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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 2/22/21

Guest: DeRay McKesson, John Taylor, Mara Gay, Dick Durbin, Katty Kay, Donna Edwards


President Biden holds a memorial service honoring the 500,000

Americans killed by COVID-19. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois speaks out. A

42-year-old father of two is shot to death by California police in broad

daylight after being suspected of jaywalking.



last year to make masks a line in the sand about whether or not you believe

in Trump, or whether or not you`re a strong person, or whether or not

you`re weak and you`re liberal, that was -- that added a cultural component

on top of the disinformation that I think has cost thousands of lives and

sickened hundreds of thousands of people.

And that`s just one of the many terrible things that we`re dealing with


And honestly, Nicolle, I think, for all of the terrible things we saw last

year, I`m happy to see the level of rollout that we`re seeing from Joe

Biden. But it`s just an example of, gosh, if you`re just remotely competent

and remotely empathetic to human nature, this is actually something that

can be handled.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Joe Biden -- President Joe Biden is about to

begin his remarks.

We`re joined now for our special coverage by my friend and colleague Brian


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Nicolle, thank you for having me as part of


We just thought we would take the moment this deserves, the live coverage

this deserves. That`s a hallway you know well on the second floor of the

main House of the White House.

We`re going to see the president. We`re going to see the first lady, we`re

told. We`re going to see the vice president and the first gentleman.

Some brief remarks, followed by a candle lighting.


card in my pocket that I carry with me in my schedule. It shows the number

of Americans who have been infected by or died from COVID-19. Today, we

mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone, 500,071 dead. That`s more

Americans who have died in one year in this pandemic than in World War One,

World War Two, and the Vietnam War combined. That`s more lives lost to this

virus than any other nation on Earth.

But as we acknowledge the scale of this mass death in America, we remember

each person and the life they lived. They`re people we knew. They`re people

we feel like we knew. Read the obituaries and remembrances. The son who

called his mom every night just to check in. The father`s daughter who lit

up his world. The best friend who was always there. The nurse -- the nurse

and nurses -- but the nurse who made her patients want to live.

I was in -- just in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at the Pfizer vaccine

manufacturing facility. There, I met a man when I walked in, whose father-

in-law was dying of the virus. He was sad. I asked if I could call his

father-in-law. He said his father-in-law was too sick to speak. But then he

said, but could I pray for him -- could I pray for him.

We all know someone -- fellow Americans who lived lives of struggle, of

purpose, and of hope. Who talked late into the night about their dreams;

who wore the uniform, born to serve; who loved, prayed, and always offered

a hand.

We often hear people described as ordinary Americans. There`s no such

thing. There`s nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were

extraordinary. They spanned generations. Born in America. Immigrated to

America. But just like that, so many of them took final breath alone in


As a nation, we can`t accept such a cruel fate. While we have been fighting

this pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow.

We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur or on the

news. And we must do so to honor the dead, but equally important, care for

the living and those left behind.

For the loved ones left behind, I know all too well -- I know what it`s

like to not be there when it happens. I know what it`s like when you are

there, holding their hands. There`s a look in your eye, and they slip away.

That black hole in your chest, you feel like you`re being sucked into it.

The survivor`s remorse, the anger, the questions of faith in your soul.

For some of you, it`s been a year, a month, a week, a day, even an hour.

And I know that when you stare at that empty chair around the kitchen

table, it brings it all back, no matter how long ago it happened, as if it

just happened that moment you looked at that empty chair. The birthdays,

the anniversaries, the holidays without them.

And the everyday things -- the small things, the tiny things -- that you

miss the most. That scent when you open the closet. That park you go by

that you used to stroll in. That movie theater where you met. The morning

coffee you shared together. The bend in his smile. The perfect pitch to her


I received a letter from a daughter whose father died of COVID-19 on Easter

Sunday last year. She and her children -- his grandchildren -- enter Lent

this season, a season of reflection and renewal, with heavy hearts. Unable

to properly mourn, she asked me in the letter, What was our loss among so

many others?

Well, that`s what has been so cruel. So many of the rituals that help us

cope, that help us honor those we loved, haven`t been available to us. The

final rites with family gathered around, the proper homegoing, showered

with stories and love, tribal leaders passing out the final traditions of

sacred cultures on sacred lands.

As a nation, we cannot and we must not let this go on. That`s why the day

before my inauguration, at the COVID-19 Memorial at the Reflecting Pool on

the National Mall, I said to heal -- to heal, we must remember. I know it`s

hard. I promise you, I know it`s hard -- I remember. But that`s how you

heal: You have to remember. And it`s also important to do that as a


For those who have lost loved ones, this is what I know: They`re never

truly gone. They`ll always be part of your heart. I know this, as well --

and it seems unbelievable, but I promise you: The day will come when the

memory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before a

tear to your eye.

It will come. I promise you. My prayer for you though is that day will come

sooner rather than later. And that`s when you know you`re going to be OK --

you`re going to be OK.

And for me, the way through sorrow and grief is to find purpose. I don`t

know how many of you have lost someone a while ago and are wondering, Is he

or she proud of me now? Is this what they want me to do? I know that`s how

I feel. And we can find purpose -- purpose worthy of the lives they lived

and worthy of the country we love.

So today, I ask all Americans to remember: Remember those we lost and

those who are left behind.

But as we remember -- as we all remember, I also ask us to act. To remain

vigilant, to stay socially distanced, to mask up, get vaccinated when it`s

your turn. We must end the politics and misinformation that has divided

families, communities, and the country, and has cost too many lives


It`s not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus. It`s our

fellow Americans. It`s our neighbors and our friends -- our mothers, our

fathers, our sons, our daughters, husbands, wives.

We have to fight this together, as one people, as the United States of

America. That`s the only way we`re going to beat this virus, I promise you.

The only way to spare more pain and more loss -- the only way these

millstones (sic) no longer mark our national mourning -- these milestones,

I should say, no longer mark our national mourning.

Let this not be a story of how far we fell, but of how far we climbed back

up. We can do this.

For in this year of profound loss, we have seen profound courage from all

of you on the front lines. I know the stress, the trauma, the grief you

carry. But you give us hope. You keep us going. You remind us that we do

take care of our own. That we leave nobody behind. And that while we have

been humbled, we have never given up. We are America. We can and will do


In just a few minutes, Jill and I, Kamala and Doug, will hold a moment of

silence here in the White House -- the People`s House, your house. We ask

you to join us to remember, so we can heal; to find purpose in the work

ahead; to show that there is light in the darkness.

This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This

nation will know joy again. And as we do, we will remember each person

we`ve lost, the lives they lived, the loved ones they left behind. We will

get through this, I promise you. But my heart aches for you -- those of you

who are going through it right now.

May God bless you all, particularly those who have lost someone. God bless


WILLIAMS: The president will now head downstairs to the South Portico, to

a second location for the candle lighting you heard him mention, where he

will be joined -- there, the stage is set -- joined by the first lady, the

vice president, and first gentleman overlooking the South Lawn.

It is striking -- I will go ahead and say it -- to hear that personal a

tone, hushed tones almost, that kind of humanity, that kind of empathy, in

that structure behind that podium by a man who occupies the highest office

in the land, after the year our country has just been through.

You see the candles cascading down the flanking sets of stairs from

upstairs at the White House, a truly emotional sight.

And I will tell you, Nicolle Wallace, what the last emotional sight was. It

was the eve of the inauguration, those lighted stanchions on either side of

the Reflecting Pool. It was such a graphic depiction, such a beautiful

depiction of the loss.

It was meant to symbolize the 400,000, which was the death toll then. This

can`t -- this can`t be stressed enough. We have lost an additional 100,000

souls, 100,000 fellow citizens, since just that day. Who among them was

working on a cure for cancer? Who among them was themselves caring for

COVID patients?

Who was celebrating after a life well-lived, perhaps teaching children in

school, trying to enjoy retirement? How many educators? How many police

officers, firefighters, factory workers? Most of them died alone. Some of

their funerals had to be held at a distance, others electronically.

It is our job to make sure their memories are all a blessing. We grow up

learning that we are the best nation on Earth. It`s one of the first things

you hear as a young student in school.

When you get a little older, look into the textbooks, you see there`s a

phrase for it, American exceptionalism. I would argue this is the least

exceptional moment in our modern history -- Nicolle.

WALLACE: There`s no words to better I think describe this moment than the

ones you just chose.

I would add that there`s some reporting in "The Washington Post" about the

pandemic`s youngest victims. More than 200 children have died. And so much

of the narrative around children is that they are largely immune. They`re


And so the thought that some of those candles are for someone`s 9-year-old

or 6-year-old, and every candle represents an entire world, an entire

universe being destroyed.

I thought what Joe Biden did was just a meditation on grief. He described

the black hole in your soul, survivor`s remorse, and said, we have to

resist becoming numb to the sorrow.


WILLIAMS: The black bunting on the structure, reserved for the saddest

occasions, reminds us of the black-and-white photos of the homecoming of

Abraham Lincoln`s body, the homecoming of John F. Kennedy`s body.

The lights, the candles, however, Nicolle, as you were saying, are unique

and fitting.

WALLACE: Well, and this president is unique and fitting.

And when you hear him talk about being a president for every American, he`s

talking about opening up the door to his darkest hours, his most painful

moments as a father and a husband. And you can hear him remembering, the

smell of the closet when you open the door.

And to have a president willing to open his heart and his saddest moments

and his saddest days to help the country through its saddest moments and

its saddest days is what Joe Biden means when he says he`s going to be a

president for every American.

WILLIAMS: I`m duty bound to remember one of the last times there was this

much live television attention -- I am guessing your mind went there too --

on the South Portico. And...

WALLACE: You and I sat here for hours watching the helicopter take one

sick Donald Trump to Walter Reed on this shot, on this balcony.

WILLIAMS: And think of the return. Think of the live coverage of his

return from the hospital.

The people who know him and know medicine noticed he was oxygen-starved by

the time he got to the top of the steps, where he triumphantly pulled off

his mask and walked unmasked into the residence of the White House to shoot

a video in that moment.

It was as much a celebration of his successful treatment as it was anything

else. Missing from that event, any note, any mention of the loss we

remember today.

WALLACE: And I think Joe Biden in his two events has gone so far in

tapping into this collective grief which knows no partisan association, of

tapping into science.

I mean, we have been talking for the last two hours about these fact-filled

briefings. But this is the part of it that I think people were aching for,

someone to put words and ritual to grief.

And that is what he did tonight.

Brian, let`s bring into our conversation our friends Donna Edwards and

Jason Johnson.


FMR. REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD): You know, I was thinking, Nicolle, as

President Biden was speaking, about those 500,000 lives lost.

I want to add to that publicly my aunt Mary (ph). And when Joe Biden talked

about not being able to celebrate a homegoing, I thought of my cousins and

our family members not being able to gather and comfort each other in the

way that families do.

And I think that, tonight, Joe Biden really spoke to our hearts as people,

to our humanity, and to us as Americans to celebrate those lives lost, to

remember them, and to keep in our prayers all of their family members and

friends and extended family who are missing somebody at the table tonight.


JOHNSON: We talk a lot about Joe Biden`s empathy and how he can draw upon

the loss of his wife and children, but when he talks about going into the

closet and that waft of somebody who`s not there, just remembering

somebody`s laugh, I don`t -- I don`t know that I have ever seen a president

in my lifetime more appropriately channel the level of pain and agony that

so many people are in.

Just last week, one of my best friends lost her father abroad to COVID. I

know dozens of people who have lost folks to COVID, who are suffering

through COVID now. And I think, if you had asked us a year ago what will be

the most tragic memorial that we would have this year, it would be the 20-

year anniversary of 9/11.

And yet here we are, and it`s February, and we`re talking about the loss of

500,000 lives, and it will be a lot worse by the time we get to September.

And in a nonpartisan way, I`m very happy that we have this president to

guide us through this, because I can`t think of anybody else who more

effectively represents what we`re going through and cares more deeply about

it than Joe Biden.

WILLIAMS: These pictures, just this picture of South Portico is so deeply

moving. It has taken on a kind of twinkling candlelight in a cathedral

effect, and it`s fitting for the moment.

I`d like to bring in a third guest who has been watching along with us. And

that`s Mara Gay on the editorial board of "The New York Times."

And, Mara, I have to say, I know you at first only from our brief

appearances together on television. I knew you as a proud Michigan grad. I

knew you as an active and energetic young runner. And months later, I came

to know you as one of the first people I knew to get COVID-19.

And I know you have been on a journey. I know this has thrust you into a

kind of ongoing support group that`ll probably never go away. And I know

this has forced you into deep thought about how fortunate you were to have

recovered all but fully -- that is not to diminish your lingering symptoms

-- and I know it has caused you deep thought on those who were not so



was watching the Bidens and the Harris family, Joe Biden was speaking to

what for me personally, and I think for the country, has been really two


One is the pandemic of COVID-19, and the other is this pandemic that

Trumpism unleashed upon us of just hatred, lack of empathy, divisiveness

and really the uncaring and the lack of the ability to see one another as

human beings across the political divide and the other things that divide


And I think what`s so powerful about this moment tonight is that this isn`t

just about healing. I think this is also about justice for those lives that

we have lost, for those families who have lost people, because, you know,

the hardest thing for me to process in the past year is the fact that this

wasn`t a natural disaster.

You certainly can`t blame former President Trump for COVID-19. In no way am

I saying that. But the callousness of the response, or lack thereof, cost

lives and created a lot of suffering.

And so we could have prevented suffering and death, and we didn`t because

of the political divide that Donald Trump used to empower himself, at the

expense of the rest of us.

The decision to ignore science, to lie to the American people early on

about what the threat was, what he knew about it, I think it`s not just

about healing. It`s about accountability and it`s about justice and making

sure that we can actually see and recognize one another`s suffering.

And Joe Biden was able to do that tonight. And I think justice for these

families will come when we`re saving each other`s lives. When you see

people on the street who refuse to wear a mask because Donald Trump told

them it wasn`t important, that is so painful to people who have lost

someone or people who`ve been sick or suffering for months with this virus.

And that is the second pandemic that has been visited upon us. And it`s

really criminal in some ways. And I think it`s going to take years to

recover from that kind of trauma. So, there`s a lot of healing that we have

to do. There`s a lot of accountability and justice that needs to come.

And Joe Biden, I think, put a marker down tonight and said: I`m going to

be a president who cares about every American, who sees every American.

And that`s a really great place to begin.

WALLACE: Mara, we have been through so many news cycles that predated the

pandemic. Now I think you`re known to so many of Brian`s viewers and mine

as the person brave enough to share your own journey with all of us and

inform all of us.

But we all covered the Democratic primary, when Joe Biden was far from a

foregone conclusion as the Democratic Party`s nominee for president, and

then a general election where no one had ever campaigned for the presidency

from Zoom and from all the things that responsible people like Joe Biden

did during the pandemic.

The other side of all that cruelty might, might be that Joe Biden won in a

landslide, running, as Donald Trump once mocked him, from his basement at

the darkest and most dangerous time of the pandemic. He still wears a mask

everywhere he goes. What does that say?

GAY: You know, it`s interesting, because it`s been almost a year since a

whole bunch of us, including the Democratic candidates and Joe Biden, were

in Selma, Alabama, for the annual march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge,

which is a famous civil rights march.

There`s an anniversary march that happens every year. And that was a rare

opportunity to see the candidates, including Joe Biden, out interacting

with voters, many of them, although not all, black Democrats in the South,

who, of course, as we know, were determinative. They really carried Joe

Biden to win the nomination, as he swept those states in the South Super


And it`s interesting to me, because I think what those voters saw was

somebody who wasn`t perfect, who wasn`t maybe the most modern candidate,

the most exciting, but they would tell you and they continue to tell me

when I talk to them, to those voters, they know who he is. They trust him.

They see his heart. He`s a good person. He`s a decent person.

And he`s also somebody, of course, who is deeply associated with Barack

Obama, who I think is actually still kind of the unseen force in our

politics, if not him personally, certainly that Obama coalition, which

represents a vision for this country that, demographically, we`re moving

toward and is really the future.

WALLACE: Mara Gay, Jason Johnson, Donna Edwards, we always count ourselves

lucky to get to talk to you, but very much so today.

Thank you so much for spending some time with us.

Brian, I just keep thinking this may be remembered exactly as you described

it, but as well as such an important first chapter in the chapter of Joe

Biden`s presidency, the moment he shared knowing exactly how it feels to

open a closet and smell that scent of the person you lost.

WILLIAMS: That is one of the -- as our friend Jason pointed out, that is

one of the utterances from today, in addition to the imagery we`re looking

at, that will live on beyond today.

WALLACE: MSNBC`s special coverage continues now on THE BEAT WITH ARI


From Brian and myself, thank you so much for watching.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Nicolle and Brian.

Our coverage does continue right now of this very somber moment.

I want to bring in Dr. Natalie Azar from NYU Langone and BBC News` Katty


And, Doctor, we all just took this in.

Your thoughts on what we have been watching at the White House and what

Americans can take from all this.


to the president speak to us Americans about what is happening in the

world, I think we all get the same sense of relief that we`re actually

listening to someone who has experienced sorrow and loss.

And we hear that empathy and that compassion. And it`s really poignant to

hear him reach for his own -- or reach to his own personal experiences to

somehow communicate with us and make us feel better.

You know, a couple of things that he said were just so impressionable, and

that is that people had to take their final breaths alone, that we need to

resist the urge or resist becoming numb to sorrow, and that these

individuals and lives lost are not just statistics, but people who had

families and friends.

And you want to resist the urge to relitigate how we got here, factors that

were somewhat out of our control, in a way, with the virus being so protean

and spreading asymptomatic and all this stuff that we really couldn`t have

predicted and we didn`t know, but then all of the really monumental

failures on the part of the federal government, with just a really deadly

convergence of the White House disinformation campaign, where your

allegiance to a political party suddenly dictated whether or not you

believed in science.

You know, that`s how we got here. You know, but I am hopeful still, in

spite of that. It`s a very, of course, somber milestone. But it`s better to

get COVID-19 today than it was a year ago, and that`s because we do have

much, much better therapeutics.

Mortality is significantly lower than it was a year ago. There`s a lot of

reason to be encouraged by the science and new therapeutics on the horizon,

as well as vaccinations. And I think the public has responded better to an

administration that believes in science.

And I think that behavior has changed because of that. So, again, we`re in

this spot right now, but I do think that there are different lights at the

end of the tunnel that we can all see and reach for.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned a light at the end of the tunnel, as we look at

a White House that is lit literally with lights to commemorate the dead.

And, Katty, we work with words and images. But I think we all know words

and images are just a tiny sliver of how to reflect on and memorialize

human life and a death toll this large.

We`re coming out of an event where the president, accompanied by the first

lady and the vice president, held this memorial not because it was good or

bad politically, not because it was medically required, but to mark and to

grieve as a nation.

I want to play a little more of something that, of course, I think everyone

knows President Biden has personally experienced, which is his share of

grief in his life. And he spoke about something that perhaps we don`t set

aside time to talk about enough sometimes, the grieving process, and his

view on it as he comforts a nation that`s dealing with so much death.

Take a look.


BIDEN: The day will come when the memory of the loved one you lost will

bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye.

It will come, I promise you. My prayer for you though is that day will come

sooner rather than later. And that`s when you know you`re going to be OK,

you`re going to be OK.


MELBER: Katty?

KATTY KAY, BBC NEWS: Yes, I mean, that was an incredibly powerful

articulation of the process of grief delivered to individuals, to all of

those who have been left behind, because we always talk about those who

have died.

And 500,000 is just a shocking number. But it`s also all the people who

have been left behind. And I think that`s what Joe Biden understands so

well and articulated so powerfully just now. In the last three months, Ari,

I have lost both of my mother and my father, neither of them to COVID.

But I`m hoping that moment comes when I remember them with a smile, rather

than with a tear in my eye. And it was -- it felt like he was talking to

me. That was my grief at the moment.

And for all of those families around this country whose loved ones died,

who -- many of whom must be feeling that anger that Joe Biden spoke about

as well, that their loved ones didn`t need to die, having somebody say, you

will get through this, you, as an individual, will get through this, and

you will get to a time when you remember them with a smile, but we as a

nation will get through this, I thought that was -- it was very powerful

and very moving.

MELBER: I`m sorry for your loss. I didn`t know that. I appreciate you

sharing that.

And several of our colleagues here just in the previous coverage were also

discussing the loss or battling COVID or all the ways we have all been

touched. I mean, this is -- we`re all living through it.

So, on one hand, we know that we`re living through it, Doctor. But, on the

other hand, how do we even, amidst all the other ongoing rolling problems -

- and a lot of people are worried about first order concerns and jobs and

rent in this recession -- and yet this is a part of what President Biden as

a candidate said he would do, which was lead with empathy and humanity.

That was part of his argument. He wasn`t only talking about medical policy,

although you`re here to give us that expertise. He was talking about the

idea that we would try to forge something together.

I want to play on that note again one other point we thought was worth

excavating here from the recent remarks, even for those who watched it

live, as President Biden spoke about what we need to transcend. Take a



BIDEN: We must end the politics and misinformation that has divided

families, communities, and the country, and has cost too many lives


It`s not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus. It`s our

fellow Americans.

This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again.


MELBER: Doctor..

AZAR: You know...

MELBER: ... you could almost feel -- I was just going to say, you could

almost feel, for your response, his frustration that it got to this point,

that those things even need to be said, although, clearly, they do, by a


Go ahead, please.

AZAR: Well, I think that nothing could be much worse than having lost a

family member or a loved one to the pandemic, and hearing from all sides,

myself included, that perhaps their death could have been prevented, right?

I mean, of all the cruel things in life.

To me, when I listen to the president now, I hear his sincerity when he

really feels and says, I don`t want this to happen to anybody else, right?

And he knows there are going to, sadly, be tens of thousands, in all

likelihood, more deaths before this is over.

But when you`re listening to him, you truly believe that he is going to do

everything within his power to prevent you or your loved one from the same

fate. And I just think that that kind of -- that that kind of messaging,

with that kind of honesty and sincerity, certainly resonates with me.

And I really, truly hope it resonates with the rest of the country, who has

been on the other side of this for the last year.

MELBER: Dr. Azar and Katty Kay, thanks to both of you.

Our special coverage continues here. We have been watching the White House

marking 500,000 COVID deaths.

And we have a very special guest now who`s been quite busy today, but has

made time here after this ceremony here to join us.

That`s Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. He serves as the chair of the

Senate Judiciary Committee. And we will get to some of the business he`s

been dealing with today.

But first, Senator, thank you for making time.

Your reflections after President Biden led this very somber and grim

ceremony for the country.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): Well, of course, America should never take it

for granted. We have lost a half-a-million. We`re likely to lose more.

There are things each and every one of us can do to protect ourselves, our

families and our friends and everyone else. And I hope everyone will accept

that responsibility.

Joe Biden, a friend of mine for over 20 years in public life and privately,

is just a caring person. It comes through so clearly. You can`t make this

up. He is real. And he`s gone through pain himself. He shares it with so

many other people and gives a lot of people strength when they need it.


Before we turn, as promised, to what was keeping you busy today, I did

want, in the context of these numbers -- and the president just referred to

it -- the death toll that is higher than so many other places, I think we

have all learned that by this point.

But when you look at the comparison, it`s rather striking. This half-a-

million that we reached today as a nation is literally more than double

some of the other countries that have had the largest problems with this,

which is to say, we`re not only doing the worst, but we have been doing the

worst for a long time, far worse than even the other worst countries on

this scale, to say nothing of some of the places that obviously have had

far fewer deaths and deaths per capita.

It`s a big topic, Senator, but your thoughts of what the president was

getting there -- getting at there, without -- again, he`s not fixated on

the rearview. I didn`t take that to be the focus today. And yet he`s

clearly trying to change some of the way policies have worked to get that

number to not be as horrific, as we also go through the vaccine rollout.

DURBIN: And he should.

There are two numbers that tell the story so dramatically. The United

States has a little less than 5 percent of the world`s population. We have

20 percent of the COVID-19 infections and deaths, four times our

population. There`s just no excuse for that.

We can do better as a nation. And that`s what Joe Biden is challenging us

to do, to put aside our differences, personal and political, and to really

pull together to put an end to this pandemic once and for all. America is

longing to get back into what we call normal life, from grandparents to

visit with their grandkids and to do the things that we just -- we know are

really at the heart of a good life.

We need to get back to that. And if we pull together -- and I hope, with

his leadership, we can -- we can see that day sooner, rather than later.

MELBER: And, Senator, I think everyone understands the government`s got to

do more than one thing. I think people can see you care a lot about this


But, also, you were quite busy today with a very important hearing for

Merrick Garland, who is being considered here by the Senate, advise and

consent, to be the new attorney general, the name familiar to viewers,

given his previous appointment that was blocked by Republicans as President

Obama`s Supreme Court pick.

I just want to play a little bit from that hearing and then get your view,

as such a pivotal leader of the committee. Here was Merrick Garland today:



other monitors still face discrimination in housing, in education, in

employment, and in the criminal justice system.

I can`t imagine anything worse than tearing parents from their children.

I think this was the most heinous attack on the democratic processes that I

have ever seen and one that I never expected to see in my lifetime.


MELBER: As chairman, Senator, you have been running this process, vetting

the nominee. You have spoken out publicly about why you think he`s an

excellent choice.

And then, more specifically I was interested. You said that he -- his

nomination is -- quote -- "one of the most critical ever" in Justice

Department history. Explain to us why you think that and what you think was

gleaned in the hearing.

DURBIN: Well, let`s face it.

We have just gone through four years with the Department of Justice doing

things that we haven`t seen in decades, if ever, in our history, the

demoralization of the work force at the department, the fact that it was so


Think about this. At the very end, in the very last days of the Trump

Department of Justice, when he made his last play with a man named Jeffrey

Clark, the stab at stopping the election returns from being counted on

November 3, the thing that finally stopped President Trump in his tracks

were when the professional attorneys at the Department of Justice

threatened to resign en masse if he went forward with that plan.

It just tells you the desperate circumstance. We haven`t seen anything like

that since the Nixon years. And that`s the department which Merrick

Garland, with confirmation in the Senate, will inherit.

You take a look at his honesty and integrity, his reputation, it came

through today. But one thing that really sticks with me is this. He has

given his life to public service, but he had it all made. He is a lifetime

appointee to the second highest court in the land. He could have stayed in

that capacity to get senior status, and lived a comfortable life.

And what did he do? He answered President Biden`s call to come back and

serve and really pour his heart and soul into a new Department of Justice.

He said he would do that. And I think the Senate`s going to confirm him as

a result.

MELBER: And do you have a expectation, from working with your colleagues,

that he may get Republican Senate votes? Which, while not the main point, I

think is quite striking and many would argue a potential sign of hypocrisy,

given that he couldn`t get even a standard hearing for the other job, and

now perhaps he gets support.

I don`t know if you want to weigh in on that or not.

DURBIN: Well, I`m not going to presume any Republican votes.

A couple have come to me personally and said they`re going to vote for him.

I`m not going to advertise that, because they may not want me to. I want to

get their votes. I don`t want to lose them.

MELBER: Right.

DURBIN: And I think his presentation today was so powerful and convincing

and genuine, that I think the members of the committee on the other side,

the Republican members, will tell their colleagues, this man can do the

job, he`s the best we can find, we have got to support him to show that

we`re going to come together to help President Biden.

MELBER: Senator Durbin, who, as I mentioned, was running that big hearing

today and speaking to us about COVID and other issues, appreciate you

making time, sir.

DURBIN: Good to be with you. Thanks.

MELBER: Thank you.

If you have been watching our special coverage tonight, you know we have

been keeping an eye there on that White House ceremony and speaking to

several of our guests.

I want to turn now to our special report tonight here on THE BEAT, with new

information about how a seemingly minor jaywalking stop turned into this.

A warning: The video is disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s got my gun! He`s got my gun!



MELBER: That is the scuffling which proved to be the last moment of Kurt

Reinhold`s life. The 42-year-old father of two was shot to death by police

there in broad daylight. He was unarmed.

And he was not suspected of any serious felony or misconduct at all. He was

stopped for alleged jaywalking, an infraction in California that carries a

$250 ticket and is also rarely enforced to begin with.

Now, to understand this incident and why so many of these incidents in

American policing prove controversial, it also helps to see what led up to

that scuffle, which is our special report tonight, building on our coverage

of this case.

Tonight, we can actually show you more of precisely that lead-up, because

the Orange County Sheriff`s Department has just released more video, only

after pressure, we should note, from the public, from recent protests, from

press coverage, and a lawsuit.

And now this video evidence sheds more light on the officers` mentality

going into the stop.

We can hear the officers on dash-cam video and other video before they even

make contact with Reinhold, and they argue over whether to approach him at


So, now on this tape, newly available, I want you to listen as one officer

appears to verbally push back against the other more aggressive officer,

saying the situation -- before they even made the stop, the situation is --

quote -- "controlled" and doesn`t merit stopping Reinhold.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch this. He`s going to jaywalk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s controlled.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s controlled, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know, dude.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just stopped in the middle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t make case law, Gabriel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not case law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to identify him, no?


MELBER: So, before there was any stop, before what we showed you just

earlier, before any scuffle, you had one officer already concerned this may

not be a worthwhile or valid stop.

The officer says, "Don`t make case law," which sounds like referencing what

could become a questionable precedent. Don`t turn this stop into a case

about crossing the line or where the line is.

But they went ahead and they did pull up to Reinhold. And before even

telling him why they are stopping him or if he`s technically under arrest

yet, you`re going to see, they start saying, if he does not stop, they will

-- quote -- "make him stop," quite the escalation for this alleged



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s going on, man? How you doing? How you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you need to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to stop, or we going to have to make you



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For jaywalking.

REINHOLD: What are you talking about? I`m walking.


REINHOLD: I mean, why are you stopping me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Slow down, man.


REINHOLD: Stop touching me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the street.

REINHOLD: Stop touching me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have an uncoop...


REINHOLD: For what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, for jaywalking.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And resisting arrest.

REINHOLD: Arrest for what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For jaywalking.

REINHOLD: Where? Where? Show me where.


MELBER: You can hear, even with this off-camera partial audio, how quickly

this whole thing escalated by the choice of the officers.

Already, it doesn`t look like a stop that`s making the neighborhood much

safer. It looks like a stop that`s escalating a situation with an unarmed

person minding his own business, who then is asking, where did he even


And then a concerned witness took cell phone video, which shows more of

this from another angle.


REINHOLD: Where did I jaywalk? Stop touching me. Stop touching me. I mean,

why are you stopping me?

Don`t touch me. Stop touching me. Stop touching me.

What is your problem? Why are you touching me?


REINHOLD: For what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I`m telling you to.

REINHOLD: Who are you?


MELBER: As they argue, and the video continues, there appears to be an

effort by Reinhold to just get away. Then the officers tackle him, which

includes the one officer who initially cautioned against the stop, saying

things were under control.

As it escalates, moments later, an officer says Reinhold has his gun, and

they kill him with two shots.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s got my gun! He`s got my gun!



MELBER: And it was over just like that.

Now we have more information about how it ever got to that point, how an

officer twice insisted -- remember, this was a controlled situation that

didn`t merit the police getting involved.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s controlled.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s controlled, man.


MELBER: "It`s controlled, man."

And it was until it wasn`t. These officers killed Reinhold in September.

What`s new now is the evidence, the video.

As part of our reporting, you should know the police also released this

photo, which they argue shows Reinhold trying to get the officer`s gun. The

longer video presents a lot of evidence that shows the stop was so dubious,

though, even one officer was objecting to it before it began.

Reinhold`s family argues the video also shows the escalation and

confrontation was driven by the police. Indeed, under the law, whatever you

think of this policing, if a suspect chooses to flee a jaywalking stop, it

is illegal for police to use deadly force to stop them from fleeing.

They need more of a justification than that.

Now, without the video, this might be another story that is a blip in the

news of police just saying they had to use force against a dangerous

suspect grabbing their gun. With the video, if people take the time to

learn about the entire context, it really does look like something else.

We have been reporting this story out.

And, tonight, we have an attorney for Mr. Reinhold`s wife, John Taylor.

They have filed a wrongful death suit. And we are also joined by Black

Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

John, what do you think is important about the newer video evidence?


homeless liaison officers. Their job is to assist people who are in some

sort of distress.

And Mr. Reinhold is not a danger to himself. He`s not a danger to others.

He is not doing anything illegal. He has got a can of iced tea. He`s come

out of the liquor store. And you can hear the officers, as they have

targeted him, from across the street.

And it is an absolute racially motivated stop. There is nothing that he has

done that is a reasonable suspicion of a crime that gives them any basis to

even stop him. And they discuss that. And the one officer, when he`s saying

it`s controlled, he`s talking about that Reinhold is crossing in the

controlled intersection. He`s not jaywalking.

He`s not between or in the middle of the block. And I think that this is so

clear and so powerful that, when the sheriff held a press conference the

day after the shooting, they released the footage from the surveillance

camera from the motel, which showed Reinhold supposedly grabbing at the

officer`s -- the deputy`s gun, but they did not release this video, because

this video clearly shows that these deputies had no basis to stop him.

So, they create the confrontation, they escalate the confrontation, and

they end up taking his life.



at play in this video.

The first is, we see the limitations of body cameras. People thought that

body cameras, people thought that footage, people thought that the police

having -- knowing they are being recorded is going to be this thing that

changes their behavior, and it actually just doesn`t, right, that, like, it

doesn`t happen.

When we look at 2020, the police actually killed more people in 2020 than

every year but 2018. And it`s just increasing. And you think about

California. California`s one of the 21 states that has an officer bill of

rights. And imagine if you had a job where you knew you weren`t going to

get fired and you knew it was almost impossible to get charged with a crime

or convicted.

That`s police. So, this was -- these are sheriffs, the sheriff`s deputy`s

office. It`s like it is -- we are living in the Wild Wild West of policing

that the media coverage of last year made people think that something was

getting better, but all the data we look at says the exact opposite.

In this case, it`s also a reminder that the vast majority of encounters

that lead to police killings are not even cases where there is suspected

violence happening in the first place. The police would like you to believe

that violence is happening and, therefore, they had to be violent. Like,

that`s sort of the narrative.

But most of the cases look something like this, where somebody`s minding

their own business, the police create the confrontation that leads to

something else. And it`s only when people demand some sort of footage or

anything that we know anything happened And yet these officers, I think,

are back on duty. They`re not even -- what happened? They`re back on duty.

That`s wild.

MELBER: Yes, John, some people see some of these interactions and say,

well, why wasn`t the individual more compliant? Why did they push back at


What do you see as what is in or missing in the police operational conduct?

Because, as I pointed out in our report, they don`t begin by even

identifying whether the person`s under arrest or not. If you`re not under

arrest in America, you may walk wherever you choose, because you`re not

under arrest.

If you are under arrest, the police rules are, it has to be identified and

then you proceed from there. What did you think about the way they

initiated that aspect, even before it got to force?

TAYLOR: Well, that`s -- and that`s the problem, is that they have a

disagreement between each other, where one saying, he`s jaywalking or there

it is.

And the other officer says, no, it`s not. And then they have this debate.

Don`t make case law, Gabriel, where he`s saying, this is a Mickey Mouse

thing that we`re going to do to even stop and talk to this guy. And so

unless the person can sense to stop and talk, you don`t have to stop.

The police stop there and want to talk to you, if you have done nothing and

there`s no reasonable suspicion that a crime`s been committed, you can walk

away. And if -- just run this whole tape again and make the person white,

and this stop doesn`t happen, and the shooting doesn`t happen.

MCKESSON: Correct.

TAYLOR: What`s -- and the invitation to stop really isn`t that inviting.

Both of these officers are wearing their rubber gloves when they get out of

the car. And in the third person`s video, the cell phone video, the officer

to the left is clearly seen holding his Taser. And so Mr. Reinhold, who`s

been standing there minding his own business, is now confronted with two

officers who are approaching him.

They`re cutting him off from the where he`s moving to. They raise and

escalate their voices. And the one officer, as I said, so the officer to

the right, in his left hand is his Taser. And so it seems like they have an

intention to go put their hands on this person.

They have no reason. And he -- Kurt Reinhold tries to understand where

they`re coming from. He asks, why are you touching me? Why are you stopping

me? And then says, keep your hands off me, keep your hands off me.

And, instead, the officer, the deputy persists and persists. And then, with

no plan, no warning or discussion between themselves, they just take him to

the ground. And once they go to the ground...

MELBER: Yes. Well, so...

TAYLOR: ... it`s all off.

MELBER: Right.

And I have about -- I have got 30 seconds left.

John`s case turns on what he can prove in court about what was wrong with

this legally.

DeRay, with 30 seconds, what`s the policy -- whether this was technically

illegal under current law or not, what`s your view of a policy problem if

the police interaction here is what creates the danger, and, otherwise,

there wasn`t danger?

MCKESSON: Yes, so I think the question is, what will the governor and the

legislature do, is that they should repeal the officer bill of rights


They could enhance disciplinary sanctions for officers tomorrow. We could

limit the power of sheriffs, so that they don`t have, like, wanton power to

do whatever they want in communities. All that stuff is possible.

But, in California, the Democrats get a lot of money from the police, so

will they actually push back against their power? That`s the question. But

the government has a lot of power. The legislature, they have power to make

substantive change today. The question is, will they?


DeRay McKesson and John Taylor, thanks to both of you for joining us.

There`s a lot going on, but this is a story we have been reporting that we

will stay on.

I want to thank you for spending time with us here on THE BEAT WITH ARI

MELBER. I`ll see you tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.





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