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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/19/22

Guests: Bill Kristol, James Carville, Ron Fein, Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Summary

Oath Keepers texted about security for MAGA allies amid January 6th riot, while more texts from Senator Mike Lee substantiating a larger plot. Democratic strategist on McConnell saying GOP could win if it would avoid extreme candidates amid QAnon candidates running in 26 states, and President Biden`s low approval rating. Democratic strategist James Carville joined MSNBC`s Ari Melber to discuss the rise of QAnon candidates running for political office across the nation, President Biden`s approval rating, and Fox News` coverage of Biden`s presidency. A judge has ruled that a challenge to ban far-right MAGA Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from re-election can move forward.

Transcript

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Thank you so much for letting us into your homes on this Tuesday. We are grateful. THE BEAT WITH ARI MELER starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber. And this is one of those days where we are tracking lots of stories right here in America including the problems that extreme candidates are posing for Mitch McConnell. James Carville joins me live in our next segment on that midterm challenge. Plus, I`m going to try to get his take on the Easter meltdown over at FOX News.

Later we have an update on how and why Marjorie Taylor Greene is going under oath. A lot of heat on her and it picks up on a story Nicolle was reporting as she faces all kinds of problems with being on the ballot in the first place.

There`s also new clues about whether President Biden will run for reelection. So we get to all that tonight, but our top story right now is about accountability and how the initially slow prosecutions of the insurrection are now moving forward with new and damning evidence that are spilling out into public view for the first time including texts from Oath Keeper militia members about how they plan their own security for Trump allies who might have helped stage a coup. That includes Roger Stone, Alex Jones and the previously convicted Trump aide Michael Flynn.

Now this kind of details matter because, remember, top government officials already have security or Secret Service protection. But the DOJ is probing and Congress is investigating a sedition conspiracy. That`s literally what it`s been charged as. And that means part of the literal goal was to create either a parallel government or overthrow the election with a coup. This is the kind of stuff that sounds intense or extreme or dramatic.

You might at one point in history in America feel like you were being paranoid talking about this. And yet I`m telling you about things that are in the charging documents. I`m telling you about why they were arming and protecting plotters, which would make it part of the coup operation depending on how far it got.

This is not a drill. Some of these defendants are currently being held behind bars awaiting their trial. They`ve been deemed far too dangerous to walk free while they await their sedition trial. And there are these new questions as well about how members of Congress were also exploring other ways to overthrow Biden`s lawful victory. That includes Senator Lee`s now revealed text to a Trump lawyer who is still fighting to hide over 30,000 other pages of e-mails from investigators.

And there is a big difference between making empty claims about voter fraud in an interview or at a rally, which is generally legal, and trying to take the same claims, knowingly false claims, and use fraud within the government to then overthrow it. So this new evidence is putting a new light on some of what we saw in public. Oath Keeper members, for example, escorting Roger Stone in early January.

Well, now the texts show militia leaders trying to link with other members of Congress as well like the former Trump doctor turned Republican congressman, you may remember him. There`s furtive calls to give him needed protection citing some sort of critical data that he would have. And Rhodes, now in jail, responds offering that now congressman, Congressman Jackson, his cell phone number.

There`s other evidence that shows links between Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, and how they were all in touch operationally before they turned that march and stormed rally on the mall into storming the Capitol.

So you see that headline is about a link to the Proud Boys. Now that`s very interesting to investigators because before the election while many in the Republican Party kept minimizing or lying about Trump`s clearly telegraphed intent to overthrow democracy and stay in power if he didn`t win the election, well, amidst all of that, he was actually pressed on this by a journalist. And he farther than any president in modern history to openly call for this kind of standby option of violent vigilantism. What would be potentially coup support from exactly this group.

It was extreme at the time and the new evidence against these militias and the Proud Boys, well, it makes it today look even worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, JOURNALIST: Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in the number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we`ve seen in Portland?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Sure, I`m willing to do that.

WALLACE: Are you prepared to specifically --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Well, go ahead, sir.

TRUMP: I would say, I would say almost everything I see is from the left- wing. Not from the right-wing. If you look --

WALLACE: So what do you -- what are you saying?

TRUMP: I`m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.

WALLACE: Well, then do it.

JOE BIDEN, THEN DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Say it. Do it. Say it.

TRUMP: Do you want to call them -- what do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me a name. Go ahead.

WALLACE: White supremacists --

TRUMP: Who would you like me to condemn?

BIDEN: Proud Boys.

WALLACE: White supremacists and right-wing militia.

TRUMP: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by, but I`ll tell you what. I`ll tell you what. Somebody has got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I`m joined now by our experts Maya Wiley and Bill Kristol.

[18:05:03]

Bill, that was a moment that stood out at the time. Credit to the persistence of the questioner because while he made his attacks on what he sees as left-wing groups, he got in there in that big forum with so many viewers live and then traced on the internet. We know from the investigations on private chat rooms and messages Proud Boys stand by. How does that link to what we`re learning in these investigations?

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It`s yet another direct link to Donald Trump. You know, I was listening to your fascinating account of all the different characters involved. And the one thing we just have to emphasize is this would have been -- let`s say Donald Trump lost the election and just conceded. But there`s a lot of turmoil in the country and a lot of people didn`t like the result. And they organized and they were in touch with each other and they commit violence and there were lawsuits and all kinds of things that would have been disruptive.

What would it have been? One hundred as damaging as if the president of the United States is encouraging it, if his chief of staff is in touch with the lawyers and coordinating that and they`re firing the secretary of Defense and they`re in touch with the Proud Boys themselves, at least one remove from the White House.

I think it always to me comes back -- what`s striking to me is the extent to which Trump was at the center, not of a super well-organized conspiracy but of a genuine conspiracy with many tentacles into the law and into paramilitary groups and obviously members of Congress. All conspiring to subvert the election. In that respect, it is more serious than a bunch of odd balls here and lawyers there and you have five congressmen there. It really is -- it`s a White House-centered conspiracy. And that is something that`s dangerous and something we`ve really never seen.

MELBER: Maya?

MAYA WILEY, NBC NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Bill is right. And look, all I have to say is very fine people. Remember when Donald Trump said that about white supremacists and their violence in Charlottesville. This is a pattern of behavior from the president. You know, one of the things that we should remember is that there were organizers of the rally on January 5th and January 6th who were worried and voicing that worry, according to Pro Publica, about it getting out of control, that it might get out of control.

We didn`t even know at that point how Homeland Security was already picking up on the trafficking concerned about violence. And even after the president`s own general counsel, I mean, attorney general, right, highest lawyer in the land, Bill Barr, who has protected him day in and day out throughout the administration, says on December 1st, there is no evidence of fraud. And rather than coming out and saying, OK, there`s no evidence of fraud, Donald Trump tweets on December 19th, come to the protest, it`s going to be wild.

And this is in the context of the very clip that you share, Ari, which is basically a drumbeat that he beats repeatedly for those who would be willing to do anything that he said, and as we know, some of the most I would say in terms of the evidence that`s in the public sphere that`s so damaging is his refusal to stop it. That in the context of these texts makes him complicit.

MELBER: Right. And that goes to Bill`s point, that there were all these different tentacles and they didn`t get anywhere with the military. And there`s good reasons based on the people and the institutional history, in "Bulwark," that we have there, that they just didn`t get anywhere. He reasonably thought he would have gotten farther with Bill Barr. If not a full coup at least some helpful language from DOJ.

He didn`t get that. We reported it at the time. Barr said they went out of the way to look at it, which seemed dubious because there isn`t really an active formal reason for them to do that, but then he then said they don`t have anything like massive voter fraud, Bill. And then you get the folks that are very clear that they think that they could have in their mind found a remedy through Congress, throw it to Congress, create enough doubt that they had the votes.

Well, the only way you find that out is by working the room. They clearly didn`t have Pence. McConnell says they wouldn`t have him. But you know what? Last week was interesting, Bill, because Mike Lee said on January 6th on the floor of the Senate that they didn`t have Mike Lee. And then the texts come out that he was active. I mean, not just might I vote at the end, he`s actively plotting with Mark Meadows for what it would take to get his vote, which again sheds more light on the January claims by -- about January 6th plotting by Peter Navarro who`s now in contempt, who told us about this list of members of Congress that he have.

Well, the texts, what everyone thinks of Mr. Navarro, his admissions, the texts bear out that that may have been true. Again, here`s what he said about that.

[18:10:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER NAVARRO, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: The plan was simply this. We had over 100 congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill ready to implement the sweep. And at 1:00 p.m., Ted Cruz, Senator Ted Cruz and a Gosar representative started the Green Bay sweep beautifully challenging the results of Arizona.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Was Mike Lee one of the people on that list, Bill?

KRISTOL: When you think about, that was Peter Navarro who was then I believe still working at the White House, saying the plan is this.

MELBER: In January, yes.

KRISTOL: We had a plan. Who was the we? Well, obviously he was working for the president. And as you say, thank God it was a failed coup. It was a failed attempt to subvert election, but he tried with the Defense Department. He fired the secretary of Defense a week after the election and put in some stooges there. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was worried enough. Remember that he sent that letter to all the military saying we need to uphold the law. We need not do anything that would be contrary to our oath.

And to the Justice Department, Barr resigns. He`s replaced by someone who seems to behave pretty well. But then there`s the real attempt to fire him over around what New Year`s week ahead (INAUDIBLE). So they were trying in different ways. They fell short. But the attempt was real. It was real.

MELBER: And Maya, that`s sort of the high level in the series. Then you have all the sloppiness. This is a headline more at the level of the pawns on the board, but striking nonetheless. An Uber driver, you know, you take your client wherever they want to go unless they want to go into coup-stan because an Uber driver decided that they needed to tell the FBI after the Capitol attack and provided footage from their dashcam because this rioter was basically bragging about their role, which seems dumb, but also probably very arrogant and privileged, Maya.

WILEY: It`s very arrogant and privileged, going back to a point that Bill made at the top of the hour, which is you have a president asking you, I mean, that`s the interpretation for many of these people is we`re here because the president has called upon us. And Donald Trump did. He did it in tweets. He did it by starting back in April before the election, starting to lay the foundation for the lie that the election was going to be rigged in the absence of any such evidence.

Despite his own Department of Homeland Security, his own Department of Justice, his own appointees, his own White House counsel, his vice president`s counsel, all telling him that he couldn`t do this thing that his co-conspirators were telling him he could do. So he knew he couldn`t do it. And yet he was still putting out the calls. No matter the evidence in even Senator Mike Lee, who was constantly looking for a foothold to uphold somehow this abhorrent behavior and can`t find it. In the end he can`t find it.

The president knows all of this because, as we know, Senator Lee is talking directly to Mark Meadows. And by the way, remember when the president was trying to call a different senator and reach Senator Lee by accident. You know, it`s pretty clear that these conversations were real. They were aggressive. The president wanted anything and everything that would stop the certification of election that was constitutional and had to be upheld.

MELBER: Right. And that`s the part where the DOJ investigation and the committee is the floor. That`s just gathering all the information. The country still hasn`t fully reckoned with how to coup proof the system when this much already went down and they got this far. That`s why the new texts and some of this new evidence is interesting.

I want to thank both of you, Maya and Bill, for kicking us off tonight. Thanks, guys.

KRISTOL: Thank you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Coming up, Biden going after McConnell and Republican economics. James Carville is my guest next after the upcoming break.

Also we have an update on the war in Ukraine and a question. Will Marjorie Taylor Greene actually be booted from the ballot for her conduct in the insurrection? It`s a legal setback, and we have information on that. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:18:30]

MELBER: I`m back with everybody`s favorite Democratic strategist, adviser to President Clinton, James Carville.

Good to see you. And James, McConnell is saying that Republicans will, he says, win back Congress unless they nominate too many extremists. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): How could you screw this up? It`s actually possible. You can`t nominate somebody who is just sort of unacceptable to a broader group of people. And when we had that experience in 2010 and 2012.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: There it is. And let`s look at the facts. There`s a recent count that found QAnon candidates are on the ballot in over half the states. There`s scores of MAGA candidates who are running on lies about the 2020 election and the Republicans face this test with their primaries that begin in earnest starting in May for a few more months. That`s the conversation.

Do you think McConnell is right about the risk? And how should Democrats approach it, James?

JAMES MCCONNELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Old Moscow Mitch is up to his usual tricks. You know, he had quite a few dealings with the Russians. And of course there`s a party, about a third of them are pulling for Russia.

Yes, he wants people that will be compliant to his world view, which is tax cuts for the richest people in the world and tax poor people, which I don`t think is a very smart idea. But the problem is they are a weird political party. They need to be branded as such. These 26 QAnon people, all right, that`s not necessarily the extreme.

[18:20:05]

I mean, these are people that talk about testicle tanning. These are people that like go to Hungary for conferences. These are not normal by and large a large part of the Republican Party. It`s just out and out weird. And when you have Moscow Mitch saying we need more sane people, that means you got a lot of really crazy people.

Look at the clip when you and Maya and Bill were looking at Peter Navarro. That guy was a serious person in the White House. You`re telling me that he`s a normal human being? No. And he`s not even among the worst. And the thing that Democrats need to do is start pointing out how weird and strange the Republicans have become and taught more about that and less about what Biden hadn`t done for them.

That`s what I think. And there`s got to be a serious effort to just brand these people that they are really like odd ducks. And then you got Trump saying, well, maybe the Russians and Ukrainians can sit down. Everybody made a few mistakes here. We can have just hammer this deal out. No, somebody illegally invaded a country and is ongoing committing war crimes. That`s not good. You don`t pull for them. That`s a bad deal. A really bad deal.

MELBER: Yes. It sounds like you`re saying it`s the weirdos, stupid.

CARVILLE: Yes, but the weirdos are becoming a majority.

MELBER: The main line, yes.

CARVILLE: This is not -- this is -- you look at their commentators. They are out actually pulling for Russia. You look at Rick Scott`s tax plan. He wants to tax another 75 million people. He wants to tax -- the hotel maids don`t pay enough. Their life is too easy. Workers that work in nursing home facilities, they need to pay taxes more.

I mean, that`s a really strange stuff here, Ari. I mean, we`re getting into some version when I was a kid, you`re too young to remember this, but the "Twilight Zone." That`s what they are. They`re out there somewhere in the "Twilight Zone" somewhere. I promise you.

MELBER: Hey, shout out to the "Twilight Zone." I have seen the reruns on streaming, but you`re right, I didn`t catch the original run.

All right, so that`s what you call the weirdo party from Tucker Carlson`s obsession with the tanning that you mentioned for testosterone, to rooting for Putin, which we`ve documented in this program. It`s a big problem.

Now, James, you`re known for straight talk. OK. I got more thing for you, but go ahead.

CARVILLE: Go ahead. No. And what about the pedophilia? What about all --

MELBER: Yes, the QAnon. Yes.

CARVILLE: The Republican speaker, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, you know, look at how -- and we`ve talked about this before. How Lauren Boebert met her husband. I`m telling you these are not mainstream people. These are not sane Republicans at all. And there`s a lot of them. Probably most of them.

MELBER: Well, that`s what you`re saying Democrats need to do which is make sure that they`re on offense about this stuff rather than responding to some paranoid obsession with pedophilia. If Senator Cruz has that fixation, you put the spotlight back on that because a lot of that stuff was full of lies and it`s, as you say, an unhealthy thing to fixate on.

Now that`s the GOP side. I mentioned you do straight talk. We try to keep it real on THE BEAT. There are issues on the Democratic side, James, and people want to hear your reaction to that as well. The reality is Biden`s poll numbers are low. And I want to show you the media did go off on Trump for low numbers throughout his unpopular presidency. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: At 32 percent, Donald Trump now has a lower favorability rating than any other recent president.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: At 35 percent approval rating according to Quinnipiac, that`s lower than Obama`s worst approval rating.

DAN HARRIS, ABC NEWS: Forty-two percent of Americans say they approve of the job the president is doing. That is lower than any other recent president.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump`s approval rating is hitting a new low.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: We just can`t underscore enough how historically low this is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Historically low, we heard about that from politicos and pundits, and people here on TV. But at this point, Trump was in the low 40s in his term. And take a look where Biden is now roughly the same. Stuck in the low 40s. Now some people say that means either Biden is as unpopular as Trump, James, which would be concerning for the Democratic Party.

CARVILLE: There`s a difference --

MELBER: Wait, I know you`re raring to get in. I`m just going to finish the thought. Or is it a new era of polarization that basically both party`s presidents are going to be stuck under 50 percent because of the era we`re in? Do you think Biden has a problem? What`s your response to all this?

CARVILLE: So, Ari, the 42 percent to 43 percent is a major difference. Trump at that time was getting 90 percent to 95 percent of Republicans. Biden right now is getting about 75 percent of Democrats.

[18:25:01]

This problem can be addressed in a large part by bringing Democrats home. But as long as you have other Democrats saying Biden hasn`t done anything for you, then people -- certain number of people are going to believe that. And just as important independents are going to believe that. So independents says if a Democrat is saying Biden hasn`t done anything, well, I guess he really hasn`t done anything.

If you got Biden`s number among Democrats to the point where Trump`s number was, you`d have another six to eight points on your favorable. It`s a different 43 percent. I know it`s 42 percent. 43, it`s the same thing. But when you go inside and you unmask it, you see that Biden could get to right below 50 if the Democrats rallied behind him and started attacking the Republicans for being weird, as opposed to talking about what Biden hasn`t done for you. That`s what I really think.

MELBER: So you --

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: No, I`m interested, and I bet some of the viewers, people would be interested, because part of what you`re getting at, James, is that, yes, the top line numbers are what they are. That`s why we compared it. We want to get your response. But your point is while the Democratic Party has long talked about being a big tent and the internet has only given more people a chance to weigh in, which can be great. There are great parts about that that.

It also means you feel like you`re in one of those local town meetings and everybody has got three opinions about two projects and a lot of people who say they`ll vote for Biden again, and that`s what we hear. People would vote for Biden or a Democrat again in the party. They wouldn`t vote for Trump. But they spend a lot of time talking about strategy, Senate, Manchin, Build Back Better, and you`re saying that`s the drag?

CARVILLE: That is totally the drag. And it`s also an enthusiasm drag. And I was in Georgia last night campaigning, and said, if you watch the way that they`ve treated now Justice Jackson, if you look at that, if you look at what the Supreme Court is really getting ready to do, if that doesn`t motivate you, I don`t know what does.

And the problem that Democrats have, Ari, is no one fears us. They look and they say, they`re not going to do anything about it because they`re just going to squabble with each other. So the Supreme Court does what it wants to. The state legislatures, they pass any restrictive voting law they want because they have learned over a period of time it doesn`t matter. They are weak and all they are going to do is talk bad about each other.

MELBER: Yes.

CARVILLE: That literally -- you can`t govern without fear. You can`t have a political party that gets --

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Can`t govern without fear. That`s -- I`ve heard that before.

All right, the last item is the easiest one. We saved the easiest for last, James. Now this is insignificant, all right, just to be real. This is insignificant, but it is firing up the right. OK. It`s what I call a non- troversy. OK. A non-controversy. It involves the president of the United States. He was talking to a bystander briefly outside the White House because at these invited event, you bend to him. Sometimes people can get up to the president. And then an Easter Bunny mascot walked by. It`s a short moment. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pakistan, Sudan and Afghanistan should be --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, the Easter Bunny --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s all it is. And that`s all it is. And so we wouldn`t even talk about this on the news, but I do want people to understand when we talk about the two worlds that we live in in America, we`re not talking about debates over policy. You and I, fine, you mentioned earlier you`ve been at it longer than me, but we`ve both been around times where you debate the policy and someone says, I think the federal government should spend less on schools. Leave it to the local.

And other people say, no, some of the poorest schools they`re going to need more federal money. That`s just a debate. I`m not going to say that people have a different view one way or another, or somehow on a different planet. Those are policy debates. That`s not where we are anymore.

The moment I just showed you, which is nothing, showed up in at least four different top shows on FOX News arguing that that random holiday moment means there must be something wrong with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX HOST: Biden was fumbling through questions about foreign policy when a staffer in an Easter Bunny costume appeared out of nowhere and led him away.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST: He is so obviously struggling cognitively.

JEANINE SHAPIRO, FOX HOST: The White House has found a new strategy to shield Biden from tough questions. A staffer dressed up as the Easter Bunny.

GREG GUTFELD, FOX HOST: We do know that he`s not running the show.

SHAPIRO: Who do you think is running the show?

GUTFELD: I don`t know. but, you know, I can`t believe it`s him because he seems so out of it all the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: James.

CARVILLE: Again, we talk about earlier the weird people. These are some strange, different, weird people. They are not like the rest of us.

[18:30:00]

And they do that, you know, in the same thing as like they fragrantly pull for Russia. They are just different. They have a different thing. It`s strange that you would pick a moment like that, you know, been to the Easter Egg Roll before on the White House lawn. But it doesn`t matter. Strange people say strange things. And that`s literally I believe, I believe that is really one of the problems in America that when you wouldn`t do something, you know, normal person would make something out of that, yet that will get generate a talking point in the morning and are talking about, it`s very weird, all right. It really is.

MELBER: I`ll tell you this, I hear you on that. I hear your theme of the day. But I think you make a fair point. It is wrong because if you have the -- if you have the position to speak to millions of people, you have some obligation to work within reality. And when you do what they`re doing, they`re -- the some of the people watching will become information victims, meaning, you know, you got a family member, if all they watch is Fox News, they`re going to show up at the barbecue telling you where they, they just lead them around with the Easter bunny suit.

I mean, this becomes one more thing and it`s B.S., and it`s corrosive to trying to have a self-governance where we could talk about reality and policy, and not the fever dreams of what I just showed, four different hosts trying to make -- trying to make a meal out of easter eggs.

CARVILLE: Well, it is -- I mean is that the strangest thing that they`ve done? I don`t know. There`s a whole lot of competition that`s going on there. I mean, it`s fun to bring out and it shows people and it shows Democrats or people that are watching this program, just what`s going on over there. It`s time to wake up and start branding them and branding ourselves to talk about the things we`ve done, the competitive edge that workers now have that they never had before.

The number of children that have been lifted out of poverty, you know, the real things that are happening in this country that I think the president`s done a magnificent job as do most people on Ukraine, which is a major world crisis, and they`re going to Hungary and having meetings. And literally, they saying -- well maybe, you know, everybody`s got to, you know, it`s both siderism. Well, you have the Ukrainians and you have the Russians, that -- that`s very strange. That`s right.

MELBER: As you said, and there`s a silliness to it, which we spotlighted but there`s also a seriousness which I appreciate your ending on, which is the recording and the mainlining of authoritarianism at home and abroad. While that -- while there are mass graves. While we`re facing the reality of what that is, you know, what that means for us as a nation, James Carville, on more than one topic. Always good to see you, sir.

CARVILLE: Always, always all right. The Easter Bunny will get you into the day. Thank you.

MELBER: Sooner or later. I`m always looking for the Easter eggs. Good to see you, James. We have our shortest break in the hour, which is one minute when I`m back in 60 seconds. The Q. Rep, a problem for Rep. Greene. We have the lawyer who`s ripping voters trying to get her off the ballot. They say it`s a matter of national security. We`re back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Major level loss for the far-right MAGA Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. This is not about criticism. This is about whether she can even be in government. A judge has ruled that a challenge that would attempt to ban her from re-election could move forward, meaning this will be litigated. We don`t know yet how it will end. Greene would be the first sitting lawmaker to be questioned under oath about the insurrection, a showdown that`s also coming this Friday in Georgia. And the filing from voters says that she should not be allowed on the ballot because she declared the insurrection was a 1776 moment for the right.

Meaning she is supporting the act of overthrow the United States government. And acting like that would be a good thing like the independence that many people look to as the birth of the nation. They blasted for coordinating with rioters, fueling violence with militant rhetoric and citing her public support for these now convicted insurrectionists, and for rejecting the peaceful transfer of power. They also say -- it`s not only speech but they also say that this is part of the public debates we`ve been having in America. Some of her public statements. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[18:35:00]

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): This is our 1776 moment -- you can`t allow it to just transfer power peacefully like Joe Biden wants and allow him to come our president because he did not win the selection. January 6, was just a riot at the Capitol. And if you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: For her part, the congresswoman has tried to duck this process. She didn`t want to go under oath. But the judge denied her request to block this whole lawsuit. Finding the case involves a whirlpool of colliding constitutional interests of public import. Greene has not carried her burden of persuasion, again, that`s for this procedural step of whether there`ll be a case. She still has her chance to make her case to stay on the ballot. It`s a complex issue, and we have a very special guest. Ron Fein is the lawyer representing the voters in this suit and the legal director of Free Speech For People. Welcome.

RON FEIN, LEGAL DIRECTOR, FREE SPEECH FOR PEOPLE: Thank you, Ari. It`s a pleasure to join you.

MELBER: If you win, what would happen?

FEIN: Well, if we prevail in this hearing on Friday, then the judge will make a formal written recommendation, which of course could be appealed. But that would say that Marjorie Taylor Greene is disqualified from public office. And then the secretary of state would put instructions at all the polling places in her district in Georgia, saying that votes that are cast for her will not count and will be discarded.

MELBER: She`s off the ballot? If you would?

FEIN: Exactly.

MELBER: So, you believe that is a rare step that`s necessary because she actively supported insurrection, or you believe that these kinds of lawsuits should go forward and all kinds of people can be kicked off the ballot?

FEIN: This is a rare action. And in fact, it hasn`t happened for over 150 years. Because insurrections against the United States, let alone insurrections in which members of Congress were involved is a very rare phenomenon. But Marjorie Taylor Greene crossed the line, and she met the legal standard for engaging in insurrection, which under our constitution means that she is disqualified from future public office.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, it`s interesting, you put it that way. Mitch McConnell took to the floor of the Senate on January 6, he called it an insurrection. It was this effort, as we`ve reported in a different context earlier in the program, to overthrow the government. And so that would seem to strengthen your hand legally. On the other hand, I`ll get your response. But I would imagine you would agree with me, legally. That how much you oppose, disagree, or despise someone in office should never be the reason to kick them off the ballot. It has to be more than that. And that`s why this is at least a tricky case. Here is -- in fairness to her what she says today -- basically about this effort, and to some degree, you, she said this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREENE: These leftists, these progressives who would rather want -- they`d rather have the judge or bureaucrats making decisions instead of voters. They want to hand that over to them and not let the people in my district that -- even have the right to vote for me. But now the Republican Party needs to fight harder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We pulled that today, the clip from last night on Tucker Carlson. What do you say to that concern that she basically says you are trying to insert and supplant yourself for the voters in this district? We may have lost him. I want viewers to know that freeze-frame doesn`t mean that I asked a question so good, he couldn`t answer it. But we ran into tech problems. In summation, Ron Fein is an interesting guest because he is leading this effort. If we can get him back on the program, we`ll seek to get the answer to that. And I think we`ll play -- yes, I want to play before we go for context. We also had prepared some of what she said about controversial issues across the board. Here`s one more sought -- one more soundbite from the QAnon Rep.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREENE: Q. is a patriot. We know that for sure. There`s a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to take this global cable of Satan worshipping pedophiles out. And I think we have the president to do it. Antifa terrorists have declared war on America. The Democrats are the party of pedophiles -- the so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon. It`s odd, there`s never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Ron, do I have you back?

FEIN: Yes.

MELBER: You get the final word?

FEIN: Look, Marjorie Taylor Greene has a wide range of despicable views. But that is not what this is about. This is about the Constitution of the United States and our principle of that constitution. That you can`t take an oath to support the constitution and then break that oath and engage in insurrection against the United States. You have to pick one side or another. And Marjorie Taylor Greene picked her side and under the 14th Amendment to the constitution, she is not only a danger to the entire country but she is disqualified from any public office.

[18:40:00]

MELBER: There you have it. We wanted to hear your view. I will mention we`ve had many conservatives MAGA and otherwise, on the show, that the congresswoman is welcome to come on to respond to you here. And, Ron, I appreciate you tackling not only the tough constitutional issues but also the tech challenges, sir.

FEIN: Thank you.

MELBER: It`s a zoom world. Thank you, Ron. When we come back, the Biden administration says they`re going on offense on fighting COVID. Stay with us.

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[18:45:00]

MELBER: Turn to the war. Russia says it`s in a new phase in the Ukraine invasion. We`ve seen attacks intensified in the east. Russia claims it`s trying to quote, liberate those areas, and moving troops there. In Ukraine`s second-largest city, at least four killed, 16 injured from the bombing of a civilian apartment complex. Mariupol is still a contested area strategically important as a port city.

And the mayor says 100,000 people may still be trapped there, we turn out to an expert we`ve gone to before. Ruth Ben-Ghiat NYU history professor and the author of Strongmen From Mussolini, To The President. Given your work, and your understanding of the mindset to some degree, what do you see in Putin regrouping here and continuing as we head towards deep into the second or third month?

RUTH BEN-GHIAT, HISTORY PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Yes, all right, he`s clearly doubling down. What happens in the next two weeks will be, you know, obviously, the lives of millions hanging the balance. And Mariupol is important it`s become a symbol for the Russians, not only because it provides a land corridor to Crimea, which was illegally annexed in 2014. But it`s very important to have that land corridor with Crimea because, in terms of propaganda, which is as important as reality in Russia, it creates a bridge not only in lands but a bridge between the last stage of the heroic war, the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

And this current war and Putin is looking to secure his place in history to convince to find a way that this wasn`t a miscalculation, this wasn`t an error, and it was a glorious crusade. And so, if he can secure this, and have some kind of continuity with 2014, indeed, he recently showed up in person, which is rare at a rally to commemorate the annexation of Crimea. This gives a rationale in a sense to the whole war so far for him.

MELBER: And then when you look at the reports that the sanctions are working, but slowly, incrementally, there`s job losses. And in Moscow, there`s concern about the overall credit axis, but it is not -- even though they`re the largest sanctions to date, in the European theater and the last several decades, it certainly hasn`t stopped Russia, and Putin seems to be making the very practical real politic calculation that Europe will continue to buy his oil, which they are.

BEN-GHIAT: Yes, it`s all a question of timing. Because it`s -- there`s no evidence that the sanctions have personally affected Putin. And, you know, the issue is that, you know, like, Germany has come a long way, and they`re going to phase out Russian energy. But that takes time, time that Ukraine doesn`t have. We also run into kind of real politic, that European leaders are themselves up for. They`re not autocrats, most of them. They`re up for reelection.

And they may fear a political fallout of an economic downturn from you know, weaning themselves off of this cheaper energy. And liquid happens in Hungary, Viktor Orban just won reelection because he said, we`re not going to, you know, make Hungarians pay higher prices. And so, we flatly refused to have any sanctions on Russian energy. And that worked for him. And all of this is so -- it`s a question of race against time. And I fear that you know, Ukrainians are going to pay the price.

MELBER: Yes. Understood. And that`s why it`s grim. But we continue to keep our eye on and on. Some of the horrific footage we continue to see, including the wanton targeting of the civilian areas. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

When we turn back to the home front. I will tell you there`s a lot of debate over masks. If you`ve flown recently, the rules have been changing and shifting. The Biden administration lost to the lower court, and we`re learning what the Justice Department plans to do about it in something that developed this hour. I have that update when we return.

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[18:58:31]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels nice. It`s a relief. I feel like I can breathe a little easier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think with all the vaccines and everything that has come out I think it`s perfectly OK that --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to keep them on for a while just to be safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And would prefer that the mandate not be lifted just yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Some travelers they`re reacting to these shifting rules for masks on planes. And President Biden also speaking out about masks today, after a lower court struck down, what was the federal rule that does require up until yesterday masks on planes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, should people continue to wear masks on planes?

JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: That`s up to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like to appeal the ruling -- the ruling that the judge made striking down the mandate?

BIDEN: I haven`t spoken to the CDC yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Biden there deferring to the CDC. And today the Justice Department did the same. We learned that this hour, DOJ says if the CDC determines that masks are still necessary then it will later appeal this ruling. Otherwise, it might stay in place. And today Biden Spokesperson Jen Psaki knocked this decision saying quote public health decisions should not be made by the courts. They should be made by public health experts, and quote.

And you know that, sounds like a scientific sentiment. But if you think about it also sidesteps the fact that in our system courts always have the final word on the president`s legal powers. The last president didn`t like it when courts narrowed a travel ban that he claimed was for national security. In this administration and its team are learning a new, that it can also lose cases about policies that it asserts are very necessary. The courts do have the last decision on all of the powers of the government. That`s the update and I`ll be back with one more thing.

[18:55:00]

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Vice President Biden -- vice president -- that was a joke. It is good to be back in the White House. It`s been a while.

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MELBER: Two presidents joking around. That was in Obama`s first time back at the White House since leaving office a couple of weeks ago. And now we`re learning a little more through leaks about what else they may have been discussing. Because the Hill quotes, two sources that say -- that Biden recently told Obama he will run again -- that he will run for president again. That despite his age.

Biden recently said he`s very fortunate to run against Trump because he would expect -- if he did run against Trump -- again if Trump came back in that would be easy for Biden. And another source says Biden thinks he`s the only Democrat who can beat Trump.

And the White House didn`t comment on the Hill story but they have previously suggested that Biden would run for re-election. All of this is a dance because no one likes to volunteer that they`re a one-term. Lame-duck president. For any reason, but it`s interesting the way this is being leaked out right now. And that`s our update for the end of the hour. "THE REIDOUT" with Joy Reid starts now.