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Trump open to witnesses testifying, TRANSCRIPT: 1/9/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Juanita Tolliver, Byron Dorgan, Richard Bryan, Kent Conrad, JoeLieberman, John Breaux, Hayes Brown, Max Baucus, Manpreet Singh, BeritBerger, Jackie Speier, Marcia Ferranto


And, Ari, as I said, man, it`s one of those weird Washington days, a lot of breaking news happening.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: A ton going on. And we`re obviously watching the same story you were on the floor of the House there, as well as other things.

Always good to see you, Chuck.

TODD: Thank you, sir.

MELBER: Thank you.

We have a big show with news breaking right now, the House voting on limiting Trump`s war powers against Iran. And there are a lot of clues that the Democrats have the votes. We`re going to get into that.

Also, something special you won`t see anywhere else. Six senators who voted in Clinton`s impeachment trial join me together. It`s a BEAT exclusive.

But our top story is the looming trial of President Trump. There are new Senate leaks that it could start as soon as Monday, while Speaker Pelosi doubled down on her strategy, signaling to GOP Leader McConnell today she still holds the cards on timing and she will act when she is ready.


QUESTION: So, are you willing to hold onto the articles indefinitely?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No, I`m not holding indefinitely.

I will send them over when I`m ready. And that will probably be soon.

We want to see what they are willing to do and the manner in which they will do it. But we will not let them say, oh, this is just like Clinton, fair is fair.

It`s not.


MELBER: That`s Pelosi`s message to McConnell, saying that she doesn`t think he is being fair.

And she is speaking, of course, to the jury foreman, essentially, in this trial battle.

And then she has even harsher words for the would-be defendant, announcing her view that Donald Trump is unhinged by his coming judgment day, the speaker saying, he is not only nervous, but the prospect of facing a real trial with witnesses has defendant Trump falling apart.

Nancy Pelosi is telling Donald Trump that he is rattled. The speaker of the House is basically going full Mobb Deep, saying, the president is shook. There is no such thing as halfway crooks. And shook crews end up running, like they are supposed to.

So, in Pelosi`s argument, these lines apply not only to Donald Trump`s evident fear, but to the way his shook GOP crew, if you will, is running from a real trial, with McConnell moving to block witnesses that could detail what Trump actually did to try to get his rivals investigated by a foreign government, so he could cheat in an election, so he could subvert American democracy.

This is real stuff. And the GOP leader, of course, has just met privately with President Trump at the White House about the strategy for this high- stakes trial.

McConnell saying it could start as soon as Monday.

Now, consider this rather telling fact tonight. The White House, amidst all of this, is still trying to figure out who exactly will defend President Trump in the most important trial of his life, and debating whether to deploy lawyers, like President Clinton did, or bring in perhaps a boisterous group of Republican congresspersons to defend the president.

McConnell is actually trying to tamp down any made-for-TV atmosphere as he focuses on trying to hold the actual Senate juror votes, not produce another reality show.

One White House insider, though, is warning it could become a clown show trial if Trump insists on deploying some of his most extreme defenders into the spotlight.

Now, that`s debate that continues among Republicans. But it`s also worth noting Democrats are not completely united right now either on aspects of this. Some have been pushing Pelosi to get on with it and send over these articles of impeachment against Trump, others backing down on that to emphasize it is ultimately her call.


QUESTION: Would you like to see the speaker send the articles over now?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Well, I think that`s up to the speaker.

QUESTION: Should the articles of impeachment be sent over to the Senate now?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I fully respect the prerogative of the leader of the House to ensure that there is as fair a trial as we could possibly secure.


MELBER: I`m joined by former federal prosecutor from the Eastern and Southern District of New York Berit Berger and California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who serves on the very relevant Intelligence and Oversight committees, kicking off our coverage.

Good evening to you both.

Congresswoman, I know you.



I know you`re coming fresh off this vote with a lot going on. I want to zero in on what we heard from Speaker Pelosi. What does it mean that she is publicly telegraphing that she sees Donald Trump as nervous and rattled and unable to deal with what many in your team and your side have been arguing would be a full and fair trial?

SPEIER: Well, I think his words speak for themselves.

And Whether it`s on Twitter or at his rallies, he becomes unhinged very quickly. So I believe that the speaker is trying to make sure that this trial moves forward in an appropriate way.

And by postponing sending over the articles, we already have found out that Ambassador Bolton has signaled that he would testify before the Senate, a very important person to have speak on this issue.

And, secondly, the Center for Public Integrity was able through a Freedom of Information Act to get e-mails, even though they were grossly redacted. And then, when a whistle-blower provided the unredacted version we find out there is a huge cover-up going on by members of the president`s most intimate circle around this issue, and that there is grave concern that the president has not listened to any of his experts as it relates to Iran.

He is using powers he doesn`t have, in terms of preventing people who are subpoenaed by Congress from speaking. So there is a cover-up like we have never seen as it relates to this impeachment.

MELBER: Well, and you make a really interesting point just about that timeline that, basically, in the pendency, if you will, of this period that Pelosi has been holding the articles, you had that breakthrough public statement from John Bolton, by all accounts, a key witness, and that might have gone differently if McConnell had immediately gotten the articles and maybe announced zero witnesses.

So, that time has been used.

That said, I want to give you the chance to hear and address the arguments that he is making. Take a listen to Mitch McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The House Democrats already spent 12 weeks undermining the institution of the presidency with a historically unfair and subjective impeachment.

And now, for a sequel, they have come after the institution of the Senate as well. If the speaker continues to refuse to take her own accusations to trial, the Senate will move forward next week with the business of our people.


MELBER: And I`m told you are going to proceed to another vote.

So, as your final answer, as they say, your response to the senator and this -- these clues we are getting now from -- I think from both sides of the aisle there that this could start as soon as next week?

SPEIER: So, first of all, it`s pretty ironic that the majority leader in the Senate is talking about institutionalization, when he went out of his way to make sure that Merrick Garland did not even get a hearing in the Senate when he was being proposed by President Obama as a Supreme Court justice.

What the speaker has done is hold them in an effort to try and get a fair trial. We did not get any of those we subpoenaed in the House. They should be called upon in the trial to testify. So I`m sure she is going to move swiftly, but she is going to move in a timely fashion to do what`s right for the institution and for the country. She puts the democracy first.

MELBER: Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thank you again. I know you are moving on to another vote.

SPEIER: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: I have a bit of breaking news to tell everyone about, as you look on the screen. We now have this final tally here, this House resolution to terminate, in the language of the resolution, and limit the president`s powers to wage hostilities towards Iran has passed.

As you can see on the screen, we have the numbers there, 224-194. That is a wide victory for Speaker Pelosi, aligning Democrats with this move to limit the president`s powers in Iran, here just coming days after a period of both escalation and de-escalation in that conflict.

We have a lot more, actually, on this Iran vote coming this hour.

But, right now, as we continue reporting the other big story, the looming trial of the president, I want to bring in another expert, BuzzFeed journalist Hayes Brown, who has been tracking this for us. Berit is also with us.

Hayes, when you look at the situation, it is rather striking to see the signs of Mitch McConnell having protested that he doesn`t even want the darn thing.


MELBER: How can there be leverage in what I do not want?

But also seeming to, as we just showed, getting a little impatient and saying, send it over, we do need to deal with this. Clearly, he has a president, who he met with yesterday, who wants to deal with it, shook or not. And he`s saying, look, if you don`t give it to me, I`m going to do other business next week, as if that`s a threat to Pelosi.

BROWN: Right.

So, he knows good and well that any move to dismiss the trial before it happens is not going to fly with some of his more moderate members, the ones whose votes he desperately needs to keep during the trial once it starts, because a majority of senators can vote to do basically anything during the Senate trial. You don`t need a 60-vote majority, supermajority, like you do for most legislation in the Senate.

So, he knows he has that he keeps those moderates happy. And to do so, he has to make sure that there is a trial, that it has at least the appearance of being fair, which is why he`s had the strategy of moving forward with this, what he`s calling the Clinton model, of deciding on witnesses later.

He`s trying to kick that can down the road, So he doesn`t have to worry about his members taking crucial votes too soon, hopefully trying to block it at all. He doesn`t want to have to have Susan Collins, et cetera, have to vote on, does John Bolton actually have to testify?

MELBER: Right.

And we`re going to dig into that, actually, with what I mentioned. We have this incredible panel of senators tonight who faced these very questions in the Clinton case.

We`re also obviously going to have to get into the Lindsey Graham of it all, talking about people who`ve had different views.

Here`s Lindsey Graham today on all of this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If she doesn`t deliver the articles of impeachment, my goal is to do it without her and get this thing done.

QUESTION: Have do you move forward with the Senate trial without the articles of impeachment?

GRAHAM: You would have to change the rules.


BROWN: He`s not going to be able to change the rules. This is the thing.

Josh Hawley, another Senate Republican senator, has also said, we need to change the rules, so we can just dismiss this trial if we don`t get the articles of impeachment soon.

But to do that, you do need to get either 60 or 67 votes, depending on what the parliamentarian rules, to actually get the rules to change.

There`s nowhere near that level of support for Lindsey Graham or Josh Hawley at this time. Senator McConnell himself signed on to Hawley`s proposal today, saying that, oh, if we don`t get the articles by the 12th, then we`re just going to move to dismiss the case.

But they`re not going to actually be able to do that. That`s political posturing at this point. So Lindsey Graham can say that all he wants, but there is going to be a trial. And, at some point, depending on what the package looks like, depending on what McConnell has gathered his 53 Republican votes to actually set up, there probably will be a chance for Democrats to force a vote on whether or not witnesses actually have to testify.

MELBER: Right.

You have done important trials. Eastern District, as I remind folks, is one of these places where you go after gangsters, El Chapo, terrorists. Short question and then a longer one.

When you have a trial about a week or two away, do you usually have the lawyers doing the oral arguments set?


BERIT BERGER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You usually have your trial team set, although I will tell you, you don`t always have your evidence set.



MELBER: But you usually know who`s arguing the darn case.


MELBER: This is the biggest case of Donald Trump`s life. And it speaks to his style. His supporters find it unpredictable, exciting, improvisational. And his detractors find it incredibly disorganized, both on matters of state, when you look at the clumsiness on Iran, even identified by Republicans this week, or on his own case.

Let me read you the debates that are still going on. Trump`s defense team will include, of course, the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone. Jay Sekulow remains a lawyer. Folks might remember him from THE BEAT.

But it says, the decisions haven`t -- yet to be made on people like Alan Dershowitz, a potentially controversial pick who`s been in -- quote -- "talks with Trump" about joining the team, and there are the debates we reported about whether you bring in House members or not.

What does it tell you that they haven`t finalized that?

BERGER: Look, I think this is probably an internal struggle in a lot of defense teams, even in an imperfect analog of a regular criminal trial.

And this is why defendants themselves are not always the best judges of who the attorney is that they should have representing them, right?

So, like the president, some defendants will say, I want the aggressive pit bull out there that`s going to challenge every single thing and is going to fight everything to the death.

That may not always be the best approach. Sometimes, having a more measured, more scholarly approach can actually go further for a defendant. So, sometimes, defendants don`t necessarily know what at least either their jury or here the public is actually going to want to see from them.

MELBER: Well, and let`s dig into why this is, of course, different than a traditional trial.

Look at what Mike Lee did yesterday, a conservative Republican. No one`s suggesting that he is withdrawing his membership in the party or his endorsement of Donald Trump. But he upended -- and we have heard people at the White House very upset, perhaps rattled, to use the term of the day, over him just simply saying in public, this is the worst military briefing I ever got.

Likewise, as they go into this trial, if one or two or three Republican senators get anywhere near that language, let alone voting to try to remove the president from office, that could really cut into him in a way that shows why McConnell`s so concerned about holding every vote, whereas Donald Trump, as always, or as we say in the newsroom, duh, he`s concerned about programming a reality show.

And those -- do you think those goals are at odds?

BERGER: Well, right.

I mean, look, it shows that Donald Trump should not presume to know everything about his jury in this case, right? It`s not a jury that he has necessarily in his pocket for every single vote. I mean, he may have a good sense that he knows what the final outcome of this trial will be.

But, as Mike Lee showed us, the senators are not ones that are just going to go along hook, line and sinker. They may push back on certain things. It may be that you have a Mitt Romney that pushes back because he wants to hear from witnesses. It may be that you have other more vulnerable senators that say, yes, we`re going to join this camp. We want to make sure this looks like a fair trial and not a sham trial here.

But I don`t think anyone should presume that all of these senators are just going to fall into line here.

BROWN: I completely agree with that.

I think that the president, he`s trying to go for, I guess, a low road approach, vs. McConnell, who really wants a high road approach. McConnell wants to be able to defend the dignity of the Senate, to say that there is no circus in play here.

He`s wary about having your Jim Jordan or Doug Collins in there making a play to the public, because the House was all about the public. When -- during the impeachment hearings, most of the time, the members of the minority were not speaking to the people in the room. They were speaking to FOX News. They were speaking out to the audience and rallying them around these conspiracy theories that the president believes.

They were speaking to the president himself. Inside a Senate impeachment trial, it`s mostly going to be trying to convince the senators who are sitting there that, yes, this is a time that we do not want to remove the president. We want to vote to for an acquittal.

And to keep them in line, having someone act as a firebrand on the Senate floor, that`s got to like sting some of these people who have been there for a really long time at this point.

MELBER: And exactly. It may undercut the very goal that you`re ostensibly seeking.

Hayes Brown, Berit Berger, thanks for joining me here.

We have a big show coming up.

Congress taking this historic vote that we just reported moments ago, formally voting in the House to limit Donald Trump`s war powers against Iran. We`re going to get into that.

Then later tonight, something you literally won`t see anywhere else.

We have gathered an exclusive panel to go inside Donald Trump`s Senate trial with the people who know that system inside and out, six senators who were jurors in the historic trial of President Clinton offering their perspective on everything, including their old colleague Mitch McConnell, how these trials work, and how the majority party can even lose control in the middle of this kind of unpredictable process.

Our exclusive panel is ahead, only on THE BEAT.

I`m Ari Melber. We will be right back.


MELBER: Breaking news tonight, the House just passing this resolution to limit Donald Trump`s war powers against Iran, the vote 224-194, a clear margin for the Democrats.

The bill terminates Trump`s hostilities against Iran, which is a rebuke, of course, of the president`s attack on Iran`s general.

The swift action presents major pushback to Trump a day after the bipartisan combination of his administration`s handling of this crisis, and reflects a more unified front against potential Middle East escalation than the Democrats offered when George W. Bush was pushing a preemptive attack on Iraq in 2003.

Then, the Senate`s top Democrat endorsed Bush`s war, along with another Democrat who would rise to that position today.


TOM DASCHLE (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I will vote to give the president the authority he needs.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Saddam Hussein, left unfettered, will at some point create such a danger to our lives.

DASCHLE: For the world`s sake, we must confront Saddam Hussein.

SCHUMER: We cannot afford to leave -- let him be.


MELBER: And some of the Democratic Party`s most visible leaders also backed the 2003 Iraq War.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Any vote that might lead to war should be hard. But I cast it with conviction.

JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: In the post-September 11 world, the unrestrained threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein is unacceptable.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We say, yes, Mr. President, you have that power to go to war.


MELBER: "Yes, Mr. President."

Now, when you look through the history and the echoes in this Iran conflict today, we should note many progressive Democrats opposed the war from the start.

In fact, about 58 percent of Democrats in the Senate backed the Iraq War, but a majority of Democrats in the more liberal House opposed it, including Nancy Pelosi.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is far better to exercise your vote on behalf of saving lives.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our moral authority will be shot. We are leading to international anarchy. Any country at any time for any reason can attack another country.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D-WV): This resolution is breathtaking, breathtaking.

PELOSI: The president of the United States says, stay the course.

Stay the course? I don`t think so, Mr. President. It`s time to face the facts.

BYRD: It`s the precious blood of the men and women who wear the uniform of these United States. That blood may flow in the streets of Iraq.

SANDERS: We may have been in the minority today, but I have no doubt that we are representing the vast majority of the people.


MELBER: Many backing caution today argue the majority of citizens have typically opposed these kinds of neoconservative escalations in the Middle East, and it`s the politicians who are now catching up.

I want to turn now to one of our experts in Washington and on the Democratic Caucus, Juanita Tolliver, when we come back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: And we return with Juanita Tolliver.

You look at all of that history, you see some of the same people, but a very different Democratic Party when it comes to the Middle East. How do you explain it?


Look, I think the Democratic Party is now embodying a more progressive, liberal move towards the left. And so what we`re seeing here is a progressive caucus within the Democrats that has more authority and more power to push things forward, push processes forward, push legislation for, and I think is also more responsive to what voters are aware of in this moment in time, which is very different from what it was back in 2002.

MELBER: One of the people we just saw there, John Kerry, who, of course, went on to a foreign policy role in the Obama administration, on Iran, was on the side of diplomacy, of course.

He joined our colleague MSNBC`s Lawrence O`Donnell. Take a look at what he said about all this.


KERRY: It was always an option. It`s been an option through several administrations. But people made a judgment that the cost of doing so was not going to change the dynamic sufficiently that it was worth that cost, because of the simple reason that we have already seen.

Within 24 hours, a new general is appointed.


MELBER: The other side of this, beyond, of course, the intramural of the Democratic Party is a president, in Donald Trump, who is -- seems publicly -- in other words, I`m not saying this as criticism -- I`m just quoting him -- obsessed with anything Obama did, he has to undo, and vice versa.

TOLLIVER: He can`t bear it. He can`t bear it at all.

And that`s probably one of the motivating forces behind each of his actions, whether it`s rolling back regulations on climate change, whether its undoing the Iran nuclear deal that was in place.

And so his motivation here is, let me rip apart whatever Obama did, without considering the repercussions, the negative impact that will have on the American public, and potentially the American lives and safety that will be put at risk.

MELBER: On the politics of this, I am curious what you think about the House moving right now -- we just reported tonight -- to hold this vote. This is a vote for caution, or diplomacy, or against hawkishness.

You could call it all those things. But it`s not a vote they obviously had to take. And we just showed how, in the past, they either avoided, delayed these kind of votes, or often the political pressure on both parties was to at least appear more hawkish.

And so, I`m curious what you think of that, and whether the fact is that the parties and particularly some of those Democrats overestimated the American public`s appetite for hawkishness. Is it that they were always wrong on the political side of this?

Or have we seen the nation, also, with, of course, the ravages of Iraq, also move in the public?

TOLLIVER: That`s exactly right, the ravages of Iraq, because it`s been 18 years.

And, honestly, we have now an American public that is saying, enough is enough. We need justification. We need clear understanding of why a president who is acting out his own whims is escalating issues in an unstable territory, and even taking measures to destabilize it further.

So American public is holding Congress accountable. And they`re really looking to Trump for a clear explanation of what he -- why he did what he did.

And after hearing Democrats and Republicans come away from that briefing yesterday and say, that was ridiculous, it was the worst briefing on military action that we have seen says a lot.


And that`s so striking with the last point I want to mention, which viewers can see on the screen, the new polling that a majority of Americans don`t think that killing this Iranian general, who everyone in both administrations, Obama and Trump, agreed was a bad guy -- you could say it that simple. They killed a bad guy.

But the majority of the public doesn`t think that without a strategy and without larger diplomacy makes America safer, which is a really striking thing, even in a world where people feel there`s so much bluster, there`s so much rhetoric, there`s so much potential risk of jingoism.

Juanita Tolliver, as always, thank you for joining us.

TOLLIVER: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate you.

Coming up only on THE BEAT, we get into Trump`s impeachment trial with things you need to know from people who know it better than anyone, Senate jurors who actually cast a vote in the Clinton trial.

That`s next.


MELBER: The Senate is moving towards putting President Trump on trial, with Mitch McConnell touting a plan with similar rules to the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial, providing that there were opening arguments before any decisions about calling witnesses.

It`s true that trial did use traditional Senate rules that delay the debate over witnesses until during the trial.

But Democrats stress there`s no logic in applying the Clinton precedents unfairly, noting that, before those trial votes, all the key Clinton witnesses had already testified under oath, while, these days, many Trump aides have been defying such requests.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If we were going to have the Clinton precedent apply here, all of these witnesses would testify even before the trial begins.

Mitch McConnell is being very selective in application of the Clinton precedent.


MELBER: This is one of several high-stakes battles over the rules from 21 years ago, a seemingly ancient time, when that trial began with an agreement on procedures that was so bipartisan, it was unanimous.

And when members of the president`s own party not only criticized him publicly, a contrast to today`s lockstep defense of Trump`s admitted pursuit of foreign help with his campaign by Republicans, now, what would those senators think on the eve of this first impeachment trial since then?

It would be striking to get their perspective, especially since some of their former colleagues are leading Trump`s defense in the Upper Chamber.

Well, we have something special tonight on that right now. And you won`t see it anywhere else on TV, six people who served as Senate jurors during the Clinton impeachment, who publicly committed to be impartial, and seriously reckoned with Clinton`s conduct, many advocating formal censure.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Such behavior is not just inappropriate. It is immoral.

BYRON DORGAN (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: But the question now is a Senate trial on impeachment, which is very serious and very sobering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came into this trial several weeks ago and took an oath to be impartial. And I`m in it, because I am very angry at the president for his inappropriate behavior.

JOHN BREAUX (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: If someone wants to censure the president for wrongdoing, which he is clearly guilty of, it should be in the form of a censure resolution. And I think you would have bipartisan support for it.


MELBER: We will hear how those points apply now in a moment from this special group of panelists.

We`re convening this discussion because the trial that`s about to begin is not only about the president. It`s also about the Senate. That was true in the 1868 Johnson impeachment, as the Senate defined national boundaries after the Civil War, and in 1999, as the Upper Chamber tried to rise above the sharp partisan politics of the House and other parts of politics in general.

The Senate of that era was overwhelmingly male and white. The number of women members has since tripled. And we extended invites, we should mention, to the majority of living veterans of that 1999 class for tonight`s discussion.

Those joining us tonight all held up their hands and took that oath to be impartial.


DORGAN: We have started on an approach that is bipartisan.

RICHARD BRYAN (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: We have all listened to hours and hours from the House managers and the president`s counsel.

BREAUX: We could debate and argue this until hell freezes over. And the ultimate answer and the result would be the same thing.

MAX BAUCUS (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: That`s not to say that we`re two ships passing in the night, that we`re not listening to each other. We are.

LIEBERMAN: I think see what`s happening here is too important to be done in private.

KENT CONRAD (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: He did things that were very wrong, but I do not believe it met the constitutional required standard for removal.


MELBER: Joining us for this special segment are each of the former Democratic senators you just saw, Max Baucus of Montana, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, John Breaux of Louisiana, Richard Bryan of Nevada, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and someone many remember as an outspoken critical Democrat, critical of Bill Clinton during the impeachment, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Good evening to all of you. Thanks for doing this.


LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

I want to say that nobody looks any different than they did 21 years ago.



BRYAN: Oh, my lord. I thought Democrats didn`t lie. That`s pretty harsh.


MELBER: Yes, I was going to say...

LIEBERMAN: Only among friends.

MELBER:  ... spoken like a politician, but in good spirits.

We want to get into all of this in-depth, but I propose beginning with a bit of a lightning round to go all through our esteemed panel here.

So, starting with a question that is a one-word or one-sentence answer, to each of you, who do you think is the most vital witness, the most important witness in this Ukraine scandal that the -- that the Senate should hear from in the trial?

And let`s go around the horn, starting with Senator Baucus.

BAUCUS: Well, it would be good to hear from John Bolton, but, frankly, I don`t know if we`re going to hear from anybody.

DORGAN: Well, I would love to find out what`s inside the mind of Mr. Giuliani. And I think every member of the Senate would benefit from it.

MELBER: Senator Breaux?

BREAUX: I mean, who ever heard of a trial without witnesses?

I think that Mulvaney and Bolton are absolutely essential. And if you get 51 votes, they will be called.

MELBER: Senator Lieberman?

LIEBERMAN: You know what? I go with any one of the choices mentioned up until now. They`d all be helpful.

MELBER: Senator Conrad?

CONRAD: Yes, that`s a good roster we have listed.

I`d especially like to hear from Giuliani and Mulvaney.

MELBER: Senator Bryan?

BRYAN: I agree.

I`d like to hear from Mulvaney first, but Giuliani, clearly, is the wild man in this scenario.

MELBER: Another quick one before we go in-depth.

Senator McConnell describes the trial that you all participated in as his template thus far. Is that true and fair, in your view, Senator Baucus?

BAUCUS: It`s somewhat true.

The rules on whether or not to call witnesses was postponed back then, as it -- McConnell wants to do today. So, it`s about the same.

DORGAN: Yes, there`s no relationship at all.

Ken Starr, for three-and-a-half years, investigated everything. He got the documents, he got the witnesses, and all of that was presented at the start of the trial. Donald Trump did exactly the opposite. He withheld everything, including witnesses.

MELBER: Senator Breaux?

BREAUX: Well, I mean, the two leaders, I think, need to sit down in a room, lock the door, put out a legal pad on the table, and not leave until the work out an agreement.

I mean, that`s what Daschle and Senator Lott did back in the Clinton trial. And it worked very well with a 100-0 vote.

LIEBERMAN: Well, John Breaux is absolutely right.

Look, an impeachment trial is inherently partisan. The framers of the Constitution understood that. They wrote that in the Federalist Papers.

We knew pretty much what the results were going to be in 1999, just like people think they know what the results will be this year. But we managed to do something that probably was going to have a partisan result in a nonpartisan way.

And I think the key to it was the relationship between Senator Lott and Senator Daschle.

CONRAD: We met in the old Senate chamber. I will never forget it.



CONRAD: And were able to reach agreement, as others have said, on a unanimous basis on what the rules would be with the trial.

And, of course, there is a huge difference, because we did have witnesses. The witnesses, including Monica Lewinsky, testified on tape. That was played before members.

BRYAN: Just to add a little footnote, I think my colleagues will recall, we did meet at the old Senate chambers.

And what was very interesting to me is, Phil Gramm, who represents a very conservative point of view, outlined a proposal. Ted Kennedy, on the other side of the political spectrum, said -- and I quote -- "I think we`re at third base."

And there, after that, as has been discussed by my colleagues, we reached a unanimous decision.

This just is in no way the same situation, and totally different, in my view, full display of witnesses in the House, and then we had the videotaping, which many of us spent a lot of time listening to that.

So we had the benefit of witness input before any of the proceedings actually began.

CONRAD: You go to the well of the Senate, and there`s a giant book, and you sign, you pledge that you are going to do impartial justice.

So, senators who have already announced what they`re going to do, I mean, I`m really taken aback when McConnell says he`s working with the White House on how they`re going to present their case.

He`s supposed to be a juror. He`s not supposed to be -- take a side. He is going to have to pledge to do impartial justice.

MELBER: Well, you mentioned that precedent of going for something above partisanship.


MELBER: Each of you -- we were looking back at the records -- dealt with this, publicly committed to impartiality, and many of you formally critical in public of the president, who happened to be in your party.

Let`s take a look at Senator Joe Lieberman from that period.


TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Was there ever a time in the last five weeks in which you moved close to the idea of conviction?

LIEBERMAN: I did. And it surprised me.

I mean, look, every time I have been forced to go into the facts of this case, I get repulsed, and I get troubled and torn up.


MELBER: Beginning with Senator Lieberman, why was it important for you to air that out in public as a juror, and not just say, well, if it was the person in my party, then it`s all good?


Well, it was -- I felt I did have that responsibility. I had -- like everybody, felt repulsed by what President Clinton has done -- had done.

But then I went back to my responsibility under the Constitution in an impeachment trial. And it seemed to me that the founders expected impeachment to happen very rarely in American history, because the centerpiece of the system they were setting up was elections.

And it would have to be a very extreme case where you allowed Congress to overturn an election before another election, and take the power away from the people.

MELBER: Senator Bryan, you...


MELBER: You backed censuring President Clinton...

BRYAN: I did.

MELBER: ... along with others here.

How do you contrast that to Republican senators today, who not only aren`t backing censuring Trump, several have said they don`t need the trial, they have made up their minds, he can`t do anything wrong?

BRYAN: Well, I think the big thing, none of us as Democrats had drunk the Kool-Aid.

Clearly, the president`s conduct was reprehensible. And we all spoke out against it. The real issue was whether his conduct justified a conviction, a removal from office.

And I spent a fair amount of time looking at the debates and the Constitutional Convention. So, for me, the question was, did his conduct rise to a level where he is to be removed from office?

His conduct was reprehensible, as I have said. I concluded, it was not, and I`m very comfortable with that vote today.

How different it is today, when the Republicans have lockstepped with the president and don`t even think anything he did was even inappropriate.

MELBER: You say how different it is today.

Take a look at someone you -- many of you know, was in the Senate today, Lindsey Graham.



GRAHAM: In every trial that there has ever been in the Senate regarding impeachment, witnesses were called.

I am not going to support witnesses being called for by the president. I`m not going to support witnesses being called for by Senator Schumer.

We need witnesses, ladies and gentlemen, to clarify who said what, who`s being honest, who`s not.

I`m not interested in any witnesses. This thing is a sham, a crock. I don`t want to legitimize it. I want to get it over with.


BREAUX: I think that`s one of the problems that this particular trial is facing, when you have members of the Senate who have already declared what the verdict is before they have heard the trial.

MELBER: Anyone else?


MELBER: I will go Senator Dorgan and then Senator Baucus on -- the question on the table is, what happened to Lindsey Graham?

DORGAN: Well, I don`t -- I can`t explain it. I don`t think anybody can explain what happened to Lindsey Graham.

Lindsey has been a friend, but, boy, I -- you look at that and you say, how on earth do you get from this place to that place?

CONRAD: Well, I was just going to say about Lindsey, who was a good friend, he`s got to have had a mind change operation.

I mean, it is unbelievable for me to watch Lindsey now, because I remember distinctly Lindsey saying, you can`t have a trial without witnesses. Who has ever heard of a trial without witnesses? If you want to get to the truth, you have got to have witnesses.

Now he says, we don`t need any witnesses. Wow. That is a flip-flop of all time.

MELBER: I have to say, it is fascinating to hear all of you.

I appreciate you reconvening.

And I`d be remiss if I didn`t note, in fairness and in thanks, six senators, and there was no filibuster.


LIEBERMAN: You`re a good presiding officer, Ari.

BRYAN: We have lost our way. We have lost our way.


MELBER: Or maybe you`re all out of practice. On TV, we filibuster plenty.

I really appreciate it. I know you all have busy schedules, and you coordinated with each other to join us on this special discussion on THE BEAT, a lot of food for thought for people around the country.

Thanks to each of you.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.


LIEBERMAN: Great to be with you, everybody.


BAUCUS: Thank you very much. Thank you.

MELBER: Really great discussion.

When we come back. Donald Trump weighing in on this witness debate himself and his strategy relating to John Bolton.


MELBER: Today, Senate leaders say Donald Trump`s trial could begin as soon as Monday, and now Trump is claiming he`s open to some witnesses testifying.


TRUMP: I`m going to leave it to the Senate, but I`d like to hear the whistle-blower. I`d like to hear shifty Schiff. I`d like to hear Hunter Biden.

He has no experience, making no money, and then all of a sudden he`s making millions and millions of dollars.

I`d like to hear from Hunter Biden.


MELBER: Trump also claiming he could be open to testimony from John Bolton, who reportedly rebuked the entire Ukraine plot as a drug deal.

But let`s be clear. What we are seeing is an echo of Donald Trump`s bluffs, just like he used in the Mueller probe, where he talked tough about being open to testimony, and ultimately folded. He never faced Mueller.

On all of this, here`s Democratic senator Chris Murphy on Bolton.


QUESTION: If you guys hold a vote to, say, call John Bolton, you may see Republican senators act unpredictably or side with you.

I mean, do you think there is a realistic chance of that?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): So I do think there`s a realistic chance of that.

And it`s because ultimately, Republican senators, many of them are up for reelection, are answerable to their constituents. And you may think, well, are regular voters out there really plugged into the process of impeachment?

I think they are.


MELBER: Are they plugged in?

Well, it doesn`t mean that every single person is tracking every single witness. But as we just saw from some of the senators we spoke to, John Bolton looms large, a conservative Republican with serious credentials who apparently Donald Trump is afraid of.

We will be right back.


MELBER: Now we turn to a critical feature of law enforcement that is sometimes forgot.

This is a report we do every year here at MSNBC. And I hope you will join me in taking a moment to really see this story and the people it impacts, police officers killed in the line of duty and the family and friends and communities they leave behind.

According to new numbers about law enforcement in 2019, 49 officers killed by gunfire in the line of duty. In fact, every face that you see right now, right here, is one of those officers.

These numbers down slightly from the 52 officers fatally shot on the job in the prior year.

Now, many of the officers we learn about after these killings were known to their friends and family, but not to the wider world, because they were just doing what so many public servants do every day, doing their job, without seeking attention.

One of the officers killed last year did happen to be more widely known in the Houston area he served. Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal recently made history is Harris County`s first Sikh deputy to wear his traditional articles of faith, a turban and beard, while on the job, which drew some headlines in 2015.


DEPUTY SANDEEP DHALIWAL, HARRIS COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT: Yes, I had head turns, but those head turns is good for me.

And I say, hey, hi. How are you? You have a question?

I have more confidence now that my identity is complete.

Proud to be a Harris County deputy.


MELBER: Colleagues recall Dhaliwal used his vacation time to bring supplies to victims of Hurricane Harvey.

He was conducting a routine traffic stop in September, when he was shot from behind in the head, killed in an ambush-style attack.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A male suspect exited the vehicle armed with a pistol, and, in a cold-blooded manner, ambush style, shot Deputy Dhaliwal from behind.


MELBER: Thousands attended his funeral, eulogies remembering him as both an everyday hero who became a trailblazer by staying committed to his faith.

And, like many officers, he not only worked to protect public safety, but was also remembered for what you will see here, scenes where he was engaging everyone in the community.


DHALIWAL: He`s going to be a cop.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not getting him out.



Give me a hug? Oh, he`s so sweet.



MELBER: I`m joined now by Manpreet Singh, a friend of Deputy Dhaliwal`s family and a board member of the Sikh Coalition.

Good evening to you. And what do you remember about this officer? What should we be thinking about, looking at his tragic death this year?


I actually think that this segment alone is -- it really highlights and underscores the man that he is and was to us in the community and in Greater Houston as well.

So, I think that if he`s remembered as the selfless servant that he has been to us, that would be the most touching thing that could be left behind for his legacy.

MELBER: Stay with me.

I want to bring in Marcia Ferranto, who is CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which does this work, compiles this and reports this data every year.

And I should mention, we have worked with your organization on this story in prior years.

What is on your mind when you look at this?

MARCIA FERRANTO, CEO, NATIONAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS MEMORIAL FUND: His service, his sacrifice will not be forgotten.

We have seen over 128 deaths in 2019. As of today, that number rose to -- as of December 31, rose to 130.

And although those numbers are down somewhat, 18 percent, 130 deaths in one year is tragic, tragic for a profession that chooses to wake up every morning to protect our safety.

MELBER: And, Manpreet, any other thoughts from you on -- we mentioned this, the Sikh community, the way that -- and we have the footage we could put back up of all the faces of the officers.

And we think about the fact that, in its best sense, public servants, police officers are often drawn from the entire community, and keeping that in mind, which can get lost sometimes when you look at individual incidents.

SINGH: That`s exactly right.

And I think what Deputy Dhaliwal`s death highlighted was that the practice of his religion did not interfere or actually compromise the fact that he still gave his life in the line of duty protecting the citizens.

MELBER: It`s something to really keep in mind and that can, as we all know, get lost in daily life, in daily news.

Manpreet Singh, thanks for telling us a little bit about your view and the community you represent, and, Marcia Ferranto, and the work of the Memorial Fund.

We so appreciate both you.

SINGH: Thank you so much.

MELBER: Thank you.

FERRANTO: Thank you.

MELBER: And to learn more about some of these officers that you see here, as well as the work of this National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, we invite you to go to NLEOMF -- that`s

My thanks to them for working with us to cover a very important topic year in and year out.

And, as always, our condolences to the families and communities left behind by these officers.

That does it for us. I will be back tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.