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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 1/18/21

Guests: Mara Gay, Chaitanya Komanduri, Timothy Snyder, Katty Kay, Joe Neguse, Brittany Packnett Cunningham

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.





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.


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.



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: Guess what? America showed up!

UNIDENTIFIED RIOTER: It`s only a matter of time. Justice is coming.


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?


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.


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


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.



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.


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.


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 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.





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.


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: So, I think we`re good.


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.


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

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.

MELBER: Katty?

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.

KAY: Yes.

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.



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.


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.



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



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

tremendous cheating.

This election was a fraud. This -- it was a rigged election.


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.


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

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


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

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


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



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.




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