The federal sex crime probe involving Congressman Matt Gaetz escalates. Nine-time Grammy Award winner Sheryl Crow speaks out. The current state of Republican Party is examined. Why is Donald Trump Jr. making personalized videos at a very low price point? New reporting emerges on the questions about COVID`s origin.
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.
And we have a big show for you tonight, the criminal probe intensifying, Donald Trump obsessed over what it all means, and his problems with reality that affect democracy in America.
Also, later tonight, by the end of the hour, we will hear from nine-time Grammy Award winner Sheryl Crow, including her take on politics and a lot more.
Also, what is going on with Donald Trump Jr.? If he`s so rich, why is he doing what you see on the screen? We will get to that later.
But we begin with a clear escalation in the federal sex crime probe involving Congressman Matt Gaetz. The news -- we have touched on this story before, but I have never said what I`m about to say to you tonight -- the news is the feds are now eying possible obstruction of justice.
That is a new and separate felony from what we knew about what was under investigation, this stemming from a phone call that a witness had with the MAGA favorite and Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz`s ex-girlfriend, who, apparently, according to these reports, patched Gaetz into the call.
This was initially a story broken by Politico. It has been confirmed by NBC News.
We can see how the investigation is moving with this key witness spilling everything to the feds, including what, by definition, sounds like things that some people might not want to get out. Meanwhile, Gaetz`s guilty and convicted associate, Joel Greenberg, cooperating, talking to the feds, under a legal obligation to share anything and everything, whether he wants to or not, whether he thinks it`s relevant or not.
Now, Gaetz`s office is saying -- quote -- "Congressman Gaetz pursues justice. He does not obstruct it."
Let me be clear. That is a specific denial with a specific new charge. It tells you, on the one hand, that this is a big and significant thing that they want to address precisely. It also tells you that, as with all of these cases, we want to report everything for you. The feds don`t just look at a felony or a sex crime or obstruction out of the blue. They have some sort of reason.
But the subjects of these probes, the people caught up in them, have every right to make their legal defense and denial. And we have reported throughout what has been a very salacious case that Mr. Gaetz maintains his innocence across the board.
What we know is, the sex trafficking probe is ongoing. And we know he has not yet been charged with any crime.
I want to bring in our experts for this.
We have Melissa Murray, NYU law professor, and Jason Johnson, professor of politics and journalism at Morgan State University.
Welcome to you both.
Melissa, you don`t have to be a longtime news viewer to remember that Donald Trump was accused of multiple instances of obstruction of justice. The conservative count in the Mueller report is five, and then there were some that were gray. But he was president, so it was dealt with in a very specific way.
He had no more vocal defender of the idea that he didn`t and perhaps couldn`t commit obstruction than Matt Gaetz. What do you see legally and beyond here in the idea, the report that the feds are looking at this, among other potential charges?
MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it suggests that the investigation has moved into a stage where they`re not only dealing with the information that Greenberg is offering, but potentially information from those who are associated with Greenberg who are also telling them things.
And, again, obstruction of justice is a pretty wide range of activity that can be encapsulated in that. It`s anything, including threats or coercion, or even more minor things, like just simply trying to influence the administration of justice. So, lots of things could go in this.
So, if Matt Gaetz, for example, suggested that this particular individual should shade her testimony or get her story straight, for example, that would technically be obstruction of justice. And so we have always heard that it`s not the crime, but the cover-up.
In this case, it might be both the crime and the cover-up that actually is the issue here for investigators.
MELBER: Very well put. I mean, I think you made it make sense there.
And, Jason, the wider probe here is very serious, because it involves, again, not just lurid or serious accusations, but, at this juncture, serious convictions...
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
MELBER: ... because of what Mr. Greenberg has admitted to.
Now, we don`t know how many other people are involved in that. We know the feds, when they say there`s a sex crimes conspiracy of this nature, they want to go down every alley and try to catch anyone who was involved.
MELBER: We also know that Greenberg says really negative things about other people.
What we don`t know -- and I`m not trying to be annoying or didactic to the viewers. I just want to be as precise as possible. We don`t know that everything Greenberg says is true. In fact, there`s reason to be very suspicious of him in general.
So, for that -- with that in mind, I want to play what was some of the accusations he made that are in this salacious letter. It`s not his voice. It`s read by a reporter who obtained it. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOSE PAGLIERY, THE DAILY BEAST: "It was at this time that one of the girls who had represented herself to be 19 years old and was due to move to Texas that upcoming August to attend a new college was, in fact, 17 years old, roughly five months shy of her 18th birthday.
"She had a fake I.D. Her best friends were all in college and there was absolutely no way a reasonable person could know this individual was not yet a teen. On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida`s 1st Congressional District, and myself.
I did see the acts occur firsthand. And Venmo transactions, cash app or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the congressman."
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: So, Jason, the guy who`s cooperating with the feds is on record in writing accusing this congressman of this misconduct.
As Melissa reminded us, we`re in the investigative stage, where they`re looking at all potential things. Walk us through what this means, not just on the law, but, from your view for a Republican Party that certainly, in this case, is under scrutiny.
JOHNSON: Well, what this speaks to, Ari, is not just how bad the accusations are, but the fact that we have seen Matt Gaetz be very sloppy throughout this time, this entire process, right?
The reason we`re hearing this new story is because, allegedly, he`s on the phone. And, at this point, when you`re under investigation, he should -- the representative should assume that the phone is tapped, they`re trying to get him for old raps.
Like, every single person he talks to, he should be careful. So what this suggests to me is, not only were you potentially involved in bad behavior that other people have seen. You`re now running around the country, running around your local community talking to exes and trying to clean up the story.
That is a bad sign for Gaetz. However -- and this is another important number. We have talked about people being underage, everything, but the most important number to Matt Gaetz right now is 1.8. He raised $1.8 million in the first quarter of this year, even though he`s been dogged with these accusations. He`s raised more money than any congressional representative in Florida.
And he went from two months ago saying, I don`t even know if I`m going to run again, to last week, with Marjorie Taylor Greene, saying he might run for president 2024. So, right now, this doesn`t appear to be hurting him.
MELBER: You know, I always learn a lot from both of you, sometimes similar topics, sometimes different.
I had not heard that, Jason. So I think you`re teaching us something interesting. Florida is one of the largest delegations in the country, because it`s done by people, so you have a lot of representatives.
You`re telling us right now, with all this going on, he`s actually raising more than everyone else?
JOHNSON: Yes, $1.8 million for the first quarter. He outraised everybody else in the state, every single Democrat. I think the next closest person was a Republican, raised about $700,000.
And if you look back, even specifically in his own district, he commandeered a poll just about a couple of weeks ago in his own district. Only 20 percent of district residents in Florida District 1 actually believe the accusation against Gaetz.
Now, 40 percent say they don`t know, which is not a good sign when you have been their representative. But, politically, right now, he`s safe. And if he can continue to raise this kind of money for himself and potentially the rest of the party, he might just get through this. I don`t think he`s going to be able to run for president in 2024, but he certainly could run for reelection in 2022. And he might get there.
Professor, any thoughts on all the above?
MURRAY: Again, he may be a sitting congressman. That doesn`t mean he`s immune from criminal liability, if indeed he is charged and if there is a criminal trial.
Like, obviously, there`s a lot between those two points, but the fact that he`s been able to raise $1.8 million really speaks more to the force of this deep state theory that he`s really been a proponent of and that`s really characterized this wing of the Republican Party over the last couple of years than it does about the force of these charges, which are incredibly, incredibly serious.
And so, Professor, where do we go from here with -- you have Greenberg`s sentencing. Everyone`s going to be interested in whether they can glean anything from that, although, as always, we don`t necessarily know when we would learn more. The feds can move at their own pace with this kind of probe.
What are you looking to in the sentencing or when we will learn more?
MURRAY: Well, we will definitely know what the sentence is on August 19, when he appears before the court to be sentenced.
What the actual sentences is and what it`s predicated on, that is, how much he cooperated with the federal investigators, is an entirely different story that we`re probably not going to know more about until later in this process.
But the fact that he is ready to be sentenced and that the plea has been entered and it`s concluded means that they have gotten, I think, most of what they need from Greenberg, and they`re probably moving through the other individuals that Greenberg alerted them to during the course of this investigation.
So, at the very least, we know that this is moving at a relatively rapid clip.
MELBER: So, if that`s right -- and I don`t know if you will answer this or not -- but then is your theory of the case that the obstruction charge would be like the icing on something they have already prepared or the backstop because they didn`t get anything else more serious?
MURRAY: Hard to tell, but this doesn`t seem to be like a Martha Stewart situation, where they never actually had proof of insider trading. But, instead, they were focused on the fact of the telling the story, the cover- up that led to the obstruction charge, and that`s what ultimately she was convicted on.
This could be both/and or either/or. We really don`t know. But the fact that Greenberg is now pleading guilty and is preparing for sentencing suggests that the prosecutors have gotten what they need from him. And what that is, I think, is an open question. But I think it`s probably more wide- ranging than just this obstruction charge.
MELBER: Yes, you mentioned Martha Stewart. Viewers have heard a lot about SDNY and how aggressive they are. That was the case where it turned out she did not actually commit a financial crime. But, for whatever reason, she repeatedly lied about it.
And SDNY said, even absent the underlying crime, the fact that you obstructed in a very stupid or perhaps arrogant way, they were still going to charge. Guilty of that.
Also, Jason Johnson may or may not know she`s also guilty of making a mean chocolate chip cookie.
JOHNSON: I have heard.
JOHNSON: Both her and Snoop have talked about how great her cookies are.
MELBER: There you go.
On the higher order of things, it was one of the smaller cases, controversial, even. But it does illustrate Melissa`s point, which is it can go either way. We can`t assume, because they`re talking obstruction, they have everything.
But we will keep following This case. It`s a big one.
I want to thank Melissa and Jason for kicking us off.
And let me tell everyone what we have coming up.
Republican leaders complicit in this attack on democracy. What does a party do to get to this point? We have some very special guests for a very special conversation, people who have led both political parties in America at the national level, Howard Dean and Michael Steele together live.
And also later tonight: why Don Jr. is selling videos like this for just 500 bucks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP JR., EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Alyssa, this is Donald Trump Jr.
Erica, congratulations on the wedding.
Kirsten, happy sweet 16.
And I hope to see you at a MAGA rally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Stay with us for that.
And, by the end of the hour, we will be joined by music superstar and icon Sheryl Crow.
It`s a big episode of THE BEAT. Stay with us tonight.
MELBER: What is wrong with democracy in America? Many, many things.
And many of them stem from the loser of the last election having so many problems understanding what happened to him. "The Washington Post" details that the ex-president and ex-blogger is consumed with these amateur audits that some Republican officials have demanded in some states, and that he`s watching coverage about it and fixated, for example, on one we have covered in Arizona.
Advisers say telling Trump that he lost in 2020, which means these audits only draw more attention to that fact, doesn`t work. One adviser saying what you see on the screen. It`s like `blanking` into the wind.
Now, on the one hand, this is quite absurd to continue to recount Trump`s losses in various places. But it is also a certain kind of nonsense that can basically combine with other dark forces in our country that leads to bigger real problems.
So, yes, it`s absurd nonsense, but, no, it can`t be ignored entirely. Consider the types of lies that fed a deadly insurrection that occurred recently that many Republican officials -- not all, but many -- are lying about to this day.
Well, experts point to Arizona now as something of the dark blueprint for other states to attack democracy, even though it has also at times looked very clearly like a clown show, even to conservatives.
Here`s some facts. In Pennsylvania, local officials are now using that silly Arizona blueprint and calling for their own amateur audit. And that`s just on recounting the loss. You also have things that affect the future, 14 different states pushing restrictive voting crackdowns this year, Texas on the march to join the states you see on your screen.
And then you have Donald Trump`s convicted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn talking up a military coup and then trying to walk it back when caught on tape.
There`s also been -- and this is something I want to put in the same context before we bring in our party chair experts here -- a surge in domestic terrorism, including political terrorism, in the United States, 250 plots busted that involve right-wing extremists in the last five years, the peak in 2020.
You have Republicans in Congress, though, burying any investigation, saying they don`t want to get to the facts, even on a bipartisan probe, and Mitch McConnell defending it all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Another layer of investigation, in my view, doesn`t add anything. We were all witnesses to it. I was there. We all know exactly what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: If you don`t want to face the facts, you raise a question of whether you want to be involved in defending the facts of what occurred.
And we all lived through January 6.
We have, as I mentioned, two very special guests to really get into this, not just the criticism, but what do political parties do when faced with this kind of problem?
Well, as you see, Dean and Steele have led both political parties in America, and they`re here after our shortest break.
We`re back in 60 seconds.
MELBER: We are now joined by the two chairmen.
Howard Dean ran for president and ran the Democratic Party. He also served as governor. Michael Steele ran the Republican National Committee and also served as lieutenant governor of Maryland.
Thanks to both of you for having this conversation.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Hey, thanks.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be with you, Ari.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
Michael Steele, as you know, they say there`s no party like a national party, because a national party don`t stop. Or they say something like that.
MELBER: And here is a...
MELBER: Here`s a party that you used to run. I know you care about traditional conservatism, as well as patriotism. Viewers have heard that you preferred Biden over Trump in the last election.
But what do you do when the lies won`t stop and a larger share of the party`s rank-and-file members, and particularly its most vocal activists, are lining up with these lies?
STEELE: Yes, that`s the challenge.
I mean, how do you turn that corner? How do you bust through that den of lies and sort of expose it for what it is and to pull out, save as many people as you can from them? It`s hard.
And, in the past, we would always look to our leaders to do that. We would look at the majority or the minority leader of our party in the Senate, or the speaker of the House, or the minority leader of our party in the House to be that voice to sort of pull us away from the tip of crazy.
But they`re the ones who are leading the charge. So it`s harder now, because they are -- they have become spineless.
Mitch McConnell knows damn well that what he said was a load of you know what talking about, well, when I look at this, I don`t see any need for it. Right. Did you say that when you guys were investigating Benghazi for untold millions, 33,000 times?
No. You thought there was something legitimate there and you went after it.
This ain`t Benghazi. It`s worse. It`s 10 times worse. It impacts the entire country in a way. And you`re sitting there going, what, there`s no there, there. It`s not credible. It`s not believable.
So when you ask the question, how do you pull people away from that inside the throes of it, it`s hard to do when the leadership are the ones who are perpetuating. It is beyond Trump at this point, Ari. It is now systemically a part of the narrative that is infused and reused by our leadership.
And that is a harder nut to crack.
MELBER: Yes. And you said narrative. I wonder whether it`s congealing into the orthodoxy.
STEELE: Oh, yes.
MELBER: I wonder, Governor Dean, whether it`s becoming, yes, like a type of absurd and dangerous litmus test, where people have to lie about someone else`s loss.
I mean, that`s what`s really wild about this, Governor, is Republicans who did win office with whatever their own strategy was have to run around and lie about a different politician`s loss to maintain their standing.
And so it`s baroque. It`s a joke.
I do want to play some of the joke of it with the way the late-night folks have been going at the amateur audits, but also get your responses. Let`s look at this and hear from you on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Nowhere have Republicans held on to the big lie more fervently than the great state of Arizona.
SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": It feels like this con is never going to end.
TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH": Now, it`s easy to dismiss this Arizona audits. But there`s at least one person who`s pretty sure that it`s going to put Donald Trump back in power. And you will never guess who that person is.
MEYERS: What other genius ideas do they have? Only the real ballots will float, so let`s throw them in the river, and if they sink, it`s fraud?
I mean, what`s next? They feed the real ballots to a bunch of chickens and then incinerate the chickens? Oh. Oh, that is next? Wow, I`m getting good at this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: That actually is a critical way to fight back against this.
We are watching something that we haven`t seen for a long time in this country. But it happens in many democracies, and it`s the weak point of democracies, when one side figures out how to use democracy to undermine democracy.
So, what these folks are doing essentially is what Hitler did. It`s what Viktor Orban did in Hungary. It`s what Kaczynski is doing in Poland. Democracy dies because you no longer care about democracy. The Republicans have no commitment to democracy at this point. There are very few that do. Kinzinger is somebody who`s standing up. Liz Cheney stood up for what was right.
But most of them are running around subservient to somebody who never cared about democracy, and that`s Donald Trump. So, this is a really critical -- this next few years is going to determine whether the United States survives as the cradle of democracy.
And, Michael Steele, I mean, to the governor`s point, although different dictators had different agendas, so I don`t think there`s equivalence on what they did, but you certainly have throughout world history places where elections occurred, and they were largely normal, and then they gave way to the end of elections, or sham elections, like what you have -- people know what you have in Russia.
They have a thing they call an election, but it`s not one.
MELBER: And so, Michael, when you look at that, and you see -- I want to read something that`s quite hot, but I want to read it for your analysis. And if you think it goes too far, let us know.
MELBER: But a political writer, Jonathan Chait -- I`m sure you know him -- he argues that, at this point, the Republican mainstream is refusing to talk about January 6 and the commission investigation we showed not because it`s too weak to be taken seriously, but because it`s too strong.
"In the red states," he writes -- quote -- "Republicans are laying the groundwork to make the next insurrection easier."
STEELE: I can`t find a lot of fault with that statement.
And the reason for that is, I just look at the election bills that are being passed. I look at the fact that Donald Trump says, I will be reinstalled in August, and no one in leadership said, shut the hell up and sit down. No one said that. They`re quiet on it.
The fact that you have the January 6 commission playing out the way it did, when you -- again, I keep going back this. Probably one the most painful sights during that whole conversation was watching Brian Sicknick`s mother go door to door, asking members...
STEELE: ... to vote to inquire about her son. And they basically said no. Well, no, they didn`t basically. They did -- said no.
STEELE: So, what is that the foundation of now? It`s the foundation of something.
I mean, what do you think happens next? Where do we go from here? If you won`t shut up the guy in Florida saying he`s going to be reinstalled in August, if you have got to numbnuts running around between Florida and Georgia, in Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, talking about they run the party, they`re now the leaders of the party, you have got the silence from the actual leadership, or the complicity by someone like McCarthy by kicking out Liz Cheney, what do you think comes next?
STEELE: I mean, it`s not a whole big leap.
So, Jonathan has got a good point. And it is a red flag, because this is a setup for something. And we need to be prepared for whatever that something is, as citizens.
MELBER: Governor Dean?
DEAN: Yes, I think that`s right.
I mean, so what`s the way out of this? The way out of this is, young people who aren`t going to take this. I mean, my view of this is, actually, I end up being optimistic. And the reason I do is, I think the Republicans have already lost this.
The reason they are abandoning democracy is because they have no choice. They can`t win in a democracy. And this is not going to go away. These folks are going to get old and die soon. I mean, look at how old these people are that are carrying on like this, for the most part.
Young people, people of color have a -- the Black Lives Matter movement, which the Republicans are terrified about and saying all kinds of terrible things, the thing that was so amazing, when Ta-Nehisi Coates said he was an optimist, because -- he was not a guy who`s given to optimism, because he for the first time since I have been alive, because I can remember back in the `60s what this was like, white kids and black kids were out there together in equal numbers demanding justice.
And that is what the real future of this country is. So, I am optimistic in the long run, because these fascists are going to die off. The Republicans are going to be restored. I think there`s a good debate to be had between conservatives and liberals. I think it`s a good thing to have conservatives in the government who are reminding us that we can`t just spend money and print money all the time.
I do not think it`s a good thing to have conservatives who don`t believe in democracy in the government. These people are not conservatives. They`re neo-fascists. And that is the fact.
MELBER: Let me take it to Michael for a closing argument.
And I like optimism. And shout-out to Ta-Nehisi Coates.
I hate to be the fly in the ointment, but I guess that`s part of my job sometimes. The governor gave us the reason for optimism. And we certainly saw activism, and we also saw record high turnout.
MELBER: And we also have a more diverse Congress than any time in American history, which is a reflection of higher turnout, which is a reflection of a government that looks more like and reflects more of the country`s actual population than ever before in American history.
So, I hear you on that.
But what I give Michael the closing word on is, a potential hole in what in what the governor just outlined is -- and we have cover this on THE BEAT -- the initial support around Black Lives Matter, the initial stitching together of the wider population around that, has been crashing over the past few months.
And the idea that, yes, you have youth and activism, but do you have this stitched in to remain a coalition?
MELBER: Or when you get two, four, six years away from what was the cataclysm of Trump, what happens?
Michael, we give you the final word.
STEELE: So, you just went to where I was going with that.
I -- my buddy Howard, I do share in his enthusiasm and his optimism to that extent. But what tempers that greatly is the fact that, what are you going to do? You going to show up in November in Georgia -- I mean, excuse me -- in Virginia and New Jersey and vote, because there are two elections, two big elections this November?
Now, imagine if Republicans take back Virginia`s governorship and maybe even wins one of the two houses. What do you think the narrative on the other side of that is going to be from Donald Trump and those Republicans?
When you go into next year, are you prepared to come into the game with the same fervor and level of intensity? Because that`s what voting requires. It`s not a sort of plastic kind of involvement. You just don`t sit back. You have got to stay engaged. And when you see all the stuff that`s happening in 47 states around the country, what`s your response to that?
Yawn, or to get further engaged? So we will see how not just young voters, but all voters, respond.
And here`s the final point.
MELBER: Well -- yes, sir.
STEELE: If you want to get an understanding of what lies ahead, let me tell you where we are now.
Google a political map of the country, not at the state level, but at the county level. And when you see that map and how red that map is, then you begin to understand what redistricting, voter suppression, et cetera, et cetera, is -- does look like and what it will look like going forward, if that`s a real concern for you, because the country`s a lot redder than 2020 may lead you to believe.
MELBER: All fantastic points.
I will make you guys a deal. I will take you up on the educational question you posed. Michael. We will get that map. We will compare counting to the wider electoral maps. And we`d love to have you guys both back on, because I`d love to do this chair -- this chair series with you when you guys are both free.
STEELE: Yes, absolutely.
STEELE: Any time with Howard.
MELBER: Great. There you go.
DEAN: Thanks you, guys.
MELBER: Thanks to both of the chairs. Appreciate you. Important discussion.
We`re going to fit in a quick break, but when we come back: Donald Trump Jr. is making personalized videos at a very low price point. The question, why?
And the new details on COVID`s origins and the political scandal that might be brewing in plain sight. We have that for you next.
MELBER: Donald Trump`s blog may be over -- RIP -- but online messages and other types of made-up Trumpian material are still going on.
Indeed, you can get Donald Trump Jr. to make you a personalized video for just about any occasion. And it costs a lot less than you might think, just $500. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP JR.: James and Laurie, Ted and Heidi.
Paul, Hunter, Preston.
Alyssa, this is Donald Trump Jr.
Paul, Donald Trump Jr. here.
This one`s for Tony Costello.
Erica, congratulations on the wedding.
Congratulations on your 49th birthday.
Your 50th wedding anniversary.
Kirsten, happy sweet 16.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, here on the news, we don`t want to be a bummer. We`re all for sending happy birthdays and other assorted congratulations.
But there`s a wider context here, Donald Trump Jr. also complaining that he`s had to spend millions of dollars -- or his family and the Trump Org have -- for the ongoing criminal probe there. He appears to be asking fans to pay him at what is a very low price point.
Now, to be fair, there is a general statement that some of it will be donated to a Shadow Warriors Project. We would like to see transparency on all of that, given that the Trump charity was actually shut down over this exact kind of mingling, where there`s a claimed charitable contribution that doesn`t always happen.
More broadly and politically, it`s odd, because this is a family that brags and touts itself for being successful, wealthy and multibillionaires. And yet there are so many failed enterprises and cheap, tawdry, low-price-point projects.
Donald Trump Jr. also getting political in some of the videos, drumming up support for the ex-blogger in Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP JR.: Don`t worry about it if your wife`s mad at you for saying that election night 2016 is the happiest night of your life.
I`m also told that you`re a serious lib.
I hear you love my dad.
I hear that Giovanna calls you dynamic Donald.
I look forward to seeing you at a Trump rally sometime soon.
And I hope to see you at a MAGA rally.
Look forward to seeing you at a Trump rally, maybe one in Canada one day. You never know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And, even though these are personalized videos, so they`re ordered up, as you can see, for whoever you want to send them to, sometimes, a little business promotion gets into the mix.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP JR.: Larry and Cathy, enjoy Doral. If you haven`t been, it`s an incredible place.
Jacob, I hear that maybe, maybe the honeymoon could be at Doral. I promise you, you guys will love it down there. And maybe I will see you there myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by Erin Gloria Ryan, host of Crooked Media`s "Hysteria" podcast, a Daily Beast contributor, and viewers may remember her for several great points about why the Donald Trump blog wouldn`t be long for this world.
You were right about that.
MELBER: Thanks for coming back.
ERIN GLORIA RYAN, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: I was right about that, Ari. And thank you for having me back.
RIP the Trump blog, indeed.
So, this is one where, if there`s any money going to charity, great. We need all the receipts, given the history. And if there`s genuine shout-outs for birthdays and other things, great. Again, I don`t want to be a hater here.
But this is a person who claims to be worth an awful lot. And 500 bucks is pretty low. Your thoughts on that and what this says, writ large, about a Trump enterprise that remains, again, under investigation, with a lot of pressure?
Well, I was really confused by this when I first saw it in the news. Like, you don`t do Cameo unless you get something that you need out of doing it. I associate it with, like, washed-up athletes, for the most part.
So, either Don Jr. is doing it for financial reasons. He is saying that he needs money for legal bills. But there are other ways that he can get money. Like, he was traveling for the last four years with free Secret Service protection, although I guess he did kind of pay for that in a way.
But he also is a "New York Times" bestselling author. He is somebody who maybe nobody really actually read that book, and maybe book sales were boosted by bulk buys from conservative organizations, but, regardless, he should have had money from that. Where did that all go?
There are also other ways for Don Jr. to make money. He could go on the speaker circuit. That is a high-margin industry. And pretty much, if he went out and spoke to all of his father`s biggest fans, minus the cost of a Russian translator, it`s just pure profit.
So, there are less humiliating ways than going on Cameo to make money for him. So, I`m assuming that this is just for the attention. Now, we know that a need for attention kind of runs in the Trump family. The family runs on attention. Maybe he wants attention from headline writers. Maybe he wants the media that he`s so quick to talk smack about.
But maybe he wants attention from somebody who might have some deeper pockets who would swoop in and pay some of these legal bills he`s complaining about.
Either way, I`m enjoying the ride.
MELBER: Yes, it`s quite a ride. And we will keep an eye on what other news or tidbits come out through what is another communications platform for him, albeit it on an individual basis.
We are short on time because I`m excited about Sheryl Crow.
So, Erin, forgive me. We will come back to you again on THE BEAT in the future. Thanks for being here.
And, as mentioned, tonight`s program features Grammy winner Sheryl Crow coming up.
But, first, one other very important COVID update, new reporting on the questions about COVID`s origin. That`s next.
MELBER: Where did COVID come from?
Dr. Fauci says probably from an animal like a bat, but it`s key to keep an open mind that it may have come from a lab in China.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I still believe the most likely origin is from an animal species to human. But I keep an absolutely open mind that, if there may be other origins of that, there may be another reason. It could have been a lab leak.
And I have been public that we should continue to look for the origin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: COVID has taken 600,000 total lives in the U.S. alone.
It matters where it came from. And Fauci`s emphasis on the lab theory comes as President Biden dials up pressure for intel to get to the bottom of the origin, a question that`s gained new intrigue amidst a report that researchers at a lab in China got sick enough to be hospitalized back in November 2019.
And now a "Vanity Fair" report tracks how conflicts of interests from government funding hampered the U.S. investigation into the origin, with some officials worried that even asking questions might draw attention to United States` links to that lab or open a can of worms that they just didn`t want politically.
This is one piece of what we are seeing as a wider information breakdown, which includes some of the media, by the way, because the lab theory faced a kind of political skepticism from some worried that it would feed into Donald Trump`s unfair efforts to attack or blame China.
But that kind of nonscientific concern, it is exactly the very kind of thing that can hobble an open mind and science. Nowadays, in this current moment, experts and the new president say the lab theory is possible and credible.
So, efforts to dismiss it as somehow fringe last year were, at a minimum, misplaced.
We have a quick break.
And when we come back, something that you can tell I`m excited about. Sheryl Crow makes her debut on THE BEAT.
MELBER: Our next guest is a rock `n` roll icon, Sheryl Crow, a singer, songwriter and nine-time Grammy Award winner.
Her music ranges from pop to searing politics. And we`re thrilled to have her.
Let`s start by hearing some of those political songs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What makes you decide to write at that altitude?
SHERYL CROW, MUSICIAN: There`s a great sense of liberation for me in being able to write my truth and know that now, more than ever, it`s important to be an artist and to speak truth and to point out what you see, because you`re not the only one seeing it.
And particularly, as a single mom, everything that I see now, there`s a sense of urgency for me to write about it, because I can`t look the other way. And no matter what I`m writing about, whether it is a particular president, or if it`s a particular religious leader, or whatever, the themes are the same throughout history.
And that is that greed is what propels people. And when you put greedy people in charge, you`re going to get what you get.
MELBER: Well, this takes us from the fake news we hear about these days to fake fur, which you sang about, interestingly, at, of all places, the inauguration of then new President Obama.
I just want to read some of these lines back to you. As you say, sometimes, they seem to recur in relevance.
"Canine, feline, Jekyll and Hyde, wear your fake fur on the inside. Queen of South Beach, aging blues, dinner`s at 6:00, wear your cement shoes. I thought you were singing your heart out to me. Your lips were lip-syncing. And now I see a change would do you good."
What does that mean?
CROW: There`s this -- there`s a lot of falseness everywhere.
When I was coming up, there was a point at which no one ever sang on TV. They always lip-synced. And people were always espousing a cause, but they weren`t necessarily living that.
It all comes back to integrity and living your truth and seeking truth. And it just has been a huge source of -- I mean, it`s informed everything that I have done.
And, I mean, there is a way to conduct your life where empathy and compassion and knowledge can hold -- can hold true, and you can still write about it and laugh about it and disagree with people and put it in your music.
MELBER: And there was major disagreement about a 1996 song calling out Walmart for selling guns, which the company allegedly attempted to censor.
CROW: My first record was banned at Walmart because we wrote about -- or I wrote about guns.
My first record talked about Clarence Thomas, and I got serious blowback about that, was in a lawsuit and all kinds of things.
These things are what you look back on in your career and you feel proud of. It`s not those 50,000 or the 50 million records that you have sold or the nine Grammys. It`s not the "All I Wanna Do"s, which, yes, that afforded me to have all these guitars behind me.
CROW: And it took me to South America and lots of other places.
But it`s the moments where I stood up and spoke my truth that I will forever be proud of.
MELBER: It`s so important.
And for people listening going, well, what does it take to get your art or work banned from Walmart, which is the largest employer in the United States, and at a time was a huge player in mass record sales?
Apparently not much, Sheryl. Drake says, I`m about to say a true thing. The line here was just you saying something true: "Watch our children while they kill each other with a gun they bought at Walmart discount stores."
When that happened, did you think, wait a minute, all I said was the truth?
CROW: Well, two things about. I wish it wasn`t still true.
And the second thing is that I was given the option to change it to a different discount center by Walmart.
CROW: I think they mentioned Kmart, or...
CROW: I don`t even know of other discount centers then.
But the -- and, also, they had...
MELBER: But who was -- sorry, who was proposing that?
CROW: The people at Walmart to the -- to my record level proposed that, if I changed the lyric to a different discount center, that they would carry it.
MELBER: So, Walmart -- I`m only slowing you -- this is the journalist in me just slowing you down.
MELBER: So, Walmart sees this. Well, people love Sheryl Crow. She`s saying the truth about what we sell. She can criticize guns and the sale of guns in America, as long as she picks a different corporation. Then they`re fine with it, they told your label?
And I have to be honest with you. It was a really heartbreaking time, because, in my hometown, Walmart came in. And all the other small mom-and- pops could not compete. So the only place you get by record in my hometown was Walmart. So, it was a hard decision.
And because Walmart had such a huge profile across America in small towns, I knew it was going to mean record sales. Ultimately, I have to be honest, though, it -- I don`t know how many sales I lost or how much attention that drew, and perhaps that helped the sale of the record.
I just knew that there was no way I was going to wake up in the morning and face myself and feel OK about having done the deed. And I have had the opportunity and, to be honest, the good fortune to have had several of these experiences throughout my career.
And I can only say I`m still here and I`m still writing.
MELBER: We`re debuting this interview with Crow tonight.
This is the first time she`s recounted in detail how Walmart made those demands to censor the reference and change the lyrics to criticize a different store. Walmart disputes that they asked to change the lyric.
As mentioned, Walmart ultimately did ban her album. The store continues to be a flash point on this issue. By the way, they sell guns in about half of their 4,000 stores. They pulled some guns and ammo recently from the floors around recent protests, then restored them.
Now, in our new interview, Crow also talks about Taylor Swift, Cardi B, and Kamala Harris. Here are a few more highlights.
MELBER: They think you`re dope because there`s relatability to everyday life, which is why art moves us.
CROW: I hope they think I`m dope.
CROW: I mean, if somebody thought I was dope...
MELBER: I`m doing the news here. I`m telling you the facts.
CROW: I wanted them to have a category at the Grammys for best old artist, instead of best new artist.
MELBER: Hell yeah.
CROW: It`s the moments where I stood up and spoke my truth that I will forever be proud of.
MELBER: Are these happy songs, or are they melancholic songs wrapped in a happy mood?
CROW: They`re both disgruntled, pissed-off songs. And it captured a moment in our evolution as young people.
And you`re just like, hey, if it makes you happy. The feminist movement now looks like Cardi B. I`m going to dictate how I look. I`m the one in control here.
MELBER: Really enjoyed talking to Sheryl Crow.
This is part of our "Mavericks" series. And I encourage you to check it out, because we just showed you highlights. There`s a lot more in there, as we discussed how she approached independent art, how she blew up quickly, and what that did to her sort of artistic career.
These are just highlights from the full interview. So, I invite you right now to go check out our "Mavericks" series. You can see the full conversation with Sheryl Crow at MSNBC.com/Mavericks. Or you can go on YouTube right now and just search "Melber Sheryl Crow." You will find the full digital exclusive.
I also want you to know that Crow is out there singing with a forthcoming livestream performance on June 18. Tickets available now. So, if you`re interested in that, go to the link you see on your screen right now.
And if you have ideas for other "Mavericks" I should interview, you can always reach me @AriMelber on social media or connect with me AriMelber.com. That`s AriMelber.com.
Again, our thanks to Sheryl Crow for telling us about her music and her work.
That does it for THE BEAT tonight.
"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts now.