President Biden`s nearly $2 trillion COVID relief bill passes the House. A third vaccine is on the way, with Johnson & Johnson now shipping out their vaccine. President Trump reportedly received his COVID vaccine in secret in January. How did the MAGA insurrection reveal key hypocrisy in terms of Blue Lives Matter support?
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you.
And thank you, as always, for that reporting that you do.
WALLACE: Thank you.
MELBER: I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.
We`re tracking, amidst what Nicolle was just telling us about, which is so important, remembering the lives lost. I will tell you tonight we`re also track something positive breakthroughs in the ongoing response to COVID.
One, President Biden`s nearly $2 trillion COVID relief bill passing the House. It needs 50 votes from U.S. senators. And the president continued lobbying them today with a fast timeline slated to try to get the package back to the president`s desk within two weeks in order to continue any benefits for Americans before they would expire.
Senate rules are still allowing Republicans to require a supermajority in order to lift the minimum wage. And we should note that`s now gone longer without an increase, did you know this, than any time in its entire 80-year history.
Some liberals demanding Vice President Harris use her role presiding over the Senate to make a ruling that would allow it to pass that increase on a simple majority.
Now, in other progress on the COVID fight, a third vaccine is on the way, Johnson & Johnson now shipping out a new vaccine, four million doses coming in the first wave. People could be getting shots by Wednesday.
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(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
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MELBER: As Democrats say they are focused on governing, Republicans continue to deal with fallout from the politicking at CPAC. Ted Cruz showed up after leaving Texas again. MAGA fans also erected a golden idol to their ex-president, who`s back in the news as word came for the first time today about how Donald Trump got vaccinated.
Turns out the president was quick to get one of the earliest possible vaccines, in January, which is what the experts advised for top government officials. But nobody actually knew at the time, because he did so, oddly, in secret.
So, while the new president and the new vice president, as well as Donald Trump`s own vice president, all stepped up to their vaccinations as a chance to lead in public on a critical public health priority, to show everyone it`s safe, to encourage others to get vaccinated, well, now we know, officially, Donald Trump was MIA, taking the vaccine, but only for his own safety, and blowing a chance to lead on public education.
We`re joined now by Katty Kay, BBC News Washington anchor, and Cornell Belcher, Obama pollster and MSNBC analyst.
Good evening to both of you.
Cornell, it`s quite a contrast. It`s not strictly partisan, given Pence. And Axios was reporting out today that this is really bad for a lot of Donald Trump`s own supporters, because the highest vaccine hesitancy is among older white Republicans, according to that report.
CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
No, it is sad that they seem to be still playing politics and putting politics ahead of the lives of Americans and in this case the lives of those most vulnerable, who are older Americans who are supporting Donald Trump.
So, the base of this party are some of those most vulnerable to COVID-19, and for political motivations, for political reasons, they still are playing politics with COVID-19. And it`s going to have deadly consequences.
Katty, your thoughts?
KAY, BBC NEWS: Yes.
I mean, look, we know that there`s vaccine hesitancy. You have got something like 20 percent to 30 percent vaccine hesitancy even in the U.S. military. So, everybody that can get out there and have it done in public who has sway over large numbers of groups of people, that is exactly what immunologists keep telling us is needed more than anything.
We`re starting to get more supply. We`re starting to get more distribution. But if people fail to take the vaccine because they are hesitant about it, we`re never going to get some kind of return to normal life.
MELBER: And, Katty, this comes against the backdrop of the COVID relief bill, which, on the one hand, is expected to pass, be a lot of money through the system and for Americans, but still a problem on minimum wage.
Here was AOC, one of the liberal leaders on this, on MSNBC. Take a listen.
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REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I do believe that we should override the parliamentarian. I think this is a matter of course and that our constituents and people across this country put Democrats in power to, among many other things, establish a $15 minimum wage. We have a responsibility to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Katty, in Washington, it can sound like process, rules, parliamentarian.
For a lot of people, it`s their real lives and the question of whether this would be a majority vote or a supermajority. Where does this fit in, in your reporting on this bill?
KAY: Look, clearly, it`s now out of the COVID bill. So, the question is, are there other ways of doing this? One suggestion from Bernie Sanders had been that you could have a tax on companies in order to force them to introduce the minimum wage.
That now looks like it`s dying as a prospect here in D.C. The number one focus, I think, for the administration is clearly to get this COVID relief bill through the Senate, partly because they desperately -- it`s got money in there, four Americans, but also it`s got money in there for vaccine distribution and vaccine production.
And that`s the kind of war footing that you hear from the White House at the moment. Would they have loved to have had the minimum wage in there? Yes, they would have done. But their priority, from everything I hear from the White House, is really getting this -- the vaccine distribution up and running. And they think the COVID bill can help with that.
And, Cornell, when you look over CPAC, we`re not playing a bunch of what the ex-president said, because most of it is not newsworthy, but it is relevant to what`s going to happen in Washington that the entire speech was kind of a Seinfeldian airing of the grievances.
It was not policy-focused. It didn`t really offer much. But against the backdrop of the now infamous golden idol, it does show you where part of the grassroots is. Republican Senator Cassidy was speaking about this and his disagreement with where he`s worried the party`s going. Here`s that.
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SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): We have got to win in two years. We have got to win in four years. If we do that, we will do that by speaking to those issues that are important to the American people.
And there`s a lot of issues important to them right now, not by putting one person on a pedestal and making that one person our focal point. If we do that, if we speak to those issues, to those families, to those individuals, we win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Cornell, as everyone near -- well, I was just going to say, as everyone near a television has seen, the reference to pedestal is not poetic license. It`s literal.
BELCHER: Well, but, Ari, he`s also -- I agree with him to a certain extent. But he`s also trying to have it both ways.
Yes, he`s absolutely right the Republican Party needs to move away from Donald Trump, someone who lost in a landslide election, who never had a majority of Americans support him, never had a majority of Americans favorable towards him or favorable towards that job that he`s doing, someone who absolutely hurt Republicans in suburban swing districts and energized minorities in urban areas.
Yes, they need to move away from that. But he`s also playing -- he`s also playing a little too cute, because -- about the idea of issues. Well, they have got an issue right before them right now, the stimulus package, the COVID recovery package.
Over seven -- seven in 10 Americans are for that. But Republicans are politically motivated to be locked in, and against everything Democrats did. We saw them play this out in `09 and `10 with Obama, and that same playbook, it`s a politically motivated playbook to try to block everything Democrats do, that they think they can win in the midterm by doing so.
But the problem -- again, the problem is, if they want to focus on issues, vote for the minimum wage. A majority of Americans are for the minimum wage. A majority of Americans are for this COVID package. And it will be interesting to see what they do on infrastructure, something that they have long been sort of pro-infrastructure. Let`s see if they get behind the president on that as well.
MELBER: Katty, go ahead.
KAY: Ari, one thing we learned in 2016 is that there are an awful lot of Trump supporters who are in favor of more populist economic policy.
The establishment policies of free trade, high tax cuts, lower welfare state even, those don`t actually have a ton of support among much of President Trump`s base. So, advocating for those things and then getting Republicans to have to vote no on them is actually politically beneficial to the White House and to Democrats.
MELBER: As you say, Katty, it`s interesting because...
MELBER: Yes, go ahead, Cornell.
I was just going to mention, Hawley says, oh, he has an alternative minimum wage bill he`d like to do. And the real test of that is, all right, are we going to have up-or-down votes, majority votes on this, or is that just symbolism?
BELCHER: Well, OK, where is the alternative? They don`t like the current COVID stimulus package? Where`s there are alternative COVID stimulus package, Ari?
Is it with their alternative health care package to replace ACA? This is just intransigent politics that they think benefits them that they don`t have to actually be for things that the majority of Americans are for.
And Democrats -- to the point earlier, Democrats are going to have to make them pay the price for it, if they can make them pay the price for it, this upcoming midterm. Make them take hard votes against things that a majority of Americans want.
I know the American people don`t like it, because you know what, American people? You`re probably not going to get a $15 wage increase until you flip the Senate. And so that`s two years from now. But that`s where we are right now.
MELBER: Right. Or you change those rules, which goes to the bigger question of, how much do folks around Biden want to get some wins? This looks like a big one for policy. And how much do they want to start basically revising the way Washington works? Because so many people say it`s broken.
Really interesting insights. I want to thank Cornell Belcher and Katty Kay for kicking us off tonight. Really appreciate it.
We have much more on the program, which is why I`m keeping it moving, because next we turn to one of our special reports that we have been working here on at THE BEAT.
This is about a phrase that`s often heard, but not always rigorously explored: Blue Lives Matter. Where did it come from? How is it shaping the policy we live with, and how did the MAGA insurrection reveal some key hypocrisy here?
The answers matter. That report is next.
MELBER: The January 6 insurrection exposed a lot, which brings us to tonight`s special report.
There are many factors driving America`s reckoning on race and policing, from new technology creating more videos of police brutality, to more sophisticated organizing through the Black Lives Matter movement, to many Americans viewing the past two presidents through a starkly racial lens, which has stoked racialized debates and racial backlash politics.
Along the way, polls have also shown a growing awareness about racial tension, a problem that`s never really gone away in America. Polls show growing support for Black Lives Matter, which seems to reflect that more Americans now see there are real errors in policing.
Specifically, more white Americans see that there are cases where facts show the system treats black lives with less value. After police killed George Floyd, white support for BLM jumped 15 percentage points, peaking at 60 percent.
For a time, more white Americans came toward the basic premise that saying black lives matter is a response to a system that acts like they don`t.
To pick a non-racial example, few activists feel the need to say wealthy lives matter. Well, the wealthy do have human rights like anyone else, of course, but the system already values their rights, often more so than other people`s rights. So few people genuinely proclaim wealthy lives matter.
Now, when it comes to black lives, the facts are just different. Black Americans use pot at the same rate as white Americans, but police arrest them at over triple the rate of white Americans. Black defendants get longer prison sentences for similar crimes. And police kill black Americans at triple the rate.
So, saying Black Lives Matter responds to those facts as a call for change. And as strategic rhetoric, the phrase has defied its potential opponents. Are they going to disagree by claiming these lives don`t matter? Are they going to pick other groups and say those lives matter?
Some critics dabbled in that, but it doesn`t work very well.
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SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: I`m having a hard time with this. White lives matter. Black Lives Matter. Asian lives matter. Hispanic lives matter. Blue Lives Matter. What is so controversial?
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MELBER: The attempts by critics to make this about just other racial groups or all lives matter did not get much traction.
Then came that different angle, pivoting from racial discrimination to a group that remains popular among many Americans. So, a movement against documented government discrimination was answered by a supposed appeal to rally around government employees who do sometimes face accusations of that discrimination, the police, which brings us to that rebrand of blue lives.
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KAYLEIGH MCENANY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Blue Lives Matter is an equity issue.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know Blue Lives Matter, right?
MCENANY: MAGA`s pretty much unanimous with Blue Lives Matter these days.
TRUMP: There`s police men and women.
MCENANY: There have been police officers across this country that have been targeted because they wear the badge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When a guy puts on a Blue Lives Matter mask and gets demonized for it, that doesn`t help anybody, does it?
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Democrats hate the police because they don`t control the police. Very simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You can see the political brawl shaping up here.
And words can be confounding, because, just as with those earlier examples I mentioned, police lives do matter. They do a public service at personal risk.
When criminals attack or kill police, those police lives matter in every way to their families and peers, to the public, and to the law, which typically punishes the killing of an officer more harshly than any crime.
Under federal law and in most states with capital punishment, the murder of an officer makes one automatically eligible for the death penalty. So, legally, that offers life -- that officer`s life is legally automatically valued at a higher level than, say, the life of a teacher or a waiter or a truck driver.
The law`s premise is that police lives matter a lot. The legislative logic is that police risk their lives for the community more than most jobs, so their murder is to be punished harshly. And that punishment is for both retribution and attempted deterrence.
Now, federal and state law also afford police tons of protection that other jobs and people just don`t get, from employment protections, even when accused of misconduct, to a type of immunity from lawsuits. So, legally, police, or blue lives, matter. They literally matter more than other jobs by law.
So, saying they matter can be a reference to the fact that they do, which is legally accurate, or it can be something else.
Now, over the past few years for some right-wing politicos and pundits and agitators -- this is important tonight -- it has increasingly become something else entirely.
And this is a documented trend, not some opinion. The widest calls for Blue Lives Matter did not just come up independently or just to support police in general. They came up as a political response to a controversial 2014 killing, when an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, sparking some of the first national Black Lives Matter protests.
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BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown has opened a wound in that community.
PROTESTER: Convict. Send that killer cop to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody want me to be calm. Do you know how them bullets hit my son, what they did to his body as they hit his body?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they`re going to keep killing us. And they`re not going to never stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: As activists protested alleged discrimination, other groups said they were responding to Black Lives Matter with their own effort.
One Web site backing Blue Lives Matter, says its catalyst was defending the -- quote -- "heroic officer who killed Brown" and responding to Black Lives Matter, which it views as supporting the -- quote -- "vilification of law enforcement."
About two million people follow the top Blue Lives Matter Facebook page, which says it grew out of Ferguson, but has a broader goal of honoring -- quote -- "the actions of law enforcement to strengthen the public support of an understandably naive society" -- end quote.
That framing dismisses the factual possibility that there is some policing based on discrimination. It also tries to equate racial discrimination to professional criticism.
As one scholar has noted: "Police take on danger as part of their paying job. Black civilians` vulnerability stems from their identity. A black American cannot quit being black."
Yet this twist on BLM goes beyond just message framing or rallying online support. The state of Louisiana cited Blue Lives Matter as the driver of a bill to add police to potential targets of hate crimes; 14 other states considered similar bills.
Now, these new laws are legally odd, because, as I told you, crimes against police are already punished more harshly than any other crimes. As a practical legal matter, they seem redundant. Now, for symbolism, it may be one way that legislators or voters want to highlight police work and to further condemn criminals who do target police for being police.
Now, there was a jump of ambush killings of officers in 2016, which we reported on right here at the time. And, thankfully, the overall pattern of ambushes targeting police are in decline. Legally, the laws already on the books offer the harshest possible penalty for such horrific attacks.
Now, for many who proudly support police, hearing that police lives matter may just sound straightforward, like a way to rally around them. And people who aren`t that into politics may still hear it that way to this day.
But, for others, this is not just a genuine tribute. It`s a political agenda to invoke police to specifically oppose Black Lives Matter. And it turns out that`s the case for most people online. There is data on this. We know this because there were virtually no references to Blue Lives Matter before those Ferguson protests.
Google shows online interest starting after Ferguson in 2014, that spike there, then spiking during Trump`s 2016 campaign, then leveling off for years and spike again around the BLM protests over George Floyd last summer.
Now, for these people online, most interest in Blue Lives Matter comes when police kill black people, not in response to anything else, be it a general ongoing interest or reports of officers in danger.
A similar pattern holds if you check searches of the news. More people search the news for blue lives stories in response, you see there, to the BLM protests over Floyd last summer.
Then take the second largest search engine after Google. It`s YouTube. More people actually their info and news on YouTube than from TV news. We see the same pattern when you run the numbers, most searches there for videos about Blue Lives Matter coming after the Brown killing and surging again in 2020.
So, for many people, this color wheel is not just about blue. It`s about black. That matters, because there`s a difference between rallying around law-abiding officers in good faith and using police rhetoric to go after Black Lives Matter.
Now, there`s no precise way to generalize about all people who back any given cause, but it is worth holding the visible people and these politicos accountable if they`re acting in bad faith.
And that brings us tonight to the January 6 insurrection, when some people who claim Blue Lives Matter revealed themselves to be brutally attacking police while shouting "USA," storming past Capitol officers, breaking the law, injuring and menacing and sometimes holding blue lives flags amidst their onslaught.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got dozens of officers down, and you got the nerve to be holding a Blue Lives Matter flag.
RIOTER: There`s a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) million of us out there, and we are listening to Trump, your boss.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you got the nerve to be holding a Blue Lives Matter flag. I thought they were going to have a moment where they came to and they realized like, what are we doing?
But, like, they instantly snapped out of it and they said: Nah, we`re doing this for you, (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) D.C. police. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had on gas masks. They had on body armor. They had on two-way radios. They had on tactical gear, bulletproof vests. They were ready to go.
I was scared. I was absolutely scared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: One disturbing part of that parade of horrors, people revealing they don`t actually support police or cherish blue lives.
That was a political hijacking of a term for their own agenda on display here, seeking an autocratic world, where force is used for whatever they want, and police who uphold the law are subject to this attack, disrespect, disdain, violence, or attempted murder, which brings us to accountability tonight, and some more important evidence I need to share with you.
This will be our conclusion to this report when we`re back after our shortest break in 30 seconds.
MELBER: The MAGA insurrection exposed the hypocrisy of political agitators who talk about Blue Lives Matter and then failed to fully publicly condemn this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: The Senate is being evacuated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have protesters standing off against armed police in the Capitol.
RIOTER: Whose house? Whose house?
WALLACE: Sedition and insurrection and potentially domestic terrorism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take the building! Take the building!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) D.C. police. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of here, you traitors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALES: USA! USA! USA!
CAPT. CARNEYSHA MENDOZA, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: This was by far the worst of the worst.
STEVEN SUND, FORMER CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF: These criminals came prepared for war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Prepared for war on police, war on Congress, war on the U.S. government itself. They didn`t care about law and order.
They didn`t care about those police. They didn`t care about blue lives. And for anyone who lived through years of hearing otherwise, it was enough, as "The Daily Show"`s Trevor Noah put it.
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TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH": You guys clearly don`t care about cops. You only care about the idea of using cops to keep black people in their place. So, please miss me with that (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
Ah. I get it now. These people weren`t creepy bloggers. They were solid, law-abiding Americans. And nobody is allowed to kill cops, except for the people who respect cops. They can do whatever they want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Noah captures the logic here.
No one can kill cops except the people who respect cops. That`s a contradiction fit for Orwell or QAnon. You clearly don`t respect cops if you`re doing this and trying to kill them. And that`s not all.
Some of the rioters confessed to this exact view, their sick supremacist prism of policing, which was shook when some of these police did patrol the Capitol, even with great restraint.
As a "Nation" magazine reporter documented at the scene, riot police moved to push the crowd back. Protesters shoved and hit police, their faces all sweaty rage, yelling: "Pigs! Is this what we get for backing the blue? You just lost the only people in this country who stand behind you. You serve Satan."
This is reporting of those MAGA rioters. It went on like that. This "Nation" report continues, quoting them, yelling: "`This is not America,` a woman said, her voice shaking. She was crying, hysterical. `They`re shooting at us. They`re supposed to shoot BLM. But they`re shooting the patriots.`"
Well, that`s as frank and candid a confession and a quote as you will find. It`s also sick.
This is much broader than the people who stormed the Capitol. Some tried to minimize that, what they did and who they were, as some sort of small isolated fringe.
But, again, the data and the evidence leads. Across the U.S., half of Republicans partly defend or support the actions at the Capitol riot, which you all just saw on video. In red states like Texas, one out of three Republicans flat out admit they back the riot.
One out of five go out of their way to say they strongly support it. So, for them, you could just replace Blue Lives Matter with blue lives don`t matter or Republicans against police. There`s a slogan for them.
If you watch those attacks on police, and you strongly support that riot, then you are against police. So, RIP for Blue Lives Matter for everyone who said they backed the riot, which you just saw is about half the Republican Party in those polls.
For accountability, there are those right-wing agitators who talked up Blue Lives Matter, and then failed this ultimate test. And they bear extra responsibility because of their platforms and reach and influence. Trump ally Lou Dobbs claimed to respect blue lives, but failed to clearly condemn the attackers.
That very night, he falsely claimed there was no riot and only -- quote -- "one instance of violence," referring to a rioter who was shot by police.
The recently deceased Rush Limbaugh has claimed to support police, but he was exposed on January 6 taking sides against police and with their attackers, comparing them to, ridiculously, patriotic revolutionaries.
Mark Levin, who`s often on FOX News, says he`s a proponent of Blue Lives Matter. He posted about it. On January 6, his energy was all about the press, saying -- quote -- "The media`s trying to silence conservatives." That`s where he went on that day, not very helpful to the police you just saw.
Well, in Congress, some members of both parties did strongly condemn the violence. But some of the most vocal House members who backed Trump`s rally -- excuse me -- who were allied with Trump and backed his rally or were linked to it, well, they have spent years talking up law and order and blue lives. They failed the test too. We checked.
Three Republicans connected to the rally before the attack failed to fully back police. Instead, they minimized or downplayed the riot, the violence, or they lied about it. Some of them spread misinformation designed to, in essence, try to shield the violent attackers from accountability, giving them a false alibi.
Matt Gaetz, the Republican, tried to blame it on other people, which doesn`t help the police. They didn`t do the bare minimum of condemning the MAGA fans who did attack police.
He blamed Democrats on January 6, and he complained Democrats were -- quote -- "angering people" by condemning Trump`s election lies.
So, that`s some of the people who were all about this. This was not a hard test. Yet many failed, as they struggled to find any way to echo Trump`s praise of the special people who attacked police, or they minimized the attacks on police, or they just lied about who did attack police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a huge victory for these protesters. They have disrupted the system in an enormous way.
JOHN SOLOMON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, JUST THE NEWS: So many them are just patriotic, well-loving Americans.
CARLSON: They`re, like, kind of solid Americans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re not violent. They`re not troublemakers.
LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS: Private citizens, it seemed, on their way to look at the Capitol that turned into an outright vicious riot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of them were let inside. We saw that. Some of them just happened to be there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ninety-nine percent of them were peaceful.
HANNITY: The law-abiding citizens, the 99 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These don`t lock like Trump supporters. The Trump supporters don`t do these things.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: They were likely not all Trump supporters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s video of people screaming, "They`re Antifa."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You wouldn`t find a Trump supporter that would be chasing after a Capitol Policeman. That`s not who they are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The insurrection was a violent tragedy. It`s also turned out to be revealing, showing that, while some Americans do genuinely mean it when they hail police, to be sure, other political hacks hijack that talk for tactics that literally endanger officers` lives.
This is very cynical stuff, exploiting efforts to protect officers for political dirty tricks that use officers as props to foment their own political and racial agenda. It`s wrong. It`s misleading. And it does not make police lives matter. Quite the opposite.
When white nationalist groups were seen flying a Blue Lives Matter flag at the 2017 Unite the Right Rally, they clearly see this as part of their white power agenda, with a vision of racialized policing, just as indicted insurrectionists saw their Blue Lives flag as consistent with their thuggish plot that day.
They valued the lives of their co-conspirators, while they said they wanted to kill any police or any vice president, while we`re at it, who stood against their criminal plot.
Honest police leaders may engage how to address the high rate of police shootings, one of the issues BLM has highlighted, 21, by the way, on the path to the same rate as the previous years.
But our militia groups, they`re not engaging on that kind of thing. They openly talk about more use of force against their opponents. They espouse a sick vision of racialized policing that no law-abiding police chief should ever get near.
Since so much of this is Orwellian, we can also apply some of his wisdom. Orwell said that political speech is always filled with misleading cliches because so much of politics is a defense of the indefensible, with words designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.
Well, for those defending racism and white supremacy and violence and political terrorism, for those literally trying to overthrow the U.S. government and end elections for a Trump-style dictatorship, well, even among some of their peers those things are so indefensible that they are hard to say out loud.
So, watch out for when they may say other things. They may hope that you only hear the catchphrase or that you take your own benign meaning from it, while they exploit it to advance their agenda, not yours, not honest police.
They may bet you that won`t dig much deeper, that you won`t find out about what they say when they think you`re not there, as they conspired amidst their attacks on police that day, as reported, yelling about pigs and calling officers Satan, demanding that they be allowed to break the law for an exchange where they think they are -- quote -- "backing the blue" and capturing their sick mind state when they gasped in shock that police were "shooting at us. They`re supposed to shoot BLM" -- end quote.
Anyone who simply supports law-abiding police can choose to do so. But the days of doing that, of trying to kill police while chanting "Blue Lives Matter," America, those days are over. That wing of Blue Lives Matter is dead. That political quest did not ever truly defend police, while racists seized on it for their own ends.
The evidence shows it was a fraud in service of a lie, not the only lie exposed by the insurrection, but it was a big one. And we are not only better off without it. We are safer without it.
MELBER: We`re back with former acting solicitor general and MSNBC political analyst Neal Katyal.
Plenty to get to, but also curious your thoughts on this long road from so- called Blue Lives Matter to some of what happened on January 6.
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I`m so glad you asked me, Ari, because I was just asking that extraordinary segment that you did and thinking, I have to say something about it, even if you don`t ask, because you know, watching a segment like that that you put together reminds me of just how great this show is.
When you put your mind to something, you go into depth in a way nobody else does. And so come for the rap lyrics, but stay for the content.
I think two things were really important in what you said. One is just the hypocrisy about blue lives mattering, when you saw what happened on January 6. And the Republican Party and those folks who used to say Blue Lives Matter, you hear not a peep out of them.
And the second is the systemic problem that this country faces with racism and policing. And I have to be careful here. I`m a special prosecutor in George Floyd. I just argued that case today. So, I don`t want to talk about that case.
But I will say generally it is a massive, massive problem, and I`m so glad you`re drawing attention to it. This is something Republicans, Democrats, independents should be joining forces on to really figure out, how do we get rid of the systemic racism in our policing?
MELBER: Well, and your views, Neal -- I mean, people sometimes forget, but the work you did at the Justice Department, the work that many lawyers in your position have done, you work hand in hand with law enforcement, be that federal agents, FBI, could be police.
And there`s a lot of mutual respect, understandably. What we -- as you mentioned in the report, what we`re trying to make sure we also report on as a factual matter is how much of this is political hijacking and the exploiting of what might be good faith belief in officers by some around the country for other ends, which doesn`t always get fully understood, Neal, if it`s boiled down only to these hardboiled pieces of political rhetoric.
KATYAL: A hundred percent. It`s kind of like the Republican Party sometimes using poor people as just pawns in a weapon -- pawns in a war, with actually no regard for them.
And I feel that about the officers, because I worked in two Democratic administrations. One thing I will say is that they cared a ton about the police, rank-and-file police officers and their lives. And they understood the risks they face.
And so, sure, we should be -- absolutely go after those few bad apples. But I don`t think anyone is trying to say oh, they`re all bad or something like that.
MELBER: Yes. Well, thank you for what you said.
I do appreciate that. We have this other big piece of this. It`s all sort of linked, in a way. But I want to turn to the news with the FBI. They have now identified a potential single assailant in the killing of Capitol officer Brian Sicknick. He died from injuries sustained that day.
Officials have video that shows a person attacking more than one officer, including Sicknick, with this controversial and very strong bear spray. The DOJ has now charged over 300 people for participating in the riots. It`s adding conspiracy charges against key defendants.
That includes some right-wing nationalist members of the Proud Boys. FBI Director Wray faces questions tomorrow about these investigations. It will be, actually, his first public appearance since those attacks on the Capitol.
Neal, your view of what this means, the way they`re using conspiracy, and what is going to happen, what`s important for the nation to hear from Wray tomorrow?
KATYAL: Well, going after and trying to find this assailant of Officer Sicknick makes a lot of sense. This is what law enforcement does. They stitch together mosaics of information to try and identify the suspect.
Here, if it is bear spray, that`s obviously not itself a chemical weapon. But I think a good prosecutor will be able to make the case that the reckless use of this is not just manslaughter. It may even be murder, when you have that kind of extreme recklessness. So, I think all of that is on the table as those cases go forward.
And I think Director Wray, frankly, has a lot of explaining to do. I was surprised that he took the job when he did given, what Donald Trump did to Comey. I`m very surprised by the FBI`s response on January 6 and in the days leading up to it. And there`s a question always when you`re dealing with the Trump administration, which is, when you see a response like this you have to wonder, is it incompetence or is it malevolence?
And Trump`s malevolence so much overshadowed the incompetence. But the incompetence, don`t bet against that. It might just be that. And I`m hoping Director Wray, who is an upstanding man himself, will finally shed light on what in the world happened to lead to that catastrophic failure on January 6.
MELBER: Yes. And the way that the failure exposed a vulnerability that will be front and center in Americans` minds and that of American adversaries every time there`s a big event in the capital, whether that be a big address or future election-related material events.
I mean, what we saw breached, right, was -- go ahead -- was so horrific.
KATYAL: And I was going to say, it`s not just our adversaries. It`s our allies too.
I have been talking to a lot of friends in Europe and Asia. And they`re just like, how in the world could this have happened in the United States of America?
And so I think we undermined a lot of our soft power too. Instead of making America great, I think what those events on January 6 did was really call into question the American experiment in the eyes of the world.
KATYAL: And, obviously, we can get past it. And we are with a new president and a lot of reforms being undertaken, but it was a colossal, colossal disaster.
You mentioned some of your legal portfolio earlier in our discussion, Neal. Your previous portfolio was that, when President Obama wanted to win Supreme Court cases, he sent you to go argue, which is saying something.
So, we`re very curious what you make of these arguments tomorrow at the high court regarding voting rights. Just reading here from the AP summary, Supreme Court could put limits on voting rights, justices taking up a case about Arizona restrictions on ballot collection, a policy that penalizes voters who cast ballots in the wrong precinct, amidst what has been an amped-up Republican effort to try to make it harder to vote.
KATYAL: Yes. So, there`s two different methods the Voting Rights Act had prevent discrimination in voting.
One is Section 5, which said that, because they knew states and localities were going to come up with all sorts of shenanigans to stop people from voting, like small things, like moving the polling place or something like that, they said you had to get that precleared by the Justice Department, any change, or by a court, before doing it.
The other is Section 2, which says that if a jurisdiction is discriminating, you can sue them afterwards, after the election. And the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down Section 5, but left Section 2 in place and said, that`s your remedy.
It`s never been a particularly great remedy, because suing after an election is not worth that much. But it`s there. And the cases tomorrow are about trying to gut now that. And the Supreme Court has not been protective of the Voting Rights Act in the Roberts era. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that opinion to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
I`m not sure that he will strike down Section 2. The Trump administration really tried to make that happen. But the new administration has reversed position before the Supreme Court on that.
So it`s still an important case, but I will tell you, the most important thing is that this shouldn`t be up to the courts. It should be up to the Congress. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would create a new Section 5 with teeth and would survive a legal challenge.
And so if you care about voting, as I think Republicans and Democrats alike should, this is the bill to pass. The Voting Rights Act passed last time in 2006 by a vote of 98-0 in the Senate. What happened to the Republican Party?
And, as you remind everyone, a bit of sounds like legal arcana, but it`s so important to the right to vote, the original Roberts voting against that other piece of the VRA, all it said was, look, this is antiquated, Congress can update it any time. So, they`re on record welcoming that, if they get busy with that. It`s certainly an important issue.
Neal Katyal, always great to have you.
I want to remind everyone you can catch more of Neal`s legal breakdowns at MSNBC.com/openingarguments.
Coming up, someone that we have kept an eye on, the MyPillow guy, actually got muted by CPAC.
More on that next.
MELBER: One of the most visible supporters of Donald Trump`s election lies in conservative media, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, literally got muted for spreading those lies, as well as vaccine conspiracy theories.
He was speaking on a right-wing streaming network from CPAC, and he got into a rant about vaccines. The network then had to cut his mic for what were basically 18 agonizing seconds. This is how it played out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL LINDELL, CEO, MYPILLOW: This is our bodies. This is mark of the beast stuff, and I don`t care. I will just put it right out there. This is Revelation.
They`re telling you, wear a double mask and do all this other stuff. Let me tell you, that`s not....
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Super careful. I hate to do it. You know I love you. But due to YouTube`s guidelines, we will get our whole platform shut down if we talk about...
LINDELL: OK. OK. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... vaccines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Perhaps sometimes the cancel culture you warn about is in your own house.
We should note there are legal aspects to this. As we have reported, Lindell is already facing a major suit by a company for making what they say are false statements about their voting machines.
And, interestingly, you saw that corporate promotion there. They also accuse him of abusing the political process to sell his pillows.
And that does it for me.
"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up after this break.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END