IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 7/28/21

Guests: Gina Raimondo, Nick Akerman


Republicans face new heat following police officers` stark testimony on the Capitol insurrection. A breakthrough occurs in the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy a moron over comments on masks. The DOJ refuses to aid a Republican claiming any potential illegal actions on January 6 should be protected as official duties. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo speaks out.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we`re tracking a Senate vote that could come this very hour, as the Biden White House is eying a breakthrough, they say, on the jobs and infrastructure deal.

Indeed, we have a very special high-ranking guest from the Biden administration joining us later this hour.

We start right now, though, with the quest for accountability for this Capitol riot, new heat on Republicans, as those police officers` stark testimony is sinking in across the nation.

Meanwhile, one of Donald Trump`s most intense defenders in Congress, Jim Jordan, who was not allowed on the committee, seeming to now suggest that he talked with Trump on that fateful day.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Did you talk to the former president that day?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I have talked to the former president umpteen times, thousands -- I mean, maybe not thousands of times...

BAIER: I mean on January 6.

JORDAN: ... but countless, countless times. I talk to the president. I never talk about what we talk about, because I just don`t think that`s appropriate, just like I don`t talk about what happens in Republican conferences.

BAIER: Sure.

JORDAN: I have talked to the president numerous times. I continue to talk to the president since he`s left office.

BAIER: No, no, I mean, on January 6, Congressman.


I mean, I have talked to the president -- I have talked to the president so many -- I can`t remember all the days I have talked to him, but I have certainly talked to the president.


MELBER: Now, amidst some kind of hedging there, Jordan does sound pretty clear that they did talk, which raised questions about whether this was during the violence so memorably caught on tape. Did Trump reveal more of his actions in real time?

We`re now looking at a former president under criminal investigation for efforts to overturn the election, the election that made him an ex- president. So Jordan`s firsthand account could make congressman Jordan a relevant witness for this House committee or that open criminal probe in Georgia.

As for yesterday`s hearing, Jordan is one of several Republicans trying this out, saying, well, he missed it while working. The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy hitting a similar theme, and same for the Senate leader of the Republican Party, Mitch McConnell.

Then there`s the newest member of Republican leadership, who was added as a more loyal Trump alternative to Liz Cheney, famously, over these issues. I`m talking about Congresswoman Stefanik, who refuses to say whether she followed that committee hearing at all.

Now, these answers are not exactly profiles in courage, but they matter tonight. And I will tell you briefly why. They underscore some of the fear behind this current Republican facade over the riot and the introduction.

The truth is, Republican leaders have not figured out a coordinated plan for dealing with a probe that is very clearly damning for Trump, because, while we can be as fair and legalistic as possible about the definition of incitement, he called those people to Washington. Everybody knows that.

He gave them that rally and speech, and then they marched in and tried to overthrow your government and your democracy. Everybody knows that. It`s also incriminating for many elected Republicans, not all, but many.

Now, what did they do about all this? Well, the Republican Party tried to sabotage the hearing that everyone just saw yesterday. They lost that gambit when Pelosi booted the Jim Jordans of the world off the committee, so we didn`t have half or more of the time spent on their stuff.

Then the Republican Party turned to a boycott to try to argue that this probe would be automatically partisan, a talking point completely diluted by Speaker Pelosi, because she just added Republicans herself. So a couple things didn`t work.

Now they`re betting if they just say there`s nothing to see here. I was so busy at work, I didn`t see it, that maybe a lot of Americans will agree.

OK. But there is something to see here. It`s the worst attack on our Capitol in the modern era. There is something to watch here. And there are conservatives with a lot more influence than the average Republican members of Congress who clearly get that.

Over on FOX, they`re not using this sort of new McCarthy/McConnell 4.0 line now that they have been outmaneuvered by Pelosi. Over on FOX News, they`re not pretending they don`t know what happened in that committee here. Indeed, these hearings were partly carried on FOX itself, because they were so big, they couldn`t avoid them.

They were also carried on several news networks, NBC, ABC, and those, as a matter of what reaches voters, those networks draw even more viewers than cable. So, the FOX crowd, the people over on that network, they know Americans are hearing about this.

And they`re taking a different tack. They`re turning on the police. They are arguing those people, those officers who risked their lives are engaged in some kind of theater.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Democrats today picked for carefully curated police officers to testify as the voice of the law enforcement community.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: The theatrics were intended to produce an emotional reaction, logic and facts be damned.

God save us from these third-rate theatrics. Now, the award for best use of an exaggeration in a supporting role, the winner is Aquilino Gonell, who thinks the pen is literally mightier than the sword.



MELBER: Where to begin?

Well, the media arm of the conservative movement, which rallied around a reality TV show star to run the country, now has a problem with theatrics?

The people who claim blue lives matter have decided the most important color here is actually MAGA red? Everyone knows the expression a hit dog will holler. These riot enablers are clearly hit. They are hollering. And they understand something both obvious and tragic across America, including many conservative areas.

A debate between criminal MAGA rioters and brave police officers is not even close, which is why, on this one, the police get the last word.


SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE: ... and recall thinking to myself, this is how I`m going to die.

MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: What I witnessed and experienced on January 6, 2021 was unlike anything I had ever seen.

DANIEL HODGES, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Another takes a different tack, shouting: "You will die on your knees."

HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: There was an attack carried out on January 6, and a hit man sent them.


MELBER: I`m joined now by the former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, Katty Kay from Ozy Media, the Washington editor, there and, from "Mother Jones," David Corn.

Michael, I walked through the recent history, even if it`s a little depressing and monotonous, because it seems clear that the Republican leadership in Congress doesn`t know how to play this. Pelosi has sort of checkmated them several times. And the media arm over at FOX, they seem to understand this is not something you can just peace out on.

They seem to understand that this police testimony, if it goes far enough and continues, means something.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and I think that`s why you have the responses you have from the talking heads that you displayed in the opening part of the segment, where the only thing that was curated was their responses.

We could have predicted the responses here. I mean, at the end of the day, the MAGA-loving, pro-police crowd is just more MAGA-loving than they are pro-police. And the reality is setting in, not just politically, having been outmaneuvered and their bluffs called several times by the speaker of the House, but the reality of it is that this narrative exposes so much about what`s rotten right now inside the core of my party.

And in addition to that, you also have the, oh, let`s keep up with the Newsmax crowd who is stealing our audience. So a lot of this becomes a play to kind of pull back some of those FOX viewers.

But the reality still remains for FOX and a lot of these folks pushing this stuff that the rest of us see it and know it for what it is. Our eyes aren`t lying to us here, folks, right? We watched it unfold real time. I don`t need FOX to describe or otherwise curate an answer for me or a response, because I saw it.

And that is the hardest piece of evidence for them to come up against.

MELBER: Yes. Yes, I hear that.

Katty, let me play a little bit more from an officer here discussing I guess what has become this back-and-forth about theater and entertainment. Take a look.


FANONE: What does concern me is the fact that those entertainers have an audience, and that audience takes their words and the rhetoric that they use as more than just entertainment. They think it`s real.

And that thought process has real-life consequences. And we saw the results of that on January 6.


MELBER: Katty, there`s something a little -- I guess it`s disturbing that someone in this position has to go out here as an officer and engage on all this.

I mean, almost -- I get what`s happening. I also think in a way it`s a sad statement about where we`re at. But he`s sort of doing the work through what is this committee process and through the interview I just showed to remind people that it`s not all fun and games and -- quote, unquote -- "rhetoric" and don`t take him literally when this is the result, Katty.

KATTY KAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it`s depressing that these officers who went through, as they said, hell on January the 6th to defend members of Congress, have to wake up the fact that those members of Congress say they`re too busy to even listen to their testimony during the hearing.


The level of disrespect just on a human, personal level seems pretty astonishing. And Officer Fanone in that interview also kind of quite rightly said -- understood the theatrics of this and said that, when you get people mocking the police officers for what they said during their testimony, it was a kind of an indication of weakness, really, from the other side.

He said, look, I see -- I have testified before defense lawyers before and I know in a courtroom when they start coming out with the theatrics, that`s where they`re on the weakest ground. And he had a full understanding of that.

I just thought that the two things of mocking them and then saying, well, actually, we just didn`t even have time to watch, just shows the level of disrespect that Republican members of Congress seem to be showing to these officers who gave so much on that day.

MELBER: David?

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, when I look at what`s happening, it reminds me of Stalinism.

Stalinism was a cult of personality. And one real big tenet of it was denial. They would airbrush people out of photos to make believe they never existed. Donald Trump cannot survive with an accurate depiction of what happened in January 6, particularly his own role and what he did that day. He just can`t survive politically with that.

It`s too much to have a president cheering on and doing nothing and inciting a riot. Even -- it may work with 30 percent of the country who are MAGA already, but he can`t survive. So it has to be denied.

That means these officers and their accounts have to be denied or mocked or not looked at, not given credit to. And so you have members of the Republican Party -- and there was a wonderful exchange yesterday between Congressman Jamie Raskin and Congressman Clyde, right, who said that they were just tourists, when Clyde could not bring himself to say...



CORN: ... well, OK, they weren`t like tourists, because...

MELBER: David, let me -- I didn`t know you were going to -- David, I don`t know you`re going to bring that up. But our crack BEAT team here has that ready.

So let`s have you share more of your thoughts on this moment on the other side. But for those who haven`t seen it, let`s take a look.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): "Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn`t know the TV footage was a video from January 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit."

Those are your words.

REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): And I stand by that exact statement as I said.


CORN: I mean, in "1984," the epitome of what the party does to people is that you have to say two plus two is five.

Until the party can get you to say that, it hasn`t fully won. And this is what Donald Trump is doing. January 6 didn`t happen, or it was just tourists, or was Antifa and BLM. It was everything but what happened.

And so it`s painful to see these victims who were brutalized trying to save our democracy be challenged in this way. But I think they get. I was very impressed. I think they know what they`re up against. And to defend democracy doesn`t just entail standing there in front of the hordes and physically restraining them from going after Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi and others.

It also means getting out there and beating up the nihilists and just saying again and again, we`re fighting not just democracy, but for reality.


Well, and that moment stood out. And, Michael, that was Congressman Clyde there who said -- quote -- I have it here -- he said -- quote -- "I stand by that exact statement as I said it," which is reminiscent of one of the pieces of Internet culture where people say, I said what I said.


MELBER: But properly used, that`s a phrase -- that`s a phrase that affirms something that might have been a little spicy, or might have offended someone, but is supposed to be a truth thing.

Like, I said what I said, David Corn listens to too much Bob Dylan.


MELBER: And then he says, how dare you? There`s no such thing.

And I say, I said what I said.


MELBER: That`s the lighthearted version.

STEELE: Right.

MELBER: The tragic version is, you have a member of Congress in broad daylight amidst this hearing, amidst this news, everyone`s been reminded, the officers spoke, the video is up there, and he`s doubling down on, yes, he lied about it. He`s a liar. And he`s lying in the service of white nationalist terrorists who tried to overthrow democracy, who got people killed.

What do you do with that?

STEELE: Well, I mean, your question actually rather answers itself.

I mean, if you -- if you have got nowhere to go in your lie, and it`s exposed for what it is -- I mean, look, I know what the congressman was saying. He was saying, if you took a snapshot of that moment in time, when there was the visual of those individuals walking through the Capitol from one -- from someplace to somewhere else, where they -- where they were -- that particular group happened to be a little bit orderly.


Yes, you could make that case. That`s what he wants us to believe. Believe that snapshot of one minute out of four hours of riotous, insurrectionist behavior. So, that`s the narrowing, the "1984" moment he wants you to latch on to. That`s the Stalinist, the sort of kind of, hey, we`re going to make you feel good.

To David`s point, we`re going to excise out of the visual the rest of the story, everything else that you`re watching. Just focus on those people walking casually and orderly on their way to do destruction, on their way looking for the vice president to hang him with the scaffolds that are outside.

That part of the conversation the congressman doesn`t want to acknowledge, because to acknowledge that proves his lie. And when you have got nowhere to go with your lie, the only thing you can do, baby, is hunker down, and hold on, which is what you saw him do, which is the modern-day version of, I said what I said.

MELBER: Katty?

KAY: Yes, what was extraordinary about the hearing yesterday was not just the officers` testimony. It was that we saw yet more new video that we hadn`t seen before, which -- from Officer Fanone`s body camera. We saw the new video of Officer Hodges having his head crushed in that doorway.

We hadn`t seen some of that. And it was impossible to look at that and repeat the kinds of things that some Republican members have said in the past and have been saying today, which is why you had Republican members say, actually, I didn`t see it, because, if you saw it, if you just watched the video, let alone listened to the testimony, let alone listened to the heartbreak of the people who had been there trying to defend members of Congress, you couldn`t possibly say the things that you have been saying about January the 6th.

The two images -- those images don`t add up with the words. So you have people saying, well, I was too busy. I was in meetings all day.



MELBER: It can`t coexist, as you say.

And saying you`re in meetings, if you do the thought experiment, it`s like, would anyone say that out loud about the 9/11 Commission or any other such national security failing where it was understood, notwithstanding other differences, that you cared about this? Because, to be in government, and claim not to care about it, not to even look, would itself be deemed an abdication.

Michael, Katty, and David, thanks to each of you.

Coming up, we are tracking the Senate vote, as mentioned. This is the bipartisan jobs and infrastructure deal. It`s hugely important to President Biden. And there are signs, they say -- we`re going to track the vote -- that they have a breakthrough.

Also, a major call from DOJ. It is not going to do anything to help a Trump ally under fire for the other piece of what we have discussed, allegations of inciting this insurrection.

Also, Speaker Pelosi just has had it with her counterpart, Republican Minority Leader McCarthy. Why did she call him a moron, literally? We will explain and keep an eye on the Senate vote.

Stay with us.



MELBER: We are looking at the floor of the United States Senate, where senators are gathering on the floor. That itself is rare. But it`s because, as you see on your screen, this key vote on the Biden jobs and infrastructure plan is coming up.

And the indications are on the record that there is a breakthrough. Senate Democrats expect to bring this to the floor and get enough votes to overcome what is normally a filibuster on so much business coming out of the White House. We will be tracking that.

If indeed they win, are victorious, we will bring that to you. As you can see, a lot of action on the Senate floor. And we will be tracking when this vote comes in, whether it`s this hour or later tonight here on MSNBC.

As for THE BEAT, we want to turn back to a different series of events for Republican lawmakers. We, in our top segment tonight, covered the blowback and the scuffling over that police testimony. That all has to do with what we`re learning about what happened on January 6.

There`s a separate issue here, though, over Republicans accused of helping incite the riot itself. There have been allegations, of course, against Donald Trump -- he was impeached over it -- but also against others who spoke at that fateful Trump rally that day.

Republican congressman Mo Brooks, for example, is being sued by a Democratic colleague over the speech he gave to the crowd on that day hours before the insurrection.


REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): I have got a message that I need you to take to your heart and take back home and along the way, stop at the Capitol!

Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass! Our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes, and sometimes their lives. Are you willing to do the same?


BROOKS: The fight begins today!


MELBER: You heard the man. He`s talking about kicking ass. He`s talking about shedding blood, like historical examples where people shed real blood. He said the fight begins today. And we know people took him literally.

Now, there are many facets to this because, in America, people have broad free speech rights, even for saying things that may sound violent, as long as they don`t directly incite violence.

The question here, given the violence that occurred, is whether he did. Now, Brooks is running from this. He`s trying to duck the whole argument. He`s trying to claim he should be immune from even going to court over this, because he claims what you just saw as part of his official duties as a member of Congress.


Well, that`s his opinion. Is he going to get very far with that? Well, he`s not getting any help from the Department of Justice that often would weigh in if someone was really exercising official duties, for example, if someone did something while going to work in the administration.

They say he`s wrong, though, the DOJ going to court to make the point, saying they cannot conclude Brooks was acting within the scope of his office. And they go further, saying -- and this is important -- "Inciting or conspiring to foment a violent attack on the Capitol is not within the scope of any federal employee."

That is what is known as a legal smackdown. Indeed, I can tell you the DOJ didn`t have to go that far, to put it that starkly. They could have just said, we`re not helping.

Now, to be as fair as possible, whether or not this was incitement, whether or not this was, for example, a crime hasn`t been determined yet. That could happen in court by a judge.

Now, the same suit names others, Don Jr., Giuliani, and Donald Trump himself.

Now, when we were discussing this just this week on THE BEAT, Neal Katyal told us how the DOJ is paving the way for Trump officials to also be hauled in and be forced to testify under oath about January 6.


NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: 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: We hear a lot about accountability and justice. The fact is, in our system, that can take time.

And we have a very special guest on this, someone who has spent many years on justice for federal officials, Nick Akerman.

We`re back with him in 60 seconds.


MELBER: We`re joined now by Nick Akerman, a veteran Watergate prosecutor and a veteran of the famed SDNY in New York.

Good to have you, sir.


MELBER: Several -- hey, that`s the attitude we like.

Several developments here, Nick. But this isn`t the first time that people in government accused of some kind of misconduct rush to claim, hey, I was just doing my government job.

There are times where that can work. It certainly can shut down certain types of inquiries. Walk us through what it means that it appears not to be working, as far as the DOJ is concerned, for Congressman Brooks.

AKERMAN: Well, I think the best way to look at this is to compare it to the Jean Carroll situation, where the government, the Department of Justice decided that it would continue to represent Donald Trump in that particular suit.

I mean, there is a very distinct policy issue here. A president of the United States gets sued all the time. And Jean Carroll may have a viable suit. It may be legitimate. It may not be. We can`t say for sure that this rape actually happened.

But it`s something that a public official is subject to all the time. And I think the Department of Justice viewed it as such, that they didn`t want to get into making a decision the merits of the case, because a president is sued for all kinds of crazy things all the time.

On the other hand, in this particular case, there is no question that what Congressman Brooks was doing was inciting the crowd to basically storm the Capitol.

He used the word blood. He used the word patriots. He used the word kicking ass. I mean, there isn`t any doubt in anybody`s mind, particularly when you put that in the context of what Donald Trump said and what Rudy Giuliani said about trial by combat.


I mean, this whole -- when you put all of these people together, in terms of what they were saying to this crowd, they were basically inciting them to go up to the Capitol and riot the place. That`s exactly what they did.

What they said is what you expected to be the end result. Obviously, the Department of Justice is not going to defend somebody who`s trying to overthrow the United States government. I mean, that in itself seems to me to be a pretty commonsense notion, that, if someone came, tried to murder you and missed, and just shot you in the arm, you`re not going to fight his legal battle.

You`re not going to get him lawyers so he can defend himself against you when you`re going to sue him for doing that.

Well, it`s the same thing here. I mean, this is the most extreme case of somebody being involved in an insurrection to overthrow the government, to stop our constitutional process of counting the votes for president, because they didn`t like who was elected.

So, under these circumstances, it would have been absolutely crazy and the extreme for the Department of Justice to represent Congressman Brooks.

MELBER: And so what does he face in court now?

AKERMAN: Well, I think what he`s going to face is depositions.

And that`s going to be the start of this. There`s going to be discovery. He`s going to be deposed. Donald Trump will be deposed. Rudy Giuliani will be deposed. And they don`t really have much of a defense here.

And I think that the more they can dig into the evidence showing that Trump, Giuliani, Brooks knew that these people would come up, knew that these people were looking for a fight, the more they can show that, the more they can show that what they were doing was inciting this riot.

I mean, I am totally convinced that, once they start digging into phone records, they find out who these people were meeting with, if Congressman Brooks was meaning with the 3 Percenters or the Proud Boys, he`s going to have a hard time trying to argue that he was doing this in his duty as a congressman.

Your duty as a congressman is not to try and overthrow the Congress and stop their regular business. I mean, that is just not going to fly well with a jury in the District of Columbia.

MELBER: Yes, it`s one of the dumber things I have heard. And I do this for a living. So I hear all kinds of stuff, Nick.


MELBER: But the Brooks defense is like someone accused of embezzling from their own bank and saying, that`s part of my official duties, which just brings you back to, no, you`re accused of embezzlement, which is abdicating your duties to steal for yourself.

As you say, he`s not defending the Congress. He is trying to overthrow it.

I did want to get your view on the other issue I mentioned with Neal Katyal, which relates as well to these open probes, that there is mounting pressure on different members of the administration to have to testify. The DOJ there also not giving, for example, former acting Attorney General Rosen any kind of privilege, because they don`t deem a potential coup as the kind of machinations that are privileged.

What else could we learn about that? Because it seems that the fact that this all didn`t work has also colored some people`s perspective, even though we all know that attempted murder is bad, as you just alluded to.

And so the fact that Donald Trump reportedly was not only doing the outside game with the rally, if you will, and the insurrection, but the inside game of trying to get people inside the government to pull off a coup. He just didn`t succeed.


But I think what we`re going to find is people coming in with all kinds of firsthand conversations with Donald Trump, or people around Donald Trump that are going to put together a jigsaw puzzle of putting in all these pieces that show exactly what Donald Trump was doing minute by minute, day by day with respect to what occurred right from the beginning, when he called people in, when he encouraged people to show up in Washington to this Stop the Steal rally, which was really geared towards trying to stop a constitutional process of counting votes for the president of the United States.

I think that, once you have those people, and they have got to testify truthfully, you`re going to get a lot of evidence that could wind up turning into ultimately a criminal case against Donald Trump or Congressman Brooks and Rudy Giuliani.

That`s what I think is the ultimate endgame here, once you put all of these pieces together, particularly when you don`t have the privilege to hide behind. And that`s pretty classic. I mean, the idea that you can claim privilege when the conversations were essentially in furtherance of criminal activity, in this case, to overthrow the government, I don`t think that there`s any question that people are going to be forced to testify.


And the only privilege they have is to assert their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

MELBER: All clearly put.

Nick Akerman, thank you, as always, for the legal insights.

When we come back, we`re looking at this pillar of Biden`s agenda, the jobs and infrastructure deal. They say they have one. A key vote in the Senate coming tonight.

And Joe Biden`s pick, his secretary of commerce, on THE BEAT next.


MELBER: We`re tracking the action the Senate floor, where there`s a key vote on President Biden`s job and infrastructure plan. And that`s expected to come imminently tonight, maybe within the next hour.

We also have new reporting Senator Mitch McConnell, known for so much obstruction, has actually publicly said here late in the day that he will vote yes to clear a path for a floor vote on the bill.

Now, the plan includes $500 billion in new spending on roads, bridges, broadband and other types of infrastructure. What they need first is 60 votes to overcome the common filibusters to then get a floor vote on the bill itself.

As promised, we turn now to a very special guest. It`s who the president has put in charge of so much of the economic agenda, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.


Thanks for being here.


MELBER: The word is, you have a deal. What is it? And how did you get it?

RAIMONDO: We do have a deal.

It`s a historic deal. It will be the largest bipartisan investment in infrastructure, transit, clean water, and broadband ever. And we got it by doing the hard work of reaching across the aisle, and working with senators one at a time to make sure that we were able to reconcile our differences and deliver for the American people.

And the president deserves a lot of credit. He personally was so engaged in these discussions, as were we, the members of his Cabinet.

And I would just say, thank you to all the senators, Republican and Democrat, who have been working around the clock in good faith to come up with a deal that delivers.

MELBER: What should people make of an endless clash between Mitch McConnell and the Biden agenda?

You and viewers know how much he blocks, obstructs, and filibusters. And he`s touted that. What are we to make, in your view, of this apparent momentary lapse from that, with the -- as I mentioned, Senator McConnell announcing today that, as long as the votes and the substitute amendments are arranged, which is what he wanted, that he won`t stand in the way of a floor vote on this?

RAIMONDO: This package is extremely popular with the American people.

It will create millions of jobs in every state in America. And I think every senator knows that. They look around their communities, and they see crumbling roads, crumbling bridges. They see so many people don`t have access to high-speed broadband.

And, also, this is like no deal I have ever been involved with -- I was the governor -- where you have so much support. Business leaders are for it. CEOs are for it. Labor leaders are for it. Grassroots activists are for it.

So there`s so much demand by the American people saying, get this done. And that`s exactly what we`re doing.

MELBER: A lot of Americans felt the first Biden spending programs with the stimulus checks.

This is a little different. You just mentioned crumbling bridges. There`s a different timeline for dealing with some of that. What do you think are the first, most direct impacts that Americans might feel if, as you say, you get this deal and this does pass?

RAIMONDO: Well, they will see people back to work in good-paying jobs in their communities rebuilding their communities.

They will see construction crews rebuilding. They will see improvements to the airports. They will start to -- schoolchildren who suffered so much last year because they couldn`t go to school because they didn`t have broadband will finally have broadband.

There`s so many tangible benefits in this package for everyday Americans. And they will feel it every day in their lives, by the way, not to mention the millions of people who will be employed doing this work.

MELBER: Right.

And, finally, if this does pass -- and we mentioned McConnell and others are confirming it, so it seems on that way -- what does it mean to you, what does it say that the prior president talked so much about infrastructure, had multiple infrastructure weeks, but over four years never got a package like this, and it would appear that this administration has rushed one through quite effectively?

RAIMONDO: It says that President Biden is the leader that the American people voted for and put in office, because he is effective.

He has -- he campaigned saying he knew how to get things done reaching across the aisle. He has personally done that. He has set the tone at the top for those of us who work for him to do that. And we`re delivering.


Well, it`s interesting hearing directly from you, Secretary, because you`re also talking about something that has been debated and has been in short supply, which is bipartisanship. The president tapped you for a reason. And you`re conveying that he is setting that tone in a town that has had very little of it lately on more than one story we have been covering.

So very interesting to hear directly from you on what is a big day at Commerce and for the Biden White House. So thank you for your time.

RAIMONDO: Thank you. Take care. Thanks.

MELBER: Absolutely. Appreciate it.

As mentioned, we`re going to keep an eye on this vote. We have gotten indications it could come as soon as this hour. MSNBC will stay on it to tell you exactly what happens.

When we come back, you have Republicans now saying they want to shut down Congress over mask rules. Meanwhile, the CDC getting some blowback for the way it`s pushing new rules.


And why did Speaker Pelosi call McCarthy a moron? A real question with an answer -- next.


MELBER: We are watching the United States Senate, where a vote is now under way on this jobs and infrastructure plan. We were just speaking to the commerce secretary about it.

So, senators will have time here for this procedural vote. Mitch McConnell says he`s on board, clearing the way for then a floor vote on the plan itself.

We will keep an eye on that and update you when we have results.

But, right now, we turn to another important topic, which is these new CDC guidelines you might have heard reigniting the debate over masks, as well as vaccines, and the interplay.

A Republican lawmaker trying to shut down Congress now, rather than wear a mask.


REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): We can`t come to the floor, I can`t execute my constitutional duty unless I wear a mask, or are they just going to go around poking people saying, you must take a vaccine?

Oh, but, sorry, the vaccine doesn`t work. You must wear a mask.


This institution is a sham, and we should adjourn and shut this place down.


MELBER: You can see he`s angry.

The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, also questioning science about mask-wearing.

Speaker Pelosi, as promised, you get to see her response.


QUESTION: The mask mandate, Speaker Pelosi, any response to the backlash?

Leader McCarthy says it`s against the science.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): He`s such a moron.


MELBER: There it is.

At the same time, though, there is ongoing policy debate about some of these questions and choices. Masks do work. But with the CDC bearing down now as the COVID virus gets worse with variants, there`s a question about whether focusing on masks for the vaccinated is where effort should be put policy-wise, when you still have millions of Americans who won`t even get vaccinated.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: What has changed is the virus. The CDC hasn`t changed. And the CDC hasn`t really flipped-flopped at all.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: These masks are a layer of protection that will help us prevent spread at a time where we are seeing cases rise. The vaccines are still the linchpin of our effort to end this pandemic.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I don`t think that we`re going to get enough bang for our buck by telling vaccinated people they have to wear masks at all times to make it worth our while.

This new guidance will have a negligible impact on that.


MELBER: Meanwhile, it`s not all one note either.

There`s a writer who is observing how some Republicans are trying to rebrand vaccine shots as a Trump vaccine. Whatever you want to call it, if it helps people get on board, people are trying all kinds of things.

What do you do with a problem like this? What do you do with the speaker calling someone a moron? You turn to one of our favorite guests.

So good, we have him twice, RNC Chair Michael Steele.

How you doing, sir?

STEELE: Hey, man, I`m good. I`m good, vaccinated and feeling fine.


I will start with the easiest one. What does it mean when the speaker just calls him a moron?

STEELE: Well, OK, so she said the loud part out -- the quiet part out loud, a lot of what people are thinking when they hear and see Kevin and others in the Republican leadership take the position they have on masks and the vaccine.

Look, this is -- what is so galling about this, everyone knows this is all politics. This is pure politics.


STEELE: This is beyond the -- oh, the social conscience and this sort of fake freedom charge that people are concerned about.

They weren`t concerned about that when they were told to wear their seat belts. They weren`t concerned about that when they were told to stop smoking or when they were told to take care of this or that other health crisis at the moment. No one made that kind of equation.

But this speaks to -- and I think this is what the speaker is putting her finger on -- the difference in what leadership makes in a crisis like this, the difference it can make for the entire country.

If the leadership goes rogue, guess what? You can count on about a third of the people following them.


STEELE: And when that happens, you have now find the CDC in this position, Ari, where they look like they`re flip-flopping, they can`t make up their mind, they don`t know what they`re saying, they don`t know what they`re doing, because they`re trying to find every measure they can to get the American people to do a basic thing here.


STEELE: And so now it`s falling on the vaccinated.

MELBER: Well, let`s get in...

STEELE: ... to protect themselves from the unvaccinated.

MELBER: Well, let`s get into that part, Michael, yes, because people know you as a political whiz.

But you were the second highest ranking official in Maryland as well dealing with policy trade-offs.

I`m curious what you think about this, because we all understand, I think, where the CDC is coming from. But I played both sides of the debate, as we often try to do here, so people make up their own minds.

There are policy experts who say that, when the biggest problem is the unvaccinated, and that`s the transmission, that trying to zigzag back to have vaccinated individuals also wear masks sometimes inside is just not the smartest policy proportionately.

And there also, of course, was the policy idea that you want to incent getting vaccinated, so you don`t have to wear a mask. I did bring some Drake bars for this, and then we will get your reaction, because he did famously say that he wanted to give house tours, until it`s back to world tours, play that mask off when they find the real cure.

STEELE: Right.

MELBER: Now, he wrote that before the vaccine. Play the mask off, that`s a reference to a separate Future song. Take the mask off when they find the real cure. Now they`re saying put it back on.

I give you the floor, Michael.

STEELE: Yes, I mean, I think that`s exactly the reality we find ourselves in.


And for a lot of vaccinated people, they`re like, well, wait a minute. I followed the rules. I did what you asked me to do. I follow your zigzag all over the place. And now we`re back where you put the weight on my shoulders?

And the unvaccinated are basically beating their breasts running around the country saying, we don`t care, we`re living free, and so forth.

So, the policy problem becomes one of, what next step do you take to get those people who are rogue on this somewhat in line? How do you instill the level of fear in them? I don`t think you do it with -- and this is just my own view at the moment. I don`t think you deal with this current iteration of the CDC guidelines, telling vaccinated people that they have got to now put the mask back on, when they have done everything they can to protect themselves, arguably, from those who aren`t vaccinated.

The question should be, how do we get those who are still rogue in this space to come around, to get that third or more who are out there, to whittle down on that number? That`s the real policy conundrum at the moment.

MELBER: Yes. I think that`s well put.

And if I may end this segment with a compliment, Mr. Steele, Chairman...


MELBER: ... this exchange, talking about the actual trade-offs and the policy, is an example for all.

And I hope more members of Congress look to how you just did it, because we can think through these things together and do it calmly and with respect.

We have got more time left to manage this pandemic.


MELBER: Mr. Chairman, thank you twice.

STEELE: Thank you, my friend. Good to be with you always, Ari.

MELBER: Always. Appreciate it.

We`re watching the Senate vote here. They`re tracking the numbers. We don`t have the results yet. But everyone can see that.

We`re going to fit in a break and be right back.