Maria Butina to host Russian State TV Show. TRANSCRIPT: 12/17/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Thomas Friedman, Julian Epstein

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: That`s all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more. MEET THE PRESS DAILY. Tomorrow is the big vote. All day debates should be a raucous House floor. "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you so much. As we come on the air right now, we`re getting new evolving details about how Congress plans to hold this vote on impeaching President Trump tomorrow. We have that for you.

Meanwhile, the President lashing out with a new letter claiming he is being mistreated, some dubbing it a rambling ranting screed of rage. And we have that. Plus, later tonight, my breakdown on the terms for any Senate trial and why Chuck Schumer hit a roadblock and the rules and precedents for how the Senate can actually push for better fact-finding on the case of President Trump.

Later, we also are going to get into a new admission from none other than Rudy Giuliani. Some say it actually helps the impeachment case against Donald Trump. That`s what we call Giuliani lawyering.

Well, we begin right now with the painstaking process for impeaching a president. To paraphrase Coldplay, nobody said it`d be easy and for good reason. The Founders did not intend for this process to be easy or fast in either the House or the Senate. Tomorrow`s vote is being teed up in today`s House Rules Committee meetings where there were some final fiery arguments this stretched over seven plus hours

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA): He jeopardized our national security and he undermined our democracy.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): There`s a lot of discussion about crimes, but they couldn`t find it in themselves to charge one.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Abuse of power is the essential impeachment offense. President Trump makes Richard Nixon look like a little leader when it comes to obstruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Tough talk and it continues that House panel is actually still debating at this hour as you can see ahead of any vote that will then lay the groundwork for tomorrow`s big one, the floor vote on impeaching Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, there are signs that this President who publicly claimed and bluff that he welcomed impeachment actually looks like he hates this. This afternoon Donald Trump unloading with this letter, official on White House letterhead, chalk full of exclamation points and all kinds of half-baked grievances, the President claims this process which of course he boycotted is actually invalid.

He falsely claims that more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem witch trials. I guess this is the point in the broadcast where I say, because I try to keep it real with you, to be frank, how do you fact- check something that is that hyperbolically stupid. Well, briefly we can note that 20 innocent people were executed during the Salem witch trials for witchcraft. So, no, this process is nowhere near that right now. Thank goodness.

Now then there`s the Senate side, Mitch McConnell is now blasting Chuck Schumer. They`re going public with this fight over the fact that Schumer went public after McConnell went public on Fox News. So, this is a back and forth. We`re going to get into more later in the hour. But what you need to know right now is that there is a question that Mitch McConnell has answered, it relates to something Democrats were already accusing him of. The idea that he would not even pretend to be impartial during this coming trial even though he will actually take an oath to be impartial

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (D-KY): Impartial juror. This is a political process. There`s not anything judicial about it. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I`m not impartial about this at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: He`s not impartial and he`s predicting partisanship. What`s important there is the legwork that Mitch McConnell is doing. Obviously, if they have this all sewn up, he doesn`t have to say much of anything, they can slam dunk it. But there are signs that Mitch McConnell tonight and we`re going to keep reporting this out for you is still trying to figure out how he gets to 51 for pieces of this or all of it and when he says this is all going to be a partisan sideshow, he`s talking about himself, there`s a tell there and he wants apparently from what I can tell, he wants the country to give up hope on this process before it even begins to only see it as partisan.

And so, you have to ask yourself, if there`s a politician in Washington trying to convince you to look the other way, why is that? And is it a tell, a sign that maybe you should be looking even closer. That`s our first question for our experts tonight. I bring in Michael Steele, former RNC Chairman and a former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance. Good evening. Michael your answer to that question and this momentous eve of impeachment with a vote tomorrow.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Yes, the whole idea is Americans should be looking closely at this process and closely to what`s been said, testified to and more importantly, Ari, what the administration in the form of the members of the House and the Senate as well as in the White House itself have not put forward as a counter narrative.

The underlying facts remain untestified too by the Trump team. They`ve not challenged the accuracy of the call between the President and Zelensky. In fact, when you saw today Congressman Collins and others were repeatedly asked about, well, was it a good call? Was it a perfect call? They would not answer that question.

MELBER: And what does that tell you, Michael?

STEELE: It tells me that it wasn`t a perfect call and they know it and they know that substantively and constitutionally, there is a real problem here.

MELBER: So, let me follow-up with you on that to be extra lawyerly, if you`ll permit it, because you`re making such an interesting point. I want to make sure I`m understanding it. Is that because they think that looks bad today or looks bad in the next election or even in the eyes of history? I mean, obviously, Donald Trump and some of his prime defenders and we`ve had some of them on this show do claim everything`s perfect. And this was only about undoing corruption and all that.

You`re pointing out that if you actually listen closely, some of these Republicans don`t really ever want the tape to play where they said it`s all good. They just want to attack the process. What are they specifically worried about, given your analysis as someone who literally used to run this party?

STEELE: Well, because the moment you say that the President is right, that this is a perfect call. Right. Then everything and all that means is heaped right in front of your feet. And you now have to explain and justify how you thought it was a perfect call, particularly since you weren`t on it. And particularly since the evidence that`s been produced publicly, including what the White House has put out, is a counter-narrative to that.

So, it`s easier to obvious skate and to throw up a red herring and to create a lot of bright, shining objects that talk about process, that talk about all we didn`t get to put our witnesses before the public. Well, you did. It`s just the White House said no. You can have the Secretary of State.

MELBER: In fairness to Republicans, does it have to be a red herring, Mr. Steele?

STEELE: Well, yes, unfortunately.

MELBER: So, people think because it`s a big historic night. There`ll be no dad jokes. And that`s not a good premise, that not a safe premise around here. Joyce, I offer you the same question at the top of the broadcast as well as any of the above on what Michael was saying.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, I think Michael actually nails it like always, we seem to be in agreement tonight. The most troubling thing that`s going on in this White House and that people should focus on in the days ahead is their failure to confront the central allegations about what this President did. They`re willing to talk about everything else, but they`re not willing to talk about bribery. They`re not willing to talk about extortion. They`re not really even willing to talk about obstruction of justice.

And so, we hear from this President all about process. And I`ve read that six-page screed he wrote to Nancy Pelosi, which reads sort of like a bad breakup letter that somebody writes when they`re in the grips of a bad passion gone astray.

And what he`s saying to her, it`s so out of line, it`s so completely inappropriate. And it`s so very untrue because every opportunity was extended to this President.

MELBER: Right.

VANCE: To participate in the process. He declined to do so. And at the end, the only thing that he had to justify his position going forward is, well, the economy is great. Well, that`s debatable in the political sphere, but that`s not a defense to the allegations in the articles of impeachment.

MELBER: And you mentioned the alleged crimes, which the Democratic report now has landed on and saying, there`s a narrow case on the articles of impeachment, abuse and obstruction. And then there`s broader evidence and elements if you want to use the legal terminology supporting it, which I thought was striking, because as we`ve reported out, there is a bribery case. There is a bribery conspiracy case. SDNY in New York looking at other aspects of the case for the touches on Giuliani`s clients and maybe Giuliani.

So obviously, there are some crimes around here. I don`t think that answers one way or the other what Congress and the Senate wants to do about hearing the case against the President. But it certainly doesn`t help. I`ll put it like that.

And then you look at how the words getting out, Joyce. We found this very interesting. Fox News asked a pretty straight up question, do you think Trump has committed bribery, which as we`ve showed viewers, means soliciting, asking for a bribe, whether or not you pull off the plot as well as taking a bribe? 37 percent say no and look at this, 45 percent now say yes in the Fox News poll. And that`s before the Senate trials even begun, Joyce?

VANCE: I think that`s right, Ari, and that`s even without the best evidence available, right? Because what this White House has done is, they have blanket refused to comply with subpoenas. No documents have been produced. The witnesses closest to the facts have been withheld. And as I read article one of the articles of impeachment, although it`s entitled abuse of trust, it incorporates a couple of crimes, as you point out, bribery and conspiracy to engage in bribery among them, that number of people who will believe that this president has committed bribery will only grow as these proceedings continue.

And since we`re both lawyers, I`ll make the constitutional point, which is that when Congress used the term bribery in talking about one of the crimes that warranted impeachment of a president, they weren`t talking about our very narrow understanding of that term. As the Supreme Court has evolved the criminal statute that wasn`t adopted until long after the Constitution was.

They`re talking about bribery and the common law, common sense understanding, trying to wrongfully extract something from you on one that you`re not entitled to by holding something else over their head. No doubt that this President did that and that the founding fathers at least would have voted to impeach.

MELBER: Well, and that`s why this is serious as art attack. I mean, I don`t know what the founding fathers would do one way or the other. But this is very real. We are talking about allegations that go to the selling and the extortion of the office, the office that has the power to start a war, to kill people, to oversee all the instruments of the state, including enormous investigative powers. And it`s not like - it`s not like the President then said, well, maybe I overdid it. I`m taking a step back. They`ve doubled down, he and Giuliani on the idea that this is how they want to roll.

And so, Congress not standing up to that at all with a serious Senate trial could send a message that really endangers the way our democracy functions, which is certainly a constitutional issue. Both of you, stay with me. What we`ve been trying to do here is to hear from our experts and then bring in fresh reporting and fresh views as we do here on THE BEAT. And I`m thrilled to say Washington Post`s Robert Costa joins me now. He`s been all over this with his sources.

First of all, good evening, sir, on a busy night. How are you doing?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Good evening.

MELBER: Good evening. What are you hearing from your sources about how this plays out? First, before we even get to the Senate, how this plays out in a vote tomorrow, that like many things in Washington, the party lines are drawn and yet it is obviously a close up and a finale of this entire impeachment process.

COSTA: The letters tell the story. President Trump writing a letter to Speaker Pelosi with all of his complaints about this process, Republicans in unison are standing with President Trump, not just on impeachment, but it`s telling that they`re standing with him on this spending agreement, 1.4 trillion. They`re standing with him on a trade agreement. They`re all in, in 2020 with President Trump and his grievance filled politics.

And on the Democratic side, scattered Democratic defections. But Speaker Pelosi has such a tight grip over her party and his letter of party from day one that I`m seeing more and more Democrats deciding to make a vote, to take a vote and explain it, that it`s a duty vote, that they have to defend the constitution and stick with the Speaker.

MELBER: And I`m curious your analysis, Bob, of the letter that we saw. You know, we don`t cover Trump tweets automatically here. We don`t cover a lot of the stuff that he says, it`s designed as a distraction. I would note that this letter is both traditional and bonkers, by which I mean it`s a traditional airing of the President`s view, put on paper on the letterhead to go to the Congress as a last message before the vote. And it`s a little bonkers for the reasons I mentioned earlier in the broadcast, including some outright falsehoods.

And so, my question to you is, which Donald Trump are we seeing when this comes out? Because this is - I worked both on the Hill. I worked in a presidential campaign. The best candidates and the best politicians know when to be the quarterback. They know when to listen to the coach. They don`t try to do everything all at once. Untraditional politician and President Donald Trump, as you know, and have covered, are we seeing him tonight calling all the plays, no matter what happens?

COSTA: Based on my conversations in the last hour with top Republicans? This letter is both deeply personal and deeply political for President Trump. It`s a Trump rally put on paper and it gives us a real hint of what`s going to come in 2020 as he goes hockey arena to hockey arena rallying his core supporters in these Midwestern and battleground states grousing about the Democrats. This was a letter that he has written over the course of one to two weeks, according to associates of the President. It`s something that he`s trying to put his own stamp on. And remember, this is a President, as you said, you`ve covered deeply yourself who has always litigated, always sent letters to his enemies.

MELBER: And to your point, Bob, when you say he`s written it over a week or two, you mean this is that Trumpian style? He`s talking it out with people. He`s bouncing off people. You don`t mean that he`s on word processing draft three.

COSTA: No. This is a collective process. But this is a culmination of grievances expressed privately within the White House now coming into this letter in multiple pages.

MELBER: Briefly, Michael Steele, you know this President as well and the way these things morph with him.

STEELE: Yes, I think Robert put his finger exactly on it. What we`re seeing is the President`s inner thoughts put on paper. Yes, it has the White House logo on it, but it might as well just say Trump, because this is exactly who he is. This is exactly how he`s feeling. And the fact that, you`ve heard folks say today, well, no lawyer would write this? Well, no lawyer did. Donald Trump wrote this.

And this tells you not just about what this process is doing and how he is sort of internalizing that, but it also gives you some really key indicators of what 2020 is going to look like when this process is over. He`s going all-in. And it`s going to be hard. It`s going to be fast. It`s going to be ugly. It`s going to be furious. And the Democrats don`t have a clue yet exactly how this thing is going to hit them. They`re not prepared for it. The country is not prepared for it. Because once he gets past impeachment, his view is going to be, you can`t touch me. And that`s all he needs to know.

MELBER: I mean, you`re making the argument and Joyce will get the final word here, but you`re making the argument that Donald Trump wants to gear up for the last scene of Scarface.

STEELE: Yes.

MELBER: Let every gun be fired politically, I mean, and then actually lived through it and not lose.

STEELE: And the key thing here is, those folks who are firing the gun at him are shooting blanks and he`s not.

MELBER: Joyce, final word.

VANCE: You know, I think it`s easy for us to read this and put on our hard shell of armor that we`ve developed during the Trump administration as reporters, as lawyers, as political observers. Tonight, we all need to take off that armor and we need to read this letter as parents, as siblings, as people concerned about our country. And we need to think about whether these six pages represent the future that we want for our country. We need to get rid of all of this Trump fatigue that we`ve developed over the last two and a half years. Take a cold, hard look at what this represents and think really about what this means for the next few years, if our country doesn`t impeach and remove this President.

MELBER: Multiple varied views on some complex questions, which I always enjoy because we learn something along the way. So, on a big night. My special thanks to Joyce Vance with that final thought. Michael Steele with the Scarface thoughts. I see you, Michael. And Bob Costa with the reporting. As always, thanks to each of you.

Coming up, we have a lot more stories. I mentioned Giuliani actually ramping up a confession tour. We`re going to break that down with what you need to know. Developments in the fight over Trump`s trial in the Senate. I`m going to give you my special breakdown on the rules and where Chuck Schumer may have misfired. And we break down what to expect in this historic vote tomorrow to impeach the sitting president.

But first, as if we didn`t have enough going on. Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and author Thomas Friedman from The New York Times makes his Beat debut alive. I`m Ari Melber, and we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We`re now hours away from this historic impeachment vote in Congress. And while there`s a lot of punditry about how Americans are politically divided. Something striking is also happening on the way to Trump`s expected Senate trial. The writers and editors who report on government for a living, who pride themselves on reaching independent conclusions, well, a lot of them are independently arriving at the same one.

The New York Times puts it in a stinging editorial, Impeach, crediting this simple and damning case against Trump. Take the newspaper that launched the modern tradition of investigative journalism in Watergate. The Washington Post now endorsing the impeachment of President Trump in this historic full-page editorial, noting his obstruction poses a serious threat to U.S. democracy.

It`s a departure from the last impeachment in our history, where newspaper papers often condemned Clinton`s personal conduct, but largely opposed the Republican push for impeachment as legally unwarranted.

Today, several newspapers emphasized they shifted against Trump with reluctance and only recently as the Ukraine developments tipped the scale. Historians also weighing in today, urging that if Trump`s misconduct doesn`t rise, the level of impeachment then "virtually nothing does." Now, there are exceptions.

The Wall Street Journal, a conservative editorial page in the same corporate family as Fox News opposes the impeachment case this time right now as, "weak", but they`re an outlier. The Daily News, meanwhile, says instead of one smoking gun, there is acrid black stuff rising from the White House.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, meanwhile, labeling Trump a threat to the national security of the country or the Orlando Sentinel confronting its own readers with this interesting challenge, saying basically only the most cynical partisan could minimize the public evidence against Trump.

So, should Americans care about these editorial judgments on impeachment eve? We turn to a journalist who knows his way around these debates. Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman making his debut on THE BEAT. Thanks for being here.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Ari, great to be here with you.

MELBER: What does it say to Americans and should it matter that so many editors and leaders in journalism are taking this position?

FRIEDMAN: Ari, I think it really comes down to the fact that there are just two core simple issues here. One is if we let a president use congressionally appropriated defense funds for Ukraine in order to intimidate the president of that country to take out his rival in the next election, we are basically saying it is OK for all future presidents to list foreign powers in tipping our election one way or another. Can you imagine how much money someone could raise from Saudi Arabia, how many cyber warriors someone could list from Russia or from Iran?

We would never again have a legitimate president, someone who said, well, I like or don`t like him or her, but they`re legitimate. We would never again have a legitimate president, and that would be a prescription for political chaos.

Secondly, if we let a president in the face of these charges, not allow the key witnesses to testify, those closest to the process. Giuliani, Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney, if we don`t let him, if we let him get away with not letting them testify and not turning over any documents. We are basically saying we no longer have a separation of powers and we actually have a monarchy. And if we let both of those things happen, the America that you and I knew grew up and loved, the America that is a widely respected around the world will be no more and we will miss it when it`s gone.

MELBER: It`s striking when you lay it out like that. You`ve covered many presidents. You`ve been around the world. You`re a high-level guy. Tom, if you don`t mind me saying. And you made the observation that in a weird way, Donald Trump, who styles himself the communications guru, has disarmed from the bully pulpit of the White House press room. What do you mean by that?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, it`s interesting, because I covered the Secretary of State and I covered the first year of Bill Clinton. So, I`ve been in kind of both those press rooms. And I always noticed how much the best spokespeople for those officials would use the questions they got from the press, as real early warning signs of what`s out there, what are the issues we need to be aware of and where is this story going?

The fact that Trump has not allowed a White House briefing since, I don`t know, nine months, 12 months. I don`t even know how long it`s been anymore. The fact that his spokesman only goes on Fox News, the fact that he only goes on Fox News. They`ve been in such a bubble that I think A, they don`t realize the danger that they are in. They don`t realize how serious this is viewed by the country. They don`t realize how Trump early on said, hey, I made a mistake. I really went a little bit too far.

Had he accepted censure and that was what the Democrats would have much preferred, I think he could have gotten away with censure and not impeachment. In the history books, Ari, no one really remembers a president who was censured. No one will ever forget a president who`s been impeached.

MELBER: Given your view on the entire world, you`ve mentioned that there are other countries that are increasingly rooting for Trump. What do you mean by that?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think both Russia and China will be voting Trump in 2020. I`m not saying they will necessarily intervene. I`m sure the Russians will. I can`t speak for the Chinese. And it`s for two reasons are one is because they know that as long as Trump is President of the United States, America is in turmoil. Are we sitting around thinking about artificial intelligence, supercomputing? Are we debating the PISA scores? Our education is. No, no, all we`re doing is talking about Trump.

MELBER: I mean, today we`ve been counting exclamation points in a letter.

FRIEDMAN: Exactly, we`re talking about his grammar. The other thing they know is that as long as Trump is President of the United States, he can never galvanize a global coalition against them. He can never galvanize the Europeans in a coalition against Russia. And he can never galvanize the Asians against China. And for both those countries, that is critical. They know as long as Trump is there, they will never face a global coalition against them.

MELBER: The other thing I want to ask you is something we`ve been following closely here with our experts, and that is the decline of common facts, which is not to say there hasn`t always been rich and huge debates in this country. There has been partisan press and the founding era. There has been a lot. So, it`s not to oversimplify. But I want to show you something you know about and our viewers know about, which is look at the decline of Nixon`s approval across parties.

If you see on the right here, as Watergate evidence came out, it was a net drop that was very similar among Dems in D`s and R`s all around 40 or 40 plus percent. It made all the difference. Do you think that was because of the way that people consume information then and do you ever get back to that world where there`s some common facts in America?

FRIEDMAN: Yes, we have Dave Roberts wrote about this in Vox recently. We basically have today the ability to create an alternative entire epistemological universe where you simply live in a completely different set of facts, because if you get most of your information online from Facebook and that`s targeted to reinforce your biases. And if you watch only one particular network and you put all those together, there`s no Walter Cronkite out there who everyone is sharing the same information from.

And I think it`s one of the most frightening things, because our democracy, Ari, is based on two pillars, truth and trust. OK. If we don`t share truth, we can`t possibly get the big challenge. We can`t possibly face the big challenges, climate change, cyber war, education. We can`t possibly agree to do anything at scale if we don`t share the same truth. And if we don`t trust each other, we can`t possibly do anything big and hard together. If you don`t have truth and trust, you cannot do anything big and hard. And all the challenges we have coming at us right now are big and hard.

MELBER: On a historic time as we take all this in. It`s really great to get your insights. Tom, I hope you come back and join us again. Tom Friedman.

FRIEDMAN: Anytime. Thanks, Ari. Thank you, sir. Meanwhile, Rudy does the Giuliani with a bad admission for his client when we`re back in just 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We`d like to try to keep our eye on the ball around here, so remember, this impeachment case against President Trump has many allegations, but a big important one was that one of the first things in the alleged conspiracy was getting rid of the Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. So, there would be an easier path to the plot they wanted to pull off.

You may remember that in the Intelligence Committee`s impeachment report it says that the ousting of that Ambassador set the stage for other officials appointed by Trump to work with Giuliani to advance this scheme, this illicit scheme to support the President`s re-election. And it was that corruption fighting issue and her background as someone who would get in the way of the scheme that came up in those dramatic hearings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old corrupt rules sought to remove me. What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them and working together, they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a U.S. ambassador.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And multiple witnesses there under oath as well as the report argue that it was Trump`s team that forced her out to get that result.

Now, the person alleged to literally have carried out the plot. Rudy Giuliani is suddenly admitting it. This is a new interview where Giuliani says he believed he needed you`ll Yovanovitch out of the way because she was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody.

This is what has come to be known as the Giuliani. You just go out and admit the thing that you`ve been accused of. Now there`s more because he`s also spilling about what Trump knew. Ultimately it matters more whether the person being impeached was in on all of this in a separate interview with The New York Times. Giuliani says he was briefing Trump about the investigations a couple of times and Trump told him to go on and get with Pompeo about it.

Now, how bad is this? Well, here`s how bad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Now this hit piece and it`s a hit piece.

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: Of course.

INGRAHAM: Also has you on the record admitting that you forced out Maria Yovanovitch.

GIULIANI: Of course, I did.

INGRAHAM: You said you needed her out of the way. But you`re a personal attorney for the President, so why do you need her out of the way?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Before I even show you the rest of the answer. Just look at that Fox News is calling this a hit piece because they would concede it all sounds bad. And so, it`s a hit piece to even mention these allegations. The anchor that you could see there mentioning Giuliani forced out the ambassador. Now, this gets pretty interesting look at Giuliani`s reaction where he basically recasts up what he told the print reporters in the supposed hit piece which boils down to, yes, I did it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: Out of the way, I forced her out because she`s corrupt. There`s no question that she was acting corruptly in that position and had to be removed, she should have been fired if the State Department weren`t part of the deep state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I turn back to RNC chair and friend of THE BEAT, Michael Steele. You see this--

STEELE: This is my favorite part.

MELBER: You see, the anchor. And again, it`s not to me personal, which anchor could happen to be, but the anchor saying hit piece and then he says I did it.

STEELE: It`s like, OK Rudy, so I`m here to help you clean up the crap you just stepped in over the weekend. All right, so that`s number one. Number two, Pompeo, State Department, Pompeo the guy closer to the president than probably Rudy in some instances. He`s part of the deep state. OK. So, this is where it gets ridiculous. You`ve got it exactly the way it`s going here and that is Rudy is trying to get out in front of this thing and create some runway of confusion around the fact pattern that has been established that Marie Yovanovitch was not only the Joan of Arc of corruption, she was the one that everyone looked to and saw and would go into battle behind her efforts, not just with respect to Ukraine, but even within the EU.

So, she is the corrupt creature here, she is the bad part, Ari. So, here`s the question riddle me this Rudy, what was the corruption that was so corrupt that she wasn`t fired before now that deep state Pompeo didn`t think she should have been fired for. Or maybe he`s part of the cover up.

I mean so this is where the story and the narrative get really silly. But you know what, create the confusion Ari, create it, throw it out there, say whatever. Own it. You know do it in plain sight and it will make enough noise that the truth doesn`t look like the truth.

MELBER: I get why Rudy Giuliani might think it`s good for Rudy Giuliani to get ahead of anything. I mean you go back, and you read the Watergate precedent and you had some of the worst, worst tapes. And there were extensive White House meetings that we can now read in books like The Final Days about well if it`s ever going to come out it`ll look slightly less terrible if we push it out and people are familiar with that.

But in this instance with the House vote tomorrow I see why that might help Giuliani in his own narrow lane. I don`t see how it helps his client, the President.

STEELE: It helps his client in this sense. No one`s going to do anything about it. No one`s calling Rudy as a witness to testify to what he knew and what he did. Senate Republicans have made that very clear. They`ve telegraphed that for over a month now. We have known for some time, all of this this sort of late arrival to well you know we`re going to look at this process and all this. No. This has been in the bag. This is why the President and Rudy and others have been able to act with the level of impunity that they`ve had, because there will be no consequence.

MELBER: But you know what else is in the bag?

STEELE: What`s that?

MELBER: $1 million from a Putin-backed oligarch.

STEELE: Oh! Yes, well then there`s that.

MELBER: There is a lot of things in the bag if we`re going to get all the evidence out.

STEELE: And then there`s that. And here`s the X Factor, we don`t know what Parnas and others are going to really drop at the end of the day.

MELBER: Right.

STEELE: So, again you get out in front and make enough noise distraction and confusion, so that whenever, whatever comes out you can then play off of it and you`ll have enough support about 38 percent nationally of the people out there who will discount it as a scam, B.S. whatever. And that gives you enough glide on your runway to continue doing what you`re doing, because again, there is no accountability in the legitimate structures of government that would hold any other person, any other administration accountable for what they`re doing.

MELBER: Michael Steele you`re always clear. We love having you on THE BEAT, sir.

STEELE: You got him my friend. Looking forward to coming back.

MELBER: We`d love to have you back and let me tell viewers, what happens next, because we`ve got something I haven`t even gotten to yet, my breakdown on the Trump trial negotiations including a video that undercuts one of Mitch McConnell`s biggest new defenses I`m going to show it all to you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: As the House marches towards this vote to impeach President Trump, there`s already major wrangling over the Trump trial in any Senate. Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he went to Mitch McConnell two weeks ago proposing private negotiations over trial rules that McConnell refused to engage at the time.

Then Friday, McConnell went on Sean Hannity to publicly preview his approach. He will take all his cues from Trump`s lawyers. So, then Schumer replied with a public letter offering these compromised positions like a bipartisan framework used last time. A short witness list, limited subpoenas and other items designed to appeal to moderate Republicans.

The negotiating terms this is important. You can think of Schumer`s play here as another Merrick Garland strategy, try to soften the McConnell brick wall by opening some sort of debate or negotiation with a partial surrender. Now Schumer`s opening offer doesn`t even try to push Giuliani or Barr in a testifying. Those are the two people Trump named to carry out his Ukraine plot in the White House call notes.

So, that`s the news Schumer offer, which brings us to today. Did Chuck Schumer attempt at a nice guy compromise win over Senate Republicans? Did he get credit for meeting in the middle? I bet even if you haven`t followed this particular story, you know the answer, no. Republicans immediately dismissed Schumer with headlines about them scoffing at the proposal, reporting that while Schumer is trying to woo independent minded Republicans, it is not working. Q self-proclaimed moderates Susan Collins telling Politico, she`s now concerned Schumer didn`t first sit down with McConnell and discuss his proposals, but instead did this letter that he released to the press.

So, after McConnell goes to the press first, that`s publicly known. Republicans say that very move is their complaint about Schumer, a talking point that seems coordinated because McConnell hit on it today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: He chose to begin by writing me an 11-paragraph letter on Sunday evening. Deliver it by way of the news media and begin a cable television campaign a few hours later. The fact that our colleague is already desperate to sign up the Senate for new fact-finding suggests that even Democrats who do not like this President are beginning to realize how dramatically insufficient the House has rushed process, has been.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: New fact-finding, almost makes it sound like a bad thing. Well, Senator Schumer rebutted that today arguing a fair trial should of course gather facts and evidence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): To every senator in this room, Democrat and Republican, senators who oppose this plan will have to explain why less evidence is better than more evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, Schumer may have faltered by opening with this negotiation against himself and he clearly failed to win over Republicans. But he does have a point on the substance, a Senate trial gathers extra evidence precisely because of the higher burden of proof at a trial that`s higher than the House`s sort of impeachment indictment phase. And this is something Republicans emphasized when they backed, guess what more witnesses for the Senate trial of President Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`d never call any witnesses in the House. Why are you insisting on witnesses in the Senate?

SCHUMER: Well, that`s an important distinction. The threshold in the House was whether or not there was enough evidence to submit it to the Senate for a trial. We were acting like a grand jury. We didn`t feel it was necessary to parade witnesses in. Now having impeach the President, it`s over in the Senate where the trial. This is a trial not a grand jury proceeding, not a probable cause hearing. And we have a tremendous burden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Tremendous burden. That`s true about the Senate regardless of the posturing, a fair trial should gather the evidence no matter where it leads. Now unlike criminal trials, a Senate trial can make up most of the rules as it proceeds and change most of them any time with a majority vote. That may put pressure on McConnell, at least more pressure than usual because if a few members of his caucus decide to support adding evidence or witnesses, they can do that in the middle of this thing, which potentially gives Senate Democrats some leverage along the way, if they figure out how to use it.

We turn now to an expert on this, Julian Epstein who was former Chief Democratic Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. You can see him right here in the corner of the Clinton impeachment hearings. We dug that up.

Nice to see you, sir.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thanks for digging that up.

MELBER: There you go. So, you`ve lived this more than most. Your response to the above, the notion that the Senate can take in new witnesses and that Schumer started out only asking for four.

EPSTEIN: Well they should and that`s commonly what`s understood as a Senate trial is that you bring witnesses in the Republican argument. The Republicans have defended Trump by saying essentially two things, one is there aren`t enough facts to show the bribery scheme or the quid pro quo scheme. And the second argument in the alternative has been well, yes, Trump did it, but his motive was pure.

And it seems to me, the four witnesses that Schumer wants to call and then as you point out I think accurately Ari if you could get Barr in there, if you get could get Pompeo in there, these witnesses could shed very important light on both of those questions.

Right now, we`re kind of at a 47/47 impasse in terms of public opinion on impeachment. In the case of Nixon, 60 percent of the public wanted Nixon removed, in the case of Clinton 73 percent of the public didn`t want to remove. So, impeachment is as much about winning in the court and the Senate as it is winning the court of public opinion.

MELBER: And to your point even against that public opinion backdrop, they brought in three witnesses to that Senate trial and that was after an exhaustive independent investigation which hasn`t occurred here on Ukraine not in the DOJ. And that brings me to the next point here. I mean let`s just take a step back.

Washington can get so lost in the weeds. Isn`t it important to remind Americans that the sitting Secretary State and Attorney General they testify before oversight hearings which are less important than a Senate trial?

EPSTEIN: And John Bolton has written a book. I mean how can you possibly write a book about this and say I`m not going to testify before an impeachment.

MELBER: Are you saying, Barnes & Noble has more aggressive player than Chuck Schumer right now?

EPSTEIN: Well, it`s kind of extraordinary. I think this is sort of the eleventh hour for Democrats, if you leave this at the 47/47 impasse and the Senate Republicans are successful, they`re basically throwing in their lot with the anti-institutionalist here. We`re going to boycott the process. We`re going to boycott subpoenas. We`re going to boycott facts. We`re going to treat this process if it isn`t serious as if it is not serious.

These are the ends - this is the anti-institutionalism of Trump that the Republicans are now throwing their lot in with. And if you kind of allow that to succeed and you keep this at a 47/47 result, that`s a very unsatisfying result for the Democrats and in some ways the Republicans will have won, if that`s the case.

So, I think the Democrats are going to need to turn up the heat to get more facts on the table. I think the Republicans have given them their opening by saying we don`t have enough facts on the table, we don`t have enough evidence of Trump`s motive.

And as you point out in 1998 and 1999, we had had a year of Starr`s investigation every single witness had been either deposed or before the grand jury. There were three depositions before the Senate, so every single witness, every single relevant witness in the case of Clinton, which was an extramarital affair, every single witness had been heard from.

Here, we are talking about something much more serious from a constitutional point of view. And the people who had firsthand knowledge in terms of their direct communication with the President have not been heard from. And it just seems a wholly unsatisfying result.

The other big difference Ari, that I point out, in 1974, 71 percent of the public reported to Gallup that they were paying attention to the Watergate hearings. In 1998, we probably had about 30 million that were tuning in.

Today, I would be surprised if there`s 10 percent of the American public that are actually tuning into live television on this. One of the problems that Democrats are facing in addition to their having played this cautious. They play this cautious because they`re worried about you know running into the presidential primary schedule in January, they`re worried about moderates.

One of the problems is the death of the public square and that we`re all cocooned in our cable news bubbles, we`re cocooned in our social media bubbles. So, being able to penetrate and really persuade large numbers of particularly moderate voters is more challenging than ever. Yes. But to your point the Democrats are going to have to do something to change the dynamic right now because 47/47 is not a satisfactory result.

MELBER: And that really goes to if you`re in a fight with Mitch McConnell and you know Mitch McConnell at a strategic and fact-finding level what are you telling the country is the goal really interesting to get your experience having been there Julia. And I should also mention a programming note Senator Chuck Schumer himself will be on MSNBC tonight with my colleague Chris Hayes, that should be very interesting.

When we come back a key Mueller witness sentence former Trump aide Rick Gates is going to jail. And there`s a Mueller twist. I`ll explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Major developments regarding two figures you may recall ensnared in the Russia and Mueller related probes. Today, the number two in Donald Trump`s campaign, Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Gates was sentenced in Washington, a judge giving him 45 days behind bars plus three years` probation. That`s for a range of financial crimes as well as lying an obstruction crime.

Now, he had plead guilty and cooperated with Mueller testifying as you may recall against both Manafort and Roger Stone who were convicted now. For that cooperation, Mueller prosecutors wanted even less prison time than he got. A reminder that cooperation only gets you so far. The judge has the last word.

Also today remember, Maria Butina, the Russian citizen convicted of being a foreign agent who tried to infiltrate all sorts of political groups in the U.S. including the NRA. Well she`s already been released from prison. That was after 15 months behind bars in the U.S. then deported to Moscow. But she got a warm welcome and the news today is, she will become a new host for Russian state TV, a show called Beautiful Russia. Boo boo boo. It takes aim at yes opponents of Vladimir Putin.

Some very interesting updates on two cases we`ve been watching. Now, we`ll be right back with a preview of tomorrow`s historic impeachment vote.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We are gearing up for a historic day tomorrow. The Full House will debate and then have a scheduled vote on two articles of impeachment against President Donald J Trump. I`ll be back in the morning along with our colleagues as part of the coverage on that vote, on Morning Joe and then special coverage that begins at 9 AM Eastern with Chris Matthews and many more.

So, I wanted to let you know about that as we keep an eye on everything happening in Congress and beyond. Thanks, as always for watching THE BEAT. Interesting times. Don`t go anywhere because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is next.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END