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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/25/22

Guests: Neal Katyal, Laura Hirsch, Chai Komanduri, Barbara Boxer

Summary

January 6th panel revealed new text evidence showing communications between former chief of staff Mark Meadows and Donald Trump, Jr., MAGA lawmakers and FOX host Sean Hannity, also included new text evidence showing Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene asking Trump to declare martial law after the riot, which she said she did not recall when questioned during a court proceeding. The world's richest man buying Twitter could have significant impact on business, politics and technology. Chai Komanduri a political strategist and Lauren Hirsch The New York Times reporter join THE BEAT with Ari Melber to talk about Elon Musk buying Twitter today. Former Senator Barbara Boxer joins THE BEAT with Ari Melber to talk about Kevin McCarthy's January 6th lies.

Transcript

WALLACE: Thank you so much for letting us into your homes during these extraordinary times. We're 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. I'm Ari Melber. And we're tracking several big stories.

We begin with the new evidence here from Congress in the probe of the insurrection. 2,000 newly leaked text messages, and it starts all in the Trump White House with the top remaining aide, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Now CNN first obtained these texts that revealed how many Trump allies were plotting in and around, perhaps most culpable from a criminal perspective, before January 6th.

The texts come from Trump family members, Republican lawmakers, FOX News hosts, as well as some outlandish individuals pushing conspiracy theories. There are bombshells in here.

On January 6th, the well-known QAnon Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene went to the top of the White House, Chief of Staff Meadows and, said, quote, "In our private chat with only members, several are saying the only way to save our republic is for Trump to call for martial law. I wanted to you to tell him." Taylor Greene also called on Meadows to have Trump declare martial law during the insurrection on the 6th. Here she was just three days ago, though, under oath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW CELLI, LAWYER: Prior to the inauguration in 2021, did you advocate for martial law with the president of the United States?

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I don't recall.

CELLI: President Trump?

TAYLOR GREENE: I don't recall.

CELLI: In those meeting you discussed with him your advocacy for the idea that there should be martial law declared in the United States.

TAYLOR GREENE: No, I don't recall ever discussing it.

CELLI: Are you saying it didn't happen or are you saying you don't recall one way or the other?

TAYLOR GREENE: I don't recall ever discussing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You can see there someone who has been probably prepped by a lawyer based on what we know, trying not to outright deny it which would be perjury if you can prove that they're knowingly denying what they remember they said. So recollection becomes a dodge.

Now in the text messages to the White House we also see communications between Trump's family like Trump Jr. and the top staffer there, trying to stop the mob from ransacking the Capitol. Donald Trump Jr. says, quote, "This is one you go to the mattresses on. They will try to blank his entire legacy on this if it gets worse."

Trump's own son in the moment secretly talking to a staff member because apparently Donald Trump Jr. didn't understand how much his father would like, relish, appreciate, and cheer on that spectacle at the Capitol.

Then there's heat on Sean Hannity because on election day, Hannity texts Meadows, "NC going to be OK?" Meadows says, "Stress every vote matters, get out and vote." And Hannity responds like any independent journalist would - - I'm being sarcastic -- quote, "Yes, sir." As for the states that need the most attention, Hannity digs himself deeper. "On it." Quote, "Any place in particular we," the supposedly independent media at FOX News, "We need to push."

The "we" is he doesn't even pretend to be talking or interviewing a source. He's just saying let's work together to help Trump, and Meadows responds with more orders. Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, and Nevada. Hannity says, got it, everywhere. We can't tell because text tone is the choice, it's hard to read, whether the everywhere itself was a little bit of a sarcastic jab, because if you need help everywhere you might be losing the election.

The texts also revealed Republicans urgently telling Meadows to get Trump to stop the violence. And again, this is something we've talked about in reporting on this horrific insurrection. Has more of the Republican Party has warmed to this over time, we have the evidence, that's what's so unusual in this digital era, about how many even Republican lawmakers were concerned in the moment not only for their own safety but because they never apparently imagined this, this would be cheer on by so many people on the right.

Trump was silent for hours. All of this coming with the new filing, from a court filing where the debate is over how Trump White House officials received warnings before the insurrection that they were on notice about possible violence. One White House aide says Meadows received a briefing the day before, January 5th, from a Secret Service official. "We had intel reports saying there could potentially be violence on the 6th."

As for the fraudulent electors plan, same testimony, says Trump was warned, the committee said to the staffer, "To be clear, did you hear the White House Counsel's Office say this plan to have alternate electors met and cast votes for Trump in states that he had lost was not legally sound?" And the witness says, yes. Despite that advice, the plan moved forward.

[18:05:03]

Well, the filing that we're using here for some of this reporting also says Republican lawmakers were involved. Meadows talked to many different conservatives, including Scott Perry, Jim Jordan, MTG as I earlier mentioned, and Lauren Boebert about how to steal potentially or overthrow the race. Meadows handed over some of the evidence to the committee before infamously halting his cooperation, which is why the DOJ is deciding whether or not there's a case for indictment.

Is there more evidence that he's hiding? What happened when he stopped cooperating? And given how much evidence that's important to the safety of the democracy as well as potential criminal trials, is in what is available, does that in any way impact how Attorney General Garland considers whether to indict that aide on the recipient's list of so many of those messages and going back and forth with Hannity and Trump Jr. and everyone else, do you indict him to try to get full cooperation?

We're joined now by a real perfect guest for this type of inner branch issue, including the considerations to the DOJ, Neal Katyal is the former acting solicitor general for the Obama administration.

Welcome back. What stands out to you in this real trove of evidence?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: There are so many things, Ari. The first thing is sure, boy, there are a lot of texts, a lot. And a key point to remember is these are only the texts that Mark Meadows voluntarily turned over. I can't imagine what's in the 1,000 withheld messages that he's refusing to turn over, and Meadows evidently thinks it's worth risking jail time to make sure we never find out. That's the first thing.

The second is, these texts are, to use a legal term, bonkers. I mean, you started with Marjorie Taylor Greene, who didn't just call for martial law, then as you noted, forgot about it, like last week. I mean, who among us can remember when we called for martial law? But the texts are also just plain nuts. I mean, during January 6th, while it's going on, the texts show that she blamed Antifa for it.

And in a way, you've got to admire her persistence. I mean, she knows the Capitol has been breached. She receives word of an active shooter evidently. But still she made time to invent a conspiracy theory about Antifa on the fly. I mean, she's got to cut a work-fear for your life balance that most of us can only aspire to. So, you know, I do think it's remarkable. I think it's going to advance the investigation significantly.

MELBER: Very interesting to get your view on that. I'm curious also about what we're learning about how high level the concerns were of a coup. There was a time in recent American history at the end of the Trump era where using that word in these settings, legal, journalistic, might make one sound overheated, definitely before the 6th. And yet the mounting evidence, including after the 6th, has shown internal efforts by people with government power to stage a coup so there wouldn't be a peaceful transfer of power.

One of the people concerned about that was Mike Pence, and so for the investigative purposes, you kind of don't care or think about everything else he's ever done in his life. You know, what kind of politician he is or his rhetoric. You're looking at him as a high placed fact witness here who was pushed into a or asked into a conspiracy that he says, according to aides around him, that he didn't partake in.

What Jamie Raskin says here is really, really striking. I want to underscore for your reaction here. Raskin says, "Pence uttered what I think are the six most chilling words of this entire thing I've seen so far." This is when he is being asked to get into a government car with the people who are armed and supposed to protect him, and he says, I'm now going to continue from the article, Neal, quote, "I'm not getting in that car, Raskin said." Quote, "He knew exactly what this inside coup they had planned for was going to do."

Walk us through that and the significance of the acting incumbent vice president worrying that the people with guns that moment might have been in on what he believed to be an active coup plot.

KATYAL: Yes, Congressman Raskin is absolutely right. This was a coup. It came in two different flavors. One was the soft coup, which goes by the legalese, alternate electors, which is kind of like alternate facts. There is no such thing. You don't get to just name your own electors if you lose the presidency. We have a whole system in place, it doesn't include alternate electors. So that's one version.

The other is the more violent one that you're referring to, and I think the texts reveal that they had advanced knowledge, the White House, all the way up to the White House chief of staff, and undoubtedly Trump had advanced knowledge of potential violence on January 6th.

I mean, look, we know that the Trump White House wasn't exactly known for its cracker jack intelligence operations.

[18:10:00]

But, you know, everyone who live in the D.C. knew there was a potential for violence on January 6th. And I think what today's revelations do is it makes what Garland should do a lot clearer in two respects. One is against Meadows because the texts show a lot of pressure by Meadows against Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, over Trump's loss and all sorts of other things.

Merrick Garland has been sitting on the contempt referral for more than 100 days, passed by Congress over Mark Meadows. And I think the evidence today just says, you know, got to get the show on the road.

The second thing to me, Ari, and the thing I think your question gets to that's even more important, is it really says something about what Garland has to do against Trump because this is looking so much more premeditated. The texts today show so many more people, and flashed Don Jr., there were so many people saying to the president's chief of staff, stop this. Stop this. And you and I have talked in the past about that missing gap of seven hours for the phone logs.

And that's certainly important. But we're missing the gap of Donald Trump as president, his activities during the three hours. And this is like some of the three most consequential hours we have ever had in the history of the United States, and I don't think Merrick Garland should quit. I don't think the committee should quit until they get a tick-tock of every minute that Donald Trump spent on that day during those three hours.

MELBER: Yes. And that really also goes to the people around -- and we mentioned Don Jr., there's also former chief of staff Reince Priebus here from some of the texts where you see the objections. People who -- they couldn't fathom -- wasn't in their world view to understand their leader was this bad, and by bad I mean this supportive of overthrowing democracy and abiding by violence to get it.

So you have Congressman Timmons, the president needs to stop this ASAP. Another representative, it's bad up here on the Hill. Talk about an understatement. Mick Mulvaney, OK, former aide, he needs to stop this now. Can I do anything to help? And in all caps, Reince Priebus, facing the violence and saying, tell them to go home. All of these people are fellow travelers of Mark Meadows.

They appear to think, Neal, that Trump didn't want this and that Meadows could get Trump to stop it. And the record from that day shows quite the opposite.

KATYAL: A hundred percent, Ari. So, it really does bolster that at least the look of this as premeditated. And also makes Mark Meadows look terrible. I mean, Meadows made ill-advised plans to go and march to the Capitol. He stayed the course despite the warnings that it would be violent. And then he turned around and blamed Donald Trump for adlibbing in a speech as soon as it went sideways.

I mean, talk about a taste of Donald Trump getting his own medicine. I think the only way this could get any Trumpier is if Mark Meadows put the blame on Joe Biden for having the audacity to win and making the crowd angry in the first place. I mean, the whole thing is just absurd.

MELBER: Yes. And it's a lot of evidence. It's important, even as people find aspects of this wearying, to deal with it because to look the other way or to say old story is to give very real aid and comfort to people who, as you mentioned, are awaiting even the determination of whether or not they'll be indicted in the case of Mr. Meadows as DOJ considers that.

Neal Katyal, thanks as always.

KATYAL: Thank you.

MELBER: Absolutely. We've got a lot of news we're tracking. Elon Musk makes it official. He's going to buy Twitter. Something people said he couldn't do as recently as last week. Chai Komanduri is here on the politics and the societal impact.

Kevin McCarthy, more heat on him for being caught in his January 6th lies. And we're tracking this death row case that involves a woman who many people believe is innocent, facing a scheduled execution this week. We have the full story for you before the hour is up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:18:14]

MELBER: Breaking news with enormous impact on politics, information and business, billionaire Elon Musk is buying Twitter, all of it. The world's richest man has formally secured the funding and the agreement to take this company private, which means he'll control the platform, its rules and reach. He's buying all outstanding stock, taking the company off the market private.

Indeed he's paying a third or so more than the value of the current company on the street. Total it all up, and it is a bill that very few people or companies could swallow, about a $44 billion -- billion -- deal. Musk tapping investment support to do it. It would become the largest deal to take a company private in at least two decades as "The New York Times" reports on this breaking story heading into the evening on the East Coast tonight.

Musk pulled this off quickly, maneuvering around a once very skeptical Twitter leadership team. He now earned the board's unanimous support today.

Elon Musk is already very busy. He's the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. He has maneuvered around the politics and the governments of multiple countries. He's described himself as something of a libertarian. But when he uses Twitter, as we reported last week, it has often been for strictly corporate and financial gain, not some larger set of ideologies. He's used it for his own marketing, he's used it for his own politics, he's pushed up crypto.

He's marketed Tesla that way. He's even gotten slaps on the wrist from regulatory bodies like the SEC for misusing Twitter. He's also taken on the company's policies. You probably know as a social media platform, Twitter, like Facebook, has been increasingly criticized for putting profits above any, any type of narrow standards. And when you look at these multibillion- dollar valuations, no one is saying that these companies should go out of business by being some sort of global "Goody Two-Shoes."

[18:20:09]

They're just saying that these companies could spend a little bit to be safer, to find problems more quickly, take them down or prevent them from going up, and to try to avoid, you know, tipping elections with Russian influence campaigns or helping incite violence on the 6th. In other words, there are some bright line things they could do that they choose not to and a lot of evidence shows they choose not to do it because they make money when everyone's engaged and riled up.

They finally banned Donald Trump under pressure over the violence of the 6th, but this is where the Musk part comes in. He has made the big argument to of course tens of millions of people in America and perhaps even more around the world who are still pro-Trump and pro-MAGA style politics that, well, Musk says his interest in Twitter is really just about improving the platform and doing something that could help Donald Trump get back on it, which is focusing more on advancing his view, Musk's view of free speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELON MUSK, TESLA CEO: Well, I think it's very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech, where -- yes. Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square, so it's just really important that people have both the reality and the perception that they're able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Fact check, it's complicated. Fact check, true that Twitter is something different than just one more digital space or one more restaurant where you may or may not be able to bring in a big sign. It's more than a private company when it was publicly traded. It will continue to be more than a private company when Musk owns it. So he is right that it is much more than just one more place to talk.

It is something of a virtual town square. That's why nuclear power countries care about whether they are banned or not on Twitter, and the former president cared a lot. As for the notions about law and free speech, well, that's the whole point. If you watch THE BEAT at all you probably heard us talk about this before. There must be broad and clear protections for free speech. Indeed that's the law in America.

Musk is also right to refer to that. And that means that removing something because you don't like it or you disagree with it or you think it's just mean, those are not good reasons to restrict free speech. But if something is violent, if something is inciting violence, if something is literally and deliberately gathering people to do so or committing commercial fraud or any other such many criminal or civil law infractions then no, companies can't and don't and aren't supposed to just let it all out there.

Now, it is Elon Musk, once this is approved, once this is finalized, who will make these decisions. There will be no other stakeholders to really check him. It is a ton of power. So if you're watching tonight and going, cool, OK, Ari, but I'm not on Twitter that much, or Twitter sounds silly, or who cares about a retweet? I hear you. I understand that perspective. But I think if you look at what social media is doing to our lives and to our democracies and other countries you'll reflect on the fact that this is so much larger than a retweet.

So we go as we often do around here to the evidence. I'll keep it quick and clear. There are studies that show that while you might be watching me for the news, and thank you, we appreciate it, we try to do a good job, about half of Americans get news from these social media sites, and they think what they're getting for the most part is news or true. They certainly don't think it's all just lies.

But misinformation spreads so much more here than in other earlier media eras, and misinformation isn't just more popular or twice as popular. Look at what you see on your screen. Take Facebook which so many people use on a daily basis. It is more than triple, more than quadruple, it is six times more popular to spread misinformation, six times more clickable than, say, just factual news according to a key point in time, the 2020 election, when those kind of stories and those kind of piece of misinformation were literally shaping people's votes.

And the power to check misinformation or accounts inciting violence, that has a big impact. Here you see clicks to Trump stories since inauguration day have plummeted for many, many reasons. One of them is Donald Trump was forcibly removed from Twitter, which he used, you may recall, to summon people to the January 6th rally, which turned into an insurrection which he said would be wild. Now, think about that.

[18:25:02]

Donald Trump, I'm going to be real clear about it. He didn't give a TV address, which he could have. He loves TV. Reality TV and the rest. He didn't just say the words somewhere so they'd be channeled through the media, the news media, internet media, what have you. If he understands nothing else, he understands his rabid base, and he knew that his tweet going to them, which would spread and allow them to literally connect and plot together, would be more powerful than a TV address, more powerful.

In fact, a TV address brings everybody in. He didn't want that. He wanted his people and he understands to some degree how they would virally interact around that tweet, and boy, they did. That may be why some of his loudest most influential allies aren't threatened by Twitter as some sort of media competition. No, they are excited that Musk buying Twitter could get Donald Trump back on the platform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For once this isn't about power and money. Musk is doing it to save free speech.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX HOST: It's not an over statement to say it could be the single most important development for free speech in the modern history of the United States.

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX HOST: The five people at this table all are fans of Elon Musk. I don't think that I overstate that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of us are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a guy who's made a lot of money. He's been very successful. Loves this country and the freedoms it affords.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's our Edison. This is our Thomas Edison. This is our Da Vinci of our generation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: OK, just take a breath and fall back for a second on that. But the point is, people who work with this stuff, they understand how important this is. I'm not telling you you need a Twitter account. I'm not telling you you have to jump in the ocean to study whether the ocean levels are rising. I'm just telling you this thing matters a ton.

The world's richest person who's very good at accumulating wealth and power thinks this is worth spending tens of billions of dollars on because frankly he thinks it's that valuable and he thinks it may help him. Trump, by the way, today is claiming he won't even return to Twitter if the ban were lifted but few take what Donald Trump says seriously on that score.

So what is happening here? This is far bigger than Trump or Elon Musk. They are symptoms of the world we are living in where technology has outpaced any of our ability to deal with it. That's true whether you're a parent trying to figure out what you can and can't let your kids do at various ages. It's true if you are a democracy like the United States that used to regulate media ownership and say Rupert Murdoch can't have too many local TV stations and newspapers in one town.

They have laws for that that are still on the book, but the Congress hasn't gotten around to limiting whether someone can own all of Twitter. And as we discussed in one of our special reports just last week, if you own all of Twitter or Facebook or what have you, you don't have to explain yourself. You don't even have to be transparent. You could secretly ban one party's candidate or all of its candidates, all of its nominees. Or you could just secretly turn down the reach of their stuff and turn up the reach of something else, and the rest of us might not even find out about it until after the election.

Elon Musk says this is all to help people because he is just a free speech, philosophically clear, open-minded helper, a world helper if you will. Is that true? Should you take him at his word? Should you care about this whether you have a Twitter account or not. This is important stuff, and we're going bring in two experts on it. Obama campaign veteran Che Komanduri and the "New York Times'" Lauren Hirsch when we're back in just 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We're back with Chai Komanduri and the "New York Times'" Lauren Hirsch. She's been covering this acquisition of Twitter quite closely.

Walk us through what it means when Elon Musk takes this company private.

[18:30:00]

LAUREN HIRSCH, THE NEW YORK TIMES MERGER AND ACQUISITIONS REPORTER I think this is a deal that we have never seen anything like before, so we will soon find out. What this means is kind of in technical terms, it's no longer a publicly-traded company. And so, as you said in the lead-in, Elon Musk can effectively operate this as he pleases.

He has indicated that he's not going to run it for profit, which is interesting and important, because when you're thinking about content, moderation, and what's on your platform, a lot of companies are cognizant of advertisers, and potentially, the risk of scaring them away. And so, if there's not -- advertisers are not the focus, you might potentially have the defense approach to content moderation and what you allow on the platform.

MELBER: And Lauren, do you think it's possible that he might make some claims like that, but then still operate as a effective billionaire, who has been pretty good with profit in the past?

HIRSCH: It's a great point. You know, I will say I've -- the deal was announced this morning, I spent the day on the phone trying to understand what the business model is, but the plan is here. I haven't actually gotten a great answer. There might be a really convincing slide deck somewhere. I haven't seen it. I'm not really sure what the -- I'm honestly just not, as I said, there might be a great plant. I haven't seen it. And so, this whole thing came together super quickly. And I just -- what I don't know if this is something for the very rich man who thought he could run Twitter better this decided to do or there was a full thought out, plan to make money and improve it. That's really, you know, unclear, so.

MELBER: Chai?

CHAI KOMANDURI, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Yes, when Elon Musk says, you know, he is not running Twitter for profit, do not believe it. Everything Elon Musk does is about profit. You don't become the world's richest man, by thinking like John Stuart Mill, you become the world's richest man by thinking about yourself. And that is exactly what Elon Musk has done. And let me sort of push back on this idea that he's a principal libertarian. I mean, very recently, Greg Abbott in Texas, passed a very restrictive reproductive rights bill.

Elon Musk said, hey, I don't want to be involved in politics. Oh, really, this is interesting. Now you don't want to be involved in politics? He said he wanted to be involved in politics with anything that has anything to do with him or his company. But Elon Musk functionally is a libertarian for himself. But he was more than happy in Texas to be a theocratic for his female employees. This is not about libertarian principle in any way. This is about more money for Elon Musk.

MELBER: I think it's an interesting example, Chai, when you go to human rights -- human rights, women's rights, and when someone says selectively what they want to be involved with quote, that's just politics to him. I'm also curious what you think about the leverage you'll have over politicians, I mentioned this in the setup, people like Putin and Trump, and Biden. The one thing they have in common is nowadays, they have to care about social media.

It's part of becoming a head of state in many places and as part of maintaining power. What does it mean for him to have this type of leverage, whether he chooses to use it, corruptly or not is not our place to say yet. We have to wait and see what happens.

KOMANDURI: Well, look, you know, the thing is if Elon Musk decided, hey, I want to be about free speech, and he decided to like fund some academic journal, where Trump and the GOP could publish peer-reviewed research, that will be fine. I don't think anybody would have a problem with that. Twitter is not that. Twitter is not the Journal of ideas. What Twitter is, is a catalog of emotion. And Trump used Twitter very successfully, to become president and to manipulate the media. They will be able to do so again.

A party where outrage culture and conspiracy theories have been mainstreamed, which we've talked about at length here on THE BEAT. And throughout the -- throughout the media, the culture. A party like that has an advantage on Twitter. Elon Musk knows that. He also knows that you know, he is timeless for right when truth social, it's very clear that that thing is not going to happen.

MELBER: Yes, the Trump platform. With about 30 seconds. Lauren, what's next here in the process?

HIRSCH: There's a long road ahead. And one of the big things I'm trying to figure out is whether or not there's a breakup fee and the size of that. And that's really important because the deal was announced today, that doesn't mean the deal has been approved. It doesn't mean the deal is closed. It doesn't mean the deal is going to happen. There's a lot of uncertainty still. And so, I think everyone you know, might want to take a beat and realize that there's still questions to be answered in terms of whether or not this deal even ultimately gets to the full finish line.

MELBER: Lauren, we always try to take a beat around here.

HIRSCH: Yes. There you go.

MELBER: Sorry. Lauren Hirsch, Chai Komanduri, thanks to both of you for perspective on this big story. Coming up in the program. We have a criminal justice story in Texas that I want to share with you very important. But next, Republican Leader McCarthy back in the hot seat. Stay with us.

[18:35:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), REPUBLICAN LEADER: The reporter never asked me that question. The reporter came to me that night before he released the book, and my understanding was he was saying that I asked President Trump to resign. No, I never did. And that's what I was answering. What's more important than something that happened 15 months ago on a private conversation with about four other people is what's happening here right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Republican leader Kevin McCarthy tried to turn the page he was pressed just today. This is after he was caught lying on tape about many of his dealings with Donald Trump and his views of the insurrection on January 6th. We're now joined by former Democratic senator from California Barbara Boxer. Welcome back.

[18:40:00]

BARBARA BOXER, FORMER SENATOR: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Senator, you have seen many different types of controversies and scandals in Washington. Rarely is there such damning tape to show that in this case, Leader McCarthy just was completely lying to everyone. And some people say, OK, that's politicians. What does it mean as well, though, that he lied to his own supporters and constituents that he really seems to feel that everyone will just move on from this?

BOXER: That's what he hopes. And of course, it's up to his colleagues to determine if they want such a coward, such a liar, to be their leader, and or maybe even speaker. I hope not. But if that's the case, what a disaster. And, you know, Ari, it's hard for me to explain to you how the Republican Party has changed. Remember, I got started in politics in the 70s got elected to the House in the 80s, early 80s. And we were fighting for the same things for who could be better on women's issues, who could be better on African-American issues, who could be better on the economy, who could be better on the environment, this is what it was.

And now, they've sold their soul, this party used to be called the Grand Old Party. And now it's a cowardly party of lies. But they sold their soul, for one thing, Ari, and that's power. And this is ugly. And I think history will look back at this time, if things keep going the way they're going now. And say this was the moment when they totally sold their soul. And it gives me no happiness.

It is very sad, I got a thousand things done when I was in Congress, literally, I never could have gotten any of them done without a few Republicans, and now everyone's in their corners. It's all about power from their standpoint. And it's frightening. They've even turned against American democracy itself for power.

MELBER: And so, when you see this as a kind of the litmus test, there was some scuttlebutt about a Republican debate here, a candidate over the weekend, where instead of talking about their state, or their issues, or anything they opened with -- I want everyone to know, you know, Trump, had the election stolen from him. You know, as if this is part of their portfolio. That is something different, that's something we really haven't seen before. And do you think that only hardens over time? Or does it really depend on whether he actually be, you know, becomes the nominee or not, again?

BOXER: Frankly, anyone who runs on that as an issue should be defeated, overwhelmingly by everybody. We've all got so many issues, of whether it's, you know, healthcare issues and COVID issues, and, you know, this unbelievable foreign policy crisis occurring in Ukraine, etc. I could go on, certainly, inflation, all these issues, and you have a candidate running, who wants to relitigate an election that was called the most secure ever by Trump's own people. This is sick. And you know, it is the moment I'm trying to find the right words here.

Because it is the moment for Republicans who vote to say no to this, this is a sad moment, we always had two parties, one was to the right of center, one was to the left of center, and we never had a party, so extreme and so willing to become the party of grievance and anger and division. You know, it's stunning. And it is -- you know, I'm going to chat with you and everyone else will hear me.

But it is going to be people like Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, people like some of your own people on MSNBC, who were Republicans, people like Steve Schmidt, and Nicole, etc. These are the people that have to really work hard to tell people, don't go down that path. It can only lead to disaster for our nation.

MELBER: Right and it's a common mistake -- a mistake perhaps of privilege and or optimism or both. When people say, oh, that was bad. We're past that. Obviously, we'll get better from there. No, that's as you say, that's up to the citizenry. That's up to everyone being engaged, and 6th could be a terrible inflection point where that we improved from, or it could be a model of how elections are dealt with in years to come. You know, that's up to everyone. I appreciate your clarion call there. Former Senator Boxer, always good to see you.

BOXER: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it. Thank you. Coming up, we look at Republican Greg Abbott's justice system in Texas. This big important case with a twist, as protests had been growing all through the weekend. I'm going to give you that update when we come back.

[18:45:00]

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MELBER: Now we turn to a major legal story out of Texas where for a long time, this state, run by Republican Governor Greg Abbott has been on track to execute a mother for the death of her two-year-old daughter Mariah. This mother Melissa Lucio was convicted of murder over the 2007 death. Now like so many cases, the controversy really comes down to facts. A parent murdering a toddler is one of the worst crimes imaginable.

But the state pressuring or setting up a grieving parent into that fall's charge would be a whole different and separate injustice, especially if the head prosecutor involved might have tainted the case after getting convicted for bribery and extortion in other matters, while a jury did convict Lucio based on the state's theory of the case that she beat her daughter to death, making a deliberate, intentional criminal murderer.

[18:50:00]

More and more evidence has added some doubts here, including what her team alleges was false evidence like a Texas Ranger's testimony that he could just tell she was guilty by looking at her, by her demeanor. And later emerging evidence suggesting that her daughter's condition matched an accidental fall down steep stairs. Well, that medical condition of a deceased individual would be very different than what you'd need to show murder beyond a reasonable doubt. An appeals court recently cited some of the developments I just mentioned.

More on that in a moment. But when you hear about these kinds of cases, you may start to wonder well, OK, what does Texas even have on its side if they did get as I told you to murder conviction. Well, it's something many jurors assumed to be powerful evidence, a confession, in this case, the confession from the grieving mother. But here's the thing. There's a big difference between someone suddenly or earnestly running out and confessing, perhaps over personal guilt or the desire to get less time in prison, if they think they're going to get caught.

A difference between that and someone systematically, brutally pressured into it. In fact, whether it's up sounds surprising or not, many people who've been later exonerated after convictions, basically found legally innocent first gave coerced or false confession about 25 percent, according to the Innocence Project. Keep that in mind as you consider what jurors saw in this exact case that I'm reporting to you tonight. Lucio, saying at one point, I just did it. Words she uttered though, only after she'd already insisted on and repeated her own innocence. Over 100 times, they counted that up.

But these individuals here working for Texas, they just kept pounding her to marathon five-hour interrogation that went until 3:00 a.m. And this was while she was in shock, grief-stricken because this interrogation. You're about to see a short clip of, it began within two hours of her own daughter's tragic death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I beat you half to death like that little child was beat, I bet you die, too.

MELISSA LUCIO, CONVICTED: Sir, I did not beat my daughter, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all get upset. We already know what happened. We already know what happened.

LUCIO: They just kept throwing so many words at me. And I just thought I am responsible for Mariah's bruises. They wanted to hear something --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did she make you mad? Why did you do it?

LUCIO: I just did it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Keep in mind, that's all within 10 hours of her daughter's death. That's how prosecutors bore down on that grieving mother. And once they got those words, they pressed on what their case. Lucio's team says it wasn't a thorough investigation by definition because they hadn't gone and consulted all the medical evidence or interviewed a lot of people. They just started right there with what you saw.

Now as time went on after her trial, where she was convicted by a jury of her peers, five of the 12 jurors publicly questioned their decision one way or another and some spoke out forcefully, one voicing deep regret for voting to convict once they'd learned more information writing an essay in The Houston Chronicle, I was wrong.

Texas pressed on. In fact, everything I'm telling you is -- as far as Texas is concerned, as far as the executive branch is concerned just fine. Because the execution remains scheduled for this Wednesday, and if the Texas government got its way, she would be killed this Wednesday. That brings us to the news tonight. I've shared with you the background because it is so essential to even understanding what we're dealing with when you look at these cases. But the news tonight is now an appeals court is blocking this execution, issuing a formal stay. Here's how the news broke and how it was shared with Lucio, a state lawmaker telling her the execution pause and stake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JEFF LEACH (R-TX): The court of criminal appeals issued a stay of your execution for Wednesday.

LUCIO: Are you serious? Are you serious? (INAUDIBLE) happening. That is wonderful. Oh, my god. What does that mean?

LEACH: Well, well, it means -- that means you're going to wake up on Thursday morning.

LUCIO: Oh, my goodness.

LEACH: And --

LUCIO: Oh, thank you, God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You can just hear the emotion there. What is it mean? Well, it means she's not going to be killed this week. But what else does it mean? She's still clearly obviously incarcerated. What else does it mean about our justice system? What does it mean that we do it this way when it does not need to be done this way? Legally, the case heads to a lower court to consider some of the new evidence we reported on tonight and to decide whether there should be a new trial in this case. We will stay on the story, and we'll be right back.

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MELBER: Thanks for joining us on THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER. The "THE REIDOUT" with Joy Reid starts now.

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