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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/29/22

Guests: Melissa Murray, Joan Walsh, Will Sommer


Threats against FBI spiking as Trump allies talking about riots and civil war after previously condemning riots and protests during Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd`s death. Trump`s lawyers struggling to find the right defenses over classified documents seized from Mar-a- Lago, filing a request for a special master to review for executive privileges weeks after the search. The Nation National Affairs Correspondent Joan Walsh joins Ari Melber to talk about the GOP triggered by Joe Biden`s semi-fascism comment. Daily Beast Politics Reporter Will Sommer joins Ari Melber to talk about two guilties in the theft and sale of Ashley Biden`s diary to a right-wing media group.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Thank you so much for letting us into your homes during these truly extraordinary times. We are so grateful. THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Hi, Ari. Happy Monday.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Happy Monday. Thank you, Nicolle.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber. And now a Trump ally is directly threatening riots and unrest if prosecutors do go forward and eventually indict Donald Trump.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It`s all about getting him. There literally will be riots in the street.


MELBER: That is what the escalation sounds like now. It`s an apparent threat with Trump then amplified in a new post of that same clip to his followers online. You can see there. And this is not just anybody talking, it is a Trump ally, lawyer, and top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so he knows better than to just blithely talk up, warn of violence and crime as retaliation against whatever happens in the criminal justice system, which no one including him knows what will happen.

Senator Graham going further than most Republican senators. Indeed, many have lately been trying to duck much attention over Trump`s secret document scandal. But what is different about Graham? Well, Senator Lindsey Graham is also a witness and a potential participant in Donald Trump`s 2020 election plot, which remains in a criminal investigation in Georgia. Graham trying to fight lawful orders to testify there, so he has at a minimum a conflict.

Now, Graham carefully avoided linking his own legal pressure in Georgia to this new apparent warning or threat. Instead he argued there`s some sort of double standard about secret documents, which is the federal case, not the Georgia case, and he argues that if Trump were indicted on that charge, the riots would be concerned about the double standard. They would be about that.


GRAHAM: Most Republicans, including me, believes when it comes to Trump there is no law. It`s all about getting him. And if they try to prosecute President Trump for mishandling classified information after Hillary Clinton set up a server in her basement, there literally will be riots in our street. I worry about our country.


MELBER: There literally will be riots in the street, he says, and uses his platform to push that idea, and then adds this idea that he`s also just sort of concerned, that this is something he worries about, that it`s a bad thing. He would seem to leave himself that escape hatch. But let`s cut through it, shall we?

The key is the threat that is issued with certainty. There will be riots. Now it is wrong to argue the justice system should respond to or give a veto to criminal and violent attacks in response to whatever it does. Now, Graham was picking that one case, but he didn`t go on to say there would not be riots if Trump were indicted on a different case, say the case in Georgia where Graham has his own legal headaches.

And the wider heat here suggests that there is pressure on Trump, that he could be indicted in any number of cases, federal or state. There are veteran experts who see a road to charges, which may be why we`re seeing such virulent pushback. Take Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann.


ANDREW WEISSMANN, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: I have to say my -- when I read this today, my big overarching takeaway is, and I know this is just a prediction and speculation, but I`d say it`s an educated one, is that the former president is going to be prosecuted.


MELBER: Mm. Educated view from someone who`s done these kinds of cases, but that may or may not happen. We don`t know. What we do know is that Trump allies are apparently concerned about what Weissmann is saying. They agree with that perspective, or they think it is at least more possible now than it used to be. And they also apparently, some of them think they might scare prosecutors out of doing what they would otherwise do, out of this potentially likely indictment.

Here`s an actual lawyer representing Trump coming close to sanctionable conduct if you take the word mayhem as a reference to violence.


ALINA HABBA, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: At the end of the day I think that would cause so much mayhem. That would be a monstrous mistake.


MELBER: Mayhem. Now why do Trump`s allies sound like this? It comes all the way from the top. Recently. I`m not talking about any throwback Trump history. In this recent controversy, Trump sent an improper message intended as a secret backchannel to Attorney General Garland saying he`d been checking in with people and found they were enraged by the search. Trump then suggested that he would turn down the heat with some mobster- style idea.


Quote, "The country is on fire. What can I do to reduce the heat," he asked, according to the secret backchannel, raising the question, what else would he do to turn up the heat? I mean, if he has such a clear control over the thermostat.

And there`s more detail on how Trump views Garland as someone he can muscle and negotiate with. In today`s "New York Times," and the wider context right now is the serious violence in our country. The ongoing surge in threats and attacks against the FBI including those fomented by Trump allies, including calls for a, quote, "civil war" and, quote, "armed rebellion."

Take it together and you have actual violence and planned attacks cheered on by Trump after this violent insurrection with a demand that he is above the law or there will be mayhem, riots, people will pay, maybe people will die.

It is brazen. It is also revealing tonight. Just as we`ve reported for you on how the same conservatives who demand people just comply with police in seconds or face violence or death go on to say Trump should get months, even though he never complies with law enforcement in this current standoff, well, there`s an echo of that here, because today`s mounting threats of violence or warnings of riots by Trump allies are shredded by their own lectures against alleged unrest, looting, or riots in response to actual police violence.

And when police kill people, like when they killed George Floyd, that`s a long ways from, say, a potential lawful indictment carried out peacefully. So let me get specific with you as we try to do around here. I give you the facts, you take them where you want to go. You remember after the officer killed George Floyd in what a jury of his peers later found to be murder. And there were many, many peaceful gatherings around the country.

There was also a portion of gatherings that involved apparent or documented trespassing, looting and some violence, and it was Republican leaders who loudly condemned any such rioting and looting. Now you can have a mathematical appraisal of what percent of that conduct was planned, what percent of it was part of a political organized national agenda. It certainly wasn`t threatened by any major party leader the way Trump and Graham are talking.

But however much it did happen, it was the thing that Republican leaders seized on that summer and condemned and proclaimed it was a matter of principle. And let me tell you, today that looks hollow, as hollow as Lindsey Graham`s claims that he shouldn`t have to testify because he`s a politician.


GRAHAM: Being upset with what happened to Mr. Floyd is absolutely all American. Trying to occupy part of a city and turn it into a socialist enclave, not.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): We always respect the rights of peaceful protesters but anarchy, rioting and looting we have zero tolerance for.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: We are not animals. We are Americans. In the fact of such indecency we must resolve to be decent.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Every one of us has an obligation to distinguish peaceful protests from the violent riots that continue to see innocent people hurt.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): But the destruction and the looting and what I just heard on your reporting has got to stop.


MELBER: Yes. Violence and riots are wrong. Responsible leaders condemn them. So what do you call leaders who claim to be against them and then all but threaten them when they are legally cornered?


COTTON: Rioting and looting, we have zero tolerance for.

GRAHAM: Being upset with what happened to Mr. Floyd is absolutely all American. Trying to occupy part of the city and turn it into a socialist enclave, not.

It`s all about getting him. There literally will be riots in the street. I worry about our country.


MELBER: Now, the bad news tonight, this is not a drill. You see the way they`re talking. You see how obviously hypocritical it is, how it goes to larger problems in their ability to function within a rule of law society with equality between all people and all races.

This may get louder and more serious and more dangerous before we`re through with it. I told you that`s the bad news. The historical news, though, is that prosecutors have faced all of this before. Prosecutors, attorneys general in both parties have led prosecutions of El Chapo, of al Qaeda, of ISIS, of brazen terrorists, murderous gangsters, 9/11 plotters, and some of the most notorious and methodical killers that have ever been discovered in not only American history but the history of the world because there are people like El Chapo and the syndicate he ran where it took American prosecutors to really finish the job. It`s what they do for a living.


When people openly court violence to try to corrupt their investigations, well, this ain`t their first time. It might anger a prosecutor personally, though that`s never supposed to impact their independent legal decisions, but it certainly does not shock or scare them. They are trained to keep doing their job against exactly this kind of crap. And to do their job against all the forces who apparently would prefer to live in a land where thugs call the shots in their own supposed investigations or mob violence becomes a veto over the rule of law.

All for politics or racism or whatever sense of society they think would be a better place to live. But there are plenty of examples of what it looks like in places around the world that have that without rule of law. America, on its good days, is not supposed to be one of them.

We turn now to someone with experience in exactly the independent administration of the law, the former U.S. solicitor general, Neal Katyal.

Your thoughts on what is a very serious phase in all of this.

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: I really appreciate it, Ari, your discussion so far because politicians can`t embrace this kind of rhetoric. I mean, it`s a very scary turn for the nation when politics start defaulting to threats of violence if the far-right doesn`t get its way. I don`t think you get to say, oh, I`m worried about riots or riots are going to happen and not even condemn it or anything, as some of those excerpts you just said.

And I think it`s also just fundamentally wrong. Our system is obviously strong enough to handle an indictment of former President Trump. I had the privilege of serving as special prosecutor in the George Floyd murder. And it`s no secret that people said those kinds of things. We couldn`t prosecute these four cops without there being riots in the street and the like. And I am so proud that the people of not just Minneapolis but the people all across this country, because we brought that prosecution. One cop has already been convicted, others are being tried now, and justice is being done.

And if there`s any doubt about kind of, you know, corruptness of the criminal justice process, as Donald Trump is trying to insinuate, just remember, first, the federal judge has already found probable cause to believe that Donald Trump has committed these crimes. Second, if there is indictment, there will be a trial, not just in front of judges but in front of a jury of Donald Trump`s peers and of course Mr. Trump has the ability to appeal it all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, where, as he, you know, likes to remind people, he put three people on there. So, you know, the idea that that would be unfair and that you need to riot over it, absolutely not.

MELBER: What do you think you`re hearing when some -- not all, but some of these MAGA allies suggest riots had to be condemned around the summer of George Floyd and all of that, as I showed. But here, riots in their logic seem to be something they`re saying, the justice system or prosecutors must weigh in their minds and then avoid if people break the law, that they should avoid enforcing the law? It`s hard logic to follow as I said because it is thuggish. I use that word deliberately.

KATYAL: Yes, it`s thuggish, it`s garbage. As George Sergeant said in the "Washington Post," Trump world right now is walking a line between predicting violence and actively threatening it. I think that`s exactly right. And the reason for this is because Donald Trump has no defense whatsoever. We`re three weeks into the search now. He has not given one explanation for what in the world he was doing with highly classified and sensitive national security documents involving human spies, electronic intercepts and the like. And Donald Trump is not a quiet guy, so, you know, that silence speaks volumes.

MELBER: Yes. I mentioned some of the reporting, reading a little bit more here, new from "The Washington Post." It says Trump wants to find roadblocks. He amplified Lindsey Graham`s suggestion, and basically says where Graham was rationalizing possible violence, Trump appeared to be threatening it. Recent history suggests when Trump nods at such violence, some of his base takes him very seriously.

And that`s written really diplomatically, Neal. I don`t know how much farther one has to torture themselves in terms of grammar and sentence structure. It`s 2022. They took him literally when he said, come to Washington, overthrow the election results. We know what we`re dealing with.

KATYAL: Exactly. I mean, January 6th is a perfect illustration of all of this happening. And, you know, if there are people who think, oh, you know, let bygones be bygones, and so on, just the events of the last three weeks demonstrate, you know, the risk of not bringing a prosecution.

Now I don`t think that`s all that`s going on here, Ari. I think that actually this affidavit that was released on Friday paints already, just in the redacted version that we didn`t get to see a lot of it because a lot of is blacked out, but paints a such a damning picture of President Trump that I think a federal criminal indictment is very, very hard for Donald Trump to avoid at this point, because the affidavit shows he stole these documents.


He lied about it. He refused to give the documents back after the requests for more than a year. He refused to give them back even after they search and found highly classified documents on the premises, and now he`s thumbing his nose at the Justice Department, the FBI, you know, threatening violence and the like. I think it`s impossible virtually for the Justice Department to look the other way given all of this that`s happened.

I don`t think Garland wants this, but I think Trump has dug a hole so deep that even though there`s reluctance to indict a former president, and it`s certainly never been done in the history of this country, but all those things I just read to you are things Donald Trump has done for the first time. No former president has acted this way.

MELBER: Yes. No, you lay it out. It`s really important.

Neal Katyal, thank you for being our leadoff guest on this. I appreciate it.

We have our shortest break, 60 seconds. When we come back, we dig into how Donald Trump is clashing over those documents but also the defense team nightmare. We`re back in one minute.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Brian Kemp is a turncoat, he`s a coward, and he`s a complete and total disaster. RINO Governor Brian Kemp --


TRUMP: And we`re going to replace him with a very strong person and a fearless fighter.


MELBER: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has concerned Donald Trump for a while. He is a conservative Republican, but apparently not willing to steal votes for Trump. He rejected the unprecedented plot to try to get a new legislative session convened to overturn Trump`s loss in that state. That`s the only thing Trump cares about. It`s not a clash about policy, it`s just this guy wouldn`t steal votes him.

So the governor who stood up to some of Trump`s efforts to do that now ordered to testify. A judge compel him to talk about the Trump election issues in this probe. It`s a procedural victory for that Atlanta D.A. who recently made Giuliani show and testify, and warned him he`s targeted for indictment. Giuliani has not revealed whether he got into details or pled the Fifth, which is his right.

The pressure continues, though, on other Trump related witnesses like Lindsay Graham who we covered at the top of this very broadcast. It`s real heat on Trump in a criminal probe where there aren`t many cards left to play. It`s in a jurisdiction Trump does not control with local lawyer who know the law and he needs them, not randos from around the country, and as I just showed with judges not always, but repeatedly siding with the prosecutor on many of these measures.

Well, that`s enough to keep you busy. Then it`s running alongside the federal headaches for Trump with the top secret document scandal that continues as the U.S. is assessing the damage over the stolen documents, which include those human sources for intelligence gathering, which means real people and spies who risked their lives to gather info. And there are concerns even more records may still be missing.

It`s been now 21 days since FBI agents seized those documents and it`s about also about 10 days since a lawyer who rejected Trump`s request to represent him told us about the idea of requesting a more independent special master review of the seized material. We discussed that at the time. It was something that Trump lawyers would have needed to do immediately to work. Well, after that interview, a Trump lawyer did request that very step in a different courtroom but requesting a special master which has drawn some support from that judge. But as discussed on live TV at the time, as a practical matter it`s probably too late.


That`s what we said then. Well, today, the DOJ confirmed it, noting that it`s already reviewed the documents that might be filtered out and it`s already put them aside. A, quote, "limited set of materials that could contain attorney-client information." Now it doesn`t make a big difference who reviews those materials. A lot of it is government property which Trump would never get back if it was properly seized.

But making the request so late that it`s moot is a type of incompetence. And there are some Washington veterans who say that`s coming from Trump`s lawyers.


JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: If you look at his legal team, it is comically inept and inexperienced.


MELBER: Reporter Jonathan Karl laying out Trump`s problem and how his own allies are concerned.


KARL: One of the big concerns here is that Trump has nobody defending him. All of the big names who defended him through the first two impeachments, through the Mueller investigation, they are gone.


MELBER: It`s true. Trump has stiffed many employees. He`s had problems getting lawyers before. We`ve reported that. But it is measurably worse now. He`s out of power, he`s facing more serious probes than before, and think about it like this. Even in the worse moments of the Mueller probe, there was no federal legal path to charges, to indicting a sitting president. We emphasize that in our coverage, and I know a lot of you know that because I would be out walking around and something people would bring up to me more than anything else during the Mueller probe was, why?

How can it be you could never charge a president? And we`d go back and forth, talk about the memo. People knew this. So the worst case then was still better than the worst case now, where Trump faces these possible charges in D.C. and Georgia with a legal team scrambling to find an argument as "The New York Times" reports on today`s front page. We reported on Friday about the newly revealed letter from a Trump lawyer which only came out in the court filing. That`s the one Neal was referencing earlier in the show, but that newly revealed letter may have actually done more harm than good for Trump.

It locked in in writing, and the fact that there was never standing order to just randomly declassify materials, which I guess is one of the made-up excuses his team later claimed. And the letter really came across as a short three-page hodgepodge. It`s a hard word to pronounce. Hodgepodge of contested legal theories which got the law wrong, conflating past powers as president with Trump`s role as a private citizen as "The Times" reported.

And it was more about selling a political narrative than facing the possibility of prosecution. You take that all together, and you have a kind of problems you really need a lawyer for and a lot of signs that he doesn`t have enough lawyers, the right lawyers, or -- no shade -- but the best lawyers?

Well, we have a good lawyer on hand. NYU professor Melissa Murray is going to get into this and more when we`re back.



MELBER: We are back with NYU Law professor Melissa Murray.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Do you find that a request for a special review or filter or master review of documents is best done before they`re reviewed or afterward?

MURRAY: It would typically be a more common request if it were made at the front end of this rather than two weeks later when it seems the Department of Justice has already had an opportunity to perform that review. So this will be a very interesting hearing on Thursday when Judge Cannon will have to grapple with the fact that this work has already been done, and she`s being asked to appoint yet another person to take on this at considerable government expense.

MELBER: Yes. And I mean, I don`t want to, you know, diminish everything, but it doesn`t make that big a difference at this point. In the instance where you have a good argument for a special master because there are really sensitive issues, and I think there`s a fair argument for that in this case. The reasoning, the implication is that somehow someone on the government`s side can`t be trusted so you want that extra layer. So here, the people that you allegedly don`t trust have already had at it for two weeks.

Do you see this, as "The New York Times" reports, as a sign that the lawyering team over there is not yet fully organized?

MURRAY: It could be the case that this suggests some disorganization on the part of his team, or maybe it is actually a delay tactic. I mean, it could be the case that Judge Cannon decides that in the interest of transparency, making sure the optics of this look right, that she will actually appoint a special master and just have a secondary review. That of course delays all of this and drags the process out even longer. And, you know, if you`re crazy like a fox, maybe that is exactly what you wanted to have occur all along.

MELBER: But you`re not suggesting lawyers would try to make anything take longer than it should. I mean, that would -- I can`t, I don`t know.

MURRAY: Well, they shouldn`t. As a matter of judicial economy, they`re really not supposed to do that, but again, this could be disorganization or it could be a strategy that has been executed exactly the way it`s intended to.

MELBER: I mean, I practiced law. I saw -- I saw some occasional dilatory tactics. Moving forward having had some saddle fund here with it. There`s also the standoff with the attorney general which we`ve walked through. And there`s reporting in the Times, which again, you say, well, who cares what Trump says or thinks, you know, he`s lying, he`s on defense.


But it matters, I would imagine and I`m curious what you think on the prosecutorial side of what they`re dealing with, because this is an adversarial process, that they`re dealing with someone who according to the Times, today, quote, Trump sees Garland, not as the federal government`s chief law enforcement officer, but merely as a political foe. And it says that`s part of why he is approaching this the way he is.

They don`t have to accommodate anything that in this case, the target of a search or someone who may be the target of more thinks. But this is a special situation, most potential defendants don`t have Secret Service protection, most are potentially taking over the government again, if he were to run and win, and that shouldn`t corrupt the investigation.

But just your views of what it means that they`re dealing with someone like this, and how should they go forward with the DOJ investigating the documents and the coup?

MURRAY: So, I think it`s difficult to represent a sitting or former president under the best of circumstances, it`s obviously a very delicate kind of situation for most lawyers. I think it`s even more complicated when your client who is the former president is also one who has very clear ideas about how he should be represented, and about what he is facing.

And again, someone who often throughout his presidency did not seem to be able to draw a distinction between law and politics and rather conflated them both. I mean, again, these filings that have been filed before Judge Cannon the first filing read like a political rant, the second filing was a little bit better.

But again, made some legal arguments that were kind of unnecessary, given the fact that none of the charges or none of these statutes that were implicated in the search warrant actually required classified material to have been retained. And that was all they talked about the whole prospect of declassification and the retention of information that had been declassified by the president.

So, you know, a lot of this is that this is a group of people who are working under difficult circumstances, they`re fighting a lot of different fronts, there are a lot of different prosecutions are likely prosecutions or possible theories of legal exposure, and they have to fight all of them, and they probably don`t have the biggest team.

Maybe not even the best team, as you say. And they`re doing it and I don`t really know what more to say, than that. I would not want to be Donald Trump`s lawyer, but apparently, Evan Corcoran does.

MELBER: You know, we call that in school, Melissa.

MURRAY: A mic drop?

MELBER: Yes, I was going to say facts, interchangeable. Good to see you.

MURRAY: Good to see you as well, Ari. Thank you.

MELBER: NYU professor Melissa Murray, given us the facts as always. We turned to accountability later, we`ve been talking about the suits against Alex Jones against Fox News. Now there`s another with accountability in a case involving someone trying to steal the diary from President Biden`s daughter. So, it`s really something. But coming up, Biden triggering MAGA world and a new announcement. Stay with us.



MELBER: President Biden is planning a speech Thursday, outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It`s going to be about something big. The soul of the nation we`re told to fight for democracy. These are themes that you may be quite familiar with.

But the current president is often talking about the economy, fighting inflation, dealing with Congress, not always doing the bigger picture stuff. Of course, we all heard when he went on offense calling some MAGA Republican semi-fascist and drawing reactions like this.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): The fact that the president would go out and just insult half of America. Effectively call half of America semi-fascist, because he`s trying to stir up controversy. He`s trying to stir up this anti-Republican sentiment right before the election. It`s just -- It`s horribly inappropriate. It`s insulting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Biden was attacking Republicans generally. He was not talking about the people who assaulted the Capitol that sits to the south of us here. He was attacking the entire party.

(End VT)

MELBER: As for the entire party, well, we`re seeing some shifts and I always tell you. The polls can come and go but multiple polls Gallup, NBC, CBS see an improvement for Democrats and Biden`s approval which has not been great throughout his administration. We`ve reported on that.

Especially with inflation is now up about six points over the last month. That`s a record high independence is where he is gaining ground. We are now joined by friend of THE BEAT and national affairs correspondent for The Nation magazine. Joan Walsh, welcome back.


MELBER: Great to have you. What do you think is happening here with Biden doing something that, if anything, some progressives think he doesn`t do often enough, which is speak about this democracy stakes at a time where something -- I can`t say I know what, but something seems to be changing or breaking through over the summer.

WALSH: Something is changing, and I don`t think Democrats should get overconfident not that they will. But you know, we`ve got 10 weeks until the midterms, if we talked 10 weeks ago, we`d be having a different conversation. But I think the fact -- it`s really remarkable that we saw in the last week or 10 days that threats to democracy rose to be the top political consideration for Americans polled.

At a time that -- yes, inflation is getting better, and gas prices are going down but still, there are economic worries. There`s the war in Ukraine. There`s lots of things to be worried about. But this is breaking through, this semi-fascism and if I can just push back on my friend Karl Rove, he did not say this about all Republicans, you know, he`s not talking to you, don`t talk back to him. He talked about MAGA Republicans.


He talked about, I would include folks like Lindsey Graham, who`s now threatening violence, which is a hallmark of fascism. But he didn`t -- he wasn`t talking about all of his old friends in the Republican Party, so they can kind of calm down, and perhaps denounce people like Lindsey Graham, denounce other people who are threatening violence. So, it`s, it`s a good time to be Joe Biden, and he`s having fun, you can see that, you know.

MELBER: And a lot of what we`ve seen in the Republicans was the not completely off the wall premise that if things still fell off post- pandemic, economic jitters, prices surging, that they didn`t have to, quote, do that much going into these midterms, they might just say, hey, other guys promised a lot. A lot of stuff sucks.

You know, that`s, that`s a journalism term, Joan. A lot of people feel things still suck in various ways, especially for working people in this economy. And they thought they could ride that and then you have Roe, you have an inflation bill pass, you have a kind of an accumulation of things that seem to be changing the premise of sit back and let Biden implode.

WALSH: Right, and I think the student -- the student loan forgiveness as part of that, too. I know it`s controversial, but it`s very popular with the Democratic base. And it`s popular with young people, and I`m glad you got around to doing it. We can`t overstate the striking down of Roe, Ari. You, and I have talked about this coming for years.

But I think the fact that it`s been so horrific so fast, with you know, preteens being victims of rape and incest, having to travel across state lines to get abortions, women with ectopic pregnancies not getting care. Women with miscarriages. It`s just been so cruel.

I think that a lot of we`ve seen voter registration rise among women and also among young men. You know, I feel like young men kind of get the sticks of this too. So, a lot has changed for the Democrats in the last eight weeks. But there`s still a long way to go before the midterms.

MELBER: When you look at the so-called potential semi-fascism, allegedly or whatever one wants to call it certainly is, as reported factually an embrace of certain tactics. Here`s Adam Kinzinger, a Republican who like Liz Cheney, had a break with the party. Take a listen.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Somehow in the Republican Party, the cruelly -- crueler you are, the more likely you are to win a primary. I think Republicans are in real trouble because we have no leadership. This is the problem, Chuck. So, Kevin McCarthy isn`t leading. He`s asking what is Marjorie Taylor Greene want me to do. Mitch McConnell is just trying to save the Senate. He`s probably not going to do that. We have no leaders. And no wonder our base basically believes everything Donald Trump says.


MELBER: I`ve got just 30 seconds, Joan.

WALSH: Well, sadly, I guess he`s headed out of there. And so, as Liz Cheney, and when you see someone like Chris Sununu, who used to be kind of a little bit centrist. He didn`t want to run for Senate because he thought the party had gone MAGA crazy. Lying like that on T.V. You know, they`re all going in that direction, Ari.

So, I don`t see much in the Republican Party that encourages me. I think it`s going to have to come from Never Trump Republicans, and of course, Democrats and Independents, and I think it`s coming.

MELBER: Yes. Joan Walsh, we wish you a happy end of summer. Thanks for being here.

WALSH: Thank you. You too.

MELBER: Absolutely. Coming up, we turned to a story that we have not hit yet. This accountability movement. We`ve talked about it with Fox News defamation, Alex Jones paying a price. This is a news story about an organization that is doing a lot to push lies but getting in trouble over one of their sources who tried to steal the diary of the president`s daughter. Next.



MELBER: We`re seeing a reckoning about disinformation in America. Alex Jones, we covered that case since it began, well, he was recently hit with 50 million in fines basically for lying knowingly about Sandy Hook victims to enrich himself. Fox News has not yet been hit with those level fines, but it`s had some real procedural chin music that`s already led to some corrections.

And it`s still as an open billion-dollar-plus lawsuit for defamation about the election. Now there are legal developments in a case that really is striking. Considering what happened and involves the theft and sale of President Biden`s daughter`s diary. The New York Times first broke that story last year, and it took on a life of its own.

Since then, the Feds are looking at the involvement of a very controversial right-wing group, Project Veritas. They have been caught up in scandal, lies, deception. They say they`re just doing a new school, hardball style of media or journalism. Others say differently.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The conservative group Project Veritas --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which attempts to discredit -- discredit liberal groups and news publications by using selectively edited covert video recordings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Founded by James O`Keefe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A guerrilla journalist has already stirred up a lot of controversy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A man who wants pled guilty in a money laundering scheme.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: O`Keefe is known for helping release an undercover video attack on Planned Parenthood. Before that, he was known for targeting ACORN, a community organization group.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a history of doctoring video to advance his ideological agenda.


MELBER: Now two Florida residents are pleading guilty in a case that connects to Project Veritas, although it hasn`t implicated them in a crime yet, I`ll explain. They are now convicted of stealing Ashley Biden`s diary, which they sold to Veritas. The Feds investigating though whether there was a criminal conspiracy among a handful of individuals to steal and publish the diary.

At least one of the convicts now agreeing to cooperate against reportedly others. The group admits they purchased the diary but denies any criminal wrongdoing because they didn`t, they say ultimately published the materials. They have not to be clear been charged with any crime.

I`m joined now by Will Sommer. He reports for The Daily Beast. He`s the author of Trust the Plan, which explores the disinformation of QAnon, as we`ve said before, he has picked topics that most people might not want to spend years on. And for that we salute you. Welcome back.


MELBER: As you and viewers will note in the introduction, I was very careful about what lines have not yet been crossed. But a lot of scummy, you know, dirty kind of stuff. I don`t think you have to be a huge ethicist to say, don`t steal and sell people`s diaries, unless there`s some great overriding, you know, other public interests that you have in mind.

They didn`t even publish this thing. But the case seems to be heating up in interesting ways. For viewers who may have heard about some of this disinformation, but not all of it started at square one, what`s going on here?

SOMMER: Sure. So, this story relates to something that happened back in 2020, a very little-known right-wing website, not connected to public -- Project Veritas published Ashley Biden`s diary, and I mean, it really was not a news story. It was really sort of a reprehensible thing to do. I mean, these are details that she`s talking about her struggles with addiction, really your emotional life.

And so, this traces back to how that diary came into the public view. And these folks have pled guilty, they essentially stole the diary from Ashley Biden had left it at an apartment in Florida, they stole it. And according to their guilty plea, they tried to sell it to Project Veritas and indeed succeeded and received $40,000.

Now we`re Project Veritas on James O`Keefe might be in trouble here is that there are a lot of First Amendment protections for journalists reporting on stolen documents, where you get in trouble is where journalists are directing the theft.

You can`t do that. I mean, you can`t run sort of interstate crime ran. And that`s what this indictment alleges that Project Veritas had a role in directing these people to go steal more documents more of Ashley Biden`s possessions. And I think that`s where they could really get in trouble.

MELBER: And with regard to that, they`ve already dealt with the criminal justice system a little bit and then done. The thing we`ve reported on happens a lot, which is they go on Fox and say, oh, my God, did you know that police conduct searches? Here was that version of it.


JAMES O`KEEFE, FOUNDER AND CEO, PROJECT VERITAS: I woke up to a pre-dawn raid. I went to the door to answer the door and there were 10 FBI agents with a battering ram, white blinding lights, they turned me around, handcuffed me, and threw me against the hallway. I was partially clothed in front of my neighbors. I wouldn`t wish this on any journalist.

(End VT)

MELBER: What is -- go ahead.

SOMMER: Oh, I just going to say certainly echoes of the Mar-a-Lago raid or it reminds me of Roger Stone`s arrest where these people act like, whoa, like the FBI, you know, didn`t call me and tell me they were coming.

MELBER: Yes, exactly. Right? And so, you have that aspect. What I was going to ask you is just what is the criminal exposure they currently have on the group side and what do you think, judges or whatever indications we have so far.

What do the experts make of what may be in fairness a claim that even if folks strongly disagree with their tactics, or their ideology? There are protections for journalists, it`s not supposed to just weed out, leave them out of it, say the National Enquirer if, you know depending on the story and the context, they may be protected for certain things.

SOMMER: Sure. So, Project Veritas does a lot of things that I think the average journalist would not do. They go undercover. They will construct these fake identities. Back when James O`Keefe was raided last year, and other people associated with his group. I think a lot of press freedom groups like the ACLU, Committee to Protect Journalists.

They said, hey, you know, let`s be careful with your FBI because this looks like really an unwarranted or, you know, an unfair raid. However, I think it`s more of these details come out, particularly with the guilty plea from these two folks last week. I think people are kind of trying to -- starting to change their perception of this.


If true, I -- you know and obviously no one from the group has been charged at this point. But if true if they did direct these steps that would go take on even, I think the most generous interpretation of the First Amendment.

MELBER: Yes, I mean the press pass might get you closer to the stage. It certainly doesn`t Trump the law. If you then started trying to say I got this pass let me direct crimes, but again, that has not yet been alleged or proven directly. Will Sommer, there`s an interesting case on your beat that we coming -- keep coming back to you for. Thank you.

SOMMER: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: When we come back a change in the war on drugs. Stay with us.


MELBER: The war on drugs remains one of America`s great challenges. And yet we have learned a lot about how to change it legally, culturally, and maybe politically if it comes to a different approach like what Eric Holder argued in being smart on crime.

Tomorrow, I have a special piece on that brand new that I hope you`ll turn into THE BEAT for or DVR us and remember you can always find me by going to on social media. I told you guys that, it`s the best way to connect with me or @AriMelber and I sometimes write back. Thanks for joining us on THE BEAT. THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts right now.