ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
To quote Rachel on Watergate, I`m excited to watch where the grass grows tomorrow morning.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": I am excited too. I mean, I don`t think I`m going to sleep. I can`t -- I know we have to because we know there`s going to be days of hearings, you know, tomorrow, and the rest -- into this week and all next week, but I`m already too excited to sleep for anything.
MELBER: Yes, it`s going to be very interesting and every sense of it. We`ll be watching. We`ll be watching tomorrow.
MADDOW: Thanks, Ari. Appreciate it, man.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
I am Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell, and we have a big show tonight, on the eve of these first public hearings about impeaching President Trump.
And, by the way, we get it. It is 2019 and people in the press and in politics say this is big a lot. But this is big. Donald Trump stands closer to impeachment tonight than ever before.
So, let me tell you what we`re going to do right now on tonight`s show here on THE LAST WORD. We`re going to begin with the impeachment news, but later, we will turn to a related report. Former Trump advisor John Bolton, who`s also an impeachment witness, saying in a private meeting that he`s concerned Trump has compromised U.S. national security for personal business interest.
Also tonight, new reporting from inside the trial of Roger Stone, which is revealing things that remain redacted in the Mueller report, including the number two Trump campaign staffer recounting new details of how the campaign got intel on WikiLeaks which raises questions if Trump lied to Bob Mueller.
And later tonight, I have a special constitutional break down of the impeachment case against Trump that could guide some of these high stakes questions we`re all going to be watching and hearing tomorrow. So, we have a lot for you.
We begin with our top story which is the accelerating probe into President Trump. House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff making waves in any of these hearings by publicly stating there`s a case for impeaching President Trump for bribery, telling NPR, the inquiry will examine whether Trump was illegally soliciting something of value which several witnesses have already testified to under oath. That teased up the opening blast of this public stage of the probe, as tomorrow the hearings begin with the diplomats, Trump`s Ukraine point person, Ambassador Bill Taylor, and George Kent, a senior official for European diplomacy.
Taylor is not just a seasoned diplomat. He`s not just a Bronze Star Vietnam veteran. He is most notable in many ways for what he just did in the Trump administration over the past year. Keep an eye on Bill Taylor tomorrow because he distinguished himself in real time.
He famously objected in writing to the Ukraine plot in those text messages and then later told Congress the Trump administration was freezing the money that was statutorily authorized for Ukraine, which means even messing with it could be a crime, violating the law. And the reason he said was pressing for that investigation into the Bidens that Trump wanted. If they don`t do this, they`re not going to get that, he said. When he was asked are you aware quid pro quo literally means this for that. He replied, you see it right there, quote, I am.
For his part, Kent has already detailed how Trump wanted the Biden probe to launch, specifically that he wanted nothing less than Ukrainian leader Zelensky to go to a microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton. Today, Republicans put out a lengthy defense of Trump in a new memo, arguing the Ukraine plot didn`t work, and he`s always been concerned about corruption in that country. House Democrats say these witnesses will rebut that tomorrow because they have first-hand knowledge that the two of them saw the first scope and timeline of the president`s misconduct this year.
How`s this hitting the White House? Well, I can tell you tonight there are signs, there are true and real signs that people are rattled. And it`s not just of course as we tend to observe around here, not by just what they say, but what they do and sometimes what they do and try to undo.
Take Mick Mulvaney who is famous for going full Mulvaney, admitting the Ukraine plot and retracting that admission. Well, today, he had a lawsuit cooking that he just bailed on. For at least a day in a clumsy or sloppy fashion, he was attempting to join the Bolton case and sue his own boss, President Trump. So, that`s Mulvaney jumping around.
How`s Trump handling it? Well, there are new reports Trump is shifting between relishing the fight and seething with anger.
It might be anger or retribution that accounts for another new report complicating the Trump`s defense. This has to do with the intelligence community`s inspector general. A person that the president normally wouldn`t be aware of except this is person who, of course, stood by the whistle-blower.
Check out "The New York Times" report Trump express said his dismay about this official around the time the whistle-blower`s complaint become public. In the recent weeks, he`s continued to raise this possibility of firing him with aides.
Now, I just want to put a very clear marker on this. The inspector general is the one person in any agency, intelligence, justice, wherever, who is literally -- their whole job is they`re literally supposed to be the most independent official, agree with them or not. That`s like their thing.
So, if you use the DOJ example, it was the inspector of the Justice Department who criticized publicly James Comey for breaking procedure for doing something everybody remembers, criticizing Hillary Clinton in the campaign. Now, a lot of people may have disagreed with that, or seen that it violated some of the protocol. But most FBI officials couldn`t do what the inspector general does because they worked for the FBI director, for Comey. The I.G. has that independence.
So keep that in mind, what they`re supposed to do. Protect whistleblowers, speak out, defend the rule of law. As you look at this kicker from "The New York Times", Trump talking ability ousting the inspector general because he thinks he`s been, quote, disloyal. Critics saying that itself is an admission of the president`s improper intent.
Add that to the list of issues piling up in this probe. Tomorrow, the Congress will dig into impeachment like never before. No one knows what comes after that because if there`s one thing most rational people can agree on right now tonight is that America has not been in a situation like this before, and there`s never been an impeachment probe quite like this before.
Leading off our discussion tonight, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee, will be a part of these pivotal hearings this week. And Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia, a member of the House Oversight Committee, who`s participated in several of the depositions thus far.
Good evening to both of you.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-CA): Great to see you.
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Hello, Ari.
MELBER: First question is about the questions. A lot of people interested, obviously, we understand you`re not going to tip your entire hand. But starting with Congressman Himes a question to both of you, what do you want to learn tomorrow and as importantly what do you want the American people to learn?
HIMES: Well, Ari, I think it`s going to be an interesting day -- it`s going to be an interesting week actually because you have three lifelong, professional, enormously patriotic diplomats who served Republican and Democratic presidents. And while they will all say different things and while they had different perspectives on what was occurring, all three of them will say what they saw happening with respect to the president`s pressure on Ukraine, the phone call, Rudy Giuliani running around Ukraine is completely unprecedented.
And they will also say and I think they will offer a dramatic rebuttal of this notion that, oh, this is all just an effort on the part of President Trump to continue a long policy of combating corruption in Ukraine. They will say that the asking of a new president to investigate an American, to interfere on behalf of the president for the president`s political interests has absolutely nothing to do with combating corruption in Ukraine.
In fact, it`s counter productive to that because the whole point of countering corruption in Ukraine is to say you shouldn`t investigate people for political reasons. And I think that will emerge this week.
MELBER: Congressman Connolly?
CONNOLLY: I agree with all of that. But I think it`s also important to remember the context here. We have a brand new president of Ukraine when the July 25th phone call occurs, who has no experience in public policy or diplomacy or governance. Meanwhile, he`s got active Russian combat in the eastern part of this country. He needs that military aid that Trump suspended, and he has to seriously consider whatever conditionality the president puts in front of him.
And that was the corrupt bargain. That was Trump extorting cooperation to get political dirt on a prospective political opponent in exchange for life and death existentially necessary military aid. So, that what`s so obscene.
MELBER: You say extortion. First to Congressman Connolly, what do you see as the strongest remaining potential article of impeachment that will be on display or proven tomorrow?
CONNOLLY: Well, I think what we`re going to hear is abuse of power. I think we`re going to hear a deliberate scheme to shakedown a foreign leader led by Rudy Giuliani who`s not a member of the United States government in creating a parallel shadow policy with respect to Ukraine in order, as I said, to get political dirt on a prospective political opponent. I think we`re going to hear that loud and clear.
And as Jim referenced earlier, we`re going to hear patriotic Americans, ad seriatim, who are expressing deep concern about what they experienced.
MELBER: Congressman Himes, same question?
HIMES: Yes, I think Gerry`s exactly right. And, Ari, the important thing here is that we`ve spent an awful lot of time these last couple of weeks arguing about whether this was quid pro quo, which, by the way, the president`s own chief of staff said occurred. The president`s ambassador to the European Union, Mr. Sondland, said occurred, or is it extortion, or is it bribery?
It`s important to remember, Ari, in an impeachment proceeding a specific criminal charge notwithstanding the language of high crimes and misdemeanors, treason and bribery, may get super superseded by the concept that Gerry pointed out which is abuse of power. And whether you want to call it extortion or bribery, or quid pro quo, and there`s ample evidence it could be any one or all three of those things, the underlying or essential thing that happened here is the president used the resources of the United States and the immense power of the American presidency to demand that a new and vulnerable president of the Ukraine, at the very moment as Gerry pointed out, that his people are dying as a result of Russian attacks, he held up the resources of the American people and the aid of the United States of America in the service of getting Ukraine to interfere in our election and to do an investigation of Burisma and Biden. That is staggering abuse of power.
MELBER: So what is your article of impeachment?
HIMES: Well, you know, it`s a little premature to say, but abuse of power just as it was in the Nixon impeachment will I bet be one of them. Obstruction of justice, the president --
MELBER: Is it -- is it premature? Because that`s sort of what we`re getting at here. The Democrats have said obviously there`s many reasons to impeach him and we`re not sure yet. I take it -- I take it and correct us if we`re wrong, I take it both of you cast your votes on the House floor moving forward on the impeachment probe because you think there`s significant evidence to impeach on. Otherwise, why would you vote that way?
HIMES: I guess I would --
CONNOLLY: I was going to say, Ari, I`m on record as favoring impeachment based on the Mueller report and the performance in office before Ukraine was revealed. I believe there`s ample grounds for impeaching this president on obstruction of justice and abuse of power in office and contempt for Congress. And those are all impeachable offenses.
By the way, we don`t have to rise or lower ourselves to the level of crime. An impeachable offense is ultimately what Congress decides is an impeachable offense when you have such an egregious set of behaviors such as Trump`s. That`s what Hamilton and Madison and the writers of the Constitution provided for.
MELBER: Congressman Himes, did you want to go ahead?
HIMES: Well, no. I agree with Gerry. I think the hesitancy you hear on our part to tell you exactly what we think the articles will be will be, of course, the Judiciary Committee is properly charged with determining what those should be.
Looking back on the Nixon impeachment, you`ll recall that abuse of power, obstruction of justice were articles that were voted out of the Judiciary Committee, and then there were some questions around the president -- President Nixon`s decision to bomb Cambodia which at the end of the day, as appalling as it may or may not have been, was sort of a policy issue. So, anyway, the hesitancy you hear on our part is not because I don`t think the evidence is amply clear that there was staggering abuse of power, that there was obstruction of justice both in this case and in volume 2 of the Mueller report. That`s all -- it feels like ancient history now, but that`s the president trying to find every way possible to end the investigation into his conduct vis-a-vis Russia.
I just don`t think we`re at the point quite yet where we want to second guess what the Judiciary Committee may choose to offer up as articles of impeachment.
MELBER: Yes, I would only point you to the other news we`re getting to, which is the chair of your committee is previewing some of the potential articles, and as Americans watching, I think what everyone is gearing up for tomorrow is the theory of the case. I mean, the file of evidence about the Ukraine plot is to some degree out there.
The question is, are you more focusing on the abuse of power and the bribery as the abuse of foreign power for the election? Which really brings into question whether we have a fair and functioning democracy or not, or are you going back to obstruction on both of this probe or Mueller or other things.
So, I`m just trying to draw that out on that because, well, it`s part of my job.
HIMES: Very quickly here, the story you will hear in the next couple of days is all about unprecedented abuse of power. This is not a sleazy break-in to a party headquarters as occurred in the Nixon administration for which Richard Nixon was on the verge of being impeached. This is about the extortion, the bribery of a vulnerable foreign country, all done in the very narrow political interests of a president. That is what the focus will be on in the next couple of days.
MELBER: Congressman Connolly, final thought?
CONNOLLY: Yes, I don`t think it`s an either/or situation. I will say this, what the ultimate article or articles of impeachment if there are any are going to be narrowly drawn. It`s not going to everything and the kitchen sink.
And my guess it`s going to be under these three broad categories -- abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and frankly, you know, bribery, extortion, shakedown, quid pro quo in the misuse of military aid for a partisan political gain.
MELBER: Very interesting two individuals who have a very significant role tomorrow staying up late with us, which we greatly appreciate. And appreciate what you call it colloquy when two members talk to each other.
MELBER: Well, we had one here and we appreciate it.
Congressman Himes and Congressman Connolly, we`ll be watching tomorrow.
CONNOLLY: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Coming up, one witness who is not scheduled to appear in the public impeachment hearings is so far, John Bolton. But he appears many times in the key transcripts of other witnesses. Bolton now privately telling audiences that Donald Trump`s motives regarding foreign policy are suspect for reasons even other than the impeachment. We`ll explain that next.
MELBER: Tonight, a potential key witness to President Trump`s efforts to extort Ukraine for personal gain revealing, damaging information of a different variety about President Trump, John Bolton, has yet to agree to testify in the impeachment probe. In fact, he`s been part of those lawsuits trying to get a judge to clear it up.
His lawyer, however, has also teased he has relevant information that lawmakers might not even know yet. So, a lot of intrigue.
It hasn`t stopped Donald Trump`s former national security advisor from now telling a group of investors some of the president`s foreign policy decisions are guided by personal interests. That would be improper.
This is an NBC News exclusive report detailing that during a private event just last week, quote, Bolton said he believes there`s a personal or business relationship dictating Trump`s position on Turkey because none of his advisers align with him on the issue, his pointed comments painted a dark image of a president and his family whose potential personal gain is at the heart of decision-making. That`s according to people who were in the room, what we call first hand knowledge of the remarks.
I`m joined now on THE LAST WORD by one of the journalists who broke that very story, Stephanie Ruhle. She`s a co-anchor of "MSNBC LIVE WITH STEPHANIE RUHLE". She`s a co-anchor of "VELSHI AND RUHLE". She`s an NBC News correspondent, also something of a financial whiz. And here on this story.
Thanks for being here.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thank you so much for having me.
MELBER: Walk us through what this means.
RUHLE: So, John Bolton gives private remarks, you know, and he was very clear. He said, listen, I`d much rather be working inside the administration where I can influence policy than be here giving paid speeches and writing articles, but alas I can`t. The overwhelming theme was John Bolton really taking digs at the president`s foreign policy, making it clear being a business guy, a real estate guy who can look at one deal and walk away, maybe planning another is far different than the interconnected world of foreign policy where Bolton very clearly said successful foreign policy is about consistency and persistence.
And the one country where he said the president made absolutely no sense from a national security, from a foreign policy standpoint was Turkey. He said President Trump might think and he does have a good rapport with Erdogan. But having a good rapport might also mean you`re getting rolled from a foreign policy perspective.
And from Bolton`s perspective, he said it must be personal or business, because there are no advisers on the president`s team who would have supported what the president did with pulling troops.
MELBER: This is one of those rooms where you have high powered people. They want to know what`s going to happen. They want to know what goes beyond just the public official version of events. And as you documented, people may lose money about bets about financial and political intelligence.
So, with that in mind, I want to read more from your reporting. At one point in your closed door remarks, you write, Bolton was asked what he thinks will happen if Trump is reelected. Bolton said Trump could go, quote, full isolationist with the faction of the Republican Party that aligns with Rand Paul`s foreign policy taking over the GOP, withdraw the U.S. from NATO and other national alliances. That`s according to three sources.
RUHLE: Absolutely. Remember, if this were January 2021 and President Trump would really be Trump unplugged. He`s not worried about re-election, what would he do? We know that his sensibility is true America First isolationist. So, that was one example of what he could do.
The second I would say was definitely more tongue and cheek. Bolton rolled his eyes when he said it. He said it would possibly be more for Jared and Ivanka. They could convince the president to make a more unconventional Supreme Court justice pick if he had the option to choose a third. He said he might choose someone super liberal, super critcal of the president like a Laurence Tribe. And I know that sounds to you totally bananas.
MELBER: If I may, come on.
RUHLE: Correct. Sister, please, I get it. And he was saying it tongue and cheek.
But you get, the whole idea is, that Jared and Ivanka if they could convince the president of something like that, then they could return to the New York social circles in two years in which they want to do and then be able to say to everyone, see, behind the scenes for all those years, we were doing all that work.
MELBER: So, this gets to the final question I want to ask you, which is something that we all look at -- the wrangling amongst these people. You talked about the inside and outside. You talked about the -- what is sometimes called a Javanka fashion.
And then you have the strange case of Mick Mulvaney. And then you have the strange case of Mick Mulvaney. And your reporting intersects with this. "The Washington Post" says Trump has been threatening for weeks to fire Mulvaney. Senior advisers have cautioned removing Mulvaney now sensitive time, could be perilous. Mulvaney played this integral role in these issues and it`s a cautionary tale.
Do you them shall we say talking mess inside or outside the tent?
RUHLE: Well, there`s two different things. Remember, Bolton is a true policy guy, right? He`s never wavered. Who he was before, during and after the White House is the same guy.
Remember when the president didn`t want to give Bolton the job because he didn`t like the mustache, Bolton never shaved the mustache and he still got the job. Mick Mulvaney is a politician who very much wants to be inside the White House. And the thing to think about Mulvaney, he could -- if he had something that would help the president, he could raise his hand and say, Mr. President, let me testify ala Corey Lewandowski style.
MELBER: Right, let me help you.
RUHLE: But he hasn`t, but he hasn`t. He`s doing everything possible not to testify, which makes you wonder he must not have anything good say.
RUHLE: Because he desperately wants that job.
MELBER: We got a lot more news. What`s your favorite drink or snack to with impeachment hearings tomorrow?
RUHLE: I`m going to say milkshake.
RUHLE: Brings all the boys to the yard.
MELBER: Wow, great reference. Unexpected.
RUHLE: I do know you like musical references.
MELBER: Stephanie Ruhle, firing on all cylinders late into the evening, and part of our coverage. Thank you.
Coming up, closing arguments expected to start tomorrow in the Roger Stone trial. The big question, though, has Donald Trump`s Justice Department put forward evidence suggesting he committed perjury? We`ll get into all of that, coming up.
MELBER: If Barack Obama`s longest serving advisor were on trial for, say, several felonies would that be a big story for weeks on end? If another sitting president and his top aides literally testifying for the government against that advisor, would that be a big deal? I ask because, of course, it would.
But in 2019, this does feel like just one more happening that might not even make the top five things that go on today, and yet this is important. And there were more damning disclosures at the Roger Stone criminal trial today, including links back to Russian activities that apparently remain even redacted in the Mueller report. Now, for context, just remember the top two officials for Trump`s 2016 campaign have already been it convicted of felonies, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
So, in this trial here, the new stuff we have for you here is Rick Gates goes in there to detail that Trump actually had inside scoops in advance about WikiLeaks with Roger Stone, and I have no recollection of the specifics of any conversations I had with Mr. Stone between June 1, 2016, and November 8, 2016. Well, Mr. Gates is testifying he actually knows within that very period of time, nine days after the first release from WikiLeaks, Roger Stone called Donald Trump and they talked. Gates was right there in the car with Trump who got off the line and now I can report to you told him more information would be coming about Clinton`s e-mails.
And a lot more information did come out. Now, the legal issue in the Roger Stone trial is to be clear relatively narrow. Did he corruptly obstruct the probe? Did he criminally tamper with a witness? But the evidence that is now being overturned in pursuit of those answers, I could tell you it is getting broader and broader and broader. And now it`s even speaking to leads that Bob Mueller`s own investigators apparently pursued right up to the edge of testing whether there were any potential charges related to those famously hacked e-mails as well as how WikiLeaks did what it did?
So we are getting out to a whole another place. As for the trial, closing arguments are now set for tomorrow. I want to bring in MSNBC Legal Analyst and Former Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner who has actually worked directly with Bob Mueller and has been following most of the Stone trial as an Analyst for us. And Senior Politics Correspondent for Fox Andrew Prokop who`s also been inside that courthouse for the Roger Stone trial and was in there today for the testimony of Rick Gates. Good evening, gentlemen.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Good evening.
MELBER: Glenn, I want to start big and wide. What does it tell you about the larger issues beyond the actual narrow case against Mr. Stone that these prosecutors including a former Mueller prosecutor are ladling out to the trial and thus to the public these bigger leads from the e-mails?
KIRSCHNER: Yes, a couple of take away, Ari, if we kind of pull back to 30,000 feet. One was that I thought Steve Bannon`s testimony yesterday was pretty remarkable. When he said that Roger Stone was the Trump campaign`s access point to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. That was his characterization.
Now, it had to be pulled out of him. He tried to back away from it, and he had to be shown his grand jury transcript to be reminded that your description, Mr. Bannon, was that Roger Stone was the access point. That really does connote just a receipt of passive information but when you have somebody who is dealing with a campaign that has access point to WikiLeaks, that shows close coordination. And the other thing that I`ll say--
MELBER: Well, let me hang you up there.
KRISCHNER: Go ahead.
MELBER: You`re careful, I`m careful, too. Is it coordination or is it one way? Part of what Mueller didn`t ultimately do was find conspiracy. If there was enough coordination right we would be somewhere past this point.
KIRSCHER: Yes, I think that`s a fair observation. But if Roger Stone is the access point and he`s working intimately with the campaign, so intimately, Ari, that he`s getting on the phone with the candidate giving him a heads up about future WikiLeaks releases, I think it really does conjure up coordination not just a one-way passive receipt of information.
So Stone as that access point is reaching out to the Corsi`s is giving him direction saying I want you to go to London, I want you to take messages and communicate things to Assange for me. It really did seem like some active measures going on, on a two-way basis.
MELBER: Andrew, I`m going to hit you with the enduring mystery of the trial. Are you ready?
ANDREW PROKOP, FOX NEWS, SENIOR POLITICS CORREPONDENT: All right. Give it to me.
MELBER: If this is all there was, why did Roger Stone lie about it?
PROKOP: That`s the big question. I think the prosecutors had presented a great deal of evidence that Roger Stone went to extreme lengths to try to convince the House Intelligence Committee in 2017 that all of his connections and information to WikiLeaks came through this one person, talk radio host and comedian Randy Credico. And I think prosecutors have pretty effectively laid out the time line showing that can`t be true, that Credico only got into contact with Assange weeks after Roger Stone was talking about this.
MELBER: Let`s slow down on that. You`re both mentioning individuals 1 and 2. I`ve interviewed both of them in reporting on this case, Credico and Corsi. And in a nutshell you`re saying that Stone was trying to make Credico the fall guy for something that was wider than him?
PROKOP: Yes, the patsy. And now we`ve learned today from Rick Gates that all the way going back to April, Gates testified Roger Stone was telling him in private that WikiLeaks had damaging information coming. He said it again in May according to Gates and again in June.
MELBER: But here`s the thing about that, I get why people look at this and say forget these folks or they want to think about negative things about Roger Stone who has invited plenty of negative portrayals. And yet I`m going to play for you right now Roger Stone speaking when he came out of the infamous congressional testimony, which is part of what he`s on trial for saying, look, actually this stuff was false, in other words to simplify that he said he was just bluffing and he didn`t know as much as he claimed at the time. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, AMERICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: I made the case that the accusation that I knew about John Podesta`s e-mail hack in advance was false, that I knew about the content and source of the WikiLeaks disclosures involving Hillary Clinton was false.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKOP: Well, that is kind of the giant hole at the center of this trial. Stone is charged with lying to Congress about all this stuff. So the arguments have focused on, you know, whether what he said to the House Intelligence Committee was true or whether it was false. The arguments have not focused so much on whether Stone had actual inside information on what WikiLeaks was planning--
MELBER: Do you think he did?
PROKOP: --that was useful. I think for him to go to such lengths to create a cover-up like this, to apparently hide the role of Jerome Corsi, you know, it raises questions about why he would do that if there really nothing was to hide. Prosecutors have not made a case - maybe it`s in the Mueller report further redacted to avoid purging this trial, but we just simply haven`t seen the evidence from prosecutors showing that Corsi or anyone else got actual solid good information on what WikiLeaks was planning. Not just ominous predictions.
MELBER: Yes, this is the paradox. And I`m asking these questions genuinely, and we`ve been working them out in our reporting. Glenn and I have talked about them before. If you didn`t do them, why did you cover up? And if it was a cover up of nothing and you did it, wouldn`t Mueller have found it by then? I mean, that`s really where we are still at which makes it fast and in case nothing else.
Andrew and Glenn, thank you so much. Coming up, we have the impeachment investigation into Trump and Ukraine that is actually bringing Russia back in. Malcolm Nance is here on that and my bribery break down later in the hour. Stay with us.
MELBER: Do you know what time it is? If you`re keeping impeachment time we`re now hours away from the public hearings into Donald J. Trump and his attempt to interfere in the election with as he put it a favor from Ukraine. The current impeachment probe though is also revealing new details about the President`s links to Vladimir Putin including new details about the angry phone call that Trump placed to John Bolton who was then National Security Advisor.
After seeing a cable news story about the U.S. Navy countering Russian aggression in the Black Sea. After the call the White House asked the navy to cancel those planned maneuvers in the region. I`m joined by MSNBC Counterterrorism Intelligence Analyst Malcolm Nance whose new book is "The plot to betray America" and it`s out tonight. Congratulations.
MALCOLM NANCE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORRISM INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: My pleasure.
MELBER: What does this story mean? It doesn`t sound normal to put it plainly.
NANCE: What we`re seeing as a continuation and what`s finally surfacing of how Donald Trump personally compromised the national security of the United States. When the United States navy carries out these operations in the Black Sea they`re called FON Operations, Freedom of Navigation Operations. They are designed to show that the United States in any nation has the right sail within between 11 and 20 nautical miles depending on the country`s jurisdiction of their coast.
The United States Navy carries out routinely, off Iran, North Korea, off China and they`re not controversial. We call it pushing back aggressively because Russia claims quite a bit of that water as their own territorial waters. When Donald Trump saw that article which is a routine U.S. Navy type statement that they`re pushing backward--
MELBER: CNN report I believe.
NANCE: CNN, right? When he saw this report he saw it as a threat to his relationship with ex-KJB officer and President of Russia Vladimir Putin. And he canceled the operation, which lowered U.S. Navy readiness, drops morale, and it tells Russia that they have someone that is looking out for their interests, not the interests of the United States.
MELBER: And would a traditionally informed President have already been able to learn about and know about that operation without CNN?
NANCE: Well, a traditional foreign President would have his national security briefing first thing in the morning and they would discuss routine Freedom of Navigation Operations around the world rarely. They would brief high risk Freedom of Navigation Operations - Iran or going off North Korea, or going off near where the submarines or something like that. That, the Commander in Chief needs to know.
But for him to see a news report and kill a relatively routine operation, which later on the U.S. Navy did it again by just allowing a warship to go to the premium port of Odessa, that is not only unusual, it`s suspicious.
MELBER: And 30 seconds, John Bolton, a fellow national security person like yourself, how damaging or disappointing for those looking for damage do you think he would be if he does testify?
NANCE: Should John Bolton be disappointed?
MELBER: Some people think he`s going to blow the lid off this. Some people say hold up, you don`t know what you`re going to get from Bolton.
NANCE: You don`t know which you`re going to get Bolton. I mean, he`s the kind of guy that will get back channels from Donald Trump, get assurances and suddenly turn on everything that he has said before. We don`t know. It`s dangerous. And to tell you the truth, I`ll just let other people who are reliable and credible do the talking.
MELBER: There you go. Malcolm Nance, always interesting to get your perspective. And again the book out tonight why wouldn`t you want a Malcolm Nance book, I would. "The Plot to Betray America" if you are into it thanks for joining us. My bribery break down is next. Hope you stick around.
MELBER: We are now officially hours away from the first public impeachment hearing for President Trump. So why is Trump so close to impeachment? What would Congress impeach him for? That`s not a rhetorical question. House Democrats have argued Trump has broken more than one law and violated the constitution several times over. But impeachment remains a grave and constitutionally mandated act.
Congress must choose only impeachable defined offenses. And now on the cusp of these hearings keep in mind even after the Mueller report and even after this Ukraine whistleblower news broke into the open, many top Democrats remained pretty vague, perhaps deliberately vague about what exactly they might impeach Trump for?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The President`s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA): The more that they fight to try to prevent and obstruct the lawful functions of Congress, the more they`re going to make a case for impeachment on obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Congress can impeach for obstruction of justice and abuse of power in general. And the impeachment probes of say Nixon or Clinton they pursued several articles of impeachment including obstruction. But as this evidence piles up in Ukraine scandal, including the televised confessions from both President Trump and Chief of Staff Mulvaney, I think it became clear that these strongest impeachment cases on these facts is specifically for bribery.
Let me explain. On the facts, well it`s because of the evidence. And on the law, it`s because of the constitution, which only lists two specific offenses as impeachable. Treason and bribery. So unlike other allegations no one can deny that bribery is impeachable because the constitution says it is. The case here is that Donald Trump abused his official powers to demand a bribe from Ukraine asking for that favor to go after Trump`s rival Joe Biden, a request Donald Trump himself admits.
As this story unfolded most people weren`t really talking about bribery in D.C. I found that odd given this case, so I did what we all do around here sometimes. I reported out the bribery case on air and then about three weeks ago I wrote it up in this article for "The Washington Post". Bribery is right there in the constitution, Trump could be impeached for that.
Here`s how I put it then. Democrats haven`t settled on a core legal rational for impeachment, which is striking considering the constitution`s answer is staring them in the face. Trump`s actions regarding Ukraine appear to fit one of the few offenses the constitution specifically lists as impeachable, bribery.
Focusing on bribery also distinguishing this from the two other impeachment votes in all of history for President`s Clinton and Johnson, which often bog down by questions of what defines a high crime or misdemeanor in the constitution.
Let me tell you something. And you might hear these debates in the coming weeks. Honestly, no one can say for sure because the constitution itself doesn`t say. One of the fascinating parts about living in 2019 is I think we`re all exploring these together sometimes and it feels like America basically is going through law school together as we study different abuses and allegations against Trump and his officials and some of his convicted aids.
Well, here on MSNBC we get to hear from all experts and a lot of prosecutors. Take David Kelly, Former top prosecutor from the Southern District of New York. Well, he had that same job that you`ve heard of from Rudy Giuliani a big post. When we were talking to him about all this, he told us most defendants in a bribery case facing the evidence against Trump right now they wouldn`t even make it to trial. They would plead guilty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID KELLY, FORMER U.S. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I doubt that this is a case that would really go to trial when confronted with all the evidence a reasonable defendant would likely take the plea.
MELBER: You are saying someone presented with this evidence--
KELLY: It is pretty damning evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Damning evidence and bribery is impeachable and there is lots of evidence of bribery. That brings us tonight on the eve of this first impeachment hearings the Democrats` point person on impeachment Adam Schiff coming out to unveil a potential frame work for how Congress may now impeach President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: First of all, as the founders understood bribery, it was not as we understand it in law today. It was much broader. It connoted the breach of the public trust in a way where you`re offering official acts for some personal or political reason, not in the nation`s interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is from Chairman Schiff`s new NPR interview, which is making new headlines about Democrats right here potentially impeachable offenses include bribery against Trump. Why is Schiff saying this now heading into the first hearing? Is he trying to shape how his colleagues run the questions tomorrow and what the public, what you should listen for? Is the Congress aiming for a narrow or broader set of articles for impeachment? I don`t know. But our next guest might. Former Federal Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner joins me next.
MELBER: We are back. I want to welcome Former Federal Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner. Sir, as mentioned, there were many arguments about what is potentially impeachment. I laid out the bribery case a few weeks ago. What do you make of particularly Adam Schiff who is so pivotal rising here raising that tonight and will it be relevant in the questioning tomorrow?
KIRSCHNER: You were right three weeks ago and you are right tonight about focusing on bribery. Let me do this. Let me just tweak the facts a little bit to try to make it crystal clear why what President Trump did is, in fact, bribery. And then we`ll come back to the actual facts and talk about those.
Let`s assume that this $400 million, nearly $400 million that Congress had appropriated that was supposed to go to Ukraine to help protect against Russian aggression. Let`s assume the President in his discussion with President Zelensky said I`m going to give you this $400 million, but only if you give me a $1 million kickback.
KIRSCHNER: I think everybody would recognize that`s bribery. That`s an abuse of office. That`s a violation of the public trust. That`s impeachable.
MELBER: And to your point, the political kickback was way more valuable than $1 million.
KIRSCHNER: Exactly. That`s where I want to go because everybody would say under that hypothetical, oh, my goodness, that`s an impeachable offense. Let`s talk about what the President actually did. He said, I will give you these $400 million, but only if you essentially stand in front of a camera and announce a criminal investigation into my political opponent.
Let`s think about how much more valuable than a million dollar that is to President Trump. First of all, he wants to be re-elected in the worst way for a couple of reasons. One, I think he wants to keep having all of that emoluments clause cheese rolling in courtesy of him exploiting his properties.
But even more importantly, what we haven`t discussed recently is the only way President Trump avoids prison is to remain President because we can`t indict a sitting President. The only way he can be indicted, charged criminally, tried, convicted and imprisoned under the OLC memo, ill-advised though it may be, is if he`s no longer the sitting President.
So how much more valuable than a million dollar kickback, which we all acknowledge would be wrong, is what he was proposing to the President Zelensky, help me unfairly win re-election. Ari as you have been saying, that`s bribery all along. It`s misuse of his government official position in order to get a personal benefit to him. And there is no greater benefit than getting re-elected.
MELBER: Yes. Especially in this context. It is really striking. It obviously struck my ear what Congressman Schiff said today. We had two members of Congress earlier in the show who sounded like what other Democrats it sound like a few weeks ago which, hey, there is a menu. There is a lot of things. I think prosecutors like you know if you`re pushing the case, you need to be crystal clear about what`s more important. The jury walks out of there often with one idea than four or five. I got to hand it over to Brian Williams. Glenn, until, thank you for joining me tonight.
KIRSCHNER: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Yes sir. That`s tonight`s "Last Word" I want to tell you MSNBC`s special coverage of these hearings tomorrow begins at 9:00 am eastern.-