidens. Take a look.


GOLDMAN: What did Ambassador Sondland say to you?

HOLMES: He said he doesn`t really care about Ukraine.

GOLDMAN: Did he use slightly more colorful language than that?

HOLMES: He did.

GOLDMAN: What did he say that he does care about?

HOLMES: He said he cares about big stuff.

GOLDMAN: Did he explain what he meant by "big stuff?"

HOLMES: I asked him, "What kind of big stuff? We have big stuff going on here, like a war with Russia," and he said, "No, big stuff like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani is pushing."


MELBER: Neal, where does that fit into the theory of the case? That`s Holmes basically quoting what Trump told Sondland. Sondland yesterday does not dispute that. And interestingly, for those keeping close track, if you want to say, "well do we just believe anything that comes out of government officials that may or may not heard this or that person?" That witness and others also testified to highly explicit details that proves or is very close to being probative to the point that they knew what they were talking about.

One example is on that same set of phone calls, a very obviously absurd moment of today, but where the same official says he heard Sondland and Trump discussing whether they could get this rapper released from prison and how would you tell the Kardashians, and all of these things that you would have to probatively be there to know about.

KATYAL: Yes. So all that testimony today paints the picture of bribery. It paints the picture of cheating basically, trying to go out and get dirt on your foreign rival - on your political rival by going to a foreign government.

And I think Michelle is right when she says, there`s still some missing holes, or some gaps that could be connected. And I take a lot of issue with her when she blames the Democrats for that. I think that`s like blaming the victim here.

Because, I think, the fundamental problem, and if you listened to the last two days the hearings, there`s one man who`s all over these hearings and it`s John Bolton. He is the centerpiece in so many different ways and Bolton is not testifying, because the President has ordered him and all executive branch employees not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.

And I can`t think, Ari, of something more fundamentally unconstitutional and more un-American than that. That the idea that the President can gag his employees from going and telling the truth to the American people. And if you`re--if Bolton is watching this, I hope he watched his deputy today, Dr. Hill, and the bravery she showed in saying I`m going to go tell the truth, because it is un-excusable for him to sit in the shadows when all of these allegations are happening.

MELBER: I think--

KATYAL: And he does have details.

MELBER: Such an important point. It`s something we`re going to be digging into - you name check Michelle Goldberg, she`s coming back later in the show. So she will get her time. Neal Katyal and Ryan Goodman thanks to both of you. Michelle see you momentarily.

Up next, we`re doing something special, breaking down the key evidence and new revelations from this entire week of hearings. We`ve been back on "THE BEAT" tonight for the first time and two nights. So we`re going to show you what you need to know from the nine witnesses, 24-hour accumulative hours of testimony, bombshell after bombshell. We`re going to report it out.

Later Rudy Giuliani revealing he still is trying to move on these investigations in the middle of an impeachment probe on that issue. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching "THE BEAT" on MSNBC.


MELBER: Now to our special report tonight tackling a week unlike any other in the Trump era, which is really saying something. Consider what`s brand- new. The first Trump official to confess under oath to a quid pro quo bribery plot; the first public hearings with Trump`s own Pentagon and national security staff detailing a plot to extort foreign help to cheat in Trump`s reelection campaign

And for the first time, Donald Trump`s own staff saying this whole plot was not some shadow policy by a few bad apples. This was the Trump policy. Everyone was in the loop. And the what here has been matched by the magnitude of the who.

Because each of those revelations is drawn not from critics or observers, but from this March of nine different Trump administration insiders who joined 12 other witnesses have now provided over 30 hours of testimony in the public hearings, testifying under oath, stepping up to the plate under pressure and at times at risk, distinguishing themselves from some of their more powerful bosses who remain in bureaucratic and legal hiding.

It`s a reminder about the difference in Washington between being a boss and acting like a boss. A point that was further underscored by how many of these witnesses departed their hearings, because they appeared under subpoenas that they probably didn`t want to get in and the process they obviously did not initiate.

So after braving the pressure and the threats consider that most walked out, they didn`t get to re-enter a security bubble of a motorcade like say the White House Chief of Staff who remains comfortably in hiding.

No, several walked out of the doors of Congress to hail a red cap, walking down Capitol Hill to grab an iconic Washington red taxi and jump back into the car and back to their jobs and their families the way they came. Not with a lot of support, not with a lot of money necessarily, not with security, no, just walking out on the strength of their reputation and public service.

So what did they leave behind this week? A string of explosive revelations, damning evidence, and as I`m about to show you, receipts. You know to paraphrase the Isley Brothers, you got a hold on to your receipt to redeem your word, that`s exactly what you`ll need.

And while the Trump White House is defying all those evidence requests, several people brought their receipts with them, including the star witness from Trump`s nightmares, a would-be lackey who turned on him, Donald Trump`s now famous hand-picked Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who turned into a star witness, basically for joining in the evidence for impeaching his own boss.

And under pressure he went from defending Trump and denying the plot to admitting it, amending his testimony to try to position himself as more of a witness, less of a potential co-conspirator to bribery. Well, this is crucial.

People have spent years talking about Donald Trump abusing his power or demeaning his office in general. But as we`ve reported right here, only recently did the public evidence suggest a case for bribery, which is crucially an impeachable offense. And now Trump`s own current ambassador says under oath, yes, we do quid pro quo bribery.

This man walked into Congress, dropped a dime on his boss at the worst possible, time it`s unreal when you think about it. So take it in, because this is what it sounds like when someone confesses in public.


SONDLAND: Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.


MELBER: Yes. How do you confess that and get away with it? I mean, Sondland may be naive about some things, but he is not dumb. He came in armed with larger names than his, own trading up on his bosses in the same way he once traded money for dirt on their behalf, think about that.

It`s funny right? If you rely on someone versed in transactional power plays turns out they can use them on you. Donald Trump`s learning that again, and that`s the second big thing here. Trump`s ambassador detailing who was in on this plot, according to Gordon Sondland, it was everyone.


SONDLAND: Mr. Giuliani, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Perry, Brian McCormack, Ms. Kenna, Chief of Staff Mulvaney, and Mr. Mulvaney`s senior advisor, Rob Blair. And Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Volker, a lot of senior officials, everyone was in the loop.


MELBER: Now in total fairness. What if Sondland is just trying to save himself so he`s gotten himself stuck in something and just taking shots at everybody else? Well from every mafia movie, all the way up to the wire, the rule is clear from Omar. If you come at the King, you best not miss.

And this man Sondland he still works for the Trump administration. So as he comes for the Kings, Chief of Staff Mulvaney and ultimately President Trump, well, he`s bringing the receipts maybe that`s why he has that expression on his face, because he came with the proof - the e-mails, the text messages, showing, proving the names that you just heard were in on the plot working with Sondland and Trump.

And before the infamous call teeing up the extortion of Ukraine to go after Biden, well he shows, and this is new, Sondland providing a high level e- mail that went to Mulvaney, Perry and Sondland`s direct boss Secretary of State Pompeo, laying out this bribery scheme, getting Ukraine`s leader to assure Trump about the investigation.

Sondland busting Mulvaney for confirming it with action, because there`s another e-mail, showing him directing the National Security Council to set up the call. And as Sondland names names, other reputable witnesses corroborating the same story, telling Congress today those officials undercut national security all for Donald Trump`s dirty political errands to go after Biden.


HILL: He was being involved in a domestic political errand and we were being involved in national security foreign policy. And those two things had just diverged.


MELBER: Now while that plot planned out, this is the kind of cheating that could tip an election. The Ukrainians felt the heat, because their military money was frozen. That was also new and laid out in these hearings, because while some Republicans had seized on one official who said that he didn`t think Ukraine knew the money was frozen, which in fairness, might reduce the pressure that they could have felt.

Now high-level Trump officials in the administration are testifying from this week, Ukraine did know the money was halted. A top Pentagon official saying, not only was Ukraine asking about that money, but they asked on the very day of Trump`s called demanding Ukraine go after Biden.


LAURA COOPER, DEPUTY ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY FOR UKRAINE: On July 25th, a member of my staff got a question from a Ukraine embassy contact asking what was going on with Ukraine`s security assistance. 2:31 p.m. That e-mail said that the Ukrainian embassy and House Foreign Affairs Committee are asking about security assistance.


MELBER: That`s the Pentagon official Ms. Cooper explaining the Ukrainians knew the money was frozen which updates the prior testimony from Colonel Vindman who said he didn`t know if that was the case or not. So with Ukraine asking, that would suggest in the story that the extortion was working, Ukraine feeling the heat.

And it started going forward on plans to submit to announce these political investigations, which is why Sondland says, under oath, there was a quid pro quo. The bribery plot was basically being executed. It was only disrupted by the whistleblower in real time and this impeachment probe later, which Sondland ultimately cooperated with.

Now if his shift sounds like a stunning setback to Trump, his own current appointee admitting this to impeachment investigators, while staying on the job, well, it was. Republicans reportedly caught off guard by Sondland`s testimony, scrambling to respond.

So the Ambassador changed everything because he spent months telling Trump what he wanted to hear, that yes, we can do quid pro quos to go after Biden. Then he spent weeks telling the White House what they wanted Sondland to say, "no, there was no quid pro quo."

And then you have the change this week, Sondland turning around and telling impeachment investigators what they wanted to hear, which is the truth. And what Sondland`s lawyers would advise him to say, which is the truth. That`s the best way to avoid jail time.

And that puts the Trump administration and Trump`s defenders in a tough spot right now. Why would Sondland, Trump`s point person on this Ukraine plot - why would he admit these terrible things that have been said about his plotting, things that look bad if they weren`t true.

Why would he bring receipts? Why would he say all this stuff that`s bad about himself? In court, this is often called an admission against interest. If you admit something bad about yourself, it`s considered more credible than when you`re just defending yourself or denying or bragging about how great you are, because you have no usually biased reason to just confess or criticize yourself.

In fact, under the rules that`s considered so credible, it`s actually an exception to hearsay. Although, Sondland was saying this under oath, so it wasn`t hearsay to begin with. But this admission against interest makes Sondland`s confession very credible and bad for Trump.

You can think of it - this admission as the Eminem rule. That famously naughty rapper said, "I am whatever you say I am. If I wasn`t, then why would I say I am?" Makes sense right?

Well, Sondland is whatever they said he was, a Trump political donor, trying to extort political help for Trump. And if he wasn`t, then why would he say he was? Sometimes it is that simple.

Sondland`s receipts shedding light on another part of this. One of the more bizarre attacks on President Trump for his conduct in this scandal, which came, you remember, from his number one White House aide, Mick Mulvaney, who one day walked out to the White House lectern and admitted the quid pro quo in order to defend it.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Did he also mentioned to me and past that the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely, no question about that.

REPORTER: To be clear, you just described is a quid pro quo.

MULVANEY: We do that all the time with foreign policy-

That`s it. That`s why we held up the money.


MELBER: That`s why held up the money. You remember, of course, we all do. If you follow this, that was seen as an almost inexplicable gaffe. At the time Trump`s lawyers, the same day, started publicly rebuking Mulvaney for the claims. He started walking them back.

And do you remember how odd that was like what was he doing? But this is why investigations are interesting and add information, because look at it now. Think about what we know now, but what Mulvaney knew at the time. He knew there were receipts. He knew there was written evidence tying him - tying Mick Mulvaney to setting up the phone call for the extortion and bribery plot.

He knew that then, and he knew it was probably only a matter of time until it came out. So he had his own interest, separate from Donald Trump in trying out any defense that might say the whole thing was OK, instead of saying, what Donald Trump is still saying this week, which is that it didn`t happen, while still employing the guy who says it happened.

Now remember, how Mulvaney also tried breaking with the White House over these lawsuits over his own testimony? That also makes more sense now, because Mulvaney has clearly been thinking about how to get around the receipts, how do you get around this evidence, which shows that he was in on this Sondland, Giuliani, Perry plot.

Now does President Trump pay enough attention to all this to notice? Will, he fire his Chief of Staff or his ambassador given that they both have their own interests that they seem to be putting ahead of his? Or does he think maybe firing them is even more dangerous. I don`t know. But it`s a lot.

And this week also eviscerated once and for all the Trump defense that he wanted investigations to address foreign corruption, not for domestic political purposes against Biden, because Sondland and others revealed Trump didn`t even care if there was an investigation. This is so important.

The testimony, again, from the current employee, if he`s lying he`s in trouble and why wouldn`t Trump fire him? Trump`s leaving him in place, his testimony is that the goal was merely U.S. television coverage of a Biden probe.

This is where reality show politicking can turn impeachable. If you use extortion against a foreign government to get your reality show on CNN and get Sondland to help get the Ukrainians to do this, as he detailed, well, you might be in bribery territory.

  Donald Trump was demanding Ukraine announce the investigation on CNN - that was the payoff according to Sondland and others, but Trump didn`t care if the actual investigations were ever done.


SONDLAND: He had to announce the investigations. He didn`t actually have to do them, as I understood it.

GOLDMAN: Giuliani and President Trump didn`t actually care if they did them, right?

SONDLAND: I never heard, Mr. Goldman, anyone say that the investigations had to start or had to be completed. The only thing I heard from Mr. Giuliani or otherwise was that they had to be announced in some form and that form kept changing.

GOLDMAN: Announced publicly?

SONDLAND: Announced publicly.


MELBER: Announced publicly, in Sondland`s account that you heard just there confirmed by another diplomatic official.


HOLMES: This was a demand that President Zelensky personally commit on a cable news channel to a specific investigation of President Trump`s political rival--


MELBER: On a cable news channel and CNN has confirmed its little piece of this, although they didn`t know what all the goals were, but they did confirm they had a planned interview where the Ukrainian President, was now, according to these witnesses, going to drop this deliverable.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: We now know for months the Trump White House had been mounting an intense campaign to force him to publicly announce those investigations. His team apparently concluded that since he was planning an interview with me anyway that would be the forum in which he would make the announcement--


MELBER: Because all Ukrainian domestic investigations are announced on American television, some of this gets technical, but a lot of it isn`t. You see that, you hear that. You see the echo of the crooked Hillary messaging now being deployed against Biden with a little foreign special sauce and you can see the plot.

Most probes, of course, are confidential, rarely our investigations announced at the outset. And Donald Trump, of course, knew all that, but he also knew how much you`ve benefited from the talk, the televised discussion, almost endlessly of the 2016 Clinton probe and the e-mails. And remember not about the outcome, there were no charges over those e-mails, just about the televised talk.

This was the same play. Get Biden on this before 2020. And lawmakers are pointing out how important it was for Trump that it all happened on air.


REP. SEAN MALONEY (D-NY): Who would benefit from an investigation of the Bidens?

SONDLAND: I assume President Trump would benefit.

MALONEY: There we have it see?


MALONEY: Didn`t hurt a bit, did it?


MELBER: Spontaneous applause, you don`t always see that either. Now as Sondland went on, he also raised the prospect of a different potential article of impeachment against this President. Because, again, he`s still the employee of the President, but he publicly under oath basically all but rebuked the White House for defiance which some members of Congress say could be an article of obstruction.


SONDLAND: I have not had access to all of my phone records, State Department e-mails and many, many other State Department documents. My lawyers and I have made multiple requests to the State Department and the White House for these materials. Yet these materials were not provided to me.

HILL: I believe that those who have information that the Congress deems relevant have a legal and the moral obligation to provide it.


MELBER: What`s the other side of this case? Well the President mostly sat this week out. He did read from his notes, which were quoting his own past denial after they got in trouble or he said I want no quid pro quo. That`s, I guess, the defense they`re offering at this point in time. As you`ve seen from this testimony, though, look how it played out for Ranking Member Nunes. He didn`t look--


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): The Democrats were heavily involved working with Ukrainians to dirty up the Trump campaign in 2016. So ambassador I want to go through just a few of the incidents that we know--

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The Democrats are trying to impeach the President of the United States an eleven and a half months before the next election based on some anonymous whistleblower with no first-hand knowledge, who is bias against the President.

We have the definitive statement that the President gave to Ambassador Sondland when he asked him, what do you want from Ukraine? I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo.


MELBER: Nunes and other Republicans echoing Donald Trump. But look at some of the body language that`s been going viral. He looked downright - well, downcast over what he just witnessed.

And now after months of Democrats not committing to impeachment, today with all this, even those who have been reticent in the past, say there is a case for impeaching President Trump.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): When we see a violation of the Constitution we have no choice, but to ask. And the evidence is clear that the President - the president has used his office for his own personal gain.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): This conditioning of the White House meeting of the security assistance was a basic quid pro quo. It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery--


MELBER: Rarely do you see this kind of evidence stacked up like this. Is there a good defense to it? Well, we haven`t heard it yet from President Trump. We`ll endeavor to get those views on this show tonight and in the future.

But it is striking to see such a plot laid out by the President`s own advisors and aides and see them not rebuked, not fired, but maintain their jobs in this administration, which sends a message that what they`re saying they did, they did. And if they didn`t, then why would they say they did. We`ll be right back.


MELBER: I`m back with Michelle Goldberg from the New York. At times we just looked at a lot of the evidence that`s piled up. Your view of the import of this and in a world where there is always a loud message from the Trump White House, as I noted, it`s been much quieter this week.

GOLDBERG: Well, they have very little that they can say in response. Right? I mean, they - I think, they`re going to end up probably settling on a couple sound bites like Gordon Sondland saying that he didn`t hear directly from Trump that he heard it through the intermediary Giuliani.

I hope that - but, I also think that the evidence is overwhelming there`s no question that Trump did this thing. But I`m not sure that we live anymore in a world where the evidence speaks for itself. And as everybody said, this isn`t a legal proceeding. It`s a political proceeding.

So I really, really hope that there is a kind of a retail politics strategy around this. Right? You know, an advertising strategy, a messaging strategy, strategy to sure--

MELBER: Did you find Sondland believable?

GOLDBERG: About some things. Right? I mean, I certainly - I find him believable when he admitted to doing it, particularly because that admission correlates with everything else we heard from these witnesses this week. I don`t find it remotely believable that he had no idea for months and months what Burisma means - meant, right?

MELBER: Right.

GOLDBERG: He had no idea that he was involved in a plot to extort Ukraine for dirt on Biden. Right? He`s obviously an imperfect witness. I also not sure that I believed him about all the things that he happened to have forgotten, right?

But I feel like all of those moments that you just showed, it`s going to be very, very important for a lot of people to hammer them home to the American people over the next couple of weeks.

MELBER: I think that`s really well put as the question is, as you say, what does evidence mean in this world, in this environment. Michelle Goldberg for the New York Times--

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

MELBER: --always good to have you in more than one segment. I`m going to fit in a quick break, but still to come, Rudy Giuliani with new stunning interviews. Well, we`re going to show you that and much more with a special guest.


MELBER: We are back on a big night of our impeachment coverage with a very special guest to get in some things we haven`t done at all yet tonight, John Malcolm, Vice President Institute for Constitutional Government at the Conservative Heritage Foundation.

He was Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Bush Administration. He also testified formally about the Mueller report as an expert witness for the Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee, many credentials. Thanks for being on "THE BEAT."

JOHN MALCOLM, FORMER BUSH ADMIN. DOJ OFFICIAL: Delighted to be your contrarian and happy to be with you.

MELBER: Well, you`ve seen some of the evidence tonight and this week, what do you think is the President`s best defense?

MALCOLM: Well, look, I don`t think these hearings changed anybody`s minds. I fully expect the House to impeach the President on largely a party-line vote, and I fully expect him to be acquitted in the Senate on largely a party-line vote.

If people went into this assuming that the President was clearly undermining the nation`s interest for the sole purpose of gaining dirt on a political rival, then your views have been strengthened.

But the President is going to sit there and say, I get to set foreign policy, I get to decide who my emissaries are. I had a legitimate reason to have a more suspicious view of the Ukrainians, based on things that I was hearing and my emissaries were hearing about 2016 election meddling, about potential corruption or actually a lack of seriousness on the Ukrainians part to corruption investigations, including Burisma, and possibly including the Bidens.

MELBER: Let`s define that defense then.


MELBER: Is that a defense saying, there was effectively a quid pro quo and it`s OK? Or still disputing whether that was the deal?

MALCOLM: I don`t know whether it`s a pro quo or not. I think that the Presidents use foreign aid as leverage to try to get things. Joe Biden did that very famously when he had a conversation with the President of Ukraine at the time and said I`ve got a billion dollar loan guarantee and you`re not going to get it unless you fire the Ukrainian General Prosecutor whose is investigating Burisma Holdings where his son was making a lot of money.

But there are a lot of Presidents who`ve threatened to withhold foreign aid for all kinds of things--

MELBER: Right. I guess, the question, whether it`s criminal or congressional - the question is always whether that is for a corrupt end or not? A police officer has great powers to do all sorts of things, but only for the law and for Public Service.

MALCOLM: Yes, that`s--

MELBER: Let me play for you and your analysis where we`ve seen the shift.


MELBER: Lindsey Graham who is the big ally to President and a lawyer was previously taking a very different position that quid pro quo would be bad, that`s what`s Sondland testified. You take a look.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If you could show me that Trump actually was engaging a quid pro quo outside the phone call that would be very disturbing.

SONDLAND: Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting the answer is yes.


MELBER: It seems this has put Republicans in a difficult spot, because they didn`t know where the line was.

MALCOLM: I`m not sure it puts them in difficult spot. I mean, a President doesn`t have to call another President. President doesn`t have to grant a White House meeting if there were some conditions attached to that, that`s hardly evidence of corruption or certainly not an impeachable offense.

You know, with respect to withholding of the aid, Ambassador Sondland said presumed that it was tied to a connection to Burisma, possibly the Bidens, that would hardly be surprising either since Rudy Giuliani had been running around, quoted in "The New York Times" and tweeting about that.

But, look, even there a President of the United States is entitled to investigate potential corruption by people in the administration that preceded him, and if that includes Vice President Biden, it includes Vice President Biden.

MELBER: If they could do it all over, would you say to do it the exact same way?

MALCOLM: Look, I`m not the President`s lawyer or the President`s adviser. There are many things this President does that I wouldn`t do. And I probably would have accepted the view - it seem to be a consensus view of the diplomatic corps that the Ukrainians with the election of President Zelensky had turned a new leaf, and that they were serious about their anti-corruption efforts. And eventually the President was persuaded to do that.

Now you can say, as Adam Schiff has done, "well, he only did that, because he got caught in the whistleblower complaint." But there were a lot of other reasons why he did it to Vice President Pence had just come back from meeting Zelensky in Warsaw and it said he was impressed by Zelensky.

A bipartisan group of senators, including Ron Johnson and Chris Murphy had said they were impressed with Zelensky and the Congress strongly supported the issuance of the aid. They ultimately not only got the aid, they got more than that. They got a $39 million dollar sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles, which was not something that had been previously discussed.

GOLDMAN: John Malcolm, I think what I`m hearing from you is the bad idea, not impeachable defense. I look forward to talking with you more and having you back on, Republican DOJ veteran. Thank you so much.

MALCOLM: Good to be with you.

MELBER: Really appreciate it. We`ll be right back.


MELBER: What a show. If we were any later, we`d be late. I`ll see you back tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. "HARDBALL" starts now.