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Lev Parnas names names. TRANSCRIPT: 1/16/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Josh Marshall, Joyce Vance, Lanny Davis, Robert Costa, BarbaraBoxer


Hi, Ari.


Briefly, will part two be as explosive as part one?

TUR: I do not know.

But there is interesting news from Senator Collins. She`s speaking on the record about what she believes. And she is saying that she wants -- she tends to believe that having additional information would be helpful, and it is likely that she would support a motion to call witnesses at that point in the trial, "just as I did 1999, which is after the House has argued their case."

So, there you go.

MELBER: Are you saying that Senator Collins is saying her witness standard is going to party like it`s 1999?


TUR: That`s exactly what she`s saying.

MELBER: That`s what I thought you were getting at.

We have a lot on that as well.

TUR: Sorry, I missed it.

MELBER: With or without musical references.

Katy, always good to see you.

TUR: You too, Ari.

We join you tonight on the evening that is headed for the history books, the United States Senate today officially putting Donald Trump on trial, subjecting him to a process that, let`s be clear, most presidents never have to endure, this public debate over whether he is fit for office and should he be allowed to serve his full term.

And, today, these newly appointed seven House managers who are pressing this case for conviction and removal walked over to the Senate, where the sergeant arms began the trial proceedings.


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA): The sergeant at arms will make the proclamation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, all persons are commanded to keep silent, all persons are commanded to keep silent, upon pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump, president of the United States.


MELBER: Impeachment manager Adam Schiff reading the case against Trump, the formal text of those articles, essentially, the indictment.

Senate Leader McConnell then announcing that he will send an official summons to Donald Trump today. That`s under the rules.

And then came this rarity, the swearing-in of the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, and then the senators themselves, each one pledging to do impartial justice.


JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: Will all senators now stand or remain standing and raise their right hand?

Do you solemnly swear that, in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice, according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?



MELBER: That`s what it looks like, the senator jurors signing their names then to that same oath in a book for posterity.

But unlike every other past impeachment, we should note, as we collect the facts and present them to you, that some of these very senators have publicly announced their intention to violate that oath.

Across American history, protest movements have chanted, this is what democracy looks like. You have probably heard that before.

Well, you can think about today like this. In our system of government, this is what accountability looks like. This is very real, very visible. And it`s already yielding some accountability. This is how the Constitution shows no person is above the law.

The president is special, of course. And under our system, it is the president who faithfully execute the laws. So the president is not normally indicted by the Justice Department.

But under our system, if the House decides a president committed high crimes, he is still put on trial. He is not above the law. He is not above being judged even in office.

And if there were ever a day to put aside the predictions and the punditry and the cynicism even, it`s today, as this trial shows the system of checks and balances and, yes, norms pushing back against a president who has so thoroughly flouted them.

This accountability is also clearly moving beyond what you might call the pomp or the presentations of the Senate floor itself. It includes the accounting of a new witness breaking his silence to accuse Trump of informed support of Rudy Giuliani`s plot.


LEV PARNAS, INDICTED GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: President Trump know exactly what was going on.

I wouldn`t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": That Vice President Pence was tasked at that meeting with getting President Zelensky to announce investigations of Joe Biden specifically?

PARNAS: Yes. His message was, it wasn`t just military aid. It was all aid. Basically, the relationships would be sour, that he would -- that we would stop giving him any kind of aid.

It was never about corruption. It was never -- it was strictly about Burisma, which included Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.


MELBER: Now, with that fallout -- and more of that interview, as mentioned, coming out tonight -- a new finding came in from a federal watchdog that the financial part of that same Ukraine plot was illegal, which adds to the evidence that witnesses could speak to in the trial, and Democrats stressing the need for such witnesses.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): We took a very solemn oath. It`s a very serious matter.

SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): And we need to hear from the witnesses that were in the room.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The witnesses are not Democrats. They are the president`s men.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): I don`t know what all these witnesses are going to say. But we have a constitutional duty to get to the truth.

HARRIS: Demanding that the American public and each member of this body receive all evidence, documents and individuals who are witnesses.


MELBER: We`re joined now by former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. You can actually see her right here signing the same oath, walking up there signing the book to be impartial. That was when she was a Senate juror in that Clinton case 21 years ago.

And Jason Johnson, politics editor for The Root and MSNBC contributor, who has been part of our special coverage of this historic day.

Good day to both of you.

Senator, your view of what`s important about this, what matters tonight.

BARBARA BOXER (D-CA), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, it brought back a lot of feelings, as I watched very carefully.

I think to me, what strikes me now is we have a president who has tried to make light of our Constitution, light of our balance of powers, our separation of powers, light of, in many ways, the norms in our nation.

And when you see this history come to life, when you see this moment in the United States Senate -- and I can tell you, having served there for 24 years, the floor of the Senate is a busy place, and people are talking and they`re cutting deals for how they`re going to help each other with legislation. And they`re chatting.

This is serious stuff. And it strikes me that tradition, which, when I was a lot younger, I scoffed at it, is such an important part of a democracy if we`re going to keep it.

MELBER: You put it that way. And one of the traditions is to actually keep an open mind.

BOXER: Sure.

MELBER: And while there are clearly battle-hardened parts of this, one of the things that`s been striking as we have researched this is the senators themselves don`t seem to know yet every step, every choice, although obviously there`s been much talk of witnesses.

Senator Collins speaking out about that again. And I wonder whether that may be a good thing in a world where everything tries to get predicted and resolved.

I want to play for you current U.S. Senator Murphy, who when we pressed him on this didn`t know how he would vote on something you did vote on back in that day, which was whether or not there should even be open deliberations at the end of this trial. Take a look.


MELBER: Do you have a view on whether the ultimate deliberations in the Senate should be open or closed?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I mean, I`d have to think hard about what good could come from a public deliberation. That doesn`t sound like a deliberation to me.

That sounds just like a bunch of speeches being given.

MELBER: Do you say that because you believe there are Republicans who would be more open or critical of the president in private?



MELBER: So he brought that skepticism while saying he really doesn`t know how he would vote on that yet.

You did back a more transparent process of public deliberations. Walk us through what it was like for you and what you think it`ll be like for these senators on some of the issues that really are open.

BOXER: Well, first let me say something I have said before. This is quite different than the Clinton trial.

The Clinton trial was, quite clearly, this question. Do you think we should remove a president from office who lied about a sexual affair? That was the whole point.

And so I think, going in, people kind of knew what they were going to do. And a lot of us said on our side of the aisle, we were so upset about this, we were so disappointed and we were crushed, especially the women members about it, but it didn`t rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

This is a far different situation. This is an abuse of power. We -- I don`t have time on your show to go through it step by step. The House managers will do it.

But I think the fact that there are issues breaking now -- and let me tell you what I think is the bombshell. Yes, Parnas -- and I was amazed. I`m looking forward to hearing the rest. But you have to be careful there. We have to have documentation.

The GAO, the Government Accountability Office, that is a bombshell. That is, that is an institution that has served Democrats and Republicans and independents and the American people, nonpartisan, not a tad of partisanship, which basically said the president broke the law.

And if I was to think today about what would impact my Republican friends there, it would be that.

MELBER: Jason?

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So there`s two different sort of crimes that we see here, right?

And if you were like investigating this, you have got Trump at the top. He`s the godfather. You have got Giuliani, who is sort of a made man in this Trump family. And then you got Lev, who`s his henchmen. He`s a junior mafia, for lack of a better word. He`s doing all this sort of extra work for them.

You can follow that list, you can follow sort of down that sort of criminal activity. But you can also see that the obstruction, which is a second impeachment article, is also a key issue here.

And so I think it`s really important, as we look forward, and we look at what these senators pay attention to, which are you more concerned with, someone who may be operating a criminal enterprise out of the White House, or someone who also obstructs the processes of our government, which we just found out from the GAO?

I think those are the two critical questions. And I can`t imagine that you don`t have some senators who at least are sympathetic to one of those issues. And that`s what I think is really key going forward, not just whether or not you think he`s a bad person or corrupt, but which of these things do you think is more dangerous to the future of American democracy?

MELBER: Yes, and that`s really the question. As the senator says, you`re talking about a finding that it was illegal to steal military money.

This is a security matter.


MELBER: I guess the question with the junior mafia would be who is Lil` Cease in all this.

JOHNSON: Or Lil` Kim.


MELBER: And we can reflect on that.

JOHNSON: Right. That`s true.

MELBER: We can take our time.

I want to bring in Bob Costa as well, who`s been reporting on all of this for "The Washington Post." He is also a moderator on PBS.

When you see today, do you think there are some senators in the Republican Caucus who feel sobered by this, Bob, who look at this and say, hmm, even if I still am skeptical of the idea that I`m going to remove the president of my own party, I`m really sobering up for how I want to deal with this as a real trial and not a fake trial?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It`s a bit of a nuanced question, because you have, in some respects, senators who do see on the Republican side this as a sober moment, but will they move forward and push their own party to allow witnesses like Ambassador Bolton to come forward, Lev Parnas perhaps to come forward?

That`s not entirely clear. Talking to Senate aides today and some senators themselves, it`s evident that they`re not really sure where the White House is going to push them. And they know the president`s in control of the party. And he`s going to have a lot of say about how this proceeds on the GOP side.

MELBER: And how do you read Senator McConnell, when he is basically previewing the idea that this is all about getting through it? I mean, he`s made it very clear where he stands, obviously, with the president. And previewing the idea that it`s all about 51-51?

Here`s a brief statement from McConnell, Bob. Take a listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Fifty-one senators will decide who to call. After that, who knows who will employ what kind of legal devices?


MELBER: Bob, he`s almost making it sound like, who knows, like, we will see. But everything we have learned about him is that he`s very meticulous in gaming out every possibility.

COSTA: He is.

And he`s also someone who has an immense amount of power in the United States Senate. So, when he says 51 votes, that is true, you need to have -- reach that threshold to have a rules agreement on when it comes to witnesses.

But if he started to say he wanted a certain witness, it would almost certainly happen, because he has such power, working in coordination with the White House and how they want to see this go forward.

But you see already from Leader McConnell he wants to keep this as low-key as possible to not have it be a political spectacle.

MELBER: Senator Boxer, in avoiding a political spectacle, does that necessitate having some witnesses? Otherwise, you`re making -- you are sort of breaking ground for the first ever witness-free trial -- impeachment trial in the Senate history.

And I`m counting the non-presidential ones as well.

BOXER: Oh, I think the pressure is on McConnell to allow witnesses.

I -- especially hearing what is happening just moment to moment, more people coming out basically confirming the story. So I think the pressure is on those colleagues of mine who are in these purple states, but I do agree with Robert on this point.

I know Mitch McConnell very well. He is counting the minutes, the hours that he can get through this thing and go on. He got caught. Nancy Pelosi, by slowing this thing down, it focused the attention Mitch McConnell. And, normally, nobody notices these things.

He went on Fox News and said, I`m working hand in glove with the president`s lawyers. And, normally, nobody pays that much attention.

But because Nancy Pelosi had slowed the train down, everyone looked at this. They looked at the Constitution, which, I hate to tell you, I have right here, because when you asked me to come on today, the first thing I remembered was how we had a lunch, and we all had our Constitutions.

And Robert Byrd talked about the awesome job we had in front of us...


BOXER: ... and explained what`s a high crime and misdemeanor.

But I think the pressures on for witnesses. I think what Mitch will do is threaten the Democrats with witnesses that they don`t want. I don`t think that`s going to work, because the witnesses have to be relevant to the case in point.

MELBER: And, Bob, finally, we are going to see for the first time ever the president deploy his lawyers, which he -- of course, he boycotted the House process.

What can you glean from your sourcing and the way this White House likes to fight? I mean, obviously, Donald Trump has eliminated most of the press briefings, because he thought he likes to do it himself.

He`s not going to march down there to the Senate, although maybe he secretly wants to. So what`s that going to look like?

COSTA: There are new power centers that are emerging in the Republican Senate Cloakroom.

You have the Senate GOP lawyers who are conservative, Senator Cornyn, Senator Graham, Senator Cruz, among others, working alongside with McConnell.

But you also have the White House lawyers, Pat Cipollone and his team, plus the outside counsel, Jay Sekulow, talking every day to Republican senators this week, coming up with a strategy and giving the senators a bit of a preview of what to hear in terms of arguments, so when they speak to cameras and reporters, they can echo some of the White House`s talking points.

MELBER: Bob Costa, Senator Boxer, and, of course, Jason Johnson with me here, thank you so much.

We have a lot more in tonight`s show.

With the trial beginning, this watchdog group finding this illegal plot to seize the military money, we`re going to show you exactly what that means, more details.

The fallout over the Parnas interview with Rachel Maddow, top Democrats demanding now he testify in this trial, and Attorney General Bill Barr facing new heat.

We also have a very special report tonight that we have prepared to help you understand exactly how Chief Justice John Roberts could have a very large impact, larger than people have said. We will explain.

I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching a special edition of THE BEAT on MSNBC.



ROBERTS: Do you solemnly swear that, in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice, according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?



MELBER: There you have it, U.S. senators taking this oath to do impartial justice in this Trump trial.

New evidence, meanwhile, pouring in, the government watchdog finding that the Trump administration broke the law by freezing the Ukraine aid -- quote -- "Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his policy priorities for those under law," the GAO finding.

The freezing of aid, of course, at the center of all of this, Democrats saying Donald Trump was using it as leverage to get Ukraine to announce a probe into a rival, the kind of thing that could shave a couple points off Joe Biden if he were the nominee and help Trump hold onto power.

This finding also, let`s be clear, undermines the Trump talking point that maybe there were no crimes, no laws broken, an argument that also ignores the constitutional point that it is a high crime for the president to do something, regardless of what might also violate statutes.

On big nights like this, we turn to some special guests, Josh Marshall, a longtime journalist and publisher. He runs Talking Points Memo.

Not always on television, because you`re working. So, we appreciate you being here on a big night.


MELBER: Thank you for being here.

What does it mean that the Senate is doing this now?

MARSHALL: You know, it`s a moment of accountability, as I think you were you were mentioning before.

I think it`s that. I think the key for the Democrats right now -- or the key for the people who are trying to preserve the Constitution, have some accountability, is to recognize that you cannot -- not to get hung up on controlling things you can`t control.

Everybody has a responsibility here in the governmental structure. It`s the House`s responsibility to say, this isn`t OK, to indict him, basically.

And that`s their job. And there`s a lot of, in the press, discussion of saying, well, if his supporters in the Senate don`t convict him, he`s owned the libs or kind of like you failed or something like that.

That`s not the case. Everybody has to do their job here, and everybody`s accountable for that. So I think it`s an important moment for...


MELBER: You`re talking about the narrators.


MELBER: And the narrators have more competition. And the narrators may spend too much time reading Twitter and social media, where the president`s pounding out alternative programming.

Do you think the narrators feed into that strategy, because cynicism breeds contempt for doing anything?

MARSHALL: Yes, I think that is the case.

And it`s sort of in the nature of things. One of the things I think we always have to be careful about is that there is a way that being cynical, just ignoring the facts of the matter, can help you play the refs.

There`s a lot of times over the last few weeks where I have seen interviewers on your network, other networks, kind of everybody, who will ask Democrats, basically, when they talk about the witnesses for the impeachment, should there be witnesses, well, why are you waiting three to four weeks, because, obviously, you know Mitch McConnell`s never going to allow witnesses, because he`s got to deal with Trump?

So that doesn`t make any sense. Why would you do that?

The narrators start to take the bad behavior as a baseline, and that distorts the whole conversation, basically. It distorts our sense of what`s happening.

MELBER: Right.

MARSHALL: So I think it is important to push back on that.

MELBER: And that goes to what`s happening right now, which is, for however long the trial runs, Mitch McConnell has less power.

There is a new presiding officer. His role can shift. And we`re going to get to that later this hour.


MELBER: But individual senators at any time can call for a vote on any issue. They can say, I want a vote on just Bolton, or just Parnas, or just certain documentary evidence, or just whether we wheel the Lev Parnas interview in here on a TV screen and make sure we play it here, so everyone here sees it.


MELBER: And I wonder what you think the value of is in that, because the founders couldn`t have predicted all the geographic migration, technology, bubbled hyper partisan information centers.

But they did have some inkling that the trial process on the Senate floor in public, when you got to this extreme point, which rarely happens, would force everyone back to looking at, ideally, the same material.

Is there value in that? Were they onto something?

MARSHALL: I think there.

I think there is to having this kind of formal process. What -- so, yes.

I think what is important for observers, kind of citizen observers, since we`re all participants in a sense, is that it is in the nature of legislators to look for safety in numbers, right?

Because everybody may know, well, OK, Trump owns the Republican Caucus. So there`s this thing -- the Republican senators, and they`re all kind of -- we know what they`re going to do.

That`s very safe for them. And people of another perspective can see the same parallel thing on the Democratic side.

It is very important for observers and for reporters to zero on, on the individual decision-makers. And that is why you saw that thing this morning with Senator McSally from Arizona. A reporter from another network asked her a question.

And she kind of flipped out on him.

MELBER: We will show it. You bring it up. We will show it.


MELBER: This is Senator McSally taking on TV reporter Manu Raju.

Take a look.


MANU RAJU, CNN: Senator McSally, should the Senate consider new evidence as part of the impeachment trial?

SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY (R-AZ): Manu, you`re a liberal hack. I`m not talking to you.

RAJU: You`re not going to comment about this?

MCSALLY: You`re a liberal hack.


MARSHALL: It seems pretty canned, like, I guess I -- I saw some reporting a few moments ago that maybe this was -- she just did this to kind of queue up a fund-raising video that she`s so hard-core for Trump.

But there are a number of Republican senators who this is an exquisitely uncomfortable situation for them, because they are going to face an electorate in, what is it, 10 months or something like that.

So I think it is very -- this is an accountability moment for everyone. So it really behooves citizens, reporters, everybody paying attention to say, you`re not part of an amorphous thing called the Republican Caucus. You are an individual senator. Let`s see exactly what you say.

And a lot of them don`t want to have that. And it`s an important civic moment that those moments be forced...


MELBER: Well, you call it a civic moment. It`s also going to be fairly unavoidable. It`s going to be day after day of the trial process on television, across all channels, across all networks, across all newspapers.

And if people can`t defend the president, because the best argument they can come up with is to attack the question, right, if the same questioner asked her, was this a great strike on Iran or something else, I`m not sure you get that response.


MELBER: So, in a way, even if it`s also politics and manufactured, it might be a tell.

And I think it`s interesting what you`re saying and the themes of some of tonight, which is this civic, even originalist, if you will, moment for the nation.

And it`s times like this, we love to check in with you, Josh Marshall.

MARSHALL: Thanks for having me on.

MELBER: Thank you so much for being on THE BEAT.

MARSHALL: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MELBER: Meanwhile, the Lev Parnas bombshells, we have a lot on that with a special guest, when we`re back in 30 seconds.




I don`t know Parnas. I don`t know him at all, don`t know what he`s about, don`t know where he comes from, know nothing about him.

PARNAS: He knew exactly who I was especially, because I interacted with him at a lot of events. I sat -- a lot of one-on-one conversations with him.


MELBER: Here we go again?

Let`s get into it with former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance.

Rachel Maddow had a stunning interview with this indicted Ukrainian-linked Giuliani associate Lev Parnas.

And what I want to do is you, Joyce, many people have seen parts of it. We`re going to go through and get your analysis on key aspects right here first, some of the most damning, incriminating, evidentiary statements.


PARNAS: President Trump know exactly what was going on. I wouldn`t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.

MADDOW: That Vice President Pence was tasked at that meeting with getting President Zelensky to announce investigations of Joe Biden specifically?

PARNAS: Yes. His message was, it wasn`t just military aid. It was all aid. Basically, the relationships would be sour, that he would -- that we would stop giving him any kind of aid.

It was never about corruption. It was never -- it was strictly about Burisma, which included Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.


MELBER: What`s important here for trial evidence?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: The key to making a witness like Lev Parnas -- and I have dealt with a lot of witnesses like him -- credible is corroboration.

So everything that he says has to be backed up with evidence. And you see how skillful Rachel is as an interviewer. So when she`s asking him about his relationship with the president, she elicits what prosecutors would call testimony.

And he says, I met with him on a number of occasions and I was at these roundtables.

Well, then prosecutors send out investigators to look into those times to see if they can prove the truth that he was -- actually had a conversation with the president, was at a roundtable.

And that begins to corroborate him and make his testimony have more sway.

MELBER: Right.

And, as you emphasize, the point here is not what is most exciting to people or what confirms people`s criticisms or hunches about Donald Trump. The point is when he can speak as a fact witness to what he experienced, saw, did not just, oh, well, of course this person would know, conjecture not being as valuable in a trial.

And that brings us to another piece I want to show you, the John Bolton of it all.

Take a look.


PARNAS: That`s when Bolton, Secretary Bolton, went over there. And I think he has a lot to say.

I`m not going to talk on his -- but I think he`s a key witness to his conversation with Zelensky, and when he came back and why he left, or got fired, or however you want to look at that.

MADDOW: When you say that Mr. Bolton may have things to say about this, did Mr. Bolton know that Vice President Pence was supposed to secure that agreement from Zelensky that he`d announce these investigations?

PARNAS: I don`t know exactly what Mr. Bolton knew, but I know Mr. Bolton was definitely involved, in the loop.


MELBER: And he reminds everyone that Bolton`s not only the person who, by his own secondhand accounts, objected to the drug deal, but also had dealings in Ukraine.

VANCE: Well, that`s right.

He clearly -- nothing that we didn`t already know. But he reemphasizes that Bolton is a firsthand witness. Remember a couple weeks ago, when the president kept complaining that Democrats weren`t putting firsthand witnesses on?

Well, here`s Bolton, right? John Bolton had access to all of these conversations. Lev is saying, put him on, let him follow me on the witness stand.

MELBER: I can tell you where I was, as people sometimes say, where I was when the news broke that Devin Nunes had had these undisclosed contacts.

And everyone remembers Devin Nunes then distancing himself Mr. Parnas, who was paying Rudy Giuliani hundreds of thousands of dollars, who was cavorting around, who now gives a fairly reasonable accounting of all of this, which is his access and support from the U.S. government is what gave him, an otherwise obscure figure, so much cachet.

Now we have more, courtesy of this interview, about the Nunes relationship.

This is Parnas saying he was in contact with Congressman Nunes, of course, the leader on the Republican side on House Intel. Take a look.


MADDOW: Do you know Congressman Devin Nunes?

PARNAS: Yes, I do.

MADDOW: What`s been your relationship with him?

PARNAS: Our relationship started getting -- basically, where it expanded was when I was introduced to his aide Derek Harvey.

MADDOW: You told Mr. Harvey what you and Mr. Giuliani were working on in Ukraine, trying to get Ukraine to announce these investigations?

PARNAS: He was aware of that already. He knew everything.

MADDOW: Does it strike you as unusual or inappropriate that Devin Nunes would be one of the lead investigators into this scandal?

PARNAS: I was in shock when I was watching the hearings and when I saw Devin Nunes sitting up there.

Then they -- there was a picture where Derek Harvey was in back over there sitting. I texted my attorney. I said, "I can`t believe this is happening."


VANCE: Really incredible, right? I don`t know about you, but I don`t typically give my cell phone number out to people who I don`t know personally. So I think Nunes` disclaimer that he doesn`t know Lev, we still haven`t heard the full story from him.

MELBER: Well, and you say that anecdotally.

What about when you were U.S. attorney with a large staff? Mr. Nunes with an investigative staff on the committee, as well as a personal staff. There`s even more layering there, were I don`t think the story would be as big if Mr. Nunes` investigator or press secretary was trading calls. This was him at the highest level.

VANCE: Yes, there`s absolutely no reason, unless, as Lev tells us, right, the reason I had access was because Rudy Giuliani told people I was the president`s guy.

Sounds like somebody delivered that message to Nunes too.

MELBER: Now, something we do on this show that our viewers know, whether it`s from our interviews with presidential lawyer Jay Sekulow, or what you saw at the top of this, which was the other side of the story, the president`s denials, I also want to show what`s relevant in the Senate trial, two sides to it.

Here is Trump defender Senator Graham going after what Parnas said and his credibility from this new interview. Take a look.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I haven`t -- I haven`t looked at it.

To me, the source of the evidence, at best, questionable. All the evidence I have seen is a bunch of notes that have nothing to do with the facts, as far as I`m concerned, and the people in question are sketchy, at this.


VANCE: If the people in question are sketchy, it`s not like Democrats went out and looked around for the dirtiest witness they could find. The president picked this witness, when Rudy Giuliani brought him onto their team.

But the reality here is, if Lindsey Graham and Republicans don`t think Parnas is a good witness, then let him testify and cross-examine him. And if he`s lying, let them show the American people that on national television.

But you don`t hide somebody like this once they have had this proffer that we saw last night.

MELBER: Yes, you really lay it out, and it`s fascinating, given that, while the indictment calls into question a lot of his prior conduct or whatever he was trying to do, the situation he`s in, as a potentially cooperating witness -- and we don`t know all the facts of what`s going to happen in the Southern District -- really raise the stakes for, is he a potential witness in this trial for anyone who, as you say, either wants to get to the bottom of it or fact-check him, put him on the stand, so to speak, and see what happens?

We always benefit from your expertise, Joyce. Thanks for being here.

VANCE: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: I really appreciate it.

And, as mentioned, there is more, part two of Rachel`s interview with Lev Parnas, tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC. We will be watching and maybe some people in Washington will be as well.

Coming up, we talk to an insider who knows firsthand how these impeachment fights unfold and who was actually named-checked, in addition, in the Lev Parnas interview.

All of that is up ahead.


MELBER: Now we turn to an expert with firsthand experience in these impeachment trials.

My next guest is attorney Lanny Davis. He was also named-checked with new evidence from Lev Parnas` interview. He`s here tonight because he played a historic role in the impeachment of Bill Clinton. He was the White House special counsel and public spokesman as an attorney defending the president.


LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: President has shown the ability to do a job and to do it well, notwithstanding all these investigations and all these pressures.


MELBER: And my guest tonight, Lanny Davis.

Thanks for being here, sir.

DAVIS: Who`s that guy with all the hair, is what I want to know.


MELBER: You`re not the first guest in a flashback to mention that. You`re not alone if you feel that way.

Lanny, let`s start with the big picture tonight. This is a president who has broken many records. He is the first person to head into a Senate trial having defied and completely boycotted the House process.

How do you see that as a contrast to the way your president, the president you worked for, handled this?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, facts were really different.

We were dealing with a personal weakness, not abuse of power, as Hamilton and Madison required. Secondly, President Clinton testified before a grand jury on international television and told the truth, and then apologized after to the American people.

Now, contrast that to a systematic block of all evidence -- this is why we have an obstruction count. And, also, there`s no factual dispute here. President Trump admits to speaking to President Zelensky and asking him in the transcript to help investigate the Bidens.

That`s a fact that is not in dispute. That, in and of itself, is abuse of presidential power.


DAVIS: Now, we have lots of cooperation that he leveraged his position in a meeting, plus military aid, to try to get, as we heard Mr....

MELBER: Parnas.

DAVIS: Parnas. Why did I forget his name? I think because he name-checked me is why I forgot Mr. Parnas` name.

MELBER: Well, we will get to that.

But you`re raising a really important point, which is what lawyers call a voluntary confession, which is deemed one of the most reliable confessions.


MELBER: I want to play a little bit more of early Lanny Davis, because, again, it`s a contrast to something that I have been mentioning in our reporting, which is, no matter where you come down on Donald Trump, personally, politically, whatever, it is a problem for the country if the president won`t even put forward his people to engage in the process, the boycotting of a co-equal branch of government.

It doesn`t matter which party. It`s a problem for what our government is supposed to do.

Now, thinking about the way that President Clinton engaged, let`s take a little more look at Lanny Davis.


DAVIS: I think the Republicans have legitimate questions to ask. My concern is not the asking of the questions. It`s the methodology of the investigation, and I think that`s where I have concrete critical for Mr. Starr`s methods.


MELBER: Your emphasis there on substance, not undermining the legitimacy, a far cry from witch-hunt.

Do you think the House has done something positive here by saying there is already punishment, accountability for the way the president has conducted himself?


And I honestly don`t understand the Republican argument. Even Lindsey Graham, who I have known for years, and we debated during the Clinton era, was the first one to say that facts must speak louder than rhetoric.

And I only hear rhetoric from the Republicans. Nobody denies this asks by the president of the United States. Now nobody denies that he tried to leverage his position as president for a personal reason. We have Rudy Giuliani in writing saying he was acting on the personal capacity as a lawyer.

So, the factual, undisputed evidence here is abuse of power. Now, maybe they say, this type of abuse of power isn`t an impeachable offense. I look forward to explaining to me or what the framers had in mind when they said abuse of power.

But this is a classic use of presidential power for personal benefit and to interfere with a presidential election. There`s no dispute of fact on that.

MELBER: Now let`s get to the other thing, Lev Parnas name-checking you.

This came in an exchange about a Ukrainian billionaire named Dmytro Firtash. Davis represented him at one time.

Now take a look, Parnas claiming Davis might have had some sort of damaging information that could discredit a Mueller prosecutor.


MADDOW: What are you supposed to be getting from -- about Burisma and the Ukrainian ledger from Lanny Davis and Mr. Firtash?

PARNAS: Well, supposedly, John Solomon said there was stuff (INAUDIBLE) about that.


So, that`s why this was all one conversation with Mr. Rudy Giuliani.

PARNAS: Correct.

MADDOW: The -- announcing the Biden investigation and talking about getting Firtash off from this Department of Justice prosecution, these were connected?

PARNAS: It was all connected.


MELBER: Is that true? What is your response?

DAVIS: First of all, I forgot his name because he got that wrong.

But I think it was a sincere being misinformed by people who were jumping to conclusions.

MELBER: What people?

DAVIS: Mr. -- well, I believe that people representing him and others misinformed him.

So here are the facts. Mr. -- I believe his name is Andrew Weissmann, Andrew Weissmann, deputy...

MELBER: Andrew Weissmann.

DAVIS: ... deputy to Mr. Mueller, had a meeting with a lawyer representing Mr. Firtash, a completely, 100 percent appropriate meeting, which went nowhere.

And from there, a little kernel of the fact came an embroidered comment that Mr. Parnas heard that something inappropriate happened.

Mr. Weissmann acted appropriately. It was an ordinary discussion about the possibility of a plea bargain, which went nowhere at all.

MELBER: But the allegation that you or anyone working on behalf of Mr. Firtash might have something to discredit Weissmann, the Mueller prosecutor, you deny that?

DAVIS: Not only that.

To the contrary, I have admiration, as did my colleague who talked to him, and still does have admiration for Mr. Mueller and Mr. Weissmann.

I just give Mr. Parnas the benefit of the doubt. He`s going through what Michael Cohen went through. Telling the truth is now a very hard thing for him. The president, as well as Mr. Giuliani, they`re already calling him a criminal based upon an indictment.

And they`re already trying to destroy him, the way Mr. Trump went after Michael Cohen`s family and in-laws. This is what Mr. Parnas is about to face. He has my sympathy, and I admire his courage in coming forward.

MELBER: Well, interesting to get you on the record.

For viewers, I will mention, of course, Lanny Davis wears more than one hat and is a known television expert, partly because you have legal experience.

Mr. Weissmann, for a long time, was an independent prosecutor in the Justice Department Mueller probe.

We should mention, as full disclosure, he also is a legal analyst now for NBC News.

With the housekeeping out of the way, I will say, Lanny, thank you for joining me tonight.

DAVIS: Thank you. Thank you, Ari. Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you, sir.

Justice Roberts could cast a crucial vote in the Trump trial. I have that, my breakdown on the law next.


MELBER: Here`s something everyone can see.

The key fault line in President Trump`s trial will be whether there are witnesses against him.

Senator Kamala Harris out today demanding it. And with 47 Democrats backing witnesses, they would need to find four Republicans to get a clean 51 votes, leading to all this talk about the magic number four.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Four senators, which is the magic number.

MADDOW: If all 47 Democratic senators vote that they would like to hear witnesses, they only need four Republicans to join with them.

MURPHY: Only four Republican votes are necessary in order to try to get more facts before the Senate, so that we can have a fair trial.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): We would need four Republicans to join all the Democrats in voting for witnesses and documents.


MELBER: The clearest way to ensure witnesses is to add four Republicans for that 51-vote majority.

But it`s not the only way. It could be possible with just three, a number that looks more in reach, as two Republican senators now actively say they`re for witnesses, Romney and Collins, while "The New York Times" adds Murkowski in, to already count three Republicans backing witnesses, noting for a clear majority -- quote -- "Dems need a fourth."

Now, three votes would make for a 50/50 tie, which normally goes to the party in the White House, as the vice president breaks ties.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A 50/50 tie, Vice President Gore called to the Capitol, casting a decisive vote in favor of new gun controls.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The vice president votes in the affirmative, and the amendment is agreed to.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Vice President Dick Cheney promised today to cast the tie-breaking vote, if needed, to ban Senate filibusters.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m going to be called on next week for the first time in American history as vice president to cast the deciding tie-breaking vote for a Cabinet nominee.


MELBER: But Pence won`t be breaking any ties at this trial.

Consider how he was bumped today by Chief Justice Roberts, who began presiding.

And if there are ties at this trial about witnesses or anything else, the chief justice may break them.

And I don`t mean may in theory, or may as a parlor game, fan fiction for Senate nerds. I mean may, in the sense that it`s happened before, and it can happen again.

In the earliest presidential trial, the one closest to the founding era, when this whole set of rules was first created, the chief justice presiding over President Johnson`s trial determined he could break ties.

And then he did twice. And that`s not just some old story in history.

You know those Senate rules we keep hearing about? They have a section on historical precedents, where the Senate`s own impeachment rules note the chief justice has voted in the case of a tie. It was contested at the time.

And the Senate then held a vote on whether a chief justice could vote in the tie-breakers. And they backed him up, this, again, from the Senate`s own rules history section.

The senators -- quote -- "turned down each attempt to prevent the chief justice from voting in tie-breakers."

So if any vote dead-ends at 50/50, there`s historical precedent for Roberts to break the tie.

Now, in terms of substance, if the vote is a standard request for relevant witnesses, a judge would normally grant that. And Roberts might break the tie in favor of these witnesses against Trump.

Now, on the other hand, we may be getting ahead of ourselves. This trial obviously hasn`t even formally started yet. And we`re already going deep into the history of the rules.

But let me tell you something. Trials are a battle. And battle strategy always requires planning.

Consider Sun Tzu`s maxim. Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

Mitch McConnell knows all about that. And if other people might be sleeping on these rules or hypotheticals, he is not. McConnell`s office already putting out his view against the history I just showed you that impeachment -- in impeachment trials -- quote -- "Ties lose."

Yes, McConnell clearly trying to win first, before any war over a potential tie vote.

But for the first time in this Trump era, the decision about how to interpret Senate rules is not up to McConnell alone. It may be up to the chief justice, what he thinks his duty is. And it may be up to a vote of 51 or is it 50 senators?

That`s something we wanted you to know as you get ready to watch this trial.

And we will be back with an announcement.


MELBER: I don`t know about you guys, but, lately, I have felt like there is more news happening than there are hours in the day.

And that is why we are thrilled to announce, Sunday, we are back with a new special, a preview of the first full week of the impeachment trial, "Trump on Trial," this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

I have got some very special guests. And if you can`t catch it live on Sunday, please consider DVRing it, just like we hope you DVR THE BEAT every night. In fact, you can do it right now, just before "Hardball."

I will see you tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

And, as mentioned, "Hardball with Chris Matthews" starts now.