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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/2/21

Guests: Megan Ranney


As COVID surges, the U.S. hits a vaccine milestone. Will the insurrection committee subpoena Republican lawmakers to testify? Civil rights, policing and America`s reckoning are examined. Senator Lindsey Graham pushes vaccines even as he tests positive for COVID-19.



Hi, Ari. Happy Monday.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Happy Monday. Thank you, Nicolle.

And welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

We`re tracking several stories right now, COVID surging, but good news, as the U.S. also hits a vaccine milestone.

Later, we have an exclusive special report on tonight for you about civil rights and U.S. policing. We have new reporting and an important look at the evidence.

Our top story, though, as we begin the week is the investigation that Donald Trump and Republican leaders didn`t want to happen, but which continues full steam ahead after Speaker Pelosi outmaneuvered Republican leaders and after that first hearing.

Investigators on the committee say they will use its legal power to compel testimony.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I would expect to see a significant number of subpoenas for a lot of people. I want to know what the president was doing every moment of that day after he said, "I`m going to walk with you to the Capitol."

If anybody`s scared of this investigation, I asked you one question. What are you afraid of?


MELBER: What are you afraid of?

Well, Republican Representatives McCarthy and Jordan already admitted to basically speaking with Trump that day, which would make them interesting witnesses, at least. But there is very little precedent on whether Congress can force its own members to testify if they refuse in this kind of setting. "The Washington Post" reporting on the intricate details there.

So, if the committee does demand representative testify, prepare for a legal brawl. And this is not like some of the battles that we all remember or lived through from the days of the Trump White House, which tried to blatantly defy clear precedent that executive officials do have to comply with reasonable oversight by Congress, the other branch of government.

In fairness and in accuracy here, let`s be clear. This would be different. This would be a fight within one branch of Congress, one branch of government, Congress itself patrolling itself. And, as a legal matter, the January 6 committee, including the member you just heard, they have some pretty strong arguments that these subpoenas would be valid to get to the bottom of a dangerous attack on democracy itself with extreme violence.

But if those Republican members oppose testifying, they would also have a strong legal counterargument, that their peers, who are their equals in Congress, cannot threaten them with jail over testifying, because when you have a legal fight, you have to look at where you`re going. And down the road of a subpoena is a court compelling you to basically answer it or go to jail.

That`s how subpoenas are enforced. So this is a novel and interesting legal clash. It would make for a major dilemma. It`s not clear yet if Speaker Pelosi has decided whether she thinks, as a substantive matter or for any other considerations, it would be worth the committee`s energy to go down this road.

We have a lot to get into here.

So I want to bring in our experts off the top, Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general for the Obama administration, and Melissa Murray, NYU law professor.

Good evening to both of you.

Neal, it`s very clear that the committee is working and that a lot of these questions are important. They`re going to go forward on subpoenas. What do you think of a relatively novel legal dilemma or a question here, if the House wants to go this route?

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Ari, I think Jim Jordan probably didn`t have a subpoena in mind when he asked to get involved with the select committee, but it`s certainly what he deserves.

And I think what you`re seeing is a serious committee that wants to get to the bottom and get to the truth. And it`s not a partisan thing to Republicans like Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, who also want to get to the bottom of this. So it`s not just a bunch of Democrats.

And I agree with you, what you said at the outset, which is, it is a somewhat novel question. I don`t think it`s right to say, well, because it`s not -- it`s true. It`s not like Trump`s totally bogus claims of immunity that he`s been making for four years and that have lost all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. It`s not that bad.

But it is pretty clear to me that Congress, if they authorize these subpoenas, should get it. Both the text of the statute, Section 192 and 194, as well as the Ethics in Government Act, I think, all permit it. So, yes, you`re right. It hasn`t been tested in the courts. That`s because people in Congress tend to tell the truth when they`re subpoenaed.

They don`t see clam up and like turning into Dracula afraid of sunlight, but that`s what Trump and his ilk are all about.

MELBER: Professor Murray, I know you`re familiar with the legal Socratic method. Neal Katyal is way beyond that in his illustrious career, but I`m sure your students could learn something from him, because he came not only with the answers, but with a shout-out to 192 and exactly where he sees the legal authority for this.


But I ask you, in fairness, whether one likes this dilemma or not, by which I mean whether one thinks, well, of course, for January 6, you should have all the answers -- I think that`s a very strong argument -- judges and the courts tend to care a lot about, well, wait, what are the larger democratic imperatives here?

Because you certainly don`t have the founders envisioning members of Congress just routinely using the committee process to subpoena each other. I`m curious what you think here and whether also, while we`re at it, you think it`s a good use of the committee`s time.

MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first, I will give Professor Katyal an A-plus based on the facts in evidence. Very good application of the doctrine to the facts.


MURRAY: But, as you say, Ari, this is an unusual situation.

We typically see these kinds of clashes, or at least we saw these kinds of clashes with the Trump administration being interbranch conflicts, not necessarily intrabranch conflicts.

And that, of course, is quite different. I think we also have to deal with the fact that although Professor Katyal has laid out what should happen, this is a situation where it`s really likely that the members of Congress who will be subpoenaed will not comply. They may even light these subpoenas on fire to make a true spectacle of all of this.

So what happens when you have that kind of recalcitrance within the Congress itself? And that`s something we haven`t seen. And, again, as you say, it`s something that I think courts will have to take seriously.

This kind of negotiation between the branches is what we typically see. We did not see that during the Trump administration. Instead, we saw these removed to the courts. I think we will likely see that removed to the court here.

But, again, there are larger issues at play about the oversight process more generally.


And that also brings us to how the courts have to deal with many aspects of this, Neal. I wanted to dig into another part of the prosecutions that we`re seeing of people who trespassed very, very vividly, very obviously on camera and did allegedly worst crimes on the insurrection day.

It was the ultimate sort of tragic and at times disgusting representation of the fact that Donald Trump isn`t joking, isn`t entertaining, but is deadly serious -- and I use that word deliberately -- when he tells people to do things, and they take him seriously.

Some of the officers` testimony talked about that, likening him to a hit man. So, now we see the outcome of that in courts, where defense lawyers are trying to say, well, if the sitting president told you to do it, maybe you did it under that authority. So you have this argument in one court hearing.

You have the argument that a public authority defense could apply, arguing that these some of these clients believed the government through then President Trump had legally sanctioned their acts, their law-breaking.

I can imagine -- I can`t hear all of the viewers live, although I`m glad they`re watching and listening, Neal. But I could imagine some screaming things towards the television that you can`t stay on television, because it sounds like B.S., but it is happening in court.

Walk us through what it means when people who followed what they thought Trump wanted them to do are now saying this should be their get-out-of-jail free card.

KATYAL: OK, I will.

I just want to say one thing, though, about what Melissa said, which is really important. So there`s two ways Congress can enforce a subpoena. One is that 192 process, going to courts. The other is, they have an inherent contempt power on their own. It doesn`t involve going to court. They can do it without the courts whatsoever, and particularly when it`s in intrabranch, a dispute only within the Congress, as opposed to Congress vs. the executive.

That`s another path that they should think about seriously.

Now, with respect to your question here about these January 6 insurrectionists, they`re invoking what`s called the public authority defense, the idea that Trump made us do it. We thought we were following his orders.

And that`s a really hard defense in the law to succeed. It was used like in the Lindbergh baby case. It`s a case I teach in criminal law. But it`s really, really a tough defense.

But here`s, I think, the real problem for the defense. It starts to implicate Donald Trump directly. I mean, this defense is, I`m an insurrectionist, but I was acting under Trump`s orders. That`s obviously counter to his message, which is, oh, I told them to all be peaceful or whatever nonsense he says, he ultimately claimed he said on January 2.

So I think it`s a real thing to watch, because I think it can give ammunition to the prosecutors as they start to look at Trump`s involvement and the House investigators.

MELBER: I mean, it`s fascinating you say that, because it ties to exactly a similar argument we`re hearing from someone who may not be yet in the same camp of January 6 defendants, but Rudy Giuliani says he did everything at the behest of Donald Trump.

They`re putting out leaking without financial substantiation yet, but putting out information that he needs money, while Trump has $100 million that he raised. Giuliani was out discussing things in the context of the 9/11 anniversary -- or memorial, I should say.

But now he`s pushing back over this argument that he may have illegally acted as a foreign agent. Here he was.



RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I`m more than willing to go to jail if they want to put me in jail.

And if they do, they`re going to suffer the consequences in heaven. I`m not, because I didn`t do anything wrong.

QUESTION: Why are you willing to go to jail if you feel that you`re innocent?

GIULIANI: Because they lie and they cheat. I committed no crime. And if you think I committed a crime, you`re probably really stupid, because you don`t know who I am.


MELBER: Neal, as mentioned, they were seated outside dealing with some of the 9/11 stuff.

But he didn`t say what he could have said. I mean, he`s a lawyer. He knows. He could have said, look, it`s an open probe. The facts will out. He`s going on that kind of speech again.

I`m curious your reaction to all of it, as well as the related apparent frustration in his camp that Donald Trump isn`t helping him pay for what has become a very expensive legal defense.

KATYAL: I mean, first of all, already, Giuliani said all this unsolicited during an interview about the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It`s almost like he`s trying to make us forget that he had a real political legacy before all this Trump nonsense.

And what he`s saying makes no sense. I mean, the leftist plot to destroy Rudy Giuliani was so entrenched that the Justice Department got tricked into signing off a search warrant in 2019, before Joe Biden was president? It doesn`t make any sense.

And if you want a fun party game, every time Rudy Giuliani says this or brings up Hunter Biden`s laptop, drink an entire bottle of wine, because that`s the only way what he`s saying makes any sense.

And the notion that he was acting at Trump`s behest, just like we were talking about before, the political authority defense, is all stuff that I think is so counterproductive to what Donald Trump is trying to say.

Everyone`s pointing the finger at Trump. And when everyone does, including your own lawyer, there might be something more going on there.

MELBER: Professor?

MURRAY: I think it`s also worth noting here that Rudy Giuliani professed to be the president`s lawyer during this period.

And there are very few lawyers who act entirely at the behest of their clients without any interest in what the actual law is. So, if he is simply acting at the behest of a client, and he`s doing something that is potentially illegal or exposes him to criminal liability, that`s really on him. So it doesn`t really wash in either capacity.

MELBER: Professor Murray and Neal Katyal, my thanks to both of you.

We have a lot more here, including Senator Graham testing positive for COVID, and using the moment -- we`re going to show you -- to push people, including his Republican followers and constituents, to still get the vaccine.

And a day of action, with a protest on the Hill fighting for voting rights.

And, tonight, my special report on policing in America, with the evidence that you need to know as these debates continue.

Stay with us.



MELBER: Turning to COVID news as we begin the week, and here`s the bottom line. It`s getting worse and it`s getting better.

It`s getting worse because of the ongoing surge. And it`s getting better as vaccination spike, partly because these worsening numbers are encouraging some people to finally go get protected.

The other piece of news out of Washington is, Trump`s most prominent Republican ally in the Senate, Lindsey Graham, is not going MAGA when it comes to vaccines. The 66-year-old is using this news that he has a rare breakthrough case -- he tested positive Saturday -- to encourage people to still get their shots.

Senator Graham noting accurately that, while he does have mild symptoms on par with the flu, that itself is one of the benefits of vaccines. They prevent COVID most of the time, and in the rare cases where you can get it after the vaccine, the COVID you get is way less serious. Graham saying he`s glad he`s vaccinated; otherwise, it would be far worse.

And confirmation that Graham has at least five other senators who were with him attending an event on Saturday night. It was on a Democrat`s houseboat, Joe Manchin, a little bipartisanship socializing there.

Now, we also know the pandemic among the unvaccinated is still the biggest problem here. And some are now finding that this summer, 2021, is worse for them than any point last year if you`re not vaccinated, Florida breaking records with its single worst day of COVID cases and its worst day of hospitalizations this weekend.

Meanwhile, MAGA`s Florida Governor DeSantis is still pushing back against safety protocols. And a Florida congressman who has been quite embattled lately, Matt Gaetz, is mocking health experts.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): You got all the experts say, well, will look out for the Delta variant or the Lambda variant. Next, it`s going to be like the Chi Omega variant or the Phi Kappa Psi variant. I got the Florida variant. I got the freedom variant.

It affects the brain. It gets you to think for yourself.



MELBER: By all means, think for yourself. I don`t know if that`s supposed to be stand-up. But he`s giving that speech in a place where more people are dying of COVID than just about anywhere else in America.

Now, some other states that also may be thought of as conservative are taking this more seriously. Louisiana is dealing with an outbreak, and it has done what science experts sometimes recommend in this situation, particularly with high rates of people who aren`t vaccinated. They`re reinstating the mask mandate and doors.

But more Americans, as I mentioned, are getting vaccinated right now. We have had five straight days of more than 700,000 shots nationwide. Today, the White House says 70 percent of adults have gotten at least one shot. That`s one of their milestones.

And the science shows these are the vaccinations that work; 98 to 99 percent of the people who are dying now are unvaccinated. Now, the hesitancy is out there, and polling shows something that is relevant to all of this. The filter that people use for all sorts of issues seems to apply to this one.

When it comes to just an outright no to vaccines, you can see only about 6 percent of Democrats view it that way; 31 percent -- the remaining numbers you can see there.

Republican state lawmaker David Byrd of Tennessee has a message for them. Last summer, he accused the mainstream media of sensationalizing this pandemic. But, on Friday, after a fight with COVID that ravaged his organs and even required him to get a liver transplant, he did something that some people wouldn`t even bother to. He did choose to speak out. And he says vaccines should no longer divide us, people should get them.

Does this kind of messaging, which is based on sad and regrettable situations, does it help break through, as the White House tries to find any way to move beyond vaccine availability -- we`re there -- to get the vaccine trust?


We have very special guests, "The Post"`s Eugene Robinson and Dr. Ranney, when we`re back in just 60 seconds.


MELBER: And we`re back with Pulitzer Prize-winning "Washington Post" columnist and writer Eugene Robinson and the E.R. physician Dr. Megan Ranney.

Welcome to both of you.

Doctor, for those who keep very close counts of cable news etiquette, I`m going to change the way I have been doing COVID segments for the better part of a year-and-a-half, where we always begin with the doctors.

I`m going to begin with our Pulitzer Prize-winning communicator.

And the reason is because, according to the polling, the data and the science, Eugene, and a lot of what the White House is focused on right now, we have shifted from what in many ways was a public health race to find the vaccine and then get it out there, which is still the race in many less developed countries, less rich countries, to now what is chiefly a public health messaging and communications challenge, or, as some put it, a crisis.

I`m curious what you think about that shift and the different ways that people can use all those tools, words, images, video, campaigns, to try to bring people on board, which, of course, you don`t do by antagonizing them, even if they happen to be vaccine-hesitant.


First of all, I think it`s definitely true. I mean, the vaccine is pretty much universally available now. You can get the vaccine if you want the vaccine. You can get it today. And within -- where I`m sitting now, within a half-mile, there are a half-dozen places where you could get the vaccine. Of course, it`s completely free of charge, and it protects you from being hospitalized or dying from a deadly disease.

So, why -- how do you communicate that to people it better than just kind of saying that and laying it out is -- it`s hard for me to understand.

I`m at the point now where I think communicators keep saying what they have been saying, that this can save your life, and it can save the lives of those you love. So, get the vaccine, and the other track being mandates, especially employer mandates.

We have one at "The Washington Post." I`m really thankful for it every -- I was a gathering of some "Post" over the weekend. Everybody is thankful for it that I talk to, because it will let us all know when we go back into the office in September that we`re all as protected as we can be from the Delta variant or whatever new variant may have arisen by then.

It`s just -- it just makes sense. And you say it. Repetition is important. So you say it over and over and over again. But I hope we see more employer mandates as well.

MELBER: Yes, and I appreciate -- you`re speaking about one of the other tools beyond hoping people listen is this the carrot and the stick in that sense, which is also, of course, designed for the safety of the affected population, be that a workplace or wherever.

Doctor, take a listen to one of your counterparts, Dr. Fauci.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I don`t think we`re going to see lockdowns. I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country, not enough to crush the outbreak, but I believe enough to not allow us to get into the situation we were in last winter.

But things are going to get worse. We`re looking to some pain and suffering in the future, because we`re seeing the cases go up.


MELBER: What do you think what he`s getting out there ? And what`s your view on the public health messaging?


DR. MEGAN RANNEY, RHODE ISLAND HOSPITAL: So, I agree with Dr. Fauci that I think that future lockdowns are incredibly unlikely, at least with the Delta variant.

These vaccines still have enough efficacy. And 50 percent of us in America are fully vaccinated, I think we`re going to be able to stave off the worst of the surge in most states. The way that Delta variant plays through, most models are saying that we`re going to see these cases increased dramatically over the next one to two months.

Our hope is that, by the end of September or early October, that we will be in a much better space.

Regarding communication, I am going to respectfully disagree with a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. I think repetition is key. But I will also say, from my experience both as an emergency physician and as a public health professional, that listening is actually one of the keys here.

I take care of patients every day who have not yet gotten their vaccine. And I can often, but not always shift them to being willing to take the vaccine during their emergency department visit by listening to their concerns, by being respectful, and by using really basic public health communication techniques of respectfully challenging, rolling with their resistance, and presenting new facts.

We`re doing this huge project here at the School of Public Health at Brown working with seven large urban communities across the country, where we`re doing exactly this. We`re working with trusted messengers, community-based organizations to increase vaccine uptake.

Lots of stories of how this works. I don`t think this is the time to give up. There`s going to be a small percentage of people who will never get it, maybe until they see someone they love die. But a lot of folks just still have a lot of questions.

MELBER: Well, and, Doctor, as a follow-up to you, that`s a one-on-one in a expert-driven situation.

One of the challenges here -- and Gallup has a whole report about this -- is that a lot of individuals, who just because of their daily life and their daily demands are not accustomed to dealing with a lot of experts or scientific-based decision-making, are responding to Facebook, media, friends.

If they don`t have the benefit of an E.R. consult, than what?

RANNEY: I hope most people don`t ever have to come into my E.R., but that`s absolutely true.

And that`s where I think it`s essential for us to work both with community- based organizations, so that you`re talking to the folks that people do encounter every day, their pastors, their barbers, their Boys and Girls Clubs, their teachers, their librarians, their bankers, right, so those folks, and then the social media influencers?

The Biden/Harris administration is doing a huge rollout of TikTok stars, the people that my tween daughter listens to. And we`re hoping that that`s going to have some influence as well.

MELBER: Yes, I think we have that headline, "New York Times" report that`s pretty interesting, White House obviously trying anything. These TikTok stars reach a whole different group of people. They`re also doing these micro-influencers, because what`s popular in one place might not be the same nationally, Gene.

Finally, I want to put up the Biden approval on this issue. Joe Biden was seen by a lot of voters as better on this. He came in, as you can see, earlier in the year up in the 60s, which means, by definition, some more conservatives supporting him. It seems to be slipping a little bit.

Democrats, Gene, are frustrated because they say it`s partly a consequence of red state decision-making in certain places where the surge is. We talked about Florida. And yet, Gene, at the end of the day, pandemics a lot like the economy, the incumbent president is going to own them no matter what.

ROBINSON: That`s right.

And I think those figures reflect a more sort of general frustration. A lot of people figured that, by this summer, by the height of the summer, we`d be pretty much over it, that everybody would be vaccinated, and we`d be able to get about our normal lives.

And now, in a lot of places, we`re talking about indoor mask mandates again because of Delta. And it is simply true that, as science learns more, you have to adjust the response sometimes. And that`s based on new information. And that`s not a sort of very subtle or exotic thought.

But it is, I think, coming as a disappointment and surprise to a lot of people that this is not in the rearview mirror, that COVID is still with us. And I think you see it in the numbers.

MELBER: I think that`s exactly right, not in the rearview, and to say nothing of the fact that objects in the rearview mirror are often closer than they appear.


MELBER: Gene, Doctor, thanks to both of you.

ROBINSON: Thanks, Ari.

RANNEY: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate you guys.

Next, we turn to that BEAT special report I mentioned at the top of the hour. Our team has been working hard on this, and it`s reporting we don`t think you will see anywhere else on the news tonight, civil rights and policing, and why America`s reckoning has not gone far enough.


We have the evidence next.


MELBER: We`re now about a year out from that wave of Black Lives Matter protests that responded to the murder of George Floyd.

What has changed since then? Well, one undeniable action that occurred was the recent murder conviction of the officer who killed Floyd, an unusual development in an American courtroom spurred by the brutal video and the extensive public pressure.

That conviction is from a single case. It does not automatically do anything to change the wider system. But some are seizing on that one conviction to claim that it now shows our entire American justice system works.


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS: Right now, what people need to understand is that the American justice system works. It works.

FMR. REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): I think it`s a celebration of our justice system.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: It`s important that we also push back against the notion that all police officers can never be trusted.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: That`s the promise of our justice system, that it`s impartial.

J.D. VANCE, AUTHOR, "HILLBILLY ELEGY: A MEMOIR OF A FAMILY AND CULTURE IN CRISIS": How many black unarmed people were killed by police officers? And it`s a massive distraction.


MELBER: Citing a single verdict to pretend that that verdict automatically reveals anything about every other case is misleading, at a minimum.


So, let`s just look at the evidence right now. The data actually shows that consistent discrimination continues. And it shows a system that does not work, to use the term you just heard in some of those clips, doesn`t work for everyone, because people brutalized and killed by police rarely get justice.

And that brings us to tonight`s special report. And it`s about facts, not opinion or ideology.

The protests were largely against police brutality and force. And we have now tonight for you the latest data on the use of force since then, since those protests last year. Police are shooting and killing Americans at roughly the same rate this year as last year, on pace for the same aggregate total of police killing about 1,000 people per year.

You can see the number this year, 2021, basically matching what people were protesting against, which was the rate of killing last year. This is from "Washington Post" data.

Now, this fact on your screen shows something that everyone needs to know in America right now, that, after all that protest and pressure and heat and scrutiny and video evidence, and even that murder conviction I just showed you, take it all together, it`s not even budging the rate that police use lethal force.

So, these -- as these killings wind on, police departments themselves don`t claim that they are all OK with all the use of force. In fact, we have, even since last year, documented situations where they admit mistakes, and they put out statements regretting the loss of innocent life.

They also typically oppose any investigation or prosecution of the officers who created that situation. And I want to tell you something else. The protests have certainly got people`s attention. Most Americans are aware police violence is a serious problem. That consensus has grown. It`s even stronger than a few years ago.

But numbers, which are part of evidence, also only tell part of the story, because when you look at that chart of the killings each year, every point on it is a dead person and a family grieving.

Now, these tragedies, they play out across the entire country here. And, sometimes, we don`t have a lot of details. Other times, we do get some clue of what happened. We get these grim videos that tell us all-too -familiar story, like Wisconsin police shooting an unarmed man, Jacob Blake, in the back seven times, paralyzing him for life, or California police confronting an unarmed man over alleged jaywalking.

That`s how the interaction began. We brought you this story earlier this year. They then shot him to death in broad daylight over a jaywalking stop. He was unarmed.

Or go back to George Floyd`s community, where Minnesota police killed another unarmed father, Daunte Wright. There was some video of that. Or police shooting Andrew Brown to death as he tried to drive away from police. The video showed him fleeing, not attacking.

Just those last two videos you see were part of six police shootings that came just within 24 hours of the Chauvin verdict in the Floyd killing, which was deemed a murder.

This is all within the last year, all points on the chart, the literal chart you see of America`s policing problem. Now, these are the facts that many were trying to bury after the Chauvin verdict. These facts are the sad rebuttal to that conservative`s rhetorical question I showed you earlier.


VANCE: How many black unarmed people were killed by police officers? It`s a massive distraction.


MELBER: Mr. Vance there says it`s a distraction. By the way, he`s running for United States Senate, so people can assess his record.

But it`s not a distraction. In fact, like a lot of propaganda, that bad faith formulation from Mr. Vance is deliberately backwards. This is not some massive distracting, attention-grabbing issue that`s constantly getting people`s attention, and certainly not getting the powerful people`s attention or the corporation`s who influence so much policy in this country.

No, the truth is, most of these incidents on that endless chart they don`t even make the national news in the first place. Take another story from, again, within this past year.

Police went to the home of 32-year-old Isiah Brown for a domestic disturbance call. And then they killed him right by his own home. Why? He was holding a cordless phone that they, the police, wrongly thought was a gun. And they demanded he dropped the gun, when he didn`t have one.

A warning: The video is disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me your hands now! Show me your hands! Drop the gun!

He`s got a gun to his head.

Drop the gun now!

Stop walking towards me! Stop walking towards me! Stop! Stop!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots fired. Shots fired. one down.


MELBER: Eight of those bullets entered Brown`s body. He did live through it.


Charges in these cases are rare. There were no charges related to the shooting or assault or battery there. The officer was indicted for reckless handling of a firearm.

Or take 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette seated in a car with his girlfriend when an officer approached to arrest him. Now, she drove away. Officers are barred legally from using force against fleeing suspects, unless they pose a deadly or major threat, but police shot him to death.

And while these police videos are supposed to add to the evidence, the dashcam video was pretty limited. And then the officer kept his body camera off until after this shooting. It came on afterward. The video is still disturbed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. Show me the hands, pal. I ain`t playing with you because I know you.

Marcellis, you`re under arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s under arrest for what now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he got a warrant.

You going to come out? Hey. Hey. Hey.

Hey, they just ran me over.

We are southbound on MLK, passing south. They`re west on (INAUDIBLE). Hey, just 50.




MELBER: Stinnette`s family alleges that police then, after what you saw there, denied him medical help that might have saved his life.

His girlfriend says police laid a blanket over his body as if he were dead, when she insists he was still breathing and fighting for his life.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could hear Marcellis still breathing. I told them: "Please don`t shoot. I have a baby. We have a baby. We don`t want to die."

They lay Marcellis on the ground and covered him up with a blanket while he was still breathing. I know he was still alive. And they took that away from me.


MELBER: The officer involved in that killing was not charged for anything. And he was not fired for that use of force either, but, rather, police said he was fired for breaking policy by keeping the body camera off.

Now, these stories are all from the past year since the protests. You watch the news, but, if you don`t know some of them, if some of those names and details are unfamiliar, that may be because so much of this is treated by our system, even after all this, as normal.

So that, even after the intense protests and a moment when more white Americans appeared to gain consciousness about a well-known fact of life in overpoliced communities, during a moment where people did march, or they did post online, and big corporations touted that black lives matter, but, as the months go on, and people go back to living life like it`s normal, if they live the kind of lives that allow them to just forget about all this, to pretend it`s not there.

Now, civil rights leaders and activists, they sensed this would happen, because these are old and entrenched dynamics in American history and law and racism. And if you listen to activists, you would hear them literally anticipate this before it happened.

Right here`s an earlier picture during the protests of an activist urging people then, "Support us when it`s not trending," when it`s not the hot topic online or social media or politics, because you cannot fix multigenerational systemic problems with episodic spasms of effort, even well-intentioned.

Now, if we stay on these facts even when they`re not trending, what does this period show us about solutions? Well, that brings us to the final part of this special report.

First, this recent activism and scrutiny alone are not bending the curve of police shootings in America. That`s just a fact. We`re not talking about whether we like it or not. But that`s what this year and that chart shows.

Now, an observer might have thought or hoped that a year like the one we just lived through would impact some officers` conduct. But when it comes to shootings, in the aggregate, it did not.

Second, some valid policy reforms are also failing to bend that curve. Whether we like that or not, we should know the evidence. So there are more body cameras, which can add to the type of mechanisms that law enforcement oversight needs. But, in this past year, as I showed you, they`re not reducing shootings.

Tonight. In fact, among some of the few examples we chose out of the many available, we saw stories where police just unilaterally turned off their body cameras.

Now, part of my job on the news is to just be straightforward. Have you ever seen surveillance video at a bank which could just be flipped off by any visitor or bank robber? That would kind of defeat the point. So, when videos do incriminate the police, what happens? Well, even when they exist, the departments often hide them.


In one study, the majority of incidents caught on body cameras were never released by police. So, some of these reforms won`t work very well if they still depend on the original issue here in American policing, which, again, not every country does it this way, on the premise that police should just police themselves.

That brings me to a third and final point. Some reforms do have an impact, when they assert truly independent authority over police. Reforms to patrol the police work better if someone other than the police has control of what happens.

That`s why citizen videos very clearly have an immediate impact. The police do not have control with them in the first place. The video of George Floyd`s murder went viral swiftly, so fast, the police were still, stupidly, falsely claiming that Floyd died in a medical incident, a cover story that was shredded by the public video.

People forced facts into the system that otherwise would never have come to life. Same goes for reforms where independent prosecutors investigate these allegations against police, instead of the DAs that are usually on the police`s team.

There`s also a plan that police unions are fighting the hardest to stop, which is to reform the legal immunity that prevents courts from ever finding facts in the first place. Right now, under the law, most cases against police are actually tossed before getting to a trial because of this type of immunity, so the alleged victims don`t even get a day in court.

If police are caught and alleged misconduct, like take a case we brought you, Colorado police handcuffing and detaining unarmed women and children at gunpoint, unarmed in broad daylight, so it`s very hard to see why those kids would pose that kind of threat, then the question legally becomes, is there accountability for that conduct?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want my mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I have my sister next to me?


MELBER: We brought you that case earlier. It never gets easier to watch.

Police admitted in that instance that it was a case of mistaken identity. They apologized in public. And, legally, that`s where these cases typically end, because police immunity prevents the family from suing.

But here is a model for some change that occurred in real life in the past year. In Colorado, it`s one of just four states that actually limited police and officer immunity. So, now the courtroom door is a little more open for that mother to sue in civil court, which she did, alleging racism, among other things.

The only reason she gets her day in court is because she actually lives and one of the few places that has reformed police immunity in this past year.

Now, nationally, that`s still one of the huge sticking points for Republicans opposing the George Floyd Act, which did pass the House, but is stuck in the Senate.

So those are some policy implications. What we do know is that this shooting rate remained steady, with a disproportionate number of minorities getting shot or killed by police. So that`s the same as last year.

If we want to change this, which a lot of people and companies claimed they did last year, then, again, my job here as a newscaster is pretty simple. I can just report for you that, as policy, by definition, we would have to do more as a country than what`s happened over the past four years -- excuse me -- the past year, because this whole thing is holding steady.

And while most of what we have covered in this report tonight focuses on the category of police killings -- that`s this chart -- keep in mind, there`s the even more common issue of extensive and allegedly excessive use of police force in America.

Our police officers send over 50,000 people a year to the E.R. on average. That approaches half-a-million visits since 2015, according to a CDC count.

I told you at the beginning of this we were just going to go through the evidence and the facts. That`s all this is. This is what`s going on. These stories grind on whether they`re covered or not, whether the system notices or not. And while the last year did provide some scrutiny and progress and change, any person or corporation that claimed to care then should logically care now, because the numbers haven`t budged.

The killing rate is just as bad now as it was when people were posting passionately after the murder of George Floyd. This is the same America with the same rate of police shootings and killings. These are real lives. These are black lives lost.

And while the rare conviction of that officer for murder was significant, and people saw him led off in cuffs to serve time, that rare conviction is not the goal of this BLM movement, according to many of its leaders. It`s also not the goal of a functioning justice system.

Now, why do I say that? Again, listen to the civil rights leaders. They have been telling us the goal is not to send more people to prison for the unnecessary illegal killings of innocent people. The goal is to stop the police killings of innocent people in the first place.


And if those people`s lives mattered last summer, then they matter now.

And until we actually change this and keep up with the overall evidence, we will be left with spasms of outrage for the very worst moments that are sometimes arbitrarily caught on tape.

But you can`t fix a problem like this in moments or hours. We`re dealing with a problem of years, centuries. Stories do help people see the reality, but the reality is unfolding in years and years of government conduct. And most of it is not on tape.

So you have to go back to that steady line. It`s on the same pace this year. Now, this is not a time for told-you-so`s, but people did tell us. They did challenge Americans at the time, "Support us when it`s not trending," as one protester put on record on that sign.

Another says, "We are not a trend. Black lives still matter."

And that`s right. It`s not a trend. It`s people`s lives, human lives that matter. And this police epidemic is way worse than a trend. And we can`t begin to fix it until we face it.



MELBER: And an update with a live look on the Senate floor.

Senators are currently debating amendments to that big $550 billion infrastructure package, the text of the bill finalized over the weekend. If you check, it actually runs over 2, 700 pages.

What does that many pages look like? Well, check this out, a Senate aide photographed last night carrying the text of the entire proposed law with a lot of money into a room there as senators review it. A final vote is expected later this week.

That`s one more piece of news we wanted to give you.

And "THE REIDOUT" is up after this short break.