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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 3/26/21

Guests: Jen Jordan, Vic Mensa, Nick Akerman, Libby Casey

Summary

Rapper and activist Vic Mensa speaks out. Georgia passes a law restricting voter access. Ted Cruz is mocked for a border video he himself put out. New details emerge on the January 6 insurrection. FOX News faces a billion-dollar lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems.

Transcript

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Alex. And great seeing you all this week.

I am Ari Melber.

And, tonight, you need to see this, because what you see here is an escalation by the Republican state government of Georgia, cracking down on voting rights, literally arresting a state senator who is black, which is relevant to the racially charged voter suppression now breaking out in the state.

And she was arrested for knocking on the governor`s door as he signed this new voting crackdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did she do? What did she do?

STATE REP. PARK CANNON (D-GA): Stop. Where are you taking me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you all cite the code? What did she do?

CANNON: Where are you taking me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did she do? What did she do?

CANNON: Stop. Where are you taking me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let her go! Let her go!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you arresting her? Why are you arresting her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did she do? What did she do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: "What did she do?" you can hear the protesters asking in that footage by journalist Ari Berman.

What did she do? Well, here`s the answer in a "New York Times" headline: "Representative arrested for knocking on governor`s door." That`s what she did.

Tonight, we can report there are new protests in Georgia and around the nation. Civil rights leaders say all of this smacks of `50s era Jim Crow abuse, albeit updated to a 2.0 version for this modern era. And that critique, that strong language, that level of moral stakes has now been endorsed by President Biden himself, condemning the new law`s most extreme provisions like making it a crime to provide water to people waiting in line to vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s an atrocity.

They passed a law saying you can`t provide water for people standing in line? This is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting. You can`t provide water for people about to vote. Give me a break.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The law restricts voting by adding hurdles that are not needed legally for accuracy or fairness, makes voting by mail harder with an I.D. rule. It cuts drop boxes, which is how many voted, including the governor who signed this law.

It criminalizes, as mentioned, water and food for people in line, and ends voting before many get out of work to vote.

George`s new senator says all of this action goes back to Donald Trump`s big lie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): It is that big lie that is the fuel for these terrible voter suppression laws that we see coming out of the state of Georgia. And we have had to push hard against the big lie and make sure that we secure the democracy for all of our citizens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That big lie from Donald Trump.

So, this is very important tonight. We covered this, of course, as the news broke last night, and we covered it before this thing even passed.

Voter suppression tactics are very old in America. But this law does also respond directly to Trump as a factual matter, because it does something very strange from any legal approach to securing elections. It strips powers from the top Georgia elections official who stood up to Trump when he wanted to steal the Georgia race.

That individual, by the way, happens to be A Republican. It takes power from the secretary of state, which means the next time a would-be autocrat demands that Georgia officials find him some votes, there may be more ways within the system to actually do that, to change tallies, to have more partisan and political Republicans involved.

Meanwhile, the core limits on voting in this new law hit minorities, young, poor and disabled citizens hardest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And it`s antithetical to everything this country has stood for. This is suppression.

JAMES CARVILLE, MSNBC ELECTION ANALYST: I have never heard of water being an illegal substance in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What evidence is there of insecure elections or voter fraud that justifies these sweeping changes? There are none. There are none.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You can draw a direct line from the Republicans` 2020 losses to this law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST, "MORNING JOE": Joe Biden is president-elect of the United States.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: NBC News now projects Raphael Warnock as the winner in the special Georgia Senate election.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: NBC News called the second of the two Georgia Senate races, after hours and hours of being sure and counting and waiting, for Jon Ossoff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump as president. We know that. All the lies and alleged election crimes in the world could not change that. That`s why there`s a new president governing now, while the ex-president has returned to phoning in to FOX News from Florida.

But let`s be clear, no single person or event can end all of Trumpism in one blow, its mix of racism and authoritarianism that animated MAGA, that exploded at the Capitol on January 6, and that has a clear foothold in part, part of the Republican Party.

That is why blatant calls to overthrow an election remain popular in America right now. That is why an entire state party in Georgia can openly insult its own constituents by saying, basically, we saw you voted for our opponents, so we`re going to try to take away your right to vote and arrest lawmakers who protest.

This all grows out of Trumpism. And it`s also broader than that contemporary political spasm.

Now, if you have watched this news program for any stretch of time, you have probably seen our continued coverage of two central challenges to American democracy today, racism, which is quite literally the opposite of equality in any political system proposing it, and, two, the tools that can gut democracy from within.

They range from raw abuses of power, like a filibuster that overrides majority rule, like voter suppression, but they also include the wonkier hurdles, like gerrymandering, which can dilute voters` impact legally, to the antiquated Electoral College that repeatedly overrides how, when more people choose Democrats for the White House, they don`t get a White House.

That`s happened, actually, in seven of the last eight elections. But Republicans have picked six of the last nine Supreme Court justices. It`s not democratic, even if it is constitutional.

Now, activists have often proclaimed the power of street protests by yelling, this is what democracy looks like. In Georgia tonight, they are addressing the Republicans, but they are condemning and chanting, this is not what real democracy looks like.

The facts are in public. The spotlight is on. The next move will be up to the nation at large.

We`re joined tonight with our special coverage by Libby Casey, political Porter with "The Washington Post," Tiffany Cross, host of MSNBC`s "THE CROSS CONNECTION," and Georgia State Senator Jen Jordan

Because you`re there, I want to start with you, state Senator.

What do you view as the purpose and the legality of this voter bill? And what is your reaction to the authorities around the governor arresting your colleague?

STATE SEN. JEN JORDAN (D-GA): So, I think the purpose is clear.

And, really, that is to take control of the local election boards and also to take control at the state level, because, at the end of the day, those are the entities that certify the elections, that set the times for when voters can present themselves, whether it`s advanced voting, absentee, and the like.

And so if you control that at the local and the state level, then, really, you control the outcome. And I think that`s probably one of the most important things that we need to focus on, is that, ultimately, this is about November and also about the U.S. Senate wins by Democrats and an attempt to make sure that it never happens again.

MELBER: And then what about the arrest? I`m going to go to you and then Tiffany.

And we can pull up some of that visual again. I don`t mean it as symbolic or imagery. I mean it`s the very real thing that`s happening in Georgia. I mentioned race because race appears to be relevant to the law and the arrest of that federal lawmaker of yours. Your reaction to that?

Was that -- does that look to you like a justified use of the state`s power?

JORDAN: No.

And, in fact, any lawmaker is not supposed to be able to be arrested or taken into custody while we are in the middle of a legislative session. And so the very fact that they basically drag her out of the Capitol after she simply knocks at the door of the governor of our state while he is signing a significant piece of legislation really should tell you everything you need to know in terms of this law, the intent, and exactly what the governor thinks about the rest of us and people of color.

MELBER: Tiffany?

TIFFANY CROSS, HOST, "THE CROSS CONNECTION": Well, let me just point out a few things, Ari.

One, this is not the first time that Brian Kemp has had people arrested. He`s been going after Stacey Abrams for over a decade now. If you know the story of the Quitman 10 Plus 2, when black women flipped a majority white school board in the small town of Quitman, Georgia, what did Brian Kemp do? He had them arrested.

It made major fodder for right-wing outlets like FOX News to parade these people who had just been elected. They paraded them in orange jumpsuits in front of the camera. In 2012, when attorney Helen Ho was trying to organize newly naturalized immigrants to be able to vote, how did Brian Kemp, then secretary of state, respond to that?

He sicced the Georgia Bureau of Investigations on her. She was subject to a two-year investigation in her organization. So, now this is our version of the Edmund Pettus Bridge; 56 years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, here we are witnessing an elected lawmaker be arrested for knocking on the door.

And so we have to ask ourselves, what do we do when bigotry and law enforcement confluenced with voter suppression take place? And we`re seeing it play out before our eyes. So, I know it was getting a lot of attention now.

But, Ari, I have to tell you, this is why black voters have been shouting to the top of their lungs. For a long time, we would just bake voter suppression in the cake and assume that it was happening, until it showed up at the door on Capitol Hill in January 6. And then it became a bigger deal that, whoa, these people are literally nuts and are trying to stage a violent insurrection, where we lost actual law enforcement officers` lives.

And there was enough ammunition that some of those people had that they could have shot every member of Congress. But this is what happens. White supremacy cannibalizes.

This voter suppression -- look, black voters have overcome worse than this. All this means is, if you can`t give somebody food and water within 150 feet, then guess? What there will be trucks 150 feet handing out food and water. This is all about a potential challenge by Stacey Abrams in 2022 and the fact that black voters and other voters of color and liberal voters in Georgia delivered the power of the federal government to the Democratic Party.

I hate when people spit in my face and say it`s raining. This is a laser targeted revisit of Jim Crow suppression that will eventually end in more violence, more faulty arrests, and ridiculous cases brought by folks like Brian Kemp and his ilk.

MELBER: All important points, especially the recent history context.

Libby Casey, take a listen to Senator Warnock.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARNOCK: So, what`s the purpose of all of this? They don`t like the outcome. And so this is democracy in reverse, where politicians have decided that, instead of the voters picking their representatives, the representatives have a right to cherry-pick their voters.

It`s un-American. It`s anti-democratic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Libby, nationally, where do you see this going? We have reported on several states doing this. Georgia now has sort of put itself first.

LIBBY CASEY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, there are dozens of other states that are right behind Georgia, Ari. So, Georgia is not alone in this.

And it`s certainly on President Biden`s radar. We heard some very stern and strong remarks from him yesterday, as well as today, condemning what`s happened in Georgia.

And one thing that he put it out in a statement today was, if you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide, so let the people vote. But the question is, what can President Biden do and what can Washington do about this on the national level?

We have all been talking a lot about the filibuster. And that may seem like a procedural issue, but it is fundamental to the question of how Democrats are going to move forward. And as President Biden pointed out yesterday, it`s not just that he can say, let`s get rid of the filibuster.

He has to get Democrats on board. And so civil rights leaders are pushing now a couple of those Democratic senators like Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona and Joe Manchin in West Virginia, and trying to say to them, and the people who are in their states, look, you can be on the side of civil rights and voting, or you can be on the side of supporting this arcane Senate rule.

So, we`re watching to see how the pressure will be applied to the Democrats. And then the other question is the role of corporations here. Georgia has a lot of very powerful corporations headquartered there with big footprints there. What are they doing about this? Where is their voice in this process?

Because we certainly heard corporations speak out after the January 6 Capitol attack, but there`s a question of just how will they put their money where their mouth is, and how will they be talking about this in the coming weeks and months?

MELBER: Yes, and we have had some activists from different groups that are trying to make this a baseline issue, on par with supporting the outcome and opposing violence at the insurrection, pushing Coca-Cola and others.

Senator, I want to play a little bit of Brian Kemp`s defense. This was -- he felt the need to discuss the Jim Crow allegation in signing the bill. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): According to them, if you support voter I.D. for absentee ballots, you`re a racist. According to them, if you believe in protecting the security and sanctity of the ballot box, you`re a -- quote - - "Jim Crow in a suit and tie."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That was the defense.

Here`s the video, though, of Governor Kemp we have doing the thing that he`s now making it harder to do. He shared this video. So, he`s the source for this, Kemp voting by drop box himself in the most recent election.

And so there`s a lot of obvious pressure here on the hypocrisy of this. There`s the video.

Senator, your response to both his defense and the fact that he`s restricting the very voting tools that he himself used?

JORDAN: Well, Ari, it wasn`t just the drop box. He was diagnosed with COVID. And so that`s why he had to get an absentee ballot. But he got it in the time frame that now he has -- he has made illegal to actually get an absentee ballot.

So he wouldn`t have been able to vote at all, period, if this law had been in place.

You know what? If this law were simply about some kind of I.D. or identification requirement for absentee ballots and the like, or it really had to do with the integrity of the system or the vote, I don`t think anybody would really necessarily have a problem.

The issue is, this is an almost 100-page bill that includes so many things that are actually the opposite of that, that these simple little statements he`s making really do belie the truth and really show that he may not have actually read the legislation himself.

MELBER: Yes.

Senator Jordan, Libby Casey, and Tiffany Cross, thanks to every one of you kicking us off here.

You can always see "THE CROSS CONNECTION" Saturday mornings on MSNBC. So check that out.

We have a lot more in tonight`s program. We have our shortest break now, just 30 seconds.

But later in the program, Ted Cruz mocked for a border video he himself put out, Donald Trump on defense over January 6, but coming up first, FOX News now facing a billion-dollar lawsuit for the lies -- when we`re back in 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: You have heard about the big lie?

Well, it may be costly, FOX News hit with a billion-dollar defamation suit by Dominion Voting over allegedly false election claims. They say FOX sold a false story of election fraud to serve its own commercial purposes, that they knowingly broadcast lies, like these:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Dominion came under heavy fire after allegations that their machines caused thousands of votes in one Michigan county to be switched from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The machines can be hacked. There`s no question about that. Their machines can be hacked.

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS: The president`s lawyers alleging a company called Dominion, which they say started in Venezuela with given Cuban money and with the assistance of Smartmatic software, a backdoor is capable of flipping votes.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, the votes in Dominion, they say, are counted in foreign countries.

SIDNEY POWELL, ATTORNEY: We have evidence of how they flipped the votes, how it was designed to flip the votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: False. All false. None of that`s true. We`re showing it to you as evidence of its falsity in the case.

Now, whether you have the right to lie, and whether you get in trouble for it are two different things. So, I can report to you tonight these are false. Courts will ultimately determine whether they are also defamation, which could cost FOX News a lot of money.

And they do look worried about that as a real prospect, given the evidence we just showed you.

Indeed, watch what Laura Ingraham does just last night with Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It was disgraceful that they were able to get away with it.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Yes. Well, Mr...

TRUMP: The Supreme Court didn`t have the courage to do what they had to do.

INGRAHAM: Speaking as a -- speaking as a lawyer, we`re not going to relitigate the past.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Suddenly, we don`t want to relitigate the past.

FOX News appears to already potentially be impacted by this. The suit comes after a different case with a different voting technology company, Smartmatic.

FOX executives were basically pushed to air an interview with an expert to go ahead and debunk what had been on their own air from their own hosts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS ANCHOR: We reached out to one of the leading authorities on open-source software for elections, Eddie Perez, for his insight and views.

QUESTION: Have you seen any evidence that Smartmatic software was used to flip votes anywhere in the U.S. in this election?

EDDIE PEREZ, OSET INSTITUTE: I have not seen any evidence that Smartmatic software was used to delete, change, alter anything related to vote tabulation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: A closer look with the banner or maybe just a fact-check of what they had been saying.

Dobbs also was ousted, abruptly canceled, as some put it, right in the wake of all this, months of lies.

A $1.6 billion suit, and the big lie still spreading across the country, as we have been reporting on more than one angle tonight, including Georgia.

We`re joined now by former federal prosecutor Nick Akerman. He was assistant special prosecutor in Watergate. He covered the Mueller probe with us as an analyst and knows his way around the difference between lies, Nick, which, as you know, there`s a certain amount of lying you can do in certain forums in the United States.

And then there is defamation and libel. I`m curious your view of all this.

And I want to be very clear. The process we`re watching is how it`s supposed to work. Viewers may know I`m very much against censorship. A lot of journalists are. They spoke. They aired what they aired. But now they`re dealing with the way this works in America, which is, there can be consequences for what you say. The government didn`t censor them from saying it initially.

But there may be consequences. Your view of the potential consequences here, sir?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, everybody always asks me, what is one of the differences between Watergate and now?

And what -- the big difference, one of the big differences is FOX News and the fact that they have gotten away with spewing lies and basically putting out in our political discourse total falsehoods, like the falsehood about Donald Trump winning the election.

So, what do you do about it? I mean, you can`t get the FCC to clamp down on them, because it would look like you`re suppressing free speech. You can`t get a politician to sue them, because you can`t really show monetary damages. And what`s really remarkable, if you had asked me, how could we have solved this problem a year ago, the last thing I would have thought about was the defamation and libel lawsuits.

I mean, we have lawsuits out there that do solve certain problems, like we allow private lawsuits in the securities area to try and regulate what people do in selling securities.

But, basically, a defamation suit is simply a lawsuit based on fraudulent statements that cause people damage. And what is absolutely remarkable here is that these lawsuits that are being filed against FOX News are actually going to have an impact in terms of cleaning up their act, making them tell the truth, staying away from lies, because, when you start talking about a $1.6 billion lawsuit, that is a huge hit to the bottom line.

And it`s a big incentive for FOX News to clean up its act.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Yes.

And, Nick, as you point out, there are kind of arbitrary reasons why courts will sanction or give a pass to different alleged defamation. It is a corporation or more than one voting firm that ends up holding this line, because the damages are what change corporate behavior.

I don`t think anyone would say, starting from scratch, that`s a perfect system. It`s just the system we have. But, in this case, it`s already putting some of that pressure on FOX News I mentioned.

I want to show, for your analysis, some of Laura Ingraham`s evolution fraud. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INGRAHAM: Losing, especially when you believe the process wasn`t fair, it`s a gut punch. And I`m not conceding anything tonight, by the way, but losing, if that`s what happens, it`s awful.

The Trump campaign has submitted explosive evidence of voter fraud.

Speaking as a -- speaking as a lawyer, we`re not going to relitigate the past.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: It would seem that, when you catch up to now, she really doesn`t want to be repeating the things that basically saddled people like Lou Dobbs, who no longer work for the company.

AKERMAN: Yes, of course not.

I mean, those are complete lies. And they realize that those lies have consequences. And they have consequences in a court of law, where you have got major companies that were badly damaged by these lies because various states canceled contracts, canceled buying these voting machines because of these lies.

And what`s remarkable here is that FOX News is finally getting its comeuppance because of private companies going after them in these defamation suits. You couldn`t get the government to do it. You couldn`t get the political system to do it.

But, oddly enough, our system works well enough that you can get it done in the court system. And that I find absolutely remarkable and wonderful at the same time.

MELBER: Yes.

And because we`re covering the entire case, I want to read as well from FOX News themselves, what they`re saying about it. They say they`re proud of their 2020 election coverage. They say it`s the highest tradition of American journalism, and they will vigorously defend what they call the baseless lawsuit in court.

I wanted to include that, so viewers know what they`re saying. We will continue to do this with our independent experts, because it`s a big case on a big matter that`s ricocheting from Georgia to a lot of other places. And the facts matter.

Nick Akerman, thank you, sir.

AKERMAN: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Coming up: What is going on with Ted Cruz here? We have the answers and why he`s getting absolutely roasted online.

Also, what could actually be done about Senator Joe Manchin? Is he against his own voters when it comes to holding back parts of the Biden agenda?

Coming up next: the Capitol riot investigation expanding, new document requests and new evidence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Accountability for the January 6 insurrection matters. And that may be why the former president is continuing to try to lie about what really happened.

Take a look.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: They`re waving the American flag, and they love of our country.

And those people, they`re arresting them by the dozens. It was zero threat. Right from the start, it was zero threat. Look, they went in. They shouldn`t have done it. Some of them went in, and they`re hugging and kissing the police and the guards, you know?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MELBER: Was it zero threat? Or was it they shouldn`t have done it?

Everyone has seen what happened. It was largely not about hugging police, but rather attacking them. Police died. They beat officers. They crushed them. They used chemical spray.

And they were intent on doing worse, including to lawmakers, including to Republicans, if you want to divvy it up that way.

Axios now reporting the House chamber itself is being turned into a kind of safe room, with new bulletproof doors. We all remember the photograph of holding back those same people as they tried to run through the windows. You can also see the doors here being installed.

As for the criminal probe into the right, it is yielding new details about the threat level. And it was well above zero, prosecutors outlining how there are calls and texts and communication from the Oath Keeper militia members with substantial evidence of a criminal, chargeable conspiracy, including a phone call from the group`s founder to another member right in the middle of the riot, nine minutes before the group pushed past police, forcing their way into the Capitol.

There`s also a new video that shows three of the now indicted Oath Keepers going to a part -- excuse me -- a paramilitary combat training session. That was last year. It is very serious.

And this is just what`s been culled from what we can get, what is public now. There`s a lot more we don`t know. And that`s why top Democrats are demanding federal agencies turn over even more documents about the riot, the investigation, what happened and the overall attempt.

Remember, don`t forget what they were there to do, stop the Electoral College vote count, so the sitting president who was going to leave office would somehow steal power and stay in office. That was the goal, however sloppily it was pursued.

We will stay on this story, of course.

We`re going to fit in a break. We have a lot more in the program tonight, including what Mitch McConnell is getting wrong about the clash with Biden, why it might haunt him. Our friend Michelle Goldberg back on the program.

And another way to think about what comes next in this voting suppression fight in Georgia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The elected officials.

I`m talking about voters, Republican voters, agree with what I`m doing. Unless Mitch says the last thing I did is -- the last piece of legislation is so far left, well, then he ought to a look at his party. Over 50 percent of them must be over that edge as well, because they support what I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: "I`m talking about voters."

Sounds pretty straightforward, a politician noting high support among voters as a mandate for action, especially if it`s most of the country and a whopping half of the other party`s voters, Republican voters, who are now backing President Biden on spending and other key issues, Biden using his high-profile press conference to put the heat on Mitch McConnell.

And the same applies to a national Democratic bill to fortify voting rights. A quarter of Republican voters support it. This all goes back to something we have been reporting on this week. Tens of millions of voters matter more than a few Republican politicians in D.C., especially when those politicians ignore their own constituents because the politicians are more worried about primaries than even what their constituents want or what might be good policy for their state.

This is the difference between politician bipartisanship and people bipartisanship, where real bipartisanship is measured in people.

Now, if you`re going, OK, Ari, long week, but this sounds pretty obvious, why are we talking about this, well, you are probably a normal human, and not a D.C. operative or a pundit, because, in the Beltway, where I worked briefly, people really do still obsess over whether Ted Cruz will ever back a Biden idea.

Spoiler: He won`t. And if he does in a meaningful way, I will be the first to come on here, report it, and tell you that I was mistaken.

And yet Democratic senator Joe Manchin, who is often the 50th vote for Democrats, he`s using the old model. On several issues, he`s now saying he will only back a bill from Biden that he might otherwise agree with if it`s deemed that it`s not partisan, which he defines by the old model of getting Republican senators to support it.

So, think about that. Joe Manchin`s actual public position right now is that he cares more about what politicians in other states do than what his own constituents support, because we do know there are many Republicans in West Virginia. And, statistically, as I just showed you, that means there are many voters there who back Biden on spending and gun safety and infrastructure and even the voting rights bill.

Shouldn`t they matter more to Manchin than whether an idea is supported by Ted Cruz or what Mitch McConnell does?

I`m joined now by "New York Times" columnist Michelle Goldberg. Readers of Michelle Goldberg`s columns will know she has tackled much more complex issues than this. This is a simple one.

Michelle, what gives?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I`m actually not convinced that the majority of voters in West Virginia support the Biden agenda on things like guns and maybe voting rights and immigration.

Where you see a huge amount of what you described as sort of bipartisanship of the people, if not of the politicians, is on these economic and infrastructure issues, right? So, you had bipartisan -- you haven`t used bipartisan support for the American Recovery Act.

And, to be fair, Joe Manchin supported that. You also have bipartisan support for a big infrastructure bill. And that`s also something that it`s not clear that Joe Manchin would support a -- either sort of an amendment of the filibuster or kind of shoving through part of that through reconciliation.

But he has -- while he has sort of tried to trimmed Democratic sales when it comes to voting rights, which is extraordinarily serious, he has been much more enthusiastic about a big, robust infrastructure plan that includes tax increases to pay for it.

MELBER: But, I mean, that`s on the policy, which is important.

When he publicly says he needs a Republican on some of these bills, he`s pretty much claiming to outsource his vote to literally a politician in a different state.

GOLDBERG: No, I think you`re right that Joe Manchin has like -- has this sort of romantic idea of what the Senate should be and has a romantic idea of bipartisanship, which would be all well and good if you had -- if Republicans were good faith governing partners, right, who were interested in perhaps in perhaps making policy that was a little bit more conservative, but were interested in making policy.

What I think Joe Manchin, what I`m sure he will find over and over again is that the modern Republican Party has no interest in contributing its ideas to legislation that`s going to be passed by Joe Biden. Its only idea is to make sure that Joe Biden fails.

MELBER: And do you think, both substantively and politically, this is something the White House is leaning more into? Because, as we just saw there, that was a different mood.

If Biden Republicanism 1.0 was him at the convention hugging some of the moderates, in Kasich, and people debating whether they got too much time or not enough, and who was meeting where and all that kind of political -- What politicos tend to obsess over, Biden 2.0 now, 60 days in, seems to be like, this is working, your people are with me, you should be with me, too.

GOLDBERG: Well, yes, I think the important thing is that it`s working, right? I`m sure that Joe Biden loves being lauded for a big, bold, popular bill.

I`m sure that that`s more important to him than these archaic norms of the Senate. And, also, I think that the Republican behavior is so egregious, that it`s only going to spur more and more willingness among even tradition-minded Democrats to do something about the filibuster, right?

We just saw this kind of Jim Crow-style legislation in Georgia, this utterly egregious, really shocking attack on voting rights that would be addressed by some of the legislation that has been passed by the House and is now in the Senate.

And so the question for Joe Biden is, do -- who`s also made democracy promotion and kind of the restoration of democracy a center point of his presidency. So, the question for him is, is that more important, is kind of saving American democracy more important than saving the filibuster?

MELBER: Well, when you put it like that, it`s not a tough choice.

GOLDBERG: It shouldn`t be.

MELBER: It`s -- when you put it like, yes, Michelle, it almost sounds like asking -- yes, that`s like asking, do I want extra cheese?

Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: I don`t have to think about it. I want to save democracy. And if there`s extra cheese, I want that too. I mean, these are not -- these are not close calls.

Michelle Goldberg, always good to see you. Have a good weekend.

GOLDBERG: Thank you. You too.

MELBER: Thank you.

Up ahead, we got to get into this, Ted Cruz absolutely roasted for what some call a bizarre video self-owning himself trying to score political points, and doing the opposite.

Also, we have more on the big story, the problem in Georgia, how to solve it, and why some have new hope for the next generation. That`s up ahead tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: So, Ted Cruz and Mexico is back in the news because of Ted Cruz. It`s not going well.

You may recall when Cruz basically fled to Cancun amid a widespread series of power outages and other problems in Texas, vacationing on a beach while the devastating winter storm slammed everyone else in his state.

The Internet roasted him. They even had a satirical missing poster. They Photoshopped Cruz as an out-of-touch French royal. And soon enough, you had to get meme-on-meme action, and he was mashed up with Bernie Sanders in the background from the inauguration.

Well, have meme, will travel, and so will Ted Cruz, because he`s back at the border. And he`s trying to ding Joe Biden on the immigration issue. So, he shot this video in a sort of faux photo documentary style, like he`s some sort of wildlife explorer.

The Internet went wild, many wondering of Cruz is -- of course, the first question -- just on his way back to Cancun, I mean, you can find all the ways you want.

Another saying Cruz looks like he`s trapped in an actual "Saturday Night Live" skit.

And then Texas Democrat Beto O`Rourke calling out Cruz for claiming he saw human traffickers across the river, telling Cruz it`s actually unarmed children and families seeking asylum, a serious fact-check of a bizarre video.

For Cruz, it`s a reminder that, when he travels, he draws attention to himself. And when Ted Cruz draws attention to himself, it doesn`t appear to go very well.

We wanted to give you that update.

Up ahead: There is all of this anger about Georgia`s voter suppression. There`s also a new movement of activists, artists and others who are saying there are things the new generation can do to stop this in its tracks, and how to fight back.

We have a very special guest right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Immigration is back in the news, as President Biden says he is working to improve on the Trump administration`s treatment of immigrant children, including rolling back the controversial child separation policy, which a Trump official once chillingly defended as -- quote -- "like summer camp," a claim that was widely reviewed, including by artist Vic Mensa in his song "Camp America," as well as on the news right here on THE BEAT.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

VIC MENSA, RAPPER AND ACTIVIST: I have seen Chicago be used as a media scapegoat for black male criminalization or criminality.

And look at Chicago. Remember when Trump used to love to say that? He was like, don`t look over here while I`m robbing American people. Look at Chicago, you know?

I mean, our border right now is that a lot of people are just being marginalized into numbers. But, no, these are actual human beings. And what`s happening to these kids is scientifically proven to have adverse effects to their development right as they grow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now Vic Mensa is tagging politics again.

His new album out today reflects on a new generation coming of age during the rise of activism and militants in this BLM movement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MENSA (singing): This ain`t non violence. This is that prison break. This is San Quentin, state troopers and looters and sirens. This is that, this is that, this is that. By any means, this is that hunger, that rumble, the stomach of fiends. This is the theme of the thieves.

This is the reason we bleed, this poverty a disease.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That song "Fr33dom" is off the new album "I TAPE" with guest appearances by Wyclef and Chance The Rapper.

And Chicago artist Vic Mensa is back with us now.

Congrats on the project. And thanks for returning.

MENSA: Thank you, bro. Thank you for having me.

MELBER: Absolutely, Vic.

Let`s start -- we will get to the music, but let`s start with this big news week. What`s on your mind? What needs to fall back?

MENSA: Georgia lawmakers, they need to fall right back. This new voter suppression law, I mean, it really is like a modern-day Jim Crow law.

And I just read that they signed this law into effect underneath a painting of a slave plantation, while dragging out a black lawmaker who knocked on a door to be in the room, while they signed away her people`s right to vote.

MELBER: Yes.

You mentioned that. We have that footage, which this is something we`re only seeing because a journalist had it on their cameraphone, as mentioned. What does that mean to you? And what do you think this new younger generation that`s coming of age during Trump and BLM sees when they see this? And what do people want to do about it?

MENSA: To me, it means that these sons of slave masters are afraid that their power may be slipping.

I mean, if you look at the election, black people steered this election towards Joe Biden, I mean, in Georgia particularly. And black organizers, and Stacey Abrams -- and shout-out to Killer Mike.

And they`re in fear of the power that the people have. And they`re responding in classic fashion by doing everything that they can to suppress and to silence. But the world is changing.

And they can clamor for their grip on us, their white supremacist grip as much as they want to, but they can`t stop change.

MELBER: Yes. Yes, when you put it like that, especially that there`s a wider coalition change we saw, as you said, led by a lot of black voters for Joe Biden in the primary and the general election, as well as other both young liberals and some older Democrats all coming together on this one, that is exactly what imperils some of their power.

While I have you, I mentioned to viewers "I TAPE" dropped today. You have been very busy, even despite or within the pandemic. What got you feeling creative in this last year? And what`s this album saying, man?

MENSA: This album is about freedom, above all, with a lens on incarceration, and it was heavily inspired by the events of last year.

I think that so many barriers were toppled. And that thin veil of security that we feel as Americans, feel untouchable, that definitely crumbled. And so this album is really exposing a lot of that, and speaks about incarceration, because the prison is the nucleus. That`s the heart of everything wrong with America.

That`s the centerpiece. And so I`m exploring those stories.

MELBER: And now I have 30 seconds, but when you use what sounds like documentary or real footage, audio out of the prison, what are you saying there? Why do you want people to -- oh, wait, I couldn`t hear.

MENSA: I said, you got 30 seconds.

And I want to say, Joe Biden, you owe us. Black people put you in power. You owe us. You owe us. Don`t forget, we put you in power just now.

MELBER: All right. Well, that`s a good thing to do with 30 seconds.

My apologies. I lost my audio for a sec, but now I can hear you. So, we will see if the president hears you.

And, Vic, thanks for coming back, sir.

MENSA: Thank you for having me.

MELBER: Absolutely.

That does it for THE BEAT tonight.

I do want to make an important programming note for everyone. This Sunday night, which will be the eve of the beginning of the murder trial dealing with the killing of George Floyd, MSNBC has a special, "The Trial: The Killing of George Floyd." I will be anchoring it.

It`s 6:00 p.m. Eastern this Sunday. We wanted you to know about that. It`s right here on MSNBC.