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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 5/6/21

Guests: Mark Thompson, Bill Kristol, Hakeem Jeffries, John Flannery


The investigation into Rudy Giuliani heats up. Congressman Matt Gaetz speaks out in a new interview. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries speaks out. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs a voter suppression bill in Florida. Some Republicans are now touting the COVID relief plan they voted against.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.

And, boy, do we have a big show tonight.

Congressman Matt Gaetz, a lot going on with him, and we`re going to be all over that story tonight.

We have, more than that, a big story on Rudy Giuliani coming up. We also have -- I`m looking at my notes, because that`s all I`m working off here. We have Mitch McConnell and COVID hypocrisy. So, it`s a lot to get to.

Let me start with Rudy Giuliani and some of what we`re seeing here.

Number one, we`re seeing basically the man who used to run the Southern District office of New York now have second thoughts about how this all works. Indeed, he`s gone from being the hunter to the hunted, and he doesn`t seem to realize it.

Let`s play a little bit of how he sounds. Take a look.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They come into my apartment on this one stupid thing. And we have got -- we have got proof staring right there in the FBI that Hunter Biden did it. On 11 occasions, he didn`t file. And nobody cares. Nobody`s broken into his house.


MELBER: Nobody cares. Nobody broke into his house.

Well, let me do a quick fact-check. And then I`m going to bring in our guest tonight, because this is a big story.

Fact-check number one, nobody broke into Rudy Giuliani`s home. As he knows better than most, being the lawyer that he is, his home was peacefully search under a lawful warrant issued by a judge, supported, authorized by a judge. That`s the opposite of a break-in.

Number two, as for Mr. Hunter Biden, who is not accused of the level of wrongdoing that some in the Trump administration are pursuant to the election, well, Hunter Biden is under a type of investigation. And everyone will see where that goes.

But, number three -- and this is most important tonight -- Rudy Giuliani doesn`t call the shots anymore. As I mentioned, he`s the hunted, not the hunter. He`s not the prosecutor. So, as he holds fort in these interviews and talks up the idea that he has insight into who should be investigated, it may be that he doesn`t realize how hard and fall -- how hard and long his fall has been, because it`s not his call, because he`s not the investigator.

He`s not the FBI. He`s not the DOJ. His views on Hunter Biden are irrelevant, even as he tries to use this period of defense as some kind of political offense.

Let we bring in our special guests tonight, John Flannery and Juanita Tolliver, who join us on this big story.

John, as we often mention, you did overlap in serving with Mr. Giuliani in the Southern District.


MELBER: I mention this, because while he has sort of freelanced and evolved his defense here as he`s going -- and he has not yet been accused of wrongdoing or indicted -- he has gone from saying the agents were professional, to it`s some sort of out-of-control cover-up, to now trying to reappoint himself a kind of a freelancing prosecutor, like his views on Hunter or anyone else matter.


Well, you say freelance and he evolved. I think he`s devolved. I think he`s gone in a reverse direction and (AUDIO GAP) when he compromised both Cohen`s defense and Trump`s defense before.

So, you have a man now who`s desperate and imbalanced and doing what he would never advise a client to do if he was following book rules, which is to go out and talk to the press when you don`t know what their evidence is. That`s the biggest reason that you remain silent, until you know exactly what you`re dealing with.

So, his -- I think I have said before that he should be arrested for impersonating a criminal defense lawyer. Now he should be arrested for not being a good defendant.


FLANNERY: The -- and this thing about the money, I think nobody trusts him anymore. Nobody wants to get close to him. He is radioactive.

Think about it. When he was going through the divorce recently with Judi Nathan Giuliani, she said that they -- these people spend $234,000 a month. I mean, what family spends that? And her -- if I`m correct, I think she`s getting a monthly alimony of 40-something-thousand.

This guy two years ago was supposedly worth $45 million. And we have all these people out there making bogus claims about why they should be paying for his lawyers. He wasn`t combining with the RNC. And they have said they don`t have any obligation to pay him.

He`s the one who (AUDIO GAP) divorce that he was going to use -- he was doing this pro bono for the president, it was public service. And the lawyer in that case said he was saying that so that he would pay less support for Judi.

And we had (AUDIO GAP) we should be getting $230 million. Some of that, we should be getting for our defense. But he said that Trump was not -- he was doing it for Trump, but Trump said, no, he`s on his own. He`s not with me.

So, you have so many contradictions. And he is unable to weave his way through these contradictions. And, in part, it`s because he`s lied so much so often that no one believes them, not even the people that once stood by him. And given where he is, in a precarious position, nobody`s going to jump in and sink into the abyss with him.

That`s where I think we are with Rudy.

MELBER: Well, like the prosecutor that you are at heart, you have just pointed to several key holes in what he said, which go also to the line back to Donald Trump, which is interesting and potentially ominous.

So, we were going to get to this. I will get to right now and then bring Juanita into the conversation.


MELBER: But while Rudy`s out here saying, oh, he wants to feel like a prosecutor and play that role, behind the scenes, we`re seeing he`s just actually acting on the new reality, laying off, as just mentioned by John, several staffers to cut costs, his allies protesting to Trump has been stiffing him and say he should be compensated, instead of being ignored.

Now, what does Donald Trump have to say about all this, as his second order faces federal probes? Well, as mentioned as well, his side is leaking. The once mighty president now has his hands tied, saying, Trump wants to help Giuliani, but it`s not his call.

I want to be clear with you. Only Trump and his team know what they mean by that. If the point is that Giuliani is in some kind of trouble that Trump needs to avoid or the kind of ongoing schemes that Trump cannot risk funding for his own exposure, it sounds like a damning admission.

And, remember, we`re not even talking about Trump`s own money here. After the election, Trump raised $225 million by telling supporters to donate to support the Giuliani-led effort to contest the election.

If Trump blocked any of that money from paying Giuliani during that period, and blocked any spending on behalf of Giuliani as he faced lawsuits he incurred civilly with the voting machines and others only because of that work, and now Giuliani has a mounting hole in his finances amidst this escalating probe, and Trump won`t pay the lawyers that might keep his lawyer out of jail, well, I take the question to Juanita.

What was all that legal Trump money for?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It most certainly wasn`t for what Giuliani was undertaking and giving Trump`s big lie legs, right?

He filed lawsuit after lawsuit across the country after the November 2020 election, only to not be paid. And what we`re hearing -- or the lack of response from Trump and his team is that it really, truly aligns with what he`s done to his other attorneys.

Like, look at Michael Cohen. The moment he decided he was irrelevant, the moment he decided he was done with him, he stopped paying him too, Ari. And so this just aligns with Trump`s playbook. No matter what he says, his hands are tied, we know who`s in control over there. And Trump has decided to not come to Giuliani`s defense.

And Giuliani has been Trump`s ride-or-die for years. And this is how he repays him, rather doesn`t pay him, right? So I can`t feign surprise at this response from Trump and his team, because when Trump decides he`s done with you, he`s done. And Giuliani has been cut off.

And, as John said, he`s floundering. He doesn`t know what to do. So he keeps talking, which does not help him. It only digs this hole deeper, Ari.


MELBER: Yes, John, what do you think about that and why these Trump allies are telling the "New York Times" reporter, oh, he wants to, he can`t?

FLANNERY: Well, see, he`s in an interesting position right now.

The question is, what are these things that we, the feds, seized from his home and his office? (AUDIO GAP) Trump`s view is, this guy was not my lawyer. This guy was on his own. He was doing what he wanted to do.

Well, the question I would ask as a prosecutor is, since the privilege runs to you Trump, are you asserting a privilege, or are you saying there is none because he was not your lawyer? And then the whole thing washes away. So he`s in a very peculiar legal position, in part because of Rudy and he, what they said publicly before.

They were -- there was an interview with Bill O`Reilly, I believe, ages ago, in which we had -- we had Trump saying, well, he does what he does. He`s very energetic. He`s not my lawyer. He`s doing what he wants to do.

Well, that kind of squashes the attorney-client privilege. So, where then is Rudy? Everything is used by the prosecution in that scenario.

Now, I would -- as a prosecutor, I`d want to immediately as Trump, are you asserting a privilege? Are you waiving a privilege? Was there a privilege? Were there third parties involved which would blow away the privilege? Do you admit this was a crime, so your communication couldn`t be privileged?

That`s the kind of stuff that I think mixes up this case and brings these two people together in a way that they do not want to be.


FLANNERY: Well, I think Rudy may not know, but I think Trump knows he doesn`t want to be with this guy right now.

MELBER: So, let me do some pushback, which might be the kind of argument that Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump would make were they slightly better at this. But they`re not.


MELBER: And I think a lot of what they have said, as I have fact-checked for viewers, is off-base.

But I will put to you, what about the argument that`s out there that SDNY has been super aggressive with all these people around Trump, and while they may have been able to prove their individual cases, that there is an argument of a kind of selective high-profile prosecution?

As you know, and you have taken the oath, you`re not supposed to hold it against someone that they`re poor, any more than that they`re rich. You`re supposed to go prosecute.


MELBER: And we have seen many honest prosecutors who do that. And we have some cases where it does seem that there`s bias.

What do you say to that outside argument, John, that people in this office that you used to work in seem obsessed with Donald Trump, and they seem to be going at anyone near him, and that is a kind of a factor here that is out of bounds?

FLANNERY: Well, on the one hand, he`s not going to get a public defender appointed to him, not with his -- his property on 66th Street in Palm Beach and the Hamptons, and all those boxes at the opera that he has, and paying people $43,000.

So he has some money somewhere. And I think the discrimination here, which is legitimate, is, if you lie, we don`t trust you for anything. And we can`t rely on what he says, because he`s had -- where did the $45 million go?

So this is a guy that we have known publicly for ages has been lying about everything, in fact, is being investigated in Georgia for lying to the state Senate. And he`s being prosecuted by Dominion by lying about what their voting machines should do.

So, why is this inconsistent with any other lie he`s said?


MELBER: Let me focus you.

Are you implying, then, that your point is, there`s enough here, enough exposure here that any office would go after Giuliani, even if he had no link to Donald Trump?

FLANNERY: Well, yes.

Let`s assume for a minute that Trump didn`t ask him to do anything. He`s still accused -- well, the accusation in the Southern District, if one is filed...

MELBER: Suspected of, yes.


FLANNERY: He funneled money -- yes (AUDIO GAP) indictment, is that he funneled money through a bogus company that was a shell, for which some say he was a part, some say he wasn`t, to persuade elected officials, including a senator from Texas, Peter Sessions (AUDIO GAP) Ambassador Yovanovitch and Ukraine.

And why? Because she was in the way of him getting dirt on the president`s son. And that was to affect the election. So, you got the -- you have got bar violations. You got campaign violations. You got lying violations. You have all sorts of things. And I guess, ideally, Trump could say, oh, Jesus, that surprised me. I didn`t know anything about that.

I don`t -- if you take the transcript of his conversation with the president of Ukraine, but, yes, you could prosecute, yes.


MELBER: Yes, you`re saying that`s a big deal. And if Donald Trump walked away, the SDNY still has an obligation and a reason to go after that kind of case.

Juanita, your thoughts on all the above.

TOLLIVER: I honestly think that Giuliani`s track record is of continuously talking and leaking additional information that does not help his case is what is the foundation for the investigations we`re seeing, not only from the Southern District of New York, but also the FBI, Ari, right?

Like, we know that this investigation started under Trump`s administration. They blocked these search warrants. They blocked any action them. But now the Biden administration is picking those up, as they should, and expanding their investigations too.

So I think investigators are right to keep digging. I do think the question of privilege is going to be a deciding factor in how much Trump`s fate is intertwined with Giuliani`s as well.

MELBER: And, John, there is one thing that you are guilty of today. Do you know what it is?


FLANNERY: Well, I`m not in the practice of admitting guilt here.


MELBER: You...


FLANNERY: ... advise a client. So, no, I`m not guilty. I didn`t do anything. I don`t know what you`re talking about.



MELBER: You are guilty -- you`re guilty of having the most patriotic outfit on television today or tonight.

TOLLIVER: Oh, good...


MELBER: We put our money on it. And we love it.

FLANNERY: Let me tell you, I put this on today consciously with the stars up above because I finally believe (AUDIO GAP) on course again, and it hasn`t been.

And this -- it`s wonderful every day to wake up and listen to people talk in full sentences and trying to be -- constructively move the nation forward. So that`s why I`m wearing the tie. You invited that, by the way.


MELBER: John, John Flannery, always sartorially patriotic, and with even an allegory, to boot.

That`s what we love you. Thanks for coming on.

Juanita, we like you so much, we`re going to hear -- everyone`s going to hear from Juanita again later this hour on another important story.

So, I will see you in a minute.

We have our shortest break now, just 30 seconds.

And coming up: Matt Gaetz speaking out in a new interview. He says he`s being investigated for sex crimes because he`s like Trump.

We`re back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: Republican Congressman and MAGA favorite Matt Gaetz battling allegations of sex trafficking and sex with a minor. He has denied at all. He`s been fighting back in public, sometimes on friendly turf.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): There is no 17-year-old that I had any sexual contact with as an adult man, absolutely not, does not exist, did not happen. There are a ton of things in my life looking back that I wish I would have done differently, but none of them are criminal. None of this constitutes a crime.


MELBER: Gaetz continuing to make his own defense there on air in person. That was with Newsmax.

Federal investigators will be the ultimate arbiter of whether there`s enough to charge a crime. And, if so, then, of course, everyone has a right to a jury trial.

As we have emphasized, Gaetz hasn`t been charged yet. And he denies all these allegations, although he`s facing a lot of problems with his indicted ally.

Now, the next part of his defense as he does the airwaves is, he`s just like Trump.


GAETZ: But they always come for the fighters, Grant, Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, Matt Gaetz. It`s never the meek that they come for. It`s always those who are fighting hard for the America first agenda.

And I have got a lot of fight left in me.


MELBER: That`s the public face he`s putting on it. And Gaetz is certainly fighting, that`s true, politically as well as in this type of legal adjacent defense.

He brings the fight in public tomorrow, because he`s doing a tour of rallies with the QAnon congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.


GAETZ: The America first movement isn`t going anywhere. In fact, we`re going on tour. And you know what, Grant? We`re going to call out the establishment in both political parties. I`m so excited that, on Friday, Marjorie Taylor Greene and I are hosting an America first rally.


MELBER: Said rally will be at The Villages in Florida. This is the state, of course, where he`s from and where his indicted ally Joel Greenberg is now in jail and discussing, reportedly, some type of cooperation.

We mentioned that blockbuster Daily Beast report that alleges Greenberg wrote down his confession and said -- quote -- "Rep. Gaetz paid for sex with multiple women, as well as a girl who was 17 at the time."

Since this story broke, NBC has not been able to obtain that letter, so we can`t personally verify it through our reporting. Gaetz, again, denies all allegations and has not been charged at this time with any crime.

I`m joined now by Bill Kristol, director of Defending Democracy Together, editor at large of The Bulwark, and something of a modern self-taught student of the MAGA movement.

Is that fair?

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: God, I guess I have to accept that. It`s not really what I have ever wished to be my epitaph, but go right ahead, Ari. Just call me that, a student of the MAGA...


KRISTOL: William Kristol, student of the MAGA movement.


MELBER: Well, I hear you. It`s part of where you ended up in this political era. It may not be everything you have ever done or will do, Bill.

But I tee that up because this is quite a set of salacious stories. We have heard from victim advocates and attorneys and others with concern for what, at least according to the feds in the Greenberg case, are already some victims, as well as open questions, which can only be resolved through fact-gathering and due process, about what, if anything, Mr. Gaetz may have done.

And I say that in all fairness and seriousness.

The wider context that I want to ask you about right now is how someone in this much trouble, rather than laying back or laying low, is doubling down on this MAGA attack, not only on Democrats or liberals or whatever, but also, as you just heard him say there, the establishment of his own party, Bill?

KRISTOL: He is taking a victory lap on Twitter today in an additional tweet, relishing the fact that, three months ago, he went to Wyoming to attack Liz Cheney, and say she shouldn`t be House Republican chair.

She survived that first assault in February, and now she may well lose next week. So he was ahead of the curve in attacking Liz Cheney, which is, when you think about it, really astounding, right? The Republican Party, the House Republican Conference, is now doing nothing to punish Matt Gaetz at this point, not even distancing themselves from him, not even criticizing him or being a little wary of him.

But Liz Cheney is going to be, probably, deposed as Republican Conference number three next week. Why? For telling the truth. I mean, it`s simple, for telling the truth and not bowing to Donald Trump. That`s it, right?

So that does -- to be a party that`s pro-Gaetz and anti-Cheney, that`s pretty astounding.

MELBER: Yes, yes. That`s one way to put it.

I want to play a little bit more, again, from him speaking out. And I say this to viewers, but, sometimes, Bill, I have to keep saying it, so it may not sound, but it is. It is unusual for people caught up in serious federal criminal probes to go do spontaneous repeated TV interviews.

I know we have Giuliani. Now we have Gaetz. We have a couple exceptions. But this is highly unusual, even for politicians. But here`s a little bit more from the Gaetz interview.


GAETZ: What you see from the government, I think, is really a politicization of the Department of Justice.

And, really, that started under Barack Obama and Eric Holder, and then it continued over. I think there`s a lot of swamp left to be drained at the Department of Justice.


MELBER: Bill, it sounds almost lazy, but is this effective? Where does this fit into the problem facing at least part of the Republican Party?

KRISTOL: I mean, I think it may -- I don`t know that he`s being foolish from his point of view. I mean, he`s not giving any more information.

So, whether he could be indicted or not on all the things his friend were indicted for and all the cash transactions -- or I guess they`re whatever they are, app transactions of cash to young women and all that really unseemly and pretty disgusting stuff, whether it`s criminal, obviously, I don`t know.

And -- but what he`s doing now is attacking the prosecutors, right? That works politically often. We know that over the years, right? You discredit the prosecutors. Whether it would actually help in a trial, who knows. But it makes him a hero. He`s persecuted. He can`t do much right now in terms of what the feds have in terms of the actual evidence in terms of criminality, but he can do a lot to help.

I mean, being persecuted by the federal government, that`s good for MAGA. I`m not sure -- if he can -- the best thing for him if he can get to trial and get a hung jury, fantastic. He will be a hero, you know?

And so it tells you a lot about the movement, right? The victim is -- the self-understanding of the movement as being victims of the deep state, victims of the Biden Justice Department, even though the investigation was launched, of course, under Donald Trump, Donald Trump`s Justice Department.

And so, from his point of view, he`s playing his hand to try to benefit himself politically. And I`m not so sure he won`t. I mean, I wish I could tell you. After the last few months -- I would have said once upon a time, oh, my God, he`s in deep trouble.

You look -- after January 6, I thought things would change. Things have gotten worse in the Republican Party. Things have gotten worse in the MAGA movement. Conservatives who a year ago even were kind of, let`s just get through Trump, but, I mean, after this, no more of that, now it`s all excuses for Trump, excuses for Kevin McCarthy.

Look at Elise Stefanik, someone who started out as a reasonable person and is no -- she -- this is amazing. And I will take a second on this. January 6, she did not vote to overturn the electors from Arizona. Even she thought that was nuts, right? She voted to overturn the electors from Pennsylvania.

Now she`s on Steve Bannon`s show, a guy who himself was indicted and pardoned by Donald Trump as a grifter and total sycophant to authoritarians all over the world, an aid to them, and she`s on Bannon`s show, and she supports the Arizona -- this ludicrous Arizona recount.

I mean, the degeneration of the party is really astonishing. And Gaetz fits right in.


And, as you remind us, this -- there`s larger stakes here than any individual case or one`s views on DOJ reform or any of those more nuanced level. What you`re talking about, I know what you care a lot about is, is this going to be a governing compact that holds where we respect the outcomes of elections?

Because had it been down to just one state or something that was a potentially debatable thing in court -- I mean, the Supreme Court, which is full of Republican appointees, didn`t ever even hear it. It wasn`t that they rejected it. They didn`t even hear it. There was nothing colorable there.

But what happens with a strong man or woman type authoritarian leader, if they`re embedded with the Republican Party, and it is close, and they say, we`re not following the court, and we are going to seize the military?

I mean, this was as close as you can get without it being worse. And we know how bad it was on January 6.

So, I appreciate the larger context. That`s what we expect for you, Bill, because, as I mentioned -- and I say this because I know Bill -- at the end of the day, all he is and all he ever stood for and all he will be remembered by is his relationship with Donald Trump.

I`m kidding, Bill.

KRISTOL: That`s OK. That`s OK. I can take it.


KRISTOL: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Always good to have you. Bill Kristol, thank you very much.

KRISTOL: What about my relationship with Fat Joe? That means more -- Fat Joe means more to me than Donald Trump, you know?

MELBER: Hey, you know, at least you have that card in your back pocket. Well-played.

Our thanks to Bill. I`m going to fit in a break. Smart guy. Good sport. We appreciate it.

Coming up: We did into Mitch McConnell. You may remember this story. Kind of blew up in his face over obstruction. Now he`s sort of walking it back. We have a very special guest on that.

And what we just mentioned, the Liz Cheney problem in the Republican Party. Well, we`re going to hear from someone leading the other side, Nancy Pelosi`s lieutenant, top Democratic Hakeem Jeffries, here live. I`m interested to hear what he has to say tonight.

And later tonight: Governor DeSantis blocking all media, except, guess who, FOX News, as he signs a Republican bill to crack down on your right to vote. We have a fact-check.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Reaction pouring in here to Mitch McConnell`s revealing admission that he only wants to obstruct Joe Biden.

Many Democrats are saying they should just start taking him at his word, go it alone, since McConnell is admitting there`s no point to meeting or negotiating when he says things like this:


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): One hundred percent of my focus is on standing up to this administration. One hundred percent of my focus is on standing up to this administration.


MELBER: As own MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow looked at this and said, quite clearly, this could be a clarifying moment for Democrats.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Honestly, realistically, that clarity from the Republicans is very helpful.

I mean, having the Republicans in advance guarantee there will be zero votes from their side, no matter what`s in the bill, that frees Democrats up to stop worrying about what the Republicans think. They have taken themselves out of the game.

Democrats are basically cleared by Mitch McConnell to stop wasting time.



Is any of this playing well for McConnell? Well, not exactly, because the GOP, at a minimum, does want to keep the idea, the talk of bipartisanship as an option, a way to kind of attack Biden by saying he`s never meeting with them or being bipartisan, as a way to invoke bipartisanship for delay.

And that fact, that political fact, may be why McConnell is now playing word games today, trying to walk this back slightly by saying that he wants to stop Biden`s agenda -- quote -- "depending on what it is."

But the reference to 100 percent doesn`t leave any room for that.

We`re joined now, as promised by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from New York, a member of Speaker Pelosi`s leadership team.

Thanks for coming back on THE BEAT.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Great to be on with you, Ari.

MELBER: Your party now has been debating what to do about Mitch McConnell. And, as I have reported, Mitch McConnell`s trying to slightly un-McConnell what he said, although the record is clear.

Your response?

JEFFRIES: Well, Mitch McConnell has a way of putting himself on full blast. And, once again, he`s done that. He`s done this in the past.

He did it when he made clear that his top political objective was to make sure that Barack Obama was a one-term president. This is the same person who labeled himself as the Grim Reaper a few years ago, and made it clear to his donors that his sole job was to stop things from happening.

And now, of course, he`s doubled and tripled down on that message. There is a clear distinction between Democrats and Republicans right now, a moment of clarity for everyone. Democrats are the party of getting things done. Republicans are the party of obstruction.

Democrats believe in democracy. Republicans believe in autocracy. Democrats believe in building back better, the American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan, the American Families Plan, and Republicans are all about grievance and xenophobia.

MELBER: Yes, I hear what you`re saying there. And this is why it`s such a momentous clash.

Since we have you on the House side, I want to get into this other story. The congressman stays.

But here we are, six months into Biden`s presidency, Republicans squabbling about the past, as we have been discussing, the number one House Republican actively trying to oust the number three, Liz Cheney, because she`s fact- checked Trump`s election lies.

Now, this is the Republican Party`s Trump problem. It has been playing out at the highest levels of the party this week. And as I think the congressman knows, sometimes, we turn to bars and poetry for wisdom around here.

Republicans could certainly use some from the great writer Joan Didion, who recounted how it took her a long time to see that she`d stopped believing in new faces and came to understand -- quote -- "It is distinctly possible to stay too long at the fair."

Congressman, I quote the great Joan Didion for that idea, because you have got people at the MAGA fair six months, half-a-year into a new political era, and they`re not even being extreme in pursuit of some -- quote, unquote -- "party ideal" which may or may not be right.

They`re being extreme in the service of relitigating lies for an election loss signed, sealed, delivered.

JEFFRIES: Yes, Maya Angelou once said, if someone tells you who they are, believe them.

And this is who House Republicans are at this point. The House Republican Conference is a full-blown cult of personality as it relates to bending the knee to Donald Trump. We can`t sugarcoat it. We can`t moderate the language. This is who they are.

And that is why they`re ousting Liz Cheney. Liz Cheney has one of the most conservative voting records in the entire House of Representatives, more so than the person who it appears may replace her. The big difference is, she`s not willing to perpetrate the big lie that the election was stolen and Donald Trump somehow should be the president of the United States of America.

This is a very reckless moment. Ulysses Grant once said, there are but two parties now, patriots and traitors. This was back in 1861. Liz Cheney has chosen to be a patriot. And, apparently, being a patriot may be inconsistent with being a House Republican.

MELBER: As we say in the business, bars, Congressman.

Also, since I have you, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, I want to get your views on this unfolding Giuliani controversy. And you and I both understand everyone`s entitled to due process. The raid is a bad sign, but he hasn`t been accused of anything yet. But he`s also been at the center of the big election lie.

Here he was defending himself on "Hannity."


GIULIANI: Just about the day that I begin representing him is the day they go invade my iCloud.

So, try telling somebody that it wasn`t to get the material on Donald Trump. Totally done because they want to destroy my credibility.

There`s no way that I`m a Russian agent or anybody else`s agent. I was a lawyer who was representing a client who was innocent. The biggest burden a lawyer can have is to represent an innocent man. And I did it damn well.


MELBER: Congressman, your response?

And does this process, however it plays out, does it matter for accountability? Plenty of people want to move on, focus on the business of the day. But there was so much that was done against the Justice Department and equality under the law. Does it matter to have potentially accountability for some of these acts in the Trump era?

JEFFRIES: Absolutely.

We were very clear throughout the last four years that no one is above the law. That includes the president of the United States. It certainly includes one of his top consiglieres, Rudolph Giuliani, who, by the way, we have got to ask the question, how did he go from being America`s so-called mayor, so-called America`s mayor, to a caricature of Skeletor, right, a cartoon character?

It is an incredible descent. And he wrapped into it so much apparent criminality that the Justice Department is compelled to investigate. And so our view is really just that the Justice Department should follow the facts, apply the law, as always, be guided by the Constitution, and let the chips fall where they may.

And if that means an indictment and a trial, then so be it.

MELBER: Understood.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thanks for being here tonight.

JEFFRIES: As always, thanks. Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Coming up: The crackdown on voting is spreading. We have a fact-check, speaking of accountability, with Republican Ron DeSantis signing a voter suppression bill in Florida, and why FOX News got such special access.

Up next: shameless. They are out touting the COVID relief plan they actually voted against. We will explain.


MELBER: We`re seeing new signs of Republican hypocrisy on that big Biden stimulus bill, and it features some of the party`s top leaders.

House Minority Leader McCarthy, who has been in the news for this other clash, well, he also led the charge against COVID relief when the bill was passed in March.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): It rewards bad behavior. It`s a Bay Area bailout. It rewards states that shut down. This money does nothing to put people back to work, back to school or back to health.


MELBER: Does nothing to put people back to work and is a Bay Area bailout. He`s entitled to his views. What we give you here are facts and accountability.

And, tonight, the accountability shows McCarthy promoting the very same bill on his public political Facebook page and urging people in his district to apply for restaurant relief that only exists from the Biden bill that he voted against. Apparently, it`s available beyond the Bay Area.

Indeed, at least 13 Republican members of Congress have been promoting programs that are funded only through the new bill that they voted against. The list includes Greg Pence, brother of Trump`s Vice President Mike Pence, telling supporters -- quote -- "Help is on the way" and encouraging them to apply for relief funds.

Meanwhile, a freshman congresswoman who`s touting the bill that she voted against says it`s one of her top achievements. She claims to have brought home $3.7 million from Biden stimulus. She was against it. And the lawmaker who could replace Liz Cheney in leadership these days, Elise Stefanik, urging her constituents to, again, go get their Biden money.

And then she has the audacity to also slam the Biden agenda.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): We are going to run as an alternative to the Biden agenda, which is about crushing the American worker. We need to stand up for the American working class.


MELBER: Now, if you have a little deja vu, you may remember all the way back to the simpler days of 2009.

Every single House Republican voted against the Obama stimulus. It was another time where America was really on the ropes. There were a lot of economic arguments, apart from politics, to put some money out there. They all went against it on that McConnell-style anti-Obama agenda.

And then, as you see on your screen, they went out with big checks and handshakes, taking public credit for the stimulus projects in their district that they fought so hard to prevent from ever happening, big check or big lie.

I want to bring in Mark Thompson, host of the "Make It Plain" podcast, and, as promised and promoted earlier in the program, Juanita Tolliver back with us.

Mark, it is easy these days -- and I see this on the Internet sometime -- to go, well, this isn`t surprising. This is expected. I`m not surprised.

I ask you, should we care about this level of hypocrisy when it comes to whether people are getting what they need and deserve from the government and how to account for what the government`s doing because of the economic and moral imperative, regardless of whether this kind of political trickery is well-known?

MARK THOMPSON, "MAKE IT PLAIN": Well, thank you for having me, Ari.

I do think it`s a good thing people are getting the help they need. That`s the thing that matters. But I think it`s also important to point out what the Republicans are doing.

And what they`re really doing is making the case for their irrelevance. They aren`t doing anything. They have nothing to offer. Here they are again attacking the very relief that they`re taking credit for.

I would like to quote Nancy Pelosi. She had a great quote. They vote no and take the dough. I think their constituencies need to continue to be educated as voters that here is a party that encourages them to vote against their own interests, here is a party that is trying to take credit for something they did not do, and that there`s really only one other party that is acting in their best interests.

Frankly, I don`t -- it`s never a good idea for someone in politics to give credit to their political opponent. And what they may not realize is they`re doing exactly that.

MELBER: Well, they are doing that.

And, Juanita, I`m curious, as a political analyst, what is more validating to the short-term benefits of these programs? People can debate how big they should be, what do we got to do? I mean, there`s legitimate room for debate. That`s why we have, hopefully, a Congress that would work better, but a Congress to debate it.

But there`s no greater validation that some of this Biden money works than Republicans running around their district trying to make sure people know that they think they want to be a part of it, when that`s actually false.

TOLLIVER: Sure, it`s validation, Ari, but I don`t think Democrats or the American public needed that validation, when we know that people needed this direct aid. People were in dire need of this relief, and, frankly, more relief potentially to dig out of the hole that COVID has created, especially disproportionately in black and brown communities and for women in the work force.

So, validation aside, this is low down. This is shameful. This is trifling. This is every bad thing your grandmother told you not to be. Republicans are doing it right now.

And I think Democrats are really smart and strategic in making sure that the voters know that Republicans didn`t lift a single finger and, in fact, attempted to obstruct the process in order for this aid to get to the general public.

And so we`re seeing the DNC pull out their billboards and run messaging digitally targeted in key states to make sure that voters don`t forget this, because this is absolutely something that should accompany every message that the White House puts out, every message that the Democratic apparatus puts out that not only highlights the impact and the benefits of the relief bill, but also how Republicans didn`t do a single thing, and play that Mitch McConnell hit on a loop about how he and the GOP are united in obstructing this administration at every turn.

MELBER: Yes, well, Juanita, I don`t know if you`re familiar with the Canadian actor/singer/sometimes rapper Aubrey Graham, but he did say the petty is real.


TOLLIVER: Petty is real. And petty resonates Ari, right? People fully understand what it means when Democrats call this out unrelentingly.

And I think it`s important that they do that on a drumbeat in the lead-up to the midterms.

MELBER: On a beat.



THOMPSON: I would hope that those who are Republican voters, lean Republican, independents leaning Republican, what have you, would realize that they`re all having their intelligence insulted at this very moment.

These are party leaders in this party, Republican Party, who could care less about the well-being of their constituents. What the Rescue Plan has done is help everyone, not just Democrats. And now they want to take credit for something that they quite vocally on all of their right-wing media espoused as something bad and something that they would never support.

And also then to say for Mitch McConnell, who is a king of hypocrisy -- he criticizes corporations from pulling out of Atlanta while he takes -- and says they shouldn`t be involved in politics -- while he takes corporate money. He accuses Democrats of court packing, when that`s all he`s done since 2016.

And now even he himself is taking credit and saying he`s going to spend his time trying to stop Joe Biden, this coming from a party that`s not even working and functioning to do anything to improve the conditions of the American people in this pandemic.

So, I just hope and pray that those who are you in any way on the fence or confused can be clear now that they`re not working in any American`s best interest and that they are, in fact, not only hypocrites, but liars.

MELBER: And that`s the last point in this segment, straight up.

Mark Thompson, Juanita Tolliver, thanks to both of you.

Coming up: why a Republican governor was caught running from reporters after blocking them from witnessing a big bill signing in Florida today.


QUESTION: Governor, why the secrecy? Why wouldn`t you let the public see the signing of this bill?


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It was on national TV. It wasn`t secret.


MELBER: It was on national TV, so why the controversy?

We will explain exactly why next.


MELBER: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis today signed this controversial voting bill that restricts voting in many key ways, largely behind closed doors.

Indeed, there`s a bit of an echo here in how this was recently done in Georgia, which followed a Trump playbook. And there was even a scandal over not only what was in the voting bill, but the secretive signing.

Now, let`s be clear. Politicians and government officials can give interviews to specific networks or news outlets, be it TV or print. They call them exclusives. And that is fairly standard.

But official government acts, like a bill signing or a public speech in the halls of Congress, are supposed to typically be open to the entire press. And that`s what makes today striking, the Florida governor signing this voting law, but doing it only in a broadcast that was provided exclusively to FOX News, while all other news outlets, including the local ones, were blocked.

And we were told this was all a FOX exclusive.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s bring in Florida`s Governor Ron DeSantis.

Good morning to you, Governor.

DESANTIS: Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s going to be different about Florida`s election in 2022?

DESANTIS: We`re making sure we`re enforcing voter I.D.

So, right now, I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country. I`m actually going to sign it right here. It`s going to take effect.




DESANTIS: The bill is signed.


MELBER: Government`s not supposed to be exclusive, certainly not when you use the powers vested in you by the voters to affect their lives.

Among other things, this Florida law, beyond how it was P.R.-promoted, does real-world things, with stronger voter I.D. requirements, potential limits to mail-in voting, limits to drop boxes, and provisions that many voting rights experts say will just discourage groups from being able to support people who are in line or trying to vote.

There are voting rights activists who are also concerned, depending on how it`s implied, that it could be discriminatory against people of color or against groups that largely vote Democratic.

This goes beyond Florida. In Texas today, new protests, where Republicans are pushing for even more voter restrictions there. And it already has some of the toughest voting laws in the country. NAACP is saying it will appeal today`s newly signed Florida law in federal court.

But we will stay on that story for you.

Up ahead: a surprising political approach to getting some people who are reluctant to try vaccination.


MELBER: Finally, tonight, there is a new way that some are trying to persuade people who may be reluctant to try the COVID vaccine.

Here`s an argument from Minnesota Governor Tim Walz:


REP. TIM WALZ (D-MN): I know you have sick of seeing us, seeing me in particular.

And those of you have been hesitant on this and you`re looking forward to it, and you have been frustrated and you think I have gotten this wrong, get the vaccine to make sure you`re around next November. Then you can cast that vote. This is your time.


MELBER: "This is your time," the governor trying in a certain way to make sure people understand, get the vaccine, so you can stay alive long enough to, if you want, even vote him out of office.

Now, he says this because surveys are showing that some groups, including half of Republican men, are now saying they just won`t get the vaccine at all.

It`s an interesting point on a story that affects all of us. And we wanted to share how one leader is reaching out to people even all across the spectrum.

That does it for us. I will be back tomorrow at 6:00 Eastern.

You can always find me online @AriMelber on social media.