“Bridgegate” TRANSCRIPT: 5/14/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Daniella Gibbs Leger, Ilhan Omar, Bill Baroni, Raul Ruiz


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.


And we have a big show right now tonight, an exclusive with a key player

emerging from a major political scandal with a huge ruling from the Supreme

Court is breaking his silence for the first time on this show, on this live

hour, later tonight.


Also, new twists in the Flynn case, a new focus on potential perjury, and a

big reason why there has already been a setback for Bill Barr. We will

explain. There has been a lot of developments there.


But we begin right now with a virus whistle-blower against the Trump

administration speaking out under oath. You may remember, when the story

first broke, we were hearing quotes, we were hearing a little bit of

clipped audio.


But now, for the first time, Americans can take this in. The Congress can

take it in, Dr. Bright alleging that he was retaliated against and lost his

job in the middle of the pandemic all because he says he questioned Donald

Trump, and he says Donald Trump put politics and cronyism over the science

that could actually save lives.


The doctor testifying about the internal warnings he says he issued amidst

this pandemic.





DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: Our window of opportunity is closing. I fear the

pandemic will get worse.


There will likely a resurgence of COVID-19. The virus is still spreading

everywhere. Nurses are rushing in the hospitals thinking they`re protected,

and they`re not. Our stockpile is insufficient. They didn`t have a plan. A

number of excuses, but never any action.




MELBER: That is statement under oath from somebody who was in this

disturbing and tragic march day by day, trying to deal with the pandemic as

it hit the United States, many calling it a sobering warning from a medical

expert on the inside.


Now, you also have the debate over testing ongoing. That also involves

policy questions and trade-offs. Here`s what Dr. Bright said, breaking with

the president.





test, they should all be able to get a test right now.


BRIGHT: The urgent ramp-up of the testing did not include full

consideration of all the critical supplies needed to support that ramp-up

of testing.


TRUMP: I don`t think anybody has done a better job with testing.


BRIGHT: We can find ourselves in a few days down the road not having the

tests we thought we had.


TRUMP: They should be able to get a test.


BRIGHT: Our nation was not as prepared as we should have been.


TRUMP: We have the best equipment anywhere in the world.


BRIGHT: There hasn`t been a real thought-through plan about how to maintain

that equipment. That equipment now is failing.


TRUMP: We have prevailed on testing.


BRIGHT: We had a critical shortage of these swabs.


TRUMP: We`re number one in the world by far.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Establishing a testing protocol, was that done here?






MELBER: No. There you see it stacked up.


And you can make up your own mind about who you believe and which forum you

find more credible, given that Dr. Bright is facing the Congress. He is

facing adversarial questions. He is speaking under oath.


All the questioning comes while the president pushes further for

reopenings, going even as far as praising a Wisconsin Supreme Court

decision that struck down a stay-at-home order. That was last night.


Now, this is what some of the bars can look like immediately after a ruling

like that. One governor there in Wisconsin is describing this as basically

chaos in pandemic season. The president has also been ignoring his own

guidelines on reopening, once again going to, yes, of all places, a mask

factory without wearing a mask.


What you can see around him, some others were.


The AP reports that Donald Trump still basically thinks that the idea of

being seen in a mask, despite everything that has been said by his own

administration and doctors and what we have learned, it sends the wrong

message, not on health care, but on the economy and might make him look –

quote – “ridiculous.”


Also today, I can tell you three million more Americans have lost their

jobs under our formal tallies. That means 36 million of us out of work.






TRUMP: And I did.


BARTIROMO: The first business president, exactly. But now we have got 33

million people filing for unemployment. We have got 20 percent.


TRUMP: Nobody blames me for that.




MELBER: Thirty-six million people suffering this day in and day out,

wondering what comes next.


And amidst all of this, an update on another story that was really one of

the very first Washington scandals of the coronavirus era, someone you may

remember from all of the Russia and Mueller probe issues, the top

Republican senator on the Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Burr,

stepping off his powerful role heading that committee.


Senator Burr stepping down because the feds have just searched his home

regarding this stock sale scandal. They`re investigating whether he

deliberately profited off classified briefings about the pandemic. FBI

agents reportedly seizing Burr`s cell phone as part of this stock sales



So what does it all mean when you take it all together? Obviously, we have

the economic pain. Some of that was going to be unavoidable in a worldwide

pandemic. And, obviously, we have the tussles within the administration.


But when you look at what the president has been saying about trying to

boost the economy reportedly to help himself, even at the cost of lives,

when you look at Senator Burr being incredibly accused, we will wait for

all the evidence, but at least being investigated for putting himself and

his personal profits above doing the right thing for his constituents, you

have on your hands the outlines of a set of scandals that expose how

American government isn`t working for you amidst one of the most

existential public and health crises we have ever faced as a nation.


With that in mind, I want to bring in California Congressman Raul Ruiz. We

should note he is an emergency room doctor. He questioned Dr. Bright today

and is sitting in the intersection of these issues, which is why we go to

you on both the medical and the governmental oversight.


I`m also joined tonight by a friend of THE BEAT, Daniella Gibbs Leger of

the Center for American Progress. She also worked for President Obama.


Thanks to both of have for being here.


Congressman, beginning with today`s hearing, what do you think is important

that people know that Dr. Bright was saying? And how do you know whether

it`s true?


REP. RAUL RUIZ (D-CA): Well, you know, first of all, as an emergency

physician who practiced on the front lines during the during the H1N1 and

public health expert educated a Harvard, the most striking takeaway is that

it didn`t have to be this way.


All the deaths and the economic turmoil could have been avoidable to the

degree that we`re experiencing it now. At the right time in January, early

February, Dr. Bright informed the administration of the urgency to start

making plans and massively producing masks and tests and other critical

equipment, but he was dismissed.


And if that`s not striking enough, the other takeaway is that we could

learn from that mistake and start preparing for the future and the surge

that may come in the fall season, but, instead, we still don`t have the

preparations in place.


We don`t have a plan to distribute remdesivir or any other potential future

antiviral or medication. So, you know, those are two very loud alarms that

the American people and the administration should very much heed.


MELBER: Let`s also play again from the hearing where you questioned the

doctor the discussion on vaccines. Take a look.




BRIGHT: If you can imagine the scenario this fall or winter, maybe even

early next spring, when a vaccine becomes available, there is no one

company that can produce enough for our country or for the world.


It`s going to be limited supplies. We need to have a strategy and plan in

place now to make sure that we cannot only fill that vaccine, make it,

distribute it, but administer it in a fair and equitable plan.


RUIZ: And that`s not the case at this point?


BRIGHT: We don`t have that yet, and it is a significant concern.




MELBER: Your reaction?


RUIZ: My reaction is that we need to learn from the past and be forward-



Because of the president`s and the administration`s dismissal of the early

warnings, we are several months behind in this pandemic, but we can still

make aggressive change and massively produce what we need, testing,

massively create contact tracers that can massively fortify our containment

phase to prevent an overburdened health care system, and we need to start

acting now, so it`s not too late.


We can do it. But we need the president to stop dismissing this virus. We

need the president to follow the public health experts` advice and

recommendations, so that we can do this responsibly and safely and prevent

another shutdown in the future.


MELBER: Daniella, I`m curious your reaction to this news from Senator Burr.

It`s not nothing when people in power give up power, this under obviously

some significant pressure.




Actually, I`m surprised it happened, given what we learned about the timing

(AUDIO GAP) sale of stocks. It definitely (AUDIO GAP) type of thing other

people have been indicted for (AUDIO GAP)


MELBER: Daniella, I have to jump in. I have to apologize to you. I`m

jumping in because we`re having the technical difficulties, which we do

with everyone helping out and working from home.


I think our folks are going to talk to you to see if we get your audio



But, Congressman, I will give you the same question while we work on that,

which as a question, Congressman, about Senator Richard Burr. These reports

have come out now he is under investigation. Your reaction.


RUIZ: You know, my reaction is that, if indeed he profited by insider

information, at the expense of the American people, I think that would be

very shameful.


We`re going to let the investigation take its course. But, as you mentioned

earlier, Ari, the sign of true leadership is to put the others before self,

to put the American people above own personal interests. And that`s what we



We need an administration. We need a leader in office right now who is

credible, who is consistently transparent with the American people, who

really gives them the truth, and with clarity, so that we can have all the

information we need to make the right decisions…


MELBER: Right.


RUIZ: … make the right preparations and have the right equipment

necessary to save lives.


MELBER: Congressman, I want to go over two other things that are related.


We mentioned some of what`s happening on the ground when different nights

we try to show different parts of the country. Let me show you again what

we showed viewers in Wisconsin, because you have this reopening. And the

question is, how do you do it? Do you do it in a responsible way with CDC

guidelines, if you do make the choice to go out?


Or do you have what you see here, which is no social distancing whatsoever,

no masks? It`s like back to business as usual. And we don`t show this to

criticize these individuals. We show it as a warning.


You`re a doctor, and you can walk us through the fact that these

individuals may be putting themselves at unnecessary risk. And if you`re in

a place where it`s reopened and you want to have a beer, I think the answer

is, it`s America. That`s your choice. You can go out and have a beer if

you`re in that place.


But we are being told by all the experts to do that with distancing. So,

leave a couple of seats between each other with the beer. I want to mention

that for your analysis and also play something that many viewers will



One of our doctor experts, Dr. Joseph Fair, contracted the virus and spoke

about, with his informed knowledge, where he thinks that might have

occurred, which also relates to the same issue of whether people are

following guidelines. Take a listen.






I had someone sitting right next to me. None of the attendants were wearing



If you`re in a confined space, like an elevator or an airplane, and the

viral particles flowing through the air, it can get through your eyes. And

I did not have goggles on.


As an epidemiologist, my very best guess is, probably, that`s how I got it.




MELBER: Dr. Fair recounting his belief that he may have contracted this on

a flight, where at least some individuals were potentially too close.


Your reaction, and as we have dealt with our audio issues, Daniella will be

rejoining us. So, I will have her go after you.


RUIZ: Well, my reaction as a physician and public health expert, Ari, is

that we need to go back to the basis.


This is a virus that is highly contagious, that`s transmissible from

droplets that can enter the eyes, nose and mouth and get a person infected,

that can last on surfaces.


And individuals can get really sick, whether or not you have underlying

illnesses, whether you`re 75 or you`re 12 years old. Those that have

underlying illnesses and are older can die at a higher rate than those that

are younger, but still the young can still die, as evident.


Therefore, there is a right way to open our economy and get our workers

back to work, and then there is the wrong way.


MELBER: Right.


RUIZ: The right way is to wait when it`s safe and we have de – we`re at

the downslope of the transmission curve, and we have safeguards in place in

order to do the contact tracing appropriately and rapidly with enough tests

and isolation and quarantine location with social support services in order

to put out flares before they become surges, in order to put out campfires

before they become forest fires.


MELBER: Right.


RUIZ: The wrong way is to prematurely go back to work without the

safeguards, and then you have people causing another surge, which would

only require us to shut down the businesses again, which would only hurt

our businesses.


MELBER: Right.


RUIZ: The right way helps our economy, keeps our businesses open. The wrong

way hurts our economy and risks lives.


MELBER: Right.


And, as you say, it could be a double loss if it`s not done well.


Congressman Raul Ruiz, also Dr. Ruiz, thanks to you for wearing both hats



And then, Daniella, Fat Joe used to say mic is on before he spoke. And our

mic was too off too much.


So, thank you for trying. We will have you back for sure when we fix it.


Thanks to both of you. My apologies.


RUIZ: Thank you.


MELBER: We`re going to fit in a break. I have historian Michael Beschloss

on the other side of this break on presidents and how this kind of

situation can define everything history knows about them. That might be bad

news for Donald Trump.


Also, this was a big one, the judge in the Michael Flynn case pushing back

on Bill Barr`s attempt to intercede and reverse a guilty plea of a friend

of Donald Trump. We have that story.


Congressman Ilhan Omar also here to talk about how to help the poor in this



And an exclusive interview tonight with an insider and a front-row seat to



All of that. Stay with us.




MELBER: The president`s leadership remains under fire.


 ”The Financial Times” reporting Trump`s coronavirus meltdowns in response

to many people speaking out from inside the White House. They find a

president who ignored increasingly urgent intelligence warnings from back

to January, dismissed people who claimed to know more than him, and they

don`t trust anyone, according to reporting, outside a tiny group, led by

Ivanka, Jared Kushner, and really very few people who have expertise.


For more on the big picture, I am thrilled to bring back someone who adds

context at times like this.


Michael Beschloss is a presidential historian. He is the author on 10 books

on the presidency. He has one of the great jobs in this business, which is

being the NBC News/MSNBC in-house historian.




MELBER: And these are tough times.


Yes, sir. Well, we love it.


These are tough times, as you and I know. They`re hard times. But a lot of

our viewers, and I hear from some of them, do appreciate when we can widen

out and think a little bit about what you do and what presidents do and are

defined by in times like this.


So, for your big picture, I want to play something we put together, just

comparing some of this over the years. Take a look.







is not the true faith of Islam.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So PPE has been sporadic.


TRUMP: Sporadic for you, but not sporadic for a lot of other people.







TRUMP: I want them to be appreciative. If they don`t treat you right, I

don`t call.


OBAMA: Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation.


TRUMP: Nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse.



is that we all inhabit this small planet, and we are all mortal.




MELBER: Compassion and mourning as a feature of the presidency.


Your views.




You need a president who is going to agonize over decisions.


Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor, he knew that thousands of Americans

had died on those ships because of mistakes that he made. It caused him to

redouble his efforts to try to make sure that he could keep the American

people safe.


Usually, Ari, when you see a president in crisis, you begin to see what

they`re made of. But in almost every case throughout history, you see

presidents grow because of that emotional reaction to this danger to the

American people or the suffering or, in certain cases, lack of survival,



But, in this case, I think I would say that Donald Trump has probably

changed less than most presidents since the day he entered office.


MELBER: Why is that?


BESCHLOSS: I think part of it is that this is not someone who has had a

rich political experience.


The gamble of the people who voted for Trump in 2016 was that this is

someone who had huge leadership potential, and he just hadn`t gotten the

chance to show it, because he hadn`t led something larger than the Trump

Organization or been outside of business.


And so, when he`s dealing with something like a pandemic, he doesn`t have a

sense of history that allows him to draw on the experience of earlier

presidents, and he doesn`t have life experience that equips him to do

things in this crisis really with very little preparation.


MELBER: Right.


BESCHLOSS: Franklin Roosevelt, for instance, had lived through World War I

as assistant secretary of the Navy. As a war president, it was almost as if

he does was doing it again.


MELBER: Right.


And, finally, Michael, putting this president even to the side, as we all

go through this, what lesson do you draw from history? Are there any

leaders in this presidential modern era that give an example for us to try

to follow each in our daily lives?


BESCHLOSS: Almost every great leader in crisis gets a lot of examples.


Abraham Lincoln would never have made a decision about the Civil War for

reasons of politics. 1864, he was told the Emancipation Proclamation is

really unpopular. You will get more votes if you veto it. He wouldn`t think

of doing something like that.


Franklin Roosevelt would not say, D-Day took place and there are fewer

casualties than really was the case. He knew it was so important that, if

he was going help Americans protect themselves and their country, they had

to believe in the word of the president. He had to always tell the literal



MELBER: All things for us to keep in mind, particularly truth, which

intersects some of what we were covering earlier in the hour. How do we all

deal with the truth as different parts of the country rebound in different





MELBER: Michael, I appreciate you being here.






BESCHLOSS: Thank you. Me too.


MELBER: I appreciate you one-on-one, and we will have you back soon, sir.

I`m better for it. Thank you.


BESCHLOSS: Be well. We will look forward to it. Thanks, Ari.


MELBER: Yes, sir.


We turn next to this new Supreme Court ruling connected to a major

political scandal and an exclusive that I am so excited about – when we`re

back in just 30 seconds.




MELBER: Welcome back.


And now to an exclusive.


Many parts of America are, of course, closed for this pandemic, from

business, to sports, to even local service like state and local courts.


But the Supreme Court is open. It is an essential part of government that

confronts issues which will not wait. They rule on whether to spare or

green-light executions, or whether to force the release of Donald Trump`s

tax returns. The court tackled that very case this week.


Or how the Electoral College must function, or tackling these big Obamacare

lawsuits, or deciding whether key political convictions stand.


The court now issuing a huge ruling on that infamous Bridgegate scandal,

the payback controversy that exploded inside New Jersey Governor Chris

Christie`s administration as he was prepping a presidential run.


I`m sure you remember the big picture of it. Key officials shut down lanes

on the world`s busiest bridge, creating not only massive traffic back in

2013, but some risk to the citizens they were supposed to serve. It was a

revenge plot to punish a Democrat that Christie was mad at.


Now, tonight, we have an exclusive for you on this story, given a set of

new court documents in this scandal, which, of course, set off a memorable

national furor.




BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, how a traffic nightmare on the world`s

busiest bridge has spiraled into a full-blown scandal with the power to

damage Chris Christie`s political future.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now to the growing fallout for New Jersey Governor Chris

Christie. Tonight, new details how much his aides knew about that massive

traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge.


DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: That`s New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

right there responding to the bridge scandal rocking his administration,

raising questions about the impact on a possible presidential run in 2016.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: If the state of New Jersey is being run in such

a way that control of interstate assets is being manipulated on purpose to

punish specific towns, that is public corruption.




MELBER: And that alleged public corruption fundamentally altered Christie`s

political career and it raised thorny questions of criminal law for that

former prosecutor turned governor, like, what did he know?


Now,independent prosecutors pounced. Evidence emerged, like an infamous e-

mail a month before this all went down by Christie`s aide Bridget Kelly

saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”


Kelly and another top Christie appointee, Bill Baroni, were convicted on

fraud and conspiracy charges for the scheme.


Now, the saga didn`t end there. The appeals wound through the courts. And

those former Republican officials took their case all the way to the

Supreme Court, which, of course, as you probably know, doesn`t hear most

cases, but they took it.


And that was a sign right there was some sort of legitimate legal debate

over these issues.


Now, in an era where many political cases are polarized on the court with

narrow rulings, you have heard about them, 5-4, we cover them, here is the

big news. The Supreme Court came together with a unanimous ruling, 9-0.


Did they uphold the tough approach to that payback scandal that was

committed basically in broad daylight? No, the court just ruling that

prosecutors went too far, because Kelly and Baroni any did not commit

actual crimes involving money or properties to support those charges of

property fraud.


That was a big legal victory and development. Obama-appointed Justice Elena

Kagan writing: “Federal fraud statutes do not criminalize the conduct at



This is a big case. It has so many implications.


And joining us now for an exclusive interview is former New Jersey Senator

and Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority, the man who went to

prison for his role in this Bridgegate scandal, Bill Baroni.


Thank you for coming on THE BEAT to really break your silence, sir.




MELBER: I`m all right.


I know that there is a lot to talk about, including your time in prison and

the policy ideas you have. So I want to get to that.


But this is the news. This is a big news story. What does this new ruling

mean to you?


BARONI: Well, I think, as you just mentioned, Ari, it is historic to have,

at a time of great polarization the Supreme Court, both the liberal wing of

the court and the conservative wing of the court issue a unanimous

decision. That`s historic.


But for me and my family and friends, this has been a seven-year saga of an

investigation, an indictment, a trial, an appeal, going into prison, coming

out of prison, and going and winning in the Supreme Court.


So this has been a long road that I have been on for seven years leading up

to the decision last week by the court.


MELBER: You know, Governor Christie famously denied any role in all of

this. Let`s remind everyone. Take a look.





involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution, and I am

stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here.


I have 65,000 people working for me every day, and I cannot know what each

one of them is doing at every minute. But that doesn`t matter. I`m

ultimately responsible for what they do.




MELBER: Was his claim and denial true? And does Chris Christie, in your

view, bear responsibility for what was done?


BARONI: Well, Ari, as the one person who went to prison for Bridgegate, I

think I will – I think I will let others come to their own conclusions

about the governor`s statements.


MELBER: Well, Bridget Kelly, who also paid a price, we mentioned, she`s

publicly insisted Christie knew about the lane closings as they happened.

Is she telling the truth, do you think?


BARONI: Well, I think you saw during the trial there were a number of

witnesses who testified about the governor`s knowledge at various times of

the bridge closure, and that Bridget obviously is someone who has gone

through this with me.


And we lived through that two-month-long trial. And it`s been a difficult



MELBER: So you don`t have any reason to doubt what she asserts?


BARONI: No, a number of people, Bridget, myself, a number of other

witnesses all testified that the governor knew during the closures.


MELBER: So, for people watching, here you are. You went to jail for this.


Now the Supreme Court overturns it. Should there be, in your view, any

larger reckoning for Chris Christie, based on what you just said?


BARONI: Well, I will tell you, I`m not so much focused on Governor

Christie. I haven`t spoken to him in more than seven years.


What I`m focused on is what I learned in the time that I had to go to

prison. I didn`t wake up one morning and look forward to it. But I prepared

as much as I could.


And I spent time in Loretto federal prison, because, for me, I never

dreamed the Supreme Court of the United States would take this case. You

know, Ari, the percentage chances of that are very, very small.




BARONI: And I have older parents.


I made the decision to go in and get it over with. So, early in 2019, I

went into Loretto prison. And my focus since then, and when I got out, when

the Supreme Court took the case and up until earlier this afternoon,

helping people who are in the prison system…


MELBER: Right.


BARONI: … especially now during the coronavirus crisis that we have in

all of our prisons across the country.


MELBER: And let`s get to that, because that`s something we have covered a

lot. I want to get into that.


I one more piece of Chris Christie business, one more sound bite for you,

and then I will move past that.


But I did want to, again, for the record, given everything that`s gone on,

you understand the public interest in and this and now the court ruling.


Governor Christie explicitly cited you when saying that another staffer,

Wildstein, did this with your approval. I want to give you the benefit of

responding in public, now that you`re breaking your silence.


Here is what Chris Christie said:




QUESTION: Who initiated this whole thing?


CHRISTIE: I don`t know. I don`t know. I mean, listen, up to this point in

time, up to the e-mails released yesterday, it was Senator Baroni`s

testimony that Mr. Wildstein initiated it, at his approval – with his





MELBER: Is that true?


BARONI: Ari, I think it came across very clearly that Governor Christie`s

view of what happened, our case played itself out in the courtroom.


David Wildstein – the prosecutors have all said that – came up with this

idea. And seven years later, I had to go to the Supreme Court to get those

convictions overturned.


MELBER: And I want to read from the court of opinion again, because it is

striking, as mentioned.


It`s 9-0. And it says very clearly that you and these other individuals, as

reported, did not commit a crime. That`s important in the public record,

and we certainly have covered that story.


They also say – and I want to get your response to this, because it`s the

first time you`re speaking – that you basically, for no other reason than

political payback, Baroni and Kelly used deception to halt traffic and

jeopardized the safety of the town`s residents.


Do you take responsibility for that and say, OK, it was not a crime, but it

was wrong?


BARONI: Well, I have said on a number of occasions that I wish I had paid

more attention to the information I was being given.


And I have regretted this for seven years. It`s what led me to go to



And while it`s not criminal, certainly, what I have been trying to do is to

make up for those mistakes and helping other people who need help right

now. And that`s what I have been focused on.




So, let`s get into that, as promised. I did have some news items there I

wanted to walk through.


But tell us what it was like for you when you did go into prison here, what

you learned, and what you say you want to do now on policy and trying to be

constructive with the rest of the time you have, obviously.


BARONI: Well, I had prepared a lot to go into federal prison. It was a

difficult time.


I was in Loretto federal prison, which has about 1,000 prisoners. I was in

the camp.


One of the things I learned was preparing to go in is really important. So,

what I am doing now is helping people who are getting ready to go into

prison, and helping people who are coming out of prison, especially now,

with coronavirus and what prisoners are facing.


All the things, Ari, that you and I are able to do on the outside world,

socially distance, you can`t do that in prison. Wash your hands often.

Sometimes, they don`t even have any soap. Wear a mask. Sometimes, they

don`t have masks.


And even get tested. We`re seeing all across the country prisons at both

the state and federal level unable to provide tests for people there in the



And, in one prison – we saw it yesterday – 75 percent of prisoners tested

positive for coronavirus. Already, there has been, I think, around 2,300

people have tested positive in our prisons; 52 have died, including one

last night, a 65-year-old man in California, had a 33-month sentence, and

he died of coronavirus.


And when we`re sending people to prison for 33 months, that becomes a death

penalty. And, to me, that is that is cruel and unusual punishment. And so I

have been doing everything I can.






And I was going to ask you a follow-on – and I appreciate that, because

that`s something we – as you know, we report on here, and it`s an

important story.


What do you say to the skeptics who look at some of these efforts and say

wait a minute, where was the concern from, say, a Governor Blagojevich or

Republican officials before they got in trouble, that there seems to be a

kind of selective awakening on this?


That is, as I think you know, a public criticism out there. I want to give

you the benefit of responding to it.


BARONI: Well, again, I`m not sure about the criticism.


But I do think it is all of our responsibility to, at this moment in

crisis, we look at people who are really suffering. And there is a group

that can`t help themselves.


And we built this strange system where, if you are sick in prison or you`re

older, you need to apply to get a compassionate release, but you have to

wait 30 days. And then you have got to get a lawyer, if you can afford a

lawyer, to be able to go to the sentencing judge who sent you to prison –

it may not be in the same state you are – and hope that the sentencing

judge lets you out.


To me, that is already taking a two-tier justice system and making it even

worse, because, if you can afford a lawyer to go into court for you, maybe

you have got a chance to get out. If you can`t, well, you`re going to stay



To me, that`s not a system, Ari, that`s working. And I think it`s incumbent

on all of us.


Now, I have the experience. Having been in prison, I know what it`s like

that you can`t be six feet apart, where your bunks are two feet apart from

each other. I learned – some people who are sick in prison.


And I think it`s all of our responsibilities – and I know you have been

talking about it for a long time – all of our responsibilities to do

something about it.


MELBER: Yes. And, as you just mentioned, this is something we talked about.

When we talk about racial disparities in the broadcast, you just summarized

it, as an attorney and a policy-maker yourself.


Things that are even allegedly, supposedly, about humanitarian concerns and

compassion still require money. So, poor people aren`t going to be able to

avail themselves of that, while people with the money to fund lawyers do.

And that`s, as you said, two-tiered. It`s a real problem. It`s something we

have shone a light on.


Bill Baroni, you are an interview subject in demand with everything you

have been through, and that big Supreme Court ruling. I really appreciate

you coming on THE BEAT tonight. I hope will you come back, sir.


BARONI: Thanks, Ari, absolutely. Look forward to it.


MELBER: Thank you. Really appreciate it, Bill Baroni, speaking to us about

that big case.


We have got a lot more news, including some other legal news.


A major twist and a setback for Bill Barr in this Michael Flynn case. We`re

going explain the new thing the judge did.


Also, a special guest coming up, Congresswoman Omar on the pandemic and the

impacts in her state and on the economy and the recession`s effect on the

poor – when we come back.




MELBER: Take a look at a scene that we are watching play out at meatpacking

plants around the country, workers at one plant in Minnesota protesting

what they say are demonstrably unsafe, dangerous conditions in the





MOHAMMED BURALE, PILGRIM`S PRIDE EMPLOYEE: Management wanted us to stay on

the line and still expected us to work while some of us were sick.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mohammed is feeling better, but he feels the plant`s

working environment is unsafe.


BURALE: I expect they will fire anyone that doesn`t report back to work.




MELBER: A surge in cases connected to that plant, COVID infections spiking

400 and – excuse me – 454 percent.


So, you can see, that is just a huge scale of danger. Workers now want

management to take what they consider basic safety steps, like increasing

testing, and also close the plant so it can be sanitized and made more safe

to work in.


This is one aspect of a pandemic and this mounting recession that

disproportionately affects marginalized communities, minorities,

immigrants, the low income, by definition. When you have a recession, low-

income people are going to be more vulnerable.


The Trump administration, though, taking a different tack. They`re

literally going to court to try to take away food stamp benefits from

something that would affect over 600,000 people.


Returning to the program on all of this and more, we are joined by

Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.


Tough times. I know you`re doing a lot on these issues. Thank you for

joining us.


REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Thank you for having me, Ari.


MELBER: First of all, how do you get in there and fix some of what we just

reported on?


OMAR: I mean, it`s really unconscionable to think of employers putting

their employees at risk in the ways in which some of these meatpacking

places have done, the things that are happening at Amazon work sites.


We have been pushing in the Ed and Labor Committee to try to strengthen

some of the OSHA protections that already exist, making sure that the non-

retaliation aspects of OSHA is being fulfilled.


And the current bill that we`re working on really hopefully will address

some of the issues that we`re seeing across the country, not just here in



We have written letters. We have spoken up and advocated, and now we`re

going to implement it in legislation.


MELBER: Let me play for you – again, we have tried to spotlight different

things around the country. The story, as you know, just it depends where

you are and what`s going on.


But this is some of what we`re seeing from workers and on the economic

pain. Just take a look.




SONIA BAUTISTA, UNEMPLOYED HOTEL MAID: It`s a big dilemma because – so, we

want to come back to work, but we need to feel safe, because there is no




being tested, all of us are going to get sick sooner or later, even though

we have masks, even though we have gloves.


CLAUDIA LUGO, FURLOUGHED MACY`S EMPLOYEE: I have not had any income since

last day of March. And I`m just, like, trying to survive this.




MELBER: How important is it to put these experiences, facts, and voices

first, because it does inform this broader conversation the president seems

to be trying to have about how and when you reopen, if we`re hearing from

people that reopening to them means going into somewhere that is a risk to

their life?


OMAR: I mean, it`s a fact, right, that the – that there is a particular

privilege associated with one`s ability to be able to work from home.




OMAR: There are a lot of people who are in positions who have jobs that

allow them to be able to do that.


Many of the folks who are in jobs where they can`t work from home, who are

currently out of work truly are low-income people. They are majority people

of color.


And many of them want to go back to work. They want to be able to earn a

living. They want to be able to support their families. And we can`t do

that unless we create an environment safe enough for them to be able to

return and work.


And so testing, testing, testing. We have to make sure that we are testing

as many people as we can, that we are doing tracing in order to make sure

that the communities that they`re going into are going to be protected.


And then we have to push employers to put in safety standards in place and

follow those safety standards to make sure that there is a protection for

the workers. I mean, this is a communal thing. I can`t only worry about my

safety. I have to worry about the safety of everyone else.


And so, when we`re asking people to stay at home, we are not only asking

for them. We`re asking them to do that because they impact everyone else

around them.


And that is the same when it comes to a workplace. That`s the same when

we`re advocating for prisoners, as you were talking about earlier. It`s the

same when we are talking about every aspect of life here in this country.


MELBER: Yes, all well put.


The other looming problem – and I sometimes feel like every night I`m

bringing people the worst previews of what else, but this is where we`re at

– is when the recession pressure will build into a potential greater

hunger crisis and unemployment – excuse me – homeless crisis.


And we have been covering some of the record-breaking lines already at food

banks and other places.


I want to just put one statistic for you and ask what you and Congress can

do about it, because it`s not obviously just people losing jobs all over

the place. Forty percent of the very poorest households in our country,

where people had jobs, were working hard, they have been hit by this job



It`s not of their own doing. Now, this was according to the Fed study, 39

percent of people living in households that had incomes of less than

$40,000 reporting a job loss, which really creates an acute crisis in those



Congress has done some things. But what else, as a final question, should

be done about that?


OMAR: I mean, the idea that we`re not actually seeing this crisis and

addressing it at the scale it needs to be addressed really is the thing

that keeps me up at night, and I`m sure it keeps up a lot of my colleagues

in Congress.


We have so many people right now who haven`t been able to pay their rent in

April, in May who live in states where eviction mandatory moratoriums are

being lifted, and we`re looking at mass displacement.


And we are not addressing that issue and what will happen to our housing

market in the scale that it needs to be addressed. We`re also looking at

the kind of income disparity that`s being created by having people who

already were making a little bit of money now be in a position where

they`re not making any kind of money.


And we`re fighting with this administration in extending benefits like

SNAP, and fighting to feed children in schools.


I was just recently talking to Speaker Pelosi, and to know that there are -

- there is a huge opposition to the amount of money that we`re putting in

for people to be able to get food in the SNAP program is really disturbing.


And so we need a comprehensive plan. We need a plan that not only mitigates

some of the issues that we`re seeing right now, but truly deals with a lot

of burden that will come from the kind of economic crisis that we are

currently going through.


This is not just hurt that`s being felt because of the public health and

the economic crisis. This is going to be hurt that will be felt for

generations to come. And if we don`t do everything that we can to put money

in people`s pockets to try to make sure that there is food for people to

have, that there is a job that`s secured for them to go back to, that their

housing is protected…


MELBER: Right.


OMAR: … we`re not going to be able to survive this as a nation.


MELBER: Right.


Yes, and survival is a big part of the theme.


Congresswoman, I appreciate you coming back on THE BEAT, even again during

the hard times, and sharing some of the perspective you have on the work

you`re doing. And I hope you will come back.


OMAR: Well, thank you so much for having me.


MELBER: Thank you.


When we come back, we`re going to give you the goods on why Bill Barr just

had a setback in trying to help the man you see on your screen, guilty,

convicted Trump adviser Mike Flynn.




MELBER: Now to a new setback for Trump Attorney General Bill Barr.


An esteemed federal judge pushing back on Barr DOJ`s attempt to get charges

reversed after Trump aide Michael Flynn pled guilty. It`s been a big story.


But the judge is stepping in and appointing a former prosecutor and retired

judge who will literally argue against Barr`s Justice Department, in an

extraordinary move, to test whether Flynn should even get off.


Also today, “The New York Times” reporting something that you should see.

An FBI official that was involved in this case is basically disagreeing

with some of what the DOJ argued in court as support for dropping these



“The Times” reporting that information there was not shared with the

federal judge in the case, which means things they should have known are

being held back.


Take it all together, and what you have after Barr`s extraordinary attempt

to reverse a guilty plea is an extraordinary response, a federal judge

saying, this will be litigated further before Michael Flynn is off the





MELBER: And a programming note: Tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, there`s a

“LAST WORD” town hall special, Lawrence O`Donnell interviewing Joe Biden

and Stacey Abrams.


That is must-see TV.


So, keep it right here now and throughout this evening on MSNBC.







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