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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/24/21

Guests: Oliver Stone, Adam Schiff, Josh Marshall


The House takes a step forward on a massive reconciliation infrastructure bill. Congressman Adam Schiff discusses the January 6 probe and the crisis in Afghanistan. Director and documentarian Oliver Stone speaks out.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we are tracking a major development, House Democrats now marching forward with winning votes. You can see it on your screen. This is all about the core of the economic plan that Joe Biden has pushed out, jobs and the safety net agenda.

Now, this is big right now. President Biden is touting the progress towards what looks like another set of wins. And he says the liberal big spending investment is worth it.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, the House of Representatives has taken a significant step toward making a historic investment that is going to transform America, cut taxes for working families, and position the American economy for long-term, long-term growth.


MELBER: Speaker Pelosi also finding a breakthrough with a few members of her caucus who had been making some demands. We have more on that shortly.

Because this is breaking news, we`re going to get right to our experts, because it appears every single Democrat is backing the new infrastructure bill, with over $3 trillion in spending for health care, family leave, and earlier government preschool education funding.

These are, simply put, some of the progressive and humanitarian priorities that have been holdouts for the Democratic Party for a generation.

Let`s get right to it.

I have Katty Kay, Washington editor with Ozy Media, who has covered so many of these battles, and Josh Marshall, the founder and editor of Talking Points Memo.

Josh, this may not have been sold as a liberal dream, and yet it would seem to be a lot of spending and a lot happening here on Biden`s terms.

JOSH MARSHALL, FOUNDER AND EDITOR, TALKING POINTS MEMO: Yes, I mean, this is -- they have really worked hard at this. This is -- it`s kind of -- it`s talked about as infrastructure, when people think about surface transportation, but it`s a huge investment in climate.

It is a major, major addition to the social safety net. It is a huge, huge thing. And there`s no question it`s still a lot -- a long way to go. But it is a big, big deal. There`s no question about it.


And, Katty, people like me sometimes are rightly mocked or criticized for saying everything is breaking or everything is big. I get it. But on the screen, people will see that we`re monitoring the House floor, where this is literally breaking. It is happening right now with just under 11 minutes on the voting clock, 6:02 p.m. in Washington.

As a longtime observer of Washington and how presidents, it`s well-known, have to do more early, because we have never seen them get a lot done in year three or four in the modern era, what do you make of the way that the Biden administration and the Democratic House are using this summer?

KATTY KAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it reminds me a little bit of the early years of the Obama administration, when President Obama managed to pass the Affordable Care Act, or, more rightly, Nancy Pelosi managed to get him the votes in order to pass the Affordable Care Act.

And I always thought, after that, Barack Obama owed Nancy Pelosi flowers for the rest of her life. I think Joe Biden is now in the same position. He kind of said as much just now at that briefing at the White House, where he singled her out.

And once again, she has done what legislators often find hard to do. But she has found the votes. There really are no -- there are very few people who are as skilled as she is at finding votes like that.

MELBER: Yes. As you say, that`s a mix of power and diplomacy. There were times after some of these elections where people said, oh, should Speaker Pelosi really get another turn? Maybe it`s time for a change. She argued that she is change, mixed with a lot of knowledge of how to get it done, as the president said and as your reporting alludes to.

Our panel is going to stay here. I want to dig a little deeper into this part for folks who haven`t been following every in and out. It is interesting that Pelosi did have to tackle her own version of kind of a Joe Manchin-style dilemma in the House here. She can only lose, if you check, three votes before the coalition crumbles.

And some Democrats did grind things to a halt last night, trying to trim spending or change how these votes would run. So, immediately, the D.C. pundit class, I want to show, was claiming the Pelosi had already misplayed her hand, or the widely read Politico outlet said that she grossly underestimated the challenge.

Well, there are new signs that perhaps the underestimating was done by some of the pundits. The reports are right now that Pelosi has this deal. That`s why we`re seeing the voting. And she seemed downright plucky about it in her remarks last night.


QUESTION: Is there a date certain that you`re discussing for the infrastructure...

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Well, we will see tomorrow, won`t we now?

QUESTION: Will need to amend the rule before you bring it to the floor?



MELBER: That`s all the cameras got before she was whisked away.

That`s what it looks like. The speaker works late nights, like many Americans do. But that`s what it looks like when she`s working.

I`m curious, Katty, you think of this, again, with kind of a rush to say, oh, she was in trouble? From what we can see on the House floor, it doesn`t look that way today.

KAY: No.

I mean, there clearly were moderates within the Democratic Party who are nervous about tying these two bills together, and particularly are nervous about that $3.5 trillion. And this is just the beginning of the process. It`s a good day for Nancy Pelosi, but it is the beginning of this process of this big spending bill on more soft infrastructure projects.

And you have Democrats in the Senate as well, because it`s not just the House we have to look out for this one. You have already got Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin raising concerns about that $3.5 trillion price tag.

She did. She did what was -- she kind of threaded the needle of getting those moderates back in line, got the votes that she was needed to get where the White House wanted the Democrats to get to tonight. That doesn`t mean that it`s going to be all straightforward going forwards with the bigger part of this package.


MARSHALL: Well, I think Kate Riga at Talking Points Memo had a really good article this afternoon, where she sort of explained that these eight or nine moderates actually found themselves rather isolated within the House Democratic Caucus, even -- not just -- it`s not just the progressives who were unhappy with them.

A lot of the moderates, the people from swing districts, the so-called front-line reps, were also upset with them.


MARSHALL: And I think the reason is that this was a pretty transparent effort to get some Joe Manchin mojo, right, to sort of kind of get a lot of the bipartisan moderate sheen that official D.C. likes so much.

But what they asked for, really didn`t make much sense, because the threat was to decouple these two bills, which is a very dangerous thing for Democrats, because you have this big cross-party agreement to push these together.

But they didn`t actually want to scuttle the reconciliation bill. In fact, the things that Josh Gottheimer wants the most are in the reconciliation bill. So it`s very -- and they ended up having to argue, well, we`re not trying to scuttle the reconciliation bill. It`s just that this first bill is so important, we need to rush it through.

But the first bill is for building projects and roads that take years to build. So, that makes no sense at all.


MARSHALL: So I think they ended up kind of cornering themselves. And that`s why their ploy came apart.

As my colleague notes, Nancy Pelosi is also a master at this. And that`s another reason why. But I think you have those two things coming together here.

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

It`s pretty fascinating, because, again, no one has to be convinced of why this matters. Everyone lived through $600 stimulus checks, and that had an effect on the culture and the economy. We`re talking about trillions now over the long haul.

But as you walked us through it, Josh, some of the -- I really think Manchin is the framework. The Manchin-style thing doesn`t work well unless you have real reasons that you would walk and you would actually walk.


MELBER: In that sense, it`s no different from any other negotiation that people do every day. Are you going to walk out and not buy the car? Or do you really need that used car, you`re going to buy it? And people can kind of suss that out.

To say nothing of the fact that a lot of members, we`re hearing a lot of members of the House prefer to have a few big votes and be done with it and say, yes, I voted for progress, Trump was asleep at the wheel, but not have to take itemized votes on some of the particular spending. So we will see how that all plays out.


MELBER: I want to thank Katty Kay and Josh for kicking us off.

As you see, we`re monitoring the House floor here.

And we now turn to Reverend Al Sharpton for two of the other big stories tonight. There is voting under way on voting rights. We`re going to get to that.

But we begin right now, Rev, with what has been, by all accounts, a big vaccine breakthrough that`s a long time coming.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news as we come on the air this morning, the FDA minutes ago granting full approval to the Pfizer vaccine.

BIDEN: The moment you have been waiting for us here. And it`s time for you to go get your vaccination and get it today.

DR. ALBERT BOURLA, CEO, PFIZER: I don`t think there`s any other medicine in the world that has been studied so intensively.

LIZ CLAMAN, FOX BUSINESS: Corporate America is busting open the vaccine mandate floodgates just two hours after the FDA gave full approval to Pfizer.


MELBER: It is coming fast and furious, Rev.

As you know, there are all kinds of reasons why people hold out on getting the vaccine. We focus on giving people information. They make up their own mind. But the approval is one of those reasons.

And now, as mentioned, we`re seeing the mandates coming further, I mean, just in the day since this news broke, everywhere from the Pentagon to major employers like United and Chevron.


Rev, you`re known for many things, including, if I may say so, being one of the most clear, persuasive communicators on anything. I have seen you speak live. I have seen you rouse a room. I have seen you talk about matters serious and light.

I`m curious what you think of the importance of the public health communication here, if, as we just showed, the science and the message align to say, this thing is fully approved for anyone who was holding out.

REV. AL SHARPTON, HOST, "POLITICS NATION": I think it is extremely important for those that are holding out, because it removes one of the last excuses for not being vaccinated.

Now, people can do whatever they want. But you cannot change scientific facts. You cannot change that the FDA has now given its approval here. So you will have to choose that you`re going to get the science and the FDA approval. And if you can live with that, then you have to deal with the people around you saying, can they live with you unvaccinated without masks and without consistent testing?

So you have the right to not be vaccinated, but people have the right to say they do not want to be within proximity of you and possibly be infected. And I think that there`s the civil and personal rights on both sides of this discussion.

MELBER: Yes, I appreciate you put it that way. And I think that`s thoughtful and respectful. And, again, people do have the rights, just like people have the rights to pass on a measles vaccine or the right to drive around without a seat belt on.

But if you find out that somebody -- some -- your kids` parents -- kids` friends` parents aren`t wearing seat belts any time, you might say we`re not going to let you roll with them. In other words, we have got some standards we want to uphold for the safety of our own family or community, again, though, while people can make up their own mind.

Did want to get your reaction to that, because we`re seeing that immediately.

The other breaking news, of course, as I mentioned, I told viewers, the House is very busy today. The trillions in spending would be a lot on its own, but they`re also holding votes on issues that you have been working on for a long time. The House is voting right now -- we`re tracking this vote -- we don`t have it completed yet.

But they would vote to advance the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which, of course, would restore more federal oversight of the voting situation. This has been an issue we have seen when the Supreme Court made it harder to just guarantee the right to vote around the country.

I want to show briefly Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee speaking out passionately on the House floor today.


REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): This floor belongs to the American people. This floor is a floor, as John Lewis has often challenged us, that calls upon us to be courageous.

H.R.4 is going to save the day, not partisan, but it is going to make us a democratic republic. And we need to pass H.R.4, because John Lewis said, do you have any courage?


MELBER: Rev, your view of this vote today and these wider issues right now?

SHARPTON: I think this is vital, because Congresswoman Jackson Lee is correct. We`re talking about the very basic foundation of a democracy.

And you are seeing states around this country, from Florida to Georgia to Texas, changing state laws. If this bill passes tonight, and then goes on to the Senate, then we are able to have federal oversight to where they cannot pass these bills without it being reviewed, with a new map in place now, without it being reviewed, and given the wherewithal, the green light by the Justice Department.

This is the only way to stop all of these states that are trying to change laws disproportionately affecting black and brown voters. That`s why we`re rallying heavily this weekend. Congresswoman Jackson Lee, members of Congress are going to be there. John Lewis` sibling is going to join Martin Luther King III and I, because we`re saying that this is about holding up what democratic principles that we claim to have.

I might also add that, when we took out Section 4 our of the Voting Rights Act, which eliminated the map that this will bring back a map, and now Section 2 with intent, it in many ways left us with something that has no teeth.

This vote tonight will begin that. But the battle will be in the Senate. And we`re going to have to deal with that relic from segregational -- segregationist days. And that`s the filibuster. That`s why tonight is the front-runner of the real battle.


SHARPTON: And that will be in the U.S. Senate.

MELBER: I think that all makes sense. As you say, they`re going to have to make bigger changes or be tough if, as a procedural matter, they want to get it through the Senate.

And you have been working on these issues for so long, Rev, as I know well. And I appreciate both the moral clarity you bring. And, as the lawyer, I would second the jurisprudential note that you made, because while the Shelby County-Holder was very controversial, where the Supreme Court made it harder to uphold even what had been a bipartisan voting rights set of protections, John Roberts wrote in the opinion, well, don`t blame us, the court.


Congress can just update this. Our issue isn`t voting rights. Our issue is that he claimed it was antiquated or old.

Well, here you go. Here`s Congress actually doing it, . Whether that`s calling his bluff, if people want to be tough with John Roberts, or just doing what he said, if you want to be diplomatic, you just made the point, sir, this is what they asked for. Is there going to be up-or-down majority votes, not supermajority, majority votes on whether the American people have the right to vote at a time when it has been under attack and under attack and deliberately partisan in racist ways?

So, I appreciate your clarity on that. I would let you get out of here on just those stories, but I have one more thing, sir. It`s something you might not want to spend too much time on, but we`re obliged. And I know a lot of viewers, because I hear from MSNBC viewers, have been watching you for a minute now.

And you add up enough minutes, you get to 10 years. This is what we cooked up here on the 10-year anniversary. Take a look.


SHARPTON: Welcome to "POLITICS NATION." I`m Al Sharpton.

I`m going to do what I did all my life. I`m going to say what I mean and mean what I say. Watch the show, because you will soon learn at this hour, if "POLITICS NATION" is not on your television, your television really isn`t on.



MELBER: Amen. It`s been 10 years of "POLITICS NATION." Congratulations.

How`s it feel?

SHARPTON: It feels -- it`s hard to believe it`s been 10 years, but 10-year anniversary That I have been on MSNBC hosting "POLITICS NATION."

And I remember that, when I started, you were a kid in grade school. So we have been here a decade watched you grow.


SHARPTON: Look at you. So, I`m very appreciative to MSNBC and others, because they have never censored me. And we have done everything on the air, and tried to be as honest as we could.

And I appreciate you recognizing that.

MELBER: Yes, sir. Well, you have been on and in tune. And I think viewers know and people who follow the issues know, boy, there are some issues you were ahead on.

You were there first. You were there when they weren`t call it whatever you want to call it, getting the attention or rating or whatnot. Eric Garner, I remember watching, sadly watching his surviving family member on that program. A lot of America has been catching up.

We`re glad that you`re on the air and keep leading.

And let me put it up on the screen, everyone. You can catch the 10-year anniversary edition of "POLITICS NATION" right here on MSNBC this weekend 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thanks to Rev.

And let me tell you what we have cooking the rest of this hour. We have the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee and a member of the January 6 probe, Adam Schiff, with news on that front.

Also, news tonight, the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, won`t like this. He`s getting more pushback over some of his anti-safety measures.

And then later, believe it or not, the iconic director and analyst and documentarian Oliver Stone is here live.

Stay with us.




PELOSI: This is deadly serious. This is about our Constitution. It`s about our country. We`re there to seek the truth.


MELBER: Big news on a major development in this congressional probe of the January 6 insurrection and how it will seek the truth.

And here`s the context. A key question facing this probe has been how it will deal with any evidence about any possible attempts at an inside job. Members of Congress did rally the rioters directly that very day. The Justice Department has a very specific mission. It only examines if members of Congress may have broken the law, a high bar.

Congress itself examines these wider questions of policy or safety and if its own members did help any criminals compromise the Capitol. Tonight, the news is, Pelosi`s investigators are getting tough on their Republican colleagues. This is brand-new. They are going after their own colleagues` records as potential evidence, specifically planning on acquiring phone records of sitting members of Congress.

So the probe will gather records from hundreds of people. It goes beyond Congress, but it will also include them. It does not spare the Republican colleagues, some of whom were even banned from serving on this committee.

And some Republicans seem intent on hiding the kind of calls they had on January 6, like Congressman Jordan, who claims he cannot quite remember whether he spent one of the most dangerous days in the Capitol ever talking to then-President Trump or not, which is something one would rationally recall.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I have talked to the president numerous times. I continue to talk to the president since he`s left office.

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

JORDAN: Yes. 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: The probe will also follow reports that, during the attack, Trump invoked the ongoing violence in real time as an effort to keep pressing the Republican leader, McCarthy, to join Trump`s plot to still try to steal the election at that late date.

That is the kind of sloppy coup the Congress must investigate and address for the future of the republic. McCarthy cagey on that as well.


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": But I`m asking you specifically, did he say to you, "I guess some people are more concerned about the election than you are"?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Well, listen, my conversations with the president are my conversations with the president.

I engaged in the idea of making sure we could stop what was going on inside the Capitol at that moment in time. The president said he would help.


MELBER: Those are just the calls that have been publicly discussed.

A new push for evidence can also probe reports that some Republican lawmakers gave Capitol tours in advance to people who were preparing to invade, "The Times" reporting sightings of possible reconnaissance tours before the attack, reconnaissance tours, a military term for scouting a region before attacking the enemy. It`s chilling.


And the U.S. will need to get to the bottom of it. The tours were so odd that, even before the horrors of January 6, other members of Congress literally called security, the sergeant at arms, to report the unusual tours.


REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): Visitors aren`t allowed in the Capitol Complex.

The only reason you would have a visitor is on official business. So to see these groups around the Capitol Complex was really striking. It was so odd to see them that my chief of staff called the sergeant at arms to say, what is going on? And he reiterated the only way these people could have gotten into the Capitol Complex was with a member or that member`s staff.


MELBER: What is going on?

House investigators will now find out more about it by scouring these phone records of Republican members of Congress. And if they did not talk with or coordinate with the criminals who stormed the Capitol, they have nothing to worry about.

At the rally, Rep. Mo Brooks address rioters and later admitted he changed into body armor, bracing for a dangerous day. And that echoes, well, Nas, who offered the iconic criminal advice, change your clothes, pack your bags, watch what you say on this phone. Get home fast.

But it`s hard to hide a plot when they have your phones. As Dr. Dre actually emphasized on that same song, channeling the government, we got your phone tapped. What you going to do? Sooner or later, we will have your whole crew. All we need now is the right word or two to make it all stick. Then you`re through.

Timeless wisdom from The Firm`s song "Phone Tap." And it tends to apply whenever the government gets into your phones, which may be crucial for accountability for some of the biggest thugs America`s ever seen doing crime in broad daylight, attacking police and democracy itself.

Now we turn to an important and powerful guest on this January 6 committee. Member Adam Schiff is here when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: We`re joined now by Congressman Adam Schiff, intelligence Committee chair and member of this January 6 select committee.

Thanks for joining me.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Good to be with you.

MELBER: What do you hope to find in these phone records requests? And what do you say to people who argue this perhaps sets a bad precedent of Congress investigating potentially its own members?

SCHIFF: I can`t go into any particular document or other request.

But I can tell you that the premise that you make, which is nobody is off- limits here -- that is, if any member of Congress, any member of the former administration, or the former president himself, in whatever capacity, was involved in this attack on our governance, then we are going to follow the facts where they lead.

We`re going to investigate it thoroughly. We`re going to hold people accountable. We`re going to put all this together in a comprehensive report and let the American people know who is engaged in this attack on our democracy.

So, in that sense, I think you`re absolutely right. We intend to follow the facts, be comprehensive, and nobody gets a pass.

MELBER: Right. As you say, the concept of no person above the law is something that`s been discussed a lot over the last few years.

When you look at those public reports of the tours, I mean, that`s not classified at this point. Is it possible they were valid or does it look very suspicious to you?

SCHIFF: Well, it certainly sounds very suspicious to me.

And, look, I don`t want to presume what we will find in terms of those tours and the allegations about them. I have a vague recollection on that day of seeing a group of people near one of the ends of the subway that leads to the Capitol. And I don`t mean the Metro, but I mean internal system we have, the little people mover we have in Capitol.


So, I will be as interested as anyone to get to the bottom of that and find out, were members organizing tours? For what purpose? Did they know why these people were here? Were these people there surveilling the premises?

And, of course, we have seen now on social media talks about what could be done to members in those tunnels. So, we intend to get to the bottom of it.

MELBER: Yes. No, that makes sense.

As a leader of the Intelligence Committee, you have many roles. And I want to ask you about how it`s going in Afghanistan. Do you think the president is right that the tragic deterioration of the scene that we witnessed is essentially part of any vacuum of withdrawal? Or do you think that this could have been done better as a U.S. operation?

SCHIFF: I don`t think we can accept as a premise that the chaos we saw, particularly very early on, but which has continued, was inevitable.

There were going to be difficulties, yes, when we drew out, but I think there should have been better planning involved in the evacuation, in the drawdown. We`re looking now at the intelligence. And the intelligence over the last six months was increasingly pessimistic about the Afghan government`s ability to maintain itself.

I`m not ready to reach a conclusion. Certainly, none of the intelligence suggested it would collapse overnight, the way it did, within a matter of days, that Kabul would fall. But, nonetheless, you would presume that there would be military planning along any foreseeable contingency to avoid this kind of difficulty, where we would have thousands of Americans who are at risk of being stranded.


SCHIFF: So, too early...

MELBER: So, Congressman, does that -- but just to put a fine point on that, though, based on what you have seen and what you`re saying publicly, not the classified stuff, do you view that as an issue with military planning or with the decision-making and policy process by President Biden?

SCHIFF: Well, I think the decision to get out is the right decision. And I completely agree with President Biden that we could be there five, 10, 15 more years, at the risk of the lives of our troops, and not have a different result at the end of the day and still see the Afghan government collapse.

But, to me -- and this is a first impression at this point -- this looks like a planning failure, a military planning failure, as to how we draw down our forces, how we evacuate our personnel. There may be more responsibility than that to go around, not just to lay it at the feet of the military.

But it seems to me the military generally draws up plans for every contingency. There are nothing but plans on the shelf about what might happen and how to use the best military, best-equipped military in the world to move our people and our friends who risked their lives with us out.

And I can`t imagine that we didn`t have a plan for a rapid collapse. So, we`re going to have to do, I think, an extensive look, not just at the last two weeks, but of the last 20 years and why, after all that blood and treasure, we succeeded in protecting the country from another 9/11, but we have failed to stand up a government that the Afghans would fight for.

MELBER: Yes, all important points, and you`re very close to it.

On more than one issue here, Congressman Adam Schiff, Chairman, thank you so much, sir.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

And when we come back, Oscar winner Oliver Stone next.



MELBER: As America is everything, from another war ending, sort of, to conspiracy theories on so many issues, we turn to a very special guest, the acclaimed filmmaker Oliver Stone, a cultural icon whose decades of work truly touches on many of these themes up until this day.

You think about war, you think about greed, you think about inequality, you think about, as I mentioned, the conspiracy theories that delight us in film, but sometimes maybe need adjusting in life. Four Oscar six, Golden Globes.

And, for anyone who forgot, we`re going to take a quick look at movies that truly stand the test of time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oliver Stone for "Platoon."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oliver Stone, "Born on the Fourth of July."


MICHAEL DOUGLAS, ACTOR: Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.

AL PACINO, ACTOR: You want to play rough, OK? Say hello to my little friend.

DONALD SUTHERLAND, ACTOR: Fundamentally, people are suckers for the truth. And the truth is on your side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Hollywood director Oliver Stone certainly no stranger to controversy.

JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR: I`m going to stay I am, "Steamin`" Willie Beamen.


OLIVER STONE, FILMMAKER: In the 13 wars we have started over the last 30 years, remember that it wasn`t one leader, but a system, both Republican and Democrat.


MELBER: Oliver Stone joins me now.

And his memoir, "Chasing the Light" -- you see it on the screen -- is out in paperback. You can check it out.

Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.

STONE: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Much to cover.

Let`s start with war and a little bit more of your comments. You are known for your work, completely amazing stuff we just showed, as well as how outspoken you have been over the years. Whether people liked it or not, you have been clear and blunt.

And here you were talking after "Platoon" about war in America. Take a look.


STONE: I think that, through this award, you`re really acknowledging the Vietnam veteran. And I think what you`re saying is that, for the first time, you really understand what happened over there.

And I think what you`re saying is that it should never, ever in our lifetimes happen again.


STONE: And if it does, then those American boys died over there for nothing, because America learned nothing from the Vietnam War.


STONE: That`s for sure.

MELBER: So, I asked you, looking at that, have we learned anything?

STONE: It seems not. It seems not.

It went right away. In 1970s, it was an interesting period of reexamination and change, and I thought growth mentally. But by -- when the papa Bush went back into Iran -- Iraq in 1991, we started another major cycle of events, war.


But, even before that, we -- and don`t forget that Mr. Reagan, when he was president, made a big deal out of invading Grenada, which was very much a disaster, militarily a disaster, although nobody knew who really won, but they got rid of -- whatever.

Anyway, Grenada was not good. And that was a sign that we had to reassert our power and our imperium, our strength. Didn`t work. It was a false positive. And as -- and then after that, we had Panama. Don`t forget the invasion in Panama.

So there was signs of this all the way through. It was a disease, a disease of pride and arrogance.


And the roots of this are things that you have thought a lot about. You also served. Many people know that. Some may not. I think we have some pictures of you actually in Vietnam.

But that`s got to come into how you looked over and over at these issues of American foreign policy and how even a good story served up to the public would sour quickly.

I want to play a little bit from "W," which looks at that Bush era take a look.

STONE: Yes, sure.


JEFFREY WRIGHT, ACTOR: If you really go through this, you`re going to be proud owner 26 million Iraqi people standing around looking at us. You break it, you own it.

And I can tell you something, and you need to understand this. It`s just going to suck the oxygen right out of everything you do. It`ll become your first term.

JOSH BROLIN, ACTOR: Look, fellows. in the end, it`s about freedom. A free country is a peaceful country. My dream is to see peace break out all over the Middle East.


STONE: That was a funny scene.


MELBER: That seemed critical at the time, but tell us about it, yes.

STONE: In that scene, if you remember, they get lost. They`re walking on Bush`s ranch in Texas. And they`re walking for a long time, and he doesn`t know where they are. And then they turn back and they go back in a U-turn back to the -- trying to find the ranch.

It`s kind of funny. That`s sort of emblemizes what happened in Iraq. I enjoyed that.

MELBER: Yes. And so when you look at the Taliban...

STONE: And it was really a satire.

I`m sorry.

MELBER: It was very much a satire. I thought it was very interesting.

Political movies are actually quite hard to do, in my opinion, recent history political movies, but that one really sort of worked.

But I wonder, when you look at the Taliban then coming back to power, this is what both Bush, who may have been a more extreme version of it, but with several presidents feared happening on their watch. And yet the premise, it would seem, of some of your films has been, of course that will happen if we`re in a place where we don`t really belong, unless we would say forever, which is colonialism.

STONE: Or imperialism.

Yes, those words are interchangeable in the American experiment, yes, absolutely. No, in fact, it gets worse when we apply pressure. We militarize the area. We make it much more dangerous for everybody.

The Afghan war, when you really look at it, it`s about the United States vs. -- not vs. the Taliban, but vs. a civilian population, as it was in Vietnam. We fought the NVA, we fought the Vietcong, but the real loser in that war was the civilians.

Three to four million -- and that`s Robert McNamara`s estimate -- were killed. Our aerial bombing is like terror bombing. It was what we did in Korea in -- after the war, and we did it in Germany. We did it in Japan. It`s same kind of principles.

We think that we can work it -- because it worked in World War II against Germany and Japan, we think it works in war. It doesn`t work. It terrorizes the population, makes you an enemy.

And the truth is, the Taliban is back, yes, but our hope is that they are less -- more civilized than the older version of them. And that`s possible...


STONE: ... because the people, I don`t think, will stand for it. But that`s not because we were there. They won`t stand for it because they were they were horrified by the first experiment in Talibanism.

MELBER: Yes, yes.

Because I have so much I want to get through with you, can we switch gears to disaster capitalism and inequality that`s only getting worse, again, something that you dug into in a way that touched the zeitgeist?

Everyone remembers the greed is good speech. We want to play a different clip -- actually, we discussed some of this with the great Martin Sheen when he was here -- where you kind of get into maybe how some people really talk, even though it seems so hard to believe, rich people talking like they`re poor, while really poor people starve.

Let`s take a look at "Wall Street."



CHARLIE SHEEN, ACTOR: Fifty-K does not get you to first base in the Big Apple, not anymore.

MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: So come back home and live rent-free, instead of that roach-infected place you`re living in -- $50,000, Jesus Christ. The whole world`s off its rocker.

You know, I made a total of $47,000 last year. That`s before taxes.

C. SHEEN: That`s Queens, Dad, a 5 percent mortgage, and you rent the top room.

Look, I got to live in Manhattan to be a player. There is no nobility in poverty anymore, dad.

One day, you`re going to be proud of me. You`ll see.


MELBER: Were you holding up a mirror to Wall Street or America? And how does it look now, with billionaires having more than ever before?

STONE: I love that line. There`s no nobility in poverty.

Yes. Well, that`s where -- it seemed to me, in the 1980s, it was taking off in that direction. Charlie Sheen represented the new -- a new generation that was, frankly, looking for material prosperity.

And what -- that has been the chase, the accumulation of wealth for that class of people through these years. Now, obviously, the losers in this situation are the poor. And this has been -- this has been exacerbated by the huge numbers. Between 1980 and 2010, I mean, the growth in wealth was enormous.

And now, even now, with the virus, there has been more and more of it. So it was coming. You could see it. In 1980, you could feel it, with Reagan`s attitude towards what he called welfare queens.

But now it`s -- it seems to be out of control, although there seems to be an attempt by Biden to do something about it.

MELBER: I did want to get into conspiracy theories, a big topic.

But it seems that the Internet has obviously amplified them. And one person`s conspiracy theory might be another person`s alternative take. And, as a journalist, we`re open to that. We try to be.

But I think you and I could agree that, for example, on COVID, we have seen some really wild stuff go viral. Do you have a view of why this is so fascinating to people, and, in the real world, how it clearly at times can be dangerous? Given all of your work. I just wanted to ask you that.

STONE: Well, I have never -- I have always tried to tell the truth from what I think it is.

I have done a lot of research. I don`t ascribe to scaring people for money. You`re not supposed -- sensationalism for its own sake is a -- is horrid to me. And I would never do that.

I have always tried. And -- but I do think we need to think alternatively about things. And, sometimes, we lock in behind the media. They say it`s this way.


STONE: And they all kind of agree that we have to agree.

And that`s not -- that doesn`t work for a free-thinking individual, which I consider myself.


Well, let me ask it like this. I mean, there`s a difference between saying, let`s be open to alternative theories -- so, the Wuhan lab theory might have been overly initially delegitimized or dismissed, when actually being open to it seems prudent. The intelligence agencies themselves now say that, to your point about open-minded.

But then there`s things where you got people online who say the vaccine will turn you into a monkey, or Bill Gates is putting microprocessing chips inside it. That`s false. But it takes root.

As a storyteller, do you have a theory of why that stuff takes root? I mean, some of that stuff is false. We can fact-check it.


That`s always been a fact of life in America and I think all over the world. I mean, "The National Enquirer" existed back in the `60s, `50s. They were saying these kind of things. It`s -- you choose to believe it. If you want to pick up "The National Enquirer" and read it, that`s your choice.

But people will always do that. When you put forth what you call a conspiracy theory, which I would call a conspiracy fact, because conspiracies do exist. We know that through history. Anybody who denies it is an idiot historically.

But if you go back and you look at the reasons for -- you have to think about the possibility that something like, for example, the Kennedy assassination was not the work of one man. And this, I firmly believe, that it was definitely -- there were reasons and motivations to get rid of that president. He was dangerous.

So, I`m divided about that. You have to think, but, at the same time, you have to question.

MELBER: Yes. Well, that`s part of why I wanted to ask you.

And I love interviewing you.

STONE: And 9/11. And 9/11.

MELBER: Well, and you know what? I will tell you this. Let`s do it again in person sometime and even longer.

Sometimes, we do -- with THE BEAT, we do digital interviews where we go an hour. We could get into all of it.


MELBER: Because, as anyone could obviously tell, I`m a fan of your films, even if you and I might debate or disagree on certain things. That`s a healthy process.

So, Mr. Stone, I appreciate your first time on THE BEAT. I hope you will come back.



In my book, which you mentioned, I write, the lie in our culture is the root of our failure, the lie. And that`s what my book is about, lies.

MELBER: Hey, I could get into part of that.

Really, it`s on -- it`s on the screen, "Chasing the Light." It`s out in paperback. So, if you`re interested in learning more and reading, folks can check that out.

And, again, my thanks to Mr. Oliver Stone for joining us, for the little back-and-forth.

When we come back, there`s news on Rudy Giuliani and problems in Florida for DeSantis.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Safety measures in Florida back in the hot seat.

The MAGA governor there, DeSantis, tried to ban mask mandates from schools. Cases are surging. Half-a-dozen districts saying, no, they have to keep people safe. State officials have given two districts until today to either give up or risk being fined or losing money over it.

The news? They`re standing up to the governor. Both districts say they will keep using safety measures. They`re rebuffing DeSantis. And we will see where that goes.


Now, we have got to fit in a break, with everything we have had going on, but, when we come back, one more update on a guilty plea in the Giuliani case, with one of his closest allies.

We will show you.


MELBER: Rudy Giuliani`s former associate Igor Fruman will plead guilty -- this is next month -- to federal campaign finance charges.

It`s been a big case we have been monitoring. Fruman helped Giuliani in the effort to try to discredit Joe Biden, then a candidate, and stop him from being elected, which failed. We don`t know whether the plea will lead to full cooperation. SDNY does expect everything.

If you try to strike that kind of deal, one prosecutor saying that this individual should be concerned about the plea, that this could be, if it led to a plea, a bad thing for Giuliani.

That`s a final update. And that does it for us.


Hi Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: How you doing, Ari?

It just seems like everything is a bad thing for Giuliani. Remember when people used to be like he`s the greatest mayor ever? Well, I never said that. I was never a fan.

MELBER: Yes, that`s -- I don`t have a lot of time, but this is a quick one. That is over.

REID: Yes, pretty much.