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

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 3/19/21

Guests: Sandra Denton, Perry Bacon, Cheryl James


President Biden speaks after meeting with community leaders in Atlanta, Georgia, to discuss the mass shooting earlier in the week. The duo Salt-N-Pepa speak out. Are prosecutors tightening the noose on Donald Trump? The Justice Department looks to tackle a wider range of domestic threats. The CDC issues update guidance for schools.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The CDC represent the best of this nation, brilliant minds, deep faith in science, and a strong commitment to public service. We came here to thank them for all the work they do, and especially the work they`ve done over the course of this pandemic. We owe them and their families our gratitude.

And we wanted to convey to them the absolute commitment to give them everything they need to do their work and get it done -- free of politics and guided by science. And because of them, we`re making real progress. We just met my goal of administering 100 million shots before my first 100 days in office. We did it in about 60 days. We`re not stopping now.

The American Rescue funds more vaccines, more vaccination centers, and more increases in testing. It`s going to help us accelerate our nationwide effort to reopen schools safely.

Last week, I directed all states, Tribes, and territories to make all adults eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1. But while this is a time of optimism, it`s not a time for relaxation. I need all Americans to keep doing your part: wash your hands, stay socially distanced, keep masking up as recommended by the CDC, and get vaccinated when it`s your turn.

None of this is political. It`s all science based. But now is not the time to let down our guard down. That`s science based as well.

In the last week, we`ve seen -- we`ve seen increases in the number of cases in several states. Things may get worse as new variants of the virus spread. That`s why we need to vaccinate as many people as quickly as we possibly can, because it`s the best thing we can do to fight back against these variants. We will do -- we have to beat this virus. We have to, and we will. But we`ll do it by setting aside politics and embracing science.

On another subject, the right to vote -- that should bring us together as well, but it now divides us. This is a democracy, and the right to vote is fundamental. The fact that there was a record turnout in America in the last election, in the midst of a pandemic, should be something we celebrated, not attacked.

The fact that you held a free and fair election in Georgia that stood up to recount after recount, court case after court case, is something you should be proud of.

The fact that your poll workers, your election workers, your volunteers, your local officials, your state officials, your courts stood up to the immense pressure with character and honesty and integrity helped save our democracy. And this country will long be grateful for it.

But as this state, home to Martin Luther King and John Lewis, knows better than most: The battle for the right to vote is never, ever over. And it`s not over here, in this state of Georgia.

So we`re in the fight again. It`s a fight we need to win. Because if anyone ever doubted that voting matters, Georgia just proved it did. If anyone ever wondered if one vote can make a difference, Georgia just proved it 11,779 times. And if anyone ever wondered if voting can change a country, Georgia just proved it can. Because when you elected two new United States senators, you made it possible to pass the American Rescue Plan.

Landmark legislation will not only meet the emergency we`re in but transform this nation -- starting with this: For those folks who either already have or will soon have $1,400 in their pockets, you can thank Senators Warnock and Ossoff. But for their votes, it would not have happened.

What does that mean? It means 85 percent of the households in America will get that money. Here in Georgia, it means 88 percent of all adults and 88 percent of the children in this state will get that $1,400 as well. Just add it up. A typical family -- two parents, two kids -- earning $100,000 a year, each will get $1,400. That`s $5,600 for that family that`s in distress trying to figure out how to pay their mortgage, pay their rent, keep food on the table.

And that`s not all. There`s something called a child tax credit. What that basically means is you get a tax credit for every child you have. The American Rescue Plan expands that credit. It means that families of over 2 million children in Georgia will be eligible for an increase in that child tax credit of $1,600 per year -- per child. And it`s going to be delivered on a regular basis.

So, starting this summer, families with young kids will get $300 a month per child. This is going to lift 177,000 children in Georgia out of poverty.

The American Rescue Plan expands coverage and reduces costs under the Affordable Care Act. So for a family of four earning $90,000 per year, with insurance under the Affordable Care Act, they`ll see about $200 a month off their monthly premiums.

And for Georgia`s schools, the American Rescue Plan provides around $4 billion for Georgia`s schoolchildren, grades K-12, to help them reopen safely.

And here`s one of the biggest things for Georgia: Because of the American Rescue Plan, Georgia is now eligible for about $2 billion to expand Medicaid. What does that mean? It means another 500,000 Georgians will be covered all across this state with Medicaid that don`t have it now.

For your state and local governments, this is what it does: State government will get around $5 billion to make up for lost revenue. Local governments will get around $3.5 billion. That`s going to make it possible to keep a lot of police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other first responders on the job.

And here`s one final thing the American Rescue Plan does: For the first time in a long time, it puts the working families, the middle class -- people who built this country -- first, not last.

Sixty-six percent of the tax breaks in this plan go to folks making $90,000 or less a year. And how much for the top 1 percent -- where 83 percent of all of the tax cut -- it was the last President`s tax cut? Zero. The top 1 percent get zero.

But the American Rescue Plan isn`t only about putting money in the pockets -- people`s pockets. It also will create and spur economic growth in America. That`s why major economists -- left, right, and center -- support this plan. Even Wall Street agrees. According to Moody`s, this law will help America create 7 million new jobs by the end of the year. And we`ll do it by rebuilding the backbone of this nation: the working people, the middle class -- the people who built this country.

It`s about giving those people a fair shot, for a change. It`s about providing and proving to the American people that their government works and can deliver for them, which brings me to my last point.

The American Rescue Plan is a plan that brings America together and benefits all America. That`s why so many polls show that over 70 percent of the country support it, including Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Maybe Republicans in Washington didn`t vote for it, but the American Rescue Plan sure has brought the country together. And, for me, that measure of unity, that`s what matters.

Let me end with this: There is so much we can do if we do it together; if we remember who we are; if we stand together against hate; once again believe and invest in science; if we stand up for the right of all Americans to vote and have access to voting; if we remember we`re here to help all the people of this country, not just those few at the top; if we remember to do justice, love mercy, to walk humbly as fellow human beings and as fellow Americans; if we remember we`re the United States of America and that, together, there is nothing -- not a single thing -- we cannot do if we do it together.

My heart goes out to all -- all the family members who lost someone in those horrific shootings on Tuesday.

I know they feel that -- like there`s a black hole in their chest they`re being sucked into and things will never get better. But our prayers are with you. And I assure you the one you`ve lost will always be with you. Always be with you. And the day will come when their memory brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye, as unbelievable as that is now. It will take a while, but I promise you it will come. And when it does, that`s the day you know you`re going to make it.

May God bless all those families. May God protect our troops. Thank you very much.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We have been listening to President Biden speaking there after meeting with community leaders in Atlanta, Georgia after these horrific attacks.

He and Vice President Harris held those meetings. You saw them just leave the area where they were speaking.

And we`re joined now for our coverage by Michelle Goldberg from "The New York Times," Perry Bacon from FiveThirtyEight, and NBC News correspondent Jo Ling Kent, who has been covering this for us.

Jo Ling, we heard the president there speaking to, as he put it, the horror, the tragedy, the grieving going on there, as well as hitting a few other issues. He hit some of the points he wanted to share on COVID and policy.

What does your reporting tell us? And what did you think about the president addressing the people mourning there in Atlanta?

JO LING KENT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It was powerful to hear.

And I know that that`s been the case for a lot of people in the Asian American community who are reacting right now on social media, the vice president and the president meeting with about a dozen AAPI leaders from the Georgia and Atlanta area today, and coming out and delivering some very strong remarks.

The president himself saying that, for Asian Americans, it`s been a year of living in fear. And I think one thing that particularly resonated and stood out is that he said that words have consequences.

It is the coronavirus, full stop, by saying that any other terminology that is racially tinged or that it attaches itself to a type of person is wrong and should not be used.

This is a huge change, but also a continuation of his existing position on the issue. But he`s changed from the prior administration and how President Trump handled this, of course.

The vice president, Vice President Harris, also saying, whatever the killer`s motives, the facts are clear, and Vice President Harris acknowledging that six of those killed were of Asian descent. And there`s no disputing that fact right now.

So, Vice -- President Biden closing out his remarks with a very heartfelt message for those who are grieving right now, the families, saying that it probably feels like you have a black hole in your heart, and his prayers are with them, and he believes that they will come out of this, remembering their family members who they have lost fondly, with a smile on their lips, but, of course, a tragedy that goes beyond just the Atlanta area, beyond the families who have been touched by this.

So, it`s interesting. But he`s very much also focused on policy, it seems, calling on Congress to consider the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act that he`s put forward as well. This is building off of his initial remarks when he first took office condemning Asian American hate incidents and violence and harassment, so a consistent message from the president today in Atlanta there.


And you mentioned the way he obviously did bring those together. That line that he has used before about grieving people loss to COVID, he used today. It`s one that Americans know he speaks, sadly, from personal experience, and speaks quite from the heart. That`s the kind of leadership.

KENT: Yes.

MELBER: And, as you say, it`s a contrast to the president before him, who didn`t do a lot of mourning or grieving communally with the country, and also, according to many experts, made this very problem worse.

As for the scapegoating, for viewers joining us, I do want to play a little bit more. This was President Biden`s warning against exactly that kind of scapegoating. Let`s take a look at that.


BIDEN: Too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying, waking up each morning the past year feeling their safety and the safety of their loved ones are at stake.

They`ve been attacked, blamed, scapegoated, and harassed. They`ve been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed.


MELBER: Jo Ling, there`s a larger set of data for this that I think news viewers this week have now been reminded of, if they didn`t already know...

KENT: Exactly.

MELBER: ... up 150 percent in anti-Asian hate crimes.

And so, even as we remind folks at the authorities are still investigating motive, they have a process for that, this is a -- sadly, a complex mass shooting. And they will go on their road.

The president there speaking very frankly about the fact that we have known for some time about this type of hate, in the context of and partly in response to political and right-wing attacks on China or people of Asian descent in America, ignorantly tying it to this deadly pandemic.

KENT: Yes.

And, Ari, I think what was really interesting, as you replayed some of the president`s remarks, is that this is a president who`s talking about intersectionality. And that`s the idea that it`s not just about a victim who is a woman, or someone who`s of Asian descent, or someone who has a certain type of occupation.

It`s all of those things put together that can be true at once. And it seems to me that the president may be sending an underlying message, saying, this is how this situation ought to be evaluated by both the public and perhaps investigators in law enforcement.

He didn`t put that bluntly, but you could see that is one of the things that is weighing on his mind and is coming from the administration. You hear very similar things coming from Vice President Harris as well over the past couple of days in her reactions to this tragedy.

And, yes, the data is out there. Stop AAPI Hate show that 60 -- of the hate crimes reported, 60 percent are reported by Asian American women, a lion`s share of that happening at businesses, on public streets. So, when the vice president -- or when the president is talking about fearing for your own safety in our community or fearing for your loved ones` safety, it comes not just from incident reports, but from the data itself.

And it comes to mind in this tragedy as we navigate and try to determine what the motive was here. And it`s a complicated issue. But I think the president making it clear what his position is that words have consequences and add to the problem. And he`s saying, basically, stop.

MELBER: And, Perry, you have written and reported a lot about the intersection of race, civil rights and politics in America.

This is one of those weeks where some people may be more informed or may have woken up to something, tragically, through the barrel of a gun, and the president saying it shouldn`t have to be this way. I`m curious what you think about this aspect, because, as Jo Ling and others have reminded us and reported, this is well-known in certain communities.

And yet it`s the kind of thing that may have taken a backseat for various reasons. Civil rights in the United States, 2021, after everything we have been through, means protections for everyone, regardless of race, class or creed.


We often say the term civil rights, we have in our head black people, I think, is often the was the kind of connotation in politics, but Asian Americans are the bigger -- fastest growing minority group in the country. They`re about 6 percent of the population.

And you have heard -- you hadn`t heard a lot of speeches from previous presidents of either parties focused on Asian Americans before today. This is a lot of ways a profound speech and a very important moment.

Like, we have had a lot of talk about Black Lives Matter or women in terms of MeToo. But this is an important moment, where the president and the vice president really decided. They changed what they were talking about in Georgia to talk about this incident and to talk about Asian Americans more broadly in our politics.

And you`re having that moment in the media. You`re having that in -- from politicians. And I think it`s very important and profound. And it`s -- and also the fact that you had last year this idea that the coronavirus came from Asia, came from China, and a lot of bigotry around then.

You could hear the president giving a speech confronting that very directly, so a really important moment our politics today.

MELBER: Yes. And, as you remind us, Perry, that really is another one of these contrasts with the prior president, who tried to malign an entire country or people associated with it for that reason.

And we actually know from the reporting that one of the officers in Atlanta was echoing the president`s bigotry there. That`s now become a matter under review in that police department. Again, that`s separate from the motive of this particular incident. But it was explicitly an echo of the president`s bigotry.

As for what this new, President Biden, just said, Michelle, he also invoked something we haven`t explicitly gotten to a ton yet tonight, which is the Violence Against Women Act being reauthorized.

Vice President Harris, a big part of this today, she spoke about the targeting of women. Let`s take a look at that.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In fact, over the past year, 3,800 such incidents have been reported, two of three by women, everything from physical assaults to verbal accusations.

And it`s all harmful. And, sadly, it`s not new. Racism is real in America.


MELBER: Michelle?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think that the previous speaker was absolutely right when they said that I don`t think that either of them use the word intersectionality, but these were both intersectional speeches.

We still don`t know exactly what the motive of the shooter was. I don`t think anybody should take it for granted when he says that it was just about lust and not about race.

But whatever he intended to do, it`s clear that the community was terrorized, right?


GOLDBERG: A community of people who were already subject to escalating assaults was terrorized and, naturally, feels targeted.

And it`s such a profound change from the previous administration, both that you have an administration that tries to tamp down the rhetoric, that tries to speak to the anguish of the American people, whether or not a particular community is part of their constituency, but also that plans to do something about it legislatively.

And there`s a whole suite of ways in which the Biden administration plans to address different kinds of right-wing or hate-based violence, from reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, to a new focus on -- one of the kind of lower-key scandals of the previous administration was constantly ignoring or downplaying the threat of racist and white supremacist terrorism and violence and organizing.

Obviously, with Merrick Garland heading the Justice Department, somebody who cut his teeth on the Oklahoma city bombing, you`re going to see, I think, a new focus on what most intelligence professionals believe is the most dire threat to the United States.

MELBER: Yes, really important perspectives here on what is obviously another tough day.

So, I want to thank Michelle Goldberg, Perry Bacon, and my colleague Jo Ling Kent.

We`re going to keep it moving, because we have a special guest involved in all this, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

She just met with President Biden and Vice President Harris today.

I know it`s a very hard time for you, for your city. I know you`re busy. Thank you for joining us tonight.


MELBER: First, what can you tell us about your meeting with the president and vice president?

BOTTOMS: Well, first of all, to have the president and vice president in Atlanta, the home of the civil rights movement in America, I thought was just very symbolic in so many ways.

And then to sit in the room and hear from our AAPI leaders, it was a combination of sadness, frustration, tangible recommendations, and then righteous indignation. This community has endured so much.

But what`s very clear as, this community is our community. And to have the president and the vice president be able to listen and also speak to some of the things that this administration has already done in less than 60 days, that was encouraging.

But it was important to hear from these leaders directly. And I think we all walked away with our marching orders in terms of what we can and will do more to make sure that we are doing all we can do to support our Asian American communities.

MELBER: Our reporters and guests were just discussing the state of the investigation as observers.

You are the mayor. You oversee the police department which is involved in this. And we all understand there are some things you can`t get into. But what can you tell us is the latest on the status of the investigation, and what relates to what you just said about this community and potential hate crimes, the motive of the alleged shooter?

BOTTOMS: Well, we have a number of agencies investigating what happened.

As you know, there was a shooting in the city of Atlanta. That`s being investigated by our police department, the separate investigation from the Cherokee County Sheriff`s Office. And then we have the resources of the FBI and the GBI also assisting.

So, we`re gathering additional information to see if there`s anything that perhaps would have given us any clue that this would have happened in these locations. Thus far, we don`t see anything that points to other than this very disturbed and evil man carrying out these acts.

We are continuing to work to make sure that we are providing the resources and support that`s needed from the city of Atlanta. And this is -- there`s still so much emotion right now. And that`s what we felt in the room today.

And this incident has been a culmination of so much hurt and pain and frustration that our communities have been suffering.


BOTTOMS: And the worst happen in our city a few days ago.

MELBER: And just doing my job, are you at this point able to rule in or out whether this is deemed a hate crime from a law enforcement perspective?

BOTTOMS: Well, I can`t speak from the law enforcement perspective and in terms of what will be charged formally.

But I can tell you that it looks like a hate crime to me. You have to remember that to be...


BOTTOMS: ... charging one with a hate crime is not just based on one`s race. It can also be based on one`s sex.

And we do know that he targeted women specifically in the shooting spree. So, I will be very surprised if he`s not charged with a hate crime. But I can`t speak to what prosecutors will do in that regard.

MELBER: Completely appreciate the distinction you`re drawing, which is important, as well as your candor in giving us your perspective as the mayor, as you see it, as looks like a hate crime, separate from what law enforcement will or may or may not do.

So, again, I think it`s very useful for the -- frankly, for the viewers, for the nation to hear from you.

And, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, I know you`re busy with the meetings and everything. Thanks for making time tonight.

BOTTOMS: Thank you for having me.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Our coverage continues now. We`re turning to Donald Trump facing rising legal pressure, his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, speaking with the New York DA`s office for the eighth time today for the probe into Trump`s finances.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: It was a comprehensive meeting today with Mr. Pomerantz, with Cy Vance and the rest of the team. I`m thankful for the opportunity to cooperate. And I`m going to continue to cooperate and provide more information as it`s requested.


MELBER: That`s Cohen.

Meanwhile, Mark Pomerantz is the former mafia prosecutor who actually brought down the famed mobster John Gotti.

Now, Cohen saying they asked about Donald Trump`s -- basically his big CFO, Allen Weisselberg. He`s the Trump Organization moneyman. He knows where all the money is, what it was counted up as, and whether there may be lies involving money, which can be crimes.

Now, meanwhile, Weisselberg`s ex daughter-in- law also talking with the Manhattan DA`s office multiple times. She`s turned over documents. Now, she`s speaking in a new television exclusive to NBC News.


QUESTION: What do you think he could tell investigators?


QUESTION: Do you think he could be the ultimate tour guide into the Trump orbit?

WEISSELBERG: Yes. Allen Weisselberg is defined by what Donald thinks about him, by -- about saving him money, regardless, every day, proving his worth by doing that, creatively.


MELBER: We`re joined now by former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance.

A lot going on, but this is a big story. Thanks for being here.


MELBER: When you look at this specific development, starting with Cohen going back in, I don`t think you have to be a lawyer to ask, why so many meetings?

If he cooperated and provided information, what, if anything, do you read in them having him back?

VANCE: So, first, Ari, I just have to say that my former prosecutor DNA makes me a little bit cringey to see witnesses who look like they are witnesses who are cooperating with prosecutors going back out in public and talking about it.

And that seems so very unusual to me that I wonder if the prosecutors in this case perhaps don`t welcome a little bit of ratcheting up the pressure in public. It`s very unusual to see this happen.

But, to your point, a witness who comes in to talk with you eight times, that`s a witness who has a lot to offer. And although it seems unlikely that Michael Cohen will ever take the witness stand himself because of his prior criminal history and some of his conduct, it looks like he is very valuable to prosecutors in Manhattan in deciphering these millions of pages of documents that they have that look at the former president`s financial transactions over a period of many years.


One of the famed narratives is around Donald Trump politically and legally is that, boy, does he get away with everything, and, boy, does he find that loophole. And his supporters sometimes prize him on it. His detractors hit him for it.

Let`s just point out tonight that entire narrative is not true when it comes to DA Cy Vance. They won the Supreme Court case. They beat Trump`s effort to loophole out of the taxes. They have them.

And so given that big initial victory, not prejudging what`s in there, what do you think these prosecutors, including the mafioso-busting team that I mentioned, are going to do with the taxes and all these documents?

VANCE: So, this is a complex financial crime investigation. That`s what makes the addition of Mark Pomerantz to the team so valuable for the Manhattan DA`s office.

They`re also using forensic analysts, something that, as a prosecutor, you come to appreciate when you don`t have to be your own data analyst. It looks to me like Cy Vance is a general who has very carefully lined up his troops, and is now starting to march.

And I would never prejudge whether a prosecutor will indict or not. But he is giving every indication that there is a lot of there there.

MELBER: And what`s the analysis or rebuttal to an argument from the Trump folks that, hey, New York prosecutors and others, they could have done this however long ago; they seem to have escalated it after Donald Trump went into politics, after he became president?

VANCE: That`s not much of a defense, Ari. I mean, that`s the defense that we always hear from people in white-collar cases. They always put the prosecutors on trial, right?

So, no surprise that we have questions about timing or allegations of witch-hunt from Trump. The reality is, if people committed crimes, and if there is evidence that proves that they committed those crimes within the statute of limitations, which is the period of time that our legislatures, in this case, the New York legislature, say are fair game for bringing a prosecution, then there`s really nothing that a defendant can say about how long it took or, why is it happening now?

MELBER: Yes, Joyce, we have all come to know you is very no-nonsense, and this is no exception. I think you give a very clear perspective on what`s important here and why some of those -- quote, unquote -- "defenses" may not wash.

Former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance, always good to have you.

VANCE: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you.

Joyce mentioned Michael Cohen talking in public. Well, tonight, fresh from that DA meeting, eighth time, Cohen joins Ali Velshi live, filling in for Rachel, 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Also, another quick programming note. If you happen to watch MSNBC on the weekends -- and we hope you do -- I happen to be a guest joining Alex Witt on her show tomorrow. We`re also discussing many of these legal issues. That`s 12:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.

Now, up ahead on THE BEAT, we have a lot more in the program, including some good news involving kids and the pandemic.

Plus, later, Nicolle Wallace is staying up with us. She`s back on THE BEAT tonight, along with Salt-N-Pepa.



BIDEN: The public is thankful to you, because it`s about science. That`s what they understand.

You speak truth and science to power. And that is the power.


MELBER: President Biden today at the CDC, which is also green-lighting plans to bring more kids back to school, including policies that will cut recommended distancing in the classroom down to three feet.

These policies clearly affect most families and definitely kids. We just heard from 9-year-old Phoebe Swenson recently about the challenge of trying to do school courses online.


PHOEBE SWENSON, 9-YEAR-OLD VACCINE TRIAL PARTICIPANT: 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: A new CDC study finds many drawbacks documented to remote learning, even if it was the best thing that could be done for a period of time.

Most parents, for example, found that exercise drops. That`s a contrast to when the same kids would simply be in physical class. About 25 percent of families using remote learning also report that their kids -- this is parents reporting -- their kids have declining emotional health.

Now, the new policies do not appear in a vacuum either. That big stimulus bill that we have been reporting on provides $10 billion for testing programs, which can also make and speed school reopenings and make them much better.

So, that`s an update to a story that affects so many.

Now, coming up, as I mentioned, the great Nicolle Wallace, my colleague, is on THE BEAT live tonight. We don`t get to say that every Friday. And she will be joined by the icons Salt-N-Pepa.


MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT. It`s been a busy Friday.

We have been tracking several stories.

And if you have been watching, I mentioned my colleague Nicolle Wallace joins us shortly. So, we`re looking forward to that. We`re going to get into some politics.

But I have a report right now, before we get to Nicolle, about how the Justice Department is tackling the wider range of domestic threats. We were covering President Biden speaking on the issues of hate crimes in Atlanta.

Well, the other thing going on is that FBI Director Chris Wray, who is one of the only senior holdovers from the Trump administration still serving in the Biden administration, is out today being pretty forceful about what he calls the terrorism wrought by Trump supporters waving their Trump flags with their MAGA hats on January 6.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We have been aggressively focused on responding to that siege.

We consider it a form of domestic terrorism, and we`re treating it as such.


MELBER: Domestic terrorism.

The statement comes as officials are also warning that ongoing racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists are now the most lethal type of threats faced inside the United States. It`s quite a context, given everything we`re going through.

Now, the feds, I want to be clear, they`re doing more than labeling things and giving warnings. They have now unsealed four new indictments against Proud Boy leaders related the January 6 insurrection, and along with that - - you got to see this -- some evidence which challenges something you may have heard, the defense from some on the right that January 6 was some kind of rally that suddenly got out of control that afternoon.

Well, for some people, the evidence shows it was not that. Indeed, these unsealed indictments allege, with evidence, that some of these Proud Boy leaders were conspiring, with encrypted communications, which is suspicious, to "go over tomorrow`s plan" in advance.

We will keep you updated on all of these different complex investigations that relate to January 6, as well as the issue of violent extremist and hate crimes.

We`re going to fit it a break and, then as promised, Nicolle Wallace on THE BEAT tonight, along with Salt-N-Pepa.


MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT, so you know it`s time to fall back.

And we have an epic "Fallback" tonight with three certified legends. Salt- N-Pepa, the trailblazing hip-hop duo from Queens, is here.

Their debut single, "Push It," propelled them onto the scene in the `80s. They sold over 15 million records worldwide, the first female rap group to go platinum with hits I am sure you remember like "Whatta Man" "Shoop," also one of the first female rap acts to win a Grammy and honored this year with a lifetime achievement award.


Meanwhile, when they wanted to bring out some legends for the big scene in this new reboot of "Coming to America," well, they just called in Salt-N- Pepa, of course.

And joining these icons, our own news icon, "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE" host Nicolle Wallace, a veteran of the White House, the author of three books, and, if I may say so, a truly kind and generous colleague.

Thanks to all of you for being here together.




JAMES: Good to see you.

MELBER: Thank you.

I`m excited for this. It`s Friday night.

We will start in our news lane, and then see where we go. So, I am going to start with the home field advantage of my friend and colleague Nicolle.

On the news and politics, what`s on your mind? What might want to fall back this week?

WALLACE: You know, I think the story of the Republicans is becoming as repetitive and mind-numbingly depressing as the Trump story became.

I mean, the Trump story became known as being shocking, but not surprising. And in the post-Trump era the Republicans are already turning out pretty much the same. The vote this week against giving medals to the police officers who protect their lives while they were all locked away in their offices is to me a story that we`re going to see a different version of week after week after week.

MELBER: Yes, Nicolle, on that, I think that`s such a great point. You think about what needs to fall back.

It used to be, oh, well, Trump is so powerful. Even if it`s not a good defense, it was, he`s the president.

What do they have left now, when he`s mostly quiet in Florida?

WALLACE: Well, you`re so right.

And it requires what you just did, sort of the correction of that part of the narrative that we had wrong. We thought they never spoke out against his attacks on the rule of law or his attacks on his own intelligence community, his racism, his race-baiting because they were afraid of a mean tweet.

He`s not in power and he`s deplatformed, so there`s no fear of a mean tweet. So, there was a member of the House who came out with pretty overt race-baiting language around the attacks and violence that Asian Americans have seen over the last year.

Donald Trump this week on FOX News called it the China flu again. Those are ongoing sort of crimes against political decorum and civility. And they don`t have the fear of a mean tweet to hide behind. They`re just co-signing that stuff.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, all great points.

And you think about, what are we asking for when we think about a little bit of moral courage or the types of things, whether it`s condemning actual what looks like violence and hate? I thought the mayor of Atlanta earlier tonight said law enforcement has its own process, but, to her, it looks like a -- quote -- "hate crime."

Or, as you just reminded us, Nicolle, how hard is it to salute the officers who literally protect the Capitol? All great points here as we begin our sort of "Fallback."

Salt-N-Pepa, it`s your first time here but, in "Fallback," we can go in any direction.

Pepa, what`s on your mind? What`s on your list?

SANDRA DENTON, SALT-N-PEPA: Well, I`m thinking it`s about the story of the mother and daughter rigging votes, so her daughter would become the homecoming queen.



DENTON: I think they need to fall back.

I think that it`s totally unfair. And this is not the first time, actually that the daughter has accessed the mother`s account password, and I think that`s other students. And I think that`s a blatant violation of privacy.

And, as a principal, as an educator, I think she was supposed to, like, set an example of justice and being fair and teaching all of these -- how to be fair.

And to give you an even better example how it`s important, because Salt-N- Pepa, we just had our movie, our biopic on Lifetime, very successful, thank you, number one. OK?


MELBER: Hey, hey.

DENTON: But the thing is that our...


DENTON: My daughter had to read for the leading role that she wanted to try out for. She had to audition. As executive producer, we still -- I still allowed her to audition, showed her the value of working hard. You still have to prove yourself, and not cheat your way through or, because I`m the executive producer, I`m going to put you up there.

No, you have to work and show and audition for the role. She didn`t get the role, but she was in the movie.


DENTON: And there it goes to show you that...



Yes, let me bring in Salt into this, because it is also this culture of cheating and the idea that that is what`s being handed down. We saw that, of course, in the wider cheating scandal which had actual charges. This one, we will see what happens, homecoming queen, but the wider idea that that is what a parent is instilling.

So, any comment on that, Salt, or anything else on your "Fallback" list?

JAMES: Well, this society, with young people, I`m seeing more and more of that sense of entitlement.

And a lot of it has to do with parents and how they`re being raised. Me, as a mom, I have challenges with that myself. Like, what`s too much that I`m giving my son? What am I doing that`s allowing him to feel he can get away with?

And there`s a constant battle of balance. But then there`s blatant disrespect of other people and teaching your children that literal cheating is the way to get ahead.

My "Fallback" is the broadcaster who blamed his racist rant on his sugar levels spiking, which was hilarious to me, with the basketball players, the females. He went on a rant. He spoke from his heart. He said what he really thinks.

And then he said it was medical reasons. Like, all of a sudden, you develop this situation where you just start saying racist comments because your blood sugar spiked.

I look at these situations as an example over and over and over of people being exposed, it not being tolerated anymore, and that we should, when we make a mistake, when we mess up, own it, hold ourselves accountable, educate ourselves, and just apologize...


JAMES: ... and mean it and learn from the experience. So, that was hilarious to me.


MELBER: Yes, I mean, he`s -- he`s got to own that.

To quote one of your songs, that would definitely be worse than babbling on the mic.


MELBER: That would be something that should never be on the mic, full stop.



MELBER: But I want to ask, as we`re getting near the end of our hour, to Salt-N-Pepa, and then any thoughts Nicolle may have.

You were such trailblazers in hip-hop and as women in hip-hop. And those songs, so many of them, they hold up for empowerment, for female empowerment, for also sex education, for really being blunt and clear.

I`m just curious, do you feel like to some degree the new generation has followed your lead? Do you feel like you were maybe -- I`m saying it, not you, but you were right a long time ago, and people are catching up?

I`m just curious to maybe Salt and Pepa.

JAMES: You know what? I -- people definitely say Salt-N-Pepa, like, we pioneered, we kicked down doors, we were outspoken. We did the song "Let`s Talk About Sex."

For us, "Let`s Talk About Sex" was more of a video and a song that was informing, saying it`s OK to have the conversation. We also did the PSA with Peter Jennings and turned "Let`s Talk About Sex" to "Let`s Talk About AIDS."

We dared the radio to play it. We was like, radio is not going to play this. That was us, like, kind of pushing them to push the envelope, to push it, so to speak.

And, yes, we do feel like we opened up doors for women in so many ways. When we were coming up, there were so many different voices, from Latifah, which the Queen, and M.C. Lyte, and Missy Elliott was the innovator. And Lauryn Hill was the consciousness. Salt-N-Pepa brought the fun, fashion and femininity into hip-hop.

I do have to say, as a mother, I am concerned that it might go too far in one direction, and that we need...


JAMES: ... more of a variety of representation for women in hip-hop, because the message that I don`t want is that women start believing -- or young women starting believing that their sexuality is all they have to offer the world.

There`s so much more to us than that. That`s my only concern.

MELBER: Yes. I hear that.

JAMES: But big ups to all the ladies doing their (AUDIO GAP) making their money, and being themselves.

MELBER: Big ups.

Now, I only have to jump in to say now I have got 40 seconds left.

So, Pepa, go ahead.

DENTON: No, I would just say, it`s always great.

It`s still a male-dominated field, but, like I said, hats off to the women out there still having a voice. And they have gave a lot of props to Salt- N-Pepa. They have included our music and hits into their new music today. We have got the City Girls, Saweetie, Meg, Cardi, and Salt mentioned all the legends too, all the other female artists out there.

But, yes, they`re like, those chicks are still here after 36 years? Yes, still doing our thing, still pushing it real good.


JAMES: With a lifetime achievement award too.

MELBER: Well, I love it when -- now I have to wrap it.

All I will say is, you think about representation, it`s like people could look at whether it`s what you guys have done, which we just discussed, or people look up at Nicolle Wallace being at the White House or being on air, and it`s representation for hopefully inspiring the next generation, which you guys mentioned.

Now I got to hand it to Joy.

So, thank you to Nicolle, Salt-N-Pepa. I hope you guys have a great weekend.

JAMES: You too. Thank you, Ari.

DENTON: Thank you. Thank you.


MELBER: All right, thank you.

That does it for THE BEAT. You can always find us @AriMelber online.