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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/19/21

Guests: John Nichols, Nancy Erika Smith, Marc Caputo, David Henderson, Carmen Best, Chuck Rosenberg


The defense and prosecution deliver closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. Signs emerge of new troubles for Congressman Matt Gaetz. Why is Kamala Harris getting blunt about going big on a progressive agenda? Multiple House Republicans come under fire over a leaked document that has their own House leader condemning nativist dog whistles. The Biden administration issues a warning to Vladimir Putin.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT with my colleague Ari Melber starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.

And we do have breaking news at the Derek Chauvin murder trial.

For the first time, we can report right now this jury is deliberating the fate of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and deliberating right now whether to convict him of murdering George Floyd. That`s the first time we can say that, because we are at this point in this process, 12 citizens sequestered.

That means they`re, of course, behind closed doors, where they are supposed to legally remain, until they can come to a good-faith and unanimous decision. That is what they are charged to do. The state needs a unanimous ruling for a guilty verdict.

The defense, if it wants to find at least one way out, has to just get wonder to hold out. That gets you a hung jury or a mistrial. The defense can also try to get a unanimous acquittal.

Now, many in America and around the world are awaiting this verdict from this jury. And here is what they heard. This is the final instructions they got from the judge:


PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA, JUDGE: During your deliberations, you must not let bias prejudice, passion, sympathy, or public opinion influence your decision.

Now, members of the jury, the case is in your hands as judges of the facts. I`m certain that you realize that this case is important and serious and therefore deserves your careful consideration.

Do you swear that you will keep these jurors together, separate from all other persons, and that you will not allow anyone to communicate with them, and that you will not disclose to anyone, except this court, anything which you may learn from their deliberations?



MELBER: This is serious. They are sworn to uphold that oath and to go do their duty.

What they`re doing it with is all the evidence they have heard and what everyone knows from any courtroom trial that you have ever witnessed, or any coverage of it, or even the movies. You know the final closing arguments can be critical.

Today, the prosecution using this final time they can speak to the jury to leave them really with one final thought, above all others: Believe your eyes.


STEVE SCHLEICHER, MINNESOTA PROSECUTOR: You have to pull back and say, would -- but for the defendant`s actions, pushing him down, would George flight have died that day?

Was it drugs? He just miraculously died of a drug overdose in that time? Maybe it was the tailpipe. Maybe it was his enlarged heart. Maybe not. Use your common sense. Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw.


MELBER: And, today, the defense used its final time before this jury to spend two-and-a-half-hours in a closing argument that implored them to consider a police perspective, to consider whether any reasonable officer might take these measures and to consider reasonable doubt.


ERIC NELSON, ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: You have to be convinced that the defendant`s actions caused the death of Mr. Floyd, actions that happened before Mr. Floyd was arrested that had nothing to do with Officer Chauvin`s activities are not the natural consequences of the defendant`s actions.

The state would have to convince you beyond a reasonable doubt that a combination of these preexisting issues did not contribute to Mr. Floyd`s death.


MELBER: As this jury deliberates on Chauvin`s fate and decides it right now, there are new reports that the killing, Chauvin`s killing of George Floyd, has catalyzed a tremendous amount of change, some of it behind the scenes, some of it that`s not always national news.

Today`s "New York Times" report 16 states have restricted now police neck restraints by law since Chauvin used his infamous one on Floyd in May. And that article quotes former police Chief Carmen Best noting new rules can in officers think twice, because they know there are repercussions.

And that`s what I want you to keep in mind tonight. That is where these two different calls for justice meet. You have new laws against police misconduct because entire state legislatures have said, that`s wrong. And that`s a step.

But then, in any courtroom, in any case, if these kinds of laws, old or new, are never or rarely enforced against police, well, then it brings it all back together, and many experts say, then they have little deterrence to stop the next potential instance of police brutality.

We have experts assembled for this important inflection point in the trial. Indeed, that former Seattle police chief that I mentioned "The New York Times" was quoting, Carmen Best, is one of our lead guests tonight, as is Chuck Rosenberg, former senior FBI official and a former federal prosecutor, and civil rights attorney David Henderson.

Welcome to all of you.

Chuck, very simply, what did you think of those often pivotal final closing arguments today?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, I thought the state, Ari, did a very nice job of synthesizing their evidence and telling the jurors that the single most important thing they can do here, which is what I used to tell jurors, is to apply their common sense, to take the facts that they saw in the courtroom and apply their common sense.

Look, this is not that hard a case in many ways, because we all looked at the same video. We were all appalled. Once you are convinced, as I am, that the cause of death was the knee on the neck, everything else falls into place.

And so I think this jury gets it. I found, at some point, that all of the arguments today got a little bit tedious. Maybe that`s because I grew up in the Eastern District of Virginia, also known as the rocket docket, where arguments are always strictly limited, and cases move very, very quickly. That`s simply the way I was trained.

But I thought the prosecution did a very, very nice job of focusing the jury where it needed to be focused on the evidence and on their common sense.

MELBER: Common sense. Believe your eyes. We heard that.

David, take a listen to this discussion of the now infamous final words, as Mr. Floyd was trying to convey what he knew, what he seemed to know might be his last words. Take a listen to this part.


SCHLEICHER: George Floyd`s final words on May 25, 2020, were: "Please, I can`t breathe."

And he said those words to Mr. Officer. He said those words to the defendant. He asked for help with his very last breath. But Mr. Officer did not help. The defendant did not help. He stayed on top of him, continued to push him down, to grind his knees, to twist his hand, to twist his fingers into the handcuffs that bound him.


MELBER: David, as we await a verdict on three separate offenses, walk us through what the prosecution was doing there. Obviously, it can apply to more than one thing. But it seems certainly to legally apply to the argument that this was actions taken with a depraved mind, if someone is clearly and even desperately telling you what they`re going through.

DAVID HENDERSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Absolutely, Ari. I think that`s correct.

They are keying in on the elements that they have to prove for those individual offenses, including third-degree murder, depraved mind. What they`re also trying to do is something that it`s easy to overlook. We tend to think of closing argument as argument, and they`re actually not, at least not for people who spend a lot of time studying them.

You`re trying to do more than just marshal all the evidence you president it to the jury. What you`re also trying to do is equip the jurors who are in your favor to go in that room and fight for you during deliberations.

I think that`s an issue here, where you have got three separate charges and you would prefer to see them convict on the more serious charge. Moments like that, where someone whose job is to protect and to serve, doesn`t show even an ounce of humanity that might have saved someone`s life, is a type of message jurors will remember when they`re back there in deliberations.

MELBER: Carmen, you used to oversee many officers. What did you think of the defense`s emphasis today on the -- quote -- "reasonable officer"?

CARMEN BEST, FORMER SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, POLICE CHIEF: Yes, I thought it was pretty lame, to be honest with you, because the defense kept bringing, would a reasonable officer look around at the crowd? Would a reasonable officer have the person in handcuffs?

And, of course, the answers to those questions are, yes, a reasonable officer would. But, additionally, a reasonable officer would stop using force when the level of resistance, what -- they would modulate it when that resistance went down.

And we all know that did not happen here, and that, over nine minutes, that same level of force was used continually. So -- and we had all of those officers from Minneapolis P.D. and the police chief come forward and say, this simply was not a reasonable use of force.

So, it was kind of surprising that he would keep bringing that up. But it was only a partial analysis of what was going on.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned it`s partial.

And, again, when we talk about trial strategy, Chuck, you can play for an acquittal if you think you`re lining up 10, 11, 12. You can definitely play for one or two holdouts. And I wondered whether that was what was going on, the idea that one or two people might keep hearing this term reasonable officer and feel some idea, some hypothetical, some way that they might relate to that.

I want to play this part, Chuck, on reasonable officer. Take a listen.


NELSON: The standard is not, what should the officer have done in these circumstances? It`s not, what could the officer have done differently in these circumstances?

The standard is, what were the facts that were known to this officer at the precise moment he used force, and considering all of the totality of circumstances and facts known to the officer, would a reasonable police officer -- what would a reasonable police officer have done?


MELBER: Chuck, help us understand, as you, like our other guests, have been in the courtroom, what what`s going on there, because it struck me that, if you make that question, really simple, plenty of people looking at the facts would say, a reasonable officer would not use this much force for this duration after these pleas.

And yet the way that he constructed it, the way that he made it sound, almost like a more complex inquiry, with the semicolons and the dependent clauses, it almost felt like he wanted to send one or two jurors going back in there going, but wait, this is more complicated than it might need to be.

I don`t know what your read was, Chuck.

ROSENBERG: No, I look, I think the point you made just a moment ago, Ari, is incredibly important.

Playing for an acquittal is an enormous lift, because you need a unanimous jury to acquit, just as you need a unanimous jury to convict. So, if an argument, however lame -- and I think Carmen Best is right -- this notion that force here was reasonable is a lame argument.

But if a lame argument works with one juror on one count, you have a hung jury on that count. If it works with two jurors on two counts, you have a hung jury on two counts. And so you offer up, I`m afraid, as a defense attorney, a smorgasbord of lame arguments, hoping that at least one will resonate with at least one juror on each count.

Playing for an acquittal is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. By the way, I don`t mean this as a criticism of defense attorneys worldwide. That is their sworn obligation. That is their duty to their client...


ROSENBERG: ... and, as officers of the court, their duty to the court as well.

This is what we asked them to do. So, whether we like the argument or dislike the argument or embrace it or reject it, he is playing for a hung jury, and then taking his chances with what the state tries to do next.

MELBER: And, Carmen, on the police side of this, I want to play something that was really striking, given that, inside the courtroom, we have really emphasized what the jurors obligation is. And it`s to put everything else aside and look at the facts.

Outside the courtroom, everyone here, us, citizens, viewers, we all know what`s going on. We know what the concerns are about racism in America are and policing. And yet, at one point here, the prosecution tries to thread that needle on, this is not an attack on all police by any means. Take a look.


SCHLEICHER: It may be hard for any of you to imagine a police officer doing something like this. Imagining a police officer committing a crime might be the most difficult thing you have to set aside, because that`s just not the way we think of police officers.

We trust the police. We trust the police to help us. We believe the police are going to respond to our call for help. We believe they`re going to listen to us. This case is called the State of Minnesota vs. Derek Chauvin. This case is not called the State of Minnesota vs. the Police.



MELBER: Yes, go ahead.

BEST: I was just saying, I thought that was an excellent point. I watched the trial this morning and thought that was great to bring that out, so that jurors aren`t confused.

This is the state against Derek Chauvin. It`s not a issue about policing all over. I know everyone is paying attention to it, but it is the state against Derek Chauvin and his actions that day against George Floyd. And I thought it was incredibly important to bring that out, in case that issue became a confusing issue for some of the jurors.

And he spelled it out very clearly, I thought he did a great job in doing so.

MELBER: Yes, interesting interview on that. And that spoke to also what they thought was strategically necessary, because those lawyers have spent time, basically, eyeball to eyeball with these jurors for all these last two weeks.

There are plenty of people in America who have said they don`t trust all the police, and that that message might not relate to everyone. But to those 12 jurors who are law-abiding citizens, who are voters, who are in their registered, that was a strategic way to try to make sure that there was clarity.

And, again, it also is consistent with what we have reported the judge said. This is not a debate about policy in America. This is about what you think this officer did, full stop.

Really interesting to get all of your expertise here. Chuck, David and Carmen, thanks to each of you.

We have our shortest break tonight on THE BEAT right now. It`s 30 seconds.

When we return: There are signs of new troubles for Matt Gaetz, including potentially talk of a recorded phone call.

We`re back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: A new development in the DOJ sex crime probe involving Republican Congressman and Trump ally Matt Gaetz.

The Florida congressman`s ex-girlfriend is now -- quote -- "worried" that a key witness tried to get her to incriminate Gaetz on a recorded call, Politico citing several sources for that report. And the timing is striking, the alleged call coming soon after Gaetz`s associate was indicted on a sex trafficking charge, among others.

The individual placing the call is believed to be a potential sex trafficking victim. It raises questions about who would want to record Gaetz and whether others may be cooperating with an open probe, which has already featured an indictment, intense pressure and the rarity of the feds seizing a sitting congressman`s fault.

While Congressman Gaetz denies all wrongdoing and says he`s still at work.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Congressman Matt Gaetz here. I want to thank you for the support and love you have shown me over these last couple of weeks. Rest assured, we`re still working hard for Northwest Florida, our state and our country.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Marc Caputo, senior reporter for Politico, well- known for his knowledge of Florida politics. He broke this story about the talk of this taped call and what it could implicate. We`re also joined by civil rights attorney Nancy Erika Smith. She represented former FOX anchor Gretchen Carlson in her harassment suit against Roger Ailes and has extensive experience in some of these related types of cases.

Welcome to both of you.

Marc, what did you find?

MARC CAPUTO, POLITICO: What we found, I think you have set it up pretty well, is one of Matt Gaetz`s ex-girlfriend, kind of his main ex-girlfriend.

And when you talk to mutual friends, they said they had an open relationship. They saw other people. She had reported to them that she was nervous that a young woman who was at the center or was key to the sex trafficking of a minor charge that Gaetz`s friend and associate Joel Greenberg had been hit with, that she, at a certain point, after Greenberg got indicted for sex trafficking over minor, called her, Gaetz`s ex- girlfriend.

And Gaetz`s ex-girlfriend said she didn`t really want to cooperate. And she was a little nervous. She just had her kind of Spidey Sense tingling. She thought that she was being recorded, that it was sort of a setup phone call. And now she`s worried, according to her friends, about maybe being hit with an obstruction charge or something that the prosecutors can use to get to Gaetz.

The bottom line is, it signifies a few things, one, very serious investigation, Two, it doesn`t appear with what we know now that the feds have enough information to charge Gaetz. If they did, they probably would have by now.

And, three, they are exerting a lot of pressure to get to that point. So, we -- there`s a lot we don`t know. As we have said repeatedly, Matt Gaetz has repeatedly said he did not break the law, he neither engaged in sex with a minor, nor did he pay for prostitutes.

This young woman, after she turned 18, wound up going on a trip to the Bahamas that the feds are also looking at for a possible Mann Act violation, which forbids people from transporting others across state lines to engage in prostitution.

Again, Gaetz has denied all charges or all claims against him.

MELBER: Marc, when you say that they`re worried about the call, does that mean they have any firm information about who would be behind recorded call?

Because one thought is, yes, authorities could be. Everybody`s seen that in the movies. Another is, it could be recorded, but for some other reason. Someone`s recording it because of their own measures that they`re taking without government affiliation. Do you have any specifics on that?

CAPUTO: I have no specifics on that.

What I do know is that she was concerned that the young woman at the center of this was working with the federal government. She was worried about her own legal exposure, to the degree she had any.

So, beyond that, I think we`re purely speculating. Because she`s worried about her own, let`s say, legal standing being charged, there is a sense among a lot of the people who have been interviewed that the feds have basically told people, look, you can be on the right side of this or on the wrong side of this. They really communicated the message that the wrong side of this is the Matt Gaetz side.

MELBER: Nancy, what do you think?

NANCY ERIKA SMITH, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, it`s really interesting.

Florida -- if the young one women are both in Florida, Florida is a two- party-consent state, where you`re not allowed to tape-record somebody without their consent.

But prosecutors very frequently do consent wiretaps, which they are allowed to do when they get permission to do. So, unless -- and this young woman, I think, from your reporting, did have a lawyer. So I tend to think that she was working with the prosecution. And this is probably -- the lawyer probably wouldn`t let her do a taping, because it`s illegal in Florida.

I tend to think that probably -- excuse me -- the prosecutor did a consent wiretap here. A consent wiretap is something that should be -- excuse me -- very scary to Gaetz, because it sounds like...


MELBER: Right. I mean, Nancy, what you`re getting at is that -- yes, what you`re getting at, Nancy, is, again, I want to be as precise as possible.

As I said earlier, it`s possible that someone`s taking their own measures. Whether or not they have good legal counsel or whether or not they might be breaking a new rule about the consent of the taping, that`s one possibility. But you`re saying, as someone who has worked around these kinds of cases, that you think it is a more likely inference that this kind of action at this juncture is being taken with the feds.

And if that`s the case, you`re saying that is bad news for Gaetz, because why?

SMITH: Because then she`s cooperating and she`s trying to protect herself, because prostitution is illegal for both the buyer and the seller.

So she`s trying to protect herself. And she`s fearful. She was saying that to the ex-girlfriend, apparently. So, if she is afraid for herself, what would she be afraid for, if she wasn`t engaged in illegal activity? And if -- she`s right. Prostitution is illegal on both sides. So he`s the purveyor.

And she`s -- and, apparently, the pimp is Greenberg. He`s the one who procures. There`s all these Venmos, including Venmos where the reason for the payment from Gaetz is ass and kisses and very suggestive reasons for the payment.

If you put all these pieces together, this is not looking good, because Greenberg is now cooperating. It looks like this woman might be cooperating. The ex-girlfriend is afraid. If nobody did anything wrong, why would anybody be afraid? Why would the ex-girlfriend not want to talk to the authorities, when a member of Congress is accused of trafficking and Mann Act violations?

The Mann Act is bringing people -- women across state lines for sex. If it was somebody I knew, I would definitely cooperate if I thought they were not guilty. Of course, you have a right not to. But this is a member of Congress accused the very wrong things, horrible things.

And if his colleagues are afraid to come forward and are taping each other, I think it looks very bad for him.


CAPUTO: There`s a -- I don`t want to speculate too much.

But when you look at the indictment, Joel Greenberg, among the many things he was indicted for, was making false I.D.s. And, also, in the indictment, he looked up the personal information of this young woman when she was still a teenager, still underage, when she was 17.

There is some speculation about whether he made her a fake I.D. or not, and whether that`s another possible infraction, violation, potential crime that the feds might have looked in going to her and exerting pressure on the young woman to testify or to speak to them.

MELBER: Interesting.


SMITH: Another serious crime.

MELBER: Well, yes, that would be -- and would create, again, potential pressure.

And this speaks, again, to all of these intricate parts. And, again, we have reported, and I will reiterate, in fairness, that Congressman Gaetz denies all wrongdoing. And we will see where the evidence leads, but it does suggest a lot of heat, a very active investigation, in addition to them having his phone.

On the political side, Marc, you have here papa Gaetz, as we learn about different characters. This is one with a more political history. Papa Gaetz tells you everything you need to know about Matt Gaetz.

Quite a headline -- quote -- "`There are a lot of people who own favors. They`re repaying those favors by staying silent about his son,` one Florida operative said, speaking on condition of anonymity."

Walk us through that.

CAPUTO: Matt Gaetz`s father was a very powerful state lawmaker. He rose, Don Gaetz did, to be Florida Senate president.

And the similarity between Don Gaetz and his son, very smart, good speakers, and they didn`t suffer fools or give a chance to their enemies to recover. And the difference between Don Gaetz and Matt Gaetz, I think, is that, while Don Gaetz would get toxic -- or caustic, I should say, once in a while -- I remember he told me, "I make sure to coat my words with honey, because, that way, it makes them easier to swallow."

Matt Gaetz does not live by that credo. So there`s kind of a major difference between them. Don Gaetz, prior to going into public service, made a lot of money in the hospice industry. The family does have deep pockets.

And then, on the political side that you mentioned, Matt Gaetz has been fund-raising off of this for his legal defense. If he does get charged, if this does go to court, he`s going to fight it. And he`s going to have a stable of well-paid, very experienced attorneys, whose job it is to raise enough reasonable doubt, so that there`s a hung jury or, as we discussed in the last segment, or as you did, that there is an acquittal.

So, stay tuned and understand that the prosecutors understand that they want to have an indictment that sticks and would result in a conviction. The Middle District of Florida is not the most liberal of places. It`s a place where someone of Matt Gaetz`s political ilk would have salience with the potential jury pool.

MELBER: A great point that you make.

And, again, in fairness to the legal process, you`re talking looking around the corner...

CAPUTO: Right.

MELBER: ... which is what any good prosecutor has to do as well, particularly in what are called these high-profile investigations. You`re dealing with these kind of individuals, someone in the co-equal branch of government, someone who, as we mentioned, has denied all wrongdoing, while there is a lot of intricate evidence, including some of your reporting.

So, I think we have gotten a really good and fair insight into quite a story down there that hasn`t gone away.

Marc Caputo and Nancy Erika Smith, thanks to both of you.

Coming up, we have more in the program.

Why is Kamala Harris getting blunt about going big on a progressive agenda?

Also, multiple House Republicans under fire over a leaked document that has their own House leader condemning nativist dog whistles. We will explain we come back.


MELBER: Several MAGA Republicans in the House under fire and already backpedaling over this leaked document that sparked all kinds of accusations of racism, even from within their own party leadership.

So, this document, first obtained by Punchbowl News, describes plans for the creation of an America First Caucus, which would protect -- and I am quoting -- "Anglo-Saxon political traditions that strengthen America`s culture," while warning that immigration puts America`s unique identity at risk.

This group initially was reported to have involved Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has been quite controversial for her past on-the-record embrace of all kinds of rhetoric and conspiracy theories. Under pressure, she apologized for some of them or walked them back, as well as including the notorious far right Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): There is an Islamic invasion into our government offices right now.

REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): Rid them of the scourge of these disgusting and depraved individuals. We know these men come from predominantly Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Muslim backgrounds.


MELBER: Now, this story, the idea of rallying around this identity stuff, has been moving quickly, because Greene`s office initially discussed the idea that this so-called Anglo-Saxon caucus would be announced very soon.

And Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, who has been in the news for other reasons, publicly tweeted that he`s proud to join this America First Caucus, and mentioning he was already worried about or dealing with lies from the America last crowd.

But things are changing quickly. America first is perhaps rhetoric. It can mean different things to different people. But once the draft document was out, once the reference was to European identity, to Anglo-Saxon identity, to some sort of European white caucus organizing itself within the Republican Party in the House, well, that was too much even for the Republican Party in the House, which is really saying something.

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy speaking out, talking about how what they need to be about is opportunity, not -- you see this highlighted here -- "nativist dog whistles." That`s your House Republican leader calling out his own out-of-control members.

Now Greene has a new statement, walking it all back, saying that the leaked document, which I just told you they were publicly talking about announcing, and it`s going to be this great big America first party, now they`re saying it was a staff level draft proposal from an outside group. She claims she hasn`t read it, and she`s out.

This whole episode speaks to some deeper rifts within a Republican Party that, as we have reported, increasingly struggles to do anything about the losses it was dealt, about any kind of political autopsy, let alone a greater ethical reckoning with the difference between policy positions -- sure, debate -- immigration -- and racism and white supremacy, which is a big problem in this country.

I want to bring into the conversation now one of our experts. Juanita Tolliver is an MSNBC contributor.

We have talked about many issues, Juanita. I`m curious what you think about one part of this that`s different, which is, either it was so blatant or just so ugly, that, unlike some other past problems we have reported on, Kevin McCarthy had to get involved and call his own teammates, effectively, appealing to racist dog whistles, to try to tamp it down.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I appreciate McCarthy`s tweet, but I don`t think it went far enough to demonstrate that this is something that he won`t accept.

One, he didn`t name names. We already know the names of the Congress members who -- from within the caucus who are really ready to push this and drive this forward. I think the second part of it is, he -- if he`s truly serious, where`s the next step in censuring these individuals who are putting out this type of language, who are still committed to reporting and pushing forward an American first agenda that was established -- not established, but perpetuated by Trump under his presidency over the past four years?

That`s the other thing that we`re saying, in addition to Marjorie Taylor Greene say: I didn`t read the document.

Sure, even if it was a draft, it captures the ethos and sentiment that she`s previously spoken on, that she was previously removed from committees for perpetuating.


TOLLIVER: And she went on to tweet, I believe just yesterday, that, sure, she is still committed to this.

So I don`t think these ideas are going anywhere.

MELBER: Yes, I appreciate your drawing that link.

I want to read a little bit from this, so people understand, because I go out of my way. I try to be as fair as possible. If people want to debate, for example, lower immigration from all places, that`s a policy position. Fine.

When people start talking about, well, certain immigrants are ruining this country, people who look like this or pray to that, well, now we`re not really talking about immigration. We`re talking about racism. We`re talking about anti-Islam or anti-Semitism or what have you.

And so reading here from the so-called draft platform that they were proud of as of Friday, it says -- quote -- "Societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en masse into a country."

I wonder if you could enlighten us on that, because this is well-known to be a country of immigrants. And the now Italian or Irish or other white immigrants don`t seem to be what is targeted here, which is why I would argue we have to call it for what it is. It`s not about immigration policy.

TOLLIVER: It`s about racism and xenophobia, just like you said, Ari.

And back to my previous point, it truly mirrors the same themes that Donald Trump perpetuated with his travel ban in January of his -- of January 2017, with him saying shithole countries, referring to African nations and Muslim nations. Like, this continues that same thread.

And it`s only through this perpetuation of nativism and stoking of, let`s be real, fears that I think Republicans have traditionally purported throughout history of this country that is going to excite a base that we know is there, because Marjorie Taylor Greene, again, saying these things, perpetuating racism, lifting up white supremacy, has raised, what, $3.2 million in her first term as a Congress member?

So, while she`s backing off from it now, there`s clearly grassroots support for these ideas that extends from Trump to right now in the Republican Party.

MELBER: I`m almost out of time, but I got to read you the architecture section.

TOLLIVER: Oh, man.

MELBER: This is where it gets -- it`s a sad story, but it does get -- it does get a little baroque and a little bizarre.

The America first folks here, they want infrastructure that reflects the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture, stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom.

Who knew we would end up discussing the conceptions of so-called beauty, Juanita? I give you the final, final thought.

TOLLIVER: Conceptions of beauty that apply to architecture and infrastructure, no less, Ari. It`s like, OK, make it the white way. The white European standard is the goal here.

And that`s ridiculous. It`s absolutely asinine. And, honestly, it`s something that I was surprised to see in that document as well, Ari.

MELBER: Yes, it`s a tell.

And some of the intellectual underpinnings are wobbly. But the problems are serious as a heart attack, which is why we wanted to make sure to break it down.

Juanita Tolliver, thank you, as always.

TOLLIVER: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Up ahead: President Biden -- thank you -- pushing back hard on Putin over imprisoning one of his chief rivals in that nation.

But, coming up first: Vice President Harris with a blunt message for Republicans.

And we have been reporting on the Biden-Bernie overlap. We have a special guest breaking it down coming up.


MELBER: President Biden Vice President Harris are making it clear they are going big on their infrastructure plan. It`s a big progressive dream vision.

Biden meeting with a bipartisan group of governors, mayors on this American Jobs Plan. The president drawing comparisons to Bernie Sanders for expanding on what people would traditionally call infrastructure, because the plan does things like, yes, bridges, roads and jobs, but also trying to combat climate change, affordable housing, funding for programs for the elderly and disabled, work force development, broadband access, and an explicit focus on righting racial injustice.

Meanwhile, the vice president promoting the plan with a blunt message to Senator McConnell.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president and I are ready to keep going. And we are not going to take it slow. And we are not going to take it one step at a time. Nope.

We are going to take a giant leap into the future.


MELBER: I`m joined now by national affairs correspondent for "The Nation" John Nichols, a former colleague of mine, a national political expert, and someone who knows his way particularly around the evolution of progressive thought in the United States.

Walk us through why some stuff that used to be called out there seems right in here in the mainstream right now.

JOHN NICHOLS, "THE NATION": Well, this is the 21st century, for one thing. And so we have a big, broader definition of infrastructure.

And that broader definition respects the fact that roads and bridges are part of it, but so too is a care economy, an economy that makes sure that the people who care for our elderly and our disabled get a fair wage, get respect on the job.

And this intersects with many of the racial justice components of the struggles of recent years, because the people who provide care are overwhelmingly women and disproportionately women of color.

And so you see within this infrastructure plan many of the successes of years of efforts by progressive activists, by unions to convince planners that, if you`re going to talk about infrastructure, you just can`t do it the way that they did in 1930.

You now have to talk about a modern era. And so that`s got to have its digital component. It`s got to have its planning for an automated economy component, and that`s in there as well. But at the heart of it, and I think the most important evolution here, is this respect for the women, and, in some cases, men, who provide care, that care economy becomes vital, because it`s there that you free people up to go to work, right?

If they can get good care for their parents, for a child with disabilities, then you`re able to go to work. If you`re a person with disabilities, if you can get care, then you can work as well.

So this idea of this as a jobs bill really comes together in that care component.

MELBER: Does it help Biden and Harris that so many Republicans had claimed to be for infrastructure of some kind of the last four years, and now they`re just ditching that talk entirely?

NICHOLS: Well, that`s it.

Look, the fact of the matter is, there`s two components to this. First is the reality that we have a huge infrastructure need in this country, which Democrats and Republicans have accepted. The engineers will tell us that we need to spend trillions of dollars just to repair that which is falling apart.

That`s the roads and bridges component. But -- and you do see some Republicans ditching off on that. You`re also seeing a lot of Republicans say, oh, this is too broad a definition. They`re asking for too much. They`re trying to do too much.


And that`s why Kamala Harris` statement today, Vice President Harris` statement was so important, because it is vital to say that, in this moment, if we come out -- as we come out of the pandemic, you have to have a big, bold plan for not just renewing the economy, but for building out an economy that has to evolve, that has to change.

And this is where so many of the plans of the administration come together, but, significantly, where so much of the activism on the part of unions and community groups and others over the last 20 years begins to really come together.

MELBER: Right.

NICHOLS: That`s why this is such a big deal.


John Nichols, always great to get an update from you. Good seeing you, sir.

Want to fit in a break.

When I come back: Biden`s new warning to Putin -- when we return.


MELBER: President Biden continues to put heat on Vladimir Putin, now warning the Russian leader about mistreating and imprisoning his domestic political rival, who was moved to a prison hospital after a three-week-long hunger strike, part of an ongoing, ugly saga that includes charges widely seen as political, an attempted poisoning.

U.S. officials say they have warned Putin there would be consequences if this opposition leader dies, implying the suspicion that Putin could still have him killed.


JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We are looking at a variety of different costs that we would impose.

And I`m not going to telegraph that publicly at this point, but we have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies.


MELBER: Well, that story speaks to attacks on freedom and free speech in Putin`s Russia.

Another story pushed by U.S. officials about Putin is losing credibility. You may recall it was a big deal when "The New York Times" reported in June that U.S. intelligence officials had evidence Russia had placed bounties for the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

The report stoked foreign policy tensions and plenty of debate. Then candidate Biden`s slammed then President Trump for failing to retaliate against the reported bounties that were threatening U.S. soldiers. And Trump aides at the time said the intelligence was not verified.

Well, "The New York Times" report stoked days of discussion and coverage, including here on THE BEAT.

But you need to know that now the CIA is suggesting the original accusation may not be true at all, saying in intel lingo that the intelligence supporting the account has left officials with low to moderate confidence that it`s true, and that the allegations were based on detainee sources.

This is a major shift and a reminder about the limits of largely anonymous government intelligence sources. And we wanted to correct and update "The Times"` account with the latest information for you tonight.

Up ahead: a first on Mars. The video we`re about to see, it`s pretty amazing.


MELBER: And something else you need to know about, NASA making history today millions of miles away from Earth, with the Ingenuity helicopter taking flight on Mars.

This is history made, the first aircraft to fly on another planet.




MELBER: A big moment.

The photo itself is actually a kind of selfie, because the helicopter is taking a picture of its own shadow you see here over the surface of Mars.

Today`s triumph comes just 117 years after the Wright brothers` first flight on Earth. NASA says the region where the Mars flight took place will be named the Wright Brothers Field.

Now, is there a rap quote for this? Yes. Was it not Lil Wayne who said, I am not a human, I am a Martian?

Now, that does it for our program tonight. I will be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.

I do want to tell you, when we`re doing all this fun stuff, like looking at Mars, you can always find us online on social media @AriMelber. Tell me your favorite planet on there. We might show some of the responses on air.

And you can always listen to THE BEAT or any MSNBC program on the TuneIn app on any device. So, check that out if you`re interested.