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.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
SUSAN RICE, WHITE HOUSE DOMESTIC POLICY ADVISER: We have seen -- and it`s
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
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?
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.
JUANITA TOLLIVER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Honestly, I`m not sure what
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
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 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?
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
DERAY MCKESSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: It`s good to be back.
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): A trial after the president has left office is
beyond the Senate`s constitutional authority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
EMILY BAZELON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE": Thanks for having me.
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
DR. NAHID BHADELIA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Ari, as you were
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
Walk us through first the reality, and then we can talk about the law.
DAVID LANE, ATTORNEY FOR BRITTNEY GILLIAM: Well, Brittney was seriously
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
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.
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
Before we turn to the law, Marq, what we saw on tape there, what the
available evidence shows, is this proper policing?
MARQ CLAXTON, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Not at all.
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
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
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
Tell us how you`re deploying it.
LANE: This law is the most sweeping civil rights law passed anywhere in
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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
And "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.
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