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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/6/21

Guests: Brian Whiteside, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Chai Komanduri, Elie Mystal, Yodit Tewolde, Kristen Gibbons Feden


New headaches emerge for Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz in the DOJ`s sex crimes probe. Testimony continues in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. Atlanta, Georgia, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms discusses her state`s voter suppression efforts. Is President Biden sounding more and more like Bernie Sanders? Mitch McConnell`s hypocrisy regarding corporations and political speech is examined.




Hi, Nicolle. Thank you for that. Thank you for your reporting.

WALLACE: Thanks.

MELBER: I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we`re tracking some new headaches for Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz in the DOJ`s sex crimes probe. We have that coming up.

But we begin now with breaking news in day seven of the Chauvin trial.

Prosecutors have been absolutely pummeling defendant Chauvin with evidence and testimony that they say shows that he used excessive force when killing George Floyd.

Now, today, this continued with the very experts who teach police officers how to use force and possibly, when legally warranted, deadly force. These police trainers taking the stand and telling the jury this was excessive force.


STEVE SCHLEICHER, MINNESOTA PROSECUTOR: Based upon your review of these materials, and in light of the Graham factors, what is your opinion as to the degree of force used by the defendant on Mr. Floyd on the date in question?

SGT. JODY STIGER, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: My opinion was that the force was excessive.


MELBER: There it is. Sometimes, the evidence is that simple.

We have heard the harrowing testimony, the personal stories, but these experts are speaking in a much narrower lane. Was it OK? Was it not OK? Was it the right amount of force? Was it excessive? That`s it.

And the jury hears that expert testimony. The MPD lieutenant in charge of use of force training also testifying it`s just not appropriate, under their rules, under their training, to restrain someone for a super extended period of time.


SCHLEICHER: So, if there was -- say, for example, the subject was under control and handcuffed, would this be authorized?


SCHLEICHER: Would it be appropriate and within training to hold a subject in that prone restrained position with a knee on the neck and a knee on the back for an extended period of time after the subject has stopped offering any resistance?

MERCIL: No, sir.

SCHLEICHER: Or has lost their pulse?

MERCIL: No, sir.


MELBER: These are the building blocks of testimonial evidence that we saw today. You heard it there, not authorized.

Another other MPD officer, Nicole Mackenzie, who teaches CPR training, also testified.

Now, what we could see was Chauvin looking interested in the testimony, looking up from the note-taking. The prosecution also asking if the crowd could have prevented officers from getting Floyd medical assistance at the scene.


SCHLEICHER: Can the activities, though, of a crowd, the activities of a group of onlookers excuse a police officer from the duty to render emergency medical aid to a subject who needs it?

NICOLE MACKENZIE, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT MEDICAL RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Only if they were physically getting themselves involved, I would say.

SCHLEICHER: If they were physically prevented -- if the officer was physically prevented from doing it?

MACKENZIE: Yes, if the officer was being physically assaulted.


MELBER: We`re joined now by civil rights attorney Kristen Gibbons Feden. She was a lead prosecutor in the trial of Bill Cosby -- and Yodit Tewolde, former prosecutor and the host of "Making the Case" on The Black News Channel.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

Yodit, what did you think of this more expert, in some ways more understandably dry, section of the prosecutors` arguments?

YODIT TEWOLDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, I actually thought that the state`s expert, the first use of force expert, was actually not as helpful. I mean, he said what basically all of the other officers who were sworn in to testify said.

And the difference here is that those officers weren`t paid experts. They were actual colleagues of Derek Chauvin. And so I thought that that was a bit more powerful in terms of conveying the information to those jurors.

When you have a state expert on use of force saying that Derek -- that George Floyd was actively resisting, that he kicked officers, those are things you don`t want the jurors to hear, especially from the first expert on use of force.

And so I thought that that was odd. He didn`t necessarily provide any information that the jurors hadn`t already heard. It was just coming from an expert.

MELBER: Yes, understood.

And I want to play a little bit of the MPD lieutenant talking about what basically is the amount of force you`re supposed to use, the least amount. Take a look.


MERCIL: You want to use the least amount of force necessary to meet your objectives to control. And if those lower uses of force do not work, would not work or are too unsafe to try, then you can increase your level of force.


MELBER: Walk us through that part, Yodit.

TEWOLDE: So, basically, use of force is evaluated moment to moment.

It might be appropriate in the first minute, it might be appropriate in the second, but it may not be appropriate at nine minutes and 29 seconds. So, it has to be evaluated according to the aggression or the resistance that the officer is facing.

And there was a great little chart that the prosecution put up for the jurors as a visual that shows the type of use of force that could be applied, based on the type of aggression and resistance that they`re met with.

And so what he`s saying is that, yes, there could be an argument that it was appropriate initially, when they first made contact with George Floyd, but, very soon after, that should have de-escalated. Once George Floyd stopped resisting, once he was actually in that prone position and handcuffed, why was the resistance then needed?

So, then you start going into the de-escalation training. And that`s what Chauvin should have then applied. George Floyd wasn`t a threat at some point, in that -- at that point, when he started -- he needed to start the de-escalation process.

And that`s what he didn`t do. He proceeded on with the use of force in an aggressive matter, no matter -- in an aggressive manner -- no matter the aggression that was actually -- or the resistance, or lack thereof, that he was facing.

MELBER: And, Kristen, I know you`re here with us.

I want to play for you this whole issue around whether this was even a proper position to put someone in, which is a separate analysis from the length and the other issues we discussed.. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know what kind of improvised position that is, so this is not what we train.



MELBER: Walk us through what`s being conveyed to the jury there, because, again, this is an important distinction between what, to a layperson`s eyes, might look like force or what we would call violence.

But there are some procedures that law enforcement use that may look or be aggressive, but are within training, whereas other things they do, particularly in this context, may be more -- may be more legally dubious, precisely because it`s, like, what are you improvising here? Are you just trying to hurt or kill someone?

KRISTEN GIBBONS FEDEN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Yes, this actually goes right to the element of assault.

And, remember, that is the underlying felony conviction or felony charge that the prosecution needs to prove in order to get that highest level, that second-degree murder charge.

So, the analysis is whether either it`s proper and in line with training or it`s an assault. And that is an ever-changing assessment based on what the officer is experiencing or not. And this particular testimony was important, because, if it`s not an approved training technique, then it shouldn`t be done. And if it is done, and there`s that force continuum, then it could be considered assault, or excessive, as we heard that used from the expert.

MELBER: Yes, I also want to play -- we have been following, of course, many aspects of this, including the part of it that is a trauma to relive, but is necessary under the justice system.

Ben Crump, who I think viewers remembers has represented this and many other families in civil rights cases, he was speaking out about all of this. Take a listen.


BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF GEORGE FLOYD: Unfortunately and tragically, the road to justice has to go through them seeing their loved one over and over again been literally tortured to death.

I know, for many of us, George Floyd represents a cause, a case, a hashtag, but for his siblings and his children, George Floyd is their blood.


MELBER: Kristen, speak on this. And given your experience in -- any criminal trial can be difficult in every way, including for everyone involved.

But speak on this with what you have done as a prosecutor, where individuals really have to go through something difficult just to be president or to testify about -- around something that might be one of the worst or most painful things they have been through in their whole life.

GIBBONS FEDEN: And this is really -- it was really sentimental, as Ben Crump -- he`s a civil -- really a civil rights warrior -- as he was talking in this press conference.

Thinking of how that video affected me as a black woman, who does not know George Floyd, I can only imagine the trauma that his family has had to endure, not only being limited in how many individuals can actually observe the trial as it is proceeding, but also to have to relive it from those different perspectives, the various body cam footage.

That`s some trauma that is beyond, I would say, a form of grief that they are already experiencing with the loss of a loved one. And we actually got to see in the trial, we have seen many of their family members throughout different press conferences.

But we also got to see the emotion of Ms. Courteney, his girlfriend, who kind of expressed it on the scene. But this is the type of trauma that is very normal. It is a part of walking through that journey towards justice.

And I think that, by showing it through Courteney and also kind of through the press conference, the prosecutors have done a really good job of bringing this emotion to the jury.

But it is very, very sad for the family to have to relive it over and over again.

MELBER: Yes, and it`s a big part of this early part, where we`re getting this range of testimony. And, of course, we`re still in the middle of it. We`re going to see where it all goes and what the defense and cross arguments are like as well.

I want to thank Kristen and Yodit, both of you, for being with us.

Coming up in just 30 seconds, our shortest break: how Trump world is abandoning Republican Matt Gaetz amidst this sex crime probe.

Elie Mystal is here with the facts -- when we`re back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz continues to struggle with damage control. He`s facing these allegations that range from paying for sex, to using drugs, to backing sex trafficking, to sex with an underage girl.

Now, Gaetz denies all of it. And to be clear, he has not been charged with any crime. But in the Republican Party that often wages war against the DOJ and stands with even indicted allies, Gaetz`s position is freefall.

Even after years of defending Trump, the former president`s aides say there`s no help because Gaetz is now a grenade whose pin has already been pulled. There are reports his own staff would send embarrassing videos of their boss to other Republican operatives, which means many new reasons to be wary of him.

And Trump defenders often seem to think that their relationship or alliance with Donald Trump is somehow different, only to learn that Donald Trump discards them like so many other former aides, loyalists, and supposed allies, the moment things get tough or get legal.

The loyalty is one-way.

Now, currently, Trump and his team are openly bailing on Gaetz. They don`t pretend anything otherwise. And to add salt in the wounds, one Trump confidant leaking criticism of how Gaetz has been handling things, saying that MAGA world`s dumping Gaetz: "because he hasn`t done a single thing to make people comfortable to defend him. His interview with Tucker was an absolutely embarrassing train wreck."

Note the candor there. This self-described Trump world person is saying they`re not assessing whether Gaetz did commit a sex crime, but, rather, assessing they think his P.R. isn`t working and they see a train wreck.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Actually, you and I went to dinner about two years ago. Your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine. You will remember her.

We went to the local FBI. They asked my dad to wear a wire, which he did.

You just saw our Matt Gaetz interview. That was one of the weirdest interviews I have ever conducted.


MELBER: One of the weirdest. That`s how it played in Trump world. That`s how it played with a big anchor, a big figure at FOX News.

And that`s the ice cold shoulder from that world.

Meanwhile, we`re hearing other developments that might create tension. A group that`s called Women For America First has posted online on Twitter that Gaetz is going to be their guest speaker. And they say tonight they booked for their event to be held at Trump Doral in Florida this Friday.

Joining us now is Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for "The Nation."

Thanks for being here, sir.

ELIE MYSTAL, "THE NATION": Thanks for having me.

MELBER: There are so many problems here. As I stipulated in all of our coverage and again tonight, Mr. Gaetz denies all the allegations and has not been charged with a crime.

And yet all these people around him who know him and these other Republicans in Trump world are bailing on him. What do you see here?

MYSTAL: It seems like a Department of Justice investigation means something different when you don`t have the attorney general on his own leash, right?

Suddenly, a DOJ investigation carries more teeth. I think that`s what we`re seeing.

I think one thing that people have kind of missed over, because look, Matt Gaetz, for a lot of people on the left, he`s a punchline. He`s he`s a guy that people on the left like to dislike. I think part of what`s gotten missed here is that there`s already been an indictment here, right?

The indictment is for a man named Joel Greenberg, who has been indicted for sex trafficking and goes on trial in June. This investigation from Gaetz is spinning off from that. And so, when you look at the real teeth of this investigation, it certainly doesn`t stack up well for Matt Gaetz.

I`m not -- and, again, you`re exactly right, innocent until proven guilty. We don`t know all the facts here. It doesn`t look great for Gaetz right now. And then you`re in a situation where there`s all this other kind of untoward behavior that`s coming out, all these leaks that are coming out.

It suggests that this is a guy that, even if the Trump world was willing to defend him when he was useful for them, they knew he had some things about him, right? Turns out you can`t get the Trump protection unless you actually marry into the family. Right?

Gaetz just tried to kiss the boots into the family. No, no, you have to marry into the family to get the full protection of Trump world. He`s not part of the family, which means that he can be cast aside the minute he causes them trouble. And this is that minute for him.

MELBER: Yes, he`s certainly not getting that protection.

As for what he`s saying in public, he`s always been a somewhat extreme and baroque figure, even in America 2017 to 2020, a period of American life that I`m sure will be studied in all sorts of ways, but extreme even by that measure.

And Neal Katyal joined us recently and said, whatever you think of Matt Gaetz, any decent lawyer would tell him not to be out here talking the way he is, not to be doing the Tucker interview.

And so I`m curious your view on -- in the intersection of law and politics, that, OK, sometimes, you break with the legal advice to get the public P.R. benefit. And that`s kind of a bet, if you will.

What happens if you break with the legal advice, and the P.R. is boomeranging on you, and you played yourself, and Tucker is telling his own audience, that was weird, that was a problem?

MYSTAL: We`re going to see this a lot for the next bit of American life.

And what we`re seeing is people trying to run the Trump defense without being Donald Trump, right? We`re going to see a lot of politicians who are accused of sordid behavior. Trump has been accused by 25 women of sexual misconduct. He has brushed it all off with bluster and ridiculous interviews, right?

Every politician accused is going to try some version of the same strategy, right? And we just -- we don`t know if that`s going to work for anybody else other than Donald Trump.

If it doesn`t work for you, if you try the Trump strategy, and it doesn`t work for you, the result is jail, right? It`s a one-way street there, right?


MYSTAL: If you try to blow off prosecutors, and keep running your mouth, against the advice of counsel, and keep kind of putting yourself in legal jeopardy, and it doesn`t work, the result is jeopardy. The result is jail. The result is bad things happening to you.

And that`s the die that Gaetz is casting. That`s the die that we will see, unfortunately, a lot of politicians cast as they try to go Trump-lite to get themselves out of problems.


MYSTAL: Have you seen "Dark Knight," Elie?


MYSTAL: I have, indeed.

Success has already defeated me. I don`t know about you.


MELBER: Well, it`s one of our favorites around here.

And to put a twist on it, I`m reminded of when the Batman copycats, who are actually opposed by both Batman and the Joker for different reasons, want to be like him. And then they even ask him after they fail to simulate him in the crime-busting scene, what is the difference between me and you?

And he memorably says, "I`m not wearing hockey pants."

MYSTAL: You`re not wearing -- "I`m not wearing hockey pants."

MELBER: There it is. There it is.


MYSTAL: That`s different.

MELBER: That`s it. If it were "Fallback Friday," I`d ask you to do it in your "Dark Knight" Christian Bale voice. But we will save that.

But I`m not wearing hockey pants. And whether people like it or not, it is a legal fact -- I certainly spent time reporting on it, and you were here with us -- that Donald Trump did get away legally with some things that other people didn`t.

But when you point it out, I think it`s important and interesting. And maybe you`re even inadvertently giving some sound legal framework to some of these folks, whether they want to follow it or not, which is, the fact that one guy in this particular situation got away with so much does not mean that`s usually going to work for you, Elie.

MYSTAL: Exactly, Ari.

I mean, again, this is spinning off of investigation of a man who is already under indictment, who, for all we know, as his trial gets going, if that`s not going well for him, will sing.

I mean, remember, Trump had the amazing, I would say, good fortune that none of his alleged accomplices ever seem to flip on him, right? Paul Manafort took the weight. Michael Flynn took the weight. They took the risk of needing to get a pardon to never turn tail on Trump.

Only Michael Cohen told -- eventually was compelled to tell what I believe is the truth. He was the only one who didn`t get a pardon, by the way.


MYSTAL: Is -- does Gaetz have the same kind of pull with his potential accomplices, that they`re never going to flip on him? Does he really think that?

I mean, that -- these are the kinds of -- we`re kind of back into a world where Trump -- Trump defied gravity for so long. We`re kind of back into a world where gravity always wins.

MELBER: Gravity is back.

MYSTAL: And that is what...


MELBER: Gravity is back. That`s fair.

MYSTAL: ... Gaetz has to worry about.

Gravity is...


MELBER: And you tied it all together well, Elie, because you -- gravity`s back.

Well, you reminded everyone that the people who knew the most, according to the Mueller report, which I read more than once, were Stone and Manafort, and they said the least. And the people who said the most may have known the least around those underlying allegations. I mean, Mueller clearly showed it.

Right at the -- right at the core of potential collusion, Stone is on the phone, Manafort got this money deal, and they really did carry the weight. And, as you say, they did get the commutation benefits.

Elie Mystal, good to see you. I hope we can get you back soon, sir.

MYSTAL: Thank you for having me. Have a nice one.

MELBER: Yes, sir.

We have a lot more coming up.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issuing a new executive order. It combats, she says, parts of the Georgia suppression law illegally. She`s my guest live later tonight.

But first: why some see progressivism at an all-time high in President Biden`s first 60 days and what Bernie Sanders has to do with it.

That`s next.


MELBER: Here`s a political fact emerging in these first 70 days of the Biden presidency.

Joe Biden`s begun his presidency on a more liberal footing than the last two Democratic presidents, which makes this the most progressive start to any presidency in the past 40 years.

Biden`s now pushing for a cumulative $4 trillion in total spending there in his first 100 days, getting a liberal boost from this news that Senate Democrats can bypass McConnell`s obstruction for party-line votes on this new infrastructure bill. Liberals are encouraged. Conservatives are aghast.

And many Democrats who know Joe Biden are struck by how he`s evolving in this role and in this tough time for the nation, a contrast to his Senate career where he was, by his own words, a centrist or even conservative Democrat on many different issues.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More cops, more president, more physical protection for the people.

We have predators on our streets. You must take back the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congress gives President Bush what he wants in the showdown with Saddam Hussein by a vote of 77-23.

BIDEN: We say, yes, Mr. President, you have that power to go to war.

When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well. I meant Medicare and Medicaid.


MELBER: He meant Medicare and Medicaid. He meant Iraq. He meant clean up the streets with that tough and controversial crime bill. Now, that was that in Joe Biden`s long Senate career.

And then we know recently that party that he`s in seemed to sort of split two presidential cycles in a row between the more establishment centrist choice and a progressive one. First, it was Clinton vs. Sanders. And then it was Biden vs. Sanders.

At this time a year ago, Sanders had not yet endorsed Biden. And they`d been engaging in months of respectful, but vigorous policy debate.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Joe has voted for terrible trade agreements.

BIDEN: I don`t know that there`s any trade agreement that the senator would ever think made any sense.

SANDERS: Joe and I have a fundamental disagreement here, in case you haven`t noticed.


SANDERS: Obviously, the Paris accord is useful, but it doesn`t go anywhere -- if you`re laughing, Joe, then you`re missing the point. This is an existential crisis.


MELBER: About a year later, Biden`s governing from the core and base of the Democratic Party, the progressive base, pushing the liberal plans I just mentioned, spending that outstrips anything from the early days of the Obama/Biden administration, pushing higher taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, and Joe Biden taking sides with labor more than he did in past decades or than past Democratic presidents.

He`s pushing the new multitrillion-dollar plan with major planks for jobs, racial justice, and addressing climate change.

Now, whether it`s correlation or causation, Biden at times can sound a bit like the new Bernie.


SANDERS: We need a lot more, and that`s true for the other 49 states. China is building high-speed rail all over the place. We are not.

BIDEN: We have to improve our infrastructure. China and other countries are eating our lunch.


MELBER: Is Biden simply revealing his own values now that he has this power, or is he channeling Sanders?

An Obama campaign veteran and BEAT guest Chai Komanduri says it shows the new era of progressive politics that`s much closer to Bernie Sanders` vision of radically distributing America`s wealth downwards.

Now, that doesn`t mean Biden has gone full democratic socialist. Sanders himself wants more direct climate action in that new Biden bill. And Biden has not been with liberals on a larger plan to wipe out student debt up to 50 grand or go to the mat fully on minimum wage in the Senate.

But, as Komanduri argues, and as some liberals have been arguing for years, the Democratic Party`s base is fundamentally progressive on economic justice. And that base, with its coalition, is larger than the MAGA movement. And the new President Biden increasingly sounds like he gets that, which means he sounds more like the party`s progressives than, say, Joe Biden from the `90s.


SANDERS: CEOs make millions and millions of dollars, but don`t ask us to pay more in taxes.

BIDEN: But a multinational corporation that builds a factory abroad, brings it home and then sell it, they pay nothing at all.

SANDERS: If elected president of the United States, we`re going to do everything that we can to rebuild the trade union movement in this country.


BIDEN: I`m a union guy. I support unions. Unions built the middle class. It`s about time they start to get a piece of the action.


MELBER: That brings us to the deep-dive political conversations we do around here on a special day that we call "Chai Day" with political strategist Chai Komanduri, who has worked on three presidential campaigns and to whom we are indebted for some of those points that we just explored.

Good to have you back, sir.


MELBER: People know it`s Chai from the music and the cartoon.


KOMANDURI: That`s very cool.


You see an overlap here between these two people. Explain.


I mean, look, when the campaign last year, the Biden campaign was saying that Biden was going to pattern himself after FDR and LBJ, to be honest, I just thought it was campaign spin. I thought they were just putting that out there to get disaffected progressives more on board with Biden.

After all, Biden, as you pointed out, is an institutionalist. He is a centrist Democratic senator who did represent the credit card industry and the banks quite ably in the U.S. Senate when he was a senator from Delaware. So, of course, I never thought that he would be the next FDR or the next LBJ.

However, here we are. And we have historic investments in the working class, in children. I mean, think about the fact that we`re going to cut child poverty in half as a result of this stimulus. We`re having an investment in the K-12 system and children`s schools and child care and even in child health care as a result of what Biden is doing with the stimulus and with infrastructure.

How did we get here? There`s really two reasons. One is that Biden, who is not the doddering sort of old man that FOX makes him out to be, is actually proving himself to be a very agile and acute observer of politics. He understands where the country has been, where it`s going, and how the Obama/Clinton sort of pathway didn`t really work for the Democratic Party very well.

The second, I would say, is Bernie Sanders. I think it`s very fair to say that Bernie Sanders is one of the most consequential losers in presidential history. In politics, sometimes, you can win by losing.

And I think, in many ways, Bernie has done that. His campaign -- and I would put it on a very short list. I would put up with Howard Dean`s 2004 campaign, which revolutionized the Internet and grassroots fund-raising, and Barry Goldwater`s campaign, most importantly. I think that`s the best example of where Bernie Sanders` campaign sort of is going to end up historically looking.

Barry Goldwater lost the battle in the `60s, but he ended up winning the war by the 1980s. Bernie Sanders in a much quicker timeline appears to have done exactly the same thing.

MELBER: As an analyst of politics and someone who has worked in it, how do you differ between whether Biden is channeling Bernie, or Biden is channeling where most Democrats are after everything we have been through as a country?

KOMANDURI: I think it`s a combination -- well, I think it`s a combination of the two.

I think Biden saw that -- what President Clinton did and what President Obama did, which is that they viewed corporations -- and they wanted to work cooperatively with corporations. They didn`t view corporations necessarily as the enemy. They wanted to work cooperatively with them to get better outcomes for workers.

Bernie, because, quite frankly, he was never a mainstream Democrat -- he actually wasn`t a Democrat at all -- he actually quite clearly saw that corporations are in the business of making money. And no matter what they say about helping people, they really aren`t about creating better outcomes for their workers.

They`re about improving their own bottom line. I think Bernie very clearly saw that. I think Biden recognizes that Bernie was probably right about that, hence, the corporate tax increases, hence, the discussions now about very large tax increases on the rich and the upper class in United States. I think that`s a factor.

The second thing I would say about Bernie that`s kind of important to keep in mind is, if you look at historically, there was a presidential candidate by the name of Norman Thomas, who was a socialist candidate, ran five times for the American presidency.

And he was once asked at the end of his life in the 1960s, what was the greatest accomplishment of his career? And he said, the intellectual theft of all my ideas by the Democratic Party.

I think you can say very much the same thing about Bernie Sanders.

MELBER: Solid.

I`m curious, as you lay it all out, because I`m thinking about what you`re saying, with the possible exception of your analysis in this segment -- so I`m being a little meta here inside the TV -- but with the exception of this segment, what do you say to people around Bernie Sanders who say, well, if all this is true, why doesn`t he get nearly enough credit for it?

KOMANDURI: Well, I think one of the things is that Bernie is senator on the Budget Committee. And I think he has actually been very active. I mean, he went down to Alabama.

It appears to me that he went to Alabama for that unionization vote with the blessing of the Biden White House. The Biden White House was completely behind Bernie on that. I think you are going to see an evolving relationship between Biden and Bernie.

I mean, Biden talked about quite openly how he and Bernie are going to tour the country talking about working-class Americans, talking about the needs of working-class Americans and talking about delivering for working-class Americans.

That is a goal that they now both deeply share. So, yes, I -- it is true that Bernie probably hasn`t received the credit that he deserves in many ways. I`m certainly going to give it to him right now.


KOMANDURI: But if you look at it historically, it took a long time before people realized that Barry Goldwater was so -- as important a force politically as he turned out to be.

It certainly took a long time before people realize that Howard Dean -- I mean, that was a very spectacular loss that Governor Dean suffered in 2004.


KOMANDURI: And, boy, has he turned out to be very, very important and influential in the history of American politics.

Sometimes, it takes time to give credit where credit is due.


MELBER: It`s very hard to look at these things outside of the short-term moment we`re in. That was true even before the Internet and our shrinking attention spans.


MELBER: And so I think you make a really important point, Chai, which is, which is looking at the path-dependent echoes in politics.

You gave us the Goldwater example. Dean was the energy, for folks who remember it, who turned the party back against the Iraq War and against Bush in a more muscular way...


MELBER: ... when the nominee and everyone else was for it.

And Barack Obama then was the echo of that, but it was a whole `nother cycle later.


MELBER: As you say, Sanders, two presidential cycles in, now has a quasi- Sanders economic plan in the White House, and it may take another four or eight years for us all to notice.

But, on "Chai Day," we maybe got there faster. Thanks for coming back, sir.

KOMANDURI: Thank you for having me, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Up ahead: The self-proclaimed Grim Reaper may have ended up owning himself. Mitch McConnell`s hypocrisy on blast.

But, first, something very special I mentioned. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is making news. She`s got a new order on voting rights, and she`s going to explain why it`s newsworthy tonight when we come back.


MELBER: Breaking news.

Atlanta`s mayor is countering that controversial new Georgia voter suppression law with her own order out tonight.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joins us now.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: You`re making a little news, which is, of course, interesting, and these are such important issues that I know you care about.

I will show viewers briefly some of what we read in the brand-new order, which involves coordination and training on voter registration and voting rights, information for residents in your city on how to obtain forms of I.D. that are required by these new laws, even as they are challenged in court.

Walk us through why you are issuing this order and what it means to voting rights for your constituents.

BOTTOMS: Well, the rules of the game have been changed.

And it`s so important that people understand the parameters that we are now forced to operate in, in the state of Georgia. So we send water bills out, for example, to thousands of customers, residential and business customers, not just in Atlanta, but in surrounding areas.

So, we are going to educate people on how you can get the I.D. that you need to register to vote, what are the new rules or the absentee ballot -- on absentee ballots, and just provide as much information that we can to help counter what`s been done at the state level.

MELBER: Is your hope that the statewide law will be narrowed or overturned?

BOTTOMS: It is my hope. And it`s not too late for the legislature to go back in and reconsider what they have done. They can go back into special session and take a look at the law and the damage that`s already happened to our state; $100 million has been lost from the MLB moving the All-Star Game.

They can also go back in session in January and revisit what`s been done. And at a time when our democracy is under attack across his country -- and we saw it at the nation`s Capitol -- this was an opportunity for the state of Georgia to expand access to voting, to be an example to the rest of the nation.

But, instead, we have gone back multiple steps in accessing the right to vote. And it`s not something that we should be proud of as a state, especially a state who`s -- one of our major industries in this state is tourism.

MELBER: Well, you mentioned MLB, tourism, and that whole issue. Of course, you got corporations that either have been pulled in under pressure to talk about this fight or trying to navigate it.

American Airlines has condemned state laws. That`s over in Texas. Dell computers saying that some of that type of stuff was the opposite of democracy. MLB pulled out, as you mentioned, $100 million cost there.

And yet you and other officials have also spoken out about what you see as your role encouraging jobs, business, et cetera, in your city, which makes sense. I think everybody knows that`s what a lot of leaders try to do.

Walk us through what you see as the goal here, because our -- here on THE BEAT, our viewers have heard from multiple civil rights activists and leaders calling for certain types of boycotts effectively against some of what`s in your state as a pressure point.

BOTTOMS: Well, boycotts concern me.

Atlanta is the center of a larger metropolitan area. This area is the 10th largest economy in the United States. This is an area that primarily voted for Democrats in November, and did so again in January. And so, when you hit our economy, you are hitting Atlanta and all of the surrounding areas, small businesses, people who rely on jobs at these corporations, Delta Air Lines, one of our major employers in the state.

So it`s my hope that people will work with us to make sure that everybody in this state who is eligible to register to vote will be registered to vote, and that people will stand in the gap for those who will be obstructed.

Ambassador Young told me a great story about when he ran for Congress in 1972, pouring down rain, one day of voting, 74 percent African American turnout.

So, his point was, even against what seems to be the most difficult challenges, we still have to turn out and vote. And I believe that this effort to suppress the vote in Georgia will have the opposite effect.

And I think you`re going to see numbers even higher than we saw in the last election cycle.

MELBER: Well, you mentioned the last election. Everything we have just discussed so far has been about the right to vote and getting the vote out and what happens up until it`s tallied.

And yet we just lived through a president who tried to overturn those results, specifically in Georgia. And there are concerns this new bill would allow, potentially, for more should chicaneries, as you well know.

Reading from "The New York Times" -- it`s a brief summary -- it says: "Beyond the provisions on the voting" -- that`s up until Election Day -- "the new law risks making election subversion easier," including appearing to go directly after some of those officials, like the secretary of state, who drew Trump`s ire precisely because they did their jobs in a nonpartisan way.

What can be done about that? And what`s your view, as an expert, on, does the law make it easier for someone to try to cheat, where Georgia voters go one way and then they "find" -- to quote the ex-president -- votes another way?

BOTTOMS: So, what the legislature did is overtake elections in the state.

This has primarily been a job of the secretary of state. What the secretary of state, the Republican secretary of state, who, by the way endorsed Donald Trump, did was send out absentee ballots applications to everyone in the state. They have now made that -- you can`t do that anymore.

They also removed the secretary of state, who oversees the elections, from the election board, essentially given control of the election board to the partisan Republican Party in this state.

And so what we can do is this. We can show up to vote, and not just show up for the presidential election, but we can show up in every single election. And there`s an opportunity to let leaders across this state know exactly how people feel about what they have done in 2022.

All of the -- many of the House seats and Senate seats will be on the ballot, as well as the constitutional officers. But, meanwhile, we will continue to educate people. We will continue to remind people that John Lewis left with us that voting is a sacred right. And if we don`t use it, we could lose it.


BOTTOMS: So, we are potentially facing the (AUDIO GAP) votes in the state.

And we`re going to do everything we can to stand in the gap.

MELBER: Mayor, thank you very much for telling us your views, as well as breaking down that news of the new order tonight. Appreciate you.

We now turn to one of the most other controversial parts of this law. I know more than one part of it is. This is the ban on even handing out food and water as people exercise their right to vote if they get stuck in one of those long lines. We have certainly seen them.

Now, Brian Whiteside is solicitor general for Gwinnett County in Georgia. And he`s also making news tonight by saying he will not enforce that provision in the new law.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: What exactly are you saying you intend to do?

WHITESIDE: Well, basically, we`re not going to prosecute someone who is not campaigning or has partisan paraphernalia on. Someone who is nonpartisan, someone who`s not campaigning, we`re not going to prosecute them for simply giving food and drink out.

And this happened continuously last year, where people who were not campaigning basically bought food and water to people to help them due to the heat and the hot conditions.

MELBER: Right.

Now, is your contention that you found some kind of loophole in the law or that you are simply not going to follow part of the law?

WHITESIDE: No, what is in the law, basically, the law, there`s no rational basis for it.

When you commit to a criminal law, there has to be a basis that there`s going to be harm to a party or to property. There`s no harm in someone being humane. So, there`s no actual criminal nexus here to be humane, to give someone some...


MELBER: Let me ask you the follow-up.

WHITESIDE: Yes, sir.

MELBER: Let me ask you the follow-up, because a lot of people might agree with you, sir.

That`s why we have covered the problems with the law. But what do you say to the critique that that may sound no different than someone who opposes marriage equality and says they`re not going to issue those marriage licenses and these other controversies we have had?

In other words, does this just come down to your opinion, above what the law states?

WHITESIDE: Well, I think, when you look at the rational basis of the law, there is no rational basis. It basically says that they`re going to arrest someone for merely having water or giving water out.

I take an oath to seek justice. It would be unjust for a police officer to arrest someone for merely giving someone some type of nutrition or hydration.

MELBER: It`s a very interesting stance you have taken, which is why we wanted to spotlight it, also, as you know, one that many are debating within a law that, if it stays on the books, remains quite debatable.

So, we wanted to hear from you, as well as the mayor.

Brian Whiteside, thanks for making time for us tonight.

WHITESIDE: Thank you very much, sir. Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

We got to fit in a break, because we have been covering so much, but up ahead: Mitch McConnell owning himself.

We will be right back.


MELBER: Mitch McConnell has long defended the corporate spending and speech all out around the world.

And then you have a situation now where he seems to have finally decided he doesn`t like some corporate speech, like when Delta or Coca-Cola denounce voter suppression.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics.

If I were running a major corporation, I`d stay out of politics.


MELBER: Stay out of politics, corporations.

Now, this is the same Mitch McConnell who built his whole career on a big fight all the way to the Supreme Court that corporations should be entitled to the same free speech as everyone else, they should be treated like humans, and their money should be treated like speech.

He filed the brief in the Supreme Court arguing corporations may engage in core political speech. He insisted they have First Amendment rights, just like the rest of us.


MCCONNELL: It`s critically important for all conservatives, and, indeed, all Americans to stand up and unite in defense of the freedom to organize around the causes we believe that.

The bulwark of this freedom is, of course, the First Amendment.


MELBER: Now, the First Amendment can be complicated, but this part`s pretty simple.

McConnell was really all about the money. And the guy saying corporations should get all those rights, well, it turns out he would get a lot of their money. In 2020, he raised over $4 million from corporate PACs, over a quarter million in personal donations from top CEOs.

And now, all of a sudden, there`s an exception to the McConnell rule that corporations don`t get political.


MCCONNELL: I`m not talking about political contributions. That`s fine. It`s legal. It`s appropriate. I support that.


MELBER: And so here we are at the sort of hypocritical nub of it all.

McConnell is fine with the corporations donating to politicians, like him. He wants their money. That is self-interest.

He just doesn`t want them ever doing the thing he claimed he protected, their right to have core political speech rights, when not only does it disagree with him, but guess what, it supports your right to vote, unfettered by, guess who, Republican politicians.

And that`s our final word.

"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up after this.