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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/14/22

Guests: Matt Miller, Marq Claxton, Elie Mystal

Summary

Former Trump aide Stephen Miller testifies to the January 6 Committee. A Russian warship sinks. The killing of an unarmed black man by police in Grand Rapids, Michigan, sparks outrage. Are Republicans finally giving up on repealing Obamacare?

Transcript

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

A rare day that I`m right on time.

(LAUGHTER)

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Right on time. We will take it either way.

Nice to see you, Nicolle.

WALLACE: Have a good show.

MELBER: Absolutely. Thank you.

Thanks to Nicolle.

And welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin with news that involves one of Donald Trump`s most controversial and loyal aides, the speechwriter and polemicist who began the Trump era pushing that immigration crackdown and was later reined in by the courts. Well, he ended the Trump era openly talking up a plot to steal the election with fraudulent electors.

Now, that may be familiar given recent news cycles, but I want to start here tonight to show you this all began and was actually seeping out in little ways into the public days before the insurrection. That`s when Stephen Miller began one of the first confessions of the tactics that would later amount to a thwarted coup.

This was the time when Giuliani was giving weirdo, bizarre press conferences, the courts had cut off most avenues of any kind of challenge. So, at the time, it might have sounded like more puffery and rhetoric from this ship of fools that was going down a legal ocean.

But, in fact, I bring it back up tonight because, well, Stephen Miller`s under a lot of pressure tonight. And the fact is, he was actually admitting specific tactics then, days before January 6, about their plot to overthrow democracy.

Listen here to the reference to alternative electors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN MILLER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have more than enough time to write the wrong of this fraudulent election result and certify Donald Trump as the winner of the election.

As we speak today, an alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote. And we`re going to send those results up to Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: As we speak, alternate electors.

If you don`t watch "FOX & Friends," and that wasn`t how you were spending that early January morning, you might have missed it. And it didn`t happen. There was not that formal submission of a bunch of alternate slates of electors. If there was, I bet we`d all remember it.

But what Miller admitted there matters. It shows how far he would go for Trump. And it was not until many, many months later that we learned how serious that fraudulent electors plot was. More on that in a moment.

Miller is in the news right now because he`s testifying to the January 6 Committee about all of this. That`s another victory for Congress. They were able to end Miller`s initial attempt to try to defy the committee, which included a lawsuit against its request for his phone records.

But now, like so many others, he is cooperating. Investigators are probing his -- quote -- "efforts to encourage state legislatures to alter the outcome of the election," AKA steal it, by appointing -- quote -- "alternate slates of electors."

Now, that`s one of the many tactics in this plot that`s only come into view over time. And this matters tonight. This story is now, this investigation is now and these kinds of plots, if not addressed and publicized, will be potentially used again in the future to steal your vote.

But we know more about it thanks to the government investigations, as well as investigative journalism. And while some of the aides did go on to run from these plots, we have been digging into the scheme of how it was going to work to send in those fraudulent electors and who was involved, because this can be an election crime.

Indeed, we always go to the source around here. We talk to all kinds of people in our news gathering. I asked a top Trump aide, Boris Epshteyn, about it, fraudulent electors, and he admitted to it, while quibbling with word choice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORIS EPSHTEYN, FORMER TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN STRATEGIC ADVISER: That`s so funny.

It`s not fraudulent electors, Ari. It`s alternate electors, because of the process, again, that`s laid out in the Constitution under the 12th Amendment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Who doesn`t remember the old saying, tomato, tomato, alternate electors, election crimes and coups.

Well, call it what you want. But investigators are probing all of this. They`re also looking at how Miller actually helped write Trump`s January 6 rally speech, which infamously told people to go down to the capital to fight like hell.

And when you take all these leads together, well, one committee member likens this to a mob-style investigation that will head for the people at the top, with evidence that may show crimes that have not yet been alleged.

America has faced many failures in the Trump era. The news is full of them during and after. Democracy did hold. Trump did not seize the voting machines or the military. And for self-preservation, he almost always ensured that he would get other people to do the worst things, the most terrible plots, the most dangerous or potentially criminal schemes.

You could say many things about him, but whatever it is in his life and business and politics, like other people who have evaded investigators, he did know a thing or two about not acting alone and leaving a lot of evidence pointing back to himself.

[18:05:10]

And that`s why so many things sloppy coup plans did hit those roadblocks. That`s why I mentioned you the democracy held, because, when the votes showed Trump`s loss, and the courts toss those cases, Mr. Trump, the outgoing president, was left impotently begging Mike Pence or Bill Barr to help a kind of a last-ditch sloppy coup.

But we know what happened. Pence said no. Barr said no and left, which is why then Trump found himself begging his own aides or former aides, who had far less power than those people mentioned, to, as we`re hearing, find some fraudulent electors or run these pressure campaigns on members of Congress.

And that is where the Millers and Bannons and the Navarros come in. If there`s any doubt, that`s why Donald Trump is still out here reliving his anger in his toxic relationship with Mr. Barr, casting the former attorney general`s opposition to do election fraud at the end, which is a low bar for a prosecutor, by the way, just not committing new crimes, Trump now casting that as Barr`s fear of some kind of congressional impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, we also had a chance, but Bill Barr, the attorney general, didn`t want to be impeached.

Had Bill Barr had the courage to do what he should have done, instead of being worried about being impeached -- I said, look, get impeached.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Is that what Barr was worried about? There`s actually reporting that Giuliani and Barr were more concerned about criminal liability and jail for Trump and his aides than they were worried about congressional impeachment if some of these things went through.

Giuliani famously telling people around the White House that one of the final memos that came in that talked about getting the military to seize voting machines would land them all in jail.

Now the DOJ that Barr wants led is grinding forward with prosecution of Trump fans and insurrectionists. I can tell you there`s a new conviction today, guilty the verdict for a rioter who had offered that week defense that he was just following Donald Trump`s orders that day.

Now, that`s one of many, many Trump fans who stormed the Capitol and talked so tough on January 6, and then found he couldn`t hack it when the pressure came. We have seen them turn on each other. Some are cooperating. Some are blaming Donald Trump, their leader himself, for the now convicted crimes that day.

And that`s one more MAGA convict learning a lesson that Vince Staples once shared. Everybody tough until they got to go and see the judge.

On this news night, let`s bring in the justice correspondent for "The Nation" and NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray.

Welcome to you both.

Professor, your thoughts?

MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, so much to say, Ari.

Not surprised at all to see that that defendant was convicted. This morning, there was some discussion about whether or not blaming this on Donald Trump, Donald Trump made me do it, would be availing in some way. We have seen this kind of plea before.

As I have said before, there have been those who`ve been involved in the drug trade and in gang violence who have said that they were sort of lulled in by strong charismatic figures and made to do these things without their own knowledge or their own doing. And it`s all been unavailing.

And I think here it was similarly unavailing. Whether it means that Donald Trump will face criminal liability in the future for inciting violence at the Ellipse is another matter altogether. And that, of course, is what is the focus of the January 6 Select Committee.

And the fact that Stephen Miller is testifying -- and we don`t know what the subject of his testimony will be. But the fact that he has decided to stop stonewalling and at least provide some testimony to that committee suggests that they are moving closer to that inner circle. And that is progress, indeed.

MELBER: Yes.

And Stephen Miller isn`t that inner circle. Elie, he is a White House aide, and he is the person I just showed who was telling people -- again, it was admittedly tricky to figure out what Giuliani was saying in public that was absolutely baseless, meaning he did say words that had no correspondents to reality. That was a thing that happened. I remember covering it.

And then other aides saying words that did correspond to reality, like they were going to try to recruit people to fraudulently say that the millions of votes in their state that went for Biden would be nullified and replaced by fraudulent electors. If that`s not massive voter fraud, Elie, then I don`t know what it is.

Take a quick listen here to Stephen Miller back in the day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

S. MILLER: Tens of millions of ballots nationwide, no signature checks, no citizenship checks, no residency checks, no age checks, no criminal record checks, not even checking if you`re alive or dead?

Are we a Third World country? Are we a banana republic? What as it come to? If we count only legal ballots from U.S. citizens, this president gets four more years.

LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS CHANNEL: Let me tell you what it`s come to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[18:10:03]

MELBER: False.

And I ask you, Elie. While he has the right in our laws to say false things, to lie in public, when those lies are put on paper and try to interfere with or override a government proceeding on election, they become fraud.

Your reaction to this and what you think the committee should be doing?

ELIE MYSTAL, "THE NATION": I`m very happy that Trump`s right-hand man, Stephen Miller, has decided to testify. I think that`s great. But we don`t yet know what he`s going to testify to.

Is it just going to be the public statements where he`s already admitted to election fraud? Is he going to say more about Trump`s state of mind during the during the attacks on the Capitol? Or is he going to stonewall the committee whilst -- while appearing for the subpoena and take the Fifth all the time?

Because you have to remember, Stephen Miller started off stonewalling, started off being unwilling to tell the truth to the committee. Now he`s going in after some of his friends have caught contempt charges. But we don`t know that he`s going to go in to testify. He could go in to take the Fifth, which, by the way, is what was supposed to happen, right?

Like, that`s actually the way the law is supposed to work is, if you don`t want to testify, you go in and you take the Fifth. You don`t just pretend that subpoenas don`t exist. So maybe he finally got a clue and he`s going to go in and take the Fifth.

But we don`t know how deeply he`s cooperating. And we might not know for a long time. So, as usual, when I come on the show, Ari, my question is, does Merrick Garland have a television? Because maybe, if he watched the show, he would see these things that these people have been talking about, see these crimes that these people have admitted to and do something about prosecuting for them -- them for those crimes, as opposed to letting the January 6 oversight committee do all the work.

MELBER: Well, Elie, let me ask you. You say television. What if he has a streaming platform?

MYSTAL: Right. Or wiretap. I would take a wiretap at this point, and a FISA court. Who knows, right? There`s still a possibility that Merrick Garland is working in secret and is going further.

But I want to tie this to Bill Barr, because one of the things that we have seen from the lawyers in this Trump era, whether they`re Trump toadies like Barr and Don McGahn and Jeff Sessions, or whether they`re mainly merely appeasement monkeys, like Rod Rosenstein or Bob Mueller or Merrick Garland, what we have seen is that they have been willing to protect their own selves, right?

They`re willing to protect their own parts of their store, their own reputations, and they`re not willing to go the extra mile to defend America. So, Barr, yes, he didn`t want himself to go to jail, but where was he in public?

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Exactly.

So, let me...

MYSTAL: Yes.

MELBER: Well, let me bring in the professor on that, because, as you say, Barr got out of dodge when it was bad for him. Everything said after that is spin and P.R.

But, Professor, no pun intended, low bar, but clearly there were things that people didn`t want to do in that outgoing administration. What does that tell you about how to strengthen or reinforce these democratic norms and make them more than norms, make them barriers, make them ironclad?

Because, as we have been exploring -- I mean, Elie references that what we do on this show, we gather the news. Obviously, people will make up their own minds. But we have -- in gathering the news and trying to treat people fairly and have them on, we have had some people who are saying out loud: This is what we did. We don`t expect to get in that much trouble for it, maybe some procedural wrangling.

And they`re saying and, as we have covered in many states, let`s do more of that next time.

Professor.

MURRAY: Well, we have talked about this endlessly. What held things together here were not laws, but norms.

And one of the things that the January 6 special committee is supposed to do is figure out what happened so that they can use that information to actually legislate for better guardrails to prevent something like this from happening again.

The problem, of course, is that the committee, although it is bipartisan by some slim margin, it doesn`t enjoy the support of the entire Congress. And what will come out of the oversight efforts and what they decide to promulgate is unlikely to be passed.

So, I mean, again, I think we`re sort of stonewalled here by our own political polarization. But what`s going to need to happen is actually some effort from Congress. And we`re not seeing that right now. Elie is exactly right. Bill Barr went sort of the full measure, but stopped short of actually denouncing what he saw before him. He saved his own skin, but he didn`t save all of us.

And that`s what we have to think about going forward. What`s going to present something from like this from happening ever again?

MELBER: Elie, we have a minute in this segment. You get the final word.

MYSTAL: Yes, I just -- again, there are things that the committee is doing that are good. And we shouldn`t discount their work. They are trying, I think, their best with their limited authority.

The big stick is Merrick Garland. The big investigative stick is Christopher Wray at the FBI. And until these people get involved, until these people try to hold the Trump toadies accountable, we`re going to still be in this morass.

[18:15:00]

And so we can only hope that Merrick Garland is awake and hooked in and will one day bring charges, criminal charges, against the criminals who tried to steal the election.

MELBER: Yes, and I appreciate your vigor and your care about that.

The way I put it, it`s not my job. You joke about whether he has TV. I mean, he has TV. He has the Internet, and he also has the full investigative resources of the FBI and assorted intelligence. Indeed, while we`re at it, under the memo that his predecessor wrote, Bill Barr, he has access to a lot more extra international intelligence.

So he has all the info. I`m not asking him to do anything. But I can say, as a matter of principle, if there is evidence against people that they committed crimes, whether it is difficult to prosecute them because they`re powerful or linked to a former president, or, again, if the evidence shows they are a former president, none of that, at a principled level, should hold back the Justice Department from doing its job.

That`s really why this feels big even, as, for some people, they`re saying, well, what`s taking so long? This is the big stuff.

Elie and Melissa, thank you for kicking us off.

MURRAY: Thanks.

MYSTAL: Thanks for having us.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

We have a lot more in the program. We have been covering the news here out of Washington and America, but also, abroad, a Russian warship sinking after an explosion, some saying it`s a blow to Putin`s credibility. Live tonight on this program, we have a White House official to get into all of it.

And, later, a top McConnell ally basically admitting defeat in a fight that goes all the way back to Obama`s vision for America. Was his long-term vision right? Well, it`s being cemented in.

We also have an important story. I have told you before we will stay on the stories of policing, police power and potential discrimination. New video of an officer fatally shooting a black man in Michigan. The story is complex. It`s important. We will bring it all to you -- coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:22]

MELBER: Turning to a fatal police shooting in Michigan.

There`s brand-new video out today. And it shows a Grand Rapids police officer killing a 26-year-old black man after their encounter. Now, before you see what the department released, we want to give you context as we have it.

We have been reporting on this issue in America for years. You may recall the recent protests, first in America and really worldwide, about police abuse and reforms starting in 2020. But amidst all of that and that scrutiny, the rate of fatal police shootings -- excuse me -- the rate of fatal police shootings in America is steady, over 250 people shot and killed by police this year.

So, that scrutiny and all the talk and debate has not actually changed this aspect of policing. It grinds on. It`s a higher use of force than many other countries.

And that brings us to what`s new today from the video, but what first began 10 days ago, when a Grand Rapids officer saw a car that had deemed it an improper registration. So, as you may imagine, that`s a fairly routine matter, an improper registration the car. But then the traffic stop turned deadly for Patrick Lyoya.

Now, there`s much we don`t know yet. But these new videos show some of the incident. The first one shows body camera footage from the officer. This was released formally by the police department. Certain portions are blurred. And I want you to know, those have been blurred preemptively by the police in what was released. That`s not an NBC News decision.

And you will see the individual here getting pulled over. And that`s followed by the first part of a struggle that ensues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: I`m stopping you. Do you have a license? Do you have a driver`s license? Do you speak English?

PATRICK LYOYA, KILLED DURING POLICE ENCOUNTER: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Can I see your license?

LYOYA: What did I do wrong?

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: The plate doesn`t belong on this car.

No, no, no. Stop. Stop. Put your hands (INAUDIBLE) Stop!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: In the next part of this footage, you will see the individual here, Lyoya, who does appear, according to the selection that we have, to reach or grab for this officer`s Taser.

Now, the Grand Rapids police chief says he believes that the Taser was actually fired twice, but then did not make contact with either person with anyone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Stop.

LYOYA: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Stop resisting!

Let go of the Taser!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The camera footage here from the officer stops midway through that struggle.

The chief says they do not know whether it was intentionally turned on or off or happened somehow accidentally.

Now, the next video is actually something that was shot by a bystander. As we remember from George Floyd and other incidents, sometimes, it`s the independent citizen videos that put a lot more pressure on these issues. Here, there`s multiple cameras and multiple angles. So you`re going to see the same struggle that you just saw through the police camera, but from this other angle

And after Lyoya runs, the struggle ensues, the officer started asking him to stop resisting repeatedly, the officer then pins him down and fatally shoots him, apparently in the back of the head.

[18:25:07]

As with much of this, the footage is disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Let go of the Taser!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he didn`t grab no Taser. I didn`t see that. I see that.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Let go of the Taser!

Drop the Taser!

(GUNSHOT)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: There are other matters involving this that are not known yet.

The video can be hard to decipher. And -- and we have seen this before, so we mention it even as we piece things together -- there are times where excerpts videos do not tell the entire story and context. The officer has been placed on a paid leave ,police powers suspended, while this investigation is conducted. The police chief says they will be forthright and transparent.

The release of the videos and thus more information about what actually happened has sparked new protests around Grand Rapids. More are expected tonight. Lyoya`s family is holding a press conference. They demand accountability. They want to see this officer, they say, held accountable.

I want to get into this difficult case and these stories that matter so much that grind on, as I showed in that chart, whether they have video or not, in America.

The former NYPD detective and civil rights leader Marq Claxton joins me when we`re back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We are back with retired NYPD Detective and director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance Marq Claxton.

Thanks for being here. We`re going to show just a little bit of this new video of this police encounter that turned deadly. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Let go of the Taser!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he didn`t grab no Taser. I didn`t see that. I see that.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Let go of the Taser!

Drop the Taser!

(GUNSHOT)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Marq, how do you assess the way the encounter unfolded, number one, and then the use of deadly force, number two?

MARQ CLAXTON, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: I think it`s important to head off the normal pushback we normally get when we discuss these type of fatal encounters.

So this isn`t just a bad tactical decision. It`s the consequence of senseless, misguided current-day priorities in policing, which continue to place primarily black and brown people in harm`s way. These are totally avoidable fatal police encounters that give credibility to the calls for shifting away from this policing model to more of a public safety model where you prioritize the preservation of life and crime prevention and safety maintenance and promoting positive outcomes, education even.

But here`s the difficult truth. Part of the education has to acknowledge, has to force people to acknowledge that this apprehension and capture compulsion which police have dates back to the origins of policing in this nation, where the original forefathers of the profession were deputized as slave catchers.

And we need to deal with the culpability before we start engaging in this inevitable shooting justification debate.

MELBER: Yes, continue. Go ahead.

CLAXTON: This -- what will happen is -- because we get into this justification debate, which is very tempting and what happens each and every shooting.

We miss some valuable points and information. This is a hamster wheel debate. And if we don`t -- if we get caught up in it, then we miss the point, whether the stop itself was necessary, was it reasonable, was it legally justifiable, was it legally sound?

And if we start our point at the point of -- if we start our discussion or debate at the point of the apprehension, then we miss the important part that the police officer`s conduct may have played in creating the scenario that ultimately led to a fatal police encounter.

[18:30:13]

Too often, we ignore the culpability of the police officer, the professional police officer who had specialized training and education and options to prevent these tragedies from happening. Too often, we ignore the role that the police officer played initially in creating the circumstances that led to an inevitable fatal police shooting.

MELBER: Right. Right.

And I definitely appreciate that perspective, because we have -- you and I have had that discussion. We have reported on that. And that, I would call part one. And then there`s part two.

I mean, on part one, for viewers broadly, again, separate from this individual interaction, this video, you have the fact that police basically kill black people in America at three times the rate of white people. We can put that on the screen. And that sort of tells you what a disparity is counted as.

We have the police killing stat I mentioned in the beginning, because it shows you writ large. That includes killing of people regardless of race, but the use of force continues here, so steady. The blue line is tracking all the other recent years.

Even at a time when we have heard politicians and others say, gosh, have we overdone it, is there a pullback, well, there`s not a pullback in killing people? That`s the blue line that tracks every reason year. That`s number one.

Number two, it`s part of our job, even if it`s at times difficult here, Marq. I guess I am asking you, though, given the critique stated that a traffic stop about registration, et cetera, doesn`t need to be that escalated in the first place. Someone could flee the scene, and you -- they could be allowed to flee. The Supreme Court has said you`re not allowed to use deadly force if someone`s merely fleeing.

And yet, because of that escalation, do you view the -- how do you view the interaction thereafter, the way force was used, as caught on tape?

CLAXTON: Totally avoidable and unnecessary.

And, like I said, we`re dealing oftentimes, too often with offenses that are not even crimes. And what it points to is the toxicity of implicit and explicit bias that is baked into the current-day mode of policing, that allows for the same tactics to be used when you`re talking about criminal conduct and the apprehension of criminals for non-criminal offenses, incidents that could require some kind of administrative notification.

And that`s what makes these incidents even more tragic, because they`re absolutely avoidable.

MELBER: Right.

CLAXTON: We can no longer pretend that these were inevitable.

MELBER: Right.

These are avoidable situations that are...

(CROSSTALK)

CLAXTON: ... policing.

MELBER: Avoidable and tragic, but currently legal.

Do you think that, because of the nature of the final interaction and the alleged displacement of the Taser, that this could have been a legal shot?

CLAXTON: I think, if you go in with dirty hands, you can`t clean them up. So I don`t believe that, if you enter into this interaction improperly without legal justification, without being reasonable, that, at the end, justifies all the means that you use.

I just don`t believe that. And I know that to be the case when you`re talking about professional policing. The number one priority in professional policing is the preservation of human life.

MELBER: Yes, understood. And I appreciate it. That`s why we come to you on this.

It`s a brutal fact -- and I have shared this with viewers before -- that, Sometimes, it is the information flow that brings certain stories to us. So it`s, how do you get the videos? Was there a citizen there? Sometimes, there is. Sometimes, there isn`t. Were the other individuals able to take videos, right?

We have seen that, whether it`s a police body camera or other reasons that videos and information comes out. This is a very controversial stop. I think that it sounds like you see both nuance to it, but a real fundamental opening problem or original sin in how something like this, what would be a routine stop with no other inciting incident or violence that`s coming from the so-called suspect, the stop, the defendant, potential defendant, turns into this deadly encounter.

So we appreciate your nuance and your perspective, Marq.

CLAXTON: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

We have a lot more coming up, including Republicans saying, we get it we lost, we cannot beat Barack Obama and Obamacare. We will explain.

And then this Russian credibility problem, Putin on some type of defense as a warship sinks. We have another guest from the Obama -- I should say from the Biden administration. Getting my presidents confused. A Biden official coming up live on THE BEAT.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:39:21]

MELBER: A new setback for Vladimir Putin, as Ukrainian officials say they have destroyed Russia`s flagship in the Black Sea.

And the news is coming in at the Russian warships sank after an explosion. The file video shows what it looked like, this warship. The Ukrainians say they were able to hit it with missiles and force the crew to abandon ship.

Now, that would be the first time the Russian ship was hit at sea in this conflict. The Russians say there was actually an accidental fire. Experts tell NBC this is a blow to Putin`s and Russia`s credibility.

There`s also increasing pressure to hold Russia accountable for what are these reported atrocities. You may have heard more and more about war crimes lately. And it`s something we have been hovering here on THE BEAT.

[18:40:00]

Take the chief prosecutor from the main court that deals with this. That`s The Hague International Criminal Court. He says Ukraine has become Putin`s crime scene after visiting those mass graves in Bucha. The mayor of Mariupol says Russians are brought in 13 mobile cremation vehicles to burn bodies of civilians they have killed or other potential evidence.

That way, they can hide what they`re doing. At a criminal level, that obviously is bad for them if it shows their awareness of guilt. As a military tactic, it is certainly something a bit unusual. And it overlaps with some of what we`re hearing out of Putin`s Russia.

"The Washington Post" reports that their pundits and others on television are now calling openly for -- quote -- "concentration camps" and liquidation of the entire Ukrainian elite. "Russian soldiers have been destroying books in Ukrainian to wipe out the country`s language and history."

Now, Putin had said before the invasion that, "Like it or not, put up with it, my beauty," interpreted in Russia as a reference to justifying potential rapes of the citizens there; 82 percent of Americans view Putin as a war criminal.

Now, there is the discussion here about what Putin is doing and the reported atrocities. And President Biden has been firm, clear and very, very strong in condemning what he calls war crimes and genocide by Vladimir Putin`s troops.

But then, when it comes to execution, it gets a lot trickier, because the United States, including under the Biden administration, has been against joining that court I just mentioned, which is the place you try war criminals, the International Criminal Court.

Indeed, last night on THE BEAT, the Pentagon spokesperson told us that is unchanged. The U.S. military still opposes joining the court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I think that I would just speak to the concerns we have had in the past about the court and the possibility of possible prosecutions of American troops in war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that`s been a longstanding concern of the United States Department of Defense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I`m joined now by Matt Miller, a special adviser to the White House National Security Council. And, full disclosure, viewers may recall him as a frequent guest and expert here on MSNBC.

Good to see you again in a different context, sir.

MATT MILLER, SPECIAL ADVISER ON COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Good to see you, Ari.

MELBER: I want to start with what your colleague in the administration Admiral Kirby mentioned.

These are obviously difficult legal issues. But how would you put it here standing in front of the White House? How do you explain or square the president saying Putin is a war criminal committing genocide, but the Biden administration isn`t going to join the main court that deals with that?

M. MILLER: Well, what I`d say, Ari, is that we welcome account -- is that we support accountability.

We have welcomed the investigation by the International Criminal Court. We have helped launch investigations from the U.N. Human Rights Council, from the OSCE. The Justice Department said that they had prosecutors in Europe last week meeting with European prosecutors to talk about collecting evidence and gathering it and synthesizing it.

We have also been cooperating with the war crimes prosecution set up in the Ukrainian prosecutor general`s office. So we are going to continue to hold conversations with our allies and partners about what the ultimate accountability mechanism will be. But, right now, we are focused on collecting evidence, preserving it and making sure it can be provided to hold any Russians accountable for war crimes.

MELBER: Understood. And I think there`s a lot of people who view that as productive.

But, just to be clear, and then I will move on to other topics, the Biden position is, help the court, but never join it?

M. MILLER: What we have said is, we welcome that investigation. We welcome the investigation, as we have welcomed the other investigations.

And we`re going to continue to talk with our allies and partners about what the best mechanism is going forward. But I should be very clear that we welcome them collecting evidence. We`re out collecting evidence ourselves. We`re looking through intelligence information. And we have stood up a team inside the U.S. government to comb intelligence for evidence of war crimes.

And, of course, the Justice Department has made its prosecutors available. So we support accountability and are going to push to have evidence collected and see those investigations and ultimately, if it`s appropriate, prosecutions go forward.

MELBER: All right.

Turning to Putin`s warnings, you`re at the National Security Council. You guys monitor this quite closely. We have Putin warning of -- quote -- "nuclear hypersonic deployment" if Sweden and Finland go forward on what they have discussed recently, which is mulling joining NATO. Finland shares a border with Russia.

The reference here is, there could be no more talk of a -- quote -- "nuclear-free Baltic."

What is the U.S. response to that language from Vladimir Putin?

M. MILLER: We have continued -- we have seen Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation make really inappropriate comments throughout this process. They have made comments about nuclear weapons before.

We have said we don`t think that`s an appropriate way to talk about a potential nuclear conflict, which, in the past, Russia has agreed with us that no one can ever win.

[18:45:03]

So we`re going to continue to behave as an appropriate nuclear power should be. At the -- or should. And at the same time, we`re going to continue to reinforce our NATO allies, make clear that, as we support the Ukrainians, as we flow defense systems and weapons capabilities into Ukraine, that we reinforce NATO to make clear to President Putin that any attack on one NATO country would be an attack on the rest of NATO, and we would enforce Article 5.

MELBER: Understood, enforce Article 5, the collective defense.

Matt, I mentioned in the introduction to you the other language we`re hearing about the attacks on Ukrainian people, the notion of decimating them. I think everyone understands the history of Europe, and just how serious that is, especially alongside the atrocities we just mentioned and reported.

I just want to put this backup where you have these calls, as mentioned, for -- quote -- "concentration camps, liquidation of the Ukrainian elite, Russian soldiers destroying those books in Ukrainian."

What else can the U.S. do to deal with that? And what else can you tell us about these new weapons that the administration, with Congress, is helping send over to Ukraine this week?

M. MILLER: Well, first of all, let me just say, as you referenced in the intro -- introduction of this segment, that the president has been very clear about calling these atrocities out for what they are.

And, unfortunately, we had evidence that Russia would behave in this manner even before the conflict. And we made that evidence public because we saw evidence that they would use killings and other means of suppression to try to put down anyone who really resisted their brutal occupation of the country.

We think what we can do now is, number one, go through the accountability mechanisms that we talked about just a minute ago. But, number two, we can`t lose sight of the major focus right now. And that is arming the Ukrainian military so it can defend its country.

So, in addition to the weapons that we have already been flowing in, we have announced an $800 million package yesterday that will include artillery systems and 40,000 artillery rounds. It will include unmanned coastal defense vessels. It will include armored personnel carriers and helicopters.

We really want the Ukrainians, Ukrainian military to be well-armed, so that can continue to fight the Russian army and to continue to inflict significant defeats on the Russian army, not just the sinking of the Russian ship that you referenced at the outset, but also the -- they won a tremendous victory in Kyiv.

And we want to continue to see them win victories, so we`re going to continue to arm them and get weapons into their hands.

MELBER: Matt Miller, appreciate you taking the questions and taking time out of your schedule the White House.

We heard you. You have your right to speech. And I think some of the protesters there are exercising their rights. So we appreciate you staying focused, as you can hear it all in front of -- well, in front of the people`s White House.

Good to see you, sir.

M. MILLER: Good to see you, Ari. Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

We`re going to fit in a break. But the thing I mentioned earlier, you have an ally of Mitch McConnell basically caving in a political fight -- you don`t always see that -- and admitting maybe Barack Obama was right and maybe Obamacare is here to stay.

That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:52:30]

MELBER: Do you remember where you were when President Obama first announced that Obamacare became law,or when the Supreme Court upheld it,or any other number of Obamacare-related developments in our policy, government and politics? Because it`s been going for a while.

And that brings us to something new and a little different in the ongoing political saga of Obamacare, because a Mitch McConnell ally is folding on the ACA and on tape.

This was at a town hall, an attendee basically confronting Senator Grassley, a Republican who long railed against Obamacare. And he essentially backs down about repeal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m wondering, if the Republicans, you and the Republicans get back in power, is that again going to come up to be repealed? And if you do what, what is the Republican plan to provide affordable health care for my children?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA): Yes, it`s not repealing the Affordable Care Act, if that is your question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So are you saying that you will not...

GRASSLEY: Yes, I`m saying I would not -- we`re not going to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We won`t repeal the law, which is a double negative that amounts to, we will use our power as Republicans to support Obamacare.

Again, we have gone through this together, if you have been paying attention. That is a change. Grassley was long arguing that not only was Obamacare bad, but he even lied about some of its ingredients and talked about his fear that this kind of subsidy to help people get affordable health care would lead to pulling the plug on grandma.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRASSLEY: There`s some fear, because in the House bill, there`s counseling for end of life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s it.

GRASSLEY: And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear. We should not have a government program that determines you`re going to pull the plug on grandma.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: No, government certainly shouldn`t be doing that. But it`s not. And it doesn`t do it any more under this law.

Grassley had pushed those claims, while Republicans spent a lot of energy on this. Indeed, one count has it that over 70 failed repeal votes. The law does provide health care to millions. Over 200,000 people are on some version of Obamacare subsidy or support for health care in Iowa, which is the state Grassley represents.

And that speaks to something that happens when politics meets facts and policy. It would appear, if you take that woman`s question at her word, that she knows people are getting health care through this law in her state, and she wants it to stay that way.

[18:55:00]

She is basically trying to encourage Grassley to stop playing around with something as serious as health care.

And he is not just any random senator. You may recall him in that prime position at those Supreme Court confirmation hearings, because he`s the most senior member of the Republican Senate Judiciary Committee. He has power. He`s a leader and he is saying, basta, enough.

When we come back, there are new details we`re hearing, because Stephen Miller`s testimony here before the January 6 Committee, the story that started us off tonight, well, he has wrapped it up.

We will give you the update.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Trump aide Stephen Miller was grilled by this committee for over eight hours. Investigators looked at the alternate state of electors plot. His cooperation is putting heat on others.

That`s just a tidbit we`re learning. And we will have a lot more coverage, I`m sure, across MSNBC tonight.

Thanks for watching THE BEAT.

"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts now.