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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 10/8/21

Guests: Kurt Bardella, Mark Thompson, Jennifer Jones Austin, Christina Greer, Ro Khanna


President Biden declines Donald Trump`s request to withhold White House records from the January 6 committee. A new and promising way to fight institutional and structural racism in policing is explored. Is America getting dumber? Congressman Ro Khanna discusses income inequality in America.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT, with Jason Johnson in for Ari Melber, starts right now.

Hi, Jason.

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thanks so much.

And welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Jason Johnson, in for Ari Melber.

Lots of news to get to tonight.

Now, I want you guys know my blazer right now is an homage to "Squid Game" and the Biden agenda. We will be talking about that later on in the show.

But we start with breaking news. Trump`s secret evidence is going to the MAGA riot investigators, NBC breaking the story reporting Biden is declining Trump`s request to withhold White House records from the January 6 committee.

NBC News obtained a letter from the White House to the National Archives saying -- quote -- "An assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States."

Trump is now formally exerting executive privilege over the documents, Biden is expected to reject it, setting up what could be a legal showdown, Trump could sue Biden or Congress or both, and try and keep those records hidden. But, remember, Trump and his allies tried to bury this probe, and the question is, why? Why are they hiding from fact-finding if they didn`t do anything wrong?

After Trump reportedly told aides to defy January 6 committee subpoenas, it appears one loyalist is listening. Steve Bannon telling Congress he won`t comply with their requests. His lawyer writing -- quote -- "We must accept Trump`s direction and honor his invocation of executive privilege."

The committee responding they will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral.

Bannon calling the committee a -- quote -- "charade" today.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: The Democrats are absolutely freaked out about Donald Trump`s rise and Donald Trump running in 2024.

And this is the complete charade that`s the 6th January committee. This is exactly what they`re trying to do. They`re trying to basically bring charges against President Trump to stop his sweeping victory that is going to come.


JOHNSON: He lost the popular vote twice. I don`t know where the sweeping victories are.

Two former Trump aides, Mark Meadows and Kash Patel, are cooperating. It is unclear how or if Dan Schiavo has replied -- Scavino -- sorry. The committee is charging forward, issuing new subpoenas to the organizers of the Stop the Steal rally.

Joining me now is NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray and Democratic strategist Juanita Tolliver.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight on THE BEAT.

Melissa, I will start with this. I`m fascinated. I`m not a lawyer. I don`t even play one on TV.


JOHNSON: I`m fascinated by this idea that Donald Trump can sue Joe Biden and Congress to prevent them from getting access to documents about things he did as president. Am I missing something here?

You would think that anybody would have access to that information.

MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you would think that anyone would have access to that information. But, again, because it occurred while he was president, it remains part of the office of the presidency. And those documents have been sent to the National Archives.

Therefore, it fell to the White House counsel, Dana Remus, and the Biden administration to determine whether or not the Biden administration would invoke executive privilege as to those documents coming from the presidency itself.

So this is, I think, not about Trump or Biden, per se, but the whole question of the office of the presidency. And, generally, in thinking about that office, it`s likely that someone in the president`s position would want to secure executive privilege, because it would be important down the road for his own administration.

But as Ms. Remus noted in her letter to the archivist, the situation January 6 was so unusual, so unorthodox and unprecedented that the Biden administration did not feel it was necessary to invoke executive privilege as to those documents, although they reserve the right to do so on a case- by-case basis in the future.

JOHNSON: So, Juanita, this is the other thing that sort of strikes me here.

From a political standpoint, where does the rest of Republican Party stand on this kind of lawsuit? Are they going to go outside? Look, is it good for them strategically to say, yes, we want Donald Trump to sue Congress and we want Donald Trump to sue the current administration? Or is this the kind of thing where they want to back off, let the former president do what he needs to do, because they`re more concerned about being obstructionists in Congress?

I`m just wondering if this is -- if this is a ticking time bomb that doesn`t make sense for the Republican Party to touch.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It absolutely doesn`t make sense for the Republican Party to touch. And we have seen that in their behavior leading up to this moment with the select committee.

Remember, the Republican GOP in the House helped to negotiate the terms of a commission, which they then undercut and whipped votes against. So the GOP is working overtime to not even get to this point. And as they failed that effort, now absolutely you can expect radio silence from the GOP on this and let -- as they step back and let Trump do his worst.

Of course, they don`t want any of his energy directed at them in the in Congress. And so they`re going to wait to see what Trump does and they`re going to wait to see what the courts decide. So, fully expect the GOP to be silent until there`s a court ruling here that they can say, well, the court said, so now I guess this has to move forward, because they want no part of it.


And, again, they work to obstruct not only every other legislative activity in Congress, but also this investigation. So that could also point to them being implicated in some of these call logs or visitor logs or social media D.M.s that we know were included in this request for information from the Archives.

So, hands off for the GOP at this point.

JOHNSON: As Juanita sort of alluded to, treason goes down in the D.M.s.


JOHNSON: So I want to play this audio from Dick Durbin, who`s talking about not only how important this investigation is, but how dangerous it is for people to ignore subpoenas from Congress. And, Melissa, I will get your thoughts on the other side.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): I would suggest, modestly, follow the law, instead of the ravings of this former president. He is -- doesn`t have the power to pardon you anymore, and probably I hope never will again.


JOHNSON: So, Melissa, that`s the thing. And he`s saying very clearly, I know you guys thought that he was your patron before, but he`s no longer in power. So if you don`t show up for a subpoena, what are some of the consequences that some of these individuals could face if they decide, hey, I`m just not going to listen to Congress, I`m going to do what I want?

MURRAY: Basically, Dick Durbin is asking, is this your king? And, hopefully, the answer is no, but there are serious consequences here.

And they have already indicated that they would likely refer this to a criminal referral, which would mean that they could be held in criminal contempt of Congress. That, of course, would mean a referral to the Department of Justice for criminal charges going forward.

But again, it all reflects how far we have come from the accepted norms from these sorts of things over the course of the four years of the Trump administration. Typically, when Congress issued subpoenas, there would be a kind of negotiation between the different branches, between the members of those branches about how much would be forthcoming, what the scope of the subpoena and the subpoena testimony would be.

But because the Trump administration so frequently stonewalled Congress, we actually got to the point where there was no negotiation, everything became a legal battle, and we`re at the kind of stalemate where we are now, where we`re actually thinking about holding people in contempt of Congress, simply because we can`t reach some kind of negotiated compromise.

JOHNSON: And, Juanita, this is the part about this that I -- we always have to put in sort of layman`s terms.

Professor Murray has laid this out perfectly. There`s legal consequences. You`re not supposed to ignore Congress. You can come back into that. But your average person in America right now is screaming. They`re throwing chewing gum and popcorn at the screen. They`re like, why can`t any of these people just be dragged in? Why haven`t we held more people accountable?

What`s it going to look like to your average voter out there if three, four or five months from now these people are still stonewalling subpoenas? Doesn`t that kind of make the Biden administration look feckless and impotent in the face of people who are willing to overthrow our government?

TOLLIVER: Not only the Biden administration, but the very people whose lives were put at risk during that attack, right?

This is the third time that Democrats would have led efforts to hold Trump and his cronies accountable for their efforts to undermine our government, undermine our democracy and overturn an election. So this is -- if Democrats are 0-3 going into the midterms, your pitch to voters can`t be, well, we tried, right?

Like you have to deliver results, just like every other thing that happens in Congress. Voters don`t care unless you deliver results that they can feel the impact of. And nothing would feel better than making sure that our elections can`t be overturned in the future.

So delivering on this mandate is definitely something that it sounds like Chairman Thompson is not taking for granted, as he -- as Melissa pointed out, is considering criminal contempt or civil contempt as punishment for people who try to circumvent these subpoenas.

So it sounds like he`s using every tool available to him on the select committee to compel these witnesses to participate and cooperate. And that is absolutely something that voters will pay attention to and appreciate.

JOHNSON: We would hope so.

Professor Melissa Murray, thank you so much for joining us to start off on THE BEAT.

Juanita, please stay with me.

Start now. Trump`s 2024 flirtation is rattling the GOP. He`s heading back to Iowa tomorrow, a rally at the state fairgrounds. And, look, any stop an Iowa is noticed. He`s not just going there for the freeze-dried butter corn at the state fair.

His super PAC has an odd new slogan -- quote -- "Make America Great Again Again." That is not a typo. But as "The New York Times" points out, it`s getting a little awkward, with Republican presidential hopefuls afraid to cross the two-time popular vote loser and twice-impeached Florida retiree.

And Trump is already throwing shade on.


QUESTION: A Republican like Ron DeSantis in the primaries, how -- what would it take for you to beat him?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, number one, I don`t think I will face him, because I don`t see that, if I did it.


I don`t see that. I think most people would drop out. I think he would drop that. And if I faced him, I would beat him, like I would beat everyone else.


JOHNSON: Joining me now is Kurt Bardella, DCCC adviser and former spokesperson for the House Oversight Committee and official backbone of the Democratic Party, and Juanita Tolliver is still with us.

Kurt, I`m going to start with you, because we obviously were dressed by the same people today.


JOHNSON: What actually does the Democratic Party -- I want to start with the Democrats here. What does the Democratic Party have to think about if we`re running into the possibility of a Donald Trump running again?

Because, quite frankly, I think most Republicans are going to be cool with it. But the Democrats have to recognize that this guy is -- brings out a loyalty on the part of Republicans that will make anything possible, from electoral violence to cheating at the polls.


And that`s why, Jason, I think that the single most important piece of legislation that Democrats in Congress need to move forward is voting rights, because we already know that Republicans with Trump at the helm will do anything and everything they can to make sure that people who look like us can`t vote in elections, because they know that, when the playing field is actually equal, and we all can show up and vote and participate in the democratic process, they lose.

They lost in the 2018 midterms. They lost in the 2020 presidential election. They lost in the special senatorial elections in Georgia in January. They lose time and again. And so the idea that, for Republicans, betting on failure, doubling, tripling down on failure is the way you go just shows how morally bankrupt and how lost in the abyss they are to the - - really the point of no return.

And so it is incumbent upon Democrats, while they have the reins of power, while they have the House, the Senate and the White House, to put as many safeguards in place as possible to protect against what we know will happen with Republicans. They will try to steal an election. They will try to stop people from voting.

They will try to foment violence and disturbances and a repeat of what we saw on January 6. January 6, Jason, was a dress rehearsal for what they intend to do in 2022 and 2024. And the only thing that will stand in their way is congressional and -- Democrats and the Biden administration. And that has to be priority one, two, and three.

JOHNSON: Juanita, we have recent reports that say that Republicans are actually trying to -- some of Trump`s aides were trying to talk him out of announcing for 2024 already.

This is what I think is -- I`m curious about from this standpoint. Does it really matter? Because if everybody else in the Republican Party is basically holding their powder until Donald Trump decides what he`s going to do, it doesn`t matter if he announces tomorrow, it doesn`t matter if he announces over Christmas, it doesn`t matter if he announces in November of 2022 or 15 minutes before Iowa caucuses.

No one else in that party is going to move until him, correct?

TOLLIVER: I think that sounds about right, Jason, right? No one has the gall to step out of line when someone like Trump is threatening you in the way that he does.

But let`s keep in mind, there`s a lot of space between now and 2024, including the midterms, which Republicans could actually implode on. He doesn`t want that negativity around his neck. He doesn`t want that weight of delivering on his back, because, let`s be real, he only cares about number one. He doesn`t care about anybody else in his party.

And so that`s something that I think is front and center in his aides` mind, as well as now Trump`s. But keep in mind. When he`s going to Iowa, he`s still riling up that same loyal base that you mentioned, Jason, that he knows is going to keep funding his PAC with a stupid slogan, that he knows is going to keep uplifting all of his words and his statements and his policies, even though he`s not on social media.

And so he`s just keeping them going and keeping the mood percolating for the next three years. So he`s going to Iowa this weekend. We can expect to see him in other key states over the next three years, sadly.

JOHNSON: Kurt, I want to take this back to Washington, D.C.

There`s a report out now talking about the fact that Donald Trump lost $70 million, $70 million his Trump hotels, but was still getting tons of money from foreign governments and foreign businesses that were dumping money into it.

We have all known that the former president is corrupt. We have all known that the former president hasn`t necessarily been held accountable in the way that he should. Do you think that is the kind of thing that Democrats would need to use to head off a return of Trumpism?

Is the argument, hey, look, guys, he screwed up COVID and he`s corrupt, or the argument that he is a return to a sort of internecine battle in Washington, D.C., that gets nothing done? Which is the better way, corruption or incompetence?

BARDELLA: See, I think it`s actually both, because really what we have seen from Trump is corrupting incompetence time and time again.


But I think that, again, for Democrats, the messaging here needs to be a lot more simpler and a lot more relatable to the American people. Here`s what`s actually going on. The Republican Party led by Donald Trump and their culture of corruption, they are playing by one set of rules, while the rest of the American people have to play by a different set of rules.

There is a vast gulf between the two. And the system that they have set up this, this rigged system, where they get enriched on the backs of everybody else, that`s what we need to hone in on. That`s what we need to expose. That`s what we need to focus on.

It`s not just about whether it`s a Trump hotel or a Trump property. It`s about how they use the reins of government, government that should be there to make people`s lives in this country better, how they use it to enrich themselves, while you suffer, while you don`t make a living wage, while you can`t get a decent job, while you can`t pay off your student loans, while you can`t afford prescription drugs and health care costs.

We have to make it relatable to the American people. A lot of this stuff always gets kind of trapped in that inside baseball-speak. And people kind of roll their eyes a lot of times when we talk about investigations, and we talk about things in Washington.

We have to draw the line back to the American people why this matters to them. It is about fairness. It is about playing by a similar set of rules, leveling the playing field. And these are things that I think the American people understand.

JOHNSON: I want to point out that, even though we`re doing a segment later on, on the "Squid Game," me and Kurt did not plan these outfits.


JOHNSON: The fact that he`s dressed like the bad guys from the show was not planned at all. He didn`t text me that.

Kurt Bardella and Juanita Tolliver, thank you so much for joining us today.

Coming up: a crucial report on what still needs to change in the wake of George Floyd`s murder.

Also, how the "Squid Game" can help explain the political debate in Washington and the Biden agenda, and why I`m wearing and why Kurt was wearing what he was wearing tonight.

Plus: A former Trump aide is trying to reassure QAnon believers that he`s not a satanist, really.

Stay with us after the break.



JOHNSON: I mentioned at the top of the show that my tracksuit tonight is an homage to "Squid Game" and the Biden agenda.

And now I will tell you how why.

Two big stories dropped this week, underscoring the idea that America`s economic inequality just isn`t sustainable. First, the Pandora Papers, a vast trove of leaked documents, revealing the obscene riches that the wealthy are stashing in secret, all to avoid paying the taxes that keep societies afloat.

We`re talking billionaires paying only thousands in taxes while buying million-dollar homes for friends and mistresses. And then we get to why I`m wearing the tracksuit, "Squid Game."

This is the uniform in the show, the Korean Netflix drama about people trapped under insurmountable debt willing to compete in deadly versions of childhood games for the pot of money that you just saw on the screen here.

Think "Hunger Games" mixed with "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," but everybody`s got bad credit.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (through translator): You`re going to play tug of war.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS (through translator): The shape you have chosen is the shape you must remove from the honeycomb.



JOHNSON: Forget "Bridgerton" or "Stranger Things."

"Squid Game" is the most streamed show in America and the most watched show in the entire history of Netflix. That speaks volumes about the state of economic distress the most Americans are living through today.

Since 1980, the share of wealth among the bottom half of income owners in America has plummeted, while the share going to the 1 percent has skyrocketed. And that was before the pandemic`s billionaire boom, tech titans like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg winning big, while the rest of us suffer.

The reporting out today, that while many Americans have not reversed pandemic wealth losses, minorities and those without high school diplomas have not. "Squid Game" also taps into systematic racism that places black and brown people and immigrants into a system that hard work will never get them out of.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Sir, pay me all the wages you owe me.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (through translator): Hey, how many times do I have to tell you? I don`t have any money right now. Our business isn`t doing so well so...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (through translator): I couldn`t have my finger treated. I couldn`t afford the hospital fee. I`m going back home now. Please, give me my money.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (through translator): How dare you touch me, you little...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (through translator): Don`t swear at me!

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (through translator): You freaking idiot!


JOHNSON: Soaring inequality around the world and at home.

And Mitch McConnell is demonizing attempts to address this as socialism. Billionaires flying into space while Americans at home can`t find affordable housing, but Joe Manchin worries about America becoming an entitlement society.

This is the central fight of our time. Biden is pushing for a sweeping safety net program that, quite frankly, would be considered conservative among most other progressive parties around the world.

With crushing education, health care and housing debt, would Americans be willing to sign up for their own "Squid Game"?

We get into it with a progressive leader, Congressman Ro Khanna, when we get back in 60 seconds.



JOHNSON: Joining me now is Congressman Ro Khanna, Democrat from California. He`s on the leadership team of the House Progressive Caucus.

Thank you so much, Congressman.

I`m going to start with this. When we saw the Pandora Papers come out earlier this week, the idea that you have got multibillionaires who are paying a smaller percentage of their taxes than somebody working at Carl`s Jr., it offended me, it disgusted me, but it also struck me as the kind of thing of, like, we can`t keep going like this.

You will have bread riots and fights in the street. Do you think that your party, which is the closest thing we have to a progressive party in America, recognizes the urgency of addressing economic inequality?


And that is the president`s agenda. When you have three people in this country having more wealth than the bottom 50 percent, something is wrong. And what the president is saying is, tax my district, Silicon Valley. They made a tremendous amount of wealth. Tax it, so that everyone can have a fair shot at the American dream.

This isn`t entitlement. I mean, giving people education and health care, so they can compete in a 21st century economy, it`s not just fair. It`s pro growth, it`s pro-opportunity, it`s actually the smartest investment we can make in the 21st century economy.

JOHNSON: "The New York Times" has done a piece on, as I mentioned, this sort of new hit viral show "Squid Game," and the fact that most of the people in this show, they`re in debt not through irresponsibility. They just don`t make enough money to simply live.

And the idea that a show like this has connected so intimately with so many Americans shows the level of desperation that many of us feel. We`re way past the days of "Cribs" and "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." Americans feel like they`re willing to do anything to get out of debt.

When we think about the two biggest debts that people are faced with, education debt and health care debt, how does the president`s plan address either of those two issues going forward, assuming that they can get passed?

KHANNA: Well, on education, it makes community college free. So if you`re making 40,000, 50,000 bucks, and you want to try to get a credential to better your life, to get a new opportunity, now you can do so and you don`t have to go into debt to do it.

And it also makes preschool free, so that if you have young kids, you don`t have to pay an arm and a leg to give them a fair shot, so they`re not behind starting in kindergarten or first grade. And, on medical, it actually allows seniors to finally get -- go to a dentist, to get a hearing aid.

I mean, it`s outrageous, in this country, that we don`t have seniors covered to get a dental checkup, to get dental coverage or to get hearing aids.

JOHNSON: And I got to point out, Congressman, I think that`s really, really key.

A lot of people think that, say, dental care, that is some extra, just for free, stuff. Trust me, for dental problems turned into huge medical issues throughout the rest of your body if they`re not properly addressed.

The other party -- and I use that term generously because I think Republicans aren`t really interested in governing right now -- they have attack any of these programs as socialism.

I`m going to play you a clip of sort of their greatest hits on this and get your thoughts on the other side.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Trojan horse for permanent socialism.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): And this is government-run socialism. Every one of us is opposed to it.

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): Some human infrastructure package that`s just socialism.

MCCONNELL: To leave Americans with a socialist country.


JOHNSON: I don`t know what government-run socialism is. Is that like barbecue-flavored barbecue chips.

Is it really socialism to create an economy that is fairer and more accessible to regular people? Am I missing something here? Did my political science degree not count much?

KHANNA: Jason, not at all?

I`d love to invite Senator McConnell, Senator Barrasso to my district, the heart of Silicon Valley. We produce $11 trillion of wealth. Let me tell you, no one is going to accuse Silicon Valley of being socialist.

And you know they will find when they look at Mark Zuckerberg`s story or if they look at Microsoft, Bill Gates` story, what they had? They had a great education, they had health care, they had those advantages starting out.


KHANNA: And all we`re saying is, why can`t every American have that shot? They can succeed in a free market only if they have an education and the health to be able to compete in a market.

So, far from being socialism, this is about the best investment you can make in the American economy to have more people productive, especially if we want to compete with a billion people in China.

JOHNSON: And, also, Congressman, I want to add, in addition to they had great education, they had health care, they also had infrastructure.

You can`t make Internet billions if you can`t trust the Wi-Fi. Those of us who have the opportunity to travel abroad know how common it is to just have the Internet shut down in certain parts of the world. That doesn`t happen here.

Lastly, I want to make sure that we get to this. There is a member of your party -- again, I use that term generously -- Joe Manchin in the Senate, who has consistently said that he`s worried that the $3.5 trillion package may be creating an entitlement society, that there`s too much being given to people for free, that everything has to be means-tested.

Do you think the idea of giving people affordable health care and access to child care, is that going to make people entitled? Are people going to manage please start having more babies because they think the government will take care of them?


KHANNA: Absolutely not.

And I think Senator Manchin could be reasoned with. At least he has a proposal out, unlike Senator Sinema.

But the Ohio State -- former president of Ohio State answered this for me. I asked him, is there a disincentive to give people free college? And he said: "You know, Ro, all of my kids had free college. I paid for it. And they did just fine."

So the middle class and the affluent get a lot of things for free, and they do just fine. I think it`s offensive to say that giving basic education and health care is somehow going to disincentivize the working class. Far from it. It`s going to raise their aspiration, their ambition, and make them even more productive.

JOHNSON: Thank you so much, Congressman Ro Khanna.

Thank you for putting this all in perspective for us tonight.

KHANNA: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Ahead: MAGA gets even wackier, from Michael Flynn talking about satanism -- I`m serious -- and QAnon, to the MyPillow guy talking about an 800-year-old voter, apparently named Methuselah.

The great Eugene Robinson is asking, how dumb can a country get and still survive?

Plus: As police reform stalls and Congress, a new push that can actually work.


JOHNSON: A new and promising way to fight institutional and structural racism in policing, imagine that.

It comes from a new report out of New York from the Racial Justice Commission in the wake of George Floyd`s murder to root out systematic racism and implement permanent and transformative ideas.


The commission identified inequalities in social services and work advancement and wealth building, marginalization and overcriminalization of non-white people and communities and inequity in government representation.

Here`s why this is important. While there are plenty of police commissioners across the country, most of them have little or no power to implement any changes. This commission will propose ballot initiatives, giving the people the power to vote to actually make these changes.

Since the breakdown of federal police reforms, even after a wave of renewed support following George Floyd`s murder, any chance at improving standards, transparency and accountability in policing is pretty much going to be relegated to the local level.

Senator Tim Scott is basically responsible for this. He was for police reform before George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks and Ahmaud Arbery, introducing a police accountability bill following the 2015 shooting of Walter Scott in his home state of South Carolina.

I will remind you, Walter Scott was shot in the back, from behind. Footage period to show an officer dropping a Taser, basically planting a weapon after shooting him in the back.

So, if federal police reform is too partisan to get through for people like Tim Scott, and they want to back away from what they initially cared about in order to be friends with Trump, the new way that New York`s commission is approaching this problem should be a model.

With new initiatives on the ballot during the 2022 midterm elections, this could and should be implemented across the country.

Joining me now, Fordham University Professor Christina Greer and Jennifer Jones Austin, chair of New York City`s Racial Justice Commission, which released yesterday`s report.

Thank you so much for joining me here.

So, Commissioner, I will begin with you.

Tell me a little bit about why you all decided to attach ballot initiatives to this report, because, to me, that`s what makes this different. There were reports from community observation and community oversight boards from Cancun to Grant`s Tomb, and they never get anything done.

How did you guys realize that attaching ballot initiatives was the best way to go?

JENNIFER JONES AUSTIN, CHAIR, NEW YORK CITY RACIAL JUSTICE COMMISSION: Well, we have to begin with the appreciation that the commission, the Racial Justice Commission, is a charter revision commission, which means that it has the legal authority to change New York City`s Constitution, its charter, the laws, the foundational -- the laws and the foundational values and beliefs that are embedded in New York City`s Constitution.

So, by creating ballot measures, what we`re going to do is create a model for governing with equity at the core, a model where elected officials, beginning with the most senior New York City official, to city council members, district leaders, community boards, and so on, have to be accountable to the people to ensure true racial equity.

JOHNSON: Dr. Greer, so I`m looking at the polling numbers right now; 94 percent of the public seems to support police reform; 58 percent say major changes are needed; 36 percent say minor changes are needed.

It seems like the public in general is in favor of police reform. But we all know, as political scientists, that when you put something on the ballot, it could be about wording. It could be about the timing.

So what would the commission needs to do in New York alone, let alone in other locations, to make sure that the suggestions being made actually turn into ballot initiatives that people can understand and come out support?

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Absolutely, Jason, because the devil is in the details.

So, what Jennifer Jones Austin and her commission have put together, it`s really substantive and incredibly important for New Yorkers. But it`s that next step that`s crucial. When we go to the polls in November to vote for our next mayor and city council member and public advocate and comptroller and all these folks, we need to make sure that the language is clear for voters, and so they know exactly what they`re voting on, because, obviously, the literature has shown us that people will just vote yes even if they`re unsure.

So now we need to be in the education phase for these next few weeks to, one, let people know that they should expect five measures on their ballot.


GREER: Two, give them some framing and some structure so they understand, because, if it takes me several minutes to read and reread these ballot measures, and I`m a political scientist, we know that some people who are nervous, it`s their first time voting, they have to get for -- parent care and child care or work.

They may skim these measures and possibly vote against something that they truly believe.

JOHNSON: Jennifer, when I first saw this report, I thought it was a brilliant idea. I thought the results made a lot of sense. Like I said, as a political scientist, I was very moved by the idea of attaching it to voting.

What I`m curious about is sort of, how transferable is this idea? Do you have other city oversight, police oversight boards kind of trying to take notes from you, making suggestions or saying, hey, how can we bring this to New Orleans? How can we bring this to Austin? How can we bring this to Chicago?

Or do you think you`re going to have to take the results of this and start peddling it around the country for people to realize there`s a different way to approach police reform?


JONES AUSTIN: So, we do have other cities, other states looking at what we`re doing. And we`re engaging with them to learn what their -- have been their experiences in trying to address some of these issues, with different measures of success.

I don`t even need to begin to get into those details. What we`re hopeful for is that when we center on this, that we`re not just centering on and that people see we`re not just centering on policing reform, but that we understand and we help other people to understand that racism, structural racism pervades every pillar of our society, and that if we`re really going to do something about police reform, we have to also start with how our communities are resourced and supported, right, i.e., disinvesting in police and putting resources where they are critically needed.

We have to look at how wage inequity, how wealth disparities have been essentially propped up by systemic and structural racism and dismantle that. So what we want people to do is to lean in and see that, yes, we`re going to center on new models of policing centering on public safety and expanding what that should look like, but we`re also centering on, how do we go about strengthening individuals, families and communities that have been intentionally and willfully deprived by government of basic resources to help individuals and families, persons of color, BIPOC communities from getting ahead?

It`s kind of -- it`s not a one-off. Its policing, and it`s much, much more. And we need the nation to see that you have got to go to the structure, because it`s government that propped up these laws to begin with. So government has to own these laws and these inequities that have resulted, and do something about it. And we`re pushing it back to government to do just that.

JOHNSON: Dr. Greer, you and I have had this conversation on a podcast on The Grio.

I`m a police abolitionist. I think we need to get rid of policing as it currently exists because it doesn`t work, and it`s fundamentally flawed from the beginning. But even if you don`t believe as far as I do, the biggest concern a lot of people seem to have with policing is that they`re just never held accountable when they make mistakes.

We have a new report out now that the officers -- that the feds won`t seek charges against the officers that crippled Jacob Blake. What do you think would have to be the best kind of ballot initiative that would actually hold officers accountable? Would it be something that would address their union? Would it be something that addresses how they can be prosecuted?

Because I think that is the biggest issue, that when cops make mistakes, as they say, and black people die, that never happens to them.

GREER: Right.

But, Jason, we have to remember quite a few things. In a lot of these cities they have significant numbers of police of color, not just on the police force and in the union, but also as civilian employees. And so this idea of abolishing the police, for a lot of black and Latinx communities, they`re looking at you askance, because this is money in their pockets in their communities.

And we also know that black folks tend to be a touch more conservative, and, actually, they do want more police and when we survey folks in particular neighborhoods in New York. And so this is a little more complicated than just sort of saying police reform, right? We have to get more details.


GREER: I think we have to start making it painful for police officers and police unions, because, right now, we, as taxpayers, are paying for their mistakes.

And so we know that, in the city of New York, we spend millions upon millions of dollars paying out for families and communities, as we should, when police officers do harm, but police officers don`t pay out of their own pockets. They`re not penalized. That`s not coming out of their pensions. That`s not coming out of their salaries.

And so I think all pocketbook issues matter. And so, until police officers and their unions start feeling the brunt of their bad behavior, we aren`t going to see substantive change.

JOHNSON: Like, I always say this.


JOHNSON: I just want to say, look...


JOHNSON: Yes, Christina.

Yes, Jennifer.

JONES AUSTIN: I just want to say, we have to look at the how the system, the structures, how the city`s charter allows for that to begin with.

And so we have to go into this charter, and make changes in the charter that don`t allow for people to not be held accountable, police officers, unions, and then the elected officials that are actually charged with the responsibility of overseeing these services and these lack of supports to communities.

So we have to start with working with the legal authority, and making sure that we hold people accountable with that.

JOHNSON: As I have always said, I would not want a trained soldier doing my plumbing. And the idea of police officers with weapons answering domestic violence charges and getting people on the streets, these are the things that are fundamentally wrong with policing.

And I don`t think those things can be reformed.

But this is a conversation we`re going to have again.

Dr. Christina Greer and Jennifer Jones Austin, thank you so much for joining me tonight.

GREER: Thanks, Jason.

JOHNSON: Ahead, our friend Eugene Robinson asks, how dumb can a nation get and still survive?

That`s next on THE BEAT.



JOHNSON: It`s Friday on THE BEAT.

And as we reflect on the week, we were inspired by our friend Eugene Robinson`s new column in "The Washington Post" asking a question: How dumb and a nation get and still survive?

Eugene may be on to something. Just look at some of the headlines in literally just the last 24 hours. Example number one, former Trump aide Michael Flynn appearing on a right-wing YouTube show to refute QAnon rumors that he`s a satanist.


QUESTION: I even saw a show the other day saying Mike`s flipped on the side of the devil.

Can you please explain what happened there, sir?

MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: All these people that talk about turning to whatever, get off that. Quit -- people need to stop overthinking what everybody is saying and listen to -- listen to what is happening around us.


JOHNSON: Example number two, the MyPillow guy making the big lie even bigger, claiming that votes were cast in 2020 by people who are literally hundreds of years old.



MICHAEL LINDELL, CEO, MYPILLOW: We have a team that goes through all of it now with this other system that pulls up all anomalies, 2, 650 people over the age of 100.

Now, you might say, well that could be. That could be; 2,000 of them were over 200. So, obviously, they -- one guy was 850.

QUESTION: They were 200?


JOHNSON: Example number three, people making singer Meghan Trainor one of today`s top trending topics for saying that she and her husband have side- by-side toilets.

Add that to the list of things that I never honestly needed to know. It`s the kind of stuff ripe for late-night jokes, except "SNL" already did it years ago.


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JOHNSON: Joining me now is Mark Thompson, host of the "Make It Plain" podcast, and, again, somebody in a magenta hoodie. Clearly, everybody`s watching "Squid Games."

Mark, I got to start with this.

The idea of saying that America is a dumb country and it leads to problems, like, people have been saying this for 20, 30 years. But I think the sort of combination of misinformation now really is making us dumber as a country, as we debate things that don`t make any sense.

You`re on the radio. You`re podcasting. Do you find that the questions that people are asking today and the debates now or are any dumber or less significant than they were 15, 20 years ago?

MARK THOMPSON, "MAKE IT PLAIN": Certainly. Certainly, they are dumber.

Thank you for having me, Jason.

This is the closest color I could get to match your "Squid Game" piece.


THOMPSON: But it`s a great theme.

But I think that "Squid Game," to some extent, we can see reflected in the disinformation society in which we live. And so people have to pick and choose what`s real, what to be excited about, what`s really happening.

And, frankly, it`s almost as if, when Donald Trump was president, I mean, he was a walking dumpster fire, and everybody could focus on him and his behavior. Now that he`s pretty much deplatformed, no longer in the White House, it`s as if people have to find some other sensationalism to put out there.

And there`s an audience out here, unfortunately, that I think the best way to describe it -- it was probably not nice to call people dumb. But we have a lot of low-information people in America who get most of their information from disinformation sources like those on social media.


THOMPSON: So it`s very confusing, and people are probably walking around right now listening to these types of stories and think, wow, this must be true. Somebody really 850 years old was voting.

But the paradox in it is, is when the disinformation begins to eat its own. Michael Flynn now having to explain himself as not being a Satanist is pretty funny.

JOHNSON: And I want to talk about this. You talk about the level of disinformation people get.

I want to play this clip of Tucker Carlson getting triggered by me earlier this week, and we will talk about it on the other side.


JOHNSON: Is this really about people being upset about mask mandates, or are there sort of underlying disruptive forces, white nationalists, anarchists, whatever in this country that are using mask mandates and a public health crisis to sort of wage chaos?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Get that moron off television. That`s hurting the country.

There are not organized white supremacist forces in this country. We have a lot of problems. That`s not one of them.


JOHNSON: That`s a lot of venom coming from a guy who goes out on dinner dates with alleged sex traffickers, and couldn`t figure out how to keep a job in media until he got affirmative action from FOX.

But, that being said, he`s still allowed to lie on television with impunity on a regular basis. And no one holds him accountable, because the people who pay attention to it want to be lied to by a white nationalist.

Is that something that we can ever actually address in this country? Or should we just assume, look, 30 percent of the population is just done and stupid and we have to function with the rest of the people who can actually be convinced about math, science and what it`s like to not hang out with alleged criminals?

THOMPSON: Well, I think that example Tucker you just showed makes the point that it`s worse.

When Glenn Beck was on FOX talking about Barack Obama being a racist, which Tucker says all the time, and disrespectfully even calls you a moron, when Glenn Beck did that, he was gone.

But Tucker is able to thrive because the irony of the movement was, Color of Change. Other organizations had advertisers leave FOX in droves. Now that there are fewer advertisers, almost none, then Tucker is really not accountable to anybody.


THOMPSON: He can say whatever he wants to say.

The -- it can be cable subscriber fees that we all pay subsidize his rhetoric, the same way AT&T subsidizes One America News. And so that`s what we`re stuck with. So it`s a little harder to demand accountability when the advertisers are all gone.


It`s getting worse. They need something to talk about until the nutjob, I guess, in chief decides to announce his candidacy and run for president again in 2024.

JOHNSON: And we will all be here watching when that horrible, horrible day possibly occurs.

Mark Thompson, thank you so much for joining us on THE BEAT tonight.

THOMPSON: Thank you.


THOMPSON: Good to be see you, brother.

JOHNSON: You too.

We will be right back.


JOHNSON: A final update tonight on two journalists awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Philippines` Maria Ressa and Russia`s Dmitry Muratov were recognized for their courageous fight for press freedom under oppressive regimes. It comes amid growing violence against the press around the world, with murders of journalists more than doubling in 2020.

Another survey finding female journalists especially face verbal and physical threats. The Nobel recognition also coming after years of attacks on the media by Donald Trump and his allies.

That does it for me tonight.


Howdy, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: How you doing, Jason?

I love the velour jacket look. I saw Mark Thompson was matching your style.


REID: I don`t know if you guys are like a `90s hip-hop group or doing the news, but...


JOHNSON: It`s a "Squid Game" reference. It`s a "Squid Game" reference.


REID: Ah, got it. Got it.