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tv   The Beat With Ari Melber  MSNBC  October 18, 2021 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT

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thank you so much for letting us into your homes during this extraordinary times. we're so grateful. "the beat with ari melber" starts right now. hi, ari. >> hi, nicolle. i'm curious your further reflections on colin powell, and also a time when people are looking for public servants to look up to, as we remember one. >> i said this to andrea mitchell a little bit ago. i shared a little bit of that
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history. he was icon status, i was a mid-level white house staffer. we used to run into him, there was no one who i was more star-struck by than him. he just had a presence. and his break with not just the bush administration, but his break with the republican party, i've been saying this all day, was so seismic. i don't know that there was an endorsement that sort of had the impact, john mccain was someone that colin powell had known forever. when he endorsed then-senator obama, it was a huge, huge, huge deal. both for then-senator obama and against john mccain. to hear him say it was because of sarah palin, he understood
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the dark forces gathering on the republican side. it's such a loss. >> it means a lot coming from you. and as you say, he spoke out on many things when it mattered, and he knew of what he spoke. as with all life cycles, there's a mourning for people who knew him. thank you, nicolle. always good to see you. >> thank you. welcome to "the beat." i'm ari melber. we have news at the insurrection committee prepares to hold steve bannon in contempt. it's a big deal, he could land in jail. we have a special report coming up on how that all works. that's coming up soon. but we begin with what nicolle and i were discussing. the death of colin powell at the
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age of 84 from covid complications after battling cancer. his career really crossed decades of american history, policy, foreign policy, and, yes, politics. much of this echoing as people absorb the news today. he was america's first black national security adviser, joint chiefs chair, and secretary of state. he went from a childhood in the south of the bronx to fighting in vietnam. eventually advised not one president, which is a big deal, coming up at that time, from his roots, or two, or three, but four different presidents. we're seeing an outpouring of tributes from presidents and leaders across politics, culture, america, and around the world. the first time out, it was seen far more positively and a
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necessary mission. he was the architect of the 1994 gulf war, then he was the public face of the iraq war in 2003. something he spoke out forcefully about at the time, and then later. he put his own credibility, when we were discussing the reason people saw him as such a straight shooter. in that instance, he put it behind what the bush administration called the intelligence and the need to act. >> the united states knows about iraq's weapons of mass destruction, as well as their involvement in terrorism. this body places itself in danger of irrelevance if it allows iraq to continue to defy its will without responding effectively and immediately. >> both the evidence and the argument did not prove to be correct. indeed, it became widespread across both parties in america
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that that was not the right argument of the day. and it was not the right war to start. there were no wmds. but unlike many of his peers in that bush administration, neocons who stood by the quagmire to the end, he said it was a mistake, a blot on his record and legacy. and then, as nicolle and i were discussing, in 2008, powell was a republican at the time and he did something that may look like one more little development today. but it was a huge deal for someone in his standing who had elevated within the military complex, which is nonpartisan, so not supposed to take sides. and as a republican appointee. he put everything on the line for this. i mention this was before people knew what would happen, before barack obama would become president. he endorsed obama for the
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reasons he said were important to the country, not himself. over his longtime friend, john mccain. >> he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. i think he's a transformational figure. a new generation coming in to the american stage, and for that reason, i'll be voting for senate barack obama. >> it was a big deal. as we look at our recent era, he endorsed clinton and biden over donald trump. he ultimately left the republican party. although, like many of his generation, particularly of a certain more traditional conservative bent, he would say the modern republican party left him. there was also further insight because of the way we live right now, that powell was found in a leaked email to say something he might have put differently. known for his diplomacy, but what he said privately was that
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donald trump was a national disgrace and an international pariah. he said the whole birther movement was racist. today, flags fly at half-staff at the white house to honor an american, colin powell. we reflect on his legacy and how it applies today and particularly in the scorched earth politics we're living through today. we're joined by jon meacham, author. and eleanor clift, a longtime washington observer, of "the daily beast." welcome to both of you. this is an individual, jon, who in many, many ways lived an american dream. and really showed what was possible for him in his time, in his era, in his moment. and what we've emphasized, was
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willing to publicly say when he was wrong and break with orthodoxy. what are your reflections, and how much do we need it now? >> we need it enormously. we've always needed it. and i think general powell did represent the best of the political general tradition. he was not perfect. he would be the first person to tell you that. he actually loved the washington game. he was a great gossip. and understood personalities, understood how the human nature of institutions is often, if not totally decisive, certainly influential. what he represented was a vanishing tradition, if not vanished. that was the tradition of an eisenhower, george marshall, george herbert walker bush. people who were republicans, but for whom the country came first.
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and that often cost them politically. it's not to say those figures were perfect. but there was an ethos, an ambient reality where public service mattered enormously to the practice of politics. where we are now is that politics actually is more important than public service. it's become the whole enterprise. used to be a means to an end. now it's an end in and of itself. and i think powell represented the co-mingling of those forces in a really powerful way. >> that brings us in a perfect way to what i wanted to ask eleanor about, how he practiced his politics. a citizen, but as a statesperson, the way he came out and embraced obama, who i emphasize, at the time, people had no idea what would happen.
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whether we would have our first black president as a country. and he went even further than that, and addressed the kind of religious discrimination that has been a part of american history, and was resurgent on the right against islam, against practicing muslims, and other types of tropes. >> i'm always troubled by, not with what senator mccain says, but what members of the party say. and is permitted to be said. well, you know mr. obama is a muslim. he's a christian, he's always been a christian. but the right answer is, what if he is? is there something wrong with being a muslim in this country? the answer is no. is there something wrong with a 7-year-old muslim american kid believing he or she can be president? but members of my party dropping the suggestion he's a muslim and a terrorist, this is not the way
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we should be doing things in america. >> i would draw your attention to his use of the word correct, which is to say accurate, and the word right, which is to say moral. he was asking americans to try to have a higher-minded moral politics. you don't need to vote for obama because powell tells you to. but he would argue that you should vote for people who you believe in, not based on their identity. >> he came from the lowest rungs of american society, who had a presence, people looked at him, and thought, oh, he must have gone to west point. no, he went to city college, when tuition was $10 a semester. i think he had a sense of what it's like to be marginalized in this country. and he navigated all of those circles of power very deftly. he didn't consider himself a
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politician. but he was a very political person. he knew how to work all the angles, and he was a charmer. i think he saw in obama a man who was going to take the step to be president that he himself had declined. in 1995, he had been on a 25-city book tour, enormous crowds. everybody assuming this was a prelude to him announcing he would run for president. he walked to the microphone and he said he couldn't do it. and he said, he didn't have the same enthusiasm for politics that he had every day in his belly when he was a soldier. he suffered enormous stress over the decision. his wife was opposed, and then fortuitously, a few days before he made this announcement, the
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prime minister of israel was assassinated. it was a time, we're portraying it now as kind of simple and innocent compared to what we're in now. but there was the fear of assassination. and he never looked back. i mean, that was the right decision that he made. and he didn't really leave the republican party, even though he supported obama in two elections. he voted for hillary clinton over as he put it that other gentleman who is not qualified. and it wasn't until january of this year, after the insurrection, he said i'm no longer a republican. so it took him a while. you know, it was the culture he was in. but the culture changed. of that party. and he could no longer abide it. my only regret, i wish he would have spoken out more over the years. but he was a soldier, he respected the chain of command.
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and he was very much opposed to the invasion of iraq. but he didn't resign. and he said he didn't resign because initially it went well. then the planning wasn't good. and he said, you don't walk away in the middle when things aren't going well. so i respect the way he's handled all of these, you know, major events. i respect the way he handled his life. so, yeah, he will be missed at a time when we need more people like him. >> you mentioned his reaction to the january 6th insurrection. let's listen to him speaking after that. >> i've never seen anything or experienced anything like this in my many years of public service. yesterday was a national disgrace. but we'll come through it. but once again, we see president trump doing things that are absolutely outrageous. criminal, claiming that he's going to be the president of the united states when he knows he isn't. >> jon?
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>> well, if you imagine you're a lifelong soldier. you fought in vietnam, you commanded, you had other people's lives in your hands. you commanded panama, the first gulf war. you were standing on duty as the berlin wall comes down. nuclear armageddon had been an ambient force your entire military career. the rule of law mattered. civilian control of the military mattered. the oath you swore was to the constitution, not to a person or a party. then you're sitting there in retirement, and you're watching everything you fought for be assaulted, led by a lying, defeated american president. who is seeking to be a dictator. of course you're going to react
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with that kind of controlled passion. but clearly passion. everything he cared about was at stake. and i'd argue, and i think he would say the same thing, still is at stake. democracy, the constitutional order that he defended and he sent other people's children into harm's way to defend and project, is still in the balance. and so i think an important lesson and an important thing for folks to think about is that this man gave his life and also had the lives of others in his hands for an idea. an idea that we were in fact created equal, and the rule of law mattered. and however imperfect, we struggle forward. and we do so if we obey the rules. not if we pursue our own will to power, no matter what. that's -- i think that's what
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colin powell would say today. and i think we should bear that in mind. >> yeah. all very important points as we reflect on that. i want to thank jon and eleanor. we turn to the other big news basically next. we have a special report on the key vote to hold steve bannon in contempt. what does it mean? he's under fire. he could end up in jail. i'm going to explain all of it legally. it's all really turning on his relationship to trump. >> do you think impeachment is on the ballot? is there anyone you would not take money from? >> i would not take money from foreigners, right? >> were you a witness to obstruction for collusion or both? did it ever shake your view? >> no. absolutely not. earn a $500 bonus when you refi-
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if i hear anything other than guilty or not guilty, you'll be in contempt. i don't even want to hear you clear your throat. i hope i've been clear. now, how do your clients plead? >> i think i get the point. >> no, i don't think you do. you're now in contempt of court.
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would you like to go for two counts of contempt? >> not guilty. ♪♪ >> the classic movie "my cousin vinny" has that clear lesson. as an inexperienced lawyer, vinny underestimated how real the threat of jail can be. and you see him spending time in jail with his client. he had to do that because the judge held him in contempt. a word that we've been hearing a lot in the investigation into the maga insurrection. steve bannon is defying the subpoenas, so he faces this criminal contempt vote tomorrow. and eventually the prospect of jail. now, many problems these days
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can seem new or worse than before. we talk about that in all sorts of discussions on and off. but the contempt power has a pretty long history in the congress. >> the house has voted to cite the epa chief for contempt of congress. >> the house committee has decided to cite janet reno for contempt. >> contempt of congress charges for two who refused to comply with subpoenas. >> so many clashes do reach this point. a range of officials have been held in contempt, including some in the trump era. but not all contempt is the same. we have a special report right now on how this really works. it could inform the fate of
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steve bannon or others. this also matters because congress' ability to enforce its own powers can then shape how much power congress really has. and when people who defy the rule of law or who promote insurrections can get off the hook. this matters a lot. a key precedent goes all the way back to the '80s, when a reagan official, the mother of supreme court justice gorsuch, was held in contempt. back in 1982, she said she would sooner go to jail than comply. she ultimately resigned, and the documents were turned over. so congress got the evidence it
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wanted. i mention that because it left a muddled situation for the justice department, which did not prosecute her, but went on to prosecute another official in that same clash for contempt charges, also for defying demands to testify. yet this precedent can show why contempt is trickier in congressional cases than a courtroom like "my cousin vinny." even though they went after her, a jury then acquitted her. i mention that because it does show that even in the rare times where doj goes this far, people can beat the cases. and prosecutors don't like to bring cases unless they see a clear path to victory. and the justice system does tend to view contempt as more political than traditional
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cases. let me explain what i mean by that because it will matter with the vote on bannon tomorrow. one person's principle may look like political hypocrisy to someone across the aisle. and these struggles invoking contempt have that quality. which is something that judges and the doj don't always want to pursue. for example, there were cases of contempt that did not lead to any charges against bush officials, against obama's first attorney general, eric holder, who faced a scorched earth campaign by house republicans. but few thought there was a basis for contempt. the parties switched places when democrats hold trump attorney general barr in contempt. and again, no charges there. now, the point is not necessarily that, well, all congressional contempt cases are inherently partisan. but rather, the political heat
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does complicate whether doj decides to step in and tries to send someone to jail. the political energy around it makes it, if anything, a somewhat informally higher bar to go, take a contempt referral from congress, and enforce it. but that's exactly what the pressure is going to be on attorney general garland. he's going to have to decide, if congress does hold bannon in contempt tomorrow, whether to pursue it. whether it's partisan or ultimately about justice. congress hands the call over to doj, and then as i'm emphasizing, doj separately and independently decides whether to pursue, in this instance, a criminal case against bannon. if they do, it's a biggie. you got huge fines, and up to a year in jail. this is about criminal contempt.
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then there's another one that is a bit more self-enforcing. this is something congress can do itself. one of our legal guests recently brought it up. >> congress should use its other power. we need inherent contempt. if you or i ignored a subpoena from a court, we would be in jail. we would not pass go, we would not collect $200. we would go to jail. because courts have an inherent contempt power, they can jail you until you follow their rules. >> that's true. but congress has not gone near that power since 1934. when mccracken spent ten days in jail for defying a senate probe. it was upheld by the supreme court, that found that congress has the power to coerce documents by means of an arrest.
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this congress has not suggested it can go near inherent contempt, but that's part of its powers. that process of oversight becomes impossible if its executive can hide. it says a legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information. some means of compulsion are necessary to maintain that oversight. now, the most prominent modern example involved an ally of then-president clinton, susan mcdougal. she went behind bars for a year and a half of prison time for contempt. and she spoke out on her decision. >> she joins us this morning
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from arkansas. there are those that are hoping prison will invoke a change of heart. do you have any second thoughts? >> i can tell you, i don't. i become stronger with each day. >> stronger with each day. mr. bannon and his lawyers might want to take a look, though at that scene. contempt leading to someone sitting in that prison jumpsuit inside a prison for a long time. mcdougal was imprisoned under this third and final type of contempt, civil contempt. that uses the courts, but it's a civil lawsuit, just like any other lawsuit in america that you've ever come across. civil. you can just sue people, right? this is aimed at forcing people to comply. she didn't back down, so she was
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after that imprisonment for civil contempt, she was then hit with separate new criminal contempt charges to go after the punishment. that's an interesting footnote. because a jury did not convict her on the second round, or was rather deadlocked, forcing a mistrial. so what are the takeaways here? one, congress has options. two, contempt is a very real, valid power. it can land you in that jumpsuit, but it can take a long time with long odds to get to the jumpsuit. that's the difference that makes a difference with witnesses. and three, this is not just another investigation we're talking about. this is not just overoversight the epa. this is the plot to overthrow an election, with plotters and supporters still out there. with some of the people seeking
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to return to power are trying to ride this maga movement to do it, that includes bannon. you see him talking about action and rallies. it may include mark meadows, who was chief of staff, and who has been challenging the legitimacy of congress to run this probe. it goes to the report i mentioned earlier. what people can get away with tends to impact what they try to do next. and during the trump administration, they made congressional defiance standard. so there have been many interbranch clashes before. this is not the first time. but the trump white house went farther, and blatantly defied two impeachment probes, including one where one of the articles was obstruction of congress. they defied getting the truth out of trump's top lawyer, but they ultimately lost. he had to give testimony. and they defied a subpoena for
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trump's taxes. it was another battle that trump lost. though all the defiance bought them time with delays. now trump is the person publicly and apparently privately telling aides and allies to defy this next insurrection probe. the legal strategy that could land his own aides in jail. and remember, bannon and trump had that ugly falling-out, bannon claiming he didn't know trump all that well, and were going their own ways. >> what is your current relationship with president trump? >> you can see it every day on tv. it's exactly what people report. president trump is doing his thing, i'm doing my thing. i didn't really know president trump that well before i stepped in as ceo of the campaign.
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>> do you think he still believes what he said about you? >> i don't know and i don't care. >> bannon claiming he didn't know and didn't care. they're both out there doing their own things. now they're doing this one big thing together. defying the probe into january 6th, that infamous day that bannon hyped in advance and continues to defend on his show. >> saying we need to kill the biden presidency in the crib. >> yeah, because its legitimacy. it killed itself. people are going, you got to do this, call for martial law, insurrection. chill. this is exactly what they're
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trying to do. basically bring charges against president trump to stop his sweeping victory that is going to come. >> the other thing that changed for bannon, he was indicted for defrauding republican donors. that's a huge legal headache, facing a risk of jail. but he was spared when trump pardoned him, a legal admission of guilt. congress is recommending a criminal case in d.c. so bannon could be going to court for two cases in two places, one in d.c., one in brooklyn. and the way things is looking he could see central booking. or he could cooperate, under this pressure. he could cut the risk of jail time. why would someone who got pardoned and got to move away from all of that risk of jail now take these new risks? does mr. bannon just relish the fight, or is he more worried
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about the possible evidence against him relating to the insurrection? how does the doj look at this kind of legal hardball from congress? neal katyal joins us live in just 60 seconds. - grammarly business turned my marketing team into rock stars. (diana strums guitar) maya swears by grammarly business because it keeps her work on brand and error-free. fast and easy. - [announcer] learn more at grammarly.com/business.
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we're tracking several developments out of this january 6th probe. breaking news that former president trump is suing the january 6th committee as well as the national archives. it's a new suit, alleging harassment of president trump and senior members of his administration. neal katyal is here to give us extra quarterbacking on everything related to this. thanks for being here.
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>> thank you. >> first of all, given what we've just walked through and the history, where do you see this contempt of mr. bannon fitting in? is it a stronger case, or more of a jump ball? >> the fact that the house is pursuing contempt changes against mr. bannon is not a surprise. they've telegraphed that for a long time. and bannon is acting like a man with something to hide, like a man who is guilty. i love how you laid it out in that segment. but this is different from a land deal or the epa, whatever. this goes to the heart of democracy, and what happened on january 6th, an armed attack. and i don't think those earlier precedents tell us too much. in other words, i think the justice department and merrick garland if the house votes for contempt, has to enforce it.
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it's not discretion, it's not nearly as discretionary as the past examples. >> if we were sitting in a law office, and you said that as senior partner, and i was the research associate, i would only say to you that you're right. but those are the only precedents we have. so explain to the viewers what you mean about why they're what we have, but they might not really rise to the stakes here. >> the key thing in any privilege is the need for the evidence. the need for the evidence is, what is the particular case about? this is the most monumental, important investigation in our lifetimes, or close to it. prior contempt decisions don't tell us too much. if i'm sitting in the attorney general's seat, i have to think, yes, the public has a right to this evidence. the justice department has a right to get this evidence. someone who is stonewalling and acting like a guilty organized
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crime member is not someone who, you know, deserves any benefit of the doubt. so he has to come and tell the truth, under oath. >> interesting. let's play it out. as you just said, you think garland would look at the evidence and see the strong need to move forward. then in this scenario, do you see, because there's no pardon hopes for bannon in this situation, do you see him then buckling and reaching accommodation? or do you see him going full mcdougal? >> who knows. he's a wily character, and who could predict. but there's one other thing, this goes to the breaking news of the lawsuit filed by trump to try to delay and assert executive privilege over this material. except that the lawsuit, to use, i think the term we teach in law school, it's junky. i haven't seen a legal definition of executive privilege stretched this thing
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since other things trump did. and there are three fundamental problems. one, donald trump is no longer the president. and the supreme court has said, the privilege is held by the incumbent. and trump said, in his capacity as the 45th president of the united states. that has about as much legal significance as an also-ran in the 2005 emmy awards. and the scope, when congress came up with the executive privilege, i don't think that was in trying to overthrow a democracy. and thirdly, just the claims themselves in the lawsuit. you know, literally the lawsuit says that congress is acting vexatious in an illegal fishing operation. which is rich coming from a guy who wanted the justice department to investigate whether italians beamed in biden
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ballots from space and stuff. it's absurd, start to finish. that's why, you know, i do think if you're bannon or if you're trump, you have to worry about the vote tomorrow on contempt. this has a lot of gravity behind it on a really serious investigation. >> interesting. we got you there on the breaking news. the last item, the supreme court here continuing to carry out its view of the legal doctrine that provides a type of immunity for police. they think if anything, lower courts are denying that too frequently amidst the reckoning we've had. we weren't expecting them to make some new law here. but your reaction, does it concern you at this juncture, just how this is working in the courts? >> it really does. ari, there are two ways to hold police accountable for brutality and murder.
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one is criminal prosecutions of the cops, like in george floyd. the other is civil lawsuits against them. saying they owe money to the victims. and what the supreme court today did is double down on this judge-made doctrine that they made up, called qualified immunity. your rights have to be clearly established before you can bring a lawsuit. which is a damper to all these lawsuits going forward. and there's been a concerted move from both the left and the right to say, this thing has no basis in law. it's made up. and really undermining our fundamental constitutional rights. and unfortunately, the supreme court today said, we're not going to entertain those challenges to qualified immunity. >> our thanks to neal. you can go to msnbc.com/openingarguments, where the solicitor and senior partner of "the beat," neal katyal, has his archive.
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coming up, several top republicans are worrying on camera about just how much trump is dragging down the republican party. and progressives pushing on manchin and others to pass the biden agenda. we'll talk about that, when we return. lk about that, when we return vid-19 vaccine today. riders, the lone wolves of the great highway. vid-19 vaccine today. all they need is a bike and a full tank of gas. their only friend? the open road. i have friends. [ chuckles ] well, he may have friends, but he rides alone. that's jeremy, right there! we're literally riding together. he gets touchy when you talk about his lack of friends. can you help me out here? no matter why you ride, progressive has you covered
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we turn to our washington insider, catty kaye. after a lot of public movement and debating in public, joe manchin has met with leader jayapal who has been leading this charge. i'm curious what you think that means? >> i think this would be good news for the white house, because joe biden has also immediate with congresswoman jayapal, and there's still a debate within the white house about how you trim this package. if you're going to trim the build back better package, do you trim it in the way that joe manchin seems to want, you do one or two things, and do it well. or the way that congresswoman jayapal wants, you reduce
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spending on some of them, but keep everything in the plan. if they can get together and come to some kind of conclusion, that would be good news for the white house. but congresswoman jayapal say this would be a great day to talk about keeping the child care and climate resolutions. but those are the things that joe manchin has said he doesn't want. >> yeah, so who has the final call here? at a certain point, they're however far apart, and then what? >> yeah, the indications at the moment are that it doesn't look great for the october 31st deadline. democrats, from the sort of centrist democrats, and even some from the progressive caucus have said, does it matter if we get it done by october 31st?
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they're prepared to go longer. they said what matters that we introduce programs that down to or $1.8 trillion, what is it you're going to cut? how are you going to square that circle? i'm not hearing from congresswoman jayapal, cut the child care spending and cut the climate change spending. she doesn't want -- she wants both to stay. >> right. and that really speaks to sort of where the standoff is and remains and yet, a lot of talk about doing it as you say by halloween or shortly thereafter. thank you, as always. we've covered a lot of different topics tonight. up ahead, a new turn in that sex crime probe that involves congressman matt gaetz. stay with us. s congressman matt gaetz stay with us
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new developments for matt gaetz. he's been facing this open federal sex crimes probe. a judge today in florida has now granted a sentening delay for gaetz' convicted ally. they say the greenberg case is in their words unusual because there are several investigations he's helping with. that alone is interesting. gaetz has deied all charges and recently made a point to publicly for the first time distance himself from greenberg. >> i believe there may have been a time where greenberg swung by the office but it certainly didn't have anything to do with any bad acts on my part. >> you guys still friends? i'm assuming the answer is no. >> no, when i became aware of some of greenberg's misdeeds, i deeply regretted my friendship with him. >> the judge setting green berg's sentencing now for march of 2022 and though we don't know
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thanks for watching "the beat." what time is it? it's time for "the reidout" with joy reid. >> thank you. we have a ton to get to. you have a wonderful, wonderful night. thank you guys for tuning in. we begin "the reidout" with the loss of one of the most historic figures. general powell died of covid complications at 84. it's a passing that feels like the loss of a family member. general powell has been a part of public life for all of mine, basically, and maybe all of yours. in many ways, he felt like a familiar figure. the guy on the block with the strict jamaican parents that always did his homework and joined the rotc and over achieved and made all the moms on the block proud.

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