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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/9/21

Guests: Brad Stone


GOP governors face political backlash and legal setbacks over COVID policies as the U.S. is seeing new cases soaring to its highest since February due to the Delta variant. DOJ insider blows whistle on Trump hatchet man at DOJ involving pressure on Georgia governor to hold special election to overturn Biden`s victory. Former assistant, Brittany Commisso accused the New York governor of sexual harassment, saying what he did was a crime, while a key Cuomo aide resigned.


Tonight, we are going to get into this newly revealing testimony from a Trump DOJ veteran pressured to try to overturn the election. Many calling this the attempted coup. Neal Katyal and Melissa Murray here shortly on that. And that`s a big important story we`re staying on because it matters. I want you to know that`s coming up. But we begin with the top story here of COVID surging across the United States, and especially in places where failed Republican policies are measurably making things worse.

So I want to begin as we try to around here with the facts and the humanity of a story that sometimes can just get lost in the numbers. While there are members of a Florida church, six of them, who died of COVID over the past week and a half, none of them were vaccinated, four were described as healthy people in their 30s. Let`s listen to their pastor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s definitely taken a toll on us. You know, some of them have been extremely close to us and to watch some of these people in the prime of their life. One mother who just recently married, just celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary, with a young daughter, and to now see her gone when you really just know that it was avoidable.


MELBER: This is the real part of the story. These are real people and the people who knew them as we`ve seen in some of the stories we`ve done for you are sometimes their family members speaking out, here we have a pastor speaking out. The reality of it is about human lives, not any so-called politics. And there`s a growing backlash to people who are playing politics, and it`s largely Republican governors and others who have stuck by policies that are proven to fail and that are literally costing lives.

The U.S. now averaging more than 100,000 new COVID infections a day. We`re at February levels from back before the vaccine was available to everyone and everywhere. 72 percent of the United States now in counties with high transmission rates, and the Delta variant is seemingly everywhere. Republican leaders are now under fire often by their own constituents including some independents and Republicans for banning safety precautions that work, indeed that work in other places, because they are the places that try them.

Florida breaking its own record for new infections and hospitalizations. MAGA Governor Ron DeSantis facing setbacks in the courts. A federal judge blocking his attempt to say there could be no vaccine passports whatsoever, while parents are suing DeSantis over banning mask mandates at schools. Texas Governor Abbott meanwhile is still blocking mask mandates to the local level even as they are facing very clear warnings of dire risks and shortages of ICU beds.

All of this is the reality of a resurgent COVID. It`s not going away by itself. We can all see that. And the science shows that higher vaccination rates are the only major way out of this. But many Republicans have boxed themselves in, apparently assuming that America was going to move on in 2021, especially as we go into the fall with somehow just put some of this behind them. It`s very hard to move on, though, when this many people are in the ICU or dying or also the people facing the economic costs of more COVID-driven problems at work and the markets.

A world where we could be going deep into 2022 with none of this really fully changing. Now that`s not something most people want to own in politics, and so some of the talking points are just getting downright stale. Take a Republican congressman claiming that any public health answer about vaccines would be somehow taking sides.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Your message to the public. What do you tell anybody out there who is currently not vaccinated?

REP. GLENN GROTHMAN (R-WI): Well, I don`t have a message. I think the message on the internet, you can find all sorts of people saying different things.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you vaccinated, Congressman?

GROTHMAN: I don`t like to get into taking sides on it. OK? So that`s --


MELBER: No, he doesn`t have a message. And you can find people on the internet saying different things, just like you can find people writing different things in bathroom stalls.

Let`s be clear because this is part of the job that we do around here, with no disrespect or ill-will to the congressman, what he said, those words, what you just saw, what he`s saying to his own constituents, that was dumb and it was misleading. The science and the facts show that vaccines protect you from dying or severe illnesses that are largely caused by COVID, just like seatbelts protect you from any of the harms of car accidents.

The government`s first obligation, I mean, literally first above all else, is to protect the people, so officials who take an oath have an actual obligation here. I`m sorry, but they do have to do more than say you can find anything on the internet. Come on.

Now, it`s still a free society, so as you have heard me say, whether some people like it or not, people will literally still decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated. We`re not here telling you exactly what to do but we are telling you the facts about the choices you make. That`s kind of the whole job here, and so people can decide to get vaccinated or not.


They can decide to wear a seat belt or not. We can note it is true people have choices in a free society. But that doesn`t mean we should all pretend that there is some side to be taken here. The government is on the side of protecting the lives of the people it serves. Vaccines work, seatbelts work, and please, as we start a new week, let me just say it like this, can we try not to make this any harder than it already is?

And with that we turn to our experts. I`m joined by Dr. Kavita Patel, a former Obama White House health policy adviser now with Brookings, and Michael Steele, former RNC chair and the lieutenant governor of Maryland.

Good to see you both. Your thoughts there, Michael, about us trying to not make it any harder than it has to be and a member of Congress saying you can find things on the internet?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR: Well, we are in a space where we are making it harder on ourselves, at least some in our communities are doing that because of their abject lack of concern for their family members, their neighbors, they listen to members like that congressman, and while you have to be respectful, I don`t. That was not just idiotic, it was dangerous, because you have a position of leadership. You are an elected member representing at least 720,000 citizens.

So, yes, you have a position. And when you are asked if you have been vaccinated your answer is either yes or no, and when you are asked where can someone who`s trying to figure out what they should do, what their concerns are, how to address those concerns, your response is, go to my Web site for my congressional office, and I have that information there. Or go to the CDC, or go to the local boards of health.

You have an appropriate answer you can give. So when your answer is, oh, I don`t want to take sides, and I just don`t want to get involved, then you don`t need the job. But unfortunately you`re representing a community of people who will likely re-elect you next year. Now they need to ask themselves, do you want to be alive to do that, because his answer will get you killed. And that`s what we`re seeing now.

The governor of Florida just needs to stand down because he is not leading his state, he`s killing people in his state. And the fact that parents, school boards, administrators and other officials are now stepping up and saying the scientists, the doctors -- like this good doctor on with us tonight have been telling us for over a year what to do, listen to them not for your own sake but for the sake of your kids and your grandkids.

That`s who you should listen to. Not DeSantis, not this congressman, or anyone else who`s selling you a bill of goods that will lead ultimately to your bad health and possible death.

MELBER: Doctor?

DR. KAVITA PATEL, OBAMA WHITE HOUSE HEALTH POLICY ADVISER: Yes, I mean, where to begin with everything Michael just said and then some. I`ll just tell you this, Ari, the way I think about it, you know, our time is precious and our children are precious. And imagine what we could be doing with the time, state and local resources devoted to fighting about masks. We could be spending that time making sure children`s mental health needs are addressed. It`s been terrible this past year. We can spend that time helping families get after -- you know, after school care, having working women and parents back in the workplace safely or able to keep themselves safe.

Ari, nobody is talking about testing. It`s amazing. Texas schools started today. Several had to shut down immediately because they had a positive case. What do you do if your child is exposed? And all that energy that`s going into political vitriol instead of thinking about how to protect your health, how to protect the health of your loved one? This is what our society is becoming? It`s unconscionable to me.

And frankly, Ari, I`ve never have seen such a level when kids start to get hospitalized, airlifted out of state because there are no more beds. You know, just like you said, you`re showing these stories because there`s a humanity to it. The humanity is also the lack of understanding that this could be preventable. Where is the accountability for that?

And honestly, Ari, I`m just going to say it, you know, people talk about the fires in California and in Greece, that and COVID are tightly related. We`re not willing to accept facts and science to understand why was it 118 degrees in Portland, Oregon, several weeks ago? Those things don`t just happen spontaneously. There are actions have consequences, and to your point your inability to act or your ability to get vaccinated has a consequence, not just for yourself but the people around you.

MELBER: Yes. I appreciate both of you laying it out. And we`re talking about facts and we`re talking about humanity, and this goes without saying, but I`ll say it.


As Michael know that`s part of the job in the media sometimes, we say this stuff anyway. We`re not tracking whether people are dying in red states or blue, like their lives would matter more or less. That would be obscene. The sad policy fact is that while COVID knows no identity, there are many places where the policies according to the measurable results we have from the CDC and elsewhere show that by not encouraging vaccinations and other basic proven safety measures, COVID goes up.

So if anything it is unlike climate change where we`re all in this together on this, you know, hot and hotter earth, it actually is now getting worse in some places because of those policies. But as I stress, Michael, that`s not here nor there, it`s just a reminder that people care about people regardless of what their ideology is or whether they`re surrounded by people making really bad decisions. I say all of that as an introduction to your own old friend Rand Paul, Michael, who wants to take, you know, some of the greatest libertarian hits out for a little revamp here like that`s what we need right now. Take a listen.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): It`s time for us to resist. They can`t arrest us of all. We don`t have to accept the mandates, lockdowns and harmful policies of the petty tyrants and bureaucrats. We can simply say no, not again. Nancy Pelosi, you will not arrest or stop me or anyone on my staff from doing our jobs.


MELBER: Michael?

STEELE: What the hell is he talking about?


STEELE: Do your job? Your job is to protect your people in your state. The job is to put in place policies that protect the country. You don`t want to do that. This isn`t a libertarian thing.

Rand Paul, when you come to a stop sign, do you stop? When you see a red light, do you stop? Your freedoms may say to you, no, run the red light. But guess what, bro, there`s a consequence when another car who has the right of way is slammed into by you because your freedom now has just killed someone or harmed them. That`s what we`re talking about here.

No one is restricting your freedom to be stupid. Do it all day long. But know that there`s a consequence that comes from it. When you sit there and advocate to people, you don`t have to take the backseat. Sure you don`t, but know that there are consequences when you listen to someone like this who tells you not to do that. When others, like Dr. Patel and others are saying, yes, but if you don`t, here`s an MRI or here`s an x-ray of a healthy lung and here`s an x-ray of a lung on COVID.

You decide which one you want. So there are consequences here. And I`m tired of these people who have these titles, elected titles acting like they are not. You`re selling people down a very bad road because at the end of that road is death and illness.

MELBER: Yes. Yes. And I`m going to date myself a little bit here, Doctor, but back in the day they had the anti-drug ads that said this is your brain, the egg, then they cracked it and said this is your brain on drugs. I was trying to get a hold of people`s mindset there, and right now is this is your brain on MAGA on some of this stuff. And the reason why we showed the congressman earlier was not only to single him out, Doctor, but the fact that he appeared to not want to admit that he got the vaccine.

Again, I`m making an inference, I`m a journalist, he wouldn`t say. He should answer the question but he didn`t as Michael expertly pointed that out. But the fact that he seemed afraid to acknowledge that he got it because if he didn`t and he started to appeal to those people he could have said, proudly, he didn`t get it, it seems from a public health perspective really messed up to hide the fact that you did something medically to protect yourself, but you don`t want other people to know because you`d rather traffic in some sort of political appeal rather than the public health messaging, and so, Doctor, you`re our doctor, not our political analyst, but at the end of the day where do we go from here to get people the public health facts so that you don`t have more people, including young people dying at a church because none of them thought they needed the vaccine?

PATEL: Yes, Ari, I actually think that`s the critical question we all need to ask, you know, what more can we do to address whatever it is. Forget, you know, the Rand Pauls or the political people who are kind of leading folks into their own sickness and death, to how can we get to people and show them that we`re not trying to be partisan. As you point out as a doctor, I`m not trying to say I`m pro or anti this, I`m pro-living and I want people to get their concerns out.

Actually, Ari, I`m thinking, even if he wasn`t vaccinated, how powerful would it have been to say, you know what, I haven`t been but I am going to get vaccinated, and here are the like three reasons why, and that could do so much more.


And so I`ve been trying to take an approach with patients of just, you know, hey, listen, I also understand there`s a lot of stuff out there, most of it, which is false and noise, but why don`t we try to unpack why you don`t want to do this. It`s not a forced government experiment. How do we get through some of that? And I actually do think that that`s how you chip away.

Ari, we`ve seen, by the way -- we`ve interviewed people or I have talked to not just my patients but interviewed other people to understand why they decided to get vaccinated, because someone in their family got hospitalized, because they`re seeing the images of their neighborhoods and communities being affected. So people are human and I do think they`ll try to act in their own best interest at some point. We just can`t afford to wait much longer for over 100,000 cases a day, 20 percent of new cases are children, and I would hate to think that this virus is using our bodies to infect people, get smarter, and get more efficient at escaping immunity, something we`re all watching for and worried about.

MELBER: Yes. I`ve got to fit in a break. This has been an important start, I believe, as we continue with this. You know, people are tired but tired is not good enough. We`ve got to deal with it as a nation.

Dr. Patel, Michael Steele, thanks to both of you.

Coming up, the other big story, it`s one I have told you we are staying on for accountability. A Trump DOJ official pressured to help overturn the election going behind closed doors, blowing the whistle. We have Katyal and Murray here.

Also tonight, Jeff Bezos facing new union pressures. And Joe Biden, well, he`s on the precipice of a major victory tonight.

All that, plus, we`re going to get into Rachel Maddow and the TikTok grandma before the hour is up. We`ll explain. Stay with us.



MELBER: Bill Barr did just about everything Donald Trump wanted at DOJ, including undermining the Mueller report. Then after Trump`s loss, Barr made a point of leaving town early, resigning on December 23rd, 2020. And that left this guy holding the back, Jeffrey Rosen, stepping up to run the DOJ for those final weeks. And we`re still learning just how messy and quasi-authoritarian things got behind the scenes.

An ongoing Senate probe brought Rosen in to detail what many experts now see as clearly a failed, quote, "coup attempt" with a Trump lackey writing up an actual plan to overturn Georgia`s Biden victory by demanding the governor there call a special legislative sessions or Republicans might have hijacked the results.

Now other Trump appointees pushed back, one writing, "There`s no chance I would sign on to that." Rosen now blowing the whistle on that Trump lackey inside DOJ who went over his head to have these secret conversations with Trump to plot the possible election takeover.

Here`s Judiciary chair Durbin on all of this new whistleblower testimony.


NICOLE WALLACE, NBC ANCHOR: Would you describe it as a coup attempt?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Well, it`s its own version. We shouldn`t dismiss this as just a bad day for Donald Trump. It was a conscious planned strategy that did not work, thank goodness.


MELBER: Yes, thank goodness, sure. Rosen also knew Trump was on his way out one way or the other, but we have to deal with this as more than a history of a fluke. What if it were a closer call? What if these people who pushed back instead saw a path to a second term? What if Bill Barr was there brainstorming ways to stay in office? What if everything came down to just one state?

These are idle questions. We come back to this story and these new developments even though Donald Trump and Steve Bannon and a lot of these other people don`t want this in the news. They don`t want it on TV. They are counting on everyone being fatigued and moving on without accountability.

We submit to you tonight this cuts through the heart of America`s ability to actually remain a democracy as we see one party openly embracing attacks on democracy itself. So the Senate probe is a big part of getting to the bottom of all of it, and they`re actually going to talk to another DOJ official ousted when he like Rosen stood up to improper demands to abuse DOJ power to attack elections, according to reporting in the "Wall Street Journal."

The more elected Democrats are saying now what progressives warned a long time ago, that Donald Trump is literally serious backed by a Republican Party that is literally serious about trying to overthrow elections when they lose like a dictator would.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): The president of United States then Donald Trump mounted a pressure campaign that was absolutely relentless, brutal, personally involved, directly aimed at the Department of Justice seeking to break and weaponize it to overthrow the election. Only the Department of Justice refusing to break, standing up to him, was the means to avoid that kind of catastrophe.


MELBER: So that was avoided. But how do you deal with the next such effort? "The Times" reporting on scrutiny for Trump`s inside man at DOJ, Jeffrey Clark, reporting the DOJ can determine if he, quote, "crossed the line of potentially criminal behavior in that case the inspector general could refer the matter to federal prosecutors."

If it was an attempted coup, should anyone go to jail? We`re going to get into all of that and more with our legal experts, when we`re back in just 60 seconds.



MELBER: I`m joined now by former acting U.S. solicitor general Neal Katyal, NYU law professor Melissa Murray, and we`ve been discussing the Senate probe of the effort to overturn the election.

I just walked through some of the framework, Neal. Your thoughts?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: Well, I think your framework which was done really well, Ari, I think it shows that Donald Trump tried to run a war on the Justice Department. He tried to bring it down and there`s no way to restore the credibility of the Justice Department while letting its own lawyers stand above the letter of the law.

I think what you said about democracy is absolutely right. We can`t pretend to be a democracy if we don`t fair out un-American thugs that tried to do this to our country. There`s a war on the right to vote right now happening. Some parts of it are done overtly like what`s going on in Georgia and Texas, and some parts of it are done surreptitiously like these Jeffrey Clark January 6th Justice Department revelations.

And we need to get to the bottom of it. That`s what this January 6th commission has got to do, it`s what the inspector general has got to do, and perhaps the criminal investigators at the Justice Department as well.

MELBER: Professor?

MELISSA MURRAY, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: Well, let me elaborate a little bit on what Neal said. You know, I think one of the things that this has made very clear is that we cannot think about the insurrection, the work that was being done in the DOJ, the work that was being done in the state legislatures, and the work on the ground in terms of election access as isolated events.

These were all part of what appears to be a concerted effort to roll back the framework of democracy, the very infrastructure of democracy that span every branch of government and every level of government here.

MELBER: Yes, and, Processor, when you look at the Supreme Court, do you see -- do you see justices who are more hospitable to the idea that well, we don`t have one person one vote anyway, dirty little secret, that`s not really the jurisprudence. And some of them wrote things that seemed more hospitable to this issue we covered first last week that Rick Hasen and others have warned about, which is there may be a kind of extra legal bang shot to get state legislatures more involved in picking the president.

MURRAY: You know, I think that`s exactly right. And Rick Hasen has really hit the nail on the head. We may not have seen the success of that strategy in this election, but the real question is will we see it success in 2024? This idea of independent state legislatures was first floated in 2000 in "Bush v. Gore" by three justices, Renquist, Thomas and Scalia. Now it`s actually being -- it wasn`t successful this time around but it`s being supported by at least four justices on the current Supreme Court.

This is a court with a 6-3 conservative super majority. Not clear whether they`ll be able to peel off a fifth justice but there`s certainly more here and more credibility for this theory than there ever has been.

MELBER: Yes, and so, Neal, where do you think that comes from? Because I always like to give viewers the short cut to law school, for those who are deciding not to go, which I think is a totally valid choice, but, you know, they teach law school one way where they say here are these strict formal rules and here`s how everything gets sort of coldly, neutrally interpreted, and then there`s other critiques of that legal realism and others that say well, you still have to look at the larger power dynamic?

We have to look at how the 14th Amendment is enforced when black peoples` lives are really on the line versus when it is pulled into some other agenda. And so I`m curious, Neal, if you`d use your area to walk us through that. Do you think the fact that the Republican Party -- this is a political observation -- has a real hard time finding national majorities, and has lost most of the popular vote over the last run of, you know, seven elections?

Does that put more extra pressure on all the jurists and others who want to help the Republican Party to find ways to say, oh, maybe we like this weird theory that you don`t need to win the election anymore?

KATYAL: A hundred percent, Ari. So let me -- you know, the Republicans haven`t like just discovered this strategy by accident all of a sudden. They understand that, you know, the majority of the American public doesn`t support their positions anymore, and so the only way they can win is by not actually having a real election. Like when I defended the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court in 2009, the Republicans had voted to affirm the Voting Rights Act just a couple of years before in 2006 by 421-3 vote in the House, and 98-0 vote in the Senate.

That`s where the Republicans were then. And what`s changed is, you know, the fact that their party has become extreme and well out of the mainstream.


And so you`re absolutely right, there`s -- and Melissa is right, there`s the law on the books, and then there`s the laws that`s applied. And even on the books there`s lots of stuff that says these shenanigans that were going on at the Justice Department, you know, do look potentially illegal, potentially criminal as well. There`s also a kind of deeper process point that I don`t think folks have really understood yet.

And to understand really what happened, what Trump did to the Justice Department, and people like Jeff Clark, you`ve got to know the Justice Department works entirely in terms of stylized process. You can`t just, like, go make a decision and implement it, even like a low-level person has to do everything in writing up to a higher official, that higher official to a higher official and so on, everything in writing, everyone sees everything so that they can react to it.

And most importantly it`s in writing so that future successors to the office, like the future solicitor general would know what I wrote and the decisions I made and why I made them, and that`s a huge constraint on the ability to do things. What these folks seem to do is have Jeff Clark, who is an environmental pointer, decide to have direct conversations with the president, and you know, write these crazy memos, which I think would fail even at the Rudy Giuliani`s school of law, saying that basically that they can supplant the election and things like that.

This is all nonsense. We`ve got to get to the bottom of it. And I think Melissa is right, we`ve got to get to the bottom of it so that it will never happen again.

MELBER: Yes, and for viewers keeping track, Neal`s reference to the Rudy Giuliani school of law, it`s a very special law school where you can get a JD and you can get a law license but then you lose your law license, so it`s not ideal, but as we`ve been covering throughout the hour, options, everyone can exercise their options.

Professor, your thoughts on both all of the above, as Neal walked us through, what he knows from being at the highest levels of justice, as well as accountability. I think a lot of people say, OK, OK, Professor, OK, Neal, OK, Ari, what`s going to happen? Because if you can go that high on a coup attempt and nobody goes to jail, then what?

MURRAY: I think that`s exactly the right question to be asking. As Neal suggests there may actually be some exposure for criminal liability because of some of the things that happened in the Department of Justice if these allegations that were proven correct. But the more profound question is, are we going to look at all of these events in concert? We`ve already sort of brushed aside the prospect of a bipartisan effort to look seriously at the insurrection. We really need to think not just about the insurrection but all of these different events, how they fit together and what the larger landscape is, and how anti-democratic it is and what it means going forward.

MELBER: Yes, all important points. Professor Murray, Neal Katyal, thanks to both of you.

I want to give people an update on another story we`re tracking which is we`ve had a lot of wealth inequality, we`ve had COVID. Will Democrats have a new plan to attack billionaires for real? We`re going to get into that with heat on Jeff Bezos.

Also, an accuser is speaking out on record, on camera in the sexual harassment scandal that has grown and engulfed Governor Cuomo.


BRITTANY COMMISSO, GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO`S ACCUSER: I know the truth. He knows the truth. What he did to me was a crime.





COMMISSO: To me and the other women that he did this to, it was not normal. It was not welcomed and it was certainly not consensual.


MELBER: Reporting on a new development in this widening sexual harassment scandal facing Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York, a woman who was legally identified as, quote, "executive assistant number one," is named Brittany Commisso. And she has decided now that this has gone through the report and the investigation to choose to go public so she`s speaking out, we`re hearing from her on the record for the first time about what she says Governor Cuomo did to her.


COMMISSO: He put his hand up my blouse and cupped by breast over my bra. I exactly remember looking down, seeing his hand, which is a large hand, thinking to myself, oh, my god. This is happening. It happened so quick. He didn`t say anything. When I stopped it, he just pulled away and he walked away. And then there was that one point a hug, and then when he went to go kiss me on the cheek, he quickly turned his head and he kissed me on the lips.

What he did to me was a crime. He broke the law.


MELBER: She`s exercising her rights to publicly speak out, but she`s also filing a criminal complaint against Cuomo, so police in the New York capitol have that and the state attorney general identified this among 11 different accounts from different women, making such allegations against Cuomo. He also is now facing a new development, the resignation of his top appointed aide, Melissa DeRosa.

She worked with Cuomo for years inside New York politics. She was considered his staunchest, longest defender. Indeed, we want to remind you that she was actually a part of the very visible and public response when some of these allegations first surfaced in March.


MELISSA DEROSA, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO GOVERNOR CUOMO: I am incredibly proud of the work that this administration has done to further women`s rights, to expand protections for women in the workplace. We`ve seen more women rise to highest levels in terms of commissioners and senior staff levels, and we`ve promoted each other and we`ve supported one another, and I don`t think that this diminishes any of that.


MELBER: That was her argument in public, but `s is significant about the attorney general`s report is that it basically gives a process to look at the entire way that the New York administration of Governor Cuomo dealt with these allegations, and one of the things it does is says that DeRosa, according to the findings, was actually leading an effort to retaliate unfairly against these people who accuse Cuomo of misconduct.

Now meanwhile, on the political front, state lawmakers moving forward with the Cuomo impeachment. There was a hearing today on that. Cuomo now faces a deadline to produce evidence for his defense by this Friday. For his part, our standards department says that we always give you both sides of the story, and Governor Cuomo continues to deny all the allegations. And here`s how one of his lawyers discussed his defense recently.



RITA GLAVIN, ATTORNEY FOR GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: The governor has made clear in his testimony to the attorney generals` investigators, he doesn`t dispute some of the allegations. Some of these allegations do not rise to the level of sexual harassment. He does slip at times. He`s not perfect. But yes, I get it.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: When you say he does slip, what do you mean by that?

GLAVIN: He said it in his video statements, which is that, you know, he does make the mistake, he will say darling, he will say sweetheart. He does ask people questions about their personal lives. He didn`t think that that was improper.


MELBER: That`s part of the defense they`re mounting. Meanwhile, Cuomo`s attorneys say that the governor who only released a video statement initially when the report came out will also further speak publicly, quote, "soon." We want to give you an update on that important story that we`ve been covering.

I`m going to fit in a break, but we have something really special tonight. An insider who is actually exposing what`s going on behind the Amazon front, what`s going on inside this super influential company with what is now one of the most politically powerful people in America, the billionaire Bezos. Stay with us.



MELBER: Amazon has delivered products to hundreds of millions of people. It`s made Jeff Bezos fabulously wealthy, but news tonight is its crackdowns on its own employees denying them a fair vote on whether to unionize, according to the federal government, means they will get another chance to unionize in Alabama. It`s a labor class that highlights how much this giant company operates at the center of so many issues today, the pandemic economy, punishing work conditions, the wealth gap.

The Amazon founder Bezos rode tech and pandemic life to become the second richest person in the world, indeed he added a pretty much unfathomable $24 billion to his fortune during the pandemic alone. Democrats often cite this kind of windfalls a reason to make reforms like the ones they`re actually pushing today. This is new that proposing a blueprint that would in essence raise taxes on both individually wealthy people like Bezos and big corporations. All this as many worry about rent and food as billionaires send themselves to space.

That brings us to a very special guest, someone with a unique understanding of Bezos from the inside out, Bloomberg reporter, Brad Stone, is the author of "Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire." The book goes right inside some of the most secretive meetings that Bezos has, which makes us very interested in your sources.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: You`ve been on this beat. What is it that you`ve come to understand about Jeff Bezos as a kind of an avatar of our modern economy?

STONE: Wow. Well, Amazon is, you know, a relentlessly expansionist company. I mean, Ari, you probably remember when it was just a bookseller in the early -- in mid-1990s, and kind of step by step it`s accumulated wealth and power. It now employs a million people in the United States, second largest employer behind Walmart. $1.7 trillion market cap.

I`m chronicling a span of 10 years. Ten years ago the market cap of Amazon was $120 billion, and you know, and now it`s $1.7 trillion, $1.8 trillion. So it`s really in the best business story of our time, and an illustration of how innovation and technological prowess but also aggressiveness and ruthlessness really is just a winning scenario in today`s business environment.

MELBER: Yes. You said aggressiveness, and people understand that in business, but Bezos has been aggressive in so many fields. Viewers see "Washington Post" reporters on our air all the time. That`s a property he owns. It`s had him clashed with Donald Trump famously over all kinds of issues. He basically has his own foreign policy if you want to think about it that way. And some of the most fascinating stuff I thought you had in here, that I hadn`t seen anywhere else, so hat`s off to your reporting, was in his clash with the "National Enquirer" which was in bed with Trump.

I think people may remember there was kind of a scandal there, then there was a lot of talk about the Saudis. To get the mood music right, we pulled some of just how that was all breaking at the time. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: An extraordinary claim that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos` phone was hacked --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Allegations that the Saudi crowned prince was involved --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Jeff Bezos believes the Saudis passed on private photos and texts to the U.S. gossip tabloid, "The National Enquirer."

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The "Enquirer" said Sanchez`s brother Michael was the original source of the information.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Bezos` investigator, though, no way, saying the tabloid knew all about the messages before it approached Lauren Sanchez`s and knew about them from the Saudis.


MELBER: Your book seems to get very close with new reporting suggesting that Bezos and his team deflected a lot of what was other issues by elevating it into the conflict with the Saudis, and yet you don`t directly call him a liar.

Walk us through what your reporting showed and what you were getting at there, and why that matters?

STONE: Right. And Ari, I want to allow for the possibility that maybe we don`t have all the facts, maybe we`ll never get all the facts. You know, there are, even today, accusations that the phones of wealthy business people and celebrities and politicians had this Pegasus spyware on them, but from the facts that we have now, there`s really no evidence to suggest that the Saudi government, which of course did have reasons to be adversarial towards Bezos and his ownership of the "Washington Post," that they had information about Bezos` personal situation and leaked those details to the "National Enquirer."


That`s of course a conspiracy that Bezos and his handlers were propagating back in early 2019, but there`s really no evidence to suggest it. And there have been FBI investigations and the Southern District of New York looked into it. As I reviewed those court records and talked to everyone I could, it really did seem like more of a personal family drama, as you mentioned there in the clips.

The brother of Bezos` girlfriend leaking some of that information to "The Enquirer" which was I think was quite rightfully, you know, well, at least pursuing its own mandate to dig into the personal lives of famous people. And that`s what it was doing with Jeff Bezos.

MELBER: Yes, and then I want to read from the book. You talk about how they moved the salary, that there was basically Bernie Sanders with a Stop Bezos bill and that Bezos convenes a meeting to reconsider worker pay under this kind of external pressure and then raised the hourly rate across the board to $15.

What`s the implication there? Are you saying that Senator Sanders` outside pressure worked even if the bill didn`t pass? And are there things that make Jeff Bezos or Amazon act more in the interest of the public in your view?

STONE: Oh, Ari, absolutely. I mean, they`re very receptive to criticism and I think there are very attuned to criticism from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, even when they`re out on twitter insulting Bernie Sanders and his colleagues.

Look, the $15 an hour campaign now is almost a decade old. Amazon ignored it for many years. And it was only when the pressure really ratcheted up and also, frankly, the labor situation became very competitive. And it was suddenly in Amazon`s interest to raise its wages because it`s out there competing every single day for workers with the likes of Walmart, and so we see how valuable that is now.

Amazon employing a million people in the U.S. It has to offer those competitive wages, otherwise it can`t keep up with its own growth.

MELBER: Yes, really fascinating. There`s so many nooks and crannies in there. Also the hot tip in the book is if you`re texting with MBS, be very careful. The idea that he may have personally put that spyware on the billionaire`s phone.

Brad Stone, thank you so much. The book is "Amazon Unbound."

And I want to tell everyone watching, when we come back, I promise we have something special for you because we have an update on the MSNBC grandma we`ve come to know and love, and when is Rachel back. Stay with us.



MELBER: We could see one of the most pivotal days of the Biden administration so far tomorrow. The Senate voting on this bipartisan trillion-dollar infrastructure bill and all indications are it should pass. The bill funds infrastructure projects like roads and bridges. It would represent a big win for Biden.

We will have full coverage here on MSNBC and on THE BEAT tomorrow.

Now if you happen to catch me hosting for Rachel Maddow on Friday, you might be familiar with a lovely woman named Pat. Her granddaughter shares lots of videos for her on TikTok which have gained a following. Pat is an avid MSNBC viewer. And the video went around where she was really pressing to find out when Rachel`s vacation would end and when will she be back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can`t ask that. It`s just when will she be back? That`s the question. When will she be back?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, OK. Here`s a picture of her -- Rachel Maddow`s page, here`s a picture of her with a fish.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably she`s fishing somewhere, yes. I could have told you that. She`s fishing. I want to know when she`s going to be back.


MELBER: That`s the question. Now Rachel was out last week and Nicolle and Ali and myself, we all filled in a bit. So when I was guest hosting Friday, Rachel`s team had the idea of playing Pat`s video on Rachel`s show. And if you want to know what was Pat thinking during the moment, we can actually show you because her granddaughter, as she does, was filming her grandmother`s surprise at seeing herself on her favorite show.

So this is a little meta, but here you go.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t want to know where she is. I mean that`s her business where she is on her vacation. It`s not my business. So -- so there.


MELBER: Now, Pat could have told you she`s fishing. You can see she also respects boundaries. She just wants to know when will she be back.

Well, I`m here to report live on MSNBC to Pat and anyone else wondering the answer. Rachel will be back Monday. So that`s the update. A shoutout to Pat and all the MSNBC grandmas out there. Now we know what it looks like when she`s watching the other side of the screen.

Now if you do want to see this or find more of our TikTok videos, I actually just started a TikTok account. It`s @arimelberanchorman. So you can go on TikTok, look up and follow AriMelberAnchorman. Why is it that handle? Well, TikTok won`t let me have Ari Melber yet, so follow me at AriMelberAnchorman and well, we can say hello to Pat as well.

That`s all of our updates tonight. Thank you as always for spending the hour with us as we start the week. That does it for me. "THE REIDOUT" with Joy Reid is up next.

Hi, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Hi. Why won`t they let you have Ari Melber on TikTok? Who I got to call? Who do I need to call? Let me know.

MELBER: You know what, I guess call TikTok. I`m putting them on blast, Joy.

REID: Put them on blast, like can he have Ari Melber? Is there like another Ari Melber that has Ari Melber show on MSNBC or any other network? No, there is not. Let him have Ari Melber, there`s nothing wrong with that.

Thank you very much, Ari.