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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 3/30/22

Guests: Chai Komanduri, Josh Marshall, Emily Bazelon, Elie Mystal, Andrei Kozyrev


As Russia waged war in Ukraine, former President Donald Trump asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for political help. The January 6th panel also taking testimony from Jared Kushner and other Pence aide, while the Department of Justice expands its probe. A former Russian foreign minister on intelligence that Putin`s advisers afraid to tell him the truth. Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins expressed her support for Biden`s SCOTUS nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.


WALLACE: These extraordinary times. We are grateful. THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hi, Nicolle. Nice to see you. Thank you very much. And welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber and tonight we begin with an important story that is about something that is very wrong during wartime and that has nothing to do with partisanship or politics, it`s just wrong no matter who did it and no matter what you expect from them, although in this case it is something done by the former president, Donald Trump, who has now publicly asked Vladimir Putin for new help during war to go after the current president and the Bidens in general, which are Donald Trump`s political opponents of the United States.

This is the request being made of an autocrat, a dictator, who the current president has recently dubbed a war criminal. This is the leader who`s been slaughtering innocent civilians in Ukraine, who displaced over three million people, who has led forces with civilian attacks and casualties, including children that are widely condemned, not just by the United States as war criminals. And here is what the former president is doing reaching out to Putin right now.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: As long as Putin now is not exactly a fan of our country, let him explain where did -- because Chris Wallace wouldn`t let me ask the question. Why did the mayor of Moscow`s wife give the Bidens, both of them, $3.5 million? That`s a lot of money. She gave them $3.5 million. So now I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it. I think we should know that answer. I think Putin now would be willing to probably give that answer. I`m sure he knows.


MELBER: This is the former president, who is seen all over the world as a representation of the United States, of the United States government, making a request of the person that the United States is trying to constrain in Ukraine in foreign policy and citing specifically the fact that Putin is an adversary.

The details there that Trump assumed or asserted as some kind of known facts are wrong. You should know that. These have been previously debunked and discredited. They were pushed before the election. These were the conspiracy theories that Donald Trump said in his losing bid for reelection were fought very, very big on the Internet, that`s a quote.

Now there is a pattern here. This is now going into these midterms, the third election in a row where Donald Trump has brazenly asked a foreign government to intervene on his behalf. And remember, whatever people say now, whatever the Republican Party claims now, this stuff was considered at the time so universally bad that Republicans and Democrats condemned the first one.

Indeed many Republicans tried to say it couldn`t be serious, it had to be a joke because if it were serious, it would be bad to ask for this help from Russia, from Putin. This first one was 2016.


TRUMP: I will tell you this, Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.


MELBER: At the time many, many people, including the leaders of the Republican Party don`t expect that person to become president. As president he went further to the act that got him impeached and for many Americans who were busy living life and living check to check made many Americans more aware of Ukraine, not a country that is always in the center of American foreign policy or talked about that much.

Well, it`s in the center of all of our minds now because we`ve seen so many innocent Ukrainians fleeing for their lives. It was Donald Trump who made it very clear he didn`t care about the livelihood or the human rights or the safety of the Ukrainian people, as long as he could get what he wanted to go after the Bidens. This was going into the 2020 race when Donald Trump did a thing that many called extortion, bribery or betrayal of office trying to extort Ukraine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate his political foe, Joe Biden.

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: President Trump says I`d like you to do us a favor. He goes on to later bring up his political opponent Joe Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Trump did order a hold on military aid to Ukraine just days before a phone call with the country`s leader.


MELBER: That was action, not just words, and certainly not the jokes as some claimed in 2016. We had a whole impeachment over it, we had a whole Senate trial. That`s a big deal. Information was gleaned, evidence was gleaned, we did learn things but in the end, even after Mitch McConnell said that this was potentially convictable, it was the Democrats who voted to convict in large part and only one Republican senator basically voting to convict.

Now, at the time Republican Senator Susan Collins, who had voiced criticism of some of Trump`s conduct there said, well, the then president learned a, quote, "pretty big lesson" from the impeachment. That was her defense of voting to acquit.


All right. And here we are and this is not a drill. Donald Trump did a learn a lesson, Senator Collins, but it was the exact opposite of what Senator Collins claimed. Donald Trump learned that while Democrats and that one vote for Mitt Romney would come around to convict him for that kind of conduct, the entire elected Republican Party actually said this kind of stuff was OK, asking foreign governments to interfere in the U.S. elections was OK.

That includes the self-proclaimed hawks, the supposed proponents of America`s strong moral exceptionalism abroad. They all found themselves cowing to a newly ascendent political Trump-Putin axis. And why? Because they didn`t want to face a mean tweet or a possible, possible Republican primary. Mind you most of these people don`t ever face those primaries and they`re in safe seats in safe red states, but just the possibility of that was too much to bear to stand up to the Trump-Putin axis.

And that is the wider context that brings us to a story like today. I got to tell you this is more significant than another dose of petty right-wing politics, although that plays into the fuel. This is a former president and the bulk of a major political party of the United States saddling up to an adversary, Vladimir Putin, right now during this war. And, yes, Russia is listening. The Kremlin-run TV over there is now calling for regime change here with an eye on Donald Trump, who is acting out this way on the world stage. They refer directly to getting, quote, "their partner Trump back in the U.S. White House."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through text translation): It`s time for us, for our people to call on the people of the United States to change the regime in the U.S. early and to again help our partner Trump to become president.


MELBER: We`re joined now by political strategist and former Obama campaign operative, Chai Komanduri, and the journalist and founder of "Talking Points Memo" Josh Marshall.

Chai, if it were a movie, it would be interesting to look at the interplay of domestic politics, international media and a raging war. But it`s not a movie, it`s a conflagration with serious consequences. I`m not one to sit in this anchor chair and try to lecture people about the American interests or what`s the right thing to do on every issue, but this is really far over the line and would seem to have very real consequences during the war.

Your analysis on both the politics and the policy implications with people`s lives on the line.

CHAI KOMANDURI, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Yes. The reality is that we talk about what`s in the American interest but all that Donald Trump cares about is what is in his interest. And one thing that he knows very clearly that is in his interest is that this invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin has been a disaster for him both personally and politically. So that is exactly why he is doing this. He needs to move the message frame back to something that worked for him.

So it`s not just doubling down on support for Putin, which he has certainly done. There was a period of silence in terms of praise for Putin for a while. That`s obviously now over. But the message frame that really worked for him was the idea that what really mattered was the enemy at home, not the dictators abroad. The enemy at home, the Democrats at home, Hunter Biden at home, that`s who we should be fighting about -- fighting with, not these dictators abroad.

And I think you`re seeing this across the GOP in a wide variety of spectrums. But this was a very blatant attempt by Donald Trump to sort of move the message frame back to something that worked for him.


JOSH MARSHALL, TALKING POINTS MEMO PIONEER AND EDITOR: You know, like with a lot of things about Donald Trump, it`s shocking but not surprising, as -- you know, as we found out in your intro. I mean, he`s done this over and over again. You know, it`s not surprising. And, you know, we know Donald Trump, we know he does these things. In that way, too, we know his character, but I think it drives home something that there are a lot of foreign leaders, you know, Vladimir Putin is not the only foreign leader.

There`s lots of places conceivably that they could come up with if they`re going to find the motherload of dirt about Hunter Biden or Joe Biden or whatever, but it always comes back to Vladimir Putin. You know, and even at a time right now where, you know, Putin has become a little more unpopular in the United States in the last couple of months. And I think, you know, look, that just tells us something about Donald Trump and something he has with Vladimir Putin.


Now, I will say I think at the same time this is playing into something that -- Donald Trump is losing some of his juice in the GOP. He`s still the leader of the party, but, you know, we saw this situation with Mo Brooks down in I believe it`s Alabama, if I have that wrong, I apologize, where he`s getting -- you know, pulling his endorsements and getting in fights with people he endorses. He`s trying to drive Brian Kemp in Georgia from power. Looks like Brian Kemp is going to win his primary.

Trump is losing some of his grip on the GOP and I suspect that even though they will say nothing, that this is making at least some elected Republicans say, you know what, I don`t want do that again. That wasn`t fun and this is -- what`s going on here. So I do think both these things are happening at the same time. Still his party. Still Trumpism`s party. But I do think this will play into at least some loosening of the grip that Trump currently has over the GOP.

MELBER: Well, and, Josh Marshall, you may be competing with James Carville for short catch phrases because that wasn`t fun could apply to the past year or the year 2020, the year 2016. I mean, just a lot of recent years that wasn`t fun. But all levity aside, you`re referring to the exhaustion of these Republicans who look at this so-called threat and then the question of, if you do get a primary, and again in politics, as Chai knows so well, just getting a primary changes the entire year and life of that person in office even if they beat it back.


MELBER: But if they start winning, to Josh`s point, if they start winning these primaries, Chai, then what are you afraid of? He`s banned from Twitter, you don`t know if he`s going to run again, and on the political calculus you might be able to win the primary. Having said that, I`ve got sound here from the upper chamber. This isn`t even House members. From the senators here who sound downright fine with the latest from Trump or the Trump-Putin axis that I mentioned, Chai. Take a listen.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Listen, I never give the former president advice. He could talk about what he wants to talk about. I am interested to hear what happens with Hunter Biden, though, and the federal investigation into him, and I imagine that we`ll be learning more about that. So we`ll see. Sounds pretty serious.

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): Well, I don`t know if he has dirt on Biden. If he does, he should reveal it.



KOMANDURI: Yes, I think what you`re hearing is those GOP senators understand that what Trump has done in trying to move the message to Hunter Biden away from Vladimir Putin, they still believe that that is a winning play and a winning strategy for them. That what really works for the GOP electorate is a war against other Americans. You know, that`s something Pat Buchanan had some insight into in the `90s when he said communism now over. Let`s go against -- talk about affirmative action and all these sort of domestic things where these liberals are pushing these things on us. Let`s own the libs.

And I think that they recognize that what Donald Trump was doing was something that was very beneficial for them. I mean, keep in mind, that`s kind of what Ron DeSantis has been doing. You know, it`s not any coincidence that he signed this "Don`t Say Gay" bill during this war, during this invasion. He wants to really say that, you know, forget about Vladimir Putin, the Chinese, these dictators abroad.

The real enemy is that gay couple down the street. You know, we saw that with Judge Jackson hearings. The real enemy is that African-American woman on the bench. The enemy has to be the enemy at home. Trump believed that that was a winning strategy for him. And he plays it out one way. The entire GOP is really in on this in just sort of different areas of emphasis, different tangents that they pick, but that`s what they really believe.


KOMANDURI: The enemy, the real enemy are other Americans.

MELBER: Yes, Josh, that also goes to the fact that the war -- Josh, the war has completely ruined the little bit of benefit that Putin had gotten from this whole Trump dance for four years. Because it`s just a reality and that also people talk about FOX News and Tucker says this or that. But we checked and granted, this is a weird part of our jobs here but -- because I don`t know what Mussolini`s approval numbers were, Josh.

But Putin`s disapproval numbers are off the charts among independents and Democrats. They used to be perhaps concerningly lower among Republicans but now they`re back to 75 percent negative even among Republicans because even those who rely on FOX News or Facebook or whatever, there are certain things here with the way this war is going. They see what the shelling is. They see what the facts are.

And if you have any connection to the military, if you know anyone with a military family, you great a conversational piece of input about all this. And we`ve had our generals and others on here. So you see what Putin is doing, he`s brutalizing the civilian landscape and almost everyone in the Republican Party, in the electorate says Putin bad but now Donald Trump still wants Putin`s help.


Because you know what, I guess he`s too weak to win elections on his own. I guess he can`t just win elections with the force of his ideas, words, campaigning. He`s so weak he needs this punitive, potential war criminal abroad to help him in here. I mean, it`s not the strongest message with those negatives. What do you see there, Josh?

MARSHALL: Yes, I think, you know, and I think those quotes from the Republican senators kind of told the case. They want the benefit, they want to talk about Hunter Biden, they want to talk about all the, you know, many tens of millions of dollars he`s, you know, gotten corruptly from overseas and all these conspiracy theories, but they also kind of don`t want to touch the Trump part of it. They want to move it to hunter Biden.

And I -- you know, they don`t want to cross Donald Trump. They want to get the benefit but, again, I think can you see they are kind of like I think they`re hoping like, all right, I don`t -- let`s move on to Ron DeSantis or something like this. I do think that is happening. But, again, it shows us again why does it always come back to Vladimir Putin for Donald Trump?


MARSHALL: You know, it speaks for itself that he`s not popular right now and he still goes back to him. So something`s driving that that`s not public opinion.


MARSHALL: You know?


MARSHALL: Well, what can you say?

MELBER: And what is it? And as responsible journalists, we ask those questions. We can`t always just fill them in with any vagaries but what is it?

I have one more thing, briefly, Chai, I want us to go from Moscow to Ohio where we see the Senate primary and it shows you some of where the mood is at least in a room stacked with partisan Republicans and whether a moderator can even mention facts. Take a look.


MIKE GIBBONS, OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: Five million more people voted than were registered to vote.

KAREN KASLER, DEBATE MODERATOR: The claim that Mr. Gibbons just made about more ballots cast than registered voters has been fact checked and no evidence has been found to support it.

JOSH MANDEL, OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: The 2020 election was stolen from Donald J. Trump.

KASLER: Again several claims Mr. Mandel made have been fact checked.

JD VANCE, OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, put $435 million to buy of boards of elections all over the country in big battleground states.

KASLER: Again, there are a couple of statements that have been fact checked, no evidence found to support them.


MELBER: Chai, what do you see there?

KOMANDURI: What I see is that the GOP is a house that has been built by Donald Trump. So you may say, well, maybe Donald Trump isn`t the guy you want in the house anymore, but, you know, he still owns it. It`s still his. It`s still something that he erected. This is his ego and his ability to change the message and to like dictate terms to the GOP that is still driving this. So as much as we may say, oh, they`re moving on to Ron DeSantis, et cetera, et cetera, they are still very much in his house. Donald Trump knows it and Donald Trump how to push his message and his ideas forward. So I think we should never underestimate --


MARSHALL: I completely agree with that. Completely agree with that. I think both things are happening at the same time. You know, as you said, he built the house. The big lie is still orthodoxy. It`s even more orthodoxy. In some ways Trumpism is totally triumphant. The conspiracy theories, the big lie, all this kind of stuff. He himself he`d made, you know, they may think he has too much mileage on him to be president again, but, yes, it`s still his Republican Party that`s been totally made -- you know, remade in his image.

MELBER: Right. And as you say, it`s unusual historically to have people in a party work so hard, bend over backwards to resuscitate the losing candidate. When Mitt Romney lost, you didn`t have Republicans running around and saying let`s pretend he won. And so to Chai`s analogy of that house and then who`s going to live in it holds and, Chai, was it not Rick Ross, the boss, who said, I built it ground up, you bought it renovated?

KOMANDURI: I`m sure Rick Ross did say that. I think also I`ll say is that landlords generally don`t evict themselves. You know? They may evict a tenant who lives in the house but they don`t evict themselves. And the problem for the GOP is you`re trying to get the landlord to evict himself from his own house. Good luck with that.

MELBER: I`m running -- and I`m running over on time but my last shorter question, Josh, is have we tortured this real estate analogy enough?

MARSHALL: No. No, I don`t think so. I think it has still mileage on it. So --

BERMAN: They have more mileage. Well --

MARSHALL: Yes. Yes, it does.

MELBER: It went meta, it went meta, but I did want to ask about that amidst the seriousness of the breach of U.S. foreign policy.


MELBER: You`re right. I want to thank Josh and Chai for covering all that in depth.

And to everyone, we have coming up. There`s a big moment here on the January 6th probe with more witnesses and Trump`s own family testifying this very week.


And Judge Jackson with a big, big win today. We don`t use the word clinch but boy, we`re going to tell you why she is very, close, close, close to clinching her Supreme Court seat.

And by the end of the night, there are new reports of U.S. intelligence about Putin`s advisers lying to him because they`re afraid for their lives as they sit at the other end of those long tables. If that sounds familiar, it`s because it was a point raised by a Kremlin veteran on this program. Russia`s former top diplomat comes back to react to the intel later tonight live. Stay with us.


MELBER: Congress is putting the pressure on Trump insiders and there`s a key January 6th vote coming next week. What`s new today is the House now has planned to vote on contempt charges for Trump`s former adviser Peter Navarro and a White House digital aid Dan Scavino. You may recall a proceeding this week in the committee, this means this goes next to the full house for that binding vote which then leaves the DOJ to decide whether to indict.

Navarro has not spoken much about the contempt vote from the committee. He did release a statement about it this week on paper. They also submitted statements from Navarro as evidence that were drawn from his interview right here on THE BEAT.


REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Mr. Navarro made multiple media appearances during which he discussed his various roles in the events that culminated in the January 6th attack. Can you please queue the clip?


PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: It wasn`t about this interview, which is interesting. I have so much knowledge to share with you about what I was involved in and what I know.

MURPHY: He has so much knowledge to share with the journalist, but he refuses to share that knowledge in response to a lawful subpoena.


MELBER: That`s part of the excerpt they aired and part of the argument that was made. The committee has to make a case for contempt which can lead to indictment. And so in the report in that hearing that we`re showing you, they tried to make that case against both these Trump aides. Meanwhile, other people are cooperating instead of risking contempt like a former Pence aide who`s speaking with the committee.

Now the Pence inner circle has become pretty crucial to the investigation. The former vice president did not go along with many things Trump denied -- I should say Trump demanded, including that fake electors plot, which Navarro discussed on the show. Trump`s son-in-law Jared Kushner will speak tomorrow. Kushner is probably we think the highest-ranking member of the administration to really go in there this way.

As I mentioned Mark Meadows partially cooperated but didn`t talk. And then ultimately said he wouldn`t. Kushner is also interesting as the first Trump family member to face the committee and then you have Mo Brooks, who we just talked about earlier in the program, a Trump ally who was there at the Jan 6th "Stop the Steal" rally, who was with Trump to the end, now saying they don`t work together anymore and he might cooperate with this committee, even hinting he would take it under advisement if they do go ahead and reach out.

Brooks also told NBC Trump asked him to simply reverse his 2020 loss and that he was still pushing that demand as recently as six months ago.


VAUGHN HILLYARD, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Did he directly tell you to fight to decertify the election, the 2020 election?

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): He did not use the word decertify. He used the word rescind. In one of the conversations, he mentioned having a subsequent election for the presidency.


MELBER: That goes well beyond January 6th or early 2021 into Trump`s ongoing efforts. Now, the committee is also pursuing this seven-hour gap in Trump`s phone logs from that fateful day. We do know he spoke to members of Congress. Trump has publicly denied that he would basically try to hide the call with a burner phone, he told the "Post" he doesn`t even know what that is.

And then Trump`s National Security adviser John Bolton basically implies Trump is lying by saying he heard Trump use the very phrase "burner phones" repeatedly, that he knows what it means. He even says they discussed using the tactic.

There`s also some news on the DOJ probe into January 6th. Emily Bazelon and Elie Mystal will get to all of the above when we`re back after our shortest break in one minute.


MELBER: We are back with "New York Times" magazine legal writer Emily Bazelon and Elie Mystal, the justice correspondent for "The Nation." His book which is on the bestseller list is "Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy`s Guide to the Constitution." Quote and quote, and astute observers will notice what appears to be, Elie, a hair pick.

ELIE MYSTAL, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: I mean, I have it right here if you want to go that way, but like --

MELBER: You`re welcome --


MYSTAL: All right, let`s -- no, out of respect for Emily, I`m going to keep it in.


MELBER: Well, it`s in there for a second, which can be your image meme or NFT for the book if you ever get to that point. But we congratulate you on making the bestseller list. Two writers here know how hard that is. So shout out to that.

Let me start with Emily. I just walked through -- Emily, I just walked through the developments and it`s a tale of two responses to the committee. The majority of people, including Jared Kushner, cooperating. And then these clashes over the few who don`t.


What do you see that impacting the final evidence report conclusions that come out of this? Because while we in the press are following the steps, ultimately they`re trying to put together an entire story.

BAZELON: What`s curious to me is the decision not to appear before committee at all. You know, it`s pretty routine for advisers to a president to say I`m not going to answer certain questions, I`m going to negotiate over what kinds of materials I`m going to turn over, but when you just completely stiff the committee, you invite a contempt citation, which is what`s happening here and then you`re basically daring Congress to go to the Justice Department and ask for help to really be able to enforce a contempt citation.

Congress has that power to enforce on its own but has not chosen to use it furloughed these many decades. So, you know, it all depends how it plays out in terms of what committee actually learns. I think witnesses in these cases often hope they can stall. And unfortunately that sometimes works and then the committee has to finish its work without being able to speak with them and learn what they know.

MELBER: Yes, and we just -- I mean, that`s fair. We just heard from Congressman Adam Schiff, Elie, about this process and those who are ducking. Here`s what he said.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Both of them simply failed to appear. And that makes it very easy for the Justice Department. There`s no right, no privilege that simply allows you to say I ain`t -- I`m not even going to bother to show up to claim privilege. It didn`t fly with us and it won`t fly with the Justice Department either.


MELBER: Elie, when he says it won`t fly with DOJ, he`s going as far as a member of the committee I think can responsibly go. He`s previewing what he believes is a potential indictment, which is different than Mark Meadows and I`ve explained that is a bit of a different fact pattern. Do you agree with Schiff? Are you that bullish? What do you think Garland should do?

MYSTAL: I mean, look, the January 6th committee wants it to be one way but it`s the other way, and that other way is the Merrick Garland way. The Merrick Garland way is to do what is necessary to bring these people to justice. We`ve gone through the Meadows situation. That`s a travesty. Why are Scavino and Navarro not showing up for this committee? Because what`s going to happen to them? In a couple of months maybe Merrick Garland will actually indict them for contempt.

And then what? We go to trial? Steve Bannon`s been indicted for contempt since November. Where is his trial? Has not happened yet? No. Is it going to happen before the election? Maybe. Is that going to mean that he`s actually going to ever have to talk to the committee? Maybe not. Saw it happen from Steve Bannon and that was the earliest one and now we`re talking here in March, almost April and it`s just about to happen to Navarro and Scavino.

Jared Kushner is going to get up there tomorrow and maybe talk, we don`t know exactly what he`s going to say. He might think the Fifth. He may, as Emily said, just refuse to answer certain questions. They`re thinking of seeking maybe one day Ginni Thomas to come in and sit in front of the committee. When she says no, that will start -- then they`ll think about subpoenaing her. She`ll no to that, then they`ll think about holding her in contempt, that will take some more time.

Then they`ll go over to Garland. Is Garland going to indict the wife of a Supreme Court justice? You see what I`m saying, Air? Like you just -- like the end game requires at some point Merrick Garland to stand up and it hasn`t happened yet.

MELBER: Elie, that`s four questions you`ve asked and answered.

MYSTAL: Sorry. I`m very rhetorical today.

MELBER: So now to be fair -- well, to be fair now Emily gets up to four if she wants to use that and then I have less time for questions but it`s fine. She may or may not. That`s her call. You`re speaking to what you view as an avoidable set of delays? Because I`m going to push back on you a little and say the Bannon contempt vote came relatively quickly and the indictment came relatively quickly.

The trial schedule is not something that Merrick Garland has a universal magic wand to control. There might mootness and ripeness issues if you want to get boring about what happens if the committee is dissolved. Or does that obligation still rests because Congress exists, even if the Congress that held him in contempt is gone? But leaving that to the side, you seem to be holding all of it at Merrick Garland`s feet.

Isn`t there a substantive difference between Bannon where there`s a schedule and these other things where he hasn`t really announced. And by the way, just for viewers, let`s be clear. Defying a subpoena like this with no real argument and no written privilege claim from the president means that it`s not a heavy investigation. I mean, I think you can close that out quickly, which is different from the Meadows case to be fair.

MYSTAL: I`ll just, very quickly, though, because I agree with what Emily has been saying about the Congress`s need to also potentially use its inherent contempt power. Remember, all this is bouncing through Garland from the committee because Garland won`t use the biggest tool in his shed, which is the FBI.


These people are not denying FBI subpoenas because if you deny an FBI subpoena, you sit in jail while they sort it out. But Merrick Garland has not seeked the FBI on Bannon, on Meadows, on Scavino, on Navarro.


MYSTAL: On Flynn. Right? So that`s the biggest --

MELBER: Yes, that`s fair. Let me go --


MYSTAL: And he ain`t using it.

MELBER: That`s fair and it goes to whether they view the January 6th case as a trespassing case with a couple of Proud Boys or whether they view it as a coordinated plan to be investigated, not to be prejudged, that may have reached political elites in the Republican Party or the White House, Emily.

BAZELON: Well, I was just thinking about the difference between the two branches. So Congress does have the power to enforce a contempt citation on its own but it hasn`t in such a long time. And so that it has sort of taken that power away from itself. And that means that it can kind of issue these contempt citations for free. Doesn`t have to really worry about being held accountable.

Whereas I think that Merrick Garland, as the attorney general, he can`t just do this for show. He would have to really enforce. And I mean, I think Elie is making the argument for why he should but it also would be a dramatic move to go after former presidential advisers in this way. And he doesn`t -- so far we haven`t seen him have the kind of temperament and appetite for that. He seems like a more cautious attorney general who wants to seem more moderate and so I think that`s part of why we`re not seeing that, though I understand Elie`s point of view.

MELBER: Fairly put and I would note without any rhetorical questions. So I think folks who have watched the show for a long time understand Elie is down to zero, Emily gets four, those carried over to the next hit, so she has up to eight next time. And for Twitter, I`m joking, I`m joking.

Emily and Elie, good to see you both.

BAZELON: Thanks for having us.

MYSTAL: Thanks for having us.

MELBER: Appreciate it. A little fun amidst some serious stuff.

Now I mentioned this big news, it`s a breakthrough for Judge Jackson`s quest to reach the Supreme Court. It is key to her math potentially getting above 50. So we`re going to have that update within the hour. But first the Pentagon now says Putin is misinformed. The Kremlin vet who told us about this very thing before that intelligence leaked that they`ll overthrow Putin before giving him bad news joins me next.



MELBER: This is day 35 of Russia`s invasion of Ukraine. There are developments, there are peace talks, but there`s also the fact that Russia is not where it thought it would be, not remotely close at this point in the war. And there`s new U.S. intelligence that says Vladimir Putin may have gotten to this point because he didn`t know where he was even 35 days ago, that he`s been misled by his own top aides.

They also say Putin misleads, that he is lied to and a liar because he said Russian forces would pull back while it actually intensifies the capital bombing. Here`s a suburb outside the capital where you see the wreckage. Here`s another northern city where Russia also claimed it was going to pull back in those peace talks I mentioned, but there`s been more bombing. You`re looking at what was once a market now completely basically destroyed and unusable.

Ukrainian forces assessing the damage in some of the towns they`ve been able to retake, sifting through rubble, recovering bodies. An 11-year-old girl discussing her neighborhood bombed.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (through text translation): Were you scared?

SASHA, 11 YEARS OLD UKRAINIAN REFUGEE (through text translation): Yes, I was.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (through text translation): What happened next?

SASHA (through text translation): Then I saw everyone was covered in blood.


MELBER: This is part of the reality against the period where Russia said it was going to partially pull back. You have world leaders and Ukrainian refugees all saying well, they already know Vladimir Putin so nothing about this development is surprising.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We`re talking about, you know, trying to set the conditions for decreasing military tensions, but I think it`s way too soon to feel any confidence in that.

UNIDENTIFIED UKRAINIAN REFUGEE (through text translation): I do not know if we can still believe the Russians, I think more escalation will occur in eastern Ukraine, that is why we cannot go back to Kharkiv, we are afraid of a new phase of war in eastern Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say we have no reason to trust Russia, to trust Lavrov, to trust Putin.

PETRO POROSHENKO, FORMER UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Condition number one, please, don`t trust Putin.


MELBER: That`s the view of the actions by Putin against this military context. But how did Putin get into this place? Well, U.S. intelligence has a report now that says they have information and intelligence that suggests he continues to be misinformed about the invasion by, quote, "yes men." Reuters and others have covered that story. You see the headline about "yes men" and you have this tension between Putin and his own military leaders. So you have top U.S. officials in the Biden administration breaking it down like this.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: One of the Achilles heels of autocracies is that you don`t have people in those system who speak truth to power.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: His senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth.


MELBER: I`m now joined by someone who`s been exactly such a senior adviser to a Russian president. Andrei Kozyrev was the Russian foreign minister who worked under Boris Yeltsin and his deputy. Sergey Lavrov has assumed that position for Putin.

Welcome back.



MELBER: You know, there`s no great intellectual victory laps during this kind of grim war and humanitarian crisis, and yet for the sake of making sense of what`s happening, which is what we endeavor to do here, here on day 35 I`m quoting U.S. intelligence about, quote, "yes men," and what American officials are probably saying about Putin. You did diagnose this very information chain problem on THE BEAT. You referred to the, quote, "yes men" around Putin, and you explained to us then why Putin would sooner be overthrown than get bad news. Let`s just take a quick look at that.


MELBER: Is there anyone inside the Russian government who can even give him the bad news?

KOZYREV: That is less possible than overthrow him. That`s a Russian tradition. They fear to tell the boss the truth, but one day they might come with a weapon and escort him either to the grave or to retirement.


MELBER: A few weeks later how is that playing out? And as a foreign policy leader, why do you think that the United States is not only finding this, whatever their intelligence is, it`s drawn the way yours is on experience, but making this part of their public presentation now today?

KOZYREV: Well, they probably have intelligence but I just have the knowledge of tradition and a little bit of insight in what happens in Kremlin in my time when I was foreign minister. It was difficult to report unwelcomed news to my boss, President Yeltsin. But at least it was possible occasionally. And he would listen, he would never change immediately his mind but later on he would call me on direct line and say something like, oh, OK, OK, you`ll do it your way. So he was amenable.

This guy, I just want to be very clear that, yes, he could have been deceived, misinformed by his entourage, but the policy, this bandit type policy is his. That`s what is important one to remember. That they deceived him on some facts and the whole situation reminds me that fable, you know, about a sycophant folks and gullible crowd when a sycophantic folk persuaded the crowd to sing and was after the piece of cheese.

So those guys around him, they are mostly crooks. They are after the cheese. They are after the money. So they wanted him to authorize funding for the military, for the operation, for everything, for killing, for bombing, but they wanted to steal and they did a lot because you can see how badly Russian army is doing in fact. And they -- so they were telling him what he wanted to hear and he kind of stupidly opened the big -- the cheese and they stole the cheese and he is now in a ridiculous position. But again, he -- it does not relieve him from the crime which he authorized and which he pursues.

MELBER: Yes. And I don`t know the crow-cheese story as well, though it rings a bell, and we know what it is for people to go after the cheese or the money and, as you say, they`re pilfering so they have a different incentive structure if it`s a kleptocracy and there`s so much pinching and stealing going on.

KOZYREV: Exactly.

MELBER: The other follow-up to this is, if this is known, as you say Russian tradition, and Putin has KGB experience, and now this story is kicking around. It`s in the wire services. It`s on television. I don`t know how they track you but some people over there know you and you said it then and now U.S. intelligence says it. At what point does Putin hear about all this and have an incentive to improve his incoming information? Does that ever happen?

KOZYREV: That may be, yes. That may be but he will do it very, very kind of surreptitiously because otherwise he will be exposed even more like this crow fool, you know, who believed the folks that surround him.


So he will do it very calmly but maybe very ruthlessly, too. And that happens, yes, that`s also in Russian tradition but it`s not bad news for us because, you know, that means that the kingdom will be against itself inside and as was said, this kingdom cannot stand so that`s good news. Yes, that`s (INAUDIBLE).

MELBER: Yes, really fascinating. You know of which you speak, which is why we keep coming back to you and like U.S. intelligence, you have to talk to people who have been there to even get an understanding of this as we`re in this tough spot.

Andrei Kozyrev, thank you so much, sir.

KOZYREV: Thank you, sir. Thank you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

When we come back, the news I mentioned, the Biden White House thinks they may be over the line with Judge Jackson. We`ll explain why.



MELBER: Joe Biden`s Supreme Court pick Judge Jackson has been on this march towards the court. And there have been a lot of signs it`s been going well but this is a math game. Can you get up to 50 or 50 plus one. And now she is one step closer to making history because today she netted her very first Republican vote from Senator Susan Collins.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): In the end, I decided that she had the qualifications, the experience and the credentials that we require of a Supreme Court justice and warranted my support.


MELBER: That`s a Republican senator. Meanwhile, across the country she`s one of the most popular Supreme Court nominees in the modern -- era, I should say. 66 percent of people support the nomination. The Judiciary Committee will look to vote on it this Monday.

Now we should mention, she`s got Manchin`s public support, Collins. No Democrat has come out against her. So as far as the White House is concerned, they think they are at or above 50. Of course nothing is final until it`s final on the Senate floor. We`ll watch that hearing on Monday. And we will be right back.