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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/16/21

Guests: Perry Bacon, Matt Zapotosky, Richard Kind


Actor Richard Kind speaks out. Are Republicans separating themselves from Congressman Matt Gaetz? What legal trouble should most worry Donald Trump? Why can`t Republicans come to grips with losing the Senate and the White House?



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Nicolle one, thing real quick, OK?


MELBER: Please do us a favor. Tell Martin Sheen he can have a minute, two, or five minutes of THE BEAT any time, or both of you come on for "Fallback." We were enjoying your show today.

WALLACE: Have you seen this movie, Ari? You have to see this movie.

MELBER: No, I need to. I need to.

WALLACE: OK, you and I will do like a movie club or a book club, because you have to see this, and we will talk about it on either of our shows.


MELBER: All right, the "Deadline" movie club. It`s a date.

Thank you, Nicolle, and have a great weekend.

WALLACE: OK. Thanks.

MELBER: Thank you.

Very interesting stuff there.

I want to welcome you to this edition of THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.

Now, it is a busy, busy week.

And we begin with the sex trafficking probe involving Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, which continues to divide House Republicans, put some unbearable pressure on the once tight Gaetz-Trump relationship. And now tonight, for the first time, we are seeing one measure of the scandal`s potential price tag.

You see the headline there. Now, this matters because, remember, congressman Gaetz has claimed that he`s innocent. We have reported that every time we do the story. And he`s also claimed that he`s nothing more than basically a willing subject in a DOJ probe of someone else.

He`s even buying ad time to attack the media and predicting he will be vindicated and that there`s no real story here. But, thanks to legally required campaign disclosures, the world is learning that Gaetz moved $85,000 intended originally for campaigning into his own legal defense.

So, something, something is costing him a lot as this probe goes forward, a probe that he says is going nowhere. Now, according to this filing, the fees started right after the initial indictment of Gaetz`s associate.

Now, Gaetz, for his part, has vowed to fight to the very end. He talked about this that his recent defiant MAGA event.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I have not yet begun to fight for the country I love and for the nation that I know benefits from America-first principles.


GAETZ: I`m built for the battle, and I`m not going anywhere.


MELBER: He is battling, but that`s not all.

A new "Washington Post" report on the tangled origins of this case includes the bizarre and, frankly, despicable revelation that a Gaetz ally took major steps to falsely smear a local teacher who was a political rival, falsely accusing him of being a pedophile.

The plot included a fake letter, ostensibly, but not really, from a student. Ultimately, it boomeranged, landing that local tax official, Joel Greenberg, and now Gaetz -- quote -- "in the crosshairs" of a Justice Department investigation.

Those investigators probing Greenberg leading to the many charges that he faces today, which include alleged sex crimes. Glean -- Greenberg, I should say, has pleaded not guilty to those charges. But his lawyer says they are likely negotiating a plea deal, which typically involves admitting some charges.

Now, as this whole scandal stays in the news legally, on the politics side, Republican leaders in Washington are struggling with it. Leader Kevin McCarthy has been dodging questions about his knowledge of Representative Gaetz, who has now faced the opening of two House ethics probes.

Others breaking with Gaetz. Today, a third Republican House member says he won`t take the congressman`s money and is forking over any past campaign funds that are tainted by Gaetz to charity.

Meanwhile, Congressman Gaetz`s alliance with the most powerful Republican in his state, Governor DeSantis, under increasing strain, because Republicans see Gaetz as a liability, according to new AP reporting. And those two, well, they used to buddy up and campaign together.

Gaetz was even advising DeSantis` campaign during his now infamous Bahamas trip in 2018. Now the governor`s office tells the press it has no comment on any cooperation with the Gaetz investigation over at DOJ.

And the once MAGA-friendly congressman is learning the hard way that, when you campaign with people like Donald Trump or DeSantis or even Sean Hannity, these things turn out to be pretty transactional, because Gaetz needs each of those people more now than ever, and they are bailing, a contrast to the governor`s prior lovefest.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Congressman Gaetz here, who has been working really hard for the people of Northwest Florida.

GAETZ: Governor, in all the work we have done together, I have never been prouder.

But I thought it would right to bring my good friend Ron DeSantis right here to Okaloosa County.


DESANTIS: Congressman Gaetz and I have just discussed, OK, he`s done a lot of campaign events with me.

GAETZ: It`s good to have a Navy guy like Governor DeSantis here.


MELBER: I`m joined now by "The Washington Post"`s Matt Zapotosky, who was the author here on that reporting about the origins of the Gaetz probe, very interesting stuff, and MSNBC analyst and a Democratic strategist Juanita Tolliver.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

As I mentioned every time we report this story, Congressman Gaetz denies all wrongdoing.

And yet, Matt, you seem to have been pulling on some threads that are interesting, and that there may be some scandal here, even if, as mentioned, nothing`s been charged, nothing indicted against the congressman yet. What did you find?

MATT ZAPOTOSKY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, yes, we found kind of how this investigation jumped from this guy you mentioned, Joel Greenberg, into Matt Gaetz.

And the long and short of it is, they`re investigating this guy Joel Greenberg, a local tax collector in Seminole County who kind of rises in Republican politics at the same time that Gaetz is elected to Congress in 2016. They become fast friends. People who know the men say they would party together, Joel Greenberg would arrange women for Matt Gaetz.

In the course of this Greenberg investigation, they arrest Greenberg on charges of basically trying to smear a teacher who is running against him for tax collector with this fake allegation. When they arrest him, they take his electronics. They search through his records. And it`s in going through those they find evidence that points at Gaetz, including payments to women on some sort of electronic cash app-type deal

So, that`s what is pointing at Gaetz. It is important to note he denies this.

MELBER: And, Matt, just pausing on that. I want you to continue, but just there, that was such a striking part of your story.

This is pretty serious stuff. We`re not even mentioning the teacher`s name, because we don`t see any reason to associate the name with what was a debunked claim.

But just to be crystal clear, this Greenberg fellow, who is now facing a lot of heat -- and if he has evidence on Gaetz, he has a lot of reason to cooperate, according to experts we have spoken to -- you`re saying what really got him first in this much trouble was this sort of despicable and sloppy effort to take what your reporting suggests is just a random, independent, innocent teacher, and falsely accuse them of being a pedophile?

ZAPOTOSKY: So, that was the basis of the first charges against Greenberg. When he was first indicted back in June, there were two counts, and it was just related to this teacher.

But I should point out, there had been allegations swirling around Greenberg mismanaging money in the tax office, some other stuff, for years predating, and he had retained a lawyer to represent him in some kind of federal inquiry dating back to like April of 2019, before he smeared the teacher.

So it is certainly possible that, eventually, the feds would have gotten on to him anyway. But the teacher is kind of what gives them the hook to arrest him, and then everything sort of cascaded from that.


I`m going to bring Juanita in momentarily.

For the reporting purposes, though, I just want to read again from a Gaetz spokesperson, in addition to the blanket denial I mentioned. They pose a question, partly implicating people -- I don`t know if you remember, Matt, the Talking Heads song "People Like Us."

Do you remember that one?

ZAPOTOSKY: No, I sure don`t.

MELBER: Well, it`s people like us -- it`s people like us that talk on the radio, or, in this case, television. Basically, it`s an attack on people like you, Matt, and people like me. They`re saying the media is unfair.

And in the interest of fairness, I`m going to read the statement.

Is the media -- quote -- "just going to continue running the same anonymously sort of stories every day repackaged to avoid admitting the obvious, that, over the past two weeks, they hyped charges and allegations that Representative Gaetz has repeatedly denied and there remains zero evidence of? -- end quote.

So, as I say, that`s kind of hitting me, kind of hitting you or anyone doing this work. I`m curious your response to the Gaetz office`s view that, at this point, "The Washington Post" is pulling on the same stuff or not working with real evidence?

ZAPOTOSKY: So, look, not all of the sources in that story are anonymous, right? We have talked to the teacher on the record. We talked to the teacher`s lawyer on the record.

We reviewed probably hundreds of pages of indictments, of police reports, of audit reports of this county tax collector`s office. We did talk to some people anonymously, which we commonly do. And because of the political sensitivity of the situation, we sort of have to do that.

Time will tell whether he gets charged or not. I`m not sort of drawing a conclusion there. I`m just reporting on an investigation here. He says that`s going to go nowhere. And we will see. But what we`re reporting, the facts we`re reporting are real. And his statement doesn`t sort of contest that. It just sort of objects to the fact that they`re being reported.

MELBER: Juanita?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think what`s striking about all of this, Ari, are is per Matt`s reporting, Greenberg lit a fire with a disgusting lie and its disgusting accusation that essentially led investigators into his own potentially criminal behavior that has resulted in, what, 33 federal charges.

I think it`s explicitly alarming that there`s this foundation of his work as a tax collector to make that claim against a primary opponent. But then as you start to unravel the entire situation, pulling in someone like Representative Gaetz, pulling in other donors from across the state, other political appointees, into this investigation who are being questioned right now.

And I guess that yields the question of, what is going on in Florida, that this many people are being questioned by federal investigators in connection with this bigger issue that, let`s be real, centers on sexual trafficking and abuse of minors? And it`s truly disgusting and truly troubling.

It`s -- I think, though, also troubling is the what we have seen from GOP members in Congress, where they might not be necessarily circling the wagons around someone like Gaetz, but they are not doing anything to raise further questions about his behavior, which has been reported to multiple outlets, whether it`s showing indecent images on the House floor or bragging about his escapades.

And so someone like Gaetz has been running around Congress for years now with no accountability from his own party. And I`m not shocked that we`re not seeing any form of accountability now, when he`s under federal investigation.

MELBER: And, Juanita, what do you think it says about the nature of this whole MAGA situation?

Because Gaetz got very prominent on FOX News and being friends with the president. He`s a very junior congressman. Now he doesn`t seem to be able to phone a friend for anything.

TOLLIVER: Like you said at the open, Ari, it`s fully transactional. They will use you as long as you`re an asset, but the moment you`re not an asset, you`re fine to be discarded.

And so that`s what I`m waiting for. When is that inflection point when we have more details coming out from this investigation? I hope it`ll be before formal charges, considering that he sits on the Judiciary Committee, the committee that provides oversight for the Department of Justice, which is running this investigation.

But I`m doubtful that they will do anything, besides wait and see, or, as McCarthy says, Gaetz said he`s innocent, and that`s enough for him right now.

MELBER: Yes, all really interesting stuff. We have been covering every aspect of it. Viewers can make up their own minds as we go.

Juanita Tolliver and Matt Zapotosky kicking us off tonight. Thanks to both of you.

We have our shortest break, just 30 seconds.

When we come back: the most dire legal threat that Trump may be facing from the riot. Famed prosecutor Andrew Weissmann joins me when we`re back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: America is now marking 100 days since the infamous January 6 riot.

And so let me ask you a question here as we end the week: Does it feel like 100 days since we in this nation and around the world were watching horrified with these images, these scenes, the outgoing president`s supporters storming our Capitol, demanding the overthrow of an election by force?

Does it feel like longer than that or shorter? I remember where I was. And, yes, I work in the news. But I bet you remember where you were when you first saw this, when you first felt it, when you first realized, this is happening in our country.

And since this happened, the president faced, of course, his historic, ignominious second impeachment trial. But that was only the first of many trials stemming from that day, including what could now be the greatest legal threat facing Trump for the insurrection, two Capitol Hill police officers suing him for their injuries sustained, while they say they were attacked relentlessly by his supporters, including an officer finding his body pinned against a metal door.

The other officer suing because he sustained a spine injury when slammed against a stone column. They alleged this happened only because Trump encouraged and incited the insurrectionist mob.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you catch somebody in a fraud, you`re allowed to go by very different rules. You will never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.

And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don`t fight like hell, you`re not going to have a country anymore.


MELBER: Eighty-one officers have been assaulted from that day alone.

Potentially, this is the most legally serious open case against Donald Trump. A lawyer for one of the officers says that they expect other officers who reported sustaining injuries that day to also move forward with litigation.

This is serious stuff.

And we turn now to someone who knows these issues inside and out. You may know him from his time on MSNBC and for more than one thing. He`s former FBI general counsel. He was a former senior member of the Mueller probe investigating Russian interference and also handling the Paul Manafort case. He is an NBC legal analyst, Andrew Weissmann.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Yes, sir.

I got more than one thing to ask you about. But let`s begin with this. Given that, as I mentioned, you have done multiple things, but when you were at FBI, you`re dealing with law enforcement. You`re dealing with federal officials.

What does it mean? How rare is it to have this kind of suit against a former president, in your knowledge, your working knowledge? And how, in your view, credible or persuasive might these particular plaintiffs be? I mean, plenty of Americans have beef, if you want to call it that, with plenty of politicians.

But what does it mean to have Capitol Police suing the ex-president?

WEISSMANN: That`s unusual.

What is not unusual is people being sued who are in government. When you are in the Senate, if you`re a governor, if you`re the FBI director, or CIA director, or the president, or the head of the bureau of prisons, all of those people are sued almost daily for some act that happened on their watch.

What is unusual here is that the people suing our police officers or Capitol Police, that is not the usual plaintiff. But, of course, what happened on January 6 is not the usual event. But it does speak to a hurdle that these people are going to have to overcome, because one of the things that protects people in the government from not being stopped dead in their tracks from ever taking any action is an executive privilege.

And so the president is going to certainly claim -- the ex-president -- that his actions had some connection to his official role. And the law is very favorable for people in government.

Now, he will claim that. And you obviously played things that you can hear from the former president`s mouth that are seemingly -- maybe he will say it`s sort of a bit of hyperbole or just helping his supporters.

But his actions that day, combined with his words, I think, are going to be the key evidence that these police officers use to say, what the former president was doing really is disconnected from his role as the president.

MELBER: Yes, I take your point about how strong the precedent is for government officials in this realm.

And yet there`s a certain irony, and I think critics of the law would say something messed up, to use a non-legal term, in the idea that someone who was trying to literally overthrow the very election that was ending his presidency could benefit from the powers of the presidency that way. But I think you have given us a good quick legal education there.

Now, I got to ask you about another big thing, right, Andrew?

WEISSMANN: Yes, sure, go ahead.

MELBER: I`m going to get right into it, the collusion bombshell.

The Biden administration finding that internal Trump 2016 polling did go all the way to the Kremlin. Now, for viewers, the background here is, this is literally the first time the U.S. has publicly said that convicted Trump aide Paul Manafort`s material went through the other person you see on your screen to the Kremlin.

That`s his ally, Konstantin Kilimnik, who remains wanted by the FBI and was a figure of major intrigue throughout the entire Mueller probe.



Manafort may have sent Kilimnik internal proprietary polling data from the Trump campaign.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: But we don`t know exactly what the polling data was.

MELBER: This is believed to be something valuable.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What he was doing with Kilimnik during the campaign speaks much more to the question of whether or not there`s a chance that, in fact, he did help the Russians in their effort or not.


MELBER: And now the United States says he did.

So, short question, then a long one. Andrew, the short question, did you, as the top Manafort prosecutor working hand in glove with Bob Mueller, know this then?

WEISSMANN: Absolutely not. None of us did. We were absolutely...

MELBER: So, that`s big.

So, now it`s...


MELBER: Now it`s -- yes, Andrew, now it`s known, so you didn`t know it then. You go through all of this.

Walk us through what this means now that, A, you didn`t have the evidence of it at the time, but Manafort knew what he did. So was he continuing to conceal this to the end to protect Trump, Putin, or both? And, two, was this known inside the United States intelligence services and not furnished to you and the Mueller probe?

WEISSMANN: To answer your first question, it is important to remember that what was reported yesterday, which is a bombshell, which is, we did -- we uncovered really terrific information, which was we knew that internal Trump polling data went from Rick Gates, at Paul Manafort`s direction, to Konstantin Kilimnik.

We had strong suspicions as to what Konstantin Kilimnik would do with it, given his relationship to Russian intelligence. But we had no evidence of that. And we pointed that out in the report. We were very clear, we did not have evidence as to what happened next.

So, that`s why this is so big, what was revealed yesterday.

But as to your first point, what was revealed yesterday didn`t say that Paul Manafort knew that that`s what Kilimnik did. I don`t think that`s -- that`s important, if you`re looking at Paul Manafort. But if you`re looking at the big picture, what`s clear is that Konstantin Kilimnik took internal Trump polling data and gave it to the Russians.

That`s -- whether Paul Manafort knew or not, it`s hard to imagine that -- if Paul Manafort didn`t know explicitly, he certainly knew the risk of that happening, once you give that kind of information to a Russian, who is widely suspected of being a Russian spy and connected to the GRU.

The second question you have, which is super interesting, is, is it possible that the Bush -- the Biden administration discovered this in the minute and 32 seconds that they have been in office? It is possible, but not like likely.

MELBER: Right, unlikely.

WEISSMANN: And so that leaves the open question of who in the government knew this, and why on God`s green Earth wasn`t it communicated to the special counsel`s office?

So, that, I think, is an important fact that we don`t know the answer to, because I can tell you, as you said, I was in charge of the Manafort team. And we were like dogs with a bone. We were trying to pursue every possible lead.

MELBER: Do you want to name names of anyone in the Trump administration that would have been the right person responsible for providing that cooperating information?

WEISSMANN: I don`t know. I don`t know because what was reported yesterday didn`t say where the information came from, whether it`s the CIA, the NSA, or some other part of the alphabet soup of Washington, D.C.

So, I don`t know which of those agencies, assuming that this was something known...

MELBER: But, to be very clear here -- but Andrew, to be very clear, the Mueller probe sought this information from DNI and IRS, et cetera?

WEISSMANN: So, I can`t get into what would be -- I can`t get into that specific question.

But I can tell you that, as part of the Manafort team, we sought every possible lead and every piece of information.

MELBER: Yes. Copy.

WEISSMANN: Clearly, as we put in our report, we wanted to know what Kilimnik did with that information. That was a critical piece in the puzzle.

MELBER: And Andrew, you can`t blame me for asking.

WEISSMANN: Absolutely not. It`s your job.

MELBER: We`d like to know.

Look, you have just been very clear. I think viewers can hear exactly what you`re saying. I also respect and understand, as a former prosecutor and government official, how clear you are about what you`re saying and not saying.

I will say that we now know that the Kremlin had the internal secret blueprint for how to help the Trump campaign the most. And they got that through an intermediary who is still wanted by the FBI, who got the information from the number one official for the Trump campaign, who did about two-and-a-half years before ultimately getting his commutation from Donald Trump.

It`s all clear out here in public. And while the criminal investigation is over, the national security implications and what America wants to do about it is all out here for the taking for people to figure out.

So, Andrew Weissmann, on more than one story tonight, thank you for being here.

WEISSMANN: Glad to be here.

MELBER: Yes, sir.

We`re going to continue our special coverage ahead, given this 100-day mark, the feds getting their first guilty plea from one of the MAGA rioters.

And why Republican leaders are struggling to come to grips with their own defeats, and why Biden keeps drinking their electoral milkshake, that`s coming up.


MELBER: We`re marking 100 days since the January 6 insurrection. Prosecutors say the legal fallout is the largest and most complex federal criminal investigation in American history, over 400 suspects now charged for their roles, from violent entry, to disorderly contract, to felonies like assaulting officers and carrying weapons that could bring them decades of prison time.

Now, today, prosecutors did score their first guilty plea. Jon Schaffer, accused of being a long time member of the Oath Keepers, pleaded guilty to unlawfully entering Congress and obstructing an official proceeding.

These are felonies they carry up to 30 years in prison. He`s expected to cooperate with the government and will receive witness security.

Some of the most infamous members of the pro-Trump mob are out on bail, however. A former Trump official accused of beating police with a stolen riot shield, also known as the Confederate Flag guy, he`s out. The zip-tie guy is out, even the man who stole the speaker`s podium.

They are out on bail awaiting trial, which is a contrast to so many other Americans, including people without money for bail.

Others do remain behind bars, we should note, the man charged with using a flagpole to beat an officer and one who famously, infamously broke into the speaker`s office, as well as the QAnon Shaman, recently denied bond and has been expressing disappointment in Donald Trump because he didn`t get a pardon.

Two men could now face decades in prison as well for assaulting Officer Sicknick with an unknown chemical spray. Suspects have also gotten somewhat creative with some of their defenses, some rioters just openly apologizing as they face real legal heat. Others are blaming Donald Trump, claiming that they were following the orders of the commander in chief.

Legal experts say that`s just not true and not a real defense.

And some of the most prominent cases have been filed against the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, because they are accused of coordinating the actual conspiracy of breaching the Capitol, obstructing Congress, and doing it with specific planned formations.

Those are just some of the 419 cases that are being prosecuted. The Huffington Post also estimates there are over 200 rioters wanted today by the FBI who have not been identified or caught.

That`s an update on accountability for those people and what they did.

Now, we have a lot more in tonight`s program.

Coming up: why Republicans can`t come to grips with losing the Senate and the White House, as Joe Biden continues to build conservative support.

And I want to tell you, as we talk about accountability, well, a programming note. This Sunday, I will be anchoring a live special on the Chauvin murder trial. It`s the eve of the pivotal closing arguments.

That`s this Sunday right here on MSNBC 6:00 p.m. Eastern. I hope you will join us.


MELBER: Welcome back.

We`re turning to politics.

And there`s one thing just about everybody knows about the news. Bad news usually makes a larger story than good news. Thousands of planes land and take off every day, but, of course, it`s the rare plane crashes that make for big news.

You know, many, many politicians do their jobs without incident, but when a sex trafficking probe includes Republican Matt Gaetz, well, that`s the big story.

Political analysts are noting this dynamic with the new administration. We have been living through plenty of tough times, all kinds of bad and challenging news around the nation.

Well, Democrats see good news, whether it`s reported or not, in these polls that show Biden`s popularity well over 50 percent, surging, on the strength of popular policies, with his spending, and plans to tax corporations, which some of them poll even better than he does, including among conservatives.

So, one of the basically hugest new shifts in our politics may oddly be the least discussed these days. America went from an unusually unpopular and polarizing president to one who`s supported much more broadly right now, even uniting voters from both parties on key policies.

And all of this, basically, it poses a challenge for this Republican Party, which isn`t even pretending to offer a new counteragenda or a rebranding after 2020, as reporter Perry Bacon notes.

That may seem like self-sabotage, considering that, in the last eight elections, more Americans have picked the Republican for the White House, they did that once. But when you ask whether Americans preferred a Democrat for the White House, well, in the other seven of the last eight, as you see here, an overwhelming preference for Democrats.

Now, Bacon notes that the usual post-defeat autopsy is missing right now. Why? Well, partly because Donald Trump is -- while he may be politically over, he`s a kind of a walking political zombie, haunting his party. And Bacon says, for a true political autopsy, well, there has to be a dead body.

Joining me now is reporter Perry Bacon from FiveThirtyEight.

Thanks for joining me.


MELBER: Good to have you.

You lay some of this out. And I don`t know if you will agree, as someone in journalism, that sometimes we missed the big -- the big standard things, especially if they don`t have that conflict or something else.

What are you getting that in this piece? And what does it mean for both Biden`s strength and Republican infighting?

BACON: So, often, the biggest story, as you say, is what isn`t changing.

And if you remember, after 2004, Democrats really trashed John Kerry. After 2008, John McCain got criticized. After 2012, Mitt Romney was really criticized by Republicans. Same for Clinton in 2016.

But now you have this unusual situation. Usually, if you lose, people on your own party attack you a lot. Not this time, because Trump has such a real hold on Republican voters, even though the Republicans lost the House, Senate and presidency with Trump. He is a huge drag in the suburbs.

But he`s so strong with the core base that the party can`t move on from him. You heard Nikki Haley this week say, for example, she will not run for president if Donald Trump does. That`s very unusual. Donald Trump just lost. He`s not a great candidate.

But people in the party -- usually, people are running to run for president no matter what. But people standing down for someone who just lost is highly unusual, except the base of the party loves Trump, and the other presidential candidates know that deeply.

MELBER: So, let`s get into Nikki Haley, because talk about what a difference 100 days makes.

I mean, Nikki Haley, served in the Trump administration in the Cabinet. After January 6, she spoke out. We have this. She said she wouldn`t run again -- she didn`t think he could. She said: "He`s fallen so far. We shouldn`t have followed him. We shouldn`t have listened to him. We can`t let that ever happen again," Perry.

Now she`s completely backed down, warning not that it should never happen again, but, rather, she will help it happen again. And she pledges not to run if Trump does.


QUESTION: He still has a lot of popularity. If he runs again in 2024, will you support him?

FMR. GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R-SC): Yes. I would not run in President Trump ran. And I would talk to him about it. That`s something that we will have a conversation about at some point.


MELBER: Perry, it was on your mind and ours. We have the tape there.

When you stack that against just, 100 days ago, her saying never again, how do you go from never again to, whatever you want, I`m afraid to run against you?

BACON: You know, I live here in Kentucky, so I know what happened when I saw Senator McConnell. Watching him told me this.

In the days after January 6, he was very every critical of Trump, basically said the party should move on for him. Then there were resolutions in the state -- in various county parties here condemning not Trump, but condemning Mitch McConnell.

You saw Liz Cheney face that. You saw a lot of Republicans -- Pat Toomey faced that. Any Republican who supported impeachment or criticized Trump at all, their state party, their local party, their local activists told them, we`re with Trump, not with you.

And I have watched Mitch McConnell flip from being very anti-Trump after January 6 to pretty pro Trump now. McConnell has now said he would also support Trump if he was the Republican nominee in 2024 as well.

So, the whole party, what you have seen is where the real power in the Republican Party is not the elected official officials, but the base and the local activists. And they told the party, we`re a Trump party. If you`re Republican, it means you support Donald Trump.

And now you have seen the Nikki Haleys, the McConnells, and so on flip back, because the party activist told them they had to.


And it just shows the value you can put in any of those words for a former president who, for all the talk of what he would do, is -- he`s around, but he`s not loud. He`s not on television that much. He`s not on the Internet that much. They`re just afraid, as you say, of the hold he has, which is why that autopsy, zombie analysis makes some sense.

Good to see you again, Perry. Thanks for being here. Have a good weekend, man.

BACON: Thanks for having me, Ari. Good to see you.

MELBER: Yes, sir.

Coming up, there is late-breaking news on the DOJ suing Roger Stone.

Also, new heat on Ted Cruz. We`re going to get into why he keeps finding himself in these controversies, and something very special I want you to know.

Later tonight, by the end of the hour, we will hear from Richard Kind from HBO`s "Curb Your Enthusiasm" here on THE BEAT.


RICHARD KIND, ACTOR: Put through her cosmetology school?


KIND: This is her calling. She`s great with lotions. I mean, have you ever seen what she does? Have you -- oh, my God she was born to do this.



MELBER: We just got breaking news here in the newsroom.

The Justice Department is now formally suing longtime Trump aide Roger Stone and his wife for unpaid taxes. This new DOJ federal suit filed in Florida alleges that Stone, who was famously convicted in the Mueller probe and then given clemency by Trump, owes $2 million, the government says, in unpaid taxes.

Stone ultimately pardoned by then President Trump for other convictions, lying to Congress and witness tampering in that Mueller probe.

What you see here is, his legal troubles are not over, this Justice Department going right back at him. And there`s no reason to think this time Mr. Stone as a defendant would be likely to get a pardon.

Now, we have a lot more in the broadcast. I wanted to get that breaking news in.

But up ahead: Ted Cruz is under fire again, making waves. We have Andrew Weissmann back in the mix and "Curb Your Enthusiasm"`s Richard Kind for a very special conversation coming up.


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

We have two phenomenal guests, Richard Kind, a Tony-nominated actor. He had a big role on "Mad About You." He`s voiced characters in the Disney franchises "Toy Story" and "Cars," you may recall, or an HBO`s "Curb," Netflix`s "Big Mouth," plus "Everything`s Going to Be OK," a second season now running on the channel Freeform.


KIND: Why didn`t you call me when you were there? It would have been nice if you called.

DAVID: I was busy, Andy. I couldn`t see you. I`m sorry.

KIND: No, no, no, no, I`m talking about that. Just call me.

rMD+IT_rMD-IT_DAVID: I know. But what`s the difference? I could call you when I`m in L.A. I don`t see the logic to it.

KIND: You know, you know what I`m talking about. Don`t be a putz. What are you talking about?

I`m not letting my scallops get ice cold.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Oh, well, God forbid.

KIND: Cold scallops is how I got food poisoning in West Palm, remember?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Maybe you should stop eating scallops, Marty?

KIND: And let the scallops win? Hah! They`d love that.

Jesus (ph) has been practicing social distance on me.


MELBER: And we`re joined by legal heavyweight Andrew Weissmann.

You may know him from going after organized crime in New York, overseeing the fraud division at DOJ, a lead prosecutor in Enron, and a major player in the Mueller probe, which he wrote about in "Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation."

We discussed even some of those issues tonight.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

KIND: First of all, it`s my pleasure to be here. And, secondly, what are you wasting time with me, when you have Andrew Weissmann?


KIND: It`s just -- you`re smart people there, aren`t you? I can`t believe it.

MELBER: Well, Andrew -- I happen to know Andrew is very smart.

KIND: I know. I agree. I understand, which brings me to my point.


WEISSMANN: Yes, I don`t have a great sense of humor, though.

So, I think Richard is going to carry the day here.


MELBER: Look, I appreciate Richard challenging the premise of this -- of the booking of the segment right out the gate. Now we have that out of the way.


MELBER: Richard, at the end -- at the end of the week, man, we look at what needs to fall back.

What`s on your "Fallback" list, Richard?

KIND: All right.

Look, I got to tell you, it`s been a long time coming. But this one is outrageous.

OK, here`s my supposition. If a man goes and works out for eight years at a gym, and gets better, look, and lifts more, and he -- looks like -- he works out for eight years, vs. somebody who doesn`t work out, who`s going to be stronger? The guy who goes to the gym.

Well, if an epidemiologist or a doctor goes to school, and then goes to more school for a total of eight years, he`s going to bench-press 320 pounds with his brain.

So, why does a man like Ted Cruz, who has not gone to medical school, who is not an epidemiologist, why does he not listen to the big strong guy who`s saying, wear a mask, get a vaccine? He flaunts the fact that he has not worked out. He flaunts it with his stomach and with his brain.

The guy`s out of his mind. He is teaching the citizenry how not to behave. What do I tell my kids? How do I say this man is a senator?

And then when you match that with what Senator Cotton did this week in talking to that Biden appointee, and -- about the column that she wrote for Harvard, that she went to Harvard, and wrote for "The Harvard" -- "The Harvard Crimson."

And then he`s going, well, do you really believe that blacks are weighted - - are smarter than white people?

No, it`s satirical. Get your -- this man is making decisions for the...

MELBER: So, Richard...


KIND: ... of our country.

OK, go ahead. You talk.


MELBER: All right, so, Richard...


KIND: Yes.

MELBER: I`m learning two things. One, you feel exercised about Ted Cruz`s decision here to ditch the mask, which I think a lot of people could relate to what you`re saying and following science.

KIND: Yes.


KIND: Yes.

MELBER: And, two, I`m learning -- I`m learning I don`t know how much acting you really do, because your voice right now, your fulminations sound just like your characters.

KIND: I`m not that good at acting.


KIND: I just...


KIND: Why do you think my kids can`t stand me?


KIND: I tell them: I love you! I love you!


MELBER: Yes, no, it`s high. It`s high volume. I love it.

All right, that`s Richard`s "Fallback" list.

What`s on yours, Andrew?

WEISSMANN: So, on mine, 30 years ago, we had the Rodney King case. And we all watched on video a black man being beaten up by the police.

And 25 years ago in New York City, we had Abner Louima, where a police officers sodomized him with a stick.


WEISSMANN: And where did that happen? Where did the police officer think that the -- that he would be safe to do something that despicable? In a police station, which is probably the most horrific part of the Abner Louima case.

Well, here we are again in the Chauvin case 30 years later. And what is the response of the Florida Senate to what`s going on? It`s to pass a bill that is a supposed anti-riot bill that actually says, by the way, if you drive a car into protesters, you will have qualified immunity.

That is not the response after 30 years of living through unequal justice, to play politics with that issue. And it`s time to depoliticize this issue and get real.

MELBER: I appreciate that one.

And particularly when talk about rights of speech and protests in America, having state legislatures respond by making it effectively harder to use your speech rights and your protest rights -- and if we have learned anything, I think some of these protests have mattered. They have made some difference. So, that`s a real big one.

Richard, we got 90 seconds left. Anything else on your list? You can take us out here on higher spirits, if you have something.

KIND: There`s -- yes, OK.

I will do what my job -- there was a guy who was caught naked in Canada because he was -- went out jogging, and then he changed his clothes without realizing that the camera was on. This is very different than a very wonderful "New Yorker" columnist who was caught unawares, but might have been aware. Anyway, he was doing something that wasn`t right.

Changing clothes from your jogging suit to your regular clothes, out of respect for who you`re going to be talking to, and making a mistake, not knowing that the camera is on, what are you going to do?


MELBER: You`re saying this individual had the Zoom on and working -- well, working from home Richard is harder in the pandemic.

KIND: It is harder. And he made a mistake.

Now, if we do a deep dive and we find out that there are sexual proclivities, that he actually does like doing this, he`s all wrong.

I`m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Let`s just -- the guy made a mistake. Please don`t keep this in the paper. We were all laughing at him. It`s not -- it`s like a cat being a lawyer.


KIND: It -- mistakes are made, OK? We don`t -- and we`re old. We don`t know how to use these darn -- these oldfangled computers. We just don`t know. We`re old. We can`t handle them.

MELBER: Computers are hard.

Now I`m out of time. Now I`m out of time.

But I will say, Richard Kind and Andrew Weissmann, ending the week with a whole different medley.

Richard, I hope now you can see the benefit of putting you two together. We think it was great.


MELBER: Have a good weekend, you guys.

KIND: My honor. To both of you, my honor.

MELBER: Thanks to everyone watching THE BEAT.

A hundred.