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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 7/12/21

Guests: Meg Murray, Tishaura Jones, Wes Bellamy, Elie Honig, Howard Dean, Abby Livingston


Texas Democratic lawmakers flee the state to stop a voter suppression bill from being passed. The Trump Organization starts to cut ties with its indicted CFO. Offensive statues come down in a key Southern city, despite GOP attempts to whitewash American history. Donald Trump and his allies ramp up lies about January 6 and COVID vaccines. Republicans try to undermine health care at the state level.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT" with our good friend Jason Johnson, in for Ari Melber, starts right now.

Hi, Jason.

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: Thanks so much, Nicolle.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Jason Johnson, in for Ari Melber.

And we begin with breaking news on the fight over voter rights. Right now, Texas House Democrats are en route to Washington, D.C., some by private plane and some by bus.

They`re actively fleeing the state to block the GOP`s voter suppression bills that were just voted out of committee, with a House floor vote expected tomorrow. That will not happen now because of this dramatic and powerful protest stopping the House bill from passing and shining a light again on the national threat to voting rights, mainly suppressing black voters in states across the country.

These 58 lawmakers -- at least 58 lawmakers essentially paralyzing the Texas Republicans pushing bills based on Trump`s big election lie. They`re risking arrest and jail to urge Democrats in congress to step up and pass a federal voting rights bill.

Here`s a Democratic state rep speaking with NBC News on her way to the airport earlier today.


STATE REP. JASMINE CROCKETT (D-TX): The House Democrats here in Texas decided enough was enough.

We came back in good faith once again, trying to always be the bigger people. The Republicans have their marching orders from the governor. It didn`t matter what anyone said. They were going to pass this bill.

I can tell you that, so long as I`m the elected House rep for House District 100, it`s going to be a fight until the end.


JOHNSON: It`s going to be a fight to the end. Those aren`t just words. These are actions taken.

They are speaking to the country, saying it`s about time to act. It comes just hours before planned remarks from President Biden on voting rights tomorrow.

Back in May, these same Texas Democrats blocked a vote, staging a walkout to stop a vote on this bill that aims to restrict early voting access and enacts criminal penalties for voting violations.

Just this year, 17 states enacted 28 new laws restricting access to the vote and at least 389 bills have been introduced in 48 states. So here we are. It`s a moment for the Democrats. Texas is leading the way, saying it`s time to fight harder to protect democracy and the racist laws going into effect in the states.

Joining me now is Democratic strategist and MSNBC political analyst Juanita Tolliver.

Thank you so much, Juanita, for joining me this evening.

I`m going to start with this. And I don`t mean to be controversial. I`m just being candid. I`m not from Texas. I don`t believe you`re from Texas. But why does it seem like the Texas Democrats have more backbone and more creativity to defend voting rights than the Democrats in Washington, D.C.?

How is it that they have come up with all these plans to stop and delay this process, but the people who are most likely to suffer the consequences of these laws throughout the country haven`t been able to do anything yet?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s such an interesting parallel, Jason, putting it like that, because let`s keep in mind, these state legislators see firsthand when voters are turned away.

They see firsthand the impact of ballot boxes being removed from the counties where they are serving as elected officials. They see it, based on their proximity. And while you, as you mentioned, Democrats in Congress are likely to suffer the repercussions, that lack of proximity seems to be what`s guiding their lack of creativity or the lack of emphasis to use every tool available to them, because this is a BFD, right?

Like, I`m looking at these state legislators from Texas, like you all are literally on the run, like Beyonce and Jay-Z at this point. And they`re willing to do this all to fight for our democracy in a way that we haven`t seen from Democrats in Washington.

And so now I think all eyes do need to go to Senate Democrats, and challenge them to really use every tool available to them. And when Vice President Harris said today that, yes, this is a courageous act, and it shows their commitment, where`s that same commitment from the White House, Jason?

I need to see that commitment from Biden tomorrow when he delivers his speech, because anything short of a commitment to applying pressure to Senate Democrats to modifying the filibuster to get this legislation through, anything short of that type of action is not only going to be a disappointment for these state legislators, who have essentially left their homes, their families, their jobs, their children, left all of that to come up to D.C. to make the case yet again to Democrats in the Congress and in the White House.

But on top of that, it`s going to be a slap in the face for the voters who delivered the election for Democrats, right?


TOLLIVER: Black voters, Latino voters, AAPI voters, everybody that stands to lose from these voter suppression bills.

JOHNSON: If Democrats don`t get busy in D.C., they will have, to quote Beyonce, a hard-luck life next summer and next fall.

Let`s Abby Livingston, Washington bureau chief for "The Texas Tribune."

Abby, thank you so much. You`re kind of an on-the-ground person who can give us some additional insight.

I want to play you some audio right now, because I thought this was fascinating, from Governor Abbott on FOX this Sunday, and get your thoughts on the other side.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): One thing that we want to make sure that we have is integrity in the ballot box system. And we need to have poll watchers and monitors.

If you do drive-through voting, are you going to have people in the car with you? And it could be somebody from your employer or somebody else who may have some coercive effect on the way that you would cast your ballot.


JOHNSON: Now, look, I watched as many spy movies as the next person, I don`t know that there`s mysterious vote intimidators hiding in the back of somebody`s SUV putting a gun to their head, telling them who they will or will not vote for.

But, Abby, is there any basis -- look, I know most of the arguments Republicans are making in Texas are bad faith. But are there any actual complaints that have justified the kind of nonsense that we just heard from Governor Abbott? Or is this all completely made up out of whole cloth because they`re swearing fealty to Donald Trump and his nonsense?

ABBY LIVINGSTON, "THE TEXAS TRIBUNE": Well, our elections reporter, Alexa Ura, has done an enormous amount of reporting on this.

In almost every story she`s written, she clarifies that these instances are extremely rare, if they exist at all. So this is a very -- this just isn`t a reality in Texas. But this is all about Harris County, which is where a lot of these voting measures took place.

And this one county, which is where Houston, Texas, is, is the center of Texas politics. This is where the urban vote is organizing and the suburban vote also to offset the rural vote. But that is what this boils down to. And so this falls into the whole integrity of the vote. This falls into the larger 2020 narrative that many Republicans are pushing that we just don`t have evidence to back up in most cases.

JOHNSON: Now, I want to scale this sort of back.

I want everybody to understand, everybody in the audience and the guests, that this idea of fleeing the state, leaving because you can`t stop and pending legislation that you think is dangerous, it`s not solely the bailiwick bailiwick of Democrats. Republicans did this in Oregon the last two years. In 2019 and 2020, Republicans walked out of the Oregon Statehouse twice, hid with a bunch of white nationalists in Idaho in order to stop cap and trade.

And I want to lay that out for you, Juanita, because it`s one thing to walk out of a legislative session because you don`t like a bill that`s going to be passed by the other team because you just don`t like it philosophically.

But what we have happening here in Texas is, the argument the Democrats are making are like, no, we don`t just dislike these bills. The bill that you`re trying to pass will fundamentally prevent people in our state from being able to participate in the franchise.

What do they have to do to make sure that`s a message that nationally everybody understands and that maybe even swing voters in Texas understand?

TOLLIVER: Look, they`re already doing it, Jason.

We have seen the statements where they emphasize that this is an attack on our democracy. We have seen how they`re engaging with the press right now. They`re going to keep that drumbeat going. And I expect they`re going to keep it going for a few weeks while this special session clock is ticking down for them, and while we know that they will be likely in D.C., but just not at home in Texas.

And so what that is what they should keep doing, continuously remind the public of what`s at stake here and remind them that this is bigger than some partisan disagreement. This literally goes down to the baseline of how elections are run and who is allowed to vote and who isn`t.

And so making that case, reminding people of that is going to be critical here.

JOHNSON: I want to play some audio from one of the recent favorite sons of Texas, Beto O`Rourke. And I want to get both of your comments on what he says on the other side.


FMR. REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX): Whatever you see on paper today is likely going to become much worse as it goes into conference committee and other provisions are added to it.

So we need to stop this effort to change or tamper our elections now, before it goes any further. And then, ultimately, we need the United States Senate to act. The only way that you stop voter suppression in Texas and Georgia and Florida and in so many other parts of the country is by having federal intervention to protect the right to vote.


JOHNSON: This is one of those times where Beto really could have used one of his well-placed F-words to exactly make it clear how dangerous and how serious the situation is.


JOHNSON: Abby, first just an internal question, because I think this is important to understand. How much pull does Beto still have? How much pull does O`Rourke still have in the state of Texas, in terms of galvanizing people?

I mean, obviously, nationally, he`s a superstar. He ran for Texas -- he ran for president. He ran for the Senate, but does his name still ring out the streets in Texas?

LIVINGSTON: There`s no doubt the presidential contest and his underperformance in that damaged his political standing in the state. And Republicans are now more confident that they can take him out if he runs statewide again.

That said, there is no Democrat who can compete with him in name identification. And also he`s a motivator. He can get people out. That doesn`t mean he can win elections, but he can get people door-knocking.

JOHNSON: And, Juanita, when you see something like that, when you see Beto O`Rourke saying, hey, look, help me guys, we have got problems here, we have got issues one way or another, from the Washington standpoint, look, let`s be objective.

He has lost twice. He lost a Senate race. He wasn`t competitive when he ran for president. Is anybody picking up his calls in Washington, D.C.? When he says at the end, look, we need Congress to act, are people still listening to him the way they should in Washington, D.C., or do perhaps Texas Democrats need to find somebody else to be their national spokesperson?

TOLLIVER: Look, I think I think that he is definitely going to have some weight. Let`s be real. Everybody who was on the campaign stage as a presidential candidate in 2020 definitely has relationships that they can tap into.

And so I think him leveraging his ways in D.C. is going to be important, but he should do it in conjunction with all of the other progressive organizers on the ground who are making long-term investments in mobilizing and organizing in that state, who are all combining to combat this voter suppression effort in Texas.

He needs to be alongside them anytime he speaks, so that there is a unified message that Washington cannot ignore from a single messenger.

JOHNSON: Abby, I want to close with this, because this is really key.

I used that word -- an example earlier, right? The Republicans walked out in 2019. They walked out in 2020 to stop cap and trade. And, basically, it was dead after. The Democrats, who still control the House and Senate in Oregon, are like, look, we`re just going to pass some other reform.

Do you think there`s any chance that Republicans back off of this, this legislative session? Is this second walkout enough for them to say, you know what, we don`t care right now, we will just try it again next year? Or do you think they will push it through regardless, even if it requires some sort of chicanery that we haven`t seen yet from the legislative position?

LIVINGSTON: Well, I don`t like predictions post-2016.


LIVINGSTON: That said, I have seen this happen several times before with the Texas leg and Republicans usually end up winning. It`s just a delayed win.

JOHNSON: OK, that is not optimistic, but at least it`s honest.

Thank you so much. Juanita Tolliver and Abby Livingston, thank you so much.

Breaking news ahead: The Trump Organization is starting to cut ties with its indicted CFO. This is different. This is important.

Plus: Offensive statues come down in a key Southern city, despite GOP attempts to whitewash American history.

But, first, Donald Trump and his allies ramp up lies about January 6 and COVID vaccines. We will talk to Howard Dean about that next.


JOHNSON: The GOP dialing up the insanity to 11.

And if that sounds like hyperbole, just watch what happened at the conservative gathering known as CPAC this past weekend.


ALEX BERENSON, CONSERVATIVE AUTHOR: Clearly, they were hoping, the government was hoping that they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated.

And it isn`t happening, right?


BERENSON: There`s a -- younger people are well aware of what the risks really are.


JOHNSON: They are cheering against lifesaving medicine for their fellow citizens. They would rather own the libs then save lives.

And it`s not just vaccines. MAGA`s glorious leader going on FOX to rewrite the insurrection, calling it an act of love.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Spirit and faith and love. There was such love at that rally.

They were peaceful people. These were great people.

The crowd was unbelievable. And I mentioned the word love. The love -- the love in the air, I have never seen anything like it.


TRUMP: And they`re tremendous, in many cases, tremendous people, tremendous people.


JOHNSON: This is the violence shown in new video evidence released, as prosecutors go after alleged rioters.

To quote Ashanti and Fat Joe, what`s love got to do with it, got to do with it? It should be about us. It should be about trust, because these people didn`t love America when they attempted to take over the government.

Trump was also pushing election lies while attending the CPAC gathering. But if you were watching on FOX News, you may have noticed his own megaphone fact-checking him in real time, putting up this lower third text, the denial from the voting machine companies that dispute Trump`s claims.

FOX News is currently being sued by one of those companies, Smartmatic, for over $2 billion.

If anything, this is getting worse on the right. Trump won the CPAC straw poll with 70 percent. They`re addicted to him. Forget Pfizer and Moderna. White nationalism appears to be one hell of a drug.

Joining me now is former chairman of the DNC and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. He also happens to be a medical doctor.

Thank you so much, Governor Dean, for joining us on THE BEAT this evening.

I`m going to start with this. As a doctor who understands not just the politics involved in public health, but also what it takes to keep people alive, how concerned are you every minute of every day when you see an entire political party in this country dedicated to promoting ignorance and combating lifesaving medicines to help this country?


I mean, the CPAC people have gotten more and more sort of off the charts. And Trump has always been a little nuts. But the thing that is so ironic about this is that the people they`re killing in Missouri, for example, are actually Trump voters.

Because the Trump voters have a much higher percentage of people who aren`t vaccinated exactly because of this garbage the president is putting out, the former president is putting out, they`re not being vaxxed. And in Southern Missouri, which is a conservative part of the state in a conservative part of the country, you have the death rate going up hugely.

The highest increase in death rates have been in places like Mississippi and Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri. And that`s because that`s where people believe this. This has become a cult is just these -- there`s no rationality behind this. It`s a cult based on anger, fear and ignorance.

And I have my doubts about whether they can win any election in 2024 or 2022 if this continues. I really do. I -- the American people are sick of this. I think the principal reason, other than very hard work, that we have Senator Warnock and Senator Ossoff in the Senate, is because of Donald Trump.

And that`s not going to get better, because the normal people who often vote Republican, but are pretty moderate, cannot vote for this crap.

JOHNSON: So I want to play some audio here from Dr. Fauci talking about what`s actually been going on. And it sort of goes along the lines of what you`re talking about who is being hurt by COVID now, and get your thoughts on the other side.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, if you look at the number of deaths, about 99.2 percent of them are unvaccinated.

It`s horrifying. I mean, they are cheering about someone saying that it`s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives.


JOHNSON: As you mentioned, Governor Dean, the vast majority of the people who are now dying from COVID, according to Dr. Fauci, are those people who are unvaccinated.

And while vaccine access has been very challenging, depending on where you happen to be in the country, by this point, if you want to, the vast majority of Americans should have been able to get one shot at least.

I ask you again, do you think the Republicans just hate their own constituents? Because if their constituents are most likely to be the 99 percent dying of COVID and this new Delta variant, shouldn`t COVID vaccine acceptance be a key part of any campaign platform in order to literally keep your assistants upright and safe for year?

DEAN: These guys are not interested in serving the country. This is like Jim Jones in Guyana. It really is.


DEAN: Trump is Jim Jones; 900 of his followers died, some of which -- some of whom did not go willingly. But he mesmerized them. And Trump has got these people mesmerized.

And that`s principally because these are the ineffective people. They have lost their own agency. They have given up their own hope. And so they did what the Germans did in the depression. They put their faith in somebody who turned out to be a madman.

And Trump has a lot of deficits. He`s lazy. He`s not very smart. But he`s incredibly skilled at exploiting discomfort and anger. And that`s what he`s doing. And people are going to pay -- Just as the Germans did as a result of the war, people are going to pay for this with their lives. And they already are.

The other thing that Dr. Fauci didn`t mention is a very high percentage of the people that are dying are no longer elderly. They`re young people in their 20s and 30s.


DEAN: Because the Delta variation is so much more dangerous and so much more contagious. And it is insane for these -- for anybody who has kids not to care about their children, but they have been mesmerized by Trump and because of their own deficiencies.

And the party, the Republican Party, would rather have power than do the right thing for America. And I think that`s a major problem.

JOHNSON: And I want to play this last clip, because it goes along lines exactly what you`re saying.

Look, there are public health measures that are usually necessary to deal with a pandemic. But even the public health measures that are voluntary, Republicans are now attacking.

This is Madison Cawthorn. I want to get your thoughts on the other side.


REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): And now they`re starting to talk about going door to door to be able to take vaccines to the people.

To think about the mechanisms they would have to build to be able to actually execute that massive of a thing, and then think about what those mechanisms could be used for. They could then go door to door and take your guns. They could then go door to door to take your Bibles.


JOHNSON: Governor, we literally go door to door now to deliver mail. We go door to door now to do the census last year.

Why are they fearmongering about going door to door and volunteering? I mean, look, I have seen this in Los Angeles, in New York City, in places. It`s already normal for public health officials to go door to door and say, hey, if you don`t have information about vaccines, here`s where you can go.

Why are they fearmongering about something that simple that`s already happened?

DEAN: Because they have nothing else to stand on. They have accomplished nothing. They have harmed the very constituency that they say they care about. Things are getting worse for Donald Trump`s followers because of all this nonsense.

They have nothing to say. And when you have nothing to say that`s good for the country, you resort to the worst possible tactics. They do not give a damn about the United States of America. They only want their own power, and they`re willing to lose -- have people -- talk people who are not well- informed into these kinds of craziness, crazinesses, in order to keep their power.

And it`s costing a lot of lives. And I think the Republicans, just like Governor Abbott, in my view, was responsible for 200 people who died last winter in Texas because he was so cozy -- his first statement was, oh, it was the windmills and the solar thing that caused this, all this.

These Republicans are nuts. They`re not all nuts. And that`s why The Lincoln Project is doing so well, is because they appeal to real conservatives who actually care about the party. The biggest problem in the Republican Party is not the crackpots you see at the CPAC, because they have always been crackpots.

The biggest problem is the decent people in the middle who won`t stand up.


DEAN: And you`re going to pay with your life eventually if you don`t stand up.

JOHNSON: Howard Dean, thanks for always giving it to a straight. Thank you so very much for joining THE BEAT tonight.

DEAN: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Coming up, Charlottesville statues come down amid GOP attempts to whitewash U.S. history. We`re live in Charlottesville.

But, first, in just 60 seconds, breaking news on the Trump Organization trying to distance itself from indicted moneyman Allen Weisselberg.

We`re back in just 60 seconds with THE BEAT.


JOHNSON: Breaking news: The Trump Organization removed its indicted CFO, Allen Weisselberg, as an officer at some of the company`s subsidiaries.

Weisselberg was indicted for an alleged 15-year off-the-books tax scheme and pleaded not guilty. It`s a sign that Trump is trying to distance himself from Weisselberg, the only non-family member to help run the company during Trump`s four years in office.

"The Wall Street Journal" breaking this story, adding -- quote -- "His removal comes amid discussions of potential changes in the chief financial officer`s duties, responsibilities and possibly title at Trump`s company."

Mr. Weisselberg is expected to remain at the company and so far we believe he has remained silent, but prosecutors are reportedly working hard to flip Weisselberg, who faces up to 15 years in jail.

Joining me now former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig. He`s the author of "Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutor`s Code and Corrupted the Justice Department."

Elie, I will start with this.

For a lot of the laypeople out there. This is, the Trump Organization is terrible, blah, blah, blah. We hear something new and terrible about it every day.

But Weisselberg basically showing up at work today and realizing that his key card doesn`t work into certain offices, that seems like a change. So what`s the significance now of him being relieved of duty from certain parts of the Trump Organization now that he`s under investigation?


It`s fairly common in this kind of situation, to see a corporation try to limit or distance itself -- as you said, itself from somebody who`s been indicted.

What I`m looking for here, though, are we going to see more dramatic signs of a split? For example, will there be a firing or a quitting? That would be a much bigger deal. Will Weisselberg change lawyers? Sometimes, that shows you that someone`s had a change of heart.

So you`re absolutely right. This is the person prosecutors are trying to flip. There`s no indication they have succeeded before. But this is something to watch.

JOHNSON: So, sometimes, jail time motivates people, sometimes money. Sometimes, it`s concerns about another relative.

In your experience, what does it take to flip somebody like Weisselberg? Trump doesn`t pick his cronies and his assistants very easily. These are people who have demonstrated a tremendous amount of loyalty to him. What would prosecutors have to bring to bear to even get someone like Weisselberg to think about trading in information for his own protection against Trump or members of Trump`s family?

HONIG: You said the exact right word, Jason, and that is loyalty. This is an intensely personal, individualized decision that all comes down to loyalty.

Is he going to remain loyal to the Trumps, who he`s been with four decades? Or is he going to be frightened enough, to put it bluntly, by the indictment to try to save his own hide?

And if you look at that indictment, the evidence against Weisselberg looks fairly strong, in my estimation. The penalties he`s looking at, however, are not super high. They`re not the type that typically gets people to flip.

On the other hand, the man is about to turn 74 years old and the threat of any jail time has got to be imposing.

JOHNSON: Yes, I can`t imagine that he can just sort of laugh off the idea of doing a bid, six, 12, eight months. It doesn`t even matter if it`s if it`s a low security prison or an ankle bracelet.


JOHNSON: I want to go back to your book, because I think this is really fascinating.

So, you talk about how William Barr basically broke the prosecutor`s office and limited our government`s ability to actually do the kinds of investigations. In your mind, is William Barr directly indirectly related to sort of what we`re seeing now? Does his desire to remain completely loyal to Donald Trump and act as his personal lawyer prevent local and even federal prosecutors from looking into the Trump Organization over the last couple of years, and therefore now it`s all following to -- it`s falling to people after Trump left office?

HONIG: I do, Jason.

I think that Bill Barr -- and I make the argument in the book that, during the Trump administration, Bill Barr was one of the president`s most powerful, most loyal defenders, and that he lied to the public and to the Congress many times over to protect Donald Trump, starting with the Mueller report and moving on from there.

But also I think you make a great point. And I argue in the book that the effect of this continues with us today, this revisionist history, this covering up for Trump at all costs. And the perfect example really is January 6, because Bill Barr did turn after the election and say there`s no evidence of election fraud. And he`s trying to remind us of that during his current image rehab tour.

However, as I point out in the book, Bill Barr spent about six months leading up to the election as one of the leading proponents of this election fraud by fanning those flames.


HONIG: So, look, he is partially responsible for what went down on January 6, and I`m not buying this revisionist history from Bill Barr or other Trump enablers.

JOHNSON: I mean, and you point out also -- it`s interesting. William Barr was a respected lawyer and member the sort of legal community for a very, very long time. He wasn`t a lifelong Trump loyalist.

And, look, usually, these politicians ain`t loyal, right? Why would someone who had the reputation that William Barr had prior to this moment basically throw it all the way? Is he hoping that history will judge him as being a hero? Or did he really think that Donald Trump was going to be the forever dictator and he will be covered for the mistakes and violations that he committed?

HONIG: Yes, a couple of things.

So, first of all, Bill Barr, like many decent people before him, got pulled into the Trump world, became intoxicated with the power and compromise his morals and his values and his judgment as a result.

Also, and I argue in the book, Bill Barr has this very extreme version of the law, where the president should be entirely untouchable. And I show him the book how he took it to a ridiculous length and consistently lost in the courts.

Also, we found some old speeches that Bill Barr had given that show that he is what I call a real culture warrior. He has espoused this idea that -- and I quote -- "God`s law" is the only proper way to organize a society. And so he had some extreme views.

The other thing, Jason, that really strikes me is, Bill Barr gets away with a lot of this, because unlike, say, a Jim Jordan or a Marjorie Taylor Greene, he`s not loud and abrasive and in your face. He has a quiet manner about him, but the stuff he did was just as damaging, if not more so, because he did it as the attorney general.

JOHNSON: He was literally doing the quiet part loud in the administration.

Elie Honig, thank you so much for your time coming THE BEAT tonight.

Again, the book is "Hatchet Man." Go pick it up.

Ahead: Charlottesville statues come down amid new fights over whitewashing history.

And, later, Republicans failed to overthrow Obamacare at the Supreme Court. Now they`re trying to undermine health care at the state level. Details ahead. You want to follow this.


JOHNSON: The Charlottesville monument at the center of one of the ugliest episodes of the Trump era -- and there were a lot of them -- is down today, crowds cheering as the city removed the controversial statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee this weekend, along with monuments to Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson and two others the city deemed offensive to Native Americans.


NIKUYAH WALKER, MAYOR OF CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: Taking down the statue is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America grapple with its sin of being willing to destroy black people for economic gain.


JOHNSON: This was years in the making.

In 2017, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other extremists violently protested Charlottesville`s plans at the deadly Unite the Right Rally, which resulted in the death of Heather Heyer. Trump ignited a national firestorm, declaring that the rally had good people, very fine people on both sides, a statement that made it clear that Trump empathized with white terrorists, an idea that many politicians and media people at the time did not want to admit.

Joe Biden has said that Trump`s response to Charlottesville inspired him to actually run for president.

For activists in Charlottesville, it is a hard-fought victory after legal hurdles along the way. Years ago, one former city council member telling reporters confidently -- quote -- "We will win."

Joining me now is that former city council member. Dr. Wes Bellamy led the charge on removing the statute. He`s now chair of the political science department at Virginia State University. So he now outranks me.


JOHNSON: Dr. Bellamy, it is good to see you this evening.

I want to start off with this, telling -- you and I met during coverage after the Unite the Right Rally four years ago now. I want to play some audio of the president, the then president at the time discussing this. And I want you to sort of take us back to how you were thinking about this at the time.


TRUMP: Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

Spirit and faith and love. There was such love at that rally.

They were peaceful people. These were great people.


JOHNSON: Wes, that`s your home, where you your wife, your kids, your friends, your co-workers are.

Take us back for a moment. How did you feel when you heard then-President Trump saying there were fine people on both sides, and then even to this day, four years later, hearing him say, hey, look these people were nice and friendly and lovely?

DR. WES BELLAMY, VIRGINIA STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, first and foremost, thank you, Dr. Johnson, my good brother, for having me on today. It`s always a pleasure to be with you.

And the thing you know firsthand, as you spent time with myself and my family and my friends on the ground while everything was transpiring and just how traumatic it was, I will say...


BELLAMY: ... initially, seeing that piece, I`m so glad that I do not have to see the orange tan on 45`s face everyday on television anymore.

And, furthermore, I just think about how ridiculous and insensitive this one individual was. And he was the leader of our nation, and still, in many ways, the leader of the Republican Party, when you think about the fact that, opposed to calling and saying, is there anything that we can do, is there -- we`re offering prayers and condolences. Someone literally lost their life.

One of his cronies killed someone that day. He chose to call those same individuals find people on both sides. And this was, in my opinion, the impetus of what we saw transpire on January 6 of this -- of the past year. This was also what we saw across the country in terms of white supremacy and how these people, these lunatics are truly believing that we are taking something away from them, that this is their nation.


BELLAMY: I`m just very proud that not only these statues are gone, but we`re here to let them know, yes, we`re taking a lot of stuff from you because our ancestors promised us this, and we`re coming to take back everything that`s ours right here, right now.

JOHNSON: So, Dr. Bellamy, I also want to point out -- and I think this is important -- that this was -- this was a political process as well, right, the current mayor and members of city council.

Tell us a little bit about what it took on the ground politically to make this happen to me, to -- obviously, there was a terror attack. There was national attention. But you and I both know, when the cameras, the national cameras and the international cameras leave, a lot of times, the momentum for change magically dissipates.

How did you keep this energy going to finally remove these statues four years later?

BELLAMY: Well, this was literally a five-year process in the making.

And for some, they will say is nearly eight years. For me, it started in 2013, when I ran for council the first time. I had a campaign cookout at the then known as Lee Park. And there were about 70 elders who came to me the next day, expressing their disappointment in the fact that which -- we had the campaign click out based off of the people and what has transpired at that park, specifically faces being slash, people being spat on, black people not being allowed to go into that park, history that a lot of folks who at that time didn`t know about.

And then you fast forward a couple of years later, you have a 15-year-old ninth grader, Zyahna Bryant. She writes a petition. And she and I are conversing and talking about, what are different ways in which we can get energy around it? She writes a petition saying to her classmates at Charlottesville High School the statue should be removed.

Subsequently, after that, I spoke to my colleagues and said, hey, there`s a ninth grader who`s courageous enough to write a petition about the statue being moved. I was the leading vote-getter.

I firmly believe that this is the will of the people. We need to do something about this. One of my colleagues, Ms. Kristin Szakos, who had been talking about statue removal for a very long time, who was the original person to say that the Lee Jackson holiday should no longer be celebrated in our area and got that passed in 2013, she was on board and said: "Wes, I`m absolutely with you."

I called a press conference. Kristin and I called the press conference in March of 2016. And it was at that point in which we kicked everything off. Subsequently, we had a blue-ribbon commission come forth and provide a recommendation the next year, in 2017, because that took about 10 months. 2017, we had a formal vote, at which we were allowed to be able to move forward with a 3-2 vote, myself and Ms. Szakos us and Mr. Bob Fenwick.

Our mayor, and one of our other councillors, Kathy Galvin, they voted against removal. But we had a 3-2 vote to get the statues removed. We were then subsequently sued, and it was caught up in litigation for about two- and-a-half years.

But in the midst of that, I mean, my family, we have had every kind of different you can think of, the lug nuts pulled off of our family vehicle. You name it, it has happened.

JOHNSON: And I want to say this. I have to personally and politically thank you for that level of dedication, because I want the audience to understand, when people like Dr. Bellamy come forward and push to have these statues removed, it`s not just political. Their families are in danger as well.

As a UVA alum and as a friend, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight, Dr. Wes Bellamy.

BELLAMY: Thank you for having me, my brother. And thank you for all that you`re doing.

Hey, those statues are going. Black people, if we can move these statues -- they told me this would never happen -- just imagine what else we can do. Let`s stick together. Let`s keep to work. There`s more work to be done.

JOHNSON: Thanks so much.

Ahead, an important story that needs attention: states holding out on Medicaid expansion, denying Americans health care. We`re going to talk about that and how it could affect you next.


JOHNSON: The health of 275,000 people hangs in the balance after the Missouri GOP moved to block the will of the voters.

Tomorrow, the state Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether Republicans there can block Medicaid expansion, even though voters approved it in a referendum with a 53 percent majority. GOP lawmakers admitting they`re defying the will of the people.

Representative Justin Hill saying -- quote -- "Even though my constituents voted for this lie, I am going to protect them from this lie, " a bizarre way to describe a plan to give nearly 300,000 people access to health care.

This is a broader problem. GOP legislators in states like Florida and Mississippi have also tried to undo the results of ballot initiatives or keep initiatives from getting on the ballot at all. So far this year, Republicans have introduced 144 bills to restrict the ballot initiative process in 32 states.

Joining me now is St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and Meg Murray, president and CEO of the Association for Community Affiliated Plans, an organization representing not-for-profit safety net health plans.

Thank you so much, both of you, for joining this evening.

Ms. Murray, I will start with you.

What is at stake here? I mean, Medicaid expansion, we have got 13 different states that have blocked Medicaid expansion after the voters have asked for it, even in red states. What kinds of things are being held up right now? What is at stake because Medicaid expansion has not yet come to the state of Missouri?

MEG MURRAY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ASSOCIATION FOR COMMUNITY AFFILIATED PLANS: Well, as you said, there are actually 12 states that have not done the Medicaid expansion.

And it`s so vitally important that that does happen. We know that Medicaid pays for four out of 10 births in this country. It`s paying for almost a quarter of all the treatment for substance abuse and behavioral health, as well as a high percentage of nursing home care.

So -- and it`s not only that, so we know that people need Medicaid for those services. But it actually -- having Medicaid actually lets people have better access to employment. That`s one of the things that I think is surprising for a lot of people. But most people on Medicaid are working, six out of 10.

And there was a study in Michigan that did do the Medicaid expansion that, as a result, they found that more people were working because of the Medicaid expansion.

JOHNSON: I want people to really -- I was hit by those numbers, but 40 percent of American births are covered by Medicaid. That is an amazing number and an amazing indicator as how important this program is.

Mayor Jones, congratulations again on being elected mayor of St. Louis, the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of St. Louis.

I want to ask you. You`re seeing this at the ground level in a city that has the same kinds of problems that urban areas across America have. How has the lack of Medicaid expansion affected things on the ground in St. Louis? What have you seen?

TISHAURA JONES, MAYOR OF ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI: Well, thank you again for having me, Jason. It`s good to see you.

The things that we`re seeing are the numbers that your guest just talked about? If it`s 40 percent of births, and that also equates to the amount of poverty that`s in the city of St. Louis. We have about 40 percent of children and families living in poverty.

And the voters voted for this overwhelmingly. It was a -- well, it was a majority. It`s 53 percent. And we sent people to Jefferson city to enact the will of the people. It`s actually a motto that`s written on our state capitol. And for them to know that they are abdicating the will of the people by telling the Supreme Court that they want them to uphold them not funding Medicaid, it`s a disgrace.

JOHNSON: But, Ms. Murray, when you go to these states that the public have said, hey, we want this -- and, again, 53 percent is pretty good for a ballot initiative. Clearly, this is what the people in the Show Me State really want.

When you go to the states, and you talk to these legislators, what is their justification? It`s one thing to say, I`m trying to save people from a lie. But when you hit them with the numbers, when you say, hey, look, this is a national issue, this is affecting people on the ground, what kinds of answers are you getting? Or do they just hang up the phone when they know you`re coming?

MURRAY: Well, I think, a lot of times, there is a concern that it`s going to cost the state a lot of money.

But that`s actually really not true. And people are surprised to learn that, for the Medicaid expansion population, the federal government actually pays 90 cents of every dollar. So the states are only paying 10 cents on every dollar.

And in many cases, they actually are going to be saving money, because a lot of the people that the -- will be newly on Medicaid were already getting state services. So the state was paying 100 cents. Now they only have to pay 10.

But most recently, the Congress made it even more beneficial for states, because, as part of the American Rescue Plan, the Congress wanted to incentivize the remaining 12 states to take up the Medicaid expansion. And so they said not only will we pay 90 cents of every dollar for the Medicaid expansion, so new people, 230,000 people in Missouri potentially, but we will actually give you more money for your old Medicaid program.


MURRAY: In Missouri, this is huge numbers.

They -- in the next two years, the Congress could give Missouri over a billion dollars through this incentive program. Now, the state will have to pay about $300 million for the Medicaid expansion. Again, that`s only 10 percent. But they will save -- they will actually make money on the Medicaid expansion, at least $700 million.

So, a lot of times, the legislators are concerned about -- to get back to your original question, about how much it`s going to cost.


MURRAY: Of course, they`re only paying 10 percent.

But for the next two years, it`s actually going to make money. In Oklahoma, a neighboring state, 100,000 people just enrolled in Medicaid because of the medic of the ballot initiative. The state`s going to make money on that population.

JOHNSON: And, Mayor Jones take this again to the ground level, this is what you can probably see.

When people have access to health care, they can then go look for jobs. When people have access to health care, they can keep the jobs that they have. So what are you doing, as mayor of one the most important cities in the entire state? Have you gone to the state capitol and lobbied on behalf of this? What is your city council doing? What are you saying to your local members of Congress to see if you can get some sort of influence to get the Republicans who are controlling the state House to change their mind about this issue?

JONES: Well, business leaders and political leaders and other civic leaders have all join briefs or also talked to our legislators and talked to our governor about how important this is.

And even our governor, he initially put it in the budget, and the Republican legislature then took it out. So he respected the will of the people, saying that, if the people voted for this, I`m going to put it in the budget. And then Republicans took it out.

I think what`s also notable here is that Missouri is number one in the nation of the spread of the Delta variant. And our hospitals in Southwestern Missouri are full. They`re back to pre-COVID levels. And that Delta variant is spreading across the state of Missouri and it doesn`t make sense to take away health care at a time or in the middle of a pandemic, because we`re going to get back to pre-pandemic levels if we don`t stop the spread of the Delta variant.

Because also a lot of our people -- a lot of people in Southwest Missouri are not immunized...

JOHNSON: Exactly.

JONES: ... and have not taken the vaccine.

And even here in St. Louis, we are desperately trying to get people to take the vaccine, because 80 percent of new cases in the city of St. Louis are African-American, yet we`re only 20 percent of those vaccinated.

JOHNSON: Mayor Jones, Meg Murray, thank you so much for your time. Thank you so much for your efforts to actually go out there and save lives in the state of Missouri.

Ahead: FOX News hypocrisy on vaccines is getting put on blast, and it involves Tucker Carlson. We got it all on tape next on THE BEAT.


JOHNSON: Finally, tonight, "The New York Times" is reporting on the vaccine fearmongering by some FOX News hosts, like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.

It`s bizarre coming from a news network. And it`s especially odd, given that other FOX anchors have touted vaccines in a public service announcement.

Here is a head-spinning look at two alternate realities.


HARRIS FAULKNER, FOX NEWS: We have been through a lot.

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS: And we`re getting through it together.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: The government`s vaccine pressure campaign.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: This is the greatest scandal of my lifetime by far.

STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS: And so many rose to the occasion.

INGRAHAM: Going door to door. This is creepy stuff.

CARLSON: Force people to take medicine they don`t want or need.

INGRAHAM: Get injected with an experimental COVID vaccine.

FAULKNER: If you can, get the vaccine.

CARLSON: I hope that people will not comply by any means necessary.

DOOCY: America, we`re in this together.

CARLSON: They shouldn`t get the shot.


JOHNSON: Guess they were for it before they were against it, a confusing message at a time when health experts are urging Americans to get vaccinated and save lives.

That does it for me.