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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 11/15/21

Guests: Sam Nunberg, Nick Akerman, Vicky Ward


Trump insider Steve Bannon turns himself over to federal authorities. President Biden signs into law one of the largest investments In the nation`s infrastructure ever. Closing arguments are given in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

Tonight, we have got a lot going on, new reporting on Trump insider Steve Bannon turning himself in to the feds today, indicted for multiple crimes. My legal breakdown, my take on that, I`m going to share with you tonight.

But we begin with the biggest news in the nation, the president sealing one of his biggest wins to date, signing into law the largest investment in the nation`s infrastructure since Eisenhower actually funded the Interstate Highway System. That`s how far back you have to go to get to what this president is doing today formally, under law.

It`s about a trillion dollars total for roads, bridges, ports, transit, broadband and more. It`s something Donald Trump talked about, but never did. The new president, Joe Biden, did it with some bipartisan support. And now I can tell you, as we report the news in America, tonight, in America, for the first time, this is now law.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bill I`m about to sign into law is proof that, despite the cynics, Democrats or Republicans can come together and deliver results.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are here because of the millions of Americans who believed that we could get this done.

Well, we got it done, America.


MELBER: Fact-check, true.

You`re looking at the footage from this big signing ceremony at the White House, over 800 in attendance, governors, mayors, local officials, and congressional leaders like Pelosi and Schumer, prominent Republicans also backing it, Republican Senators Romney and Collins, and some of the House Republicans who have been reportedly facing down actual death threats for voting for something that, as I mentioned, the former Republican president claimed to also support.

If this were about the money or the policy, this has been a real test of what the right will even allow in this Biden era as he marks a victory today.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): To paraphrase one of my favorite former vice presidents, it`s a big F`ing deal.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): This is what can happen when Republicans and Democrats decide we`re going to work together to get something done.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is a great accomplishment. And there`s more to come.

SCHUMER: This bill can be summed up by a four letter word, J.O.B.S.


SCHUMER: Jobs, jobs, and more of those jobs, more good-paying jobs.


MELBER: Kind of a long-winded way to say jobs, but you get the idea. These are politicians. They got to find all the different ways to make these points.

The White House is betting that this level of investment carried across the entire country is something that the American public will see and feel in the short term and the long term, results as a matter of both policy and politics.

And there are plenty of ways you can measure this. There`s the billions going to shipping ports. Many are still strained by pandemic disruptions and the ongoing supply chain crisis, or Amtrak getting $4 billion -- that`s $4 billion -- to replace a 150-year-old tunnel that plagues what is the railroad`s busiest route.

We could go on. There are many examples of what has already been selected for the funding. It is the kind of real-world governing challenge that Beltway polls and pundits can quickly forget as they spend time speechifying inside Washington.

And don`t take my word for it. It`s actually a point that the president made himself today with a brief kind of Eminem-style moment during the signing ceremony, Joe Biden pausing and basically asking the real governing leaders to stand up, basically asking, will the real governors please stand up?


BIDEN: Where are the governors?

Governors, stand up, red states, blue states. You all contacted me, and more than 375 mayors, Democrats and Republicans, wrote me asking to get this done.


BIDEN: You got it, kid.


MELBER: "You got it, kid."

Let`s get to it, kids.

We are joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and writer Jon Meacham, who has advised president-elect Biden, and Maya Wiley, who knows her way around politics. She came in second in the New York mayoral race for mayor, of course, and has served previously in de Blasio administration.

Maya, will the real governors and real local officials stand up? Because, as the president put it, they`re the ones who are most in touch with what people on the ground need right now.

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, the governors are very happy right now, because what this bill means and the investments that it brings is, whether in Michigan, tens of thousands of good union jobs.


If you`re in Benton Harbor, Michigan, where you have been drinking bottled water because of lead poisoning in your water, I mean, you`re going to feel it, and these governors need it to get the job done for their people.

And at the end of the day, the only thing I would disagree with about your opening, Ari -- and I never disagree with your opening -- is, the Biden administration didn`t just do this for politics. It did it because you have got to do the right thing for the country. And that`s why Democrats were going to be willing to do an infrastructure bill with Donald Trump, because it was the right thing to do for the country.

We have had engineers and experts telling us for decades that we were underspending on infrastructure, as well as the social benefits like jobs, putting money in people`s pockets, that that brings to taking care of family.

So, this is a win-win. It does matter for governors. It matters for people. But it was the right thing to do without regard to the politics.

MELBER: Well, you`re one of our trusted experts, Maya, so far be it for me to disagree with your disagreement.

What I think we were referencing or reporting is, there`s the policy argument and there`s the politics of the moment we`re living in with all the tough times, and the supply chain and the inflation and whether this also affects the mood out there.

But I will have Jon as well speak on the point Maya raises, which is that, first and foremost, in her view, this is a policy priority for this administration hijack this country right now. Your thoughts on that? And then, second, as one of our experts, Jon, I`m curious what you see in the sweep of history here.

It`s very hard to get a sense of it as we go in real time. But when we look at the numbers and the spending history, and just how rare or how infrequent it is that you get this sort of national investment, I`m curious your thoughts about where this fits in long term.

JON MEACHAM, NBC NEWS HISTORIAN: Well, Bill Clinton used to say that a president is lucky to get a sentence. Lincoln saved the union and FDR defeated the Depression, won World War II.

Biden`s well on his way to writing his sentence here. This is a significant investment in the country. It will rank, I think, with what President Eisenhower was doing in the 1950s. The fact that we`re still talking about President Eisenhower and what happened with the interstate highway bill, I think, proves the point.

Infrastructure was a dividing question in the early republic. Jefferson and Hamilton disagreed about it. Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson disagreed about it. Only about the time we reached the Civil War was it sort of resolved that the federal government had a role to do -- government should do what people cannot do for themselves.

And providing the means, the mobility for commerce and prosperity and bringing communities together is, broadly defined, an agreed-upon American initiative. So, in that sense, you both are right. It`s both good policy and it`s good politics for President Biden.

It is an example where he got Republican votes for something, which is a vanishingly rare thing. It`s like finding a pterodactyl somewhere for -- in this climate for there to be people crossing the aisle.

And I think that what we`re looking at -- and I hear this a lot from folks who are not big Biden supporters -- is, we have to prove -- we, broadly put, the country has to prove that competence is not as rare as people tend to think it is, and that democracy can deliver for its people.

And I think, if you can check those boxes, then it`s not going to break the fever that`s on the right, but it`s going to -- it might bring it down a little bit.

MELBER: Yes, you put it so clearly, Jon. And that goes to why this infrastructure bill is different. One can imagine things that Biden could have spent money on that would be historically or logically divisive, which isn`t to say whether they`re right or wrong. It`s just to say, well, a whole bunch of people who live in this country oppose them.

That`s not bridges and roads. That`s not a Trump infrastructure week that came out more than once a year, which begs the question whether it was really infrastructure week, right, or just a rerun.

But, either way, it spoke to the popularity. And so now you have this president leading that, which brings me the other thing I want to ask both of you about.

Our panel is going to stay.

Just a quick reminder to everyone that one top Senate leader did skip today`s historic signing. That`s Mitch McConnell. He went from vowing 100 percent opposition to Biden agenda and trying to stop many of the steps up until today to this shift. The wily senator saw that Biden was winning on this one, and decided he wanted to be on board.

In the end, Mitch McConnell voted for this bill and has already rushed to tell local media in his state it was a -- quote -- "godsend" for money on the ground there, including upgrading a Kentucky bridge that had been deemed obsolete for 30 years running.


Just some quick facts, Maya, on what might be many different reasons one could support this spending in a red or blue state. What do you think about the dance McConnell continues to do? And I think our viewers, who I hear from time to time, know their politics. Mitch McConnell seems to know how to stay in office, which seems to suggest that he thinks, at the end of the day, this thing`s going to be popular in his red state.

WILEY: Yes, well, remember, Mitch McConnell wanted an infrastructure bill when Donald Trump was president, couldn`t get it because he didn`t have the presidential leadership to get it done.

And this was not one that was either expedient or good policy for him to pass up. So what he did that was political was not show the bipartisanship, right? That was the cynical, political move here, rather than to celebrate what was good for everyone and what Democrats and Republicans could come together and agree on.

Now, I think -- but going back to Jon`s point on history, which is so important, which is why we`re back to policy, not just politics, is, the build it back bill is going to be so important, because, just like in the New Deal and then the Fair Deal, it`s who got the deal.

And for too often, it was people of color and people of color communities that were essentially written out of the benefits of the kinds of infrastructure spends that we have gotten and some of the social infrastructure spans. The build it back bill is the promise that there will be additional spending that will take care of everyone, but also make sure there`s more money in the pockets of people of color too, which sometimes does not -- is not what happens with infrastructure spending, as important as it is.

So this is critical. It is a victory lap. It should be for all the right reasons that we have all said. But it also points to why the next one is so important.

MELBER: Yes, I really appreciate you bringing that up. And I know it`s something a lot about and have worked on, Maya.

And it goes to, even when there`s been funding that may have helped deal with certain things, whether that`s, as mentioned, Eisenhower bill or what Robert Moses did in New York, history also shows the way that has been uneven or even reinforced inequities.

And they wrote up this very big bill to address a lot of that. We have done some previous coverage on that, as well as trying to deal with over this year child poverty and other issues across all groups and classes.

Jon, I want to play for you one Republican talking about all of this. This is Congressman Bacon weighing in on just what it`s like to get any of this stuff done. Take a listen.


REP. DON BACON (R-NE): They`re being intentionally deceived by some folks in our party in Washington and some of the so-called conservative media outlets.

To say that a bill is right for your district, right for your state, and that -- something you helped write, but then you got to vote against it because you don`t want to go the other side of victory, that is a sign of what`s broken.


MELBER: Fair point?

MEACHAM: Fair, well put, bravely put for a Republican from Nebraska. And I think that`s exactly right.

We shouldn`t be overly nostalgic, to go to what Maya was talking about. There was not some once upon a time Edenic world in American politics that somehow disappeared when Donald Trump became president. There was never a once upon a time in American life. And I don`t think there`s going to be a happily ever after.

Democracy is a perpetual struggle to try to see each other as neighbors and not as adversaries. And so the notion that you can`t govern if you see the merits of something, and just because it might briefly give the -- maybe it`s the other side`s idea, although infrastructure is not -- it`s a universal thing.

If you can`t cast that vote, then we`re not really a functioning republic, because then you`re in simply a struggle to hold power, and not necessarily to do anything with it.

But if the marshaling of power, the hoarding of it is the goal of a political party or a political movement, not to then use that power for the greater good, to use an older term, then, basically, the republic itself stops functioning.

And I think that today`s a good day for folks who believe in American democracy, as flawed as it is. And as Maya says, the fight begins anew on this next part of the agenda. It`ll be far more controversial, obviously. But, in President Biden`s view -- and he got 81 million votes -- this is worth spending money on the infrastructure, more human infrastructure.

And we will just see who can prevail.

MELBER: All great points.

I`m running out of time in this particular segment. Jon often teaches us many things.

You said it. Did you say Edenic, Edenic? Is that Garden of Eden reference?

MEACHAM: Edenic.

MELBER: Edenic.


MEACHAM: A Garden of Eden reference, because it`s Monday, and I thought we would start there.

MELBER: Why not start the week with the first book?

MEACHAM: Where it all began.

MELBER: It just raises -- where it began.

It just raises the question, Jon, if this is an Edenic allegory that we`re working off of, what is the snake? Is it Twitter? Or is it Newsmax?

MEACHAM: It`s ambition.

To take your sort of tongue-in-cheek question seriously, this is why we have a republic. We have a republic because the founders understood, for all of their imperfections, that we had to find a way to curb our appetite and our ambition, and actually see that perhaps only getting 51 percent of what you want is worth it.

And I think without -- we have lost that -- we have lost that sense. And so, for Republicans who think that somehow another that is not right, I refer you to Ronald Reagan, who said he`d rather get 60 percent of what he wanted and then go back and fight for the 40. Don`t aim for 100 and then walk away if you can`t get everything you want.

MELBER: Well, since you brought us Genesis...


MELBER: Go ahead, Maya.

WILEY: I just said, I think Jon`s talking to Senator Manchin there.

MELBER: there`s all sides of it.

I was just going to say, because I`m out of time, that we started the week with Genesis here, and we learn from Jon as we go, so we will see what happens tomorrow.

Jon and Maya kicking us off, thank you both.

We turn to two breaking stories next, Steve Bannon arraigned in federal court today, shockwaves in Trump world, and the closing arguments in the Rittenhouse murder trial, with a dramatic end in a chaotic courtroom.


THOMAS BINGER, KENOSHA COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: But what you don`t get to do is kill someone on the street. He`s guilty of all counts.



MELBER: We have legal breakdowns on both those stories coming up.



MELBER: Major legal news today, as Trump White House veteran Steve Bannon formally surrendered to the feds for his indictment on two crimes.

Bannon exiting a black SUV today to face a hearing that begins what will be this prosecution for two counts of contempt over his defiance of Congress. This was quite a scene you see here for the one-time Trump campaign chair and right-wing gadfly, reporters mobbing Bannon. He was headed into an FBI field office.

He also streamed what you see here as part of the arrival himself. He shared it on his own video service. He was rocking his signature look of deliberately disheveled as he entered the building there. He faces an outcome that he essentially sought by blatantly defying legal subpoenas and congressional requests.

Now, Bannon has come to embody the MAGA movement in this post-Trump administration era. Once pardoned by that president, this time, he`s on his own. And he`s gone farther in his defiance than even Trump`s lawyers suggested. I will explain that in a moment.

But, first, consider that whatever Bannon hoped the public might see and think of this, today is far more than some spectacle. This is a legal shift. There were a lot of debates about law and cooperation back in the Trump era. Congress found that Donald Trump obstructed and Congress impeached him for it. But he was not, under the Constitution, convicted for that.

This right now is different. January 6 has clearly become a national flash point. And today`s legal process is not the political part. The bad news for Bannon is, this is the criminal part, with the Justice Department finding that Bannon committed a new crime, while covering up whatever went down on January 6.

And DOJ will do everything in its power to now convict and jail him for it. In court, Bannon is presumed innocent and has a right to a fair trial. Out of court, as he livestreamed his own perp walk into that building, he tried to divert attention from that somber process and create a kind of a pep rally, claiming an assortment of supporters, while decrying the noise he himself was amplifying.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Everybody watching in the "War Room," we`re here today. I don`t want anybody to take their eye off the ball of what we do every day, OK?

We got the Hispanics on our side, African-Americans coming on our side. We`re taking down the Biden regime. Every day, the focus -- you got Raheem Kassam today. You got Dr. Peter Navarro, Captain Bannon. You`re going to have Boris Epstein, the whole show, intense.

We got polling out, economic data out, everything. I want you guys to stay focused, stay on message. Remember, signal, not noise. This is all noise. That`s signal.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Are you optimistic today?


MELBER: That is the Bannon of it all. He`s claiming to take down an administration while walking into court because he has no other choice.

You see there the fusion of bravado and broadcasting that blurs any sense of which part of this is real and which part is another piece of show?

Now, that is deliberate. That`s why he and Donald Trump vibed so much on the campaign trail. But that`s not the end of the story tonight. We give you all the facts. We will show his perspective, like we would in any trial.

But look inside the courtroom. These are the new sketches, where Bannon sat quietly with his lawyers. He was there, captured in his trademark double popped collar and a brown jacket. He took, reportedly, some notes, as if this were a serious process, not the noise that he claimed it to be outside.

He was subjected to the standard swearing-in before the federal judge. And the other difference that hangs over Bannon is, this time, he will be judged through a system that is not overseen by the president he helped elect.

Now, Bannon is not just another MAGA figure in a long line of loud people. He chaired the general election campaign that Trump won. He is the guy who landed the plane, who won the Electoral College, who got the promotion to chief strategist in the White House, where he pushed policy, leading his specific list of goals that were put up on his famous whiteboard, which could be seen in those photos there when he would meet with people, immigration crackdowns, repealing Obamacare.

The board behind him was his public promise to perpetual fights.


BANNON: The third, broadly, line of work is, what is deconstruction of the administrative state?

And if you...


BANNON: If you think they`re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.


Every day, every day, it is going to be a fight.


MELBER: It`s always a fight with him.

But this matters beyond the character. There are some who try to reduce Steve Bannon to a character or a caricature. And that actually, weirdly, feeds partly into his own narrative. But the history is more complicated. It speaks to this clash tonight of why it matters.

Bannon has always looked for these fights. It is not merely a public act. It actually informs his approach to campaigning and governing and leading his claimed movement, which, if you haven`t noticed, even though they lost the last election, is a part of our national life.

It is a view that there must always be powerful enemies to fight, that the system itself is broken. It cannot be reformed. It must be, as he just said, deconstructed.

It`s why Bannon spent his first weeks in power and thus Trump`s first weeks in power leading charges that often failed as a matter of governance, like a travel ban that was ultimately pared back. At that time, in 2017, Bannon was a smart guy deliberately leading the government into basically breaking the law.

A travel ban that he rammed through rushed and unchecked was then struck down by the courts. Well, now Bannon continues this type of project. He lives his own life with a spurt of bravado and risk-taking.

I actually pressed him about this in our BEAT interview back in 2018, bearing down on the questions about his funding. He was cagey, while claiming that raising it was no problem.


MELBER: How much money does your group have?

BANNON: We have raised quite a bit of money.

MELBER: Over $5 million?

BANNON: Over $5 million, yes.

MELBER: Over $10 million?

BANNON: I don`t want to put a specific name -- number on it.

MELBER: Is there anyone you would not take money from?

BANNON: Well, I would not take money from foreigners, right?

I mean, there`s certain people -- I`m pretty selective about who I take money from. I have always had good partners, always had partners that have been pretty happy. So, I`m pretty selective about who I take money from.

But I have never had -- I have never had a problem raising money.


MELBER: Never had a problem raising money. Maybe not, but he did have a problem raising it legally. That`s according to prosecutors, who indicted Bannon for literally ripping off his own MAGA supporters and Trump fans to take their money.

I don`t know whether that makes him selective or not, as he claimed in our interview, but those led to charges that he was defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors, promising them he would take their money to build the wall.

Now, those are charges that he evaded with a pardon from Trump. And that came after the earlier falling out with Trump, which all began, as so many of these things do in MAGA land, not with reality but with perception and media, a falling out after "TIME" magazine dubbed Bannon the great manipulator.


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.


MELBER: Hands back on his weapons. Again, that`s -- in his case at the time was a reference to the media weapons. And he went on to argue that he was basically still the self-anointed leader of this MAGA movement.


MELBER: 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.


MELBER: He claimed not to care. But he certainly cared about getting the ultimate exercise of power from President Trump, a pardon over a case that they ought to care about, which was whether or not Trump fans were being defrauded.

Legally, a pardon is, in its acceptance, an admission of guilt. This time, there`s no pardon on the horizon from a president who ejected Trump from the White House.

And that goes now to the legal part. I have just given you a lot of context, but it`s very important to understand exactly why Bannon is in this criminal hot water right now. You may have seen headlines that he`s doing Trump`s bidding. But let`s look at this actual new indictment, which shows that Trump was only -- quote -- "requesting Bannon not disclose privileged information, `while Bannon lawyer then said that Bannon would not be producing documents or testifying at all.

So let me explain what that means in plain English. Even Steve Bannon`s lawyers admit they are doing more defiance than Donald Trump is asking for right now. That is a terrible legal strategy, because -- and Adam Schiff and others have talked about this -- where there might be some debatable thing, like privilege issue or a scope issue of how much is Congress really asking for, lawyers meet and talk about that, it can take a long time.


You don`t get indicted in the middle of that negotiation. But Bannon right now went further than Trump and just said he won`t cooperate at all, which is what the DOJ says is now the crime.

Add to that Bannon`s role at the so-called command center for what would be an insurrection, where he pledged all hell would break loose just hours before the riot.

Now, after today`s court appearance, Bannon was back on brand.


BANNON: This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden.

Joe Biden ordered Merrick Garland to prosecute me from the White House lawn when he got off Marine One. And we`re going to do -- we`re going to go on the offense. We`re tired of playing defense. We`re going to go on the offense on this.


MELBER: Fact-check, no evidence has been offered for that.

Now, by the way, if there was hard evidence of some sort of meddling at the DOJ, well, that would help and a trial, and we would certainly report it.

But this is that slippery push and pull, someone who has gotten accustomed to playing this game when he had an incumbent president at his back. Here he is threatening, it would seem to me, the attorney general, talking about misdemeanors, talking about the idea that he doesn`t just want his hands back on his weapons.

He thinks somehow he can use the public pressure to distort the legal process and maybe get his hands back on political power, on the federal government in America.

Where does this go from here? We have two very special experts who know their way around these people and these tricky legal issues.

We`re back in just 60 seconds.


MELBER: Trump ally Steve Bannon in court today charged with two crimes.

I`m joined by former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman, and journalist Vicky Ward, the author of "Kushner, Inc."

Good to have you both here.

Nick, take a listen to exactly what Steve Bannon claimed outside of court today.


BANNON: This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden.

Joe Biden ordered Merrick Garland to prosecute me from the White House lawn when he got off Marine One. And we`re going to do -- we`re going to go on the offense. We`re tired of playing defense. We`re going to go on the offense on this.


MELBER: Nick, as a Watergate prosecutor, you dealt with this very intersection, people who`ve served in a White House, people who can make claims about politically motivated prosecutions.

What do you see here today? And what kind of defense does Mr. Bannon have?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: He really has no defense at all. I mean, he has a defense in public opinion.

But the bottom line is, he`s now in the criminal system. He`s going to be arraigned formally on Thursday. He`s going to have to plead not guilty, I assume. He`s going to go through discovery. He`s going to go through motions. I mean, this whole process will drag out.

I mean, the problem with this entire prosecution is that if the goal was to get him to cooperate and obey the subpoena, what Congress should have done was what they did back in the 1920s with the Teapot Dome scandal, and basically send out the sergeant at arms to arrest Mr. Bannon.

MELBER: Put him in the basement.

BANNON: Bring him in, right, and put him in the basement, and put him in prison, and keep him there until he testifies.


MELBER: I got to redirect you lawyer to lawyer. We have heard other people on our air say that would have been the more aggressive move.

But, as for the case, Mr. Bannon seems to argue, if we`re going to take him seriously, that this was somehow politically motivated, called in by the president. He`s offered no evidence of that. The indictment reads pretty straightforward in using his own lawyers` letters against him.

Do you see a strong case here that he committed these two crimes?

AKERMAN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, there`s no question that he basically refused to come in and testify. He refused to engage the committee, and he refused to produce to the documents. I mean, he is guilty. There`s no question about it.


This whole business about executive privilege is completely bogus. The Supreme Court spoke on this back in Watergate in the Nixon case. I mean, executive privilege does not apply to people who are talking about overthrowing the government and pulling off an insurrection at the Capitol. It`s ridiculous.

This is something that Donald Trump made up. And it`s all being geared towards politics and claiming that it`s politically motivated...


AKERMAN: ... which is exactly what all of the defendants did in the Watergate scandal.

MELBER: Right.

AKERMAN: And they still went to jail.

So it really, at the end of the day, doesn`t make a lot of difference.


AKERMAN: What`s concerning me politically here is that the Congress was afraid to use the power that was given to them to be able to go out and arrest him.

MELBER: Yes. I hear you on that.


MELBER: I hear you on that.


AKERMAN: And, to me, that`s the politics.

MELBER: Well, then you got to go be a counsel to one of the committees, Nick.


MELBER: Let me bring in Vicky here as well.

There`s a difference between opposing Mr. Bannon`s actions, what he represents, and underestimating him. He was underestimated in `16. They did win the Electoral College with his closing argument strategy. He was previously indicted by prosecutors with a strong case, had a very special friend, of course, but he did beat the case through a pardon, which is lawful.

This time, do you see any evidence that Mr. Bannon has picked a fight he can`t win?

VICKY WARD, AUTHOR, "KUSHNER, INC.": I think are that the danger, what has happened, to Nick`s point, is that you kind of are witnessing the beginning of the canonization of Steve Bannon among the MAGA crowd, that Steve Bannon, we all forget, has a background in Hollywood.

He is now basically producing, writing, directing, and starring in his own movie, which he has total control of. And I think you`re going to see scenes right out of the Roger Stone playbook. There`s not going to be a court appearance, a moment in public where he`s not going to be delivering rhetoric, rallying the war cry to the millions of people who follow him.

You are -- he`s basically resurrecting himself, even if he goes to jail, probably especially if he goes to jail, as the leader of the populist right. He`s putting himself back...


MELBER: As a student of this, do you think he is truly prepared to go to jail?

WARD: I wouldn`t be surprised at all.

I think, from my reporting, the times that I have spoken to him, he`s a former Navy officer. He often -- almost always talks in -- with military terms. He does see, as you pointed out, the world right now as a war. And I think he will -- I think he`s prepared to do what it takes. I do.

MELBER: Very interesting. Two perspectives here.

And, Nick Akerman, if your phone rings, and they call you up in the house because they want an even more assertive lawyer, there are some who credit the House for a quick process that got this indictment. You want even more. You want him in the basement. Let us know, and we will report it out as news.

Nick and Vicky, thanks to both of you.

Coming up, we have a lot more.

Bannon`s pressure point and that breaking point. We have a very special guest live on THE BEAT that I don`t think you want to miss.

And, later, a case we have been following, along with America, closing arguments in the murder trial, someone who opened fire, killing two protesters at a BLM rally. Deliberations about to begin.

My breakdown later.




BANNON: You should understand, Nancy Pelosi took -- has taken on Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. She ought to ask Hillary Clinton how that turned out for them, OK? We`re going on the offense.


QUESTION: ... providing these documents?

BANNON: Stand by.


MELBER: Trump White House veteran Steve Bannon is literally a defendant today. But he says he`s going on offense.

I`m joined by a former aide to both individuals. Sam Nunberg has worked for the Trump campaign. He also knows Steve Bannon very well. Indeed, his travels with Bannon on a private jet were mentioned in a 2019 documentary. You can see them there logging quality time in the air.

Welcome back to THE BEAT, Sam.

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Thank you for having me, Ari.

MELBER: Let`s put it in the most crisp "Succession" era way possible.

You know this man. What is Steve Bannon`s play today?

NUNBERG: Steve probably realizes that he will go to jail. He certainly doesn`t want to have to do the full year.

As you saw today, when he streamed himself showing up to the federal court, he will use this for all media-intensive purposes. I can even see him giving interviews from jail, if the Republicans are in control of Congress, saying that there should be a committee set up against a Hunter Biden or something like that.

I would also say that this is very smart. Look, I was thinking about this before. We think alike, whether we get along right now, Steve and I. And he`s absolutely right about Biden commenting on the prosecution. He did comment and say that he believes that they should be prosecuted if they didn`t comply with subpoenas.

This hearkens back to the Clinton 2015 investigation.


MELBER: I will let you finish. I will let you finish, because I invited you on.

But, to be clear to viewers, there is no evidence that has been publicly submitted that this was called in by the president. That`s the nature of the improper allegation that Bannon made. But go ahead.

NUNBERG: Correct. Correct, a 100 percent.

But Biden answered a question about it.


NUNBERG: That`s -- for somebody like Steve, that`s all he needs.

This is something along the lines of something Steve`s been talking about and in Republican circles they have been talking about, about concentrating on 1/6, when you have other issues going on during the Biden presidency, which we`re not here to debate. We don`t have enough time.

MELBER: Fair enough.

And you said -- I just want to underscore what you said, as someone who`s literally worked and traveled with Steve closely. You think he knows he will go to jail, which is to say that, for all of the performance, he`s not a dumb man, and this is not his first legal rodeo, and the case is very strong on paper, unless other evidence comes in, that he rushed to defy the committee.


They don`t have other good legal arguments. That`s why, in some sense, the indictment is so short. As for whether he can handle it, his toughness, his constitution, he does claim his background, and he likes fights. There was one document that showed him getting a little stressed out here and there.

You have seen him up close. Take a look just at how we handles some stress.


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?




MELBER: In your personal assessment, at this juncture, could he withstand all of this or might at some point he blink?

NUNBERG: Steve is not -- look, Steve`s not going to blink.

You have to also remember, as you were discussing before and I have discussed on your show, Steve knew he was putting himself in the line of fire. I suspect Steve never thought that the election would be overturned while he was talking to then-President Trump.

But what he did need was that pardon before Trump left office. And he put himself out there, along the lines of the way Roger did in the 2016 election, with all his claims about WikiLeaks. And now that -- and now the roosts have come home?

And did he think he would get indicted? Ari, nobody ever thought, because we have never seen an indictment like this, right? This is something new.

MELBER: Somewhat unusual, yes.

NUNBERG: So, it`s -- it`s something that certainly we haven`t seen. We have heard about contempts of Congress.

And, once again, I think that, as Bannon said, this is something -- and the reason why Republicans like Donald Trump, one of the reasons was fighting back.


NUNBERG: We`re not the party of Bush and McCain anymore. We don`t take it on the chin.

So Steve will say, you want to do this to me, we will do this against you when we have committees against Democrats. So, I mean, this is made for Steve. This is absolutely made for Steve.

Now, will he like jail? No. No, he won`t like jail. I don`t believe he will like jail.


MELBER: When`s the last time you spoke to him?

NUNBERG: The end of 2018, after the midterm elections.

And -- but I wish him well. We just -- I had other things to do. We broke off working together. And, with that said, once again, I think it`s also important to point out, though, that I was shocked to see something else, Ari, we all need to notice.

Steve has this podcast. It`s like number five or six on Apple iTunes.


NUNBERG: So, even after being thrown out a Breitbart, even after all of this, this is somebody who`s very media -savvy. He may have diarrhea of the mouth and not think when he talks, but he`s able to get coverage.


Well, to extend your analogy, Sam -- and you`re someone who`s worked with him -- that diarrhea has found many, many pipes to get out across America and be streamed. And there are some people who watch the news, they want to hear only certain things.

We try to cover everything. You have added some important details and insights to this, including the following. You can ignore these people and these movements and their supporters, as we have learned over the last few years, at one`s peril, or we can all be informed.

I`m out of time, but, Sam, appreciate you coming back on THE BEAT, sir.

NUNBERG: Thank you for having me. Hope all is well.

MELBER: Yes, sir.

Coming up, we turn to a different legal development, the courtroom drama, with a jury about to deliberate for the trial of a man who killed two BLM protesters.



MELBER: Turning to an important legal story.

Closing arguments wrapped up today in the trial of teenager Kyle Rittenhouse. In fact, we can show you right now. We are watching some of the court proceedings, including the judge instructing the jury.

Now, Rittenhouse was indicted for murder, specifically, the murder of two protesters at a BLM rally last summer. He faces charges that include intentional homicide and other potential charges, like reckless homicide and endangering safety, so the prosecutors giving the jury more than one option, which is typical.

Today, prosecutors insisted this defendant is guilty, though, on all of them.


BINGER: Joseph Rosenbaum didn`t have a gun. The defendant knew he didn`t have a gun. The defendant is lying to save his own skin.

When he testified on Wednesday, he broke down crying about himself, not about anybody that he hurt that night, no remorse, no concern for anyone else.

A lot of murder cases, we`re in here trying to convince a jury that the defendant killed somebody. That`s not in dispute here. That`s the easy part. The question is, does he get a pass?

You cannot hide behind self-defense if you provoked the incident. No reasonable person would have done what the defendant did. And that makes your decision easy. He`s guilty of all counts.


MELBER: That is the core of this prosecution`s case, making the argument that the individual, the defendant is the one who created the danger, who provoked the clash, and, according to the facts in the video that they showed, is the only person who killed anybody.


BINGER: From the shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday, August 23, 2020, all the way after that, everything this community went through, the only person who shot and killed anyone was the defendant.

Yes, there was property damage. No one`s here to defend that. But what you don`t get to do is kill someone on the street for committing arson.


MELBER: You can`t understand a trial unless you hear from both sides.

And the defense maintained Rittenhouse was always acting in what he had, they say, was a good-faith belief in self-defense. They also demonstrated with the AR-15 at one point. They mimicked how the defendant acted at the scene. The jurors were reportedly riveted as the defense began.



RICHARDS: Provocation, I don`t think so.

When my client shot Joseph Rosenbaum, he feared for his life. He feared because of the prior threats, the prior statements, and the violent acts that have been witnessed by my client.

Kyle, as he sits here, is presumed innocent. Think about some of the things, the shoddy investigation, the rush to judgment from the Kenosha district attorney`s office. Kyle was a 17-year-old kid out there trying to help this community.

My client, when this happened, was 17 years old. His actions are to be judged as a 17-year-old. There is no evidence whatsoever that he was an active shooter, other than Mr. Binger calling him that.

Every person who was shot was attacking Kyle.


MELBER: Self-defense can be a valid defense to a murder charge.

What you heard the prosecution argue there is that this was a person on offense with an illegal weapon who came to hurt people and killed two of them.

These jury deliberations are expected to begin tomorrow.