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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, January 7, 2021

Guests: John Flannery, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Brittney Cooper


The fallout from the storming of the Capitol Building by pro-Trump rioters is examined. The differences between police behavior during the Capitol Building riots and Black Lives Matter protests are explored. Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin discusses the siege of the Capitol Building.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT.

We're all here as Americans one day after these Trump-inspired MAGA riots.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: He unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald J. Trump has violated and abused his power.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): To remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th Amendment. If the vice president and the Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment.


MELBER: The news tonight, over 100 congressional Democrats demanding Trump be removed immediately, treating this as an urgent crisis.

There is a single Republican, Congressman Kinzinger, also joining that call. The acting U.S. attorney in Washington says Donald Trump himself may be investigated for his role in pushing those supporters of his -- that's who they were -- going into do what they did.

Another Trump Cabinet member, meanwhile, resigning today, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. She is the wife of Mitch McConnell. She's one of at least six Trump administration officials resigning in just the last day over this.

Late today, the White House also firing a State Department official who called Trump unfit for office. The House sergeant at arms, who is formally responsible for the security of the chamber and those buildings, resigning today under pressure, the speaker calling on the chief of the Capitol Hill police to resign as well.

Late today, news that may add urgency to all of these calls removing Trump before he can exploit his powers further, "The New York Times" reporting Donald Trump discussing further with aides the possibility of pardoning himself in the final days of his presidency.

Tonight, we have for you a special report on the stark double standard in what was on display for all of America and the world to see yesterday, the extreme leniency shown to those rioters, many of them committing evidence of crimes there.

And we're going to go into that and the legal fallout tonight.

But I want to begin right now immediately with our experts discussing a country on edge, the president inciting violence, real questions about what to do.

We are joined first by a member of our friends and family here at THE BEAT, Rutgers Professor Brittney Cooper.

You have spoken about so much of this. I think it's fair to say, Brittney, you have warned at least our viewers and your readers about all of this, how we got here leading up to this point. There were some who looked on in horror yesterday who talked about their surprise or shock, others who said, this is not America.

You have said and written for a long time, this absolutely is the United States, particularly under Donald Trump.

I give you the mic right now, the floor, to tell us your thoughts on what transpired.


Yes, America should listen to black women. They should listen to black people. I have been enraged and in deep despair. We watched a violent mob attempt a coup, attempt to overthrow our government, attempt to overthrow the peaceful transfer of power yesterday.

And then we had to watch -- particularly people of color, we watched as our liberal white colleagues, who albeit well-meaning, fumbled in their incredulity about this. We are -- this is not who we are. We cannot believe this is happening. How is this happening?

But when you unleash a madman, and you allow that madman to very slowly erode norms, when you allow him to bring -- to participate in the brainwashing of folks, when you allow him to play on people's grievances and to tell them that something is being taken away, to manipulate their fear, and to not have a reasonable pushback, a consistent pushback against that at every level of government and culturally, then this is what you get.

This is always the outcome of unleashed white supremacy. It is enforced through violent acts. And one of the things that was more appalling to me than watching these rogue sort of Americans try to overthrow the government was, let us not let off the hook the congresspeople who stood in the Congress, folks like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, and said, we want to reenact the Hayes-Tilden compromise of 1876, we want to use that as a model.

And so I'm struck by the irony there, on the inside of the congressional chamber, you have Ted Cruz saying, we want to invoke as our model for what we're calling for when we protest these votes the very compromise that ended Reconstruction and subjected black people to many decades of lynching, of violent white supremacist terror.

The Hayes-Tilden compromise, basically gave legal sort of permission to the Klan to terrorize black people. And so that is the model that Ted Cruz has for what he's calling for. That's not incidental. That's not accidental. He means that. He's being direct.

So, on the one hand, you have a congressperson invoking a clear symbol of white supremacist rule. And then on the outside, you have violent white mobs in the tradition that Ida B. Wells talked about when she wrote a book on mob rule, right, back in the 1890s.

So, inside the chamber, you have a call for it. Outside the chamber, you have people actually enforcing it. So, we have a problem in this country, a spiritual problem, an investment in white supremacy.

And when I say we, I am not talking about black people. I'm not talking about brown people. But here's the thing. We are Americans. And the thing we have learned in this Trump administration is that, even when we didn't vote for him, by and large, as people of color, we are still affected by the things that our elected officials do.

That's true for all Americans. And so, at some point, we have got to have a way that says, how do we change this?

And here's my last thing. I don't want to hear a bunch of speechifying. I don't want to hear about healing. I don't want to hear about putting the country back together again. All I want to hear about right now is accountability.

What are we going to do to these congresspeople and these citizens who overrode every democratic norm yesterday, terrorized sitting congresspeople, violently assaulted police officers, harmed and defiled public property, which is a thing we seem to hate in this country when black people do it, right, but no one else apparently? What are we going to do to hold these people accountable?

Are we going to impeach the president? Is he going to be removed? Are we going to expel these congresspeople?

MELBER: Right.

COOPER: I don't want to hear white folks trying to make sense of this, because sense has already been made. All you have to do is listen to black people. We have been telling you what's been going on.

And now we need folks to actually use the power they have to do something about it.

MELBER: Brittney Cooper stays with me.

Gene Robinson also joining our special coverage on this edition of THE BEAT tonight.

Thank you for being here from "The Washington Post," Gene.

Brittney, I want you to just to...


MELBER: Yes, thank you for being here.

ROBINSON: I have a bit of a video problem.

I can -- I don't know if you have my audio. But I think my video is frozen.

MELBER: I hear Gene. I hear Gene.

But we will we will continue with Brittney while our folks work that out.

And, Brittney, I just did want you to build on this exact point, which is taking this literally, seriously and completely, so that there is facts in public which lead to accountability.

As we know, when the words law and order are used in the United States, they come with the history of racism and double standards, which we have a special report on coming up on unequal justice.

But specifically to your point right now, when people talk of law and order, we always hear about deterrence, that you have to enforce this and people have to go do hard time to deter bad things from happening again.

Well, if that wasn't a bad thing yesterday, I don't know what was. If that wasn't a bad thing for the people of this nation, for the entire world to see the United States have this occur, at the behest and encouragement of the sitting president, I don't know what was.

So, walk us through what you think accountability would look like, not only in the narrow sense of deterrence and enforcement, but public accountability for, as you say, the public officials who may have, technically, a free speech right, that is, to say that they have a view.

But when Senator Hawley walks out on those grounds with that fist in the air, when, as you say, Senator Cruz and others foment this, to say nothing of the current president, what do you think America must do accountability-wise?

COOPER: Look, I think a couple of things.

One is, culturally, we have got to reckon with the fact that we don't have -- our empathy meter is set to seeing white violence as protest and seeing black protest as violence, right?

So, we are primed as a nation to not empathize with victims of violence, but to empathize with the perpetrators of violence, who are very frequently white folks, and very frequently -- not always, and not all white people, very frequently police officers, not all police officers, right?

And so we have got culturally reckon. We have got to get our spiritual institutions on board across the board, our cross-spiritual understandings, to really think about this problem of grief, about anger, about racism.

Also, here, let me say something that I think is a bit radical. I want our -- these Congress folks, these elected officials and folks that are being appointed to put their best thinking caps on to figure out what we're going to do about the conservative news problem.

I think conservative people deserve to have outlets that reflect their perspectives, but I also think that we can all agree at this point that there has been the building of a conservative media ecosystem. And, indeed, Donald Trump has indicated that this is where he wants to put his money and his time when he leaves office, building a kind of digital platform that we can only assume will sort of cause the increased frequency of conspiracy theories and a marching away from the facts.



MELBER: And let me jump in. I'm only jumping in -- I want to take your point. I'm going to hold it.

Let me jump in with some breaking news, which is the spirit of the times, Brittney.

We now have breaking news. The Capitol Hill police chief will resign, effective next week. That's coming across the wire right now.

I believe Gene Robinson is good with us.


MELBER: And I do want to take Brittney's point and bring Gene in to the exact point she's raising, which is, everyone has free speech in this country, or is supposed to.


MELBER: But what about the purveyance of falsehoods, conspiracy theories, hate, and calls to violence?

Because, at some point, just as you cannot use free speech as a defense against contractual fraud, to pick a boring example, or use free speech as an excuse to go actually orchestrate a crime, the question here is how much this speech in this so-called right-wing media is on that front.


MELBER: And so, Gene, take a quick listen to what the president told these individuals before they went on this crime spree here.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, after this, we're going to walk down. And I will be there with you.


TRUMP: We're going to walk down. We're going to walk down, anyone you want, but I think right here. We're going to walk down to the Capitol.


TRUMP: And we're going to cheer on our brave senators and congress men and women. And we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them.



ROBINSON: Yes, well, Ari, that is simple. That's just incitement to riot, right? That's incitement to the attempt of a coup d'etat -- sending this -- whipping this crowd into a frenzy and sending them down to the Capitol to interrupt the peaceful and orderly legal transfer of power from Donald Trump, who lost the election, to Joe Biden, who won the election.

That's what was going on. And that's what he sent them to stop. I mean, that is a serious piece of sedition right there, that -- and so that's -- that's simpler than the wider problem.

I want to mention just two quick things and then -- one quick thing, and then get into the larger question.

I will mention the gallows and noose that were erected on the Capitol grounds by the crowd yesterday, which kind of says it all, right? It says a lot to me about where their heads were at and whose heads they wanted to be in that noose.

The other thing is, this question of the right-wing media ecosystem is a serious one. And it's very difficult in the context of the First Amendment and free speech and everything like this. But we're not talking about two different viewpoints on the same facts. We're talking about fiction. We're talking about fantasy. We're talking about lies.

We're talking about an entire ecosystem of information that simply is not real, is not correct. I mean, I do...

MELBER: Right.

ROBINSON: I have been a journalist all my life. I do believe in truth, and I believe in fact.

And that's a problem. It's a problem.


MELBER: Gene, let me get you on that final -- on this final point.


MELBER: Let me get you on that before we go, which is, Gene, I want you to walk us through what you think the responsibility or accountability should be for these Republican officials.

Brittney Cooper was walking through some of the case earlier.


MELBER: When you have Senator Hawley raising his first as he walks out there, when you have Senator Cruz, when you have what that spectacle was -- these people have longer terms to serve. These people are part of the coming era with a new president.

Your thoughts, Gene?

ROBINSON: Shun them. They should be -- this is a stain on their political careers.

Yes, Senator Hawley, he's a senator and he wants to be president someday. He never should be. This should disqualify him as a potential president, as -- and the same for Ted Cruz.

These in particular, they in particular, they knew better. They knew that what they were selling was a lie, was a huge lie. They know -- they make all these sort of vague statements about, well, there are all these irregularities and there are all these people who believe there's something wrong with the election.

Well, that's just self-reinforcing lies, that they know that there's nothing there, that there was nothing real there. And they're very sophisticated, Ivy League lawyers, clerked for Supreme Court justices, in terms of brainpower, brilliant guys.


ROBINSON: Shame them and shun them.


Gene Robinson and Brittney Cooper, we appreciate you returning to THE BEAT in an important time.

We have a 30-second break. It's the shortest in our hour. And then I have my special report on the handling and mishandling of these riots, the double standard in America and race. We're going to show you the facts and the evidence in a new and special way.

We also tonight have a report on the potential criminal charges here.

Before we go, though, I do want to share something else. These actions, they were not random, isolated or aberrant. They were the direct response of Trump supporters who heard from their president on that very day. They built on what he said quite literally and seriously this entire time.


TRUMP: Like to punch him in the face, I will tell you.

Do you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They would be carried out on a stretcher.

Knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously.

I said, please don't be nice.

Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.

You will never take back our country with weakness.

The people of the country are angry.

And we fight. We fight like hell.

We love you. You're very special.



MELBER: Where were you on January 6, 2021? What did you feel as you watched that Trump-fueled riot, an actual insurrection, a disgusting and humiliating security breach, made far worse by the U.S. government's failure to handle it all?

We turn right now to our special report on a key aspect of this disaster, with these calls for accountability.

This report is on the contrast and double standard in policing that was on display in America yesterday.

First, the context. This failure occurred at the seat, the literal center of U.S. democracy, the Capitol Building, both houses in session, the sitting vice president on hand. This is, of course, one of the highest-level national security events that can be held in Washington, on par with the State of the Union, gatherings that are also known as priority terrorist targets.

A bomb or attack could take out many elected leaders, as well as the top people in the line of succession to be president. This gathering, of course, planned, long in the making, promoted online, embraced by the sitting president.

And yet federal law enforcement, overseen by the Trump administration, was off-guard or absent. Cameras caught no fortified police presence at the Capitol as things got under way yesterday, virtually no militarized policing units, no preventive show of force, no long guns out.

Police had set out some low barriers and cops were in street uniforms, not riot gear. Trump administration said 350 members of the D.C. National Guard were plenty sufficient -- quote -- "mainly to assist with traffic control."

Now, today, we see the blame game already, leaks that the Capitol Police themselves were the ones rejecting officers, of any federal help.

Now, this first failure, which is part of many failures and double standards, is the incompetent or willful failure to protect and prevent on display in the first breach of the perimeter by that mob. A handful of officers were running away up the stairs, with no backup, apparently, no militarized presence behind them to literally get their backs.

So, at this federal national security venue, federal power was suspiciously MIA. And that totally pales in comparison to other events, like the State of the Union or inaugurations, which are comparable, but it also pales compared to gatherings where virtually no public officials are in danger, with almost no national security implications.

And yet we have seen militarized police and federal agents and even military at Black Lives Matter protests through the years. Take Ferguson, where full tanks were already on the street. Or, at police brutality protests back in Baltimore, we saw those heavily armed forces with riot gear. There was no delay, no wait for militarized reinforcement then.

You weren't going to breach that barrier. The same Trump administration that basically sat out yesterday in its hometown of Washington also found a way to deploy heavily armed security forces all the way out to Portland, where police protests apparently drew their ire, as well as protests of Donald Trump's policies.

Or go back to just Washington last summer, where, at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the feds showed the range of force they could muster, even absent the evidence of crimes that we saw on display on television yesterday.

So, as Americans take this all in, as Americans lived through yesterday, this lenient treatment of a criminal mob at the Capitol, that's one piece of it. But then there's the negative space in the scene, which is in, I think, anyone's mind who has objectively lived through even just the past year in America, this contrast in policing.

Now, some were asking, where was the real police and protection, while leaders are now scrutinizing a failure that goes to the top of the federal government?


PELOSI: It goes beyond the Capitol Police. It goes to the FBI. What was the shortcoming in their intelligence that they provided? It goes to the Department of Defense. How long did it take for them to respond or anticipate the need for the National Guard?

It goes to many other elements of the executive branch. And I think we have to have the full review.


MELBER: Some of this delay is already documented. Trump held back the National Guard. Pence then OKed then late.

So, we already have some evidence that the Trump administration's decisions ensured law enforcement at the scene was totally underprepared. And that made things worse.

The officers and equipment that was missing yesterday left a tougher situation for any law enforcement who did show up, which further compromises their response.

And it was chaos, rioters taking over the United States Capitol, just smashing their way in, committing property damage, breaking the glass windows. They made their way all the way up to the Senate dais, where one Trump supporter reportedly yelled, "Trump won," a final lie, an ignominious scene. They were climbing, hanging off walls of the United States Capitol.

So, consider the contrast in how police responded to these riots vs. so many other situations. In some places, officers so overrun, they appeared in a way, it looked like, to give in or facilitate the rioters entry. Here's a moment from a video that went viral, people trespassing on government property, breaking the law, and police seemed to kind of back away and let them in. You may have seen this video.

It was a bad scene. But you have to put these videos in context. They don't tell the entire story. You should know tonight an independent eyewitness at that very spot and a reporter who shot the video, Marc DiPaola, says they didn't see police trying to help the rioters, but rather backing off and simply de-escalating, with rioters advancing, threatening to punch officers, who at that point appear to be highly outnumbered.

Now, online, people viewed the clip as officers actively trying to open the barricades. Now, DiPaola says, the person the scene, it was more about police abandoning their post, rather than trying to help. You can view it there with this information and assess it for yourself. It's a problem either way.

If those police did abandon a position, rather than lean into a physical clash, that's a tactical choice. But even that, I want you to know tonight, contrasts with recent scenes like this in a far less vital national security zone.

This was not the U.S. Capitol, but, rather, a scene on the streets of L.A., where officers were engaging extremely physically to escalate and hit and strike Black Lives Matter protesters, hitting them with batons, shooting projectiles, when they were reportedly standing there with their hands up.

That's how some officers were dealing with, as you saw there, peaceful protesters in the light of day who were nowhere near the vice president or the entire Congress.

It looked like state-sanctioned violence, a contrast to this treatment of Trump supporters who weren't peaceful, who breached federal property, who threatened officers and worse.

This is where the double standard goes beyond some of that big picture structure I mentioned, whether at a policy level the Capitol was properly staffed and protected.

And we get into some of these personal interactions. Here's an officer assisting someone during these criminal riots, pouring water in their eyes to reduce the impact of the tear gas that the same officers themselves dispersed. This is what it looks like when, even amidst an ongoing emergency that included a death, an officer goes out of their way to assist people on the scene in the trespass area, a total contrast to police actions at many BLM protests, where peaceful protesters were tear-gassed.

Then they were fleeing. They weren't on any trespassed property. They weren't rendered any aid to reduce the impact on their eyes or their health. These are facts.

Now, this report tonight is not trying to proclaim what the ideal tactic is in every policing situation. This report is showing the facts of an American reality.

But let's be clear. These are facts that many would rather ignore or minimize or lie about. This is America. This is the double standard that many would rather not face, on the left, the police rendering aid to people in a crowd while they were still actively breaking the law and trespassing, breaching the Capitol, at a crime scene that included a killing, on the right, police treating black and brown people and other BLM supporters who, by most accounts, in the public square, were not breaking any law, certainly not trespassing.

I got to tell you, as part of my job, this is where words themselves also can fail us, because this double standard, it can make even simple terms pretty Orwellian. As journalists, we refer to the police and federal agents as law enforcement. It's supposed to just be, like, a factual term, nothing more than that.

But take a look at a member of the Capitol Police in riot gear who appears to be escorting a lawbreaker, a person who broke federal law you see there, down the steps, and then releasing, releasing the vast majority of these people, not arresting them.

The people inside the Capitol were breaking the law. They were in an active trespass zone. They also broke other strict laws that protect federal buildings.

If a person is helping walk them out in the middle of that lawbreaking, can we accurately call that law enforcement? Because they're not enforcing the law in that moment.

It's broader, of course, than any picture that goes viral any single moment. These recent BLM protests in Washington, for example, were largely peaceful. There was not a single breach of the Capitol, for example, but D.C. police arrested 289 people in one day at those recent BLM protests, and 427 over four days.

You see there, they made just 41 arrests yesterday amidst a criminal and national security breach that the U.S. has not seen at this Capitol since 1812.

If you take the larger account of arrests beyond the Capitol, by the way, it jumps to 68, but 41 of them in that criminal mob at the Capitol.

Those are some numbers. They may not go as viral as some of these pictures and videos, but they're that larger factual context.

And after the many hours that this played out yesterday, after Mitch McConnell, was so moved to call it an insurrection the floor of the Senate, after the world rebuked the United States, then the feds, under the Trump administration, found their way to filing their first charges today.

And we heard more Orwellian words from the FBI, which, of course, Donald Trump has systematically pressured and hollowed out its leadership. I can report for you the FBI now claims they're doing basically a manhunt. They're seeking information, they say, to identify and to find these people.

I'm sorry. How are you going to do a manhunt for people who spent hours doing their crimes on live TV and then, as I just showed you, got escorted out by those officers?

Why is this FBI under this administration claiming to seek information, when you have people who told "The New York Times" their names while taking time out of their crime scene to pose for a photo, holding up the speaker of the House's stolen mail or this Trump supporter walking out of the Capitol with the speaker of the House's lectern?

Spare us the jargon about seeking information to find these people, when you let these criminals walk in and out of the seat of government, this contrast. This is America, this white man there literally sitting at the desk of the elected speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States, a police response so lax, he had the time to gloat and pose, compared to how police instantly arrested the woman you see on the right.

She committed no visible crime. She was protesting the police shooting of Alton Sterling in 2016. She said she was exercising her free speech rights. Police took her away on a charge of obstructing a highway.

All of these interactions demand scrutiny. And let me be clear, because I always try to be as contextual and fair as possible. It's not because any personal interaction is a problem for police to show some compassion or warmth to people they serve, like an officer embracing a child, something many can relate to.

There are officers who knelt during those BLM protests this summer. They said they wanted to offer a form of respect amidst those controversies. The double standard on display this week gets to something far deeper.

It is a selective embrace, very specifically, of some Americans, even as they're literally part of a mob attacking officers and breaking laws, some officers going forward here to take a selfie in the middle of an active crime scene, in the middle of the trespassing, with these individuals, a contrast to the all-too-routine personal escalation by other officers against, for example, BLM protesters exercising a First Amendment right, here being shoved to the ground. Escalation.

Now, we can't read anybody's minds, including these officers, but we can report what they do, the seemingly warm energy yesterday absent at a very recent protest at Republican Leader McConnell's office, Capitol Police finding, in that instance, they knew how to make instant arrests, even on camera. They knew how to drag away protesters, some of them, by the way, in wheelchairs.

What a contrast to how different people are treated by the same Washington police force, not based, apparently, on whether the crimes were in progress, not based on an objective threat, but rather the documented double standard, based on whether those individuals were deemed by law enforcement as somehow sympathetic to police or their politics or somehow deemed an enemy of the state, enemies because they are black, or brown, or doing activism that may back brown and black people, or other protests that are deemed as simply criticizing parts of policing, or perhaps some part of the incumbent government.

Not reading minds, just reporting the disparate treatment.

Now, these facts are not new, nor are the double standards. Some of the documentation is new. We have more cameras today. We have more mobile phones. We have more networks that anyone can use online to share the videos that document these very old, enduring facts of America.

And some of those videos may have helped change some minds in 2020. Some of this documentation may have mobilized people in November and again this week in Georgia. The facts, when documented, do matter. Never forget that. I mean that. I want you to know that tonight, even amidst this horror show.

And yet we also need to be clear about these old truths. From my reporting, it seems like black Americans know these truths. It's especially dangerous for them not to. It seems like most white Americans know these truths. It seems like these rioters knew these truths, these facts very well.

It seems like they took this double standard as a given, something our colleague Joy Reid made very clear amidst the mayhem and the breaking news in her significant remarks last night.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: They know that they are not in jeopardy, because the cops are taking selfies with them, walking them down the steps to make sure they're not hurt.

White Americans are never afraid of the cops, even when they're committing insurrection, even when they're engaged in attempting to occupy our Capitol.

In their minds, they own this country. Guarantee you, if that was a Black Lives Matter protest in D.C., there would already be people shackled, arrested or dead.


MELBER: Arrested. We will take that in. We just showed you, that's not a hypothetical guarantee for the future. That's the recent history.

I can also report to you there was standard police work yesterday. There was a scattering of cops that did attempt to hold barricades as rioters overtook them. That may not have gone viral, but that was part of the policing.

There was the attempt to block the door into the Capitol, with Trump supporters closing in on both sides. There's this now infamous photo of Capitol Police literally barricading the entrance to the House chamber, guns drawn, defending the U.S. government from the followers of the U.S. president, harrowing images of a violent attack that was, we know, weeks in the making, encouraged partly by Donald Trump's assault on democracy.

It's unacceptable. What happened is, even amidst everything we know and this enduring history, a low point for American democracy. There are some who've wrongly said, well, this just isn't who we are.

But this is who we are. This is who we were yesterday.

And let me tell you something. It's who we are today and tomorrow, unless and until we do something about it.

If you are sitting through all of this, and you're thinking nothing ever changes or it only gets worse, I would tell you from reporting on this and observing it, I understand exactly how you feel. But a lot of things are changing. At the local level, we have reported on the changes to district attorneys, to policing policies, to record-breaking support for Black Lives Matter over this past difficult year.

Indeed, the spasm of violence with its racial overtones yesterday is in part a response to the fact that things can change. Those physical mob assaults on the seat of our democracy were a response to the fact that more people in Georgia and around the nation have voted to change both political branches, the Congress and the White House, in different hands.

A lot is changing, even as it feels like too many things are not.

But, as for what happened yesterday and the lack of arrests and the lack of accountability, we do return to the question, a question for all of us from our government down to our citizens. You have seen the facts. They're not new. What are we going to do about it?


MELBER: We're back with presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Your thoughts with the eye of history on America right now?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I will tell you, Ari, I mean, for me, it was the most damaging moment to democracy that I have ever witnessed in my seven decades.

But then, even more, I have spent 50 years of my life time-traveling back to different eras. So, I lived there in the Great Depression, when capitalism and democracy were at risk, the early days of World War II, when it seemed like Western civilization might be destroyed by Hitler.

And yet somehow the only thing that replicates this in my mind is after Lincoln won the election in 1860. The Southern Democrats did not accept that victory. And they decided they could secede from the union. And Lincoln said, if they're allowed to do that, to break up the union because they're a minority and they lost an election, democracy itself will prove it impossible. The idea that ordinary people can govern themselves will be a joke, instead of a beacon of hope to the country and the world at large.

And that's the moment we witnessed yesterday and are still feeling the ramifications of today.

MELBER: Yes, I hear you.

I think we have, in the context of that -- of history, this drawing of Senator Sumner, 1856. And I know you have studied and written about this. And it goes to the descent into violence, which all societies grapple with. This country's grappled with it explicitly around, as we all know, and as covered, racism and the issues of race.

What do you see as the greater threat here, even if you say that, in a few weeks, there will be a different president, and Senators Hawley and Cruz and others will be in the minority, where they really don't have a lot of day-to-day control over the floor? It seems that some of these problems aren't about parliamentary procedure right now.

It seems these problems are about people who know better fomenting a sense across the nation by 70-plus million people that they're the aggrieved ones, that the true crime is that Donald Trump has to leave office in the first place.

GOODWIN: Yes, in fact, I think, 100 years from now, when people write the story of January 6, it has to begin with the election itself, and with the fact that President Trump not only did not accept when it was called for Biden, but he was able to fabricate that it had been stolen, and that people believe that, they acted upon that.

And for the last two months, Ari -- this is what drives me crazy -- is, we have faced one of the biggest crises we ever have as a nation, the crisis of the virus. And there was President Trump visiting his golf courses 15 times, hardly talking about the crisis of the virus.

And, instead, that absence of leadership is the thing we needed so much, and time and energy and focus were taken away. And there's still that group of people out there who still believe that this election was stolen.

So, the real thing that's got to happen now -- I'm glad you mentioned the Sumner thing, because I'm sort of obsessed with it, because what happened there is that a Southern congressman, Preston Brooks, came into the Senate chamber, another breach of the Capitol that we have seen yesterday.And he took his cane and he hit Sumner over the head, Sumner being an anti-slavery senator from Massachusetts, so hard that he was carried out unconscious, bloody, couldn't even come back to the Senate for three years.

But the most important thing that happened then, we have to hope isn't going to happen now. The good thing was that he became a hero in the North. It mobilized people to join the Republican -- the new Republican Party. But, in the South, Preston Brooks became a hero. They gave him a silver goblet as a cane.

All these people are sporting canes, hoping that they will get other people behind Sumner. So, the real question is, will this event mobilize us in a way that Selma, Alabama, did to make public consciousness want to do something about our problems, as they did about voting rights and racism? Or will it split us further apart, because we're going to still have alternative facts and people believing different things?

And that's going to be the future determined in these next weeks and months ahead.

MELBER: Appreciate that point and that we are -- as exhausted as some may feel, we are in a crucible. We're entering a period where what we do about this is as important as what was done yesterday.

I want to thank Doris Kearns Goodwin.

I want to remind viewers, as we discussed a bit of her scholarship, her most recent book, "Leadership in Turbulent Times," you can pick that up and is quite relevant.

Thank you.

We fit in a break, but coming up, the legal remedies for something we have been reporting on, but haven't had time to get into depth yet. How do you hold individuals accountable? We have a prosecutor with the road map, as the feds also announce the first charges.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Today, federal prosecutors say they're charging 55 people, a fraction of those who broke laws on camera, storming the Capitol.

The FBI and D.C. police asking the public for help, they say, in identifying rioters. Of course, many have already become infamous. Take a look at "The Arizona Republic" identifying a local QAnon activist as this individual with horns on the Senate dais.

A Florida newspaper identifying the man who we reported on who was grinning carting out the speaker podium. A Maryland company has fired this individual who actually wore his work badge to the riot, not exactly in disguise.

"The Arkansas Gazette" also identifying a man that we have reported on who had his feet casually plopped up on a desk in the speaker's office, giving a local interview, sharing his own feelings about possible prosecution.


RICHARD BARNETT, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I sat down here at my desk. I'm a taxpayer. I'm a patriot. It ain't her desk. It's my desk. We loaned her that desk.

Am I scared? Hell no. But, yes, there's a possibility. I didn't do anything.


MELBER: BuzzFeed reporting on an elected official who is an incoming delegate in West Virginia as the very person who livestreamed the crimes and storming of the Capitol.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump! Trump! Trump!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in, baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop pushing, you all. Stop pushing.



MELBER: We're joined now by John Flannery, former federal prosecutor.

Our time is brief, sir, but your view on the legal case?

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, number one, you don't catch the geniuses, as exemplified by the film clips you had.

But another thing that annoys me is that, by our investigation of domestic terrorism at the FBI, there is a site called The Donald. And they have been talking about violence on there for some time, and people have been identified on there. That would be a good first place to go to send to local U.S. attorneys that identity, because 18 U.S. Code 2101 provides that whoever travels in interstate commerce or uses any facility in order to incite a riot or to organize, promote, encourage, participate or carry on a riot.

That's one of the offenses. Another offense is, when you're here with the triumvirate of Rudy Giuliani, Don Jr., and Don all saying inflammatory, inciting people to action, to physical violent action, to go down the street to the Capitol, all of that is covered by two sections of the code, 2383, which is about rebellion or insurrection, whoever incites, sets on foot, assists or engages in any rebellion or insurrection.

And it goes down in detail. That's another crime. The last one that I like is Section 2384. If you give me a grand jury, I will go to work on this. And what it provides is the same thing, but it's conspiracy. And it carries with it up to 20-year penalty; 2383, for rebellion or insurrection, I love this part, shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

Now, that is a shout-out to West Virginia.

Why haven't I talked about the crimes that they have already brought?

MELBER: That's all...

FLANNERY: These are the real crimes.

MELBER: No, I was just going to say -- I know we're on a slight time delay -- that's all very relevant, including you flagging the idea that some people can be disqualified from office.

We are talking about people trying to take over the United States government, after all.

John, I am running out of time, but, to paraphrase Mark Twain, of all my guests, you have been the most recent.


FLANNERY: I'm glad to be recent. I'm glad to be a guest.

MELBER: But we're also a fan. We're also a fan.

FLANNERY: Well, I'm a fans of yours.

MELBER: John Flannery, he will be back with more time next time.

When we come back: how this played across the globe.

Stay with us.


MELBER: We have been reporting and comparing notes on how we all lived through yesterday, we being Americans, this national disgrace, this instruction.

We close tonight with a look at how it was viewed by so many millions around the world.




MELBER: A disturbing scene, to be sure.

As always, thank you for relying on our coverage, our facts, and the work that we do. We're in it together.

We will be back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.



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