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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 12/14/21

Guests: Barbara Boxer


Democrats get set to vote to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt. Former Senator Barbara Boxer discusses the insurrection probe. President Biden`s treatment in the media is examined. A Trump accountant testifies in the Manhattan probe.


AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT with my good friend Ari Melber starts right now.

Hey, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hey, Ayman. Thank you very much. Good to see you.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we`re tracking breaking news.

All eyes are on the House floor. You see right here where Democrats say they have the votes to hold Trump aide Mark Meadows in criminal contempt tonight for defying the January 6 probe. Tonight`s vote would tee up a major call for DOJ over whether to go ahead and indict Meadows, which would lead to trial and a possible jail sentence.

The fate of Steve Bannon echoes in his ears as he watches this vote tonight. So we are tracking that. And MSNBC will be bringing you the vote when it happens, be that in this or the following hours, but it`s on pace to happen tonight.

We also have analysis tonight on the legal significance of all that with Maya Wiley and other experts standing by. So that`s the clash over Mr. Meadows` cooperation.

But I believe the most important thing is where we start right now, how that procedural clash is actually yielding new factual information about a trove of digital evidence. So our top story is that evidence, which is separate from this process battle over Meadows` participation and whether he will be forced to cough up more evidence, because what`s already coming out right now is very damning, so damning that it takes a moment to actually absorb.

And so we are right now going to share with you something we do around here, which is just the facts, however disturbing they may be, beginning with what we learned from one of the Republican members of this committee, Liz Cheney, who read into the record the evidence that many prominent conservatives were privately urging Trump to stop the horrific insurrection violence, from influential FOX News hosts to Donald Trump Jr. himself.

Cheney reading from the texts that those people wrote to Meadows in the heat of those dangerous moments that they thought would remain private.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Indeed, according to the records, multiple FOX News hosts knew the president needed to act immediately. They texted Mr. Meadows, and he has turned over those texts.

Quote: "Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy," Laura Ingraham wrote.

"Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished," Brian Kilmeade texted.

Quote: "Can he make a statement, ask people to leave the Capitol?" Sean Hannity urged.


MELBER: That`s just some of the evidence. Now, Congress wants the rest of it to account for what happened and to deal with accountability.

But this evidence alone tonight does add new information. It shows how people who were horrified by Trump-fueled violence would then go on to quickly lie about it and defend it on air.

Ms. Cheney there was very dry, very measured, just giving you just the facts. But we have more than just those facts isolated. I want to show briefly comparing some of this, starting with FOX`s Laura Ingraham, her private text appeal vs. her lies on air.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: More than 99 percent -- it had to be -- were peaceful, but because of a small contingent of loons, these patriots have been unfairly maligned.


MELBER: Or her colleague Brian Kilmeade privately said the violent day was destroying everything and Trump`s legacy, while publicly lying about the violence that occurred.


BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS: I do not know Trump supporters that have ever demonstrated violence that I know of in a big situation.


MELBER: Or Sean Hannity, who literally campaigned with Trump, privately pushing for him to intervene to try to get the insurrectionists out of the Capitol. OK.

But then he went on air to downplay the insurrection as somehow separate from Trump`s wider movement.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: People who acted violently today, they don`t represent the millions of law-abiding, hardworking, taxpaying citizens, responsible American patriots that are worried about election integrity.


MELBER: This is a blatant tension between the private urging to stop the violence, the insurrection, and the public lies that defend that very activity.

I want to get into this more deeply, dealing with some of those individuals on air, but I also want to show you the family. These new texts newly exposed shows that when Donald Trump Jr. wants to reach his dad on an emergency basis, sometimes, he has to go through the chief of staff, like a tortured scene from HBO`s "Succession."



DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: All the hypocrisy that we saw during 10 months of rioting, looting, arson, in-your-face type of politics.

Candidly, whatever my father said on January 6 was mild in comparison.


MELBER: But it didn`t look mild behind the scenes, where, as I just showed you on your television screen, you see Donald Trump Jr. in private pleading with an aide to his dad: "Please stop this `blank` ASAP."

The entire plot to overthrow this election was based on lies. Without propaganda, there`s no large group of people who are going to show up to do the insurrection in the first place, or the next one if there is one.

So, now some of the most powerful people backing the lies and downplaying the insurrection are caught today out here digitally naked with their texts, exposed for actually believing the opposite of what they would go on to claim repeatedly to their own listeners, viewers, believers, what they would claim to them on air.


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

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: It`s not like it`s a siege, it doesn`t seem. It seems like they are protesting.

BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: There`s never been an inauguration like this. There`s never been anything like this, where the election was stolen from a president.

LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS: The protesters who had invaded the Capitol were walking between the rope lines.


MELBER: The individuals you hear there, many of them knew better.

Now, how are they responding today? I just showed you, this is all out in public. We`re living through this. And this part is really telling. These professional communicators, who do know how to talk and make arguments, who found all kinds of weird, creative and even bizarre ways to pivot during four years of the Trump era, most of them right now -- I can tell you we checked -- they`re just taking the L, the loss.

They got caught agreeing with the many Americans who were horrified on that day by Donald Trump touting the insurrection. Rather than address their own record, they are actually reaching for a version of cancel culture. They`d rather cancel any mention of the facts I just showed you that are in the public view, that are in the Congress.

They`d rather cancel it and censor them from their own FOX viewers than admit something that might actually add a dash of responsibility to their own coverage, the fact that, according to these texts, for at least a moment that day, they cared about the authoritarian coup, and they did something to try to intervene.

There is, by the way, a separate question over whether journalists should be lobbying the president to do anything. But many of these people were not journalists, like Hannity.

Now, this is a big development for a nation that`s often numb to these kinds of scandals. And the sometimes frantic texts reveal how these top Republicans, some who were inside the Capitol, could obviously see the reality of the extreme danger.

There is a political effort to lie America out of this, to change it, to confuse it, to erase it. So, right now, before we bring in our experts, I want to read to you some of these newly revealed texts from Republicans who were reaching out to Trump`s chief of staff amidst what we know was happening.

Quote: "They have breached the Capitol."

Quote: "Mark, protesters are literally storming the Capitol, breaking windows. Is Trump going to say something?"

Another Republican writing -- quote -- "There`s an armed standoff at the House chamber door."

Another, apparently from inside, writing: "We are all helpless," pleading with the chief of staff.

Another writing -- quote -- "Trump has to tell the protesters to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed."

Another writing -- quote -- "Tell them to go home."

Those Republicans understood the Trump supporters you see on your screen were the danger, that they`d violently overwhelmed police, that the only way to stop the violence and, as they put it in real time, the likely killings, was to beg their leader, Donald Trump, to stop these people, these thugs, these insurrectionists.

Now, think about it. What many of those people I just quoted, those Republicans, what they apparently did not or would not understand is, this was the plan. This is what their leader wanted. These Republicans, who were senior enough to have access to Meadows` phone to text with him, in the moment of their panic, which I can understand and relate to, they didn`t seem to grasp they were asking the arsonist to put out the fire, with their lives on the line.

They were still in a kind of denial, as these Trump fans tried to kill police and publicly demanded the execution of Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi. These people wanted a violent coup. We all saw what happened.


This investigation, bipartisan, by the way, is revealing more about how it happened and about how these people who know better, powerful people with influences and audiences, they knew better that day. And they keep lying about it, risking not only our democracy literally, but risking really themselves, because, apparently, they`re too scared to tell the truth or even fight back.

We have special coverage tonight as we watch the vote in the House, as I mentioned, Maya Wiley standing by on the law.

But, on this topic, I want to go one-on-one to a special guest who knows this Congress well and some of these individuals that I just quoted, and that`s former United States Senator Barbara Boxer.

Thanks for being here.

FMR. SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): Thank you, Ari.

What an opening. I`m literally kind of speechless, which is bad. I have to get over that, because it`s stunning, what you have revealed. And you have laid it out.

And there was a violent attack on our Capitol on January 6. We know what we saw. We knew it then. All these Republicans and right-wing commentators knew it then. And they decided to step back and not tell the truth. And the truth is coming out.


I`m curious what you think particularly are those frantic texts, because the truth is what is first in danger with authoritarianism. And world history shows that. And the truth is what this committee says it`s pursuing. And the truth is what Mr. Meadows is obviously withholding. It`s real, not fake evidence that he`s hiding.

I want to read to you from a conservative outlet where Amanda Carpenter writes. She`s worked for many Republicans, but she`s writing for the traditional conservative view, not pro-Trump.

And she says: "No matter what they say now, in light of this evidence, Trump`s loyalists knew at the time what was happening at the Capitol was not peaceful. They knew it was an attack on American democracy. They knew Trump was responsible for it. That`s why they sent the texts pleading with him to make it stop."


BOXER: The truth is on display. The moments that those were written, that`s the truth.

And I want to just talk about FOX News very quickly, because I took away three things. And I will say them fast, Ari, because I know you got lots of people waiting. One, FOX News was to the Trump administration what state TV and Russia is to Putin.

Honestly, these folks were literally advising him, very close to him, and had incredible access to Trump`s top person, Mark Meadows. Secondly, FOX News, those folks knew that Trump could stop it. What does that prove? It proves he started it. It proves he controlled it. That, on its face, is amazing.

And, three, FOX News and those folks are now lying about January 6. And instead of being patriotic Americans, they`re slamming the committee of the House that is bipartisan. And let`s be clear. They were scared to death on January 6. They were frightened to death. And they are so ideological and so in Trump`s orbit that they are now liars. It`s awful.

MELBER: Yes, I appreciate your candor on it. And you know that building well. I know you care about it, and care about it in the American sense of it, not one party or the other, although it`s one party here doing this.

Senator Boxer, I`m going to turn to Maya Wiley on the legal part. Thank you for joining us.

BOXER: Thanks.

MELBER: Those are the facts, as I mentioned, that are emerging. Why are we learning about them? Because of the larger process, the House voting on criminal contempt for Mark Meadows, the Trump White House chief of staff during the insurrection.

He talked about potentially cooperating, but is now defying the probe.

Now, moments ago, Liz Cheney, who we have been quoting, was beginning this debate, and also talked about whether there was a potential Trump crime amidst all this, while saying that Meadows` testimony is critical to getting the whole truth.


CHENEY: Mr. Meadows testimony will bear on another fundamental question before this committee, and that is whether Donald J. Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly sought to obstruct or impede Congress` official proceeding to count electoral votes.

This committee is entitled to Mr. Meadows` testimony, and it will inform our legislative judgments.


MELBER: Again, to repeat a theme I mentioned, it is clearly Congresswoman Cheney`s style to just speak in a measured way, but what she just said there is like a bomb going off in terms of the House procedure, because she`s talking about whether the president committed a crime in the attempted coup.


That`s what she is saying. She says it her way. We say things our way. She`s referring to what they already have, this trove of digital data, of the cell phone records, the incriminating texts and e-mails with Mr. Meadows, his personal cell phone characterized by some as a -- quote -- "personal hell" for him.

He used to private Gmail accounts for government business. We`re going to get more into that later in the hour. The committee is looking at all the communications.

Meadows was also someone who led the charge against -- yes, there`s always some hypocrisy in here -- something that looks a lot less important than this, but is relevant. He was looking for those other e-mails back in the day.


MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: On March of 2015, Secretary Clinton publicly said -- and I quote -- "I opted for convenience to use my personal e-mail account, which was allowed by the State Department."

How difficult would it be to comply with the law, the Federal Records Act, if you are using your personal e-mail account? What would you have to do?


MELBER: Well, he can answer his own question, because he wasn`t complying with it in one of the most important jobs in government.

I`m joined now by Maya Wiley, a former civil prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, for the legal side of this.

Welcome back, Maya.

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Good to be with you, Ari.

MELBER: Boy, a little bit of procedural jarring, which I emphasize to viewers we`re learning about some of this piecemeal because Mr. Meadows is trying to have it both ways. He has contradicted himself, a bit hypocritical. I say that as fact, not as criticism.

Whether the sum total of all the evidence may ultimately help him is an open question, because we haven`t seen it, whether, for example, on January 6, he came around to what some of those people were texting him. We just don`t have all the evidence yet.

But walk us through legally what we`re eying tonight, which is Democrats say they have the vote to hold him in contempt. Then what?

WILEY: Well, look, once they have this vote, which is likely to pass, there`s going to be referral to the U.S. attorney`s office. And it is going to be the U.S. attorney`s office that makes a decision about whether to take it to a grand jury, and it`ll be the grand jury`s decision whether to indict.

But, look, this is a case where, at the beginning of it, I think there are some lawyers who would rightly say, this is more difficult than Steven Bannon, because, one he did some cooperating it. He did turn over lots of records. He was in negotiations with the committee. Steve Bannon had just said, I`m not going to talk to you, I`m not even going to negotiate whether I will talk to you.

So they can`t say he did nothing. And he was, in fact, a direct adviser to the president around the incidents they want to talk to him about so it gets closer to executive privilege.

But, look, what we have to remember is, one, we already have a an appellate court that has said, no, there`s no executive privilege here because President Biden, under the law, said, no, there`s no interest to protect here.

But let`s also remember, because what was so powerful about what you laid out, Ari, and the way you summed up what we have learned through this process, and what the committee itself shared with us last night, is the implication that, even as an adviser to the president of the United States, we`re more in the land of U.S. v. Nixon. We`re more in the land of whether or not there is an actual crime to investigate that the president was part of.

And you just don`t get the claim privilege around whether or not you were committing a crime.

MELBER: Right, and a crime that was in service of trying to end American democracy. Sometimes, the words sound so serious or grand that they might sound like hyperbole.

And on the day of January 6, there was still a lot being uncovered and figured out. We`re here approaching a year anniversary with a lot more evidence. And that`s what it was. It was this coup plot. And so that`s very important.

We also showed how Sean Hannity himself seemed concerned enough to privately lobby Mark Meadows, and they apparently have the kind of relationship where Mr. Hannity just says what he thinks the government or the president should do, and then goes back out and pretends to report on it, as if he`s more independent than he is.

I say that by way of caution and handle with care. Mr. Meadows, who`s perfectly invited to come on this program, decided to go talk to Hannity about some of this. Take a look.


HANNITY: The hyperpartisan, predetermined outcome, anti-Trump January 6 Committee just voted 9-0 to hold Mark Meadows in contempt for refusing to comply with their orders.


We already know this was a predetermined outcome. Didn`t we learn that when they kicked Jim Jordan and Jim Banks off the committee?

MEADOWS: This is not about me, holding me in contempt. It`s not even about making the Capitol safer. We see that by some of the selective leaks that are going on right now.

This is about Donald Trump and about actually going after him once again, continuing to go after Donald Trump.


MELBER: So, Maya, handicap where we go from here.

In public, they have their -- sort of their pretend volleys about this. In private, they have their own communications that we actually got a little bit more of a look at. And then, legally, what is Mr. Meadows` timeline for trying to use what might be potentially valid claims or, as you said, those arguments of privilege to run this out?

WILEY: Yes, well, look, sometimes, the Justice Department can move very quickly, a grand jury can move very quickly, and you can get to trial very quickly. And, hopefully, that`s what happens here.

Certainly, I think the effort is to run it out. Just remember the point that I think Representative Cheney made so effectively last night. Claire McCaskill pointed this out. What she really said was, look at the timeline. Mark Meadows was complying. He was turning over all these documents until his book. and then his book comes out, and then suddenly he`s not talking anymore, and he`s not going to cooperate.

But yet he`s publicly talking, but he`s only talking to the spin room for Donald Trump. And that is simply thwarting Congress, when there are all kinds of reasons why these communications aren`t privileged, and they should be allowed, under their constitutional power.

As Jamie Raskin said, Representative Raskin said, if we can`t do it here, when will we ever be able to do it?


WILEY: Because it`s central to what we have the right to figure out whether we can stop insurrections in the future and how to do that.

So I do think there is a lot of imperative here for this to move quickly to get to resolution, because it is so critically important and because it does implicate a crime.

And there`s one fact that I wish the committee had spoken to last night, although I thought they did a very clear, systematic job. But at the same time all those texts are coming from Donald Trump Jr., from our FOX News friends, from members of Congress, he -- Donald Trump was calling senators asking them to slow the electoral vote down while all this was happening, while he knew there was violence and while he wasn`t taking action.

MELBER: Right. Right.

And that`s a key point, because, again, some of this might all look very flimsy. But in a world where the combination of violence, chaos, and those Republicans who wanted to ally themselves with parts of this, in a world where they didn`t do the certification, everyone wakes up on the 7th, and they`re here claiming, well, look, didn`t happen. Maybe there`s some larger legal question. Maybe Pence could do this or that.

As you drag that out, you`re getting closer to the 20th. You can see the outlines of something that many Americans prefer to think of as unthinkable and that the military clearly was not going to support, but that had a lane. It`s just not a lane they ultimately achieved.

Maya Wiley, thank you, as always.

Let me tell everyone what`s coming up, because this is a lot of breaking news, but it`s not the only breaking news. "The New York Times" just crossing the wires with a story about new developments in the criminal case against Trump in New York. We have that.

And going out to the wider politics and the weird, wacky world of covering Joe Biden`s first year. Well, our friend Chai Komanduri is here with a look at the expectations game.

All that, and we will continue to track what many are calling a historic night in the Congress, accountability potentially for January 6.




HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS: And columnists insisting the press should ease up on Joe Biden.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN: Dana Milbank writes in his latest column that it`s President Biden, not Trump, who may actually have a legitimate gripe with the media.

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS: What about the allegation that the press is underselling the good news? What is the good news?

GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS: It`s hilarious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: News coverage of Biden in recent months has been bad or worse as that of Donald Trump in 2020.


MELBER: That`s just some of the new debate there over whether the media treats Biden more harshly than Trump.

It was kicked up partly by this chart that tracks over 200,000 articles and found sentiment showing more negative coverage of Biden than Trump recently, as you see on the right side, "The Washington Post" finding that the negative sentiment of coverage in those last 11 months of Trump`s term now basically matches Biden`s recent period there from the summer on, even as Trump had those COVID surges, his own loss, and, of course, cheering on the insurrection.

Now, there are many factors here, but this is important for governance, politics, the whole thing, really. Donald Trump`s parade of numbing scandals may have left some in the media treating those kinds of problems as a kind of a given, what was once warned about, normalizing Trump.

And at least some of the data implicitly suggests that Biden is being graded on some kind of higher standard because he`s supposed to return to normalcy.

Now, I can tell you that media critique spawned critiques of the critique, ranging from its methodology for tracking positive and negative stories, to the more holistic counterpoint that, well, Biden`s still governing during a pandemic that won`t go away, with inflation problems, and the press may just reflect or even follow the sour mood right now.

So, first of all, these sentiment studies, which just sort of broadly track the words used in coverage, that data can certainly be noisy. And I can tell you right now, tonight, we`re not here to resolve this once and for all.

But any decent data is still useful to try to look at the broader patterns or avoid leaning into one`s prior beliefs. Psychological data, for example, shows we all tend to prefer evidence, especially anecdotal, that confirms what we already think. Imagine sort of any political debate with your family.

And for partisans, that may be, when you look at the press stuff, the idea that, well, their side just doesn`t get a fair shake. For people in the media, it could be the idea that, well, we like to think reporters work hard and are trying to be fair, which can then limit our openness to honest constructive criticism.


All right, so here on THE BEAT, we try to stay open-minded to any fair, honest critiques, while ignoring the trolls and the bots. As they say, online, don`t feed the trolls, you know, those comments that pop up and aren`t really real or genuine, they`re just trying to get a rise out of you, which has become something of a right-wing kind of political habit? We ignore the trolls.

But let`s look at the dynamics. The media critique is raising something relevant, how Trump`s scandals and incompetence lowered the bar for his expectations, which is something actually the previous Republican president in a different context used to talk about.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will confront another form of bias, the soft bigotry of low expectations.


MELBER: Trump was the king of low expectations.

Take his low, terrible polling. The man was literally the most consistently unpopular president of the modern era, didn`t have a honeymoon, never cracked 50 percent, and yet influential Beltway outlets would parade out headlines like this, Politico looking at Trump`s low, weak 44 percent approval and saying, well, he`s doing great with his base: "Trump Voters: We Would Do It Again." That`s how they headlined 44.

When Biden gets a similar 44 percent, he gets: "Voters doubt rising about his health and mental fitness."

Yikes. Remember, the headlines are about the same underlying fact. That data I showed you may be noisy, but, Joe Biden, by any political standard - - or, really, forget Biden -- any president, I could tell you, who wins with a good margin, who wins over independent two people in the opposing party and dips to 44 is doing better than the person who won without winning over the other folks -- Trump just got the Electoral College -- and is stuck at 44.

Now, Chai Komanduri, a friend of THE BEAT and strategist, says that Trump has basically hacked the media in ways Biden does not, hitting journalists with so many lies and weaponizing a penchant for both-sides-ism that basically gets him more of the coverage he wants, Trump taking advantage of the need to seem objective, rather than reporters choosing to really cover him honestly as what he was clearly then and is now, an anti-democracy candidate.

You can see the false equivalence in how pundits will say, well, gosh, if both sides are unhappy, they must be doing something right.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The proof that we`re doing a good job is that Democrats are mad at the media for not helping to sell Joe Biden and their agenda. Not our job. And the fact that they`re mad at us for not doing that, I think, is a great endorsement of the job we are doing.


MELBER: Being tough on any politician and the incumbent president is fine. Claiming that the public reaction validates it doesn`t really get you back to the substance.

Now, in 2016, voters were hit over and over with credulous media obsessions over Hillary Clinton`s private e-mail address. In fact, when they measured it up, e-mails was by far the most cited term voters said they had heard about her.

Now, I mention that not to go back down the e-mail double standard. But let`s be clear. That`s not just a story about politics, or political ads attacking the e-mail issue. It`s really a reflection of how much the so- called mainstream media really internalize a right-wing frame of Clinton critics that the e-mail attack and its investigation was the most important thing about her and constantly discussed.

Now, again, since we`re talking about bias, I want to be clear, you can debate whether it was good or bad to use the private e-mails and whether she handled the issue well. There is certainly evidence that it was not a high point for Hillary Clinton.

But the press, when you measure it out, again, if you use the data, there`s a lot of signs that it was not proportionate or objective in treating the same issue when it came up in the very next year with a replacement administration, because the Trump folks did a lot of the same thing, the president using unsecured cell phones that posed the same or greater risk than her e-mail account.

In fact, Donald Trump, it was exposed, had two phones. You remember Kevin Gates, I got two phones, one for the plug and one for the load? Well, some of what Trump`s accused of is worse than felonious drug dealing, and that would have just been picked up there.

The e-mail stuff, it`s back in the news tonight, because top aides like Mark Meadows and Trump`s own family were also using secret e-mail accounts, but it`s just not something that those same outlets covered in the same way with as much proportion or criticism. We have the numbers, the data on that.

Sometimes, the criticism that is most effective skip some of all this data. You might say, we get it, Ari. You are just going through every little bit. And we saw the chart.

All right, but here`s an informed comedian with a serious take, Bill Maher, looking at the false equivalence back in the day.



BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Republicans have one path to victory in this election, and it`s called false equivalency.

They can`t deny Trump is horrible. It`s on tape. So they want voters to believe Hillary is just as bad. And in pursuit of that goal, they have a very powerful ally, lazy people. Say they`re all the same, and then you can sound justifiably jaded by the entire process, when, really, you just don`t know anything.


MELBER: Bill Maher willing to insult a lot of people with a point that was deadly serious in October 2016, when few in the Republican Party in D.C. or in the press really thought Donald Trump was about to score a hat trick in Wisconsin and take the Electoral College.

The point here is not the press trying to do a job to engineer an outcome. That is almost always a bad idea and not very objective. But the other point is the press not falling into these traps, which are designed for the press, or a type of professional vanity where it tries to even up with false equivalence that which, at this moment in time, with people actively trying to stage coups and do racist things and overthrow the government, not all Republicans, but some, trying to falsely equivocate on that, well, it`s just not accurate.

We bring in Chai Komanduri, who I just quoted, when we`re back after our shortest break, in just 60 seconds.


MELBER: Now we turn to a special segment here on THE BEAT.

And it`s a special day known as "Chai Day." We`re joined by political strategist Chai Komanduri, a veteran of three presidential campaigns, including the Obama Biden race.

Thanks for being here, sir.

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

MELBER: I`m great. When you hear that music, you know it`s "Chai Day."


KOMANDURI: That`s right.

MELBER: Whether it ever becomes a national holiday is really not up to us. But it`s a holiday here on THE BEAT. There`s a lot going on.

But we walk back through this. And I want to take criticism of the press seriously. And the chart that we showed is not perfect. But what do you think it reveals about the press? And why is it important, when you look at this for everyone, people to be media-literate about what they`re consuming, and those in the press -- and there`s more and more people who have social media and other ways to communicate -- be conscious of what does seem to be quite a gulf?

KOMANDURI: Yes, I mean, there`s been a lot of discussion about the methodology that Dana Milbank and "The Washington Post" used, artificial intelligence, et cetera.

I`m not an expert on artificial intelligence. But I don`t think you need artificial intelligence to know something very clear, which is Joe Biden has had a run of bad press that has now lasted several months. He literally has not seen a good headline in, I would say, maybe six months.

And the reality also is, the press is simply covering Biden the way his opponents would want him to be covered. Nothing positive that Biden has done has gotten any coverage.

I will give you a good example. This year, we cut child poverty in half, thanks to actions undertaken by the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress. That`s a major story. We don`t really hear about it. What we do here is a controversy over whether children should learn CRT. That seems to take more precedence over whether they`re receiving proper nutrition or if they`re going hungry at night.

That is something that Joe Biden has very much addressed, and it`s gotten absolutely no coverage, and he`s gotten no credit for it.

In addition, I would say...


MELBER: Well, let me -- I`m going to ask you something, because you have worked on campaigns.


MELBER: Do you think that there are reporters, so-called mainstream or whatever you want to call it network reporters, who basically get worked as referees and are thinking more about whether they can -- quote, unquote -- "find something" to even get up with, as I mentioned, two parties that are not exactly equal when it comes to one of them trying to overthrow the government?


KOMANDURI: Yes, well, that actually very much has happened.

And the one of the worst recipients of that coverage was Hillary Clinton. The reason Hillary Clinton got so much negative coverage over that e-mail server, which wouldn`t have been and was not one of the top 100 Trump scandals, was because the media had so much negative stuff to say about Trump, because he was simply doing so many negative things.

So they felt they had to even out the playing field by playing up this really minor non-scandal. That`s exactly what occurred there.

MELBER: Yes. So, let`s...

KOMANDURI: And that is exactly what continues for the media.

MELBER: Let`s dig into that, because it goes to what Bill Maher was saying.


MELBER: And I don`t look at him as an expert on everything. But he did nail that point really bluntly, because there`s different models of journalism.

And we`re in a time where there`s all sorts -- everybody knows -- the Internet and pressures. But if your model is refereeing, and one player is fouling more, they get more fouls. If they fall out of the game, so be it. You don`t then say, well, we better foul out one of the other strong players on the other team, regardless of what happens.

And yet you`re describing and Maher was referring to reporters who are doing that. And, A, is that what you think`s happening? And, B, how do you fix that, other than, I guess, just having better journalism?

KOMANDURI: Well, that is exactly what has happened repeatedly with Joe Biden and with Hillary Clinton vis-a-vis the Trump Republicans.

The Trump Republicans are so bad, virtually nothing you can say about them is positive. So the press has to compensate by playing up Biden and Hillary scandals. Now, Biden has actually been running for a year with a scandal- free administration, it should be pointed out, that I don`t think he`s gotten any credit for. I think he should definitely get some credit for that.

With Trump, it was a daily occurrence that that was happening as well.

But I also wouldn`t underestimate the role that ratings sort of plays in all of this. The reality is that the press has a...

MELBER: Ratings? What are ratings?


KOMANDURI: Right. They`re -- like, that`s like the fuel that all network news or TV news works on.

But like -- and you, of course, Ari, have excellent ratings, it should be pointed out, winning the 6:00 time slot. But the reality is, is that what kind of creates ratings are cultural conflicts, where you can sort of president both sides as equivalent, as having equivalent sort of arguments.

So that`s why, for example, CRT has gotten more press than the cutting of child poverty in half. There is -- that is just, quite frankly, a ratings getter.

MELBER: Yes. Well...

KOMANDURI: You can present that as a racial discussion, racial controversy.

MELBER: Right.

And you`re -- and that goes to what people may then want to go to, and you`re raising something that`s larger than this segment. But we may come back to it with you, Chai, because there`s more than one "Chai Day," which is, all jokes aside about ratings, the competitive pressures on the press have only increased across mediums.

A lot of print outlets now need the online component, which makes clicks a much bigger pressure on them. TV has its own pressures. We don`t deny that. And that, again, creates the question of what kind of stories are actually being pursued at a systemic level, which, again, we think the press, it`s worthwhile for us to be transparent about that, as we kind of look at these issues, if we`re a part of some of it.

We also still try to do our stories, regardless of some of it.

I got to get to another guest. So, Chai, I`m going to just say to be continued. And thanks for being here.

KOMANDURI: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: When we come back, a story we haven`t had time to get to yet, "The New York Times" crossing new reporting on the Trump criminal probe, lying to accountants, whether that`s a crime.

And we`re still awaiting the full House voting on potential criminal contempt for Trump aide Mark Meadows.

Stay with us.



MELBER: Breaking news today from "The New York Times" on the criminal probe into Trump Organization -- that`s still an open criminal probe -- and whether Trump`s lies about his finances, which are alleged, may have been a crime.

A longtime accountant for Trump, we`re learning -- this is for the first time -- has actually faced this criminal grand jury convened by the top prosecutor in New York, the Manhattan DA. This individual was handling huge amounts of financial information. They were the accountant that was technically outside the Trump orbit.

You watch the news, so you may recall the insider, Donald Trump`s CFO, has already been indicted in that same case. This person may have reason to provide and cough up more information than Allen Weisselberg, with deep knowledge of Donald Trump`s real estate deals, his taxes, and perhaps what some of these assets were really worth.

I`m joined by David Corn from "Mother Jones."

David, take it away.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we have two cases basically going.

As you noted, Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization, was indicted, basically on a tax scam, finding ways to hide income to people, to himself, and others who work for Trump Organization.

The case that the accountant is involved with seems to be a question of whether Trump would in some cases inflate the value of his properties. Like, if you want to get a loan from a bank, you want to say that this property I have is worth a lot of money, because then you can use it as collateral, in essence.

Or if you`re trying to talk to the taxman about property taxes on the same property, you say, oh, it`s not worth anything. It`s a dump. I can`t sell it.

And so are you basically acting in good faith in either of those instances? And so the accountants have a lot of information.


CORN: It starts, though, the information starts with Donald Trump, which they put together for material that he has to give to the places he pays taxes and to the banks that he gets money from.

And so the question is whether that isn`t somewhat fraudulent information. And so there are two questions, whether Trump gave bad information purposefully, and whether there is any sort of out for him, in that the banks or the -- or the companies he`s dealing with know that, with Trump, you can`t trust what he says, right?


MELBER: Right.

So let`s look at -- let`s take a quick look at what Michael Cohen said about this.



MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: It was my experience Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it`s served his purposes and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.


MELBER: Does this new outside witness have the ability to corroborate some of that firsthand?

CORN: Well, I think so.

I think he can hand over the information that he had. I mean, they have gotten -- we know that the prosecutors have gotten reams of material from the accounting firm. They went to the Supreme Court once or twice to fight over this, and they got all this.

Now they have the fellow who can walk them through it. I mean, going through financial records can be incredibly difficult, particularly if they`re designed to obscure real facts and to play around with figures.

So, now they this fellow in there who really is under tremendous penalty if he lies, saying, what does this mean? What does that mean? Did you go back to Trump? Did Trump tell you to do? Did someone at the Trump Organization tell you to do this?

To go through this material, you need a guide. They have that guide.

MELBER: Very interesting.

And it`s coming out here late in the year, as we look at also a transfer of power from the election in the New York DA`s office.

David Corn, thank you for walking us through it.

When we come back, an eye on that House floor vote and what Liz Cheney is doing that may scare some Republicans.




CHENEY: Mr. Meadows received numerous text messages, which he has produced without any privilege claim, imploring that Mr. Trump take the specific action we all know his duty required.

Indeed, some of those text messages, Madam Speaker, came from members in the chamber right now.


MELBER: That is one of the Republicans on the January 6 Committee, Liz Cheney.

And that`s new. It overlaps with what we have been reporting, but that was moments ago during this House floor debate, as she discusses how lawmakers, including her fellow Republicans on that House floor, were pleading with Mark Meadows during the insurrection attack.

They are now the ones who will vote -- vote, I should say, on whether to make sure that Congress, a co-equal branch, gets all the evidence, or Mr. Meadows is allowed to run and hide.

Some of these Republicans begged Meadows at the time for help to stop.

And we are going to keep watching this, including MSNBC colleagues, who will have full coverage for you of this historic contempt vote that is still on track to take place tonight on MSNBC.

We will be right back.


MELBER: Let me put it like this.

Every night is a good night to watch "THE REIDOUT," but this is one of those nights where you may just have to watch the whole thing, because it is a big news night.

And "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" will have you covered, as we watch the Hill.