Nevada Win TRANSCRIPT: 2/24/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Mara Gay, Kim Masters, Patrisse Cullors, Tarana Burke, Glenn Kirschner, Benjamin Dixon

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST:  "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

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

We have a lot to get to on THE BEAT this Monday night.

Bernie Sanders now leading the Democratic race. We have a close look at the numbers as he racks up delegates.

Harvey Weinstein convicted today. He is behind bars right now tonight for the first time. We have reporting on that important guilty verdict.

Also, later, holding Trump accountable amidst reports his allies are building an enemies list.

Our top story right now is the new and measurable reality, though, in this race to take on President Trump in November. Tonight, we can report one candidate now leads all others by a key margin. One candidate has demonstrated the support of key voting blocs in all three states that have voted thus far, and one candidate has the voter-funded resources to complete -- to compete, I should say, all the way to the convention and beyond.

Well, you know who that is if you have been watching the news. It`s Senator Bernie Sanders, who scored the widest victory margin of any race thus far with his blowout in those weekend Nevada caucuses, fortifying a delegate lead that, while it is early, is significant.

Now, we follow the facts here on THE BEAT, and these facts are measurable. In fact, tonight, we have that measurement here for you, right here on the right hand of your screen. It`s pretty simple, but it`s also very important and can be overlooked.

So, let`s go through it. This is the current delegate count. No matter who you may like and no matter what D.C. insiders told you for months, the only gas that powers a candidate to the nomination is these delegates.

And Sanders now has 43 of them. That`s more than his closest rival, Pete Buttigieg, at 26. And now you can see Sanders also has more than triple the number of delegates of most other people in this race, including people who didn`t even make this board yet. This is the reality.

It has been ushered in with Sanders` decisive victory on Saturday. You may have been watching along with us for that NBC call on Saturday night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  NBC News projects Bernie Sanders the winner in Nevada.

JOY REID, HOST, "AM JOY":  Tonight, he lays legitimate claim to being the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN:  Senator Bernie Sanders is now the Democratic front- runner.

VAN JONES, CNN:  He put the work in on the ground for a long period of time. He is rewarded for that tonight.

AL SHARPTON, HOST, "POLITICS NATION":  He is undoubtedly the front-runner now.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS:  Confirming he is now the party`s front-runner for the presidential nomination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That means Sanders has now jumped Buttigieg in the overall delegate count and now leads by double digits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Leading this measurable delegate count, this is what matters for winning.

And I want to be clear, because we always try to tell you how we come to the reporting that we bring you. People can debate the polls all they want and the rhetoric about who is a front-runner before any voting occurred.

But spending months as Washington, D.C.`s front-runner doesn`t get you a ticket to anywhere, not to the convention, let alone a starring role, let alone a nomination. When one candidate gets a delegate lead that can`t be erased by any next single state, history shows that is very hard to vanquish.

Now, take South Carolina, which is coming this weekend. The state awards 54 delegates. But with this delegate math, Sanders now could come in second or even third there and still finish next Saturday night closer to the nomination, with a larger lead, than he has right now. He could take a larger delegate lead than other rivals without even coming in first.

And there are also signs that that would be Sanders` worst-case scenario. His best-case scenario would be actually surpassing Biden outright. They are now basically within the margin of error for the lead in new NBC poll out tonight.

After that, it will be three more days to Super Tuesday, when a third of all delegates are awarded. The nominee needs about 1,900 there to clinch, and 1,300 are up for grabs this coming Tuesday, a week from tomorrow.

In the last cycle, I can also remind you, both candidates who led the delegate count heading into Super Tuesday went on to win. Same for Mitt Romney in 2012. He went on to win his party`s nomination with that delegate lead.

In 2008, Barack Obama famously began with a narrow, but resilient delegate lead. He never let it go. Now, Bernie Sanders has been laser-focused on the delegates available next Tuesday, not only touting his early victories, which we have heard about, but campaigning in California and Texas even before he built this lead, when he took Nevada.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think all of you know we won the popular vote in Iowa.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SANDERS:  We won the New Hampshire primary. We have now won the Nevada caucus.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SANDERS:  We are going to win here in Texas. We are going we are going to win across the country.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That was the scene, as mentioned, in a Super Tuesday state as he celebrated the Nevada victory.

Now, you may have heard detractors of this Vermont senator inside the Democratic Party argue that he has never publicly pledged historically full loyalty to this Democratic Party. And that may be true, and that`s something people can debate.

But you know what`s clear right now? Bernie Sanders learned the rules of this Democratic Party, and he is now navigating them more effectively with greater support in the Democratic contests thus far than anyone else.

We`re going to kick things off here with Benjamin Dixon. He is a podcast host at "Progressive Army," and, we should mention, a Bernie Sanders supporter who has joined us before. And I have got others standing by.

But given this weekend`s results, we wanted to begin with you.

Your view of what Nevada means and the reaction?

BENJAMIN DIXON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE PROGRESSIVE ARMY":  Yes, thanks for having me again, Ari.

I think what it says to us is we can finally put this narrative to bed that Bernie Sanders doesn`t have appeal amongst a broader and wider electorate. A lot of people dismissed the win in Iowa and the win New Hampshire because they`re predominantly white states.

But what we saw in Nevada, that Bernie won in every single category, older people, millennials, boomers, white people, black people, Latinos. He has the coalition that`s necessary and the energy that`s necessary to take on Donald Trump.

MELBER:  it`s so interesting you start that.

I didn`t know what you were going to say, but I was discussing this point Saturday night in our coverage with Steve Kornacki who, no spoilers, but he is sitting at a table next to me and coming on next.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER:  And Kornacki and I were discussing the notion of a kind of reverse Obama, Barack Obama famously doing better once he secured Iowa. He did better not only with other states that look like Iowa, but he did better in more diverse states.

Are you arguing that Bernie Sanders this time, perhaps more so than last time, has done the reverse and that Nevada actually means he can build diversity, which is generally necessary for Democratic winning candidates, around the whole country?

DIXON:  So, no, absolutely.

Nevada clearly shows that he has the capacity to connect and resonate with people of color and people of all sorts of walks of life, no matter their age, their financial situation. But he is particularly appealing to the working class.

And I would argue that the working class of America is probably the most diverse subset that we could segment by. So, it makes sense that people who need something from this country to improve their material conditions would be -- will find something appealing in Senator Sanders.

MELBER:  Let me play a little bit of the senator also rebutting something that has gotten louder has he has clearly shown this lead, which is some people concerned that maybe he is not the -- quote, unquote -- "most electable."

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS:  Some of the folks in the corporate media are getting a little bit nervous. And they say Bernie can`t beat Trump.

So, let`s look at some of the polls, general election, CBS, Sanders 47, Trump 44.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SANDERS:  In the key battleground states, Michigan, Sanders 48, Trump 41.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Bernie Sanders not known for reading off polls and obsessing over electability. What he`s doing there?

DIXON:  Well, he is actually just proving the point.

So there has been a massive push through the media. And I think the tide is turning. But lot of networks, they have pushed this idea that Bernie Sanders is not electable up against Donald Trump.

Those of us who have watched this campaign, seen the organizing forces, there are people who are traveling across the country on their own dime and their own time to knock on doors because they believe in what Senator Sanders is pushing for.

And so I think what he is doing is finally going ahead and let you know, listen, the polling, the data shows that I`m electable.

But those of us who have been following this campaign all along, we knew that from the beginning, that he is the most viable candidate to beat Donald Trump.

MELBER:  All very interesting. Stay with me.

I want to add some more voices, as mentioned, on the day delegate math.

I bring an MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki, and, on the wider picture, Mara Gay, of course, editorial board member for "The New York Times" and an expert for us on many issues, including some of the questions around diversity.

Walk us through, Steve, this conversation, both the math and the measurable broadening of, at least in Nevada, the Sanders supporter.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, you saw Sanders opening up that big delegate lead because of Nevada.

We can point out too NBC News has still not allocated four of the delegates from Nevada. So, he may still get a few more out of there. You go to South Carolina, as you mentioned, 54 up this weekend. If you look at the polling, look likes a Biden/Sanders race right now, and maybe Tom Steyer is a bit of a factor.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER:  Let`s pause as you do the breakdown. Biden is not on the chart next to your head.

KORNACKI:  Yes. Well, so, if that`s the delegate chart. That`s the chart next to my head.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER:  Not on the first two charts.

KORNACKI:  Correct.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER:  We will keep it on Steve.

If Biden picks up on that chart...

KORNACKI:  Right.

MELBER:  ... a little bit in South Carolina, Bernie could still be further along.

KORNACKI:  That`s the thing.

He would be passing immediately -- Biden would be passing Buttigieg, and he would still be behind Sanders. If it`s a one-two race there in South Carolina, even with a win for Biden, a reasonably close victory, Sanders would still be significantly ahead of him.

And I think, when you turn -- head there a couple days to Super Tuesday, what the Sanders campaign has been pointing to is, they have been saying, look, when you look at California, which is almost a third of all the delegates that will be up there on Super Tuesday, 415 pledged delegates, they have been saying, look at our support with Hispanic voters.

They have been saying this for months. Nevada was the first test of that. This is the first state with a large Hispanic electric. Sanders got 51 percent of the Hispanic vote in Nevada. If that translates to California, where, by the way, they have been voting for weeks now in early voting, if that translates to California, you have the potential there for Sanders to get a massive delegate haul just out of that state.

And you start talking about getting ahead in insurmountable delegate leads, that could be a major ingredient in it for him.

MELBER:  And before we go to Mara, then, one more point on the numbers.

When you hear people say, oh, but if you could consolidate whoever it would be, whether it`s a Biden or a Bloomberg or someone else -- Amy Klobuchar has done well in the popular vote -- do you see a time limit for how early that consolidation would have to happen to mathematically catch up?

KORNACKI:  Yes, so it`s tough.

I mean, look at it this way. Perhaps there`s a scenario here where Biden is able to pull away and consolidate in South Carolina. And he doesn`t just win in South Carolina, he gets a decisive victory. I`m talking 15, 20 points, something like that in South Carolina.

And all the headlines the next few days are about Biden having this surge of momentum. And maybe that translates into Super Tuesday. The problem for Biden is, if you win South Carolina narrowly, you get to Super Tuesday a few days later, and you`re introducing a new element, a new variable, Mike Bloomberg, and the hundreds of millions of dollars he`s been spending.

And he -- as we have been seeing in polls, he has been cutting into that base that Biden is trying to consolidate. It`s hard to see him doing it before Super Tuesday.

MELBER:  Mara?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  I think the big takeaway for me is that Bernie Sanders has a much broader appeal than some people may have may have thought.

It is true that his wins in Iowa, which was a little bit messy, and then New Hampshire, were looked at as, well, let`s just wait and see how the rest of the party feels, because those states are not representative, whereas Nevada`s is much more representative.

So, I think if you`re a Democrat or Democratic donor, you to really be rethinking the conventional wisdom, especially if you`re sitting in New York or D.C. thinking to yourself, will people of color really vote for Bernie Sanders? Will the working class really turn out for him?

I think that is the best thing that Bernie could have picked up is really a change in that narrative about electability. The real question, though, is, can the rest of the moderate voters really decide on a single candidate?

Because if you really add up the support among moderates, it`s at least as strong as Bernie Sanders is running in this race. But there`s just too many candidates. So that idea that the moderates are split about who to support is real, and Bloomberg could really come out of that ahead, frankly.

MELBER:  Yes.

And we always have to be careful with the terminology, because it can mean more than we mean it to mean. Sorry for using the word mean three times in one sentence.

But it may be that there are people who simply, for whatever reason, are looking other than Sanders, and they may not be -- quote, unquote -- "moderate."

Elizabeth Warren supporters certainly overlap with Bernie. She did well in the early states. She did better than Joe Biden in Iowa. And those are both liberal polls.

You mentioned conventional wisdom, and I have to bring Benjamin Dixon back on that, because, Mr. Dixon, at a certain point, if the conventional wisdom is wrong more than it`s right, what good is it?

DIXON:  Right.

And I think that`s something critical to think about here, the fact that we have a situation where everyone is scrambling. We have a lot of people in the establishment who are still scrambling to try to find a replacement for Bernie Sanders at any cost, even if that means bringing in a Republican oligarch like Michael Bloomberg.

And so that wisdom, that conventional wisdom of avoiding someone who is a populist, someone who is progressive, someone who appeals to the working class, someone who the working class can see their own values in, I think we have been avoiding that too long in the Democratic Party, at least all of my life, most certainly.

And I think the conventional wisdom needs to be set aside and look at the material conditions of the people who are lifting Bernie Sanders on their shoulders.

MELBER:  And that brings me back to Mara on the echoes of 2016.

I don`t see -- and we try to follow the facts -- I don`t see a lot of overlap between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump as policy leaders. I just don`t.

I do see overlap in the sometimes sclerotic institutions that they challenge. and so the notion that this somehow Democratic Party-run system doesn`t work well, fair question to raise, seems really slow, then really fast, has viability requirement, there`s tons of stuff you could debate.

But if that is hurting some Democratic candidates and helping the person who they call the -- quote, unquote -- interloper, that kind of is on the DNC, a point we have kind of pointed out here before.

And so I want to play for you Amy Klobuchar, who said something that I think a lot of people can relate to, which is, if you`re top three, top four, you shouldn`t be run out of the primary, right?

But these Democratic rules going into Super Tuesday do give the momentum to the hot hand, whether they have a D next to their name 10 years ago or not. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When you look at the actual number of people who have cast a vote, I have the third biggest number. So why would I get out? That`s not even a close call for me.

And I think, why would you have a call for the two women to get out when you have two billionaires in the race?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GAY:  Well, third won`t do it, first of all. Third place won`t do it.

But, you know, there are a lot of voters who want an option other than Bernie Sanders in the race. So if you`re Amy Klobuchar, if you`re Elizabeth Warren, you have got to be looking at that and saying, let`s hold on. I will stay in this.

But I also just want to say I think if you`re a Democratic voter, you`re so heartbroken not just by watching the country under Donald Trump, but so frustrated with the DNC.

I talk to a lot of voters who just think Democrats don`t know how to win, and they don`t really trust that the DNC can get the job done.

MELBER:  And did the DNC make certain rules, including viability rules, to try to keep out certain people, and now perhaps those are benefiting certain people?

GAY:  Right.

Well, yes. I think, first of all, Bernie Sanders supporters would be the first to say, right, that the DNC rules were totally biased against their candidates the last time around. So some of this is being driven by frustration and anger in the Democratic Party over the party establishment.

And, look, Barack Obama and Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are all outsiders. So I don`t think that should be lost here either.

KORNACKI:  Yes, the power of the outsider.

You talk about the Trump, Sanders parallels from `16 to `20. It`s populism. It`s almost a nonideological sense of frustration at where the country is and I think what it`s been through the last few decades.

And I think Trump found a way to channel that on the right. And I think you`re seeing Sanders channel that on the left. And you are seeing some broad similarities just in terms of what they`re tapping into.

MELBER:  Yes.

As you said, what they`re tapping into and what makes people support Bernie Sanders, the only way to find out, as with all of our stories, is to go ask them. And for some people, it is ideological idealism.

For some people, it`s populism. For some people, it`s other issues. But these numbers, as they grow, make it clear -- and we have been reporting -- it`s not only that. There is something broader.

If it`s broad enough to beat Donald Trump, nobody knows. That`s why we will keep covering it. If we all knew in advance, it wouldn`t really be news.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER:  Mara Gay and Steve Kornacki here in New York, and Benjamin Dixon rejoining us, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, we have a lot more, including the other big story today.

I have special guests to help us understand a watershed moment, Harvey Weinstein found guilty today, and what it means for this MeToo movement.

Later, the Trump world now suddenly downplaying that Russia threat that Trump`s own intelligence services flagged. We will get into that and the so-called enemies list.

And later tonight, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement joins us with some news and some thoughts about this upcoming South Carolina primary.

I`m Ari Melber. And you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Major news today.

A jury finding Harvey Weinstein guilty of sexual assault and third-degree rape. The once powerful Hollywood producer handcuffed and jailed immediately. He awaits sentencing now for up to five to 29 years. That will occur next month.

Weinstein also acquitted on two other sexual assault charges. They were more serious and carried potential life sentences. Reporters noting that, inside the courtroom, the one-time mogul seemed stunned at the verdict, initially didn`t even move. Then he was ushered to jail.

The New York DA afterward who won this case was touting the witnesses and accusers as heroic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYRUS VANCE, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  I owe and we all owe an immense debt to you who had the courage beyond measure to speak your story to the world, to this courtroom, at great personal risk and in great personal pain.

To those of us who were privileged to be in the courtroom when they testified, you know what I mean. These survivors weren`t just brave. They were heroic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Several other women who have spoken out against Weinstein`s conduct also discussed their reaction today in the press and by phone.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ROSANNA ARQUETTE, ACTRESS:  I want to thank the jury who did use their common sense and saw past the victim-blaming defense for convicting predator Harvey Weinstein guilty of rape.

MIRA SORVINO, ACTRESS:  We have finally taken that power back, and we have exposed his evil and that of others like him for true ugliness. He will rot in jail, as he deserves, and we will begin to have some closure.

This is just a drop in a wave to come for predators and survivors everywhere.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MELBER:  Quite a day, and a lot to take in.

We`re joined by Maya Wiley and a journalist who spent years investigating this very story when we`re back in just 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  We`re back reporting on this major story, Harvey Weinstein convicted today, facing up to 29 years in prison, also awaiting another separate trial in California.

We`re joined now by Maya Wiley, a former civil prosecutor in the Southern District of New York and "The Hollywood Reporter"`s Kim Masters, who investigated the Weinstein story years before this case.

Good to have you both here on obviously such a serious story.

Maya, as someone who understands the way these cases work, why prosecutors traditionally and often say they`re too hard to bring, what does this guilty verdict mean today?

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Well, it means there are a lot of women who hopefully will feel much more able to come forward and press charges when they have been sexually assaulted or raped by someone else.

And that`s significant, because we know that many, many people -- which we should also say it`s men and boys, it`s not just women -- who experience sexual assault do not report it.

And one of the reasons is the humiliation, the trauma, the fear. But it`s also the fear of how they will be treated through the process. And we saw that happen to some degree in the Harvey Weinstein case.

In other words, the women themselves were on trial about having e-mail contact or other forms of contact with him after they were attacked. And that is something that keeps people from reporting.

And I have to say, I think the New York Police Department, their special crime victims` cold case unit also deserves a lot of credit for working with women to convince them to come forward. And we need all parts of the criminal justice system working together, so that people can get justice.

Kim, your view?

KIM MASTERS, EDITOR AT LARGE, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER":  You know, I had a hard time watching that -- hearing that tape and seeing it of Cyrus Vance Jr., the DA, taking a victory lap, when he could have prosecuted this before.

I mean, anyone who has followed the case knows that even a couple of years ago, Ambra Gutierrez wore a wire, caught Harvey Weinstein on tape, Harvey Weinstein almost kind of admitting that he had assaulted her, and yet nothing happened.

And so now he is there, and he is acting as if he is a hero. I will say that the prosecutors in this case, I think, had a very important role in terms of educating this jury that rape is not the TV, imagined, it may be Hollywood, version of somebody grabbing a woman in a dark alley.

They educated the jury that sometimes victims will stay in touch, that sometimes, with a powerful man like Harvey Weinstein, it`s not so simple. And I think that message landed.

MELBER:  Yes, to Kim`s point, let`s discuss that a little bit, because this can get lost, Maya.

In any case, you can have a case where someone comes over to your house, and they steal something and they leave. And the elements of the crime are what happened that day. And if later you have contact with them for whatever reason, or you`re in a group setting, or you become friendly, legally, that is not supposed to change the elements of the underlying crime.

And yet we have seen in so many past cases like this, there are arguments made to juries that it somehow should.

WILEY:  This is my point about people who are victims being put on trial.

Now, defenses are real and people should be able to mount a defense, and consent is a critical defense, if you have reason to believe someone consented. But thing point is really important and right.

It`s that we don`t even understand trauma responses, and we don`t understand this is a crime of power. This is power over. This is not really about sex as much as it is about power.

And when you have a lot of power over another person, sometimes, that power is physical. But, sometimes, that power is your career or your job or your future.

In any instance, that power can be used against you if you`re the victim. And I think it is critically important that there be a balance and due process, obviously, for people accused.

But, certainly, we have to better understand how power operates in terms of how we have interactions like this. And I think that`s one of the important things about this case.

MELBER:  Kim, one of the things that was reported out initially by "The New York Times," Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, and by many other talented investigative journalists -- and we mentioned you were working the case as well -- one of the things that emerged was the notion, at least among some in Hollywood, that Mr. Weinstein was an alleged serial predator hiding in plain sight.

Given your work, how is this playing in Hollywood, in that place that creates so much culture, that has so much influence over American life? Your thoughts on all of that?

MASTERS:  You know, among civilized people -- we do have some in Hollywood -- there is a feeling of relief.

A producer who is very established and a very recognizable name just called me before I came on the air, and just said, it`s a historic day. And he meant that obviously in a very positive way.

So I think that there is a sense of relief. And I think that goes well beyond Hollywood. If Harvey -- we didn`t have this image of Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs, I hate to think how people would respond.

So I think it is a historic and important day, even though some of the counts -- the jury didn`t convict him on all counts.

MELBER:  You say you hate to think about that. Were you hearing from people there before today that the notion that he could get off would have, in their view, undone something?

MASTERS:  I think people would have been devastated.

I just think people needed to see this happen. I mean, Harvey is such an extreme case, that you have to marvel at the fact that it took so much misconduct and so many women coming forward, like 100 women. That`s extraordinary, even within what happens here in Hollywood, which is things that are improper.

To have that extreme, if that was going to be a grounds for acquittal, I think that would have been very hard, and it would have been a blow that would have been hard for many people, not just victims, to recover from.

WILEY:  That`s totally right.

And I would add that powerful people should not be able to avoid prosecution. And that was Kim`s earlier point. And it`s a critically important one. Power has to be brought to heel when it is abusive.

MELBER:  Both really great guests and points here to think through, all of it.

Kim Masters and Maya Wiley, thank you.

Going to fit in a break.

Up ahead, there`s new reporting on the friction inside the DOJ and all the accusations of meddling.

Also, new documents revealing Secretary of State Pompeo perhaps coordinating with Rudy Giuliani on the very Ukraine issue.

And Trump allies undercutting the Russia threat, while also writing up a, yes, Nixon-style enemies list. It`s 2020, and we have it all.

We`re back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Donald Trump now formally purging the government of perceived enemies.

Axios reporting a list of disloyal employees to oust and trust pro-Trump people to replace them is circulating from Trump allies. Meanwhile, all kinds of debates over what really went down in that now infamous briefing about Russia meddling in this 2020 election.

There are intelligence officials who are alleging that House members either misheard or misinterpreted part of the briefing, which stated that Russia was back helping Trump`s campaign.

Here is Donald Trump`s national security adviser this weekend:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT O`BRIEN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  I have seen no intelligence that suggests that. I have also heard that -- from the briefers that that`s not what they intended the story to be.

So, look, who knows what happened over at the House in the Intelligence Committee, but I haven`t seen any evidence that Russia is doing anything to attempt to get President Trump reelected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Who knows?

This is a huge deal whether or not a foreign government is now back at election meddling. Who knows not really a good enough answer, according to Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, responding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT):  our national security adviser should stay out of politics. And that is a political statement.

What we know is that the Russians never stopped interfering in American politics. They don`t just get involved in elections. They are involved every single day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  With these questions about credibility and independence, it`s also worth tying together other reporting that the DOJ under Bill Barr has more problems that relate to the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office, which handled the Flynn and Stone case.

Take a look at "The New York Times" reporting more politicization alleged in the department going back to at least last summer, with all kinds of questions about the attempted indictment of -- you know the face -- Andrew McCabe, who replaced James Comey and who Donald Trump considers one of his enemies.

I`m joined now by federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner.

Thanks for being here.

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Thank you, Ari.

MELBER:  BEAT viewers may or may not remember, because a lot has happened, that we reported very early on that the highly unusual way that Mr. McCabe was initially relieved from government duty, to deny him a longstanding and expected pension, then was told he was under investigation for a very long time.

And the Justice Department only announced that that did not result in an indictment, and they closed the case, after they got in hot water about other meddling in that same D.C. office that I mentioned, the Stone case.

I`m curious what you make of these latest pieces of reporting. And do you have a view that there was enough evidence to say that the president was asking for an indictment of a rival in the United States, not in Ukraine?

KIRSCHNER:  Yes, you know, all of the reporting surrounding the Andrew McCabe investigation or investigations, I should say, leaves me highly dubious that things were on the up and up coming out of the White House and coming out of Bill Barr and the Department of Justice, because, at first, they -- former colleagues in my old office, the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office, investigated Andrew McCabe.

And according to the reporting, they concluded that there was not enough evidence for an indictment. Usually, Ari, that puts an end to an investigation in my experience.

However, a second team of prosecutors was brought in to give it another look to present to it the grand jury.

MELBER:  Right.

KIRSCHNER:  And it looks like the grand jury was about to no-bill it, vote against an indictment. And it looks like the prosecutors did not seek that vote, recognizing that they probably would not have gotten an indictment out of the grand jury.

MELBER:  So just pause on that.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER:  That`s your interpretation of, as mentioned the evidence, that we have.

If that`s true, you are outlining a series of events where the president publicly attacks McCabe on Twitter, gets him fired in an unusual way, gets him investigated, and tries to get him indicted, at which point a jury, which everyone has heard, you know, the ham sandwich, a jury, for one once, up and says no true bill, and that was enough to prevent it.

Does that mean, in your view, your theory of the case, that it was only the D.C. jurists standing between the president`s demands and this Justice Department indicting a former acting FBI director because the president didn`t like him?

KIRSCHNER:  That`s part of it, Ari, but the first prosecution team that I mentioned that investigated Andrew McCabe, they walked off that investigation because I believe they didn`t feel it was a righteous prosecution.

And that sort of was echoed with what we heard from the Roger Stone prosecutors. All four of them walked off that case when a new U.S. attorney came in, one of Bill Barr`s acolytes, Tim Shea, and said, from day one, according to "The New York Times"` reporting today, that he wanted a more lenient sentence for Roger Stone.

The other thing...

MELBER:  And is that suspicious right there? This D.C. office, as you mentioned, which you know, handles all kinds of cases, all kinds of issues.

Somebody walks in on day one, and they already have a view of one particular case, and it happens to be the president`s longest adviser?

KIRSCHNER:  Ari, that`s so much more than just suspicious.

I served under six presidents from Reagan to Trump. I served under 10 U.S. attorneys, including Jessie Liu, my last U.S. attorney. And no U.S. attorney has ever come in on the first day and started to insert himself or herself into our cases that we have been working for years, saying, I want you to ask for a more lenient sentence.

That stinks to high heaven, and that was obviously Tim Shea doing Bill Barr and President Trump`s bidding.

MELBER:  Well, I tell you, there is a lot going on, as we often say around here, and that is a story that moved at first iteratively.

But as the evidence piles up, you make a strong case for what people should be concerned about. We are definitely going to stay on the case.

Glenn Kirschner, thank you, sir.

KIRSCHNER:  Thank you, Ari.

MELBER:  We have a lot more on tonight`s show, including a Black Lives Matter co-founder here to discuss so many of these issues that could determine the 2020 nominee and civil rights in South Carolina, and has some news, I`m told, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  The eyes of the political world all on South Carolina, the Democratic primary now just five days away, a key time for any candidate trying to counter Bernie Sanders with a delegate lead.

Over half of Democratic primary voters in South Carolina are black voters. The state has long been seen as a test of any Democrat`s ability to build a coalition.

Candidates now out there making their pitch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We have an entrepreneurship gap in America. And that is a gap between white entrepreneurs and black and Latino entrepreneurs.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It`s time we give the marginalized, the demonized, and the isolated, the oppressed their full share of the American dream, rip out the roots of systemic racism in this country.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We have got to make sure that we do something about criminal justice in this country.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And it is especially humbling, in the middle of Black History Month, to think about what it means to stand before African-American voters and ask them for their vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  And now, on the THE BEAT, we turn to Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and chair of the Yes on R campaign, an initiative to stop abuse in jails.

I want to ask you about the candidates.

But, first, what do you think are the most important issues heading into South Carolina?

PATRISSE CULLORS, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK LIVES MATTER:  I think some of the most important issues for black communities is definitely criminal justice reform, climate change, economic justice.

Those are the three key issues that many of us want to hear our candidates speak to when they get to South Carolina.

MELBER:  And you have not announced your preferences in this Democratic primary, like many activists. You`re in these conversations.

There are people who look to you politically online and off. I`m curious, who might you support this cycle?

CULLORS:  Well, I`m choosing to dual-endorse both Senator Sanders and Senator Warren.

I think we need all hands on deck right now for progressives to join the movement to make sure that we don`t get people like Mike Bloomberg, people like Biden into the president` office.

MELBER:  Interesting.

And those are two individuals that on the campaign trail we hear from some voters like both of them. They`re certainly both liberal economic leaders. Would you like them on a ticket together? And who would you like on the top of that ticket?

(LAUGHTER)

CULLORS:  I`m not there yet to decide who is going to be on the top of that ticket. I think I want to try to unite as many of us together to push for both of these candidates to be leading candidates.

It`s important that we beat the Bloombergs of the world and the Bidens of the world. They have created much devastation in our communities, and I think we`re an important moment to get either Senator Warren or Senator Sanders into office.

MELBER:  And, obviously, when you choose, you also reject. You`re rejecting, for example, former Vice President Biden, who has argued a lot that he should get some sort of credit for being Barack Obama`s vice president.

We have heard from others the counterargument that he was not put on that ticket because he was a civil rights activist. He was put on it in a way to grow out the ticket, in the views of Obama and his leadership team.

Where do you come down on that, as Joe Biden makes what some are calling a last stand in South Carolina?

CULLORS:  I think, for former Vice President Biden, it should be time for him to stand down.

He comes from an old guard mentality, an old establishment, voted for the crime bill. It`s just important that he takes a step back for new leadership, for people who want to change the party.

MELBER:  And then I guess that raises another question, interestingly, because when you go back enough -- and it`s something we have reported on a lot on this show -- and I`m not telling you something you haven`t already discussed in your work -- the war on drugs, the incarceration agenda, private prisons, a lot of those, as you have said yourself, are bipartisan.

CULLORS:  Yes.

MELBER:  Sanders, for example, also backed some of that in the `90s.

What makes your view of him different? Or do you feel that he has moved, changed, evolved?

CULLORS:  I think he has evolved completely.

For example, he came to Los Angeles to fight alongside of us with Justice L.A. and Reform L.A. Jails, the work that we have been doing to challenge the $3.5 billion jail plan here, the work to get Yes on R on our ballot this March 3.

So he has transitioned. He has moved and he has really decided that he`s going to stand on the right side of history.

MELBER:  And the last thing I will ask you, why are double endorsements so popular this cycle? I have seen newspapers do it too?

(LAUGHTER)

CULLORS:  I think it`s important because we`re recognizing that there is a short-term goal and there is a long-term goal.

And given 45 and his administration and what he has done to our country, it`s time that we try to unite as much as possible around not just one candidate, but around values, and how we understand where this country is moving forward.

MELBER:  We have another story in the rundown that we are going to get to.

So I want to give a special thanks, given the work you`re doing and learning where your endorsements are headed.

Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, thank you.

CULLORS:  Thank you.

MELBER:  We turn now back to this breaking news tonight, Harvey Weinstein verdict, the jury finding him guilty today on both rape and sexual assault charges, many calling it a watershed moment in the MeToo movement.

And we want to bring in Tarana Burke, an activist who started the original MeToo movement. That was more than a decade ago.

Thank you for being here tonight. We wanted to get your views on what this means today.

TARANA BURKE, METOO MOVEMENT FOUNDER:  Well, thank you for having me.

I do think this is a historic day. I think it`s a really important day. And so many people have so many feelings, including myself, about what we saw happen in the courtroom earlier this morning.

MELBER:  When you look at this, how important was it to note that Mr. Weinstein`s witnesses and accusers didn`t feel they could go even to prosecutors, DAs, the government?

Many first went, as discussed, to online as a place to push back and to journalists, Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, among others.

BURKE:  Yes.

I think that is -- that means that we should look at what our judicial system offers, right? We have really narrow laws around sexual violence, and not a lot of space for people to find accountability within the justice system.

So we had to create our own form of accountability, whether it`s on social media or these reporting -- these exposes that came out.

MELBER:  When you looked at the coverage today, where were you when you heard that Weinstein was convicted?

BURKE:  I was at home. I was at home this morning and got a text message saying that the verdict is coming.

MELBER:  And then did you -- what did you do then?

BURKE:  I turned on MSNBC.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER:  And then you started hearing -- this is one of those days, particularly for people who are closer to it, care about it.

Then you hear that he was sitting there and he -- according to the accounts, he said, "I`m innocent." He didn`t move. He seemed in shock.

Do you think some people were also in shock that this could even happen?

BURKE:  Oh, I think that so many of us were in shock. I`m sure he was in shock, because he`s never had to be accountable for his behavior. He`s never had to answer for the ways in which he`s misused his power and privilege for the last 20 or 30 years.

I`m sure it`s shocking when you have to be faced with the reality of your crimes. Many of us were shocked, because, on the other side of things, most survivors never get to see the inside of a courtroom. Right?

For every 1,000 sexual assault cases, 995 of those perpetrators walk away. So, most survivors will never see what happened here today, will never have that experience. So, many of us are used to being -- seeing people walk away from crimes like this.

MELBER:  When we report on it and look at the facts of the systemic disparities in injustice, even when you get a case that normally you wouldn`t get, there are still all of these extra things and benefits afforded to the powerful and often to white defendants.

BURKE:  Absolutely.

MELBER:  What did it mean to you that, in New York, this DA, who others noted earlier in our broadcast may have been slow to this to begin with -- that`s important on the record -- but that today the DA and the judge said, unlike, say, some of the Mueller defendants we have seen, that Mr. Weinstein waits in jail to be sentenced, that he is -- for the first time tonight, Harvey Weinstein spends a night in jail?

BURKE:  I think it sends a important message that, regardless six your money or your wealth or your race, that you have to answer and be accountable for the crimes that you commit.

So, I think it was important that he was remanded. I think, symbolically, for many survivors, and particularly survivors of -- his survivors, seeing him being carted out in handcuffs and knowing that he will spend the night and several more nights in jail, and hopefully several years after that in jail, is very important for us, so we know that they really are focused on what`s important here, and that we have some of the things that we need to sleep well tonight.

I`m hoping those survivors sleep well tonight knowing that.

MELBER:  Final question.

In this case, we have heard from people that, around Mr. Weinstein and around the other people who went through this, it was a so-called open secret, it was known, it was discussed.

In your work, how common is that, that in a given community or situation, many people do have some inkling of alleged misconduct? And in the past, nothing`s done. Will that change?

BURKE:  I hope it changes.

So many of us are only protected by the whisper system, right, people telling you, stay out of that office, or don`t go with that person, or don`t be alone with this person.

We need that to change. We have to have these open secrets become really open information, so that people can be accountable, but also so that people can be safe.

So I`m hoping that this is the start of also seeing some things like that change.

MELBER:  Tarana Burke, we so wanted to hear from you today. I appreciate you coming on THE BEAT.

BURKE:  Thank you.

MELBER:  Thank you very much.

We are going to in a break. Gosh, there`s a lot going on.

We have an update on one more thing when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  One of the big new skirmishes about Russia meddling in the United States` 2020 election has been taking place inside the Trump administration.

We reported this hour on Trump`s own officials now disagreeing with Trump`s own officials about how much meddling was going on.

We want to play for you exactly what Bernie Sanders, another candidate in all of this said, about Putin`s meddling. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS:  Mr. Putin is a thug. He is an autocrat. He may be a friend of Donald Trump`s. He`s not a friend of mine.

Let me tell this to Putin. The American people, whether you`re Republicans, Democrats, independents, are sick and tired of seeing Russia and other countries interfering in our elections.

If elected president, trust me, you are not going to be interfering in American elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Not only a very different tone than President Trump, obviously, but also a reflection that Sanders now confirms he was briefed by intelligence officials about Russian meddling, suggesting that it`s been going on for a while.

That`s one update. I will be back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.

"HARDBALL" is up next.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END