Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 6/11/21 (2024)

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Summary Transcript


President Biden continues his first trip overseas since taking office. Musician and producer J.Period speaks out. Congressman Peter Welch discusses how corrupt he believes the Justice Department was under Bill Barr. A Trump era surveillance scandal rocks the Department of Justice.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.

And we begin tonight with breaking news.

A Trump era surveillance scandal is rocking the Department of Justice. The DOJ has been busted for surveilling Donald Trump`s political opponents and, in a twist that we will get into, the apparent surveillance or tracking of records of children.

This is Nixonian stuff., but it also goes farther than President Nixon got away with. It`s getting the Justice Department to search the records of the very House Democrats and a co-equal branch of government who, everyone remembers, had the authority to be overseeing the DOJ and the executive branch.

It`s a huge story. And while you may have heard about it, we`re going to get into it with our experts tonight. We have a lot of special reporting.

I want to be clear about what we`re discussing. This is abusing some of the most serious powers of search, of Fourth Amendment constitutional oversight, and abusing that. Now, Congress is the one that is supposed to oversee the Justice Department. Under Donald Trump, what we were seeing is a politicization, to get to a point where the Justice Department, with some judges involved, which we will get to, was trying to apparently track, intimidate, bully and secretly gag anyone involved with this to get their way.

There is outrage and calls for accountability tonight, Democrats demanding that Bill Barr, who was part of this, testify under oath. The inspector general -- and this is new tonight -- will, as part of the DOJ, investigate itself. Now, that`s what the I.G. does. But it`s important to note they hadn`t started doing that yet.

The DOJ has known about this. They`re only taking this new step you see on your screen to actually get to the bottom of why Adam Schiff was investigated at all because of the public pressure.

Now, we have a special report that`s coming up on the accountability and what can and should be done.

Now, when you think about a story this big, credit to "The New York Times," which broke it, and then, of course, it`s everywhere. This is how that bombshell broke on MSNBC last night.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": This is the headline tonight in "The New York Times": "Hunting leaks. Trump officials focused on Democrats in Congress," meaning members of Congress who are Democrats.

In all the time I have been in this business, I have never covered anything quite like this before. I have never read about anything like this before happening in American politics and government. As far as we know, nothing like this has ever happened before.


MELBER: Nothing like this has ever happened before.

As mentioned, there`s a reason why people go back to Watergate and Nixon. But when you look at the efforts to take the enemies list into action at DOJ, they didn`t get this far.

Now, I want to go through the facts with you, the reporting. The context is what Donald Trump wanted, what he said in public, what he said in private, the demands to go after individual opponents, to go after the press, the leakers and Adam Schiff.

"The New York Times" cites committee officials and others briefed on this inquiry report that the Justice Department was investigating who was behind the leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, and it took a highly unusual step. Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats in the House, aides and family members, and then this key part that`s also so controversial. One was a minor.

"The Times" continues that, in 2017 and `18, the Trump administration was subpoenaing the phone records of at least a dozen people, hunting for the sources behind reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. It always goes back to that.

The investigation didn`t find enough evidence to go anywhere. The DOJ was looking at taking down the whole thing after these extraordinary secret measures. Then the new attorney general, Bill Barr, who was seen as much more political and controversial than even Jeff Sessions, who was a noted conservative, he -- quote -- "revived` the probes

And due to Trump and Barr`s zeal, Barr`s own DOJ colleagues eventually believed -- and this is internal. This is not external critics. This is people on the inside. They came to see it, as "The Times" puts it there in the bottom of this -- quote -- "politically motivated."

And this was early in administration,when we knew what Trump wanted, because he would say it in public. He didn`t always -- he`d have a secret meeting. He would rage about leaks and Schiff.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks.

So I think Adam Schiff is the biggest leaker in Washington. You know that. I know that. We all know that. I have watched Adam Schiff leak. He`s a corrupt politician. He`s a leaker like nobody`s ever seen before.

They ought to investigate Adam Schiff for leaking that information. He should not be leaking information out of intelligence. They ought to investigate Adam Schiff.

We`re going to find the leakers. We`re going to find the leakers. They`re going to pay a big price for leaking.


MELBER: They`re going to pay. They were going after the records of the Intelligence Committee chair, Adam Schiff.

He famously led the first impeachment of Donald Trump. He was a vocal critic, within his rights in Congress, within this co-equal branch, of the Trump administration, of exactly the allegations of this kind of abuse of power and of Attorney General Barr.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Donald J. Trump has abused the powers of his presidency. He abused his office and the public trust by using his power for personal gain, by seeking elicit foreign assistance in his reelection and covering it up.


MELBER: There are some who may be tired of this or want to move on or feel like they already know the story.

I can`t tell you what to do about this, but I can tell you that is the wrong impulse in a democracy. The first impeachment was about Donald Trump abusing power to go after his rivals to hold onto power. And this proved to be exactly what he continued to do, continuing the abuse of power, surveilling the very people who were actually trying to hold him accountable then, leading to a second impeachment where he proved he was also willing to overturn an election if he could get away with it.

I want to bring in our experts who know all about the roots of this story, "New York Times" columnist Michelle Goldberg and justice correspondent for "The Nation" Elie Mystal.

Elie, your reaction to a story that is even worse than what was known up until last night about what Donald Trump was trying to get the government to do?

ELIE MYSTAL, "THE NATION": Oh, I don`t know if it`s even worse, right? I mean, it`s -- I`m thinking of the late, great football coach Denny Green. They are what we thought they were.

This is this what they had always been accused of doing. Trump told them to do this, and they have done it. And we kind of assumed that they did. And now we have evidence that they did, right?

I personally think Bill Barr perjured himself in front of Congress when Kamala Harris asked him directly, have you been ordered to investigate? He said, oh, what does I -- you suggest -- he lied in front of Congress. He lied to the current vice president`s face.

I think that`s enough to start a perjury investigation against him. But I - - what are the Democrats going to do? We have been here time and time again. We have been here before. We know that the Justice Department under Bill Barr was corrupt. We have known that. `

And the last thing I will say on this, Ari, is that let`s think for a second about why we`re learning about this last night, because this has been going on. As you said in your open, the Merrick Garland Justice Department knew. They knew this was happening.


MYSTAL: They didn`t tell nobody until it comes out in the press. So...

MELBER: I`m glad you bring that up. I want to I want to bring that in.

As for what the Democrats are doing, in fairness, Rachel did have the big interview with the subject here, Intelligence Chair Schiff. Let`s listen to what he told Rachel.


SCHIFF: This looks like a patent abuse of the department, yet another example of the president politicizing, using the Department of Justice as a cudgel to go after his enemies. We have asked the Justice Department -- and they have not been forthcoming -- whether this was just directed at Democrats, or whether this was a committee-wide investigation.

I wouldn`t be surprised if this was a purely partisan investigation.


MELBER: Michelle, your thoughts on what we`re hearing now?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think that Merrick Garland has really bent over backwards to act like this is a normal transition of power, to show some continuity with the former Justice Department.

You see it in the fact that the Justice Department is going to continue to defend Trump in E. Jean Carroll`s defamation case, right? The Justice Department`s going to continue to operate like his personal lawyer.

He basically -- he doesn`t want to make a clean break, because usually that`s not how it works when you transition from one administration to another. And, in general, the Biden administration has been reluctant to look backwards, right? They have their own agenda. They don`t want to talk and think of Donald Trump.

But I think, in the Justice Department, and probably in a lot of other agencies as well, you need a really intensive review to see not just -- to see where the rot was and how deep it went, because you basically kind of - - these people are still there. I think one of the important things to remember is that New Jersey prosecutor that Bill Barr brought in to oversee this investigation that the prosecutors inside the Justice Department had decided wasn`t worth pursuing, he`s still there, right?

These people are still there. And so I`m sure the Justice Department has its own procedures about when you get rid of attorneys. But I think that there needs to be a much -- an effort to really clean house.

MELBER: Yes, and I think that goes exactly what Eric Swalwell, the other target, was saying.

Elie, take a listen to Swalwell.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): This is unacceptable. Anyone who was involved in this should be fired and walked out of the department immediately, because, Jim, look, this is not a 500-year flood. Donald Trump is not going away.

He -- Trumpism and corruption manifests itself in others in government right now.



MYSTAL: I don`t know why you don`t come into the Justice Department on day one and your first order is, everything stops. Everything that you were doing for that corrupt man stops now, and we`re going to rebuild it from the ground up.

This investigation is good. That investigation was clearly corrupt. You are fired. You, maybe you can stay. You, get out and go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Like, I don`t know why that`s not happening, except I do. And it`s because of exactly what Michelle said. It`s because Merrick Garland, institutionally, constitutionally, is an institutionalist.

MELBER: Exactly.

MYSTAL: He wants things that work the way that they`re supposed to work. He doesn`t -- he was not picked to come in fire-breathing and clean house and rip the scab of Trump off of our country.

MELBER: Right.


MELBER: Elie, you`re saying something that "New York Times" readers say sometimes, that we say sometimes on THE BEAT, what Michelle said.


MELBER: And so if you -- right?

If you take what Michelle said, which I think is exactly the diagnosis, what would normally actually be the proper thing to do, which is that you don`t want the independent DOJ to swing just because there`s a new administration, is actually probably more improper now, because it would then leave too much in place that was Trumpified.

So, briefly to both of you, first, Elie and then Michelle, what do you do about it now?

MYSTAL: Abnormal administrations require abnormal responses. The Democrats cannot run around this country for four years telling us we`re facing unique threats and then, once they have power, not act uniquely.

And so what needs to happen? If it didn`t happen on day one, what needs to happen on month six is for Merrick Garland to tell everybody who was working on a Barr-related matter to stop, and he needs to start firing people who worked on the most corrupt Barr matters.

MELBER: Right.


GOLDBERG: Look, I think we need to know, first of all, how many of these subpoenas went out.

We`re hearing from people who got them. But the Justice Department has a much clearer view. And so some of the steps are that are being -- that need to be taken are already being taken. There`s going to be an inspector general`s investigation. There`s going to be a congressional investigation. Bill Barr is going to be subpoenaed. Hopefully, the Justice Department will not defend his right not to testify before Congress.

But I also just think that there needs to be a kind of de-Trumpification approach in the Justice Department and in other agencies that this president was able to corrupt.

MELBER: Yes, I think that`s exactly right. We have lived through a lot of hand sanitizer in the last year. They need to legally sanitize the whole darn place.

And the fact that, as you both have pointed out tonight -- and I only repeat it -- I think viewers heard it, but I want to repeat it because it`s so darn important. The fact that it`s only come out this late, when Garland`s been in charge and they knew about it, is a reminder that they`re not doing any of that yet.

Elie Mystal, always good to see you. Thank you, sir.

Michelle stays with us on a special episode of THE BEAT. She`s back later tonight.

Coming up, my special report on this abuse of power and accountability. That`s going to be very important.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Turning to our special report on this breaking news, the Trump DOJ secretly seizing records via subpoena from those two top Democrats in Congress, Eric Swalwell, and the impeachment manager against Trump, Intelligence Chair Schiff.

This is not just another building block of another Trump scandal that everyone`s tired of. This is actually a public confirmation of how severely the Trump administration kneecapped separation of powers, multicentury doctrines, in just four years.

So I`m going to report on why right now for you, and then we will turn to the accountability. If they already did this, if we`re only learning about it now, it`s partly because so many Trump plots failed, and because he`s out of power.

So what should be done? What can be done?

Now, we all lived through this together. You watch the news, so maybe you were there with us as we reported the first steps leading up to this. Maybe you heard from critics and experts on authoritarian regimes, sometimes on television, who warned of this kind of abuse.

Some of those people were initially dismissed. But they were right. So, I want to be clear with you about how far back this began. It`s about taking Donald Trump literally, and whoever the next would-be Trump might be.

2020 showed how far he would go to end democracy and try to be a dictator. That`s why he`s still under investigation tonight in Georgia.

But back to Comey and 2017 and Russia, we had clear evidence on the plans. And this was before the other scandals. Donald Trump was already demanding right when he got into office that the FBI jail reporters. He talked about it. He tweeted about it. But he also secretly ordered it.

And what was his chosen vehicle? A leak probe. And we know that because the plot was so unusual and suspect that then FBI Director Comey wrote down Trump`s demands as incriminating evidence against Trump. He didn`t know that he`d be fired but. By May 2017, we were learning about those requests and Trump`s follow-up in 2018.

And after Comey was fired for several reasons, of course, including his falling out with Trump over resisting these kinds of demands, the world learn how Trump, who sometimes feigned a kind of ignorance of government in public, was actually secretly hatching quite detailed plots to use leak investigations as the pretext to intimidate reporters, to try to jail them.

And, tonight, with everything we now know, with what we were just discussing at the top of the broadcast, consider how that same probe was used to get at Trump`s opponents in Congress, a leak probe.

Listen to how Comey was recounting Trump`s obsession with aggressively pursuing leaks.

Now caveat, done the right way, a proper leak probe can, of course, be valid. But the evidence shows Trump had other goals in mind.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I passed along the president`s message about the importance of aggressively pursuing leaks of classified information, which is a goal I share. And I passed that along to the attorney general, I think it was the next morning, in our -- in a meeting.


MELBER: Trump didn`t see that, though, as a nonpartisan goal for the attorney general to independently investigate.

Comey`s memos explicitly stated Trump fixated on finding leakers as the road to putting -- quote -- "reporters in jail."

And like so many Trump scandals, the plot is not only brash and obvious, but all the different ingredients are just jammed together. So this one included Russia as well, then Attorney General Sessions demanding a hunt for the sources that were feeding accurate reports about contacts between Trump`s team and Russia.

And as the new reports show, it all failed. The probe didn`t find the blame for any intelligence leaks on those congressional Democrats. Sessions was recused from the Russia probe itself, leading to his falling out with Trump, which is an echo of the Comey clash. When you follow the line, the reason why it matters now is whether there`s consequences for just how long-term and organized this plot was and how many people may have illicitly gone along with it, because Trump did find an attorney general to do this kind of bidding.

Barr doubled down on the probe, even though it hadn`t found any members of Congress responsible for illegal leaks. But he went right back at it, tapping this loyalist to do another round on the same issue who suspiciously had little relevant experience in the area. ` So "The Times" reports Barr went farther than the earlier prosecutors. Knowing they found nothing, he pushed this probe to continue Trump`s quest to abuse DOJ to punish or get his opponents, whether they be in the press or in Congress.

And under oath, Barr suspiciously dodged when asked a prescient question from a senator and lawyer who would eventually win the campaign to end Trump`s presidency.

So that puts this exchange with then Senator Harris in quite a new light.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone, yes or no, please, sir?

WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president or anybody else.

HARRIS: Seems you would remember something like that and be able to tell us.

BARR: Yes, but I`m trying to grapple with the word suggest. I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that -- they have not asked me to open an investigation, but...

HARRIS: Perhaps they have suggested?

BARR: I don`t know. I wouldn`t say suggest.

HARRIS: Hinted?

BARR: I don`t know.

HARRIS: Inferred?

You don`t know? OK.


MELBER: The scandal is big enough that the often evasive Barr is actually speaking out about it today. He says he`s not aware of any congressman`s records being sought in a leak case. And he says he never discussed these cases with Trump.

Well, Bill Barr is going to Bill Barr. That`s a parsing response that, as we just are reminded, might depend on him grappling with the word sought.

And, also, I have to call bull on another thing. Bill Barr doesn`t need to talk to Trump about this directly when Trump tweets to the whole world that he wants these things investigated, that he wants Schiff investigated.

Trump tweeted about Schiff back when he was allowed on Twitter before he was ruled a security threat, not 10 or 20 or 50 times, but 325 times, "the biggest leaker in D.C.," he claimed, which his own DOJ found was not the case.

So, even if Barr didn`t talk to Trump, we know what he wanted. So what can be done tonight? Let me go through it, because it matters, briefly.

Number one, real oversight of this DOJ by Congress. The House can set up a select committee, can leave the Senate and Joe Manchin out of it, and the House can get into the questions that we were just discussing with some of our guests. Were there other subpoenas? Were there other gag orders? That`s number one.

Two, they can fire anyone at the DOJ tonight who was involved in this stuff. We also discussed that. And whether it was criminal or not, which is a different, important thing to get to the bottom of, Congressman Schiff and others are saying it`s time to clean house. Merrick Garland, the Biden DOJ, they can do that.

Number three, Bill Barr can be forced to testify. I can tell you, Senator Schumer and others are now demanding that. And if Barr is found to be involved in this in a way that violates some of his public claims, whether they are technically dissembled or just outright lies, or whether he perjured himself earlier, there are many possible sanctions, including, again, if the evidence provides for it, disbarment.

Number four, this is bigger than any one incident or one politician. And there are precedents when the Congress wants to really deal with something and not just move on to focus on other things. The Church Committee was created after the Nixon scandals. It wasn`t just backward-looking.

Senator Frank Church dug into not only the Watergate problems, but the larger abuses of the FBI and the CIA and the surveillance state. They got to the bottom of certain abuses. And then they actually worked to change things. It led to the creation of something you have probably heard about, the entire Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was passed in 1978 after that kind of work.

And then number five is the most obvious tonight. And some people might want -- not want to hear this for whatever political reasons. I`m not talking about politics. I`m talking about justice. The buck stops here.

President Biden and Attorney General Garland are widely respected for their prudence and their institutional instincts towards cooperation. But that has its limits. Abusing power and compromising longstanding constitutional safeguards, well, if that`s not a limit, I don`t know what is.

Accountability means action. It means going to the DOJ and rooting out the people and things that clearly we`re still continuing. Attorney General Garland, no matter how respected -- and, as a lawyer, I can tell you he was widely seen as a great judge -- but he`s not exactly on the ball here, if it takes "New York Times" stories and public scandals and public pressure for him to then respond and say, oh, now we need an I.G. investigation.

Well, sir, if that`s true on the facts today, wasn`t it true on the facts yesterday, before you got busted by "The Times" for being asleep at the wheel, as this Trump era stuff just seems to be going on inside the DOJ?

At "The Washington Post," Greg Sargent reports that Adam Schiff`s office, for example, has already, prior to today, been asking DOJ for basic facts about the subpoenas and other members of Congress and the data and what the legal basis was. And a committee official is saying in that report that DOJ won`t even answer, won`t even provide a fact, accurate information, even in private.

Today, as I have emphasized, it`s only the public pressure that gets to these actions and headlines. So, how does this all work?

Well, those are five examples. The last is the most important, because, when the buck stops at the DOJ and the White House, you can`t get back to normal without dealing with the abnormal and the possibly illegal, if you`re not serious about it.

Now, what`s going to happen in Congress? Well, I can tell you, when we come back, Congressman Peter Welch from the Intelligence Committee will break it down.

Sixty-second break. stay with us.


MELBER: We`re joined now by Democratic Congressman Peter Welch from the House Intelligence Committee.

Some of his colleagues on that very committee, while doing oversight, were actually part of these suspicious records requests and subpoenas of the Trump DOJ era surveillance.

Thanks for being here tonight.

REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): Thank you.

MELBER: What do you see as important to do now?

WELCH: Well, number one, it`s important for us to understand the extraordinary abuse of power, where the president used the Justice Department, his handpicked attorney general, to basically go after personal information on members of Congress, a separate and equal branch of government.

And he went after, obviously, Adam Schiff, with whom he has a political vendetta, but after staff members, and went after family members.

So, that is an awesome abuse of the prosecutorial power that our chief executive has. And it`s bracing, because it`s Trump doing it this time. If there`s not a pushback on this and a respect for the law and a limitation the power of the president to breach constitutional rights...

MELBER: What is that pushback?

WELCH: ... it could be Republicans next time.

The pushback, I think, is, number one, let us have the inspector general report. And that report should include, among other things, what did Barr do? He hired a number of, I won`t call them cronies -- they were -- they were cronies, really -- whose job it was, was essentially to be a cell within the Justice Department to do the bidding of President Trump`s political agenda.

And that included going after people that President Trump saw as adversaries.


WELCH: And that`s an -- that`s extraordinary. So that`s...


MELBER: Well, I`m going to press you, because when you say that should happen, the implication is you think that`s vital.

Merrick Garland is in charge. And he wasn`t doing that until, as I mentioned, he was sort of called out here in public by public disclosure. Do you think Merrick Garland is handling this sufficiently well? Or is he failing his first big test as attorney general?

WELCH: Let`s give him a little time. But he`s got the message.

I mean, I think you have got a situation here where the president, President Biden, wants to be looking forward. But we really can`t move on by ignoring what has been an extraordinary breach of constitutional rights by -- and an abuse of power by the president.

So Merrick Garland has now gotten the message. There`s going to be an I.G. Report. He`s going to be in charge of that. Let`s see how that comes out, because that will be a big test for him.


MELBER: Just to button that up, though, should he have waited for "The New York Times" and the public pressure, or should he have already been having this reviewed, as you say, in that process?

WELCH: Well, my preference would be that he would have been doing that review.

MELBER: Right.

WELCH: And, of course, he would have had the outcry that it was partisan.

The fact that this came out from "The Times" -- and God bless "The New York Times" for doing this -- puts a lot of pressure on all of us to answer these questions that the public really has a right to know about.

So let`s get the I.G. report. But let`s focus on what Barr did, including this hiring of people who were not qualified to do the job they did...


WELCH: ... but were very qualified when it came to taking the loyalty oath to President Trump.



MELBER: Yes. And, Congressman, I think your concern there about who he staffed up makes sense.

You mentioned the larger way he ran the place. Let`s look at Bill Barr in action.

WELCH: Right.


BARR: The president, in terms of collusion, did nothing wrong. The president could terminate that proceeding, and it would not be a corrupt intent, because he was being falsely accused.

And I felt that the evidence could not support an obstruction. He fully cooperated.

I think the president has every right to be frustrated, because I think what happened to him was one of the greatest travesties in American history.


MELBER: Does he essentially just get away with all this, or what, if anything, can be done there?

WELCH: Well, with A.G. Barr, the answer is yes.

I mean, A.G. Barr basically had the view that the president was the law. So, you didn`t have a debate with him as to whether the president was above the law, because the president was the law, and, by fiat, if the president said to do this or that, that had the force of law.

That is a bizarre legal theory coming from our attorney general, particularly in a country where we pride ourselves that no person is above the law. But that really is the theory that Barr acted on.

So I really do want to know what Barr did, who he brought in, and how they set up this operation in the Justice Department to essentially be a political vendetta machine for the president.

Secondly, I do think Senator Durbin and Senator Schumer calling for the testimony of Barr and Sessions, although Sessions is kind of a hapless figure -- I think Barr is very smart, and very devious in carrying out his instructions -- let`s do that.

Third -- and this is where I really do think there`s going to be some test of Merrick Garland -- we have got to do a soup-to-nuts assessment of what happened to that Justice Department under the Trump administration, because it was turned into a political operation.

MELBER: Yes, and I think -- I`m supposed to fit in a break, Congressman, but I appreciate you reckoning with the questions. And I understand that you`re also saying you want to give Garland time.

But the last point you make is one that I would love to visit with you again about, because you can`t just say, well, this stuff was so terrible - - I don`t mean you, but, proverbially -- they can`t just say, this was so terrible, but we`re moving on.

So, it`s a blueprint. So, if somebody gets back in office and looks back over this and says, well, you mostly got away with it, try it again. I mean, this is practice.

So I`d love to have you back on the show here.

Friday night, Congressman Welch, thanks for making the time.

WELCH: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

We have a lot of other stories beyond this big one. President Biden, of course, asking everyone to reset their view of America, Michael Beschloss is here, and an NBC exclusive with Vladimir Putin.

Stay with us.


MELBER: President Biden continuing his first trip overseas since taking office, joining with fellow G7 leaders to donate one billion COVID vaccinations to countries in need.

The U.S. throwing in half of the total, with Biden touting that America is back.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our economy is rebounding. Our vaccination program has already saved tens of thousands of lives.

From the beginning of my presidency, we have been clear-eyed that we need to attack this virus globally as well. This is about our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation to save as many lives as we can.


MELBER: The president making that appeal.

And I`m joined by NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss.


MELBER: There`s a ton going on, but this is also quite, quite important what the president is doing overseas.

We wanted to get your perspective here, middle of his trip, end of our week. Was it not Thomas Paine who said, don`t call it a comeback? Or was that LL Cool J? Split the difference.

But what does it mean...



MELBER: ... for this president at this moment at this moment to be making this case to the world?

BESCHLOSS: Well, in a way, Biden has a somewhat easy job here, because, just like the rest of us Americans, for the last four years, the members of G7 watched the ghoulish spectacle of Donald Trump trying to take down American democracy. And it almost happened, especially on the 6th of January with the attack on the Capitol.

So, from their point of view, on one side, they say, this could happen again. Maybe Trump or someone like him could get elected in 2024, so we will have to deal with America.

But, at the same time, they know that the way to make sure it doesn`t happen again is probably for Biden to be successful. So, Biden can ask for things like a global minimum tax on corporations, other forms of cooperation where these countries have to make sacrifices. And they may at first want -- not want -- feel as if they don`t want to do it, but realize, if American democracy goes down three years from now, as it almost did last year and the last four years, they all go down as well.

MELBER: Well, Michael, I`m so glad you brought up the global minimum tax, which is not a sentence that everyone would utter, but I will...


MELBER: ... because -- because...

BESCHLOSS: Well, only you and me.

MELBER: Because it`s super important, not only to the well-being of people in the United States and around the world, but it has to do with whether there`s a floor, at a time when certain corporations are doing great, despite the appreciable hardship.

And we`re going to put up just briefly this headline about what they want to do. For the Biden administration, this plan represents a -- quote -- "foreign policy for the middle class."

Explain how this overlaps with what they`re trying to do with the other big agenda item, which is the $2 trillion spending bill?

BESCHLOSS: Well, it basically says that corporations do not have incentive to go to, let`s say, a member of -- another member of the G7, because the tax is going to be the same as it is here.

And so the result is that Biden can say, all you people who like Trump have been saying that global diplomacy is on behalf only of CEOs and a big corporate conspiracy. Instead, he can say, I`m doing it for the middle class to preserve jobs in Michigan.

MELBER: Yes, as you said, good for Michigan, good for other parts of the nation.


MELBER: And dealing with a reality that is whether these companies can go hide somewhere or whether it`s almost like a just a cooperative question.

There`s a lot of winning to be had if and a lot more equality if you can just get around those loopholes where they hide out and they hide their profits out.

We have had so much going on, I`m going to keep it moving.

But, Michael Beschloss, always good to have you, sir.

BESCHLOSS: Thank you. Enjoyed it thoroughly. Have a good weekend, Ari.

MELBER: You too. Have a great weekend.

The other thing Joe Biden did was call Vladimir Putin a killer. Putin`s responding in an NBC exclusive. We have that and something special to end the week -- coming up.



QUESTION: Mr. President, what`s your message to Putin?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you after I deliver it.


MELBER: President Biden pushing off reporters as he gets ready to face Vladimir Putin.

NBC News just landed an exclusive with the Russian president.

NBC`s Keir Simmons asked Putin how he feels about Biden condemning him as a killer. We`re airing this now on MSNBC for the first time.


KEIR SIMMONS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: When President Biden was asked whether he believes you are a killer, he said, "I do."

Mr. President, are you a killer?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Over my tenure, I have gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles, and from all kinds of areas, under all kinds of pretexts and reasons, and of different caliber and fierceness.

And none of it surprises me. So, as far as harsh rhetoric, I think that this is an expression of overall U.S. culture.


MELBER: That`s how Putin is trying to widen his rebuttal, making it larger than just a Joe Biden thing.

The meeting is on Wednesday. The White House says that President Biden will be confronting the Russian leader on many issues, including recent cyberattacks on U.S. interests, as well as the human rights record in that country.

We will keep an eye on the story.

Coming up, we have two very special guests, including our friend Michelle - - Michelle Goldberg -- pardon me. And we are doing it live, in person, in the studio. So, stay with us.


MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT, so it`s time to fall back.

And this is a special "Fallback Friday," our first return in person in over a year.

I`m joined by groundbreaking deejay and producer J.Period. He`s done collaborations with legends like Q-Tip, Nas, Big Daddy Kane, Lauryn Hill. "Rolling Stone" dubbed him a music guru. He`s been featured in NBA arenas. He`s out with his debut album, "Story to Tell."

And we have another widely discussed and known creator with us, our friend Michelle Goldberg from her "New York Times" columns, to her MSNBC appearances, to being part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team of journalists, the author of three books, including "The Means of Reproduction."

Great to have you both here.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.


GOLDBERG: It`s great to be here.


MELBER: Yes. What`s up? What`s up?

Michelle, what`s on your "Fallback" list?

GOLDBERG: I have been covering this kind of moral panic over critical race theory, these attempts to ban not just this kind of obscure academic school of thought, but, really, in practice, talk about racism, talk about injustice, talk about privilege.

And it`s gotten so out of control that at -- in one school district or one part of Nevada, an activist has called for teachers to wear bodycams, so that they can be monitored to make sure they`re not secretly slipping any critical race theory into classes.

MELBER: That is wild. A bodycam for educational content.


MELBER: That is wild.



And I think these are people who, my guess is, are not excited about bodycams in other contexts.

MELBER: In a safety context, right. I mean, that`s a lot.

That sounds like very, like, a little Orwell.


MELBER: J.Period, thanks for coming through.

J.PERIOD: Yes. Yes. Glad to be here. Glad to be back.

MELBER: What`s on your "Fallback" list?

J.PERIOD: My "Fallback" is really people in the online discourse who lack empathy.

What I see is a lot of people who are enjoying the sound of their own voice, and they`re sort of quick to criticize, but slow to see another perspective and an issue. And I think that, regardless of the problems, whether from the political divide to the Middle East, I think we would all benefit from seeing the other side`s perspective and showing a little more compassion.

MELBER: Do you think that, the way the Internet works, it can do so many things that connects us, and we have got a whole generation that`s coming up with it -- they didn`t ask for it. We gave it to them. And now they got to live with it. So it`s not just criticizing that generation.

But do you think, in a way, it can make us more cold and less aware of the humanity on the other side of the screen?

J.PERIOD: For sure.

I mean, I think we have all felt that in the distance, physical distance we have had from other human beings over the course of the last year. And I think, in the online world, that definitely shows. I often call the Internet the echo chamber of outrage. It`s sort of like the place where people like to put all of their frustration from their lives, and it manifests in all of these other ways.

And people forget the effect of that on the people that are receiving it, because it`s not a direct connection. You`re sort of shouting into the void, and then someone else somewhere is maybe hurt by that.

MELBER: Shout-out to you for coming on the news and saying, let`s be empathetic.


MELBER: I vibe with that.

Michelle has been with us the whole hour from the top, when we had other stories kicking around.

But I`m curious what else is on your list.

GOLDBERG: I`m going to say, fall back, Art Laffer, the father...

MELBER: Laffer Curve.

GOLDBERG: Yes, father of supply-side economics, recipient of the Medal of Honor from Donald Trump, who was recently in the news for saying that many of the people who -- many of the people who would take $15-an-hour-jobs don`t deserve $15 an hour, if you want to talk about people who are sort of undeserving of the riches that have been bestowed on them.


And this is that thing where he was celebrated, supply side. Everybody remembers trickle down. There`s almost...

GOLDBERG: Right. And it doesn`t work.

MELBER: It doesn`t -- go ahead. Go ahead.

GOLDBERG: Well, no.

I mean, it`s been a monumental failure. It`s the reason that Republican presidencies typically leave us with such huge deficits, right? It`s a pretext for people who want to massively cut taxes for the rich...

MELBER: Right.

GOLDBERG: ... and say that there`s some sort of societal benefit from that.

But for this man to say that -- and I think he specifically said young people, minorities, these are people that were often not worth the $15 an hour that the minimum wage law says they have to be paid.

MELBER: J.Period, this brings us to another J in the game. You know who I`m thinking of?

J.PERIOD: I do not.


MELBER: J. Cole.

J.PERIOD: How so?

MELBER: Well, the new album, which went number one, "The Off-Season," he says, I don`t want to hear about people being rich anymore. Tell me about being a broke rapper, because most people don`t have a lot of money. There`s no shame in that.

J. on J.?

J.PERIOD: I mean, first of all, shout to J. Cole and shout to my man Pharoahe Monch, who gave the "My life" melody for that number one single.

But I would say I appreciate that perspective. I think one of the things that is great about J. Cole as a rapper of this generation is that this is the generation where sort of the layers get peeled back that have been concealing things And the truth gets revealed.

And the truth is that -- exactly what he said. So I`m glad to hear him say it on a platform like he has.

MELBER: Yes, and that ambition is great, and the Internet has everyone bragging and touting. I feel like we`re doubling back to where we started.

But if it only means showing, like, capitalist values, and not thinking about what makes life worth living, right, then we`re losing something. I mean, I love hip-hop`s ambition, but there`s a materialism issue there too.


I think when Rakim says, I need money, but the next line is, I used to be a stick-up kid, so we`re getting a sense of where he comes from and not having money. And I think it`s very different to sort of tout needing money when you don`t have any, and somebody who`s obviously wealthy on a yacht, and they`re just rapping about all the money they have.

I agree. People don`t want to really hear that anymore. They want to hear the real.


And did Lonely Island not say...


J.PERIOD: Oh, no, please.


J.PERIOD: I`m just laughing because you just quoted J. Cole and Lonely Island in the same broadcast, so props to you.

MELBER: I`m on a boat.

J.PERIOD: That`s true.

MELBER: It`s better -- the silences are better...



MELBER: I want to thank J.Period, your debut on THE BEAT, our friend Michelle in more than one segment.

Thanks to both of you.

And before we go, we have something special.

Last night, Ben and Jerry told us that they have been naming flavors based on fans` ideas, like Cherry Garcia. Many beatniks have been sending us great answers to this question: What band or musicians still need their own ice cream flavor? Well, we`re going to actually share some of your answers on the show next week. Today was way too busy.

But I will tell you, I have already started to see some come in. We were talking about J. Cole. We have talking about hip-hop. But I got some great ones on Bohemian Raspberry, which is a real one, Queen, rock `n` roll, Aretha Franklin. So you guys are already giving us a sense of what you`re listening to.

You can reply with your idea of who still needs their own ice cream. Reply @AriMelber on any of my social media pages. Or you can always connect with at That`s And I`m not kidding. Your musical ice cream idea might actually be on THE BEAT.

It`s been quite a week. Thank you for spending time with me.

I will see you back here Monday 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

And now we`re going to rev it up and hand it off to "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID."

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 6/11/21 (2024)
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