Trump DC Hotel TRANSCRIPT: 5/15/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

William Barber, John Stanton, Jeremy Konyndyk, Tony Schwartz, Michelle Goldberg, Brad Jordan


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


Tonight, a mission accomplished moment from Donald Trump. The president has

been declaring, we`re back. Donald Trump deciding today is the time to move

forward, pushing to reopen states that clash with his own guidelines, virus

deaths climbing over 87,000, no vaccine or treatment, and new hot spots

popping up around the country.





clear. It`s very important. Vaccine or no vaccine, we`re back.




MELBER: Now, Trump appearing at the Rose Garden without a mask, or others

on his mask – meanwhile, others with him, you can see right there, wearing

masks, meanwhile, no scientific evidence for the claim.




TRUMP: We think we`re going have a vaccine in the pretty near future.


We`re looking to get it by the end of the year, if we can, maybe before.




MELBER: Meanwhile, a vaccine as soon as possible would, of course, be

great. Everyone welcomes that.


Medical experts, though, have continued to say it`s unlikely. Dr. Fauci

warning, this is not going to happen soon. Others say a fast vaccine

outcome would mean basically a miracle happening.


Trump also says that testing itself might be – quote – “overrated.” The

White House claiming it had a pandemic plan all along, this coming as Trump

blames, of all people, yes, Barack Obama, a defense that has been recently

demolished by many experts on the scene.


Mitch McConnell admitting that President Obama actually had a pandemic plan

in place, which undercuts a false accusation that the – quote –

“cupboards were bare.”




SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Clearly, the Obama administration did not

leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this.


I was wrong. They did leave behind a plan. So, I clearly made a mistake in

that regard. As to whether or not the plan was followed and who is the

critic and all the rest, I don`t have any observation about that.




MELBER: As we often do, we like to begin immediately with our experts on

these kinds of topics.


Jeremy Konyndyk is the former director for USAID under President Obama.

Michelle Goldberg joins us from “The New York Times,” and Dr. Natalie Azar,

rheumatologist from the NYU Langone Medical Center.


Dr. Azar, what context can you give us on all of the above?



story is probably the most interesting one of the day.


So I think it`s kind of important to put it into context that the vaccine

that the White House is talking about happens to be something – and I`m

going to get just a little bit technical for a second, because it`s a new

technology that we have never actually had a vaccine licensed with this

particular technology before.


So that`s important to remember, because the traditional way of making a

vaccine is indeed very cumbersome. They use virus that is either live,

attenuated or dead, and it takes a long time to develop that kind of a

vaccine, typically, that four-to-five-year at the shortest timeline that we

have been talking about.


This is different kind of methodology. And so, in concept or in theory, it

can be expedited. I have listened to a couple experts weigh in on this idea

that it can be ready by the end of the year, and I think the overwhelming

sentiment is that that`s incredibly ambitious, that that would be really

what would be an unprecedented sprint to the finish line.


And then I have heard some other people say, listen, this is Dr. Slaoui and

Dr. Fauci, who are sort of not agreeing with, but sort of are giving their

opinion on this, and they`re respected researchers and scientists, and they

say it is theoretically possible.


So I think it`s kind of like a wait and see. I think most people think, by

the time you get to the point where you have a vaccine that`s shown to be

both effective and safe and you have scaled it, by the end of 2020 does

sound rather ambitious.


MELBER: Yes, and we have looked at that.


And, Jeremy, take a listen to what experts are saying, health experts

pushing back on too fast of the expectations for a vaccine timeline.





DISEASES: It would take then about a year to a year-and-a-half to be fully

confident that we would have a vaccine.



DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: Twelve to 18 months is an aggressive schedule, and I

think it`s going to take longer than that to do so.


FAUCI: There is no guarantee that the vaccine is actually going to be



BRIGHT: We have never seen everything go perfectly.


FAUCI: The vaccine to facilitate the reentry of students into the fall term

would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far.




MELBER: Jeremy?


JEREMY KONYNDYK, FORMER USAID OFFICIAL: You know, I think unless they can

outline how they can compress the timeline, you have to look at this with a

bit of skepticism.


I welcome the fact that they are going to throw everything they have at

expediting the timeline. I think that`s good. I think some of the things

that they`re looking like, bringing DOD in some the biosecurity

capabilities at DOD into the fight here, is great.


But it`s still – it`s really hard to compress that timeline below the 12

to 18 months that Drs. Bright and Fauci are talking about in a way that

doesn`t compromise the safety or efficacy of the vaccine product. So to

have a proven vaccine at scale by the end of the year, it doesn`t strike me

as credible.


And they`re pretty thin on detail in saying how they`re going to do that.


MELBER: And, Michelle, take a listen to the way the president has

overpromised in the past.




TRUMP: Ultimately, the goal is to ease the guidelines and open things up. I

hope we can do this by Easter.


Widespread surveillance testing will allow us to monitor the spread of the

virus. And we`re doing that quite accurately.


In the next 100 days, we will receive over three times the number of

ventilators made during a regular year in the United States.


We ordered 500 million masks, 300 and 200, and they`re going to be here

very shortly.


We have prevailed on testing.


We think we`re going have a vaccine in the pretty near future.


No, I`m not overpromising. I don`t know who said it. But whatever the

maximum is, whatever you can humanely do, we`re going to have.




MELBER: Michelle, a brief fact-check for your analysis. The country didn`t

reopen by Easter. There is no widespread surveillance testing. And the

ventilator numbers, they were talking 100,000. They have about 6,000.


What context does this give, when the president can`t just be obviously

ignored or disappeared in our system of government, but you have this

repeat failure of the promises made?


MICHELLE GOLDBERG, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: I was reminded of that press

conference he gave where he said that there was going to be imminently

drive-up testing in every drugstore parking lot.


And so – and they`re not even trying to do that anymore. Right? It`s not

that they`re not on schedule. I think they just promised that, realized it

wasn`t going to happen and gave up on it.


And so I think it`s great actually that they have this extremely ambitious

timeline up for a vaccine. God knows we need it, and God knows you want the

government to be throwing everything it has at it and doing it kind of, you

know, moonshot.


But I don`t know why anybody would trust this government to follow through

on its big promises. And, you know, kind of savvy people, people who pay a

lot of attention to the news probably know to take everything that the

president says with a grain of salt.


But, understandably, there are people in this country who hear what the

president says and think that it has some validity and make their plans

around it, make decisions in their lives around it, which is especially

important right now, when the guidance on kind of public health is so

confusing, and everybody is having to weigh risks in their own lives, you

know, in the absence of a lot of good information.


The fact that we can`t trust the president for good information is a really

big problem.


MELBER: Dr. Azar?


AZAR: Yes, I just think, listening to what Michelle is saying, just a

little humility would be welcome here, to say, we`re working with Moderna

on this vaccine. The Oxford vaccine is now collaborating with AstraZeneca

to scale up, because they had some very promising results in their primate



And just – and I know that this moonshot idea is something that they have

been talking about to sort of not squander resources, but gather as many or

try to collaborate with as many promising primate data and pooling that, so

that we`re not – we don`t have that many patients to test on, and we don`t

have much resource to waste, and just to say, look, we`re doing our best.


And, in the meantime, this is what we`re doing on therapeutics. And, in the

meantime, this is where we are on testing, because truth of the matter is,

oh, my goodness, if we got a vaccine that was really safe and effective,

that, by the way, a significant portion of the American population would

need to agree to get, which is another conversation altogether, it`s still

not going to be the only tool in the toolbox.


You`re still going to have to do all of the other things. And I just think

being honest about that and communicating that is so much more effective

than, we`re going to have a vaccine – a nonscientist saying we`re going

have a vaccine by the end of the year, which really no scientist has said.


MELBER: Jeremy, you`re nodding. Go ahead.


KONYNDYK: Yes, I think that that`s such an important point.


Even if you accept their timeline, which I think is highly questionable, it

doesn`t help us right now. We need to make it through to the end of the

year. And what we need to make it through to the end of the year is a lot

more testing, a lot more PPE, a lot more support to our hospitals.


And I`m really struck by the fact that the administration is choosing to

take ownership, take federal ownership of the vaccine issue when it

declined to take federal ownership of the problems we have right now,

particularly on testing and contact tracing.


That`s what we need to get us through to the end of the year. And they`re

leaving that to the states. They`re not taking responsibility for those.


MELBER: And, Michelle, the other thing I want to play is something we put

together where, again, you see the president`s own remarks here.


They have moved away, obviously, from the briefings we all remember, but

his own remarks pop up and continue to basically self-contradict. Take a





TRUMP: We have the greatest testing in the world.


It could be that testing is, frankly, overrated. Maybe it is overrated.


Another essential pillar of our strategy to keep America open is the

development of effective treatments and vaccines as quickly as possible.


If we don`t, we`re going to be, like so many other cases, where you had a

problem come in, it will go away. At some point, it will go away.




MELBER: Michelle?


GOLDBERG: I mean, I don`t think that anybody believes that it`s going to

just go away, absent either a scientific breakthrough, kind of very strict

public health adherence, or herd immunity, which would kill maybe hundreds

of thousands, if not more, Americans, before everybody got the virus and

developed some sort of immunity to it.


And so we heard this from the beginning, right? It will go away, it will go

away. He`s already talking about the virus in some instances in the past

tense, as something that we have gone through.


And you hear him say, you know, vaccine or not, we`re back.


And it just doesn`t work that way. You know, the president can kind of deny

reality, create an alternative reality for his supporters in a lot of

different political realms, but I think we`re seeing in some of the states

that have already reopened, even when cases are increasing, you can reopen,

but you can`t make people go to restaurants if they don`t feel safe, right?


You can`t make people join crowds, fly in planes if they feel like they`re

putting their lives at risk, which means that you can`t just say, we`re

reopening and the economy is going to come back. Right?


The only way to do this is to actually do the work of fighting this virus.

And that is something this president, he`s not up for it, and he is not

even really trying.


MELBER: And so, Jeremy, what is the public health implications of that? Can

you measure or put a cost on misinformation that sends people in the wrong



KONYNDYK: Yes, absolutely.


The U.S. response has been plagued by the president`s magical thinking, as

Michelle noted, really from the very beginning. And it left us less



There was a cost right from the outset, that the country was not as

prepared as we could have been, because the threat was being downplayed,

and he had this magical idea that it would just take care of itself. And

we`re seeing that again.


And so, he is encouraging behavior in states that is very, very risky. We

need a couple more weeks to start to really gauge what`s happening in some

of the states that have reopened, in my view, prematurely. But I think

there is a very real risk that we just start seeing more cases again.


And the president`s supporters listen to him. Not everyone does, but they

do. And he is putting them at risk if he is giving them bad information.


MELBER: Dr. Azar, have you seen anything comparable to this in sort of

private practice or other scenarios, where people`s strongly held views

that are from outside of medical science, be they political, the supporters

that he has, or other generalized ideas – I mean, certainly, we all know

there is a larger anti-vaccination belief system that can cut against

public health expertise.


But what other examples do you have in a situation like this? And I`m

curious, what would you do with a patient if you had someone come in and

say, oh, someone or something they believe, political or otherwise, cuts

against the medical advice? What do you do in that situation?


AZAR: Yes, Ari, that`s a great question.


It`s something that, as a clinician, we deal with all the time, and we

teach our medical students how to – we just had this lecture, actually,

this past week about, you know, different belief systems and what you do in

that situation.


And, you know, you don`t abandon patients when they disagree with you. You

– this is a very medically literal population that we have in general.

There is information access everywhere. And I think it`s all about

understanding and listening and saying, I value your opinion, and this is

why I think this, and this is my recommendation. And if you don`t choose to

follow it, that`s OK. I will still take care of you, but these are the

risks that I see for you.


You know, it`s very, very basic. You have to establish a trusting

relationship, and the patients do need to feel confident that they are

being heard. That`s very, very important, and in some capacity, to validate

them for having their opinions, although you do try to at least educate

them, so that they can make, you know, a decision that`s medically sound.


That`s the best you can do, but…


MELBER: Well, and that`s a fair point as well, because while it`s not a one

to one, the entire thing we`re living through as a nation, as you say,

building trust and showing respect, not just condescending or lecturing to

someone who may say, hey, I have a strongly held belief, political,

religious or otherwise, OK, respect.


But then what do we want to do about what we`re learning and how do we do

that together? I think it`s an important point, even if it`s at odds, as we

have just shown, with much of what the president is telling people, people

who choose to believe him.


Dr. Azar, Michelle Goldberg and Jeremy Konyndyk, I want to thank each of



We have a lot in tonight`s show. There are millions of Americans now lining

up at food banks trying to meet ends meet. And, tonight, we`re joined by

the Reverend William Barber about what this crisis means and what people

can do right now to help in their own ways.


Also, why Donald Trump`s usual approach of misinformation is not helping

him deal with the pandemic. “Art of the Deal” co-author Tony Schwartz, a

friend of THE BEAT, is back tonight. Very eager to hear what he has to say.


And there are new developments tonight in a lawsuit that is arguing that

Donald Trump is violating the Constitution. We have that story.


And, later, a special interview to end the week with an artist who is

fighting COVID and who says it`s changed his life forever.


We have a lot more coming up. I`m Ari Melber, and you`re watching THE BEAT





MELBER: (AUDIO GAP) is not true, the president claiming, asserting the

country is now – quote – “back.”


Of course, that`s despite the lack of vaccine or reliable treatment or even

the widespread testing that this administration itself said was necessary.


This is the kind of overstatement, exaggeration, or call it outright lies

that Donald Trump has actually leaned on in a variety of parts of his work

and life since the 1980s. You can recall it from when he promoted casinos

which were on their way to going bankrupt at times that he knew it and his

public statements were not true.


Or promoting Trump University, which, remember, was a business that gave

out business advice that went out of business.


Now, some have been on the case. You go all the way back to “The Art of the

Deal,” where Donald Trump wrote about talking up a construction site to

make it look busy as a lie to deceive investors – quote – “Bulldozers and

dump trucks, what they were doing,” he said, “wasn`t important, as long as

they did a lot of it,” all to deceive someone into investing in something

that wasn`t as it looked.


All of it echoing some of the events we now see, Donald Trump featuring

testing kits while the U.S. lags in testing.




TRUMP: Anybody right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a

test. They`re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.


We had broken tests. We had tests that were obsolete. We had tests that

didn`t take care of people.


It`s going to disappear. One day, it`s like a miracle. It will disappear.




MELBER: But the president, and more importantly, really, much of the nation

is now up against this ongoing deadly virus, which does not respond, which

does not lessen when there is puffery or exaggeration, let alone threats or



We get into all of it here with “Art of the Deal” co-author Tony Schwartz,

a friend of THE BEAT, when we`re back in just 30 seconds.




MELBER: We are back with “Art of the Deal” co-author and friend of THE BEAT

Tony Schwartz. He is part of our State of Mind series.


He is also the author of “The Way We`re Working Isn`t Working.”


It`s been a minute. Good to see you, sir.





MELBER: We, like many, recognize the echoes of the puffery, the strategy,

the lying.


I`m curious what you see here on day when the president is again declaring

victories he hasn`t achieved.


SCHWARTZ: This has been revelatory to me, Ari.


The whole way he has responded has prompted me to really rethink Trump`s

motivation. I have always assumed, like most people have, that the primary

motivation is to be loved and admired and recognized and praised.


That is a motivation. But the deeper motivation is domination, is to win.

And that is a function of the fact that he has no conscience. And let`s be

clear, no conscience.


And this is really hard for us to understand. So, he doesn`t make a

distinction between right or wrong, nor does he feel a distinction between

right or wrong. So when he is inventing stories and lies and a reality that

is of his own making, he`s doing it without any shame or guilt.


And that is an enormous advantage in a situation where most people would be

limited by their respect for the truth and by their concern for how they

were going to have an impact on others. He doesn`t care.


The deaths – I know this is extreme – the deaths don`t matter to him. If

it`s a decision between saving himself and saving others, it is no contest.


MELBER: That`s your view.


I remind people, as I mentioned with the book, that you were up close with

him, that you worked on a project with him. You have since made donations

to charity. You have spoken about your work on the book didn`t make him

ever want him to be president. And you are one of the many people who`s

worked with him or knows him better than the rest of the country that

watches him on television. And these are your views.


So it`s striking to hear you say that.


We have witnessed him go out there day after day – and this is beyond

politics or ideology – and really present a view that he`s not going to be

focused on, let alone consoling or mourning, a death toll that is 9/11

times 20, Tony.


SCHWARTZ: No, he`s not going to, because what`s meaningful to him is

opening the economy, not because he cares about the people who are being

affected, but because he cares about their votes.


And he believes, rightly or wrongly, that people are going to be more

concerned with going back to work than they are with protecting their



We will see. But it`s not an issue for him what people are feeling, as I

said just a moment ago, and I know it`s – as you said, it sounds extreme -

- but it`s hard for human beings to understand the absence of conscience

and the absence of empathy, because it`s so second nature to us.


So, we try to see it through our lens. But imagine seeing it through his

lens, where all he`s thinking is, I either win or I lose. Right now, I`m at

risk of losing. So, I better do what I can to save myself.


MELBER: Right.


Well, let me build on that, because everyone remembers the famous Fifth

Avenue quote, he could shoot someone. This, tragically, is an extreme

example that involves more than one loss of life, and people who are

following him, to their own measurable detriment of health and self-

interest, which is a hard thing also to get your heads around, although

it`s not the first time in human history that you can point to that



Howard Stern and you have something in common. Did you know that?




MELBER: You both hung out with him in the old days, and neither of you

think, you have publicly stated…




MELBER: … that he is fit to be president. And there is a difference

between meeting someone in a certain context and then saying whether they

should be the most powerful person in the world, especially as we look at

the stakes in a pandemic.


Howard Stern making waves with this new comment. I want to make sure people

hear this. Take a listen.




HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The oddity in all of this is, the

people Trump despises most love him the most. Think about it.


The people who are voting for Trump, for the most part, oh, my God, he

wouldn`t even let them in a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hotel. I`m talking to you

in the audience, the Trump voter who idolizes the guy. He despises you.






SCHWARTZ: That is 100 percent true.


It`s actually something I said myself back in 2016 in the “New Yorker”

piece that was written about my experience, that he hates losers. He sees

the world in terms of winners and losers. The winners are Putin, Kim Jong-

un, Erdogan, and him.


The rest of the world are losers, including many, many people who have

worked for him. If you now take someone who – a working-class person who

is out of a job or has a drug problem and you say, that`s a person who may

have voted for Trump, the last thing on earth Trump wants to do is be

anywhere near that person. It`s like that person has cooties.


MELBER: What you would call affectionately, perhaps, in his world view,

loser cooties.


SCHWARTZ: Loser cooties.


MELBER: And, Tony, this is, to my knowledge, the first time we have

mentioned cooties on the show in our news reporting.


And so I thank you for that as well.


SCHWARTZ: I like – yes, and I like to do firsts with you, Ari.






Well, tough times, but we can all use a cooties reference where we can get



Tony Schwartz, it`s been a crazy news cycle. I know our viewers appreciate

the context you bring. I appreciate you coming back on the show.


We will see you soon, sir.


SCHWARTZ: Thank you. Stay safe.


MELBER: Yes, sir.


We`re going fit in a break, but we have a lot more topics.


A lawsuit on Donald Trump deliberately profiting off the presidency that

might make its way to the Supreme Court, a big story.


Also, new reporting on how this pandemic is impacting poor and minority

communities the hardest. A very special guest, you may recall him from many

times on MSNBC, but we haven`t had him on THE BEAT lately.


I`m thrilled to tell you the Reverend William Barber is here live next,

right after this break.




MELBER: We have been reporting on the health crisis for the first half of

our broadcast tonight.


Now we turn to the related economic crisis, 36 million Americans out of

jobs, leading to scenes like this in Dallas and New York. This is just in

the last day, thousands of people at food banks, trying to make ends meet,

trying to find way to put food on the table.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know. This is a very scary time, and I don`t

think it`s over right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, I`m unemployed. Right now, I have two out

of my five – two out of five of my kids home.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re going to see demand like this for years.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a tremendous need. We have seen a 400 percent

increase in people coming to our pantries.




MELBER: Joining me now is Reverend William Barber.


He is the president of Repairers of the Breach, co-founder of the Poor

People`s campaign, a revival the effort first launched by Reverend Martin

Luther King Jr., who worked tirelessly, of course, on civil rights and

racial justice and also on working people`s rights within America.


It`s been a moment since I have seen you. It is good to see you again, sir.



much, Ari.


And, you know, I stand there. I just looked at those lines. All that we`re

seeing is bad choices. This has been a damnable dereliction of duty that is

actually criminal. And if I were to speak in biblical terms, it`s evil,

when you – we have had this pandemic.


Before the pandemic, 140 million people were living in poverty and low-

income, 43 percent of this country, 700 people dying a day from poverty,

250,000 a year, and 80 million people either uninsured or underinsured.


And we knew, we knew going on in that pandemics live in the fissures and

the wounds of society caused by poverty and systemic racism. And what the

pandemic has been is like a contrast dye that you put in your body that has

forced us to see this.


And we didn`t have – this is choice, these lines, people not having health

care, people not having tested. This is not the disease. This is not the

germ. As ugly, as bad as that germ is, it`s not the germ. It`s the pandemic

of greed and lies and racism and public idolatry and narcissism, not just

from Trump, but even from the Congress and his enablers in the Congress,

where we did not respond to this thing properly.


And thousands of people have died needlessly. And it is a damnable

dereliction of duty, and now we`re just opening our society without doing

the things we ought to have done. It`s going to be lethal to so many



MELBER: And you say it goes beyond the president. What else is it

revealing? What do we do about it?


BARBER: Well, the first thing we need to do, we`re considering a fourth

bill now.


The first thing, every congressperson ought to get on the floor and repent

for that first three bills. First three bills, $2 trillion, $3 trillion, 83

percent went to the corporations, not to the people. We gave the people a

title change, essential, but we didn`t provide them the essential things

they needed, health care, protection, testing, protection from being thrown

out and evicted, protections from their utilities being cut off.


And then what we need is a real bill, not just a hero bill, but a human

rights bill. You know, we`re talking about, Ari, anywhere from 11 to 13

million more people are going to be added to the uninsured, according to a

recent study by Harvard.


We`re talking 40 percent of people under $40,000 who making – will lose

their jobs. We are talking about the poverty going up exponentially. So, we

need not just the – we need a transformative bill, not a moderate bill.


How can we not pass to protect people with health care? We`re the only of

25 wealthiest countries that does not protect health care for everybody. We

attach health care to a job, instead of to people`s humanity.


Right now, in the midst of this pandemic, like Roosevelt did with the New

Deal, we should be saying, we`re going to insure everybody`s health care,.

We`re going insure a living wage. We`re going to make sure you can`t be

evicted. We`re going make sure your water can`t be turned off. We`re going

make sure that we enact the Defense Authorization Act that you have the

PPEs and everything.


What we have learned, Ari, is that, even before this, too many people are

too comfortable with other people`s death. And that has a long history in

America, from the death, genocide of Native people, from blaming diphtheria

on Chinese people, from blaming the swine flu on Spanish people, blaming

cholera on Indian – people from India, a long history of ignoring other

people`s deaths, to our own detriment.


So we now need a transformative day. And I`m so tired and people are so



I talked to a lady today – a few days ago who is a nursing assistant. And

she said, Reverend Barber, I`m a nurse`s assistant. We are experiencing

public policy mass murder. She said, the fact that we have to go by garbage

bags to go to work, we don`t have what we need, in a country with our

manufacturing power and our economic power…


MELBER: Right.


BARBER: … the fact that we don`t have these things is policy decisions.


MELBER: Right. That goes…


BARBER: And a public health pandemic requires a policy reaction.


MELBER: And, Reverend, that goes to the last thing I want to ask you about.


In law and policy, you have acts, commission, and you have not acting,

omission. And both can be wrong. Both can have consequences.


The last thing I want to ask you about is a very simple statistic we pulled

here on what`s being provided to workers who are going back into this risk.

About half are being given gloves, which means half are not.


And masks, which the CDC says are necessary, 80 percent are not being

offered masks, only 19 percent being offered masks. Do you view that

omission as morally wrong?


BARBER: It`s sin. I mean, it`s literally evil, especially when you can do



That`s why we`re organizing, stay at home, stay in place, stay alive,

organize, and don`t believe the lie. That`s why, on June 20, we`re pulling

together a mass movement digitally, a national Poor People`s Assembly Moral

March on Washington digitally, and thousands, literally millions of people

are going to tune in.


We are in a battle for the very soul and heart of this country. And even if

you`re not a religious person, the way we have done these policies, what

Trump has done, and McConnell has done or not done, are commission. This is



They could have done better. And it doesn`t even line up in our

Constitution. There is nothing about this that establishes justice. There

is nothing about this that provides for the common defense. There is

nothing about this that promotes the general welfare of all people.


In like the Book of Jeremiah, it says from the greatest to the small, they

are lying. And they are applying a Band-Aid to a wound that requires

something much more. And it doesn`t have to be.


I agree with “The Boston Globe” when they said the blood is on the hands of

those in power who could do better, from the president to the Congress, who

know what to do and could do better, and are not doing it.


And we have to be just that clear. And that`s why poor and low-wealth

people and moral leaders are rising up in this moment, because, brother, if

we can`t get this right in a pandemic, God help us in this country.


If we can look at this level of death, and now our children, the children,

and if folk can glibly just go back, and knowing that they`re going spread

this, I feel sorry for people that will believe a con artist who walks

around with no mask, because everybody else has masks around him, and there

six and 12 feet apart. That`s not courage. That`s a con.


And to think that people are being conned, I`m getting (AUDIO GAP) from my

friends up in Appalachia, in the mountains, poor folk, that are going to be

devastated by this.


And it`s time that we have to come together and say, we – even if we are

taking our last breaths, Ari, we ought to say, if I`m taking my last

breath, because all of could be, then what am I going to use my last breath

to fight for, what kind of world, what kind of society?




BARBER: Let`s choose justice, let`s choose love, and let`s fight.


MELBER: You lay it out clearly.


I hope people are listening. We will come back to you again.


Reverend Barber, thank you.


And I want to make sure everyone understands you can go see Reverend

Barber`s march and how to get involved. That`s


Thank you, sir.


We will be right back.




MELBER: Update to a big story, a lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of violating

the Constitution`s Emoluments Clause, which says the president can`t just

take money from foreign governments.


This lawsuit now arguing he has actually been profiting from foreign

delegations staying at his infamous Washington, D.C., hotel.


And here is the update, a federal appeals court ruling this suit can

proceed, which means it could be a big battle at the Supreme Court, a story

we promised we`d keep you updated on.


Now, when we come back, a very special conversation with a very special

guest on his battle after contracting COVID.


That`s next.




MELBER: Coronavirus is impacting all parts of society.


We`re living through the impact on health care, economy, politics and our

culture. And artists are, of course, adjusting to the new normal, including

innovations, as people perform during quarantine and artists themselves

confront this adversity.


That includes when it hits home.


Take the legendary rapper performs Brad Jordan, who performs as Scarface.

He`s recounting his battle after contract in COVID-19 and facing kidney

failure related to the virus.


Scarface was a member of the groundbreaking Houston-based rap group, the

Geto Boys. He`s ranked as one of the top 20 lyricists of all time by “The

Source” and known for a career working with legends like Tupac and Jay-Z.

He also recently ran for city council in his hometown of Houston.


And now tonight, to end the week, Brad “Scarface” Jordan joins me, along

with former BuzzFeed Washington bureau chief John Stanton. He`s no stranger

to MSNBC viewers. You have seen him over the years on “Rachel Maddow,” and

he`s the co-founder of the Save Journalism Project, providing resources for

reporters navigating changes in the industry.


Thanks to both of you for joining me for this special discussion.


BRAD “SCARFACE” JORDAN, RAPPER: Appreciate it. How are you all doing?


MELBER: We`re doing all right. How you doing, Brad and John?


How are you both doing?


JORDAN: I can`t hear John.


MELBER: John hasn`t said anything yet.


John, how are you doing?




JORDAN: What is up, John?



Scarface to start.




STANTON: I`m good. How you been?


JORDAN: It`s all good. We`re good.


MELBER: We`re all right. Good.




MELBER: Brad, I want to get into everything.


Let`s start, of course, with your health, sir.




MELBER: And I see you on your phone. You can pull it – if you pull it even

a little further away from you, we will get a better TV shot.


And I know that you are coming back from the – that`s pretty good, if you

– yes.


Talk to me, sir. How are you holding up? How are you doing with this?


JORDAN: I`m adjusting to a new life, Ari, in all honesty.




JORDAN: I have lost kidneys. I lost my kidneys.


I go to dialysis four times a week now. I just – you know, the whole –

that whole – you don`t mind if I – 224 pounds to 184 pounds. Now they`re

draining all the fluid out my body in this dialysis thing.


But, you know, I`m glad to be alive, brother, in all honesty. I`m super

glad to be alive.


MELBER: Yes, sir.


JORDAN: I went through a lot of stuff, man, you know?


I woke up one morning – excuse me – I woke up with bilateral pneumonia,

went to the emergency room, when they said that I had the COVID. And this

was right when it first cropped up. This was like March the 7th.


I was diagnosed with COVID, OK? So, I went from the month of March all the

way until April 9 with COVID, bilateral pneumonia and kidney failure. And I

fought it right here in this very room right here, in this very chair.


Something just led me away from the E.R.s and the hospitals, you know, and

telling me not to get on those ventilators. You know, I have got underlying

health conditions also, from asthma, to high blood pressure, to congestive

heart failure, to you name it.


So, when you look at me still being alive, you`re looking at a miracle. And

I don`t know how strong the watchers` faiths – how they are in their

faith, but every time I talk to my doctor, they say – my doctors, they say

that I should have been part of those 85,000 people that`s already dead.




I mean, that – we`re glad, obviously, you`re not. This touches everything.

And you`re a person that is known to so many. And for you to share this is

– it`s a type of strength and courage, because people need to know,

obviously, how real this is.


You have followers. You have fans. It`s a reminder to everyone, just like

all the other stories we tell of how real it is.


John Stanton, I want to know what you think. And I know you`re down in New

Orleans. So, I know you know about the Scarface legend history.






STANTON: I`m glad you`re all right.


No, I think, actually, when you got sick, I think, for a lot of people, at

least in my generation, that was like a real wakeup call for us, you know,

because you were like the biggest celebrity that I had seen so far that had

gotten sick.


And I think, for a lot of my friends and people in my community here in New

Orleans, it was a very big deal that this happened, because it happened to

somebody that we knew who you were. We have followed your career. And you

have had a big impact on everybody`s lives.


And I think it really brought it home for a lot of people.




JORDAN: Yes, a lot of people – excuse me, Ari.


MELBER: No, go ahead.


JORDAN: A lot of think this is fake or it`s a hoax.


This is not fake. It`s not a hoax. If you want to open up the country right

now and play games with people`s lives, you know, if you want to take – if

you want to partake in that, then that`s on you.


But I promise you, this is – I don`t ever want to catch this again. As a

matter of fact, I don`t even know how I caught it the first time, OK,

because I got a…


MELBER: Hey – yes.




MELBER: Brad, you saying that – I`m going to jump in and say, you saying

that is what people need to hear, because you`re saying, this is so, so



We did create something special I want to show you, though. Are you ready?

I want to show you a little – because you know we love you, OK?




JORDAN: I don`t want to know what this is, man, because I hate you rapping

my songs, man. What is this?




MELBER: You stay with me.


I want to just – end of the week, long week. You`re going through

everything. Let`s look briefly at the legacy of Scarface itself.


Everybody knows the iconic Brian De Palma film with Al Pacino. It

introduced a then 23-year-old Michelle Pfeiffer, the rags-to-riches story,

the rise, the fall, Tony Montana, turned drug lord.




MELBER: A story that resonates for viewers. It`s been embraced by hip-hop,

quoted in dozens of song, not only after its release in the `80s, but to

this day.


Take 2020 Billboard toppers Lil Baby and DaBaby, whose recent music video

reimagine themselves there in “Scarface.” And let`s take a look at some

other moments right now.




MICHELLE PFEIFFER, ACTRESS: Lesson number two, don`t get high on your own





AL PACINO, ACTOR: This country, you got to make the money first. Then when

you get the money, you get the power. Then, when you get the power, then

you get the woman.




PACINO: Do you know what a haza is, Frank? That`s a pig that don`t fly





PACINO: Do you know what a haza is? That`s a pig that don`t fly straight.




MELBER: “Scarface” the movie, started it. Scarface the rapper continued it.

And you have got artists to this day doing what you`re doing.


What does it mean to you? What did that movie teach you?


JORDAN: The movie put a – it put a you can come from anywhere and get it

mentality, you know, if that makes sense.


You can come from anywhere, any walk of life. You can be born in poverty,

and, you know, the next minute, you`re living the life of luxury, you know.


My thing is, don`t – don`t give up, don`t let go, because it`s a beautiful

– it`s a beautiful ending to every story, once you open your book. Once

you start bringing that story to life, it ends beautifully.


But you have to apply yourself, you know?




JORDAN: You have to have (AUDIO GAP).


Like, I wanted to live in the midst of this COVID, in the midst of this

pneumonia, in the midst of this kidney failure. I still want to live.


MELBER: Yes, sir.




MELBER: Let me say this, Brad, because we – I`m at the end of my hour.


I want to have you back on the show. I want you to recover. And I want to

see you in person.




MELBER: So, if you will do it, let`s do it again. And you come back.


Yes, sir?


JORDAN: You got my number. You can call me any time, you hear?


MELBER: You got it. Honored to meet you.


Thanks to John for riding with us.


Brad “Scarface” Jordan, we all wish you a speedy recovery.


That does it for us. Keep it right here on MSNBC.







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