CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: That is all for tonight, but 24 hours American politics continues. Will be news every moment this next 24 hours. We`ll have more Meet the Press Daily tomorrow. If it`s Wednesday, there is all- new Chuck Toddcast, ready to download, for some of the last name of Pelosi is on it. Get it now, wherever you get your podcasts. The Beat with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. One quick thing, you know they say, I bet you think this song is about you, and I don`t think this day is about you or me, but I will note for eagle eyed MSNBC viewers, our coverage started at 9 AM with you, sir. We`re handing off now, you`ve been covering it as I have.
TODD: But you had to work longer. You have to do at least an extra hour.
MELBER: What do you make now that altogether we start the day with a hearing that is really rehashing 2016 and we`re going into a night now that is looking at allegations that Donald Trump was trying to steal 2020.
TODD: I have to say Ari, I think when we look back and we realize, I think the Trump administration has been very effective at diluting these big impeachment moments with just whether it`s suddenly you know the IG report is ready. Bill Barr, I mean they have done a good job diluting the conversation with other parts of this controversy and that whether - we can talk about the misinformation and disinformation and all of those things that just is, this is a reminder of how well this administration is willing to use their power whether you think it`s ethical or not.
MELBER: Well, I don`t want to prejudge any of it, but if you say it`s getting diluted, everyone knows too many ice cubes in a drink and it`s not as good a drink.
TODD: There you go.
MELBER: Chuck, I`ll be seeing you soon.
TODD: Thank you, man.
MELBER: Always good to be covering with you tonight here on The Beat. We have that big story, it`s our lead story. The House will formally begin marking up these new articles of impeachment. We`re going to bring you that. Also, later, not our top story, but later, we`re going to look at this DOJ watchdog testifying on Capitol Hill. And I`m going to focus on the evidence and on what has been a pretty thorough debunking of the infamous witch hunt complaint.
We also have one other special thing that involves a hotel in Moscow. But we begin one hour away from the start of this historic debate. The House Judiciary Committee will officially begin marking up the two articles of impeachment that were just introduced yesterday in this busy world, it was just yesterday that the House said, here`s why we want to impeach Trump and Dems have a plan to basically finish by tomorrow, which will set up a vote in the Judiciary Committee. That`s what would pass out what Democrats say are the only two reasons they want to impeach Trump, obstruction and abuse of power. And that would go to the Full House to then vote under Speaker Pelosi`s leadership on whether to impeach.
This is the first time an elected President faced impeachment in the first term. This is the first time a President has done so much to blatantly defy Congress in public without even pretending or purporting to cooperate under some certain condition. No, you`re looking at an impeachment process that`s fast partly because Donald Trump made it that way. He said I`m not working with you any way, no way, knowhow.
Also, this is the first time a President so brazenly publicly pushed to have a foreign government get in and target his opponents in a U.S. election and then continue it after he was caught. And that`s important because before I show you this next piece of evidence, think about this, whether you like or dislike a candidate, you should not like them wanting to get foreign help to cheat.
In fact, if a citizen did it, it`s straight up illegal. And that brings me to this next piece of news, a citizen who is under investigation for related activities now telling The Washington Post none other than Rudy Giuliani that Trump still wants him to go talk to the DOJ and Republican senators about yes, his Ukraine "findings" after everything the President encouraging Giuliani to get foreign dirt and then playing it out in the open and then saying, yes, these are findings that will inform, that will attempt to yes, meddle in the ongoing election. Now that`s why Democrats say, there is no choice left and they are trying to stop all of this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): This is a pattern behavior of this President. He welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election. He sought foreign interference in the 2020 election, if he`s not held accountable, if we don`t honor our oath to defend and - protect to defend the constitution, there should be no question in anyone`s mind, he`s going to go back at it. In fact, it`s a crime in progress, he`s still doing it today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Let`s get right to it with our first two guests Katty Kay, Anchor for BBC World News in Washington and Former Federal Prosecutor and counsel to three congressional investigations, John Flannery. Good evening to both of you. John, I begin with the big story, not any attempt to distract or rehash or relitigate or reheat. Not that I don`t like certain items reheated. Who doesn`t like a snack out of the microwave?
But this is bigger than that. The Congress moving towards marking up these two articles. What does that mean to you based on the public evidence and what comes next?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it`s historic, it takes me back to the Clinton impeachment and how we progressed then and we`re at that same stage again in which the committee is going to meet and markup meeting proposed edits or not. I don`t expect that you`ll see any edits from the Democratic side. I`d be surprised if we do. I think that their discipline is to push the two articles as they have them.
And the Republicans are in a hard place because there is no amendment, they can put in it. I think Congressman Jordan will try to bring crayons, but I don`t think he`ll bring any language to change it. And then we`ll go to the floor. The Rules Committee will set the rules by which amendments may be considered and they`ll be submitted by the Republicans, I presume perhaps some Democrats, before it comes to the floor next Tuesday when the Full House will vote on it. It`s a historic occasion. It`s a significant occasion. Some of us wish that there were more details in terms of the crimes that they`ve described in the two articles.
MELBER: Let me ask you, because viewers had spent time with you, as I have six, 9 months ago. You were in the minority advocating for this. Many people didn`t think it would happen. Speaker Pelosi publicly said her focus was on the next election and not doing this. If there is an inflection point, I think it`s tonight as the official markup begins. You just explained with your keen knowledge of the rules why it`s tonight. What do you say John Flannery, about what you pushed for and what is now happening?
FLANNERY: Well, I`m very excited about it. It proves that those people who predicted that the speaker could never change have been surprised by the fact that she has and dramatically. And I think there are two reasons. One is the caucus shifted, particularly after the understated performance of Mr. Mueller. But also, then there was the discovery by the whistleblower that fell into her area of expertise. She had worked on the whistleblower statute. She knew about this subject. It`s now, it`s dramatic. It was confirmable.
And then there were efforts to compromise the whistleblower by the President of the United States, which is an item that I would like to also who`s seen that the specific witnesses were threatened.
But I think that that change suggests that anything is possible in politics. And the inductive error is to assume that what happened before must happen again. And that`s our experience that it hasn`t happened. So, I`m delighted that our government has been responsive to the people and that the elected members found it with some difficulty to make transitions in their own position.
MELBER: Inductive errors are common, and we are fallible. And Katty Kay, a similar line of question to you, although you come at it from a different position as a longtime journalist and chronicler of this strange town of Washington. What is on your mind tonight as it does seem, we are about to see whether you agree or oppose what`s going to happen. We`re about to see history unfold tonight.
KATTY KAY, BBC WORLD NEWS WASHINGTON ANCHOR: Yes. Look, it`s a grave, serious moment for the United States. And I think you said something important at the beginning of the program, Ari. We are moving from looking at 2016, which we`ve been doing during the course of today to tonight, looking firmly at 2020. And the case that I`ve spoken to a couple of Democrats who were on the Judiciary Committee over the last couple of days, the case they are very keen to make to the American people is, this is urgent. This is about now. This is about today`s election. This is not about the past.
And I think the reason we`ve only got two and we`ve been hearing all the time, there are many Democrats who would like more articles of impeachment is because they want to focus it on the urgency of now and the urgency of national security. This is about the potential threat to the republic, to the potential threat to our democracy. And that is why they`ve narrowed it in this way just to focus on 2020, and the threat that this relationship with Ukraine pose to the democratic process and that it`s still ongoing.
MELBER: And this is a real process. I mean, there is so much cynicism out there, not only from people who benefit from it, but I think from others who look at a long-range view or get exhausted, which I get, I totally get it. But the cynicism about this as if it`s one more thing. It`s not one more thing.
MELBER: In many ways, it`s something Donald Trump has fought tooth and nail, as is documented, precisely because he so abhors a day of judgment in the Senate. Be that a literal day or a week or whatever it ultimately is. The Constitution does provide for rules here, rules above the attempts of men. And with that in mind, take a brief look at Senator McConnell talking about, look, this is this is going to happen at the trial here. Here is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (D-KY): Assuming that House Democrats send us articles of impeachment next week, a Senate trial will have to be our first item of business in January.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Katty, I would say that that is the senator understanding that the Constitution provides for something. Any attempt to run from that or nullify that would be too much even for him.
KAY: Yes. And if this goes to the Senate with both articles of impeachment being passed by the House and again, perhaps that`s why there are only two so that, you know, they could have a solid package unlike Clinton, where there are four articles of impeachment were introduced, but only two were actually passed and it somehow watered it down from the Republican side.
There was a little asterisk over that moment. These would go with no asterisk of that nature into the Senate. And then the question is going to be for Mitch McConnell, how long does he want this to go on for? Does he, like the Democrats, paradoxically, also want a speedy trial? It can be wrapped up. There are only two articles. They could get through them much quicker that way and get it wrapped up by the end of January as well. And you`ve got both sides for different reasons, wanting this to be a fast trial that doesn`t distract the American public beyond the end of January.
MELBER: Both of you stay with me. We have a lot planned for our special coverage tonight. And I want to bring in a special guest who has unique insights as an insider. Congressman Curbelo served in the Republican caucus and joins me out in Las Vegas today. Carlos Curbelo, good to see you, sir.
The panel stays, but my first question to you, what do members of Congress think on nights like this where they sit down and realize they`re doing something historic? It`s not another vote. It`s not another amendment. I understand there are Republicans who argue this is a terrible thing. But how does gravity weigh in, if ever, on nights like this?
FMR REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R-FL): Ari, that`s a great question because certainly the night before a big vote and without question this will be the biggest vote in the 116th Congress. Every member who is serving in that Congress today knows that there will be no more important vote probably in their careers. So, there is a lot of reflection, even though a lot of people have made up their minds already.
I guarantee you that they`re thinking long and hard about this. Most of them are thinking about how they will be judged by history, despite the fact that our politics are broken, and that people are very cynical these days. I can assure you that most members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, are reflecting a lot this evening and into tomorrow morning.
MELBER: Stay with me. I have one of your colleagues, as I mentioned, we`ve got a lot of things plan. And I want to bring in a current congressman from Texas Joaquin Castro, who serves on the Intelligence Committee. Good evening to you, sir.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Good evening. Thanks for having me.
MELBER: For you and your former colleague, as well as our panelists who are here, I now want to go deeper and look at briefly the history of this. What happens when we get to these moments for everyone? Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last night, for the first time in more than 100 years, the committee voted an article of impeachment against the President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For only the third time in history, the House Judiciary Committee has voted to send articles of impeachment against the President of the United States to the Full House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Congressman Castro, is history on your mind and that of your colleagues as you go forward? And what do you say to people who argue, critics who argue this is less historic because this has been an endless effort to "get Donald Trump" one way or another?
CASTRO: Well, I think absolutely people are thinking most immediately about the job in front of us, which is holding this President accountable for impeachable acts, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
But I think people in the back of their minds also understand that this is historic, that impeachment is the most serious undertaking that a Congress can do. Removing a President, obviously, in a democracy is a very serious affair. It has sobered everyone. And as the Speaker has said and others have said, nobody runs for office on a platform of impeaching a President. But there are times in American history where that has been necessary. And this is one of those times.
MELBER: And Congressman, for Americans who are now starting to tune in a little more and we`ve got various measures of that from the original hearings, you were a part of it, Intelligence to the way this is turning into, as Senator McConnell said today. The first order of business in the new year. So, it`s going to go right into Christmas holidays. People are going to come back. This is front and center. What is the reason that the Congress has come down on the side of the fact that Donald Trump, to read from the articles must be tried, convicted, removed and disqualified from ever holding office again? Why do you take that position?
CASTRO: Because he abused his power. He also got a network of people in government, assailants to help him trade U.S. government resources for a political favor, trying to knock out the person that he believes will be his rival in the 2020 election.
And this is also part of a larger pattern with Donald Trump. We saw in 2016 when he got on stage and he invited Russia to find Hillary Clinton`s emails in a few days later, they did just that. And all of those emails were dumped on the Internet right after the Mueller hearing. The next morning, he picks up the phone and talks to another foreign leader. And he`s trying to get that foreign leader in Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 elections. So, he`s abused his office. He`s abused his power, and he should be impeached.
MELBER: On that point, Congressman Curbelo, your fellow Republican Party members have largely avoided defending most of that. They seem to vacillate between arguing that aspects of it didn`t happen. And while some of it is debatable, we`ve reported out how a lot of the key evidence has proven a pattern of conduct or changing the subject. And do you think ultimately, Congressman, that`s a good idea going into this Senate trial? Can you really do a distraction? And what about throughout the entire trial or should they try for something more even if they want to defend the President?
CURBELO: Well, Ari, that`s really the sad part about this whole process. It is extremely grave. It is historic for sure. There is no escaping that. But the country is also divided in a historic way. 45 percent of Americans want the President impeached and removed, and another 45 percent think that this process is horrible and would like to see him remain in office.
So, a lot of Republicans are simply following their voters. And there`s no question that the Republican base solidly supports this President. And what worries me is that this whole process - not that it`s anyone`s fault in particular, obviously, the President`s conduct is wrong. And Republicans should be explicit about condemning his actions, even if they don`t think he should be impeached. But what really worries me is that the country is going to be even more divided after this process. Our institutions are going to suffer throughout this process.
MELBER: Let me push you on that, because I hear that point and I don`t impugn the spirit of that point. But where does us being divided as a nation, which seems to be the current status quo fit in compared to the serious evidence of cheating in an election?
CURBELO: That`s right. And everything has to be put on a balance. And certainly, members of the House Judiciary Committee will be making their decision soon and perhaps members of the House soon thereafter. But the bottom-line, Ari, whatever anyone thinks the right decision is, I wonder what is the best decision for our country at this juncture?
We do know that about 70 percent of Americans do believe that the President did something wrong. Does Congress have any instruments that could perhaps unite 70 percent of the Congress in agreeing that the President did something wrong and show a majority of the American people that our institutions of government can be responsive to them, not just the bases of each party?
MELBER: I have one response to that and then I`d love to do a quick lightning round with everyone on this big night. My response is, on the one hand, it`d be hard to get 70 percent of the Congress to agree on what ice cream to share, the way the division is. On the other hand, in fairness to your point, whatever people think, the founders did set a super majority requirement in the Senate. And when we talk about rule of law, that is the constitutional rule of law required here.
So, it is not just talk of unity in theory, but rather the actual requirement as this goes to a Senate trial. As a lightning round given the big night. In a word or a sentence, what is the most important thing that you think comes out of tonight`s markup, tomorrow`s markup, the actual activity of impeaching this President, in a word or a sentence starting with John.
FLANNERY: The nation cannot withstand the misconduct of this President for another day if that was possible. So, it`s an absolutely necessary undertaking and you can`t win the argument you don`t make. And that`s how we lead and that`s how we remove him from office.
KAY: This is Democrats in the House last big chance really to persuade Americans that they have the case for impeaching this President and this is not about Mueller in 2016 and what happened before. It`s about what`s happening right now in the American democratic process.
MELBER: Congressman Curbelo?
CURBELO: Ari, sadly, I think nothing will change in terms of the health of our democracy after this process. And ultimately, it will be Americans in November of next year who make the final decision on whether Donald Trump should remain in office.
MELBER: So, you`re ending on a hopeful note, Congressman. Nothing will ever change.
CURBELO: And being realistic.
MELBER: Just be real. Finally, Congressman Castro staying up with us here on a late working night in the Congress. Your view?
CASTRO: Abuse of power will not be acceptable precedent in the United States by the President.
MELBER: My thanks to each of you. We`ll be watching. Appreciate you being part of our special coverage. Let me tell you what else we have on this busy night, the debate over how narrow the scope of the impeachment push is with a special guest from The Beat.
Later, a DOJ report exhaustively debunks not only Donald Trump, but Attorney General Barr. We`ll show you why that matters. And later, a story you might not have heard about what a new report actually says about, yes, the infamous rumor of Trump in a Moscow hotel. I have all that for you. I am Ari Melber, you`re watching a special edition of The Beat on MSNBC.
MELBER: House lawmakers debating and voting on two articles of impeachment against President Trump that reflects a decision in the making from Democratic leaders after looking at everything to decide to go with the narrowest case against Trump.
Now in past impeachments, as we`ve reported, there were more articles, especially at the initial Phase, 11 for Johnson, three in draft form for Nixon and Republicans who were initially teed up four for Clinton in public. They then narrowed it down through the process. Speaker Pelosi has made a strategic decision to start narrow, and there`s a whole range of factors for that. The decision has left out all kinds of items that Democrats are on the record arguing are abuses of power or high crimes or potentially impeachable, including the discussion of bribery of more specific election crimes and the self-dealing and self-enrichment that Donald Trump has made something of a cottage industry.
Then there is the big one, the obstruction of justice that Bob Mueller himself laid out, which Democrats have talked about as potentially impeachable offenses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I think no one is emoluments. I think it`s always been emoluments. I think it`s always been about that. For me.
REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): This is a President who has equated neo-Nazis with those who protest against them in Charlottesville.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will fight every day until he is impeached.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We are joined by New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, who has been all over this. And, you know, some people follow. Some people summarize, I think in your writing and your advocacy, you have led on this.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, THE NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Thank you.
MELBER: And it is interesting to see some of the smart D.C. predictions fade and evaporate as they often do. So, we come back to you on the substance. Two articles, is that enough?
GOLDBERG: So, there`s two different questions. Is it enough politically? And I think, you know, I would obviously defer to Nancy Pelosi`s judgment about what she thinks is going to get the most votes in the House, about what she thinks is going to be easiest to defend for some of her front-line members. If they`re making decisions on those bases, then I think she`s the expert.
Then there`s the question of justice. You know, has Donald Trump committed other crimes? Has Donald Trump violated the constitution in other ways? And the answer, I think, is overwhelmingly yes. There are obviously other things that he deserves to be impeached for, which is one reason why I really wish that these hearings had gone on quite a bit longer and that there had been quite a bit more public airing of the scope of Donald Trump`s corruption and wrongdoings since taking office.
MELBER: Well, you raised that. And certainly, in the Mueller case, there was an attempt to have the lead prosecutor go farther than he wanted. That didn`t play well for a variety of reasons. Then there was the attempt to bring in very resistant fact witnesses like Mr. Lewandowski, who bragged about his lies. That didn`t go as well either. And so, I wonder, did they really get gun-shy when you could? And we have gone through the Mueller Report sometimes with quotes and what they call sound bites and sometimes just with other voluminous material and do more hearings on that and roll it in.
I mean, it seems to me that Mueller is above every other thing, emoluments, et cetera, because Mueller is your Republican appointed prosecutor who didn`t find one or two pieces of obstruction, but arguably at least five.
GOLDBERG: Well, again, I think it depends what metric you`re judging by, right? I mean, whenever I argued for impeachment after the Mueller Report, people would say the public isn`t with us. The public isn`t there yet. The public isn`t convinced. Right. So, it was all - it was never a substantive argument. It`s always a political argument.
I don`t know any Democrat that didn`t actually believe that the misdeeds enumerated in the Mueller Report didn`t deserve impeachment. They just felt like they couldn`t get to impeachment. And so, again, it`s a question of - it`s a political question. He obviously deserved to be impeached for those things. And those things are crimes.
And I think that that`s important because, some of the things that he`s being impeached for might be violations of the constitution, but not indictable crimes. The things that he`s accused of doing in the Mueller report, if he were not President, he could be indicted for. And so, it`s one of these examples of the way he`s able to use the fact that he`s in this office that he utterly shouldn`t be in to protect himself from his own record of lawbreaking.
MELBER: Yes. And that brings us back to the echoes where President - it doesn`t resolve everything, but it does inform. And Nixon`s problem was not that a few people did dirty tricks somewhere along the line. The problem ultimately - the reason that he reached a level of impeachment where the Senate Republicans were telling him he was out and he resigned was the cover up, which is legally called the obstruction.
It seems so backwards. I guess I`m just sort of baffled. And, you know, our lonely eyes look to you. I`m baffled a little bit that somehow in this era, the cover up and obstruction, the thing that was worse than the first thing has now become overboard.
GOLDBERG: Well, I think that the Nixon impeachment took place in a time when there was some common objective reality. And even the most shameless Nixon defender`s kind of had to battle before it. They couldn`t simply go to their own TV stations and say, up is down, down is up, pretend that Trump was totally exonerated by the Mueller Report, just as they`re pretending that all of their deep state conspiracy theories have been substantiated by this IG report, when it is the exact opposite.
Right. So, we have sort of no solidarity from Republicans with their fellow citizens to acknowledge the reality that`s in front of all of our eyes. And this is why I think so many people are tearing their hair out as they watch this process. And so, because of that, I understand why Democrats wanted to go with the most cut and dried, the easiest to explain, the hardest to explain away. But it does mean basically that Trump got to break some laws without answering for them.
MELBER: You`re hitting on something really big and deep, which is why it`s worth setting aside the time to talk this through. The founders, they got some things wrong. They got a lot of things right about human nature, which is why there are so many checks and balances. They were worried about men abusing power and office, but they certainly, they didn`t predict airplanes and they didn`t predict the empirical decline, the decay of truth in American life, which is what you`re talking about, which is a prerequisite.
You need truth to deal with accountability. So, it`s an important point you raise. We`re not done, Michelle. I`m going to fit in a break, and we`ll be having you back as we do both impeachment and if there is one, the Senate trial. Thank you as always for being here.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead, Donald Trump now fighting for indefinite detention at the border, it`s important story that we`re going to fit in even with everything else going on with a very special guest. Also, what this new DOJ report on the Russian probe actually says about a famous tape, you may have heard so much about of Donald Trump in a Moscow hotel. And the DOJ Inspector General demolishing the witch hunt claims of Donald Trump and his handpicked Attorney General.
MELBER: The U.S. House is marching towards impeachment tonight while in the Senate lawmakers were grilling the DOJ Inspector General on a new report that we`ve covered here, you may have heard about, it basically validates the opening of the famous Russia probe that led to Mueller. The report concludes there was no evidence of political bias by the FBI in opening this thing and the Inspector General, the watchdog here was explaining the decision to open this entire probe was justified.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL HOROWITZ, DOJ INSPECTOR GENERAL: We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that indicated political bias or improper motivation influencing his decision to open the investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: But the report does find there were fundamental errors in the way certain surveillance and warrants were done including of Trump adviser Carter Page, someone who joined our show last night.
Now, Senator Dick Durbin noted the context here and this is important. We, if you watch this show may know we`ve been quite clear about the evidence. And we did that in our interview with Carter Page because he was basically subjected to surveillance that ultimately was not 100 percent fair according to this report. But this is interesting.
Senator Durbin adds a lot of context about how these warrants usually work and other complaints. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): The Chairman gave an uncharacteristic flowery heated opening. 2002, the FISA Court identified more than 75 cases in which it was misled by the FBI, internal FBI review in 2006 dozens of inaccuracies provided that the FISA court. The list goes on and on. So, let`s have a fulsome conversation after this about the future of the FISA court and the representations that are made to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Senator Durbin basically accusing Republicans of cherry picking this. Meanwhile, Trump allies are using some of these issues to also try to muddy the waters on the broader conclusions. Take Attorney General Barr who`s now saying he has his own view that the evidence was insufficient to open the probe but that contradicts what this whole process was about and what the report found.
Meanwhile, you have U.S. Attorney Durham releasing this rare and potentially misleading statement that he just doesn`t agree with some of the report`s conclusions. Today, lawmakers asked about that very disagreement. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Attorney General Barr provide any evidence that caused you to alter this key finding that the FBI investigation had an adequate predicate.
HOROWITZ: I know we stand by our findings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So, the guy who did the audit stands by his findings. Which raises a question to Attorney General Barr and his hand-picked prosecutors, do they know something the auditor Horowitz doesn`t, do they have evidence to buttress any of this. Horowitz says he doesn`t think they do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What information do you think he has access to that you did not have access to.
HOROWITZ: I have no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where could John Durham be going for information that is outside of the scope of what you have access to or what FBI Director Wray has access to.
HOROWITZ: I don`t know, and you have to ask the Attorney General or Mr. Durham.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he going overseas to debrief foreign agents and interests.
HOROWITZ: No idea, you`d have to talk with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You`d have to talk with him is a very nice way of Mr. Horowitz, the auditor who found no bias, who debunked the witch hunt saying you better ask somebody. In this case, ask the people who may be lying on his report.
For more context we turn to Federal Prosecutor Glen Kirschner, your view, sir.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Ari, the thing is IG Horowitz met with AG bar and met with John Durham before reaching his conclusions and gave them every opportunity to say please show me what evidence you have that might impact my conclusion, that might show that I`m wrong that this was a fairly opened investigation that there was enough evidence to adequate predication as they say. And neither AG Barr, nor John Durham could offer him anything.
And Ari, if those two men had blockbuster evidence that this was a witch hunt that this should not have been opened the way it was, don`t you think they`d be screaming it from the roof tops.
MELBER: I do. I`ve read the report. It`s long, but it`s interesting in some ways, but it`s fundamental debunking of the witch hunt is the most important thing. That`s why they cared about it. They didn`t care about civil liberties in theory and practice whatever the Republicans on this committee as we`ve reported largely backed the very laws for this way these warrants are handed out. So, if they want to rewrite them, they can.
If they cared about the policy, if there was evidence of, I don`t know a broom or a witch hat or photos of witches, you know whatever, you`d think this would be the time to dramatically unfurl it. And instead, Mr. Durham who one of our analysts pointed out during the entire CIA tapes case when he was getting slammed by all sides never issued a public statement. Coughs up a statement that looks like vintage Barr four-page letter type spin, not the old Durham if you will. Does that give you concern about this Durham probe that that now is the next car the dog can`t catch?
KIRSCHNER: You know it sure does. Because Bill Barr seems to be slipping in his representation of the President. Bill Barr successfully got out in front of the Mueller Report and basically mischaracterized it poisoned the well of public opinion so to speak. This time he got caught short because IG Horowitz`s report came out first. Bill Barr had every opportunity to be part of that conclusion that was reached, and all AG Barr could do was try to snipe at those conclusions after the fact.
Let me say the one thing I love when I put a witness on the stand is when that witness is fair and even handed provide some incriminating information and then provide some helpful information to the defendant. That`s what IG Horowitz did. He provided some really important information about just how this was a proper investigation on the front end. And then he came up with some really damning information about how the FBI fell down on the job in their execution of this investigation.
KIRSCHNER: That makes for a really authoritative IG report.
MELBER: Look, if you want to get into the intelligence surveillance court and how it approves most warrants and does it in a willy nilly way. And it`s got a high hit rate and you want to change that, that`s all policy. That`s different than here. And I think what`s striking is to see the continuing hollowing out of these controls at the Justice Department. We are on the case; we`re going to stay on the story, and we`re indebted to you for being a part of that. Glenn Kirschner, thank you sir.
KIRSCHNER: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: If you`re watching your screen, you`ll see we are keeping an eye on the impending impeachment proceeding, but when I come back in 30 seconds, we have something you may not have heard about yet. New evidence, new reporting on those stories about Donald Trump at a Moscow Ritz Carlton. We`re back in 30.
MELBER: This new DOJ report on the origins of the Russia probe has uncorked all kinds of pieces of evidence and news and here`s one that hasn`t gotten much attention but bears down on one of the most salacious things ever rumored about Donald Trump, which is really saying something. Those unverified rumors that maybe he could be blackmailed by Putin over a tape of activities that either did or did not occur in a Moscow hotel.
We have news on this tonight. Now let`s remember how it all started morphing from a kind of political intrigue to at times a national joke.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All eyes on a breaking news story involving the President-elect Donald Trump and an allegation of compromising intelligence in the hands of the Russians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump didn`t seem to care much about Russian election meddling but cared a lot about Russian prostitutes.
SETH MYERS, LATE NIGHT HOST: Oh! My God, it`s real.
STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE SHOW HOST: It`s soaked in history. It just washes over you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: But here`s the thing for all the talk about this alleged tape I bet you`ve heard about it, virtually no evidence came forward in public to corroborate, it sounded like gossip drawn from this unverified dossier which remember wasn`t drafted for public consumption let alone Fact Check. Now what`s new. The DOJ report detailing the dossier claim the Russians had this file on Trump`s alleged sexual activities that occurred allegedly while in Russia and this alleged tape of him with allegedly prostitutes at a presidential suite at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Moscow.
That`s a major claim. Just releasing it can really hurt a public figure and none other than James Comey went and presented the claim to Trump stating it was unverified and then far less defensively. Mr. Comey after leaving government went public with that story in his book and on his book press tour.
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JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF FBI: I`m about to talk to him about allegations that he was involved with prostitutes in Moscow and that the Russians taped it and have leverage over him. I did not go into the business about people peeing on each other and he interrupted started talking about it. Do I look like a guy who needs hookers? I didn`t answer that, and I just moved on and--
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MELBER: Just moved on. Now today at the hearing, Lindsey Graham brought up how the report debunks the idea this tape ever existed.
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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Trump`s alleged sexual activities at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Moscow was rumor and speculation. In the report, it suggests that a Western employee at the Ritz Carlton confirmed this escapade, but then a private citizen Trump. When he read that, he says that`s not true. I never told Steele that somebody working for the Ritz Carlton confirmed this. I heard it at a bar.
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MELBER: And the report notes this dossier while it had many things that were true also misstated and exaggerated sections of reporting and that Trump`s alleged sexual activities which was stated at one point is potentially confirmed in the dossier was not. As you just heard their sources telling the FBI the Moscow how tall hotel story was "rumor and speculation."
You hear a lot about facts these days. This may have been a small matter, but it got a lot of attention. And this is a part of the DOJ report people need to reckon with. There was no verification. Mr. Comey was out over his skis in public at least. And in fairness to those involved, the dossier didn`t seem to have perfect sourcing on this very unverified claim. And we want you to know the facts.
Coming up ahead new reporting on what Donald Trump is trying to do at the border in these detention centers with a very special guest and an announcement. And we`re minutes away from the Trump impeachment debate formally beginning in that room, you`re looking at live pictures. Stay with us on a big night.
MELBER: If impeachment was not consuming Washington right now, what else would be happening. Well, there might be a lot more oversight and objection to this. The Trump administration fighting to claim the power to still detain migrant families indefinitely.
The New York Times reporting on administration lawyers now arguing formally in court that they want to just scrap the 20-day time limit on most family detentions and expand these centers to incarcerate "more than 15000 parents and children`s" across the country. This kind of long-term mass detention is a major issue and it has major effects on those people impacted the families and obviously especially the children. Some of these incarcerated children just spoke to PBS Frontline.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like a stadium. Both cages inside and that`s where they kept all the people. And when we walked in there, we just saw people, it`s like crying, we saw little kids crying. They put me in a cage. I don`t really know what to think. This is prison or like what is this.
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MELBER: Is this prison. I`m joined now by Paolo Ramos, a former campaign aide to Hillary Clinton, a frequent guest and friend of The Beat. And tonight, we can announce she has also joined our MSNBC family as our newest contributor. Welcome to the team.
PAOLA RAMOS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you so much, Ari.
MELBER: I am really happy to have you as there are so many people here and partly to dig into stories like this, stories that even can get lost. What is it important for people to understand if we`ve heard that this was supposed to stop and yet?
RAMOS: So, I think it`s specifically, I think it`s important to take a step back now. As impeachment as this story is unraveling in front of our eyes, now as this is everything that we`re focused on. I think the story here is that the abuse of power that we`re accusing Trump of is happening everywhere. You know it`s not just happening in D.C. It`s not just happening in Ukraine. It`s not just happening in Congress. It is literally happening everywhere.
And I would say that it`s particularly palpable now that it is particularly dangerous and criminal when it comes to immigration. And that`s the story for me here where in these moments where we`re all focused on our TV`s, this is what`s happening in the border. Right. This administration is trying to institutionalize once again a system that indefinitely incarcerates migrants. That`s abuse of power.
MELBER: You just said something very important which is institutionalized. We also hear about normalize. We hear about standard operating procedure. We have reported on how there is a large and complex immigration challenge in this country. And there is a rich history of both parties doing all kinds of things. Something that`s different than that is what has accrued particularly over the last just two years.
The clear data and evidence that for the Trump administration, it`s not a bug or a side dilemma to deal with this incarceration, it appears to be a feature. Let me point you to 2019 data that I don`t think it has got enough attention. 69,550 migrant children, that`s not all migrant, just children held in custody even as the government acknowledges that that kind of detention is traumatic. What does it tell you about the way immigration policy is designed now?
RAMOS: Stephen Miller, that`s what it tells me. And another thing that`s happening as we`ve all been focused on impeachment is the fact that we can now say with clarity and with assertion that we have a white supremacist governing in our White House that was a recent development over the past couple of months after the Southern Poverty Law Center exposed that.
MELBER: And so, you`re saying, when we say children, it`s actually a certain - it tends to be a certain type of children.
RAMOS: Absolutely. This is Stephen Miller`s attempt to widen the United States. And what we`re seeing now is that this is the policy now. This is going to be the new norm and how Kamala Harris is trying to get him out and more people in D.C. are now trying to ride the wave of trying to get Stephen Miller out and that`s why 2020 is going to be particularly important.
MELBER: I want to show you also before I let you go where the President is still touting border wall that has actually also run into problems in court. Take a look.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Far Left politician, I mean they`re fighting me on the wall. You have no idea. But we`re building it and it`s fine that we have the money coming in. These people fought me, and we`ve started winning in court.
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MELBER: How much of this also widens out the facts. Immigration was the thing he talked, the most about in 2016 and many people would say the thing he lied the most about. And here he is claiming a victory that separate from whether you agree with him or not, he`s not had that victory.
RAMOS: No, that is his shiny trophy. That is going to be - that was always going to be the Trump statue. This wall, which he never had. But that is the danger here. The wall is the invisible things we`re not seeing. The wall is Stephen Miller. The wall is what`s happening in the border. That is a true wall. He wants us to focus on that. And in these rallies and but what`s important is what we`re not seeing.
MELBER: On a very busy night, Paolo Ramos, I`m glad to have you on. I`m glad we got to this story. We`ll be coming back to you. Thank you so much.
RAMOS: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: For being here. We will be right back with one more big thing as America approaches the impeachment articles debate for real.
MELBER: Moments from now the House Judiciary Committee will begin this historic meeting for the first time ever formally marking up and debating the two new articles of impeachment against President Trump. Abuse of power, and obstruction of Congress. And this is rare for many reasons including the simple scheduling. A late-night hearing, we expect these lawmakers to begin tonight here and then go perhaps as late as they can, Chairman Jerry Nadler has said, they will then resume tomorrow at 9 AM Eastern.
So, a late night and for them a normal start setting up what will be a historic vote to then send the impeachment articles on to the Full House floor for any final approval. We`ll have that coverage tomorrow and I`ll be a part of it, along with Chris Matthews and don`t go anywhere, because Hardball with Chris Matthews is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END