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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/27/21

Guests: Chai Komanduri, Karen Bass, Dave Aronberg


The White House prepares for President Biden`s first speech to a joint session of Congress. New information emerges on the DOJ probe into Congressman Matt Gaetz. The Biden administration launches a civil rights investigation into the police killing of Anthony Brown. President Biden announces new CDC guidelines for mask-wearing. Congresswoman Karen Bass speaks out.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER," who is back in the chair, starts right now.

Hi, Ari. Welcome back.

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

Welcome back to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber, back from a few days off.

And we are back to a lot happening in the news, with a turning point arriving on COVID, while misinformation endures.

Also ahead this hour, I will tell you how the White House is prepping President Biden`s first speech to a joint session of Congress and how things looked when I visited there for some reporting today, plus news on the DOJ probe into Matt Gaetz, and, under the Biden administration, a new civil rights investigation into the police killing of Anthony Brown.

So, a lot of news, but the top story is a nation that`s increasingly vaccinated, the CDC issuing guidance clearing the way for people to go walking and socializing outside without masks if you`re not in a crowd.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: For vaccinated people, outdoor activities without a mask are safe.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The CDC is able to make this announcement because our scientists are convinced by the data that the odds of getting or giving the virus to others is very, very low.


MELBER: The mask guidance is part of a wider CDC update, with detailed pointers on low, medium- and high-risk activities for both categories of Americans, those who have been vaccinated, and those who haven`t.

And after all these rules, this may be the CDC`s way of paraphrasing the rapper Future, who famously said mask on, mask off. And the CDC has certainly been the boss of our lives. As Future says in that same song, we call the play. We didn`t come to play, no. That is boss energy.

And this mask news is about both science and policy, because the vaccine rollout and the pursuit of herd immunity is on the right track. And yet, like so many other things these days or these past few years, even when there`s science, it seems to come with a chaser of misleading trolling in the very same news cycle.

And we don`t replay a ton of what misinformed pundits say on this particular news program, but this is misinformation that is making so many waves, that experts are going out of their way to shoot it down, and warning people about it.

So, regardless of your politics, do not listen to this man on this topic.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: As for forcing children to wear masks outside, that should be illegal.

Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid at Walmart. Call the police immediately. Contact child protective services. Keep calling until someone arrives.

What you`re looking at is abuse. It`s child abuse, and you are morally obligated to attempt to prevent it.


MELBER: What are we to do with this?

Here we are, even as the federal government guidance on masks is relaxing, which is a nonpartisan process, even as 95 million Americans are now fully vaccinated, we have to be clear about what`s happening out in the country, because millions of people are getting that message or hearing from elected Republican senators discouraging vaccinations, which experts say is proving especially dangerous to a certain group of people.

It`s dangerous to their own fellow travelers in politics, to Republican voters, one out of three now saying they will not get a vaccine at all.

Now, everyone has the right to make their own medical choices. In the United States today, no one`s being threatened with jail time for passing on a mask or a vaccine. Indeed, I mentioned tonight on our broadcast because we need to keep our eye on the ball, as we try to round this corner.

The person talking about jail and calling the police and child protective services is an alarmist faux libertarian, which, sadly, reveals a lot about how well this rebound to the pandemic is going. People rooting for the new administration to fail have to increasingly grasp, however desperately and bizarrely, at something other than the scientific facts.

Joining me now to kick off our broadcast is Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, infectious disease specialists with the University of Boston, Juanita Tolliver, Democratic strategist and MSNBC contributor, and Katty Kay, Washington anchor for BBC News.

Doctor, what`s important to keep in mind about the facts here?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Ari, I think this is a move in the right direction.

What I like about the CDC`s guidelines is that they really draw a distinction between how much safer the outdoors are for both those who are vaccinated and not vaccinated, and how much more dangerous the indoors are.

They also create a spectrum, in telling people, look, there`s a spectrum of risk and you make a decision of your activities based on that spectrum of risk and the potential for you to get exposed.

And then, there again, they talk about how much safer it is once you`re vaccinated to do any of these activities. So it really stresses the importance of vaccination as one of the ways that we keep ourselves safe.

I think what you might hear from many public health experts is that maybe the outdoor part maybe doesn`t go as far as they would like, right? It really is safer from for most people, except for very crowded spaces, and that`s what we have to remember.

But I think taking it slow is a good idea. We`re coming out of a very horrendous pandemic. And the tough part of this for states is going to be that you can`t really make a mandate based on vaccination status, because you`re not going to go around checking people`s vaccination status outside. And you`re not going to be able to do that based on group size, because there`s no real sort of distinction on that.

And so what you might see states doing, in some cases, like Massachusetts, that had a blanket mask mandate, they might roll back and just say mask outdoors where you can`t socially distance, and you might see other states take a slightly more liberal perspective, where they may say, don`t need masks outside unless you`re in large groups in venues such as concert halls or stadiums.

MELBER: Yes. Yes.

Did you get a look at sort of the chart that the CDC put out with all the different green, red, yellow? I`m curious. We`re not putting it up on the screen, for a very simple reason. It was so thorough, it`s not very usable. It`s not something that works on TV for a 20-second image, as some of our viewers have seen.

It`s not something I think that is practical for most people. I guess, if you`re really studious -- I`m not discouraging anyone -- but you could ask some people to take it out. And every time they do something, look at the 18 levels.

But I`m curious what you think the distilled version of that is for people to know tonight?

BHADELIA: I think the biggest thing is, if you`re vaccinated, almost every place is safe for you on the outdoor side, except for large groups, like venues where people are gathering.

And if you`re not vaccinated, you need to have caution when you`re gathering and other people who may not be vaccinated or who may be vaccinated in multiple households. And you should definitely still keep that guard on in both cases on the indoor side.

MELBER: Katty, I want to go to you on all the above and also play again, as we talk about the consequences of this -- it`s real. It`s always a question of how much to fact-check, address or just ignore and not give oxygen to misinformation.

But take a look at how one school is dealing with something based on what experts say is misinformation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new policy directing teachers to not get the COVID vaccine, or they won`t be allowed around students, is causing controversy.

Centner suggests the vaccine may be responsible for unfounded reports of reproductive issues for women. "It appears that those who have received the injections may be transmitting something from their bodies to those with whom they come in contact."


MELBER: Katty?

KATTY KAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I went through the same editorial thinking today on my show, Ari, and we did run both the Tucker Carlson clip and that story about the Miami school.

And I think it`s partly because it`s important for people to realize just how much misinformation there is out there. There is absolutely no information that says that, if you -- a woman comes in contact with somebody who`s been vaccinated, then it could impact her menstrual cycle, which is what the head of that school in Miami was saying.

And we are surrounded by misinformation. And as we get to the hardest group to vaccinate, those who are most hesitant, it becomes even more important that the information they receive is correct.

I was speaking down -- to a pastor down in Texas yesterday interviewing somebody. He has a congregation of 50 people. Only one person in that congregation of 50 people has chosen to get the vaccine. That shows you how hard it is to reach some communities. And the best way, the studies show, of reaching those communities is with people like Dr. Bhadelia giving very clear, un-condescending, factual information, so that they can make the best possible decision for themselves.

MELBER: Juanita?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Katty hit the nail on the head as far as these hard-to-reach populations.

But the fact that the misinformation is coming from all angles, right? This isn`t just contained to a foolish person like Tucker Carlson on FOX. This is coming from schools that are threatening teachers` well-being. This is also coming from some religious leaders, as we white evangelicals also hesitant to get the vaccine.

And so it`s really important to continue to beat that drum. And that`s what I expect the White House will continue to do, because let`s be real. The CDC announcement, the timing of it isn`t lost on me, right?

We have this decline in people getting their vaccine doses. We also have Biden approaching the end of his first 100 days and this big speech to a joint session tomorrow night. And so this is an opportunity for the CDC to say, hey, there`s some benefits if you get vaccinated. Don`t wait. Don`t hesitate. Go out and get it so that you can be safe and you can start to resume something that looks like normal in your own life.

MELBER: And, Juanita, I`m going to ask you a question that I would never ask the doctor, OK? Are you ready?



MELBER: OK, because we don`t -- when we have the doctors, we get just the medical advice. We don`t hit them with the politics.

But there`s the other piece of this, Juanita, which is what do you think Tucker Carlson is up to? I mean, we just showed that clip for folks who don`t watch that program. And they might think, wow, that sounded really extreme.

As a literal statement, is he advocating with his powerful platform that people should call child protective services on other people, which is a not responsible libertarian or anything? Or is he doing what we have seen become so common in politics these days, which is right-wing trolling?

TOLLIVER: I mean, right-wing trolling that leads to threats against regular people is something that Tucker Carlson does on a nightly basis Ari.

Like, he meant what he said. He said what he said. And I think when he...

MELBER: He said what he said.

TOLLIVER: He said what he said. Come on.


TOLLIVER: But the reality is that there is a chance that his audience, the same audience that is hesitant to get the vaccine, the same audience that is largely Trump supporters and GOP voters, could potentially act on this.

And when he said to call the police on people who are out wearing masks and out with their children wearing masks, that particularly hit a nerve, especially as a black woman in this country, knowing how police respond to black and brown communities.

Tucker Carlson meant what he said. And expect him to keep repeating it, Ari.

MELBER: Katty, I`m curious what you think about that.

And Juanita says that, on the one hand, there`s an absurdity to this. And because my job is to be real and keep it real, I have to note that the whole thing is bizarre.

Having said that, Juanita also reminds us, Katty, that when you have people who hear things and respond to things -- and we have all lived through the last few years of that -- when you talk about calling the police on someone else, et cetera, and you have the mix here of involving viewers` children and other people`s children, which I don`t think anyone should be casual about blithely just getting into that, and then police, how seriously do you take it, Katty?

KAY: I mean, it`s absurd on the face of it, right? You`re not going to be in the park and say, oh, my goodness, there`s a child who`s wearing a mask, that child is being abused, I`m going to call the police. It`s bonkers.

I mean, who knows what condition that child has? Who knows what condition the parents have it? How much are you going to tie up police resources, for a start, by calling the police on a child wearing a mask? I mean, that`s ridiculous as well. It sounded like picking a fight. I mean, that`s what it sounds like.


KAY: Because it is so absurd and so illogical, you have to look for another reason for it. And it sounds like it`s picking a fight.


Doctor, you got to sit out, mercifully, that discussion, the time in 2021 where we talk about whether people should listen to Tucker Carlson`s pleas to call the police. Don`t.

But I will bring you back out on the vaccination front. We have these numbers here, 95,800,000 vaccinated, as mentioned, 140 million with at least one dose. Given the Dr. Fauci recently has been parrying some of the queries about herd immunity and trying to get everyone sort of realistic or fluid on that, what does it mean when you have 140 million-plus with one dose?

What does it mean when, in some places, there are more vaccines to go around than there is demand in America?

BHADELIA: I think you`re looking at a near future, Ari, where some places reach community level immunity.

You see places like New Hampshire and Massachusetts that have 50, 60 percent first doses, and places like Mississippi and Tennessee that are at 30 percent. In near future, some communities get to go back to normal where there aren`t -- their hospitals aren`t full with these cases, there aren`t outbreaks, and others lag behind and they continue to have these outbreaks.

And that`s why the ground game of getting all of our states vaccinated is going to be important, because that`s what keeps all of us safe.

MELBER: Juanita, I will show you one of the other ways this has been breaking down by ideology, although this may be evolving over time, as mentioned, the CDC saying everyone can go outside within most conditions now without a mask.

But you see mask-wearing also became polarized under the previous president. And that hasn`t changed a ton. I do think it`s striking that independents are breaking towards it, tells you something, again, about the strange medical, scientific politics of our of our country.

But Republicans for from Trump on down to what we just showed on the other network, you got half only wearing the mask by party. What does that tell you, Juanita, and what does it tell you in the context of something that, as good news, is very much likely going away, as I mentioned, because we are in this mask-off era now?

TOLLIVER: Look, I`m not surprised to see Republicans at a 54 level on wearing a mask. It`s been consistent, based on the misinformation they started receiving from the beginning that came out of the Trump administration at the beginning of this pandemic. And so that fully tracks.

Now, when I hear this good information from the CDC, I`m sure, like many other Americans, there`s going to be a hesitation. Like, am I actually going to not wear my mask out when I walk my dog? Am I actually not going to wear it out when I go in -- for walks or for jobs?

And so I think there`s going to be a hesitation in this -- as we start to reenter again something that looks normal, because we`re so used to receive a protection measures or restrictions from the CDC. So to get this kind of relaxing moment, I think it`s important that the CDC did roll it out in a small dose, because folks are going to be hesitant to -- in this transition to take off their masks.

MELBER: I want to thank Juanita Tolliver, Katty Kay, and Dr. Bhadelia for kicking us off here with the facts and the misinformation.

When we come back in just 30 seconds, we have developing news on the Matt Gaetz investigation.

We will be right back.


MELBER: New developments in the scandal engulfing Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz.

He`s been under federal sex crimes investigation. Charges were about sex trafficking or possible six with a 17-year-old. His associate was indicted. Gaetz has not been indicted for anything. He denies all allegations.

Now the DOJ probe, though, reportedly broader and looking at possible corruption, including an investigation that deals with his 2018 trip to the Bahamas, CNN reporting federal authorities are looking into whether Gaetz accepted gifts, which could include the link to this other story, like paid escorts, in exchange for political favors.

The new details come on the heels of reports that the former minor with whom Gaetz is accused of having a sexual relationship was on that trip. And it adds that some of the women on the trip reportedly looked so young that they were at one point stopped by U.S. customs and questioned when they returned.

Again, Gaetz has denied all wrongdoing and denies any idea that any of this will lead to charges, whether we talk about those details regarding the trip or the broader and separate idea of potential corruption.

Joining us now is Florida state attorney for Palm Beach County Dave Aronberg.

Good to have you back, sir.


MELBER: What do you see here in the reporting, as mentioned, by another outlet that basically looks at the notion that, whether or not there were enough evidence here to hit Gaetz on what basically got his friend into trouble, there may be separate issues with corruption or gifts that cross some sort of line?

ARONBERG: Ari, the trip is clearly salacious, but I don`t think it necessarily moves the needle for federal prosecutors, unless there was an underage girl on the trip.

And there`s a question of whether she attended the trip when she was 17 or over 18. And that matters.

But when it comes to pay-to-play, public corruption, you need to have a direct quid pro quo, bribery. And the problem for federal prosecutors is that Matt Gaetz has always supported more liberal laws about medical marijuana. And so it`s hard to show that it was the trip that caused Matt Gaetz to support something for Dr. Pirozzolo, who is the sponsor of the trip.

It would be different if he were an opponent of medical marijuana laws, and then all of a sudden did a 180 after he returned from the Bahamas. So I say that this trip clearly smells bad. But when it comes to criminal charges stemming from it, don`t believe the hype.

MELBER: I got the reference. I see you came to play.

I will point out for viewers you`re making a point here that goes to a fairly adjudicating what would be the criminal line, which is separate from any other criticism of Gaetz. He obviously is now under this level of scrutiny. But you`re making the fair point -- and people may remember this from impeachment -- that, when you get into quid pro quo or anything where you`re trying to prove that something was done in exchange, right, it makes a big difference if something changed, as you just remind us, rather than a person who always had this position or was doing something anyway.

I will read from "The Sentinel" just on that reporting, as you mentioned, on the trip, this Orlando doctor and Gaetz friend who emerged as a major Republican fund-raiser after getting in on Florida`s medical marijuana industry.

I want to show you something else that builds on something that we spoke about earlier, you have talked about, that there will be eventually a likely fish-or-cut-bait time for a federal investigation. If Gaetz is not charging, or if he`s effectively cleared, we will be reporting that.

But we`re getting now Gaetz reinforcing the calls and sort of cheering, perhaps premature, by some on the right, who are saying, well, he can beat this, maybe that`s something that echoes what they liked about their last president, who seemed to always be on the legal run, but outdid Mueller and others, in their view.

"Why the MAGA movement needs Matt Gaetz in Congress," you see the post here -- quote -- "If he can weather the storm, Gaetz could become unstoppable and prove to be the heir to Trump that the MAGA movement desperately needs to prevent the Republicans` orchestrated backslide."

Your view of that? As an attorney, I`m sure you think it`s somewhat unfortunate to have politicians politicize any aspect of this. But that`s something that`s coming up here on the idea or the expectation that maybe he would beat any potential investigation.

ARONBERG: Ari, I don`t think there`s any good outcome here for Matt Gaetz, even if he gets cleared from criminal charges.

And, remember, it`s not just child sex trafficking he could be involved in. It also could be identity theft. Joel Greenberg is being charged with that as we speak. It could be campaign finance violations. I think any of those three are possible.

But even if he`s cleared from that, you`re dealing with a defense that says, hey, she was over 18. I mean, I don`t think that`s a great defense in the court of public opinion. It may work in a criminal court. But when it comes to the people outside of his very ruby-red district in the Panhandle of Florida, I don`t think that sells well.

MELBER: Dave Aronberg, always good to have you, sir. And we will be checking back in, as mentioned, on everything we`re learning about what has been quite a probe.

Thank you, sir.

ARONBERG: Thank you. Ari.

MELBER: Coming up in the program, I will explain why I was inside the White House today, ahead of this president`s first big speech to Congress.

And a Chauvin special prosecutor will join us with an inside perspective on what really led to that historic guilty verdict.

But first: The FBI opens a probe into Andrew Brown`s killing by police -- next.


MELBER: Welcome back.

The family of Andrew Brown Jr. calling the police killing a cover-up and an execution, and, new tonight, the FBI opening a federal civil rights investigation into this shooting death.

It was six days ago in North Carolina officers pursued Brown. This was for an alleged felony drug offense. But it quickly led to his death. Family only able to see so far 20 seconds of the bodycam video, where they say Brown Jr. was, in their view, executed.

Today, they released their autopsy, revealing he was shot five times, including once in the back of the head. Now, you can see an image here. You can see the location of that gunshot wound in the back of the head.

And there are growing protests and growing calls to release the full video of all body cameras.


WAYNE KENDALL, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: This, in fact, was a fatal wound to the back of Mr. Brown`s head as he was leaving the site trying to evade being shot at by these particular law enforcement officers, who we believe did nothing but a straight-out execution.

HARRY DANIELS, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: An execution, that`s what took place. That`s what attorney Wayne Kendall just described.

He went over the medical points of it, but that`s exactly what he just described, overkill, execution.


MELBER: Joining me now is Congresswoman Karen Bass, a leader of the CBC. She`s worked on these civil rights issues for a long time. She also introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which we will get to.

But let`s begin with your response to what we`re learning about this case and the investigation.

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Well, thank goodness we have a new administration with a Justice Department that has intervened so quickly. I think it`s incredible.

Do you know that that department invited the family to see the videotape, and then, when they got there, changed their mind and said, no, we need to redact it or edit it?

Now, how could that possibly generate any trust between that family or the community about the police department? I believe this is a wholesale cover- up. And the fact that they would only show them the last 20 seconds of their loved one`s life is despicable.

MELBER: And what do you expect to come of the investigation, the federal review?

BASS: Well, I expect that the DOJ, the Department of Justice, will be able to get the entire tape.

I certainly hope they haven`t destroyed the evidence. I worry when they say they`re redacting it. I don`t really know what that means in terms of, will they completely alter the tape, or what? So that`s what I expect.

And then, of course, it has to lead to an examination of that department. If they would do something so egregious as this, what else are they doing? What else has happened?


That`s a single case, very important.

Turning to what many experts have said is needed, a wider reform, I just want to get your views on these negotiations, because we`re hearing a lot about Republicans doing some sort of middle ground if they can get certain things out of what is essentially your bill.

Do you trust the process at this point? Do you have any concerns, as we have heard from some activists, that this is an effort to dilute a bill that most, if not all Republicans won`t ultimately support anyway?

BASS: Oh, I -- well, first of all, I absolutely trust the process, because I trust the individuals that I`m dealing with.

This has been bipartisan discussions, informal discussions that started right after the bill passed the House on March 3. And so we have built up a lot of goodwill. I believe that Senator Tim Scott wants to see this done. Mitch McConnell has given him the authority.

And so I believe that we will have a bill on President Biden`s desk. I feel about 80 percent sure that we will be able to do something.

And then, Ari, you know, when a bill moves from one house to the next, it doesn`t stay exactly the same. But I think it`s important to say that this is a significant piece of legislation. But you know so much more needs to be done.


Stay with me.

I want to bring in Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general. He was a special prosecutor in the Chauvin murder trial. And we`re going to get to some of that expertise and behind-the-scenes details on that legal process shortly, which is part of why Neal`s here.

And good to see you, Neal.

But, Congresswoman, first for you, and then I think Neal will weigh in, as you both have such voluminous experience here.

I want to play something from Tim Scott here as recently as last summer really ruling out the idea of reforming any of the immunity that officers have, which has been such a sticking point. Take a look.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Qualified immunity is off the table. They see that as a poison bill on our side. So we`re going to have to find a path that helps us reduce misconduct within the officers.

But, at the same time, we know that any poison pill in legislation means we get nothing done.


MELBER: Your response? Because many activists, including those who have even appeared on this program, have said that having at least some reform to that kind of immunity, which we have seen in a couple of states, is key to having accountability.

BASS: Well, one of the things that we did is, we brought in top experts from around the country on qualified immunity, both Democrats, as well as Republicans.

And I think, over the course of time, we have all been informing ourselves about the nuances, the problems, especially because you know qualified immunity is not a law. It`s a court decision.


BASS: And it`s created a lot of havoc, a lot of really crazy examples of officers getting off on immunity because this is such a mangled court decision.

There was one case, for example, of officers that stole $250,000 from a drug dealer. They got off with immunity, because you couldn`t find another case that was exactly like that, that would have removed the immunity from them.

So, it`s a flawed area of the law. I wish the Supreme Court would act. It hasn`t. But I do believe that we will come to some type of agreement around qualified immunity.


Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I greatly appreciate it.

As mentioned, we brought Neal in to do more than one thing.

Before we turn to your work on the Chauvin trial, Neal, your response to any of the above on this act that is trying to reform an area you know so much about. And, as discussed there, we just heard the congresswoman say, well, maybe they will get a deal.

A lot of Republicans seem to think that that`s a nonstarter for them.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the George Floyd Act has to pass, Ari.

And qualified immunity is one thing. That`s the technical doctrine about whether a right has to be clearly established before you can sue a cop in civil court. But the Floyd Act, at its heart, banning the choke holds that have been taking place, carotid holds, at the federal level would be banned, at the state and local level, federal funding would be cut off, those kinds of reforms are essential, essential, Ari.

And then, when you get to qualified immunity, I agree with what was just said. I mean, the Supreme Court has gone really out on a limb to protect qualified immunity. And I had that case about the stealing. Cops stole a bunch of money from someone.

And the court said, well, there`s no clearly established law against cops stealing, so, therefore, the cops can get off. That makes zero sense. And so the Supreme Court has shown itself unwilling to act in this space, and so I think it`s up to Congress. It`s got to be done.

MELBER: Yes. And that carries a lot from you, given your experience in the courtroom.

I`m just going to tell viewers briefly, Neal, that you`re someone that we would have called upon during the Chauvin trial, which, of course, was carried for many hours on this network and others, except for the fact that, because of your legal duties, you were working the trial and not speaking on it before the verdict.

So, we have a little bit of a very interesting thing. Obviously, these are sad topics. So I won`t call it a treat, per se, but important that you were involved, you were on that team handling an aspect of the appeal.

And so you have shared with us here for the first time on THE BEAT key moments in the trial. I want to play one and have you talk about it, as well as what you saw on the inside.

This was something from the defense attorney in the opening. Take a look.


ERIC NELSON, ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: And you will learn that Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19-year career.


MELBER: Walk us through that moment and what you can tell us from your time on this team.


Well, and, Ari, so, first of all, I have been special prosecutor on the case, along with others. And so I have been off the air, basically, for two months.

But I wanted to come on your show first to talk about these legal issues, just because, frankly, you`re the best lawyer on TV, and I enjoy pour conversations.

MELBER: Thank you, sir.

KATYAL: I obviously can`t talk about the actual case itself. We still have the appeal. There`s sentencing, with so much going on.

But I can`t talk about some of the background.

And, here, I think what you saw there, from my mind, was really the turning point in the trial just for myself. I mean, we knew historically how hard it was to prosecute a cop, particularly for murder. It just almost never happens.

It`s -- and the odds are stacked against you. And when I heard the defense attorney, who did a superb job -- but when I heard him say in the opening that we will show that Officer Chauvin acted exactly according to his training, I thought, hmm, that`s going to be a hard one.

And I think my courtroom idea is always to underpromise and overdeliver. And it just struck me as a really hard thing to say that that`s exactly what the training is.

And that`s where I think you saw really a very different view of policing at the trial from I think the way a lot of people think of it, a view in which police chief after -- police officer after police officer said, this is not the way we do things.


And we really saw that throughout the course of it, arguing by, I would say, implication through the questioning, which is what good lawyers can do, and then in the closings, about whether this was something that could redeem policing.

Would a guilty verdict be good for policing, to the extent that people want to look at it that way? Of course, the jurors have an obligation to simply find the facts. But we saw that in that powerful closing.

And then there was another moment in the closing. Again, transparently with viewers, we do a lot of journalism where we pick different things here for everyone. This is one, though, that you specifically flagged, given your experience.

Let`s look at this closing moment here. This was Jerry Blackwell in the closing. Take a look.


JERRY BLACKWELL, MINNESOTA SPECIAL ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: You were told, for example, that Mr. Floyd died, that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big. You heard that testimony.

And the truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin`s heart was too small.



KATYAL: Well, first of all, it was such a privilege to be with this extraordinary team of people. And Jerry is one of them.

And this was a group of A-listers through and through who didn`t act like A-listers. We all helped each other. And Jerry was amazing.

And I think, there, you just see a good example of lawyering, in which we avoided rhetoric and emotional stuff throughout. There was all sorts of people saying, oh, you should be silent for nine minutes and 29 seconds in the closing and things like that.

It was just the facts. And, at the very end, I think you saw that one instance of rhetoric, which I think was important, because it did capture in just a couple sentences what the trial was all about.

And the trial is one victory. It`s an important victory. But, as we are seeing now incident after incident even after the trial, it`s just a victory. It can be the springboard to doing more.

And I think all of us -- it doesn`t matter what color you are, it doesn`t matter what politics you have -- have to recognize something has gone off the rails when it comes to some police officers, not all police officers, but some. And that`s going to require reform. And the George Floyd Act is the place to start.

MELBER: Yes, and, as you say, it is a tragic and sad aspect of where we are, but, nonetheless, where we are, that we have this major piece of legislation that we were just discussing with its co-sponsor here on the show that`s named after him.

And his death, his loss exists regardless of what happens in this trial or in the Congress. And yet there are calls to do something.

So, Neal, you have been doing something, obviously, with your labor on that project, as well as sharing some of your insights.

So, thank you, sir, Neal Katyal. Appreciate it.

We have a lot more in the program tonight, including, as mentioned, why I got to go to the White House today, as the president`s team is prepping his first major address to Congress. We will take you inside.

Also, why the next 100 days could be even more important than the first. Yes, we have the facts and the history, because it`s "Chai Day."

Stay tuned.


MELBER: Everyone is talking about President Biden marking 100 days in office this week.

But what if the next 100 days are even more important? I`m not just saying that as some sort of angle here on your TV. I`m actually going to draw on history, because presidents do push signature policies. And they do talk a lot about the 100 days, a mark that many historians use.

But what we see in a larger pattern that I want to explore right now is how the second 100 days, historically, especially recently, have proven more pivotal. They can be make or break.

Consider how President Clinton spread the spring and summer of this first term pushing a historic tax increase which hit the wealthy, and Republicans attacked.


FMR. REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): You can go right down a list of job- killing tax increases for most working Americans and for most retired Americans. This is clearly an unsatisfactory package.

FMR. SEN. BOB DOLE (R-KS): So, in a few minutes, all those Americans who are watching on CNN and C-SPAN, well, put down your remote control and grab your wallet.


DOLE: Because your taxes are going up.


MELBER: Bob Dole with the zingers.

Republicans weren`t just mad. They were excited mad politically, because they thought they had Clinton the run. And that bill passed by a single vote in both houses. Republicans thought they had a winner.

But voters disagreed. They reelected Clinton amid a humming economy, as "The New York Times" put it.

And one of our experts, political strategist Chai Komanduri, argues this actually speaks to a broader dynamic than just that presidency, because the second 100 days can be far more defining. And it tests how the opposition finds its voice.

We can see it. When Bush came into office, he talked about compassionate conservatism. In his first 100 days, he got the ball rolling, talking up and at least getting coverage for his planned education policy No Child Left Behind. That wasn`t how most Republicans started their tenures.

But when did things really change? It was in the second 100 days, with those big tax cuts. Then, as now -- this is interesting -- the Senate was evenly split, 50/50, the vice president casting those deciding votes. Then, as now, the incumbent in the White House thought, if they could just hold things, they could get a lot more passed.

But after those tax cuts, in those second 100 days, a Republican senator got so angry, he split and began caucusing with the Democrats.


FMR. SEN. JIM JEFFORDS (R-VT): I will leave the Republican Party and become an independent. Tax and spending decisions, control of the Senate will be changed by my decision.


MELBER: And it was. That closely split Senate, well, everything changed with that senator`s defection, and Democrats took back power and changed what would come in that presidency.

Then you have Trump. Many politicos remember one of the most iconic early blows. Senator John McCain, who clashed with Donald Trump, decided to deal him that stunning defeat. You see it there on your screen, thumbs down, voting no on the key Republican priority of trying to repeal Obamacare. That vote was in Donald Trump`s second 100 days.

So, now it`s Biden`s turn with a big speech that we`re going to cover tomorrow, marking 100 days as well. But the next 100 could be all the more important, which brings us to our deep dive political conversation, always on a special day here on THE BEAT.

It`s known as "Chai Day," with political strategist Chai Komanduri. He worked on three presidential campaigns.

And we are indebted to him for the second 100 days theory.

Now, Chai, news cynics will think that the news anchor is just trying to keep people interested for the second 100 days. And I hope everyone stays interested. But you, as someone who`s worked around several campaigns, this is your idea. Explain.

CHAI KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I quite frankly think that the first 100 days tends to be very overrated.

But the second 100 days, I would argue, is tremendously underrated, because, quite frankly, presidents domestic legacies, their key legislative signature pieces go before Congress and the media and are heavily scrutinized in those second 100 days.

And that is really where the rubber meets the road for a lot of presidents. That`s where legacies are decided. For Trump, it was where his Titanic met the iceberg, John McCain. And it really defines their presidencies, at least in terms of domestic policy, for the rest of their tenure.

MELBER: Yes. I`m sure you have other Titanic analogies.

KOMANDURI: You`re right.

MELBER: Feel free to make them. Great film, no? Good film, Chai?

KOMANDURI: Oh, I am a big fan of James Cameron`s "Titanic," as I am "A Night to Remember," a fantastic movie from 1950s, British film. Check it out, Criterion Collection.

MELBER: There`s the plug.

In my case, it`s a night I don`t remember, because I don`t have the arcane film knowledge that you bring.

But I`m curious what you think about the point that we quoted, which is your point that the opposition also takes a minute. And we are in smashmouth politics. There`s huge clashes on everything. And some Republicans, of course, came out, and they had their lines, they had their attacks, and some had their distractions on Dr. Seuss.

But when I was reading some of what you argue here, it struck me that, oh, that also makes sense, because, in these first 100 days, the loudest Republican voices, McCarthy, McConnell and others, have not only not found a good, vulnerable place to land a punch on Biden.

Some have even, in maybe apparent candor, said, well, the problem is he has good relationships, and he`s moderate. And they have sort of complained that he is not as easily definable as a villain even for their side.

KOMANDURI: Yes, the second 100 days is really when the opposition finds its voice.

To put it in another movie term, the first 100 days feels like "Star Wars: A New Hope." The second 100 days can often feel like "The Empire Strikes Back." It`s when the opposition kind of coalesces and figures out how to attack a new president.

And, look, I know that the other GOP opposition looks bumbling and pathetic right now. There was a Politico poll that showed that more Republicans had heard about Dr. Seuss and that controversy than the COVID stimulus relief bill or any legislation that Biden had proposed.

But keep in mind, in early 2009, the GOP looked just as inept, and they were able -- in that summer, the Tea Party kind of arose, and they were able to find their voice. And it was during the second 100 days that Sarah Palin posted on Facebook that the Affordable Care Act contains death panels.

And American politics, I would argue, has not been the same ever since. So...


MELBER: Well, and that ties, Chai -- that ties to the other story we were covering, which is the power of disinformation.

And you`re giving, as -- used from your experience, also a warning that, as good as things may look for the Biden folks, things can get different and rougher.

I`m running out of time, but since you brought up "Star Wars," I do wonder whether, in your conception here, that makes Tucker Carlson Jar Jar Binks?

KOMANDURI: Well, you know what? Jar Jar Binks was actually a good guy, Ari. So I`m going to defend Jar Jar Binks a little bit. He had his heart in the right place.

I would probably put Tucker Carlson much more as Grand Moff Tarkin, the man behind the very flawed design of the Death Star that got blown up.


MELBER: Another great reference, and the flaw.

What about -- all right, who -- what about Darth Maul? Who would be Darth Maul? Didn`t -- he had the double lightsaber, I believe?

KOMANDURI: He did, but he was also dispatched very, very easily. So, maybe Donald Trump Jr. would count as Darth Maul.


KOMANDURI: It looked like it was very formidable, something Democrats should worry about.

But when you actually encountered him in real life or in a political contest, no problem.

MELBER: I`m enjoying this. And since I know you and I have known you for years, I can say this. What we have revealed here, if nothing else, is that I`m a nerd, and you are a huge nerd.


KOMANDURI: I plead guilty to that.

MELBER: I plead guilty.


MELBER: Chai Komanduri with -- again, a little unconventional, because we hear so much about the first 100. But you had several examples, from McCain to the Tea Party. And I suspect some people in the White House may be listening as you talk about how to navigate that.

So, thank you, sir. We will see you again.

Movies, politics and more with Chai.

Up ahead, as I mentioned the White House, I was actually there today. I want to share with you why I got back into the White House for the first time in this COVID era and show you why I was talking to Jen Psaki and what else is coming in that speech tomorrow.

You will only see this on THE BEAT -- right after this.


MELBER: President Biden delivers his first speech to Congress tomorrow, continuing the tradition of new presidents giving a modified State of the Union, which is why I just reported from the White House today, seeing how his staff are busily preparing on the eve of the big speech, a tradition Biden knows well from his time sitting behind President Obama on the big night, something I reported on actually from behind the scenes at Obama`s final State of the Union.


MELBER: We got a rare behind-the-scenes look inside the White House as aides prepared for their biggest night of the year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the -- sort of the World Series and the Final Four all rolled into one for the Obama speechwriting operation.

MELBER: How close do you guys feel to being done with your part of the speech?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s all a work in progress.


MELBER: How many rewrites have you done on the speech so far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have done zero, because I don`t write the speech. The president does it.


MELBER: That was the chief of staff talking about Obama`s process.

Well, today, we were able to check in on this new president`s approach to the speech at such a momentous time, with firsthand accounts of the preparations, and, of course, this unusual moment, where COVID protocols are in effect at the White House, with the fist bumps you see here, and the regular testing, and masks.

And they have limited in-person staffing. But that feeling of being at the White House is still there. This is, of course, the heartbeat of our executive branch of government.

The details in the speech are currently closely guarded. But I can tell you we intend to take you into that White House and behind the scenes tomorrow night, heading into President Biden`s address to the nation and first address to Congress.

Now, take a look here. I want you to mark your calendars if you`re into this sort of thing, if you`re a regular BEAT viewer. THE BEAT special report "Inside the Biden White House" airs right here tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

And I can tell you that will kick off an evening of special coverage across MSNBC, as we prepare to cover what is an unusual and many think will be a historic address to the nation.

As always, thanks for watching us here on THE BEAT.