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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 5/18/21

Guests: Marq Claxton, Chai Komanduri, Howard Dean


House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refuses to back a bipartisan commission to examine the Capitol insurrection. The probe into Congressman Matt Gaetz is examined. In Arizona, top Republicans blast the Republican Party`s grift and election lies. A prosecutor rules that the fatal police killing of Andrew Brown was justified.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.

Tonight, the top story in Washington is a type of surrender. Everyone knows what happened at the January 6 insurrection. Over 400 people charged with a range of violence and attacks on the Congress itself.

And while any such violence is wrong, full stop, that effort targeted Democrats and Republicans alike. U.S. leaders traditionally unite in response to these tragedies, and, sometimes, even new solutions are forged. I want you to keep that in mind tonight. Recall there was a bipartisan commission that investigated every aspect of the 9/11 attacks, all the ways to prevent it from ever happening again.

But today`s Republican Party, in its MAGA form, is politically opposed to that kind of fact-finding right now. And that`s revealing. GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is now formally opposing any January 6 commission for such an investigation as -- quote -- "duplicative and potentially counterproductive," drawing rebukes today from top Democrats.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I am very pleased that we have a bipartisan bill to come to the floor, and disappointing, but not surprising that -- the cowardice on the part of some of the Republican side not to want to find the truth.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): It`s hard to take Kevin McCarthy seriously at this point. I don`t know what Kevin McCarthy is afraid of.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If the Republican leaders are just going to throw their lead negotiators under the bus, why do they even participate in negotiations at all?


MELBER: All fair points.

And I want to tell you tonight, this is more than some Washington squabble. This is a line in the sand for where the Republican Party formally stands regarding the worst attack on the Capitol in over a century.

And while some debates do involve genuine disagreements about what happened -- and, when that occurs, we will tell you -- politicians have some possibly genuine difference of opinion -- but we happen to know from the public record that Mr. McCarthy himself personally thought Trump was responsible for the attack, as he said on the House floor.

We also know that he was aghast in the moments on January 6 that the thing was still unfolding and the danger was still there. He even called into FOX and condemned the violence unfolding in real time before his eyes and ours on all our television screens.

Do you know what he called it that day in real time? He`s a politician, sure. He knew he was on record, sure, but he was also a person in a building under attack and siege not knowing what would happen next or where it would go.

We checked. That day, he called it quote -- "un-American." And he said, addressing those rioters through FOX News -- quote -- "This is not the American way."

So, that`s what he felt in the moment and what he said publicly. Now, there are also reports McCarthy was so concerned privately during the attack that he privately used his access, his power of a sort, to call President Trump and personally lobby him to do something more during the insurrection.

It was reported the call did not go as planned. McCarthy did not get a receptive audience. Indeed, it`s reported that Trump at one point seemed to invoke the attackers` violence as a kind of threat, the exchange described as heated and not cordial, according to high-level sources.

Now, those are reports. A full subpoena-backed investigation can get far more information, context, corroboration, and facts under oath about all of this. It`s important stuff. They could even get it from a witness like McCarthy himself, but he`s dodging about whether he will cooperate.

Now, McCarthy famously dropped his Trump criticism as the weeks wore on, and he got distanced from his initial reaction that day, burning up the airwaves, calling FOX, calling the president.

He went down to Florida in that now famous photo showing his fealty to Trump. This image encapsulates the end of the Republican Party leadership`s brief experiment with a kind of post-Trump independence that lasted through part of January 2021.

This commission bill is set for a House vote tomorrow, and it is expected to pass because of the power that the Democrats hold. Minority Leader McConnell breaking with McCarthy today, saying, at least publicly, the stance he wants to offer, quite different from his Republican counterpart, saying he is open to working with Democrats in the Senate to try to do something on this.

It`s quite a contrast in a party that remains increasingly fractured.

I`m joined by Cornell Belcher, a pollster for the Obama/Biden campaigns, and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean

Governor, I begin with you, because you have been in these type of situations, where you might have disagreements of all kind about politics and policy, but when it comes to killing and terrorism and attacks on the government, you try to find at least a baseline of how to investigate and get the facts.

That used to happen. I`m not one to say everything used to be better on any score, but, boy, that did used to happen more, especially on national attacks in D.C.

What do you view as significant here in this fissure?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, first, I want to say hi to Cornell. We`re grinning at each other.

Cornell polled for the Democratic National Committee for four years while I was the chairman. So, it`s great to reunite again.

MELBER: A friend and a client. There you go.


DEAN: ... not telling their stories about that. There we go.


DEAN: So, here`s the -- here`s the problem.

I`m not an attorney, and you are. So you know better than I. But I -- there`s a bunch of reasons for why McCarthy is doing what he`s doing. First of all, McCarthy is not the brightest bulb in the lot.

Second of all, he -- but he does listen to lawyers, which accounts, I think, for his statement and his fear, of course, during the event. He can be called as a witness and probably will be called as a witness when this thing gets going.

And it could be a -- an investigation that`s only in the House. And if -- the Republicans will be invited to participate. And if they refuse to participate, there will be an investigation anyway.

I think McCarthy has more to fear from what the Department of Justice is likely doing. They are doing exactly what an attorney general should be doing. He`s keeping his mouth shut. He`s not discussing the case with anybody who he shouldn`t be discussing with, including the administration or the Congress.

That`s where McCarthy`s real -- and he is not -- he may refuse, as Trump did, to testify before the committee or before Congress. He is not going to be able to refuse to testify before the Justice Department or before a judge who is investigating this.

So McCarthy is in really deep trouble. And I think he doesn`t know what to do, as he showed he didn`t know what to do when he went down and kiss Trump`s ring in -- I wasn`t going to say ring, but this is MSNBC, right?


MELBER: Well, let`s stay on ring, yes.

DEAN: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

All right, Cornell, the ball is in your court on that one.

MELBER: Thank you. Thank you for that. It is...


MELBER: Well, Cornell Belcher, we will take it to you, with this spirit of family television.


MELBER: But the fissure here between the two Republican leaders is striking.

Governor Dean gives a very -- a very rational explanation. It`s possible. Clearly, McCarthy`s been all over the place on this. Clearly, he`s a key witness in that inflection point privately with Trump. Cheney, Liz Cheney, has put similar heat on him about that.

And let`s take a look, so viewers understand. This program, among others, has pointed out many of Mitch McConnell`s foibles, his hypocrisies, the way he governs. But I also want to show viewers when he does seem to break with other Republicans, at least on this somewhat narrow issue. I`m going to show that as well.

Here was Mitch McConnell.

Let me -- let me tell you, I`m going to read it to you, I should say.

He says: "I think I`m safe in characterizing our conference as willing to listen to their arguments about whether such a commission is needed."

This is a more receptive tone. And he says -- quote -- "I`m not saying we have decided this should not go forward. But if it`s going forward, it needs to be balanced and not tilted one way or the other, so we have an objective evaluation" -- Cornell.


CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first, I was going to say, it`s good to see my old boss and my friend, Governor.

And, hopefully, when things open back up, we can get together once again.

Three things, Ari. One is, how incredibly preposterous is it to have a conversation about whether or not this commission is even needed? We had an attack on our Capitol, attack on our democracy. And Republicans -- what`s passing as a sensible Republican response to that is, well, perhaps we`re open to the idea that we need to look into it.

You know, it sort of make most Americans` head explode that that`s a sensible and reasonable position. And the second thing here is, I`m going to answer -- you gave a sound bite from Congressman Hakeem Jeffries earlier about, what is McCarthy afraid of?

I`m going to answer that question. He`s afraid of Donald Trump. And I`m not surprised at all by what`s happening, because, of course, they can`t be for this June 6 commission -- this January 6 commission -- I`m sorry -- because the predicate of it is built on the big lie.

And the big lie is something that they can`t acknowledge. So, of course, there`s not going to be a commission that`s for -- that`s going to be looking into what is -- what is really the result of this big lie.

So, I`m not surprised at all. But I think the most interesting thing here, Ari, third and last point, is how they want to broaden it, right? This is classic politics. This is classic politics here. It is classic old, tired politics, but it is about -- and Governor dean knows this very well -- if you can`t win the argument, muddy the waters.

And what McCarthy and Republicans are trying to do here is muddy up the waters. They`re going to try to make this about Black Lives Matter. They`re going to use this as an opening that -- to attack Black Lives Matter. And they can go on FOX every night and unpack a conversation and an attack on Black Lives Matter, and make this not even about the attack on our Capitol, but about Black Lives Matter.

It is diabolical, but it`s also classic politics, where they try to muddy the waters.

MELBER: Liz Cheney`s name was referenced.

Let me play a little bit of her about this commission.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I have been very public that commission needs to be bipartisan. It needs to look only at January 6 and the events leading up to it, not at the BLM and Antifa riots last summer.

And I think that that kind of intense, narrow focus threatens people in my party who may have been playing a role they should not have been playing.


MELBER: Cornell?

BELCHER: Well, I mean, I`m a little -- I`m a little hesitant here, because I have been agreeing with Cheney so much over the last three weeks, it`s kind of frightening.

But she`s spot on here, Ari, is that you got to -- look, there is smoke here. And you can start connecting the dots. And there is a lot of Republicans in the House and on the Senate side who are connected to this in somewhere, some fashion -- some way or some fashion.

And they have been collaborators in this in some way or some fashion. And they don`t want that -- and, clearly, they see that as threatening. So, again, I have got to agree with Cheney here. The Republican Party needs to stand up and do what`s right for democracy, and, again, not what`s right in trying to protect Donald Trump.

MELBER: Governor?

DEAN: Yes, I think it`s about time when some of these Republicans did something what is good for the country, instead of good for their wallets and good for their political careers.

And this is not good for their political careers. They`re going to -- there`s an increasingly small number of people, not an increasingly small number of Republicans, but there`s increasingly smaller number of Republicans.

And most people think that January 6 was an outrage and that something should be done about it. And looking into the facts, instead of -- which is what the Democrats want to do, instead of a lot of rhetoric -- if they make this look like the Hillary Clinton commission that -- what is that guy from South Carolina`s name? How soon we forget him, about...

MELBER: Trey Gowdy?

DEAN: Yes, Trey Gowdy.

If they conduct themselves like that, it`ll be a disaster for the Democrats. And I`m hoping that will not be the case. And I don`t believe it will be.

But I think we need to find out what the facts are. There are a number of people in this country who are traitors. And they attacked the government. And some of those people were not traitors. They were just idiots that went along with the mob violence incited by Trump.

But there needs to be some punishments meted out. And there have already have been. I think the armed services gets full credit for kicking the guy out of the Marines who was found to be on active duty attacking the Capitol. There are a number of other people that are in jail as a result of their activities and self-incriminated themselves.

This is a serious thing. We have not had this kind of violence in this country. Even in the `60s, we did not have an attack on the Capitol. And so this needs to be dealt with. And we need to be really clear that there is no excuse for what happened on January 6 in a democracy.

MELBER: Yes, I think you make an...

BELCHER: Ari, do we have one -- time for one quick question?


BELCHER: Do you have time for one quick question?


BELCHER: Because I actually want to throw this at Governor Dean, as someone who headed the party through elections.

Governor, I`m interested. If you look at what Republicans are doing, and looking towards the midterms, I mean, what do you think about their positioning for the midterms, when you think that they have to win back a lot of suburban districts here in order to take the House, a lot of college-educated white voters here who reject this?

I mean, and we get this idea that Democrats are going to lose big in this coming midterms. What are your thoughts on that?

DEAN: I think the only danger for Republicans are the voter suppression laws that are being passed in all these states.

Like, I mean, the Arizona just makes it look -- makes the whole thing look ridiculous. Even the voters in -- some of the Republicans in Arizona thinks the Senate has become a joke out there. But

their big weapon, their only weapon is redistricting. If the election were held today, we`d kick their butts, because I think the public, especially well-educated suburban people, are sick of this. And it`s not just well- educated white suburbanites. It`s well-educated suburbanites, period, that are just sick and tired of all this stuff.

And they`re just -- they actually still love America. And the Republicans clearly don`t.

So, I don`t buy for a minute that we`re going to get clobbered in the midterms. The Republicans are going to do their damndest with redistricting to cost us some seats. But for every seat they pick up in a place like Texas, they`re losing one in a place like New York or Michigan.


DEAN: And so I -- I`m not that worried about it. I think we need to be on our toes. We need to get stuff done.

Biden`s doing the job he needs to -- be done.


DEAN: Look, you know well, Cornell, better than I do that this is a referendum on Joe Biden in the midterms.

And so far, he`s going to win that referendum.

MELBER: Yes, it`s all -- it all ties together, as you say, because it was violence taken out to try to upset and overthrow, literally, what the voters decided.

And so that`s both vital that there`s a reckoning on that, and it also plays into who`s ready for the next election and whether the facts are being understood or not.

I have got Joyce Vance standing by, so I`m going to say thanks to Howard and Cornell.

We go right to the Giuliani probe, because there`s news here, the feds looking at Romania consulting. That`s in addition to Ukraine. Giuliani back at it, talking about the raid and deflecting. Take a listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They had no reason to raid my apartment. I mean, they had taken -- they`re taking my iCloud account 18 months ago.

And then they went and take -- took my electronics. And I offered them the two hard drives of Hunter Biden that contain probably, I don`t know, just right off the top of my head, 20 to 25 federal felonies, including some by the president. They wouldn`t take it.


MELBER: I`m joined by federal prosecutor Joyce Vance.

There are many reasons that it`s hard to take some of what Rudy Giuliani says seriously, although, as I have mentioned, he`s entitled to make any and all defenses and appeal any and all search processes.

Twenty-five felonies by now President Biden, it seems like quite a number, which suggests, again, that there`s a big gap between what Giuliani keep saying and his actual legal strategy carried out by his lawyers.

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: At this point, there`s such a credibility gap between what Giuliani claims to be true and what turns out to be true that it`s become a little bit painful to watch him continue to do this.

He`s at this point, with a pending criminal investigation, where the smartest thing he could do would be just to shut it down and wait and see what`s coming, without doing anything else to endanger his future.

MELBER: When you look at the idea that the feds are going into other countries, is that bad for Giuliani, but, in fairness, potentially good for Trump, if, like Paul Manafort, there just may be some stuff here that is bad, but was sort of -- quote, unquote -- "freelance" with regard to his legal work for Trump?

VANCE: It`s entirely conceivable that it`s bad for both of them.

It`s bad for Giuliani because one isolated FARA violation, that failure to register as a foreign agent, could possibly be excused as some sort of an unknowing omission.

But to the extent that investigators are now looking in multiple countries -- Romania has been mentioned, other countries are being mentioned as well -- if there`s a persistent failure to register, then it really does become increasingly difficult for Giuliani to explain his way out of it.

That could be bad news for the former president if, as Giuliani claimed, he has insurance. And, of course, we don`t know. And Trump certainly isn`t acting like someone who`s concerned about what Giuliani might have on him.

But to the extent that Giuliani could provide investigators with information about the former president`s misconduct, then this really could be a bad situation for both of them.

MELBER: Very interesting.

And can I get you, as our legal expert, also on the Matt Gaetz developments?

VANCE: Absolutely. You know, this...

MELBER: Let`s do -- all right, let`s do this.

I`m going to -- I`m going to take what we -- well, Joyce I`m going to do it folks around here know is our shortest break.

Joyce Vance agrees to stay.

A lot of other legal developments on Matt Gaetz and that guilty plea.

We`re back with more with Joyce in 30 seconds.


MELBER: The other big legal development this week, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz`s guilty associate singing.

Joel Greenberg flipped. He`s working with the feds. He pled guilty to six crimes, including the very serious felony of sex trafficking a minor. He`s cooperating. He says, in writing basically, in these filings, he will testify against other persons. We don`t know who those people are. I have emphasized that throughout.

We do know Matt Gaetz has been scrutinized for possible sex with a minor and sex trafficking. We also know he`s publicly denied all allegations and has not been charged with anything.

In that plea agreement, though, Greenberg admits that, when he found the feds were probing his -- quote -- "commercial sex acts with the minor," he -- quote -- "contacted the minor directly and through one of the minor`s friends for the purpose of asking the minor to lie" and -- quote -- "asking the minor for help in making sure that their stories would line up, because he knew that his commercial sex acts with her were illegal" -- end quote.

Greenberg`s lawyer also asked about a -- quote -- "elected official."


FRITZ SCHELLER, ATTORNEY FOR JOEL GREENBERG: Does my client have information that could hurt an elected official?

I guess this is just must-see television. You will just have to wait and see.


MELBER: Wait and see.

As mentioned, former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance still with us on this other big legal story,

Joyce, walk us through specifically the details in this kind of filing that lays out not only what are now crimes that have been pled guilty to, but sort of the scheme, the conspiracy, the object of trying to hide them.

VANCE: This plea agreement, which is -- the case is being handled by the U.S. attorney`s office in the Middle District of Florida in Orlando.

And this plea agreement lays out in great detail, with more specificity than any other plea agreement I have ever seen, what Greenberg`s conduct involved. He`s pleaded guilty to six of the 33 counts that he was charged with. And one of those counts, I think the marquee count, in this indictment is the sex trafficking of a minor charge.

So, Greenberg is alleged to have had sex on multiple occasions with a 17- year-old woman, knowing that she was 17 years old. And the most important part of this plea agreement, if you`re Matt Gaetz, and maybe if you`re another politician, is the part where Greenberg agrees that he will cooperate, and he will provide investigators with truthful information, full information about his conduct and the conduct of others, in an effort to get some form of a reduction in his sentence.

That should make anyone who was having e-mail or text communications with Greenberg very, very nervous, because, in this plea agreement, there`s a lot of specificity about the sort of communications Greenberg was having, certainly with the girl who he was setting this relationship up with, but, presumably, also with others.

MELBER: Yes, you lay that all out there. And that`s what we know now, what we didn`t know last week, that the feds are pulling on each of those threads.

And they have someone really helping them walk through all of it.

Joyce Vance, on more than one big legal story tonight, thank you, as always.

VANCE: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

We have a lot more coming up tonight, including the turnaround in Arizona, where top Republicans are blasting the Republican Party`s grift and lies. It`s "Chai Day," Chai Komanduri back with us next.

And later: There is a blogger in Florida who`s increasingly humiliated. We will explain who he is, why he`s blogging, and why nobody`s reading his blog.

That`s later.


MELBER: Donald Trump lost the state of Arizona in 2020. Now top Republicans in that state`s most populous county are blasting other Republicans in that state for peddling conspiracy theories with a bizarre and doomed phony audit of Trump`s loss.

They`re also denouncing the -- quote -- "insane lies fueled by right-wing con artists."


JACK SELLERS (R), CHAIRMAN, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA, BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: People`s ballots and money are not make-believe. It`s time to be done with this craziness and get on with our county`s critical business.

STEVE CHUCRI, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA, BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: I supported an audit. I supported cooperating with the Senate. What I didn`t support is a mockery. And that`s what this has become.


MELBER: You are looking at actual on-the-ground footage there in Maricopa County by Republican officials slamming Republicans in their state who are doing Trump`s bidding or a Trump conspiracy theory that got even out of control for them.

What they did, as you may have heard about a little bit, but it`s so absurd, we haven`t covered it a ton, is try to create a fake review that is not legally or politically binding. As we all know, the election is over, the new candidate sworn in, et cetera.

It`s also a grift. Arizona taxpayers have now had to pay $150,000 to a group called Cyber Ninjas, yes, Cyber Ninjas, for their fake, nonbinding, fantasy football audit. There`s also additional funding that somebody put up, and that`s still shrouded in mystery, which is not OK in a democracy for anything that`s going to affect the legitimacy of who takes over power.

This is, of course, to appease the Florida blogger. And he made a career, many of his critics say, out of petty grift and turning lies into media.

Now, this is not just about Arizona. There are other ways that the same kind of conspiracy theories are feeding not only audits like this, which is basically a waste of time and money. It`s not actually any kind of threat to the future in a direct sense.

There`s also Republicans passing these new voter restrictions we have been covering. In Georgia, there`s also an autopsy of the election that doesn`t even deal with the fact that Trump lost the state. It also blames -- quote -- "an electoral system rendered defenseless," like some sort of force came in and created a loss that was in a traditionally red state, where there was a lot of time after the election for everyone to take in the fact that the Senate was riding on that traditionally red state.

And those voters handed the keys to anyone but Trump and his party.

So, for all of the context here, we want to go a little deeper than usual.

And that brings us to a special conversation we have on a special day here. We call it "Chai Day."

You know the vibe. You see the cartoon. It`s, of course, an homage to our friend and political strategist Chai Komanduri, a veteran of three presidential campaigns and several episodes of THE BEAT.

Good to have you back, sir.

CHAI KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Nice to see you, Ari. How are you?

MELBER: I`m good, Chai.

We feel this topic is right for you because it does involve ridiculous plotlines and fantasy, and you are both a political historian and a film buff.


MELBER: And yet, unlike a good movie with twists and turns, the plot is internally inconsistent. The results, some of them could be really real- world damaging.

What are we to think of how out of control the fake grift audit has gotten in Arizona?

KOMANDURI: Well, I know that we view this is very odd and a very strange strategy.

In my opinion, it`s actually a very coherent strategy. What the GOP understands is, this is all about the midterm elections. And they feel that the only thing that can derail them in the midterms is if Trump voters do not show up at the polls, which means, first and foremost, they must please the main person in Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump.

They have to make sure that he`s happy with what they are doing, with their efforts on his behalf, which includes ousting Liz Cheney, which includes that recount in Arizona, which includes all those efforts in Georgia. They have to make sure that he is happy, so that he turns out in 2020 those Trump voters that they need to win the midterms.

And the reality is, mathematically...


MELBER: So, Chai, you`re -- you`re...

KOMANDURI: Go ahead.

MELBER: Well, let me -- you`re formulating a kind of a modern GOP.


MELBER: We have all heard, happy wife, happy life. You`re sort of saying, happy blogger, happy base.

KOMANDURI: Correct, yes.

It`s -- basically, it`s one blogger, but that they have to please, so that they could turn out their base in 2022.

And, mathematically, it kind of makes sense. Think about the fact that the GOP only needs to win five seats. They currently have Republican legislators in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina that are drawing up precisely those five seats in their favor.

They have history at their back. They have the fact that Biden would have to be historically very, very popular, maintaining this current level by November 2022, and a high Democratic turnout. That is very unlikely historically.

In addition, they are doing things across many states to suppress the vote, to change the demographics and turnout of the electorate to favor them. So, this is all looking very, very good for them in the midterm.

The only thing that could derail it is what happened in Georgia for the Senate election, which is that Trump voters do not turn out. It is very important for Speaker McCarthy to make sure that his road to the speakership runs through Mar-a-Lago, that Donald Trump is happy, that he comes out, campaigns in the fall of 2022, tells Trump people to turn out for Republicans.

That is the only thing that, in their minds, can derail their success a year-and-a-half from now.

MELBER: If they complete the purge -- they have gone not only after Cheney, which got a lot of attention, but, at the state level, they could continue to go after people like those we just showed, whether they`re election officials, secretaries of state, county officials, basically people who, for whatever range of reasons, don`t want to go along with this strategy, as you say, if they continue that whole purge, though, doesn`t that really narrow the party going into any other future national election?

KOMANDURI: Well, common sense would dictate yes.

However, the GOP`s mathematics is, that is not the case. The only person that they have to worry about being happy is Donald Trump. Everybody else is simply expendable. You can throw them overboard. Trump is the guy that you have to keep happy.

That is, interestingly enough, the lesson that they came away from Georgia with. They came away from Georgia not with the idea -- and I think it was Cheney who came away with the idea that we have to get rid of Trump, we have to pull off this Band-Aid, as much as it hurts. We have to free the party from him, because this is a malign influence and long term will leave us to disaster.

They came away, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and so many of the other GOP that you`re seeing in Arizona, the House, in Georgia, et cetera, they came away thinking, no, what we need to do is we need to meet to make sure that Donald Trump is as happy as possible, that we do what he wants, and that we follow his dictates.

MELBER: Right.

KOMANDURI: That will lead us to electoral success in the fall -- in the fall of 20202.


And I think you give a framework, separate from the ethics, the morals and the truth, which we have also fact-checked and addressed, a framework for why these things are going so helter-skelter.

As for the deeper metaphysical question of why a person would be made happier by recounting their own loss over and over while lying about it, we might have to call Tony Schwartz. I don`t even know if that`s a "Chai Day" thing.



MELBER: But recounting the loss is what they`re doing in that state.

Chai, always good to have you, sir.

KOMANDURI: Thank you. Good to see you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Coming up tonight, I have my special commentary on the failure of the blogger in Florida. We don`t think you want to miss that.

On a more serious note, in tonight`s program, we also dig into the prosecutor ruling that that fatal police killing of Andrew Brown was, in the view of that single prosecutor, justified.

We have a special expert and a fact-check, because some of the body camera footage was released, but not all of it. And we are staying on the story for full transparency.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Now we turn to a story at the nexus of politics and communication, a story about blogging.

Now, you may think: It`s 2021. Why is blogging in the news at all? It`s the type of communication that goes back a ways.


TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Internet bloggers, those are the amateur pundits who record their opinions and argue and debate on their own Web sites.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of thousands of electronic town squares where everyone is welcome to grab a soapbox and scream their versions of the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Generation C. The C is for content.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Generation C uses the Internet to show off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The average blog isn`t that widely read.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can just put up a blog, and people will come.


MELBER: Blogs had a major impact on media and politics. They were over time supplanted, as media Web sites adopted some of their format, and social media became a faster and easier way for many different people to share thoughts or pictures or maybe go viral.

Donald Trump tried blogging as far back as 2006, with entries supposedly by him about gas prices or his claim that how you treat waiters reveals your character as a person. That project was not all that editorially focused. It was part of the promotion for the now bankrupt Trump University.

Now, Trump found far more reach on social media, riding Twitter and other apps into the news cycle, until he and his allies fomented a rally that turned into a violent insurrection, which literally broke the typically loose standards for what kind of speech is allowed and what kind of violent speech gets people kicked off these very platforms.

Twitter banned him for life. Facebook still has Trump on pause.

So, then the ex-president claimed he`d start his own social media company in response this year. He never did. Then, still on ice with Twitter, he launched a new blog in 2021.

And we have an update tonight. It`s not going well. The announcement already had some people mocking the former president, a viewer even posting this idea for a nickname on one of our BEAT accounts, Ed suggesting they nickname it Mar-a-Blogo.


As for the facts, reporters checked, and it turns out now hardly anyone is reading the blog. It crashed over this past weekend, kind of a tech failure. It also, at a bottom line level, draws a tiny fraction of the millions of engagements Trump got previously on social media, about 16,000 nationwide.

And many of Trump`s own fans now say they either visit the site not much or not at all.

So, Trump is writing and performing online for a much smaller audience these days. And it`s not clear if this Florida blogger can build his audience with his current output. He recently posted typical entries that maligned the winner of the Kentucky Derby as a junkie and had a post implying Mother`s Day is now in danger as a national holiday, but it will come back stronger. Do not worry.

Very hot stuff.

So, what does this all reveal about the blogger in Florida? Well, the implications actually go beyond him or whether you were rooting for or against the blog.

You take it in here, and there was always sort of a chicken-and-egg question about whether Trump`s controversial trolling, outrage style of modern political communication was generally effective in terms of getting attention and defining political news cycles, and, if so, could it become a template for everybody, or whether it worked more narrowly, through a kind of toxic mix of unregulated social media and a press that often echoed and reacted to so many of his online claims in real time.

Well, here we are. And this is by no means a final or precise experiment, but the complete, obvious, public failure of this brand-new announced blog, even failing with Trump`s super fan, suggest it`s more the latter.

Social media companies make money when people react and engage, regardless of the substance or the ethics. The reward has basically a reward structure built into the way the sites and the apps work and their algorithms.

And questionable content that gets a reaction, any reaction, does better. A politician, or a troll or anyone else who lives mostly off just that, with almost nothing else to say, well, they quickly become technologically naked without access to that viral app. They could be stuck just blogging at home, largely out of view.

And there is one other implication for a Republican Party tonight that is so stuck on Trump, a theme in several big stories we have been covering, even as he`s deplatformed and has less of a megaphone and less of an audience for the actual things he says and writes, for what he supposedly stands for. He was still president.

It all shows how much this was never really about coal miners, or the wall, or the other things he said. It was about him as a personality and a reality show fantasy and a kind of strongman figure, regardless of politics or the office, who supposedly wins even when he loses.

And because he is the only arbiter of what is real in that fantasy universe, that`s why you can only listen to him. That`s clearly appealing for some people, fewer people than the majority that voted for Biden, fewer people than even many Republican Parties that we have seen around the country that are struggling.

But, for some people, it`s appealing. They flock to this idea that they can only listen to him. But when you check the blog and the stats, as we did this week, you know what is funny? Even they aren`t really listening to him all that much anymore.

That`s our update there.

Up next, we have breaking news on a very important criminal justice story.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Breaking news in the police shooting of Andrew Brown, who was killed last month during an attempted arrest in North Carolina, shot in the back of the head by police.

His death has sparked weeks of protests. Now, today, the DA announced the results of what they call their investigation. He says the shooting was justified. No officer will face charges of any kind. We`re not just talking about murder charges.

And then he did something that many experts and independent critics say made this all worse. The DA didn`t say it was all so secretive, he can`t say anything. And he didn`t release everything. That`s transparency.

Instead, he played just selected, short clips from bodycam videos, this for the first time playing in public.

As always, a warning: This video is disturbing.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands! Hey! Hey!



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) car! Stop the goddamn car!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands! Let me see your hands!


MELBER: It`s one of the first windows into at least a piece of the raid.

The DA cites this moment where he says the DA believes that Brown allegedly drove toward the officers, and that made the DA deem the car, in his view, a -- quote -- "deadly weapon."

Reporters who were in the room watching the video questioned what was actually shown in this, as I emphasize, brief excerpt, including and compared to what the DA says it showed.


ANDREW WOMBLE, PASQUOTANK COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Brown continued the felonious assault by using his vehicle as a deadly weapon.

QUESTION: Once you put the video in motion, it looked like Brown was turning away from the officer.

QUESTION: It doesn`t seem that clear that he`s not trying to get away.

QUESTION: Definitely appeared that Mr. Brown was trying to get away and not going directly at any officer that -- that I -- we just saw.

WOMBLE: And I don`t care what direction you`re going, forward, backward, sideways. I don`t care if you`re stationary, and neither do our courts and our case law.


MELBER: The DA sounding somewhat argumentative that he personally doesn`t care if a car is stationary in an analysis of whether it posed the legally required major risk of deadly bodily injury or death to the officers. That`s the legal standard, so a lot of questions there.

Also concerns about, as I mentioned and emphasized to you, something that`s not transparent, which is just handpicked clips from someone who already says they have reached a decision about what he thinks the video shows, and not actually release all the evidence to the public.


WOMBLE: So, this is actually a display. I`m not releasing the video.

QUESTION: Can the media get the video you had in the presentation?

WOMBLE: Any other release of this will be done through the courts.

QUESTION: It is hard to look at these videos and see exactly what you`re explaining, unless you watched it multiple times.

QUESTION: Can you replay the video?

WOMBLE: I`m not going -- I`m not going to. I`m not going to replay it.


MELBER: Refusing to replay even the few excerpts that he provided,

I`m joined now by Marq Claxton, retired NYPD detective, director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance.

We will get to the DA.

As for what we have learned, because it is revelatory to get any video -- and we have obviously captured it, so we can replay that in a way that the DA wouldn`t during the press conference for whatever reason -- I just want to show also a still photo of the way the officers were coming in on the scene, which is important that viewers understand.

This was how they showed up, looking really ready for a kind of a tactical or escalated engagement, but without any underlying information that the suspect would be armed or that this was, for example, a gun bust, nothing like that.

Your analysis of the police tactics used?

MARQ CLAXTON, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Well, that photo really displays what people have major concerns about, and that`s the overmilitarization in policing.

You come in looking like the military, and you tend to act and behave like the military in a non-military environment on our city streets. And that could end up and too often ends up in these types of tragedies.

So, I think the police response really has to be fully examined to see if it was excessive or in line with what standards are or what standards should be. But, too often, it`s just going over the top for what the actual obligations of the police officers were.

I have been in many search warrants, Ari. And you really have to get with your response based on the information that you have. That`s why it`s vitally important that so much come out of what specifically was in the application, the search warrant application, what specifically they ended up obtaining and having and that type of evidentiary information.


On that point, that DA did state today that they didn`t find a weapon in the vehicle and that this individual was not known to carry weapons. So, it did look like they came in really locked and loaded for a situation that wouldn`t obviously pose, at least initially, that kind of deadly risk.

When you look at the way this information was released, does it raise questions about the independence of the DA?

CLAXTON: Oh, absolutely. It raises tremendous questions about the alleged independence of the DA.

It is interesting to me. I think the DA really is employing the Bill Barr strategy.

And I`m talking about Bill Barr strategy prior to the full release of the Mueller report, where you kind of create the narrative that you want people to then adopt, in spite of what information and evidence may come out afterwards, in spite of documents that maybe contradict perhaps some of the assertions that the prosecutor made, and in spite of video that he believes shows one thing, but, obviously, those individuals in the room, the reporters there, had very serious questions about their -- his interpretation of what the videos actually showed.

He`s really just trying to create a narrative, and hoping that that narrative carries through into whatever phase is ahead for this investigation.

MELBER: Understood, and all important points from someone who`s been there.

Marq Claxton, thank you, as always.

I want to thank everyone for watching THE BEAT tonight. We covered a lot of ground on a lot of stories. And I appreciate you spending time with us.

We have a very short break, but I encourage you to keep it locked on MSNBC, because "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.