House Republicans purge Congresswoman Liz Cheney from their leadership in a secret vote. Rudy Giuliani makes a move in court. New details emerge in the Matt Gaetz probe. Michael Beschloss, prize-winning historian, discusses why the Liz Cheney purge could backfire. Republican lawmakers claim that perhaps the Capitol rioters were akin to tourists.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you.
Today, House Republicans purged Liz Cheney from their leadership in a secret vote. And the conservative congresswoman is warning, her party will be going down by picking Trump`s lies over the Constitution itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution. I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office. We cannot be dragged backward by the very dangerous lies of a former president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This vote marks an inflection point for this post-Trump era that we`re all living through together.
What began last November, when voters soundly rejected Donald Trump and what boiled over on January 6, when his supporters waged a violent, but futile insurrection to try to end our democracy, has now, I can report for you today, landed on May 12, with a new standard for House Republican leadership in the United States of America.
It`s important that we all understand this. They now have officially a zero tolerance policy for leaders who accurately rebut Donald Trump`s election lies. This is no small matter for an opposition party. This is not just one more exaggeration or one more lie or one more piece of Trump theater.
Even for critics of this Republican Party, today is actually different and worse than how it`s been. This isn`t how it`s been even all this year. In January, some Republican leaders joined Cheney in criticizing the insurrection and Donald Trump directly, when, apparently, they thought that`s where our politics are headed.
And I want you to remember this. As recently as February, the GOP voted to keep Cheney as part of leadership. We have the receipts for you. That was just three months ago. It was aimed as a compromise. Trump loyalists were still in charge in the House, but there was room, they said, for one voice like Cheney in leadership.
And 70 percent of House Republicans backed that in a recorded vote, which means many of them, by definition, are reversing themselves in this vote today, because, apparently, that very minor compromise couldn`t hold.
And not only that. Unlike the last vote, which we could measure -- that`s why you see the chart on your screen of most Republicans in the House backing it -- today`s vote was a fully secret voice vote, which is an obvious sign of political weakness, all to appease one blogger in Florida.
And individual Republicans, they didn`t want to put their names on reversing their position and ousting and purging Cheney. They don`t want to actually tell us how many of them want to basically ensure the party is this narrow.
And how bad is it for them? Well, everyone knows this is about Cheney standing up to Trump on one topic, that he lost. Nobody thinks this is about the size of government or state health care subsidies. Nobody in either party thinks that. I know there`s a lot of lying going on, but everyone understands what this fight was about and what this vote today means.
And yet it`s so bad that, rather than admit that or even take a victory lap and say, yo, that`s what it`s about, I sided with Trump, it`s bad enough for the party as it also eyes general elections with all the voters, not just Republican primary voters, that Cheney`s former leadership colleague Kevin McCarthy has to go out and say foolish, ridiculous claims full of clownery that nobody believes, as he denies that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don`t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is that all over with? That`s literally what today`s vote was about. It`s not over with. It`s renewed and more of a fight right now than it was before.
And, as further evidence that it`s all about that, and not something else, Cheney`s likely replacement is a person who happens to be a less conservative member of the Republican Caucus, Elise Stefanik, but she backs the big lie. That is the litmus test.
And that`s apparently more important to the party than policy or Republican voters` priorities, Cheney voting with Trump 92 percent of the time, which is more than her rival there for this post, this new vacancy.
But it was never about taxes or the wall or coal miners or what the Republican Party did when it had actual power over those past four years. No. Today is important and will actually be marked in the history books as a measurable turning point for this troubled party, because it wasn`t about those things.
It`s about the Florida blogger. It`s about his ego, his need to dominate, even out of office, and the deceitful vanity of getting millions and millions of people to pretend you won because you can`t handle being the loser of the 2020 race, because that`s what you are, whether you have a new blog or not.
Now, if it all sounds a little pathetic, it is. But I want to tell you tonight, it is much more than that, because when democracies lose any grip on the ability to hold peaceful transfers of power and any commonality across the spectrum of ideology and beliefs -- we should debate and have different ideologies and beliefs. That`s democracy.
But when we lose the ability to respect the outcome of elections, which, by definition, always means respecting some results that some people hoped would go the other way, if we lose that, then I promise you, democracy itself remains in danger at night, which is the point Cheney has been urging her colleagues to take seriously.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president`s crusade to undermine our democracy.
Somebody who has provoked an attack on the United States Capitol to prevent the counting of electoral votes.
I don`t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country.
There`s no question that the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob, he lit the flame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We`re joined now by two people who know all about political parties, how they evolve, what the boundaries should be.
Michael Steele ran the Republican Party as RNC chair. Howard Dean ran the Democratic Party as DNC chair. And they have many other titles and accolades that I could list.
But, as we look at the future of both these parties, I begin there.
And, Michael, your Republican Party has a problem tonight. I guess I will ask you what you think about what I have now shared with viewers, is that I believe this goes beyond a party or an election or political posturing. There is a concern here about whether both parties will continue to adhere to the results of elections or not in this country.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I don`t think that`s an exaggeration, Ari.
I think that`s a very finely tuned point, based on the evidence and facts that have been presented to us by the party, not just in these moments that occurred today, but going back to probably about a year ago this time, when the president began his narrative to systematically shake down the election of 2020 by intimating and then outright saying that, if he were not the winner, that the election was fraudulent.
And so what is disturbing and very problematic for the party is that the leaders in that party -- in this party took up that mantle of that lie and began to perpetuate it. And so it wasn`t just enough that Trump was saying it. And it could have easily been batted down if McConnell or McCarthy or anyone else in leadership stepped into the moment and said, Mr. President, that`s not how this works. That`s not how our elections are run.
The only one to do that was Liz Cheney. And, today, she paid a price for her honesty and her standing strong on the underlying principles that have not just girded our elections, but that we rely on to keep this country moving forward.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Yes, I think this is a more serious problem than what`s going on in the Republican Party.
This is a contest to see if our democracy and our country survives. And most Republicans have chosen their power and chosen not to have a democratic country. The lies that have been told -- there were a Georgia congressmen out there saying that there was no insurrection and that this was all peaceful and all this stuff.
It`s not just the lie that Trump won the election. It`s the Republican Party has embraced this lie. I think Liz Cheney deserves a lot of credit. And I`m sure there will be people on my end of the political spectrum that are horrified that I should say that.
But what we need is not that we all agree on our vision of America. What we need is honesty and to stand up for core Democratic principles. The Republicans have abandoned democratic principles. McCarthy has abandoned them. McConnell has abandoned them, all the backbencher Georgians who are carrying on and people from all over the country.
The vast majority do not have a spine. If you can find six spines in the Republican Party, I`d say you were exaggerating. People -- we need people to stand up, like Liz Cheney did today.
And I have every disagreement you can possibly imagine on policy with Liz Cheney, but what we don`t agree on is that the loyalty to the country should always trump disagreements on policy. Liz Cheney exhibited that today. She`s a true American. And I have to say that most politicians in the Republican Party are no longer Americans, because they no longer believe in democracy.
MELBER: Striking and strong, but it`s a day to really take stock.
And there have been many discussions over the past four-plus years about how this works and when do people take it seriously. The fact that we are watching this happen in the House leadership caucus after January 6 and not before, for anyone who had any doubt or denial about this just being -- quote, unquote -- "words" or -- quote, unquote -- "theatrics," it`s not theatrics because people died.
It`s not theatrics because the explicit goal was to prevent the counting of those votes. Had they been at a logistical level slightly more successful, a few more hours, for example, there might not have been a vote count on that prescribed day. It might have gone to the next day. And then you have people filing a challenge saying, what does that mean?
It could have been a siege that lasted more days than that. Had it been earlier in the process, had it been November and not January, we also don`t know where this would go.
So I have said this in my reporting before to viewers, but today is a day that it ratifies and fortifies the problem there. And Cheney talks about the fact that even being silent, which is less than what McCarthy others are doing -- they`re doubling down -- but even being silent, she says, is unacceptable.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.
I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president`s crusade to undermine our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Michael, I take that to you to another direction, which is, what do you think of the silence of the traditional stakeholders of the Republican Party, the so-called adults, the business leaders, the people who have other reasons for working within that party, as opposed to, say, the Biden agenda, which, in a democracy, is their right, and who had really hoped that January 6 and Trump would -- quote, unquote -- "go away"?
It`s not going away if it is the litmus test, above all else, including tax cuts, for who runs the party.
STEELE: No, it`s not.
And look at any conversation around policy, and Democrats and their socialism, and we are the big tent, and we want these policy agendas to be addressed is all B.S.
What we have witnessed since really about a year ago this time and certainly in November and definitely on January 6, and what we saw play out today on Capitol Hill with members of the Republican Party basically saying, oh, these people who were insurrectionists, no, they were good, loyal citizens, they were no different than people coming to the Capitol for tour, I mean, you`re just -- you`re just damn stupid to say something like that.
And you abandon everything this guy over my shoulder stood for, the sacrifice he made to hold this country together, you`re now sitting there shredding with stupidity like that.
And actions that were taken today by members of my party, who abandoned the Lincolnesque ideal that the Constitution matters, and that every element of the Constitution -- yes, even though Liz is a member of the Republican Party, and yes, she sat in leadership, she did not abandon her constitutional right to speak her mind truthfully and honestly, particularly in the context of her leadership in this party.
When the party wanted to go off a cliff, she was the lone voice among a few other lone voice, like Mitt Romney and Adam Kinzinger, saying, dude, that`s a cliff. Don`t go there.
But they did. So, this now kind of, we`re going to -- now this is over, we`re going to start governing, and we want to engage the Democrats, no, they don`t. The grift, the power grab is what this is about. Look at the -- how much money is going to be raised off of what happened today.
You got two congresspeople right now traveling the country screaming about the big lie, in Gaetz and Taylor Greene. They`re not serious any longer.
MELBER: Yes. Yes.
STEELE: So, this is where we are.
MELBER: Yes, and we`re -- both of our party chairs stay.
I want to add to where this is going for the party with a dissent. There have been these reports flying around that 100 influential Republicans planning a letter tomorrow, threatening to start potentially a third party, if the Republican Party does not change what we`re talking about.
And I`m joined by former Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock of Virginia, who is a part of that effort. And our chairs stay.
Tell me what you`re planning to do here and what the purpose is.
FMR. REP. BARBARA COMSTOCK (R-VA): Well, the letter is both Republicans, who I am in the Republican camp still -- I worked to get Republicans elected, not Donald Trump, but many others -- former Republicans and center-right independents.
So, there`s a variety of views. I happen to be in the camp of that we should continue to try and renew the Republican Party, do what Liz Cheney is trying to do, Adam Kinzinger and others, and also on the state level, where you see people already trying to move away from Trumpism.
And the truth is, in February, two-thirds of the Republican Caucus in the House silently supported Liz. And they -- the truth is, they would rather see Donald Trump silently go away. But since he won`t, this -- what happened today happened.
But the problem is, with Trumpism, it`s sore loserism. It is dividing not just the country, but our party. And what Liz Cheney did, which I think is what a lot of center-right people are responding to, is, we want to have a post-Trump, post-pandemic world where we bring -- party, where we bring together a lot of different voices within the Republican center-right coalition, and turn the page.
So, that`s what I`m part of.
Let me bring in Howard.
COMSTOCK: I continue to support -- yes.
DEAN: Well, so, let me...
MELBER: Let me bring Howard, if I may, because I appreciate the points you`re making.
And for -- viewers know, when Howard Dean starts to have a feeling, it starts welling up in him, and you could see it on his face. And if you don`t let it release, anything could happen.
DEAN: Well, I just -- just two things.
MELBER: Howard, two things.
DEAN: First of all, I fought very hard for Barbara`s opponent in the last election. And I appreciate -- look, Barbara Comstock and I could sit down and come to some sort of reasonable compromise that was good for America. Maybe neither one of us would like to compromise, but we would do that.
That is not what the Republicans are about anymore. Our governor today our Republican governor, Phil Scott, just announced that he no longer was comfortable in the Republican Party.
So they are destroying themselves. But the problem is, they`re also destroying the country. This eventually is going to end up in the lap of the voters, and the voters have a choice. And people like Barbara -- I appreciate what you`re saying.
I think it`s going to be tough to have a third party and take votes away from the Republicans. You may have to hold your nose and vote for a Democrat, if you have one that`s moderate enough for you, because...
DEAN: The problem here is that, if we lose...
COMSTOCK: Well, I`m not -- yes, I`m not a Democrat.
I did not -- yes, I did not vote for Joe Biden.
DEAN: I know. I know.
COMSTOCK: I still -- and I wrote in a candidate both in `16 and `20.
But I think we still have a lot of people who don`t want to go far left, the way the Democrats went last time.
COMSTOCK: And that`s why so many people voted against Trump, the toxic Trump got a no, and then people went down-ballot and said, hey, I can vote for a Young Kim in California, a Michelle Steel. I can vote for Republicans in Iowa and other states.
But then Trump came in and ruined everything in Georgia, and all the actions he took there. So I think it`s both morally wrong to stick to this big lie. That`s the most important thing for the country. But, politically, it`s stupid to stick to a sore loser who lost the popular vote twice, and has no ability to get us to a majority.
So, whether you want to do the right thing because it`s the right thing to do...
COMSTOCK: ... or whether you want to do the right thing because it`s the politically smarter thing to do, we`re not going to have a Republican Party that gets to 50 percent plus one until Donald Trump is in the rearview mirror.
MELBER: Right. I see that.
Howard, quick rebuttal or reply.
DEAN: I`m just going to -- well, all I would just say is, this next election is critical.
And it is not going to be any of us on this screen that make the decision. It`s going to be the voters. And if Trump`s B.S. can be believed by enough people -- and there`s precedent for that. I mean, there have been authoritarians who have taken over because they got a popular vote. Adolf Hitler was of them. Mussolini was one of them. And there are others.
So this next election is absolutely critical. It`s critical that the Democrats win. It`s also critical that, frankly, that the -- even though I don`t consider myself particularly moderate, it is critical that a moderate Democrat be put up, so we become acceptable to Republican voters, so we can hold on.
DEAN: We have got to hold on until this authoritarian fringe is no longer a danger to the country.
MELBER: Well, and I will say this.
I have to fit in a break, but you don`t consider yourself moderate, Howard. I know Barbara doesn`t consider you moderate.
MELBER: But I appreciate the dialogue here.
MELBER: Because we`re talking about what goes beyond what`s fought about within elections, which is whether the elections themselves are going to be honored.
MELBER: And so we`re reminded that there are a great many people who actually do believe in that.
And that is under strain right now in a way that people may not have predicted back in October, or what they were hoping once the election was resolved. This isn`t going away. And the adults in the country, everyone with a vote, everyone 18 and over who fashions themselves a responsible citizen, has to figure out where they figure into this, because, if you don`t have this, you don`t have anything.
And that`s why it`s a big night.
Michael, Howard, Barbara, thanks to each of you. Love to have you all back.
We have our shortest break on THE BEAT, 30 seconds.
When we return, the other big story, Rudy Giuliani making a move in court today -- when we`re back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: There`s an intensifying federal criminal probe into Rudy Giuliani and a new sign it`s the legal fight of his life.
The entire Republican civil war now that we have been covering is about the election lie. Nobody pushed it harder than Giuliani. And now he`s in facing a showdown -- he`s facing this showdown with the feds, not just over lying, which is usually legal, but over what else he did.
The probe deals with his dealings with Ukraine to go after the Bidens. And now we have new clues breaking late today on his defense.
We are reporting new notices of appearance that were filed in the famed Southern District of New York, the office he once ran and that now is investigating him. So, for the first time, we have information formally filed that shows four lawyers will represent Giuliani, including a former lawyer for Harvey Weinstein.
All of this comes as the feds dive deeper. They are eying Giuliani`s materials, what he gathered and whether it was all legally done. It`s a so- called Ukrainian dossier. It was almost instantly dismissed, according to some accounts, but then still pushed to the highest levels of the Trump White House, according to multiple sources in and reporting from The Daily Beast.
Meanwhile, Giuliani continues to use his radio show to mount his public defense. Today, on the day that his legal team becomes official, here`s how he sounded:
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I`m not a crook. Never been a crook. And I know everybody says it, but I didn`t do it. And these people are framing me. And they`re framing me because, very simple reason, I got the goods on Joe Biden.
Whitey Bulger`s nephew, Hunter Biden and John Kerry`s stepson. Does it take that much to figure it out? And can you now figure out why they`re trying put me in jail? Because I`m the only one willing to say that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: We`re joined by Danya Perry, a former federal prosecutor for that same Southern District of New York.
We have been playing some of the sound from Giuliani on the radio show, including some of that, which has come up throughout the week, the "I`m not a crook" line being one of the most notable.
When you see these lawyers getting ready to defend him, what do we know about the real legal strategy, apart from the talk radio defense?
DANYA PERRY, FORMER SDNY PROSECUTOR: We don`t know much yet.
What is interesting to me is, Judge Oetken had issued an order that Giuliani`s team was supposed to have replied to U.S. attorney`s offices letter requesting the appointment of a special master. And they were supposed to have done that by Monday.
They have not yet filed that response, or at least not publicly. It`s possible that it might have been sealed, although, at a minimum, you would expect to see an entry of the docket that a sealed document has been filed. So -- but, rather, three new lawyers have entered their appearances.
So, it does certainly indicate that they are getting ready to defend Mr. Giuliani, that they are -- at least there`s some show of force there. There`s now four lawyers on the record. And we know Professor Dershowitz is in the background in an advisory capacity.
MELBER: Is he ever really -- is he ever really in the background?
PERRY: I`m sure he will be sure to take to -- take to all forms of media and make clear that he`s...
MELBER: Yes, I think -- I don`t quibble -- you know a lot more about the Southern District than I do. But I would never quibble with that.
But I think he`s a real foreground kind of lawyer.
PERRY: You`re right about that. I`m sure he`s not the one doing the legal research and writing the briefs.
But he is the one out there on the radio and TV. So, we know that they`re obviously getting ready to respond. We don`t know, will this be a narrow response to the particular issue of whether there should be a special monitor or not?
PERRY: Or will they mount a broader -- some sort of offensive...
MELBER: Walk us through what these lawyers have to do now, because it is different than, I would say, the vast majority of cases, for a lot of reasons everyone understands.
You got the president`s former lawyer, which goes to motion about the evidence that you discuss. You also have Donald Trump in the background. You have a fight over legal fees. But you also have a client who used to run this office who is very difficult to talk out of things.
And so I think you and I could agree, as lawyers, that claiming without evidence at the government`s trying to frame you is not a great opening legal defense, it`s not a great middle defense, it`s not a great closing argument, unless you have really hard evidence.
What do these lawyers who we just mentioned that are now new to the case, what do they have to do with their client, Giuliani, as he makes public radio arguments that may not be the ones they want to make in court for him?
PERRY: Yes, so it -- he is going to keep talking. That`s clear. He`s been speaking for the past two years on the record in ways that are probably ultimately going to be unhelpful, including, I think, some admissions to some of the elements of some of these illegal lobbying violations.
And he continues to do it. And there`s -- there`s an old expression in the law that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. And I`m sure his lawyers are telling him that and telling him to keep quiet, but he`s obviously not taking their counsel on that.
But, look, we may see a selective or malicious prosecution defense. That`s a really hard one to make. It`s an uphill battle that almost never works. And here, as you say, there would have to be some really hard evidence for that.
But they have signaled that they will be questioning the constitutionality of the search. And there are some other plausible defenses. They certainly will be in the weeds as far as whether particular materials are privileged or not.
So, you referred to Donald Trump in the background. He`s also not much of a background player. But he also could surface in this and put in some papers to say that he has interests here, too. So -- and we will be watching for that, of course.
MELBER: Yes, I think that will be fascinating. That may take more time.
But whether these two were discussing things that were part of their attorney-client privilege, which they would be entitled to have, as long as they can substantiate it, at the very time that Donald Trump, as we have been covering tonight, was trying to get an edge and cheat in the election, go after the Bidens, get help from Ukraine and other countries, which he said publicly, which all the way led back up to the insurrection -- it`s wild how many of these stories remain intertwined, until all the facts come out and justice is done.
Danya Perry, thank you, as always, for your insights on the Southern District and beyond.
Coming up: a reporter for the first time reading this bombshell confession letter from a Gaetz ally, with the clock ticking. We`re going to hear that audio for the first time and news on a potential plea deal next.
MELBER: The clock is ticking in the sex crimes probe into Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz.
He`s being investigated for possible sex trafficking and sex with a minor. His indicted ally faces a deadline for a plea deal. As we have reported, Gaetz denies all allegations. He has not been charged with any crimes.
Now, there is disturbing evidence. There are several witnesses. The feds have been pressuring people who have direct knowledge about Gaetz and his activities. The Daily Beast has reported on this extensively. We`re going to get into some of that.
The biggest possible witness is Joel Greenberg. His case, from what we know, is what started Gaetz`s legal problems, Greenberg indicted on 33 charges. He has until Saturday to make a plea deal. That`s why this is in the news so much this week.
And, tonight, there`s more news and discussion in detail about that alleged bombshell confession letter that he wrote, reportedly.
Now, The Daily Beast had reported that Greenberg said in the letter that Gaetz paid for sex with multiple women, as well as a girl who was 17 at the time.
I will tell you what I say every time we do this story. NBC News has not been able to obtain this letter. So, we can`t, by definition, verify it.
Now The Daily Beast is adding some more context. We read quotes from their reporting on the letter. Now some reporters who have been working this story doggedly for The Beast ended up reading aspects of the letter, some of which we didn`t know about, with some details.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOSE PAGLIERY, THE DAILY BEAST: This is Greenberg saying: "During the summer of 2017, I invited a group of young ladies, mainly from the local university, to attend to get-together at a friend`s house, wanting them to meet my single friend who was also a member of Congress and was becoming famous for his frequent appearances on cable TV news, such as FOX News.
"All of the girls were either in college or post-college, and it was not uncommon for either myself or the congressman to help any one of these girls financially, whether it was a car payment, a flight home to see their family or something as simple as helping pay a speeding ticket."
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, to be crystal clear, the voice to hear there is of the reporter reading the alleged letter.
So, we don`t have the letter and, until this recording, we didn`t have some of these extra details. Now, in the reading of these newly revealed details, we hear, under the way it was written, Greenberg, read by the reporter, dropping a pretty damning part.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PAGLIERY: "It was at this time that one of the girls, who had represented herself to be 19 years old and was due to move to Texas that upcoming August to attend a new college, was, in fact, 17 years old, roughly five months shy of her 18th birthday.
"She had a fake I.D. Her best friends were all in college and there was absolutely no way a reasonable person could know this individual was not yet 18. On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida`s First Congressional District and myself.
"I did see the acts occur firsthand. And Venmo transactions, cash app or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the congressman."
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by a civil rights attorney, Nancy Erika Smith. She represented former FOX anchor Gretchen Carlson in a harassment suit and is an advocate in many such cases.
Thanks for being here.
NANCY ERIKA SMITH, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Thank you.
MELBER: I wanted to be as precise as possible with viewers and listeners, because we had quotes from the letter. This reading of the letter provides new details that were not public until the reading.
If the letter turns out to be legitimate, and if the feds are working with it, of course, they have had the entire thing the whole time.
So, legally, what do you see, if anything, from these new alleged details?
SMITH: Well, if Greenberg makes a plea deal by Saturday, we have sex trafficking of a minor. That`s -- actually, we have an eyewitness.
It`s funny that he talks about fake I.D.s, because he`s charged with aggravated I.D. theft for giving fake I.D.s. In fact, "Vanity Fair" is reporting that he made fake I.D.s to facilitate commercial sex, that that`s one of the aspects of the investigation.
So you see this very predatory behavior from men in their late 30s towards very young women, college aged, right out of high school, using power and wealth. And The Daily Beast went on to speak to 12 of Greenberg -- of the women that Greenberg paid. And they talked about being pressured to do drugs, pressured to take fake I.D.s, pressured to engage in group sex.
I mean, this is Epstein level predatory sexual behavior. And the next piece of reporting that`s interesting is that they`re looking at Gaetz`s former girlfriend as possibly a cooperating witness. And she became his girlfriend while she was an intern, also a college age young girl in Congress.
And she was on the famous Bahamas trip in 2018, where the 17-year-old was there, along with many other very young girls, and the guy who wants to be the medical marijuana czar of Florida, which raises unbelievable number of ethical and legal questions about Gaetz.
He`s basically -- you were talking about Giuliani. Gaetz is like a lawyer`s worst nightmare. He`s out there being a loudmouth, saying things like, on "Tucker Carlson," well, you met the girl, you met the woman, which Tucker Carlson, of course, says no.
Well, he`s not going to be able to say he doesn`t know anything about a woman. And there`s this arrogant rich boy frat culture. He`s in Congress showing new pictures of young curls to other congresspeople. And he`s not always truthful. He`s telling lies about the election. He`s telling lies about the deep state.
This investigation started during the Trump administration under A.G. Barr. And he has hired former DOJ lawyers to represent him. So he`s like a lawyer`s nightmare, in a lot of trouble.
And in the passage read from the Greenberg letter, he seems to be trying to put his own view or estimation on the conduct, talking about what a reasonable person would think, or this or that. It seemed quite amateurish, because the nature of some of these alleged crimes wouldn`t matter about a reasonable person standard, if they are strict liability offenses, if they`re dealing with minors.
Can you speak briefly to that before we run out of time?
SMITH: Yes, if you`re dealing with a minor, it doesn`t matter. They are blaming the young women, which is truly so offensive: We didn`t know she was 17. She lied to us, said the guy who gives fake I.D.s to women -- is accused of giving fake I.D.s to women.
If you`re with a woman that`s so young that she`s 17, even if you think she`s 19, it doesn`t matter under the law. You`re looking at a minimum of 10 years in prison.
MELBER: Nancy Erika Smith, who has been following the story for us, with the analysis, thank you very much.
SMITH: Thank you.
MELBER: Still to come tonight, we have Michael Beschloss, the prize- winning historian, on why the Liz Cheney purge could backfire, what history teaches.
Also, Republicans claiming maybe the rioters were like tourists, and there wasn`t an insurrection. A fact-check that matters later tonight.
MELBER: The big story in Washington is the big story in the nation.
And just hours after Republicans practiced this purge of Liz Cheney for admitting the truth about Trump and the insurrection, as we have been covering, Republican lawmakers also had a hearing in the very same building, but they refused to accept some of the most basic facts about the insurrection.
This matters. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): There was no insurrection. And to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie.
If you didn`t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.
REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): I don`t know who did a poll that it`s Trump supporters.
REP. PAT FALLON (R-TX): Could it be more accurately described as a mob of misfits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: False, risible, pathetic.
You lived through it. We watched it. It wasn`t tourism. It wasn`t random misfits. The people were publicly literally summoned by Donald Trump on Twitter and through other methods. Then they watched the Trump rally. Then they went and did what they did. They tried to stop a peaceful transfer of power.
They had a violent bid to overturn the election. We all know that.
Today, there were also two Trump officials who were doing a different version of lie support. They were dodging and weaving and ducking questions, despite their government obligations.
Here`s defense secretary for Donald Trump in the hot seat after admitting Trump incited the riot, but then sort of trying to reverse that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D-MA): Did the president`s remarks incite members to march on the -- people in the crowd to march on the Capitol, or did they not?
CHRISTOPHER MILLER, FORMER ACTING U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, he clearly said -- offered that they should march on the Capitol. So it goes without saying that his statement resulted in that.
LYNCH: For your written testimony for today, for today, this morning, you stated the following about the president`s quote: "I personally believe his comments encouraged the protesters that day."
LYNCH: That was this morning. So, this is a -- this is a -- this is a very recent reversal of your testimony.
MILLER: Absolutely not. That`s ridiculous.
LYNCH: You`re ridiculous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This is how it`s going down. And that is all just about what happened in plain sight on camera live in front of the country.
Then there is the wider effort to steal the election, subvert the results, which we are still only going to learn about for years and years from now. The person who replaced Bill Barr as acting attorney general, through our accountability process in government, also was pressed with a very straightforward question about whether then President Trump placed any orders to subvert or overturn the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Prior to January 6, were you asked or instructed by President Trump to take any action at the department to advance election fraud claims or to seek to overturn any part of the 2020 election results, Mr. Rosen?
JEFFREY ROSEN, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I cannot tell you, consistent with my obligations today, about private conversations with the president one way or the other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is the wrong answer.
While every attorney general, of course, may honor legitimate secrecy, they have an obligation to uphold the Constitution, first, foremost and above any politician or president. That means protecting democracy under law and opposing any criminal efforts in or outside the government to subvert it.
We got to fit in a break, but, coming up, we have a very important perspective from our friend and historian Michael Beschloss on Cheney vowing to do anything she can to make sure Trump never gets near the Oval Office.
MELBER: We`re joined now, as promised, by NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
We turn to you on inflection points like this.
You said this retrenchment and purging of Cheney reminds you of the Republican Party`s Goldwater era. How?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Because this is what parties do when they want to lose elections and die.
I`m not saying that`s going to happen necessarily to the Republicans. But this is not a recipe for victory. 1850s, the Whigs died because they split over slave. 1912, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft split the Republican Party. The Republican candidate would have won that year with 50 percent. Instead, Woodrow Wilson slipped in.
In 1964, as you know -- and we just saw the image on the screen -- Barry Goldwater, the new Republican nominee, at a moment in his acceptance speech that people were expecting him to welcome all elements of the party to get together for victory in 1964, instead, he says, extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
And he says anyone who does not believe this, we don`t want in this party. Goldwater lost in an historic defeat, 39 percent. This is what the Republicans are doing. And they`re doing it for a president who`s a liar, who is an incompetent, and who, on the 6th of January, was in favor of and tried to encourage a coup d`etat, possible assassination of his vice president, speaker of the House, hostage crisis, suspension of a presidential inauguration.
They want to throw this party away for that?
MELBER: Yes. Well, you lay it out ,and cogently so.
Michael, I`m curious what you think of the defense by some in the party. We heard from Matt Schlapp, the influential leader of CPAC, last night. And he tried to make the argument not that this was a great idea. He didn`t even really say that.
He just said, well, it`s about the special role of leaders in messaging, and Cheney is the one that keeps dragging this back, and they want to focus on other things. He almost argued this was somehow a pivot.
MELBER: Your view of that and whether that`s a realistic assessment.
BESCHLOSS: It`s absurd, because Matt Schlapp, who`s the head of the American Conservative Union, is saying that they should throw out Liz Cheney, who has a 70 percent-plus ACU rating, as he said to you last night on the show, in favor of Stefanik, who has a much lower one.
What it shows is, the issue is not Goldwater talking about extremism or T.R. in 1912 talking about progressivism. It is this weird death wish cult that says, either you support Donald Trump in his lies and his corruption and his incompetence, even if he`s indicted by about six different authorities later on this year, either you do that, or we don`t want you in our party. We certainly don`t want you as a leader.
MELBER: Does anyone in history, in American history, come to mind who had this strange mix that Donald Trump has of being so widely unpopular and reviled in the society at large, but so deeply -- have such a deeply loyal following among his little base?
BESCHLOSS: Nothing like it.
I think one of the stories we will have to find out in future years is, how much have leaders of the Republican Party in office and out been blackmailed in some way by the Trump forces? And that is a word that is very broad. It can encompass almost anything.
And the other thing is that I have said -- you and I have talked about this -- six months from now, I don`t think Donald Trump is even going to be a warm political commodity level, let alone a hot political commodity. This is someone who is likely to be enmeshed in all sorts of legal challenges, possible indictments, might be in danger of going to prison for years, or paying large fines, and also someone who may be in big financial trouble just paying off loans.
MELBER: Yes. Yes. We have...
BESCHLOSS: Is that the kind of person who`s an appealing candidate?
MELBER: Yes, I think you make a fair point. We have covered the legal problems.
On a lighter and less important note, with the financial strain, according to the latest data we have, the blog may not even generate very good blog ad rates.
BESCHLOSS: Right. Right.
MELBER: So, that won`t help with the bills.
I got to fit in a break.
BESCHLOSS: He could be on the center strip of a highway shilling for money in a basket.
MELBER: Right, some -- and the version of that for him is shaking down foreign banks.
But it`s the same thing, which is, you don`t have money.
MELBER: Michael Beschloss, always good to have your wisdom and perspective tonight. I appreciate that.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you. Great to see you always.
MELBER: Up ahead -- thank you, sir.
Up ahead -- I`m only rushing because I`m going to fit in a quick break.
And then we have news about President Biden and Lawrence O`Donnell -- after this.
MELBER: Our colleague and friend Lawrence O`Donnell has an exclusive interview with President Biden discussing specifics of this much-touted infrastructure jobs plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Did you have an exploration of possible revenue with them, actual pay-fors...
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. I didn`t get into that. I got into what constitutes infrastructure.
I want to make it clear. I want to get a bipartisan deal on as much as we can get a bipartisan deal on. I want to know, what can we agree on? And let`s see if we can get an agreement to kick-start this, and then fight over what`s left and see if I can get it done without Republicans, if need be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The president talking vision and details with Lawrence, as well as that key line there, somewhat newsworthy: He will do it without Republicans if he has to.
This is part of a larger town hall we have on the effort to get all of America vaccinated and what needs to be done to move us all past this rough pandemic period.
Now, you can watch it and much more on MSNBC`s "Vaccinating America" town hall hosted by MSNBC`s Lawrence O`Donnell. It`s tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern. We recommend you don`t miss it.
I will see you tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. You can always find me online @AriMelber.
And "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.