IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 1/26/21

Guest: Emily Bazelon, David Lane, Marq Claxton, Alex Wagner, DeRay McKesson, Juanita Tolliver


President Biden announces securing 200 million new does of COVID-19 vaccines and moves on civil rights. Senator Patrick Leahy is taken to the hospital. Colorado police are under fire for taking a woman and her children and holding them in custody.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much. Welcome to THE

BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

We`re covering news right now on civil rights, health care and the looming

impeachment trial tonight.

We begin with President Biden pressing ahead on this important issue of the

vaccines, announcing 200 million doses, while arguing this administration

must do more than one thing at a time, because he`s also announcing the

Justice Department will rescind Donald Trump`s very controversial and well-

known zero tolerance policy that led to those harsh family separations and

imprisonment and cages at the borders.

Biden also unveiling four new orders on racial justice, including what he

says will be better fair housing and taking on the controversial private

prisons industry.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today`s generation of young

Americans is the most progressive, thoughtful, inclusive generation that

America has ever seen.

Forced us to confront systemic racism and white supremacy.


been plain for all Americans on their television sets -- just how serious a

problem we face from nationalists and white supremacists.

As President Biden has made clear, advancing equity is everybody`s job.


MELBER: Important issues. And we have quite a bit more on that in our

special coverage tonight, including a special guest coming up momentarily.

You should also know, as we track everything that`s going on in this first

full week of the Biden administration, the president has won now fast

confirmation for Janet Yellen, who is the nation`s first woman to be

Treasury secretary, and for his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, signs

that the Senate is going to work on these nominations, even as it also

swore in senators for a separate project, swearing them in today as jurors

for the upcoming impeachment trial. Democrats argue they have new and

compelling evidence there.

Plus, an update to a story we brought you last night, new clues on Mitch

McConnell`s breaking point. He is publicly blinking in his standoff with

the new boss in town, Majority Leader Schumer. They now have what they

didn`t have yesterday, a verbal agreement to hammer out the Senate business

plan, what`s called an organizing resolution, that does not, not grant

McConnell`s initial and many said farfetched request that there should be

absolute protection for him to do filibuster obstruction. No protection for


What you see when you take this all together right now is a president

working hard on a health care and health crisis emergency, the effort to

staff the Biden Cabinet, the effort to get Mitch McConnell to get out of

the way, so at least there could be some good-faith votes, agree or

disagree, have up-or-down votes, as well as this ongoing preparation for

the trial of the former president for the insurrection against that very


It is a lot to juggle, even as there are signs that some things are

working. To paraphrase Coldplay, nobody said it`d be easy, but this looks

really hard.

Now, let me bring in our experts to kick us off.

Alex Wagner is a co-host of Showtime`s "The Circus" and a veteran of MSNBC,

and Juanita Tolliver, a Democratic strategist and frequent guest of ours on


Good evening to both of you.

Your thoughts, Alex?

ALEX WAGNER, CO-HOST, "THE CIRCUS": There`s a lot of work to do, Ari.

The country`s in crisis. The Biden administration realized they`re going to

have to walk and chew gum and cook dinner and dance backwards in heels and

all the things at the same time.


WAGNER: But, I mean, I think -- look, I think, in addition to the multiple

crises that are facing the country, we`re also dealing with a Republican

Party that`s imploding before our very eyes.

We talk about the fact that Mitch McConnell was trying to weaponize an

organizing resolution. I think everybody should just take a moment and

absorb that. This is -- the organizing resolution is a pro forma piece of

sort of Senate parliamentary procedure.

And Mitch McConnell tried to weaponize it to prevent the nuclear option on

the filibuster. That, to me, indicates that the Republican Party will leave

no stone unturned in terms of the levers of power. If they could weaponize

entrance to the Senate gym, they would. Anything that there is, they will

try to use as a lever of power, because they understand they are dealing

with an administration and a Democratic Party that is emboldened, that is

scared for the future of the country, and that is willing to do a lot of

really big things to save what I think they see as the country on a


MELBER: Well, Alex, as a student of Washington, may I ask you, then, a

relatively silly follow-up question.

WAGNER: Always.

MELBER: What do you make, then, of Mitch McConnell`s argument, which he

made bluntly and in public, that he would continue to basically try hostage

obstruction tactics unless he was given the commitment that he could

endlessly try hostage obstruction tactics?

WAGNER: Right.

It`s completely counterintuitive, right? Mitch McConnell doesn`t want

anybody to do away with the filibuster, because it`s the one tool he has,

right, and it is a very, very effective tool, the way that the Republicans

have used it.

And he`s very -- virtually guaranteeing that Democrats are brought to the

edge of getting rid of the filibuster, because his tactics to preserve it

are so willfully wrong, if you will.

I mean, it is so plainly obvious what he -- he`s laying out his agenda of

obstruction and hoping that the Democrats don`t fight. I mean, I think,

honestly, if you had asked me a week ago whether there was momentum within

the Democratic Party to get rid of the filibuster, the antics of the past

few days have almost ensured that there is going to be a real groundswell

of consensus inside the Democratic Caucus to do something about the

filibuster because of McConnell`s behavior over the last few days.

MELBER: You make such a great point, which I want to present that point

and evidence for it to Juanita, because here`s Senator Tester, relatively

conservative, part of that sort of Manchin bloc of people who say, well,

hold me back. I don`t really want to do it unless I had to do it.

But here he was reacting to exactly what you identified, Mitch McConnell

showing he would literally filibuster anything if we have Tester.

He says, "I feel pretty damn strongly," Juanita. He says: "I will also tell

you this. I`m here to get things done. If all that happens is filibuster

after filibuster, roadblock after roadblock, then my opinion may change."

This was -- among our homework for tonight`s show, we had this ready. And

it`s exactly the point Alex was teaching us.

Your thoughts?


Tester needs to see more of, in fact, not only this moment when McConnell

tries to, as Alex said, weaponize a procedural moment, but even look at the

past four, six, eight years, when McConnell had leadership and absolutely

did nothing but his own agenda, ignored the needs of the American public,

ignored the needs of this pandemic, ignored the needs and realities that

people are facing, in exchange for what?

Pursuing his judicial plan, prioritizing that exclusively? McConnell has

already shown everybody his hand. He`s already shown how he moves in this

body. And as he continues to, I guess, come to terms with the reality that

he is now minority leader, he`s going to keep kicking and screaming.

So, again, I don`t know what else Senator Tester needs to hear or see. But

we -- the evidence is there. It`s already shown that McConnell and other

Republicans are going to be obstructionists to the very end. And Democrats

absolutely have a responsibility to stand up. You know why? For the

millions of voters who elected them.

For the black and brown communities that turned out in Georgia to deliver

the Senate. Those voters are expecting big, bold actions, and Democrats

absolutely do not have an option to not deliver on that.


Alex, there is plenty of legitimate debate in policy, the size of the

government, whether a program should be led more by the feds or the states,

who`s going to pay for it, tax and fiscal policy, plenty of legit stuff.

There is not a big market right now to say that, after everything we just

went through, the federal government should do nothing on COVID or jobs or

the recession, right?

People who`ve suffered under these business restrictions, they say, OK,

well, if stuff is closed or restricted, is there support, because closing

down stuff for public safety and supporting people`s paychecks in the

meantime is very different than shutting them out, an aspect of this story

we have reported on. We could all come up with five more.

I`m curious what you think about the pickle Mitch McConnell`s in, where he

would rather fight about rules or other sideshows than perhaps politically

admit that, after all this, their position may be they don`t want to pass

the Biden plan to do any of this stuff? Not to say it`s perfect, but it`s

something on those issues.

WAGNER: Well, having to actually legislate forces you to actually have a

governing agenda.

And in the age of Trump, what we saw was the Republican Party rip up any

platform and feed it to the fire.

I mean, the Republican Party is the party of Trump, and I don`t mean that

sort of just rhetorically. It`s whatever he thinks. The fact that Mitch

McConnell on January 12 was keen to get rid of Trump, purge him from the

party, then on January 13 said, we`re not going to convene the Senate

because we can`t have an emergency session for impeachment, we`re going to

kick it to the beginning days of the Biden administration, then, in the

beginning days of the Biden administration, said, it`s too late to have an

impeachment trial, tells you everything you need to know about how Mitch

McConnell is going to lead his party.

It is by keeping his finger in the wind and understanding which way the

winds are blowing. And that is towards Trump. There is a reason that Kevin

McCarthy is begging and scraping on the phone to Donald Trump. There is a

reason that Mitch McConnell is behaving the way he does.

And that is, 85 to 91 percent of Republican voters would pull the lever

again for Donald Trump. The party is very much still his. And without his

tweets to guide them, they are basically men and women without a country,

without a platform, without a party, and, as such, will do everything to

delay and obfuscate around actual legislation because they don`t know where

they`re going.

They are a flock whose shepherd is down in Palm Beach, kicked off social

media. So, where do you go from there?

MELBER: Well, yes, if you don`t have a tweet, you don`t know what to


I`m running over on time for this, because I have a very special civil

rights guest for the next thing.

But, Juanita, briefly your final thoughts on this Washington topic?

TOLLIVER: Absolutely.

I think Alex is right that the GOP is at an absolute loss right now. And

it`s a little bit conflicting, right? They couldn`t stand Trump in private,

but now they need his guidance. Now they feel beholden to him even still,

especially, as what we saw today, with that vote on Senator Paul`s notion

that this impeachment trial was unconstitutional.

They`re still falling in line for Trump with no reason. He`s not there. But

they`re still afraid of the boogeyman.

MELBER: Juanita Tolliver and Alex Wagner kicking us off with straight talk

about Washington, thanks to both of you.

We turn to President Biden`s other new action today on racial equality.


BIDEN: I ran for president because I believe we`re in a battle for the

soul of this nation.

And the simple truth is, our soul will be troubled as long as systemic

racism is allowed to persist. We aren`t just less than -- we aren`t just

less of an -- we`re not just a nation morally deprived because of systemic

racism. We`re also less prosperous, we`re less successful, we`re less



MELBER: Biden making the argument in several ways and discussing new

policies on housing, civil rights.

But this is about more than words. He also wants to take, he says, concrete

action to tackle scenes like this. You`re looking at a private prison in

Mississippi. This is a "New York Times" report where they found this very

controversial video of an inmate getting brutally assaulted by these other

inmates, and, as "The Times" reports, no guards in sight, no effort to

protect the human rights of this individual as they were brutally beaten,

helpless on the ground, quoting "The Times."

There was a guard navigating the surveillance camera and other guards in

that area. There are many experts who say this is exactly why poor policies

and lack of accountability make private prisons worse.

Now, Biden`s solution tonight? He says he`s pulling America out of the

private prison business. No federal contracts will be renewed or made with

private prisons going forward. It`s a break with what the Trump

administration had done.

Now, this is just one piece of a much broader and more systemic issue.

There are many people who point out more should be done if you want to deal

with the prison problem in the United States.

And for that reason, as I mentioned here near the top of our broadcast, we

want to bring back a guest we have heard from before.

DeRay McKesson is a Black Lives Matter organizer. He`s also host of "Pod

Save the People." He`s the co-founder of Campaign Zero. He knows the

details and goes well beyond rhetoric, which is why I wanted to see you


Thanks for being here, sir.


MELBER: As I mentioned in our reporting, so folks understand, there are

many reasons why experts see private prisons as a particularly big problem

with less government oversight, Biden returning to something that was more

in line with what the Obama administration wanted to do, which was limit

their use federally.

And yet you and others have pointed out, there`s a lot more to be done.

Walk us through what you think of today`s actions and what more should be


MCKESSON: So, I`m reminded that this is day six of the administration, so

it`s good that this is a priority from the beginning.

And when we zoom out, we`re reminded that about 8 percent, a little bit

less than 8 percent of people across the country are in private prisons. We

know that private prisons aren`t run more efficiently. They are often worse

for people. We should be moving away from incarceration in general.

And we look at the federal system, it`s about 1 percent of people who are

incarcerated in federal prison. So, this would be a good first step. Where

I hope that the administration goes over the course of these four years is

to also address ICE, right? Seventy-five percent of people in immigrant

detention are actually in private facilities.

So, I`m hoping that that is actually the next step. But today was a good

start, right? Like, this signals of return to the Obama era. This was an

executive order that President Obama did. Trump undid it. And then there

was a flourishing of the private prison industry under Trump.

And Biden is saying that that`s unacceptable. So, this is -- it is good

that, in the first 10 days, this is a priority. And I`m excited to see

where they go next.

MELBER: Yes, I appreciate how you sound pragmatic. And it`s interesting to

me, because we have talked about these issues before.

It`s power. It`s also, how do you get it done? It`s also what`s right. So,

there`s a moral force and a power force. Whether we study MLK or Malcolm X,

they were very sophisticated about the use of political and rhetorical

power, in addition to having, of course, a moral crusade.

And so I`m curious what you think about that. You just talked about timing.

The Obama administration didn`t really take on private prisons, at least

from my view in reporting, until the second term.

You mentioned, this is in the first 10 days. I wonder what you think that

means about the seat at the table that BLM has, which is a large and not

monolithic group. But you`re also -- whether you want to be humble or not,

you`re one of its visible members.

And so what else do you tell them needs to happen here in this early

period, where everybody knows you can make more change in the first 100

days than the last?

MCKESSON: Yes, so, I think it`s true.

I think many of the Obama actions around policing, around prisons, they

were great actions. They came sort of at the end of the second term, and

they were good. It`s exciting that this administration is also starting off

there, that they are picking up where Trump dismantled things, and they`re

going to run with it.

I`m excited to see what happens around policing, even though we know again,

with, the police, most of it is local and state. It`s not really federal.

But I think the Obama -- I think the Biden administration has signaled that

they will do strong things.

But when we think about the prison action that was taken today, it`s like

they know that people are going to press around immigrant detention. They

know that people are going to press around clemency, around pardons. Like,

they know it`s coming.

And I have to believe that the people that are in -- and it`s a great set

of people over the DOJ, like Kristen Clarke, Vanita Gupta. Like, the whole

set of people over there are really strong on these issues, Susan Rice. I

can`t wait to see what comes next.

So, it`s heartening that this is the beginning. Reminder, though, that this

is the beginning, six days in. This will be about 1 percent of the people

incarcerated. And, remember, I think a lot of people get confused. The end

of private prisons doesn`t mean freedom. It means public prisons, right?

So we`re trying to move away from incarceration altogether. So this is a

good first step. And I`m excited to push them even more.

MELBER: Really interesting, DeRay, especially your point about the numbers

on the immigration piece, which is huge.

And you mentioned Ms. Clarke. We have had a lot to keep track of, but we

will be reporting on Ms. Clarke, who`s a former guest on this show, as it

happens, but who ran the Leadership Conference under -- civil rights under

law, that Lawyers Committee, and, as you mentioned, which used to represent

MLK and those organizers.

To see what she will do under DOJ will be interesting. We will be tracking


We will probably be hearing from you again, sir. Thank you.

MCKESSON: Good to be here.

MELBER: We have our shortest break of THE BEAT tonight, just 30 seconds.

When we come back, an update on this impeachment trial, an update on feds

arresting a former police officer for threats against Congress. And we have

an expert on the new plans to vaccinate everyone faster, nothing more

important than that these days.

Plus, later in the hour, a special guest on a very important traffic stop

that might get new accountability.

Stay with us.


MELBER: The first steps of the trial are here.

We are speaking about the impeachment trial of former President Trump, his

fate in the hands of now 100 senators, some of them newly elected. And,

today, each was formally sworn in for the impeachment trial.

Senator Leahy sworn in to preside over this trial, he has extensive

experience, of course, having headed the Judiciary Committee. And then,

late today, a surprise, Senator Rand Paul trying to force a vote on the

constitutionality of this actual trial.

Now, here`s why this matters. First, I will tell you what happened, the

motion just killed in the 55-45 vote. But it also may reveal what some

Republicans think. The very same Republicans who fled that chamber over

Donald Trump`s lie that the election had been stolen, which turned into the

riot, well, some of them don`t seem interested in going forward with the

trial at all.

Now, here`s the count. Five Republicans did vote with Democratic senators.

That`s Murkowski, Romney, Sasse, Toomey, and Collins, on what, again, was

basically a procedural vote that may have revealed who`s more critical of

Trump. That`s who you see there.

Now, McConnell, who, as we were discussing earlier in the program, had

leaked that he`s pleased about impeachment. Well, today, he voted with

Senator Paul on this procedural argument that`s basically an attack on the

trial or even considering evidence and considering accountability for the

former president.

Now, you should know, constitutional law experts note there is nothing

unusual or unprecedented about the trial. There have been plenty of

precedents for reviewing the conduct of an officer, including one who may

have left the government.

So, now we`re seeing an new talking point.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Where is the constitutional power to impeach him?

Private citizens don`t get impeached.

Impeachment is for removal from office.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We`re about to impeach a man who`s out of

office for the express purpose of making sure he can never run again. I

think it`s unconstitutional.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA): It`s a big constitutional question about

impeaching a private citizen. Should Congress, under the Constitution, even

do it?

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): A trial after the president has left office is

beyond the Senate`s constitutional authority.


MELBER: Fact-check, false.

Now, let me be very clear. The senators have every right to oppose this, to

criticize it, and ultimately to vote to acquit the ex-president. So, no

one`s taking away any of those rights.

We know it`s constitutional, though, because the Constitution says that you

can bar any former official for life. And they only become a former

official when convicted through the process of impeachment.

Now, President Biden speaking out on this. He says the trial has to happen.

And I mentioned Senator Leahy`s important role here. Well, within just

moments ago, we heard from his office that he has been taken to the

hospital, because he was -- quote -- "not feeling well." And he was taken

there, we`re told, simply -- quote -- "out of an abundance of caution."

We`re joined now by Emily Bazelon, staff writer at "The New York Times


Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Let`s start with the substance.

Given how clear the Constitution is, what do you read into those who are

sympathetic or defensive of the former president, which they have all their

free speech rights to be, focusing on making that relatively frivolous

argument, rather than defending, say, what Donald Trump said on January 6?

BAZELON: Well, I think you`re right that it`s a minority legal position.

But it`s a useful one.

If you say that the Constitution provides that the impeachment trial can

happen because President Trump has left office, then you don`t have to get

to the merits of the impeachment case, which involve his role in allegedly

leading up to the assault of the Capitol.

And that`s a tougher set of questions for Republicans. I think supporters

of President Trump don`t necessarily want to talk about that. And so this

is a good way to start for them by saying, we just think this whole thing

is out of order.


And this also goes to what happened today. Legal procedure can be tricky.

Senate procedure is particularly complex.

So, Emily, how about we just do both real quick? Does that sound like a fun

way to spend part of your evening?

BAZELON: I can`t wait.

MELBER: Here we go.

So, viewers who follow the news understand there`s this filibuster thing.

So, you usually need a supermajority, if people are threatening to

filibuster, to get anything done. But there are these exceptions. Rand Paul

used one of those. He used a loophole to at least try to get this vote, and

it was tabled.

What`s important is not much of that detail, or whether it was on a table

or under a table or thrown out of the room. What`s important politically

is, Rand Paul appears to have done a politically clever thing. Whether you

like it or not, we give people the facts.

And Politico put it like this. Rand Paul forces the vote on the

constitutionality question, as we mentioned. Paul tells reporters, "If 34

people support my resolution that this is an unconstitutional proceeding,

it shows," he says, "they don`t have the votes to convict and we`re wasting

our time."

What is your view of his point, which is allowed, so it`s a trick, but not

over the line, where he`s trying to take the air out of the Democrats`

prosecution by saying, look, look who I`m riding with. I got enough people

to acquit, and they`re here on this tabling thing. So we Gucci now.

What do you think of that strategy? And is it possible to still change

minds? Or is he right?

BAZELON: Well, he may very well be right that there are not enough votes

for a two-thirds vote to convict President Trump.

And he did force -- his party forced everyone who voted today to show their

hand. However, the trial hasn`t happened yet. And senators like Susan

Collins of Maine have said, I want to wait and see the evidence.

You could argue that, in this particular case, that might seem less

important, because the members of Congress were themselves there for the

attack on the Capitol. They are, in effect, the witnesses.

But there may be other information that comes to light during the

impeachment trial about former President Trump`s role that may convince


So, I don`t think, by any means, Senator Paul is correct that this means

that the trial is pointless. But it did show some interesting senators

going on the record, particularly for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who,

as you said, had let it be known that he thought perhaps Trump had

committed impeachable conduct.

And yet here is voting against the trial happening at al.


I mean, we`re out of time, but you provide the evidence that raises the

question of whether you can believe the things Mitch McConnell says, a

query for our nation.

Emily, always good to see.

Oh, go ahead, you wanted to...


MELBER: ... quick thing?

BAZELON: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: OK. Thank you, Emily.

Coming up: A new lawsuit invokes a police reform law, which was

specifically passed after those large protests after the killing of George

Floyd. Children detained on video. We have a special guest.

And I`m telling you, this is one of those important stories far outside of

Washington that you need to know tonight.

Also, new reports on the arrest coming out of that riot.

But, first, President Biden making a major announcement on why he says the

government, state and federal, can make you safer and get vaccinated.

That`s next.



BIDEN: We`ll soon be able to confirm the purchase of an additional 100

million doses for each of the two FDA-authorized vaccines, Pfizer and

Moderna, 200 million more doses than the federal government had previously



MELBER: President Biden there just within about the last hour detailing

plans for taking charge of a sometimes rocky vaccine rollout.

It`s a critical challenge complicated by problems inherited from the last

administration and also just coordinating with 50 different states. It`s

something Biden`s new press secretary spoke directly about as well.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We`re not asking states to do this

on their own. In fact, we`re asking -- we are trying to reset and be

partners here in a more effective way than we have seen over the last 10


But this is going to be hard, and we are not trying to sugarcoat that. And

it will be very challenging. This is why everybody who comes and speaks

about COVID talks about our -- the challenge of vaccine hesitancy.


MELBER: This is a challenge of both resources, the money and logistics to

get it done, as well as what she referenced there, Jen Psaki talking about


The public hesitancy, of course, is a big issue. There are as many as 27

percent of Americans who say they just may not get this vaccine at all. So,

how do you combat that? Well, partly with scenes like this, Vice President

Harris today publicly getting her second dose of the Moderna vaccine, and

with the ongoing efforts by public health experts and officials to reach

people wherever they are.

That means online or in pop culture or people who get information from

places other than traditional news, Dr. Fauci talking to all kinds of

people, from athletes to actors, just to put out the word that, even if you

don`t follow the news daily, the fact is the vaccine is safe and will save


And, tonight, estimates are that about 50 million people in the U.S. have

gotten COVID at some point and recovered. Now, those who survived are

largely immune in the short term. Another 22 million have now been


But you do the basic math, it leaves roughly 290 million people walking

around still at the risk of contracting or spreading this. It will take

time to vaccinate all those people, of course. But, in some places, policy

failure and human error have problems making it worse, vital shots going to

waste, New York state tossing vaccines that were not allowed to be used,

while some people who are directly going through this say even patient

efforts to get vaccinated can run into a brick wall.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On a national level, it`s just -- it`s a disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We spent an hour-and-a-half of our time, and then

another half-hour in line waiting for something that never happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have tried every single day, sometimes on the hour,

on all of the different sites. And a 65-year-old cannot get an appointment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every week, we get our allocations, and it`s half of

the week before.


MELBER: Now, we are in the early days of this phase, but the facts are


Some states are already breaking out of the pack, with strong vaccination

rates. About one out of 10 people are now vaccinated in states like New

Mexico and West Virginia. The rate is half that in California, currently

battling its own huge spike, while Missouri currently comes in roughly last

at about a 4 percent vaccination rate.

Now, some of this reflects long term problems and states` own priorities.

Missouri`s health care, for example, has long ranked in the bottom 10

states in America. That`s according to "U.S. News & World Report."

So, that`s a state that is struggling to contain a pandemic after really

struggling to provide or choose to provide decent health care for its

citizens for a very long time.

Now, unlike other issues of health and poverty, where we all know what

happens, the rich and connected, they just buy in to what they need, and

some of them may just tune out to the problems that face everyone else

who`s less fortunate.

But here, even as we go through what should be the better phase of

vaccination, any failure to curb a virus this infectious will put the whole

community, even those rich, connected people, at additional risk. We have a

collective interest in solving this.

Now, it`s not, by the way, as a medical matter that you need absolute 100

percent levels. Here`s how Dr. Fauci explained the goal.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I believe that if we do get that 70 to

85 percent of the population vaccinated, we would reach a degree of herd

immunity that would get us to approach strongly a degree of normality.


MELBER: We`re joined now by Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, infectious disease

specialist at Boston University.

Your thoughts on all the above? It`s obviously a lot to track.


speaking, the thing that struck me that is, even before we get to vaccine

hesitancy, there seem to be these two opposing forces at play right now and

a race against time literally to save lives, because you have the force of


The quicker we get these vaccinations into arms, what we`re seeing in

countries that have done a better job, mortality goes down, because even

though people of all ages get hospitalized and die from this, a lot of that

mortality is for people who are over 65. And the quicker we can be in

getting these vaccinations out, we might see those death rates go down.

The opposing force, the one that`s scary, that keeps me awake and a lot of

other folks awake, are these variants. We`re seeing, though, some

plateauing in potentially decreases in cases that hostile realizations, but

the worry is, as these more transmissible strains, the one that was

discovered in U.K., which is now in 20 U.S. states, the one that was

discovered in South Africa and Brazil that seemed to potentially make

monoclonal antibodies and convalescent plasma less effective, but,

thankfully, all of them so far work on vaccines.

The longer we give those strains to spread, the more disease that will

spread in our communities and potentially lead to more hospitalizations and

deaths. And so it`s not just what we have to do today, but with the speed

at which we have to do, because, if we can`t match the vaccination rates,

then we got to work on the nonpharmaceutical interventions and the public

health restrictions to keep those numbers down.

And some of the things that you saw President Biden talk about, the travel

restrictions, that`s great, but we got to work on strain surveillance to

make sure that these strains are not a lot more prevalent than we think

they are, and we need to keep supporting hospitals and personal protective

equipment and essential workers to keep that transmission down where we`re

seeing -- we`re seeing it spread in this community.

MELBER: Yes, all important points you raise, in addition to everyone

understanding the road ahead, so we can try to do it the right way.

Dr. Bhadelia, thank you so much.

BHADELIA: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: We`re also tracking breaking news tonight. One of the most pivotal

Democrats in the United States Senate, Senator Leahy, is set to preside

over Trump`s second impeachment travel. But we have an update on him.

Also later, a new suit that will test a key police reform law that came out

of the BLM protests this summer. It`s an important story out on the ground

in the nation.

That`s coming up later in our program as well.


MELBER: Breaking news, Senator Patrick Leahy was just taken to the

hospital. He was not feeling well and was taken there, according to his

office, for observation -- quote -- "out of an abundance of caution."

This comes amidst the other news we were reporting. Senator Leahy was just

sworn in today to preside over former President Trump`s impeachment trial,

as the president pro tempore of the Senate. He`s also third in line of

succession to the White House because of that seniority.

There is also, of course, the 50/50 split in the Senate. His state of

Vermont has a Republican governor. And we will keep in touch with all of

our reporters talking to his office about how he`s doing, and, of course,

as always, wish him a speedy recovery.

Now, coming up, there is a big announcement I have to tell you that regards

Bill Gates, who has been so vocal on vaccine and COVID issues, but, first,

a very important story on how we can actually fix justice across America.

It`s what I mentioned earlier tonight. It involves this controversial


But plaintiffs and advocates say there may be good news here. We will

explain when we come back.


MELBER: Turning to a very important story that you need to see, Colorado

police under fire for taking a woman and four clearly unarmed children, the

youngest just 6 years old, and holding them in custody, often at gunpoint,

forcing them to lie cuffed, face down, as you see here on the ground,

scared and humiliated.

This was in a salon parking lot for upwards of two hours.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s kids. There`s kids. They had guns drawn on


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want my mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I have my sister next to me?



MELBER: That is hard to watch even for a few seconds. Imagine living

through it. That went on, as I mentioned, for upwards of two hours.

This is America. This happens all the time. Most of the time, I will be

honest with you, it`s not even on the national news. Now, tonight, What`s

new is the woman you saw there -- her name is Brittney Gilliam -- is now

suing Aurora, Colorado.

She alleges in court that entire spectacle was an invalid and illegal

arrest. She alleges the police were breaking the law. She also notes in her

new suit that it hurt and traumatized those innocent children. You heard

their cries. She says they now struggle with basic activities, like eating

and sleeping, and they are in therapy for this.

The police department, to be clear, is not even claiming they had an

accurate reason for the arrest and conduct you see there by the officers.

Instead, they do apologize when they say they incorrectly thought that that

vehicle was stolen -- it wasn`t -- an explanation that many law enforcement

experts say does not even justify the force and guns drawn that you saw.

Now, here`s what else is new tonight. You may have heard that elections

have consequences. So do social movements sometimes. The protests over the

May killing of George Floyd led Colorado to reform police rules in June,

passing a new law that bans some aggressive tactics and also a type of

automatic legal immunity, which means they can, when warranted, be held

personally responsible in court.

This is one of the first cases based on that new law. And while everyone`s

entitled to their day in court, this is the first time citizens in that

state have actually been entitled to take on police officers directly and

personally for their own day in court.

It`s very important. And we have some special guests on the story.

We are joined now by the attorney for Ms. Gilliam and her family. His name

is David Lane. We`re also joined by Marq Claxton, who`s a retired NYPD

detective, director of political affairs for the Black Law Enforcement


Good evening to both of you.

David, it`s hard -- I just want to start with the human part. It`s hard to

even watch a little bit of that. You`re representing someone who lived

through it.

Walk us through first the reality, and then we can talk about the law.


traumatized, because her four closest relatives were screaming for her to

help, and she was completely helpless. She was trying to show the police

her registration and her license plate number matched the registration. The

police wouldn`t look at a piece of paper to determine that this is not a

stolen car.

These kids had been for weeks and months seeing on the news every night

white police officers killing African-Americans for no reason whatsoever.

And these little kids get pulled out of a car at gunpoint. And how any cop

believes there is any justification for pointing a gun at a 6-year-old

child, it`s beyond me.

But these kids are -- this is a life-changing event for these kids. And we

are now taking this civil rights statute that the Colorado legislature

passed in July.


LANE: And we`re going in...


MELBER: I`m just -- I`m only organizing it to say I want to get to that,

because I mentioned it.

LANE: Sure.

MELBER: But I -- it`s very important, just in my role moderating, to make

sure we`re clear on what happened. So, thank you for what the family`s

going through.

Before we turn to the law, Marq, what we saw on tape there, what the

available evidence shows, is this proper policing?


And it`s hard to claim that the occupants of the car were traumatized and

victimized. But, early on, even, the police attempted to make the stock

appear ordinary. They -- I remember hearing their spokesperson indicate

that they`re trained to conduct a full-on felony stop for all suspected

stolen vehicles.

It`s absolute nonsense. The reality is, all too often, with black people --

it`s important to put that in -- the police use reasonable force options,

with a mandate to use force. Built into policing is a wide range of


And if you doubt that, look at the extraordinary restraint that was shown

by the police officers at the Capitol on the 6th. If ever it was reasonable

to use an escalated amount of force, that was it. But with all the video

that you have seen thus far, even police officers being actively assaulted

are retreating.

They didn`t even unholster their weapons. So, as far as a police

perspective, this stop was absolutely, totally avoidable and unnecessary

and obviously traumatizing. Traumatizing, just as you indicated, Ari, just

to watch it, and the vulnerability of these young ladies, especially on the

heels of occurred with that very police department with Elijah McClain.

MELBER: And so, David, now we turn, as mentioned, to this second important

piece, a new law only passed after George Floyd was killed on tape after

the protests.

Tell us how you`re deploying it.

LANE: This law is the most sweeping civil rights law passed anywhere in

the country.

It`s better than the federal civil rights law. The federal civil rights

law, because of very conservative activist judges back in the `70s on the

Supreme Court, built in various kinds of immunity for cops, known as

qualified immunity, meaning, if there`s no case that has been previously

decided where the facts are exactly the same as this case, the cops, even

though they violated the Constitution, they get immunity and the case gets


The Colorado law eliminates qualified immunity. The second huge feature in

the Colorado law is that, if the department at the end of this case decides

that the cops should have known better, but they did this anyway, these

individual cops are on the hook out of their own pockets for up to $20,000

in any settlement or judgment that`s rendered in this case.

And what will change police misconduct faster than just about anything is

the day a cop loses a paycheck or a car or a house. That will change police

behavior, because, right now, the rich uncle in the city hall is paying the

tab for all these police misconduct settlements.

This statute goes a long way towards stopping that.


LANE: We had to file it in state court also under the state constitution.

And that gives us a much better jury of Aurora citizens.


LANE: It`s a much more diverse jury than we would have ever gotten in

federal court. And it`ll be a much better trial.

MELBER: And, David, as you know, we have invited Ms. Gilliam on. She`s not

with us tonight. But we have that invite out to her.

I want to play for our audience a little bit of her response. Take a



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s police brutality. I don`t give a damn what

nobody say. That`s police brutality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s like they don`t care. Who am I going to call

when my life is in danger?


MELBER: I have just about 40 seconds left tonight.

Marq Claxton, your thoughts on the road from here?

CLAXTON: I agree. I think this will be a significant test case for the

reforms that were instituted last year. So, I think it`ll be significant.

But I want to add something. In addition to changing cops` behavior based

on paychecks and material things, also, if you deprive them of their

freedom by jailing them, that also would significantly change the conduct

of a lot of these police officers.


And, as I think folks know, we have civil and criminal. And there`s been a

lot of evidence that you need to reform both those lanes if there`s going

to be equitable policing in the United States. It`s a story we have stayed

on. And we will be tracking this case as well.

Marq Claxton, David Lane, thanks to both of you.

I fit in a quick break, but coming up, Bill Gates, THE BEAT, and a very

special announcement.

I will explain when we come back.


MELBER: Finally, tonight a programming note we promised.

Entrepreneur and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has been making a lot of

waves for his work on vaccines and COVID. And, tomorrow, Mr. Gates makes

his BEAT debut. We will get into the COVID fight, the billions he`s

spending around the world, hopefully some issues on technology, his

thoughts on the new administration, and a lot more.

That`s tomorrow 6:00 p.m. Eastern, Bill Gates right here on THE BEAT.

Now, if you have thoughts on that or any of the other stories that we

covered tonight, I always welcome your ideas, questions and feedback, even

the constructive kind. You can find me online @AriMelber across social


Thank you. We`re in this together.





Copyright 2021 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are

protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,

distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the

prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter

or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the