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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 3/24/21

Guests: Melissa Murray, Tony Schwartz, Erika Andiola


New video evidence emerges from the Capitol riot showing the officer who died when he was attacked with a chemical spray. What does bipartisanship really mean in D.C. today? Former Trump co-author Tony Schwartz speaks out. Will Congress make any movement on gun control?



Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Alex. Thank you very much.

And welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

We have a big program tonight, including new video evidence emerging from the Capitol riot. It shows the officer who died when he was attacked with very dangerous chemical spray.

Later tonight, we have another one of our special reports. This one, we have been working on has some good news for Biden. It`s about some common mistakes in Washington about so-called bipartisanship.

But we begin tonight with breaking news on the border.

There is brand-new video from inside the Carrizo Springs HHS facility down in Texas. This houses over 750 minors right now.

NBC News` Gabe Gutierrez is the only journalist who was allowed inside today. And he joins us momentarily. What he captured was an HHS intake facility. There are tables with clothes and shoes lined up. There`s staff and children moving about the site. The facility is near capacity.

And this focus on the border comes as President Biden is facing his own version of the immigration challenge, over 9,000 unaccompanied children detained at the border. Now, on a month-to-month basis, this is up, up 63 percent from just last month.

And, today, the new president tapping the vice president to oversee solutions.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the best thing to do is to put someone who, when he or she speaks, they don`t have to wonder about is, that where the president is?

When she speaks, she speaks for me.


MELBER: If this all feels familiar, it is for many reasons.

Number one, some of the international issues from Central America up to Mexico with immigration have been going on for many years. Number two, of course, there`s recent history, immigration being a key fault line in the last administration, and Biden not beating around the bush saying quite bluntly, as this becomes center stage, that this humanitarian crisis began with Donald Trump.


BIDEN: This new surge we`re dealing with now started with the last administration, but it`s our responsibility to deal with it humanely and to -- and to stop what`s happening.


MELBER: There can be political blame, and then there`s also facts. As journalists, we want to make sure you understand everything we can gather about this.

Immigration is complex. If you have seen our reporting, you may have heard me discuss that before. When the Biden administration, though, says that the Trump administration is part of the problem, well, NBC News has reporting on all of this, including the fact that Biden officials, many of whom have deep government experience, were sounding the alarm in December in the transition about what they were getting from the Trump administration, including a disturbing lack of shelter space for these migrant children.

And there`s records that it was brought up in several meetings multiple times a week, one Biden official saying Trump`s people were just sitting on their hands.

Biden and Harris now, though, are in charge. The buck stops with them, even if it`s accurate to say the problems predate them.

Apprehensions of unaccompanied minors overall at the border, as mentioned, are on the rise. So that is part of why this is in the news tonight and remains an issue.

When you stack it all up, though, with Republicans trying to say this is a new Biden problem, well, they`re still lower currently than the peak in 2019 under the Trump administration, despite policies that Trump pledged would change that border flow.

Joining us now is the aforementioned NBC News` Gabe Gutierrez, who was inside this facility late today, Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer for RAICES, and Jason Johnson, politics and journalism professor at Morgan State University.

Gabe, what do you see in your eyewitness reporting?


Well, I should tell you, first of all, the children we saw in there were calm. They were in good spirits. We saw them walking around, milling about, many of them playing soccer.

But I should point out, for some context here, Ari, for those that may not be too familiar with the border, there are several different kinds of facilities here at the border. This was an HHS facility run by the Department of Health and Human Services and also a nonprofit here.

That is different than the CBP, Customs and Border Protection, facilities that we have been hearing about for the last couple of days, overcrowded conditions, the -- a handout video of the pictures that we have been seeing there.

This is the next step in the process, when the kids are brought here. Now, I can give you some numbers. Right now, in this facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, 766 unaccompanied minors right now. The highest they have been is 800. They have a total capacity here of 952.

Now, why aren`t they at capacity? They have to set aside some beds for COVID-positive kids and negative air pressure and isolation. Those are some of the beds.

I should point out, Ari, 108 of the children that are currently here right now have tested positive for COVID-19. But they test positive when they arrived. It`s not like they`re getting COVID from other children inside the compound.

Now, we came here for about a two-hour tour. There were White House officials. There were also a congressional -- there`s a congressional delegation here, five members of Congress. They came here and toured it.

We started out going to the intake center. This is where the children are brought in. They`re given a duffel bag, a hygiene kit. They`re also given a medical screening as well. We saw this medical area where they have their temperatures taken, again, COVID tests as well.

There`s also certain trailers set aside for these children to have legal representation. Right now, they`re doing it virtually in most cases, where they may speak with nonprofit or pro bono lawyers as well.

We also were shown the dormitories. That`s where they sleep four to a room in bunk beds. We then also saw many of them playing soccer. It is about 80 degrees here in Carrizo Springs. When it gets hotter in the next couple of months, they will limit some of that outdoor activity, but right now they`re let outside and multiple times a day. Breakfast is at 7:00 a.m.

Then they have six hours of education. We saw one of the classrooms as well. And they right now are virtual learning because of COVID, the kids were wearing masks. Some of them -- an interesting thing that I saw, the kids here are 13 to 17 years old. They are males. No girls here in this facility, which is different actually, Ari, from when we visited here back in 2019.

We actually came to this facility in 2019. We were given a tour back then. And that facility -- this facility was shut down back then just several weeks later by the Trump administration. Now, we did ask the Biden administration about access. They have been asking. Reporters have been asking for access now for several weeks.

But they said that they are trying to ramp up their bed space, not just here, but in other parts throughout the country. And they hope to give more access as this moves forward -- Ari.

MELBER: Gabe Gutierrez reporting on the ground all day. And I know you have more work to do as the night goes on. So thank you for joining us.

I want to bring in the rest of our panel.

And, Erika, take a listen to how Republicans have been seizing on this issue as it hits the Biden administration.


REP. CHUCK FLEISCHMANN (R-TN): This crisis at the border, which was incentivized, President Biden and his minions created an environment causing this surge.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): This crisis is created by the presidential policies of this new administration. There`s no other way to claim it than a Biden border crisis.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): These sites are a direct result of President Biden`s reckless open border policies.


MELBER: Erika, you`re well-versed in these issues, perhaps more than even some of these politicians. Walk us through your view of what is actually happening.


And we actually are the attorneys in those trailers that he talked about. We represent kids at Carrizo Springs right now. We have -- our attorneys are actually the pro bono attorneys who are seeing kids every single day, providing notarized presentations, intake forms, anything that we can do to support their cases.

And so we have seen this. And this is the important thing to know. Ari, this is nothing new. And this is why it`s so, so frustrating to see the narrative of, oh, the crisis, a surge, I mean, all these dehumanizing, first of all, words that people are using to describe what`s happening at the border, when it happens every single year.

And us, as attorneys -- I`m not an attorney, but I work with many other ones who provide the services to these kids -- we literally expect every single year to have a higher number of children we have to represent over - - before the summer. So there is a period of time when we do this.

And so it`s just really frustrating that right now the reason why it`s being called a crisis and all this is because Republicans are trying to use it as a political weapon, right, to try to win, I don`t know what, elections or whatever they`re trying to do.


And, Jason, immigration is complicated, for sure, especially legally, because you have these different categories of individuals, minors, families, which country of origin, whether they may or may not qualify for refugee status.

But big picture, I want to put up on the screen the majority of voters in America, having heard about this for years, and definitely heard both sides -- I mean, the Trump version of the issue has been presented -- but 69 percent of people support a path to citizenship for the people who are over already here.

As I say, that`s only one part of the category. But at a time of other polarization -- and this does relate to race and other associations perhaps for some people -- it does suggest that the Biden/Harris approach has more backing, at least from the public.

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Ari, that`s been the case for a long time.

It`s not just we`re a country of immigrants, except for black people, who were dragged here against our will. But, I mean, it`s "Hamilton." It`s immigrants. They get the job done.

Most people actually are fairly open to the idea of men and women who want to come to this country and work. I don`t think it should be missed that when INS raids places, they`re not raiding parks. They`re raiding places where people are working, because people who come to this country tend to want to work.

MELBER: Right.

JOHNSON: But what we have happening right now is a rhetorical battle, where Republicans are trying to blame Joe Biden for something that has been going on for decades.

And I want to point this out, because I think this is critical, because it`s used for blame when they show sort of out-of-context clips from Joe Biden. Look, if I`m trying to escape Guatemala, if I`m trying to get out of Brazil, if I`m concerned about drug wars happening in Southern parts of Mexico, would I try to escape to the United States under a Trump administration or a Biden administration?

I would probably try more during the Biden administration, because I think at least I would get a hearing. That`s not the same thing as Joe Biden having open borders. That`s Joe Biden caring about a humanitarian crisis that existed before he got into office.

So, that`s what I see is happening here. And, again, I think most people in America, they assume that people who are coming here are coming here to work. And if you don`t think that, that`s probably because you`re racist to begin with.

MELBER: Well, strong words, but I hear you.

I mean, Erika, to simplify hundreds of years of immigration law, you can say that the main mechanisms that we welcome immigrants are because they help us or because they need help. The vast majority of legal immigration is because they help us. And there`s been an ebb and flow. But it`s the idea that we need these workers, we need these inventors, we need these tech companies, all of this.

And so there`s a deal there. But it really does help America. And the laws are written that way. The help them is, as mentioned by Jason, if somebody really is fleeing torture or fleeing attacks in their home country, we also have laws that provide for them and for children to sometimes get that status.

Now, it starts out helping them. They may still become very productive members of society. I`m simplifying under those two rationales to show you some of what the Biden White House has been talking about, Jen Psaki talking about children who may need help, and the balance they`re trying to strike. Take a listen.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These Border Patrol facilities are not places made for children. They are not places that we want children to be staying for an extended period of time.

Our alternative is to send children back on this treacherous journey. That is not, in our view, the right choice to make.


MELBER: How do you think they are doing living up to that standard? Because, even as Gabe told us what he did see, let`s be clear, we haven`t gotten access, as journalists or the public, into some of the other first order facilities.


I mean, first of all, we`re talking about asylum, right? Asylum is legal. And this is something that people have to understand. Coming into this country and saying, I am afraid for my life if I go back to whatever country I`m coming from, that is a legal thing to do. And people have been trying to do that for many, many years.

Now, right now, the Biden administration is turning away adults and families because of something called Title 42. And it`s allowing children to be able to stay, right?

Now, we at RAICES will -- are pushing for people who are adults and families to be able to ask for asylum as well, because they should have that right to do so.

Now, I do want to point out that what it is important for us to understand and the reason why that this happens every single year -- some years, it`s higher than others -- is that we have neglected to be ready to receive people and welcome people seeking asylum.

And I have been using this phrase a lot today and yesterday, is that we have chosen to send Rambo to the border, instead of sending Mother Teresa, right? We are sending more and more money for Border Patrol, for militarization to the border. And I can go on and on, instead of figuring out, how do we create our infrastructure that can welcome people, so we don`t have to open these kinds of reception centers or detention centers for children that pop up every now and then?

And we can actually have the ability to receive them, to welcome them, to process their asylum cases, and release them to their families as soon as possible, which is very crucial. I know the Biden administration is trying to two face this challenge with children. And I hope that they are really planning to close down these places as soon as they`re able to reunite as many people, as many kids as possible.

But, in the future, as we look ahead, we have to create a system to welcome people, and not to continue to enforce the with more and more militarization, because it hasn`t worked. That`s what we have people coming every single year. And it hasn`t stopped. It`s just the way it is.

MELBER: Erika Andiola and Jason Johnson kicking us off tonight, I want to thank you.

We have our shortest break, just 30 seconds.

Coming up: There`s new video evidence of the riot, an officer who died while sprayed with chemicals by those MAGA rioters -- when we`re back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: We`re tracking new evidence today on the Capitol insurrection.

"The New York Times" is now releasing never-before-seen video. It shows Officer Sicknick attacked with chemical spray. This was before he went on to die. Two men have been charged in his assault.

In the video, you can actually see where Officer Sicknick standing, right behind a key fence position there. Not far from him on the other side, you can also see one of the two men now indicted for this vicious attack. The video shows the man raising his hand, spraying what on video would be an unknown substance -- that`s the spray can there -- at Officer Sicknick.

He appears to be hit and then turns away.

We want to bring in NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray.

Thanks for being here.

I have called these informally a set of accountability hearings that Congress has had. And on a parallel track, journalists and others continue to sift through an incredible amount of information.

What do you think is important, as a fuller picture emerges? Because there`s a tendency in daily life to say, oh, well, you remember how it looked that day or a couple days after, and you move on. This is one complex attack that has certainly looked more grave as more has come out.

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, we`re certainly putting together more of the details about that day.

You will remember, at least in the initial aftermath of the insurrection, there was some discussion about Officer Sicknick being killed because of blunt -force trauma to the head. That seems not to be the case. And so we`re getting perhaps a little bit closer to what that cause of death was. There`s some concern that maybe he suffered a stroke while in the hospital.

Maybe that stroke was precipitated by a chemical error irritant. These videos go to show or go at least to establish a more causal link between whatever his cause of death was and what happened here at the Capitol on January 6.


And I mention the hearings because it`s an important part of the public record, well beyond simply the impeachment. This was the House discussing domestic terror today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The intelligence community`s foremost concern is -- quote -- "racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists," RMVEs," as well as -- quote -- "militia violent extremists," MVEs.

DANA NESSEL (D), MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will be honest with you. We`re getting so many threats, we ended up partnering with a college, Ferris State University. They have a cybersecurity program.

We`re actually having to work with undergraduate students right now to help us track threats.


MELBER: Professor, no shade to universities, your law students or undergrad. But that`s the top law enforcement official in Michigan, where they had a bona fide, indicted attempt to kidnap the governor and others, talking to the federal government about the sheer mass of this threat and how they`re reaching out for any help to track it, to play, I guess, some kind of catchup.

Walk us through your views of that, because many have pointed out that the evidence has been there. Multiple FBI directors have discussed this. And there seems to be a legacy of a kind of a double standard or lack of seriousness, when the so-called threat is posed by domestic white supremacists and other militia groups.

MURRAY: Well, it`s certainly clear that the threat of domestic extremism hasn`t been taken as seriously as it should have been, certainly over the last four years, but even earlier.

The Obama administration had opportunities to really address the question of domestic extremism as part of this broader campaign of terror, the war of terror -- the war on terror, so to speak. And, instead, they decided to regard it primarily as a law enforcement problem.

And I think we are dealing with the repercussions of that policy choice today. And so it was very encouraging to see the various officials today take that threat seriously. It`s been more encouraging to see the Biden administration to confront this specifically as a terrorism issue, a national security issue, and to move forward with that as a top priority.

MELBER: And my last question for you tonight is, how much of these things overlap, at a time where Americans are again discussing the epidemic of gun violence, the ease with which people can get guns?

You can`t, from a law enforcement perspective, lump everything together. There`s got to be leads pursued in each and every case. And yet it seems quite obvious that we live in a highly armed society. And, in many ways, it makes the job of law enforcement harder and makes the rest of us less safe.

MURRAY: Well, again, these are all interrelated, certainly, at some level.

I mean, the harder question is, in the United States, we have this very thick understanding of rights, of constitutional protections for certain rights, and they always seem to butt up against each other.

So, you will remember, after 9/11, there were certainly questions about national security, but there were also constant refrains about the need to protect individual liberties, civil liberties. And I think those were well- taken.

So we are always trying to strike this delicate balance between individual safety and individual rights. And that`s often very difficult to do. And we often skirt the line very closely, but that`s what we do in a constitutional republic like ours.

MELBER: Yes, and a fair point.

Law Professor Melissa Murray, thank you, as always.

Coming up, Joe Biden is winning over rank-and-file Republicans in big ways that can affect your life. And that means potentially politically bad news for Mitch McConnell. I will explain. It`s our special report. And it`s next.


MELBER: After a major liberal victory on COVID relief, President Biden is pushing for an even larger plan as his next move, a $3 trillion spending plan for U.S. bridges, buildings, jobs, and a whole lot more.

Now, despite many Republicans` recent talk about backing some infrastructure, now many in the Republican Party are opposing this even before Biden debuts the proposal, which has Democrats talking about using the same method as the recent COVID bill, evade any GOP obstruction, pass this on a party-line vote.

And that could work. Democrats showed they can do that in the last fight, as long as they keep the caucus together.

But now Senator Manchin from the red state of West Virginia is saying he won`t be the 50th vote for this if Washington doesn`t make it bipartisan.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): If my Democrats have bought on, my fellow Democrats have bought on that you have no Republican friends that will work in a reasonable manner, I don`t subscribe to that.

And I will not vote to proceed until we try.


MELBER: So, his literal position is that making this bipartisan is a prerequisite for him supporting it.

And that brings us to our special report tonight. And this is way broader than any single senator. This is about an antiquated, distorted, and sometimes, frankly, ridiculous approach to governing in D.C., where politicians` branding or vanity is put above the jobs, the health, the public interest of hundreds of millions of people.

And it`s all for a narrow appeal to D.C.`s definition of bipartisanship that`s baked into political jargon as if it`s automatically always a good thing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do it in a bipartisan way.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Work together this year on some bipartisan priorities.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Bipartisan tax bill.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): On a bipartisan basis.

MANCHIN: It grew in a bipartisan way.

FMR. SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R-AZ): That`s what this bipartisan proposal is all about.


MELBER: The basic concept seems pretty obvious. A plan is bipartisan when it has support from both parties. OK.

And the D.C. political class has come to elevate that goal as superior, the reasoning being that a bipartisan bill is probably more representative of the whole nation, because it`s bipartisan, both parties are behind it, or even that the contents may be more balanced because it has the endorsement of people across a wider set of views.

So, for example, it was seen as important when Democrats went out and supported the Reagan tax cuts, or when Republicans came in and supported Clinton on the NAFTA trade deal.


TOM BROKAW, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: The North American free trade agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: NAFTA passed with 16 votes to spare.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We`re doing what`s right for America without regard to the fact that it`s a Democratic president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With his prestige and his presidency on the line, President Clinton pulled it off.


MELBER: And a bipartisan plan can involve compromise.

Uber-liberal Ted Kennedy teamed up with the new President George W. Bush for an education bill that was supposed to mix reform ideas from both sides.


BROKAW: A big victory on Capitol Hill, as members of both parties in the Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve a major new education bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A major education reform bill.

BROKAW: More money for schools, more testing for students and, for some families, more choices.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Victory for the president came thanks to a most unlikely ally, the liberal lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy.


MELBER: Now, that was the old model of bipartisanship. And, as you can see, people cheered it at the times to some degree. It may have worked to some degree.

It was measured by how many politicians from both parties backed something.

Now, that model is dead. We already know this, because a popular president came into office offering bipartisanship to the other party, after a big victory, with approval above 60 percent during his first six months. I`m talking about then President Obama.

And he faced a Republican who still went ahead organizing the entire GOP around literally stopping and being against anything the Democrats did.


MCCONNELL: What can Americans expect from Republicans now? Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.


MELBER: He said what he said. And he meant what he said.

Mitch McConnell held to that even as the nation battled a huge and painful recession. And those politics of that Obama/Biden era, they look a lot like this Biden/Harris era. All House Republicans opposed Obama`s `09 stimulus package, despite a recession and reaching across the aisle. There was documented outreach to Republicans.

And when the bill passed, what did Republicans do? They went ahead and attacked Obama for their own refusal to collaborate. They blamed him for the fact that, according to the D.C. definition, they had shut down any bipartisan bill.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He missed a chance to have a bipartisan stimulus package.

FMR. REP. PETER KING (R-NY): Not one Republican was allowed to take part in the process?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): I have been involved in a lot of bipartisan legislation around here, Mr. President, but I guarantee you this is not bipartisan.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`re bringing a partisan Democrat bill to the floor, and Republicans are poised to oppose it.


MELBER: This is not just history. It`s repeating itself, as all congressional Republicans opposed the Biden relief spending, two presidents facing reflexive Republican opposition, even in recessions, as D.C. elites repeat the one-sided cliches about trying to get everything to be bipartisan.

Now, this is important tonight, and this could actually have a big impact on the future of the Biden era, whether there`s more spending, whether you get more checks, what we do after COVID, because most of this stems from using the wrong premise.

D.C. is applying a model of politician bipartisanship. So, they measure this only by the politicians. And like I said, and like I just showed you, in the old days, maybe there was something to that.

But McConnellism has made that completely moot, dead on arrival. Republican politicians don`t back modern Democratic presidents, period.

Now, that doesn`t mean there`s no bipartisanship possible. There is real bipartisanship out there in the country. But it`s not politician bipartisanship. It involves you or your friends. It`s people bipartisanship.

And the model actually makes more sense. People bipartisanship is when you can see a leader or idea has support, regardless of party, because millions of Americans go beyond their own partisan labels to support it.

So, you measure it in people, not polls. So, by this measure, Obama stimulus was bipartisan. It drew a third of Republican voters behind it. And Biden`s COVID plan has 59 percent, most Republicans, behind it.

Just think about that. If most Republican humans in America support a Biden spending bill, and none of their elected representatives do, that reveals a deficiency for those Republican representatives, not for Joe Biden.

And this is so obvious, and yet D.C. elites ignore it. Watching some of the coverage can make you feel a little bit like Will Ferrell`s Mugatu: "I feel like I`m taking crazy pills."

Now, if most Republican voters back COVID relief and these direct checks, and none of their so-called representatives represent their views on that, what gives?

Are you thinking, gosh, Ari, are you telling me McConnell`s that powerful? Every single Republican has to go along with this in the Congress? Not exactly.

This is also super important. The deeper reasons are structural. People think of democracy as a thing where politicians represent their constituents, and they will lose elections eventually if they`re too out of step with all the constituents in their district or state.

But that`s not how this Congress works anymore, because of politicians who use tricks to make it far less representative. They draw these super- partisan districts, which the founding fathers hadn`t even thought whatever happened. And those make it much harder for these incumbents to ever face a full, wide group of voters.

You may have heard it by its name, gerrymandering.

HBO`s John Oliver explains.


JOHN OLIVER, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER": Republicans elevated this technique to an art form. Lawmakers should not be allowed to dilute our votes by drawing their own lines and essentially picking their own voters.

That is what America is all about, that everyone, every one of us should get an equal chance to make a bad decision. We (EXPLETIVE DELETED) things aren`t for everybody else.


MELBER: Now, the whole process can get complex, but all you really need to know is that Republicans pushed it hard. Both parties have benefited from gerrymandering, to the point that over 50 House races could swing in one year from those tricks by incumbents, not what voters wanted, districts drawn to be safe that pose very little threat to incumbents in the general election.

But something funny happened along the way. It`s actually hard to completely eliminate any voter pressure entirely. So, these politicians with their maps and their gerrymandering, they ended up dealing themselves a more extreme, more narrow type of pressure.

So, they`re safe in the general election, but worried more about getting primaried by the most extreme voices in their party, which have actually brought down even very powerful Republicans in primaries.

And the data shows how all this combines to make representatives less representative of most voters -- that`s you -- in their actual districts.

So, this is actually a huge problem for democracy. It also reinforces -- if you take nothing else from me tonight, it reinforces how dumb it is to measure actual national bipartisanship by only counting D.C. politicians, who are only looking at certain subsets of primary activists, and not you, not all citizens of the U.S.

Indeed, lately, some of the most bipartisan and popular ideas in America have been totally boycotted by congressional Republicans.

So, it makes no sense to wait on them to decide if something is popular or bipartisan. But there`s a solution here in our minds. If you apply the measure of people bipartisanship, well, the Obama and Biden stimulus bills were bipartisan. So are some pending gun control plans. Most Republican voters back these universal checks, for example.

Ditto for some of the infrastructure plans, with about half of Republican voters saying it should be a priority. So, if key Senate votes, like Senator Manchin, want to make sure something has people bipartisanship, he wants to make sure that some of his own conservative constituents are on board with big spending bills, that`s reasonable enough.

But if he`s just waiting on some of the most partisan politicians in America, who don`t even represent their districts` views, to tell him when to vote for something, well, that makes no sense. That is the surest way to play yourself.

You take it all together, and you can see that applying old definitions to a reality where they no longer apply not only makes no sense. It can strangle democracy itself at a time where people need government action, just like they needed those stimmy checks.

Now, there`s no overnight fixes to the big holes in our democracy, like gerrymandering. I can`t solve that, intellectually or otherwise, tonight. There`s no overnight fix to how partisan primaries have grown more powerful than the actual elections mandated in our Constitution.

Remember, elections are an actual legal thing. Primaries are just something that people privately created. They`re not even always controlled by state law.

But I can tell you this. Some of the costs of all of this can actually be reduced if we just come together and use an accurate lens for how things really work today, and not these antiquated political measurements.

As the inventor Charles Kettering once put it, a problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.

And the problem is letting partisan politicians seize leverage through hypocritical partisan games, while lecturing even more popular leaders about bipartisanship.


The solution, as so often is the case in any working democracy, is cutting out some of those politicians and bringing this back to the people.

That`s our special report.

Still to come tonight: other Republican issues exposed. The double standard on guns and your safety.

We also have some good vaccine news coming up and how the nation reopens.

And our friend of THE BEAT Tony Schwartz back on tonight -- coming up.


MELBER: America`s vaccination progress has people eying wider reopening by early summer, raising questions about how we should all approach a chance for renewal.

And we turn now to Tony Schwartz. Many know him as a veteran of "The New York Times," co-author of "The Art of the Deal." And for this discussion, we`re thinking of him given his work as founder of The Energy Project, which advises companies from Google, to Kraft, to Coca-Cola on how to channel emotion, leadership and intention to produce results.

In other words, like many humans, you`re capable of much more than one thing, even if people thought of you for one thing over the last few years.

Sir, good to have you back.

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMP: THE ART OF THE DEAL": Thank you. And thank you for dissociating me from my previous role on this show.




Well, longtime BEAT viewers will remember, if you write a book with Donald Trump that creates his brand, then you donate the money to charity. But all that is going to come up.

SCHWARTZ: I get it.

MELBER: But you`re here tonight, Tony, because people are going through this. We often focus on the policy and the rules and the funding.

But what about the feeling as people try to get ready for this renewal and hopefully doing it the right way? What`s your thoughts?

SCHWARTZ: Well, in our work with leaders at The Energy Project, we have been focusing, Ari, on what we call the reckoning.

And in simple terms, we`re asking leaders to systematically take the measure of their lives. This is more possible because COVID gave them more time to think, to reflect, and they were alone more. We`re getting them to address some really challenging questions, beginning with these five, Ari.

Is the life you`re living worth the price you`re paying to live it? What do you really want? In what ways are you squandering your energy? Are you investing enough time in your life in the activities you most deeply enjoy? And what would it look like to live a life truer to your deepest value and highest purpose?

Because, to be a better leader, you have to first become a bigger human being. But this renewal that you`re talking about, to me, is an opportunity for all of us to become bigger human beings.

MELBER: So, let`s take some of those questions, which are deep.

What do you say to people who know themselves a little bit and are already concerned that, as things that snap back and get fast again, they may get speedily distracted away from any breakthroughs they may have had, or, as you put it, back to having their energy sapped?

SCHWARTZ: Yes, that`s the heart of renewal, isn`t it?

That, if you keep renewal in your life -- if you haven`t had renewal in your life because you have been so overwhelmed by the COVID crisis, then building renewal back into your life is really important. And what does renewal mean?

I mean, athletes understand that the energy they expand, the importance of renewing their energy is as important as the energy they expend. So, we have -- we focus on this idea that renewal is about replenishing your energy physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually.

It`s about putting yourself in a position to fire on all cylinders. And that takes the counterintuitive idea of balancing more, bigger, faster with less, smaller, slower.

MELBER: Was it not Drake who said, I got energy, got a lot of energy, got a lot of people trying to drain me of my energy?

SCHWARTZ: Absolutely. And there`s a lot of energy drains out there.

And after two decades of work, what we found is, there`s one -- this is going to be -- this is going to light you up, Ari. There`s one form of renewal that surpasses all others. I mean, you can renew through rest. You can reflect. You can take a walk in nature. You can have a talk with a good friend. You can value all of those components of your life.

But it`s going to sound squishy and soft to say this to you. But I increasingly believe that this is the heart of it, and it`s real, and it`s powerful. It`s a force of nature. The best way to renew is with love, love for others, especially those you find hardest to love, love for ourselves, meaning all of ourselves, in spite of our myriad imperfections, and love for what you`re doing, whether you`re at work or off work.

We have been through a year of so much fear and frustration and division and hatred. So, how about this experiment, Ari? What if, in the days ahead, we just brought a little more love into our lives and into the lives of others?

You with me?

MELBER: I like it, Tony.

In all seriousness, you know I love music. The single topic that is most covered in most songs, in most languages, in most parts of the world is love songs. And that goes across genre and culture and language, because love, as you remind us, as we think about it -- and here in the news, we touch on so many things of this nature, but we don`t always get it right into it, which is that.

And the deadliest year in America has so much pain, as the president others have talked about, because so many lives lost, and so much love drained, and you can only remember those people.

But then with what you`re talking about, renewal, is thinking about moving it forward.

So, look, I got to fit in a break. But is this one of the deeper segments of the day? I would say yes. Tony, I would say yes.


Well, that`s what I`m here to do with you, Ari. Thank you for letting me.


MELBER: I love it, Tony Schwartz back on THE BEAT.

Good to see you, sir.

We`re going to fit in a break.

Up ahead: We have been covering different aspects of this gun story in America. Well, now call out a Colorado congressperson hiding her guns. Why?

We will explain next.


MELBER: We have been covering this difficult issue of guns. We have touched on many aspects.

In a recent special report, we looked at how some politicians really glorify guns that are largely used for offense, not self-defense, and one use this week to slaughter innocent people.

We specifically highlighted Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert. She got attention because she was wantonly here displaying many different weapons and assault rifles as kind of casual props behind her on that Zoom call.

Well, as it happens, last night, she had another interview at what looked like the exact same location. And she was discussing, yes, this public health epidemic of these shootings, the Colorado massacre included.

And sharp-eyed viewers actually noticed those rifles were now suddenly missing from behind her spot. The guns were there when she wanted to make some sort of theatrical point and glorify guns, and then they weren`t.

We also noted how Republican lawmakers like Rand Paul have put out campaign ads using guns again in a way that may be legal, but seems to glorify things, shoot `em up. They were pointing it at IRS codes and legislation.

Now a Democrat in the spotlight, Joe Manchin, we should note, also has politicked along the same lines.


MANCHIN: As your senator, I will protect our Second Amendment rights. That`s why the NRA endorsed me. I will take dead aim at the cap-and-trade bill.

For me, it`s all about West Virginia.


MELBER: It is legal to shoot up pieces of paper, but many have criticized both the message and the substance. Manchin is a key 50th vote in the Senate.

He says he still opposes what would be legal under the Second Amendment -- under the Second Amendment, which is background checks for these guns.

Meanwhile, if you want to know what the rest of America thinks, a theme in tonight`s broadcast, well, overwhelming support. You can see it across the board, independents, Democrats. And, yes, over seven out of 10 Republicans think this is a way to stay safe.

Rachel Maddow talking about what Manchin`s refusal means to the nation.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": If he alone changed his mind on this, and decided that he really does care about this, that actually probably would be enough to get that one reform over the finish line.

He promised this was an issue that moved him, in tears, as a parent, as a grandparent. He promised that he could get it done.

He could get it done, actually, now.


MELBER: He could.

And none of this is about the Second Amendment. It is about who gets their hands on these dangerous weapons under law.

We wanted to give you that update.

Up next, we have something else that we think is important to get into, a soccer store -- excuse me -- a soccer star, I should say, at the White House on a big issue.


MELBER: Today is Equal Pay Day.

And soccer star Megan Rapinoe just joined the president and first lady at the White House to discuss the gender pay gap. It`s 2021, and women are still paid, on average, 82 cents for every dollar that men earn. The pay gap is actually even worse for Latina, Native American and black women.

It`s an important issue and one the White House was spotlighting today. That`s our final thought tonight.

I will see you tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.