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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 3/2/21

Guest: Andy Slavitt, Common, Melissa Murray, Juanita Tolliver�


High: FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before Congress on the Capitol insurrection. The Supreme Court hears arguments on voting rights. President Biden announces a speeding up of vaccine production. The Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney investigates potential election crimes. Oscar and Grammy-winning artist Common discusses racism in America. Accusations continue to mount against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Biden White House formally pulls the nomination of Neera Tanden.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Can I talk to you about some good news for one second?

WALLACE: Yes, please.

MELBER: Because...


MELBER: ... we rely on you to walk us through thoughtfully so many things, including, as we all know, so much bad news.

Here we are with an actual announcement from the president about adults getting vaccines, anyone who wants one by the end of May. It feels like some nice progress.

WALLACE: I said -- maybe you were listening. I said I feel like I`m going cry when I heard that every American adult will have access to.

We may not have a vaccinator to put in our arms, but the supply will exist by the end of May for every American to be vaccinated. And just to start to think of not being scared all the time, and I think as it`s gone on -- and I`m sure you feel that way -- it`s not just scared of getting sick, and I have done plenty of obituaries for moms younger than me, much younger than me.

It`s being scared of having it and passing to someone more vulnerable. So, I think a big weight comes off when my parents were vaccinated and their friends. But to think we could all have vaccine by the end of May is just - - it`s an American moment. It defies politics.

MELBER: Yes, it`s bigger than politics. It`s about governance in the best sense, which is government being able to work.

And, as you say, people who thought this through, and we have all been dealing with it in different ways, the collective responsibility we have, which we take seriously. But having that lifted a little bit is also huge.

So, this is one of those tosses where, for a moment, some good news.

WALLACE: What are you going to do? What is the first thing you`re going to do in the post-vaccinated times? What`s the first thing you`re going to do? Like, what do you miss most?

MELBER: OK, I can`t -- concerts. I can`t wait to be out at big, big concerts.

I remember when Jazz Fest in New Orleans got obviously suspended last go- around. And so those kind of things, the big -- the festival things, when you`re just outside all day hearing different bands, that`s what I want. What about you?

WALLACE: I want to go to an NBA game. I`m a big Warriors fan. And I will get on a plane and go to an NBA game. The season might not pan out that way, but then I will go to a crowded baseball game instead.



MELBER: All right, this was nice.

Nicolle, always good to see you.

WALLACE: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

We are covering several stories.

We have a Biden White House COVID adviser on this progress they have on the vaccine. So we`re going get to that tonight.

But we begin with the top story. The first public comments from the FBI chief on the insurrection, the invasion by a MAGA crowd that was bent on trying to overthrow the election.

Director Wray testifying before the Senate, condemning the attack and calling the riot domestic terrorism.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: That attack, that siege was criminal behavior, plain and simple. And it`s behavior that we, the FBI, view as domestic terrorism.

We have identified hundreds of suspects and opened hundreds of investigations in all but one of our 56 field offices. We have arrested already more than 270 individuals to date. A large and growing number of the people that we have arrested so far in the -- in connection with the 6th are what we call militia extremism.

We certainly had contact with a number of the social media companies in connection with the six.


MELBER: A top law enforcement there saying the FBI formally views those MAGA rioters, those Trump supporters who breached the Capitol, who wanted to kill officials, the FBI views them as terrorists.

Wray went on the say that parts of the riot were planned and coordinated and debunked a range of right-wing claims that were trying to deflect or minimize blame for the riot.

We have several other important pieces of this.

I want to bring in our experts immediately, though, MSNBC terror analysis - - analyst, I should say, Malcolm Nance, Juanita Tolliver, Democratic strategist, and Jason Johnson from Morgan State University, also hosts a podcast "A Word With Jason Johnson."

Malcolm, what is the import of the FBI director saying that to the Congress and the country?

MALCOLM NANCE, NBC COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: That was the most significant thing said today, because it changed the entire dynamic of what even people in my field, in counterterrorism, were thinking.

We were thinking, this is insurrection. That is not terrorism. It`s a form of civil disobedience designed to overthrow a government. They have determined that there is an element of conspiracy in there that rises this to an organized act against the United States, or terrorism. Very significant.

MELBER: Very important when you lay it out like that. And, as well, there can be interlocking issues, right? There can be people who showed up to the Mall because they wanted to hear someone talk. That`s some of them. There could be people who wanted to do political terror violence, people who wanted to do white hate supremacy violence, people who wanted to do insurrection, as you say, people who wanted to do the full-bore conspiracy terrorism.

I want to show, as I mentioned, some of the key parts. Wray was discussing also this hearing about how extremists coordinate online. And he talked about how hard it can be sometimes, in his view, to figure out what the biggest threats are and what may not be.


WRAY: It used to be that some angry demented guy living in mom`s basement, not that there`s anything wrong with that, in one part of the country is now able to communicate with the similarly angry guy in grandma`s attic in another part of the country, and they get each other spun up now.

The amount of angry, hateful, unspeakable, combative, violent, even, rhetoric on social media exceeds what anybody in their worst imagination is out there.


MELBER: Juanita, your thoughts on that. I mean, Malcolm is our intel expert. But this is the intersection of intel and the real world. Nothing new about hate in America. But, obviously, networked hate is a larger challenge, according to the FBI director, Juanita.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s exactly right. Nothing new about hate in America. But this social media approach that, let`s be real, was perpetuated and a foundation laid by former President Trump with every racist comment he made, every statement he made that was full of hatred targeting different segments of our population, laid the foundation for these white supremacists to act as they acted when they strolled into the Capitol that day with all of their privilege.

I think the other thing here that Wray really pointed out was, when they talk about the Norfolk threat assessment, and whether or not that should have warranted additional flags raised up the ladder, he kept saying that it was unverified.

Yet we know that members of Congress were getting warning texts and messages and talking across their offices about the threats and violence that they were anticipating on January 6. So it felt a little bit of friction at that moment that I don`t think any of the senators really pushed on as hard as I wish they would have, because, yes, while social media might have been harder to verify, we know that their field offices flagged it, and that it should have been brought to the attention of all of the local enforcement officers, the Capitol Police, as an active threat that they could protect against.

MELBER: I want to get Jason on something.

But, Malcolm, as our as our expert here, any thoughts on that?

NANCE: Yes, the information about the Norfolk field office and his discussion of what they knew and when they knew it still runs a little dry.

And the question that was asked was, well, how come the Bureau headquarters didn`t know about this? If your field office is warning this? Everyone knew this was coming. Every terrorism analyst out there from myself, Mia Bloom, others who are monitoring the field, we could see it.

You can buy T-shirt for it on Etsy. So this thing shouldn`t have been a big surprise. And I think that`s a little shuffling on the director`s part.


Jason, we turn to you for a brief, a portfolio that we think you are fit to handle. This is some of the crass hypocritical politics of the day. As we were preparing some different pieces of the highlights and lowlights, we thought Jason Johnson might be able to go in on this.

Let me show it, so everyone`s caught up. You have Republican senator Josh Hawley. He was the first person to join the Trump plot to try to get the Senate in on overthrowing the election. Had he not been the first mover, there might not have been that Senate session that day.

Then, what you see here will live in infamy as he held up his fist this way, in solidarity with the MAGA crowd that the FBI director identifies now as full of terrorists and white supremacists. He led that charges, as I mentioned.

And today, at the hearing, with all of this context, Hawley tried to go at the FBI director with his argument, his attempt to present himself as someone questioning how this whole thing went down. How did this riot occur?


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): He asked you about the geolocation and metadata aspects and gathering related to -- gathering of metadata that is related to your investigation of the January 6 riot.

You said you weren`t familiar with the specifics. Can I just clarify your responses to him?


MELBER: Jason, I put the side by side up there here, so everyone can understand that the ostensible inquiry, whether it`s about metadata or anything else, I`m not -- I don`t have an issue with the question. That may be something to look at. Maybe Malcolm can educate us.

I have an issue with the questioner acting like there`s a mystery with what he did out there that day. Your thoughts, Jason?


When I saw Josh Hawley asking that question, it was the biggest asking for a friend senator thing I have ever seen, because I was like, are you nervous, Josh? Are you nervous that maybe some of your text messages or some of your text messages or some of your staff people are out there?

Because let`s be clear. I have been saying from the very beginning -- it`s funny. I interviewed Malcolm for my first podcast, "A Word," and we had this conversation. I have been saying all along, I was like, couldn`t the FBI just be tracking everybody`s cell phone?

So it`s not just that Josh Hawley`s trying to gaslight the entire country. There are senators and members of Congress right now who are probably nervous that they have already been discovered. And they`re trying to put as much distance between them. I`m not saying he has. I`m saying that, given what we saw with the coordination of the people coming in that building, it is highly unlikely that the FBI hasn`t already started to target thieves who were in the temple that day.

So that`s what I saw with Josh Hawley. It was a very -- it was an interesting line of questioning for somebody who was smack dab in the middle of this from the very beginning. And now he`s concerned that suddenly our information is out there, like our credit card information got stolen.

MELBER: Malcolm?

NANCE: Yes, it`s like the Gambinos interviewing the director of the FBI and saying, so exactly how do you do a wiretap? And what kind of trucks would you use?



NANCE: And where exactly would you locate them? And how loud do we have to be talking for you to get good copy, right?

I thought that question was insane. And I thought, he`s worried about geofencing, which is the technical term for the electronic fence that determines where all of these signals are.


NANCE: And I think he has something to worry about.

MELBER: Well, there you have it. That is concerning again.

Mr. Hawley, Senator Hawley`s conduct that day is well-known and documented. People can factor that in, evidence.

Malcolm, thank you for giving us context to all this one.

Juanita and Jason stay for another big story tonight. A lot is going on.

But this is one that we have been saying on, on voting rights, the Supreme Court hearing arguments today. This is about two controversial voting restrictions out of Arizona. Democrats have been appealing them, among other groups, arguing they simply violate the Voting Rights Act, which defends civil rights.

Now, there is a conservative majority on the Supreme Court and "The Washington Post" is reporting justices did seem poised on Tuesday to uphold these restrictions. That`s their interpretation of the questioning. That would mean striking down the lower court ruling that actually said these were racially discriminatory.

Conservative justices had called them, however, sensible and So,the "commonplace."

The hearing comes amidst these wider arguments that Republicans have responded to their losses in 2020 by trying to suppress more votes. And this is interesting. At the Supreme Court hearing today, again, brand-new, a Republican lawyer acknowledged he was defending these new voting restrictions in order to hurt voters who backed Democrats.


AMY CONEY BARRETT, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice: What`s the interest of the Arizona RNC here in keeping, say, the out-of-precinct voter ballot disqualification rules on the books?

MICHAEL CARVIN, ATTORNEY FOR ARIZONA REPUBLICAN PARTY: Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero sum game.


MELBER: Jason, that`s a Republican lawyer saying the thing that the opponents were trying to prove, that this is not about, for example, authenticating ballots, which is OK, when done right. This was and is about stopping votes, either because they`re for your opponent, Democrats, or stopping black and brown votes, Jason.

JOHNSON: And what this Supreme Court is going to do is, they`re going to say, that is fine strategically, and they will assiduously put across as much effort as they can to say that stopping Democratic votes doesn`t mean that you`re necessarily trying to stop black votes.

Everybody has to understand. The streets is watching, right? Every single Republican Party throughout the country is watching what is going on right now, because if they`re able to get away with what they`re doing in Arizona. We have already seen this wave of voter suppression going on across the country.

And everybody last fall, or really earlier this year, who was like, oh, no, the court is going to protect it, they stopped these 60 crazy cases, remember, even conservative judges have always had a problem with throwing out votes that have already been cast. But our Supreme Court and all of these justices and all these judges for life that Trump put in, they have no problem with stopping you before you even get to the vote.

And that`s what`s dangerous about what`s happening with this Arizona suit right now, and also what they have in the legislature, where they`re trying to pass another law that says that the state legislator can overrule the secretary of state certification of the vote in that state, in case Arizona goes red -- goes blue again.

MELBER: Juanita?

TOLLIVER: The thing about this statement was, he said it with his whole chest, Ari. He meant it. And he said it on the record to the full panel of Supreme Court justices with no shame.


TOLLIVER: As Jason said, GOP state parties across the country are watching this, and they`re taking their cues from this. You can expect to use this playbook not only in Arizona. We already see it in play in Georgia. We are going to see it in Texas. We`re going to see it in Florida. We`re going to see it in any state that Democrats have been gaining ground in for the past 10, 15 years.

And they`re unabashed about it. So, while, in my mind, Jason, I`m like, man, these Supreme Court justice better not side with the GOP lawyers here, It`s highly likely they will.

MELBER: Yes, and that`s what -- we mentioned "The Post," because I always say you can never predict everything based on the questions. But you get the outlines. And our two experts here agreeing with what "The Post" thought and what some experts thought, legal court watchers, that it did seem to be shaping up to be that kind of voting bloc.

We will see. We will cover the news when it actually comes out. It`s a disturbing case, to say the least.

I want to thank Juanita and Jason for kicking us off on more than one topic.

We now have our shortest break of the hour, just 30 seconds.

But coming up tonight, Melissa Murray joins us on a Trump case going to a grand jury.

A special guest tonight on the policing debate and Black Lives Matter. I`m excited about that later tonight.

But, first, it`s good news from the president that I was discussing with Nicolle, enough vaccines for every adult in America two months ahead of schedule.

We have a top White House adviser -- when we`re back in 30 seconds.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Two of the largest health care and pharmaceutical companies in the world -- that are usually competitors - - are working together on the vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson and Merck will work together to expand the production of Johnson & Johnson`s vaccine. We`re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May.


MELBER: Major news tonight, President Biden saying Americans will have enough vaccines for every adult by May.

And we are joined now by the perfect guest on this from the White House, a very busy individual, Andy Slavitt, a senior adviser to President Biden on COVID. He is an expert on Medicare and Medicaid issues. He`s a fixture at these White House task force meetings. You see him there.

I know what a big busy time this is. Andy, thanks for joining us.


MELBER: What does the president`s announcement mean? What has gone into the work to make him so confident to tell America it`s going to be vaccines for all by May?

SLAVITT: Well, first of all, I think great collaboration.

And the president`s call is for this to be an all-of-country effort, for everyone to come together. And I think what Merck did today by providing their factories and their expertise to Johnson & Johnson, what Johnson & Johnson did by seeking help, and what we did by enforcing the Defense Production Act is really important.

When we got here, I think it`s not a secret that Johnson & Johnson was well behind and still a little bit behind where they hoped to be. But they`re willing to accept help. Everyone knows this is wartime, and we need to do everything possible. They`re going to run their factories now 24/7.

They`re going to have a full-time DOD team on site to help with operations. And all that means we can move the date in which we could vaccinate all adult Americans forward by two months at the end of May.

MELBER: How did the Defense Production Act work in the government role in this?

SLAVITT: Well, so in order to make a vaccine, you have got a whole bunch of complex processes. You need supplies. You need factory lines.

And so going and using a factory of another company, retrofitting it, so that it can be used for this purpose, making sure that all the supplies are there, the Defense Production is incredibly useful in allowing us to do those things.

And, of course, people know that taking the American public`s health and safety as the first priority, and we`re serious. So, when you talk to a company about pitching in, knowing that we have this tool is a really big help.

MELBER: Andy, at these briefings, you have given a lot of different information, along with your colleagues and other government scientists. We have covered so many grim parts of this, the death rate, of course.

You highlighted, though, another piece of good news at the most vulnerable population, the vaccine rate for seniors, which was as recently as a couple months ago around 8 percent. Now, when we look at this chart of people who have at least gotten one dose or more over the age of 65, it`s up half of all seniors.

Can you just walk us through this chart, because I know you were highlighting it in some of the briefings?

SLAVITT: Yes, I think one of the things that`s so important to us is the people that in the last wave of our cases, tragically, were filling up hospitals and we were losing were -- 80 percent were people over 65. And large numbers of those were people over 75.

So, it`s a huge priority, particularly if we believe variants are out there maybe on the horizon, to make sure we protect folks. And, look, I know, it`s been difficult for Americans to have to wait to get their vaccine. And it`s painful for all of us.

But I hope people feel great about this, that, while they have been waiting, we have been vaccinating people over 65, people at risk in many, many cases, front-line workers, health care workers, people in nursing homes. And that is important progress. It`s just a start.

We have got a whole bunch more work to do to vaccinate everybody else. But it should feel good that we`re making at least a start.

MELBER: The federal government and different states have approached this a number of ways.

I think it`s clear we have all learned there`s no single monopoly on how to do it. And there are trade-offs. But as the president made news here late today with that announcement, in Texas, as you know, they`re going a pretty different way, lifting a mask mandate, going back to basically 100 percent business operations.

Does the Biden administration agree with that approach today?

SLAVITT: Well, look, we appreciate the challenges governors face in making all the decisions they face. And we recognize that a lot of these are theirs to make.

But the president`s been very clear that we will save a lot of lives if, in the first 100 days -- 50,000 lives is the estimate -- if everybody wears a mask. And so we think it`s critical, particularly now as we`re starting to see an increase in cases in Texas, which we have seen over the last week, and particularly as we have plans now to vaccinate the country, that now`s not the time to do this.

And we should -- if you`re living in Texas, you should ask yourself, what is the cost, really, of just putting on a mask for several months to get through this period of time? And we are -- we think it`s a mistake for us to take our foot off the gas on wearing masks right now.

MELBER: Interesting. And appreciate getting a clear answer on that, as people have to make these decisions, health and otherwise, themselves.

It`s obvious to viewers that you are working evenings, Andy. We would have known that anyway. But we know seeing you working out at the White House tonight.

Again, I know you`re busy. Thanks for coming on THE BEAT. Appreciate the insights.

SLAVITT: Any time.

MELBER: I hope you will come back, sir.

SLAVITT: I will. Any time.

MELBER: Thank you.

SLAVITT: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Great. Thank you, Andy. Good to see you. I want to thank you.

And I want to tell everyone what we have coming up.

New York`s attorney general with a new probe.

An important conversation later tonight on Black Lives Matter, racial justice, and a special guest who`s talking about how America celebrates different people in a double standard in black life in America. It`s important. We`re going to get to that.

But coming up, big political news and legal news for Donald Trump, as Fulton County`s district attorney investigates potential crimes, and it`s going to a grand jury.

Melissa Murray next.


MELBER: A criminal probe of Donald Trump now heading to a grand jury in Georgia this week.

Here are the facts, the Fulton County DA seeking subpoenas for witnesses and documents in the investigation. This is all about whether, as President Donald Trump, committed election fraud. A major focus is on the infamous call with Georgia`s secretary of state.



I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.

The people of the country are angry. And there`s nothing wrong with saying that you`ve recalculated.


MELBER: The DA is actually investigating whether there is something wrong with saying you have recalculated, particularly if it`s part of a criminal election plot.

The investigation looks at potential state crimes, which includes the most straightforward, soliciting election fraud, also potentially making false statements or conspiracy, racketeering, violating the oath of office, and involvement in violence or threats related to an election`s administration.

Here`s what the DA just told Rachel.


FANI WILLIS (D), FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You look at facts to see, did they really have intent, like asking for a specific number, and then going back to investigate and understand that that number is just one more than the number that is needed?

It lets you know that someone had a clear mind, they understood what they were doing. And so, when you`re pursuing the investigation, facts like that may not seem so important become very important.


MELBER: We turn out to Melissa Murray, NYU professor of law.

Your thoughts on this case and what it means, this news that it`s going to the grand jury?

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, again, the grand jury is just a precursor to what may be an indictment.

It`s been said that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich. But, obviously, there`s a little more required here. They will have to be able to show from the subpoenaed evidence that comes up in the grand jury investigation that there`s probable cause to go further to issue those indictments and, again, to bring criminal charges against the president and anyone else who was involved in all of this.

So, this is still early days yet, but the fact that they are moving so quickly, I think, says a lot about how purposeful they`re being about this particular investigation.

MELBER: Yes, and I don`t mean to repeat something we all got fatigued from during the last four years.

But the fact that this is in the middle of our news hour tonight is a reminder of just how much is going on, from pandemic news to other important things, because we don`t usually end presidential elections, have an inauguration, and within two months have DAs actively looking at whether or not to indict the ex-president because they were caught on tape blatantly trying to overturn the election and steal it in the state of Georgia, wholly apart from what also happened on January 6.

I say all that to remind people this is not normal and not OK, regardless of whether or not the legal standard is ultimately met, which is a process that we don`t prejudge.

But do you think that that wider context, Trumpism and the insurrection, play any role in this, or should they?

MURRAY: Well, certainly, I think the last four years has really deepened our threshold for what is or isn`t possible in a news cycle.

I mean, I think we have become a little anesthetized to how much news can be surrounding one particular figure. But, again, it seems unlikely that the DA is going to think about this in isolation. There is a larger systemic issue at which this is only a part.

So the idea here is that these are potentially criminal charges related to trying to prevent the certification of Georgia`s votes, but they are part of this broader campaign, this alleged campaign, to disrupt the election counts in numerous states, and then finally culminating in the disruption of the certification of the Electoral College entirely on January 6.

So it`s going to be very hard to divorce this particular instance from that broader context.

MELBER: In the spirit of the whole case, as I`m sure you always teach your students, you got to look at both sides.

What do you make of the potential Trump defense here that, however scandalous the call was -- because everybody knows Donald Trump, and he`s clearly asking for election fraud. I mean, that`s what he`s saying. Find me these votes, because my people are mad. Cheat for me.

But what do you say the legal defense that that is tough talk in the middle of a contested outcome of the campaign, his argument, that they didn`t actually go start moving ballots around or whatnot? What about that defense?

MURRAY: I think we`re going to see a number of the defenses that we saw in the impeachment trial being recycled here, this idea that, when the former president spoke, he was not being literal, it was just sort of tough talk that he was doing, he didn`t actually mean for anyone to steal anything.

It may also be the case that they`re going to have to show that -- the state will have to show that the president, in order to meet the charges, the president actually knew that what he was doing was fraudulent and that he continued to do so willfully and with the knowledge that it was illegal to do so.

That`s a pretty high standard to meet. So, again, there will likely be a lot of defenses that go to that question of intent and showing that, again, this was not his full intent when he made the statement, this was tough talk on his part.

MELBER: Melissa Murray, appreciate it. Always good to have you on.

Coming up, we have more reporting on New York Attorney General Letitia James` investigations.

And accountability after the riots. A special guest on extremism, on white supremacy, but also on hope for the road ahead.


MELBER: The insurrection put white supremacy front and center.

Within weeks, it sparked the impeachment trial, over 300 indictments and a series of accountability hearings in Congress, probing hate, racism and this threat of white supremacy in America, as we have been covering, themes that many have confronted and warned about and journalism, in activism, and across the culture, from films like "BlacKkKlansman" to years of hip-hop documenting modern racism and using a once obscure term, white privilege.

The Oscar and Grammy-winning artist Common has explored many of these very themes as a pioneer in what is known as conscious hip-hop, and he`s our special guest tonight in the ongoing "Mavericks" series.

So let`s get right into it.


MELBER: Some of the things you have been saying and hip-hop`s been saying have become mainline now. Things that were literally considered controversial even among college Democrats 20 years ago that hip-hop was saying are now requirements for a lot of Democratic candidates.

So, that`s interesting with culture.

I just want to read from "The People." You say: "Scuffle for notes, the rougher I wrote, times was harder. Went from rocky starter to the voice of a martyr. White folk focus on dogs and yoga, while people on the low end trying to ball and get over. Lyrics are like liquor for the fallen soldiers. From the bounce to the ounce, it`s all our culture."


MELBER: What does that mean to you now?

COMMON: I was basically saying a lot of America is just sitting around going to do their thing, and everything is OK. And I was speaking to a portion of white America that had that privilege.

I was saying the struggle is still going on. There is people struggling and going through difficult times. And I was really thinking about my community, the black community, our communities.

And I was really speaking to that, saying there`s no angst or anger toward you got that privilege, but it`s like, hey, notice there is other things going on in the world besides just your dogs and yoga.


MELBER: And this is the thing about bars. You can say that at a very high level. But when you say yoga, it like, we see people walking around with the mats. It`s fine.


MELBER: But you`re talking about a lifestyle. Like, that`s a very different, potentially bubbled life when you`re doing your own stuff vs. what`s going on.


MELBER: What did it mean for you to get that specifically?

COMMON: It was what I was seeing.

I have the opportunity to be in different places where I`m seeing people with yoga mats. You`re not seeing that in black communities in the hood as much, and really not at all. But we want that to be.

In al truth, it`s like, what I`m saying there is what we have seen happen in 2020, like where, because of George Floyd, because of George Floyd`s death and Breonna Taylor, a lot of people were able to say, hold on, this ain`t right.

Like, before, it`s like, you could hear about something. You hear about the death of a Philando Castile or Trayvon Martin or Alton Sterling or many other -- Rekia Boyd or Sandra Bland, you hear their names, and you might read an article about them, but it didn`t really stop you.

And now I think what we have seen happen this year has stopped us. We`re already still, so it just stopped us, and we had to pay attention.

And in that verse, I was really kind of saying, hey, there is a lot going on over here. And we are really struggling to get over. My people on the low end trying to ball and get over. Lyrics are like liquor for the fallen soldier. There`s people dying. It`s like, my people, that`s -- I was really addressing those things and bringing that attention to -- I think hip-hop is so powerful because we need to hear the truths.

We need to hear them in a raw, in an unapologetic, in a way that can actually hit your heart and your soul.


COMMON: So, that`s what hip-hop is providing. And that`s what I was striving to do.

MELBER: And you`re doing that then. And then, in "Beautiful Revolution," your new work, you`re hitting a whole different altitude. You just named names that people should or do know.

COMMON: Right.

MELBER: Then, here in "Fallin`," you`re at a different altitude.

"Once upon a time, there was a black man. They loved him when he shot ball. They loved him when he ran. They loved him when he rapped. They loved him when he danced, but really didn`t love him when he was out with his fam, couldn`t love him in the hood or selling C.D.s. Couldn`t love her when she was in her House sleep. I`m wondering if this love is really love at all."

COMMON: Right, because, in that type of love, we fall.

So, you know, in that verse, I was really addressing, the same time you see, like, a lot of people celebrating the athletes, the musicians, the actors and love them, oh, we love you, we love you, LeBron, but George Floyd is the same human being, of the same flesh, of the same make, of the same skin. And he has to be loved just like we love LeBron.

MELBER: And what is that in, if you will, white America that is obsessed with a certain type of vision of black performance or talent, and then is afraid of or detests actual other black people?

COMMON: Let`s face it. Human nature is to stay in a safe place. We try to stay safe.

And that word is like something that we always -- you hear presidents say it to try to get votes. Safe. You`re not always unsafe just because you`re around something that is unfamiliar. There`s parts of white America who haven`t integrated and been in touch with those people who represent also a part of black America. And they feel -- the unfamiliarity breeds the unsafety or fear.

But I think that`s the aspect of white America that has to go. We got to -- they have to stretch further to go to those uncomfortable places just to see what these human beings are like. And that same compassion that you hold for your own, we got to hold it for those who don`t look like us. And I say that to everybody.


MELBER: We recently recorded this as part of a longer "Mavericks" interview with Common, using COVID protocols, including tests for both of us.

Now, beyond the civil rights discussion, Common also recounted his work with artists John Legend and Kanye West, his view of rising artists like Noname and Megan Thee Stallion, the trade-offs he`s made since he began rapping at 12 years old, and bridging generational divides.

Here are just a few more high points.


COMMON: My mother came to me and was, man, there are some good rappers out there, this guy name Nas. But she said his name wrong. She`s like, Nas.

Even if you`re not in hip-hop, these guys translate it to being something really great for a generation that didn`t even know them. Hip-hop is so powerful in a way that can actually hit your heart and your soul.

MELBER: Do you remember those lines to this day?

COMMON: I say, well, let me tell you about a trip a time ago. I was going there to run a cold-blooded show.

MELBER: Things got even blingier.

COMMON: Yes, things did get blingier.

We were leaving behind some young brilliant minds. And we had to feed them the right thing.

I love collaborating with Kanye. He always challenges you to be better. It was tribes speaking to each other. Any culture has to be willing to look at itself and has to humble itself, just we do as people.


MELBER: Our thanks to Common.

These are excerpts airing for the first time. The entire longer interview, though, is out now tonight. You can watch it at Go there for that conversation, plus our recent discussion with David Byrne, Jon Bon Jovi.

It`s the exclusive digital series at


MELBER: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo facing mounting questions about problems with his leadership. While he became a very visible official in the early response to COVID, his administration has come under fire by some New York lawmakers for covering up COVID deaths, nursing home deaths counted as hospital deaths incorrectly, a scandal that only grew when Cuomo allegedly threatened a Democrat who even raised the policy issue.

Now, the entire episode has sparked more scrutiny on Cuomo`s long history of heavy-handed tactics, an issue that HBO`s John Oliver tackles with several punchlines that get serious.


JOHN OLIVER, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER": Many people who`ve dealt with Cuomo in the past have said it sounds exactly like him. And that reputation alone goes a long way.

And Cuomo is famously unpleasant. He reportedly has a do-not-yell at list, which a former aide apparently admitted is very small. It`s hard to follow the facts if the people in charge of those facts are actively withholding them from you.

As far as advice goes, it`s basically as useful as a bully saying, stop hitting yourself, in that, in both cases. yes, I`d actually really to. The thing is, some (EXPLETIVE DELETED) won`t let me.


MELBER: Now, the criticism and allegations range from policy, like a report that documented the mishandling of those COVID deaths, which we have covered multiple times here on THE BEAT, to how Governor Cuomo treats people, including now three accusations regarding sexual harassment, two by government staff, the latest by an independent citizen, Anna Ruch, who told "The New York Times" that at a wedding in 2019 Cuomo put his hand on her -- quote -- "bare lower back."

She removed his hand, she says, and then Cuomo called her -- quote -- "aggressive,` and then put his hands on her cheeks asking if he could kiss her, and she pulled away as the governor drew closer, Ruch saying it made her uncomfortable.

"The Times" published a photo of the encounter taken by Ruch`s friend. Cuomo`s team has directed "The Times" to a statement they put out on a prior allegation regarding this incident, while he also acknowledged making comments that he says were misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation, and that he was sorry for that.

That comment came after a former staff member, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, said that, while she worked for Cuomo, he asked her questions about her dating and sex life and she thought he was clearly trying to proposition her, an employee, while another former employee alleges Cuomo suggested a strip poker game and kissed her on the lips.

Cuomo denies that account and has added a high-profile defense lawyer.

Now, while the allegations and criticism of Cuomo vary, several of these issues will run through the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James. It was her office that first exposed the COVID death scandal through an investigation and is now authorized to probe the harassment allegations against Governor Cuomo, announcing they will deputize an independent law firm to pursue the facts, and that will be backed by state subpoena power.

Now, that`s an update on one story.

We turn to some other breaking news. The Biden White House is formally pulling the nomination of Neera Tanden. She was the president`s first choice to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

But her nomination was facing bipartisan opposition from senators, including citing comments that she had posted on Twitter. That`s a breaking story.

We will have more after the break.


MELBER: News breaking out of the White House moments ago. Neera Tanden will not move forward in her nomination. President Biden had wanted her to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.

But she faced what was increasingly bipartisan opposition in this narrowly divided Senate. There were some complaints about comments she made on Twitter about politicians and other matters.

President Biden has now released a statement that accepts Tanden`s request to pull out, to withdraw out of this nomination process, the president adding that he actually looks forward to having her serve in another role in the administration.

NBC`s Shannon Pettypiece has been following the story and joins us now.

Shannon, your view of this and the significance for people who may remember Ms. Tanden from other administrations and being on television. But what else does this show about the nature of this divided Senate`s control over some nominees?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC DIGITAL SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it shows the control of Senator Joe Manchin, who was really the first Democrat to come out against her nomination.

The White House thought they could get some Republican support. All this talk of bipartisanship, though, did not pan out on this one. They were holding out hope that Senator Lisa Murkowski might come on and say that she would vote for Tanden. So, without Joe Manchin that could have given them enough votes to get this nomination through, but no Republican support.

They lost the support of this sort of swing vote moderate Democrat in Joe Manchin, who has a long history of disagreement with Neera Tanden. And so that has left them in the position of having to pull one of their nominations here, and a really significant nomination in the Office of Budget and Management, given the state that the country is in right now.

Now, you saw in the statement, and you noted, they indicated there may be a place for her in the administration going forward. And that`s something that I have been hearing from people close to this process, that, if not now, there could be another job for her in the administration that doesn`t require Senate confirmation, so another thing to continue to watch for.

We probably have not seen the last of Neera Tanden, but this does leave them in a sense going back to the drawing board on OMB. We have heard a number of names speculated out there, but the White House has really not indicated who they might actually be putting forward for this nomination, at least as of this point.

MELBER: Yes. Yes.

And politics not always known for consistency, but some of the Republican senators who say they were outraged by this had famously and repeatedly insisted they won`t look at Twitter, which is why they couldn`t comment on the former president`s tweets.


And I think this really came down to Senator Joe Manchin, who is very concerned about budgets. That is one of his priorities. He has disagreed with Tanden and her organization on a number of issues going back a number of years.

I talked to someone familiar with Joe Manchin, who said, this isn`t about him playing games or politics in any way. This is about him having fundamental disagreements with Tanden a lot of issues. But without his support, and without being able to pick up any Republicans, that essentially killed this nomination.

Now, there are a couple other nominees still out there that have some sort of -- a lot of Republican opposition, Becerra, Xavier Becerra, for HHS, Deb Haaland for interior secretary. So far, though, Democrats are lockstep on them. They`re holding the line.

So, despite Republican opposition, if Democrats hold, those nominations should be going forward.

MELBER: Shannon reporting for us outside of the White House tonight.

Thank you. Appreciate it.

PETTYPIECE: Thank you.

MELBER: A breaking story there.

Thank you, as always, for watching THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.