Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 2/14/22 (2024)

Table of Contents
Summary Transcript


Donald Trump`s accounting firm cuts ties with him. The January 6 Committee negotiates with Rudy Giuliani`s legal team. New numbers emerge on the vaccine gap between Democrats and Republicans. Backlash continues over Republicans` map power play in Florida.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Nicolle, welcome back.

WALLACE: Thanks.


MELBER: To tosses aren`t the same without you, even though I love those guest hosts as well.


MELBER: How are you feeling?

WALLACE: I missed you.

This thing is still out there. It`s a still a live wire. I did something I hadn`t done in two years. I ate inside. And I got COVID. So I got no wisdom. I got no lessons. I`m just glad I was vaccinated.

MELBER: Yes, I hear that. And I appreciate you sharing it. And I think everyone, myself included, is happy to have you back.

WALLACE: Thank you, friend.

MELBER: Absolutely. Nice to see you.

Nice to have Nicolle back.

And welcome to THE BEAT everyone. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin with some really interesting new developments. We all know Rudy Giuliani, the Trump ally, who had such a controversial approach to his election litigation. Well, he is reportedly in talks with the riot committee, "The New York Times" reporting that the extent of any potential cooperation or assistance is unclear.

Now, that`s a big caveat. But we will still get into why this is interesting and matters. And the negotiations could fall apart. But if talking leads to cooperating, it is viewed as a -- quote -- "major breakthrough" for the committee, which has been stonewalled by at least 18 Trump allies, Giuliani one of four members that Trump campaign legal team that faces subpoena.

You may recognize some of them. Two have been on this program, one recently, Boris Epshteyn.

Meanwhile, a committee member, Adam Kinzinger, who is one of the Republicans, says he does now expect to get Giuliani`s cooperation.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Our expectation is he is going to cooperate because that`s the law. That`s the requirement, same as if somebody is subpoenaed to court. There may be some changes in dates and moments here as lawyers do their back and forth.

But we fully expect that, in accordance with the law, we will hear from Rudy.


MELBER: That`s one view from the committee.

And Giuliani is more than a lawyer. Everybody knows that. He was the person willing to go the farthest who was on payroll, not just a random talker or pundit, in basically laying out the strategy whereby Donald Trump would somehow stay in power, despite losing.

He gave the press conferences that were so widely panned. He floated conspiracy theories that we have learned more about recently, including ones that went all the way up the line to pushing a potential military coup.

Now, it was Trump legal team member Boris Epstein, who I mentioned earlier, who admitted on THE BEAT that he was involved in a plot to overturn the election specifically through fake electors. That goes farther than lying in public, which can be lawful. Lying to the government or in forgeries, as we have reported, can be illegal.

And it was Epstein who made news here, saying out loud Giuliani led that whole scheme.


BORIS EPSHTEYN, FORMER TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN STRATEGIC ADVISER: Everything that was done was done legally by the Trump legal team by -- according to the rules, and under the leadership of Rudy Giuliani. We fought for the truth.


MELBER: That was his view. That`s how we put it.

That plot, though, is under investigation on a different track, a criminal probe by the Justice Department and states` attorneys general. So that is going on as Mr. Giuliani has also these high-stakes negotiations with the committee.

Meanwhile, Trump and his business are the subject of multiple probes. There`s something new on this tonight that overlaps, when you look at this style of what some call creative accounting and what other people call lying and what might be fraud, although that`s up to the courts to decide, because New York Attorney General Letitia James has this probe about inflation of assets by the Trump Organization.

And here`s something you don`t see every day, the very accounting firm that worked on all his cutting ties with Trump and says, in writing, it can no longer stand behind annual financial statements that it prepared for Trump and the Trump Organization.

It`s a lot flying together.

And we have some great guests to unpack it.

I`m joined by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal and Democratic strategist Juanita Tolliver.

Welcome to both of you.

More than one thing, but, Neal, walk us through the Giuliani news first.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: OK, well, from America`s mayor, to America`s crazy uncle, to America`s most wanted, to now potential cooperator?

Rudy Giuliani has truly done it off. I think there should be a dose of skepticism about this story, Ari. So it could be that Rudy is really thinking of cooperating, he`s afraid of these huge legal bills. Maybe he grew a conscience or whatever. But I think there`s always the possibility that Rudy is using these negotiations as a tactic to try and extort support from Trump and indeed even to pay his legal bills.


Now, on the other hand, that also might be giving Rudy too much credit, because we`re talking about a guy who couldn`t tell the difference between a hotel and a landscaper. But, nonetheless I think, at this point, Representative Kinzinger said what I expect him to say, which is, it`s the law. Come and tell the truth. It`s only the mob that doesn`t do that, when you have got a duly authorized investigation.

But, as you say, 18 people have refused. Am I to think that Rudy is the most conscientious of those now 19 people? I don`t know. Maybe.


I`m going to have you a bit on this. It`s a little in the weeds. But I think people are interested in the details, and you know them better than most lawyers, particularly given your high-level DOJ experience. There are valid claims that can be pushed.

People understand that Trump had a lot of invalid and ridiculous attempts at claims. But there are people in the White House who might have, for example, executive privilege as it pertains to real meetings, but not coup meetings, or legal privilege for actual attorney-client counsel, but not something that violates the crime-fraud exception and other things people heard so much about, that you can`t plot future crimes with your lawyer, and then hide behind privilege.

How much do you see Giuliani and these -- some of these lawyers attempting to do what Meadows did, which was to complicate or blur, ultimate lack of cooperation by saying, well, look at all the meetings and letters we exchanged about it?


So I think there are some barely plausible privilege claims in the whole corpus of events. None, I think, will get Rudy very far. But one is this notion of executive privilege. It`s a real concept, it goes back to the founding, that president shouldn`t have to turn over secret documents about like foreign treaty negotiations or something like that, unless there`s a compelling reason.

The problem for Rudy is twofold. One, the Supreme Court has already heard these executive privilege claims and rejected them 8-1 just two weeks ago. And, number two, Mark Meadows is different than Rudy Giuliani, because Rudy never had an official position with the government.

So it makes it really hard. The president, as the incumbent, is generally the one who decides executive privilege. President Biden has said, there is no executive privilege over this stuff. So I think that`s going nowhere.

Then you separately have attorney-client privilege. And Rudy, I guess, to some extent, is a lawyer. Now, as Representative Raskin pointed out earlier, when he first tried to speak with Giuliani, there are limits to attorney-client privilege.

And I think look, it`s probably pretty generous to say that Rudy`s counsel could be construed as privileged or even legal. But I suspect he can try and make those arguments. But there any number of exceptions to that, and, as you say, Ari, trying to launch a coup is not something that is privileged in any system of law with which I`m familiar.

MELBER: Yes, fair.

So we got Neal`s hot take on that legal break down.

I want to go to the hot tea, Juanita.


MELBER: Specifically, let`s say that you are -- let`s say you`re supportive of white supremacist terrorism. Let`s say that you look on January 6 as a day to root that on, which, sadly, there are individuals in and out of government who view it that way.

So I`m only being somewhat jaunty here when I show Senator Josh Hawley, who had that infamous raised fist before the violence, and the best defense he had was, well, maybe he didn`t know they were headed for actual violence.

But now that we know what we know, that he is, as viewers can see, hocking his own fist pump mug, where insurrectionists can drink hot tea or a beverage of choice, I`m curious about what you think of the evolving politics of all this. This mug was not available on January 7, when he might have been still trying to figure out how this plays.

Apparently, he believes that he`s got supporters who are more into it now than they were then.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hawley knows what he`s doing now, just as he did then. He knew what the raised fist signal to the people and the protesters already outside of the Capitol.

He probably had had some form of communication about what was to come, as we heard multiple members of Congress saying they had warnings about an impending potential attack on the Capitol that day. And so him selling this is just true to form for him and, let`s be real, every other Republican who did not vote to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial.

So I wouldn`t expect anything more from the Republican Party on this, besides them continuing to obstruct this process and investigation into January 6 and to play these types of games.


TOLLIVER: Like, this is not a game. This is about every life that was under threat on January 6. And this is about making sure it doesn`t happen again.


And I appreciate Neal being somewhat of a realist in this conversation, saying, look, if Giuliani then talks, that doesn`t mean he`s going to actually say anything of substance, because these folks are truly loyal to Trump.

In that "New York Times"` report you referenced, Ari, it said that Giuliani was down in Florida with Trump this past week. So I think this is all a ploy for Giuliani to yet again avoid another expensive lawsuit that he could be facing.

I also think that it`s a distraction tactic and a delay tactic in working with the select committee, as not only has his date to testify by the select committee been pushed back, but also his date to turn in documents is likely going to be pushed back. And the select committee in their subpoena said, hey, we already have evidence that you participated in an effort to undermine and obstruct the electoral certification of the 2020 election.

Now we want to see the receipts. We want to see the payment notes of your fees. We want to see any communications you had with members of Congress, as well as Trump about obstructing. And so I`m not holding my breath for him to say anything of substance to the select committee at all.

MELBER: Well, you said Neal is a realist. People may not know, in the streets, sometimes we talk about keeping it real.

At DOJ,there`s a rumor they would say he always keeps it realist. I can`t, as a journalist, confirm or deny it.


MELBER: But keeping it realist is what you want. You want a sharp-eyed lawyer on the facts and the law.

Neal, take a listen to what Senator Graham is now saying about this habit from Hawley to Trump and others, looking back, back, back at 2020.




STEPHANOPOULOS: ... Republican in name only.

GRAHAM: He`s the most dominant figure in the Republican Party. For the president to win in 2024, he`s got to talk about the future. If he continues to talk about the 2020 election, I think it hurts his cause and, quite frankly, hurts the Republican Party.


MELBER: Neal, your thoughts on what is now a tension over how much they want to relive history or, as perhaps Graham naively hopes, get Donald Trump thinking about something other than his very public and well-known loss?

KATYAL: Yes, I`m sure that the people -- the kind of realists and the Republican Party understand that just relitigating the past and a big lie, when 63 courts ruled against the president, it`s probably -- President Trump -- is not probably, I think, a winning strategy.

And I think are in the news that you just referenced earlier at the top of the show about Trump`s own accounting firm dropping him. I think that`s financially significant, politically significant, legally significant.

It`s really hard to get your accounting firm to drop you, and even harder to drop you for being unreliable. And, here, his accountants have said that your financial statements, Trump Organization, for the last 10 years are about as reliable as, like, I don`t know, a Sidney Powell legal brief or something like that.

And, financially, I get to work with a lot of the top companies, private and public.The idea that your accountant would disavow the last 10 years, that is like a dagger in the heart of the company. And, legally, it`s also very significant, since, of course, this is all occurring at the same time as New York is investigating Trump for exactly these things, inflating and deflating his assets.

So I think senator Graham`s right to say, hey, let`s try and turn the page on the past and look to the future, because the past is not a place Trump wants to look.

MELBER: Yes, I think that`s well-stated and speaks to how -- just how unusual that is, to cut ties and the building pressure here.

I want to thank Neal and Juanita for kicking us off tonight.

Coming up, there is backlash even among Republicans to this map power play in Florida. I`m going to get into how Chief Justice John Roberts fits into all of this and how he`s actually pushing back as well.

Also, new numbers on the vax gap between Democrats and Republicans.

And if it surprises you, I don`t know why, but I`m going to get into the historic halftime show, not only the hip-hop, but also the social justice, the protests that led to this moment. I want to share with you some of our thoughts. That`s later night.

It`s a big show. So stay with us.



MELBER: Who calls the shots in today`s Republican Party?

Well, many people say Donald Trump, for all the reasons you know. Today`s "New York Times" has a big report about how Mitch McConnell, the highest- ranking Republican government, is actually wresting a campaign to take back more control and thwart Trump.

And then there`s a twice-indicted Trump aide, Steve Bannon, who says he is calling the big political shots now, boasting that Florida Governor DeSantis is crafting political maps in response to what Bannon demands on his "War Room" podcast.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: It`s DeSantis and the guys down in Florida listening. Talk to us what -- the map came out. And this is 100 percent the "War Room" and particularly all the great citizens down in Florida.


MELBER: A hundred percent "War Room."

So what map is he talking about? Well, that brings us to an important story right now, and you may not have heard much about it yet. And that may be how the right-wing wants it.

This involves Democratic Congressman Al Lawson and Bush-appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. And this development matters. So I`m going to take you right through it.

Bannon is talking about how the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, who`s eying a run to become the Republican nominee for president, is working to try to change a map which initially is how that congressman was elected. The idea is to redistribute this voting map so that black voters have less power in any single district.

It is so extreme that even some Republicans down there are balking. Critics say it is rank racial discrimination.

Political experts say, if this new map goes into effect, it would probably lead to Congressman Lawson`s loss. And Florida Republicans had submitted a map which did not have this ploy in it.


That`s where Bannon comes in. Now, he may be a huge self-promoter, but he did demand that Republicans just get in there and draw even more districts so that Trump would have won them easily.

And that`s what DeSantis appears to be doing. And it is more extreme than what, as I said, even his own party was planning. And now that you`re caught up on all this, DeSantis is drawing a line in the sand and saying, not only is this what he wants to do, and it`s more extreme than the other Republicans in this day. He`s saying it`s a litmus test.He`s going to veto anything less than this plan.

And in classic Trumpian projection, he makes that pledge while accusing others of doing what he calls an unconstitutional gerrymander.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We will not be signing any congressional map that has an unconstitutional gerrymander in it. And that is going to be the position that we stick to.

So, just take that to the bank.



MELBER: That was new heading into the weekend.

And as for gerrymandering, well, "The Post" explains that Republicans could win 20 out of 28 seats in a state Trump won by just 3 percentage points.

Translation, you have all the voters voting, Republicans win by 3 percent. But they then control a 20 percent edge in those state seats or congressional seats. So this is why they call it gerrymandering. Both parties have done it. But this is far more extreme and far more racial from the Republican Party.

And that`s where John Roberts comes in. The conservative justice had already ruled too narrow Martin Luther King`s Voting Rights Act. He is not some kind of big leader on these issues. But he just broke with a conservative bloc in a case on the limits of this kind of political trick, where politicians draw a map, and they use that map to then basically pick their own voters, to deny you an effective say, because they have preordained it.

And Republicans specifically, as I mentioned, are trying to cancel out black voters, who currently tend to vote in the aggregate for Democrats.

Now, as a "Times" column recently put it, a new conservative voting rights order from the Supreme Court is so at odds with settled precedent that John Roberts is feeling constrained to dissent.

So, Robert has a pretty narrow view of federal intervention in these kinds of maps. But even he tried to stop the Republicans from doing it. And that tells you something tonight. It`s all related, because when the Supreme Court declares that it`s open season, and removes a backstop, that invites more Bannon-DeSantis style, political war.

That`s the headline we`re seeing here. And it`s a contrast to something that actually Neal Katyal mentioned just earlier tonight. The Supreme Court did shut down the Trumpian efforts to just steal an election he lost after the fact. And that included Republican appointees on the court.

And that`s why those cases never even reached the High Court in 2020. And many people, again, aside from ideology, people who just don`t support their authoritarianism, think that was a good thing the court did.

But there`s something else happening here. When it comes to trickery to deny people voting rights before an election, it is increasingly looking like open season, to a degree that even John Roberts finds offensive.

We`re going to get into that with Christina Greer when we`re back in just 60 seconds.


MELBER: We`re back with Fordham Professor Christina Greer.

I just walked through the map ploys and the racist plans. And some of it, the deeper you get into it, the more weedsy it can get.

But I mentioned John Roberts just to show how out of step Florida is. Your thoughts.


CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: It`s a blatant overreach, Ari.

And it`s really troubling and quite frightening, because when we think about gerrymandering, we have to remember there are two ways that Republicans across the country have been trying to disenfranchise Democratic voters, and specifically black voters.

It`s either packing them all into one district, or cracking up a predominantly Democratic district and dispersing those voters across several districts. So, when you look at the DeSantis map, you go from having roughly about 10 Democratic districts in the state of Florida that are pretty robust to now, all of a sudden, you barely have eight, and the uncertain districts increase as well.

And so that is the point. We also have to remember, racial gerrymandering, as you alluded to before, is oftentimes partisan gerrymandering, because black Americans disproportionately vote for the Democratic Party. So, for years, as political scientists, we thought that there was a gender gap.

There actually is no gender gap. We thought that women voted for Democrats and men voted for Republicans. What we find is, black women so overwhelmingly vote for Democrats, we skew the data. And it makes it seem as though white women are Democratic. But, by and large, they`re not there. They`re actually a majority Republican voting bloc.

So DeSantis is very clear about this. And because we are frozen at the number of 435 -- we froze at that number in 1911, when the population of the United States was about 120 million. Right now, we`re about 330 million. So, as we sort of reshuffle and move around the United States, different states gain and lose seats. New York lost a seat. Florida gained to see.

And so this is why we see the reshuffling of districts every 10 years after the census is taken. And we have governors trying to use their power to redraw districts to benefit them and their parties specifically. And this is a blatant case of Ron DeSantis seeing a new map and taking full advantage of it for 2024, whether he decides to run whether or not he wants to give it to President Trump.

MELBER: Yes, I really appreciate your detailed history there, Professor.

And it speaks to what the stakes are, how long this has been going on, and then where the backstop is, because if you can get away with more and you`re politician, and you have no other ethical or personal reason to stop, then they`re going to go all the way.

The Brennan Center has been tracking this, 19 states passing 34 laws restricting access to voting. And what you see -- I mentioned the timeline, because, sometimes, people get very cynical and they say, well, I guess it`s all politics. I guess the court is just red and blue votes. And there are times when that happens and times where I think quite clearly evidence shows that`s not happening.

And so the court did shut down the big lie last time. But the court is apparently quite comfortable in the conservative majority with all of these shenanigans in advance, from restricting individual voter access, which goes along partisan, racial and class lines, to drawing the maps this way.

So what do you say to people who do get somewhat discouraged?

GREER: Well, that is my job.

Every week when I teach the youth of America, I mean, I try and help them understand the framers` intent to have nine unelected Supreme Court justices making these decisions. But men and women are human beings, and they`re fallible. And so, obviously, we have seen this hyperpartisanship on the Supreme Court, which was not the original intent of the court at all.

I think what John Roberts has shown us time and time again is just how fragile our democracy is, the fact that, based on his call, in many ways, we can either have a blatantly racialized gerrymandered series of decisions that are made, or if he is neutral, and looks at the law the way we hope justices do, then we can actually move forward and have some sort of equity.

I think one of the exam questions I put on my past in the past is, should nine people be in charge of 330 million individuals and make these decisions? And, if not, should we increase the size of the Supreme Court? And how big should we make it, knowing that we have transaction costs and conformity costs and all those other complex issues?


GREER: But I do think that we don`t know what Justice Roberts will do, because there are times that he has served as a stopgap.

But we don`t know if this is an opportunity for him to lean into his more rightward-leaning tendencies.


Well, you raise questions for the final. The question that comes to my mind is, should your students who happen to watch THE BEAT get an edge now that they have heard the leak of a potential future exam question? And the answer is yes. You know, yes.

GREER: I change up the final every semester.


MELBER: Professor Greer, I figured as much.

Thank you for being here, as always, and for your erudition.

Coming up, we turn to something I promised. It involves football, music, and also the push to finally have civil rights and black voices in the lead at the Super Bowl. My thoughts on that and the "Seinfeld" connection coming up.

And then, later, a vax gap. The partisanship continues. But there is good news about the way forward.


Stay with us.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They haven`t lived up to what they committed to, a league that is made up of so many athletes of color, as well as so diverse, that there`s not enough African-American qualified coaches to manage these NFL teams?

It`s a requirement, I think, of some just generic decency. They haven`t lived up to being open about hiring more minorities to run teams.


MELBER: President Biden hitting the NFL for one of its many shortcomings on discrimination and race.

Biden tackled several topics there in a traditional pre-Super Bowl presidential interview with NBC`s Lester Holt.

Now, as for the game, the Los Angeles Rams came from behind to win in the last two minutes, their first Super Bowl win as an L.A. team and second ever, while another highlight was the star-studded halftime show, Mary J. Blige dancing and belting out the hits "Family Affair" and "No More Drama."

Eminem with the anthem "Lose Yourself" and then taking a knee on stage, a salute to Kaepernick and those police brutality protests, which face crackdowns from the NFL itself. Dr. Dre was the ringleader of the event. He took a solo moment at that piano, tapping out a few lines from a great Tupac song, "I Ain`t Mad at Cha," one of two Tupac songs we heard over the course of the night.


The youngest artist was Kendrick Lamar, the Pulitzer Prize winner known as one of the best lyricist in rap today. And Snoop was dominant throughout. He took center stage in that blue bandana sweat suit, and rapped alongside Dre to "The Next Episode."

It was another Dre beat that provided the surprise appearance of 50 Cent, who came in upside down like his iconic video for "In da Club."

And then the artist Anderson .Paak was there too, if you look closely. That was also a surprise. He was on drums during "Lose Yourself."

It was quite a show of force and unusual for the NFL, which has had well- documented simmering tensions with black power, black issues, and black voices. That`s what Biden noted in that interview. Indeed, this league had never done a hip-hop halftime show before.

"The New York Times" reporting that rap was finally getting the spotlight in the 20-something year of hip-hop occupying the center of American pop music, and posing the question, does progress this delays still count as a breakthrough?

Fair question. And we should all keep in mind it was actually protest which led to last night`s halftime spectacle. It was that backlash, the NFL`s treatment of Kaepernick, a legal case which the league settled. And that led to the partnership with Jay-Z`s company to produce and presumably diversify what is the financial and cultural juggernaut of this halftime show.

So, in a very real sense, the road to last night`s delayed breakthrough, it took protesters willing to risk their whole careers. It took pressure, and it took a different kind of businessmen to lead this change.

And if you don`t happen to be a rap junkie, which is perfectly OK, but you recognize some of these performers, well, we`re happy to say around here three of the people on that stage have been on THE BEAT.


SNOOP DOGG, RAPPER: I didn`t want to be a hypocrite as far as just telling people, hey, go vote, go vote, you should vote, you should vote, without doing it myself.

I wanted to be one of those stand-up kind of guys that does it, did it.

50 CENT, RAPPER: I think people are smart enough to understand the things that you say vs. the things that you do are two different things.

ANDERSON .PAAK, RAPPER: So, anything I could do to help as a musician, even if it`s just offering my time, showing up to the title thing, and playing a show, I`m down for it.


MELBER: Shout-out to all the artists on stage.

And I will tell you, after the game itself and after the music, the other highlight is the ads.

One of the crowd favorites was Larry David playing himself across different eras, where he was seen dismissing new technologies.

He had some of the same attitude on display that powers so many iconic scenes from "Curb." And it turns out Snoop and Larry David have more in common than just this Super Bowl, where they both shined.

Snoop also dropped a new album this weekend coinciding with the big game.

And we want to bring you all the news here on THE BEAT, so you might as well know that new Snoop album has a new song, "Crip Your Enthusiasm," built around the Larry David show jingle.




MELBER: That`s art.

Now, it turns out that jokes aren`t the only thing on "Curb" that slap, when you hear a song like that. And if all this sounds a little bit like an odd collaboration, the truth is, there`s long been a link between the world of rap and the world of Larry David.

The co-creator of "Seinfeld" probably knows the rapper Wale made a whole mixtape tribute to "Seinfeld." It was called "The Mixtape About Nothing," because of course it was. And that led the pair to then team up later on making the -- quote -- "Album About Nothing," which features themes from the show and some vocal intros by Jerry.

So there it is. The Snoop-Larry David collab draws on this rich "Seinfeld"- rap history. And it got us thinking, what rap-comedian collaborations would you all like to see?

I have asked you questions before and gotten some great answers that we have updated on THE BEAT. So, you can hit me @AriMelber on social media. Let me know what rapper or musician would you want to see with your favorite comedian, given that this obviously is a thing?

And to get started, we have some of our own dream collabs here from the team at THE BEAT.

We`re thinking it`s time for Richard Lewis, also a "Curb" veteran, to really team up with Lil Baby, bring that Brooklyn energy with some Southern trap sound.

And we also offer you for consideration in our dream collab Megan Thee Stallion and Amy Schumer, two strong icons. Why not?


So, yes, this is how we`re wrapping up our tribute to everything that went down at the Super Bowl.

Let me know @AriMelber your dream collab. And we will probably share some on air. All right, that`s the update on that.

When we return, we look at the vax gap and the road to normal.


MELBER: Looking at the vaccine, a Republican governor is breaking with some of the loudest voices in that party.

Virginia Governor Youngkin has a PSA just encouraging people to do what he says will keep them safe and alive. Take the vaccine.


GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA): I won`t mandate it, but my family and I made the choice to get vaccinated. The vaccine is the best way to protect our lives and loved ones.

So I`m asking you, as your friend and your neighbor, please get the vaccine, and we can get through this together.



MELBER: Whatever one thinks of Governor Youngkin, many are saying that is a responsible public health message.

Meanwhile, polling shows the partisan split. Now 90 percent of Democrats say they have gotten at least one shot, but it falls to 64 percent of Republicans who say the same. And that may reflect something far greater than the traditional hesitance that some have for vaccines. It may reflect a Republican Party that has made resisting vaccines a bit of a litmus test and the problems with, well, whether or not people know the facts.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People aren`t dying when they take the vaccine.

JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: These vaccines save people`s lives.

TRUMP: The ones that get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don`t take their vaccine.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Vaccination prevents the vast majority of serious COVID-19 illness, hospitalizations and deaths.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: It`s very important to underscore right now the importance of getting boosted.

TRUMP: So, everybody, go get your shot.

FAUCI: Please get vaccinated.

TRUMP: I recommend, take the vaccines. I did it. It`s good.


MELBER: There you have it.

I`m joined by David Frum, who has written for "The Atlantic" for many years and is a White House veteran.

And, David, we showed that, we made that clip because, whatever one thinks of Donald Trump, the facts on the screen and the other scientific experts show that he has repeatedly used his pulpit in these venues to say things that are true about the value of vaccines.


MELBER: And yet he seems to be up against a right-wing message machine that doesn`t want to hear him or amplify it when he says it.

FRUM: Well, what may be going on here is an early round of the 2024 race and an attempt to get inside. It`s like that chariot scene from "Ben-Hur," where the goal is to get inside and to drive the other people to crash with their horses.

So, Donald Trump took a kind of vague anti-vax message through 2020. He took the epidemic as kind of a criticism of himself, a reflection on himself. He went into denial.

Those who wanted to be the next Donald Trump, specifically, Florida Governor Rick (sic) DeSantis, went even further, and adopted a message that was, while theoretically pro-vaccine, in fact, operationally, anti-vax.

DeSantis got so far out onto the anti-vax limb that he created an opening, like the "Ben-Hur" chariot race, and Donald Trump and now Glenn Youngkin, who also wants to run in 2024, are seizing it and to say, when we said we were anti-mandate, that didn`t mean we were anti-vax. We are going to answer questions like, did we have the booster?

And so what you see shaping up is, while Donald Trump remains the front- runner for 2024, if anything happens to him, that Glenn Youngkin is positioning himself as the more responsible alternative to Governor DeSantis.

MELBER: A really interesting analysis. And shout-out to a solid "Ben-Hur" allegory, David. It can`t be all Dr. Dre.

And so then the remaining question, though, is, do you as, someone who`s worked around this party, but also been quite independent about what you think of Donald Trump, do you think that it`s surprising or a gap that those vocal messengers aren`t moving that number we saw there up above 65 percent?

I mean, this has become a real partisan rift of the unvaccinated.

FRUM: Right.

Well, supposing a party said, we`re going to make it a test of partisan loyalty that you go out in the street, pick up a two-by-four board and hit yourself in the head, and the more you hit yourself in the head with the board, the more loyal you are to our cause?

And there would be a certain number of people who would do it, but it really does hurt. And, after a while, people notice it hurts. And so the question that Republicans are going to have or the position they`re going to be in is, the Republican Party is a suburban-rural coalition.

And DeSantis, who is not a rural person at all, but has probably -- has bet his presidential opportunities on being the candidate of this radical rural disaffection, this radical alienation, even refusing to answer the question whether he got the booster shot, whereas Glenn Youngkin is saying, I`m going to be the candidate of the suburbs, of people who are conservative, are worried about inflation, worried about crime, but who understand that, if there`s a vaccine that can protect you against an epidemic, take it.


And so, if we continue towards a pseudo-normalcy, do you think that these issues would still figure into the big fall line in the Republican Party going in `24 or not?

FRUM: Republicans are getting ready for to fight 2024 on the issues of crime and inflation, because even if we get back to normal very, very fast -- have you ever been in one of those old New York City apartment buildings where, when you turn on the radiators, you get this banging sound?

That`s what we have got. The heat is coming on. We are going back to normal, but it`s going to take a while for all the water and all the warm air to come through the house. And so the inflation reflects all the things that have been offline that are slowly coming online.


And these global supply chains, they`re miracles, but they`re also kind of fragile. And when they they`re damaged, as they have been, and not only by the pandemic, but also by President Trump, or ex-President Trump`s trade war in 2020, they are coming back online, but it`s coming slowly.

And the slowness of the return to normal is expressed in the rise of prices.

MELBER: All makes sense.

And when you ask me if I have ever been in one of those old walk-up New York apartment buildings with the radiator, that`s like asking me if I have had a bagel with lox from Zabar`s. And the answer is, of course.

FRUM: You have heard the banging. You know what I mean by the bagging?

MELBER: I got it. I got it 100, just like it`s a rite of passage in New York to be in a sixth- or seventh-floor walk-up and every day think about, well, do I really need to go back downstairs to get anything,? Because this is a lot of stairs.

David, good to see you, as always.

FRUM: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

David mentioned all these issues, including inflation. We have something very important special that goes outside the elite bubble to get into inflation, working people, and chocolate fudge.

That`s next.



MELBER: There is one challenge everyone in America is facing right now. And how much you think about it probably does relate to your own wealth.

Inflation has prices surging, completely wiping out gains or raises for many working people who had gotten some little edge recently. Now, if you have plenty of disposable income, you might not think about it much. But this surging inflation now at a 40-year high hits the lower middle class and working poor the hardest.

Those are the households where we know nearly all expenses have to go to necessities, food, energy, and housing, which now have the largest increases, thanks to recent inflation. And this hits small business harder than the big corporations. They have many ways to manage long-term costs and supply chains.

And so, in our reporting here on THE BEAT, we do know that we often hear in America from the politicians or the economists as experts or other leaders about economics.

But, right now, we turn to some everyday Americans who run small businesses to learn how they are facing this very specific challenge.

That includes the owner of Ohio`s McJak Candy Company, Larry Johns, who makes "Ohh Ffffudge!!" and other favorites. He`s finding suppliers keep hitting him with these price hikes. And he`s just told me about all of that in a new interview airing right now for the first time.


LARRY JOHNS, OWNER, MCJAK CANDY COMPANY: So, maybe like nine months ago, we started to get price increase letters from our various vendors.

And I would say, by summer, it became kind of a joker on the office. It was almost a weekly event. Every week, we`d open another letter with some vendor giving us a price increase. In fact, we had vendors that increased four or five times in the same year.

MELBER: I know you shared that with us when we were reporting out the segment. So we will put that up, because, again, not everyone always sees this on the national news, what you`re up against.

Here`s December necessary to announce a price increase, March, price increase, July, necessarily to increase prices, August, we must increase prices.

So tell us what happens when you keep getting hit with this, because how do you even as a small business plan for that?

JOHNS: It is hard to respond. In certain products, we can price -- maybe increase the price with a few months` notice.

However, we`re not used to this rate of inflation. Our average input costs are pushing almost 20 percent in a year. If you take labor, materials, freight, and you average them all together, our costs are up close to 20 percent. We have only increased our prices about 12 percent, because we don`t want to lose customers.

We`re hoping maybe there`s some abatement in the second half of the year. So our profits actually last year were the second lowest they have been in several decades, with 2020 being the lowest.


MELBER: Meanwhile, Amanda Derusha launched her Wisconsin gift and supply sore, Marinette Farm, just before the pandemic.

She tells THE BEAT she noticed inflation as early as last fall.


AMANDA DERUSHA, MARINETTE FARM & GARDEN: I started to notice probably around September of last year, where it really started to become a problem that people were less likely to buy things, starting to see things differently, and deciding maybe we shouldn`t purchase this maybe. We should wait to purchase certain items, shop somewhere else even. It`s been going on for a few months now.

We started to wait on deciding if we`re going to raise prices, letting our customers know, giving them a little bit of awareness that prices were going up.


MELBER: We can tell you, writ large, about 80 percent of small business owners say they expect inflation to go at least another six months.

And it is Valentine`s Day. "The Wall Street Journal" notes that the price for red roses at some shops are up over 30 percent just since the beginning of the pandemic.

So, again, our thanks to the folks participating, because we did want to hear what`s going on, on the ground.

And it`s been kind of an interesting show with a lot of different stuff, including our request for you to share with us your thoughts on dream comic-musician collaborations.

I do want to mention, you can always find me on TikTok @AriMelber. I don`t post dance videos. I`m trying to use the platform to share fun stuff, including news and civil rights items. My parents and brother, as you can see here, make some appearances. That`s my dad talking vinyl records. Shout-out to Jimmy Cliff. There`s Sharon Stone, so -- my brother again on the roof.

So, the point is, some of this stuff isn`t fit for nightly journalism, but we are trying to use the platform for a mix of what`s fun and what might be interesting. So, go to @AriMelber on TikTok or any other platform if you want to join me there. Look, there`s Snoop. We heard from him tonight.

All right, that does it for me. Thanks, as always, for spending time with us on THE BEAT.


Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 2/14/22 (2024)
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