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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/25/21

Guests: Michael Pollan, Marq Claxton, Mark Sanford, Julia Ioffe


The House January 6 probe makes even more document requests. A new probe begins into police brutality caught on tape. The very first sentence is handed down in the far right plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan. The evolution of Republican science denial is discussed. Bestselling author Michael Pollan discusses the war on drugs and magic mushrooms.


JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: Now it`s for me to pass a Courvoisier to "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER".

Hey, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Pass the Courvoisier.

And, Jason, in that Busta song, do you remember how many different labels got shout-outs?

JOHNSON: There were like half-a-dozen. There were like half-a-dozen.



I think -- I just think it`s a great classic you mentioned. I love when you put us on the spot. I didn`t know you`re going to go Busta.


MELBER: But "Pass the Courvoisier" really was such an equal opportunity set of shout-outs. It was like your friend in high school who was like just trying to be positive about everybody and was going to get some love back, because it had Moet, Courvoisier, Henny, which is a Courvoisier competitor.


MELBER: So, you`re onto something, Jason.

JOHNSON: You know what? We`re not competitors here. We`re all part of the same team. That is what Busta was trying to teach us.


MELBER: Amen. Amen to Busta Bust.


MELBER: And I just want to say thank you to someone who always has us all in check. Woo-ha. Thank you, Jason.

JOHNSON: Thank you. Give me some more.

MELBER: Appreciate you.


MELBER: We could keep going. But we will stop. I want to thank Jason, who`s in for Nicolle, two people we always love to chat with there on the toss.

I want to welcome you to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber. And let me tell you what`s going on.

The House January 6 probe zeroed in on Republican members of Congress yesterday, investigating with evidence requests about whether any of them helped the rioters.

Well, today, House investigators are going farther, zeroing in on Donald Trump, what he knew, what he did, and pulling on a thread that actually -- and we have talked about this -- it seems both obvious, but hasn`t been formally legally proven yet.

And the thread is this. Did Donald Trump specifically plan the storming of the Capitol as a premeditated part of his failed, sloppy coup? Well, today, this House select committee on January 6 is demanding records from seven federal agencies that will go towards what Trump did and knew.

They want to know about the insurrection. They`re asking for material about Trump`s knowledge of the election results and what he communicated to the American people about the election. They want to know whether or not there were communications within the White House or executive agencies during that lead-up to January 6 and on January 6.

"The Washington Post" reporting all of this because they`re getting tough there in this probe. They are also are going to seek evidence here with subpoena power backing them on attempts to place political personnel in senior positions across the government. And that`s where this goes beyond rhetoric and back into really investigating Trump`s sloppy coup.

Trump did demand the DOJ help him steal the election. We already know that. He did push new staff in to help him do it. He did raise alarms stretching from the Justice Department, where there were those threats of mass resignation, to the Pentagon, about how far Trump would really go.

And one of the top members of the committee that I`m reporting on here just told us on THE BEAT they`re going to follow the evidence, and no one is off-limits.

The new headline that I`m reporting on you tonight about going after Trump evidence shows that, well, Congressman and Chairman Schiff, he meant it. Here`s what he told us.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): 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.


MELBER: Some of the facts already lead to an open probe of whether Trump`s efforts to steal the results in one state, Georgia, were themselves a crime. And that is just one state.

The new evidence could link more of these seemingly, maybe disparate plots all together. And that could put more pressure on the government, by which I mean the federal government or independent local prosecutors, to do the hard thing and decide, if there was an attempted coup, no matter how sloppy and Trumpian, should someone go to jail for it?

I`m joined now by Joan Walsh from "The Nation" and Julia Ioffe, who`s written about national security issues for "The New York Times," "Washington Post" and "GQ." and she is now with Puck News.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

Joan, I landed on a question, so I put it to you. Does the evidence build on the pressure to say, if there was an attempted coup, somebody`s got to pay for it?

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC ANALYST: well, it depends on what we have found out. And I don`t want to get ahead of ourselves.

But I am really kind of relieved to see the scope of the committee`s requests. I think we have talked about it before. I was sorry that they were so slow to set it up. I was a little bit worried that we have only had one day of testimony. Early on, there was a little bit of a dodge about whether they would go after their colleagues in Congress and call Kevin McCarthy up there.

They have gone beyond that. I think they need do those things too, but what they`re doing is sort of unraveling this web of people that we all were shaking our heads. Why is Trump putting all these civilians in weird places? Why is he shaking up the Justice Department? Why did Barr leave? I mean, we have talked about that and we have gotten some evidence about that before, Ari.


But now you have -- they`re going after people like Kash Patel, Devin Nunes` old aide, who had no apparent relative -- relevant experience, but he was made the acting chief of staff to the defense secretary. Why was that happening?

And those people, all those people are being asked real questions about what they knew, what they were planning, what kinds of memos and conversations were going back and forth between the agencies, but also with the president.

So I think it`s a very interesting day.

MELBER: Julia?

JULIA IOFFE, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, PUCK: I think it shows that there was some worry back in January about whether the Biden administration or Democrats in Congress could pursue this, investigate the Trump administration for their role in this attempted coup, and carry out the other business of governing in what was assumed to be a short two-year span in which they would have the gavel and the majority in both houses.

And it seems they`re able to do both, in the favorite parlance of Washington, to walk and chew gum at the same time. They just passed this budget in the House. It looks like the bipartisan -- BIF, the bipartisan infrastructure project, is good to go. And this is happening in tandem, and without really seemingly any problems.


WALSH: And voting rights.

MELBER: Julia, I never understood that expression.

Julia, like, do -- are there people out there who always stay, like, seated when they start chewing gum?


IOFFE: I don`t know. Maybe walking makes you bite your cheek, the inside of your cheek or your tongue. I don`t know. I never understood it either.


IOFFE: But it`s one of the favorite things to say in Washington, walk and chew gum at the same.

MELBER: Yes, well, shout-out to you for taking the plunge.


IOFFE: Apparently, we have a very -- we have very low expectations in this town, apparently.


I think, when you say it that way, it makes sense. And, look, taking the plunge, using an expression that you`re not even clear on, but it does reflect the Washingtonian, as you said, the kind of blinkered view, because they have been very busy.

I mean, it`s August. This is a time where sometimes government completely shuts down. They have been doing, as you said, the voting rights, the jobs, this investigation, a lot going forward. Speaker Pelosi clearly saying they`re going to do a lot of things.

Our panel is going to stay.

I want to turn to a related story, which is new attention on how badly Trump lost the 2020 election, which may sound like a topic Democrats want to emphasize, but it`s actually coming from Republicans in Pennsylvania, who say that they will basically recount Trump`s loss there, holding hearings that will presumably sow some kind of doubt about ballot integrity, which follows a bizarre trend across several states, from Wisconsin to Arizona, where Republicans claim to count or review an election that is over and closed.

A quick fact-check: Recounting ballots from 2020 is no different from doing it from 1920. Constitutionally, the election is over. So this process is irrelevant and nonbinding.

And it may appeal to Donald Trump and some of the January 6 crowd of truthers who live in denial that President Biden won.

But what I want to get into with the panel right now is, the politics seem to hurt the Republican Party with at least three groups, forward-looking Republicans who don`t want to relive this loss, independents who don`t really like partisan posturing, and younger voters who are Democrats who any future national Republican candidate will need to appeal to some of them.

Joan, what do you think of this?

WALSH: Well, I think they don`t care about those people. They`re really interested in pleasing Donald Trump.

I think it`s a funny -- it`s a great way to look at it. They`re going to show him that he lost again. He lost four times in Georgia. They counted and recounted the vote in Georgia, and Republicans kept certifying, the vote was fine, he lost, he lost, he lost.

And so now we have got the fraudit Arizona going to show he lost, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, also, Pennsylvania, again, a Republican legislature that certified the results already. So the situation in Arizona is comical. It would be worrisome, except when you bet the clownish Cyber Ninjas, who just gave one another COVID, you don`t feel like you have to worry so much, except there`s always -- they`re trying to cast this shadow over the election results.

And they`re -- frankly, they`re potentially leading to another January 6. The more that they feed this anger in the base that something was stolen from them, I think the more extremism we`re going to see. I think that`s the danger, not that they`re going to accomplish anything.


MELBER: Julia?

IOFFE: Frankly, I`m not sure who this recount is for, who any of these recounts or audits are for, because people seem to be pretty baked into what they believe.

Either they believe the election was fine, or they believe it was stolen. And nothing is going to convince anybody in these two camps that something other than what they believe happened.

Michael Lindell had his conference a couple of weeks ago where he thought he proved that the election machines were hacked by both the Jewish world conspiracy and the Chinese government. Of course, he didn`t prove a thing, but it doesn`t matter.

I`m just not sure who this theater is for and who it`s swaying.

MELBER: Yes, and I really think, if you look at the headline on the screen, reliving Trump`s most famous loss, I mean, this is not a traditional Trump P.R. tactic, which is relive and draw attention to something.

And it`s not moving the needle on what most rational people understand, which is, who`s president? The president.

I want to thank Joan for covering more than one topic with us.

Julia, stay with me, because we also did want to do a turn and an update on Afghanistan, where about 1, 500 Americans are still left in the country. That`s according to the administration. Evacuations are speeding up, roughly 20,000 people a day now.

And when you look at this, it is, of course, a humanitarian challenge, but also a larger reckoning for American foreign policy. In fact, we just heard from someone who has explored these issues for decades, who has spoken out politically and through his art and who himself is a veteran.

Last night, we heard from Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone about the war.


OLIVER STONE, FILMMAKER: 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.


MELBER: Julia?

IOFFE: I mean, that`s generally the case in every war, right?

Frankly, I`m not -- I`m not the biggest fan of Oliver Stone. I feel like he`s a great person to ask about Putin and his relationship with the Russian president.

But I do think it`s complicated.


MELBER: Well, Julia?


MELBER: Julia, I will let you finish. I will let you finish, but people have different areas of lanes, of expertise.

So, although I understand where you`re coming from, because I didn`t -- we didn`t really get into the Putin video with him, he is someone who`s who`s studied and reckoned with war in America for a long time and is a veteran. So I think, on the issue of the American foreign policy footprint, I think he has something to say there, which I say not as defending him because he was on the program, but just in that realm.

I think you make an accurate reference that some viewers may know and some may not, which is, he was roundly criticized for the nature of his Putin interview. So that`s me being lawyerly.

But, again, as I promised, I will let you finish.


What I was going to say is that it is a complicated issue. The -- what the U.S. was doing there after 20 years propping up a corrupt government that nobody seemed to believe in, that its troops weren`t willing to fight for once the Americans -- Americans announced that they were pulling out, it`s -- how long could we have possibly stayed there is one issue.

The other issue is, could we have managed this withdrawal better? Could we have ramped up the giving out of Special Immigrant Visas for the Afghans who helped our fighting forces and our journalists on the ground? Could we have stepped that up even back in January, when this administration came in?

Could we have undone some of what the Trump administration did in gutting this program? I think the tail of this withdrawal is going to be with us for a long time, especially as, you know, all these al Qaeda and ISIS fighters have been released from prisons that the Taliban has taken over, as we see whether the Taliban keeps their word or not.

I mean, they have already said that women should stay home for now, a week after saying that they would respect women`s rights within the realm of their interpretation of Sharia law.

I think a lot remains to be seen. And it`s a messy, complicated problem. I do not envy the people working on this.

MELBER: All really fair and incisive points.

Julia Ioffe, who writes about more than one topic and who we were able to rely on for more than one topic, thank you for kicking us off tonight.

IOFFE: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

We have a lot more in the program, including this backlash to MAGA governors like DeSantis in Florida, and why the GOP has a growing science problem, with a very special guest.

Also important, a new probe into police brutality caught on tape, a trooper repeatedly hitting a man who appeared to not be a threat at that juncture. We`re going to get into why this matters and the allegations of a cover-up.


Later, accountability, the very first sentence in that far right plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan.


MELBER: COVID continues to surge.

And while the weekly vaccination rate in the U.S. is actually going up right now, partly because of more awareness of the risks of not getting vaccinated, many people in our nation are still hearing ominous and vague vaccine shade like this:


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: There`s still an awful lot we don`t know. These are, after all, experimental drugs, and they`re behaving like it.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Fauci`S act is wearing thin. And we see time and again that it was he and his like-minded experts who were routinely acting against basic scientific norms.

CARLSON: Fauci pretended to know what he does not know and could not know.


MELBER: So you have top right-wing voices hitting that kind of note.

Now the story is not all monolithic. Some on FOX News have accurately reported to and referred to the science. Some Republican officials are backing up the CDC and being responsible and putting partisanship aside. So there is that going on.


And many people call Donald Trump to tell his followers to get vaccinated. And, this past weekend, he did.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know what? I believe totally in your freedoms. I do.

You got to do what you have to do. But I recommend, take the vaccines. I did it. It`s good. Take the vaccines.


MELBER: So that was one push: Take the vaccines.

Now, we can note that some of Trump`s own MAGA supporters booed him for that. But let`s be clear. People call on Donald Trump to do something. He did it. And there are people who listen to him, just like people listen to all sorts of different leaders. So he said, get vaccinated.

If you`re watching, and that appeals to you, you should know that`s what he said.

Then there are the Republican governors from Arizona to Florida that continue to attack the commonsense safety measures and battle with scientists and really take a different tack than what you just saw from Trump.

We`re also seeing lagging vaccine rates in red states that are battered with cases. So, the larger dynamic here is actually also important to consider. We talked a lot about COVID in the last two years, but there`s a longer-running Republican war on science, from climate change, to deriding all sorts of independent experts, to siding with industry over universities, to the Republican senator who infamously tried his own hand at amateur climate snow analysis.


SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R-OK): We keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record. I asked the chair, you know what this is? It`s a snowball. And that just from outside here, so it`s very, very cold out.


MELBER: See, he`s got snowball because it`s cold out. Now, sometimes, well, the fact-checks, they do it for themselves.

It can get worse than that too. At a 2011 presidential debate -- so, again, long before Trump and COVID and all this -- one of the then big faces of the Republican Party, Texas Governor Rick Perry, well, he had a different argument to go after climate science.


FMR. GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX): The science is not settled on this.

Just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact -- Galileo got out voted for a spell.


MELBER: Perry seeming to go after Galileo, who was punished four centuries ago for saying the earth revolved around the sun, deemed a heretic by the Catholic Church, if you want to get into it.

Now, in 1992, the Catholic Church actually formally apologized to Galileo. Twenty years later, Rick Perry still struggling with that one.

Now, there`s a political analyst we rely on around here. You may remember him from his BEAT appearances, Chai Komanduri. And he makes the case that the methods the Republican Party employed in denying climate change are now being rebooted by the anti-vax movement, which hops on any uncertainty that may exist in science to claim certainty in opposing science.

Now, that`s a nuanced, but important point, especially if you`re having these debates with people who may listen to some of what I just played you from FOX News.

So, Komanduri actually dates this as far back as the 1980 Reagan campaign, where he said that were great flaws in the theory of evolution, pushing for a biblical story of creation, and actually making policy out of it, arguing that should give it equal weight, it should get equal weight in our public schools, which are government-funded.

Komanduri, a veteran of three presidential campaigns, has been on the case. And we also have a former Republican governor and congressman, Mark Sanford, who knows these issues inside of that -- when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: We`re back with Chai Komanduri and Governor Mark Sanford. His new book, "Two Roads Diverged: A Second Chance for the Republican Party, the Conservative Movement, the Nation and Ourselves," is out now. You can see it there on the screen.

We will get to all those ideas.

But, Chai, having quoted you, I wanted to begin with your point that we can`t understand the depths of our science and vaccine misinformation in America today without understanding the Republican Party`s crusade for some time now.




To put it very simply, they don`t believe in vaccines, the same way they don`t believe in climate science, the same way they don`t believe in evolution, the same way they don`t believe in the Big Bang theory, the same way they don`t believe in stem cell research.

However, they do believe in the claims of fossil fuel executives. They do believe in all the vitamin and health supplements that Alex Jones regularly hawks on his TV channel or YouTube channel or whatever platform he happens to be on right now. They do certainly believe in those things.

And we have to understand that uncertainty is codified in science, through the peer review research method that is used by major universities to establish scientific truths. Science is based on probability. It`s based on ground.

However, the GOP historically -- and they have been doing it for over 30 years going back to Ronald Reagan -- has been using that very element of science against science, and in favor of GOP interests.

MELBER: Yes, you say it that way. And it`s very similar to some of the sound we just played from Carlson and Ingraham, which, if you want to be charitable, you could say that some of the points are technically in the ballpark.

But they really make a drumbeat that`s misleading, because it implies that the fact that scientists are updating their information through a process is itself an indictment of the science. As you just said, it`s not.

Governor, we wanted to bring you into this because you have been in the party, but you have also been a truth-teller at times. And shout out to your new book.

Reading just a quote from it, you say, even before Trump got to Washington, the conservative movement, in your view, you write, "represented by the Republican Party had devolved into a lukewarm mess."

Your views on all the above?

FMR. GOV. MARK SANFORD (R-SC): Well, we will come back to lukewarm mess.

I mean, respectfully, I disagree with the points just made, because I think that the favorite word in politics these days is they, they, they, and they.

And I don`t think that that, going back to the notion of science and sort of Socratic process, is fair. I think that there are absolutely elements of the Republican Party that are Neanderthal as it relates to science.

But there are a number of us -- I have said for a long time, I was a Republican in elected office for roughly a 25-year span, that I did believe in science, that I believe did believe in climate change, it was real. And the coastal district that I represent along the coast of South Carolina, I saw it with my own eyes.

And I said, there`s something unfathomable to me that some in the Republican Party would say, I believe in the miracles of modern science and healing my body, notwithstanding the vaccination debate, but I don`t believe in it as it relates to Mother Earth.

So I think it`s a bit simplistic to say -- quote -- "The Republican Party does not believe in science." I would say there are absolute elements that don`t, and shame on those of us who haven`t pushed harder and louder against those elements, because I don`t think they represent a broad swathe of the people that I represented, whether along the coast of South Carolina or in the state as a whole.

MELBER: Do you think, Governor, to your point, that the thrusts of the anti-vaccine arguments -- and I mentioned it`s not monolithic in my setup.

SANFORD: Sure. Yes.

MELBER: Because I -- accurately reporting that the former president himself said get vaccinated, which is different from what some other folks were saying with regard to the science.


MELBER: But do you think that the bulk of the anti-vax sentiment on the right is good faith, by which I mean earnestly held beliefs about people`s reservations?

Or do you -- does it concern you that some of it seems to be a kind of a political project?

SANFORD: I think it`s a combination of the two.

I think that there is a natural wariness against authority on the right. I mean, part of the independence movement, freedom of movement is, again, a skittishness about, oh, because they said so and there`s a automatic reaction, well, because you said so, then I`m against it, which is its own sort of thinking.

But that is part of the assembly that makes up the Republican Party. And then part of it is based on all the misinformation that`s out there. I mean, people that are not necessarily suspicious, but because they have a faith in this sort of tribalism that is all too strong in both parties right now, well, there`s suspicion at the top, then it must be good enough for me.

Initially, Trump wasn`t exactly a warrior with regard to vaccines and vaccinations. I happen to be a fan. I had the vaccinations, but then I got COVID, and it really sucked. And it -- my boys are young and strong, and they got it, and they were out surfing the next day. I was down and about for about two weeks. I never slept as much in my life.


But I just think it`s a combination of the weird tribalism that is real within the Trump movement and the party and the party right now, combined with a natural suspicion of somebody at the top saying so.


KOMANDURI: Well, look, I would respectfully disagree with the governor on this.

I do think that climate change denial -- there were exceptions, like John McCain, I think you all remember. But for the most part, the entire Republican establishment, in my opinion, and I think it`s pretty indisputable, were very much into climate change denial.

And if you -- let`s be very clear. Climate change denial is a conspiracy theory. It is a belief that the world scientific community is lying to you, and a group of fossil fuel executives with little scientific training are telling you the truth.

It`s a short leap from that to believe that the world`s medical community`s lying to you about vaccines, and Alex Jones is telling you the truth.

Climate change denial, really, I think, got the ball rolling. But I do also believe that the Republican establishment, with their alliance with the religious right, the religious right, which really believed that science was an enemy of faith, not an ally of faith, the way scientists from Isaac Newton to Werner Heisenberg believed, but an enemy of faith, that really did open the door to a lot of this thinking.

And we see this around the world. If you look at Brazil and India, where you have populist leaders aligned with the religious right, you know, they handled COVID pretty miserably, very similar to the way Trump handled it.

And I think that all of this predates Trump, and it`s a danger to our country that persists from 30 years ago to today.

MELBER: I think it`s excellent points. And I appreciate the nuance you both bring to it.

And part of what Chai says reminds me a little bit of what the governor mentioned, which is there is a traditional conservative doubt of the powerful. But some of that`s being transmuted to say, oh, well, as if a few scientists or people who write articles, scientific articles, are they the powerful?

No. I mean, it`s -- the powerful is the oil companies and some of the other big corporations. And I think real populism would counter that, not bend to it. So I do think there`s some overlap in what you both are saying and also some spirited and civic -- civil, I should say, disagreement, which we also welcome.

So, Chai and governor, good to have you on together. I hope we can do it again.

SANFORD: Look forward to it.

KOMANDURI: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Excellent. Thanks to both of you.

When we come back, we have an update on accountability in that kidnapping plot of the Michigan governor, and a new story of police brutality, very important.

Stay with us.



MELBER: Police brutality caught on tape again in a possible cover-up by the Louisiana State Police.

This is newly released bodycam video of an incident from May 2019, but going public for the first time now. It shows a black man being beaten. Now, the video has only come to light -- and we have emphasized this in our coverage -- because of pressure, a lawsuit and AP reporting.

Aaron Larry Bowman was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation. In this body camera footage, you can see a Louisiana trooper, Jacob Brown, coming to the scene. There`s forcible removal from the car, individual on the ground. We don`t know why from what we have seen, and then the shocking attack.

I want to warn you, we`re only playing this once, but it is very disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on. Hang tight.

AARON BOWMAN, LOUISIANA: I haven`t did nothing!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us your hand.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me your hand! Give me your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hand!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ain`t messing with you. Give me your...



MELBER: The recording shows the trooper bashing Bowman with this flashlight. That`s actually supposed to be used only for shattering glass, 18 strikes within 24 seconds, our count.

We didn`t show all of them. Bowman also can be heard about -- I should say, discussing his injuries.


BOWMAN: I`m bleeding. They hit me in the head with a flashlight.

I haven`t did nothing, man. I`m on dialysis, man. You`re hurting me. You`re hurting me.


BOWMAN: I don`t have nothing.


MELBER: The trooper is facing charges. This has been described as a -- quote -- "pain compliance move." And the accusation has been that Bowman resisted arrest. You can hear some of that on tape.

It`s two years later. The officer failed to report use of force. Authorities say they also mislabeled the bodycam footage to hide it.

I want to bring in Marq Claxton here, as we make sense of this, a special guest we have used and a former officer, leader of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance.

Your view of what this shows?

MARQ CLAXTON, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: It`s disturbing. It`s painful. It`s difficult at certain points to watch.

It`s a level of intimate violence, intimate police violence that points to a more disturbing pathology. This isn`t just arm`s-length level of violence or something even further away where the use of a firearm is included -- is involved. We`re talking about hand-to-hand, very intimate violence.

There`s something extra disturbing about that. And it`s disturbing to watch not only Trooper Brown`s conduct, but the apathy of his colleagues in this. Codified or not, the police have an obligation and a duty to intervene. And they failed miserably in enforcing their colleague to calm down and not engage any further in, not brutality, not misconduct, but a felonious assault.


They should have grabbed him, thrown him in cuffs, and charged him appropriately.

MELBER: And the role of video here is something we have done a lot of reporting on.

If you have video of a bank, surveillance video, the accused or alleged bank robber doesn`t get to control the video, because that wouldn`t work very well.

But here we see again, the problem where the video is created. That`s a change from 10 years ago. But it would seem that individual officers or the police department maintain too much control in many of these areas. Walk us through that part of this story.

CLAXTON: Well, quite clearly, the individual police officer in this particular case had too much control over the video, because he mislabeled it. It`s obvious that was a purposeful thing to do in order to kind of avoid any kind of detection of impropriety.

Oftentimes, the labeling of those body-worn cameras may trigger further scrutiny or investigation or observation by some of the internal mechanisms that are in some of these agencies, some of the internal affairs units or use of force units within these particular agencies. They will review sporadically, randomly and sometimes for a certain body-worn video.

So the fact that he mislabeled it shows that there was this purposeful action to avoid detection of his illegal, unlawful deeds.


And what we`re learning about use of force there by this officer is that this was routine. I will put up the AP headline here about the video showing him pummeling this individual. And the AP finds that, before the resignation, Brown had done 23 use of force incidents from 20 -- back to 2015, 19 targeting black people.

This was routine. And it`s only, as I mentioned, because of the lawsuit and the AP reporting that we`re learning about it.


And that`s why so many people are calling for a DOJ pattern and practice investigation into the Louisiana State Police. There is a long list of cases similar to this one, some of them that ended up in fatalities.

So, quite obviously, there needs to be some outside intervention in regards to the Louisiana State Police. But I think we can`t be confused about the extent of which DOJ can significantly impact Louisiana State Police.

Yes, they will come in with resources and oversight and examine policy and procedures. They will make recommendations. And, most importantly, what they will do is to bring additional resources. But what that smells like to a lot of people is rewarding bad behavior and misconduct, and, in some cases, illegality.

MELBER: Right.

CLAXTON: What needs to be done...


CLAXTON: ... is that there needs to be some prosecutions to start off the DOJ intervention into Louisiana State Police.


Former NYPD Detective Marq Claxton, thank you.

We`re going to fit in a break.

And, when we come back, accountability for a political kidnapping plot.



MELBER: News on an important story.

This is the first prison sentence now in that plot to kidnap the Democratic governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer. This was just handed down. It`s a story we have been tracking. You may remember when the horrific plot was first exposed.

Well, Ty Garbin getting six years in prison for a conspiracy to kidnap conviction. And he was the one cooperating in the probe. Many other people could face much stiffer penalties, over a dozen others awaiting trial.

That`s an update we wanted to give you.

And when we come back, we have something very special. We`re getting into the war on drugs, magic mushrooms, and the bestselling author Michael Pollan is here.

Stay with us.



MELBER: America continues to debate its long-running war on drugs.

It`s been 50 years since President Nixon declared that narcotics the number one public enemy, a bigger deal than everything else, including, presumably, violence.

But in the many decades since, opinion has been shifting from this emphasis on incarceration and punishment at all costs towards treatment and even legalization. The Biden administration says it`s using a harm reduction model, while not embracing the legalization of marijuana.

But some Republicans are even on board on that front of the local level, 18 states legalizing pot, and we`re seeing a larger cultural sea change on acid, mushrooms and other psychedelics, with more informed people saying that, if the full war on drugs failed, is it time to explore the possible value of some psychedelic use?

We have a very special guest for a different kind of news conversation.

We turn to someone you have probably heard of for more than one topic, the journalist and bestselling author and professor Michael Pollan. His nine books include "The Omnivore`s Dilemma," but his latest book is called "This Is Your Mind on Plants." And it looks at opium, caffeine, mescaline, and a lot more.

Michael, thanks for coming on THE BEAT.


MELBER: If someone`s watching right now going, OK, why are we talking about mushrooms on the news, well, maybe it`s deeper than that. Tell us the rubric, the lens you used as you approach this work.

POLLAN: Well, I`m looking at the age-old human engagement with plants that change consciousness.

All of us are involved with those plants, whether you drink alcohol or coffee or tea, or use more powerful things like magic mushrooms. And this is an innate human drive. We all have it. It`s kind of curious that we do. But we want to change consciousness.

And we need to accept that as just part of our humanity, rather than go to war against that urge, which we have been doing for at least 50 years.

MELBER: What does it mean when people say they want to raise or deepen their consciousness? And how much of that do you see as what you call plants as a method or a shortcut as compared to other -- other activities that people feel don`t involve reaching for that stimuli?


I mean, there are other ways to change consciousness. People do it through meditation, through extreme sports, fasting. There are many other modalities that do it. But the easiest, quickest way has been engaging with these mushrooms or a fungus or plants.

And the reason people do it are -- I mean, they have a lot of reasons to do it. I think that there`s a sense in which we all feel trapped in our egos, in our individuality, which disconnects us from other people.

And we do these things to -- often to connect with other people, to lower the barriers of ego and feel more social. And alcohol does that, obviously. It`s used to lubricate social situations, right, I mean, at the right dose? And too much, it has the opposite effect.

So I think that`s one reason. I think also to relieve pain is a classic reason people have sought to change consciousness.

MELBER: You use your pen, your writing ability, to share your experiences. That also provides a gateway, because people might want to learn about this through knowledge, rather than through experience.


But, again, you`re doing that kind of bluntly and without stigma.

So, I want to read a little bit from the book where you talk about mescaline.


MELBER: And you say -- well, go ahead. Why are you laughing?

POLLAN: No, I mean, it`s true.

Self-experimentation. I do immersive journalism. So, if I`m going to write about psychedelics, I`m going to try them and see what it`s like from inside.

MELBER: Right.

POLLAN: And in the case of caffeine, I`m going to try giving it up to see what that`s like.

But, anyway, please go ahead and read.

MELBER: Well, and Michael, that`s why -- no, that`s why those of us who are familiar with your work, we hope that, if you ever decide to write about death, you only do it at the very end of your life.


POLLAN: Thank you, Ari. That`s very good advice.

MELBER: So, reading from your experience here that you share about mescaline, you say: "To say mescaline immersed me in the present moment doesn`t quite do it. I learned wondered if perhaps I`d found a hidden path out of the labyrinth of anxiety in which the virus and the fires had trapped us.

"There was a spaciousness to this present that felt like the perfect antidote to the shrunken world claustrophobia of lockdown."

You just talked about relieving pain. Here, you`re speaking to a very certain moment that so many people share. Tell us about that.


So, as part of this mescaline chapter, I had opportunities to try synthetic mescaline, which is a psychedelic made famous by Aldous Huxley in "The Doors of Perception."

I had never used it, I was very new to a lot of these substances. And I was -- I thought of it as kind of an escape from the world we found ourselves and we still find ourselves in under lockdown and a relief of claustrophobia.

A lot of psychedelics take you to another world. I mean, they`re called -- there`s a reason they`re called trips, that you enter some new dimension, or you have this sense of entering the past or the future, or whatever it is.

But mescaline surprised me, in that it didn`t take me anywhere. There were no hallucinations. What there was, was this intense immersion in the president moment, in the here and now. I could stare at a bowl of apricots for like an hour. There was so much going on.

MELBER: With that in mind, we want to play a little bit of something we dug up looking at the old days of how we heard about the hippies. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are the beautiful people, the hippies?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So-called hippies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They represent a new form of social rebellion. They dress in bizarre and colorful ways. They wear their hair long. The word love used by them a lot. They praise the effect on the mind of hallucinatory drugs, particularly the drug LSD.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens to you when you take a dose of the strange new drug called LSD? A trip is a drug-induced mental explosion that has changed their whole way of looking at the world.



MELBER: My question to you is, how can we learn from what may look very obviously like a limited or blinkered view, so that we`re not making those mistakes today?

If you look at some of what the hippies were thought to stand for, and you put drugs to the side, a lot of the other stuff, the long hair, this or that outfit, talking about love, talking about equality, talking about people`s fluid form of identity, a lot of this stuff has become mainlined. The culture is what used to be the -- quote -- "counterculture," Michael.


So, in the `60s, psychedelics entered the culture, LSD especially, and psilocybin, and they arrived without an instruction manual. No one knew how to use them. And we used them in what was often a very disruptive and reckless way.

I mean, people would spike the punchbowl with LSD, which is like kind of an outrageous and cruel thing to do, I think. But we didn`t know -- they were powerful substances, and we didn`t know how to use them.

Since then, I think we have learned a lot about how to use them, the, if they`re approached with intention in a therapeutic setting, that they`re incredibly useful.

I think the message is that these drugs are very much a product of the context, what we use them for, how we use them. And we`re going to look back on that `60s moment as one chapter in a much longer history of psychedelic use that`s going to end, up I think, with legalized or decriminalized psychedelics being used for therapy and mind expansion by other people.

MELBER: Really fascinating.

And, as you say, we might be able to look even a little bit around the corner here and avoid some of the mistakes that have been made in the past.

Michael Pollan, thank you very much.

I want to remind everyone, the book is "This Is Your Mind on Plants."

Far out.

Now, you can always find us online @AriMelber on social media or at if you have any thoughts about everything we just heard from Michael on psychedelics and beyond. Well, let us know what you think. We think it was groovy.


Hi, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: No, you didn`t say far out and groovy, Scooby-Doo.