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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 10/27/21

Guests: Dale Baich, Howard Dean, Barbara Boxer, Pramila Jayapal


Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal discusses infrastructure negotiations. A FOX News host calls B.S. on some of what`s coming out of that channel in his own way. Is a billionaires tax gaining steam? Oklahoma temporarily stays the executions of two inmates.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you very much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And the top story here is a flurry of what looks like real action from Democrats, because there are reports tonight that they are truly nearing a finish line on the sweeping spending bill that is supposed to define President Biden`s first-year agenda. And, by all accounts, the talks have become quite intense.

Now, in a moment, we will be joined live by the chair of the Progressive Caucus, who wrapped up a closed-door meeting and kind of a private huddle with the speaker, who is setting a key committee hearing on parts of this bill tomorrow.

Politico, though, has right now one of the most telling quotes we have seen, several Democrats saying that this deal is now essentially done, just pending the sign-off of the president and Bernie Sanders, who has been negotiating with Manchin, among others.

They also say that President Biden will delay a Thursday morning flight to Europe if the deal is finished.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): An agreement is within arm`s length. And we are hopeful that we can come to a framework agreement by the end of today.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): The president`s given everything he has to make this happen. He`s trying to meet everybody halfway.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Ninety percent of the Build Back Better Act is done. And we`re just waiting on the final agreement from the two senators.


MELBER: Meanwhile, earlier today, White House officials held another meeting with the holdouts, the two senators you just heard quoted, the ones who have become characters on "SNL" because they have been proven to be so essential to getting to 50, which is what Biden and Schumer need to do on every big vote, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

They are right in the mix with us. And sources tell NBC that one of the things that`s happening is the negotiating is actually making the hard calls, according to Democrats. That`s another sign that they`re closer to the end, because you can throw out all the adjectives you want about essentially done, but then you have to check, are things moving forward, according to the parties that have the vote and the veto?

And that brings us to this headline that some are concerned about, paid family leave now getting dropped out of the package, according to multiple accounts, Democratic sources. And the reasoning is the resistance from Senator Manchin.

Meanwhile, they`re still working on other details regarding child care, tax credits, climate change, Medicare, and trying to get to the funding of this all, which has become a big story this week. One way to do that is the minimum corporate tax rate. Senator Sinema has said she`s OK with that. Then there`s talk about the billionaire tax, Manchin balking at that idea and saying this today"


MANCHIN: Everybody in this country that has been blessed and prospered should pay a patriotic tax.


MELBER: So, Democrats are looking to converge on something that is, by all accounts, going to cost less than the original target and that`s going to be funded somehow.

They need all 50 votes, and Republicans remain very united against this, including very concerned about something that really doesn`t affect very many people. You can still debate what the right tax-and-spend policies are. But there may be a tell here that you have got some senators concerned about a tax that would literally not hit anyone in their states, depending on where they live, concern about the billionaires tax.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The far left is officially calling the shots.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): These multibillionaires are going to look and say, I don`t want to invest in the stock market, because, as that goes up, I`m going to get taxed.

MCCONNELL: They`re now proposing to tax money the American people haven`t even made yet.

ROMNEY: So maybe I will instead invest in a ranch or in paintings.

MCCONNELL: Our Democratic colleagues and become so tax hike-happy that they`re throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

ROMNEY: That kind of distortion of our economic system is a bad idea.


MELBER: I don`t know about you, America, but you heard Mitt Romney there. There is nothing scarier than the thought that some billionaires in the future would respond to tax policy by turning their investments into paintings.

Obviously, that is a key issue in this pandemic economy. I`m being a little wry to make the point that some of the pushback sounds silly, because it is silly, because the top concern in getting the economy going and helping people in the pandemic is not whether billionaires buy more art.

With that, we are joined by two experts on what`s happening in Washington, the former Senator Barbara Boxer and Juanita Tolliver, a Democratic strategist and analyst for us.

Senator, good to see you.

You don`t have to weigh in on what is, of course, the national -- the other national epidemic, which is whether billionaires invest more in paintings in the future, something that Mitt Romney is concerned about.

But you have been, more seriously, in these big, heated meetings, the backroom negotiations. When your former colleagues keep saying it`s getting close and they actually are removing things, what does that tell us? What do you see happening here?


FMR. SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): It`s definitely getting close.

I have been in touch with colleagues from the House and Senate. They have been pretty pessimistic up until literally 20 minutes ago, when I texted them and said, I`m going on Ari Melber`s show. I sure would like to know from you what you think. From a standpoint of one to 10, 10 being the best, where are we in getting a deal this week?

And both of them independently of each other, one House, one Senate, said at a seven, which is way better than it was. And I really do want to say quickly about this -- the sad, sad situation of Mitt Romney talking about taxing the billionaires, who often pay a lesser tax rate, effectively, then a nurse or a teacher.

Too bad. Wake up and smell the roses. This is wrong. And it would be wonderful if we figured out a way to do the patriot tax that Joe Manchin talked about. I was very excited about that.

MELBER: All very important points. And appreciate you texting your colleagues, adding to all of our sourcing here, Senator. And, as mentioned, you have really been there.

Juanita, the senator mentions a billionaire tax. It has turned now this week into a big debate. And it`s pretty striking, because it seems to be a reveal. When Joe Manchin says that people in West Virginia oppose some of the climate provisions, for example, in the bill, that is true. That`s a political debate about what to do about it. But that`s a true thing, given what we know about the constituents there.

When he now says that he`s concerned about or balks at a billionaire tax, we checked. According to "Forbes," there`s zero billionaires in West Virginia. So he`s literally not talking about his own constituents. Why would West Virginia be against that, Juanita?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Ari, you have just name it. West Virginia isn`t against it.

I feel like Senator Manchin at this point is doing what he has done in negotiations up until this point, is carry the water for billionaires and donors who he wants to keep in touch with, keep their ear as he, like, continues his career in the Senate, right? Like, that is his priority here.

He`s shown that time and time again. And to say he`s opposed to the billionaire tax, as well as something like paid family leave, just shows who matters to Joe Manchin, because it most certainly isn`t the millions of women who`ve had to leave the work force, not only during this pandemic, but before, because they didn`t have access to paid family leave.

It`s not the families who are being left behind with these decisions. It`s literally about billionaires. It`s about the wealthiest, about the donors. And he is doing their bidding. We see him also doing their bidding in the climate electricity program, and fighting for fossil fuels, fighting for natural gas entities, right?

Like, that`s who he cares about. And that`s who he`s prioritizing. And what`s frustrating is to see a man like this prioritize those entities, again, above women, above families, above children. Like, it`s not only frustrating, but it`s ridiculous, Ari.


And you`re speaking to how people have to make these decisions, especially when there`s not enough money to go around. Family leave and these other programs are part of whether those parents are supported, as you mentioned.

Senator, take a listen to Senator Warren, who was telling us about the wealth tax.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): He pays less in federal income taxes than the average Boston public school teacher. That is a system that is rigged.

We have a chance to say, Jeff Bezos, you and the other 700 billionaires are actually going to have to kick in some money on this.

I think it`s the right thing to do.


MELBER: Senator?

BOXER: I think it`s the right thing to do for all the reasons that were mentioned.

But guess what? Reality. Let`s face it. The fact of the matter is, if we had 54 Democrats in the United States Senate, which we should have had had if he had done better in the last election, it wouldn`t really matter that one or two senators are off the reservation on a couple of issues.

But the fact is that they are. And we could complain about it all we want. And my view is, let`s get this done. And I say, yes, let`s go after the corporations and the billionaires. If we can`t get after the billionaires - - there`s some issue, apparently legally with taxing wealth that hasn`t been realized, which has to do with this billionaires tax, where you get taxed because the value of your stock is up, even though you haven`t sold it.

They say there could be legal problems. If there`s a way to go with the patriot tax, which is every corporation must pay a certain amount -- and every individual I hope is in that -- let`s go there.


I don`t think it pays to attack any one of these senators. I don`t agree with them. But I have to be realistic. I come from a blue state. Joe Manchin comes from a state that went for you know who, the last guy...

MELBER: Heard of him, yes.

BOXER: ... who I also don`t like to say, President Trump.

And, actually, it`s 70 percent. So, let`s get real here. Either we want to get something done or not. Last point I would make, which I think is important to state, there are two ways to look at this bill. One way, it`s been cut from the original proposal, which started off very high at $6 trillion. It went down to 3.5. That`s one way to look at it. And it`s fair.

But I think we have to look at it the other way, everything we now add on, even though it`s not everything I want, and it`s not everything that the progressives want, and it`s not even everything a moderate wants.

This is the situation we`re in, but everything we get is going to be golden. And we can build on it. And we can use it in the next election. So that`s why I`m optimistic that we can get started on putting America`s families first with this bill.

MELBER: Senator Boxer coming with the real liberal pragmatist energy, which I know some of the Democrats are looking for as they try to maneuver this.

I want to thank Senator and Juanita, and show everyone why we`re moving right along.

We have Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal here, chair of the Progressive Caucus. She did this meeting with the speaker.

Thanks for joining us.

What did you glean from the meeting? Where are we headed?

JAYAPAL: Well, Ari, it`s great to be with you.

Look, we have been working hard for several weeks to get 50 senators on board and make sure we have 218 votes in the House. We have really slim margins in both chambers. And that`s just the reality of it.

The Progressive Caucus, 96 members` strong, I`m really proud of us because, because of us holding the line and saying we`re not just going to deliver a small piece of the president`s agenda to his desk, we`re not going to leave anybody behind, we held the line, we have got this Build Back Better act back on the table. And there`s been more negotiation in the last three weeks on the Build Back Better Act than there was for six months with the two senators that we need to get on board.

We are close, but we`re not done. We are waiting for an agreement with the two senators. And anybody that`s concerned about the delay here should just look at the fact that we need to get two senators on board. And we`re waiting for that to happen. And there`s no shade being thrown here.

Senator Boxer is right. We need 50 senators. That`s just -- that`s just the reality of where we are.

MELBER: Yes. Yes.

JAYAPAL: And we need 218 votes in the House. So, that`s the place we`re in.

MELBER: Right.

JAYAPAL: And let`s see where we get to.

But I think we just -- we`re not there yet. We don`t have that agreement yet.

MELBER: As of this moment, is family leave out of the package?

JAYAPAL: Well, that`s what I`m hearing.

I spoke to Senator Manchin myself, and I told him how frustrating it was for me that he doesn`t think that`s a good idea. Ari, there are only six countries in the world that don`t have paid family leave. And I can`t believe that the United States is going to be -- continue to be one of them.

I am a woman. I have had a baby. I understand how important this is. And I think there are millions of women out there who are saying, what do you not understand about investing in us to have this paid family and medical leave, so that we can bring up and invest in our kids early on, when we need to do that?

This is really -- I think it`s inconceivable for most of us who have had babies, I said that to Senator Manchin, frankly, to families that have had children. I don`t understand. But that`s where he is.


And on the billionaire`s tax, as you said, and the senator, your former congressional colleague, Senator Boxer, said on our air here moments ago, you echoed it, like, hey, got to work together, so you don`t want to antagonize them.

Having said that, the billionaire tax would seem to be this breakthrough. Is it a dance where sometimes these two senators find a coordination? Is it accidental or on-purpose synchronized swimming, so to speak?

And what should we in the country make of the concern by not Senator Manchin -- I`m not only singling him out, although he`s a key vote -- but also by some Republican senators to oppose a tax on a super wealthy class of people that in some instances that are not even in their states, as we have emphasized, which raises the very public question of whether the only reason that they oppose it is because of out-of-state donors and not actually representing their state?

JAYAPAL: Well, I love the billionaires tax.

Senator Warren and I have a wealth tax that is -- we would love to see on the table, but this is a version of that, a much smaller version. It`s just 700 billionaires. I have some of those billionaires in my state, Ari. You know Washington state well.



JAYAPAL: We have those billionaires there.

And I think it`s time for those 700 billionaires to pay at least a piece of their fair share. I mean, this isn`t going to get everything, but it`s starting to unrig the system. Now, that wasn`t our first choice. Let`s just back up here.

We had a whole set of tax incentives -- or tax changes that were about rolling back the Trump tax cuts. Senator Sinema didn`t like those. She didn`t want to do those. Senator Manchin was actually OK with many of them.

So, what happened was, Senator Warren and others, Senator Wyden, came up with a billionaires tax and really socialized that idea. I think it`s fantastic. But now Senator Sinema is OK with that tax, but Senator Manchin has problems with it.

And so this is where it`s like, OK, the two of them don`t actually agree with each other; 98 percent of us have been on the same page for a long time.

MELBER: Right. Right.

JAYAPAL: And we keep being patient, but, look, at the end of the day, they need to understand that they do need to come together.

And I have spent time, particularly with Senator Manchin. I just talked to him today on the phone. I think he`s working in good faith. But I think we need a little bit more here, because we need to get this done.

MELBER: Yes. Yes.

JAYAPAL: And we need to pass it for the American people.

MELBER: Well, you are a powerful person with an important job. And, as we get our civics lesson here about things that matter, people are reminded why it`s also a tough job that not everyone would want.

But we wish everyone in government luck. And, Congresswoman, thank you for joining us.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Coming up: a FOX News hosts calling B.S. on some of what`s coming out of that channel in his own way. Governor Dean is here.

Also, why the billionaires tax is actually gaining steam. We have a deep dive on that.

And a major development in that story we brought you Monday, a man on death row with a trial that had questions about racism and reasonable doubt. There is a big development. We have that for you tonight.



MELBER: The FDA is now close to clearing a new COVID vaccine for children as young as 5. And the vote on that formalizing it could come within days.

It`s another step in this regulatory process, which, according to the data and evidence, has worked very well. The vaccines have been tested, they have been rolled out, and when they have rolled out, they work, which is what is driving COVID`s current plummet across the U.S., especially with vaccine mandates upping participation.

Against that, anti-vaxxers are getting more vocal and aggressive. And that has some people with platforms trying to push back to emphasize that this really shouldn`t be any kind of political debate. A longtime FOX anchor, Neil Cavuto, is calling for sobriety.

He also knows when he says what I`m about to show you, that other people on his very airwaves are pushing some of the very types of beliefs, misinformation and conduct that he criticizes here.


NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: This is not about left or right. This is not about who`s conservative or liberal. Life is too short to be an (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

Life is way too short to be ignorant of the promise of something that is helping people worldwide. Stop the deaths. Stop the suffering. Please get vaccinated. Please.


MELBER: That`s how he put it.

And Mr. Cavuto has been open and public about his own health challenges, including battling M.S. and cancer, a personal experience that may inform his perspective and his seriousness about this topic.

Many FOX viewers also know his medical history, because, again, as I mentioned, it`s something he talks about. It`s something he`s chosen to share. And now some FOX viewers are responding to what you just heard in Cavuto`s statement with pretty vile attacks.


DION BAIA, FOX NEWS: T.J., who also e-mails: "It`s clear you have lost some weight with all this stuff. Good for you. But I`m not happy with less of you. I want none of you. I want you gone, dead, kaput, finis. Get it? Now take your two-bit advice, deep-six it and you."


BAIA: That`s a rather harsh, Neil.


MELBER: Yes, it is harsh.

Cavuto also sharing what he`s hearing and imploring people to understand this is extreme, while also trying to figure out what to do with an audience that clearly sees this differently because of his colleagues.

He also notes something that we`re all seeing here, that just sharing medical facts is now, on the right, politically volcanic.


BAIA: "I admire your remarkable strength through so much adversity. Let me give you some advice. Shut up and enjoy the fact you`re not dead. For now."

CAVUTO: I was out urging many of you who hadn`t got vaccinated to get vaccinated.

But I had touched on something that is akin to the third rail of politics.


MELBER: Also makes you wonder about the messages he got that they didn`t read on air.

This misinformation, this political intensity has been turned up specifically on FOX by FOX anchors. And there are, as we have emphasized, valid debates about policy and the government`s role. Discussing liberty, there`s plenty that we can discuss in a civic way, but that`s distinct from lies about vaccines.

Vaccines work. The COVID vaccine works. Extensive studies of over 4,000 children under 12 show that it is very effective against COVID and the newer Delta variant. Those are the kinds of facts that go to understanding how the new vaccine for kids will work, as well as the vaccine in general, and then people make up their minds, hopefully based on facts.

But Tucker Carlson is not referencing many of those facts. He`s often hiding the ball or being misleading. And then, sometimes, he just comes out in laundries conspiracy theories, for example, one that you`re going to hear here briefly from a QAnon sympathizer.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: There are reasons to think that mandating vaccines for kids could be dangerous to them.

According to the Substack Techno Fog, which is run by a brilliant attorney called Travis Miller, Pfizer previously announced that vaccine side effects for small children are quote generally comparable to those observed in participants 16 to 25 years of age.


So what does that mean exactly? Well, it means the potential for many new cases of myocarditis among small kids in order to protect an age group that is not at risk in the first place from COVID.


MELBER: That is exactly just a quick sample of what Neil Cavuto and others and FOX are dealing with.

Now, whether someone chooses to e-mail references to Mr. Cavuto`s demise or something that could sound even like wishing it or a death threat is ultimately the responsibility of that person.

The fact that Mr. Cavuto shared it in whatever way he did, for his reasons, puts everyone on notice, including his colleagues, that trafficking in misinformation and getting people this hopped up can be dangerous in more than one way. It`s dangerous to themselves and maybe to others.

We turn to Dr. Howard Dean, who was also a governor, so he`s right in the intersection of this, to get into all of it, when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: Joined now by Dr. Howard Dean. He was also the governor of Vermont, chair of the DNC, and a former presidential candidate.

Thanks for being here.

Your thoughts on what we just showed over at FOX News and the vaccine conundrum that they are in?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, first of all, it shouldn`t be called FOX News. It just FOX lies.

I try never to buy anything that I see advertised on FOX. But, of course, since I never watch FOX, that`s not terribly effective. Look, Carlson is a liar. And there`s no two ways about. He just makes stuff up. And he makes a lot of money by lying to people who are angry, unsuspecting, unanalytical and so forth and so on.

Cavuto has got some courage. I mean, I don`t agree with him. I don`t agree that anything that goes on, on FOX, but I do think Cavuto ought to be -- if we had more Republicans who had Cavuto`s courage, this would be a much better country.

MELBER: And I`m curious.

You`re a political communicator. Mr. Cavuto appeared to want people to know about the kind of mail that he`s getting, some of which was grim. And then he was quite measured and classy about it. He did the thing that people in public life sometimes do. You were a politician. Sometimes, you laugh things off, but he made a choice to show what he`s getting.

DEAN: Yes, these people were really basically spoiled children.

And this is one of the reasons I think mandates for vaccines are so effective. I have long thought that the -- there`s two ways that we`re going to get out of this, and we need to get both, use both for the divisiveness.

One is just simply the power of persuasion. When people on their deathbeds are saying, I was wrong about vaccinations, please get vaccinated, that`s very powerful.

What`s even more powerful is you lose your job because you`re not getting vaccinated. If you don`t get vaccinated, you`re putting other people at work -- at risk, some risk of death. And so this idea that all these police officers and public servants are not going to get vaccinated, they don`t have a right to do that. And I think the courts and the government is fed up with this crap.

And I think the public`s fed up with it. These are spoiled little children. And they need to be made to pay consequences. And the consequence is, they`re going to lose their job.

Children -- everything Carlson said was a complete lie from a public health point of view. Children have been forced to be vaccinated for years, with the exception of people who are immunocompromised. Most schools in this country, you can`t go to, most public schools, unless you have measles, mumps and rubella and so forth.

Why? Because those diseases are what`s killed people in large numbers and they don`t do it anymore. Vaccines work. I think people are fed up with this right-wing nonsense. And I think some of the right-wingers are fed up with it because they now have to pay a price for their misbehavior in their lives.

MELBER: Clearly put.

Then there`s this wider context of the environment we`re in, fanned by a lot of dark forces, including hatred, racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, that seems to weirdly connect with some of the anti-vax stuff, although there`s not an obvious logical connection.

DEAN: There is. Actually, there...


DEAN: Oh, sorry.

MELBER: Well, let me give you one piece of sound I want the viewers to see.


DEAN: Go ahead.

MELBER: But then I do want your view.

I just want to give a little context on this, which is, we have seen the vitriol at the COVID fights in schools. We have seen the videos here of crime. This is people attacking people, physical fights assault, menacing. It`s gotten ugly.

Then there were reports of a disturbing Nazi salute at an Ohio school board meeting that was the response to a request to follow masking guidelines. Now, Senator Ted Cruz has something to say about it. Now, there`s many different ways you can choose to weigh in. This is what Ted Cruz`s saying. This was during a Judiciary hearing that was supposed to be about addressing possible violence against educators.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): During this hearing, I counted 20 incidents cited. Of the 20, 15 on their face are nonviolent. They involve things like insults. They involve a Nazi salute. That`s one of the examples.

My God, a parent did a Nazi salute at a school board because he thought the policies were oppressive.

General Garland is doing a Nazi salute at an elected official, is that protected by the First Amendment?



MELBER: OK. You can hear the attorney general`s brief response there. It is legally accurate that such a salute by itself is First Amendment speech.

It`s also entirely beside the point. The issues at that oversight hearing were the rising hate in America, which is wrong, and these efforts that foment harassment and violence, which are illegal.

Governor Dean is here.

And I invite your thoughts on all of the above.

DEAN: Well, look, Cruz is part of the problem. I mean, he incites hatred, he incites fury. He doesn`t listen to other people. And his voting record is an appalling mess of racism, homophobia and misogyny. And he really doesn`t belong in the Senate. He`s an embarrassment.

And there`s, unfortunately, a lot of people like that in the United States Senate right now. And it`s just too bad. But the only way to deal with this stuff is to be honest, as Cavuto was, to say what the truth is, and then to expose the people who are attacking him.

That is getting to be a smaller and smaller number of people. I have said this before on the show. One of the big reasons that Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are in Congress -- in the United States Senate today is because the voters in Georgia get fed up with this nonsense.

And I think Brian Kemp is going to have a hard time getting reelected, even though I don`t even know who the candidate is. And I predict that Senator Warnock will be reelected, because people are fed up with this. They`re fed up with this in all the parts of the country.

And Texas and Florida get a lot of bad ink. I`d be shocked if DeSantis was reelected as governor of Texas -- of Florida.

MELBER: Florida.

DEAN: People just are sick of this. Normal, ordinary, good Americans, no matter whether they`re Republicans or Democrats, are sick of it. And they blame the far right, and Trump, and Ted Cruz, and DeSantis, and Greg Abbott, and all these wing nuts who are -- who know better, for the most part, and are simply catering to the worst instincts of human beings.

And it`s wrecking the country. And we`re not going to put up with it anymore. And I think there`s a solid majority that`s fed up with it.

MELBER: Governor Howard Dean breaking it down. Appreciate you, sir.

DEAN: Yes. Thank you.


Now I got to go to tell you what`s up next. We have billionaires heading into space, while Democrats are looking to tax them right here on Earth.

And then, as I mentioned, and I invite you to stay with us, there is some major legal developing news on this story we brought you about a man on death row where a trial involved proven racism by a juror. New questions about justice.

Maya Wiley is here on that tonight.



MELBER: We have major developing news tonight on a story that we first brought you Monday that involves someone named Julius Jones, currently an Oklahoma inmate who was convicted of murder at just 21 years old.

Here`s some of what you need to know about this big story, a man who`s now been on death row for half his life.


MELBER: Oklahoma is set to execute Jones within three weeks. But the first and most significant legal fact is that Jones did not face a fair jury of his peers, as the law requires.

Here is how a member of this majority-white Oklahoma jury later after the conviction recounted what a jury said.


JUROR: One of the jurors said, well, they should just take this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out back, shoot him, and bury him under the jail.

It didn`t matter what happened. This was a black man that was on trial for murder.


MELBER: And, as for Oklahoma, well, they support their death penalty down there, but even they had to stop it for years. It`s only resuming now, as I mentioned, because it`s sort of notorious for these problems, notorious for botching executions.

Our colleague Rachel Maddow has covered this for years.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Turns out Oklahoma is just blindly injecting people with whatever drug is at hand.


MELBER: Those injections proved so controversial that they were paused by courts for six years. The practice was likened to burning people alive. It looked like cruel and unusual punishment, among other issues. So there`s a lot going on in this case that we brought you.

And Mr. Jones was scheduled to be executed within three weeks. Well, that has just been halted in this developing news today, a judge blocking the planned execution of two individuals. It`s a temporary stay for him and another death row inmate who was actually set to be executed tomorrow.

They`re citing an upcoming trial for February 2022 that also would further deal with whether it should even be legal, allowed to use those mechanisms I mentioned that they likened to burning people alive. It`s this three-drug cocktail, and there`s been a lot of problems with it.

So that`s the news tonight, that Mr. Jones has something of at least a legal temporary reprieve.

There is a hellscape of an execution system in Oklahoma, and that raises issues beyond whether you`re for or against the death penalty in theory. And the question that is harder in our American justice system, which is when you learn all the facts of how it goes on, the racism, which we reported on, the cruelty and other issues, then the society has to look at those facts and say, do you support that?


Now, there halt in executions does not, as a legal matter, address any guilt or innocence of these two individual cases. It speaks more to the execution system. Oklahoma`s process was so botched that, as I mentioned, and I will show you some of the reporting, you had experts saying it was like burning people alive.

What we`re seeing now is that process itself will go back on trial. These executions will be halted. They will be postponed for now, while these individuals, including Mr. Jones, remain on death row.

And we have special coverage planned for you tonight. We bring in one of our legal experts, Maya Wiley, a former civil prosecutor, and Dale Baich, Julius Jones` attorney in the case, who joins us for the first time.

Dale, what does today`s ruling mean?

DALE BAICH, ATTORNEY FOR JULIUS JONES: Good evening, and thank you for having me on the show.

The 10th Circuit ruled today that the execution of John Grant and Julius Jones should be stayed because the federal district court judge in a prior ruling determined that this question of the drug combination that Oklahoma uses to carry out executions may be unconstitutional.

And it`s important to point out why the plaintiffs were dismissed from the lawsuit. They declined to affirmatively state an alternative method of execution based on religious reasons. And so they were excluded from the lawsuit because they exercised their religious liberties.

MELBER: I want to read from the suit -- excuse me -- from the ruling regarding what the judges say.

There`s a question here of whether this drug which is used the execution, so we can think of that as the kind of the state`s weapon, if you will, would subject the prisoner, Maya, to -- quote -- "a constitutionally unacceptable level of pain."

As I have taken a point to emphasize, this is not about whether these individuals had a fair trial or reasonable doubt, which are also issues in the case. But what does it tell you, Maya, that, as they are barreling towards an execution, one that was going to be as soon as tomorrow, the courts have to come in and really rule about whether this might be effectively, to use an English, word torture?

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, look, this, as you said Ari, is about a way of killing people, because we are talking about people, killing people that has been so painful.

They had to meet a standard that said there was a substantial risk of severe pain. And, remember, the botched executions that you referenced in your opening, Ari, were including a man who was in excruciating pain for 43 minutes, essentially burning from the inside out for 43 minutes on a gurney, before he had a heart attack and died.

Now, if that`s not cruel and unusual punishment, I don`t know what is. And I think we also have to note that it`s very painful for the families of the victims to have this level of uncertainty as to the outcome, and then, if we`re really designing a system that works, we`re going to take into account both what is justice, but what is also just decent decision-making, so that we`re not having these kinds of discussions, including five human beings who were not allowed for participate in these proceedings because they weren`t able to say how they should be killed.

MELBER: Right, right, a point that you both made.

And, Dale, part of anyone listening to Maya and hearing her words and thinking about human beings is going to feel, gosh, this is tough stuff. I don`t know if I want to think about it and hear about it while going into the dinner hour on the East Coast.

And yet isn`t it essential, Dale, that if the state is going to exercise the power to take lives, that the society be informed about what that involves? What does victory look like for you in this case long-term?

BAICH: Well, the litigation here, the end goal is to make sure that, if, if the state does carry out an execution, that it is done in a way where our clients won`t suffer.

And to your point about what people should know, there`s a real problem with transparency. States are not very transparent when it comes to disclosing the source of the drugs, the qualifications of the individuals who are carrying out the executions.


And if government is going to carry out the ultimate punishment, the citizens should know everything about it. And that`s just not happening.

MELBER: Yes. Yes.

I think people can understand what you`re saying.

Final question to you, Maya. We reported on this. Today`s ruling does not speak to, as mentioned, the culpability of either person on death row. Mr. Jones` case, which we spotlighted, included a majority-white jury, where a juror reported to the judge and then publicly that another juror said the facts don`t matter in this case because they were -- quote -- "trying a black man" -- end quote.

And then use an epithet, which, again, relevant, I think, to the case, used the N-word to refer to the defendant, saying that he should actually just be lynched. This was before deliberations. Should that be relevant to whether this was deemed a fair trial that leads to an execution?

WILEY: Of course it should, because, first of all, we have to think about whether we should be killing people.

But secondly, certainly, if we`re going to say that we should, we shouldn`t be killing innocent people, and we shouldn`t be killing them in a system that is biased based on race. And this case is rife with all kinds of concern, from a police officer at the scene who dropped the N-word, the fact that Julius Jones reportedly did not meet the description of the person who committed the murder, that the person who claimed that he did it has told three different people in prison that he`s actually the one who did the murder.

There are so many questions here that should make us say it`s not only about how we kill people; it`s about whether or not we have a system that is truly just. And I think this case is exactly the kind of concerns we have around those questions.


I think, although the story is far from over, that`s a fitting point to reflect on as we conclude this conversation.

And I want to thank Maya Wiley, who`s a legal analyst for us on many important topics.

And, Dale Baich, I know our producers on THE BEAT have been in touch with your team. And we will continue to do so as we report on this story and where the case goes.

My thanks to both of you.

BAICH: Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you. Thanks.

Up ahead, we do have an update on this issue of the week, the billionaire tax plan, which could affect your life, your pocketbook, and what`s happening in the Senate, the wealth gap -- next.



MELBER: Democrats have been publicizing this new tax plan that would target billionaires and then fund the Biden agenda by having billionaires pay for part of it.

It`s also a larger backlash to something that many Americans say should be fixed regardless of whether you support the Biden plan. And that is a wealth gap that has gotten far worse, partly because of policy.

Take a look, billionaire wealth surging by 70 percent since the start of the pandemic a year-and-a-half ago .You can put it like this. While over 700,000 Americans were dying of COVID, and many were inconvenienced to the extreme at work and making sacrifices and figuring out how to make ends meet, billionaires, because of their hold on many things that regular people don`t have access to invest in, actually added $3 trillion -- I should say, $2.1 trillion to their wealth.

Now, there is something off that people feel when inequality reaches extreme degrees. And there`s been an intense reaction to some of what billionaires end up spending their money on, like going out to space as a project.

Jeff Bezos` company announcing plans for a space station that will be focused on business and tourism for people who can afford it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Orbital Reef is a full-fledged commercial space station.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Think of it as a village and also provides opportunities for tourists to come and just experience what space is like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This unique environment that`s only a couple of 100 miles away from us is both transformative and accessible.


MELBER: Marketing says anyone can experience space. It`s -- quote -- "open to all."

And there`s amenities, recreation opportunities, and you can fly over all of humanity. That`s from the Orbital Reef brochure.

It`s not exactly a family road trip to Six Flags. And it`s not open to all. Indeed, if you want to experience space on the cheap, Neil deGrasse Tyson reminded all of us we`re in space right now. Trippy.

Some of these materials, the marketing, also seems to echo things that we thought of as fiction. Science fiction, like Matt Damon`s film "Elysium," where the ultra-rich leave Earth and its problems to go to an exclusive space station high overhead. All are not welcome.

The film stars talked about the message.


MATT DAMON, ACTOR: The rest of us are on Earth looking up at this beautiful, pristine torus in the sky that we aspire to somehow get to.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It`s filled with all of the things that make life worth living. Everything that`s been extracted from Earth, all of the medical help and the technology and the wealth and the standard of living and the longevity and everything else, is all there.

JODIE FOSTER, ACTRESS: If they have enough money, and you`re somebody, you can get a pass to come to this place.



MELBER: Life imitating art, art predicting life.

The core point that loops back to this tax debate in Washington is not about demonizing space travel, which has always been kind of an interesting thing to people. It`s about what`s going on back here at home and whether we are creating a society that works for everyone, or is the kind of society with so many problems that people with money will flee it?

And that`s a question for all of us.

Now, up ahead, we have an update on an important story. You can see someone here who`s on trial for murder at a BLM protest. And now a judge is making a controversial ruling that we think you need to know about -- next.


MELBER: There`s outrage over a new judicial ruling in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, a man accused of killing two men and wounding a third with an assault rifle that he took to BLM protests.

The judge rules now that the defense attorneys are not in court allowed to refer to those shot as -- quote -- "victims." Other terms that could be used, which seem like loading the deck, were rioters, looters and arsonists, according to the judge. Victim is what the judge says is the loaded term here.

Now, there are legal terms of art. But, as a practical matter, a jury does understand, if someone deliberately shot someone else, the dead person is the victim. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty.

That does it for us.