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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 1/27/21

Guest: Soledad O`Brien, Bill Gates, Libby Casey�


Microsoft founder Bill Gates discusses the COVID-19 pandemic and more. Soledad O`Brien discusses the current state of journalism. How strong is former President Trump`s grip on the Republican Party?


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT with my friend and colleague Ari Melber starts right now.

Hi, Ari.


I have a question for you. I think everyone knows how busy you are and how we get over here. But I have been meaning to ask you.

When this insurrection first unfolded, there was much soul-searching about accountability and where some Republican senators may go. As of the most recent vote -- anything could change -- but it looks like only about five or even looking at this as a process worth going forward on, having a trial to get to the bottom of the ex-president`s role, or, if the trial finds otherwise, the arguments for him.

I`m just curious what you make of that in the party tonight.

WALLACE: It`s time to stop treating the Republican Party like we`re all waiting for the baby to be delivered. They`re never going to change. This is who they are.

But I think today`s bulletin from law enforcement about a domestic terror threat from individuals that share a view that they have not aggressively condemned, and they have shown no interest in holding the president who incited these people to take action, they have no interest in holding him accountable, I think they will accelerate the demise of the modern Republican Party.

And I think associating themselves with inaction on an insurrection, with inaction on domestic terrorism is a political loser. But I think it`s time to start covering this like a national security story, that I think they are now covering up for a president who is today a clear and present domestic security threat to every American.

MELBER: Straight up.

Yes, I didn`t know what you would say, but it`s very interesting to hear it put straight up. And I think people need that. We need clarity and real talk, and, as you say, plenty of room for ideological disagreement. That`s a great part of America.


MELBER: But, as you say, quiescence and quailing in the face of these security threats -- go ahead.

WALLACE: No, I was just going to say, if you read that bulletin, they are looking for very specific domestic terrorists. They`re looking out for people who believe a very specific ideology, and it centers around a couple things.

It centers around anger at COVID restrictions. And who was raging against COVID restrictions while he was supposed to be protecting the country from COVID? Donald Trump, tweeting, "Liberate Michigan," tweeting "Liberate Virginia."

It also centers around anger and the acceptance of a false narrative. That`s in this security document. These aren`t political people. These are security officials trying to warn local law enforcement who to look out for. And they told them to look out for people who accepted a false narrative, that Donald Trump told the lie, but there are a whole lot of Republicans who repeated the lie, and a whole lot of conservative commentators who amplified the lie.

And I think, today, they should be asking what they need to do to get out of the hot seat. They`re in the hot seat, not the other way around.


Nicolle, always important to get your perspective. And this is serious stuff. Thank you.

WALLACE: Thank you for asking, Ari. Great to talk to you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

As always, I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.

We have a lot more on the story I was just discussing with Nicolle in tonight`s broadcast.

But, right now, we get right to it, President Biden saying climate change is an actual emergency, even amidst the pandemic and the other actual national security threats we were just discussing and that Americans face right now.

The president says this requires action now. He submitted -- he summoned, I should say, his new climate envoy, John Kerry, to the White House.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: Every single one of them are life and death. The other reason for doing it now is, the science tells us we have to.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis. We can`t wait any longer.


MELBER: Both of those leaders also acutely aware of the crisis that Americans live with and think about and balance daily, this pandemic.

Now, Biden continues to stress that he can do more than one thing at a time. Indeed, he says the federal government must right now. So, his COVID task force was also meeting today, presenting facts, taking questions from journalists, including adversarial questions.

And President Biden was not above drawing the contrast with the president he replaced, saying this is an intentional and ongoing project of -- quote -- "bringing back the pros" to tackle COVID, to strengthen the vaccine rollout, and, the president argues, to clean up the mess and incompetence left by the last administration.

It is a lot. And that`s not even all tonight. Biden`s brand-new secretary of state hitting similar themes of rebuilding and speaking truth.


TONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We at State have a role to play in all of this. And I believe it starts with rebuilding morale and trust.

I will insist that you speak and speak up without fear or favor. And I will have your back.


MELBER: Speak up and be heard.

And anyone listening will notice that President Biden has also been speaking up with his pen. So, we`re a week into this now, if you count. So, in these seven days in office, President Biden hasn`t signed five or 10 orders, or 15, or 20 executive orders, but now 40 executive orders since his inauguration alone.

The White House says more are coming. And they will press Congress to step up and do its part to do legislative and funding work on the new agenda.

Now, I want to bring in Michelle Goldberg from "The New York Times," and Libby Casey, political reporter with "The Washington Post."

Libby, they look busy. Your thoughts?

LIBBY CASEY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": There are so many challenges for this administration coming in, but you`re seeing them show, both in action, as well as sort of how they`re messaging to the American public, that they are putting experts first, that they want science to be at the core of all these conversations.

When we were hearing President Biden talk about Climate Day, he`s using words like threat, but he`s also talking about hope and opportunity, and trying to show that working on the climate can be intertwined with economic issues.

And you also see them working on racial equity and trying to make good on that pledge to sort of intertwine racial equity with everything that they`re doing. So, we saw four executive orders, for example, signed just yesterday hitting at housing and discrimination there, making sure that the Department of Justice phases out contracts for private prisons, and then looking at the treatment of Native Americans and Asian Americans.

So, there`s an effort to not just sort of tackle things one by one, but to show that so many of the issues at the heart of what`s troubling America right now are intertwined.

MELBER: Michelle, take a listen to Senator Schumer, who was speaking to Rachel. Take a look.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I think it might be a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency.


SCHUMER: Because then he can -- this relates to what you`re saying. Then he can do many, many things under the emergency powers of the president that wouldn`t have to go through -- that he could do without legislation.


MELBER: Michelle, I`m curious what you think about the big picture challenge, because everyone understands the crises we`re living through. And yet several of them involve being behind, not looking ahead, whether it was heeding warnings on the pandemic and preparedness, which the last administration famously bungled, or taking things like climate or long- simmering racial injustice in this country, and being proactive, rather than waiting for it to explode.

Your view of whether that level of optimism is warranted by President Biden, who also faces people today who go, really, the climate is what you`re doing on day seven?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, I don`t think that Biden should listen to anybody who is incredulous about him prioritizing climate.

I think anyone who follows the science and who -- we have gone through this gutting, hellish experience in the last year in which our daily lives have been utterly upended.

And the pandemic might have an end in sight, but I think anybody who follows climate closely knows that this is not going to be the last time that the sort of natural world having -- is going to kind of run amok, and that, if something isn`t done to mitigate this emergency, there are going to be a lot more years like the year that we have just lived through, whether that means pandemics, whether it means natural disasters, whether it means millions and millions of climate, refugees and all of the geopolitical disruptions that that causes.

So, I don`t think it`s any question that Biden should be prioritizing climate. I also think that a lot of the activists, particularly people who supported Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the primary, but then really worked their heart out for Biden in the general election, should be feeling really proud of themselves, both because elements of the Green New Deal and the sort of framework for the Green New Deal have underlined some of this new policy-making.

But also because, even though Biden comes from the kind of establishment center of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party has moved left. And we`re seeing that Biden has moved with it, and is really fulfilling the promise of everybody who worked to get him elected.


Speak a little more on that, Michelle, because you`re reminding everyone that having something so bad that it takes over your mind or your week doesn`t mean that other things aren`t important. And it`s just, we are people and we prioritize.

And government can be like that, because it is ultimately led by people as well. But you just reminded everyone of those horrific fires, the way they spread out of control, which was widely documented as partially worse, exacerbated by these climate conditions, the fact that several of the past years have been the hottest on record ever, the fact that all this has been building up, even if people, understandably, have felt it was a little obscured, say, in the last, I don`t know, three months or whenever, given the hellscape of contemporary life.

I don`t think that`s an exaggeration this time, Michelle.

GOLDBERG: Well, I think that that`s right.

And, again, I think it`s important to not see this pandemic as an anomaly, but to see it as what could become a new normal if our leaders don`t act to address this -- kind of these interlocking calamities that are bearing down in us.

And you`re right. Just as the pandemic, the time to address the pandemic was a year ago, the time to address climate disaster was many, many years ago. But the only time that you can really start is now, right? You can only sort of move forward from the point that you`re at.

And so I don`t think -- there`s no point right now in sort of wringing our hands about what should have been done and wasn`t done. What`s important, I think, is that this government be pressed. And they`re already showing themselves, I think, responsive to pressure, and also to have the same priorities as many of the people who elected them.

All they can do is kind of start from this moment. And just a week in, a week after Biden was inaugurated, we can see, as Trump and others like to say, elections have consequences. And those consequences are going to be life-changing, not just for Americans, but for people all over the world.

MELBER: Yes. Yes.

And I`m moving on, because I have a special guest.

But, Libby, with just the 30 seconds I have left here, your thoughts on what, if anything, Congress should do before that Trump trial begins?

CASEY: Oh, I mean, they wasted a lot of time already. When you hear Republicans complain about the constitutionality of this, Mitch McConnell could have had this trial starting before Biden was even sworn in.

So, they have wasted time already. Now it`s in Senator Schumer`s hands. They`re going to have to show they can do the walking and chewing gum at the same time as well. But the big issue, the big priority is this COVID relief bill that Democrats are trying to work with the White House on to see if they can bring Republicans on board or if they will just have to go it alone themselves.

But there`s a real question of just how the trial is going to be working into this in just two weeks` time.

MELBER: Yes. All fair points.

I want to thank Libby Casey and Michelle Goldberg for kicking us off tonight, and bring in our special guest.

You will certainly recognize her. In this new inaugural period, we have been having a whole range of special voices to help us think anew. And I`m thrilled to welcome one right now. Of course, it`s Soledad O`Brien, the award-winning journalist, former CNN and NBC anchor, founder of her documentary production company, host of the podcast "Very Opinionated."

And, believe it or not, there`s a bunch of other stuff I didn`t even fit in there.


MELBER: Nice to have you.

SOLEDAD O`BRIEN, HOST, "VERY OPINIONATED": It`s nice to see you, Ari.

Yes, listen, I think...


O`BRIEN: Go ahead. I`m sorry.

MELBER: Oh, I was just going to flesh it out and say, we have been drawing on different people since Wednesday, not in a partisan way, but in thinking of this as a time -- time to think anew.

So, given what was discussed above, as well as your general thoughts, please let us know what you think we should be focused on right now.


I think your guests are exactly right. I think, sometimes, we like to frame leadership as, well, they have to focus on this, or they have to focus on that. And I think the Bible administration really right out the box has said very clearly, you got to deal with COVID-19, you`re going to have to deal with the economic issues that we face.

And climate change, I`m agreeing with your guests. Like, we`re late on that. And so we have to jump into that and many other things as well. I think it`s been -- it`s very interesting that climate change has really been framed very much as job creation, right, not just, hey, we have to handle the climate, we`re late to this, but it`s job creation, and also social justice.

And I think that is the Biden administration and Joe Biden himself really reaching out to those supporters and touching those buttons of, I heard you, I hear you. When you talk about social justice, when you talk about environmental racism, right, those are the words that people are interested in here, even, as you heard from your guests, the Green New Deal.

Well, he didn`t embrace the Green New Deal, but he`s embraced a lot of it. It`s essentially the framework of it, without it being the thing itself.

And so I think you`re going to see -- whether or not that leads to unity, which has been a big question, I don`t know. It should. I think tackling economic issues and COVID-19 and those challenges, vaccines, that maybe should.

It`s is going to get more problematic when you start talking about environmental racism and when he starts embracing police brutality, et cetera, et cetera, down the road.

MELBER: Yes, that all makes sense.

I`m curious especially, because people know you as a storyteller and a clear communicator, what you think about the challenge that Joe Biden faces in trying to summon all this amidst these clearly intense times. Nicolle Wallace was speaking at the top of our broadcast about that, because Nixon famously talked up the silent majority.

Well, right now, as a numerical fact, what we have is a loud and angry minority. We have people who lost the election the very day that the Georgia results were coming in, they were loudly, angrily, and some of them, not all, but some of them criminally, violently overtaking that story in reality for those days.

And now here we are, seven days into the Biden administration, and it`s part of the federal government`s job to deal with these security bulletins, these threats, et cetera.

What do you think is the challenge for this new president to summon the fact that the majority just gave him a mandate, that Donald Trump never got more votes in either times he ran, that Georgia, whatever people thought Georgia was, it just went Biden, two Democratic senators?

These are the places that have his back. How should he do that, in your view?

O`BRIEN: I think the thing that`s going to be really important for this president is to not get sucked into the trap that I think sometimes journalists get sucked into, right?

Like, I thought it was great when Jen Psaki, who was doing a briefing, was asked a question about QAnon, and she`s like, nope, like, we`re not going to get sucked down the path of crazy town, and I think, because what it does is, it takes them off their message, and it creates this cycle that I think we have been in, in the last four-plus years, that the president says something or tweets something, and everybody kind of changes their entire narrative and runs down this path.

And I think if the Biden administration can be disciplined about their strategy, they`re going to be able to work on all of these fronts, and not go into crazy land.

I think that that actually pushes the challenge on to the GOP around, what are they going to do with their members, their membership who are really challenged, and don`t -- who is the GOP today is really the question. I think it`s landing squarely in their feet.

Often, people like to talk about Dems in disarray. And I would say, well, actually, I think you`re seeing the GOP in tremendous disarray, and the Dems got hanging together.

MELBER: Yes, you`re reminding everyone it`s a fine line between QAnon and QAnope.


MELBER: And, Soledad, we have this quick break. Will you stay with me through this quick break?

O`BRIEN: Sure, happily.

MELBER: OK, so let me tell everyone what`s coming up, a TV news exclusive tonight. Bill Gates is here on THE BEAT speaking out on vaccines and a lot more. So, stay with us for that.

But, first, after our shortest break with 30 seconds, we return on that DHS security news and more with Soledad O`Brien.


MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT, as promised, Soledad O`Brien still with us.

The next story we want to get into is, of course, one of the biggest stories of the day; 45 Republican senators who were reduced to fleeing their own chambers during that insurrection are now on record basically saying they don`t even want to have a trial for all of that.

And that is against the backdrop of DHS taking this rare step of issuing -- you need to know this -- a domestic terrorism threat, a warning. They`re citing -- quote -- "ideologically motivated violent extremists fueled by false narratives." And they say you need to know, as an American or anyone in this country, that this will persist over the coming weeks.

It also comes amidst charges for a man who threatened one of the leaders of Speaker Pelosi`s Democratic majority, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and his family the day of the insurrection.

The congressman spoke out on MSNBC to Chris Hayes.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): What was chilling in the message that was received is that this individual said, stop telling lies. Biden did not win.


JEFFRIES: He will not be president.

And so he was radicalized by the big lie that Donald Trump told and that has been supported by so many Republicans in the House and the Senate.


MELBER: As a matter of counting up who`s doing this, it is about the current Congress and members of the current Republican Party.

Take a freshman member congresswoman from Georgia Marjorie Taylor Greene, who endorsed -- quote -- "executing Democrats" online before she was elected to Congress. She called the 2018 Parkland shooting a false flag operation, and even joined in antagonizing one of the survivors.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): If the police officer at Parkland had done his job, then Nikolas Cruz wouldn`t have killed anybody in your high school.

How did you get over 30 appointments with senators? How`d you do that?

If school zones were protected by -- with security guards with guns, there would be no mass shootings. But yet you`re attacking our Second Amendment. And you have nothing to say?


MELBER: This approach is now in Congress, and many Republicans just want to move on.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I think it`s a waste of time.

And so, to coin a phrase, I think it`s time to move on.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I think the trial is stupid. And I think it`s counterproductive. We already have a flaming fire in this country. And it`s like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire.

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): This has nothing to do with what we should be doing at the Capitol. It`s vindictive. It`s backward-looking.


MELBER: Soledad O`Brien is back with us.

Your thoughts?

O`BRIEN: Yes, none of that surprises me at all, and especially from the players who you aired. That`s exactly what you would expect that they would say.

At the end of the day, the GOP has to decide, what is the face of the GOP, right? Is it Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene and QAnon, or is it going to be Senator Romney and Lisa Murkowski and Liz Cheney, right? Like, those are the sort of polar opposites that they`re trying to deal with right now.

And what you`re seeing, I think, which I would frame is as basic cowardice 101, but I think is really trying to figure out the value of Donald Trump and where he goes next, right? He`s lost the White House, he`s lost the Senate, he`s lost the House for them. He has taken a role in this insurrection.

He`s been impeached two times. And yet they can`t quite figure out how to quit him, because they`re afraid of his base, and they need his base. And so they`re waffling between, what exactly do you do?

I think Marco Rubio is a very good example of that. This idea, we need unity, we should move on, people died, but let`s move on, it makes no actual sense. It`s literally nonsensical. But I think the bigger issue goes to, what is the GOP going to be in the future? Who represents -- who is the face of the GOP?

And I think that`s an indication of really a divide, a division, the chaos inside the GOP.

MELBER: Yes. And you mentioned that the former president is off Twitter, but he`s on the minds of these Republicans.

I just want to read from an account here by the Associated Press that says: "Republicans signal an unwillingness to par with Trump after the riot." They note that: "Trump`s continued involvement in politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight."

And the article, Soledad, gives very specific examples we can remind everyone up from perhaps a simpler time, whether it was former President Obama taking some R&R, or former President Bush turning to painting.

O`BRIEN: Yes, that`s not going to happen. Trump will not take R&R and he will not -- his R&R is Twitter, and he will not turn to painting.

This is what he likes. This is what he enjoys. And so I think the real question is going to be, does he become actually involved in investigations, let`s say, in New York City? Will he continue to be silenced on social media? Will he instead have a shameless embrace of white supremacy and lead that way and really lead a movement and become the face of that?

And I think everybody, everybody, really, but I think some of these leaders in the GOP, are watching very carefully to see what he does, because that`s going to dictate what they do.

I think they are afraid of his followers, and they are afraid of him turning those followers against him.

MELBER: Yes, I think we -- do you want to see the painting? I think we have that.


MELBER: Just memory lane, how different -- it wasn`t that long ago.

You would leave office, and you would windsurf, or you would paint, or you just sort of had the idea of it`s someone else`s turn.


MELBER: There you go.

O`BRIEN: President Bush put together a book of his paintings, actually, and I own that book of paintings, yes.

And, no, it`s -- listen, I`m happy to bet you money right now President Trump will not at all be doing any painting for his R&R.


MELBER: Yes, it`s a real contrast.

The last question I have for you, Soledad, is something that I think many people are aware of you being really strong on from the jump here in this era, which was pushing everyone to be thoughtful and strong about calling out lies and really choosing where the boundaries are.

And there is free speech. And I care a lot about First Amendment speech. I used to practice that kind of law. But you have been talking about the judgments people have to make, especially in the press.

A final thought on that, given that QAnon is inside the walls of Congress, that these are tough, tough things when they keep coming up.

O`BRIEN: Yes, I think the biggest mistake journalists make is to elevate lies.

And I think the death of expertise has been hugely problematic. I would say, give the mic to people who are experts. If you`re going to talk about vaccines, talk to the people who are funding vaccines, talk to people who study vaccines, talk to people who are getting vaccines.

We have sort of moved away from expertise. And I have found in my reporting people actually want to hear from experts and want to understand the context. And just allowing things to live as untruths is very, very problematic.

MELBER: Yes. Yes.

Soledad O`Brien. Thanks so much for spending time with us tonight over a range of topics. We appreciate it.

Coming up, I want to tell everyone -- this is pretty important -- all the way back in 2015, Bill Gates called the pandemic. He warned us about it. At times, it sounds pretty prophetic, five years ago.



BILL GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: I rate the chance of a widespread epidemic far worse than Ebola in my lifetime as well over 50 percent.

If we look at the 20th century, and we look at the depth chart, well, that is Spanish Flu.


MELBER: And now Bill Gates makes his debut on THE BEAT right after this.



MELBER: The COVID pandemic continues to challenge the entire world, from individual citizens to the most powerful governments, from packed cities to the countryside.

And while everyone`s learning as we go, a big question is, could anyone have seen this coming? The answer is yes.

Bill Gates is known for many things, innovation that created the modern computer industry, making Microsoft into one of the largest companies in the world, partnering with NBC to launch the channel you`re watching right now. The MS in MSNBC stands for Microsoft, a stamp that continues, even though the company`s business links ended nine years ago.

But, lately, Gates has drawn notice for his humanitarian work and this 2015 warning about why we weren`t going to be ready for the next pandemic.


GATES: A large epidemic would require us to have hundreds of thousands of workers. The failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than Ebola.

It didn`t get into many urban areas. And that was just luck. Next time, we might not be so lucky. It would spread throughout the world very, very quickly. We need to get going, because time is not on our side.


MELBER: Gates was right.

And he`s emphasized the reason he was right is that he was listening to science and the experts, an approach anyone can apply right now.

And that multibillionaire is investing in the fight. The Gates Foundation has already committed $1.75 billion into fighting COVID, including early funding for the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

And welcome to our exclusive interview with Bill Gates, the entrepreneur, Microsoft co-founder, software developer, and philanthropist.

Thanks for being here.

GATES: Great to talk to you.

MELBER: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation`s annual letter has now just come out.

You both write about how this pandemic, in your view, will be as defining as World War II.

What are the key steps to take right now?

GATES: Well, we have to do two things at once.

We have to bring this epidemic to the -- to an end, primarily by getting the vaccine out in large numbers to the entire world. And we have to make sure that we`re ready, because there will be another pandemic.

And there are so many lessons about how we weren`t prepared, how we should have handled things differently. And when that`s clearly in our mind, those investments need to be made.

MELBER: You mentioned being ready for the next time. And you warned about this last time.

Let`s take a brief look at a 2015 warning you issued.


GATES: If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it`s most likely to be a highly infectious virus.

If we start now, we can be ready for the next epidemic.


MELBER: How ready was the world for this, say, on a scale of one to 10? And how about the U.S.?

GATES: The U.S. gets a low score, because the understanding of how to get diagnostics up to scale early to stop the exponential spread, if that had been done well, we would have been more like an Australia or a South Korea, where the death toll is less than a 10th of the tragic situation in the United States.

So, we made mistakes before the epidemic in not investing more. And then, during the epidemic, we also made mistakes.

There`s one category we did well, which was getting R&D money out to the vaccine companies. The U.S. was the biggest at that. And so, at least in that one area, we set a model for the world.

MELBER: You`re very specific in your work and the letter about what should come next.

You talk about a global alert system, infectious disease first responders, and germ games. Walk us through what some of that looks like and whether you think international organizations and the Biden administration can do more on that now.

GATES: Well, the great thing is that the tens of billions required for all that preparedness, it`s the insurance policy that avoid you losing tens of trillions, like we are globally right now.

And so it`s quite a bargain, even if you only look at what it can do to help during a pandemic. But those investments can also help us improve health on a much broader basis.

So, the mRNA vaccine can be used for T.B. and HIV. We`re very excited about that. And we have been funding mRNA for over 10 years. And now it`s now accelerated its development.

And getting those early warning systems in, that will improve health all over the world. So, this time, I think people will pay attention.

MELBER: Your letter also goes really through a whole bunch of influences ,from the movie "Contagion," to Winston Churchill, to you and your wife`s interest in confronting systemic racism and structural racism.

And you write that pandemics -- quote -- "exploit preexisting inequalities." And you`re working and doing funding with historically black colleges on testing.

Walk us through, what does this mean? Why does it happen this way? Does it have to be this way? And how do you fix it?

GATES: Well, it`s pretty stunning that the infection rate and death rate in minorities has been over twice as high.

And that really wouldn`t have been expected. In fact, we need to understand it a lot better. It`s partly multigenerational households. It`s partly job occupation. It may have been the ability to communicate health messages in to those households.

I`m stunned at that. Sadly, I`m not stunned with the idea that the inner- city schools were the least prepared with Internet connections and training in order to do online education.

And so the gap between the suburban schools and the inner-city schools, which was already very large and a terrible inequity, it`s been more dramatic in this last year than ever. And so we have got to reinvest in those schools, taking some of the good things we have learned about how we can use online tools, but helping those kids catch up.

MELBER: Mr. Gates, trying to warn about pandemics and then protect people`s lives during them doesn`t sound that controversial.

But, as you know and I think some of our viewers know, you have a lot of critics, including, for example, here`s a FOX News host who is attacking you for advocating contact tracing in April. Take a look.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: There`s a new threat to our rights on the horizon, and it`s being pushed by the second wealthiest man in the world.

According to Gates, the only way to responsibly end the shutdown is for a pretty vast surveillance system to be put in place, arguing that it will be unsafe to work or to travel, to go to church or a ball game unless we give up our personal data.

Well, I haven`t seen the scientific proof for any of that.


MELBER: Is that a fair assessment of what you`re trying to do? And what`s your response?

GATES: Well, contact tracing was incredibly beneficial in places like South Korea. And we`d have hundreds of thousands of people alive today in the U.S. if we had done that.

The data -- you don`t actually have to give up your personal data. That`s not a fair way of describing it. Some societies really chose to make that work. Sadly, because of our mistakes in diagnostics, our numbers got so large that even the states that made an effort, the benefits of the contact tracing wasn`t gigantic.

So, it`s really, as you get down in lower infection rates, like 3, 4 percent, then the contact tracing helps drive that down even lower.

MELBER: When you look at that kind of disagreement or attack, do you see it as just ignorant or also malicious?

Because there`s a lot on the Internet -- the stuff that`s not true, we`re not giving airtime to -- but that tries to rope you into something.

GATES: Yes, so, both myself and Dr. Fauci have featured in conspiracy theories.

Like, one says that Dr. Fauci is trying to make money off of these vaccines and various negative things about me. There, you`re encouraging people not to trust the advice on masks or taking the vaccine, and that could be damaging.

It`s a new phenomena. I don`t know, will it hurt the vaccine uptake, where everyone who takes the vaccine is not just protecting themselves, but reducing their transmission to other people and allowing society to get back to normal?

So, we`re -- it`s a completely unexpected phenomena. And, sadly, a lot of it`s based on false information.

MELBER: Yes, I have just had one follow-up on that, which is, you`re known to be both effective and an optimist.

What do you say to people who look at this and feel like scientists experts and you warned and gave the public information, and, by your own assessment today, it still didn`t go very well, according to the government policies in charge?

And you`re out here still working on it. What do you say to people who are pessimistic about either failure or incompetence and lies winning out?

GATES: Well, you -- whenever you make mistakes, you have to learn from them.

And the U.S. has so much talent, so much ability to get things right, so much ability to lead the world and help. In almost every infectious disease event of the last 100 years, the U.S. played a very strong role. The CDC is the most respected health organization.

In this one, we didn`t set a good example, and we even withdrew from the WHO. So, it wasn`t our finest hour.

But I remain optimistic. And I look at the new team that`s engaged, looking at the science, being willing to deliver the bad news that the next few months are going to continue to be tough, and I feel great that we`re correcting some of the mistakes that were made.

MELBER: You mentioned the new team.

Was President Biden right to rejoin the WHO? And have you spoken to him recently? Or will you?

GATES: I spoke to him, Melinda and I, soon after the election. And the pandemic was definitely one of the key topics there.

And we`re thrilled that he`s rejoined the WHO, because that`s where you share best practices. That`s where you make sure the numbers are there to see what`s going on, for example, understanding these variants that are a bit scary, because they are more transmissive. And we will get data soon whether the vaccines are slightly less effective or not.

And so, yes, it`s kind of a commonsense move to bring the world together, because it`s us vs. the disease. And every one of these vaccines involved scientists in many countries, and the trials were done in many countries. No country alone could possibly deal with this.

MELBER: Mr. Gates, I really want to thank you for joining us, for your work, for your time, and your insights. We appreciate it.

GATES: Yes, great to talk to you.



MELBER: Turning to that other big story we have been covering tonight, the Justice Department now taking some major steps in arrests of the Capitol Hill rioters and insurrectionists, as well as those inspired by it.

Officials charging one man with building these pipe bombs and discussing his attacks openly online, telling one associate after the January 6 riot - - quote -- "I want to blow up a Democrat building bad."

The DOJ also using the very high-level charge of conspiracy, which is more serious than just saying who trespassed, for example, to go after three alleged militia members for the same riot.

Officials say they -- quote -- "coordinated their attack" as far back as November and that they were working together on logistics, lodging and calls to discuss this organized criminal plan.

Meanwhile, video like this is being used as evidence against a defendant arrested for attacking a police officer on the Capitol steps. We reported on this very video, using it from other open sources, and -- quote -- "patting him on the back and saying, `We got you man` is now his defense."

You can judge from the video what he was really doing.

Now, some of the new evidence could also come up at this looming Senate trial of Donald Trump for inciting insurrection, an alleged rioter telling his associates, again, as far back as December: "I`m there. If Trump tells us to storm the Capitol, I will do that then."

And when -- once inside, relatives told him to leave. They texted him -- quote -- "Get the hell out of there. It`s a federal offense to be in there."

That was good advice. But it`s also now incriminating evidence that he knew exactly what he was doing, breaking the law, while he was in there.

Now, up next: An artist takes on right-wing violence in real time and what many MSNBC viewers are telling us about it.


MELBER: There are many ways to process this era we`re living through.

Here`s one that many of you are responding to, which I know because we have actually been overwhelmed with your responses to this new song and music video by Marlon Craft.


MARLON CRAFT, MUSICIAN (singing): To defeat white supremacy, you got to first want to defeat white supremacy. I don`t think most of us really do.

How many white mirror convos really bearing fruit? Vague tweets about how you love everyone. You won`t even wear a mask to save somebody`s grandmother.


MELBER: That song was so powerful, we invited Marlon on THE BEAT to discuss its meaning with Michael Steele.


CRAFT: The irony of it is that a lot of people think I wrote this as a response to the attack on the Capitol, but I actually turned it in that morning.

And I had written it about a month prior.

The song is to give hope, but a true hope, as an artist`s job is to do. And that true hope is grounded in struggle and in fact.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Marlon, I watched this about two or three times, and there were three sets of lyrics that jumped out at me.

And I would love to just get your response.

And you said: "We live in our own noose before we live in our own truth." And that spoke to me as well, because we hang ourselves every day with the lies that we perpetrate.

CRAFT: For me, it`s about the psychological condition.

And white supremacy is a psychological condition. It`s an institutional condition. And until we really acknowledge what`s going on in the mirror inside of our ourselves and our own psyches, I don`t see things really changing.


MELBER: That felt like an important exchange about justice and art and courage.

And while a lot happened last week, including the inauguration of a new president, you all embraced that video. You actually made it THE BEAT`s most watched segment online for the whole week.

In addition to live viewers, it actually drew 2.4 million more views online and counting.

And that led to one good thing that can happen online, a whole range of people actually exchanging ideas.

So, with all the division and bad news out there, we do close tonight with some of your thoughts, one viewer responding to that whole segment by saying: "This young man`s song should wake up all of the people of the entire world."

Another telling us that, at the age of almost 64, they found the rapper`s truth, "It reached in and grabbed me."

And, finally, a few of you even had tips for future episodes of THE BEAT, which we welcome.

One person writing: "Hope you can invite both Marlon and Michael back for a follow-up conversation. So deep in just those few minutes" -- end quote.

Well, we are considering it.

We love hearing from artists on THE BEAT, so we will keep doing that.

And if you want even more of some of what I`m doing with music and artist interviews and social justice, check out my Apple show, which is on Apple Music, and you can find it on Instagram @NevuaryRadio. You see the handle there, @NevuaryRadio, or just type Melber into Apple Music.

So, again, thank you to everyone for caring about what we`re working on.

Now, I have one more programming note tonight. We did get to talk a lot about important issues, including COVID, with this Bill Gates interview you saw tonight, but we went long. We got into a whole lot more, including what`s going on with technology and holding social media platforms accountable for potential hate speech, where those lines are, and even what his next TED Talk might focus on.

And we`re going to air that, the rest of the interview, all new stuff that we didn`t get to air tonight. That will be tomorrow on THE BEAT at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, so a little more Bill Gates 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night, only on MSNBC.

As always, thanks for watching THE BEAT.