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Barr's false claims TRANSCRIPT: 3/6/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Jamil Smith, Christina Bellantoni, Dan Abrams, Joyce Vance, Meyer, Jadakiss, Eric Garcetti

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But it`s very likely that the crew on the Grand Princess was exposed on two different -- two different outings.

And we know the coronavirus manifested among the previous passengers.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We have been listening here to that briefing, and we will bring you more of it as we need to, if there are news developments out of it.

You are watching the THE BEAT with Ari Melber.

And let me tell you some of the stories we`re tracking on this Friday night.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders gearing up for another multistate primary night.

Then, the news we were just listening to, people on board that very cruise ship, which is right here in California, testing positive for the coronavirus, as mentioned, more on that later in the show.

President Trump, meanwhile, comparing his government response to coronavirus to the Ukraine plot that got him impeached. Did not expect that common to happen. We have more on that later.

Also, a federal judge rebuking Attorney General Barr for distorting an investigation that resulted in convictions for multiple Trump aides. That is a huge development. We`re going to get into that as well.

But, right now, we begin with the big story.

The Democratic nomination for who will take on President Trump really hangs in the balance now. Today is the first full day this has been a two-person race. It`s also the last Friday before another primary day that could potentially fortify Joe Biden`s lead as he tries to consolidate the party.

As always around here, we start with these numbers, Biden now leading with over 620 delegates to Sanders` 553, which means they`re just about 70 delegates apart. Now, when that is the margin, a coming day, call it a mini-Tuesday, that awards 352 delegates is by any measure a very big deal.

In fact, what`s coming on Tuesday, when everyone in politics has their eye on tonight could hammer home Joe Biden`s lead or it could disrupt things again and make them even closer.

Voters in six different states will weigh in Tuesday. Now, Sanders had won four of them in 2016. But there are clues that Biden`s momentum is continuing their.

Take Michigan. Sanders` win over Clinton, there was a defining moment in 2016. She also went on to lose that state in the general election. But let`s be clear. If Bernie Sanders argument is that he can do better against Trump in a state like Michigan, well, that argument may be running into some turbulence.

Some state polls show Sanders now trailing Biden by six points there, as "The New York Times" report Sanders has far failed to match his 2016 strength across the -- quote -- "white working-class northern part of the state this year," which may have also impacted him, those kind of shortcomings, on Super Tuesday, when so much changed in just a few days.

But there was a time when everyone agreed Bernie Sanders was the front- runner and the attacks were coming at him. That was really within the last two weeks. Right now, things are changing and he`s the one going after Biden`s record.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe`s been around for a long time. So have I. And I think people would want to take a look at those records.


MELBER: Take a look at the records. Sanders is arguing that this narrow race now is the time for Democrats to pause, to listen, to dig into policy substance and not rush to just anoint the latest candidate who has momentum.

And let me tell you, we always try to call it straight here. Let me tell you exactly what the strategy is. One, Sanders knows parts of this Democratic Party are coalescing around Biden, for the perception and the history of him being a uniting leader.

Anything that is too negative or too nasty by Sanders may only reinforce calls to keep the unity going and get Sanders pushed out.

But, second, in all fairness, Bernie Sanders knows what really many Democrats know. There was a reason so many people in the party spent so many months searching for, yes, alternatives to the most famous candidate in the race, Joe Biden, looking at Mayor Pete, looking at Senators Klobuchar and Warren, eying Michael Bloomberg for a hot minute.

Sanders is trying to remind voters, especially we think younger ones, that it`s Joe Biden`s records, his policies, his history, his leadership that is part of why there was all of that time looking, that not everyone in this party is in line with Joe Biden.


SANDERS: Joe Biden and I have very strong different positions in terms of how we reacted to NAFTA. I vigorously opposed these agreements. Joe Biden supported those agreements.

I have consistently led the effort to protect Social Security. Biden has been on the floor of the Senate in years past calling for cuts to Social Security.

I have a lifetime of voting record in support of a woman`s right to control her own body. On this issue, Joe Biden repeatedly voted for the Hyde Amendment.

Today, thank God, it is relatively easy to be a champion of gay rights. But that was not the case 25 years ago. Joe Biden was not one of them.


MELBER: Sanders also holding a rally tonight in Detroit trying to drive all those points home.

Meanwhile, Biden tapping some of his newest high-profile supporters, former rival Amy Klobuchar, to make her Midwestern appeal part of a campaign stop in Michigan. That`s today.

Now, the other difference Tuesday is a race without Bloomberg or Warren. And even if that`s, say, one out of 10 voters, that can make all the difference, given how close this delegate fight is right now.

Warren not immediately endorsing, like some rivals who have left the race, but in her first post-campaign interview with Rachel last night, she was often even-handed and fair about these candidates, but, at times, she went out of her way to tout Joe Biden`s character, which is notable considering that they don`t agree on her signature economic policies.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): He is exactly -- at least this is my view. He is exactly who he says he is. He`s a decent guy.

And I mean that in the good of decency. My whole life has been about working families, and more about how government should be there to be on their side. I believe that the vice president has the same goal. We may have come at this from different directions and may continue to come at it from different directions.

But I don`t have any doubt about the sincerity of the goals.


MELBER: Let`s get right to it.

Former Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele is here, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is supporting Joe Biden.

Thanks to both of you.


MELBER: Because we have a strong surrogate, we`re going to get to you here in Los Angeles.

But before I turn it over, Michael, as a big picture person looking at this primary without any dog in the fight...

STEELE: Right.

MELBER: ... what do you think of this line Sanders is walking, hey, there`s still time to fight, and I promise it`ll be on substance?

STEELE: No, there is always still time to fight. But the substance part , I think, is where he`s missing the point.

Look, my observation, Ari -- and you and I have chatted about this before - - in looking at this campaign for the past year, the base Democratic voter, the folks who are now coalescing around Biden, have always been about one thing. Who can defeat Trump?

Even when they were, as you noted earlier, straying eyes over at Buttigieg and others, that was the central thing. Who can beat Trump?

And this idea of policy and ideology and philosophy, they`re not up for that fight. They don`t want that fight. The vast majority of voters don`t want that fight.

What they want to do is, get me off crazy. Who can get me off crazy and move the country back into a workable space, so we can then have those fights? And that`s what this is about.


MELBER: Are you saying that Joe and Bernie are both -- they`re going to class on campus, and Bernie thinks it`s philosophy class, and Joe thinks it`s political science, and you think he`s going to have the higher enrollment?

STEELE: I absolutely do. I absolutely do.

I think Joe has tapped into that, which is what`s made it so much easier for people to gravitate to him. You just heard Elizabeth Warren talking about what will be an idea for voters, his character, because they see the character of the guy he`s running against.

That wasn`t a conversation about the nuances of health care or public policy. That was about how this man`s character is going to be one of many irons in the fire to help defeat Donald Trump.

So, I get the policy angle. And I know Bernie Sanders wants to go back and talk about the records and stuff. But voters are past records. They don`t care about records right now.

They want to know, can you move me off of this spot right now, because this is not a happy spot for me?

MELBER: Yes, it makes a lot of sense, straight-up politics.

Let me bring in the mayor, who`s here with me in Los Angeles.

Great to be in your city, sir.

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA): Great to have you here. Thanks.

MELBER: We try to talk to everyone and let viewers and voters make up their own minds. I know it`s old-fashioned.



GARCETTI: ... on that.


MELBER: You`re here for Biden in the top of our show.

We have had Michael Moore on, who`s been here for Warren. Take a listen to Michael Moore`s pitch, which is not only for Sanders, but a little bit against your candidate, so I can get the virtue of your response.


MELBER: Let`s take a listen.


MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: They`re not thinking tonight about who can stop Donald Trump.

They`re thinking about who could stop Bernie Sanders. And it`s sad to see that. And it`s sad for anybody to be thinking about voting for Biden because they`re afraid.

They`re -- voting out of fear -- if you`re afraid of Trump now...

MELBER: Right.

MOORE: ... if that`s what really is behind this, that if you go -- if you vote for a candidate, that we take fear into the general election, running on fear, we will lose to Trump if we will vote on fear.


MELBER: The political allegation there is that people in the party don`t actually love Joe Biden, he alleges. That`s why they were looking for something else, and they`re rushing to him from fear.

Your response?

GARCETTI: Couldn`t disagree more.

Anybody who has ever met Joe, I don`t think he scares people. He makes people feel great. This is about his inherent goodness and his effectiveness. People have seen that delivered. I bear testament to that here in this city. He helped us raise the minimum wage, make community college free, was out there on climate agreements before Paris.

And this is a man who knows how to deliver, and he is all about hope. He is all about goodness. And character is on the ballot. It`s going to be the most important thing.

We like presidents. We don`t just look at what they`re going to do. In fact, we look at that at the beginning. But at the end, we vote on who they are and how they make us feel.

Joe is clear. He is loved. Nobody has a heart like him. And people backed him for that reason.

MELBER: Does it trouble you that Bernie Sanders has spent so long outside the party, and, we have heard from some people, working, they feel, against the party?

GARCETTI: No, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Senator Sanders. I love what he`s doing. We`re going to need his voters and Joe`s voters to come together in the fall.

There`s no question about that. And the progressive policies that both of them embody are going to be critical, as well as Senator Warren and the rest of the field. But Senator Warren is right. I mean, this is a man who people know and who is good.

And, at the end of the day, that`s what America is looking for, as well as somebody who can relate to those firefighters and those carpenters and people who felt the sting of this economic system right now.


GARCETTI: I think Joe actually embodies that as much as anybody.

MELBER: Makes sense. And I appreciate your perspective on that.

Michael, I want to show the map real quick, because, as you look ahead, this is where it all goes. It`s about delegates and which states are going to weigh in first.

Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, these were mostly Clinton. And we can see that as you go to March 17. Does it matter that the numbers are uniform, but the reactions are not? By which I mean -- and you know this was the case in other primaries as well -- if Joe Biden were down 100 delegates, there`d be a lot of people saying, play it out. Let`s see what happens.

STEELE: Right?

MELBER: If Sanders drops behind 100, 125, 150 delegates, I don`t think the party is going to give him the same reception.

STEELE: They`re not, because there`s still this whole what Sanders brings to the table conversation.

It`s like, OK, socialism, Democratic socialism, how do we deal with that? Everyone`s thinking down ballot. Some would like to see the Senate be in play. So those are variables there. But the numbers are the numbers.

The campaigns both have to ask themselves, where do we win next? When you look at the map you just showed, the question for Bernie Sanders is, where do you win? Florida, Michigan, Arizona? And that`s the challenge. And that`s going to be the problem as this consolidation has begun.

The South is off the board. You`re not winning Alabama. You`re not winning Mississippi. That`s off the board. So where do you go from there? The black vote is consolidated, and that African-American vote around the country is consolidating.

And that`s a significant part of your base vote. So it becomes a real numbers game, for sure. And it favors Joe Biden right now.

MELBER: Really striking hearing that from you. And that`s why we always watch and follow the numbers, because nothing else is going to get you an understanding of the race.

Thank you, Michael.

STEELE: You got it, buddy.

MELBER: I want to bring in Jamil Smith, a senior writer for "Rolling Stone," writing today about Elizabeth Warren`s impact on the race and pushing the remaining candidates to back some of their plans, and Christina Bellantoni, a professor at USC`s Annenberg School for Communications, former editor for "The Los Angeles Times."

And let me play -- last night, on "Rachel Maddow," we heard Elizabeth Warren, and she discussed specifically the calls, the interest we have seen from so many about gender diversity in the White House. Take a listen.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": I think there`s a there`s a feeling that your campaign ending is very specific to you. And it also feels a little bit like a death knell in terms of the prospects of having a woman for president in our lifetimes.

WARREN: Oh, God, please, no, that can`t be right. It`s just going to be a little longer before we`re able to have a woman in the White House.

And -- but it doesn`t mean it`s not going to happen. It doesn`t mean it`s not going to happen soon. We will know that we can have a woman in the White House when we finally elect a woman to the White House.


MELBER: Let`s start there, Christina, and how that hangs over the battle between these two people.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, USC ANNENBERG: It does hang over the battle.

I mean, there are a lot of people who are grieving right now, seeing Warren be the last strong contender for this race. You had that delegate graphic that did show Tulsi Gabbard has two delegates.

MELBER: She does.


BELLANTONI: ... have to point that out, but not a serious contender and not going to be in the next Democratic debate.

So that`s a moment. And it was always kind of hard to understand why she wasn`t doing better and how that wasn`t about her gender.

Just from now, I`m an observer of politics and of media, far more than a participant, since I`m not reporting on it actively, and I`m teaching college students about this.

And this is one of the questions they ask all the time. Why wasn`t she included in certain polls? Why aren`t her speeches carried live when she`s saying something, yet you go to Bloomberg, who, for all purposes, didn`t actually have any more chance than she did?

MELBER: You have been writing about this. What do you think is important understand, both Warren and -- again, playing it forward, she has a role to play if she wants in this two-person contest.

JAMIL SMITH, "ROLLING STONE": Well, playing it forward, I think it`s important that we obsess a little bit less about who she endorses and think about how her plans, her very voluminous plans, are used going forward, both by Biden and Sanders.

I think that there are a lot of holes to fill in both campaigns. I think that certainly Biden can improve his climate plan by looking at hers. I think Sanders could improve his rhetoric on gun violence by looking at how she spoken about it.

I think both men could certainly improve how they speak about marginalized communities by look at how -- that she`s done it. She advocated getting rid of the filibuster. Neither of them do. I think that that`s essential if the Democrats hope to get anything done with -- either of them are elected president.

There are a lot of things that Elizabeth Warren has suggested and done that I think that they should potentially think about adopting. And I think it`s more important, fundamentally, if we hope to actually have a woman be in the White House, men who get elected to that White House have to essentially prepare the country to accept female leadership.

It`s on us to make sure that the country gets ready for that.

BELLANTONI: I totally agree with that.

I will also say it miffs me a little bit that there`s all this pressure on Senator Warren, when there`s a lot of people who have dropped out of this race and haven`t endorsed. You don`t see Cory Booker under the same pressure, Kamala Harris really not under the same pressure.

People are asking, but it`s not -- just because she recently dropped out doesn`t mean she has to make a decision. And I think she`s been really clear out on the campaign trail that she believes Biden does not represent the kind of fundamental change she was talking about.

MELBER: Is it a testament to her influence and power that people are more interested in her endorsement than Cory Booker? Now we`re talking politics, so I appreciate you`re making the crosscutting point about pressures.

But we are hearing in our reporting that a lot more people around both of the remaining candidates are thinking about if and what Warren would stand for in an endorsement than, say, Cory Booker. No shade.

BELLANTONI: And also many millions of people have cast votes for her. So that`s a little different, more tangible than somebody who dropped out before. Both things are correct.

But she will play a big role in this party going forward, whether she`s just a strong Democrat in the Senate, whether they`re in the majority or minority, or whether she is actually in somebody`s administration.

And we know that, whatever it is, she`s going to say what she thinks and fight.

MELBER: Looming over this is who can fight Trump, speaking of fighting.

Take a listen briefly here to Sanders and Trump on, how do you actually take care of people? How do you deal with public benefits and so-called entitlements for the elderly?

Take a listen.


SANDERS: Donald Trump, in his budget, called for massive cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and cuts to Social Security.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS: But if you -- if you don`t cut something in entitlements, you will never really deal with the debt.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, we will be cutting, but we`re also going to have growth like you have never had before.


SMITH: Well, I mean, just baseline, I don`t think you really you can believe anything Donald Trump says.

But if you are talking about cutting, Medicare or Social Security, I mean, that`s something that fundamentally has just never worked and been popular in America.

So -- and, of course, you have his staff, Kellyanne Conway, walking that back today, saying that he actually didn`t say it. We actually could hear it. And he did say it.

I think it`s good politics for both Sanders and Biden to start attacking Trump and less attacking each other. I think we need to see how they`re going to actually go after Trump.

If you`re talking about, hey, Trump being the priority, how are you going to actually beat him?

MELBER: And that goes to the mood of the remaining Democratic voters.

At the start is very different from when people feel like too left, and how are you doing this in a way that is consistent with voters` ambition and the Democratic side, obviously, to beat Trump?

We`re running over on time. I want to thank both Jamil and Christina. Nice to see you both in person.

Coming up, this other big story of federal judge rebuking Bill Barr and demanding to see the unredacted Mueller report before making another big decision that could affect the DOJ.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, comparing his government`s coronavirus response to the Ukraine plot that got him impeached. We have that bizarre story.

And we`re going to speak to the reporter who has just broken a very important piece of investigative journalism about alleged failures in testing for this virus.

We also have a very special announcement about a series with voters who are talking to us about the race ahead. We have had a lot of fun talking out in the streets with people. We`re going continue to that. So, I have more on that tonight.

And, as if that wasn`t enough, "Fallback Friday."

Stay with us on THE BEAT.


MELBER: Not to fallout over the Trump administration`s efforts to stop Bob Mueller`s findings about Donald Trump and his aides from really ever fully reaching the public.

A federal judge rebuking Trump Attorney General Bill Barr for distorting the facts and misleading the public in how he handled the Mueller report. The DOJ just responding moments ago, saying this court`s assertions were, they believe, contrary to the facts, and DOJ stands by the work that they have done.

But this was a huge deal. Remember, when Mueller finished the Russia probe, it was one of the most effective special counsel investigations in modern history. It indicted U.S. adversaries in Russia and it ferreted out criminals in the highest level of Donald Trump`s orbit.

That probe, of course, is why Donald Trump`s campaign manager and one of his longest serving lawyers are still in prison right now. And yet the leader of the very Justice Department which won those victories infamously rushed out misleading information at the end of the probe, before the Mueller report came out.

You probably remember the moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A major victory for President Trump.

The summary now from the attorney general, who said Mueller and his team found no collusion, no conspiracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The summary of the Mueller report was released. The report no collusion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Concluding that investigators found no evidence that President Trump or his campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia.


MELBER: That was some of the initial reporting about Barr`s letter, not the actual Mueller report.

It was, in a way, exactly what Barr wanted, but not everyone took his word for that day. In fact, we were rushing to our newsroom that very weekend to report specifically on the facts and the difference between what Barr was asserting in his letter and what one could actually find if and when we got the underlying Mueller report.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: There are so many legitimate questions about the attorney general`s summary of Mueller`s report, including whether or not Barr`s account amounts to something of a bit of a whitewash.

MELBER: This is four pages. There`s not a single full sentence in here that`s quoted the Mueller report.

The House is sort of getting muscled out in an attempt by the new attorney general to say, I`m going to issue my own conclusion on that. And he`s doing that with these four partial sentences.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: No one outside of the Justice Department or the special counsel team has seen Mueller`s report, so we`re relying on the Barr summary for all of our information.


MELBER: That was our journalistic reporting about the facts.

And now these facts are catching up with Bill Barr, because his DOJ is actually fighting to keep some parts of the Mueller report still secret, those redacted parts.

And let`s be clear. In normal times, judges give deference to a government request like this. But in the new order we`re reporting on for you tonight, a federal judge ruling the Barr`s own conduct and deception has burned up a lot of that usual deference.

Again, reading from this judge`s ruling that there is an obvious -- quote - - "lack of candor" and inconsistencies in Barr`s handling of the Mueller report that, frankly, puts his -- quote -- "credibility" in doubt, also finding the Barr had the fundamentally illicit intent to undermine his own Justice Department`s work and push a Trump-friendly one-sided narrative, at odds with the Mueller report and what so many DOJ staff found in their work inside that probe.

This is a legal battle over getting the rest of the facts. The judge is saying that he may ultimately force more facts out because of this suspicion that Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse to favor Trump.

It says the idea that if you spin the facts in advance before the public ever saw Mueller`s conclusions, maybe they wouldn`t matter that much when they actually come out.

So what`s next? Well, first, this is part of the system working. You need to know that right now. However slowly, it shows that even a very powerful attorney general can be held accountable in public by independent courts.

Second, this judge is demanding the DOJ turn over the full unredacted copy of the report for his review, which could lead to another ruling against potentially the Trump Justice Department.

So where do we go from here?

Well, we`re going to get into all of it when we`re back in just 30 seconds with Dan Abrams and Joyce Vance.


MELBER: We`re back with the big story of a judge rebuking Attorney General Barr, who has long been accused of acting more like a personal lawyer to the president than the attorney general.

This has gone on even after the Mueller report, which is what`s in the news tonight. Remember the alleged meddling in Roger Stone`s case, which four prosecutors resigned over and 2,000 former DOJ officials blatantly calling for Barr to step down over these issues.

We bring in now Dan Abrams, who is chief legal analyst at ABC. He has a new book entitled "John Adams Under Fire: The Founding Father`s Fight for Justice in the Boston Massacre Murder Trial." And former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance.

Great to see both you.

Joyce, we walked through both the day one reaction to Barr`s letter, as well as this new ruling from a judge, to remind everyone just how potentially significant that was.

Your reaction?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I remember, Ari, sitting in the studio that weekend reading the attorney general`s four-page characterization of the Mueller report. And even as we read just that raw summary, we began to realize that something wasn`t quite right.

And over time, we learned what it was. We learned that the attorney general had woven in a safety net of half-truths and outright lies in an effort to protect the president, because the Mueller report, when we finally saw the redacted version, didn`t give the president exoneration.

Instead, it concluded that there were multiple instances of obstruction of justice. And the Mueller report, I think, specifically, and it`s worth remembering, said that if more evidence had been available, if it had not been hidden from investigators, that they might have viewed this substantive allegations in a different light.

So this is so egregious, that now we have a federal judge saying that he cannot trust the attorney general, the American people cannot trust the attorney general, to be truthful in this regard in a court case.

MELBER: Really striking.

I want to go to Dan Abrams with something that I know you know how to do, which is be a legal correspondent. Can you just walk us through the legal reasons that it is actually quite rare for any administration to end up in this position, because the type of material redacted often does get deference by judges?


I mean, we`re talking about a Freedom of Information Act request here. They`re basically saying, members of the media and others saying, we have a right to see the unredacted Mueller report as a matter of law.

But what makes this so striking, as you`re discussing, is that the judge isn`t just saying, look, I want to review this and I want to decide. The judge is saying, I don`t trust the attorney general, because of what we have seen so far.

And, as a result, I`m going to need to review even the things you have told me there are reasons you have redacted. But I don`t trust you, so I`m going to have to review it myself.

Now, to be clear, this is a judge appointed by President Bush, before that, to a position by President Reagan, and, after that, the first President Bush. This is not a Democratically appointed judge. I hate doing that stuff, with the Republican- vs. the Democrat-appointed judge.

MELBER: No, I feel you.

ABRAMS: But it`s an important point to say, this is not someone who`s in the tank for Democrats. And he`s furious. He`s furious.

We see a lot of times prosecutors get rebuked by judges, right? They say, this should have been turned over to the defense or you guys messed up here. But to say you simply cannot trust the attorney general of the United States -- and there`s a line that you didn`t have before -- "grave concerns about the objectivity of the process."


ABRAMS: Basically saying....

MELBER: I think we have that.

ABRAMS: Yes. Oh, you did. All right.

So, that I...


MELBER: We will put it up right here, go ahead, and read it again.

ABRAMS: Oh, yes.

MELBER: You were saying: "grave concerns about the objectivity. The core conclusion must conduct this private review of the unredacted Mueller report."

Go ahead, Dan.


No, I mean, he is saying, the judge is saying, I`m concerned you politicized the process.

There is nothing more insulting to the attorney general of the United States, not to say you`re wrong, not to say I`m not sure I can trust you, but you know what? I think you may have politicized the process. That`s big.

MELBER: Joyce?

VANCE: I agree with Dan.

And it`s important to note that DOJ engaged isn`t a lot of litigation about turning over information that it claims is protected by FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act. And, routinely, what happens is, the government provides the court with an affidavit. It`s called a Vaughn list. It lists all of the information that`s been redacted.

And it explains what the legal basis is for those redactions. And, typically, there`s a presumption that the government is entitled to do that. And judges don`t look behind it.

It`s very unusual for a judge to say, government, show me the original material.

And so what you and Dan have been talking about, this notion that the court concluded that the attorney general lacks candor, that is just so startling. It does so much to denigrate, not just Bill Barr, but the entire Justice Department.

It`s unfair to the line lawyers in the -- the line lawyers in the department, who work every day on these cases, but it is where Bill Barr has brought us very deliberately with his efforts to protect the president.


MELBER: Go ahead, Dan.

ABRAMS: Yes, just real quick, now let`s see what`s behind the blackened-out words, right?

Because there`s going to be an answer to this question. We`re going to know. One way or another, I think we`re going to find out what was blacked out, what was redacted? And if it was done to protect the president, that is going to be a big deal.


And we`re saying all this in the context of Bill Barr having pretty much a total condemnation of his conduct by ex-officials, as well as people resigning over what they see as his meddling. So, how much more can he take?

The facts matter. The courts matter. It`s why it`s great having two experts like yourselves with us to understand it.

Joyce, as always, I thank you.

Dan Abrams, you have a new book. Jadakiss has a new album. And we`re going to get into how those two connect later in the show. So thank you as well, sir.

ABRAMS: Thank you.

MELBER: Up ahead -- yes, sir.

THE BEAT is hearing from new voters on the Sanders vs. Biden debate. We`re going to get into that.

But, first, this coronavirus, threat and critics of how Trump -- Donald Trump is handling it, we have a special guest on that.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Turn to the latest on the coronavirus outbreak, bombshell reporting revealing a -- quote -- "shockingly sluggish response" from this Trump administration, 14 recorded deaths in the U.S., 260 total cases estimated.

And, more, we`re learning officials airlifting tests to 3,500 people who are aboard a cruise ship right off the coast here in California, 21 people testing positive for the virus.

Days ago, Trump official said there were -- quote -- "around a million tests" that will be performed by the end of this week, presumably tonight, but we`re learning that didn`t happen.

New reporting from "The Atlantic" showing the U.S. is only tested about -- wait for it -- 1,900 people or so. That is actually under 1 percent of what was pledged by the Trump administration, the 1,900 figure substantially lower than -- let`s be clear -- many other developed nations.

Donald Trump today did visit CDC headquarters, but then used that appearance to make misleading claims about how testing kits are available in the total number, and then brought up his own impeachment.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anybody that needs a test can have a test. They`re all set. They have them out there.

In addition to that, they`re making millions of more as we speak. As of right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test -- that`s the important thing -- and the tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Robinson Meyer, who is the author of that investigative piece in "The Atlantic," "The Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing."

Thank you for being here, a busy time for a lot of people close to this, including investigative writers like yourself.

What did you find? What do people need to know?

ROBINSON MEYER, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, hey. Thank you for having me, Ari.

Yes, so what we found is that we could verify only about 1,900 Americans, patients across the United States, who`ve been tested for coronavirus. That`s roughly total. Of course, we don`t think our count has fully caught everyone. But we don`t think the number is many, many more than that, or we think it`s very unlikely that the number is many, many more than that.

The thing here that is, as you mentioned, is much, much lower than the Trump administration said they were going to target. They said they would have a million or a million-a-half tests out by the end of the week. They have only had about 2,000, despite having weeks to prepare for this outbreak.

And I think the other thing is that, right now, states can`t -- are not at the place where they could rapidly scale up to a million tests either. So instead of being able to test 10,000 people a day or 100,000 people a day, right now, the kind of total national capacity across all these state public health labs, which the Trump administration says are going to be -- who`s testing for this virus, is like a couple thousand tests.

So it`s not even 10,000 tests.


MELBER: Why does the U.S. lag behind other countries?

MEYER: It`s a complicated question. I don`t think we fully know the answer.

Basically, other countries have accepted the test made by the World Health Organization. They just accepted it. The U.S. through the FDA and the CDC tried to make its own test. It distributed that test a few weeks ago. It realized about two weeks before COVID kind of came up in the news in the U.S. that those tests were faulty.

It then withdrew them. And now it has redistributed these new tests, but it started doing that kind of at the tail end of last week. And so only through this week that they start kind of reaching these state public health labs, which are now in charge of testing.

MELBER: And do you recommend and do you find the experts you talk to say, if people feel anything, they should stay home from work? They should go get tested?

MEYER: I should say I`m not a public health expert. I would say, right now, the issue is that if you go to your doctor, they probably can`t test you for the virus.

MELBER: Right.

MEYER: Doctors, like, do not have it in the repertoire. They`re not enough tests out there to do it.

Right now, they can`t even test all, like, front-line health workers who are reporting symptoms. But, yes, I mean, right now, the CDC is saying that if you have symptoms and you think you might have been in contact, a dry cough, a fever, then you should start to self-isolate.

MELBER: Not enough good answers, but asking the questions is obviously a part of this and a part of holding government accountable.

So, Robinson Meyer, appreciate joining us -- you joining us and the work you`re doing.

MEYER: Thank you.

MELBER: Another reporter on our side of the fence, Richard Engel, has this special, "On Assignment: "Outbreak." That`s Sunday 10:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC. We should mention that as another place to get informed.

Coming up, we dig into new criticism over the Donald Trump campaign`s legal tactics with Dan Abrams and the one and only Jadakiss.


MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT, and it`s time to fall back.

Joining me from New York, journalist Dan Abrams, and multiplatinum rapper Jadakiss, who is known for hits like "It`s All About the Benjamins," "We Gonna Make it." He`s collaborated with Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Diddy, The Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Common, Eminem, Kanye West, and was a founding member of The Lox, with Sheek Louch and Styles P.

Jadakiss has joined us as his new album drops today, "Ignatius." It`s his fifth and features stars like John Legend, Pusha T, Rick Ross.

We are also joined by ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams, who also hosts A&E`s "Live P.D.," and is, of course, a veteran of MSNBC and Court TV. And he has a project dropping as well, the new book "John Adams Under Fire."

Great to have both you on THE BEAT.

ABRAMS: Good to be here.

JADAKISS, RAPPER: Thanks for having me, yes.

MELBER: I love it.

And, Dan, I will start with you, very familiar, of course, to so many news viewers.

Who OR what needs to fall back?

ABRAMS: Frivolous lawsuits against the media.

I`m tired of reading them. I`m tired of rolling my eyes at them, everything from Devin Nunes to President Trump filing lawsuit now after lawsuit, President Trump`S team filing another lawsuit today.

And these are mostly frivolous, because, as you know, first, you have to be able to show it was false. And then, even if it`s false, then you have to be able to show that they knew or basically should have known it was false.

And I don`t even know that, in the vast majority of these lawsuits, that they can demonstrate that the things they`re suing over were false in the first place.

And you know what else? Donald Trump`s never going to testify. And so any case brought by the Donald J. Trump for President or whatever the organization is, he`s not going to testify. These cases are not going to move forward.

And I still have to read through them and talk about them on TV.


MELBER: That`s -- yes, that`s one of the journalistic taxes here.

I mean, briefly, Dan, what does it tell you about Donald Trump that he so relentlessly attacks the justice system, judges, even jurors recently, which we called out here on the show, and then resorts to the courts as well, that he wants them to still help him in cases that you`re telling us, in your expertise, are meritless?

ABRAMS: It`s a political strategy. These are political lawsuits. If you actually read through the details of them, they`re political statements.

He doesn`t like "The New York Times." He doesn`t like "The Washington Post." He doesn`t like CNN. We know that. And then sort of as proof that the statements are false, very often, they will cite, well, the president has said that`s not true, or we have denied that, as if that -- oh, oh, if we`d only known. Then it would have changed everything.

MELBER: Yes. Yes.

ABRAMS: So, you know, I got to say, look, it is -- particularly with regard to Devin Nunes, these are these are expensive lawsuits, right?

Yes, the media organizations, the big ones, can suck it up.


ABRAMS: I wonder where his funding is coming from. Is he doing another contingency fee basis with these lawyers? I don`t know.

But it is -- this is getting a little bit ridiculous, the number of cases that are being filed. And you know what I say...

MELBER: Yes. I think that`s fair.

ABRAMS: ... to the lawyers who are filing some of the most frivolous ones? Shame on you.

MELBER: Well, there you go.

Jadakiss, I`m curious what`s on your fallback list. Also, as I have asked other musicians who`ve been around New York, if you have any Trump memories, you can share them. I know that he used to try to hang out to be cool in hip-hop.

So, anything on that add your fallback.

JADAKISS: I only bumped into him a few times at the Garden, actually at the same entrance where they just denied Spike from going in at.

So that`s my only encounter with the Donald, you know?

MELBER: Yes. That`s when you would see him.

JADAKISS: But my fallback is definitely how they`re comparing -- how they`re blaming the coronavirus on the decline of the sale of Corona beers.

I mean, I think that`s crazy.


JADAKISS: It has nothing to with one -- it`s apples and oranges.

It just shows you how, when people said it -- say something or put some negativity out there, sometimes it can get hurt something it has nothing to do with.

MELBER: Yes, that`s a wild story you`re flagging.

I mean, Dan, it speaks to the power of words and branding, I guess.

ABRAMS: Yes. I mean, I will take two viruses to go.

I mean, like I don`t get it. Like, is that when people are fearing, that somehow there`s actually a virus inside the beer, because it`s called Corona?


MELBER: It`s wild, yes.

The numbers, as we showed there, the 38 percent of beer drinkers avoiding Corona. And then the question, does it hit lime sales as well, Dan?


ABRAMS: Exactly.

Look, it seems like liquor is suffering a lot, right? Because also there`s this question about whether vodka, people are now talking about using it...


ABRAMS: But it doesn`t work, because it`s only got like 40 percent alcohol. You can drink it and get drunk and forget about the coronavirus.

JADAKISS: It can`t cleanse your hands.

ABRAMS: But it`s not going to cleanse your hands and prevent you -- it`s not going to work.


MELBER: Dan Abrams making a key point. Enough alcohol to get abbreviated may not be enough alcohol to sanitize.

ABRAMS: Right.

MELBER: Jadakiss, while I have you here with a new album, a lot of us remember a lot of your music, songs like "Why," where you went through all these big questions, why they got to read your mail, why they stopped letting people get degrees in jail, why you got to do 85 percent of your time, why do rappers lie in 85 percent of -- go ahead -- 85 percent of their rhymes, right?



MELBER: So, I want to get from you, what were you saying in those lyrics, and what can we expect from you in this new album?

JADAKISS: Well, with the lyrics from "Why," it`s just I thought I would ask the world a bunch of questions that individuals have in common in different parts of the world. And it seemed to really work.

But this new album, "Ignatius" that is out now on all platforms is a dedication to my homey, my partner, friend that I lost from colon cancer. He was a big -- very influential in my career.

So I just wanted to do something dedicated to him. And it`s out now. It`s called "Ignatius." It`s a great body of work. Check it out.

MELBER: Appreciate that.

We will shout out both works from two people who know their way around New York and New York media, Jadakiss with the new album, Dan Abrams. Again, the book is "John Adams Under Fire." "Ignatius" is out there.

Pick them up, both, and listen to them together. Audio books work too. There`s the album.


MELBER: Thanks to both of you for being here.

ABRAMS: So many people are going to go hand in hand with those two, for sure. It`s going to a big thing, listening to his music and reading about John Adams defending the British soldiers, yes.



MELBER: Hey, if it worked for "Hamilton," Dan.

JADAKISS: You never know.


MELBER: Thanks to both of you.

JADAKISS: Thank you.

MELBER: All right.

Right, all right, get them both.

And up ahead, we have a very special announcement, what we`re going to do here on THE BEAT to hear more from you and actual voters -- when we come back.


MELBER: A word about voting before we go tonight.

We have been broadcasting this week from California. This is one of the states we have come to where there`s been voting, the third, actually. And we have been able to talk to a lot of you, a lot of viewers and voters, about this race.

Just think how, a week ago, nobody knew it was going to be where it is now, two people left, Joe Biden in the lead. And you only get that, you only have a sense of where people are headed by listening to them, something we have tried to do a lot this cycle.

And that brings me to something special we want to tell you about that`s coming up on the show next week.

As mentioned, when you think about what we have learned from voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina, where we had people say basically, they still really liked Joe Biden -- that was before the voting -- we have learned a lot.

Next week, we want to go back in the field to do more of this and speak to voters, including those considering this new choice between Democratic socialism advocated by Sanders and the kind of unity centrism that Joe Biden has been running on.

We`re going to hear from people about some of these big policies and what`s affecting their lives in the primary. It`s a way to step away from some of the pundits and go right to the voters.

So, you can see this special on Wednesday.

But I also want you to know, if you`re a BEAT viewer, if you don`t know where you will be and whether you`re going to be near a TV Wednesday, please, just go and DVR THE BEAT right now on your remote. Press the home page, search Melber or THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER, and press DVR this show.

You will get that special that`s coming up and THE BEAT every night you want to tune in.

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