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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 3/15/22

Guests: Andrei Kozyrev, Evelyn Farkas, Timothy Snyder


How severe is the repression of citizens in Russia? Russian forces continue shelling Ukrainian cities. The Ukrainian refugee crisis grows. The Justice Department releases new evidence in the January 6 sedition cases. A Russian state TV employee protests the war against Ukraine on air.



Hi there, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin tonight with this new video, President Zelenskyy meeting in Kyiv today with the leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. These are the first foreign leaders to come to Ukraine, which remains a war zone, since this invasion began. And it is day 20 since we began seeing scenes like this.

There are new attacks on Kyiv, which is under a curfew for civilians. That`s the first time they have instituted that, Russia bombing an apartment building on the outskirts of the capital, which has already led to two confirmed deaths.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was woken by this huge explosion. And everything in the room was on the floor, the windows, the TV, everything. My television had been smashed into the wall in front of the window. I climbed out of the rubble. And then I saw my neighbors were also alive.

They got out from my window, because they couldn`t get out any other way.


MELBER: Russia also shelling downtown Kyiv. Troops are stalled about 10 miles outside of the city. You can see the devastation, the destroyed shops.

Again, much of what you`re looking at, if not all, depending on which video I have up, is civilian, commercial real estate. This is not in any way the type of military targets that are fit for war under modern war law. Russia also bombing a subway where civilians have been hiding in bomb shelters.

Here`s NBC`s Richard Engel`s report.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Russia is now expanding its attacks deeper into the heart of Kyiv. This is one of the city`s main subway stations. And it was hit by a Russian strike at roughly 5:00 in the morning.

People had been sheltering here. People have been using these subway stations as bomb shelters, staying mostly in the underground levels, deep below the streets. No one was killed or hurt in this attack, because they were deep underground.

But there is a lot of damage. And volunteers have been coming in from the entire neighborhood to help pick up all of the broken glass here.


MELBER: President Biden signing a government funding bill today as well. It has over $13 billion in additional appropriations for Ukraine aid. Biden also heading to Brussels next week for a NATO meeting.

President Zelenskyy also spoke to Canada`s Parliament, pleading for that country to help do something that most of the West and the United States has not, which is prop up a no-fly zone. He will also address the United States Congress tomorrow.

Our coverage begins now with Timothy Snyder. He`s a Yale historian. He`s the author of "The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America," and Evelyn Farkas, a former Obama defense official who specialized in Ukraine and Russia issues.

Welcome to you both.

Evelyn, when you look at this state of play, we see the ongoing tactics by the Russian military, the videos. We showed just there some sampling of what looks like siege tactics and a lot of shelling indiscriminately of areas that are primarily, if not exclusively civilian. What does that tell you about this stage of the war?

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, clearly, the Russian government, the Russian military is trying to terrorize the Ukrainian people.

They are bogged down on the ground, as we know. There`s been really a lot of coverage of their ham-handed military approach towards Kyiv, but they are still approaching on the ground. But this air bombardment is aimed at a psychological effect.

They`re trying to frighten the citizens. And, frankly, I guess they`re trying to frighten President Zelenskyy and other politicians, which, as we know, is not likely to work anytime in the near term.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned that and the effect on the leadership.

Here was President Zelenskyy`s address, as mentioned, to a different country today, as he`s been doing a certain type of wartime emergency diplomacy or appeals for help, if you want to call it that. Take a look.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Each city that they are marching through, they are taking down the Ukrainian flags. Can you imagine someone taking down your Canadian flags in Montreal or other Canadian cities?

I know that you all support Ukraine. We have been friends with you, Justin. But, also, I would like you to understand that, and I would like you to feel this.


MELBER: Timothy, what do you see in this type of emergency appeal that he`s doing?

TIMOTHY SNYDER, PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY: Well, one thing that you certainly see is a courageous leader who has found his moment to communicate with others.

Another thing that you see is the consolidation of the Ukrainian nation, not as a nation that`s against anyone, but as a nation that is there to defend itself.


And I think he`s making a very sound point. It`s important for us, when we look at Ukraine, not to see a distant country, but to see a country whose fate could be very much like that of other European countries.

Ukraine has been exemplary in its resistance. And I think Zelenskyy is doing a very good job of trying to explain just why you do resist, because you care about your own homeland, and you care about the free institutions that you have built up with so much trouble.

MELBER: Evelyn, your thoughts?

FARKAS: Well, so Professor Snyder, I`m deeply honored to be with someone who -- with his level of scholarship on Eastern Europe.

And he knows that there`s always been a tendency starting in Western Europe to kind of look down on the Eastern Europeans. And so to kind of build upon the point that he just made, President Zelenskyy is not letting the Western Europeans look down on the Ukrainians. He`s not letting the North Americans looked down on the Ukrainians.

He is telling us, this is about all of us. He`s making this a we, not an us vs. them. He`s fighting for democracy for Ukraine. He`s fighting for our democracy, understanding that many of us know that Vladimir Putin will not stop if he gets his way in Ukraine. And so he`s he`s very successfully essentially co-opted all of us, but rightfully so.

MELBER: And, Evelyn, when you look at what Putin is playing out here, it`s been remarked by many observers and experts that it`s taken longer than he thought, that he might not be happy with what his aides were telling him about it being basically -- they were promising, some, allegedly, potentially, that Kyiv would have fallen by now.

What does that tell you about what he`s got to do in his mind militarily for the next few days? Because we haven`t seen any indication of Putin backing down or walking away from trying to take all of Ukraine.


FARKAS: We know that Putin is rattled.

I`m sorry. Was that for me or for the professor?

MELBER: Evelyn, go ahead.

I will tell folks just for clarity we had a little issue with Tim`s audio, and they`re working on that.

But we can hear you. Go ahead.

FARKAS: OK, wonderful.

So, essentially, what -- we see some signs that Putin is clearly rattled. First of all, he put his head of intelligence, responsible for the bureau that does foreign intelligence, so the bureau that would have reported to him about how the troops were going to be welcomed in Ukraine, that guy is in house arrest, together with his deputy.

So he`s signaling he`s not happy with the intelligence he got. The other thing is that I believe it was his spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, made some comments indicating that the Russians might be open to negotiation. Now, I know they do this periodically, and it doesn`t necessarily mean something. But it may mean that some people around him are hoping for a way out of all of this.

And, clearly, as I said earlier, he`s bogged down. He`s relying on this brutal air campaign to try to subdue the Ukrainians. All he`s going to get with this is, frankly, a humanitarian catastrophe, war crimes on a scale that we haven`t seen, really not even in Grozny, because he`s now going for Kyiv and entire country, all the smaller towns and cities as well.

So this is really a race against time to see whether the home front in Russia can exert any pressure on Putin, and certainly to help the Ukrainians stand their ground in the battlefield.

MELBER: Yes, understood.

And Timothy, who`s still with us here, when you look at that and the type of resistance that Russia is facing, there must be, from what we have heard people around Putin, and certainly rich oligarchs and others who have other priorities in Russia, who have very little appetite for what might become a much longer, protracted resistance and occupation, even if Kyiv ultimately falls, even if the government is in some way formally decapitated, it would not appear to be a situation where, as Putin would argue, in other land wars, putting aside whatever ethics you want to call it, but in the Donbass or in Crimea, where you`re holding land, and you`re talking about separatists, and life in Russia goes back to normal.

It would seem that that is now off the table. And you could have a protracted resistance that would be costly to Russia in ways they care about, putting aside the fact that Putin clearly doesn`t care about the many people he`s hurting and killing in either country.


I mean, number one, this is a moral disaster. Mr. Putin says he`s gone there to protect Russian speakers. And the way he`s protecting them is by killing them, village after village, city after city. He`s murdering the very people he said he`s there to protect. It`s an economic disaster, obviously, for Russia, not just the sanctions, but the loss of confidence in Russian predictability for the foreseeable future.

It`s also a geopolitical disaster, because this war pushes Russia closer and closer to China. Mr. Putin`s geopolitical legacy, if he hasn`t led up, is going to be that Russia is going to become a vassal state of China.

There are plenty of people in Russia who realize all three of these points. The question is whether any of them has the courage to speak the truth to Mr. Putin and whether he realizes in time that not just his legacy, but his power is being undermined by what he`s doing.


You never know just what factors are going to come together to change a regime of this type. But what we do see is that Mr. Putin himself is summoning all of these risk factors into existence.

MELBER: And, Timothy, you have written extensively about and some viewers may recall you charting the different ways that authoritarianism and repression works much more on a spectrum, that, at a distance, sometimes, we say, oh, this country`s democracy, and that one`s not.

But, of course, there is a lot more nuance to that, and that Russia, which was not a free or democratic society six months ago, is actually much less free today in measurable ways, in access to information. People in Russia who might not be aware of this are aware that they can`t use Facebook to talk to people anymore. That`s a big change for such an economy.

Can you walk us through that part of this? And what does it tell you that Putin had to go that far only during the war?

SNYDER: I mean, it`s very striking.

Just to return to Mr. Putin`s announced purpose for this war, one of the things he said is that Russian people, speakers of Russian, should be able to express themselves. And now, in Ukraine, he`s killing large numbers of people who speak Russian. And, in his own country, he`s preventing people from expressing themselves at all.

Now in Russia, you can get 15 years in prison just for saying the word war. People standing outside carrying blank pieces of paper and Bible verses are being arrested and thrown in jail. There has not been this much repression of speech in Russia for -- in any time since Stalin.

In fact, some of these repressions of speech are more strict than anything that existed even in the Stalinist regime. So this is a dramatic change. And it signals a very significant lack of confidence by the regime in how this war is actually proceeding. It signals intense defensiveness. And, of course, it also signals utter disregard for the normal norms of civil society and freedom of expression that we would care about.

It`s not a sign of success. It`s a sign of desperation that Mr. Putin has to move things this far and this fast.

MELBER: That`s striking, what you just said. I want to underscore it. Folks may have heard. You`re saying that part of this repression is measurably worse than some of what was done under Stalin.

As a historian, I take that to be your objective assessment of facts, not your opinion that you like or dislike Putin a certain amount. So, could you expound on that a little explain to us what you mean by worse than that era?

SNYDER: Well, I`m not saying the whole era is worse. I`m talking about expression.


MELBER: Specifically on free expression, right, not comparing to a gulag.

But you`re saying people today have less free expression rights. Explain.

SNYDER: Under Stalin, you could use the word war, and you wouldn`t be sent to the gulag for 15 years.

People did get sent to the gulag for same things, but a 15-year sentence to the gulag for saying the word war is quite extreme. This is -- we now in a position where freedom of speech, at least in Russia is being constrained in ways that it`s very hard to find historical precedents for.

So, obviously, the Stalin regime, with its millions of deaths by famine, and its one million or so deaths by great terror, stands far apart from this regime on that scale. But when it comes to people being able to speak, it`s the Russians themselves that are reminding me that they have never lived through anything like this.

You have to go back to before the lifetimes of most Russians who are alive to find anything that compares to this kind of repression of the freedom of speech.

MELBER: Tim Snyder and Evelyn Farkas kicking us off tonight, thank you both.

Now, for coverage from the ground, we turn to Cal Perry live, from Lviv, Ukraine, the western part of the country -- Cal.


So we will start Mariupol, where we have been starting things off, the situation there. We had a break there in the fighting today; 2,000 cars were able to get out of that city, that port city, where some 400,000 people are still trapped. Good news there today, finally, for the first time, some folks able to get out.

The situation there, though, remains pretty dire for the people who are trapped there, the shelling, as we understand, continuing there tonight. Also, Russian troops actually took a hospital and Mariupol, some 400 Russian troops now bedding down in that hospital. It`s another site that they seem to be using as a base. We know they`re using nuclear sites as a base, now apparently hospitals as well.

And, in Kyiv, this remarkable moment of diplomacy, where you had three prime ministers from European countries actually getting on the train here where I am in Lviv, taking the train to Kyiv, a city that is under shelling, a place that had four separate apartment buildings hit today by shells, the prime ministers of Slovenia, Poland in that city tonight meeting with the president of Ukraine.


We will see what comes out of that meeting, of course, this on the heels of an address that he will give tomorrow to U.S. members of Congress. He will undoubtedly talk about the no-fly zone. He`s posted another video tonight to the Ukrainian people in which he discusses NATO and Ukraine`s role in NATO. He says that Ukraine is a strong country on its own.

Maybe an indication, Ari, of what we will see in these continued peace negotiations. It has been a demand of the Russians that Ukraine drop its desire to be in NATO. You can bet that`s being discussed tonight on the ground in Kyiv. And you can bet it`ll come up tomorrow in that address as well, Ari.

MELBER: Cal, yes, we touched briefly on the diplomatic meeting, although, as you mentioned, we don`t know a ton of what comes out of it yet.

But given that you`re in country, what does it say that these leaders were willing to go there? Is that a show of confidence about the security situation or solidarity that they took on recognizable risk?

PERRY: It seems to be both. And the thing that made it all the more extraordinary was, they announced it ahead of time. I mean, the train that runs here from Lviv to Kyiv is carrying people to the front who are going to fight.

It`s carrying family members that are trying to rescue folks in the east. But it`s a well-known train route. It is something that the Russians know is still running. And for them to announce it ahead of time, I think, is dual purpose. They`re putting the Russians on notice that, if anything happens to them when they`re there, they will be at fault. But also they`re making the point that they`re willing to take that risk, that they`re willing to take the risk is -- the risks that President Zelenskyy is willing to take.

And, again, he`s putting out videos every day that show he`s willing to take this risk, and we`re now seeing world leaders apparently follow his lead -- Ari.

MELBER: Striking.

Cal Perry, thank you, and stay safe.

Coming up, we go live to Poland, where we were tracking the refugee crisis and the humanitarian aid. And that protester who crashed the Russian news show now speaking out about an interrogation.

And later tonight, we turned back to domestic news, a lot going on in the world, but there is new evidence the Justice Department is releasing about those sedition cases, a secret meeting busted on tape, and some people who will be forced to wait in prison for their trial.

Stay with us.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Save us children, please. Please.


MELBER: So many harrowing scenes out of these refugee camps and this humanitarian crisis that continues to unfold, thanks to Russia`s invasion of Ukraine.

Three million people have fled the country since that offensive, unprovoked, hit about 20 days ago.

Here`s what one of them told NBC`s Kelly Cobiella.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When war started, I said that I didn`t want to go from Ukraine, from Kyiv, because I hope that it will be for week just.

But now I understand that it`s for long.


MELBER: We`re joined now by NBC`s Ellison Barber live from Krakow, Poland, where refugees continue to arrive from Ukraine -- Ellison.


We spent today at a school in Krakow, a school that is welcoming Ukrainian students. This is an unfolding humanitarian crisis that grows by the minute. In Ukraine, right now, the U.N. says a child becomes a refugee, almost one child every single second. It is an astronomical problem, again, with no end in sight.

And the big question moving forward is, how do you make sure these children are taken care of as they are moving to places like Poland, at least for a little while?

A basic thing is education, a bilingual education at that. Here in Warsaw, there are some schools that not only are they welcoming Ukrainian students, but they are also offering classes solely in Ukrainian. We spoke to four different students today who talked about how wonderful it is to have some sense of normalcy amidst so much uncertainty and the relief they have being in class, learning math, at times around other Ukrainian students, other kids like them who understand what they`re experiencing, who, as they`re going through their lesson plans, they too are worried about their families back home in Ukraine.

Big picture, though, Warsaw, Krakow, these are two big cities in Poland. And it`s where most refugees have fled in recent days, but they are cities were officials in both of them, they say that they are really reaching the limit of their capacity in terms of resources they can provide. The school we were at today, they said they could take about two, maybe three more students from Ukraine and then their program is entirely full.

The good news, there are other schools around the country that have availability and are offering similar programs. There are efforts to get families to those other schools, so that children can get into a bit of a rhythm and make sure that their education is not overly disrupted.

But what we`re hearing from a lot of refugees is that they don`t want to go a lot further into Poland because they desperately, desperately want to go home. They don`t want to leave the bigger cities because they`re hoping they can go home sooner, rather than later -- Ari.

MELBER: An understandable hope, to be sure. Ellison Barber, thank you and stay safe.

Next, we turn to this live TV moment you may have heard about, with that Russian state TV staffer protesting against the lies in Russia.

We have Russia`s former foreign minister, who has also spoken out against the war, when we`re back in one minute.



MELBER: The Russian state TV employee who stormed a TV set to denounce Vladimir Putin`s invasion of Ukraine, providing a rare moment of dissent on air inside the country, was fired today -- I should say fined today by a Russian court. More punishment expected to come.

We can show her leaving court there. Interrogation after arrest went about 14 hours. She also says she did not sleep for two days. That sign you may have heard about came on screen. It said "No war" and then told viewers they were being lied to. It played out on live TV before the broadcast was able to cut away.

Before interrupting that newscast, the same individual made a separate video criticizing the war, today, a Russian court fining her 30,000 rubles -- that`s about $280 -- for the earlier video. She could, though, face something that we were discussing earlier in the broadcast, a potential criminal prosecution for that type of speech, albeit on a sign.

Russia has passed a new law just since this war began which purports to threaten to put people in prison for up to 15 years for speech. Over 14,000 people have also been detained in Russia for protests relating to the war. There`s a video that shows a woman arrested for holding up even a blank sign -- you see it there -- to make the point.

We have a special guest right now with truly unique insights into the Kremlin. Andrei Kozyrev was the Russian foreign minister from 1991 to 1996 under President Yeltsin. You see him there. He was also the first person to effectively serve that role in the post-Soviet era. He also developed Russia`s foreign policy immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, at a time of intense transition.

And we should note, the current foreign minister for Putin, Sergey Lavrov, got his start as this man Kozyrev`s deputy. Kozyrev left the Russian government in 2000, which was the same year Putin became president for the first time. He has become something of a critic of Mr. Putin.

Mr. Minister, thank you for coming back on THE BEAT, sir.


MELBER: What do you see in that type of crackdown on the people who do protest the war or the Putin government right now inside Russia?

KOZYREV: It`s Orwell comes into reality.

It`s -- they try to impose new novoyaz, Russian newspeak, like, what you can say, even words, or what you cannot say. But this Marina Ovsyannikova, who actually broke into the broadcast, she is a hero, because she is a mature lady. She has two children. And she knew what she was doing and what was the risk, and she took this risk.

And I will tell you that this will resonate, and already resonates, not only all over the world, but in Russia. There are many now reports, though I cannot confirm them, evidently, but that there is considerable discontent all over Russian broadcasting systems and other channels.

And so she probably did a tremendous job.

MELBER: Mr. Kozyrev, you served under the Yeltsin administration. You were the chief diplomat dealing with issues all over the world.

When you look at this situation, what does it tell you, as we look at the nexus, the link between the disinformation coming out of the Kremlin and the situation the ground, that, rather than selling this war, which is a feature in many countries, justifying this war, Mr. Putin has decided that his best domestic message or propaganda is to disappear this war, to pretend that it either isn`t happening at all, or that it is so minor as to not be the land war, the greatest land war in Europe since World War II, which it in reality is?

And I say as an addendum to that question, the protest signs aren`t saying always that war is bad or Putin is bad. Some of the protest signs just say, by the way, there is a war.

What does all of that say to you, as someone who`s been on the inside?

KOZYREV: Well, I think he overestimated his ability to conquer, his army`s ability to conquer, and weakness of Ukraine.

And that`s why he termed it an operation, meaning probably that it`s just something limited in time and maybe even limited in scale, because he thought that it would be very easy.


But he failed. I mean, it`s a real war now. And he does not want to recognize it himself, I think. And, definitely, he does not want Russian people to understand what is happening. So, he is now resorting to barbaric bombardment and barbaric ways of waging this war, hoping to end it before the Russian people wakes up.

And what will wake up Russian people, young ladies like this one, like heroes, who speak openly, and inside there, and the shock therapy, what I call shock therapy, when they start feeling, not immediately. It takes time. But when people start feeling the hardship, the shortages probably in the stores, it`s painful.

And it`s regrettable on one side, because it`s ordinary people.


KOZYREV: But it`s probably necessary to wake them up and to start this war between the refrigerator and TV set.


KOZYREV: And so far, TV set is winning, still winning over refrigerator.

But when refrigerator becomes empty, that might be a different contest between refrigerator and TV.

MELBER: When you say TV set vs. refrigerator, you`re talking about the domestic population`s ability to buy in a certain narrative or accept it for a period of time vs. the hardcore realities of the cost of this war for them?

KOZYREV: You know, most of the young people, they don`t even watch TV, because they try to take their information from Internet, because they know that those are nice, as Marina said.

But many other people, elderly people and people who live outside of big cities like Moscow, Saint Petersburg, they still watch TV. A TV set is their source of information. And that, of course, are controlled by propaganda. It`s all -- it`s all propaganda.

That`s why she`s heroic, because she went on TV...


KOZYREV: ... which is used as propaganda and the control every word uttered at these propaganda channels

And, all of a sudden, she comes and says, oh, this king is naked. That`s what she did.

MELBER: Yes. Yes, exactly.

And, as you say, there`s always the question of what the competing sources of information are, the crackdown on social media and Facebook a reminder that, yes, it`s an Internet-connected age, as many say, but not if you live in a place where the government can cut that cord. Then you`re suddenly disconnected, until, as you say, the refrigerator, if I can paraphrase the blunt way you put it, the frigerator is bare and life changes.

I`m just at the end of our time. The last question for you is, there`s been many outsiders discussing Putin`s state of mind. Of course, we journalistically can`t report what we cannot confirm. But there are people who`ve been around him and people who`ve observed the COVID meetings, the long table, the isolation, some of which we do see on TV in his meetings.

What do you think of the way he`s operating? Is this the same old Putin, and they got to deal with him? Or do you see any evidence that he has somehow changed, altered, or become more isolated?

KOZYREV: Well, everybody changes, and he becomes an elder, of course.

But he`s as crazy as a fox, a rather sly fox, though. You know what I mean?


KOZYREV: Wily fox, not a very smart FOX, but crazy as a fan of wily fox, that`s what he is.

I mean, he pretends to be, like, unstable even or, like, unpredictable, but, but he is very calculative. And he knows what he`s doing.

So, don`t worry. Many people now start to worry in America and elsewhere in the West to give him a face-saving device or exit from this situation. He is big boy. And he knows how to exit situations. And, first, rein him in. And, after that, worry about his exit strategy. He`s still not on leash.


And, I mean, like rub his nose and his regime`s nose, so to say. Then they will probably start looking for a way out. They will find the way out, without those useful -- useful idiots who are now busy with finding for him the way out.


Always interesting speaking with you. We speak to a lot of experts, people with different types of experience or time in the field. But you are one of our few guests who`s been inside the Kremlin.

Russia`s former Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, thank you, sir.

KOZYREV: Any time. Any time.

MELBER: Yes, sir. Thank you.

We are also getting new reporting on those blasts in Kyiv.

But, first, up next, stay with me. We turn back to the homeland, a lot going on in the world, but some big evidence here in America about those sedition cases against the Oath Keepers and militias that were trying to team up with MAGA to overthrow democracy here at home, including new heat on Clarence Thomas.

I will explain.



MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT.

For most of this hour of news, we have been covering the war abroad.

Now we turn to a clash at home and a major development in these criminal January 6 probes. This is new DOJ evidence that really shows how much planning went into the crimes of the insurrection. There was a documentary film crew, we`re learning, that actually went inside a meeting in a D.C. parking garage between the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, controversial right-wing militias.

And it was on the eve of the insurrection. The crew at one point picked up audio of a person referencing the Capitol, according to the court filing, which suggests the groups may have been more closely coordinated, planning for what to do on January 6 than many publicly knew.

A judge also is ordering the Proud Boys leader, Enrique Tarrio, to be held in custody, in jail until his trial. Now, all that is on the criminal prosecution side.

Then there`s the other legal side of people who aren`t accused of crimes, but are accused of, well, a lot. Take Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, now, all this time later, suddenly admitting she did attend the Stop the Steal rally on January 6, which is relevant to her husband`s jurisprudence.

It renews questions about how he, Clarence Thomas, has been using his power on the bench, because Justice Thomas did something that no other justice did, no other appointee from Trump or any Republican did. He was the sole dissenting vote in the decision that basically told Donald Trump he could not block records from being handed over to Congress in this important investigation.

So, as mentioned, the other justices said, yes, the legal question was clear, those powers are held by Congress, and the evidence goes, but not Clarence Thomas. And then you have this context now that his wife was involved in the thing that he was trying to keep secret.

Ginni Thomas not only attending the rally, but, as previously reported in "The New Yorker," she published multiple posts on January 6 on Facebook, saying: "Watch this MAGA crowd" and then in all caps: "GOD BLESS EACH OF YOU STANDING UP or PRAYING." That was on January 6 itself.

She later said she wrote those things before she knew about the level of the violence.

I`m joined now by former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance.

Welcome back.


MELBER: Good to see you too.

And, obviously, a lot going on, but this is important here in America.

My first question is the shortest. Then we will build .Does this information add to the weight of legal evidence that Justice Thomas should recuse from these type of cases?

VANCE: It really does, Ari.

And I will just use a personal analogy. My father-in-law was a federal court of appeals judge. He did not sit on cases that came from my law firm or my husband`s law firm, because that would have been an obvious conflict of interest. And it would have caused people to question the integrity of his rulings and the judicial system.

So Justice Thomas has the same situation. No one is saying that Ginni Thomas needs to limit her activities. But if she chooses to engage in this sort of political behavior, the full scope of it, then Justice Thomas needs to be very careful about recusing from cases where his involvement in a matter that she has an interest in could tarnish the court`s reputation.

MELBER: Right. As you say, legally, obviously, she can go speak and do legally protected activity. She can also start a bakery. But if that bakery has a case that reaches the Supreme Court, her legal right to bake doesn`t mean that Justice Thomas should be ruling on whether she pays a penalty or anything else.

I mean, it`s all quite straightforward. His dissenting vote in that case was so noticeable. We reported it at the time. What do you think, if anything, is gleaned here, that he has his own view of the separation of powers? Or is it possible that this hits too close to home?

Because, boy, Ms. Thomas, with all due respect, didn`t disclose this information in January or February of that year. This has been kind of withheld, it would seem.


VANCE: And this is exactly the problem, because the Supreme Court, all of the justices are sort of free agents when it comes to ethics. They don`t operate under the same rules and constraints that federal judges or federal prosecutors or just members of the bar do.

So it`s incumbent upon them to be very careful and to police their ethics on their own. And the problem here is exactly the one that you point out. Was Justice Thomas` lone ruling in the Trump turnover case, was that a part of his jurisprudence, or was it motivated by something else? We don`t know.

That tends to cast the courts integrity into doubt. And that`s precisely the sort of situation justices and judges need to avoid by recusing from cases that could call the court`s integrity into question.


And, as you say, we are not issuing a final report or confirmation of his motivation or what was in his mind. But we are reporting for people to understand, they have great power, they have lifetime tenure. And it seems to me that if you went to January 6 -- you went to that rally that turned into the insurrection, and you came home that night, it might come up at dinner or the next day.

It doesn`t seem like something that the justice logically would never have known about. So, we`re getting -- this is what`s interesting, I guess, to me, as a journalist. We`re now learning later on what they likely knew and discuss that. Or, to put it more carefully, Justice Thomas has not publicly denied that he knew about this earlier than the rest of us.

I want to turn to the other story as well. You see evidence the DOJ had that there -- that is now coming out because of the process of these prosecutions that they have more confirmation of these meetings before the 6th.

How and why could that matter for them proving cases beyond the simple stuff, a trespass, disturbing government property, to the idea that there was something more organized among at least potentially some defendants?

VANCE: We have got important lead charges in these newer cases.

The Oath Keepers case, of course, is where DOJ for the first time has charged seditious conspiracy. And that charge is different because it requires proof of an intent to use violence or some sort of a violent component. But, more frequently, DOJ is using a charge that involves obstruction of an official proceeding or conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.

And we`re starting to see the government`s evidence, which, frankly, was already pretty good. This came up in the context of a detention hearing for Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, and DOJ just sort of drops into its pleading a couple of important details, for one, that there was a meeting between the leader of the Proud Boys and the leader of the Oath Keepers before the leader of the Proud Boys was forced to leave the District of Columbia in advance of January 6, because he had gotten caught up in another criminal case, where he was ordered to leave.

And so this -- maybe it`s a changing of the guard meeting. We don`t really know. We don`t know a lot about the substance. But it`s interesting that DOJ decided to use it in this detention hearing. They had a lot of evidence that they could have chosen to use. They`re using both this and a memo that lays out sort of a scheme, a game plan for attacking buildings on the Capitol this early on during this detention hearing.

MELBER: Yes, a really important breakdown on more than one piece of it. So I`m interested to get that from you, Joyce.

And all I can say with everything going on is, nothing good to say about the world, nothing that good to say about this story here on the home front, but it is good to see you again, Joyce Vance, so thanks for coming back.

VANCE: Thanks for having me, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate you. Absolutely.

Coming up, we turn to some new reporting on those blasts in Kyiv and the civilian sites that Russia keeps hitting.

Stay with us.



MELBER: We have been covering news at home and abroad.

And before we finish this episode of THE BEAT, we did want to share some new reporting about how Russia is blasting those residential areas in Ukraine`s capital, Kyiv.

Sky News`s Alex Crawford with this reporting.


ALEX CRAWFORD, SKY NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was another step up in attacks inside the capital, more homes hit, more lives lost. They have been so resilient, but this is really taking a toll, tears, yes, but a steely toughness too.

"We will keep ourselves together," he says, tears on his cheeks. "We will remain strong."

The city was roused earlier again with multiple strikes in all points around the capital. And they`re expecting a lot more over the next few days.

The sound of battle is unavoidable now in the capital, but this army chaplain called it an unequal fight.

"This isn`t war," he says. "This is international terrorism. War is armies against armies. But when armies attack civilians, this is international terrorism."

The mayor called it a dangerous moment and immediately slapped a 35-hour curfew on the capital.

(on camera): How would you describe the spirit of the Ukrainian people and your feeling about this?

VITALI KLITSCHKO, MAYOR OF KYIV, UKRAINE: The spirit, right now, everyone is angry.

I talk to the people. They don`t want to leave. And this activity bring much more energy to everyone. And everyone understand, don`t want to leave, want to defend, defend our city.

CRAWFORD (voice-over): They are meeting this onslaught with fortitude, cleaning out their broken homes and just getting on with it. Some have sent their families and children outside Kyiv, because they have known the Russian military was homing in on this city.

(on camera): Oh, these are all the children`s toys and the children`s things, all.


CRAWFORD (voice-over): But the war has reached right into their living rooms and balconies now.



MELBER: Our thanks to Sky News for that reporting, with journalists on the ground, like so many of our colleagues.

We wish them safety as they continue reporting on this war.

Now, I`m going to fit it a break. We have one more story on the home front, and it involves the safety and the health of the vice president`s family.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Breaking news out of Washington: The second gentlemen, Doug Emhoff, tested positive for COVID. That`s according to the White House directly.

The president is telling reporters as well that Emhoff is feeling fine. Vice President Harris tested negative today. She also, however, did cancel some publicly planned events out of -- quote -- "an abundance of caution."

President Obama also tested positive for COVID about two days ago. He`s mentioned a scratchy throat, but says, overall, he`s feeling fine.

Those are your updates out of Washington.

"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next with special guest Samantha Power, one of President Biden`s top human rights officials.