Steve Schmidt TRANSCRIPT: 5/11/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Renato Mariotti, Tom Steyer, Nicholas Kristof


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

this economy.


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

near anyone.


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

Joint Chiefs.


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.





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.




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

a success.





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.


MELBER: Right.


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

saying that.


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.




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

Korea did.


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.




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.




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.


MELBER: Right.


PATEL: It`s not a choice.




PATEL: It doesn`t have to be one vs. the other. There is a third way.


MELBER: Exactly.


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

spots are.


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

theme here.


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:





understanding of rule of law is at risk.




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.




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.


And really…




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: Correct.


MELBER: Right.


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.





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.




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.






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.




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.





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.




MELBER: Plans to reopen starting to take shape in some larger places,

including, as mentioned tonight, in New York later this week, in California

as well.


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

certain rules.


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.




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.




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.




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.


MELBER: Right.


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,

some idea.


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.




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.


MELBER: Steve…




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

a look.




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?




MELBER: And it led to a rather tense back-and-forth. You wanted to weigh in

on that?


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.


MELBER: Right.


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.




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.




MELBER: That is new leaked audio to Yahoo News from a call the president

was on.


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.


MELBER: 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 In fact, you can go there now,,

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.







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