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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/8/21

Guests: David Henderson, Marc Caputo, Dave Aronberg


The jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial hears testimony from a key medical witness. Is the New York DA closing in on Donald Trump? Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz faces a new potential legal earthquake. President Biden announces executive orders on gun reform.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

We`re tracking several big stories tonight.

The jury looking riveted inside the courtroom today in the Derek Chauvin murder trial, a key witness speaking out.

Later: Is the New York DA closing in? Donald Trump has actually tapped a new lawyer in that money probe against him, a sign of concern on his side.

But we begin with breaking news in the Matt Gaetz scandal. Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz faces a new potential legal earthquake. And it`s happening today. We have been tracking it, an associate that is tied to his legal investigations likely to plead guilty. The Trump loyalist facing a new sex allegation, and this one is about a Bahamas trip.

This is in addition to those separate allegations that have been reported that range from paying for sex to sex trafficking to sex with an underage girl. Now, it`s important to know Gaetz denies all of that. And, at this point, the DOJ is investigating, but has not charged with any crime.

Now, why is today a major turning point? I will show you. It`s our top story, because this federal sex trafficking probe, which Gaetz himself confirms is going on -- he doesn`t deny that it`s going on and that he`s a subject and that he`s talked to folks -- it stems from an associate that was charged with sex trafficking and other crimes.

Now, today, that Gaetz associate, former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg, had a hearing to discuss a trial date. But the hearing turned out to be fast, six minutes, actually, in all. And we will explain why, because, under this spotlight, Greenberg is now expected, according to reporting, to plead guilty now to an array of federal charges, which could include sex trafficking and sex with a minor and identity theft.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prosecutors and defense lawyers say that they expect a plea deal for Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg.

WALLACE: A plea by the former elected official, Joel Greenberg, could significantly strengthen the Justice Department`s hand as it investigates Mr. Gaetz.

PAULA REID, CNN: He`s facing over 33 criminal counts. So he has an incentive here to provide any evidence of any sort of criminal conduct.


MELBER: You can see there all the reporting, a big story all over the place, with these indications -- hasn`t happened yet -- that he would admit to some of these crimes.

And that raises a legal question that you may recall from any big case that can involve big or high-profile people. It was a big issue in the Mueller probe. The question becomes, will this person flip? Will they become a cooperating witness? Do they have knowledge of crimes by other important people?

Will this person work with the feds and the DOJ? Is there exposure here for Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz? And here is something that might haunt him. Here is Greenberg`s attorney after court today.


QUESTION: Does Matt Gaetz have anything to worry about?

FRITZ SCHELLER, ATTORNEY FOR JOEL GREENBERG: I`m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.


MELBER: Not feeling comfortable. There are people who see that as an ominous sign for Gaetz. But, again, that`s one lawyer representing one person putting out that message.

We`re not yet reporting anything that confirms some kind of cooperation deal. Now, if Greenberg does cooperate, if he does have evidence of interest to the feds, whether that`s about Mr. Gaetz or other individuals, he could, like anyone else, get a more lenient sentence.

He`s looking at 12 years in prison. Now, all of this comes as a new report is breaking, first from CBS News -- and NBC News has confirmed this -- that the feds are probing this separate international trip Gaetz took down to the Bahamas. They believe it was in late 2018 or early 2019. And it`s relevant to the probe because it involves -- quote -- "women paid to travel for sex, which could violate federal law" and whether Gaetz or Greenberg, who was in court today, used the Internet to search for women they could pay for sex, according to sources that NBC News there has confirmed with.

In addition, the reporting says -- quote -- "Gaetz was on that trip with a marijuana entrepreneur who allegedly paid for the travel expenses, accommodations and female experts" -- end quote -- according to those sources.

Again, Gaetz denying all of these allegations. Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes. And we want to report for you, because this is a live and ongoing issue, a Gaetz spokesperson speaking out new about this latest reporting and saying -- quote -- "It looks like a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults" -- end quote.

Joining us now on this top story riveting watch Washington is Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Palm Beach County, Marc Caputo, national political reporter from Politico and also a Florida politics guru -- many may remember from a lot of our Florida political coverage -- and Liz Plank, MSNBC columnist and author.

Hello, everyone.

Let me start with you, Marc, because this is quite a story, I would say, no shade, but even for Florida.

MARC CAPUTO, POLITICO: Oh, yes, it`s a tale of not just one Florida man, but at least two Florida men and maybe many Florida men.

I think you summed up the case pretty well. The problem that we`re having on the media side of this is we`re getting a lot of anonymous leaks and we`re not getting a lot of details. And Gaetz is sort of -- he`s not hiding from this. And he`s ratcheting up pressure.

He`s going to be speaking tomorrow at a pro-Trump group at Trump Doral. And it`s going to be interesting to see if there really is kind of a tit-for- tat between Gaetz and the feds, because there seems to be this ongoing dynamic where a leak comes out about him, and then he speaks out about it, and then another leak comes out.

So the question is, what`s he going to say tomorrow, and then what new revelation it`s going to bring?

MELBER: Dave, walk us through what happened in court today, and what it means that there could be some sort of plea.


Today was not surprising at all, because Joel Greenberg is facing child sex trafficking charges involving the same 17-year-old girl at the heart of the Matt Gaetz investigation. And if you add all the charges together that Greenberg is facing, he faces up to life in prison.

So he has every incentive to make a deal. So his lawyer pretty much confirmed that`s what`s going on. And the fact that Matt Gaetz is out there is a lifeline for Joel Greenberg, because Joel Greenberg is just a local tax collector. Matt Gaetz is a congressman.

And so he`s clearly a bigger target. And Joel Greenberg knows where all the bodies are buried here. And if he`s the first one in the prosecutor`s door...

MELBER: Let me...

ARONBERG: ... he will get the best deal.


Let me press you for a little bit of precision here, because, in fairness, just following the facts, you said -- quote -- "pretty much confirmed."

But can we read into that yet? I mean, what Greenberg said could be read as confirmation. I understand what you`re drawing on to say that. But could he not also turn around in a few days and say, well, I was referring to why Gaetz should be uncomfortable, given all the allegations, but our clients going a different direction?

ARONBERG: Ari, I cannot imagine that his lawyers are going to allow him to go to trial, where he faces a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for child sex trafficking.

I mean, he`s like a walking criminal enterprise, this guy. And the only thing he has going in his favor was that there`s a bigger fish to flip on. And so I have always felt that it was inevitable that this day would come. I think his lawyer, though when you say the other guy should be uncomfortable right now, that, to me, confirms that this whole deal is inevitable and imminent.

MELBER: Yes. Yes.

And we value your legal analysis here. I want to be clear with viewers, confirms it for you. NBC News has not confirmed a cooperation deal yet. And, as I mentioned the Mueller probe, because it was just such a recent example, where there`s gradations to whether people are just trying to get a deal to plea, whether they cooperate, and then, separately, whether they have criminal evidence on others.

We`re not there yet, in fairness to Mr. Gaetz, who hasn`t been charged yet, although, boy, are there a lot of allegations.

Liz Plank, I turn to you not for the law, but for what appears to be another case of hypocrisy for a Republican Party that has -- boy, has it campaigned and talked a lot about all kinds of traditional values. What`s going on here?

LIZ PLANK, MSNBC COLUMNIST: Yes, speaking of feeling uncomfortable today, this is the kind of story that you need to take a swig of Pepto-Bismol to be able to stomach and read through some of the details today, the fact that they may have shared a girlfriend -- and by girlfriend, it`s a 17- year-old child -- is really, really worrying and pretty astounding.

And it`s -- so, Matt Gaetz is what happens when masculinity doesn`t get an upgrade, when, in a well-functioning patriarchy, women`s bodies and girls` bodies become the biggest form of currency.

And, to me, the biggest sign of that is the fact that Matt Gaetz, allegedly, if all of this is true, and with Joel Greenberg, they didn`t just do this. They talked about it. They boasted about these things, about these alleged crimes to other men, to many other men.

Politico is reporting that they`re eight people who are -- were familiar with the story that they were sharing this 17-year-old girl. So that`s very, very concerning to me. And it`s very -- it shows sort of where the bar is for the Republican Party, and that it is very, very low.


CAPUTO: If I can just real quick...


MELBER: Well, Marc, I just want to say -- yes, you`re going to get in.


MELBER: But, to Liz`s point, I really just want to underscore some of what she`s saying that`s important, because there`s a part of this where we`re speaking very carefully with regard to an open criminal probe.

And then there`s a part of this where we`re speaking about things that may or may not be federally charged, but would be quite concerning, period, full stop.

So, I just wanted to echo Liz on that and, Marc, bring you in on whatever you wanted to say, but also add in some of this reporting from "WashPo" with regard to what Greenberg reportedly was doing.

Among the allegations he faces is -- quote -- "abusing his access to his government database," using it to look up the personal information of people with whom he was in -- quote -- "sugar daddy relationships, including this minor, and help produce fake identification documents to facilitate his efforts to engage in commercial sex acts" -- end quote.

I did want to get that all in there for context.

And, Marc, go ahead.

CAPUTO: Yes, just -- I have written that Politico story. I did talk to eight friends and associates of the two of them. Three of them confirmed that Greenberg boasted of having had a sexual relationship with a 17-year- old who then went on to work in pornography, appears to still work in pornography.

They didn`t say that Gaetz did, and just -- now, whether Gaetz did or not, I have no idea. But my reporting didn`t, like, bear that out. So, I just want to make sure that we weren`t tagged with having reported something we didn`t tag -- or report, I should say.

MELBER: Sure,. Yes. No, I think we have -- and I think viewers are following that there`s parts of this that are -- they are scandalous and under investigation, and Gaetz has denied them.

So, if you want to use legal terminology, with regard to Mr. Gaetz, much of this remains reported and contested. And that`s why we`re all using some of those words.

Liz really gives us important context, though, on what is the reported culture and environment around here.

Liz, I want to bring you back in with how this is playing across the culture in late night. This is a quite a sex trafficking scandal story. Here`s some of how that`s playing out and Americans are hearing about it.


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

JOHN OLIVER, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER": Wow. Imagine being the one white man on Earth that Tucker Carlson won`t defend.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": He is said to have asked for a blanket preemptive pardon from then-President Trump during the final weeks of the administration. That`s not suspicious.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Amid the federal probe, he will speak to a conservative women`s group at the former president`s golf course. You could say that`s putting the fox in the henhouse, but Gaetz would rather hang out with the eggs.



PLANK: Right.

When Bill Barr and Donald Trump don`t want to help you out and don`t want to get involved in an investigation in a heavy-handed kind of way, you kind of know just where you are in terms of the spectrum of creeps.

I mean, look, Donald Trump has not just made it a habit, but a lifestyle, right, of defending men who have been accused of various kinds of sexual abuse or harassment for women, from Roger Ailes to even before he was president, right?

And I`m forgetting the boxer`s name. I`m sorry. But he -- over and over again, he -- with Roy Moore, right, another man who`s been alleged -- accused of being a pedophile while he was president, including his own accusations.


PLANK: And Bill Barr, as we remember, wanted to use the power of the state to actually defend Donald Trump in a case against him, a rape.

So it`s pretty -- you`re in a bad place if even those guys aren`t willing to back you up.

MELBER: Marc, I have the -- a political question for you, which will put you in the position of basically fact-checking an "SNL" punchline, but one that was striking, because "Saturday Night Live" had Matt Gaetz on as a character.

And when pressed was all this, they said, how could you ever win reelection? And there`s been talk about Gaetz not running for reelection, but, in the joke, the character Matt Gaetz was saying, well, this would hurt in most districts, but not actually in mine in Florida.

Now, that`s a joke. And maybe it sounds like it`s too disrespectful to the constituents of Florida. But I give you the turn to walk us through, in today`s MAGA Republican Party in Mr. Gaetz`s district, with, again, allegations that, as we have said, are not proven at this point, is he in trouble? What is the future of Matt Gaetz politically, given what we know right now?

CAPUTO: Well, obviously, beware of prognosticating a Florida election or any election until it happens.

But I think you and Liz raised an interesting point about the Republican Party, at least the Republican Party of yore, where there was more of a focus on more moral behavior and the like. Donald Trump sort of changed that.

And Matt Gaetz has never presented himself as a moralizer. In fact, he likes being referred to as a ladies man.

Now, that gets us to his district. His district is in Northwest Florida. In fact, it`s Joe Scarborough`s old district when he was a congressman. And it`s a very conservative district. His constituents love him, or at least the Republican constituents, who are the overwhelming majority of the voters there.

So, if I had to guess now, before seeing any new evidence, I would say he`s going to be reelected, if I had to guess.

MELBER: Right, which, again, all prognostication, to be careful, but it`s interesting that, as of today, that`s what you see, given someone who was such a Trumpy, MAGA, loud figure.

And we have more on just how loud he was later in the program and some of the stuff that may come back to bite him.

Before we get out of here, Dave, we turn back to you on the law. What comes next, given the state of this, given the possible plea deal, and the amount of time you think is left in an investigation like this, whether there will or won`t be further charges?

ARONBERG: Ari, I think the plea discussions are going on right now. And the feds indicated they should wrap up within a couple weeks.

The lawyer for Greenberg seemed to say it would take longer, so they`re going to negotiate. And once he gives the goods, a proffer is what it`s called, then I think the feds will move quickly to make an arrest. And that`s why Matt Gaetz needs to look out his window for the federal officials, the Marshals, to come and put him in handcuffs, because I think that day is inevitable.

And it reminds me of an old quote, Ari, from Chief Justice Roberts, tables, turn bridges burn, you live and learn. Or maybe it was Drake, one of the two.


MELBER: You know, Dave is here as a current Florida lawyer. When you say that -- and, again, we haven`t reported there are charges imminent.

But he`s here because he`s a current lawyer in the state of Florida, Palm Beach attorney. To also bring Champagne Papi into this is really chef`s kiss.

So, Dave, Marc, Liz, we covered a lot of ground. I can say that. Thanks to each of you.

Coming up in just 30 seconds, we take a turn to another important legal case, because we have been covering this day after day. It`s important, the Chauvin trial, and the time that he spent with his knee on Floyd`s neck.

New evidence -- when we`re back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: A key witness for the prosecution delivering a key moment inside the courtroom at the Chauvin murder trial we have been covering.

Now, this is a world-renowned pulmonologist, Martin Tobin, identifying, as grim as it is, important to the case, the precise moment when George Floyd died.


DR. MARTIN TOBIN, PULMONOLOGIST: You can see his eyes. He`s conscious. And then you see that he isn`t. That`s the moment the life goes out of his body.


MELBER: This is how trials work, the moment his life ended.

Now, Chauvin at this point was looking down during that key medical testimony. The observers we have say that this jury, which is anonymous, were very attentive, taking notes at this moment. This is obviously a key moment, when you have a murder trial.

This witness, Tobin, also clarifying how long Chauvin had his knee on Floyd`s neck -- this is key -- after, after his body, medically speaking, appeared to have run out of oxygen.


TOBIN: We see here that he reaches a level of zero of oxygen at 20:25:41. And so, at that point, there`s not an ounce of oxygen left in his body, in his entire body, at 20:25:41.

JERRY BLACKWELL, MINNESOTA PROSECUTOR: And so was the knee then lifted off of his neck at the point there was no oxygen in his body?

TOBIN: No, the knee remained on the neck for another three minutes and two seconds after we reach the point where there is not one ounce of oxygen left in the body.


MELBER: This is grim stuff.

When you hear that measurement, three minutes afterward, you are getting into an evidentiary version, which is to say the medical evidence, supporting what could be and what prosecutors say is part of the reason that the jury should find Chauvin was a murderer.

This is obviously as serious as it gets. This is an important part of the trial.

Now, Tobin was also questioned about this issue, this mitigation defense, what about Floyd`s drug use? And this is also potentially important. The jury`s hearing this and will decide to factor it all in, because the witness here remaining firm in the analysis that the fentanyl use, whatever may have occurred, would not, in this instance, be impacting Floyd`s ability to breathe.


TOBIN: The respiratory rate is 22. So, basically, it tells you there -- that isn`t -- there isn`t fentanyl on board.

ERIC NELSON, ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: Fentanyl can also cause a death as a result of low oxygen?

TOBIN: Your answer is yes, but only in part.

BLACKWELL: Do they or do they not go into a coma before they die from a fentanyl overdose?

TOBIN: Yes, they will.

BLACKWELL: Was Mr. Floyd ever in a coma?



MELBER: I`m joined now by civil rights attorney David Henderson.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Absolutely.

When we cover trials, we don`t issue verdicts in advance. We cover the evidence, and we wait for the verdict. This testimony today seemed like the kind of thing that could make you angry and see how a jury might be leaning towards the prosecution side of the case, because, boy, did it paint a medically evidentiary supported negative view of defendant Chauvin.

Your analysis?

HENDERSON: Dr. Tobin did so many things right, it`s difficult to know exactly where to begin.

The one thing I will point out is, he said he`s testified 50 times before. And that definitely shows. He`s everything you want you witness to be. He`s good at teaching. He`s polite. They had professional visual aids, and he`s even got a cool accent. Details like that never hurt, because trial is theater.

What was stood out the most is that he did this pro bono. An expert like him normally costs about $700 an hour. I thought the way he testified was bulletproof, except that he did do such a good job of clarifying that four factors contributed to George Floyd`s death, that`s the only thing I think the defense can exploit moving forward, because it still does leave open the question, was Derek Chauvin`s knee on his neck the substantial contributing cause of George Floyd`s death?

I know that sounds unreasonable, but that`s still what the argument is about right now.

MELBER: No, I appreciate your precision there. And you`re referring to the fact that, in a trial like this, the defense, by definition, has an easier job. They don`t have the burden.

And they can pick at little things and say, well, what about this factor or does this give you doubt? And they only need to find one juror who might be interested in that reasonable doubt.

I want to play another key part, as you say, from what looked to many to be a persuasive witness, about Chauvin`s weight, what Chauvin was doing with that weight when, according to the doctor, Floyd was already in this terrible state.


TOBIN: The toe of his boot is no longer touching the ground.

This means that all of his body weight is being directed down at Mr. Floyd`s neck.

We`re taking half his body weight, plus the weight of his -- half the gear. And all of that is coming directly down on Mr. Floyd`s neck.


MELBER: Why was that legally significant?

HENDERSON: Because, again, if we`re focusing on what was the substantial factor that caused George Ford`s death, and we`re talking about Derek Chauvin leaning his knee into his neck, it`s helpful to have an expert come and say, yes, what he did is, in fact, enough.

We`re getting into some of these arguments that we think the jurors may be worried about, like Chauvin`s size, what type of weight Chauvin is bearing down on.

I think this testimony helps though I have to be honest with you. Having spent any number of years in a Brazilian jujitsu gym many, many years ago, anybody who`s ever done a choke hold knows it doesn`t take that much pressure on a person.

The amount of weight that Chauvin was putting on George Floyd`s neck was more than enough. But that testimony, combined with the visual aids that they used, which were exceptional, really helps solidify this in the jury`s mind.

MELBER: Yes, I think you just put it really clearly, David, which is there`s the -- any layperson`s understanding, and the juries are finding facts, and they`re going to make a holistic assessment.

And then there`s that layperson`s understanding, combined with an expert, who says, yes, this was the kind of thing that would kill, that did kill, and that was excessively -- according to this witness, excessively practiced, resulting in killing.

It kind of all stacks up. Again, for viewers who feel like, OK, well, now we`re really talking a lot about the prosecution`s case, that`s partly because that`s the stage of the trial we`re in. We will be covering the defense as well when we get there.

David Henderson, thank you, sir.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up tonight, we turn to a different part of this Gaetz fiasco for the Republican Party. Why is someone who sold MAGA for so long getting deafening silence from MAGA world? That`s later.

But, first, there`s new heat on McConnell, and Biden putting pressure on him on gun laws.

We have a guest we always like to hear from. You know what it is.

Michael Steele -- right after this.


MELBER: It`s becoming a pattern, President Biden finding ways to really press Senator McConnell, now daring him to reject policies that are supported by Republican voters.

There have been multiple mass shootings. And, today, Biden made the focus gun reform, calling on Congress to go ahead and ban these assault weapons, and pointing out this does have the support of many Republican voters, even while, in D.C., people like McConnell are resisting.

This is, as we have been reporting on THE BEAT, quite the emerging theme. Biden made a similar argument on infrastructure just a day ago, and has been on it for a while.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those who oppose the plan, what don`t they like? They want everything that is in the plan. Not a joke.

I have a electoral support from Republican voters.

These aren`t Republican bridges, Democratic airports, Republican hospitals, or Democratic power grid.

They had support of both Democrats and Republicans. This is not a partisan issue among the American people. And I`m willing to work with anyone to get these done.


MELBER: Do some Republicans agree with some of what Joe Biden`s doing?

Well, we`re joined by someone who used to run the Republican Party and was the number two Republican official in the state of Maryland. His name is Michael Steele. You may know him from many of his activities, including his Muppet work right here on THE BEAT.


MELBER: And he is a Republican who came around to endorsing Joe Biden for president.

We thought you would be good for this. How are you?


MELBER: I`m OK, juggling.

STEELE: You good?

MELBER: What do you think of the way Biden is clearly making this a repeat theme?

STEELE: What you`re seeing -- and I hope people appreciate this, because I know a lot of folks around town do -- what you`re seeing Joe do is 43 years of senatorial experience.

He`s working the system. He`s working the system and parts against itself. And he`s doing a little bit of what Reagan was very good at, Bill Clinton was very good at, and Barack Obama was pretty good at, and that is going directly to the American people, kind of going over the head of Congress, kind of going around the process, and stating with a lot of clarity: This is what I want to do. And you need me to do this, because you want me to do this.

And so we saw it first coming out of the gate on COVID. You see it now with infrastructure. And the polling is reflecting that, because voters are setting aside the sort of partisan aspects of this game and saying: Look, I have been unemployed for the past year. And if this is something that will create a job in my community, get me back to work, I`m for it.

Look, I`m -- you know, I`m driving these trucks on broken bridges and potholed streets. If this will fix that, so that I don`t have those added expenses because my axle keeps getting grinded down by potholes, I`m for it.

So, he`s making it very real for people to understand what he`s trying to do. And it makes it tough on the messaging side for Republicans to come back and say to those very same people, be they Republicans or not, you don`t want him to do that. And they`re not buying it right now.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, it makes sense.

And it really also speaks to the vulnerability of part of the Republican Party, after the MAGA meltdown, the insurrection, and the parts of the country club conservatives who may not want to be down with all this.

And I will say something, Michael. I worked in the Senate. And at the time, even among Democrats who liked Biden, he was not then seen as a political mastermind or super agile. And perception is -- it comes and goes, or maybe it wasn`t accurate.

Here we are, 70 days in. He seems to be very agile at working with a increasingly broad Democratic coalition, while really thumping on McConnell every week. Has he exceeded what may have been the political expectations or the ideas about him so far it, while it`s early?

STEELE: Yes, I think that`s a good point. And I think it`s a correct point, that he has.

And I think that`s what`s really kind of pushed some of the Republicans back on their heels, especially McConnell.

McConnell, has not been as beating his chest, if you will, as he has -- as he was during the early term of Barack Obama, and, certainly, even with respect to Donald Trump, in that the idea was, well, we can control him, and we`re the leadership, and he has to come through us. And Trump, of course, showed them to be fools on that.

Biden, in a sense, is kind of showing the foolishness of this thinking as well, when it comes to how he`s approaching the critical issues in his administration. And I gave you this to note on that point.

Despite the difficulty and the ugly messaging around what`s happening at the border, which is still seeing as people are now not taking that and upsizing it, making it bigger than all the other things that we`re currently discussing, like COVID and infrastructure, but they`re keeping it in the context.

And that`s largely because of the way the president has been talking about these things. He has acknowledged the sin at the border. He`s recognized that something has to be done. But he is also putting it in the context of everything else that we need to have done.


STEELE: And people are just trying to, I guess, kind of come to conclusion, yes, I think I need to do maybe infrastructure a little bit more before I do this or that other thing.

We will see how it works out, but he`s working it to his advantage right now.

MELBER: All great points. You were perfectly situated as the guest, but you`re perfectly educating us with your analysis, which doesn`t surprise me, Michael.

Before I lose you, I do have a quick fashion question, if you will oblige.

STEELE: Yes. Yes. Please.


MELBER: What kind of jacket is it? Is it a windbreaker?

STEELE: No, it`s a pullover. It`s just a pullover. I was outside. And I realized I had to get it and hang with my boy Ari.

So, I didn`t get a chance to make the switch-up.


MELBER: No, I like it. And I can`t speak for viewers. I listen from -- to the viewers all the time. But I think some viewers like it when they see our experts -- I mean, everyone knows you got the goods, you got the diplomas, you ran the party -- when they see a little more casual Steele.

But I want you to be honest. And this is my final follow-up.


MELBER: Were you slightly inspired, was your backbone sartorially calcified by seeing your friend James Carville show up in sweatshirts so much?

STEELE: Oh, yes, well, that helps. That helps.

I mean, James is my boy. He`s got the hat. He`s got the laid-back look. He`s got the drink off to the side. That`s how you roll, baby. That`s how you roll.


MELBER: Oh, he -- he`s still got you beat, because he looks like he could do yard work in the commercial break and then be -- just come right back.


MELBER: We love seeing you, Michael. Thanks. Thanks, as always.

STEELE: Good to be here, man. All right, bro, take care.

MELBER: All right, see you again.

Up ahead, An update on the money probe facing Donald Trump, but, first, why even Tucker said Matt Gaetz was one of his weirdest interviews and new problems over there at FOX.

That`s next.


MELBER: There have been a slew of developments with Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz`s pressure that he`s facing in this federal probe to sex trafficking.

But one place where you wouldn`t hear about it at all, as a news viewer, would actually be on FOX News. Gaetz has not been on the network since the widely panned interview he did with Tucker Carlson that FOX called so weird.

And, by one count, the Gaetz investigation has been mentioned on FOX just seven times. Here`s why that`s particularly striking.

Gaetz is well-known to their audience. It`s newsworthy to hear about developments of someone who`s well-known in the news. In fact, Gaetz even rose to prominence primarily because of those many, many appearances you see on the screen on FOX News.

Since August 2017, he`s appeared a whopping 313 times. And out of those, 121 were on "Hannity." I mean, that means he`s on there all the time. And Hannity went further. This is something that almost no one does in media, including even, in fairness, most people who work for FOX News.

Hannity went out and actively electorally campaigned for Gaetz, which is not the kind of thing anchors and journalists do. This was at a 2018 rally in Florida, where the two men praised each other profusely.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I got to thank Sean Hannity. Sean Hannity gives me a platform almost every night to get out there and tell it like it is.


GAETZ: And I thank him for that.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: It`s this young Mickey Mantle over here.


HANNITY: And it`s your next governor over there.


HANNITY: They are the ones fighting the hardest for the president. And I`m very thankful to both of you for what you do every day, which is why it`s an honor to share the stage with both of you.


MELBER: You almost can`t tell who`s benefiting who.

And it was within a year or so that Hannity was privately giving Gaetz advice on managing a different crisis, one where he was actually facing an ethics investigation. And that probe focused on whether Gaetz was tweeting overtly threatening messages at Trump fixer Michael Cohen, whether it constituted witness intimidation.

But Hannity, who we just showed you was so quick to discuss Gaetz, to campaign for him, to, as Gaetz put it, have him on his show almost every night, well, Sean Hannity hasn`t mentioned Gaetz once since all this became public, this investigation.

Again, as mentioned as for the underlying charges, Gaetz denies any wrongdoing.

We`re joined now by our friend Jason Johnson.

Jason, it`s quite a turnaround.


Matt Gaetz has lost a lot of friends. And I think, Ari, this is a good setup, because we have got to contextualize this. It started with Matt Gaetz losing all of his friends in the Republican Party, which is what makes him even less popular on FOX, right?

Like, the Republicans who came forward and defended Jim Jordan after his sex scandal, none of those people have come forward for him. Katie Hill, who Matt Gaetz defended at one point, she has not come forward for him.

We just heard earlier today that Joel Greenberg, his potentially partner in crime, is now working with the feds. Like, look, if Gaetz isn`t careful, he`s going to wind up buried next to someone else, right, because he`s going to get in trouble for this, because too many people don`t like him, and he no longer has a megaphone to cover it up anymore.


And you mentioned whether or not Greenberg will cooperate. I have mixed feelings about the second Drake quote in one program, but the other was by a guest.

So, seeing what you do for fame, what would you do for freedom? And that`s one thing facing the Greenberg situation, without reporting yet on whether or not he cooperates.

With regard to the strange relationship with Hannity, I wanted to just put up for viewers another thing that came to light with how tightly they just see themselves as on a team, at least until the probe became public.

Hannity giving Gaetz this private advice over text: "Pull it down and say what you said. It`ll pass" about this tweet about Cohen that was potentially witness intimidation.

And then Gaetz just asking straight up: "How long should I lay low?"

And Hannity he says: "Just a while."


MELBER: "Maybe send a note to Michael privately."

I mean, this is a quite a level of detail of two people who admit to be teammates. And yet what Gaetz seems to be learning the hard way, Jason, is that Hannity, like Trump, is gone the moment the heat arrives.

JOHNSON: Oh, yes, Ari, these are very transactional relationships between the Republican Party and FOX.

And that`s why it was also very telling, the moment the scandal came out, remember, Gaetz was like, well, I got jobs lined up. And, suddenly, FOX News was like, yes, we don`t know you. We haven`t talked to you. We haven`t had any formal conversations.

There are too many politicians right now, whether it`s Gaetz or Boebert or Sarah Palin a couple years ago, who think that, well, if I`m not actually doing my job, if I get in trouble in a scandal, I can just have FOX cover for me.

And it doesn`t work that way anymore. There`s a certain disgust...

MELBER: Important. Yes.

JOHNSON: ... that even FOX News may have if you get in too much trouble.

Maybe you could get away with being a Roy Moore or a Larry Craig three to five years ago, but you can`t do that anymore. And Gaetz, who has alienated so many different kinds of people by being accused of being a snitch, by not necessarily being careful with his words, by trying to throw Tucker Carlson under the bus, these are all things that make him radioactive, even for FOX News, who seems to want to defend anybody under any circumstances.

MELBER: Yes, you make some really politically precise points there, which are important, Jason, that FOX basically turned on Gaetz and just gave him a full "New phone, who dis?" which isn`t what you always want to hear, when you thought they were your buddy.


MELBER: Jason, thank you, as always,


MELBER: I got to fit in a break.

Up next: an update on the Trump money criminal probe.


MELBER: Breaking news out of Bryan, Texas, reports of another mass shooting.

The AP reports one person is dead and four injured. And the shooter is reportedly apprehended. That`s according to authorities.

This is a brand-new story. I want you to know NBC News has not yet been able to confirm anything. We`re following the story. The shooting allegedly occurred at a business. And we will keep you posted in this and following hours as we learn more.

The other story I was going to update you on, as mentioned, on THE BEAT tonight is the new signs that Trump is working hard to avoid criminal exposure, with his Trump Organization further lawyering up with a new criminal defense attorney to deal with what looks to be an expanding probe by Manhattan DA Cy Vance, who`s been looking at dubious financial dealings by Trump and won that battle which went all the way Supreme Court to secure Trump`s tax returns.

Getting a new lawyer is a sign that is concerned.

Now, when we come back, I have something very special. It`s literally unlike anything we have ever done on THE BEAT. Has to do with you, that we see you, we hear you. I have been listening.

And I`m going to share some of your responses to a very special debate next.


MELBER: Now turning to a story riveting part of the nation, a candy conundrum.

For those of you who watch THE BEAT, but avoid me on social media, which I totally understand, you may miss some of our extra pictures or random musings and my takes on food.

Like, I love Almond Joy candy bars and recently tweeted: "Who buys the Mounds bar when an Almond Joy is available? Considering it is a Mounds bar, it also features the bonus of some carefully placed almonds."

You can see the logic. And to follow up, I added: "Same price, more deluxe candy bar. Does the Mounds exists solely as a backup?"

And the Internet`s a funny place, because this basic candy talk got people going. In fact, we checked. There were over 3,000 replies debating this issue.

Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig protesting, it`s almonds that he believes ruin Almond Joy, to which I reply, overruled, counselor.

Meanwhile, the actor who plays a lawyer on HBO`s "Succession" joked we should analyze regular vs. Peanut M&Ms, adding "#factsmatter."

Another BEAT viewer quoted the candy`s famous jingle, "Sometimes, you feel like a nut," adding: "Mounds is dark chocolate, bruh, while Almond Joy is milk, saying the real question is, why no dark chocolate Almond Joy?" a point echoed by political scientist and MSNBC guest Norm Ornstein.

Now, it turns out there was a limited dark chocolate version. Grassroots demand is also great. We learned a candy shop in St. Paul, Minnesota, Chocolat Celeste, sells its own take on a dark chocolate version named Almond Al after the owner`s dad.

So, the Internet jumped in and clearly offered us some candy reporting there.

And I want to tell you that, while J. Smith-Cameron was teasing me a little bit for this penetrating, incisive candy journalism, if you will, the truth is -- and I want to be clear with you about this tonight -- here in our newsroom, we tackle issues both savory and sweet.

And when we did have the opportunity on MSNBC to interview the founder of KIND bars, which I have always thought were glorified candy bars masquerading as a healthy choice, I did what -- look, what any candy journalist would do. I raised the issue.


MELBER: I do want to touch on candy bars. The almond coconut is my favorite. I`m really a Snickers guy.

The saturated fat count on the KIND bar coconut, though, is similar to Snickers and some other candy bars. So, what do you say about that on the health front?

DANIEL LUBETZKY, FOUNDER, KIND, LLC: Almost all of our products, the number one ingredient is almonds. So, it`s -- they have been tons of studies about the benefits of almonds.

They cost more, but we really make sure that we give you nutritionally dense ingredients.


MELBER: First of all, eagle-eyed viewers will notice he didn`t really answer the question.

Fact-check: KIND bars are glorified Snickers. Everybody knows that. Shout out to KIND bars. They`re also pretty good.

But you will also notice, in his answer -- and he is a specialist -- it always comes back to the almonds. Indeed, one could argue trying to make a good candy bar without them would be nuts.


Now, if you`re glad that this discussion or this show is over, I understand. If you want in, though, because you see we had thousands of comments, and some of them made air, and we responded to many of them, go ahead and send me your answer on social media on this great debate.

Do you prefer Almond Joy or Mounds? As you know, the right answer is Almond Joy.

And while you`re at it, I have one more new question debuting right now. Tell us @AriMelber or @THEBEATWITHARI, what candy do you think best captures this strange year of 2021? Maybe some of the answers will even make air.

That does it for me.