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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/12/21

Guests: Elie Mystal, Melissa Murray


In Minneapolis, police shoot and kill a 20-year-old man, sparking protests. Former House Speaker John Boehner`s legacy is examined. A police officer is fired for pepper-spraying an Army officer in uniform. New evidence emerges in the Matt Gaetz investigation. What are the factors that are forcing people to make dangerous journeys to the United States? Is Joe Biden following the Bernie Sanders` economic agenda?



Hi, Ari.


I just want to echo what you were saying, because, like a lot of people, I appreciate the reports that you do.

WALLACE: Oh, thank you.

MELBER: And I know it`s hard for people watching, for people living through it.

And the fact that you mentioned people can contribute, so I`m glad you`re mentioning that in terms of how you source them.


MELBER: Because one grim part of all this that we all know as journalists is that this scale of death, to be honest, we would have reported on so many more people had it happened more slowly.

"The New York Times" noted, it was the deadliest year in American history.


MELBER: And, by definition, that means sometimes we`re not even getting to reflect all these people`s lives.

The fact that you do that, we appreciate.

WALLACE: Well, and it got to the point where, in the very beginning, the first few were all people that I knew, when they said -- oh, I lost someone. He was a judge that I knew at the beginning of my career, was a friend of the Justice Department. My dad knew someone in the entertainment industry.

So I thought, well, until there`s an official way to honor all these people, I will just do it at the end. And that`s how they started. And it`s amazing. So many people have not had those rituals, whatever their faith or their family does. They haven`t been able to do them. So we have been glad to do them.

But thanks for spending some time here. You`re always so nice about it. Thank you.

MELBER: No, it`s important.

So, as our viewers heard, Nicolle`s reminding everyone to contribute in that way. And it`s something we all do in storytelling and bearing witness. So, it matters.

And thank you, Nicolle.

WALLACE: Thanks, Ari. Have a great show.

MELBER: Absolutely. Our thanks to Nicolle Wallace, as always, for the handoff.


We start with breaking news just outside of Minneapolis.

Tensions quite high right now near Minneapolis, after police shot and killed a 20-year-old man in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, sparking protests. And just 10 miles away, you have these two things going on, what you see on your screen, the Chauvin trial entering a new phase today, with emotional final testimony from George Floyd`s brother on the stand.

It is a portrait of two stories that are related, albeit distinct, as far as the law is concerned, the two stories you see on your screen, the defense case expected to rest in the Chauvin trial tomorrow.

And that would mean -- excuse me -- the prosecution case to rest tomorrow, and the defense case to begin.

Now, let me tell you what`s going on with this new police shooting. This occurred Sunday afternoon. It impacts the trial, as I mentioned, and really the nation, when you think about the reckoning that continues to occur here when we talk about race and policing; 20-year-old Daunte Wright is dead.

At least shot and killed him during what should have been, according to even the police -- and I will explain -- a routine traffic stop. The issue? An expired registration. Now the Brooklyn Center police chief there in Minnesota going on camera just hours later today, saying that what they view, based on what they know about this rapidly unfolding incident and obviously an open review, is that they think this officer accidentally discharged a gun when intending to use a Taser.

The chief releasing body-cam video of this incident today so the public can see what the police chief says, what they believe was basically an erroneous, mistaken police stop, but what they also say as a type of defense, in their view -- this is the police`s version -- was, they say, a good-faith accident.

I want to warn you, as always, when you look at these kinds of incidents, the raw video can be disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s got a warrant.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ll Tase you! I`ll Tase you!

Taser! Taser! Taser!

Oh, I (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I just shot him.




MELBER: That is the video that the police released. That`s part of the story, not the whole story.

Protests already breaking out overnight in response to the shooting. As we have been reporting, this is a city, obviously, already on edge.

The new police shooting reverberating inside Chauvin murder trial courtroom, and I mean that literally, not figuratively. This became -- again, it`s all happening quite fast, so I want to make sure we`re being clear about this. This new incident, which is a big deal in that area of the state, became an issue at trial, the defense now asking the judge to sequester the jury because of this controversial police incident, the judge swiftly denying that request.


ERIC NELSON, ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: I am requesting again sequestration of the jury in view of the incidence of last night.

The emotional response that that case creates sets the stage for a jury to say, I`m not going to vote not guilty because I`m concerned about the outcome.

PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA, JUDGE: Not a big surprise that there`s now civil unrest in response to this case. But I don`t think that should heighten the jurors` concern. I think it`s probably the same as it was before.

They all have a concern that they expressed and were very honest about, and so I`m not going to sequester them.


MELBER: The judge there speaking to why they weren`t sequestering the jury.

I`m joined now by NYU law professor Melissa Murray and Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at "The Washington Post," beginning with these two interrelated stories, and then we can go a little more into the detail that we saw in that emotional day at the trial today.

But, Professor Murray, the police releasing the video swiftly in part because the chief argues that it shows an error, a good-faith mistake, rather than a deliberate use of deadly force. What do you see, legally, based on the available evidence on the video?

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, again, this is a -- we don`t have a lot of information other than what has been released. So this is still early days.

But, obviously, because of the charged atmosphere in the Minneapolis area right now, there will likely be some move to either deal with this, investigate it swiftly, make some determinations about whether or not this was good faith error or something more nefarious. And then, if there is room to say that errors were made that have potentially legal consequences, then, again, we will see I think, swift action moving forward.

But, right now, it`s really early. This is really damning visual evidence. It`s incredibly visceral, and it will obviously have a major impact on those who watch it, and certainly those looking for justice for George Floyd and other men here in the Minneapolis area.

MELBER: Gene, I`m curious what you think, because video does take you deeper inside these interactions.


MELBER: And while there`s much we don`t know yet, what you see is a really quick escalation for an individual who appears initially to be somewhat restrained, appears to be unarmed, again, based on what we can see.

And then from the escalation of whatever that brief struggle was, very quickly, then it becomes the story we have seen before, which is another apparently unarmed dead black man in America. And what we do know is, the initial charge the issue, was not a robbery, it was not violence, it was not an alleged murder. The issue appeared to be a routine registration issue and a traffic stop.

That`s why those people were all interacting on that video in the first place.

Your thoughts, Eugene?

ROBINSON: So, why is that an appropriate way to handle a routine traffic stop about an expired registration?

Why do you want to drag the driver out of the car? Why do you want to put handcuffs on the driver? Why -- or attempt to do so? Why do you want to create a situation through, not just escalation, through approaching the window of the car in this sort of heightened state, as if you`re -- it`s John Dillinger in there or something like that, or somebody you suspect of some sort of awful, violent offense?

Coming in with that attitude is wrong and it has to change. And it happens again and again and again, and it often ends in tragedy, or too often it ends in the kind of tragedy we saw today. And, yes, we did hear the officer say, I will Tase you, and then Taser, and then she fires a gun, instead of the Taser have.

That -- something wrong with the training, something wrong with the officer. But that initial approach, it`s the same over and over and over again. And that`s the nut we have to crack.

MELBER: Professor?

MURRAY: Well, again, this is, I think, a big part of the problem with the Chauvin trial.

It`s entirely understandable why the prosecution has taken the approach that it has. It`s really sort of raised the idea that Officer Chauvin is idiosyncratic, kind of a rogue cop doing things that he was not trained to do.

But, as Eugene suggests, what we probably should be having as a larger conversation about policing and policing practices in this country that are not about rogue cops, but about ordinary protocols that seem to require and to permit the kind of escalation that we saw here, the kind of escalation that we saw with George Floyd, the kind of escalation that we saw over the weekend with regard to that veteran in Virginia, who was also stopped by the police.

And it seemed to escalate quite quickly. So this is perhaps a missed opportunity at the Chauvin trial to have that broader conversation about what policing in America looks like.

MELBER: Yes, and you mentioned -- that`s another case we have later in the program.

Our panel stays with me now.

I want to give a little bit an update to viewers, because we have been endeavoring to do this throughout the trial, on what`s happening. This is a key time.

The prosecution is wrapping up their case. George Floyd`s brother was one of the very last witnesses to take the stand in the prosecution side of the case, leaving jurors with a straightforward portrait of the humanity and the life lost when Officer Chauvin killed Mr. Floyd, also recounting Floyd`s relationship with his mother.


PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: He just was like a person that everybody loved around the community. He just knew how to make people feel better.

I say Perry, because we called him Perry instead of George. And he would always say: "Hold on, let me kiss mama before I come over there."

And being around him, he showed us, like, how to treat our mom and how to respect our mom. He just -- he loved her so dearly.


MELBER: And throughout our coverage of this trial, we have reported on areas where the prosecution and the defense clash, like over how medical science may determine Floyd`s cause of death, and also the areas where they don`t.

There are some witnesses that Chauvin`s lawyer does not even try to counter. That was the case with Floyd`s brother today. His words stood alone, under oath, for the jury to hear. The defense did not cross-examine him at all.

Gene, that is a legal strategic choice which reflects the evident power of his words before that jury, that to even ask a single question of him in any adversarial manner would have been an error.

Your thoughts about what that says about the power of that testimony today?

ROBINSON: Well, it was certainly a wise choice by the defense not to cross-examine, not to try to get in some sort of interrogation to Philonise Floyd.

This is -- obviously, he was not in a position to speak to what happened on May 25 of last year. But I think this is -- the legal term of spark of life evidence is -- it`s allowed in Minnesota. It`s about the victim and who he or she was, and what sort of person.

And it was -- it was stunning. It was compelling and hard to listen to at the same time. But it was, I think, very effective.

MELBER: And, Professor, what we have got on the screen for viewers now what is unfolding in this nearby part of Minnesota. Brooklyn Center is just a few miles, they say nine or 10 miles from where the trial is happening.

And you can see homemade signs. One we can see on the screens says "Murder, Murder, Murder." Others say "Black Lives Matter."

This is the response to the other incident, which hangs over this trial, which hangs over the community, a community again, Minnesota, a state like so many in the United States that deals with these policing matters day in and day out, whether they get national notice or not.

And so that`s what we`re seeing here in this -- in these two stories, as I mentioned in the kickoff of the broadcast tonight.

I want to play a little bit of the medical piece of this that was preventable, the cardiologist testifying the entire killing of George Floyd was preventable.


TIM GANNON, BROOKLYN CENTER, MINNESOTA, POLICE CHIEF: As I watched the video and listened to the officer`s commands, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet.

This appears to me from what I viewed and the officer`s reaction and distress immediately after that this was an accidental discharge.

DR. JONATHAN RICH, CARDIOLOGIST: Mr. George Floyd died from cardiopulmonary arrest. It was caused by low oxygen levels. And those low oxygen levels were induced by the prone restraint and positional asphyxiation that he was subjected to.

I believe that Mr. George Floyd`s death was absolutely preventable.


MELBER: Professor?

MURRAY: Again, all of the testimony that we heard today really tied in nicely together, the cardiologist reiterating statements that we have heard from other witnesses that this was really about hypoxia, about the lack of oxygen, all due to the prone position in which Mr. Floyd was detained, rather than being upright, and that it was absolutely preventable, because the officers were in a position to give him assistance, and they did not.

Again, this sort of goes to the idea that these were cops who had been trained to do better, and that they didn`t in this particular instance, but, again, that this was not something that had to happen.

And I think it worked well with Mr. Floyd`s brothers testimony, testifying that this man was more than just the prone figure in that video. He was a father, he was a son, he was a brother, he was someone who adored his mother, and it didn`t have to end this way on May 25.

MELBER: Eugene?

ROBINSON: I agree.

There was also a use of force expert who testified today about when -- even if they decided to use the prone position, when they should have relented, when they should have let him up. He noted, when another officer suggested to Chauvin that George Floyd be turned on his side.

This was -- that was kind of a recap. The expert`s evidence and the doctor`s evidence kind of recapped what we had heard earlier in the trial from other experts. But I think at the -- now that we`re nearing the end of the prosecution case, the prosecutors wanted the emotional, very personal testimony of Philonise Floyd about his brother, and then a sort of reprise of the mechanics of his suffocation, his asphyxiation at the hands of Derek Chauvin.

And I thought it was a very effective presentation. Take the whole day. It was very effective.

MELBER: Right.

And that`s why we are, for those following, going right up against the end of the prosecution`s case. They have hit all these points, the medical, the personal of what happened that day.

And we will be prepared to cover the defense, as we also keep an eye on Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, as well.

Melissa Murray and Gene Robinson, thank you.

Coming up after our shortest break, which is just 30 seconds, this police officer fired for pepper-spraying an Army officer in uniform. I mentioned that story in the broadcast. That`s later tonight.

John Boehner blowing himself up. We will explain.

But, first, there`s new evidence, texts leaking in the Matt Gaetz probe -- when we`re back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: We have been following some breaking news.

We were just covering this case out of Minnesota. And you can see we`re monitoring Brooklyn Center, where you can see some of the authorities, the police presence. There is a curfew there tonight, protests emerging over this new and controversial police killing that we were covering at the top of the hour.

You can see the makeshift protest, handmade signs. It`s a story we have been covering and we will keep monitoring throughout this hour. So we will let you know if anything new happens there.

We`re also watching new leaks coming in the scandal engulfing Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, the Trump loyalist under federal investigation for possible sex trafficking and sex with a 17-year-old. He`s also facing a House ethics probe. Gaetz denies all allegations. He`s not been charged with anything.

But now new private text messages are leaking from someone who has been charged, indicted Gaetz ally Joel Greenberg.

Politico reporting that, five days before his indictment, Greenberg was trying to enlist friends in his defense with private messages. They were saying things like "Everyone is going to need a lawyer" and noting that he was already paying to retain a lawyer for a woman he knew who may have been allegedly involved in this somehow, noting the feds -- quote -- "are wanting her to talk. She doesn`t want to talk to them."

Now, NBC News has not obtained or verified these messages. Politico reports another Greenberg associate was even pushing back on the messages suggesting that that individual is involved, replying to Greenberg -- quote -- "I have nothing to do with any of this. It is incredibly uncool. You`re trying to lawyer me up to be a part of it. Not F`ing cool."

And Greenberg also reportedly asking Gaetz to use his influence with Donald Trump to get a pardon, which is striking, considering a recent "New York Times" report that Gaetz was seeking a pardon, for himself, at least, from the White House. That pardon didn`t materialize.

Then President Trump didn`t ever pardon his MAGA loyalist. And now, as ex- president, there`s reports he won`t even meet with him, CNN reporting based on two anonymous sources. Gaetz, meanwhile, denies asking for any such meeting.

Now, Gaetz built his political brand by going on FOX News more than most Republicans in the country and echoing Donald Trump, an approach that made him famous or infamous, but is no longer yielding public support from Trump, let alone legal help.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): After the Russia hoax, the knockoff Ukraine impeachment sequel, and an election that was stolen.


GAETZ: The Chinese coronavirus attacked our bodies.

TRUMP: We`re against the Chinese virus.

GAETZ: The silent majority is growing louder by the day.

TRUMP: The silent majority is stronger than ever before.


GAETZ: So they ran to the mailbox with millions of ballots.

TRUMP: I think that mail-in voting is a terrible thing.

GAETZ: Because I tell the truth about them.

TRUMP: I`m the president, and you`re fake news.


MELBER: Joining me now is Elie Mystal, justice correspondent with "The Nation."

How are you sir?

ELIE MYSTAL, "THE NATION": I`m good. How are you?

MELBER: I`m fine.

This story continues to drip and drip, drip, drip of leaks and information and texts. Here, you have what are supposed to be private encrypted WhatsApp text messages. But encryption won`t save you if one or the other person on either end starts sharing them, which was what we see happening.

Your thought about what window this shows into Gaetz`s ally and whether any of this gets closer to Gaetz in the probe?

MYSTAL: Yes, so there are a couple of things going on here.

One, Joel Greenberg does not present as the best guy, right? Like, if your whole case is going to rest on this guy, there`s some weakness there. He doesn`t sound like the most credible person in the universe. He doesn`t sound like the most decent person in the universe. And he sounds like a man who is about to go to jail and knows that and is trying to squirm out of it, right?

So if your whole case is going to rest on Joel Greenberg`s say-so, that`s not a strong case. However, as you point out, Ari -- and this is something that -- I`m not usually in the business of giving advice to criminals. But WhatsApp is not secret. Stop. Just stop.


MYSTAL: There`s no -- there`s no way that you can be alive in 2021 and think that there is something that you can text on that people can`t find out.

And so if Joel Greenberg has these text messages, and if Gaetz is on it implicating himself, whether it`s WhatsApp or Venmo, if -- and we haven`t - - we don`t know what the feds know. But we haven`t spoken to the 17-year- old, who`s now 20, I believe.

That person is going to have some information about whether or not Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old. Once you get into the world of documents -- and this is what lawyers -- this is the world that lawyers live in. Once you get into the world of documents, there`s either going to be evidence that corroborates whatever Greenberg is singing about, or there`s not.


MYSTAL: If there is, Gaetz has real reason to be concerned.

MELBER: Well, and, as you and I know from the law, the fact that Mr. Greenberg himself wanted to furnish legal assistance to someone else or was telling his associates to get a lawyer, that alone is fine.

The fact that some of those people responded, as I said, saying it was -- quote -- "uncool," which is a striking way to respond to the serious felonies at issue here, already suggests that there was there was already some fissure or breaking between what he thought he was doing and how people were receiving it.

To your point about who this person is -- and, again, for viewers who are saying, OK, well, how much does everyone care about Greenberg, well, not a ton, other than it`s a local case where authorities may seek justice. They have indicted him on serious charges, obviously, but if this is who Matt Gaetz was really linked to by evidence or spending a lot of time with or traveling with, or worse, then it matters.

You have this Tiger King comparison headline, and this was quite a headline -- "Like the Tiger King Got Elected Tax Collector, Inside the Case That Ensnared Matt Gaetz."

This reporting that this Greenberg character would strut into work with a pistol on his hip, which happens to be against the state open carry laws of Florida, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to create no-show jobs for a relative and some of his groomsmen, this is the kind of thing that may sound like hijinks.

But walk us through, Elie, at what point any of this stuff involves the misappropriation or misuse of government funds, jobs, et cetera, that that alone creates pressure on him to flip about telling everything he knows about everyone else?

MYSTAL: Yes, I mean, there are a couple of things.

First of all, statutory rape is not hijinks. And I know that`s kind of news to a lot of Republicans. Like, the issue here is not funny. The issue here is not a nothing thing.

One of Matt Gaetz`s defenses that I heard over the weekend was that he`s engaged now, but before he was engaged, he didn`t live like a monk. This is not a question of living like a monk. This is a question of statutory rape and sex trafficking. That is serious.

There`s the implications through some of these texts, which, again, I have not seen myself, I do not know -- disclaimer, disclaimer -- but there`s the implication that Gaetz, perhaps also traded political favors, which would be an abuse of his political office, with some of these weapons, in addition to paying for God knows what, school and tuition, according to his Venmo, right?

So there`s -- put it like this. There is nothing not serious about this crime, but -- about this potential crime. But it goes to a larger issue of permissiveness within this circle, it seems.

The -- Alexandra Petri, I know you read, "Washington Post" columnist, I thought she really had the best kind of take on this, when she pointed out that this is the kind of thing that should never happen, and only happens in the culture of permissiveness, where it`s a bunch of frat boys who think that this is part of boys being boys, as opposed to just basic legal standards.

You should never be in a situation -- and I don`t feel -- I -- there is no kind of -- my ears are not burning. There`s no skeletons in my closet that makes me worried about saying this. You should never be in a situation where you need to look up the age of consent, right? You should just never -- you should never be close to that.

And asking a congressman...


MYSTAL: Right.


MELBER: No, I was just going to say, to your -- no, to your earlier point, to your earlier point, what we`re covering is a federal investigation.

And what we know about it is, it involves felonies. Some of them involve alleged potential sex trafficking, sex crimes, as well as this election scheme we read about, we have covered last week.

So all of this is in the ambit of the feds are looking at it because they see serious felonies that aren`t federal investigations for jaywalking or minor local misdemeanors. That`s why this is a big story engulfing one of Donald Trump`s loudest allies.

It`s not, as you mentioned, or as he tried to put it, it`s not trying to litigate someone`s monk or non-monk-like private life. This is a big deal because the feds already indicted one and are looking at others. So, I think that`s important.

MYSTAL: This is not gotcha.

MELBER: I`m supposed to fit in a break.

Elie -- yes.

Elie, always good to have your legal analysis and your straight talk, with your WhatsApp consumer service information.

MYSTAL: I`m just trying to be helpful, man.


MELBER: Yes, sir.

Elie Mystal, always good to see you.

I have to fit in a break, as I mentioned.

Up ahead, though, we have a lot more news we haven`t gotten to yet, Joe Biden completely flipping the script. Why is he walking softly, but carrying a big liberal agenda, some likening to Bernie Sanders? We will explain.

Meanwhile, John Boehner in hot water, yes, that John Boehner. He`s blasting the Republican partisanship that he fomented. We have a fact-check coming up.


MELBER: Maybe he thought you would forget.

Former House Speaker John Boehner, who went back and forth in the Obama era, a big part of the obstruction, a big part of the partisanship. Well, now he`s got a problem with where the Republican Party is.

But he`s ignoring his role in creating it. And some places are remembering and torturing him. Boehner was at it today.


FMR. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): I don`t really beat up too many people in this book, except one, Ted Cruz, Lucifer in the flesh.


MELBER: It`s a sound bite. It`s one he`s used before, as he slams these right-wing figures.

But Boehner went along for the ride. You have to remember, this was years, long before Trump. He was the House speaker. So, he was the leader of the party. And he engaged with the extreme elements. At times, he didn`t like some of the Freedom Caucus and the pushback there.

But he found ways to unite and lever with them, when he wasn`t putting out any coups that might replace his job. He was on the front lines all the way back to the Clinton impeachment. In the book, he now says he was wrong about that, too. But what did he do when he had power? We all remember.


BOEHNER: I think there`s a point here where the American people are wondering, is the president above the law? The president could have put this whole issue behind us, not put the country and the world through this misery, if he had just told us the truth in January.


MELBER: John Boehner wants politicians to tell the truth. But that was him as conference chair trying to become speaker using his power to go along with whatever the far right in his party wanted, an impeachment that, whatever some of the possible valid issues, he now says he regrets that he didn`t fight against the Republican impeachment of Clinton.

Later, Boehner was in for the Tea Party on stage, at rallies going hard against Obamacare.


BOEHNER: This bill is the greatest threat to freedom that I have seen in the 19 years I have been here in Washington.

Join us in defending our freedom, and join us in defeating Pelosi-care.


MELBER: Are we supposed to take people literally, John Boehner today or then? Because the idea that providing subsidies to the private marketplace for health care coverage is the greatest threat to freedom in his life in the modern era, it`s risible.

Now, John Boehner, as he tries to sell books and go into this part of his career, calls it -- quote -- "crazy town" and the "chaos caucus" when he refers to the Tea Party, the energy that he was tapping in that backlash to Obamacare.

He also was part of the Republican shutdown over that law. He went along with demands that started from people like Ted -- quote -- "Lucifer" Cruz. Boehner now says that was another mistake.


BOEHNER: Even though I didn`t really want to go the direction where the team`s gone, they were the ones who elected me to be the leader, and I had an obligation to go lead them.

So that means I had to go jump out in front of them, even if I thought what they were trying to do really made a whole lot of sense.


MELBER: We`re joined by "Mother Jones" Washington bureau chief David Corn. He`s writing about Boehner`s legacy, and has plenty to say about it.

Welcome to THE BEAT, sir.



MELBER: Well, I want to ask you, is John Boehner credible and consistent in his concerns about the partisan and rightward drift of the Republican Party?

CORN: Oh, not at all.

I mean, as you point out, and you could even go further, he basically said OK to the -- let`s just start with the Tea Party -- the Tea Party extremism that hit in 2009. At the rally that you showed him saying this was the greatest threat to freedom, the Obamacare bill, which has not been the greatest threat to freedom -- but, anyway, at that same rally, there were people there who were yelling "Nazis, Nazis" in response to what he and other Republicans were saying.

They were accusing Obama and other Democrats of being Nazis. This is in 2009. A few months later, at another rally on Capitol Hill, the Tea Party types who were protesting the health care bill, they were spitting at John Lewis and other black members of Congress, and they shouted the N-word at him, and they shouted homophobic slurs at Barney Frank.

The Tea Party, according to one poll, 30 percent of it believed the racist birther conspiracy theory about Obama and there wee members of Boehner`s own caucus who were pressing that. He never told them to shut up and get out. When it came to Benghazi, he was the one who let them have 27,000 -- I think it was maybe only 23 -- hearings and pushed all sorts of conspiracy theories.

So all the extremism that Fed into Trumpism and the January 6 insurrection was already bubbling to the fore, and with the Tea Party and back in the Obama years. And Boehner didn`t say one word about it, because he very crassly, very cynically, particularly if you read what he says now, tried to exploit the Tea Party and those sentiments, those extremist and violent sentiments, to win a majority in the House.

And it worked. And he -- the tiger came in. He tried to ride the tiger. He ended up having to leave to become a lobbyist. But, nevertheless, when he had the chance, he never said that any of this was wrong.

MELBER: So, plenty of politicians have their spin and exaggerations and changes of heart over time.

But there seems to be a particularly strong trend here of Republicans dealing with where the party is headed -- and, by many measurements, it`s obviously more extreme -- who then come out and just claim they were never for it.

What do you make of that? What does that tell us about the leadership? I mean, speaker of the House is in the line to the presidency. It is one of the most important jobs. What does it tell you that someone at that high level the Republican Party, when "freed" -- quote unquote -- comes out with all this?

CORN: Well, it shows that he`s a bit of a coward, and not much of a leader.

And you and I don`t run for public office. I don`t know what it takes to put someone in that position. But I have often wondered, why do you do this if you can`t fight for what you believe in? It`s a hard job. I mean, my hat`s off to members of Congress, senators.


CORN: It`s a hard job. It`s not an easy life.

Now, they get paid well, relatively well. They have lots of perks and respect. And they get to come on shows like this and say what they think. But what`s the point of doing that if you can`t say what you really think, if you can`t really work to put your ideas and principles into power, into policy?

And they all claim that`s what they`re there for. But Boehner and others have shown that, when push comes to shove, they`re really just there for the power. And he was getting kicked around. I mean, he had the power. But it was not a very pleasant existence. He ran away screaming.


CORN: So, he got kind of the punishment he deserved.


CORN: But he doesn`t deserve now to be seen as a wise old statesman who we can sort of look at and say, oh, yes, John Boehner, thank you for speaking out against the authoritarian drift in the Republican Party and the fact that it`s taken over by -- it`s been taken over by what you call whack jobs, when you were present at creation for all this.

So, really, at least acknowledge that and say you made a mistake and that you were wrong about that, and that maybe you should have stood up and said something sooner, maybe you should have led the fight against the racist birther conspiracy theory, which put Donald Trump into play as a Republican leader.

MELBER: Right.

As you say -- and, again, there`s room for constructive intellectual growth and otherwise.

CORN: Yes.

MELBER: But what he`s doing now seems to be such ridiculous revisionism, in order to ingratiate himself into whatever he, I guess, thinks now -- the only thing it tells you is, he thinks that the polite society outside of the House Republican Caucus, because he`s still hanging out with moderates in Republican circles and business people.

It`s not as if he`s only in Berkeley, where I suspect someone like you might be so at home.

Just kidding, David. You could be at home anywhere.


MELBER: But he`s not out on some left coast diatribe.

He`s still in a moderate to center-right place in his life. But he still feels the need to say: I`m not with them.

I`m supposed to fit in a break, but I will let you have a quick riposte, since I mentioned Berkeley.

CORN: As I said, it`s a lovely city.

But I think the key thing here is that we know that people even serving now in the House -- on the Republican side in the House in the Senate, they often tell people that they can`t stand what`s happening to their party.

MELBER: Yes, we hear that a lot.

CORN: The party itself, the people in the party can`t stand that Donald Trump was the president.

And they`re scared too about the wackos in the party. And just very few of them seem to have the courage to talk about it or to say anything when it matters, when it means putting something on the line.

MELBER: Exactly.

CORN: And that`s bad for the party and it`s bad for all of us.

MELBER: I got to go.

But, yes, the proof of them being afraid is how often they talk to journalists, ourselves included, off the record about, oh, this is bad, and you rarely see it out in the light of day.

David, thank you, as always.

We`re fitting in a break.

We have a couple of the stories I have mentioned, including a different police incident, an officer under fire here for pepper-spraying an Army medic. New story. We have that.

And, also, we have been reporting on the signs of Joe Biden at times on economic policy looks like the new Bernie. Now Mitch McConnell increasingly appears cornered on these very issues. We will explain.


MELBER: And we`re back with MSNBC analyst Juanita Tolliver.

Good to see you.


MELBER: We have been covering some interesting developments in the Biden administration, including a more liberal start, at least on domestic policy, than many expected.

Now none other than Mitch McConnell`s weighing in, and his point actually overlaps slightly with what some progressives and other analysts have said. He says: "Biden have won the nomination, but Sanders won the war over what the Democratic Party is these days."

And I will say it. I think Mitch McConnell may be saying this for his own reasons, including trolling. But I think he refers to a true thing, which is that the opening has been pretty liberal on spending, Juanita.

TOLLIVER: I think the Democrats and the Biden administration are coming out strong on spending because they`re meeting a moment in which Americans need help, right?

The landscape has changed by this pandemic in an extraordinary way, because let`s think back to 2020, when Democrats were absolutely working really hard to not be labeled as socialists or big spenders or big government. But now it`s completely fine, because it`s what is needed in this moment, long- term investments in the infrastructure, in jobs, and the ability for people to function in our society and in our economy, because what the pandemic has shown us is that those structures are in place.

Whether that`s access to clean water, whether that`s security -- securing the electrical grid or access to broadband, people don`t have what they need to function well in our society.


And how do you think this affects the Biden administration, if at all, the idea that the Sanders motif is taking hold?

TOLLIVER: I don`t think it affects them at all, right?

They`re going to take all of the provisions that they have strong support from Americans across the country on and relay that message out to the public. We know that two-thirds-plus American support most of the provisions included into this plan. And so that`s the drumbeat we`re going to hear from Democrats. They`re completely unbothered by McConnell, as they should be.

MELBER: Juanita, good to see you, as always. Thank you very much.

TOLLIVER: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: I`m keeping it moving because we have got a lot left in the program.

Thank you.

Up ahead: accountability over this important story with a police officer pepper-spraying an Army medic -- when we return.


MELBER: A Virginia police officer has now been fired over a new video release that shows him pepper spraying and black Army medic during this controversial traffic stop.

This is brand-new. Caron Nazario is a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. He was in uniform when he was pulled over. Now, the video is new, but the incident is from back in December. Police said they stopped him because they could not see his license plate.

Now, Nazario can be seen repeatedly just asking what he did wrong in the video, saying he`s afraid to get out of the car. One officer then pepper- sprays Nazario as he simply sits in the driver`s seat.


2ND LT. CARON NAZARIO, U.S. ARMY: Can you please relax? Can you please relax?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car right now.

NAZARIO: This is not how you treat a vet. I`m actively serving this country, and this is how you`re going to treat me?

I didn`t do any -- whoa, hold on. What is going -- hold on. Watch it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car! Get out of the car now!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car now!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, just get out the car.

NAZARIO: I`m trying to breathe.


MELBER: You can see on the video the attempt by him to de-escalate. He`s recording it. He`s mentioning that he`s in the military and what appears to be this escalation from outside the car by the officer, who is now fired.

We can tell you, the Virginia governor says they`re beginning an outside review of the whole incident. And Nazario is suing the officers involved on the newly released video.

That`s an update there.

I have something very special coming up. I hope you will stay with us. Our colleague and friend Ayman Mohyeldin live in Guatemala City with an exclusive interview.

We will explain after this.


MELBER: President Biden has discussed why some people make a decision to take so many risks and face danger to come across the U.S. Southern border.

There are nearly 17,000 unaccompanied children now in government custody related to this challenge.

MSNBC`s Ayman Mohyeldin has headed out to Guatemala to see these issues firsthand and how what comes to the U.S.-Mexico border sometimes comes from very far away.

He`s live for us tonight from Guatemala City, reporting on all the complexity on the ground. And he`s just interviewed Guatemala`s president - - Ayman.


You talked about the 17,000 or so children that are in U.S. custody. And it raises a question, because a lot of people in the United States are asking, what are the factors that are forcing people to leave places like Guatemala to try and get to the United States?

You have to think about this in the dire situation that these folks here are facing. And that`s what we have been doing over the past couple of days. We have been going out, not just here in Guatemala City, but also to the rural parts of the country, to try and see firsthand for ourselves both the short-term problems, as well as the long-term structural problems that are forcing people here.

And I can tell you, from what I have seen, it is a desperate situation. On one hand, you have the compounded problems as a result of the pandemic, natural disasters, all kinds of economic problems.

And when you compound that, with what we have seen in the long run, things like climate change, more importantly, organized crime, corruption in this country, you get a sense that the state is not actually fulfilling its obligation and taking care of the basic needs of the people.

And so, as a result, people are saying, look, they have to feed their kids, and, at the same time, they have to try to survive. And that`s why they`re taking that perilous journey across Mexico to the United States.

I posed this question to the president of Guatemala -- the president of Guatemala -- excuse me -- Alejandro Giammattei. And I asked him specifically about the Biden policy of accepting children, whether or not that was making the situation more difficult for migrants, or is it incentivizing them to come to the United States?

Here`s what he said.


ALEJANDRO GIAMMATTEI, PRESIDENT OF GUATEMALA (through translator): I believe, in the first few weeks of the Biden administration, messages were confusing.

There were compassionate messages that were understood by people in our country, especially the coyotes, to tell families, we will take the children. The children can go in and, once the children are there, they will call their parents.

And so those messages were confusing, not because of the way they were communicated, but because of the way they were translated here.


MOHYELDIN: But, obviously, the Biden administration wants to try and solve this problem.

They`re talking about committing more resources to Guatemala. But there is major concern that the resources will be squandered, like so many other rounds of American assistance and dollars that have been spent here, completely not going to the Guatemalan people, not able to provide basic services, and only ending up in the corrupt system that has allowed it to continue for so many years, Ari.

MELBER: All important points and a big interview.

Ayman Mohyeldin, thank you.

We`re out of time. I`m going to pass it off.