IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 2/15/22

Guests: Joe Trippi, Josh Marshall


The January 6 Committee subpoenas six people linked to the Trump campaign`s fraudulent electors plot. President Biden issues a warning to Vladimir Putin over Ukraine. Does Mitch McConnell have a midterm problem? A gunmaker agrees to pay nine families of victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin with breaking news. The January 6 Committee just subpoenaed six people linked to the Trump campaign`s fraudulent electors plot. That was a scheme that we reported on extensively which would try to create the conditions to potentially steal the election.

This is brand-new. The committee writes about a -- quote -- "coordinated strategy" where lawmakers in states Trump laws were urged to -- quote -- "reclaim their authority by sending an alternate state of electors."

Now, alternate is one way to put it. You may even heard that from some of the people explaining what they were up to. Fraudulent and fake is another. And whether it`s illegal is literally under criminal investigation, the committee seeking documents and depositions by mid-March -- that`s a fast timeline -- and subpoenaing someone who`s in the thick of all of this and the midterms, the chair of the Arizona Republican Party, Kelli Ward.

Now, she has been trying to hide phone records from the committee. And the committee says that she`s been acting as a -- quote -- "purported Electoral College elector" dating back to December 2020.

The committee has many reasons to suspect this. One of them involves something that happens a lot these days. People are not only caught on camera, but sometimes seem to be telling on themselves.

This was filmed and posted online on Twitter by none other than the Arizona Republican Party. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the undersigned, being the duly elected and qualified electors for the president and vice president of the United States of America from the state of Arizona, do hereby certify the following, for President Donald J. Trump of the state of Florida, number of votes, 11, for Vice President Michael R. Pence and the state of Indiana, number of votes, 11.


MELBER: To put it mildly, I`m not sure duly elected means what they think it means.

It is never a good idea to publicize your efforts to steal an election. And we have covered this quite extensively and fairly here on THE BEAT. And if you have followed our coverage, you know.There are things that might be untrue, but are legal, people lying in public about what they think happened in the campaign.

And then there`s a clear line that`s now under criminal investigation. When you start to take actions, overt actions to deceive or submit false statements, for example, to the government at the state or federal level, you may be committing a crime. I say that in all seriousness, if any -- well, anybody at the Arizona GOP is watching tonight for future reference.

Now, Trump White House aide Peter Navarro has been in the thick of this because he says and admits he was working on what sounded like a related plot driving towards January 6 to also delay or decertify the results that showed that Biden was the lawful winner.

So, he denies now being involved or aware of the electors plot, which is striking, because he admitted a lot, but not that. The electors plot is something that Trump aide and lawyer Boris Epshteyn did admit to. We will show you both interviews here on THE BEAT.


MELBER: Alternate or fraudulent electors, when did you become aware of that plan?


MELBER: Are you saying here tonight you never heard about that until it became public in the press, or, while you were in government...

NAVARRO: That`s correct.

MELBER: ... you might have heard about it?

NAVARRO: That`s correct.


NAVARRO: That`s correct.

My focus, Ari, was simply on the Green Bay Sweep plan.


MELBER: That was the focus, the other stuff not on the radar.

But was it on the incumbent departing president`s radar? Well, that`s a big question. The committee notes in the letter tonight that Ms. Ward reportedly spoke with Trump about election certification issues in Arizona.

Here`s what the RNC is saying today. They have a story where they say everyone needs to understand they were actually only referring to the electors plot in the now widely controversial and highly rebuked statement that what was going on January 6 was a legitimate political discourse, and that activists were engaged in that legitimate discourse, now, they say, by dealing with this plot to submit false, perhaps perjurious certificates to Washington, to the government.

Now, we will get into that with our guests, because one question that comes to my mind is, how bad is your damage control if you`re still defending fraud, but saying, well, we meant fraud, not the violence?

You follow the news, so you probably remember that was a very controversial move that Mitch McConnell himself rebuked and broke with, because the RNC very clearly defended the violence of that day and falsely lied about it and falsely asserted that it was discourse. It was not.


The January 6 Committee now has subpoenaed 14 people, though, linked to this scheme already. Those were previous depositions scheduled to begin as soon as tomorrow.

The committee clearly is looking at this plot as a part of the wider problem of the insurrection, demanding answers, looking over documents.

Meanwhile, some of the election deniers are trying to get in power to oversee your vote in future elections. We want to show you, a Colorado county clerk under investigation for possibly breaching election security is now running for the top job in that state to oversee elections to be the elections chief.

She was arrested in what was an unrelated case last week.



Oh, no. Let go of me! It hurts. Let go of me! Give me my (INAUDIBLE)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not kick. Do you understand?

PETERS: Stop it. No. Let go of me!


MELBER: You understand you can hear her statements there, and the officer telling her not to resist arrest. That is real footage from a real body camera.

And I want to underscore the obvious, which is just part of our job around here sometimes. Everyone is legally presumed innocent, but that person you see in cuffs is actively trying to control the elections of an entire state in America right now.

With that, I bring in our experts, NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray, and Josh Marshall, the founding journalist from Talking Points Memo.

Professor, what should we make of what we just saw there?

MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this is a lady who definitely needed a lawyer.

But, again, I think the fact that she`s currently running for secretary of state of Colorado suggests that this effort to place these false electors as real electors, and to use that as a way to deal with electoral losses, is not just going to be confined to 2020.

This is something that we`re seeing going on across the country, this effort to capture state secretary of state offices, state legislatures, so that more of this can happen. And so, again, the whole question here behind the January 6 Committee is like, how deep does this go? Was the violence merely symptomatic of some deeper rot?

But I think the rot is not necessarily confined to the events of January 6.

MELBER: And, Josh, this seems like an important place for people who care about the big issues, not who wins a particular race, not a red or blue partisan lens, but really care about what we`re trying to do with this experiment in democracy, if you want to be so bold, to sound the alarm without being alarmist, to make sure that people understand this, as the professor referred to a deeper rot, this is much deeper and broader than who happened to be the last president and what we`re up against going forward.


One of the things I was struck by in your -- in the opening package is, it`s a little unclear to me sometimes, why are they admitting certain things openly, and then denying some other things, and because all of these things are clearly just different tools to overturn the election.

And some of them, they have had this very consistent policy of, oh, yes, I did it, and the fact that I`m admitting it openly means it`s OK, because that`s -- you only admit things openly that are obviously fine and OK.

So I was a little unclear why Navarro seems hesitant about this fake electors plot, since it wasn`t a secret.

MELBER: Yes. Well, Josh -- I`ll tell you what, Josh. Why don`t we...


MELBER: We will take your question to the law professor, and then you respond, because I think it`s a fair question.

MURRAY: Well, how can I inhabit the mind of Peter Navarro? Even that`s beyond my remit, Ari.

But I think one of the things that we saw here was that the memo, this fake electors memo, the (INAUDIBLE) memo is, again, such an obvious effort to overturn the will of the voters, to effectively create a coup.

And he sees that as meaningfully different from the Green Bay Sweep, which is simply about Mike Pence refusing to certify the electors that were already brought before the Senate.

So, I mean, he sees these things as completely separable, when, in fact, they are inextricably related to one another. And so to disclaim the false electors plot and to take ownership of the Green Bay Sweep seems, to me, at least, missing the forest for the trees. They`re species of the same underlying effort.


MARSHALL: Well, do you think part of it is -- I mean, it seems so quaint and mundane just to talk about like making an affirmation that may be perjurious or whatever the technical term might here be.

Is that why they are maybe holding back on this, because the electors have to say, yes, I`m duly certified? And that is this kind of specific thing about what the state legislature did or something like that.


It`s -- again, it seems so quaint in the larger context of, well, I was overthrowing the election, but there`s this one kind of little thing here about, was I making a factual statement when I said I`m a duly certified elector? I realize this may sound like a side point. But it`s interesting to me, because this does seem consistent that they`re, oh, yes, I did that, but not this one thing. I don`t know anything about that.

It just -- it kind of stands out to me.

MURRAY: Well, I think it`s likely that the false electors is very clearly in what would be considered fraudulent under many of the existing federal statutes, criminal statutes in various states, whereas the failure to certify an election the part of the vice president would somehow be outside of that.

So I think this here is sort of, how closely do you want to skate to the line? But the fact is, all of these things are joined up.



MURRAY: And I think we all can see how they`re joined up. I just don`t know that they understand that we can see it.


MELBER: It`s very interesting the way Josh raises it and the way the professor breaks it down.

I will associate myself with her comments that I can`t get inside their head of any particular person, but it would seem that, accurately or not, Mr. Navarro and some of his legal counsel may believe or hope that, were this to ever be litigated, it would ultimately feel potentially like a -- quote -- "political question" to the Supreme Court, that if the four corners of the activity are among legislators on the floor of the Senate, then, however irresponsible they`re being or however rank a coup-like activity they`re inhabiting, if they are acting as legislators to try to deal with the certification, they`re somehow in that lane.


MELBER: Whereas, if you`re just outside of the Congress, and you`re just running around putting in forgeries, I mean, you could get in trouble for that at the bank for a mortgage or at the state elections office or a lot of places.

It does feel much more like a four corners, easier, indictable offense, although the professor, Josh, makes a strong point that it`s not like the other stuff, just by being a big double whammy coup, is somehow off the books.


MELBER: Oh, go, Professor and then Josh.

MURRAY: No, no, no. Now we`re talking over each other.

I think this point about the political question, like this idea that the Constitution has committed to the vice president some responsibility for certifying the election, and were this to go to a federal court, ultimately, I think a federal court would find that this is not within his purview, because, again, it is already constitutionally committed to the political branches.

And so perhaps that`s why we`re willing to talk about it, whereas this other thing is very squarely within the scope of federal jurisdiction.

MARSHALL: It`s just interesting for those of us who are outside of the narrowly legal way of thinking about potential prosecutions that this is almost quite, as I said, quaint in the larger context of the plot that we`re talking about.

And yet there there`s one kind of extra political dimension of what happens within the Congress. The Supreme Court isn`t going to get into there about what`s being debated on the Senate floor. It`s also there`s this a parallel thing with what the president is plotting or what he`s what he`s coming up with.

But it is interesting that this is -- this gets down to something very narrow. There`s no kind of political question about whether you can make a false statement under oath or whatever version of that applies when you are making a statement to Congress, saying, yes, I`m the duly elected elector from the state of Arizona.


Well, look, I think this was actually a very interesting colloquy, if you will. And it speaks to some of the things that I think a lot of us are trying to untangle, those who follow the news and the law here, as the committee -- again, the big news tonight, as the committee bears down on the fragile electors scheme, puts more heat on these individuals, and individuals who may not have, frankly, the friends and lawyers and money that some of the D.C. Republican elites have, in terms of how they want to play out the subpoena and other legal heat.

So we will stay on that.

I want to thank Professor Murray and Josh Marshall, both of you. Very interesting stuff.

We have a lot more on the broadcast. President Biden warning Putin about Ukraine and signs potentially that Russia may be changing gears. Later on tonight, General McCaffrey is here.

And we go into Mitch McConnell`s midterm problems. Why there`s a "Seinfeld" echo. I have Chai Komanduri and Joe Trippi here tonight as part of "Chai Day."

And for the first time ever, a breakthrough in gun safety activism and law. We`re going to break down exactly what that means and why some people are cheering today.

Stay with us.



MELBER: President Biden touting historic job growth, Republicans seizing on concerns about inflation and COVID, as the first voting in the midterms is now actually under way, with early voting in Texas for primaries that determine who the party`s nominees will be this fall.

If the Republican message sounds more like drafting on a general negative mood, not offering an agenda, well, that`s pretty deliberate. GOP Leader McConnell admits it.


QUESTION: If Republicans take back control of Congress after the midterms, what would be your agenda?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): That is a very good question. And I will let when we take it back.


MELBER: When we take it back, so not before.

So what you have there`s Mitch McConnell is actually ceding the policy turf, which continues the unusual move the party made under Trump to just dispense with any policy platform at all last election. It was actually the first time the Republican Party did that in its 160-year history.

So, think about this. Even if you`re cynical about politicians, this is odd. Politicians tend to claim they stand for something. And then the issue is whether you agree and whether they`re honest or whether they act on it.


But, lately, we have these ongoing tremors of Trumpism and a party increasingly more focused on trolling or making media content for the Internet age than actually putting out its ideas. All of this in a very real way is reducing the Republican Party`s position to no position.

I`m sorry, but McConnell`s going basically full "Seinfeld," waging a campaign about nothing.


JASON ALEXANDER, ACTOR: This should be the show. This is the show.



ALEXANDER: This. Just talking.

SEINFELD: Yeah, right.


ALEXANDER: No, I`m really serious. I think that`s a good idea.

SEINFELD: Just talking? Well, what`s the show about?

ALEXANDER: It`s about nothing.


ALEXANDER: I think I can sum up the show for you with one word: nothing.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What does that mean?

ALEXANDER: The show is about nothing.


SEINFELD: Well, it`s not about nothing.

ALEXANDER: No, it`s about nothing.


MELBER: It`s about nothing.

The joke is that stories need plots. And, traditionally, campaigns need ideas or policies. Through most of history, no one in politics or the media needed to explain what I`m saying.

Campaigns for the White House and the midterms had these clashes of ideas and grand claims. You probably remember many of them. We have all lived through elections. You had Newt Gingrich`s Contract With America in `95. It listed specific policies Republicans said they`d enact if elected. That was their pitch. It was a literal, in their view, contract with the voters for what they would do specifically.

Or, in 2006, Democrats had a campaign pitch on ending what they argued was the Republican culture of corruption. It was about Washington. It was a rebuke to Bush. But it was also a pledge that Democrats would do better and they would lock in clean government with new laws to ban abuse by either party.

Now, this was at a time, you have to remember, where Bush was focused on foreign policy, trying to change Social Security. Those were his ideas or policies. And so Democrats were going on offense. They were in the position Republicans are now, in the minority. And Democrats were pushing their own ideas about what was important.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Corruption has been a major issue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Culture of corruption.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats are pointing to the investigations of Frist and DeLay as evidence of a culture of corruption among Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They call it a culture of corruption.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A culture of corruption.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, FORMER HOST, "HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS": There`s a Republican culture of corruption in Washington.

TIM RUSSERT, FORMER HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": The president`s going to have to address this issue of integrity and corruption.


MELBER: It`s a long tradition.

Now, there`s a lot of talk these days about how politics might turn on identity or geography, but primaries in particular are a time where parties thrash out what they stand for. As I mentioned, there`s primaries is going on in Texas right now.

After the top Democrats backed the 2003 Iraq War, when Howard Dean was nationally unknown, he and Joe Trippi, a Democratic operative, launched a campaign opposing not only the Iraq invasion, but making it about this clash of ideas that I`m reminding you parties usually have.

They called out their own party leaders for enabling war.


HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: What I want to know is why in the world the Democratic Party leadership is supporting the president`s unilateral attack on Iraq.


MELBER: That was a big deal. It was a break with the party orthodoxy. It drove months of soul-searching.

Now, the Democrats later nominated someone who did vote for the war, John Kerry, but, by the next primary, again, with policy and ideas front and center, they chose, well, another upstart who had Dean`s once controversial dovish position. They put Barack Obama in charge of the nomination and, well, the White House.

So one party ceding all policy is actually quite a development to be living through right now. Politically, McConnell may bet there are just enough national problems, from inflation to COVID, that this is the way to hit the incumbent.

More broadly, though, there`s something else that may be afoot on the right. Obama vet Chai Komanduri says it reveals a weakness in today`s GOP, this nothing campaign, because the party can no longer unify over virtually any major or new policy idea, that it`s -- quote -- "divided over what it stands for" and is basically trying to be post-policy.

A campaign about nothing, like a show about nothing, does leave openings in the proverbial writers room. Some strategists view this as a major opportunity right now for the Democrats, because they have even more opportunity to define what the election will be about.


After a period where they focused on jobs and spending and the January 6 commission, this may be a chance to say there is something new possible if they win.

Well, joining me, we are going to talk about these issues with two people you just heard from who know a lot about it, two veterans strategists, Trippi and Komanduri, when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: A campaign about nothing?

Well, we turn now to two of the strategists I quoted in our setup.

Chai Komanduri is a veteran of several presidential campaigns, including Obama`s, and Joe Trippi, known for his work with numerous campaigns, including Howard Dean`s.

Welcome to both of you.



MELBER: I`m going to start with Chai, because I quoted your view tonight that the focus on nothing, which McConnell admits, reveals something weaker and deeper in the party. Explain.

KOMANDURI: Yes, what you`re seeing in this midterm is, quite frankly, a strategy of no strategy.

It`s -- every week, it`s a different message. One week, it`s CRT. The next week, it`s masks. The week after that, it`s gas prices. It seems like the Republican Party has attention-deficit disorder. They keep jumping from message to message to message, which is really a contrast with how Republicans used to act.

And the reason is, the Republican Party is deeply divided. And they`re specifically divided over Trump. You could never do a Contract For America, for example, now, because the minute you did, Trump would immediately attack it if it did not sufficiently endorse his big lie.

You could never have a Tea Party sort of grassroots uprising, because the Republican grassroots is actually very divided over Trump, and specifically whether or not to take the vaccine, which Trump is strongly in favor of, and so many other Republicans are not.

So you`re seeing a Republican Party that is divided over Trump, that is unable to coalesce, and, therefore, is just kind of hoping to run out the clock on Joe Biden`s low approval numbers.


TRIPPI: Look, I think it`s a lot worse than that, actually.

I think, look, there are not two parties in America anymore. The Republican Party is now an authoritarian movement, authoritarian party. And what happens in that kind of party is, ideas do not matter. Merit doesn`t matter. The way you move up in a party like that, an authoritarian party, is proximity to dear leader and fealty to him.

And they so what the party`s become now are hostage-takers or hostages. You -- there are only -- we`re down to like two, maybe three, maybe a handful that are not -- you can`t put into that category.

So, what I think is happening is, there will not be ideas. This is a party that is enthralled with its power, with trying to get its power back. And it is owned by Trump. He fuels it.

And that`s why, again, I agree there can`t be -- they can`t get there together because they`re arguing over -- there`s no argument about who`s in charge. And that`s what we have to take on. And I think the Democrat -- all of us have to build a huge, broad-based, pro-democracy movement from the bottom up, a lot of activists, a lot of energy.

It`s one of the reasons I have helped start with my friends at The Lincoln Project, who I have joined, because we have all got to come together and beat back this authoritarian movement. And that`s what this election has to be about. We have to nationalize it and make it clear that the reason we`re getting through COVID, the reason there are all these jobs that have been created is because of what Democrats did.


The Republicans didn`t vote for the COVID relief package, not one of them. So it would be much worse. As bad as things are, and we need to keep -- there`s things we need to do -- we have got to keep pushing Biden`s advantage of what he has accomplished, what Democrats did, and define the Republican Party as an authoritarian movement that is dragging us back.

MELBER: And both of you are referring to sort of what`s just offstage, which is why, OK, if it looks like what McConnell`s doing is sort of bad or not that effective, imagine how much worse it would be, as you say, Chai, if they spent months developing something, put out a big rollout, do a big interview, and have it scuttled by Trump that night, right?

And yet some people are clearly speaking from -- to adopt Joe`s analogy, from a hostage room.

Here was Lindsey Graham pleading for more policy.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We need a positive agenda to talk about how we can fix the future for America repair the damage, rather than trying to purge the party.

I think the best thing for the Republican Party is to talk about policy.



KOMANDURI: What policy? What policy could he be possibly referring to?

I certainly don`t see any potential policies. We had a Republican president, ostensibly, a Republican president, Donald Trump, for four years. We had no policy. We had some tax cuts passed by Paul Ryan. We had some conservative judges approved by Mitch McConnell. That`s it. That`s not something you can really run upon.

So I find it really rather ridiculous that Lindsey Graham says this. And then he also says, oh, this party is going to be all about Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell better get on board with that. Otherwise, I`m not going to support him as Senate majority leader anymore.

So it`s completely confusing. It`s all over the place. It`s really scattershot. And I think also you have this backdrop of the fact that, yes, Biden`s approval ratings are low, but there are green shoots here. There are there -- there is really -- like, the snowflakes are turning going to turn into flowers, a la "Dr. Zhivago," pretty soon here hopefully, because COVID is ebbing away.

Inflation appears to be ebbing away. There are some accomplishments that Biden...


MELBER: I have heard that before, Chai.


MELBER: I have COVID fading before.

KOMANDURI: Well, I think that Omicron is different. And I think the best indicator of that is Dr. Fauci.

I mean, Dr. Fauci, when other people were saying COVID was going away, was much more circumspect. This time, he is talking much more about this becoming endemic, and much more about the idea that there`s going to be something that we can live with, particularly...

MELBER: Right, or to parry part of what you`re saying, he has now evolved to a place of saying, we have done as much vaccination as we can.


MELBER: The people who are resisting are still -- they have human rights. They don`t have to take it. And what`s left is how many COVID restrictions are left. Those seem to be going away.


MELBER: Joe, I want to turn a little bit to something that`s somewhat complimentary of you. So, you might be here for it.

But a lot of people talk about running bold campaigns, taking a stand. A lot of people care about democracy in politics. You do have a pretty unique position in this sort of period of a Democratic history and really history of American foreign policy that I alluded to, because you guys did wage a campaign that was against where a lot of things were, and it did tilt over time.

And it`s complex, what moves policy, but, boy, was it a part of it. I think people agree with that, whether they love Howard Dean or not.

So let`s take a quick look at a younger Joe Trippi when you were running that campaign against all odds. Here we go.


TRIPPI: Now we need to get and make sure that our message of standing up to Bush, of opposing this war, of repealing the tax cuts, of providing health care coverage and a plan to get health care for every American is out there.


MELBER: It`s been said that that campaign didn`t win the primary, but it ultimately won the argument. Are there any lessons there now for a Democratic Party that, as we have been exploring, has some open policy runway?

TRIPPI: Yes, I think -- I actually think there`s a lesson there for the country right now, that we need to create that kind of argument, that kind of movement to take on what`s really happening here with the Republican Party that`s become authoritarian.

And that -- and what was great about that campaign was how we empowered people to engage. And, yes, I think there are -- the Democratic Party is the only pro-democracy party left in this country, unfortunately.

I happen to believe we need two major parties that have debates about policy. It doesn`t exist. We need -- the Democratic Party needs to make the case that we have led this country through the most upheaval that we have all experienced in our lifetimes over the last two years, that, yes, we -- COVID has been -- it has upset everybody. It hurt people.

They`re barely -- a lot of people are barely making it through. But it would be far worse, because we have been leading the way, while the Republicans voted no, did nothing. They helped feed the conspiracy theories, the anti-vaxxers, the no mask campaigns.


Now they have got -- they`re on the truckers, trucker protest in Canada, that`s hurting autoworkers in Alabama and Detroit, which is going to make inflation worse. But they have no ideas about how they would lower inflation.

Biden actually does have a plan. Some of the things that he`s been trying to do and get passed would actually impact inflation, get people -- working families` costs down.

So I think we got to make that case. But I think, fundamentally, every American who cares about this democracy, forget about Democrats and Republicans, right vs. left. Put past differences aside and come together to stop this authoritarian movement.


TRIPPI: And, again, I just want to repeat it. That`s why, at The Lincoln Project, we started Join the U.S. -- join -- excuse me --


MELBER: Well, Joe, we could get you a T-shirt with the URL. You could wear it through the whole thing, the whole interview.


TRIPPI: well, it worked for us a lot in 2003.


TRIPPI: And I think we did change the country.


MELBER: I`m running over on time. I`m running over on time, but Chai was working for Kerry that year.

But it was quite the Internet campaign, the Dean one, Chai.

KOMANDURI: It was, quite simply, one of the most important campaigns in American history.

It might be not enough for Joe, considering how it turned out. But if you think about, historically, the most important losers, Howard Dean, Barry Goldwater at the top of that list.

MELBER: Interesting.

KOMANDURI: They shaped history in an enormous way, more than a lot of winning campaigns have done.

MELBER: Well, and that really...

TRIPPI: It aged me quite a bit.

MELBER: Did it age you?


MELBER: Well, yes. It did look -- it looked mildly, slightly -- you looked a year younger in the clip.

But I got to go. But it really wraps the whole convo together, because we`re talking about whether campaigns are about ideas. And that was an ideas campaign.


MELBER: Howard Dean`s biggest detractors, Joe Lieberman would agree with that. It was an ideas campaign. And `08 took both the Iraq policy and some of the Internet organizing with Obama and went in a different direction.

It was a really interesting conversation. I want to thank Chai and Joe.

I got to keep it moving, because we have General McCaffrey on site, standing by, to give us some key analysis. What do we need to know about what`s going on over in Ukraine?

And, later, a first-of-a-kind breakthrough on gun safety. It`s a story that`s important. It`s a first, as I said. I have it for you tonight. Stay with me. I`m going to explain it all, why some people are cheering this tonight.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States is prepared no matter what happens. As long as there is hope of a diplomatic resolution that prevents the use of force and avoids incredible human suffering that would follow, we will pursue it.

We have not yet verified that Russian military units are returning to their home bases. Indeed, our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position.

An invasion remains distinctly possible.


MELBER: President Biden making formal remarks today about the unfolding situation in Ukraine.

We`re joined by retired Four-Star General Barry McCaffrey.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: As you understand it, what is the status on the ground, and what is the status from the United States` position?

MCCAFFREY: Well, first of all, you have to say that the statement by President Biden was extremely well-thought-out, balanced, a lot of deterrence, NATO unity.

And more -- I think, even more importantly, he spoke directly to the Russian people. So it was really an excellent statement.

We look at what`s going on Ukraine. Last night, I was looking at video of S.P. artillery .152-millimeter road marching into position. Astonishing. Nothing has changed; 150,000 Russian troops are poised. They`re coming from the south in a maritime attack, seize the Ukrainian ports from the east, a massive amount of Russian armor, and from Belarus in the north.

So we`re wise to not buy the bait that the crisis is cooling at all. But there`s no question that Mr. Putin has stuck himself in a box. A strategic disaster awaits him if he plunges into Ukraine. They have got a quarter- million troops. They will fight.

Can you imagine trying to seize Kyiv with three million people street to street? So Putin is looking for a way out, I think, although he could still lash out and take a bite, like seize the two provinces, breakaway provinces, and incorporate them into Russia.

MELBER: The U.S. position under Biden here is a lot of bright lights, intelligence publicity, trying to deal with the way that the modern state under Putin and Russia does disinformation and other moves, while promising sanctions and disincentives short of a military response.

Is that working, best you can tell, right now?

MCCAFFREY: Yes, I think so.

Secretary Blinken and Austin and the president and other team members have really pulled together an incoherent NATO left to us by Mr. Trump. It was in disarray. So it looks to me like they have -- the most important thing about Ukraine, by the way, is not just the direct threat of military aggression by the Russians against this 41-million-person country.

But it`s also the notion of, who`s next? Putin`s gone into Georgia., Syria, seized the Crimea. This guy has a history of armed aggression. So, the Baltic states, Poland, Romania, the Biden administration has sent in sort of token forces, but other NATO allies are now joining us to indicate we will stand by Article 5 with our NATO partners.

That`s vital.

MELBER: Understood. And appreciate the clarity.

General McCaffrey, as always, thanks for being here.


MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you, Ari.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Coming up, a story I told you that is so important that we`re getting to, why Sandy Hook parents are celebrating a victory and why it could be a legal template for taking on dangerous guns in America.

That`s next.


MELBER: Every week in America, about 306 people are killed or die of gun violence.

There are about 424 mass shootings a year, which defines as incidents where four or more people are shot, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

The sad truth is, these shootings are really so common they`re often treated as somehow normal, even though unlike, say, car accidents or certain aspects of COVID, there is nothing unavoidably normal about these developments. They are documented as a total aberration from most of the world, which just doesn`t have this level of gun violence, even in places with many guns.


So it often takes an even more extreme shooting to even galvanize people, like the Sandy Hook mass murder of 20 innocent children -- that was nine years ago -- traumatizing families and our entire nation.


VERONIQUE DE LA ROSA, MOTHER OF NOAH POZNER: I thought, December 14, 2012, would be just an ordinary day and a string of ordinary days. But my little boy, Noah, never came home from school that day.

MARY D`AVINO, MOTHER OF RACHEL D`AVINO: Every single day, we miss who Rachel would be.



MELBER: That`s just some of the parents speaking out in a grieving process that continues to this day.

Barack Obama deemed it the worst day of his presidency.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there`s not a parent in America who doesn`t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.

The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.


MELBER: It was emotional, even for people in public life who are, according to certain rules, not supposed to show too much emotion.

President Obama then pushed for a range of gun safety measures. Some could not get majority support in Congress at the time, like banning assault weapons outright, or banning large ammunition magazines, which are generally associated with going on offense, not self-defense.

There was a narrower bid to enhance background checks. You may remember it. It got a majority, 54 senators, but was blocked with a filibuster, showing the combined power of the gun lobby and Republicans` use of the Senate antiquated rules.

The outlook is not very different in today`s Senate. So the road to any national legislation is bleak still. But that reality hasn`t stopped all the reformers, who`ve been using other avenues to try to improve America`s gun safety.

There`s been a push at the state level, where we should note over 450 gun safety laws have actually passed since Sandy Hook. Some of them target specific things and specific places. They`re not always national news. But that has been something that has actually gone forward since the tragedy.

Then there`s other legal efforts to try to do more, but, because of the law, that require involvement of victims` families. A reason for that is that, under the law, you can`t take a company to court because you oppose its product, even if you have proof that it is harmful or terribly or deliberately harmful. Under the rules, most of the time, you have to prove that it harmed you.

So it was up to many Sandy Hook parents, who`ve already faced the worst thing a parent can go through -- we can`t even really imagine -- who then had to turn around and engage further time and energy into this, because they decided to do the work over the years to sue gunmakers for the harm they say these guns inflicted on their families.

Now, for background, under the precedent, no gunmaker had ever been held liable for any part of a mass shooting. So this was not only an uphill battle; it was unprecedented.

And while we`re at it, I want to make sure you know Congress made it harder to sue gunmakers all the way back in 2005, led by Republicans, with the support of some Democrats, including the late Harry Reid and Bernie Sanders, who`s still in Congress.

But these parents pressed on. And now the news tonight, nine years later, is, they won. The gun manufacturer Remington is backing down and settling the suit for a hefty $73 million and other associated reforms and compromises.

The victorious lawyer says the strategy deployed financial damages to get attention and try to force change.


JOSH KOSKOFF, ATTORNEY FOR SANDY HOOK FAMILIES: This case was never about damages in the sense of compensation. It was about damages in the sense of forcing change.

These families, they would pay everything, they would give it all back just for one minute. That would be true justice.


MELBER: True justice or any justice is an uphill battle under the current law written by politicians.

Gun producers are still mostly immune from suits about crimes and murders committed with their product. But this case found a hole in the gunmaker`s controversial marketing, which put profits above what many would view as just common sense, finding evidence that they irresponsibly marketed the weapon to young men who were at risk, including using video games.


And the legal win means Remington was now cough up new evidence and documents, including about their own marketing and strategy.

This is a first. It has a price tag other corporate gunmakers may notice. And that matters, because, to change corporate behavior, you have to speak in the language corporations understand, which, tragically, here is to further increase the price of mass shootings for them, the corporations, as if the price was not high enough already.


MELBER: Thanks for spending time with us here on THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.

You can always find me online @AriMelber on any social media app you choose.

"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts right now.