IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 3/5/21

Guest: Bill Kristol, Katty Kay, William Barber, Emily Bazelon, Ezinma, Brittney Cooper


Reverend William Barber discusses Republican voter suppression

efforts. American Violinist Ezinma speaks out. Democrats haggle internally

over key provisions in the COVID-19 relief bill. New calls emerge to

investigate a key Trump ally, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for a vaccine

bribery scheme. LeBron James makes a new voting push. A Trump official is

arrested for storming the Capitol while he was working with a secret

security clearance for the Trump administration.


JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: TO BEAT, where I`m the rapper, he`s the deejay,

with Ari Melber, starts right now.

Hi, Ari.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: You get me every night.

Last night, the deejay saved my life. And that deejay was you, Jason.

JOHNSON: Thank you very much. I`m on the wheels of steel all the time.


MELBER: Thank you.

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

And, right now, there are basically two big things happening on the Senate

floor. It`s been a day of twists and turns. And one thing has become clear.

It looks like they are still on pace for a big and inevitable win for

President Biden on the $2 trillion COVID relief bill.

They still have the 50 votes for the overall package, with Vice President

Harris on board to break any ties. And yet, at the same time, the scene you

see here, with many empty chairs, is a bit of an impasse over one key issue

within the giant bill, and that is unemployment insurance, Democrat Joe

Manchin holding out on alternative proposal.

And we have more on that coming up tonight.

Meanwhile, Republican senators have been trying to do some other things

that show how narrow their options are, minor delay tactics. They haven`t

found a clear message against the whole bill, and some of the numbers may

show why.

Donald Trump never passed 49 percent approval in his entire time in office,

but Biden`s overall approval rating has now surged to 60 percent. That`s 11

points higher than Trump ever got in his whole presidency. And Biden`s

approval for handling COVID-19 is up to 70 percent, and that includes

almost half of Republicans, 44 percent of them.

And then there is the most striking number of all, and this may explain why

so much of what you`re seeing tonight has an inevitable conclusion. It`s

that 76 percent of Americans back the COVID bill, including 59 percent of


In that sense, Biden has been cornering McConnell and any Senate opponents

by pulling most of their base out from under them on this issue and going

towards Biden`s COVID plan, towards what you saw on the Senate floor.

So, here are the numbers that explain at least this week in America, the 60

percent approval for Biden overall smashing Trump`s four-year record, and

the 59 percent of Republicans around the whole country who support this

bill from Joe Biden in the main.

There are signs that the public is basically happy at least with how Biden

has begun the presidency, supportive of his focus on COVID and economic

relief. And it doesn`t hurt that we have news on the economy ticking up,

379,000 new jobs, but the U.S. is still down over nine million jobs

compared to one year ago today, when, in early March, you remember,

Democrats hadn`t even settled on Biden as their nominee, and COVID was just

first hitting some parts of America.

Well, now, today, Biden is arguing this bill is crucial to not only

protecting the nation but getting back to those very job levels and then




believe, and according to the polling data, the vast majority of Americans

believe is essential to giving them some help. That isn`t some academic

discussion. It`s about you.


MELBER: Yes, that`s where we are.

You have the scene on the Senate floor, where Democrats are fighting for

this key plank that they say is important to the country and to their

progressive priorities, the unemployment checks to remain through August.

Now, Democrats are also figuring out, amidst these skirmishes, when they`re

united, who runs the Senate? Well, the Biden administration, with Vice

President Harris in charge.

But if they lose even one vote, suddenly, there is a different Senate

leader, and sometimes, on some issues, it`s shaping up to be Senator


I want to bring in our expert panel here.

Kicking off a Friday night is Bill Kristol, the director of Defending

Democracy Together, Brittney Cooper, professor with Rutgers University, and

Katty Kay, BBC News anchor in Washington. She is also the author of "Living

the Confidence Code: Real Girls, Real Stories, Real Confidence."

Katty, this is one of the times moving the bill forward, with a lot of

Republicans backing the bill, and yet the daily story in Washington has

been a lot of skirmishing in the Senate.

Your thoughts?

KATTY KAY, BBC NEWS: Yes, you`re bound to have skirmishing because you have

got some Democrats even who are going to raise concerns, because they --

perhaps because they come from states where some of the provisions in the

bill are not going keep them very popular, perhaps because it`s the size of

the bill overall that is not going to be particularly popular in some of

the more conservative states that they come from.

And then, of course, you have got the Republicans as well. But you`re right

on the trajectory. And the trajectory is because of the numbers you showed

at the top of this. This bill is very popular. Joe Biden`s handling of the

pandemic so far is popular as well.

What did Joe Biden need do to get political wins? He needed competent

government. So far, he appears to be delivering for people competent

government. The number of vaccines is going up. The number of cases has

been declining. That is all -- that gives him then leverage to do these

other things as well, because it makes him popular.

If you`re Manchin or you`re Sinema, you`re going to think twice before

voting against him.


And, Bill, when you see the party that you used to be so involved in, in a

Republican White House that obviously has been polarized in ways you have

been studying and telling us about, when you see 59 percent go for the

Biden bill, he`s getting there, and he is doing it without even tweeting

like a maniac.


it because he is not tweeting like a maniac maybe.

No, it`s impressive. Biden doesn`t get as much respect as he deserves in

some way. People -- he is the president we have after Trump, and there is

not a lot of crazy tweeting, and somehow this stuff is all happening.

But if you said to a political scientist, he is going to win a pretty

narrow election victory, he is going have to 50-50 Senate, a tiny margin in

the House. This is not Reagan coming in with 12 Republican senators in

1980. It`s not FDR with 2-1 margins in both houses of Congress.

It`s not even President Obama with, what, 59 senators and a big margin in

the House. And Biden is getting his big legislative priority through in a

pretty big way, honestly. Progressives are unhappy about little medium size


But, basically, this is -- if you had said six months ago $1.9 trillion,

with everything from money for unemployment, money for small businesses,

money for vaccines and testing, and a giant child tax credit that will

reduce child poverty in this country by 40 percent or something like that,

that`s pretty impressive.

And then you add the success, apparently, on the vaccines. And so he`s had

a good first, what is it, 44 days or something like that. And he must be

doing something right.

And it`s not -- he`s got 50 senators. Joe Manchin can throw a wrench into

it, Kyrsten Sinema. You can`t count on any Republican votes or many. So, I

think we`re underestimating perhaps. This is a pretty impressive

achievement so far, so far.

MELBER: Brittney?


doing a good job, and I think that we have to give him credit for that.

I also think that we should not be pleased with some of the things that

progressives are losing. It really does matter if we give people

unemployment insurance. The $15 minimum wage fight matters.

But here`s the thing that I actually think matters more. I think we as a

country have to decide that we`re tired of the fate of democracy and

progressive reform coming down to one rogue white man in the Congress who

makes choices for all of the rest of us.

And I think that Democrats really have to begin to beat the bully pulpit

against Joe Manchin and to talk about the ways that his own political

priorities continue to subvert the will of the American people.

Part of the reason that we have such polarization in the country right now

is because white men have an outsized amount of power, and they don`t

actually look out for the needs of the least of these, for folks who are

struggling, for folks who have been decimated by this pandemic...

MELBER: Well, let me -- Brittney, let me jump in and...

COOPER: ... for people who are really struggling....


COOPER: ... wages.

MELBER: Let me draw you out on that.


MELBER: Let me draw you out on that, because that`s what we were going to

get into. Manchin, as mentioned in our lead, is sort of either one of 50 or

becomes the whole thing.


MELBER: You`re certainly right about the systemic inequities in the

structure of the way the United States runs, with the population migration,

just like we have discussed with the Electoral College.

But short of that long-term big picture reform, what do you, as a self-

identified progressive, what do you think they should do? Because Bill was

just alluding to the fact that Biden has worked very hard to keep it

together. He is holding meetings with everyone. He is certainly meeting

with Warren and Sanders and progressives. He is also meeting with Manchin,

because he has to.

What do you think, tangibly, they should be doing, because Joe have that

vote in this story of two Joes?

COOPER: Look, I recognize the impasse, but I think that part of the way we

participate as the electorate, in the same way that we`re using the polling

data to say the public is on the side of Biden, we also have to use the

data from those of us who are part of the public to say, we want more

progressive reforms, we`re not pleased with Joe Manchin.

And, quite frankly, I want to flex a little bit and say, if Joe Manchin

continues to do this, just remember, Biden won Georgia. It`s not to say

that West Virginia can`t be taken over. There is a whole lot of states that

can be in play. And some of this is about galvanizing progressives to

remember that we actually do have a different playbook that we can play

from now, and we have got to be thinking of the long game in terms of

saying to people, government ought to work for you.

And when we see these senators who make it harder for you to get ahead in

the middle of a pandemic, we should be trying to figure out how to remove

them from office.

And so I think that we got to stop playing games with Joe Manchin. And I

think that we got to stop talking about his power, because I don`t think

he`s -- I don`t see that as a narrative of power. I see that as a narrative

of subverting the will of the people, and that`s the thing that I want to

call it.

MELBER: Well, I hear you on that. That`s why we have you on, for the


I guess, Bill Kristol, the flip side of that would be that Joe Manchin is

not in Georgia yet. Georgia`s gone blue, but West Virginia has not. And so,

in the sheer politics of this, he`s kind of got to be sometimes the reverse

Susan Collins and make a big deal of how different he is from the

Democrats, sometimes a bigger deal than it seems is even real, Bill.

KRISTOL: And I`d also make the case to progressives like Brittney Cooper

that, look, Biden has to win this now. And he has to make the compromises

he needs to. He has to get the vaccines out. He has to get the economy

going, and I think he has to get the schools open, actually.

I would say those are the -- if he can do those three things -- and I think

he can, incidentally -- there`s a pretty good path to do it over the next

two, three months -- then he has the chance to do real things that I think

progressives care, not more about -- they care about the first three, too -

- but he has a chance to do democracy and election reform. He has the

chance to do immigration reform. He has a chance to do climate change.

He has a chance to do other aspects of policing and other race relations-

related things. Now, he`s got to make tough decisions on which of those to

do. He is going to have to build support to do those.

But if he had flubbed these first 50 days, or what is going to really be

the first 100 days, is what it`s going to come down to, if he had flubbed

that, there would be no chance of any of that. And so he is right to focus

now on the things he has -- getting the things he has to get done for the

sake of the country, primarily, but also for his own political capital.


KRISTOL: I think it`s going to be very, very interesting when he gets to

the second stage of his presidency of what he tries to do and what he can

do and how much pressure can be put on Joe Manchin and how much they can

get 10 Republican senators on some things and so forth.

COOPER: I mean, can I respond?


MELBER: And, Katty Kay -- well, I want to bring in...


MELBER: I want to get Katty in for one thing, and then, yes, I will give

you a turn right after that.

But what I wanted to ask Katty about as well is, they took Twitter away

from Trump. People know about that. They did not take away all e-mail,

though. And so he still sends out these e-mails with Twitter-like rants.

Lately, he has been attacking Republicans. Meanwhile, "The Wall Street

Journal" is pushing back. They say Trump is the main reason that two

Georgia Senate races were lost in January, a point Brittney was just

raising. He refuses to take responsibility for those defeats. And the

Murdoch-owned "Journal" says Donald Trump may need counseling. Counseling

could be in order.

So, to Katty with all of the above on Republican infighting, and then,

Brittney, a final word.

KAY: Look, look at numbers of the Republican Party, right? Forty-six

percent of Republicans are still saying that they would leave the

Republican Party to join Trump.

I know he said he is not thinking of doing a party. He said that at CPAC.

But it gives you some idea of how divided the Republican Party is. You have

got "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board against the MAGA crowd.

That split is not going to go anywhere while you still have Trump sending

out statements and making the kind of speeches that he did at CPAC. That

helps the Democrats. That is helping Joe Biden.

I think Bill is right. In the initial period, Joe Biden has to build

popularity for what he is doing right now in the midst of this crisis. It`s

why they came in on a kind of war footing. Maybe that then gives him

leverage on things like voting rights. Maybe he can point out what`s

happening in Georgia, what`s happening in Arizona on voting rights, thank

restrictions that are being put in by Republican legislatures.

We might see more of those Midwestern senators come over on something like

the filibuster. They`re not there yet, but they may get there. And that

would then give them a chance to do something for progressives too.

COOPER: Look, one of the -- here`s the thing.

Again, I`m pleased with the first 45 to 50 days that Joe Biden has had in

office. I have had the first shot of the vaccine. I`m very thankful for

that. My family members have been vaccinated. That`s huge, right?

So it`s not taking anything away from him. But African-Americans are the

reason that Joe Biden is in the White House. We have been

disproportionately harmed by the policies of the Trump administration. And

one of the ways that we`re going lose the progressive movement in this

country, which got behind Biden, as a way to play nice, because we wanted

to get Trump out, is if we keep saying to progressive, you all have to slow

down, you have to let Biden take his time.

We understand the politics of governing. That`s not the problem. But we are

saying that we want to make sure that a sort of bold narrative about what

we have to accomplish in this moment goes forward.

And it`s progressives who are going to get us to some of those bold reforms

that you talked about, Bill, because those are things that come out of the

progressive plank of the Democratic Party.

MELBER: All fair points. I appreciate the dialogue.

I will also say, Brittney, shout out to shots, and not just fireball shots,

the shots we can all take under medical supervision to stay safe.

That`s my Friday shot reference.

Brittney Cooper and Katty Kay, I apologize for ending the segment on that

note, but it happened.

Bill Kristol is coming back later this hour for something really special.

That`s all I`m going to say about it.

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

New calls to investigate a key Trump ally for a vaccine bribery scheme.

Later, LeBron James making a new voting push.

But, first, a Trump official arrested for storming the Capitol while he was

working with a secret security clearance for the Trump administration --

when we`re back in 30.


MELBER: Today, a former Trump administration official was hauled into court

and charged with storming the Capitol in the insurrection.

Federico Klein is the first known Trump official charged in this riot. You

see him there on a seeking information poster. He was actually working

inside our government at the State Department with a top-secret security

clearance when he turned on our government, indicted for attacking the


These charges include unlawful entry and the very serious offense of

assaulting an officer with a dangerous weapon. The FBI pointing to police

body-cam footage that shows him using a riot shield to pry open Capitol

doors. You can see some of the imagery here.

The FBI says he shoved a riot shield into an officer in an attempt to break

the line and helped to organize and lead the mob forward, giving

instructions and calling out for fresh people.


FEDERICO KLEIN, ALLEGED RIOTER: We need fresh people. We need fresh people.

We need fresh people. We need fresh people. We need fresh people! We need

fresh people!


MELBER: He thought they needed fresh people to continue what was documented

there, the assault on the officers.

Klein could also later be seen shoving against them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Close the door.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need support!


MELBER: Among the many horrors that day was the literal use of a shield as

a sword, the old metaphor. They were seizing and taking these materials and

then attacking officers with them.

The FBI found Klein from tips, as well as social media. There was this

Facebook photo. He is a former Marine. He joined the Trump campaign, and

that`s how ended up working inside our government, while, according to

prosecutors, later trying to overthrow it.

It`s a serious case that merits scrutiny, and we have a special guest,

Emily Bazelon from "The New York Times," on all of this -- right after



MELBER: We are back on these new reports on the arrests of a former Trump

administration official for not only participating in that January 6

insurrection, but literally, allegedly, indicted for attacking officers.

Emily Bazelon from "The New York Times Magazine" is here.

It`s quite a story. Your thoughts.


people who participated directly in the insurrection. And it`s not

surprising that, whether or not they were in the Trump administration, when

you see people abetting violence, when you see property destruction like

that, you expect to see them criminally charged.

MELBER: Yes, you expect to see them charged.

And, as with so many things in American political life -- it`s particularly

our criminal justice system, which has become so -- just such a fixation

for people`s different views -- it can be really revealing.

This individual, who, as I mentioned, is not just your everyday blog

visitor -- he`s inside the government. He has the clearance, as I

mentioned. Then he`s on that FBI wanted poster.

Federico Klein, though, doesn`t like the conditions that he is in now,

picking up on a theme we have reported on. I`m reading from an NBC News

piece here by our colleagues.

He wants a jail cell with no cockroaches. He says: "I`m wondering if

there`s a place that I could stay in detention where I don`t have

cockroaches crawling everywhere while I attempt to sleep. I haven`t slept

very much."

A public defender saying he may even get a different cell. And yet these,

of course, are perennial issues in the criminal justice system that his

boss, the campaign he signed to work for, on the Trump campaign, they never

cared about in general as it pertains to other Americans put through this


BAZELON: I mean, I think this is an issue that we see over and over again.

We see people indifferent to the criminal justice system and its cruelties

until they experience it directly. Often, when I`m reporting in court or

visiting a prison, I think that, if lots of people were there with me, the

criminal justice system would change. There would be pressure to get rid of

the cockroaches for everybody.

But, unfortunately, it`s really easy, I think, often to ignore these kinds

of conditions and to imagine that only people who deserve to be there, only

bad people, only other people experience them. And so perhaps that`s

reflected in this particular person`s reaction.


I think that`s bluntly and clearly put, Emily. And it goes to whether

people want to gather these facts and deal with them on any number of

policy issues or just be in denial.

Meanwhile, Congressman Gosar is getting a loft scrutiny for this tweet --

quote -- "Sedition and treason for stealing votes is appropriate."

This is getting new attention because it was in Congresswoman Lofgren`s

accountability report.

Your thoughts?

BAZELON: You know, I think Representative Gosar and a number of Republican

representatives went out really far on a limit in terms of supporting this

lie that the election was stolen, and, even in this case, flirting with the

idea that people who stole the election should be charged with sedition and

treason, whatever he would have imagined that meant.

In fact, this was a relatively clean and well-run election, which was

really lucky, given all the accusations swirling around.

But I think it`s legitimate to ask, if you are a member of Congress and you

are participating in the undermining of an election in this way, whether

you should be held accountable by other people in Congress.

And so I think that is the kind of undercurrent of Representative Lofgren`s

report today, to catalog these kinds of contributions to this big lie about

the election, which then was in some way part of leading to the violence on

January 6.


And that that was the blueprint which could be applied in a closer

election. You emphasize that this wasn`t close at all. That`s why the

Supreme Court never took any cases on it, the way they did in 2000. They

didn`t have to. There`s plenty of conservatives and Republicans on the

court, but it wasn`t close.

What would it look like to have this level of insurrection, of violence, of

support from within the government to overthrow an election in a close call

or one that was legitimately open-ended for weeks?

I shudder to think of it.

Emily, thank you, as always, for your analysis.

BAZELON: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Up ahead: Democrats revealing talks with the feds over this Florida

governor pay-for-play vaccine scheme.

Also, why is NBA legend LeBron James speaking out about voter suppression

and what does it mean?

And a civil rights leader joins us as we approach the Bloody Sunday

commemoration and consider, how young is American democracy?


MELBER: Turning now to an important story.

What defines a democracy? Well, the usual definition is a government run by

the people. So, the population makes decisions through votes and elected


Now, by that definition, the U.S. is a very new democracy, because the

entire population wasn`t allowed to truly vote until the end of the civil

rights era, after sustained and painful protests like Bloody Sunday, when

Martin Luther King and John Lewis risked their lives to lead that 1965

March, and lead a movement that fortified voting rights, finally, under

federal law.

Experts remind us only then did the U.S. get closer to total eligibility

for voters. And while the blatantly racist voting laws were tossed in the

courts, many states found other assiduous ways to restrict voting,

operating with similar outcomes, a trend Republicans are pushing harder

since Trump lost, as you see here, over 253 bills across 43 states to

restrict voting access in different ways.

The House Democrats say they`re responding to all of this with their new

bill this week that they passed enhancing voting rights, making it easier

to vote. And there is really one fair way to say this. The House bill is

not required by the Constitution. For example, you have the right to vote.

You don`t have an automatic right to vote two weeks before Election Day.

But that kind of option has obviously helped a lot more people participate

in recent elections, including a pandemic one.

So, opposing that kind of policy, it just means you`re making it harder to

vote, and probably lowering participation. For Republicans, that goal is to

find a competitive edge over Democrats by making it harder to vote.

Now, if that sounds bad or controversial or even guilty, it`s literally

what a top Republican lawyer just admitted under oath this week at the

Supreme Court.


AMY CONEY BARRETT, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice: What`s the

interest of the Arizona RNC here in keeping, say, the out-of-precinct voter

ballot disqualification rules on the books?


at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero sum



MELBER: Yikes. That`s bad, what he just admitted.

Now, lawyers will often say things that a lot of people wouldn`t, believe

me. And most Republican politicians and pundits, they won`t even admit


So, they have begun attacking this House bill that just passed on voting,

which is headed to the Senate, on different grounds, which are not true,

like falsely equating better voting access to cheating.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bill would not only make it easy to cheat. It would

effectively make it legal to cheat.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: It would destroy the integrity of our elections in

this country forever. It will institutionalize and pretty much guarantee

fraud in future elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should really rename this bill to the Boston bomber



MELBER: Look, most of those attacks, they`re misdirection.

But the larger issue here follows a long history of using policy and power,

not just words, to attack your voting rights, to attack black Americans`

access to the polls.

We know the history. It`s something the late Gil Scott-Heron very

eloquently addressed in his view of the black American experience back in



GIL SCOTT-HERON, POET: I think that the black Americans have been the only

real die-hard Americans here. We`re the ones who marched. We`re the ones

who carried the Bible. We`re the ones who carried the flag. We`re the ones

who tried to go through the courts.

And being born American didn`t seem to matter, because we were born

American, but we still had to fight for what we were looking for.


MELBER: They had to fight.

We`re joined now by Bishop William Barber, president of the Repairers of

the Breach, co-chair of the Poor People`s Campaign. He is leading a Bloody

Sunday commemoration this weekend.

Thank you for being here.

I`m curious your reflections on this first Bloody Sunday without John Lewis

and on, among other things, Mr. Gil Scott-Heron`s point about the black

American experience.


you so much, Ari.

I have been thinking today, as I watched the legislature block living wages

and Republicans trying to block voting rights, I have been thinking about

the Scripture in the Bible, Isaiah 10, whoa unto those who legislate evil

and rob the poor of their rights.

But I have also been thinking about my hip-hop gospel, the gospel, the

ghetto gospel, where Tupac said it ain`t about black or white, because we

human. I hope we see the light before it`s ruined.

The truth of the matter is, without John, and with so many more, Amelia

Boynton, but their spirits are still with us. And what they`re saying to us

is, we cannot stop this fight.

Today, as we talk today, Ari, it`s been 2,800-plus days since the Supreme

Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. It`s been seven-plus years, over seven

years, since the Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act.

And it`s a new form of interposition and nullification. I helped lead the

effort in North Carolina after -- for the worst voter suppression after the

Shelby decision.

And one of the Republican senators said today that the Shelby decision came

down, now that the headache has been removed, we can do what we want to.

But, Ari, there is one other layer to this. It`s not just about black

voters. At the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery march, Dr. King gave a

sermon. We ought to all go back. And he said that, every time there was the

potential for the Negro masses and the white masses to vote together, to be

a coalition, the aristocracy of the South sowed division, created

segregation, created suppression, because of their fear that, if black and

white came together in power to vote, they could reconstruct the American

democracy and a beloved community.

So, while voter suppression is targeted at black, brown and indigenous

people, it`s actually targeted at democracy, because every state that is a

voter suppression state is a high poverty state, a low health care state, a

low wage state.

And the truth of the matter is, those that ho get elected by racist voter

suppression, the irony is, when they pass public policy, they pass policies

that, in raw numbers, hurt more white people than black people. In

percentagewise, it hurts more black people. But in raw numbers, it actually

hurts more white people when they block living wages, and block health

care, block union rights, cut public education.

And that is the genius we have got to hear from Dr. King now, so that we

just don`t have a celebration or a remembrance this Sunday, but we have a

recommitment in this moment.

MELBER: I really -- I appreciate everything you said, including, of course,

the Pac, and the point that Pac, who, of course, came out of Black Panther

tradition and some of these other civil rights leaders we`re talking about,

on its best day, it is entirely about interracial, full equality, and not

picking and choosing, as sometimes, from the outside, it might be


Also thinking about other leaders in the past generation who stepped up,

Muhammad Ali and others, who used to their power to really speak to all

powers. And LeBron James has been doing that more, which is interesting,

because -- to the points you raise.

He has obviously a very broad, diverse fan base in the U.S. and around the

world. Take a listen to LeBron.


LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Look what we made happen, what our voices

made possible.

And now look what they`re trying to do to silence us. They saw what we`re

capable of. And they fear it. This was never about one election. It`s

always been more than a vote. It`s a fight, and it`s just getting started.

And we have been ready. You with us?


BARBER: It`s a powerful piece, Ari.

MELBER: It`s powerful -- yes, go ahead, sir.

BARBER: It`s a powerful piece.

And I would add to it that what we`re seeing now, we saw in the 19th

century, an attempt to roll back Reconstruction. And what happened? Black

and white people came together, reconstructed the South, reconstructed the

American Constitution.

We see it in the civil rights movement, even before Georgia. A lot of this

started was when Obama won North Carolina and Virginia in 2008. Now, how

did he win? He lost on Election Day in 2008, but he won through same-day

registration and early voting.

And what was the cry then? Fraud. Fraud. This can`t be real. You can`t

bring black and white people together and brown people in the South and win

like this. There has to be fraud.

So, it`s always fraud when the democracy works, when more people come

together. And so, the attempt to roll back voting rights is an attempt to

not only block who sits in power, but I always want to make the connection

between the economics of it, the race and the economics.

You know, today, for instance, we saw 50 Democratic white -- 50 Republicans

vote to block living wages for 62 million people. But we also saw eight

white Democrats vote with them to block living wages for 62 million people.

And the argument they had, we`re following the advice of a parliamentary

that is not even a constitutional role. And they said that this one

parliamentarian has more power than the 55 percent of black and white

people, poor and low-wealth people who voted for the Biden/Harris ticket

and 70 percent of the American public who voted.

How does this happen? How are the Republicans able to do that? Ever since

1968, they have run this Southern Strategy. And the goal of the Southern

Strategy was to hold on to the South and to deliver it.

I think it was Richard Nixon that was advised by Pat Buchanan and Kevin

Phillips. And they actually said to him, we must deliberately divide the

country. If we do it, we will get the better half. They called it positive


And they said: We must divide it. We must engage in voter suppression,

because that`s the only way we can hold on to the 13 or 14 Southern states

from Maryland all the way to the South, through the Southwest, what they

call the Sunbelt. But by doing that, we can control the Senate, we can

control the presidency, and thereby we can control the politics, so that

policy is written mainly to undergird the corporate elite and not really be

about the people.

And the fear right now, why there is so much fear is because North Carolina

in 2008, Georgia in `20 has shown people that, if we run on progressive

agenda, and we beat back voter suppression, you can elect folk in the South

that they always thought couldn`t be elected because of the Southern


And if you start changing the South, you change the whole nation. If you

start changing the makeup of the Senate by changing it in the South, you

change the whole nature. And how do you do that? You have to do it by voter

mobilization, but also defeating voter suppression.

So, it`s no wonder that, right now, after the election, we have 161 bills

throughout the country in various legislatures at the very time that we

have the possibility of expanding health care and raising the living wage,

because the elite, what Dr. King called it aristocracy, doesn`t want to see

that happen.

So, they sow the division. And part of the way they sow the division is

through voter suppression.


BARBER: And so I`m glad to see LeBron and others. Love to talk to them,

because they`re right.

But it`s about black, but this also better get bigger. It`s about fusion

politics, which is the only kind of politics that can ultimately bring

together the 65 million poor and low-wealth people in this country that

make up nearly 30 percent of the electorate.

And if you mobilize that group of people around a progressive agenda, then

the extremists can`t -- they can`t win. They can`t win demographically, and

they can`t win at the polls. So, the only way they can stop things from

happening is to try to suppress the vote while there is no Voting Rights




MELBER: Well, you make it you make it very clear.

And I don`t say it most days on the news, but I will say amen, Bishop.

Maybe I`m feeling inspired.


MELBER: I don`t know what it is.

I wish you and everyone you`re commemorating this important event with, I

wish you all the best this weekend. And appreciate you always coming by.

Hope you will come back, Bishop William Barber.

Thank you, sir.

BARBER: Thank you, always, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

We fit in a break, but there is new pressure on Florida`s MAGA governor,

including corruption allegations about vaccine pay-for-play -- when we come



MELBER: Now to a story we have been covering on THE BEAT.

Governor Cuomo`s administration was caught undercounting nursing home

deaths, raising questions about their intent.

Now "The New York Times" is advancing that story with new reporting that

the whole goal was to hide the death toll from nursing homes with a

substantially rewritten summary, changing what health experts found. "The

Times" sites two sources saying Cuomo`s team led an intense effort to

overrule the experts, who feared losing their jobs if they didn`t bend to

what they viewed as a political effort to downplay New York COVID deaths,

all in order to protect Cuomo`s reputation, diluting the health information

into something that was no longer a science report.

Now, the Cuomo administration is responding by saying any revisions did not

change the conclusions of that report.

Now, that story follows up on the top Democrat in New York. There is

another serious COVID scandal hitting the top Republican in Florida. More

calls for an investigation today over whether Governor DeSantis was

involved in an alleged pay-to-play scheme for vaccines.

He denies it, but Democrats now asking the FBI to probe how vaccinations

immediately went to a wealthy area in January that gave Republicans key

donations, stressing that, if DeSantis was not involved, as he claims,

Democrats say then he should not fear this investigation at all, get it out

in the open.

Two important stories we wanted to update you on.

Also, a quick programing note that we`re excited about.

Next Monday on THE BEAT, two big people from this timely film "Judas and

the Black Messiah." The director, Shaka King, and Grammy winner H.E.R., are

both here Monday. DVR it and stay tuned.

We have a lot more coming up, including Bill Kristol -- after this.


MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT, so you know it`s time to fall back.

Tonight, we`re going classical, joined by Ezinma, a Nebraska-born musician

who first picked up the violin at 3 years old. She has shook up and remixed

the classical scene with takes on pop hits like "Rockstar" and "Mask Off."

She`s performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the center stage at

Coachella, where Beyonce tapped her for that iconic performance, now a

Netflix film. And the debut E.P. drops next month. She continues to break

boundaries across genres.

And speaking of remixes, we have one-time neoconservative Bill Kristol, who

has been spending, frankly, more time with Trump critics and Democrats. The

Bush White House veteran has not -- I repeat -- not been invited to perform

with Beyonce yet, but he is working on an honorary membership to the Bronx

Terror Squad. Fat Joe says his application is getting a serious look.

Good Friday evening to both of you. How are you guys doing?


EZINMA, VIOLINIST: I`m great. Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Great to have you both.

Bill, let`s start it off. What`s on your "Fallback" list, sir?

KRISTOL: I really want to hear much better suggestions from my colleagues

here, but not having performed myself at Coachella, for some reason. I`m

not sure why I haven`t been invited. I keep expecting that invitation.

MELBER: Keep waiting.


KRISTOL: Ron Johnson -- very simply, I fall back the terrible Republican

Senator from Wisconsin Ron Johnson, who, trying to make a point, had the

Senate clerks spend -- waste 12 hours reading the entire text of the bill.

He didn`t spend much of that time on the floor. None of his colleagues was

on the floor. It made no point. It wasn`t even a dramatic presentation of

his point of view, pure waste of time, forcing these clerks to trudge

through this.

It embodies the current Republican Party, just kind of negativism and

performative silliness almost, obstructionism, with not even any pretense

of a positive message.

MELBER: Briefly, Bill, does he get any political credit for this? It`s not

like it achieved anything.

KRISTOL: Right. It`s not like he forced the Democrats to cast a tough vote

or make a demagogic argument, even if it`s not true, that hurts the other

party. It`s just -- it`s just idiocy, I think.


MELBER: Ezinma, what is on your list?


KRISTOL: Now let`s get to the good stuff. Let`s get to the good stuff.


EZINMA: I do wonder, though, how it would have been if he would have

invited Senator Cruz back for another reading of "green Eggs and Ham."

Maybe that would have been more interesting, huh?


MELBER: You know, that`s a fair point. There`s -- that doesn`t take 11

hours or whatever.


EZINMA: Right. But...


EZINMA: ... canceled Dr. Seuss, so who knows, right?

KRISTOL: Right. He couldn`t do that anymore.

EZINMA: You know, for me -- right.

I think, for me, something I think that needs to fall back is mediocre

health care. I was reading this article about this 7-year-old girl named

Liza in Alabama who had to start a lemonade stand to pay for her own brain


And I just remember the days when I had a lemonade stand to get a violin or

some candy. And not only do kids have to deal with Zoom education, COVID,

all of this stuff. Now she has to get a lemonade stand to pay for her own

medical needs?

I just thought that was -- that can definitely fall back, right? We can do


MELBER: That could -- we could do better.

I appreciate you bringing that up, and bringing it up in a human form,

Ezinma, because sometimes we -- in the news, we do the policy, and we do

the vote and this and that, but you`re reminding us, just with that person,

that young girl, that this is the country we live in, and that you are out

of luck in a lot of communities and a lot of families, not because your

parents don`t go to work or do things -- everyone`s trying -- but because

of our health care system.



KRISTOL: I agree with that.

But I want to hear some -- shouldn`t be close the show with some excellent

violin playing? I mean, it`s such a rare -- we all talk for an hour every -

- five nights a week. No offense, Ari.

MELBER: None taken.

KRISTOL: And here we have a genuinely talented classical...


KRISTOL: ... beyond classical violinist on, maybe a few bars of Mozart,


MELBER: OK, let`s do it. I got to say...

EZINMA: A little...


MELBER: We got to -- I will still hold you both to more "Fallback"s after.

But, yes, let`s hear a little bit. Go for it.



MELBER: When you started, when you were 3...

KRISTOL: That`s impressive.

MELBER: Well, now, you took us to the music, Bill. You can`t take us out.

KRISTOL: Go ahead. Stick with it. I`m good with...


MELBER: When you started at 3, 4, 5 years old, when did your parents start

to realize, OK, you`re different?

EZINMA: You know, I think it was right away.

My mom, she tells me I never went through that crunching phase, which is

this very unpleasant sound on the violin that nobody wants to hear. I kind

of went past it, and I just was a natural at it.

I think the amazing thing about my parents is, the violin was something

that was always just encouraged. It was never forced. And I just loved to

play and never stopped. So...

KRISTOL: No offense to our lovely -- one of our lovely daughters, who

played the violin, but I remember that crunchy phase, yes.


EZINMA: Not good.


KRISTOL: Did you use Suzuki method? That`s the question, though.

EZINMA: Yes, I was a Suzuki kid. Yes, that`s how I learned.

I went to school on a farm. And they had a Suzuki violin program. And

that`s where I started. So...

MELBER: And let me ask you one more thing.

Do you feel like people are also more exposed to a different genre through

the way you`re doing it? Because it is a little different than traditional


EZINMA: Yes, I definitely get a lot of people who reach out to me and say,

thank you for making classical music and classical spaces more accessible.

That`s a big mission of what I do.

The piece I just played is over 100 years old. It`s called "Czardas." It`s

a violent showpiece. And taking pieces like that and mixing it with hip-hop

beats and working with hip-hop artists and kind of fusing these opposites

spaces is just something that I find to be really important, especially

because we live in such a divided world and country.

And I myself, I am mixed, and I`m from two different cultures. So, I just

love to fuse music and make something new that we can all enjoy.

MELBER: I love that.

I have only got 10 seconds.

Do you think that Bill will ultimately get into Terror Squad, or not?


EZINMA: I don`t know about it. Let`s keep working on it.


KRISTOL: Just throw me into the...


MELBER: Keep working at it.

That`s -- and that`s -- and, Bill, that`s how you get to Carnegie Hall.

It`s the same way. It`s practice.

I want to thank Ezinma and Bill Kristol for rounding out our week in the

most lovely way possible.

That does it for us. I will see everyone back Monday 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Have a lovely Friday and weekend.

And don`t go anywhere. "THE REIDOUT" starts down.




Copyright 2021 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are

protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,

distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the

prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter

or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the