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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 3/29/21

Guests: Nina Schick, Joan Walsh, Paul Henderson, Yodit Tewolde


The trial of Derek Chauvin, charged with killing George Floyd, begins. Donald Trump faces new criminal heat in Georgia. President Biden announces when most American adults should be eligible for the COVID vaccine. The FBI issues a warning about online propaganda and so-called deepfake videos.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you for that. As always, I appreciate those reports.

Also, we missed you last week.


MELBER: Do you have any highlights? Do you have an insight? Did you get anything out of your time away?

WALLACE: So, I had one -- so, you, I know, have been covering these reunions. Your parents. I had a grandparent-child reunion. So, my parents are vaccinated, twice vaccinated. And they had their three weeks.

And I reunited my parents with my son. And it`s everything that we have been covering, those tearful, my God, I missed you, reunions. It was really special. Thanks to science.


MELBER: That`s -- yes, that`s wonderful.

And we have news on that, with all the vaccine rollouts accelerating in some states.


MELBER: But I`m happy for you.

We do a lot through screens, like everyone else has been doing the last year, and we do that in TV, but being in the same room is different, isn`t it?

WALLACE: It is. And your trip to a concert, I think, is soon. I think everyone opening the vaccination eligibility to adults...


WALLACE: ... I think that`s the final -- that`s the next wave. And if we can incentivize everyone to go get it, I think we will be sort of on the other side of a new normal sooner, rather than later, hopefully.

MELBER: Amen. And I will report -- quote, unquote -- "report back" on any concerts I safely go to in the future to you.

WALLACE: Please do.


MELBER: Good seeing you. And good to have you back, Nicolle.

WALLACE: You too. Thanks, my friend.

MELBER: Thank you.

I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT tonight. I`m Ari Melber.

We are beginning with breaking news.

This is the first day of testimony in the trial for the killing of George Floyd. Indeed, the first day wrapped just moments ago. You know about the killing, because, well, if you`re watching this, you follow the news, you probably live in the United States, and you recall that, both in the United States and across the world, there was a movement sparked about Black Lives Matter and about police accountability.

The nation now is taking in this justice system, this process in America. It was a televised courtroom there in Minneapolis where Officer Derek Chauvin is facing this accusation, this indictment for murder.

He was there. We could see him studiously taking notes at times. The prosecution and defense gave each of their dueling opening statements, something familiar to any trial. And the prosecutor told the jury, quite simply today, believe your own eyes, arguing in court this video shows a murder. That`s the argument from the prosecutor.

The defense arguing that that video, which, of course, the world has seen and which in part will be seen in more than one way in this trial, the defense argues that videos not the whole story, and arguing other factors played a role in Floyd`s death.


JERRY BLACKWELL, MINNESOTA PROSECUTOR: Mr. Chauvin was anything other than innocent on May 25 of 2020.

ERIC NELSON, ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do.

BLACKWELL: He put his knees upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath, no, ladies and gentlemen, until the very life was squeezed out of him.

NELSON: There was no evidence that Mr. Floyd`s airflow was restricted. What was Mr. Floyd`s actual cause of death? The evidence will show that Mr. Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia.


MELBER: Now, whether you are, as I mentioned, a viewer, a citizen, or any of those jurors there today who will spend these next several weeks making their own determinations, you may think you know a lot about this already.

But as we cover this trial, I`m going to be very clear with you. There is a lot more evidence in the trial than what we initially learned, for example, from that original citizen-made video.

That was on display today, because witnesses that we have never heard from directly at any length before were speaking out and under oath in an adversarial process, where the truth is supposed to be pursued.

That includes a 911 dispatcher, who alerted a police supervisor about the use of force that day. There was also new and never-before-seen surveillance footage displayed of the incident from a different view. You see there a bird`s-eye view. That`s different than the citizen-made video that went so viral that we`re all more familiar with.

And there`s also a new and more detailed timeline of the incident that`s available as a product of the major investigation that was done here. So, prosecutors are now explaining that Chauvin had his knee on Floyd`s neck for a different time than what you may have heard previously.

And it`s a longer time. Indeed, they`re arguing it`s worse for the defendant, for fully nine minutes and 29 seconds, they said. That`s more than the numbers you may have heard, the eight minutes and 46 seconds, which was previously thought of as the amount of time.


BLACKWELL: You will learn what happened in that nine minutes and 29 seconds, the most important numbers you will hear in this trial are nine- two-nine, what happened in those nine minutes and 29 seconds, when Mr. Derek Chauvin was applying this excessive force to the body of Mr. George Floyd.


MELBER: This part is really important. And I want to highlight this for you in our coverage tonight, because it`s part of what we`re learning about how the prosecution wants to make its case.

They want to not only say this video is bad, or it`s damning, or it`s disturbing. It may be all those things. But they want to show methodically to every juror that there`s a timeline that shows exactly how drawn out this entire incident was, why they argue it was a slow murder.

They note, for example, that about four minutes and 45 seconds in is when Floyd actually said what would be his final words, "I can`t breathe." A minute after that, they have Officer Lane observing, "I think he`s passing out."

And then after that, another officer noting they could not find a pulse. The prosecution presenting all of this evidence -- we are showing you on the screen something that is an exhibit from their evidence -- and that all of this occurred before the seven-minute mark of what would go on to be that agonizing and slow nine minutes and 29 seconds.

I want to bring in our analysts for this important story right now. MSNBC`s Shaquille Brewster live from Minneapolis, veteran prosecutor Paul Henderson, and a former prosecutor, Yodit Tewolde. A Pulitzer Prize winner as well joins us, "Washington Post" columnist Gene Robinson.

I could literally start anywhere.

Paul, I`m going to start with you on that evidence.

I really emphasize for viewers that this is obviously important. I think people know why, but that this is not about a snap judgment from the video, at least inside the courtroom. This is about a much more fine-grain analysis.

And your response to that evidence that was put forward, which, as a viewer, as an observer, I thought was quite strong in the prosecutor`s opening statement, to say, it`s not just that this is disturbing, but look at how early on the police themselves were saying the person is nonresponsive, and then many more minutes, four more minutes, according to that exhibit, of pressure on the neck.

PAUL HENDERSON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: That was one of the things that I thought was really well done and well-laid-out and meticulous. And if you look beyond just the presentation of that evidence, and look at how that presentation was given to the jury, right, they weren`t just saying that the cops showed up.

They talked about it and referenced it as excessive force, and they want to color what those actions are to make sure that the jury is paying attention, so that when we define each of those actions along that timeline, people will be judgmental about the decisions and judgmental about those actions.

That`s why this prosecution is taking so much time to lay out not just the foundational evidence of what happened, but how it happened, with an exceedingly granular, detailed timeline that they can keep referencing back and forth.

And one of the things that I heard, and while he was labeling and referencing the document that he was introducing, is, I`d like to label this as evidence piece number 151. Now, there`s a sign for you. If this is just random piece is evidence number 151, there`s a lot of information that we`re going to be getting from this prosecution outlining the shape of what that argument is going to be.

And it`s going to be through these witnesses that may seem like they weren`t as engaged or emotional, but the foundation that they laid is what`s important here. And that timeline is going to be referenced again and again and again, in the context of the nine-and-a-half minutes that`s going to be the linchpin for this case.

And so I was fascinated to see it. It`s an interesting approach. The things that I was looking for as a trial attorney was to hear the lawyers and how they engaged with the audience of the jury, how they connected to witnesses that were on that stage...

MELBER: Right. Right.

HENDERSON: ... to nuance out of them their reaction and judgment about what they were seeing, how they were seeing it, and their evaluation of what was happening to George.



Let me bring in Yodit on the same point.

Your views?

YODIT TEWOLDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So -- yes, so, the prosecution, I think, had a slam dunk today. They had a win.

They have the most powerful weapon in their arsenal, and that`s that video. They`re going to try to use that video, to play it over and over and over again, and take it segment by segment by segment by frame, and really, really drive home to the jurors how long this actually continued, right?

It speaks to the intent by Derek Chauvin, that this wasn`t something that was a split-second decision. This was something that was intentional, right? And the prosecution, they promised something in their opening statement that they actually delivered on, and that was that first witness.

When you talk about bystanders calling the police on police, you had a 911 dispatcher who essentially is working with police, who considered herself - - and she said, you know what, I don`t even care if you consider me a snitch when she called the sergeant to say, what I`m seeing right now doesn`t seem right.

So what the prosecution is going to want to do with this video is continuously go to that common sense and reason that the defense argued in their opening statements that they used. When you look at this video, nothing about that was reasonable. Nothing about that was common sense.

You don`t need training to watch this video and see that Derek Chauvin and all the other officers, but, of course, him specifically for this trial, was doing something wrong. How it was wrong, we don`t know. And that`s what the prosecution is going to have to prove.

MELBER: Yes, and to that point -- to Yodit`s, Shaquille, this is the part where we just want to be as clear as possible, the police show up.

According to prosecutors, it was the police, Specifically Officer Chauvin, who made this a crime scene and made it a murder scene. That`s their contention. And so that raises the question of, who do you call when the police are doing the crime? That`s what so many activists say is so horrific about this pattern in American life.

And so I want to play a little bit more from that moment also with the 911 dispatcher, Shaquille, for your view on the ground, because it was rather telling when she said at a certain point she thought the darn video was frozen, because that made more sense than the idea that this much force was being used against this person.

Take a look.


MATTHEW FRANK, PROSECUTOR: What did you think about this when you look back and saw that it hadn`t changed?

JENA SCURRY, 911 DISPATCHER: I first asked if the screens had frozen.

FRANK: Why did you ask that?

SCURRY: Because it hadn`t changed.


And did you find that it had frozen?


FRANK: How did you know?

SCURRY: Well, I was told that it was not frozen.

FRANK: Did you see the screen change yourself?

SCURRY: Yes, I saw the persons moving.

FRANK: So, what did you just start thinking at that point?

SCURRY: Something might be wrong.


MELBER: Shaquille?

SHAQUILLE BREWSTER, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, that was a relative surprise.

We didn`t hear -- in any of the pretrial motions, in any of the pretrial activity, we didn`t hear much about a 911 dispatcher or even know about this camera angle.

Your other panelists keep talking about the video, that original video and how much the prosecution is going to rely on that video. One thing that we knew coming into today was that very few of the jurors on the panel have actually seen the video in full.

There`s at least one juror who said he never saw the video, but only thought a snippet of it. So that just gives you an idea of why the prosecution spent so much time, before even playing the video in their opening statement, going through with that graphic, explaining what the jurors would see, explaining what would happen in the buildup to it, and then playing that video.

And that`s something that now witnesses are going back, eyewitnesses to the actual situation, explaining what they see and what their experience was. I think that video is going to be a key piece of this. And it`s going to be new for many of the jurors on that panel.

One quick point about the jury, because we don`t see the jurors. They`re remaining anonymous through this process.

But there are reporters, two reporters, period, in that courtroom. And they`re saying that the jury has been very attentive, that they have been taking notes, that they have been swiveling their chairs back and forth, listening to the witnesses, listening to the prosecution.

They brought in coffee later in the day. They say there is -- at one point during the defense argument that most of them pulled out their pen and started writing down when the defense mentioned the hobble technique. And that`s something they will describe later.

So this is a jury that looks like they`re paying attention and learning a lot after this first day of opening statements and first few witnesses.

MELBER: Shaquille Brewster has been reporting on this there from Minneapolis. Thank you. We will be coming back to you in the days ahead.

I want to thank Shaquille.

Gene Robinson, widening out from beyond the law, this is a reckoning.

Take a listen to how Dave Chappelle described all this.


DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: This man kneeled on a man`s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

Can you imagine that? This kid thought he was going to die. He knew he was going to die. He called for his mother.


MELBER: Gene, the reporting today out of the trial is, it was even longer than that.

But the way that Dave Chappelle and others have memorialized that initial time, that disturbing amount of time, speaks to what so many Americans saw as racist, excessive force.

Your thoughts in the wider dimension.


MELBER: We have our lawyers have done the breakdown of the trial -- on where America is watching it this week.

ROBINSON: Well, in the wider dimension, look at what happened after George Floyd`s death, after George Floyd`s homicide -- that`s how it was ruled -- what happened across the country and around the world.

This shocked the conscience of the world and sparked a reckoning with race and policing and racial justice that continues to this day. So, obviously, this is not any sort of ordinary case.

And, look, as a young reporter, I covered far too many trials to venture who won this day or who lost this day. Juries have their own way of looking at things and looking at facts. And you can look at the jury all you want. You don`t really know what`s going on in their heads. And you don`t really know what`s going to go on in the jury room.

That said, those three numbers, nine-two-nine, nine minutes and 29 seconds, I anticipate the prosecution is going to come back to that again and again and again, because that`s the one fact, the one fact that`s not in dispute and that it is almost impossible to get one`s mind around.

How could you -- how could you keep your knee on his neck that long? Even if you could imagine that it was justifiable to do it until he was subdued, until he was compliant, until he passed out, until you couldn`t find a pulse? Yet it went on and on and on at each of those junctures, past all of those junctures, for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

And that`s -- if the defense can get around that, then they`re really making progress in the case. I think that is the real obstacle to the defense. And it`s what the prosecution is going to hit home on again and again and again, nine-two-nine.

MELBER: Yes. I think you`re right about that. It was clearly how they wanted to give a lens.

Because of the experts I have here, I want to do a lightning round with everyone. And I can say, because I know each of you, this will be hardest for Paul.

OK, Paul, this is where you get only a sentence.


HENDERSON: I`m focused. I`m focused.

MELBER: And I know that Gene and Yodit can do it.


MELBER: Whether you can, yes, we will find out.


MELBER: But in a sentence, in a sentence, which side is ahead at this point, on day one, where we know the jury is more attentive. They try to be engaged, but day one`s different than day 25.

So, in a sentence or so, who`s more ahead, starting with Gene?

ROBINSON: The prosecution always takes a lead, I think, because they get to lay out the case, and in that way.

But I want to highlight one other thing that was said today by the defense, which was that the officers thought the crowd that had gathered to watch was somehow a threat to them. I think they`re going to have difficulty proving that, because there was no apparent threat from the crowd.



TEWOLDE: All the way state. They started strong. They actually ended strong.

Today adjourned with a star witness that was both a fact witness and an expert in MMA. I mean, what are the odds of someone with that type of experience and training walking by that day?

So, I definitely think that they had likable witnesses today, convincing ones, for the most part. And, again, they are starting off, the prosecution. They said what they were going to do in their opening statements. They`re following that, as of now.

And the defense just had a weak day. I mean, they -- again, to the gentleman`s point, trying to blame bystanders for the threat the officers felt, but makes zero sense, because the threat was not George Floyd, and he ended up actually dying, so prosecution all the way today.



HENDERSON: I would agree completely, especially if you look and analyze it, who the prosecution put on the stand.

So, bringing in that MMA fighter to define the force that we saw as lethal, that`s important, because we`re going to be evaluating the lethal force, vs. what police standards are. And, here, they`re going to be shown unreasonable. That`s going to be their argument.

And to the point of having the rowdy crowd and audience, if you look at that evidence -- and I can`t imagine they won`t come back to this. They had the four officers on the scene. Three of them were surrounding George Floyd. Only one was addressing the crowd.


HENDERSON: So, that shows you how the cops themselves thought of that crowd and the audience. And we`re going to hear that point being made by the prosecutors, I hope, in the future, but I would give today`s win to the prosecution and continue watching.

MELBER: I want to thank all of our expert panelists. Appreciate you kicking off the coverage. We will be on this trial.

I want to tell you what`s coming up after our break. We have a lot more in the show.

This is our shortest break, 30 seconds. But there`s big vaccine news, what I was discussing with Nicolle, the FBI with a warning about online propaganda.

And coming up next: Donald Trump has new criminal heat in Georgia. Neal Katyal is here.

We`re back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: There`s a lot going on. But did you know that the ex-president has criminal legal exposure in Georgia, with reports it`s getting worse?

The Daily Beast says there are two grand juries and paneled in that probe about whether Donald Trump broke the law to try to hold onto power after losing the 2020 race. Subpoenas are expected.

Meanwhile, a company that`s already sued several high-profile Trump associates over false voting claims says it could sue Trump.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN: Will the former president be sued next by Dominion?

STEPHEN SHACKELFORD, ATTORNEY FOR DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS: We have not ruled out any potential defendants who participated in this -- in this defamation campaign.


MELBER: They haven`t ruled it out any potential.

And, meanwhile, Georgia Republicans are still using fraud as one of the reasons they want to pass that crackdown on voting rights. The NAACP taking them to court over that.

Activists also calling for new boycotts on Georgia companies that they say are basically acquiescing to this crackdown. That would include, in their view, Delta Air Lines, the CEO even praising some parts of that new bill.

We`re joined by Neal Katyal, the former acting solicitor general of the United States.

Your view on whether Donald Trump really has a criminal legal problem in Georgia? And what does it mean when we hear reports of two grand juries?

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: He certainly is looking at criminal exposure, Ari.

I mean, at this point, Donald Trump is the only president to have more open grand juries that election wins. And these grand juries are significant. That`s a very serious prosecutorial step, as the Supreme Court has said. And it looks like, according to the news reports, that they`re on the verge of using their inquisitive powers to subpoena, that is, get documents from the president.

I mean, one question I have, Ari, is, why are there two grand juries investigating this? What is the breakdown between them? Normally, you would just have one. So, I think there`s a lot of unanswered questions. But if you`re Donald Trump right now, it`s not looking good.

MELBER: Yes, you`re saying that it is a little bit legally unusual. So, you`re wondering why. We were wondering why. That`s why we asked you, Neal Katyal, but, sometimes, the answers aren`t immediately availing until we learn more of what is generally a pretty secretive process.

I want to read a little more from the Daily Beast article. It says prosecutors are eying false statement charges. The Fulton DA`s team zeroing in on claims Giuliani made to Georgia state legislators and Trump`s numerous erroneous assertions, for example, to the secretary of state there, who, by the way, Republicans are now trying to politically punish and attack, all for simply doing his job in a fair way.

The Giuliani part is interesting, because, as you know, Neal, there`s a lot of latitude for people to say things in public forums. What they seem to be getting at is that Donald Trump`s demands that his representatives go into government forums, for example -- Giuliani testified to government officials` forums and other such bodies in more than one state -- that may actually be his undoing.

Can you explain what that legal theory means?

KATYAL: Yes, so I think that the criminal case and the investigation starts with the audiotape of Donald Trump saying, find me 11,000 votes, and things like that.

And then you have the separate piece that The Daily Beast is reporting that Giuliani himself may have been part of the scheme, which is why that article says they`re looking at conspiracy charges, and presumably conspiracy between Giuliani, Trump and others. Now, Giuliani will say, I was acting as a lawyer and blah, blah, blah.

But lawyers don`t have the -- there`s a crime/fraud exception. Lawyers don`t have the ability to commit crimes on behalf of their clients or conspire to commit them.


And then, finally, as promised -- I have about 30 seconds left, Neal -- but when people hear that this very controversial Georgia voter crackdown is being appealed in court -- it was big news last week -- what does that mean? Is it possible this could be somehow limited by the courts?

KATYAL: It very well should be.

I mean, this is really significant, Ari. The country is on the verge of a new Jim Crow. And it`s coming right on the heels of the Republicans losing the 2020 election. And so they`re doing these kinds of restrictions.

And the sad thing is, there`s a much easier way to win elections than a 100-page bill to restrict people from voting. Just run on a platform that people actually like.

And I think here, Ari, the thing is, there is a lawsuit, as you say, brought by the NAACP, but I think existing law is enough for the Justice Department, the Biden administration, to sue Georgia now.

And, yes, it`d be important to have the John Lewis new Voting Rights Act, but existing law was enough here. And I think the Biden administration should bring a lawsuit.

MELBER: Interesting, especially coming from your knowledge of how the DOJ works.

So, a little bit of what we would call legal news or, no offense to you or me, legal nerd news, but the former solicitor general of the United States thinks there is a federal lawsuit here for the Biden DOJ to consider.

Neal, always good to have your expertise.

I want to remind everyone, go to, and you can find this and other Neal segments. I find them to be like free law school.

Coming up on THE BEAT tonight, we have more reporting, fresh off this defamation lawsuit, a FOX host now complaining about Biden`s trips home, plus new allegations about Donald Trump`s handling of COVID from his own employees, and good news on vaccinations.

We have it for you coming up.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, to make it easier for Americans to get vaccinated as the supply grows and vaccination eligibility expands, I`m directing my COVID team to ensure there is a vaccine site within 5 miles of 90 percent of all Americans by April the 19th, three weeks from today.


MELBER: This is what governing looks like. It`s also the good news we promised you earlier in the hour. We love it when we have accurate, good news to share.

The president says that he`s been laser-focused on fighting COVID, and he`s touting results. Now we can see Americans actually seem to have unity here; 72 percent approve of President Biden`s handling of the virus now.

There`s plenty of work to be done. And none of the progress means that you can treat this all with one brush. Indeed, we can also report the other news. Some states still have rising caseloads.

Now, the CDC director fighting back tears today in warning about a possible new wave.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I`m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.

We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But, right now, I`m scared.

So, I`m speaking today not necessarily as your CDC director, not only as your CDC director, but as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, to ask you to just please hold on a little while longer.


MELBER: These are the two stories of COVID right now, the president promising basically almost everyone having access to vaccines in a matter of weeks, after the whole year we have been through, states like New York barreling forward to having, starting tomorrow, 30 and up, age 30 and up getting vaccines, and 16 and up in that, one of the largest states in the country, starting April 6.

So, that is real good news. And yet this is your CDC director saying they are worried that all the good news will drive bad behavior, and thus the kind of risks that will create problems before everyone gets vaccinated.

So that`s what`s happening now. We`re also seeing news, new revelations about what happened then. Former President Trump`s own task force director, you may remember her, Dr. Birx, is going on record about his mishandling of the response.

The Biden administration has launched a new task force to even investigate the way that the previous administration not only failed, but may have failed in a way that cost lives.

We`re joined now by Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for "The Nation."

Good evening. Thanks for being here, Joan.

JOAN WALSH, "THE NATION": Thank you, Ari. Thanks for having me.

MELBER: I want to get to several pieces of this.

But I have always found you to be right in that commonsense middle ground, very informed as a journalist, but thinking these things through as a human being. And so I call on you with that first point.

Your analysis of the dueling narratives here. There is good news. It is going well. But the CDC director, we ignore her warnings at our peril.

WALSH: I was very moved watching that today. And it also made me resolve to be more careful.

I think it`s important that we have both. I think it`s really important that we can see a timeline, that many people, most people will be vaccinated fairly soon. This is nothing like what we thought in January, or even as late as February. And so, for me, it gives me hope, and it gives me the capacity to keep wearing my mask and not do anything stupid.

I don`t know how it works for other people. But I think that both messages are profoundly important, because she`s right. I mean, numbers are going up in New York, in New York City, in New York state. There -- Michigan is really scary.

And I think we have to keep telling both stories.

MELBER: Yes. Yes. Fair.

As for the other story I mentioned, which is, you can see a little bit -- don`t take my word for it. Seven out of 10 Americans are looking up and going, huh, COVID with this president, COVID with that last president, both obviously big challenges. You can`t blame a pandemic on any person or politician, obviously.

But it seems that most Americans, including a heck of a lot of Republicans, see the new president is handling it better than the last one. And here`s some of the reasons why, if you dig in.

"The Washington Post" reporting former CDC Director Redfield said political meddling with very important things like the morbidity and mortality weekly reports were a problem and went even further than was reported at the time under Trump. And then take a listen here to Dr. Birx.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FMR. WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially if we took the lessons we had learned from that moment.

That`s what bothers me every day.


MELBER: Joan, that the doctor speaks diplomatically, or perhaps politically. I`m just going to translate for your response.

The meaning of the words she said is that she medically views the bulk of the later COVID deaths as having been avoidable if President Trump didn`t fail so badly. Your thoughts?

WALSH: I have a hard time with this, Ari.

I`m glad she said it to Sanjay Gupta at this point, but it would have been great if she`d said it a year ago. A year ago, she was reassuring us that the president had fantastic mastery of the data and scientific evidence, and because he was such a successful businessman, he was really good at that stuff.

We knew that was a lie then. We really did, or most of us did. But it was an incredible lie. And she went on standing next to him. I mean, sometimes she looked sheepish. That shot of her the day he talked about injecting bleach, she was definitely not looking her best.

But I find it hard. And I find it hard to listen to Dr. Redfield as well. I really think that if a lot of these people, if not all of them, had resigned, that would have had a bigger impact than what they`re saying now.

I let Dr. Fauci off the hook a little bit, because, A, I do believe it would have been worse if he were gone, for sure. And, B, he was more honest with us. He was risking his hide to tell us the truth, as best he could, far better, far more accurately than anybody else.

But I watched the Sanjay Gupta series that series of interviews with mounting rage, to be honest with you, because these people knew what was going on, and they didn`t tell us.


Well, I`m sure you`re not the only one who watched it with, as you put it, rage, Joan, because, as you say, those people were in the room. They`re now admitting they knew better then, when the lives were on the line, Joan.

WALSH: Right. These are not poor people. These are not people hanging by a thread who couldn`t afford to be unemployed for a while. They probably could have gotten a book deal. There were lots of things they could have gone and done. They have gone off and done things.

It was really cowardice for most of them, to be honest. And I think that it should be called that.

MELBER: Facts.

Well, if I`m not mistaken -- and what do I know? But if I`m not mistaken, you just did call it cowardice on TV.

WALSH: I think I -- I think I did. You`re right.


MELBER: There, you did. So, you did.

So, it`s on the record, at the very least.

Joan, always good to see you and to have you on THE BEAT.

WALSH: Great to see you too. Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you.

We have a lot more in tonight`s program, including some wacky and important stuff. The FBI has a warning for you about online propaganda and these so- called deepfake videos. We are on it for you, so you don`t get fooled, and also show you the political import.

That`s coming up with an expert.

But first: Lindsey Graham boasting about his AR-15s and how he might go after the gangs.

That`s next.


MELBER: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham does everything for the Graham, as in for himself.

We have these recent mass shootings, and he has been against banning assault weapons that are meant and designed for military killing. And he`s out with his explanation.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I own an AR-15. If there`s a natural disaster in South Carolina, where the cops can`t protect my neighborhood, my house will be the last one that the gang will come to, because I can defend myself.


MELBER: I guess you could call this the senator`s Travis Scott defense. Why does he need an AR-15? Gang, gang.

The problem is, it doesn`t make any sense, because there`s not a lot of documented situations in South Carolina where you need that kind of automatic weaponry to take out multiple people in a gang. This isn`t "Scarface." He`s a senator.

And I want you to know tonight he`s making these comments after a Republican gun-toting tour of the border. People can come up with their own captions for that. He`s also been doing this for a while, basically glorifying gun culture.

Back in 2013, he was talking about enjoying shooting his AR-15. Parkland shooting survivor Cameron Kasky responding to Graham last night.


CAMERON KASKY, GUN REFORM ADVOCATE: The suggestion that twerp like Lindsey Graham can be some sort of tough guy fending away apocalyptic invaders is just the narrative that they sell. And it`s what the gun lobby wants the Republicans to say in order to sell more guns.

It`s all a marketing thing, which is what you see when gun sales skyrocket after mass shootings, because of this kind of messaging.


MELBER: NRA money and marketing. This is relevant.

Take a look. Nearly $56,000 have poured in to Graham. South Carolina has 829 gun deaths every year. AR-15 rifles are a big part of the problem nationally. A quarter of the last 80 mass shootings in America feature them.

So, it`s all coming together, the gun glorification, the political chest- thumping, and what seems to be a documented lack of concern for the way these weapons are actually used, outside of political propaganda and Twitter posts and ads, the way they`re used in real life.

"SNL," meanwhile, having some of its take, calling out the Republican Party on all of this.


COLIN JOST, ACTOR: And, Republicans, please stop pretending that this is a Second Amendment issue, and just admit you love guns more than people you don`t know.

I mean, these are your political ads. Look at them. You look like you`re running for president of ISIS.



MELBER: When someone shows you who they are in their advertisements, believe them.

Now, when we come back, we have something very special. You might not see it anywhere else, the FBI warning about these fake videos, deepfakes, political propaganda -- what you need to know when we come back.


MELBER: If you lived through the Putin/Trump/Russian interference, if you followed the Mueller report and all of the concern over bots and fake accounts and the way that online propaganda can actually hit home in a big way, then, like a lot of people, you probably care about this and what to do about, because technology certainly doesn`t stay still. It keeps evolving.

And that brings us to this report that I wanted to tell you about tonight, the FBI with an unusual bulletin warning about what they call -- quote -- "deepfakes."

These are completely fake or false videos that can be distorted through technology to look quite real. And they can range for purposes from mischief to crime to cyber-war.

Now, let me give you an example. And ,again, this is the news. So we always want to be as clear as possible. We`re reporting on this, just like Russian bots, so you know about it, so you don`t get tricked online, whether it`s for politics or financial crime or something worse.

So, we want to show you an example. It`s not real.

This was a very kind of online infamous thing called a deepfake of a man who basically was turned into Tom Cruise.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m going to show you some magic. It`s the real thing.

I mean, it`s all the real thing.


MELBER: It looked a lot like Tom Cruise, but it was not Tom Cruise. He`s not in that video in any way. It`s what`s called a deepfake.

Now, the people who made this one that we`re showing you say they created it as a kind of a harmless PSA, informationally. They want to raise awareness about this technology.

Now, actor and director Jordan Peele waded into politics and made one involving Barack Obama.


JORDAN PEELE, ACTOR: We`re entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything at any point in time, even if they would never say those things.

But someone else would, someone like Jordan Peele. This is a dangerous time.


MELBER: Again, if you just saw that out of context, you might think it was Obama. It wasn`t.

And, recently, manipulated video of Speaker Pelosi went viral. It had been slowed down to make it seem like she was slurring her words, a different approach, but, again, a misleading video .

Now, if world leaders can be manipulated to present information or videos that people might take as real that can go viral, well, this is a big deal. And everyone`s got to be aware of it. That`s the first step of inoculation.

Now, there is a nonprofit that was created, and it made -- I should say, it created a deepfake of Vladimir Putin. This is for an ad about protecting democracy. And it created a controversy where some in the fact and journalistic business didn`t want to air it precisely because, well, it was a false deepfake.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America, you blame me for interfering with your democracy. But I don`t have to. You`re doing it to yourselves.


MELBER: We turn now to an expert who can help arm everyone.

Nina Schick is an expert in misinformation. And she`s the author of the new book "Deepfakes," the perfect guest.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Absolutely.

It`s really important because, often in life, and certainly in media, the big things are reactive. Everyone gets fooled. A video drops a week out from the election, everyone reacts to that.

We`re trying to be a little better than that and be proactive. And we called on you as such an expert.

What do, first of all, people, voters, viewers need to know if they`re online and they see something, and they`re wondering whether it`s a deepfake video?

SCHICK: Well, I think the first thing to say is that a deepfake is any piece of media that`s either manipulated or wholly generated by artificial intelligence.

And the ability of A.I. to actually create something that didn`t exist before is nascent. It`s only been around for five years or so. But, within the next 10 years, our information ecosystem is going to become inundated with synthetic media, to the extent that it`s going to be really difficult for us to tell what piece of content is real or synthetically generated.

And one of the really astonishing things about A.I. is its unique ability to synthesize humans. So, this means that it can be completely digital humans, but it can also be used to clone your biometrics.

That means anybody who has any kind of digital media of them out there on the Internet -- it doesn`t even have to be someone prolific like a politician or a celebrity -- you are potentially open to be deepfaked.

And that can be your digital likeness, or it can also be your voice. Now, the technology is accelerating very, very quickly. And the other amazing thing about this or scary thing about it is that it`s going to become accessible to everyone. This is no longer only in the domain of a Hollywood studio.

This, within 10 years, is accessible to anybody with a smartphone who can make these things on an app.


I`m reminded of the writer Zadie Smith`s comment that sometimes she wants to -- quote -- "retire from contemporary life."

This could make you feel like that.

I want to play a little bit more from deepfake Tom Cruise, again, to give people the actual understanding of this, because, when we looked at these - - and you write about them -- they really do look lifelike. Here`s Tom Cruise, but not.



You guys cool if I play some sports. I love it.

Hey, listen up sports and TikTok fans. If you like what you`re seeing, just wait until what`s coming next.



I mean, the point is, you`re not going to be able to tell. You`re not going to be able to tell as -- to the human eye, that fidelity is only going to improve. That Tom Cruise video was still made by somebody who put a considerable amount of work into it, but it was one deepfake artist, right?

It wasn`t a Hollywood studio which had a multimillion-dollar budget and teams of special effects artists. So, A.I...

MELBER: Right.

But let me press you. Nina, let me -- let me press you, Nina.


MELBER: when you say they`re so good and in so many hands, you can`t really tell, what does that mean for the information consumer, that the source is all the more important, that a video on "New York Times" has been fact-checked, but one floating around may not be?

SCHICK: Well, you have to be critical without becoming cynical, because one of the other consequences of deepfakes is that they undermine trust in all authentic media as well.

And we`re already seeing examples of that. There was an astonishing example last year, where somebody who was actually standing to be elected to the House put out a 24-page report -- she holds a Ph.D. -- in which she claimed the George Floyd video was a deepfake hoax.

Now, in 2020, that theory didn`t gain much currency. But, as the information ecosystem becomes inundated with mis and dis-information...

MELBER: Right.

SCHICK: ... including visual manipulations of film, what is true or false is going to become increasingly difficult. And we`re going to have to build technical solutions to shore up the integrity of our information ecosystem.

MELBER: Right. All such great points you have been thinking about.

We`re running over on time.

I guess my last question is quick. Is this interview real, or is this a deepfake?

SCHICK: I`m -- I guarantee -- well, I`m still real, but, in five years` time, I could be a live deepfake talking to you down the line.


MELBER: Right.

Nina Schick. "The book is Deepfakes"

We will be right back.