ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much. We begin this episode of The Beat with news breaking. An historic December 10, 2019, the U.S. Congress unveils two articles of impeachment against President Trump. If Congress votes on these new articles, Donald Trump will become only the third President ever impeached in the first, think about this, the first elected President ever impeached in his first term
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The House Committee on the Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The first order of business for members of Congress is the solemn act to take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The articles put forward today will give us a chance to show that we will defend the Constitution and that our oath means something to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The Democrats today unveiling the plan. Speaker Pelosi moving forward uniting her caucus with a narrow case against him here, introducing just two articles of impeachment. Now this is not a situation where they`re throwing everything at Donald Trump and seeing what sticks or narrowing on the House floor, what people want to vote for.
And that means tonight as we go through this, there are a lot of things that are potentially impeachable that are left out of these articles, say obstruction of justice. Remember all that in the Mueller Report or direct references to bribery or even election crimes, which are implicated as well as Donald Trump`s legendary self-dealing, promoting his own hotels as government business or using something that past Congresses have used, the argument that a President brought disgrace on the office like say, Johnson or violated Americans rights, like the draft articles of impeachment against Nixon.
Instead what we`re seeing and I`m going to walk through all of that with you is the Democrats are building a case solely, completely and exclusively on the President`s actions to try to extort Ukraine for help with his re- election.
One article on abuse of power, one on obstruction of Congress. Now what`s going to happen, the Judiciary Committee is going to begin meeting almost immediately to mark this up and then presumably approve these articles. Then it goes to a full vote on the House floor. I want to take you through the evidence the Democrats say they`ve already gathered, which is central to what happens next because they`re going to begin making this case.
And while that`s happening, of course, there`s also been a flurry of other news. The DOJ clearing the FBI of any bias in the Mueller probe, but the DOJ`s own boss who is audited by that kind of report is continuing his public attacks to undercut the DOJ findings. Now, we have more on that later as well as a very special guest with inside knowledge.
And as the DOJ stands by the Mueller probe, today of all days, we saw the legal resolution of a key Mueller witness, one of the final Trump aides to be sentenced, prosecutors recommending probation meaning zero jail time for former senior Trump campaign aide Rick Gates. And this development, you see Mr. Gates right there from back in the day, well this development includes some shade for Donald Trump himself that is relevant to impeachment.
In the filing, these prosecutors note Mr. Gates received pressure not to cooperate with the government and help them anyway, recall of course Donald Trump attacking people who cooperated with Mueller as "rats."
Now what`s the White House angle is all of this stuff is happening, well they`re basically telegraphing to at least their own supporters, you can ignore what the evidence says, ignore what the Democrats are doing and they`re predicting that Donald Trump will ultimately be able to beat any potential conviction in the U.S. Senate where Mitch McConnell is saying this Trump trial will come if it does come after the holidays. So, right now I want to do something that we`ve come to do quite regularly around here.
I want to show you the evidence in what the Democrats say is the reason to do something that almost never happens to impeach, and they argue remove and disqualify from office again, ever holding office again the President.
So, there is two pieces to this. And in order to break it up, we`re going to do the abuse of power, the big Ukraine plot first right now. I`ll get you the rest later, if you keep watching.
This new article accuses the President of using the powers of his high office to solicit illegal interference of a foreign government. Ukraine in 2020. Now, the article notes Donald Trump as many people have seen pushed the Ukrainians to publicly announce an investigation into Biden, the evidence of that is largely provided by Donald Trump himself in the notes of his call that the White House released. We have him asking the Ukrainian President famously to look into Biden. At a time that no one knew that was going on.
The impeachment articles that are out new tonight though, they go further saying that Donald Trump wanted the investigation also into this theory that it was Ukraine rather than Russia that did any 2016 interference. And this is really striking.
The Articles of Impeachment themselves says something very simple that anyone can understand, and you see it on your screen. They say the fact that the idea that Ukraine rather than Putin interfered has been totally discredited. You probably know that because you consume the news and you`ve probably heard witnesses meticulously discredited and debunked that theory.
But here`s what I am going to tell you now. There is a new public debunking of this, which is relevant to any Senate trial. Trump and perhaps sadly for Donald Trump, it comes courtesy of his own handpicked FBI Director.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It is that simple. What you saw on your screen is new from the FBI Director, from the Trump administration and it matches the new article of impeachment. That theory discredited asking a foreign government to help you prove that discredited theory. The Democrats are saying tonight that`s part of why this President must be impeached.
Now, they`re also arguing in these articles that Donald Trump did not act alone but used agents within and outside the U.S. government pursuing this plot. We`ve seen evidence of that in the hearings, as well as a nationally televised interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON SONDLAND, AMBASSADOR TO THE EU: Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden.
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO TRUMP: Of course, I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And then the crux of the case, Donald Trump was not just requesting some sort of generic international review or investigation. He was and this is what we`re going to see. This is maybe part of why the Democrats want to keep this so focused and narrow. They`re saying, he wanted it and he conditioned any announcement of the investigations on what we`ve heard about.
The $391 million that Ukraine was so desperate to get, which was authorized under U.S. law, as well as a visit at the White House. And that evidence, of course, has also been presented in hearings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL TAYLOR, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I think it`s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.
GEORGE KENT, DIPLOMAT: The possibility of a White House meeting was being held contingent to an announcement.
SONDLAND: Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The answer is yes. What you`re seeing on your screen here is the case and the evidence. It will ultimately be up to Donald Trump`s lawyers and staff to fight this out. And people may agree with the evidence in the Senate and still acquit him. But there is a lot of evidence here. And the Democrats in these impeachment articles do something else really important. And I think this is a little bit new. We follow this stuff pretty closely around here and we`ve been scouring it with our team all day.
They make the case that when the President got caught, he relented on the quid, but kept pushing on the quo. Let me explain. The argument here about impeaching Trump in these new articles, which we now have for the first time, is that when busted Donald Trump gave up on attempted extortion. Ukrainians got most of the money that he had frozen. But the Democrats say in these new articles, he was still guiltily, corruptly pursuing the thing. The quo, the articles say, after everything and after all of the whistles blown and all the public heat, the President "persisted" in openly and corruptly urging and soliciting Ukraine to undertake investigations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR OF OMB: We do that all the time with foreign policy.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, that sort of made your investigation into the Biden`s. It`s a very simple answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Very simple answer. That`s now evidence in this rare thing. Articles of impeachment and ensuing markup and vote and potentially Senate trial of the sitting President.
Mulvaney and Trump have, of course, walked back to claims I just showed you. But they are public statements. They are what are legally called admissions against interest deem more credible because they look bad for the people who said them. They are part of what Democrats argue is now a mountain of evidence that the House will consider once these votes are held. And it makes a judgment on Trump`s fitness for office.
These articles close on a quite somber note and I`m going to read it to you. They argue in all of this, President Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government and that he will remain a threat. I want to repeat that. That`s the Congress speaking about the current President.
He will remain a threat to the Constitution if allowed to remain in office. And not only the Democrats in the Congress argued as he warned impeachment and trial, but also and this is a separate question in the Constitution. They argue today for the first time in writing removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.
So, goes the case. And now we turn to our experts, former NSA General Counsel Robert Deitz. Robert Reich, Economist and Labor Secretary who served in the administration of Bill Clinton, who also faced impeachment and ultimately was not removed from office after a Senate trial.
Welcome to both of you. Good evening. Mr. Deitz, your view of these articles.
ROBERT DEITZ, FORMER NSA GENERAL COUNSEL: I find a couple of things very interesting and good evening, Ari.
MELBER: Good evening.
DEITZ: I think the most interesting thing to me is that the Congress did focus in a very narrow way. As you mentioned, at the beginning of the show. There were five or six or seven things that they could have identified as impeachable. They chose a very narrow path. And I think the reason is that it is much easier to make a case to a jury, whether it`s a normal jury or the Senate as a jury. If you`ve got a very straightforward, simple case that can be laid out, you know, it`s chronologically, one item after another. And so, I think that was a wise decision on their part rather than make everything much more complex by adding other articles of impeachment.
MELBER: Robert Reich?
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY CLINTON ADMINISTRATION: Well, I agree with that. And as this move to the Senate, the real question, of course, in everybody`s mind is how partisan is this going to be? Will any single Republican join either in the House or in the Senate? If they don`t, then Donald Trump`s narrative, his counter-narrative, his version of events, that this is actually a plot, a conspiracy by Democrats and by the deep state, so-called, to remove him from office becomes very slightly more credible, at least to people who are willing to believe Donald Trump.
And so, all of this is essentially a stage and the actors are already on the stage. The jury will be the Senate, but ultimately the jury will be the American people.
MELBER: Let me play for you, Congressman Schiff, today, who talked about why this is so urgent. Americans obviously waking up to seeing how fast it`s going. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: The argument, why don`t you just wait amounts to this. Why don`t you just let him cheat in one more election? Why not let him cheat just one more time?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Does that play into this, Robert Reich?
REICH: Well, obviously it does. I think the most powerful part of this - actually proceeding and also what the House did today in terms of delivering these articles is the fear expressed very, very specifically that Donald Trump as President will continue to abuse his power unless he is stopped. I mean, everybody understands that these articles of impeachment actually occur in the shadow of allegations over Russia.
MELBER: Let me draw you on that.
REICH: But Donald Trump actually has to have - be constrained.
MELBER: Let me draw you out of that, because you are speaking here as someone who served President Clinton, who faced a lot of criticism for what people called personal behavior. Many people saying it was abhorrent, but many, including ultimately Republicans saying it was not of the abuse of office, the "high crime" that the founders were concerned about.
What you`re laying out does seem somewhat different. The President Clinton was talking about the past perjury, civil case. You`re arguing - you agree with Schiff that this is really about whether Donald Trump will get to continue publicly or privately plotting, demanding other governments help him win re-election.
REICH: Fundamentally, abuse of power, as it is understood, as it was understood in the Nixon when the actual articles went to the Congress, went to the House, as it was understood under Clinton and right now, abuse of power means that a President has taken the power of his office and actually used it in ways that are contrary to the Constitution of the United States, that undermine the Constitution of the United States.
When Bill Clinton lied about sex with an intern, that was serious, obviously it was serious. But the Senate said, well, that was not a fundamental attack on the Constitution. But here we have Donald Trump, who is soliciting foreign help with an election. He is having a - he is conditioning and he`s bribing foreigners with taxpayer money intended to actually defend a country against Russian aggression. That is a constitutional imperative. That is against the Constitution of the United States.
MELBER: Stay with me both of you.
DEITZ: Could I?
MELBER: Yes, you can. But stay with me, because I want to bring in one more special guest. Elizabeth Drew was hustling to watch the camera. She`s covered decades of presidential scales, including Watergate is something of a Washington legend, if I may. Nice to see you. Thanks for coming on The Beat.
ELIZABETH DREW, POLITICAL JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Thank you, Ari. Nice to be here.
MELBER: We have you in this big night with two other folks who know their way around the city as well. My big question to you on a historic night, when we take a step back and say, yes, a lot`s happened, but we know tonight that we didn`t know yet last night is that the Congress is impeaching Donald Trump. Speaker Pelosi outlining the two articles, not three, not five. Your view of the case, she and the Democrats are making and what this means?
DREW: Well, Ari, they have drawn on as tightly as possible. This is partly because it`s a matter of time. Otherwise, we`re going to run into the actual primaries next year. And also, because of the partisanship of it. There was clearly no hope of getting widespread Republican even now Republican cooperation.
So, they drew it as tightly as possible, so as to get it through. The danger is and we may already be in it, is that if this gets muddied and it`s not really easy, not as easy to understand is I think they originally thought, if that gets muddied, they`ve got nothing.
MELBER: Well, let me push you on that. Is it clearer or not, I`ll read to you what`s on our screen? According to the new article of impeachment, Trump abused official power to get foreign help for 2020.
DREW: Right. What`s the question?
MELBER: Sounds clear. Do you think it`s clear enough?
DREW: It`s the abuse of power part that`s, I think muddy to a lot of people. And what the Republicans did is they said, A, he didn`t do it, well, they did it, but it`s no big deal. And I think they have a lot of people convinced of that. I would have preferred to see two or three subjects like emoluments. I mean, it`s so obvious that he`s using the office to get more money so that there are other subjects. There`s a fall back.
If this gets muddied, then there is something else. That`s what`s been troubling. And also, it`s a bad thing that he did and they`re probably going to say in the articles that this was a pattern. They don`t want to go back to Russia. They don`t want to go back to 2016. But if they say there was a pattern of bringing another country--
MELBER: I`m only jumping into add evidence. It`s my way. It`s my nerdy way, Ms. Drew.
DREW: That`s OK. I like it.
MELBER: You talk about a pattern. The language in the new articles is, they say, a "scheme or course of conduct."
MELBER: Go on. You`re saying, is that enough? Does that show what is really the problem, which is whether the President habitually puts his own personal interests above the U.S. interest and abuses his power to do so?
DREW: Yes, he did. But what I`m saying is that if people don`t quite see what was the big deal about this or they buy one of the Republican arguments, they threw out an awful lot of this afternoon, they threw it to wall. But some of them have a surface plausibility. And so that`s why I thought it would be about two or three subjects, they would have - first of all, it would give the Republicans more targets they have to defend.
MELBER: Yes. Let me bring in Mr. Deitz, because I know he want to get in as well but speak to Mr. Drew`s point regarding the breadth and whatever else you wanted to enlighten us on.
DEITZ: Yes. If you`re trying a case, particularly a complicated case before a jury and in this case a very large jury, you want to keep it as simple as possible. And that`s why I think the Democrats chose to do this the way they did. There`s an assumption. The President is making this assumption that he`ll be acquitted in the Senate.
I don`t think it`s quite that easy. There is a - the majority leader, Mr. McConnell has said that he has to hold a hearing. Once you hold a hearing, it means that evidence is coming out. And I think it`s difficult simply to, you know, shut your eyes and plug up your ears and, you know, and say, no. I think that it may be very difficult for people to simply to ignore this really cascade of evidence that supports the article that the House has drawn up.
MELBER: Yes, I`ve got to fit in. I`ve only - I`m sorry. I`ve got to fit in break. Ms. Drew, I know you look at the camera, so we`ve got you in late. So, my apologies to those who are not getting as much time as we would love, but we have a lot tonight, including some other special witness guests. So, to the Deitz, Reich and Drew of it all, thanks to each of you.
Coming up, we`re going to go into the other article of impeachment, and obstruction of Congress with Prosecutor Joyce Vance We look at the precedents here. Presidential historian Jon Meacham, part of our special coverage tonight. And then, as mentioned, I am very excited to tell you, we have a special guest, an insider, a fact-witness that is going to get into a probe, that Bill Barr apparently doesn`t like parts of it.
I`m Ari Melber. We`ve got all that for you tonight. You`re watching the special edition of The Beat on MSNBC.
MELBER: The news tonight, Congress unveiling for the first time two written articles of impeachment against the President for abuse of power in the Ukraine plot that`s drawn most of the attention. The second article bears down on a strong precedent using the impeachment proceedings of Johnson and Nixon. Nixon, I should say, obstruction of Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NADLER: President Trump engaged in unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry. This gives rise to the second article of impeachment for obstruction of Congress.
SCHIFF: President Trump has obstructed Congress fully without precedent and without basis in law. If allowed to stand, it would decimate Congress`s ability to conduct oversight of this President or any other in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Right there today, the Chairman of the two most powerful committees here, Judiciary and Intel explaining the second article, which states Trump led an unprecedented categorical, in discriminant defiance of subpoenas, hiding evidence, discouraging cooperation with this lawful investigation, a case that builds on what Democrats laid out in their hearings and report. Trump defying 71 individual requests for evidence directing officials not to testify to Congress. Nine refusing to appear.
Donald Trump`s defiance may seem like old news compared to some other offenses. That`s what`s part of what makes this also significant. We didn`t know this was going to happen. But as of today, the Congress is rejecting what it views as attempts to normalize Trump`s defiance of lawful subpoenas of oversight, arguing that lawlessness has consequences, and also naming names of the witnesses who they say are siding with Donald Trump`s allegedly impeachable cover up.
For this obstruction discussion, I want to bring in U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance. Good evening to you. What do you think of obstructing Congress as the second article and the choice not to get into something that our viewers know about that you testified to Congress about alleged obstruction in the Mueller probe?
JOYCE VANCE, ATTORNEY: So, I think that this is a very clever strategic move by the House. This second article of impeachment is drafted in a very narrow way. It applies only to the President flat out refusal to comply with subpoenas in the Ukraine investigations. The facts are incontrovertible, there simply and Republicans, by the way, have not made any effort to say the President has done this. So, the question that Republicans will have to face is, is this OK? Is it OK for a President to refuse to let Congress do its job? I think it puts them in a box in a very nice way.
MELBER: I want to read the only reference we could find. I`m curious what you found. That goes to something that came up from some of our experts just earlier in tonight`s broadcast, which is when you use a scheme or pattern to suggest things in the Senate trial may ultimately, if there is one, get into this in more depth.
But as for the new articles, they state these actions Trump took were allegedly consistent with President Trump`s previous efforts to undermine U.S. government investigations into foreign interference in United States elections, proving Joyce that only lawyers could take that many words to say Mueller. It seems like a Mueller reference without saying.
VANCE: I think it is Bob Mueller and the margin of my copy of the articles of impeachment when I got to that point. If this was a criminal trial, we would call it 404(b) evidence, evidence of other bad acts or crime--
MELBER: Crime or bad acts.
VANCE: Defendant that you can introduce. Right, exactly that you can introduce to prove certain sorts of things like motive or opportunity or a pattern of conduct. I think it`s not at all unlikely that we`ll see some introduction of Mueller evidence either to show this ongoing pattern of conduct or to highlight how dangerous the President is, that he is committed to a course of conduct where he covers up investigation into any abuse by himself of his obligations of office.
MELBER: And my last question to you, 30 seconds as a prosecutor, what do you say to people who think, well, obstructing prosecutors that sounds somehow more serious than obstructing Congress?
VANCE: Obstructing Congress matters if you`re in Congress. You know, if you`re a Republican and you don`t vote for this article of impeachment, there is no telling what a future Democratic President can get away with. So, as I say, I think that they`ve put the Republican senators in a real box here. They have to think both about the present, but also about the future.
MELBER: Yes. Very interesting to hear from you and your expertise. It strikes me as literally the narrowest case you could make while making an impeachment case. Whether being that narrow is the right or wise course is going to be debated for many days to come. But I think you and I both see it as narrow. Joyce Vance, thank you so much for joining our special coverage.
VANCE: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Where does history - thank you. Where does history fit into all this? Historian Jon Meacham is here on all of that. We`re back in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: Welcome back. We keep digging into these two new articles of impeachment against President Trump and here to discuss the historical context at a time when many people will be quoting history for their point of view is an actual historian, Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham. Thanks for being here tonight.
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Big night. Let me show you right out the gate, what we know from past impeachments. Take a look at the number of articles. With Clinton, they started with four, ended with two. Nixon was three, obviously he resigned. Johnson a whopping 11. What do you think of history`s lessons about Donald Trump starting with a narrow two?
MEACHAM: Well, it`s appropriate for the attention span of Trump`s America, right. Keep it short, keep it clean. And I do think it has - we`re going to hear a lot about Clinton, a lot about Nixon. You`ve already talked about it. There is - it`s worthwhile to think for a second about the Andrew Johnson experience because what Johnson was impeached for really was undoing the verdict of the Civil War in the view of the Republicans of the day. He was a compromise candidate. He was a Democrat who was put on the ticket in 1864 as a kind of unity move.
And after Ford`s Theatre in April of 1865, he was really in the view of Republicans of that time undoing the implications of Appomattox. He was opposing civil rights act. He was opposing reaching out to the formerly enslaved. He opposed the 14th and 15th amendments. He was really trying to preserve white supremacy at a moment when the country was attempting and had just adjudicated on the field of battle. The questions about whether we would truly have a new birth of freedom.
And so, the impeachment was as much about the existential question of that moment. I think this is too. I think that where Andrew Johnson was trying to undo a war, President Trump`s been trying to undo 242 years or so of constitutional norms. And that is a huge part of this.
MELBER: Let me pause you right there, because as I studied this resolution and we`re going to be hearing more about it, but it matters both to the President who hates this process, who was having a bad day as well as to the country and to the history that you`re so familiar with. Why? Why are you doing this? And what runs through this narrow case above and beyond the particulars of Ukraine or servers is as they put it a threat to the constitutional order, Jon.
MEACHAM: There are two things at stake here. One is the sovereignty of our elections which was from the very beginning a source of enormous concern front and center for the framers. And the other is the really - the great insight of the American founding which was that balance was essential. This is what James Madison spent the winter before going to Philadelphia thinking about, writing about.
And you can argue about how we came to balance things out with proportional representation or the Electoral College, the House and Senate. Everyone argues about the details. But the fundamental insight was that the only way to control and mitigate human passion was to divide sovereignty and divide power. And because no one should be overly powerful, overly influential because as Madison said, if men were angels, no government would be necessary and since men were so decidedly unangelic, we had to limit ourselves.
And what the president`s done here and I think it`s laid out in very clear prose, I`m not sure who wrote the articles but it`s a very clear concise A to B to C chronology one of things about biography is chronologies always your friend because that is actually how life happens. And these articles laid out chronologically. He was attempting to use his office to violate the sovereignty of our elections in order to preserve his own power thus throwing the system out of balance. Not much more complicated.
MELBER: Quite clear. And when he was caught, he did not relent. The kind of the inverse of nevertheless he persisted. If it is for doing crimes allegedly it`s not good. Jon Meacham, I really appreciate having you here on a big night.
MEACHAM: Sure. Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Yes sir. Catch up with you soon. Coming up in the show, I have a take on what you need to know about why Bill Barr is muddying the waters of a report that largely fact checks him and Trump. And a very special guest, a fact witnesses in the Mueller probe on this big night joins me up ahead.
MELBER: Turning to a whole different topic. The long-awaited DOJ report on the origins of the Russia probe has finally come out and it`s making big headlines like these. Clearing the FBI of President Trump`s allegations of political bias, finding the FBI was justified to open the Russian probe and debunking claims of some kind of treasonous anti-Trump witch hunt. But even though the report debunks those Trump claims, it also shines a light on some of the failures of the investigation`s practices, especially regarding warrants.
The report finding "basic and fundamental failures in aspects of the Bureau`s surveillance." NBC News summarizing it as the inspector general found parts of the warrant system have become "a mess."
Now while the report debunks Donald Trump`s main complaint about the Russia probe Donald Trump`s handpicked Attorney General Bill Barr is seizing on this warrant issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Clear cut evidence that the dossier that they ultimately relied on to get the FISA warrant was a complete sham. They hid information about the lack of reliability even when they went the first time for the warrant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A complete sham. Now let`s remember, the surveillance and related investigative techniques began with the four Trump campaign advisers you may recall. Three of them convicted. And the report found no bias or crimes, but this all has cleared one person, Carter Page. When you compare the names listed in this lengthy report, Flynn comes up about 40 times. Paul Manafort over 200, but Department of Justice investigators citing Carter Page, a whopping 614 times which means Page averages out to twice a page in the report and over the last two years.
He spoke with the FBI for over 10 hours, another six hours with the House Intelligence Committee, a bevy of television interviews. So, what does Carter Page have to say now at this inflection point? Well, this key witness and subject of the audit of DOJ staff, Carter Page is with me right here, right now, one of his very first interviews since this whole report came out.
Thanks for sitting down with me.
CARTER PAGE FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Great to be with you again, Ari.
MELBER: I`m glad to have you back wherever this story goes I`ve got my report, it`s a thick one. I noticed you brought yours. What do you think is important that comes out of this?
PAGE: I think the - first of all, great initial work by the Inspector General. I had concerns just because I hadn`t been - had the chance to provide any input. And there were some privacy act questions. But in the end, it was a great first step and I think as you correctly alluded to and so many Americans have been talking about just really serious egregious misconduct. And I`m very heartened that the Attorney General Barr and the team at DOJ is going to continue looking into this serious issue.
MELBER: Ben Wittes who some of our viewers may recall is an analyst well- known in Washington. He writes, now that this has come out, "if I were Carter Page, I`d read this report with some grim satisfaction. Page has a right to be pissed off. IG concluded serious errors took place in seeking Page`s surveillance orders. The errors were not political." And he`s referring to the fact that both things can be true, and this is a nuance that can get lost. I`m reading here from the report, 17 "errors or omissions in the Carter Page warrant applications." That`s not nothing.
But also, "no intentional misconduct on the part of the agents and as I mentioned no bias." Do you then accept that both - there were mistakes with you, but there was no larger anti-Trump witch hunt found in this report?
PAGE: Well, I know there was a witch hunt more broadly in terms of a lot of the direct collusion between outside actors and the FBI and DOJ. And we know this in terms of you know the significant discussion of Fusion GPS et cetera, the DNC and their direct involvement in this. I mean this is clearly unprecedented in terms of serious election interference.
MELBER: I understand your view. Do you accept that this report doesn`t find an anti-Trump bias on the part of the FBI, because that`s the other thing? I mean you could kind of divide this whole thing right now into warrants. That`s you.
MELBER: And then is the FBI out to treasonously take down Donald Trump. And I read the report, it says no.
PAGE: Well, like I said Ari, I think it`s a first step and we`ll have to wait and see until we have the full details. I think as is stated in the report they had a narrow scope talking to internal people within DOJ. And I think as we look more broadly which I know some other people in the U.S. government are now doing, I think we`ll have a much clearer picture.
But I think where people have come together. I had a chance to watch Morning Joe this morning and I was heartened that at least the first half hour, almost half of it was talking about this important national issue and I think it`s starting a national conversation and hopefully we`ll learn a lot more as this investigation continues.
MELBER: One of the things that was hard to know in real time and we`ve had you on the show more than once and always tried to get your perspective, because you learn more when you check with everyone.
MELBER: One of the things that was hard for some people to figure out in real time is, is Carter Page a secret Russian spy conspiring or is he a person who got swept up in this.
MELBER: Now, and I want to say this in fairness to you and we`ve talked about it when you were on the show earlier, both the Mueller Report and now this lengthy document, it deals with you so many times finds you being swept up.
MELBER: Which means as I put it - you want to put it in plain English. You`ve been cleared and yet do you think that Donald Trump makes it harder on people like you, you were at one point advising the campaign. Does he make it harder when after you get cleared, he goes out and asks as he put it Ukraine or China to investigate his opponents because it kind of then dredges back up the idea that while you`re in the clear, Donald Trump seems to really want foreign involvement in dealing with investigations of his rivals.
PAGE: Ari, listen, I have - I`ve never met a candidate Trump, President- elect, President Trump ever in my life. So, I can`t say--
MELBER: But you were in campaign that you were a foreign policy adviser, one time.
PAGE: Volunteer for a large team. Yes. But so, I can`t really speak in terms of factually. All I know is even just based on some of these allegations which are being thrown around. I mean what we`ve seen definitively was serious hard evidence here is infinitely more serious in terms of you know the wrongdoing and as you said those 17 areas of misconduct. So again, I think this is just the start.
MELBER: You say just the start. If this start of something that leads to greater public understanding of the truth. Great.
MELBER: If it`s the start of relitigating what now is in here done that could go both ways. I want to play one of your appearances because I`m glad to talk to you during the investigation since it finished, I noticed you haven`t done a ton of interviews, but you were on with Sean Hannity and you`re on with me, I think that`s great. Let`s look at something in that exchange that got some attention with Hannity. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Do you plan on going after all of these people that did this to you?
PAGE: Absolutely Sean. We have a team of attorneys going through that document in great detail and look forward to sharing that with initial thoughts with Chairman Graham and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What are you getting at?
PAGE: Well, I think as I directly alluded to, we`re planning some very serious steps and I have a great team as well.
MELBER: Such as?
PAGE: Well, it`s early days. We`re all still as you have been going through this very large document looking at specific causes of action. But I think it`s just overflowing thus far.
MELBER: But you think you`re looking at potentially new ways to sue the government for what you see as the violation of your rights?
PAGE: And the people that were in conspiracy essentially with the government or at least colluding. Right. Going back to that old terminology. So, early days, I have a great team. You know some people that you may know but we`ll see.
MELBER: And you know my last question for you. Do you feel a little bit like everyone treated you like maybe you were you know out there and now you`ve got this report and everyone coming back to you and embracing you? Do you feel vindicated?
PAGE: I feel like there is a lot that needs to be done for our country. Originally, I was a foreign policy guy. And I thought about great steps that can be done in a foreign policy context for our country and that`s why I was excited to be a volunteer with the Trump campaign. Now having been in-depth in the law you know with all those questions and controversies we`ve talked about for years, Ari, I`m excited that we`re in the process of doing some serious reforms and I think the Inspector General`s appearance in front of Senate Judiciary tomorrow is going to be an important next step in that process.
MELBER: Well, we`re keeping an eye on all of it. The report has a lot of, I would argue, and I`ve reported bad news for Donald Trump and Bill Barr and some of what they claimed, but it does have a lot of clearance of you as well as serious discussions about the warrant issue. So, I really appreciate you coming back.
PAGE: Great to see you, Ari. Thank you.
MELBER: Carter Page, really appreciate it. Coming up, my take on Attorney General Barr, why he`s under fire over another aspect of his public comments. New, including this interview today.
MELBER: There is a lot of heat on Attorney General Bill Barr. He has been trying to literally undercut his own DOJ`s audit of the Russia probe and take issue with the parts that he happens to disagree with. Something that we`ve touched on tonight.
But doing that has required some transparency if you want to call that or at least openness to media interviews that are raising other damning questions, including Barr`s role in this entire Ukraine scandal which Donald Trump secretly pledged Bill Barr could help carry out along with Giuliani.
Mr. Barr has not testified to Congress or take reporter questions on camera about the entire Ukraine scandal, which obviously mentions him and is driving his boss`s impeachment until well, some new appearances today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you ever asked by the White House to talk to anybody in Ukraine about an investigation of Joe Biden.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you concerned that Ukraine has a missing server from the Hillary Clinton emails.
BARR: Fortunately, I haven`t gotten into the Ukraine thing yet. I don`t know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the Ukrainians do anything with you?
BARR: No, nothing at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No follow-up at all?
BARR: No. The fact is I was smart enough not to get involved with the Ukraine, at least put it very low on the--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He thinks he was smart enough. That`s Mr. Barr`s view. And he`s reiterating basically terse denials, but major questions remain here and raising those questions is a cost that Barr is obviously willing to pay in order to do this PR about what I was just discussing with a different guest, the DOJ report.
As far as the Trump witch hunt is concerned this is a clunker that failed to deliver on Donald Trump`s lies about the FBI committing treason or illegally hunting down his campaign and those lies matter, because tonight I want you to know amidst everything else going on, those lies stand fact check by Donald Trump`s own Justice Department, which is why Barr and Trump are trying to muddy the findings. And yes, now point to the next probe by Barr`s hand-picked prosecutor, John Durham who is conducting his own Russia review a bit of deja vu that the New York Times captures pretty perfectly today with a stinging summation, I want to share with you.
Trump and Barr reopening a script they have used for nearly three years engage in a choreographed campaign of presidential tweets, Fox News appearances and fiery congressional testimony to create expectations about finding proof of a quote deep state campaign against Trump and then this is where we are tonight, when the proof does not emerge, skew the results, prepare for the next opportunity to execute the playbook. Just keep in mind what`s really going down.
MELBER: So, what`s going on? Well, tomorrow is going to be a big news day in a lot of directions. The Senate Judiciary Committee holding its first hearing on what I`ve been holding up around here the DOJ report that we discussed tonight with more than one angle. DOJ Inspector General Horowitz testifying. I am actually going to be part of a large team doing coverage, beginning at 9 AM Eastern, so you can set your clock for that. A lot of angles.
Also, tomorrow a rare late-night hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, because Chairman Nadler is actually going to hold an evening markup starting in 7 PM Eastern to go over these articles of impeachment.
We`ll have that for you. Obviously, The Beat goes right into 7 PM Eastern. One more note for those of you following all the different stuff, The Beat podcast, you can find anywhere you get your podcast in Apple and now we`ve just posted our new special event right here in New York with former prosecutors from the Southern District. We talked about Giuliani now under investigation there, as well as real life cases they`ve dealt with from Martha Stewart to the characters who were prosecuted in the Irishman, you can get that at The Beat with Ari podcast.
Again, thanks for watching. Hardball with Chris Matthews starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END