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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 10/4/21

Guests: Adam Grant, Chai Komanduri, Katrina Vanden Heuvel


The high-stakes clash over President Biden`s spending agenda continues. How can the country change minds when it comes to vaccines? Facebook comes under fire after a whistle-blower reveals how the company can fuel extremism. Deadline to answer subpoenas approach in the January 6 probe.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And this high-stakes clash over Biden spending agenda continues tonight, Washington adjusting to a world where House liberals hold the line and actually flex their power. As a political matter, that means the president must deal with his left flank, which is why, as we`re coming on the air, we know that Biden is meeting with House progressives who made Speaker Pelosi delay that vote on the Biden infrastructure bill.

But let`s be clear and objective. That political leverage, however real, does not ensure any automatic success. It just ensures a seat at the table. Biden is now at that table, and he`s telling his party they will still have to move towards at least Joe Manchin a little bit. They will have to cut down from the over $3 trillion in proposed spending on the safety net, which is a priority for progressives, but one of their leaders offering a peek into this ongoing conversation and what it will take to fund their priorities.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): We`re not thinking about the number.

And the president said this to us too. He said, don`t start with the number. Start with what you`re for. And that`s what he`s asked them for. And then let`s come to the number from there. So, that`s how we`re thinking about it.

DANA BASH, CNN: So, if we`re not looking at numbers, what about 1.5, like, what Senator Manchin...

JAYAPAL: Well, that`s not going to happen.

BASH: But why is that...

JAYAPAL: So it`s going to be somewhere...

BASH: Why won`t it add up to that number?

JAYAPAL: Because that`s too small to get our priorities in.

So, it`s going to be somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5.


MELBER: Democratic Senator Schumer insists both bills will pass by Halloween. And he`s united with more liberal members like Bernie Sanders here at least on one thing, pushing back on Senators Manchin in Sinema, who seem oddly fixated on trying to separate this into two votes, while claiming that they`re fine with ultimately voting on both packages.

Now, Biden and many progressives have basically implied that keeping the bills together makes it more likely they will get up-or-down votes. We are talking about a Senate where plenty of important things never get a vote, the idea being that separating them would leave more room for waffling in the Senate.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, I think Senator Sinema is wrong. Both of these bills are going forward in tandem, going forward in tandem.

We have got to pass them both.


MELBER: Now agree or disagree, I can tell you that Bernie Sanders seems to honestly be saying where he stands.

Joe Manchin spent months publicly claiming he had not decided on the numbers, while secretly deciding on the numbers. He decided, in his own mind, on $1.5 trillion as his ceiling and secretly told everyone in the Senate about it, or at least Chuck Schumer and a few other people, but not the public.

Meanwhile, Sinema, who was not a household name as recently as last month, has -- and this is not my opinion. It`s just what we saw this weekend. She basically through her posture here has turned herself into something of an "SNL" punchline for vagueness and trolling.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: On one side, we have the moderate Democrats, Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: What do I want from this bill? I will never tell, because I didn`t come to Congress to make friends.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: And, so far, mission accomplished.



MELBER: That`s one view of it from "SNL."

I`m joined by Katrina Vanden Heuvel, publisher of "The Nation" and my former boss. And we`re joined by Professor Jason Johnson, an MSNBC contributor.

Jason, tell me what you want, what you really, really want.


JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think people in D.C. are surprised that Biden gets along better with his friends on the progressive side.

And the fact that he seems to have thrown in with the progressives in the House, who said, look, we`re not voting for this infrastructure bill, which you moderates like, unless both these things are linked together, it`s actually good strategy. And it`s because Joe Biden, just like Bernie Sanders and the rest of these long-term senators and negotiators, understand, you can`t trust Kyrsten Sinema. You can`t trust Joe Manchin.

And if they get what they want, if they get the road infrastructure bill done now, there is no guarantee that they won`t waffle and prevaricate and do everything they can to not vote for the larger soft infrastructure bill.

So I actually think Joe Biden`s making very smart decision right now. This is the future of the party. And it is his entire agenda. There`s no reason to split up this early.

MELBER: Katrina?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE NATION": The progressives are the pragmatists. And they`re supporting Biden`s agenda.

The conservative Dems, the conservative Democrats, are obstructing. And, in fact, this isn`t really the progressive agenda. They wanted a bolder Green New Deal and Medicare for all.


VANDEN HEUVEL: This, it polls -- it`s very popular, Ari. And I think that is often misunderstood.

I mean, I think you have a fight here between the progressives, pragmatists. I mean, Pramila Jayapal is a whip-smart progressive, maybe the next speaker. And I think she understands that you have to move away -- we focus on that top line, which she was doing on the show the other day -- and really talk about what`s in this bill.


It`s going to help Democrats win in 2022 if you can improve the concrete conditions of people`s lives. And I think that`s what President Biden is flying to Michigan tomorrow to talk about. And I think that`s critical at this stage. Get off that number. Stop with tax and spend.

This is about investing in a country that needs investment urgently, desperately. And I think that progressives have the balance of power here.


And I also want to cover this squabble over paying America`s debts, Congress voting three separate times, by the way, to handle this in the Trump era, now Republicans threatening to default on the debt as a political move, outraging Biden today.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Republicans in Congress, what they`re doing today is so reckless and dangerous. Quite frankly, it`s hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful.

Their obstruction and irresponsibility knows absolutely no bounds.


MELBER: Jason?

JOHNSON: Yes, I mean, this is this is a trick that Republicans have been pulling for years now. We`re running up on the debt ceiling. You guys have to pass it. We don`t want to pass it. We want this bill. We want that pass.

I think it`s important for Americans to understand, look, this is dangerous. It`s irresponsible. We don`t want to default on our debt. But this is also -- Ari, it is purely ideological at this point.

This same Congress that`s -- these same Republicans that are concerned right now about what we`re going to do with our debt and our debt ceiling, whatever, we just passed an extra $23 billion increase in our defense budget, even though we`re leaving Afghanistan. We`re about to spend $720 million -- $720 billion, something like that, over the next several dozen years for our defense budget alone.

No one`s arguing about that. No one`s arguing that we can cut money out of all the expenses and all the multiple wars in places we`re supporting abroad. So let`s be clear. The idea that we have to play these brinkmanship games when it comes to our debt is purely an ideological game on the part of Republicans and some Democrats, because we never seem to have these fights and concerns about other ways that we spend -- spend money like drunken sailors on a weekend.

MELBER: Katrina?

VANDEN HEUVEL: It`s rank hypocrisy. It`s rank hypocrisy.

It`s trying to say that the Democrats are responsible for the debt, when, in fact, the Democrats are responsible for keeping this secure from this partisan hackery.

But I will say, there are people who protested that $25 billion thrown at the defense, the nation, for one. And I fear it`s bipartisan. When people say there`s no money, there`s no revenue, I mean, let`s look at what is put -- what`s invested in, in this country.

I continue to think we need to think hard about what security means. And that`s what this reconciliation bill is about. It`s about investing in the future of this country. And it`s fair share politics. It`s not -- we have the resources. It`s just we need to invest them more wisely.


And everything we have just said is about sort of the framework as it is, and there`s a reality in Washington. There`s also all the stuff that can be taken for granted, but shouldn`t. It`s something, by the way -- we mentioned the nation. I mean, the nation has shined a light on a lot of the things that are taken for granted, but maybe wrong with the financial system and the elites and the global 1 percent.

So our panel stays. But I want to shift into what is a related, but second report here. Biden`s plan would make billionaires, he says, pay more of their fair share. And look at this context tonight, also part of our top story, an explosive investigation that shines a light on these issues.

Shout-out to "The Washington Post," along with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that worked with them on this, because, if you haven`t heard about this yet, it is big. They have this report on how elites around the world are hiding their wealth, cheating the system, which means, at a minimum, you pay more.

They use a lot of what "The Post" calls Byzantine tactics, sheltering assets from accountability, tax havens abroad, financial trusts that are designed essentially to deceive governments, including the United States, and real estate to evade the taxes they would otherwise owe, that they would owe if they just told the truth; 206 U.S.-based trusts, 41 countries involved, 30 of the trusts holding assets that connect people or companies that have already been accused, at least allegedly, of facing fraud, bribery or human rights abuses as part of how they do .

Now, we have discussed super wealthy avoiding taxes before, major corporations that pay nothing. This again goes to how you`re going to fund the spending in the potential Biden packages here. The 1 percent in America, they have evaded, if you count it up, $163 billion in taxes annually. Think about the trillions that adds up to.

Bezos, Buffett must pay an effective tax rate -- I`m sorry, even if you`re a cynic, this is galling -- look at the report -- of under 4 percent, the true tax rate.

The panel returns, as I mentioned.

Katrina, you and your magazine have spotlighted this in many ways. I say shout-out to the reporters who did this, because you may have thought it was bad, but, boy, is it bad right now. How does that play into these equity discussions in Washington?


VANDEN HEUVEL: It plays in, in a big, big way.

This is about looting countries` revenues. This is about leaving people without hospitals, adequate hospitals, without adequate education. It`s a very direct link. And I think we need to pay attention.

The choices we make are not inevitable. There is a fair share economy, shared prosperity. And, in this pandemic, the top 1 percent has made out something like 55 billion. There`s a one-time pandemic tax that has been used before in this country`s history in different times of crisis. And it would still allow billionaires to go off in rockets.

So I think we need to look hard at this Pandora Papers. It`s a follow-on to the Panama Papers, but it`s Panama Papers on steroids, because it`s not only more rigorous, but it comes at this time, Ari, of COVID, of -- when people say we don`t have revenues, what do you mean we don`t have revenues?

Look at this report. There`s $11 trillion in wealth abroad, according to the Organization of European -- OECD. So I think this is critical to understand there are choices, and it`s not vengeance. It`s keeping revenue for people and fair share.

MELBER: No, I appreciate you saying that.

I mean, there is a broader tradition, and you see it in certain countries` politics and maybe in America back in the FDR era, of saying, oh, go get them, they should pay even more, what he what he welcomed, FDR, as the anger of Wall Street.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Eisenhower, Ari. Eisenhower.

MELBER: Go ahead.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Forget FDR. There was a marginal tax rate. It sounds crazy to people, but like 90 percent marginal tax rate. You would be thrown out of Washington. We`re going from 37 to 39.

The main bottom line is that people who work should be taxed at the same rate as people who come off of capital gains, who have tax havens. That is the bottom line. But Warren Buffett`s secretary shouldn`t pay less in taxes than Warren Buffett.


And so, I mean, to that point, Jason, as Katrina reminds us, FDR, Eisenhower, those rates, we`re nowhere near that kind of militance, if you want to call it that. We`re just talking about literally whether you ask the average American, including independents, conservatives, and many Republicans, if you just started from scratch, if you remove the FOX News filter and all the other gunk, and you just said, hmm, should you pay your full tax rate, and should the billionaires pay theirs?


MELBER: Or should you pay your full tax rate and the billionaires pay 4 percent, Jason?


And that`s the thing. Like, look, we all -- you can criticize wealthy people, how they spend their money, but what we`re talking about, what these reports have shown, these folks aren`t just hiding out from paying their tax. They ain`t just window shoppers, right? They`re owning the whole store. They`re owning the whole neighborhood.

And they`re using that wealth and using that political influence to change the lives of everyday people in ways that we can`t control.

I have to mention this, Ari. He`s not in this particular report, but I think it`s an interesting note. Today, with these new reports we have about Facebook, there`s a report that maybe Mark Zuckerberg may have lost like $7 billion or something in net worth in the last couple hours. The guy`s worth $122 billion, OK?

What he may or may not have lost today could pay for every single person in this country to go to college for like five years at a good school. So, when we have people who have that much wealth in this country and abroad who are not paying remotely the level of taxes of somebody who is working at a Carl`s Jr. down the street, that is a system that is not sustainable.

And that is a system where it is hard for us to sit here and listen to Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin say, I don`t want to give too many tax breaks and tax credits to people who don`t deserve it, when you have folks who can lose $7 billion, spend $4 billion for their mistresses to have homes, and not pay taxes while Americans are out there struggling.


MELBER: And, Jason, was window shopping a 50 Cent reference?

JOHNSON: Yes. Yes, it was.

MELBER: I thought it might be.

Katrina, go ahead.

VANDEN HEUVEL: No, I was going to say, Jason said something important. It`s about political power too.

It`s who buys the political systems in this world.


VANDEN HEUVEL: And it`s destabilizing, the inequality we confront. There`s a lot of talk about authoritarianism. This is a feeding ground. So, again, I -- you mentioned militance, Ari.

I really want to say it`s not about that, because I think it`s about a fair share. People deserve a shake, an opportunity. And I think we`re witnessing the lack of social mobility, the festering inequality.

Thomas Piketty, the economist, once said that you might unwind the inequality through a world war, God help us, or a pandemic. That`s not happened here. What`s happened is, the pandemic has almost calcified and deepened the inequality.

So we need to think hard through fair taxes. Or don`t even use taxes, because part of the problem, I think, is, the government has become mistrusted in ways, people don`t trust that taxes will come back to them in concrete ways, which is part of what we need to improve with this reconciliation bill, that people will see concrete child care, health care.


All of these possibilities don`t just come out of the sky.

MELBER: Right.

Yes, I think it all makes sense, especially when you guys lay it out. And that`s why we wanted to get to the missing piece of the pie. It`s missing because people, according to that report, are hiding or, in some cases, legally defrauding governments, including if you`re watching in America, your government, the U.S. government, which means you when you talk about the share, the fair share.


MELBER: Katrina and Jason kicking us off, thanks to both of you.


MELBER: We have a lot in the -- thank you.

We have a lot in the program tonight. I want to tell you about it.

First of all, fact-checking the GOP hypocrisy with Chai Komanduri. It`s "Chai Day." That`s today.

Later: Donald Trump has a deadline on that executive privilege clash in the riot probe.

Also, this is something very important we have been working on. I have a very special guest. I`m excited to get into this later tonight, new thinking on how you actually change minds when it comes to vaccine. And it doesn`t involve criticizing or bullying. It involves empathy. We`re going to get into that with a cognitive expert.

And by the end of the hour, Facebook under fire, a whistle-blower revealing how the company can fuel extremism.

You`re watching THE BEAT. Stay with us.



MELBER: As Congress debates all this new spending, many Republicans insist that funding family leave or health care is the road to socialism.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Their next reckless taxing-and-spending spree is packed with radical left-wing policies.

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): It is truly the gateway to socialism.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Democrats want to give billions of dollars to unelected bureaucrats in the Biden administration.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Remake America into a socialist, almost Marxist- type economy.


MELBER: OK, that`s -- it`s a big argument right now. So let`s get into it.

There are two key features of this kind of political opposition. One, talk up vague, almost foreign government systems like socialism, rather than addressing the actual ingredients or specifics in the new spending.

Now, politically, that`s because funding time off or education tends to be pretty popular. Two, Republicans are trying to seize a high ground of responsibility by simply saying the U.S. can`t afford this stuff. We can`t afford it.

Now, federal economic policy is not actually like balancing a family checkbook, but the rhetoric matches. Think about it like this. If your kid wants a pony, you might focus on how you can`t afford a pony, let alone a stable or pony supplies, rather than just saying that you oppose ponies on principle.

And so you don`t want to get into what the spending really supports these days. Some of it is popular stuff that Biden wants to fund. Now, let`s look at the actual costs, because, as I said, that is really a big part of how Republicans are opposing this out in America right now.

Let`s look at what the U.S. can afford. The fact is that the cost argument is not honest. It`s a distraction. And I`m going to show you why with evidence. The GOP is totally fine with things that actually cost the U.S. government trillions of dollars,

Republicans green-lit a $1.5 trillion policy under George W. Bush. They did it quickly. They did it without concern about the trillion-dollar price tag. Now, what was that policy for? Was it schools, military spending, computers? No, we`re talking just about the Bush tax cuts, a trillion- dollar level decision that overwhelmingly benefit rich people who needed that cash the least. You see it right there.

It also grew the deficit and many economists found it didn`t spur growth either. So everyone knew the cost of that price tag. Then Trump comes along. And Republicans, well, they kind of channeled Britney Spears on policy, a little bit of, oops, I did it again. They green-lit almost $2 trillion in another new program.

Was it for affordable housing, health care? Nope, just $1.9 trillion in more tax cuts. It proved to be a costly program also panned by many nonpartisan economists. Together, the policies cost over $3.4 trillion. You see both of them there, yellow and orange. Compare that to the cost of the Biden spending plan right now that would fund health care and climate initiatives, education, family programs.

You can see they`re almost about the same roughly. It`s $3.5 trillion. Now, I just showed you something you need to know, especially as America continues this debate.

If you remember nothing else about this whole debate -- and some of it gets a little wonky -- I implore you, remember this. None of this is about hitting some magical ceiling on what the U.S. can afford, and you can`t go above that ceiling because somebody made up what the cost limit is. This stuff is not about the price tag.

I didn`t know Jason Johnson was going to say it tonight, but he said in an earlier segment they spend like drunken sailors. Republicans spend plenty on tax cuts every time they`re in power. They spend like Kanye at Balenciaga opening. They barely even look at the costs.

To paraphrase Nicki Minaj, who even looks at the price tag? They don`t, if you should be so lucky. And so, while they do this, and spend and spend and spend, and then turn around and say we can`t afford it, that`s how it`s not true. That`s how it`s a political rhetorical argument.

Now, we do the news here. So I`m telling you how to look through that kind of crap. I`m not telling you what the right way to vote is. That`s not really a journalist`s job. And there may be other reasons that people oppose the blue over there, the Biden spending, and there are fine reasons for that.

I`m just telling you that, if a Republican who`s in Congress right now tells you the reason is that they can`t afford it, that somehow, after $1 trillion or $2 trillion, it becomes impossible to afford, that`s not true because they did that. They did that with the orange and the yellow. Whether they do it with the blue or not, that`s not the real reason.

And here`s how political strategist Chai Komanduri looks at it. He suggests that Democrats, with this in mind, emphasize the return on the investment of the spending and how it improves the lives of the American people. Take these climate costs alone, which, if we don`t do something, could end up costing us $10 trillion.


Or look at the future economic productivity, which requires strong schooling in America.

Now, we turn to Chai Komanduri, a veteran of the Obama and other campaigns, when we are back here on "Chai Day" in 60 seconds.


MELBER: What can the U.S. afford?

Well, we look for answers in our deep dive political conversation, something we do on THE BEAT. It`s a special day known across the land as "Chai Day."

Why? Because of this guy right here on your screen, the political strategist Chai Komanduri, a veteran of the Obama and other presidential campaigns and to whom we`re indebted for some of the points we just went through.

Chai, what can the U.S. afford? And how important is it for people to understand that the Republican Party routinely spends trillions?

CHAI KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the U.S. can certainly afford this current budget reconciliation.

I think all economists across the board, including conservative economists, like Jerome Powell, the current chair of the Fed, believe that we can certainly afford this budget reconciliation package without the fears that Republicans are raising.

But the Republicans are saying what they`re saying for a very clear and easy reason.What they want to do is, they want to make sure that every dollar in Democratic spending, spending for working-class families, goes towards a future tax cut for the rich.

Now, they can`t say that. They can`t say, we can`t do the child tax credit, we can`t give money to working families for their children because we want to make sure that rich people can afford to give more money to their children. They can`t say that. Only Ayn Rand would be excited by such a message.

So instead, they use this very high-minded rhetoric about the deficit, about inflation, concern for future generations, when they don`t have any actual concern for future generations. If they did, they certainly would be singing a different tune on climate change. They would certainly be singing a different tune on education spending.

They certainly would be singing a different tune on defense spending and on spending on wars. Instead, what they do is, they use this hypocritical argument. And the question that everyone should really be asking themselves isn`t why Republicans are hypocritical about the arguments they make, but why they have been so repeatedly successful with those arguments.


KOMANDURI: Well, I think that there`s two specific reasons.

The first -- and this piggybacks on your earlier conversation with Katrina and Jason -- is money. Quite simply, money basically is the fuel of politics. And our entire political system is tilted towards those with money.

And it`s not actually just wealthy donors giving to campaigns that basically funds this type of politics. It`s also the fact that, the richer you are, the more likely you are to vote. Rich people have much higher participation in the voting booth than poor people.

This is something the GOP knows. It`s actually a big reason why the voter suppression efforts that they have are so important and central to their efforts for the midterm, because they want to make sure that rich people continue to turn out at a much higher rate than poor people. And they know that the sort of arguments they put forward are very appealing to those rich people.

The second -- and this is an uncomfortable fact I think for a lot of Americans to face and love Democrats -- is race. Race is a major factor in why the GOP fights Democratic spending.

The late Lee Atwater was very blunt about it. He talked about how the Southern Strategy and Republican economics go hand in hand. He said, quite frankly, that a lot of white Americans would rather hurt themselves if they knew that they could hurt African-Americans more by denying them social spending, spending on basic needs.

Stuart -- Stu Stevens, Mitt Romney`s campaign manager, has basically made the same point very recently. White grievance politics is really central to the GOP. These two factors, money and race, really combine to sort of create this cocktail of GOP messaging that we have seen really for 50 years.


MELBER: Yes, you put it very adroitly, and particularly with the role of white identity or white status politics, and the mainlining of white supremacy as something that the Republican Party previously may have benefited from, while its top leaders pretended otherwise, has completely shifted now out into the open.

And you look at that, and you look at the associations that may be triggered or attempted to talk people out of this, and then say, oh, you can`t afford it. The other piece of this that has come up a lot -- and I think you don`t have to be a political expert to think this. I think it`s quite common in normal conversations at diners and bars.

It`s like, well, there`s always enough money for the wars. I mean, people know that. We again crunch the numbers here because we deal in facts. And you can show some of this post-9/11 spending here, compared to, again, the Biden agenda spending.

Now, my point here is not to say -- I will just repeat it -- that people have to like the Biden spending. You could debate it on its merits. And people may oppose it for those reasons. I just want to make sure everyone understands the facts, that people who say it`s not something the U.S. can pay for his crap, when you look at the wars that have been paid for, the tax cuts we already showed, and the fact that, while trillions are a tremendous amount of money -- I mentioned on the show last week four commas, Chai.

That`s not a rounding area.


MELBER: You get around the three or four comma mark, it`s a lot of money.

But this is the richest country in the world that can spend that money. And your point seems to be, if they tell you they can`t spend it now because they can`t afford it, so you don`t get family leave, be ready for them to turn around the next time they`re in power and say, oops, they can spend it, and it`s going to go towards those billionaires who, as we showed in the top of the program, are already hiding their wealth to the tune of 4 percent tax rates.


And that`s really what this is all about. It`s not a choice between deficit reduction, savings, and the Biden agenda and between Democratic spending. It`s the choice between Democratic spending and future Republican tax cuts.

There is simply nothing I have seen put forward by moderate Republicans -- moderate Democrats, I mean, and Republicans that convinces me otherwise.

But I do think that we do have to talk about the Democratic messaging here. I`m very reticent to sort of criticize Democrats on how they message of this, but, quite frankly, all we`re talking about are numbers.


KOMANDURI: We need to talk about human beings and people.

We need to talk about how these programs help people, how these programs are going to help children, and how these programs will help reduce inequality and better outcomes for children and for families in the future.


MELBER: I`m running over on time, but who do you think`s the best messenger on that for the Democrats right now?

KOMANDURI: Well, actually, I believe it`s Joe Biden. I think Joe Biden is actually a very compelling and convincing messenger when he talks about these issues.

I think that he can very much relate and connect with real people when he does so. I think that that is something that he can definitely do. And that`s something that have a lot of Americans would very much be open to. I also think that, on the younger generation, AOC is actually very good on this.

Like, she does talk about young people and families, working families and working-class families. She`s actually very, very good on that as well. And I think that both of them in tandem could work to make that message much more clear to the American people.

MELBER: Interesting.

And, finally, best movie about politics ever?

KOMANDURI: "Citizen Kane."

Without question, "Citizen Kane," the greatest American movie, is also the best movie ever about politics. Now, more recently, if you`re looking for like legislation and how legislation is done and how things move through Congress, I would argue "Lincoln" by Steven Spielberg actually does a great job of showing the grandeur of politics, the greatness of legislation, and the greatness of getting things done through Congress.

That`s also a terrific movie. Also, I would put in there, obviously, in the mix "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

MELBER: I didn`t realize "Citizen Kane" was about politics. But we learn from you. Someday, I will ask you a follow-up to explain that further.

Chai Komanduri, I`m glad you were able to come in today, because it was "Chai Day." So it wouldn`t have been the same without you.

KOMANDURI: Right. Thanks. I`m glad to be here, Ari.

MELBER: Thanks, Chai.

We got a lot more in the program. Facebook under fire for a betrayal of democracy. And, this time, the warnings are coming from inside the company.

But, next, Barbara McQuade on the MAGA riot probe and Trump aides facing a very real subpoena deadline with a criminal discussion.

We will explain. Stay with us.



MELBER: The January 6 probe has two key deadlines coming up. One, we know. One is secret.

First, four Trump aides who were hit with subpoenas have a deadline of this Thursday to comply. That includes Bannon and the former chief of staff. Lawmakers are saying that, if those don`t comply, then the committee will use this criminal referral process to get the DOJ to open a probe which could lead to potentially indictment.


ALI VITALI, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: In terms of depositions, I know that some of them are coming close for Meadows and others. Do you think that they`re going to show up? Have you heard from those legal teams?

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Well, the only thing I can say is, the committee will probably, to those who don`t agree to come in voluntarily, we will do criminal referrals and let that process work out.


MELBER: That is tough talk. He is using the legal language for something that can put people in jail.

Then there`s a big deadline. Politico reports that the deadline for Trump to ask Biden to shield his records is expected to arrive midweek, the exact timing, though, shrouded in secrecy.

I`m joined by former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade.

First, walk us through what criminal referral means there.

BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is something that was missing in the last administration when we saw Congress issuing subpoenas to Trump administration officials, and they simply drag their feet and thumb their nose.

That means that they can refer to the Justice Department a request to find them in contempt. So, the Justice Department would actually file charges to ask a judge to hold them in criminal contempt.

It was a nonstarter when Bill Barr was the attorney general. But I think, in the Justice Department of Merrick Garland, this is absolutely an option that should be on the table.

MELBER: And the executive privilege clash we have covered extensively, now it`s up to Trump to actually do something he probably doesn`t even emotionally want to do, based on his public statements, which is ask for the person who has power, President Biden, to use that privilege on his behalf.


Where do you see that going?

MCQUADE: Yes, I think this is where we`re going to see some real activity, because one of the things that we could see is a positive assertion of executive privilege here.

It is for the current president to decide whether to assert executive privilege. And, of course, there`s a reason for it. It may get in the way of sharing information and providing transparency, but it promotes candor and decision-making among administration officials.

And so it is up to the current president to decide whether to assert it. But that doesn`t mean that a former president doesn`t have some interest in it. Former presidents can ask a current president to assert privilege over certain matters that occurred during a prior administration.

But ultimately, this will be Joe Biden`s call. So I think that`s a very important thing. The one thing that we could see that could it be very interesting in all of this is civil lawsuits filed by these witnesses, like a Mark Meadows or someone else, saying that it`s Donald Trump who wants to assert the privilege.

And yet the Biden administration is refusing to do so. Somebody needs to protect this privilege. I think that could be a very interesting legal case. The negative consequences of that, of course, is to drag these things out and delay them. And we have seen so often the Trump administration play this strategy of just stalling, stalling, stalling and running out the clock.

MELBER: Yes, and there`s been a lot of signals they want to do that again.

The other thing is something we have told viewers we will stay on, accountability in the many cases regarding the insurrection.

Here`s a headline that`s interesting of a judge who basically was saying there have to be consequences and saying attempted violent overthrow the government requires serious sanction, the judge going farther than the DOJ in dealing with one of the defendant protesters.

I`m curious what you thought of that.

MCQUADE: Yes, I think this is something we could see again.

When you`re at the Justice Department, you have to think about managing not only this case, but the 600 or so cases that they`re managing. I think there`s probably some effort to take consistent positions throughout those cases, and also just some simple docket management.

If every one of those cases goes to trial. They won`t be able to do it, and so finding ways to give people incentives to plead guilty and maybe even going a little light. Ari, if you have ever been pulled over for speeding, not that I`m sure you ever do...

MELBER: Never.

MCQUADE: ... but you may have found that an officer might write the ticket for, even though you`re going 10 under, they will write the ticket for five under, and that is an hope that you will plead guilty and say, all right, you got me, I was going five under, because if everybody who`s going 10 over contests their ticket and goes to trial, the system falls apart.

So, I think sometimes judges do have an important role to play there in pushing back, because prosecutors have a number of factors to think about. And it`s usually up to the judge to decide what the sentence ought to be.

MELBER: Yes, you make an important point that goes to how this works. Some of the first cases we`re hearing about, by definition, are the ones that reached an agreement.

They may not be representative of the holdouts or the next 300. And yet I have seen some really strong criticism that they look lenient. So it`s an interesting thing to think through.

Barbara McQuade, thank you, as always.

Up ahead, we have a very special segment, and it`s different than most COVID discussions. It`s about talking to the vaccine-hesitant and doing it with empathy, without bullying.

The bestselling author of a really key book, "Think Again," Adam Grant, is here.

And later: new heat on Zuckerberg, with a whistle-blower speaking out.

Stay with us.



MELBER: Health experts agree the best way out of the pandemic is widespread vaccination.

But we`re learning that`s harder than it sounds, millions hesitant. Only 56 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. It`s an urgent public health challenge. And there`s data that shows that the stick, like vaccine mandates, does work to make some people get the shot.

But many efforts to persuade, from expensive public messaging, to incentives, are falling short. And here`s the thing. There`s actually hard data that explains why, which brings us to a very special expert tonight.

I`m joined by Adam Grant. He`s a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He`s a bestselling author. You may know him from some popular TED Talks that went viral and have been influential for many.

But he`s here because of his latest book, "Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don`t Know."

Thanks for being here.


The book is fascinating in many ways. It has a section on vaccine hesitance and data and knowledge that predates this whole COVID thing, when it may have gotten more partisan.

And you talk about how even well-meaning, well-intentioned efforts to get other people to make this decision come up short.

With that in mind, let`s look at some very powerful people, elected officials, doing things that I know, in your book, you say whatever they meant to do might not work that well. Take a look.


BIDEN: We`ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): We are over it. We are done. We want to move on. And the only way we can do that is to ensure that everyone is vaccinated.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I mean, this is crazy. Get vaccinated. That`s just -- it`s time for a very aggressive, assertive approach.


MELBER: Does the knowledge and data that you have suggests that stuff works or comes up short?

GRANT: I don`t think we have any evidence that it works to blame and shame people, right?

People don`t want to be given reasons why they`re doing the wrong thing or told what the right thing is. They need to find their own reasons for change. And what psychologists have shown for years now is, if you just ask people questions about what their hesitations are, and then what would change your mind, they`re a lot more likely to come up with reasons that they find convincing to at least consider the possibility of getting vaccinated.

MELBER: Really, really striking. And you write about this.

And yet we live in this era where more people can talk to more people than ever before. And in the so-called spring or in democratization, that might be great. Then, in other areas, we see people just sounding off, sometimes emotionally, personally, sometimes aggressively.


Let`s take a look at some of that from social media.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did not get vaccinated. I`m not anti-vax. I was just trying to do my research. I shouldn`t have waited. I think, if you`re even 70 percent sure that you want the vaccine, go get it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don`t trust the medical field to prevent you from getting it, why do you trust them to cure you from it? Why do you run to the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hospital?


MELBER: Just some of what`s out there.

And we have, for viewers on the screen, just highlights of some of what you have argued are not the most effective motivators. What do you think of videos like that?

GRANT: Well, we know that social proof really matters, right? So people follow the lead of similar others under uncertainty.

That means, if they don`t trust medical experts or government officials, our best bet is to figure out, who do they trust? Who do they consider credible sources?

And I think that`s a starting point. But we also have to rethink our messaging in a pretty big way. It`s actually not that helpful to say 56 percent of people have been vaccinated, because that sends a message that nearly half the population hasn`t been.

MELBER: Right.

GRANT: A much more effective communication is to say, let`s look at the hundreds of millions of people who have been vaccinated.


GRANT: And then that signal is, hey, a lot of people are doing this.

MELBER: Yes, that`s a great example.

Now, we`re in the news. So we will keep giving out the data, because we`re doing that; 56 percent is just the fact. But your point is, if somebody wants to persuade someone, particularly maybe someone they care about, that might signal to them, well, can 40 percent really be that wrong or off- base?

And you also talk about resistance. And this is something we all know from debating politics with anybody. You write: "The act of resistance fortifies our psychological immune system. Refuting a point of view produces antibodies against future influence attempts. We become more certain of our opinions, less curious about alternative views."

From what I can tell, hearing from BEAT viewers, a lot of them are very sharp in knowledge about politics, so I`m sure they recognize the dynamic that you`re describing there. I`m told that we lost Adam`s feed.

Now, I promise everyone it is not a vaccine conspiracy. It`s just a technical matter. I will read one more thing from the book. And then we will go on to the Facebook segment I mentioned.

But one other point he makes is that: "When people ignore advice, it`s not because they always disagree with it. Sometimes, they`re resisting the sense of pressure that someone else is controlling their decision."

And I think that speaks to what Professor Grant really is explaining here. It`s something we should all keep in mind. Again, people can make up their own minds. I say that a lot in covering COVID. But if you do want to actually affect someone, and not just vent, part of the insight of this book and this research is, you got to meet people where they are and listen to them as well.

Shaming and degrading might make you feel better. It`s very unlikely to get them where you say you want them to go.

That`s why we had Professor Grant on.

Again, shout-out to the Zoom era. We lost him. I want to thank him, and I want to give a shout-out to the book, "Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don`t Know."

Now, we`re going to fit in a break. And, as promised, when we come back, an important story, a Facebook insider blowing the whistle. It affects politics, the information and Facebook, which so many people use.

That`s next.



MELBER: Facebook in damage control mode.

This is on the eve of a crucial Senate hearing, a former Facebook staffer with explosive new allegations that, before the January 6 riot, Facebook turned off safety settings that would actually have combated the spread of potentially dangerous misinformation.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FORMER FACEBOOK PRODUCT MANAGER: And as soon as the election was over, they turned them back off, or they changed the settings back to what they were before to prioritize growth over safety.

And that really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me.


MELBER: The whistle-blower going on to accuse Facebook of prioritizing profits over the safety of its own users.


HAUGEN: The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.

Facebook over and over again has shown it chooses profit over safety. It is subsidizing, it is paying for its profits with our safety.


MELBER: That`s heavy criticism, again, from an insider who knows how it works.

Now, to give you the full picture, we want to show you what Facebook is saying. They argue that to suggest they have encouraged bad content and done nothing about it is -- quote -- "just not true."

Well, you can judge for yourself what you have seen on Facebook and whether that is a nuanced response. It would seem to be a categorical denial, when a lot of bad stuff has been caught on Facebook. Zuckerberg himself previously apologized for how stories that were false went so viral on the platform and confused people, because they were presented as if they were news.

Meanwhile, "The Journal" reports on a leaked internal document showing that there were special cutouts and set-asides for elites and knowledge inside the company that Instagram was proving detrimental a teen girls.

As the report surfaced, Facebook`s Mark Zuckerberg again insists they`re transparent.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, FACEBOOK: I think it is reasonable to expect large companies to have effective moderation systems, but not reasonable to expect that there are never any errors.

But I think that transparency can help hold the companies accountable as to what accuracy and effectiveness they`re achieving.


MELBER: That is Zuckerberg`s view of accountability.

Meanwhile, this new whistle-blower actually will be facing Congress tomorrow. It`s an important story. As we have emphasized, Facebook is not just an app. It`s not just a Web site. It has become a major source of news for hundreds of millions of people around the world. And whether it does that role responsibly is an open question.

That does it for THE BEAT.

"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts right now.

Hi, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Thank you. Hey, Ari, thank you very much.

Yes, we`re going to be getting into that too on the show. So, thank you. Have a great evening.