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Pres. Trump backtracks on Giuliani-Ukraine plot. TRANSCRIPT: 11/26/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Glenn Kirschner, Matt Schlapp


KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: That is all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow. I am going to be here as well with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. It`s been a long day. "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now.

Ari, hi.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Katy. Thank you so much. We have a lot to get to in tonight`s show. There is news breaking rattling the White House. House Democrats have set the new dates for the next phase of impeachment. We have the details later in the show.

New developments in the case that Donald Trump just lost as he remains desperate to keep Don McGahn from testifying. And moments ago, we`re going to bring this to you, new on MSNBC. The President denying, he ordered Rudy Giuliani to do any of the Ukraine plotting Trump telling Bill O`Reilly of all people, "no, I didn`t direct him, but he`s a warrior. He`s a warrior. When asked by O`Reilly what you thought he was even doing in Ukraine, Trump said something we`ve heard before. You have to ask Rudy.

We also have some other very special programming tonight. But we begin with the House impeachment investigators getting specific. Democrats revealing how they will move from the Ukraine fact-finding done by Adam Schiff`s Intel Committee to the Judiciary Committee.

This is key, because the Intel Committee has been the investigation. It`s like the FBI doing interviews or gathering facts. Well moments ago, Schiff`s committee has shown how far they`ve come, because they just released tonight the final interview transcripts. There`s already a new revelation that we`re going to get to tonight a Budget Office Attorney resigning over the entire Ukraine budget scandal, which is part of the Ukraine bribery plot.

The Judiciary Committee meanwhile will pick up this case and they`re more like the prosecutor, evaluating the facts, gathering the evidence, carefully applying the law. Now for every other person in America, you can think about it like this.

A prosecutor decides whether there is evidence and law to support charges if you are suspected of committing a crime. For the President, in the rare cases when any of this arises, it is the House Judiciary Committee that first decides if the constitution suggests the President committed a high crime. Be that something general like abuse of power or a specific offense like we`ve reported here, treason or bribery. And that`s the context for the other big story tonight.

Late today for the first time, the person who leads that effort in assessing the President`s misconduct, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler laying out how they will do just that. And he has announced the Committee`s very first public hearing on December 4th. This is right when Congress gets back from Thanksgiving break.

They will publicly begin the process of assessing all of this bombshell evidence and consider whether to draft articles of impeachment against President Trump. This Committee will be weighing whether to impeach and if so, how to impeach. Do you do one article, do you do several? Do you focus like a laser on this Ukraine scandal or do you bring in the other alleged offenses by Donald Trump? Committee can draw on experts and on people with knowledge of the facts.

You know Donald Trump famously bluffed his way through a lot of the Mueller probe by claiming he would talk to Mueller, but he never did. There were of course the famous written answers. Well tonight, I can report to you that Nadler is calling that bluff right out of the gate, inviting Donald Trump or his lawyer to attend the hearing or question the witnesses.

The offer is not technically new because under those rules that Speaker Pelosi and the House passed, Trump lawyers were already formally invited. If history is any guide here, this is not just talk. Consider that President Clinton took up the House on their offer for his lawyer who you see right here to participate in the hearings. Clinton`s personal lawyer even got to question their legal nemesis at the hearings, Ken Starr. Well you see right there.

Meanwhile, Clinton deployed the powerful White House Counsel`s Office to appear ultimately some of those government lawyers made Clinton`s case in the House as well as ultimately on the floor of the Senate during his trial. And then as now there was the question of whether the President was misusing those government lawyers in the underlying offenses. Republicans alleging obstruction by Clinton and they also had allegations about his White House Counsel`s office.

Today, as we all know, Donald Trump`s previous White House Counsel is a star Mueller witness to alleged obstruction. That`s been a court fight this week. The White House has lost, and his current White House Counsel`s office stuck right in the middle of this Ukraine scandal as these allegations of a cover up pile up.

Given all the breaking news what I want to do is bring in our panel of experts on all of the above. I want to welcome Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney, Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor and Maya Wiley, a former assistant U.S. Attorney at SDNY, former counsel to the mayor. Welcome to each of you. There`s so much happening right now. I would like to get to all of it.

Joyce walk us through what it means when Chairman Nadler says, they`re announcing these hearings, you have been a witness in the past in that very committee that Maya, I`d like you to walk us through what it means that Adam Schiff`s investigators tonight say, they have budget officers resigning over these issues, the Ukraine plot and then Glenn when you`re up third, and you know in baseball third is a good position. I want you to tell us what it means that Donald Trump is distancing himself from Giuliani tonight. Starting with you, Joyce, please

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: So, we`ll be heading into a new phase of the process and it`s important to remember that what necessitated the hearings in the Intelligence Committee was that there was no special counsel. There were no investigators who were gathering facts. So that`s the mission that Chairman Schiff`s Committee has undertaken.

Now they`ll write a report. They`ll send all of those facts, along with their colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee and the Oversight Committee for Judiciary to take a look at. And as you pointed out, Ari, Judiciary will play the role that lawyers would play in a criminal case, assessing the facts, looking at the law and making a decision about whether there is sufficient evidence to indict. Except that here there won`t be any criminal charges. There will essentially be a process that will determine whether or not the President gets to keep his job.

So, as we move forward, Judiciary will look at the evidence and decide whether or not treason, bribery, high crimes or misdemeanors have occurred. And if so, how to charge the President.


MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Yes, I think this is an extremely important and interesting revelation, because government lawyers have an obligation to the public, to the rule of law and the public trust. They don`t serve an individual, they serve government and the people. And so, if a lawyer - we heard from Fiona Hill last week that there were legal concerns about the freeze, the OMB freeze on Ukrainian military aid, and that if that to the extent that there are government lawyers who believe it may have been unlawful, they are often faced with a choice, which is either to figure out how to distance themselves, get off the work, report it and whistleblow themselves or quit.

So, we don`t know what happened here. But that`s the question is, do we have lawyers that are actually flagging and undermining a potential defense that Donald Trump might assert, which is at the freeze on aid was a legitimate policy decision that was lawful. And if a lawyer or lawyers say it`s not, that undermines his defense.

MELBER: Right. And that goes to these two Washington Post stories. One, linking the call to the money, something that has already been obviously laid out in these hearings, but with more detail. And two, breaking here late in the day, these resignations, which could suggest people inside who knew more than anyone else and said, I`m not going to go along with a cover up.

Two White House budget officials resigning, expressing concerns about Ukraine aid being withheld. They`re not named, that`s what a top agency official has told these House impeachment investigators. And then Glenn, Donald Trump in defense mode goes to Bill O`Reilly late today, breaking now and says, I didn`t direct Giuliani. He has a lot of clients. He`s been working in Ukraine for years. What does that mean?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I`ll tell you. I think we were all surprised, Ari, when we recently heard Rudy Giuliani say, you know what, I`ve heard that Donald Trump may want to throw me under the bus. But guess what? I`ve got an insurance policy.

What I would recommend to Rudy Giuliani is he gather up all of the evidence that now constitutes that insurance policy, because with Donald Trump now saying things like, hey, I didn`t direct Rudy to do anything in Ukraine, you don`t have to read between the lines to add Trump basically saying anything that was done, that was wrong, improper, illegal. That`s on Rudy Giuliani.

So, I think the message that is being sent is that Rudy Giuliani better be prepared to take the fall. After all, look at Trump`s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. He`s in jail for a crime that he did in concert in coordination with Donald Trump. Donald Trump is still sitting in the Oval Office. It sounds like Trump may be preparing to pull up Michael Cohen on Rudy Giuliani.

MELBER: Well, it`s fascinating, Glenn, because as you just laid out, Giuliani has made comments that speak to that. SDNY threw the book at Michael Cohen and Michael Cohen did cooperate. In other words, he flipped on Trump. But he didn`t have the smoking gun evidence to go beyond what was known, which was, yes, it was for the benefit of Trump. But whether or not he went rogue SDNY, which is an aggressive office, they listed Trump as a beneficiary, individual one. And he wrote the checks.

They didn`t necessarily go farther, although obviously if he wasn`t the President, they might have. But, Glenn, when you see this, I will say in context, Rudy Giuliani is a far more experienced practicing attorney than Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen called himself a fixer. He didn`t file a lot of motions.

Giuliani, at least at one time, knew his way around. So, do you think Glenn that like Michael Cohen, he could end up on the wrong end of this without any forethought to how a prosecution looks when he used to do them?

KIRSCHNER: You know, I think he could. Let`s think about Michael Cohen`s insurance policy. He had one as well. Remember, he had the tape where they were setting up the hush money pay off that ended up getting Michael Cohen a prison term. Of course, because of the ill advised OLC memo saying we can`t indict a criminal President that has never visited Donald Trump, at least not yet.

So, you know, Giuliani may very well also have an insurance policy. We`ll have to see what he meant by that. But I think Giuliani may end up on the losing end of things.


WILEY: One point here. Yes, I think one, I think Glenn is right. But two, if you just look at the facts and what Lev Parnas is starting to say, he`s already making statements that make it a little bit hard to believe that there was absolutely no discussion with Donald Trump. Now, we have to hear more.

But the timing of conversations and public statements between, say, in May, when we hear that there`s - Trump literally said on Fox News after a discussion that Giuliani had made about his public trips that he was going to take to the Ukraine on May 9th and that he was going to and he had talked to Trump about it and Trump knew about it.

So, it`s not as if there aren`t also public statements that make Trump`s statements just not credible, including from Trump himself. And this happens at multiple periods of time. If we track the timeline between Giuliani trips to the Ukraine or conversations with Ukrainians and Trump public statements about the same conspiracies that he has been spinning and that he claims, it`s just legitimate public policy at this point. So, I think the relationship between those are all ones that don`t really stand up very well, just from a credibility standpoint.

MELBER: Well, and Joyce doing the legal analysis in response to the great points Maya makes, this is the part to remind us all that it`s 2019 and I will point out the legal differences between President Zelensky and Stormy Daniels.

And the differences among others are that Ms. Daniels matter was essentially a private civil matter about an NDA, whether it was done well or not, or fair or not. It was about one person in a private civil matter. Mr. Zelensky was about - the foreign policy appropriated funds of the United States Congress, the use of Javelin missiles, and $400 million of military funding and the State Department.

And so, the big difference beyond the obvious would be Joyce that whatever side deal Trump and Michael Cohen had that really came down to a few tapes and their debates pales in comparison to the number of people to Gordon Sondland, who were in the loop on this.

In other words, Giuliani appears to have evidence backed by Sondland and others that he was the point person, that it was on the authority of the President, the Pompeo did know about it, as did Mulvaney. How much does the stacking of that evidence make Donald Trump`s claim today to Bill O`Reilly super interesting about where his head is at, but not super credible with regard to the case against him.

VANCE: Yes. You know, I have to confess, Ari, the comparison between President Zelensky and Stormy Daniels wasn`t really where I thought you were going when you started out. But it`s absolutely the appropriate one, both because of the quantum, the amount of evidence and the sort of quality of the evidence. The situation that`s involved.

Maya is right when she talks about the timeline and says it`s hard for Trump to distance himself from Giuliani, because of the way events shake out on the timeline. You know, you and I had this conversation, I think almost a month ago where we talked about how inevitable it was that Trump would throw Giuliani under the bus. My only surprise is how long it seems to have taken.

As you say, there are a lot of witnesses who are in the loop on this. This isn`t just a suddenly a couple of people knew about. And now, increasingly, as documents begin to be released, you know, the Trump administration has resisted releasing documentary evidence. But American oversight, a public oversight group was able to obtain some documents by court order from the State Department. And those documents reveal a very interesting fact, which is that the original hook up between Rudy Giuliani and Secretary Pompeo was assisted by the White House.

It was President Trump`s personal assistant who made sure that Giuliani had good contact information for Pompeo. So, these little pieces of evidence like that will come to light when taken all together, they`ll mean that Trump won`t be able to escape liability this time.

MELBER: So, so much here. I`m so glad we have all of you. Let me ask Joyce and Maya to both stay with us given the breaking stories. Glenn Kirschner, thank you as always. Coming up, we have new parts of this we haven`t been able to play yet, I`m told that my control room that we just got the tape. So, you`re going to hear Donald Trump`s new backtracking on Giuliani, what it means, and we`ll fact-check the parts that don`t add up.

I also have for you tonight our special report on prosecuting bribery. That`s tonight, we`re going to breakdown a bribery case that sent a governor to jail for over a decade. And we have a guest with an inside view on where Trump`s legal strategy is headed. I`m telling you, I`m excited about what we have coming up. Stay with us. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: Breaking news, President Trump distancing himself from Rudy Giuliani like never before. We just got this into our newsroom and now you`re going to hear it airing for the first time, a short clip of the president in a radio interview with Bill O`Reilly, discussing just exactly what Rudy Giuliani was doing for him in Ukraine. Take a listen.


BILL O`REILLY, JOURNALIST: What was Rudy Giuliani doing in Ukraine on your behalf?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, you have to ask that to Rudy. But Rudy, I don`t even know - I know he was going to go to Ukraine. And I think he canceled a trip. But, you know, Rudy has other clients other than me.

O`REILLY: So, you didn`t direct him to go there on your behalf?



MELBER: You didn`t direct him to go there, what does it mean when the President chucks a lawyer like this over the board? Well, Maya Wiley, when we`re back in 30 seconds, we`ll get into it.


MELBER: Back with me is Maya Wiley. Good to see you again. We touched on this earlier now, everyone has been able to hear the President`s answer for the first time. It strikes me as going farther than just the usual ask Rudy and we`ll see. The President going out of his way tonight to say effectively he claims Giuliani wasn`t doing stuff for him in Ukraine, that he has other clients that "Rudy has been working there for years."

So, for everyone out there who says it doesn`t seem like the facts ever matter or press this White House, I would observe and I`m very eager to hear your response. I would observe that the damning and incriminating facts that have added up about just what was going on, on the presence we have in Ukraine. Have the President now saying not. It`s perfect to go away, but maybe it`s not perfect. I didn`t ask him to do it.

WILEY: I think you`re right, because he`s under a lot of heat right now, both between losing his - the McGahn subpoena case and also at the same time knowing the articles of impeachment process has moved forward with House Judiciary.

And as we saw in the hearings in the House Intel Committee, there was not really an assertion of any meaningful defense. It doesn`t mean he`s not going to have one to argue. But all we heard were snippets like this was about national policy except we also heard lots of facts, including from the experts on national security that this was against our national interests and longstanding U.S. policy.

Then he says, well, it`s because I was concerned about corruption. But then there`s all this evidence that comes through that he wasn`t even raising any red flags about corruption broadly, including in the April call summary we got. And then if you add all of that together, Rudy Giuliani beginning - now he has had clients at least since 2013 from reporting. So, it`s not that Donald Trump is making that up. But at the same time, as early as 2017, Rudy Giuliani designated, remember, as Donald Trump`s cybersecurity adviser, is meeting in Ukraine after Robert Mueller gets appointed in May in June.

Giuliani is meeting with the Ukrainian President and the national prosecutor. And within a few weeks of that meeting, Donald Trump is tweeting out or state, I can`t remember it was Fox News or a tweet that these conspiracy theories need to get looked into. The same thing happened; we can just roll it on forward. It keeps happening.

MELBER: Yes. And you just put your finger on the other point, which is Donald Trump may lie about a lot of this and still say some things that are true, that Giuliani may have other big clients out there like Paul Manafort. He may have access to the Trump presidency and also have a lot of other foreign interests, some of which may be unsavory. Doesn`t that ultimately hurt Rudy Giuliani in the SDNY, if the President is publicly confirming his view that there may have been double dealing?

WILEY: Absolutely, because we know that at least we`ve heard reporting that there are a series of possible indictments that the SDNY is looking at, which includes for instance, not registering as representing a foreign agent, money laundering, wire and wire fraud.

All of those are going to the transactions of representing foreign interests, potentially how those reporting of those dollars that Giuliani may have received from those clients. And then what in essence, he has done relating to meeting with people like Department of Justice officials.

MELBER: Yes, well, you lay it out there. It`s such a fascinating development of the story. So, we`ve covered that. And I`ll tell you, Maya, if you`re able to stick around near a TV, you might be interested as a viewer like all of our viewers in what I`m doing next, which is looking at a governor who got caught trying to do a failed bribery plot and end up getting 14 years in prison. My special on what it means to get prosecuted for bribery when we come back.


MELBER: It would be easy to forget how momentously American politics changed 11 years ago when this happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have breaking news, momentous news, really. CBS projects that Senator Barack Obama of Illinois will be the next President of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But to see him pull this off. Not to be appointed President, but to win the presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A seismic shift in American politics. You are looking at the 44th President of the United States.


MELBER: Election night 2008, Barack Obama achieved this historic win many thought they`d never see in their lifetimes, and the 47-year-old announced that change was real.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It`s been a long time coming. But tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.


MELBER: The change came quickly, crowds all over the country celebrating a barrier broken for civil rights, a political shift as Democrats stepped away from Bush and Clinton for a new coalition. And the President-elect vacated the Senate seat he`d won just four years earlier, a seat he won by largely avoiding the machine politics of Illinois, often transactional, sometimes corrupt. Obama`s vacancy would leave the decision about his replacement to that local politicking.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President-elect Obama has formally resigned his Senate seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama resigned his Illinois Senate seats today, effective Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now that President elect Obama`s Senate seat is going to be open in Illinois, there has been a lot of discussion about who is going to be appointed to that seat.


MELBER: Who`s going to be appointed? Well, it depends on who is doing the appointing. And that was the call of one of the scrappiest, most outlandish governors in the country. You might remember, Illinois Democrat Rod Blagojevich, a pugnacious former amateur boxer turned prosecutor, turned politician, and he didn`t follow the normal rules, deploying a brash and even comical style, even impersonating Elvis at a street party in Chicago.


MELBER: He also starred in a pistachio nut commercial and in a collision foreshadowing the future of both politics and impeachable conduct. You may recall Blagojevich tried to rebound from a corruption scandal by making a deal to be on one reality show, I`m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of here and then appearing on Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump.


TRUMP: And what was Rod doing. I couldn`t be that bad. I mean I`m just asking you sort of the news in question; I think.


TRUMP: Napping.


TRUMP: All right. Maybe that`s not so bad.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: I did have my sunglasses on, so maybe my eyes were open.


MELBER: Maybe. Look, the politician turned reality star was facing off with a reality star who would soon turn politician and their thirst for manufactured attention wasn`t their only mutual interest here. Both have faced bribery scandals for abusing their office. These trends may be related, the governor who treated his job as a kind of an angel for ambition and branding and the President treating your taxpayer military funds as an angle to extort re-election help.

So, go back to that big night of Obama`s victory as many people thought about what it meant for the nation, for the government. Well, an Illinois Governor Blagojevich was thinking about what it meant for him personally and he began musing about how to use the power to fill that vacancy. And here`s something you almost never hear in public. But there are tapes of him talking when he didn`t know anyone was listening musing how he could use the power to fill the seat to help himself or hey, maybe just give the Senate seat away as a birthday gift to family.


BLAGOJEVICH: I told my nephew Alex, he just turned 26 today. I said, Alex, you know, I call him for his birthday, and I said, it`s just too bad you`re not four years older because I could have given you a U.S. Senate seat for your birthday.


MELBER: Now that might sound like bravado, but then he began more serious discussions with staff about getting something for the seat, use the power to get something in return obviously called a bribe.

Governor talked to his Chief of Staff about whether he could swap something with the Obama administration like giving this seat to Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett to get a cabinet post in return. That was his idea. So, this is what it sounds like when someone asks about setting up a quid pro quo bribe.


BLAGOJEVICH: We could get something for that, couldn`t I.

CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, and I said well, if that`s the case, I`m sure there`ll need to be more discussion so.

BLAGOJEVICH: How about health and human services? Can I get that?


MELBER: Can I get that. That`s not legitimate negotiating. That`s conspiring for a bribe. This obviously echoing today because governors do have absolute power to appoint the senator just like Presidents have absolute power on foreign policy, but that power doesn`t mean you can sell the appointment off for a bribe or run foreign policy to extort bribes to help your re-election.

These same incriminating tapes show Blagojevich declaring that if he doesn`t get the right deal for the bribe he wants, if it`s not good enough, he`ll just appoint himself Senator.


BLAGOJEVICH: And if I can`t get the right deal, John, then I`ll take it myself. That`s kind of where I`m at. What do you think of that?

CHIEF OF STAFF: Right. I think publicly we`ve got to make sure we`re always talking about the best interests of the state, best interests of the--

BLAGOJEVICH: Right. Best of the state and somebody who can do the most good for the state.


MELBER: That`s bad. And that`s not even the smoking gun. If you`re wondering how we are even hearing these secret tapes of a governor plotting a bribe, it`s because like many criminals before and Blagojevich didn`t think he was being taped, but his little dirt would say, it was the Feds listening, they had him wiretapped in this bribery investigation and they got a damning admission of his corrupt intent. Here you can listen to this smoking gun.


BLAGOJEVICH: I`ve got this thing and it`s golden. And I`m just not giving it up for nothing.


MELBER: I`m not giving it up for nothing. Rarely do you hear a defendant so bluntly state his criminal intent. He won`t fill the seat unless he gets something of value in return. He`s soliciting a bribe. This is textbook bribery. The governor corruptly seeking something of value in exchange for his act here appointing the senator. And that was enough for the Feds to move in indicting Blagojevich, setting off a trial that would rip him out of the mansion of the governor`s office and land him ultimately in prison.

Prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald laying out the charges and saying the blatant bribery that was exposed on the tapes you just heard it would make Abraham Lincoln roll over in his grave.


PAT FITZGERALD, PROSECUTOR: Governor Blagojevich tried to sell the appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama. The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave. We have a tremendous amount of information gained from the wiretaps and the bugs that occurred over the last month and a half or so.


MELBER: Those wiretaps sealed the toughest part of these kind of cases, the intent. And as a conspiracy, others went down with the governor as the FBI arrested his Chief of Staff in the raid. Rachel Maddow at the time reporting how it was all looking like a bribery machine.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Blagojevich was arrested along with his Chief of Staff by FBI agents on charges. In layman`s terms of being a one-man kickback and bribery machine who had put Barack Obama`s recently vacated Senate seat up for the highest bidder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He even by the historic standards of Illinois corruption, the case laid out today against Governor Blagojevich was stunning.


MELBER: Stunning evidence of bribery all on tape. And that`s a matter of evidence, not partisanship. Blagojevich though he did happen to be a Democrat and he was trying to cut deals with other Democrats, and he tried defending himself by appealing to party, going on TV, even making a Celebrity Apprentice appearance and saying, who is a Democrat.


BLAGOJEVICH: Are you guys Democrats? How about taking a picture with me here? How do you, sir. Pleasure meeting you.


BLAGOJEVICH: None of that`s true. It`s all baloney. No. Hello. How are you? Nice to meet you. That guy is angry.


MELBER: Didn`t go that well. Meanwhile within a week of Blagojevich`s arrest, the House of Representatives in Illinois launched its impeachment. Democrats and Republicans hearing the evidence, hearings and a procedure really similar to what we`re seeing right now on a national level.

Bribery hearings and then as now experts on law and corruption explaining trading government power for something of value is bribery. The quid pro quo deal to do it is the bribery, a huge crime. The law doesn`t go easier on you if you were bad at it or didn`t pull off the whole plot. That`s a basic legal point. We`ve reported on this show.

Blagojevich obviously didn`t succeed at selling the Senate seat. He got busted but that doesn`t help his defense. He was guilty of bribery regardless of whether someone took him up on his plot.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s a crime in the state of Illinois to offer to do a public act for value whether somebody takes you up on that offer is irrelevant.


MELBER: Irrelevant. Blagojevich did not beat impeachment or conviction in court by arguing that he only attempted to sell the seat because that attempt is obviously bribery. A lesson that echoes right now when you hear Trump allies offer defenses like this.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Attempted Bribery isn`t in the Constitution. Remember, Ukraine got its military aid, it was 14 days delayed. Big deal.


MELBER: Wrong. And as for the debate that ensued then, Blagojevich`s own defense attorney conceded in the impeachment probe soliciting a bribe is bribery.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The governor of the state of Illinois was engaged in behavior in an attempt quid pro quo to trade a U.S. Senate seat for something of value.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn`t do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you disagree with Mr. Lang`s contention that offering something of value.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Except, there is no - I know of course I don`t disagree with Mr. Lang`s contention, offering is a crime. Where does it say he offered anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a pretty clear offer for a Senate seat. Certain considerations.


MELBER: Offering is the crime. Now it`s hard to defend bad evidence, so like Trump, Blagojevich`s messaging turned to other conspiracies talk of witch hunts and "lynchings." There was a lot of effort to distract.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The case is a fairy tale. The process is a witch hunt.

TRUMP: You`re talking about the witch hunt. Is that what you mean. Is that what you`re talking about. I hear it`s a joke.

BLAGOJEVICH: I`m not going to quit a job that the people hired me to do, because of false accusations and a political lynch mob.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said he was a victim of a "lynching."

TRUMP: Well it`s a word that many Democrats have used. It`s a word that many people have used over the years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that he might say, he being Rod Blagojevich say things that offend people doesn`t make them impeachable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe it was inappropriate. I do not believe it was impeachable.


MELBER: Well, the House of Representatives disagreed. Members from both parties impeaching and convicting Blagojevich in a Senate trial. So, he was removed from office.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Blagojevich is hereby impeached.

Blagojevich I now pronounce the judgment of conviction against Rod Blagojevich thereby removing him from the office of governor effective immediately.


MELBER: Losing the big job for bribery far worse for him. He was convicted in a criminal trial. 18 charges including bribery, attempted extortion, fraud, conspiracy and noticeably obstruction related charges like lying to the FBI. He got hit with a 14-year prison sentence hard time because bribery is a serious felony. You can see him right here reporting to prison for the first time in Denver in 2012.

He remains there to this day. Here`s how he looked from a photograph in August. The governor convicted of a bribery plot that he didn`t fully execute is still slated to serve seven more years in prison. Because this is serious stuff, life altering stuff. Lose your freedom type stuff. That`s something to keep in mind as witnesses now detail how the official policy of the Trump administration was yes, there is that term quid pro quo bribery to get Donald Trump something personally valuable to him.

Some have testified about that gravely, some a little bit glibly, but no Trump official has come down to these impeachment hearings and ever denied under oath, what the others admitted.


GORDON SONDLAND, AMBASSADOR TO THE EU: 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: We take it all together here. You got to wonder what President Trump thinks of his old Apprentice colleague who`s in so much trouble for bribery right. Does he ever think back on him? Well, the President actually did speak to this saying, yes, he thought the punishment was too harsh and he is considering a pardon.


TRUMP: I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly. He`s been in jail for seven years over a phone call where nothing happens. So, Rod Blagojevich, I am thinking very seriously about commuting his sentence.


MELBER: Wow. And that was in August. The world didn`t know yet, but Donald Trump knew that he`d been doing bribery solicitation on his own phone calls. And yet again, exposed in public. The question of what do we do as a nation with people in office soliciting bribes, abusing their power and asking for help for themselves it undercuts the American public.

Big questions and I`ve got a special guest coming up. Someone with an inside view of Donald Trump`s troubled defense with the walls closing in.


MELBER: The news that former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify before Congress hit with a bang from that federal court ruling. Partly because McGahn rarely speaks in public at all. There is one exception McGahn appearing at the Powerhouse Conservative Conference, CPAC just last year. It`s an event Donald Trump has attended yearly since 2015 in which is organized by a veteran of the Bush White House Matt Schlapp, Chairman of the very same American Conservative Union and a vocal supporter of Donald Trump with a lot of insight into how it all works and Matt Schlapp is my guess.

Good evening, sir.


MELBER: Absolutely. Given that so many people around Trump have admitted to this quid pro quo. What is the defense to the Ukraine plot and impeachment now?

SCHLAPP: I don`t know what they`re trying to prove. Actually, I watched these hearings at length and I actually didn`t see any witness have any evidence of any quid pro quo. Matter of fact, there was no witness with any evidence of any crime, and I think that`s one of the problems for the Democrats is that without a crime, the search for impeachment looks awfully political to independent voters.

MELBER: Well, let`s take each piece that you raised, because it`s always interesting you get where your perspective is on the evidence. Let`s play some of it. Here is not only Ambassador Sondland, who remains employed by the President, so there can`t be that much disagreement about what he said under oath. But of course, Mick Mulvaney who you know as well.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That he also mentioned to me in the past that the corruption related to the DNC server, absolutely no question about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s be clear. You just described is a quid pro quo.

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

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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Biden`s after your phone call?

TRUMP: Well, I would think that if they were honest about it that sort of major investigation into the Biden.


MELBER: Does the Trump impeachment defense have to pretend those things didn`t happen. Those things weren`t said.

SCHLAPP: No, Ari. Look, I have a lot of respect for you and I`m sure you watched as many minutes of Sondland`s testimony as I did. And as you know under cross-examination from Republicans, he admitted that he didn`t have any evidence of a quid pro quo and he surmised a quid pro quo which is why he put that in his opening statement, but that he admitted that he had no proof of it and there was no evidence of any crime.

And so, I think what happened with many of these Schiff`s witnesses upon cross-examination, we realized it was pretty thin gruel on this - on any evidence of any crimes on behalf of Donald Trump - about Ukraine.

MELBER: So that`s interesting, you`re taking the position that the best defense is to really push back on those accusations of quid pro quo, which is different than saying perfect call. Well, let me show you something for your response.

SCHLAPP: No, I don`t have - look, I think we use - let me just be clear about this. We use our foreign aid for all kinds of reasons. The Obama administration had eight years of their policies which they tried to push through with foreign aid. And Trump has his policies which he`s trying to push through with foreign aid.

The problem with your lead up to your interview with me is that you`re saying that the President was guilty of bribery, but he solicited no money as you know. That has nothing to do with what Rod Blagojevich did in Illinois. And second of all, what Hunter Biden did under the Obama-Biden administration accepting $83,000 a year from Burisma, this gas company and having the Vice President call off the investigation.

MELBER: In fairness, Matt, my lead up to you is showing - in fairness, my lead up to you is showing how CPAC is an important part of the conservative process.

SCHLAPP: In all candor, I mean before that. Thank you for the compliments about CPAC.

MELBER: Well, it`s also true. You`re a big part of this conservative movement that is now getting the President back on the evidence because I want to stick to that for your response. Here`s was what Sondland provided as the White House e-mail. Mulvaney, Perry, Pompeo all on here and you see right there, Zelensky on the call will assure Trump he intends to run the investigation and then you have Mulvaney saying, I asked the Security Council to set up the call.

Obviously, the difference to past administrations would be, this is the theory of the case that Donald Trump was seeking domestic re-election help, not foreign policy goals. Your response.

SCHLAPP: Well, look, would there be a political benefit to Donald Trump and Republicans generally if Hunter Biden`s and Joe Biden`s potential criminal wrongdoing was exposed. Absolutely. But you can`t get past the fact that this Ari, if you`re concerned about impeachable offenses surrounding foreign aid, wasn`t it problematic that Joe Biden went to the Council on Foreign Relations and bragged about the fact that he was able to get a prosecutor fired who was going to do many things and many good things.

But he was also someone who was going after Burisma, which is a company in which Hunter Biden served on the board. If Joe Biden was really worried about--

MELBER: Let me take that up, because--

SCHLAPP: He would have recused himself from that or at least his son to step away from the board membership.

MELBER: Let`s take that up, because I can imagine heads exploding across America hearing you make the argument, but you`re here to make it.

SCHLAPP: Would you agree with me.

MELBER: If that were the case.

SCHLAPP: You agree with me that look bad, Ari. You`re a smart lawyer. That looked bad.

MELBER: I`m going to moderate. But I`m going to tee it up like this.

SCHLAPP: Give me an answer.

MELBER: If you are right and there is a goal of legitimate investigations that I point back to the evidence because that`s sort of my thing, that`s sort of my job here. Then why did so many people say under oath that the goal was not actually doing the investigation, but having it announced on CNN on Fareed Zakaria, I`m going to play that for you for your response. This is Sondland and others saying, it wasn`t about doing an investigation, that goes to what you just said, but just having domestic political attacks on the Biden`s. Take a look.


DAVID HOLMES, DIPLOMAT: He had to announce the investigations he didn`t actually have to do them as I understood it. 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: And then of course there`s also Mr. Zakaria who confirmed his part of it. What is your response to that? That it looked like a specific request. Mr. Sondland still works for the Trump administration said it under oath to get the Biden`s dirtied up on TV, sir.

SCHLAPP: Yes, well I guess what I would say is, is that the charges that Ukrainian aid was withheld and with Ukrainian aid was transferred that no investigation of Hunter Biden ever commenced and that Donald Trump actually gave them lethal foreign aid the ability to go after their enemies.

So, if the charges that some kind of investigation had to start before the aid went through, why did the aid go through without that investigation starting.

MELBER: Well, respectfully, you`re now moving over to the money part, but I`m asking you if it was a real legitimate inquiry they wanted, why did it have to be announced on American TV.

SCHLAPP: I think it should be announced on all news outlets that Hunter Biden was guilty at least of the appearance, the appearance that somehow, he was leveraging his father`s role as the head of Ukrainian policy under the Obama administration in a way that to the benefit of Burisma.

And so once again, I would say this is that your analogy with Rod Blagojevich in Illinois doesn`t work because it was Rod Blagojevich who was asking for cash to sell a Senate seat. It was Rod Blagojevich who was guilty of the wrongdoing. In this case, it`s Hunter Biden and even honest Democrats may be off the air will admit, this looks sounds and smells terrible and if Joe Biden cared about ethics, he would have said to his son, go make money in another country. Don`t do it in the country where I have the lead.

MELBER: You`re bringing back up the President in the United States that Pat Fitzgerald who served under the same President you did President Bush found that when someone asked for a favor and plotted a bribe on the phone, they went to jail for 14 years. What they will--

SCHLAPP: But it was not called bribery.

MELBER: Well, it was, one of the offenses is bribery. I`m out of time. But Mr. Schlapp as always, I appreciate you coming--

SCHLAPP: It was not called bribery.

MELBER: I`m obligated to--

SCHLAPP: Have me back on and we`ll talk about that.

MELBER: Thank you to Matt Schlapp. We`ll have you back on. We`ll be right back.

SCHLAPP: Thank you, Ari.


MELBER: Well, we had a lot happen including a very interesting interview we just concluded. I hope you enjoyed some of it, if not all of it and I will see you back here on THE BEAT tomorrow at 6 PM Eastern. Don`t go anywhere though, because tonight with all this breaking news, "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.