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

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 2/16/21

Guest: Mike Hayes, Katty Kay�


President Biden heads to Wisconsin to rally broad support for his COVID relief plan. Heather McGhee, co-chair of Color of Change, discusses her new book, "The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together." How close was the so-called nuclear football to falling into Capitol Hill rioters` hands? Positive news on COVID-19 vaccines starts to emerge.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we are tracking Joe Biden`s first official trip as president, hitting Wisconsin to rally broad support for his COVID relief plan. You see him leaving there, the approach hearkening back to a model where presidents go directly to the people, which is itself a break with the current D.C. conventional wisdom that this cannot work.

In fact, here we are looking at live pictures of President Biden taking off there in Air Force One.

Now, part of the conventional wisdom you hear is that leaders must now accept what political nihilists have done, broken America into sharp divisions that are basically permanent.

Now, Biden may be actively proving that types wrong as he takes off tonight. So, it`s actually worth pausing and recalling what this claimed conventional wisdom entails.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The country is in real trouble. We have got a very sharply divided society.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS: The divide that splits this nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we going to continue to exacerbate the darkness, the division?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is so much division not only within our party, but within our country right now.

ALLAN LICHTMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: The political polarization is only going to get worse.

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: In such a divided country, presidents who come into office don`t all of the sudden, even if they win a close election, it used the start like a honeymoon period. They don`t exist anymore.


MELBER: It doesn`t exist anymore. It`s become so common to say those things, they may even sound unremarkable. Why are you showing me this on the news tonight, Ari?

Well, whether it comes from pundits or even an Obama veteran like David Plouffe there, this is a common sentiment based on predictions, not actual facts.

There is recent history. Donald Trump was at a measly 41 percent at this time in his presidency, no honeymoon there, and that 41 percent stayed firmly polarized through his four years.

So, the thought of a new president breaking 50 percent or higher in a honeymoon period, well, the D.C. class has ruled that out. But you have to remember, D.C. is wrong a lot.

So, while they applied the Trump number to predict ongoing polarization, the news tonight is Biden is surging to 62 percent, which means roughly 40 million-plus Americans back him now more than his predecessor, and he is higher than the last two Republican presidents at this point.

Biden`s disapproval, meanwhile, you will see there, is just a third. So, if you just leave this up on your screen, you are looking tonight at a record- breaking number for the past four-plus years, surging to 62 percent by Joe Biden.

Now, his support includes one of the 10 Republicans already. That overall approval means Joe Biden is winning over the approval of some Trump voters. This is new. This is happening across millions of Americans. It`s a sea change in views of a new administration.

It is also true that elected Republicans are deeply partisan and obstructionist in their governance. But if you look outside Washington, you see Biden winning people over with his focus on nuts-and-bolts policy to combat COVID and grow the economy. It may not hurt that he`s talked up unity and an open door for Republicans too.


QUESTION: President Biden is going to be in Milwaukee on Tuesday. What are you hoping to hear from the president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This next stimulus package, now that the impeachment trials are all over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guns and there`s just too much violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m looking for Joe Biden to address the COVID situation and how we can make this better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a Trump supporter, but I`m OK with it. I`m in the military. I think he will still do a good job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, it`s fair to say, you`re no longer drinking the Trump Kool-Aid, but you`re willing to have coffee with Joe Biden?




Well, going from QAnon Kool-Aid to a sober cup of coffee may be progress for many Americans.

And those people you just saw are just some of the actual faces that account for Biden winning, a total vote of 51 percent in November, but now cruising to this jump, this burst, this 62 percent approval, something Donald Trump never pulled off.

Now, Biden is also trying to do something a little different than Obama 1.0. He is aiming for strength with unity, banking this wide support that may pressure or welcome Republicans to join him, while also saying he will link with liberals ready to go it alone on legislation when they can, which he already did begin with COVID relief.

It`s a multistep strategy. It may not be popular with everyone, but it is exactly what Biden pledged.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks, I`m running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president to unite and to heal.

Whether you voted for me or against me, and I`m going to make sure that you`re represented.

FMR. GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH): Joe Biden is a man for our times, times that call for all of us to take off our partisan hats and put our nation first.

BIDEN: To restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy, unity.


MELBER: Many D.C. pundits said unity would be impossible.

This new Biden surge, this news right now shows it`s at least partially possible at the grassroots.

Now, let`s be clear about the political environment. Others point out even wide grassroots support for Biden won`t budge Mitch McConnell`s strategy. A man who dubs himself the Grim Reaper is firm on his goals. That`s pretty clear.

But McConnell also gave one of the most contradictory speeches of his life this weekend, as several senators walked away from him. Trump did take over the GOP, but he also helped break its legendary discipline in the modern era.

Think about this week, state party officials censuring GOP officials for convicting their defeated leader or talking up his possible imprisonment. They have a mess on their hands.

Now, Biden`s team says he is offering more than a contrast in tone, that this is about actually governing, which can win over people. And if he wins over voter, including some of those Republicans I mentioned, and if their own representatives won`t come along, especially on urgent items like COVID relief, then any rational leader must still be ready to act without them, because, once you try unity, there is still work to be done.

Joe Biden is welcoming any political love with an outstretched hand.

And to paraphrase Faith Evans in "The Game," he may ultimately conclude, I got nieces to feed, two coasts to please. I don`t need your love, Republicans. No, I don`t need your love.

Let`s get into all of it now.

Michelle Goldberg is here from "The New York Times," and Katty Kay, BBC News Washington anchor.

Good to see both of you.

Katty, when you look at that number, it`s higher than anything in the last four years, and it`s only possible with some grassroots Republicans approving of Joe Biden thus far.


And, in a way, this is the beginning of the Biden agenda, right? We have still -- for the last few weeks, we have been focused on Donald Trump, and it`s possible that during the course of the impeachment trial, there was still some comparison, unfavorable to Trump, and perhaps favorable to Biden being made.

Now Trump is out of the way, and the White House is very conscious that what will keep the -- and they don`t expect 62 necessarily to stay that high, but what will keep their approval ratings in the black, in positive numbers, is delivery. It`s what you`re suggesting.

It`s about competence and governance. I`m not even sure we need to have unity in a sort of kumbaya sense. What we need in the country is good governance and competence. And that is what will get the White House the support not just of Democrats, but also of some Republicans.

MELBER: Michelle?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that one of the smartest things that Joe Biden and the people around him are doing is that they are understanding that there is a difference between unity and bipartisanship, that if you want to kind of unite the country, you push policies that are broadly popular.

It`s not about appealing to the median GOP senator. It`s not about, as Obama did when he was first trying to pass health care reform, trying to peel off Chuck Grassley or another Republican senator in order to kind of make a -- give it the appearance of a unified process.

People don`t care about process, right? They have real, urgent, desperate material needs. And so you can unify -- in a sense, you can unify the country around popular policies, whether or not Republicans in Congress buy into them or not.


And that`s something, actually, we`re being told President Biden just spoke on briefly right before he jumped on the flight we showed about COVID. Let`s take a listen.


QUESTION: Opposing COVID relief will unify Republicans. What do you say to that?

BIDEN: It may unify Republicans. It will hurt America badly.


MELBER: Michelle?

GOLDBERG: Well, look, I think that we just saw in impeachment that you could not even get 10 Republicans to peel off to defend the sanctity of their own institution and their own branch of government.

So, the prospects of getting any significant buy-in to Biden`s agenda, kind of whatever the existential stakes for the country at large, is very, very low. And what is so important is that the Biden administration and the people in it, having lived through this with Obama, kind of understand what`s up and are not going to, at least so far, waste a lot of time with process, when the needs in the country are so incredibly urgent.

MELBER: Yes, extremely urgent.

And we showed some of the remarks, Katty, across Washington, because haven`t we all been drubbed out of trying to predict too much after `16 and after so much has happened?

And yet people were still applying certain formulas to say, well, because of polarization, which is real, oh, there can`t be honeymoons. It`s really remarkable, amidst everything going on, that, as I mentioned, Joe Biden went from a 51 percent vote tally to a 62 percent approval all of a sudden, during a few weeks where there`s a lot going on.

It may reflect something transitory. It may not last. Michelle has spoken to some of those issues. Or it may reflect a real hunger if somebody actually leads in what you might just call an old-school, classy way, with the open door.

I want to play a little bit of David Plouffe, who, of course, we respect as a colleague, and was a mastermind for Obama.

But this sentiment seems a bit off and is important to disentangle if it`s wrong. Take a listen.


PLOUFFE: We live in such a divided country. Presidents who come into office don`t all of the sudden, even if they win a close election, it used the start like a honeymoon period. They don`t exist anymore.


MELBER: And yet, Katty, I think 60 percent-plus look likes a honeymoon.

KAY: If you`re sitting in the White House right now, you`re going to be very happy with 62, 63 percent.

And that -- you`re right, that definitely looks like some kind of a honeymoon. The challenge for them is to keep those numbers high. And I was just speaking today to somebody up in Milwaukee to try and get a sense of what people in Wisconsin are expecting from the administration, what they want to hear.

And in some ways, it`s quite simple. And these are things that this administration ought to be able to deliver on just by having more expertise, listening to science. What do people want? They want schools to open. They want a better rollout of the vaccine plan, and they do want some kind of COVID relief.

Well, that is actually all something that is in President Biden`s grasp, because he has people around him who are well-versed in this process of government. That alone should be able to give him some wins politically, more importantly, for the American people, should be able to give them some sense that there is an effective government taking place in the country, which perhaps, during COVID particularly, there hasn`t really been in America for the last year.

And if you can give people wins, if you can give them a stake in success, then you can win over some of their support, whatever side of the aisle they come from.

MELBER: Yes, and -- yes.

And the flip side, Michelle, is we rely on David, so maybe we will hear from him directly. But if I were to lawyerly make the argument for him, he might say, well, there is no honeymoon when it comes to a lot of the elected officials, like Mitch McConnell, and there is no honeymoon when it comes to what some of the roiling Republican backlash is already to what you called the more votes of conscience.

Here is just a quick sample of a Pennsylvania chair blasting Toomey on the impeachment vote. Take a look.


DAVE BALL, CHAIR, WASHINGTON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, REPUBLICAN PARTY: We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing or whatever he said he was doing.



MELBER: Where does that -- go ahead, Michelle. You seem ready.

GOLDBERG: Well, I guess points for honesty. They certainly didn`t send him there to do the right thing.

But, again, this would not be such a problem if we had a more representative system, right? The fact that you have this hard rump of 33 percent who are going to want to obstruct and defeat anything that a Democratic president does, who are sort of never going to believe in a Democratic president`s legitimacy, that wouldn`t matter so much if that 33 percent didn`t have such disproportionate numerical power in the Senate in particular.

MELBER: Right.

GOLDBERG: And so, again, I feel like a broken record on this. But one decision that is going -- that this administration is going to have to face sooner or later is, do we kind of continue to uphold institutionalism?

Do we continue to aspire to bipartisanship? Or do we jettison the filibuster and deliver results for the people who are so desperate for that and who are kind of putting their faith in this administration because they see an administration that seems willing to work for them?

MELBER: Yes, all excellent points.

I want to thank Michelle Goldberg and Katty Kay. Thanks to both of you.

Stay with us right now, because I want to turn to our special report.

If you`re an eagle-eyed viewer, you may notice we have been giving everyone the heads up that Rachel has an important report on justice tonight.

Right now, we have our other top story, a special report on a different type of justice across America. President Biden has been pushing these new racial justice policies first through executive orders.

There was that sweeping one on housing, which flatly notes the federal government has systematically supported discrimination and exclusion in housing and mortgage lending. And some housing experts applauding that as a first step, while stressing that modern housing discrimination happens much more covertly.

And, tonight, I want to show you exactly what that can look like. Take Paul and Tenisha Austin. They played by the rules. They invested $400,000 into their home improvements. And they sought an appraisal when they planned to resell.

But they received such a suspiciously low number in their appraisal that they actually took matters into their own hands. This is really interesting. So I want you to see it. They basically mixed some DIY field research with a kind of financial activism, bringing in a second appraisal with one key difference.

They had a white friend pretend to be the owner of the home. And it turns out that mattered more to the appraiser than the entire house itself, which is, of course, exactly the same. With a white owner, the appraisal value shot up half-a-million dollars, 50 percent of the total.


TENISHA TATE AUSTIN, HOMEOWNER: I read the appraisal. I looked at the memory. I was like, this is unbelievable.

PAUL AUSTIN, HOMEOWNER: So, we had a conversation with one of our white friends. And she was like, no problem. I will be Tenisha. I will bring over some pictures of my family. She made our home look like it belonged to her.

T. AUSTIN: There are implications of the ability to create generational wealth or pass things on and if our houses appraised for 50 percent less than what it`s valued at.


MELBER: That is all true. And while the Austins found a strong way to make their case, I want you to understand tonight -- you may already see where I`m going with this -- this is not about any single incident.

Data shows across the board similar homes are valued at about 23 percent less in mostly black neighborhoods. This is a major story tonight and could be really any night of the year, because look at what this means. Even when black Americans overcome documented discrimination in schooling or jobs or criminal justice and make it and buy a home, the American dream, you have this systematic cost, and, boy, does it add up.

All told, this somewhat hidden discrimination is estimated to cost American black homeowners $156 billion. Now, is this even legal? Not usually. Home appraisers are bound by law to appraise homes, not their owners.

But research shows the problem can include structural bias, and that even people who don`t fully realize their own bias or their own notions about what`s good enough prosperity for a given group, which can slant the whole thing. Experts argue that full reform requires demolishing the idea of a fixed quantity of prosperity for a particular group, in favor of an objective system across racial lines.

The expert quoted right there is author Heather McGhee. And she joins us on this important story and reform -- when were back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: We`re back with Heather McGhee, co-chair of Color of Change, a policy expert. Her new book out today is called "The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together."

Thanks for being here.

HEATHER MCGHEE, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I`m so glad to be with you. So glad you`re covering this story.

MELBER: Well, we look at that story, because it always makes a difference to see real people in a real example.

But, as you document, as you have written, as we know, this is all out there. Walk us through what`s important to understand and what you see as the road to reform.

MCGHEE: What`s important to understand is that racism has a tangible material cost.

Yes, it may start with thoughts and feelings, but, ultimately, the real drivers here are laws, policies, and incentives. And it ends up in terms of dollars and cents. This kind of financial discrimination has really been the most salient part of our housing policies for most of America`s history.

It`s basically coming down to an equation of black people with risk, a devaluing of black property and black lives that is shot through our financial sector. It`s part of what created the terrible mix of racism and greed that targeted black homeowners in the run-up to the financial crisis.

I have a chapter on this in my book called "Ignoring the Canary," because that`s exactly what happened. We had this kind of fraud and targeting and discrimination rampant in the financial sector long before it sort of mushroomed into the subprime crisis that we knew when it exploded into Wall Street derivatives in 2008.

And so this kind of racism ultimately hurts everyone. Think about the property value of that family, and then think then the property taxes. Think about the devaluation of the schools in that neighborhood. Think about the way in which generations of families then won`t be able to have enough private wealth to send their kids to college without being loaded up with debt.

This is something that I talk about as well in my book "The Sum of us," because I think that these issues should be publicly funded, as they were, frankly, when the majority of the college-going population was white. We have all of these little taxes that racism levies on people of color that ultimately are sapping our strength as a nation.

MELBER: Right.

And what your work explores, in addition to the social part, which people debate and is sometimes the first touchstone of these conversations, whether in school or the workplace, and which are important, is all of this deeper part.

And so when people hear words like structural or systemic racism and go, well, is that just a new fancy appendage, or what does that mean? Well, it means things like this. It means $150 billion in those communities, as you say. It also means a tax base. It also means everyone else who interacts.

Again, the point is to end something because it`s evil. But it`s also stupid. It also hurts people who might not be the so-called first victims, first-order victims of it, because you say, well, wait, everyone who is working in that neighborhood who is going get a commission of that sale, wouldn`t they want a higher commission? Of course they would.

MCGHEE: Exactly.

MELBER: I want to play a little bit more about what -- go ahead, sorry.

MCGHEE: I was just going to say, the racial economic divide in this country, Citigroup, of all places, found this summer that it has cost us nearly $20 trillion over the last 20 years.

This is sapping our economic vitality as a nation, and it`s holding all of us back.

MELBER: Yes, yes.

And so that brings me then back, looping back to the social part is also what does it mean for a family who`s done everything right and has that, what I call that American dream of homeownership, to then, as a measure of financial fairness, have to disappear themselves from their own home to get this fair market value.

I mean, that`s also a piece of just the personal story.

I want to show a little bit more, as I mentioned, for your reaction, a Florida woman about a similar thing. Take a look.


ABENA HORTON, HOMEOWNER: It clicked in my mind almost immediately that I understand what the issue was here, because we realized just how much removing that variable increased the value of our home.

To know just how much, me personally I was devaluing the home just by sitting in it, just by paying my life, just by paying my mortgage, just by raising my son there.


MCGHEE: It is. It`s devastating.

MELBER: That`s Abena Horton. And she happens to be in an interracial relationship. In that case, it wasn`t as much the sort of DIY social science that I mentioned earlier, but deciding who would do those things and then the financial implications, Heather.


So, this is where policy has got to step in. I think we need to do what President Biden has obviously done, which is sort of repeal the repeal of some of the really important civil rights reforms on housing that the Obama administration put forward.

He did something powerful, Joe Biden did, when he was signing those racial equity executive orders. He made the case that we have been held victim as a country to this zero sum idea that a dollar in my pocket has to mean a dollar less in yours, that progress for people of color has to come at the expense of white people.

And he did say that racism is costing afternoon. I also think we need to go a step further. There needs to be a really robust enforcement kind of recommitment in this country.

We have so many civil rights laws on the books, so many worker protections on the books that are simply not being enforced. I want to see the government going in and doing these kind of paired testing and really holding appraisers and lenders accountable for the kind of discrimination we know is still rife throughout the financial sector.

We`re supposed to be -- the Democrats are supposed to not be the party of law and order, but I need to see some enforcement of laws to protect the American peoples` wallets on this case.

MELBER: Yes. It`s really important.

I think viewers know you from more than one issue, Heather, but so important.

And I really want to encourage people to check out Heather McGhee`s new book, "The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together." Check it out.

And thank you, Heather.

Coming up, we have a lot of other stories including, did you hear about the risk to the nuclear football and how dangerously close it was to MAGA rioters? The video is shocking. Two very special guests for an important conversation.

Coming up as well: a new group suing Donald Trump over the riot -- why it could put heat on Rudy Giuliani like he`s never faced in court before.

That`s next.


MELBER: Today, the legendary civil rights group the NAACP filed the first major civil suit against Donald Trump over the Capitol riot, alleging he violated an 18th century civil rights law, along with Rudy Giuliani, plus groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, those controversial militias.

Today, a congressman who is backing the suit makes the case.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): These individuals were trying to stop Congress from doing its constitutional duties, the Proud Boys and others, at the direction of our president. And we will have our day in court.


MELBER: That is almost certainly true.

As a legal matter, these cases are significant because they could actually force Trump and his aides to reveal evidence that would otherwise remain secret. It`s a totally separate track from whether prosecutors do anything and then the trial that everyone watched conclude this weekend in the Senate.

Meanwhile, today, there were the first hearings scheduled for the security failures. Meanwhile, House impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett speaking on the wider challenges.


DEL. STACEY PLASKETT (D-VI): My hope is not only do we find out the security issues, but the hatred that is lurking within that has caused something like an insurrection, the attempted coup of our democratic government.


MELBER: A coup requires organization, but it`s also disturbing, in that vein, that "The New York Times" continues to report on many pieces of evidence, like among those rioters where at least 30 active members of law enforcement.

Three have been arrested.

Now, there will be a lot more important reporting and discussion on these very details. Congressman Bernie -- excuse me -- Congressman Bennie Thompson, I should say, will join Rachel Maddow, along with others on the special I mentioned earlier tonight, "Justice After Trump."

That`s live 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here tonight on MSNBC.

Now, coming up, we have a whole different angle on this. And it`s actually one we haven`t had time to get into yet on this program at all. But we are learning new details about how dangerously close MAGA rioters got not only to Vice President Pence, but to the so-called nuclear football.

Two very special guests join us on that.

And, later, Dr. Natalie Azar is here with something I don`t always get to say, very good news about COVID. That`s later tonight.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Sir, we`re at DEFCON 1. The nuclear football in the White House just went live.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That`s impossible.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It`s happening. And someone has just entered valid launch codes.


MELBER: The nuclear football is, of course, a staple in many movies, but it`s based on the very real military practice of bringing the nuclear codes everywhere with POTUS and the V.P., as you can see here.

The football or briefcase is the ultimate sign of the awesome power of these jobs, a mobile secure method, with military aides in tow, for the potential sudden launch of any nuclear strike.

Now, this is in the news now because of newly released footage from Capitol Hill security cameras that detail the damage and risk from the insurrection. Many senators and Americans were horrified at these first views inside the evacuate during the trial.

You can see Officer Goodman warning Senator Mitt Romney away from the danger of very nearby armed rioters who already overwhelmed police. That`s just one piece of dramatic video.

Then there was V.P. Pence facing emergency evacuation as rioters breached the Capitol, a disturbing seen, as so many rioters were seeking to directly assassinate the V.P. There you see him with his head turned as he goes down the stairs, a close call, including a military officer carrying the briefcase, according to CNN.

Now, the footage does show a man walking with a bag that CNN identified as a -- quote -- "Pence military aide carrying the nuclear football."

It also states right there, you see, that he was potentially in danger. If not for the trial, the footage you`re looking at might have never gone public. There it is again.

Now, the CNN report notes military leaders only became aware of the potential danger to the football after seeing the video we just showed you when it played at the Senate impeachment trial.

The Pentagon is declining to comment, which is understandable for such a sensitive breach. But the newly exposed incident raises another disturbing aspect of events on January 6 that clearly concern the government and the nation, which do not yet have a full handle on everything that occurred.

We`re joined now by two superb experts for both this important topic and a wider discussion of the strain on civil-military relations in the recent era.

General Barry McCaffrey is a Vietnam combat veteran decorated with Purple Hearts, Silver Stars and the Distinguished Service Cross. He saw much combat and rose to the rank of four-star general in the U.S. Army, General McCaffrey, of course, well-known to many of our viewers.

Good to have you, sir.

And Mike Hayes is an Iraq War combat veteran decorated with the Bronze Star and the Defense Superior Service Medal. He was the commanding officer of SEAL Team Two, heading a 2,000-person task force, served as a White House fellow. And he has a new book out, "Never Enough: A Navy SEAL Commander on Living a Life of Excellence, Agility, and Meaning."

I don`t think I`m the only person here who might be a little bit impressed by what you two have done in service to your country.

Thanks for being here.

MIKE HAYES, FORMER NAVY SEAL COMMANDER: Thank you, Ari, for having me.

MELBER: Thank you.

General, let`s start -- I said we will get to the big picture. But let`s start on what we just showed, and we can put it back up for folks who are still going, wow. We knew January 6 was bad for many reasons. But you see Mike Pence go down those stairs. You see that briefcase. What`s your analysis, sir?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I have spent a good bit of my life dealing with nuclear weapons at the highest level. I have been part of the nuclear release authentication system.

The actual details of it are pretty highly classified. But in public, what we do know, when we look at Vice President Pence being hustled down the steps, that nuclear football wasn`t active, for starters.

And, secondly, we know that when even the president gives a launch order, it has to be verified by the secretary of defense. So, in the short-run, it`s not the case that some of these mobsters would have necessarily been able to send out a signal. That wouldn`t have happened.

But I think what people miss is that anything involved with that nuke system, we will use lethal force to protect. So, there is no question in my mind that they would have not allowed the mob to get their hands the code that was on -- the code card that was on the vice president, nor the nuclear football.

And let me just sort of add, the bigger question is, should the United States have one person have the sole legal authority to launch a nuclear attack? Many of us who have dealt with this for years think the answer is no, that there ought to be some joint system of legitimizing, of verifying that a nuclear launch order is verified.

The days of Soviet Union 30,000 nuclear weapons, you`re literally seven to 15 minutes from Armageddon, maybe it was a different thing. But in today`s day and age, we ought to announce to the world no first use, and then we ought to have some combination of senior officials that have to agree to a nuclear attack.

MELBER: Really interesting to get your analysis, going from the tactical to the policy level on issues you have thought a lot about, General.

I want to play for you, Mike, a little more of Delegate Plaskett discussing this, because as the reminds us, there were many aspects to January 6. The Senate trial part is now obviously over.

But the country is still learning about the range of it, the general reminding us that while some lawmakers and others in danger were simply ushered out under at the time was relatively thin and overwhelmed police, the vice president, as a federal constitutional officer, and the codes would have been protected with lethal force by the Secret Service, who operate, of course, at a different lane than Capitol Police.

Take a listen to Delegate Plaskett.


PLASKETT: This next security video shows that evacuation.

His movements are depicted by the orange dot in our model. The red and blue dots represents the location where the mob and Officer Goodman were and where Officer Goodman led the mob away from the chamber just moments ago.

You can see Vice President Pence and his family quickly moved down the stairs.


MELBER: Mike, I`m curious, given your SEAL Team experience, if you could give us any insight. The general mentioned, of course, certain things are classified.

But we have had a moment as a nation to reflect on some of the courage of the officers and others involved. How does it work? What experience did you draw on? How do you stay cool?

One thing we notice is, those of us laypeople and mortals look at evacuation, everyone looks pretty orderly, although a lot of regular people would be scared.

Walk us through any of your insights on the tactical part.

HAYES: Well, absolutely.

First, I would start bringing with General McCaffrey. First, we have certain national decision-making apparatus in place, so that we ultimately make decisions in ways that are ideally founded in process. And that`s our bedrock.

And then, after something happens, like we did in the SEALs, like everywhere in the Department of Defense does, and, frankly, what I do now as part of the leadership team of VMware in the technology space, is that we figure out the outcome we want to achieve.

And when that -- when something comes up short, how do we look at the debrief, the after-action, the things that we can be doing better, whether it`s in markets or in the Department of Defense? And then we spend our time not talking about what went well, because inertia will keep that most likely going well in the future. It`s really, what can we have done better?

And so you take the dif between what actually unfolded that day vs. what should have unfolded, and you spend time thinking about ways that that will never happen again.

So, what`s really critically important now are looking at the tapes and thinking about the feedback and learning the lessons that we need to learn.

MELBER: Briefly, because then I want to get to your book, does it concern you at all that the military, according to these reports, didn`t know how bad this was until the video came out from the Senate trial, which is, of course, a congressional process that there happened to even be a trial?

HAYES: Look, I have been in many situations that are in combat. And information in combat, which in many situations you also see in the Washington, D.C., and the Capitol riots, there is confusion. There is chaos. People don`t -- have asymmetric information.

There is not great communications. And this is what organizations try to do, is create a fabric, so that you can communicate clearly and get the right information to the right people, so that you can get people moving in the right direction.

And so, yes, that is concerning when that doesn`t happen. So, again, we`d fall back and say what can we do better for next time?


As for your book, Mike, you tell some of these personal stories of your experience and valor. You talk about trying to differentiate or understand what`s truly important and being proactive to make things happen, rather than just waiting for, hoping how they would occur and being proactive.

What does that mean tangibly? What you want people to get out of this book, if they haven`t lived your life, but they are going to read about it?

HAYES: Well, thanks for asking, Ari.

Ultimately, I wrote "Never Enough` because I have lived a life of hundreds or thousands of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, some really great, some very, very challenging, just like every SEAL of my era, have buried way too many friends, and through all of the good and all the bad, the unifying things that I have learned a lot.

And so now I`m passionate about sharing and giving back. I`m donating all of my profits from the book to a 501(c)(3) I founded that pays off mortgages for Gold Star families, a cause near and dear to not only my heart, but many people`s hearts.

And so the thing that I really want people to get out of it is how we cannot only give more and be more, but how we can take that title that seems -- the that title that seems provocative. It`s not about fame and fortune. It`s about meaning and impact. And how can we help the nation more? How can we help our fellow citizens more? And how can we ultimately have more -- bring more good to the world?

MELBER: And I`m running short on time, but a last word from you, General, on civil-military relations coming out of these traumas?

MCCAFFREY: Well, I think it ought to be pretty good.

First of all, we have got a new secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, who we have enormous respect for. He`s got 42 years of experience. And he is a very thoughtful, calm, civil, law-based guy.

The uniformed services held strong. They never -- they put out a written orders to the nine joint command globally: We will obey the Constitution.

So, I think we ought to be reassured by it. The courts held. The media held. The voters held. And the armed forces and law enforcement held. So, going forward, we got a lot of problems. We have got to sort out what to do with China. Afghanistan is a melting down disaster.

Iraq is confusing. We have got our challenges, but I think we ought to be pretty proud of certainly the armed forces, 2.1 million men and women active Guard and Reserve.

MELBER: General McCaffrey and Mike Hayes, I want to thank you both. Really appreciate your time tonight.

Coming up, I mentioned the good news. And let me tell you something, it is coming. We have an announcement about both what Vice President Harris is up to and this good news that I promised with a doctor on the vaccine.

Happy to bring you any good vaccine news there. We will explain next.


MELBER: As promised, good news in the COVID fight.

The daily number of cases is dropping. You can see a peak in January, over 300,000 new cases in a day, to now under 65,000 yesterday, and with that, deaths declining from a high of 4,400 last month in a single day to under 1,000 just yesterday.

We are joined by Dr. Natalie Azar, clinical professor of medicine and rheumatology at NYU Langone and an NBC contributor.

First, tell us why.

DR. NATALIE AZAR, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Why are the numbers going down?

Well, you know what? Experts are citing a couple different reasons. One, I think, is some impact of vaccinations. There`s probably been maybe a little swap out, a little less testing, more vaccinations.

There`s also -- some experts have opined and said, you know what, there is some seasonality, maybe. The virus spreads faster in the winter months. And so, if it is warming up in certain areas, that could account for it.

And also, and I think probably mostly, behavior. After the travel, after the holiday travel, I think people probably did buckle down, and were doing all the things that we have been asking them to do, and they have been doing it well.

MELBER: Doing it and doing it and doing it well, if you will.

AZAR: Well, that`s the thing, right?

I mean, if you tell people to wear masks, and stay six feet apart, and avoid congregate settings in indoor places, and they don`t listen, then we have a problem. But I think that -- I do think that our behavior has played a big part in, and I am very encouraged.

MELBER: Great.

AZAR: And, by the way, we need to continue this, right? We don`t want to see the progress...


AZAR: ... be imperiled by relaxing social distancing now, or relaxing mask mandates...


AZAR: ... especially in light of the variants that are on the rise here in the country, which are more transmissible.

MELBER: And, Doctor, we also want to get you on this new study about vaccine efficacy.

This is coming out of Israel.

AZAR: Yes.

MELBER: The Pfizer vaccine shows a 94 percent drop in symptomatic cases, including with people over 70 years old, up to 99 percent effective seven days after the second dose, a number that`s expected to rise.

And in all of these international comparisons, that is a country that is relatively small. So, it is different than then some other larger countries with more travel, but is a place where experts are saying it`s a good model for what can work with high levels of vaccination.

AZAR: Absolutely.

And I think, Ari, at first blush, when you read a story like this or a study like this, you say, well, we kind of knew that. We kind of knew that the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine was greater than 90 percent. But what`s really important about this is that this is data in the real world.

We talk about the randomized controlled trial, which are -- which were the vaccine trials, the Pfizer and the Moderna. And we talk about these numbers referred to as efficacy.

In the real world, we talk about effectiveness. And there`s always the expectation, unless things that are completely unforeseen, that those numbers should match up pretty well.

But, remember, in an observational study like this one was, you can`t really account for and control for every variable. For example, some people have said, well, the people who got the vaccine may also exercise more protective behaviors, for example.

So, again, it`s not as neat scientifically as a randomized controlled trial, but it`s very important to see these kinds of numbers in the real world. This is -- it`s kind of like our first look from Israel. We will certainly be getting that data here in the U.S. in the future as well.

MELBER: All great context.

I think you and I both at least agree on one thing, which is, when we can give any good news on COVID, let`s do it.

AZAR: Absolutely. We will take it.

MELBER: It`s been such a road.

Dr. Azar, thank you, as always. Great to have the doctor with us.

Up ahead, as promised, one more announcement about Vice President Harris and what she`s up to -- when we return.


MELBER: One more programming now before we wrap up this edition of THE BEAT.

We want you to know, "The Today Show" tomorrow has Savannah Guthrie`s exclusive interview with Vice President Kamala Harris. This is going to be her first network one-on-one since becoming vice president of the United States. Interesting by any measure, including of course, our sister channel.

That is 7:00 a.m. Eastern on NBC tomorrow.

That does it for me. You can find me again tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. And you can always find me online @AriMelber on social media, @AriMelber on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.

If you have thoughts about tonight`s show or what we should be doing, let us know.