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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 7/27/21

Guests: Michael Osterholm, Chai Komanduri, Marq Claxton, Elaine Luria

Summary

Law enforcement officers testify in the first hearing for the House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection. Congresswoman Elaine Luria discusses the first insurrection committee hearing. The CDC issues new guidance about masks. Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles pulls out of the team competition in Tokyo.

Transcript

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

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

And welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin with the passionate, emotional, heart-wrenching testimony from four officers who were attacked in what they are describing as a-Trump inspired ride and insurrection January 6.

This is the first hearing for the House select committee investigating that attack and insurrection. Today is the day the official investigation here begins. If you watch the news, you have seen much of the intrigue leading up to it. But we are now at the actual fact-finding, probing what led to the insurrection, how it happened, and what then-President Donald Trump`s role was and what accountability the Congress may yet pursue.

One officer made this striking comment about who sent the hit men.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: If a hit man is hired, and he kills somebody, the hit man goes to jail. But not only does the hit man go to the jail, but the person who hired them does.

There was an attack carried out on January 6, and a hit man sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: "A hit man sent them."

That`s a legal statement there. It`s also very straightforward. And it goes to the fact that, in our system of laws, there is accountability above and beyond just the individual people who may carry out an act or beat someone or pull a trigger. There`s who sent them.

And that`s part of what the committee is investigating, even though the broad outlines are known, because that mob was summoned directly by Donald Trump.

The officers recounted their stories of what happened, what was done, what was done to them, and the ongoing pain and trauma of that on January 6. Many of us have seen the ugly videos. They`re on the news. They`re online.

But until today, there had not been this kind of forum. This is very different from testimony in individual Justice Department prosecutions, for example. Until today, we haven`t had the forum to hear directly from these officers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE: I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, this is how I`m going to die, defending this entrance.

MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: I was grabbed, beaten, Tased, all while being called a trader to my country.

I was at risk of being stripped of and killed with my own firearm, as I heard chants of, "Kill him with his own gun."

I can still hear those words in my head today.

DANIEL HODGES, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: But I ended up on my hands and knees and blind. The medical mask I was wearing at the time to protect myself from the coronavirus was pulled up over my eyes, so I couldn`t see.

I braced myself against the impact of their blows and feared the worst.

DUNN: Why is telling the truth hard? I guess, in this America, it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That is truth. It is a documentary kind of truth, because, in addition to the people being under oath and participating in this fact- finding forum, we have the video. We have the other accounts.

This is truth. This is facts. Much of this is not debatable.

And those people demanding murder and terrorism, demanding to kill officers with their own guns, those were the people sent by Donald Trump to try to overturn the election so he could stay in power.

The fact that I have to repeat these words on the news that these officers, who do so much more than those of us who are just covering it, have to go and tell America about it, is a testament to the fact that we are living through a time where one party, the Republican Party, in the main, for the most part, at the federal level is directly opposed to this truth. That`s the context for this.

Another moment was important when an officer bluntly addressed that political reality of how so many Republicans, not all, but so many in power, continue to lie and downplay regarding the violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FANONE: The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!

Nothing, truly nothing has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day and, in doing so, betray their oath of office, those very members whose lives, offices, staff members I was fighting so desperately to defend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That is so powerful, it is worth reflecting on.

No Capitol Police officer should have to go through that or have to say what he just said. But what he said is pretty powerful. He and so many others risk their lives to protect those who are elected to the democracy, regardless of whether they agree with them or not.

[18:05:12]

But it is actually a somewhat rare development in modern times that so many of the members of Congress in the Republican Party who take that protection for granted are out here lying about and undermining the work of those officers. That`s what`s going on.

Indeed, these officers are testifying to a committee that had to be organized differently because Republicans demanded that either they put liars on the committee who had a track record of trying to subvert an investigation, or they`d all walk, which they did, most of them that McCarthy had put in place.

As we have reported, two other Republicans remained on the committee because the speaker wanted to keep it bipartisan. So, it is as clear as it is disgusting, much of the themes that we heard today. The themes of accountability also hang over this. What will this investigation do about the people pushing the lies, about the people lying about a stolen, fraudulent election?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GONELL: The rioters attempting to breach the Capitol were shouting: "Trump sent us. Pick the right side. We want Trump."

DUNN: And some wearing MAGA hats and shirts that said "Trump 2020."

I told them to just leave the Capitol. And, in response, they yelled: "No, man. This is our house. President Trump invited us here. We`re here to stop the steal."

HODGES: I saw the Christian flag directly to my front. Another read, "Jesus is my savior. Trump is my president."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: This today is the first hearing of this committee, which has full subpoena power, Speaker Pelosi making the vow to find the truth.

And the Department of Justice here making news today by clearing the way for former Trump officials, including those inside the DOJ, to testify. There are a lot of signs they could be called.

Neal Katyal joins us tonight to discuss that legal effort, as well as the implications. We will also be joined by a member of this committee, Congresswoman Elaine Luria.

I begin with our expert panelists on the testimony we just heard.

Former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance has been following this closely. And on the political side, because there was much politics infused in the insurrection and its aftermath, Chai Komanduri, a veteran of three presidential campaigns, including the Obama campaign.

Good to have you both.

Chai, have you ever seen a day like this and a hearing quite like this in modern American politics and history?

CHAI KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, this was really unprecedented.

And I think what made this so unprecedented is you had four uniformed police officers, uniformed police officers, a historically Republican constituency, talking about how the law and order Republican president sent people to attack them. It was really stunning. It was really riveting.

And I think it helps resolve one of the great political questions and debates that we have had about the Trump era. There are people who said, oh, Trump`s just a populist, a bit of an entertainer, he fires off some politically incorrect tweets.

And there are others who said that, no, this man is a danger to democracy, he`s a wannabe fascist. To put it in Italian political terms, was he an American Berlusconi, or was he an American Mussolini?

And I think, on January 6, and I think the testimony that we heard today, I think goes to some way to answering that question. Donald Trump was he direct, and continues, by the way, can be a direct threat to our democracy, and to the people who protect our democracy, such as those four police officers we heard from today.

MELBER: I think you lay it out clearly, Chai.

And looking at your comparison, what sometimes confused some people about Trump or those who wished to find more naive interpretations was that his clownery, his buffoonery did have some of that Berlusconi-ish touch, that tone. And yet what you draw back to, the much darker comparison to other authoritarians, is clearly what these offices were talking about today.

And, Joyce, I`m curious your big picture thoughts. You have the floor. I`m also curious what you thought of the theme that ran throughout from a law enforcement perspective. You worked alongside federal agents in your career. They seemed to be trying to make sure everyone understands this could have been much, much worse.

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The select committee did something very important today that I think a lot of folks had hoped they would do, but it was uncertain whether in this political environment it could be done.

And that is that they transcended politics. Anyone who heard today`s testimony from these four witnesses understood and likely revisited the feeling that they have on January 6, which so many on the Republican side of the aisle seem to have forsaken, that January 6 was not about a political protest.

[18:10:17]

It was not some sort of civil disobedience. It was, in fact, a criminal incursion into the Capitol designed to overturn the presidency, to overturn the outcome of a legitimate election. There was no way to dress it up in nice clothing when you watched it on January 6.

And this committee presentation today reclaimed much of that feeling. So the problem is, what do you do about the part of the country that has not seen these proceedings today? That`s one of the pressing problems that we face in this country.

And, as you point out, these brave men in law enforcement who stand, I think, as representatives of all of the men and women in union -- in uniform who held the line that day, they stand for something we have not seen a lot of in this country of late.

And they pointed out today that, when people call the police with an emergency, the police don`t say, are you a Democrat or a Republican? They just respond. That was what the response was. We just respond. They responded on January 6. The question is whether the committee can use this, in essence, to shame people who have forgotten the emotion of January 6 back into recapturing it, and, at the same time, educate Americans.

A lot of people want this education, crave this education. Others have been victims of charlatans who have sold them a bill of goods. The question is, can they be brought that to believe that there is a truth about these events?

MELBER: And one officer was very explicit in calling out members of Congress who trafficked in inciting the insurrection.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FANONE: It`s disgraceful that members of our government, I believe, were responsible for inciting that behavior and then continue to propagate those statements, things like this was 1776 and traitors.

To me, those individuals are representative of the worst that America has to offer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: An impassioned statement there from an officer, an eyewitness and a target of these people.

And, Chai, take a listen to one of the Republicans on this panel, Congresswoman Cheney, discussing her party`s role.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Almost every member of the Republican Conference understood in the days immediately after January 6 what had actually happened, and many of them said so publicly.

And the fact that so many members of our leadership and others, the fact that they have gone from recognizing what happened on the 6th to protesting in front of the Justice Department on behalf of those who were part of the insurrection is something that I can`t explain.

I think it`s a disgrace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Chai?

KOMANDURI: Yes, I mean, to be honest with you, Liz Cheney actually had a banner day today. She was absolutely terrific.

I thought her questions were on point. And I thought that statement was absolutely great.

The person who didn`t have a banner day to day, politically and otherwise, was Kevin McCarthy. Kevin McCarthy basically tried to turn these hearings into a farce. And what he did has been a debacle for the Republican Party.

If he had worked with Nancy Pelosi, had not tried to like have those bomb throwers like Banks and Jordan on the committee, he could have really distanced the GOP, the House GOP, GOP congressional candidates from the riot and the insurrection. He could have created some distinction for those candidates who are going to be up for office next year.

Instead, he has chosen to do the opposite. He has chosen to embrace this insurrection, because he feels he needs to embrace Donald Trump. And the result is going to be that nobody in his caucus can be very happy with his result.

The Trump people don`t feel he`s loyal enough. And the non-Trump people, whatever few there are, can be -- can only be furious at the chart -- at the course that he has charted out here.

MELBER: Yes, that`s fair.

I have got other experts coming in, but, Joyce, I wanted to give you a chance, because I saw you were flagging that there was some legal confusion about deadly weapons and that discussion. And I wanted to give you a chance to speak to that before we bring in the congresswoman.

VANCE: An interesting aspect of the reporting on this issue and the public commentary is people who have been uncertain about whether or not this crowd was armed. Were they carrying dangerous weapons?

[18:15:07]

We have heard the former president suggest that they weren`t. Others on the Republican side of the aisle have suggested that.

Federal law is really pretty clear. It`s not just guns and knives that are considered to be dangerous weapons when you`re assaulting someone. Any item can become a weapon. It depends on how you use it. So the pieces of rebar, the flagpoles, everything that was used by this crowd, as we watched these videos this morning, what you saw was a picture of a violent armed gang, a violent armed riot that was trying to intrude into the Capitol and assault armed members of law enforcement.

There is really no doubt about what we saw that day. It was criminal conduct.

MELBER: Yes, and I appreciate that, a bit of a legal fact-check or guidance for those who`ve heard that aspect of the debate.

My thanks to Joyce and Chai.

As promised, we proceed directly to another special guest on a very busy day on the Hill, Congresswoman Elaine Luria, who is on the committee.

Thanks for making time tonight.

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): Thank you.

MELBER: What do you think people should take from today`s testimony? What is it important that the investigative hearing today conveys?

LURIA: Well, I think that, for those of us in the room, and I imagine for those watching around the country on TV, as we saw scenes replayed, and the officers there today who were subjected to the most brutality and threats for their life, seeing and hearing and putting all that together with their personal stories just to truly understand how dangerous that day was, how dangerous the people were who came to the Capitol, and it really struck me this comment that was made by one of the insurrectionists in the video was that: We didn`t come here to be violent.

Of course, they were violent. But he said: We didn`t come here to be violent. We just came here to overthrow the government.

And the fact that we just have to take that seriously, this threat to our democracy. And those officers who were courageous to tell their stories today, they were the last line of protection that we had.

MELBER: So many Republican leaders have now joined the side of discussing the riot in inaccurate terms, to say the least.

Is your view that they are all just comfortable lying about this? Or are they confused? Unlike certain debates, this is one where you were all in or near the venue, to say nothing of the video. So you all went through it.

What is it like trying to work through this with individuals who are lying about what happened in the building you`re speaking to us from?

LURIA: Well, I think Liz Cheney said it really well in her remarks.

There`s been a huge sea change. After this happened, everyone, including Leader McCarthy, understood the gravity of it, understood the violence that happened. And since then, they have just forgotten. And this truly discredits the pain, both physical and emotional, for those officers.

And we heard from four of them today. There`s hundreds more who responded and saved the lives of people in the Capitol, saved the process of certifying the election results. And then that saved our democracy.

And the fact that they have twisted this into something else and tried to whitewash it and make it go away and make it appear that it was something, just peaceful protesters or tourists in the Capitol, it`s just -- it`s disgusting.

MELBER: Yes.

We`re running over on time in this block, but I did want to ask you as well. As a member of the committee, do you support seeking the testimony of Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump?

LURIA: You know, like we have said, like all the members on the committee agree, we are going to go where the evidence takes us. Nothing is off the table.

And I fully expect that we will leave no stone unturned until we get all of the evidence necessary to understand what happened that day.

MELBER: Copy.

And I know you and other members have been keeping the questioning strategy, the plans close to your vest. But we did want to ask.

So, Congresswoman Luria, after today`s rather significant testimony and a busy day for you and your team, thank you for again making time for us on THE BEAT.

LURIA: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Coming up: what the officers recounted today about the anti-police attacks, as well as the blatant racism of January 6, and why that`s on the record and important to the investigation.

Plus, this new decision that actually puts more heat on Trump officials, Neal Katyal is here for that.

And later: The CDC has brand-new guidance. You`re going to hear about this. You might hear it debated. We have a very special expert, so you get exactly what you need to know on the other big story across America.

That`s on THE BEAT as well. Stay with us tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:40]

MELBER: Our special coverage continues now with a different element of today`s hearing.

The formal start to this House investigation on the insurrection has featured so many searing and difficult moments. We covered several and just heard from a member of the committee.

But we also want to show you now Officer Harry Dunn recounting under oath what he faced that day, his words as he originally gave them now part of the official record. It`s part of what the Congress and the nation must face.

And that also includes his decision to testify explicitly about how the day`s violence came with racist, hateful attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DUNN: No one had ever, ever called me a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer.

Another black officer later told me he had been confronted by insurrectionists in the Capitol who told him: "Put your gun down and we`ll show you what kind of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you really are."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We`re joined now by Marq Claxton, the director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance and a retired NYPD detective.

What did you think watching that testimony?

MARQ CLAXTON, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Very impactful.

Actually, Ari, it was a bit more emotional than I had anticipated being affected by the testimony. I mean, I have heard some testimony about what occurred that day, and have had the opportunity to speak to some offices directly involved.

[18:25:07]

I wish you had -- I wish there was a way not to even beep out the epithet. And I will tell you why. I think it`s important for people to recognize just how vile and violent and offensive and disgusting the insurrection was.

And I think if -- we tend to kind of edit out our own reality, and thereby allowing people who deny it some legs to stand on. I think it was important what Officer Dunn expressed and to express it in the way in which he received it, so that people could really feel the impact.

I think it`s also important to acknowledge that the use of the epithet indicates the additional insult that the officers of color had to endure on the day of January 6. And then, also, what it does is to tie in quite neatly to something that the FBI director, Christopher Wray, has testified before Congress about.

And that is the threat of domestic violent extremists, particularly those who are white supremacists. And he went as far as to say that those individuals are on par with ISIS. And I don`t think we have really addressed or accepted that as our official government policy. But that`s what Christopher Wray indicated.

MELBER: Yes, you`re talking about an FBI director who happened to be picked by Donald Trump saying that.

I also appreciate your constructive criticism of how these things are aired.

I will share with viewers we have a standards department that decides on a case-by-case basis when things are edited or bleeped.

But I think you raise a very legitimate question on that case-by-case basis, because this is ugly, disgusting, abhorrent racism on the record of a kind that is a part of this nation`s living history. I say living because it comes out of the racism that is in the founding documents.

But here it is today in all these movements. And so we really have to be clear, as you`re encouraging us and everyone to be, and accurate in what is ugly and disgusting. So, I appreciate your point there.

I wanted to ask you, from an investigative standpoint, how much does it matter, how important is it that, on day one, they`re dealing with the fact that, obviously, this would be a crime, as an insurrection, if that were all it was, by which I mean simply for political ends? It would be a crime to storm the Capitol and attack officers, period.

But the fact that it also brings up the evidence of a hate crime, and of a white nationalist insurrection, of the kind that reminds people of what we have in this country from the white Southern rebellion, how is that important for the investigation? Because some of those early videos didn`t capture all of these accounts, all those -- the words and other things that show how much of this in the evidence was white terrorism.

CLAXTON: I think, once you get a full picture of the motivations behind much of the activities during at course of the insurrection, then you have -- you`re able to establish clear lines. You can establish those clear lines as an investigator to specific or particular white supremacist organizations, to individuals who have typically or routinely espoused this divisive, racist language, and have engaged in that kind of conduct.

You want to be able to show that this is not some spur-of-the-moment random tourism gone wrong, but rather that this is a deliberate, structured, organized, race-based or race-involved insurrection, and it should be prosecuted as such, or at least let`s have all the facts and information, so that we can identify who the culprits are.

And if they have ties and connections with some of these domestic violent extremists and some of these white supremacist organizations, we have to identify them.

And I concur with the statements of all of the officers who said, listen, part of what we want to know is, who else was involved? Who`s -- what other hands were involved in this in this particular insurrection? We want them identified and addressed and dealt with accordingly.

MELBER: Yes.

I also wanted to get your specific reaction to the officers testifying about facing these violent attacks from people who falsely, hypocritically, claim to do the politics of supporting the blue man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HODGES: A man sarcastically yelled: "Here come the boys in blue, so brave."

I saw the Thin Blue Line flag, the symbol of support for law enforcement, more than once being carried by the terrorists as they ignored our commands and continued to assault us.

[18:30:07]

DUNN: Until then, I had never seen anyone physically assault Capitol Police or MPD, let alone witness mass assaults being perpetrated on law enforcement.

GONELL: There are some who express outrage when someone kneels while calling for social justice. Where are those same people expressing the outrage to condemn the violent attack on law enforcement?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Marq, I definitely want to give you time to speak on this.

We heard the officers` account. Your, of course, a retired officer yourself.

Because we get so many inflection points these days, some of them tragic, that it`s hard to keep up, from the summer protests, to what we have seen in COVID, to the January 6 hypocrisy, and now the Republican embrace of the people who attacked the blue. An earlier guest tonight mentioned the hypocrisy of talking about law and order or the blue.

Your view on all of this, because, if this were a movie, and they needed to show that political movement or effort was full of B.S. in its claims to support law enforcement, you couldn`t script a more tragic and disgusting proof point of it than what`s now on video and what`s been shown from the 6th.

CLAXTON: Yes.

And let`s be clear about something. It`s pretty simple. Blue lives are Smurfs. It`s never been about the police lives, or that blue rhetoric and a blue wave really is all about something other than respecting this -- law and order, if you will, and the sanctity of human life, et cetera.

Blue lives are Smurfs. Blue lines are something that you write in a paper with a blue pen. And what this has been all about and continues to be about is a political movement trying to pull in as many of these so-called blue- collar, solid blue-collar workers, even in spite of -- and this is what amazes me about police -- they tend to rally around these blue line nonsense things -- in spite of what we`re seeing here, where oftentimes those same people who were the biggest promoters of everything blue have turned their backs on you and denied you complete and total justice.

It`s a lesson to be learned.

MELBER: All right. I think that makes sense. I hope people are learning it and listening to you and some of the other experts and the people who`ve done the work.

Marq Claxton, as always, I want to thank you.

We have our shortest break now, 60 seconds. Then we come back with this big DOJ ruling. Neal Katyal is going to break it down on why it`s putting heat on Trump administration veterans.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: There has been a lot of news today here as we are kicking off the week. And I want to get into another aspect of all this.

And here`s the context. Every time a new administration comes into office, there are always some big decisions about when to hold the line on executive prerogatives which might serve veterans of the administration that was replaced, so, for example, the Biden administration doing things that might benefit Trump administration officials, and decisions about when to put heat on those same officials.

It comes down to a matter of policy or ethics when exceptions are made. So, that`s the basic framework for the headlines you may have seen about when the Biden DOJ has gone to court to, for example, protect the prerogatives of former President Trump and his aides, something Attorney General Garland has OKed in some situations.

And most Justice Departments, to be clear, say they try to do what`s fair on a case-by-case basis. They certainly aren`t trying to have vendettas for who they replaced.

But here`s what`s new tonight, the Justice Department serving up some very bad news for Trump administration veterans, saying it will not use DOJ powers to try to shield them from testifying to Congress about January 6 or internal deliberations involving Donald Trump`s seemingly illegal effort to overturn an election.

Indeed, this is committed to paper. This is an on-the-record piece of news, with the DOJ citing the extraordinary events of the attack and the exceptional circumstances warranting an accommodation to Congress as it pursues these investigations.

[18:35:15]

So that shuts a door. It reduces one avenue officials might have had to try to legally duck testimony. And this really could happen.

I want to give you a little bit of history here, because this really matters when you think about all of that testimony today, which is just the first day of the probe.

High-ranking officials from other administrations have faced the situation. There was the House probe like Hillary Clinton`s Benghazi probe, where she gave 11 hours of testimony. Presidents not immune either. President Bush himself faced the 9/11 Commission for hours. They made arrangements because he was president at the time, but he still did it.

And he also emphasized the substantive, nonpartisan purpose of these probes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an important commission. And it`s important that they ask the questions they ask so that they can help make recommendations necessary to better protect our homeland.

I answered every question they asked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Protect the homeland.

I`m joined now by someone who has thought through exactly these kinds of questions, including on tough calls at the DOJ, former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal.

Thanks for being here.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you.

MELBER: A lot of people following politics, especially looking for Trump accountability, have already criticized some things coming out of the Garland Justice Department, where they have, fairly or not, followed a kind of a precedent that involves shielding government officials, executive branch, et cetera.

Today looks different. I read from their rationale. Explain this to us, given your experience. How rare is this? And what does it mean for potential testimony?

KATYAL: So, Ari, your lead-up was absolutely right.

The Justice Department traditionally protects the prerogatives of presidents, including former presidents. You don`t have a vendetta.

So, for example, when I was acting solicitor general, I defended John Ashcroft`s alleged abuses in the war on terror, even though that was obviously not President Obama`s kind of thing and the like. But that`s the general way the department works.

And the department also generally protects something called executive privilege, which is this doctrine that basically has a shield of secrecy around deliberative process decisions. Like, for all sorts of good reasons, we don`t want courts or testimony about like foreign affairs or military operations when you`re in the midst of them and the like.

But here`s the thing, and it brings us to today`s news. That privilege is waivable. And it can be waived for good reason. And it turns out, Ari, that insurrection and aid and comfort to those kinds of folks qualifies, and preserving the deliberative process is important, but protecting the democratic process is paramount.

And that`s what the decision today reflects.

MELBER: That makes a lot of sense.

And this came in the context of one of the senior ranking DOJ officials, who, according to "New York Times" and other accounts, was already under pressure from Trump to pull strings or engage in what might have become, had it gone farther, a criminal plot inside the DOJ to overturn the election -- there`s evidence of some level of pushback or ignoring certain demands.

Both for that individual and for the president himself, what do you see here as possible testimony? We showed George W. Bush, who, whatever other criticisms of him, clearly felt that it was important that Americans hear that there would be a nonpartisan cooperation with that commission.

KATYAL: So today`s decision is a clean win to me, for investigators and for the American people. And it sets up other even more important wins.

So the Justice Department today is basically making the right decision, because if Congress can`t hear testimony about an attempted coup and what the Justice Department and president`s role isn`t that, like, why bother pretending it has oversight in the first place?

And the letter today -- the letters that the Justice Department wrote to high-ranking former Trump DOJ officials is really striking. It doesn`t mince words, Ari. It uses exactly the kinds of words I have been waiting for from this administration for six months.

It acknowledges the serious accusations that Donald Trump put -- quote -- "his personal political interests" above the country by trying to weaponize the Justice Department in the election. That`s critical phrasing. I mean, that is really remarkable to see in a Justice Department document.

MELBER: Neal, we have been doing this here in our reporting. And we rely on your expertise. We have doing it for years. Sometimes, you say things, and I go, oh, right. yes, that`s literally the situation.

You just said, well, you have to have an investigation of an attempted coup that tried to enter the Justice Department. And that`s literally what happened, although it sounds terrible. It sounds like a movie.

And that`s my final question to you as we run out of time. How important is it for this probe to look at things that might not be technically federal crimes, like machinations inside the Justice Department to overthrow the election that didn`t necessarily get very far, as distinct from what DOJ does, which is look at the actual rioters and people who clearly broke the law?

[18:40:17]

KATYAL: Right.

There`s the criminal prosecution. That`s handled by career prosecutors at the Justice Department. But there`s this much more important thing, which is, was there a conspiracy to weaponize the Justice Department to overturn election results? It sure seems like there is some evidence about that. That`s what the investigation today and the commission today is starting.

And these letters make it so that Justice Department officials will now have to testify or try and maybe hire personal lawyers to try and avoid testimony, which will go nowhere. And, ultimately, this can lead to Donald Trump himself testifying and the former acting attorney general and the Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows. All these people are now potential folks who are subject. They don`t have executive privilege anymore.

MELBER: All very useful information about heavy stuff.

Neal, thank you, as always.

When we come back, we go into a whole different direction. There is new guidance from the CDC about masks. You`re going to want to hear what it is. And it comes as the president is looking at a new way to push vaccination encouragement, support and rules that may make people participate more.

We have an expert next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:45:05]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Will you require all federal employees to get vaccinated?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That`s under consideration right now. But if you`re not vaccinating, you`re not nearly as smart as I thought you were.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: President Biden putting out the word.

And COVID is getting worse, with daily cases doubling, officials concerned about the ongoing intensity of anti-vaccine sentiment. In Missouri, which is a hot zone, a doctor recounting some patients wearing disguises for their shots, hoping to keep their vaccination choice a secret.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. PRISCILLA FRASE, OZARKS HEALTHCARE: They have had several people come in to get vaccinated who have tried to sort of disguise their appearance, and even went so far as to say: "Please, please, please don`t want anybody know that I got this vaccine. I don`t want my friends to know."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Against this backdrop, other institutions pushing vaccines even harder, sometimes mandating them. It`s now a requirement to work for city governments in L.A. or New York, or you can face weekly testing, while the CDC has issued this new guidance today that even fully vaccinated people should go back to wearing masks indoors if they`re in a COVID hot spot region.

Wear your mask indoors, they say, if you`re in a hot spot.

I`m joined now by expert Michael Osterholm, director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and someone who had warned as far back as March that, if vaccination rates didn`t improve, we could end up in a situation like this.

You were right, although I`m sure you would prefer to be wrong, sir.

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH: Well, this virus is obviously a very, very real challenge for us.

And we know. We knew then, we know now that if you don`t get people vaccinated, you`re going to expect to see what is happening. And, of course, that`s the case right now.

MELBER: Yes.

And a lot of this is coming from what you might call the second or third wave mood. There were people who immediately got involved and got vaccinated, particularly in at-risk groups, particularly in the health care community. But now we`re at a stage where you need to get the rest of the population.

And the information people are getting is a big part of this. We have covered this. And I want to get your expertise on the chart here we`re putting on the screen that shows a correlation with people`s media habits and the vaccination rate. It`s up around 80 percent of people who basically watch these channels you see there, MSNBC and CNN, 79 percent for a bunch of the networks, but plunges down to 62 percent for FOX News.

What do you see as a public health challenge there?

OSTERHOLM: Well, we know that there are actually pockets of undervaccination which often correspond to one`s political beliefs.

But, also, we have to understand that the race and ethnicity issues are still very real. We`re still seeing major undervaccination in the black community. And so it`s not a simple one answer, if you could just get this group or that group to get vaccinated.

Remember, less than 50 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated. We have over 100 million people -- let me repeat that -- 100 million people in the United States today that have not been vaccinated or not been previously infected and therefore protected by having had some immunity from their infection.

So there should be no surprise why this virus is taking off and doing what it`s doing. Even in countries who are much more highly vaccinated than we are, including the United Kingdom, Israel, look what`s happened there. They too have had problems.

So we know that, as infectious as this particular virus is, the Delta variant, we have to get vaccination levels much, much higher than we have right now.

MELBER: When someone says to you, well, I hear all that, but I`m just going to wait longer, I want to see how this all plays out, what is the best medical, scientific response to that?

OSTERHOLM: You know, you can`t run the clock out on this one.

This virus is so infectious, it will find you if you are not infected -- or if you`re not protected from vaccination. It will find you and infect you. And I think that`s we have to get the message across to people. You can`t wait this one out.

You will know a COVID outcome if you`re not getting vaccinated one way or the other. And I think that that`s the message we just have to keep getting out there, that this is a vaccine that could not only save your life, but the lives of your loved ones, the people you work with, the people that you might spread the virus to if you`re infected, when you do get infected.

MELBER: Yes, I think that`s important when you put it like that, particularly if somebody is taking as a premise they will wait, and they`re assuming they`re not going to get infected or get really hurt.

They`re kind of taking that as a baseline, when the real risk proposition, as you say, is a little different.

Mr. Osterholm, it`s always good to have you here.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

MELBER: We`re going to fit in a break.

When we come back, an update on what everyone`s talking about regarding Simone Biles, out of the team final. And some of her powerful words, you will hear them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:54:05]

MELBER: There`s a lot going on in America, but now we turn to the Olympics.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles pulling out of the team competition in Tokyo. And it`s not over a technical physical injury.

Biles explaining she wanted to make sure she was focusing on and protecting her own mental health.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMONE BILES, U.S. OLYMPIC GYMNAST: I just felt like it would be a little bit better to take a back seat, work on my mindfulness.

And I knew that the girls would do an absolutely great job. I say, put mental health first, because, if you don`t, then you`re not going to enjoy your sport and you`re not going to succeed as much as you want to. So it`s OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: It is OK. And it might be very helpful to people to hear this, even if it involves some balancing or personal sacrifice.

The U.S. squad still taking home silver in Biles` absence. She also stayed on the floor, being a part of the team effort, and cheering on her proud teammates.

[18:55:05]

She has not decided yet whether to compete in Thursday`s individual all- around competition.

We also have an update with some news coming out of the DOJ. It involves a very controversial Pharma Bro and also Wu-Tang, and maybe your tax dollars.

We will explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: One more headline, and it`s one you don`t see every day, the DOJ selling the only copy in existence of a famous album by the hit rap group Wu-Tang Clan.

It`s actually legal news because it`s part of the criminal case against the -- quote -- "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli.

He actually bought the album at an auction for $2 million. But the Fed seized it, helping claw back millions of dollars Shkreli owed the government after being convicted of fraud. Now, the DOJ hasn`t said yet who they sold it to or even what the amount was.

That special album is titled "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin." And no word yet on whether Merrick Garland knows cash rules everything around me, CREAM, get the money, you all, dollar, dollar bills.

[19:00:10]

OK, I`m out of time.

"THE REIDOUT" starts now. Tiffany Cross is in for Joy.