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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 9/13/21

Guests: Maya Wiley, Jean Guerrero, Chai Komanduri


United States Capitol Police said Monday they arrested a man in a truck who was armed with multiple knives, a bayonet and a machete near the DNC headquarters. George W. Bush compares violent extremists at home to 9/11 terrorists in 20th anniversary speech. Governor Newsom faces this recall election.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thank you so much for letting us into your homes during these extraordinary times. We're grateful. "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Hi, Ari.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you very much and welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber. And right now the Capitol is on high alert. This is the week leading up to that Saturday MAGA rally, which is directly linked to the January 6 criminal insurrection.

Capitol Police now arresting an armed man outside of the National Democratic headquarters that was this morning, found with a bayonet and a machete. His pickup truck was covered in white supremacist symbols including a swastika. He claimed he was on some kind of patrol.

Now the arrest which was peacefully done underscores tensions this week, which are more about the future than any history of January 6 with Trump supporters are invoking that fateful day as a kind of alleged injustice to them. And they want to use this gathering they say to address that.

But there are many contracts here to January, instead of a federal government held by an open supporter of the big lie and overturning the election. Today, the Biden administration condemns violence and is taking no chances on preparation. Authorities planning to erect temporary fencing around the Capitol this week before the rally begins, and doing everything they can to prevent any hint that there could be anything like a rerun.

Now, the last probe here that we've been covering in the probe into the last time continues, there's heat on government officials who may have been more secretly helpful to those criminal insurrectionist. Then they let on. Take Donald Trump's top eight at the time Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. We're learning now about just how he is one of the targets that the House Committee is eyeing demanding evidence from phone companies on him and potentially any contact with Trump.

While a new tell-off (ph) from a Trump insider says that Melania Trump said simply no. When asked by an aide to send out an emergency call for peace during that January 6 riot. And former President Bush has been weighing in most Americans took some time or moments to reflect on September 11 here over the weekend.

The president who was of course defined in governance by that era made the choice to do something that you may have heard about and is worth understanding when we think about all the division and partisanship these days that Republican president comparing those January 6 terrorists to the 9/11 terrorists.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: We have seen growing evidence that the dangerous to our country can come not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within. There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But then there's the stain for tourism (ph), in their disregard for human life and their determination to defile national symbols. They are children of the same foul spirit and it is our continuing duty to confront them.


MELBER: And there you have it. I'm joined by former acting us Solicitor General Neal Katyal, and a former attorney in the Southern District of New York and former mayoral candidate in New York, Maya Wiley. Welcome to you both. Maya, your reaction, your thoughts on the former president there.

MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSITANT U.S. ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: You know, remember that George W. Bush, when September 11 happened, as he has reminded us actually stood up and told the nation, this is not about Islam, this is not Islam. We were sending a very clear message that there should be no attack on Muslims because of September 11.

And essentially, that is one of the biggest juxtapositions to both Donald Trump who has not only incited violence in his own rallies when he was running for president. But he's done it in a way that made very clear that he was giving permission to white supremacy.

And as we know, we have seen not just the violence of January 6, and the recognition that so many white supremacist groups were participating and organizing, what violence we saw there, but that we have seen a doubling in white supremacist propaganda in this country in 2020, over 2019, that's anti-Asian violence up 150 percent to anti-semitism, anti-black violence. And the point here is this goes centrally to whether or not we're going to form a more perfect union or not. And Donald Trump has very actively and aggressively played a role to be the voice piece that says we will not.


NEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: As usual, Maya says it far better than I can. But I think the one thing I would add to what she's saying, I mean, she's absolutely right. Donald Trump basically enabled white supremacy and we see it really in what happened on January 6, but the seeds of that go way, way before that, think about Trump and the Muslim ban.


Think about what he said, you know, we should have a complete and total shutdown of all Muslim immigration to the United States. And then you contrast that with what former President Bush said. It's just such a study and leadership, such a study and what are more perfect union is all about, and it's not surprising that Donald Trump was upset at former president -- at the former president's comments on 911.

And, you know, I guess I wish I was surprised that Donald Trump would make the tragic anniversary of 9/11 about himself. But, you know, this is the guy who gloated about having the tallest building in Manhattan after the Twin Towers fell. And so I guess I gave up any hope of guessing the worst that this guy had to offer.

MELBER: Yes, and, Neal, as we look at the preparations for the Capitol, what we're seeing is something that people would like to believe the United States is not falling into, or would like to hope that more citizens of this country would be better. But this is something much more common that we've seen in other countries, including those have slid away from democracy, where politicized violence, vigilantism and other violent gatherings are normalized. And it's sort of part of what people expect to happen. And no one here is rooting for anything this weekend other than safety. And if people gather peacefully leave peacefully, we'll obviously report that.

But the arrest today the way the authorities are dealing with it, the language that's being used, that embraces and supports people who are literally on trial for violence, much of a capture on tape, doesn't really provide much benefit of the doubt for at least some of the public agitators of this.

My question to you, given your experience is twofold. One, your analysis of this problem that's with us, and two, given your experience of DOJ, how will the feds and authorities deal with this? We're being told they're much more ready than last time?

KATYAL: Yes, so first of all, just kind of the news of this fence around the Capitol building is really sad news for my amazing city. I mean, I know it's not bad news for Donald Trump, for the first time he got a wall built, just not necessarily the wall that I think even he was hoping for.

But look, it looks like the protests, you know, I hope the protests on September 18th will be will be peaceful. But it's good to know that even if the Trump supporters are willing to repeat their mistakes, law enforcement this time is not, they're obviously aggressive. They're on top of it. They're looking and being ready for any acts of violence.

And I think you know, Ari, what this shows to me is really the importance of this January 6 Commission and investigation, both what's going on in Congress, but also the law enforcement side at the Justice Department. Because, you know, we had the greatest attack on our Capitol in two centuries. And there's a lot of people who want to forget, who don't understand, for example, why are you starting your show tonight with this stuff? And the reason is, because, A, it was an incredibly damaging, you know, attack on our Capitol, but B, the seeds of that still continued.

And there's all of this stuff that Donald Trump even as over the weekend is continuing to maintain stuff about the election being stolen and all sorts of nonsense. And so I do think we need a credible get to the bottom historical document that says what happened and how it happened.

MELBER: Yes, and I appreciate you raising the other question, because it goes to, you know, not just being sort of focused on what are considered the political controversies are only a Washington story. So I'll try answering part of that question, and then hand it over to Maya for her thoughts.

I mean, part of the answer that question is we're living in a country right now that has had several near misses that could have been so much worse. They tried to bomb the RNC and the DNC attacking Democrats, Republicans alike, any violence is wrong, regardless of the target, obviously. But that was a near miss before Jan. 6. They went to the Capitol talking about assassinating Democrats and Republicans and hanging the Vice President, another near miss because they didn't get to him. But boy, they were close from the footage, especially what we learned in the impeachment trial, Maya. They went out in Michigan and tried to kidnap a governor to a degree that they're being prosecuted for that in a serious way. And there are many other plots that are afoot.

It is similar to some degree to the post 9/11 posture that George W. Bush was citing there as we lead the broadcast with Maya because that was a time where they'll you don't want to overreact, as you say, or use that as an excuse for discrimination or lumping groups together. You certainly do need a fair amount of vigilance when you're dealing with people who openly and repeatedly say their goal is to end you and your system of government. That certainly was what some of the violent extremists abroad wanted to do then, Maya, and it is what several of these white supremacist groups are saying to us over and over today.

WILEY: Yes, I think one of the things I completely agree with Neal too particularly going back and pulling forward the long history that we had that showed us that unfortunately we wouldn't be surprised.


But you know what this fence, it's not just sad, it's dangerous that we are in a situation where we need the fence. That's actually dangerous. Because what it's really telling us, we've got so far past, a politics where the Republican Party as a party, not just former elected Republican, like George Bush, but once currently in office, and we have a few, thankfully, but not nearly enough saying, Wait a minute, this is all of our democracy. There is a place for peaceful protest. But when you bring hate and violence against any group, then we cannot and will not stand with you.

And remember that we have a Kevin McCarthy threatening using the power of Congress and the power of his seat to threaten the investigation by telling health (ph) communications for social media platforms that have been subpoenaed, we will use our power to punish you for doing exactly what Neal so rightly says we must do, which is a simple -- simply get to the bottom of what happened, how it happened, and how what we have to fix and how we can do better so that we can actually protect our democracy. This is a very, very dangerous time.

MELBER: Right. No as both of you said, the, the level of security that is required is in some tension with the open society that we want to have. And so in that respect, it's concerning in both directions, although everyone wants the authorities to be as prepared as possible for this weekend.

Really interesting and important points here as we kick off the week. I want to thank Maya Wiley and Neal Katyal, two of our experts and viewers, I think just heard why. Thanks to both of you.

Coming up, we're going to break down some of the hypocrisy and the factual history on vaccine mandates with some Republican governors just getting caught, unable to explain why they're against only one type of mandate. We're also hours away from what will be the beginning of one of the weirdest elections in recent memory, some of it serious some of it is downright bizarre. We have it all for you as we go live to California where Joe Biden will be. And Democrats have a new plan to make billionaires and corporations pay a larger share of what they say they already owe. Stay with us.




ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FMR. CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: He's failing them terribly. And this is why he needs to be recalled. And this is why I'm going to run for governor for state of California.


MELBER: There is no recall election like a California recall election what once seemed like a zany longshot became the successful 2003 recall of the California Democrat that famously put Schwarzenegger in power. Many were surprised to wake up to that news.

As the rapper Jadakiss famously put it, why they come up with witness protection. Why they let the Terminator win the election. Come on, pay attention. Recalls really can change everything which Democrats are keeping in mind as California Governor Newsom faces this recall election his own tomorrow, and it is a big one. It is a kind of a long shot that mixed initial fury over COVID rules with some other right wing attacks.

Now let's get into it because this is a big story in politics. Technically, there are over 40 people running against him from the Republican he beat last time who is focused on California's bear necessities campaigning with an actual 1000-pound bear.


JOHN COX, REPUBLICAN GUBENATORIAL CANDIDATE: The reason the bear is here is to demonstrate that we're going to have to be a beast to tackle these special interests.


MELBER: Is that the reason the bear is there? We're not sure a fact-check why the bear is there. But look, we love animals. Now, Cox may not be the most imposing option that Republicans have in this race. He's basically a former losing candidate who's faced a range of strange problems including getting hit with a subpoena in a case about him ducking bills that came, as you see in the footage there, during a republican debate.

But let's be clear, many did laugh at Schwarzenegger's turn from acting to politics initially, a fusion of entertainment and government that now looks downright quaint in our reality show Trump era America, so maybe be careful counting anyone out, especially the reality stars in California, Caitlyn Jenner is running as a Republican in this race. Does anyone really think Kim Kardashian couldn't go take a House seat in many parts of the nation right now if she wanted? Again, as Jadakiss would say, pay attention.

Then there's a right wing firebrand viewed as the top Republican candidate in the race tomorrow radio host, Larry Elder, who says things that are literally ineffable. Like, we don't have the ability to paraphrase them with words in a newscasts. For example, here you go.


LARRY ELDER, REPUBLICAN GUBENATORIAL CANDIDATE: When people talk about reparations, they really want to have that conversation because like it or not, slavery was legal. And so their property, their legal property was taken away from them after the Civil War. So you can make an argument that the people that are owed reparations, and not only just black people, but also the people whose quote, property, close quote, was taken away after the end of the Civil War.


MELBER: Now, if this is the competition, why were the Democrats worried at all about tomorrow's vote? That might be a fair question. Well, part of the answer may be more about anger at the incumbent in this very tough time that California and many states have gone through than any wide embrace of the challenges I just showed you.

Consider that just within the last month, about half of California voters where it's a pretty blue state, we're ready to boot Newsom, which shows a general weakness open to some kind of alternative while the latest polling heading into the vote shows a much stronger 60 percent of likely voters backing him. You see this September numbers for keep would be good news for the incumbent governor.

He's also been propelled by a $70 million campaign wage just to hold on to office. And if you've heard stories about the modern Democratic Party taking campaigns for granted or leaning on polls and skipping key states at the last minute, well, that's not the Democrats look right now. We can tell you the Biden administration fighting hard to help this blue state.


Biden will be there tonight on election eve. Harris was out there just last week campaigning with the governor. And these races always come back to turnout recalls are weird. They're not on a normal Election Day.

The big two questions tomorrow are who will show up, and whether the Republican Party hurt itself in a potentially winnable race by pushing so many Trump style candidates over potentially more appealing options for this largely blue state. We have two California experts with us political operative Chai Komanduri and LA Times columnist Jean Guerrero when we're back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: We are back with Chai Komanduri and Jean Guerrero, a political analysts and an LA Times reporter here as we're tracking the California recall. Thanks to both of you for joining us and a busy time for California. Chai, we just ran through all of it, including the idea that you have to pay attention when facing recalls even in a zany one like this. Your thoughts?

CHAI KOMANDURI, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Yes, it looks to me like quite frankly, the GOP is blue this recall. Make no mistake, regardless of how Democratic the state is. The recall advantages belong to the Republicans. All they had to do in a low turnout special election is mobilize their voters and keep the other side, apoplectic, I mean, apathetic. And they had that a month ago, a month ago, Democrats were apathetic.

And the problem was that the GOP instead of running a moderate Republican who gave good government speeches and board Democrats into sleeping through this election. Instead, they ran Larry Elder, somebody who seems to be scientifically designed to turn out Democrats. This is a man who has taken extreme positions, who doesn't really have policies. What he has are provocative, hot takes, like eliminating the minimum wage.

I mean, that's not only a stupid idea, it's something you would never hear from Republicans in Alabama or Mississippi, let alone somebody who's trying to win in California. The whole thing has really consolidated the idea that the state GOP is nothing more than a collection of reality star wannabes, and in some cases, actual reality stars, but not people who are serious about governing.


JEAN GUERRERO, LA TIMES COLUMNIST: Yes, absolutely. I mean, Larry Elder would be the most anti-immigrant and perhaps anti-black governor that we've ever seen in California. And I think even more so than then Governor Pete Wilson, when you saw a historic mobilization of Latino voters that turned to the state, the deep blue that it is today, because of all the anti- immigrant measures that were being taken.

And I think that voters in California have woken up to that reality. It wasn't clear at first what was at stake for these communities. But now the 60 percent of Californians who are opposed to the recall is largely driven by Latino voters who are a key constituency in this state, but also black and Asian voters who have begun to realize that, you know, California has been a national leader on racial justice on immigrant rights, on COVID recovery, COVID response, on climate change. All of these things are at stake in this election.

Larry Elder has proposed reversing all of that progress. And people have begun to realize that if they do not turn out the people who are going to determine the outcome of this election are the minority Nativists and, you know, white supremacists who live in this state.

MELBER: Yes, and we will both of you lay that out. And you're both there and national audiences know California like New York or Texas or Florida. This is a delegate rich big state, very important. Sometimes the bench for the both parties, respective parties.

And so it's sort of striking Chai, if you're both right, and people listening can hear the evidence you guys offer. Why would the California Republican Party be so concerned with everything but what's going on, on the ground in California I mean we're told all politics is local. But Mr. Elder sounds more like he's auditioning for some sort of, you know, Instagram, TikTok right wing parlor clout program than putting together a coalition.


I serve you that question, as well as almost gleeful Governor Newsom soundbite where he gets to kind of talk about Larry Elder instead of the closer calls of, you know, the business restrictions he did during COVID, which were unpopular, including among moderates in California, take a look at the governor.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: If they go, we'll hold on. Big Blue state we can withstand a year, year and a half, two years. Think about the judges that will be appointed. Think about all those line item vetoes. I mean, who would have Larry Elder or any of these others appointed to replace Kamala Harris to the US Senate? Think about what that would have meant to the future of our democracy at this moment.



KOMANDURI: Yes, it's no question that a different type of Republican could potentially have been very competitive in this race. If you think about Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a very moderate Republicans. I mean, he was actually quite a leader in the environmental regulations, and environmental protections we have in the state. He's really to the left of a lot of national Democrats both in the double zeros. But even now, if you look at natural Democrats, like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, Arnold Schwarzenegger is arguably to the left of them.

But that is not what has happened now to the GOP. What you're really seeing is the impact of Trump on the GOP. And it's not just a case where they'd rather win with, I mean, rather lose with an extremists. Rather than win with a moderate. It feels to me that they'd rather lose than be boring.

I mean, that seems to be what's fueling a lot of this. They would rather lose them be boring --

MELBER: Right.

KOMANDURI: -- and really aiming everything at a Fox News audience, rather than the electorate in California. And so --


KOMANDURI: -- it's really quite dangerous that we have one national party that has gone in this direction.

MELBER: Yes, it's interesting when you put it that way, I mean, that really kind of captures it. Chai, is there a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger that speaks to this moment?

KOMANDURI: I would like to think it would actually be Kindergarten Cop where Arnold Schwarzenegger goes undercover in a kindergarten, and then learn some very simple lessons about what life is really about and how to really connect with people. That is something that the current GOP in California just simply doesn't have. They have no ability to connect level with to not only kindergarteners, but also their parents.

MELBER: Are you suggesting that Larry Elder would learn things best at a kindergarten reading level? Is that what you're trying to suggest?

KOMANDURI: Well, I would say he sometimes sounds like he belongs in the kindergarten. But quite frankly, that's really an insult to kindergarteners. I think kindergarteners are a lot kinder, and sometimes more mature than Larry Elder has been a recall election.

MELBER: Now what I won't do Chai is a regular here, Jean, what I won't do is as Jean to partake in this level of nerdy movie trivia, although everyone's welcome. But I will give you the final floor of what you're watching tomorrow and what, you know, we'll have Kornacki at the big board like we do in a lot of things. What are the indications we're going to see in California to understand where this is headed?

GUERRERO: Well, it's very likely that voters are going to decide to keep Newsom. And that's why we're already seeing the Republican front runner Larry Elder saying that, you know, that this election is, you know, he's saying that he's going to sue for voter fraud. He's telling people to report suspicious activities, basically spreading the big lie in California, and that reflects the fact that he has always been. He is and always has been an agent of Trumpism.

You know, the whole idea that this is about creating chaos and a clown show. It's exactly right. This recall is about, you know, disenfranchising voters and delegitimizing democracy. So even though it is very, very likely that Newsom is going to win that, you know, in a way the Republicans have succeeded in creating this this clown show that they've made in California.

And it's dangerous because California is home to more hate groups and more anti-government militia groups than any other state in this country. And that sort of rhetoric incites violence. And so there's a real concern about that.

MELBER: Yes, all really good points throughout Jean Guerrero and Chai Komanduri, thanks to both of you all the politics we watched in California tomorrow for sure.

Ahead tonight, we're going to show you something you might not normally see a Fox News anchor. Absolutely stumping a Republican governor on vaccine mandates and MAGA Governor Ron DeSantis back at it, we have a fact check. Stay with us.



ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: President Biden's push for corporate vaccine mandates has done many things including expose a kind of hypocrisy that's out in plain sight. A lot of people know about this if you have kids or go to school. And we've also seen full blown hysteria.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the most heinous displays we've ever seen from a President.

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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We live in America, and you would expect words like that from the president maybe of Communist China or North Korea.


MELBER: OK, deep breath, everybody. As the legal piece of this, the Supreme Court has upheld vaccine mandates for over a century. And the last person you saw speaking there, in that clip we just showed you is Tate Reeves, Republican governor of Mississippi. And saying that any government program that encourages or requires vaccine mandates makes the person running them a dictator. He specifically compared Biden to the North Korean dictator. Well, some news from Mississippi it has some of the toughest vaccine mandate laws in the country. It bars parents from even claiming a potential religious philosophical or conscientious exemption. So, I guess all that dictator talk would be boomeranging on the governor himself.


Now, many people in the Republican Party who are involved in government are struggling with the fact that you cannot just explain away what happens in day-to-day states. So, they can't really come up with any answer out loud for what is this hypocrisy on display. And I'm not pointing it out just because it's hypocritical, I'm pointing it out because it matters whether people have the facts about vaccines while people are dying. So, take a look at how some of this hawk hypocrisy plays out on Fox News.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You say it's a personal choice. In fact, to attend school in your state of Nebraska children must be vaccinated against a number of diseases. Let me put them up on the screen. They must be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella, hepatitis B, and chickenpox. Why is it that they're not so objectionable in such a violation of personal freedom? But Biden's vaccine mandates are?

GOV. PETE RICKETTS, (R) NEBRASKA: Well, for all those that you just listed. There's a long history that parents have had the opportunity to see how those things have been implemented.


MELBER: No. You had the look there of a politician just trying to get through the moment. But this isn't about a history or a recency. This is about people putting politics above the safety of their own constituents.

Now the Washington Post, Greg Sargent was writing about not only that moment, but the larger Republican hypocrisy on display saying the party, including people like Ricketts are actively undermining people's trust in vaccines, while piously citing that mistrust as the basis for opposing mandates.

Meanwhile, today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is actually holding an anti-vaccine mandate rally, like that's the best thing to do with his time while threatening cities in his state with fines and claiming it's Biden who's politicizing things.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: If a government agency in the state of Florida forces a vaccine as a condition to employment, that violates Florida law, and you will face a $5,000 fine for every single violation. This is all political. It's all about using government and it's wrong.


MELBER: I'm joined now by a former United States Senator Russ Feingold, President American Constitution Society, which knows its way around some of this so-called precedent. Thanks for being here.

RUSS FEINGOLD, AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Ari. Great to be on the show again.

MELBER: Good to have you. What do you think of what we heard there from some of those Republican officials who can't seem to explain why this vaccine dealing with this largest crisis in America is a bigger problem than measles right now is the only one that they seem to object to?

FEINGOLD: Well, it's very hard to know where to begin with this one, Ari. Because the fact is what they're putting out is you've heard of fake news. This is fake law. This is literally made-up law. And just as a factual matter, they're talking about the president putting out a mandate, it's actually not even a mandate. There is a choice.

MELBER: Right.

FEINGOLD: No person has to get a shot, they can get the weekly testing, or they can get a shot. But having said that, you've made the point very clear that there's been these laws in these states forever. I remember when I was a kid, and it was a long time ago, Ari, but it was polio. Nobody made up fake stories about how you shouldn't get your polio vaccine. In fact, I think when I was in kindergarten, first grade, we had to get a shot. You know, we'd all go downstairs in Roosevelt Grade School in Janesville, Wisconsin and get a shot. And you can imagine the euphoria in second grade, which I think was when it was when we found out you could just take a little bit of sugar water with it, you'd have to get a shot anymore.

Nobody said that this was something the government couldn't do. It is simply made up. And all the way back, as you said to 1905 in Jackson versus Massachusetts, the Supreme Court of this country has upheld the ability of government to protect the people through mandatory vaccinations, if in fact, that's what this was. And that is even what this is.

MELBER: Right. Because it was such a such a clear exchange here. And, you know, we go where the evidence is, I would say credit to Chris Wallace for asking the factual question and putting this into the public record. People can make up their own minds, but it's pretty devastating for some of these officials. I want to play a little bit more of that interview with Governor Ricketts. Take a look.


WALLACE: There is a new vaccine that Donald Trump was largely responsible for. It's been approved, full approval by the FDA. Again, if the polio vaccine is OK for parents and they have to comply with it to send their kid to school, why not for a lot of people, not just kids, the vaccine for this disease?


RICKETTS: Yeah, and I think this is very different from polio that has very devastating effects.


MELBER: Polio is devastating, over 4 million people, though, are dead from COVID. We're a country that actually has the means to provide the vaccine, there's plenty of places where people and the health care systems and the government financing doesn't provide for, people can't even get access. I'm curious, as someone who's been around politics, and you know, a lot of these folks you in the Senate, is there a breaking point where some of these governors go home after interviews like this, or face the actual public pressure and go, I don't know if I can keep up with this ridiculous lie, that somehow one vaccine is worse than all the other and it just happens to be the one that we're in an emergency for? And it just happens to be the one that is now nominally, I guess, in their minds related to a democratic administration?

FEINGOLD: Yeah, I think so. I mean, we saw this with the advocacy for vaccines within their own states, you know, the governor of Alabama and others finally started standing up the governor of Arkansas, saying, well, we you should get a vaccine. So, I think this is going to be similar.

Look, I was with my wonderful two daughters yesterday, and they all have kids in this -- in school. And the pressure that's coming from the tension for the children, the horrible situation for parents and children, but they don't have that certainty that somebody has been vaccinated I think is going to come back to affect people in places like Mississippi and Texas as well. And I do have to say, Ari, the hypocrisy here is important. The fact that a state like Texas is invading the privacy of women on abortion, trying to get people to pay him 10,000 bucks to try to reveal that somebody had an abortion, they're willing to do that. But they're saying that somehow, it's wrong to make sure that we all get a vaccine to protect each other.

We need to start caring for each other. And I hope the people in these states get that message that we simply have to put the politics aside in this one. It makes no sense, and it's nothing and I'm going to say it again, it's nothing but fake law.

MELBER: Yeah, fake law. I appreciate your candor on it, and your experience and you bringing up of course, the hypocrisy on the arguments, so-called about bodily integrity and liberty because this all goes to making sure people have the facts. Some of these arguments are just in bad faith. We can all disagree reasonably, but we have to work off the facts. So, thank you, Senator. Always good to have you here.

Coming up, something that's very important in our economic lives a new push to deal with actually fairly taxing billionaires in the 1%, that's next.



MELBER: The pandemic has worsened America's wealth gap. And now Democrats are out with a new plan targeting the 1% focuses on the billionaires, the super-rich, as well as corporations, House Democrats have the idea to raise corporate taxes up to 26 and a half percent that is a big jump from '21 and increasing taxes on individual people who basically make over half a million dollars. They would just go up about two and a half percentage points.

Also, a spike on capital gains taxes. That's something that a lot of very wealthy people use to both invest or make money. And it's not something that people without as much money are able to benefit from.

The Washington Post says this would be the most significant tax hike on the rich and certain corporations in decades. And one that would amount to the first major effort in Congress to address the populist political fervor over the gap between America's ultra-rich, and its middle class.

This is important stuff. And it comes amidst new research that shows that the wealth concentration in the United States is back to roaring 20s levels. So, we have inequality, and we have the same post pandemic period we had then we all know that didn't work well, back then. This is a part of what Democrats have been working on with Biden a sweeping plan for spending for changing the way certain government programs are funded, and for having a larger and more durable safety net.

Now, Senator Manchin is reiterating this weekend that he would not support spending up to three and a half trillion dollars, while the Senate Budget Chair who is Bernie Sanders has a lot of different views, a lot of power here, and he's pushing back.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: There is a sense of urgency. And the sense of urgency is that we live in a country today with the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well. While working class people are struggling all over this country. terms of health care. You got 90 million people uninsured or underinsured people can't afford to pay prescription drugs, can't afford to send their kids to college.


MELBER: A lot of what he says there is just factual. And we are living during this time of yawning inequality. It's sort of the background noise to all of the other issues and stress and polarization that we're living through. It's interesting to see Congress look at actual larger economic systemic change that has democrats say they want to get their spending bill out of all the committees as soon as by the end of next week.

And when we come back, I have a very special interview, where we get into the depths of the global COVID crisis as well as mental health and real solutions. Stay with us.



MELBER: So, around this time last year, COVID had up ended most in person events, sports and concerts award shows were turning virtual. Now in many highly vaccinated parts of America these things are coming back. MTV holding its Video Music Awards last night in New York with people together, hosted by singer Doja Cat, shout out to Doja, and featuring nominations and awards for artists who are changing our culture. That kind of classic country rap hybrid Lil Nas X, one Video of the Year, the Reggaeton star J. Balvin was nominated again, he's a Colombian singer who's led a wave of Latin breakthroughs, his hits in the U.S. include I Like It with Cardi B, Mi Gente and In De Ghetto, which is currently a sensation on TikTok. In fact, he's no stranger to the award circuit himself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) and Latin Grammy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) J. Balvin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nicky Jam and J. Balvin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Multi-Platinum duo Liam Payne and J. Balvin.



MELBER: This is what's hot right now and we never know why certain music are connected a certain time, but this past year has been J. Balvin's time. If you don't know him by name, I can tell you, your kids probably do. Last year his music was played more than Taylor Swift. He was the third most streamed artist on Spotify after Drake and Bad Bunny with an album that dropped last March right when the pandemic hit. It went quadruple platinum. He has a new album this week, Jose, and just join me for an interview about his music, his journey and something he very open about his work, mental health, which is so relevant right now with so many people facing the stress of COVID and he told me about confronting these issues without stigma.



JOSE, SINGER J. BALVIN: I have this mission, you know, I know music is the way I can connect on a different way, you know, with the people and talking about one of the biggest pandemics is mental health. You know, yeah, we call it what are called mental health is a real pandemic. And it's like, people just, you know, like, now, you know, thanks. Even though there's people suffering by like, in the Olympics, you know, and all these big athletes, you know, saying the same thing that I say, you know, like, mental health is really important, you know, and made the difference between being sad and being depressed, which is two different stories, you know, one is more like a chemical disbalance. The other one is feeling, you know, and also anxiety to know, and there's a lot of different sickness in mental health. And are we ever going to talk about this real, real, real, you know, because this is mental health is like, what used to happen with HIV in the '80s, or 90s, you know, that people were just, like, scared to talk about it, you know, feel like you're going to be just like, no, like, don't even try to be close to me.

Some people that doesn't talk about mental health, because this kind of people are going to reject them, you know, and they're going to be like, are you crazy? You were what is not, you know, it's OK not to be OK, you know, and I always look for the way. These people that does have like a really strong problem on mental health. So it's easy to fix, but dishonor on other ones, like, for example, me that sometimes, I mean, as a Medicaid, you know, and it's been 10 years, and I think it's going to be forever, but I needed something that helps me, and know that the brain is an organ, like, anything else, and always like you suffer from a heart, you know, from the heart, you have to take appeal to your heart. You know, if you have a broken leg, well fix it is the same thing with the brain, you know, so.

MELBER: Right, it would be weird to say, oh, I broke my leg. But I'm not going to get care because that's strong. That's how strong I am. That doesn't make a lot of sense.

BALVIN: Doesn't make a lot of sense, exactly. So, we're just saying, you know, like, yeah, your brain is another, you know, organ of your body, and is definitely the most important, you know, yeah, some people say the heart, but the brain is the one who said, all the information that your heart going to work the way it has to work.



MELBER: The brain takes in the info, but there's also a lot of fear and miss info out there, which is one of the reasons that vaccinations lag in the U.S., even though they're enough to go around.

Balvin contrast that with the larger problem of poverty and other countries, he brought up how most of Latin America doesn't even have vaccine access, only one in four people have been fully vaccinated there. He himself got COVID last year, and Balvin is using his experience to urge people to take this seriously and get vaccinated.


BALVIN: I personally love that the vaccines are out there, you know, I have COVID and almost kills me and have like, kind of be our personality disorder with stress disorder with the COVID because it really hit me so hard, you know, that I'm always like, I don't want to get this again. You know, and, of course, I got vaccinated. And, you know, and it really concerned me, like, the Delta and the other things that are going on right now. But yeah, I'm really concerned about my countries, too, because we don't have the access, you know, we have, but not as much as U.S., for example, you know, and not just our country, you know, let's talk about India and all these countries that are suffering a lot. You know, it's really, it really hurts. You know, I'm really deeply sad about it. And the people that we have lost in this year.

MELBER: Yeah, and you speaking on that, again, is interesting, because people can hear you as someone who faced it, it was in your experience, it was no joke.

BALVIN: Bad, really bad, you know, really bad. And it's so sad for me to see young people that were the healthiest. And they die from COVID. You know, and they were way healthier than me.


JOSE: You know.


MELBER: That just part of the conversation we have with J. Balvin. And we also discussed the new album memoir, his reaction to people embracing his music so much on TikTok these days, and why he meditates every day. So, you can get the full interview right now. You can search Melber and J. Balvin on YouTube, or go to our Beat with Ari, Twitter page where it's the top link, we got into a lot more and he has a lot of interesting thoughts to share. Again, our thanks to J. Balvin for sitting down with us.

That does it for The Beat tonight. The ReidOut with Joy Reid is up next. Hi, joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Hey, Ari, what are you doing here? I'm surprised, you know, at the Met Gala.

MELBER: Is that tonight?

REID: Yeah. I'm surprised you're not there.

MELBER: This is what I'm going to do. I'm going to get some fashion tips because Lord knows I need him and I'll try harder to get there next year, OK.

REID: I see you in florals or leopard I need to see you in prints, I need to see prints, prints, prints, all right, do it next year.

MELBER: I loved it.

REID: Prints. OK.

MELBER: I loved it.

REID: Bye. Have a good night.


REID: Take care. All right, cheers.