IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 11/10/21

Guests: Brad Raffensperger


President Biden hits the road to talk about a historic win on spending and infrastructure. Kyle Rittenhouse takes the stand. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks out. Big Bird takes on Ted Cruz.



Hi, Ari.

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

And welcome to THE BEAT, everyone. I am Ari Melber.

And we are covering a lot, the president on the road talking about a historic win on spending and infrastructure, and legal fireworks, as an indicted murderer, Kyle Rittenhouse, takes the stand in that big clash of a trial. We have a special report on that later.

Plus, tonight, live on THE BEAT, the potential star witness in a local Trump criminal probe dealing with the sloppy coup.

But we begin right now with the president. In fact, just moments ago, he was out promoting this big spending bill. It`s the biggest investment in the American economy in decades. The president will sign it into law on Monday.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Infrastructure week has finally arrived.

I`m going to create good-paying union jobs. I`m going to transform our transportation system. We`re going to make high-speed Internet affordable and available to everywhere in America.

We`re going to build the first-ever national network of electric vehicle charging stations all across the country.

The progress has already begun. And now we have passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the deal, it`s only going to accelerate.


MELBER: Those are the highlights here.

And if you noticed the shimmering water in the background, well, this is a White House that is trying to make a point with the visuals. That backdrop revolves around the key shipping point where the president was speaking.

Meanwhile, there are ongoing supply chain shortages that are related to the pandemic. And a new poll shows nearly two-thirds of Americans back this big Biden spending plan. The positive impact could be felt soon nationwide.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This money will help more South Carolinians get connected with high-speed Internet for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Helped turn San Jose Diridon Station into the Grand Central Station of the West.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will help along because farmers need those roads and bridges to get their products to market.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Funding allocated for improving transportation and lower-income and lower-density areas of Savannah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But infrastructure is important for travel for, again, having, I guess, the places to make sure that you can charge your vehicle.


MELBER: Everything you just saw was local news coverage, people who in their own communities might keep an eye on the local news as they flip around, just like local papers still are the way a lot of people get their news.

And you will notice something there. It relates to some of the coverage we have done. A lot of that local coverage is about the stuff. You know what you didn`t hear there? You didn`t hear a reference to Joe Manchin or any other individual senator or any other individual meeting.

What you heard was the goods and services, the impact, economic, personal, and humanitarian, in other words, just what this stuff`s going to do and how it`s being covered. And that may be why the support for it is so much higher than the partisan issues that we see that are much more around 50/50.

We are already seeing signs before this is even signed into law that there are a lot of places where people welcome the spending and the funding.

The president also making this point today:


BIDEN: Infrastructure used to be rated, in the United States, as the best in the world when I got to the Congress. But, today, according to the World Economic Forum, you know where we rank in infrastructure? Thirteenth in the world.

It`s about taking a long-term view of our economy to deliver lower costs, more jobs, and ensure our shelves are stocked with product.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post" Eugene Robinson and "New York Times" columnist Michelle Goldberg.

Good to see you both.

Eugene, how about the argument the president makes today and the new shift towards the thing itself and not the messy D.C. process to get it?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly. The thing itself was always the thing, right? It really, really was to the vast, vast majority of people in this country.

I mean, we get so wrapped up in and obsessed with process here. You note in that montage reel that you that you played of local coverage -- and I`m so glad you did that -- you notice that nobody was talking about the BIF, the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Nobody was going back and forth over how it came to be.

The fact was that train station in San Jose is going to be fixed. And all those projects are going to happen. And that always was the most important thing about this bill. And that is now what the White House, I think, would be well-advised to continue promoting in the places where it`s happening.

He was at Port of Baltimore today talking about -- he could point to the new container cranes -- or the places where the new container cranes are be going to be put in. He could show people where the new tunnel is going to be done.

It`s -- this is important stuff and it`s long, long overdue.



Michelle, the number one aide at the White House, the chief of staff, Ron Klain, just appeared on MSNBC as they make this push. Take a listen.


RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: A lot of credit goes to those 13 Republicans who did sign up and did support the infrastructure bill.

But, look, it`s just not healthy. Infrastructure should not be a partisan issue. But there isn`t really a Democratic or Republican bridge. There isn`t really a Democratic or Republican road.

And this is the kind of thing the parties should be able to come together, get done together. That`s what President Biden did.


MELBER: Michelle, fact-check, true.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, technically, it`s true that there`s not -- no such thing as a Democratic or Republican road and bridge, right?

And we did -- this bill had not just the support of these 13 members in the House, but the support a lot of senators, including Mitch McConnell. It`s very, very popular across the country. I also think it is manifestly true that, for most of the Republican Party, the failure of the Joe Biden presidency is far, far more important than any sort of physical infrastructure in the United States.

That`s why you`re seeing people talk about stripping these 13 Republicans of their committee assignments. And so I -- and I hope that the Biden administration is able to both sort of play up the extremism of the Republican Party, but also make sure people understand that when this spending starts, as it should start in a few months, that people understand where it`s coming from.

This was a big mistake that the Obama administration made is that they got funding, but they never touted it. They never sort of wanted to put Obama bucks on anything or put signs up saying brought to you by President Obama.

And as a result, things sort of happened, but people didn`t necessarily draw a political connection to the administration.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, we know the famous sayings, Gene, about campaigning in poetry and governing in prose. You also can have humility to some degree in your personal approach to the job.

I think that Barack Obama was both confident, but different than some other politicians. But, boy, you better be popping out and cocky and excited and selling what you did if people want to know where their money is going.

And it`s interesting to do the Obama comparison that Michelle makes, because we actually pulled some video of him in front of the very same bridge when they were appealing for more infrastructure spending all the way back then. Take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Behind us stands the Brent Spence Bridge, and it`s in such poor condition that it`s been labeled functionally obsolete.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And replacing the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati. You like that?


TRUMP: Which is critical to the region.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This will be the first time I have come up here and in a quarter-of-a-century when I thought maybe there was a way forward on the Brent Spence Bridge.



MELBER: Now, I got to tell you, Gene, that`s a lot of powerful people that know about this bridge, but never funded its revitalization.

It is striking to see both Biden winning on it and, of all people, Mitch McConnell, who was for it after he was against it, coming around and saying, maybe we`re going to fix this thing with Biden money.

ROBINSON: Well, right, because if you have ever seen that bridge, I mean, it`s a very important, very rickety bridge that really, really needs to be replaced, actually, and has needed repair or replacement for a long time, for decades.

And everybody knew it, and it never got done. And so now that it can get done, there should be signs and billboards and maybe loudspeakers. I don`t know. But it should be made clear that it was President Biden who made this possible.

And in the final analysis, I think the Republican political class may be under estimating the impact that can be had if people are told properly where this money came from as it starts pouring in. That`s actual stuff happening on the ground that I can see that benefits me.


There`s another big piece of news that I wanted to get your reaction, Michelle, and you have written a lot about inequality and how it intersects with our current moment. The Wall Street markets may be up, but the supermarkets and the gas stations and a lot of other places are down. And this affects working people.

Look at these numbers here, eggs, beef, and then, of course, gas, all from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where these are multidecade-level records for spikes.


And at a practical level, Michelle, it means that working people on set or fixed budgets may be going into some of the toughest times, which is saying something after the last two years. Your thoughts?

GOLDBERG: I mean, look, it`s obviously a big, big problem. And I think it`s a substantial reason why Biden`s approval ratings have been falling so much in the last few months.

I hope that this administration is able to make the case that inflation is one reason why you need to take action in the Build Back Better bill to bring down child care costs, to bring down prescription drug costs. These kinds of -- this inflation report is likely to give Joe Manchin, who has been consistently concerned about the connection between government spending and inflation, I suspect it will give him even further pause on Build Back Better.

But there`s a case to be made that it should be even kind of more impetus for Build Back Better.


And that really goes to people`s awareness of what the problems are. And then what are the solutions being offered and is federal action even on the table? According to some in Congress, it almost -- should almost never be.

I want to thank Michelle and Gene for kicking us off.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

MELBER: Tonight, we have several other important reports.


A legal smackdown, Donald Trump losing again in court, trying to hide evidence. Well, he lost. He will not be able to hide the January 6 evidence.

We also have the potential star witness in the Georgia criminal probe. You probably recognize him as the secretary of state who would not go find criminal votes for Donald Trump. He`s my guest tonight.

And then legal fireworks in this murder trial, with calls by some for a mistrial, and the accused killer indicted for murder sobbing on the stand.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you see him lunging at you, what do you do?

KYLE RITTENHOUSE, DEFENDANT: I shoot him. I didn`t do anything wrong. I defended myself.


MELBER: We will give you a full perspective on that important trial we have been covering.

And our friend Chai Komanduri is back on THE BEAT on the Biden win and the next steps.

And I got to tell you something else, America. And I don`t say this lightly. The Big Bird story, it`s hit day three. We have an update by the end of the hour, Elmo and the Cookie Monster reportedly involved.

I will explain, because you`re watching the news.



MELBER: The president capping this big spending win. We have been covering that.

And his party, the Democrats, are now looking at what the secrets to success might be, after a time where there has been plenty of debate over recent elections. There is fretting going on about as well a dip in Biden`s poll numbers.

Michelle Goldberg just mentioned that. And there are larger dynamics also at work here. For example, despite all that left-wing and pundit angst about what happened in Virginia, as we have shown, the incumbent party in the White House loses that next year`s race, when the opposition mobilizes. You can see it in six elections in a row if you count Biden.

So it can also be illuminating to step back with that in mind for proportion and look at the big picture. You may recall James Carville famously said in a recession, it was the economy, stupid. And he did update that. This was before Joe Biden won in 2020.



MELBER: In `92, it was, it`s the economy, stupid. You`re going with, this year, it`s the pandemic, stupid?

CARVILLE: That`s a huge part of it. Everybody in the world is aware of it.


MELBER: A veteran strategist saying that, for all the problems with Trump -- and James Carville has all kinds of beef with Trump -- it was the pandemic that would loom largest in voters` minds, and that they may punish that incumbent president, especially as he failed to combat it, that it was really larger than any other storyline.

For then-President Trump, it was certainly a big problem. Americans did not approve of Donald Trump`s approach to COVID. Whether it was talking about taking Clorox, or denialism, or falsely comparing it to the flu, or that warm weather would drive it out, you see right here, if you want to actually look at data, instead of just Virginia punditry, that the data shows that this was an issue for Donald Trump throughout, with Americans disapproving overwhelmingly of his handling, especially going into key points like the election.

Then Joe Biden won and came into office with a lot of optimism about turning the page, on Trumpism in general, on racism and bigotry, as well as on COVID. And the vaccines began to roll out. And many experts said it was only a matter of time that America would largely be in the clear.

You remember the talk about a hot vax summer. It might be easy to forget now, but many were so convinced that we heard experts tout specific timelines to end all this, including cities like New York holding an official reopening concert.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Getting back to normality, gradually getting people back to work, I believe that`s likely going to start in a few months as we get into March and April.

BIDEN: By July the 4th, there`s a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard and mark our independence from this virus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gatherings getting back to normal after many missed memories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America is back on the move, unlocked, unfettered, free.


MELBER: That was the mood. The mood was backed by those leaders.

Well, let`s have some real talk here. The fact is, America was not anywhere near completely in the clear by July 4, and vaccine resistance was a factor. But it cannot all be blamed on that either.

Whether people like it or not, government leaders -- I just showed you some of them -- and medical experts, who were right about many other things, they came together and they wrote an expectations check that they couldn`t cash. And many policies once justified as temporary strict measures continued.

And they grated on people. And the Delta surge hit and took many places backwards, undermining some of that progress. And Biden`s approval on handling COVID, which started so strong -- again, this might be more useful then Virginia punditry -- it started strong and was definitely a contrast to a failed Trump administration, but it began falling in July and accelerating in August as the CDC declared Delta was the predominant strain in the U.S.


Look at high it was, above 60 on the far left. You see August, and it continues to go down. I`m going to leave that up for you, because that`s a slide that really matters and continues to this day, as people live through this COVID life, the health scare, the economic impact, the day-to-day impact.

Now, none of this automatically explains Virginia, which followed a long history that predates the pandemic. But it does show there`s more to widespread COVID anger than its extreme caricature in a few clips from school board meetings or those bad-faith right-wing arguments, which we have fact-checked.

Let me give it to you straight. People sacrificed a lot. They were given expectations that didn`t always bear out. And the data shows people don`t view every policy tradeoff as a black-and-white clash between science and stupidity. The voters may see gray, where some partisan Democrats were seeing blue and thinking that they had blue policies that automatically were always better than Donald Trump`s failures.

And there are polls and anecdotal reporting and other measurements that suggest some voters viewed certain safety measures as overkill or unfair to the working class, like completely closing schools in recent stages of the pandemic, which some experts likened masking out doors, sort of a TSA security theater phase of this otherwise serious emergency.

Now, none of that cancels out the enduring support for a Biden-style populism. We can see -- and we have reported on this -- most people support the spending. Then, when you look at control of Congress, it becomes a much tighter question.

Now, there are some in Washington who are saying this will all be moot by next November because COVID is fading. You will notice, as a keen listener, that`s exactly the kind of thing they were saying before this current November, when, as I just showed you, COVID certainly did not fade.

So, as Democrats now clock a spending win, will they learn the right lessons from this electorate? Or will they freak out in a defensive political miasma of Twitter hot takes and self-flagellation sparked by the very right-wing trolling they say they abhor?

I am almost completely serious. These are some of the choices.

Political strategist Chai Komanduri is here when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: And we turn to our deep dive political conversation, which takes place on a special day here on THE BEAT. It is known around the country, in front of TV sets near and far, as "Chai Day."

You see he`s more than a cartoon. He`s a living person. Chai Komanduri worked on three presidential campaigns, including the Obama campaign.

Good to see you, sir.

CHAI KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good to see you, Ari. How are you?

MELBER: Great.

As we make sense of it all, how big a factor does COVID continue to be in every political race in America?

KOMANDURI: It is simply the factor. It is simply the most important issue.

Look, what voters are feeling now is a very clear anxiety, an anxiety about what the future holds. Now, in the polling, it shows up more than economic anxiety. But keep in mind that anxiety is entirely related to the pandemic. People do not know what the future of the pandemic is going to be.

Are we going to be in masks forever? The things that are besetting the economy that you have talked about earlier, inflation, supply chain, labor shortages, all of that comes out of the pandemic. And what has happened with Joe Biden is, he has simply lost the narrative on the pandemic.


The pandemic narrative is controlled by the people who oppose him. They`re -- it is controlled by the GOP that has had a virulent opposition to the vaccines and the vaccine mandates. And when Joe Biden announced his vaccine mandate, they simply laughed it off and said they were not going to comply.

It is controlled by Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have said that the things that he has said that he will do in terms of legislation, Build Back Better, will have no possible impact on the fears and anxieties the American people are experiencing today, that that legislation is simply pork barrel spending, and we can do without a lot of it.

MELBER: Can we talk about carrots and sticks?

KOMANDURI: Absolutely.

MELBER: It seems like Joe Biden at the level of policy and political messaging has excelled with the carrots. The Biden stimulus checks, people know about. A lot of people got them. They did become punchlines, jokes, references, but everybody knows he came in and immediately started doing that.

The new spending bill, I just showed the numbers. The idea that there`s a someone in charge of the White House and federal government who is using the money for you, not the billionaires, is starting to seep through. That`s carrots.

On COVID, it seems like Biden and the Democrats continually own sticks, masks, mandates. Something that is, according to health experts, good, the vaccine, becomes something that to some Americans feels like a stick. We have covered the reasons why that is. I`m not saying it`s simple.

But is there a problem where, if you say this is the number one issue of the day, of the year, of yours, plural, and they are owning only the stick side?

KOMANDURI: Yes, and what has happened is, the Republicans have simply ignored and have laughed and mocked at all the sticks that Joe Biden has wielded.

So the result has been that vaccinated people are, quite frankly, very upset of Joe Biden because they don`t think he`s done enough, and unvaccinated people are angry that he`s done anything at all. So he`s gotten kind of the worst of both worlds on this.

And he really needs to course-correct on this and really show the American people: Look, this is my plan. This is where we`re going to be going as a country. And oh, by the way, this great legislation, it`s going to help us get there.

One of the big frustrations I have is the Democratic Party keeps having ideological battles. Should we be more centrist? Should be more progressive? The reality is, swing voters are not ideological. They want results.

It`s like in the "Return of the Jedi," it didn`t matter who blew up the Death Star, Lando, Luke, Han. It didn`t matter. The Ewoks were going to dance the minute that thing blew up.

And voters will reward Democrats the minute they feel they can take off their mask and resume their normal life. And it will also make Joe Biden`s life and Democratic life much easier, because it will let us get through some other progressive legislation and goals that we have, like voting rights, like police reform. All of that will come if we get the big thing right, which is the pandemic future in the United States of America.

MELBER: In that allegory, then, what is the Force in American politics?

KOMANDURI: The Force would actually be message. The Force is -- if you think about the way that the Force works in "Star Wars," it`s sort of the glue between the Jedi, the individual who wields it, and their outcome.

The way that you achieve things in politics is through message. And I think the problem for Joe Biden has been the Force, the message, has entirely been controlled by the other side. The other side, the opposition, has controlled the message.

Tucker Carlson basically has said, this pandemic is B.S., forget about it, don`t worry about it. And as a result, that has become the thing that`s carried the day. People do not have any faith and confidence in a Democratic message on the pandemic, quite simply because they do not know where we are going. They do not know what the future holds for us.

And that`s something Democrats really do need to put some leaves on that tree and define.

MELBER: That makes sense.

You have to use the Force, which you`re calling message. And that message or Force has to be something more than just saying that you`re not Darth Vader or Mitch McConnell, or you`re not the Emperor, Trump, because he tells Vader what to do.

KOMANDURI: That`s right.

MELBER: Not being the Emperor, while a good thing for the universe, is not always enough.

Chai, I didn`t know we`d go here, but I`m glad we did. And I appreciate you, as always.

KOMANDURI: Thank you. Appreciate you.

MELBER: Thank you, sir.

Coming up, we have some very special reports. There is new legal heat on Trump, with a judge rebuking him, reminding him presidents are not kings and he cannot hide January 6 evidence.

And our special guest, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who is rumored to be a potential star witness as that other probe in Georgia intensifies.


Also, the trial we have been covering for you, a stunning day in court, the murder suspect who killed two BLM protesters breaking down. We have that for you.


MELBER: Donald Trump losing again in court, and this was a smackdown. This came late last night, with a judge ruling against claims of executive privilege or secrecy, as the president -- the former president wanted to hide evidence from January 6 investigators.

The argument was rejected, but it was a claim that somehow that privilege would exist in perpetuity, like being a permanent president, even when you`re out of office. The judge rejected that and wrote: "Presidents are not kings and plaintiff" -- that`s Trump -- "is not president."

Fact-check, true. The powers end quickly after you lose.

This was just another loss in court to affirm that he doesn`t have those powers. Trump facing a range of legal setbacks, but his threat is very much alive.

January 6 committee member Liz Cheney making this warning last night:


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We are also confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before, a former president who`s attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional republic.

Political leaders who sit silent in the face of these false and dangerous claims are aiding a former president who is at war with the rule of law and the Constitution.



MELBER: That may sound like criticism, but it is actually what this person is doing.

While losing in court, he is also summoning his shock troops out in public. He is claiming that the valid election was itself -- quote -- "an insurrection."

It may sound like the usual projection and wordplay, but it seeds the idea that the election results themselves are illegitimate, which motivates people who have already resorted to violence. Trump allies pushing the big lie are also running for office, trying to gain a hold of the machinery of democracy so they can corrupt it from the inside.

Take a look at these highlighted states, which have big lie candidates. They are running either for statewide office, like attorney general or secretary of state, both of which can drastically impact the vote. They have those kind of powers.

In Georgia, it was state election officials who held the line, regardless of what party they were in, against the mob mentality.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11, 780 votes, which is one more than we have.

The people of the country are angry. And there`s nothing wrong with saying that you`ve recalculated.


MELBER: That recorded call is a key piece of evidence in what is expected to be now a grand jury criminal probe in Georgia.

If the case were to be filed with indictments against anyone, the man on the other end of the call, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, would clearly be what they call a fact witness and, in this case, potentially a star witness.

Here on THE BEAT, we are joined now by that potential witness and a public official. Brad Raffensperger is the Georgia secretary of state and a Republican. His book is "Integrity Counts."

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Did Donald Trump asked you to do anything illegal?

RAFFENSPERGER: Oh, he asked me to recalculate or look.

But we had facts on our side. We had the truth on our side. And that`s why I wrote "Integrity Accounts," to set the record straight. There weren`t 5,000 dead people. There was less than five. There weren`t 66,000 underage voters. There were zero, things like that.

And so I wanted to write the book to set the record straight, so people could understand that President Trump came up short in the state of Georgia.

MELBER: Came up short, and lost.

In your view, does it end there? Or do you think that he or his aides or allies crossed any lines in Georgia?

RAFFENSPERGER: Well, that`s really a legal question.

I`m a structural engineer, secretary of state, obviously. But we will let the judges and we will let the lawyers decide those issues. But I wrote the book. And I have really been fact-based on it.

But I`m trying to help my Republican friends to understand what exactly happened in Georgia; 28,000 Georgians skipped the presidential ballot. They didn`t vote for anyone, and yet they voted down-ballot.

And then, in the metropolitan areas of Atlanta and Athens, Senator David Perdue got 20,000 more votes than President Trump. In the Republican congressional areas, the Republican congressmen got 33,000 more votes than President Trump.

When you look at those three data points, it really says it all. Obviously, we responded to every single other allegation. It was like rumor Whac-A- Mole. We couldn`t knock them down fast enough. They just flamed up there. And we kept on knocking them down every day, sometimes having one press conference, sometimes three.

And when you have 80 million Twitter followers, you can make a whole lot of noise. And we responded with facts, but we got drowned out by that cascade, cavalcade of noise that we heard.

MELBER: Yes, and I hear you on that.

And you mentioned the book. In it, you write about these threats. You say: "I felt that and believe today it was a threat," the way the president, then-president was addressing you and your team. "Others obviously thought so too, because some of Trump`s more radical followers have responded as if it were their duty to carry out this threat."

Given your role and knowledge, are there other things that should be done to prevent this kind of pressure? And should these secretaries of state offices even be partisan?

RAFFENSPERGER: Well, I do think that, when people threaten poll workers -- we had poll workers in some counties that are 75 percent Republican.

And those poll workers were followed home. And then we had threats in Gwinnett County, one of our large metropolitan counties. And then, also, his parents were threatened because they had a unique last name, kind of like me.

But that thing -- that needs to stop. Poll workers are good, honest. They`re your neighbors. They`re people that you see at the grocery store, out there at the ball fields.

And we need to ask they`re doing great work, working 14-hour days, and they don`t need to be threatened. But no one needs to be. Some of our secretaries of state have young children. They were threatened, and their children were scared, and really didn`t know what was going to happen.


And that`s just way beyond anything that should happen to any elected official in America.

MELBER: Yes. Yes, I hear you there.

You`re an official, as mentioned. You`re an author now with the book. You also are a candidate, as people are in our democracy. And so while we have you, I wanted to -- stay with me.

I wanted to get some of your reaction to this, as a Republican official, Jody Hice, who is now running for Georgia secretary of state, someone who objected to counting George`s electors on January 6, also has called out the current secretary of state, who`s our guest here, saying -- quote -- "It`s my deep conviction that Raffensperger has massively compromised the right of the people at the ballot box."

His proposed platform would aggressively pursue voter fraud, renewing integrity, and Hice has campaign with Donald Trump.


TRUMP: Jody is running against one of the worst secretary of states in America, RINO Brad Raffensperger, who is trying to turn the tables on me because I`m fighting for election integrity.

REP. JODY HICE (R-GA): Nobody understands the disaster of the lack of election integrity like the people of Georgia. And now is our hour to take it back.


MELBER: Do you view this as a matter of policy, and it`s just another election, or are you concerned that this opponent could actually corrupt and undermine democracy itself in office?

RAFFENSPERGER: Well, in his case, Congressman Hice, it`s just hollow rhetoric, because, when they showed up to certify the election in January, he actually certified his race from the same machines, the same ballots.


RAFFENSPERGER: And he said that was an accurate election.

But yet, for the president, he said it wasn`t. That`s a double-minded person. And, as a pastor, he should know better.

MELBER: Yes, I think we have -- I think you mentioned that in the book, which, again, it speaks to just how much of this is lies.

I`m reading from the book: "Hice accepted the results of his own race, which he won, objected to the presidential race," as you wrote. "Same voters, same ballots, one honest, the other faulty and fraudulent."

Do you believe, sir, with everything you have gone through, that if Donald Trump or the Republican nominee or reelected president, that democracy itself would be in danger in the U.S.?

RAFFENSPERGER: Well, I just know that, in Georgia, I will continue to fight hard for election integrity.

But I think you need to elect officials that will have that -- walk by integrity, they will stay within the law, and they will also then stand for the Constitution. That is the pillar of American democracy, is the rule of law and our Constitution. And people need to stand for it and fight for it and protect it and defend it.

MELBER: Understood.

Well, it was a busy time. I remember watching you when you spoke out at the time and covering all that. I appreciate you coming here on THE BEAT, Secretary of State Raffensperger, and hope you will come back.

RAFFENSPERGER: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you, sir.

Coming up: Ted Cruz picked a bird fight that he may be losing to these fictional streets.

And a dramatic day in court, as a murder suspect takes the stand. We have a lot more for you tonight. Stay with us.



MELBER: Continuing coverage of the trial of a young man indicted for murder after opening fire at a BLM protest.

Today was an intense emotional day inside this Wisconsin courtroom, the judge making headlines for the tone taken against the prosecution, amidst a rarity in any murder trial, the defendant taking the stand to testify in his own defense.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say: I`m trying to get to the police.

Why were you trying to get to the police?

RITTENHOUSE: Because I didn`t do anything wrong. I defended myself.


MELBER: Indicted for murder, Kyle Rittenhouse trying to take control of the storyline from the prosecutors who had detailed how he obtained a gun illegally and came into this new town armed and ready to go, ultimately attacking and killing two protesters.

So, the defendant went through an orchestrated story with his lawyers, which is the right of any defendant in American courts. What you`re going to see here is the effort to president a story of self-defense amidst claimed danger.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During the evening, was there any friction between your group and protesters/rioters?

RITTENHOUSE: No. The only type of stuff that happened was the person that attacked me first threatened to kill me twice.


And the person who threatened to kill you we now know was Mr. Rosenbaum, correct?



MELBER: Rittenhouse ultimately broke down on the stand in dealing with the key moments, crying as he recounted what he says happened.


RITTENHOUSE: There were -- there was people right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take a deep breath, Kyle.


JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER, KENOSHA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: We`re going to just take a -- it`s time for our break anyway.


MELBER: It was a dramatic moment in a tough trial.

Of course, those are the tears of the killer, the killing itself not in doubt. The legal question is whether it was a justified killing. And the jury has to look at that and put aside the emotion and determine whether or not it was justified.


Indeed, if someone feels bad about doing it, that`s not a murder defense.

Now, the trial judge, who has faced some separate criticism from legal experts over claims of bias and rulings and statements in favor of this defendant and basically against the prosecutors, then did something else today, tearing into the prosecutor over what might have been a routine decision about evidence.

I say routine because there are many twists and turns about what evidence goes into a trial, especially a complex murder trial. The jury was not in the room for this, so this really shouldn`t affect them at all. But it was quite an exchange.



SCHROEDER: For me, not for you.

BINGER: My understanding is...

SCHROEDER: You should have come and asked for reconsideration.

I was astonished when you began your examination by commenting on the defendant`s post-arrest silence.

That`s basic law. It`s been basic law in this country for 40 years, 50 years. I have no idea why you would do something like that.

I had heard nothing in this trial to change any of my rulings.

BINGER: That was before...


BINGER: ... testimony, Your Honor.

SCHROEDER: Pardon me?

BINGER: That was before the defendant`s testimony.

SCHROEDER: Don`t get brazen with me.

BINGER: My good-faith feeling this morning, after watching that testimony was, you had left the door open a little bit. Now we had something new. And I was going to probe it.

SCHROEDER: I don`t believe you.

When you say that you were acting in faith -- good faith, I don`t believe that, OK?


MELBER: As that question of good faith, just a little legal translation, by the end, the judge is calling the prosecutor a liar in open court.

Now, by the standard of traditional decorum, that`s a big deal, especially since many courts give deference to prosecutors. Now, the Rittenhouse defense team seized on that very clash, again, about an evidentiary issue with the jury out of the room. They`re trying to now use it to request a mistrial of the whole thing.

There`s no formal ruling on that yet. And, by the end of the day, then the prosecution still got to go forward and cross-examine this murder defendant, presenting hard facts like how, before any supposed claim threat materialized, this defendant -- again, think about how it all started.

This defendant with the illegally obtained gun showed up with 30 rounds of ammunition and an aggressive assault rifle.


BINGER: When you decided to bring your AR-15 loaded with 30 rounds down to the 63rd Street Source -- Car Source location, what did you think you needed protection against?

RITTENHOUSE: I didn`t really think I was going to have to protect myself.

BINGER: You told us just now you brought it along for protection.

RITTENHOUSE: I did. But I didn`t think I was going to need to protect myself.

BINGER: You brought along for protection, but you didn`t think you needed protection?


MELBER: That`s an important exchange, because this is not a case of a fistfight that got out of control. It`s a case of someone who broke one law to take a gun that`s used primarily for military or assault purposes, who showed up at a BLM protest with 30 rounds, unloaded, killed two people, and then said they were defending themselves.

Now, we have the rule of law in this country, which means the verdict must be respected, regardless of one`s views on the outside. And we`re not, of course, seeing every single thing that a jury might see over the course of this trial.

But, as it goes on, when you look at the judge, and you look at the arguments, there are questions about whether this is on the level.

Now, we will keep you updated on that.

And by the end of the hour on THE BEAT, we do try to fit everything in. And so we take what is in news sometimes called a hard turn, and, when we come back, I promised you, we will bring you the latest on Senator Ted Cruz, the fights he picked and how they`re going.



MELBER: An update to a story we have been covering on THE BEAT about "Sesame Street."

Ted Cruz has been losing these COVID and vax wars, attacking a beloved puppet, going after Big Bird on vaccinations and saying that spreading that public health information is, to him, propaganda.

Now a parody Big Bird, as we have been covering, is trying to take Ted Cruz`s Senate seat away from him. And let me tell you something. This bird is not playing bean ball. You can see it right here in the Big Bird For Senate account, elect Big Bird for U.S. Senate.

Big Bird tweeting: "Unlike Ted Cruz, I won`t fly to Cancun when Texas is in trouble," a fictional candidate dropping hard truths, going right at Ted Cruz`s most infamous governing moment, something that liberals, conservatives, red, white, and blue, everyone understands. You don`t run to a foreign country when there is a historic, terrible, devastating storm at home, and your constituents need your leadership, your service, your advocacy.

We can also report that the campaign has been expanding since we first brought you this parody news. Big Bird`s pals are jumping in.

For example, someone more known as a foodie than a politico, Cookie Monster, is now, again, according to this parody account, a campaign manager, tweeting: "Cruz told me: `Join the dark side. We have cookies.` And even I said no."

That`s some real restraint from someone who is literally a Cookie Monster.

That`s not all, Elmo being tapped as a senior adviser to the campaign. As you know from covering campaigns, that can be a big deal. And parody Bert is now the communications director.

Now, I know what you`re thinking. Where is Ernie? Why would they have Bert without Ernie? And does he have political ambitions of his own?

Well, social media has been all over this story, with people suggesting that Cruz`s dog, Snowflake, who was also left at home, along with all Texans, when the senator skipped town, will endorse Big Bird.

And Seth MacFarlane says it`s "No surprise Big Bird is smarter than Cruz," a little celebrity love, again, for a parody account.

So, if you`re keeping score, right now, it is, as you can see here, Big Bird doing big things in the Sesame Streets, and Ted Cruz all alone, owning himself.

That does it for us. As you can see, we take the news very seriously.

Joy Reid is up next.