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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 11/22/21

Guests: Barbara Boxer, James Patterson, Marq Claxton


Reaction pours in following the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, as the Ahmaud Arbery trial continues. Alex Jones and Roger Stone are hit with subpoenas from the January 6 Committee. Former Senator Barbara Boxer discusses the Build Back Better Act. Author James Patterson speaks out.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

We are tracking that breaking news Nicolle just referenced, these new subpoenas for Roger Stone and prominent right-wing figures. Neal Katyal, standing by, joins me in a few moments on that. It`s a big story with big implications, given that the DOJ is willing to send people to jail for defying these kinds of subpoenas.

So I`m going to bring you all that with legal expertise from Neal and others.

But we begin with our top story. And that`s the vigilante justice and the hate on trial across America.

Conservative leaders have been celebrating that jury acquittal of the teenager who killed two. And then there`s these other trials that are continuing regarding, one, the infamous hate rally in Charlottesville where a jury is now deliberating, and, two, closing arguments in the murder trial of three men who are accused and indicted for killing an unarmed jogger.

Now, these killers, all white, and the unarmed man, Ahmaud Arbery, is black. And there`s no denial here of what happened. These men chased him down, and they shot him to death on camera. They later claimed, after the fact, that what they had been doing in their own minds, they say, was a citizen`s arrest.

But they claim that without evidence of them actually doing so at the time. And that`s something the prosecution has torn into, noting there was no arrest, and the defendants never even said the words.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, COBB COUNTY, GEORGIA, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: A citizen`s arrest is for emergency situations when a crime really happens right in front of you, and you can take action right then and there to arrest somebody, because you know about it. You have seen it. You`re taking action right then and there.

If it`s a felony, you can run after the person and chase him down. That`s all this means.

This was not a citizen`s arrest. They never said it. None of the defendant saw Mr. Arbery any crime that day.


MELBER: This is important here, and we want to make sure you understand exactly what the evidence shows.

That`s the prosecutor basically making the case that this didn`t happen, no citizen`s arrests, and it didn`t even claim to happen because it wasn`t said at the time.

Now, what`s the counterargument? Well, the defense argues that the men viewed themselves like police, and that they could then act on suspicion, the way police do, and that they, in their minds, suspected Arbery of burglary.


JASON SHEFFIELD, ATTORNEY FOR TRAVIS MCMICHAEL: Reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion, facts and circumstances to warn a prudent person, one taking care to understand the truth in believing that the suspect has committed the offense of burglary.

And a citizen is in the same shoes as an officer when it comes to citizen`s arrest.


MELBER: Listen closely there and you can hear the outlines of a new and legally extreme claim for vigilante killings. Indeed, it`s on your screen right now in that headline beneath me.

The lawyer for the men who killed this on arm jogger says they felt like police, so they can kill like police.

Now, I`m just going to deal with this very straightforward. Police generally have extra powers beyond civilians, because of their government role, their legal authority, and their training. This defense lawyer that I just showed you is now pushing a theory that random people can just claim those same powers out of the air by declaring themselves in the process of a secret citizen`s arrest. They don`t even have to say it out loud.

If this sounds extreme, that`s because it is. I can tell you there`s not a lot of law supporting this. If it sounds concerning in an environment where there`s a lot of people with guns in America and these other racial tensions, it is.

And it`s something the prosecution, I want to show you now, shot down very bluntly, telling the jury something that`s true. Now, the jury has the ultimate decision in our system about whether this was murder. But I can tell you it`s, fact-check, true what the lawyer says here.

These killers were not police, not in their own minds, not in the eyes of the law, and certainly not in their actions.


DUNIKOSKI: They are not law enforcement officers. They are not in a marked patrol car. They are not with badges on their arms. They`re not in any uniform, without legal authority, once again, did not see him commit any crime, not a citizen`s arrest.



MELBER: "Not a citizen`s arrest."

This is all going to be tested. This jury has got to make a decision. Now, as a legal matter, this case, the Arbery trial of basically the people who killed him, has no formal legal link to that acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse.

But, if you`re listening, you may notice some of the arguments clearly overlap. A white person is armed. Their victim is not. The armed killer, when caught, then tells the jury that they, the armed killer or killers, felt threatened by a situation that they, the killer, provoked and escalated.

Now, the fact pattern as the lawyers put it, in this particular case, is more damning, because it was three armed men in a car chasing down one unarmed man, and the jury is hearing the prosecution point that out, not just with evidence or with commonsense logical arguments.

At one point, these -- this prosecutor literally just said -- quote -- "Come on. Let`s get real."


DUNIKOSKI: Gregory McMichael had his gun. Travis McMichael told you that. He had his gun. Diego had his gun. Brooke had her gun. Everybody had a gun. Everybody in this case had a gun except Ahmaud Arbery.

And so what almost happened? I mean, come on. Let`s get real.


MELBER: "Let`s get real."

Now, that`s some of what this jury has to weigh.

Meanwhile, in that other Wisconsin case, some of the most influential voices on the right are not only weighing in on the verdict, but they have really gone beyond that since the news broke on Friday, beyond simply saying perhaps that they agree, which we have heard, that they think Rittenhouse is not guilty.

But some are casting the killer as a sort of a justified public servant who upheld Second Amendment values.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Acquittal was the only verdict that made any sense.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: That`s why there were riots in Kenosha that night, because people like Kamala Harris supported those riots.

LARA LOGAN, FOX NEWS: Kyle Rittenhouse should never ever have been charged. The entire case was built on lies.

GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS: It was a victory for self-defense. It was a victory for the Second Amendment.

LEO TERRELL, FOX NEWS: Joe Biden, the Democrat, used Kyle Rittenhouse. That prosecutor, who should never prosecute another case...


TERRELL: ... ran -- tried that case as a political trial.


MELBER: And there`s news breaking about how Tucker Carlson embedded with Rittenhouse during the trial for a FOX News project, his crew riding in a car with Rittenhouse moments after the verdict and, after that time together, nabbing the first interview since the verdict.

Now, the entire piece has not been released yet. So no one knows the entire content or approach. But here`s some of what FOX has released early.


CARLSON: Our documentary team was there in Kenosha when it happened. They`d been there for days putting together an installment of our Tucker Carlson original series on this case.

And they captured Kyle Rittenhouse`s first moments outside the court today after being acquitted.


KYLE RITTENHOUSE, DEFENDANT: It`s the stuff that keeps you up at night. Once you finally do get to sleep, your dreams are about what happened and you`re waking up in a dark, cold sweat.


MELBER: We are viewing in real time the circle of content here, because it is a lot of the misinformation that has driven some people to go do things that, frankly, they might not otherwise have thought to do.

There is a link between all of the talk of guns and big lies and violence and overthrowing the government and stopping the so-called -- quote -- "riots" and what we`re seeing. And then, in real time, we`re watching the elevation of someone who was on trial for a very serious crime and was acquitted.

And under our system, we respect the outcome of these jury trials. But respecting the outcome is very different from then taking someone who beat the case and turning them immediately into some sort of hero or representative of self-defense or Second Amendment values or all of the rest.

All of this is happening while these other cases remain open. Again, I stress, legally, they`re not linked. But, for America, as one nation, they are in the public mind, as we figure out just where is the line is and just how much has to be on tape and just how much not self-defense, but self- offense, with armed people killing unarmed people, sometimes across racial lines, how much of this is going to be co-signed by juries of our peers.

To help answer that question, in part we bring in Maya Wiley, a former civil prosecutor and New York City mayoral candidate, and Marq Claxton, a retired NYPD detective and director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance.

Welcome to you both.

Marq, your views legally of the defense in this Arbery case, the idea that, if some people feel like cops, they have the powers of cops. Are you aware of that as real law? And what are your thoughts on it?


MARQ CLAXTON, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Well, right off the bat, of course, I`m not an attorney, but common sense tells me that individuals operating under the color of law without proper authority, there are issues and concerns.

It`s quite clear in the Arbery case, as is the case in the Rittenhouse, it`s quite clear that individuals firmly believe that they can kind of self-deputize when it involves issues of either black lives or black interests.

And they become bold enough to say, not only can we self-deputize, but we can really adapt the strategy police defendants use in their defense and say, basically, don`t consider what initiated the incidents. Don`t consider what may have provoked the incidents. Consider only the few seconds that the incident occurred, and then deem whether or not the person on the offense was justified in that case.

And it really limits and narrows down -- what they try to do is limit and narrow down the jury`s focus into those few seconds and have people debate on whether or not it was justified or not, without consideration of the provocation.

MELBER: Yes, understood.

And I heard you mention that you don`t see yourself as a full authority there, although we do, given your experience as a police officer and in civil rights.

And, Maya, Marq can speak to how police departments look at this. You can speak, of course, to the actual technical law.

And I will just throw in there the reason that police departments have these extra authorities is precisely because of the system. We have talked about when those -- even those may be exceeded.

But, as a lawyer, I have certainly never heard of the idea that, if you feel like a cop, you magically get all those rights, Maya.

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, that`s exactly right.

And as you teed up at the beginning, Ari, this is exactly what the prosecution went hard for, which is, look, if you are standing out there -- and, by the way, we should -- this is important to say -- this is no longer Georgia law because it is so dangerous and what happened to Ahmaud Arbery, no more citizen`s arrest law, which, frankly, is grounded in going after black people suspected of being slaves that folks wanted to return to the plantation. We should not forget that.

But what we saw IN the defense after this prosecutor very ably said, look, did not see a crime in progress, was not necessary to chase after him to stop a crime they had direct knowledge of, that is when it would lawfully be a citizen`s arrest. And, in this case, what you heard from the defense was essentially what I call the white fear defense.

We`re going to tell a largely white jury that only has one black member, look, the neighborhood went down. It got really scary there. Things were getting stolen. They had reason to suspect Ahmaud Arbery, even though, apparently, the only reason they suspected him is because he was jogging through the neighborhood.

MELBER: Right.

WILEY: So that`s why it was an effective prosecution. That`s why this is troubling from a vigilante standpoint.

And this is the connection with Kyle Rittenhouse is whether or not you get to run around with a gun and self-identify yourself as someone who is law enforcement, even though you`re not.

MELBER: Right.

And that goes to the catch-22 that some of these rulings would appear to offer folks, which is the person with the gun avails themselves of self- defense. The person without the gun doesn`t. To the extent that there is a scuffle or a clash -- and I think anyone with no legal training can relate to the idea that, if somebody comes at you and is trying to kill you with a lethal weapon -- you would then be exercising your self-defense.

And that is then somehow twisted in these cases to be offered as the justification for the killing.

I want to play a little bit more of the prosecutor here in the Arbery trial on that. Take a listen.


DUNIKOSKI: They shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery.

They all acted as a party to the crime. You will note they have been indicted that way. But the bottom line is, but for their actions, but for their decisions, but for their choices, Ahmaud Arbery would be alive. And that`s why they have been indicted with murder, felony murder, and the four felonies that led to the murder.


MELBER: That`s how the prosecution is really closing.

There`s been a lot of coverage of this trial that`s noted here, in the Arbery case, the prosecutors have not explicitly raised the issues of race that much, even though there is some bad evidence on that of documented racism by the defendants.

In the Rittenhouse trial, it was also complex, in the sense that it was about a BLM rally, although the victims, the decedents were -- happened to white individuals at a supporting Black Lives Matter rally.


Rittenhouse, now speaking out in that Tucker interview I mentioned, makes a claim about all of that, first time we`re hearing from him post-trial. Here`s that.


RITTENHOUSE: This case has nothing to do with race. It never had anything to do with race. It had to do with the right to self-defense.


RITTENHOUSE: I`m not a racist person. I support the BLM movement. I support peacefully demonstrating. And I believe there needs to be change.

I believe there`s a lot of prosecutorial misconduct, not just in my case, but in other cases.



WILEY: Don`t buy it.

Sounds like a good post-trial P.R. process. Remember, he is probably going to face a civil court action. So that`s, frankly -- the way I hear that as a lawyer, he`s trying to lay the foundation that he`s not a bad guy.

But remember what`s so important to understand about race in America is, it`s not that racism only harms people who are black. And part of what happened in this case is that people who showed up, including people who are white to say we think the justice system needs fixing, when they`re demonstrating, the police see a young man with a semiautomatic rifle and offer him a bottle of water and thanking him for being there even after curfew.

That has everything to do with race, because, as we know, he wouldn`t have even been in a position to kill Mr. Rosenbaum or Mr. Huber if those police officers had done their job that night.


And, Marq, that gives the final thought to you, which, again, not everything has to be put through a racial filter. But this was that kind of case. It was a BLM rally. There was just disparate treatment by the police, who did not apprehend this individual, now acquitted, who killed two people that night.

But, of course, if you want to raise the question, one could ask what the police and governmental response would be had a 17-year-old entered a new state, illegally obtained a weapon, brandished and walk around with an AR- 15, if that 17-year-old was different in one way, if they were black.

And I say that not to be provocative, but because we have done the data about how disparate that treatment is overall.

Your thoughts, Marq.

CLAXTON: Well, just to underscore that point, today is the seventh anniversary of the killing of Tamir Rice, the young black man with the toy gun.

So there is the answer.

MELBER: Twelve years old at a time, yes.

CLAXTON: Twelve years old at a time.

So if you want to know what the response is, under normal circumstances, at least what as it pertains to black people, that is it. And I think we do a disservice to vigilantes when we refer to these domestic terrorists or individuals -- not necessarily these, but domestic terrorists are individuals who engage in hate crimes as vigilantes.

I think vigilantes, when I think of it, I think of individuals who think, in essence, that the ultimate objective really is more important than the means in which they use it, but it`s always supposedly towards justice.

I think sometimes, and these cases in particular, that there was no just desire. There was just the unjustice -- injustice and unjust actions that led to the death of individuals.

So I think we do a disservice when we refer to it as vigilantes in this case. But, like I said, there`s always this vulnerability. There`s always this feeling of self-deputization when you`re dealing with black lives or if you work in and operating against black interest. People will allow you to deputize yourself as law enforcement and act as law enforcement and even be given certain courtesies and professional courtesies as law enforcement, as long as it`s against those two entities.

MELBER: All such important points, and it`s heavy stuff.

And I will mention, again, for accuracy for the viewers, in the Arbery case, of course, there`s a separate hate crimes issue that is yet to be litigated, which goes to the underlying evidence of documented racism. The prosecutors in this murder trial are steering away from it.

Whether that is a legal strategy based on their view of the jury, their job is to win. We will see and we will see in the days ahead how that fared. But that`s another legal avenue on these important trials.

I want to thank Marq Claxton and Maya Wiley for kicking us off, and then tell everyone what we have coming up, because I mentioned that breaking news to you.

And, boy, is it big, new January 6 subpoenas against Roger Stone, formerly convicted and pardoned by Trump, and Alex Jones, who recently was in his own legal trouble over lies in court. Neal Katyal is here to break it down.

And later, Joe Biden winning big. Will he win in the Senate?

And, by the end of the hour, because you know we mix it up, I know you know him if you read crime thrillers.


James Patterson, the one and only, is here tonight later in the hour.


MELBER: Breaking news that hit our newsroom shortly before THE BEAT went on air. This was late today.

Alex Jones and Roger Stone both hit with new subpoenas from the congressional January 6 Committee. They are eying Stone`s involvement in rallies held in Washington the day before, on January 5, plus his hiring of several Oath Keeper militia members as security guards. The committee says they were ultimately involved in the insurrection.

This committee also interested in Stone`s schedule. This is a planned appearance at the infamous January 6 rally, although, while planned, he did not end up attending that.

Roger Stone is Donald Trump`s longest serving political adviser and he has had many problems with crime. In the Mueller probe, Stone was convicted of lying and witness tampering. He was facing up to nine years in prison, Trump ultimately pardoning him, though, before he went in.

With Trump out of office, Stone no longer has that sort of endgame if he wants to play a game of chicken with this committee or the DOJ.

Another new subpoena for Alex Jones, the documented conspiracy theorist and right-wing agitator, the committee eying directions he reportedly received from the White House about a rally at the Capitol. President Trump, the committee, says may have been involved in some plans to also meet with Jones or his group.


And "The Wall Street Journal" reports Jones helped get funding for the January 6 rally. That`s a big deal because it goes to how this thing was so organized, planned, supported from the top. Now, this is not Jones` first legal problem either. He`s had some legal blows in those big lawsuits that took years to wind through the courts brought by Sandy Hook parents.

So, you have these two individuals and three others also hit with new subpoenas from the committee.

Neal Katyal, as promised, is here to get into all of it.

We`re back after our shortest break in 60 seconds.


MELBER: I`m joined now by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal.

We have been reporting on news that broke just before THE BEAT came on air from the January 6 Committee, issuing new subpoenas, including against Roger Stone and Alex Jones.

Your thoughts, Neal?

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So I think, Ari, it`s a sign of an even more mature, serious investigation, and I`m very glad to see these subpoenas.

At the same time, I want to send a cautionary note. I mean, it`s been almost 11 months since the horrific attack on our Capitol. And we`re only now getting around to these subpoenas. I mean, government moves slowly. But this delay is really kind of getting ridiculous.

To me, the most important point, Ari, about the subpoenas is that they`re not just about these five individuals. It`s also about Donald Trump personally. The House letter in the subpoena today to Alex Jones is really striking.

And I just want to read a portion of it for our viewers.

It`s -- quote -- "As you have stated, the White House told you, Alex Jones, on January 6 you were to lead a march to the Capitol, where President Trump would meet the group."

So, according to this House letter, Trump was supposed to actually be at the Capitol on January 6, and what they`re doing is, they`re trying to seek information about that and about Trump`s presence on January 6.

That, to me, is a pretty striking new statement.

MELBER: Very, very important that you identify that.

It was, of course, known that Donald Trump claimed in public that day that he would go to the Capitol. He didn`t. There had been much, much debate over how long it took him to say anything, and the way he responded to what was a violent insurrection.

Is your supposition or interpretation that the committee must have additional evidence or documentation of that plan?

KATYAL: Yes, exactly. That`s what it looks like.

And it looks like a lot of people were read into the plan. So this wasn`t just some sort of Donald Trump last-minute thing that he wanted to do. It looks like this was part of a standing plan. And then the question is, what was that full standing plan?

And when you have people like Alex Jones and Roger Stone, who`s not exactly known for compliance with the law, you got to wonder -- and it`s not like they`re -- that he was conspiring with Mother Teresa or something like that. It looks much more serious.

And so I think these subpoenas start to get at the bottom of that. It`s a great law enforcement tool to use, and particularly so when Steve Bannon has now been indicted by the Justice Department for contempt of Congress.

So, the Alex Joneses is of the world and Roger Stones of the world have to know they`re going to face a criminal charge, just as Steve Bannon is.

MELBER: Yes, that`s such another important point you raise and goes to who you`re dealing with here.

The DOJ has now proven that it will indict on defiance. That changes the dynamic from the previous four years, when stonewalling was automatic for so many of these individuals. And I will leave any moral or ethical judgments to others, but the legal judgment is that these men are both liars.

I say that because Jones was found through the civil courts to be a liar, to commit defamation, and to get in a lot of trouble over that. And more seriously, Roger Stone, as noted, convicted of criminal lying in Mueller probe, years in prison, which is, again, different legally than other things he may have said in other forum that were misleading, but not illegally, criminally lies.


Here, he`s a criminal liar. So how does that affect the way this subpoena- powered committee now deals with what he says back: "Oh, I don`t have anything. I can`t find anything. Oh, sure, I`m cooperating, but I`m busy"?

How does that affect any road to the potential fate of Bannon, where he`s indicted?

KATYAL: Right.

Well, there`s certainly, first of all, an irony, Ari, between when you have Roger Stone and Alex Jones trying to perpetrate a big lie -- claim that the Democrats perpetrated a big lie. I mean, that`s liar, liar pants on fire territory.

I think the most important point about the subpoenas and the way in which the Bannon indictment relate is really two things about what the Merrick Garland Justice Department has done. First, they indicted Bannon not in like some complicated legal document that`s hard for Americans to understand. It`s plain, ordinary English. It`s nine pages` long.

Anyone can pick it up and read it and say, Bannon is just afraid to tell the truth. That`s why he`s being indicted. And, second, Merrick Garland did that. He had the power to just indict on his own because these charges don`t require a grand jury. Garland didn`t do that.

He voluntarily went before and asked a grand jury of Steve Bannon`s peers to indict him. So it has the public seal of approval on it. Those two things together, if you are Alex Jones or any of these other five people today, suggest that the Justice Department really means serious business. They`re going to get to the bottom of the truth. They`re going to use all available tools.

They have taken too long, in my opinion. And that means they have got to start expediting things right now.

MELBER: Yes, really interesting to get your breakdown on that, including your view that some of this could have been done earlier, especially given that it`s a congressional committee. So it is on a civic timeline of who controls Congress.

Neal Katyal, I want to thank you, and remind everyone you can always go to for these primers and sessions with counselor Neal Katyal.

Coming up later in the program, the bestselling author and Bill Clinton`s co-author James Patterson here for his first BEAT interview ever. We`re looking forward.

But, first, this big win for President Biden and another major vote coming down the pike. The one and only Senator Barbara Boxer is here next.




REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): On this vote, the yeas are 220, the nays are 213. The Build Back Better bill is passed.



MELBER: You don`t see that every day. It was the moment that House Democrats gave Biden this big spending win, a victory that did seem at times potentially in doubt, with months of the negotiations, plus facing delay and Republican opposition.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By October 1, they`re trying to pass a $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: The House delayed a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Free community college out, the child tax credit and paid family leave scaled way back, and the price tag, forget $3.5 trillion. It might end up being half that much.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We`re still obviously working through and negotiating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is new momentum towards a vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears unlikely to happen today.

PELOSI: Today, we have the honor of participating in passing legislation for the people to Build Back Better.


MELBER: There you go. We have just helped you relive months of Washington negotiations and news coverage compressed into just a minute.

It`s a reminder of how this stuff takes a long time, and then people might move right past it. The bill does a lot for the social safety net. And, just today, the president talked about the progress since he`s been elected.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have gone from an economy that was shut down to an economy that is leading the world in economic growth.

I know, for a lot of Americans, things are still very hard, very hard, but if you look at all the facts, you can only come to one conclusion. We have made enormous progress in this country.


MELBER: This new spending bill heads to the Senate. It needs every Democrat there to pass, which means many are watching those holdouts, Senators Sinema and Manchin.

Now, Sinema, for her part, doesn`t talk much. She`s been considered something of an enigma, a term that she quibbles with. And she just spoke out in a rare local Arizona interview.


SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): I don`t bend to political pressure from any party or any group. I don`t pay any attention to what they`re talking about in the national media. I don`t even know what enigma means, really. No one really does.


MELBER: No one knows what a enigma means. A truer statement has never been uttered.

Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat from California, not an enigma, just a friend of THE BEAT, thanks for coming back.

FMR. SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): Thanks for having me on, Ari.

MELBER: Let`s start with dealer`s choice.

We put that together briefly just to reflect on how you can get in the daily cycle. We all do it, whether that`s life, running around getting the groceries, or, gosh, OK, what`s the newest, newest news on your phone?

But it was months in the making. And Friday does seem to be a final step if they hold the 50. Your thoughts on any of the above?

BOXER: My thoughts are hooray.

I mean, President Biden is a good human being. I know him forever. All he wants is for people to have it easier, to have it better, to be able to deal with this pandemic, and get people back to work. And this Build Back Better a bill is so critical.

It`s really a middle-class bill, because, for a long time, little kids were able to go to Head Start if they were very poor, but middle-class people, if they couldn`t afford to send their kids to private preschool, couldn`t do it. Now there will be universal preschool.

I remember sending my kids to preschool. They`re so old now, Ari. But I remember sending them to preschool. And the only ones that liked it better than I did and my husband, it was them. And it turns out that your brain is 95 percent developed by age 5.

So, what we`re doing here -- and I say we meaning the country, hopefully -- is to understand this and make this available. And now that I`m getting, shall we say, older, I realize how important it is to make sure that seniors can stay in their homes if they have a health problem. That addresses -- this bill addresses that, addresses the soaring price of hearing aids.


If I couldn`t hear you, I couldn`t be on your show. And I`m lucky that I can hear you. But what if I couldn`t afford $2,000, $5,000 for hearing aids? So I could go on with all that`s in it. And finally addressing climate change, that`s a shout-out to the young people. Yes, we`re doing it. We`re going to have all these wonderful ways to credit people if they buy a plug-in hybrid or an electric vehicle and get into the clean energy that creates jobs, jobs, jobs.

So I`m excited. And, of course, Nancy Pelosi is like a sister of me. I came up with her. And she`s extraordinary. And someday, when we have a lot of time, I will tell you just how hard her job is, just in case you`re not sure.


MELBER: Well, you know better than most, having been an insider there for a long time, as mentioned. I mean, you Joe Biden very well as a colleague. You know the speaker from years coming up together in California politics.

You mentioned a lot of what`s in the bill, which is interesting, Senator, because, as you say, hearing aids, absolutely. If and when I need one, of course, that`s going to be important to me, because it`s going to help me with the music. I want to be able to hear as long as I`m on Earth.

You mentioned climate spending. I mean, "The Times" just did a breakdown of how there`s more support for long-term emissions and climate solutions in this bill than anything that ever has been federally passed, if it makes it through the Senate.

And so there`s a lot of things here. People see there`s reports that the monthly and seasonal flooding that we have seen in some places that are near sea level in America, including places like Florida and New York City are going to turn to daily flooding in the lifetime of many people who are on Earth right now. And so getting ahead of that, all that stuff makes sense.

The other thing I want to observe, because I didn`t know what you would answer, but you did now, is, you seem to be talking about the real interests that relate to people, which is what Axelrod and some of the other Obama folks have said needs to be more of the focus.

I`m going to read you what he said about how, while the bill is big, he doesn`t think that`s what you lead with if you`re talking to the public.

He says: "Democrats should stop referring to this thing as huge, historic, transformative, emphasizing instead how it`s RESPONSIVE" -- all caps -- that means he`s shouting -- "to some of the everyday challenges people are facing, practical answers to real-life problems like cost of child care." Then he says: "No one`s asking to be transformed."

Well, some people obviously like the transformational angle. That`s why they`re talking about it, because they went to Congress to do big things.

But, as a senator, with all the experience you have, do you agree that most or many voters and constituents are looking at it the way he says?

BOXER: Well, I think we have to pay attention to David Axelrod. He is really brilliant when it comes to winning campaigns.

For me, I would just go to the people and tell him what the heck`s in the bill. I don`t need to call it transformative or not transformative. I don`t have to call it huge. What I`m going to say is, won`t it be great if you can send your child to preschool, and it`s free, instead of having to set aside tons of money?

Won`t it be great that grandma can get her hearing aids. Won`t it be wonderful that prescription drugs are lowered? So I agree with him to forget about these big words. And, also, this bill is paid for and it will be paid for, once the Congressional Budget Office makes that -- that`s going to be a fact.

So it`s not going to add to inflation? There`s this great Hebrew song that you`re seeing at a holiday. And it says -- it`s called "Dayenu." And it means, that would be enough, and it talks about all the miracles that God created. That would be enough if he did one.

And though this does four or five things that are really extraordinary. Just one alone would be enough. So I`m excited about this. And, yes, I think language is important. And I think we should listen to David. He`s very smart.

MELBER: Dai, dayenu, dai dayenu.

Senator Boxer...


BOXER: Thanks.

MELBER: ... always good to see you.

BOXER: Back to you.

MELBER: Thank you. We will see you again.

Coming up, we have something special. Think about all the pandemic heroes. We haven`t even caught up with all their stories. In a way, it`s too many, and yet we need them so much. But we have someone who`s been documenting that and who`s one of the most trusted writers on Earth. I will explain why.

James Patterson next.



MELBER: As a health emergency COVID is fading across many parts of America. But, as a plotline, well, it`s just starting to take off.

There`s shows and movies, like "Grey`s Anatomy" or "Songbird," that weave the pandemic into plots for people to binge. And while books have a longer lead time, some prominent writers are teeing off on the pandemic.

Takes James Patterson, who`s sold over 300 million books worldwide. He`s known for the hit Alex Cross thrillers -- a new one is actually out today, "Fear No Evil" -- as well as other crime stories like "The Guilty," an audio book featuring John Lithgow.

Patterson`s clearly been busy. We should mention he`s also co-writing a novel with Dolly Parton. Cool.

But he`s in the news tonight for, well, newsy projects, as mentioned, this new book of true stories that follows heroes who battle the pandemic on the front lines, like nurses, as well as a documentary series about Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

He`s clearly a writer in demand who`s able to capture some of the pathos and absurdities in fiction and then the rawness or reality in nonfiction. That`s something that even former President Clinton valued. They actually wrote two different crime thrillers together.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I wanted to know is, since I`m a voracious consumer of thrillers and have been for 35 years, I`d call him and say: "Jim, it`s been 30 pages since we killed anybody."



JAMES PATTERSON, AWARD-WINNING NOVELIST: If I`m writing with the president, some of the stuff might be a little over the top, although nothing`s over the top these days.

But the president makes sure that, if it happens, this is how it would happen.


MELBER: Nothing`s over the top these days.

We`re joined by bestselling author, the presidential co-author, as mentioned, and, by the way, a nine-time Emmy winner, James Patterson.

Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.

PATTERSON: You do make me sound busy. I`m -- I got tired listening to it.


MELBER: Well, imagine those of us who are here trying to just do one thing a day.

But, yes, I know you`re clearly prodigious.


Well, we`re celebrating Alex Cross today, but the nurses thing is -- it`s an interesting book, in that we all -- we -- all of the nurses, we love them, but we don`t really understand what they do.

Just as an example, we just sold the nurses to one of the networks. And I`m working with Danny Strong, who wrote "Dopesick," not the book, but the show. And he made the people at the network read the book, and they said, oh, my God, there`s nothing like this on television, because we`re not putting the real nurses` stories on there.

And it`s just -- the book blows everybody`s mind. It`s just story after story after story. And we have no idea what they do, Ari. I was with a doctor friend the other night. And he said, yes, I will go in for five minutes with the patient. The nurse is there all day.

MELBER: How do you get inside the nurse`s mind-set?

PATTERSON: Well, this is -- I`m actually doing one on cops now. My friend, Matt Eversmann, and he does the interviews, and he`s just a great interviewer.

He was actually the sergeant portrayed in "Black Hawk Down," the real guy. And he`s just -- he just gets stories out of people. And then I will turn him into these five-or-six-page nuggets, so that the book becomes very, very readable. It`s not a bunch of interviews. It`s just story after story.

Like, there`s one about this nurse, and she`s getting close to this couple and the husband is dying. And she says to the wife, how can I bring some joy to this guy, something? She says, well, he his dog. And she goes, oh, my God, I can`t bring a dog in here. But she says, you know what, I`m going to do it.

And she brings the golden retriever in there. And she`s crying. And the couple are crying and the dog is licking tears off the guy`s face. And it`s just story after story, just amazing stories. At the end of it, you go, I had no idea what nurses do. And now I do. Now I understand.

MELBER: What do you think makes the character or a reader feel most alive, most in touch with this thing we`re living through?

PATTERSON: Well, I think is a thing about making people feel alive, because a lot of us, I mean, we`re numb.

And you read a good book, or you see a good movie or something, and suddenly you wake up a little bit. You come out of that kind of zombie state, which we go into to protect ourselves, I think.


You know what everyone wants to know, from you?

PATTERSON: No, what? Dolly.


MELBER: Close. You`re halfway there.


MELBER: What`s the difference between collaborating with Dolly Parton and collaborating with Bill Clinton?

PATTERSON: Really, not much.

They`re wonderful to be with. They have become good friends, both of them. Dolly sang happy birthday to me over the telephone, which is -- that`s great, right?

They`re very collaborative. They listen. They`re respectful. In both cases, the books are -- I mean, they`re -- it`s very real in terms of, if such and such happened, in terms of the Dolly book, it would happen this way because she knows how it would happen with a singer.

And in the case of President Clinton, the same thing in terms of, OK, this is how the Secret Service would act, et cetera, et cetera. And what I love about -- well, even the Alex Cross books, I mean, it`s very -- it`s really -- if the stories are over the top. The new one is a little over the top.

But if -- but it`s accurate in terms of, if something crazy happened. Like, imagine people attacking the Capitol. How could that ever happen?

MELBER: People are afraid of violent crime.


MELBER: And yet many people seem fascinated by it. Why is that?

PATTERSON: Well, I think, in terms of what I do, there`s closure. And that`s what I think people love about the Cross books or things like that. There`s closure.

It`s like it gets solved, or something positive happens, or Alex -- when Morgan Freeman decided to play the role, he said, what I like about Alex is, he`s not a guy, he doesn`t go out beating people up. He`s a thinker. He figures out how to solve things.

MELBER: Right.

PATTERSON: He`s sort of like a black Sherlock Holmes. He just -- he knows how to solve a crime, and he`s a bright man.

MELBER: Let`s take a look. We got some Morgan Freeman. Take a look.

PATTERSON: All right.



MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: I`m a forensic psychology. It`s a fancy way of saying I`m the guy who determines the hows and whys.


MELBER: When you write, do you always know who the...

PATTERSON: Here I am saying how smart he is, and you show all this stuff of people blowing things up.


MELBER: Hey, we`re just...

PATTERSON: That`s the movie.


MELBER: Hey, you`re the writer. We`re just TV people around here.


PATTERSON: That stuff wasn`t in the book.

MELBER: Last question I was going to ask.

Spoken like an author during an adaptation.

The last thing I was going to ask you is, when you do write, do you think about who the typical reader will identify with? Does it have to be someone who ultimately has some good in them, or not necessarily?

PATTERSON: I just have a simple thing. When I`m telling a story -- I just finished my autobiography. And I pretend there`s one person sitting across from me, and I don`t want them to get up until I finish.

So, that`s it.


MELBER: Wow. I buy that.

James Patterson...


PATTERSON: Thank you. This is great. You`re very nice.

MELBER: Oh, it was wonderful. I would love to have you back.

PATTERSON: Except for those crazy blowing up the stuff scenes that you showed there.


MELBER: I`d love to have you back.

You`re widely read. And if you were any busier, sir, there would be two of you.

PATTERSON: Maybe there are. There`s two brains. There`s -- it`s -- schizophrenic is my best friend. And...

MELBER: Well, there is a left and a right brain.

James Patterson, thank you.

PATTERSON: Thank you.

MELBER: I will remind folks, if you`re interested, that one book I mentioned is "E.R. Nurses: True Stories From America`s Greatest Unsung Heroes," and a book that will not have any explosions in it, "Fear No Evil."

We will be right back.


MELBER: Thanks for watching THE BEAT.