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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, January 8, 2021

Guests: Melissa Murray, Marcus DiPaola, Sally Kohn


President Trump is permanently suspended from Twitter. The push grows to impeach President Trump a second time over his role in inciting the riot at the Capitol Building.



Hi, Ari.


As we end this terrible week, I did want to ask you about the import of taking Donald Trump seriously, which I know you have done with your platform and in your time and your work, and others haven't.

And I'm thinking about that as we end this week.

WALLACE: Oh, God. Wow.

I mean, what's funny about that, to hear other people come around to see him for what he is, is the way people like me were treated. I mean, on some shows on our network, I felt like the crazy lady screaming the news in the elevator.

And it's actually a sad thing to be right about, and especially when it comes to COVID. And you look at this death toll, every single person, every single number destroys someone's family, destroys someone's world. And grief takes years.

So, there's now millions of years of grief that's been put in motion by Donald Trump's failures to contain and control COVID. So, I wish I had been wrong about Donald Trump.

MELBER: I appreciate you putting it that way. It's something we're exploring later in this show.

And it's not anyone taking a victory lap. But if we're going to do this as a nation, and we're going to have this reckoning, let's be clear about who was right when and whether people who are coming around are doing it the right way. Otherwise, we risk repeating some of these mistakes.

You have had a long week, as we all have, Nicolle. I hope you have some rest. We will be, I'm sure, counting on your Monday.

WALLACE: Thank you so much, my friend. Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you, Nicolle.

I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT on this Friday night. I'm Ari Melber. We are tracking breaking news.

President Trump facing this now growing push for what will be potentially his second impeachment, Democrats already drafting these articles that formally accused President Trump of abusing his authority and power to incite the insurrection the nation witnessed this week, laying out what everyone saw and heard, how Donald Trump incited a mob of his own supporters who engaged in -- quote -- "violent, deadly destructive and seditious acts."

Tonight, I can tell you, this is not a drill. This is not an exercise. The Congress of the United States is responding to the illegal invasion of its literal building and the president's months-long attacks on what the building represents and is supposed to practice, attacks on American democracy itself.

Now, this is the most serious measure the Congress has for accountability. This is the constitution's formal method for confronting a criminal president.

I know there's a lot going on. I know we covered an impeachment before. But let that sink in. The Constitution states that, if the president is a criminal, and is acting to perpetuate abuse of power and crimes in office, there is one way to deal with that: Charge them in the House. Try them in the Senate.

Now, this tonight is the swift his push for impeachment we have ever seen in American history. But these are unusual times. You may not be surprised to hear one more thing that is faster or bigger or worse than usual.

Tonight, we can report as the weekends, and that we're just still less than two days out from when this emergency was first contained in the Capitol, now over 200 members of Congress support the impeachment of Donald Trump, even if he's leaving anyway. They support it tonight.

These new articles speak to both accountability for the president's actions and also preventing potential further danger. We are not through this, as you know. These new articles state the president remains a -- quote -- "threat to national security, democracy and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office."

Speaker Pelosi today condemning Trump as -- quote -- "unhinged and unfit," saying that, if he does not resign, they will move forward with impeachment. Another member of her leadership team is backing impeachment and calling on the other executive branch of government to act as well.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): This is bad stuff. And it's time for everybody to call it what it is. It is time for the Republican leadership to invoke the 25th Amendment.

They need to do it. Pence needs to do it. But, if he doesn't, we need to impeach.


MELBER: It's my job to tell you, this is a big deal. Indeed, there are many political reasons why many in Congress, really in both parties, might rather just move on, get through the next two weeks and not launch into this.

There are people, serious people, who just lived through something terrible that could have been far worse and even more violent than the tragic death that already occurred who don't think that is a risk America can afford tonight.

I'm not trying to scare you. We work very hard to give you the facts and the evidence on this program, not hyperbole. But I am objectively telling you that's what a lot of members of Congress are saying is necessary, that this must occur before something far worse occurs.

Now, that's an approach on the reckoning for the insurrection, which we're all still coming to grips to understand. The other big story, part of our top story tonight, is that, even if the Trump administration's law enforcement system failed on Wednesday, there is now a huge pressure on them and all levers of government to go to work to try to fix this, to investigate and get all the facts about Wednesday, including independent reporters who are ferreting out new information I'm about to tell you about, new leads.

I want to mention, some of these are the same very journalists who have been under fire by Donald Trump for years, literally attacked at the riot. More on that later.

But they're also the ones getting America the evidence, so you can decide as a citizen what to do about it on the plotting, on the action at these riots, newly revealed video exposing rioters breaking down a barricaded door, some overwhelming officers and clashing with them.

That's significant for many reasons. It's a crime. It's also a contrast to some of the first footage that went viral that appeared to show a different tenor. There's also new evidence showing criminal and violent motives for plans that were even worse than what went down Wednesday.

Some rioters now exposed and caught bringing tools of kidnapping, this one with zip ties that could be used to kidnap or illegally restrain hostages.

Others brought bombs. We're lucky they didn't go off. An Alabama man, we now know tonight, brought 11 Molotov cocktails discovered in his nearby truck. He also had gasoline.

The mounting evidence shows the tools of terror that were amassed for these explicit plans to commit terrorism by Americans, by some of these Trump supporters. Now, some plotters were writing on a Web site popular with QAnon followers: "We will storm the government buildings, kill cops, kill security guards, kill federal employees and agents," and then, yes, this is where the Trump plot comes back -- quote -- "demand a recount," an insurrection, not a random one, but an insurrection to make good on and deliver what their president had been telling them to do, that the goal was still to stop the count on Wednesday, stop the steal, use violence to do it.

There are so many aspects to this. Our coverage has also documented the police double standard on display, with the paltry number of arrests for a mob crime scene that was unfolding for hours on television.

I can report tonight a tiny bit of that is changing. There are new arrests of some of the prominent people who apparently could have clearly been apprehended on site. Take Richard Barnett, who famously now broke into Speaker Pelosi's office, bragging about stealing her mail, arrested and charged with entering and remaining under stricter grounds, violent entry, theft of public property.

Tonight, the number of arrests has now topped 50, including 13 federal charges. That's a step. That's more than Wednesday. Each case may yield more information or even some accountability.

But, remember, that number occurs even as one House presses for impeachment for what they call a presidential crime. It's a low number. The D.C. police still arrested Black Lives Matter protesters at over six times this rate for far more peaceful marches just this past summer.

I'm joined now by Michael Steele, who used to run the Republican Party and endorsed Joe Biden this past cycle, Sally Kohn, a progressive activist, and Heather McGhee, co-chair of Color of Change and the author of the forthcoming "The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together" out next month.

Heather, I give you the floor.

HEATHER MCGHEE, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: This week has been an example of both the beauty and the potential and the power of the American experiment, a multiracial coalition transforming an attack that started with decades of voter suppression, that accelerated under Brian Kemp and robbed Stacey Abrams of her seat, overcoming, coming together, truly a multiracial coalition anchored by black activists and leaders, giving the Democrats the Senate and therefore the ability to recover this economy, to address the pandemic, to address so many of the challenges we face.

And then the next day, the culmination of what has really been a slow burn of this president deciding that this democracy was completely inconvenient to his aims for power.

I want to be very clear that we are not out of the woods on the threat that the rise in white supremacist terror has created in this country,the threat to our democracy, the threat to human life. This is really a question.

Thankfully, overnight polling from Avalanche has shown that 62 percent of Americans want Donald Trump impeached and removed, that 71 percent say that the people I hope don't get off in this, the GOP members who incited attack should resign or be censured.

The enablers of this president's attack on the foundations of our country are widespread. And the fact that there are people who are still -- who were sort of at the tip of the spear who actually committed the violence who have still not been arrested gives good citizens in this country no peace.

But, at the same time, there are people in media, there are people at the top of corporations, and there are hundreds of politicians, including 147 Republicans, who have just as much responsibility for enabling the lies and the conspiracy theory, out of a short-term political gain, that needs to be held accountable as well.

MELBER: Michael?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Heather just really narrated very well and summed up this week for so many of us.

I want to speak for a moment as a native Washingtonian, one raised in the city, grew up in Petworth. The high school I attended literally is a couple of miles down North Capitol Street.

And for me to watch those scenes unfold were horrifying, but even more disturbing and, quite honestly, disgusting was, it was my fellow Americans who are engaged in this, my fellow citizens, who, instead of, whatever grievances they have, presenting them the way we have in the past -- and as we have seen even over the past year with peaceful marches not having to go after and attack members of Congress and destroy the Capitol itself, just really sent, I think, to the points that Heather made, sort of a resonating reality that there is out there a lot that we need to attend to there.

That we have to begin to speak as citizens about who we are and why it matters and why this matters. Why does this matter so much? Because, if it doesn't matter to you, we are done. We are done. But the fact that the polling is starting to reflect that it does matter, that people want these elected officials like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz to be held accountable, for those who stood with this president on those platforms the day of this violence and egged on that crowd to Capitol Hill, they need to be held accountable.

He needs to be impeached. He needs the 25th Amendment to be applied, if impeachment isn't the way. But we cannot allow for and take the risk that the next 12 days will just be OK, that, somehow, because the president gave a well-written, timed, planned speech last evening that he did not believe.

We have been in this room before. We saw it after Charlottesville. He gave a well-timed and planned speech after that, when the brouhaha occurred, to try to quell the moment. Well, you're not going to quell this moment with a nice speech.

The only way this moment is quelled is by your removal, because that's what the Constitution requires when you are inept in your job and you violate its tenets.

MELBER: I hear that.

Sally, building on these two experts, I want to play a little something from the attorney general of Washington.

I also want to mention, to Michael's point, we're not covering a debate. It's our job, when we cover debates, particularly of honest good-faith debates, to hear from both sides and really make sure we understand them and then -- and work it out.

We're covering a mob crime scene. We're covering the evidence I just showed of attempted terrorism, of potential hostage-taking. We're covering an insurrection. Those were the words of both Democratic Leader Schumer and Republican Leader McConnell.

Both agree at least on that. It's an insurrection. So, we're not doing that. So, when we get to what is the statements of those who are a party to it, to Michael's point about, oh, a well-timed statement, well, that's more like a denial or defense.

And we can accurately mention it. But we don't treat the denial by an individual facing serious evidence of a crime the same way we treat two sides in an American debate, which I think was implied by both guests' comments, Heather and Michael. I just wanted to draw that out.

Sally, take a listen to the attorney general of Washington.


KARL RACINE, D.C. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Everyone who was a law enforcement officer for a reporter knew exactly what these hate groups were planning.

They were planning to descend on Washington, D.C. Ground center was the Capitol. There were no surprises there.


MELBER: Sally, there is such a thing as surprises in law enforcement planning.

But there's an official saying what others have said and what reporting shows. This wasn't one of them.


Look, there's so much. Where to begin?

We spend billions of dollars in this country on law enforcement and on national security, billions. And yet it is clear that our nation's investment, in every sense, in white supremacy is far greater.

I mean, this was clearly our -- the halls of Washington, our president, a full party suggesting that that has to take priority, and in some cases appearing to literally open the doors to what we now know are laptops being stolen with national security secrets, to threats to hang the vice president.

I read this week that -- sorry -- I have been on the verge of crying all week. Let's not do it right now.


KOHN: I read this week that white supremacy is the greatest threat to democracy. I think that's right.

And to Heather's point, the silver lining we have to hold on to here is why this is all happening. This isn't just about Trump. This isn't truly just about Trumpism. This is about 50-plus years of a right-wing reactionary movement against a slowly and imperfectly, but nonetheless gradually perfecting democracy, and the idea that democracy is the greatest threat to white supremacy.

And so it is no accident what happened on Tuesday was followed by what happened on Wednesday. It is encouraging us hell that there are signs that most decent Americans are against what happened and horrified. It is disturbing how many Republicans are only coming out now and had nothing to say as this fire was being lit.

I will say one final point, which is, there seems to be too much fear about the optics of this in Washington or some notion that you can appease the people who just attempted an armed takeover of our government.

And this idea of, well, let's give them another chance, let's wait until Monday to impeach. Impeach them now. Do it now. I don't understand. For the life of me, I don't understand. I -- listen, I hope this puts the Republican Party out in the woods for a generation. But I don't care.

This isn't about winning optics. This isn't about winning the message. This is about sending a message to our fellow citizens and our children that this isn't OK, that we're not OK with this. This is a crisis, and you deal with it tonight.

MELBER: Sally, why is it emotional for you?

KOHN: This is one of those things where you know it can happen. You know. You saw the kindling being laid. And you felt like an alarmist, right?

I know Michael and Heather right there with me. You felt like an alarmist at every moment, and yet you saw it could happen, and yet, when it happens, it is still shocking. It is -- and I guess that's a good thing. Right? We should manage to be -- maybe we're not surprised, but still shocked, right?

I know what this country is. I know what this country is capable of. And it is still shocking, everything that unfolded over the last few days, how it unfolded, and the utter complicity and a lack of accountability on the part of a full-on political party charged with governing our nation.

Again, I know I'm not surprised. I am shocked. I am shocked. This is as -- is a hard, sad moment, even for those of us who knew that this was exactly what our nation was.


MCGHEE: I have to say...

MELBER: Heather -- Heather, I was just going to mention, so, because you have joined us before, you know we're actually way over on time with everything we have.

I wanted to give you a final thought, flagging that I'm running over.

MCGHEE: Yes, absolutely.

I mean, I think Sally said it so well. I have to say I think there has been a racial divide in the degree of shock just of my friends and people who have texted me and in my timeline.

I was not surprised and I was not shocked, because I know that this country actually has only had real democracy for about 55 years, since the Voting Rights Act was passed, since the idea of a multiracial democracy was fought and hard-won with blood.

I have known that blood and terror is part of the American enterprise and that we have always been fighting tooth and nail to make the promise of American democracy real. That said, this country has never before had so much awareness and ability to be informed about the stakes.

And that's why this moment and what happened in Georgia is, for me, the takeaway of this week. I am not surprised by what happened on Wednesday. I am emboldened and empowered and excited about what happened on Tuesday in one of the seats of the Confederacy in Georgia. That, to me, is my takeaway from this week.

MELBER: I think it's so important. There's so many pieces to this. And each of you have really shined a light on several of them.

And, Heather, the fact that you begin and end with a level of change that is measurably so much broader and involves the lawful exercise of civic and political power by so many voters in November and Georgia, against what we see, which is a much smaller slice of people who are willing to resort to violence to stop that which the lawful civic community is pushing forward on, which is a different polity, a different demographics, a different approach to what this country can be, even as we are in a dangerous time, for the reasons you all state.

I thank each of you, Michael Steele, Heather McGhee, Sally Kohn.

We have a lot more in tonight's show.

The U.S. government with plans to intercede if Trump tries to abuse military power, some Republicans disowning the center -- excuse me -- the senator at the center of Wednesday's revolt, a reporter who was at the riot also making a debut on THE BEAT to share firsthand journalism, a lot more coming up, when we're back after our shortest break in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: The Trump presidency is literally almost over, as Congress pushes to end it potentially even sooner.

Trump's own loyalists now claim to be turning. They see that he is "unmoored, psychologically fragile," "a total monster," "acting like Mad King George."

Current administration officials say they're not working to -- quote -- "resist," resist any dangerous or unlawful orders. This is serious. This is very serious.

But do you also notice how absurd, how risible, how laughable some of this newfound concern is from longtime Trump loyalists who literally worked so hard to elect him and carry out his agenda up through this bitter end?

Let's have real talk. These are the same people who spent five years finding every single possible or inconceivable reason to downplay, minimize or lie about the actual project of Trump and Trumpism.

You live here. You watch the news. I bet you remember it like I do, the talk of not taking him literally or not overreacting to his entertaining propensity for exaggeration.

That was crap. It was wrong. It was then and is now dangerous.

So, if there's going to be any accounting here, we do have some receipts for you on who fought Trumpism and who used those tactics I mentioned to advance it.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The things that Donald Trump is saying and doing are genuinely a threat to the democratic process.


MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Nobody should treat it like it's a joke now.

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): I doubt if the China comment was serious, to tell you the truth.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's important for us to take seriously the statements he's made in the past.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you win in a landslide, and they steal it, and it's rigged, it's not acceptable.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): A few legal inquiries from the president do not exactly spell the end of the republic.


MELBER: That last politician, Mitch McConnell, that was November. He was with Trump to the very end, as you know.

But, on Wednesday, as Trumpism sparked a literal threat to the physical safety of Senator McConnell and his colleagues, well, then Senator McConnell found there was indeed an effort to, as he just disavowed just there, to end the republic.

McConnell denouncing the riots as a -- quote -- "insurrection." An insurrection is an illegal effort to end the republic.

I'm showing you all this because it matters.

Right now, we have a special guest that is exactly the person we think you need to hear from about this now, a writer on the right side of this history.

"The New York Times"' Michelle Goldberg insisted from the start we should take Trump seriously. In his first month in office, she warned that anyone stating that Trump is a -- quote -- "menace to our democratic way of life understates the crisis," saying he was truly and provably a -- quote -- "cruel authoritarian, and if America survives this presidency, it will take some sort of truth and reconciliation commission to rebuild a functioning polity."

Thank you for being here, Michelle.


I mean, that's very kind of you to say, but I don't think it took any special insights or any special perspicacity to understand what Trump was. I would point out that most Senate Republicans understood precisely who Trump was before he won.

You can look at the words of Ted Cruz, you can look at the words of Lindsey Graham during the presidential campaign, before they saw that their future and kind of getting judges on the bench and getting tax cuts required them to pretend that Trump was something other than he was.

But it has all been out there and obvious from the beginning.

And I think one of the problems in our political life over the last four years is that, if you kind of could see clearly who Trump was, which he told us almost every day, then you had to treat his presidency as a daily ongoing emergency.

And people didn't want to treat his presidency as a daily ongoing emergency, so they kind of refused to see who he was and tried to write it all off as a joke, write it all off as taking seriously and not literally.

And not to make any comparisons between Trump and Hitler, except to say that it is very common in history for people looking at the rise of authoritarians, Hitler, Mussolini, all of these kind of characters from our dark and bloody history, to look at these people and say that they are too ridiculous to be serious threats, that they don't really mean the things that they say, or, if they do, they're not capable of carrying them out.

MELBER: Take a look at what we are seeing in spin, minimization, the same tools I mentioned, as well as lies, about what's happening this week in some conservative media.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: There's a lot of people calling for the end of violence. The men at Lexington and Concord didn't feel that way.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: What happened today will be used by the people taking power to justify stripping you of the rights you were born with as an American.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Obviously, this is a huge victory for these protesters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really don't know who is behind this. I guess you could call these, for lack of a better word, Antifa-like tactics.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Reports that Antifa sympathizers may have been sprinkled throughout the crowd.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If Antifa was there, we need to root it out.


MELBER: Michelle?

GOLDBERG: I think that if -- we know what Donald Trump thought about these protesters.

Before he was kind of forced by growing condemnations to make that hostage-like video in which he finally condemned these people and kind of did -- I guess went about as far as he's going to go towards conceding the election, what he said when we all saw what was going on was, right, we love you.

If he thought that these were Antifa who were going in there and vandalizing the Capitol and calling for heads on pikes, and kind of running around with zip tie handcuffs, and desecrating Congress, and breaking into the office of Nancy Pelosi, if Trump thought for a second that -- and he has access to the best intelligence, if there was any evidence that these were Antifa, we would have been hearing that, right?

Instead, we what we saw was him kind of celebrating these people up until the moment when he realized that his celebration of them had put him in a politically untenable situation.

MELBER: It all makes sense.

And while I appreciate the humility that you mentioned and the culpability, because you mentioned elected Republicans who are on record -- they knew how bad it was -- they just flipped for other craven reasons -- I do think it's important as we go through this reckoning to be clear about who said what and did what and move forward.

And if people are joining your ranks, fine. But let's be clear about how we got here. So that was my extra observation.

Michelle Goldberg, thank you so much.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Still ahead: new video evidence that shows Trump fans allegedly assaulting journalists, Speaker Pelosi calling for Trump's ousting, also worried about nuclear codes.

Michael Beschloss and more coming up.


MELBER: Breaking news this moment coming from the company Twitter, announcing they are permanently banning Donald Trump from their platform.

The president, of course, used Twitter extremely frequently and to extreme controversy throughout his rise. You can see here, @realDonaldTrump account suspended, and this is permanent. What you see on your screen is not an error. It is what everyone will view when they go to @realDonaldTrump on Twitter.

Reading from the company, brand-new, breaking news -- quote -- "After close review of recent tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account, and the context around them, we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence" -- end quote.

It is a development that comes amidst this reckoning both in the public and private sector for Donald Trump's actions and the scrutiny on his role in the insurrection on Wednesday at the Capitol.

We're joined now by one of our legal experts, Melissa Murray, law professor at NYU.

This is, of course, a breaking story.

So, Professor Murray, you're getting it as soon as I am.

But, as you know, walk us through the difference between free speech and that key language that Twitter uses. They're not the government, but they use some of a similar framework, where they refer to the idea that deliberate incitement of violence is not protected speech, Professor.

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, as you suggest, the First Amendment only applies as to state action. It doesn't apply to private parties.

This was part of the discussion last summer, when all of the heads of the major social media networks appeared before Congress. But, again, there's been a lot of discussion in the last few years about this question of platform liability for acts that are undertaken on these various social media platforms, and especially in the context of the political nature of some of these disputes with regard to the president.

So, it is not surprising that it's come to this. There's been a lot of, like, building toward this over the last four years. But it is very likely that the events of last Wednesday really was sort of the final straw. And there are real questions about whether or not these kinds of social media engagements between the president and his followers have really flown into a kind of violence that cannot be tolerated.

And this will surely engender some kind of litigation from Donald Trump and his supporters. But, again, this is something that's been building for a while.

MELBER: As you say, in contrast to government actions, based on the precedent, is it your view that the company, Twitter, is on firm ground here or not?

MURRAY: It would be hard to say, not knowing more about the background assumptions that were made in undertaking this stance.

But, again, private entities have broader license in some of these particulars to limit the kind of speech that they permit on their platform. But, again, this is only part of, I think, a broader kind of question about what kind of liability, legal liability, will be available to those on these social media platforms when certain things happen.

So, think, for example of Nextdoor and the claims of racial discrimination that have happened on that particular platform. All of these are live questions in a digital age, where so much of our engagement happens in the course of social media.

MELBER: Professor, stay with me.

I want to also bring in presidential historian Michael Beschloss, an expert for us here at NBC.

As one way to look at it, Michael, this was Donald Trump's approach to a fireside chat, but with, according to Twitter, incitements to mob violence, rather than just a discussion.

I see -- believe we have Marcus on the screen as well, but there's -- a later guests -- but there's Michael right now.

And so I think it's one thing to say, oh, this or that tech company did a slap on the wrist for a day or two. We wouldn't always even cover those. I'm curious your view of the significance, given the role that Donald Trump has cast Twitter in, which has affected a lot of other press, print and television, what it means that, now as president and ex-president, and whatever else comes, he's permanently banned from what was one of his most impactful platforms?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think, psychiatrically, Trump may have a harder time giving up Twitter than he will have giving up the presidency.

I'm saying that only half-jokingly, because this has not only been a way for him to instantly communicate with, as he's told us so many times, his 88 million followers or whoever they are, but this is psychiatric.

All day long, Trump is all about the next 10 minutes. And we hear sometimes about people getting a shot of dopamine pleasure when they have a tweet, and they feel that it's being sent out. I think that probably applies to Donald Trump.

So this guy is going to go through terrible withdrawal. The problem -- Twitter is a wonderful thing in all sorts of ways. The problem is, if you have a would-be tyrant, this is a way for a president, who should never be a would-be tyrant, to send out orders and expressions of his inner feelings to all Americans almost every single second, as if it's the Emergency Broadcast System. That's the way he's abused it.

MELBER: Yes, I'd like you to build on that point, Michael, because we are talking about a lot of new stuff, if I can just put it simply.

And we have covered the historic racism, the issues of white supremacy at the top of this program. We covered the double standard yesterday.

But the other piece is the total interaction of that, this kind of thuggishness from Donald Trump, with these very powerful tech mediums. And that put these decisions not in the hands of, say, the public in any way, or the government in any way, and not in the hands of the press, which sometimes has -- I would say, at least tries to have some standards about facts...


MELBER: ... but with tech companies that initially said, we're not getting into what's true or not. Then they said, we're not getting into what's a good idea or not.

And now they have been dragged by this insurrection, this violence, to say -- and I think many would argue late to the party -- we have a responsibility here, because nobody is rushing to Donald Trump's Pinterest board to look at his ideas for outdoor decorations at Mar-a-Lago.

Twitter has played a unique and specific role in the problem.


Presidents have too much power as it is. What Twitter and other social media do is, they enhance that power by allowing a president to get into your head whenever he feels like it, even if it's every five minutes, as it sometimes seems with Donald Trump.

Look at the way he has abused Twitter and these other platforms over the last month, saying, everyone who supports me taking back this stolen so-called election should come to Washington, D.C., on January 6 -- quote, end quote -- "It will be wild."

No president should have that kind of power to get into the heads of so many Americans.

MELBER: Professor, do you have a view about this from the wider perspective, given the concern about violence and the discussion of racism and civil rights, that Trump has not yet left office, but we are seeing this week, more than most weeks, as someone who follows this, a higher level of consensus around limiting him or de-credentialing him, even if he is the outgoing president of the United States?

MURRAY: Well, here we are, with two weeks left in this administration, it seems that everyone has suddenly gotten religion about this question that the president has, in fact, gone too far.

I will note that, just a year ago, we were actually in the midst of the impeachment proceedings and another question of whether the president had gone too far. And it seemed that he had not gone far enough.

Now it seems that what it really took was thousands of people storming the Capitol, the hallmark of democracy, the place where our representative government actually works and does business, for everyone to recognize the growing threat to the republic under this president and to finally take action. And

MELBER: And, Michael...

BESCHLOSS: Could I come in for a second, Ari?

MELBER: ... I want to draw you -- please.

And give us your thoughts, as well as the image on the screen, that, whether you watch TV or follow the news, let's remind people, there are tens of millions of people who don't always follow the news, any channel, but they're going to sign up, they're going to see what we see on the screen right now.

Your thoughts about that role in history today, as well as what else you wanted to tell us, sir?

BESCHLOSS: Well, it used to be that presidents had the automatic ability to get on maybe 90 percent of televisions in the old days of only ABC, NBC and CBS, to give a speech of about 20 minutes. That's what Kennedy did during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Kennedy never had the power to put his political slogans, his partisan desires out to Americans almost every single second. And we were just talking, the professor was talking about going too far. Donald Trump has gone too far for four years.

First time I remember seeing it was, after the 2016 election, he started attacking a private company for something he didn't like that it was doing. And I remember saying to myself, now you have not only the president with all his powers, but now he can use his bully pulpit -- and I do mean bully -- to go after private people and private companies.

We have not seen that from a president before. He has abused these platforms for four years. My view is, good riddance. Should have happened a long time ago.

MELBER: And, Professor, the statement up here, which I mentioned earlier: "After close review of the tweets and the account and the context," Twitter saying -- quote -- "We have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence."

Permanently is a long time. Donald Trump has openly mused about potentially running for office in the future. What does it tell you that Twitter is willing to go on record with this as a permanent position, knowing both what happened this week, but also the intense pushback they're sure to get from someone who, other than Obama, was actually one of the most followed accounts on the whole site worldwide?

MURRAY: Well, certainly, this follows a period of time where Twitter has done quite a lot to try and regulate content on its platform, including disinformation from the president with regard to the election.

So there have been a number of different efforts to mark the president's tweets as perhaps spreading disinformation or promoting untruthful statements. And so this is sort of -- that obviously hasn't worked. We have gotten to this point.

And now they're willing to take a permanent stance. I will note that, over the last month, there has been something of an exodus of Trump supporters from the Twitter platform to an alternative conservative platform called Parler.

And so it may be the case that, for the president at least, one way to sate his interest in social media is to leave Twitter, where he's been banned, and instead migrate to Parler, where he will certainly find a more hospitable reception.

MELBER: Michael?

BESCHLOSS: A reception, but on a platform with many fewer people.

This is a guy who's used to 90 million followers. And when he's feeling lonely, or when his wife is not talking to him, or when he's not getting enough publicity, he can put out a little tweet and change the world.

Those days are now in his past. They should never have been true of a sitting president, made him much too powerful and dangerous. He's been shouting fire in a crowded theater for four years. Finally, we saw the result on Wednesday. This should never happen again.


And if someone was just landing on Earth tonight from a faraway land or a foreign planet, Michael, they might wonder why a technological decision, if you want to call it that, is at this level of import, that this is a huge breaking news event.

And so I actually think, although many of our viewers, of course, are into the news, so you use social media, so you know about it, but even more broadly, for those who may not be on Twitter that much, or just only hear about these tweets, and think of them as a sort of a nuisance or a negative, I wonder if you could walk us through a little more of the historical context.

Because, in many ways -- and I remember being in newsrooms in '15 and '16, where, as an entertainer and a reckless individual, I think it's fair to say, Donald Trump used this platform more than any other, and to more effect than press releases, than television ads. I mean, there's a lot of facts we're going to continue to sift through.

But he got more out of Twitter, and there were studies showing he got more paid media out of it, than the hundreds of millions of other candidates, including Republicans he beat in the primaries, spent it the old way.

And so I'm really -- and I'm here doing live coverage with you, so I'm thinking about it myself, but I'm really thinking that this is a signal day, not as important as the violence, but related to it, with Twitter citing that as the reason, a signal day in the blunting of this, this political individual's largest platform.

BESCHLOSS: It's been an enormous weapon for him, which he's abused and abused and abused.

And the problem is two things. Number one, Twitter is instant. So, if he wants to have a sudden impact on people or to move the stock market, maybe he's got friends who are investing in certain stocks that will benefit, maybe they will give him a kickback. I don't know if any of that is true.

But it allows a president to do things like that in a way that we haven't had a medium before make it so easy. If he had done it on television, for instance, well, you have to get through a news division. If a news division, like NBC News, is carrying a president who's lying, they can take him off the air. And that has happened.

We have seen that very much in recent times. And the other thing is that we're now coming to see that social media are not just neutral conveyor belts. They're just like publishers. They have to exercise some judgment.

Twitter has done some wonderful things in labeling some of the president's more dangerous lies, saying that this claim about election fraud is disputed, for instance, or something else he says may be deceptive.

That label has been tried as an effort to put some limit on Trump's power on Twitter. It obviously didn't work. I think every American should be grateful to Twitter tonight and Facebook and Instagram as well for saying, this person lies, he says dangerous things, they can have an impact on our society that causes people to be killed, if terrorists invade the Capitol, and that this should be the equivalent of someone who is a public menace and has to be constrained.

MELBER: What I want to do for viewers here -- we're following this breaking news -- is thank the professor here. I want to thank Melissa Murray for the legal perspective on this breaking story.

Historian Michael Beschloss stays with us.

I want to turn to some other experts of ours, from "The New York Times," Michelle Goldberg, and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who endorsed Joe Biden.

We're following breaking news that you see on your screen, Twitter suspending Donald Trump permanently. This is a development, I should say, that has major media and political ramifications, particularly with a politician who has rode tweets into the White House, quite literally.

Michael Steele, your reaction?

STEELE: Well, thank you. Hello?

We have been talking in this space about this for a while now. OK, better late than ever, a lot of damage done. Understood. Be prepared for the noise about the anti-tech stuff out there and how big tech is undermining the president.

Here's the other side of that coin, which we still need to be vigilant about. And that is that there are other sites now that are being created and forming, like Parler and others, where this...


STEELE: ... will continue to go on and fester.

So, it is important that we be prepared and recognize not just what's in front of us, in terms of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and all these other big-name institutions, but what's on the side and behind us that is being fermented and formed and shaped to carry on this anti-democratic messaging narrative.

Get out the call to arms and crush it at every possible turn. Do not let it live nor breathe a minute longer, because we know what it's about. We have seen it played out right in front of our eyes. Let's not pretend it's not happening elsewhere.

MELBER: Michael Steele laying it out. Our panel stays.

This is a developing story.

And I'm thrilled to tell you, NBC's Kristen Welker, who has followed and reported vigorously on this administration, who moderated a debate, is at the White House, the center of this action now.

Kristen, you know so well the way this president has used Twitter. I'm curious what you can tell us tonight.


This is just a stunning move by Twitter, because this is how the president communicates with his supporters. He attributes his use of Twitter to him winning the White House, and he may not be wrong. I mean, this is how he gets his messaging out. And he's, frankly, changed the way that presidents communicate.

As you have been discussing, we're already seeing some really ugly language, quite frankly, from some of his supporters coming out, threatening big tech.

No official response from the White House, Ari, but what I can tell you is, there is just mounting pressure on this president to resign. So this comes against that backdrop. You have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that she is ready to move on articles of impeachment if the president does not resign.

She wants the administration to invoke the 25th Amendment. Based on my reporting, though, Mike Pence, the vice president, who would need to be on board in order to move forward with invoking the 25th Amendment, is not going to support that move. So, it's really hard to see that that is going to happen.

So I think you're going to see the focus shift to Capitol Hill. And, frankly, the president growing increasingly isolated, Ari, as more and more administration officials, Cabinet officials resign and leave office and say, enough is enough.

The question becomes, how will he communicate with the public? We understand there's going to be some type of videotape that's released a little bit later on this evening. And we're waiting for that to happen.

I don't think that it has anything to do with this Twitter announcement. This was a pre-planned video. But, nonetheless, this is a striking move by Twitter, Ari.

MELBER: And, Kristen, before we lose you, because I know you hopped with us on the breaking news, from your working knowledge of this White House -- and you know it well -- do you have any sense of whether there is a person left who would walk in to Donald Trump's office or residence and tell him this news, whether he would learn it from television, or whether he might open...


MELBER: ... open his phone, open his phone and find that he may be the leader of the free world, but he doesn't have the right to tweet anymore?


WELKER: Let me tell you who he's still communicating with.

He is still communicating with his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and, of course, his family, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner. These are the people around him who are still giving him this type of real-time information.

And I think you can't underscore the role that they're playing right now. For example, it's our understanding that they pushed him to tape that video last night that was really aimed at trying to lower the temperature on this entire discussion.

So, I anticipate he will learn it first from them. But we will have to wait and see and be certainly looking to see what, if any reaction we get from the president and from his top aides.

MELBER: We will be following, and I know you will be. Thank you for jumping on the breaking news with us, Kristen Welker at the White House.

WELKER: Good to see you.

MELBER: We're going to release to see both Kristen and Michael Beschloss.

Good to see you.

I want to turn to Michelle Goldberg, as we continue forward here.

Michelle, your reaction to this news?

GOLDBERG: So, I think that I'm going to have to think through the First Amendment implications of this, because I don't -- look, I think it's good that it's kind of -- it's been a long time coming. And it's more of a sign of Trump's declining power than a cause of it.

I mean, Donald Trump has incited violence much more directly in the past than he did in the tweets that are the proximate cause of his -- of him being banned. And, look, I think Twitter's well within its rights to treat Donald Trump like anyone else, which is what they're doing here.

Other people have been banned from Twitter for good for less than what Trump has done over his history on the platform. So, in that sense, he does -- he would -- he's been given kind of special rights and special access because of his position, which has now come to an end.

I think -- look, I think there's an argument that all of these platforms have too much power and are too big and are basically quasi-state actors, right, that they can sort of pull their own version of a 25th Amendment and say that Donald Trump is too dangerous to be using these tools of mass communication.

I think they're right. But I also think that these couple Silicon Valley men should not be the ones to single-handedly make these decisions.


GOLDBERG: But, look, ultimately -- and there's also -- there's such a kind of narrative symmetry to this.

People talk a lot in this administration about the invisible screenwriters. That's been this kind of metaphor for the strange narrative arcs that have persisted throughout the Trump years. But it's hard to think of a bigger one than Trump kind of riding Twitter to political fame, and then losing access to it shortly before he's about to get booted out of office.

MELBER: Yes, very literally losing his voice in that sense.

Michelle Goldberg, thank you on more than one topic tonight.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

MELBER: We want to turn, before we leave you tonight, absolutely unrelated issue, with some new reporting, the attacks on the press from Donald Trump, which, of course, reached their logical conclusion at the insurrection, rioters smashing cameras, assaulting members of the press, including the AP photographer shown in this video.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're coming for you!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out. Get out. Move. Get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out. Throw him the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out.


MELBER: We can tell you that photographer was eventually taken to safety, with growing questions about the police response, also those videos that showed officers taking selfies.

Then there's this video taken by Marcus DiPaola showing police officers appearing to have trouble with those barricades at the Capitol. The video went viral. DiPaola says the police, though, were only backing away from the barricades after they were totally outnumbered.

"The New York Times" also reported an officer tried to give rioters directions, meanwhile, to Senator Schumer's office. So, more than one thing going on.

Marcus joins us right now. I should note he's a freelance journalist who filmed the video we showed you near the barricades.

Thank you for being here.

MARCUS DIPAOLA, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Hey, Ari, thanks so much for having me.

Just a quick note on that previous video that you showed about the photographer that got attacked. That was John Minchillo from the AP. He is one of the nicest people. I first met him when I covered Hurricane Sandy. And he's -- he helped me and he mentored me during that hurricane.

He's just one of the nicest guys out there. And it's really good to know that he's relatively OK.

MELBER: Yes, very harrowing. They pulled him to safety. As you remind us, these are all individuals, human beings who do some of that work.

You were on the ground. What is important, from what you could see 360 degrees, that's different than just some of the clips that went viral?

DIPAOLA: Yes, so I think one of the scariest things that really bothered me the most was, normally, when I cover D.C. protests, I see countless Park Police, Secret Service, Metro P.D. mixed in with Capitol Police.

And on that specific day, when the rioters took the Capitol, they were nowhere to be found. And I'm assuming that that's because they weren't requested in advance. And I think it would be really interesting to find out why they weren't requested in advance, or if they were requested in advance and were denied.

MELBER: At the barricades, did you see police actively trying to open or help people enter, or what exactly did you see?

DIPAOLA: No, what I saw was people fighting with police.

One guy kind of pulled his fist back as if it was going to punch in the cop in the face. And that was when the cops kind of backed off, because I think they realize they were outnumbered 600 to one. And even if they were able to fight off those 600 people, there were still thousands and thousands and thousands of people coming up Pennsylvania Avenue behind those 600 people.

It was a losing battle. What I saw them do is, I saw them pull away from the barricade, and then form a line at the northeast entrance to the Capitol with their ASP batons like right in front of them. And protesters just bowled them over.

I mean, at first, they just went around to the side, because there weren't enough cops to block off the entire steps.

MELBER: Right.

DIPAOLA: But then the cops spread out in reaction, and they just completely just bowled them over.

MELBER: Twenty seconds.

Anything else that you saw by being there that might be different from what we saw afar?

DIPAOLA: Seeing -- seeing that smashed window in the Capitol was one of the scariest experiences I have ever had, because both myself and a lot of reporters that have Capitol Hill credentials and have worked on the Hill reporting just -- it's a sacred place to us.

And it was a very scary experience to see that smashed window.

MELBER: Yes, and to be there on the ground inside the way you and other journalists were, like other security, you don't know how it's going to end when you're in the middle of it.

Thank you for your work, sir. Marcus, thanks for coming on.

DIPAOLA: Thanks.

MELBER: Thank you for joining us here on THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.

We will be back Monday night 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Stay safe.



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