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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 5/4/22

Guests: Jessica Arons, Terry O`Neill, Nick Akerman, Howard Dean, Alencia Johnson


Nationwide outrage over SCOTUS leaked draft to end Roe v. Wade that would eventually lead to the banning of abortion. Donald Trump`s won son testifying to the House panel further put down other allies` claim of privilege. Howard Dean join THE BEAT to talk about the GOP candidate winning the primary after saying he was stupid for calling Trump an idiot. Alencia Johnson joins THE BEAT with Ari Melber to talk about the protest across the U.S. after a leaked SCOTUS ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber reporting for you live from Washington, D.C. right here in front of the Supreme Court. And there is a lot of breaking news on more than one topic tonight.

Donald Trump Jr. we are just learning testifying, facing Congress in the January 6th Committee here, which undercuts so many of those privilege claims that are outstanding from MAGA allies. We`re going to get into that with a special guest.

Also there`s newly leaked audio of Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on tape discussing removing Trump from office, calling him atrocious. This was right after the insurrection. It`s of the tape out of that reporting that has complicated the Republican speaker -- would-be speaker`s position, I should say. The speaker issue hangs over him if he`d continued to be haunted by tapes that show him being basically against one of the most popular people in this Republican Party.

And that`s not all. We`re also covering tonight the earthquake out of Ohio where JD Vance wins the primary. From a never-Trumper to a Trump endorsement. We have a fact check and the vulnerabilities he faces going into a general election.

Now, we begin as mentioned right now live in front of the Supreme Court. The fallout continues, protests around the country. The bombshell leaked draft that would overturned Roe v. Wade.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How dare they? How dare they tell a woman what she can do and cannot do with her own body?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This has gone from being theoretical to being real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As Democrats focus on the potential ruling, Republicans zero in on the leak.

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There is a potential federal crime here. Conversion of a government document.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): They`ll fight for harder than anything else. And that`s sacrificing babies on the altar of bail.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: Wake up, America. Wake up to who you`re electing.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Supreme Court justices that frankly lied under oath.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Literally this protest has been growing exponentially.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not a salami sandwich. It`s a viable baby in the womb.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): There really is a weaponizing of religion in our country.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that`s existed.


MELBER: These are the stakes, and we`re joined right here at the high court now by Jessica Arons, senior policy counsel for reproductive rights with the ACLU, and Terry O`Neill, the former president of the National Organization for Women.

Welcome to both of you. Thinking about this as the nation has started to really understand what this draft ruling says, what it would do and how close we are to it coming out and becoming law, what`s on your mind tonight? And do people understand the gravity in your view?

JESSICA ARONS, ACLU SENIOR POLICY COUNSEL: Well, first of all, I want people to understand that today abortion is still legal throughout the country. If a patient has an appointment they should keep it. But let`s be clear, reversing Roe would be a mass criminalization event. When abortion is banned, it means that every pregnancy loss is subject to suspicion and investigation and potential arrest.

MELBER: When you read the opinion, did anything jump out at you about it?

ARONS: I mean, the opinion was breathtaking in its tone, its dismissiveness, its disregard for rights that people have relied on for nearly 50 years. And not surprising and yet astounding at how sweeping it is and the potential for all sorts of rights whether we`re talking about the right to have an abortion, the right to same-sex marriage, what`s happening with trans children right now. The right to birth control. The consequences are very sweeping.

MELBER: And what happens next? I mean we would get this ruling -- in whatever state by next month.

ARONS: That`s right. The court, the order -- the ruling will come out in the next two months by the end of June probably. And at that point about half the states are poised to ban abortion or start enforcing bans on abortion that are already on their books.

MELBER: Jessica Arons, thank you for leading off our coverage.

I want to turn to Terry as mentioned. This is the kind of outcome that your organization and other women`s rights groups have been warning about for some time. What do you see coming next?

TERRY O`NEILL, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: Well, I did have a wonderful conversation with Christian Nunez who is the new president of the National Organization for Women and she is already talking about activating now hundreds of chapters around the country. We need to do this at the grassroots level and Christian is determined to do this. I couldn`t agree with her more.

So I think we need a legislative fix to this, and we need that legislative fix to center the lived experience of women, especially marginalized women but also of women everywhere in this country.


You know, I read the opinion, the draft opinion. And what struck me is the total absence of any awareness of women`s lived experience in this very long document. The entire first half of the ban talks about conception, quickening, viability, childbirth as if all of these things happen in this disembodied space where women simply don`t exist. Nothing in the opinion about the hundreds of years in this country in which women have tried to gain equality, have tried to have the right to participate equally in multiracial, multicultural democracy.

No word of that. No word of how being able to obtain an abortion has allowed so many women to become lawyers and elected officials and doctors. Nothing -- no awareness of the basic humanity of women, of transgender people, of nonbinary people, of anyone who can become pregnant, no awareness that we are actual fully realized human beings. It is a -- it is an overwhelming document in that sense.

MELBER: As soon as this leak occurred it went off like a real bombshell. In Washington there was tremendous focus as well on who may have done the leaking and what that does to the court. Our initial coverage on THE BEAT last night we didn`t really focus on that because the impact around the country to people seems quite a bit larger, although that`s a separate and notable issue.

As you`ve been able to digest this here and these organizations that work on these organizations over the course of more than a day, is there a view the Alito draft is essentially what`s going to happen? Is there any concern, indication or thoughts that perhaps there is a different outcome possible still? Because it`s such an unprecedented situation we have very little to compare it to, which is to say other than clerks who are famously secretive, there`s very little we know about what would happen between the first draft in February and what I was just discussing here, what comes out next month, whether this could somehow be refined, changed or if they lost one of the five that there could be a different plurality make-up.

Given your longtime work on the issues what do you see as possible? Is the Alito draft what you`re bracing for or is something possible?

O`NEILL: The Alito draft is what we are bracing for and here`s why. They are concerned with power. They believe they have the power to simply push this through. Look, it`s not that different from the January 6th invasion of the United States Capitol, right? Trump and many people in his campaign believed they had the power to push this through. They thought Mike Pence was going to simply seize the power to actually perform a coup of our country.

So these right-wing extremists are using their power, and I don`t think they have any intention of backing off of the sweeping, sweeping opinion that says women don`t count, abortion is not about women, it`s about something else, us, our ability to control women. They think they have the power. They`re going to use it, period.

MELBER: Terry O`Neill, a longtime on this battlefield here around the country, thank you for joining us tonight.

As mentioned, this has been a top story here at the Supreme Court but we also turn to the breaking news regarding January 6th on Donald Trump Jr.

Donald Trump Jr., the former president`s son, testifying before the January 6th Committee for several hours. We`ve just learned about this today. It went down yesterday. It was virtual on Zoom, and it was voluntary. That`s interesting and actually bad for some Trump allies because it puts heat on the people who claim that there must be some sort of privilege that they can`t talk about because they were sort of in the executive branch or near Donald Trump.

But you have his own son saying, no, he`s going to cooperate. Bad news for Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro`s legal claims. They look more isolated with Trump Jr. facing this committee and thus facing it as a valid investigative process. And that`s not all. It follows Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner who also decided to testify voluntarily rather than making what for them could have been decent privilege claims given that they both worked in the White House for all four years. Ivanka Trump`s testimony reportedly helping the committee fill in a lot of gaps according to some reporting.

I`m joined by former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman.

Nick, more than one legal story in the news. I`m speaking to you in front of the Supreme Court because of that leaked opinion. And we have more coverage on that later tonight. But of course it`s also the institution behind me that ruled overwhelmingly against related secrecy claims by the former president, by the idea that these Trump allies could just avoid or defy this committee outright.


What`s your reaction to Don Jr. joining other family members here?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, my reaction is this. I mean, they are cooperating supposedly, but are they really cooperating? Are they telling the truth about what happened that day and that afternoon where we`ve got a seven-hour gap of phone records that don`t exist anymore? I mean, to me the critical issue here is what did Donald Trump know about the violence? When did he know about the violence? Because that is the key piece that puts him in the soup.

The violence was critical here because at that point in the day Donald Trump knew that Mike Pence, his vice president, wasn`t going to stand up and go along with this plot to reject the votes, the electoral votes from the various battleground states. So the only way they could actually stop the count at that point and try and get this back to the states was through the violence. So what did Donald Trump know about it?

We do know that, yes, Ivanka`s gone in and testified, Jared has gone in and testified, and now Don Jr. But I guarantee you they have stone walled this on the issue of what Trump knew about the violence and when he knew about it.

MELBER: Right.

AKERMAN: This is exactly what happened in the Watergate investigation. Everybody came in --

MELBER: Well, Nick, we have some -- Nick, we have some clues, though, because Don Jr.`s texts leaked. And it would seem unless you`d think it was an elaborate hoax at the time. It would seem that when he was privately talking to Mark Meadows, he thought the violence was bad. He thought it should stop. That makes him interestingly a kind of familial witness against his father who did not act like it should stop, did not intercede during the violent emergency, which gives context to the other bit of news I mentioned, more tapes from Kevin McCarthy where he talks about the atrocious conduct o Donald Trump.

Again, may be easy to forget a year or plus later. But at the time, days out of the 6th, Kevin McCarthy thought Donald Trump would need a pardon for crime. Let`s take a listen to that new tape.


JOHN LEGANSKI, HOUSE REPUBLICAN MINORITY LEADER FLOOR DIRECTOR: You know, I think the actions that have been cited by the Democrats so far are the 25th Amendment, which is not exactly a solution here.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): That takes too long, too. It could go back to the House, right?

LEGANSKI: Yes. Correct. If the president were to submit a letter overruling the Cabinet and the vice president, two thirds of vote in the House and Senate to overrule the president. So it`s kind of an armful. Obviously impeachment has been discussed, and then I got to think they wanted him to resign which I don`t see happening either. But members are talking about it.



AKERMAN: Yes, well, clearly Kevin McCarthy at the time thought that what Donald Trump was doing was inciting the violence, was criminal. But it comes down to what you can prove. I mean, Don Jr. is not going in there and saying that my father was inciting the violence and trying to push the violence in order to stop the count on the electoral college votes. What you see is an e-mail where he basically almost says this has gone too far, politically this is not good for you, it`s time to call off the dogs. That`s what he`s saying. He`s not saying that there was no violence.

MELBER: Well, let`s -- I`m going to jump in, Nick. No, I think that`s a fair point but let`s unpack that a little because you`re referring to that very bad text. I mean, it looks bad because he says -- he warns this will define my father`s legacy. That`s a bad thing. And what we have now a year and a half later is this is the legacy they`re defending, Nick. I mean how does the committee and ultimately the DOJ look at the fact that the public statements since that time show an embrace, a move towards the criminal rioters?

AKERMAN: Well, I think that`s right. I mean, what we`re seeing is -- I mean we don`t know all the tools the committee has at this point. We don`t know what they have about Donald Trump`s knowledge and what he knew at the time this was going on. But, yes, I mean, I think that`s where this evidence is heading, and that`s what they`re looking for. Even with Peter Navarro, it all started out by him saying that they didn`t like the violence because it kind of screwed up their plan to stop the electoral college vote.

Well, that`s not true. I mean, this is all part of a concerted effort that started right from Peter Navarro. I`m sure that Ivanka. I`m sure that Don Jr., and I`m sure that Ivanka`s husband went in there and said nothing about Donald Trump`s knowledge about the violence.


I mean, it is -- to me what they are doing is a PR stunt. They`re trying to put on the best possible face they can on this -- for Donald Trump, and they`re going in a line just like a lot of the witnesses did in the Watergate trial, Watergate investigation.

MELBER: Yes, final --

AKERMAN: And then wound up being prosecuted for perjury. Keep in mind that what they`re saying --

MELBER: And the final question I have for you, again -- well, Nick, I want to get in one more thing.


MELBER: I know we`re on a slight tape delay because I`m out here in the field, but the last thing is you mentioned Watergate where there was initially a united kind of wall of opposition and the cracks came. Do you see anything here where -- how can it be that Mr. Meadows and Mr. Navarro and Mr. Bannon who awaits trial have valid claims to executive privilege if the president`s own family who worked in the White House waived privilege? I mean, which is it?

AKERMAN: There`s no executive privilege here. There is no executive privilege for plotting an insurrection and a coup. End of story. And the Supreme Court dealt with that back in 1974 in the Nixon tape case. I mean, that is just a bogus issue and something else that they`re hiding behind in order to not come forward with the truth. And if they use that then they`re going to lie and perjure themselves. It`s one or the other.

So I think what you`re going to find here is a lot of this evidence that`s being gathered right now including all of this testimony is going to be sent to the DOJ once this committee has completed its report. This is exactly what we got from the Watergate committee during our investigation. All of the testimony, all of the interviews were all turned over to the prosecutor`s office, and we used that in terms of our investigation and prosecutions.

MELBER: Counselor, as always appreciate your expertise and experience. Good to see you, Nick Akerman.

There`s a lot going on in the country. The Republican Party dealing the earthquake out of Ohio. We have a former Democratic Party chair, Governor Howard Dean, on what happens in Ohio and the problems for the Republican Party, next.



MELBER: Turning to major politics news. The big Senate race that pitted Ted Cruz and some Ohio conservatives against a billionaire funded never-Trumper ended with quite a bang last night in Ohio. JD Vance riding his last-minute Trump endorsement to win the Senate Republican primary there. This was a highly watched race. It was viewed by some as a kind of a test of Trump`s power in a key state. And some of the initial reaction from some pundits argues that Vance winning shows Donald Trump in charge. And yet it is a lot more complicated than that. Indeed, there are signs of some vulnerabilities within MAGA here once you get past some of the headlines in reporting.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a victory for JD Vance, Laura, it`s also a victory you cannot sugar coat this for Donald Trump as well who endorsed JD Vance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The voters turning out in droves for Trump-backed candidates in many cases.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, the guy -- I think everybody Trump blessed won.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It shows Trump still has significant sway within the Republican Party.


MELBER: Almost like a tweet the president would have written himself if he were still allowed to tweet, which he may be again soon. But when you get past that kind of simple sloganeering, well, Donald Trump jumped in and the Trump guy won, so he must be great, well, there are actually signs the last-minute endorsement while it helped was not the only factor. Because Trump also and his aides have admitted this is part of the process has lately been trying to jump on the bandwagon of candidates that are on their way to win anyway, which is just smart politics, he`s not the first person to do that, but it doesn`t mean he was the cause. He may just be the correlation.

So that odd political marriage also highlighted Vance`s hypocrisy which matters in the general election. He hasn`t won anything yet. He`s just the nominee. Vance denounced Donald Trump as a noxious idiot. He likened him to a Nazi at one point and he embraced Trump and the big lie by the time it was all over, which raises questions for Ohio voters about who JD Vance is in the first place. He also campaigned with Matt Gaetz and Q-rep Marjorie Taylor Greene.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: He`s the guy that said some bad (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about me. He did. He`s a fearless MAGA fighter, and most importantly JD is supported by me.

JD VANCE (R), OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: I`ve absolutely got to thank the 45th, the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Thanks to the president for everything, for endorsing me.


MELBER: Thank you for being a friend, and you have the results that came in. Vance netting just over 30 percent of the vote. Now, Matt Dolan was seen as a kind of anti-Trump Republican candidate. He had can came in at 23 percent or in another way to put it a majority of people in this split up race were not for JD Vance.

Then look at the governor`s race when an incumbent Republican actually went against a lot of Trump orthodoxy. He rejected the big lie, he`s seen as something as a moderate within today`s party and he did just fine, beating three pro-Trump Republicans in that primary by 19 points. Now as an incumbent it`s also complicated because he has other advantages.

Primary season is just beginning in most parts of the country. What you`re seeing here is not the ending where Donald Trump controls all these races but something more like an open clash with someone who if nothing else understands PR and how to try to go with the hot hand. Take it all together and there`s something really important happening.


There are never-Trumpers publicly converting to Trumpism basically saying to voters I admit it, I don`t stand for anything. That`s what they`re saying. And the question is, how popular is that especially past primaries? And how does that affect them in a general election when issues like everything we`ve been covering behind me where a lot of moderate conservatives and some Republican voters don`t welcome overturning Roe v. Wade or our concern about inflation or the war in Ukraine or other issues.

Are they ready to turn to someone who`s basically saying their main qualification for office is their willingness to eat all their words if it pleases Donald Trump? Does any of this hurt Vance in the general election?

Well, we turn to someone who has managed exactly these kind of challenges for the Democratic Party, the former DNC chair, Howard Dean, who joins me when we`re back in 60 seconds.



VANCE: I got to say a lot of the fake news media out there, and there are some good ones in the back there. There are some bad ones, too, let`s be honest. But they wanted to write a story that this campaign would be the death of Donald Trump`s America First agenda. Ladies and gentlemen, it ain`t the death of the America First agenda.


MELBER: JD Vance at his victory speech in Ohio. I`m joined by former DNC chair Howard Dean. The question here, who is JD Vance? And does his rhetorical contradictions hurt him in a general election?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIR: Well, JD Vance is a second writer who got lucky because (INAUDIBLE) wrote a book about the same subject. He`s in a much better job. He`s also a huckster. He and Josh Hawley I put in the same category. A lot of B.S., not much loyalty to the United States of America, slick.

Now, you`ve asked all the right questions in your lead in, and the answer is nobody knows the answer to these questions. Unlike 2016 where I thought Trump might win, I actually hope that Trump is the nominee this time. He is incredibly divisive, he exhausts people. He`s in deep criminal trouble and it`s going to take a long time apparently before that gets sorted out. But I also think his brand is wrecked.

First of all his brand is in bad shape except for his base, and your analysis of the numbers of Vance`s races is -- it was a very weak field. Josh Mandel has lost three -- I mean, people look for excuses not to vote for Josh Mandel. He`s a toxic candidate, and then the other two guys got in a fistfight. So look, I don`t make a lot of this. I do think Trump is shrewd and he`s endorsing the two people he thinks is going to win, threw Mo Brooks over the side in Alabama because he thought Mo wasn`t going to win which is probably true.

So -- and then he`s got the stink of the Supreme Court which is now no longer seen as a politically legitimate organization by the majority of Americans. That`s a terrifying thing for the state of our democracy. So we`re in big trouble, and I do ultimately have faith in American voters that they can tell when we`re in big trouble, and we are in big trouble.

MELBER: Well, to paraphrase you, Doctor, you say we`re in big trouble and you don`t have the answers. So not the most encouraging opening to the conversation but --


DEAN: Well, look --

MELBER: To be honest I want to -- go ahead.

DEAN: No, I was just going to -- Ari, the answers are in the American voters. This is their choice of what kind of country they want to live in.


DEAN: There was a brilliant article this week about the Republicans essentially adapting the same tactics used by Viktor Orban to depart -- have Hungary depart from the state of democracy. That could happen here. It`s up to the American -- the only people that can stop this are the American voters and they`re going to get a chance in about five months.

MELBER: Right. Yes. I understand what you`re saying there. As for JD Vance, I mean you could run ads in Ohio targeted with people who think Donald Trump is a North Star and just run the old stuff, not the new stuff.

Where J.D. Vance skewers him, I`m going to play a little bit of this for you. We have both so people can make up their minds about it. But, gosh, you know, you could really just politically say this is what a never Trumper he`s been. And people can process that. And if you can`t trust someone, then how do you want to give them more power?

You mentioned institution behind me where I`m reporting from, we`ve been covering this we have more on the leak draft opinion that would overturn Roe later in the program. As you say, if you can`t trust justices, when they say under oath. They say at the time, Roe decided it`s a super precedent. And now we`re reading a draft that says, it`s always been wrong. Well, which is it? Did you perjure yourself, and that goes to the point you raised? So, with that in mind, here is J.D. Vance, then and now.


J. D. VANCE (R-OH), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: There`s somebody who doesn`t like Trump, myself. The elites were right about Donald Trump, right? I`m a Never Trump guy. I never liked him.

He`s the best president of my lifetime. And he revealed the corruption in this country like nobody else.

I can`t stomach Trump. I think that he`s noxious and is leading the white working class to a very dark place.

I think that he was a good president. I think he made a lot of good decisions for people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you`re not a Trump supporter, from what I`ve read. Am I right? Is that a fair assessment?

VANCE: Yes, I didn`t vote for Trump.

All around. He was a great president. I`m 37 years old, certainly the best president of my lifetime.


MELBER: Howard?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR: Look, that`s going to hang up some to a certain extent. But what really matters is what kind of a campaign Tim Ryan was. This is the first race in Ohio in a long time other than Sherrod Brown`s race where I thought we could win this. I think we can pick up a Senate seat. Tim is running as a working-class guy is going to look, he is going to run those ads. But he has a message that I think the country badly wants to hear and in Ohio was a plus-eight Trump state. So, this is -- he`s got his work cut out for him. But I think it`s a winnable race.

Partly because I got to believe that eventually, you know, Ohio is a -- I like Ohio. I spent a lot of time in Ohio when I was running for president when I was DNC chair. Fundamentally, the people from Ohio are decent, thoughtful people. At some point, decent, thoughtful people can`t vote for shysters, and people like J.D. Vance or Josh Hawley, or any of his other collection of god knows what the hell`s the matter with them.

MELBER: Yes, governor, everyone knows what a big Wu-Tang Clan fan you are. I mean, it`s kind of your thing. So, I`m sure you remember. When they would say cream cash rules, everything around me, dollar, dollar bill, y`all. And that really seems to be what`s happening with billionaires taking more control of everything in America from the economy, which makes sense. That`s where they are. To the democracy, to social media, that`s so powerful. When you look at the acquisition of Twitter. Peter Thiel is someone who might not be as famous as Elon Musk, but he was a Trump guy from the beginning.

He poured money into this race. I just want to look at one headline here about -- because we only learned this kind of after the fact is, you know, $10 million that we know of to Vance millions in the final stretch, some of which wasn`t really, under our laws known to Ohio voters. Now, we in the press talk about Mr. Vance. We talked about his endorsements. Those things matter. But how much does these 10s of millions of dollars that can go through the super-packs to benefit one candidate matter? Is there a nominee Vance, without this billionaire backing?

DEAN: Well, that`s a major problem to you. We have probably not seen as much corruption in the United States since the 1920s. The last time that billionaires were running everything. There was some with Joe McCarthy in the 50s. Although the Republican establishment eventually did stand up for him, although they interestingly, they look -- they had the deer in the headlights look, then too. A lot of people were afraid of Joe McCarthy. Finally, some really courageous people stood up and Eisenhower finally said what he privately thought was, the guy needs to go and he did and that was the end of them.

But this reminds me of the 1920s. A lot of very wealthy billionaires and not everybody else is doing so well. It ended up with a great depression. We`re going to head heading for a train wreck right now. And the truth is autocrats don`t know how to run anything. And if you don`t believe me, look at the mess Putin got Russia into. So that`s what we`re going to choose in this next election and then one after it.

Do we want to live in an autocracy where somebody else gets to make the rules for women, for poor people, or for people of color? For kids who happen to be transgender? I think this kind of stuff is disgusting, and I`m betting the American people`s decency ultimately will prove that and if they don`t, we`re done. America is over as a dream. I still am an optimist.


MELBER: Well, you`re bumming me out a little bit but it wasn`t, you know --

DEAN: The stakes are enormous. I`m not bumming. I think Americans can pull this out. But let`s not mistake the stakes. What`s at stake here is the existence of the United States of America as the idea, the imperfect as it was when we all came over in 1620, and afterwards. That`s what`s at stake.

MELBER: And that -- I mean, look, you do -- I`m not, you know, people who watch the program. No, I joke around a little, but I`m dead serious about this stuff that matters. And you are tying it all together in an important way, which is the validity of the institution behind me the question of actual democracy and self-governance, question of whether we`re going to respect people`s rights and try to live as a pluralistic society or go backwards. This is all what`s on the table. So, governor, we`re lucky to have you repeatedly. I hope we continue the conversation, sir.

DEAN: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you. When we come back, I have a breakdown on what`s happening in the building behind me and why men are constantly trying to exert this power over women, and what the law should say about it. Stay with us.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don`t want our uterus to be a political playground. That`s the bottom line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god, GOP. What the --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want laws to protect us. I don`t want to have to keep doing this.


MELBER: Just some of the protesters we heard from today, the second day that we`ve seen these spontaneous gatherings here at the Supreme Court. And I`m joined now by Alencia Johnson, a senior adviser to the Biden campaign and founder of a social impact agency 1063 West Broad. Thanks for being here today.


MELBER: We spoke to folks today and yesterday. This is a gathering outside the court, but we`re seeing gatherings around the nation. What do you see in the reaction and the potential mobilization if this draft ruling comes down the way it`s written?

JOHNSON: You know, I think people were expecting for this to be the decision. But we haven`t really galvanized on the fact that this is actual, the reality. And so, what we saw on Monday night is people going into the morning, not just here at the Supreme Court where we`re sitting, but all over the nation, telling not only members of Congress, but also their state legislatures, their governors, that this isn`t something that they want to happen, and that this has immediate and dangerous impact on so many people, especially low-income folks and women of color, people who live in rural areas. And so, people are fired up.

MELBER: You mentioned income and class. Justice Ginsburg famously talked about this, that when you look at the way these things work, it is for women, and often women of color or low-income women who bear the brunt of this. What does that mean, around the nation?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. And that means that Democrats, to be honest, as we`re talking about what it means to protect reproductive health care access, abortion care access, has to think of the most marginalized, and folks who typically don`t have a voice in this conversation. They are women of color, low-income women, poor women, immigrant women, you name it all over the country scared inline already in some of these states that already have bans, and they`re trying to figure out, what am I going to do or how am I going to get to an abortion care clinic in case this goes into effect.

MELBER: Given your background, I want to let you respond to something that a different activist said to us last night here in front of the court, Biden, and Harris, quote, aren`t doing enough. Your response?

JOHNSON: So, I had the honor of working on the Biden-Harris campaign, and I`m going to be very honest with you. I think they were tepid until Vice President Harris last night at the Emily`s List Gala. But they could have been a lot more forceful, up until this point. I would have loved for President Biden to say abortion more than he has, I would have loved for him to be fired up as one of my other former bosses, Senator Elizabeth Warren was because this is the fight of our lives. And if we lose access to abortion based on the way that the Supreme Court is talking about it, we`re going to lose access to so many other pieces of our bodily autonomy.

MELBER: Really appreciate your candor, your perspective on this. What is according to many protesters we`ve heard from, a very difficult time. Thank you for being here.

JOHNSON: Thank you for having me.

MELBER: Alencia Johnson. And ahead, I have my break that I want to share with you of how we got here and the power and gender dynamics and laws passed overwhelmingly by men.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I brought my 17-year-old daughter because we`ve always talked about since she was a little girl that you stand up for what is right, even if you`re standing alone. But today we`re not alone. And that is feels amazing. It`s like we`re going back in time. And you know, it`s about young ladies like her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s just so scary, like genuinely very scary.


MELBER: Strong emotions here that we heard from people at the Supreme Court today. We heard especially from women, we emphasize how their bodies and choices would be controlled by men, primarily under this draft ruling to overturn Roe. We heard that and it`s true. There are some aspects of abortion and the right to privacy that can certainly be complex.

But the power and gender dynamics are not. They are both blunt, pretty clear. And they`re often patently unfair because the attacks on these rights have long run through and via a sexist system of government power, from overwhelmingly male legislatures to a legal system that`s long been dominated by men, including the building right behind me.

Indeed, one of the key laws that tried to narrow Roe and made it all the way back up to this high court came out of Pennsylvania in the 1980s. It was signed into law by a Republican governor and passed by a legislature that was 96 percent male. Just four percent of that legislature was made up of women. And it was that law which both reaffirmed and reform parts of Roe`s original protections. In the landmark Planned Parenthood versus Casey -- case, pardon me.

Many Republicans were mad because Reagan had run against abortion and run on reshaping the courts. But He also pledged to put a woman on the high court searching for a conservative who would uphold the party`s increasingly strident pro-life agenda. Remember, it was President Reagan who put the first woman on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O`Connor. When that major case I mentioned Planned Parenthood reached the court.


It was really a clash between all those men who wrote the law and now a court that would have this final word. And that case was decided by one vote. And it was O`Connor`s. She was a Republican appointee, a Reagan appointee. But you know what? Let`s be clear. She was also a woman, first woman on the court.

And so, she exercised her judicial power to uphold Roe. And she wrote the main three parts of that majority opinion. It was O`Connor who wrote, that modern women came of age in a world with quote, Roe`s concept of liberty, defining the capacity of women to act in society and make reproductive decisions for themselves and quote, for themselves.

Meaning, instead of men making reproductive decisions for women. That is what O`Connor was warning against. And while there are certainly many more women in government now, even recent attacks on abortion seem to follow this old trend. Take the Mississippi law that illegals` new draft opinion backs. It was passed with 89 percent of its legislative support from men, Alabama, that ban take a look, 100 percent. 100 percent of its supporters were men.

That`s the statistic, that`s the data. You can also see what that looks like in a pic from just last year in Texas. Look at this, take this in. The Republican governor signing a rule controlling women`s bodies in a room full of mostly men.

Texas, his gender imbalance in government has been pretty stark like that for such a long time. Just look at that. Look at the thousands of men in those legislatures over the years. Now, even before the draft ruling is out. We`re seeing other states act. Yesterday, the response to this leaked draft came as the male governor of Oklahoma signed a new six-week abortion ban into law. As for Justice Alito`s draft. But we`ve read it. It denies these realities that I`m reporting on. Now, we don`t know yet. If any of the five justices that were on his side in February, we`ll push back to his written plan. But I want you to understand tonight before we go that he writes in the plan.

That once Roe has ended, all abortion rules and bans should get a green light from the courts. They should be cleared under the lowest standard. They should be passed. He says just on a rational basis. That`s the lowest standard there is. Why such a low standard. I`ll tell you, in this draft opinion, Alito quotes a case that mentions the goal of preventing abortion and states it`s not automatically sexist in his view. He refers to quote, invidious animus against women and says these rules don`t have that. And he says because of that going forward, court should OK abortion laws by that low standard that I`m telling you about.

So, Alito overturns precedent after claiming to respect it. He says this entire opinion is neutral on the issue of abortion. When -- come on, everyone can see it`s not. And then he claims this is not about power and gender at all. But as I just showed you, it is. Justice Alito`s claims as written are not true. So, for all the talk in Washington about a leak, endangering this Supreme Court, it`s not just the leak.

It`s actually the substance, the sweeping actions in the draft itself, that could ultimately undermine the integrity and honesty of this Supreme Court far more gravely, while perpetuating a clash over gender, power, and human rights that could be with us.

Well, as long as some in power insist on restricting other people`s liberties in ways they would never do when governing themselves. We`ll be right back with one more thing.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is so important to be out here and using our voices to defend the unborn and to you know show the Supreme Court that America is ready to finally have justice for the preborn and to overturn Roe v. Wade.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women should not have the right to an abortion. You don`t have to be pro-abortion to be pro-choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone has a choice. And so, we should all be given that choice. It`s our right as an American.


MELBER: Just some of the protesters we heard from, that was all from just a little bit earlier today. We`re seeing crowds continue to gather after this rare leak of a draft opinion and many wondering what comes next. The court tends to issue all of its opinions by around the end of June. So, we will know soon whether this draft, a different version of it, or a different ruling comes down. Now before we go tonight, we`ve been covering a lot of the legal and political news but there is a grim milestone on another topic.

Today is the day the United States has passed one million COVID deaths. That`s according to our NBC count, we are just over two years here into the pandemic. The first COVID death recorded February 29, 2020, in Washington State. Since then, this pandemic went through every city in town in America and around the world. It has affected so many people in so many ways and hurt families around the nation. That includes, I should note some family members of our colleagues right here on THE BEAT.

These are tragedies that leave a wound. They leave families grieving, and they leave us in the business of telling stories struggling to do that, how do you tell the story of these numbers whether it`s that one person that`s dear to you and your life, or the thousand more you may know of in your community, or a number like a million that we really struggle to even understand. So tonight, we mark that. We think of each other, and we remember what we`ve gone through and the road we have to go through ahead. Good evening.