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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 12/10/21

Guests: John Flannery, Adam Schiff, Arian Moayed


Actor Arian Moayed speaks out. Congressman Adam Schiff discusses the January 6 probe. Senator Mitch McConnell blinks again. Matt Gaetz teams up with Steve Bannon.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And our top story right now, New reporting on the MAGA riot probe, this committee dropping six new subpoenas today, including two White House veterans who met with Trump on January 4 about the rally that became an insurrection.

Our top story also will feature a top guest. Adam Schiff is standing by and joins us live in this part of the show, this segment.

We are also tracking these new details about the plotting in writing by Trump attorney Jenna Ellis pushing what looks clearly like an unconstitutional scheme that would try to get Vice President Pence to steal the election by simply miscounting the actual electors.

Now, they put it in writing. And the investigation cares about that because it may mark the line between the loose rhetoric that you hear from all these folks and the act of plotting that can be illegal.

Now, back in that tense time after Trump lost, we reported on everything that was going on. And we heard from and pressed members of Trump`s legal team. The lawyer in that hot seat right now, Ms. Ellis, well, we spoke with her in our reporting. She insisted long past the formal deadlines that the Trump team had more fights left.


JENNA ELLIS, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR LEGAL ADVISER: 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: No, he did not. That was a lie, which, in the United States, is something that you can legally do in public or on air. She can lie.

The question here, though, is what they did beyond lies. Did they do any illegal plotting? Did they misuse government property, resources or any of the authorities to try to pursue those lies and turn them into a coup?

So, the committee is charging forward. It`s also recommending prosecution for Trump allies defying subpoenas. Steve Bannon faces jail and a trial that has now been scheduled for this coming summer 2022, the chairman of the committee also releasing some details about what they got from Trump`s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who faces a contempt vote Monday for what began as claims of cooperation and now the committee says involve outright defiance.

As mentioned, we will have Adam Schiff live tonight, but we begin with an independent legal analyst, former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Let`s begin with what we just went through.

When you see the level of detail in the plotting -- lawyers can give advice, people and lawyers can lie on TV. But the evidence of the level of plotting tells you what?

KATYAL: It tells me that these people look really guilty.

Your juris doctor degree doesn`t give you a right to write a memo that advocates essentially a coup dressed up with some legal talk. And that`s what it looks like, what was going on.

Now, the facts all have to be uncovered. But right now these facts, look -- what we`re hearing looks really, really serious and concerning. And it just underscores again, Ari, why this January 6 investigation is so important.

I know people are sick of it in the same way as they`re sick and COVID and other things. But this is an armed attack on our Capitol, as the Court of Appeals yesterday put it, the most dangerous thing on our American soil since 1812, in terms of to our Capitol Building.

And so we got to get to the bottom of it. And these lawyers and others who cooperated and facilitated this attack, I think, need to be investigated.

MELBER: Yes, and you make an important point there, quoting the appeals courts, which have litigated some of this and which are independent. They`re not on team investigation nor on team witness or defendant.

And, as you said, they sound a bit more like the riot probe itself, or at least uphold that perspective of how serious and grave this was.

With regard to these brand-new subpoenas that show where they`re going -- and I showed one of the lawyers there in our open -- I want to read here from the committee. They say: "Some of the witnesses worked to stage the rallies on January 5 and 6. Some appeared to have direct communications with the former president regarding the rally."

What is important for an investigation to figure out, whether they were planning -- even the words are contested -- a -- quote -- "rally," which they`re totally allowed to do? If you want to have a rally about a lie, you can do that in America.

Or were they planning something that would then march on the Capitol and do something more than speak legally?

KATYAL: Right, 100 percent, Ari.

So you -- what I think the investigators are trying to find out are both the actus reus, what bad acts occurred, and then their mens rea, their criminal intent, if any. And so it`s absolutely fine to have a rally. Nobody in the House of Representatives on the Democratic side is saying, you can`t have a rally.


What you can`t have as a rally that turns into a riot that turns into an armed attack on the Capitol, which is what we got. And, now, did this all happen spontaneously and by accident? Was this so far from the minds of Jenna Ellis and all the other people that Trump surrounded himself with and Trump himself?

I suppose it`s possible that all of them were caught completely surprised. But that`s what everyone`s trying to figure out. And that`s what President Trump is asserting executive privilege over. He doesn`t want these documents to come out. He doesn`t want what was said to whom to come out, because I think he`s worried about it.

MELBER: And then you have the wider question about the evidence. I have tried to be very clear with folks that Meadows started out different than Bannon.

He talked about things that can be legally valid, like a type of privilege, even if they have asserted it overbroadly. And he did provide some material. Then there`s questions about whether he went off the books, known colloquially as but his e-mails, and now, according to the committee, outright defiance.

I just want to read from a Politico report, which notes that the archives say that, basically, they want presidential records that were not, they say, properly copied or forwarded onto his official account. That would sound -- although we don`t have the full context, it would sound like potentially a different a private e-mail address or other efforts to hide, again, shorthand, but his e-mails.

But could that matter? What do you see there?

KATYAL: Yes, so it could be that he had a secret, separate account that he`s trying to hide from the American people. Who knows?

I think all of this is entirely predictable. The minute that Mark Meadows said he was cooperating, I think it was on your show, saying, yes, I will believe it when I see it, because, when push comes to shove, he`s not going to want to turn over all sorts of information. And that`s exactly what happened.

Indeed, he rushed into court to try and sue the House to try and block them from continuing their investigation. That`s how scared he is.


KATYAL: And this is going nowhere for Meadows, for two reasons.

One, the Court of Appeals decision yesterday was just resounding in rejecting all of this nonsense about executive privilege, for a number of different reasons, all of which apply to Meadows. And the second thing is, Mark Meadows has written a book about these very issues. And so he`s asserting executive privilege with his left hand, and, with his right, he`s actually writing the book about these very issues.

And there`s something called waiver of privilege, which is pretty easy to do. And it looks like Meadows has walked himself right into it. So he can try and delay this in court. But I don`t think it`s going to work. And, hopefully, the courts will do for Meadows what they have already done, which is move quickly to resolve these bogus privilege complaints.

MELBER: All great points.

And, Neal, this stuff is as serious as a constitutional heart attack. Later in the hour, we bring you back for something that is lighter and fun to end the week. So we will see you again later.

We turn now, still on the serious stuff, to Congressman Adam Schiff, quite the newsmaker today, a member of the January 6 Committee and chair of the Intelligence Committee.

Thank you for being here.

What can you tell us about these new subpoenas and the facts you`re trying to find?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, these new subpoenas go to people who were involved in organizing these rallies on the Mall that day.

They go to individuals who were in conversation with the president in the days leading up to January 6 about what was going to happen on January 6. And it goes really to the questions that you and Neal were discussing, which is, there were very different lanes of effort, all intended to overturn the election.

There was the laying of the foundation by the president talking about how you couldn`t trust any ballots that were counted after Election Day, laying the foundation for a loss that he could explain away by the fact that, well, actually people need to vote during a pandemic by absentee ballot, but try to discredit those late ballots.

That was followed by challenges after the election in court, fruitless legal challenges. It was challenged by the president making outreach to local and state elected officials, to the secretary of state of Georgia, for example.

And the question is, when all those things failed, was this the last-ditch effort to slow or stop the counting on January 6? And was violence contemplated as a last resort?

MELBER: Yes. Well, you put it very well and starkly, because that`s a real problem for the country, not based on party, but based on whether democracy holds.

Congressman Schiff stays, as we turn here to see what more we can learn about a new development in the probe, which I just want to explain before we ask him about it.

This is a detailed letter from the committee chair of the January 6 Committee here that`s making waves.


It states that former Trump aide Mark Meadows gave investigators a January 5 e-mail regarding a PowerPoint briefing. It was titled "Election Fraud, Foreign Interference and Options for the 6th of January" that would be used on Capitol Hill.

Now, the committee mentions this in a wider clash about Meadows` cooperation, which we have also been reporting on. But this evidence is pretty tantalizing. Why bring up the specific presentation? The same letter says it was 38 pages, but the election was over, so a detailed briefing about fraud, foreign interference and -- quote -- "options" sounds like potentially a plan to find options to overthrow an election that was over.

Now, the committee has not released the PowerPoint referenced here or much more context at this time.

Congressman, I wanted to be very clear about what the letter says for viewers. So your committee cites this e-mail. Does your committee also have this PowerPoint itself?

SCHIFF: You know, Ari, I can`t go into what documents we have.

We`re citing this and other information that we got from Mr. Meadows, documents, e-mails, text messages, to show that he has already recognized these are not privileged materials. His lawyer has affirmed these are not privileged.


SCHIFF: We`re making no claim of privilege here.

And so how do you then turn about and say, well, I can`t talk about these things that I have already given you information on?



Let me only jump in because it`s so important. And I just want to be clear to viewers. The legal point you make seems fair. Neal Katyal made it as well. You got Mark Meadows trying to have it both ways.

Let`s put that legally to the side, and then go to the factual piece, which is, this committee -- and you`re a key member of it -- it publicized the e- mail and the PowerPoint`s existence, and some members of your own party are referring to this, citing the letter, 38-page PowerPoint briefing, election fraud, foreign interference.

Some are saying in public or posting online about a so-called Trump plan. Wouldn`t it be better to give some factual context here about this? Is this something that originated in the Trump White House or from somewhere else?

SCHIFF: Well, Ari, some of those questions, we`re still trying to determine.

What was the involvement of the White House in the planning of January 6, as opposed to those who were organizing rallies? Were they doing it hand in hand? What was the role of the White House in some of the legal strategy to overturn the election?

And what were these other options, as you say, for January 6? So we don`t have, I think, complete information at this time. But we are in the midst of gathering it with great speed. We have now talked to over 300 people.

But this is part of the reason why Meadows is an important witness and why we`re going to hold him in contempt for refusing to appear.

MELBER: Right. And that`s that Monday vote, which is a big deal.

That would put him legally in Bannon`s position. Then DOJ could decide whether to indict him.

The same letter, because, as I mentioned, it`s raised a lot of discussion - - I imagine, because I know how informed you are, because I have interviewed you before, I think you`re probably aware of some of this.

The same letter refers to Meadows providing documents, including a January 5, 2021, e-mail about having the National Guard on standby. Now, that`s pretty explosive if it was supporting that.

Of course, the language here says an e-mail about it. I guess my question to you, again, just trying to do my job as a journalist, is, number one, is it a reasonable inference that Mr. Meadows or others in the White House were supportive of using the National Guard in that way on standby?

And, number two, if you and other members of the committee won`t answer that, is it fair, in your government power, to put something like that out without fuller context? Is that fair to the people who are under investigation?

SCHIFF: Well, first of all, I can`t tell you what inferences to draw yet. We will certainly be revealing more information as we go ahead with hearings and other disclosures in the future.

But in terms of, is it fair to Mr. Meadows to reply to his attorney and rebut the claim of executive privilege by pointing out some of the documents that he provided, how very pertinent to the investigation they are, and the fact that, if there was any claim of privilege, it`s very clearly waived by the very specific nature of these documents and their reference to January 6, so yes, I think it`s fair.

What I think is unfair to the American people is, Mark Meadows said he would cooperate, started going forward with cooperation. I don`t know what changed. Maybe the former president got upset about his book or the fact he was cooperating.But now he is using this frivolous excuse that, I can write about these things in my book, but somehow I`m prohibited to testifying in Congress.


Well, ever the prosecutor and lawyer you are, I think you`re returning to one of your strongest points, because, legally, it does seem like he is contradicting the very privilege he claims.


I am going to push you one more time on this. I think viewers will gather this must be important. I keep going at it.

Here`s what Senator Schatz says, a Democrat. He says, citing the supposed PowerPoint, which has not been released, which we have not verified, but which is referenced in what the committee says was in Meadows` e-mail, and says, look, "Someone explain to me why this isn`t the only thing in the news. I respect the fourth estate" -- he`s talking about the media -- "but, wholly `blank.` They," the Trump people, "had a plan to end democracy."

He is citing again what your committee partially referenced or put out. And so my final question on this, because then I also want to ask you about legislation and some other stuff is, what are the public and the press and everyone who cares about this supposed to make of this?

Because, basically, this letter has kicked up a lot of dust around the idea that there was a kind of a supposed blueprint by the Trump people. That is how this senator puts it. If that is off-base or was more complicated, shouldn`t the committee address that now? And I`m giving you, clearly, the opportunity.

Or is Senator Schatz right, that this was fundamentally a Trump blueprint, the 38-page PowerPoint?

SCHIFF: Well, first of all, I think that what you should make of it is what the committee intended with it. And that is to expose the hypocrisy of Mark Meadows, the fact that he is claiming privilege over subject matter he`s already provided to the committee and already written about in his book.

You should also, I think, take away that some of these documents are extremely important and relevant to our investigation. That much is clear from the title.

In terms of what role the White House played in this, what role this was part of a coup attempt, with some legal justification or purported legal justification, we`re still trying to ferret out those facts. So I`m not ready to draw any conclusions or recommend them to you.


SCHIFF: But I will say this, Ari, from what is already public, from the fact that the former president continues to run with this big lie.

And his enablers around the country are using it to strip elections officials of their duties, and put in place individuals or legislatures that can overturn the next presidential election, we are seeing an ongoing effort to break out a coup if they lose again.


SCHIFF: And that, to me, is something that ought to be the center of our focus.

MELBER: Well, that`s so important. And I know you care about that. And I - - we have covered that as a nonpartisan issue, in the sense that it matters for democracy, although the people doing it are in one party.

So it`s this Republican attack in many places on free and fair elections. And I know you care about that.

For viewers, I want to be clear, because that`s part of my job, it sounds like, for now, you were putting a little cold water on people`s attempt to read into the letter a lot about the ultimate findings of the committee, which come later. You have said hear repeatedly the letter was chiefly about the legal privilege issue, not necessarily getting ahead of conclusions about what all the evidence shows.

You can add or correct to that as you see fit. And I will also throw one more question at you, which is, you have been working hard on this protecting democracy legislation, which would sort of Trump-proof and deal with some of the very things you just mentioned.

Tell us about that. And how do you get that through the Senate?

SCHIFF: Well, what we introduced and have passed yesterday, the Protecting Our Democracy Act, is really, this generation`s post-Watergate reforms.

After Nixon, Congress enacted a whole series of new transparency requirements, new ethics laws, new campaign finance laws. We`re trying to do the same thing, because the abuses of power of the last four years were more than anything Nixon contemplated.

And so this would, well, among other things, expedite enforcement of congressional subpoenas. It would protect against the abuse of the pardon power. It would shield the Justice Department, we hope, from political interference. It would raise penalties for violating the Hatch Act and for violating the Emoluments Clause and a whole range of other protections for are inspector generals and whistle-blower`s.

In the post-Watergate period, Republicans joined Democrats in supporting these reforms, even though they reflected the abuses of the prior Republican administration. This time, Republicans are just too scared of Donald Trump.

We had one courageous Republican who joined us. I hope there will be more in the Senate. But, if not, we`re going to have to get rid of that filibuster to pass these reforms and voting rights legislation as well.


I appreciate your attention to all of that and for taking the follow-ups here, as we try to make sense of what`s happening in an important probe.

Congressman Schiff, thank you, sir.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Coming up, the tape that shows Bannon and Gaetz and talk about shock troops.


Also, you hear a lot from D.C. pundits about Mitch McConnell being so brilliant, but he just blinked again and contradicted himself. We have a special guest on that.

Plus, bad Christmas puns? Well, we wouldn`t end the week without them.

And one of our favorites from one of our favorite shows, the hit series "Succession" we have been talking about. We have a different actor on. We will explain why coming up.


MELBER: Some policy news you might have missed with political implications.

Mitch McConnell just folded again in a stare-down with Democrats which kind of knocks a talking point we have heard a lot from D.C. pundits. Now, Biden`s pushing towards another spending win in as many months. And he`s pushing that jobs bill.

The big obstructionist opponent on a lot of this has been McConnell. He says he`s the Grim Reaper, and his obstruction tactics are often discussed in D.C.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Mitch McConnell is a super -- he`s a super smart tactician.

PAUL KANE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": He is just constantly a strategic tactician. It`s always what he will be known for.

FMR. SEN. ALAN SIMPSON (R-WY): I don`t ever question McConnell. I worked with him. You don`t want to mess with McConnell.


MELBER: A Republican explaining you don`t want to mess with him, FOX News cheering on the tactics, and an independent analyst, a D.C. type, saying this is what he does.


And he has certainly had some wins. We have covered them.

But not every narrative lasts forever. And Democrats have been increasingly messing with McConnell. In September, he was vowing a big fight over the debt. He said Republicans would simply not help Democrats avoid default. And he said he was willing to court crisis, start a global financial meltdown, if need be.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): ... legislation that raises the debt limit.

They will not get Senate Republicans help with raising the debt ceiling.


MELBER: Fact-check, false.

Democrats got help from Republicans. You see here, McConnell blinked. Then many on the Republican right were upset. Trump said McConnell folded. And McConnell rushed then -- this is what`s so interesting about what`s happening this week.

He said, oh, well, OK, I won`t do it again, and told Biden that, when it came time to avoiding the next default, he would do nothing to help Democrats: "I will not provide such assistance again."

Well, that`s not true. The tactician doubled down on something and then again blinked, caving in this standoff over the relatively arcane issue of funding the government through the debt ceiling. McConnell and 13 other Republicans are going to raise it, supporting what Biden won without getting any concessions in return, which is the normal course, by the way. You`re not supposed to get concessions just for not taking hostages.

Here`s that one independent outlet put it: "McConnell blinked on the debt limit," saying he would never help the Democrats. And he just did twice, McConnell blinking. Senate Republicans have lost other fights to Biden as well, including infrastructure, where McConnell after vowing 100 percent opposition voted with Biden, and some aspects of COVID relief.

So one of the things you have to do in life and certainly in objective news reporting is put narratives aside, and if they`re from the Beltway, probably put them far to the side, and just follow what`s actually happening in real time.

The rep, the narrative, the hype about Mitch McConnell is that he knows his tactics, and especially if it`s about arcane legislative stuff, he will win in the end, he will certainly stick to his guns. He has done neither.

Which reminds us of something Thomas Jefferson famously said: Don`t believe the hype.

Michelle Goldberg from "The New York Times" is here. Maybe she will tell us who really said that when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Michelle Goldberg, columnist from "The New York Times."

Nice to see you.


MELBER: On a lot of this financial hostage-taking, which some Republicans wanted. Mitch McConnell blinking more than a strobe light. And that might be actually the responsible thing to do.

But it shows something wrong with at least some recent D -- D.C. cliches, I should say. And if you want to sign that he`s blinking, look no further than the reaction from Tucker Carlson.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mitch McConnell, he`s a disaster for the party.

He just...

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: ... Senate, but in real life, and everyone in Washington knows this, on the issues that matter, Mitch McConnell is an instrument of the left.


MELBER: Michelle?

GOLDBERG: Actually, well, I saw that Tucker Carlson segment, and he`s furious about something else as well, which is that Mitch McConnell apparently intervened to get one of the plotters of the January 6 rally that became an insurrection kicked out of planning Bob Dole`s, some kind of memorial event.

Maybe it was his funeral or a memorial for Bob Dole. And so, from Tucker Carlson`s point of view and maybe the point of view some other people on the right, Mitch McConnell has betrayed them twice in a row.


That said, I don`t want to go overboard on gloating that Mitch McConnell didn`t blow up the world economy out of partisan spite, right? I think that there is a logic to what he did, which is that, right now, Joe Biden -- a logic besides the moral logic, because I don`t think moral logic applies with Mitch McConnell.

Right now, Joe Biden`s approval ratings are pretty low, and they`re pretty low on the economy. If Republicans do something that causes economic calamity, and it is obviously the Republicans` fault, that does not bode well for the thing that McConnell I think wants most in the world, which is to be Senate majority leader.

What I think will be interesting is, if he becomes Senate majority leader, if he`s able to do things like this again, to sort of pull back on the most extreme demands of his party, right, because, in order to do this, he needed the help of -- he obviously doesn`t have the help of most of his caucus, but he at least had a chunk to get him to -- over the filibuster.

A lot of the people who helped him are retiring, right? They`re going to be replaced by people who are not going to be amenable to making deals, who are not going to be amenable to long-term strategic thinking, who are just going to want the immediate brinksmanship to see the Biden presidency fail at all costs, again, even if that failure -- and I think we have seen this in the past with other sorts of Republicans.

You saw this with Newt Gingrich, people who were sort of willing to watch the whole world burn if it meant that they could land some blows on a Democratic president.

MELBER: But is there something to be learned from the fact that the halo around Mitch McConnell`s endless tactical supposed brilliance doesn`t match the fact that, when stared down, for the reasons you state -- it`s not every time, but in this set of conditions, it turns out he can cave?

GOLDBERG: I think it really depends on the sort of the hand that he`s holding, and also on Democrats.

I think the Democrats` willingness to stick together is extremely important here. And that`s a really important lesson for Democrats to hold on to going forward, because you could imagine Democrats, on the other hand, saying, just as I just said, Biden`s ratings on the economy are really bad. We can`t risk economic disaster. We can`t risk sort of the stability of the American economy on the world stage.

Instead, they held together. And I think that McConnell was even worried that they would carve out some sort of exemption to the filibuster, and this was a way of stopping them from doing that.

MELBER: Right.

GOLDBERG: Technically, it`s also an exemption to the filibuster, in that they have passed this law saying that Democrats can raise the debt ceiling with 50 votes, but they did it with Republicans. It didn`t set a precedent of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema joining with Democrats, saying, basically, enough is enough.

In the face of Republican obstruction, we`re going to carve out an exemption to the filibuster, because I think that McConnell knows that, once they do that once, it`ll be easier to do it again.

MELBER: Right.

And that goes to something that emerged from all of this, where you talk about who runs Washington, and particularly the Republican Party, although with sway over both, Wall Street didn`t want to sit through that kind of disruption. And so they would have turned on the Republican orthodoxy about the filibuster in a second if they needed to.

Michelle Goldberg, thank you, as always. And I hope you have a good weekend.

GOLDBERG: Thank you. You too.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Coming up, why Matt Gaetz is pivoting from his own federal investigation to talking to Steve Bannon, who`s got his own federal prosecution. They are back together. We`re going to get into all of it, fact-checks too.

That`s next.



MELBER: Rising authoritarianism is a problem in America right now.

It is a theme in a large part of the Republican Party. It began and was mainlined by Donald Trump, but continues apace with many others coming along.

That is the serious side of what might look stupid or farcical. Matt Gaetz, who`s been under federal investigation, going on Steve Bannon`s podcast, Bannon now awaiting trial, as we reported, for what was his second criminal indictment.

Now, Gaetz has a lot of reasons to change the subject, but the subject they`re focusing on also merits some attention, when you think about rising authoritarianism and public pledges to abuse power at a time when these people are aligned with someone, the former president, who abused power,

Take a listen.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: This is Trumpism in power. That`s what we went to the 4,000 shock troops we have to have this is going to man the government and get them ready now, right?

We`re going to hit the beach. You had the landing teams and the beachhead teams, all that nomenclature they use, when President Trump wins again in 2024, or before.


MELBER: Or before, Bannon referring to something that has cropped up more and more on the right, first with QAnon conspiracy theories, but now in a way -- especially when you talk about people who worked in the White House or a current member of Congress, in a way that shows just how brazen and open people are being about trying to seize power without an election or overthrowing one.

Both of those things are anti-democratic. They`re authoritarian. We have to call them by their name.

Gaetz talking openly about abusing power to punish government officials.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): We are going to go after this administrative state and we`re going to start at the Department of Justice and the FBI. That`s the job I want.

Send me over to the Judiciary Committee, and their sphincters will tighten, because they have been doing a lot of corrupt things over there.


MELBER: We`re joined by former federal prosecutor John Flannery, who was counsel to congressional investigations.

Welcome back, sir.

How do you distinguish between brazen, pathetic political theater, which is not new in America, and what looks like open and public plotting to mainline authoritarianism?

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it doesn`t just look like open plotting. It does and is open plotting.

The -- both these guys have histories. We have Bannon, who was advising the president how in fact to bring off an insurrection, and was involved with those people on the 5th and the 6th, according to the investigation of the select committee on the hill.


We had Gaetz in may of this year telling people, you know what the Second Amendment was for? It was to use it. It was to go against the government. It was for an uprising.

And so what do we have a conversation here? They don`t just say, we should oppose the government. They don`t just say we should go out and vote.

We have from Bannon, he says, we`re going to hit the beach with the landing teams and the beachhead teams and all that nomenclature they use when President Trump wins in 2024 and, as you said, or before. That`s -- and he`s talking about 4,000 shock troops. He`s identifying -- it sounds like storm troopers.

It reminds me of my uncle, who was a prisoner of war in World War II, and what my family thought about what was going on in Germany. And it`s going of here. And the storm troopers of the fascist, they were the ancillary to Hitler taking over.


FLANNERY: Now, similar language from Gaetz. Gaetz starts this -- he says, raise your voices. Raise a ruckus.

MELBER: And I will say...

FLANNERY: Raise an army.

MELBER: I want to play one more piece for you. And I will say they may be invoking that, just as the Charlottesville marchers invoked their version of modern neo-Nazism.

I`m certainly not reporting on something reaching a Germany level at this juncture. But I am talking about authoritarianism because this is the other part I want to play for you, Bannon talking about going after opponents, abusing power, planning to do it if and when they get back to the federal government, in their view. Take a listen.



GAETZ: People didn`t like the Donald Trump raised his voice, but, sometimes, you got to raise your voice to raise a ruckus and to raise an army of patriots who love this country and will fight for her.

And if we get more of them -- exactly what we`re going to do. We`re going to operationalize the performance to go right after the people who are imposing the vaccine mandates, who are enriching themselves and who are selling out the country.


MELBER: That`s Gaetz there talking to Bannon.

I have about a minute left, John.


MELBER: What is your legal view of the distinction between how these folks defend it, which is saying, he`s brash, he`s loud, he`s talking about doing congressional oversight, which is valid, the oversight part, and what it really sounds like when you look at the whole context, which is abuse of power?

FLANNERY: Using his own words, the sphincter muscles that are tight are his and Bannon`s.

And he wants to take over, what, the judiciary and the FBI. Why? For self- defense. Both these guys are counting on taking over the government, so they won`t have to answer for the things they`re saying right now that they have done already and we expect they will do again.

If I was the attorney general, there`d be a grand jury looking into that conversation and everything before it. And you have to ask yourself, why isn`t the FBI visiting each of these men and saying, what did you mean, to resolve the question that this was, in their way, oh, it`s just talk?

Well, it`s not just talk, because they have married up this kind of talk with action before, violent action. And what`s happening is we`re, giving me giving them a free ride to build up their people, their 4,000 storm troops, for this aggressive takeover that didn`t succeed the last time, but they say MAGA will succeed the next time.


Well, you just hit on something that we mentioned in the open. But, as is often the case, Mr. Flannery, you take it back to the point. We are looking at two people who are on the defensive end of investigations that have already sent Mr. Gaetz`s friend and longtime ally to a long prison sentence, Mr. Bannon on his second indictment, looking at real jail time.

Gosh, they have a big beef with the FBI and the DOJ. It`s beyond a conflict of interests. It`s a rank hypocrisy. And yet people listen to them, so the fact-checks are needed...


MELBER: ... which is why we need the bow tied fact-checkers.

Good to see you, John.

FLANNERY: Good to be here. Thanks for having me, Ari.

MELBER: Absolutely.

We`re going to fit in a break, but coming up, I`m going to get into several important issues right now, voting rights in America and the difference between your right to self-defense, which you have, and the increasing cultural glorification of guns in America.

Stay with us.



MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT, so you know it`s time to fall back.

And, boy, we have got two great guests tonight, Arian Moayed, actor, writer, director, but most famous right now for playing Stewy on HBO`s award-winning "Succession."


BRIAN COX, ACTOR: I am surrounded by snakes and (EXPLETIVE DELETED) morons!

ARIAN MOAYED, ACTOR: Now, I could care less, but even the advanced whispers of this local TV deal have people so mad at you that they`re throwing piss at you on the street.

ALAN RUCK, ACTOR: I`m not saying I would make a better CEO. That`s unsaid.

JEREMY STRONG, ACTOR: It`s not unsaid when you say it.

Look, we`re friends. We go back, I can trust you, right?



MELBER: And maybe we have some kind of fever here, because, full disclosure, we are lucky to say Arian is the second "Succession" cast member to join us this very week. We just heard from J. Smith-Cameron, who plays that lawyer-turned-CEO on the show.


J. SMITH-CAMERON, ACTRESS: Show business also is a place where there`s ruthless misogyny and a lot of struggling to keep your toehold.

And -- but I think, actually, women in all businesses relate to that.

MELBER: Who will take over the company?

SMITH-CAMERON: Well, we know who should take over the company.


SMITH-CAMERON: I don`t know. I mean, I think that I have a feeling it`s something we haven`t thought of yet.


MELBER: She plays a fantastic lawyer.

And now we have a real fantastic lawyer along for the ride, Neal Katyal, who is known as one of the nation`s leading attorneys. That`s why Obama tapped him as acting solicitor general. He`s done 44 cases before the High Court and occasionally acts in his own 1 percenter series.

Here he was in "Showtime"`s Billions.


Well, there he was. That`s the video, Neal.

KATYAL: There he was.

MELBER: We don`t need to watch the clip, because you`re here.

Welcome to both of you. How you all doing?

KATYAL: Great. Thank you.

MOAYED: Thank you for having me. Amazing.

Love the show, Ari. And I love you.


MELBER: Oh, that`s so nice. I love "Succession." I think viewers might be figuring that out. I love Neal. I love having you guys together.

Let`s just start with "Succession" and the boss moves here. You channel someone in this Stewy character, who is really just terrible, I mean, like the worst banker in the room.


MELBER: And yet -- and yet people like you, some people anyway, your character. And they think you do him with such verve.

One example, just in the Internet love, here`s one of these memes, these things that people make and kick around. They take something you said, great writing too, of course, but how you do it.

Let`s put this up. This is Stewy, your character. This was going around online. I think we have it. And I think you`re saying something like: "I feel like I`m taking a `blank` in the Guggenheim, you all."

How do you channel this character?

MOAYED: I mean, the writing is so incredible.

I mean, just looking at this right now, I mean, he`s basically being -- Logan is outside the door, outside the room watching our board meeting. And it`s like, I feel like I`m taking a you know what in the Guggenheim, you all.

I mean, when you have writing like that from Jesse Armstrong and the amazing writers, I mean, you just have to just stand away and let all that happen, really.


And is your character -- do you like anything about him as a person?

MOAYED: Oh, yes.

First of all, you can`t -- you have to as an actor love the character that you`re playing. Otherwise, it`s going to be misery.

Yes, I mean, he doesn`t lie. He`s always telling you exactly how he feels. He is -- he says, can we trust you? No, you can`t trust me.


MOAYED: And, at the end of season two, he essentially was like, I`m going to make a little bit more money than you Roys, and that`s all that matters for me.

MELBER: Right.

MOAYED: And so, in that respect, you have to respect him for that, because -- and he`s good at what he does. He`s good at what he does.

MELBER: You make a very interesting point, which is his amoral candor.

Someone we can trust as Neal. And now we go to the "Fallback" portion.

Neal, what`s on your "Fallback" list?

KATYAL: Man, it was a ton, a lot of competition this week, Ari.

I was really tempted about -- to name these Republican holiday cards by people like Representative Boebert and Massie in which their families are posing with guns, like they want to turn the country into Afghanistan or something like that. So I was tempted about that.

But I have to say, the Texas state legislature this week, I just had to give them the edge, because if -- you got to think about all they accomplished, Ari. Just this week, they got sued by the Justice Department for a crazy redistricting plan that reduced the number of Hispanic -- Hispanic majority districts from 33 to 30, at a time when there are two million more Hispanic residents in the state of Texas.

So this leaves a lot fewer minority districts than before. It`s kind of like if Hollywood, for every "Eternals," gave us three "La La Land"s or something like that. I mean, this is a real step backwards.

So then that`s one thing. The second is, today, they lost their kind of crazy abortion vigilante provision in the Supreme Court. They tried to allow individuals to sue to stop abortions, and said that the federal courts couldn`t review it. And the Supreme Court today threw that out.

And Texas is kind of like a fifth-grader throwing paper planes at their crush. We get it. You guys want to be co-equal with the federal government? Well, let`s see where that attention gets you. It didn`t get you very far today.


KATYAL: They have passed all sorts of ridiculous voting restriction laws, I.D. laws that got them sued by the Justice Department.


KATYAL: So all this is just -- the Texas state legislature right now takes the cake.

MELBER: Great points. Your list, no surprise, is detailed, thoughtful, and, Arian, includes a little bit of a sick burn from Neal there.

Now, what`s on your list?

MOAYED: My list is real -- I mean, it has been a crazy week. I will give Neal that.

I mean, my list really was this guy from basically firing 900 people on a Zoom call. I mean, that`s like the worst version of, like, "The Voice" or "American Idol" I have ever heard of.

Like -- and in the middle of it, he said something to the effect of like, this is the second time I have done this. And the first time I cried a lot. This time, I`m not going to cry as much. I`m going to be stronger.

And then, all of a sudden, he fires -- he`s like, if you`re on the Zoom call, congratulations. You have been fired.

Yes, I`m sure he`s like not really going to let this one down. I mean, it`s insane to me. It`s just kind of like I guess he really wanted -- I guess he had a lot of meetings that day and really wanted to get it done in one fell swoop.


MELBER: Well, Arian, even "Up in the Air," where George Clooney famously plays someone who fires people for a living, he believes it has to be done in person.


Well, it`s 2021, Ari. And maybe the Zoom version of that is what needs to happen. I guess there`s a -- George Clooney has a movie now. That`s what I`m hearing, from what you`re saying. George Clooney has a new movie. Done.

MELBER: Respect.

Arian, finally, before we lose you, the season finale is this weekend. Can you tell us anything?

MOAYED: I can only tell you that Stewy is still cool.

MELBER: And why is your show better than "Billions," which Neal cameoed in?



MOAYED: That is not anything I`m going to touch with a 10-foot pole at all.

MELBER: Respect.

OK. Arian, very respectful.

Neal, you got 10 seconds.

KATYAL: No, I mean, the shows are both great. I`m, of course, partial to "Billions."

But it`s a real privilege to Arian on. He`s just a fabulous actor. Really appreciate you coming on, Arian.

MOAYED: Thank you, Neal.

MELBER: And we love it. We love...

MOAYED: Neal, hey, you can come on "Succession" next. Is that what you`re asking?

KATYAL: I`m open.

MOAYED: I mean, we could make it happen.

All right, we will see.

KATYAL: I got my SAG card.

MOAYED: We might need a beard, though.

We might need you to have -- you would have a beard or some sort of accent. We will figure it out. We will figure it out.

MELBER: We would love that.

You could keep it off the record until the very end. If we`re clicking around next year, and we see Maya Wiley and Neal Katyal on, we will be thrilled.

Arian and Neal, thanks to both of you.

We will be right back.


MELBER: Thanks for watching THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER. You can always find me online @AriMelber on social media or at

I`m wishing you a great weekend.

"THE REIDOUT" starts now.