Steve Schmidt TRANSCRIPT: 5/11/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.
Tonight, the Trump White House is tightening up some policies to guard
against coronavirus, now that the virus is hitting the Trump White House
itself. We have that story.
Later tonight, I want you to know, Steve Schmidt will be here on Donald
Trump`s troubling conflicting messages.
Also returning to the show, former presidential candidate Tom Steyer
tonight. The liberal businessman will weigh in on how to safely restart
And then something we really rarely say on the evening news, former
President Obama hitting Donald Trump`s leadership, the famously careful and
basically widely respectful elder statesman. Everyone knows Barack Obama
does not go tweeting or talking about Donald Trump that much.
In fact, they will go months where we have no Obama news whatsoever. Well,
tonight`s news is the president, the former president, has a report card
for Donald Trump in this crisis. And he`s also speaking out on something we
have covered a lot on this show, the credible and documented evidence that
this Justice Department under Donald Trump is undermining the rule of law,
Barack Obama weighing in on that as well.
So we`re going to get into all of that tonight. There`s a lot to start this
So, where do you begin?
Well, our top story is a White House now dealing with its own coronavirus
outbreak. That`s not something that anyone feels good about. Like every
other case we cover, this is tough stuff and sad and scary when it gets
But, obviously, when you are dealing with government, rather than just
other random citizens, there`s an extra layer to all of this. And there is
confusion, evolution, adjustment and even cries of hypocrisy swirling
around the way this White House is dealing with coronavirus in its midst.
Two staffers testing positive, including a top aide to Vice President
Pence. So how does the White House deal? Well, this is a test of where
rubber meets the road, because while many states and organizations have
been following these CDC rules for months – you may live in an area where
you need to wear a mask to go anywhere – only now, today, are we seeing
the Trump White House issue formal tighter policies requiring people to
wear masks in the West Wing, now, all of a sudden.
And we also saw today more White House staffers entering work with masks
And let me be clear. As a factual matter, this new rule is not being led
from the top. In fact, Donald Trump just was in the Rose Garden late today
defending his ongoing decisions not to wear masks at any point in time, not
in a high-risk area, not anywhere.
Now, this is an issue we also saw crop up as recently as this weekend, on
Saturday, where you can see here people seated reasonably close, indoors,
people in the at-risk population, the elderly, and nobody appearing to wear
a mask during this national security meeting with the president and the
A Trump senior aide coming out and saying it is – quote – “scary” to work
in this White House under these conditions.
We should note that reporting shows there are extra resources to the White
House that enable contact tracing and a type of daily testing which most
people in the country don`t have.
The newest claim, though, from the president came in today`s late afternoon
press conference. And let me tell you first, it`s false. So, before we even
air a small portion of it, I want you to have the facts.
Number one, many other countries were hit by this virus before the United
States, giving this nation more time to adjust and prepare. Fact number two
you need to know – and you may have heard about it – medical experts were
warning back in the early days of January and February about key ways to
prepare, as well as the import of testing.
If you watch the news, you have heard all about testing. The Trump
administration initially largely ignored some of those things at the top.
And then, three, United States still lags in testing per citizen. That`s
the standard measure when you compare countries. So, if you look at the
list tonight, you have Denmark actually leading the world in testing, then
Italy, which was hit hard and early, followed by New Zealand, Germany,
Canada, our neighbors to the north with universal health care.
And then, thanks partly to a recent increase, the United States is sixth in
testing. And while six is not last, it is far from first. And many people,
as I`m sure you know, still cannot get tests on demand, depending on their
So, now I will give you a brief context. The president made two big false
claims today. We`re going to show one of them. First, I will just
paraphrase. He said, in general, that he thinks the United States leads in
testing. And then, second, as you`re about to see, he also wrongly claimed
that, basically, tests are available on demand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as Americans getting a
test, they should all be able to get a test right now. They should be able
to get a test. That`s the problem with a question like that.
We go through a whole announcement saying we`re number one in the world by
far, by a factor of two and even three and four, depending on where you`re
looking, and I get a question, when will everybody be able to get tested?
If somebody wants to be tested right now, they will be able to be tested.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is false for the reasons we just showed, not number one and
not available testing on demand everywhere, although it has, as we have
noted improved, which is a good, small thing.
Meanwhile, moving forward, you have other evidence coming to the fore that
you need to consider. Reopening without enough testing has proven
dangerous. There`s a model here for COVID death rates that would predict up
to or over 137,000 deaths by August.
That`s something to consider as America figures out what to do next.
We turn, as always, for starters, to our experts, former Obama White House
health policy director Dr. Kavita Patel, Pulitzer Prize-winning “New York
Times” columnist Nicholas Kristof, and Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize-
winning columnist for “The Washington Post.”
Good evening, all.
Dr. Patel, I tried to present this as factually as possible, so people can
understand the context, and to the extent that the U.S. is top 10, number
six, if it breaks into top five, great, but it doesn`t mean testing has
been completely solved.
Your context on that part of the debate tonight for us?
DR. KAVITA PATEL, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, that`s absolutely correct,
And just a couple more statistics. We`re doing about 300,000 tests a day.
That is definitely an improvement. But all you have to do is look at kind
of our – quote – “positive rates” in regions such as Washington, D.C.,
where are you still have about a 20 percent positive rate, which means that
we`re just not testing enough.
And so we`re doing better, but we`re certainly far from kind of calling it
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: So, it`s true that the
U.S. has had less mortality per million than some European countries, than
Italy or Britain or France or Belgium, for example.
But those countries in Europe that went through a really tough period with
COVID then went – started going down the curve. And this – what is most
troubling about the U.S. is that we are stuck in something of a plateau,
when overall cases are still going down slowly. But that`s really just
driven by the tristate area here in the Northeast.
And outside those states, the cases are still going up, which portends
mortality in those areas going up down the road. And so I think I find that
particularly troubling, that we can`t manage as well as so many other
countries did, to actually tackle this and bring cases down.
KRISTOF: And that`s going to portend difficulty in the other 47 states.
And that goes to what we do as an attempted fact-based democracy, Gene. You
and Nick were both here at the table when we were covering all of these
legal scandals. We actually have one of them with Mike Flynn later in the
But for a few months there, at the height of the Mueller fever, it kind of
felt like America was going through law school together. And we were
talking about what those things meant. And in our best days, we were
wrestling with things where MAGA Trump supporters were saying, well, here`s
the deal with how to handle grand jury material. And other people were
And then people would ask me, as a legal reporter, what`s the truth? And on
the best days, there was a learning curve to that. Obviously, I know, I
think everyone knows what`s harder than law school, Dr. Patel?
PATEL: My mother will tell you it`s medical school, yes.
MELBER: It is definitely medical school.
In law school, you can still – Gene, you can argue your way around certain
points. Medical school is way harder.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MELBER: So, even if you take the president`s misinformation out of the
picture, walk us through what is important and the points raised by the two
other panelists here, that we have to be really thoughtful about what the
data means, what regional New York data means, compared to other places,
where it`s going back up.
How do we do this as safely as possible, going through this health crisis?
ROBINSON: Yes, Ari, we`re all not just going to medical school now. We`re
all becoming epidemiologists.
And so first I need to point out another big lie that the president told
today. He said that, in terms of deaths per capita, the United States and
Germany were the great stars and were doing better than anybody else.
It is true that Germany is doing very well in terms of death per capita,
but the United States is not doing particularly well. And that is not as
badly as Spain or Italy, but not doing very well in terms of – compared
with a lot of other countries.
And so, Yes – and I think Nick really hit it. We have yet to really, as a
nation, get our arms around this pandemic, and get it under control. And it
starts with mistakes that were made very early on that have compounded over
In fact, the original sin was the lack of testing at the beginning. And so
when the president says, well, we now have more testing per capita than
South Korea, well, that may be true right now, but it would have – it
would have meant something had we done the testing at the same time South
The first cases arose in the United States and South Korea on the same day.
And South Korea jumped on the pandemic with widespread surveillance
testing, contact tracing, and managed to squelch the epidemic in South
We did not do any of that. And so now we`re just now ramping up testing,
after the cat is already out of the bag. And it`s a much different
And, Doctor, let me play a nurse that we have got some reporting from who
actually contracted and went through this. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYN VIRAY, NURSE, MOUNT SINAI: It was like a war zone coming into the ICU.
It was nothing I have ever seen in my nursing career.
It`s been a very – it`s been a very difficult experience. I have been a
nurse for years. I have never experienced anything like this.
When is this going to end? When is it going to get a little bit better? We
don`t have those answers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Doctor, how important is it, as we go on, and we hear people trying
to say, we have rounded some sort of corner? And, in some places, we have.
We just discussed that.
But everyone who is close to this, doctors like yourself who know what it
means, nurses on the front lines, patients and patients` families who`ve
been through it say, do not mess around with this. If you`re lucky enough
to be in a place that can experiment with a partial reopening, do it as
safely as possible, with distance and a mask and still risk assessments.
There seems to be, if I may, a tendency to go all or nothing, which is
maybe in our American roots, because we have that plucky spirit sometimes.
But it`s sort of like we have got to live in the gray of even in a place
that says yes, like New York, by Friday, they`re going to partially reopen,
but that doesn`t mean live like the old days.
PATEL: Right, absolutely.
Ari, I really get sad when I think about people putting health vs.
anything, the economy, reopening. There is a way to do this. And,
unfortunately, we just haven`t had the leadership to guide us where we can,
as you mentioned, try to do, with data, with science, safe reopenings.
And that means having well-ventilated environments, social distancing when
you`re in with other people, wearing non-medical masks. I think the White
House should be sending a signal, including our country`s leader, to wear a
mask when in the presence of others.
And, unfortunately, we have just been behind the game. So watching that
video just reminds me about conversations my colleagues and I have where
we`re incredibly saddened to see that the country feels like it`s a choice.
PATEL: It`s not a choice.
PATEL: It doesn`t have to be one vs. the other. There is a third way.
And that goes – again, we`re seeing this throughout the country. We`re
endeavoring to show people what we learn as we go and try to inform
Nick Kristof, beyond all your other accolades, I happen know from your
career that you have a ton of frequent flyer miles, am I right?
KRISTOF: You are right.
MELBER: Because this guy goes all over the place, all over the world.
So I`m going to you, both given your knowledge as a journalist, but also as
a flyer, because United had told people – and, again, we`re not singling
one airline here, but it`s just as an example – that they were going to
leave middle seats empty, that people obviously for various reasons are
But take a look at this. Again, from social media, we got this photo. You
can see, yes, some people are wearing their masks, which is good. But the
middle seats turned out to be full. The whole area is full, which means
obviously you`re not distancing while you`re on that flight, Nick.
MELBER: What do you think about this part of life, where it`s going to take
both individual responsibility, good that people are wearing their masks,
but also corporations and other entities, or maybe need to be better
regulated, to say, what does it look like the social distance in a closed
cabin like that?
KRISTOF: So I think this reflects a fundamental misapprehension on the part
of the White House about how to revive the economy.
I think President Trump is, for good reasons, troubled about the state of
the economy and thinks the way you deal with it is ,you send everybody back
to work, you get the planes flying again.
And, no, in fact, the way you save the economy is you save lives. You fight
the virus. You mentioned Denmark at the opening of the show. Well, Denmark
is actually opening up today. But it did that because, as you noted, it had
twice as many tests per capita as the U.S., so they know where their hot
They had only half as many fatalities per capita. Hawaii is in great shape
to open up to some degree because they controlled the virus. And the idea
that you can open up, while allowing the virus in 47 states to be actually
increasing, is – as Dr. Patel noted, it`s a false choice and it`s a
mistaken strategy, I believe.
MELBER: And I give Gene the last word with a ray of at least enlightenment,
hope, which is that, for all the polarization around a million issues, we
have the headline on our screen, and I think we have been reporting it on
MSNBC, there`s still a strong majority of people that have taken in all of
this information, all this fear.
And we know fear can kind of sometimes – kind of freeze your brain up. And
people are listening to the Dr. Patels of the world more than others. And
they still are saying they are very wary of reopening too soon in a way
that`s not safe, Gene.
ROBINSON: Yes. And that`s exactly right, Ari.
You know, in my experience, people are being quite rational about the way
they`re approaching this, by what they`re willing to do and what they`re
not willing to do.
So, look, look at that shot of that crowded airliner. How many people want
to take that flight? There`s some who would be comfortable doing that, I
think, but my guess is that the majority of Americans would not be
comfortable right now taking that flight, given what we know about the
virus, given the extent of our knowledge.
And my guess is that not enough would be willing to take the flight to
really sustain that airline over time. And so that`s why it`s a mistake to
try to open too far too fast, because you`re not going to get the results
that you want. You`re going to have to do it step by step, and you`re going
to have to build people`s confidence with information, and with good, solid
information. But let`s make intelligence decisions.
MELBER: Yes, you said it, Gene, too far, too fast, which I didn`t know we
were going to land on a Grateful Dead reference here to make us think about
reopening policy, but Shakedown Street maybe had too much, too fast.
MELBER: And sometimes, whether it`s drinking, or anything else you partake
in, or just this policy, we all need to slow down, which I think was the
And also, Dr. Patel, can we just give a shout-out to your mom and tell her
she`s right about the med school thing?
PATEL: Oh, yes. She will love that.
Thank you. Thanks Ari. You made her year.
MELBER: Shout-out to the Patels.
I do think we can we can work through these things, as you all each have
done tonight, which is rationally, piece by piece. And, hopefully, we leave
– it`s a scary time, but, hopefully, we leave with a little more
Dr. Patel, Nick Kristof, Gene Robinson, thanks to each of you.
As I mentioned here at the top of the show, we have so much in tonight`s
broadcast because there`s so much happening.
New calls for Attorney General Barr to resign, and not just from his
critics, but from a bipartisan group of 2,000 DOJ veterans. We have a
former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti, a friend of THE BEAT, on
tonight. He signed a petition. He will explain why.
Also tonight, billionaire and former presidential candidate Tom Steyer is
back. And he`s going to talk economy, something he knows intimately.
Later tonight, an update on a story that we have been reporting on all last
week, new video evidence emerging from that shooting in Georgia.
And President Obama weighing in on Donald Trump`s virus response. These are
leaked remarks from a call. Very interesting that it`s now making news.
We`re going to get into all of that.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Nearly 2,000 former Justice Department officials are publicly and
formally calling on Attorney General Barr to resign, to get out of office,
for putting Donald Trump`s personal political interest over the rule of
This is a group of officials from both parties. These are career lawyers
who basically served at the highest levels in Republican and Democratic
All this amidst the controversy over the Michael Flynn case. The DOJ making
the unprecedented move to drop that case even after Mr. Flynn pled guilty
in that case that grew out of the Mueller investigation.
The letter calls for resignation, citing Barr`s – quote – “repeated
assaults on the rule of law in doing Trump`s personal bidding.”
Meanwhile, a former DOJ prosecutor who resigned in protest over what
happened here in the Roger Stone case as well speaking out for the very
first time, writing that Barr`s DOJ is now – quote – “infected by
politics, doing lasting damage to the institution` and calling out Bill
Barr`s – quote – “unmistakable message to DOJ officials. If Trump demands
it, we will throw you under the bus.”
Many also asking for the judge in charge of this Flynn case to – quote –
“take a long hard look at the Trump administration`s explanation and the
So think about it. What you have right here is something beyond good-faith
disagreement about how to handle a case, which does happen. What you have
here is over 1,000 people ,with all the requisite experience in both
parties, saying, this is well over the line even during the public health
crisis and pandemic.
And amidst all that, you also have President Obama saying this:
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our basic
understanding of rule of law is at risk.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: Renato Mariotti is a former federal prosecutor. He signed the
letter calling on Attorney General Barr to resign – you see him there –
among the alumni.
And eagle-eyed BEAT viewers will remember Renato has provided legal
analysis for us back in the days of the open Mueller probe.
Good to see you again, sir.
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Absolutely. Glad to be back on.
MELBER: Why did you sign this letter?
MARIOTTI: I`m really concerned that, at this point, we have a Justice
Department that treats the president`s friends differently than other
It`s very common, Ari, for the FBI to actually trick people into lying to
them in certain instances. Courts have said that`s OK. And on a regular
basis, there are very aggressive law enforcement tactics that have been
upheld by courts. There are literally hundreds of defendants in that
And who gets picked out for special treatment? Michael Flynn. And I – from
what I see, the Justice Department brief reads like something a defense
attorney would file on behalf of a client that would be unsuccessful.
MELBER: Let`s get into the context, because there`s so much going on.
Like the prosecutor you are, you dive deep into the details of the
underlying case. But, big picture – again, there`s a lot going on. We did
cover this last week, but people are living through this public health
At the highest level, when you were a prosecutor, did you ever secure a
high-profile guilty verdict, in this case a confession, he pled guilty, and
then go back a year later and reverse it?
MARIOTTI: Never heard of such a thing happening, never.
MELBER: So that`s – both in your career, and you have never heard of it
MARIOTTI: In fact, in similar cases, Dennis Hastert, for example. Never
So this is – I mean, just at the broadest level, before we get to the
details of the case, this is something that never happens, that`s only done
when Mueller is off the job. It`s only done under the – sort of the shroud
of this understandably consuming other topic that the country is going
For fairness, let me play you what Attorney General Barr is saying about
it, about defending what everyone knows factually is a very unusual move.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: People sometimes plead to
things that turned out not to be crimes. And the Department of Justice is
not persuaded that this was material to any legitimate counterintelligence
So it was not a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Your response?
MARIOTTI: It clearly was material.
In fact, not only did the Justice Department argue that it was material up
until recently, but, of course, the judge found that it was material at the
time that he accepted the plea. On multiple occasions, the judge made that
And, of course, Barr`s own words, the words of the Justice Department, were
quoting an official who has now come forward and said that her words had
been twisted by the Justice Department.
MELBER: Yes, you`re referring to Mary McCord.
I thought that was a rather extraordinary statement she issued in an
article I believe was published in “The Times.” That`s also something you
don`t usually see. I mean, any one of these things would be a huge deal,
and, frankly, if you want to look at the level of attention in Washington
and elsewhere, would be gobbling up way more attention if this we`re in the
middle of the Mueller probe, right?
There`s a lot of other fish to fry. What do you think is the solution here?
And what do you think when Bill Barr says, well, history is written by the
victors, and he basically seems to be taking a bow about sort of the
realpolitik, his view of the role he plays?
MARIOTTI: Well, there`s going to need to be some very difficult questioning
by the judge.
But separate and apart from that, we need congressional oversight,
regardless of whether or not Barr agrees to cooperate. I know Trump only
wants oversight by Republicans, but the House needs to conduct oversight
And if and when there`s a change in this upcoming election, the new
administration needs to overhaul and have some reform at the Justice
Department, because it surely is needed at this point.
MELBER: Renato Mariotti, thank you. And good to see you, as mentioned.
We have a 30-second break. And when we come back, former presidential
candidate Tom Steyer on the economy – in just 30 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We will revive our economy. And we will transition into greatness.
We`re going into the third quarter, and we`re going to do well.
In the fourth quarter, we`re going to do very good. And next year, I think
we`re going to have one of the best years we`ve ever had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Donald Trump predicting a potential greatness with the economy.
Of course, everyone knows that the pandemic and related problems now have
33 million Americans newly unemployed, the worst since the Great
Depression. The Treasury secretary, meanwhile, says it will get worse
before it gets better.
Some estimates show unemployment rates could hit 25 percent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE HARLEY, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: The people who have small
businesses are not rich. This hits hard. We don`t know how long it`s going
to take us to recover.
TONY LOEFFLER, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: We have not received any support from
any of the CARES Act or the PPP loans as of yet. So we feel like we`re
forced somewhat to reopen to kind of generate sales and income and money.
But we`re doing it with all the precautions that we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Plans to reopen starting to take shape in some larger places,
including, as mentioned tonight, in New York later this week, in California
Governor Cuomo announcing that it will be Upstate New York that could be
ready to open on Friday, New York City not meeting all the criteria.
California has what is called phase two of its four-stage plan, loosening
restrictions, allowing lower-risk businesses, which include car
dealerships, bookstores, and florists, to reopen, as long as they follow
Now, early action did help California avoid the death toll that New York
has suffered, something we have been covering. And there`s growing concern
among researchers that certain populous states, including California, may
not be ready to reopen. Cases and deaths do remain relatively flat, though,
in areas like L.A. County.
Joining us now, billionaire philanthropist and a former presidential
candidate Tom Steyer. He`s the co-chair of California`s Economic Recovery
Council. He`s deeply involved in all these issues.
Good to see you, sir.
TOM STEYER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ari, nice to see you, too.
MELBER: Given that you`re working directly on this, and many will remember
you, of course, from running for president, what grade do you give the
president`s approach to this? And what are the modifications or rules that
are essential in places like you`re what you`re working on in California to
do it right?
STEYER: Well, Ari, to a very large extent, the president has let governors
make the basic decisions here.
And what we have seen is that Governor Newsom was very early and very
decisive in closing down California to protect Californians` lives. And
he`s been successful in that. I think everybody can recognize that.
And now we`re moved into a phased reopening of the California economy,
which you referred to earlier, which involves specific sectors of the
economy, with protocols, with rules of the road, to protect working people
and to protect consumers, because, I mean, I – it is – this is a very,
very difficult situation.
And you were talk – there was that small business owner talking about the
need to get revenues. And that`s true. But it`s also true that, for people
to succeed, for that business owner to succeed, his workers need to feel
safe on the job, and his customers need to feel safe shopping in a store.
So it`s important – it`s really important to do what Governor Newsom said,
which is to put health first, to make sure we`re safeguarding lives, so
that we can safeguard livelihoods, so that people are safe and feel safe so
the economy can reopen successfully.
MELBER: Take a listen to Steve Mnuchin, who has been making the rounds.
Here he was with Chris Wallace yesterday, or Sunday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The reported numbers are probably
going to get worse before they get better. But that`s why we`re focused on
rebuilding this economy.
We will have a better third quarter. We will have a better fourth quarter.
And next year is going to be a great year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is that something that can be asserted at this point? Or does it
actually depend on everything that you do?
STEYER: Well, there`s – let me say this. To have a better quarter than the
worst quarter in history is a pretty fair guess.
STEYER: But I think, Ari, it`s really important to remember there are a lot
of things that I don`t know, that Steve Mnuchin doesn`t know, and, with all
due respect, that you don`t know.
And we don`t know when there is going to be cheap, quick, ubiquitous
testing. We don`t know when there`s going to be a therapeutic response that
is demonstrable and makes people feel comfortable. We don`t know when
there`s going to be a vaccine.
So I think it`s really important to do what Governor Newsom is talking
about, which is to put health first, to make sure we preserve lives, that
people feel comfortable, so that, as we reopen, people feel comfortable
doing it, and we don`t have a reconfiguration of this pandemic.
STEYER: And I think the governor deserves a lot of credit for doing it that
way, just as he deserves a lot of credit for shutting us down early.
One thing that separates you from a lot of your contemporaries in your
bracket is that you have done a lot of work and a lot of advocacy around
meeting – trying to meet and address inequality in our entire system.
And this is a time where, as you well know and I think our viewers
understand, we are seeing, through COVID, the exposure, the revelation of
how unequal the system already is.
Take just one example I know you`re familiar with – you have worked on
these issues – institutional racism, “The L.A. Times” notes, inequality
fuelling the higher minority death rate from this virus.
“People who live in these areas with high poverty rates, four times as many
deaths due to the coronavirus.” Black and Latino individuals in California
18 to 64 dying more frequently of COVID than white or Asian counterparts.
Given your work on this, and that your campaign also talked a lot about
this, here you are on a – as a part of a team in a driver`s seat.
What specifically can you do to address this in California?
STEYER: Well, Ari, I think the point you`re making is absolutely true,
which is that this COVID pandemic is revealing racism, is revealing
injustice across our society.
And it`s – you know, the mission statement of our task force is not to go
back to January of 2020, but, as we move forward, to create a more just,
more sustainable, more forward-thinking California, with a particular eye
to the communities, black and brown communities, that have borne the brunt
of this pandemic.
It starts in the very short term making sure that there is testing in the
communities where people are more likely to be infected and more likely to
die. And that`s something that has to be deliberately done, knowing how
this is turning out.
But I think, in addition, as we move forward into the intermediate term and
into the longer term, that we make sure that as we respond, rebuild
employment, rebuild schools, that we do it in a way that takes into account
the injustice that we started with before this pandemic began.
MELBER: Yes, which is very something.
STEYER: We`re going to create a better California. That`s the goal. Take
the crisis, suffer…
MELBER: And I would love to stay in touch.
I know we`re on a slight – we`re on the slight Skype delay, but I want to
keep updated on that because we cover a lot of those stories. I`d love to
have you and the members of that commission back on to make sure we`re
keeping tabs of that.
I have one lighter thing before we go. Do you have a second?
STEYER: Absolutely, Ari.
MELBER: This is our – this is – because you have been on the program
before. We get more than one area of expertise from you.
This is our first interview since you left the campaign. I bet you can
guess what here on THE BEAT we need to ask you about. You have some guess,
STEYER: You going for it? No, I know. Go for it.
MELBER: Cue it up.
During your campaign, when you were down South at the end of the campaign,
Tom Steyer, you got a lot of notice for your appearance with Juvenile, if
you remember this. Do you remember this?
STEYER: Of course I do.
MELBER: And you were out having fun. And we loved it.
Some people were giving you a hard time. We loved it. I just wanted to make
sure we get this on the record.
What did you learn on the campaign trail? How much fun were you having
there at the end? What was going through your mind?
STEYER: Well, Ari, that campaign was a chance for me to meet people across
the United States and to stand up for my (AUDIO GAP) that isn`t a big part
of American politics a lot of the time?
I like to work for the things I believe in, and I love to have fun. And I
can do both of those on the campaign (AUDIO GAP). As hard as this is going
to be, I want people to remember, we`re going to make it better and we`re
going to succeed.
STEYER: We`re going to turn it around. It`s going to be better, and we are
going to have fun doing it.
MELBER: I love it. I love it. I love the spirit. We`re going through these
tough times, so it`s a reminder, A, of how different it was.
That was not that long ago. And people were out dancing. Someday, if we do
this, right, we will be out dancing again. And because it`s THE BEAT, we
just – we wanted to live that memory with you, sir.
STEYER: So it was the musical beat in this case, Ari, that you`re referring
MELBER: Bingo. Bingo, bango.
Tom Steyer, thank you for capturing all of the serious stuff, as well as a
little fun, and reminiscing on the campaign. And we`d love to have you
back, as mentioned Tom Steyer, doing this work in California.
When we come back, I want everybody to understand what comes next.
Steve Schmidt on the confusion inside the White House dealing with this
And, later, we`re going to show you exactly what Barack Obama is saying
about Donald Trump`s COVID response.
Stay with us.
MELBER: On testing.
The outbreak now spreading it two people inside, of course, his own West
Wing. And reporting shows that most White House officials are going to be
asked to wear masks. The directive will not apply to the president, a
seeming example of a kind of high-handedness or exception to the rules that
as characterized much of the response.
And for that, we turn to MSNBC contributor Steve Schmidt, knowing politics
inside and out. He`s worked on campaigns and the Bush White House.
Good to have you back, sir.
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be with you, Ari.
MELBER: Let`s start right here, given your history and your work with
regard to leadership in government. What does it mean to you when the
president moves to change these rules again when the virus actually hits
the West Wing, and they still don`t apply to certain people at the top?
SCHMIDT: Well, he`s shown a terrible example to the country.
One of the most important qualities of leadership in a moment of crisis
like this is the ability to talk honestly, directly, clearly, so people
understand what is the situation.
So, right now, the country in many ways is opening back up, but it`s not
opening back up because the coronavirus, COVID-19, is diminishing, because
there`s less cases or there`s less death. It`s opening up because Donald
Trump thinks it`s politically expedient for it to be opened back up and to
get the economy moving.
And no doubt there are millions of Americans who need to get back to work,
who want to get out of their houses. But this has nothing to do with the
public health advice that the president has consistently ignored since the
beginning of this event.
So, it`s just one more example in Donald Trump`s profound mismanagement,
his ineptitude and incompetence responding to what is an epic crisis in the
history of the United States.
And what will always be true, Ari, is this. This didn`t have to happen. It
didn`t have to be the case that we will lose by August, according to the
model, 137,000 Americans, most likely more. We didn`t have to have a
shattered economy. We don`t see this in other places around the world.
And we saw at his news conference today, on top of the overt racism at the
CBS White House correspondent, we just saw more delusion, more happy talk,
more fantasy, more dangerous fantasy that, in the end, will get people in
this country killed.
SCHMIDT: We have seen a president who was just completely overmatched by
events from beginning to end.
MELBER: You mentioned that exchange and your view of it.
For viewers to understand, I will play that. This was a back-and-forth
about China, among other things, and the claims on testing from today. Take
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEIJIA JIANG, CBS NEWS: You have said many times that the U.S. is doing far
better than any other country when it comes to testing.
JIANG: Why does that matter? Why is this a global competition to you, if,
every day, Americans are still losing their lives, and we`re still seeing
more cases every day?
TRUMP: Well, they`re losing their lives everywhere in the world.
And maybe that`s a question you should ask China. Don`t ask me. Ask China
that question, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And it led to a rather tense back-and-forth. You wanted to weigh in
SCHMIDT: Well, it just demonstrates once again his manifest fitness.
We see his bullying. We see his nastiness. We see the racism there.
And the question was an important one. The fact of the matter is this. The
United States is the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus, period. The United
States is the place in the world where you are most likely to die of COVID-
And if you do have COVID-19 equally between this country and another
country, you`re more likely to die from it in the United States. There was
a columnist who pointed out that, at the height of World War II, we lived
in a country that turned out eight combat aircraft an hour, and now we
can`t make balk masks and PPE.
Our health care responders, first responders, are underequipped. This has
been a national disgrace. And there has never been a moment, not under a
Democratic president, not under a Republican president, in our lifetimes or
in the last 75 years where the United States has appeared more weak to the
rest of the world than it does now.
We look weak and pitiful. We look like a basket case on the world stage,
with our dishonest, delusional, divisive president, who just is not
equipped at a moral level, at a mental level, at an intellectual level to
be able to lead the country through this.
And so we`re less than 200 days away from an election that`s just
profoundly important, because he demonstrated yet again today that he has
exactly zero capacity to lead this country out of this.
And it is delusional, B.S. happy talk in the extremis when Steve Mnuchin or
Donald Trump say, everything`s going to be fine by the third and fourth
quarter, and we will be booming next year.
We`re going to see unemployment rates in the United States north of 20
percent, maybe as high as 30 percent. We will see all the societal
pathologies that accompany that. We`re likely to see political instability.
We have millions of people who can`t feed their families. We`re facing an
economic catastrophe in this country. The programs that were passed are not
working for the people, the small business men and women, the people that
need the help.
SCHMIDT: And we will find out how everybody gamed the system and how
corrupted it all was when we see who got the money.
MELBER: Oh, yes.
SCHMIDT: But, for now, at every conceivable level, we have a president that
has failed, failed in his duty.
He`s failed the country. He`s failed to protect the country. And the man
who said he would make America great again has made America poorer, has
divided the country. And his legacy will be one of mass suffering and death
that didn`t have to occur and the economic collapse to follow that.
MELBER: You lay it out there really vividly, Steve.
Before I lose you, I wanted you to weigh in on something that I told
viewers earlier tonight is rare. You know it and I know it, as students of
Barack Obama leaves a wide, wide lane for Donald Trump. He just doesn`t see
it as his role, as the predecessor president, to weigh in on everything,
even though we know where they disagree.
But take a listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
OBAMA: It would have been bad even with the best of governments.
It has been an absolute chaotic disaster, when that mind-set of, what`s in
it for me and to heck with everybody else, when that mind-set is
operationalized in our government.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: That is new leaked audio to Yahoo News from a call the president
I just have about 30 seconds, Steve, but your reaction to that rare rebuke
spilling into public by former President Obama?
SCHMIDT: Well, I think he was generous, if anything, in his comments.
Look, the disaster of the response is hard to articulate. It`s an epic
disaster that Donald Trump has brought to this country. It`s one of the
great crises in the history of the country.
And the truth of the matter is this. If Barack Obama was the president of
the United States, this would not have happened. We would have had
competent, professional people. We would have done what we needed to do
What would have happened is what happened during the Ebola crisis. We would
have had someone like Ron Klain in charge of it, not the confederacy of
dunces that we see running around the West Wing.
We waited for months. We see the blame-China campaign starting, but it is
the ineptitude and incompetence of Donald Trump, period, full stop, that is
responsible for the catastrophe in this country.
And no amount of gaslighting, delusion, fantasy happy talk changes that
reality on a day-to-day basis, as we will recover from this over a period
of years, years, because of the two months where Donald Trump was on a
revenge mission, hate-tweeting, and paying attention to all manner of
stupidity, everything except his essential duties, which were to protect
the American people.
And he has failed his duty in a way that no president in the history of the
American republic ever has, period.
Longtime Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, thank you for your clarity
and your time tonight, sir.
And we will be right back.
MELBER: An update to a story we have been reporting on for you now.
The Georgia attorney general`s office calling on the federal Justice
Department to conduct an investigation of the overall handling of the
shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.
The police and initial DA refused to make arrests or bring charges, despite
a lot of video evidence that has now led to charges. The feds are
considering also whether federal hate crime statutes may be implicated.
And the two men accused in the death claim that they fired in self-defense.
That`s a new development in the story that we told you we would stay on.
MELBER: Will we ever see Donald Trump`s taxes?
Well, tomorrow, the Supreme Court hears arguments about whether he will be
forced to release them. And we`re doing special coverage.
You can tune in tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern for all the highlights and a
live discussion I`m doing with former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal.
Go to YouTube.com/MSNBC. In fact, you can go there now, YouTube.com/MSNBC,
and set a reminder. It`ll be like THE BEAT, live TV, but on YouTube. Tune
And I will see you tomorrow night.
Keep it right here on MSNBC.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the