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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 7/29/21

Guests: Renato Mariotti, Max Boot, Mike Saag


President Biden delivers a major address on the pandemic. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro discusses how new programs passed under the Biden administration have drastically cut poverty in America. How strong is the case against a Trump billionaire ally? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez argues for voter protections. Congressman Mo Brooks, who is facing a lawsuit that alleges he incited the Capitol riot, admits he was wearing body armor at the rally.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And President Biden is delivering a major address -- this came late today - - on what he calls the pandemic for the unvaccinated, as he also rolled out new policies to combat a COVID resurgence.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every federal government employee will be asked to attest to their vaccination status.

A mask is not a political statement. It`s about protecting yourself and protecting others.


MELBER: Biden using his federal powers to tighten vaccine participation and set a standard, as we are going through a period where other employers, as well as local governments are weighing what to do, and weighing how hard to push employees on vaccinations.

Now, this new federal approach by the Biden White House is basically moderate, from a policy view. It does not threaten employees with termination for avoiding vaccines, for example. Rather, it serves up a choice, get vaccinated or get tested regularly.

The president also pushing plans to pay people to get a vaccine, something that some cities are now trying. And that policy speaks to how desperate things are getting in unvaccinated America. It`s also a contrast to many poorer countries around the world, where vaccines are not widely available, even today, and people are clamoring just to get one, not waiting around to see or waiting around to get paid.

And I want to be clear with you here, some real talk.

It is striking that we live in a country right now where the government has determined it needs to give out incentives for vaccinations, because I want you to remember something. Vaccinations are the incentive. They are the thing everyone was waiting for last year, hoping would come into existence to protect us, to protect our families, to avoid death and, at a more quotidian level, to get back to regular life and not wearing a mask and all that other stuff.

It is the incentive. But, increasingly, the COVID rebound -- I bet you know this -- it`s become a truly a two-America story right now, highly vaccinated areas living a different way and in a different position than these lesser vaccinated hot spots.

Take Florida. And we talk about Florida a lot in the news for a variety of reasons. But in just the last 14 days, COVID has more than doubled there. And the Republican governor, a Trump ally, says he won`t even look at certain safety moves, no matter what.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): And I think it`s very important that we say unequivocally no closures, no to restrictions, and no mandates.



MELBER: Meanwhile, today, Washington, D.C., is another city that`s reinstating an indoor mask rule even for the vaccinated.

And in that town`s iconic Capitol, meanwhile, Republicans are protesting masks, flaunting new guidelines to have to wear them in the Senate, while a MAGA congresswoman literally threw her mask at a staff member this week.

You take it all together, and what we have going on here, what you can see on the floor there and what you can see in these protests, is a question of leadership. It is a question of what we`re going to do about these debates.

And I will be the first to say that anyone who has a zero tolerance policy for other people`s views about what they`re doing with their body probably isn`t helping, because you have a right to decide what to do with your health coverage.

But as we have emphasized in our reporting here, factually and scientifically, the vaccines are safe, and the vaccines work. And if people are making these decisions based on misinformation, we are going to be in a longer problem.

It`s going to last potentially a very long time. So get informed and potentially get paid if you want to get vaccinated.

I want to bring in our first round of experts this evening. Dr. Michael Saag is director of the infectious disease program for the University of Alabama at Birmingham and "The Nation"`s Joan Walsh.

Doctor, what does it mean that the president is out here pushing people to do something that I guess they might not do without 100 bucks or more, to incentivize just getting vaccinated?

DR. MIKE SAAG, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Well, Ari, it`s baffling to me that, as you just said, that getting the vaccine and protecting your own health isn`t incentive enough.


SAAG: And I have talked to people around the world. I have talked to people around the world, and they are clamoring for this vaccine in areas that just don`t have it.

Even in Sydney, Australia, where my nephew lives, they`re still having to wait several months to get the vaccine.

What`s emerging right now is something we all feared several months ago, as we saw the vaccine uptake starting to wane. And that was the emergence of another surge, of another spike. And that`s what we`re in right now.


We are going to see numbers increasing very likely to beyond what we have ever experienced before, in terms of peaks around Labor Day that could be two to three times higher than what we have ever seen with COVID. Certainly, that`s going to be true in Alabama.


And I understand we`re going to work out a little tech issue with Joan, and try to get her up to speed.

But, Doctor, staying with you, I want to play a little bit of a Republican from Georgia here speaking out on these issues on FOX to get a sense of what others are hearing. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes no sense. There`s no science to it. Let Americans be Americans and give us our freedom. We`re tired of big government trying to be the nanny for every American.

If I want to take the risk, I will take the risk.


MELBER: What`s the public health messaging and scientific approach to this?

Because I try to go out of my way, it`s part of my job, to be fair here, and we have a long-running tradition of liberty, and the rhetoric of liberty, and we understand why that`s appealing. But how do you go up against that respectfully, while trying to help people understand that this is scientifically-backed safety?

SAAG: Well, to paraphrase Daniel Patrick Moynihan from years ago, everyone`s entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

And the facts that were just espoused are wrong. I don`t know how else to say it. They`re just wrong. We know the facts about how this virus is transmitted. We know a lot about the Delta variant, and it`s dangerous.

We have a new hurricane coming our way. There are storm warnings. We`re all trying to sound the alarm. And it`s going on deaf ears. And it`s actually something that I think we`re all fearing. I just published 30 minutes ago an op-ed in "The Washington Post" that talks about fighting a two-front war.

It`s bad enough to fight the virus. And now we have to fight disinformation. And that is beyond unfortunate. It`s counterproductive, and it`s going to kill people.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, you just put your finger on it when you liken it to other disaster responses when there is a hurricane and when the government steps up and says, you got to get up out of this area, because of what we know.

You got to save yourself, your family. There`s certain things you got to do. And most of the other days of the year, you probably can do what you want. I mean, we have a lot of liberty.

I want to play a little bit more from the president`s remarks. We have heard him speak out, and we heard him, of course, throughout the campaign speak out quite forcefully about COVID and health. But, today, he did seem in a genuine way almost more perturbed, and it`s that balance, and it`s a balance of leadership, I suppose, where public officials, they want to strike a certain note.

But he almost seemed to be saying, come on, you guys. Take a listen.


BIDEN: The federal government will now reimburse those employers to give their staffs -- who give their staffs time off, not only to get themselves vaccinated, but also to get their family members vaccinated.


MELBER: This is an area where the president can act unilaterally. I think news viewers understand all the things he said, if he wanted to do them on a national mandate, most of them, if they involve, for example, time off, labor, that`s got to go to the Congress, yadda, yadda.

So he`s using these new rules at the federal level as an example, but he seems to be hoping employers will also volunteer or find other ways to make sure everyone has the time off and the support they need to go do this or do this in groups or do this in families.

What did you think of those points from the president?

SAAG: Well, I like the support we`re getting in the trenches here trying to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Technically, from public health law, there`s all kinds of precedent for having mandates for -- we can even incarcerate people with tuberculosis if they refuse to take their medicine to protect the public. We have vaccine requirements for children in schools before they can attend.

We`re being very careful with mandating these vaccines, I think because they`re kind of new, and they`re still under early use authorization. And I think that`s causing people to pause. So the president and others, we`re all trying just to encourage folks. But, obviously, we`re falling short.

With this new surge, Ari, I think what I`m worried about very deeply, is that we`re going to go back to fighting this with kind of one hand behind our back, that we aren`t able to use all the tools at our disposal. And unlike the surge we had back in January, where our hospitals got overwhelmed, we have the tools now.

We have the vaccine, and it`s mind-boggling that we`re not able to get it implemented by more than, for example, two-thirds of people -- one-third of people in our state, two-thirds still unvaccinated fully.

MELBER: Dr. Saag, thank you very much. Appreciate you kicking us off here after the president`s address.

I`m going to turn now to our other top story tonight. And it`s at the top of the hour for a big reason. It is COVID-adjacent, but it`s a very different type of story.

I can report for you that tonight in America we are seeing a record drop in poverty levels. There`s dramatic new evidence about the impact of federal spending, a lot of this coming, of course, out of the pandemic-related programs, and a lot of it coming at a time when people were suffering.


It was designed as a safety measure, as an emergency measure, and to deal with the economic upheaval of the quarantines and the jobs lost. There`s been trillions of dollars in unemployment relief spent. There`s been the stimulus checks, and a new round under Biden this past year, as well as an expansion of programs for children that try to lift child poverty and take 20 million people total out of living in poverty in America.

Here`s a chart that tells the story. You can see, from the `70s, how the poverty rate as a matter of percentage has at times dropped and gone back up. It`s what they sometimes call a cyclical thing. It`s tied to other economic cycles, and, of course, government policy.

And look, of course, the far right, yellow bar pointing down on your screen. That`s what you`re looking at. And this is the simplest way to understand it. There`s stories, there`s the Internet, there`s what goes viral, and then there`s the cold hard data, a 45 percent drop in the current poverty rate in America.

"The New York Times," with an exhaustive report, noting the country has never cut poverty so much in such a short period of time. This is a big deal by any measure. It`s a positive for so many millions of Americans. And the group affected the most, children, poverty among children in America falling by 61 percent.

And one reason relates back to policy, an expansion of this child tax credit, something that`s been advocated for a long time in Congress, that the Biden administration embraced in the COVID bill, and that has gone with direct aid to so many families.

As a top story in America, we have really the perfect guest, someone you might recognize as a leader on the issue, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut. She has joined us before when this was still in process. She led the fight for child poverty for years in the Congress, at times when it was a lonely battle.

And, Congresswoman, before we get to you, we`re going to get to you in the history books.


MELBER: I want to make sure people understand. There`s a lot of different things going on.

But you look at the progress of this, I want everyone understand how long you have been fighting for this exact program.


DELAURO: I`m talking about extending the child tax credit to the families that need it most.

By expanding the child tax credit, we can finally make a direct and a critical impact for all families with children.

Failing to extend the child tax credit expansion for lower-income families means 12 million Americans will be plunged deeper in poverty.


MELBER: Congresswoman, thanks for being here.

DELAURO: Thank you. It`s a delight to be with you again, Ari. Thank you so much.

MELBER: You have been advocating for this, one, because you believe in it, and, two, because you thought it would work.

A policy always involves taking some time to see. And some ideas don`t work out, and you adjust. That`s what the policy-makers do. What does it tell you that, according to these independent accounts, the data, "The New York Times" report, that this is working quite quickly in America tonight?

DELAURO: Well, I think that what we have tried to do over the years is to address the issue of poverty.

And there has been a difference that has been made. And, more particularly, the extent of the policies over the last several months, if you will, with the CARES packages, the Rescue Plan, the Heroes package, et cetera, they have had a profound effect on lowering child poverty in the United States, which is why -- and I will tell you what -- a concern I have is, Ari, is that these -- the stimulus checks will go away.

Some of the other pieces of this -- of this newly created safety net, if you will, will go away, which is why we need to make sure that the child tax credit will not go away, and that it will be permanent. And that is a very, very big issue for me and one that I am advocating for, because we know that family income is a stronger predictor of a child`s achievement outcomes than the level of schooling that their parents have had.

And from one generation to another, there has been significant challenges with regard to this issue.


DELAURO: And now we have a way of ensuring that our children will be lifted out of poverty. The checks started on July 15. And they will continue every month of the end of the year, and then there will be a lump sum payment to people over the next year.


DELAURO: But it isn`t enough that this program is for a year or that it is extended for two or three years.


DELAURO: It has to be permanent if this is going to work, because there`s always lag time. There`s always lag.



MELBER: I`m only going to jump in -- yes, there is.

I`m only going to jump in to say, stay with me.

As promised, the congresswoman is here. We`re also bringing in Joan Walsh. We were fixing some tech stuff. It is still the Zoom era.

Joan, welcome back.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC ANALYST: Thanks, Ari. Happy to be here.

So, so honored to be here with the congresswoman, because this has been such important work.

DELAURO: Thank you.

WALSH: And she`s been...

MELBER: Well, these are issues that I know you both care about.

And, Joan, I wanted you to talk us through what it means if people look at the headline on the screen right now. I`m going to a little news meta, but I think it`s warranted. It says "Good News: Poverty Crashed in the U.S. Amidst Federal Aid."

It`s a fact, with the added point that most people would call that good news, rather than raising children in what is a relatively rich nation in abject poverty.

This isn`t always the top story, Joan. Walk us through how the U.S. government and how the economy got here.

WALSH: You know, Ari, sadly, I think that we got here because there was kind of a deliberate effort in the late `70s, `80s, through the `90s to insist that helping parents, helping children might encourage parents not to work.

There wasn`t a lot of evidence for that. But there was a strong, strong rhetorical push. We saw really draconian welfare reform. We saw cutbacks of all kinds. Ronald Reagan said, we fought a war on poverty and poverty won. That was not true.

But when we pulled out all of the underpinnings that we`d put up during the New Deal and the Great Society, we did see poverty win. And I think the thing about COVID, God forbid -- it`s been a nightmare. We have all suffered in our different ways.

But I think so many different people have suffered in so many different ways that we`re all in this together. And it just became the time that the push that the congresswoman has been making for her whole career became something that could be embraced by not everyone, as we know, but virtually everyone.

Everyone needed that help, and so many people got it. And so I hope that`s the prevailing sentiment, the prevailing wisdom as we go forward. I hope we extend it. And I think it`s a really wonderful day. To see that headline gave me cheers, honestly.


And, Congresswoman, I want to put up another chart here. I mentioned earlier, because we`re people, we follow things through stories. It`s been quite a period of time the last year-and-a-half. But the data tells a broader story. And some of the folks who are poorest, for obvious structural reasons, we may not hear from them as much. They may not be on Twitter as much, or whatever.

I have got here the chart again. What does it mean, Congresswoman, for the years ahead, if we see this kind of reversal? "The Times" noting this is a decline that is three times any other in recent history. How do you maintain this? And what happens to those households if they could go years and really be lifted out of that kind of survival mode?

DELAURO: Well, that is really the critical issue at the moment.

I think what you can`t do is to interrupt the trajectory and just assume that if you go along in the same way, this will continue. No, a number of these programs that have been enacted over the last several months are going to expire. They will not be there.

However, that is the importance of a permanent child tax credit, because that will continue on. Do you know child poverty in the United States costs us -- these are not my numbers. It`s Columbia University and the IRS has told us it cost over a trillion dollars. Child poverty cost this country over a trillion dollars every year.

We have the opportunity to reverse that. The -- what we`re looking at -- and Joan said this about what -- the spotlight that COVID has had on this issue, because we know child poverty has been there for a very long time.

But the fact is, is that COVID shone a spotlight on this area, and the forces aligned to have us create it, to expand it, and to improve it, and especially for families with younger children, who Well, get $300 a month per child. Families with kids 6 to 17 will get $250 a month per child.

And -- I`ll tell you, the cards, the letters that I am receiving -- and I have been on programs with families: I will be able to buy groceries be able to really -- one young woman this past weekend, she said: I can finish school, so that -- and afford child care for my kids.


The stories are one after another, because the families are on edge. They are on a fiscal cliff. They can`t afford child care. They can`t afford diapers. If you can`t afford diapers and to send your kids to day care or preschool, you can`t send them. That means you can`t work.

So it`s health. It`s diapers. It`s food. It is transportation. It is a lifeline. And what the child tax credit is, it`s a lifeline to the middle class. And it lifts 55 percent of kids out of poverty.

MELBER: Yes. Well...

DELAURO: The last thing we did in this country of that heft was Social Security, where we lifted 90 percent of seniors out of poverty.


DELAURO: We have that ability to repeat that experience for children.

MELBER: I appreciate.

Just I have got to fit in a break, but this is why it was one of our top stories tonight. And we wanted to understand the living policy history, which you have been a leader on.

And, Joan Walsh, we`re going to work on the Zoom stuff. What can I say? We`re -- it`s a work in progress. We`re sorry.

WALSH: Hear, hear.


MELBER: Congresswoman DeLauro and Joan Walsh kicking us off.

As mentioned, we fit in a break.

We have an update on the January 6 committee, including what it`s going to do next, and why a Republican is now admitting, as you see on the screen there, he was wearing body armor in his pre-riot speech.

We also have an insider and a federal prosecutor on the strong case against Trump`s billionaire ally, yet another Trump figure indicted. That`s tonight.

And we`re going to show you how AOC just made some history.

Stay with us.



MELBER: The January 6 investigative committee is getting to work, holding that stark hearing this week that made a lot of waves, meeting on next steps, also considering subpoenas, if warranted, for testimony.

Meanwhile, Republican Leader McCarthy continues to argue that the committee does not have enough Republicans to be valid. He is the one who pulled three Republicans off it.


QUESTION: Is it your position, the conference`s position, to fight any subpoenas that may be issued against Republican members, including yourself?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think if they had the five members that we, the Republicans, want to put on there, we`d gladly go.

If this is just going to be a DCCC, we don`t see -- we see it just as a sham, it`s not something that`s serious.


MELBER: He`s making reference to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and suggesting this is partisan.

It is true Pelosi blocked two of those five, but the majority, three of them, could have served on the committee. McCarthy pulled them.

Now, the hearing that we did see this week was serious, with nonpartisan testimony from officers who fought off rabid rioters and Trump fans that day. And new details continue to emerge. This is a moving target. Investigations can take years.

So we`re learning now the Congressman Mo Brooks, who`s also facing a separate lawsuit that alleges he incited this riot, now admits he was wearing body armor at the rally, based on a tip he says he received about looming violence, which makes him look worse in what he did and said at the rally before the violence.

This also adds to other you could call it tidbits, statements, leaks suggesting that some of the people planning the big rally were bracing for something more than a rally, bracing for violence.

The indicted Trump adviser Steve Bannon even said that January 6 was going to be more than just a rally. And he said that beforehand.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It`s going to be moving. It`s going to be quick.

Today`s just not a rally at 1:00 that starts. There`s going to be some pretty controversial -- pretty controversial things going on.


MELBER: What did he know? When did he know it? And what does it say about the insurrection accountability?

We have a very special guest on this when we`re back after our shortest break, just 60 seconds.


MELBER: We`re back with "The Washington Post"`s Max Boot on this January 6 committee and where do we go from here.

Longtime viewers may recall you as a BEAT expert. And I`m glad to have you back.

MAX BOOT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Great to be back, Ari.

MELBER: I showed some of the dribs and drabs that are coming out.

It would appear that the congressional Republican strategy to pretend that this investigation does not exist or is hyperpartisan is not working well. I have told viewers, the first hearing, which was quite striking in it`s nonpartisan testimony, it was carried on the network, reaching millions. It was carried part of the time on FOX. It was in the papers. It was on the Internet.

And what you get from that committee is not necessarily a conclusion about the exact level of Donald Trump`s culpability. I think people can debate that. But you do get the absolute truth that Donald Trump set in motion through the rally and the march on the Capitol something that became felonious, criminal insurrection, attacking police officers and trying to kill members of Congress to stage a coup.

What does that mean if that sinks in further and there is truth and accountability here?


BOOT: Well, obviously, it will be political trouble for Republicans if they are seen as being complicit in this horrific attack on our democracy, and then trying to cover it up, which obviously is exactly what they are doing.

Now, I think that Kevin McCarthy basically gambled here, and he lost. And his gamble was that he was going to put a bunch of partisans on this committee to try to obstruct it, of course, led by Jim Banks and Jim Jeffords (sic).

Well, Speaker Pelosi called his bluff and said, OK, you can have three of these folks, but not these other two, because they are so openly pro- insurrection, and they are potential witnesses in this inquiry. And so McCarthy said, OK, fine, then I`m just going to pull everybody up.

And, clearly, he was hoping that there would be empty seats there, that the committee would have no credibility as a result, it would be seen as this partisan hit job. Well, that`s not how it came across. And I think the fact that Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney are doing their duty to their country, even at the cost of being castigated by their own party, I think shows that this is a serious bipartisan inquiry.

And if McCarthy was hoping that nobody was going to pay attention to this initial hearing, he was wrong. As you pointed out, a lot of people tuned in. And from my mind, I mean, like you, I think we have both seen a lot of congressional hearings over the years. This one was one of the most compelling, I would say.

It was just -- and I didn`t -- I wasn`t sure that I necessarily expected it to be this compelling, because I wasn`t sure there was a lot of new information about what the police went through that day, because we have seen so much of it already on TV.

But just listening to the testimony, it was so raw. It was so powerful. I thought Officer Dunn in particular, wow, I mean, that was hard to hear, to hear about all the racial epithets that he had to endure while defending our Congress. That was -- that just made me ashamed to be an American, but very proud of Officer Dunn and the other officers who stood up there and told the truth, knowing how they were going to be attacked by the right.

So I think the message is getting out there. And the cover-up that McCarthy and the rest of the Republicans are trying, for now, anyway, is failing.


And, as you mentioned, I mean, that aspect of it is important, because it goes to the intent of the mob. And the mob was authoritarian, in that it didn`t support democracy. And a big part of it, according to the evidence, was racist, in that it saw itself there as defending white power, quite literally, and willing to commit crime against the government to participate in what was explicitly, not accidentally -- there are mobs where things do sometimes got out of control.

And at an investigative level, you have to separate who got caught up in a crowd. That can happen, especially at large events. No, this was quite an organized effort to -- from the start, the entire gathering purpose was to overthrow. That`s why it was January 6. That`s why it wasn`t January 21.

And so all of that, I think, comes through.

I want to play another piece of sound for you. I don`t know if you`re familiar with it or viewers are, but it`s quite striking because it speaks to the type of pressures on the far right to do things that are really against police and against law and order. And so there`s been this sort of push or demand to somehow try to do vigilante pressure or out, expose and then attack the officer who was involved in the tragic use of force at the gateway to the speaker`s office.

And we now know from the impeachment proceedings and other video, how tight it was down to the wire, that we had seen this crowd breach already several barricades. They needed to move more members of Congress, because they thought, if they breached again, they would be outnumbered, and members of Congress could be killed, stomped to death, battered, et cetera.

In that context, this is Senator -- Republican Senator Cramer. He`s actually pushing back or saying he disagrees with these calls to somehow -- quote, unquote -- "out the officer."

Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don`t you be the one to leak his name, finally?

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): Why would I do that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the right to know.

CRAMER: I don`t know who it is, by the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don`t I have the right to know, Kevin?

CRAMER: Because the person that shot her is a police officer shooting a criminal violating -- not complying with officers telling her, stop, don`t come through that window, we have guns drawn, you -- don`t do it.

They`re protecting people. And the officer was found to be innocent of any wrongdoing.

I`m just grateful for the person, quite honestly.


MELBER: The Republican senator there giving a valid answer, from a from a law enforcement perspective, at least based on what we know.

What does it say that this is now a point of pressure and contention in Republican politics?

BOOT: Well, I think the big thing it says, Ari, is that this Republican slogan of back the blue, that`s just B.S. They`re not backing the blue. They`re bashing the blue.

And you saw that really reprehensibly after the testimony of these police officers before the congressional committee, where you had people like Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham just mocking them, making fun of them, saying, oh, boo-hoo, they`re weeping, whatever.


I mean, that is so disgusting. That is so low. These people who risked their lives and almost lost their lives defending members of Congress of both parties, and now they`re being mocked by people on the right?

And, of course, you have this, at the same time, this cult of Ashli Babbitt which is forming, which you have heard a little bit of just a second ago, trying to turn her into this Trumpist martyr. As Trump himself said a couple weeks ago, she was this wonderful person who was basically shot for no reason.

Hello? She was shot trying to break into the speaker`s lobby, only feet away from members of Congress.

But it`s just -- I have to say, Ari, as a former Republican, I have spent the last five years saying, wow, I can`t believe how low my former party is going. And every time I say that, they go lower still.

And just the way that so many of them -- and hats off to Senator Cramer here for not going along with some of this, but so many on the right are mocking the police officers, and they`re making heroes out of insurrectionists and the terrorists who attacked on the 6th.

In fact, today, you had some right-wing members of Congress trying to get into the correctional facility where some of these terrorist suspects are being held. And this is just an upside-down world, where Republicans, who claim to back police officers and to be tough on crime, are championing the cause of criminals and attacking police officers.

This is like a bizarro world that I never thought I would see.


No, and I appreciate you mentioned your history there, as an adviser to Mitt Romney and a card-carrying Republican for some years and also writer for "The Washington Post," in taking these issues seriously.

Good to see you, Max.

BOOT: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Coming up: another Trump ally indicted. We have an insider and a prosecutor on what`s happening in that Tom Barrack case.

And later: AOC teaming up with guess who to fight voter suppression.

Stay with us.



MELBER: The high-flying chairman of Trump`s Inaugural Committee has been arrested, arraigned, stripped of his passport, Tom Barrack awaiting trial.

He pled not guilty to seven counts, including illegal foreign lobbying, obstruction and lying to the feds. He could face after 10 years in prison. It`s a big deal. The indictment alleges that he lobbied Trump on behalf of a foreign government, the UAE, without ever registering to do so, and then shared sensitive secret information about developments within the administration.

He is actually the 12th Trump ally indicted. You can see here Trump world figures who have connections to each other, business interests, many of them convicted.

One of them closely connected to Barrack, Rick Gates, worked with him on Trump`s Inaugural Committee, serving at a time for -- for a time as his deputy. Gates, you may recall, in the Mueller probe pled guilty to federal conspiracy and false statement charges as well. And he was sentenced to 45 days in jail.

With all of this context and interesting time, we have two guests to weigh in on all these issues, Rick Gates himself, the former deputy chairman of the Inaugural Committee and a Trump campaign adviser, and Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor.

Thanks to both of you for doing this.

RICK GATES, FORMER TRUMP DEPUTY CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Good to see you, Ari. Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Rick, we will get to your views of the case.

But before we do, I am curious. During your cooperation, which is documented, were you asked any questions, did you provide any information about your former colleague?

GATES: There was questions asked about the Inaugural Committee which has nothing to do with Tom`s work. That was the only issue and topic.

There`s a much broader range of issues that ideally related to Russian collusion, obviously, which was never proven or never confirmed, and it didn`t exist.

So, once that was done, then they just tried to pick apart anything else that related to the president. And -- but there`s very limited scope in terms of Mr. Barrack.

MELBER: In terms of what you provided.

GATES: Correct.

MELBER: You`re alluding to your view of the wider issues here. And viewers of THE BEAT know we like to hear from a lot of different people, including witnesses. In your case, you were a defendant and a convict. But we learn more that way. And then people can make up their own minds.

What do you think now of the case against Mr. Barrack? You have dealt with the feds, and you know him.

GATES: Sure. And thanks for the opportunity.

Look, this is a continuation of just going after people that were closely associated with Trump. There are so many more questions, Ari, that have not been answered yet in this case. If prosecutors, for example, had information that Mr. Barrack lied in 2019, why didn`t they bring that case in 2019?

Why is it that they have waited this long? Why is it the lead prosecutor dropped the case about a week ago, and now is leaving for the private sector starting next week?

And then you look at the continuation of the way that the law has been abused, and for political purposes, my greater concern here is that this is going to create a perpetual cycle of scenarios where people are going after each other for political purposes.

So if the Republicans come back into power, and they start doing this, it`s still not good for our country. We have got to stop having prosecutors abuse the law for political purposes and political gain. That is the issue here.

MELBER: So your argument -- and it`s one we have heard in various forms, whether it`s witch-hunt or politicization -- goes to the validity of the evidence here in this case.

Renato, as a prosecutor, this is not the first or maybe not the last time we have heard this angle.

But specifically on the available facts, what`s your response to Mr. Gates` view?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: If you look at the allegations in the indictment, if they`re true, it really reads a lot like Mr. Barrack was playing not for the American team, not for the home team, but playing for another country`s team.

I mean, he actually talk as if he`s talking about himself as part of the UAE team, the Arab Emirates -- United Arab Emirates team. He`s trying to advance their interests. He`s trying to get the United States to actually get somebody favorable to the UAE installed as our ambassador, who is supposed to be advancing our interests to the UAE.

So I think a jury or a judge at sentencing is not going to look very kindly at his conduct, regardless of the motive to prosecute.


And let me get into that aspect that you raise.

And, Rick, I`m curious what you think, because, again, you know Mr. Barrack.

One of the things that comes through in the evidence provided is this idea that the whole thing was designed to take advantage of the U.S. government and, to some degree, you could argue -- people may differ -- but take advantage of Donald Trump, that he would have been a kind of a useful idiot doing what another foreign country wanted.


And I think that matters because, whatever the disagreements here today, I would hope and think, Mr. Gates, we would all want the United States government to run on its own agenda, and not be corrupted by foreign agendas.

And so an example, I`m just reading from the indictment, says that Mr. Barrack was trying to kind of help the foreigners ghostwrite what candidate Trump was saying, proposing this language, for example, where you would work with supportive allies in the Gulf. And they, according to this info, got it in.

Here was your old boss Donald Trump. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will work with our Gulf allies to develop a positive energy relationship as part of our anti- terrorism strategy. We will work with them, because we have to knock out terrorism.


MELBER: What do you say to the allegation, Rick, that Mr. Barrack helped foreigners get that in there for their interests, not Trump`s or the U.S.?

GATES: I`d say I don`t believe that at all.

I think Mr. Barrack is a generous man. He is a spirited person. He goes out of his way to help other people. And in this case, working closely with him, I can tell you that every instance that I experienced, his interests were first and foremost those of the United States.

And, Ari, look, this is no different than any president in the White House that has a kitchen cabinet. You take Vernon Jordan, who represented multi - - multiple countries, foreign countries, with Clinton. You look at the John and Tony Podesta, who represented dozens of foreign countries for Barack Obama.

So, this is -- you could take UAE out of Tom Barrack`s indictment and put any country in there and cast a net and group up a bunch of people. I mean, this -- it`s an issue that we need to look at more. This idea of attacking people on foreign representation, FARA, it wasn`t weaponized until the Mueller probe started, because they couldn`t find anything on Russia collusion.

So, in order not to be humiliated, they needed to find something else on people, and they used it.

And I`m not disagreeing with Renato at all. The problem is, is that the way that the prosecutors go about doing this, if that`s the case, if Tom Barrack is guilty, and then you should go after everybody else. You can`t have an unequal application of the law in this case, and that`s exactly what is happening in this scenario.

MELBER: Let me do a little bit of a fact-check. And you got to make your point.

But with regard to foreign lobbying, which is a tricky issue, for sure, the feds, including outgrowth of the Mueller probe, have gone after people, regardless of party, on that.

Barack Obama`s -- I think we have headline here. Barack Obama`s former White House counsel, senior Reagan Obama official, was indicted for lying to the Justice Department in part over issues connected to foreign lobbying and them saying that he was at it.

I take Rick`s point, Renato, that there is a lot of this going on in Washington. But what do you think of where he extends that, which is to argue that, somehow, these are baseless and thus politicized charges?

MARIOTTI: Yes, look, there`s a big difference between telling an administration that you are lobbying on behalf of a foreign government and advancing their interests out in the open, and saying, hey, I`m lobbying on behalf of the UAE, and, in secret, feeding information using encrypted messages to the UAE government to try to hide what you`re doing, and not disclosing that to the government.

I mean, I take Mr. Gates at his word that he has a good view of Mr. Barrack, but he wasn`t there in those encrypted messages. He wasn`t on those phone calls with members of the UAE. We don`t know what was going on in secret and they were hiding, because they -- this was being done surreptitiously.

It was more like spying than it was actual lobbying.


We wanted to air some of this out. And this is a case where there`s going to be big debates on both sides. And it also touches on big questions in Washington about what`s for sale, how does this lobbying work, regardless of who`s in power in the White House.

So, appreciate both of you having the dialogue.

Rick, Renato, we will see you both again.

I`m going to fit in a break and tell you, when we come back: Texas activists are on the march on a very important issue, a voting rights story we have been covering. And we`re going to into who AOC is teaming up with for what she calls Jim Crow 3.0.



MELBER: The fight to defend voting rights continuing with marches.

The Poor People`s Campaign has a new four-day 27-mile trip into Texas` capital, which has become ground zero in this ongoing clash over Republican efforts to limit the right to vote, one proposal stalled as Democratic legislators left that state to completely deny a floor vote, several facing the U.S. House today and discussing the details of that Republican bill with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): The proposed Texas bills SB-1, HB-3 would set new I.D. requirements, so voters must provide their driver`s license number or, if they don`t have one, the last four digits of their Social Security or a signed affidavit, correct?


OCASIO-CORTEZ: As well as monthly citizenship checks, monthly citizenship checks for voter registration, correct?

THOMPSON: Correct.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: These bills will then expand the authority of partisan poll watchers by granting them -- quote, unquote -- what is known as free movement at a polling location, which could allow them to harass voters, correct?

THOMPSON: People with not training coming in your area.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Representative Thompson, this sounds an awful lot like the Jim Crow that you grew up in and were born into. Based on your lived experience, would you say that these proposed voting laws are remnants of Jim Crow?

I shouldn`t even say remnants. Revivals, an attempted revival at Jim Crow?

THOMPSON: Absolutely, Jim Crow.


MELBER: Absolutely.

That`s a discussion across generations there, Ocasio-Cortez, one of the youngest members of Congress, speaking with one of the longest serving black women lawmakers in Texas.

She also laid out the stakes when she was leading the fight against that Texas bill on a recent appearance right here on THE BEAT.


THOMPSON: I have seen a lot in my lifetime.

And during that lifetime, I have had an opportunity to see people denied a right to vote, the struggles they have had trying to get to the polls. I have seen people who were black killed, bombed, murdered, dogs unleashed on them.


And after having experienced all those things in my life, it was incumbent upon me to take a stand, and to be able to continue to fight for the rights of black people to be able to vote, and my constituents to have that privilege not ripped from them.


MELBER: Let`s keep listening to that living history.

When we come back: a barrier broken at the Olympics.

Stay with us.


MELBER: And finally here, a dose of the Olympics.

American Suni Lee winning the gold in the individual all-around gymnastics, and making history, the first Asian American woman to win the gold in this spot.


SUNI LEE, U.S. OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: This medal definitely means a lot to me, because there was a point in time where I wanted to quit. And I just didn`t think I would ever get here, including injuries and stuff.

So, there are definitely a lot of emotions, but I`m super proud of myself for sticking with it.



MELBER: Her family and friends are super proud as well. You can see some of them reacting there.

The news is out, but if you want to watch the whole thing, you will see how Lee did when the competition formally airs tonight on NBC.

That does it for me.

"THE REIDOUT" starts right now with Alicia Menendez, in for Joy.