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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 3/23/22

Guests: Angela Stent, Elie Mystal, Dahlia Lithwick


Confirmation hearings continue for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. President Biden arrives in Brussels, as the war in Ukraine continues. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is remembered.



Hi, Ari.


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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin with the big news here in America. Today was day three of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson`s Supreme Court confirmation hearing. This was the second and final round of questioning that we have going on today. And it`s expected to resume shortly. It will wrap up by tonight.

Right now, I can tell you the news tonight is the same as last night, in the sense of the votes. The White House, President Biden very confident that they have this nomination still on track. We have no public reporting of any cracks among the Senate coalition she needs to make it onto the Supreme Court, the 50 Democrats.

Judge Jackson was again calm and poised today, which is striking for the reasons you`re about to see. And you may have heard about some of this, as we are into basically two days of a certain type of political hijinks, Republican senators doubling down on a line of inquiry that is, even by the standards of Washington and circus politics, really out there and extreme.

There has been debunked claims and misleading rhetoric about her past criminal sentencing, all of which is building to making an outlandish argument, that somehow her judgments or rulings were designed to somehow help people convicted of trafficking and/or using child pornography.

All of it looked like this:


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Let`s go back to the child pornography cases.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Child pornography cases.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): When you approach these child pornography cases.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Let`s focus on actual child pornography cases.


MELBER: This went on and on yesterday and today. The claims are somehow the Jackson is soft in some of those sentencing.

Now, with no apparent awareness of the irony, Lindsey Graham went on to complain that this same committee, which has been harping on a theory that would really ask people to think that this esteemed judge is somehow secretly or bizarrely trying to help people convicted of some of the worst types of crimes, preying on children, using the kind of imagery and photos that involve potentially the abuse of children, depending on how the photos are constructed -- no one in her work, no one in her career, no actual evidence or testimony suggests that she has some kind of soft spot for that, which is why it looks like an outlandish and twisted conspiracy theory.

And yet Senator Graham goes on to complain that this committee has a problem in mistreating nominees, but it`s what Democrats did to Kavanaugh after he faced allegations about his own personal conduct.


GRAHAM: The meetings they had with Judge Kavanaugh, it was literally ambushed. He was ambushed. How would you feel if we did that to you?

JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Senator, I have appreciated the kindness that each of you has shown me to see me in your offices, to talk with me about my approach.

GRAHAM: But my question is...

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): Senator, she`s had nothing to do with the...

GRAHAM: No, but I`m asking her about how she may feel about what you all did.

DURBIN: You won`t even let her finish her response.


MELBER: What you all did.

Now, as uncomfortable as that may be in the room -- and, of course, she`s going to go, if confirmed, work directly with Kavanaugh, potentially for years, and have to find a way to meet common ground with him. So it`s a kind of a public thing that he might hear about on the court and that puts her in a spot.

But as awkward as that moment may be, whatever its political purpose, it`s a sign that the attacks there were on the Democratic senators more than this nominee, than this judge. I mean, Graham is complaining about stuff that he doesn`t even claim she has anything to do with. He`s just saying, remember what the Democrats did, in his view, and what do you think about that?

So the response came more from Democrats than her. Here`s what the former Judiciary chairman and current member of the committee, Senator Pat Leahy, said outside the hearing.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): I couldn`t help but think, was this aimed for this hearing or aimed for a political campaign? What

are some of these senators doing? Making sound bites for their political campaigns, some of them running for president?


MELBER: Judge Jackson has been remarkably consistent, sober, measured. Of course, that may be part of the test.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with this process, and how the politicians act, it is still an opportunity for the nation on the record to see how an individual responds to both fair and perhaps unfair lines of questioning.

And so, Judge Jackson, for her part, measured, sober, poised, and repeated many times she would not be pulled into policy or political debates.


JACKSON: Senator, I have a lot of opinions. I have opinions on -- I`m a human being and I have an opinion a lot of things.

The reason why, in my view, it is not appropriate for me to comment is because of my fidelity to the judicial role.



MELBER: Three days of hearings, two days of questioning, and the portrait that emerges is of someone who does seem to have the temperament.

Americans are invited to watch and learn about the process, someone who has faced down what the modern Senate Judiciary Committee looks like, what a whole range of questions might entail, and sounds like that.

I mean, we were down there for two days watching this. And, today, we`re watching it here with you on television, and she hasn`t really wavered. Next will come, of course, the completion of the hearing process, a committee vote and ultimately a Senate floor vote.

And when you pull back from all of the drama and the talk of racist babies and CRT and sentencing, what you get is the road to potentially, according to the White House, the votes for a new member joining this court very soon.

We want to bring in two legal experts who know their way around this process very well, former U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, where she was a civil prosecutor, Maya Wiley, also a former Democratic candidate for mayor in New York and senior editor and legal correspondent for Slate Dahlia Lithwick, who`s covered many of these brawls.

Welcome to both of you.


MELBER: Dahlia, I will go to you first.

Sometimes, what I have to offer as an observer is very straightforward, nothing sort of complicated about it. It just struck me that she was the same today as she was yesterday and the day before, every hour in this public setting. And I have read her work, but I had never seen her speak this long.

She has a lot of equipoise. I`m curious what you think we learned about this nominee, and if you want to respond to any of the questions we showed, that as well.

DAHLIA LITHWICK, SENIOR EDITOR, SLATE.COM: I mean, I think, Ari, that she has not changed at all. She`s fundamentally the person we met on Monday morning.

I think what`s changed is the willingness of the Republicans on the committee to really drill down on some of the stuff that is just so fringe and that maybe warranted a question the first day, but has become the raison d`etre.

And so remember this you`re making the world and safe for children because pornography thing, this was a one-off that Josh Hawley floated on Thursday night on Twitter. It was debunked everywhere. And yet, by the end of today, we`re seeing 10 committee members, all Republicans, demanding to see presentencing reports so that they can look into this porn issue.

So I think what`s really changed is the willingness to pile on to things that have been called scurrilous smears and the willingness of folks on the committee who were kind of on the fence about joining in that project all in feet first.

MELBER: That makes sense. It`s an astute analysis. And to some folks watching that might say, well, OK, not surprised politicians, right-wing, et cetera.

But you are making a point that I think bears some study here.

And I will mention the viewers we`re watching. The hearings have resumed. The judge is there, I believe, speaking with Senator Kennedy on the Republican side, and we`re monitoring that. So if anything big happens, we will go into it, although, Maya, I feel confident saying that we have monitored a lot of this. So we`re also covering it to not just be airing whatever the latest question is.

And, Maya, Dahlia makes the point that it`s not always this way, that what one rookie or right-wing or a presidential contender senator does, does not always get embraced by a whole flank of the committee. And for that mood music, Maya, I will say, sorry, but here we go.

We`re journalists and lawyers, and we deal with the evidence. So I`m going to play a little more Hawley for you, if you didn`t catch it the first time. Take a look.


HAWLEY: Why don`t you give an enhancement for those? Help me understand that.

JACKSON: Thank you, Senator.

I will make two responses. First, that`s not my policy disagreement. I don`t know why you have characterized that in that way. I have...

HAWLEY: Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute.

You say right here in the cases...

JACKSON: You have read extensively from the government`s argument in this case. You have not provided information from the Probation Office or the defense.

And when a judge...

HAWLEY: I don`t have the Probation Office report.

JACKSON: No. Excuse me, Senator.

The Probation Office provides a recommendation.



WILEY: Well, look, while I asked for an anger translator to do this program tonight, it`s in part because of exactly what Dahlia has said.

The reality is, we have a highly qualified candidate to serve on the Supreme Court and this is supposed to be an inquiry, not an inquisition. But I think Senator Leahy had his finger on the pulse, just as Dahlia has, which is, we have this person, this judge, this person who served for nine years on the bench, who has gone through three previous confirmation hearings, and who has been endorsed not just by victims rights groups, but also by law enforcement, by the way.


And yet she is sitting here being -- literally going through an inquisition about individual cases where she was drawing with and coloring within the lines of the law...

MELBER: Right.

WILEY: ... but being portrayed in the most stereotypical, fearmongering way, because whatever that Josh Hawley trial balloon did, it apparently rose, at least for some of the folks in probably the home districts of these senators, who are hearing -- my guess is, have assessed that we didn`t know how this was going to fly for us.

But what we`re still learning in America today is that, despite our desire to listen to our better angels, we are finding that we can use race as a wedge, we can use fear as a wedge. We can suggest that a qualified candidate, a person, a black woman, when we have said to black people, to black women in this country for decades look, you go to school, you do well, you play by the rules, you will rise.

Well, that is what Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has done. And this is how she`s being treated? It`s disrespectful. It is beyond the bounds of what inquiry into qualification is supposed to be. You can disagree on ideology. You can call and ask for the legal philosophy and say you don`t agree with it, and then you get the vote, because you are elected to do that.

But to interrupt her, to challenge her as -- and to call her, as Senator Cotton did, someone who he said he did not believe was telling the truth when she said she didn`t remember a case, this is beyond the pale and actually signals something very dangerous, as Cory Booker said, for our democracy, because this is the third -- this is the third branch of government that is supposed to rise above politics.

And that`s why she`s only supposed to be judged for her character, her qualifications and, as you pointed out, her temperament. She has passed all three of those. So, instead, they are simply trying to make her seem like a creature she is not.

MELBER: Right, and sort of laying out these traps, rhetorical and political, and seeing whether she could somehow get tripped up.

And, Maya, you mentioned earlier in your remarks the anger translator, an iconic comedy routine that speaks to double standards in American racism, so a very sort of funny -- but funny, sad routine.

Keegan-Michael Key memorably playing what in their version, in "Key & Peele"`s version, Obama might want to say. So, if you -- with your blessing mile, we know him a little bit. We will tell him that you would also like to use his services, be it on air or wherever, for the anger translation.

WILEY: I will pay for them today.


MELBER: We will dial him up.

And, as I say, funny, funny outrageous, funny sad, not just funny hah-hah, but that`s sometimes how we all process these things.

Dahlia, I want to play another moment of Senator Graham, who has really bad emotional. To take a word that is not often used in proper public life, one might call him hysterical, in the sense that he continually -- he continually departed from using the time to do Q&A, which is what it`s there for, to really throw tanties.

Take a look.


GRAHAM: Wait a minute, Judge.

You think it is a bigger deterrent to take somebody who`s on a computer looking at sexual images of children in the most disgusting way is to supervise their computer habits vs. putting them in jail?

JACKSON: No, Senator, I didn`t say vs.

GRAHAM: That`s exactly what you said.

Put their ass in jail.


MELBER: Dahlia?

LITHWICK: Yes, there was a moment in that same colloquy where Senator Graham actually said about viewing porn, maybe you don`t think that`s a bad thing, I think it`s a horrible thing, as though he was somehow associating her with the idea that maybe viewing porn isn`t so bad.

I mean, he just puffed off after his questioning yesterday and today, stormed out of the room in a fury. And it is, as you say, kind of paradoxical that women are supposed to be the emotional ones. And she`s sitting there poker-faced.

But I want to say one other thing that I think is important. Just keep your eye on this child predator, child predator, child predator stuff, because not only does it hook up to QAnon. Not only does it hook up to sort of Comet Pizza and that kind of stuff. This is really, really a valence of political discourse now meant to suggest that all progressives are child pornographers.


And this has a long, ugly tail. And I really fear that it`s sowing the seeds of something to seriously not just delegitimize Judge Jackson in these hearings, but to delegitimize her as a justice for decades to come.

MELBER: Yes, you just connected several dots, including the very horrific Comet Pizza event, where an online conspiracy theory led someone to go physically attack. Again, who`s anti-crime here? If you`re anti-crime, you would be up against those kinds of physical attacks that put Americans` lives in danger.

That at the time was very -- considered very fringe. Now you have actual QAnon candidates. You have some QAnon supporters in Congress, and this whole idea that there`s this -- it`s a conspiracy theory that we actually have a guest to get into on it next. So it`s interesting you raised it, because it overlaps. And it really speaks to the other part of this. There`s the racist part. There`s the gender dynamics.

Then there`s some other stuff that is enough below the surface that, if you`re just watching this hearing, without all that other knowledge -- and, by the way, who wants all that other knowledge, how much time you have to spend memorizing QAnon theories -- it might not exactly make sense, until you connect those dots.

So, Dahlia, thank you very much.

Maya is coming back on the program tonight.

We have a lot more on Judge Jackson, as I mentioned, including that breakdown on conspiracy theories.

But, right now, I also want to update you on the story abroad, the war.

Late today, the president arrived in Brussels. This is an emergency NATO meeting that he attended. He will announce more sanctions on Russia`s Parliament, as well as the plan to increase the U.S. troop presence in Eastern Europe, again, a way to try to support the Zelenskyy mission and resistance without committing to boots on the ground inside Ukraine.

The United States also is formally declaring that Russia is committing war crimes.


BETH VAN SCHAACK, U.S. AMBASSADOR AT LARGE FOR GLOBAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The U.S. government assesses that Russia`s forces are committing war crimes in Ukraine.

We have all seen really horrific images and accounts from the extensive and unrelenting attacks on civilians and civilian sites. Those who are responsible for such abuses must be held accountable.


MELBER: But what does holding Russians accountable mean, especially given the United States historically has opposed some of the very international courts that would try war criminals?

Well, perhaps the policy is changing under the pressure of this war. We will see. It`s something we have interviewed some U.S. officials about on this program.

Meanwhile, what many are calling the stalemate, potential stalemate portion of this war is grinding on, with scenes like this, Russia bombing the capital from afar. Their troops are reportedly stalled in many parts of Ukraine.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We were in the bedroom and I was sitting in the armchair watching television. When it exploded, I ran away to the kitchen, and there was already everything damaged. Windows were blown, smoke and smell of burning.

And I could not take anything from the rooms. And we ran outside.


MELBER: In one southern city, there is footage that appears to show civilians having to fight off tear gas. NATO estimates between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian troops have been killed so far. That`s a wide variance, but, either way, a very high death toll.

And they also have reason to believe 40,000 Russians have been injured, captured or are currently MIA.

President Zelenskyy spoke to the French Parliament today, pleading for more military aid and support. That`s the update on the war. We have more of that later this hour.

But, as I mentioned, after this brief break, we turn back not only the Supreme Court hearing, but why so many Republicans are in hot water for the way they have gone on the attack.

And guess who`s here. Elie Mystal. He is known as a natural shot of espresso, but he`s been caffeinating extra all week, and he`s here live after this short break.



MELBER: Our Supreme Court confirmation coverage continues, day three here of these hearings for Judge Jackson.

And I`m joined, as promised, by Elie Mystal, the justice correspondent for "The Nation." He`s the author of "The New York Times" bestseller, "Allow Me to Retort."

And we`re going to get right into it. Here`s Senator Ted Cruz, when he wouldn`t even follow the rules as he tried to show that he was more upset than anyone.


DURBIN: Please -- Senator, would you please let her respond?

CRUZ: No, not if she`s not going to answer my question.

You have taken over a minute of my time, Mr. Chairman. So...

DURBIN: You have been given extra time.


CRUZ: ... come in at 57.

DURBIN: Time has expired.


CRUZ: Why did you sentence him to just 57 months...


DURBIN: Please, Senator.

CRUZ: ... requested by the prosecutor?

DURBIN: Please, Senator.

CRUZ: Will you allow her to answer the question, Chairman Durbin?

DURBIN: Senator Coons.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Thank you.

CRUZ: Why are you not allowing her to answer the question?

Chairman Durbin, I have never seen the chairman refuse to allow a witness to answer a question.


CRUZ: You can bang it as loud as you want.

DURBIN: Well, I can just tell you, at some point, you have to follow the rules.



ELIE MYSTAL, "THE NATION": When? When is the day that Ted Cruz will be made to follow the rules? Because I haven`t seen it. Please tell me when. I will sign up for it.

I will sit there and watch Ted Cruz to be made to follow the rules. But, right now, the Democrats won`t do that. Look at what Chris Coons did in that situation. He was very nice. He was waiting his turn. That`s not what I would have done.

Once it`s my time to talk, I would have started talking, just like I did right now. Why couldn`t Coons do that when Cruz is going over time, right?

Like, at the end of the day, people have to remember -- and I know you do, Ari, where this screaming from Judiciary Committee started. They love to bring it up. So let`s bring it up.

Let`s go back to 2018. Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of alleged -- of attempted rape by Christine Blasey Ford. She has given testimony in front of the Senate. That testimony is compelling. That testimony is believable. Republicans have a female assistant -- their word, not mine -- cross- examining her. That`s not going well. They take a break.

And they come back. And Lindsey Graham starts shouting. He doesn`t have a point.

MELBER: Yes, the speech.

MYSTAL: Doesn`t have any evidence. He just starts crying and shouting, sneering, right?

And then the rest of the Republicans start shouting. And then Brett Kavanaugh starts shouting and crying and whatever. And like that, we go from a serious hearing about a serious allegation to a circus caused by the Republicans to get their guy through.


MELBER: Yes. Let me...

MYSTAL: And that is exactly what Lindsey Graham did throughout this hearing.

MELBER: Right.

MYSTAL: He starts screaming, and then the rest of the Republicans fall in line.

MELBER: I think there`s value to you drawing that link, especially, having watched these hearings, that it was the other side and their version of that history that came up a lot. You`re offering a bit of a corrective.

As promised, I mentioned to our previous guests and viewers we`re going to get into the QAnon stuff a little more. I`m just reading here from some of the reporting out of "The Washington Post" that notes Republican activist increasingly use this language of child pornography crackdowns.

One experienced Democratic official, Brian Fallon, from Demand Justice says -- quote -- "It`s a sop to the QAnon element."

And I just want to be very clear. There is a way to look at a judge`s record, including their sentencing, that`s going to touch on things that are unsavory by the very nature that they do criminal sentencing. And that`s certainly valid.

This seem to crossover, especially as the hours wore on, into something else. Mr. Fallon, who has experience in the Justice Department, sees it as this.

Can you walk us through what may or may not be, but it certainly is an accusation, of an effort to link this to broader conspiracy theories that anyone that the right wing disagrees with are part of a secret international cabal of pedophiles?

MYSTAL: First, let`s remember why are we talking about sentencing at all? This is a Supreme Court appointment. The Supreme Court is an appellate court. It doesn`t sentence people.


MYSTAL: It reviews sentences, but it doesn`t sentence people themselves. So even going into this part of the history of her judicial history is a bit of a non sequitur.

So now we have to ask why they`re going particularly hard into child pornography. Now, again, they`re not actually talking about the child porn cases, because, all of those cases, she`s -- they don`t have anything on are there. So now we`re talking about the subset of cases, which is a nuanced position of people who are not accused of doing the child porn, but looking at the child porn.

And that`s where you get Lindsey Graham? Well, I think looking is just as bad as that. Well, so do I. But we have sentencing for that. So they`re trying to massage this very nuanced point.

We know we have evidence that this kind of allegation increase -- is believed by the QAnon crazies on their side, and leads to direct violence. You know who else knows that? The Republicans making these arguments. You know who else knows that? Ketanji Brown Jackson. Why do I know that she knows that?

Because Ketanji Brown Jackson is who sentenced the Pizzagate guy, Ed Welch. He was sentenced for his crimes. He got the four years. The prosecutors asked for four-and-a-half. She downward departured from what the prosecutors asked for, gave him four.

It`s interesting, don`t you think, that of all this talk about sentencing, Jackson actually sentencing the Pizzagate guy, that has never come up from Republicans. I wonder why.



MYSTAL: This is important.


MELBER: I just want to underscore, because you talk so fast, I can almost barely keep up.

MYSTAL: Sorry.

MELBER: Just underscoring, you`re referring to what I was assessing with Dahlia, that a right-wing conspiracy theory online followed by someone who was, sadly, violent and deranged, and they showed up in Washington where they thought they were going to bust up a Clinton-esque pedophilia operation, and people got hurt.

And, as you say, as a local D.C. judge, federal local district judge, she was the one sentencing it.

I have one more thing to play for you, but any final thought on that?

MYSTAL: Well, I just want to say again, she is primed to be hated by the people who are most susceptible to these allegations, right?

MELBER: Right.

MYSTAL: That`s the connection that`s important for people to understand.

MELBER: Yes. And I think you make that clearly. And you have a mastery of the details, which is helpful, because a lot to get through here.

This is a new comment we want to play so people understand just what`s going on in this intersection of law and politics. It has been illegal for a long time for states to try to ban people from different races from getting married. You have the right to marry whoever you want, regardless of race, in America.

And yet when it comes to interracial marriage, this is new today in an interview from Republican Senator Mike Braun this week.


QUESTION: So you would be OK with the Supreme Court leaving the question of interracial marriage to the states?

SEN. MIKE BRAUN (R-IN): Yes. If you`re not wanting the Supreme Court to weigh in on issues like that, you`re not going to be able to have your cake and eat it too. I think that`s hypocritical.

We`re better off having states manifest their points of view, rather than homogenizing it across the country, as Roe vs. Wade did.


MELBER: That is a very outlandish claim. He`s also referring to the idea that the states would then have the power to ban marriage between people of different races.


This story really blew up today. That was recorded yesterday. Then he later said today -- quote -- that he "misunderstood the question" and says -- quote -- "There`s no question the Constitution prohibits discrimination of any kind based on race. That`s not even up for debate. And I condemn racism in any form at all levels and by any states, entities or individuals -- end quote.

I want to make sure people have the whole story. The original response is striking. His words are there. So people have the context that he is clearly staying afterward that he`s against racial discrimination, and that he`s not standing by what you just saw on your screen.

Elie, your response.

MYSTAL: This is a classic Republican two-step, where they say they`re against racial discrimination, but they are -- but they also say that they are in favor of the very kind of legal thought processes that led to the discrimination in the first place.

So what Braun is talking about is a case called Loving v. Virginia. That`s the case that allows for interracial marriages to happen in this country. And that was decided on substantive due process grounds, that people have a substantive right to marry, and because, as Marsha Blackburn has been saying, you have to have the -- where`s the right to marry?

The right to marry is not in the Constitution. We have inferred that the Constitution must include a right to marry under the right to privacy, which is a function of substantive due process, which Republicans don`t like. So they sit there and they try to come at, they try to come at, they try to come at substantive due process, the right -- which goes into the right to contraception and all this kind of stuff.

They say they`re only concerned with Roe v. Wade, but, occasionally, the mask slips. And it shows that, if you take away substantive due process, if you take away privacy rights, there`s an entire legal canon that is built on privacy rights that includes the right to marry, that includes the right to contraception, and, yes, includes the right to an abortion before fetal viability that crumble away in their zeal.

Just to put the last point on this, leaving something like interracial marriage in the states, Alabama took -- even though interracial marriage had been long allowed by the federal courts, Alabama still had a vestigial statute banning the miscegenation of the races, as they called it in Alabama.

That did not come off the books until it was put to a popular vote in the year 2000. That`s how recent it was. And that`s how close we could be again to those kinds of laws if people like Mike Braun, John Cornyn, and Lindsey Graham get their way.

MELBER: It`s really striking.

And, as you say, the history is instructive. And if you hear people saying, well, I`m not for X, in this case, banning people from being able to marry regardless of race, but I`m for allowing a state to do X, you don`t have to go to law school to question, well, gosh, why is that so important? Why is allowing a state to do this thing, in this case, rank racist law that`s been completely thrown out, why is that more important than the other rights?

In this case -- and, again, I want to be as comprehensive as possible. People will make up their own minds. He has now said what he said and retracting it. I showed that quote as well, but it was striking.

Elie, on a lighter note, I promised people that you would be the embodiment of an espresso. And I don`t feel that you disappointed. Thank you, sir.

MYSTAL: Thank you so much for having me.

Let`s always keep John C. Calhoun and his states` rights theories in the past.

MELBER: There you have it.

Elie gets the last word on that.

We have our shortest break, which is one minute, and we turn to the story of a Trump ally breaking, with new accusations about stealing the election and potential criminal conduct.

Maya Wiley returns when we`re back in a minute.



MELBER: We`re back with news and a revelation from a longtime Trump ally.

Republican Congressman Mo Brooks was so in on the Stop the Steal rally that he spoke at it on January 6. Then he crossed Trump by saying Republicans need to move on from the 2020 election. Now Brooks tells NBC that Trump asked him to somehow overthrow the entire election, which he doesn`t have the power to do and which, of course, could violate the Constitution. Depending on the actions you take, it could also violate criminal law.

He says Trump was demanding this as recently as within the last six months.


QUESTION: Did he directly tell you to fight to decertify the election, the 2020 election?

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): He did not use the word decertify. He used the word rescind.

QUESTION: And then immediately remove Joe Biden. I guess that would be through impeachment?

BROOKS: Through the rescission of election results.

QUESTION: Did he directly say that there should be a new special election for the presidency?

BROOKS: In one of the conversations, he mentioned having a subsequent election for the presidency.


MELBER: Maya Wiley rejoins us on this other topic.

What do you see here as the evidentiary value of this? Forget whether people like Mo Brooks or not. He seems very close to the current state of mind of requests that would be potentially illegal?

WILEY: Yes, I think it`s very valuable because one of the things that both Congress and the January 6 Committee is trying to discern is, how engaged and involved was Donald Trump in the decision-making?

And we have already heard from Liz Cheney that there`s evidence that suggests that he was participating in a crime. Now, what Mo Brooks is essentially saying is, yes, he asked me to participate.

Now, this goes directly to state of mind, right? One of the things that makes these cases difficult is that prosecutors would have to prove something -- we were talking about prosecution. Prosecutors would have to prove that Donald Trump had the intent of defrauding the United States or engaging in an insurrection.

And, really, what Mo Brooks is saying is, yes, well, he asked me to help them rescind the election. I mean, so the words will matter here. And then the little bit of what I heard in some of the exchange was Mo Brooks trying to walk a line that maybe -- I couldn`t tell if he was trying to help make sure that it was less clear how directly engaged Donald Trump was in saying, yes, interfere with Congress directly, but he says rescind.

That`s a big word, one that prosecutors would look at. And I think it makes clear the spirit with which Donald Trump had entered this, which we already know, because there`s a huge public record. But this is one more piece of that puzzle, one more piece of evidence that goes to Donald Trump`s state of mind. And that does matter.

MELBER: At what point does an individual`s active and here documented efforts to overthrow an election and subvert democracy become a disqualification for office in our democracy?

WILEY: Well, as you know, Ari, Donald Trump wasn`t impeached and he wasn`t barred by Congress from running for office. You can actually commit a crime and run to be president.

Under our system, there`s an assumption that people won`t vote for criminals. We just talked about the hearing that we just saw, confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, someone who has been upholding the law. We saw her being vilified because she was applying it in a way that senators, some senators, took issue with.

Donald Trump, do we take issue with that? That`s going to be for voters to decide if he runs, particularly Republicans when they have to decide who their nominee will be.

MELBER: Yes, it`s a great point you make.

And by linking these two developments today, what you`re really reminding people is, how seriously can you take the supposed anti-crime outrage, anti-criminal outrage over there about issues that are serious, but might be used selectively, when there is this complete support and cowardice in dealing with the ongoing criminal conspiracy to end American democracy?

That`s worth thinking through. As you say, because of the outcome of that impeachment, because he was not convicted or disqualified, it remains an open question in our democracy.

Maya Wiley on more than one story, and we owe you the Keegan-Michael Key anger translator call. Thanks for being here.

WILEY: Yes, you do.

Thank you.

MELBER: We got you. Absolutely.

Thank you, Maya.

Coming up, we turn to honor a trailblazing diplomat, Madeleine Albright, the first woman to be secretary of state for the United States. We have a special guest on that, as we also track new signs of high-ranking descent inside the Kremlin, which puts more pressure on Vladimir Putin.




MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I have not found that being a woman is a handicap. In fact, I have found it a terrific gender to be.

And I plan to spend a lot of time dealing with everybody that I need to in order to pursue American interests.


MELBER: Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state in America, died today. She was 84.

And she made that history, carving a different type of diplomacy, based not only on her gender, but, as you heard there, not ignoring it either. She was the secretary of state for President Clinton. She was tough. She was determined.


She identified American adversaries, both in her tenure and as a public intellectual and foreign policy voice for years after. In fact, one of her last public comments was with "The New York Times," where she wrote a piece they published about being the first major high-ranking U.S. official to meet with Vladimir Putin.

Expounding on her own experience, she wrote then -- quote -- "Putin is small and pale, so cold as to be almost reptilian, embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness," a read that was both strategic and psychological and in many ways that we know are so tragic right now has proven true.

We`re joined now for a special conversation with Angela Stent, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. She worked directly with Albright at the State Department and shares the concern and the expertise about Russia and Vladimir Putin. She`s the author of "Putin`s World."

Thank you for joining us on more than one topic tonight, beginning with your colleague.

My condolences.


It`s a sad day, and it`s a great loss. She really was a pioneer. She was, of course, twice a refugee from Nazism and communism. So she knew what it was like to have to flee murderous dictators. And she was someone who believed not only in American soft power, but really in American hard power. And she made sure that we used it in the 1990s to intervene in the wars in Yugoslavia after the genocide against the Bosnian Muslims.

MELBER: Now, you mention the personal, which, of course, informs all of our world views.

We know there can be a difficult and quite pressing double standard against women in high office. Indeed, we began our broadcast covering the treatment of this Supreme Court nominee. Tell us a little bit your reflections of how, as an official, Madeleine Albright both dealt with that real world, including dealing with countries that were even more retrograde on gender than the United States.

Indeed, it used to be one of the many tropes, false, wrong tropes, that America somehow couldn`t put certain people out, because how would other countries take them? How would other governments take them? I`m just curious your reflections on all of that.

STENT: Well, she was quite fearless. She always stood up for women`s rights.

She first got me involved in politics when she worked on the presidential campaign of Geraldine Ferraro, who would have been the first female president, had she made it.

I remember a conversation that I moderated between her and the man who was the Russian foreign minister at the time when she was secretary of state. And I could see that he had great respect for her. The current foreign minister doesn`t have that much respect for women secretaries of state, but this one certainly did, even though they disagreed on the wars in Yugoslavia.

But she really -- she knew how to represent American interests, but also just show that women -- there was nothing that men could do that women couldn`t do.


And then we look at Russia, which, as I mentioned, there`s a nexus overlap for both of you. I mean, in that pre -- in the pre 9/11 era, the State Department, the secretary of state dealt a lot with Mideast and in the pursuit of that peace process, especially under Clinton, and Russia, and how do you constrain Russia in a multipolar potential world.

Here`s some of what she also wrote in that piece I mentioned about Putin -- quote -- "Like other authoritarians, he equates his well-being with that of the nation, opposition with treason. Because he believes that the U.S. dominates its own region by force, he thinks Russia has the same right."

Again, that rings in the ears of, I think, many today, as Putin applies that type of double standard and his view, of the war criminal accusation and other issues of the power that he`s projecting. Your thoughts on both Albright and the state of this so-called Russian-Ukraine stalemate tonight.

STENT: Right.

Well, I mean, I think she was very prescient in her evaluation of him from when she first met him, but also what she said, as he said, the day before the invasion began. He does at this point, I think, equate himself with Russia. He believes -- he`s had this long string of grievances. He believes that Ukraine isn`t a country and should be part of Russia.

And he is just determined to obliterate it as an independent nation and to restore Russia essentially to what it was during the Soviet period, gathering those lands again.

And, as we see today, the stalemate -- it`s a stalemate at the moment in this Russia-Ukraine war. The Ukrainians are incredibly brave and fighting back very well. The Russian army is not doing nearly as well.


And we do hear rumors now of dissent within the high ranks in Russia, rumors of high-level intelligence officers being under house arrest. And one prominent official has finally quit Russia today, Anatoly Chubais. He was not an intelligence official, but he had been in charge of different economic ministries over the period and said: I don`t support this war.

He may be the first of some others. We will have to see. But all cannot be well inside Russia, given how badly the Russians are doing and given the global condemnation, and now the U.S. and others saying that this -- these are war crimes. And NATO today has just come out and said that up to 15,000 Russians have already been killed.


STENT: I don`t think that that`s what Putin thought would happen.

He thought this was going to be a blitzkrieg, and he would take over Ukraine in 72 hours.

MELBER: Yes. As you say, it may be very different from his expectations. We were reporting on that estimate, 7,000 to 15,000.

Angela Stent, thank you very much. Really appreciate your perspective here in these tough times. Thank you.

STENT: Thank you.

MELBER: We will be right back.



MELBER: Now turning to something a guest mentioned earlier in our coverage, new dissent in Russia, a top Putin adviser quitting, citing opposition to the war.

A former correspondent of that state-run network now denouncing propaganda from the Kremlin. It all follows a harsh new sentence against an opposition leader to Putin, Alexey Navalny. He got nine more years in prison and responded with a quote you might recognize from America`s own hit show "The Wire," tweeting -- quote -- "You only do two days. That`s the day you go in and the day you come out."

He is stoic, he is brave, and it`s kind of amazing to hear him quote such a classic piece of culture.

Here`s that scene.


LANCE REDDICK, ACTOR: We take this federal, see if we can`t get you 10 to life, no parole.


(EXPLETIVE DELETED). You only do two days no how. That`s the day you go in...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: ... and the day you come out.


MELBER: On this one, this freedom fighter and that show, they get the last word.


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