Ben & Jerry`s co-founders Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen discuss police reform. FBI Director Chris Wray testifies on Capitol Hill. While in Great Britain, President Biden announces that the United States will donate half-a-billion COVID vaccines to nations in need. Brian Stelter discusses how right-wing media is fueling Republican extremism. Manhattan district attorney candidate Tali Farhadian Weinstein discusses the race.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you very much.
Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.
And here`s what we have cooking on a very big show, President Biden announcing what amounts to a massive COVID Marshall Plan of sorts to try to help the whole world get vaccinated. It is also a break with much of the foreign policy that talked about America first, at the exclusion of other countries and other nations` needs, under the Trump administration.
And back by popular demand, yes, the ice cream legends and social justice activists. Ben and Jerry return to THE BEAT. You may remember, if you watch the show nightly, we were excited to have them. Breaking news intervened. We promised to bring them to you. They`re here tonight.
We begin right now, though, with the top story, FBI Director Chris Wray testifying on Capitol Hill. Now, this is the first time that he is speaking in this forum, pressed adversarially by senators, since that report came out that we brought you on the January 6 riot.
And there was quite the political divide on display, even though the FBI director`s job, like those agents and like police, would be to just focus on the safety and security of the Capitol. And you would think that would be hopefully the kind of thing that people could get behind regardless of party.
But that wasn`t the case. Now, Democrats pressed and why the FBI was not also investigating Donald Trump. Republicans pressing more about why the FBI is part of an independent DOJ investigation that has touched on Donald Trump`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Have any of these words been reviewed to determine whether or not President Trump`s words and deeds should be referred to the Department of Justice as contributing to the violence of the insurrectionists on January 6?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I`m not aware of any investigation that specifically goes to that.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Did you sign off on the raid on Mayor Giuliani`s apartment?
WRAY: Again, I`m not going to discuss any specific investigations.
JORDAN: Did you sign off on this specific FBI activity, where the president`s personal lawyer`s apartment in Manhattan was raided?
WRAY: And, again, I`m not going to discuss any specific investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And then you have a moment fit for our times.
One of the MAGA favorites, Congressman Matt Gaetz, who, according to public accounting, as well as his own statements, has been a subject of an FBI investigation that touches on sex trafficking and already has a separate conviction, he was the one questioning the very FBI director whose agents executed a search warrant and seized against Gaetz`s phone back in December.
It`s that kind of day on the Hill. And we have more updates for you.
But I want to first bring in our guests, Michael Steele, former RNC chair, and "Washington Post" reporter Libby Casey.
Michael, we don`t actually need to play a ton from the hearing, because, while there were some tidbits and some important points, and some people being serious, there was a lot of the partisan posturing or repeating questions that aren`t even going to get answered in order to prove to someone somewhere watching that this was what was being brought up.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MELBER: What do you take from what is still and what should be an important moment when the FBI director, faces the Senate for the first time since it`s done its mini, miniature, not full investigation of the -- that riot?
STEELE: Well, my take is, in any other universe, all the actors sitting on those dais who were looking down in judgment would take it seriously and would bring that level of seriousness to their questioning and to really trying to get to whatever truth the hearing was called to find out and discover or learn more about.
Director Wray is doing what he`s going to do. He`s not going to answer questions, obviously, on specific matters. I find it a little bit cheeky, rich that you got Matt Gaetz who`s asking questions.
If I were Wray in that moment, I would have said, you know what, sir, I`m going to avoid answering a question because you`re currently under investigation by my department.
That would have been a rich moment just to sort of speak to the craziness of the politics. But that also tells us where we are here, that what are we trying to get at with this and what more are we trying to learn?
And I think, for the American people, it`s a lot of, OK, didn`t we do that already? Why is Wray testifying again? And I don`t know if that`s how the Dems have postured this particular hearing in the public`s eye, so that that is a question. I had a couple of people ask me about it. It`s like, what`s going on with this again? I thought that was Mueller and that was done.
And, certainly, the Republicans are going to play it as if it is nothing more than a repeat of the witch-hunt, to use their term, that went after Donald Trump, which is what Jim Jordan was getting at, which was just uselessness sitting in a chair.
MELBER: Well, Michael, you raise several great points, including one that I want to bring Libby in on, which is the double bind that the DOJ, and the FBI, as part of the DOJ, is in,.
I mentioned the congressional investigation was that House report that looked at January 6. Meanwhile, there hasn`t been, of course, the larger commission that`s been called for.
But, Libby, what Michael raises, and our colleague Rachel Maddow has been pressing on this, is that the DOJ and FBI are in this special bind where they obviously -- the people, they were put through the Trump pressures, and there were a lot of attacks on the rule of law and independence of those entities.
And just this week, we had the transcript come out about the attempt to fire Mueller and other things that might have been a second Saturday Night Massacre.
And so, Libby, how do you have to look at the challenge of someone like Wray, who`s a holdover from the Trump administration, Merrick Garland, who`s the new attorney general, nominally his boss, although we have all learned about FBI directors sometimes act like they don`t have any other boss at DOJ, how do they both deal with what Michael just referred to, which is a total fatigue of all those issues, and yet also not just say, well, I guess we will just go back to pre-Trump normal, as if all that stuff didn`t happen?
Because that`s a balancing act that`s really quite tricky for restoring independence there.
LIBBY CASEY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, one of the ways that that can be done is by answering directly questions about January 6.
And we did hear the director today call it extremist violence. We have to remember, Ari, more than 100 officers were injured. There have been more than 500 arrests, and the FBI director said we can expect some more serious charges to be announced.
But this gets to the heart of, are we living in a revisionist history, or are we willing to look directly and squarely at what happened over the past year and, frankly, in the years preceding that? Because there are some real questions that Democrats specifically were asking about regarding President Trump`s behavior, his words, and what led to the attack on the Capitol on January 6.
Now, the FBI director wouldn`t go with what one of the Democrats wanted to do and call the riot an insurrection. He sort of demurred on that. But these labels are important because they get to the heart of just what happened. And, like so many House hearings, you feel like you`re in two separate worlds. It`s like you feel like you have changed the channel between hearing -- between events, when you hear a Republican ask a question that is just totally disconnected from what the Democrats are asking about and probing.
Sometimes, that can be useful because it sort of bites at the apple from different angles. But, sometimes, it just feels so partisan. And we didn`t really learn a whole lot today. There`s still a lot of questions including about this report that came from the FBI`s own Norfolk field office before the attack happened on January 6 that seemed to sort of predict what might happen.
And we have a lot of questions about why that intelligence wasn`t followed up on. And in order to get those answers, there needs to be a reckoning and a real probing here in a focused, deliberative way.
MELBER: Yes, all great points.
I mentioned bringing in the other big story. And that`s the president`s first overseas trip, Biden at the G7 summit, and meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and making this announcement that we just previewed, that the United States will donate half-a-billion COVID vaccines to nations in need. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is about our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation to save as many lives as we can.
America will be the arsenal of vaccines in our fight against COVID-19. We`re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic, working alongside our global partners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Michael, what does it mean for foreign policy that the United States has gone from a country that in many ways, under the previous administration, was one of the worst per capita in dealing with COVID to now trying to use a surplus for both humanitarian and foreign policy goals?
STEELE: Right. It`s night and day, Ari. It`s night day.
Can you just imagine if a president at the beginning of 2020, in, let`s say, February of 2020 had taken that approach at the beginning of COVID that we heard Biden take here at the end of it, how different the landscape would have been for the health and the welfare of the American people and for our progression through this crisis, whether socially, economically, and certainly medically?
So, it`s a big deal. The United States is showing and asserting its leadership in this space, a lot -- not so much as, oh, follow us, as, no, we want to be the partner that helps all of us get better. And I think the Biden administration recognizes that, while, yes, there are benefits to that in the European capitals around the globe, reestablishing the NATO alliance, et cetera, that, here at home, it also kind of speaks to our nature as Americans, how we see ourselves as citizens in the global community.
When others are in need of help, we want to be there to help them. That was not the posture of the previous administration. It was more blaming and name-calling and finger-pointing than it was leading. And I think this is something that a lot of the European leaders are now finding refreshing.
Now, there are political problems we all know. There are a lot of milestones and potholes ahead. But at least Joe Biden and his administration are taking steps that I think a lot of people both abroad and at home can appreciate.
MELBER: Yes, I think you make an important point. This doesn`t have to be the hard part. They`re making it work. There will be harder parts ahead.
STEELE: That`s right.
MELBER: And yet this is a part that, under the previous administration, factually -- I`m just talking of factually -- wasn`t done.
MELBER: There wasn`t this kind of vaccine progress, let alone the kind of surplus that could be used as a tool, so very important.
I`m short on time because of some of the special stuff we have coming up. So I want to thank Michael and Libby for leading us off.
Coming up, how this calendar might actually shape what we have been covering, the escalating grand jury criminal probe into the Trump Organization. As promised, Ben and Jerry back on THE BEAT with a social justice flavor. We`re going to get into it.
And, first, how right-wing media is fueling Republican extremism. I have a very special guest. I bet you know who he is, the one and only Brian Stelter -- right after this break.
MELBER: Turning to something special, much of our news coverage around here isn`t supposed to be about the news itself, but several major developments are putting the news in the news.
Let me explain. This includes some important revelations about how far the Trump Justice Department went to try to search journalists` e-mails in a leak crackdown, seeking gag orders to keep their own efforts secret. Officials wanted thousands of e-mail logs from reporters at outlets like CNN and "The New York Times."
Now, while prosecutors generally want their probe secret from the public, which can be rational, this went further. Top lawyers at CNN now explaining that the DOJ got judges to use gag orders that prevented them from even having internal discussions with their newsroom bosses about what to do.
They say it denied them all the tools lawyers use every day. And this pressure started with Trump officials, but it`s also putting new heat on Joe Biden`s new attorney general to figure out whether they have the right rules to balance press freedoms with what may be important criminal probes.
It also comes as other digital companies are increasingly playing a role disseminating information that was once limited to former credential journalists, Facebook struggling to find what is so clearly false that they should take it down or limit and what is maybe debatable and should stay up on their platform.
They recently ended a policy that seemed to let politicians spread more misinformation or misleading material than other users. And the company found, when it took a hard line patrolling some posts that initially said that COVID came from a lab, well, Facebook found that it wound up basically overdoing it, because now U.S. intelligence says that`s one of the top credible theories for where COVID came from.
So Facebook had basically succumbed to some pressure to originally treat it as more like a -- quote -- crackpot idea," when now it is a mainstream and credible idea, and those posts will now stay up.
Joining us now is the special guests I previewed. Brian Stelter is host of CNN "Reliable Sources." He`s the author of "Hoax: Donald Trump, FOX News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth," which is now out in paperback, which is the only reason he`s allowed to leave CNN and come on THE BEAT.
Thanks for doing this.
BRIAN STELTER, AUTHOR, "HOAX: DONALD TRUMP, FOX NEWS, AND THE DANGEROUS DISTORTION OF TRUTH": Thanks for the chance.
MELBER: We will get to your book, but your thoughts on those tough media issues that I mentioned, how this DOJ balances reporters` rights, including what I mentioned, even touched at your own newsroom, and these other companies that don`t claim to be journalistic, but have to decide whether COVID theories go up or down?
STELTER: Well, I think this gag order revelation is appalling.
Just a few days ago, when I was asking people inside CNN, hey, is it possible that somehow we are also subject to a gag order, are our lawyers also gagged, I figured that was an outlandish question, and we would quickly hear the answer was no, there was no way, it was only "The New York Times," "The Washington Post" and CNN were not gagged.
Well, it turns out, as we learned yesterday, as you said, CNN`s lawyer was also placed under a gag order. So he couldn`t even talk to our correspondent Barbara Starr, whose e-mails were in question here. These leak investigations, the government trying to find leakers, spying on journalists in order to find leakers, it`s an appalling abuse of power.
Of course, as you know, it`s happened the Obama years and it happened in the Trump years. Now Biden is vowing to end it. But I think it`s going to be really important on Monday, when the attorney general meets with representatives of key news outlets, to get some firm promises and to find out if this is going to be codified, Ari, so that this can go on in the future.
The idea of a gag order against a news outlet, this is just -- it`s oxymoronic. It should never have happened.
MELBER: Oxymoronic and critics say just straight up moronic. So, I appreciate your breakdown on that.
MELBER: Usually, at CNN, you`re often in the other chair asking the questions.
And, Brian, a lot of people say you have a great track record. But there was criticism of your recent interview with the White House communications director, Jen Psaki. Let`s take a look at what people -- some people said maybe you were too warm. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: When you watch the news, when you read the news, what do you think we get wrong?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, look, I think some of our muscles have atrophied a little bit over the last few years.
STELTER: I want to know what the job is like vs. what you expected it to be like?
PSAKI: Well, I`m a human being.
When a question, the premise of a question is based in inaccurate information, misleading information, that can be frustrating.
STELTER: Five months in, do you feel you have made any progress with that, defeating the lies?
PSAKI: I try every day to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Your response.
And explain to us how you approach your interviews, how you try to be fair.
STELTER: Sometimes, I think I`m just a content machine for FOX News, because they need something to complain about.
But, in all seriousness, I think it is important to be critiqued and we all have to learn from criticism.
What I was trying to do with Psaki was more of a feature interview, because I was not on the main political program interviewing her about news and day policy. So I was trying to do more of a feature interview, and I thought it went well.
But I think it`s so important that we do listen to our good-faith critics, and we do try to learn from them. That`s the only way that journalism in this country is ever going to get better and we`re ever going to win trust back is by hearing our critics.
And I thought one of the most important Biden lines in the inaugural, which I brought up with Psaki, was when he said, we all have a responsibility to defend the truth and defeat the lies. In some ways, that is one of the biggest tests of the Biden era. It`s a challenge for Facebook, as you said.
STELTER: It`s a challenge for the CNNs and MSNBCs of the world.
STELTER: There`s a bright line we can all draw between reality and disinformation. And that`s a challenge both for you and me and for the White House, frankly.
MELBER: Well, let`s take that to your book, because you know how this works. They`re telling me I got 30 seconds, but tell us about your book, out in paperback.
MELBER: Why should people look at it now?
STELTER: I love hearing the wrap in my ear, the wrap sign from the producers. I get it, Ari.
I had to totally rewrite the book because so much has happened. January 6 was a riot of lies. And I think people don`t appreciate just how many lies were aired on FOX and on Newsmax and on OAN in the run-up to the riot. So that`s really what I tried to explore. I also delved into why right-wing TV has radicalized so much, because, even compared to the Trump years, these channels have become more radical.
And there are a lot of dissenters inside FOX who are disturbed about it. So I think that`s the new story in the Biden years. Is the GOP`s media machine going to continue to radicalize, and how is that going to affect the rest of the country?
MELBER: Very relevant. It`s a book as much about journalism and media as it is about where our politics are headed.
I heard you say you love rap. Is that what you`re saying, Brian? You love rap?
STELTER: Well, I -- oh, now I`m so nervous, because I did not prepare...
MELBER: You were saying a wrap here. Oh.
STELTER: I did not prepare for THE BEAT.
MELBER: No, you...
STELTER: I did not bring a beat with me.
MELBER: Well, you were saying you love a wrap, meaning when they tell us to stop. And they tell me that all the time, I talk too much.
STELTER: The wrap signal. You got it.
MELBER: But I thought you were saying you love rap, like hip-hop. You could see how I got confused.
This was not a clumsy pun, Brian. I just got confused.
MELBER: Thanks for being here.
STELTER: Thank you.
MELBER: I`m going to remind folks the book out in paperback is "Hoax: Donald Trump, FOX News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth." " Now, when we come back in just 60 seconds: the new heat on the Trump Organization in this criminal probe.
Stay with us.
MELBER: There is no exact data on the fact I`m about to tell you.
But legal experts say that most crimes are unsolved. When you think about it fundamentally, if you take all the reported crimes, and then all the unreported crimes, including things that only the potential criminal might know about, like something simple, refusing to report all your cash income, then the number of solved and convicted crimes is much lower than the total.
And when it comes to complex crimes that are maybe never busted, like not caught on tape or seen by a random witness or otherwise outed by surveillance footage, well, for those kinds of crimes, investigators typically need an insider.
That person may be part of the conspiracy, like the classic accomplices who flip in mob cases or "The Godfather." It could be someone who was there inside, whether they took part or not in the crime. So, a key part of prosecutors` jobs is to simply find those insiders. That`s what federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann did when he ran the very tough and feared Enron Task Force.
It`s part of why Bob Mueller tapped him to prosecute Trump`s campaign chair, Paul Manafort. And now Weissmann is telling us, in the current Trump Org probe, all of a sudden, brand-new, the Manhattan DA may have found his insider.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I`d like to throw out one more name, which is Jeff McConney.
It would be unusual to put somebody like McConney into the state grand jury, where he would be given immunity for -- as soon as he testifies automatically, if they didn`t think that he had something useful to provide.
In other words, Manhattan may have found their insider.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s striking. He`s talking about the current Trump Org official who just testified to the grand jury handling this criminal case, who reports directly to Trump`s moneyman.
And there`s a reason the New York DA is immortalized in so many stories and on the big screen. It`s a big job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: In the criminal justice system, that people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups, the police who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.
These are their stories.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I`m glad to have you on my team.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I`m not on a team, Marie. I represent the people of the state of New York.
MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL, ACTRESS: Come on, Harvey. You`re Gotham`s DA. You`re not getting shot at, you`re not doing your job right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And we know DA Cy Vance sees the money trail as the key to this case, which may tackle one of the most consequential calls in the history of the American presidency, whether to indict an ex-president for the first time.
Now, the grand jury is secret, but we do know the DA sees Trump`s business and personal money trail as a linchpin. He waged that multiyear effort to get Trump`s taxes, winning where literally every other person, Trump rival and every other investigation had failed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE RUHLE, NBC NEWS SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Declining to block a New York grand jury from getting President Trump`s personal and corporate tax returns.
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS: Clearing the way now for investigations to finally get their hands on the former president`s tax returns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have got them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Manhattan district attorney now is in possession of former President Donald Trump`s tax returns.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Millions of pages of Trump`s financial documents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Investigators now scouring those millions of documents.
And a Trump Org official who already did time says they`re key.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: How important will the tax records and financial statements the DA`s office received after last week`s Supreme Court decision be to the investigation?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: Yes, that sounds to me like the Holy Grail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Michael Cohen`s falling out with Trump is actually one of the most famous and costly of anyone in Trump`s orbit who ever fell out, complete with a prison sentence, no pardon, unlike some other Trump loyalists.
So Cohen has every reason to help this DA.
And we have clues that the DA is finding Cohen`s information useful. Time is limited, but they have already had Cohen in at least six times, as they probe four Trump properties that we know are reportedly under investigation. There may be more.
So, what will the DA do? We don`t know. When will we get an update?
Well, we can talk about that, because we actually have some clear signals. After 10 years on the job, this DA his term ends in December, as his former deputy and other experts have emphasized.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL R. ALONSO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: He`s not running for reelection. His term ends December 31.
And so there`s going to be a new DA on January 1.
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: And I don`t think they want to wait six months because that runs up against Vance`s date.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Former colleagues of this New York DA expect him to decide about any charges by the end of the year or earlier.
Now, if they don`t have enough evidence, of course, there could just be no charges by that deadline.
But, if they do indict -- and many see the escalating grand jury as assigned they`re going in that direction -- then they`re more likely to do so by this December deadline, so that this DA finishes that part. But then what?
I mean, DA Vance could make this momentous call, like indicting the entire company run by a former president or even the former president himself, and then he walks out the door. And the person who replaces him then inherits a very big case, if there`s an indictment, and then that person has to decide whether to wage it, or how, or, depending on the person, a new DA has the authority legally to change the whole approach or even drop the case.
So, as this investigation walks up to one of the greatest unprecedented legal calls in the history of the presidency, New York and thus our nation faces a question mark about who would even finish this job, which actually makes the current race to replace the DA a pretty big deal.
I mean, yes, I think about these things for a living, but this is a big deal if you think about it for one minute or you think about it with me tonight. So, it may not be getting wall-to-wall national attention, but I can tell you legal experts are watching this. People at the DOJ are watching this right now. People down in Mar-a-Lago are watching this.
Who`s going to take over this powerful post? The critical vote is actually just 12 days away. There are eight Democrats and one Republican running for a job that`s important in New York in many ways, no matter what, but that may also be ground zero for the trial of the century, depending on what the current DA does.
So, it`s pretty important what those candidates plan to do, as voters assess them in these final days. And among the eight Democrats in the primary, experts say there are actually only a handful of front-runners.
And one of them one of the leading DA candidates, Tali Weinstein, is here live next.
MELBER: We`re back reporting on this consequential race to replace the DA who is now leading this Trump Org criminal probe in New York.
Voters will choose among the candidates in just 12 days.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Manhattan DA Cy Vance.
RUHLE: Whose office is investigating former President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cyrus Vance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He will not run for reelection.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eight candidates are vying for the district attorney seat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tali Farhadian Weinstein and Alvin Bragg.
ALVIN BRAGG, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY CANDIDATE: I`m the candidate in the race who has the experience with Donald Trump.
ELIZA ORLINS, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY CANDIDATE: I`m Eliza Orlins. I`m the only public defender in this race.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lucy Lang, formerly an assistant DA in Vance`s office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A Vance exit would mean a new Manhattan DA in the spotlight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And, tonight, Tali Farhadian Weinstein joins us. She`s worked as a prosecutor in the Obama Justice Department and as general counsel of the Brooklyn DA`s office.
Thanks for being here.
TALI FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY CANDIDATE: Thank you for having me, Ari.
MELBER: Absolutely, we will get to the topic I mentioned.
But let`s start looking at the core of your job. How would you approach what is now a rising crime rate in New York?
FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Yes.
Well, so I`m talking to voters every single day, and they`re worried about this. So I`m glad that you started there, because this is really the core mission of this office, is to make sure that people feel safe everywhere, right, in their homes and in the street and the subway and at work and when they`re meeting the police.
And this -- this is always urgent, but it`s particularly urgent now that we get this right and that we make sure that we are investigating and prosecuting the crimes that are really hurting people the most and holding them back.
MELBER: I mentioned your experience. There`s a lot of talk about police reform, and that includes reforming prosecutorial offices.
You were tapped to run this exoneration unit, which is a big deal. But then -- quoting here -- it says, during the four months that you oversaw conviction review unit, exonerated only for people, which was actually lower than in the past.
Are you satisfied with that record? Was that rate ultimately too low, given the problems identified?
FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Ari, I think that that`s not the right measure.
So, first, let me take a step back and say that Ken Thompson and Eric Gonzalez built the premier conviction review unit in the country. This is really cutting edge to have prosecutors who are voluntarily going back, reinvestigating cases, sometimes cases that are decades-old, and then voluntarily asking courts to vacate these convictions, either because the person was innocent or because his rights were grossly violated.
And when I went to work for DA Gonzalez, he put me in charge of supervising this unit. And we kept apace in investigating the same number of cases, really meeting the standard that DA Thompson had set out.
Now, sometimes that will result in more exonerations, and, sometimes, that will result in fewer. But the measure really is, are you continuing to lean into this important work, which I think is so critical for justice?
And, beyond that, we also built out something that still does not exist anywhere else in the country, as far as I know, which is a whole bureau of prosecutors to be looking at other things that happen after a conviction, so to help people with parole and clemency and correcting excessive sentences, because this is also part of our responsibility.
MELBER: Yes, all important. I think -- I would I would just draw people`s attention to, there`s the process and whether that`s a good process, and then there`s the result, so the question is about those results.
Turning to the Trump Organization, which, as you know, is such a big issue in the current DA`s office, you have the public reports that a grand jury has been convened. Based on the available evidence, do you think that was a legally justified step?
FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: So, I think, at this point, you are following the Trump investigation more closely than I am, and you are more free to talk about it, as you know, as a lawyer.
It would be unethical for me to actually get into any of the details of that case, because I hope to assume this office and come in not having prejudged anything, so that I won`t be vulnerable to any charge that I did do that, and then be able to really dig in on my own and to carry on.
MELBER: Do you think the office that you`re running for, the district attorney, legally has the power to indict ex-presidents?
FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Sure, I think that`s without a doubt to -- and I think it`s really important to affirm the principle that, if you cheat and steal and hurt New Yorkers, it doesn`t matter what power you go on to acquire or who you were at the time and who you go on to be, right?
This is about those of us who are empowered to enforce the laws of the state of New York, to do that without fear or favor, without intimidation by any kind of power.
MELBER: And if you were to win and take over for DA Vance, should voters expect that you would continue the cases that he`s brought, the charges that he`s brought, or might you look at them anew and drop some of them?
FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Well, again, Ari, I have to look at everything that is on the table and that`s existing in the office anew
I was with district attorney Gonzalez when he made his transition into elected office. And it is not only typical, but really required -- I mean, that`s what an election is about -- for a DA, a new DA to examine every case. And that`s what I would intend to do.
So I can`t really make any predictions or promises about any open matter in the office.
MELBER: Well, that`s really the big question, though, because...
FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: And I should say, I mean, that`s what...
MELBER: Oh, go ahead.
FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Yes.
No, please. What I would say, it`s hard to take that position, right, because I know that people are eager to hear about the open cases that are on their minds. But this is also me demonstrating what it means to be a good an ethical prosecutor with the kind of temperament that we would want somebody in this job to have.
MELBER: I understand what you`re saying.
The current attorney general in New York, though, did take a bit of a different approach when she was running. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: As the New York state attorney general, I will take on President Donald Trump.
He should be charged with obstructing justice. I believe that the president of these United States can be indicted for criminal offenses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Are you saying now as a candidate that Attorney General James was wrong to put her stats out there for voters?
And when you just said, oh, this will be hard, what`s going to be a lot harder as if Cy Vance indicts the Trump Organization and a new DA comes in. There`s going to be tremendous pressure to minimize or drop that case.
Shouldn`t voters have some idea, at a policy level, what you might do with what the incumbent DA`s caseload is?
FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Yes, well, I`m not saying anything about Attorney General James or in what context she said those things.
But what I am telling you is that I think voters understand that I can`t, from where I`m sitting, just reading about this case in the media, learning about this case from people like you, Ari, make judgments about what is the right course and what somebody`s culpability is.
But I was listening really intently to what you were saying before, and I loved the way that you phrased it. I think you said that this case is going to require unprecedented legal calls, right?
FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: And so I think, if voters are thinking about this case, whereas this case being something that is typical of what an office of this stature might be called upon to decide, then they would want somebody in the office who is not at her first rodeo, right, who has made unprecedented legal calls before.
And that`s really where I draw on all of my experiences across American legal institutions.
FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: I clerked for two turns that the Supreme Court.
Definitionally, the 80 cases that the court gets every year out of 10,000 petitions require unprecedented legal calls, or they would not be there.
FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: I was counsel to Attorney General Holder, right? We dealt with lots of unprecedented legal calls.
MELBER: I love the resume.
I`m only jumping into say, we gave you six minutes, which is what we will afford other DA candidates. And I got Ben and Jerry coming up.
MELBER: But I do think it`s a public fact you have extensive legal experience. So I appreciate you sharing that with voters. And I appreciate you taking the questions, Ms. Weinstein.
FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN: Thank you, Ari. I appreciate the questions.
MELBER: Thank you very much.
Up ahead, we have covered this. The George Floyd Policing Act is stalled over the issue of police immunity. We`re going to get into that and a lot more with Ben and Jerry on that very issue.
Stay with us.
MELBER: We tackle many topics in the news.
And now we turn to ice cream, and not just ice cream in general, but the popular, maybe the most popular names in ice cream, Ben and Jerry.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield famously opened their first shop over 40 years ago. They have become the top selling ice cream brand in the nation, over $800 million of product moved just last year. And Ben and Jerry also have really changed what it means to run a company in America.
The idea is to go beyond words and really do work that supports their view of justice and equality. And there are many different ways. In 2015, they renamed chocolate chip cookie dough to I Dough, I Dough, or I do, I do, I do to celebrate the Supreme Court`s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in America.
In 2018, they did their own resistance ice cream, Pecan Resist, to fight what they viewed as Donald Trump`s regressive agenda, all the while moving ice cream in states red and blue. They also have Justice ReMix`d that is dedicated to criminal justice reform.
And after the murder of George Floyd, Ben and Jerry went farther than many companies that wanted to jump on bandwagons of lip service or online posts. They said they wanted to work in real ways with partners to dismantle white supremacy.
And this is not just about what happens week by week or moment by moment. If you watch this program, you know one of the things that we come back to is, who`s committed to long-term truth and justice?
So, while some have moved on, and some companies are happy to have the news cycle change, tonight, we`re talking about the Ben and Jerry campaign to end qualified immunity for police. As you know, it is one of the key doctrines that changes the way police are held accountable, if ever, in American courts.
It`s also become a sticking point in the George Floyd bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN COHEN, CO-FOUNDER, BEN & JERRY`S: The names that are on my shirt are all unarmed black people who were killed by the police, most of whom you have never heard about.
It is only when people who do look like me stand up and demand it that we will finally eliminate qualified immunity and cops will be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s just some of the activism.
And, as promised, we`re joined by the founders of Ben and Jerry`s, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. Ben is also the author of "Above the Law: How Qualified Immunity Protects Violent Police."
And eagle-eyed BEAT viewers will remember we had to do this interview twice, not unlike two pints. That`s how good it was, because, when you guys first joined us, you were very patient when breaking news intervened. And now you`re back on THE BEAT.
And I still have my Ben and Jerry`s with me. How are you guys doing?
B. COHEN: Doing good. Working hard. This is game time for ending qualified immunity, man. The negotiations are going on as we speak in the Senate.
And now is the time to make your voice heard. I mean, like, speak now or forever hold it, you know?
So, let`s get into that.
I mean, Ben, as I mentioned, there are many companies that have dabbled. I think viewers know that you have really been involved for a long time. And, here, you`re not just saying a slogan. You`re getting into a very particular policy piece.
Why are you focused on this police immunity doctrine, Ben? And how do you change it?
B. COHEN: Cops are not held accountable when they break the law and violate people`s constitutional rights.
And ending qualified immunity will change that. And now`s the time to call the Capitol switchboard and talk to your senator.
MELBER: What do you think of these so-called Republican criticisms of -- quote -- "woke companies"?
I don`t know if you accept or reject their terminology, but they might be thinking about you.
B. COHEN: I think that anyone who`s standing up for justice, be it a company, be it an individual, is doing the right, American thing.
MELBER: Are you ready for some ice cream hardball here?
JERRY GREENFIELD, CO-FOUNDER, BEN & JERRY`S: What have you got in mind, Ari?
MELBER: What do you say to your detractors who say it`s not that you make better ice cream; you just loaded it up with way more goodies and ingredients and cookies and just things that aren`t really ice cream?
GREENFIELD: All I know is people, seem to be purchasing and enjoying Ben and Jerry`s ice cream. So there must be something they`re finding enjoyable about it.
B. COHEN: In the early days, we didn`t exactly have our manufacturing procedures down straight.
And, sometimes, there would be like, pints that were like 80 percent Heath bars, and we would get letters like -- they`d say, hey, if I wanted to buy a candy bar, I would have bought a candy bar. Where`s the ice cream?
What we have got is the best of both worlds.
MELBER: Ben, a favorite music flavor?
B. COHEN: Music flavor? You mean like Cherry Garcia?
MELBER: Yes, you got Cherry Garcia, Phish Food, One Love.
B. COHEN: Cherry Garcia, man, that was the -- that was really the first living flavor.
And, yes, I mean, we had a -- we had a suggestion from a customer who wrote in anonymously that you should come out with the flavor called Cherry Garcia. It took me a year to come up with exactly the right formula that would be worthy of being called Cherry Garcia.
MELBER: I love that. It came from a Deadhead ice cream eater. I can only imagine how they were feeling or what they were doing when they thought of that idea, and then for it to become real.
GREENFIELD: So, Phish Food is an incredible flavor. It`s actually a little too much for me.
And you mentioned One Love, the Bob Marley flavor, which is incredible, because it`s banana. And you can`t really find a good banana ice cream out on the market...
MELBER: I agree.
GREENFIELD: ... except for Chunky Monkey, of course.
You have to go to Ben & Jerry`s if you`re looking for good banana ice cream.
MELBER: I agree with that. I actually thought Chunky Monkey is one of the most inventive fruit ice creams. I feel passionate about that.
I think, in terms of clever names, I think Bohemian Raspberry is also up there. But, as a longtime Grateful Dead listener, Cherry Garcia also has a place in my heart.
As we close it out, Ben and then Jerry, final plugs or how people can get involved.
B. COHEN: The name of the podcast is "Unaccountable." It`s available wherever you get your podcasts. It`s extremely well-produced. I recommend it.
And there`s a lot of, like, celebrity guests, I don`t know, Van Jones, Killer Mike, you name it.
But the big thing is that this is the moment right now, when your voice counts the most in terms of getting this qualified immunity eliminated for cops. You have got to call your senator. It`s pretty easy.
You call the Capitol switchboard and say where you live, and they give you your senator.
GREENFIELD: You can visit the Web site, HoldCopsAccountable.org. You can put in your e-mail-in, and you will be informed when ever anything important is happening, how you can best use your voice.
But I`m going to double down with Ben. Get in touch with Congress, your senator and your congressperson.
MELBER: Ben and Jerry, thanks to both of you.
B. COHEN: Ari, this has been fun.
I`m sorry that we had to get in our plugs. Let`s get together sometime and just eat ice cream.
B. COHEN: We will have a good time.
MELBER: Are you saying let`s get together and feel all right?
B. COHEN: Yes, man. Let`s get together. Everything will be all right.
MELBER: All right, Ben and Jerry, thanks, you guys.
B. COHEN: Take care, Ari.
GREENFIELD: Thank you.
MELBER: What a great duo.
Now I`m wondering what your favorite ice cream is. You can tell us your favorite flavor, any brand, any ice cream, and tell me your favorite music to go with it.
Just hit me up on social media @AriMelber, or always the best way to find me, connect with me at AriMelber.com.
We will be right back.
MELBER: The first lady sending a new message here with the word "Love" across the back of her jacket.
People saying it reminded them of another first lady`s jacket. Melania Trump had the "I don`t really care" message. You can say a lot with fashion and culture. That`s for sure.
And that`s our final thought tonight. Thanks for watching THE BEAT.
"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.