ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.
Two days left for Donald Trump. He is isolated and been out of public eye completely for six days. He has not done the formal concession, as everyone knows. He still privately claims he won. There`s new reporting on that. He`s been planning his exit now with a record low approval rating, and facing serious jeopardy in a potential Senate trial that is looming, new evidence emerging as well inside the insurrection at the Capitol.
Meanwhile, you can look at Mar-a-Lago today, where the moving trucks are there, getting ready for the ex-president to return home soon. He will not be shielded by the legal powers he currently holds. When Donald Trump arrives in Florida, Joe Biden will be inaugurated.
And that is the sight in Washington today. It is emptied out for the most part. It is on a total lockdown in all key government areas. And there are still credible threats being tracked by the authorities. It is a veritable fortress.
Over 20,000 National Guard troops are also deployed in Washington to keep the peace and safety. The evidence that I mentioned, this has been building on reporting that we and many outlets have been doing, this time, new videos from "The New Yorker" magazine on exactly whom these rioters said they were listening to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: Where the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are they?
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: Whose house?
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTERS: Our house!
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: If you do not stand down, you`re outnumbered. There`s a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) million of us out there. And we are listening to Trump, your boss.
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTERS: Treason! Treason! Treason!
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: Just get a snap of that.
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: Yes, I took a picture.
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: There`s got to be something in here we can (EXPLETIVE DELETED) use against these scumbags.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: They said they were listening to Donald Trump -- quote -- "We are listening to Trump."
So, this isn`t just a sight to behold, although it is that. This isn`t just a better understanding of who was doing what and why, although it is that. This is also -- we`re about to show you a little bit more of it -- disturbing video evidence that may play in the Senate trial of Donald Trump, including what they were up to, what the rioters wanted to do.
Here they are invoking Speaker Pelosi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: While we`re here, we might as well set up a government.
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: Hey, let`s take a seat, people! Let`s take a seat!
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: Nancy Pelosi.
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: Guess what? America showed up!
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: It`s only a matter of time. Justice is coming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Justice is coming.
That was actually stated from the place where the vice president is constitutionally supposed to sit.
A former Marine and one Army veteran charged in connection with the Capitol riot, they are both linked to a right-wing militia. Also, an Army Reservist who actually has a secret security clearance, including access to a cache of military supplies, now criminally charged, facing five federal felonies.
Our coverage begins tonight with "The New York Times"` Mara Gay and Brittany Packnett Cunningham, who has been an activist working on police reform, a former member of President Obama`s policing task force.
We are gathered, of course, to discuss all of this on Martin Luther King Day. We have more on that in the program as well.
Brittany, your thoughts about what we are learning from the videos?
BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM, CO-FOUNDER, CAMPAIGN ZERO: So, there`s a lot that we are learning, but there`s also a lot that`s being confirmed.
What`s being confirmed is that white domestic terror has been a threat to humanity for centuries, certainly since 1492 or 1619, right here in America. So, after all the hand-wringing and the shock and the horror, the question is, what are we going to do about all of it, ultimately, once and for all?
So, with what we`re learning, obviously, there`s individual accountability that has to take place, but we know this is not due to one person or one thing, that a deeply intertwined, massive constellation of people and elected officials, platforms, rhetorics, organizations, funds, all of these things came together to create this moment in history that`s a continuation of many others.
So, we need to see the Senate take corrective action that is swift and broad, because all of the things that I just named can be subject to regulation if Congress is willing to show the kind of courage that it`s going to take.
Otherwise, we`re going to be right back here in a matter of no time with a Trump-like figure who is just as racist, just as problematic, but more ready for prime time. And that, we have to be ready for.
MELBER: And, Mara, with that in mind, we`re covering this transition of power with far more tension, far more strain than we have ever had in the modern era, because explicitly of both Donald Trump`s conduct and how much support it got, including the support of the big lie that powered those insurrectionists, among other things, by so many top Republicans.
I`m curious what you think being part of a news organization like "The Times" that`s trying to cover this with clarity, when it is not normal, nor should it be normal, when we have more troops, as many have observed, stationed in Washington right now, more than we do in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, because of the threat assessment that we`re dealing with, and it`s homegrown.
MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, you know, Ari, a couple thoughts.
My first thought is that, in terms of news organizations and really anybody with a platform, this is a very important time for us to hold ourselves accountable and make sure we`re not just doing the work of stenography, which is to say, he said this, she said that, some people say this is true, but really to do the hard work of journalism, which is actually to tell the truth in a nonpartisan way, but to just tell the truth.
And so, sometimes, that means calling the shots and being the referee. So, if it`s the president of the United States who`s telling lies, we need to call that what it is. If this is white supremacy, we need to call it by its name. This is what it is. And I really think that we need to stop shying away from that.
I`m someone who works on an opinion staff, so it`s easier for me. But I have been on the other side as well. I have worked for "The Wall Street Journal" too on the news side. It`s just as important, no matter what your job is.
The other thing I would say is I really hope that we can, as a country, start to move away from only the work of analyzing these people who are out committing this treason against the United States. That`s an important job, and certainly one that the FBI and hopefully an independent 9/11-style commission will look at.
But I also think it`s important that we start doing the work of building up our institutions and our democratic traditions, because, if we do that well, then this minority of people will not be able to have the power that they showed that they had when the rest of us are caught off-guard.
If we take hate seriously and we take democracy seriously, we won`t be in this position.
You say take democracy seriously.
And, Mara, I want to draw your attention to one of these figures that, on the one hand, seems like a rough approximation, if you look at insurrection and these killings and the nature of it, to then go to polling seems a little off.
Having said that, there`s been a lot of conventional wisdom about how nothing Donald Trump does will ever be held to account. The trial in the Senate is a constitutional version of that. And the public -- whatever you think of the 74 million-plus who did vote for Trump, the public is clearly recoiling from him as he leaves office.
I want to put up the lowest approval rating he`s ever registered, which is saying something, because he`s one of the least popular presidents ever. He never broke 50 percent, the way most presidents do at some point. And he`s now down to 34 percent, Mara.
GAY: Yes. There are more and more Americans of all -- of both parties who see the president for the grifter that he is.
And I think that the insurrection on the Capitol is a clear example for anyone who is still of sound mind, who is still committed to democracy, that this is not a movement that you want to remain a part of.
So, I am heartened by that. But I have to say our history in the United States -- you know this, Ari, very well -- we like to move on and talk about unity, but we don`t ever address the underlying cause of our conflict and injustice.
And I just want to make it clear, it is white supremacy that needs to be addressed. It is hate and intolerance. And that is the threat to democracy. If we don`t address that, this will continue to happen. And so we can`t move on until there`s actually accountability and justice at every level.
MELBER: I think those are very important points.
It actually goes to our next guest, which is why I`m going to keep this block moving.
I want to thank both of you for kicking off our coverage.
We have a very newsworthy next guest, which is the newly appointed impeachment manager for the Democrats on that very trial we were discussing, Congressman Joe Neguse.
Congressman, good to have you here.
Your thoughts on what accountability looks like?
REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): Well, good to be with you, Ari.
Accountability looks like a conviction in the United States Senate. Myself and my fellow managers, led by our lead impeachment manager, Jamie Raskin, all of us are experienced litigators. Some are former prosecutors. We have been preparing to present a very compelling case to the United States Senate when the trial commences.
There is no question that this president gravely endangered the security of the United States. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system. He interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and ultimately imperiled a co-equal branch of government. And it`s important to hold him accountable.
And, in my view, that is essentially securing a conviction in the United States Senate and disqualifying him from holding any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States, pursuant to the Constitution.
MELBER: Let me play you something that a noted Bush Republican said about some of the ideas that were being kicked around as potential defenses for Donald Trump, why they were so bad that Karl Rove thought Giuliani`s ideas might actually make it more likely that you would win, that you might win this convent -- conviction -- pardon me.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: When he suggested that the argument was going to be, well, there couldn`t have been incitement because all the charges of widespread voter fraud are true.
Frankly, they aren`t. They have given -- been given every opportunity to prove them in a court of law and have failed to do so. So, I think it really boils down to, what`s the defense that the president is going to make? And if it`s Rudy Giuliani`s defense, I think it raises the likelihood of more than 17 Republicans voting for conviction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: How do you approach that? And what is your core argument to Republicans who may not agree with you on all of your criticisms of Donald Trump, but are open to hearing the evidence in a case about this high crime, allegedly, this national security infraction?
NEGUSE: Well, for the first time, I suppose I agree with Karl Rove.
I mean, look, the president is entitled to his own counsel, but to potentially appoint someone like Rudy Giuliani, who, by all accounts, assisted the president in terms of inciting the very insurrection that is the subject of the impeachment trial, wouldn`t be a prudent legal strategy in my view.
But, of course, that`s his own judgment.
Look, I think, at the end of the day, Republicans, Democrats, independents, Americans of good faith all recognize that what happened on January 6 can never happen again.
As Liz Cheney said so eloquently during the impeachment proceedings in the House, this president incited the mob, he summoned the mob, he assembled the mob, he lit the flame of the attack.
And, of course, every single United States senator was a witness and ultimately a victim to the armed insurrection, many of the managers. I was on the floor of the House the day that the armed insurrection took place. We all experienced it in real time.
It is abundantly clear that this president has no interest in ensuring the peaceful transfer of power. And I think that, ultimately, if the senators apply an impartial lens to the evidence that we present during the trial, I think that they will reach the same conclusion that Republicans and Democrats in the House reached, which is that the president committed a high crime and misdemeanor and that he ought to be convicted.
MELBER: Congressman Neguse, this is a busy time for you, as I mentioned, one of the new impeachment managers. We will be checking in with you throughout, of course, this trial as well.
I thank you for your time tonight, sir.
NEGUSE: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
We have now just our shortest break of the hour, 30 seconds.
When we come back, new reporting on attempts to profiteer over pardons, new evidence revealing that the rioters thought they were directly following Ted Cruz and others. What does that mean for them?
A lot more. We will be back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: New signs tonight that Donald Trump is a quitter.
He`s largely quit doing the job of president since losing the election in November, out of sight, after bailing on public appearances that presidents normally have on meetings, on COVID prep, all of this a damning fact, which is, of course, also sometimes obscured by the other drama and problems regarding all the other things Donald Trump has been doing with his time.
That includes his focus on how to use the final waning days of his powers for self-interest and personal goals. New reports he has a final pardon spree planned, with debates over possibly pardoning himself or his adult children. Exactly who may get Donald Trump`s last pardons is especially controversial amidst separate bombshell reporting from "The New York Times" that some Trump allies are already profiteering off the pardon hunt, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars or more.
Connected lobbyists pleading for well-connected, wealthy convicts, ranging from a senator`s son to a Manhattan socialite who pleaded guilty in a fraud scheme.
We are joined now by a guest who knows his way around these exact issues, as well as the legal threatens from the Trump presidency, Former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal.
Good evening, sir.
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Good evening.
MELBER: Just two days left of all this, but pardons loom large. Walk us through what is important, in your view, for us to keep in mind if and when we get any of that news.
KATYAL: So, the pardon power was put in the Constitution. It`s a kind of majestic thing, and presidents normally use it to wield mercy, to show there`s a problem with some sort of criminal conviction.
Donald Trump has used it, however, in a very uneven way. He`s used it toward friends of his like Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort. He`s used it for a rogue`s gallery of folks, like Dinesh D`Souza, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, people like that.
And, indeed, a study by Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith analyzed all of Trump`s pardons and it found that 84 percent of them were given to people with a personal or political connection to the president.
So, Ari, we start with that, and now we have this bombshell "New York Times" report showing that there`s a market for pardons, that, in fact, Rudy Giuliani, according to "The Times," offered one of them up to someone for $2 million.
So, that`s going to be a serious problem, because, even though the president has a broad pardon power, the Justice Department has said it`s not unlimited and there`s bribery and other things. And President Clinton was investigated at the end of the administration for that.
And that was such a limited thing, the limited imagination. That`s like a retail pardon. Trump`s wholesale. He`s like the Costco of pardons for sale here, according to this report.
MELBER: Yes, the Costco of pardons, which, I guess when you`re buying in bulk, it really depends what you`re buying.
If they were done through a pardon attorney, for the right reasons, in individual warranted cases, we might all support Costco. But if you`re buying corruption in bulk, right? That`s a big problem. I`m glad you mentioned that piece.
I wanted to ask you about it, Neal.
Specifically reading from one former government official who was also convicted, said that he broached his quest for a pardon during a meeting last year -- quote -- "with Mr. Giuliani, whose confidants turned to him and suggested Giuliani could help, but he`s going to want $2 million, from "The New York Times," as you say there, Neal.
Do those things need to be investigated whether or not -- in fairness to this or any president, whether or not the president knew about such an illicit scheme in advance? If that reporting is anywhere near true, it looks like a new legal problem for Giuliani.
Since Trump is stiffing him for his legal bills, I guess Rudy`s figured out another way to get his legal fees. But it`s certainly not a legal way to do it. And, again, you have to see if that report is accurate and so on.
But if it is, it`s a real problem. You can`t -- you know, this is a majestic power of the president. It`s a noble thing that Madison and others put into the Constitution about mercy. And it`s emblematic of the Trump presidency. He takes this noble thing and he perverts it in a way for him and his friends to get some bucks, stroke an ego or two and the like.
You know, it`s just -- it`s so horrible and wrong. And, yes, it will be the basis of a criminal investigation.
MELBER: All good points of clarity.
Neal Katyal, thank you, as always.
I want to remind viewers, as part of the special series here with us on THE BEAT, you can always go to MSNBC.com/openingarguments. You can find this and other pieces we have done with Neal. We always say it`s like free law school, which is really something.
When we come back, Democrats are now exploring new ways to limit the normal powers that an ex-president like Donald Trump would have, one of them being access to intelligence. They say that`s got to end.
Also, the new disturbing video that might be evidence against Donald Trump in his Senate trial. We`re going to show you exactly who else MAGA rioters invoked and why they thought they were under the cover of law, which could be bad for some people in the Senate.
Later, the party of Trump faces a reckoning as he leaves office in disgrace. We have a very special guest.
Stay with us.
MELBER: Turning tonight to new evidence that`s emerged from inside this insurrection, rioters breaking through the doors of the Capitol, rushing inside, while that police officer now deemed a hero tried to lead them away from the Senate chamber.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: Go! Go!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Other videos displaying this mix of chaos, havoc, as well as how some rioters were developing more elaborate plans to extend their crimes once inside.
So, as some rioters were making the spectacle you that see here with the yelling and the costumes and the performance, you have to understand that the video shows how others were going meticulously through files and papers, stolen government material, casting themselves as would-be political criminal organizers.
You`re going to see them literally discuss these government documents for the very Senate session that they interrupted.
And they note -- as we have emphasized in some of our reporting, these insurrectionists actually shared Ted Cruz`s goal of overthrowing the election. Now, you can hear some of them on tape arguing they believe he would support their crimes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: Ted Cruz`s objection to Arizona...
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: His objection. He was going to sell us out all along.
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: Wait. No, that`s a good thing.
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: Hawley, Cruz. I think Cruz would want us to do this.
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: Yes, absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: So, I think we`re good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Would Cruz want them to do that?
Senator Cruz has yet to respond to this particular new video.
And, while, after the riot, he said in public that he viewed it as a terrorist attack and the rioters should be prosecuted, he has also done very little to rein in these very people who think they are doing his bidding.
And Ted Cruz, most infamously, continues to stand by his election lie that undergirded the protest that was what Donald Trump wanted. Is Ted Cruz afraid of losing these people`s support?
These are serious times, but there`s an item that`s really on point here from "Rick and Morty," a cartoon that is both funny and searing. Rick leads that show as sort of this smart elderly rebel.
And at one point when he`s booed by a crowd he does not respect, he tells them: "I welcome your boos. I have seen what you cheer for."
Now here we are. We have seen what these individuals cheer for. We have seen what they do. Does Senator Cruz, do these other Republicans actually want to continue to be cheered by them, to be in business with them?
We bring in our experts now, Katty Kay, Washington anchor for BBC News, and Chai Komanduri, who has worked for the Obama and Clinton campaigns.
Good to see you both.
Chai, I put that question to you.
CHAITANYA KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, you ask, did Ted Cruz want their votes? The answer is absolutely, yes, he does want their votes.
If you look at the polling, you can see why. Roughly half of all Republicans support in some form or other those riots. The Republican Party is largely now riot-adjacent; 70 percent to 80 percent of Republicans still support Donald Trump, despite everything that`s happened.
And I think that, even with those videos, which clearly show that the GOP line of attack on this, which is, to paraphrase "The Wizard of Oz," pay no attention to those rioters on January 6, they`re not us, they`re not one of us, they might be Antifa, it`s very clear from those videos that they were not Antifa. It puts that fully to rest.
However, the political problem for the GOP, for Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley continue, how to be Republicans when so many Republicans do support this type of behavior.
MELBER: Well, there it is.
Katty Kay, sometimes Chai brings a two-by-four to the logical discussion. And whether or not people agree with everyone he`s ever worked for, I think you can understand the logic, Katty, which is, Chai is just reminding us, as he`s, I think, just memorably put it, that part of the party is riot- adjacent.
And in my work, Katty, as in yours, we`re not doing aspersions on 75 million people. You have to go out and interview them, right? A vote for Trump is not a vote for the riot.
But if you`re a Republican senator, and you are still, after a video like this comes out, trying to party -- basically, politically party with the rioters, then you are going further, are you not, Katty?
KATTY KAY, BBC NEWS: Yes, I mean, look, it`s very clear from that "New Yorker" video where Ted Cruz is mentioned in name and mentioned as concurring with what they are doing, which is trespassing and dealing -- and fiddling around with documents, that they feel Ted Cruz wants them to do this.
Therefore, the onus is on Ted Cruz specifically to go further than he has done, denounce them more forcefully, distance himself more forcefully. And even then -- frankly it may be too late for Ted Cruz. Remember, Cruz nearly lost in 2018 in his Senate race. He`s in a tight spot in Texas.
And this ad with his name on it verbally from these rioters, of course, it`s going to run all through his campaign next time he is up in the Senate. I mean, his Democratic opponent in a state that is moving slowly more purple is going to run this all of the time. I think it`s going to be really hard for Ted Cruz to answer what this video shows.
I think the ProPublica video, which is a compilation of videos that were put up on Parler kind of boasting about what people had done, rioters had done there, is even more concerning in some ways, because, in that video, you clearly hear these rioters.
And I don`t know if rioters is really the right word, because what they are talking about is harming, potentially killing members of Congress, including the vice president. This goes beyond just a simple riot. This is people who wanted to murder people in the Capitol, and it`s there on that ProPublica compilation.
MELBER: Well, and I appreciate your nuance about the words, Katty, because some of them outside may have been going to a demonstration. Then some of them are trespassing. That`s already a crime.
Then others are, as you say, trying to do murder, assassination, political terrorism, and are deemed as such.
And so, Chai, to bring it back, then, to what Ted Cruz claims...
MELBER: ... if he said when he had to these are terrorists, and now a video comes out, right, with terrorists invoking him, if ISIS terrorists or would-be sympathizers of ISIS or al Qaeda in the U.S. did the same thing, and he says they`re terrorists, would he be silent tonight?
KOMANDURI: No, of course not. And the GOP knows that.
And you say, well, what if they were ISIS terrorists? Well, the reality was, as far as a lot of Republicans and Ted Cruz are concerned, they weren`t ISIS terrorists. ISIS terrorists, quite frankly, are not white. ISIS terrorists are foreigners. ISIS terrorists often are brown.
You know, that is the racial dynamic that Ted Cruz is operating on. And you know, he`s thinking about Texas is a state that`s turning blue. It is right now a minority-majority state. And it is only a matter of time before Ted Cruz finds himself in incredible trouble in that state.
However, he`s not really thinking about that state anymore. He`s thinking about the Republican primary for president in 2024. That is the audience that he`s thinking about. And he knows to repudiate Trump and to repudiate the rioters is to basically pack up his bags as far as presidential ambitions are concerned and to go home to Texas.
And that`s something he does not want to do.
KAY: yes, there`s another element to this, which is, at the end of that "New Yorker" video that I find particularly disturbing, getting to this issue -- you`re right to raise it, Ari -- of, if this was Muslim terrorists, they start praying.
These insurrectionists, rioters, white terrorists are in there, and they start praying, invoking the lord in a very Christian, evangelical way. And I think that`s worth noting, too. Let`s not forget that they are doing this, they believe, under the banner of Christianity.
Now, I`m not sure that I could find anywhere in Christian doctrine or theology support for what they did, particularly not for what those ones on the Parler videos are talking about, which is committing murder.
But they are doing it under the banner of Christian ideology. This is not just white terrorism. There was -- they believe they have a religious, Christian motive for doing this. And I think that shouldn`t be forgotten when we make this comparison with how they would be treated if they were Muslims.
KOMANDURI: Yes, one thing I will say about that is to remember that, on MLK Day, that is what real Christian religious motivations look like, and it looks like nothing that we saw on January 6.
MELBER: A fair point.
I`m almost out of time.
Chai, do you have time for a sad and tragic joke, in the spirit of 2021?
KOMANDURI: You know, I always have time for a sad and tragic joke in the spirit of 2021. I absolutely always do.
MELBER: I guess, if there`s one thing we have all learned, it is those pundits who said you really just have to understand they take him figuratively, they were right all along, weren`t they?
KOMANDURI: They almost certainly were.
They said you that just had to see the subtext, that Donald Trump was speaking in coded language. They were correct all along, that nothing of Donald Trump`s intentions as stated were in any way inaccurate.
KOMANDURI: He fully acted upon those intentions. And those rioters fully acted upon those intentions. That`s something we should not forget.
I mean, it is a sad joke.
MELBER: It is the saddest kind of joke.
MELBER: Go ahead.
KOMANDURI: Yes, it`s like history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce.
We are moving from the tragedy point of history to the farce part of history.
Yes, and I think the reckoning has levels to it. But we have to keep track of everything that was said. And if it was said in error and people want to learn, great. Let`s grow together. I`m all for it.
MELBER: If it was said cynically and in concert with the consequences we`re all facing, let`s track that as well.
Chai Komanduri and Katty Kay, on some big issues, I appreciate both of you tonight. Thank you.
KOMANDURI: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead: Barack Obama honoring the man we just discussed briefly, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with a rebuke for what Obama sees as traitors in our midst. We will bring you that news later tonight.
But first: A top historian that I was actually quoting on the program in our special report Friday, he`s my special guest next on the enabling of Donald Trump and why he says post-truth is pre-fascism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): We have a front-runner in my party who has fed into language that basically justifies physically assaulting people who disagree with you.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously. I will pay for the legal fees. I promise.
RUBIO: I don`t know if that`s a real request or him just needling the press, knowing you that guys were going to get outraged by it.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: The Biden-Harris campaign bus was swarmed on the highway and seemingly almost run off the road by a caravan of Trump supporters.
RUBIO: I saw yesterday a video of these people in Texas. Did you see it? All the cars on the road with the -- we love what they did. But here`s the thing they don`t know. We do that in Florida every day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
You know, many top Republicans cynically downplayed Donald Trump -- all of Donald Trump`s threats, even though they themselves once warned of his very danger and his exact support for violence, like Senator Rubio there.
We documented some of this in a special report on Friday that cited an important new article by historian Timothy Snyder on how elected Republicans made a bargain with Trump. It draws on historical lessons about autocrats and propaganda.
And Snyder notes the sad fact that eight GOP senators and more than 100 representatives voted for the lie that had forced them to flee their chambers.
We are all still making sense of the insurrection. We`re tracking the new facts that do keep emerging, including those new videos, while also trying to draw on history to properly see these threats. They`re still out there. And if you know things, like you have the historical knowledge that many autocracies have grown out of and replaced democracies, if you know that some dictators emerge out of initially valid elections, and then just didn`t leave office, if you know that, then you can better see the difference between, say, hardball politics that may be controversial and an actual threat to our republic.
Snyder, a Yale historian, offers that in his piece and specifically divides the Republicans who have been a problem here into two factions, breakers, and gamers, who are gaming the system to maintain power, meaning they push hard, but work within the current rules, while, he writes, the breakers might actually might actually break the system and have power without democracy.
Snyder argues that McConnell is a gamer. He may bash norms, he may block a Supreme Court pick, but all through his use and pressure of the rules themselves, while Republicans like Cruz and Hawley have exposed themselves as more Trumpian breakers. They`re literally showing the nation how they would overthrow an election.
They just didn`t have enough organized support to pull it off this month.
Now, both factions converge on reinforcing Donald Trump`s lies for years, which was key toward building toward the insurrection.
In Snyder`s telling, many Trump claims were -- quote -- "small lies, and their main effect was cumulative. To believe in all of them was to accept the authority of a single man and disbelieve everything else."
The history of autocrats and dictators is rife with lies and propaganda, because the dictator tries to control not only reality, but any and all perception of it, your perception of it, which is kind of deep.
It also links to why Donald Trump`s last big lie as president has proven to be the most violent and the most tied to ending democracy. He worked with a longstanding team of liars, but this last big lie has actually gotten millions of people to be wrong about the fact that Trump lost this election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: They`re giving -- Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.
TRUMP: I thought Louisiana was very unfair. I won Louisiana. I won it easily.
I think I did win the popular vote in a true sense. I think there was tremendous cheating.
This election was a fraud. This -- it was a rigged election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We are joined now by the renowned professor of history at Yale university Timothy Snyder. He`s the author of many things, including specifically "The American Abyss" in "The New York Times."
Your work is influential. This piece was really striking. Thank you for writing it.
Help us understand why you focus on those two groups, the breakers and the gamers, in this party.
TIMOTHY SNYDER, PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY: Well, I`m trying to get us as Americans to see some of the structural problems with our democracy.
I`m assuming that people who read the piece or watch your show want our democracy to thrive, and I want us to see that we have the same kinds of problems that other democracies that have failed could have.
The Republican Party is based around the idea of gaming the system, keeping some people from voting, keeping the dark money flowing in, gerrymandering the districts. The problem with that strategy is that, if you game the system long enough, you stop believing in the system.
And people start to emerge, maybe even a presidential candidate like Mr. Trump, who think, well, these rules, they`re really just a joke. And then somebody says that for long enough, and other people start to believe it. People doubt for a while, they think it`s just a joke, but, after a while, you get to a point where he tells a big lie, as you say.
And then, at that point, November of 2020, you see, OK, all these people have been gaming the system, but they have been raising another generation, let`s say Mr. Hawley, who are ready not to take the system seriously at all.
And so Mr. Trump says, hey, let`s break the system, let`s lie, let`s say our democracy doesn`t work, you have people who react and say, yes, that`s right. And if it fails in 2020, maybe it will succeed in 2024. And then that becomes a new possibility.
And that`s where you start to see a little bit of a split between the breakers and the gamers, where McConnell and others would like to consolidate the way they do things and hold off this threat from the folks who would like to break the system.
When you lay it out like and the idea that it`s this next, more dangerous group that came up in the challenged ethics of the earlier group, right, it`s a bit like one of these many mafia movies where the old gangsters, well, they killed people, but they only killed certain people. And then the newer gangsters are scarier because they also kill women and children, in "Scarface," or they also kill people who have nothing to do with the mob, civilians.
And you`re going, OK, yes, I see the difference, but, also, you`re both murderers. And I think that would be some people`s response to what you identify here.
One thing you don`t directly say in the piece that I have been dying to ask you is, it seems like the piece suggests that there is a non-zero chance, it is possible that American democracy could be thwarted or ended in our lifetime.
Do you mean to imply that as a risk to take seriously, even if people think some of the system held through this week?
SNYDER: Oh, yes, of course.
I mean, welcome to history. I mean, history is not kind to democracies. What history shows is that democracies tend to fail. The ancient democracies that the founders liked, they failed very quickly. Democracies founded after the First World War failed very quickly.
It`s -- in general, democracy doesn`t work itself out that well. And so -- first of all. Second of all, American democracy has never been perfect. We have had a really hard time allowing African-Americans to vote. And that basic problem with our system was showcased on January 6.
Mr. Trump`s big lie is fundamentally about black people, associating black people voting with fraud. Mr. Cruz referring to 1877 and the compromise of that year, that`s, of course, a reference to American apartheid. The people who were crashing into the American Capitol, many of them are white supremacists.
So, secondly, American democracy itself has been limited. It`s always been an aspiration. It`s always been a project.
And so, yes, we have to realize -- if we don`t realize that democracy can come to an end, we`re not going to have democracy.
Democracy means the people rule. And the people have to decide they want to rule, or else there will be plenty of other candidates who will come in and fill the gap.
MELBER: All very important points. Welcome to history. We will take it.
MELBER: And one of the good things about the Internet, people can find your piece. They don`t even have to come do your whole class, that piece in "The New York Times," "The American Abyss," by Timothy Snyder.
Thank you, sir.
Up ahead, we want to share with you what President Obama`s saying about Dr. Martin Luther King on this important day.
MELBER: In addition to all of the news tonight and these inaugural preparations, it is also Martin Luther King Day, Americans taking a moment to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at an, obviously, tense time, amidst the fallout over the insurrection, which did include a Confederate Flag marched through Congress by a criminal trespasser in support of Donald Trump.
A low point that obviously also contrasts to the iconic scene 50 years ago at the Mall, the packed crowd listening intently as Dr. King did what leaders and great orators do. He stepped up to one of the most imposing moments of his life, an inflection point if there ever was one for the nation, and he delivered, sharing the now iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, calling for justice and peace in the long fight for equality.
Tonight, Washington streets are on lockdown, many Americans still absorbing this insurrection, its roots in violent rhetoric and political lies and racism, as we have covered tonight.
Another contrast today? Well, the public was restricted from visiting Washington`s newest monument, the MLK Memorial -- you can see it there guarded -- because of security concerns.
President Obama also making an implicit reference to this tension right now in his tribute to Dr. King, saying: "He never gave into violence, never waved a traitorous flag or gave up on our country."
That is a rebuke to any other traitors out there.
And while, today, MLK his legacy is so secure, that even politicians who vote against his actual ideas and policies, politicians like Republicans who have voted down the extension of the Voting Rights Act that was literally passed for MLK`s work, they still feel the need to say something nice about Dr. King, just as many people will dash off quick MLK tributes, online without appearing to reckon with his actual work day in and day out.
Remember, in his time, he was repeatedly arrested, often reviled in his life, especially by many mainstream American leaders, by large swathes of white America.
Bernice King put it like this today. i want to read to you what she said: "Please don`t act like everyone loved my father. He was assassinated. A 1967 poll reflected he was one of the most hated men in America. Most hated. Many who quote him now," she reminds us, "and evoke him to deter justice today would likely hate and may already hate the authentic King" -- end quote.
We share her words tonight because it is a fitting place to reflect on all this.
And we should apply it forward. If we look around and see that the people who carry on this legacy are Black Lives Matter activists, or other people fighting for the marginalized or the economically oppressed, which King also cared about, if those people are attacked or reviled or hated today, let`s take a moment and reflect on what we can learn, so we don`t repeat these mistakes.
We need not celebrate all our heroes in this country long after they`re dead.
MELBER: Tonight, we also want to close by giving you an update on, of course, what`s coming.
This has been, as I was discussing earlier with our guests, the most abnormal and the most crime-laden departure of any administration we have ever seen, when you look at all the arrests and indictments at the riot.
But there also is a new administration on the hustings. Joe Biden has priorities he`s already revealing that are going to start Wednesday, his chief of staff releasing a list of executive orders they`re planning. In the name of transparency, they`re putting them out already.
These would become executive orders of the nation on Wednesday. Reenter the Paris climate accord. Tap a new commander for COVID supplies. Make fundamental executive changes in order to reunite families who have been separated under the so-called zero tolerance policy, which goes, of course, to the treatment of children by the Trump administration as well.
It`s a quick and swift start to what Biden aides say is putting a marker down of the end of Trumpism.
The plans for inauguration are also under way. We can tell you about some star power coming up. Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez are both performing.
And a final programming reminder. You can always DVR this program, THE BEAT, right now on your remote. You press your cable home page, search Melber, press DVR, and you will never miss an episode of THE BEAT right there. Record us. We appreciate it.
That does it for me. I wish you a good Martin Luther King Day. I hope today is meaningful for you.
We will be back tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
"THE REIDOUT" is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END