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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/21/22

Guests: Elie Mystal, Jacqueline Alemany, David Corn, Emily Dreyfuss, Michele Rayner


New book revealed how GOP Leaders privately tried to oust Trump before later backed him, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell believing enough Republicans would vote to convict Trump to remove him from office. Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee denied he wasn`t doing Mark Meadows` bidding when he was asking for guidance on overturning the result of the election. 25 percent of the GOP believes in QAnon conspiracies. Obama takes aim at social media companies for spreading disinformation.


WALLACE: Permanently weakens CDC`s authority. A really big court decision on the horizon here one that we will keep an eye on.

Thank you for letting us into your homes during these extraordinary times. We are so grateful. THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now. Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much. Welcome to THE BEAT, everyone. I`m Ari Melber.

And we`re tracking many stories tonight. Barack Obama speaking out against disinformation, Putin and Steve Bannon. Really interesting speech. He finished it up. But we`re going to play some of the highlights for you and we have experts to do some fact-checking of the dangerous disinformation around the nation.

Also later we`re joined live by a Florida lawmaker who is leading protest against Ron DeSantis` plan to try to eliminate what would be two districts that support black members of Congress and the deal with a lot of racial division in Florida right now. We`re going to get into all of that.

But we begin with brand-new reporting about how top Republicans in Congress were privately pushing to get rid of Donald Trump once and for all. They tried to punish him for the insurrection and that gives us all a lot of insights, not only about hypocrisy but about the road ahead because America is still dealing with all of this, including open questions about who will be charged. They later publicly disavowed what, according to a new book, is their own beliefs.

So let`s get right into it. This is one of those stories first in "The New York Times" withdrawing on a book by two of their top reporters that has a lot of big stuff. For example, reporting that Kevin McCarthy told House Republican leaders on January 10th, "I`ve had it with this guy, what he did was unacceptable. Nobody can defend that and nobody should defend it." From the forthcoming book, "This Will Not Pass."

McCarthy also claimed according to the reporting that he would go right to Trump about impeachment and tell him I think this will pass and it would be my recommendation that you should resign.

Now that is something else. This was right after the insurrection. But within weeks, McCarthy famously reversed course with the pictures you see here. This was, we now know something that according to the reporting, everyone in his caucus knew that he opposed, it was a kind of final coda to this Trump era for all these Republicans who have to constantly pretend they like this guy. He knows they don`t. They know they don`t. And that`s why it`s all just about power. After all that, when he publicly claimed, well, he has Trump`s back.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I was the first person to contact him when the riots was going on. He didn`t see it. When he ended the call with saying telling me he`ll put something out to make sure to stop this and that is what he did. He put a video out later.

CHRIS WALLACE, FORMER FOX HOST: Quite a lot later. And it was a pretty weak video. But I`m asking you specifically, did he say to you, I guess some people are more concerned about the election than you are?

MCCARTHY: No, listen, my conversations with the president and my conversations with the president, I engaged in the idea of making sure we could stop what was going on inside the Capitol at that moment in time, the president said he would help.


MELBER: April was a long way from January. This reporting also shows how McConnell reversed course right after the insurrection. McConnell was telling advisers that Democrats are going to take care of the son of a B for us, a reference to Trump, and he claimed that he had at one point what he would need to keep Trump off any ballot forever. The required 17 Republican voters in the caucus because, quote, "If this isn`t impeachable, I don`t know what is."

Now not only did he not have the other 17 or 16 or 15. He didn`t even have himself. Now you could say that`s what a lot of politicians do. They canvass around to see where the room is. But Mitch McConnell on a matter of the utmost significance, which he had called an insurrection on January 6th ultimately reversed himself when tested.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): If President Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge. The question is moot because former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction.


MELBER: That is what the dry and even attempted boring spin looks like. They landed as the book notes and you may remember from when we covered the impeachment, they landed on something that nobody really believed, that they were so concerned about the procedural precedent of a former president being dealt with that they couldn`t, couldn`t consider his guilt. That`s why McConnell called it moot.

Of course you can use whatever hypothetical you want. Imagine a fictional president dropping a nuclear bomb inside the United States and then removed from office or no longer there, you can bet it is procedurally possible to say that person can never run for office again. Wherever the bar is, it exists and it was BS to claim otherwise.

Republican leaders, they wanted him out. They admitted it privately according to this reporting, and then they publicly did the opposite. Now we always want you to have all the facts. I`ve shown how they`ve been back and forth, but as for the forth of it, McCarthy now in response to this reporting denies it all, calls it all totally false and wrong. McConnell has basically spun his way around this before. He has not responded specifically to NBC and the "Times" for comment.


But when you think about it, we are talking about the safety of democracy in America. We`re talking about where these people will live in the history books. Their reputation, what their kids or grandkids may think of them. We`re talking about real stuff. But it is not surprising because when you peel that all away, this is where the Republican Party was. These are people who were so publicly vehemently on record against Trump, it was clear they didn`t even leave open the possibility that he could win the nomination let alone the presidency.

Lindsey Graham is nothing if not a careful strategist. People like Ted Cruz, who ran against Trump famously, and Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell, none of them were thinking Trump could win. So they really let it all out there. How clearly they claimed to oppose everything he stood for.

Keep that in mind, the people who used to criticize Trump and who according to this reporting thought about trying to do so again right after the violent insurrection, these people today, as we speak to you live on the news, these are now his loudest supporters.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): This man is a pathological liar. The man cannot tell the truth. But he combines it with being a narcissist.

Donald, you`re a sniveling coward.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think he`s a cook. I think he`s crazy. I think he`s unfit for office. I don`t believe he`s a Republican. His policies are really bad for the country. You know how to make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.


MELBER: "The Nation`s" Elie Mystal joins me and on the congressional investigations beat, Jackie Alemany from the "Washington Post."

Elie, what is revealed here given that these people`s feelings and claims about Donald Trump, the danger he posed, the blatant bigotry and racism to quote Lindsey Graham was all there, and that the insurrection seemed to briefly allow them to return to their pre-2016 selves and then cave once again.

ELIE MYSTAL, THE NATION JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. In the words of the great Walter Sobczak, no, Donnie, these men are cowards. And we`ve always known that they were cowards. We always know that they were craven and debase themselves for Donald Trump. But I think what this reporting shows, that we really need to start thinking about a little bit more intentionality in the media, is that who are these people afraid of? Because at the end of the day, they`re not afraid of Donald Trump.

They`re afraid of his violent beast. They`re afraid of the very people who attack them on January 6th because you don`t go through all of this, you don`t go through all of this like literal bowing and scraping to a mad man just because you`re afraid that Donald Trump is some big scary man. No, you`re afraid of his voters. And so what this means is that they know, the way -- the reason why McConnell goes from yes impeachment to no impeachment, the reason why Graham goes from yes impeachment to no impeachment, they know that they cannot win Republican nominations if they impeach Donald Trump because they know what his base thinks.

MELBER: Right.

MYSTAL: And so we have to stop acting like the Republican base is some kind of fringe lunatic side show. No, this is mainstream Republican politics. OK. Mainstream Republicans are the people who attacked the nation and will continue to attack the nation until we as an intelligent society do something about it.

MELBER: Right. And there were these two components to part of what you`re saying. One is the belief in the big lie around the election. And the second is the support for these riots or the violence. And the support for both of those things has risen on right. The data I would say to be fair does not show, quote, "all Republicans," but certainly many and certainly rising support for it.

Jackie, you are a reporter looking at the facts of these investigations which makes you a little different than Elie. Elie is going to always tell you exactly what he thinks. That`s why we like that, you know, especially a sea of BS in our American political system. But Jackie covers the investigations themselves. So I asked you, what of this evidence is part of those probes, congressional or DOJ? What of this reporting on this stuff matters to the investigative track?

JACQUELINE ALEMANY, THE WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: Yes, Ari, I think this pattern that we`re sensing here of people who have acted, lawmakers who have acted in political expedient ways and expressing great alarm at Trump`s behavior and actions and his push to overturn the results of the election, and their participation in that in some senses, you know, it helps the committee drive home the urgency of their task.

You know, to say it a bit more delicately than Elie said it, in some sense the insurrection is still playing out and that an anti-democratic position has been absorbed into the fabric of the modern-day Republican Party. There is also, you know, on the political side of this as voters are getting ready to vote in primaries or going to the ballot box in November, they do deserve to know the reality of the role of their elected officials had in contributing to the legal strategies that were employed.

TODD: Right.


ALEMANY: And the fuel that was given to these conspiracy theories that continue to play out. So I think that the committee is slowly, quietly building their case ahead of these June public hearings that we`re all going to be tuning in for.

MELBER: Yes. You mentioned, stating something more delicate than Elie reminds me of Taylor Swift`s great track "It`s Delicate" and that`s not something that Elie is known for, and yet the unbridled passion we welcome.

And you know what`s not delicate, Elie, is how much this is all out in the open. There are times when, you know, you go read these history books, you read a great Robert Carol book, and you go wow, what if they knew that then? And so much of this plays out. Kevin McCarthy, I want to show again, so people have the facts, this is how he sounded just days after the insurrection around January 13th.


MCCARTHY: The president bears responsibility for Wednesday`s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump. Accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest.


MELBER: So, Elie, do we have evidence -- based on looking at the whole story, does the evidence suggest we should believe his denials issued now or should we believe the reporting based on multiple sources of that tense period in the days after where he sounded like that, which I don`t know kind of seems like maybe the reporting is more on the right track?

MYSTAL: Do you know what difference is between a person who supports the insurrection against the government and a person who only goes along with the insurrection against the government once it looks like the insurrectionists are going to win? Nothing. Zero. There is no difference. OK. Nobody goes back and says to Julius Cesar, no, Julius, he really wasn`t about the destruction of the Roman policy. He just went along for the ride because it looked like he was going to be on the winning side.

Nobody says that. All right? Either you are objectively pro-democracy or you ain`t.

MELBER: Right.

MYSTAL: And right now Kevin McCarthy is not. Mike Lee is not.

MELBER: Right.

MYSTAL: Lindsey Graham is not.

MELBER: Well, let`s go to Mike Lee.

MYSTAL: And as long as they stay against democracy.


MYSTAL: Then history will judge -- whoever gets to write those books, who knows, but history at some point will judge them poorly for their actions right now today.

MELBER: Right. And as you say, this is not some tertiary issue or hypothetical. People marched into the Capitol. It`s part of my job to be repetitive, you know, sorry not sorry as the kids say. People marched into the Capitol. They were looking for Pence and Pelosi. They said they wanted to kill them. They erected gallows. Many of them were operationally prepared. We`ve learned now it`s worse than it looked in January and boy, it looked bad because the DOJ has evidence that some, and I say some, not all, there were people there who were just were Brandos.

But there were others, some, who had operational planning to find those officials. We could have witnessed live TV assassinations. Would it have changed how people reacted? I don`t know. Not my job to predict. But that`s what some were trying to do and that is as you say the context for you mentioned Mike Lee -- our guests stay but I want to update everyone on this. We`ve reported in this program that Senator Mike Lee had been ducking questions after his text leaked about this.

Now he is speaking out after those he revelations that he was working directly repeatedly with not only Chief of Staff Mark Meadows during that period, when Trump was trying to stay in office, but calling state legislators. Now he told Meadows it was time to exhaust every legal and constitutional remedy. Now Lee, after pressures, is telling the "Deseret News" in a 45-minute interview, he was not there to do the White House bidding. He was trying to figure out, quote, "what was their message."

Now remember, when he was texting Meadows about the elector plot, something we`ve interviewed Trump aides about on this very broadcast, he said if you want senators to object, we need guidance on what required arguments to raise. We can`t expect anyone will do it without some direction and a strong evidentiary argument. He also was texting that he was spending many hours a day calling state legislators which seems like someone who is trying to be operationally involved in submitting the other electors.

You can call them fake, you can call them alternate, you can also call them fraudulent. That`s what the DOJ will be exploring. Whether it was an effort to steal the votes that were lawfully cast for Biden in those states. All of this comes on the heels of Lee refusing to answer questions from even reporters in his home state.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator Lee, why did you lie about your involvement in the Trump White House?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator Lee, why won`t you answer questions about this? Senator Lee, why were you trying to call --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you well aware of the delegate process? He only has so much --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, why you were calling --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, sir. He only has so much time to discuss delegates.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He only has so much to talk with delegates.


MELBER: Jackie, the public pressure seems to have worked even in Utah. A very red state where he would only face a Republican primary. After that ducking, he feels he needs to say something. Would we even know about this without the investigations?

ALEMANY: I don`t think so. I mean, these text messages came about because strictly because of this -- the January 6th Select Committee investigation. They obtained a trove of Mark Meadows` text messages which have in a sense become the forensic analysis that the committee is doing in order to see and put together then connect the dots on the cadre of lawmakers, conspiracy theorists and people that were involved with the president`s effort in trying to help him identify some sort of legal strategy.

That being said, I think what`s also really interesting here is that the text messages with Mark Meadows might help in the ultimate legal case against the former president in that Meadows was -- and that Mike Lee was yet another person who ultimately came to the conclusion that there was no constitutional remedy for what the president -- what the president at the time, President Trump, was trying to do here.

And that maybe contributing to this case of trying to prove that Trump was acting in a criminally corrupt way, that he was told time and time again by people like Senator Mike Lee, that this was not going to work. But it doesn`t undo the damage he did in the months leading up to January 6th where he was, you know, in essence planting the seeds of election fraud and putting forth and propping up people like Sidney Powell, one of the leading conspiracy theorists who he finally conceded wasn`t making very much sense in these text messages to Mark Meadows, but that wasn`t before he recommended her to the former president.

MELBER: Fair. I got to tell you, and this is just me talking, Jackie says it one way, Elie says it another way. Well, it sounds bad both ways. But that was our theme tonight. Comparing our tonal vibes. And appreciate Jackie`s reporting and appreciate Elie`s analysis. Thanks to both of you.

ALEMANY: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

We`re talking about disinformation and the big lie, well, coming up, President Obama speaking out today. This was really interesting. He went to Silicon Valley. We have the highlights from Barack Obama himself and context.

Later, DeSantis under fire, those new protests, we`re going to get into that. And an update on the notorious Mississippi prison that DOJ says is now violating the Constitution and people`s rights. That`s a follow-up to an accountability story we brought you and that`s later tonight. Stay with us.



MELBER: Do you ever feel like you are living through the decline of society or life as we know it? Like even our much-touted advancements in the world today from the internet to our phones are actually making a lot of things worse? And playing to our worst impulses as human beings?

Well, that`s literally part of the warning from one of the most measured, sober, calm policy voices in our nation, former President Obama was concerned enough that he gave his version of a detailed warning shot today in a formal address about misinformation and he chose to do it in the heart of Silicon Valley at Stanford.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Like all advances in technology, this progress has had unintended consequences. It`s sometimes come at a price. And in this case, we see that our new information eco-system is turbo charging some of humanities` worst impulses.


MELBER: That`s a key point. No one is really claiming Facebook or whomever created conspiracy theories. But there is now tons of data that shows things that used to really thrive mostly on the fringe, like right over here on the edge of screen, really among a small group, are amplified for profits and are now taking hold among many, many millions. Much larger part of the screen, if you will.

There were always anti-vaxxers, but over 95 percent of people rebuffed them year after year. That`s why school vaccines have not typically been controversial for most communities including in all of the red states.

Now, as Obama says today and I`m about to show you how he said it, now about 20 percent or one in five people are vaccine hesitant, and as you might have heard me say on this program, if that`s for their own reasons or religious reasons, OK, but it is often, and this is key, it`s often based on lies and misinformation they believe to be true.


OBAMA: Around one in five Americans is still willing to put themselves at risk and put their families at risk rather than get vaccinated. People are dying because of misinformation.


MELBER: That is true. That is why right now and in these past few years from Trumpism as we were discussing at the top of the program to this pandemic that`s taken the lives of six million people, innocent people of course, that`s why right now all those old theoretical conversations about speech and politics, and say what you want and figure it out, let it go, all of that stuff is being tested in a very serious way.

When people say follow the science, they do mean, well, the actual science. They don`t mean hoaxes and liars who are trying to trick you into believing something as the science, which is not science, and usually doing it not for entertainment, not for fun, but for their own profit.


They are literally messing with your mind so they get some benefit. And that brings us to the type of disinfo that people do believe nowadays.

The COVID vaccine, for example, has been found to be safe. No public evidence suggested that it would cause a new illness or cause AIDS. But on social media, with these rich, rich companies, you can find them circulating this kind of misinfo presented right as if it were equal to the facts.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s anticipated that the German data says that by the end of 2022, every fully vaccinated person over the age of 30 may have the equivalent of full-blown vaccine induced, immune suppressed AIDS.


MELBER: No. Everything you just heard is completely false. But when people see that and it`s presented in these very arresting mediums, the speed of video, on a social media site, with something up at the top that says something not true like fact or news or doctor. Well, some people do believe that. And we`re talking about whether this is the best we can do or consistent with the obligations of the First Amendment and a society with free speech, whether there is some better way to deal with this.

Now that is just the politics of information. And then there is actual politics. Obama usually avoids partisan brawls in his role as post presidency but what you see on your screen is, well, the point Obama made today. He doesn`t usually call people out by name. But today in the speech that he just wrapped up recently here late in the day, he linked Putin to Steve Bannon, Trump`s former campaign chair who`s currently awaiting a criminal trial over his defiance of the January 6th committee.

And the link here is not that Bannon is a, quote, "war criminal" which is what Biden has said about Putin but the link is that you are looking at, according to Obama, two big liars who lie in ways that are dangerous. And not dangerous just like dangerous to democracy, which is bad enough, no, dangerous to people`s lives because people are acting on these lies as they did on January 6th in ways that have caused death.

It`s that serious. And again, I remind you, because we pay close attention to all the presidents, former presidents. Barack Obama rarely brings up names out of the blue and he knows there`ll be a backlash to it but here he went today. Take a listen.


OBAMA: Today, as we speak, a majority of Republicans still insist that President Biden`s victory was not legitimate. People like Putin and Steve Bannon for that matter. Understand it`s not necessary for people to believe disinformation in order to weaken democratic institutions.


MELBER: People like Putin and Bannon. People like Putin and Bannon. That is tough talk. By the way, a little tougher than even Joe Biden usually talks about some of these Trump world figures these days and he is busy being president. But this is Barack Obama making that link, calling out Steve Bannon, saying this is more than just lies. It`s lies that lead to insurrections. It`s lies that lead to physical violence.

He is talking about the sophistication of that because the other point here is not to paint it all in one brush, the people who are lied to are information victims, some of them may not know better, some of them may be confused. The people who knowingly lie, the Putins and the Bannons of the world, according to Obama, I`m quoting Obama. They know exactly what they`re doing when they do things like this.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: The return of Trump and it ain`t going to be in 2024. It`s going to be in 2022 or maybe before. As we start the decertification process out in Arizona.

We know from the judge up there that`s doing the investigation that this is -- and we`ve talked to Reince Priebus from the beginning, Wisconsin we think is the most easily provable of all the election fraud and the decertification of Biden electors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to fix 2020. I hope that we are going to decertify 2020. How about you?


MELBER: Do not underestimate this stuff, Barack Obama says. And when it comes to Mr. Bannon, who has been on this program before, and I invite him back to take the hard questions, I`ll tell you this. He is smart enough to know exactly what he`s doing. He`s smart enough to know that there is no decertification provision that replaces presidents midstream. And he`s smart enough to know that when you push that lie and you get people to believe it, that you get them angrier and able to do more and act more than if you just reasoned with them about the available facts.


A sizable portion of the Republican base is not only leaning into that kind of stuff, but they`re also now listening to engaging and sometimes believing this QAnon fringe conspiracy theory.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These bunch of pedophiles in Hollywood are going to be exposed for who they are. I don`t care what you think about fraudulent sleepy Joe. He`s a sex trafficking demon-possessed mongrel.


MELBER: That`s literally just like 10 seconds. Imagine doing that for 10 minutes, or an hour or four, every day, day after day after day, and you lose your sense of reality. That`s what they`re talking about. That`s what they`re firing people up about. That`s what they`re lying about. And as I said, while it`s become popular to demonize people for different beliefs, that`s not really what I`m trying to do. And that`s not really what the evidence shows, it`s not about saying some particular political ideology will lead you there. Some of these ideologies are quite old. It is that the internet has amplified and supercharged this.

One out of four Republicans, in some polls now identify themselves as basically believing in QAnon. A vast majority of Republicans in some manner doubt the legitimacy of Biden`s election. This stuff is being mainlined. And it`s not just by the traditional sources, it is by these viral activities. It is working, it is fast, it is potent.

And it`s making social media companies a lot of money because many of them rely on engagement above all else. And when are people most engaged, when they are rip-roaring mad because somebody told them that there is a secret sex pedophile unit running the world. Obama is using his influence now to urge Congress to take on what I just mentioned, the exact underlying business model of these companies.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These companies need to have some other north star, other than just making money and increasing market share. Fix the problem that in part they helped create.


MELBER: Fix the problem you created. He`s saying to Silicon Valley in Silicon Valley. Yes, heal thyself. And let`s be clear, there are real free speech issues here. Mass censorship is not OK. And asking tech companies to be the final arbiter of everything is not a good idea. But we know what it looks like under these rules. Can we possibly do any better? We have two people with vast experience on these very issues when we`re back in one minute.


MELBER: Barack Obama taking on Steve Bannon, and disinformation, and the big tech companies in the Valley today, and now as promised, we are joined by Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones David Corn. And Emily Dreyfuss was a senior fellow on technology and social change at Harvard Shorenstein Center, co-author of Meme Wars, The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America, and an expert on modern media manipulation tactics.

Welcome to both of you. Emily, I just walked through some of what Obama said in the issues. Your thoughts on what is doable, fixable here.

EMILY DREYFUSS, SENIOR FELLOW, HARVARD UNIVERSITY SHORENSTEIN CENTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: You know, I was really heartened by Obama`s speech today, it really showed that he has a good grasp of this issue. You know, disinformation is something we`ve been studying for a very long time. It goes way beyond the simplification of just misinformation. It`s a huge, entrenched infrastructure-based problem and I think Obama actually showed a very nuanced understanding of it. So that was a good thing. I think that one of the most doable changes that he mentioned, is the need for transparency from the tech companies.

We currently have no insight into how these algorithms work, how these ranking algorithms work, what they decide to push in front of our eyeballs, how much money they`re making, and where they`re getting it from, and how any of it works. And as David can attest, you know, what ends up happening is that journalists, and you Ari, we report on it. And that`s when change happens. But often, it`s the result of leaks, or, you know, look at the Frances Hogan papers with Facebook, it takes someone being a whistleblower to get any information.

And so, I think that the most, like the lowest hanging fruit that he discussed, and that would help is mandating transparency from the tech companies to researchers, policymakers, and the press so that we can see what`s going on.


MELBER: Which is something that the federal government can do like that. We know when people care about money, the SEC, and other groups, they do that, and you can be kicked right out of the system, you can`t make money. If you don`t follow those rules. There`s a system for that. This system is antiquated, David, as I`ve pointed out. I want to play a little bit more of Obama today, take a listen.


OBAMA: Tech platforms need to accept that they play a unique role in how -- we, as a people and people around the world are consuming information and that their decisions have an impact on every aspect of society. With that power comes accountability. And in democracies, like ours, at least, they need for some Democratic oversight.


MELBER: He almost made a Spider-Man reference, David, but your thoughts on that power issue.

DAVID CORN, BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES WASHINGTON BUREAU: You know, when he was talking, when Emily was just talking, a thought occurred to me, and it`s always dangerous in T.V. to go with what you think, at the moment. But it strikes me that when you talk about the big tech companies here, it`s kind of like the fossil fuel industry, in a way, they are so gigantic, and they are doing things that threaten our well-being and the well-being of the planet.

And it`s hard to get government, especially when they`re transnational and so big, to go in there and take a look and to regulate the things that are regulated -- that you can regulate under the constitution, and to -- you know, basically push them in a better direction, there was a lot of nudging going on in this speech, right? A lot of that is like you should, you know, we have things that we think the government might be able to do. But you as citizens, as corporate citizens, which is a phrase, I don`t like that much, but as corporate citizens, you should be doing better.

And when you get to that notion of what the algorithm is, and having regulation of some sort, which he compared to meat inspections, we don`t see all the data coming out of the meatpacking plants. And I don`t think we want to, but we know that the USDA goes in and takes a look and decides if everything is above board. And that is a model of some sort that can be applied to the algorithms and some of the internal business machinations. You should consider.

MELBER: Emily, David reminding us we don`t want to know how the sausage is made. Something that remains true even in our digital age. A fair point. So Emily, when you look at this, though, QAnon is something that many viewers have heard about in politics, but might not really know how it works. We endeavor to show video to see the kind of rhetoric, but that was in person. The vast bulk of it is online. What does your work? Tell us about why some of this stuff is so sticky and works so well online that you get your uncle who used to be normal -- comes in and really believes stuff that is bonkers, bananas.

DREYFUSS: Oh, that`s a great question, Ari. So, our research, we really look into how these media manipulation campaigns, like stop the steel is a great example. How they take off, why people believe them, how they spread. And QAnon is an example of that. But it`s actually much bigger than a single media manipulation campaign. It`s like a mass -- it was a massive movement. And why did it work so well, because of the shape of the internet. And what Obama said today about how the internet accelerates trends and accelerates divisions is accurate. There is massive distrust in this country, particularly about the media.

And that`s -- you know, our research and our chapter in our book about QAnon really shows that at the end of the day QAnon was an anti-media campaign. It was a pro-Trump anti-media -- anti-mainstream media campaign, that its base. And what it did was appeal to people who feel that the mainstream media does not represent them, or is lying to them, and or have been told by people with a platform that they`re being lied to. Then that is -- it`s amplified and cycled so quickly online, that -- and people can find it anywhere, and the information reaches them on TikTok, on Instagram, on YouTube. Absolutely everywhere.

And then the information has this sheen of illicitness because it`s not being talked about on MSNBC. It`s not being talked about on CNN. They have to go into these chat rooms to get it. And they have to put a lot of work and effort into getting it which then also makes them invested in it. And you know, QAnon was just kind of -- in some ways the perfect storm because it became a conspiracy theory that can -- could contain any conspiracy. So, all of the stickiest conspiracy theories from history that people have believed for eons were absorbed in QAnon amplified online, and turned into a immediate filter that told people what to believe.

MELBER: Really fascinating, when you break it down like that. The only quibble Emily, I believe it`s pronounced lamestream media, my understanding.

DREYFUSS: You got me. You`re right.

MELBER: I got you. I got you. But we have got to take your work seriously, in the sense that some people have been really working on this and it is a big problem. And Obama speaking out I think is interesting. He`s not tackling every issue under the sun. So, our thanks to Emily Dreyfuss, and David Corn for joining us on this.

When we come back, the attack on voting rights in Florida, stay with us.



MELBER: Protests today as Florida`s GOP is trying to dismantle two voting districts that would basically undercut the representation of African Americans in the state and that are held by African American lawmakers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This motion is not debatable and requires a majority vote all in favor say aye. All opposed, no. So, the bill show of motion passes, we will now proceed to call the previous question.


MELBER: It was a chaotic vote in the aftermath, involves a lot of criticism of what Governor Ron DeSantis is doing. It fits with many Republican efforts around the nation here and these skirmishes over voting rights and one lawmaker is calling DeSantis out.


MICHELE RAYNER, DEMOCRATIC FLORIDA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: This is a farce by Ron DeSantis and his cronies to cut black representation to diminish the power of the black vote. We are in a scary time and period in our nation. We are in a period in our nation, that Florida is the microcosm for it. Florida is a microcosm of the erosion of democracy.


MELBER: That lawmaker joins us now Florida State Representative Michele Rayner, who`s identified herself as the first openly queer black member elected to that Florida Legislature. Welcome back.

RAYNER: Hi, I was on the first queer black woman, but yes.

MELBER: Queer black woman. Who was -- and who was before you, then?

RAYNER: Senator Shevrin Jones.

MELBER: Excellent. Well, thank you for the information. And it`s a reminder to everyone that -- no that floor, we -- you know, we hear about Florida because you know, we hear about your governor a lot. But there`s -- of course, a whole rich environment of people in the legislature. And some of them like yourself, speaking out today against what he`s doing. So, walk us through what he`s doing. And what do you say to people who argue well? The state has this power, they can redraw maps, etc.

RAYNER: Listen, so the ability to draw maps rests firmly with the legislature. We`ve never had a governor that has inserted themselves into this process. And so, you know, we all know that Ron DeSantis is running for president, this is not a secret that is hidden. This is not a secret that nobody knows.

And so, I believe that he wants to deliver to the Republicans, you know, more seats, and he wants to be able to campaign on. I was the one that brought the house majority back to the Republicans. But here`s the deal, Ari, you know, this is completely thug life behavior by the governor and GOP leadership. We`re seeing this as a forester breaking down, you know, you`re taking two black districts away.

You know, there was a criticism of me, well -- you know, Michelle, you have a vested interest that you`re running for Congress, and I said, listen, I have a vested interest because I`m a black woman. I have a vested interest because I`m a black resident of Florida, I have a vested interest because until the Voting Rights Act, my parents couldn`t vote. So that is why I`m concerned. And I believe that Ron DeSantis and his cronies want to take us back to free Jim Crow era. This is -- you know, no more than -- you know, represent -- you know, taxation without representation.

MELBER: What happens next in this effort to stop it?

RAYNER: You know -- right now, we know the maps are going to be signed into law. And we know that there`s going to be litigation. But I think what we have to do, now we have to go to the people. And that is why you saw our caucus do the things that we did today. Because the Republicans want to do this under the cover of night. So, we needed to let the public know what was happening.

And so, I know that when I am holding my town halls. When I am door- knocking, I am letting people know that they are playing politics. When there`s affordable housing crisis. When there is a teacher shortage. When there is property insurance crisis. And so, I`m telling the people and I`m hopeful, and I believe because I believe in people power. That folks will turn out to vote in the general election.

MELBER: Yes. It`s really important story. We do a lot of national news. It`s a sort of a state story, but we wanted to make sure to update people here on it with the time we had. So, Florida State Rep. Michele Rayner, thank you, as always.

RAYNER: Thank you so much, Ari. My mom says hi.

MELBER: Oh, tell her I said hi. We haven`t met, right?

RAYNER: You haven`t met, but she loves you.

MELBER: Oh, well shout out to there. Is she in Florida too?


RAYNER: She`s in Florida. Her name is Harriet. She`s going to die when she sees us.

MELBER: There we go. Harriet, thanks for saying hi. All right we`ll see you again. I`m going to fit in a break, when we come back, we have an update on the DOJ and how it`s trying to hold Mississippi accountable for violating inmates` rights.


MELBER: A major step for criminal justice reform in Mississippi today. The DOJ formally condemning the notorious Parchman prison there demanding change after a two-year investigation. Report revealed many abuses violating constitutional rights. We first covered this story in 2020, because evidence was emerging of inhumane living conditions inside the prison. People who were there supposed to serve sentences and ultimately be released, were instead, also suspiciously dying or getting killed in the prison. That evidence caught the attention of music mogul Jay-Z and one of the artists he works with Yo Gotti.

They filed multiple federal lawsuits on behalf of over 100 inmates. Now Yo Gotti grew up near the prison. And when he joined us on THE BEAT, when we first covered this story. We talked about something that gets forgotten. Constitutional rights apply to everyone, even people serving time, they cannot just be abused or killed in there. That`s supposed to be the American way. Here`s what he told me.



YO GOTTI, RAPPER: I mean, it`s about trying to make sure everybody gets treated like humans. Make sure these prisoners not living in inhumane conditions. I understand that people in prison can still hear me. You know, you will want your -- everybody want their brother, mother, father to be treated as such.


MELBER: This is where the values intersect with the law. You heard what he said there, they`re still human. That`s true. And under America`s laws, which have not always been enforced fairly. Don`t we know? That`s also supposed to be the standard. The attention to scrutiny is working. The Justice Department is now using this new report to force reforms at that prison. We`ll be right back.


MELBER: Thanks for joining me here on THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER. I hope to see you tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. eastern. "THE REIDOUT" with Joy Reid, start now.