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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 9/10/21

Guests: Renato Mariotti, Vivica A. Fox


Vivica A. Fox speaks out. President Biden defends his new vaccine mandate, as Republicans push back. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis loses in court in a case related to Black Lives Matter. Thousands of new documents are delivered to the January 6 committee. An associate of Rudy Giuliani pleads guilty to a federal charge.



Hi, Ari. Happy Friday.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Happy Friday. Thank you so much.

Welcome, everyone, to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin with breaking news.

President Biden out in force and throwing down the gauntlet against these new severe and at times unhinged right-wing backlashes to the big news that changed everything for COVID in America yesterday, a vaccine mandate.

Now, the president and first lady were at a school today talking about childhood safety, what kids are going through, the masking, the safety measures, the challenges that all these families have had across the country, as we deal with COVID in schools and an unvaccinated population of children.

The president making it very clear what he thinks about Republican governors backing policies that he says put our nation`s children at risk.


QUESTION: What is your reaction to Republicans who are calling your vaccine requirements an overreach, who are threatening to challenge it in court?



BIDEN: Look, I am so disappointed that particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities. This is -- this is -- we`re playing for real here. This isn`t a game.


MELBER: Cavalier about the health of communities and the people dying.

Now, the Republican governors in several states are threatening lawsuits. That goes to a big question that is on the mind of many Americans. Can the president do this? Does he have these legal powers?

There is an actual answer. And I want to tell you, we`re going to begin with our breaking news coverage and our experts. But I have a special legal report we have been working on, on the precedents for Biden`s mandates coming up in a few minutes on this program.

So, if you`re interested in the answer that, we`re going to get into it, just facts, just legal facts.

Now, as for the news, which is what leads our show, 75 percent of the country is partially vaccinated. That means they have gotten at least one shot. And the president today said something that also is backed by a lot of data. There`s been a lot of talk about MAGA and protests and what some people think about vaccines.

But a lot of data shows the public does support safety measures and mandates by big margins, which is the context for the president saying this, that the American people are with him.


BIDEN: We have got to come together. And I think the vast majority -- look at the polling data. The vast majority of the American people know we have to do these things. They`re hard, but necessary.


MELBER: The poll of swing state voters that came out last month speaks to this, over 60 percent in each state backing the employer vaccine mandate.

You see all those sixes. That`s a much higher margin than other political issues, including the presidential election. And those are swing states.

Biden`s mandates could affect up to 100 million people in America. So this is a big deal. This is no small ball. It`s also an emergency step that many scientists have said is needed precisely because of the lagging rates of vaccination and a pandemic that is killing thousands every day.

Now, there`s a long history to this. And much of it goes against the critics who are arguing that any of this is somehow new or an overreach or un-American.

Take this quote from George Washington that was going around today. This is a letter that he wrote in 19 -- in, I should say, 1777 about smallpox, that he supports a law that compels masters of families to inoculate every child born within a certain limited time under severe penalties.

And, as we end a long week, I asked you, America, what is more American than George Washington himself?

Maybe I will take that question to our experts, because, as promised, we`re going to do the breaking coverage before I get to our legal breakdown.

And I`m joined by Jason Johnson from Morgan State University, an MSNBC contributor, Katty Kay, Washington editor with Ozy Media.

Jason, I wouldn`t say George Washington was right about everything. And I would say science has evolved since then.


MELBER: But for at least those who want to suggest -- and we have more on this tonight -- that Joe Biden is crossing some new line and doing something tyrannical and un-American, what do you think of a little bit of George to start the evening here and the wider context of who`s telling the truth?

JOHNSON: Well, I mean, the wider context already has always been, all you got to do is ask people, how did you go to elementary school?

I mean, if you`re over the age of 25, 30, if you have been to school, you had to get vaccinated against certain diseases just go to school. So Joe Biden is not overreaching. Joe Biden is not pushing any sort of limit. He`s not breaking any precedent. You can go back to 1905. There`s Supreme Court rulings on these kinds of issues.

What`s key, though, I think about what he did yesterday and the fallout is, he`s putting his foot down, because he recognizes that, without a federal mandate, without a vaccine mandate coming from the federal government with the stick, because we have already had the carrot of we will snatch money back from your districts if you don`t handle this, it was the only way you could get enough people vaccinated, so this country can actually get out of this pandemic.


MELBER: Yes, and you mentioned the carrots.

Katty, we have had enough carrots to get Bugs Bunny drunk. I mean, they were given out shots and beers.



MELBER: They were given out $100, $200 bucks in some places, different programs and localities.

On the policy matrix, there has been a lot of carrots, a lot of sweeteners, a lot of TikTok videos, a lot of, hey, this is fun, this is good. And they have had it.

And I want to ask you, Katty. We`re going to get to the law, as I mentioned, in a minute. I want to ask you about leadership and the ability to change one`s mind, because you have studied and been up close with so many politicians and presidents, Katty.

Let`s be clear. Joe Biden publicly did not want to do this. This was not plan A. There are tradeoffs to any policy, and they had hoped to get to the medically required rates of herd vaccination and immunity without this.

And we know that because I want to play, for context, again, whether people think this makes him look good or bad or just able to change his mind, as president-elect, here`s what he said.


QUESTION: Do you think the COVID vaccine should be mandatory?

BIDEN: No, I don`t think it should be mandatory. I will do everything in my power as president of the United States to encourage people to do the right thing.


MELBER: This new policy from Biden yesterday uses employer power for something that is much closer to mandatory, with a testing exception.

Katty, walk us through what you see here, a president changing his mind during an emergency.

KATTY KAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think the second part of that sentence is really important as well, right? I will do everything in my power to encourage people to get the vaccine.

And that is what the White House has done over the course of the last eight months. So, two things have happened. They tried to get everyone to get vaccines, and you have, by Western standards, an incredibly high rate of people who didn`t want to listen to that encouragement, who didn`t want to follow the carrot, right?

So the White House felt -- and maybe there`s something to do with approval ratings and the timing. I`m not convinced by that. They just felt that the numbers of people who are not getting the vaccine, it`s too stubbornly high in this country. Europe, which lagged behind the United States, has now overtaken the U.S. in the numbers of people getting vaccinated, because you don`t have that large group of people who just say no.

The other thing, of course, that happened is the Delta variant, right? The president felt that he didn`t want to mandate vaccines. That was before Delta. That was before we saw this surge in hospitalizations and health systems in particularly Southern states being overwhelmed.


KAY: So the facts changed. And the president, maybe Joe Biden should have come out and said, listen, I hoped I wouldn`t have to have done this. I said I wasn`t going -- I was hoping not to have to do this, but now the circumstances have changed. Maybe that would have helped.

I don`t think it would have made much difference to those people who are adamantly not going to get vaccines. But that`s what happened.

MELBER: Yes. No, I appreciate that context.

And, Jason, we have talked about partisanship. Everyone knows things are polarized. But I want to be clear. I always want to be as accurate as possible, even if it is a more complex story, or less exciting to some. There are Republican governors who are strongly pro-vaccine, just the way Biden was yesterday.

And that doesn`t always get the same attention. I just want to play some of that, because there is divisions among conservatives around the country. Take a look at some Republican governors saying it is time to get vaccinated.


GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): It`s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It`s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): If you`re not vaccinated, you`re part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.

For God`s sakes of living, how difficult is this to understand? Why in the world do we have to come up with these crazy ideas, and they`re crazy ideas, that the vaccine has got something in it and it`s tracing people wherever they go? And the same very people that are saying that are carrying their cell phones around. I mean, come on.


MELBER: The West Virginia there -- governor there has had enough.


MELBER: I feel him on the conspiracy theories. I respect people`s personal decisions, but I don`t really respect people, in a wealth of information, believing things that are flatly false. I think that`s unfortunate.

But, Jason, what do you think here about what some of these Republican governors are also saying?

JOHNSON: Well, look, I mean, I think it`s great, but I don`t really praise people for just engaging in common sense.

They should have been saying that all along. In fact, once you empower people -- really, this went back to last year, Ari. Once you empower people to say no to common sense, they were going to dig in.


So, even if those same governors now are saying, yes, you need to get vaccinated and, yes, it`s going to be important, you already gave people enough rope for them to go running through the streets with their ridiculous behavior.

And that`s why, again, when we go back to Biden, yes, this wasn`t plan A, B, but now we`re at plan Delta, and now we`re plan mu. And now we may be playing Gamma, going down the road. They`re going to have to get more and more strict in the United States in order to just have a sort of -- hit an even plane.

We`re not winning the battle of this particular point. You have got more people dying in some states than they were at this point last year before the vaccine. So it`s kind of too little too late for these governors.

I hope they take this seriously and enforce mandates and penalties on businesses at their state level. Otherwise, it`s just easy talk.

MELBER: Katty?

KAY: Yes, I mean, I think the other argument that needs to be made is that this is an economic argument. The United States is being hit economically by this.

It might be an argument that some of these Republican governors might feel more comfortable marshaling. I was interviewing a top economist today who said, thank goodness the Biden administration came out as tough as it did last night, because we were looking at a great recovery. We were looking at jobs numbers growing, and, actually, that circumstance has changed too.

And it is related to the Delta variant and to the numbers of people that aren`t getting vaccinated. It might be something that Republican governors feel comfortable talking about.


And, Jason, was it not Kendrick Lamar who said, I`m the vaccine. The game needs me to survive.


JOHNSON: If the American economy is supposed to survive, we`re going to have to be much wiser, much smarter and follow everything that Joe Biden has laid out for us, as Kendrick would, of course, agree with.

MELBER: Respect.

Favorite Kendrick song, Jason?

JOHNSON: Gosh, what`s the one? This is actually missing me right now.

His soundtrack -- all the stuff he did on the soundtrack for "Black Panther" was fantastic. That`s actually my favorite. That`s -- that wasn`t a massive Kendrick-specific album, but the soundtrack was great.

MELBER: There was a lot of good on the "Black Panther" soundtrack. And the other soundtrack that came out from the movie about the Black Panthers also had Nipsey, Jay-Z.


MELBER: Do you know the one I`m talking about, the -- what was that called?

I don`t remember the name of the movie now.

JOHNSON: "Jesus and the Black Messiah." "Judas and the Black Messiah."

MELBER: There it is. There it is.

You never know what`s going to happen on THE BEAT, Katty. You never know.

KAY: You never know. I was going with "Chicago 7," but it was the wrong movie.

MELBER: Related issues, though, same period of time.

KAY: Related.

MELBER: The "Chicago 7" film, yes, was also super interesting.

So, look, we learn from all of our cultural touchstones.

Jason Johnson, thank you.

Katty, we`re having back in the hour later for something very special.

So, I will see you again, Katty.

I want to tell everyone now we turn to what I said we have been cooking up here. We have a special report on the question in the country right now. Does Joe Biden have this pandemic power to do this? What are the legal precedents for what is clearly a sweeping vaccine set of mandates that`s going to affect up to 100 million people?

Does he have the authority? Is this constitutional? The bottom line is, this fight is not going away. But we actually have the answers. And I can tell you, some of them are very clear from the Supreme Court.

That`s my special report for you right after this break.



MELBER: President Biden is going farther than even he wanted to with these rules requiring more vaccines.

As president-elect, he did say he was generally against these mandates. Nine months later, with COVID surging and a true ongoing emergency, he`s deploying federal powers with this partial mandate. And that has been sparking a full-blown freak-out among many opponents, a veteran media reporter saying FOX News and friends were attacking President Biden last night in response to the mandates with lies and venom as bad as he`s ever seen it, which is really saying something if you have been living through our partisan media echo chamber in America.

But if you get your sense of the world directly from FOX News -- and many people do -- then you have to understand this for where we`re headed. Then, last night, you got the sense that the U.S. government turned to tyranny with a clearly illegal power grab.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: One of the most heinous displays we have ever seen from a president.

GOV. TATE REEVES (R-MS): We live in America. And you would expect words like that from the president maybe of communist China or North Korea.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Where did all the hesitancy comes from? I argue it came from them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biden`s tyrannical dictator on vaccine mandates, it seems clear that he believes that we are subjects and that he is a king.

MATT WALSH, HOST, "THE MATT WALSH SHOW": We had to elect this rotting bag of oatmeal to get a real tyrant.

JOSH MANDEL (R), OHIO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Do not comply with the tyranny. And when the Gestapo show up at your front door, you know what to do?


MELBER: The Gestapo were the Nazis` secret police force. So there you have conservatives and Republicans pushing claims that are false, absurd and offensive, full stop.

But the larger legal questions about presidential powers here are relevant. America`s COVID wars have been heating up anyway. And you can bet you`re going to hear arguments about whether President Biden is breaking the Constitution or being a tyrant.

You may even hear the argument from reasonable people who do not liken this to a Nazi police force, but, rather, are genuinely wondering, can he do this?

That brings us to our special report now. And the question is, can the government mandate vaccines? There are legal and historical answers here. And, to be clear, saying the government can do something is not an endorsement that it always should. In our system, courts check the politicians powers, they draw limits, and then we are supposed to vote within a democracy on the policies within those limits.

I always like to keep it very direct and real with you. The report I`m doing for you right now that we have been working on is about what is legal and constitutional. It still leaves open the debate about what to do.

So, point blank, can the government do this?

Across history, repeatedly and overwhelmingly, United States courts say yes, yes to the government requiring vaccines, yes to restricting even other valid rights in favor of requiring vaccines, and yes to vaccine mandates even when there was no pandemic emergency at the time of a given mandate or case.


Vaccine mandates are standard. To see that, it helps to step back from the partisan COVID wars and the Instagram conspiracies. To paraphrase the rapper Baby Keem, you have to put down your I.G. and look through my lens, the lens of facts, which shows schools have been mandating vaccines for many decades.


TIM RUSSERT, HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": In the early `70s, state laws did require that all children be vaccinated against polio in America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You and I are old enough to remember that we were lined up in cafeterias when we were middle kids and inoculated with polio.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: We have a communal and societal responsibility to protect society, and you make sure by essentially vaccinating every child that can be vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not some sort of a parenting decision that affects your child exclusively. It affects the lives of every other child and person that your child comes in contact with.


MELBER: All of that is from over five years ago, including a younger Dr. Fauci. And it was coverage of what was a debate then about a measles vaccine.

This week`s mandate is not any kind of new issue or case for the courts. Unlike, say, Obamacare, which created a new health care policy with new insurance requirements, that meant that judges would then review for the first time whether that was constitutional.

This is different. And that`s good news for President Biden, because there`s tons of history and past legal cases about how the government can mandate vaccines. Indeed, one of the tragedies of America in these 2020s that we`re living through together is that people are dying avoidable deaths for the same reason they did 60 years ago, back when the creator of the polio vaccine was warning about how they found a cure, but then turned to a new problem, whether people would even use the cure.

Or would the cure have to be mandated with compulsory vaccination?


LAWRENCE SPIVAK, HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": You have said that eliminating polio is no longer a scientific problem. I take it you were correctly quoted?

JONAS SALK, VIROLOGIST: Yes, Mr. Spivak. The problem is not one of vaccine effectiveness, but one of vaccine use.

SPIVAK: Do you think then that compulsory vaccination would put an end to polio in the distant future?

SALK: Well, this has been a seriously debated question.


MELBER: The answer to that question is yes.

Back then, going to this recent era, most conservatives and liberals acknowledged mandatory vaccination is a lawful power of the government. And many said it was also a good idea.


QUESTION: Should vaccinations be mandatory? Seventy-five percent of you say yes.

QUESTION: Should children be vaccinated for measles, and do you think there`s any...

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: Should it be mandatory for children to be vaccinated?

RUBIO: Absolutely, unless they`re immune-suppressed, obviously, for medical exceptions.


MELBER: This time is different, Republicans pledging to take Biden in court over the rule.

And they have the legal right to do that. A president`s powers are overseen by the courts. But here`s the spoiler alert. And, look, we don`t always do spoilers in the news, because we don`t know what`s going to happen usually. But we do know what happened before.

The courts have upheld these powers over and over and over. Take a case that came up a little earlier in our broadcast tonight of Henning Jacobson, a 50-year-old resisting the smallpox vaccine mandates. And he made it all the way to Supreme Court in 1904 and lost by a large majority, 7-2, ruling that, yes, a mandate impacts one`s liberty, but the government has the power to apply a restraint on liberties for the safety and for the common good.

Now, many have talked about liberty lately, but some of this has been selective. And some of it is just not a winning argument in court. In that case, the justices reminded Americans, real liberty for all could not exist if the injury that may be done to others is disregarded.

Now, that was a much older and conservative court, by the way. It prized liberty, but not at the cost of contagious mass death. That case remains a key precedent for Biden`s powers now.

In fact, Congress` own Research Service cites it repeatedly as this key precedent for other later cases, which reinforce the power Biden`s invoking; 20 years after that case -- you need to know this because I bet you people will be debating it this weekend -- the Supreme Court upheld the power of schools to mandate vaccines for students, a reminder that, while some claim Biden doesn`t have this power, most students go to schools where vaccine mandates function today.


That power was upheld again, by the way, in 1988, when a top Arizona court basically fortified these same powers, noting the government doesn`t even need a huge emergency to mandate vaccines, the court holding that a school could mandate them against measles even without a confirmed case at that school, citing the reasonably perceived risk, and noting the government does also not need a current epidemic to mandate vaccines in order to prevent an epidemic.

Now, that`s some of the best news for the Biden administration in the case law, courts upholding mandates in those less dangerous times when there was no epidemic.

Well, today, the government is fighting an epidemic that has sprawled into a worldwide pandemic, with 4.5. million dead. The unvaccinated are 11 times more likely to die of COVID. The government has an interest in keeping them alive and keeping them less contagious.

Now, there also are religious exceptions here. Biden`s plan, for example, grants an even broader exemption, because people can go get weekly tests instead of vaccinations.

We should also note, as we think about these issues, that these past cases were largely based on state power, so states using their police powers to run their schools and other things. The Supreme Court could put heat on whether a federal mandate is somehow legally different.

But would the Supreme Court go that far during the middle of this ongoing pandemic? Well, a lot of experts say that`s unlikely. And we have a recent clue about what this court wants to do. Indeed, led by a recent Trump- appointed justice, the Supreme Court didn`t even hear, let alone stop, it didn`t even hear an attempted challenge to one of these new vaccine mandates at Indiana University.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice Barrett didn`t have to think very long and hard about that one, didn`t even bring it before the full court. She heard the argument and immediately said, no, Indiana University can have a vaccine mandate, as it does with other vaccines.


MELBER: It can have a vaccine mandate, the court in no rush to get involved in that case, let alone put the brakes on a mandate.

So, we already know that`s what this Supreme Court is, and we know what the history is, a country that has dealt with these problems before, faced some of these challenges before, but never, ever has seen the High Court step in and say the government can`t mandate vaccines.

As I said at the outset, that doesn`t mean I`m here to tell you whether this is a perfect idea. I am here to tell you that, if someone else tells you this is definitely unconstitutional, or not the American tradition, they`re either lying to you or don`t know what they`re talking about.

That`s our legal breakdown.

But we have a lot more in the program, including one of the MAGA leaders of America, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, losing in court, a major rebuke. It relates to BLM.

But, first, I`m back after a short break, in just 60 seconds, with thousands of new documents coming into the MAGA riot committee, new subpoenas on the way.

I will see you in one minute.


MELBER: This is not a drill, federal authorities and D.C. local police trying to make sure there is no repeat of January 6, today, front-line Capitol Police officers who have been briefed on security preparations ahead of what is a MAGA march at the same side of the Capitol invoking the history that occurred that day, although there`s much debate about what actually happened.

We have the facts for you. This is eight days away. There`s also new reports that, two days before the last MAGA march turned deadly, into an insurrection, 300 law enforcement members from across the country met to discuss intelligence warnings that it might turn violent and become a mass casualty event.

Somehow, the problem is, many of those warnings, those concerns didn`t reach the right people in time. Meanwhile, this House riot probe we have been covering, the committee, today says it has thousands of pages of new records from government agencies and those social media companies, including communications that are believed to be between Trump and his inner circle.

That`s important because it is another defeat or rebuke of the republic minority leader, McCarthy, who`d basically been trying to find some way to discourage or threaten companies out of cooperating.


Meanwhile, Republicans are seeing their leaders peddle some of the very lies that led to the insurrection.

Pennsylvania Republicans have their own so-called election audit going, which has blown up in their face, the only witness at the first hearing repeatedly saying there was nothing wrong with the election in a state where Donald Trump lost.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the -- your investigation, was there any fraudulent voting ever found out, found in the votes?

STUART ULSH, CHAIR, FULTON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS: Our report will come back -- it`s in our report, but, no, nothing was found. Everything was ran in Fulton County...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything was square, up and up, no fraudulent voting?

ULSH: That`s what our report has, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s what the report says?


MELBER: That`s what the report is because that`s a state where Trump lost.

Many in MAGA world either cannot deal with that or are so beholden to making Donald Trump feel better about the loss that they are continuing this as really a major feature, not only of their politics, but of their mass demonstrations, because everyone is bracing for the worst and hoping for the best in this potential January 6 salute gathering, D.C. authorities preparing.

I`m joined now by someone with experience at the nexus of investigations and understanding where the law governs elections, federal prosecutor and host the podcast "On Topic" Renato Mariotti.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: We see this interplay between propaganda, politics, and then ultimately what the DOJ has said is a whole series of crimes on January 6.

What do you have your eye on going into what will at least be a highly more scrutinized event at the Capitol?

MARIOTTI: Well, I really hope that there`s better preparation this time.

And I think all of us are going to be taking a much closer look at who`s going to be leading and what this -- this march, this rally, whatever they want to call it, and what exactly they`re going to be saying to the people involved.

I have to think, after these charges, Ari, that people are going to be more careful about what they`re inciting folks to do on that day. And if not, I think they`re going to have enhanced liability.

It`s one thing on January 6 to say you had no idea that these people were going to take things that far, that seriously. But after what happened on January 6, you have got to believe that anyone who is inciting them to take aggressive action is potentially going to have a charge on their hands later on.

MELBER: Interesting.

And, of course, the adjacent politicking around these states that are over, meaning Biden`s president, Trump lost, we have a legal and constitutional process that closes the book on that -- so these reviews are really just recounting the Trump loss, which is kind of a strange way to distract from it as a rhetorical exercise.

But they also give some people the misimpression that, where there`s smoke, there`s fire. You know this as a prosecutor. When you have an investigation, it`s certainly improper to imply that because something`s being investigated, someone did something wrong or is a criminal or a murderer. Quite the opposite.

You gather the facts, and we might not hear about some of the painstaking work the prosecutors do.

With that in mind, I want to play a little bit more of -- this is a Democrat here about this Pennsylvania audit and talking about what they view as the harm of it. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we sit in September 2021 still giving oxygen to the big lie.

This sham review is not the pursuit of transparency. The goal is simply to stoke distrust and division. And the most exasperating part of it all is that everyone on this panel knows that. We know this, and you know this, and yet here we sit.


MELBER: So, as someone versed in investigations, obviously, these are legislatures. They can technically sort of do certain things, just like they can hold hearings.

But I`m really asking you, at the level of what`s good for democracy, what do you think of this endless cycle of sham audits?

MARIOTTI: Well, it`s a problem.

And there`s a reason why, Ari, in the criminal context, we`re careful about announcing an investigation close to an election. We saw in 2016 how the mere existence of an investigation has such an impact on that election, because just the fact of an investigation can be twisted into something that it`s not.

And I think that`s exactly the purpose here. Of course, it`s going to have an impact. And the impact is to sow distrust in our democracy. And if people on either side of the aisle believe that their vote doesn`t count, believe that the system is rigged, we all lose. And that`s exactly what they`re trying to do here, burn both -- essentially burn the house down, so to speak.


And then the last piece of this is how they all intersect. This is from a conservative, but I guess like old-school conservative, Kevin Williamson, arguing, basically, that this type of coup or attack on democracy is still going.


And he gives the examples of state legislators, these audits, attempts to sabotage the January 6 commission, the idea that you have sort of the inside play there, and then the talk of overthrowing the government, which is what Trump and his allies were up to in 2020 and are continuing to be up to today.

And I was thinking about this and sort of the normalization of authoritarian vigilante-style talk. I mean, I didn`t put it on our newscast because I don`t particularly think it deserves more oxygen, but there was certainly some responses online by Republican officials -- I`m not talking about randos -- responding to the vaccine mandate by saying, do you want a revolt? What are you trying to cause?

And that seems like, while people have free speech, a very dangerous thing for a democracy to start to immediately revert to policy debates become a question of revolt, which we saw, tragically, on January 6 people took violently and literally.

MARIOTTI: Well, the other problem, Ari, that we didn`t even really grapple with as a country what happened at January 6.

Certainly, there`s conversations on your program and other outlets. Certainly, there are some Republicans -- I will give credit to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and others who have come forward to talk about the rule of law.

But there are Republicans in an entire party who are defending lawless thugs who attacked the Capitol. We haven`t come to grips with that in the way that we did after September 11 and what happened, some of the failures that we had as a country, some of the inability to respond to a threat.

Here, we had a threat in our democracy, and we aren`t responding to it. We aren`t even acknowledging what happened. It is very dangerous. And, as you said, it really gives credence to more calls for that.

And that`s what we`re seeing from Republican officials, who are likening this either to sort of the civil rights struggle, like, essentially, struggling for the vaccine -- against a vaccine is similar to struggling against racial injustice or apartheid or something like that, or they`re likening it to, as you point out, a revolt or using imagery related to the Holocaust, which is totally, not only absurd, but offensive.

MELBER: Yes, exactly, all the Gestapo talk last night across FOX and other places.

Renato Mariotti, thank you, as always, sir.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

MELBER: I have got more news coming up that we haven`t had a chance to get to yet.

This is not about COVID, but it is about someone who`s had a lot of COVID problems, MAGA Governor DeSantis in Florida. He tried to pick sort of a fight with BLM. Well, he just lost badly in court. We`re going to explain.

Also tonight, Giuliani facing the criminal probe as one of his associates pled guilty today.

Stay with us.



MELBER: Florida`s MAGA Governor Ron DeSantis just can`t win these days. He was rebuked in court again.

Now, this is over something that relates to Black Lives Matter protests, or what he thought would be a way to characterize some protests as riots.

The context, you may recall, because we all lived through it. We had these nationwide protests and the reckoning about the killing of George Floyd. And many of these protests really caught Americans` attentions. People watched them on TV or online. They were heartfelt. They were, according to the data, overwhelmingly peaceful.

And they were all about listening to demands for a reckoning.


PROTESTER: And we`re taking that message to the streets today!

PROTESTER: I can`t breathe!

PROTESTERS: I can`t breathe!

PROTESTER: I can`t breathe!

PROTESTERS: I can`t breathe!


MELBER: Large crowds, large gatherings, a lot of interesting ideas surface.

And whether you agree or disagree, the whole point was to summon people to listen and react and maybe have debates they weren`t having. Now, that`s a good thing for democracy wherever you come down on the side of the debate.

But, as you may recall, we reported on it at the time, what the Florida Republicans wanted to do was effectively stifle that kind of debate, stop these kind of protests. And their little trick, which was overruled in court, was to try to broaden the definition of a riot, and then give police new powers to arrest and detain.

Many civil rights and civil liberties groups sued. If you`re a real conservative libertarian, you would be against this because it`s the kind of use of government power that might suppress free speech, that would make people afraid to go rally in the first place.

That`s the context for the news. A Florida judge is now blocking this law`s enforcement, saying it is an exceeding and abusive use of the state`s power. The judge says that the law`s attempt to broaden the definition of riot is simply unclear, that it could, as I was just explaining, kind of criminalize free speech, and that authorities might -- quote -- "weaponize its enforcement against any group who wishes to express any message that the government disapproves of."

DeSantis is the loser here. That means people who want free speech are the winner.

And I say that whether they are pro or anti-BLM. If you`re in Florida, it just got a little bit safer to go to a peaceful protest. That might be bad news for DeSantis, who says he will appeal. It`s good news for a lot of people.

I`m going to fit in a break. When we come back, news in that Giuliani criminal case, his associate pleading guilty to a federal charge.

Stay with us.



MELBER: A breakthrough in the long running criminal case involving Rudy Giuliani, his associate pleaded guilty today to the charge of soliciting foreign campaign contributions.

You may remember the name or the face. Igor Fruman was indicted back in 2019 on a whole slew of charges, foreign donations to elections, illegal donations to Donald Trump`s PAC, false statements, falsifying records, basically lying, a lot of stuff.

Now, Fruman worked with Giuliani trying to get dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine to stop Joe Biden from becoming president. Well, you know how that went. It didn`t work, but it did lead to Trump`s impeachment.

Giuliani, for his part, still faces what we have been told is an ongoing criminal probe. Fruman`s guilty plea today did not include any public reference to a cooperation agreement for any probe. But that could change, or we could learn more. He does face up to five years in prison.

That`s an update on a case we have been following.

Now, when we come back, as I mentioned, Katty Kay returns, as we dig into what we`re learning about Biden`s America, vaccines and the ongoing COVID wars.

Stay with us.



MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT. It`s been a week, so you know it is time to fall back.

And we have two dynamic guests this week, the icon Vivica Fox, actress, producer, host known for dramatic portrayals of characters on everything from "Kill Bill" to "Set It Off." You know her. She also has a bit of a flair for comedy. She was with Larry David on HBO`s "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which we`re big fans of here on THE BEAT, and is the host of the podcast "Hustling With Vivica A. Fox." Shout-out to "Hustling."

And you know who has been hustling in and around the Beltway for many years? Our intrepid friend and journalist Katty Kay. She actually got her start out as a Zimbabwe correspondent for BBC News, is their lead Washington anchor for many years, and is now with Ozy Media. She`s also the best selling author of "The Confidence Code" and "Women" -- see, I always mess this up -- "Womenomics." She will help me say it.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

VIVICA A. FOX, ACTRESS/PRODUCER: You`re welcome, darling.

KAY: You`re welcome.


MELBER: Good to have you.

Katty, help me with it. "Womenomics."

KAY: "Womenomics." You can do it, Ari.

MELBER: "Womenomics."

I`m learning. Vivica -- Vivica, I`m learning as I go. That`s part of journalism and being a person.

We`re going to go to you first, as our debut -- your debut on THE BEAT.

What is on your "Fallback" list?

FOX: On my "Fallback" list? Oh, my goodness.

Can we talk about what`s happening with some of the health care with 9/11, the people that came and helped for 9/11 victims, that they`re being denied health care? And I think that that`s really unfortunate.


MELBER: I appreciate you bringing that up.

You know, this is something, we got the headline here, and we have seen this. There`s a rare cancer case where they`re not getting the health care that many people feel they were promised.

FOX: Yes.

MELBER: And here we are, 20 years later, and it`s such a big issue. And Jon Stewart and others, of course, have been testifying, talking about that as the anniversary hits tomorrow. So that`s an important one.

We go through more than one topic here.

Katty, what is on your mind?

KAY: OK, it`s Friday. So there are a lot of serious things out there that I really wish would go away.

But we have got to have something a little bit more weird. It comes from Britain, from my own country. I`m so embarrassed about this.

TikTokers making videos, first of all, of themselves on train tracks. Well, that`s just weird and stupid. But now they`re making videos of their toddlers on train tracks for TikTok. Apparently got a million views. That`s also weird. Who`s looking at this stuff?

That has to stop, right? I mean, dumb and dangerous, and not fair to the train drivers...


MELBER: Dangerous. Yes, I mean, it`s almost -- it sounds like something out of a "Black Mirror" episode or a dystopian thing.

Vivica, it goes to the line between attention and clout, which a lot of people are seeking. Fine. We`re humans. We`re social. And then having some sort of line of saying, obviously, you can`t endanger people to get clicks.

FOX: Yes, people are definitely huge clout chasers nowadays.

But the fact that they would put a toddler at risk is just absurd for a click.

MELBER: Yes, absolutely wild.

And I hadn`t seen much about that story until today.

Vivica, what else is on your list? And I`m curious. You do more than one thing in your field. But, in politics, we have been talking a lot about the Texas -- Texas Governor Abbott.

FOX: What`s going on in Texas? That`s all I need to know, OK, because Texas lately has just been a little crunk with their new rules they are just trying to come up with magically, that it`s like they are going to try to tell a woman with a right with the abortion.

And now they just don`t want to follow the rules. I just don`t get it. I really don`t, why they just think that they can make up their own rules about things that -- how they want to live in the United States of America.

Come on, Texas. You all got to wake up and keep going forward. We cannot go backwards.

MELBER: Yes, and I -- they say a lot of communication is nonverbal. I hope everyone saw Vivica`s face, because the opening facial reaction to Governor Abbott also speaks volumes.

And, Katty -- in all seriousness, but it`s true. And, Katty, I guess it`s fine to point out hypocrisy. People are used to it from politicians. But, at times, Republicans in Texas are making pro-choice arguments against the vaccine, liberty, your body, that don`t seem to apply in their view to women, Katty.

KAY: Yes, the whole vaccine thing at the moment is so hypocritical anyway.

Of course, there are a small number of people that really do seem to believe and have vaccine-skeptical positions for a very long time and have concerns about it, they`re worried about what the long-term impact is. I get that.

But then there are a whole bunch of people -- and it feels to me like you`re pointing this out in Texas, Ari, with Governor Abbott -- who are just using this. I mean, they`re going to use this for political gain. And it has nothing to do, really, with whether they actually believe in vaccines.

Case in point, people, FOX News hosts, who are being railing against vaccines and allowing their network to rail against vaccines on some programs, but are getting vaccinated themselves, or even President Trump, who got vaccinated in secret himself.

So there`s a lot of hypocrisy to go around with people thinking that they can just use the vaccine issue for political gain. Meanwhile, people are dying.

FOX: Yes.

KAY: So, the hypocrisy, actually, is incredibly dangerous in this instance.

MELBER: Exactly.

And I think that`s why there`s a tension. You can call that just the tension of people not living by what they say they stand for. If you stand for liberty, wouldn`t that apply to all people, regardless of gender? And then the larger mandates and the issues are going to be with us for some time.

So, we got to keep talking and learning and being factual. And, hopefully, that`s a little bit of "Fallback` spirit as we wrap up the week.

I want to thank Katty Kay. I want to thank Vivica Fox. Shout-out to the podcast and to "Hustling." And I hope you will come back.


MELBER: That does it for me here on THE BEAT.

I wish everyone a great weekend. We will see you back here Monday 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Don`t go anywhere right now, though, because "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.

Hi, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: I`m jealous.

Say hi to Vivica Fox for me. I`m a big fan. Tell her I`m a fan.

MELBER: I will.

REID: Is that -- have I just embarrassed myself on national TV, being like, hi, Vivica?


REID: But I mean it.

MELBER: You know what? When we get through -- Joy, when we get through all of the COVID, next time, we will just bring you right over. You will be one studio over.

REID: Yes.