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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 1/21/22

Guests: Josh Nass, Dustin Stockton, Boris Epshteyn, Peter Navarro


Former White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro and former Trump 2020 campaign strategic adviser Boris Epshteyn describe their roles in the efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. January 6 Trump Ellipse rally organizer Dustin Stockton speaks out. A Trump White House plan that would have asked the Pentagon to literally seize voting machines is revealed. Omicron cases begin to decrease in some parts of the country.



Hi, Ari. Happy Friday.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Happy Friday, and have a great weekend. Thank you, Nicolle.

I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we have a significant program lined up for you tonight. We`re tracking breaking news on a Trump White House plan that would have asked the Pentagon to literally seize voting machines. This was after Trump last. We also have some special reporting that I`m going to share with you. And I`m going to give you more details on that coming up.

We begin right now, though, with the new details on the fight against Omicron across the nation and the world, as well as good news on the so- called winter surge, which may be ebbing in some areas.

The country is asking, where is the finish line? When the goalposts keep moving, it`s an understandable piece of exhaustion that so many people feel two years to the day from when COVID first formally hit the U.S.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is now a report from the Center for Disease Control that they have the first U.S. case of that coronavirus.

ROBIN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": Now to growing concerns about the deadly coronavirus officially hitting the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is patient one, the first known COVID case in the country.


MELBER: Patient one two years ago today.

We now know the grim toll. The numbers cannot capture the humanity of 860,000 Americans dead. Health experts say Omicron could hit half of our population.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: If you assume that we`re only diagnosing one in five cases, probably upwards of 23, 25 percent of Americans have been infected. And that many may be infected on the back end. We may get 40 to 50 percent of Americans infected with this by mid- February.


MELBER: About nine million workers in the U.S. called out sick with COVID in a two-week span from December to January. Hospital ICUs are about 82 percent full. Spillover effects mean that your care could be compromised, even if it has nothing to do with COVID. You might just need an ICU for something else.

The good news is data showing boosters are 90 percent effective against having to go to hospitals in the first place. That`s the science. We lead with the science.

For the politics though, you have people like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis still bad-mouthing boosters and dodging.


QUESTION: Governor, have you received your COVID booster shot?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): So that`s something that I think people should just make their own decisions on. I`m not going to let that be a weapon for people to be able to use. I think it`s a private matter.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, infectious disease specialist at Boston University, and "The New York Times"` Michelle Goldberg.

Doctor, your thoughts on where we are two years in?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Ari, we are definitely seeing the rare good news of the cases ebbing for sure in the Northeast, and hospitalizations starting to decrease in some parts of the Northeast.

And the rest of the country are seeing a decrease in cases in the South and Midwest, with the West trailing behind a little bit. The hospitalizations, though, are still very high.

And one of the differences in this case, in this particular surge, is, it`s not just the numbers. It`s also, as you mentioned, the fact that this affected health care workers in terms of people who had to call out sick because so many of us got infected at the same time.

And that affected hospitals` ability to handle the patients coming in potentially with the surge. The other part is, in general, the hospital beds and ICU beds, the staffed beds, the number of people who are working to make those beds real hospital resources, those went down over the last few months.

Those have gone down by 4 percent. So, our resilience has gone down, which is what`s made this month particularly hard.


Michelle, Howard stern was speaking out, drawing a clap-back from Tucker Carlson. Take a look.


HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: When are we going to stop putting up with the idiots in this country and just say, you now -- it`s mandatory to get vaccinated? (EXPLETIVE DELETED) them. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) their freedom.

I want my freedom to live.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Maybe it was the coronavirus that broke in. Maybe it just hormonal changes with middle age. He`s now a coward.

And his broadcast is about cowardice, amplifying his fears about corona over the air, and attacking, more precisely, attacking anybody else who`s decided to live life as a free person.


MELBER: Michelle, our nation turns to you to raise the discourse from what we just heard.


MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I`m not sure I`m the right person to do that.

But, look, it`s so striking how the right has morphed, how the Republican Party has morphed into the anti-vax party, right, how FOX News, even though FOX News, as I think you have said on this show many times, has its own vaccine mandate for its employees, still is constantly spouting anti-vax propaganda, mocking people who`ve had the booster and who nonetheless get infected.


Lara Logan, a frequent FOX contributor, I believe is speaking at an anti- vax rally in D.C. this weekend. And so you have DeSantis. You have, in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin is expanding unemployment insurance to people who lose their jobs because they refuse to get vaccinated, basically paying people not to get vaccinated.

And so they`re -- look, I don`t -- no politician, no political coalition could have controlled Omicron. But what I think you see the right doing and the Republican Party doing is everything in their power to make it worse, more prolonged, more painful.

MELBER: Michelle, do you get the sense that Governor DeSantis did get the booster and doesn`t want people to know?

GOLDBERG: I mean, if I had to guess, that`s what I would guess, because, look, I think that his base is hostile to vaccines. And I think that he would only have everything to gain by saying, no, enough is enough, I didn`t get that booster, right?

I think that -- I don`t think he would really lose any political capital for saying he didn`t get it. But he`s not an idiot, and he`s smart enough to protect himself from a raging epidemic -- a raging epidemic. But if he is smart enough to protect himself from a raging epidemic, he is -- doesn`t have the integrity to encourage other people to do the same, if it might alienate some of his base.

I mean, we have seen Donald Trump, who, until very recently, could do no wrong with most of the right, when he`s talked about his own booster, that`s when people start booing. That`s when he lost them. I mean, and so it`s really striking that, at this point, the Republican Party, or at least the base, much of the base of the Republican Party, is even more anti-vax or anti-booster or anti-COVID mitigation than they are pro-Trump.

MELBER: And, Doctor, how do you stack that up against the data that comes in? And the experts have told us it takes time, so you have to track it as it comes in.

But this latest variant, Omicron, how does it track the booster`s progress there?

BHADELIA: Yes, I think you showed the CDC study. It`s so important to stress that, because we are lagging behind many other industrialized countries in terms of people, the number of people who have taken these boosters.

And the studies today showed it not only -- in the age of Omicron, these boosters not only helped with severe disease and hospitalizations, and ICU, but also infections. And you can see that in the numbers from places like New York City, where there`s a clear difference, not just in -- we already knew about the hospitalizations and deaths.

Those of us who work within the walls of hospitals, we know that those who are -- the majority, the vast majority of those who are critically ill for COVID itself are coming in because they`re unvaccinated. And so we need to ensure that we paint that out, but the benefits are clear.

The other thing I want to paint is, you talked about reaching that balance. How do we find our ourselves out of this? And endemicity, we haven`t reached it yet, but what that term means is that you have a steady growth, expected amount of growth of infection. You come to a balance.

And that balance is struck by two competing forces, right? On the left, you have this waning immunity and the fact that the virus is evolving, and the fact that we might need to get boosters, and what does it mean when there are parts of our own country that are speaking out against these vaccines?

This is going to be a struggle for a really long time. But on the right side, we have these new tools in hand, the oral antiviral pills, the idea that we might find vaccines that last across variants. And so we have to keep balancing these two things.

And I just feel like -- I wish that there were more people on that left side encouraging vaccination, so that we could move the tally towards normalcy faster.

MELBER: And, Doctor, what do you think about the public health messaging? Because people are confused or wrongly believe that, because Omicron is bad and COVID is not going away, that means vaccines are not working, when, in fact, they`re a great way to keep you out of the hospital.

BHADELIA: They are.

And I really hope that`s -- there`s so much confusion, so I really hope people look at numbers for themselves. Look at the numbers. CDC has started publishing the differences of vaccination, the hospitalization rates between people who are vaccinated and people who are not.

In New York City, for example, the numbers are 15 times the difference if you`re vaccinated vs. not vaccinated. And, honestly, we talk about -- you heard DeSantis say, oh, this is an individual choice.

It`s an individual choice, but it`s a civic responsibility, because, if you end up in a hospital with COVID because you were not vaccinated, you`re potentially taking another ICU bed. And that, of course, affects everybody.


BHADELIA: So, it`s your civic responsibility to protect yourself, because you`re taking away from a scarce public health resource, a health care resource that we`re all using.

MELBER: Yes, really well put.

And as we mark this anniversary, there are the signs of progress.

Dr. Bhadelia, Michelle Goldberg kicking us off, my thanks to both of you.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

MELBER: We turn next to the breaking news on a Trump White House plan that would have tried to get the military involved in overturning the election.


It is a scandal. And it`s part of our special coverage tonight, as I have a very special report that`s going to go to the facts. And I can tell you, you will not see it anywhere else.

I`m going to explain that in depth right after this break.


MELBER: Big news tonight stoking grave questions about how Trump advisers wanted to abuse the military to potentially try to overturn the election.

Now, this pretty damning evidence actually comes from inside the Trump White House. After Trump lost the election, but was still in office, aides mulled a brazen plan that would have attempted to order the military to literally -- quote -- "seize voting machines."

Now, why are we learning this right now? Politico reporting the incriminating draft executive order, which was not ever issued, is coming out now because it was in the pile of documents that Trump had tried to block from Congress, but which were just cleared when the Supreme Court dealt Trump a historic 8-1 loss, which green-lit hundreds of pages for House investigators.

That was one of several legal developments in this busy week, as the same House committee plowed ahead with new subpoenas for Trump`s campaign lawyers. You see them there. That includes Rudy Giuliani and the man you see on your right, Boris Epshteyn. And it raises legal questions about their evidence or potential testimony or potential privilege against testimony.

There`s also a new push to get, separately, testimony from Ivanka Trump, all of this in that House probe.


Then, down in Georgia, the DA seeking a major escalation this week, looking for a judge to approve a special grand jury in the criminal probe into Trump`s alleged election tampering specifically in that state.

Now, I just went through all the news from just this week. It`s a lot.

And that brings us, as I mentioned, to a special exclusive segment that we are doing on THE BEAT tonight, as the House probe of the insurrection puts so much heat on these principals I just mentioned.

Well, I can tell you, what we`re about to do, you literally will not see anywhere else.

It`s our exclusive for you when we`re back after our shortest break in just 60 seconds.


MELBER: The House probe into January 6 went into overdrive this week with that win at the Supreme Court and new subpoenas for Trump campaign lawyers.

And now on THE BEAT, we turn to a special segment to get at the facts with some of the very witnesses the congressional committee is eying.

The interviews you`re about to see, the reporting we`re about to share with you can help us all go deeper inside this investigation.

So, now we turn to live interviews with some people who have direct involvement in some of the events on or around January 6.

We are joined by Trump campaign lawyer Boris Epshteyn, in the news because he was subpoenaed by the committee just this week, along with those other Trump lawyers. He`s a veteran of the White House in both Trump campaigns, including working with Rudy Giuliani in that tense post-election period.

Tonight, I will also interview White House veteran Peter Navarro, who detailed a plan to overturn the election results at "The Washington Post" dubbed a plot to -- quote -- "overthrow the government peacefully."

And then, later, I will speak with Dustin Stockton, an organizer of the January 6 rally who has cooperated and provided testimony to that same House probe.

We will hear from each of these officials and witnesses live tonight, beginning right now with Trump White House veteran Peter Navarro.

Peter, welcome to THE BEAT.


MELBER: I`d like to start with you with three simple yes-or-no questions and then go into more depth.

One, has the House probe requested your cooperation?


MELBER: Was it wrong for people to storm the Capitol on January 6?


MELBER: Was it wrong to try to overturn the election to keep Trump in office?

NAVARRO: No, not legally. We -- everything I did was clearly between the lines.

MELBER: So let`s get into the depth. You say not legally, which means you think what you did and what you advocated, a way to try to take it to the House and overturn the results, was legal.

Since the last time we spoke, there have been developments on the criminal side of this, as you know...


MELBER: .. an indictment for the Oath Keepers` leader on seditious conspiracy.

I just want to read briefly from that. The fact pattern is different. But I would note that the government alleges there that what he was trying to do was -- quote...

NAVARRO: Which government, Ari, just to be clear?

MELBER: The Justice Department, independent federal prosecutors, overseen by independent judges.


MELBER: I will let you respond, but let me just read the -- I will let you respond, but let me read what is alleged in the indictment which was filed...


MELBER: ... which says, basically, that he was opposing by force the lawful transfer of presidential power.

You have said you wanted to oppose that transfer of power, just not by force. Is it fair to say you and this Oath Keeper, you have the same intent, just different methods?


NAVARRO: Ari, look, you`re doing your prosecutor thing.

How about you give me a chance to talk now? Is that OK?

MELBER: The question is on the table. Do you share that intent with him?

NAVARRO: Well, look, Ari, here -- let me play lawyer for a minute and simply lay the predicate for the discussion tonight.

My role in what "The Washington Post" calls the coup, we call the Green Bay Sweep, was simply to look at the analysis of what happened in the election.


I started that on Thanksgiving Day of 2020. I completed three reports, which I`m sure you have read, Ari. And I hope you will confirm that.

But here`s what I find. And I think there`s a couple of things we can agree on. First of all, over four years after Trump got elected, changes in the legislation, judicial rulings, and particularly decisions by secretaries of state, particularly in the battleground states, led to a dramatic increase in absentee and mail-in ballots.

At the same time, there was a dramatic decrease in the monitoring of those ballots for illegalities through things like a relaxation of voter I.D., for example, and the elimination of signature match. I think we can agree on that.

I think we can also agree that, factually, Biden got two to three to one of the absentee ballots in the battleground states. And so, when you put those facts and evidence together, it`s clear that Biden won because of those changes.

I describe that as a grand stuff-the-ballot-box strategy by the Democrats.

Where we disagree is either -- whether anything was illegal.


MELBER: I`m letting you answer, but the question is about, what you call the Green Bay Sweep -- what you call the Green Bay Sweep is trying to take -- is trying to take the results and have the House override them.

You gave your response, which is your view of what you think happened with the ballots.

You have also said...

NAVARRO: Well, but do we agree on -- do...


MELBER: Let me finish. Well, let me finish. Let me...

NAVARRO: Yes, but, Ari, do we agree on the facts?


MELBER: Sir, I`m going to let you go again You went, and then I went. We did this before.

NAVARRO: Hang on, Ari.

MELBER: The other issue here is that you have tried to use the so-called legal process, Peter, you have tried to use it to argue that, because you think it would go to the House...


MELBER: ... that helps Donald Trump not be responsible for what happened.

I want to play a little bit of how Donald Trump sounded...

NAVARRO: You asked me -- you asked me for a simple answer to your question.

MELBER: Yes, I did. We got -- we heard your answer. And people can...

NAVARRO: Would you simply answer my question?

MELBER: Well, no, because...

NAVARRO: Do you agree with me that there was a dramatic increase...

MELBER: Peter -- Peter, if you become a journalist, then you can have a show, and you can ask people questions.

You agreed to come in and do the interview.

NAVARRO: Well...


MELBER: Here`s what Donald Trump is saying.

NAVARRO: I`m here.

MELBER: Yes, sir.

NAVARRO: I`m here to do the interview. But I want this to be on a level playing field, Ari.


Sir, here is what Donald Trump was saying on January 6. Take a listen.

NAVARRO: I`m simply asking...


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to walk down to the Capitol. And I will be there with you. You will never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength.


MELBER: That`s what he said.

And, as you can see on the screen, the Secret Service advised him they couldn`t keep him safe, which is why he didn`t go to the Capitol.

Does Donald Trump not bear some responsibility for telling the people to storm the Capitol, for planning to go, which you say is what intervened in your so-called sweep?

NAVARRO: I was with the boss for five years and went to numerous rallies.

I never saw any violence at those rallies, except for the occasional protester on the other side doing violent acts in those rallies. The mind- set of the president was, rallies are peaceful in Trump land. There`s a lot of evidence that needs to be looked at as to how that violence got instigated and started, people like Ray Epps, for example, that have come up in the news.

But I get back to this, Ari. It`s like, where we -- where do we disagree? I mean, there`s a concern here among the American people that the polls clearly show that about half the American people think that there was a problem with that election.

I`m saying to you, and I`m asking you, do you agree that there was a dramatic increase in absentee and mail-in ballots that helped Biden win at the same time there was a dramatic decrease in looking and monitoring those ballots for illegalities, and possibly a lot of illegal ballots slipped through?

Therein lies the tale for me. And I think the mind-set of people in the Trump White House in the Trump campaign at the time going into January 6 was, there were egregious fraud and election irregularities committed, and we wanted to get to the bottom of that.

That`s what the Green Bay Sweep was all about. All Mike Pence was supposed to do on Capitol Hill that day...


NAVARRO: ... was send the results back to six battleground states for 10 days to figure out what happened.

MELBER: Well, Peter, yes. And we have spoken about the Pence piece.

I`m going to jump back in, Peter, because...

NAVARRO: And what happened was, violence and chaos erupted on Capitol Hill.

MELBER: I do give you time, but it is a back-and-forth, Peter.


MELBER: You just referenced the fact that you worked closely with Donald Trump, which is part of why you`re here, and you didn`t see the violence.

But there was extensive violence on January 6. That`s why I quoted a sedition conspiracy indictment. That`s why we have so much violence on tape.

And I want to say it`s a chance for you tonight to make sure that you`re on record against that violence. You have tried to argue that somehow that interfered...

NAVARRO: You asked me the question. I asked and answered it. Let`s not do this again.

MELBER: ... with the plan. Right.

Well, here`s your boss. I`m going to play this for your response. Here`s Donald Trump that day, and here`s how he played down the violence.

Take a look. Take a look.


NAVARRO: That violence interrupted what we wanted to do. Read...


TRUMP: We`re going to have to fight much harder.

Right from the start, it was zero threat.

We`re going to walk down to the Capitol.

The love in the air, i have never seen anything like it.

You will never take back our country with weakness.

They were peaceful people. These were great people.



MELBER: He falsely says they were peaceful.

Final question. Do you acknowledge they were not?

NAVARRO: They were -- look, I ran the Mall that day.

It`s all in my "In Trump Time" book. I saw nothing but peaceful people walking along up to that Capitol. I did not personally observe storming the gates there, but I did...

MELBER: But you have seen it on tape. You know what happened.

You know Donald Trump lied about it.

NAVARRO: Have been told and then seen reporting that says there were people who tore down those barriers.

MELBER: I just played him lying about.

NAVARRO: Where were the Capitol Hill Police? Where was the Pentagon and the National Guard? Why were they kept from that? Why was that allowed to happen?

MELBER: The Capitol Police were being beaten and attacked by Trump fans. I think you know that.

NAVARRO: This is amazing to me, Ari, that that would be allowed to happen, when Nancy Pelosi was told there could be problems. The Pentagon was told there could be problems.


As you know...

NAVARRO: We only wanted peace that day. That`s my bottom line, Ari.


NAVARRO: The Green Bay Sweep was designed to have a peaceful look at how many illegal ballots...


MELBER: And you got some time. And you know there are other guests waiting.

And, Peter, I appreciate you coming back on THE BEAT, so people can hear it and make up their own mind.

NAVARRO: Sure. Always a pleasure, Ari. Yes.

MELBER: Thank you.

We turn, as promised, to Boris Epshteyn, a lawyer for the Trump campaign, subpoenaed this very week.

So, this is pretty newsworthy. Your response to all of that? First of all, thank you for being here as well, sir.


My response has been public. I`m happy to share all of the information about the overwhelming amount of fraud that happened in the 2020 election in Arizona, in Wisconsin, in Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Of course, as you understand, as a lawyer, and I believe as you have referenced on your program, subpoenaing attorneys is a major problem for this illegitimate committee. But we will see what happens.

MELBER: So, first, yes, we did report there`s attorney-client privilege issues, so fact-check true.

Second, when you say you will provide evidence, does that mean your intent is to cooperate, to provide testimony to this committee?

EPSHTEYN: Ari, my statement stands for itself.

I`m happy to provide evidence of the overwhelming fraud that happened in the 2020 election to you, to the committee, to Democrats, to RINOs, to anybody out there. This election was stolen from President Trump. President Trump won the 2020 election.

MELBER: So, in the vein of that false claim, I want to show you some of what you and...

EPSHTEYN: False, according to you.

MELBER: Well, the Supreme Court, the results.

You`re aware that President Biden is in the White House.

EPSHTEYN: No, the Supreme Court -- hold -- Ari, let`s not -- your audience is a smart audience. Don`t lie to your audience.

MELBER: But, Boris, let`s go one at a time. Let`s go one at a time.


EPSHTEYN: The Supreme Court never ruled on the evidence.

MELBER: I want to show you on the "War Room," Boris, with Steve Bannon.

EPSHTEYN: Let`s do it.

MELBER: This was in the run-up.

We just heard Navarro talk about what he calls the Sweep, what the committee members have referred to as a coup, what "The Washington Post" called overturning the government, albeit potentially peacefully. Here`s you and Steve.

Let`s take a look.


EPSHTEYN: The vice president has got a lot of power. And that`s very important to recognize.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: That`s a huge deal. Repeat that to the audience.

I want to make sure everybody understands this. You got the buried lead right there.

EPSHTEYN: The vice president has a ton of power in terms of opening and counting the Electoral College votes at the joint session the 6th.

BANNON: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It`s going to be moving. It`s going to be quick.


MELBER: Two important questions. And I want to hear your response. I will give you time.

One, Boris, was that a direct reference to what Navarro calls the Sweep? Was your plan to try to force a vote in the House to reverse the election outcome?

And, two, did you ever plan or knowingly see the storming of the Capitol or the violence that day as a way to increase the likelihood of that?

EPSHTEYN: Let me take number two first.

Absolutely not, Ari. I had absolutely no idea that there was going to be any violence whatsoever at the Capitol. Nobody around President Trump, including President Trump, none of us had any idea that the events at the Capitol would happen.

And, actually, I`m on record, as soon as I saw the events at the Capitol, of tweeting that any and all violence needs to stop. I`m on record. And that`s been reported.

MELBER: Do you remember what time you tweeted that, since you brought it up?

EPSHTEYN: I think it was around -- I believe it was in the 2:00 hour.

MELBER: It was about 2:30, so it was a bit into it. But go ahead.

EPSHTEYN: Well, there -- well, there you go, Ari, I guess.

Why did you have to ask if you already knew? But thanks for pushing my Twitter out here. I appreciate it.

MELBER: Why do you and Peter not understand that, in interviews, I ask questions? You both make it sound like a thing. I`m going to ask you questions.

EPSHTEYN: I`m -- you can ask. I don`t -- you can ask me...

MELBER: This is the tweet. You did say -- again, facts matter.

You said: "To all those protesting, please stay peaceful. Respect the law." You posted that at 2:30, as you say.

So, I give you back the floor to discuss the first part of the question.

Were you on board with what we heard from Navarro, that you would kick this to the House and somehow override the results?

EPSHTEYN: Well, first of all, the results are the results based on illegal votes.

So the results, as I believe them to be, based on the 83,000 unlawful ballots in Maricopa County in Arizona, the 200,000 unlawful ballots in Wisconsin, the tens of thousands of unlawful ballots in Georgia and the same in Pennsylvania, I believe the lawful results are that President Trump won the 2020 election.

In terms of January 6, the events actually inside the Capitol, the process, according to the Electoral Count Act, there was absolutely a plan and a process for there to be challenges to the electoral count vote, as you know.


MELBER: So, you -- just -- is that a yes that...


MELBER: Is that a yes?

EPSHTEYN: No, that`s -- you asked me a question. I`m answering the question.

There was a process of challenging...

MELBER: That`s a yes -- this is important, because we may run down this in a future election.

That`s a yes that you thought...

EPSHTEYN: I`m answering -- Ari, I`m answering your question.

MELBER: I know. And I`m going to go back and forth here. You`re going to get time, Boris.

But that is a yes that what Navarro and Bannon are talking about, that you would use the so-called Electoral Count Act and other methods...

EPSHTEYN: What do you mean so-called? It`s an act. It`s not so-called. That`s what it`s called.

MELBER: ... would be to then try to have the House declare Trump the winner? Is that correct?

EPSHTEYN: Under the Electoral Count Act that was passed in the 1800s, after the election of 1876, the count was passed in 1886 -- the Electoral Count Act lays out a process to challenge electoral votes.


EPSHTEYN: There was a process that was undertaken, and there were challenges that -- there were challenges that took place.

MELBER: And you`re on record there.

So, you would be open to doing that in a future election if Donald Trump were to run again?

EPSHTEYN: The Constitution, under the 12th Amendment and the Electoral Count Act, lay out a process.

Now, the interesting thing is, is that the act itself has never been challenged constitutionally. That`s why there`s a question as to the role of the vice president.

I`m on record saying that I believe for the vice president to have a very significant role in that process. Others, such as John Yoo, a constitutional scholar, also believe there`s a significant role to be played by the vice president, when he opens and counts the electoral votes.

MELBER: OK. Got your answer there.

There`s also been reporting about the attempt to seat fraudulent electors. Is that something you ever worked on or would support, for example, in Michigan?

EPSHTEYN: That`s so funny.

It`s not fraudulent electors, Ari. It`s alternate electors.

Because of the process, again, that`s laid out in the Constitution under the 12th Amendment and the Electoral Count Act, there`s a process for electors be challenged. If those challenges are successful, you need an alternate slate of electors, just like happened in 1960, when the Hawaii slate was challenged.

It was not challenged successfully, but there was an alternate slate sent.

MELBER: Right.

EPSHTEYN: Same thing happened in 1876, as you know.


MELBER: We have on the screen reporting of Republicans in Michigan saying they received a call from a Trump lawyer about that.

A co-chair of the Michigan party, Republican Party, there also speaking about that. Take a listen.


MESHAWN MADDOCK, CO-CHAIR, MICHIGAN REPUBLICAN PARTY: We fought to seat the electors. The Trump campaign asked us to do that.


MELBER: Did you make any call like that?

EPSHTEYN: I actually couldn`t hear that.

But, as I just said...

MELBER: I can read it to you. Hold on. I will read it to you.

EPSHTEYN: Sure. Go ahead.

MELBER: This is Chairman Maddock -- quote -- "We fought to seat the electors. The Trump campaign asked us to do that."

Did you ever make calls like that regarding what you`re calling these alternate electors?

EPSHTEYN: I was quoted in "The Washington Post" in the last 24 hours.

Yes, I was part of the process to make sure there were alternate electors for when, as we hoped, the challenges to the seated electors would be heard and would be successful, per the 12th Amendment of the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act.

MELBER: So, your view, just for the record here, is that you could, as a lawyer to the Trump campaign, seat these electors in states where the process, the state results, as overseen by the independent courts, as approved by the Supreme Court, found that Biden won.

EPSHTEYN: The Supreme Court...

MELBER: And you would put in what you call alternate -- yes, what you would -- hold on. Let me finish the question. Then you can go ahead.

And you would then support putting in these alternate, or others call them fraudulent, electors. You support that? You don`t see any chance there that could be against the law, Boris?

EPSHTEYN: It is absolutely not against the law. It is actually according to the law.

Now, you keep referencing the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court never ruled on the merits. It only ruled on technicality. And many scholars, including myself and others, believe that they should have taken that case, the Pennsylvania-Texas case, on original jurisdiction, because it was fully within their power to do so.

But the Supreme Court absolutely never ruled on the merits of the overwhelming fraud that happened in 2020.

MELBER: But, as you know, Boris -- yes, as you know, the cases were so weak, they never reached the merits. It`s not like Bush v. Gore, where they had the full case.

They didn`t even see -- and that included many Trump-appointed justices -- a reason to even go there.

EPSHTEYN: It was a different makeup. It was a different makeup of the court.

Certain justices like Clarence Thomas disagreed and said they should have taken it up on original jurisdiction. The Supreme Court did not. And it is the full truth that the Supreme Court never ruled on the merits.

And more and more information is coming out every day, out of Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, that this election was, in fact, stolen.

MELBER: I mean, yes, there`s information coming out.

Let me ask it like this as well, I understand that you have the right to advocate for your beliefs and your client. That`s why you`re here.

When you say alternate electors, that`s your view of it. Of course, you also understand that there are open probes, including in Georgia, that prosecutors might look at it differently. You understand that, if you are aiding and abetting the seating of fraudulent electors or voter fraud, that not only is that potentially against the law, but then you also would lose the lawyer-client privilege under the crime fraud exception for your client, the Trump campaign?

EPSHTEYN: First of all, Ari, I don`t think that you are the one that`s going to be determining or your audience whether there was any perpetration of fraud.

I will tell you that the perpetration of fraud was absolutely done, and it was done by the Democrats. It was done by the left, by Marc Elias and others. And that fraud was perpetrated on the American people.


That`s why, according to Doug Schoen, over 50 percent of Americans believe that there was fraud in the 2020 election that was substantial; 47-41, again, Doug Schoen, a Democrat, says that there was fraud which changed results in the 2020 election.

So, Ari, everything that was done was done legally by the Trump legal team by -- according to the rules, and under the leadership of Rudy Giuliani. We fought for the truth. And the truth is that there was overwhelming fraud in the 2020 election.

And I`m doing everything I can possible, within all the rules, laws and regulations, to make sure that that truth comes out.

MELBER: Part of what you said is false. But we`re going to move forward.

I mentioned the reporting about this proposed draft order that may have come from a Trump lawyer that -- in the tranche of documents, according to the Supreme Court loss 8-1 here this week, that says that there was an idea about appointing a special counsel to investigate the election and to have the military seize ballots.

Were you aware of that plan at the time?

EPSHTEYN: Absolutely not. Didn`t hear about it until, I believe, today. Had nothing to do with it.

And I would caution against reporting on any drafts that nobody knows where they came from. That`s about as good as a paper napkin.

MELBER: Does it sound legal to you to have the military get involved?

EPSHTEYN: I`m not going to opine on some piece of paper that nobody knows who it came from that I haven`t been read.


When you look at what Peter Navarro has said here, would you describe yourself as basically on board with that plan, what he calls the Sweep, along with Bannon?

EPSHTEYN: You know, people can give different names to things.

I have laid out exactly what we worked on. And what we worked on is to, A, prove the overwhelming fraud, which I believe we went a long way in doing. We had a very limited amount of time. More information has come out since.

And then, B, to make sure that there were legal challenges to those electoral count votes. Those challenges were -- did happen. Unfortunately, the events that occurred disturbed those challenges. So, that`s what -- that`s what took place.

And I`m absolutely comfortable with it.

MELBER: And, finally, how soon should we expect to see you testifying before the House committee?

EPSHTEYN: Well, Ari, we will see. As they say, we will see what happens.

But, if you invite me back, you will see me soon on this program.

MELBER: Always interesting.

Boris Epshteyn, someone that the committee wants to talk to you, I`m glad we got to talk to you first. Thanks for being here.

EPSHTEYN: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: As promised, we turn to another guest here tonight, as we try to make sense of all this, Dustin Stockton, who is also accompanied by his lawyer, Josh Nass. Dustin`s agreed to do the interview, the lawyer on hand in case anything comes up.

Dustin, thanks for being here.

DUSTIN STOCKTON, JANUARY 6 TRUMP ELLIPSE RALLY ORGANIZER: Hey, thanks for having me and exposing your audience to different viewpoints.

MELBER: Absolutely.

You have worked in and around conservative politics and supporting Trump for some time. But you had, according to what I understand, a different vision or plan for the January 6 rally. What was it?

STOCKTON: Well, so in conjunction with what we heard from Peter and Boris, there was a frustration that we hadn`t had the opportunity to present the evidence that we thought we had, different voter fraud schemes that had been kind of -- or theories that had been pitched around.

And we kind of expected that day to be the day that we kind of made the case, in conjunction with what`s been called the Green Bay Sweep at this point, which is, the Ellipse rally was supposed to be like the opening argument, if you will. They were supposed to present hard evidence that was kind of the hook.

And then, inside the Capitol, when the split happened, the Green Bay Sweep started, and the objections started, there was supposed to be more evidence presented at each one of those objections when the House and Senate split.

So, what -- to back Peter`s account up, the violent disruption at the Capitol was extremely frustrating for us, because we felt like it prevented us from being able to present our case to the world with all of the eyes upon us.

MELBER: When were you first made aware, then, of the so-called Sweep?

STOCKTON: I never heard it referenced to the Sweep.

But as we were doing the March for Trump bus tour, we were in communication and sending people that we had met along the way who had signed different affidavits to different members of Congress to be able to have the opportunity to have that evidence presented.

MELBER: Right.

So, it is interesting, again, as we go through the facts -- as I mentioned, the committee also spoke with you in this investigation -- that you did see those as linked. Mr. Navarro, in fairness, talks about the idea that it was his goal to do that, what he calls in the lines or nonviolent.

Then you have, of course, the storming of the Capitol.

Do you think Donald Trump bears responsibility for that storming?

STOCKTON: I do think he bears some responsibility.

From an organizers` standpoint, we had done several D.C. rallies after the election. We knew what kind of logistics it took to move a crowd of that size from one place to another. We had led people to go from Freedom Plaza to the Supreme Court, which is about the same distance. It required a huge logistical effort, I mean, medics stopping stations, marshals, closures of streets, cooperation with a dozen different government agencies.



STOCKTON: None of that was in place for march to the Capitol.

If they had wanted to do that, we would have been happy to do that. We have the templates to do it.

MELBER: Right.

STOCKTON: None of that was in place.

And so I do think it was wildly irresponsible to send people down to the Capitol that way.

MELBER: Right, which is, as we showed even tonight, what the president did.

Would you ever vote for him again?

STOCKTON: I don`t think I could. I would find it very, very difficult to support Donald Trump, especially -- I mean, you look at -- since, I have had an opportunity to go back and look back and really reflect upon a lot of what I call warning signs that I excused or overlooked.

I certainly would caution anyone against going to work for a Trump campaign. And I just -- I find the whole thing to be frustrating and sad at this point. I will definitely be looking to support somebody else in the Republican primaries.

MELBER: When did you first hear anything about the Oath Keepers being involved on January 6? And was that a bad idea?

STOCKTON: Yes, so there was an ongoing -- there was a split within the organizer groups.

The group that had control, Women For America First, who I was working in conjunction with, we used really quality, professional security, guys who do big crowd sizes. They`re licensed. They`re insured. They`re serious people.

There were other people who were advocating for kind of the amateur security...


STOCKTON: ... which included Oath Keepers.

MELBER: Bad idea, the Oath Keepers?

STOCKTON: Terrible idea.

I have likened it to the Hells Angels ending the Summer of Love in `69, as that bad of an idea.


MELBER: And so let me ask you, Dustin.

Again, I appreciate you, like all the guests, coming on. And you have this primary experience, and people can listen to it.

But you did previously, just about half-a-year ago, say online -- quote -- "I encourage people to attend an Oath Keepers meeting, get involved in the Anon research group."

And I do want to play, again, for your response, because all this stuff matters...


MELBER: ... some of the way you sounded -- this was beforehand -- when you were talking about people`s -- possibly being well-armed, arming themselves.

This was at a different rally, but one of the similar ones you organized. Take a look.


STOCKTON: A well-armed and self-reliant populace who take personal responsibility can never be oppressed and will never be ruled.

I lost all my guns in a tragic boating accident. But I have a feeling you guys have me covered.


MELBER: That was just weeks before all this went down.

Do you stand by that? Do you continue to...


MELBER: Oh, I want to let Dustin answer the question. And then you can, of course, add to it.

But, Dustin...

NASS: Well, I -- but I just want to say -- I just want to say, their communications that the committee -- that we have turned over to the committee that would cast Dustin Stockton, my client, in an overwhelmingly positive light, if you were to be exposed to them.

MELBER: But you jumping in, as if he can`t answer for himself, could make him look in a negative narrative.

NASS: And, Ari, what you see is a narrative...

MELBER: Just -- just you want to talk about...


MELBER: I`d love to have Dustin respond, and then you go second.

Dustin, do you want to respond?

NASS: Well, what you`re playing is constitutionally protected speech.

But go ahead, Dustin.

STOCKTON: Well, thank you, Josh.

And I do stand by -- I do believe, I still believe in the Second Amendment. I still believe in self-reliance and personal responsibility. I believe -- and to your question about recently defending people going to Oath Keepers meetings or joining an Anon research group, all these groups are not created equal.

And I think that continuing to get together politically and organize is important. And I really resent the -- I was going to use a bad word -- the idiots who have tarnished so many good groups with their violence on January 6.

NASS: Ari, if Dustin Stockton had his way -- and this is based on all the communications and correspondences that the committee is in possession of - - the violence that took place on January 6 would never have taken place.

There are communications that substantiate that, where he expresses his concern in the days and weeks leading up to the 6th about certain rogue actors that he`s referencing, and there...


MELBER: Well, I think we just -- I think that part -- I think a fair viewer could hear that, because I think Dustin spoke to that. And we discussed that fairly.

And people may have strong-willed disagreements here. Of course, the Oath Keepers have their leader indicted for sedition conspiracy.

So, if you`re standing by...

NASS: Deservingly so.

MELBER: And so, Dustin, if you`re standing by people going to those meetings, then that`s where you stand.

I want to play one more piece of sound for your...



MELBER: Go ahead. Go ahead, Dustin.

STOCKTON: Ari, can I say one thing?

MELBER: Yes, go ahead.

STOCKTON: One thing, Ari.

I think it`s an important distinction, which is the Oath Keepers` national leadership is not representative of every group, which often includes the local sheriff and senior members of law enforcement, who do things like first aid trainings.

And so I don`t want to sound like I`m defending the people who did sedition and were violent in any way.

But I also don`t want to have a chilling effect on people getting together in their communities and working on things like self-reliance and being -- and the Second Amendment.

MELBER: Yes. Well, and final -- and appreciate that you`re here to speak for yourself.

The final point is something else you said. This was on the eve of January 6. We just heard Boris Epshteyn claim, falsely, that Donald Trump won, when he didn`t.

Now, you didn`t say that. But here is what you did say on that eve of January 6. Take a listen.


STOCKTON: Obviously, we know what`s going to happen at the Capitol and that we need these legislators to do the right thing.

We need them to look at the evidence that this election was stolen, and then do the right thing, because, if our votes don`t count, nothing counts.


MELBER: Given what`s happened, Dustin, is this a time to say the election was not stolen?

STOCKTON: Yes, I mean, I have had a lot of time to reflect.

I have sought out experts. I really love the guys at Open Source Election Technology, which is bipartisan and has been doing this stuff for a long time.

I think we need to restore confidence in the election system. I think there were plenty of things, doubts cast that were illegitimate, that have caused all kinds of problem and seeded that doubt. And I hope we can work bipartisanly to come to a solution, because what I said there about having our votes count really is important.

It is our expression of any kind of dissatisfaction with the system. As long as we have -- confident that we can change things with the vote, I think we stop from marginalizing...

MELBER: Just to be clear, you conclude -- you conclude that the current president, President Biden, is the lawful winner?

STOCKTON: I do believe, under the circumstances, that he is the lawful winner. I accept him as the United States president. And I wish him well.

NASS: Ari, he does believe that.

And the only thing he was involved in, in that same clip that you played were e-mails where he was expressing disgust and concern to Amy Kremer about the fact that these rogue actors like Ali Alexander and Alex Jones were being given a platform to march from the Ellipse to storm the Capitol.

MELBER: Well, look, I will say this. And this applies to both of you, as well as all of our guests tonight. We appreciate going to the source, talking it out. These are important issues.

So, I want to thank you both for joining us.

We`re going to fit in a break here. It has been quite a show.

We have Joyce Vance coming up right after this.




MELBER: How soon should we expect to see you testifying before the House committee?

EPSHTEYN: Well, Ari, we will see. As they say, we will see what happens.

But, if you invite me back, you will see me soon on this program.


MELBER: One of the Trump lawyers under subpoena speaking to us just moments ago.

We`re now joined by former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance.

We spoke to individuals there, two of whom are under the interest of the committee for evidence, and Mr. Navarro, who speaks rather candidly about his thoughts and intent to overturn the results of the election.

Your thoughts on what we just heard?

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I`m reminded of that great line from the movie "My Cousin Vinny," where Vinny Gambini, a great American lawyer, listens to an argument made by a lawyer, and turns to him and says, "Everything that guy said is B.S."

I think that`s what we heard here. We heard an effort to justify the unjustifiable. And what I heard from these two is this notion that the big lie was the truth, that there was fraud in the 2020 election, and that everything that they did was legitimate because of that.

And, of course, we know that`s not true. Every court that considered the big lie found it to be just that, a big lie. There is no evidence that the 2020 election was tainted by fraud. That is the conclusion not only of the courts, not only of Congress, when it certified Joe Biden, and Republicans, along with Democrats, said that they believed he was the winner of the election. That`s also the conclusion of Republicans who administered those elections in the state.

So, Ari, great job of getting these guys to air their future defenses and justification.

But, really, I think "My Cousin Vinny" characterizes what they had to say pretty well.

MELBER: It is a great legal film.

Mr. Epshteyn also tried to defend something that may actually run afoul of election law, which would be the fraudulent seating or use of electors to override lawful votes in the state.

Take a listen.


MELBER: Did you ever make calls like that regarding what you`re calling these alternate electors?

EPSHTEYN: I was quoted in "The Washington Post" in the last 24 hours.

Yes, I was part of the process to make sure there were alternate electors for when, as we hoped, the challenges to the seated electors would be heard and would be successful, per the 12th Amendment of the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act.


MELBER: Joyce, people may want to look away, but that is telegraphing a strategy that could be used in a future contested race.

Your reaction?

VANCE: Well, I think he`s conceding here what he absolutely has to.

The committee already has evidence, so that they will know who made these phone calls, right? They`re clearly getting evidence from folks in the states who were subjected to these phone calls.

What he`s relying on here is this notion that no court has ever interpreted the Electoral Count Act, and said that you can`t have an alternative slate of electors on hand.

But, of course, we know and we know that folks in the White House were being advised that you can`t do this, and that the vice president`s role is ceremonial. He doesn`t have the ability to overturn counts. His job is to accept the counts that the states have certified.

So, nice try at coming up with a defense, because there are certain facts that just can`t be refuted. Good luck with that. It just doesn`t work.


I don`t see this being a problem in future elections either, because Congress will take steps to amend the Electoral Count Act, so that it`s just off the table completely, or because everyone recognizes this as the ridiculous effort at denying the will of the American people that it is.

MELBER: Well, and the latter point, I think, stands that you made and may also affect how the courts shut these things down.

The former, I think viewers know, could be a harder hill to climb, if you`re asking this Congress to get its act together. But, as you have given us a little bit of an antidote to some of what we heard, I think that`s important.

In most cases, you have to hear everything to understand what`s going on.

Joyce Vance, thank you so much.

VANCE: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: We will be right back.


MELBER: I want to thank you for spending time with us on THE BEAT here as we end a busy week, the Supreme Court dealing a big loss to Donald Trump, which has already released new information about what the White House was doing to try to overturn the race.

And there were new subpoenas coming from the January 6 Committee. We just heard from two of the witnesses that committee is interested in. And, next week, we will stay on the news for you.

I wish you a great weekend, and hand it off to "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID."