Mounting inequality in America is examined. Congressman Matt Gaetz responds to bombshell sex crime allegations and a widening pardons scandal. A criminal probe continues into Rudy Giuliani. A war on truth is leading to something of a political civil war inside the GOP. Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks out.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much.
Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.
We have a big program for you tonight, including a special report on mounting inequality and what can be done about it. President Biden`s been talking about what billionaires are getting away with. That`s our special report coming up.
We have been working on it. And I promise you it should be interesting.
Also tonight, how Congressman Matt Gaetz is responding to these bombshell sex crime allegations and a widening pardons scandal.
But we begin with the criminal probe into Rudy Giuliani. The feds raided his apartment and office. They seized phones and computers. Our cameras have now caught Giuliani outside of the apartment that was raided. And he`s back on television doing what he did so much in the last few years, indeed, doing what he did that gave so many clues to investigators, talking about it all on TV, talking about himself.
This is, to be very clear, exactly the opposite of what any prudent lawyer and what someone like Rudy Giuliani, a former prosecutor, would advise most people in his situation. He`s also making up stuff. He`s saying he was framed. And he`s saying a raid that he very recently called quite professional in how the agents operated is now, he says -- quote -- "out of control."
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: When something like this happens, and it goes to fruition, if they can do what they just did to me to you -- they can do it to you.
You don`t see this for what it is, a political act?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: It`s not a political act as a matter of law. Indeed, it`s an independent judge who signed off on at least reasonable suspicion that there`s evidence of a crime in Giuliani`s residences, in his apartment or office. That`s how that works. That`s not a political act.
Now, Reuters reports that these investigators have seized over 10 cell phones and computers, searching for Giuliani`s communications with over a dozen different people, including someone we reported on last week, a top Ukrainian official.
Now, there was also, I should mention, a report by other news organizations, and matched by NBC News, that asserted last week that there was sources saying that the FBI had warned Giuliani that he would be the target of a Russian influence campaign.
If you happened to catch THE BEAT on Friday, we referred to that reporting.
And we have tonight for you a correction. If we get anything off, we will always try to follow up on it. That briefing was prepared and those reports referred to it, but it was not actually delivered, according to the latest updated information.
And a second source familiar with the matter has told NBC News that the reasons might still be bad for Giuliani. And I want to mention them for precision, the reasons being a concern that giving that prepared briefing would complicate the criminal investigation of Giuliani.
So, whether that was good or not for him, we mentioned it as if it happened, but the latest information is that he was not ultimately given that briefing.
Now, the investigation is ongoing. There`s other reporting that people in Trump world are concerned about this, that they don`t think of it as a frame job, as Giuliani put it, but, rather, as one Trump adviser said, that it was a show of force, sending a strong message to a lot of people in Trump`s world other things may be coming down the pipeline.
And that`s not all. While Giuliani has clearly been talking up his own defense, he`s still enough of a lawyer to know that there are times where you do need lawyers, in addition to whatever you want to say as a potential subject or more of this case.
Giuliani tapping Alan Dershowitz now as a legal adviser.
Joining us to kick off our coverage is former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal and "Washington Post" reporter Libby Casey.
Good to have you both.
Neal, as we have often discussed, this individual hasn`t even been charged. And any individual at any stage in the process has the right to mount their own vigorous defense, which can include criticizing aspects of the process.
But walk us through the factual framework for some of the more aggressive claims Giuliani is now making.
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, the factual framework, I think, looks really bad or a for Rudy Giuliani.
Ten of his devices have been seized. And he is being treated like a suspect and a common criminal. And it`s very serious. And these devices were seized pursuant to a warrant. As you just said, that requires an independent federal judge to sign off and to say that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, that it`s more likely than not.
And here, of course, it wasn`t just any old warrant. This was a warrant to search an attorney`s office, which requires approval at the highest levels of the Justice Department, maybe the attorney general himself, and it wasn`t just any old lawyer. It was a lawyer to the president of the United States.
And it wasn`t just that. It was also a lawyer who happened to head the very office, the Southern District of New York, that issued the warrant against him. So, you had all of these barriers. They were sky high to this warrant. And yet it was executed last week.
To me, what that tells me is, this is an incredibly serious set of allegations that they have got, that they`re evaluating right now. They would have never taken this step otherwise. This isn`t the kind of thing you do to score political points or anything like that.
Rudy Giuliani would be able to hire lawyers and have a defense at trial if there is an indictment. So, you`re not like -- you don`t -- you`re not going to, if you`re at the Justice Department, pull one over on anyone by trying to execute this warrant. They did so for the most serious of reasons. That`s what everything here suggests.
MELBER: Well, and, to your point, Neal, they would certainly be familiar with the kind of pushback they were going to get from someone as pugilistic as Mr. Giuliani.
So, like, they knew that. They expect a defense. They expect media and so on. And the Justice Department can`t comment. They can`t go out and say, this is all wrong, this isn`t political or something. They speak in court. They speak in their actions. And I suspect that we will be seeing some further court activity in the next couple of months, including possibly an indictment.
And I think it`s very telling that Rudy Giuliani`s now defense attorney Alan Dershowitz is going on TV claiming prosecutors can`t search lawyers` offices and they can only do so if they`re going to destroy the evidence. And that`s right up there with my other favorite lawyerly privileges, Ari, which you and I have, which is lawyers can`t get parking tickets or speeding tickets, and we don`t have to pay taxes on our legal fees unless the client is guilty.
Come on. This is ridiculous. Of course, in certain circumstances, again, highly circumscribed circumstances, but they appear to be met here, you can search an attorney`s office.
MELBER: Yes. As you`re reminding viewers, Alan Dershowitz`s view of this, whether selectively applied or not, doesn`t match with the reality. Lawyers don`t have an immunity, although they have some protections, for the justification and the legitimacy of a process of confidential communications.
That`s all the law stuff, Libby. Let`s talk about the other piece of this. The politics is, Rudy Giuliani spent the last year and especially the months after the election as the face of a set of MAGA grievances and some conspiracy theories and, ultimately, the argument that led to the insurrection.
What does it mean for this entire world that he`s in this much trouble?
LIBBY CASEY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, first of all, I just have to emphasize here that this is a man who knows exactly the power of the Southern District of New York, because he used to run it.
And so Rudy Giuliani is perfectly aware of the power of SDNY. He`s aware of their ability to try to turn an investigation into a plea deal. He`s aware of the powers that they have. And where Alan Dershowitz can go on TV and make a case on TV., this is all happening behind the scenes.
And, as Neal said, DOJ is being tight-lipped about it, of course. And that`s going to be a very different argument that they will have to make in the court of law vs. the court of public opinion.
When it comes to the court of public opinion, this is a huge distraction for Republicans on Capitol Hill, who want to be going after the Biden economic plan, the Biden Families Plan, and, instead, we`re once again focusing on a close ally of President Trump.
And, Ari, we have to remember, he`s not the only one, the only person in Trump world who has been touched by investigation and, in fact, convictions. I`m thinking of Michael Cohen, sentenced to three years in prison, Paul Manafort, sure, he got a pardon from President Trump, but he was sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
And so this just adds to that frothing water around Donald Trump. And the question is, what is on those devices? What will investigators find? Could it have bearing on questions and investigations related to January 6 or other ongoing probes? We will see.
MELBER: Well, and, Libby, does it matter to Trump world, in your view, that Rudy Giuliani is going to look less credible to some grouping of Americans, even if the hardcore QAnon is going to take anything?
Because you don`t generally want your face of an argument about what`s wrong with the government or the election to be under this much legal strain, to be having his homes raided. I mean, if you`re a pro-law enforcement type, you`re going to wonder and defer to whether they might actually be just doing their jobs and be worried about crime.
CASEY: This all gets back to, though, where you get your news and information. And are you listening to Donald Trump still? Are you in that section of the ecosphere? Or are you listening to the news that the rest of us are digesting and consuming and watching?
And how much of that spin are you buying? Donald Trump`s platform has been really reduced because of what`s happened on Twitter and Facebook regarding him being removed from those platforms. But in just a couple of days, the Facebook oversight board is going to announce whether or not Donald Trump will be back allowed on that platform.
And we will all be watching to see what their decision is. So, how much they`re amplified plays into this, because someone watching this concerned about law and order, concerned about probes might really raise their eyebrows.
And in typical times, Ari, you wouldn`t want somebody tainted like that on a potential 2024, let`s say, presidential campaign. But is Donald Trump`s support base watching the news in that same way with that critical eye?
I think it remains to be seen.
MELBER: Neal, how much of this fits in the context of a rather brazen effort to get foreign help or collude with foreign actors in two consecutive elections?
Whether or not that ultimately may be what`s chargeable or not, there does seem to be a lot of smoke around Rudy Giuliani -- and I mentioned the fact that he wasn`t given that briefing -- but Rudy Giuliani just working with Trump to try to get foreign help.
KATYAL: Exactly, Ari.
So we know from the warrant that the warrant does identify a possible violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, which is not some like -- I know some Republicans are spinning this to some minor, procedural, technical act.
No, this is kind of one of the heartlands of American government, the idea that, if you`re going to go work for a foreign government in the United States, you got to tell us and you got to register, because we need to know your motives and all of that. There`s not a problem with representing a foreign government. But you have to register.
That`s a critical piece of our kind of counterintelligence national security law. And it looks like that may have been violated here. And that`s what those -- that`s what the -- that`s what the warrant was designed to do, is get information about that.
Now, Rudy Giuliani`s folks are out today saying, well, look, all of these news organizations have retracted that story that you were talking about earlier that said that he had been given an FBI warning ahead of time.
Now, I have never -- I think it`s pretty common for sources to conflict and stories to get corrected. But I`m not sure, Ari, I have ever seen someone so enthusiastically promote a correction that makes them look guiltier. And that`s what has happened.
This retraction is actually bad for Giuliani, because that last part that you flashed on the screen, which NBC has reported, our network, but not others, is that the reason why the FBI didn`t give that warning to Giuliani about the counterintelligence dangers was -- quote -- "in part over concerns it may complicate his criminal investigation."
So what that`s saying to me is that the FBI said, we could give him this defensive warning, this defensive briefing, but we already think he`s crossed the line, we already think he`s in the land of federal felony, and so we can`t do it because that`s going to undermine the crime that he`s already committed.
KATYAL: This is bad news for Giuliani. It`s not good news.
MELBER: Yes, that`s -- right.
That`s a useful breakdown. And, as you explain, if it`s a defensive briefing to say, hey, this is what Russia is trying to do, but through Ukraine, and the person says, oh, yes, no, I know all about that, I have been trying to do that with them, and I might have broken the law not to register while I`m helping Ukraine and Russia, then, yes, you`re way past the point of a briefing.
At the same time, it`s my job to make sure viewers know, if we ever have any detail off and we get better information or sourcing, even if it`s from a different report, we`re always going to update on it. But, as you say, the implications really go a number of directions.
Thank you for that nuance, Neal Katyal and Libby Casey kicking us off. Appreciate both of you.
We have our shortest break.
Coming up in 30 seconds, the special report I mentioned, the backlash to billionaires and why there may be a solution ahead.
We`re back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: Now to our special report.
The pandemic has put roughly 10 million Americans out of work. The economy does show some signs of rebounding, but millions of Americans still don`t have enough to eat.
According to one estimate, food insecurity more than doubled in 2020 from the pandemic, with these scenes like what we have in Texas from April last year, thousands of cars stretched more than a mile with people lining up, waiting all day, trying to just get some food.
The pictures tell the story of record high numbers, problems, challenges at food banks. But even against this backdrop, the super rich are making tons of money.
And that tonight brings us to a very popular and profitable American company.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What nonbelievers fail to understand is that calling a dream crazy is not an insult. It`s a compliment.
Don`t settle for homecoming queen or linebacker. Do both. If you`re a girl from Compton, don`t just become a tennis player. Become the greatest athlete ever.
SPIKE LEE, ACTOR: Money, it`s got to be the shoes. Shoes. Shoes. Shoes. You`re sure it`s not the shoes?
MICHAEL JORDAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I`m sure, Mars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Nike is an iconic company for many reasons.
And, in 2020, it made nearly $3 billion in U.S. profits. They did great during this pandemic, digital sales almost doubled. The company says they beat a -- quote -- "dynamic environment by staying on the offense," as CEO John Donahoe put it.
Now, Mr. Donahoe took over running Nike after a successful stint at Bain Capital, where he worked with Mitt Romney. And he oversees a Nike work force where the median employee makes about $490 a week, or $25,000 a year.
To put that in perspective, it means a single parent of three kids with the median Nike salary is living below the poverty line. Half of Nike`s employees make less than that, meaning many of them might work and still need assistance to get by, like those food lines I mentioned, whether it`s from a charity or a second job or government subsidies.
As for CEO Donahoe, very different story. He makes over 500 times the salary of his median employee. And in what he called that -- quote -- "dynamic year" of 2020, his overall compensation was $53 million.
This is mounting inequality in pandemic America. And while Nike benefits enormously from the U.S. government, with regulating the markets, systems, the mail that ensures Nike is profitable, that the products go out, the company is not paying its share at all.
In that same dynamic year of 2020, Nike paid zero federal taxes, none, which is wild. A company making billions and paying and its CEO millions is paying our government less than a single average taxpayer, probably less than you.
So, where are all those Nike profits going? Well, to paraphrase some Rick Ross lines about the company`s product, count the profits, you could bring them in a Nike box. Grinding in my Jordans, kick them off. They might be hot. Ross is saying his own Nikes might be stolen or hot and his illicit profits can be stored in a Nike box.
But when it comes to Nikes tax money, that shoebox would be empty. That`s not fair to everyone else paying taxes. Now, for its part, Nike says it follows the law and has paid -- quote -- "significant taxes over the years."
But my point here with you tonight is not even to single out Nike as some sort of special case or outlier. It`s actually the opposite. What Nike does is common. It`s usually legal, which raises questions about whether any of this should be legal; 55 U.S. companies paid zero federal taxes on 2020 revenue, with other big names in that same crew like FedEx and Dish and companies that have had their businesses surge as customers face limited options while quarantining under government rules.
These very figures are facts Biden`s cited in that big speech to Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A recent study shows that 55 of the nation`s biggest corporations paid zero federal tax last year.
Those 55 corporations made in excess of $40 billion in profit. A lot of companies also evade taxes through tax havens in Switzerland and Bermuda. And they benefit from tax loopholes and deductions. It`s not right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It`s a huge problem.
With customers hurting and corporate taxes hitting an effective rate of zero, you could imagine business leaders treading carefully here, but, instead, many are demanding that, whatever the U.S. does next, corporate taxes shouldn`t go up at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUZANNE CLARK, CEO, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: There are lots of ways to pay for this over time, not raise taxes at just the time that businesses are getting back on their feet.
JAY TIMMONS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MANUFACTURERS: Raising the corporate tax -- or raising taxes on businesses, it`s a job killer, plain and simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Some claim raising taxes hurts hiring and investing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM COOK, CEO, APPLE: Lower corporate income tax rates.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lower taxes drives more investment, drives more hiring, drives greater wages.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want America to be very competitive, you need a competitive tax system. And if you don`t, it will hurt business in America, which hurts jobs and wages.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All you`re going to do is kill job creation, push investment offshore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, economists debate all kinds of things. There aren`t always simple answers.
But here`s one thing we do know. Corporations pay less right now because Trump slashed their rates by about 40 percent as soon as he got into office, moving over a trillion dollars off their corporate balance sheet. So that bill goes somewhere else. It goes to workers or some other part of the system.
Trump even told his millionaire donors that all his tax reforms would help them. And he was blunt about how this was a wild perk for corporations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Corporations are literally going wild over this, I think even beyond my expectations, the biggest tax cut, biggest reform of all time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Going back to just before the aberration of the Trump presidency, corporations paid a tax rate above 30 percent. If you go back to the `50s and `60s, many paid half their profits in taxes, which financed roads and schools and the military.
But that norm has been slashed over time, the corporate rate falling all the way down to this Trump rate of 21 percent. Now, this change was led by Republicans and some Democrats supporting deregulation.
It`s also interesting to note the top Democratic leader back in the day warned the Republican tax crusade would not magically save money. It would cost so much that surplus money for the elderly and health care would be raided.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD): It will use Social Security and Medicare surpluses. It will create the same deficit situation, I promise you, as we have seen all through the 1980s and early `90s.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: As corporate rates crashed -- these are, of course, maximum possible rates -- after Trump`s plan passed, the number of companies paying zero doubled. And many companies manage to pay less than the 21 percent, as Biden was talking about, or they pay zero, with gimmicks, and ploys and lawyer tricks, many of which are deemed legal.
Now, some have a financial purpose, like honestly declaring your losses. Others, though, are tricks designed for tax dodging, like moving shell companies abroad to get lower foreign rates, while you benefit from America`s rules, an issue many top Democrats have hammered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): If anybody here thinks the corporate America gives one damn about the average American worker, you`re mistaken.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Companies like Facebook have kept billions of dollars in tax breaks through tactics like offshore tax evasion.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): You build something great in this country, good for you. But you did it using workers all of us help pay to educate.
SANDERS: If they can save 5 cents by going to China, that`s exactly what they will do.
WARREN: Pitch in 2 cents, so everybody else gets a chance.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies will collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: We have got a better path.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So, why is this in the news now?
Democrats are pushing to fund this new infrastructure bill by reforming corporate tax inequity. They want to nudge the corporate tax rates up a bit, Biden pushing for a rate of back to 28 percent. And I can tell you tonight most voters already support that.
Some moderate Democrats, though, are saying it shouldn`t even go back up to pre-Trump levels, arguing for a middle ground, they call it, of 25 percent.
But here`s the thing. This entire debate is still happening right now within the narrow corporate terms set basically by Trump, which came after decades of corporate giveaways. In the `80s, it was considered a conservative Wall Street victory when Reagan slashed those corporate rates from 46 to 34 percent, in a sweeping law that many Democrats and then Senator Biden supported.
This was back in the days of an often bipartisan attack on taxes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: American taxpayers must either bail it out, or someone else will come in and buy it out.
When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well. I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans benefits. I met every single solitary thing in the government.
The liberals of my party said, it`s an awful thing you`re doing, Joe. If we had not had the Reagan budgets that we all voted on -- I mean, we could have stopped them -- we would have a budget in balance right now.
The debt that has occurred is a consequence of those Reagan additional deficits. I shouldn`t say Reagan -- the Reagan and the Democratic Congress both.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Reagan and Democrats and then Senator Biden backed those Reagan rates, bringing corporate taxes down to 34 percent.
Now, remember, this is why this is so important right now. At the time, Wall Street cheered that as a big victory and a low rate. Here we are, decades later, in a pandemic recession, where the government has been literally cutting these corporations new checks and very favorable loans and vaccinating their workers and propping up the economy, and Washington`s entire frame of reference is whether to keep the Trump tax rates in that 20 percent range or bump them a bit.
It`s literally this narrow. Most of Congress isn`t even looking at going up to those Reagan rates of 34 percent. And Biden, to be clear, has changed his tax approach for a new world. He used that big speech to make the case for reforming these corporate taxes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We`re going to reform corporate taxes so they pay their fair share and help pay for the public investments their businesses will benefit from as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, when you see the billionaires who run Nike and Amazon and these big companies thriving while people are suffering, if you remember nothing else from this walk down tax lane, remember this.
The billions they have, while people wait in line for food, that`s not just the way the economy works. This is the way Congress works. It`s the way politicians lock in gains for Wall Street donors, who`ve been demanding that each new administration treat whatever past corporate welfare they got as the baseline, untouchable, for any new plans.
And it doesn`t happen by accident. Amazon gave $12 million in political contributions just last cycle. They did it to get something. Same for Bain Capital that I mentioned. They gave $21 million. Or those big financial firms like Blackstone and Citadel, they each gave over $40 million, making them among the top 10 companies for highest political donations in the whole country.
They keep setting the terms with Congress. Republican administrations often lock them in. These companies, though, have found that it`s basically cheaper to lobby Congress up front and then avoid paying sometimes any taxes later.
So, here we are now, with even a blue wave election that handed the Senate and the White House to Democrats. But the actual D.C. boundaries for corporations seem to still be choosing between the Trump era tax cuts or the Reagan era tax rates, and not much else.
Corporations have narrowed the terms of this debate at this important time. Congress largely obliges, and then you have, as I mentioned, some, not all, but some Democratic senators saying that even ending the entire Trump tax cuts would be too much.
When a blue nation and a blue government are stuck debating on terms set by Trump and Reagan, something is seriously off.
And you will notice, by contrast, debates over social issues aren`t caught this far in the past. But this one comes all the way down to the money. And America has to ultimately decide, even beyond going back and forth between parties in these elections, at a structural level, America has to decide if it can stick with a tax and campaign finance system that is this unequal and, yes, this expensive.
That`s our special report on a big issue that affects you and your pocketbook.
We have a lot more in the program, including the party of Trump, a war on truth leading to something like a political civil war inside the GOP, but first our update on a sex crime investigation into Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, how he is dealing with those new bombshell allegations.
MELBER: Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz has been embroiled in this federal sex crime investigation. Now he`s going pretty full MAGA in response.
Gaetz is under DOJ investigation scrutiny for possible crimes that include sex trafficking and paying for sex with a minor. Gaetz, for his part, has denied all allegations. He has not been charged with a crime. He also has not missed a single vote since the investigation was reported. He`s been out there tweeting and fund-raising off it.
This Friday, he`s going on a tour with the QAnon Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, attacking Democrats and what he believes are insufficiently conservative Republicans, or RINOs.
The public appearance comes after the bombshell report in The Daily Beast on what is an alleged confession letter by Gaetz`s ally Joel Greenberg, who is currently in jail in Florida, indicted on 33 federal charges.
Now, NBC News, as we have taken paint to note, has not been able to verify the underlying letter or its accounts. The Daily Beast reported that Greenberg allegedly wrote -- quote -- "Representative Matt Gaetz paid for sex with multiple women, as well as a girl who was 17 at the time" -- end quote.
The letter, according to The Daily Beast, was allegedly written for someone else who was convicted of crimes, Roger Stone, to get a pardon from Trump, which -- you see the arrest video here -- Stone went through all that and did ultimately get a pardon.
Greenberg reportedly offered up to a quarter million dollars in Bitcoin for that help.
We are joined now by Dave Aronberg, Florida state attorney for Palm Beach County.
Thanks for coming back.
DAVE ARONBERG, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA, STATE ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me back, Ari.
MELBER: There`s a lot here.
Let`s start with the underlying letter. If true that the letter exists and reflects what this defendant said, that`s step one. Step two would be, are the underlying confessions and allegations true? How do you view that legally?
ARONBERG: Well, first of all, Ari, from a prosecutor`s standpoint, we love it when criminals are stupid.
Joel Greenberg wrote out a full confession and sent it to his fellow Florida man Roger Stone, of all people, I mean, a self-described dirty trickster. And then Greenberg took a photo of the confession and saved it in his phone. So, the feds have it. And, ironically, it can only be used against Greenberg in court, not against Matt Gaetz. It would be inadmissible hearsay.
So, this is very bad for Greenberg. And as to why Roger Stone asked for the confession, because you don`t need to write a confession to get a pardon, especially not under the Trump administration, I think Roger Stone, who always flies a little close to the sun, wanted some insurance, with a new administration coming in. The next time he`s being investigated, he`s got information. He`s got maybe some leverage.
If this sounds like a dirty trick, I think it`s because his mentor is Richard Nixon, whose face he has tattooed on his back. So take that for what it`s worth.
MELBER: That is a true fact about the back tattoo. I don`t know if he has Icarus tattooed somewhere else, to your reference
But the fairest way to put it for Mr. Gaetz is -- and this is what Stone and others have said -- we reported their denials last week -- that what a desperate and perhaps, TBD, guilty defendant says doesn`t implicate Mr. Gaetz without any hard evidence.
ARONBERG: Oh, Ari, that`s the key, because his word, meaning Joel Greenberg`s word, means nothing. He needs corroboration. Joel Greenberg is a walking criminal enterprise.
And so he needs e-mails, text messages, more Venmo receipts to get the deal that he covets with federal prosecutors. We will know by May 15 how much the feds believe Joel Greenberg, because, if he`s not credible, they`re not going to cut him the deal he wants. They can go ahead with other charges against Gaetz, if the evidence warrants it, like identity theft or campaign finance violations, without Greenberg.
Where they need Greenberg, though, is to go for the big whammy, child sex trafficking, punishable by up to life in prison. Now, I think that it was Greenberg who released this information about the confession because he wanted to pressure the feds to go after Matt Gaetz.
And if they do go after Matt Gaetz and charge him with child sex trafficking, they need Greenberg. Greenberg wants to be as indispensable to the feds as possible as the May 15 deadline approaches.
MELBER: Well, that`s an interesting theory. And, to be clear, it`s a legal theory. We haven`t confirmed anything like that.
But when you have such a small circle of information, you have whatever the government obtained. Government leaks happen, although, in this criminal context, they would themselves, if deliberate, be criminal. It`s not like the prosecutors typically want to do that.
And then you have the people on both ends of the encrypted communication. So, who -- cui bono, as they say? Who benefits, Stone or Greenberg, if it was one of them? So you`re saying it may be Greenberg trying to create a little more energy and pressure around the idea that, hey, he`s got good stuff to give up, don`t let the trail stop with him.
Do you think there`s any possible crime with what we have learned about the pursuit of this pardon? Or is it just unseemly, pay for play, quarter- million in Bitcoin, but does it cross any potential lines, in your view?
ARONBERG: I think it`s just unseemly, because that`s what lobbyists do all the time. They promise the world, and they want money.
If Roger Stone was a government official and accepted $250,000 in exchange for a pardon, now we`d be talking about bribery. But, as it is, this is just the swamp in action. It`s the people who accuse others of being in the swamp who are often the swampiest.
And I think the most salacious detail, Ari, in what we learned in that confession is the allegation that, once Greenberg and Gaetz found out that the underage girl was in fact under rage, because, according to Greenberg, they thought she was 19, once they found out she was 17, they were appalled and they cut off communication whether, until shortly after she turned 18.
Then they went right back, right at her, and propositioned her again.
MELBER: Yes. Yes. And our guest advocate Nancy Erika Smith on Friday was discussing that aspect of the story as well.
Certainly a lot here and the allegations, and Dave has reminded us what the key deadlines are, May being the -- a key month for this case.
As always, thanks for joining us.
ARONBERG: It`s great to be back, Ari. Thanks for having me.
MELBER: It`s great to have you.
Up ahead, a special guest on MAGA world punishing Republicans who denounce the big lie, Mitt Romney getting booed at a Republican convention, and the party going to war with itself.
MELBER: I want the truth. But what if MAGA can`t handle the truth?
That`s one of the issues that`s come up with Republican Senator Mitt Romney and that absolutely politically thunderous booing he got from his own home state party convention this weekend.
And, remember, this isn`t really about ideology. It`s not as if Mitt Romney votes against mainstream Republican views on everything from taxes, which we were discussing tonight, to abortion, to social issues. This was all about his finding under his constitutional obligation that there was indeed an impeachable offense by Trump trying to steal the election and do the insurrection.
That is the issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Aren`t you embarrassed?
So, yes, I understand that I have a few folks that don`t like me too terribly much. And I am sorry about that.
You might call me an old-fashioned Republican. I am. I have been in our party...
ROMNEY: Oh, yes, you can -- you can boo all you want. But I have been a Republican all my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Mitt Romney standing up through it.
Now, he was, of course, his own party`s national nominee for president at one point. But he`s scorned, again, not because of ideology or policy or all the things people usually debate about. He`s scorned because he says he did what he thought was right on the impeachment of Donald Trump.
This is bigger than Romney. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, also from a big Republican family and part of leadership, she backed the impeachment of Trump. She`s called out Trump`s lies. She`s facing a new push among House Republicans who just want to completely demote her out of leadership over this.
Now, remember, the House is its own co-equal branch of government. It doesn`t just have to defer to a different political branch. One of Cheney`s Republican allies saying: "If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit."
The issue here, of course, is whether you can handle the truth. And the facts of January that we all lived through seem to be tearing Republicans apart. Some Democrats also saying this stops the country from any hope of moving forward, until truth and facts have some home across the entire political spectrum.
I have got to fit in a break, but we have a very special guest coming right up, live on THE BEAT, Senator Amy Klobuchar on this and much more.
We will be right back.
MELBER: We`re back.
We have been covering Republicans warring with each other, including over the facts, while Joe Biden pushes this jobs agenda and some potential changes to how corporate America works.
Joining me now is a special guest, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. You may know her for many things. She also has a new book out, "Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age."
Thanks for coming back on THE BEAT.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thanks, Ari. It`s great to be back on.
We will get to a lot of this stuff.
But let`s start with why, in addition to everything else you`re doing, you wrote a policy book, and why you think it fits what we`re going through now.
KLOBUCHAR: It -- really, because it affects people in their everyday lives.
And it is everything from your cable rates sometimes to what`s happening with the -- your airfares if you`re in a midsized city, to why there isn`t privacy, better controls on misinformation or privacy when it comes to tech, to what happens with pharma, and why insulin prices have gone way up or why you saw the big increases in EpiPens.
And that`s often because it is one or two companies that dominate a market. And I thought, how can I make this interesting to people, so they will help me get it done? Because nothing has happened. That`s the big unkept secret here, especially when it comes to tech.
And so I wrote it going way back to the founding fathers and wrote it as a story, used over 100 cartoons, if you`re not into reading it, and tried to make the stories come to life, including the fact that the first woman that invented the Monopoly board hated monopolies. And that`s why she invented it.
MELBER: That`s wild.
You look at what`s going on with tech. We have one of these -- just these headlines, the five biggest tech companies on the planet, as you have been charting, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Alphabet, massive profits and sales in the first quarter of 21, $75 billion.
How do you fix the actual complete inequity of money and power here? Because, as we were reporting earlier in the program, the amount of money these companies have gives them an unfair advantage in how these policies are written in the first place.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, it`s something. And I have 25 ideas at the end of the book, some of which are for regular people that they can do, as opposed to members of Congress, where there`s a lot we can do.
The first is to make sure that agencies are funded like the FTC and the Department of Justice Antitrust. They cannot take on those trillion-dollar companies with duct tape and Band-Aids. And Senator Grassley and I have a bill that would change the structure of the fees they have to pay when they apply for mergers, put that back into the departments.
We could greatly increase the number of lawyers. Otherwise, they`re never going to be able to take on big cases in an effective way.
Secondly, change some of the standards. Our country has always adapted and rejuvenated capitalism. Third, look back at some of these deals. It was Mark Zuckerberg himself in an e-mail that the House discovered where he said: We`d rather buy than compete.
I think that says it all. Put in place conditions. We just learned about the App Stores a few weeks ago at our bipartisan hearing, where Google and Facebook -- Google -- I`m sorry -- and Apple literally are charging 30 percent to many, many companies like Spotify, their competitors. For them to have any access to the App Store, you have to pay that much to the App Store when customers buy stuff on the apps.
So I think it`s a major, major problem. And that`s why you`re seeing so much action in court right now and why you need to see action in Congress.
MELBER: And then, as promised, your view of what we showed earlier there, Republicans booing Mitt Romney, not over policy, but just over his factual findings that Donald Trump did, indeed, in his view, stoke the insurrection.
Does the Republican Party have a truth problem?
And, that being said, I saw the courage of Mitt Romney standing up many, many times over the last few years. And I`m also really, really happy that Liz Cheney stood up in Congress and that she was so forceful.
And as much as you think I would just be relishing this fight, I believe, in the end, you want to have two parties that embrace truth. Otherwise, how are you ever going to have debate?
And I think when you have a major faction of a major political party that is literally denying the results of an election, that is literally, some of them, embracing QAnon, and other people aren`t decrying it, you have got a major problem going on.
And so I just -- I just actually would be cheering Mitt Romney, instead of booing him, as the people did at his own convention.
MELBER: Well, then you would need to get a ticket to Utah. You would have to go to the convention.
KLOBUCHAR: I know. I guess I wouldn`t really be invited. I don`t think I would get a good reception, if he didn`t.
But the point of it is, I actually brought him up several times during the Democratic presidential debates from the stage.
KLOBUCHAR: Because I think we need our people who are willing to speak truth to power.
And you look at the insurrection, which you brought up, at that moment, that night, there were a bunch of people, not just Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney, that voted to uphold those results. That was very, very important that night.
KLOBUCHAR: And that brought us to that inaugural stage where we could stand together and our democracy had that moment where we brushed it off and stood there united.
And I thought that was really important for our country. But, since then, we continue to see this fraying and untruths be told, then leading to misinformation about vaccines. I just think it`s incredibly bad for the fabric of this country.
And I`m proud of Joe Biden for standing up against it and understanding that there are still Republicans -- we know this from the polls and independents -- that support what he`s doing. And that`s why I`m able to go around and talk about -- to Democrats and Republicans in my state.
MELBER: Right. Right.
KLOBUCHAR: But it seems like you have got Republicans supporting his agenda, except the ones in Congress, how it is.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, appreciate your joining us.
I have to fit in this break, right? So, thank you, Senator Klobuchar.
Again, though, the book, for those interested, is "Antitrust."
And we will be back with one more thing.
MELBER: Finally tonight: today, friends and family gathering for the funeral of Andrew Brown, a North Carolina man whose death at the hands of police has sparked these all-too-familiar calls for more accountability, justice and transparency, Brown shot and killed the day after the Chauvin verdict.
My colleague Al Sharpton spoke at the funeral, putting the death in the context of this whole year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. AL SHARPTON, HOST, "POLITICS NATION": From Daunte Wright, to Andrew Brown, to Breonna Taylor, to Ahmaud Arbery, to Rayshard Brooks, to George Floyd, all of this happening during a pandemic, all within a year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A judge has blocked released of the full video. And we will stay on the story.
Now, as I sign off tonight. I want to tell you one more thing. After THE BEAT, you can go onto my Instagram, @AriMelber on Instagram. I will be doing a live video tonight, @AriMelber on Instagram, with Mike Dean. He`s a super producer who`s worked with Travis Scott, Kanye and much more.
And we`re not only going to be talking music, but art. I will explain it all if you join me on Instagram @AriMelber 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
And stay tuned right now for "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID."