The FBI releases new video of a suspect they believe may have left pipe bombs near Capitol Hill. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is rebuked by a court over his COVID policies. Will other Republican states copy Texas` abortion and voting restriction measures? Senior presidential adviser Cedric Richmond discusses the Biden agenda.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you very much.
Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.
We begin tonight with breaking news on the January 6 investigation.
The FBI now releasing this new video of the suspect that they believe may have left these pipe bombs near Capitol Hill. This was the night before the now infamous January 6 insurrection. Now, you can see, according to the video, the suspect sitting on a bench near the DNC headquarters, where one of these bombs, authorities know, was placed. You can see the movement there.
The FBI also releasing a map that shows the very route that this suspect took while placing, ultimately, those two bombs, a reminder of how much worse all of this could have been. The other one was left in an alley behind the RNC.
There`s also a moment where you can see a car and even a dog walker passing right by the suspect. This is the real stuff that the authorities go through. Some of it is harrowing, when, again, we think about the efforts that were made to cause even more destruction and possibly death.
Meanwhile, today, in the same sphere of the authorities trying to do accountability, there`s been the largest court hearing so far in these related probes, with more than a dozen members of the Oath Keepers militia group facing conspiracy charges and new court filings revealing some of the rioters are calling their part of the federal jail the -- quote -- "patriot unit."
It matters because this relates not only to what a few indicted criminals or defendants are doing -- some have pled guilty, some have not -- it matters because we are seeing the mainlining of this talk and this belief system in the Republican Party and on the right. It includes even some elected officials in the Republican Party claiming that these individuals who are defendants, presumed innocent, but defendants in a criminal process involving violence on tape, now we`re being told by Republicans some of them are actually automatically legally innocent, that they are political prisoners, that this is all a sham.
And that`s the premise for this Justice For J6 rally that we have been reporting on, because there should be scrutiny in advance. It`s planned for Washington next week. It`s Justice For January 6. That`s the politicized rhetoric they`re using. That has the nation`s capital on high alert ahead of the rally.
Capitol Police putting out a bulletin that says they have a robust security posture planned for September 18, and all available staff will be working. It`s the kind of statement that makes you think they want everyone to know, including anyone showing up in Washington, they will not allow for any rerun of the January 6 crimes.
Speaker Pelosi also expected to get a security briefing on the potential threat on Monday.
We turn now in our coverage to David Frum, a senior editor at "The Atlantic" with White House experience, and Joyce Vance, an MSNBC legal analyst and former federal prosecutor who relatedly worked on an investigation into the Olympic park bomber, Eric Rudolph.
Welcome to you both.
David, we mentioned both the facts, the surveillance footage. That`s all the sort of real process stacked against kind of a dangerous fantasy process of political prisoners and violent rhetoric.
What`s your analysis of the way these are interacting within the Republican Party right now?
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, be aware that these two processes, the legal and the political, as you say, they interact.
And it`s not that one is more real than the other. But I invite your viewers to think, what will all of this be like in a few months if the speaker of the House is a Republican, which could well happen, and if the leadership of the House of Representatives and half -- and maybe the Senate too, but certainly the House, is involved in trying to suppress and minimize?
There`s going to be a real limit to what the juridical process, the prosecutorial process can accomplish. And I think one of the ways that American society has gone wrong through the Trump presidency -- and it started with looking to a special prosecutor to deal with the Russia matter -- it`s that there`s been on the liberal side of the spectrum an overconfidence, too much trust in what courts, prosecutors can do for you when you face a political challenge that doesn`t come from a fringe.
I mean, the people executing these terrible crimes, of course, are fringe - - but when there`s a permission structure that belongs to a very large part of society. You cannot criminalize -- or you cannot stigmatize what a very large part of your society believes.
You can only meet it in the field of politics. And that`s the place where people have to go. And I`m -- and when you look at the decline of intensity this summer among people who opposed what happened on January 6, and we can chart that decline in intensity, you can see that`s the permission to worry about, not what the courts are going to do, but what the people who care about this or did care about it are not doing right now.
MELBER: David, ever erudite, I think you make an important larger point that dates all the way back to what the American left believed even during the Warren court, if you want to go back that far, which is kind of hoping for certain institutions, whether, in that case, it`s Justice Warren or a Bob Mueller figure or whomever else, to do that which is not being done in the civic democratic and political arena.
Joyce, your thoughts on the above, as well as the actual legal process?
JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So, I think David raises an important point here.
The criminal justice system is meant to achieve specific and limited goals. It`s a vehicle for prosecuting individuals for crimes, not just because we don`t like their conduct. As you and I have discussed before, Ari, it has to be for specific crimes that are on the books, and you have to prove those specific elements.
So, for instance, today, we have a plea agreement entered into with an Alabama man, Lonnie Coffman, and he will reportedly plead guilty. And there are specific violations involving the possession of firearms where he wasn`t supposed to have them.
Asking the criminal justice system to address these larger societal issues that we face, this problem that we have where a significant part of the country is unable to understand what is true and what is not true, that is something that we will have to address in the political context.
And one would like to live in a world where it would be addressed by both political parties. The reality may be that this stays on Democrats` doorstep to fix. So far, they have been really unwilling to cross -- go across that political divide and take responsibility for it alone.
But we`re at a point where it may become incumbent upon them to try to reinforce some sense of what is and isn`t true and hope enough Republican leaders like Liz Cheney will go along with them that they can reach at least parts of the Republican base.
MELBER: Yes, and that goes to the mainlining of these issues, which is something I wanted to discuss with both of you.
Our guests stay.
But the January 6 lies are not just some sort of history process. They`re - - also, we`re seeing a blueprint for the future. Top Republicans have been rallying around the Trump playbook, attacking democracy, election integrity. This is going into now the next election.
So, take a look, for example, at Trump now predicting problems in next Tuesday`s recall election in the California governor`s race, where the GOP is trying to oust the Democratic incumbent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it`s probably rigged. They`re sending out all ballots.
It`s all -- the ballots are mail-out/mail-in ballots. In fact, I guess you even have a case where you can make your own ballot. When that happens, nobody`s going to win except these Democrats. So, look, they`re very good. The one thing they`re good at is rigging elections. So I predict it`s a rigged election. Let`s see how it turns out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Nobody`s going to win but the Democrats.
I want to make a quick point here before I bring the panel back. Let`s just be very clear. Politically, this is a very weak stance. The Republican Party and there through Trump bracing for defeat and a ready-made argument to explain another Republican loss.
But it`s deeper than just who`s up or down in a given recall election. This is, I want to say tonight to you, worse for our civics, because other democracies have declined, or worse, when it has become commonplace to insist that every election is a fraud, while we also will not easily expect people to honor a peaceful transfer of power, which doesn`t work well if too large a plurality believes it`s a transfer of power based on fraud.
Our panel back with us.
I wanted to make that point very clearly tonight, to the viewers and to anyone listening, David, as we head into that election next week. But it really does also overlap with what you`re warning about.
Is there an antidote that doesn`t require the cooperation of Republican leaders, who are clearly going in the other direction?
FRUM: Well, there`s an antidote that comes if Republicans do badly in California, if the recall doesn`t work, if Virginia -- if the Virginia suburbs show themselves not disenchanted with the administration they have had.
And that Virginia race is going to turn out to be very important, because it is going to be microexamined to say, what happens in Northern Virginia? Biden is president in part because he overperformed among many historically Republican groups. He overperformed in suburbs. He overperformed among men.
Is that continuing? And that is going to be studied by Republican professionals who want to know, am I getting away with this?
The story for DeSantis is a fascinating one. Rick (sic) DeSantis is doing a bunch of things in Florida that are pretty unpopular with his own Florida voters. He is risking his 2022 reelection, which still looks like a reasonable proposition. He`s taking (AUDIO GAP). He would be an easy reelect.
He`s now going to have a tougher reelect than he otherwise would face in order to align himself with the people he believes will decide the Republican primary in 2024.
What happens in the Virginia suburbs is going to give a big shot of reality to weather DeSantis` gamble is right or whether it`s unwise.
And I think you lay that out, which is why it could look very easily from afar, and even up close, even inside Florida, like a totally bonkers strategy even on the politics, to say nothing of amoral considerations about whether you are knowingly risking the lives of constituents for a political agenda.
But, as you say, it is entirely eyeing of a group of individuals in a primary electorate well beyond his own state.
Joyce (AUDIO GAP) investigation, one of the problems with even well-meaning journalism is that we do spend more time on the things that go really wrong than the near misses. And I think a lot of storytelling is like that.
Take a look at -- I believe we have just 800 interviews here. I`m looking at the stats on the pipe bomb investigation, 23,000 video files, 300 tips. Tell us about that probe.
VANCE: FBI is really good at handling these sorts of situations. That`s not to say that they`re fast. These investigations often don`t move quickly.
But, because the FBI and the ATF have a history of working together collaboratively to revolve -- to resolve situations where individuals place the public at risk, even with bombs that don`t go off, I think what we`re seeing here today is a really firm example of progress.
This is, of course, the bombs that were placed outside of the DNC and the RNC on the eve of January 6. The FBI still doesn`t know who appears to be a gentleman who is pictured in these videos is, but they`re, in essence, crowdsourcing the investigation, putting this out, because they have determined that this person is likely not someone who is local.
So they`re putting out as much information as possible and calling on the country to help them and identify this person.
They will be very interested in talking with them to learn if this was an isolated incident, if this person acted on their own initiative, or if this was some sort of an operation that was designed to draw law enforcement away from the Capitol on January 6, because, as bad as it was, if one or more bombs had gone off, and if personnel had been deployed to respond to those situations, then, when the crowd, the angry mob approached the Capitol, there would have been that many fewer resources to deploy against them.
The ultimate question that the FBI is trying to answer here is, was there some greater conspiracy that was involved?
VANCE: And, if so, what was the objective of that conspiracy, and who was involved? So this is an important question.
MELBER: Important, fascinating, full of intrigue. As you say, we now know what we know. So we are inherently biased by that. We know that, ultimately, it was such a large gathering that they did overcome the protection there.
But, on the eve of that, I don`t know that the people involved could have known that they would have been able to do that alone. As you explain, one theory of the case the authorities are looking at was that this was a highly coordinated measure. You have two bombs go off in Washington, D.C., at both political party headquarters, you can imagine a lot of resources going there, and whether that was coordinated.
We`re going to put the video back up on the screen, because the other thing I wanted to ask you, Joyce, just a more basic policing level, is, you have worked with law enforcement on a lot of probes. I mentioned one of them in your introduction.
In what other era would you have a video like this of the suspect, but they`d be in a mask, and that wouldn`t have been suspicious? I mean, if the guy didn`t have the mask on, I imagine they`d be a lot farther along towards the identification.
VANCE: You know, this is something that we talk about a lot as academics teaching criminal law, how much more difficult it is to identify people in an environment where everyone is wearing a mask.
But the reality is, the FBI will have capacity to enhance this video, I`m sure that that`s already been done in one of the Quantico labs. And they will perhaps be able to pick up on items of clothing or other indicia of identity that they will be able to use.
So it`s really important that people in the public look at this video carefully to see if they recognize this individual or anything about them and that, if so, they call the FBI tip line. But video is really a great tool, mask or not, for identifying people involved in criminal conduct.
MELBER: Yes, and there it is, the shot of just an unknown, unsuspecting dog walker, also masked in what was that moment that now has so much more law enforcement significance.
Joyce, thank you for walking us through it. David, thank you for your thoughts, as always.
I want to fit in a break, but we have some major developments on COVID tonight, a rebuke to a MAGA Governor, and some great news about how well the vaccines are working from new studies, if you haven`t heard it yet. Dr. Dean is here.
Later, news on Republican leaders using Texas extremism from voting to abortion, and how it`s a road map in other states.
And then, later, Biden`s full-court press to reshape the safety net. We have a top official from the Biden administration from the White House tonight.
Stay with us.
MELBER: Turning to major developments on COVID tonight, including some good news in a moment.
But we begin with this risk facing America, which now averages over 150,000 COVID cases a day. Does that sound worse than usual? Well, that`s because it is.
In fact, we are four times the COVID caseload now as compared to this time last year, before a vaccine even came out, and more kids are testing positive than ever before in America. And about 1, 500 adults are dying of COVID every day.
Now, faced with a crisis, there are diverging responses from governors. Right now, Kentucky is led by a moderate Democrat who is touting safety measures, while stressing this danger of the surge in COVID, a contrast to Florida led by an archconservative, who notes that vaccines prevent illness and death, but is telling constituents it doesn`t matter to him or anyone else if they get vaccinated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): We have tents set up to triage people outside of them.
We have called FEMA strike teams, the National Guard. We have more people in the hospital because of COVID than ever before.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): The vaccines have helped people ward off severe illness.
It`s about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn`t impact me or anyone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Republican Governor DeSantis says vaccination doesn`t impact anyone else. False. It`s way more contagious among the unvaccinated.
Now, you can decide your own health decisions, but you can`t get the facts from people who don`t have them. As Drake explains on his new album this week, how could anybody tell you the truth when they`re misinformed?
And the misinformed don`t have any truth to tell. America`s COVID challenge is caught between the vaccinated, who want to celebrate, and the unvaccinated, facing a larger COVID surge than ever before. Or, if you speak OVO, like Drake, you might say it`s bigger now than before COVID.
And this is the part where all my partners know what we in it for. And this is the part where we`re going to throw us a party after the war, because vaccinated America is ready to party. New studies show vaccines working even better than originally thought.
That`s against COVID and the Delta variant. The odds of getting COVID after vaccination are actually now as low as one in 5,000, and even as low as one in 10,000 in places where more people got vaccinated, like L.A. and Chicago, according to "New York Times" reporting.
So, numerically, scientifically, the issue is the unvaccinated. These are the people most likely to get hospitalized or even face death. And this is at a time when we`re learning the vaccines work even better, even against Delta, than we thought.
So where do we go from here right now with two Americas diverging?
Well, we have a doctor and a governor in the house. Howard Dean is here when we`re back in just 60 seconds.
MELBER: We`re tracking COVID developments.
And President Biden actually is planning to reveal a plan on combating the coronavirus at this stage tomorrow. It`s got several points, including boosting vaccines, public-private partnerships, and where do we go from here in what he describes as a crisis for the unvaccinated and a pandemic for only that community, 25 percent of the country`s still avoiding a single shot.
I`m joined now by the physician, former Governor DNC Chair Howard Dean.
Thanks for being here.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on, Ari.
MELBER: I don`t know, all in lightness and seriousness, because we do both around here, Governor, whether you have checked out the new Drake album. It is the number one album in the country right now. Have you not?
DEAN: I have not. I have not.
MELBER: But I bring the wisdom to you.
MELBER: Go ahead.
DEAN: I get so mad at Eric Clapton for pooh-poohing vaccines that I haven`t listened to any rock for a while.
MELBER: And that`s your choice. You could speak with your fandom.
MELBER: But I mentioned the wisdom from him because I`m curious your thoughts on it.
Yes, people make their own decisions. But what Drake, Champagne Papi, says is, you can`t get the truth from people who are misinformed. And that does seem to apply.
DEAN: Yes, I mean, look, this has been a horrible situation from the beginning.
And it started with Trump, who capitalized on people`s fears and ignorance. And then it`s been continued by people like DeSantis and Greg Abbott. It`s -- I just spent the morning talking to the prime minister of Georgia, the Republic of Georgia.
And it is -- this -- we have to worry about authoritarianism on the Republican Party -- in the Republican Party. And what DeSantis and Abbott are doing is leading people astray, harming them to accentuate their own political careers.
It`s wrong. They don`t deserve to be in office, because they`re not leaders. They are sycophants.
MELBER: When DeSantis says, well, whether you get the vaccine or not doesn`t affect anyone else, that seems...
DEAN: It`s a lie. It`s just a lie. There`s no nice way to...
MELBER: Go ahead.
DEAN: Yes, there`s no nice way -- yes, there`s no nice way to say it. It`s a lie. It affects an enormous number of people.
There are people`s children who are dying in ICUs and there are people`s relatives dying in ICUs because DeSantis is an incompetent governor.
MELBER: Yes, and I think that`s important, because, again, there is a cartoonishly, sort of bullying version of the public health messaging on vaccines that may not work very well or may offend people.
And that -- I think there`s reasons to try to avoid that. But there`s also, of course, a necessary fact-based dialogue. So if somebody wants to discuss the fact that this does affect other people, it does affect their community, it does affect the elderly, it does affect their schools, but they have their reasons that they don`t want to get vaccinated, then, based in that factual foundation, you talk about that choice.
It seems like far bigger problems for Florida to have a governor who`s actually putting out the misinformation, which is trying to give people a kind of a license or, to use David Frum`s quotation from earlier tonight, a permission structure, to do the irresponsible thing, and also pretend that it is not going to affect anyone else, Doctor.
DEAN: That`s a good way of putting it, the permission structure. And that`s really what it is.
These people who are unvaccinated, I mean, there`s a handful of them that are crazy. And who knows what their problem is. But most of them are not crazy. But they simply have signed up their -- signed off on their own agency and given it to people who are completely irresponsible, Donald Trump, DeSantis, Greg Abbott, Kristi Noem. This is nuts.
And these politicians are using this to advantage themselves, at the expense of the people who voted for them. It`s wrong, it`s bad for the country and it`s bad for humanity, and it kills people. And that is exactly what`s happening in Florida and Texas and South Dakota, and other places as well.
DEAN: You do have to admire people like Asa Hutchinson, who is the Republican governor of Arkansas.
When he made a mistake and signed an anti-masking bill, he undid that and said, I wished I hadn`t signed it.
That`s -- I would call that leadership. If you make a mistake, you take it back, and you admit that you have made a mistake. We don`t see any of that from the professional right-wing autocrats, the would-be presidents like DeSantis, Noem, and there are many others as well.
I mean, the Republican Party has been ripped in half. You get honest conservatives, and then you get people who are willing to do whatever it takes, including sell their own people down the river to death.
MELBER: Yes, I appreciate you putting it that way.
We hear these words, Doctor. We hear about leadership and we hear about courage. People are dying, as you say and as we have reported. What kind of -- quote -- "political courage" do you need to have to stand up and deal with the facts as they are? And if the facts change, so be it.
There may have been a moment where people were leaning into hoping that earlier waves of COVID were fading, and it could have gone a different way? Fine. Whatever. We`re here today. We have the data today. We have it, as I mentioned, over 300 percent from this time last year, with a solution on the table.
And we have something that I`m curious what you think as a policy-maker, because you ran a state. Sometimes, I mean, people who remember you running for president, you talked about how the way you guys patrolled firearms in the small state of Vermont might be different than in really big cities. And we have this laboratory of democracies.
Well, this isn`t that kind of issue. We have seen it ravage places large and small, rural and urban. We have seen the main thing right now -- and we have had Fauci and others on the program -- the main driver of all this -- there are some other little policies, but the big driver is vaccination.
And I`m going to put up a little more from that report I mentioned, "The Times," for your response, where it says the one in 5,000 low rate of what they call breakthrough cases, the real chances there.
Quote: "If the entire country had received shots at the same rate as the Northeast or California, this Delta wave would be a small fraction of its current size. Delta is a problem. Vaccine hesitancy is a bigger problem."
Rarely do you see it put so clearly that, when we say Delta is bad right now, we`re talking about the result of vaccine hesitance, not just Delta in the abstract, Doctor.
DEAN: It`s not just vaccine hesitance. That`s a very serious problem, but that`s going away.
I mean, people who are dying because they`re not vaccinating, oftentimes, their last message to their loved ones is please get vaccinated. This is a terrible mistake. People have said that on their deathbeds in the ICUs around the hospitals. That problem is over -- being overcome.
The other thing that is incredibly effective at stopping this is masking. And I still cannot believe that people go through airports and scream and yell at people because they have masks on. If you think it`s your right not to wear a mask, then it`s certainly somebody else`s right to wear a mask.
A lot of what we have in this country -- and Trump was very good at taking advantage of this -- is, people are angry. And they`re angry because their station in life is tough, and the rural America is falling apart and all these kinds of things. And things are changing very quickly, and they`re uncomfortable with the change.
And when that happens, people like Trump or DeSantis and Abbott can come along and take advantage of people`s anger. But the fact of the matter is, you can`t let the fact that you`re angry, cost you your life. And your children are more likely to get COVID if they go to school without a mask on, period.
There was a teacher that didn`t wear a mask -- I think it was in California -- half of the kids in her class on this first week -- in the first week came down with COVID.
Now, nobody would put up with that if you had children in that class. And there`s no reason that airline passengers or anybody else should put up with people who are so selfish that they can`t put a piece of cloth over their face for the duration of an airline flight.
It isn`t -- doesn`t guarantee you don`t get the virus. But the numbers are so clear that the people who do get the virus are -- the numbers drop tremendously if you just wear a mask.
MELBER: Yes, all fair.
Before I let you go, doctor-on-doctor analysis. Fauci was on MSNBC with Joy last night. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: As long as the virus keeps circulating like that, you give it the opportunity to mutate.
And when it mutates, you can form another variant which might actually escape the protection of the vaccines. We have been fortunate that the vaccines that we have now are doing very well against all the variants, including the Delta variant. But that could change. And that could change if you get more variants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m curious what you think, as a public health messenger. Is he just talking facts, because there is variant mutation?
DEAN: No, it`s absolutely true.
MELBER: Or is he kind of trying to scare people?
DEAN: No, I think he`s actually a little optimistic, for me.
Eventually -- there already is a variant that`s escaped some of the vaccine`s power. That is, you would not have breakthroughs with -- because we`re now in an epidemic that`s almost 100 percent Delta. So you wouldn`t have the amount of breakthroughs we have. The breakthroughs are small compared to the people who aren`t vaccinated, but there are breakthroughs.
Some of them do get sick and die. It`s a very small percentage, if we compare it if we did not have vaccines. So we`re sort of a little bit there. But it is possible and I think it`s likely to get a variant because so many people are not vaccinated -- and this -- you have to get the whole world vaccinated, because this stuff spreads all over the world -- that eventually there will be a variant.
And this will be like the flu. I think we`re going to come to a spot a few years from now we`re going to have a shot every winter or every summer to make sure that our immunity is held up.
DEAN: But we don`t know these things. I`m speculating. But I actually think that Fauci was a little on the optimistic side.
DEAN: I do think we`re very lucky. We`re very lucky. We should all be vaccinated.
You`re much less likely to die or go to the hospital or get really sick. But it`s -- we have already seen some effect of the kind Fauci was talking about, because Delta has had time to grow and avoid the virus (sic). And that`s going to happen again and again until we get rid of this.
And the only way to do that is vaccines.
MELBER: Yes, all very important points, and a little bit unexpected, where you went on Fauci, so that`s interesting to me. And we always like to get unexpected and new answers.
Before I let you go. We will end on the higher note of music. Your preferred version of "I Shot the Sheriff," Clapton or Marley?
DEAN: Oh, it`s going to have to be Marley now.
Clapton is a great guitarist. But it drives me crazy when these people go off on these nutty theories, and especially when they`re famous people, and they do have an influence. And it`s just nuts to do that kind of stuff.
But I got to go with Bob Marley anyway.
MELBER: Always safe to go with Bob Marley. And, as you say, Eric may have been a little out of his lane.
Doctor and Governor Dean, thank you, as always, sir.
DEAN: Thanks so much.
We have been tracking some big stories, but we turn to some things we haven`t had time for yet next, including the extremism of the Texas GOP and the copycats
And, later, a top Biden White House official here on THE BEAT. We`re going to get into the big congressional fight and what they can do about Mitch McConnell trying to recruit a Democrat to stop the entire safety net plan.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Why force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term?
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Let`s make something very clear. Rape is a crime. And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists.
So, goal number one in the state of Texas is to eliminate rape, so that no woman, no person will be a victim of rape.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Texas Governor Greg Abbott trying to defend what has become a big controversy for him and the Republican Party in his state, a new law that bans abortions after six weeks.
That`s a time when, according to experts, most women would not even be aware that they are pregnant.
Now, legislators and half-a-dozen other Republican-led states are exploring passing similar bills. Florida`s MAGA Governor DeSantis, who we were covering regarding COVID earlier today, well, he is talking about also an approach, this is the very controversial sort of pseudo-vigilantism, that would try to use state powers and transfer them in a way to private citizens to then enforce the state`s abortion rule.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESANTIS: I`m pro-life. I welcome pro-life legislation.
What they did in Texas was interesting. They have basically done this through private right of action. And so it`s a little bit different than how a lot of these debates have gone.
So, we will have to look. I`m going to look more significantly at it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, Texas is also apparently a blueprint -- or red print, as we`re saying tonight -- on other ways that Republicans want to flex or test the limits of their powers.
Take voting restrictions. Texas has been leading the way and other states following suit. And it goes to some of the theme of what`s frankly been in the news tonight, the anti-democratic tendencies here.
It`s a thread woven across this. Take the Associated Press, nonpartisan reporting of what`s going on out there -- quote -- "Faced with increasingly dire demographic threats," the AP notes, "Texas Republicans have championed boundary-pushing conservative policy-making, steering a state that was already far to the right even more so."
So, in a country that gets more diverse, and that rarely selects the Republican for the White House in the first place, the Texas playbook is definitely about restricting women`s rights, possibly beyond what the Supreme Court even allows. It is that, but it`s more than that.
It`s also catering to its own base in undemocratic ways that may be the only way it hopes to hold onto power.
I`m joined now by MSNBC analyst at Democratic strategist Juanita Tolliver.
JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey, Ari. How you holding up?
MELBER: I`m fine. Thanks for asking.
We have got more than one story here, as I mentioned. And it overlaps with part of where we kicked off the program tonight, which is the January 6- related attacks on democracy, the Republican Party shading its own efforts next week to try to recall a Democratic governor.
If it`s through the normal voting process, they have every right to do that right, lawfully. But now they`re saying the very thing that they jump- started maybe isn`t fair, and it`s rigged, and all of this combined with these attacks on other rights in Texas.
What do you see here as the playbook and the Democratic response?
TOLLIVER: Look, the playbook here for the GOP has always been about power and control and just dictating who has access to their constitutional rights, which is truly going to yield some inhumane outcomes that we know will disproportionately harm black and brown people, young people, people living within rural communities, or people living with disabilities, right?
Like, these marginalized communities are going to feel the brunt of these harmful policies. But what`s frustrating here is that we know that state legislators across the country are going to use that same copy-and-paste format that they use with voter suppression bills and apply that to these anti-abortion laws.
And what we`re going to see is that they`re going to pop up across the country, as this is going to be a major priority in statehouses that are Republican-led later this year and into next year.
Now, the Democratic response needs to be using every tool at their reach to respond to these and show voters that we`re fighting for your constitutional rights, we`re fighting to make sure you can access basic health care like abortion, we`re fighting to make sure that you can access the polls, because I`m sure these Republican state legislatures are looking at the fact that there has been no strong congressional response here.
There has been no federal law passed. And that`s going to embolden them to keep ruining people`s lives, because they`re like, hey, the Democrats aren`t going to expand the Supreme Court, they`re not going to end the filibuster, so we should go ahead and keep doing these harmful things, because it works for our benefit to inflict this type of harm on people, because we`re demonstrating that power and that control.
MELBER: Yes, and you mention control.
That goes to a very real legal issue with the fact that, under this law, which is partially enforced by private citizens, a woman in Texas would be effectively compelled to carry potentially what might have been caused by sexual assault or rape, and that she might not have any informed way to make that decision.
Jen Psaki, on behalf of the Biden White House, speaking on this very big, important issue. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, if Governor Abbott has a means of eliminating all rapists or all rape from the United States, then there would be bipartisan support for that.
But given there has never been history of the country and the world been any leader who`s ever been able to eliminate rape, eliminate rapists from our streets, it`s even more imperative. It`s one of the many reasons, I should say, not the only reason, why women in Texas should have access to health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: She seems to be calling out the fact that, while everyone can agree that fighting violent crime or sexual assault is or should be, of course, a goal -- it`s against the law in every state -- that it seems like a dodge from him, because he`s not addressing the fact that this is such a draconian version of purported abortion restrictions.
TOLLIVER: That`s exactly right, Ari.
He dodged the question entirely by redirecting people`s attention and then going so far as to say ending sexual violence is Texas` number one priority? We know, based on the hundreds of bills they passed in this last special session, that is not their number one priority.
Their number one priority is inflicting harm on their constituents. And this bill, like, does that. Even in the sound bite that you played of Abbott at the top of this segment, Ari, it shows that he`s really grasping at straws trying to justify an inhumane law, right?
Like, he did nothing to respond to the fact that a sexual assault survivor would have to carry and deliver and live with this child, which is dramatically inhumane, Ari. And so he absolutely has no answer for this. And it`s frustrating that this is now law in Texas.
Juanita Tolliver, who has worked on a lot of these issues, including politics around it. Politics is how this stuff gets passed or not.
Good to see you. Thank you for your analysis tonight.
TOLLIVER: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Appreciate it, absolutely.
We have all been living through these natural disasters, extreme weather. Well, it`s new urgency, and the White House says there`s actually good things that can come out of the bad.
We`re going to get into what they mean and why this president wants to spend on climate change reform. White House adviser Cedric Richmond on THE BEAT next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is code red.
The nation and the world are in peril. When I talk about building back better, I mean you can`t build to what it was before this last storm. You have got to build better, so, if this storm occurred again, there would be no damage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: President Biden addressing New Yorkers there. This is after Hurricane Ida cause what experts say was essentially a one-in-500-year flood, which adds urgency to the administration`s push to deal with the nation`s infrastructure and climate change overall.
America reeling from these deadly natural disasters. We`re all living through it, the storms in the East, the fires out West, the obvious sense, backed up by the science, that things are getting worse, that this is not normal.
As for policy, Biden is working with Democrats in Congress to pass this $1 trillion infrastructure bill and this ambitious $3.5 trillion budget, which would tackle climate change and expand the safety net in new ways.
We have a very special guest on this tonight amidst all this news.
I`m joined by Cedric Richmond, senior adviser to the president.
Thanks for being here.
CEDRIC RICHMOND, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Walk us through what this administration that you`re a part of is trying to do, both deal with the front-line emergency assistance American needs, while making the argument we just heard there from the president on wider solutions to a climate crisis.
RICHMOND: Well, look, Ari, I will just start with the last part first, which is, we want to invest in changing and addressing climate change, because we know these storms are getting stronger and more frequent, and the devastation is getting worse.
So, you look at wildfires and all -- drought, and then you get to Hurricane Ida that caused havoc from the Mississippi River Gulf Coast all the way up to New Jersey, Pennsylvania. And so the administration, we have all hands on deck. We have FEMA that is -- has boots on the ground. We`re doing everything we can to assist the local governments to help get power restored, help put money in people`s hands, try to provide temporary shelter, make sure that we keep gas at the gas stations and cell phones working.
So we`re doing our part. And then we just sent a $10 billion request to Congress. And we want them to do their part, so that we can look at permanent housing solutions and all of those long roads to recovery.
And then we want the private sector to stand up and do their part. And so you see insurance companies -- and the president talked about it. You see insurance companies hiding behind a technicality that it was a voluntary evacuation, as opposed to a mandatory evacuation, to not pay additional living expenses.
MELBER: There was a time when this was referred to, climate change, as kind of an optional or a long-term issue, maybe not something that was going to help people today. At least that`s how it was perceived.
Let`s look at rural America, though, where you see climate shocks punishing small rural communities, reporting here that places are hit by hurricanes, floods, wildfires. Residents and employers leave, the tax base shrinks, and it becomes harder to fund basic services.
What is the argument you`re making to rural America here, while some Republicans in Congress say this is too big a price tag? They say it`s costly to do what you want to do.
RICHMOND: Well, I would say we spent probably over $100 billion just last year on extreme weather events. And, this year, we will spend more.
And so we can`t afford not to address climate change. And the one thing about these big storms and these extreme weather events, it doesn`t really care if you`re a Democrat or a Republican, or whether you live in rural America or urban America. It just doesn`t matter. It does not discriminate.
And so we have to address it. We have to take it on and be serious about it, because we have to prepare for the future. And the president articulated this on the campaign trail. He`s investing in it in both the hard infrastructure of hardening up our electrical grid, our transmission lines, so that we can survive these extreme weather events and become more resilient, at least our infrastructure.
And then we want to invest in tackling climate change as it affects us, so whether that`s electric vehicles, electric buses, electric charging stations, a climate corps, all of those things designed to reverse the effects of climate change, because we can`t wait any longer.
And, finally, I got about 30 seconds, but, Mr. Richmond, Mitch McConnell says that he`s praying for Senator Manchin or Sinema to scuttle the final package.
Wanted to give you the benefit of any response to that.
RICHMOND: Well, he was also praying that we couldn`t pass the American Rescue Plan. And we passed a $1.9 trillion bill, so that we could get shots in people`s arms, checks in people`s bank accounts to help them deal with COVID.
And we`re going to keep our head down. We`re going to keep focused on the American people, not politicians, and we`re going to deliver for the American people.
So, don`t pay attention to the sausage-making process. Pay attention to the end result. And at the end of the day, President Biden will deliver for the American people, because it`s too important for us not to.
MELBER: Cedric Richmond on a busy day at the White House, thank you for making time for us on THE BEAT, sir.
RICHMOND: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Saturday marks 20 years since 9/11.
In a new film tonight, some victims` families and survivors share their own stories.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My first thought was, is that the building that my son works in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was bleeding. The building was bleeding into the sky.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just in an instant, life is gone, and that you go from a moment of just this extraordinary beauty to this extraordinary horror and terror and ugliness.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cried out to Jesus and I asked him to -- to just -- Jesus, to just help me, help me get out of this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was scared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Important, real stories from the real people who lived it. As we mark this anniversary, we could learn and listen to them.
The film is "Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11." And, as a programming note, we want you to know it premieres tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC and Peacock.
That does it for us.
"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts right now.