Trump tax fight TRANSCRIPT: 5/12/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber on a very busy
The fight over Donald Trump`s tax returns hitting the Supreme Court in a
historic standoff, while job losses drive what some are calling a Trump
We have special report on inequality and the racial disparities circulating
throughout this pandemic tonight.
Also, late-breaking news on Jared Kushner`s medical supply task force.
So, we have a lot tonight on a whole variety of topics. So stay with us.
But we begin with a basic fact right now during this pandemic. Much of the
government is an essential service. That`s true for public servants leading
this pandemic response, and for the Congress that overseas them, and the
courts that also provide oversight in our system of balance of power.
And, today, I can tell you what this all looks like.
One, the Supreme Court holding, as mentioned, these unprecedented oral
arguments by telephone conference call, no Zoom for the justices, in this
case overseeing Trump and his historically unusual secrecy.
And then this visual of the Senate holding its own virtual hearing, Zooming
along of sorts, just like so many other Americans. And these were for
reasons even more pressing than what faces the high court, because three
top health officials testifying from home are doing so because they`re
self-isolating after West Wing staffers tested positive for the virus.
The most prominent, Dr. Fauci, facing the senators and at times
undercutting and debunking misinformation from the president. Now, this was
a doctor in a setting with several other leaders who are, of course, in a
co-equal branch of government. So it`s different than when we see him in
those other settings, like the president over his shoulder at a press
And let`s be clear. What you need to know tonight, the doctor clearly
breaking with parts of his boss` push to reopen, providing facts and
science. Dr. Fauci warning that states who try to reopen too soon could
face deadly consequences.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: It`s my concern that, if some areas,
city, states or what have you jump over those various checkpoints and
prematurely open up, without having the capability of being able to respond
effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little
spikes that might turn into outbreaks.
There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be
able to control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, the doctor chooses his words deliberately.
So let`s listen to them deliberately. An outbreak you might not be able to
cancer is more than a warning. It`s a reminder that this devastating bout
of the virus has actually been controlled in certain ways, and the experts
are telling us that, even amidst all of the death we`re living through.
So any failure on the road ahead, Dr. Fauci is warning everyone in public,
in this setting, in this testimony. He warning us that something
potentially worse could happen than what we have been already going
Now, another exchange today that I want to show you is when Donald Trump`s
former GOP rival turned congressional supporter libertarian Senator Rand
Paul tried to make some sort of point by pressing Dr. Fauci on humility.
And if it was an attempt to cow the doctor, well, he wasn`t having it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I think we ought to have a little bit of humility in
our belief that we know what`s best for the economy.
And as much as I respect you, Dr. Fauci, I don`t think you`re the end-all.
FAUCI: I have never made myself out to be the end-all and only voice of
I`m a scientist, a physician and a public health official. I don`t give
advice about anything other than public health.
But I am very careful and hopefully humble in knowing that I don`t know
everything about this disease.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, exchanges like that were not the only tone we saw.
Senator Mitt Romney, who has become something of an outlier among
Republicans on the Hill, you see him here at home flanked by family
portraits, and he went ahead and used some of this time to fact-check
Donald Trump`s claims about testing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): By March 6, the U.S. has completed just 2,000
tests, whereas South Korea had conducted more than 140,000 tests. So
partially as a result of that, they have 256 deaths and we have almost
I find our testing record nothing to celebrate whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: All this comes as Donald Trump tries to push to reopen the country;
32 states are already technically open, another eight gearing up to do so
And there are some safe ways to start this process. But, again, let`s
listen to Dr. Fauci stress that some progress is a long ways from acting or
living like this is under control.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: If you think that we have it completely under control, we don`t.
I mean, if you look at the dynamics of the outbreak, we are seeing a
diminution of the hospitalizations and infections in some places, such as
in New York City, which has plateaued and started to come down, New
But in other parts of the country, we are seeing spikes. I think we`re
going in the right direction, but the right direction does not mean we have
by any means total control of this outbreak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This is news you can use, literally.
Look, if you`re in America, you`re watching this, most of us are living
through this, trying to understand how to manage risks, trying to figure
out what we`re up against as things evolve, making plans, talking to other
people about it.
I`m sure you have had plenty of conversations about it, and you try to draw
on what you have learned along the way, especially what we have learned
So, let`s be clear, a partial reopening does not mean business as usual.
Leaving the house a little more in an area where that is clear to do is a
risk that can be managed. It doesn`t mean that everyone should then just go
out as much as possible in any place that is reopening.
And in new parts of the country, let`s be clear about what we`re hearing.
These numbers show that one region`s May is going to look more like another
region`s harrowing April or March.
Consider how the New York City area has been flattening, something that we
just heard the doctor reference. But the rest of the country has cases on
So there are certain places that are getting worse, that are getting more
dangerous for you. Donald Trump has been urging all states basically to
basically uniformly move quickly, and he says, he thinks the cases are
sharply decreasing. Move quickly.
But it depends where you are. And he knows this, or at least his staff
does, because an unreleased White House report was showing the coronavirus
rate spiking in the heartland of America, including many states with a
different regional makeup than where we first saw it hit, like New York and
You can see the increase in cases here in these hot spots, several cities
registering surges over a one-week period. That includes Nashville, Des
Moines, and at the top of the list, with a 650 percent increase, Central
Meanwhile, I want you to know several other cities are now on a watch lit,
Kansas City, Omaha, Lincoln, and Montgomery, Alabama.
We have to keep track of the details across each part of the country to
keep each part safe, based on what`s is going on where you are, where you
To that end, I want to bring in our experts, beginning with Dr. William
Schaffner, professor at Vanderbilt and a CDC adviser, Ron Klain, the chief
of staff to two vice presidents. He oversaw the response to the Ebola
outbreak during the Obama administration. And Heather McGhee, a
distinguished senior fellow at the progressive think tank Demos and an NBC
Good to see all of you.
Doctor, how do you apply what Dr. Fauci was saying about different regions
having to do it different ways right now?
DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, DEPARTMENT OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE CHAIRMAN,
VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Public health is local, Ari. You have got to know
what`s going on in your neighborhood.
And, basically, all neighborhoods ought to be moving very, very cautiously.
You know, it is a new normal. We`re not going back to the old normal. The
coronavirus is with us.
So, all the social distancing recommendations need to be kept in mind. We
ought to minimize going out in groups, wear those masks when you`re out in
public, wash your hands a lot. Don`t congregate in large groups. We don`t
want to do that. We`re not ready to do that anywhere, because we need to
keep this virus under control.
MELBER: But, specifically, the strange thing about this is, there is going
to be a type of – beyond all the hardship, there is also a type of fatigue
from people who have been doing certain precautions and hearing about this
and living with it.
And it`s human nature, as we know, where people want to move on. But,
Doctor, what we`re seeing, again, according to the numbers I just put up,
is that there are places in this country that are probably, unfortunately,
more at the front end of this than in rounding the corner this week.
SCHAFFNER: It`s all local.
Watch what`s happening in your own neighborhood. Listen to your local
public health authorities. That`s very, very important. I understand the
fatigue. I`m not saying we have to keep our doors locked and stay inside
all the time. Go out carefully.
Yes, relax some of what you`re doing, go out, but always do so carefully.
The mask is now a fashion statement, as well as a public health protective
SCHAFFNER: We need to do these things in a very sober, careful way.
MELBER: Well, and if anyone can make the mask fashionable or cool, that`s
obviously a net positive.
We have got other, you know, areas where form follows function.
Ron, Dr. Fauci also poured more cold water on the silver bullet part of
this. Everyone would love to get a vaccine, the sooner, the better. The
president has talked that up a lot.
But he really was very clear about understanding the limits of that as one
way to resolve or end this.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: There is no guarantee that the vaccine is actually going to be
So one of the big unknown is, it will be effective. Given the way the body
responds to viruses of this type, I`m cautiously optimistic that we will,
with one of the candidates, get an efficacy signal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Ron, how is that important, particularly when you`re managing
expectations, as you have done on the government side of this?
Because everybody is looking for good news. Everybody wants to know how
it`s going to end. But experts are telling us the vaccine is one, but not
the only way that you wind this down.
RON KLAIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE EBOLA RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Yes, I mean, I
think there are three ways this potentially ends.
I think one is with the vaccine. I think what Dr. Fauci was saying today
is, until we know it`s effective, we don`t really know we have a vaccine
By the way, even after it`s effective, it has to be manufactured in massive
quantities. That will take months, not weeks. And then administered, and
that will take months more. So, I think the vaccine is, in a best-case
scenario, very far away.
The second would be through having really widespread therapeutics and know
that, if you get it, you could get treated. It might have not that bad
effects. Again, we`re far away from that too. We`re seeing some promise
there. But, certainly, people can`t take this disease for granted.
And the third way – and I think the more practical solution here in the
short term, in the medium term, is to have widespread antigen testing, so
we can identify who has the virus. We can contact-trace those people, so on
and so forth.
Now, good news/bad news on that, Ari. I think there are promising signs
that that may be available in August or September. But that`s still August
or September. It`s not next week. It`s not next month.
KLAIN: And so I think what the doctor was saying earlier, this is a test.
This is a war of wills between us and the virus.
And the question, who is going to win that war of wills? And that`s the
real challenge here.
MELBER: Welcome back. This is THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER on MSNBC.
I`m joined by Ron Klain, who managed the Ebola response for the Obama
administration, and Heather McGhee. We have Dr. Schaffner with us.
I will be joined momentarily by a senator.
And I will tell viewers watching we were having some tech difficulties a
few moments ago, but we think we`re through them.
And, Heather, I want to play something that we put together for your
analysis here, Dr. Fauci testifying today before the Senate.
And we were seeing him really contradict things that the president has
claimed. Take a look overall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s going to disappear one
day. It`s like a miracle. It will disappear.
FAUCI: That is just not going to happen, because it`s such a highly
TRUMP: Through an incredible amount of work by the federal government, we
have a big, big beautiful overcapacity.
FAUCI: We`re going in the right direction, but the right direction does not
mean we have by any means total control of this outbreak.
TRUMP: They have a very low mortality rate, like we do. We have a low
mortality rate also.
FAUCI: The number of deaths are likely higher than that number.
TRUMP: The people aren`t going to stand for it. They want to get back.
They`re not going stand for it. They want our country open. I want our
FAUCI: There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may
not be able to control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s all new testimony, the doctor speaking from home. Like so
many people, as mentioned, he is self-isolating. But that`s all brand-new
today in formal testimony.
What does it say to you, Heather?
HEATHER MCGHEE, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, thankfully, the American
people are putting a bet on Dr. Fauci.
And if it`s Trump vs. Fauci or even Alexander or Paul or most any of the
other Republicans in Congress vs. Fauci, they`re listening to Fauci.
“The Washington Post” released a poll today that showed that, generally
speaking, governors are getting high bipartisan votes from Americans and
support from Americans, but the governors, mainly the Republican governors
who have moved to open up their economies and put workers and the public at
risk, they`re underwater, in Georgia, in Texas, and Florida.
And so the American people, you know, for all the protests that we see and
all that Donald Trump wants to tweet about, are scared. They`re cautious.
They`re trying to look for expertise. And I think it`s really important.
Today`s testimony was extremely important for the American people, who are
just wanting straight, sobering answers.
MELBER: Yes, it`s really important. That`s why we have been highlighting
Before we bring in the senator, Ron, I have one more piece of business with
you. It involves a compliment to your public service. So there you go.
Sometimes, that`s going happen.
But it also guess to the larger dynamics of this, with a president, in
Donald Trump, who is obsessed with comparing himself, often inaccurately,
to everyone, but particularly Barack Obama, and a time period where, on the
one hand, a lot of people say, look, let`s put all the comparisons to the
side and focus exclusively on doing the work and reporting the facts.
But then, with this president, that leaves a lot of his comparisons
This is a longtime Republican operative who worked for John McCain, among
others, known to our audience, Steve Schmidt.
And we did want to play for you, Ron, what he said about the Obama
administration and your tenure. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: 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 had someone like Ron Klain in charge of it, not the
confederacy of dunces that we see running around the West Wing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Ron, disaster and disease response involves, by definition, some
unavoidable loss of life and tragedies when it gets to this level. We have
seen that in many countries, in fairness to any leader.
But we`re also hearing from experts – and I just showed you Steve`s
opinion – that there have been policy failures and leadership failures
here is that could have saved lives.
You were name-checked. Your response?
KLAIN: Well, I appreciate the compliment. It`s very kind.
I don`t really deserve the credit. The credit really goes to President
Obama himself. And I`m sure that must be frustrating to President Trump.
But, you know, here are the big difference, Ari, which is, President Obama
put science first. He listened to Dr. Fauci. Dr. Fauci was an adviser to
President Obama and five other presidents, and President Obama took his
He wasn`t busy debating Dr. Fauci in public. He was busy listening to him
in private. He used every tool of the government at his disposal to fight
Ebola overseas and here at home.
President Trump still refuses to use the Defense Production Act to fix the
testing problem, using to it send some meatpacking workers back to work,
but not to make the workplace safe for the rest of us at all, and for
meatpacking workers too.
And then the President Obama listened to other government experts and
really used the power of the government. Instead, we have heard that
basically Jared Kushner brought in a bunch of young consultants and turned
them loose to try to solve these problems, and really didn`t listen to the
great teams that are in the government.
Look, I`m grateful I have gotten the credit from Steve and others. The key
to the Ebola response was leadership by President Obama and the many, many
experts inside our government on logistics, on testing, on organizing.
There are brilliant men and women who give their careers to work for our
government. This president derides them as the deep state. They are the
people who can solve problems like this.
MELBER: All fair points.
Stay with me.
As promised, we have been keeping up with a lot of different parts of this
Now I want to bring in a U.S. senator, Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin
from Wisconsin. She was at the hearing today, pressing on questions about
testing capacity and other aspects of reopening the country.
Thank you for joining us.
Real quick, before we get to the meat of it, I`m just curious. At the basic
level, just like everyone who has had a Zoom birthday call these days or
anything else, how was it trying to do this remotely at your job today?
SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D-WI): Well, it was absolutely remarkable to have all
four witnesses join us remotely, and all of the members teleworking from
their offices or Capitol Hill apartments or their home.
Both the chair and ranking member were remote in their home states. And,
you know, we were called back to Washington, D.C., to do oversight and to
work on issues.
And I just have to throw in my criticism of the fact that we have done
nothing related to the pandemic on the Senate floor since we were called
back into session.
MELBER: What did you think that you learned? We highlighted a few aspects
of today`s hearing.
But what did you learn and what is important for your constituents and
Americans to know from Dr. Fauci and the other testimony you received
BALDWIN: Well, it was dramatic in terms of how significant – significantly
behind we are in lacking a national testing strategy, and, for that matter,
a national strategy around providing PPE and other medical equipment.
We have seen this all play out, and we keep getting promised that it`s at
My first question of Dr. Redfield was whether he believed that the testing
strategy and protocol at the White House was a standard that should be
viewed as a best practice for the rest of this country.
He stammered and gave basically a non-reply, but it`s really, really clear
that what has been put in place to protect the White House is not available
for people in essential workplaces across this country right now.
When I hear from people who work in meatpacking plants in the state of
Wisconsin who can`t get the PPE they need, and certainly waited far too
long to get testing, there`s just two standards, the one for the White
House, the one for the president, and the one for the rest of the workers
in this – in the United States.
MELBER: And, finally, what`s the most important thing that you think
Congress should do next?
BALDWIN: Well, I think that there`s two things.
One is, there is more work to be done in terms of passage of another
coronavirus response package. One was unveiled just a few hours ago that
would represent the fourth major package.
And I will have to say, I have only begun to review it, but I was very
pleased to see my OSHA legislation that would finally direct the
Occupational and Health and Safety Administration to do its job and issue a
mandatory and enforceable standard for all workplaces, especially as the
president prods people to open up.
Right now, we just have voluntary guidance, and it`s insufficient for the
protection of workers in this country. Secondly, we have to continue
So, obviously, this hearing today with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Redfield and
others is a part of that effort. But I can tell you the administration has
been reluctant to send members of the task force, the secretary of the
Treasury, the Small Business Administration to come before Senate
committees, so that we can keep a spotlight on the implementation of the
CARES Act and make sure that there is transparency and accountability as
this is implemented.
Senator Baldwin, I really appreciate you joining us. You were in that big
hearing with Dr. Fauci.
I want to thank Ron Klain for being here.
Heather McGhee will stay with us and come back.
We turn next to this fight over Donald Trump`s tax returns. It hit the
Supreme Court today, and I have the full report with Maya Wiley and Neal
Katyal when we`re back in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: Donald Trump has taken his years-long fight to keep his taxes
secret all the way to the Supreme Court today.
This is a sign of just how far Donald Trump will go to hide evidence of his
own finances. Now, some investigators say the records could reveal key
information about his conduct, about whether he has lied about his money,
and if he lied to the feds at any point in time, which is, of course, a
Now, House Democrats invoked one federal law to request the tax returns.
Meanwhile, the Manhattan DA requesting records as they investigate
potential local crimes related to the 2016 election, Stormy Daniels, all
that stuff you may recall.
So, the Supreme Court could force the release of these records. Trump`s
lawyers have argued that lawmakers here have no legitimate legislative
purpose in seeking them, and thus they`re fighting the congressional
Justice Kagan today suggested, though, the president cannot simply dictate
how Congress performs its oversight of the president.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: What it seems to me you`re
asking us to do is to put a kind of 10-ton weight on the scales between the
president and Congress, and essentially to make it impossible for Congress
to perform oversight and to carry out its functions where the president is
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: When Congress impeached President Trump, you may recall, we heard
But the final word in that one rested with a Senate vote, a body controlled
by the president`s party. What`s going on right now in Washington is
An independent court will decide whether Trump wins or loses, or if there
is some kind of legal middle ground compromise.
And, of course, in modern history, presidential candidates have typically
shared a lot about their finances and taxes, even when they knew some of
the stuff would look bad.
That`s why Kanye West could famously invoke Republican nominee Mitt Romney
for clever tax dodging, saying – quote – “I`m just trying to protect my
stacks. Mitt Romney don`t pay no tax.”
Well, over several years, Donald Trump also paid no tax, according to an
exhaustive “New York Times” report. But Donald Trump just attacked “The
Times” over that and denied it, but never provided public proof.
Meanwhile, there are other experts who stress that this type of secrecy
leaves open questions about whether Donald Trump as president still owes
foreign governments tons of money, which could compromise U.S. security.
Let`s be clear. This could actually turn out to be the biggest case on
presidential secrecy and power of the whole Trump era, which is really
saying something, with implications for both Donald Trump and, yes, the
Joining us now, we have two of our favorite legal eagles, the former acting
Solicitor General of the United States Neal Katyal, who has argued more
than 40 cases before the court, although not by telephone conference call,
as was done today, and Maya Wiley, former counsel to the mayor of New York
City, a former civil prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. She
knows her way around some of the New York legal issues that were part of
Thanks to both of you.
Neal, bottom line, based on what we heard, all caveats included, where do
you see the court headed on this case? Could Trump lose?
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Well, there are caveats,
because the justices today, like in every oral argument, they are just
trying to probe both sides, the weaknesses and the contours of their
positions. So, you can`t always tell.
Having said, that I thought there was incredible skepticism from both the
left and the right of the court about President Trump`s position,
particularly when it came to the case from the Manhattan district
That argument was, I think, brilliantly done by the Manhattan DA, and the
Trump lawyers, frankly, fell apart. It was bombast. It was not actual much
They kept saying that this is unprecedented. But, actually, you know, going
all the way back to the founding, starting with President Washington, all
the way up to Nixon and Clinton and Billygate with President Carter, this
information has been turned over.
So I thought it was a very tough argument that Trump tried to advance
through his lawyers, and one that ultimately I didn`t think resonated with
MELBER: Very striking, because you`re basically telling our viewers that,
based on your knowledge, caveats included, you see the Supreme Court
heading toward ruling against Trump`s secrecy here on his finances, which
would be a big, big deal.
Maya, I played a little bit of Justice Kagan.
I want to play something else, which we don`t usually hear, and that`s
Justice Clarence Thomas, both to reckon with that part of the case, what
those justices were saying, and to remind everyone we`re in this pandemic
era, and it has all sorts of odd outcomes.
And Justice Thomas famously – lawyers know, but I think a lot of news
viewers may know – spent years without ever speaking on the bench at all.
You get on a conference call, and, apparently, he is a little more
So, here is something rare in the news, Justice Thomas discussing whether
or not this could, if Trump loses, this kind of records request could
debilitate a president. Take a look.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CLARENCE THOMAS, U.S. Supreme Court ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: At some point, there
is a straw that breaks the camel`s back.
And it seems as though you`re saying that we should look at these in
isolation, as opposed to in the aggregate.
Why wouldn`t we look at all of them and look at the full effect and whether
at some point it debilitates the president?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it was very interesting. Thomas
actively participated. It wasn`t just the one question.
But this comment that seemed to suggest that somehow, if the president does
enough to call so much attention to himself and create so much legal
concern, that there is a lot of attention on him, that, somehow, that might
make it too burdensome for him to actually address all the subpoenas.
It`s a little bit troubling, because it`s a little bit like saying, if you
get yourself into a lot of trouble, you have more of an argument that you
shouldn`t have to answer for it.
So I would be a little bit concerned about the line that I was hearing from
MELBER: And real quick, do you think he is just more comfortable by phone?
WILEY: It`s the only thing I can think of, because he is very comfortable.
It`s not just that he is participating. He really sounds at ease, and he
thanks people at the end after they have answered his questions. It`s a
pretty striking difference.
MELBER: Yes, it`s a whole different thing.
Neal, you mentioned how some of the arguments, in your view, on the Trump
side fell apart. I want to play some selections from Jay Sekulow. Longtime
BEAT viewers may recall he has been on this show.
And this is from different parts of the argument, to be clear, but gives
some flavor of what the president`s lawyer was arguing and where there may
have been some turbulence. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Criminal process
targeting the president is a violation of the Constitution.
This is a temporary immunity. This is for while the president`s in office,
and we think that is required by the Constitution.
SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: It seems that you`re
asking for a broadness of immunity that Justice Thomas pointed out is
nowhere in the Constitution.
SEKULOW: Well, he`s the president of the United States.
KAGAN: The president can`t be treated just like an ordinary citizen, but
it`s also true, and indeed a fundamental precept of our constitutional
order, that a president isn`t above the law.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: We`re a long ways from Ukraine, Neal, and impeachment, but this
back and forth did have echoes of some of the more extraordinary arguments
that were offered on that Senate floor, that maybe we don`t live in a law -
- a lawful democracy at all.
KATYAL: Yes, it`s very interesting to hear Trump lawyers – after all,
Trump claims to be a textualist president who follows the Constitution as
written – making up wholesale immunities that are nowhere in the
Constitution, which is what I think you heard the justices saying.
At the same time, Trump`s argument is a fundamental betrayal of kind of the
most core principle about American law, which is, nobody is above the law.
And that`s what the president – that`s what the Supreme Court said in the
Paula Jones case in 1997.
It`s what they said unanimously in the Nixon tapes case in 1974. It`s what
Chief Justice Marshall said in the Aaron Burr trial in 1807. So President
Trump`s lawyers have this really tough burden of trying to basically say,
oh, don`t pay attention to any of that. All of that`s wrong. This is
somehow really different.
And they just didn`t make the case today. So, I think there may be some
decisions around the edges in terms of Congress and how much they can
subpoena and the like. But I think, you know, the indications are today
that President Trump has lost his ability to keep his financial returns
MELBER: Very interesting.
And so the last question I have for both of you is, moving beyond all the
law and all the constitutional details, with about 40 seconds left here,
briefly, what is, in your view, the potential benefit, what is the
If we learn, as Neal says, the Supreme Court may rule against Trump, that
means that there is a majority in our system saying this stuff should get
handed over, what is in your view potentially good about that, Neal and
KATYAL: Truth, transparency, the American way. That`s the way our country`s
been since at least 1807 or, actually, since 1792 and President Washington
and the St. Clair thing.
And we shouldn`t deviate from that. We, as Americans, have a fundamental
right to expect this from our leaders.
WILEY: I agree.
It would send the message that a sitting United States president is not
above the law and can`t stop, hopefully, Congress, because I do hope the
Supreme Court recognizes congressional power here, but also a criminal
investigation against many people.
The subpoena said it was investigating, you know, several different people
and entities, that a president can`t stop that because a president doesn`t
like the fact that it might uncover something about him that he doesn`t
MELBER: Copy. Both strong arguments there.
Neal Katyal and Maya Wiley, thank you on a big day at the high court.
We`re going fit in a break, but when we come back, top health officials
breaking with Donald Trump`s message on reopening. What does it mean for
the economy? What does it mean for unemployment, which is surging?
And then later, some big news on Jared Kushner`s famed COVID task force.
Insiders have ripped it as downright chaotic.
MELBER: States are reopening. We`re all talking about it. We`re all
More people will be put at risk. That is an inherent fact. But how is it
Let`s dig into it.
There is a new study AP has showing thousands of infections as people do
return to work. It includes surging in meatpacking and poultry processing
plants, plus construction workers.
Now, today, in that hearing that got so much attention that we have been
covering, this is a different aspect of it that we want to get into right
now, Dr. Fauci discussing what he calls a – quote – “moral
responsibility” for employers when workers are out there putting their
lives at risk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: I would think, when you`re calling on people to perform essential
services, you really have almost a moral responsibility to make sure
they`re well-taken care of and well-protected.
And, again, that`s not an official proclamation. That`s just me speaking as
a physician and as human being.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`ll tell you what. We could use people speaking as physicians, as
experts, and as human beings, if by that we mean with a little bit of heart
and moral center, because we`re going through this tough, tough transition
as a nation.
What the doctor is asking us to do is to pay attention to how this is
really going down, that there are two different groups when we talk about
who has to go back out there, reopen the economy for the rest of us.
There is a group of low-income communities which is disproportionately made
of racial minorities that are shouldering the burden of the crisis, which
means, yes, being more likely to get sick, even as you do the essential
stuff that everyone is asking.
And then you`re more likely to also lose a job, and you`re also taking
risks for the people around you, people in your home or community. You
can`t social distance inside your apartment.
A new study also reveals that counties where African-Americans are a
disproportionate share of the population reflect over half of the
coronavirus cases and 60 percent of all COVID deaths.
This is something we have touched on before in our broadcast, but the new
studies add context, revealing factors like employment status and access to
quality health care, not the bare minimum, can be predictors of both
whether you get sick, how you handle it, and whether you die from related
This is as important as it gets. It`s about how we protect each other when
we now see, eyes wide open, what the risks are, and how do we deal with
getting the facts and the information out there – that`s part of what we
do in the news – so that everyone, as a nation and a democracy, can decide
how we do this.
These are issues of wealth and access, and they implicate everything about
how we approach this, including the hopeful road ahead of whether you can
treat and get better treatments or vaccines.
Now, Senator Bernie Sanders was pressing officials on some of that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If and when the vaccine
comes, it won`t do somebody any good if they don`t get it. And if they have
to pay a sum of money for it in order to profit the drug companies, that
will not be helpful.
Are you guaranteeing the American people today that that vaccine will be
available to all people regardless of their income?
DR. STEPHEN HAHN, COMMISSIONER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: Sir, the
payment of vaccines is not a responsibility of the FDA, but I`m glad to
take this back to the task force. I share your concern that this needs to
be made available to every American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We`re joined by Heather McGhee, a distinguished senior fellow at
Demos, an MSNBC political contributor and someone who I know who has been
working and leading on these issues for many years.
We wanted to spend some time with you, learn from you, what is it about
this crisis, this pandemic that reveals and exacerbates the underlying
economic and racial disparities in health care and the economy?
What do we do about it?
MCGHEE: You know, this virus doesn`t attack people based on race or class
or gender, but American society does.
And what we are starting to see with sobering clarity is that, if you have
the underlying condition of being a subject of radical inequality, if you
are an immigrant, if you are a person of color, if you are someone who is
working in a low-paid job who is just denied health insurance and paid sick
days by their employer, if you`re an essential worker whom corporations are
now seeing as sacrificial workers, with the complicity and support of
Republicans in Congress and in the White House, then you are on the front
lines of a war that nobody has signed up for.
This is the American inequality that makes us sick being revealed to us
all. It`s also showing right now that American workers who are
disproportionately black, immigrants, and women are the ones who are
knitting this country together with our labor.
And the most important and basic thing that they deserve is the Essential
Workers Bill of Rights, which is a bill that is in the House and Senate, Ro
Khanna and Elizabeth Warren. Most of it was put into Nancy Pelosi`s
proposal today that just came out mere hours ago for the next round of
But it`s basic things. In the exact opposite way than the Republicans are
saying, it`s saying that the onus is on employers to make sure that, if
they are demanding people come back to work, they`re giving them protective
equipment, paid sick days, hazard pay, health care, and a right to have a
voice on the job.
But even more so, I think at this moment we are seeing that so many of the
front-line workers are also people who have a target on their backs because
of racial inequality in this country and because of racism.
You know, Breonna Taylor, who is someone everyone should know, she was in
her home in Louisville, Kentucky. She was a 26-year-old aspiring nurse who
was an EMT, right, exactly who we are depending on right now. And police
charged into her home, shot eight rounds into her while she was sleeping
and at rest, because they were looking for some person on a drug charge who
actually, it turned out, was already in custody.
MCGHEE: It`s heartbreaking.
And that`s just the kind of life that Americans…
MELBER: I`m only jumping in…
MELBER: Well, we`re – and I appreciate that. We`re on a slight tape delay.
I`m jumping in because there is one thing I definitely wanted to include,
Heather. So often, we – we`re hitting what needs to change and the news
hits the negative.
I did want to note, in the Senate Judiciary Committee, that Rebecca Dixon,
who runs the National Employment Law Project, was testifying about these
issues. It`s important that the government is actually doing that as part
So, for your response on the other side, we did want to play this. It`s in
the language of testimony. It would appear dry. If you listen closely, just
as we were to you, you hear the import.
Let`s listen to that briefly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REBECCA DIXON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAW PROJECT: Though
all the workers on the job now and returning in the next weeks and months
that are risk of illness, black and Latinx workers and other workers of
color, including immigrants, are more likely to be in front-line jobs and
among indigenous people.
These communities have disproportionate rates of illness and death related
to the pandemic.
As detailed in my testimony, far too many employers were slow to follow the
most basic CDC recommendations, such as the use of protective equipment,
handwashing and spacing at least six feet apart.
Let me be clear. Workers are getting sick and dying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Heather, that`s where the moral meets the economic.
The Judiciary Committee looking at these COVID liability issues and who is
actually going to be on the chopping block when you have the economic
I give you the final word.
MCGHEE: There is just one question right now. Whose life are we valuing?
Who are we protecting?
And right now, there is a very clear difference between the response from
the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. And it`s sad to say that it
should be partisan, but that`s what`s going on right now. Republicans are
protecting corporations and Democrats are trying to protect workers and the
MELBER: Heather, we were running over on time.
I appreciate your clarity. We had you in more than one segment tonight, and
we`re the better for it. I hope you will come back.
MCGHEE: Will do.
MELBER: Thank you.
We fit in a break.
And when we come back, an update on a story we have been tracking, Jared
Kushner`s problems getting medical supplies. He brought in a lot of people
he knew. And he is just speaking out about it.
We have all of that coming back.
MELBER: An update on a story you may have heard about.
Jared Kushner had a very controversial project for this pandemic, and it`s
ending. It was called Project Airbridge, designed to help deliver supplies
to medical workers who were lacking protective equipment.
But it has had a host of problems, a host of investigations, including new
NBC reporting revealing it used federal funds to underwrite shipping for
private companies, offered no-bid contracts, failed to deliver on basically
– quote – “everything they promised.”
Now, if you listen to Jared Kushner, he has a different idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: The notion of the federal
stockpile was, it`s supposed to be our stockpile. It`s not supposed to be
state stockpiles that they then use.
So the government, federal government, rose to the challenge, and this is a
great success story.
I`m very confident that we have all the testing we need to start opening
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: When someone tells you that a giant failure that you can see right
in front of your eyes is a great success, well, you need to keep an eye on
We certainly will continue to do so in our reporting here on THE BEAT.
And we will be right back.
MELBER: Thanks for watching THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.
I will be back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.
Keep it right here, right now on MSNBC.
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