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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/12/22

Guests: Emily Bazelon, Manuel Oliver


A manhunt unfolds in New York City after a gunman shoots multiple people on a subway train. The gun violence epidemic in America is examined. The roots of Republican extremism are explored. New evidence emerges in the January 6 probe.



Busy news day. Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Yes, a lot happening. Thank you very much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.

We begin with this manhunt unfolding in New York City. It is one of the largest manhunts in New York history. It`s been going 10 hours since a man opened fire on that crowded New York City subway today, shooting 10. The NYPD commissioner says the suspect put on a gas mask, detonated some kind of smoke device and then just opened fire.

You can see some of the footage here taken by people on the scene. Officials have not released any photos of this suspect. But they do describe him as a 5`5`` black man. They call him heavyset. He was seen wearing this green construction vest over a gray hooded sweatshirt.

The gun has been recovered. You can see some of the homemade and at times disturbing footage here. The AP reports law enforcement has located a U- Haul van possibly connected to the violence, the suspect not found in the vehicle. The shooting took place around 8:24 this morning, smoke filling a subway car.

Then the immediate aftermath you see here, a car hazy with smoke. People try to cover their mouths. They`re trying to flee. They`re trying to make sense of what`s happening. Also, you can see on the videos -- and this is, we warn you, disturbing time -- some blood from the victims who were shot, again, no fatalities, but many hurt, 10 shot.

Another video shows people racing to try to leave and smoke pouring out from the car as they go. You see that there. In the back of the video, you can also see a man hobbling on one leg and falling down as he tries to get to safety.

The injured sat on the platform and inside the train car, 21 hospitalized in all, five in serious, but stable condition. Witnesses describe an absolutely terrifying scene.


KENNETH FOOTE-SMITH, TRAIN PASSENGER: People running at that doors that separate the train cars and smack -- banging on them, screaming for help, only like a horror movie.

YAV MONTANO, TRAIN PASSENGER: During all this time, I`m thinking it`s firecrackers. And it`s not until I raise my head up and I see that there`s a lot of blood on the floor that I realize firecrackers can`t do this much damage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw maybe a 16-year-old kid. He was sitting on the steps on -- coming out the train station, and he had a bullet in his knee.

QUESTION: And what did you -- what did you make of that? What were you thinking?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m -- I`m -- oh, well, I was speechless. I was like, I`m out. It`s a very scary sight to see.


MELBER: There`s also this photo, recovered -- the gun recovered at the scene. Police released this. There`s also a bag that contains smoke canisters, fireworks and magazine clips, which gives some clues as to what else may have been planned.

One source close to the open probe says they actually believe that the gun jammed; 10 hours later, the suspect is still at large in New York.

I`m joined now for breaking coverage by Jim Cavanaugh, retired ATF special agent in charge and MSNBC law enforcement analyst.

This is a story that`s captivated New Yorkers. And people around the country have watched it. In its outlines, at times, it was scary and reminiscent of something that could have been even worse. What do you make of what is known and the evidence that the authorities have recovered, Jim?

JIM CAVANAUGH, MSNBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Ari, your lawyerly background, you understand these things, but we have a lot of forensic evidence in that bag. I mean, it`s a New Year`s Eve forensic party, prints, DNA, hair, sweat, touch DNA, ballistics, and the gun that can be traced.

Now, it could be traced right back to the owner. Sometimes, that happens. It could be a stolen gun. We also know that the U-Haul van you reported was recovered. Apparently, NBC New York reported that was rented in Philly, they believe.

Well, Philly is another American city awash in guns. Just this week, just two days ago, NBC reported on an ATF gun traffic case to Philadelphia, 300 guns trafficked from Atlanta to Philadelphia. I read that indictment. There`s at least five Glock 9-millimeters in that indictment, at least five.

So the van came from Philly. Philly is awash in guns. Maybe the Glock 9 came from Philly. We don`t know.

This crime rate here could be anything. And I would just say that maybe the target is the subway car, but maybe the target is not the subway car. And you know what I mean by that? This could have been a thing that was busted en route for many different reasons.

The actor could have got a phone call: Hey, the cops are onto us. We`re being followed. Break off.

He panics. As Pete Williams reported, there`s a curse. The mask goes on, and the smoke is deployed in some combination of time. We don`t know the exact sequence, but all right there, those things -- three things happen. He curses, he dons a mask, and he throws the smoke. And then the shooting starts.


So did the thing bust up, and he was really going to a target in Manhattan? Was he going to commit a murder on somebody, a witness, a revenge killing, a hate crime, a terrorist act? We don`t know. Or was the target the subway car?

I think everybody`s assuming, because the crime occurred there, that that was the target. Now, I`m not saying it`s not the target. I`m saying, if you`re commanding this thing, don`t fall into that easy, easy idea that it is the target. You have to keep that open.

MELBER: Right, to look at the -- all the open possibilities, not just the site or nexus of the incident, but the other possibilities of whether that was ultimately the intended site.


MELBER: We have seen some horrific killings and crimes where the individual, the assailant, appeared ready or even intending to go down that day, by which I mean...


MELBER: ... either shoot as long as they could and die, or shoot as long as they could perhaps be apprehended.

What does it tell you, if anything? How will authorities, given your experience, look at it that this was an individual who, whatever they did, clearly had the intent to live and flee, and that`s why they remain at large right now?

CAVANAUGH: You`re getting right into the mind of the criminal. And that`s exactly right.

Look, if someone sets out on a subway car, on a crowded subway car, with a 9-millimeter pistol to commit mass murder, and they`re an adult, most of the time, you can be successful. You don`t need smoke. You don`t need anything. You stand up with a pistol and you start shooting people in the head, in the chest. Walk down the subway car.

You can commit mass murder without smoke and gas masks and this whole contraption...


CAVANAUGH: ... this Rube Goldberg device he`s got. You don`t need all that.

So it makes me think, was that the actual motive? Was it actually mass murder? Because we have people, a lot of people -- a lot -- I have seen at least three victims shot in the lower extremities. Some of that may be the smoke, Ari, that`s -- where he can`t aim well, he`s shooting wildly in the car. Maybe he`s just -- the whole thing`s busted, and he just wants to get away. Maybe he thinks there`s a undercover cop following him.

Maybe he`s delusional. There`s a lot of possibilities.


CAVANAUGH: But if you want to commit mass murder, it`s not that difficult, and he didn`t accomplish it.

Now, we`re always glad when that happens, and it busts off. But even the most untrained shooters -- you have covered them -- from Dayton, Ohio, to Charleston, South Carolina. A guy with a pistol kills nine people right away.


CAVANAUGH: It doesn`t take much if you`re sitting there, and it wouldn`t take much in a subway car.

So I`m a little skeptical that this attack was this -- the way it all went down.


CAVANAUGH: I`m not saying it wasn`t. It might have been the target.

But the commander`s got to keep the open mind. That gun`s already been traced. And I guarantee you the ATF knows where the gun is. They have agents on it. They probably already know if it was stolen or who bought it or the gun shops.

MELBER: Right.

CAVANAUGH: And they know who rented the van. That`s how we solved the `93 World Trade Center bombing, by finding the actual -- the drive-train from the van, tracking it to the rental van, and going and get the names of the terrorists.

So that`s a big lead. I think they know who the guy is. Plenty of forensics. I think we will have him before the morning hits.

MELBER: A note of law enforcement optimism there. And the NYPD has been holding -- saying they`re going to hold a briefing later tonight. There will be updates on that, as of this moment, the individual at large.

Jim Cavanaugh, on a day like this, we rely on you. You`re busy. We may come back to you in the hour, depending on what happens. So thank you for standing by. And good to see you, sir.

I want to broaden out here, because that was the top news. And we will give you the news straight up as it happens. I bet you watch the news, so you might have heard about this before tuning in to our broadcast tonight. This is a big story out of New York.

New York, as Jim mentioned, has been the site of multiple terror attacks. And you see this kind of attack, even, thankfully, where no one is killed, and that comes to people`s minds.

But I want to be very clear. With no fatalities, what happened in New York terrible and tragic, is just one part of a much larger story that we bring you now, because today`s events highlight what is an ongoing gun violence epidemic in America; 131 mass shootings have already occurred this year. Some, because of their nature or location, may not have been the open manhunt and the open season that we saw today that caused so much consternation in the world`s largest city -- I should say, America`s largest city.

But there`s a mass shooting all the time. It`s defined technically as when four or more people are shot. The U.S. rates ahead of most comparable countries, other wealthy democracies in all types of gun deaths, the individual and the mass shootings. Consider countries like Canada, nearby and actually a country that does have access to some guns, but doesn`t have this kind of problem.


This week alone, around the country, outside of New York City, I want to tell you, so you understand, there were at least 11 known shootings.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two people are dead and 10 more are injured after a shooting in downtown Cedar Rapids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six people were shot there, one of them killed, around 2:00 this morning in this apartment building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news out of New Jersey American Dream mall, where police have confirmed a shooting occurred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The former employee entered the building and opened fire. Two people were injured.


MELBER: That`s all just this week.

I`m joined by Manuel Oliver. He is the founder of a gun reform advocacy group, Change the Ref. His son, tragically, was a victim of the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.

I understand that days like this have got to be very hard for anyone who`s been through anything close to it. And yet that`s part of what powers your activism. So you have obviously decided and agreed to come on. But, again, still, we`re sorry for your loss and appreciate you joining us, sir.


I wish we could say days like this one, but every day is like this one. You just said it.

I`m amazed how good we are during the aftermath. I was listening to your first guest, and how good we are with the information after the shooting, and how bad we are as a nation to prevent these things from happening. That is my concern.

And this is just another day in America.

MELBER: Yes. I think everything you have said is basically inarguable.

Let`s get into what reform or improvement might look like. There was once a time where people said, well, not now. Don`t talk about it on the day of. Well, don`t talk about it on the day after. Well, don`t talk about it at the funeral. Well, don`t talk about it later because we moved on to other things.

I think that habit or political pressure has at least faded for some. I want to put up on the screen -- again, we understand that New York City, and with the gas and the nature of it, it did draw more attention, not only in America, but internationally.

And yet, as you understand it, as your work goes to it, look at this just overall, 44,000 people dying from this gun violence. What do you think are the most practical ways to reduce, as you say, the before, rather than what seems to be our habit of dealing with the after?

OLIVER: Well, this is -- there`s no magic solution for this. It`s been happening for decades.

Actually, some of our politicians are part of a problem. And some other organizations that work in the same way that I work are also part of the problem. Like, we`re getting used to this. We assume that this is a normal thing.

And we cannot understand that our society could live in other ways, just like other nations do. And they went through the same situations and they were able to just implement regulations.

I was yesterday in the White House. I was yesterday meeting with President Biden. We were talking about his announcements on ghost guns and other things that we`re planning to put together. But it seems not to be enough. I understand it`s not enough.

But the thing is that the gun that they`re talking about today seems to not be a ghost gun. I think it`s a regular gun. It was not an assault weapon. I have heard about some high-capacity magazines in it.

But, at the end of the day, it is just the gun in the hands of someone that had easy access to it, either by stealing it or buying it or purchasing it legally, which is the most of the cases.

So, what we do know, what we do know is that there is a shooter, a gun and victims. And I`m sick of looking at this as something that is normal and something that we can then understand and just move on with our lives.

MELBER: Yes, I appreciate what you`re saying. And I think a lot of people can identify with that, the idea that this becomes normalized, which is one of the problems that we have with it. And you have been working and your group working with the Biden administration.

They actually this week happen to have this new nominee for the ATF, after the last one couldn`t make it through. That`s a gun regulation agency that remains vacant right now, an acting director. It`s one of the many problems here when you look at the gun lobby as well.

So we have only just scratched the surface here. But we did want to hear directly from you, as that view, in addition to the sort of daily grind of the latest.

So, Manuel Oliver, I appreciate you joining. I hope you will come back.

OLIVER: I will. I will.


And I hate the fact that people in New York need to be afraid and -- of getting into a train, and having, like, the life they deserve. So, let`s work on the before and not the after the shootings.

MELBER: Absolutely. Appreciate that. And we will keep your formulation in mind. Thank you, sir.

Let me tell folks what`s coming up, because that was the big day here in New York City.

There`s breaking news out of the January 6 probe, with a Roger Stone aide calling in advance to -- quote -- "descend on the Capitol," why that makes people around Trump nervous about indictment.

Chai Komanduri is back tonight. And we`re talking about the roots of Republican extremism and why he says people are being raised in ways that make problems not only for the country, but for Republican leadership.

And, as mentioned, we are tracking and monitoring all developments in the manhunt, including preparation for a briefing.

We will stay on all of it for you here on THE BEAT tonight.



MELBER: Turning to breaking news in who was behind the insurrection, this is new and striking.

You may remember Roger Stone. He is a convicted felon pardoned by Trump. He`s Trump`s longest-serving aide from pre-White House days. Well, he has an aide of his own name named Jason Sullivan. And it turns out that person made a plea to MAGA allies to directly descend on the Capitol in a group planning call.

And this was days before the riot. You may remember one of the chief defenses of people around Trump is that this was something that spun out of control, that the violence wasn`t planned.

Now, this story crossed the wires on what has been, of course, a busy news day in general, "The New York Times" reporting Sullivan assured the people on this call that the election was stolen and that they would have to -- quote -- "descend on the Capitol, make their presence felt, intimidate members of Congress."

That`s using violence to get a political end. And "The Times," very interestingly, has obtained a direct recording of this long secret call.


JASON SULLIVAN, FORMER AIDE TO ROGER STONE: He`s going to do something, and it`s going to be where people are actually going to be arrested. He very well may call it an Insurrection Act.

But there may be -- I foresee a limited form of martial law. And I don`t see any other way around it. Biden will never be in that White House. That`s my promise to each and every one of you.


MELBER: That`s his promise. But more important than the promise was what you heard there right before, the talk of descending on the Capitol, of intimidating, of using threats of physical violence to get an end.

Sullivan talks about whether Trump might invoke the Insurrection Act -- we will put aside the irony of that -- and the idea of imposing martial law. Remember, an incumbent president can claim to do all kinds of things. If we had an incumbent president claiming to stay in power and claiming to assert martial law, that is both a potential coup and a constitutional crisis, where federal law enforcement, FBI and others, have to decide, do you follow the order for so-called martial law or not?

Then, this same individual, again, before January 6, where the main criminal defense of those charged is that they got caught up, it got out of control, but they surely weren`t planning to do this, well, he goes on to discuss plans for a possible civil war.


SULLIVAN: He`s not going to allow them to descend on all the cities and burn all of our cities down, for one.

And the main reason for that is because, if they -- if he did allow them to do that, our militia would step up and meet them with great force. And we would very well find ourselves in a civil war. There`s no question about that.


MELBER: No question about using the militias. Mind you, leaders of these militias are now indicted.

And one of the plotters to steal the election is still working to overturn it. Remember former Trump lawyer John Eastman, who pushed the scheme that would get Mike Pence to somehow involve himself in blocking the election? They believed they might do that somehow.

Well, he spent hours in a private meeting with the Republican leader of a state assembly in Wisconsin, still pushing to nullify, in his view, somehow nullify the election that went to Biden in that state.

Now, none of that has any actual consequence. We have a system of government, you may have noticed, where there`s one president at a time and there`s no backsies. But whether all of this adds to evidence for those criminal investigations is what`s on the front burner, as well as a congressional probe into January 6 that is considering whether to make a criminal referral to indict Donald Trump.

Does top longtime aides like Roger Stone cooking up physical plans for violence days before the violence that was caught on tape add to that criminal evidence? It`s a leading question, I admit, but it is a fair one.

And I`m going to bring in "The New York Times"` Emily Bazelon when we`re back in one minute.



MELBER: I`m joined by "New York Times Magazine" legal writer Emily Bazelon, following "The New York Times"` daily edition story that really is quite a piece of evidence, that conference call audio.

Your reaction to that story. I just walked through it. It shows some people around Roger Stone and the Trump world were planning violence days before the 6th.


So, I mean, if I was Jason Sullivan`s lawyer, I would be unhappy with the release of this phone call, because it`s fine, it is perfectly legal to encourage people to engage in peaceful protest. But conspiring to commit a crime is not legal. And Sullivan is certainly playing with the line here.

He said, I`m not encouraging anyone to commit violence, but he also talked about intimidating members of Congress and bringing -- breathing down their necks on the day when their job was to certify the results of the election. And interfering with that certification is itself a crime.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned his spin or defense. He tells "The Times" -- quote -- he merely "shared some encouragement." Quote: "I only promoted peaceful solutions where Americans could raise their votes and be heard."

That`s some of what he said there. That`s basically false. As we have carefully reported, there are people who spoke at the rally, for example, which was a lawful event with a permit. And then some of them said, bonkers, bananas and terrible things that are protected by the First Amendment.

Many of them went out of their way to mix fiery rhetoric, which is often protected, which -- with caveats or other statements about, well, we can win lawfully. And that`s one thing.

This sounds much more operational, in that it`s secret. He talks about descending on the Capitol, which involves overwhelming security. You have to beat out the police. That`s like saying you have to plan to descend on someone`s private residence, and you know they have some security guards.

Well, in the Capitol`s case, even if they were overwhelmed, they knew they had hundreds. How important is that logistical part of this, that that is just the one call? As with any time you`re trying to learn information that other people don`t want you to have, as journalists, you make calls, you talk to people, you gather it. Investigators do it with even more government-backed ability.

But any time you do that, you say, well, this is the call they found. What other calls, meetings and things were done that might be like this or worse?


I think with all these folks who seem like they`re engaged in some kind of planning, the question is, what was their intent at the time? Were they planning to prevent Congress from certifying the election?


BAZELON: And I think there`s pretty good evidence on this call...

MELBER: Yes, go ahead.

BAZELON: ... that it looks like the real message here.

But Sullivan was also kind of dancing around it. And that was a smart thing to do. He probably knew he was in some legal jeopardy if he didn`t also say, I don`t want you to commit violence. And then the question becomes whether that negates the sort of real thrust of the message.

And then, of course, with all these folks who are at kind of lower levels, if they`re indicted, who would they turn on higher up the food chain? And how far can -- would prosecutors be able to take a case?

MELBER: Right. I mean, at what point do prosecutors have more of an interest in these political elites, sort of. There`s been a lot of focus on the pawns and the muscle.

And these militias have existed. You can go back far in history. You go to Oklahoma City. You go to other white nationalism and they`re are out there. But, again, this was not just some random plot. The Michigan plot, for example, was to kidnap the governor, and they have been indicted. And the question was, then what?

In one of the pieces of evidence, one of the planners said, well, he kind of hoped that, after they kidnapped the governor, it would spark a race war. OK. But that`s a crime, and he`s in trouble. But that`s not, like, thought out.

Here, how long can the Merrick Garland Justice Department downplay, minimize or ignore the fact that this was conjoined with the incumbent president? Roger Stone is not nobody. And there seems to be more and more evidence of coordination between the pawns on the chessboard, the so-called muscle, and the president, who -- who now the former president recently admitted he wanted to go down there.

The only reason he didn`t is, he was worried about his own safety, which Reuters had reported earlier, he now confirming the Reuters report that, basically, he didn`t want to get hurt, and he knew people were going to get hurt. And the Secret Service warned him, people are going to get hurt, and, even with all their guns, they couldn`t protect him.

So Donald Trump says, wait, people are going to get hurt. All right, let other people get hurt, never him.

BAZELON: Don`t you wonder if there`s some huge wall at the Justice Department or somewhere, the kind of wall you see on TV or the movies when it`s fiction, of all the people`s pictures and arrows being drawn between them and the kind of fitting together the pieces of the puzzle about what kind of taking -- planning was taking place, who thought this was a peaceful protest, who understood they were engaging in a conspiracy to prevent Congress from certifying the election?


That`s the key question for criminal intent here, I think.


And if you`re digging into it further, you have to say, gosh, given the players, is there anything we know from past investigations? For example, was there a respected Republican former FBI director who read a special counsel -- who led a special counsel probe who found that Roger Stone was culpable in this other criminal conspiracy and then indicted him and convicted him?

Gosh, if that happened, you might think, huh, I wonder if the people around Roger Stone, people around him are doing more crime or not. Oh, that did happen. He had the highest year sentence of anyone in the whole Mueller probe. He was lawfully pardoned. And it`s our job to talk about the rule of law, like it or not. We have a system where the beneficiary of this would- be coup did get to pardon Roger Stone.

But now he`s in the soup again. Do you think -- again, I`m running out of time, but wouldn`t Merrick Garland want to interview this guy?

BAZELON: You would definitely think that Merrick Garland and his people would want to talk to Jason Sullivan, would wonder if they can also trace this to Roger Stone, who, yes, he was pardoned, but he also calls himself a dirty trickster and really kind of boasts about playing this kind of role behind the scenes.

MELBER: You would wonder. Fair.

Emily Bazelon, always good to see you. And I know you -- we mentioned you write for the magazine. It`s not your story, but it was a quite a story. So very interesting from "The Times." Appreciate all the reporting, as always.

BAZELON: Thank you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

We are tracking the developments in New York City. There is that update. You can see we`re watching it. We will bring you news as it breaks.

But we also have something special planned for you with Chai Komanduri, as we look at the road from Palin and Trump to people like Madison Cawthorn, who`s now on the outs for lying about Republicans, even though he is a classic young Republican.

Chai is here with me next.



MELBER: The NYPD is preparing a briefing on the ongoing manhunt for the subway shooter. You can see we`re monitoring that. We will bring it to you. When the officials step out, at whatever point that comes in our broadcast, as breaking news.

So, I want you to know what we know, which is they`re planning that, but they haven`t begun. You can see some folks moving around. They have been doing microphone checks. When it begins, we will bring it to you.

Right now, we turn to policy and politics and why Congress is so frequently wasting its time with lies.

Now, this story has a few parts, but we begin with something so stupid that we haven`t previously covered it at all on THE BEAT. A rookie member of Congress made a false accusation with no evidence against some of his fellow Republicans. And it`s not his first lie.

It`s a congressman who lied about Trump losing the election and talked up an armed resistance with bloodshed. Then this Republican lied about, apparently, his own Republican leaders, accusing them of holding cocaine orgies. He offered no evidence.

What you were about to hear from this Republican is baseless. We`re reporting on the political dynamic, not suggesting any credibility to what you will hear right now from freshman Congressman and embarrassing fabulist Madison Cawthorn.


REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): Then all of a sudden you get invited like, well, hey, we`re going to have kind of a sexual get-together at one of our homes. You should come.

And I`m like, what did you just ask me to come to?

And then you realize they`re asking you to come to an orgy. And then you watch them do a key bump of cocaine right in front of you.


MELBER: Cawthorn had no evidence that Republicans or members of Congress did anything right in front of them.

Top Republican Kevin McCarthy said Cawthorn lost his trust completely, and says fellow members were -- quote -- "very upset."

Well, those Republicans are understandably upset. Who would appreciate being falsely accused of any sexual deviance or support for criminal conduct?

Well, that`s the exact line of attack several Republicans used against Judge Jackson at those confirmation hearings. She had issued standard, typical sentences for convicts, but they made a non sequitur leap to suggest that she somehow empathized with sex offenders, which was false, just like Cawthorn`s leap that Republicans he differed with were leading some sort of D.C. cocaine orgy, which is false.

So how did this young Republican get this way? Well, political analysts note that, while Cawthorn is wrong and he should be held accountable, he`s also part of this new generation of QAnon Republicans raised on a steady diet of divisive, demeaning political crap.

Cawthorn was 15 years old when Trump espoused birtherism and 13 when Sarah Palin claimed Obama pals around with terrorists.

Notes analysts Chai Komanduri Chai: "If the GOP is upset by his lies, harassment and conduct, they need to look in the mirror and admit they made him this way."

At 26, Cawthorn is the youngest member of Congress. He recently admitted that tirade was false. And he then cited his own age and maturity -- or immaturity as reasons to give him a break.

And, in history, some of the youngest people elected go on to bright careers. he could rebound and change. He could fizzle out. There are Republicans now working to try to defeat Cawthorn, to kick him out of their party, but not because he lied, just because he lied about Republicans.

His youth is striking, because it may offer a preview of this party`s future, which is dangerous to these Republican leaders, as they clearly realize, as well as to fact-based governing in general. In fact, there`s a new count out that finds dozens of QAnon candidates running for office in about half the country. And that could be a floor, not a ceiling.

One of the early Republicans in this type of mold, Sarah Palin, who endorsed Trump back when he had no Republican help, is now back in the mix. She`s running for Congress right now as well.

Now, that`s in case you forgot about her, but she and Trump led the party away from facts, away from policy, towards just fixating on content, entertainment, lies and a kind of oblivious lifestyle, where they know very little or nothing, kind of hearkening back to the 19th century anti- immigrant Know-Nothing Party.


Palin and Trump initially struggled to even publicly prove that they read things. And that turned out to be a selling point for many of their fans.


KATIE COURIC, JOURNALIST: What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?

FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): I have read most of them, again, with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.

COURIC: But what ones specifically, I`m curious, that you...

PALIN: All of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.

COURIC: Can you name any of them?

PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have a number of favorite authors.

I think Tom Wolfe is excellent.

BUCHANAN: Did you read "Vanity of the Bonfires"?

TRUMP: I did not.

TOM BRADEN, JOURNALIST: What book are you reading now?

BUCHANAN: "Bonfire of the Vanities." Excuse me.

TRUMP: I`m reading my own book again, because I think it`s so fantastic, Tom.

BUCHANAN: What`s the best book you`ve read beside "Art of the Deal"?

TRUMP: I really liked Tom Wolfe`s last book.

BUCHANAN: Which book?

TRUMP: His current book, his -- just his current book. It`s just out.

BUCHANAN: "Bonfire of the Vanities."



MELBER: That was the book he just said he hadn`t read.

Those are the type of political role models that Madison Cawthorn grew up with. It`s a long ways from John McCain looking up to Eisenhower or Democratic presidents who have often cited the example of learned and thoughtful leaders.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is where I met President Kennedy back in July of 1963. And he was standing here, where I`m standing now.

Well, it had a very profound impact on me. I think it`s something that I carried with me always.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela`s life. I would study his words and his writings. The day he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they`re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.


MELBER: Obama would continue to tout and honor Mandela when they did eventually meet in person, kind of a full circle moment of leadership that is not even possible for Cawthorn or these QAnon politicians, because their supposed political inspirations do not exist.

They will never meet up with Q, the supposed deep state insider, because Q is not real. It`s a conspiracy theory. It`s been debunked. That meeting is as probable as Cawthorn meeting up with Muppets or unicorns, as if they are real.

But Muppets and unicorns are not real. It might even be funny, if the consequences weren`t so serious. Much of the next generation of Republicans, both in age and in those running for office, are committed to these lies. It is a movement built on, as some say, cap or a falsehood, a party organized around election lies, science lies, QAnon lies. That`s cap.

And how should America deal with all this cap?

Well, we`re joined now by the political strategist quoted earlier, Chai Komanduri. Welcome back, sir.

CHAI KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It`s good to be back, Ari. How are you?

MELBER: I`m good.

We quoted you because you make a generational point, that the Republican leaders are only mad because this freshman, whom many people may not have heard of, was lying about them. They don`t care about lying about the other things.

And this cap, this cap-fueled, lie-fueled party, though, is what they raised their next generation to be.

KOMANDURI: Yes, it should really give us a lot of cause to pause and really worry about the next generation of American politicians, because Madison Cawthorn is the first Republican to wholly come of age in the Palin-Trump era.

The only world, the only Republican world he really knows is a Palin-Trump Republican world. It is a world that is a post-truth world. It is a world that is very much obsessed with celebrity, as we talked about before, that is post-policy, that really believes in a type of clickbait politics and reality show politics.

And we really should understand -- and we have talked before about George Wallace and Pat Buchanan, who are Trump`s predecessors in terms of white grievance politics. It was Sarah Palin who really introduced this whole idea of clickbait politics. That really wasn`t part of Pat Buchanan or George Wallace`s world, this idea of trying to be a reality show starring.

Sarah Palin was actually on a reality show. She was really the first major politician I can think of who was much more at home on set of "Duck Dynasty" than she was in a congressional Budget Committee. She was somebody who presented her family as a blue-collar version of the Kardashians.


And Trump obviously took this to whole `nother level. He actually had his whole presidency as a type of reality show, as a type of TV entertainment. There were cliffhangers. There were guest stars. There were surprised reveals. There were plot twists. There were all these elements that Trump very much sort of geared his presidency around.

And this is all Madison Cawthorn really knows. So it shouldn`t come as a surprise to us that he sort of pretends to be this character out of "House of Cards" fighting D.C. decadence, because that is kind of exactly who he`s seen himself as being. And that`s what he`s been taught being a politician is all about.

MELBER: So, he learned from them.

But then when he defames Republican leaders with the talk we showed earlier, is he just not as skilled at this dark art?

KOMANDURI: Well, he is very skilled in terms of presenting himself in a certain way.

What he did not understand where the lines. You can accuse Democrats of any sorts of things. If he said, oh, Democrats had invited me to these sorts of parties, Democrats had done drugs in front of me, I think that would have been treated very differently than when you`re accusing members of your own party of that exact behavior, members of your own party that you`re working with every single day.

He didn`t understand where the lines were. Josh Hawley understands where the lines are. He understands you can get away with basically accusing Judge Jackson of being friendly to pedophilia. Ted Cruz understands where the lines are. He understands you can accuse Judge Jackson of trying to create racist babies or whatever he was accusing her of trying to do.

But Cawthorn didn`t understand that the line was very clear. You attack the other side. You don`t attack your own side, unless your last name is Trump.


Well, and, as you say, in the history of American political rhetoric, we will all remember where we were when Ted Cruz said, our babies racist?

KOMANDURI: That`s right.

MELBER: I happened to be in the committee room. And even though I have some understanding of how this stuff works, I still was like, are you serious?


MELBER: And you may remember where you were, or people look on their phones nowadays, and they go, wait.


MELBER: Did Ted Cruz -- is this real? This is not The Onion. Ted Cruz said that.

And that`s how they spent their time. But, of course, that baby and an emphasis on minors is all in the same rhetorical pool as Josh Hawley, and they both went at the pedophilia. And that is a conspiracy theory.


MELBER: I will read the -- just we will put on the screen the polling.

QAnon theories, when you look at QAnon believers, it`s a quarter of them. When you look at -- "New York Times" says QAnon adherents cheer Republican attacks on that. They see the Jackson attacks as a signal and a sop to their conspiracy theories.

And, again, I never knew my job would entail learning about so many lies and falsehoods, but we don`t spend a ton of time on Q. But I say they can`t meet up with Q because Q doesn`t exist. Indeed, there was some great reporting that debunked it. There`s two individuals who are fabulous liars -- one of them happens to be abroad -- that are behind these message boards.

But the idea was that there was this person, Q, that would somehow help Trump stay in office -- spoiler, that didn`t happen -- as a sort of a deep state person that does more than one thing. And it`s not all internally consistent, Chai.

But does it matter, the point I made, with only some bit of satire, that Madison Cawthorn and these QAnon folks, they can`t meet Q, the way you would meet Mandela, they can`t actually do something in this space? Or, because conspiracy theories are bottomless, will they always just keep moving the target if they`re in office, and they`re -- and this is just part of their organizing world view?

KOMANDURI: I think it`s going to be the latter. It`s part of their organizing world view, as you sort of put it.

The reality is, is that this type of politics serves really two purposes. And Madison Cawthorn sort of intuitively understands this. The first is, there`s this idea of the attention economy. It`s something that political scientists have talked about quite a bit, the idea that you have to get people`s attention in a world full of information fog.

And Trump understood this, Sarah Palin understood this, that getting people`s attention wasn`t just like half the battle. It was the entire battle.

MELBER: Right.

KOMANDURI: That was exactly what the purpose of some of these politics are.

The second is, it helps masse the motivations of Republican politicians. So, George Wallace, for example was a bigot. His voters were simply bigots. Pat Buchanan was a xenophobe. His voters were simply xenophobes.

However, this type of politics, specifically with the conspiracy theories, it transforms somebody like Madison Cawthorn. He`s not just a bigot or a xenophobe. He`s a heroic figure. He`s fighting the deep state. He`s fighting decadence in D.C.

MELBER: Right. It`s a great point.

KOMANDURI: The same thing is true with Josh Hawley as well. He`s fighting pedophilia.

MELBER: It`s a great point. I hadn`t thought about it quite the way you put it.

Opponents and villains are always important in these kinds of clashes. But if you create fake villains that don`t exist, that can`t even really respond to you, and that`s what you`re against, you`re controlling a narrative for anyone who`s who`s gullible enough to believe that. And that is the way it works.


You always bring out interesting thoughts, Chai.

We are out of time. Yes or no, did you know what cap meant?

KOMANDURI: I did not, actually.

And this is one of the reasons why tuning into THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER is so important. You learn exactly what these terms mean.



MELBER: I don`t know if it`s important, but it is relevant to a party built on lies, because, when that`s cap, if someone says that, they are talking about the lies, the falsehoods that animate modern life and that we do need to deal with.

We appreciate your honesty as well.

Chai, I will see you again. Thank you. We wanted to get into that.

As anyone can see on their screen, the NYPD will be holding this briefing. That`s why they have prepared. But they`re running over on schedule, because we haven`t gotten to it yet. If it happens, we will bring it to you on MSNBC whenever it does.

And we will be right back.



MELBER: A big story out of Oklahoma, where the Republican governor has now signed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the nation, with clarity about the purpose.


GOV. KEVIN STITT (R-OK): We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country. We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma.


MELBER: Outlaw abortion, and it makes performing any abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years.

There`s no exception, even for rape or incest, which has sometimes been, even in these states, the exception. You will note that stated purpose is currently unconstitutional, against the law. We will see what the Supreme Court says about all this.

This new law will almost certainly also face a separate challenge. And we wanted to keep you updated on this important story of human rights and how they are being challenged in America.

We will be right back.