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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 12/8/21

Guests: Zeke Emanuel, Emily Bazelon


The January 6 Committee moves to holding Mark Meadows in criminal contempt. New evidence emerges that Republicans may be losing control of the party, including some self-criticism in public. New Christmas cards from some Republican lawmakers invoke guns and seem to glorify weapons primarily designed for war. One of President Obama`s former top medical advisers discusses lessons learned about ending and dealing with pandemics.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hey there, Nicolle. How you doing? Thank you very much.

Welcome to THE BEAT, everyone.

Our top story right now is the new heat on top Trump aide Mark Meadows, the insurrection probe moving towards holding him in criminal contempt for that ongoing defiance. You may recall there was brief talk of cooperation, but it`s turned right back into a clash.

We`re learning tonight Meadows is filing a civil suit, though, against the committee, meanwhile. He says he will not show up for the planned deposition over providing what is legally mandated evidence. The committee now says there`s no choice but to advance criminal contempt proceedings.

So, if Congress moves forward, then the DOJ would again be in charge of whether to indict Meadows, raising the prospect of trial or even jail time. And, under Speaker Pelosi, this committee is playing legal hardball, reaching over 200 witnesses for testimony and then swiftly pressing Trump veterans who`ve tried to defy.

That`s a stronger stance than during some past Trump era probes. And bottom line, tonight`s news continues that approach in what is an open probe.

Think about it like this. Trump`s top 2016 political aide Steve Bannon already indicted. Then Trump`s top fixer inside the DOJ voted for contempt. And then Trump`s top White House aide during the insurrection faces a contempt vote as well, the pressure building. And beyond whatever their personal fates may be, Congress really wants to know why they`re going to these legs. What are they hiding?

I want to bring in our guests and get right to it.

I`m joined by Emily Bazelon from "The New York Times Magazine," where she focuses on legal issues, and a former civil prosecutor with SDNY, Maya Wiley.

Welcome to you both.

Emily, what do you see in the splitting here between many people who, frankly, have cooperated and sometimes get less attention for it, and then these special three?

EMILY BAZELON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I see close Trump allies, and it`s hard to know whether they have legal exposure reasons to decide not to testify or whether they`re trying to demonstrate -- loyal to former President Trump.

Either way, they`re setting up a real showdown, not only with Congress, but after our Congress presumably votes on these orders, then also with the Justice Department.


And, Maya, people who`ve been following this know the chief of staff is the number one official at the White House. That`s important. He, for his own reasons strategic, good faith or bad faith, talked like he was going to cooperate at one point.

There`s also stuff that he would have to do some explaining about. So I want to go not only to the process, but substance, text messages here that, according to the committee, are pretty incriminating, where there was a plan to have some sort of fraudulent electors who might overthrow the election.

The text message, they say, includes a November 6 exchange with someone in Congress about appointing alternate electors in states. And the member said that, would be controversial, AKA, potentially unconstitutional. Meadows, though, apparently replying -- quote -- "I love it."

Where does this specific evidence fit in to what the committee wants from him?

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, as you say, Ari, it`s obvious why the committee wants it, because it goes directly to their charge.

Their charge is to understand how January 6 happened and how to prevent it in the future. But you can`t do that without looking at fundamentally what January 6 was about, which is the big lie about election theft, and what has now been called the big steal.

So you have to actually be able to interrogate questions around what the White House was doing and how that related to the events of January 6.

And remember that Mark -- in addition to the text messages, Mark Meadows was on the call that Donald Trump places to the attorney general of what state? Georgia, where Trump is on tape, and we have all heard it, pressing him to essentially question the results, when he`s saying: I have got no reason. I have got no grounds.

And this all happens after Bill Barr himself when he was still attorney general, a month after, had said the Justice Department can`t find any grounds. And so the fact that Mark Meadows is actively a part of what seems to be electioneering -- and I say this because it is OK for a candidate who is sitting in elective office to electioneer. That`s part of what they`re allowed to do to win office again.


But they`re not allowed to call it the people`s business. And what executive privilege -- what this privilege applies to, is the business of the presidency. And that`s why Biden has said, I don`t see this as being about the business of the presidency, so we don`t need to protect it.

So this is why it all is such a flimsy issue in the first place, but also really goes directly to whether or not Congress has the legislative power the Constitution gives it to try to figure out what it needs to do to correct a very serious problem that occurred in this country on January 6.

MELBER: And, Emily, do you see a line or a way to measure the difference between people inside the government or in the Trump administration talking about, oh, well, what if we did this or that regarding electors, and it not -- it`s not over the line, it`s just unseemly, or you learn that they don`t respect democracy, and going over the line?

Because it seems that the committee is trying to bear down on how early and how organized what the plot was, which looks more and more, even before you get to the violence of the 6th, like a very real effort to overthrow the election.

BAZELON: So, if this were a legal proceeding, then there would be very difficult questions about intent. Can they prove that Meadows, that former President Trump, that anybody had an intent to overthrow the government just because they were talking about these ideas?

They will say that they were hypotheticals. They were just throwing spaghetti at the wall. And I think that would be difficult in a court of law to overcome.

Congress is not held to that standard. Congress is not a court. They`re trying to investigate. And so the question is, how are they going to surmount the legal barriers to winning this fight with Meadows over a subpoena, over getting him to testify, at least in some limited way?

I do think it`s going to be harder than the fight over Stephen Bannon, who wasn`t even working for the government on January 6, whereas Meadows was a Trump adviser. And so when you imagine this going to the courts, and to the Supreme Court, and the issue they are going to weigh about the prerogatives of the president, former president, to speak honestly with his advisers, and also we`re talking about a member of Congress as well, I think that is going to be a heavier lift than Steve Bannon.

But I also think Maya is right. This is core to Congress` power to investigate and issue subpoenas, which it`s had throughout our country`s history.

MELBER: Emily Bazelon, I want to thank you very much for kicking us off.

Maya stays, as I want to turn to another aspect of this.

I will bring MSNBC`s Ayman Mohyeldin. He actually has new reporting on the political lies that animate all of this.

While most Americans knew Trump lost the election as the results came in over time, his big lie has taken root with most Republicans, who now say the election, they believe, wrongly, was stolen. And that may sound like some kind of just absurd set of claims, but you have to look at this.

Remember, everyone saw the results came in as Trump lost, and plenty of people, including Republicans, understood he lost, at least as those results came in over those early days.

But we have evidence now that shows a key factor also is people who, over time, were genuinely mistaken. They really believed something false about the results. And one lens to understand this is radicalization. And that`s something Ayman has actually reported on around the world, and now here with the January 6 issues.

The podcast series here tracks how an otherwise typical American who was radicalized into attending the insurrection basically had her whole life changed and then ended. We should also note, as he tells the story tonight, that podcast, "American Radical," is actually number one in the country.

Welcome, Ayman, into our conversation with Maya.

And you look at all of this, the legal investigation here is dealing with some of the players inside the White House. You`re talking to people (AUDIO GAP) have terrible experiences (AUDIO GAP) a lens of radicalization.


And I`m so glad you framed it that way already, because, quite honestly, when we think about what happened in the immediate aftermath of the elections, and the way Trump and his allies in the state of Georgia were perpetuating this lie that Georgia`s elections were somehow fraudulent or that the election had been stolen, we thought that there`s no way that ordinary Americans would believe it, that they were able to see for themselves the facts, the numbers, the results, and they would able to turn away from President Trump and his lies.

But the truth is, as we have profiled in this podcast of a young woman named Rosanne Boyland, she actually believed those lies. She had gone down this rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, believing in QAnon, and then, ultimately, that led her to believe that Donald Trump was the person standing in the way between a secret cabal of Democratic pedophiles and protecting these children.


So, she committed all in to President Trump. She even said in her own words in her final journal entries, "Trump is a genius" and that "My president has called on me to be there in Washington, D.C., and to believe him," and that was part of the reason why she went to January 6 to participate in that rally, with the hopes of overthrowing the elections and keeping Donald Trump in power.

MELBER: So, when you look at these people and what they did, it really is hard from the outside for some people to believe that they`re this misinformed.

Bottom line, as a reporter, what are you finding from the people who knew her and others like this situation, that this really was something that changed their whole understanding of basically planet Earth?

MOHYELDIN: Yes, I mean, that`s a great question.

I mean, it sits at a nexus of three things, disinformation, destitution, and demagoguery. This young woman had a lot of problems in her life. She was down on her luck. She had these issues. There was disinformation being bombarded at her online with right-wing media and elsewhere.

And then you get this guy, Donald Trump, who becomes a demagogue to these people, and starts to say, I can cure your societal ills, I can fix your problems, but follow me, follow what I tell you to do, and we will get this done.

And that`s part of -- we`re going to get to this in episode two of our podcast, where we look at the people that are around her in her life, one guy in particular named Justin Winchell, who the family has been trying to get ahold of, because he was with her there on that day on January 6.

Take a listen to this from the podcast, Ari.


QUESTION: Let me ask you this, Justin.

You said, I don`t understand why this is being portrayed as a violent event. But, at the end of the day, you have four people who are dead.


QUESTION: Does the president, President Trump, have blood on his hands?

WINCHELL: Does he have blood on his hands? No.

QUESTION: You don`t think the president bears any responsibility as to whether...

WINCHELL: It was a peaceful event. Absolutely not.

QUESTION: But it turned violent.

WINCHELL: I know. And we weren`t the perpetuators of the violence.


MOHYELDIN: So, Ari, that guy was with her.

And it shows you the mind-set of these people that were there on January 6. They watched this play out. They saw the violence. They participated in it.

And yet, in that interview, which happened after January the 6th, after his friend had died, he was still in denial about what the cause of that was, and, more importantly, that they were the ones that were there simply peacefully protesting, as we see them smash the windows of the Capitol, as we see them hit police officers with flagpoles and try to take their masks off and, in some cases, batting them with whatever they could find.

It`s just complete retelling of reality. And that`s the world that they live in as a result of being in this triangle of destitution, disinformation, and following a demagogue like Donald Trump.

MELBER: Maya, I`m curious your take on all of this.

Legally, you can talk about culpability and being misinformed. It may not get you very far as a defense. As mentioned, we have an individual here who`s dead. We have other individuals who are saying they weren`t violent. The videos have been shown. Fact-check, false. It was an incredibly organized and relentless violence against some of the Capitol Police to even breach that area, which is multiple crimes.

But how does this factor into the policy side, Maya, of Congress trying to figure out what to do structurally in protecting democracy going forward, but also in other ways dealing with what may be, as Ayman`s reporting shows, a long-term problem out in the country?

WILEY: Yes, and I just want to start by saying, having listened, Ayman, to your podcast, what an incredible -- incredibly important gift it is actually to all of us that need to have more conversation with one another about what is actually happening in the country.

MOHYELDIN: Thank you.

WILEY: And one of the really, I think, important points in the podcast is where Ayman really uncovers just how quickly this woman is tragically radicalized.

It`s fast. It`s not like some slow process. But I think there are two different things that are important to connect here. One is that the January 6 Committee itself, given that part of its charge is to understand how we got here, and this is an incredibly important piece of understanding how we got here.

Like -- and I would add to it, because, I mean, Ayman is saying one thing that`s very important about some of the folks who descend into the conspiracy theories, into QAnon, and then get drawn into the mobilization to violence, and ignoring and not really accepting the fact that that`s what they`re participating in.

But as we also know from some of the research out of the University of Chicago -- and this is Barton Gellman`s reporting in "The Atlantic" -- scarily, scarily, half the folks who they surveyed who are expressing not just sympathy with January 6, but actually a propensity to support or participate in violence for the same reasons, is because -- is despite the fact that they`re white-collar.


It`s despite the fact that they`re educated, because part of what`s going on here is that Donald Trump has so effectively, and with the help and support of conspiracy theorists and the organized hate groups that have grown radically and dramatically in this country, now domestic terror, as what Homeland Security has said, is the number one threat, lethal threat, in this country, is domestic terror.

That`s the hate groups. That`s the groups that the committee is seeking to bring before the committee to understand their role in their organizing of January 6. All these are factors. They are all important. And it`s so important to understand how Donald Trump himself so effectively participated in creating this mobilization.

MELBER: Yes. And that goes to what we do about it going forward.

Maya Wiley, I want to thank you.

Ayman, appreciate your work here.

I will remind folks, "American Radical" is out now. You can check out the first episode, if you haven`t heard it, and the second one drops tomorrow.

Coming up: new evidence of Republicans losing control of the party, including some self-criticism in public.

And you may have seen online some of these Christmas cards that invoke guns and seem to glorify weapons primarily designed for war, right in the context of the recent school shooting.

We also later tonight have one of Obama`s top medical advisers about lessons learned from Barack Obama about ending and dealing with pandemics. That`s tonight.

Stay with us.



MELBER: President Biden is out today pushing the nearly $2 trillion jobs plan, which has already passed the House, Democrats eying a Senate vote by Christmas.

Republican Leader McConnell, who voted for Biden`s last spending bill, though, is gearing up for a midterm clash where his party refuses to detail any legislative agenda at all, other Republicans skipping the midterms entirely, Devin Nunes leaving Congress for a job at Trump`s new media company, while those who remain in office sometimes talk about how the entire government is unnecessary or admit they prefer chaos over voting for anything at all.


REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): Honestly, right now, for the next 18 months, our job is to do everything we can to slow that down to get to December 2022.

I don`t vote for anything in the House of Representatives right now; 18 more months of chaos...


ROY: ... and the inability to get stuff done, that`s what we want.


MELBER: This blatant rejection of responsibility or policy-making now has some Republicans criticizing this wing of their party in public.

Take Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw, who can be seen in a campaign ad jumping out of a plane -- this is a kind of a political superhero fantasy, mixing the vibes of the Avengers and Rambo -- Crenshaw`s ad shows himself here rocketing through the air, as well as some other Republicans as kind of world-saving heroes, encouraging Republican voters to see them that way.

Well, tonight, Mr. Crenshaw, from the air to the suit, well, he`s back in the news for criticizing this right-wing Freedom Caucus for putting performance art above legislative work.


REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): Two types of members of Congress. There`s performance artists, and there`s legislators.

Now, the performance artists are the ones that get all the attention. We have grifters in our midst, not here, not like in this room. That`s not what I mean. I mean in the conservative movement, lie after lie after lie.


MELBER: While Crenshaw sees himself in the legislator group, he has courted and gotten attention for his own performances, like that ad, is drawing some pushback for that tension.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to save Texas. Time is of the essence. The nation`s future is dependent upon your success.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: He may be less than a reliable narrator here about like who`s serious and who`s not, but his point fundamentally about his Republican colleagues is spot on.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, "THE VIEW": Conservative Congressman Dan Crenshaw warned voters not to buy their brand of, well, you know what.

JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": He doesn`t like it that these QAnon types are make -- giving that face to the party, when the truth of the matter is that he supports the big lie anyway.

SUNNY HOSTIN, "THE VIEW": When you talk about performance, that was so performative, I could not believe it.


MELBER: And that was a little bit of MSNBC` Chris Hayes and "The View" today.

And Crenshaw has certainly done some performing, as do many politicians in campaign season. So, yes, as mentioned, he`s an imperfect messenger for a pretty valid message, that a legitimate political party must stand for more than performance content and grift, or the GOP risks becoming a kind of offline version of the worst corners of the Internet, where clickbait about conspiracy theories competes with get-rich-quick schemes, and nothing is too sacred to be trolled.

The old political saying was campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Today, some of the loudest Republican candidates campaign in angry memes and govern in angry memes.

Is that any way to lead a nation?

Well, Senator Claire McCaskill will weigh in when we`re back after our shortest break, just 60 seconds.



MELBER: I`m joined now by former Democratic U.S. Senator from Missouri Claire McCaskill.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Performance art grift, endless trolling. People who are cynical about politics say it can`t get worse. According to Dan Crenshaw, who is a pretty conservative Republican, some of the party is getting worse.

I`m curious what you think about all the above?

MCCASKILL: Yes, well, I agree with the view that Dan Crenshaw is pot calling kettle black, because he has not exactly been a guy standing up to the big lie and other extreme nonsense that has got the Republican Party in its grip.

It`s going to be really interesting. I noticed that Matt Gaetz today said that he was going to nominate Donald Trump for speaker. Many people don`t realize that someone who`s not a member of Congress can, in fact, be speaker of the House.


MCCASKILL: So it`s going to be fascinating to see if whether or not you support Donald Trump for speaker is the primary issue of the midterms.

I can see that happening, unless Donald Trump shuts it down. And, frankly, I don`t see him doing that, Ari, because he loves the attention. I mean, we all know that the only thing Donald Trump loves more than lying is attention. Those are his two bread-and-butter items, lying and getting lots and lots of ink and time on social media.

MELBER: Yes, I think there`s evidence for that.

I mean, part of what Crenshaw is doing is just updating a contrast that I heard back when I was a very junior Senate aide, which is they would talk about workhorse senators and show horse senators. And I would hear chiefs of staff and sometimes senators make that contrast.

You, of course, workhorse, right? And most senators like to think of themselves that way. And then, of course, like any grouping, there`s debates about who`s what.

He seems to be going farther, though, and saying that the Freedom Caucus folks are these -- they`re show horses, they`re grifters, the performance, that they don`t actually care about governing. Do you see this as a distinction in both parties, or, as Crenshaw suggests, a larger problem for the GOP and this sort of Internet class of candidates?

MCCASKILL: Well, there`s good news and there`s bad news about the Internet. The Internet has allowed candidates to raise a lot of money without having to go into people`s living rooms and ask for checks with commas in them.

It has taken the power of big money in many ways out of political campaigns in terms of direct contributions to candidates. And so these candidates are trying to go viral, because, if you go viral, you can raise a lot more money online. And if you raise a lot more money online, you have a much better chance of winning elections.

So they`re all pushing the envelope, including Dan Crenshaw.

Now, I want to tell you, there`s going to be a fight in the Republican Party. I do not see the QAnon lady and Gosar and all of those guys going quietly into the night supporting the guy who thinks he`s going to be speaker if the Republican wins.

I guarantee you this. Kevin McCarthy, when he lays his head down in the middle of the night, you know what he`s praying for? He`s not just praying that he can take over the House. He`s praying that he does it by a big enough margin that he doesn`t need the cuckoo caucus.

MELBER: Yes, well, you make two structural points there that are very interesting.

One, while we think of the clickbait as just attention or whatever, you`re reminding us that there`s a fund-raising component that`s especially acute for members of Congress. And there aren`t going to be 25 stars. It`s just not how people`s minds work. There`s going to be the three or the four or five tops.

And they`re trying to do it for that reason. So I appreciate that lesson.

And then, as you mentioned, McCarthy, the math is very acute for him if it`s a close call, and then Trump can decide whether or not he wants to be involved, I suppose, in the way the party has been running.

While I have you, I also want to look at the contrast we have talked about, which is Biden out there really just doing the day-in-and-day-out work and trying to get this final spending bill over the finish line. Take a look.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our Building a Better America Tour is going to give us a chance to meet people where they work, where they work, hear what the communities that they live in what they need, hear firsthand, and showcase how our bipartisan infrastructure law, which has changed their lives for the better, came about because we worked together.



MELBER: What`s the path forward in the place you used to work, the Senate?

Because this deadline, boy, it keeps moving. Schumer says Christmas now, some people saying it might be later than that.

MCCASKILL: Well, first of all, shout-out to Joe Biden going to Kansas city, Missouri, today. The other guy, the former guy, had trouble with where the Kansas City Chiefs were. He thought they were in Kansas, but Biden understood he was in Missouri today. So good for him.

I think we still have -- listen, every party has struggles when it`s a very, very narrow majority. I do think they will get it through. I don`t know what the final version will be. But everybody understands, if they don`t get it through. Mitch McConnell and maybe Donald Trump as speaker of the House are in charge.

And that makes the last two years of the Biden administration not just full of obstruction, but full of chaos. What Joe Biden is trying to do, Ari, is win the voters that control general elections in states that are going to matter in terms of holding the Senate and in the suburbs that are going to matter in terms of whether or not the Republicans take the House.

And by talking about bipartisan infrastructure, he`s going to that sweet spot.

MELBER: All apt points and clearly stated.

Former Senator Claire McCaskill, thank you, as always, for being here.

MCCASKILL: You bet. My pleasure.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Now I get to tell everyone what`s coming up next. Well, it`s simple, Barack Obama, lessons from his governance, and good news on COVID with Obama`s former medical adviser. That`s coming up.

And then, later, the backlash to gun glorification in America and why it matters.

Stay with us.



MELBER: Now to signs of good news on COVID.

Vaccine maker Pfizer says a third booster provides strong protection against both regular COVID and the new Omicron variant, while noting that, over time, sticking with just the two doses may not protect against infection.

So, the emerging advice from vaccine experts and the CDC is, basically, one shot helps, two is effective, but, long term, you need to three-peat your shots to ensure maximum protection.

That`s what the Chicago Bulls famously did by winning three titles in a row. So, just three-peat your shots.

Our next guest is a Chicago Bulls fan who knows about three titles and three shots, former Obama and Biden medical adviser Dr. Zeke Emanuel.

The picture on the screen, by the way, shows some other Emanuels at Bulls games. For whatever reason, both other Emanuels that the Bulls games, but we couldn`t find you, sir.


DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: I wish I were there, believe me. I do remember many Michael Jordan great games that I attended. So...

MELBER: Well, let`s start with the three-peat.

You`re the person who used to advise Barack Obama, also pretty good at the basketball stuff. Take a look.





MELBER: That was on the 2020 trail. That`s what he does.

Now let`s look more seriously at the vaccine side of this. three-peating, they say, is helpful. The guidance continues to change.

You could understand someone might say, wait. First, I heard do this. Then I heard two shots was enough. Then I heard only booster if I`m in a certain older risk group. Not everyone needed a booster, as -- according to CDC, as recently as two months ago.

I`m curious about your expertise in lessons learned from the past, because none other than the president you were advising -- maybe you told him to say this -- made this very point. Guidance will change as we learn more. Take a look.


OBAMA: Our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community.

And as our scientists and researchers learn more information about this virus every day, the guidance we offer will likely change. What will not change is the fact that we will be making every recommendation based on the best science possible.


MELBER: Was that right? And how does that apply now?

EMANUEL: It`s absolutely right.

And it`s -- the situation is, we have a novel virus we haven`t been fighting for about 20 months. We`re learning all the time how the vaccine is interacting with the body`s immune system and how the body`s immune system is therefore able to handle the virus.

Are we going to learn more as the virus evolves, as the immune system ages with the vaccine? Absolutely.

I would say that most experts now are in the three-peat category, that the advice to get two shots was, we were rushing it out there. We didn`t test three shots. We tested two shots. But it`s probably a three-shot regimen. How much we will need after, when we will need boosters, that, we don`t know.

Recent Israeli data, which is a little worrisome, is that the antibody levels go down even after the booster, but we`re going to have to see in a large population.

The important question, Ari, isn`t following the antibodies. The important question for any person is, does it reduce my risk of hospitalization? Does it reduce my risk of being on a ventilator? Does it reduce my risk of death?

And I can tell you, having just recently talked to some people who are looking at hospitals in Michigan is, like, hospitalization, two-thirds of the people are unvaccinated, one-third vaccinated. When you -- by the time you get to the -- those admitted to the intensive care unit, it`s way more unvaccinated than vaccinated people.

By the time you get to the ventilator, it`s virtually 100 percent unvaccinated people. So, it does appear that, even from those crude anecdotes, that the vaccine prevents from the most serious efforts.

And to all the listeners, if you have gotten two shots, get a booster in the next few days, so that you`re giving it two weeks before you get together with the family on Christmas. And make sure that the family has also gotten the booster, and you all have a test before the family gathering. That`s the advice.


I just came from my classroom teaching my students. That`s the advice I gave them. Get your booster, get a test before you gather with family, and, by the way, wear a mask to any indoor settings you`re going. Omicron is very, very transmissible.

MELBER: Right.

EMANUEL: And while you might get a mild infection, you don`t want to be infected.

MELBER: Yes, doctor`s orders.

I`m out of time, but who`s the best basketball player of all time?

EMANUEL: Oh, M.J., definitely.

MELBER: There it is. And if you said it on the news, it`s true.


MELBER: Dr. Emanuel, we went quick on this one, but quick and focused. Your advice on the three-peat, everyone can process that. Thank you, sir.

Up ahead, we take a look at how protest movements have changed America and the lessons for today. That`s later in the hour.

First, we turn to these family Christmas cards from right-wingers glorifying gun violence at a time like this, accountability -- next.



MELBER: As America reels from yet another school shooting, there is growing outrage around the nation now over images we`re about to show you, a family Christmas card from Republican Congressman Massie which features his family heavily armed and then says: "P.S.: Santa, please bring ammo."

Congresswoman Lauren Boebert responding with a holiday card of her own. It shows all four of her young sons there armed and holding guns askew.

This has become something of a trend in the glorification of guns in the United States, marketing them as a kind of a goofy play thing or fitting for very young kids. The implication is that they would be safe, when they are not that safe and, certainly, even if you are a gun enthusiast and use it for hunting or other legal activities, not something for children.

Now, you may recall, on THE BEAT, we reported on some of the extreme examples of this, like Santa Claus being used to sell AR-15s, or the Easter bunny. There`s even a hot pink Hello Kitty AR-15. None of this makes any sense. None of it has any particular religious significance.

This is business and commerce and capitalism mixed with a type of right- wing politics. Then you have Senator Ted Cruz, who`s posted videos of himself cooking bacon the barrel of a machine gun.



SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Mmm, machine gun bacon.


MELBER: Machine gun bacon.

Now, there are many ways to approach issues, but the overall emphasis here is on detracting from the seriousness of what guns do.

Legally, I can tell you the Supreme Court has held there is a Second Amendment right to guns, and so people can use them to hunt or protect themselves. But they are still serious weapons, obviously, that also are used for killing and potentially murder. So what gets lost is the reality and the human toll.

Yes, you have the right to keep the weapons in your house. But consider the misuse of these weapons. Just last week, a 15-year-old killed four high school classmates in that Michigan rampage. He`s now being held in the same jail as his parents, who were charged in the case.

And since that rampage just one week ago, there have been five more group shootings in the U.S. Indeed, I can sadly tell you that while we cover them, and we will return to this topic, the shootings are so routine, they are not considered unique events when they occur, even with a high body count.

You have lawmakers here who will do anything to protect the rights of everyone to get these guns, and then protect the commerce, and then go further and make this out to be some kind of trolling joke, assault rifles in the hands of children who are not, if you want to get into the law, legally allowed to use them.

That`s an update we wanted to give you.

Coming up: what the protest movements are doing to improve and change America.

That`s next.



MELBER: We`re living through a time of renewed protests in America, marches against police brutality and racism that echo abroad civil rights activism of the 1960s, when a movement spanned so many parts of society, not just political people or young people, but religious leaders, athletes, artists, who captured and drove the calls for change.

In fact, Joy and I discussed some of the most significant protest songs ever. She had one vote ready.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Yes, I will put in a vote for "We Shall Overcome," which feels like a strong contender. I will just throw that in, that vote in now. It`s not a final, but that`s my contender.

MELBER: A very good one, Joy.


MELBER: And in a recent segment on THE BEAT, we asked MSNBC viewers for your top protest songs of all time. And you really spoke up, recommending songs from artists like Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Joan Baez, Bob Marley.

One of the most recommended was Joy`s nomination right off the top of her head, "We Shall Overcome." And many know folk singer Pete Seeger`s 1963 version, a twist on the gospel hymn originally from 1901. And that song was invoked across decades of activism. Many black women leading labor protests against a South Carolina tobacco company sang the song together back in 1945.

In fact, a striker named Lucille Simmons changed the original chorus "I will overcome" to "we," because the picketers were singing together.

By the `60s, the song was synonymous with the civil rights cause. At the historic March on Washington, a 22-year-old Joan Baez led a group sing- along for what was basically 30,000 -- I should say, 300,000 people gathered, and so many knew the words.

It was a song that, in its evolution, bubbled up from the experience of workers and activists, and ultimately was echoed by movement leaders and even white politicians.

It was considered at an inflection point when President Johnson echoed the iconic lines in a presidential address, embracing what was then considered a controversial cause within a very white Congress as he spoke. He was doing so in response to the horrors and the beatings of Bloody Sunday.


Dr. King also quoting the words in one of his final addresses.


LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are the enemies, poverty, ignorance, disease. They are enemies, not our fellow man, not our neighbor.

And these enemies too, poverty, disease and ignorance, we shall overcome.


MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

We shall overcome because Carlyle is right. No lie can live forever. We shall overcome.


MELBER: We shall overcome. They were quoting more than a song. It was a cause and proof of just how powerful protests music can be.

Today, gun violence is an American epidemic committed by random people, vigilantes, authorities. It`s a longstanding problem. Americans were horrified by the killing of the four university students by the Ohio National Guard at those Kent State protests over Vietnam.

Neil Young confronted that in a song many of you said should be noted, the song "Ohio." AM radio initially banned that song over its criticism of Richard Nixon, but it still found a huge audience on FM radio, reached the Billboard charts, Young reportedly writing it in a few hours after seeing the first pictures from the shooting in "LIFE" magazine.

It came out while that killing was still such a raw wound in the national psyche. Writer David Bianculli described it as the quickest and best reaction to Kent State, with "Neil Young acting as 50 percent songwriter and 50 percent journalist."

Now, many BEAT viewers also nominated "Fight the Power," the only rap track on our list tonight. Unlike Seeger, this song was first imagined by director Spike Lee for the film "Do the Right Thing." It didn`t bubble up for years. It was a deliberate new thought to tackle racial tensions and police brutality in Brooklyn, where the film takes place.

Lee turn to the new young genre of rap to try to make something different, approaching a group that was then about 3 years old, Public Enemy. First, he asked him to make kind of an update to the gospel song "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

But, interestingly, the rappers pushed back, reasoning that, instead of trying to import a classic older civil rights song from a different era, they should make something new and original, which they did.

It turned out to be art imitating life to make art that would then take hold in real life. "Fight the Power" dropped in `89, got a rare Grammy nomination at the time, is now one of the most iconic protest songs of the recent era. It was first presented within that fictional universe of the film, where Radio Raheem balanced love and hate in a tough environment. "Fight the Power" still played, especially across recent protests.

Finally, there`s Buffalo Springfield, "For What It`s Worth," which took on the crackdowns in A hippie music district in California. For many it captured the upheaval of the time and was seen as a protest of power and brutality in that era. The song captured something larger than its moment, battle lines being drawn. Nobody`s right if everybody`s wrong, young people speaking their minds, getting so much resistance from behind.

He was narrating something precisely, the scene on Sunset Strip, and something timeless. The endless battles that haunt us can`t be the way a society thrives, but some battles are required for progress.

And we all might benefit from listening to the next generation when, as he put it, they step up to speak their minds.

Those were just some of your nominations, all of them culled from the most popular ideas for protest songs from MSNBC viewers.

Now, that does it for me.

I turn it over to "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID."