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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/7/21

Guests: Channa Lloyd, Katty Kay, Jared Bernstein, Christina Greer, Michael Zeldin


New developments emerge in the ongoing scandal engulfing Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz. Testimony continues in the trial of Derek Chauvin. How has the Biden agenda cornered Senator Mitch McConnell? Jared Bernstein, one of President Biden`s economic advisers, discusses the administration`s agenda.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, and welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.

And we have a big program tonight.

We`re going to go inside the courtroom in the Derek Chauvin murder trial later. And, tonight, a new problem facing Mitch McConnell. That`s our special report later.

But we begin with the ongoing scandal engulfing Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz. The longtime and loyal MAGA figure is in freefall. He faces these sex allegations being investigated by the DOJ. He has been largely abandoned by Donald Trump in public. And we`re now learning Donald Trump`s White House reportedly rebuffed what was a very incriminating request from Gaetz in private.

"The New York Times" reporting he asked for a preemptive pardon in those final turbulent weeks of Trump`s presidency. Gaetz now faces allegations that range from paying for sex to backing sex trafficking to alleged sex with an underage girl.

To be clear, he has denied all of those allegations, and he`s not been charged with any crime.

But "The Times" report something really striking that almost no member of Congress does. They have two people who were told of high-level discussions that Gaetz was privately asking the White House for a blanket preemptive pardon for both himself and some sort of unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed. I repeat, any crimes they may have committed.

That`s important. We will come back to that clause, because it`s quite telling.

Now, Trump`s White House lawyers denied the pardon, according to "The Times," because they were concerned about the precedent. And we also know, as a public matter, he wasn`t federally pardoned.

Now, did Gaetz know at the time he was under investigation when he suddenly got the idea of preemptive pardons? Well, "The Times" notes only that he didn`t tell the White House, according to their reporting, that he may have been facing DOJ sex crime probe.

He did, though, know that already by that point that his associate Joel Greenberg was in trouble, indicted in August of last year for sex trafficking and other crimes. He`s pleaded not guilty.

Now, consider all this as you hear Gaetz in November.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): President Trump should pardon Michael Flynn. He should pardon the Thanksgiving turkey. He should pardon everyone from himself to his administration officials to Joe Exotic, if he has to.

I think that the president ought to wield that pardon power effectively and robustly.


MELBER: Robustly.

Well, "The Times"` reports suggests he was saying that because he had a self-interest, and it wasn`t just TV talk. Gaetz was defending Trump more aggressively than really most any member of Congress.

Today, Trump is out with one of his first comments on the matter. And, boy, is it a doozy? It`s basically a tepid denial statement, where Trump says that Gaetz didn`t personally ask him for a pardon. Of course, that`s not the only way to ask the White House for one.

And then Trump, instead of doing anything to help his supposed friend, his ally, to do any of the kind of bare-knuckle witch-hunt-type politicking that Trump has done against so many investigations, that`s not there for Matt Gaetz, no. All that Trump said was that Gaetz denied the accusations against him.

We should note NBC News has also reached out to Gaetz`s office for comment. They just referred everyone back to Trump`s statement, which itself refers back to Gaetz`s statement, if you can keep that all straight.

If you remember nothing else, remember this, though. As a legal matter, pardons are for criminals.

Let`s bring in our experts. Michael Zeldin is a former federal prosecutor. He`s host of the podcast "That Said With Michael Zeldin." BBC News Washington anchor Katty Kay is here, as is political science professor from Fordham Christina Greer.

Welcome, all.

Katty Kay, I want to start with you, not on the law, per se, but on the sheer political mess that Gaetz seems to be in. And Donald Trump was finally snuffed out to say something, and it wasn`t much.


I mean, if Gaetz was hoping for a full-throated defense from Donald Trump, that has to be one of the shortest, most curt statements that Donald Trump has put out. I mean, it was positively un-Trumpian, very brief.

And he`s not getting much support from anywhere else either. I spoke to Republican Congresswoman Malliotakis this evening and asked her what she thought about Gaetz, what her reaction was. And she basically said, listen, there has to be an investigation.

As you said, Ari, he is denying these charges. But she also said, tellingly, he has to be held accountable if the investigation leads there.

So he`s kind of being dropped like a hot potato by other Republicans. And as the investigation goes forward, there`s something about the company you keep, right?


MELBER: Katty, are you saying they`re dropping him like he`s hot?

KAY: No, I`m saying they`re dropping him like he is a potato.

MELBER: Just like the potato. OK, I just want to make sure I understood the reference.

Go ahead.

KAY: Yes. Yes.

I mean, look, he`s not getting any support from Donald Trump, and he`s really not getting any support from other Republicans either. And there is something about the company you keep. We don`t know what he knew when he asked for that pardon.

But one thing that he did know was that Joel Greenberg, his associate, the man who was described as his wing man, had already been arrested.

MELBER: Professor Greer?

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, Ari, we know that Donald Trump is only going to look out for Donald Trump. And he`s got his own legal troubles facing him. So, he has no time for someone like Matt Gaetz.

I mean, if we think about the Constitution, the first article of the Constitution is the legislative branch. So, we know that the framers intended for this to be a branch that helps uphold American democracy.

Matt Gaetz has not been in Congress that long. He does not have a lot of longstanding friends. And we`re seeing that people within the Republican Party are trying to move away from some of this right-wing extremist notion that Donald Trump sort of solidified in four years and try and become a little more moderate, so that they actually have a future moving forward in 2022 and 2024.

Matt Gaetz is not part of that plan. So, why would you cast your lot with someone who`s facing possible pedophilia charges and a host of other charges, when the Republicans, quite honestly, have bigger fish to fry, when they`re thinking about voter disenfranchisement and trying to win back statehouses and push forward a different type of agenda?

This is a distraction from someone that they barely know. And they`re not really willing to sort of risk their own reputation for someone like him.


And, Michael, when somebody says that they want a pardon, the obvious question becomes, what do you want a pardon for?


For what is it that you`re concerned enough to ask the White House, White House Counsel`s Office, the DOJ pardon attorney? Whomever he asked, he had something on his mind that seemed personal to him and his cohorts. That`s both Joel Greenberg, who is already under indictment and is supposedly dealing in the same persons that Gaetz is accused of being involved with, and then members of Congress.

There was a report, remember, of him sharing on his cell phone, on the floor of Congress, pictures of naked women. So we don`t know whether there`s a cabal of people here who have involved themselves in the same issue.

If there is, someone`s going to flip first, and then all the dominoes will fall thereafter.

MELBER: And, Katty, I want to play a little bit of what Gaetz was up to politically, because this is -- obviously, with the former president weighing in the way he is and others, it`s a political scandal of a kind. Some of what is alleged may or may not be found to be indicted by the DOJ and still raises a lot of questions. And then some of it will play out in the legal process.

Politically, though, Gaetz was someone who was going after anyone who disagreed with Trump. I mean, he wasn`t so much a Republican as he was a Trumpian, and so going after Liz Cheney or anyone else who stood up to the former president. Take a look.


GAETZ: What we see in this impeachment is a kangaroo court. And Chairman Schiff is acting like a malicious Captain Kangaroo.

There was ballot laundering going on here.

There`s basically two things that Liz Cheney has done in the United States Congress, frustrate the agenda of President Trump and sell out.

Behind those doors, they intend to overturn the results of an American presidential election. We want to know what`s going on.


MELBER: Katty?

KAY: Yes. If the new front line in the Republican Party that determines whether you are pro-Trump or anti-Trump is the election and whether it was stolen or not, which clearly it wasn`t, then Matt Gaetz was like the general, the leading charge in that cause.

You couldn`t have got more pro-Trump, particularly on that issue of the election, than Matt Gaetz. But I think even President Trump -- now, whether the reporting -- and there have been reports that Trump`s initial instinct was to give a full-throated defense of Matt Gaetz, and he clearly backed away from this route, this rather terse, very brief statement.

Whether Trump would have liked to have given a much more of a defense of him and has now been persuaded not to, we don`t quite know. But this is serious stuff. I mean, this leads into -- we haven`t got there yet, but this investigation could lead into the realms of prostitution. There`s sex with minors involved with this.

And you can see why Republicans are going to be cautious about how much they want to stand up for somebody who is not particularly liked anyway.


I mean, yes, the Trump statement boiled down to, he said what he said. I mean, in court, it would be hearsay, because he`s just repeating what Gaetz said, which isn`t exactly what you want if you have an ally who`s going to come in and stick up for you.

As for Mr. Greenberg, who will be back in court tomorrow, Michael, I want to just read a little bit from this Justice Department reporting, Seminole County tax collector indicted for stalking, this occurring before, as far as we know, "The New York Times" indicated that Gaetz asked for a pardon.

But only Matt Gaetz, Michael, knows what he did or didn`t do and what he was or wasn`t exposed to with regard to Mr. Greenberg. Walk us through how this case would proceed, as I mentioned, with Greenberg, Gaetz`s associate, in court tomorrow.

ZELDIN: So, Greenberg is charged with an array of cases -- charges against him, from false I.D., to trafficking with minor children, to fraud and other wire-related activities.

And so this case will proceed as any criminal trial would with this indictment being brought forth. The question for Greenberg, though, is, does he have a deal to make, and will he turn on Gaetz? There was that picture that you showed of Gaetz and Greenberg together, where they`re apparently having a good time.

And the implication there is that they were fellow travelers in this pedophilia or other trafficking in sex with children scheme. And so Gaetz can stand by himself or Greenberg can stand by himself, or one of them can turn on the other.

Gaetz can`t really turn on Greenberg. It`s too late for that. Greenberg is under indictment and he will go to trial. It`s Greenberg who can turn on Gaetz. And so we will have to see, Ari, whether or not a deal is made, or Gaetz just has a friend and Greenberg who is going to take it on the chin for him and himself and try to defend themselves on the merits of the case.


Christina, John Oliver fully went in on this, HBO`s resident comedian, but also he does a lot of stuff with facts in his own style. Take a look.


GAETZ: I can say that, 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. And she was actually threatened by the FBI, told that, if she wouldn`t cop to the fact that somehow I was involved in some pay-for-play scheme, that she could face trouble.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: I don`t remember the woman you`re speaking of or the context at all, honestly.


Imagine being the one white man on Earth that Tucker Carlson won`t defend.



MELBER: Professor?

GREER: So, Ari, this is the equivalent of, I`m sorry, I don`t know this man.

I think that Tucker Carlson`s interview is very indicative of two things, one, the length of which that Matt Gaetz will go to sort of expose people who he once had some close contact with.

And, also, the second part is, people like Tucker Carlson and some of his colleagues within Congress are going to say, you know what, I don`t know you, I`m going to distance myself from you.

This is a classic prisoner`s dilemma, as we have talked about before. I teach this in my first-semester intro to politics class. Someone needs to talk first. And, sadly, Matt Gaetz...


MELBER: Pun unintended, yes.

GREER: Yes. He is in the second player position. He`s in a weakened position now.

And we have seen now that the media, the right-wing media, is going to step away from him, as are his colleagues, and he has no friends. And so -- and if we can read Donald Trump`s short statement, we know that Donald Trump is not bashful to defend people and to go out in front of the media to stand up for folks when he feels like it.

The fact that he has not and probably will not should say a lot to Matt Gaetz, and he should figure out what his next strategy is then?

MELBER: Professor Greer...

ZELDIN: And, Ari, can I just say to that, because that is exactly right?

MELBER: Yes, Michael, I just -- I have a little bit of housekeeping, which is Professor Greer.

I have to give her credit. Thirteen minutes into the program, and she`s the first person to get us to game theory, OK?


MELBER: It wasn`t you, Michael, as talented a lawyer as you are. I`m just saying.

Michael will get the last word.

You wanted to weigh in. So tell us what`s on your mind, Michael, and also tell us what we should expect in the coming weeks and months, because if this ends in a case with no charges against Gaetz, we will be the first to report it. We`re just tracking the evidence as it emerges, or what else might be expected. You get the last word in this segment, sir.

ZELDIN: So, following on the professor`s comment, Greenberg holds the power. He`s the one who, if there`s charges to be brought against Gaetz or any other members of Congress, he`s going to be the one who knows it.

He`s going to be the one who can flip the switch, protect himself, dime out the others, and then let them fend for themselves, because nobody else can do that as easily as Greenberg.

MELBER: Michael Zeldin, Katty Kay, and Christina Greer kicking us off here tonight on a busy news night with this big story.

Thanks to each of you.

We have our shortest break. Coming up in just 30 seconds, we go back inside the Chauvin court for today`s dramatic testimony and police expert on use of force.

We`re back in 30.


MELBER: Turning to the other big story we have been covering for weeks now, going inside the courtroom at the Chauvin murder trial.

An LAPD sergeant and use of force expert was back on the stand today, discussing how Chauvin`s use of force appeared to be excessive. The defense then pressing him about what lawful use of force would be.


ERIC NELSON, ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: Sometimes the use of force, it looks really bad, right?


NELSON: And, sometimes, it may be so -- it may be caught on video, right, and it looks bad, right?


NELSON: But it`s still lawful.

STIGER: Yes, based on that department`s policies or based on that state`s law.


MELBER: Chauvin`s defense attorney there, Eric Nelson, bringing up a police training concept here, awful, but lawful.

Now, Special Agent James Reyerson, who investigates use of force incidents and investigated Floyd`s killing, took the stand. Defense attorney Eric Nelson then questioning him about this issue that we have been covering about Floyd`s possible drug use.


NELSON: Did you hear that?


NELSON: Did it appear that Mr. Floyd said, "I ate too many drugs"?

REYERSON: Yes, it did.


MELBER: Then -- and this was interesting, because this is how things get litigated -- the prosecution brought him back up clarify his testimony.

And he basically revised, saying that after rewatching the video, what he actually heard, because, again, you have experts dealing with evidence -- this is how it works. He said to the jury, he actually heard Floyd say -- quote -- "I ain`t do no drugs."

Let me repeat before we go into this, because this is a big deal, whether you think drugs were being taken and whether Mr. Floyd was making a confession or not, and everyone`s looking at the same videos. The idea being that Floyd said, "I ain`t do no drugs." Take a look at the distinction.


MATTHEW FRANK, MINNESOTA PROSECUTOR: Having heard it in context, are you able to tell what Mr. Floyd is saying there?

REYERSON: Yes, I believe Mr. Floyd was saying, "I ain`t do no drugs."


MELBER: I`m joined now by Channa Lloyd, a criminal and civil rights attorney.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Absolutely.

You have been following this trial. So have we. So have so many of our viewers. We have been winding through the prosecution`s case. Day one, the dramatic, horrific video and the context around it, the following days, individuals who knew Mr. Floyd, then police, who really gave some damning testimony, three different officers, about the defendant, Chauvin.

And now, in these last two days, walk us through what we`re seeing for viewers who are thinking, oh, this is now -- we`re getting really technical, may be important, but technical.

LLOYD: Absolutely.

What you`re saying is that the prosecution is ensuring that they`re not leaving any room for reasonable doubt. They`re taking every officer at every level that`s involved in training, use of force, and they`re bringing them in to get their opinion, and also to have them state the facts surrounding how they`re trained to create that foundation, because reasonable doubt just needs a little bit.

It`s a very high standard for them to meet, so they have to be sure that they leave no stone unturned.


And one of the intellectually interesting things about a trial, even a trial that, as so many do, involves tragedy, is the way that lawyers actually have to make their arguments through most of the trial through their witnesses.

So, when we watch "Law & Order," or any such drama, you get a lot of lawyers just talking to the jury, which is, frankly, easier. In a real trial, though, the bulk of it doesn`t work that way. And they have to make these arguments through evidence and through testimony.

And so we did hear one of the potential defense`s mitigation to what Chauvin was doing and the use of force on the scene was, well, growing crowd. Maybe he or others felt threatened. Maybe it was worse than it looked on the video, because the video is going this way. Maybe you don`t know what the crowd is doing.

And there was this moment I want to play today for your analysis where use to force Agent Jody Stiger is basically asked about that. Does the crowd have an effect?


STEVE SCHLEICHER, MINNESOTA PROSECUTOR: When you review the body-worn cameras, did you see anybody throw any rocks or bottles?

STIGER: No, I did not.

SCHLEICHER: Did you see anyone attack, physically attack the officers?

STIGER: No, I did not.

SCHLEICHER: Did you hear foul language or name-calling?

STIGER: There was some name-calling yes, but -- and some foul language. But that was about the most of it.

SCHLEICHER: Did that factor into your analysis?


SCHLEICHER: Why not? Because I did not perceive them as being a threat.


MELBER: What`s the point being made there?

LLOYD: The point being made is, the state in the prosecution is trying to undercut this theory that this crowd was this imminent threat that they need to be focused on, that they couldn`t render aid while they were having to deal with this crowd.

Because the defense is hanging -- very often, you see them going back to this idea that the crowd was about to become violent, it was something that may have become very aggressive, something that the officers had to pay very close attention to, and so they couldn`t render this medical aid.

Here, you see the prosecution making very clear that, to any other officer, this crowd was not considered a threat.

MELBER: Yes, in summation here with you, what else do you expect to see in the coming days, before this eventually moves on to the defense having its turn?

LLOYD: I think you`re going to see the prosecution wrapping up its case with just solidifying all of the little things that, legally, they need to for the record, because, of course, we all have to consider that these matters are appealable, especially typically by the defendant, should there be a conviction.

So you`re going to see a lot of tying up the loose ends. They want to make sure that there`s nothing that they have left unturned or unaddressed. They`re also doing it for the benefit of the jury, because they want to make sure that there is not an area for reasonable doubt to come in: Oh, I didn`t hear from this particular officer that actually was there training him. I didn`t hear this.

So they`re ensuring that their case in chief is as solid as it can be.

MELBER: Civil rights attorney Channa Lloyd, thank you for your analysis tonight. I appreciate it.

LLOYD: Thank you.

MELBER: I want to tell everyone what we have coming up, because it`s -- thank you -- it`s a big one.

Mitch McConnell looking cornered. He is jammed by his own Republican voters, as Biden flexes.

This is our special report we have been working on. I`m going to explain next.


MELBER: President Biden just got some super fuel, with Democrats green- lighting Senate plans to bypass Republican obstruction, so they can get Biden`s big infrastructure a party-line vote, where it could pass.

In fact, that means the $2 trillion program could pass, just like the way they passed COVID relief, if you have all 50 Senate Democrats and Vice President Harris during the tiebreaker, without any Republicans in Congress.

And that pits Mitch McConnell against his own Republican voters, who strongly back the COVID bill. And many Republican votes -- voters, I should say, are now warming to the new Biden bill, a trend that he pointed out.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have electoral support from Republican voters, Republican voters.

Unless Mitch says the last thing I did is -- the last piece of legislation is so far left -- well, then he ought to a look at his party. Over 50 percent of them must be over that edge as well, because they support what I did.


MELBER: They do support it.

Now, Republican voters are increasingly not very well-represented by their party`s reflexive opposition in Washington, as more Republican voters lean towards Biden policies, at least in these first 70 days, which raises an important prospect.

Could Biden be to the Republican Party what Reagan was for the Democratic Party, a leader who found a way to build a following with some of the other party`s voters, regardless of the D.C. politicians?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Detroit today, the head of the United Auto Workers, a union traditionally allied with the Democrats, said there`s a notable increase of support for Ronald Reagan among rank-and-file autoworkers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Union leaders say support for Ronald Reagan among autoworkers is growing as fast as the unemployment lines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The commercials appeal directly to working people, who have traditionally voted Democratic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this time, I am going to vote. And you better believe it won`t be for the Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many conservative Democrats and independents have already got the man they like, and it is Ronald Reagan.


MELBER: That phenomenon was originally dubbed Reagan Democrats by Stanley Greenberg, a pollster for top Democrats and President Clinton.

It`s a history many remember and one that Biden lived through as a senator. Transformative presidents tend to grow coalitions. Reagan won his presidential elections with over a quarter of registered Democrats backing him, which powered his 49-state landslide in 1984, just as Obama turned red states blue, like Virginia and Indiana.

Now, it`s early in Biden`s tenure. He does not yet have Reagan-level cross- party support. Just under one out of 10. Republicans voted for Biden nationally. At the state level, there were signs he won over Trump Republicans in places like Michigan.

And the pollster who tracked Reagan Democrats said this went beyond any personal appeal, finding Democrats in that same state, Michigan, who backed Reagan were blue-collar, they were for government spending on health care, but they thought leaders in their own Democratic Party were focused more on equal rights than mortgage payments, and more focused on black voters in Detroit and the protesters on campus than on pocketbook issues.

So, part of that playbook was the continued realignment of Republican support along racial lines and Nixon`s Southern Strategy. But in terms of how politics works, many operatives also see a broader dynamic here that could benefit Joe Biden today.

And it`s pretty straightforward. When the incumbent party leaders lose step with their own voters, they`re obviously more vulnerable in challenges. That same pollster now sees the prospect of Biden Republicans who also live in the suburbs, but are highly educated, open to diversity, more concerned with the GOP`s recent lurches under Trump and towards a more nativist and less policy-oriented party, one that storms the Capitol.

And they`re concerned about that, which means, in politics, the right leader can invade that partisan Republican turf to pick off voters.

So, a Reagan or Biden could brashly waltz right into the opposing party`s tent and, like the iconic swashbuckling oil tycoon character Daniel Plainview from "There Will Be Blood," can walk right up to the other party, pause, straw in hand, and just drink your milkshake.


DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, ACTOR: If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw -- there it is -- my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake.

I drink your milkshake.


MELBER: Now, this is the news. So we ask the hard questions around here.

Can Biden really drink McConnell`s milkshake? Well, he seems increasingly confident about it, openly touting his Republican support the way that Reagan turned his own appeal to Democrats into kind of a recurring narrative.


RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All those millions of Democrats and independents who I know are looking for a cause around which to rally and which I believe we can give them.


REAGAN: There was once upon a time that to be a Republican in this area of the country felt a little bit like being Gary Cooper in "High Noon."


REAGAN: Outnumbered in a big way.

I hope that you who are independents and Democrats will let me talk to you also tonight, because the problems facing our country are problems that just don`t bear any party label.


MELBER: Well, Biden was there through all of that as a senator, and he clashed with Republicans plenty, but also found time to work with that president. There he was smiling with President Reagan in the Oval Office and trying to forge common ground on the economy after Reagan`s 1983 State of the Union.


BIDEN: The president, I think, for the first time acknowledged, A, the depth of the economic crisis and, B, the need for government to be involved in the solution.


MELBER: That was back when policy sometimes brought politicians together.

Today`s Republican politicians, they`re not like that at all. I mean, they literally just spent the last four years claiming to back spending for infrastructure, as Trump held 10 different infrastructure weeks, and now they have flip-flopped to oppose infrastructure spending, all because Biden supports it.


BIDEN: If the Republicans argue that we don`t need infrastructure, a need now that they have been talking about the need for, for years now.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We are jeopardizing the future of this country by continuing to engage in this kind of deficit spending.

I can`t imagine that`s going to be very appealing to many Republicans.


MELBER: I mean, they said it was appealing for four years. That`s the Republican politicians.

But then you have the voters. One out of five Republican voters are already backing Biden`s new infrastructure bill. Most Republican voters backed Biden`s COVID recovery bill. And the split between those voters and their partisan representatives in D.C. is clear.

Indeed, outside of D.C., there are even local Republican politicians who came out for that bill.


BIDEN: According to the polls, there is overwhelming bipartisan support.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: It`s not just Republican governors who are supporting the relief bill and asking for Biden`s help. Republican-led cities and towns are seeking aid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So many of our mayors have come out on both sides of the aisle because this is just the right thing to do.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Four hundred mayors have come out and said they support this package. That`s why Democratic and Republican governors have come out and said that.



Now, it`s early, but if Biden continues like this, he may keep cornering these D.C. Republican politicians by drinking their electoral milkshake.

And you know what happened to some of those Reagan Democrats? Well, they kept voting Republican, and eventually kind of became Republicans.

Can Joe Biden, with his diverse Cabinet and his coalition, and the signs of an increasingly broad governing economic agenda, can he do the same? Can he turn his Biden Republicans into Democratic teammates?

Well, it`s early, but there`s new nonpartisan Gallup polling out today that finds the largest spike in people affiliating as Democrats in a decade. When asked the party that they either back or lean, now fully half of voters are Democratic, a big spike to 49 percent. Republicans, meanwhile, are down to 40 percent.

So, even after Reagan left office, his political realignment lived on. Politicos and reporters would track the impact of those Reagan Democrats in elections that went on even after Reagan`s final term.


TOM BROKAW, NBC News ANCHOR: These quiet neighborhoods on Chicago`s Southwest Side are the battleground for independents and Reagan Democrats, the home of autoworkers, steelman, firemen and cops.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Reagan Democrats are largely blue-collar ethnic voters in the North and working class whites in the South. They comprise about 10 percent of the electorate nationally and could tip the balance in 10 key states, including the battleground of the Industrial Midwest.


MELBER: Everyone wanted to see what they do.

Now, if you`re old enough to remember the last presidential election, you might recall that, even though Trump got fewer votes than Clinton in `16, there were all these reporters and all these think pieces probing the minds of those Trump supporters out there in America.

Well, real talk, Joe Biden recently thumped Donald Trump by a wider margin. He`s now thumping McConnell with Republican support for huge federal spending. And I don`t know about you, but I don`t hear as much from the D.C. pundits about trying to learn the thinking of those Biden voters out there in real America, in the heartland, the women of color or the suburban populists or the public service workers.

It is funny how the D.C. pundit empathy always seems to be so one-sided.

Now, again, I can`t stress enough how it is too early to know if Biden would be heading for a realignment years from tonight. But I can tell you this when you take it all together. Right now, he`s winning over a broad coalition for big spending and big New Deal-type programs.

And he has some Republicans backing him. And that means, right now, Mitch McConnell also keeps losing.

That`s our special report.

But we have got some more news tonight. There`s a new development since we were covering the Gaetz trial and the -- I should say, the trial of his associate and the investigation into Gaetz. So, I`m going to tell you what that update is.

But, first, we have a very special guest, Jared Bernstein, one of President Biden`s economic advisers, live on THE BEAT, next.


MELBER: Welcome back.

All eyes have been on President Biden going big on infrastructure, the $2 trillion plan.

And we are now joined by renowned economist, a former colleague many may remember as an analyst. Jared Bernstein is now a member of President Biden`s Council of Economic Advisers.

Good to see you here in your new role, sir.

JARED BERNSTEIN, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Thank you very much. Great to see you as well.

MELBER: In plain English, what`s the most important things this bill does?

And everyone can see the price tag. Who`s going to pay for it?

BERNSTEIN: I would say the most important things -- plural -- this bill does is, it builds back better to an economy that is far more resilient, far more inclusive, far more racially equitable than the one that was here when President Biden took office.

You were just talking about some of the political dynamics. Let me talk a little bit about some of the economics behind that, because I think it`s very commonsensical.

There are 400,000 schools and child care centers that have lead exposure in their water in this country, OK? So, President Biden comes forth and says, I want to replace 100 percent of the pipes, because no child in America should have any lead leaching into their water supply.

Then you hear the opposition starting to talk about, well, are pipes infrastructure? And it becomes this Oxford English dictionary debate. There are more than 30 million Americans who have limited or no Internet access. Many of those folks live in both D and R parts of the country. And that`s why you see mayors and governors often lining up behind these plans, whether it`s the Rescue Plan to put the virus behind us, or, in this case, the Jobs Plan to bring Americans onto -- onto the Internet, which is obviously so essential.


Well, Jared...

BERNSTEIN: I could talk about the...

MELBER: ... you know -- well, let`s stay on that, and then let you keep going.

But on the point about how you define what`s in there, because it`s part of this debate, I mean, one response to that the Joy Behar response, which is: Who cares? Who cares what do you call it...


MELBER: ... if the evidence shows that it`s going to be good for schools and kids?

But let me put up here, for everyone`s context -- this was out of Politico -- the question that`s going to be dominating politics, they say. You dug right into it, $400 billion to expand home care services, support for care workers, popular things, according to many, laudable, they say, but is it infrastructure?

What is the real point, though?


MELBER: Because do you at the White House -- you speak for the president here? Can you just say it`s a big infrastructure bill that also does important things on jobs and justice and climate?

BERNSTEIN: I mean, obviously, we have a broad interpretation of infrastructure, of the kinds of things, the kinds of policy architecture or infrastructure is the word that comes to mind -- it`s probably redundant -- that achieve the sorts of goals that middle-class and lower-income people need and don`t currently have in this economy.

So, if you`re someone who`s trying to go to work, if you`re a caretaker of an elderly person or a kid, and you would like to be in the labor market, but that kind of child care structure doesn`t exist in your neighborhood, we want to try to fix that, OK?

And we talked about lead. We talked about the electric grid. If your -- look what happened in Texas. I mean, if you`re in a place where a fragile electric grid can knock you out for days at a time, at great human cost, that`s infrastructure that we want to replace.

When we`re talking about modernizing schools and community colleges and making repairs to veterans hospitals, to us, that fits very neatly under this rubric of building back an America that meets the needs of the people in ways that have just been underinvested in and ignored for decades now.


And something MSNBC viewers may recall about you when you were an analyst is, unlike some people, you love talking about tax rates. It`s just one of the things you`re game to get into.

You need Senator Manchin`s vote on behalf of the president. Take a listen to what he`s saying about the corporate rate piece of this.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I think corporate should have been at 25 percent. As the bill exists today, it needs to be changed.

If I don`t go to get on it, it`s not going anywhere.


MELBER: Jared?


So, first of all, let me say that the reason I like to talk about taxes is because I have learned in my many decades in Washington that, if you want to sustain a kind of infrastructure program as broad as the one we`re talking about that President Biden correctly views as essential to making this economy as competitive as it needs to be on the global stage, you have to fund that agenda.

It`s one thing to take a temporary program, like the Rescue Plan, put that on the deficit. That makes sense to me. But for a longer-term program like this one, for some of the more permanent kinds of agendas that we`re thinking about, that`s where funding comes into place and revenues.

Now, because of the Trump tax cuts, even as the economy was closing in on full employment before the crisis, we were collecting an historically very low amount of revenues. And this is really a backdoor way to shrink the government.

Now, to some people, shrink the government probably sounds good. But when you talk about hundreds of thousands of schools and child care centers that are exposed to lead, when you talk about the absence of Internet access, when you talk about the fragility of the grid, when you talk about the failure to invest in clean energy and electric vehicles, well, then you start to understand where President Biden is coming from, an amply funded government that will that will support the resilient and productive investments, inclusive, racially equitable investments, that have gone unsupported for too long.

And to have a pay-for that for that that`s highly progressive, that doesn`t hit anybody under $400,000 of income, now, that just makes a lot of sense.

MELBER: All very interesting stuff. It`s such a big issue.

Jared Bernstein, as mentioned, good to have you back in this context. I hope you will join us again.

BERNSTEIN: Of course.

MELBER: Thank you, sir.

Coming up: Some Republicans actually say the quiet part out loud on voter suppression. We have the tapes.

And, as mentioned, there`s a late-breaking development linked to Matt Gaetz. We have that for you tonight as well.


MELBER: As Republican lawmakers continue to push voter suppression bills - - we`re seeing this in different parts of the nation -- some are also starting to say the quiet part out loud, that their goal is to stop people from voting.

And, depending on how you do it, that itself is an illegal goal.

Here`s a top elections official in Mississippi. This is the Republican secretary of state. The job is to protect the right to vote.


MICHAEL WATSON (R), MISSISSIPPI SECRETARY OF STATE: So, think about all these woke college university students now who will automatically be registered to vote, whether they wanted to or not. You have got an uninformed citizen who may not be prepared and ready to vote.

Automatically, it`s forced on them. Hey, go make a choice. And our country is going to pay for those choices.


MELBER: So, he`s going to decide who he thinks is actually ready to vote.

That Republican official saying that also so-called woke young people shouldn`t have it easy, shouldn`t be allowed to vote in an easy manner.

The conservative "National Review" published an article titled: Why Not Fewer Voters?" saying the republic would be better served by having fewer, but better voters?

It`s all out in the open, folks. Look at who they`re trying to stop from voting. And then look at what they mean and imply when they say it`s time for only better people to vote.

This used to be the kind of thing that the modern Republican Party over the last few decades, whatever it was doing on paper, it would be more implicit. You would rarely see it admitted out in the open this much, certainly back in the Jim Crow era, but not, say, in the last 20 years as much.

Now, last month, an Arizona Republican lawmaker also said -- quote -- "Everybody shouldn`t be voting. And quantity isn`t important -- quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes as well."

In 2018, Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith also said the goal would be to make it harder for liberal folks to vote.


SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R-MS): That there`s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who that maybe we don`t want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. So, I think that`s a great idea.


MELBER: You can see how these ideas spread.

Back in 2018, about 48 percent of Republican voters said everything possible should be done to make voting as easy as possible. That basic concept has now dropped precipitously to 28 percent.

We live in a country where voting for too long has been too hard for reasons we all know, sexism, racism. Not everyone was allowed to vote initially. We all know that.

But there has been generations of fighting and dying so that there would be some attempt to have universal suffrage. And if you go back far enough, the Democratic Party had its own problems on that.

But, today, what you see is a Republican Party not only doing everything possible to make it hard for you to vote, telling you they`re going to prevent you from having food and water in line when you wait to vote, and then speaking openly as they do things that explicitly go after certain people, young people, liberals, the Biden coalition, and a lot of black people, and say their goal is to make sure only the better people vote.

It all follows the lead of you know who.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They had things, levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you would never have a Republican elected in this country again.


MELBER: Now, that`s an admission, if there ever was one.

That was our special comment on that.

When we come back, we have the update on a criminal case relating to Matt Gaetz, the update we just got during this hour. That`s next.


MELBER: Late-breaking news.

There are new indictments against Joel Greenberg. That`s the former Florida tax collector and associate of Matt Gaetz, whose own investigation tipped off authorities to Gaetz. That`s why the Republican congressman is under review.

Federal prosecutors in Orlando now charging Greenberg late today with conspiracy, bribery and stealing tax dollars to allegedly buy these cryptocurrencies online.

Now, Greenberg had pled not guilty this afternoon. He faces 33 federal charges in total. That includes some of the most salacious, the sex trafficking and sex with a minor. As mentioned in our coverage, he`s do in court tomorrow.

The new indictments do not shed any light, to be fair, on Gaetz`s own role, potential or otherwise, in these investigations. But it does follow "The New York Times"` report that Gaetz, for reasons only he knows, proactively sought out the Trump White House because he wanted a blanket preemptive pardon for himself, a pardon for criminal conduct or some other allegation that he thought might be necessary.

Now, that`s our show for tonight. Thanks for staying with us as we packed a lot in.

We will be back here tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

And a final word. You can always find me online @AriMelber on social media.