Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 5/9/22 (2024)

Table of Contents
Summary Transcript


Aides to Trump allies spilling on Trump while former Attorney General Eric Holder felt there`s enough evidence to indict Trump. Democrats warned GOP would push national abortion ban if they`re in power. Donald Trump`s former secretary of defense calls him a threat to democracy as he tries to sell books. Former DNC chair Howard Dean joins THE BEAT to talk about the early primaries saddling the GOP with fringe nominees.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Thank you so much for letting us into your homes on this Monday. We are grateful. "THE BEAT" with our friend Jason Johnson in for Ari Melber starts right now.

Hi, Jason.

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much. Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Jason Johnson in for Ari Melber.

We start with the January 6th Committee closing in on Donald Trump. The MAGA riot committee have connected the dots without the help from Trump`s allies who have notoriously been stonewalling the probe, this reporting from Politico, adding that their aides have been helping, quote, "fill in this gaps about Trump`s private meetings."

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows` assistant has been particularly helpful, telling the committee about, quote, "almost all the meetings Trump had" that she had insight on. That trove of Meadows` data has exploded this investigation, e-mails, texts and documents, giving the committee a roadmap to prove a coup, it says.

And the pivotal role Meadows played in Trump`s effort to overturn the election, prosecutors` decision to press charges against Trump could hinge on what Meadows knows and if he shares it. Committee prepping public hearings after testimony from Trump`s children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. And some committee members saying they don`t need to hear from Trump or Pence, arguing they have obtained all the information they need without either of them.

Former attorney general Eric Holder going further than he has in the past bluntly saying Trump should be indicted.


ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: At some point, people at the Justice Department, perhaps that prosecutor in Atlanta, are going to have to make a determination about whether or not they want to indict Donald Trump.


HOLDER: Well, I think there`s going to be significant factual information and I think that there`s going to be sufficient proof of intent. And then the question becomes, what`s the impact of such an indictment? I`m an institutionalist. My initial thought was not to indict the former president out of concern of what -- how divisive it would be, but given what we have learned I think that he probably has to be held accountable.


JOHNSON: Make it happen, please. More than 700 people have been charged in connection to the January 6th terror attack on our capital. This new video is part of government evidence from one of those cases. Charges range from obstruction to seditious conspiracy, which three Oath Keepers have now pled guilty to.

New reporting suggests some of those Oath Keepers may also be a source of information for the MAGA riot committee, sharing their efforts to find election fraud and communications with Trump allies.

Joining me now is former federal prosecutor Paul Butler and Democratic strategist Juanita Tolliver.

Thank you so much for starting us off on THE BEAT.

Paul, I`m going to start with you and I`ve got to ask the same question I always ask. Now we`ve got Eric Holder saying it. We`ve had members of Congress saying it. It seems like we should be able to indict Donald Trump. What`s the hold up? Help me out here. What`s the -- why haven`t we seen any orange jumpsuits yet for former members of the administration?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Hang on, Jason. It`s a little closer today than it was yesterday. Why? Because Eric Holder used the I word. He said he`s an institutionalist, and he was sending a message to the decider, that`s the attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, who is famously also an institutionalist. But listen, Eric Holder is one of the longest serving attorney generals in the history of the United States, and what he was saying to Merrick Garland is that the values of the Justice Department require that Donald Trump be held accountable.

And I get the institutional concerns. Again, everyone is concerned about not having Merrick Garland look like he is willing to do for President Biden what Bill Barr was not willing to do for Donald Trump. But we`ve got so much evidence. We`re way beyond the political considerations. At this point, equal justice under the law, accountability, all of the values of the United States Department of Justice which I was proud to serve in way in favor of prosecuting Donald Trump.

JOHNSON: Paul, I`m going follow up on this before I go to Juanita. I got to ask this. Who are these institutionalists? Who are these people who think - - seriously. Who think that the institutions of our government are more important than holding people accountable who tried to tear those institutions down? I`m not just talking as a political scientist here. This is what regular people are asking.

So, Paul, who are these institutionalists who have been so apprehensive thus far?

BUTLER: So the standard of the Justice Department is you don`t bring a case unless you think you can win.


Jason, no former president has ever been charged with a crime, and so this would be a huge deal, and at this point, again, I think we`re getting the kind of evidence that in any other case could justify prosecution. So at this point the institutionalist, the values of the Justice Department mean that the former president should be prosecuted.

JOHNSON: Juanita, so we`re going to talk a little bit about Mark Meadows. They say that they`ve got more information from him. He`s got staffers who are now being very, very helpful to the committee. You now have the committee saying, look, we`ve squeezed enough juice out of this orange that we may not necessarily even need, you know, certain kinds of testimony from people.

From a Washington, D.C. perspective, we know that the high-level people like Meadows and Ivanka, and whatever else, they might be protected. How is this looking for lower-level staffers? How is this looking for the people who just worked around them, who were just trying the make a paycheck? Are they relieved now that they have given up this evidence to the January 6th Committee, or are they still sort of under the gun until their bosses finally testify?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I feel like it`s a little bit of both, right? Because the reason they stepped forward is they`re not facing the same type of pressure campaigns from Trump that someone like an Ivanka or a Meadows was facing. And so I just want to shout out the middle manager of the world because they are the people that kept that building going, and as Representative Raskin said they are the ones who were able to fill in the gaps, they were able to name what Trump was doing, what Meadows was doing in the three or four hours while the capital was being attacked.

They were able to pin those details down for the select committee and allow them to fill in gaps and a paint a full picture for the public for these hearings, and I think those aides, those deputies stepped forward because, let`s be real, not only is it about protecting themselves and cooperating it`s also about the fact that they probably have different ethical standards than someone who was highly visible within the Trump administration.

They haven`t been tainted that far and they`re not that far gone, and nor do they want to risk their entire careers for this man. But they did want to step forward and do the right thing here, and that`s going pay dividends not only for the select committee but also for their own well-being. But when I think about the select committee gearing up for these public hearings, they better bring the drama and the details that these aides gave them.

They better make this more interesting than an episode of "Real Housewives" because that`s what`s going to capture the attention of the public. That`s what`s going to make a dent in November. But also as Attorney General Holder said, they clearly have enough evidence and proof of intent from Trump and Meadows based on what these aides and deputies have said that they can really do some damage with these hearings.

JOHNSON: That kind of tainted love for Trump is not going the play out very well for a lot of these folks and I hope more of them come forward.

With that in mind, I want to go back to this. So "The Washington Post" reports we`ve got more information on what Meadows did to overturn the elections, overturn the results post the election. It says here, "Meadows granted those peddling theories about a stolen election direct access to the Oval Office and personally connected some with Trump. He also pushed the Justice Department unsuccessfully to try to invalidate the election results in six states through federal court action."

I`ll start first with you, Juanita. Look, if you know you`re dealing with an addict, and Trump is addicted to lies and nonsense about the election, he was basically just bringing in the dealers. He was like come on, come on, give Trump what he needs, give Trump what he needs.

Isn`t this enough in the minds of the public to say, hey, this is one of those people who needs to be indicted? Because if you know the president has ill intent and you`re bringing people to him to feed his sort of mania about this, wouldn`t the public basically decide that person is guilty?

TOLLIVER: I am on the same page with you, Jason, and there is no way that Meadows can play dumb about any of the things he did. He risked it all for Trump to feed Trump`s habit. He applied pressure on DOJ to find election fraud, which did not exist, and also which prompted Barr`s resignation and Rosen threatened to resign. He also was the middleman between the state elected officials like Raffensperger.


TOLLIVER: He was the person who reach out to the point where Raffensperger was like, is this a joke? Right? Like he was the middleman and he was in the driver`s seat. But what confounds me about Meadows is that he knew all the dirt he did, he knew there was no evidence. And then he stepped in to cooperate with the select committee and then pulled back as though he would be able to carry on with his life uninterrupted? Like make it make sense because it doesn`t.

JOHNSON: So, Paul, as Juanita pointed out, there`s a political element to this. We need the January 6th Committee, we need it to be loud, we need it to be explosive. I don`t care if they start it with like "Law and Order" music, that would be great. Whatever needs to be done, right? That`s for the public, that`s for the voters. What does the January 6th Committee have do with, say, someone like Mark Meadows so that their testimony can go directly the Merrick Garland`s desk and he`s like, all right, I got to do something with this?

What would they need to get out of him publicly in order to see that DOJ was like, we`ve got to, you know, indict and prosecute this guy post haste?


BUTLER: Jason, Chairman Cleaver said they don`t need Mark Meadows because they`ve got his top aides, two days of testimony, thousands of documents, hundreds of pages of transcripts, one really telling moment -- well, two. First she said that she knew either almost everything or everything that Trump told Meadows. She`s more credible than Meadows. And the other thing was there`s a kind of detail that prosecutors love.

She knew where Donald Trump was on January 6th. She had a radio transmission that reported his movements in the Oval Office. And so if she`s spilling it and are they listening as hard as they can, absolutely. Because prosecutors love this, Jason. You don`t make cases through the made-men and women like Don Jr. and Ivanka. It`s the folks who are making the trains run on time who nobody`s paying any attention to, but who know everything and they`re not trying to fall on the sword for Donald Trump.

JOHNSON: Paul Butler and Juanita Tolliver, thank you so much for giving me hope and starting off on THE BEAT today.

Coming up, Mitch McConnell saying the quiet part out loud, admitting Republicans will push a national ban on abortion if they take power in Washington this fall. We have an exclusive interview with a prosecutor who`s vowing not to enforce such a ban if Roe is overturned.

Plus, a Republican politician who`s denying any links to QAnon busted for literally painting a giant Q on his lawn.

Howard Dean is here live.

And then, the problem with Trump officials who only now are going public about these attacks on democracy. What they`re saying now is very different from what they were saying then.


MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: The last year of the Trump administration, really bad things, dangerous things that could have taken the country in a dark direction.

I`d like to thank President Trump for his bold leadership. Your leadership, Mr. President, is uniting the American people.





COLIN JOST, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": This week the Supreme seemed poised to fully overturn Roe v. Wade. Here to comment is conservative justice, Amy Coney Barrett.

KATE MCKINNON, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": I just like, I don`t understand why you need abortion because you can leave a baby anywhere in the United States. You are a murderer if you have an abortion but you`re not a murderer if you put a baby in a bag in a mailbox and Amtrak and is good to me.


JOHNSON: "SNL" mocking Supreme Court conservatives who seem ready to overturn Roe as the fight intensifies. Top Republican Mitch McConnell saying a federal ban of abortion is, quote, "possible if Roe is overturned," saying the quiet part out loud.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today saying Republicans will, quote, "seek to criminalize abortion nationwide." This week Senate Democrats will push a bill to make Roe into federal law. Republicans are ready to block it.

Protests growing. Activists rallying outside the homes of Chief Justice John Roberts and Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh. Tonight more information leaking out of the court. Sources telling "The Post," the majority of five conservative justice to strike Roe remains intact.

The battle unfolding in the states. Tennessee Republicans passing a law making it a felony to distribute abortion pills by mail, despite federal regulations allowing it. Idaho Republicans reportedly considering banning emergency contraception like Plan B. Mississippi`s Republican governor refusing to rule out a similar ban in his state.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR, "MEET THE PRESS": You`ve said just that you believe life begins at conception. If there is legislation brought to you to ban contraception, would you sign it?

GOV. TATE REEVES (R), MISSISSIPPI: Well, I don`t think that`s going to happen in Mississippi. I`m sure they`ll have those conversations in other states.

TODD: But you`re not answering the question.

REEVES: As is always the case with -- well, that`s always the case. There`s so many things that we can talk about.


JOHNSON: In Michigan, if Roe is overturned, a 1931 law banning abortions would go back into effect. It makes no exceptions for rape, incest, or medical emergencies. But the state`s attorney general along with seven brave county prosecutors are speaking out, saying they will not prosecute abortion cases. I`ll talk to one of those frontline prosecutors along with former Biden campaign adviser Alencia Johnson, when we`re back in just 60 seconds.



JOHNSON: Joining me now is Oakland County, Michigan, prosecutor Karen McDonald. She says she won`t prosecute abortion cases if Roe is overturned. And Alencia Johnson, a former senior adviser to the Biden campaign and founder of the social impact agency 1063 West Broad.

Karen, I`ll start with you. Thank you so much first for your bravery. And I want to you to explain to the audience why you said, look, I will not enforce this almost 100-year-old law at this particular point if Roe is overturned. What is your sort of logic, your moral logic behind that and your legal mindset behind that?

KAREN MCDONALD, OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Well, first from a practical standpoint, this is not at all reasonable, and it makes absolutely no sense. I`m the highest law enforcement official in our county, which is about 1.3 million people. We have serious violent crime. We have an uptick in gun violence. We have human trafficking, sexual assault, children being violently abused. Our murders are up.

Why we would spend precious resources that we have available to us trying to hunt down medical professionals? And by the way, that`s not just doctors, it`s anyone. You can arguably, even an office assistant who enables or furthers any sort of procedure and even disburses medication is now going to be prosecuted for a felony? It makes absolutely no sense, so as this person who`s in charge of -- my number one goal is public safety. A decision to prosecute those cases and criminalize these people does not further that goal at all.

And second, from just a policy and moral standpoint, one, this is not going to eliminate abortion. And it`s not even going to lessen abortion. It`s just going to make it less safe and it`s going to create this caste system, where women who have resources and can go to a different state or procure that procedure privately will do so, and women who don`t have resources won`t.

And then finally I firmly believe that a woman`s right to control her own reproductive choices is essential to her equality. And so for all those reasons, that is not something I will do regardless of, unfortunately, Roe v. Wade maybe. It looks, as though, it`s absolutely going to be overturned, which, by the way, I cannot believe we`re here. You know, it`s been a law of the land for nearly 50 years, and the opinion just eviscerates all of that.

JOHNSON: Right. Alencia, Karen makes a very, very good point. The attorney general makes a very good point that, look, this is a waste of time, it`s a waste of public resources, and she actually has a precedent here of, there are lots of prosecutors, local state prosecutors, you know, certainly city attorneys who said, look, we`re not going to investigate lower drug crimes. It`s a waste of time. We`re not pulling kids in for dime bags anymore. That doesn`t help people.

From a branding standpoint and a political messaging standpoint, Alencia, how can prosecutors across the country who have this same stance, how should they market this to people? Because lots of folks out there are worried and they don`t all have, you know, state attorneys who are as brave as Karen McDonald here.

ALENCIA JOHNSON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, BIDEN CAMPAIGN: Well, I think she`s making a really good point that we are not talking about as much as we should this criminalization of people making very personal medical decisions, and that`s the conversation that we should be having, especially as, you know, the GOP and conservatives like to talk about how much crime has risen.

They`re like all these problems and they want to talk about the police and yet they are still talking about how they are OK with criminalizing people for planning their families instead of addressing some of the issues that are actually really underpinning some of the violence that we`re seeing in communities.

And so I would like to see more prosecutors, people like my co-panelist who are actually on the side of families, who are on the sides of women, who know that they will be facing so many -- so much opposition, along with -- and I`m glad you all raised this -- the providers, the volunteers.


A. JOHNSON: I worked at Planned Parenthood for six years. In order for people to get abortions while it is still legal, let`s make sure that your viewers know that, there are volunteers that have to walk people through picket lines.


A. JOHNSON: There are volunteers who have to give money and give rides to people to get access abortion care. These people will be criminalized as well. And so we`re going to have jail cells full of doctors and lawyers and people who are planning their pregnancies and their families.


That is not the America that I want to live in, and that is a dystopian future that is actually becoming a reality and has become the reality for so many women of color in the south, and that could happen throughout this entire country.

JOHNSON: I want to play some audio. It`s a sound bite here, Karen, from a fellow Michigan prosecutor, Peter Lucido. He has a different opinion on how he`s going to handle the potential overturn of Roe. Want to get your thoughts on the other side.


PETER LUCIDO, MICHIGAN PROSECUTOR: I have a warrant division. My warrant division has been instructed, if the crime is on the books, why am I picking and choosing which crimes I`m going to enforce and not enforce? That would be not giving proper notice in the legal world of what is a crime and what isn`t? I don`t have a right to turn my back on the law when I`m supposed to uphold it.


JOHNSON: Karen, I`m sure there`s some ivory tower institutionalist right now who`s saying, look, he doesn`t necessarily agree or disagree with the law, but aren`t we supposed to enforce any law that`s on the book? What would be your response to that if someone were to challenge you and say, hey, you don`t have to like the law, it`s your responsibility to enforce it?

MCDONALD: It`s my responsibility to use my discretion with all of the experience and expertise that I have gained in the over 20 years of experience I have as a judge and assistant prosecutor and a lawyer in private practice and make good choices and be a good steward of the taxpayer`s resources and money. We choose not to charge crimes every single day. We have crimes on the books for making infidelity a crime, sodomy a crime, cow at large.

There are so many crimes we do not charge, and we do that because I have pledged to the people in my county that I`m going to -- I want to focus on serious violent crime. And I want to add something else, this is not a sensational detail meant to really stir up drama.

In Michigan, there is no -- on the 1931 law, there is no rape or incest exception. I work every single day with victims of child sexual assault and domestic violence. What we are seeing is that if you are raped, you were forced and you did not consent to that sexual intercourse, you are going to be forced to carry that pregnancy to term. You are then further going to be dependent on the person that you are trying to get away from.

We work to do the opposite, to give these women who are brave to come forward. How are we supposed to do that when we are essentially sanctioning rape and incest?


MCDONALD: It`s opposite of everything I`m supposed to do as a prosecutor and everything I believe as a mother and as a woman. And I think the majority of people agree with me, I really do.

JOHNSON: Alencia, the majority of the people do not want Roe vs. Wade overturned. The majority of the people still think that abortion should be something that people have access to. Even amongst Republicans, there are many Republicans who privately still want Roe vs. Wade to be available. What should, if you were having a conversation right now with President Joe Biden, what would you be telling him and Pelosi and Schumer right now that the message should be?

Because right now, people who are concerned about their abortion rights, they don`t feel that the Democratic Party has done much for them. A crazed religious minority of Republicans have been able to snatch this right away while the Democrats control the House, the Senate and the presidency. What`s the message Democrats should be giving to people right now?

A. JOHNSON: Well, and I hate to say this, as a Democrat I actually agree with that frustration that we have not been on the offense about abortion rights. We have actually allowed for this extreme, conservative, yet powerful movement define how we are going to talk about abortion care, an essential health care that is a constitutional right in this country for women and people who can get pregnant.

And so I really need for President Biden, Leader Pelosi, the leader of the DNC, I need every single leader in the Democratic Party to get as strong and as fired up as my former boss, Senator Elizabeth Warren was, last week because this literally is the fight of our lives. And activists have been saying, abortion is the floor. It`s not the ceiling. As we have seen, they have taken this as the opportunity to talk about banning contraception.


A. JOHNSON: To talk about who you can sleep with, who you can get married to. This is actually just the beginning of what will happen when this minority rule gets what they want. And I`m sorry, Senator McConnell told us what he`s going to do, so there`s no reason that we should be playing the game of, let`s not get rid of the filibuster, let`s not go too hard against Republicans. As soon as they`re back in office and in power they`re going to strip away all of those protections and they`re going to pass a federal and national abortion ban. We`ve got to get ahead of that before it`s too late.

JOHNSON: Karen McDonald and Alencia Johnson, thank you so much for sounding the alarm to the audience tonight. Ahead. Now he tells us Trump`s former secretary of defense calls him a threat to democracy as he tries to sell books. What took him so long, I`ll tell you. But first, a top election denier who was in D.C. on January 6 is on the ballot tomorrow, as the GOP wrestles with QAnon candidates. Howard Dean is here next on THE BEAT.



JOHNSON: Now to the insurrectionists and QAnon supporters running as Republicans in the midterms. Tomorrow on the ballot in Nebraska`s GOP primary is Charles Herbster running for Governor. He is full MAGA. There he was rallying with Trump. Herbster was at the attack on January 6 -- was at the ellipse on January 6, where thousands of Trump supporters gathered before marching to the Capitol. It was also palling around or schmoozing as the local paper put it. With Trump insiders ahead of the attack. Herbster peddling the big lie while campaign.


CHARLES HERBSTER (R-NE), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: None of the states we look at those irregularities. I can only say this, as an individual who watched elections all my life. It`s very difficult personally for me to believe that Joe Biden got over 80 million votes.


JOHNSON: Now Herbster faces allegations from eight women that he groped them without consent. Two of those accusations I should note are from fellow Republicans, including a state senator. Herbster denies the claims. In modern world the most important thing is, you know, you got to lie for Trump. Also, new details on one of the 36 QAnon supporters running for Congress. J.R. Majewski won his primary race for Congress in Ohio last week. You see him in a QAnon shirt there. Like Herbster is a big lie guy.

This picture surfacing showing him at the January 6 rally outside the Capitol. He tweeted then deleted it. Also surfacing photos showing him turning the zeros of the Trump 2020 logo painting on his lawn into cues, like some sort of Batman villain. During the campaign, Majewski has denied supporting QAnon. But there seems to be evidence right there. And there are tapes, and it came out today that have come back to haunt him.


J.R. MAJEWSKI (R-OH), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I believe in everything that`s been put out from Q., which is military level intelligence in my opinion.


J. JOHNSON: Joining me now, former DNC chair Howard Dean, one of my favorite political voices, quite frankly. Look, former governor, I have to ask you this. Everyone always talks about message and how Democrats have to have a more powerful message heading into the fall. But my primary concern as a voter and an American citizen, it`s not so much the messaging. I think there`s great candidates out there.

I`m concerned as to what this administration is doing as far as voter suppression and corruption that could be happening at the state level so that these election results won`t necessarily reflect how people feel. So, from your perspective, what are the Democrats doing well, and what are they not doing well, as far as protecting the franchise`s fall before we even get into the messaging and candidates?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIR: Well, the Justice Department needs to be more active in places like Georgia, which is basically restored Jim Crow, or Florida and Texas, which have also done something similar with their limitation. I mean, the map in Texas is outrageous. So, Marc Elias and his group are doing a great job suing. And they`re being fairly successful even in hostile courts. But you know, the attack on democracy is pretty serious.

Don`t forget, these guys had been corrupting the courts for 20 years, through the Federalist Society, huge amounts of money going into this now as dark money thanks to John Roberts, citizens united ruling. And so, we`re in some very serious trouble if it really does remind me of what Viktor Orban is doing in Hungary, control the courts, and the polls are doing it too. They`re in the good guy range right now, because there have been so wonderful to the Ukrainian refugees, but their government is in deep trouble because they also could have controlled the courts by getting rid of judges that they don`t like and so forth.

So, I do think the Democrats are doing OK, I wish the Justice Department were a little more moved a little faster because these court -- these cases are not going to get into court fast enough. And Marc Elias is doing a fantastic job in almost every state and he`s winning a lot of cases. And that`s going to make a difference.

JOHNSON: One of the things Howard, did I fought about a lot is that, you know, for all the doomsayers and sometimes people will put me in that category unfairly. But for the doomsayers to say, oh, the Democrats haven`t lost his fall. I actually don`t look at the map that way. I look at what`s happening in Pennsylvania. I look at Wisconsin, I look at Georgia, I look at Ohio.

I actually think there are places where Democrats could keep you competitive, and possibly pick up Senate seats. If you had to make a guess, as -- yes, that there are races that we might be overlooked. What are some places, some bright spots right now that perhaps Democrats and those of us who care about democracy are overlooking its potential bright spots heading into the fall?

DEAN: Ohio is one of them. We just -- Republicans just nominated a lunatic who lies every day. And at some point, voters don`t like liars. I don`t care how frumpy you are and how angry you are. People just don`t like dishonesty and J. D. Vance is dishonest and he chose to do that.


This was not some accident or -- so I think the guy in the hugest featured in Nebraska is going to get his butt handed to him. Why? Because Pete Ricketts, who`s a really conservative governor who I don`t agree with on much, at least has the backbone to stand up and say this guy, it shouldn`t be in the United States Senate. And there`s another candidate, and I think your guy Herbster is going to lose to him. So, you know, the American people are sick of this is why Joe Biden is the president of United States right now. They`re sick of the lying, they`re sick of the dishonesty. And they`re still angry.

So, we`ve got some work to do. I am a fan of Biden, I don`t know him well, so probably less well than I`ve known any president since Carter. No, I knew Carter pretty well. So, it goes back along. Well, Reagan, I didn`t know. I`ve never met him. But on the Democratic side, Biden`s got a tough hand. And it`s not all of his making. And when you consider that he`s added more jobs than any president of the United States in history in the last three years. He`s getting kind of a tough break. But that`s just the way it is in politics.

If you -- if you`re struggling to pay the gas pump, which is going on in every country in the world right now. You got to blame somebody he always blame -- always blame the president, but I think he`s actually doing a pretty good job, pretty moderate, pretty thoughtful. And I think we can add North Carolina to your list. I think we can add Georgia. I`d be very surprised Raphael Warnock doesn`t win reelection because the voters care about decency in Georgia and that`s why they elected him and ASAF in the first place.

JOHNSON: I also would add Wisconsin. Look, Mandela Barnes. If he`s (INAUDIBLE) the nominee, yes, he`s running against the most unpopular Republican senator. Howard Dean, I could talk to you all night. Please stay with me. We`re going to come back after the break. Ahead. Trump`s former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper says came to view that Trump as a threat to American democracy, why did he wait to sound the alarm? It`s a pattern and it has to do with sales. That breakdown is next.



J. JOHNSON: All right, tell me if you`ve heard this one, a former Trump aide warning about Trump`s threat to democracy. Seeing that happen over and over and there`s a pattern. It`s an alarming trend and there`s no credit given for telling the truth, years late. Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is the latest former Trump official now spilling all the tea on Trump being a dangerous and erratic threat to democracy.


MARK ESPER, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The last year of the Trump administration and to tell the story about things we prevented, really bad things, dangerous things, that could have taken the country in a dark direction.


JOHNSON: OK, so he says they prevented really bad things from happening. I don`t know if that applies to the kids who are lost at the border or people who are blocked from getting here. But the entire time he was there, there were other bad things happening. Why not ring the alarm when those things were happening?


ESPER: It`s very simple. If I spoke out at the time, I would be fired. Number one. And secondly, I had no confidence that anybody that came in behind me would not be a real Trump loyalist, and lord knows what would have happened then.


JOHNSON: Yes. It`s a real profile and courage. Look, that might all be true. But here`s another likely factor. Secretary Esper has a new book coming out. Sound familiar? Trump`s former national security adviser John Bolton, who was aware of Trump`s extorting Ukraine for dirt on Joe Biden. Remember he called Giuliani a hand grenade, who`s going to blow everybody up. Bolton infamously withheld incriminating testimony from Trump`s first impeachment, something Ari actually pressed him all the time.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: You withheld the testimony claiming that there was some sort of legal reason, but then later you publish this book. So, your response to this criticism?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, the criticism and what you just said is absolutely wrong. They never issued me a subpoena. Everybody else who testified --

MELBER: Sir? Yes, no, I know. And respectfully -- respectfully --

BOLTON: This is important. I didn`t, I didn`t want anything, let`s be --


MELBER: Let me give you a follow-up question, sir.


JOHNSON: Bolton held out because, say it with me, he was dropping a brand- new book. Then on that book tour. It sounded like this.


BOLTON: I think one of the most important things I learned in watching Donald Trump up close, is he doesn`t have any philosophy. He doesn`t proceed on that basis or on the basis of the grand strategy or policy. It`s all about Donald Trump. And that, to me is a lesson for Americans as a whole but particularly for conservative Republicans because if Trump wins re-election, which is entirely possible, there`s no more guardrail.


JOHNSON: Then there`s the big one. Former Attorney General Bill Barr was right there for the infamous four-page summary of the Mueller report. It was misleading. Barr was walking with Trump and Lafayette Square where protesters were attacked. Just so Trump could get a photo op with a Bible. I think he held it upside down, which Barr said was entirely appropriate. Secretary Esper just said Trump inquired about shooting protesters after George Floyd`s murder. And Barr stuck around with Trump until the very end, December 2020. When he said there was no election fraud.

Then he ran for the exits and wrote a new book. So, we have a pattern. Ex- Trump officials out on book tours years after the fire rage and nothing was said no alarm bells are rung and Trump continued that threat against democracy all the way until the January 6 attempted coup. The failed coup still underway and still happening now.


Growing list of big lie candidates running all over the country. So, it`s no credit given the former Trump officials coming out now. Back with me as former DNC chair Howard Dean. Howard, I have to ask you this, the Republicans for years you experience that, you`ve seen previous administration. They`re excellent at demonizing people. You mentioned the name Nancy Pelosi in certain circles and people will spit out their beer. You mentioned AOC and people gnashed their teeth and rent their clothing with cloth.

Why have the Democrats been less effective at turning the mic Esper`s and the Bolton`s? How have they not turned these individuals into the same kinds of villains? Because these guys literally just tried to take over the country. I mean, Nancy Pelosi and AOC, were just trying to give us health care.

DEAN: It`s one of the problems in the Democrats and it -- but it`s essentially a problem because we actually stand -- we`re optimistic. The Republicans are pessimistic, and the Republicans don`t have values that are encouraging to humanity. They don`t believe that humanity is any good, they just -- are in it for themselves. They`re -- you know, it wasn`t just those three that didn`t have the courage to stand up to Trump.

40 out of the 50 senators in the United States Senate or Republican senators don`t have an ounce of courage between them, and the other 10 have some but a lot of it disappears at the needed necessary moments. The Republican Party fundamentally has a pessimistic view of mankind, and the Democrats don`t. Now that makes us weaker because we have to fight with one hand tied behind our back. We cannot give in to pessimism, we cannot give into anguish, about the future of humanity, we have to be hopeful.

We are the party of hope. They are the party of fear of anger. And frankly, they`re the party of pessimism. They frankly believe that there is no future for human beings, and they`re creating an America or trying to, where there`s no future for the United States of America. I think they`re going to lose because of that. That`s why I share optimism about what`s going to happen in the election.

JOHNSON: Fairly if anger, anger leads to the dark side. What we`ve seen though, in recent years is that angry people will turn out to vote more. So, if you`re pushing out an optimistic message, but the angry folks are more galvanized by gas prices or supply chain issues one way or another. What has to be that optimistic message that counters the person who`s voting out of anger and fear? What would it have to be? You can`t say hope and change.

DEAN: No, you do. You can`t just say hope and change, you do have to bring people along. And the way to do that is on the ground. There are some wonderful Democrats in very conservative areas, who simply are good at what they do. And they get elected to the school board, or the select board and all this kind of stuff because they listen. Look, our enemy is not the average American person. They may be voting against abortion and all these things that we think are denigrating women and so forth and so on.

But the average person is not an evil, horrible person. They need hope too. That`s -- we`re not going to change with what Sarah Palin derided as the hope-changing message. But we can change by simply acting it out on the ground in front of people. That`s the hope of America. That`s what we`ve always done right. Look, this country has done plenty of things wrong, in many ways was founded on genocide and slavery. But we have improved human rights more than any other country on the face of the earth.

And we can -- we have to be committed to that. We`re fail -- we`re failed creatures. We`re human beings. But we keep the trend going up. And that`s what we have to stand for. And that`s the big difference between Democrats and Republicans.

JOHNSON: Howard Dean, thank you so much for ending us on an optimistic note. I feel inspired. Thank you.

DEAN: Thank you.

J. JOHNSON: Ahead, the Avengers, Wonder Woman, and real-life American superhero. I`ll explain next.




GEORGE PEREZ, COMIC BOOK ARTIST: The idea of heroism and doing good for the sake of being good. Enchanted me, I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to create stories about heroism. We need more heroes. We need more people who aren`t -- don`t need to be rewarded for being good as they say for goodness` sake.


JOHNSON: That was legendary comic book artists George Perez, who died Friday at 67. After a battle with pancreatic cancer. I grew up reading Perez`s Teen Titan comics and his effort in creating diverse characters of color, fed into the passion that I still have today for reading and writing comics. His drawings of iconic Marvel and D.C. characters from the 80s to today served as the storyboards for some of Hollywood`s biggest films in the last decade. Wonder Woman as we know her was reinvented by Perez in 1986, transforming her from the sort of supermodel glam of the 60s and 70s to a powerful Amazon full of Greek mythology that we know today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She must never know the truth about what she is or how she came to be.


JOHNSON: Movie lovers will also recognize its influence in the Avengers films. Perez illustrated the Infinity Gauntlet comics. That fight between Captain America and Thanos? That was Perez. The massive lineup of heroes against one inevitable faux? Those wide shots came from Perez`s drawings. It was George Perez, the first drew the famous Thanos snap that turned half the universe to dust and inspired 1000 memes.

Perez was of course also the creative voice behind the best-selling series. The new Teen Titans or Teen Titans Go as the nine to 15-year-olds in your life are probably watching it on Cartoon Network now. Marvel and D.C. are both releasing tributes to Perez. Those who know him say he was a kind soul and I know that he inspired millions of kids and adults to see their dreams play out on paper, in bright and authentic colors. He`ll be greatly missed. That does it for me tonight. "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is next.

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 5/9/22 (2024)
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