CDC source TRANSCRIPT: 5/18/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests:
Val Demings, John Flannery, Matt Schlapp, David Frum
Transcript:

 

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

coronavirus.

 

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

bureaucracy.

 

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canceled and withdrawn.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

health role.

 

(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

experience.

 

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

exact point.

 

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-

half years.

 

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

predecessors.

 

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.

 

MELBER: Gene?

 

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

administration.

 

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

within weeks.

 

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.

 

MELBER: Yes.

 

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

on Friday.

 

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

no contest.

 

(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

provable.

 

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.

 

FRUM: Yes.

 

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

this epidemic.

 

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

possible.

 

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

preliminary.

 

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.

 

MELBER: Great.

 

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,

diabetes.

 

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?

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

ROBINSON: Yes, please.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

ROBINSON: Phone a doctor.

 

MELBER: There`s so many words. I was like, what am I saying?

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

Go ahead, David.

 

ROBINSON: Yes.

 

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

diseases.

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

activities.

 

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

officials.

 

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

here`s why.

 

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

doing business.

 

(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

committees here.

 

We will be right back together in 30 seconds.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

is illegitimate?

 

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

contract COVID-19.

 

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

disgraceful.

 

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.

 

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

really backwards.

 

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

actual investigation.

 

MELBER: Right.

 

DEMINGS: It was just the announcement, remember, of the investigation.

 

MELBER: Yes.

 

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

administration…

 

MELBER: Yes.

 

DEMINGS: … and not effectively deal with what`s right in front of him,

the coronavirus.

 

MELBER: Right.

 

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?

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

DEMINGS: It`s a gas fireplace. Does that count?

 

MELBER: Yes, it counts if you can turn it on, because, sometimes, you go to

these…

 

DEMINGS: Yes.

 

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.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MELBER: Thank you for joining us. Stay safe at home, of course,

Congresswoman Val Demings.

 

Appreciate it.

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

lawyers.

 

And some really capable former prosecutors have done the laboring or

putting together this motion, which is a powerful motion that I support.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MELBER: Are you saying you`re the front man?

 

FLANNERY: I think we wouldn`t be here now if Val Demings was our (AUDIO

GAP)

 

No, I`m not saying I`m the front man.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

FLANNERY: I`m saying I`m more like part of the team, and that we have a

rage.

 

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.

 

MELBER: Yes.

 

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.

 

MELBER: Right.

 

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…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MELBER: Yes, let me put it like this.

 

Before – let me put it – I know we`re on a slight tape delay.

 

FLANNERY: Yes.

 

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?

 

FLANNERY: Absolutely.

 

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…

 

MELBER: Yes.

 

FLANNERY: … except for the fact that we have such a (AUDIO GAP)

administration.

 

MELBER: Right.

 

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.

 

FLANNERY: Right.

 

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.

 

FLANNERY: Bananas.

 

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

pandemic.

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

construction site.

 

Meanwhile, during a virtual commencement speech on Saturday that`s getting

attention, take a listen to President Obama referring to this now infamous

case.

 

(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

their questioning.

 

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

video.

 

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

dire warning.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

Schlapp.

 

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.

 

MELBER: Absolutely.

 

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

the response.

 

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

perspective.

 

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

look.

 

(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

solve this.

 

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,

germs.

 

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

that?

 

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

congressional…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MELBER: Are you referring to a lack of shows when this show wasn`t on the

air?

 

SCHLAPP: OK. Well, MSNBC or CNN or FOX or whatever.

 

The point is…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MELBER: OK, you can come on here and criticize the media or FOX News or

CNN.

 

SCHLAPP: Ari…

 

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.

 

SCHLAPP: OK.

 

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.

 

Thank you.

 

MELBER: I appreciate you being here.

 

SCHLAPP: OK.

 

MELBER: Matt Schlapp, ACU, thank you.

 

SCHLAPP: Bye-bye.

 

MELBER: We`re out of time.

 

That does it for THE BEAT.

 

Bye-bye.

 

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

BE UPDATED.

END   

 

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