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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 3/4/21

Guest: Olivia Guerra O`Neal, Mara Gay, Daniella Gibbs Leger�

Summary:

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis faces a scandal over vaccine

favoritism towards the rich. Security at the Capitol Building is tightened

once again. Republicans ramp up voter suppression efforts. The House passes

the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

Transcripts:

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER, the Meth to my Redman,

starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

(LAUGHTER)

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Well, Jason, I didn`t know you were going to say

that, but how high?

JOHNSON: So high, I can reach the sky.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: There it is. Let`s all reach the sky together and be happy

together. I mean that in the sense of flying, moving on forward to good

things.

JOHNSON: Completely. Completely.

MELBER: Jason, nice to see you in the chair.

One hundred.

JOHNSON: Thanks, Ari .

MELBER: I want to welcome everyone -- thank you, sir -- welcome everyone to

THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.

And it`s always good to see our colleagues in different chairs around the

building.

We are also tracking a lot of stories for you tonight. Senate progress and

the big COVID bill. That`s happening now. A new Republican scandal on

vaccine line-jumping. The one and only James Carville joining us next on

the program. I`m looking forward to that. I hope you too.

We`re also going to go out to Texas to hear from local leaders speaking out

tonight over a battle that stretched from Dallas all the way to the Biden

White House.

But we begin with the more somber scene in Washington, where Congress

remains on high alert over these intelligence threats. Capitol Police are

now formally asking the National Guard to stay there for two more months in

response to new threats of MAGA-style attacks.

As the Democratic majority says they take this extremely seriously, they`re

emphasizing they`re also continuing the work of government, fast-tracking

the COVID relief bill on party lines when needed, which includes Vice

President Harris casting another tiebreaking note. Republicans are

deploying a fairly minor delay tactic to add about a day to the debate.

So, we want to get into all of this, plus those other stories.

We begin with Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post,"

Gene Robinson, Daniella Gibbs Leger from the Center for American Progress,

co-host of "The Tent" podcast, and Mara Gay from "The New York Times"

editorial board.

Good to see everyone.

Gene, I begin with the scene in the city you know well, but under different

terms, taking these security threats very seriously, while still marching

forward on the big COVID package. Your thoughts.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, just from a

practical sense, it is very difficult to go anywhere around the Capitol

Hill area right now because of all the fencing topped with all the

concertina wire.

It really is a feeling that I have never seen in Washington in all my years

here. It`s different. And so the obvious question is, how long does this

last? Nobody wants this to be permanent. I mean, this can`t be permanent,

because there are necessary streets that are literally blocked off. You

just -- there are times when you just can`t get there from here. And that`s

just not tenable.

But nobody wants the Capitol looking like this. Yet what is the date

certain when the MAGA fringe and the QAnon lunatics no longer are crazy? I

mean, when do you reach the point when you have confidence that they`re not

going to do something idiotic?

I don`t know when that is, but we`re going have to figure that out, because

this is not a sustainable situation in the long term.

MELBER: Daniella, also is a Washington denizen, has that been your

experience? What are your thoughts?

DANIELLA GIBBS LEGER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes, you know, our

office sent a note to our staff telling them not to come to the office

today if they were planning to, to stay away from the Hill, to make sure

they listen to the local law enforcement.

And it`s not the first time we have had to send that message. And it really

is disheartening that we live in this moment. But, like Gene says, this

can`t be our everyday existence for -- in perpetuity. So, at some point,

we`re going have to figure out how to deal with this threat. It`s no longer

a surprise. So we have to figure out how we can open back up the Capitol,

how we can do the people`s business, but make sure that lawmakers and staff

members are safe.

We`re going have to figure out what this balance is. But keeping the

Capitol and blocks around it locked down is not an option.

MELBER: Yes, I appreciate both you saying that. And that`s straight talk.

We`re talking about the looming threat of politicized violence, and how do

you disentangle from that?

This also may be -- and I mean no disrespect, Gene, because we know the

high respect that we and the viewers hold you in.

ROBINSON: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: But this also may be one of the only times I have heard you and

Josh Hawley sound the same. The difference is, I know that you mean it

earnestly.

And what I`m about to show viewers goes to why I`m not sure that he does,

which is a big difference.

So, look, our panel is going to stay. Let me explain this. We`re going get

to Mara.

But here is the deal. Everybody knows some Republicans encouraged parts of

the Stop the Steal rally. Republican Senator Hawley held up his fist in

solidarity with the crowd that would breach his own workplace. He was the

first senator to answer Trump`s call to try to overthrow Biden`s win.

But politicians like Hawley, they could respond to all this by just

responding the violence and supporting measures to prevent this from

happening again. Some Republican leaders have done that. Others are not

doing that. Instead, as I`m just discussing with our panel, they are

questioning or critiquing the various security measures taken in direct

response to that deadly attack in January.

It`s an approach Tucker Carlson has been pushing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Those 26,000 federal troops are not there for

your safety. The Democratic Party is using those troops to send the rest of

us a message about power.

We`re clearly living under some form of martial law at the moment. How do

we know that? Well, here`s one indication. There are nearly 10,000 federal

troops in our capital city tonight. Ooh, that`s a hint.

Why are they there? So, say something a Democratic governor doesn`t like

and he will send troops. Does that sound like the country you grew up in?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Why are they there? Because the Capitol was breached for the first

time since 1812. Because people were killed. Because intelligence shows

ongoing threats. That`s why.

But now Senator Hawley is sounding a lot like that FOX host, making the

same argument on FOX.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): I think the idea of keeping them there

indefinitely and keeping a barbed-wire fence around the Capitol

indefinitely is crazy. I mean, this is the people`s house. It should be

open to the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: As an emergency measure, the barbed wire is not to keep out the

people. Fact-check. It`s to keep out the rioters indicted for a conspiracy

to overthrow the government by force.

With those facts in mind, our panel is with us.

I`m going to go Gene and then Mara, since your name was invoked, as they

say in Washington, Gene. You two sound similar. You two sound similar, but,

as I mentioned, only slightly risibly, there are some important

differences.

Your thought on this weird, disingenuous talking point?

ROBINSON: Well, it is hard to believe that anything that Josh Hawley says

is sincere and it`s not designed to further his political ambitions. So,

enough about that.

What he just said, that sound bite that we played, could have been word for

word from Mayor Muriel Bowser of the District of Columbia, because, again,

nobody wants this to continue, to stay a permanent fixture in the Capitol.

But it has to be there now because of these ongoing threats.

And rational people realize those two things, that the security measures

have to be there right now, but they can`t be there forever. We`re going to

have to find other ways of making sure that the Capitol Complex is safe.

Already some of the fencing in the vicinity of the White House is coming

down. There was a lot over there too. You know, we will figure it out. And

I hope we figure it out on -- with a bias toward as much openness as

possible, because it is the people`s house, and that`s very important.

That`s very important to us who live here. That`s very important to the

country.

MELBER: Mara?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, I can`t help

but think about New York City after September 11 and the attacks, because

in the months and even years afterward -- I live here in New York. I was in

high school at the time.

There was an initial very, very serious military presence and then

paramilitary presence essentially, with the New York Police Department. We

have had counterterrorism squads. It was very intense. And it was also

really disheartening, because this is a city that`s very vibrant, and we

really didn`t want to accept changing our lives in that way.

It made us feel like the terrorists were winning in some sense. So what

happened over time is, as we understood better how to confront these

threat, not just with sheer force, right, but with diplomacy and things

that worked well and things that didn`t work well, we kind of understood

more about the nature of the threat, and we could open ourselves back up

again in a smart, intelligent way, while still keeping security where we

needed it.

It hasn`t been perfect, but surely we have not seen anything like September

11, thank God, since that day. And so I just think that`s -- it`s not a

perfect model, but it is a way forward. And I do think it`s important that

we really make sure that the Capitol is open, that Congress is doing the

people`s business.

But I also want to say that there is something particularly despicable

about what Hawley and others are saying, because it`s not just that they`re

lying to the American people and they`re telling us something wasn`t

important or significant that we saw with our own eyes, but they`re really

completely denigrating the memory of people who died that day, and also

telling us that there is no threat, when we know for sure, for certain that

there were members of Congress and others, staff, journalists, police

officers, who were in fear of their lives that day for simply doing the

people`s work.

So, I really don`t think that`s forgivable, and there`s certainly -- it`s

amazing to see them saying that there is no threat, while, at the same

time, stoking the fire of those like members of QAnon who are essentially

just traitors at this point.

Anybody who stormed that Capitol is a traitor. So, that`s what -- that`s

who they`re siding with, instead of people who are duly elected by the

American people. So, I think the entire narrative around this is just the

apex of the lies that Donald Trump has been telling for years.

And it`s really taken a dangerous turn. So, I hope that we see more

responsible actors stand up, but, for now, I think it`s unfortunate, but

the Capitol needs to be secure.

MELBER: Yes.

And with regard to the role of the co-equal branch of government to

participate responsibly and policy to keep it secure, it`s for the courts

to figure out what incitement is or isn`t, but if you`re tight with the

arsonists and you make common cause with the arsonists and you hoist your

fist up to the arsonists, and then you go running around, use your power to

say, what`s up with all the firefighters, we don`t need firefighters around

here, you sound like someone that wants the fire to keep burning.

That`s the problem. And, as a lawyer, I can say, OK, that doesn`t mean that

you are technically indictable. That`s a very different standard, and we

don`t -- we`re not holding a trial here tonight, but, boy, do you look bad

and guilty when you say, get these firefighters out of here. It`s really

concerning, which is why we wanted to put a light on it.

I want to thank Mara, Gene for the thoughtful comments. Daniella...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: One thing.

MELBER: Yes, sir, go ahead.

ROBINSON: Could I put out just one thing?

Josh Hawley could advance his cause. If he wants the security to come down,

he could come out tomorrow and say, Joe Biden won a fair and free election,

and the big lie was a big lie, and I was a big participant in it. And I

shouldn`t have done that. And you people should go home, because this is

all a lie.

Then maybe I would take somewhat seriously something he said.

MELBER: Yes. No, I appreciate you saying that, because that goes to

something we used to talk about, as Mara was saying, in the post-9/11

context, which is radicalization and being clear with your platform and

your responsibility, so you don`t give people the wrong information or lies

or hate that can stoke other problems.

I want to thank, as I was mentioning, Gene and Mara for helping kick us

off.

I`m asking Daniella to stay right now, because, Daniella, I want to get to

one more related development that I felt we had to get to tonight, the

instantly infamous image related to this conversation of MAGA rioter

Richard Barnett, who came armed with a stun gun into the Capitol, breached

the speaker`s office, with his feet up on her desk.

He has been in jail shins was indicted for what you see here, awaiting

trial, which is how the United States court system treats people deemed

legally dangerous or a flight risk, or both.

Well, defendant Barnett was back in court today, and he doesn`t like this

process. Indeed, he erupted into anger after a judge assigned his next

court appearance to be in May, meaning he will in all likelihood remain

incarcerated until then, yelling at the judge it`s -- quote -- "not fair"

that he is in jail weeks after his arrest.

Daniella, I wanted to give you a chance to weigh in on Mr. Barnett`s

concern that his pretrial incarceration is not -- quote -- "fair."

GIBBS LEGER: Well, cry me a river is my initial, perhaps not very mature

response to what he has to say.

Does he have a point about our criminal justice system and the way we treat

people who have been charged with a crime, but who haven`t been convicted?

Look, there are a whole bunch of issues how long people stay in jail,

access to bail, all of that, like legitimate concerns that people have been

working on for decades.

I find it very hard to find sympathy for this particular individual, who is

subject to the same criminal justice system that everybody else is dealing

with at the moment. So, no, I don`t feel sorry for him that he has to sit

in jail for a couple of months until his next hearing comes, because that`s

what everybody at the moment has to do, and he doesn`t get special

treatment.

And I wonder why he thinks he deserves special treatment.

MELBER: Why does he think he deserves special treatment?

And, as you mentioned and we have covered, there are many problems with

pretrial detention, particularly for people who are simply too poor to get

representation. Pretrial detention for people facing serious allegations of

terror-related crime who went armed into a government building, they, under

the categories, look a lot more warranted, because he was dangerous.

He took a stun gun into the speaker`s office. A lot of people are lucky

that he didn`t use it. So it`s really striking and I think rich, to say the

least, as you mention as well.

We did want to get that in there.

Daniella Gibbs Leger, thank you for being here.

GIBBS LEGER: Thank you.

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

Coming up, a new scandal for a big Trump ally in Florida. James Carville

back on THE BEAT live in 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: While President Biden builds on momentum for his COVID bill and

winning over most Republican voters, the GOP is eying presidential nominees

who can excel, if Trump does not run, by still being Trumpy enough.

To paraphrase Da Brat, the Republican Party is so Trumpified, that its

rising stars are trying to get Trumpy, whether the shoe fits or not, which

brings us to a scandal hitting a Florida Republican who has been acting

very Trumpy, Governor Ron DeSantis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump endorsed DeSantis. We then saw him take

a double-digit lead.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A friend of mine who

has become very, very popular -- I guess that`s what that big applause was

-- your Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: One of the most popular governors anywhere in the country. He is a

champ. He is a winner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The governor who deserves the people`s choice award.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The governor is having a political moment in the sun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: But the sun can be hot. That`s the case with these new and somewhat

damning allegations that DeSantis is playing politics with life-and-death

vaccines.

"The Miami Herald" reporting on a possible bout of special vaccine

treatment for a wealthy Florida Keys enclave that`s filled with Republican

donors who got vaccines in January. That`s even far before not only most

Florida residents, but even health care workers.

Somehow, 17 DeSantis donors there got special vaccine access. It includes

high-rollers who gave him $5,000 each at the end of 2020, plus evidence

that a well-connected former Republican governor of Illinois forked over

$250,000 to DeSantis` political committee in February.

A top Democrat now calling for the FBI to investigate. Critics say this

looks like the worst kind of bribery with lives on the line.

Any hint of policy misconduct handling COVID is a big deal, as we have

reported in the case of Andrew Cuomo`s COVID nursing home scandal, or, as

the evidence may show, in these questions facing a Republican, DeSantis.

Now, for his part, he denies taking any action regarding this entire

situation. He says he was not involved with regard to where those vaccines

went -- quote -- "in any way, shape, or form."

But, boy, the spotlight is on DeSantis, light, as well as heat, someone who

has been touted by right-wing pundits as a rising star, and he has been, of

course, mentioned as a potential presidential candidate.

We`re joined now by James Carville, a veteran of presidential campaigns,

Bill Clinton`s lead campaign strategist, and, if I may, if I may, a friend

of THE BEAT.

How are you, sir?

(LAUGHTER)

JAMES CARVILLE, MSNBC ANALYST: I`m mutual -- the feeling is mutual, a

friend of THE BEAT. I`m fine.

On the DeSantis thing favoring wealthy people getting the vaccine, no one`s

surprised. They want the tax code to favor wealthy people. They want the

entire system to be rigged in favor of wealthy people. So, why wouldn`t

someone try to rig the vaccine to be in favor of wealthy people?

It is totally consistent with modern Republican philosophy that wealthy

people get to cut in line, because the fact that they`re wealthy makes them

virtuous themselves. That`s even a whole branch of Protestantism, where you

-- the fact that you`re wealthy means that God loves you.

And God must surely want wealthy white people to be first in line to get

the vaccine. I mean, it makes total sense, if you think like that, doesn`t

it?

MELBER: Yes.

As you say, they`re publicly on the record about that approach for the tax

code and other things. Politically, James, as I mentioned, this kind of

stuff is a big deal because it matters, as it should.

Politically, it seems that this -- these allegations hurt him more than

just, say, trying the get taxes to benefit that wealthy community, though.

CARVILLE: Well, I think there is all the difference in the world.

I`m being slightly sarcastic here. There is a difference between paying

taxes and getting the vaccine.

But I am not surprised that the system is rigged in Florida to favor

wealthy people. I think it is a basic instinct of people like Ron DeSantis

to say, well -- I`m surprised he didn`t say, of course I did. Everything

that I do in my administration is to serve wealthy people.

And you can see that in public policy time and time and time again. And if

you look at all these voting rights cases, they`re not trying to stop

wealthy people from voting. They`re trying to stop middle- and lower-

middle-class people, African-American people, Hispanic people, immigrants,

anything else. That`s who they`re trying to stop from voting.

You can -- if you live in Buckhead, you can vote, vote early, vote often,

have it at it, 500 voting machines for every 1,000 voters. And I think

people are going to start waking up to this that the system is rigged in

favor of people who already have it made and it`s rigged against the people

that are trying to make it.

MELBER: Yes.

CARVILLE: And I`m not surprised that this -- that we`re having this thing

with the vaccine. I`m not at all surprised.

The only thing that kind of surprised me more is, we haven`t had more of

it. I that suspect we`re going uncover a lot more before we`re done. I

really do.

MELBER: Yes, that`s a fair point.

You have been around the block. People know that, and you`re making the

point that, particularly when you look at the temptation, when you look at

the mind-set, and when you look at potentially corruption, as I have

reported, DeSantis denying it fully. So, it will play out. If he can summon

the evidence that he wasn`t involved, we will see what comes.

You mentioned voting rights, James, which I know you`re passionate about.

And this is another piece of news we wanted to get to, a lot going on, the

House passing this key bill. Speaker Pelosi said it was her first priority.

It`s literally bill H.R.1. Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two major Democratic priorities that were both passed

last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yeas are 220 and the nays are 210. The bill is

passed.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This legislation is there to protect the right to

vote, to remove obstacles of participation, H.R.1, For the People.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: James, sometimes, the politicians sell things as big that are

medium or small. This is not one of those times. This thing does automatic

voter reg. We don`t have that nationally. It deals with the formerly

incarcerated and those issues. It would expand early voting, which we have

seen is a key aspect, it was key in the pandemic, and does some

modernization.

And those are just a few highlights. Your thoughts on this sweeping bill

now passing the House?

CARVILLE: I think it`s the most significant and important piece of

legislation that I can remember.

It`s in the tradition of the 15th Amendment and the 19th Amendment. And the

effects of this, of course, you have a lawyer telling the Supreme Court, if

you let everybody vote, the Democrats are going to win every election.

You have -- you can go on record and find any number of Republican

politicians, lawyers, commentators saying, of course everybody can`t vote.

We wouldn`t win any elections.

And somebody that was born in Georgia and lived in Louisiana, the right to

vote, particularly among black people, particularly in the South, is so

ingrained, you cannot believe it. And what they`re going to do, if they

pass the stuff they`re talking about in Georgia, I promise you, Ari, this

is not going end well.

People are not going to take this. They`re not going to work and they`re

not going to have Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. and John

Lewis, and then have a successful election, and then have somebody say, oh,

no, no, that`s not what we`re going to do. We`re going to make it where you

can`t be successful anymore.

If John Roberts thinks that that is -- Shelby County v. Holder, which is --

that`s up there -- that was a really horrific Supreme Court ruling. And I

got news. These people live in an ivory tower. They do not understand

remotely what the right to vote -- you and I, we take it for granted,

because, really, no one`s ever tried to stop us or our parents or

grandparents from voting.

Black people take that a lot different than we do, a lot different. They

have a very different view, and they view it as a gained right with their

blood and their history, and they`re not going let it go easily. I promise

you that.

I know sometimes you say white people shouldn`t say what black people are

thinking. This is one white person going to say, black people think the

right to vote is a hard-earned, glorious right that they`re not prepared to

give up.

I will go ahead and say that and I will take the heat for saying it.

MELBER: You look at this. James, you just made the point that a Republican

admitted in the Supreme Court this week -- and if it flew by people, it`s

worth underscoring.

A Republican lawyer said, they want to change the rules, so fewer people

can vote. Otherwise, Democrats will win elections.

CARVILLE: Right.

MELBER: How big is this as the fault line of the future of American

politics, if you have the growing thinking in the party -- it`s not my job

to say everybody, but someone did say it under oath at the Supreme Court --

is, they got to find ways to cheat because they can`t win if there`s just

normal participation?

CARVILLE: Well, not only that.

Why didn`t some Supreme Court justice say, wait, wait, counsel, let me get

this straight? You`re saying that if we enforce the 15th and the 19th

Amendment and we enforce the 14th Amendment for equal protection, all

right, and you`re saying, if we did that, we shouldn`t do it because it

would force an outcome to an election that you don`t like?

Are you really making this argument before the United States Supreme Court?

Really? If you think of it, the right to vote is very popular, all right?

In Florida -- we talk a lot about Florida. In 2018, 60 percent of

Floridians thought that convicted felons who had served their times should

have the right to vote.

What the heck do you think people think about a waitress in the Waffle

House not having the right the vote? I mean, what do you think people think

of a baggage handler at Atlanta Airport not having the right to vote?

I mean, this is -- the Democrats have got to really frame this argument a

lot better and a lot clearer, because if we don`t, and these state

legislatures go through this, and the Supreme Court goes through with this,

I`m really afraid we`re going have a terrible outcome in this country.

MELBER: Yes. Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: People are just not -- they`re not going to be happy.

This is an entirely different thing to a population in America. This is a

hard-earned, much-fought-for, difficult right that has been acquired, and

they`re not going give it up easily, nor will people like you and I be very

happy about it either, to be very frank about it.

This is a very dangerous -- and, of course, the lawyers admit it. Trump has

said it before. Any good researcher can come up with example after example.

And they have to...

MELBER: Yes.

CARVILLE: They have to limit the franchise, because it is the only way that

they can win elections. And we have got to be very clear about making that

point clear.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Yes. And we`re staying on it in terms of facts and evidence out

there, and it`s a story with both elements, because you have the House

making this progress.

We will see what happens in the Senate on that bill, because it could go

all the way to the president`s desk, and then you have the state level.

James Carville, as always, thank you for being here on THE BEAT, sir.

I`m going fit in a break.

But still ahead, the new battle line over masks stretching from Washington

all the way down to Texas, the governor under fire. We`re going go right

into Texas, including where some people are speaking out about the concern

the government doesn`t have their back anymore.

A special interview -- after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: A fight exploding in Texas over masks ballooning into a national

story, new pressure on Governor Greg Abbott there. He rescinded the mask

mandate in the state.

But there is a 27 percent spike of COVID cases and confirmation of

something we`re all worried about in many places, new COVID variants. While

you`re at it, if you`re looking at this from a policy level, Texas has one

of the lowest vaccination rates from the country.

Today, Governor Abbott is blaming -- well, take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): The Biden administration has been releasing

immigrants in South Texas that has been exposing Texans to COVID. The Biden

administration must stop importing COVID into our country. That is a

Neanderthal-type of approach to dealing with the COVID situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: This is what the spat now looks like, the governor taking a shot at

the president, Joe Biden, obviously. He also is using a quote there you may

have heard about, Neanderthal.

Health official says it is too soon for a full reopening, and it`s too soon

to stop masking around others. So, that`s just the medical facts.

Here is Dr. Fauci today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: My strong advice to them, Joe, would be

to actually continue to implement the public health measures. Now is not

the time to pull back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, views in Texas on the ground are varied. Some are eager to

reopen fully and take informed risks. Other business owners, though -- and

this is important to note -- say that having the state government back down

now feels like it doesn`t have their back, putting them and their workers

in the firing line.

Joining me now is a small business owner, Olivia Guerra O`Neal, owner of

Sugar Mama`s Bakeshop and Lola`s Donuts shop in Austin, Texas.

And you can see she has some signs up right there, "Masks required for

entry," as local policy. We`re also joined by infectious disease physician

and MSNBC contributor Dr. Nahid Bhadelia.

Good to have you.

Doctor, we always want to be factual, so we gave that summary.

People can disagree about certain things, but your view of what Dr. Fauci

and others are getting at about when it would be time for state like Texas

to pull back?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Ari, to me, it just

seems like we know at this point in a pandemic there`s a big difference

between a complete lockdown and public health measures like masking, like

distancing, and ensuring that we keep indoor capacity down, right, things

that protect us, because the virus is still out there.

And, as you said, the variants are threatening to sort of undo all the good

that has happened over the last couple of months. And look at the position

we`re in right now, where the Biden administration has said, by May, we

will have enough vaccines for all adults. We made big moves in the fact we

have vaccinated 50 percent of all people over 65.

But here`s the flip side. The variants are growing in numbers. We have 48

states that have it. And other 50 percent of people over 65 are still

unvaccinated, as are most people who have medical conditions.

The concern that I have is that we`re so close to that potential and silver

lining where more and more of us are protected. And if we open up without

that protection -- I want to quote this study from California that just

came out. What happens when you open up in a pandemic? Who gets the most

excess deaths, occupation wise?

Sixty percent increasing access mortality among Latino agricultural workers

and food workers, 40 percent increase mortality among black retail workers,

and 40 percent in Asian health care workers.

So, those are the folks that sort of bear the brunt when we open up and we

don`t have any measures in place.

MELBER: As you often do, you set the table really, really insightfully,

because this isn`t just neutral. This isn`t just stuff that is happening. I

appreciate that.

I suppose we should start, Olivia, by saying thank you to you, your worker,

your team and anyone else watching around America who does the kind of work

that, as the doctor reminded us, does mean extra exposure, to say nothing

of whether or not you`re getting fully supported.

So, thank you. And share with us your thoughts and experiences about how

this is playing out in Texas.

OLIVIA GUERRA O`NEAL, OWNER, SUGAR MAMA`S BAKESHOP: Well, thanks for having

me on.

And you starting with a thank you brings up a really interesting point to

me, that, oftentimes, hospitality front-line workers, we have been praised

throughout the pandemic because we`re bringing people their groceries and

we`re bringing people their meals. But we`re also the first people to be

sacrificed in this pandemic.

And we`re put at the front lines, with very little to no support, from

financial support. From the state of Texas, we haven`t seen anything. There

has been little to no outreach. All of the work that`s being done to

support the service industry and the hospitality industry, we`re supporting

each other.

And so to have that complete lack of support from the beginning of the

pandemic and now reopening Texas with a no mask policy, which is, as you

said earlier, putting our staff in the line of fire, people don`t just

decide to not patronize businesses where they have to wear the mask. If

they don`t want to wear a mask, they antagonize those businesses.

They bully those businesses, and they try to blacklist those businesses,

instead of simply taking their business elsewhere. And that has me

terrified for my staff and myself and my family.

MELBER: When you hear the Texas governor and his allies say, hey, we`re

adding liberty and choice, we`re just removing a requirement, but any

establishment in any place can still have its own rule, as we showed on

your door you do, what`s your response to that defense?

GUERRA O`NEAL: My response to that is, where have you been this entire

time, Governor Abbott? You haven`t done anything to support us.

We have been reaching out and begging and asking for help to survive this

pandemic, and you have not been here to help us. And now you are not

listening to our pleas. You are not listening to our concerns, and you`re

telling us that we don`t matter and that small business in Texas doesn`t

matter.

MELBER: Doctor?

BHADELIA: Yes, and I think that have always done this, right?

Look, we started off on the wrong foot on Memorial Day last year, almost a

year ago, and we have been playing this game where we let down the guard

before we have all the things in place to address the threat. Then we have

this peak of cases and deaths. So, we go around trying to put all our

resources into controlling that peak, going back into public health

restrictions, only to get back to a point where now we`re finally at a

point where we have the tools.

And we`re going to make the mistake just as we`re about to cover the

population with that immunity. And so it just seems like an exercise in

futility to me.

MELBER: Yes.

GUERRA O`NEAL: I would also like to add...

MELBER: And finally, Olivia -- go ahead.

GUERRA O`NEAL: Oh, I`d like to add that opening up the hospitality industry

in Texas, one would think that giving us vaccines and making us part of

that preferred group would be a way that Governor Abbott would help us and

be proactive.

And the Texas Food and Wine Alliance, which is a nonprofit group, boots on

the ground, they are the ones who are working with a local pharmacy to try

to get hospitality workers vaccinated, with the Texas Restaurant

Association.

So, we truly do not have not just the support, but the infrastructure from

the state, where, again, we are doing this ourselves as a community. And

that`s hard.

MELBER: Understood.

I`m really glad to hear your perspective. We have been talking to business

owners at times throughout all of this, for the reasons stated.

Olivia, I would be remiss if I didn`t ask you, in closing, what is the

highest-selling type of donut in your establishment?

GUERRA O`NEAL: Oh, gosh.

I would say one of our jelly-filled donuts. But you have to wear a mask to

get your hands on one of those.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: You have got to wear a mask.

Dr. Bhadelia, jelly being, I`m told, equivalent to an apple in terms of

health, jelly donut fine, right?

GUERRA O`NEAL: Absolutely.

BHADELIA: Only for the next 30 seconds. After that, it goes back to being

more unhealthy.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: OK. All right.

Well, look, I -- Olivia, we reached out to you because of the work you`re

doing. But when I saw the donut shop, I thought, I love a good maple bar,

which I always feel gives you extra donut, the long one. It`s kind of hike

having two donuts, but you only have to order one.

But, again, that`s personal.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: Olivia Guerra O`Neal and Dr. Bhadelia, thank you both for all

aspects of the conversation.

I will tell you, we have a lot more in the program, including an important

story we have been following from the beginning. But this is an NBC

exclusive, George Floyd`s brother now speaking out. This is days ahead of

the murder trial for the former officer who took Floyd`s life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: We`re proud of this legislation. It will not erase centuries of

systemic racism and excessive policing, and it will not bring back George

Floyd, but it will take a tremendous step forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Speaker Pelosi on the House passing the police reform bill named in

honor of George Floyd.

This bill would ban the neck restraints that have proven so controversial,

federal no-knock drug warrants. It would also reform immunity for police

officers, something you may have noticed we have been reporting on here

because it`s a crucial part of accountability.

Meanwhile, when it comes to criminal accountability, the trial for the

officer indicted for murdering Floyd, Derek Chauvin, begins Monday.

Now there are the calls for reforms. But we should note police violence

remains well-documented on the same rate, you see the blue line there, in

`21, following the same rate of shootings as prior years, and far higher

than most comparable countries.

We`re joined now by Brittany Packnett Cunningham, an activist on police

reform. She also served on President Obama`s Policing Task Force.

Your thoughts about both the accountability that we mentioned. The very

fact that Officer Chavez is on trial is a rarity fact in American life. The

passage of this bill is a rarity, because police groups largely had

protested to some of its ingredients, and yet the line we show there is a

sad reality that not much is changing day to day yet.

BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I will tell you, something

that I was glad to see among the many first steps in this bill that were

necessary was an end to qualified immunity.

I`m glad that that did not get erased from the conversation, because what

that is, is an inclination to allow police to exist above the rest of us,

to allow them to live above the law and to live above the normal

expectations that everyday citizens have on all of us all the time.

The fact of the matter is, though, that I would very much like to not have

a reason to hold police accountable because they are not killing us.

MELBER: Right.

PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: So, as you have rightfully said, accountability is

only half of the conversation. There have been some important first steps

in this bill.

I`m hopeful that the Senate will actually make moves to consider this, but

I`m really hoping to see, even more than this, a mind-set shift. We talk

about reform a lot. We like that word.

But I maintain that you reform things that are broken. You replace and

transform systems that are causing harm exactly as they were designed to.

You cannot disconnect modern American policing from slave patrols, from

racial caste systems, and from systems of white supremacy.

Therefore, reform efforts will always fall short. Shifting our paradigm

from reform to transformation, a full reimagining of public safety, and

actually replacing the systems that harm us, that is where we need to go

next.

MELBER: You just said something, Brittany that is very fundamental, so I

just want to underscore it, that the goal is not having working systems

that allow you to sue police for unlawful killings.

The goal is to stop unlawful killings. And while that sounds

straightforward, the discussion around immunity and other accountability

measures are to change the conduct out on the street, not to have an after-

action plan.

And so Mr. Floyd`s case, his killing hangs over all of this. He is named in

the bill, as you know, as reported.

And, as promised to viewers, I want to play briefly his brother speaking

out. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: He had his soul taken from him

right there on the spot. Blood was coming from his nose, and the officer

still sat there on his neck like it was OK.

It`s never OK to hurt somebody like that. We shouldn`t have to go to court

for anything like this. We shouldn`t have to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We shouldn`t -- we shouldn`t have to go to court. We shouldn`t have

to have all this political debate, because it shouldn`t happen in the first

place, Brittany.

PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: That`s right.

My friend and brilliant activist lawyer Derecka Purnell wrote something

brilliant in "The Guardian" today about this case, about this bill. The

fact of the matter is, this bill bans choke holds, but a choke hold didn`t

kill George Floyd.

There was a knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. And the fact

of the matter is, that is not the only tactic that police often employ to

kill people, mostly black, brown and indigenous.

When they have that many tactics to kill us, the only way to solve this

issue is to severely limit contact. The only way to limit contact is to

shrink the role of police in society. The only way to shrink the role of

police in society is to actually take money from those bloated budgets and

invest that money back into building strong and safe communities from the

inside out.

And I will happily be a broken record on this until we don`t have to sing

that song anymore.

MELBER: Brittany gets the last word on this tonight.

And we will be keeping up with you as one of our experts. Thank you.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back.

Boy, have we covered some serious stuff, because there`s a lot of serious

stuff going on.

But we do have a little bit of lighter news about the infamous golden Trump

idol from the conservative conference that was making the rounds.

MAGA fans say they love it. People were taking selfies. Some people were

talking about buying their own mini-versions of the idol, but a new

revelation about the golden statue that you may need to know.

For the America first crowd, well, it was actually made in China, a

business partner of the statue`s artist saying, "Everything is made in

China," which may be just a bit off-message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: From this day forward, it`s going to be only America first.

I will always put America first.

America first.

Make America great again.

Finally putting America first.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: That does it for THE BEAT. I will see you again at 6:00 p.m.

Eastern tomorrow.

But if you want to have more discussion about this donut issue that came up

in tonight`s program, including what is the ideal donut to get when you`re

on the go -- I was voting for maple -- you can engage with us about this

important issue @AriMelber on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

I promise to reply to some donut messages.

"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

END

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