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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 1/22/21

Guests: Russ Feingold, Deborah Archer, Marlon Craft, Sally Kohn, Ashley Allison

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now. Hi, Ari. Happy Friday. ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Happy Friday. I hope you have a great weekend. I want to you. I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber. Tonight, President Biden is tackling this COVID economy that he has obviously now inherited. And he is emphasizing we`re all in emergency, as we probably all know, but he has a plan to help immediately. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of America`s hurting. The virus is surging. We`re 400,000 dead, expected to reach well over 600,000. Families are going hungry. People are at risk of being evicted. Job losses are mounting again. We need to act. No matter how you look at it, we need to act. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Biden says he is acting, including with two new executive orders that the administration says will help struggling families immediately with food assistance, as well as an attempt to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour for people who work with federal government contracts. Biden has also signed 28 orders already. The orders come as roughly a million more Americans are filing for unemployment just last week. This is an indication that, in addition to everything else going on and the political transition, the recovery itself is slowing at a macroeconomic level, which is a big deal for your daily life. Now, Republicans want to scale back the relief package that Biden is pushing as priority number one legislatively. The Cabinet is also starting to come together. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is now the United States` first black Pentagon leader. He arrived there at the Pentagon today. Speaker Pelosi, meanwhile, making news by sending this new article of impeachment against Trump for inciting the Capitol riot this coming Monday. That means a trial is coming. We have more on that momentarily. But we begin on what Joe Biden says he`s doing on an emergency basis for a country facing an emergency. And we welcome Michael Steele, former RNC chair, and Ashley Allison, who worked on President Biden`s campaign and transition team. Ashley, you`re close to this. Welcome to THE BEAT. And break it down for us, what the new president`s doing. ASHLEY ALLISON, BIDEN TRANSITION TEAM MEMBER: Well, thank you for having me. What you see President Biden doing is really speaking to the American people. People have been hurting for almost over a year now, and we had no leadership before January 20. So, he is saying to members of Congress and the House and the Senate, governors, mayors, corporate America, organizations that do direct service, that we have a plan, that he has a plan, that he wants to make sure American families can keep a roof over her head, food on their table, and they shouldn`t have to choose between one or two. We are fighting a virus that doesn`t discriminate against Democrats or Republicans, black or white. It is definitely hitting some communities harder, but that people need to step up and do their job, pass this package, so we can get out of this pandemic. MELBER: You mention the pandemic. And, Michael Steele, we talked about this as we assessed both the candidates` plans during the election, right? A jobs plan, an economic plan and the COVID plan, they`re all interrelated. Dr. Fauci comes to this on the health side. Take a listen to what he said today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: Did the lack of candor, did the lack of facts in some cases over the last year cost lives? DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You know, it very likely did. When you start talking about things that make no sense medically and no sense scientifically, that clearly is not helpful. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Michael, your thought on that and all the above? MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It started with, oh, well, you don`t have to wear a mask. That`s where it started. That`s where the dumbing down of this health care crisis started. Then you throw in, oh, well, why don`t you try hydroxy something or other, and why don`t you inject yourself with bleach? The public was at a disadvantage from the very beginning of this because the White House did not take it seriously. So, here we are now. The president of the United States, Joe Biden, is playing a terrible hand of catchup. We find out that, oh, well, we don`t have enough supply of vaccines to actually get 20 million people vaccinated by December 31. It`s now January 22. So, the reality -- the realities of the failures are stark. What has to take place now is what you -- I think you see the administration is doing is laying down the tracks on a new pathway that is going to take a little time, but they`re being transparent and as honest about it as possible. The test, Ari, is whether or not is whether or not the United States Congress takes this pathway seriously enough to recognize exactly what is at stake. To dovetail on what Dr. Fauci said, we lost lives early in this pandemic because they didn`t take it seriously. We may well lose more lives on the back end of this if you don`t do what you need to do now. MELBER: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Ashley, before I lose you, and we`re turning to the impeachment story as well, I did want to give you a chance to speak to something, given you work for now President Biden. He runs into people in Washington who say, yes, these are big problems, but can`t afford it, too expensive, too big a package that he`s trying to take through this Congress. Your response? ALLISON: Well, I think if you went to a person in this country who lost someone because of COVID, doesn`t have a job, is in threat of losing their home, their kids haven`t been able to go back to school, they would say, I`m so sick of Washington, D.C., politics and people not wanting to just do their jobs, and that I will remember this, because they are all elected by the people. And so I want to stop being in my house. I have been in my house. We have all been doing this remotely. I have been fortunate to keep my job, but this is just ridiculous, And that members of Congress, Republicans, Mitch McConnell, they need to get on that phone with Brian Deese on Sunday, listen, negotiate it out, but do their job, so that we can save lives; 400,000 people dead is so sad. When you hear Dr. Fauci say it didn`t have to be like that, that`s sad. That`s ultimately sad that our president let this happen. And so I extend my condolences to anyone who has anyone because of this virus, but I also just extend a hope that Congress will step up to this moment and lead like America needs them to lead. MELBER: Biden adviser Ashley Allison kicking us off tonight, thank you. I hope you will come back. ALLISON: Absolutely. Thanks for having me. MELBER: Appreciate it. Michael stays with me on the next story, and it`s a big one. The other top story tonight right now is the news that the articles of impeachment will formally go to the Senate Monday. It echoes the process that, of course, the nation lived through the last time Donald Trump was impeached. But this time is different for two reasons. Democratic Senator Schumer, number one, is now in charge. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Make no mistake, a trial will be held in the United States Senate, and there will be a vote whether to convict the president. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: So, there could be more evidence and more witnesses, which Republicans blocked last time when they were in charge. And this time, Trump is out of office. So the entire case is not about removing him, but whether to convict and disqualify him from holding any office, like the presidency, forever. Now, this is huge and has never actually happened before, the United States Senate deciding that something can shape history, sanction Trump and ensure he never has power again, and do so on that basis that you see right there, for life. There is no more significant amount of time than for life. That`s why Nicki Minaj famously sang, for life, for life, and if the work is vindicated, best believe, when it`s done, it will be syndicated, for life, for life. And just as Nicki declared herself in this very moment a king, the speaker here will ultimately slay Goliath with a constitutional sling. Now, we take that entire question now to one of the few people who served as a senator juror, former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. Thanks for joining us. FMR. SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WI): Thank you, Ari. It feels a little bit like one of your "Fallback Friday"s because we`re were doing this last year at this time. (LAUGHTER) MELBER: You feel like you`re falling back through history. I understand that, Senator. And yet, as mentioned, the big difference is, with him out of office, it`s not a question of removal. It`s only the question of disqualification. As I mentioned, all credit for Nicki for one way of thinking about it. For life is a long time. Your view on what that means for this Senate making that big a decision about potentially banning Trump for life from public office? FEINGOLD: And that is the critical decision here. You know, 170 distinguished law professors put out a letter today, including Charles Fried, who was in the Reagan administration, saying that it is clearly constitutional to hold this trial now and to have the vote on disqualification. And the reason I think they say that -- and I have had an opportunity to teach this as well -- is, it doesn`t really work otherwise. Otherwise, somebody like Trump can just quit and go out and start running for president again and wreak havoc. The disqualification was added by the founders, the only other remedy besides removal from office and only by a majority vote. So, it`s pretty clear that they wanted this remedy to be available even after somebody quit or left office. And I think this is a great example of how it should be used. It was done once when I was in the Senate, when I voted to disqualify a man named Judge Porteous, who was not only convicted, and he was also disqualified for life. So, there is precedent for it. MELBER: Disqualified for life. You mention that. We will put that on the screen, the Federalist Society letter, which, as you say, reminds people that the rule of law, as it should be, is not supposed to be partisan. There are people who served, as you mentioned, in both administrations. We can read from it. "Our carefully considered view of the law lead us to agree the Constitution permits the impeachment, conviction, and disqualification of former officers, including presidents." I bring back Michael in the conversation with the senator. Michael, it is a new era. The rule of law and precedent matter, and the senator makes the argument that is widely supported, that you can bar for life. The question to you, Michael, should the Senate do that based on the available evidence? STEELE: It has to go forward, and I think all available evidence will lead to a conviction. And it should, at the end of the day. Look, this is about accountability. Donald Trump`s entire presidency has been about what he thought he could get away with. The fact that he had a complicit and compliant Republican leadership that was afraid, for whatever political reasons they were afraid of him, they did nothing. And so, all of this narrative has built to this consequential moment. We watched with our own eyes and heard with our own ears the president instigates what happened on January 6, and fellow Republicans in the Senate do the same. MELBER: Yes. STEELE: So, tell me where accountability begins and ends here. And why should you not be held accountable for those actions? And I don`t care if you`re not in the office any longer. This is a statement about what that office means going forward and what responsibilities you`re going be held to account for as an officeholder. MELBER: Senator, you`re nodding? FEINGOLD: Yes, I don`t just find this encouraging. I find it a bit inspiring to realize that a letter signed by people from the Federalist Society -- I`m the president of the American Constitution Society. Somebody like Michael Steele. Michael was a Republican. He was a good Republican candidate. We were afraid of him. But he spent the last few years doing the right thing, saying the right thing, with courage. And there are a lot of Republicans and a lot of conservatives who are saying, it`s not about party. It`s about accountability. It`s because they love their country. And they know that this country has been deeply threatened. So, there are elements here that suggested that we haven`t just been through a stress test. We have been through a brutal attack. And these are the things that have to be done to repair it, so we can have just normal disagreements again. I look forward to that. MELBER: Senator, when people watched the trial last time, it didn`t look like "Law & Order." It didn`t look like "My Cousin Vinny," because Mitch McConnell managed to keep the line and block the things that everyone expects in a trial, witnesses and a certain type of evidence. As I mentioned, there`s different expectations now. Walk us through what you think, again, having been one of the few people who sat and done this -- and you took it quite seriously. And for viewers who may not recall, you went against the Democratic Party on issues like money and corruption and other things when you thought that was warranted. You have a reputation there for fairness. What would be, in your view -- because, again, this is going over there on Monday and could start relatively soon -- a fair Senate trial, so that the American public and every senator can really look at this evidence and decide, is this a person who constitutionally should be allowed to hold these powers again, or should that be off the table? FEINGOLD: Yes, you`re absolutely right, Ari. What was done last year by Mitch McConnell was turning the whole Constitution on its head. It was a fraudulent trial. They made sure there weren`t any witnesses. And you were right to remember that I was the only Democratic senator to vote to hear the witnesses in the Clinton trial. And I found that going through that process caused me to believe that it was not appropriate to convict President Clinton, based on the evidence I actually saw. The American people should be, again, presented with the evidence. Now, as I heard some people saying who were involved in the impeachment last year, this one`s going to be a lot easier, because everybody saw what happened. They heard what the president said. The evidence is probably going to be a little easier than trying to figure out the intricacies of Ukrainian politics, which was involved in the last one. So -- but the job is still to not announce in advance what you`re going to do. As Michael said, take a look at the evidence. See what feels right. Decide whether the president has done the things that are wrong enough to justify removal, and then decide whether it`s right for the country and if it`s a good thing for the country for him to be removed and disqualified. That`s what the senators should do, and I believe they will do it this time. MELBER: Very important. I`m just getting some developing news here. Our producer telling me that, since we have come on the air, Senator Schumer has formalized the plan. The articles will arrive Monday, which we mentioned, and then the actual formal start of the trial part, Senator Schumer`s office is now saying, and he is confirming in public, would be February 8. So that`s developing news on the timeline, of great interest to many people. On a smaller note, Senator Feingold mentioned and gave shout-out to "Fallback Friday," which we appreciate. And Michael Steele is actually in tonight`s "Fallback Friday." Next time, we will get you in there, Russ. Thank you to both of you. FEINGOLD: I enjoyed it. And I will look forward to it, Michael. STEELE: All right. (LAUGHTER) MELBER: Amen. And, Michael, I will say quick, I will say briefly, the last time Senator Feingold did it, he did it with, if I`m not mistaken, I believe it with Waka Flocka Flame. Is that correct? FEINGOLD: That is correct. I had to figure out how to say it first, but yes. (LAUGHTER) MELBER: Yes, and they were talking -- they were talking about -- I was watching -- this was pre-COVID, Michael. I was watching them. They were talking about environmental stuff. It was great. It was -- we can all come together. (CROSSTALK) MELBER: Thank you, Senator. Yes. Michael, I will see you tonight, soon enough. We`re going fit in our shortest break, 30 seconds. Mitch McConnell under fire, Democrats pushing back in a big way. Obama`s advice on how to do it. And later, chilling details about the Capitol rioters` links, some of them, to law enforcement. We`re back in 30 seconds. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MELBER: Breaking news out of the United States Senate. Senator Chuck Schumer, the brand-new majority leader, moving right away on many actions, including announcing right now, as we come on the air, that this trial of Donald Trump for inciting the Capitol riot will formally begin on February 8. That`s news. It shows the Democrats coordinating and moving ahead, with the articles of impeachment formally being presented by the House of Representatives on Monday. It`s a big story we`re monitoring. And its part of the other thing that hangs over the Senate right now, what voters did this very month, demoting Mitch McConnell by turning Georgia blue. McConnell is reverting to form on multiple issues. He wants to maneuver any way to obstruct this new Biden administration. There`s not even a pretense of taking up President Biden`s call for unity or bipartisanship this week. So, as the new president deploys these executive orders on COVID and other issues, there is clearly a collision coming right down the pike on legislative challenges like immigration and that Biden stimulus plan we have been reporting on, which does require Congress to get the money, and today McConnell revealing why he is nervous, that Democrats might play more hardball in the Senate, like restricting how the minority party can block votes with the filibuster. McConnell has been pleading with his new replacement as majority leader, the just-mentioned Chuck Schumer, to try to just, well, promise to keep the filibuster as is. That way, Republicans would hold the power to try to veto many, maybe all Biden bills that they don`t like from even getting votes on the floor, up-or-down votes. Now, progressives have already been hitting back. Elizabeth Warren says no way. And, today, Leader Schumer shut it down. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCHUMER: Leader McConnell`s proposal is unacceptable, and it won`t be accepted. And the Republican leader knew that when he first proposed it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Anyone who`s followed the Obama years knows this is how McConnell rolls. Now, some of this, I admit it, it may sound like process. There`s a lot going on in the nation. Why are we talking about a Senate rule? And depending on how closely you follow, you know, the Senate this sounds like we`re in the weeds. I want to tell you why this matter to your pocketbook, to your public safety, to your health. When a rule like this is used to thwart democracy and up-or-down votes over and over on key issues, from COVID, to jobs, to civil rights, that thing that sounds like process becomes substance. And this is a point that actually President Obama made explicitly at an important moment and a somber one, at the funeral for John Lewis, with an implicit lesson for his former vice president, who now has the top job. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You want to honor John? Let`s honor him by revitalizing the law that he was willing to die for. Once we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching. And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster, another Jim Crow relic, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that`s what we should do. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: We`re joined by "The Washington Post" Eugene Robinson and progressive activist and writer Sally Kohn. Gene, we pulled up that sound of the president, former President Obama, because it feels so relevant now. It`s old, as I think any viewer can understand, but it`s clearly on the mind of Chuck Schumer today and maybe people in the Biden administration that no other authority than President Obama said, get rid of this thing, and, by the way, it`s a Jim Crow relic. Your thoughts, Gene? EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, two main thoughts. Number one, if the last, what, six years have taught us anything, it is that, if you`re going deal with Mitch McConnell, you had better bring everything you have. Use every bit of power and leverage that you have, because that`s what he is going to do. He is going to take to it the max, no matter what. And he is going to -- with the Southern accent, he is going to speak dripping with Spanish moss about the traditions of the Senate, and, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, and then he is going to break them when he wants to, when he wants to, to get the result he wants. MELBER: Yes. Facts. ROBINSON: That`s number one. Number two, this thing, the filibuster, back in the day, when the Senate -- when people voted across party lines in the Senate and it was really a club, maybe it made more sense. But for some time, the Senate has just been a smaller and less efficient version of the House, where everybody votes along party lines. And so the filibuster is -- all the filibuster does basically is keep the Senate from doing anything. And that`s not acceptable. The country needs a legislature that can-do stuff. So, I think it ought to be history. MELBER: Yes. Sally, we`re tracking the breaking news on Senator Schumer doing more than one thing at a time, trying to work forward on an organizing resolution for this Senate, vote on the stimulus, do the other American business, and announcing here moments ago February 8 trial date for the president. But the larger impact here, you could call it a sort of a Captain Phillips moment, if you want. Some progressives were worried Schumer might even fall for this bid or that old Schumer might have. He looked McConnell in the eye today and said: I`m the captain now, and you don`t get this deal. SALLY KOHN, WRITER/ACTIVIST: My favorite part of what Schumer just said was that it`s unacceptable and it`s not going to be accepted. In the past, all Democrats, they would have said, it`s unacceptable. We`re going accept it anyway. (LAUGHTER) KOHN: So... (CROSSTALK) KOHN: ... Chuck Schumer and these new Democrats. Look, Eugene is exactly right. Mitch McConnell does not care about tradition. He cares about power. And he is very, very, very good at wielding it. The problem -- and I have said this before -- is that Democrats have always cared more about process. Republicans care about power. Democrats care about process. And the problem is, Republicans wield that power and abuse that power for the people, for the benefit of the people in our country who wield an abuse power and privilege, whereas Democrats -- Democrats have always been the ones who, they work hard and they act decent, and yet they never get what they can done for hardworking, decent people in this country. Now, I`m not saying that Democrats should go become jerks now, but I do think we have to stop being suckers. MELBER: Yes. You`re saying something that I think a lot of viewers can understand. It`s been on display in national politics. You and Gene both hit on the point there may be times we`re honoring traditions, some traditions, has its place. But honoring traditions when Mitch McConnell used -- quote, unquote -- "process" to do a smash-and-grab steal of a Supreme Court nominee from the Obama/Biden administration is a whole different energy. Sally, I also want to get your reaction from Newt Gingrich. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Look, I think you`re seeing the hysteria of the Biden system, because it`s not really about Biden himself. It`s this entire team around him who are radicals who believe, if they could exterminate, the Republicans... (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: I`m not going to ask you, Sally, to take the statement at face value. (CROSSTALK) MELBER: So, forget the extermination part. I am going to ask you, politically, as you and Gene both think through these things, what does it tell you about what Joe Biden may have been able to achieve in the inaugural address that one of the dirtiest legendary hardball fighters in the Republican Party would rather say, forget about that nice man discussing unity; the real problem is somebody else you can`t see? KOHN: I mean, they have always been sort of -- this has been the play for the last six or so months. It`s like trying to smear Biden and, when they don`t think that`s going to work, smear Biden by association. Oh, well, he met with Bernie Sanders to hash out health care reform, and, therefore, he is Bernie Sanders. Oh, he is talking to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about environmental reform, and, therefore he is -- and, by the way, this is the other thing, is, those aren`t radicals. And the thing for a Newt Gingrich or any Republican now who is going to try that, who is not going to think that the American people noticed where -- what true extremist radicalism looks like, when the guys with weapons showed up and stormed the Capitol, that the people, the proposals that are, thank God, around Biden trying to actually finally do what the American people need done, right, actual affordable health care, actually saving our planet, actually raising minimum wage, so that people who work a full day`s work can get a fair day`s pay? My lord, and you call them whatever you want to call them. MELBER: Yes. Yes. KOHN: Those are popular ideas with a desperate American public. And it just -- it ain`t landing. MELBER: Yes. We`re running a little over on time. KOHN: I mean the attack isn`t landing. The ideas are. MELBER: But, Gene, it`s quite a week. KOHN: Sorry. Go ahead. Yes. MELBER: Yes, it`s been quite a week, Gene. Your final thoughts on this Friday night? ROBINSON: You know, isn`t -- I haven`t thought -- since Wednesday noon, I haven`t wondered what is on Donald Trump`s mind, what is he thinking about, what is he obsessing about, what is he watching, which FOX News show? And it`s just glorious. (LAUGHTER) ROBINSON: That`s the -- right. That`s the payoff. If that`s the only payoff of the Biden administration, we`re better off as a country. And, as we all know, we hope the best is yet to come. (CROSSTALK) MELBER: Yes, some people think of you -- and I have seen you out sometimes, pre-COVID, out and about. People think of you as this Pulitzer-winning thinker. And they might forget you`re also a human being, like everyone else, who just says, gosh, what a nice couple of days for you as a human. I appreciate you sharing that with us. (LAUGHTER) MELBER: Gene and Sally, have a good weekend to both of you. KOHN: You too. ROBINSON: You too, Ari. MELBER: Absolutely. We`re going fit in a break. You might be feeling different today. We were just discussing normalcy. We`re going show you some of what that means and what the substance is behind it. Also, an update on another important story we`re tracking tonight, more arrests and new details about the Capitol riot which hangs over a Senate trial that Chuck Schumer has been making news on tonight. All of that ahead -- after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MELBER: Breaking news out of Washington tonight, the Democrats, for the first time, outlining the exact plan for the looming trial of Donald Trump for inciting the Capitol riot during his presidency. Senator Schumer making news as we came on the air. They will get the articles of impeachment from Speaker Pelosi Monday. We had heard that. But the new news is, this trial will begin February 8, and there are high expectations for it to be, as we were reporting, more muscular, filled with far more evidence than what the Republicans allowed at the previous Trump impeachment trial. We`re tracking that for you. And, of course, it dovetails with the other update I promised you, new facts emerging about the Capitol insurrection. And it`s relevant to the evidence these Democrats present, the House managers, in the trial that now has a start date. A lawyer for the QAnon Shaman has a new interview with bad news for Donald Trump, because the blame is pinned on the former president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AL WATKINS, ATTORNEY: He regrets very, very much having not just been duped by the president, but by being in a position where he allowed that duping to put him in a position of making decisions that he should not have made. He served in the military honorably. He was discharged honorably. He has been a longstanding, devout follower of shamanism. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Everyone is entitled to their legal defense, and that is a lawyer both trying to add what is called mitigation, saying maybe this person has done other honorable things in their life if not that day, but also, as you just heard there, basically arguing in public already that Donald Trump was an inciter or co-conspirator. He is saying, he was duped, blame the former president, not this so-called shaman. Now, in a wider perspective, let`s be clear, we are learning a lot of details how that individual, that defendant was not alone in the links to the military or veteran status. NPR reporting one in five defendants in the Capitol riot served in the U.S. military. And prosecutors say, one alleged rioter said that he was in the -- quote -- "U.S. Army Reserves and works as a contractor at Naval Weapons Station, where he actually has a secret clearance and is an avowed white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer," which is not what the military wants. Documents in the case also state federal agents recovered a copy of "Mein Kampf" by Adolf Hitler -- I`m quoting here from the government documents -- and that he -- quote -- "stated that a civil war was the best shot for American society to get a clear bill of health." With this angle tonight story, we turn to an important expert. Deborah Archer is professor at NYU School of Law, co-faculty director of the NYU Center on Race, Inequality and the Law. Thank you for joining us. What context do you think is important as we learn more and more about these individuals? DEBORAH ARCHER, DIRECTOR, NYU CIVIL RIGHTS CLINIC: So, first, you were mentioning the impeachment trial. And I think what ties a lot of what we`re seeing today together is the importance of truth-seeking and accountability, the importance of defending who we are as a nation, or at least who we hold ourselves out to be, and investigating and possibly censuring Senators Hawley and Cruz, impeaching Donald Trump, holding members or veterans of the military or law enforcement accountable. These are all important not because we want to punish people or not because we want to be partisan or don`t want -- think that there is important work that needs to be done. It`s important to name that what happened was wrong. People died, and so many others` lives were at risk. Our democracy was threatened, and some would say barely held. We need to say as a nation that that`s wrong. And calls for unity that don`t acknowledge that wrong really are hollow. In terms of the military involvement that you mentioned, this is a problem not just with the military, but with police departments, as police departments around the country also are finding out today that their officers were also involved. These are both organizations, people who took an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect all citizens. And if we start with the military, the potential threat posed by white supremacists trained by our military really can`t be overstated or ignored. We already know how deadly this can be. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was not just an avowed white power advocate. He was also a decorated Gulf War veteran. Extremist ideology and military know-how are really a devastating and fatal combination. In addition to the individuals who are in the military, as I just said, it is worth highlighting the number of people who were off-duty police officers. We should be alarmed about that as well, and it feeds directly into the ongoing conversations we`re having around the disproportionate policing of black and brown communities. In 2006, the FBI issued a bulletin warning of white supremacists infiltrating law enforcement, and outlining the really horrific consequences, such as access to weapons, military-grade weapons and training, and really this kind of incredible deference and authority that they have in communities of color. MELBER: Right. Racial disparities... (CROSSTALK) MELBER: Well, Professor, yes, let me jump into one other point, because I have a minute left with you. ARCHER: Oh. MELBER: And we could use a whole class, quite candidly. But we are hearing about the evidence of police-on-police crime, off-duty police officers attacking other police officers. That, I think needs to be understood. And then Americans, is the second point you were getting to, must understand that, if not for how much this spun out of control, many people would be less aware of the fact that most of those folks were going to go home, put the police uniform back on. And the question for these police communities is, how is that fair? I give you, obviously, one minute to start the answer. We will bring you back again. ARCHER: Yes, I think those folks who were arguing and fighting for the rights of police officers have been a little bit silent here. Today, as you said, we saw police-officer-on-police-officer crime. But, as I was mentioning, racial disparities pervade all of policing. The magnitude and depth of this inequality makes clear that this is a systemic problem. But the growing threat of white supremacy in law enforcement shows that it`s a problem that`s exacerbated by both institutional, but also individual bias. And there`s a lot of work for us to do to address that. MELBER: Yes, and to turn to -- and I put you in this category, among others, experts who have actually been on the case. There is a lot wrong. There`s also people who have been publicly wrong. They can learn. They can come back. We have to work together. But let`s make sure we`re also listening and learning from people who have actually been calling out these very things, including, as you mentioned, people who rightfully discussed the white supremacist violence going all the way back -- you gave examples from early `90s and `06. Professor Archer, thank you. ARCHER: Thank you for having me. MELBER: Absolutely. We have a lot more in tonight`s program. I mentioned Michael Steele coming back. Contrast from the chaos to new traditions of government being upheld. Also, the wider rebuke to the Capitol riots, that`s what Michael Steele returns on, including a special guest. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MELBER: The Biden administration is working to restore many things that were once taken for granted, traditional ways of running the federal government. In two days, much of the chaos is already dissipating. Some call it a return to normalcy for the country, the White House press secretary holding regular press briefings, another one today, to take questions from the press. And there was no talk of crowd sizes. There was not yelling, although an adversarial relationship about facts is perfectly acceptable. Dr. Fauci has had far more access. He is back this the White House, and he is speaking out, using that bully pulpit the way many say he should have been able to do the whole time. Fauci himself says he is liberated. This is a path towards a more functioning government. It is a path towards more transparency. And we`re seeing officials carrying out some job responsibilities without controversy. It doesn`t mean any administration gets a pass on everything. But there are clearly some breakthroughs here worth noting. A doctor who can address America about COVID, without worrying about being fired for telling the truth, that`s a start. Now, when we come back, I wanted you to see something by the end of this week, so stay with us. This is a super important discussion about the wider rebuke and reckoning for the riot, not only in American life, but in our culture. Michael Steele returns -- right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MELBER: As law enforcement and the Senate continue to pursue accountability for the Capitol riot insurrection, we`re also seeing more examples of a wider reaction. In an insurrection that horrified and captivated Americans, some 30 million people, we now know, watched on television, rivaling sports events. World leaders spoke out and condemned the attack on democracy. And while some of the political world is understandably moving on to inauguration and governing, we`re seeing reactions across our culture. Many nonpartisan companies are condemning the violence, supporting wider conversations about radicalism, cultural leaders of all different stripes speaking out. The singer Demi Lovato says she is actually at work on new music that she hopes will tackle the riots, these riots, and related issues, while rapper Marlon Craft has a new song challenging cliches about American unity, arguing the U.S. cannot argue to be unified until people really confront things that should not be negotiated, from scientific truths about COVID to the white supremacy problem. Take a quick look at this new, searing song. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARLON CRAFT, MUSICIAN (singing): To defeat white supremacy, you got to first want to defeat white supremacy. I don`t think most of us really do. How many white mirror convos really bearing fruit? Vague tweets about how you love everyone. You won`t even wear a mask to save somebody`s grandmother. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Craft is 27 years old, speaking from a difficult generation than the political leadership class, and he is not taking anything for granted. In fact, in the song, he argues that, without the once-in-a-generation pandemic, Trump might have won reelection. And he echoes historians who warn that a more skilled autocrat could still better exploit the weaknesses that Trump showed in the U.S. system. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CRAFT (singing): Truth is, if not for COVID, Trump would`ve won reelection in a landslide. So we evaded Armageddon, for good old store brand oppression. But if a leader more savvy, and less sociopathic, with true fascist aspirations come along, it`s going to be tragic; 74 million proved, if the right rhetoric is used, we could end up on the wrong side of World War II. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Fascinating to see the wider culture reacting in real time. Michael Steele is back with us. Quite a song, huh? STEELE: No, I have to tell you, I watched that video, and I watched it a couple of times, and I was struck by a lot that Marlon said in there. He`s one of these artists, he`s just writes -- OK, can we talk about this? Because you hit a couple of nerves with me, and I wrote -- had to write down a couple of those lyrics that really kind of struck that chord. MELBER: Yes. Yes. STEELE: So, I think he`s got something important to say. And it would be good to talk about it. MELBER: Yes, well, let`s -- you know what, let`s talk about it, because I have extra news. We like to go big on Fridays. And Marlon Craft is here with us as well. Sir, welcome to THE BEAT for the first time. CRAFT: How is it going? What`s up? What`s up? What`s going on? MELBER: How are you? CRAFT: I`m good. I`m good. STEELE: Hey, man, what`s up? CRAFT: I`m here in my quarantined apartment chilling. (LAUGHTER) MELBER: Yes. Well, you`re chilling. You`re chilling, sir, but you`re putting the heat on. As I think you know and our viewers know, Michael Steele is a pretty experienced political expert. He was moved by it. We noticed the video. Tell us what you`re getting across in this new song. CRAFT: Yes. I mean, well, there`s a lot of stuff in there. But I think, for me, the irony of it is that a lot of people think I wrote this as a response to the attack on the Capitol, but I actually turned it in that morning. And I had written it about a month prior. MELBER: Wow. CRAFT: But I think, for those of us that have been paying attention, the handwriting has been on the wall, and I think there`s been kind of this grand exhalation right now that`s going on. And while people deserve a brief moment of relief, I feel like the white supremacy that allowed Trump to reign and that we saw at the Capitol still exists in the halls of our Congress and people that are supposed to represent us and in the fabric and the DNA of our nation. So, I -- my thing is -- with the song is to give hope, but a true hope, as an artist`s job is to do. And that true hope is grounded in struggle and in fact. MELBER: Michael? STEELE: Yes, there -- like I said, Marlon, I watched this about two or three times, and there were three sets of lyrics that jumped out at me. And I would love to just get your response. As I said to Ari, it would just be good to talk about what you wrote, the reality of it is, you wrote this before January 6. So, that says a lot about what already is, before what happened. You noted in the lyrics: "They told you your sins were not sins." That was to me a shout-out to my evangelical brothers who, like, placated a lot of this, in the guise of the holier-than-thou crowd. Then you went on and you said: "We live in our own noose before we live in our own truth." And that spoke to me as well, because we hang ourselves every day with the lies that we perpetrate. And then you finally end up saying, "You can`t" -- I love this one -- "You can`t fake lightning, but you can plan thunder." And knowing what you just said about what when you put this in, before the thunder that fell on January 6, that says a lot about culturally what`s been going on. Could you talk to those lyrics and how they really kind of shaped not just the song, but shaped the environment we`re in right now? CRAFT: Yes, I mean, I didn`t even realize -- I guess they feel prescient reading them now, but to be honest, every moment has felt sort of like this along the way. I guess I will go backwards. Like, the you can`t plan lightning, you can`t fake lightning, but you can plan thunder, the lightning is the truth. The lightning is something that actually happens, that is fact, that is nature. The thunder is the sound. And there`s a time in between the lightning and the thunder where, for whatever actually happens, you recognize and register what`s going on. And what`s going on in our politics and in our world and in our media is that, in that in-between, people are lying, and dogmatically so, and people are receiving thunder, which feels big and grand and dangerous, and these things just aren`t true. They`re -- it`s a charade. And then the other lyric with the noose and the truth, for me, I`m an artist. So, it`s like I`m not really here to get into specifics of policy or anything like that, especially not today. But, for me, it`s about the psychological condition And white supremacy is a psychological condition. It`s an institutional condition. And until we really acknowledge what`s going on in the mirror inside of our ourselves and our own psyches, I don`t see things really changing. And what was the first quote? I`m sorry. STEELE: "They told you your sins were not sins." CRAFT: Yes. And that`s a really important one, because in that... (CROSSTALK) MELBER: And, Marlon, I`m warning you for TV, because I got Joy Reid coming up. You got 20 seconds to break this one. (CROSSTALK) CRAFT: OK, well, that -- look, man, this is what it`s about. It`s about working people and it`s about the proletariat. And the corporate class has been telling poor white people and minorities and middle-class white poor people and minorities that they don`t have the same struggle for years and years and years, and dividing them through things like religion, and telling them that these awful atrocities they`re doing aren`t awful, MELBER: Yes. CRAFT: And then that`s what it is. MELBER: I... STEELE: Good stuff, man. MELBER: I appreciate it. I appreciate both you having this dialogue. And thank you for your work, Marlon, in speaking out and giving us that history. I think folks can go find this song, Marlon Craft, "State of the Union." CRAFT: Thank you. MELBER: And I`d love to get you two together and to continue this. Thanks to Marlon and Michael. Have a great weekend. STEELE: Thank you, bro. MELBER: That does it for THE BEAT, so we can toss to Joy. But, also, we have got a special this Sunday night. I want you to know about it or DVR it if you`re interested, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. It will be live, our coverage of the new impeachment trial of Trump that could disqualify him. That`s 10:00 p.m. this Sunday night, with a lot of special guests. You can always find me online @AriMelber on social media. And keep it locked on MSNBC. "THE REIDOUT" is next. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END