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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 12/23/21

Guests: Andrew Solomon, Marq Claxton, Fernand Amandi, Jill Wine-Banks, E.J. Dionne, Maria Hinojosa, Paul Krugman


Donald Trump makes a desperate final appeal to stop the January 6 Committee to the Supreme Court. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman speaks out. The jury delivers a guilty verdict in the trial of former Minnesota police officer Kimberly Potter. COVID cases continue exploding in the United States. A writer whose book Texas Republicans are actively trying to ban speaks out.


[18:00:04] ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Alicia Menendez, in for Ari Melber. We have a lot to get to tonight, including a guilty verdict in the murder trial of former Minnesota police officer Kimberly Potter. Outpouring of reaction after she is convicted of manslaughter in the killing of Daunte Wright. Plus, I will talk live to Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman as Biden and Manchin tried to reach a deal. But we start with COVID cases exploding on the single busiest travel day of 2021. It kicks off the years busiest travel week, an estimated 100 million drivers hitting the road, over six million airline passengers. There`s a map of the states where Omicron is now present. Your eyes do not deceive you. It is all 50. New York state recording its highest number of cases for the fifth time in a week, D.C. reporting a record number of cases, across the country, crushing lines for tests. It`ll be weeks before the 500 million additional tests promised by President Biden are going to be available. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: If you go to the pharmacy, we hear this over and over again, empty shelves, no test kits. Is that a failure? JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don`t think it`s a failure. MUIR: We`re nearly two years into this pandemic. You`re a year into the presidency. Empty shelves and no test kits in some places three days before Christmas, when it`s so important, is that good enough? BIDEN: No, nothing`s been good enough. But look where we are. We`re in a situation now where we have 200 million people fully vaccinated. (END VIDEO CLIP) MENENDEZ: And some very good news today, a new Merck COVID pill getting approval today, just a day after the FDA green-lit Pfizer`s pill. The new data out of the U.K. bolstering hope that Omicron is milder and less deadly than Delta. Public health experts are also clear that vaccines reduce the spread and protect against severe illness, and that a major battle is rampant misinformation, especially on the right, Biden`s surgeon general saying this today: (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: We have seen public health politicized, and it should never be politicized. It should be driven by science and by public interest. But we have also seen to see extraordinary spread of misinformation. (END VIDEO CLIP) MENENDEZ: Joining me now, infectious diseases physician Dr. Nahid Bhadelia and columnist for "The Washington Post" E.J. Dionne. It is great to see you both. Doctor, I want to start with you on that sound from the surgeon general. How detrimental is misinformation to our recovery at this point? DR. NAHID BHADELIA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think it`s central to why so many of us have remained unvaccinated, and not everybody. I think there are still people who are facing some challenges or logistical -- they want their questions answered. But a huge portion of our vulnerability in the face of this variant now, this far in, two years in, has to do with how many people chose to not get vaccinated based on the advice that they got that they were misled on, whether it`s people who are selling misinformation, or actually frank disinformation that was politically motivated, the surgeon general said. And not only that, but I think that, along with the bad luck of getting a variant that`s not only more transmissible, that you can outcompete Delta, but also one that maybe make some of the tools in our medical toolbox less effective, like the monoclonal antibodies, and could potentially cause some breakthrough infections in people who are vaccinated, all of that is, I think, putting pressure onto this pandemic response which was unprecedented. We wouldn`t have expected it at this time, by this point. MENENDEZ: Yes, E.J., on misinformation and messaging, listen to the sound from former President Trump. And I`m going to get your take on the other side. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CANDACE OWENS, HOST, "CANDACE": More people have died under COVID this year, by the way, under Joe Biden than under you. DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, that`s right. OWENS: And more people took the vaccine this year. So people are questioning how... TRUMP: Oh, no the vaccine worked, OWENS: Yes. TRUMP: But some people aren`t taking it. The ones -- the ones that get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don`t take the vaccine. But it`s still their choice. And if you take the vaccine, you`re protected. Look, the results of the vaccine are very good. And if you do get it, it`s a very minor form. (END VIDEO CLIP) MENENDEZ: E.J., I don`t need to tell you, I don`t need to tell Dr. Bhadelia we would have likely been at a very different point in this pandemic if this was the message that he was using as soon as the vaccines became available. When you watch this, to what do you ascribe that pivot? E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think that President Biden went out of his way in his speech on Tuesday to praise Donald Trump, not once, but twice. And he said, in the first instance, that that Trump got a booster. And he said, that`s maybe one of the few things we agree on. And then he also said that we had developed vaccines more quickly than other countries, and he ascribed it to Trump. Now, I don`t know if playing up to Trump by Biden earlier might have helped on this front, but, clearly, it`s had an effect on him. And, yes, if Trump had come out full force and said that earlier, we`d be better off. [18:05:06] I think Biden did two political things that were smart in that speech of his. On the one hand, he tried to split the anti-vaxxers by playing up to Trump. And that`s useful. On the other hand -- and you saw Dr. Murthy really go at this -- I think he`s heightening the war on misinformation and disinformation. And I think they have to stay at that over and over again. And some people will never be reached, because they will be in bubbles. But I think a concerted campaign against disinformation can help. And it`s essential. MENENDEZ: So, Dr. Bhadelia, let`s talk about the actual information. When we talk about Omicron being milder, being less deadly than Delta, what does that actually mean? BHADELIA: Well, actually, I will just say that there are more signals that it might be. But the reason it`s so hard to figure this out is because Delta happened at a different time in time, at a point where more of the world`s population was not vaccinated yet and more of the world`s population didn`t yet have immunity. So it`s hard to figure out what today Omicron would do to a person who`s hadn`t had any prior infection and has not been vaccinated. And that`s why that`s the severity question is so hard, because you`re seeing -- what U.K. seeing is shorter hospitalization times, right? And that`s something that South Africa saw as well. But is that is it because the population there has been highly vaccinated and people who haven`t been vaccinated, maybe a portion of those have had prior infection? What I want to make sure people hear is that even as we hear this good news with the pills with Merck, with Paxlovid, the supply is so low, in the surge, the best way to protect ourselves are these vaccines. We need to get vaccinated if we want a semblance of return to normalcy and not having to worry about hospitals getting full again, or which they already are, or remaining full, I should say. MENENDEZ: I`m so glad that you underscored that point. E.J., here`s President Biden yesterday pushing back on what some are describing as his administration`s slow reaction to this new variant. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MUIR: What would you say to some Americans who might say this feels like we`re chasing Omicron, instead of being ahead of it, fully prepared for it? BIDEN: Well, look, Omicron only really came on the scene just before Thanksgiving. We weren`t talking about Omicron six months ago. But it`s just recent. And so we are chasing Omicron. (END VIDEO CLIP) MENENDEZ: E.J., you have written about this. It`s part of why I wanted to talk to you tonight. What is your take on the White House`s response? DIONNE: Well, I think, if you look at the administration`s overall approach, and divide it in two, they have done pretty decently, quite well, actually, on vaccination, especially given the misinformation, 200 million people -- more than 200 million vaccinated, 240 million with one dose. Almost 88 percent of people over 65, a very vulnerable group, are fully vaccinated. So, on that side, they have done well. They were very slow on testing. And there was a good piece recently in "Vanity Fair," where they put their eggs in the vaccine basket, and really did not take testing as seriously as they could have. They should have rolled out -- they should have been much more aggressive about testing earlier on, so that we might have had more tests available for the holidays. To their credit, they have finally pivoted and they have said, OK, we`re now going to make these tests available. But they should have been operating full-bore on both fronts. And I think they now regret that they didn`t. MENENDEZ: Dr. Bhadelia, I would love to know if you agree. I also would love you to speak to how important testing is at this point. BHADELIA: Yes, I think it`s two things. Yes, could be have done better? Absolutely. Throughout this entire pandemic, the last two years, I think public health experts have been saying -- but testing helps because it makes individuals take decisions about their health. It also helps from a public health perspective, because it makes people change their behavior, which reduces transmission, which would be amazing, right? If you could just spread this, have this rain from everywhere, the rapid tests, you could have people know their status and stop any kind of activities they would have been doing during these holidays that could continue the spread, which could eventually reach vulnerable people who would end up in the hospital. But the other reason testing remains important is because now we have these drugs, which the -- both the Merck and the Pfizer drug are required to be taken a certain number of days -- it`s about five days from symptom onset, not testing onset, testing results, symptom onset. And so you need to get your hands on a test and know your status very quickly to be able to take advantage of this. So, that makes other tools less effective when testing is not available. But the reason I think it`s also an issue is not just the delays in testing, but the demand has gone up because of how just transmissible this variant is. The sudden -- it`s not the amount, but it`s that sudden amount of tests that are needed that manufacturing can`t keep up with. MENENDEZ: E.J., politically, how important... (CROSSTALK) MENENDEZ: Yes, go ahead, E.J. DIONNE: I walked into a CVS and, without saying what I was there for, the good person behind the counter said, "Is this what you`re looking for"? and handed me a test. [18:10:07] And that was about a week ago. And I bet he doesn`t have as many sitting back there. But it`s a sign of what the doctor said, that the demand has just soared over the last week or week-and-a-half. MENENDEZ: Yes, as someone who has been doing the rounds, placing calls to various pharmacies and asking them that exact question, to your point, they basically answer it as soon as they pick up the phone. There are a lot of us looking for those tests. Dr. Bhadelia, E.J. Dionne, thank you both so much for getting us started. Coming up: Donald Trump makes a desperate final appeal to stop the January 6 Committee to the Supreme Court. Plus, a stunning guilty verdict for the police officer who killed Daunte Wright. Our experts will break it all down. And then Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is here live on why Biden should swing for the fences on Build Back Better. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MENENDEZ: The walls are closing in on Trump, the MAGA riot committee on the verge of getting 800 pages of secret documents, including call logs, schedules and private communications. Today, he`s going to the Supreme Court, asking to stop the immediate release of the records until they decide on hearing the case. An appeals court already rejected his executive privilege claim. The Supreme Court not obligated to hear the case. This desperate legal move coming as his fiercest ally in Congress, Jim Jordan, is called to talk to the committee. It does not sound like he plans on cooperating. [18:15:10] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: The January 6 Committee, who didn`t want you on them, on the January 6 Committee, might want you in front of them to take questions. What will your reaction be? Will it be the same as Mark Meadows, take a walk, or would you sit down and speak to them? REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I got to be honest with you. I got real concerns about any committee that will take a document and alter it and it present it to the American people, completely mislead the American people, like they did last week. In the last 12 months, we went from a secure border to chaos. We went from energy independence to the president of the United States begging OPEC to increase production. We went from safe streets to record crime. (END VIDEO CLIP) MENENDEZ: That is a very hard pivot. Joining me now, Jill Wine-Banks, former Watergate prosecutor, and Democratic pollster Fernand Amandi. Jill, does the former president have any standing here? JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: He has standing because he`s in the court. They are accepting it. But he does not have any chance of winning. I would say the chances are almost zero. There is, of course, the precedent of the Watergate case, the U.S. v. Nixon, in which the court said the president has to turn over documents. That was to us, to a prosecution unit, not to Congress, but it`s still a pretty good precedent. And you have something even better here. The president, the only one we have at a time -- that is, President Biden -- has waived any executive privilege. He has said that the public`s need to know, their right to know is paramount here, and that the documents should be turned over. So I would say this is a losing case. Maybe the court will actually not even hear arguments. MENENDEZ: Jill, the January 6 Committee responding today through its lawyer, stating -- quote -- "Moving quickly is warranted because of the indisputable importance and urgency of the select committee`s investigation. Delay would inflict a serious injury on the select committee and the public." Jill, what is the strategy here? WINE-BANKS: Well, let me just say that, in the Watergate case, we went from the final subpoena for 64 tapes for trial, which was our second subpoena, to a Supreme Court decision in three months. So there is no reason why it has to take any longer than that. This case is already under way. So I`m saying it could be decided long before March. And the timing here is so crucial, because unless the documents are turned over, I would say, way before the summer recess, it`s going to be useless. By the time you get into the midterm elections and the risk that Congress could change hands, and the Republicans would shut this down, Americans will never know the truth of what happened, who planned it, who funded it, who was -- what did the president know and when did he know it, going back to another Watergate case? I think we have to have expedition here. I think if there`s going to be an argument at the Supreme Court, it can be done immediately. Look how fast they are taking on cases now. They took on an abortion case quickly. They took on the vaccine mandate case. It`s going to be argued January 7, weeks away. There`s no reason why this couldn`t be argued in weeks, if there was going to even be an argument. Remember, this is a case of cert. They don`t have to take the case. They could say it`s so obvious what the decision is, we don`t have to take it. So, speed is important. (CROSSTALK) MENENDEZ: Yes. And, Fernand, we know that that has been their entire strategy here, delay, delay, delay. I want to go back to that clip that I played. I don`t know if you caught what the FOX News host said in that clip to Jim Jordan, because it was kind of an aside, but I think it is worth repeating. He says to Jordan, looks like the January 6 Committee who didn`t want you on them, on the January 6 Committee, might want you in front of them to take questions, almost positioning it, Fernand, as, well, they didn`t want you, but now they have come crawling back, when, no, that was the whole point. They rightly didn`t believe that someone like Jim Jordan, who had potentially played a role in what happened on January 6, should be in charge of accountability. FERNAND AMANDI, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER AND STRATEGIST: You know, Alicia, I think you make an excellent point there. And I hear Jill Wine-Banks draw the parallel to Watergate. And, of course, Watergate did end up driving a president from office, when he was ultimately held accountable. But I think that there has been a year last here, a year precisely, now getting into 2022, which is an election year, where, for the average American, they look at what`s happening and they think, well, this now starts to feel political. And one has to ask. The committee talks about the need for expediting. The committee talks the need for speed. But yet we are here now almost a year to the day, and none of the accountable actors, none of the instigators of this crime that took place before the eyes of the world have been held accountable. I think, if you had asked the American public and those watching around the world 24 hours after January 6 of last year that we`d be a year removed from the event and no one would be held accountable, no one would have believed it. [18:20:00] And I think that is now playing against this strategy and why, if you`re a Republican or one of the instigators, you`re extremely happy that this thing continues to delay and goes to the courts. And, as Jill kind of played the prelude to, if the Congress is lost a year from now without resolution, this thing will go away like it never happened. MENENDEZ: Right. And, Jill, to that point about moving this expeditiously, because I think there are a lot of people who share Fernand`s sense of urgency, "The New York Times" thinks it is a mistake for Garland to wait on the findings from the January 6 probe. The text says: "It is possible that the department is deferring the decision pending further work by the House. Such an approach would come at a very high cost." Your thoughts? WINE-BANKS: I agree with Fernand I agree with "The New York Times." There is no reason for delay. They can go ahead simultaneously with what is happening in the January 6 Committee. We worked simultaneously with the Senator Ervin select committee. And there was no problem coordinating. We ended up giving our evidence to the impeachment committee, because we got more evidence quicker and felt that it was a road map. But we also benefited by the Ervin committee and got evidence from them. We learned about the taping system from a question that was asked in a public hearing by that committee. So, they can work very well side by side. And there is a time factor here. And I agree with Fernand that it is a year. We`re almost celebrating the year anniversary of January 6, not an anniversary that I particularly want to celebrate. It`s not celebratable, because it`s so awful. But it did take a long time to get going. But now that they have gotten things in place, now that they have evidence, they are ending up probably going to be making criminal referrals to the Department of Justice. But they don`t have to wait at the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice can see, in the same way that I can, a whole host of crimes that have been committed. And I think they have been pointed out by many in the press. They need to be acted on. If President Nixon had been held accountable, he -- and he was. He obviously had to have to resign in disgrace. But if he had gone to jail, along with his compatriots who did go to jail, maybe Donald Trump would have learned a lesson. Maybe Donald Trump wouldn`t have done the things he did that are so illegal. MENENDEZ: Fernand, I have got about 30 seconds left. When we come into the new year looking at January 6, what do Democrats` message have to be? AMANDI: I mean, that`s the central question, Alicia. Is the Democratic message, we`re going to continue to try and work in a bipartisan manner with a Republican Party that has gotten behind an armed attack against the citadel of a democracy, the United States Capitol, or is it going to be moving this issue front and center? Because, from January 6, everything else emanates, the voting rights, the ability to stay in office, which means passing legislation that will help the lives of every American, improve the economy, tackle COVID. They don`t do those things, I think it`s going to feel like just political back-and- forth to the average voter, and the Democrats will have missed a historical chance to send these insurrectionist Republicans to the dustbin of history. MENENDEZ: Jill Wine-Banks, Fernand Amandi, thank you both. Coming up in just 60 seconds: a dramatic verdict in the officer killing of Daunte Wright, the former officer guilty of manslaughter, what it means for police reform. All that and more we`re back in just 60 seconds. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MENENDEZ: A former Minnesota police officer found guilty of manslaughter for killing 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop this year. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JUDGE REGINA CHU, HENNEPIN COUNTY DISTRICT COURT: "We, the jury, on the charge of manslaughter in the first degree while committing a misdemeanor on or about April 11, 2021, in Hennepin County, state of Minnesota, find the defendant guilty. [18:25:09] The verdict on count two is: "We, the jury, on the charge of manslaughter in the second degree, culpable negligence, on or about April 11, 2021, in Hennepin County, state of Minnesota, find the defendant guilty." (END VIDEO CLIP) MENENDEZ: Kim Potter taken away in handcuffs and directly into custody after the verdict was read. She faces up to 25 years in prison. This is the new mug shot taken by officials. Potter won`t get out on bail. The jury deliberated for three-and-a-half days and nearly 24 hours before reaching the verdict. Potter claimed it was an accident, pulling a gun instead of a Taser, a 26-year veteran of the police department. The prosecution making the point, it was an accident, but her actions were reckless and criminal. This majority-white jury sending the message that accidents can also be criminal. So what will this verdict mean for the future of police reform? Daunte Wright`s family with an emotional reaction right after the verdict. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KATIE WRIGHT, MOTHER OF DAUNTE WRIGHT: The moment that we heard guilty on manslaughter one, emotions, every single emotion that you could imagine just running through your body at that moment. I kind of let out a yelp, because it was built up in the anticipation of what was to come while we were waiting in the last few days. (END VIDEO CLIP) MENENDEZ: Joining me now, Marq Claxton, retired NYPD detective and member of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance, and former federal prosecutor Paul Butler. Marq, your reaction to this verdict. MARQ CLAXTON, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: A bit surprising. Early on, I was asked for my feelings about the -- before the verdict came out. And I was cautious about my approach with the verdict. I have been disappointed with verdicts in the past. So I was very cautious about it. But I had a significant conversation with a law enforcement organization`s head. And he was really apoplectic and concerned about the message that the verdict delivered and what he would have to then tell his membership about how reckless or negligent behavior by police officers in this day and age, rightfully, it can be a criminal charge. So I think the verdict is significant. It is substantive, and it will really kind of determine how prosecutions are done moving forward. I think whatever Keith Ellison has established there -- and I want to call it the Minneapolis method for police prosecution -- is substantive and will be replicated throughout the nation. So that`s pulling together a talented group of individuals and presenting clear positions on pretextual aggravated actions, slow-walking through a professional police officer`s training and qualifications, and not being afraid to charge what some might consider high, but charging adequately and appropriately, regardless of the fact that you`re charging a police officer. So, the verdict is significant, substantive, and will have impact moving forward. MENENDEZ: Paul, your reaction? PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So, both the prosecution and the defense agreed that Potter made a mistake. The defense claimed a mistake is not a crime. The conviction means that the jury found that Ms. Potter`s reckless mistake was actually two crimes, first-and second-degree manslaughter. This verdict surprised some people because Ms. Potter was a more sympathetic defendant than someone like Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering George Floyd. Potter was a working mom with two sons. She had been a police officer for 26 years and never fired a gun or Taser in the line of duty until the day she killed Mr. Wright. But none of that is a defense to manslaughter. The prosecution emphasized that, right after Potter shot Mr. Wright, she didn`t try to help them or call for an ambulance. Rather, she burst into tears and said, "I`m going to prison." In the end, I think the jury`s sympathy went more towards a 20-year-old kid whose life was extinguished, rather than to this former police officer, despite her copious tears on the stand. MENENDEZ: Well, speaking to those tears, Paul, she did choose to take the stand. Let`s take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KIM POTTER, DEFENDANT: Taser, Taser, Taser! ERIN ELDRIDGE, MINNESOTA ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: OK. So, stopping a 20201, you have the firearm in your right hand, correct? POTTER: Yes. ELDRIDGE: And you are pointing it directly at Mr. Wright, correct? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, Your Honor. Could we have a break? My client is... CHU: OK. Ms. Potter, do you need to take a break? [18:30:00] OK. (OFF-MIKE) So, OK, members of the jury, we`re going to break for lunch. (END VIDEO CLIP) MENENDEZ: Paul, talk to me about this decision and how you think it played into the final verdict. BUTLER: I think, when Ms. Potter took this dance, she raised some credibility issues with the jury, wondering whether she was actually telling the truth. She has a very selective memory. She claimed not to remember anything immediately after the shooting. She gave an interview where she said, "I don`t make mistakes." On the stand, she claims she didn`t remember that. And, also, when she testified, she never called Daunte Wright by his name. She just referred to him as the driver. In these cases, there`s a mixed bag when officers take the stand or not. So Chauvin did not take the stand. He was convicted. Officer McDonald (sic) in Chicago did take the stand, but he was also convicted of murdering Laquan McDonald. So, there is a playbook for the prosecution now that they`re winning more of these cases. I guess the defense playbook will have to evolve beyond what we saw in this case and many others, which is to put the victim on trial, to make it sound like Daunte Wright deserved to die. The jury rejected that claim. MENENDEZ: Marq, what do you think this is going to mean for police reform and accountability? CLAXTON: I think the debate about reform will continue. However, clearly, I think this verdict and the Derek Chauvin verdict is indicative of the public`s -- the general public`s appetite for increased accountability, if not reform. Even when they may be opposed or slow about operational reform within police agencies, I think there is a feeling, a sentiment around the nation that says, listen, there has to be a high level of accountability. And we can`t ignore police-created jeopardy the role that police play in initiating or creating or cultivating incidents that lead to their use of deadly physical force. So, reform is still on the table, of course, but, without a doubt, accountability is pushing ahead in the public`s mind. MENENDEZ: Marq Claxton, Paul Butler, thank you both. Coming up: Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman is ripping into Joe Manchin for holding up the Biden agenda. Krugman is on THE BEAT next. And, later, I`m going to talk to a writer whose book Texas Republicans are actively trying to ban. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:36:08] MENENDEZ: Miners in West Virginia and Goldman Sachs executives on Wall Street may not always see eye to eye, but, as of tonight, they agree on at least one thing. If conservative Democrat Joe Manchin tanks Biden`s spending plans, it will hurt the economy, coal miners and Goldman Sachs both going public with that view. And in a moment, I will talk to a special guest who shares their view, Nobel laureate Paul Krugman. He slams Manchin in a new article, calling Manchin`s objections to Build Back Better a grab bag of Republican talking points trotted out to justify his abrupt betrayal. Democrats hoping to repair the breach and reach a spending deal on climate, pre-K, child credits, and much more. Biden says he and Manchin agreed to keep talking in the new year. Joining me now, Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning economist and columnist for "The New York Times." Paul, you had some very strong words for Manchin. Tell me what is at stake here. PAUL KRUGMAN, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": OK. The thing about Build Back Better, about the Biden agenda is that it is such a good set of stuff. Like any bill, there`s stuff in it you might not approve of, there`s stuff that isn`t perfect. But there is all spending on things that we have so much neglected as a country, stuff we can afford. It`s stuff that has a huge return. And America drastically underinvests in children. We know that spending -- bringing children out of poverty pays for itself massively, because children that have adequate resources when they`re children grow up to be healthier, more productive adults. We know that spending on the environment, not just climate, not just the really long-run stuff, but just the direct health and productivity benefits of cleaner air, are enormous. So what`s happening here is that Manchin is saying, oh, I cannot agree to this thing because it`s too much money, when, in fact, it is not -- that shouldn`t be an issue. And it isn`t. It`s actually pretty much paid for. So it`s a really, really terrible policy decision. And it`s hard to know what he thinks he`s doing. But it -- he deserves to be slammed for it. I mean, people can try to be politically savvy and try to talk about why he did it and how can somebody talk him into actually backing this stuff, but what a horrific move to make at this point. MENENDEZ: Yes, what you`re saying is the argument doesn`t add up, because not only is he hiding behind this idea that it costs too much money. KRUGMAN: Right. MENENDEZ: He`s also hiding behind the idea that the plan will raise inflation. Your take. KRUGMAN: Yes, there`s a bad habit that people have of -- when we talk about big bills like this, we usually talk about 10-year cost. MENENDEZ: Yes. KRUGMAN: Now, when we talk about things like the defense budget, we talked about one year. So you say, oh, this is $1.7 trillion and -- but that`s over -- that`s over 10 years. And the U.S. economy is enormous. The Congressional Budget Office expects GDP to be $288 trillion over the next 10 years. So, spending $1.7 trillion, even if it was not paid for, and it mostly is paid for, according to the CBO`s estimates, that`s just not a -- that`s not an inflationary amount of spending. That`s a really trivial thing. Plus, we just had word. The Fed has basically said, we`re on guard. We will -- if necessary, we will raise interest rates to keep inflation under control. So, the inflation argument is -- I -- and everybody, even people who have been warning about inflation, people like Larry Summers, have been saying, no, this thing is not inflationary. This is not. This is -- inflation is not a reason not to invest in the country`s future. MENENDEZ: So, he hides behind those boogeymen. He hides behind this idea that it`s going to cost too much. He hides behind this idea that it`s going to raise inflation. And then he also hides behind this idea, I can`t go home to West Virginia and sell this. You highlight how far behind West Virginia is compared to other states. So, for example, life expectancy there six years behind New York. [18:40:08] Is he working against the interests of his own constituents? KRUGMAN: Of course. West Virginia -- look, it`s not the fault of the people in West Virginia. The economy changed. We shifted from a resource economy, a coal economy, to a knowledge economy. And a lot of knowledge-based industries moved to places where there are big metropolitan areas with highly educated people. OK, that`s a very hard thing to reverse. But the way to help a place like West Virginia, which has been kind of stranded by these things, is to give them money is to give people the resources to make sure they have adequate health care, to make sure that they can raise their children. West Virginia is a -- it depends a lot -- and, again, it`s not the fault -- it`s what we`re supposed to do. If people are in trouble in this country, we`re supposed to help them. That includes regions that are in trouble. So West Virginia is a big recipient of federal aid. But it should be getting even more. And so by standing against this, Joe Manchin -- I mean, it`s against the interests of disadvantaged Americans everywhere. But there`s an unusual concentration of people who need this bill in his state. It`s hard to imagine a state that is -- more stands to benefit from the things that he`s opposing than his own state. MENENDEZ: Well, I want you to take a listen to fresh comments from Mitch McConnell. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): So our goal in the minority is try to protect the 2017 tax bill. It was the right thing to do for the country. These rates do not need to be taken up. And we do not need to go on a reckless taxing and spending spree. So, protecting the best of what we did over the last four years is job one for us. (END VIDEO CLIP) MENENDEZ: Paul, your reaction? KRUGMAN: Oh, God, that tax cut, a couple of trillion dollars to corporations and the wealthy, with nothing to show for it. There`s been just nothing in terms of increased business investment, nothing in terms of enhanced growth. It just didn`t do the job. And it was it was more expensive than anything that we`re talking about in Build Back Better. And Republicans -- this -- Mitch McConnell spent four years presiding over an administration which kept on saying it`s infrastructure week, and for four years of non -- infrastructure week not happening. And then we have the Biden administration, which finally actually delivered infrastructure. Now, they only delivered the physical infrastructure. And now it`s time for the human infrastructure. But of all people, to say we can do something better and we can do something that`s more responsible, Mitch McConnell would be kind of like number 310 million among the U.S. population. MENENDEZ: Paul Krugman with the sick burns. Thank you so much for spending some time with us. KRUGMAN: Thank you. MENENDEZ: Ahead: Texas Republicans expanding their push to ban books, now writers fighting back. I`m going to talk live to an author whose book Republicans want to blacklist. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:46:58] MENENDEZ: The effort to ban books is spreading from schools to public libraries. Some parents are now pushing to have books about topics they deem offensive banned from local shelves. It follows an earlier effort led by a state lawmaker named Matt Krause. In October, he compiled a list of 850 books he considered suspect and demanded schools reveal if any were in their libraries. Many of the books dealt with race, sexuality and identity. On that list, "The Letter Q: Queer Writers` Notes to their Younger Selves," the "New Kid," a story of a young black boy struggling to fit in at a new majority- white school, and award-winning book "Between the World and Me" by celebrated author Ta-Nehisi Coates. It all sounds very dystopian, like a scene out of "Fahrenheit 451," in which a fascist regime is obsessed with burning books. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (BOOING) MICHAEL B. JORDAN, ACTOR: Don`t worry. Don`t worry. These are for training purposes only, OK? Now, have any of you guys ever seen one of these bad things for real? ACTORS: No! JORDAN: We burned almost every physical book in the country. So, by the time you guys grow up, there won`t be one book left. (END VIDEO CLIP) MENENDEZ: Joining me now, Andrew Solomon, journalist, award-winning author and professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University. He wrote an op-ed about one of his books being blacklisted in Texas" -- that book`s title, "Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity" - - and Maria Hinojosa, president and founder of Futuro Media. She`s also the author of "Once I Was You: A Memoir." Andrew, I`m going to start with you. What was your reaction to finding out your book was on this list of targeted books? ANDREW SOLOMON, AUTHOR, "FAR FROM THE TREE: PARENTS, CHILDREN AND THE SEARCH FOR IDENTITY": You know, there`s a level at which it feels like a badge of honor to feel it warranted the attention of somebody who is going to try to blacklist it. But at a profound level, as a person who grew up being gay, the prejudice that was involved was deeply disturbing and reminiscent of being bullied on the playground. And as someone whose books are essentially about love and connectedness and passion and generosity and kindness, the idea that those were dangerous concepts and that they would be injurious to people and that other people who are being bullied should be so treated, that idea was devastating to me, truly devastating. MENENDEZ: Maria, as someone who has written a book that celebrates a lot of those same concepts, what does it say to you that, in the United States of America in the year 2021, there are legislators who are trying to ban books from schools and from libraries? MARIA HINOJOSA, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, FUTURO MEDIA GROUP: You know, I`m trying to -- again, to put it all into the same picture. We have to understand that this is in the context of a rise of authoritarianism in the United States, a real challenge to democracy, a real understanding that the narrative that this country portrays, one of independence, free thinking, even revolutionary rhetoric -- I mean, there wouldn`t be a country where it not for the American Revolution. The truth is, is that this country is so, to use the term, freaked out by what is happening, Texas in particular, so freaked out by the reality of who we are. [18:50:08] And I have always said people are fighting against who this country is. And I`m trying to think. I was preparing for this segment, and I was like, I`m getting really upset about this, really upset. I mean, this is the book that I`m reading here on vacation. I`m reading "The Narrative of Frederick Douglass" because this is what we need to do in the United States. We have to understand where we come from. And here`s the thing, Alicia, is that, ultimately, people will rise up. There`s a whole movement in Texas already. It`s called Librotraficante. You know this. They`re not smuggling people. They`re smuggling books. And so people will continue to resist. And there will be -- I mean, when you ban something from young people, you know what`s going to happen. They`re going to find a way to get around the ban. MENENDEZ: Yes, there`s no faster way to make a kid want to read. And, Andrew, this is what breaks my heart about this story, because there is a kid growing up the way you grew up who may not be able to share their truth with anyone in their life, with anyone in their community, who is desperately trying to see their life reflected back to them on the page. And it`s that kid that needs these books so desperately. And it is that kid that is going to be most hurt by these books being banned from libraries. SOLOMON: I think that kid will be devastated. My book is about my being gay. It`s about having a gay family. It deals with transgender kids, which is, of course, a hot-button issue. It`s now on this list in Texas. I grew up with a feeling of loneliness in my identity. In fact, I didn`t recognize it as an identity until I grew older. These books are books that are designed to give children a sense that they are not alone. And what the Texas legislation does or the Texas move does is to try to make them feel more alone, to isolate them, to drive them away. The rate of suicide attempts among LGBT youth is five times the national average. For those people to be denied is -- what might have given them some comfort and sense of belonging is a gross violation. And I couldn`t agree more that we live in a moment of authoritarianism and that that authoritarianism is rooted in a kind of cruel and devastating repudiation of everything that America is supposed to stand for. Martin Luther King said the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. At the moment, it`s bending away from justice. It`s our mission to bend it back in our direction. MENENDEZ: Maria, the GOP lawmaker behind this running for Texas A.G. This is all about politics, right? HINOJOSA: It`s all about politics. That`s the other thing that has me concerned, because we know the demographics of the state of Texas, how many Latinos and Latinas make that and call it their home, and how this particular population, when they`re not -- when they`re not understood, it`s -- it`s problematic. We saw what happened in the Rio Grande Valley, where this part of the country, many Latinos and Latinas, were voting for Donald Trump. So the state of Texas and what they do and how Latinos and Latinas in particular respond to this is really what the future holds for the rest of the country. So, I`m still holding on to the fact that what just happened in Chile, where you had a dictatorship, where they not only banned books, but they killed artists like Victor Jara. And what just happened in Chile recently? A radical, independent, young president was democratically elected. So there`s only so much that you can do to keep this down. MENENDEZ: Andrew, I have about 30 seconds left and a question that cannot possibly be answered in 30 seconds, and that is banning or burning books has a very long history in this country. Should we be afraid? SOLOMON: We should be very afraid. We are living in the moment of backlash and at a time of the annihilation of free speech, an injustice, one has to confess, that this comes not only from the right, but also from the left, that, in the polarization that is an affliction in our country, particularly from the right, but also from the left, there is a silencing of voices. And the silencing of voices is the first and most basic step toward an autocracy that closes down the thinking and the freedom and the education of Americans across the spectrum. MENENDEZ: Andrew Solomon, Maria Hinojosa, thank you both for walking us through this. Ahead, the video you need to see, a year of FOX News on cancel culture. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:58:31] MENENDEZ: If you watched any FOX News at all this year, you know 2021 was the year that so-called cancel culture became a right-wing obsession. Folks at The Recount put together a truly epic video on this. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The cancel culture going after Dr. Seuss tonight. SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: First, it was Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato head. LARA TRUMP, FOX NEWS: They`re canceling Halloween? They`re canceling Valentine`s Day? HARRIS FAULKNER, FOX NEWS: Let`s talk about Democrats canceling themselves. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hollywood now canceling itself? JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: Cancel culture coming for Kermit the Frog. JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS: They canceled the black Muppet. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re being taught that cancel culture is good, fossil fuels are bad, and math is racist. DAN BONGINO, FOX NEWS: They`re even trying to cancel, yes, Barack Obama. HANNITY: Game shows, doctors being subjected to the hate, the rage of cancel culture. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to cancel skinny jeans and side hair parties? FMR. GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R-SC): They want to cancel FOX News. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How dare you cancel the president of the United States? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were canceled, remember? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The woke people are basically trying to cancel Georgia. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cancel culture is coming for a Disney classic. MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Canceling the American family, canceling the Constitution, the flag. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cancel culture claiming our third president. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Canceling Kamala. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden, he will be canceled. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stacey Abrams, she`s going to get canceled because she rode in a car. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, just like driving cars. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cancel, cancel. No, you`re canceled. Cancel. Just cancel everything. BAIER: Is the cancel culture coming after you? FMR. REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI): You see the final expression of cancel culture in Islamist terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda. (END VIDEO CLIP) MENENDEZ: That does it for me. "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.