IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

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

Guests: Lecrae, John Flannery


Authorities testify in Congress about the growing domestic terrorism threat. Democrats introduce legislation to protect democracy. How is anger among people who have followed the rules and gotten vaccinated actually impacting American politics and maybe the public health? Eric Trump complains about the fact that he`s getting subpoenas.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome, everyone, to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber. Great to be back with you.

And we begin tonight with the Democrats in Congress ramping up a bid to literally protect democracy and to try to prevent something that was talked about for so many years, you might have forgotten it, because it`s been about nine, 10 months since this was front and central in everyone`s concerns.

But given everything we learned over those four years of Trumpism, the Democrats want to try to make sure to stop the next would-be Trump from potentially abusing the powers, the awesome powers of the American presidency.

So today, Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Schiff introducing formally new sweeping legislation to deal with exactly this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): My reason for being here is as simple as the title, Protecting Our Democracy Act.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): It shouldn`t matter who the president of the United States is. We should want that president not to be able to abuse that office to enrich themselves. We should want them to maintain independence from the Justice Department, not use it as their own private law firm, not use it to go after their adversaries.


MELBER: The plan here is nonpartisan, as emphasized. The legislation would have rules to limit how presidents use or again potentially abuse pardon power, deal with the deadlines that might prevent otherwise prosecution of rogue presidents -- that`s obviously a look at the recent presidency of Trump -- and to enforce the ban on presidents who aren`t allowed to enrich themselves, also ideas to better protect DOJ independence.

This is all part of Congress` broader efforts at accountability, dealing with what Trump did, as well as preventing another future would-be Trump. And the context here is bright as day. You have this January 6 riot probe continuing to intensify, leaders of the committee there saying the first subpoenas will come within a week after gathering evidence.

And, today, amidst this background, technically unrelated, but obviously all related when you look at the concerns about politicians in America trying to resort to or invoke political violence, well, the news today as well is that officials are warning domestic terror remains the United States` top security threat.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The most significant and persistent terrorism-related threat facing our country today, which stems from both homegrown and domestic violent extremists who are inspired by a broad range of ideological motivations.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Domestic violent extremists radicalized by personalized grievances ranging from racial and ethnic bias, to anti- government, anti-authority sentiment, to conspiracy theories.

Since the spring of 2020, so the past 16, 18 months or so, we have more than doubled our domestic terrorism caseload.


MELBER: That`s the word from the experts testifying.

I`m joined now by Melissa Murray, NYU law professor, and Katty Kay, Washington editor with Ozy Media.

Good to see you both.

Professor, there are many different priorities. Governing is always about choosing between priorities. This could have been a day one thing. Could have been a 100-day thing, Democrats saying that they worked on a lot of other things, but it is now time to turn to Trump-proofing the presidency, given what they say Donald Trump exposed over those four years.

Your views on the substance and the timing.

MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So, the timing is not unusual, given everything that happened on January 6. They have been preoccupied with other things. And, as you say, this is not unrelated to what happened on January 6.

But we have heard over the course of the four years of the Trump administration this whole idea that what we had relied on to secure our democracy was nothing more than norms, norms that were traditionally observed, but were absolutely abandoned during the Trump presidency.

And so what the Protecting Our Democracy Act ostensibly does is to actually codify some of those norms. So, for example, it requires the president and vice presidential candidate to submit 10 years of tax returns as they are campaigning, something that all presidential nominees did going forward. But that did not happen with President Trump, nor with Vice President Pence.

So these sorts of things are merely efforts, I think, to codify norms that traditionally had been customary and had been observed.

MELBER: Yes, as you say, custom gets you very far with the type of people who tend to run for president, which really is a nonpartisan point.

Plenty of Republicans, Katty, said, oh, well, if the custom is to fork over some tax returns, great. Check me out. Look under the hood.

It wasn`t previously, before Trump, a widely partisan dispute. And yet the custom only goes so far. To use a somewhat hackneyed gun saying, when they say, oh, if guns were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns, there`s a limit to that kind of logic, but it certainly applied to the outlaw of Donald Trump as a candidate, who acted, Katty, like no custom was ever going to make him do anything.



I mean, God, how many times during the course of the Trump presidency did we kind of sit with our mouths wide open because yet another custom or norm had been breached, and the president had yet again done something that was not technically illegal, but was not what presidents normally did?

I mean, it happened on a on a weekly basis. Sometimes, it felt like it was happening on a daily basis. When you look at what Speaker Pelosi and Adam Schiff are proposing, there`s nothing in this list of things that sounds very radical, require the tax returns extend the deadline for prosecuting former presidents, ensure access to transition resources.

I mean, that should happen, right, you would think, in any healthy democracy. Disclose contacts between the White House and the Department of Justice. You can go through the list, and there`s nothing there that strikes me as massively radical or even particularly partisan.

But Professor Murray is right. We have come to realize that a democracy that depends just on norms and traditions and is not codified is at the whim of a president who`s prepared to abuse those norms and traditions.


And, Katty, I want to get your view on the president`s U.N. address today, where this very issue came up. I don`t want to make light of it. But I will say it`s a well-known speech pattern that if somebody says to you, look, I`m not perfect, but, you kind of start to say, OK, where are we going with this?

And the United States, in some ways, has been an example on the world stage. But I don`t think anyone around the world with an objective view here thinks that our democracy right now is anywhere near perfect. It looks very damaged, deliberately so from within the institution and within the United States, which is a sad thing for a newscaster to have to say, but I don`t think it`s very debatable.

So, with that in mind, Katty, as our international analysts, take a listen to how the president tried to thread this needle in front of the world stage, knowing what we just lived through, including an insurrection widely encouraged by his predecessor. Take a look.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And while no democracy is perfect, including the United States, we will continue to struggle to live up to the highest ideals to heal our divisions, and we face down violence and insurrection.

No matter how challenging or how complex the problems we`re going to face, government by and for the people is still the best way to deliver for all of our people.


MELBER: Katty.

KAY: There is not a household in Europe, probably not very many households around the world, that were not aware of what happened on January the 6th, that weren`t watching in real time as the seat of American democracy was assaulted.

There wasn`t a household really, that wasn`t aware of what Donald Trump did in bending the rules of the rule of law over the course of the last four years. And the big concern for, I think, most of American allies is that this could happen again.

I mean, I think part of the reason this law, that what Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi are proposing is so important is that you look at 2024, and there`s a chance that Donald Trump runs again, and there is a chance that he would run again and subvert those traditions and norms again as well.

So American democracy does look fragile. There`s no two ways around it. And it`s what makes allies anxious about saying, yes, we hear Joe Biden, he`s back on the world stage, he wants to restore America`s place in the world. And there`s always in the back of their minds a but. But where does it go in three years` time? What happens then?

MELBER: Professor?

MURRAY: Well, this reminds me of some of the other annals of our history.

I mean, I`m thinking back to 1954 with Brown vs. Board of Education. That was the segregation case about something in the United States, in the South. But the United States State Department filed an amicus brief in that case explaining that it could not have America profess to be a beacon on the world stage if it could not deal with its own democratic impairments at home.

So, what we do at home has consequences everywhere, not just at home, but abroad and for our moral standing in the world. So, again, I think, trying to shore up our democracy here in whatever way possible is necessary both domestically and internationally.


And, Professor, I mean, what you`re speaking about is really the deeper level of legitimacy. As the world changes more quickly than usual, for all the reasons we know, technology, the changing media environment, the way people get information, whether they look at it as sourced and fact-based and evidentiarily based or not, against that backdrop, you have would be demagogues that really thrive on the delegitimization of our of our institutions, Professor.

MURRAY: I think we saw that over the course of the four years of the Trump administration.

I mean, think of all of the things that are supposed to be a check on the president, the press, the courts. At every single turn, he tried to delegitimize them. Congress, he would not obey it. The courts, he said that there were Biden judge -- or there were Obama judges. These were not people who could be trusted.


And then he went after the media. Every single institution that could be used to check him, he tried to delegitimize, and we`re still dealing with the fallout of that.


And that goes to the just the unending cynicism, which is designed to exhaust us and break us down. So, I tell everyone, you can make up your own mind, think what you want to think, but, at an emotional level, as a journalist, I`m not going to be exhausted by it. I`m going to keep doing my job, which involves the fact-checking and a little bit of perseverance.

With that in mind, I want to show some of this reporting, Professor, just about the Trumpian MAGA cynicism here, "New York Times" reporting that the Trump campaign knew, as they were making these arguments in court, that their lawyers` voting machine claims were completely baseless, AKA, a lie. They campaign sat on findings about Dominion, even as their lawyer Sidney Powell and other lawyers attacked that company.

Quote: "An internal memo determined the allegations were untrue."

A two-part question for you, Professor, as you might give to one of your students. One, what is the legal significance of any of this? Because there are open cases that are testing and putting pressure on some of these lawyers? And, two, is it ultimately encouraging to you that this stuff didn`t work or discouraging that it got as far as it did?

MURRAY: Well, I think resulting from the admission that there was perhaps knowledge already that these were false claims, there can be repercussions in terms of sanctions for the lawyers who filed those claims, and maybe even dismissing the lawsuits outright.

But it goes to a basic issue that we`re seeing, not just in the context of electoral politics, but everywhere, this sort of base cynicism. If you think about the Texas abortion bill, SB-8, that is a naked and cynical attempt to push an unconstitutional law into effect. They know it is unconstitutional.

They know that, if they had challenged this under the proper channels, that it would have been enjoined immediately, and they don`t care. So we are seeing the same impulses, same cynicism migrate from the electoral context into other aspects of our legal system.

MELBER: Really interesting, Professor. I hadn`t thought about that connection, although that`s a story we have covered repeatedly on the program.

And, Katty, the professor makes the sort of very nuanced jurisprudential point that in saying, oh, they devised a plan in Texas that will be harder for courts to review, they`re admitting that they either believe or worry that courts would find that what they`re doing is illegal and unconstitutional.

So they are publicly saying, hey, look at our cynical -- quote, unquote -- "clever" plot to avoid the thing that our entire system of government is based on in the United States, which is that no single branch has ultimate power, they check each other. Trying to do an end-run around the courts, so that your power is not checked, in their case, in the service of probably, I will say, as a legal matter, probably violating current constitutional law and Roe v. Wade, is quite a doozy.

Given everything we have touched on, Katty, I give you the last word on any of the above.

KAY: Yes, I mean, I guess that`s why the Supreme Court was very careful to say this is not, of course, about the Constitution. This is about this technicality down in Texas.

They didn`t -- they wanted to run away from the Constitution as much as they could, because that`s where on that particular issue they`re on much shakier ground.

Is there cynicism? Of course, there is. We`re seeing it in the reporting from Bob Costa and Bob Woodward this week, that basically President Trump had accepted that he lost the election. And along comes Rudy Giuliani and says, look, I can find you the lawsuits, I can find you the cases, kind of pulling a rabbit out of a hat for President Trump, which is what he wanted to hear.

And so he kind of then decided, OK, yes, I have got -- I will carry on and give it a go. And that led up to the January the 6th assault on the Capitol, with huge ramifications, I think, is what we`re talking about all of this about a real awareness. And maybe this is the glass-half-full interpretation of this, Ari, is that we do now have an awareness of the potential fragility of the system.

I mean, you can say, yes, the system held, the courts held, the press held, but you can also look at it, as you were suggesting earlier, it might not have done it. It depended on a few individuals in Georgia and a governor down in Arizona. It depended on certain individuals who are prepared to buck their own system. It shouldn`t be like that.

It cannot depend on a few individuals doing the right thing in the face of enormous amount of pressure. And I guess the optimistic interpretation is that now you have members of Congress trying to deal with that.

MELBER: We always learn a lot from you, Katty. We love the optimism.

I can`t go half-full with you. I will go a third-full. That`s as far as I can go.

KAY: I`m trying. I`m trying. It is Tuesday.


MELBER: It is Tuesday. It is Tuesday. So true.

Katty Kay, with the insight and the optimism, Melissa Murray, with a legal lesson, as always, thanks to both of you.

We have a lot more in the program, including tonight a deep dive on how anger among people who have followed the rules and gotten vaccinated is actually impacting American politics and maybe our health. It`s an important story with a special guest.


Also, Eric Trump lost a lawyer. He`s going on live TV complaining about the fact that he`s getting subpoenas, which, of course, are lawful.

And later tonight, we will give you the fact-check on Tucker Carlson and why he is losing it.

Stay with us.


MELBER: This is America.

So, people who live in America have many inalienable rights, from freedom of religion, to freedom of thought, to freedom to take all kinds of actions.

But let`s be clear. The limits always kick in if you endanger other people. This has gotten a little confused these days, so let me put it as simply as possible. You have the right to believe that you drive even better when you`re drunk. You can think that. You don`t have the right to drive drunk in America without consequences, because it endangers other people.

There are many ways to get into this. Right now, we`re thinking along the lines of COVID and vaccinations, because this is the exact point that a, sadly, newly widowed woman in Iowa is making this week, her vaccinated husband dying of COVID after spending time with unvaccinated people indoors who refused to wear masks.


ARDITH KEPLINGER, WIDOW OF COVID-19 VICTIM: I have family members that don`t agree with me. And I guess that`s their right.


But Gary and I had rights too. And he doesn`t have them anymore.


MELBER: She`s not alone in how she`s feeling.

A lot of this does come back to what we think and what we feel. It has been a devastating year. Many were locked down. Many were dreaming of the type of thing that would let us all out freely, vaccines. And there are growing reports of how people who are unvaccinated, and aggressively so, sometimes not following safety rules and other precautions, are drawing scorn, contempt and resentment among the many people who have played by the rules.

Now, there`s more than one way to come at this, but we should be careful not to be overly euphemistic about everything. We don`t endorse everything Howard Stern says around here, but, boy, did he tap a nerve recently, getting a lot of headlines after saying basically what many people feel, putting words to anger.


HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) heads in our country who won`t get vaccinations, what the (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?

Make it all mandatory. Now we`re trapped in a country with imbeciles. We have no time for idiots in this country anymore.


MELBER: Straightforward, somewhat mournful, but somewhat angry.

And there are new signs that this type of anger -- I bet you have seen it, I bet you have heard about it -- may also become a political dynamic.

In fact, 59 percent of the Californians who say that those who refuse to get vaccinated are putting everyone else at risk are the same people who had a shockwave in politics, helping back up Democratic Governor Newsom, delivering a -- quote -- "historic embarrassment," as "The Washington Post" put it, to the Republicans` efforts to oust him largely over COVID safety issues.

He trounced conservatives, who were basically making the other side of the argument, complaining about mask mandates or giving voice to often discredited ideas about why people don`t need to get vaccinated.

Now, there`s a political strategist you may have seen on THE BEAT, Chai Komanduri, who argues here that the Democrats, in California at least, successfully appealed to the anger of the vaccinated people, the people who play by the rules.

And he notes that, for 30 years, Democrats have often avoided anger, while the GOP has embraced it. That looks to finally be changing.

He points the mid-1990s Clinton era, when Republican Newt Gingrich was all about the -- you see it right there on the cover of "TIME" -- mad as hell politics, angry about everything, Republicans so angry that they rode that wave all the way through the Tea Party, "Newsweek" famously dubbing Michele Bachmann the queen of rage. And she was proud of it.

Of course, we saw anger on the right in the Trump years. Book titles about the presidency read like a thesaurus for the word anger, from "Rage" to "Fire and Fury."

Now, no one is saying that untapped rage is the way to do everything. Indeed, it was a lot of rage and ignorance that we saw at the deadly insurrection we have covered. And it`s a lot of anger we see from Republican leaders. Sometimes not even clear what they`re angry about.

Take Senator Ted Cruz this spring.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): As we stand together and defend liberty, defend the Constitution, defend the Bill of Rights of every American, in the immortal words of William Wallace, "Freedom!"


MELBER: Yes, freedom.

Now, anger can drive all kinds of situations, psychologically, personally, socially, politically.

What we are seeing here, to say the very straightforward thing, is that one party that has largely tried to avoid this, the Democrats, are picking up on how anger works, possibly more justified than some of the Republican anger that we have seen.

This is anger about people who might put their personal convenience or their personal conspiracy theories above, the Democrats say, your family`s safety. Will Democrats tap the anger of the unvaccinated in a new way?


BIDEN: But, if you`re not going to help, at least get out of the way.

We have been patient. But our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has caused all of us.

QUESTION: On COVID misinformation, what`s your message to platforms like Facebook?

BIDEN: They`re killing people. I mean, they really -- look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And that`s -- and they`re killing people.


MELBER: It may not be a strategy, but it`s certainly a mood.

One of the most famously measured people in American politics, moderate Joe Biden, making it very clear day after day, when it comes to COVID and the anti-vaccination movement, he`s had it.

A lot of other people have had it too. And I want to be clear with you, because it`s not always so simple. Based on what we have learned about health policy, raging against the unvaccinated is unlikely to convert them to get vaccinated.

Indeed, we have heard from experts on persuasion and public health that that is not the way to bring people aboard. But that`s just one piece of this.


On the politics, raging on behalf of doctors and nurses and teachers and on behalf of science itself, well, that may not only be cathartic for some people. It may be the Democrats` road to a righteous anger, which we have seen in American politics is a proven renewable resource.

So, is this really happening? And what are the implications?

Well, the expert I just quoted, Chai Komanduri, a veteran of several presidential campaigns, is here when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: If you`re mad as hell, and you don`t want to take it anymore, well, maybe you have come to the right place.

You hear the music. That means it`s a very special day on THE BEAT. We call it "Chai Day" with political strategist Chai Komanduri, a veteran of several presidential campaigns and to whom we are indebted for some of the points we just went through.

Good to see you again, sir.

CHAI KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good to see you, Ari. How are you?

MELBER: I`m good.

Not all anger is created equally. No one`s out here saying just rage through the week or the year. But, as we quoted, you argue that the Democrats may have stumbled or found something here. Explain.


Anger as a political commodity has been wholly owned by the GOP for over 30 years. It was 30 years ago that Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh made the GOP the party of angry white males. Thirty years later, nothing has changed. The party`s basis still angry, it is still white, it is still male.

During that period, Democrats have avoided anger. And part of the reason has to do with race and gender dynamics as to who was allowed to be angry in this country, due to some terrible double standards of the past.

Obama, if you remember, could never be angry. I remember at the time thinking that he could never conduct press conferences the way Chris Christie at the time was conducting press conferences, let alone Trump.

MELBER: Well, Chai...

KOMANDURI: If you remember Hillary Clinton -- yes.

MELBER: Chai, before we get to Hillary, which is also fair, Obama was so restricted from anger that the "Key & Peele" show had a sketch where he had his own anger translator.

KOMANDURI: Yes, he had to have an anger translator, because everybody understood that a black man in American political life simply could not be angry if he was to be successful, that Donald Trump did not need an anger translator. He was himself, the angry person, the angry translator of his - - of the GOP base.

Hillary Clinton, if you remember, allowed herself that moment of anger and the Benghazi hearings, after being peppered endlessly by stupid GOP questions. She exploded. And the GOP used that clip endlessly and out of context.

The reality is that Trump can scream and yell his way to the presidency. Brett Kavanaugh can scream and yell his way to the Supreme Court. But women and minorities simply are not allowed, politically, to show anger.

And the Democratic Party, as the party of women and minority voters, restrain themselves from showing anger or tapping anger. That has all changed. If you look at the recent California recall, the Democratic Party has become the party of angry vaccinated voters. And there are millions of them.

MELBER: You lay it out so well.

And it`s interesting, because I think what you`re saying will be familiar to so many people who`ve been in environments or offices or social places where these double standards kick in. Your point is that, if you`re sitting around in a campaign -- and you have worked on them -- you`re not changing that. You`re trying to get to 50, plus one.


MELBER: So the Obama folks are saying, well, the long-term project of shifting that systemic structural workplace sexism, racism, et cetera, is going to happen after November.

And yet you`re also helping expose some of that, why there is this sort of gap.


To the point you raised, we were looking at the history here. Bill Clinton was certainly politically adept. And he spoke to the very racial dynamic you say with anger. Take a look.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is psychologically a difficult time for a lot of white males, the so-called angry white males.

It`s pretty easy for people like that to be told by somebody else in the middle of a political campaign with a hot 30-second ad you didn`t do anything wrong, they did it to you.


MELBER: Given that, what do you see here in what you call the anger of the vaccinated, which, while not exclusively on the left, leans that way, we have seen in the data?

KOMANDURI: Yes, I mean, the Roman philosopher Seneca said that anger is really about defeated expectations.

The reason, for example, that you get angry when someone butts in front of you at the grocery store line is because you did not expect that somebody would behave that way. You get upset about it.

What we are seeing with vaccinated people is that there -- it was an expectation that vaccinated people had -- and I certainly had it myself, as a vaccinated person -- that everybody would get the vaccine, everybody would get the vaccine, and we would all agree to end this pandemic.

And the fact that that did not happen has led to real anger in the country. And it`s something that the Democratic Party can very much tap. If you look at the GOP, one of the reasons that they have been so successful tapping anger is that there is and there was, continues to be exploitation by white men that their status will not be touched, that the status that they have enjoyed for millennia will continue.

Now, that`s an unrealistic expectation. It should not continue. However, that was their expectation, and they are endlessly angry about it. And the GOP has been very adroit at exploiting and using that anger. It`s time for Democrats to do the same.

Anger is a great tool to mobilize voters. The Republican Party has shown this for 30 years. And it`s about time that the Democrats do the same.

MELBER: I think it`s really interesting, the points you raise there. In both cases, you`re speaking about expectations or a social contract. In the former, it`s a social contract that is being rewritten under some strain, but for very good reason, given what we want to be if we`re going to be an egalitarian society.

In the latter, on the vaccine, as you say, absent this sort of huge MAGA supersized attack on Biden in the vaccine, it didn`t have to be this way. The first months of COVID were complicated. And Democrats and Republicans, as we have covered in the show, and in the governor`s mansions, stumbled.

But this era is 2021. It does not need to be this way. As you say, the violation of this medical social contract, which from schools to the military, is something that evidence-based societies have used before, is upsetting people for good reason.

So I think you -- tying that all together is quite interesting tonight. If we`re thinking extra, we know it`s "Chai Day." Thanks for being here.

KOMANDURI: Thank you, Ari. Glad to be here.

MELBER: It`s good to see you.

Coming up, one of the anti-vaxxers we have mentioned, well, Tucker Carlson, running into a brick wall. We will explain. That includes Seth Meyers going right after him. That will be fun to watch.

But before we get there, an update on that Trump Org criminal probe. We have told you that`s continuing.

Well, we have got new details on when the trial will begin and why Eric Trump is mad that he keeps getting subpoenaed.



MELBER: The probes into the Trump Organization continue.

One of Eric Trump`s lawyers in the New York attorney general`s civil case has now quit. This comes as Donald Trump`s son, an executive V.P. of Trump Org, also complaining on television about lawful subpoenas.


ERIC TRUMP, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Every single day since my father ran for president, my father and our entire family and our company has been under investigation.


E. TRUMP: Every single day, Maria, we get subpoena after subpoena after subpoena.


MELBER: Subpoena after subpoena. Yes, that is how investigations work.

Meanwhile, a new court appearance for indicted CFO Allen Weisselberg is opening up questions about where those subpoenas are headed. His lawyer now saying in public there that they expect more indictments in that criminal probe of the Trump Organization. The lawyer reveals that prosecutors recently discovered a -- quote -- "tranche of evidence in a co- conspirator`s basement."

That is -- sounds like new evidence, and the idea that there`s some other new co-conspirator also new. Interesting stuff.

So let`s bring in a legal expert, former federal prosecutor John Flannery.

What do you see here?

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, what I see is, I think that maybe it`s the same co-conspirator that`s identified in the indictment.

And we have two possibilities. One is Calamari, who`s the chief operating officer. And the other one is the chief -- rather, the guy in charge of day-to-day dealings financially, the controller. And those two -- that`s McConney -- are prime suspects for the role of the unindicted co- conspirator.

Now, it suggests, if it`s in a basement, it`s not in a tower. And it also raises questions about spoilation, if these documents were diverted from where they were and were just found. And I wonder if the son of Calamari went to the grand jury, testified against his dad, as Matthew Calamari Jr. was before the grand jury.

MELBER: And why would the Trump side lawyers try to get any talk going about further indictments? It almost sounds like something that someone rooting against the company would say.

FLANNERY: It`s not a move I would make as a defense counsel.

I think maybe he was preoccupied with the notion of delaying the trial. And he wanted to suggest that this is not the stable situation it appears, that it`s just about Weisselberg, that it is about other people. Don`t know who they are, or we`re not sure.

Of course, America wants it to be about one other person that never seems to be mentioned. And that`s Trump himself. And in the 15th count of the indictment, it talks about how there were records involving Trump`s special account that were deleted. And that was in September, when we were talking about the ladies of the night that Mr. Trump was engaged with.

MELBER: And, finally, briefly when they say they now have a trial scheduled, is that going to hold?

FLANNERY: Probably not.

The three million documents that they cite may legitimately be difficult -- be difficult to go through and arrange them in any way that allows them to make the arguments they need to make.


It depends on what form the government gave them the documents.

MELBER: Yes. Yes.

FLANNERY: I mean, years ago, when they started (AUDIO GAP) computer documents, my friends that weren`t particularly computer-savvy would print the thousands of pages.

And what you need to do is to index them and then to do Boolean searches, this plus that, and not the (AUDIO GAP).

And that`s the only way to prepare a list like this.

MELBER: You need -- you know, John, you need a Bates code. You need a doc review room. You`re giving me all kinds of litigation memories.


MELBER: Good to see you, John.

And that`s what...


FLANNERY: ... right now, right?


MELBER: Yes, exactly.

FLANNERY: So, you`re not in there. Yes.

MELBER: Good to see you, John.

FLANNERY: Good to see you too, Ari. Thanks for having me.

MELBER: That`s -- absolutely.

That`s the update on the Trump Org probe.

When we come back, Tucker Carlson has a bizarre conspiracy theory that`s getting him into hot water, with the Seth Meyers treatment and our own news fact-check -- coming up.


MELBER: FOX News` Tucker Carlson has continued to push vaccine misinformation. He`s given airtime to conspiracy theories, and, sometimes there`s just outright lies.


Vaccine hesitancy is a big issue, including for viewers of FOX News. You take it together, what you see on your screen, and you have lies about the safety of the vaccine, you have all kinds of COVID misinformation, and now, newly angry, you have the attacks on the federal mandates from Joe Biden.

Now, we have reported that the vaccines do work, they are overwhelmingly safe, and that if you`re interested in a legal debate, the mandates we`re looking at are actually less severe than many that have been upheld for over a century by the Supreme Court.

Now we have a daughter blaming Carlson for -- quote -- "playing a role" -- her view -- in the vaccine hesitance that she says led to her father`s death.

All of this comes out of FOX`s studios, where employees like Tucker Carlson have to be vaccinated or regularly tested to even go to work.

Now there`s a new conspiracy theory. And we`re going to play this so you can understand what people are hearing, as well as getting a fact-check. Take a look.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: The point of mandatory vaccination is to identify the sincere Christians in the ranks, the free thinkers, the men with high testosterone levels, and anyone else who does not love Joe Biden and make them leave immediately.

It`s a takeover of the U.S. military.


MELBER: It takes a lot to get your head around this one. But, again, you have to remember how many millions of people watch Tucker Carlson, they see him in a newsroom, and they think he`s saying things that are broadly or arguably true.

There`s no evidence for the claim that the president or the federal agencies are somehow using vaccine requirements for a military takeover. Indeed, keep in mind, if you drain all of the current polarization out of this, we just already know the fact that the United States military mandates up to 17 different vaccines for people to serve.

COVID, for all of the talk, is just the 18th.

Carlson is here only objecting to one of these 18 military vaccines. And, according to him, well, there`s some sort of gender politics at play.

This is a dangerous conspiracy theory, with some toxic masculinity apparently thrown in for good measure. Indeed, if you go all the way back - - and we do that sometimes around here -- you can see that this kind of echoes something from "Dr. Strangelove," the 1964 classic, where there were worries about military medical plots and attacks on Americans` bodily fluids.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I can no longer sit back and allow communist infiltration, communist indoctrination, communist subversion and the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.


MELBER: That was satire.

The way Tucker Carlson talks these days, it`s self-satire. But we will update it all, because we have a professional satirist who could put it better than us. Seth Meyers puts it in perspective.


SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": I will say this, though. If cable news ever gets boring for Tucker, he would make a hell of an improviser, because my man knows how to heighten.

If they can force you to take a vaccine, what can`t they force you to do? Can they force you to take psychotropic meds? Make you wear a seat belt? Make you put your shoes on in Olive Garden, even though they tell you, when you`re here, you`re family?


MEYERS: And then when you try to fill a briefcase with unlimited breadsticks, can they call security?


MELBER: Shout-out to the Olive Garden, where everybody knows your name.

We did want to show you that, so you can fact-check anyone who might have heard about the misinformation over there on FOX.

Now, I`m going to fit in a break. When we come back, I have something very important about justice in America with a special guest.

Stay with us.



MELBER: The Biden Justice Department has been quite busy behind the scenes sometimes, because it doesn`t always make the top of the newscast, reversing Trump legal policies on everything from police department accountability to prison reform.

The DOJ has got new civil and constitutional rights policies, reversing Trump on the approach to police oversight and managing choke holds and no- knock warrants.

And, meantime, many states also taking measures to rethink the approach to mass incarceration.

And that brings us to the roughly two million adults who are currently incarcerated in the U.S. and how a Grammy-winning artists, the Christian rapper Lecrae, is engaging incarcerated people right now with a contest to support musicians in prison and raise funds for charity along the way.


LECRAE, HIP-HOP ARTIST: Incarcerated individuals and participating DOC facilities get to submit their lyrics for the competition. Myself and my team will produce the record and the song. And the winner on site at the facility and his song will be available for everybody who`s incarcerated.


MELBER: It`s quite a project.

And it brings us to a very special guest, Grammy Award winner, "New York Times" bestselling author, entrepreneur, co-owner and president of Reach Records and quite a rapper, if I may say so myself.

Lecrae, thanks for being here.

LECRAE: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Honored.

MELBER: Absolutely.

There`s a lot I want to get into, but let`s start with this project. How did it come about? What are your goals for the community here?

LECRAE: Yes, well, I have been an advocate of the incarcerated community for quite some time now, always wanted to make sure that I was involved in any kind of way possible, releasing music early into the system, going to visit, doing shows.

And the opportunity came about to partner with JPay to do more of this type of work. And, of course, I leapt at it and thought it was a phenomenal concept and idea.

Oftentimes, people who are incarcerated are looked upon as disposable. We tend to have this perspective that this is the wasteland of society or the trash, human trash. And it`s just not the case. These are invaluable people who have plenty of contributions.


Some of them are -- have been the most vulnerable people in society. And so that`s why they ended up where they are. And what a great opportunity to use some of the ingenuity and gifting and to highlight a lot of it through this particular program, when they get to participate and create and let the world be both transformed and blown away at the immense talent that exists beyond those walls.


And as I mentioned, when people then get hooked in, your lyrics, rap is poetry. Songwriting is always, throughout time, space and culture, about helping us understand each other. A lot -- you have bars that connect with your own belief system and with reading a lot, which I think is interesting.

I`m not going to say you`re like the "Reading Rainbow" of modern hip-hop, but I have a couple lyrics I wanted to share from you and get your analysis of.

So, this is on a song that is fantastic, nonfiction, where you say -- shortly after some things, you went through, you say: "I got a hold of Tim Keller`s books. Man, I promise you it`s like my whole life changed. Andy Crouch wrote a book about culture-making, and after that, I had to make a slight change. Ask the homies. I ain`t do it for the money, man. I made Church Clothes out of love. And me and Street working day and night. Wait a minute. Gravity is blowing up."

And you say: "I won a Grammy, and I ain`t even tripping on it. I got a mission that I`m fighting for."

There`s a lot densely packed in there. Tell us about why you`re shouting out books. Do you want people to go read those? Or is that just important to you? And how you`re mixing -- you`re mixing your success with saying, but it wasn`t only pursuing success that got you to these heights.

LECRAE: I`m leaving bread crumbs in my music that I feel like are beneficial for other people that will help them to change as well.

And, of course, music is a stream of consciousness. And I`m articulating what I have been experiencing. And I want other people to experience that.

So there`s just a lot of authenticity and storytelling that I want to see happen. There are a lot of many facets of diamond. We`re artists, but there`s many sides to us. And so the music kind of allows you to say, wait a minute, wait a minute, what is this that I`m seeing? What is this I`m hearing?

And so that`s what you get when you listen to it.

MELBER: We don`t do a lot of labels here, so we could say you`re a writer and a rapper. We could say you`re a rapper who deals with all kinds of themes, including your God and Christianity, or some people use that term Christian rapper.

I don`t care about the label one way or the other. But I`m curious what you think about where faith and religiosity fits into music and hip-hop now.

LECRAE: My faith is -- was -- I went through a lot of different value systems and beliefs, and so on and so forth.

And most of it was about me trying to earn this relationship with God. But where my plane landed was less about religion and more about a relationship, where I believe that God reached down and pulled me up and rescued me.

And so that`s a lot of why I do what I do, a lot of why I create the music that I create. I want to paint a picture of a broken person who`s been rescued. Even with this -- the whole campaign, we`re caring about people behind those prison walls because folks see them as broken people and they`re no good.

But, in my mind, we`re all broken people, and we need to be rescued, need to be cared for.

MELBER: I love that. And you don`t need to hear it from me, but there`s a lot of stuff that is built off the negative, the conflict, the glitz.

You have been out here for a long time, and recognized for it, doing work on a whole different plane of positivity. So, happy to share that with our viewers. And appreciate you spending some time with us, Lecrae.

LECRAE: It`s an honor. I appreciate you all.

MELBER: And shout-out to Lecrae. We appreciate that.

Some of our most fun moments on THE BEAT sometimes happen online, not on TV. Take a look at some highlights.


MELBER: Oh, my God, what time is it?

MEYERS: It`s time to do the interview, Ari. Put your phone is a moment. Come on, buddy.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s a moment. It`s a mood. It`s a vibe.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s a desperate man.

MELBER: Michael and Ari. It`s like "Roger & Me."

JEFF GARLIN, ACTOR: Dig this. You ready?

MELBER: What do you got?

GARLIN: I`m the Emmys? I`m waiting to hear if "Curb" wins or not.

MAYA WILEY (D), FORMER NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: What we need most is not ideology. It`s evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Fish, and that`s Chips.

DR. RUTH WESTHEIMER, SEX THERAPIST: When are you going to call me?

MELBER: This week.





MELBER: That`s what we do when we`re not on TV, so you can follow me @THEBEATWITHARI or @AriMelber. You can always find me at

We have all the Dr. Ruth outtakes that didn`t make air. So we wanted to tell you that.

Again, thanks to all our guests tonight.

That does it for me here on THE BEAT. It is time for Joy Reid.

Hi Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: How you doing?

You had me at Dr. Ruth outtakes. That`s all you needed to say. I didn`t even need the festive music.


REID: I`m there for it.

Thank you very much. Have a great evening. Bye.

MELBER: Peace.