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

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 11/16/21

Guests: Cornell Belcher, Michelle Goldberg, Dick Durbin, Chai Komanduri, Melissa Murray


Alabama Representative Gary Palmer touted funding in the infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed into law this week, leaving out the fact that he voted against it. Senator Dick Durbin reminds viewers that unlike the Trump administration`s tax cuts, Joe Biden`s Build Back Better plan is paid for. Republicans from Reagan through the Trump era have found one lane so they can go at education or vaccines or the democracy debate and keep it all sounding familiar and allegedly mainstream, as an attack on your government. The fate of Kyle Rittenhouse, who is facing murder charges, has been in the hands of a jury of 12, 11 of whom were white, who deliberated over seven hours today.



NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Thank you so much for letting us into your homes during these extraordinary times. We are grateful. "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber and we are tracking several big stories, including fallout from Steve Bannon surrendering to the feds as that probe eyes a second Trump insider.

Our top story now is President Biden on the march, marking the first full day of the implementation of his massive spending bill, one he muscled through over intense GOP opposition and plenty of misleading warning about how this would work.

Like a House Republican once claimed the infrastructure bill was not an infrastructure bill but instead more about AOC`s Green New Deal.


REP. GARY PALMER (R-AL): What`s in the bill though is very problematic because it is not so much about the infrastructure that we need to be focused on, roads and bridges and broadband. It`s more about implementing the Green New Deal.


MELBER: Fact check: false. About 80 percent of that spending is for traditional infrastructure. And while the bill itself says so, that very congress man, Alabama Republican Gary Palmer, well, he voted against that money but he does know exactly where it`s headed.

Palmer, get this, is now invoking these new Biden bills to fund a six-lane highway in his district, which he now calls one of his top priorities.

Now is it really your priority if you literally tried to stop it?

You might feel even some deja vu right now, hearing these reports that a Republican is trying steal credit for something Biden did that they blocked. And this is apparently what happens to Biden bills. The money that`s been flowing out across the country, many Republicans tried the same ploy when Biden spent bills on the COVID stimulus.

And speaks to the Republican Party`s buying here, campaigning on obstructing everything Biden does one minute, then trying to campaign on the results the next.

There has been this argument, I`m sure you`ve heard ,it if you follow news and politics, that Republicans want to be able to say writ large, under Biden, D.C. can`t get things done. But that doesn`t work well if they`re also touting new things hitting their districts from Biden, including this new money, that`s on the way today.

And those real examples lead to real awareness, both from people involved, getting the jobs, the assignments, the contractors, and all the coverage of it, because this is real world stuff outside of Washington, like local news coverage updating with the new Biden bills a deficient bridge. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you come across some of these older bridges?

I mean, it`s creaky. Yes, but I agree. They definitely -- we definitely need to put -- and we need to put our people to work.

KIM PICKERING, WESTERN WHITE MOUNTAINS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Another aspect is bringing high speed internet. A lot of our small businesses, our local stores, have online platforms now. COVID really pushed to have online sales portals.


MELBER: This is real stuff. It`s no longer about the negotiating or the governing, it`s about the doing. This is what some people are already hearing about on the ground. Again, the money is going to keep coming.

Now national conservative outlets would rather pretend the massive bill signing didn`t even happen. FOX News ignoring it while most real TV news was covering the bill signing. And that was the same trend online where many people get information, the FOX News website, all but ignoring the big bill signing.

Now that kind of media denialism may not be a very tenable message. House Republicans reportedly facing new intense infighting in a private meeting, with anger against those 13 House Republicans who decided to basically ditch this strategy of obstruct and then claim credit. They just actually voted for the darn spending.

You take it all in here and President Biden`s first year began by cutting checks directly to Americans with a stimulus, so they could pay some pandemic bills. And now it ends with checks for states and this local construction, so America can pay off debts and problems that have plagued roads, bridges, local jobs.

Republicans are struggling to attack that very new spending. Now that it`s happening, that would imply that, if you attack the spending, it would imply you attack a lot of the Americans who benefit from it and who welcome it.

And after a pandemic, where billionaires won out over so many essential workers and nurses and regular workers, it looks like Biden`s cash is pretty welcome.

To paraphrase another classic about spending priorities, people have been asking this federal government, can you pay my bills?


MELBER: Can you pay my automobiles?

Can you pay my infrastructure bills?

If you did, then maybe we could show.

Well, that taxpayer money going around the country is the people`s money, as Republicans used to so often say. So plowing it into American roads and debts and, yes, bills, infrastructure bills and otherwise, after a savagely unequal pandemic, well, it`s already proving popular, so popular it has some of the very Republicans who blocked it now fronting.

I`m joined by Michelle Goldberg from "The New York Times" and Cornell Belcher, Obama`s pollster, to get into it.

Your thoughts on the bills and the fronting, Cornell.

CORNELL BELCHER, OBAMA`S POLLSTER: My thoughts on the bills are that it`s good government and it`s good government that`s going to build a secure future for America, where we can compete and win in the future.

So I think it`s really good government but as you know, Ari, good government doesn`t always translate to good politics. I think what you see over yesterday, today and probably over the next couple of weeks is the White House, president and the vice president, out in front, trying to talk to American people and making this translate into good politics.

Especially for those -- these are transactions that work for you, for your kids and for America. And I think it seems like you shouldn`t have to sell it but these bills don`t sell themselves. You do have to really sell them.

I lived through 2010 where, you know, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama and Leader Reid put together legislation that literally saved the country from economic disaster, from teetering at the edge. And then those same Democrats got trounced in the midterms.


MELBER: Some people say you`re scarred by it.

BELCHER: I am very scarred by it and I`m still having nightmares about it. I see the same thing happening here in the future. But I do like that, quite frankly, that this Biden White House is out front and they`re trying to turn good government into good politics to change the dynamics going into this midterm because they have to.

MELBER: Yes. And there has been electoral trauma there. Michelle, take a listen to exactly what Cornell just alluded to, this White House knowing those lessons -- Biden lived through them, of course -- and really putting out a big argument here. Here`s the president.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re taking a monumental step forward in building back better for this nation. My mission for the people in New Hampshire is simple. It`s this. Because of this delegation, New Hampshire and America are moving again. Your life is going to change for the better and that`s literal.


MELBER: Michelle.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think they`re going to have to keep doing those kind of events, maybe not with the president but with various surrogates, over and over again and highlighting various projects as they get going.

One of the ironic problems for Democrats here is there is a little conflict around this bill and because that drives headlines and attention, it can pretty easily fade into the background in favor of these culture war issues that the Republicans prefer to talk about.

MELBER: Yes, you speak on that and that`s clearly what the Republicans are aware of because they felt they got some sort of message boost out of what was still a limited part of the country that voted in the off-year elections.

I mentioned some of this reporting coming out of Washington, about the infighting. McCarthy, as the House leader, basically wanting everyone to stay focused. You know, you hear Dem civil war stories sometimes; this would be the Republicans` version.

His plea coming, quote, "as some far right members who are closely aligned with Trump have begun attacking fellow Republicans who voted for" that infrastructure package.

How much of that also figures into this because you know, the fact that they were 90 percent lockstep, at least on the House side, is the kind of thing that with a different headline writer, you would say, well, they pretty much stuck together. Instead it`s become this idea that it`s dissent when really in a different, even recent era this kind of domestic spending pass on much more bipartisan levels.

GOLDBERG: Right and passed on much more bipartisan levels in the Senate. This was a bill that Mitch McConnell voted for. I think it`s really, really telling about the state of the modern Republican Party that there`s talk of censuring or stripping the 13 members of their committee assignments for voting for this extraordinarily popular bill.


GOLDBERG: As far as I know, there`s no talk in the Republican caucus of censuring or punishing Paul Gosar for tweeting out a video in which he kills Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That is the Republican Party. It has been a challenge I think for Democrats to convey the extremism of the Republican Party.

They tried to do that in Virginia, tried to link Glenn Youngkin to Donald Trump and we saw it didn`t work.



BELCHER: I got to lean in on something Michelle said because, look, the crazies aside, look, it should worry every Democrat that Mitch McConnell voted for this bill because, let`s be clear, Ari.

If Mitch McConnell thought for one second -- and he`s pretty good at political calculation, right, we say a lot about him but he`s darn good at political calculation. If he thought for one second that this was going to help Democrats in the midterm, he would absolutely not have done it.

So it should worry us that he said yes, I`m going to vote for this bill. From the political point of view, if in fact Republicans can claim credit for some things delivered from this bill, which you know they want to do. As you reported, they are already sort of talking about taking credit for it, then they inoculate themselves from it.

And then they can turn back to the cultural wars, which they think they`re doing fairly well at. To a certain extent, the Democrats are playing checkers and Republicans are playing chess.

I`m going to take credit for the good things. We`ve seen them do before. Then I will pivot right back to critical race theory that I can win on or at least I can energize my base on going into midterms, is the key thing here. We talked about it before, Ari.

They`re going to go into a midterm with their base energized and I love the bridges and broadband and all the sort of working class jobs being created, good government jobs. But I don`t know how much of our, how many young people, how much of our base is really going to be enthused about turning out for bridges that may come in.

MELBER: In all fairness, a lot of the TikTok videos that have gone the most viral are of long-term bridge repair projects.


BELCHER: Exactly.

MELBER: I`m kidding.


MELBER: Even the sentence sounds boring and yet boring stuff can be important. It can be vital to people`s lives. That`s why in the news that why we cover stuff, as Michelle reminded us, the conflicts that does drive political message.

I think both of you are speaking to the nuance; I don`t think you`re completely in agreement and the story`s yet to be written.

Michelle, Cornell`s basically saying that maybe what McConnell`s doing gets him to a place where he can benefit more off this and pivot. Of course, history is full of things that became quote-unquote "bipartisan" consensus, Social Security. There are things that were originally big government spending then flipped.

What I`m observing here is we just try to keep track of it, is that Republicans have simply not landed on one message and it`s harder when they don`t speak with one voice. That cuts against the narrative or the conventional wisdom that they`re so united and stick to Trump.

No, there have been multiple messages, including the McConnell one. I want to play for you, Michelle, Mo Brooks, still singing from a different book of lyrics. Take a look.


REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): And this is a part of the Democrats` scheme, to take over America using every single weapon they have at their disposal.

They are trying to destroy a lot of these nice neighborhoods that people have worked their whole lives to live in by putting up high-rises for public housing, with all of the adverse effects that come with that public housing.


MELBER: Michelle.

GOLDBERG: That`s very similar to Donald Trump`s closing message. And we saw that it didn`t work for Donald Trump. You know, I don`t think that Mitch McConnell thinks this bill is necessarily going to benefit him.

I think, like Cornell, that he`s just betting that the effect that it won`t really have any effect one way or the another, that the election will be fought on different terrain. And so it`s Democrats` very difficult job, again, to kind of bring the political debate back to these extremely important but also pretty unsexy infrastructure issues.

MELBER: Yes, fair.

Michelle and Cornell, thanks to both of you.

In the rest of the broadcast, new pressure on Trump aides with the riot probe now turning to a different phase and the DOJ basically treating Steve Bannon as part of a criminal coverup. We have a very special guest, the number two ranking Democrat in the United States Senate, Richard Durbin.


MELBER: Also McConnell pushing an old smear for a new attack on the Biden agenda. It is Chai Day.

And we will get into the particular legal process that led to defendant Kyle Rittenhouse appearing to choose jurors as they continue tonight to deliberate his fate. Stay with us.




MELBER: Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon is looking at possible jail time for defying a congressional subpoena. Here are some new remarks reacting to those two criminal charges.



We`re going to get into every detail of how you guys have comported yourselves as enemies of the United States of America, OK, enemies of the United States of America. Gloves are off. OK, we`re going all in on this thing and we`ve got so many patriots aligned with us.


MELBER: That is one way to go about it but this fact that now DOJ is treating this as a criminal coverup may change other people`s approaches. Take the former number one staffer in Trump`s White House at the end, Mark Meadows.

The MAGA riot committee was convening today and considering also leveling criminal contempt charges for Meadows after he followed Bannon and also basically defying the push to testify, forwarding a memo to Mike Pence reportedly that detailed a full plot to try to go after the 2020 results.


MELBER: That`s in a new book from ABC`s Jonathan Karl. NBC News has not been able to verify that memo.

Now there`s also the memo by Trump campaign lawyer, Jenna Ellis. We actually spoke to her during that weird and ultimately tense period leading up to the insurrection. This was right after the results had come in. Donald Trump was going to leave office. Here`s what she said after the 2020 results.


JENNA ELLIS, TRUMP CAMPAIGN LAWYER: Our strategy is to make sure that we continue to challenge all of these false and fraudulent results.

MELBER: What is the point of all this?

ELLIS: Well, the point of this, of course, is to get to fair and accurate results because the election was stolen and president Trump won by a landslide.


MELBER: That`s one of those interviews where, in the moment, before the violence of January 6th, people may have read it different ways. And it`s not a crime to go out there and say false things.

But what was the point of all of it?

MELBER: Well, it ultimately exploded into that violent insurrection and the memos and prep work and the plotting makes it look worse.

Now that book I mentioned by Karl also reveals that during the actual insurrection, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the Secretary of Treasury, Mnuchin, were then potentially discussing whether there was a trip wire that has been discussed many times before never used, invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office if things got even worse.

They were clearly eyeing, quoting this reporting, what they viewed as a coup that might need to be stopped earlier than January 20th.

How does everyone make sense of January 6th?

Well, you have someone facing jail time who`s fighting back. You have a committee that says it will find the facts and is bipartisan. And you have Republicans who seek those facts being attacked.

Wyoming Republican Party is now saying it no longer recognizes long-time arch conservative congressman Liz Cheney as a Republican. They disavow her over her basic fact finding and the impeachment and her concern about the insurrection. That is the issue, none other.

Or take long-time Trump ally Chris Christie. Now he`s selling a book and seems to be tying himself up on this same debate of what it means to be a Republican and wants to support to some degree the fact that Donald Trump tried to end democracy in America.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: On Election Night, when Donald Trump stood up and said that the election was stolen, we had no evidence to prove that, that, to me, was just too much.

Elections have to be about tomorrow. Not about yesterday. Voters don`t want to hear about yesterday.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump has made it pretty clear he wants to run for president again.

Would you support him?

CHRISTIE: Oh, look, I don`t know that he`s going to run.


MELBER: No, you don`t. And you also don`t appear to know how to answer a pretty straightforward question. After Trump beat him last time, he was selling Trump. Now President Biden continues to do the governing. That was our lead story.

You have the infrastructure and jobs push, a plan to expand the social safety net, paid family leave, pre-K, affordable housing and a big vote coming in the Congress about all of that against the backdrop of these attacks on democracy and questions about our justice system.

So we want to get into all of this and we have a very powerful guest to do that. The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Durbin is here. We`re back in just 60 seconds.




MELBER: We are joined now by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the number two ranking Democrat in the United States Senate, Dick Durbin.

Thanks for being here.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC WHIP: Good to be with you, Ari.

MELBER: You have done a lot of work about the DOJ, independents, restoring the rule of law.

What does it mean to you that this DOJ acted so swiftly to indict Steve Bannon?

DURBIN: I think they`re making it clear it`s going to be a no nonsense situation. They`re not waiting for any permission slips.


DURBIN: It`s a situation where people like Bannon are really out on a limb at this point. He speaks very strongly, a lot of bravado. But he`s not going to have Donald Trump writing a pardon message. This is a serious charge and it should be taken seriously. Obviously he still thinks he`s in a conspiratorial political game.

MELBER: We`ve also been covering the breakthrough on the spending as well as the push on the other bill. Your counterpart on minority leadership, Mitch McConnell, did a lot to try to block progress from the Biden administration.

But then did vote on final passage here for the infrastructure spending. Take a listen to what he`s saying about Build Back Better.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Well, there`s no uncertainty about what the number one issue in the country is and it`s inflation. We have reputable economists who actually support BBB, liberal leaning economists who say, if BBB passes, it will only make worse inflation not only this year but next year.


MELBER: Senator, your response on the policy and also on the timeline, which you and Leader Schumer have a lot of power over.

What should we expect on any impending vote?

DURBIN: Senator McConnell always leaves out one key element: we paid for this. This Build Back Better is paid for. Tax increases the burden of taxing, those making over $400,000 a year and corporations that got off scot-free.

Senator McConnell can`t get that in his head because, four years ago when he had a similar circumstance with the Trump administration and tax cuts, they didn`t pay for it. They added to the deficit.

We`re taking a different approach and one that`s really important to articulate when you talk about inflation. As long as we`re paying for this expenditure to help working families meet their cost of living and pay for it in a way that doesn`t add to the deficit, then that is a responsible thing in the midst of an inflationary situation.

MELBER: And with regard to when we might see a vote?

DURBIN: We want to get to it as soon as possible. There are several things. First, the Congressional Budget Office will report on Friday. Speaker Pelosi is talking about moving it in the House this weekend, before the Thanksgiving break.

Our goal is to get this done before Christmas break. So we literally have two or three weeks to get it done.

MELBER: It`s your understanding at this point in time that you`ll get that vote, because it was all that time where all everyone was hearing about was that question in the Senate.

DURBIN: I`m in a business where people don`t sign contracts on votes. They say they`re thinking about it. You like to try to read body language and a wink of the eye whether or not they`re moving in your direction.

Let me just say, the two principles we`ve been dealing with in negotiating have been front and center in these negotiations for months. I said to Joe Manchin, who is my friend, Joe, close the deal.

Let`s get this bill done for the good of West Virginia, the country and this president.

MELBER: And your reaction to the mixed message from Republicans, some saying the infrastructure spending is terrible; others claiming credit for it whether they voted for it or not.

DURBIN: They`re waiting for a cue from Donald Trump and Donald Trump is basically pillaring anyone, any Republican, who joined in this infrastructure vote.

This was a bipartisan measure in the Senate. I hope it is again in the future and viewed as such. We listed all of the top 10, they call themselves the G10 senators, Democrats and Republicans, at the bill signing ceremony.

They got up and spoke. President Biden invited Rob Portman. Come on up and speak. I didn`t agree with everything Rob said but Rob played a critical Republican role in writing this bill.

It should have been viewed that way by the House and the vote. But now death threats are coming down for the 13 House Republicans who joined the Democrats in passing this. On an infrastructure bill. That just tells you the level of animosity in politics at this moment.

MELBER: Yes. And finally as the January 6 investigation continues, writ large at this juncture, do you have enough evidence, sir, to draw a conclusion?

Do you feel this was a premeditated part of a coup attempt?

Or is it too early to adjudicate or judge that, in your view as a leader of the Senate?

DURBIN: In fairness to the investigation and the parties involved, I`m not going to jump to conclusions. I have my inclinations and my own personal thinking. I don`t think this happened spontaneously out of nowhere. I think there was something behind it. I think Bennie Thompson is doing a great job with Lynne (sic) Cheney.


DURBIN: Let`s let them do their work.

MELBER: Understood. Senator Durbin, always in the middle of the action but careful with your words, we appreciate you joining us, sir.

DURBIN: Good to be with you, Ari.

MELBER: We have a lot more on the program, including the president pushing on the spending. We have a look at exploding the myth about this anti- government rhetoric. We have Chai Komanduri. That`s how you know it`s Chai Day.

And then something that`s gained a lot of attention. We always want to give you the legal breakdown here. Murder defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse, who went and killed two people, picking these juror names as they deliberate today. We`ll get into that later.





MCCONNELL: There`s no part of our economy that can afford another massive dose of socialism.


MELBER: Mitch McConnell making it plain this is the next fight on the Biden agenda, the safety net bill. House may vote on it later this week. Republicans talk up socialism as a stand-in, however misleading, for any type of major government spending.

Now we`re going how this kind of argument has been used many times just in bad faith. It`s perfectly fine for someone to say they just want less federal spending. That`s what elections and debates are for.

But a lot of this has become kind of a misleading dogma and it goes back to at least Reagan if not farther, who really made being against the government something that you could embrace while serving in government. Take a listen.



RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I`m from the government and I`m here to help.


MELBER: This kind of folksy twist on a much more hardcore libertarianism took root and correlated basically with a lot of really wealthy business interests that didn`t so much care about government per se.

They just wanted to get powerful people on the Right to continue to lower any tax burdens they have. They found an ally in Grover Norquist; who famously said something that really is absurd, if you think about the role of the FBI or the Pentagon or Social Security, that the federal government should be so small it could literally go down the drain of a bathtub.


GROVER NORQUIST, CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN: I don`t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.


MELBER: Now is this just talk?

Political rhetoric?

There`s plenty of rhetoric throughout the history of politics. But something deeper may be going on here, especially at a time when there are attacks on any administration that isn`t held by this certain version of the right-wing Republican Party.

Recently, a Republican lawmaker, again, all these people except Grover taking taxpayer salaries, you pay them, said flatly, quote, "We don`t need government." Pay no attention to the government paycheck.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Shutting the government is not -- shutting it down is not a big deal. Shut the government down because the real world knows how to run without the government. We do not need the government.


MELBER: Well, let`s talk about the real world just briefly. When Republican leaders talk this way, they don`t always really mean it. Take the last several two-term presidencies. You had Republicans Reagan and Bush that actually did the growing of the national debt as a matter of percent.

You see there more so than the Democrats in between. Republicans in office talk a big game but find money for all sorts of things to grow the debt, plus the Pentagon, plus in recent eras, with the exception of Trump, big, new, expensive foreign wars.

So what`s it all about?

I told you it was Chai Day. He says a lot of this is about hiding a deeper agenda and, quote, "It makes Republicans argue that they`re the party of the little guy against the enemy of big government, allowing the GOP rhetorically to give voice, they claim, to the working class but really serving those elite economic interests."

It also creates a frame. One of the things that Democrats politically have suffered from is the idea that things are complicated. And they`re always talking about different plans.

Well, Republicans from Reagan through this Trump era have found one lane here. So they can go at education or vaccines or even this democracy debate and keep it all in a familiar-sounding, allegedly mainstream attack on your government.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be very clear to the FOX viewers. Implementation of the critical race theory would be government sponsored racism.

CHRISTIE: This discussion of vaccine passports and all the rest of that just sounds to me like another idea of big government run amok.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Predictably the administration uses the January 6th Capitol riot to justify proposals that will lead to less power for hard- working Americans and more for big government and their cronies.


MELBER: Let`s get into all the big government talk on this special day. It is Chai Day. The cartoon, the guest, the human being. Political strategist Chai Komanduri has worked on several presidential campaigns, including the Obama campaign.

Welcome back, sir.

CHAI KOMANDURI, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I`m glad to be back. Thank you.

MELBER: I think some of this is quite familiar to people who follow politics but I know you focus particularly on the power, the salience of driving it all through the same lane. We saw very quickly there, most issues don`t cogently go from vaccine to investigation to other, education policy, all through one lane.

And it seems to rhetorically work for them.

KOMANDURI: It does and I think the most important thing to understand about the GOP`s anti-government rhetoric is none of it is real. Republicans expand government. The last five Republican presidents increased the deficit.

Obama, despite the Great Recession, cut the deficit in half. Bill Clinton had a budget surplus at the end of his presidency.

So the reality is that the policy consequences of actually cutting government are not real and Republicans know it. Now what they are really doing is they are trying to use this very high-minded rhetoric to mask their real agenda, which is tax cuts for rich people.


KOMANDURI: You know, to think about it in movie terms, the holiday classic, "Die Hard," featured Hans Gruber, a villain, who purported to be a rebel motivated by political causes.

But then it was pointed out that he was just really a thief. And that`s exactly what`s really going on here.

Republicans are not about cutting government, and, you know, campaigning on some political cause. They`re much more about empowering greed. What I think is really terrible and dangerous now is we`re seeing the effects of this, both in the anti-vaccine movement, where they believe that the government is trying, for nefarious purposes, to give people vaccines and track them perhaps in some way.

And then January 6th, which is where all the antigovernment rhetoric comes to its logical endpoint. Don`t let the government overthrow it.

MELBER: Where we saw people who were hypocrites in every way. They talked about blue lives attacking blue lives. They talked about democracy and election integrity. That`s what ousted Donald Trump in the end because it was a free and fair election because he lost. He got fewer votes.

The "Die Hard" reference gives me two thoughts. First, it`s very interesting you make that point, that even someone who might be a quote- unquote opposition or villain might get more leverage by claiming some belief system rather than none at all.

There`s a lot to what you say and it goes to also how the parties, most people in the parties, want to say they`re doing something good, not just, oh, we`re for greed. Some Wall Street folks might just say that and have a version of capitalism they`re selling but that doesn`t get you to the kind of coalitions even on the Right.

Then the second point, a little more arcane, people think "Die Hard" was great because of the one against all action aspect and Bruce Willis` performance.

But at the heart of that film, was it not also the relationship that he forged, by phone, by dispatch, with that police officer on the outside?

KOMANDURI: That`s actually quite correct. Part of this is that the rhetoric the GOP can use is sort of the little guy. The GOP is on the side of the little guy against big government, the elites. We heard all about the elites from Donald Trump.

You know, who`s certainly a very rich person and should qualify for himself as being an elite. But that is a very big factor. The rhetoric of anti- government is very effective. Americans like the idea of being underdogs, sort of like John McClane in "Die Hard."

The idea of being against the government does give that underdog appeal for GOP voters.

It`s also enormously uniting for Republicans. Every element of the Republican Party benefits from this message, obviously rich donors benefit from having tax cuts. The religious Right, who we should point out, is actually very opposed to government. They`re worried about secular bureaucrats running their lives.

This makes them very different from other religious movements that have been in favor of the government for social justice purposes. We saw that during the civil rights movement, the New Deal, et cetera.

The religious right wing was actually created to fight desegregation and the government.

Then finally, you have sort of libertarian minded voters in the suburbs or business minded. They are taxophobic and also kind of like this anti- government stuff as well. And, of course, you can use this message to sort of mainstream and mainline racism and sexism.

Certainly, the government action is required to fight against those ills and fighting with the government is a real way of sort of accessing those points in the electorate.

MELBER: As you say, there`s a lot, I can`t speak to all of it. But suburban politics may allow people who, as you say, are motivated by some of that opposition but want a cover. Plenty of the right wing is not using dog whistles anymore.

But as you say, that ability to make it about government and that Reaganesque language might be different than the more fiery nub of just a Steve Bannon rant. Whether there`s a second administration of this, a proverbial sequel for Trump, we don`t know.

Was there a second administration for "Die Hard?"

Indeed there was. I think people know that.


MELBER: Chai, good to see you --

KOMANDURI: Unfortunately, I would add, but yes.

MELBER: You said it not me. The "Die Hard" fans may speak out. My thanks to Chai. That was a really interesting political segment. We have a legal development I want to get into next. We`ve got a lot of people talking in the Rittenhouse trial today. Stay with me.





MELBER: The fate of Kyle Rittenhouse facing murder charges has been in the hands of this jury, 12 deliberated over seven hours today. In a racially charged case, we can tell you, this jury is all white, with the exception of one juror.

The decision is whether this teenager committed murder by taking an illegally obtained gun, showing up at a BLM protest and killing two people last summer. There was an legally unusual moment where Rittenhouse was basically charged by the court to actually hand-pick the six alternate jurors out of a court lottery tumbler.

That was this morning. More substantially, he took the stand to testify on behalf of himself. That is rare in murder trials and used a display of emotion that has led many people to debate what he was really doing.

What does it mean for someone who showed up and killed two to cry so much?

Was it a show?


KYLE RITTENHOUSE, KENOSHA HOMICIDE DEFENDANT: And there were -- there was people right there.



RITTENHOUSE: That`s when I -- that`s when I run --



MELBER: He may be upset about what he did, of course, you`re watching the tears of someone who was armed with a very imposing AR-15 against unarmed people, who killed them.

So are the tears somehow relevant to the jury`s fact-finding?

There`s also conflicting testimony about if one of the individuals that Rittenhouse shot and killed actually posed the kind of threat that is required to legally justify that deadly use of force?


RICHARDS: Mr. Rosenbaum is running toward Kyle Rittenhouse, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct. And it appeared that he was lunging for the front portion of the weapon.

BINGER: What did you think of him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A babbling idiot.

BINGER: Did you consider him a threat?



MELBER: There was also a pivotal moment where the prosecution`s case turned on the testimony of another individual shot by Rittenhouse, who is also the lone survivor.


BINGER: What was going through your mind at this particular moment?



MELBER: A lot of emotion there. The jury has to disentangle it and make a legal decision whether this was murder or some illegal violence or somehow justified use of force. We can also report something that happened during this broadcast.

We came on air; the jury was deliberating. Moments ago the judge dismissed this jury for the night. They will continue to deliberate tomorrow at 9:00 am. We`re joined by NYU law professor Melissa Murray.

Thanks for being here.


When you look at the evidence, what do you think is important for the jury to focus on?

And what may be tough or confounding?

The emotion understandable in what all sides have called this a tragedy; the legal question, whether it was murder does not seem to be addressed by tears.

MURRAY: There`s a lot here for the jury to sift through but it comes down to one question.

Who started it?

And that was something the prosecution really tried to injure in its closing arguments, the idea that, simply by coming to the scene, a civilian armed with an automatic weapon, Kyle Rittenhouse was already being provocative.

And any steps he took, whether to defend himself or not, were negated by the fact of that provocation. Obviously, the defense takes an entirely different position. Their view is that Kyle Rittenhouse was there, he was armed but his response for the deadly use of force was needed because he was met with deadly force and he was simply protecting himself.

And so it all comes down to what --


MELBER: Let me pause you -- Professor, when you say met with deadly force, you`re saying, just so folks understand, that the defense argument would be that the individuals who were unarmed, they argue, were acting and provoking in such a manner that they might have been able to obtain the gun and that would have flipped the situation?

MURRAY: Or rather that Kyle Rittenhouse believed that deadly force was being used against him and that he needed to respond in kind.

And again, all of this comes down to whether you believe that, which is why the prosecution was at great pains to emphasize that Mr. Rosenbaum had been unarmed and why there was that witness that insisted he found Mr. Rosenbaum to be a babbling idiot; ergo, not a deadly threat but someone who was silly and babbling and not the kind of person that needed to be dealt with, with the use of force, like killing him.

MELBER: What did you think of the prosecution`s emphasis on the actions prior to the actual killing, that Rittenhouse showed up and was some sort of wannabe, as sort of trying to pass himself off as an EMT or a fake cop, impersonating an officer technically isn`t even allowed.

What did you think of that focus?

MURRAY: So I think that evidence can serve two purposes. One is to diminish Mr. Rittenhouse`s credibility with the jury. That whole spectacle, where he cried and expressed great emotion, the fact he presented himself as an EMT when in fact he`s a 17-year old and a high school student would perhaps diminish the force of any statements he made before the jury about his own views and what he felt in that moment.

So that could have been an opportunity to impeach him as a witness and to diminish his credibility.

And alternatively it could have served the purpose of simply making clear - -


MURRAY: -- that by simply being there, being armed in the way that he was, Mr. Rittenhouse was already being deliberately provocative. And anything he got was sort of coming to him at that point, because he was out there waving a deadly weapon and others were going to respond in kind.

MELBER: Yes, it makes a lot of sense, your breakdown. Appreciate your precision as we look at both sides of the case and the arguments and see what this jury does, obviously going into days two, three, four. We could expect some news out of it, Professor Murray, thank you.

MURRAY: Thank you.

MELBER: Michelle Goldberg mentioned something earlier tonight about the Republican congressman that put out that damming video, imagining the killing of a colleague in Congress. There are consequences coming; that`s next.




MELBER: Accountability watch turning to something that may hit a controversial House Republican soon because the entire United States House will actually vote on centering congressman Paul Gosar over an incendiary social media post.

We are not airing the video but this is so you understand what he tried to do, putting out this actual cartoon that showed him personally killing a congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The resolution would also remove Gosar from the Oversight Committee. That does it for us. "THE REIDOUT" with Joy Reid starts now.