Giuliani confesses to key part of Ukraine plot. TRANSCRIPT: 12/16/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Paul Butler, Eleanor Clift, Richard Blumenthal, Neal Katyal, RobReiner, Mike Johnson

COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: That is all for tonight. Chuck will be back tomorrow with more on MEET THE PRESS DAILY. In the meantime, here is Ari Melber with "THE BEAT."

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, Katy. Congressional Democrats now marching towards impeachment right now releasing this new formal report that argues President Trump betrayed the nation through multiple felonies.

Meanwhile, Senator Schumer has basically broken his silence and is coming out swinging. He`s putting pressure on Republicans in the Senate over the looming Trump trial. The House meanwhile still planning to hold this floor vote on impeachment Wednesday. And today, the Judiciary Committee is releasing as mentioned, this exhaustive 658-page report. Let me give you some quick key highlights.

They allege which has been said before that Donald Trump "committed" an abuse of power. But there is some other stuff here that`s new, you`ll notice "the constitutional offense of bribery, multiple federal crimes, betrayed the nation." All of that part of this closing argument by the Democrats.

Now, the Senate is no longer waiting to see what happens. You have Democratic leader Chuck Schumer demanding that Trump`s trial include the kind of firsthand witnesses that the White House has been blocking, including Mick Mulvaney and of course Mr. Drug deal himself John Bolton

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Trials have witnesses, that`s what trials are all about to engage a trial without the facts coming out is to engage in a cover up. The American people will rightly ask, what are you Leader McConnell and what is President Trump hiding?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Democrats also reminding Republican senators of the exact oaths they actually have to publicly take at the start of the trial, something we`ve covered right here on The Beat.

It is a pledge to do "impartial justice" according to the Constitution and the laws, so help me God. You can keep that oath in mind though as you listen to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I am trying to give a pretty clear signal. I have made up my mind. I`m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here. I am clearly made up my mind. I`m not trying to hide the fact that I have disdain for the accusations in the process, so I don`t need any witnesses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: He doesn`t need any witnesses; he doesn`t even need any more information. That`s the President`s - one of his staunchest defenders of course in the Senate and that`s previewing one approach here. Boasting of a kind of bias while basically saying, let`s shut this whole thing down and that may certainly appeal to Trump some - some Trump supporters. This is a political process, it`s been said. Well, the Congress is going to have things that are done for political reasons.

But also watch what`s happening. That kind of approach coming out swinging before the Senate even establish the entire procedure for the trial. It may alienate some of the very senators Trump needs as jurors

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): I think it would be extremely inappropriate to put a bullet in this thing immediately when it comes over. I think we ought to care what the House impeachment managers have to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And what will those House impeachment managers say. Well, it depends of course on who they are. I can tell you tonight, Speaker Pelosi is now expected to name them very soon within a matter of potentially days and some Democrats are pushing for an interesting name. Former Republican House member Justin Amash to be on the team. Who better to make an argument that this is a time for people to be open to changing their minds as he did?

But as we get ready to bring in our experts, I want to mention to you, there is something larger going on right now as you look at all of this jockeying. What`s going on is a fundamental question between two houses of Congress. The house that`s marching to impeach and the Senate that will catch that impeachment indictment and decide how to try it. What do they want to do? The more that you hear that well the votes are counted. There`s not going to be a big difference in whatever goes down in the Senate. The more you have to ask yourself well, if that`s the case, why are so many people like Mr. Graham, who I just showed you going out of their way to try to reduce this to a sham.

This is a moment in history, not only for the President who stands accused of "multiple crimes" tonight in this new report, it`s also a moment for the Congress because the rules in the Senate haven`t been set. You can bet, there is a lot more jockeying to decide whether this is going to be a deliberate sham, don`t even try to be fair or something more, something appealing to the oath in the Constitution, these people are sworn to uphold.

To get into all of this, I want to bring in right now Former Federal Prosecutor Paul Butler and Eleanor Clift, Washington Correspondent for The Daily Beast, who closely covered the Clinton impeachment. Good evening to both of you.

Eleanor, your view of what we`re seeing based on your knowledge of this town watched in the way it runs today and the way it`s handled past impeachments.

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, if the House goes ahead and votes on Wednesday, that`s 21 years almost to the day that the Clinton impeachment vote occurred in 1998. And after the articles passed in the House, in a Republican House in that year, they went to the Senate where the Republican leader and the Democratic leader agreed on the format for the trial and the rules for the format were passed unanimously.

Now, Bill Clinton, when you compare his experience to today in terms of numbers, I think he lost something like 31 Democrats in the House that supported impeachment. And when it got to the Senate, there was real suspense about whether the President was going to survive. It was a Republican Senate and they were not able to muster the two-thirds super majority to convict him and remove him from office. They weren`t even able to get a majority vote.

So, you had a number of Republicans supporting the President staying in office. And you had Democrats universally condemning the President`s behavior but arguing that it wasn`t impeachable.

So, today, we are looking at the Senate and we seem to be pretty confident that the outcome will favor President Trump. I don`t know that history will, but the Republicans don`t have that big a margin. They can only afford to lose to Republicans on the procedural votes that set the format for this trial. And you now see Senator Schumer came out today and over the weekend with his letter, basically taking a page from the Republican play book and arguing procedure that this is a kangaroo court in the Senate.

You have senators like Lindsey Graham, as you pointed out, saying, I don`t need witnesses, I don`t need information. I know how I`m going to vote. I think it`s a powerful argument. It may not work. Mitch McConnell has proved himself slavishly capable of sticking to his narrow interpretation of what will serve President Trump and Republican Senate and sort of ignoring the country. And I think it`s a fight worth having.

MELBER: To your point, the opening bid for how to do this was done in the Clinton case, in a private setting between the senators, kind of a seriousness about the process that led to the unanimous agreement, as you mentioned. The opening bid here was made on Fox News, on Sean Hannity. And then the Schumer office was then saying, OK, well, I guess we`re going to do this in public, they released their letter briefly because then I want to bring in Paul, what does that tell you about the different dynamics we`re in right now?

CLIFT: You`re addressing that to me?

MELBER: Yes.

CLIFT: Well, first of all, it`s the introduction of Fox News, which was a minor print, it wasn`t even around. You have a much more bifurcated media. You have two parallel tracks, one fake news and one fact news. And you have the President and the Senate Majority Leader basically in cahoots along with a very powerful media outlet.

And, the Democrats, they have an opportunity here. If they can seize it. To make the case to the country how its rigged, it`s a setup, it`s a sham. You know what Trump has been saying, now it`s coming to bear.

MELBER: And let me bring in Paul here. Fake news and fact news sound similar and yet so different. Chairman Nadler has been hammering the President here in the closing argument. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): This is a crime in progress against the Constitution and against the American democracy. We cannot take the risk that the next election will be corrupted through foreign interference solicited by the President, which he is clearly trying to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What do you see as important in the closing argument where Democrats are going beyond the Constitution, it doesn`t require crimes, regular felonies to impeach, but they`re actually going out of their way in the report today to say, there are multiple crimes.

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The report makes the case that the President is a present danger to national security and free and fair elections. So, it rebuts the argument that we should just wait until the election and let the voters decide whether the President should remain in office.

If you read the report, you`ll see this consisted pattern of corruption. It`s not just the July 25th thug act by the President against the President of Ukraine. It`s also during the 2012 campaign, his openness to Russian interference to get him elected.

And what do we know about last week, Rudy Giuliani was in Ukraine trying to help out his man, the President of the United States. So, Donald Trump has not been deterred by the Russian investigation and he has not been deterred by impeachment.

MELBER: What do you think of the strategy, you want to call it that or the offsetting of the arguments that the Democrats basically have a report now that has more bad stuff in it than the articles of impeachment, which only have two things.

BUTLER: So, I think the Democrats are going up about this in a very strategic way. They`re keeping the American people eye on the ball. It`s about the way that the President cheat it and the way that he`s ignoring Congress, that he`s not subject to any restraint. And so, if he`s not removed from office by the Senate, he is liable to do anything. And we have evidence to support those two main cases. The evidence is against all of his other criminality.

It doesn`t have to be statutory crime. It turns out that the President, were he not the head of state could be indicted for honest services. That`s a wire fraud based on his telephone calls with Ukraine.

MELBER: Right.

BUTLER: And also, bribery.

MELBER: Yes.

BUTLER: Statutory as well as constitutional offenses.

MELBER: Well, you lay it out, a lot of us for wondering, where would bribery and these other claims fit in? And they`re fitting in as sort of the supporting architecture. And if there is a trial with evidence, presumably it could also be presented there. Paul Butler on the law. Eleanor Clift on the swamp. My thanks to both of you. What will the Senate do?

Well, I`m thrilled to bring in two experts, a current member of the United States Senate. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who`s on the Critical Judiciary Committee and Acting Solicitor. General, Neal Katyal, who`s argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court in the Obama administration and his new book, fittingly called Impeach, The Case Against Donald Trump. Good evening to both of you.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Good evening.

MELBER: Senator, what does a fair trial look like in the Senate?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): A fair trial in the Senate is a full trial with witnesses and documents that Donald Trump has so far blocked in his attempt to cover. The American people deserve to see and hear these documents and witnesses. They deserve a trial with the dignity and integrity and decency that this paramount constitutional obligation provides. And they deserve to understand the continuing threat that this president poses by failing to show any remorse or regret.

Clinton at least apologized again and again and again to the nation. Donald Trump says it was a perfect call and he is continuing to support and suborn, in effect, the threat to our national security, when he empowers Giuliani to go abroad seeking to sustain these conspiracy crackpot, conspiracy theories about the Ukrainians, not the Russians, posing the threat to this nation, when in fact, Vladimir Putin is continuing to attack this country.

MELBER: Neal Katyal same question.

NEAL KATYAL, ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: Yes, so I completely agree with the senator. And a different way of thinking about it is, you know, why is it that the President has stonewalled Congress so that not a single witness can testify under his orders and not a single document? And why is McConnell now signaling, we`re only going to have a show trial with no witnesses?

Well, two times at the Justice Department, two different tours. I was there. And the one thing I learned is that when a defendant does that Ari, it`s because they have something to hide. They`re not just doing it willy nilly. It`s because they`re scared of the truth coming out.

And here, this President is so scared to have these first party witnesses like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney testify. Indeed, I think he`s afraid to testify himself. And I think the Democrats should be calling Donald Trump to testify. If he`s so sure, as senator, as the senator was saying that this call was perfect and beautiful. Let him say it under oath, but he`s afraid to do that.

MELBER: Well, that`s a great point. I also wanted to get into, Senator, do you think that Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Barr, should all testify before the Senate trial?

BLUMENTHAL: We have proposed an opening list, in effect at beginning bid of the witnesses that the American people deserve to hear. There may be others that they should call either the Republicans or ourselves or the managers.

And I think--

MELBER: Well, let me respectfully press you a little bit. We saw the opening list here from your leader, Senator Schumer. I know you all want to work together, so you`re loathe to come out and punish him on TV. But you could understand this issue of this magnitude. People are looking at the list and going, where`s Giuliani? Where`s Barr? They were the two people named by the President and the call to carry out this plot, which some of your colleagues have said is a reason to remove the President. Should they be heard from in a fair trial?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, let me talk to you a little bit like the prosecutor that I was for many years, federal United States attorney and state attorney general. If I were trying this case right now, I could say I rest my case. You have the President`s own words, which are the smoking gun, and then you have powerful corroborating witnesses, dedicated public servants who had everything to lose and nothing to gain by speaking the truth and corroborating that crime of bribery.

And let`s be very clear, as you know, what the President did here was bribery. It specified in the constitution as an impeachable crime. He asked for something of personal benefit that investigation of a political opponent in return for an official act. Military assistance ordered by the United States Congress. We voted for it. No discretion on his part. Yet he held it back to a country that was fighting for its life.

Lives being lost. So, I think there is a very powerful case here. And as you well know, there is a danger of over trying the case, calling unnecessary witnesses. These four witnesses that have been put on our list have direct knowledge of relevant facts. And if there are others who can add, they should be called as well. But it`s what the American people deserve, the truth.

MELBER: I hear you on that and I want to get Neal`s view on that. Part of your argument is, well, you don`t need to overdo it. I think the counterargument to that potentially is, it`s 2019, the Trump era. Everyone`s overdoing everything. So, the opening four witnesses, when I looked at, I thought, that`s interesting, but it seems like some are missing. But as you say, you`re a former prosecutor. You`re in this process, you know, a lot more than some of us about how these decisions get made. Neal, do you want to weigh in on any of the above?

KATYAL: Yes. So, look, I agree absolutely with the senator in saying that the evidence against Trump is overwhelming. You don`t need any live witness testimony. You`ve got the partial transcript that Donald Trump himself revealed. And that itself establishes all the elements, both criminal as well as high crimes and misdemeanors. No question about it. He`s right.

My only point is that the Republicans are afraid to have live witnesses, not because that they think it`s going to actually make him somehow innocent. Trump somehow innocent. That`s not it. They`re just afraid of him coming on TV and lying again or of these other witnesses going in and inculpating him even further and saying, he did some more bad stuff.

None of this is strictly necessary, but it does really raise the question. And I think every senator has to look into their heart and say, why would it be that Mitch McConnell would not want a live witness to go and testify? It can`t be, they`re worried about the process in the House of Representatives. Give me a break. It`s in the Senate at this point. The Republicans control it. If they`re afraid of a trial, it`s because of a good reason.

MELBER: All right. You`re talking about drawing that inference. These are going to be busy times for people like both of you. And we`ll be eager to have you back, particularly if and when the Senate trial unfolds.

Senator Blumenthal, thanks so much for making time.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

MELBER: Neal Katyal, always good to see you. And I`d like to remind viewers, you can get more from Neal on impeachment in these legal issues on our dedicated page. Opening Arguments, that`s msnbc.com/openingarguments. This post will be up there later tonight if you want to review it. Coming up, my special breakdown on how facts really can change public views even on impeachment. A special panel with Watergate prosecutor and Rob Reiner.

Also, later, Giuliani confessing to another part of the Ukraine plot, why that could backfire. And a special guest later tonight taking us inside the Trump impeachment defense plan and where we go from here. I`m Ari Melber, you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Congress is slated to impeach President Trump this week. That`s rare. Only two presidents have been impeached. A third. Nixon left office during an accelerated probe. And right now, we`re going to dig into some of the lessons from the few times America`s hit this point and the limits of applying history to such a different world today. Consider how Nixon`s investigation began with bipartisan support to find the facts. It did get quite partisan in the middle, but ultimately it ended with the facts changing everything.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For Senate tonight voted 77 to nothing to establish a select committee to investigate alleged political espionage in last year`s election campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The country tonight is in the midst of what may be the most serious constitutional crisis in its history. The President has fired the man you just saw. The special Watergate prosecutor, Archibald Cox.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington has been inundated by another massive set of Watergate transcripts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The transcripts and the testimony and the evidence, it mattered then. Today, there are some signs of these things feel like they matter less. So, in our special breakdown, let`s take a look at why some of these old rules don`t seem to always apply.

One of the central features of Watergate is that, however slowly and even painfully, the facts ultimately moved people. Let me show you some remarkable evidence of that. Even across party lines, here`s an apples-to- apples look at Richard Nixon`s job approval numbers from Gallup broken up between the two parties and the independents. And you could see, like most presidents, Nixon had higher support among his party. Red, lower support and the blue, opposing party. And that continues from the start of his tenure in 69 through reelection, through his second term when it was getting going in 73 with the ups and downs often match within those political groupings you see on your screen.

Now, those were divided times on politics, foreign policy, civil rights. But on key stories, many people reacted to the same common facts as the bottom began to fall out of the Watergate story, with facts showing Nixon firing prosecutors in that Saturday night massacre, hiding evidence, losing Supreme Court battles, ultimately getting exposed famously by the tapes, proving his wrongdoing. Those developments were presented to Americans through the AP, the wire services and the big three broadcast networks.

Politico noting 85 percent of Americans saw part of the Nixon impeachment hearings on those four TV channels. Now, as all that happened, look how people responded to those facts. Public opinion shifting regardless of party. So, yes, here you`re going to seek Democratic support for Nixon dropping further from a high point of 50 percent in 73, down to just 13 percent.

That might seem like the easiest number to move but take a look at this other similar shift among independents. They saw the facts and turned on Nixon, independent approval crashing by a whopping 50 percent. And now, as we`ve prepared this for you, I want to show you the most striking part. Nixon`s own party inclined to maybe give him the benefit of the doubt, dropping by a stunning 41 percent in approval, not quite as low as the other groups, but a gigantic shift revealing that many people heard those facts. And despite any partisan filtering, they reacted to the facts.

Now, Watergate is often cited as an example of the system working in the courts or the Congress or journalism. These numbers remind us it was also example of the public operating around the system, working, getting in form, providing a check on power and a level of reassessment that is clearly not yet occurred at this stage in the Trump scandals. Here you have Trump`s approval rating from the inauguration to the beginning of the Ukraine scandal, steady across those different groups.

And while many say the difference in Watergate is, well, there were tapes in this story. I have to remind you, there are some tapes that are as incriminating as Nixon`s secret White House recordings. They just have better sound quality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: By the way, likewise, China just started an investigation into the Biden`s.

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

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We do that all the time with foreign policy.

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The answer is yes. That guy still works for President Trump. So, are those tapes changing minds? Well, support for impeachment has nudged up, but most people`s views are pretty steady as Trump has uncorked more damning evidence against himself than most presidents.

One factor may be how everyone gets information. The Gallup numbers we showed you are drawn from a wider political article by Harvard`s Lawrence Lessig, arguing that many facts today are effectively like - they`re like quarantined into these smaller niches for information. In contrast to what some scholars call the broadcast democracy of earlier eras with fewer narratives and more agreement on common facts.

So, as Congress marches towards impeachment and this Senate trial, is there a way to draw on these lessons and the factual breakthroughs of perhaps a bygone era? Does the answer depend as much on constitutional principles as good old-fashioned storytelling? Well, I`ve got news for you. We have both these areas covered by two experts we`ve convened for this special discussion, legendary director Rob Reiner with a new mustache and Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks when we`re back in 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We`re back with filmmaker Rob Reiner and Emmy winner many times over, Oscar nominated for his work on the courtroom drama, A Few Good Men and former assistant Watergate special prosecutor, Jill Wine-Banks. Good evening to both of you. Jill, I begin with you having walked through the Watergate lessons, your reaction and how it applies today?

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: You got it completely correct. It was a really good summary and good graphics. It is absolutely true that what happened is as the facts came out, as the Senate hearings began, as the indictment came out, as our roadmap came out, the public opinion shifted. People were paying attention to the facts. They actually believed in the facts. And they changed their opinion and public opinion supporting Nixon dropped and support for impeachment skyrocketed.

And it was well-deserved, and you can track the events of the Saturday Night Massacre, the indictment, the release of the roadmap, and you will see that the facts were influencing public opinion. And that`s not happening as much here, because you have the bubble of Fox and the social media as opposed to in the old days, there were three networks, there was NBC, ABC and CBS, and they all had the same facts. There was some debate about what the facts meant, but none about what the facts were.

And here, really, let`s think about it. There`s no challenge to the facts. The President said, do us a favor though. That`s uncontested. Giuliani was going overseas and trying to get a fake announcement of a fake investigation. Nobody even cared if they investigated. They just wanted it to look bad by having an investigation announced. That`s not contested.

So, it`s really odd that anyone could doubt that the facts show that there are impeachable offenses equivalent to those of Watergate. And also, I want to go back to McClory, who was a representative from Illinois, a Republican, who said if we don`t impeach for the contempt of Congress, there will be no constitutional balance of power. There will be no checks and balances and Congress`s roll will be over.

And that`s what`s going to happen here, if there is not some accountability for the total stonewalling that makes Richard Nixon`s stonewalling look like nothing. This is really serious because it goes beyond the criminal investigation. It goes to immigration. It goes to every other aspect where Congress should be expected to do oversight. And it`s not being allowed to do it.

MELBER: Yes, Rob, it makes Richard Nixon`s stonewalling look like a virtual wall.

ROB REINER, FILMMAKER AND ACTIVIST: Yes.

MELBER: If you will, your reaction all of the above.

REINER: Well, I mean you know we are talking about people getting their information from two separate silos and being stuck in those silos or bubbles as Jill points out. But I would say that even though there was an agreed upon set of facts during Nixon, you also had Alexander Butterfield. You had John Dean coming in front of the public who was the White House Counsel saying certain things that resonated with the public.

And I submit that if you had Mick Mulvaney, White House Chief of Staff trying to explain why they held up that military aid to the Ukraine and they have John Bolton, the national security adviser, former national security adviser coming on and talking about the "drug deal" that they were trying to cook up in order to get dirt on a political opponent. It might have a greater effect on the public even with the two different silos.

So, I think it`s important that we do have a fair trial that we do have documents and witnesses and that the American public can see.

MELBER: Rob--

REINER: What actually happened here.

MELBER: And Rob both things can have an element of truth. It can be a different environment of how people get their information and it can be true that a thorough Senate trial if it were taken seriously could continue to move people in the same way that part of the other point of the Watergate data that we showed as it happened overtime. There was a lot of time for it to sink in.

And yet both of you have mentioned sort of the proverbial elephant in the room no pun intended with regard to party control of a news channel or an information channel whatever one wants to call it. But take a look at some of what people are hearing if they do watch Fox news about what`s really been happening. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: It was everything we said it was and everything they said it was not the ugliest most corrupt attempted political coup in U.S. history.

MARK LEVIN, LAWYER: When the Democrat party does what it does like that, it needs to be slammed down. The next Democrat President of the United States must be impeached.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEW HOST: You`re dealing with people that have been and continue to be obsessed with one thing and one thing only and that is destroying your duly elected President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Rob.

REINER: Yes. This is you know it`s - if this was just a fringe and it was just reaching a small sliver of the population and you say, OK, it`s crackpots, it`s people on the - what they used to call the lunatic fringe, but these are mainstream reports that are reaching 40 to 50 percent more of the public. And the facts are not disputable here. If you ask any one of those people that you just played, do you think it`s OK for a President to go to a foreign country and help them get dirt on or potential dirt on a political rival to affect an election that somebody outside America should come in and affect our election.

None of them would say that was OK and none of these Republican senators or congressmen say it`s OK.

MELBER: Or should say OK, take a look at since you`re teeing it up, you didn`t know we had this ready. On the one hand you have folk saying, well, I just don`t want to deal with it. Let`s talk about something else. Then you have folks with the goalposts moved. Senator Graham used to call Donald Trump a "racist kook" and he used to serve in the military, I presume with good faith. No one`s impugning that he cares about these issues and yet look at where he`s moved the goalpost to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it OK, ever OK for an American president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival.

GRAHAM: I think being a political rival is not a - you can`t ever be asked questions. Yes, I think it`s OK to talk about this kind of stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Rob and then Jill.

REINER: Yes, that`s not the same as asking them to talk about it as it is to have a concerted effort like the Russians did in 2016 to try to actually control the election or to get information out on a political opponent that would ultimately--

MELBER: Right.

REINER: Possibly sway election. That`s a very different thing. They didn`t ask that question. He didn`t answer that question.

MELBER: Yes. Fair. Jill.

WINE-BANKS: Well, first of all, I think we should be careful. I`ve been saying - say this, not they - there`s a hashtag on Twitter and I don`t think we should say get dirt because there was no dirt to be gotten. There was a phony conspiracy theory and there is nothing that has been ever suggested that was illegal on the part of Vice President Biden.

MELBER: A very important point that I think to House hearings.

REINER: That`s true.

MELBER: Jill spoke to as you know because they were saying, look, announcing investigations to create a defamatory cloud, the facts even didn`t matter in the original plot.

WINE-BANKS: Exactly. And I think it`s important to keep that in mind that there is no there-there that they were trying to do something to smear a powerful political opponent. And that`s what this was about and that it was the president was directly involved in this and he was directing this. This is not something like Watergate where Richard Nixon as far as we know to this day had nothing to do with the break in. He got involved the day after the break in and that was in obstructing the investigation--

MELBER: Right--

WINE-BANKS: Of the break in. So, there is a difference.

MELBER: And to your point and you lived it. So, we learn from you, America has a problem if a President sees an election crime and responds by saying, let`s double down, not let`s clean it up. And we were - before I wrap Rob, I always want my guests to feel welcome and included and safe. So, I want your blessing, can we talk about the mustache or would you rather not?

REINER: Well, you know the thing is you like everybody else think I grew a mustache. What happened is I shaved the beard and left the mustache. And I`m playing a part in a show right now and that they didn`t want me to have a beard.

MELBER: So, you`re actually - I didn`t know this. You`re actually teaching us something about and Jill that I could speak about this about when we make too many inferences, I wrongly interpreted you growing a mustache, you`re saying you actually removed other hair revealing a mustache.

REINER: Exactly.

MELBER: What`s the show Rob?

REINER: It`s a show called Hollywood, seven-part series for Netflix. A Ryan Murphy show. I play a studio head in the 1940s. And that`s all I`ll tell you.

MELBER: Well, shout out to Ryan Murphy I`ve been making my way through the politician. It`s incredible. Jill, any thoughts on any of the above? You may also recuse if you prefer.

WINE-BANKS: I`m recusing on the facial hair. I happen to be a fan of facial hair by the way. My husband has a full beard and I love it.

MELBER: Well, there you go. Rob, I think it looks good, but I also like you in the beard. So, the jury is still out.

REINER: Thank you.

MELBER: Rob Reiner. Yes sir, go ahead.

REINER: Can we just for people who want to go out and rally tomorrow. If you go to impeach.org, you can join a rally. There is 500 play rallies all over the country.

MELBER: You get better at plugging your URL, you might be able to run for President Rob. That`s what we get from the candidates. Go ahead Jill, and then we`ve got to go.

WINE-BANKS: I`m speaking in Evanston at the rally for impeachment. So, I hope everyone in Chicago area will come out to see me and say hi.

MELBER: There you go. As with all our guests, we wish you all well with all of it. And thanks for being a good sport, Rob. Rob and Jill, very informative. I feel like I learned something. I`m going to fit in a break. When we come back, Giuliani admitting to a new part of the Ukraine plot. You`ve got to hear this.

And first, I have a very special guest. It`s going to go behind the scenes with us into this Washington impeachment fight when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back. I`m joined now by Republican Congressman Mike Johnson, a member of the Judiciary Committee and Chairman of the House GOP Study Committee. Good evening, sir. Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Hey, Ari, great to be with you.

MELBER: Happy to have you. We always like to get into this huge fight obviously in Congress this vote Wednesday. Do you think any of the evidence that`s come out against Donald Trump on the issues of the alleged abuse of power or alleged obstruction of Congress are concerning? Does any of it concern you or do you feel he has a clean book of health going into the floor vote?

JOHNSON: I really do believe he has a clean bill of health, net net and this is why I say this. Ari before you attack my premise, OK, I sat through 14 hours of the House Judiciary Committee last week, as you know hundreds of hours have gone into this. But what they produced for us is as Professor Turley said, he was our expert witness in the House Judiciary about two weeks ago. He said, this is the fastest impeachment on the thinnest evidentiary record and the narrowest grounds in the history of impeachment.

This has never happened in 243 years and I don`t think there is anything there to show an impeachable offense. I don`t think they have direct evidence and for that reason I think Donald Trump should be acquitted.

MELBER: When you look at the direct evidence, they have on withholding the money and then asking for the Biden investigation, do you think it is wrong for a President to ask for an investigation of arrival like that.

JOHNSON: Yes, I heard your previous segment and I heard Rob Reiner and your discussion you had with him and he said, if you`re digging up dirt and you`re trying to affect the outcome of an election coming forward. Look, none of that is in this record, it`s just not. And if anybody watch the 14 hours of our Judiciary Committee hearing where we went through every job and tittle of the evidence, that`s not there. Now some people had conjecture--

MELBER: Respectfully, let`s get into that specifically, which is why I think I want viewers to hear from you.

JOHNSON: Sure.

MELBER: What do you think though of the President using his powers to get Ukraine to investigate the Biden`s and announce that you don`t dispute that was his goal?

JOHNSON: No, I don`t. But I think there are some very important facts in the record that show the full context of that. And I think - I don`t think you can review this in isolation. One of the important facts is, both President Trump and President Zelensky said very clearly there was no pressure exerted. The Ukraine officials didn`t know that military aid was being temporarily delayed. There never was an investigation that began. They actually did get the military aid; in fact, they got the missiles they needed to properly defend themselves and they got the meeting in the White House.

MELBER: So, let`s go through a couple, you just mentioned several things. Pentagon officials and others testified under oath that not only did they know they didn`t get the money; they were asking about it. So, the fairest way to put that is your claim is at least disputed by others under oath with regard though to the pressure, I mean Ukraine didn`t get the money, they still don`t have all the money. Do you think they should get all the money that was initially withheld by the Trump administration?

JOHNSON: I think they should get the money that Congress appropriated for that purpose. I do think and I believe that what the President was after was some security for those funds. You know he`s famous for this wanting to protect the treasure of American taxpayers. When we send our money overseas and I think everybody should want whoever the President is to guard this jealously.

We don`t want our money being squandered. Ukraine, remember, was listed as the third most corrupt country in the world. Zelensky came in as a reformer and the President, President Trump wanted to make sure that he was genuine in that regard.

MELBER: Yes. Well--

JOHNSON: When he found that out, he released it.

MELBER: Well, here`s where I think people have a hard time squaring that. Everyone knows that by now there is this process in place to deal with checking the corruption. As you mentioned, it`s mandated by law. And the president`s own call notes have him saying, he wants the Biden-Burisma probe, not corruption indeed. And we checked this. I`m curious your response, when you actually look at the call. There is zero references to corruption in the entire call and that`s the White House`s own evidence.

And then you mentioned the money. You voted against the continuing appropriations which has many issues including the Ukraine money. So, I guess I give you a chance to speak to that. If Ukraine should get the money, why did you vote against them getting it in that CR?

JOHNSON: Well, Ari, you`ve been around this town a long time. You know that these big spending bills often are omnibuses or many, many buses as we call them and there is lots of things loaded onto there, so you can`t take one issue in isolation. We vote on large spending measures.

MELBER: Sure. So, you were for and I just in fairness, so you were for Ukraine getting the money, you were against other stuff in that vote on that bill.

JOHNSON: Yes, of course. Ukraine has this aggressor Russia right over their shoulder and they`re an ally of ours and we do need to assist them. But I like most American citizens want to know that when we send the funds over there, it`s not going to be squandered by their political corruption and there`s a lot of corruption going on among that was this very suspect situation about Burisma, which is an infamously corrupt corporation and Hunter Biden gets put on the board with no experience, no background, and he`s paid $80,000 a month.

I mean that does raise questions and anybody that`s looking at it objectively, I think would agree with that.

MELBER: Well, I think that raises two questions, you say raises some one questions, if this is such an important issue to the U.S., why not have the U.S. investigated it as you I think would concede, it`s pretty unusual to ask a foreign government to outsource to do the work and then you get into the goal was apparently and again, if Ambassador Sondland was lying, I assume the President should say so and fire him. That hasn`t happened.

Let`s look at Ambassador Sondland and others saying under oath the goal was just to announce the investigation to dirty up the Biden`s, it didn`t matter whether it got done. That`s their testimony. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: If they`re telling the truth under oath that really undercuts that defense for the President, doesn`t it?

JOHNSON: No. Because as we said in our hearing over and over, you can`t take Sondland out of context either, you`ve got to take the full Sondland as we said and what he said, the only direct evidence aside from his speculation, conjecture that he readily admitted was when he asked the President on September 9th, what do you want. The President famously said, I don`t want a quid pro quo. I don`t want anything. I want Zelensky to do the right thing. That is consistent with what he`s always said, what he`s always stood for. This America First idea that he has, the theme that he`s always projected that we want to make sure that--

MELBER: And if that`s true, viewers can make up their own minds because we have a big country, everyone can make up their own mind, but if what you`re saying is true then why not bring Sondland, Mulvaney and Giuliani, the people with the knowledge to go testify in the Senate trial, cleared up under oath.

JOHNSON: Look, I`m not opposed to that. I think--

MELBER: You`re for Mulvaney intensifying?

JOHNSON: I`m for all of it. If you`re going to have a trial, let`s have all the witnesses. I don`t think the President`s afraid of that at all. But the ultimate concern is, and this is what the ultimate answer is as well. The founders warned us against a single party impeachment because they thought it would rip the country apart. They were afraid that it would divide the people and that`s what we`re seeing right now, let`s be honest.

If we drag the trial out and everybody already assumes that the outcome is decided going in, does that behoove the country, does it behoove us to bring Hunter and Joe Biden in for questioning and hear what they have to say.

MELBER: I can`t answer that. But you`re on record saying you disagree with the President, he should make Mulvaney available today.

JOHNSON: No, I`m saying, look, it`s ultimately up to the Senate on the length of the trial and the witnesses that they come to. I`m saying there`s no fear of that because I don`t think Mr. Mulvaney, or anybody has anything to hide.

MELBER: Congressman Johnson, we`ve been inviting you on. You`ve come on which I appreciate. I hope you`ll come back on THE BEAT after your debut tonight, sir.

JOHNSON: I`ve enjoyed it, Ari. I appreciate it.

MELBER: Thank you very much. We`re going to fit in a break. When we come back, some news on Rudy Giuliani and a key admission. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Rudy Giuliani making new headlines right now with what would really normally be called a confession because he`s admitting a key part of the Ukraine plot under investigation. The controversial ousting of the U.S. Ambassador. Giuliani telling the New Yorker, I believed I needed Yovanovitch out of the way, she was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody, the Ambassador of course was the standout witness from the impeachment hearings back in November, she made it clear, she was ousted precisely because she was not going to allow the Giuliani three amigo plot to move ahead.

Apparently everyone agreed on one thing that she could get in the way of a potentially illegal plot of what now the Democrats are calling the abuse of power that justifies the impeachment of President Trump, as Giuliani admits tonight that is part of why he literally thought she had to go.

When we come back, we have some more news on plans for this week`s historic vote on the impeachment of the President.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: If it seems like there is a lot going on with impeachment, there is and we`re always here to walk you through. So, tomorrow, there`ll be new action in Congress. This is the eve of a Full House floor vote. But the rules committee will need to set the guidelines for how that whole debate will go down. Chairman Nadler and Congressman Collins though will actually be at this rules committee meeting. They`ll take questions from colleagues and both parties.

Any lawmaker who wants to speak can actually get time, which makes that pretty unpredictable. The other thing we`re watching for tomorrow or in the coming days is the House picking its managers. The one big scuttle, but tonight is the debate over whether a former Republican Justin Amash should help lead that charge, so we`ll keep an eye on all of that.

He famously left the Republican party over his support for impeachment. I`ll be back here 6 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, but don`t go anywhere. "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