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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 1/25/21

Guests: Adam Jentleson, Hakeem Jeffries, Katty Kay


The House impeachment article against Donald Trump for inciting insurrection is set to be presented to the Senate. A new investigation reveals that Donald Trump attempted to have the DOJ help override the election results. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries discusses the upcoming impeachment trial of former President Trump.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much.

I am Ari Melber. And welcome to a special edition of THE BEAT, as the House impeachment against Donald Trump for inciting insurrection will be presented to the Senate tonight in this hour.

It will be a rare and solemn process, where the building you see right now, the U.S. Capitol, will be stretched across two different roles, the symbolic seat of our democracy and the crime scene at issue in a trial that could ban Donald Trump from public office for life.

Tonight`s developments come amidst new evidence against Trump, showing how he whipped his fans into a frenzy as they screamed about storming and taking the Capitol in the moments before they did exactly that in the attack that left five dead.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to walk down to the Capitol.

We`re going to walk down to the Capitol.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Storm the Capitol!

TRUMP: And we`re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we`re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you`ll never take back our country with weakness.

You have to show strength.



TRUMP: And you have to be strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Invade the Capitol Building.

TRUMP: We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s take the Capitol!


MELBER: That documentary footage is from the outlet Just Security, which notes it may be trial evidence, just as the footage of Trump fans demanding the assassination of Mike Pence and other officials continues to overlap with major investigations of ongoing and new threats against lawmakers, which cite ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol.

This is new and ongoing, although it does sound like what was going down on January 6.

Now, when these House members walk the impeachment over tonight in this hour, they will do so in a different world compared to the last impeachment. In terms of power, the managers enter a Senate now controlled by Democrats, after voters threw Trump`s Republican Party out.

In terms of evidence, they face senators who were witnesses to the crime spree in their chamber. In terms of the man on trial, well, he now has no federal powers, no government lawyers, no leverage over any future interbranch battles.

Then there is, of course, security that hangs over all of this. And this trial will be more fortified than the last one for the very reason there is a trial in the first place. Trump fans attacked the police and government and made the Capitol a more dangerous and ominous place.

There`s no debate about that fact. Part of the Trump MAGA movement put Washington on the siege footing that it has been using as a matter of security and protection since January 7. In fact, we can report tonight that over 5,000 National Guard members are stationed in Washington through the entire trial.

So, the debate and question that does face the Senate is about whether Donald Trump committed a high crime on January 6 and, if so, whether a former president found guilty of attacking the government should ever be trusted to lead it again.

Now, if you`re watching the news, if you remember this inauguration last week, if you lived through 2020 or 2021`s beginning, you already know that`s not the only challenge America faces right now. President Biden already at work on this, the first Monday of the first full week of his presidency.

And we do have reporting in a moment on his actions, including a major change he`s making to military policy.

But, tonight, this newly elected Democratic House is delivering a project that may matter more to democracy than anything else this year or this term. On the subject of accountability and tyranny and deterring any future insurrections, well, there`s wisdom we could quote from across history on governance, from Aristotle to Jefferson to MLK.

But the notion that an ex-president could do this much to end your democracy and overturn your vote, and do it out in the open, and then might get away with it, well, if that`s allowed, the repercussions are far larger than him or history.

And so, while I mentioned many sources of wisdom we could turn to tonight, I will take a quote on the importance of all this from just a recent piece by an American observing all this, a blogger who goes by Doug Porter, who warned simply: "If Trump`s coup attempt goes unpunished, it will become a training exercise."

We are joined now by former Mueller prosecutor and longtime federal prosecutor with FBI experience Andrew Weissmann, Obama pollster Cornell Belcher, and BBC Washington correspondent Katty Kay.

Andrew, I quote that straightforward thought. I`m curious your reaction.

ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I think that`s getting at something important, which is that, on one hand, you can have people saying you need to move on and that it`s important to sort of focus on the future, but, if you do that, you are ignoring the importance of deterrence, in other words, the message that you`re sending to future presidents, future people who might do this.

And I`m of the view that you really don`t move on unless there`s accountability. And it`s important for the president to be held to account and for former presidents to be held to account, just as they are in other Western democracies.

MELBER: In your experience in federal law enforcement, is that a commonplace approach, to say, if there was a wanton repeated criminal conspiracy carried out in public, that, for other reasons, like it would be easier or more convenient or nicer, that you just kind of let all those crimes go?

WEISSMANN: No, I mean, you would never have that view in a normal criminal case.

This is not a normal criminal case. This is -- right now, we`re talking about an impeachment. There is a separate issue about whether the president is going to be charged criminally. I do think one thing that is of note is that the attorney general nominee is a federal judge who`s been a judge for quite a long time.

And I think the way that judges approach this is to really not think about what is the sort of immediate effect, but to think long term about, what is the precedential value? And I think that cuts in favor of really thinking about, what happens here if you don`t hold a president to account? And you leave aside the personality of the particular president at issue.


And, Cornell, the evidence that continues to come out has made January 6 look like an even worse day than it was. And so many Americans were horrified with what they saw day of. Take a look at more of this video I mentioned, newly unearthed from Just Security.


CROWD: Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!

RIOTER: Dude, let`s tell Trump what`s up. He will be happy. What do mean? We`re fighting for Trump.

RIOTER: We were invited here!

RIOTER: They`re meeting, so you can take that oath. They`re meeting, so you can take that oath.

RIOTER: We were invited by the president of the United States!

You`re outnumbered. There`s a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) million of us out there. And we are listening to Trump, your boss.


MELBER: Cornell, when you look at American history, which has always had an extremely intense debate over what justice means, what civil rights mean, how these rights are protected or desecrated, either by individual mob action or at times by the government itself, what`s important to you, as this solemn occasion is marked, again, during this hour tonight?

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what`s important to me, Ari, is that we have one justice -- system of justice and the rule of law.

I mean, the whole idea that we should just let this go, I mean, to pick up on what you were just talking about, I mean, in this country, we don`t just let crimes go. And, certainly, we don`t let crimes go for people who look like me.

And I know this has been beat over and over again, but it`s just startling to me, because none of the people who are saying, well, let`s just move on or let`s just let this go would be saying this if it was -- Barack Obama had mobilized Black Lives Matters protesters and sent them to the Capitol to overthrow the government.

We would not be at all having conversations about just let this go or let`s just move on for the better of the country. There is two justice systems at work in this country. And one sort of works differently for people of privilege, particularly people of privilege like Donald Trump, with the privilege of money and their white maleness.

And that is on full display here. So, what`s for -- at stake here to me is really are we going to have one justice system? Are we going to have -- are we all equal under the law or not?


And before I move into what else is happening in Washington, which is also important, and bring in Katty on that, before I lose counselor Weissmann, I did want to play what one of the House managers told me. We just spoke. So, this is -- I want to air this for folks, really getting into the sanction, the idea that this is not about relitigating anything for historical reasons, but it`s about the future and whether Donald Trump will be disqualified.

Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What he has done is unworthy of the office. It is not a right for him to be president. And in talking through some of the arguments that my colleagues or others would make, we are not just asking for the removal of the president.

We are asking for the disqualification. And this trial, while we are trying Donald Trump, we are saying to the world, to all Americans that this kind of action will not stand.


MELBER: This goes to exactly what is in the text of the Constitution.

Andrew, I don`t know if you know this rumor about you, but some people say the only person who studies the founding fathers more than you is Lin- Manuel Miranda. You don`t have to comment on that one way or the other.


MELBER: But if you could give us your view of, why are the House managers emphasizing the fact that this isn`t their idea, this is not some new brainstorm, but the founders explicitly provided the Senate this power, obviously, to be rarely used, hopefully, but they did authorize this power to say that if a public official, a judge, or a president abused power, they could be barred from ever getting power again?

WEISSMANN: I think there is a practical reason, and I think there is sort of factual reason.

The practical reason is to make this a live issue where you`re not just thinking oh, why do we need to have an impeachment, because we`re not seeking to remove a president, he is already out of office, is that there is a live issue about whether he could ever serve again.

And that is why this is something that is still legally relevant. Factually, it`s important, because there really is a through-line to the Trump presidency. If you start it at sort of the obstruction of the Mueller investigation, through the Ukraine call, through just his pressuring the vice president and now we know the Department of Justice, this is somebody who is the antithesis of faithfully executing the laws.

And that is what a president is sworn to do. And by the Constitution, Congress has the power to say, that conduct is disqualifying from ever holding office again. And that`s going to be their burden to -- in this impeachment trial.

MELBER: Counselor, thank you very much for kicking off our coverage.

The rest of our panel stays.

Katty Kay`s been keeping an eye on Washington for us, and I want to show folks what President Biden is up to, the Cabinet starting to take shape. The Senate Foreign Relations process is going forward voting on the secretary of state pick. The full Senate also at work voting on whether to confirm Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary.

That`s not all. Biden issued a new executive order to lift a controversial ban on people who identify as transgender from ever serving in the military. That can affect more than 10,000 service members, all important stuff.

Separately, Biden also directing the federal government to emphasize and pursue the purchase of more products manufactured inside the United States.

Cornell stays and we turn to Katty Kay, who`s tracking all of this, as well as what it means in the context of a very different Washington right now.


KATTY KAY, BBC NEWS: Yes, I mean, I think it took a couple of days of the normalcy after Joe Biden was sworn into office for us to realize how abnormal the last four years had been.

All of those things that you just mentioned were carried out, Ari, in a way that seemed sort of functioning and average. Right? That is how government is supposed to work. We didn`t wake up every morning to a kind of Twitterstorm or to chaos or to tumult or somebody being fired from the Trump administration within the first few days of going into office or some kind of scandal.

Instead, the focus here in D.C. has been very much on policy and what -- the Biden administration is going. Now, there is a risk for the White House that, as we head into the impeachment trial in a couple of weeks` time, some of the focus shifts back to Donald Trump. And it`s a risk that the Biden administration is acutely aware of.

This is a process they have to go through for all of the reasons that you have just outlined. But they know that it is going to shift the focus back to Donald Trump and make the calls that Joe Biden has been making about unity and bipartisanship even harder to achieve.

Now, they may have been impossible to achieve anyway, but it won`t make it any easier as they head into that impeachment trial.

MELBER: And, Katty, how do you read the debate of the day right now, which is really the same debate that greeted Cornell`s old boss, President Obama, in `09, which is, how much good faith bipartisan outreach do you do, even if you really mean it, you really want it, when you have Senator McConnell and others, Cruz, Hawley, in the Senate?

Because -- and I`m sure Cornell will eventually want to get in on this, but I go to you first -- there are some progressives who are already saying, why does Joe Biden sound like a "Jurassic Park" mosquito locked in amber from 2009?

We get it, you`re nice, you love unity, we love that you love unity. They don`t want to be unified with you.

What do you think about that debate?

KAY: Right.

Yes, there are definitely Democrats on the progressive side and those who have PTSD from 2009 saying to the Biden administration, you have a short window here. You have a very short window here and you have to get through as much of your progressive agenda as possible in that short window, because the Republican side is never going to come over to you.

And the speed with which Republicans do appear to have moved on from January the 6th, I think, is an indication that any thought that there was on January the 7th or January the 8th that maybe this was a chastised Republican Party with whom Joe Biden could work because they had seen where the party could head if given the kind of full Trumpian free rein, that`s kind of gone.

I had a conversation with Denver Riggleman, who was the former congressman from Virginia, today. He said it`s just astonishing how much anger there is out there amongst the Trump base, how it`s really vicious and a real risk, why we`re having National Guard troops in Washington. There is a real security risk to any Republicans who dare to say they are prepared to work with the Biden administration.


KAY: So, yes, those cries for progressive action are only going to get louder.


BELCHER: Can I get in on this, Ari?

MELBER: Katty makes -- oh, I know you want in. I was just going to say Katty makes a fair point that, if you thought these folks were angry winners when Trump took the Electoral College, how`s it going as angry losers?

But, no, I know you want in on the mosquito in amber. Go ahead, sir.

BELCHER: Well, here`s the problem.

It is, they`re only to a certain extent reflecting their political reality. If you look at over 70 percent of Republicans, right now, they identify more with supporting Trump than they did identify with supporting Republicans, the Republican Party, right now.

And you look at those 10 Republicans who were for impeachment, and they`re all being censured. They`re all being -- they`re going to have primary challenges. They`re being attacked by their grassroots there. And so, look, it is Trump`s party. It is not the Republican Party anymore.

And, to a certain extent, they`re going to have to go along with this craziness and ride this wave of craziness if they want to remain in elected office, because, as you know, Ari, most incumbents don`t lose in a general election. They lose nowadays in primaries, whether it be on the left or the right, because of gerrymandering.

And so a lot of sort of the courage that we keep asking these Republicans to have, I think it`s tough for them politically, because they`re no longer within the Republican Party. It is Donald Trump`s party right now. You have got 20 percent -- only 20 percent of Republicans from "The Washington Post" polling believe that Joe Biden won the election.

Think about that, just 20 percent of them. So the vast majority of the Republicans right now, they are the Donald Trump party. They`re not the Republican Party anymore. So, we are in for a lot of polarization and a lot of, quite frankly, people on the right who are not going to try to get along with Democrats, who are not going to try to work with Biden, because 70 percent of their base, they don`t think Biden is a legitimate president.

MELBER: Yes. And that may hang over a lot of this.

I want to thank Andrew Weissmann, who was with us, Katty Kay, and Cornell, who may rejoin us as we track the House movements this hour.

We have our shortest break of the hour right now, just 30 seconds.

But coming up, why McConnell`s obstruction bid may backfire.

A new investigation with real teeth over this bombshell "New York Times" report that Donald Trump was trying to have the DOJ help override the election results. Neal Katyal is here.

And later, our live interview. We`re very excited to have Hakeem Jeffries back on the program, as we head into the handing off of the impeachment.

We`re back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: In Washington tonight, all eyes on what`s about to happen, the article of impeachment walked over to the Senate by Democrats, a trial looming in what is still, of course, a 50/50 split Senate that Democrats will control with the help of Vice President Harris.

Now, one reason the trial starts in two weeks is the Biden agenda, his first major bill putting a trillion dollars into COVID and jobs relief.

Meanwhile, a newly minted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell shows that old habits die hard. We just touched on him briefly in the opening of the program. Well, look at what he`s doing now. He says he won`t even agree to a standard power-sharing agreement, which will stop the 50-50 Senate to a halt. And, in the meantime, until they work something out, the old committee chairs who were Republicans from last year stay in power.

Now, Mitch McConnell has touted himself as the Grim Reaper. That`s not some nickname we`re using. That`s his own self-nickname, if you ever know anyone who gives himself nicknames, but it`s his point of saying he will always put to death Democratic ideas, he will play hardball, and he will hold on tight to the antiquated filibuster that has turned, under abuse, into something of a permanent supermajority requirement.

McConnell now is hoping the longer he can just keep the Senate at an impasse over these rules may slow down the jump-start of the Biden agenda. Now, McConnell did lose. He`s in the minority. The Democrats have a range of powers to deal with the Grim Reaper. Will they use them?

We have a very special conversation planned right now. We`re going to learn something, because we`re joined by Adam Jentleson, who had the powerful position as deputy chief of staff to Senate Leader Harry Reid. We are also joined by Jason Johnson.

I should mention Adam`s new book is "Kill Switch" about the filibuster as a political weapon.

Jason, how are you doing?

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I`m feeling good. I`m feeling good. We have a new functional democracy. It puts a smile on my face.

MELBER: Your thoughts first on this impasse with McConnell?

JOHNSON: I mean, it`s to be expected.

And, look, Ari, we have been saying this from jump. If Joe Biden thought he was going to come in and be able to sort of chum it up with some of these senators on the Republican side because they used to play squash and racquetball back in the `90s, this is throwing water in his face.

And he should know that this is just the beginning. Mitch McConnell will look through every single arcane rule he can. He will look through every single dusty parliamentary piece of parchment he can get his hands on to keep the transfer of power from being functional.

So I`m not surprised about this filibuster rule. I`m not surprised he`s going to be difficult in other ways. But I think the Democrats need to make sure that everything that they do is put through policy-wise with the assumption that Republicans will not work with them.

They cannot ever assume they will be able to work with Republicans, and they can`t ever assume that, even if Republicans say that they will work with them, that they will actually follow through when it comes time to vote.

MELBER: And so that`s, I think, a take that a lot of viewers can understand from someone in the news, Jason Johnson, that people know.

Adam, people may know -- some people may know you less because you were busy working inside government, behind the scenes. You`re here tonight because you know how some of these rules work better than just about anyone.

Please explain to us what you see as the actual options for the Democrats if they`re united, because people would rightly ask, OK, I get that it`s close, but, if you won Georgia, and Mitch McConnell`s just holding out, can they roll him and reform the filibuster now?

ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER HARRY REID DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: They can roll him and reform the filibuster now, if they choose to.

The question is whether they will choose to do that. I think that`s probably unlikely on this immediate fight, but I think that`s likely to come to a head...

MELBER: Let me just start you, though -- yes, just let me start you, though, on the rules.


MELBER: You`re saying, though, that if they hold the 50 votes, they could just say to Mitch McConnell...


MELBER: ... oh, I understand you want to keep the filibuster; 50 of us have the answer is no, and they can go right ahead today if they want. Is that right under the rules?


MELBER: Walk us through how that would work. And then bring us up to your other point.


So, that -- what you just described is what`s commonly known, somewhat hyperbolically, as the nuclear option. But this is the decision by the Senate to cast a vote on a majority vote basis to change the rules.

This can be done at any time. This is what Senator Reid did to lower the threshold to a simple majority for passing nominations in 2013. It`s what Senator McConnell did to lower the threshold for confirming Supreme Court nominations in 2017.

So, if Democrats decide they want to do it, it is completely within their power to tell McConnell to take a hike on the organizing resolution, bring the resolution that they would like to see passed to the floor. When it`s blocked by Republicans, because, under current rules, it needs 60 votes to pass -- when it fails to get 60 votes, Democrats can then implement this nuclear option of voting by a majority vote to change Senate rules and allow that organizing resolution and everything else legislatively to pass on a majority vote basis.

That would essentially get rid of the filibuster, at least in its modern version, where it requires you to get 60 votes to pass things.

MELBER: And so what you`re educating us on, because it gets into the weeds, is while, technically, there is a standoff under these rules, and if it were last year, the Democrats wouldn`t be able to necessarily change that. That`s the leverage McConnell`s using.

Because we`re at the start of the new Senate, if they want to, they can just do what you just described. The parliamentarian rules that as allowed, new sheriff in town, new rules. You know the old expression in parliamentary procedure. I`m sure you do, Adam. New rules, who dis?

JENTLESON: Yes. That`s a common procedure. I think it`s Robert`s Rules of Order.

MELBER: Yes, well-known.

JENTLESON: Yes, somewhere near towards the middle, yes.

MELBER: Yes, Robert`s Rules of Order.

JENTLESON: Yes, yes.


MELBER: So, now I give you the floor back. Let me give you the floor back for where I think you were going, which is, anyone hearing this then says, OK, you won the election. We know what we just lived through. You have the power to do it.

Why aren`t they doing it yet? Should they do it? As an insider, you`re familiar with these things. What do you think?

And then, Jason, your thoughts as well.

JENTLESON: I think the short answer as to why they`re not doing it is they don`t currently have the votes to do it. There are some Senate Democrats who are reluctant to take this maneuver and take it this far.

Just today, Senator Sinema from Arizona said he had doesn`t want to do it. Joe Manchin has been very vocal that he doesn`t want to do it. And this is going to be a process. And, look, if Republicans decide to cooperate all of a sudden, I think this is very unlikely, then I think it won`t happen.

But I think what`s likely to happen is that Republicans will continue to obstruct. Mitch McConnell decided to manufacture this fight over the organizing resolution out of nowhere. He could have just passed it. You know, so they`re picking fights everywhere they can. They`re obstructing Biden and obstructing Senate Democrats.

Democrats, as you said, are now in control. They can set the rules. The Senate, as I explained in the book, is an evolving body. This has been many times before. It is entirely within keeping of the traditions of the institution to choose to change the rules in this way.

You know, new Senate, new rules, who dis, that is actually something that used to be the case, where they would change the rules at the beginning of the Senate. So, you know, it`s entirely within keeping of the traditions of the institution if they wanted to do this. It`s just about finding the political courage and for circumstances to converge on Senate Democrats to force the issue and get them to yes.


And, Jason, it sounds like we`re talking about rules, and we are, but we`re also not.


MELBER: We`re talking about whether the will of the voters from November and December will be carried out on a majority basis or not.

We`re talking about whether this COVID bill for people who are hurting will be passed. We`re talking about a jobs bill. We`re talking about civil rights. We`re talking about police reform. We`re talking about the whole enchilada. And, as Adam`s showing everyone, Mitch McConnell has deliberately decided to make this the delay tactic now.

Your view, Jason?

JOHNSON: Stimulus checks, defund ICE, the Democrats can do whatever they like. They really can at this point. It`s just a matter of if they have got enough people who are willing to actually recognize power.

Like, when you have a party that seems to have been just getting beaten on by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans for so long, they don`t seem to recognize that they actually have a mandate from the American people. The elections in Georgia made it clear that, even after seeing the results, Americans wanted more of that Democratic stuff.

So, whether it`s Kyrsten Sinema or it`s Manchin of West Virginia, the Democrats have to rally together and recognize, we have got 18 months to actually show we know how to run this country. If they acquiesce to what Mitch McConnell wants, they will fail. And they won`t just fail to protect the country. They will fail to maintain their majority, because, in two years, they will lose some of these seats, they will lose some of these positions they`re in, if they haven`t shown the American people that they can govern and solve problems.

MELBER: And I just want to play one more thing.

I`m running over on time, but we did pull something that I think people should see. And it goes to Adam`s point, which is factual, not partisan, which is, there`s been 50-50 Senate splits before. Previously, they moved forward. There was no person like McConnell trying to demand one more hostage.

This is Daschle and Lott, 2001, 50-50 split. Take a look.


FMR. SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD): This really comes down to two words, good faith. I hope not only by our actions today, but by our actions over the course of the next two years, we can demonstrate without equivocation that that good faith was warranted.

FMR. SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS): We have sought common ground, and we have been able to find it.


MELBER: Adam, just in a final moment we have here, in a sentence or two, your bottom line of what that shows compared to McConnell today?


That was a different era. It`s -- the partisan polarization that has set in on the Senate is far more severe today than even it was 20 years ago. Republicans, every incentive -- I mean, you can blame them for -- because they`re human beings who are making these choices in their lives.

But the incentives that are operating on them, that are pulling them to obstruct are so powerful, that it`s impossible to expect them to overcome them. I`m not saying that excuses them, but that`s a reality that Democrats need to face and construct their strategy accordingly.


I want to thank Jason and Adam, whose new book, again, is "Kill Switch," if you want that inside perspective.

We`re going to fit in a break, but up ahead, this impeachment article`s headed to the Senate. And a leader of the Democrats, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, a former impeachment manager, is here.

We also have an update on the bombshell reporting that Donald Trump was trying to get the DOJ to illegally steal the election. That`s new.

Neal Katyal when we return.


MELBER: Tracking developing news in the House.

We`re moments away from the impeachment managers walking over the article of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate.

Meanwhile, just now, in our hour, the Senate has formally confirmed Janet Yellen as President Biden`s new Treasury secretary. This is a reminder of what Congress is juggling. The vote was overwhelming, 84-15.

Tracking all of it for us right now is NBC`s Garrett Haake live on Capitol Hill.

What are you seeing in the preparations for this formal impeachment handoff?

GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is all pretty straightforward, Ari.

And, frankly, we have seen it throughout the course of the day. The impeachment managers are on something of a media blitz, appearing on our network and on others, giving a lot of interviews, really trying to keep some of the focus on this impeachment trial and the necessity of doing it and doing it fairly quickly.

We`re going to have this two-week delay. After tonight, this brief walk from one end of the Capitol to the other, the reading of the single impeachment article on the floor of the U.S. Senate, that`s it for what we will see in public of this trial.

The lawyers will be writing briefs. The president`s defense team, the former president`s defense team, will be preparing themselves for the trial. But this is kind of one last big public moment, public formal ceremony to kind of crystallize what is at stake here and to try to drive - - while there is a whole new administration and a whole new set of priorities that need to happen, drive home the importance and the solemnity of what happened here on the 6th, and the need, the impeachment managers have argued and will continue to argue, for there to be accountability for that moment, even as the country tries to move forward into this new administration.

MELBER: Garrett Haake, I know you`re going to be busy for many days to come, including when this trial kicks off. Thank you, sir.

I want to show everyone what we`re looking at. The floor of the Senate will become a courtroom, senators sworn in tomorrow. This is the same chamber, of course, overtaken by the rioters that Trump is charged with inciting.

Now, unlike the former president, some of those defendants are being incarcerated, we can tell you with new reporting tonight, before their own trials because courts have deemed them a danger for further attacks or fleeing.

Today, a federal judge blocking the release of the now infamous zip tie rioter before trial; 31 officers, meanwhile, in 12 different states face charges or reviews for links to the riot.

Now, as impeachment formally arrives at the Senate tonight, there`s new evidence and reporting that cuts against Donald Trump`s defense that this was perhaps some sort of random uprising. Now, everyone already knows Trump summoned these people to D.C., then met them at his rally, then told them to march on the Capitol.

These new videos we have been reporting on tonight show that Trump whipped the crowd into that frenzy as they literally chanted "Storm the Capitol."

Now, as he made that push, new reports show Trump was also trying to illegally take over federal powers to force the states somehow to steal the election for him. "The New York Times" with this bombshell heading into the weekend that Trump demanded the DOJ illegally try to -- quote -- "force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results."

Now, all of this may sound familiar if you followed it in real time. But this particular piece of the story, which "The Times" broke, as I mentioned, heading into the weekend, it goes farther than a lot of other reporting to show the illegal plot to steal the race, that it was serious, the intention was to stay in power and end American democracy.

Trump was, according to these accounts, fixated on abusing his potentially dwindling power, if he failed, to somehow overturn the results on that key day of January 6, when the insurrection occurred.

That`s not all. "The Times" documents that these demands were so clearly illegal, not a jump ball or a lawyer`s debate, but so clearly criminal, that Bill Barr`s replacement, acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, just refused and other DOJ officials and Trump appointees threatened mass resignations for a Nixon-style Saturday Night Massacre if Trump pressed forward on that.

So, will there be consequences? Well, today, the watchdog for the DOJ announcing a new probe into exactly these kind of election plots. That office has the power to make criminal referrals, which could put scrutiny on Trump loyalists if they broke rules or laws supporting that autocratic plot.

As for the ex-president himself, Speaker Pelosi says that all of these reports serve to show credit the impeachment is necessary, regardless of whether people feel like judging Donald Trump anymore or paying attention to Donald Trump anymore and also regardless of whether it may politically help or hurt the new Biden administration.

The argument, as we head into this trial, as we wait for these articles to go forward tonight, is one we should all consider in good faith as citizens. We have to work together and reason things out.

The argument is that this is bigger than all of those other feelings or politics people may consider right now. The argument is that the plot was to end democracy in America, the plot including alleged abuse of power, alleged incitement of insurrection, and five people already dead.

The argument is that, if this is not worth the government`s time to prevent the next would-be autocrat, what exactly is?

We turn to a very special guest for exactly this type of high-level constitutional discussion, the former U.S. acting solicitor general under the Obama administration Neal Katyal.

Neal, I put that question to you, as well as your view of the potential significance of that "New York Times" report.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I thought you put it beautifully.

I mean, if impeachment isn`t for this, what`s it for? And Senator Romney said something very similar. And I`m disappointed in the Republicans, because I think, on January 6, they looked into the mirror and said, what am I complicit with? And I think there was a moment of reckoning.

But, as days go on, they seem to be moving from it.

But the one thing I think, Ari, and you and I as lawyers appreciate this, trials change minds. And we`re going to have a real trial. We`re going to have real witnesses, unlike last time around, when they prevented any witnesses from coming forth.

And once those witnesses happen, I think minds can be changed. And I don`t think that the FOX, OAN, Newsmax distraction machine is going to be able to save them once we hear that testimony under oath.

Now, with respect to the Justice Department story, I mean, even by Trump standards, Ari, it`s a crazy story. And I`m not sure what`s -- of the numbers, which is higher, the number of times that Joe Biden won Georgia or the number of impeachable offenses that Trump committed while trying to do so.

And that`s Trump. But, you know, the story here is, to me, the most significant story in the Justice Department in 50 years, that the president was pushing the Justice Department to the point of saying he was going to replace the acting attorney general with one of the subordinates who would do his business and interfere with the Georgia election.

I mean, that is breathtaking. That`s Putin-esque.

MELBER: Yes, I`m glad you put your finger on that, because, again, I`m not blind and deaf to what`s going on in an evolution and the exhalation many Americans felt on Wednesday. But those feelings, emotional, political, or otherwise, cannot guide the constitutional rule of law.

And so, as you remind everyone, multiple abuses of power to steal the election, and a question about whether others -- as I mentioned, it`s under investigation now, whether any others, follow the evidence, participated in that criminal plot. There are people in prison tonight, separate from their families, sleeping in those hard beds, waiting to hopefully get out someday, for a single instance of mistaken or non-malicious voter fraud, in the rare cases where it occurs on an individual basis.

There are people in prison for dime bags. There are people in prison for tax mistakes. We are talking about people who, as you know from serving in government, held these posts, and we have to follow the evidence, but the question being, did they break the law?

You mentioned Georgia. I want to play a little bit to remind everyone the context. This is what the president was secretly doing on that Georgia call. Take a listen.


TRUMP: So, look, all I want to do is this.

I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.

The people of the country are angry. And there`s nothing wrong with saying that you have recalculated.



KATYAL: So, Ari, now that is the subject of a separate inspector general investigation into whether Trump pressured the U.S. attorney, the federal prosecutor in Atlanta.

And then today, as you reported, there`s a new inspector general investigation into all this stuff about the Justice Department and trying to fire the acting attorney general and the like, and heaven knows what else. I mean, we`re only five days into the new administration and already these massive shoes have dropped. So, who knows what`s next?

I think the one thing that people haven`t focused on is the role of Bill Barr from all of this, because the reports from "The New York Times" and other places are that Barr was facing all of this pressure from Trump starting right after the election to interfere in Georgia and the like.

And I guess, to his modest credit, he didn`t do it while he was there. But what did he do in the face of all that pressure? He packed up his bags and went home and quit. He didn`t, like, stop it or anything like that. He left it for his deputy.

I mean, what a historic abdication of responsibility by the attorney general, Bill Barr. I mean, this guy doesn`t deserve to carry a copy of the Constitution around for the rest of his life. That is not the way to behave in the face of an unprecedented threat.

And the president -- if you`re the attorney general, and the president is trying to do these machinations, you stop them. You don`t just leave and leave it to your deputy to try and clean up your mess.


Neal Katyal, thank you, as always, for your insights.

I want to remind everyone, you can go to for this and other highlights of Neal`s legal analysis, so relevant right now.

We also want to show you what we`re seeing here in Congress, as the impeachment article against Trump is prepared to be delivered to the Senate here within moments. They will make that walk on Capitol Hill.

And we have a former impeachment manager and current member of Pelosi`s leadership team, Congressman Jeffries, right after this break.


MELBER: Welcome back to our special coverage. I`m Ari Melber.

We are moments away from the delivery of the second House article of impeachment of Donald Trump.

And we`re joined by New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. He`s a member of Speaker Pelosi`s Democratic leadership. He was one of the impeachment managers who did that solemn march that we are about to watch again tonight.

Thank you for being here, sir.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Good evening, Ari. Great to be with you, as always.

MELBER: Great to have you.

I have been able to speak to some of your colleagues. We have heard from many people about why this is solemn, why it`s not a time for any political rejoicing, and why, as I reminded viewers earlier in the hour, it may or may not help the Democrats politically. If you take a constitutional approach, that shouldn`t matter anyway.

So, what is on your mind as your colleagues go through this process in moments?

JEFFRIES: It`s a serious and solemn and sober moment.

I recall taking the walk myself, led by Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler and the other impeachment managers.

And I was overcome when I walked into that Senate chamber with a feeling of great constitutional responsibility, feeling as though the moment where the rule of law should prevail and we need to hold the president accountable for his out-of-control abuse of power in that instance, and, in this particular instance, inciting a violent attack, an insurrection on the Capitol, is one of the reasons why we have a system of checks and balances and separate and co-equal branches of government, because the framers of the Constitution didn`t want a king.

They didn`t want a monarch. They didn`t want a dictator. They wanted a democracy. And when the democracy is spiraling out of control because of an out-of-control president, as was the case with Donald Trump, we needed to step in and respond.

And I think that is exactly what is going to take place over the next few weeks.

MELBER: Congressman, I want to play a little bit from the Trump side.

You`re a former manager and you`re a supporter of this impeachment. And we have heard from others on that view. But to cover a trial fairly of any kind, you have to hear all of the arguments.

And so this is from a White House veteran, who is also an attorney, making several arguments we`re going to hear, both about process and the assertion that, because Donald Trump did at one pointer from to a peaceful March on January 6, that that`s part of their defense. Take a look briefly.


BORIS EPSHTEYN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You cannot remove a former president, and the only powers given are to remove and disqualify. The president, as I already said, specifically stated, march peacefully and patriotically, no incitement whatsoever.


MELBER: That`s the view there of the former White House official Boris Epshteyn.

Your response, sir?

JEFFRIES: Well, the most important thing to understand about the violent attack on the Capitol that Donald Trump incited is, why were the people there?

They were summoned to Washington by Donald Trump. He showed up to greet them, as you indicated, Ari, but most importantly, it was all because of a big lie that Donald Trump perpetrated that he actually won the election and the presidency was being stolen from him, notwithstanding the fact Donald Trump`s FBI concluded no evidence of voter fraud.

The Department of Justice concluded no evidence of voter fraud. Bill Barr, his former attorney general, no evidence of voter fraud. Republican elected officials all across the land, including in Georgia and Arizona, no evidence of voter fraud. Court decision after court decision after court decision written by Trump-appointed judges and/or Republican judges concluded no evidence of voter fraud, yet the lie persisted.

And that`s why there were people there, to stop the peaceful transfer of power, to storm the Capitol, because they actually believed the big lie. That was really where the incitement began.

And so, Ari, to point to one...


MELBER: Oh, go ahead. Sorry.

JEFFRIES: To point to word in a speech where he also encouraged them to show strength to take your country back, and had consistently done so, and had people talking about trial by combat and things of that nature, when you look at the totality of the incitement, to me, it`s clear the president must -- former president, twice impeached president, must be held accountable.

MELBER: Well, that -- I was thinking, as you were speaking, because you get me thinking, Congressman, that dovetails with something else I wanted to ask you about.

These are hard jobs that you all have. And when you go in there to make the argument to another co-equal part of the legislature, and you`re trying to convince these senators, you have a challenge ahead of you. You`re one of the few people who`s actually been tapped by Speaker Pelosi to do it.

And so I`m curious, as you look at what we`re about to watch momentarily, these other colleagues of yours making this march, and then they will be making the case, one of the things that may not have been a fair, a fully fair defense last time, but that seemed to work in the president`s lawyers favor, was this idea of, well, the bad thing Trump wanted to do, he didn`t finish the job. He didn`t get the Ukraine probe of Biden.

Now, anybody who has watched "Law & Order" or anything knows, yes, but an attempted crime is still bad. But it did seem to be a way that they tried to minimize. And it actually led to one of the more memorable exchanges that I could think of, and I have covered a lot of news.

I think you know where I`m going, Congressman. Shout-out to Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn -- when Jay Sekulow said, what are we even doing here, as if it was an absurdity because there was no Ukrainian probe.

And you clap back, quoting Biggie saying why they were there, how bad it was, and if you don`t know, now you know.

And while that was memorable, it also spoke to this idea of some people inclined to Trump`s view said, yes, was this even that bad?

How different is the case now, in your view, for your colleagues, when I don`t believe any fair-minded person can look in the eyes of the Capitol Police, who lost one of theirs, and look in the eyes of other Americans who are grieving the five dead, and act as if we have no idea why this is happening tonight and the next weeks. We all lived through it.

JEFFRIES: That`s a great point.

Not only did we all live through it as Americans. The senators lived through it. And so what`s interesting is that the senators are not just jurors, but they`re witnesses and victims. The Senate floor is not just a courtroom. It`s a crime scene at the same time.

And so I think it`s going to be very hard for the senators to bury their heads in the sand. I know that Congressman Raskin and the entire team will do a great job of presenting compelling evidence, video evidence, witness testimony, which is another thing that will be available to the impeachment managers that wasn`t available to us.

As you covered, Ari, they blocked, meaning the Senate Republicans, from hearing from live witnesses like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, who could have affirmed the abuse of power that we all know took place in trying to cheat in connection with the 2020 election.

They won`t be able to run away from the witnesses and the evidence in the same way that they did last year.

MELBER: Yes. And that goes to -- I don`t want to get too legally wonky, but there`s a thing in the law called an admission against interest.

If somebody says, I`m so great, I didn`t do it, that often is seen as less probative than if somebody somehow just admitted what they did or why they did it.

And I want to play a brief bit of sound that, as you mentioned, could be introduced as evidence.

We`re watching there, I believe, Senator McConnell making his way into the Senate chamber. We have not yet seen the House managers.

I want to play just a bit of sound on this point that seems to suggest these rioters, some of them, the attackers, knew why they were there,. Take a look.


TRUMP: We`re going to walk down to the Capitol.

We`re going to walk down to the Capitol.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Storm the Capitol!

TRUMP: And we`re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we`re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you`ll never take back our country with weakness.

You have to show strength.



TRUMP: And you have to be strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Invade the Capitol Building.

TRUMP: We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s take the Capitol!


MELBER: What evidence will your colleagues use to argue this wasn`t just a terrible tragedy, which I think fair-minded people can see, but that you believe you have the evidence to prove it was a tragedy that was directly caused by the ex-president?

JEFFRIES: Well, I don`t want to get ahead of the presentation of evidence by my colleagues as impeachment managers.

But I can speak to the things that we already know are in the public domain, which make it clear, such as the video and audio that you just showed, that many of those who violently attacked the Capitol knew exactly why they were present on January 6, planned to storm the Capitol.

The goal was to stop Congress from certifying the election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States of America. And they knew they couldn`t do that simply by participating in a rally and hearing speeches. They knew that their job, as Donald Trump directed, was to go to the Capitol and effectively show strength by storming it.

They were there to assassinate Nancy Pelosi, to hang Mike Pence, and to hunt down members of Congress, including those senators, like Mitch McConnell, presumably, who had previously indicated they weren`t going along with the objections.

To me, that`s why I believe that there will be a visceral reaction to the presentation of evidence once the trial starts that is going to make it hard for some senators to continue to bury their heads in the sand and to enable the type of outrageous behavior that we witnessed from Donald Trump for four years, and effectively affirm that, yes, he`s gone, so we feel like it`s still OK not to hold him accountable.

MELBER: The final question is the shortest, with 30 seconds.

Your tips to your colleagues about how to present in that Senate chamber?

JEFFRIES: Well, I think what`s important to know is that you`re speaking both to the senators and to the American people. And you want to keep both in mind.

And so, yes, weighty constitutional arguments are called for at a moment like this, but you also have to keep it straight, with no chaser, so that the American people get it. And I`m confident that the impeachment banners will do just that.

MELBER: Straight, no chaser, the final word from Congressman Jeffries.

Thank you, sir.

Our MSNBC special coverage continues now. We are seeing managers make their way through this hallowed chamber.

And Joy Reid picks up our live coverage now.