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Ukraine plot TRANSCRIPT: 12/30/19, The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: John Flannery, Neera Tanden, Mark Thompson, Neal Katyal, Richard Painter, Joel Rubin, Eleanor Clift

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: And that is all for tonight. THE BEAT starts right now with Yasmin Vossoughian in for Ari. See, I said your name right and I said Ari`s name wrong.

YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Ari Melber, you`ve got to love him.

TUR: Harry, Harry Melber.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Thank you, Maty Tur. I am Yasmin Vossoughian everybody in tonight for Ari Melber. We`re covering a lot of developing stories. New details of what was going on inside the White House as Donald Trump pushed his Ukraine scheme.

And Neal Katyal is here on a key development in the push for witnesses at the impeachment trial. Plus, Rudy Giuliani shadow diplomacy expands and made new warnings about his legal exposure.

But we begin tonight with the exhaustive reporting from "The New York Times." The inside story of the 84 days between when Trump first asked about that military aid to Ukraine and when he finally agreed to actually release.

It includes new details of shocked aides, trying to piece together a legal justification for withholding that money. Cabinet Secretaries trying to change Trump`s mind and early warnings of how damaging the plot could be.

One aide writing in June that Congress would quote "become unhinged" if they learned about that scheme. "The Times" also revealing White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney would leave the room whenever Trump talked to Rudy Giuliani, raising questions about whether he himself had doubts about Giuliani`s actions and the defense he later offered of this scheme. Watch this.


REPORTER: You just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the democratic server happened as well.

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


VOSSOUGHIAN: All the time with foreign policy. That reporting also revealing that in late August, Defense Secretary, Mark Esper; Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor, John Bolton had a previously undisclosed Oval Office meeting with Trump, where they tried but failed to convince him to release that money.

Today, Senate Democrats arguing the new reporting bolsters their case or witnesses at the impeachment trial, as Speaker Pelosi continues to withhold the actual impeachment articles, and Trump is lashing out. Tweeting a series of attacks on Speaker Pelosi throughout the weekend. The latest, 48 tweets he sent about her since the House actually impeached him.

With me now former Federal Prosecutor, John Flannery and Neera Tanden, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress and a former top aide to President Obama and Hillary Clinton. And Mark Thompson, Host of the "Make it Plain Podcast."

John, I`m going to start with you on this one. There`s lots of new information here. But how do you think Democrats can use it at the impeachment trial unless there are new witnesses?

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMAL FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I didn`t hear who you - were you calling on me? Sorry.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Yes. That was for you, John. Lots of new information here. But how can this actually feasibly be used without new witnesses?

FLANNERY: Well, I think the thing that`s wrong here is the entire discussion. That after you impeach someone in articles that you`re restricted in any way to the evidence that you used to get the articles.

Of course, you can supplement proof at a real trial in a fair tribunal with new evidence, which relates to the charges at hand. So, in other words, the information from the Center for Public Integrity and what the "The New York Times" published, all of that should be available to the Senate for a full and fair trial. So I don`t think there`s any question about that.

We also had a strong case without this new evidence, which adds additional detail to the case against the crime syndicate. That is the Trump administration with Mulvaney and his three amigos. And we keep talking about there being parallel channels. I think we finally found who is the back channel, that is Rudy Giuliani.

And the willful ignorance of Mulvaney to what`s going on in those private meetings was, I think just another one of their devices to conceal what they were doing. And I think that each additional piece of information we got is further evidence that this was a shakedown that we compromised Ukraine.

And that we didn`t care and we were doing more for Putin and for Trump`s reelection effort than we were doing, what Congress wanted or what the nation needed, or what Ukraine needed for its own security,

VOSSOUGHIAN: Willful ignorance of Mulvaney`s actions here. Certainly an interesting way to explain it, not to say the least. Neera you have worked in the White House. How bad is it if you have aides basically saying that Congress will be unhinged if they figure out what`s happening here?

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS, PRESIDENT & CEO: I mean, that part of the story was really - it amazed me. The idea that you would have a law passed by Congress in a very bipartisan basis, that the White House and a bunch of essentially political apparatchiks would essentially decide to just work around. I found it really stunning.

And most importantly, I think the aspect of the story that is really, really, really critical is that the timing of the story really shows us that if the Senate does not call witnesses, they are essentially aiding and abetting a cover up.

Essentially, the President - these are - these people named in these stories are the - in the story are the people that President is keeping him testifying? Obviously, he doesn`t want them to testify, because they will demonstrate his guilt. So I really think this is an issue for Republican Senators who take an oath to the constitution and take an oath to a fair trial to ensure that they live up to that oath.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Mark, do you see it just that it seems that this is an aiding and abetting of a cover up with regards to Ukraine.

REV. MARK THOMPSON, HOST, "MAKE IT PLAIN": It`s own sort of obstruction of justice on the part of the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell coming out, saying he`s working with the White House jurors, don`t work with those on trial. That`s a mistrial. So he had already set up and declared a mistrial before anything got started.

I think is very, very true for Democrats in the House to wait. I think it`s likely, as Representative Kennedy said, I believe, on yesterday, that he`s going to commit more articles of impeachment. But the bottom line is, they can try to spin it all the ways they want to Donald Trump is in serious trouble.

He has been impeached, if they hold a trial and don`t have witnesses, this is illegitimate trial. If they hold a trial and these witnesses come forward to testify until the truth, things don`t get any better for him even if he is acquitted.

If those witnesses - if they hold a trial and those witnesses come forward and don`t tell the truth, I consulted with your favorite legal analyst and mine, Glenn Kirschner this afternoon. To ask if you lie in a Senate impeachment trial is that perjury? He said, yes, it absolutely is. So, you know, they`ll have no choice but to tell the truth. They don`t want to tell the truth and I`m sure certain they don`t want to risk telling a lie.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Let`s talk about some possible witnesses here emerging, especially in this new report for "The New York Times," but that`s certainly emerged over the last weeks and months as we`ve been uncovering this impeachment inquiry. Mark Esper, Mike Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, just some of the names that came out of this report.

You`re saying willful ignorance of Mick Mulvaney. John, I want to talk a little bit more about this with regards Mulvaney and this report saying that he would actually leave the room during conversations between the President and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani because of what he says was attorney/client privilege. Does that add up to you?

FLANNERY: No, it doesn`t add up to me. It sounds like a cover story. And you have Sondland testify that everybody knew what was going on. And I - it`s hard to believe that Mulvaney could run the three friends, if you will - the three amigos and not know everything that was going on, because one of those amigos was, who else, Rudy Giuliani.

And so when he`s not in the room, I think what they`re doing is trying to buy themselves deniability by cutting out Rudy. Because if he`s the back channel that Kushner wanted in early December of 2016, with Kislyak, then everything makes sense. Whether you send him to the South America, you send them to Russia, send them to Ukraine, you send him to Vienna, and then he comes back and delivers the goods.

So he`s an operative. He`s the back channel that the White House has used. He is the glue that holds together this conspiracy to shake down the Ukraine. And so - and he`s one of the best witnesses to call if you don`t get a deposition, because we have so many public statements by him that we can use against him to tie him up, which is one of the keys when cross examining a witness.

As for the line, as long as we have an Attorney General who`s corrupt, named Barr, who will prosecute no one in this administration, because he believes Article II is without limitation and the President is like a czar, a monarch, a despot, then we have that problem.

And as long as we have a President who`s prepared to pardon anyone before he`s forced to leave office, if that happens, we have a difficulty. The only path to protect the country is to treat the entire nation as the jurors and to attack the Senate, which will never give us a fair trial.

But we have to go over there at some date, whatever that right date is, and try this case, because that`s the only way we can illustrate the injustice of this Senate under the thumb of the prejudicial oversight by McConnell. And so I think in a nutshell, that`s where we stand.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Neera you`re hearing from John feasibly that Mulvaney could feasibly be one of the best witnesses in this possible senate trial, whether or not that`s going to actually happen is really the question. We heard from Senator Chuck Schumer earlier today with regards to this New York Times report. I want to read a part of his tweet here.

He wrote this. Every Republican Senator must read this and then explain why they would oppose our reasonable request for witnesses and documents in the Senate trial. This makes the choice even more clear, will the Senate hold trial, or will enable a cover up.

Obviously, we know John`s opinion on this and that he doesn`t think the Senate`s going to hold a fair trial.


VOSSOUGHIAN: And this is going to play out in the American public over the next election trial. But Neera, what do you make of it? Will we actually see any of these four individuals from Mark Esper to Mike Pompeo to Mulvaney to Bolton, actually testify? And who do you think is the best to tell this story?

TANDEN: I mean, I think what`s stunning about the New York Times story is that reporters are able to get the facts and the Congress is not, because essentially, the White House is obstructing. I mean, obviously, there are patriots in the administration who are releasing e-mails to reporters, and essentially defying essentially a block by the administration.

I think, I think I respectfully disagree. I think the question of whether we have a senate trial that is fair, is really up to the Republican majority. And we have a series of Republican Senators who really come from blue states or bluish states. Senator Gardner, Senator--

VOSSOUGHIAN: But do you trust that will happen? You`re saying it`s up to them, but do you trust that will happen considering all that we have heard from speaker McConnell - leader McConnell, excuse me - over the last couple of months,

TANDEN: Leader McConnell is just the wall that Susan Collins and Cory Gardner or hiding behind. This question of whether we have a Senate trial is not really a question for Mitch McConnell. It is for the Republican majority that is made up of Senators who are up - some degree are up for reelection.

They make up the majority. There are a number of Republican Senators who could decide. Joni Ernst she faces voters in 2020, Cory Gardner, Tillis. Four, Republican Senators decide to have a fair trial, there will be a fair trial. I think this is a Mitch McConnell strategy to just assume there will be no fair trial, to move the conversation.

And I`m glad Speaker Pelosi had the wherewithal to withhold the articles of impeachments so we have not blown past this trial. Most importantly, for Mitt Romney, for Cory Gardner, for all of these senators, what I would say to you is, you`re getting new information now. Imagine how much new information will come out in the weeks and months.

And if you have a sham trial, you will be not just humiliated right now, but humiliated in the history books for covering up for your political leader.

VOSSOUGHIAN: So Mark, do stories like "The New York Times" is revelation of this sit down between Esper, Pompeo, Bolton and the President - do stories like this - urging the President to release that money to Ukraine in late August, two and a half weeks before he actually did release it once the revelation of the whistleblower complaint came out.

Do stories like this move the needle? Will they move the needle for some of these Republicans that Neera is talking about, that could feasibly pressure McConnell to have a fair Senate trial?

THOMPSON: I think we`ve even heard from, if I`m not mistaken, Lisa Murkowski in the past 24 hours.


THOMPSON: That she`s concerned. So I think it moves in the needle.

VOSSOUGHIAN: She`s concerned with the coordination between Leader McConnell and the the White House.

THOMPSON: Right. And so, I think, stories like this probably help move that needle further, create greater cause for concern, because you would want all the facts to come out. And they definitely are moving a needle with the American public.

So lose-lose, if Republican senators running for election 2020 don`t stand up for a fair trial and call for a fair trial. That`s an issue to run against them at home. If they have a sham trial, and they vote to acquit with no evidence. That`s an issue to run against them at home.

VOSSOUGHIAN: All right, John Flannery, Neera Tanden and Mark Thompson, I`m going to leave it there. Thank you guys so much.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

VOSSOUGHIAN: A lot to come everybody. Late breaking news that could directly affect who might testify at the Senate trial, as we were just talking about. Former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal is here, you don`t want to miss that.

Plus, targeted new pressure on Mitch McConnell, and new questions about Republicans breaking ranks.


MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS HOST: Do you expect any Republicans to vote to impeach in this Senate?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I don`t. It is certainly possible. And then there are a couple that could vote that way.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Certainly possible. And Rudy Giuliani added again wild new revelations about this globetrotting, shadow diplomacy, all that. Plus, I`m going to breakdown impeachment in the power of mass protests. I`m Yasmin Vossoughian in for Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Welcome back, everybody. Breaking news on the question of who might need to testify at the impeachment trial. A judge today, dismissing a high profile case that could have set a precedent for potential impeachment witnesses.

A top aide to John Bolton had sued to avoid testifying in the House. The judge dismissing that lawsuit, after the house dropped the subpoena. The key here is that Bolton had cited that suit as a reason not to testify. That obstacle, no longer existing.

Joining me now is former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal. Neal, good evening to you. Thanks for joining us on this major breaking news with regards to possible testimony from John Bolton, as I just talked through a bit, I want to play a bit of what John Bolton said about this case last week and then get you to weigh in.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Although I have a lot to say on the subject. The prudent course for me is just to decline to comment at this point.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: Why not testify? People ask. I want you to have an opportunity to answer that.

BOLTON: Well, I appreciate that. But as I say, Dr. Kupperman, my former deputy, is in litigation now on what, to me, is a critical separation of powers question. When the House issues a subpoena, and in his case, and I think it would be true in mine, the President tells him not to testify, which authority controls?

Dr. Kupperman went to court to seek the third branch`s opinion in this conflict between the first two.


VOSSOUGHIAN: So waiting on the opinion of Kupperman`s case we have that opinion, it`s now moot. Nothing seems to be standing in the way of a Bolton testimony. Is this excuse, Neal, now gone?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So I think you`re right here. So I think bottom line is that John Bolton now has no rock to hide behind anymore, that he really should testify.

And to backup, Yasmin, basically way this works is an impeachment proceedings from our nation`s history from the start on. It`s always been the case that because impeachment is the sole remedy the American people have against an abusive President, documents and witnesses come out.

For example, in the Andrew Johnson senate trial, there were 41 witnesses. President Polk, one set in 1846, in impeachment situations, Congress should get everything that they want. And what President Trump did is he issued an unprecedented gag order. It`s never happened before in American history that President has said everything, every witness, every document, can`t be turned over.

And there were obviously some witnesses, including Trump administration officials who defied that and went and testified in Congress like Ambassador Sondland, Fiona Hill and the like. But Bolton and Kupperman did not. They instead filed a lawsuit saying we don`t know what to do.

Now while their lawsuit was pending there was a separate case involving Don McGahn, the White House Counsel. And in an opinion by Judge Jackson, she rejected in the most sweeping elegant terms Trump`s claims about immunity and not having these witnesses testifying the like. And the bottom line is now Judge Jackson`s opinion, which says, quote, "Presidents are kings. And folks like McGahn have to testify is now going to control what Bolton has to do.

VOSSOUGHIAN: The Kupperman lawsuit as well was something that Mick Mulvaney, I believe, wanted to attach himself to that Bolton and Kupperman kind of pushed aside and said, this isn`t something that you could be attached to. You you`re not part of our team.

KATYAL: Right. I mean, all these witnesses were trying to hide and not tell what they know to the American people. And as you were discussing earlier in the panel, "The New York Times" story from yesterday explains exactly why. Because Bolton, Mulvaney, Esper, and Duffy, the four exact people that the White House - that the Democrats have said they wanted to testify as witnesses in the Senate.

Those are the four people in the story. Those are the same people trying to hide behind these rocks. And what the federal judges have said, and in particular, Judge Jackson is, "ah, you can`t do that. This is the American people`s right." And what Donald Trump is essentially doing is saying, even in the Republican Senate, the Senate that his party controls--


KATYAL: He`s not going to let these witnesses testify. I mean, he is so afraid of the truth coming out. He`s acting as guilty as sin.

VOSSOUGHIAN: So this is a huge development here. What is the likelihood, because you heard it from john Bolton`s mouth in that NPR interview that I just aired, in that he said - before he brought the Kupperman case, he actually said, look, I have a lot to share. But I`m going to base my decision off of what is decided within this Kupperman case.

And now that has been put aside. So what is the likelihood that we could feasibly see John Bolton testify in the Senate trial that there will be enough pressure placed on Leader McConnell in which you would have to concede and say yes, John Bolton will be testifying along with possibly Pompeo with Mark Esper with Mulvaney following the lead.

KATYAL: I`ve always thought, Yasmin, that the testimony of these folks was an exceptionally high probability and today`s decision, I think, reaffirms that.

I would say it`s not just McConnell, it`s two other points that, one that Neera Tanden made a moment ago, that just Few Republican senators can change the rules that McConnell wants, even if he wants to march in total lockstep with the White House. And after all, every one of those senators is going to have to take an oath of impartial justice.

But number two, Yasmin, our Constitution says that the Chief Justice presides when the impeachment is of the President of the United States. That`s the only time the Chief Justice presides. And this Chief Justice is known for fairness, is known for truth seeking. The idea that, I think that he`s going to let a trial take place with no witnesses, when it sure looks like a cover up this happening, is I think, a pretty tough one to stomach. And so good--


KATYAL: Go ahead.

VOSSOUGHIAN: No, I just quickly wanted to get your take on this last thing with regards to the Office of Management and Budget and the lawyers that were basically trying to develop an argument to defend the president here.

And that argument was basically that the President`s role as Commander-in- Chief would simply allow him to override Congress for - with regards to withholding this aid to Ukraine. Does that hold any water to you legally?

KATYAL: Yes. I think the technical legal argument - legal name for such an argument is poppycock. I mean, that is one of the silliest and stupidest arguments I`ve ever heard since I graduated from law school.

That it is clear as day that the Constitution puts the Congress in the driver`s seat when it comes to the budget. Nobody believes this, not even the OMB itself neither then when the story was reported, nor now.

They`ve never relied on this. No President has. It`s ridiculous and if they want to make that argument, make our day, because that is a joke of an argument.

VOSSOUGHIAN: All right Neal Katyal, Thank you so much. Appreciate it. For more expert analysis from Neal check out his past segments at arguments.

Turning next to emerging pressure on Mitch McConnell that is coming from Republicans, we`ll be back in 30 seconds.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Welcome back. It`s the million-dollar question. Is it conceivable for Senate Republicans to break ranks and vote to remove the President from office? Watch Ted Cruz now saying there could be some GOP defections in the senate impeachment trial.


BARTIROMO: Do you expect any Republicans to vote to impeach in this Senate?

CRUZ: You know, I don`t. It is certainly possible. And then - there are a couple that could vote that way. But I think anyone voting on the facts, anyone voting on the law, this is a very easy vote. What they have alleged is not a high crime or misdemeanor.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Remember, one Republican Senator is now on the record saying that she is quote "disturbed" by Mitch McConnell`s coordination with the White House and now a Democratic Senator saying others are telling him the same thing.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I`ve talked to anywhere from five to 10 of my colleagues, who have very severe misgivings about the direction that Mitch McConnell is going.


VOSSOUGHIAN: And today, the anti-Trump Republican group has a new ad on Fox News aimed at pressuring Leader McConnell.


  UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Key witnesses in the Ukraine scandal must testify in the Senate impeachment trial. These witnesses including Rudy Giuliani.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: You did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lawyer for John Bolton says that his client has new information on these meetings with Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These witnesses must testify. Call your Senators now.


VOSSOUGHIAN: These witnesses must testify. With me now is Elise Jordan, a former aide in the Bush White House, now on MSNBC Political Analyst, and Richard Painter, former Chief White House Ethics Lawyer in the Bush administration.

I want to read some of what Ted Cruz just said as we just played it. And he basically said it`s certainly possible and there are a couple that could vote that way. But I think anyone voting on the facts, anyone voting on the law, this is a very easy vote. Do you think there`s a possible crack here?

ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I certainly think that Senator Lisa Murkowski was hinting at her displeasure with the process and she`s been known to break ranks in the past.

I`m also looking at Susan Collins who is going to probably going to face a tougher reelection battle then she had hoped for and she was she was willing in `96 with the Clinton impeachment - actually would have been `98 by then, to vote - to not vote with Republicans to impeach Bill Clinton on one of the impeachment charges.

So if you`re a battle - if you are in a purple state, if you`re Cory Gardner, if you are Joni Ernst, its going to really depend on what you`re seeing, and you`re hearing from your constituents and how those polls are going on impeachment.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Richard, what`s it going to take for some of these Republicans to defect and, and honestly pressure Leader McConnell here for testimony from some of these witnesses, like Pompeo.

RICHARD PAINTER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, there are two separate issues here. One, whether Republicans would actually vote to convict the President and remove him from office. The other question and the question we`re going to answer first, is whether this is going to be a fair trial.

And the idea of a trial without witnesses without evidence is atrocious, it`s a farce. And the Republican senators, all of them, would have to answer to the voters in their states for doing that. So I would strongly suspect there be a significant number of Republican Senators who will tell Mitch McConnell that he`s going to have to have witnesses.

This has to be a real trial. It can`t be a farce. We can`t we can`t run this trial like you`d run a trial where you just pack the jury with the people who are sympathetic to the defendant and just dismiss the case.

And yes, we`ve had trials like that in American history. I`ve referred to the trials of Klansmen in the 60s. Yes, we`ve done that. But trials in the United States, the vast majority of cases, and certainly an impeachment trial of the President of the United States, needs to be a fair trial with witnesses with evidence. And then the senate decides what to do.

They could convict Donald Trump, which is, I believe there`s overwhelming evidence of his guilt, they could walk over to the White House asked him to resign as the Presidents - the Senators, they had Republicans in 1974 with Richard Nixon. Or let the voters decide, based on the evidence in November 2020 while voting to acquit him.

The range of options the Republicans could pursue. But not having a fair trial, allowing Mitch McConnell to coordinate with a White House, to coordinate with the defense. Senators to be taking campaign money from President Trump, which really is just bribing the jury. I mean, this type of behavior will be a disaster for the republicans if they continue to do this.

VOSSOUGHIAN: So Richard, you bring up coordination with the White House here between Leader McConnell and the White House. And Elise talking about Lisa Murkowski and basically her criticism of that, and saying essentially, that she doesn`t agree with the coordination that vocal leader McConnell`s having with the White House.

But I want to talk a little bit about the impeachment trial with regards to then President Clinton. Richard, if you could take us back for a moment. Because I do believe - and Jonathan is one actually reported on this. And speaking with former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Daschle - Tom Daschle.

There was some admitted coordination with then Clinton White House. Saying in part this. "My former staff reminding me this morning that while I was not in contact with the White House during the trial, they were. There was a need to coordinate on many levels."

He goes on to say, it wasn`t necessarily - and "The Washington Post" reporting this, it wasn`t necessarily as brazen per se, as McConnell`s coordination. Saying it on the record, I`ve already made my decision and here`s what`s going to happen in the Senate impeachment trial. But nonetheless, Richard, there is some precedent here in that there was coordination as well during the Clinton impeachment trial.

PAINTER: Well, the oath is an oath of impartiality. And that was the oath that Senators took in the Clinton impeachment trial. And impartiality, in my view, means is no coordination. Now, there are a number of things going on at 20 years ago, that I believe that Tom Daschle, some of the Democrats were doing more of that type of thing than they should have been. But it was nowhere near as brazen as what Mitch McConnell is talking about now.

But the bottom line is, it`s an oath of impartiality. And whether or not some Democrats violated in some ways, almost 20 years ago, there`s absolutely no excuse for Mitch McConnell.

He`s going on national television. He`s saying he`s going to be working basically hand in glove with the White House. He`s working with the defense. There is no way that he could do that. And take that oath of impartiality without perjuring himself, without lying under oath. It`s got to be one way or the other here.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Quickly, Elise, I just want to get your take on the Pelosi strategy amongst all this. Because the more pressure Centrist Republicans could face. Is this a winning strategy ultimately for Democrats, as Pelosi is holding out and handing over these articles of impeachment to the Senate?

JORDAN: I think that Nancy Pelosi is clearly driving Donald Trump crazy right now as judging.

VOSSOUGHIAN: For witness--

JORDAN: His hundreds of retweets--

VOSSOUGHIAN: His 50 tweets or so over the last week or so.

JORDAN: Exactly. So she has gotten into his head and she isn`t playing by the traditional norms of going ahead and proceeding. She`s actually playing dirty a little bit. And if Democrats are successfully going to go up against Trump, they need to embrace this asymmetric political warfare, because that`s what it is in this era.

VOSSOUGHIAN: All right, Elise Jordan, great being on with you all day.


VOSSOUGHIAN: And Richard Painter thank you as well.

Ahead, new reporting about Rudy Giuliani`s shadow State Department going way beyond Ukraine. Plus, a new way to take on Trump in the impeachment fight that you haven`t heard about. Stay with us.



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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you have to ask that to Rudy.

Reporter: Mr. President can you explain why your personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, would need to talk the budget office?

TRUMP: I really don`t know. You`d have to ask him. You`d have to ask him.


VOSSOUGHIAN: You got to ask Rudy. And tonight there are more questions about what exactly Giuliani is up to. And not just in Ukraine, "The Washington Post," revealing Giuliani`s back channel efforts to influence the government of Venezuela.

Giuliani even taking part in a phone call with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro back in 2018 as he tried to, quote "engineer a negotiated exit to remove Maduro from office and open the country for American business." And apparently, off the books plan, which broke from official Trump White House policy.

And which then National Security Advisor John Bolton, quote "vehemently rejected" when he actually learned of it. It`s a bizarre new chapter for Giuliani and there`s many chapters of them with echoes of the same shadow diplomacy that resulted in Trump`s impeachment.

And leads the very real question. Here it is. What in the world is Rudy Giuliani up to? Joining me now is former Obama State Department Official Joel Rubin and Eleanor Clift, Washington correspondent for "The Daily Beast." Joel, I`m going to start with you on that one. What in the world is Rudy Giuliani up to?

JOEL RUBIN, FRM STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Yasmin, shadow foreign policy sounds too regal to kind for him. This is this is just plain old corruption. What Rudy Giuliani was engaging in was seeking to move a foreign leader out of power on behalf of his own potential clients, on behalf of a member of Congress, constituents or business partners, quite frankly. And really was looking out for himself.

And the real big question is, was he informing the President? Did President Trump know about this? And what was he telling President Trump behind the scenes and obviously behind John Bolton`s back.

But this this is part of a dirty pattern. This is consistent with the way Giuliana has been behaving in my multiple hotspots around the world. One doesn`t know who he represents. And he really is, in essence, a walking crime scene.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Eleanor, let me read a part of this piece from "The Post" saying this in part. His freelancing has triggered concerns among White House officials that his intersessions have muddied and at times undercut official U.S. policy.

You have those folks in the White House, basically saying they didn`t even know about these back channel conversations that Rudy Giuliani, the President`s Personal attorney, was having with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Does that suggest here that in fact, the former mayor was acting on his own accord or that he was merely just communicating with the President without the White House even being a part of those conversations the President was having?

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think Rudy Giuliani and the President talk on the phone late in the evening, probably after the mayor has had his after dinner drinks and they freelance. And Giuliani is advancing the President`s interests. Some of them are kind of conspiracy theories, and he`s commingling them with his business interests and attempting to make money.

And I think he entertains the President. And he doesn`t think of himself as a rogue operator. He thinks of himself as a relevant figure in the in the life and times of the President of the United States. And he does not necessarily have the best interests of the United States in mind. This is such a freelance effort.

And where it ventures into the potentially illegal is when he deliberately keeps White House officials in the dark. And when it gets into his knowledge of perhaps he`s straying into areas that could be potentially illegal.

I mean, he`s a smart man. He`s got it know that he`s flirting with some very dangerous norms and constitutional norms here. But he can`t help himself. He wants - he was America`s mayor. He now wants to be America`s Secretary of State or maybe America`s rogue President. He has - he has a compulsion I think to be in the center of things.

I mean, he talks to reporters and says things that are so incredibly revealing, as a reporter, I would welcome an interview with him. But you wonder, why is he doing this? It`s bizarre.

VOSSOUGHIAN: And we don`t necessarily know how and which the former mayor and the President are actually communicating when they`re communicating, what they`re actually talking about. Obviously, some of us are drawing conclusions based on the reporting that we`ve seen so far and been reading.

But, nonetheless, I want to play a little bit of sound from Fiona Hill during her testimony on the Hill with regards to john Bolton`s view of Rudy Giuliani, especially in light of this new report. Let`s take a listen to that.


FIONA HILL, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL DIRECTOR: I had already brought to Ambassador Bolton`s attention the attacks, the smear campaign against Ambassador Yovanovitch. Ambassador Bolton had looked pained, basically indicated with body language that there was nothing much that we could do about it. And he then in the course of that discussion said, that Rudy Giuliani was a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.


VOSSOUGHIAN: So you have this assessment from Fiona Hill with regards to John Bolton`s opinion of Rudy Giuliani and yet in this "Washington Post" report, you have Giuliani briefing John Bolton, without the White House even - not necessarily even knowing about the conversations in which Giuliani is having with Maduro, Joel?

RUBIN: Yes, you have Giuliani engaging Bolton. And, frankly, the National Security Council staff, the State Department officials who handle Venezuela, in this case, and Ukraine as well, have to not only be scratching their head, but also be petrified of what the President is doing in engaging Giuliani and directing him in some of these efforts.

And this goes to the whole incoherence right now that we have, and that we`re witnessing with the national security of the United States. We have President Trump essentially commandeering a system that is in chaos and in conflict with each other, not towards a sort of a rivalry that gets to a good end result, but to actually collapse of policy.

So if you look at Venezuela, as an example, we have no effective policy in Venezuela right now. We had incoherence. If you`re Maduro, what are you thinking? Are you thinking the United States wants you to go? Does he want you to stay?

If you`re the opposition, in the case of Giuliani, it`s very important to point out that he wasn`t doing this in the best interest of the United States. He wasn`t advocating for democracy in Venezuela. He was looking to move someone out possibly to install one of his own crony friends. So this really undermines any ability of United States across our agencies and at the White House to have any effective foreign policy.

VOSSOUGHIAN: And yet, in spite of the coordination that seems that`s happening between the former mayor and the President, you also have Rudy Giuliani over and over again saying on the record on national television that he also has insurance on the President if things actually do go South.

Joel Rubin and Eleanor Clift, thank you guys both for coming up.

I`m going to break down a crucial, powerful impeachment tactic that has not been unleashed yet.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Welcome back. Now to a powerful tool with potential to shake things up and move the needle against Donald Trump in the impeachment fight. First the context. Here are Trump`s job approval numbers from the start of his presidency. Until the month before the whistleblower complaint, Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, all hell different views, but they were remarkably steady. Then the dam broke. Public, on camera admissions of guilt.


TRUMP: By the way, likewise, China just started investigation into the Bidens.

Reporter: Sir, to be clear you just described is a quid pro quo.

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

GORDON SONDLAND, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: 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.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Those bombshells led to Trump`s impeachment, but you can see the polling numbers barely moving. Previously, Democrats have looked to the impeachment hearings to sway public opinion. Now there`s talk, that Senate trial could do the trick and that might happen.

But there`s another tactic that is already succeeded in pressuring and even removing heads of state. In other countries, a tactic Trump`s opponents aren`t deploying yet, mass protests. Let`s look at South Korea. 2016, the Conservative President had an iron grip over her party, but the majority in parliament was liberal. Having won a landslide victory in the country`s midterm elections, that`s when the conservative president committed a crime and then admitted it in public.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prosecutors have claimed that this woman, a longtime friend of the President Park Geun-hye used that connection to shake down companies and top executives for millions of dollars, including the head of Samsung, even paying for horse her daughter.


VOSSOUGHIAN: And then the protest started. Hundreds of thousands of South Korean stormed the streets demanding impeachment. The protest started small, but eventually grew into the millions. Still liberals in the Congress, they didn`t have the votes. Liberals held 178 seats in parliament, but they needed 201 to actually impeach the President, which meant swing at least 23 conservatives to vote for impeachment to get to 201.

So how they get here. That`s the big question. For 20 straight weekend million showing up to protest for the removal of the President. After enough time and people and energy, Conservative lawmakers understood which way the wind was blowing.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR: South Korea`s parliament has introduced a bill to impeach embattled President Park Geun-hye. An extremely unpopular Park, whose approval ratings have dropped to 4% and senior presidency engulfed by a corruption scandal.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Yes, you heard it right. The Parliament introduced a bill to impeach the President based on the crime she admitted to doing. And with the pressure of, you guessed it, mass protests, there came results.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The South Korean parliament has voted to impeach President Park. So the South Korean parliament has voted 234 votes in favor of the impeachment.


VOSSOUGHIAN: The liberals were able to swing 62 conservatives. After the impeachment vote the bill went to the country`s Constitutional Court, which despite its name, is not actually a court, but a nine-person body which actually decides on constitutional issues.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Violent protest broke out in South Korea today, after the country`s Constitutional Court removed President Park Geun-hye from power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were protests in South Korea today after the President was forced out following a stunning corruption scandal.


VOSSOUGHIAN: And there are other examples. Brazil in 2016, the President impeached and removed after millions hit the streets. Ukraine, in late 2013, early 2014, protests helped force out Ukraine`s President.

In the Trump era, we`ve seen mass protests, notably the Women`s March and the eruption of anger over the travel ban, but there has not been sustained, mobilized, protesting over impeachment yet, or the underlying issue of corruption. And it`s of course not clear how successful they would be.

But for Trump`s opponents desperate to break the logjam and press Republicans it is a potential approach that has led to the ousting of heads of state when the odds seem stacked against it. And sort of influencing the impeachment trial itself is something that could have broader political impact on the 2020 election in November.

Next, one more thing special to THE BEAT.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Welcome back. And before we go tonight, we`ve got a special treat for you. We`ve gathered some moments from the year that played out on live TV right here on THE BEAT. We`ve all enjoyed some laughs, Ari`s dad jokes, and yes even the awkward pauses. Take a look


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Sit down because here it comes. THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening, Ari.


TODD: That`s it buddy.

MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I really expected a rap lyric this one, Ari.

MELBER: Are you are you really Majority Leader if you`re not running this like cardio?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR "JAY-Z: MADE IN AMERICA": Well, to quote Jay Z, When the gimmes in the system, ain`t no tellin` well he love `em or he diss `em--

WILEY: To quote Killer Mike--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A line from Drake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barr worked it. I think want Barr flipped it and reversed it.

MELBER: Do you have any Killer Mike quotes for us Bill?


MIKE LUPICA, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: A wise man once said nothing at all.

BRITTNEY COOPER, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: Let me get on my Fat Joe and say lean back and welcome David Brooks to the party.

MELBER: It`s getting hot in here. Maybe not you.


MELBER: Are dropping precedence in your first answer?

JIM WALDEN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I did. I`m sorry about that. It`s just gotten--

MELBER: It`s amazing. You guys realize this is weird, right?


MELBER: The awkward silences.

TUR: Oh.

MELBER: Ah, let`s reflect on that.

I did want to let this moment


MELBER: Sit. I mean, what and can you say?

That`s how they know about the Martians who landed here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it`s the same.

MELBER: Actually, I`m making a joke.


MELBER: I`m going to end with my with my bad holiday joke. Are you saying the cattle industry had beef with Oprah?

This is a holiday where you say, look, let my full report go.

I`m sorry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is ending toxic masculinity right here.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Looking forward to more awkward pauses and awkward hugs in 2020. That does it for me. I`m going to see you back here tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. Eastern. But first "HARDBALL" is next.