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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 5/12/22

Guests: Neal Katyal, Barbara McQuade, Laphonza Butler, Xotchil Hinojosa, Rosa DeLauro, Michael Steele, Fernand Amandi

Summary

January 6th committee issues subpoena top Trump allies in Congress including House minority leader Kevin McCarthy. First private meeting of SCOTUS justices since leak of a draft on their decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro joins THE BEAT to talk about the new focus on the baby formula recall that was sparked by deadly bacterial infections. Michael Steele joins Alicia Menendez to talk about the January 6 panel subpoenas on top Trump allies in Congress.

Transcript

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Thank you so much for letting us into your homes on this Thursday. We are grateful. THE BEAT with my friend, Alicia Menendez in for Ari Melber on this huge news day starts right now.

Hi, Alicia.

ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much. And welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Alicia Menendez in for Ari Melber.

It`s unprecedented. The January 6th Committee subpoenaing five sitting lawmakers for the first time. That is a huge deal. Lawmakers rarely subpoena their own colleagues, including GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, compelling them to sit for depositions by the end of the month. McCarthy, who was caught on tape talking about kicking Trump out of office infamously ran to Mar-a-Lago weeks later.

Chairman Bennie Thompson writing, quote, "You declined voluntary cooperation, and we are left with no choice but to issue you this subpoena."

In a letter sent asking for his cooperation in January, the committee said they wanted to talk to McCarthy about his, quote, "conversations with President Trump before, during, and after the violent January 6th attacks."

McCarthy today slamming the committee`s probe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I have not seen this subpoena. I guess they sent it to you guys before they sent it to me.

Look, my view on the committee has not changed. They`re not conducting a legitimate investigation. It seems as though they just want to go after their political opponents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MENENDEZ: Congressman Scott Perry having a similar reaction today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): The fact that they sent it to the press before they sent it to the members just proves it`s all about headlines. This whole thing is a charade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MENENDEZ: Committee chairman Bennie Thompson today saying he hopes they all comply, and so far there have not been conversations about contempt if they don`t.

January 6th Committee member Jamie Raskin today emphasizing the unprecedented nature of January 6th when asked about the decision to subpoena fellow lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, an attempted coup and a violent insurrection at the Capitol interrupting the peaceful transfer of power are unprecedented events. They should come in and testify voluntarily. And if they don`t, then all of us should come to expect that they could be subpoenaed for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MENENDEZ: Joining me now, former acting U.S. solicitor general Neal Katyal and former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade.

Neal, the three of us have sat here many times asking, will they, won`t they, they have. Your reaction to these subpoenas?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: I`m so glad to see Congress doing this. They gave these members of Congress the choice to come in voluntarily back as early as January. They all refused. And so now what are they saying? Well, they`re saying, oh, this is about headlines and anti- Trump.

I mean, you know, there`s a lot of anti-Trump people that the congressional committee could have subpoenaed. They could have subpoenaed Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz or any number of kind of people like that. They didn`t. This is not five random people. These are five material witnesses, and the committee has said in their letters that they have evidence that Mark Meadows was being plotted with, with these members of Congress, that these members of Congress were plotting with Ali Alexander and others as well, like Jeffrey Clark, trying to maneuver for him to be acting attorney general and boot out the old attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, who wasn`t doing Trump`s bidding.

So, all of this is really important information. You know, I`m a little upset it`s taken this long to get to the subpoena, but I`m really, really glad to see Congress doing this today.

MENENDEZ: And we`ll talk in a minute about how time is of the essence here, but, Barbara, talk to me about the significance of the committee subpoenaing their own colleagues.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTION: Well, as you heard Representative Raskin say there, it`s unprecedented. Calling a member of their own before the committee, with a subpoena, not a voluntary sit-down, but a subpoena is unprecedented. But you know what else is unprecedented? An attempt to attack the Capitol and stop the peaceful transfer of power. And so for that reason, the stakes are high, and calling them in with a subpoena I think is absolutely appropriate under these circumstances.

Some interesting things about their compliance. You know, will they comply or do they go after the legitimacy of the committee as we were hearing some of them do? You know, the tables are going to be turned one of these days and they may want to subpoena other members of Congress. And so they need to think carefully about whether they harm the institution.

The other things they can`t rely on here and some of the other witnesses have, there is no attorney-client privilege at issue here. There is no executive privilege at issue here. This really is a question of people who have evidence and need to produce it to the committee that is legitimately investigating a very serious matter.

MENENDEZ: Neal, I fully take Barbara`s point. I also want to point out, though, these Republicans have shown little concern for institutions, right?

[18:05:01]

If that is supposed to be the driving motivating factor for them to comply, they haven`t exactly shown a history of making that a priority.

KATYAL: That`s 100 percent right, and they`ve always not respected precedent at all, and Barbara has been absolutely brilliant in making the case for the crimes that were committed on January 6th. She wrote essentially a prosecution memo about this. The one thing I would just quibble with her on this is there is actually precedent. The Ethics Committees have subpoenaed members of Congress before, and some of them have even gone to court.

So we have seen this, a member -- congressional committee subpoenaing a member of Congress. She`s absolutely right, given their disregard of institutions and their coup-like behavior, I expect them to fight this. And so the Congress has two tools available to it. One is the criminal contempt statute, which has been around since 1857 and allows them to say to the Justice Department, look, we need this information. You need to put these people in jail until they give it to us.

The other is that Congress itself can file a civil lawsuit in Washington, D.C. to get at this information. Either way, the congressional committees, if this does go to court, I`m quite sure will prevail. There`s an obvious need for this information. The arguments on the other side are bogus. There`s really two. One, the members of Congress are saying they have a right to privacy, which is particularly ironic because I haven`t seen them exactly, you know, protesting over the last week on the Supreme Court steps, but I guess they think men in Congress have a right to privacy, and the rest of us don`t.

And then the second thing that they will say is speech or debate immunity. That`s a clause in the Constitution which says in general members of Congress have immunity while on the floor. But that`s got to be a legislative act, and plotting a coup or refusing to answer questions under oath is not exactly a legislative act.

MENENDEZ: Barbara, as Neal just said, you have brilliantly laid all of this out, so in the spirit of asking you to do that once again, what does the committee want to learn from these depositions?

MCQUADE: Well, unlike a criminal prosecution, what the committee really is trying to learn here is everything that happened. They are trying to chronicle the facts in the same way the September 11th Committee put together that extensive report and then used it as a way to guide legislation to fill in gaps in the law. In the same way, this committee has been charged with figuring out what happened, and an essential part of that story is figuring out what these five members of Congress were doing and saying as this attack was occurring.

We know several of them were talking with President Trump while things were occurring. We know that at least one of them, reports say, was seeking pardons for some of the people who might be involved in the attacks. And so it`s very important to understand what they were saying, when they were saying it, they were aware of what Donald Trump was saying to help put this whole story together.

And one other thing, I wonder Neal`s thoughts on this, we talked about contempt power with a criminal prosecution or a civil case. I think this is the one place where there may be some congressional inherent contempt power. You know, we`ve seen this sort of power just slip away and not be used, but when it is members of Congress who are subject to that subpoena, the committee has powers to recommend censure and other kinds of things against its own members that`s unique to its members and different from all of these other witnesses who have been throwing subpoena offense.

MENENDEZ: Neal, Barbara wants your thoughts, and so do I.

KATYAL: That`s exactly right. Barbara is right. So there`s an inherent contempt power, goes all the way back to the founding in the Constitution. It`s been upheld by the Supreme Court. It`s so extensive it even allows members of Congress to jail someone. There`s, you know, a jail in the Capitol that could be used for this, and Barbara`s right to say there`s also steps short of that from censure or a stripping committee assignments or even docking their pay.

There`s a bunch of different options. And I think the problem for these five members of Congress when they go and attack the subpoena and say it`s about headlines or something, I think Barbara isolated the important question, which is, what would these five members of Congress want an investigation to do? A committee charged with trying to get the truth of January 6th? Of course you need to know what these five people were doing and what they said and who they said it to.

They were material witnesses. It would be a bogus investigation if they couldn`t get at this information. That`s why, I think, whether it`s inherent contempt or whether it`s a court case or whatever, these folks are going to get the information that they need to get.

MENENDEZ: Barbara, I want to you take a listen to what committee member, Congressman Schiff, said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): These members clearly have relevant information for the committee and for the country, and they took an oath to uphold the Constitution. This is part of upholding the oath.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MENENDEZ: Here`s the thing, Barbara, there`s an argument that Democrats know they have to make to the American people that counters this idea of what we`re going to hear from Republicans about how this is all bogus, and that`s it right there. Right?

[18:10:04]

You had Congressman Schiff laying out exactly what Neal laid out. They have information. We just want to hear it. Why should that be so complicated?

MCQUADE: Yes, I think sometimes we see cynical politicians and others talk in terms of sound bites, counting on the fact that members of the public are too busy to pay attention to the details. And so if they simply say things like, they`re going after us because they`re going after the political opponents, they take this very high-level argument, then many people won`t listen to the details, but I think that`s why it`s so critically important to get them to testify because it`s always the facts that matter.

What was said? You know, you can paint broad brushes about motives and other kinds of things all day long, but at the end of the day, this is about facts and the only way we`re going to learn those facts is by bringing them into the committee room and putting them under oath and ask them.

MENENDEZ: Neal, Congressman Jim Jordan has historically dodged questions about when he talked to Trump on January 6th. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Did you talk to the former president that day?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I`ve talked to the former president umpteenth times. Just left office --

BAIER: I mean on January 6th, Congressman.

JORDAN: Yes. I mean, I`ve talked to the president -- I`ve talked to the president so -- I can`t remember all the days I`ve talked to him but I`ve certainly talked to the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you speak with him before, during or after the Capitol was attacked?

JORDAN: I have to go -- I - I spoke with him that day after? I think after. I don`t know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don`t know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MENENDEZ: So, Neal, I subject you to that footage to ask you if the committee will be able to get the truth if he`s deposed, or are we going to have more of that game of guacamole?

KATYAL: Well, you know, you can`t watch that testimony and think that this guy is credible in any particular way. I mean, it`s just a not convincing performance. He can`t keep his, you know, misstatements and lies straight. So, you know, I expect more of that. But I think, you know, Alicia, the hard thing is like, you know, for them is at some point, like they -- you know, they keep on saying, we`re afraid to testify and they keep on, you know, slinging mud at the committee or this and that, but the bottom line is that they just never want to actually go in under oath and tell the truth.

That`s the thing they`re afraid of. And you know, my suspicion is, for a good reason, because, you know, the Jim Jordans of the world and others were involved in all this stuff and they`re afraid of it all coming out. But the committee has the powers and have today taken the most important step in trying to get that information to the American people.

MENENDEZ: Yes, and it`s a reminder that the threat is not past tense, it is not in the rear-view. It is very much live and active right now.

Neal Katyal, Barbara McQuade, thank you so much for getting us started.

Coming up, the Supreme Court`s first meeting since the leak of the Roe draft decision, and a big legal setback for MAGA governor Ron DeSantis as he tries to redraw the voting map. Plus a whistleblower`s shocking report about the factory conditions that led to the baby formula shortage. And Michael Steele` is here on today`s big news about January 6th subpoenas for Republican lawmakers. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:17:28]

MENENDEZ: This is the room where it went down today. All nine Supreme Court justices gathering in this wood-paneled chamber. Their first meeting since the leaked draft opinion on Roe. No clerks, staff, or cameras allowed. The most junior justice, Amy Coney Barrett, taking notes.

The meeting coming amid the hunt for the leaker and after fierce warnings from liberal justices. Justice Sotomayor saying during oral arguments last December the court might not, quote, "survive the stench of overturning Roe."

Now they are all facing that possibility. And each other, outside that court days of fury, protests at the court prompting fencing to go up around the perimeter of the building. Activists gathering outside the homes of Justices Kavanaugh, Barrett, Roberts and Alito. Today`s meeting following a Republican-led defeat of a Senate bill to cement abortion rights into law.

Joining me now, Laphonza Butler, president of Emily`s List, an advocacy group that recruits women to run for office in the U.S., and Democratic strategist and former DNC communications director Xotchil Hinojosa.

What I would have given to have been a fly on the wall during that meeting. Let`s talk about where this likely goes from here. You have the AP reporting Roberts appeared the most inclined among the conservatives to avoid reaching a decision to overrule the landmark abortion rulings. Do you think there is still the possibility he could write his own opinion, and how would that shape the contours of this fight?

LAPHONZA BUTLER, EMILY`S LIST PRESIDENT: It`s a great question. I`m sure all of us would have loved to have been in the room to hear what was going down. Look, I think that, you know, we`ve got to remember that, as you noted, Republicans today stood in -- of passing national protections for women and families all over this country. It`s clear now more than ever that the pro-choice majorities at every level of government are critically important and that Democrats must continue to be the party that stands with the will of the American people, that are supporting a woman having the freedom to make those decisions for herself.

This is the moment for that level of clarity, and I think that that`s what the American people are going to demand.

MENENDEZ: Xotchil, that all begs the question, given yesterday`s vote to advance the bill to codify Roe failed, where do Democrats go from here and how quickly can they get something done?

XOTCHIL HINOJOSA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Democrats are committed to ensuring that they do everything that they can to protect women`s reproductive rights.

[18:20:02]

You saw that in the vote today. But they`re also going to make it a campaign issue. You see Democrats in states like Texas which are largely red campaigning on this issue because they want to make very clear that it is Democrats that stand on the side of women. And I just want to remind people that about 32 percent of the electorate will be about women over 50. And women over 50 were born pre-Roe, right?

And they understand or they know, you know, their mothers and they grew up in a place where then Roe was law of the land, and they have lived with that. And so I think it is important for Democrats moving forward ahead of the midterm elections to really talk about what is at stake here because -- and that`s exactly what they`re doing. There is a day of action on Saturday where all across this country, people will be making their voices heard, ensuring that they are talking directly to voters to talk about what is at stake in this election, because right now with Roe potentially being overturned, we`re going to see a very different America.

MENENDEZ: I want both of you to take a listen to Ted Cruz on the implications of overturning Roe for the midterms, and we`ll talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): If the majority opinion continues to be the majority opinion, and if the outcome is that the court does strike down Roe vs. Wade, I can tell you Democrats in Washington are holding on to that as their "Hail Mary" chance to save the midterms. And I got to tell you, more than a few Republican senators are nervous that`s the case. And to the extent it has an effect, it will be a positive effect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MENENDEZ: Laphonza, your thoughts?

BUTLER: I appreciate that Ted -- Senator Cruz thinks that he can speak for the positions of the American people, but we all know he`s flat-out wrong. The year after year, poll after poll has said that the American people stand in support of the -- sustaining Roe vs. Wade and protecting the freedom of women to make these decisions on their own. And so he is flat- out wrong. I think that the American people are ready to stand and galvanize together, to make their demands clear about where it is that they want these decisions to be made.

They do not want politicians or Senator Cruz in their doctor`s office. They do not want Justice Kavanaugh in the conversation with their pastor or their family, and so I think that the senator is flat wrong. I think that people all over this country are going to stand and make that point clear this November, and the Democratic Party is going to once again prove that they are standing on the side of the American people, who are working to protect their rights, who are working to expand access, and who are standing with the will that they want this country and the freedom that they want this country to represent.

MENENDEZ: Xotchil, I want to give you a chance to respond to your home state senator, but I also want to add it was my understanding that Mitch McConnell wanted to run these midterms on inflation, right? Like that was the thing he wanted everyone focused on. Now he`s talking about a national ban on abortions. Is he hoping that the conversation just moves on by November?

HINOJOSA: Well, I think the Republicans are in a position where they don`t necessarily know what to do. They understand that this is problematic for their party. They understand that, you know, they are on the wrong side of history, especially with the vote that was taken today where Republicans blocked codifying Roe v. Wade. And so this will be an electoral issue.

What I will say is that Democrats win when we are on the side of what the vast majority of the American people believe in. That is how we won the midterms last time. That is how we beat Donald Trump, and on issue after issue, whether it be the pandemic, whether it be Roe v. Wade, whether it be ensuring that we are getting higher wages for workers, time and time again, Democrats do stand with the American people.

And what the American people want to see is Americans fighting for them, fighting for their rights. And the American people want to see that they`re going to be better off with Democratic leadership. Who will you be better off with? Democrats will have a message moving forward, not only on Roe, but on issue after issue, whether it`s getting people out of this pandemic, et cetera, that they are working to deliver for them.

And that is what Democrats need to focus on. They are working to protect women`s reproductive rights. They are working to ensure that we are lowering costs and they are working to ensure that we are doing everything we can to get us out of this pandemic, and that`s how we win the midterm elections.

MENENDEZ: Laphonza Butler, Xotchil Hinojosa, thank you both so much.

[18:25:02]

Ahead, after a 60-second break, Ron DeSantis dealt a serious legal setback. Plus, Michael Steele on the heat facing Kevin McCarthy tonight. But first, a whistleblower`s explosive claims about unsafe conditions at a baby formula plant. I`m going talk to the lawmaker who made it public. And we are back in just 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MENENDEZ: We are back with the nationwide baby formula shortage that has parents scrambling that`s become a political issue. Formula stockpiles are now down 43 percent. One of the cases a recall by Abbott Laboratories after a deadly bacteria was found in its plant at Sturgis, Michigan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The FDA says Abbott did not maintain clean surfaces used in producing and handing the formula. Inspectors found a history of contamination, including eight reports since the fall of 2019.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: All powder formulas that were manufactured at the same plant in Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Cronobacter Sakazakii and Salmonella Newport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cronobacter is extremely dangerous. It has a mortality rate as high as 80 percent in infants.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MENENDEZ: The formula wasn`t recalled until several infants got sick and two died after consuming formula that Abbott acknowledges was produced at the Sturgis plant. The FDA inspected the facility after the infants` deaths and discovered five strains of the deadly bacteria in multiple locations.

Now I should note, the strains identified in the infant deaths are different from the strains found, so far in FDA`s inspections at the Abbott plant, but a whistleblower report claims that Abbott and the FDA knew about the unsafe conditions but did nothing about it. The whistleblower accuses Abbott managers of deliberately falsifying reports. They`re also accused of ignoring mechanical failures and using flawed machinery that allowed bacteria to get into the formula.

When we reached out to Abbott for comment, they accused the whistleblower of food safety violations. They also say they believe their plant was not the source of the bacterial infections in these babies. Abbott says they`re now working to make the plant safe, but declined to explain to us why they didn`t make these fixes earlier.

We know it wasn`t about money in December. Abbott`s board authorized a stock buyback program of up to $5 billion, also increasing cash payouts to shareholders. Abbott had the money to make the repairs needed to keep that baby formula safe.

Joining me now, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee. She made the whistleblower complaint public this week and just announced two upcoming hearings to address Abbott and the baby formula recall shortage.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for making the time for us for this important story. This whistleblower claims that Abbott staffers falsified records and didn`t clean areas they knew were unsafe. What worries you most about this complaint?

REP. ROSA DELAURO (D-CT): Well, we`re looking at -- first of all, thank you so much. Thank you for having me on with you this evening. What is clear here is that we are looking at, we have people are talking about the supply issue. This is supply and it`s about safety. And they don`t have -- they`re not exclusive. We don`t have to select one or the other.

The complaint by the whistleblower is very, very clear, and it`s a 34-page document, which I have read, which talk about the -- that Abbott hid information during a 2019 FDA audit. Lacks practices associated with cleaning up the environment, lack of traceability of the product to find out what was going on. How could they trace back? Selling a product that they knew was contaminated.

And they didn`t take any corrective measures. Just tonight at about 5:00, there was a Bloomberg article that indicated that in September, in September that the FDA began to get, as they were inspecting, there was indications of and traces of this bacteria.

[18:30:00]

So, the whistleblower sent the report in October of last year. The FDA did not interview the whistleblower until December.

And it wasn`t until February that they recalled the product. And you said it a moment ago, two infants die, several more hospitalized. So, you`ve got a bad actor, then Abbott Nutrition, Abbott Laboratories, and then you`ve got the slow walking, and not paying attention by the FDA, and putting babies at risk, and partly responsible for the shortage where families can`t get access to baby formula.

ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: Help us understand, Congressman, why you aren`t taking your concerns directly to Abbott, and when you do speak with the FDA commissioner later this month, what is it you want to hear from him on?

DELAURO: Well, first of all, I want to know, you know, -- I what you know why. There was no movement from October to December. And December to February. Why didn`t they take action? The information was there. They had -- they were had their own suspicions, as been verified this evening in this account from Bloomberg, that they had their suspicions in September. What were they -- why that delay?

Were they trying to protect Abbott`s? Were they concerned with Abbott and its profitability? Versus making sure that we had a safe product for families to have for their babies. Look, I`ve called for and there is going to be an inspection, a general inspector is going to engage both with the FDA and with Abbott. We need to get to the bottom of this. In the meantime, we have to seriously look at the supply challenges and what we need to do so that parents can get access to baby formula.

And we`re working on that. I`m looking at legislation. I`m looking at ways in which we can move the president made some -- I probably will get Abbott`s or come to the Hill to testify. I will do that. You know as well. So that we are at the beginning of this process to find out what has happened here. Why it happened. Because we cannot -- Abbott has the largest contract with the Department of Agriculture.

It`s about $1.7 billion. And they provide a formula through the women`s infant and children`s program, the WIC program. That services about 1.2 million children. We have to find out what happened and those who are engaged and involved in this need to be held accountable.

MENENDEZ: Congresswoman DeLauro as always, thank you so much for spending some time with us, bringing us this important story. Ahead, Ron DeSantis gets rebuked by a judge today. But first, the January 6 committee takes action. The political fallout to those unprecedented subpoenas to mega lawmakers. Michael Steele is live on THE BEAT next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:38:12]

MENENDEZ: We are back with the political firestorm over five Trump allies in Congress getting subpoenaed by the January 6 committee. Leader Kevin McCarthy, saying the panel is going after political opponents. Remember, he removed Liz Cheney from a leadership post. We`re trying to find the facts. And that was after a leaked tape revealing him telling Cheney he would ask Trump to resign. Cheney, saying it was not a decision that was taken lightly. And they have critically important information about the insurrection. Here`s Congressman Biggs on his subpoena.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you comply with the subpoena?

REPRESENTATIVE ANDY BIGGS (R-AZ): Well, I think this is an illegitimate committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that mean that you will not comply with the subpoena?

BIGGS: Well, I haven`t even seen the subpoena. I haven`t seen the subpoena. You have. Doesn`t that indicate something to you? It indicates a whole hell of a lot to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you thought about submitting evidence to your constituents and to the public that exonerate you from the claims that committee has staked against you?

BIGGS: So, you`re asking me to submit to prove a negative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MENENDEZ: And so, we heard that word legitimate again. But Trump`s own family cooperated with interviews. Here`s how it`s playing out on right- wing T.V. network.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PEARSON SHARP, HOST, ONE AMERICA NEWS NETWORK: The hysteria around the January 6 protests continues reaching new levels of insanity among the radical left. It`s a story that`s been thoroughly debunked repeatedly. And yet, Democrats and the mainstream media can`t get enough of telling Americans how Trump supporters nearly brought down democracy in a violent attack on the Capitol. Nothing could be further from the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MENENDEZ: Joining me now Michael Steele, former RNC chair and MSNBC political analyst. Like I have already covered the legalese of this. How do you see it laying out politically?

[18:40:00]

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR: Oh, it politically is a hot potato there`s no doubt about it. Look, the committee has thrown down the gauntlet. Now the question is, what is the value of a subpoena? You know, do they back it up? You know, a lot of the same folks that you have on Fox and elsewhere around the parties screaming about, you know, no one is above the law. And, you know, we got to, you know, adhere to the constitution of the first one to say, well, I`m not going to follow the subpoena.

Of course, I mean, that`s the point. So here you are at this moment where the party has to decide, how do we deal with this politically? Where`s the commission -- the committee is -- there is no politics here. The law is the law, you`re not above it, appear. Now the question is, will they enforce that as they would against any of the citizen who was subpoenaed?

The second point was the point you just came into this conversation about is the rest of the Trump family showed up. So, I don`t know what Kevin McCarthy and Biggs and all these other folks are complaining about. So, this is going to be interesting to see how this plays out in terms of enforcing it, and the resistance to that enforcement.

MENENDEZ: But I want to play some sound from Leader McCarthy today and get your thoughts. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): My view on the committee has not changed. They`re not conducting legitimate investigation. It seems as though they just want to go after their political opponents. But the one thing that has changed in America, higher inflation, that we haven`t seen since the 70s, an unsecure border, gas prices, and now we don`t have baby formula.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MENENDEZ: OK, so I subject you to that sound. Because you and I have been in politics long enough, we have watched enough politicians to know when a pivot is way too sharp, and way too focused, right? It`s like, it`s illegitimate, I`m going to make that claim. I`m going to make you just trust this thing. And then I`m going to go right back to my talking points about what I want to be talking about. Instead, it just reads to me as wildly transparent.

STEELE: Oh, it is transparent. I mean, look, I`m going to throw, I`m going to go start with the B.S., I`m going to pivot off of that into something that we`re doing nothing about. So that`s what that was, it was all gobbledygook, it means nothing. Because one, you don`t get to say what`s legitimate or illegitimate if it was duly constituted under the rules and the organization of the United States Congress. So, I`m sorry, I don`t care if you are a member, you don`t get to claim that.

And then two, you`re going to pivot to all of this laundry list of stuff that Republicans haven`t put a solution on the table to deal with. So, the public has said that they`re in going, OK, back to the subpoenas. Because that`s the thing that`s right in front of you. And no matter how much you put out the talking point, to call it the commission work illegitimate. And to try to pivot to inflation and all of that, you`re still going to have to account for what happened on January 6th.

And it takes me back to my first point, if this commission is not prepared to enforce the subpoena, that they have leveled put out there on the street today, then they might as well just close up shop and go home. Because if everything after that, if you don`t enforce it becomes harder to prove to the American people that you`re serious about getting to the bottom of this.

MENENDEZ: I would also add to your analysis that when you talk about January 6, as something that happened in the past a threat that was. It misses the piece of this, which is most critical and urgent, which is this is an ongoing threat. These are people who are in powerful decision-making positions right now.

And they`re still getting to do their jobs, in spite of what they did, right? To me, if you were trying to message this to a voter who maybe has not been paying as much attention as our viewers have, that suddenly becomes much more critical than something that happened a year and a half ago.

STEELE: Yes, it is. And you make an excellent point there. Because the reality still remains that if you`re going to go into this space, how you frame this, it matters. And in the problem for the framing for Republicans at this point is we saw it, we witnessed it. So, there are very few Americans regardless of where they are on the political spectrum. Who can say at this point, they have no idea when they hear the term January 6 when people are talking about.

Nor can they say I don`t have an opinion on it. And that`s the part that makes it much more difficult because at the end of the day, everyone does have an opinion. So, from a political space, how the Democrats outside of the commission, frame that narrative. Going into the fall, because this is the question, Alicia when you go into -- when you`re going into November election. Do you want to give the power back to the guys?

And the gals who almost overthrew the government, who claimed that there -- that this -- there was no, you know, legitimate election taking place that it was fraud? So that`s the question before the voters and that framing is going to matter over the course of the summer and into the fall.

[18:45:00]

MENENDEZ: Right, they didn`t just threaten our democracy they continue to threaten our democracy. Michael Steele as always good to see you. Ahead, MAGA Governor Ron DeSantis facing a big legal setback over voting, and it`s coming from a DeSantis appointed judge.

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MENENDEZ: MAGA Prince Ron DeSantis getting illegal smackdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VANESSA ECHOLS, HOST, WFTV: A judge has ruled Florida`s new congressional map drawn by Governor DeSantis as unconstitutional. The map which targeted two black congressional districts, Jacksonville and Orlando was expected to give Republicans a 20 to eight advantage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The DeSantis appointee agreed with plaintiffs, granting their injunction and suggesting the governor`s map is unfair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[18:50:00]

MENENDEZ: A DeSantis appointed judge rejecting him. Ruling his congressional map is unconstitutional because it would diminish the power of black voters. A map that was backed by MAGA Rasputin Steve Bannon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: It`s DeSantis and the guys down in Florida listening, talk to us what the map came out and this is 100 percent, the War Room and particularly all the great citizens down in Florida --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MENENDEZ: That guy, that`s who DeSantis is kissing up to. Steve Bannon and the ultra MAGAs. It explains his feud with Disney over the Don`t Say Gay Bill and his censoring math textbooks that he wrongly claims teach critical race theory. Now DeSantis is forcing Florida schools to teach lessons about the quote, victims of communism.

One critic pointing to the irony, quote, banning books, censoring schools, and cracking down on businesses that don`t share their political opinion, where Hallmark practices of the communist regime in Cuba. Joining me now Fernand Amandi, democratic pollster, and MSNBC political analyst. Fernand, we got a lot to talk about. So, let`s start with this map. It`s set to go to the state Supreme Court. What chances of success does this have?

FERNAND AMANDI, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, it`s the open question right now, at least you here in Florida, will the state Supreme Court which is completely controlled by Republican-appointed majority decide in overrule. The lower court`s ruling of this as being unconstitutional, which would in essence, not necessarily end the question, because at that point, I think what you will see is DeSantis, get this in the actual court and win and take on the actual fight he really wants, which is the Supreme Court.

He wants to get this in federal court because it serves a lot of different purposes for him. Obviously, the Supreme Court, we`ve now seen, I think, become a very politicized court, a court that has a clear conservative majority now. If this gets into federal court, as I think DeSantis ultimately taken, if the state court rules against them, it becomes an opportunity for DeSantis, again, to take on a big fight on an issue that he is trying to tell all of Republican MAGA base that he is the champion, he`s the one who will stand down any judge, any institution to do what he thinks is right for the Republican brand.

And even if he loses, he gets the benefit of that in the process. So, it`s a very concerning development, but one that if we`re being very honest plays right into the trap that DeSantis himself laid out when he did this in the first place. One other note, Alicia, that I think is so critical for all of us to understand, the very act of this map, I don`t think is oftentimes understood.

It is without precedent for a governor to overrule a legislature whose function is to design these maps. A Republican legislature, mind you, and draw his own maps. That is what DeSantis did in the first place. So, it is the ultimate test of his power and is in other sign of how autocratic the tendencies of this governor are.

MENENDEZ: You lead me exactly where I wanted to go, because we have this map issue. But I also want to get your thoughts on the irony of DeSantis governing as he is governing, and then trying to use the pain of those who have fled communism as a political motivator.

AMANDI: Let me get -- of course, part and parcel to what autocrats do, they will lie. They will use the jujitsu -- the political jujitsu, they will take the trauma of others and kind of use it as justification to get other things in place. DeSantis is operating in the autocrat`s playbook. He`s very much in the urban mode. He`s very much in the Fidel Castro mode. Ironically enough, he talked a wonderful game when he first took power in 1959.

And then when he had total control of the island, announced his intentions as a totalitarian leader for life. So, it doesn`t surprise me at all that DeSantis is willing to do this Kafkaesque irony of using day of communism when the very taxic -- tactics and approaches that he is using is out of the autocrat communist totalitarian playbook.

MENENDEZ: I want to quickly ask you about one more thing we know inflation is going to be an issue in these midterms. You have the New York Times op- ed, arguing that DeSantis his recent tax cut misses the point on this. A state tax cut just like a federal spending increase puts money into consumers` pockets which can actually feed the inflationary environment, rather than offsetting it. DeSantis` policies are set to make inflation worse. I mean, is he once again hurting his own constituents for political gain?

AMANDI: Well, yes, of course, he is. But he`s also very smart. And he`s allowing the Democrats to fall into the trap. Explaining inflation is what the Democrats keep trying to do. When this is really DeSantis exploiting the emotions around the issue. It doesn`t matter whether his policy prescription is at odds. He`s demagoguing, the issue, and I think Democrats need to understand that. That is the play that -- not just DeSantis but the Republic are doing on this issue of inflation and if they allow that to be the defining issue particularly when indeed gas prices are high, food prices are higher.

[18:55:00]

It`s going to be a problem, which is why it was gratifying to see President Biden just the other day, make the number one priority for his administration to lower costs. I think if it`s on those terms, the Democrats can win. But don`t play into the DeSantis hand of one policy prescription over the other because it`s one that`s not likely to connect with most voters.

MENENDEZ: Fernand Amandi, as always, thank you. I had calls for a federal investigation after police searched of HBCU team for drugs. We have an update on that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MENENDEZ: There are growing calls for a federal investigation into six Georgia deputies pulling over a team bus and searching Delaware State University`s lacrosse team for drugs. They found none. Tomorrow on THE BEAT we`ll talk with the team`s head coach who says it is racial profiling. That does it for me. You can catch me in American Voices weekends at 6:00 p.m. eastern. "THE REIDOUT" is up next.

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