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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/9/21

Guests: Cornell Belcher, Channa Lloyd, Melissa Murray, Michael Cohen, Brad Paisley


Country music star Brad Paisley speaks out. The chief medical examiner testifies in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen discusses the Trump money probe. As the criminal probe deepens into Congressman Matt Gaetz, he faces a House Ethics investigation. Former House Speaker John Boehner rips into MAGA.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber. We`re tracking a lot of news at the end of this week, riveting testimony in the Chauvin murder trial, this dealing with the exact cause of George Floyd`s death. That`s later tonight.

The evidence, meanwhile, piling up in the Trump money probe.

And we have a very significant and key witness joining us live tonight. You may have heard of him, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen on THE BEAT later tonight.

But we begin right now with a congressman who once threatened Michael Cohen, Matt Gaetz, now engulfed in this ever widening scandal, the Republican facing a House ethics investigation. That is in addition and separate from the federal DOJ probe over these alleged possible sex crimes.

Now, Gaetz`s team is responding -- quote -- "These allegations are blatantly false and have not been validated by a single human being willing to put their name behind them" -- end quote.

All this comes amidst the new allegations that go beyond what we first heard about leaking out the DOJ probe and now paint more of a picture, many different outlets and reporters getting into this. There`s talk of -- quote -- "paying for sex, sex trafficking, and sex with an underage girl."

As noted, Gaetz denies all of it and hasn`t been charged with a crime. But he is speaking out. And that changes things at the end of what has been a bruising week for him.

Tonight, Gaetz making his first public appearance -- this should be at the top of the next hour. And that`s the first time he will really be facing anyone in any setting that we can see in the public since what was supposed to be a helpful, but ultimately widely panned interview on FOX News, where Tucker Carlson said it was one of the weirdest interviews ever.

Now, the group sponsoring this is Women For America First. It`s a MAGA group, and they`re holding the event at a Trump golf course in Miami.

Now, Trump is not doing much to defend Gaetz, unless you count taking some money from that group. And there`s a major sign today that the stakes remain quite high, because Gaetz has added a new set of people to his legal team. He`s also reportedly brought on a new public relations or crisis management firm to deal with all of this.

Gaetz is in damage control mode. And his team says -- quote -- "Matt has always been a fighter. He`s going to fight back against unfounded allegations against him" -- end quote. And that is how he`s taking this up.

The pressure on Gaetz, though, is growing. This entire investigation began somewhere. And it didn`t begin, for example, going after Matt Gaetz. Indeed, you may recall he earlier emphasized that he saw himself as a subject, not a target. And based on the available reporting, there`s no reason to think that it began with him as a -- quote -- "target."

For example, there`s no indication that DOJ simply was out to get a member of Congress, Matt Gaetz or anyone else. No. What we do know, what is in the public record is that the investigation that was further along was dealing with this associate, Joel Greenberg. And we know that he was indicted for sex trafficking and a host of other crimes.

We know that Greenberg pleaded not guilty for allegedly stealing $400,000 in taxes and charges of bribing a Small Business Administration employee. But we also know that he`s expected to plead guilty in the coming weeks. That`s the reporting you may have seen in the newspaper, like "The New York Times," as well as covered on THE BEAT, that there`s the signs that he`s pleading guilty and that he has a plan.

That plan could involve -- we`re not confirming this tonight, but we have had experts and other papers discuss the possibility of that plan including him cooperating against Matt Gaetz.

Here`s Greenberg`s attorney when questioned on Gaetz`s exposure.


QUESTION: Does Matt Gaetz have anything to worry about?

FRITZ SCHELLER, ATTORNEY FOR JOEL GREENBERG: Does Matt Gaetz -- that is such a...


QUESTION: When it comes to what happened today in court.

SCHELLER: Does he have anything to worry about? Now, you`re asking me to get into the mind of Matt Gaetz, right? And...

QUESTION: Well, from your mind.

SCHELLER: From my mind.

QUESTION: Based on what your client knows.

SCHELLER: Based on what my client knows, OK.

QUESTION: And the fact that he`s negotiating.

SCHELLER: See, I thought, if I kept on talking and talking, I would avoid these questions, and not to say.

I`m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.


MELBER: That is the entire set of remarks tonight. We wanted to play it in full context. Sometimes, it takes more time in the news to give you the context.

What you see is, A, a certain style of loitering. It`s certainly not the most precise or the most brief. But second, you see, through mood or innuendo, what is not stated under the words. So, uncomfortable could mean any number of things. Indeed, we were parsing a similar statement by this lawyer on THE BEAT earlier this week.

What you see in total is a lawyer who certainly isn`t dismissing the idea that this situation that his client could do things that make Gaetz uncomfortable, that hurt him legally, while he`s also clearly trying to bob and weave and avoid saying too much, if he hasn`t secured yet a final confidential deal with the government.

Now, the Republican Party he`s been pretty quiet on all this. One more mavericky Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger, is now the first to call for Gaetz to resign.

And, meanwhile, the second Gaetz staffer has left the building, resigning as the scandal picks up heat.

We`re joined now by Melissa Murray, law professor with New York University, Michelle Goldberg from "The New York Times."

Good to have you both here.

Michelle, this is already a widening political, substantive, factual scandal for Mr. Gaetz, an ethics probe, which uses a different set of standards for a member of Congress than the higher criminal standard. And then there`s a DOJ probe.

What do you see here for someone who was one of the loudest avatars of Trumpism over the last few years?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it`s not a coincidence that Matt Gaetz came into office at the same time as Trump and spent the last four years living by what he thought was Trump rules, right, where you kind of didn`t have to pay attention to legal and ethical constraints on your most outlandish behavior.

I mean, what -- the reporting about Gaetz, it`s not just the alleged crimes. It`s the alleged sloppiness, right? It`s not just the paying for sex, but doing it on your public Venmo.

And so I think that he -- his political career has taken place in a climate of total impunity. And now he`s in a radically different world. And I don`t think he`s had to live by sort of normal political standards before.

MELBER: Yes, I think those are all great points, which may explain what could look like recklessness or stupidity to some, based even on the public fact pattern, before you get into charges, but, as you say, may reflect a certain way of doing business that worked for some time for some people.

It doesn`t appear, from what we can tell, to be working for him.

Professor, what did you think of the Greenberg lawyer`s statement there?

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, that was the most Florida of press conferences I think I have seen in a long time. And I say that as someone who grew up in the Sunshine State.

But it seems very clear that Joel Greenberg is facing considerable legal jeopardy. There are 33 charges and that indictment. He`s facing a mandatory minimum of 12 years. It could be decades more if he`s found guilty on the other accounts in that indictment.

He has a lot of reasons, 33 really good reasons to sing about Matt Gaetz. And I think that`s exactly what his lawyer was saying. He is uniquely situated to spin a narrative. Whether that narrative comes to fruition and it results in an indictment against Representative Gaetz is another matter, but he has a lot of reasons to cooperate with the prosecution.

MELBER: Michelle, James Clyburn, very top noticeable Democrat, speaking out. Take a listen.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Well, I certainly don`t see a future for him in the Congress. I think, at some point in time, he will be out of the Congress.

It might be good for his party for him to do it on his own, rather than to take the Congress through some kind of a vote.


MELBER: Michelle?

GOLDBERG: I mean, I think that that`s right, although it`s interesting out that you have only one Republican calling for him to leave.

I think it`s probably not a terrible thing for -- Democrats, I`m sure, want him to resign. At the same time, it`s not the worst thing in the world to have him, along with Marjorie Taylor Greene, as the twin faces of the Republican Party. And Matt Gaetz really is the ultimate avatar of what the Republican Party became in the Trump years.

And then the other thing here is that he`s been accused of a bunch of crimes. He`s also been accused of behavior that`s not criminal, but that is appalling, and that Congress kind of has to deal with, if it`s going to be a remotely professional work environment, at the very least, right?

I mean, it -- I don`t know what the revenge porn laws are in Washington, D.C., but I don`t think it`s criminal to show off photos of your sex partners to your colleagues, but it`s just not something that should be happening on the House floor. And we`re going to see if Republicans agree with that even rock-bottom standard of behavior.


And, as you mentioned, Michelle, this has basically pulled sort of the lid back. And there`s a lot in here that is worse than just -- quote, unquote - - "Florida is going to Florida."

Professor, there`s a whole vote scandal that is indisputable, potentially, as its own thing.

I want to read here from "The New York Times"` coverage. Indicted Gaetz associate will plead guilty. This goes to that whole discussion of flipping. And then it notes: "Investigators have also been told of a conversation where Gaetz and a Florida lobbyist wanted to arrange a sham candidate in a safe Senate race last year to siphon votes from an ally`s opponent, according to people familiar with the investigation."

How do the feds, as a legal matter, prioritize different things here? Because you might start with something that sounds personal or that might not even have been a -- quote, unquote -- "federal case" to begin with. And then you find what look like at least evidence of potentially not only multiple felonies, but you get into election scams and other things, because it seems like there`s a lot going on.

MURRAY: I mean, I think they`re going to do exactly what they did with the investigation of Joel Greenberg, right?

It was not an investigation into Matt Gaetz. They simply followed the trail, peeled back the onion. And, over time, these allegations about Matt Gaetz surfaced. And, again, they have not been proven. But as more and more information comes out, they may get closer to a situation where they will have enough to raise probable cause and have an indictment.

And I imagine, as more of that comes out, we might have even more allegations, more nefariousness that will come to light. So, again, they`re just doing the work right now, really peeling back all of the layers here. And it seems that there`s a lot here to uncover.

MELBER: Michelle, I have one more question for you. Are you ready?

GOLDBERG: OK, I`m ready.

MELBER: Here we go.

This is the news thing where I asked about the next thing that`s going to happen. What should we expect from Congressman Gaetz when he breaks his silence at this Women for America event at the Trump Hotel tonight?

GOLDBERG: I`m sure you`re going to hear the word deep state, cancel culture. Or at least I would bet money that you will hear the word deep state, cancel culture.

I think that we -- the sort of playbook is pretty standard at this point. At one point, Gaetz said they`re not coming for me, they`re coming for you, I`m just in the way, which was just verbatim what Trump has said. And so I think he`s just going to take the Trump playbook and repeat it.

MELBER: That`s, I think, a very reasonable assessment, given recent precedent.

While Michelle was speaking, we were looking at that live shot, as they`re setting up for the event tonight, certainly a curiosity that will be covered by many in Florida.

Michelle Goldberg and Melissa Murray, thanks for kicking us off tonight.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

MURRAY: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Thanks. Thanks to both of you.

Coming up in just 30 seconds, we turn to this key testimony in the Chauvin trial, the expert who performed George Floyd`s autopsy. Important stuff.

We`re back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: Turning now to new key testimony in the Chauvin murder trial.

The county medical examiner, Andrew Baker, who was the person that examined George Floyd formally right after his death, took the stand, explaining why he ruled that Floyd`s death was a homicide in that autopsy.


DR. ANDREW BAKER, CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER, HENNEPIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA: As a medical examiner, we apply the term homicide when the actions of other people were involved in an individual`s death.

In my opinion, the law enforcement subdual, restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take, by virtue of that -- those heart conditions.


MELBER: That`s important.

And we want to be clear, so everyone understands what`s happening inside this trial, that is a medical determination. Homicide in the medical sense is different from a legal definition or a legal finding, which, of course, is what this whole trial is about.

Now, the forensic pathologist also made similar statements on the stand today, saying Floyd likely only died because of Officer Chauvin compressing the knee on his neck.


DR. LINDSEY THOMAS, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: There`s no evidence to suggest he would have died that night, except for the interactions with law enforcement.


MELBER: We`re joined now by Channa Lloyd, a criminal and civil rights attorney who has been covering this trial as an analyst for us.

Thank you for being here.


MELBER: This was a key day in this trial. I have mentioned to viewers there were some very dramatic days, there were some days that were more dry in the technical testimony. And this day, I would put more medium high, key because we`re getting the question here.

I would break it down simply into two questions in this kind of trial. One, did the defendant cause the death? That`s causal, and that`s this medical piece. And then, two, was it a justified cause of death or not?

You can point to policing in a live shooting situation where fire is exchanged with a live shooter and they cause the death and it is deemed legal.

As for that question one, what did you think of those two experts we just showed on whether Chauvin did indeed substantially cause the death of George Floyd?

LLOYD: These two experts that we had today were very definitive in what they felt the cause of death were.

Our M.E., Dr. Baker, he did not vary. And what was very interesting is, it seems that the state was aware that he doesn`t vary outside of what he is trained to do. He is not giving any opinions about what he considers living persons and the effects on the living body. So, they had already prefaced what they knew he would go to, because he mentioned, I would have a pathologist, I would have a pulmonologist.

He -- so, we`d already heard their opinions. So, this was layered very well for his testimony today.

MELBER: There was also the discussion of something that was so brutally horrific to watch. Americans know that, how slow it was.

So, the discussion of whether this was a sudden or not sudden dying process, let me show that part.


BAKER: I was aware that at least one video had gone viral on the Internet. But I intentionally chose not to look at that until I had examined Mr. Floyd. I did not want to bias my exam by going in with any preconceived notions that might lead me down one pathway or another.

THOMAS: What I observed from all of these videos is, this was not a sudden death. There was nothing sudden about his death. So that`s what I would have expected if it was a cardiac arrhythmia or abnormal beating of the heart.

Likewise, it was not the type of death that has been reported in fentanyl overdose, for example, where someone becomes very sleepy, and then just sort of gradually, calmly, peacefully stops breathing. This was not that kind of a death.


MELBER: As grim as this is, it is so important. Walk us through legally why it matters that both there was this discussion of the nature of the timing of the death and why that could rule out what might be reasonable doubt, according to at least the prosecution here, of alternative explanations like death substantially caused by drugs.

LLOYD: Because the defense is looking for anything else that may be the cause of death.

They`re primarily focusing on the drug use, the hypertension, these other medical instances that could have created this death. What these witnesses have done is taken each of those other things and ruled them out.

They have looked at it and contextualized it in the death, the effect on the body and the organs and what happened to him. So they did a very good job in providing that context for the medical conclusions that they had.

MELBER: Yes. As mentioned, this is part one. Part two is whether in any way it could be somehow justified.

But, as to the causal part, a lot of what the prosecution put forward looked like a medical slam dunk. We will see what the defense has when they bring up their witnesses, beyond just these crosses.

Channa Lloyd, thanks for joining us here in what is a difficult, but important process. Thank you for your time.

LLOYD: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

We have a lot more in our Friday night program here, including the number one Republican in the House responding to THE BEAT, to our reporting about how Republicans are losing their own voters to Biden. I`m going to bring you that new response tonight.

Also, John Boehner going after Ted Cruz, but also lamenting the modern Republican Party that John Boehner created. We`re going to get into that with a fact-check.

But, first, pledging loyalty to Trump. Congressman Gaetz threatened, famously, witness Michael Cohen. Now it`s Gaetz who is in freefall with a second ethics probe.

We will check in with, yes, Michael Cohen returning to THE BEAT live -- right after this.


MELBER: Welcome back.

We have been tracking this big story across Washington all week, Republican Congressman and staunch Trump ally Matt Gaetz facing a DOJ probe, facing a new Ethics Committee investigation related to the probe.

Now, Gaetz has denied all wrongdoing. But we should note this is actually the second time the young, relatively new congressman has faced an ethics review. Statistically, most members never face a single one. But it was relatively recently in the Trump era, in 2019, when an ethics probe focused in on Gaetz publicly appearing to hassle or threaten a witness, Michael Cohen, who used to work for Trump.

Many viewed it as an attempt to intimidate this key witness before providing his valuable testimony to the Congress.


QUESTION: Congressman, does your tweet amount to witness tampering?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Absolutely not. It`s witness testing.

QUESTION: Should people see your tweet as a threat?

GAETZ: Absolutely not. I`m not threatening anyone. Michael Cohen threatens people.


MELBER: The House Ethics Committee looked into that very issue, and it did ultimately admonish Gaetz for failing to -- quote -- "exercise reasonable judgment and restraint."

We should note it did not find that Gaetz was guilty of actually conducting witness tampering or witness intimidation of that valuable witness at the time, according to House investigators, Michael Cohen.

Joining us now is Michael Cohen. He hosts the podcast "Mea Culpa." He`s the author of the book "Disloyal." And he was formerly a lawyer for Donald Trump.

Thanks for coming back, Michael.


I gave myself a little rest and relaxation for a few weeks.

MELBER: Hey, we can all use it these days. Good to have you back, sir.

As I mentioned, you were considered a valuable witness in that proceeding, as well as in the Mueller probe, as well as up with the New York DA. We will get to that, because it`s newsworthy.

But let`s start with Mr. Gaetz. You both have something in common, in that at one time you both have supported Donald Trump. What do you think of him, given your past clash? And what do you think he`s learning right now that Donald Trump is not doing a thing to help him?

COHEN: Well, he`s learning nothing.

But Gaetz`s behavior was so brazen and so stupid that it actually boggles the mind, because the only reasonable explanation for his behavior is that he felt that he would be protected by Donald Trump and his corrupt Justice Department. So he must have been petrified when Trump lost the election, simply because now he was exposed.

But you know what a lot of people don`t take into consideration is, Donald Trump was -- is alleged to have done similar things with young women. So was Rudy Giuliani in the "Borat" movie with Sacha Baron Cohen`s alleged young daughter in the movie, right? So Matt Gaetz is part and parcel.

And this was all going on during the campaign anyway. Corey Lewandowski had his tryst. Jason Miller had his tryst. Rick Gates had his tryst.

I mean, this is -- they`re following Donald Trump`s playbook. And as I explained before the House Oversight Committee, that I know the playbook, and it didn`t work for me, and it`s certainly not going to work for you.

So, Matt Gaetz really needs to smarten up and understand that he`s in very serious trouble.

MELBER: What did you think of "The New York Times" report that had multiple sources saying Mr. Gaetz was seeking a blanket pardon for what conduct, I suppose only he would know in his mind, that he wanted a pardon?

COHEN: Right. Well, good luck.

If Donald Trump wasn`t going to benefit from that pocket pardon, then there`s no way that he was going to get it. And I actually have to give a lot of credit to "The New York Times," as well as to The Daily Beast, for uncovering this.

This thing is great fodder for "Saturday Night Live" and all of the comedians, because, if you think of it, right, Ari, the best part of this is the fact that Gaetz actually paid for sex using Venmo, right, and then titled the payments tuition and school.

In all fairness, this dope should have as well linked his Instagram account to his seeking arrangements account. That`s how stupid that he is. He has to understand. And his Venmo account is on open public, meaning everybody can see what transactions are going on.

And yet these are the -- this is the representative that the people of Florida have chosen? I don`t get it.

MELBER: One of the other things that came to light in all this was all these types of relationships.

I`m going to put up a text here on the screen. This came up from the ethics probe, where Hannity is talking to Matt Gaetz.

Hannity says: "It`s smart to pull down this thing about you. It`ll pass."

Gaetz asks: "How long should I lay low?"

Hannity says: "Just a while. Maybe send a note to Michael privately."

Can you shed any light on that? And what do you say to critics, past critics of yourself included and Hannity and Gaetz, that it feels sometimes like there`s a game in public, where folks are interviewing -- Hannity is interviewing this or that person, be it Gaetz, or saying to you all he`s going to ask you questions, then it turns out that you guys have -- he said, some sort of lawyer-client relationship, he`s advising Gaetz behind the scenes?

What light can you shed on all of this?

COHEN: Well, I thought it was very disingenuous of Sean, right? One day, he`s calling me trying to pretend to be my buddy, having me on.

Basically, what he really did is, he was using Trump to the same extent Trump was using him. And so, when Gaetz finally realized that he was in big trouble with the ethics department, he, of course, turned to Sean Hannity, knowing that Sean was a friend of mine.

And then he -- Sean is actually the one who drafted the apology to me, telling him to send it to me, knowing that I would accept the apology, because I didn`t particularly care much about Matt Gaetz. What I cared about was the fact that it hurt my family. And that was something that I was not going to put up with.

MELBER: Just quickly, because then I want to get you on New York, you`re saying that Sean Hannity was being, in your view, sort of duplicitous, that he was playing both of you, but he was actually writing the apology you were going to get ostensibly from Gaetz?

COHEN: That`s correct. That`s correct.

And I think it`s really terrible. I mean, if Sean was smart, he would have just told him, step away from politics, right? Maybe go try to find yourself a spot on FOX or Newsmax, right, and try to take over that Chris Hansen role on -- reboot the program "TO Catch a Predator," because I think Matt Gaetz would be perfect for the role.

MELBER: Yes, well, and according to your -- to what you`re saying, it`s sort of Sean Hannity playing his own sort of political Cyrano de Bergerac on the side, which is a little odd.


MELBER: The texts corroborate some of that, because he`s in this role appearing to counsel a member of Congress.

I got to get you on this other news, Michael, which is the criminal probe into Trump`s financial dealings in New York. The Manhattan DA now seizing several boxes of financial records, this from the former daughter-in-law of Trump`s moneyman Allen Weisselberg.

You were very much in a knowledgeable place here. Indeed, you also testified previously about Weisselberg was -- why he was key. This was to Congress.


COHEN: In the office with me was Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg made the decision. Always Allen Weisselberg on the check.

Mr. Weisselberg, for sure.


MELBER: What do about where this investigation is going? What, if anything, can you tell us relevant to the fact that you, of course, have been cooperating and testified several times?

COHEN: Right.

So, obviously, the cooperation is not over. The district attorney`s office has millions of pages of documents. Without the documents provided by Jen Weisselberg, without the additional documents that I am providing and have provided, they have millions of pages of tax documents and so on of Mr. Trump`s, the Trump Organization and other people.

I really don`t want to get into the sum and substance of the topics, though many have been already discussed and provided and information provided by the press, because I really want to respect the process and respect Mark Pomerantz, who has a heck of a job ahead of him.

You may have seen I put out a tweet the other day complimenting the Trump Organization the hiring of Mr. Fischetti, who is a very well-seasoned criminal defense attorney.

But the problem for Mr. Fischetti, the problem for Donald Trump and the Trump Organization is that the truth is the truth, and that the truth will always come out, to which case it doesn`t matter who your lawyer is. He may as well have Marc Mukasey, which is the lawyer that Trump recommended now to Matt Gaetz.

What`s the difference? I mean, the bottom line is, the documents, the records exist. One of the things, for example, that Nicolle Wallace talked about in the previous program was that I had flipped and that it`s very difficult when you flip, and, as a convicted felon, to be a credible witness.

First of all, I didn`t flip. That`s actually inaccurate. I pled guilty. But when I was providing the testimony, I was providing it under oath. I was providing it based upon the subpoena by Congress. And that was -- that`s not flipping. I got no benefit from the information that I gave. I ended up pleading guilty. And I received zero benefit by Judge Pauley when it came to sentencing time.

Actually, I believe that I was very harshly sentenced. And that`s why I have my current writ of habeas corpus out there, which I`m seeking to even remove myself from home confinement.

MELBER: Well, it`s all very interesting.

I will say, legally, part of what you said is certainly true. We covered it at the time, the way that some other folks caught up in the Mueller probe got off far lighter than you, while you did provide testimony yet. But, as you say, it was not pursuant to some automatic deal, which is part of what goes into the sentence.

COHEN: Right.

MELBER: And we had -- as I know you know, but our viewers may remember, we had Lanny Davis on about that as well.

So, look, you have clashed with Gaetz. You worked for Trump. You`re dealing with some of the same overlapping issues in the New York investigation.

So, Michael, you remain legally relevant in so many ways. And we thank you for being a witness on THE BEAT tonight, sir.

COHEN: Right.

Ari, I just want to say one (AUDIO GAP) really do hope that, at the end of the day, this resolves quickly for Matt, because I don`t want him to miss the prom. So I hope Matt is watching this. And I hope that the pain that he`s going through is just a smidgen of the pain he put my family through.

MELBER: Well, we`re -- got it. Well, we`re moving forward, Michael. Again, thank you for coming on.

I got a lot more in the program, John Boehner ripping into MAGA, Ted Cruz and other Republicans. He`s using the term political terrorists.

But does John Boehner have any credibility on this? We`re going to be hearing more about him, because he`s got a big book. And we have got a fact-check with Obama pollster Cornell Belcher.

That`s next.


MELBER: We are back with former Obama polling guru Cornell Belcher, an MSNBC analyst. He`s got the whole setup in his house. I see the lore behind you. You look -- it looks political.

How you doing?

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s the Jesse -- it`s the Jesse poster, which I actually stole from the DNC...

MELBER: There we go.

BELCHER: ... when I was Howard Dean`s pollster. But don`t tell anyone.


MELBER: We won`t tell. I don`t know if you just did. This is live. I don`t know if you know that about TV, but...

BELCHER: Oh, is this television?


MELBER: Yes, this is television.

I don`t know if you remember when Scarface and Jay-Z teamed up and said, guess who`s bizzack, but that`s how I`m feeling about John Boehner, who has very little credibility to complain about partisanship in the modern GOP.

But here he was. He named-checked a bunch of people, from Ted Cruz to Jim Jordan, I`m going to play just a little bite of the rhetoric. Take a look.


JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: You call some of these members political terrorists?

FMR. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): Oh, yes, Jim Jordan especially, my colleague from Ohio.


MELBER: Cornell, your response? Is this on the level? Does it match with the way he acted when he had power?

BELCHER: A couple of things.

One, first, Ari, have you seen the cover for his book? We got to start there, where he`s coffin clean, sharp. And he`s sitting there in his suit. And he`s got a glass of wine. And he`s got smoke in the air.

I wasn`t sure if he was dropping a book or he was dropping the `70s R&B album. I mean, and he looks like he could be Barry White from that book cover, so let`s start with there.

So, clearly, John Boehner is feeling like he`s a...


MELBER: Or Barry...




John Boehner is feeling like he`s a free man, although I got to tell you -- and I would have gone with what`s beef on this one, because he clearly has beef with a lot of the GOP, particularly Ted Cruz, and he is probably going to ask Ted Cruz to start his jeep.

But we won`t do that right now.


MELBER: Can I get in on that? And then I will...

BELCHER: Yes, please.

MELBER: I mean, was it not Biggie who said, what`s beef? Beef is when you need two Freedom Caucuses to go to sleep. So...


BELCHER: So, and speaking of which, no, I don`t think he has a lot of credibility on this, Ari, because you will remember, in 2011, with a guy whose campaign I -- campaigns I worked on, the White House -- the Obama White House thought they had a grand deal on the budget.

And these same characters that Boehner is now accusing of hijack -- and of the other party and for terrorism of the party he caved into and didn`t move the country forward on a grand deal when Obama was putting a lot on the table, talking about cuts to a lot of programs that, quite frankly, Democrat constituencies did not want to cut.

And he backed...


BELCHER: And so -- and Boehner backed away from that grand deal.


And I just have 20 seconds, but he also says that he now realizes impeaching Clinton was too partisan and the wrong thing to do, but he supported it at the time.

BELCHER: It`s amazing how so many of these Republicans are finding religion now that they don`t have to face Republican primary voters again, look, be it John Boehner or either -- or Pat Toomey, who now wants to do -- who wants to cut deals now.

Look, they are being held terror -- they are being held hostage by the by the Republican base. I wish he had showed that sort of courage and integrity while he was speaker of the House.

MELBER: Right, when he had the power.

That`s the point that I think is important. We wanted to give people a little bit of a fact-check in Obama history, given this is going to be everywhere for a minute in politics.

Cornell, thank you.

Let me tell everyone what we have coming up. The top Republican in the House currently responding to a BEAT special report. And there`s some good news in there for Biden and his agenda. We`re going to give you that. It`s a new exclusive, essentially, first time on THE BEAT.

I do want to turn right now to some sad news in music.

Earl Simmons, the rapper who performed as DMX, died today at age 50 after cardiac arrest. DMX went from the gritty Yonkers rap scene to explode into mainstream music with his hit `98 album. He was the first artist to ever see his first five albums all hit number one on the Billboard charts.

DMX`s lyrics were raw and blunt, recounting solitary confinement in prison. He wrapped, the two years in a box, revenge, the plots, the 23 hours that`s locked, the one hour that`s not.

And he lamented violence and death in his community, talking about the funerals, the wakes, the churches, the coffins, the heartbroken mothers. It happens too often.

DMX was unsparing about his own battles with drugs and demons. He had his own alter ego in his songs, a demon named Damien with cautionary tales urging his young fans to try to find God, instead of turning to drugs or violence. And DMX mixed his work with earnest spiritual prayers.


DMX, RAPPER: Father God, we thank you for this gathering of souls.

I thank you for the love you give me. Why? I don`t know. I don`t deserve it. And it hurts inside.

Many a nights I cried, called your name out loud, but didn`t call you when I was doing good. Too proud.

In the name of Jesus, I give you my life, because you care.



MELBER: DMX`s prayers echoed for many, and many are praying for Earl "DMX" Simmons tonight. May he rest in peace.


MELBER: In a recent special report, we were exploring the emerging Biden Republicans as a possible echo to the famed Reagan Democrats.

And we report lots of different news on THE BEAT, of course. Sometimes, our own BEAT reports seem to make news.

Over at FOX News, they ran a new piece responding to our report, with new reaction from some top Republicans in Washington, Senator Blackburn arguing that, regardless of what GOP voters support, she argues that Republican politicians did not support Biden`s popular COVID bill, which she derides as a blue state bailout.

And the most powerful Republican in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, responded to the same BEAT report by protesting with his view that Joe Biden isn`t Reagan, offering a different comparison, Democrat President Jimmy Carter, and arguing Biden`s policies amount to pandering to his left-wing base.

All interesting points.

We have invited Leader McCarthy on THE BEAT to tackle this in more depth.

Congressman, come on down and join us. Let`s discuss.

It is also notable that something about Biden`s appeal to Republican voters is striking a chord here, be it with FOX News writing it up, or these folks speaking out.

I should mention, though, Senator Blackburn`s response is actually consistent with the whole point of our report, that Biden is pressing McConnell and other Republican senators precisely by offering plans that are popular with their own voters, 59 percent of Republicans on the stimulus, while not a single Republican senator voted for it, as she notes.

Senator, that`s the whole problem for some Republicans.

Meanwhile, this new jobs infrastructure debate is just heating up and majorities of Republicans seem to support key parts of that as well.

We will stay on the story. It`s brewing up as a big, important policy clash in Washington.

Now, when we come back tonight, we have something very interesting, our friend Elise Jordan on some bad news for the NRA, and country star Brad Paisley makes his BEAT debut -- right after this.


MELBER: It`s been a long week. It`s Friday on THE BEAT, so you know it`s time to fall back.

We have two amazing guests, country music legend Brad Paisley, known for hits like "Whiskey Lullaby" and "When I Get Where I`m Going," 14 CMA awards, three Grammys, and 32 top 10 singles on the Billboard charts.


That`s a record for the most consecutive singles hitting the top spot on the country music chart. And he`s collaborated with everyone from Mick Jagger to Timbaland and sold over 11 million albums.

We should note that, when the pandemic hit, Paisley opened a nonprofit grocery store in Nashville. They provided over a million meals in the first year alone.

Shout-out to that.

Joining us tonight also is a friend of THE BEAT, Elise Jordan, NBC News analyst, veteran of the Bush administration, a foreign policy expert, and a "TIME" magazine contributor.

Great to have both of you here. How you guys doing?

BRAD PAISLEY, MUSICIAN: Doing Good. How are you?


MELBER: Good. I`m great.

A lot to get to.

Brad, we like to kind of open up and look at different types of stories here at the end of the week.

What`s on your mind for a "Fallback"?

PAISLEY: So, I saw this story about these -- I think they were morgue workers in New York, in the city, that were taking the credit cards of the deceased.

And -- yes, there they are. They stole credit cards from dead people. And I think that`s about the worst thing I have heard in a while.

MELBER: Yes, Brad, I mean, that is -- that`s very low. And, in New York, like a lot of places, dealing with, of course, what "The New York Times" called the deadliest year in American history, people are desperate, but that is really low.

And since I mentioned it, just briefly, I`m curious. You`re a busy, busy person. What got you so motivated to jump right in at the beginning of this uncertain time and do so much in your community?

PAISLEY: Well, I mean, we got lucky, because we were -- I say lucky. Unlucky is really the right word.

We were working on this charity for the last five years. And we got our permit to open our free grocery store for folks that sort of fall on hard times the first week of March.


PAISLEY: And we opened and, for a couple of days, operated like we thought we would.

And then, all of a sudden, we had to switch and become this place that does deliveries for the elderly and sort of hands out the food to -- in a different manner than how we were going to have a shopping experience for people.

But luck and divine intervention sort of entered into it.

MELBER: Yes, that`s interesting if you -- yes, you see it that way.

Unlucky, but also lucky that you were in a position to do the help you wanted to do.

Elise, we come to you for all kinds of topics, including what`s going on in Washington, which the swamp still seems sometimes alive and well. What`s on your "Fallback" list?

JORDAN: I am going to say Wayne LaPierre, just, please go away now. Just make it end somehow.

He revealed that he had to escape to a yacht because he felt scared. So, I guess, when he was head of the NRA, he didn`t actually learn how to handle a weapon, which is just embarrassing for him, that his calls -- it seems he really just wanted to run away on a yacht, which is, quite frankly, I would love to do that too.

But he`s just a cancer to responsible gun owners, and just time that go away now.

MELBER: It is -- Elise, it is a rich and layered story. The gun debate is complex. I`m not going to resolve it in this moment.

But someone who has said for so long that this is for self-defense, and that is his -- safety, to then defend what looks like potential corruption on the yacht, safety is rich.

But, as they say in Washington, that there`s -- from the gutter to you is not up for some of these folks.

Brad, what else might be on your list this week?

PAISLEY: Did you see the story on the guy that got his last paycheck?

He -- they held off on paying him for a while. He was an autoworker at an auto shop. And he demanded his last paycheck. So they delivered it in 91,500 pennies covered in what seemed like transmission fluid. And they left that in his driveway, breaking no laws doing that.

But man, I mean, that`s like another level. I wish that was like a fun prank, but it`s not a fun prank.


MELBER: Well, exactly. You think about the creative aspect of the revenge.

I guess that`s -- that -- it`s just wild. And, as you say, maybe, technically, they got away with it.

Now, Brad, you`re such a -- you seem like such a kind-hearted person. I`m going to make a little confession here on TV. I have never done 90,000 pennies. But, sometimes, I will save up the spare change and buy one coffee with my change.

Is that OK? Or would you also tell that to fall back?

PAISLEY: I think that`s OK, except they hate you at Starbucks. They hate you.


PAISLEY: They dread seeing you come in.


PAISLEY: But it`s like I have thought about this for employees that I dearly love. I have always been the type that, if I love you, I prank you.

MELBER: Right.

PAISLEY: And one of my opening acts -- when we finally get back on the road here soon, one of my opening acts is getting paid in pennies. I can`t wait.



MELBER: OK. There you go.

Elise, Any quick thoughts on the spare change?

JORDAN: Oh, wow, you just really would have to dislike your ex-employee to go to that much trouble, because, I mean, isn`t everyone always trying to just get rid of their pennies?

And this guy goes to the trouble -- it was like $950 or something? Whoa.


MELBER: Yes. How do you secure -- how do you get a hold that many pennies? That`s -- yes.

And now I know. Now that Brad Paisley told me -- and I feel like you have a good read on people -- now I know how unpopular I am in that Starbucks.


MELBER: Elise, I got 40 seconds.

Any final "Fallback"?

JORDAN: Yes, the other "Fallback" is just people littering beaches with their PPE.

Come on, people. We know what straws do. We know what the six-pack holders do, when we cut them. Just don`t let the PPE be on the beach and hurt the turtle and hurt the little nice sea mammals and so on.



And it`s a -- there`s some sort of -- this may be a theme tonight. It`s some sort of cyclical thing. We started with shortages of things, right, and sanitizer and everything else. We have got -- we`re trying to get through the other side of this. Now we`re at the point of surplus.

But it`s like everything else. If you have a disposable mask, obviously, dispose of it in the right place. And the cloth ones are nice, because you can reuse.

That`s a -- just a little news we can use, I hope.

Elise and Brad, thanks for ending the week with us.

PAISLEY: I`m thrilled to have. Thanks for having me. It`s a lot of fun.

And have fun this weekend. Get out there.

MELBER: Yes, sir.

You too, Brad Paisley and Elise.

PAISLEY: Don`t pay in pennies.

MELBER: Thank you very much.

JORDAN: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Yes. We have all learned good penny etiquette tonight, if nothing else.

Thanks to both of you.

That does it for THE BEAT. As always, thanks for watching. I wish you a great weekend. See you Monday 6:00 p.m. Eastern.