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

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 11/12/21

Guests: Kurt Bardella, Emily Bazelon, John Flannery, Melissa Bumstead, Nicholas Mihm


Steve Bannon is indicted for contempt of Congress. Donald Trump defends the insurrectionists yet again. Top voices on FOX News try to turn the accused killer of two Black Lives Matter protesters into a hero. A new documentary explores a community near Los Angeles with a high rate of cancer among their kids.


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

Hi, friend.

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much.

And welcome to THE BEAT. It`s an interesting day. I`m Jason Johnson, in for Ari Melber.

And we begin with breaking news, Trump ally Steve Bannon indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress. NBC News reporting Bannon will surrender and turn himself in on Monday and appear in court that afternoon. Bannon faces one year in prison for stonewalling the January 6 Committee,

Biden`s DOJ accusing Bannon of not producing documents, not appearing for a deposition, saying Bannon -- quote -- "did not in any way comply with the subpoena."

This indictment is a first of its kind. No one has ever been prosecuted for contempt of Congress after exerting executive privilege. Attorney General Garland`s Justice Department`s sending the clearest signal yet that they will uphold Congress` subpoena power, is not afraid to punish those who defy the orders.

This is a major escalation and, quite frankly, a necessary escalation and a huge win against the MAGA terrorism attack on January 6 and the January 6 probe. The question remains, what is Biden (sic) hiding, and why wouldn`t he just come in and talk? He was at the Willard Hotel, called the insurrection headquarters, on January 5 with other Trump allies, including Rudy Giuliani, Bernard Kerik, and John Eastman, the author of the now infamous manual for a coup.

And then there was Bannon on his podcast the day before the attempted coup.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It`s going to be moving. It`s going to be quick.


JOHNSON: That is what the committee wants to know about.

And Bannon`s loyalty to the ex-blogger in Florida could land him behind bars. This move also sends a warning to other Trump allies who are refusing to comply.

Trump`s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows did not appear for a deposition today, on Trump`s orders, and now he faces serious legal jeopardy. The committee stating -- quote -- "Mr. Meadows choosing to defy the law will force the select committee to consider pursuing contempt. Mr. Meadows, Mr. Bannon and others who go down this path won`t prevail."

Joining me now is former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal, Emily Bazelon, writer with "The New York Times Magazine" covering legal issues and former legal prosecutor John Flannery.

Thank you so much.

Neal, I will start with you, star of "Billions" and one of the most brilliant legal minds that we know.

What is the significance of today? What is the significance of the DOJ saying, you`re going to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $100,000, you got to turn yourself in for not showing up to the January 6 Committee?

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It`s huge. I can`t say it better than Merrick Garland did in a beautiful statement today, in which he said, look, this investigation, what we`re doing here is important to protect the rule of law, but also equal justice under law, because we have had a regime for four years in which attorneys general coddled their friends, the Trump friends, and threw the rule book at enemies.

And this is now something different. Steve Bannon is there -- has been indicted for a simple reason. He`s afraid to go and tell the truth under oath to Congress of what he did, like that videotape you were just showing.

And I have lost track, quite honestly, of how many times Trump advisers have been criminally indicted as a whole. This isn`t even Steve Bannon`s first indictment. He was already indicted and convicted once before.

But this one`s a bigger deal than the past ones. And it`s bigger because it`s not about the lawlessness about fund-raising shenanigans, like Bannon`s last indictment. This is about the heart of our democracy, what happened on January 6, and what Bannon and Trump and all of these other people did to have the first armed attack on our Capitol in a couple hundred years.

JOHNSON: Emily, I have got to ask you this.

So, now that Bannon is going to be turning himself in, is this going to have the sort of trickle-down effect that the DOJ hopes that it has? Or are there going to be other sort of people who have been obstructionists, who don`t want to come to the committee who are like, you know what, maybe you will do that to Steve Bannon, he`s a big fish, but you`re not going to do that to me, or I have other legal avenues that allow me to justify not showing up to the committee?

Do you think it`s going to have people lining up to go to this committee and sort of testify, or do you think there will still be holdouts?

EMILY BAZELON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": So we have different groups of people.

Bannon, I think, is in one of the weakest positions, legally speaking, because he wasn`t working for the White House. He wasn`t even working for the government when all this went down. He hadn`t worked there since 2017.


And so the idea that he is in some zone of protection because of executive privilege is a real stretch, whereas, if you worked in the White House at the time, then you`re going to maybe have a more plausible claim. Someone like Mark Meadows, who is a big fish in this investigation, who is in Congress, is also in a different position.

But I think it shows that the Department of Justice is willing to get involved. And we did not know that would be the case. This is the first time the Department of Justice has issued this kind of indictment in a long time.

JOHNSON: So, John...


JOHNSON: ... as a former federal prosecutor, you have seen -- look, federal prosecutors tend to be very careful. They don`t go after people unless they`re pretty sure they have got this locked in.

What are the likely things that they`re going to say or what they`re going to sort of lay in front of Steve Bannon on Monday? Are they going to say, look, we`re throwing you in jail for a year? Are they going to say, we will drop these charges if you actually show up and testify?

What are the kinds of things that are going to be put in front of Steve Bannon when he`s in a dark room with one lightbulb swinging back and forth and he`s there with Kyra Sedgwick, and they`re doing a closer thing?


FLANNERY: Well, I don`t know what the plea negotiations at the first stage on Monday will mean. I expect it won`t mean very much.

But you do have a situation in which, after the district court decision, which really doesn`t depend on whether or not you`re a private person or working for the White House -- it basically said there is no privilege. And that`s one of the things they have been mentioning.

You have to wonder if they shouldn`t have thought of a different privilege, a Fifth Amendment privilege, which would be totally effective to avoid questioning and answers, but not producing documents.

And one of the problems with it being a House committee is, as we have seen, how long it can delay. Now, this is significant. The timing couldn`t be better. For those of us who have been on the attorney general`s case saying he was inert, or where is he or what is he doing, that`s kind of improved by the fact that he`s acted within a couple of days of the district court decision, and at a time when Meadows is trying to follow what Bannon did, which is that he failed to do, A, very, very complicated facts.

I didn`t produce the documents. I didn`t show up. And I gave you the thumb. And I said my defense was whatever the privilege was that the president has. And the court has basically said, sorry, the person who has that privilege is Biden, just as, in an earlier case, when we had Ford and Carter, both agreed that there was no privilege when Nixon wanted certain documents and exhibits not disclosed.

So I think, basically, we have a frivolous defense here. But we have a Justice Department that`s awakened and is doing what it needs to do. And if we continue on this trend, the next thing I`d like to see is an assistant U.S. attorney or U.S. attorney appointed to look at the crimes, because the best that the Hill can do at the end is perhaps to write a law, legislation and a report that may or may not be redacted and runs up against whatever may happen in terms of changing the House, and to McCarthy or someone else, a terrible result, in my personal political opinion.

But if we had a U.S. attorney investigating this, he would have powers, because of the criminal investigation, that, historically, we learned from Watergate are much more powerful. So that`s my wrap-up on what we have today.

So it`s a big day. It`s a great day. And it gives a lot of courage to people like me and others who think it`s been long past due to have a reckoning for all these people ignoring the law and ignoring the Constitution.

JOHNSON: Emily, so I`m curious about this.

I`m thinking -- I`m no legal expert in this regard. But I can think of plenty of committees that convene in Congress all the time that invite people and nobody shows up. I remember -- what was it? They had asked the owners or the founders of several social media groups to come in, and they just had a bunch of empty chairs and things like that.

So what is different about the January 6 Committee? Are we setting a precedent here that, forevermore, if somebody decides that they want to blow off Congress, then the DOJ might get involved? Or does the January 6 Committee have a special symbolic power that made this administration and made the DOJ decide to say, all right, look, we`re not blowing off things about steroids, we`re not talking about teenagers on I.G., this is about this country?

BAZELON: What makes it different is, this committee voted for a criminal referral to the Department of Justice and asked for this indictment.

So you`re right that people don`t show up all the time. And Congress` subpoena power, which has existed throughout the nation`s history, has been weakened by the fact that we haven`t had an indictment like this. Congress hasn`t sent its own sergeant of arms to go get someone who won`t testify since the early 19th -- the early 20th century.

So we have had a long, kind of fallow period where it was really unclear exactly what kind of enforcement mechanism there is. Now we know. You can get criminal contempt of court. You can get an indictment from the Department of Justice. Congress can get that if someone doesn`t show up and if Congress asks for it.


JOHNSON: Now, Neal, in my political fanfic, Donald Trump gets dragged in front of Congress in a white and black striped jumpsuit, and a ball and on his leg.

But here`s what`s interesting. Based on what we`re seeing today, based on what Emily just said, Congress now has the power, right? They can bring someone in. If they say, come in and testify and that person ignores it, they can send the cops to drag this person in.

Will the congressional committee, will the January 6 Committee be bold enough and brave enough to use this power one day against the former president of the United States who`s hiding out in Florida? Or do you think they`re going to stick to the sort of lower-level groups of people?

KATYAL: Well, I think all the Trumpistas got used to them not having any consequences for failing to show up and the like, and that`s definitely changed.

And there`s two different routes Congress can take. One is something Emily`s adverting to, which is the inherent power of Congress to enforce its subpoena power. That is not even involving the executive branch. Just Congress goes and uses the sergeant in arms to jail someone who`s refusing to tell the truth.

That was not invoked today. What was evoked today is the second route, the congressional route, a congressional vote to recommend that someone be held in criminal contempt, and then to have the executive branch, the Justice Department, decide whether to enforce it. And they did that today.

And I tell you, if you`re Mark Meadows or even Donald Trump, I think you have to be really worried about the action that took place today, because this was not like your usual 100-page, complex legal document fulfilled with legalisms to rebut Trump`s bizarre made-up claims of immunity or something.

This is a nine-page crisp document. And every hope that someone like Steve Bannon had to evade accountability is shredded in this single-digit document. And the audience here -- this is a unique document. It`s not -- I don`t think it`s written for lawyers. I think it`s written for you and me.

And, frankly, even Donald Trump might be able to understand it, because what it says is, the Congress says we need information from you, and you refuse to even show up because you`re afraid to tell the truth under oath, we`re going after you.

And I think, absolutely, they should go after -- Bannon is just the start. It starts with Bannon, and then it goes to Meadows. And then it goes to possibly Donald Trump himself. And so I think it`s a long process, but one that`s got -- I`m glad has finally kicked off. We`re almost a year after January 6. It`s about time.

JOHNSON: Now, Neal, I got to disagree with you there. You know Donald Trump doesn`t read. So he`s not going to look at that document.

I want to play some sound real quick. One of the things that I found most compelling about a lot of these investigations into Trump and his cronies is, these guys talk a lot. They talk a lot, and they say things that make it easier to bring them in.

So I`m going to play this sort of sound mash of Bannon and get your thoughts on the other side.


ROBERT COSTA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": He`s telling Steve Bannon over at the Willard Hotel, "We need to kill the Biden presidency in the crib."

That was the phrase, based on our reporting, in that conversation.

BANNON: Yes, because of his legitimacy; 42 percent of the American people, 4-2 percent of the American people think that Biden did not win the presidency legitimately. It killed itself.

People aren`t on the time, on the cycle. You got to do this. You got to jump this. Go to call to martial law, insurrection. Chill. Take a deep breath. This is the complete charade that`s the 6 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: So, Neal, all of these things he said are obviously protected under the First Amendment. He can say whatever he wants, but is there anything that he has been saying, or is it likely that they will find things in his podcast or his radio programs he said that will make him all the more likely to comply with the committee because he could be held accountable for some of those things?

KATYAL: So, my first reaction to that montage of clips is, my God, this person was advising the president of the United States.

I mean, just apart from January 6 and everything else, I mean, that itself is just astounding to me. That person belongs nowhere near the Oval Office or anywhere close to it.

Second, I think you`re absolutely right that these statements call into question this guy`s involvement with the January 6 set of events and probably others as well. And I think the most important piece is, it may go to his state of mind, because, in order to get the kind of criminal indictment that John is talking about, not on contempt for failing to show up, but actually the underlying January 6 violations themselves, what Bannon`s intent was at the time is going to be important.

And so this information and, yes, I suspect the prosecutors will ultimately seek to get his notes and text messages and things like that. All of that will bear on it. And, most importantly, what was Bannon doing on January 6? What was he saying? Who was he talking to? All of that.


Emily, I want to go to you real quick on this. He is facing up to potentially a year in jail, a $100,000 fine. Is it possible that Steve Bannon can say I`m no snitch and he will serve jail time, like a good mobster, like a good made man to Donald Trump, or do you think he will eventually flip?

BAZELON: I mean, he faced this question when he was indicted and convicted before, and he was pardoned by Donald Trump. So he`s kind of back in the cycle.

It`s also possible that he`s just going to be able or he will try to run out the clock. The district court judge ruled very quickly in this matter, but now we have appeals, we have a longer process.

And John alluded to this earlier, but if Congress changes over, in other words, if this takes more than a year, then the whole process has to start over again. So that is also a factor to consider.

JOHNSON: Emily Bazelon and John Flannery, thank you so very much.

Neal Katyal, stay with us.

Coming up, we will talk to an insider about Steve Bannon facing possible jail time, with no hope for a presidential pardon to protect him this time.

And that shocking audio of Donald Trump defending the terrorists who chanted "Hang Mike Pence." We will talk to Michael Steele.

Plus, we will expose how accused Kyle Rittenhouse has been a right -- becoming right-wing hero, especially on FOX News. Shocker.

A big night of breaking news here with us on THE BEAT. Stay with us.



JOHNSON: Back with the breaking news, Steve Bannon to turn himself in on Monday, indicted for refusing to comply with January 6 Committee subpoenas. He could face up to a year in prison.

In the days before January 6, Bannon was at the Willard Hotel, along with Giuliani and John Eastman, author of the so-called coup memo. One riot committee member says the hotel became the insurrectionist headquarters, Bannon regaining full MAGA insider status after getting booted from Trump`s White House way back in 2017.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bannon gets bounced.

LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR: West Wing lightning rod Steve Bannon is out tonight as President Trump`s chief strategist.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Steve Bannon is out. He walked out of the West Wing and right into the Breitbart newsroom, declaring he feels jacked up and free and says his hands are back on his weapons.


JOHNSON: After Bannon was axed, Ari Melber, who is usually in this seat, grilled him.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: What`s your current relationship with President Trump?

BANNON: You can see it every day on -- in TV. I mean, it`s exactly what people report. President Trump`s doing his thing. I`m doing my thing.

Remember, I didn`t really know President Trump that well before I stepped in took and in as CEO of the campaign.

MELBER: He said a lot about you when you had a public parting.


MELBER: Do you think he still believes those things about you?

BANNON: I don`t know and I don`t care.


JOHNSON: Yes, I don`t believe that at all.

In 2018, Breitbart`s former spokesperson wrote about Bannon`s exit -- quote -- "Bannon`s character and temperament made his stunning fall inevitable. Warning: Make no mistake. Steve won`t stop."

Those words were written by Kurt Bardella. Bardella had already made a public break from Bannon, while repudiating Trump and the entire MAGA movement.

Kurt Bardella joins me live, along with Neal Katyal, on what motivates Steve Bannon and what scares him.

We`re back in 60 seconds.


JOHNSON: Joining me now is Kurt Bardella, former Breitbart spokesperson who knows Steve Bannon well and ultimately repudiated Bannon. And back with us is Neal Katyal.

Kurt, I will start with you.

I did not know you before you rejected the Dark Side and pushed back against the Emperor.


JOHNSON: But you have an insight into working for Steve Bannon that I think most Americans would never want, but we nevertheless want to understand.

I`m going to play some audio of him right now. And then I want to get your thoughts on the other side about what it was like to work with this kind of person.


BANNON: Not national, Pat. Pat, I`m talking about Florida. Please stay focused.


BANNON: Stay focused, OK? I want to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) go through these states. I don`t give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about a national number.

Will you shut the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up and let the guy talk?




JOHNSON: I have heard of horrible bosses. I could work for Jennifer Aniston. I could work for Kevin Spacey. I wouldn`t want work for this guy.

What was it like working under Steve Bannon when you were at Breitbart, Kurt?

KURT BARDELLA, DCCC ADVISER: Well, it was a lot like that, Jason.

That excerpt is a terrific representation of what Bannon is like every single day on just about every single phone call that I ever was a part of. And it really -- it just shows this is Steve Bannon, this posture, this, I`m going to bully and use through sheer force of personality and, I guess, vocabulary, we will call it, I`m going to use these things as instruments to impose my will on whoever I want to achieve whatever my agenda is.

And that`s how he felt towards the January 6 Select Committee. That`s always felt towards Congress. He really believes that he is above it all. He believes that he can beat the other side into submission, that the other side doesn`t have the stomach for this kind of fight, that the other side doesn`t have the resolve that he does, and that ultimately they will back down and that he will survive and he will win.


Bannon is the ultimate cockroach, Jason. This is a guy who I watched go from buddying up to Rand Paul, to then moving on to Ted Cruz, to then, for a hot second, it was Ben Carson. Back in the day, it was Sarah Palin.

Then, ultimately, it fell onto Donald Trump. And he`s someone that`s always been in search of that host, a parasite to attach himself on to, in order to achieve more visibility, more fame, more money, more access, more power.

And in this dynamic that we`re seeing right now, with this recent indictment -- and I will say this because partly Neal`s on with us. I`m a big "Billions" fan. Steve Bannon thinks he`s "Dollar" Bill Stearn.


BARDELLA: In season one of "Billions," "Dollar" Bill Stearn gets arrested gets go by Chuck Rhoades.

And he sits there across from him and says: I don`t recognize your authority. I`m Keyser Soze.

That`s what Bannon thinks of himself as in this situation.

JOHNSON: So, here`s the thing, Neal. And this is what`s interesting to me.

When you see -- because, look, obviously, Donald Trump is not nearly as nice as Axe, right? He`s not nearly as charming and charismatic.


JOHNSON: When you see somebody like Steve Bannon and a video like that cussing at people, harassing people, insulting folks, in your experience, is that the kind of person who`s going to inspire any kind of loyalty?

Because, look, we see right now there are people who may be loyal to Trump or what they think is Trump`s remaining power. But if they have been abusive in the workplace, if they have been terrible, horrible bosses to people, isn`t it likely that there will be people who want to turn on Bannon and put the screws on him? And is that something to DOJ has access to?

KATYAL: So, first of all, I have been on a lot of TV with both of you guys, like dozens of hours, and I don`t think I have ever disagreed with you before, but I`m going to disagree with both of you.

So, Jason, the idea that Steve Bannon is like the Emperor in "Star Wars," or, Kurt, the idea that Bannon is like "Dollar" Bill in "Billions," those people are competent in what they do.


KATYAL: They`re like -- they know how to actually get evil done.

Bannon is a joke. He`s kind of like Trump. He has the anti-Midas touch. Everything he turn -- touches turns to, you know what the word is.

And so absolutely, Jason, I think, like, the most important point here is that if you`re Trump or if you`re, frankly, anyone else in January 6, you have got to worry that Bannon could turn against you. And this is not a guy known for his loyalty.

So it`s always about what`s in it for himself. He does -- there`s no like underlying principle, as Kurt is saying, behind him. And so that`s your kind of classic prisoner`s dilemma situation that prosecutors use all the time.

And so whether you`re Trump or whether you`re Mark Meadows or anyone, someone lower, you got to worry that Bannon right now might be thinking about trying to make a deal. Now, he didn`t have to worry about that in the last administration. Yes, he was indicted before for cheating on his build the wall campaign and ultimately convicted, but he knew at the end of the day he had a get-out-of-jail-free card, because President Trump was -- he was the president at the time and pardoned him.

There`s no get-out-of-jail-free card anymore. And so a self-interested, frankly, evil person like Bannon is probably going to think about what`s best for him and not anything else.

JOHNSON: So, both in visage and competence, he`s more Skeletor than Palpatine. I get it, Neal. That makes sense to me.


JOHNSON: So, I want to go back to this idea.

So, historically, how effective are these kinds of prosecutions? Because I`m looking at the sheet here. Congress doesn`t necessarily have a great track record when it comes to prosecuting people. Go back to the `50s. Sort of during the Red Scare, they were pretty effective.

How likely is it that Congress will be effective in going all the way through, not just with an indictment, but a full-fledged legal, criminal process with Steve Bannon? And is that something we`re likely to see? Or is this just sort of a scare tactic to get him to come in and finally fess up?

KATYAL: Kurt, do you take that or...

JOHNSON: Oh, that was to you, Neal.


KATYAL: Oh, sure. Great.

So, I think the question, Jason, is not really about whether Congress will be effective, but now whether the Justice Department will be effective. This is now an official prosecution by the United States government headed by the attorney general of the United States.

So Congress has actually now moved out of the picture when it comes to Bannon. And it is just a standard law enforcement action like everything else. Yes, Congress made a criminal referral and asked Merrick Garland to indict Steve Bannon. But now they have actually done it.

And the question about whether it`s successful -- will be successful with this prosecution is a rather difficult one, because, honestly, we don`t have them very much. The last one we had was 38 years ago. And the reason is because, when Congress says, hey, come forward and tell us the truth under oath, most normal people comply with that.

And to the extent they don`t, they have some really good reason. And that`s why Congress doesn`t vote a criminal referral.


But, here, they voted that criminal referral. The attorney general studied it very carefully and made the decision that we should have the -- that the indictment should be presented to the grand jury. And the grand jury has now signed off on that indictment.

So the criminal process has begun. And if you`re Bannon, I think you got no hope. I think this is not a hard case. He could hire Clarence Darrow, and it`s not going to matter.


JOHNSON: Kurt Bardella and Neal Katyal, fantastic conversation. Thank you guys so much.

Still ahead, we will talk to Michael Steele about Trump`s stunning defense of the rioters who chanted "Hang Mike Pence."

And then we will show you how an accused killer has become a folk hero on the right.

Stay with us. This is THE BEAT. I`m Jason Johnson.


JOHNSON: Steve Bannon indicted for stonewalling the January 6 probe. What did he know? What is he hiding?

Today, stunning new evidence emerging, audio of Trump supporting the insurrectionists, defending death threats to his own vice president.


JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Were you worried about him during that siege? Were you worried about his safety?"

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I thought he was well-protected, and I had heard that he was in good shape. No, because I had heard he was in very good shape.

But -- but, no, I think...

KARL: Because you heard those chants -- that was terrible. I mean, it was the...

TRUMP: He could have -- well, the people were very angry.

KARL: They were saying, "Hang Mike Pence."

TRUMP: Because it`s common sense, Jon. It`s common sense that you`re supposed to protect. How can you -- if you know a vote is fraudulent, right, how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?



JOHNSON: I mean, many men, many, many men wished death upon Mike Pence. You just never thought Donald Trump would be one of them or support those who did.

There was a gallows in Washington on January 6. Trump refusing to denounce this, even calling this behavior common sense.


RIOTERS: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!


JOHNSON: Trump just saying, oh, the people were angry, with Pence fleeing to a secure location to protect his life, all of this because of Trump`s election fraud, the lie he continued in that new tape supporting the insurrections, falsely calling the vote fraudulent.

And, today, his ally Steve Bannon facing jail time for refusing to talk to the January 6 Committee.

Joining me now is Michael Steele, former Maryland lieutenant governor and RNC chair.

Michael Steele, the man of steel, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

I have to start up front. You -- as a lifelong Republican, you have interacted with a lot of presidents and vice presidents, right? Sometimes, they`re close. Sometimes, they`re just working buddies. You know, they`re not always sort of Tango and Cash.


JOHNSON: What is -- what is wrong with the relationship between Donald Trump and Mike Pence when they were in office that leads to such a callous reaction to Pence being threatened with death earlier this year by the former president?

STEELE: Well, it really goes to the heart of any relationship with Donald Trump.

You need to understand that that relationship is, first and foremost, transactional, what can you do for me, not what I can do for you. So you`re looking at two transactional relationships here, one between Trump and his vice president, right, and one between Trump and his supporters, or, in the case of the group of rioters who were calling for the death of his vice president.

In the former, that is, again, a one-way transaction, in which it is expected that Mike Pence does what he`s expected to do to benefit Donald Trump, not the country, not the people voted for him, not even Pence himself.

When the vice president walks away from that, as he did leading up to the vote on January 6, indicating that he was going to follow the Constitution and the rule of law, that abrogated that relationship with Trump. So Trump no longer feels any allegiance to Mike Pence, because Mike Pence has clearly broken his allegiance to Trump.

When you shift to the transactional relationship with his supporters, who blindly go where no normal human being would go, that benefits Donald Trump. And so, when that individual shows up, builds the gallows, screams for Trump`s -- for Pence`s head or his blood. He`s going to honor that transaction by saying yes, well, they were angry, they were -- because guess what?

Trump sees that Pence didn`t do what he was asked to do. And, therefore, he`s going to turn to those who support his anger and his frustration, and give them the love that he will not give his vice president. So it`s purely transactional for Trump.

This man doesn`t have a feeling for any of these individuals, by the way, on either side of the transaction, his supporters or his vice president. This is all about how he`s benefited. And when one side breaks down, he uses the other to exact the punishment from the other side.

JOHNSON: So, Michael, when Donald Trump was president of the United States, I could understand some of the loyalty and fealty to him, because, look, he was the president of the United States.


JOHNSON: He could pardon you. He could offer you things like that.

But he doesn`t have a particularly good track record electorally, right? He lost the popular vote in 2016, gets booted out of the White House in 2020. Candidates that he supports aren`t necessarily successful. Glenn Youngkin said, stay out -- please get off my back. Please do not get involved. And he ended up winning in Virginia.

Why would anyone now, why would people like Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows, why would anyone continue to be loyal to Donald Trump today, when he doesn`t have any official power and he doesn`t even seem to have the kind of electoral juice that he had just three or four years ago?

STEELE: Well, because a lot of that electoral juice still plays itself out in Republican primaries.

So, you are looking at a Glenn Youngkin who did not go through a primary. They -- he went through a prefabricated convention system in which they did rank-choice voting, right, number one. Number two, they made sure that the candidates that were in there were largely palatable, they could manage that process.

It`s not the Wild Wild West that you may see in some of the other primaries around the country, which, again, Trump will use, and to his greatest advantage.


Here`s the question for those candidates. So you`re begging for Trump`s endorsement. Is that just all you need or want? What about the cash? Trump is sitting on three-quarters-of-a-billion dollars, right? So are you -- is he sharing the love with all those candidates that he`s endorsing who are standing in line breaking their back of and bending over to bend the knee for Trump?

No, they`re not getting any money from Donald Trump. So there is, again, this transactional relationship or the nature of this relationship that is very one-sided. It is not designed to actually grow the party, expand the reach along policy lines, but rather along personal lines for Donald Trump.

So it is the new reality inside the GOP. You will see a lot of it play out. Youngkin is an outlier. I think a lot of people need to cool their jets thinking that there`s some prescription here for candidates around the country.


STEELE: Because that`s not -- what you saw in Virginia is not how Republican primaries will be playing themselves out, particularly in those deep, hard-edged states like a Georgia and Ohio and elsewhere, where the Trumpian factions are a lot stronger.

JOHNSON: I do not understand why Republicans keep dancing for this man, since he won`t even make it rain when it comes to money for election time.

Michael Steele, thank you so much for joining us this evening.

STEELE: You got it, boss.

JOHNSON: Top voices on FOX News try to turn the accused killer of two Black Lives Matter protesters into a hero -- when we come back.



JOHNSON: A teenager facing homicide charges who killed two people is getting loud support from, shockingly, FOX News.

Today, the lawyers and judge meeting to discuss proposed lesser charges, which would lower the bar for conviction, the judge ultimately allowing the jury to consider that Rittenhouse provoked the attack, opening the door for the prosecution to argue that Rittenhouse was the aggressor, a win for the prosecution.

The ruling will raise the bar for Rittenhouse`s claim that he was acting in self-defense, a claim that many on the right are clinging to, despite Rittenhouse`s crocodile tear performance.

Take a look at FOX`s coverage of the case just this week.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: They`re vilifying an 18-year-old man. That would seem to me a classic case of self-defense.

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS: This kid shouldn`t have been indicted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s clear self-defense. No comment after that. She knows it`s self-defense.

PIRRO: It`s clearly self-defense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he did the right thing. He did what the government should have done, which was to make sure these dirtbags, these violent, disgusting dirtbags weren`t roaming the streets.

PIRRO: He was a good kid. He went there to clean up the graffiti on the buildings. That`s a good kid. That is the kind of kid who can grow up and have a moral core.

J.D. VANCE (R), OHIO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: It is child abuse masquerading as justice in this country. This entire trial, this entire force is an indictment on every institution in our society.


JOHNSON: Wow, I doubt any of these people thought it was child abuse when Trayvon Martin or Ma`Khia Bryant were killed by vigilantes.

Suggesting the government should have killed those protesters is the kind of thing that we hear all the time from FOX News.

This is a young man who took an illegally obtained AR-15 across state lines and shot three people, killing two of them.

FOX interviewing his family members and defense witnesses as part of their trial coverage is just par for the course.


WENDY RITTENHOUSE, MOTHER OF KYLE RITTENHOUSE: I thought he was going to die. This guy just put -- pointed his gun at his head.

President Biden don`t know my son whatsoever. And he`s not a white supremacist. He`s not a racist. He defamed him.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Why do you think so many media luminaries are defending this guy, Rosenbaum?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think because it fits some kind of narrative that they were trying to paint from the very beginning.


JOHNSON: I don`t know if Rittenhouse is a white supremacist, but when you take pictures with Proud Boys doing a neo-Nazi symbol, maybe that`s something that people will think.

Closing arguments for this trial are set for Monday. The whole nation will be watching.

Next up: a disaster, a cover-up, and accountability. A special interview for an upcoming documentary.



JOHNSON: Finally tonight, an important story about disaster and cover-up and accountability.

In 1959, a lab in Southern California experienced a partial nuclear meltdown, releasing radiation into the skies and the soil. It`s been described as -- quote -- "the most contaminated site in the United States."

Now, decades later, residents living near the site are seeing an uptick in cancer cases.

One of those residents is Melissa Bumstead. Her daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. She wasn`t alone.


MELISSA BUMSTEAD, PARENTS AGAINST SANTA SUSANA FIELD LAB: I met a family that said, oh, we live on your street. And, granted, we live on a long boulevard. It`s three miles, but they lived on our street.

And she said, and my neighbor had the same exact brain cancer that my son had. And there were two of them, neighbors, plus my daughter. That`s three on the same street. And for a long time, we couldn`t find the connections.

And it was about a year after that someone mentioned for the first time the Santa Susana Field Lab. I`d never heard of it. We all had to start wrestling with the fact that maybe our children`s cancers could have been avoided. Maybe other children were in danger.

Maybe our government hadn`t protected us the way that they should have.


JOHNSON: This tragedy is the subject of a new MSNBC documentary, "In the Valley of the Dark."

Joining me now is filmmaker Nicholas Mihm and Melissa Bumstead, the parent activist you saw in that clip.

Thank you all so very much.

I want to start off by saying I`m extremely, extremely happy that you`re making this. Several years ago, I saw a documentary, "Atomic Homefront," about a similar situation happening in St. Louis. The impact on these families is tragic.

Melissa, I will start with you. How did you connect with this documentary? How did this sort of come about? How did this relationship get built in connection to your activism?

MELISSA BUMSTEAD, PARENTS AGAINST SANTA SUSANA FIELD LAB: Well, we -- I started learning about all the other children in our community who had childhood cancer.

That`s when -- the first time we`d ever learned about the Santa Susana Field Lab, even though I lived close to the site almost my entire life.

We started a petition. And that`s actually where I met Nicholas and the Smith brothers. They came back later and said, we have realized we can`t fit the story into something seven minutes` long. And we`d like to tell a bigger story. We realized that would be an opportunity for people to really experience what it`s like to have a child have cancer and live in a community that`s daily in danger of radioactive and chemical contamination.


JOHNSON: Nicholas, I want to play you some sound from Daniel Hirsch. He is a recent retired director of the Environmental -- Environmental Nuclear Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He gives some background on what you have got in the ground there.

I want to get your thoughts on the other side of this sound.


DANIEL HIRSCH, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ: The Santa Susana Field Laboratory is on a mountain. Gravity wants to carry that contamination downhill.

When it rains, the surface water carries the radioactivity down intermittent streams. You contaminate everything along the L.A. River and the various streams that lead to it.


JOHNSON: Nicholas, when you see that sort of thing, when you have those kinds of interviews, how did that affect you as a director? Did it did it make you want to sort of go screaming from the camera and say, why haven`t people been talking about this all along?

Was it something that you have seen in other kinds of documentaries you have done? How do scenes like that affect you when you`re putting this together?


I think it really does hit hard. I think one of the biggest things that we learned during the production of this documentary was how little was known publicly about the site. And when you play clips like that, and you hear just how easily it is for this -- these contaminants to get off-site, it`s pretty amazing that this isn`t bigger news.

We were -- even people from our crew who live in that area had never heard of it, until we had brought the project to them and we had hired these people to work with us.

And we`re still getting e-mails. Our film is playing at festivals. And we`re still getting e-mails from people in the neighborhood that have told us the first they have heard of it, or that their family members have lived there around the site for decades and are ill.

So it hits pretty hard that something like this has been kind of swept under the rug for so long.

JOHNSON: Melissa, I want to play you another clip from the documentary. And it`s one of the other mothers who`s advocating and talking about some of the challenges that are faced by these families. I want to get your thoughts on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These women have given so selflessly of themselves and are fight -- have fought and continue to fight.

This is not what they want to talk about over dinner. They don`t want to sit up and read EPA documents. They want to have a good time.


JOHNSON: Melissa, it`s always in sort of political environments. It`s like, oh, we need to listen to moms, we need to listen to suburban moms.

But when you have an issue like this, it`s like you`re screaming into the wind sometimes. You can`t get politicians. You can`t get the press to pay attention to it.

Share with our audience, what are some of the challenges that you and other mothers have faced trying to bring attention to the fact that not only are you guys basically on a former nuclear waste site that`s been pumping out chemicals, but there are increased cancer rates for children and adults in that area?

BUMSTEAD: Well, I think, pretty much in every situation, we have to overcome the hysterical mom stereotype. That`s a really easy way to silence people who are maybe not scientists, but they notice in their community that it just doesn`t feel right.

They -- we have government officials who have listened to us, Representatives Brownley and Sherman have been fantastic out here in California. But it just seems like, as far as you go, there`s just an invisible force keeping us back.

And I think that`s because there`s corruption within some of the government agencies that are meant to be protecting us. And we find not only, in our site, but even in the 107 other nuclear sites across America, of radioactive sites owned by the American government, it`s the same story.

They want to minimize the danger and the risk. They don`t want to take responsibility, and they`re willing to let children suffer for it.

JOHNSON: This is one instance where people having to do their own research is legitimate, because, most times, these communities are forced to dig up their own data, do their own FOIA requests just to find out what has been pumped into their water.

Nicholas, as you have had this documentary, as it`s been touring around the country at festivals, we will be showing it on MSNBC on Sunday night, what do you want viewers to take from it? Do you want them to call their member of Congress? Do you want them to donate to organizations? What`s something you want people to take from this?

MIHM: Absolutely.

I think I want our audience to feel how we felt when we were making this movie. We want them to feel angry. We want them to feel empathy for these families that we talked to that are constantly every day staring down the barrel of this gun.

So we want people to get activated. We want people to call their representatives, especially if you live in California, or -- and also just do some research and see how close you live to one of these sites, because the matter of the fact is that you probably live closer than you think, because they`re everywhere.

And these places are dangerous and need to be cleaned up.

JOHNSON: Nicholas Mihm and Melissa Bumstead, thank you so much for your work. Thank you so much for this documentary.

Watch "In the Dark of the Valley" Sunday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC.

That does it for me.

"THE REIDOUT WITH" -- that`s not Joy -- I guess it`s Tiffany Cross -- coming up next.