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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 6/4/21

Guests: Elie Mystal, Nick Akerman, Rula Jebreal, Christina Greer

Summary

A top Trump Organization employee is subpoenaed in the criminal probe. Mike Pence bends the knee to Donald Trump, despite being targeted by terrorists on January 6. GOP leaders revive an old attack on the poor to try undermine the Biden agenda. The government`s UFO report is due out soon. Should Biden stop trying to negotiate with Republicans? What does heat on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mean for the U.S.?

Transcript

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I`m Jason Johnson, in for Ari Melber.

We start with breaking news in the Trump Organization criminal probe.

A top Trump Organization employee has been subpoenaed, a sign the criminal investigation is intensifying and getting closer to Trump`s inner circle.

"New York Times" reporting Jeffrey McConney, a senior finance executive of the Trump Organization, has been called to testify before the Manhattan DA`s grand jury. NBC News has not yet confirmed this story, but McConney has served as the organization`s controller for 35 years.

The subpoena news putting even more heat on the Trump Org CFO, Allen Weisselberg. Legal experts say this is a sign that the DA is probing deep into the organization`s finances.

Joining me now is Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for "The Nation," Nick Akerman, former SDNY prosecutor, and Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University.

OK, so we`re going to start off with this, because look, every single time we hear about new trouble in the Trump Organization, my immediate skepticism is like, is this going to result in anybody getting in trouble?

So, Nick, I will start with you.

How is this new place in the investigation, how is McConney being brought in and now being investigated, how does that changed what we have known before about investigations in the Trump Organization?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, I think this really shows just how widespread this financial investigation is spreading.

JOHNSON: OK.

AKERMAN: It is not just Donald Trump. It is not just his tax preparer, Weisselberg.

This goes to (AUDIO GAP) all of the financial dealings of the Trump Organization. So, what maybe everyone thought of as a tax investigation really may be more of a widespread investigation into the financial dealings of the Trump Organization, which includes possible money laundering, possible mortgage fraud, possible bank fraud, possible insurance fraud, in addition to any of these tax violations, as well as what we discussed on this show relating to witness tampering.

So, what you might be looking at here at the end of the day is the DA actually using the New York state racketeering law to make the Trump Organization -- basically charging it as a corrupt organization and using various violations to indict not only the organization, but other individuals who are part of that organization.

And it seems to me that, the way this is spreading, now that they have the comptroller, and they subpoenaed him to the grand jury, it means giving him immunity. In New York state, if you put somebody into a grand jury, they automatically get immunity.

So, you have really got to wonder where the tentacles are going now and how widespread this investigation is.

JOHNSON: Yes. This is a hydra at this point.

I mean, every single -- look, this is -- I don`t know anybody who is involved with Trump at this particular point who doesn`t seem like they`re going to get caught in this web.

One of the people, the biggest names that we had before was Mr. Weisselberg, who had been a big part of the Trump Organization.

I want to play this sound from a member of his own family.

And, Elie, I want to get your thoughts on the other side about how much trouble Trump could be in with not just Weisselberg, but now having somebody else come forward who looks like they`re going to flip on him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER WEISSELBERG, FORMER DAUGHTER-IN-LAW OF ALLEN WEISSELBERG: He started immediately hiding money in escrow.

Tax fraud. Tax evasion.

When Donald says numbers are certain things and then Allen says numbers and certain things. They don`t -- they`re not adding up.

Confidentially having them cut checks that would make him vulnerable to tax evasion, tax fraud, compensation, gift taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: So, Elie, we`re hearing about tax evasion. We`re hearing about the information that people may be giving up.

What does it mean to have this many people coming forward? And what could McConney add that we maybe didn`t know immediately from Weisselberg?

ELIE MYSTAL, "THE NATION": It is exactly what Nick said.

We are in RICO Suave land, right?

(LAUGHTER)

MYSTAL: Like, this is -- the Trump Organization is a criminal enterprise, and that`s how this comes down, right?

And we -- they are pulling the tentacles of this criminal enterprise and looking for who they can charge. Now, the way that I see this playing out is that it really come down to Weisselberg. I have said this a lot of -- many times before, but the reason why Trump isn`t in jail already is because he has always surrounded himself with bootlickers and sycophants who are willing, like Wee-Bey on "The Wire," to take all that weight for him.

They are willing to go to jail. We have seen people willing to go to jail to protect Donald Trump. And it`s going to come down to whether or not Allen Weisselberg is the next person willing to be jailed for Trump, because, when you bring in the chief financial officer, which McConney is, what that suggests to me is that this is all going to the CEO (sic), Weisselberg.

Like, this is all going at him right now.

JOHNSON: Right.

MYSTAL: As you explained, they have got his daughter-in-law. They probably got his dog. Like, they are going after this man.

And at some point, Weisselberg is going to have -- they Gates bring this to Weisselberg and say, did you do this? And Weisselberg will have an option. He can say, yes, send me to jail, or, nope, my boss told me.

We all know that Weisselberg couldn`t go to the bathroom without getting a hall pass from Donald Trump. But Weisselberg will have to admit that or be jailed. And that`s what we`re still waiting to see, because we don`t know if Weisselberg is willing to cooperate.

JOHNSON: And we know right now -- look, I`m sure McConney is like all right, all right, all right. Like, I`m not trying to go to jail for this guy. Somebody is going to come forward and say, I don`t really want to participate in this. I don`t want to end up in the clink.

Dr. Greer, I want to sort of talk about this in a larger political context.

So, McConney first came to the attention of investigators when they were looking into Trump`s hush money. What strikes me about this -- and I`m curious your perspective as a political scientist -- Trump didn`t just funnel money sort of through his organization. But some of that money also went out to other people politically.

So how far do you think this will go? Do you think that the prosecutors are kind of just narrowing down on the Trump Organization now? Or do you think this might end up bleeding into, who knows, the NRA, the Republican Party, other PACs and organizations that may have been dipping their beaks in how this money spread around?

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Jason, it`s a massive web.

And, first of all, I wish I had a grape soda to just drink while Elie was talking.

(LAUGHTER)

GREER: But the massive web, we have seen Donald Trump do this. We saw him do this when he was president, when he has Mitch McConnell -- he wants to make sure Mitch McConnell`s an ally, what he`s do? He gives his wife a job in the Cabinet.

So, he did this in New York. He makes sure that he infiltrates your entire life and your entire family. So, this is why we see people who are either in jail, going to jail or trying to stay out of going to jail who have all surrounded Donald Trump.

What makes it so interesting in the New York context is, we have a Democratic primary on June 22 for the DA of Manhattan.

JOHNSON: Yes.

GREER: So this is a Cy Vance operation for now. But this is also a conversation that`s been somewhat on the back burner for many of the candidates.

It`s right now eight primary candidates. And there are some other satellites, I think, there, but we`re focusing on eight candidates for the most part.

And they have made Donald Trump and this criminal enterprise a part of their campaigning, but a lot of it`s been about policing and what we will do in the city of New York. But this will obviously bump up that conversation in a real substantive way in the next few weeks, because we know, as you have said, it`s insidious.

JOHNSON: Right. Right.

GREER: We can look at institutions and organizations and family members, as Elie mentioned, who are all wrapped up in -- and it`s not just from 2016 to the present. This is something that Donald Trump has done his entire career, when he worked for his daddy, when he had his own companies, and well before he became the president of the United States.

And it`s crazy to think that the president of the United States has states has operated in such a manner where he would make the Corleone family blush because of the way he has -- just has absolutely no respect for the law. And he has never believed that the law applies to him.

And so he`s been able to circumvent it in different ways, either sue people or threaten to sue people or, quite honestly, just lied to get out of his misdoings, because, as Elie has mentioned, he`s had sycophants who`ve always been willing to carry the water for him.

JOHNSON: So, if McConney is ghost and the Trump Organization is truth, where they have kind of been running some of this money, I want to ask you a political question that comes from this, Dr. Greer.

What impact might this have. You talk about the district attorney race is coming up. What impact might this new investigation information have on the mayor`s race in New York? Or is that something that the mayoral candidates don`t really care about one way or another? I can`t imagine that this is something that goes over everybody`s head, given that this could bring a lot of heat to the city.

GREER: It does.

Ave the mayor`s race right now, I mean, we have eight major candidates and we have several others who will be on the ballot. It`s ranked choice on June 22. It will be somewhat confusing. We most likely won`t know who the 110th mayor of New York City will be for some weeks.

But it does matter, because the mayor does have to work with the Manhattan DA and also four other DAs from the four other boroughs. And Donald Trump still looms large, whether he lives in New York City or not. And so some of these organizations and institutions, some of them have received money from the city, not just the federal government.

JOHNSON: Right.

GREER: And so, if they`re being investigated, then that does bring up a question for the mayor of New York, the next mayor of New York City, and should these organizations be brought to justice, should they continue to receive funding, and what does that mean?

JOHNSON: Nick, you mentioned before that McConney is getting -- he`s just getting immunity for this.

And I got to read through this, because this is really key. So, he`s getting immunity for his testimony, can`t exercise his Fifth Amendment rights. He`s going to have to go out there and tell everything and tell the truth.

Is immunity really that valuable at this point to other people who might be brought in? Because, yes, they may say, all right, look, you`re going to give me immunity, I`m not immediately going to go to jail, but there could be other financial consequences to them acknowledging and admitting that they were part of this overall scam.

So is this still a carrot that people want? Or has the carrot kind of wilted?

AKERMAN: Well, no, I think it`s a carrot that people are definitely going to want.

JOHNSON: OK.

AKERMAN: I mean, this gets them off from any kind of criminal prosecution.

It means that they cannot be prosecuted for whenever it was, whether it`s money laundering, whether it`s assisting in the preparation of a false return, whether it`s tax evasion, or bank fraud or insurance fraud.

It gets them off the hook. This is transactional immunity. It`s not what they have in the federal system, which is use immunity, which simply means that what you say can`t be used against you. This gives them the whole enchilada in terms of where they are in terms of the crimes.

However, it does not immunize them against civil penalties.

JOHNSON: There we go.

AKERMAN: So, what they admit to -- yes.

And what they admit to and what they say could wind up at the end of the day costing them a lot of money if it turns out they were party to a scheme that essentially bilked the government and defrauded the government out of its ability to collect taxes or were involved in money laundering or other activities that would warrant a civil financial penalty.

JOHNSON: Right.

AKERMAN: So it doesn`t get off the hook. But, believe me, not having to spend a day in Rikers Island is worth the immunity.

JOHNSON: Nobody wants an orange jumpsuit.

Elie Mystal, Nick Akerman, thank you.

Dr. Christina Greer, we will see you back later on in the hour.

Coming up: Mike Pence bends the knee to Donald Trump, despite being targeted by terrorists on January 6.

Plus: how GOP leaders are reviving an old attack on the poor to try and undermine the Biden agenda.

And, of course, we have the reporter who broke that major new scoop on the government`s UFO report. The truth is out there and right here on THE BEAT.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNSON: New warnings from progressives about the futility of negotiating with a right wing under the sway of violent extremism and McConnell-style obstruction.

Today, some pointing to this as exhibit A, Mike Pence with new comments about the insurrection and pulling his punches on Trump, saying, while they may not see eye to eye on the riot, Trump deserves praise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: January 6 was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.

You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don`t know if we will ever see eye to eye on that day.

I think what President Trump showed us was what Republicans can accomplish when our leaders stand firm on conservative principles and don`t back down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: Eye to eye? They tried to kill you. The insurrection put Pence`s life at risk.

Impeachment video showed him escorted to safety as the mob drew near, the violent mob that literally chanted "Hang Mike Pence," a mob that showed up on behalf of President Trump, who told them Pence was letting them down.

And Pence is still basically kissing up to Trump. That`s the context for a new push from progressives telling Biden, stop waiting for the GOP to act like a conventional negotiating partner, whether it`s about creating a riot commission or striking a deal on infrastructure.

Joining me now is associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post" Eugene Robinson.

Great to talk to you, Eugene. I`m really excited about this.

I got to start off with this. You have seen a lot in Washington, D.C. Have you ever seen the kind of bizarre loyalty that we`re seeing from Mike Pence right now? And where do you think it stems from?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don`t think anybody`s ever seen anything like this, really, Jason.

But you`re seeing it from Mike Pence. But look what you`re seeing from Kevin McCarthy. Look what you`re seeing from Mitch McConnell. The day of, the day after the insurrection. They too were angry. And McCarthy had this blow-up on the phone...

JOHNSON: Exactly.

ROBINSON: ... with President Trump during the insurrection.

And then he slinks down to Mar-a-Lago a few weeks later to kiss the ring and to make up. And McConnell is now back in the Trump camp. And so what do you expect from Mike Pence, who wants to stay in the good graces of the Republican base?

And they all figure that`s where their base is. Their base is crazy. That`s where their base is.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: And they`re not -- they`re going to stick with their base.

JOHNSON: This is what`s interesting to me. And I`m curious of what your are thoughts on this.

Look, people have made comparisons, it is like Pence is in an abusive relationship with Trump. No, people who are trapped in abusive relationships are trapped, right? They can`t get out. There`s danger involved. They want to get out of them.

He`s not Reek from "Game of Thrones." He wasn`t abused into this. He`s more like Smithers from "The Simpsons." Like, he signed up for this.

ROBINSON: Yes.

JOHNSON: Eugene, I don`t see Mike Pence is having much of a political future in the Republican Party. He`s not going to run for president in 2024.

He`s not going to go back and run for governor of Indiana. So, why does he care about being down with a base that wanted to kill him? I don`t see the political calculation.

ROBINSON: Well, look, you don`t see the political future for Mike Pence, and neither do I.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: I don`t think he is a viable or particularly attractive nationwide presidential candidate for -- you know, I don`t think he will be an advantage to the Republican Party. I don`t think he could win a general election.

And so, now, that`s the way I see it. That`s the way you see it. That`s not necessarily the way Mike Pence sees it. And you and I both know a lot of politicians who had inflated and perhaps distorted views of their prospects, of themselves. And we have also met politicians whose mantra is to keep every option open, right?

JOHNSON: Right.

ROBINSON: And because you never know what`s going to happen.

And so there is just no way he is yet ready to cut this tie. But this is -- make no mistake, this is calculation.

JOHNSON: Right.

ROBINSON: And, no, he`s not in an abusive relationship.

And you can imagine what he really feels deep down. But this is calculation. It might be wrong, but it`s calculation.

JOHNSON: If there is anything deep down, I mean, I think that fly was up there checking around, and he didn`t notice anything during the campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: Eugene, so, speaking of trying to keep all your options open, we`re already getting reporting out "The New York Times" that Biden has already scaled back some of his infrastructure bill, in the hopes of making way with Republicans.

It strikes me that this is naive on the part of the president. Infrastructure is something that conceivably could make everybody happy. But Donald Trump never got it done during his four years. Barack Obama really only managed to get it done at the beginning with the stimulus package.

What do you think the chances are of any infrastructure bill being passed with this current Senate and this administration?

ROBINSON: Well, chances don`t look very good right now. That`s for sure.

JOHNSON: Right.

ROBINSON: But, look, it`s clear right now that President Biden wants to go not just the extra mile, but the extra 10 miles or however far he needs to go to try to get a bipartisan bill, or at least to demonstrate that he has tried everything under the sun to get a bipartisan bill.

And until he reaches that point -- and he doesn`t seem to think he`s got there yet -- he`s going to keep going. So I don`t see where this negotiation is going. The two sides are way, way apart.

The Republicans not offering anything like the figure that Biden wants in new spending. They basically want to repurpose COVID money. I mean, it is just...

JOHNSON: Right.

ROBINSON: It`s not -- this doesn`t look like a negotiation that`s converging on a compromise that both sides can live with. It looks like parallel play, right?

They`re talking in different universes.

JOHNSON: Right.

ROBINSON: But it`s going to go on for a while longer.

JOHNSON: Joe Biden is sitting there on the phone saying, show me the money. And Mitch McConnell is -- he`s saying, no, I`m not going to show you anything.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: Eugene Robinson, thank you so much for your time.

Coming up in just 60 seconds: heat on Mitch McConnell. The right-wing myth about lazy workers and welfare queens just got blown up.

And, later, "New York Times" reporter Helene Cooper on UFOs, what the government knows.

Back in just 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unemployment filings are down, hunger is down, and vaccinations are up, jobs are up, wages are up, manufacturing is up, growth is up.

America is finally on the move again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: President Biden touting today`s job numbers.

The U.S. added 559,000 jobs, unemployment dropping by point 0.3 percent. But for many Americans, the recovery is still ongoing; 7.6 million fewer Americans are employed today than at the start of the pandemic. Republicans claim that somehow unemployment benefits themselves are to blame.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This excess bonus that makes it not irrational for people to conclude it`s just as profitable to stay home as to go back to work.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Enhanced unemployment benefits are creating an incentive for people not to return to work.

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): We are pushing back against the federal government incentive for people to stay home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: This is just an updated spin on the tired old attack on welfare queens and makers and takers or 47 percent. Shout-out to Mitt Romney.

But it`s nonsense. "The Washington Post" highlighting that people can`t work for a lot of reasons, including childcare, health concerns and the simple fact that their old line of work or the restaurant or the business or the company may not even exist anymore.

But that doesn`t stop GOP leaders in 24 states from moving to cut unemployment benefits, impacting almost four million people.

Joining me now is Jelani Cobb, staff writer for "The New Yorker." And back with us is Dr. Christina Greer from Fordham University.

Jelani, I will start with you.

There`s a great piece in Eater right now that talks about the fact that some of the highest mortality rates during COVID were like online cooks, the people who had to work in restaurants that continued to be open.

Can you talk a little bit about just the historic nature of this dishonest message from the right that people are lazy and they don`t want to go back to work, when the reality is, they`re facing real challenges if they want to go back?

JELANI COBB, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.

I mean, if we go all the way back to the Reagan campaign point about the so-called welfare queen and the way that was -- at that point -- at that point, it was a break with the kind of protocol that people were using to talk about race, poverty, and so on.

But it`s become part of the standard playbook. And, as with the standard playbook, you see that it has metastasized out in other directions, that if you could demonize the most vulnerable and stigmatized portion of the population, i.e., black women, you would be able to deploy those ideas against other people and other (AUDIO GAP).

Well, the reason that you can`t get this is that the teachers -- as you saw, Chris Christie had great political profit. Who would have ever thought that you would be able to demonize teachers?

JOHNSON: Right.

COBB: But that was the big mainstay of him being elected governor there, like, oh, well, we have a problem with the city workers, with the municipal workers.

And there you have Scott Walker using that same sort of thing. And, oh, these people are lazy, they`re on the dole, they`re trying to get more than they can -- than they`re worth, et cetera. And we have now seen it become a general part of the conversation, which, by the way, I should also add that this was deployed during the Great Recession in the midst of the subprime housing crisis, where unemployment was staggering.

And it was also the Republican talking point at that point, saying that the government was too generous and that people were lazy, and that was why people had -- unemployment remained where it was.

JOHNSON: Yes.

And, Jelani, I like this point also because it`s always easy to blame the poorest, right? Well, it`s your fault that you got screwed over by a mortgage company. It`s your fault that the Ruby Tuesday`s that you work at is now closed. And why didn`t you magically become a computer programmer while you were in lockdown for the last 10 months?

Dr. Greer, so there`s a new poll out that talks about a lot of Americans are still actually experiencing financial hardship. They still didn`t have enough to eat in the last couple of days. They -- renters are sort of behind on rent.

Can you talk a little bit about what we`re going to still need from the federal government for people to get out of the hole that they`re in because of this pandemic? Because, look, a lot of stuff is opening up right now. But there are still people who have incurred that and are still living paycheck to paycheck, and they can`t necessarily find work where they`re living.

GREER: So, Jason, we have to sort of zoom out, right?

We know that we have lost over half-a-million Americans to COVID. Some of those people were the breadwinners of their family, right? So, already families are struggling. We know that we have a lot of long-haul former COVID survivors. But those medical bills are still piling up.

And so many people don`t have insurance that`s going to cover every single doctor`s visit that they still have to have for this long-haul COVID as they recover.

JOHNSON: Right.

GREER: We know that there are so many people who have been so behind on their rent, there is no way that they will ever be able to pay back all of the months that they missed.

These are people who desperately wanted to go to work, but they couldn`t because it wasn`t safe. We also haven`t talked about the fact that many Republicans have gotten PPP money, right? These are businesses that have gotten money from the federal government.

JOHNSON: Right.

GREER: They got their welfare. So what about regular folks who work in these restaurants or these front-line workers who need extra support?

And so you have someone like Mitch McConnell, whose wife has made a copious amount of money, she and her father, over the past few years. We look at all these Republicans who keep making money while they`re public servants. And we don`t ever ask them, hey, how about you try and make it on $1,000 a month, right, while you`re trying to raise children, while you`re trying to recover?

So, it`s a larger conversation that LBJ had. And he said -- we know that Donald Trump doesn`t respect poor people. He thinks that they`re dumb because they are poor. And so LBJ -- as I paraphrase, if you can convince the poorest white man that he is better than the Negro, you can pick his pockets all day long.

So, just like Jelani said, if you don`t have to explain why you took their job away, you just say immigrants took it or the blacks took it, right, you don`t have to talk about the financial decisions that you have made as a Republican individual that has really eroded the strength and wealth of this nation.

JOHNSON: And if you really want to get them, you can say that a black immigrant did it, and then they can be angry and racist twice.

Jelani, so, this is the thing. I have been really paying attention to what these new incentive structures are in our sort of emerging-from-the- pandemic economy. And I have noticed two things. I want your sort of perspective on this.

In Colorado, the state government is saying, hey, look, if you take a new job, and you keep it for a couple of weeks, they will give you like a $1,600 bonus, which, hey, if you`re making minimum wage, $1,600 would be nice, if you can get a job and then keep it for six weeks.

And then, increasingly, even sort of hiring executives and headhunters that have been going out for employees have been saying they have been offering people the opportunity to get hired, but continue to stay at home and not have to come into the office.

What has our new economy got to look like to get people back to work? Because, again, if I`m -- if your minimum wage is 11 bucks an hour, and I got two kids at home, like, it`s cheaper for me to stay at home than to go out there, because I can`t afford childcare.

So what changes are we going to have to see to bring people back into the office, bring people back into the work force?

COBB: Well, I think the irony of this is what we`re basically seeing are things that people on the left have been arguing and fighting for, for decades before this.

JOHNSON: Yes.

COBB: When we`re talking about driving down wages and not wanting to increase the minimum wage, well, if you are worried about people thinking that a government check is more efficacious than getting a government job, maybe you should increase the wages that people are actually getting at these jobs.

And then, beyond that, when we look at the issues around childcare, and there not being any real political momentum to do anything about that, and millions of people in this country lacking access to quality and affordable childcare, that`s also a drag on the economy.

We have been talking -- how many years that we have been talking, particularly women and feminist organizations and movements, how many years have we been talking about the necessity of a flexible workplace for people who work from home?

JOHNSON: Yes.

COBB: And so we just saw the pandemic laid bare, all of these arguments that we have been having in theory for decades, and now we`re seeing them applied in practice that these are the things we actually need right now.

JOHNSON: And, hopefully, somebody will pay attention. Some of these Fortune 500 companies will understand that this applies not just to the wealthy and the educated, but folks working for an hourly wage as well,

Jelani Cobb, Dr. Christina Greer, thank you guys so very much.

Ahead: The UFO report says no evidence of alien spacecraft, but we can`t rule it out. We have the reporter breaking all the UFO stories coming up next on THE BEAT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a whole fleet of them. Look on the S.A.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My gosh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are all going against the wind. The wind is 120 knots to the west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that thing, dude.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: "The New York Times" revealing that a long-awaited Pentagon report will not determine what many UFOs actually are, including whether they`re alien in origin, "The Times" saying investigators couldn`t rule out the possibility of alien spacecraft.

The report also speculating some of the objects could be advanced technology from other countries, like Russia and China. Either way, the report will admit many factors are difficult to explain, including acceleration and the ability to change direction submerged underwater.

The report will go to Congress in just a few weeks.

Former President Obama fueled speculation all of this in a late-night TV appearance last month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What is true -- and I`m actually being serious here -- is, is that there are -- there`s footage and records of objects in the skies that we don`t know exactly what they are. We can`t explain how they moved, their trajectory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: Joining me now is Helene Cooper, who broke this and many other UFO stories for "The New York Times."

Helene, thank you so much for joining me.

Look, I`m just going to be very clear about this. We have a pandemic. We suddenly all have to take a vaccine. Now we find out about aliens. This feels like the last two seasons of "The X-Files." I am legitimately concerned.

What does it mean that our own investigations are saying, well, we`re telling you it`s not alien technology, but we can`t tell you it`s not alien technology? What does that even mean? And what are we actually going to find out from this report?

HELENE COOPER, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It means that we don`t know what we don`t know.

What we do know from the report -- and that`s like the people that we talked to -- one of them was very adamant about what I think is probably the most important thing that`s coming out of this report, is that none of this stuff is our stuff. And that`s a pretty big deal...

JOHNSON: Right.

COOPER: ... because there was a lot of -- there were a lot of assumptions in the past that maybe there`s some kind of secret CIA drone program that they`re working on. Maybe we were working on hypersonic weaponry. We have a lot of secret types of new -- of defense systems, offense technology.

And the entire -- our entire stealth system, for instance, the F-35, was kept secret for a long time, the B-2 bomber. So a lot of this, the assumption was that this could have just been some other government technology.

JOHNSON: Right.

COOPER: We know now that`s not the case.

So that`s actually a significant thing that we have learned from that. But that then narrows somewhat the focus on what actually this could be.

And there is no evidence, according to the people we talked to who have read the report and who have been briefed on the report, that this is alien technology. But then, at the same time, there`s no evidence that it`s not. So, some of this...

JOHNSON: Right. They can`t prove that it isn`t. And so...

COOPER: They can`t prove that it isn`t.

I mean, there`s some explanations for some of them, like weather balloons. Because of the wind, they can jerk and go -- turn right and turn. But, in some cases, they rule out the balloon possibility because these objects were going against the wind.

And so there are a lot of different hypotheses, but there are no real conclusions.

And I think we kind of -- I think the reporters covering this kind of expected that this was going to be a dud from the start. But the whole idea of UFO has so captivated the American imagination for such a long time, and -- that I think there was a huge expectation that, all of a sudden, we`re going to -- the government was going to lift the curtain on all of the secret stuff that they`d been keeping, and we would see that they had materials, for instance, from aliens somewhere in Roswell or whatever.

And I think people covering this kind of knew that wasn`t going to come out of this, but there is a lot of (AUDIO GAP)

JOHNSON: Yes.

And that`s one thing. When you talk about, like, what we would expect or what we know or what we recognize, I want to play you this sound. This is from pilots responding to what they`re seeing. And we`re going to talk about this on the other side.

I`m going to play the sound real quick of an encounter with some UFOs.

COOPER: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, got it! Woo-hoo!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you box a moving target?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it`s in autotrack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh, dude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. What is that, man?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that flying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: Now, Helene, these guys, the pilots, they sound reasonably excited.

I, for one, hope that if these are aliens, look, hey, I voted for Kodos. I will be fine. I will be safe. Take me to Gallifrey.

But there are people who can be legitimately concerned about this, right? If there is something that is interacting in our hemisphere on a regular basis that we don`t know where it`s from, we don`t know what it might be doing, and we don`t know if it could be peaceful or hostile, what do you think is going to be -- what in your early reporting do you think could be the federal government reaction to a bunch of beings or objects that we don`t know?

COOPER: I can`t speculate on how any of us are going to react if there actually are UFOs, if these are aliens. That`s way beyond my capability.

But I think, look, the video you just played, I have interviewed at this point now maybe seven or eight pilots, and these are fighter pilots. If you`re looking at guys who are really cool under pressure, who don`t excite easily, these are them.

And every single one of them that I have talked to who interacted with these things off of the Nimitz aircraft carrier back in 2004, and I have interviewed -- no, the Nimitz was 2014 to 2000 -- no, that was the Theodore Roosevelt. I`m mixing up my aircraft carriers now.

So, there`s the Nimitz and the T.R. So, there are two different main incidents and interactions that we have sort of focused on and that`s captured the imagination of everybody who`s paid attention to this. And I have interviewed pilots in both of these incidents, and they don`t speculate as to the providence.

They -- and that adds their credibility. You don`t have these pilots say, I saw -- this was an alien spacecraft. What they say is, we haven`t seen anything like this before. It was doing things.

For instance, Lieutenant Ryan Graves, who I talked to, said, the acceleration, the ability of this object to stay up in the air for 12 hours, that`s insane.

JOHNSON: Was fascinating, yes.

COOPER: That`s like our -- we have to refuel every four or five hours in our fighter jets.

So they are able to say that this is something that we don`t understand. We don`t understand this technology. Maybe Russia or China is capable. They have been investing hugely in hypersonic weaponry, both the Chinese and the Russians, and with the aim of being able to deploy things that we can`t see.

So it`s -- that`s possible. And that certainly concerns people at the Pentagon, which is the building that I cover, but we don`t know.

JOHNSON: Right. Right.

COOPER: And it`s kind of -- you have to wonder, do we really think Russia or China is that far ahead of us in this sort of technology?

I don`t know.

JOHNSON: And that they could do all this, that they could create something like, that we wouldn`t have noticed one way or another, that`s the part that I`m very skeptical of.

Helene Cooper, thank you so much.

We will definitely have you back, because I don`t know. The aliens might be coming.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: I`m not coming back to talk about aliens again.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: Next: heat on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, what it means for the U.S.

New details after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNSON: Now to the extraordinary pressure facing Benjamin Netanyahu.

The hard-line Israeli prime minister facing the potential end of his 12- year reign.

This week, his political opponents forming a coalition, right-wingers, centrists, and an Arab Islamic party, suddenly unified by the shared goal of outing Netanyahu.

You can see the leaders here signing the agreement. But it`s not over just yet. The new power arrangement has to survive a vote in the Israeli Parliament. Netanyahu already pushing back, trying to gather allies.

Joining me now is Rula Jebreal, foreign policy analyst and visiting professor at the University of Miami.

Rula, thank you so very much. You`re one of the best people to talk to about this.

So I`m just going to start with this, because a lot of the American audience may not really even understand the complications of the Knesset and the Israeli Parliament.

How did Netanyahu get pushed out of his job? The elections were back in March. How did he get pushed out of leadership? And what was the incentive on the part of the coalition that came together?

RULA JEBREAL, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: I will start with the second part of the question.

The incentive is, they loathed Bibi Netanyahu. He`s been -- he`s -- they all hate him. They understand that he`s been in power for 12 years. He is the long-serving prime minister.

He is corrupt. He stands trial for corruption, for bribery, for abuse of office. And then he had been using racism and incitement against anybody that would oppose him.

Naftali Bennett, the probable prime minister, next prime minister, was his protege, was Bibi Netanyahu protege, was his ally, was his creature, until he turned on him, because he mistreated him for as long as -- Bibi Netanyahu is exactly like Donald Trump. He is loyal to nobody.

He will use you and abuse you and basically throw you away. In this moment, as we speak, he`s inciting -- he and his entire family -- his son was even suspended because he`s inciting against Yamina Party.

Naftali Bennett, the next prime minister, he`s inciting again against him personally, against his proxies.

JOHNSON: Right.

JEBREAL: His posting on Facebook. His son is posting on Facebook the address, the home address of these officials, of these elected members of the Knesset, so these extremists can go and kill them.

What he wants -- he got away with murder was, because he incited against the prime minister of Israel in 1995. Leah Rabin, the wife of Yitzhak Rabin, accused him of inciting.

JOHNSON: Right.

JEBREAL: One month before Rabin was killed, he was in a main square where people were saying: Rabin is a traitor, Rabin is a Nazi. We need to get rid of him with blood and fire.

One month after, he was killed. He`s at it again. He`s inciting against his opponent. That`s why they want to get rid of him.

JOHNSON: So, Rula, this is really key, because what you`re seeing is very interesting to me, from the American perspective, because you had a coalition party say, hey, look, this guy is too extreme, we have to get rid of them, which is clearly something that`s not happening in America, right?

The Republican Party still seems to be loyal. Trump`s protege, Mike Pence, literally just said this week, hey, it`s OK that he tried to kill me.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: We have a new quote here from Naftali Bennett, who you said is the likely successor to Netanyahu.

This is what struck me. I`m going to read this quote exactly. "The Times of Israel" had a headline. Bennett says: "I`m more right-wing than Bibi, but I don`t use the tools of hate."

First off, what in the heck does that mean? That`s sort of like saying, I`m a slightly better thief because I don`t leave footprints.

JEBREAL: Yes. I mean...

JOHNSON: And what could that possibly mean to the peace process?

JEBREAL: There`s no peace process.

They might hate Bibi Netanyahu, the next government, but, actually, his legacy is safe in their hands. What I mean by this, Naftali Bennett and the whole coalition believe that what we -- what they need to do is to continue the project of apartheid in Israel, to keep Jewish supremacy, and to keep the occupation of the West Bank and the siege on Gaza.

They actually believe that the military should be unleashed against Palestinian citizens of Israel if they protest, even peacefully. I mean, this coalition is extreme as it gets. Naftali Bennett on television said he doesn`t believe in a two-state solution. He believed that this land is the biblical land, and the ownership of this land is only for Jews and exclusively for Jews.

So, it will put the Biden administration in a very complicated position, because, at least be Bibi Netanyahu, with all his corruption and thuggery, he played lip service to the peace process...

JOHNSON: Yes.

JEBREAL: ... or -- while he was carrying his ethnic cleansing and oppression of Palestinians and violence against them.

JOHNSON: Right.

JEBREAL: Naftali Bennett says it clearly. He wants to kill the Palestinians; there`s nothing wrong with that.

His number two said clearly -- she said -- she made actual ad saying the perfume of democracy is fascism. She believed in fascism.

JOHNSON: Wow.

JEBREAL: She said that we need to kill Palestinian mothers and their children, who are snakes.

That is the justice minister of the former government. Her name is Ayelet Shaked. I mean, this is the people you`re dealing with. They`re not -- they`re saying the loud -- the...

JOHNSON: The quiet part loud, yes. The quiet part loud.

JEBREAL: Actually, they`re saying very loudly the quiet part, exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

JEBREAL: And this is the reality of the new government. It`s more extreme than Bibi Netanyahu, maybe less corrupt, but much more extreme.

JOHNSON: So, essentially, what the Israelis are looking at is more or less going from Donald Trump to Josh Hawley.

Rula Jebreal, thank you so much. This is really appreciated. We definitely will be keeping an eye on this story and what`s going to happen to leadership in Israel.

Ahead: LGBTQ in hip-hop and change for Pride Month -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNSON: Finally, tonight, June is Pride Month, a time for the LGBTQ community to celebrate their identities and for allies to share in it.

It`s also a time to think critically about the homophobia that still exists in many aspects of American culture, very notably in hip-hop, part of a long history of the streetwise hip-hop persona that mostly adheres to a very specific standard of manhood, casually pouring out into the lyrics and sometimes online feuds.

There was a time when simply referring to a queer sexual act was an insult or a punchline in hip-hop. But everybody from Biggie to Ice Cube taking shots.

Who can forget when one of Europe`s biggest superstars, Eminem, used anti- gay slurs during a very public feud with music icon Elton John, who is gay. Or, when the rapper 50 Cent famously said he didn`t like gay people around him, he later came out in support of same-sex marriage.

Today, the mood has evolved, becoming more accepting. "No homo `is no longer being used like punctuation whenever a rapper expresses anything outside the confines of generic straight behavior.

Everybody from T-Pain to Chance The Rapper have spoken out against gay bashing and homophobia in hip-hop. Today, Jay-Z openly supports his lesbian mother and said the kid is one of the baddest rappers in the game, Lil Nas X literally bursting onto the scene as an openly gay artist.

And, you know, just to offend the prudes, he sometimes twerks on Satan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIL NAS X, RAPPER: It`s just like know interesting, like, growing up, I`m growing up to hate that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) So, it`s like it, for me, the cool dude with the song on top of everything to say this, any other time, like, I`m doing this for attention, in my eyes.

But if you`re doing this, like, while you`re at the top, you know it`s, like, for real. And it`s like showing, like, it doesn`t really, like, matter, I guess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: Here`s hoping that progress continues and that hip-hop continues to show love for those who share the same love.

That does it for me. Have a great weekend. Ari will be back on Monday,

"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.