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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 9/19/22

Guests: Will Sommer, David Rothkopf, Jackie Alemany, Eleonor Clift, Jenifer Lewis


Bizarre Ohio rally where former President Trump embracing extreme QAnon conspiracy. President Biden`s approval rising, GOP in disarray over abortion rights. Tom Barrack is accused of obstruction, lying to the Feds, and acting illegally as an agent of a foreign government. Jenifer Lewis a veteran actress, comedian, and singer-dancer joins THE BEAT with Ari Melber to talk about art, justice, and happiness, and share how the pandemic led her to rise in anxiety among the U.S. youth.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: We are grateful. THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber, and these midterm campaigns are in high gear.

I think we`ll be able to show you the scene in the crucial swing state of Ohio over the weekend. This was a rally for one of the Republican Party`s key candidates. You see Jim Jordan talking. JD Vance was the star of this rally. The Wall Street investor and author, who spent years publicly warning the Republican Party about what he said was the danger of Trump who he once likened to a potential fascist leader in America.

Vance then recounted, he embraced Trump, he got his endorsement, then he got the nomination for the Senate race, and that may all sound familiar for today`s Republican Party. What is different in this rally is how Vance, a Yale graduate, sat by as Donald Trump used the Ohio midterm rally to go quite a bit farther than he has before in this cultish alliance with this dangerous, sometimes amorphous group called QAnon, which has consolidated its power on the extreme far right by pushing lies that frankly at times sound so bizarre and absurdist that you could underestimate how serious they are and what a following they`re building.

I`m not going to try to repeat or let alone amplify all of them, but among them is the claim that certain Hollywood actors and certain Democrats are actually some sort of secret pedophile group aligned with the actual Satan or that they are also cannibals who eat children. It goes on like that. I`m not going to do much more of it for you tonight. But I`ll tell you why this is the top story. What does all that have to do with, say, these midterm campaigns other than maybe villainizing a few Democrats?

Well, one of the theories is that Trump will lead this sort of cataclysmic battle against some of those forces, and by the way, there are many different versions and iterations of these conspiracy theories. It matters in many ways. You may recall right after Donald Trump was elected, a gunman opened fire in a Washington, D.C. restaurant under the deranged belief that that act would somehow help children allegedly enslaved there in a plot linked to Hillary Clinton.

It was at times called pizza-gate. So this is national news now starting this week. But you need the backstory I just gave you to understand I think the full danger of this story. The backstory is that the themes and emblems and sometimes secret references are sometimes an embrace of this political propaganda. And as I showed you, it ranges from bananas, if you hear about these ideas and these theories on, say, an internet comment thread, to profoundly dangerous when you see armed people walking the streets, believing this stuff, acting on this stuff.

But Trump used this new rally to directly embrace this. It was very clear, it was clear to the Trump fans on site at the rally. And we could tell it was planned. For example, Trump and his aides used rally music that matched a QAnon theme song, as "The New York Times" reports, which then prompted the crowd to go into a bizarre gesture that you see here. You might not know what you were watching or it might look like other terrible gestures throughout history, but this is the crowd raising single fingers in the air, citing the one in the QAnon song that was played by the former president at the rally.

"The New York Times" continues in their report to say it was this rally that I`m telling you about, is the first time in the memory of some Trump aides that they had such a display at the rally. They know all about QAnon but it is now in the house. And these people that I just showed you with their hands up, they`re in the loop, they`re in sync with the propaganda, the hand gestures, the icons, and Trump told them their journey had only just begun.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: My fellow citizens, this incredible journey we`re on together has only just begun, and it is time the start talking about greatness for our country again.


MELBER: Every hand you see hoisted as he addresses them is a person who either knows exactly what they`re referencing or is joining the crowd. And the crowd, the group think, the mob mentality, the herd, that is all a part of this.

Now as I give you this news, our top story tonight, if you or someone watching as a skeptic, you might say, these developments sound like things that may not completely involve Trump. An aide could pick music. Crowds will do what crowds do. A skeptic might say, well, it`s not like Trump is out here wearing a QAnon pin and directly personally engaging the conspiracy theories. That`s what a skeptic might say. But he is.

You can see Trump literally wearing a QAnon pin with those words on the bottom of the screen, the storm is coming, here on a recent Donald Trump post, which you might not see if you`re not on Donald Trump`s social media platform.


The A.P. has summed up Donald Trump`s recent activities and actions here with the headline that Trump is openly embracing and amplifying QAnon conspiracies. The examples are piling up. There`s the more personal visual embrace after Trump posted this other barrage of QAnon related material just last month.

Now let me tell you, there are plenty of recent Trump posts and statements and rallies that we do not choose to report on, that we do not find newsworthy. And if you don`t want to know what they were up in Ohio, this is a free country. If you`re watching in America, you can tune out. But to be informed heading into these midterms, it is worth knowing what the choices are. And this is not just some story about Donald Trump. It does involve him.

But right now on the ballot, it`s a story about the main lining of weaponized lies and hate in the Republican Party and the government of the United States by people who know better, like JD Vance, who`s on the ballot in these midterms, and it`s proven that he knows better because he told us he knew better when he wrote a whole book warning against exactly this. He wrote at times eloquently about the dangers not only of Donald Trump as a person and a symptom. But he warned about wider problems of how hate and hard times and poverty can create a brew where people are focused on falsehoods and blame because of the pain they may actually really feel in their lives.

Tonight, here`s the bad news. This level of lying and propaganda is associated with attacks on democracy and the rise of authoritarian movements. Here`s the good news, those kinds of movements usually need lies because when the truth is out, they`re widely opposed. Most people do not want to live under repressive regimes or have to put up with movements that are based on ending democracy or having some MAGA big government system make choices for you, for the rest of us, while lying to you with some made-up, ridiculous, bananas, but at times dangerous stories about the phantom pedophile enemies, stories designed to scare you into submission so you have less freedom and less liberty and a far worse life.

When most people see that truth, separate from a lot of other political divisions we still have, the vast majority of people do not choose to live under those kind of people and systems. The truth still matters, but it must be reported and defended.

This is our top story, and we have two special guests. I`m joined by Will Sommer, politics reporter for "The Daily Beast" who has reported on and chartered QAnon closely. He is working of a book, "The Rise of QAnon and the Conspiracy that Unhinged America, Trust the Plan." And David Rothkopf, foreign affairs expert and host of "Deep State Radio," the podcast, and someone we rely on at times with the international view as we might learn from mistakes that have occurred elsewhere.

Welcome to both of you.

Will, with that observation and warning, what do you think is important about what happened at that rally and what it means?

WILL SOMMER, THE DAILY BEAST REPORTER: Trump really quoting and embracing QAnon in a way that he`s never done before. I mean, going back to the 2020 election, he was making all these positive comments about QAnon but just in the past week or so we`ve seen, you know, they`re playing this QAnon song at a rally even after it`s been reported when he posted similar video that it is QAnon songs, so we know that.

He`s posting all of these kinds of messages on Truth Social. And as you can see, I mean, it`s still a little mysterious what people were doing when they were doing that finger thing. We`ve never seen it before. But I think a couple of days later it really seems like a QAnon message. And at the same time, this is -- in a two-week span, a QAnon believer, that all this is happening, a QAnon believer murdered his wife and shot his daughter because of his beliefs. And so, I mean, this is very dangerous stuff that Trump`s playing with.

MELBER: David?

DAVID ROTHKOPF, HOST, "DEEP STATE RADIO" PODCAST: Well, I think, you know, QAnon is worrisome because it deals in strange conspiracy theories and it appeals to fringe people in our society who`ve actually taken to hurting one another. And so those are big reasons to fear it. But I think there are two others. One is that Trump, as he gets more and more in a corner legally seems to be going farther and farther to the extreme, and that ought to worry us a lot. There`s no chastening of him as he comes up against the potential of being held accountable under the law.

The other thing, though, is QAnon is a subset of a type of authoritarian movement that we`ve seen elsewhere around the world.


We saw it in Italy with the fascists and Mussolini. We saw it in Germany. We`ve seen it in many places where somebody denies the truth, says that they`re going to provide their own truth, identifies scapegoats, says that people are out to get them. And ultimately that leads to authoritarianism, and your point about people wanting to hear the truth is correct, but if you`re inside the right-wing bubble right now, the truth you`re hearing is Trump`s truth. Now that`s QAnon truth. And that`s scary.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned that, and Donald Trump is not known for his avid gathering of a great range of information from a great range of sources around the world. But on the flipside, he is adept. And if he thinks something will align with his self-interest, he will stay open to it even against all warnings, advice, and other concerns. So even when this was raised while he was president, he always seemed game. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The crux of the theory is this belief that you are secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Does that sound like something you are behind, or --

TRUMP: Well, I haven`t heard that, but is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? You know. If I can help save the world from problems, I`m willing to do it, I`m willing to put myself out there.


MELBER: David, as you know, most American presidents in both parties have asked, were they fighting cannibals in some giant clash they would dismiss or pivot. He was ready for that just like as he learned about the Proud Boys, he was ready. The Proud Boys.

You mentioned other countries` experiences because there is such a nexus between attacks on truth, getting people to reject all outside sources and certain type of authoritarian movements. What are the lessons in your view about stopping those movements before they are out of control?

ROTHKOPF: Well, the lesson is doing what you`re doing right here. You know, Hitler referred to the Lugan press, or the lying press. It was his equivalent of the fake news that Trump uses. And the reality is people have got to get through to them. I think they have to get through to them in a variety of ways, media, direct social contact, but I also think it`s very important that the institutions of our society stand up and been the lies, whether that`s holding Mike Lindell accountable when he accuses a firm of cheating in the election or it`s the congressional January 6th Committee talking about the big lie and the fraud associated with that.

So it needs to be a full-court press because as we`ve seen the deeper and deeper we get into the era of Donald Trump, the more and more people are buying into these things and, you know, we haven`t had a big repudiation of this from the establishment Republicans.

MELBER: Far from it.

ROTHKOPF: Something I find particularly unnerving.

MELBER: Yes. No, you make -- yes, you make an important point, David. I was just agreeing with you. From far it. Again, as a matter of factual reporting you`ve had a lot of nod and wink, or I don`t know about that. And you have had certain government proceedings, like this SCOTUS confirmation hearings, where it is certainly fair, by the way, to ask a judge about their sentencing and people could debate whether given defendant or a convict got the right sentence so that does happen.

But the sheer volume and obsession, Will, on issues of sentencing around child sex crimes, child pornography and pedophilia, with a very serious, rightly justified punished crimes, the sheer volume was reported at the time seems like certain senators trying to do a nod and a wink of using their government power to speak to this group.

My question for you, Will, is you`ve spent about years around reporting on this, right?

SOMMER: Yes. That`s right.

MELBER: So a lot of folks when they hear about this, when I say, well, the theory is that there were the children held in the basement and if you got through the restaurant you would find -- the theory is there are cannibals in there, or again, I don`t want to pick out any particular person but again saying this is not true, it`s a Tom Hanks is a secret cannibal is one of them.

OK. When people say to you, Will, well, certainly it`s not like millions of people believe this. They don`t really believe this, do they? What is your answer based on your reporting?

SOMMER: I mean, look, they do believe it. Often I can kind of sound like a conspiracy theorist myself when I`m insisting that this is a real issue. But we look at polls, you know, on the lower end that stay 3 percent to 5 percent of people polled, which is still millions and millions of Americans. On the higher end, we`re in the 10 percent, maybe 17 percent, 20 percent, you know, believe at least some aspect of the satanic pedophile cabal thing. And, you know, one thing I really want the flag here is this aspect of the storm.


And, you know, as David mentioned, there`s really this fascist utopian dream at the center of QAnon. They think this storm is going to happen, and that`s when Trump is going to execute all his enemies, he`s going to send people to Guantanamo Bay. So when Trump is posting something that says I am the storm or the storm is coming, you should imagine -- you can read that as saying, like, I`m going to execute Tom Hanks. I`m going kill all these Democrats, I`m going to send Barack Obama to Guantanamo Bay.

This is the kind of just cooky stuff we`re dealing with. And I think people often sort of reflexively want to dismiss it and act like it`s not a real issue. But look, we saw on January 6th, Ashli Babbitt thought she was there for the storm. I talked to plenty of people who thought that was the moment and really it`s not going away and Trump is making sure of that.

MELBER: Yes. As you mentioned, your reporting showed this, and David`s warnings show this, those ideas in people`s heads turn into actions and the quantum of that is very important and dangerous, because if X million believe it and then X percent act on it, that`s when you get towards what is an actual crime spree, a crime related execution of these ideas, and they`re only being mainlined and embraced more.

Again, people in Ohio will decide -- I don`t tell people how to vote. Now people will decide how to vote. Should they know that JD Vance, a vote for him is not just a vote for, say, lower taxes. It`s also his embrace of this this weekend, I think they have a right to know that.

And hello to everyone in Ohio who watches THE BEAT.

Will and David, thanks to both of you.

ROTHKOPF: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

We have our shortest break, 60 seconds. When we come back, we`re going to talk about why Republicans say Lindsey Graham is literally, figuratively, and pejoratively their box of grenade grenades. They don`t like what he`s doing in the midterms. We`re back in one minute.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, my intention as I said to begin with is that I would run again but it`s just an intention. But is it a firm decision that I`d run again? That remains to be seen.


MELBER: Remains to be seen. The president there saying he will ultimately make the final decision about running for a second term after these midterms. That`s now 50 days away tonight. We`ve been covering the story for more than one angle. Democrats say they think they have momentum. 45 percent approval for Biden is not only an uptick, it`s the highest in over -- about a year.

Now there were the legislative wins including manufacturing, climate, drug prices, student loan relief. The Supreme Court then did its own thing, overturning Roe. Separate from whether Biden`s made any progress. That also has simply galvanized a lot of turnout. Some conservatives now trying to split the difference. They got what they wanted and many of them wanted to go all the way.

Lindsey Graham has been talking of a federal ban on abortion. That means, I mentioned Ohio earlier, if you`re watching in California, in New York, or any state, he wants to use the federal government`s powers if they win Congress to ban abortion outright. And that`s not only unpopular, we`ve shown in the data around the country, among not only Democrats but many independents and some Republicans. Politically it is getting him absolutely roasted everywhere, including on FOX.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Graham`s stunt is a godsend and helps us remind voters Republicans want to ban abortion everywhere, and from the conservative side you`ve got Roy Murdock over at American Spectator, he said basically you`ve handed the left a box of grenades.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): OK. Well, let me just say what I believe, number one. I`m pro-life, even in an election year. And to those who suggest that being pro-life is losing politics, I reject that.


MELBER: Graham on defense. Democrats saying this is part of the conversation they want to have. And they also say it`s not just politics. It`s human rights. It`s policy. And yes, if that`s what they plan to do, then no, don`t hide it. Don`t whisper about it. Say it out loud. Put it on the ballot.

Now, look at June 29th. You can see a turn coming about four days after SCOTUS overturned Roe. This is one of those nonpartisan forecasts that uses a lot of different data. The Democrats` Senate odds at 50 percent.


Now today, according to the forecast, they are up a ton, 72 percent. This is data from FiveThirtyEight where they also suggest that the Republicans will get the House. The point is not to predict because a lot can change in the next 50 days. Just as we`ve shown you a lot has changed. We have two special guests to walk us through it and why so much is changing when we come back.




BIDEN: The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We`re still doing a lot of on it. But the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one`s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it`s changing.


MELBER: "Washington Post`s" Jackie Alemany is here along with our friend Eleanor Clift, a longtime D.C. veteran and now with "The Daily Beast."

Good to see you both. Jackie, a lot going on in the midterms, certainly benefitting the Democrats, that what Biden claims there it`s over. Is it too political to say the pandemic is over but COVID is still around or do you think he can ride some of that right now?

JACKIE ALEMANY, THE WASHINGTON POST CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, Ari, I think he does have to opportunity to ride some of this. You know, while some of the issues that Republicans have been focused on have sort of been sifting into the background, Biden has had a recent string of successes, including the Inflation Reduction Act, which is in the process of being implemented. And the core issue that Democrat -- that Republicans have focused on primarily, the economy, immigration and crime, confidence indexes have actually been rising amongst voters in that regard, with Republican strategy suggesting that Republicans are going to have to expand their issue set.

Democrats also have the wind at their backs when it comes to the repeal of Roe v. Wade and opposition to Dobbs has only grown in recent weeks. And so I think Biden for really the first time in his presidency is going into midterms with some more positive things to talk about it.

MELBER: Interesting. And you mentioned the so-called issue set of Republicans.

Eleanor, I`ve heard, as the old saying goes, a little birdie told me that you found some of the Republicans` issue set to be really whack and really bad lately. But we`ll look for you to tell us in your own words.

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST WRITER: OK. Well, they`re adding immigration to their issue set, if you want to call it that. And it could backfire on them. Remember Elian Gonzalez?


CLIFT: The 6-year-old boy who went to Florida coast, and the Clinton administration returned him to his father in Cuba. But there was an iconic photo of federal agents seizing a sobbing 6-year-old that enflamed conservatives in the right wing, and the Cuban community in Florida. And the 2000 election was very close. A lot of things could have altered it, but it didn`t help that the Clinton administration was seen on the wrong side of that issue in the eyes of the Cuban community, and famously it was Florida that cost -- and the Supreme Court that cost Al Gore the election.

So I think the Florida Governor DeSantis is really playing with fire when he places Venezuelan immigrants, who are fleeing a communist regime, treating them like these -- like pawns and like the caricature that Trump introduced, that they`re, you know, rapists coming across from Mexico. The Venezuelan people --

MELBER: And I`ll let you finish --


MELBER: Yes, I`ll let you finish but also standing subject to the very real criticism that I think many immigrant communities care about, which is that it looks like he may have lied or fraudulently induced them into a type of temporary forced immigration. Which I guess if it`s all props to you, you don`t care but if you have any humanity to it, again, not a left or right thing, this is a human being, you might say that seems messed up, Eleonor.

CLIFT: Right. Well, I just love to see it backfire politically in Florida, and also "The New York Times" wrote a piece about one of these Venezuelan men who was bussed here to Washington, D.C. who in several weeks, you know, got a good job. He`s sending money back home. He feels like he got a ticket to freedom. So there are a lot of complicated ways to look at this. And I fault the Biden administration, too. They really haven`t treated immigration with the urgency that it deserves. But I don`t think it will work as a midterm issue for the Republicans when Trump warned us all about the caravans coming from Mexico, that didn`t save the Republicans from losing the Congress in 2018.

MELBER: Right. Right.

CLIFT: So this election, Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster, widely respected, he`s been around a long time, he said, when we look back it`s going to be the dogs election issue, because the abortion really has transformed the landscape to this.


MELBER: Yes, clearly. And we looked at those numbers in our setup, which, again, is not to do predictions, but just to show how much the fundamentals have changed. Jackie, that`s a lot of headwinds for Republicans, then you have something that would help them, but they have been sidetracked about which is inflation.

We talked about all these other issues. We talked about Lindsey Graham, the rising prices, inflation do often hurt incumbents. Here was Biden on that.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Inflation rate month to month is just up just an inch. Hardly at all.

SCOTT PELLEY, HOST, CBS NEWS: You`re not arguing that 8.3 is good news.

BIDEN: No, I`m not saying it`s good news. But it was 8.2 or 8.2. before. I mean, it`s not -- your -- may acting make it sound like all of a sudden, my god, it went to 8.2 percent.

PELLEY: It`s the highest inflation rate, Mr. President in 40 years.

BIDEN: I got that. But guess what we are? We`re in a position where for the last several months, it hasn`t spiked. It is just barely it`s been basically even.


MELBER: So, Jackie, 60 Minutes hitting him harder than a lot of Republicans. Because as I said, they`ve been on other topics. Where does this fit in, in your view going into the midterms at this juncture -- bless you, Eleanor. It almost seems like -- it almost seems like this is the dog that hasn`t bit yet.

ALEMANY: Yes, I mean, look, inflation is inevitably going to be a sticky issue, and one that doesn`t just turn around overnight. But there are some more tangible things that I think voters have felt in recent months that have helped Joe Biden`s approval ratings jump to 45 percent, which is a three-point increase since the summer.

Gas prices are down, which is the primary example I think voters can look at. Meanwhile, President Trump has proven this asymmetrical drop with Republicans, Trump`s unfavourability has fallen to 34 percent. It`s one of the lowest levels since he left August. And while Republicans should be, you know, going into midterms with a bit of sort of institutional advantage.

This should be an environment in which they`re not struggling as much as they are. They need to only net one seat in November`s midterms in order to take back control the Senate for the next two years at least. And they were initially projected to take back the House. But that is not the forecast that we`re seeing, at least in this moment post-Dobbs, where you have Republicans sort of doubling down on the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

You had Lindsey Graham introduce a 15-week ban on abortion after Republican spent the summer trying to sort of distract voters away from this issue, claiming that it was going to be a state`s issue from here on out and that voters did not need to worry about a federal ban.

And there has been sort of this schism in the party with some of the top Republicans on the issue set and what they should be talking about going forward along with some Republican candidates who are just not the strongest and have -- had trouble making the transition post-primary from their more extreme positions to more mainstream positions, Ari.

MELBER: Yes. Well, you lay it all out there. It`s a fascinating time. Jackie and Eleanor, thanks to both of you. Let me tell them what`s coming up. You know, we`d like to mix it up around here. We have the great Jenifer Lewis here. We`re going to get into a bunch of stuff from politics to social change, and new hope in the culture.

Meanwhile, on the hard news side, we got new heat on a Trump insider accused of acting as an illegal foreign agent. That trial if you haven`t heard about it, it actually starts today. When we come back.




TOM BARRACK, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, REIT COLONY CAPITAL: Donald is you know as we -- as we`ve seen, he`s a tour de force. He`s instincts are amazing. And he found a fissure in America that he drove the truck through.


MELBER: You know, you find a fissure, you get a truck, you drive it through. Sounds like a great thing, right? Well, you could tell you listen to a Trump ally. That was Tom Barrack. And that was just last summer days before he was actually arrested by the FBI. He`s accused of obstruction, lying to the Feds, and acting illegally as an agent of a foreign government.

And when you think about the relationships you had with Donald Trump and the administration, that`s a big charge. So, his trial begins today with jury selection and in a New York courtroom. Now he has pled not guilty, denies wrongdoing. Prosecutors allege he was working essentially for the United Arab Emirates but not consistent with federal law.

If you do want to influence American policy, on behalf of a foreign government, you have to just register. It`s actually not that hard, although some people don`t want to do it because of what they think is the bad P.R. or they just are secretive.

Now Mr. Barrack is accused of shaping what was then the nominee, Donald Trump`s energy policy. And one point, ghostwriting at least part of his speech where Trump pledged that he would work together with the support of allies in the Gulf. And the tape shows they were pretty in sync.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Will work with our Gulf allies to develop a positive energy relationship as part of our anti- terrorism strategy. We`ll work with them because we have to knock out terrorism.


MELBER: Now again, that sounds kind of like normal candidate talk. The question was not whether a candidate could say that or be advised to say that but whether there was a secret or even illegal effort to help foreign governments get him to say that. And you think about multiple countries where Donald Trump`s ties and alleged corruption around it created big problems for our national security.


So, this new trial will really build on the evidence the Feds presented in their indictment was tells its own story. That after the remarks you just saw there were foreign officials who went directly to Barrack -- Barrack, I should say and touted the amazing success he had at getting Trump to say what he wanted, noting that Trump mentioned the Gulf allies, which was great. Congrats on the great job. Everybody here that`s abroad, happy with the results, and quote.

Trump also pardoned two other individuals for criminal dealings that stemmed from similar alleged foreign government corruption, Michael Flynn and Elliott Broidy. Barrack`s indictment however came after Donald Trump left office, terrible timing for him as a defendant. The trial, as I mentioned formally begins today. Soon we`ll have opening arguments.

And you have the prospect of the U.S. government trying to prove with evidence by someone very close to the former leader of the U.S. government, the former president, was actually working illegally on behalf of foreign governments against this country. It is a big case. He`s legally presumed innocent. We will stay on it for you.

I fit in a break, but coming up, as mentioned, we have something very special Jenifer Lewis back on THE BEAT. We`re talking arts, Hollywood representation, social change. I`m looking forward to this. She`s live with me at the table next.



MELBER: I don`t say this every day, but I`m going to say right now. You know what time it is. We have a very special guest. Jenifer Lewis, veteran actress, comedian, singer-dancer. Four decades in the game or the streets, I`ll explain that reference in a moment. She`s been on Broadway, started nearly 70 films, hundreds of television episodes, including the smash hit Black-ish playing the bold say it like you mean it Grandma Ruby.

The show has wrapped its seventh and final season this year. Many fans saw it as a bittersweet commemoration of a very special show. Mr. Lewis also embarking on some new projects during the showtime comedy series I Love That for You. Let`s take a look.


JENIFER LEWIS, ACTRESS: People tune in to see the jacket they`ve been watching for decades. She`s hip, she`s cool. Best friend in a leather jacket drives up Mazda Miata and has it all together. People love Jackie and Marty.


LEWIS: Ah, ah! I don`t think we want to (BLEEP) put that. Santa Claus might have issues with Mrs. Claus, but we don`t want to hear about it. We just want it to be Christmas. You know what I`m saying?


MELBER: No, we don`t want to bleep with that. We don`t want to bleep with that. No, we don`t want to bleep with that.

LEWIS: Oh my god, I`m so glad it`s on cable because I can curse.

MELBER: Exactly. All right, so I`m going to put the book back on the screen.


MELBER: This is what people need to know. The new book, Walking in My Joy In These Streets. You begin writing this in the pandemic. Lewis has also been very vocal about a whole range of issues from mental health to social justice. She recently gave a performance on Instagram.

She showed her support for Colin Kaepernick on the big stage at the 2018 Emmys right there. And her contributions to entertainment also have been cemented -- wow, wow. On the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a star this year. Jenifer Lewis, thank you for being here.

LEWIS: Wow, what a life I`m living today.

MELBER: Does it feel that way?

LEWIS: Yes, I am lit up. I`m on the East Coast going up and down, promoting my new book Walking in My Joy and I am walking in my joy.

MELBER: I would say I love that for you. But you already said that. So, tell us about being someone who you do many things as we just showed. But one of the main things you`ve done is give life to other people`s words. Make them real, embody them. Tell us about sitting down with your own words writing this, and what you`re sharing with people now.

LEWIS: Well, when I named the book, when I titled the book, Walking in My Joy, I started right before the pandemic, and I literally threw the narrative in the pool. I scratched it all. And I said to myself, if you`re going to write a book, titled Walking in My Joy, then you have to do it. You have to walk the walk. Now I do because I`m so full of life. You know, I`m 65 years old, but my soul is 25, you know, I believe -- yes.

And I`ve I`m writing now. I`m an activist now. An actress and -- the entertainers` entertainer. You know, I told everyone in my speech while receiving the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I didn`t need the star to tell me I was the star. Because everybody knows it. They do because I`ve worked so hard.

I didn`t need this to say I earned this because everybody knew it. What I needed to say in that speech was it wasn`t the work on camera and on stage that made me a star. It was taking care of my bipolar disorder so that I could be in my skin to receive it and enjoy it.


MELBER: That`s wonderful. I have two responses. One is just a lyric and the other is serious.


MELBER: May I share both?

LEWIS: Yes, please.

MELBER: OK. The lyric is when you say that I`m reminded of when Drake said, she looks like a star but only on camera. Only on camera.

LEWIS: Come on babe. It`s a lot of mass.

MELBER: Right? And there`s the -- and everybody does some versions because everybody`s got to go to work or go to the in-laws or present yourself. There`s that thing and then there`s what you`re telling us, which is when you got right with yourself with mental health, which you`ve been very open about, that`s meant that there`s my serious part. The other part was just the lyric. That made you able to what, be your full self?

LEWIS: Yes. And COVID, you know, COVID really brought out that mental illness, awareness. A lot of people suffered in isolation during the quarantine. And I was smart enough to move my family in with me. Because, you know, with bipolar disorder, you, you`ll go down in that isolation, and I knew better. So, I kept my family around me.

MELBER: Did you feel the work that you had done prior made you more ready than some?

LEWIS: Absolutely, absolutely. I knew to take the time during COVID to contemplate. Not only we all contemplated our death, certainly at the beginning. We didn`t know what this thing was.

MELBER: How often do you think about your death?

LEWIS: I don`t, I`m never going to die. I have a joke, I say in my show, I said, nobody`s getting out here alive, baby. And they just applaud. I said, no, I really mean nobody is leaving this club alive. No, listen, I`m not scared to die. Yet, I told my little nephew that I`m not, I`m not scared to die, because I`ve lived. And you just -- you know, we all going, you know, so just live -- you know, I say, live while you live. Hey!

MELBER: Cheers to that. I got a quote from the book. We picked this quote that you`re not a criminal, but you do confess to a type of theft. Stay with me. From the book. The rumor all over town was that I was stealing the show to that I said, no, blank, blank.

I`ve stolen every scene in every show I`ve ever done. They should have thought about that before they hired a living legend. Here`s my question to you as a journalist. What percent of that -- was someone reading it. What percent of that is literal? Is that 100 percent? Are you having fun with us? Break it down.

LEWIS: It`s real. I`m a natural. I`m a natural. It was a gift at birth. I sing my first solo in church when I was five years old. And from the reaction of the congregation, I stood there with my thumb in my mouth going, oh, this is life. Come on, that applause. People were crying. People were thinking. People were laughing. (INAUDIBLE). Oh, that little Jenny Lewis.

MELBER: All right, but can I push you --

LEWIS: Honey, but wait a minute, I saw that.

MELBER: But can I push you on that?


MELBER: You still have success in ensemble shows. I mean, obviously, you have some way you know how to work with people.

LEWIS: Of course, I do. I`m a professional. But sometimes they try to put me in the background and it`s kind of impossible. My smile alone sometimes steals the show because it`s coming from a real place. I don`t wear a mask anymore. I was the diva for many years, but that was because I didn`t know who I was. You know? If you know who you are, you`ll trust yourself going in the room.



MELBER: I hope people are listening. I hope people check out the book and we happy to have you steal the scene on THE BEAT tonight. Good to see you in person.

LEWIS: You`re an angel. Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Jenifer Lewis has been here. Again, the book, Walking in My Joy In These Streets. We`ll be right back.



MELBER: If you watched inauguration like a lot of Americans, I bet you remember Amanda Gorman. That striking inaugural poem captivated the nation at a time when many felt it was needed. Today she debuted her newest work, it`s called An Ode We Owe. This was at the United Nations General Assembly. It`s a big deal to even speak there.

And as we sometimes focus so much on the now, on the here, on America, on the politics, we do that here in this program. She used her voice which has been recognized by so many to have us think about the globe, the Earth, the future, and the devastating impact of climate change.


AMANDA GORMAN, POET: Exhausted, angered, we are endangered not because of our numbers, but because of our numbness. We`re strangers to one another`s perils and pain. Unaware that the welfare of the public in the planet share a name. Equality. Doesn`t mean being the exact same.


MELBER: Words can be powerful. Poetry can bring us to places that mere words do not. So let us listen to her words and poetry and this call to action.


GORMAN: To anyone out there I only ask that you care before it`s too late, that you live aware and awake. That you lead with love and hours of hate. I challenge you to heed this call. I dare you to shape our fate. Above all, I dare you to good so that the world might be great.


MELBER: Tonight, her dare is our final thought for you. "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts now.