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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 3/17/21

Guests: Ashton Swenson, Phoebe Swenson, John Yang, Catherine Lucey


How might Democrats fight Mitch McConnell`s obstructionism? A shooting in Atlanta leaves eight dead, spurring new scrutiny on anti-Asian hate crimes in America. A nine-year-old discusses what it`s like to be participating in a COVID vaccine trial for children.



Hi, Ari.

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

And welcome to THE BEAT.

We have new reporting night, progressives pushing to take a battle axe to Mitch McConnell`s obstruction.

We will also go live tonight to Atlanta on the shooting the left eight dead, amidst new scrutiny on anti-Asian hate crimes in America.

The top story in Washington tonight is Democrats going hard after Mitch McConnell, with signs that, with Biden`s COVID bill passed, the next Senate fight could be about the Senate itself, with more top elected Democrats joining a push that civil rights leaders and progressives have been calling on for years.

This is big tonight. They have long argued this institution is broken, that right-wingers broke it, and that you can`t even pretend to tackle America`s tough problems if you won`t clean up a sclerotic system that no longer functions as a democracy of any kind.

Today, newly elected Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock used his first floor speech to advocate ending obstruction tactics that prevent any semblance of democracy or majority rule, invoking the pitched battle over Americans` right to vote, arguing senators` right to vote should not be vetoed by Republican minority abuse of the filibuster tactic.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we have ever seen since the Jim Crow era.

It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate, while refusing to protect minority rights in the society. Colleagues, no Senate rule should overrule the integrity of our democracy. This is Jim Crow in new clothes.


MELBER: This was a powerful way to begin his Senate career, Warnock looking like the rookie and the vet, willing to offer new ideas with the experience of a veteran parliamentarian.

His invocation of voting rights is the reason for reform, among other things, and that actually matches Stacey Abrams` recent push, an attempt to calcify the backbone of Democrats in Washington.

Now, under the rules, the Democrats do have the procedural power to reform or end the filibuster obstruction with 50 votes and Vice President Harris. The question is if they can unite the 50 votes in their political caucus.

Mitch McConnell is clearly concerned they may actually do this. And faced with the accusation that he`s abusing the system to scorch democracy in the Senate, McConnell is now responding by threatening to abuse the system and scorch the Senate.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin, can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like.


MELBER: When someone shows you who they are -- you know the rest.

Senator Warnock is bringing a new energy to this old institution. He is warning that letting any of this even devolve into a debate about procedure misses the whole point, after everything we have gone through, after the challenges ahead, after a big election where people`s chose where they stand, and a big COVID bill that was passed the old way, the normal way, the original way, with a majority.

He`s insisting what`s on the line is the entire agenda now for America and democracy itself.


WARNOCK: So, let`s be clear. I`m not here today to spiral into the procedural argument regarding whether the filibuster in general has merits or has outlived its usefulness.

I`m here to say that this issue is bigger than the filibuster.


MELBER: We begin on the big issues with former RNC Chair Michael Steele, who endorsed Biden for president, and a former Obama/Biden administration figure, Cornell Belcher, who worked on both of Obama`s campaigns as a pollster and strategist.

Good evening.

Cornell, does the new senator have a point?



And I think it is really sort of poetic that you have the first African- American, and male at that, from Georgia taking on a relic of Jim Crow and saying that it`s time to do away with it.

Look, I think the politics here is are tricky. But what you see is, when you connect getting rid of the filibuster with things that American people actually want to have done, you get a majority moving to that side.

Now, when you just asked them flat out, should we do away with the filibuster, you get a fairly evenly divide. But when you look at the data around certain issues, like 53 percent support eliminating the filibuster to, in fact, pass a Voting Rights Act. And I think Democrats would be wise politically, strategically, if they start couching eliminating the filibuster with things that the American people want.

MELBER: Michael, I don`t know if you have ever heard the expression I wish you would. Sometimes -- sometimes, people say that when they really want the fight.

Mitch McConnell, who was demoted by part of what Cornell just mentioned, a black/brown/white coalition in Georgia, they took his job, they demoted him. He didn`t look like I wish you would.

He looked a little shook out there, like I wish you wouldn`t.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I disagree. I think he was very much I wish you would.

Look, I get everything everybody say around this issue. But it amazes me how much the Democrats still have not learned. They still have not learned. You remember Harry Reid, when Harry Reid and the Democrats grew so frustrated with the inability to get their nominees through a Republican Senate at that time, because of all of the machinations that were going on, getting through with Republicans.

And Majority Leader Harry Reid said, all right, we`re going to change the rules and we`re going to allow for -- take away the filibuster on federal judge appointments. And what did McConnell say? You will rue the day.

And then, what, 18 months later, Merrick Garland. And so here we are again. Be careful what you wish for. There`s a reason why the Senate is composed procedurally different than the House. You take away the filibuster, the Senate becomes no different than the House.

And McConnell knows that. McConnell`s thinking, we get the Senate back next year, and you take away the filibuster, you didn`t like what we did the last four years, watch what we do next.

And he`s already laid out what that is. So, to the point that was just made about -- that you made about, oh, when they tell you who they are, believe them, when McConnell tells you, you will rue this day, believe him.

So the Democrats have to figure out a different strategy. It requires a different kind of work to deal with someone who is a master of the Senate process and procedure. And I get how people repel against that. And I agree with my buddy Cornell. A lot of the stuff that the public wants needs to get done.

But the Democrats had to have to figure out how they do that to preserve the power that they may get back on the other side of a Mitch McConnell term as majority leader, and not think about just this moment. This is a long game strategy, not a short game one.


MELBER: Let me say this, Cornell.

Cornell, let me bring you in. But let me say this. First of all, Michael went very Washington and started talking about how you guys are buddies and you agree on things. But Michael disagrees on this big thing today.

BELCHER: We are.


MELBER: I know. But I think it`s important for people, because viewers will make up their own minds. And in the long run, hopefully, citizens and their elected officials will figure this out.

I do want to draw out from you, Cornell, specifically, Michael is saying not that, wouldn`t it be nice to get things done, but look at recent history and the tit for tat and how it has, in his view, hurt maybe not only the institution, but some of what Democrats wanted.

For viewers watching going, well, Cornell made sense, but, wait, Michael made a lot of sense, what is the best rebuttal to that, Cornell?

BELCHER: Well, I really don`t -- it`s not rebuttal. It`s a conversation actually. That`s why I love your show. And I actually like being on Chairman Steele, because you actually have a conversation.


BELCHER: And so the conversation is sure, I agree with you also, Michael, that it`s a long game.

But at the same time, if they use these tactics -- and we saw this in 2009, right? This is a replay of 2009. Block everything. Block everything. Mitch McConnell literally said, I want to make Barack Obama failed president. That`s my number one priority.

STEELE: Right.

BELCHER: So, block everything out, block everything. And then they take that power and do whatever they want.

So, what`s the -- so, really, what is the downside for Democrats blowing this up, if, in fact, we have seen this play already play out and we know how it`s going to end? They`re going to block everything a Democrat tries to do, and then hope in the midterms, because they blocked everything that they did, they have a chance of taking back that power.

So, it`s a damned if you do, damned if you don`t scenario. I`d rather them be damned if they do and actually pass some legislation that the American people wanted.


Well, as we say in the business, but wait, there`s more. The panel stays.


MELBER: But we do want to note that McConnell`s argument contradicts himself. He touts the sanctity of the rules. He threatens to abuse them. Then he also claims that ending the filibuster, what we have been discussing, wouldn`t help Democrats pass anything.

He does claim that. But then he says the same change would later lead to this onslaught of Republican bills when they`re in power.


MCCONNELL: It would not open up an express line for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books. The Senate would be more like a 100 car pileup, nothing moving.

As soon as Republicans wind up back in the saddle, we wouldn`t just erase every liberal change that hurt the country. We`d strengthen America with all kinds of conservative policies with zero, zero input from the other side.


MELBER: Now, that`s McConnell.

Meanwhile, President Biden has long been an institutionalist. As a senator, he referred to these old-school rules and said they were not unlike what Michael Steele said tonight, the key difference in making the Senate better than the House.

But then, five years later, he found that democracy itself could not just be subject to a constant Republican supermajority requirement. And here`s the latest, President Biden speaking out on this very issue, saying the way Republicans use this tool is unacceptable, though he doesn`t say end it entirely.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t think you have to eliminate the filibuster. You have to do it what it used to be when I got to the Senate.

And that is that, a filibuster, you had to stand up and command the floor. Once you stopped talking, you lost that, and someone could move in and say, I moved the question of. So you got to work for the filibuster.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: So, you`re for that reform? You`re for bringing back the talking filibuster?

BIDEN: I am. That`s what it was supposed to be.


MELBER: President Biden weighing in, which speaks to how big this is getting.

We bring into the conversation Catherine Lucey White House reporter with "The Wall Street Journal."

Catherine, I don`t know if the expression the block is hot, but it has gotten hotter and hotter with Michael and Cornell debating it out, or, as they said, just conversing it out.


MELBER: Joining us as a White House reporter, walk us through the significance of the president of United States at this early stage in his administration starting to put some heat on the way the Senate is doing this.

CATHERINE LUCEY, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, as you said, Ari, the president certainly is a creature of the Senate. He respects the Senate. He respects Senate rules.

So, it is notable that he is suggesting that there is some give in his position here. He seems to be talking about -- one thing he`s talking about is a so-called talking filibuster, and making it -- making the people who want to filibuster do a little bit more work.

One of the senators complained recently, we quoted in a story today, that, if you go back to the movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," the current proceedings seem a little bit more like Mr. Smith phones it in.

So they`d like to see it a little -- a little bit harder. But, that said, the president is not looking -- he`s not talking about eliminating it. And he`s still suggesting that he can work in a bipartisan way.

Now, the issue is, as you guys have also been speaking about, that Democrats have an ambitious list of things they`d like to do. The president has just passed this giant stimulus bill. He`s still in the process of taking a victory lap and promoting and talking about that bill.

Democrats are looking at what they could do by reconciliation with just Democrats going forward, but they can`t do all the things that they are talking about on civil rights, on immigration, on gun control.

These are things they can`t do through reconciliation. And so this conversation and this push from at least part of his party is going to continue. But I think it is also important to note that it`s not clear right now how many Democrats are with them.

We still have to see how this conversation unfolds. Could -- how could they do this?

MELBER: You mentioned many things, so appreciate the reporting. You also mentioned civil rights.

Former President Obama zeroed in on this at, of all places, the funeral of John Lewis. Let`s take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You want to honor John? Let`s honor him by revitalizing the law that he was willing to die for.

Once we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching. And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster, another Jim Crow relic, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that`s what we should do.


MELBER: Cornell, the president was forceful there.

Viewers heard Senator Warnock also put this as Jim Crow in new clothes. I should mention, he also will join our colleague Rachel Maddow for what we expect to be a pretty interesting interview on her program later tonight. It`s all coming together here as far as some leaders are concerned.

And let`s be frank. We`re also talking about some leaders who are African- American. We`re also talking about the history. You can go back and read "Master of the Senate" by Robert Caro. You can familiarize yourself with something that most people are too busy to think about, which is, oh, where do these weird rules come from?

Oh, they came from America`s racist history. They came from a Southern Strategy. They didn`t just come from some arcane theoretical interest in minority checks, although there are times where the minority might have a legitimate role in the process. No, they came specifically from racist white supremacist senators doing anything they could to stop civil rights bills.

How important is that right now, Cornell?

BELCHER: Well, look, it is -- history comes full circle.

The same battles that we were once fighting, we`re still fighting. Guess what? It is still -- it is still a problem politically to have lots of black people vote in this country. It has been a problem for decades. And for decades, people who look like me and my father, who fought in a war for this country, better not try to register and vote in his small town in North Carolina.

And we see these relics of the politicians, be it the filibuster or whatever procedure you have, used to once again block the -- really the sort of -- the enfranchisement of all Americans. And, at some point, you have to say, from a moral standpoint, we can`t let the process get in the way of what we all fundamentally must believe as Americans, and that one man, one woman, one vote.


BELCHER: And I don`t want to see the procedure get in the way of what I -- what we Americans know is the morally right thing to do. And the morally right thing to do is enfranchise Americans.


BELCHER: And when they`re using these procedures to disenfranchise Americans, perpetuate this racism and this blocking of people of color from voting, I say the hell with it. It`s time for it to go.

MELBER: And I`m running over on time.

But, Catherine, the question for you is, as the beat reporter, so to speak, what happens next in this in ?

LUCEY: Well, one thing I will just point to quickly, Ari, is, later this week, the president is going to be going to Atlanta, I mean, ostensibly part of this, obviously, to promote the COVID bill.

But, I mean, I think we should point out that he`s going to a state where Senator Warnock was just elected as the first black senator. He`s been talking about his concern about some of the restrictions that lawmakers are trying to put in place there.

And so that is, I think, going to be sort of underscoring this trip as he goes there later this week.

MELBER: Great points.

I appreciated the Washington colloquy to kick off the night.

BELCHER: Make them pay a price.

MELBER: Catherine Lucey at the White House beat.


MELBER: Cornell Belcher and Michael Steele giving warnings, giving insight. Everyone, make up their own mind. Thanks to everyone.

We have our shortest break.

Coming up in just 30 seconds, the suspect charged in this horrific shooting spree also in Georgia. We`re live in Atlanta when we`re back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: Now turning to reporting on the series of horrific and deadly shootings in the Atlanta area.

Authorities investigating what drove a 21-year-old man to allegedly gunned down eight different people, the suspect storming three different Atlanta area spas within one hour. Six of them were considered Asian heritage spas.

Now, the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, arrested on murder and assault charges, surveillance footage appearing to show him at the scene of each of these crimes, while authorities discussed the motive.


RODNEY BRYANT, GEORGIA, ATLANTA POLICE CHIEF: We have received a number of calls about, is this a hate crime? We are still early in this investigation. So we cannot make that determination at this moment.


MELBER: As authorities gather the evidence and facts for that determination, which can take time, the suspect is denying any racial bias to authorities.

The attacks come, though, as hate crimes against Asian Americans have been surging, up nearly 150 percent. And we have heard warnings about that recently from the highest levels of the U.S. government.


BIDEN: Whatever the motivation here, I know that Asian Americans are very, very concerned, because, as you know, I have been speaking about the brutality against Asian Americans for the last couple months, and I think that it is very, very troublesome.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do want to say to our Asian American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged.


MELBER: Our reporting night on this story begins with NBC`s Kathy Park, live from one of the scenes in Atlanta -- Kathy.

KATHY PARK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Ari, good evening to you.

So, that`s right. We are in front of one of the shooting locations. And, behind me, you might notice some of the flowers that are piling up. The community is definitely reeling.

And it is a dark and difficult day here in Atlanta. The suspect, Robert Long, 21 years old of Georgia, remains in custody. He will be arraigned tomorrow morning. But he confessed to authorities, saying that he did in fact carry out these heinous acts. But he said that this was not racially motivated.

In fact, he had -- he told authorities that he has a sexual addiction and was lashing out at these spas, some of these spas and establishments that he had actually visited in the past. As you mentioned, there are a total of eight victims, six of them being of Asian descent. One person is still recovering from his injuries.

But, still, this is an ongoing investigation. When reporters asked officials whether they are still looking into the fact that maybe race was a motivating factor, they didn`t rule it out, so obviously still a lot of questions at this point.

But moving forward, the arraignment potentially could unveil some more information. But, as you mentioned, Ari, this comes on the heels of a widespread problem across the country from coast to coast, a rise in attacks against Asian Americans. In fact, a nonprofit organizations, Stop AAPI Hate, said that since the start of the pandemic, about a year ago, there have been reportedly 3,800 incidents of both verbal and physical attacks against Asian Americans -- Ari.

MELBER: Kathy Park reporting, thank you.

Our coverage continues on this story.

Joining me now is John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

Thank you for being here.


MELBER: We have been careful to report where the authorities are. And anyone who`s tracked these kind of law enforcement probes knows it takes time to gather the evidence, make determinations and then decide whether and if appropriate to publicize them.

So, that`s where we are in terms of this new set of incidents.

But widening out to what the president and others have said and what Kathy was just reporting, there is a context of this wider and growing threat and antipathy amongst some against the Asian American community.

Your thoughts?

YANG: That`s absolutely right.

Obviously, there`s still evidence being gathered right now for this particular set of attacks. But what we need to recognize right now is that the Asian American community is in pain, it`s in anguish, and there is a lot of anger built up in the community, because what happened yesterday is just one most recent attack in a whole year that we have seen elevated attacks against the Asian American community, but also in the context of the history of racism against the Asian American community.

We must remember that we are still being seen as foreigners. We are still seen -- being seen as the other. And that`s the context that we need to remember, regardless of how the facts play out in this particular case.

MELBER: You mentioned that. And the data on this is important to understand, because this is happening in places that sometimes even pride themselves on being -- quote, unquote -- "multicultural" or welcoming all kinds of folks, which is great.

But these attacks have spiked especially in Los Angeles and New York. What can you tell us about that?

YANG: Well, obviously, there`s a lot of different factors going on.

But what we do know is that words matter, and the rhetoric used during this past year has caused the Asian American community to be a target. Look, because of COVID-19, everyone has fear .We have economic fears, we have health fears.

The part about that is that, when people have fear, they have -- look for someone to blame. In this case, the Asian American community has become that target. And so that is happening throughout the country. It is certainly happening in the urban centers that you have mentioned.

But as the data Stop AAPI Hate and others have shown, it`s happening throughout the entire country in rural places, as well as urban places.

MELBER: When, in politics, people, whether it was the former president or others, talked about a -- quote, unquote -- "China virus" or blaming other countries, do you view that as a potential contributing factor or a negative?

Obviously, doctors in good faith can study where things move around the world, but the criticism there was that it sounded like an effort to racially define or demean this.

YANG: It absolutely was a contributing factor. It was a contributing factor, because we see from the reports that we have gathered that the language used by many of these attackers is the language used by some of the people in politics that have demeaned the Asian American community.

So, certainly, there are -- we don`t want to say that there`s one single factor, but, at the same time, this comes in the history of racism that the Asian American community has faced.

And then we have to put it in the larger context of racism that we`re dealing with throughout this country, is that we need to fight that racism virus together. And it`s not about just trying to find these moments where somehow this is not linked, but rather to really focus on what we are talking about in our community.

And what we`re talking about is fear. What we`re talking about is othering. And what we`re talking about is a need to come together as a community, see each other as neighbors, check in with each other to make sure that people are doing all right, because, in this moment, absolutely, the Asian American community needs to be seen, needs to heard, and needs to be protected.

MELBER: John Yang, thank you for your work on this. And thanks for giving us some ways to think about it. It`s very important. I appreciate you.

We are fitting in a break. We have a lot more in the program, including, coming up, President Biden going right at Putin and Russia with payback for the election interference, also getting into whether -- this is real news - - whether Vladimir Putin has a soul.

We have all of that for you later tonight.

Also, this Democratic fight with McConnell, we have someone that you`re going to want to hear from, or at least I know I do, the one and only James Carville live on THE BEAT next.


MELBER: Now on THE BEAT, we turn to a man so self-possessed, so confident, and so important, he does not dress up to be on TV ,campaign guru James Carville...


MELBER: ... veteran of presidential campaigns, Bill Clinton`s lead strategist, and a friend of THE BEAT.

Good to see you, sir.

JAMES CARVILLE, MSNBC ELECTION ANALYST: People wouldn`t recognize me in a suit, Ari. They wouldn`t know what they were looking at.


MELBER: I think that`s fair.


MELBER: I`m going to get right to it. You have lived through so many pitched battles.

There was a time when, even when Democrats did want to do good, big things for the middle class with taxes...


MELBER: ... they would minimize it, they would claim otherwise, they would have all sorts of word salad about it.

Interesting to see President Biden out here with George Stephanopoulos being clear, and we`re up against major inequality .Take a look.


BIDEN: Anybody making more than $400,000 will see a small to a significant tax increase.

If you make less than $400,000, you won`t see one single penny in additional federal tax.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How are you going to get a Republican vote for a tax increase?

BIDEN: Oh, I may not get it, but I will get the Democratic votes for a tax increase.


MELBER: What does it mean for Americans and for politics of the Biden administration that he`s just coming right out with it? If you make over 400K, you can afford it, you`re going to pay a little more, it`s worth it.

CARVILLE: What the last year has taught us is that people that make $40,000 or more a year have done really well. The high-end real estate market has done really well.

The stock market has done really well. They have adapted really well. The people that make under $400,000, not very good at all. And you`re just going to look awfully selfish pitching a fit over people who have prospered during a time of just horror in the country.

So, I think he is on foreign political route. It only polls like 78 percent. And I don`t know what percent of the taxpayers in this country make $400,000 or more a year, but it is not very many.

And those that do, they have had a pretty good year since last March. No one else. Everyone else has had just an awful year. So I don`t see much of a political downside on this at all -- at all. I really don`t.

MELBER: You helped create the modern political juggernaut of Bill Clinton, among others.

He said the era of big government is over.


MELBER: At this moment, with this pandemic and this economic inequality, is that kind of talk over?

CARVILLE: So, we live in real time in politics.

The Clinton economic plan, which causation/correlation, you can argue, but you can`t argue correlation. After that, we had the greatest economic boom we have had in this country since World War II.

The Obama health care plan in 2009 expanded health care more than any program that was started since Medicare. Both were decided by one vote, and both from the same state, Nebraska.

So, I hear these pontificating op-ed writers saying, if only we would have gone big, if only we would have done that, if only...


CARVILLE: People in politics live in a different world. We`re not op-ed writers. We don`t get to bloviate without history intervening.

So, go to Nebraska to make...


MELBER: Get it out. Get it out, James.

CARVILLE: Get it out, OK?


CARVILLE: And I think now the basic argument that a progressive income tax is good, and we should enforce, and it`s a great thing, people are saying, yes, you know what, that is a good idea.

And I think people have come around to that. And I think that the current times and the pandemic have really opened a lot of people`s eyes in -- just the economic injustice and inequality that lives in this country.

And I think there are a lot of wealthy people that I hear say, we have got to do something about this inequality, because if we don`t pay more in taxes, it`s not going to -- it`s not going to end well. It`s going to be -- end very poorly.

So, we live in a different time than 1993 or 2009. But I hear so much revisionist history that I`m just like, oh, come on, man. What are we here? Were you sitting there when we were sitting with President Clinton waiting to hear from Senator Bob Kerrey, where the whole thing hung in the balance, or where President Obama and his people were negotiating night and day with Senator Nelson from Nebraska?

I mean, that`s this was to down to. And you can`t learn from history if you make history up. You have to understand what it is. And I think we are in a moment...


CARVILLE: ... where people say, yes, this really makes sense.

And I think that President Biden is doing a really smart thing. He`s really engaging the country where it is, as our friend Tom Edsall said in "New York Times" this morning. He`s really talking to the economic hurt that people have in this country. And, hopefully, they will continue to response favorably...


MELBER: James, now you`re quoting a "New York Times" op-ed.

Two minutes ago, you had no use for op-eds.

CARVILLE: Well, some of them are good. Nothing -- you know what? I`m a good liberal. Nothing is all bad, nothing is all good.


CARVILLE: I mean, as long as Tom Edsall is writing, I`m going to listen to it.

But it is that the times are changing. And they`re changing very fast. And, in some ways, I`m hopeful. It`s hard to see it now. But I hope they`re changing for the better.


Well, let`s go to Mitch McConnell, who was giving off his -- on this GOP obstruction, filibuster tactics, he was given off his Cardi B vibes and saying, it`s not a threat, it`s a warning, but I`m going to scorch the place. Take a look.


MCCONNELL: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin, can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like.

Everything the Republican Senate did to President Obama would be child`s play compared to the disaster that Democrats would create for their own priorities if, if they break the Senate.


MELBER: Final question, James, how do you take the threat?

CARVILLE: So, he -- if you listen to what he said, if you dare do this, we get in, and we`re going to do five highly unpopular things.

And look at the things that he laid out, and I don`t think a single one of them polled 30 percent. And so the country is going to be held hostage at a time of maximum need, and a time when we really need to get relief, and we really do need to do things to help ordinary people, to say, if you dare to do this, we`re going to blow ourselves up in front of them.

Well, go ahead and blow yourself up. But the things that he listed, I was looking at it, I just started chuckling. All of these things are going to - - and, by the way, in every other democracy that I have worked in, 22 different countries, if you`re in the U.K., you -- they pass something without any dissent.

The same thing in Israel or any other place with a parliamentary democracy. The majority party is accountable. So, they say, well, if you don`t -- if you do this, we will take it out on you. OK, well take it out on us. And we will take your five issues to the polls, and we will go toe to toe, head to head with you.

But it was really significant what he said after that. And I don`t -- I don`t think the country wants to be held hostage by Mitch McConnell. Look, we saw what he obviously did to President Obama, to Merrick Garland.

So, I don`t think the Democrats should be afraid of this in the least. I think they should embrace this argument. I think they should go around and talk about all the things that Mitch McConnell wants to do. He doesn`t want to get COVID relief to people. He doesn`t want to tax the rich. He doesn`t want to do anything about climate.

All he wants to do is do this. And I think, if you do that, you`re going to end up with a much better result than that. Now, I think you were smart to put him saying out on TV and let people see exactly what he`s talking about and talk about exactly what he said he`s going to do if you don`t give me what I want.


CARVILLE: And so I am -- actually, bring it on. Bring it on, dude. We are ready to go. Hook it up.

MELBER: Bring it on, dude. There it is.

CARVILLE: Bring it on.

MELBER: James Carville, we always learn from you.

And I appreciate all of your candor and bluntness. You`re a joy to listen to. Thank you, sir.

CARVILLE: Well, thank you, Ari.

And I will -- well, no, I won`t dress up next time. I will just dress as I do.

Thank you so much.

MELBER: No, keep it LSU all the way. Do your thing.

Thank you, James.

CARVILLE: All right.

MELBER: Up ahead, we have more news on a story we have been tracking, Dr. Fauci explaining when kids might get the vaccine and more.

We also have a 9-year-old enrolled in the Moderna kids trial that will join us live.

But, first, President Biden promising Putin will pay. That`s next.


MELBER: New developments in a story we have been following, President Biden condemning Russia and specifically Vladimir Putin after that nonpartisan report on the Kremlin`s ongoing campaigns in the 2020 election.

U.S. intelligence experts have found Putin authorized influence operations to denigrate Joe Biden`s candidacy and support former President Trump. The issue is messing with the elections, not which candidate.

Biden leveling in on Vladimir Putin.


BIDEN: He will pay a price. I -- we had a long talk, he and I. We have -- I know relatively well. And the conversation started off. I said: "I know you and me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared."


MELBER: "You know me."

Now, part of the interference included attempts to get people close to Donald Trump, including, apparently, Rudy Giuliani.

Biden also spoke in quite personal terms about past interactions with Putin.


BIDEN: I said: "I looked in your eyes. And I don`t think you have a soul."

And he looked back at me. He said: "We understand each other."

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you know Vladimir Putin. You think he`s a killer?

BIDEN: Mm-hmm. I do.


MELBER: No soul, a killer. All pretty direct.

President Biden is not detailing every which way that he will respond to Russia`s interference. He has also said -- quote -- "You will see shortly."

Now, today, his administration did announce new sanctions against Russia for poisoning political dissidents, a related issue. And, in response, Russia now recalling its U.S. ambassador.

We may be at the beginning of this new chapter of Russia-U.S. foreign policy.

Now, coming up, we look over the COVID frontier. How do you get all the kids vaccinated? We have reporting and a live interview with a 9-year-old taking part in the trial.

That`s next.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: There are studies that are ongoing right now both for high school-age children,as well as for elementary school-age children.

We anticipate will have enough data to be able to vaccinate these younger children by the first quarter of 2022.


MELBER: You heard it here. Moderna now testing its vaccine with kids, which Dr. Fauci is talking about the timeline, the trials kicking off.

Nearly 7,000 kids between 6 months and 12 years old will get two shots. That`s 28 days apart. They will be monitored for a year to track any side effects, as well as antibody levels.

Testing in kids between 12 and 17 is already under way, the finding expected as soon as this summer.

This mirrors trial testing Moderna did on adults, and now over 72 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

As we look to the new frontier and different generations, we`re joined now by Ashton Swenson and her 9-year-old daughter, Phoebe, who is enrolled in this very Moderna vaccine study.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

ASHTON SWENSON, MOTHER OF PHOEBE: Thank you for having us.

MELBER: It`s great to have you both. We don`t always do interviews like this.

Ashton, why did your family want to get involved?

A. SWENSON: For me and my husband, we`re both big believers in the science of vaccines.

And we are really just excited to be a part of something that has really affected all of us. And we want to do our part in making sure that that herd immunity is built up, and really just doing what we can to protect everybody around us.

MELBER: Now, Phoebe, we heard you`re willing to do this TV interview. So thank you.

I`m curious, how are you feeling about doing this next week? Are you feeling excited or nervous? Or what`s on your mind?


But I -- but it is really big deal for me being one of the first kids in the world to get the vaccine.

MELBER: What`s happened for you, Phoebe, when you have been in school or out of school this year? What`s some of the ways that you sort of experienced the pandemic, because it`s affected kids in schools a lot?

P. SWENSON: Well, it was really hard for me during online school.

And this past month, going back in person and seeing all my friends and my teacher has really made a difference for me.

MELBER: You feel good about seeing everyone in person? It`s different?


MELBER: Yes, I feel the same way. I usually feel like there`s something that gets lost in the screens, even though I live inside a television set and all that.

Ashton, I want to ask you. Obviously, there are a lot of concerns out there. Some people are called vaccine-hesitant because they`re worried about themselves. Some people are concerned about their own kids.

What do you say to folks about why you`re willing -- obviously, you care about this genuinely -- to have your own family be part of the trial? Why is that a good thing, in your view?

A. SWENSON: So, we -- I have four kids. I have a 4-month-old, and as well as a 12-year-old, and they`re not eligible.

I mean, we missed the -- for the older, my older son, we weren`t able to get into that study. But -- so we have those kids. We also have a lot of people in our family that are immunocompromised. And it`s important for me that we can be a part -- like, have them be safe.

And just -- I trust the science of it. And I want to do my part and make sure that we do what we can to help everybody get healthy and stay healthy.

MELBER: And for folks watching who are curious, what has been your personal experience thus far? I know some of this starts next week. But have you found the process to be clear, and the preparation to be professional? Just the basics.

A. SWENSON: Oh, definitely.

It was -- we -- we`re involved with Dr. Plimpton, who`s running the study here in Phoenix. He was our OB. And that`s how we found out about it, as well as my sister-in-law, who is involved in the study as well.

And it`s just been very smooth. It`s been easy to get information, if we needed it. And the scheduling -- like I said, we just got scheduled this afternoon for next week -- very easy, and they`re very accommodating.

MELBER: Interesting.

Let`s take a little bit more of a listen to Dr. Fauci, who has been talking about this new frontier with kids. Here he is.


FAUCI: We will not have to prove in an efficacy trial that they work. We just need to show that it`s safe and that it induces a comparable immune response that we know correlates with protection.


MELBER: Ashton, I`m curious.

Again, you`re here looking at this as a participant with your family. But what does it mean to you to have leaders like Dr. Fauci also giving the guidance?

A. SWENSON: I think he`s just great.

I have been watching along -- he`s been in the spotlight for so long. And everything he said, I feel like, is very trustworthy. And he really understands what`s going on. He has the best interests of our country, and he has the best interest for us in it.

And I just am grateful for him and his guidance and his knowledge of everything.

MELBER: Yes, really interesting to get your perspective on that, again, as a participant.

My last question is probably the easiest. It`s for Phoebe.

I`m just curious .When this is all over, and you can do anything and everything you want, what do you want to do?

P. SWENSON: Anything I can do.


MELBER: Freedom.

P. SWENSON: We have been stuck at -- yes.


MELBER: Great. Anything I can do, that`s -- I think a lot of people feel that way, and we will make a big long list.

Ashton, this was, in some ways, very personal for you to share what you guys are doing your family.

And, Phoebe, this was really cool. I appreciate you doing your first TV interview. You could have been anywhere, but you were with us.

So, thanks to both of you.

A. SWENSON: Thank you.

MELBER: And we will be back with one more thing.


MELBER: Thanks for watching THE BEAT tonight.

Thanks to all of our guests, including the kids.

We will be back tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

"THE REIDOUT" starts now.