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Warren drops out TRANSCRIPT: 3/5/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Jeremy Konyndyk, Margaret Carlson, Steve Phillips, Cecile Richards, Michelle Cottle

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  Meanwhile, "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

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

A lot of us will be watching that Elizabeth Warren interview tonight.

We are live from Los Angeles, where this state is still counting the votes and awarding further delegates, which could tighten this race.

But we begin tonight with this:


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA):  I will not be running for president in 2020. But I guarantee I will stay in the fight for the hardworking folks across this country.

QUESTION:  I wonder what your message would be to the women and girls who feel like we`re left with two white men to decide between.

WARREN:  I know.

One of the hardest parts of this is all those pinkie promises and all those little girls who are going to have to wait four more years. That`s going to be hard.


MELBER: "That`s going to be hard."

This is a long way from a quest that began about 14 months ago, when Senator Warren, who spent most of her life outside of politics completely, announced her presidential campaign by invoking women leaders in labor organizing.


WARREN:  A group of women who worked right here at the Everett Mill discovered that their bosses had cut their pay. And that was it.

The women said, enough is enough.

These workers, led by women, didn`t have much. They didn`t even have a common language. Nevertheless, they persisted.



MELBER:  Nevertheless, they persisted.

Warren`s campaign began with that invocation of women, labor organizers, gender equality, and labor organizing, economic equality. And it did strike a chord with many Democratic voters along the way.

In a field that spanned more than 25 candidates, Warren surged ahead in some polls in the beginning. She was often cited by many Democratic voters as the second choice to a more favored candidate. This week, though, she came in third in her home state of Massachusetts, where she does remain a very popular senator, a sign that even her own constituents ultimately prefer that she keep her day job then take on this race against Trump.

That shutout followed a primary season where she did not carry any other states. Warren`s exit after Senators Klobuchar and Harris means the only remaining candidates with a substantial number of delegates, enough to claim the majority, are now Biden and Sanders.

Tulsi Gabbard is in this race, we should note. She has two delegates.

So it has become what is sometimes called a -- quote -- "two-man race," at a very time when gender is such a key issue for this nation, and especially for the would-be Democratic Party coalition.

On one hand, more Americans voted for a woman in 2016 than for Donald Trump, a reminder that, overall, those Americans came out and said they were ready for a woman president. And there were more of them than Trump voters.

In the most recent national election, there was a blue wave powered by, among other factors, women voters. Women turned out at a higher rate than men overall -- and -- remember this -- voted for a Democratic House majority by a whopping 19 points.

On the other hand, though, the Democrats` choices to run against 73-year- old Donald Trump are now either 77-year-old Joe Biden or 78-year-old Bernie Sanders.

Today, Warren declined to rush into endorsing either one.


QUESTION:  Senator, Will you be making an endorsement today? We know that you spoke with both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders yesterday.

WARREN:   Not today. Not today. I need some space around this, and want to take a little time to think a little more.


I have been -- I have been spending a lot of time right now on the question of suspending and also making sure that this works as best we can for our staff, for our team, for our volunteers.


MELBER:  As she does think, to use her word there, Warren knows that her endorsement can carry very special weight, given the new contours of this race.

Going to Biden would complete his consolidation of most of these key rivals, right? It would shore up also key concerns that still do exist among at least the more liberal side of this primary battle about his longstanding record of economic centrism.

He is not flirting with Democratic socialism, to say the least.

Now, if Warren went to Sanders, which is what some of her supporters have thought about, given their overlap on certain policies, it could give a lifeline to a campaign that has been losing ground since Saturday.

Sanders losing ground, we should note, is a shift in this momentum. The numbers show, though, still a narrow margin, Sanders within 10 percent of Biden. That`s 59 delegates behind his 565.

Those increased today as Texas counted up. Now, here in California, there are still 151 delegates up for grabs. Meanwhile, six states vote next week, including Michigan, which boasts 125 delegates, and that`s where Sanders basically tied Clinton at 49 percent last time.

Meanwhile, in brand-new MSNBC and NBC interviews, both of these remaining candidates basically bore right in to acknowledge the new reality, Sanders arguing that Biden basically has the whole world behind him, with a dose of the implication it`s almost not fair, and Biden pushing back on the idea that a spotlight on a two-person race would hurt him at all.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Joe Biden is a very strong opponent. He will have all of the corporate world behind him. He will have the political world behind him. The differences are enormous, and our visions for the future are enormous.

And I hope very much we will have a straight-up debate over our records.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My record has been so thoroughly investigated. This idea of that my record is a problem, I welcome the competition, Bernie. Let`s talk about your votes. Let`s talk about my votes. Let`s see what the American people say.


MELBER:  We`re joined tonight by The Daily Beast`s Margaret Carlson, Michelle Cottle, an editorial writer for "The New York Times," and Maya Wiley, who worked for one-time candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and, of course, is also a prosecutor and legal analyst for us.

Margaret, what does Elizabeth Warren`s exit mean? And what did her campaign mean?

MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST:  It used to be that people would say, oh, I would vote for a woman for president, just not this woman.

But there were six this time. Are all six of people you can`t vote for? It seems to me that it`s ever more evident that there`s a double standard and two steps to vote for a woman. One is, you have to picture something you have never seen before, which is a woman in the Oval Office, and then you have to choose that woman.

On the endorsement thing, Biden doesn`t need her endorsement, and Bernie doesn`t deserve it. He treated her like gum on his shoe much of the time. He never paid any attention to her. He only -- he agreed with her when she was agreeing with him. She had a plan for everything. He had a plan for very little.

And she was really the better person to carry the progressive fight, except she was never going to get Bernie bros.

MELBER:  Michelle, Warren said something else that we were just discussing here on our team with our staff about what did exactly she mean.

She is known, of course, for her intellectual rigor, as well as a type of honesty. And we were reflecting on what did she mean when she talked about these remaining lanes. Take a listen to this moment.


WARREN:  I was told at the beginning of this whole undertaking that there are two lanes, a progressive lane that Bernie Sanders is the incumbent for, and a moderate lane that Joe Biden is the incumbent for, and there`s no room for anyone else in this.

I thought that wasn`t right. But, evidently, I was wrong.


MELBER:  Michelle?

MICHELLE COTTLE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Look, she`s clearly disappointed today.

The race does look like it has wound up exactly where everybody thought it was starting months ago. She for a while there in the fall looked like she was going to kind of break out and have a kind of new middle way, and it didn`t happen.

So I think she`s understandably a little bit bitter about the fact that she did her best, and she fell short, and it`s exactly kind of wherever probably predicted it would be months ago.

MELBER:  Maya, I mentioned the person you worked for, not on his presidential campaign, but he was a big city mayor, a big liberal, happened to be a male, of course.


MELBER:  There are other people that broke barriers this cycle in other ways.

Because this is politics, which is zero sum, winner take all, yadda, yadda, what do you think about the fact that Warren did last longer than Mayor de Blasio and other people, that the fact that there are more women candidates may make each of them less forced to carry on the role of only the one, that she had a good run, although she is not in the top two?

WILEY:  She had an excellent run.

And I think, to your point, Ari, she was an extremely credible candidate, as was Senator Harris and was Senator Gillibrand in the sense that there -- and Senator Klobuchar. These were highly skilled women with long, long resumes that made them amply qualified.

I think the question is really moving forward, which is, what`s going to happen with the ticket? Is a woman going to be in the vice presidential seat?

And one thing that is so important to note about the women in this campaign -- and this is particularly true of Senator Warren -- is, she started her campaign, her signature issue was child care. It is not. It is one of the most significant issues for working people, for low-income people, and even, yes, for middle-income and upper-income-families, because it is so expensive, and also for the women, predominantly women of color, who are in extremely low-wage jobs, providing that child care.

And it really was the women, and particularly Senator Warren, who came forward with a very robust plan for what to do about one of the top three costs families face.

And if it weren`t for women in this race, those kinds of issues would not be on the table. And that is why we need a diverse slate of candidates always, but it`s also why we should see a diverse slate when we see a ticket.

MELBER:  It`s a great point. You`re talking about who`s in the room to both shape policy or make policy.

That obviously also goes to Cabinets. Barack Obama had the most diverse Cabinet in American history, not for nothing. Donald Trump has, for example, the highest net worth candidate (sic) in American history. And people can factor in how that affects policy decisions.

You mentioned gender as well. The Trump Cabinet and drug administration far less diverse on a number of scales, including gender.

Michelle, with all that in mind, I`m driving towards what Rachel was asking Bernie Sanders about with regard to his Cabinet, if he were to get one. Take a look.


SANDERS:  Senator Warren has worked really hard over the last year. She has run, in many ways, excellent campaign, bringing out a whole lot of ideas which I think I have expanded political consciousness in this country.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW":  Would you consider asking Senator Warren to be your running mate?

SANDERS:  It`s too early to talk about that. But, certainly, I have a lot of respect for Senator Warren, and would love to sit down with talk to her about what kind of role she can play in our administration.


MELBER:  What do you think of that, Michelle?

COTTLE:  I think he`s probably smart not to be talking specifics at this stage of the game, especially because people will say it`s presumptuous.

But I do think that they need to have serious consideration of women on the bottom of the ticket. You are looking at two 70-something white guys who are professional politicians, have been doing this their entire lives, basically.

That is -- I understand the excitement over the possibility of a Sanders revolution. But as far as kind of reaching out and having a bit of diversity on the ticket, they really need to seriously be looking at all kinds of women.

MELBER:  Well, isn`t that -- you are just raising something else that is crosscutting with gender, because, the farther back you go, if you`re saying someone is going to be in their `70s and have 50 years of experience in politics, then you`re grandfathering back in, right, a whole different world of who was around then.

And, Margaret, I wonder what you think about that in the context of the fact that the Democratic Party`s final choices now are, as Michelle just reminded, us, two longstanding career politicians, even though we have heard so much about how people like change, the new person, the hot hand, the disrupter?

Trump claimed he was that, although he had, of course, flirted with running for president and many times, but he was obviously a new entry to the Republican Party. What about that today?

With Warren out, as I mentioned in my intro, she was a newcomer. She was newer to this. With her out, it is really return to the old school.

CARLSON:  I mean, it`s going to be quite a sight to see just two men on the stage at this next debate.

Sanders -- Warren was such a great debater.

Bernie`s words about, oh, it`s too early about vice president, I want to sit down and talk to her about a role he might play in my administration, I mean, the role she could play would be to run things, because Bernie has very few accomplishments, other than renaming post offices, for all his years in the Senate.

And Warren is a go-getter. I mean, she`s energetic, she`s organized. And she laughed at herself for having so many plans. But she does get down into the weeds and the details.

And to answer your question, I think maybe there hasn`t been success so far in a woman going to the White House. Maybe the path is through the vice presidency. Let`s just be candid.

MELBER:  Let`s be candid. That`s the traditional path.

I always say this. I will reemphasize it. I don`t think you and I disagree on the point. But I think there was success in having an election where more voters picked a woman than Donald Trump. That happened.

It is the strangeness of the Electoral College that has completely diminished that breakthrough, right? I mean, that was important.

CARLSON:  Yes. And we are stuck with it.


COTTLE:  What women are worried about, a lot of women are worried about now, is that people were scarred by that.

There were a ton of Democrats that you would talk to who would be like, well, I like Elizabeth Warren, but I`m not sure that a woman can do this. I think maybe it`s just safer to go with one of the guys at this point.

And you saw that in polling, even, that it was one of those questions of electability. And when you`re talking about a return to old school, that`s fitting with the whole complete terror among the Democratic electorate this time of, who is the most electable and who is the safest bet?

Nobody was looking to take that kind of risk.


MELBER:  Here`s the big question, because you`re speaking about your reporting.


MELBER:  Oh, I`m sorry. I didn`t hear.

Maya, go ahead.

WILEY:  No, I was just going to say, I think the truth about what we should have been afraid of is not Hillary Clinton, because she was a woman and what that means for women winning, but what voter suppression meant, what voter suppression meant in Wisconsin, what a 1 percent drop in turnout in Detroit, Milwaukee, meant.

And it`s really been about how and whether we enable all of us to have a vote that is such a large part of what happened in 2016.

MELBER:  Very fair.


MELBER:  And, briefly -- well, Margaret, I want to ask one more thing, but I will go to you first with it, because Michelle just said something that I think was reflecting probably her reporting, not endorsing the concern, but you used the term -- and I heard this too when we were out talking to voters -- what is the safer choice?

And isn`t the biggest question whether safe gets defined as what`s come before, because we`re human beings, and that`s familiar, when it`s not necessarily automatic what anyone knows would win in the general?

We`re running out of time.

I go to Margaret for that or your final thoughts.

CARLSON:  Oh, but, quickly, I would just say, it`s not only women.

There`s no social experimentation in 2020. That`s going to have to wait until 2024. We don`t have a young tech guy. We don`t have a married gay guy. And we don`t have a woman.

MELBER:  Michelle, briefly.

CARLSON:  We`re going to do the safe thing.

COTTLE:  Yes, it`s not a rational kind of assessment of who could really win, based on which policy or the other.

It`s kind of a gut-level feeling. And this is where gender bias often comes into play, because of kind of ingrained beliefs in terms of who is electable, who is a strong leader, and who your neighbor will think is a strong leader, and who your neighbors will vote for.

MELBER:  All really interesting.

Michelle Cottle, Margaret Carlson, Maya Wiley, thanks to each of you.

We`re going to fit in a break.

We have a lot of other things in the show, including why the Obama factor has become so critical in this new Biden-Sanders face-off, and how Republicans are now trying to use the power of the U.S. government to actually go after the same Ukraine conspiracy theory that literally got Trump impeached.

New developments on that.

And Donald Trump spreading false and what experts say could be dangerous misinformation about this coronavirus. We have an accountability check on that.

And later tonight, our special look at gender in a presidential race that was once filled with these strong women candidates, as we have been discussing.

Our special guest later in the hour is the one and only Cecile Richards.

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


MELBER:  Ex-presidents rarely endorse in their own party`s presidential primaries, but it can feel a little different when one candidate was that president`s running mate.

And it could feel even more different as the race whittles down to that running mate against one opponent who isn`t even a longstanding member of the Democratic Party.

Now, Obama did a famously high-powered joint interview with Hillary Clinton in her pre-primary period. Her allies invoked it as kind of a tacit sign of support. The White House at the time played that down.

But the practiced neutrality of President Obama is very noticeable right now. And we`re hearing from Biden fans who would love Obama to just jump in and say something great about Biden right now in public, even if he doesn`t formally endorse.

Meanwhile, former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, who is now an MSNBC analyst, recently told us that`s exactly the opposite of how Obama views his influence, and a public thumb on the scale for Biden could only backfire as well, or carries that risk, with Sanders supporters demanding an even playing field.

Now, that is the context for a new Sanders campaign strategy, unveiling this ad featuring Obama and Sanders together, which raises questions about which candidates get to invoke Obama`s legacy, which Rachel actually raised in her interview last night.


MADDOW:  You have a new ad up today featuring President Obama praising you in the past.

Is President Obama a part of the Democratic establishment that you say you`re running against?


And I want to say something about Barack Obama, somebody -- I`m not going to tell you he`s my best friend. But I talk to him every now and then.

And I have a lot of respect for him.


MELBER:  Democrats aren`t really buying this line from Sanders.

And they argue that whatever he says, running against the Democratic Party itself includes running against its most recent and most popular leader.

Sanders also, though, did something else interesting here. He revealed a conversation he had with the former president.


SANDERS:  He said: "You know what, Bernie? I`m not going to get involved. All right?"

And he kept his word. You may have seen just the other day, he said -- I think Biden had reached out to him and wanted his support. He said, no, I think I will be more effective in supporting the eventual winner, not getting involved early on.

I know that there`s an enormous pressure on him to support Biden. And the fact that he`s not doing that makes me respect him even more.


MELBER:  Not getting involved early on. It appears Obama wasn`t involved early on, not publicly.

But we want to show you, lately, there are some clues Obama is getting more involved than may meet the eye, authorizing allies to support Biden through hidden hand work, noting to some that he sees Biden as the candidate to back through intermediaries.

And then he took the time to talk to Buttigieg and discuss a potential Biden endorsement, in a way that we clearly read as supportive without formally telling Buttigieg what to do, and then Obama also speaking with Biden right after he won South Carolina.

All of this adds up to Obama being somewhat involved, while walking a subtle line. Now, the fact that Sanders and Biden are both crediting Obama, even as he does this, and still seeking his support is just a reinforcement of both Obama`s deft political touch and the obvious goodwill he retains in this Democratic Party.

That`s not automatic. George W. Bush, for example, found himself blasted in the Republican primaries of 2016. And Obama knows, we all know -- we have seen it -- that, in some ways, the base has moved to the left of him on issues, some issues, anyway.

But is this the approach right now? Or, in a two-person race, with this party`s most consequential battle against Donald Trump ahead, is it time for Obama to make his views more publicly clear?

We take that question right now to "New York Times" contributing writer Steve Phillips, who founded "Democracy in Color," which works on race and politics.

Welcome to THE BEAT.

And what do you think?


No, I don`t think that he should be putting his thumb on the scale. And I don`t think it will be effective, that he`s the leader of the party. He`s the most influential Democrat, if not only one of the most influential people in the country.

And his role is going to be to unify the entire party, and really the entire part of the country that wants to have a different president and get back on track.

And so for him to come into soon, I think, would blunt his ultimate influence. And I think that that would not be a wise tactical move.

MELBER:  And so you`re speaking to sort of how he does it, because everyone understands, Sanders alluded to the fact, that he`s known to prefer the person he appointed as vice president over someone who hasn`t been in the party.

Here`s that Sanders ad that`s getting so much attention. Take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Bernie somebody who has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes, great authenticity.

They want somebody who`s going to fight for them, and they will find it in Bernie. That`s right, feel the Bern.


SANDERS:  I`m Bernie Sanders, and I approve this message.


MELBER:  Feel the Bern.

Your thoughts?


PHILLIPS:  Yes. No, it`s amusing at some level. And it`s great. And I think that it is important to recognize, and I think that`s something people have to come to terms with, is the generational enthusiasm that`s playing out in this race, and that the level of support that Bernie is getting from younger voters across all races is phenomenal.

And so it would be not wise at all to be trying to do anything that would alienate that grouping prematurely.

And, at the same time, Biden doesn`t really need Obama`s endorsement any more than he already he has it. That he was the vice president of the first black president of this country, that fact sent a very strong message to the voters in South Carolina and all the African-American voters across the South who have voted who have now put Biden in first place.

He doesn`t need much more from Obama to really be able to move this thing forward for him.

MELBER:  Yes, when you put it like that, which is interesting, because you just put it in a way more bluntly than Joe Biden has. You`re saying, any endorsement is a one appearance, a daytime event.

The ultimate longer endorsement was putting you a heartbeat from the presidency.

Barack Obama also knows how to roast, something people may have forgotten. I don`t know if you have seen him when he does his jokes. A lot of them work. Here he was having fun with Bernie Sanders at a comedy appearance in Washington. Take a look.


OBAMA:  I am hurt though, Bernie, that you have been distancing yourself a little from me.


OBAMA:  I mean, that`s just not something that you do to your comrade.



MELBER:  There is this part of it, I wonder.

As my final question you, as a student of politics, a lot of Washington Democrats, whether they were right or wrong, didn`t take Sanders seriously for a long time. We have covered on this show the serious support he has, a lot of people who believe in him and his movement.

But that`s the other tension here. And it goes both ways, because Sanders is now claiming he`s tight with Obama. We don`t have evidence they were all that tight back then.

PHILLIPS:  No, we don`t.

And, ultimately, I don`t think it`s just a question of the relationship for that particular person. It`s, what`s your relationship to the parts of the coalition that put Obama into office?

And so, obviously, Biden has had very strong support among African- Americans. But people cannot dismiss that Bernie has done very well with Latinos and with younger people, which are also cornerstones of the Obama coalition.

So that`s why, for Democrats to win, all of that is going to ultimately have to come together, because Bernie and Biden have different parts of the Obama coalition, and that`s got to get unified to win in November.

MELBER:  Really interesting points as well. And you`re speaking also about, how do you compete, while showing some respect, which is a feature of most successful primaries?


MELBER:  Can I give a shout-out to your podcast, Steve?

PHILLIPS:  That would be great. New episode dropped today.

MELBER:  New episode dropping, "Democracy in Color With Steve Phillips." Get it wherever you get your podcast.

Thank you, sir.

PHILLIPS:  Thanks for having me on.

MELBER:  Absolutely. Appreciate you.

Elizabeth Warren`s departure has a huge debate going over gender, power and sexism in politics.

The special guest I mentioned is with us when we`re back in 30 seconds.



WARREN:  Caroline, my name is Elizabeth. I`m running for president because that`s what girls do.

Pinkie promise to remember? Can you do pinkie promise? Let`s see. Can you do it? Oh, I think you have got it.


MELBER:  Now we dig deeper into this top story today.

Elizabeth Warren is leaving the Democratic primary race. And that leaves a contest with no woman in this top tier, three senators out now. We have noted Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has two delegates, but no real mathematical path to the nomination.

And, tonight, we turn to an expert who`s led so many battles on this area in the arena, Cecile Richards, who joins me in just a moment.

Let me provide a little bit more context. This race did begin with a record-breaking number of women candidates fresh off a presidential cycle where three million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump to be president, and featuring defining moments that were led by, among others, a woman candidate about women`s issues.

And this field now look far narrower. It was just within the last two weeks, of course, that Senator Warren took on Mike Bloomberg in ways that may have narrowed the field and ultimately helped clear that Super Tuesday path for Joe Biden.


WARREN:  A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians.

And, no, I`m not talking about Donald Trump. I`m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.

Are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story?


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  They signed those agreements, and we will live with it.

WARREN:  We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has who knows how many nondisclosure agreements and drip, drip, drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against.



MELBER:  Warren changed the race in that way. She also consistently advocated that any young woman or girl can go on to run for president.

Today, she spoke directly about gender double standards.


WARREN:  If you say, yes, there was sexism in this race, everyone says, whiner.

And if you say, no, there was no sexism, about a bazillion women think, what planet do you live on?

I promise you this. I will have a lot more to say on that subject later on.


MELBER:  And for something to say about it right now, we turn to Cecile Richards, co-founder of the women`s civic group Supermajority, former president of Planned Parenthood, author of "Make Trouble."

And we should note she`s also the daughter of Ann Richards, who was elected governor of Texas in 1991, the last Democrat, in either gender, to hold that post.

Thanks for joining us for this discussion.


MELBER:  It`s great to see you.

What is on your mind? What should we all be thinking about tonight?

RICHARDS:  Well, it`s still, of course, kind of fresh. And I think there are so many women around the country who are just heartbroken, and it was a gut punch, even though, intellectually, after Super Tuesday, it seemed like this was the path.

I think it`s very hard. And I know you flashed earlier the photograph of Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Senator Amy Klobuchar. So I think this is just -- this has been a series of losses for women that feels very, very tough, and, ironically, of course, coming at a time when women are completely fueling these primaries, women are overwhelmingly the majority in the caucus votes.

I think they were 59 percent of the South Carolina voters. And so it`s a tough day. And Elizabeth Warren is a great candidate. She`s a great elected official. I just interviewed her recently. She could walk into the Oval Office tomorrow and run this country in a spectacular fashion.

And that`s just very hard -- it`s hard to square this circle tonight.

MELBER:  You mentioned that iconic photograph.

We were hearing from some of the people in it, Senator Harris, Speaker Pelosi also weighing in on all of this, with the gender dynamics, to call it out, to address it.

Here`s some of that we wanted to play for you and for viewers tonight. Take a listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  Every time I get introduced as the most powerful woman in America, I almost cry, because I think, I wish that were not true. I so wish that we had a woman president of the United States. And we came very close.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA):  This election cycle in particular has also presented very legitimate questions about the challenges of women running for president of the United States.

PELOSI:  I do think there`s a certain element of misogyny that is -- that is there. I think America is ready for a woman president.


MELBER:  Cecile?

RICHARDS:  Well, I couldn`t agree with -- I couldn`t agree more with all of those incredibly important leaders.

And I guess there was one thing we could do to take the first step, and that is, there has to be a woman on this ticket. And I think that`s the message that has to be heard loud and clear, that women are dominating the primaries.

Women will be the majority of voters in November. And I think it`s really important that the remaining candidates in the race understand how important it is that we move a woman onto the ticket.

And so -- and I think, as you saw from Senator Harris, obviously, Speaker Pelosi, who has been dealing with these issues forever, how important it is also to have women on the ticket and in the national spotlight who fight for women on the issues that are plaguing women in this country, the fact that we don`t have equal pay, that there isn`t affordable child care, that women are desperately concerned about health care access.

We need someone on this ticket who can listen to women and speak for women, and then can govern for women. And I hope that`s what we will see.

MELBER:  So, given your knowledge of how all this works and all the campaigns you have been a part of, where you interface both winning and losing side and lobbying or organizing, whatever words people want to use, how does this work?

You just said it here on national television. Your view, Cecile Richards, there must be a woman on the ticket. You support a Democrat, so you`re speaking to whoever becomes the nominee.

What kind of backroom conversations are going on? Is this a litmus test that people, donors, others are going to extract from the -- whoever the nominee is?

RICHARDS:  Well, I don`t know what kind of backroom conversations are happening, but, Ari, you gave me the mic, so I want to just say it here first, because I do think it`s important.

Women put their heart and soul into this primary. Several of them supported the women who lost or who are -- no longer look like will be the nominee. And I think it`s really important to recognize that women are supermajority of this country. We`re a majority of the voters.

And it`s time we have representation.

MELBER:  Right.

RICHARDS:  And I think, for all this conversation about when will we have a woman president, and acknowledging, without going into all the barriers that both Elizabeth faced and others faced, one of the ways to make that a shorter trip is to put a woman on the ticket and elect her on this ticket next November.

And I think it would inspire women and others around the country.

MELBER:  And, just briefly, who would be the top two or three women, in your view, for that?

RICHARDS:  Oh, the great news is, Ari, there are so many women.

I mean, I think it used to be, in the olden days, it would feel like maybe there were three women. There are so many women in Congress. There are women who are in the Senate. There are women who are in business. There are women who are leaders in their states.

So I think whoever the nominee is, they`re going to have an abundance of talent to pick from. And I hope they hear this message. And I hope they do that, because that`s what democracy looks like.

MELBER:  Cecile Richards, always appreciate your expertise. Really interesting to get your -- not only your views of Warren tonight, but your views on the path forward. Thank you.

RICHARDS:  Thanks, Ari.

MELBER:  I want everyone to know Rachel Maddow is headed up to Boston right now. In fact, you can see she shared a picture on the train, going to Boston for her interview scheduled with Elizabeth Warren. You can catch that 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC, exclusive.

Next:  Top Republicans are actually pushing a new probe into Joe Biden`s son and the Ukraine issues that actually got Trump impeached.

We will explain why it`s not normal and what people are doing about it.


MELBER:  Turning to another important story, President Nixon was facing impeachment for and was ousted from the White House because he abused his investigative powers against political rivals.

Donald Trump was impeached for similar alleged abuses in a plot to basically outsource the attack on rivals to another country.

Keep that in mind right now, because this story about the Republican Congress tonight is not normal. And the rule of law dictates it`s not OK.

Here it is. Joe Biden takes his first delegate lead, and the top Republican running the Homeland Security Committee, which oversees national security, is now pushing an investigation into Biden`s son for the same issues that led to Trump`s impeachment, Senator Ron Johnson forcing a subpoena vote for Biden materials in Ukraine, and then denying the blatant appearance of abusing his powers to harass and harm a political rival by claiming -- quote -- "There are questions that Joe Biden never adequately answered."

That denial actually makes this Republican senator look bad. If there were open questions here, he could have pursued them literally years ago, regardless of how Biden was doing in the presidential campaign.

And it`s not just nonpartisan experts raising the alarm right now.

Senator Romney, who sits on that same committee, opposed this new Republican attempt to pursue yet another political investigation in this Trump era, suggesting, if there were anything here, just leave it to the FBI.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT):  There`s no question but that the appearance of looking into Burisma and Hunter Biden appears political.

And I think people are tired of these -- these kind of political investigations, and would hope that, if there`s something of significance that needs to be evaluated, that it be done by perhaps the FBI or some other agency that is not as political as perhaps a committee of our body.

We also have a lot of work to do on matters that are not related to Burisma. We probably ought to focus on those things.


MELBER:  During President Trump`s impeachment, the question was whether any Republicans would deny his very publicly obvious plot against Biden, and would they do anything to hold him accountable for it?

Remember, Republican senators, many of them, ultimately said there was a plot, that it was wrong, but it just wasn`t bad enough to impeach over. That was just a few months ago. Notice this downward slide here, as a Republican chairman is now trying to do, with U.S. government power, the same type of probe that was literally thwarted in Ukraine and that Republicans recently said Trump was wrong to pursue.

I repeat, this is not normal. It is against the rule of law.

And, as with so many tests in our current era, the people behind it may be hoping it all just gets normalized, that it becomes sort of routine, or that you get exhausted and stop caring.

But this is out in public. There`s already some opposition. The next move is up to the public. We will keep shining a light on the facts of this story.

Now, after a break, we come back, and we will get into what you need to know about the coronavirus, including joined by a top Obama official who literally handled the Ebola outbreak scare, and addressing some controversial new comments by the president.


MELBER:  An update on the coronavirus, including increasing misinformation that has come from some of the highest levels of the Trump administration.

First, what we know, California recording its first coronavirus death, cases now confirmed and at least 19 different states. The total number of cases in the United States is now over 200. And that includes 12 fatalities.

The other part of this story is a fight over basically the facts of this virus, with the president coming under fire for spreading wrong and misleading information.

This concerns a basic question:  How deadly is the coronavirus? The World Health Organization reporting over 3 percent death rate. That`s higher than some previously thought.

But listen to these comments from Trump on FOX News.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number.

Now, this is just my hunch. A lot of people will have this, and it`s very mild. We have thousands or hundred thousands of people that get better just by sitting around and even going to work -- some of them go to work, but they get better.


MELBER:  That is, to say the least, not helpful, the president undercutting not only science, but his own U.S. government information, and then the suggestion that you might just go to work anyway.

Again, the CDC says, do not do that.

Even some typically staunch defenders of Donald Trump not OK with it. Take a listen to Senator Graham.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  I don`t know what he was talking about. But I listen to the scientists when it comes to the numbers.

And I would encourage the president, if he`s going to report things, to make sure that the science is behind what he`s saying.


MELBER:  We would encourage everyone to pay attention to the science, especially the president.

Meanwhile, Congress passing an $8.3 billion response bill. That is higher, as well, than what President Trump`s White House requested.

We turn now to someone with much experience in public health, Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance under President Obama, where he led U.S. response to Ebola.

Good evening to you.


MELBER:  First of all, the import -- hi -- the import of public officials getting the science right and the advice right?

KONYNDYK:  Well, look, if you don`t understand the science, you don`t know what you`re fighting. And if you don`t know what you`re fighting, you don`t know how to fight it.

And it is just unspeakably reckless of the president to go on national television and tell his followers he`s acting on hunches. That`s not how we fight outbreaks.

MELBER:  What should people do if they believe they may have contracted it? I`m not going to repeat what the president said. But what is the right approach?

KONYNDYK:  Well, that`s one of the big challenges right now.

Ideally, what you would want people to do is call up a health facility and see if it -- describe their symptoms, and, if their doctor agrees that they should be tested, then to access a test.

What you don`t want is people waiting until they are severely ill and showing up in an E.R., where they might then spread it to other patients or to other doctors. You ideally want to catch them before that.

The problem is, because the testing policy has been so broken and such a catastrophe, we still are not testing it at anywhere near the level we need to in this country.

MELBER:  You mention the testing.

Vice President Pence acknowledging some of the shortcomings there. Take a listen.

I`m going to read it to you, Pence apparently saying: "We don`t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward. As more Americans take interest in this or have concerns about it, we want to make sure they have access to the test as well," also saying they have made real progress.

Walk us through what that means. Is that a short-term, changeable thing for the U.S. government, or this is an issue of scale?

KONYNDYK:  It`s an issue of availability of testing at scale. And it`s an issue of the delay in reaching that point.

So what is striking, and I think what they have been rightly criticized for, is the fact that the U.S. at this point has still now only tested a few thousand people. I think, according to the latest statistics, at the end of last week, that was fewer than 500 people total throughout the outbreak.

To put this in perspective, the World Health Organization published the guidelines on how to diagnose this disease that you can use to develop a test. They publish those on January 14.

So we are a month-and-a-half past that point now, and we are still not able to test at scale in this country. Every other country that is dealing with this outbreak is testing on a much larger scale than we are. It is just as astounding as any failure I have seen inside or outside of government. It`s amazing.

MELBER:  And would you advise people to change travel plans, to cancel trips, to take those measures yet, or, depending on where you live in the United States, we`re not there yet?

KONYNDYK:  I think the degree of change that you adopt depends on where you are. If you`re in Seattle right now, I think the first thing, the important thing is, listen to what your public health authorities are telling you to do.

Follow the guidance of your local public health authorities. That is your best source of information.

If you are in an area that doesn`t seem to be affected yet, follow basic precautions. Make sure you`re practicing good hygiene. All the things that CDC has talked about, that is how you protect yourself.

And I think that it is probably appropriate to reconsider travel plans. We don`t -- the challenge right now is, we don`t know how far this has spread in our country because of the testing failure. And that`s why the testing failure is such a -- just such a catastrophe.

We can`t see what we`re fighting. And so we don`t really know where people need to be taking precautions, because we don`t fully know yet where this virus is. And so it`s very hard to advise people how to act in an informed way if we are not, in fact, informed.

MELBER:  Well put, and good, sober analysis, as well as some of the pointers.

Appreciate all of it, Jeremy.

KONYNDYK:  My pleasure. Thank you.

MELBER:  Thank you.

I want to mention a programming note as well. Richard Engel is on assignment, goes to "Coronavirus Outbreak." That airs this Sunday 10:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC.

We also have an update when we come back on what`s happening to Harvey Weinstein as he awaits sentencing. I`m telling you where he`s headed when we come back.


MELBER:  An update on a story we have been tracking, Harvey Weinstein now headed to the notorious Rikers Island jail complex after a medical delay that stretched into weeks.

Weinstein convicted of rape in the third degree and a criminal sexual act in the first degree. That was on February 24. He`s since been at Bellevue Hospital, sources saying he had a heart stent placed, but Weinstein now being moved to the Rikers Island infirmary unit, where he will await his sentencing next week in Manhattan.

He faces five to 29 years in prison and a separate trial in California. We will stay on that story.

But we are out of time tonight. That does it for me. I will see you back here tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Keep it right here on MSNBC.