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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
We are moving from the tragedy point of history to the farce part of
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
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
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
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
(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
I think I did win the popular vote in a true sense. I think there was
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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" --
We share her words tonight because it is a fitting place to reflect on all
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
We need not celebrate all our heroes in this country long after they`re
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
Copyright 2021 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the