CDC rules TRANSCRIPT: 5/21/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Bill Kristol, Dana Nessel, Robert Reich, Olubowale Akintimehin, Michelle Goldberg




Good evening, Ari.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much.


Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.


We have a huge show tonight, and I will tell you why.


The president is visiting a swing state and clashing with Michigan

officials. That state`s own attorney general, the top law enforcement

official in the state, is here on THE BEAT tonight. And she is telling the

president in no uncertain terms, if he won`t wear a mask, he will not be

asked to return to the state.


So, we will get into all of that and what he did today.


Also, jobless claims soaring to almost 40 million. Robert Reich, a friend

of THE BEAT, is here to give us the perspective we need.


And, later, Donald Trump`s former lawyer Michael Cohen officially out of

prison. You`re looking at him walking out with a newfound freedom with his

mask, going into his home. The great Maya Wiley is here tonight. We`re

going get into all of that.


But we do begin, as mentioned, in Michigan.


Here are the facts. Over 50,000 there have coronavirus. And like many other

states, and, frankly, like Donald Trump`s own CDC, the official guidance

there is, people have to wear a mask when they are at enclosed public



And this is already teeing up a battle, I guess, fit for the summer of

2020. The president using today to make it all about publicly defying that

guidance, while also now offering a very Trumpian defense.


He is claiming he did wear a mask at one point, you just couldn`t see it

because he wasn`t on camera.






But I didn`t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.


Everybody has been tested, and I have been tested. In fact, I was tested

this morning. So, it`s not necessary.


I was given a choice. And I had one on in an area where they preferred it.




MELBER: Meanwhile, experts are weighing the grim results of the policies

that everyone`s been living through thus far. This can inform future

decisions. This is not just idle review of what happened.


This is about what we do next. And the results showed that timing is key;

36,000 lives, according to this new study, might have been saved if social

distancing began just one week earlier than it did in that crucial period.


And as the economy in all states are reopening, experts warning there is

still this risk of the second wave, depending where you live in certain hot

spots in the nation. The warning is that there is a risk for resurgence.


Now, one of these scientists is, of course, top infectious expert Dr.

Anthony Fauci. You may have noticed that, after many public appearances,

for whatever reason, we haven`t seen him on television with interviews

recently, but he is telling print reporters there is no doubt there will be

new waves of cases.


Let`s get right to our experts, Dr. Natalie Azar, a rheumatologist at NYU

Langone Medical Center, “New York Times”` Michelle Goldberg, and Bill

Kristol, who leads Defending Democracies together and has experience in a

Republican White House.


And, Dr. Azar, I want to begin, as we often do, just running through the

science with you. Your reaction first to this study that gives an estimate

as to how we think about the policies and where we go?



Ari, I think the real take-home here is not so much what we did. We could

hash that out, honestly, until we are just exhausted of it.


If you just look at a quick timeline of what happened in our experience, we

had our first case on January 20. We had our first death on U.S. soil on

February 29. And by early April, there were greater than one million cases



And in that period of time that this study was referring to, that March

time frame, we didn`t implement social distancing early enough, according

to this.


And a thing to remember about these models is, they`re based on

assumptions. They`re based on hypothetical assumptions. They`re also based

on an ideal scenario. But, in reality, what we have is a lot of

uncertainty. We have a lot of economic concerns and just, frankly, a lot of



But I think more important than going back to that is thinking about this

as what we do in the future. And I think all experts would agree that, now

that we know this – and hindsight, of course, is 2020 – is that, as we

start to relax social distancing measures moving forward as we`re

reopening, we have to be so astutely careful of a resurgence.


And we do that with testing, of course, and tracing, as that, as soon as we

see that, we really, really strongly re-implement those social distancing

measures. That`s really what we have to take from that, not what happened.

We have to learn from that and use it as we move forward.


MELBER: You mentioned learning, and we have been at this from the start,

trying to take the different bits of information, and even some true

information can lead to disproportionate reaction or disproportionate



You and other experts have come on the air and walked us through what to

focus on, like the distancing, like the germ and handwashing and these

basic things.


There is a study I want to point to for that very reason in proportion for

you to walk us through it, CDC noting that the bottom line is, surfaces are

not the main way this virus spreads, that it`s possible, but the main way

the virus spreads is through this person-to-person contact.


Can you walk us through that again with news we can use tonight on plain

English? Because, at the beginning, and some people were being very

careful. They were scrubbing down every item, everything. And it`s fine to

be more on the side of sanitized.


But walk us through what this means now.


AZAR: Yes. OK. So, this is really important.


The CDC is very, very much saying that their language on transmission has

not changed. That means that the main mode of transmission is human-to-

human, and it`s primarily through respiratory droplets.


Their purpose – what changed on their Web site today was this, the area on

other contact or other transmission. The headline used to read spread from

contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. It now reads, the virus does

not spread easily in other ways.


Basically, all they wanted to do was clarify other types of spread other

than respiratory, but they – this isn`t new science. This isn`t a new

study. It really is just in the wording, and they are reemphasizing that

the major mode of transmission is, as we have said from the beginning…




AZAR: … the respiratory droplets. Not saying it`s impossible that it can

happen from contact with surfaces, but I think they really want to drive

home the point that it`s all up here, rather than objects.


That make sense.


MELBER: Right, which is – it makes perfect sense. And we wanted to get you

on that, because, yes, if somebody comes from a particularly high-risk area

and they want to discard things or be very careful when they go back to

what some experts have called your more safe zone, that`s fine.


But your focus, your proportionate focus should be on what`s going on with

your face, your hands and the people that you get near, not necessarily

sanitizing every grocery bag.


AZAR: Exactly.


MELBER: Doctor, we like to get the scientific facts from you often to kick

us off.


Thank you so much for being a part of THE BEAT tonight.


AZAR: Thanks.


MELBER: Appreciate it.


Michelle, listen to the president talking about reopening churches. Here we





TRUMP: I want to normalize. One of the other things I want to do is get the

churches open. The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of

the Democrat governors.


I want to get our churches open. And we`re going to take a very strong

position on that very soon.




MELBER: Michelle?


MICHELLE GOLDBERG, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, there has been a number of

cases recently of churches that have opened and have had to immediately

close, because there has been widespread transmission and even death.


And if you look at what we know about how this virus transmits, it`s having

a lot of people in an indoor space. And things like singing and speaking

loudly and sort of projecting your voice tend to be, at least in my

layperson`s understanding of the scientific consensus, seem to be really



And so I think a lot of people want the get churches and all kinds of other

places where people gather for comfort at this horrific time open again.

But I think what we see again and again is that this president has very

little concern for the people who are actually in his base. He is perfectly

willing to put them in very dangerous situations, if he thinks that he gets

some short-term political benefit from it.


MELBER: Bill, I`m curious your view on that, as well as this little mass



And for bonus points, if you have a priest and rabbi joke, you can tilt.

That`s really your personal call.



thinking, though, about our synagogue. We


And Have it`s – Judaism wants people to come together, obviously, and

there are actual certainly – certain requirements of having 10 people come

together to fulfill certain requirements of the religion, to say a prayer

for those who are deceased and so forth, and yet people haven`t come







KRISTOL: Yes. Yes.


MELBER: Bill, if you`re going to come on the show and refer to a minyan,

you just call it a minyan.


KRISTOL: OK. Well, OK, anyway.




MELBER: I will just tell everyone, these are Jewish references. It`s not

just rap references. Sometimes, there`s Jewish references.




MELBER: Go ahead.


KRISTOL: I don`t want to get in stuff (AUDIO GAP) orthodox, reform,

conservative. We could really go down a rabbit hole there.




KRISTOL: Anyway, all I`m saying is, responsible religious leaders are

telling their parishioners and members of their congregations, look, we

have to sacrifice something here.


Now, everyone wants to open up, both in terms of religious observance and

business. But this is why the mask thing isn`t just a little fracas,

actually. It`s pretty serious. If you`re going to open up, the masks are

more important than ever.


If we`re all sitting at home, as I am and you are…


MELBER: Right.


KRISTOL: … we don`t need masks, because we`re at home and we`re in our

place and hopefully we have kept it fairly secure.


Precisely if one is going to go out to stores, precisely if one`s going to

work, precisely if one`s going to go to a church service or something else,

one needs to wear masks, not only – not so much to protect oneself, but to

protect others.


And that`s why Trump`s irresponsibility here, precisely as he`s calling for

opening up, is particularly appalling. I mean, this is the moment where a

responsible person who is on the side, so to speak, of let`s get the

country going again, needs to say, but let`s do it responsibly.


And be careful and wear masks and do certain other things to make sure that

this does not lead to a 1918-type second outbreak, which really could be

terrible. And I`m now more worried about this than I was a couple of weeks

ago, just watching the president and people react to him and feeling that,

hey, it`s going to be fine.


The message the government sends now needs to be, in a funny way, even more

cautious as we`re opening up.


MELBER: Michelle?


GOLDBERG: Well, I was struck by the president when he was at that – when

he was in Michigan saying he didn`t want to give the press the pleasure of

seeing him in a mask, right, because what he is telegraphing there is that

wearing a mask is somehow humiliating.


You don`t want to be caught wearing a mask. And most people in this

country, I think, are behaving pretty responsibly, and you see people in

surveys. There is pretty overwhelming support for wearing a mask when

you`re in crowds.


But inasmuch as he is able to turn this into a culture war issue to make

wearing a mask a sign of submission to democratic enormous and kind of make

defiance of health guidelines a sign of your belonging in MAGA world, then

we`re going to see a lot more cases, and we`re going to, ironically, end up

reopening even slower or having to shut down again after these sort of

initial gestures towards reopening.


MELBER: Yes, Bill, how about that?


Because there`s many issues, including all of these so-called nanny state

issues, where, in the past, I`m sure you identified with some of the

concerns about large federal regulation, et cetera.


But this isn`t close to that. This is, as Michelle said, obviously what his

own administration experts say is required, and now it`s being maligned.


KRISTOL: Yes, it`s his own guidance from his own public health

professionals and from elected professionals and people who work for

elected governors in 50 states.


And I do think, to the credit, as Michelle says, of the country, people are

trying – mostly trying to be responsible. But it is bad to have this fake

kind of, you know, this is freedom to infect other people or to put other

people at risk. It`s going to cause other people who aren`t confident that

the people are behaving responsibly not to go out.


It really is going to slow down a healthy reopening. Are you going to go –

if you think people aren`t behaving responsible and you`re a teacher or a

janitor in a school, are you going to feel comfortable going back to



If you`re confident other people are taking care, then you can get out a

little more.


MELBER: Right. That`s a key…




KRISTOL: Yes. And it is irresponsible.


And one of the other things he`s doing, the voting thing too, which is its

own issue and an important one too, and we have discussed it on this show,

but just think what signal he is sending by mocking the notion that people,

especially older people, would like to vote for mail. And it would be safe

for everyone for them to do so. Safe for the poll workers not to deal with





MELBER: Yes, these things have – they have a purpose to them.


I`m being told we`re actually getting some breaking news, so I am wrapping

this topic.


I want to thank Bill Kristol and Michelle Goldberg.


Thanks to both you have.


We`re getting breaking news in a case we have been covering, new arrests in

the Ahmaud Arbery case.


We`re going to fit in a quick break, but I`m being told this, so we`re

going get right into it. We have Maya Wiley here for that, as well as the

other big story, Michael Cohen getting home tonight thanks to COVID relief.


And, later, our live interview with Michigan attorney general – Michigan`s

attorney general on this whole debate about masks and what`s really going

on in that state.


Also, top Republican leaders now moving to cut off economic aid, even as

the unemployment rolls swell.


A lot coming up.


I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.




MELBER: Breaking news right now in a major legal case.


This is another arrest and new charges in that fatal shooting of Ahmaud

Arbery. This is the third individual, the one who is believed to have

recorded that now widespread video, and he is being arrested on more than

one charge, including felony murder.


Arbery`s attorney had called for this very arrest, saying it is not only

about – quote – “the man who pulled the trigger.”


This is a major development in this story.


I`m joined now by Maya Wiley, who is a former civil prosecutor in the

Southern District of New York and who has worked on civil rights issues

throughout her career.


Maya, thank you for joining us.


As I told viewers when we were going break, this is a topic you know

intimately, but different than what we booked you on because of the

breaking news.


Your response to both the timing and the development of this charge and the

fact that it is what legally is a very aggressive charge in this instance,

a felony murder charge.




I think we knew that there was investigation from news reports about this

third suspect or witness, depending on who took to believe.




WILEY: And what we know is that the family had been calling for his arrest

because Mr. McMichael, Gregory McMichael, said apparently in an early

statement to police that this third person, Roddie is his nickname,

actually helped to block Mr. Arbery`s attempts to escape them.


And, remember, he was escaping someone who had a gun and a truck that had

blocked his way. So, there`s obviously legitimate reason for anyone to try

to run from that.


So why was this third person using his vehicle, according to Gregory

McMichael to block his – Mr. Arbery`s running away from someone who is



MELBER: Right. So you`re walking us through…




WILEY: … if he wasn`t part of an agreement?


MELBER: That`s the legal part of what would support this potential charge,

that there was a part of a plot or a conspiracy to commit the murder.


Then there is the wider part of this that viewers are well aware of, which

is, well, if this was such a terrible felony murder, as now charged in

Georgia, why wasn`t it charged when it happened?


Why wasn`t it charged when they obtained this video?


Can you give us any insights to what you think is happening here in a case

that many have pointed out was, sadly, reminiscent of other cases of in

alleged racism in the criminal justice system? But here something seems to

be changing under pressure.




I think, number one, just to make sure the audience understands felony

murder, you don`t actually have to plan to kill someone to be guilty of

felony murder, as long as you had planned to participate in an underlying



So, in this case, if they didn`t have a legal right to stop Mr. Arbery,

which, according to some of the public records, it does not appear that

they had, they didn`t witness him committing a felony, which is what is

required under Georgia law to go chase somebody down and try to hold them

for police.


And so, in this case, you know, remember that we had a series of

prosecutors before there was a prosecutor who was willing to bring charges

in the first place. We had the second prosecutor on the case write a

lengthy letter essentially saying that the McMichaels weren`t guilty of

anything, and that there were no grounds to release – to arrest them, and

had made that determination the day after the shooting, which means

essentially there was not a significant investigation at the time of his



MELBER: Right.


WILEY: So it really wasn`t until we get to this essentially fourth round of

investigation and prosecutors that they start peeling back the onion and

doing what investigators do and really looking at all the pieces.


And I would guess that there are things they wanted to sort out around the

McMichaels before they expanded out to whether or not this third person was

in fact a felony murderer.


MELBER: It`s incredibly striking.


And having reported on a range of cases, this one is a particularly delayed

and unusual set of developments, with allegations of racial disparities

hanging over all of it.


So, we really wanted to bring that up, this breaking news, again, for those

joining us, a third arrest, this one on felony murder, in this Ahmaud

Arbery case, the killing of an unarmed African-American jogger in Georgia.


So, Maya Wiley, I want to ask you to stay with me here for the thing that I

planned to interview you about, and that we did mention higher in the show,

which is this other development, Trump`s former lawyer Michael Cohen now

out of prison.


Take a look at the scene today as he got his freedom and is heading to home

confinement, walking here in New York with a mask on going into his

apartment building. This was Park Avenue just this morning, Cohen stepping

out of the car there with his mask, obviously, you see that, and plenty of



He has become something of a national political celebrity, one of the

people who most notoriously turned on Trump. You see him here in that

congressional testimony he gave. Cohen will serve out the rest of his

three-year sentence basically from home.


The release comes just one week after Paul Manafort got out. And there is a

lot of questions here about fairness, objections that Barr`s DOJ has been



And even beyond the Trump administration, I want to mention, many state

systems continue to favor inmates with money to fund lawyers who can

personally press their case to get COVID relief.


And, Maya, I turn that question back to you. These are complex issues. If

there is going to be a humanitarian approach for more at-risk folks, fine.

Then it should be done fairly and equally for all people of a certain age

with a certain type of offense.


As we have documented, that`s not always been the case. So I`m curious what

you think is important as we now watch two high-profile people from this

Mueller prosecution, where it began, now out of prison.


WILEY: Yes, I think it takes us to essentially what we have been talking

about around coronavirus and the Trump administration from day one.


The Bureau of Prisons, just like the Trump administration, writ large,

denied the seriousness of COVID-19. It did not jump on how to protect

inmates. And even, remember, the compassionate release, which is what this

is called, existed before the pandemic.




WILEY: And what we saw is the Bureau of Prisons, essentially, you know,

fumbling the ball repeatedly, to the point where we even had a federal

judge here in New York call the Bureau of Prisons` treatment of the

compassionate release process as Kafkaesque.


There is no question that, essentially, under the FIRST STEP Act, they took

an important step in saying, we can`t have the Bureau of Prisons blocking

prisoners from getting to the court to try to get to try to get this

compassionate relief, because that`s what was happening before the FIRST



But it hadn`t really changed the equation. You have to go – an inmate has

to go to the Bureau of Prisons to the warden and say, look, I`m sick. I`m

at risk. I have been basically playing by the rules here in prison.


MELBER: Right.


WILEY: Let me out, because this is dangerous to my health.


And what advocates have said is, that should be how it`s viewed. And,

instead, the Bureau of Prisons wanted to use an artificial intelligence

tool called PATTERN, which civil rights activists rightly immediately

raised huge alarm bells around, once William Barr did issue guidance.


And that was discriminatory. Seven percent of black inmates would get

released and 30 percent of white inmates would get released under that



MELBER: It`s all such important context.


And viewers will note Maya Wiley coming correct, as they say, both on a

story you weren`t necessarily prepared or asked upon, but you were prepared

in advance, because you`re probably well-informed, and then the story we

planned to talk about.


I really appreciate your expertise. You have given us a lot of insight

insights, Maya.


WILEY: Thank you. Pleasure to be with you.


MELBER: Thank you. Absolutely.


We will be back in just 30 seconds with Michigan`s attorney general.




MELBER: President Trump`s at a Ford factory in Michigan.


He has been going to several states that are also swing states for his

COVID visits, unemployment, of course, surging. The so-called coronavirus

crisis stops are, of course, on taxpayer dime, although other presidents

have made similar trips.


In Pennsylvania, Donald Trump was attacking Joe Biden at a medical

facility. In Arizona, he went to a mask facility, and then talked about his

2016 win, more of a political topic.


Today, in Michigan, a hard-hit coronavirus state, he was also attacking

Biden, also clashing with Michigan Governor Whitmer, and threatening to cut

off funding for the state for voting in the upcoming election.


And then there was the beef with the governor over not wearing a mask,

which is a violation of the state`s executive order. We noted, Donald Trump

says he did wear one at one point.


The attorney general has issued an ultimatum: Wear the mask, or you won`t

be invited back.


And joining us now is that attorney general, Dana Nessel, from Michigan.


Thank you for joining us.


Your reaction to what the president has now done today?


DANA NESSEL, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it`s disappointing and yet

totally predictable in what we have come to expect from Donald Trump as

president of the United States.


MELBER: And what are you going to do, given what you have said publicly?


NESSEL: Honestly, in the event that he decides to return, I`m going to have

to speak to any and all facilities that he intends to tour and let them

know that it violates the governor`s executive order for him to come at

all, quite honestly, because visits aren`t supposed to be allowed.


Tours are not supposed to be allowed in the first place. But the governor

indicated that she welcomed him here to the state for him to tour Ford and

to see their amazing work transitioning now to working on ventilators,

which have saved so many lives.


But he – how disrespectful to come in and then to at least refuse to wear

a mask publicly. What I have heard now is that, privately, he wore one for

part of the time that he was on a tour. But as soon as there were cameras,

he quickly removed it because he didn`t want the press to see him wearing a

mask, which is absolutely ludicrous.


Leaders lead by example, and he is the poorest example of leadership that I

think we have ever seen in this nation. And it sends a terrible message to

the workers who work at that plant, who would probably be escorted out and

fired if they did the same thing that the president of the United States

did today.


MELBER: Donald Trump has a lot of support historically in your state of

Michigan. It was typically blue in presidential elections, but he did win

the state.


We have seen the activists and other largely conservative gatherings and

protests in the state. What message does it send, in your view, to your

constituents, whatever their party may be, when the president guess out of

his way to flout and defy your state`s mask order?


Are you worried that fewer people may wear masks in Michigan because of

this, or is this more symbolic?


NESSEL: Well, unfortunately, what happens is, even though I would say the

vast majority of Michiganders approve of the governor`s orders, which I

should tell you were just upheld today in the court of claims when they

were challenged by the Republican legislature, so that is the law of the

land, and it is completely lawful and enforceable.


But that being the case, it sends a terrible message. And the thing is, we

had great uniformity in regard to people respecting that these rules and

regulations were put in place for one reason, and one reason only, and that

was to protect human life.


And, remember, we have lost over 5,000 people in this state to COVID-19.




NESSEL: But as soon as the president started to say things like, liberate

Michigan, and started to make disparaging remarks about our governor,

that`s when people stopped following the rules, and that`s when more and

more people started to die.


And we haven`t seen the end of it, unfortunately, here.


MELBER: Well, we wish you and all public officials good luck with this.


I appreciate getting your perspectives on this, Attorney General Dana

Nessel. Thank you very much.


A programing note as well. Michigan`s governor, who we just discussed,

Gretchen Whitmer, will be on MSNBC, joining Rachel Maddow at 9:00 p.m.

Eastern tonight.


Now, coming up, we have a lot more in the show, including some special

guests. Republican leaders trying to roll back jobless benefits. The former

labor secretary and progressive author Robert Reich is here. He knows his

way around these issues.


And later tonight, we look at a note of uplift with the Grammy name –

excuse me – Grammy-nominated artist Wale, who is here live later.




MELBER: Turning to another feature of what we`re living through, new data

tonight on these job losses; 2.5 million more people are out of work. That

takes the total job losses since this pandemic hit to approaching 40

million, some calling it the Trump recession.


The human tragedy obviously very real. We`re seeing growing lines from

unemployment offices to food banks. And economists warn this is far from



Meanwhile, in Washington, President Trump and GOP Leader McConnell say they

oppose continuing key parts of the unemployment relief that Congress has



We turn now to an expert who has been inside the government on this and is

also a progressive thought leader and author, former Labor Secretary Robert

Reich. The book is “The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It.”


Thank you for being here. Tough times all around.


For viewers who are watching this and saying , OK, Robert, OK, Ari, 40

million unemployed, I guess we`re sort of reopening, what comes next, and

is there anything here that can be done short-term to make it any better?


ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Ari, there is not much that can

be done short-term.


The big problem is obviously the pandemic. That is the number one obstacle

to jobs, because, as long as people are afraid of going to the malls and

going shopping, as long as workers are justifiably worried about going into

factories and into warehouses, this economy is not going to go anywhere.


And, at the same time, you have a lot of people who have no income or who

have got – dipped into their savings or have lost all of their savings.

And so you don`t even have the wherewithal to move the economy forward,

even if people had more confidence about the future.


This is why Mitch McConnell`s decision – or his decision and his statement

yesterday that there will be no more unemployment benefits after the

current round of unemployment, extra unemployment benefits is over, is so

nonsensical and inhumane, and, from an economic perspective, completely,

utterly ridiculous.


MELBER: And I do want to spotlight something you have done a lot of work

on, which is the way that different disruptions don`t necessarily get

equitably distributed.


You`re saying Mitch McConnell, in your view, economically has the wrong

side of the argument, before you even get to people`s politics or morals.


Then you have got CNBC reporting how the billionaires are doing in what you

have described as the – quote – “rigged system.”


Amazon`s Jeff Bezos, Facebook`s Mark Zuckerberg are having the biggest

gains during the pandemic – quote – “Bezos adding $34 billion to his

wealth, Zuckerberg adding $25 billion.”


Robert, how do we even understand that number – that their numbers are

going up that much? And if their companies are doing well enough, that`s

probably, hopefully, positive in some way for everyone who works there. But

in your view of the rigged system, how is that much money going up to the

top right now?


REICH: Well, first of all, nothing is trickling down.


The reason that you have got so much money going to people like Bezos is,

Amazon is becoming the one place where people can go in terms of

purchasing. Small businesses, retail establishments are all closing.


And so if you`re at the right place at the right time in this economy, if

you are particularly a purveyor of goods online, or if you have any online

– major online presence, and you already have a lot of market power,

you`re going to do very well, even though almost everybody else is doing

very poorly.


Elon Musk is $11 billion richer than he was.




MELBER: Is that, in your view, just inevitable, because someone listening

says, OK, sure, people are using Amazon more, or is that a consequence of

government policy?


REICH: Well, partly, it`s a consequence of government policy, because, for

years, antitrust officials have turned their back on the increased market

power of a lot of big companies, particularly high-tech companies.


And so if you don`t really care about monopolization, if you don`t care

about market power, then, obviously, when it comes to this kind of crisis,

Amazon and other – a few other companies are going to be even more

powerful than before.




It`s all really important context with the work you have been doing.


Robert Reich, we appreciate you every time you make time for us, sir.


REICH: Thank you, Ari.


MELBER: Thank you.


We have a lot more in tonight`s show, including an update on another aspect

of the Cohen case that I mentioned.


Up ahead also, I want to show you something that`s giving people a way to

think about art through this pandemic, a video pulling back the curtain on

race and class in the COVID era from a major Grammy-nominated artist, who

joins us next.




MELBER: News breaking this hour on an important story we have been

tracking, and I want to walk you through it.


There has been much national controversy over the shooting death of Ahmaud

Arbery, an African American who was jogging unarmed in Georgia and was shot

to death, it all caught on video.


Now, after a long delay, two individuals were charged in that case. The

breaking news tonight is a third man, the one who recorded this now

widespread video of this Arbery shooting, has been arrested on two charges,

including felony murder.


And now, because this is all unfolding, just moments ago, we have reaction

from one of the Arbery family lawyers, who posted online, William `Roddie`

Bryan Jr. has been arrested on charges of felony murder and criminal

attempt to commit false imprisonment. That`s that other felony I mentioned.


And this attorney, Ben Crump, writing: “We are one step closer to getting

justice for Ahmaud.”


What`s important here, above and beyond what we have been reporting, which

is that there was at least a suspicious delay and unusual circumstances in

the way that the police initially seemed not to really investigate, let

alone arrest anyone, for this shooting on tape, but that now it has widened

beyond the two individuals who were most directly involved in the shooting

and involves, again, this additional individual who shot the video and may

have been otherwise involved.


Felony murder, as we were discussing earlier in our broadcast, is an

aggressive stance that prosecutors sometimes take when they believe and

they believe they can prove that an individual set out to commit one

felony, premeditated, and ended up committing acts or engaged in a

conspiracy whereby others were, yes, murdered.


All suspects, all arrestees are, of course, legally innocent until proven



This is a story we will continue to cover for you.


And we have a lot more on tonight`s broadcast when I come back.




MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT.


The coronavirus, as you know, is rocking American life, and health and the

whole job market, which we were just reporting on tonight. It`s also proven

to be a get-out-of-jail-free card for some inmates.


That includes former Trump aides released early, Michael Cohen today, which

has been big news, Paul Manafort recently, and underscores how the justice

system tilts towards the wealthy from the very beginning, whether you get

arrested in the first place or whether you get a trial or whether they go

easy on you, all the way to the end, as we`re seeing people get out.


So we have been covering this. And that is, according to many, a problem.


Now there are also efforts to solve the problem. Civil rights groups

pushing for more equitable systems for this kind of humanitarian release.

Maya Wiley was discussing that earlier tonight. Congress eying reform, and

other activists demanding it.


Now, these demands, they matter, because, as with so many other problems

right now, there is a competition just to get on the board, just to say,

this is at the level of something we should deal with during the crisis.


So, pressure is key. And the political argument around this, I want to talk

to you about this tonight, is getting some reinforcement from artists.


Take the Grammy nominee Rihanna collaborator Wale, who teamed up with

fashion designer Kerby Jean-Raymond to make this new music video

confronting many modern injustices.


And, right here, you`re looking at this new fictional video, but it takes a

documentary turn at the very end with what you see here. This is very real

footage of an Ohio inmate objecting to how only some inmates appear to be

benefiting from these coronavirus relief releases.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re not going to let us on home confinement. Why?

Because they got to make money off of us, because they`re not going to make

no money if we at home on home confinement.


I got less than a year left. I don`t want to die in this (EXPLETIVE

DELETED). I don`t mean to cuss or nothing. You all might not see me again.

I might catch (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and die. So, who knows? It`s crazy. Bye.




MELBER: That very real story is from the artist Wale, who joins us now,

Grammy nominee, platinum-selling artist.


I want to mention, Wale has worked with everyone from Rick Ross, to

Rihanna, to J. Cole. His album “Ambition” hit number two on the Billboard



And, by the way, Wale is a huge fan of “Seinfeld.” He raps about the show

and teamed up for a dream collaboration with Jerry Seinfeld for the album

called, fittingly, “The Album About Nothing,” something we will definitely

get into.


Wale, your first time on THE BEAT. Thanks for being here, man. How you



OLUBOWALE “WALE” AKINTIMEHIN, RAPPER: Thanks for having me, man, you know?


MELBER: Definitely.


You have this music video. I showed our viewers some of it. Why was it

important for you to tell this story and go beyond the artistry to land or

end on shining a light on very real experiences of inmates right now?


AKINTIMEHIN: It`s just like – the whole thing is like – it`s just – it`s

a genuine lack of empty think for people of color.


It`s just in general, just a mistreatment, you know, systematic oppression

and just overt racism, blatant racism right now. It`s just a genuine lack

of empathy for people like myself and people of color right now.


And this is just – it`s just the juxtaposition, you know what I`m saying.

You see it on the other foot and it hit different.


I had a lot of white friends hitting me when they seen the video, was like,

damn, bro. That joint, it hit don`t hit me totally. You know what I`m



I don`t know. I just think that even – sometimes, it`s really kind of hard

for me to watch, because it`s very triggering. You know what I`m saying?

But it`s reality.


MELBER: You said you had white friends who – because the video sort of

imagines some of these racial and racist incidents with people reversed.


So you guys cast it that way, which takes people thinking through what

they`re watching. You said you had white friends reached out to you and

said what?


AKINTIMEHIN: It just was like – I don`t want to say they say they get it.


But it`s like I can hear through their voices and their tone that they`re

like – that was the desired emotion that me and Kerby was looking for, you

know what I`m saying, just seeing it like that.


And all Easter eggs in the video, the dialogue in the middle, the white –

the black people on the toothpaste and the Morebucks store. Like, it`s all

in there, and it`s all constant reminders that we live in a different world

than white folks.


MELBER: You use the term triggering.


You talk about this your life and your work, these issues, the story, what

you have been through, what people go through.


But, also, you`re way more open than some about anxiety.


I want to read something that you posted. And I know it`s meaningful to

people, because, sometimes, these conversations get very pushed to the



And you talked about feeling like – quote – “Everybody hates me in my

mind, and that`s the root of anxiety. So, people ask for pictures. You try

to love yourself more, but it`s hard because of what you`re dealing with.”


AKINTIMEHIN: That`s right.


MELBER: Why was it important to you to – excuse me – to share that? And

what do you want your fans or people who hear that to think?


AKINTIMEHIN: I mean, like, being the first rapper to come from D.C. at a

young age, touring the world, being signed to Jay-Z, then with Rick Ross,

and this level that I got to, it comes with a price, man.


Mentally, it comes with a price. You know what I`m saying? And, yes, I

ain`t going to lie. Like, that anxiety, that builds throughout your career,

because you go from, like, OK, I could sign ever autograph, I could hug

every person to, 10 years later, like, you got – you`re weird with

everybody, because your mind is different about – you`re realizing a lot

of things wasn`t genuine, a lot of things wasn`t real. You know what I`m



And those things build up throughout the years. You know what I`m saying?




AKINTIMEHIN: So, every time I – if I`m away from the people for a long

time and I come back, and it`s like, I`m in my head, too.


Like, some of the – some people just float through it. And I envy them

people. But, like, me, it takes me a while to get used to being around even

my own fans. It just takes me a while.


And that`s like thinking, man, these people were like – they don`t like me

for real. They don`t love me for real. Somebody in here don`t like me.


It`s just – it`s in your head, bro. And it`s everybody who deal with it –

and I talk to a lot of entertainers that deal with it as well, making

people feel like you`re good enough for them and stuff like that. It`s a

real thing in Hollywood or in the entertainment business.


I just wanted to speak on it. I know a lot of people don`t – they be

fronting or whatever, or they`re self-medicating, or do whatever they do.

But it`s – I be in my head, man, when I`m out on the scene.


MELBER: I think that`s so important, particularly right now.


You think about the emotional, mental challenges we`re all going through in

this – these conditions, and people have different challenges. And being

able to speak on it, to share it, to be vulnerable, to grieve, and, as you

know, hip-hop`s got a lot of different storytelling in it.


But some of hip-hop can feel like it`s, as you said, a little bit more on

what might be fronting as tough.


All right, now, can we get into “Seinfeld” for a minute?


AKINTIMEHIN: But everybody handle it differently, though.


Some people ain`t on it like that. Everybody handle it different.




AKINTIMEHIN: Some people might be like, man, what is he talking about? I

don`t – that`s just me, personally. Like, that`s my own thing, what I deal

with when I`m in public.


MELBER: That makes sense, too. I feel that.


I want to get into the “Seinfeld” thing, which I think a lot of people, of

course, will appreciate.


You sampled the show in your music. You dropped a whole project, “The

Mixtape About Nothing.” You struck up this friendship with Jerry Seinfeld.

And you guys collaborated on “The Album About Nothing.” And you both got in

the booth. We love that.


You`re recording these conversations. You`re having this exchange. And the

whole idea, of course, draws on that famous moment when Jerry and George

are pitching TV executives on their idea for a show.


Let`s take a look.




JASON ALEXANDER, ACTOR: I think I can sum up the show for you with one

word, nothing.








UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What does that mean?


ALEXANDER: The show is about nothing.






MELBER: Why does the show speak to you so much?


AKINTIMEHIN: It`s the banter. You know what I`m saying?


And Jerry`s style of comedy, he`s very observant, and it`s very – it`s

very – like, the smallest things could be the biggest things, you know

what I`m saying?


And like the way it observes things. And he will name something. Life is a

glass egg, or, I got these white shoes, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, and

it just sparks in my mind.


Like, man, it`s an interesting juxtaposition, you know, O.G. billionaire

comedian, and this rap kid from D.C., like, kind of have the same

philosophies on certain things.


And there you have it, you know? You have “The Album About Nothing,”

“Mixtape About Nothing,” “More About Nothing.”


MELBER: I love it. I love that you and Jerry are doing that work together.


And for you, as a dream, like, I – I grew up on “Seinfeld.” I read

“Seinlanguage.” And you jump in there.


I got about 20 seconds left. I will just say, I know you`re joining us from

doing your working in the studio. And to quote Wale, it does seem like you

are in your luggage, also known as your bag.




AKINTIMEHIN: I`m in my luggage. I`m in my luggage. I`m in my luggage.




MELBER: In my luggage. In my luggage.


AKINTIMEHIN: We`re in a crazy time right now. We`re in a crazy time right



But we are all going to stay in our luggage, but we`re going to push

through as a people. We`re going to push through, everybody stays in their

bag, in their luggage.




I appreciate that. We appreciate you and also all the work you`re doing

that you told us about.


Wale`s debut on THE BEAT.


I hope you come back.


We`re out of time. That`s THE BEAT. I will see you tomorrow night.


AKINTIMEHIN: I just want to say…


MELBER: Keep it right here on MSNBC.








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