CDC source TRANSCRIPT: 5/18/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.
In the middle of this pandemic, with many people understandably focused on
other things, you need to know that President Trump is trying to bury
another controversial firing.
This began Friday night, ousting the watchdog who oversees Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo. This is the fourth recent firing, showing the president
gutting independent watchdogs across the federal government.
I`m telling you about it right now at the top of our broadcast because we
are covering it, even if it was attempted to be buried on Friday night.
That story later on in our hour.
Also later, blowback as Eric Trump tries to politicize the coronavirus –
how the president`s son`s comments appear to be boomeranging on him.
But our top story right now is a pitched battle over what many Trump
officials are now publicly acknowledging is a bungled response to the
Remember, if you are blaming someone, you`re admitting something went
wrong. And that is what President Trump`s top trade adviser is doing in a
high-profile appearance, basically admitting things went wrong inside the
Trump administration dealing with this virus, but now arguing it was the
disease experts, not the president`s top people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING
POLICY: Early on in this crisis, the CDC, which really had the most trusted
brand around the world in this space, really what let the country down with
the testing, because not only did they keep the testing within the
They had a bad test. And that did set us back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Fact-check, it is true that the CDC bungled an early virus test
kit, which was sent along to health labs and then had to basically be
canceled and withdrawn.
Now, the experts do stress that`s one part of a wider set of mistakes
within the Trump administration. But this new line of blame is striking,
because it is being rebutted not just by outsiders, or independent experts,
or people who tend to respond to what Trump officials say.
No, what you just heard is now being rebutted by Donald Trump`s own health
and human services secretary, who oversees the CDC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I don`t believe the
CDC left this country down. I believe the CDC serves an important public
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s Secretary Azar.
And he`s adding more context today on FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AZAR: Well, the comments regarding CDC are inaccurate and inappropriate.
The CDC had one error, which was in scaling up the manufacturing of the
tests that they had developed.
There was a contamination that didn`t affect the accuracy of the test, just
led to inconclusive results. They fixed that within weeks and got it out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, as a general rule in Washington, the public sniping, what
you`re seeing right there is obviously going to be much nicer than whatever
is being argued about raging behind the scenes for these Trump officials,
who are fighting each other.
Now, CDC officials are also joining in the conversation by noting the
obvious. These type of contradictions do not help the urgent medical
mission at hand. Most states, of course, are lifting restrictions now.
They`re navigating the risks of reopening.
One official noting the mixed messages from the White House are obviously
at play, and noting – quote – “We`re only allowed to release what they
allow us to release.”
That is a general statement, but it reinforces the concerns flagged by
whistle-blowers in recent days that medical and scientific information,
which right now can save lives, is facing alleged censorship from the
highest levels of the Trump administration.
Now, let`s take this in as we start another tough week together. You know
it. I know it. This isn`t week one of this pandemic or week two or even
month one. This is the middle of this. This virus was first confirmed
inside the U.S. in February.
That means, by definition, it was furtively here before then. Now, Donald
Trump, big picture, he had never done any public service before he ran for
the presidency. He`s the first person to win without any such experience,
and he projected that image of leadership from his fictional TV show.
We all remember the pictures, the image of the executive in charge, making
decisions, holding people accountable.
But that as a road to the White House was always bizarre. I say this to you
tonight because we are looking at the results.
You know, George Clooney may play a great doctor on TV on “E.R.” No logical
person would say that qualifies him to do heart surgery, a point that, as I
say it out loud, is so obvious, that point is illegal.
Actors who play doctors are not legally allowed to do heart surgery. But
Donald Trump insisted to his followers that, yes, pretending to do
something should become a qualification for doing it, that he was a big
person in charge on TV and he would be an even bigger person in charge when
he took over Washington, and that he would bring in the best people, and he
would be a better leader than the people who actually had government
Now, the point here is not to claim that any pandemic deaths invalidate an
entire country`s leadership. If that were the case, there would be few
legitimate governments left on Earth. Even the better prepared nations are
facing tragedies and tough calls, as we have reported.
But now that there is this admission from within the administration, this
news tonight of the infighting and the warring, because there is agreement
that there was enough of a faulty response that you have to play blame
games about it, that it`s hit the highest levels of the Trump
administration, people blaming each other over what they at least agree is
something worth blaming people for, this conversation is doing something
different right now.
It is turning to what this horrific pandemic has revealed. No greater
authority than one of the few people alive to serve as president, a
cautious leader who actually rarely criticizes his successor in public, no
greater authority than former President Obama, is now speaking to that
And I want you to hear it, Barack Obama drawing a response from the current
president that indeed may sound a bit like projection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More than anything,
this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so
many of the folks in charge know what they`re doing.
A lot of them aren`t even pretending to be in charge.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, he was an incompetent
president. That`s all I can say, grossly incompetent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Competence is the issue on the table tonight.
I`m joined now by former Obama White House health policy Dr. Kavita Patel,
Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington
Post,” and David Frum, who has White House experience from the Bush
administration and is a senior editor with “The Atlantic.” His book is
“Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy.”
David, your view on all this?
DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well,
I`m going to speak as someone who voted against President Obama twice.
The pandemic issue was one that President Obama was seized of, and that is
a place where he invested enormous political capital and enormous political
effort. And even if he had not, he`s been out of office for three-and-a-
So, for Donald Trump to say that that somehow represents some kind of
excuse for him. Presidents who have taken over from predecessors they
regard as incompetent are supposed to fix the mistakes of their
If you think your predecessor didn`t handle something right, and you have
had three-and-a-half years, you should be able to mount a success, and then
say to the world, look what I did that my predecessor failed to do.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Ari, I think we`re going to
see a lot more of this sort of infighting from among the Trump
You heard Peter Navarro, the trade adviser, who has said absurd and
ridiculous things about this pandemic, speaking a bit of truth. The CDC did
botch the initial tests. You heard Secretary Azar say, well, they fixed it
Well, at the beginning of a pandemic, you don`t have weeks to wait. You
don`t have weeks to waste before you start testing. Other countries started
testing first with a test that the World Health Organization had developed,
and many of those countries did a lot better than we did.
We have had 90,000 deaths, and that can`t be blamed on the Obama
administration for its handling of the disease that did not exist during
the Obama administration. It`s only on the Trump administration. And I
think this sort of blame game is going to play out over the months to come
up to the election.
I mean, David, obviously, Gene is pointing to the other stakes of this.
There`s the public health. There is the economy. There`s all the real grim
stuff we`re all dealing with.
But this is a democracy. This is the issue heading into the election. And
it is both, how are you handling it, and also, to the extent that it is
viewed to some degree as a tragedy if it is viewed like a tornado or
something, also, what is your bearing, what is your leadership on it?
And the president`s critics say he fails on both. No greater authority than
Donald Trump longtime one-time insider turned critic Tony Schwartz made a
very provocative allegation about this that I want you to hear on this show
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, “TRUMP: THE ART OF THE DEAL”: Deaths don`t matter
to him. If it`s a decision between saving himself and saving others, it is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: David, your view on that aspect of it? That is a critique regarding
a belief about Donald Trump`s mind or heart, which may not be empirically
I can say that as a journalist. And then it`s also about the leadership
style. It is observable that he has not done what other presidents have
typically done with consoling, with mourning.
Well, we have discussed this on the show before, you and I. It`s pretty
apparent that the president`s strategy – and maybe it`s the only strategy
that`s available after the mistakes of January and February – is to let
this disease rip through the country and take the punch.
And that`s easier for him, because we know more in May about the disease
than we did in January in February. And one of the things that we know is
that it is very much not an equal-opportunity killer.
It takes casualties in places that Donald Trump cares less about. And it
imposes economic costs on people he cares more about. And so the trade-off
that Donald Trump is constantly making is, he wants to reduce the economic
costs to the people he cares about by increasing the health costs upon the
people he does not care about.
MELBER: And do you think it is observable, documentable, provable that that
is the calculus inside the White House?
FRUM: Well, it`s not just a White House calculus.
About three weeks ago, we were talking about Mitch McConnell urging blue
states to undertake state bankruptcy as a response to the economic shock.
State bankruptcy is not the same as a state default.
State bankruptcy would put a federal judge in charge of the finances of
states like Illinois and other states that have been especially hard-hit by
I think there is an attempt to advance an agenda that has been bigger than
human life, bigger than getting the country out of the recession as fast as
MELBER: Yes, understood.
This is an important part of the debate.
Doctor, I`m not going to have you weigh in on the comparison of the
presidents, but we`re very eager to hear your views on another piece of
medical news, which is actually hopeful, but to be clear with viewers, very
But take a look at this encouraging news on an early phase of testing of a
vaccine. A biotech company releasing information saying they see positive
results from early data on a vaccine. It`s already drawing excitement in
the medical community, some rallying on Wall Street today.
We are told this result is only from – quote – “the first eight
participants in the trial.”
Dr. Patel, we report on a lot of grim news around here. So, emotionally,
anything with a ray of hope, I think everyone can say, gosh, it would be
great to have any road towards a vaccine.
Can you give us a medical context on this on this piece of information?
DR. KAVITA PATEL, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.
And there were 45 patients in total. And, as you report, Ari, eight of them
achieved what was a pretty significant goal, but albeit the start of what I
would say is a longer journey. Eight people actually achieved.
And in a phase one trial, by the way, this is what you want. You want to
see a number of people, even if it`s small, achieve kind of neutralizing
antibody levels, meaning the vaccine promotes an immune response that
neutralizes the effect of a virus, and safety.
So it met both of those targets. And it gets to kind of go on to what we
call phase two and phase three. So, yes, it`s small, but not only does it
offer a ray of hope, but it does have clinical importance, and tells us
that there is not just with one company, but with several others,
potentials for kind of multiple shots on goal.
Having said that, I think it`s still going to be, at best, early 2021,
optimistic, that we could see something for the country.
MELBER: For our understanding, Doctor, does it move us far closer in the
lens of when, not if?
There are other types of public health crises and diseases of greater
complexity where the experts tell us, you can`t bank on getting any new
vaccine. Or is it still too early to even say that?
PATEL: Well, it`s – so, first of all, Ari, I think, with vaccines,
remember, just for context, it normally takes years. So the fact that we`re
seeing results, even limited ones, is an incredible kind of, to your point,
when, not if.
And to give others just more comfort, this is one of several kind of
vaccine development efforts that are going to have early readouts. So,
while it is limited – yes, you`re right, it`s eight patients – we do take
solace in the fact that it achieved its goal and it can move forward.
So, that, in and of itself, is progress.
And I wanted to get you on that point. I think that gives us a lot of
context. And for those who want to feel cautiously optimistic based on
science and fact, there`s a little something there, caveats included.
Gene, I want to play you something else people need to see, which was this
exchange between Secretary Azar with Jake Tapper on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AZAR: A population with significant unhealthy comorbidities that do make
many individuals in our communities, in particular African-American,
minority communities, particularly at risk here, obesity, hypertension,
These are demonstrated facts that make – that do make us at risk for any
type of disease burden.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Sure, of course, but that doesn`t mean it`s the fault of
the American people that…
AZAR: Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. Jake…
TAPPER: … our government failed to take adequate steps in February.
AZAR: Oh, no, Jake, please, please don`t – please don`t distort – no,
this is not about fault.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Gene, I`m curious what you thought there, because some of this has
to do with people`s views on the credibility.
A doctor saying something can be understood one way. Politicians, political
appointees sometimes get less rope for good reason. I`m not sure what
Secretary Azar was trying to get out. We have covered a lot of these
systemic racial issues here.
But it almost, to some people, sounded like, well, wait a minute. What are
you suggesting? That this has nothing to do with the government`s response,
this has to do with only – quote, unquote – “underlying conditions”?
What did you make of that exchange? And what do you think`s important here?
ROBINSON: Well, I was glad that Jake asked that follow-up question,
because, initially, it sounded as if the secretary were saying, well, you
know, we have a whole lot of deaths in this country, but that`s because
Americans are just – are sick and have all these preexisting problems.
And it was – it sounded initially like blaming the victim. However, the
secretary very quickly said, no, that`s not what he intended to say. So
perhaps he was just sort of stating facts.
There is a higher incidence – and there`s a whole lot of reasons why, but
there is a higher incidence of these comorbid facts, comorbid – whatever -
- comorbidicity among African-American and minority populations.
MELBER: Do you need to phone a doctor, Gene? Because I get to phone them
every night, and I wouldn`t be able do we need to do it either.
Do we need to phone a doctor?
ROBINSON: Yes, please.
ROBINSON: Phone a doctor.
MELBER: There`s so many words. I was like, what am I saying?
Go ahead, David.
FRUM: OK, so let`s take Secretary Azar at – on face value.
It is true. America has, in many ways, worse health outcomes, worst public
health situations than other comparably developed countries. There is more
obesity. Americans are less likely to wear a seat belt. Americans hurt
themselves with guns. Americans take a lot of drugs.
And these were problems that in the Obama years people talked about. I
wrote a book about this, that – and if this – it is absolutely true that
if America were a country where people smoked less, wore seat belts more,
didn`t have as many guns, had better control of their weight, Americans
would be more resistant to all kinds of public health infections and other
Where were you? You have been in power for three years. If obesity is a
public health risk, and it is, where were you? Why did you think it was
funny to tear up the previous first lady`s vegetable garden, that Michelle
Obama led a national effort to try to make obesity a public health problem.
When it served some cheap point, you said that`s just a joke and we should
all eat more cookies. When you need an excuse, when you need a way to get
blame off your back, then you rediscover this issue that you should have
been working on from the first day you came into office.
MELBER: Hmm. All well put and important context.
David Frum, Gene Robinson, and Dr. Patel, thanks to each of you.
We have been going strong. Got to fit in a quick break.
But coming up, there`s new reporting about how Donald Trump ousted this key
official, derailing oversight. We have a lawmaker who helped lead the
impeachment trial. Former impeachment manager and Congresswoman Val Demings
is here tonight.
Also, nearly 1,000 veterans of the DOJ speaking out, opposing reversing
Michael Flynn`s conviction. And we have one of them who is now trying to
intervene in the case, John Flannery, also a longtime analyst for us.
And, later, new reports of a longer video from the Ahmaud Arbery case,
allegedly showing that he was chased for several minutes before being shot.
It could bolster the prosecution`s murder case.
I`m Ari Melber. And you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: New accusations Donald Trump is openly undercutting the mechanisms
of government that are designed to hold every president accountable.
This news is about something the White House didn`t want you to hear about,
didn`t want anyone to focus on, trying to bury it with Donald Trump`s
Friday night firing of the top watchdog at the State Department.
Now House Democrats say the watchdog was investigating the Trump
administration`s controversial arms sale to Saudi Arabia and also looking
at whether Secretary of State Pompeo misused taxpayer dollars for personal
Now, as one story, there can be plenty of debate over the reasons for a
particular firing, and the president has the lawful ability to remove these
But look at the big picture. It`s quite simple. During this pandemic, just
in these past two months, you have seen Donald Trump has now fired four
different watchdogs, these so-called inspector generals, in April and May,
four in a row. That includes the I.G. who handled the Ukraine whistle-
blower complaint that led to impeachment.
“The New York Times” called that a purge of those that Trump deemed
insufficiently loyal. Now, let`s be clear. That itself makes Donald Trump`s
reported motivations, oust disloyal watchdogs, more like a confession. And
The law requires that these I.G. watchdogs avoid loyalty to the president
and perform duties without regard to political affiliation and solely on
the basis of integrity.
Legal experts say this is another example of Donald Trump flouting the
rules and literally pushing each of these important officials in
government, pushing them to be loyal, testing them to the point of
potentially betraying their own oath of office, and then making them pay
for it if they won`t go far enough.
And this is something private citizen Trump long touted as his approach to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would have wiped the floor with the guys that weren`t loyal, which
I will now do, which is great. I love getting even with people.
If given the opportunity, I will get even with some people that were
disloyal to me. I mean, I had a group of people that were disloyal. They
didn`t come to my aid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Trump`s latest actions drawing rebukes, including from Republican
senators like Chuck Grassley and Mitt Romney, as well as the Democrats
mentioned, plus a wide bevy of nonpartisan officials and experts.
So, let`s get into it with Congresswoman Val Demings, a member of two key
We will be right back together in 30 seconds.
MELBER: We`re back with Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings on the
Judiciary and Intelligence committees. She was a House impeachment manager
in that Senate trial of Donald Trump.
Thanks for making the time for us.
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): It`s good to be with you, Ari.
MELBER: Your reaction to this latest firing? And do you see a pattern that
DEMINGS: Well, let me start here.
Maya Angelou said, when people show you who they are, believe them. And
President Trump, and it looks like even long before he occupied the White
House, has zero interest in transparency or oversight.
We`re talking about a president who believes that, if he fires the person
in charge of oversight, then there`s no scandal. We`re talking about a
person who, just like he`s indicated several times, if we don`t do testing
for COVID-19, that maybe two million people in this country will not
The Senate had their opportunity during the impeachment trial to hold
Donald Trump accountable and perhaps avoid a lot of that – what we`re
seeing right now. But they either didn`t have the political will, the
courage or the backbone to hold him accountable.
And so here we are. Yet another watchdog has been fired for doing his job
faithfully performing and executing the duties of his job, which is simply
MELBER: What can Congress do about it?
DEMINGS: Well, you know what? What a time we are having in Congress.
Obviously, the president has zero respect or recognition for equal branches
of government, that one government is designed to check the other branch.
But we will continue to do the necessary oversight.
This is one of the top issues that we have been engaged in discussions
about today, and actually since he tried to bury this story on Friday
evening. And we are going to continue to find ways, as we always do, to get
around the president`s total disregard for the law and disregard for the
office in which he holds.
MELBER: The president, as a larger pattern than even beyond the watchdogs,
of course, he has welcomed and embraced the watchdogs who have issued
reports that have been critical.
There was an I.G. report we covered extensively that found some problems,
for example, in how James Comey performed. The president liked that,
because, apparently, by his own admission, he views this as a chance to
weaponize the system of government against people, his opponents, and then
wants to use it for his loyalists, and remove those who don`t go along with
It`s the opposite of, as mentioned, the legal requirements of a watchdog.
I want to play Attorney General Barr responding to something else Donald
Trump has been doing. The watchdogs generally don`t deal with prosecution.
They deal, as you know, but reminding our viewers, with oversight.
Then there`s a larger question of what you impeached president for, the
view that he was trying to pursue potentially criminal investigations into
the Bidens. This has come back up with regard to Biden and Obama.
Here was Attorney General Barr speaking on this. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: As to President Obama and Vice
President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the
information I have today, I don`t expect Mr. Durham`s work will lead to a
criminal investigation of either man.
Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Let me – I haven`t had a chance to cover this yet. So I will tell
you what. I`m going to tell viewers what I think. And then I`m very curious
what you think.
I think this is the classic, lawyerly, legalistic, sneaky way of pretending
you`re doing something by the book, because Mr. Barr is saying, hey, we`re
not going there, while also, with no evidence, no reason, no rationality,
throwing dirt on Biden, who happens to be, of course, running for
president, and Barack Obama, we know Donald Trump has issues with.
Donald Trump`s had several advisers convicted, pled guilty, the rest.
Barack Obama didn`t. So, for the attorney general appointed by Trump to
walk around saying, hey, Obama`s not corrupt, hey, if you think Obama is
corrupt, we`re not going to put Obama in jail, that strikes to me like
I`m curious what you think. Do you think this statement is on the level? Or
do you think Bill Barr is doing some sort of political thing? Your views on
all of it?
DEMINGS: Well, Attorney General Barr has had several opportunities to act
like an attorney general.
Remember, we were talking about the same man who came out with a summary of
Bob Mueller`s report that really had nothing to do with the report. It was
designed to really deceive the American public.
And, look, Ari, it reminds me of smoke and mirrors. That`s absolutely
correct. I will stand at the podium as the attorney general and say, well,
there`s nothing to see here, while, at the same time, he is allowing the
president to carry that narrative and others to carry that narrative.
Remember, even in the Biden case, the president was not interested in an
DEMINGS: It was just the announcement, remember, of the investigation.
DEMINGS: Because, if you can spin that story, the damage is done.
And so I think, once again, Attorney General Barr is trying to deflect our
attention while the president continues to undermine our country, undermine
our nation, and continue to try to throw dirt on the previous
DEMINGS: … and not effectively deal with what`s right in front of him,
And we should mention, one of the issues you`re doing oversight on was the
ousting of a watchdog at HHS, which deals with the virus response.
I`m out of time, but inquiring minds want to know, Congresswoman, is it a
working fireplace behind you, or no?
DEMINGS: It`s a gas fireplace. Does that count?
MELBER: Yes, it counts if you can turn it on, because, sometimes, you go to
MELBER: You go to historic neighborhoods or in Brooklyn, and it`s not –
it`s there, it`s beautiful, but you can`t do anything in it.
DEMINGS: No, we can.
MELBER: Well, stay warm.
DEMINGS: But, remember, I`m in Florida, so I`m not turning it on today.
MELBER: Yes. That`s right. You`re not turning it on right now.
MELBER: Thank you for joining us. Stay safe at home, of course,
Congresswoman Val Demings.
Coming up in the program: There is new potential evidence in this case we
have been covering, Ahmaud Arbery, the murder case now, because there have
been charges. There is a full video now. We will tell you what people are
saying about it.
Also, Eric Trump getting absolutely hammered for floating a coronavirus
conspiracy theory tied to, of course, his father`s reelection.
And, later, we have a former federal prosecutor who is actually filing a
brief with the judge overseeing this controversial Michael Flynn case.
John Flannery when we come back.
MELBER: We`re back with former federal prosecutor John Flannery, a longtime
legal analyst for THE BEAT.
But he is now among the group of DOJ veterans who`ve joined this new court
filing. It opposes the Trump administration`s push to drop charges against
Mike Flynn and comes as a judge has appointed a former prosecutor who will
basically formally argue to oppose just the Justice Department`s attempt by
Barr to override Flynn`s guilty plea.
John, thanks for being here.
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Thank you. Nice to be with you.
MELBER: You know the old saying, longtime listener, first-time caller.
You are a longtime analyst, first-time litigant. I think viewers know where
you stand because you`re pretty clear. But in the spirit of disclosure, it
is both your expertise and your position now, because you are in this.
So what is going to happen with now also the judge making this very rare
step of appointing an outside party to represent interests that,
apparently, the judge feels, as a matter of justice, are not properly fully
being otherwise presented by the current Barr DOJ?
FLANNERY: Well, first off, I want to make it clear that I`m one of 1,000
And some really capable former prosecutors have done the laboring or
putting together this motion, which is a powerful motion that I support.
MELBER: Are you saying you`re the front man?
FLANNERY: I think we wouldn`t be here now if Val Demings was our (AUDIO
No, I`m not saying I`m the front man.
FLANNERY: I`m saying I`m more like part of the team, and that we have a
MELBER: Got it.
FLANNERY: The amazing thing is that (AUDIO GAP) 1,000 prosecutors all agree
on a document that they didn`t write every bit of it themselves, because we
all have our views about it.
FLANNERY: But this is a very fine brief.
And what`s going to happen is, we`re circulating and publicly now. We have
1,000 people signing on .And we`d like to get more. And the judge is trying
to figure out exactly how he`s going to handle this.
And what I think is going to happen, and what I have heard, is that Judge
Gleeson, who has been appointed, if you will, like his special master, his
adviser, both a former federal prosecutor himself who prosecuted organized
crime cases, but also a judge.
FLANNERY: And I think the two of them are a really good match, because the
– Judge Sullivan himself has handled corrupt practices by the Justice
Department before in the case of a very questionable prosecution in Alaska.
So, what we have is, we have two people who are going to try to assert a
balance, the fact that we have a prosecution now that says, oh, there`s no
there there, and they`re more like the defense counsel. And so the judge
can`t get any instruction from the participants that doesn`t disagree in
some way or other. They`re both on the same team.
So, in other words, the prosecution and the…
MELBER: Yes, let me put it like this.
Before – let me put it – I know we`re on a slight tape delay.
MELBER: But is it basically a vote of no confidence in the merits and
propriety of what the Justice Department is now putting forward under Barr?
And we have a data point. We saw what they did in the Stone case at the
sentencing. And now they`re trying to do the same thing. We lost the
prosecutors in that case because there were men and women of integrity. And
we lost the principal prosecutor in this case for the same reason, because
the Justice Department has a daisy chain that goes from Trump to Barr, his
mouthpiece, to Shea, who, how could he compromise his professional
integrity by doing that?
And he had nothing to do with the case. And if I were the judge – and I
think the motion says this – the question is, how do we have all those
prosecutors and Mr. Flynn and the lawyers in the first pass all say that
this was material, that this was a crime that they were investigating, that
he had lied, and he admitted it repeatedly, and now say, it`s not material,
it`s not an offense, and we want to dismiss it.
MELBER: Right. It can`t be both.
FLANNERY: And that`s why the motion they made requires the judge – yes.
And that`s why the motion they made requires the judge to look it over.
Now, normally, this would not be controversial. But given how this is a
heavy-handed, Third World, banana republic approach to how we prosecute
cases – that is, if you`re the friend of the president and, in fact, might
be able to impeach him in criminal conduct himself involving a foreign
national, namely the Russians, who helped him get elected, this would –
this wouldn`t be a question in America…
FLANNERY: … except for the fact that we have such a (AUDIO GAP)
Well, and, as you say – well, you mentioned – well, no, you mentioned
banana republic. And it comes amidst several of the stories recovering
about the ousting of the watchdogs, the floating of the prosecution of the
Obama-Biden administration, and then this sweetheart deal for someone who
literally already pled guilty.
MELBER: To quote the great Judge Learned Hand, it`s bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S,
bananas. I`m sure you know that one, John.
MELBER: I`m out of time. Bananas.
FLANNERY: Yes, I`m familiar with that one.
MELBER: Bananas to banana republic.
John Flannery, thank you very much. Yes, good to see you. We`re going to
have you back.
FLANNERY: Thank you.
MELBER: I`m moving quickly because I have two other things we`re going to
get to this hour.
We have a special look at the Trump administration`s early response to
New video also emerging related that case we have been covering, the
shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, revealing more about what really happened.
All that ahead.
MELBER: Turning to news in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was
shot while jogging.
A family lawyer now says there is a longer video available of that tragic
incident. It shows Arbery being chased by the murder suspects, they say,
for over four minutes before the fatal shooting.
Now, if you have watched this broadcast, you know we and other news
organizations have obtained and broadcast a clip of that video. But a
longer chase could reinforce the prosecution`s murder case by showing that
the suspects were allegedly pursuing and planning his killing.
It was the first short clip that sparked so much outrage. And it was
engineered by one of the shooting suspects. They had argued that it would
show some type of – quote – “citizen`s arrest.”
Meanwhile, an owner of a nearby property, Larry English, is saying that
police had told him to contact one of those suspects, Gregory McMichael, if
he suspected break-ins at his property, knowing the police sent him their
number, emphasizing his ties with the police department.
Now, English`s attorney says he never enlisted McMichael`s help. And now
surveillance video shows part of the issue. You see here an area where
multiple people were seen effectively trespassing on this English
Meanwhile, during a virtual commencement speech on Saturday that`s getting
attention, take a listen to President Obama referring to this now infamous
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Just as we see it, when a black man goes for a jog and some folks
feel like they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesn`t submit to
Injustice like this isn`t new. What is new is that so much of your
generation has woken up to the fact that the status quo needs fixing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The former president choosing this incident to address young people
graduating about how to change this so-called status quo, because, as many
critics have noted, just like other past controversial shootings, the
arrests here were not made when authorities first saw this disturbing
The arrests were made far later, only after everyone else saw it.
We wanted you to have that update. It`s a story we`re staying on.
Now, when we come back, we have a whole `nother segment on this pandemic`s
early warnings, how they implicate the Trump administration. And a COVID
patient who had initially dismissed the outbreak is now speaking out with a
MELBER: As different Trump officials blame each other for the virus
response and its foibles tonight, let`s take stock.
By the end of February, there were 85,000 coronavirus cases across the
world, warnings mounting about this very grave threat. The Trump
administration was restricting travel at the time from overseas, but the
virus, we now know, was already spreading inside the U.S.
By March 26, the U.S. took the sad distinction of overtaking Italy for
leading the world in coronavirus cases and deaths. And, as you probably
know, it`s never looked back. That hasn`t changed since, an outcome that
some experts say could have been mitigated or even avoided had the Trump
administration followed expert warnings earlier.
The critics` voices have been loud, and for good reason.
So, is there any good explanation of the administration`s choices, even if
you put aside Donald Trump`s proven misinformation and bluster?
Well, let`s get into it.
Joining me now is the chairman of the American Conservative Union, Matt
Good to see you again. Thanks for being here.
MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Good to be
with you. Ari. Thanks for the invitation.
We have covered tonight and on other nights a lot of what not only
Democrats and the president`s opponents say, but medical experts faulting
We wanted to hear your views. What do you think of those critiques and how
the administration is handling the virus?
SCHLAPP: Look, I think this is – now, I`m 52 years old, Ari. I don`t know
how old you are. I`m sure you`re much younger.
But I have never witnessed anything like this in my life. I remember, as a
young man, some of the various health care scares, but we never had such a
deadly virus that was brand-new hit us like Chinese corona.
And I think the politicians have done the best they could in a pretty tough
situation. I worked for President George W. Bush, who was the first
president to really come up with a pandemic plan. He spent $7 billion or $8
billion filling stockpiles with ventilators and PPE and everything you need
in case one of these things hit.
Unfortunately, President Obama exhausted those stockpiles. And now he is
out there acting as if Donald Trump could have done something to prevent
it. And I think that`s a big mistake.
MELBER: I think part of the question, of course, is about the president,
the current president`s approach, not history. But I do want your
I want to also get your view on the misinformation, as mentioned.
Take a listen to something. This is pretty serious. This is a Florida man
who contracted COVID and talks about how he, like others, initially thought
it was much less serious than reality. And he`s basically recanting. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was maybe the government was trying
something that – and it was kind of like a – kind of like they threw it
out there to kind of distract us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He recently took to social media about his experience,
now encouraging people to take the virus seriously.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This wasn`t some scare tactic that anybody was using.
And it wasn`t some made-up thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Wish him well in recovery. Shout-out to being able to say, hey,
changed his mind, as he learned things, as we all do.
But in that spirit, that`s one example. You know the others, including the
president touting drugs that his own experts say are not going to work to
Don`t you think the president could do a better job there? I know you`re
his supporter. But isn`t that something that concerns you when you look at
the real cases?
SCHLAPP: I actually think the president was pretty concerned about this
from the very beginning. I think he`s very sensitive to diseases generally,
He – something he practiced – let`s just say he practiced a lot of
personal hygiene at his meetings and stuff. And I have seen this when he
comes to CPAC and other events. So I actually think this was something that
was worrying him.
But I do think, Ari, as the leader of the free world and our president, I
think he also tried to project an air of confidence. And some people say,
well, he was saying – he was marginalizing its impact. I think he was just
trying to provide leadership.
Remember when FDR said, we have nothing to fear but fear itself? America at
that time had a lot to fear. It didn`t do us a lot of good to wallow in
that fear. We had to make the best choices we can going forward. And I
believe that`s what the president has done his level best to do.
MELBER: I also want to get you on something you mentioned.
You cover – lead the American conservative movement here at CPAC. Now, you
yourself say, well, that doesn`t just mean support anything the GOP does.
SCHLAPP: That`s right.
MELBER: But I am old enough to remember, as are you – you mentioned age
earlier – we will put up on the screen, when top conservative Republicans
were very clear about this watchdog I.G. issue.
Take a look. We will show this for everyone.
Mark Meadows himself, I.G.s were encountering, he used to say,
unprecedented hindrance. They should not be politically stonewalled.
Ron Johnson, Republican, very clearly saying, it`s important to have
permanent I.G.s completely independent.
Four now are not permanent under Trump, because they have announced it.
I put to you the facts of this flip-flop and ask you, does CPAC, does the
conservative movement still think that I.G.s are a good way to permanently
oversee big government? Are you willing or ready to stand up to Trump on
SCHLAPP: I like the idea of an I.G. in these executive agencies, if both
sides, right, both administrations get the scrutiny.
And when Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state, I don`t recall you
doing very many shows over the years in which she had no appointed I.G. I
think that was a big mistake. It led to having to have seven
MELBER: Are you referring to a lack of shows when this show wasn`t on the
SCHLAPP: OK. Well, MSNBC or CNN or FOX or whatever.
The point is…
MELBER: OK, you can come on here and criticize the media or FOX News or
MELBER: I`m giving you an opportunity, which you can take or not – we have
40 seconds left…
SCHLAPP: I`m taking it. I`m taking it.
MELBER: … to answer the question.
If you want to attack a time period where THE BEAT wasn`t on the air, we
don`t have time for that, because we`re not debating nonexistence.
SCHLAPP: Ari – Ari, what I`m saying is, is that, in the Obama
administration, it took – because they didn`t have the proper I.G.
oversight, which was a mistake, it took seven congressional investigations
to find out about the e-mail and the server problem, which was in violation
of the law.
So, I agree with you. We need good I.G.s that are not political and that
will call balls and strikes to both parties.
MELBER: Should they only be fired for cause?
SCHLAPP: Yes, I think they should only be fired for cause.
But, legally, they can be fired for any reason.
MELBER: And the president has removed them, as you know, not for cause.
We are out of time. And you are welcome back.
SCHLAPP: For – not for cause. The man was – the man was impeached.
He`s been – he`s been – he`s been – they have been fighting him for four
years. I think he`s a little frustrated, Ari. I don`t blame him.
MELBER: We are – we are, as you know, out of time.
MELBER: And if you come back next time and focus on the questions, and
don`t attack the press, we might have even more time.
SCHLAPP: I did a very good job of focusing in on your questions.
MELBER: I appreciate you being here.
MELBER: Matt Schlapp, ACU, thank you.
MELBER: We`re out of time.
That does it for THE BEAT.
I will see you – bye-bye to everyone. I will see you tomorrow night at
6:00 p.m. Eastern.
But keep it right here, right now, on MSNBC.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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