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62K deaths TRANSCRIPT: 4/30/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Lawrence Gostin, Ralph Baric, Dan Rather, Megan Ranney

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: It may have been inevitable, but, tonight, President Trump has decided to try to declare victory, something of his own mission accomplished moment in this obviously ongoing fight against coronavirus.

The president has guidelines to limit the spread, and those expire tonight. More than 30 states will be reopening in some form, cases growing to over one million, deaths topping 61,000, and the president, who once basically as recently as a week ago floated the idea of ingesting disinfectant, saying this:


QUESTION: Is it fair for the voters to take into consideration your handling of the pandemic when they assess whether to reelect you in the fall?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sure. I think they do. I think they have to do a number of things. They do have to do that. And maybe Phil could speak to that, because I think I have handled that -- and not me. I think our whole group has been spectacular.


MELBER: Now, he has called his response to this virus spectacular, although also trying to include the rest of the group.

Senior adviser Jared Kushner is calling what`s going on in America right now under Trump a great success.

The effort here, while still dealing with the nuts and bolts and medical science and facts of this day-to-day, is to wrap it in a new sort of claim of perception that there is some kind of victory here.

Let`s dig in, though, to what`s really happening. A new poll shows that all 50 governors score higher marks on their handling of this crisis than the president. Today, 3.8 million more people filing for unemployment, that takes us up to over 30 million people who have lost jobs in just the last six weeks during all of this.

And despite medical experts and Dr. Fauci warning of a second virus wave, several states, like Alabama, Maine, and Texas, will see the stay-at-home orders end today. Iowa, North Dakota, Wyoming are among the states that will begin loosening restrictions tomorrow.

Now, there is a contrast in some places. Take California, where Governor Newsom closed some parks and beaches after thousands were seen turning out there just this past weekend.

Now let`s take a look at the president`s so-called success story.


TRUMP: Ultimately, the goal is to ease the guidelines and open things up to very large sections of our country as we near the end of our historic battle with the invisible enemy.

We can begin the next front in our war, which we`re calling opening up America again.

I think we have made a lot of good decisions. I think that Mike Pence and the task force have done a fantastic job.

An incredible amount of work by the federal government, we have a big, big, beautiful overcapacity. And it`s the same thing with testing.

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: We have achieved all the different milestones that are needed. So, the government, federal government, rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story.


MELBER: The numbers you see on your screen are the facts.

If the statements above the facts look wrong, or even embarrassingly so, that is a reflection of the distance between these claims, political, rhetorical and otherwise, and the facts of what America is going through, what everyone is living through.

The president has also tried to tout his record on testing, which, of course, is key to reopening safely. He`s claimed that the U.S. is doing -- quote -- "more than anyone," which is not true per capita.

And then you have the government`s own medical experts pushing back on him.


TRUMP: Anybody that needs a test have a test can have a test. They`re all set.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: Well, hopefully, we should see that as we get towards the end of May, the beginning of June.

TRUMP: It`s going to go. It`s going to leave. It`s going to be gone. It`s going to be eradicated.

FAUCI: It`s inevitable that we will have a return of the virus or maybe it never even went away.


MELBER: As health care workers go on, day to day, with the work of treating patients, they also are worried about the road ahead.

And they say for everyone to listen to who`s out there dealing with this, the people on the ground, they say, the key to defeating this disease will ultimately be the still elusive medical treatment.


COURTNEY MAKOWSKI, NORTHWESTERN MEDICINE: The medical team looks to us to know which medications to use and how to implement those in therapy. And there`s nothing that I think is more disheartening for myself and my colleagues than to have these physicians and care providers that normally respect and look for us for our answers and know we have them to look to us now, and we`re in the same boat As everyone in the world.


MELBER: Joining me now is Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and associate professor of emergency medicine at Brown University, Michael Steele, former RNC chair and former Maryland lieutenant governor, and Lawrence Gostin, director of the O`Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown.

Good to see all of you.

Dr. Ranney, how do we understand where we are in this on the medical facts, as opposed to some of the claims that we just showed, which are not supported by the facts?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, RHODE ISLAND HOSPITAL: You know, as I tweeted yesterday, Ari, if this is success, I would hate to see failure, right?

This has not yet been a success story across the United States. Individual states and governors have done a great job of putting social distancing guidelines in place, slowing the spread of this disease.

But we are all waiting with bated breath to see what happens as the states start to open up again. We have already seen in Germany, when they have relaxed those social distancing guidelines, the cases and deaths have started to spike.

And I will tell you, our hospitals across the country are still full of really sick COVID-19 patients. We still don`t have adequate tests. We still don`t have adequate protective equipment. And, as you just mentioned, we still don`t have adequate treatments.

So it is not yet time to declare victory. And, in fact, I`m not sure we ever will. This virus is not something that can be vanquished. This is something that`s going to be here with us and that we`re going to have to work with for a while.

MELBER: So, take a listen to the president here talking about the death toll.


TRUMP: The testing and the masks and all of the things, we solved every problem. And we solved it quickly. It`s been really spectacular.

So, yes, I think -- I don`t think anybody has done a better job with testing, with ventilators, with all of the things that we have done. And death totals, our numbers per million people are really very, very strong. We`re very proud of the job we have done.


MELBER: Doctor.

RANNEY: Our death totals are strong in terms of high. Our death rates are high compared to much of the rest of the world.

We are in a group of countries, along with Italy, Sweden, China, that have some of the worst death rates in the world right now. Again, our testing has not been where we want it to be.

I admire his pride, but I would kindly disagree from the front lines that this is not what we are experiencing.

MELBER: Well, and you know the saying, Michael Steele, pride cometh before the disinfectant.




MELBER: I`m in the ballpark, but your views, Michael, on...

STEELE: You`re close.

MELBER: The doctor lays it out. Your views on how that connects to the leadership question, which you have experience in.


And I think that`s the key thing. When Dr. Ranney is talking about is the reality of COVID-19. What Donald Trump is talking about is the reality television version of COVID-19.

And I think that that`s where a lot of Americans now are kind of waking up out of this reality TV space, where the death toll was not that high and everything`s great. You know, it`s these huge superlatives to describe everything from getting masks to ventilators.

But the reality is very different. And it`s come home for a lot of people in a very harsh way. And as the death toll, while it may plateau, in some areas, it`s spiking in some others. You`re now opening up the country.

A newer reality is about to set in. And I think Germany is a good example. It`s a precursor of what our tomorrow can look like very, very soon. And so how the administration reconcile this, Ari? That`s going to be the narrative you`re going to see play out as more and more governors, again, taking different steps from the president, prove that the reality is very different from the reality TV version of all of this.

MELBER: And so, Doctor, before we lose you, the other question I have for you, Dr. Ranney, is just what is most important for people to do who are in places where there is a partial reopening?

RANNEY: So, in places where there is a partial reopening, the most important thing to do is to maintain as much as possible that continued social distancing.

Without adequate testing, we don`t yet know who`s infected, we don`t know who`s immune. It takes just a few contacts with someone who`s sick in order to be infected yourself. And so, particularly if you`re older, or if you have chronic medical conditions, like diabetes, pulmonary disease, et cetera, to maintain that distance as much as possible.

I also really want to take a chance to highlight the impact of this on our minority and lower-income communities, the folks that can`t social distance because they are essential workers, have to take public transportation. It`s on each of us to protect others by maintaining as much as possible that space, wearing those masks in public spaces, and continuing to maintain the recommendations that our governors have given us.

MELBER: Understood, and all important points.

And, Doctor, thank you. We like beginning the broadcast with our doctors and getting the news we can use, so to speak. So thank you for joining us.

Lawrence, I want to turn to you and basically dig into something that we have seen, which is, the president picks this fight with the WHO. The president attacks the news media. All that, we know.

But we`re seeing that spread, and Governor Cuomo making some waves here, as you know, also going at the WHO, which I will remind viewers you have you have been an expert adviser to them on. And Governor Cuomo also complaining that maybe the press didn`t put out enough early warnings.

What do you make of the fact that there is now some -- at least among politicians, some bipartisan instinct towards heading into May blaming these organizations or early warning systems for not being fast enough back in January?

LAWRENCE GOSTIN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, thank you for having me back, Ari.

I mean, I think blaming the World Health Organization, when we had ample notice, is just utterly irresponsible. I mean, in the middle of a pandemic, you really don`t want to go after the global health agency.

But let me just come back to this idea of the president, who overpromises and underdelivers. He also said -- in addition to the things you mentioned, Ari, about being spectacular, he also said, we`re going to eradicate this coronavirus, which is fanciful thinking.

Look, the American public can see it with their own eyes. And it`s kind of insulting really, because their family members are dying, they`re getting sick. And they know that we`re not handling this well.

You have to trust the American public by being honest with them. If you`re honest with the public, they will trust you. But if you just kind of tap yourself on the back and just say, oh, I`m doing a great job, when everyone can see the opposite, people just despair, and they should despair.

And I should say one other thing that`s really important. As we`re all going back to work, and the only thing that we have been able to do to stop this is social distancing. We actually don`t have a plan B, because we don`t have testing, we don`t have an army of contact tracers.

And so, once we do that, we`re going to get a second wave and a third wave. And it`s sad, because we do need this kind of national leadership, and we can`t deflect blame on the World Health Organization or anyone else. We have to look in the mirror.


And, Michael, I wanted to show viewers -- it`s become commonplace to say, oh, this is a polarized time. Oh, it`s a partisan time.

But in every state, you add them all together, you get America, right? So, if what`s happening in the states is not as polarized, it`s a reminder that what is the most polarizing, according to the data, is the president, and not all Americans.

Take a look in Massachusetts, where the governor has an 80 percent approval rating for handling the virus, or -- and -- or in -- and that`s a Democratic populous, by the way, with a Republican governor -- or Governor Larry Hogan, also a Republican in Maryland, 80 percent approval for his handling, Trump there 38 percent.

What do those gaps tell you, Michael?

STEELE: Well, the gaps tell me at least that the governors from the very beginning performed in a way that took seriously the nature of the challenge in front of them.

They listened to the smart people in the room. They relied on the science. They took to the marketplace to find the aid and the PPEs and the other assistance that they would need in their states. And the people paid attention to that.

So, while they may have been entertained by the president`s coronavirus press rallies that took place every day, the serious business of keeping them safe and preventing the further spread in their communities, they looked to their governors for that.

And I think that`s reflected in the polls. The people have disconnected the handling of the virus between their governors and the president. And so they see one as more serious than the other.

And there`s no equalization there. Now, maybe in places where you have a DeSantis or other governors who hew a little bit more to the president, that gap may be narrow.

But I would almost bet that, even in those places, folks get the difference between what their governors have to do and what the president talks about doing.

MELBER: Very interesting.

Michael Steele, Lawrence Gostin, thanks to both of you.

Coming up, we`re going to dig into the archives and show you how other presidents have handled a pandemic, a huge contrast between Obama and his replacement. We think you will be interested in that.

Tonight, we also have an exclusive interview with one of the leading scientists developing a potential new treatment, and we`re going to discuss what that drug can do.

Also later, Steve Schmidt is here to get into it and let loose on his views about why Donald Trump has a reelection problem.

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



TRUMP: And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or -- or almost a cleaning?


MELBER: A lot happens in a week these days. That was exactly one week ago, when President Trump talked up disinfectants, a dangerously ignorant statement that spawned days of controversy and government corrections.

And the issue there, and the issue tonight, is not fundamentally about ideology or politics. It`s about science and truth. Government ignorance about science is dangerous during a pandemic. You know that. We know that. Maybe sometimes he doesn`t know that.

Today`s problems are a long way from how presidents in both parties have tried to approach medical science, especially during crises.

Here was President Obama in his very first inaugural address:


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology`s wonders to raise health care`s quality and lower its cost.


MELBER: That was the asserted priority coming into office. He wanted people to know in the inaugural that science would matter.

And he went on to restrict -- take the restrictions that were on stem cell research and lift them. He went on to order federal agencies to maintain scientific integrity. He also joined the Paris climate accords, which he argued was a direct response to climate science.

In fact, all the way back in 2010, it was Barack Obama who actually held the first ever White House science fair with students.


OBAMA: Because the United States has always been a place that loves science.

We`re here to celebrate these young scientists and visionaries. There`s the folks who are going to come up with cures for diseases and new sources of energy and help us build healthier and more successful societies.


MELBER: President Obama also happily leaned into the nerdier side of these things.

Here he was firing a student`s marshmallow cannon, all to prop up, to engage with, to show, in a very real way, all the different methods we can use, from education to the rest of our lives, to work with science.

Now, of course, it`s not all science fairs and games. The United States faced swine flu in Obama`s first year on the job.

And because we think this is relevant now, we want to show you exactly how that president led the country during a scary time of infectious disease, stressing the approach of his administration would be scientists taking the lead.


OBAMA: Our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community.

And as our scientists and researchers learn more information about this virus every day, the guidance we offer will likely change. What will not change is the fact that we will be making every recommendation based on the best science possible.


MELBER: That is what it looks like when a president warns the country very directly and speaks to them like they`re adults to tell you, hey, some of this may change over time because we`re learning as we go, but every recommendation will be rooted in science. That was the standard.

Now Donald Trump claims he doesn`t expect a second wave of coronavirus in the fall, publicly at odds with the experts who say it`s inevitable. The last president took a different tack on the same issue 10 years ago.


OBAMA: We know that we usually get a second larger wave of these flu viruses in the fall. And so response plans have been put in place across all levels of government.

Our plans and decisions are based on the best scientific information available. And as the situation changes, we will continue to update the public.


MELBER: A president warning you the flu can come back, rather than pretending it won`t.

Obama had a similar approach dealing with Ebola.


OBAMA: And we have to be guided by the science. We have to be guided by the facts, not fear.


MELBER: He went on to make a public display, meeting with a Dallas nurse who was recovering from Ebola, and gave her a hug right there for the nation to see.

If you go further back, before the presidency, Senator Obama also discussed publicly his worries about the very kind of crisis we now face.


OBAMA: Since coming to the Senate six months ago, one of the foreign policy and health issues I have focused on relates to the avian flu. We must face the reality that these exotic killer diseases are not isolated health problems halfway around the world, but direct and immediate threats to the security and prosperity here at home.


MELBER: For all the talk about what you can predict and what you can be prepared for, it is instructive right now to look at which types of approaches work, which types of risk management.

It was in that same legislative body, the U.S. Senate, where that senator made clear he wanted scientists making the big decisions.


OBAMA: Who`s going to be responsible for deciding that a quarantine in some circumstances warranted? Do you think it would make sense to have yourself, or Dr. Fauci, or others, somebody, who was saying, you know what, I am keeping track of all this stuff?

FAUCI: I hope I can help. I know this has been a -- obviously a back-and- forth, confusing issue.

In reality, we`re talking about something that`s overwhelmingly a health issue.


MELBER: We all know what we`re dealing with right now.

Back when Donald Trump was drawing sharpie lines on a hurricane map, that was dangerous misinformation for those who were in the storm`s pat. That was part of the country.

Now you can look at this and it`s like, we`re drawing sharpies all over the world map with the worst pandemic in a century, with potentially catastrophic life-and-death consequences.

And you have questions about what happens to our safety when you have the misinformation coming directly from the White House, when you have scientists suppressed and basically ousted or sidelined because they disagreed with the president.

None of that is supposed to be normal in the White House.


OBAMA: Promoting science isn`t just about providing resources. It`s also about protecting free and open inquiry. It`s about letting scientists, like those who are here today, do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it`s inconvenient, especially when it`s inconvenient.

It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda, and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.


MELBER: What is the best way for presidents to relate to science? And what can we learn from the history we just saw?

We`re going to get into it with Dan Rather when we`re back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: Joined now by Dan Rather, a journalism icon, a longtime news anchor, president of News and Guts, host of the AXS TV`s "The Big Interview," and it`s a cliche, Dan, but someone who does not need introduction to news viewers.

Thank you for being here.



MELBER: What do you see in this president`s conflict with science and facts, in contrast to others? And what do you make of a point that we were just exploring earlier in the show, which is that there`s plenty of ideological debate across different presidents, but there does seem to be a wider gulf here with Trump vs. presidents in both parties historically?

RATHER: Well, there`s no doubt about that, Ari, that the number one thing of leadership, particularly leadership of the American presidency, is not to be afraid of the truth, that leaders in general, but particularly presidents, who`ve proven effective leaders in the past, have never been afraid of the truth.

Think of Franklin Roosevelt in the depths of the Depression. Think of Winston Churchill, of course, not a president, but who say word (AUDIO GAP) is just two examples.

But time after time after time, it`s been demonstrated that the most essential thing for a successful presidency is not to be afraid of the truth, that a president is willing to level with the American people about the truth is, tell them what the truth is, and then lay out his vision for the future.

With President Trump, there has been virtually none of that. Nobody wants to pick on him. Nobody wants to just hammer away at him. But he`s -- it`s a failure of leadership when you have divisiveness and lies as a fundamental of your presidency.

It`s tough to say those words, but it`s -- the facts bear it out. And we talked about effective presidents of the past meeting crises, that George W. Bush after 9/11 with the bullhorn down in the devastated part of New York.

You can say, well, he screwed up things later, but that was a moment in which he took charge and exhibited some leadership.

MELBER: Right.

RATHER: President Clinton at Oklahoma City after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Time after time after time, we have had previous presidents who could rise to the occasion. So far in this presidency, we haven`t had that.


Well, and we just showed viewers the way that Barack Obama related to Dr. Fauci, the way that he warned the public, science is a process, and so when we`re facing a new threat or infectious disease, some of the guidance may change as we learn.

That seems to me to be a very interesting and clear way to fortify what the scientists then have to do, which is very tough, if they tell people, we know something, but we don`t know everything. We aren`t requiring masks. A couple weeks later, actually, we recommend them.

The president seemed to use his credibility to support them. And we showed an earlier broadcast, President Bush Sr. citing Dr. Fauci to make a point.

Here, you have a president who is on the record being concerned that any of the experts might, even for a day, upstage him.

RATHER: Well, it -- that`s all true, Ari.

And this is one reason that he has very low approval ratings. His ratings go up and down. And fairly recently, they were up for a short period of time, but now they have taken another dive down.

But this is all against the previous record that no president in the modern presidency, not since Herbert Hoover, at any rate, has had such low approval ratings consistently through most of his presidency.

And I think that`s an indication that the basic problem with President Trump and his administration is, on the one hand, the public, a large majority of the public gets the sense that the truth is not in him, or at least is not in him enough often enough, and, secondarily, that his administration is dysfunctional.

Now, those within the administration may argue, that`s unfair. But that`s the public perception that chaos and dysfunction are sort of rules inside the White House.

All of this leads to an undermining of trust. And a high degree of communicable trust between the leadership and the led is an absolute essential of the American presidency. It`s generally an essential for leadership wherever you are, but certainly for the presidency.

And President Trump has not up to this point been able to muster that. Whether he could turn it around by suddenly saying, listen, I`m going to listen to the scientists, and whatever the scientists say, wherever the science leads us, that`s where I`m going to go, whether it would make a difference for him at this late date or not, I don`t know.

But I certainly wish he would try it.

MELBER: All important points, with history in mind.

Dan Rather, thank you so much tonight.

RATHER: Thank you, Ari. Thank you very much.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

When we come back, we actually have one of the leaders scientists developing a potential treatment.

Stay with us.


MELBER: We`re seeing some optimism about a potential breakthrough in the fight against this virus.

In fact, Dr. Fauci talked about a special drug that shows clear-cut evidence of working, but not for every patient, University of North Carolina partnering and developing it with trials, using control groups of about 1,000 people. The recovery time was 11 days for those who received the drug, 15 days for those who didn`t, mortality rate 8 percent vs. 11.

In a moment, we`re joined by Ralph Baric, the lead scientist and epidemiologists who`s working on this.

Today, a doctor who was first in the world to treat a patient with the drug says, while it`s not a home run, there is something to consider. Take a look.


DR. GEORGE DIAZ, PROVIDENCE REGIONAL HOSPITAL: Before he got treated, he was having really high fevers. He needed oxygen, had evidence of pneumonia on his X-ray.

Shortly after starting treatment, he improved quite a bit, was able to come off of oxygen, and his fevers went away, and was able to go home just in a few days.

Our experience with the first patient was very, very positive.


MELBER: Ralph Baric, a professor at UNC`s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, is with us, back again.

I`m going to be very honest to tell you the reason why I like these types of interviews is, we get to look ahead to the slivers of hope, the potential road ahead. Walk us through what we need to know here.

RALPH BARIC, UNC GILLINGS SCHOOL OF GLOBAL PUBLIC: All right, it`s a real pleasure to be here.

And the physician talking in the last few 30 seconds or so, that was music to my ears, to hear that patients are responding well to the drug.

MELBER: So how`s this work?

BARIC: And I -- oh, so, in terms of how the drug works, the drug blocks the ability of the virus to replicate.

It interferes with one of the enzymes that`s involved in making many, in essence, baby viruses that are released from the cell. And so that blocks virus replication. It stops the disease process very quickly. And that leads to improvement in the patient.

One of the key things, though, I think, is that the earlier the drug is given, the more effective that it will be in terms of treating patients.

MELBER: Yes, so let`s go through this.

And we have a very basic graphic, and it`s just the surface, where we are not you. We are not the deep expert, but in thinking about what it doesn`t do, we`re not hearing that it`s a cure-all. We`re not talking about complete -- completely getting rid of it.

But we are talking about what you might call limitation containment. What does that mean for people who are looking ahead to a world where, in a year or two, there are these kind of options, where basically the type of situation where some people today or in the last month, tragically, got the virus and died, this would do what, if treated the right way and if the right things happen?

BARIC: So, this is a very complex disease that has two parts. The first part is when the virus is replicating and causing damage deep in your lung, specifically at the interface where the capillary beds, or places where blood flows, to pick up oxygen, meets the -- what are called the alveoli, which are little balloons in your lungs.

And so the virus replicates at that interface, and it causes damage there, and you can have fluid pouring into your lungs.

The second phase of the disease is when the immune system kicks in and causes severe immune pathology. And when that begins to occur, the virus titers drop off. So, very early on in our animal models of human disease, we show that the drug worked best when virus replication was at its most efficient, and that would then sequentially prevent the serious immune pathologic component of the disease to kick in.

Now, if patients are already beginning to enter or have progressed deeply into this phase of acute respiratory distress syndrome, where the immune system is causing most of the disease, and most of the virus has disappeared, then the drug is much less effective.

So, it`s a game-changer in terms of demonstrating that we can make a difference in people`s lives. But it also highlights the complexity of this disease and the new types of treatment strategies that are going to have to be implemented to contain the second phase of the disease.

MELBER: Understood.

And that makes sense and is something for people to understand. You could have containment strategies that significantly help people and obviously also reduce some of the otherwise rate of death.

Ralph Baric, thank you so much, sir.

BARIC: Oh, it`s a pleasure to be here, Ari. I enjoy your show.

MELBER: Oh, thank you. Appreciate it. We will have you back.

Going to fit in a break.

When we come back, you have these reports that Donald Trump has denied, that he was raging at staffers over, yes, his problems with reelection, plunging polls.

Also, later tonight, we have an update on a very important case out of the Mueller probe.

All of that ahead.


MELBER: New developments in a key case from the Mueller probe.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had pled guilty to lying to the feds in a cooperation deal. He`s now trying to withdraw that guilty plea.

Now, Flynn`s false claims are not in doubt tonight, but there is new scrutiny on what the FBI did before Flynn made those claims to the FBI.

For the first time, we`re seeing how they approach Flynn, then one of the most powerful officials in the White House, during a high-stakes investigation into Russian links to the Trump campaign or the administration.

Here is the record from January 2017. It was secret, until now, an FBI official laying out different scenarios for the Flynn interview and asking in writing -- quote -- "What`s our goal, truth, admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?"

That quote is a fascinating look inside that probe. It shows how aggressive the FBI agents were as they approached Flynn.

Now, they had reasons to be skeptical and expect him to make false statements about his Russia contacts, which he did. But as a matter of judgment, these notes do add to questions about whether that approach was warranted.

Now, on one hand, FBI agents, just like police, are routinely very aggressive in questioning subjects and suspects, especially when there`s already evidence that the people they`re approaching are hiding the truth.

On the other hand, this was the lawfully appointed national security adviser of the United States. It was also one part of the executive branch, the FBI, questioning another on the national security side, which does raise potential confusion about whether this was a work meeting discussion or an interrogation.

And that sheds light on one other quote from these brand-new files, that same official writing how it was key to -- quote -- "protect our institution by not playing games. If we`re seen playing games, the White House will be furious."

Now, there, the FBI official is apparently arguing that they would have to try to play it straight, so the FBI wasn`t caught in the middle of some internal game.

Now, these notes, they don`t change the fact that Flynn made false statements about his Russia contacts. But I want to be clear with you on this development in the story. They do raise valid questions about how the FBI approached going at this official.

They also raise a larger policy question about the blurry line between talking to a co-worker and the FBI coming and knocking to interrogate someone.

And let`s be clear, this is not an entirely new legal dilemma. The FBI was also aggressive in questioning another top-ranking official who also was in the position of being a co-worker. You may remember, former Obama CIA Director David Petraeus. And he also got in legal trouble more for false statements than for underlying conduct.

The point here, especially on a matter as big as the convictions from the Mueller probe, is that we need all the facts we can get, transparently, and without a political agenda, about cherry-picking any one of them.

That`s why we wanted to give you this update.

Now, we`re going to fit in a break.

When we come back, we have something I know a lot of us are looking forward to, the one and only Steve Schmidt dropping by to get into everything facing Donald Trump right now.


MELBER: Welcome back.

Tonight, coronavirus deaths in the United States top 60,000. There are over 30 million Americans who are now without jobs. They would have them but for both the underlying medical crisis and the U.S.` inability to get ahead of it.

Meanwhile, new reporting on how the president is still seeking a new scapegoat and lashing out at even his own aides when they don`t agree with his attempts to rewrite history.

Take a look at this "Washington Post" reporting that Trump -- quote -- "berated his campaign manager after aides simply showed their own polling that showed Trump trailing in key states," the presentation part of an effort to -- quote -- "curtail Donald Trump`s daily briefings on the pandemic, which his own allies thought were clearly hurting him politically."

The president has denied the story.

Joining me now is a Republican political strategist with experience working for John McCain and an MSNBC contributor, Steve Schmidt.

Good to see you, sir.

Let`s start with the superficial. Then we will turn to all the stories.

You have changed your home location. I see a beautiful kitchen, instead of your beautiful bar.


STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: We have the -- we have the kitchen in the background, yes, sir.

MELBER: Well, all I can say is, I`m excited to see what you`re cooking up, rhetorically.

You have worked on campaigns. And in fairness to any candidate in a campaign, stories come out in "The Post" and elsewhere that you don`t like, or that overplayed an internal meeting, or the president says he wasn`t yelling.

But what, to you, is important substantively about both that report, the president`s response? And what do you see as the outlook for 2020?

SCHMIDT: Well, when we -- well, first off, these stories, if you`re working on a campaign, just drive you absolutely crazy.

And you always come to this point in a campaign. You always know the demarcation line, really, between a winning campaign or a losing campaign. In a winning campaign, you can have more than four people in a room without the discussion leaking out to the front page of "The Times" or "The Washington Post."

A losing campaign, you can`t do that. So I have been in the inner circle of a winning presidential campaign, George W. Bush. That never would have happened. Losing campaign, John McCain, unfortunately, happens all the time.

So it`s a mark of chaos in the organization. And with the political aides, and you imagine them approaching Trump like they`re coming into feed a king cobra or a tiger in the room, right, like coming in trepidatiously, cautiously, right, terrified, right, that they...

MELBER: Well, is he...

SCHMIDT: ... have to deliver news to him, which is that he is cratering.


MELBER: Steve, is the tiger or is he the tiger king?

SCHMIDT: He is a little bit tiger, a little bit tiger king, right?


SCHMIDT: He is -- he`s in there. They`re scared of him. They know he`s going to go nuts when they tell him that these briefings aren`t working, that people are looking at him, and they`re seeing a clown show.

They`re seeing a clinic of unfitness put on every night. And that`s why he`s behind in -- Joe Biden in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, in Florida. So, someone had to go in and tell him the news.

And, obviously, he went nuts about it. And I believe every word about that in the newspapers.

And it just goes to show that, behind the cameras, it`s the same guy. The buck doesn`t stop anywhere. He`s not responsible for everything. It`s the campaign manager`s fault. It`s the news media`s fault. It`s the Chinese fault.

He`s the biggest victim in America. But, in America, we don`t usually care to see our presidents playing the role of victim. They`re supposed to look out for and protect the country. And he has so utterly failed in that duty.

And I will say, Ari, I think it bears mentioning that, 45 years ago today is a moment of American humiliation, the image seared into our consciousness of the last helicopters lifting off of the roof the embassy in Saigon, bringing an ignominious end to the Vietnam War.

And, today, we see a similar disgrace beamed out all across the country with armed hoodlums, paramilitary fetishists, festooned in tactical gear, occupying the Michigan state capitol.

This is dangerous in a democracy. But this extremism is what Trump has wrought after three years in power.


Well, you mentioned that. I actually had -- we had seen online you had been talking about that. I will read a little bit of context for your further analysis.

You have Michigan State Senator Polehanki posting, armed protesters outside the Capitol -- quote -- "Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at. Some of my colleagues who own bulletproof vests wearing them. I have never appreciated our sergeant at arms more than today."

Your view of this, Steve?

SCHMIDT: This is appalling. Somebody needs to explain to me what the difference between those guys and a bunch of brownshirted Stormtroopers in 1925 is.

And I`m very serious about this. This isn`t about the Second Amendment. This isn`t about gun ownership. These are temples of democracy, these buildings, where we test the premise each generation whether we retain the capacity to govern ourselves.

Free speech is important in this country. They`re not protesters. When you show up in tactical gear carrying a tactical weapon, and AR-15, an M-4, an AK-47, you`re there to intimidate. You`re assaulting the tenets of our system, which is a system that exists to preserve the rule of law, that`s the oldest constitutional Republican in the world.

And we should not think for a second, as we`re at the dawn of a new moment in history, that because extremism didn`t rise in the United States in a way that was able to take over the country in the past, that it`s not still here and it still doesn`t pose a threat.

Nobody should be comforted by those images. Whether you`re a Trump supporter, whether you`re a Biden supporter, whether you`re not going to vote at all. We don`t do that in this country.

MELBER: Right.

SCHMIDT: That is an appalling image. And it makes us look like a basket case as they`re beamed out around the world to our allies and to our enemies.

MELBER: Yes, it`s a striking image.

I will say, there is, of course, a distinction any time people are only speaking vs. those who`ve taken up action or arms to do violence.

But it is really striking. And I appreciate you raising it.

I have literally 45 seconds. And Steve -- for Steve Schmidt, that`s not enough time, but I warn you, you only have 45 seconds.


MELBER: The last thing is, the president has backed away from the briefings. He did them for weeks. The measurements came out. He never spent any time with honoring, remembering, consoling the lost lives, for the most part, when "The Post" counted it up.

Your view of that, in the time we have left?

SCHMIDT: Well, we see somebody -- we see somebody up there who, when you`re confronted with death totals now that approach the total from the Vietnam War, but, at the time, were 40,000, and he`s up talking about his ratings, right, about that he does great compared to "The Bachelor," compared to this reality show.

It`s just appalling. He just fundamentally lacks the capacity at the three dimensions you need to see a president operate in. He lacks it mentally, he lacks it intellectually, and he lacks it morally.

What we`re talking about here, Ari, is moral leadership that he just has an incapacity for, can`t do it, has no chance of ever being able to do it, because it`s not how Donald Trump is wired.


SCHMIDT: And the American people are a lot worse off because of that.

MELBER: As you say, moral leadership and scientific leadership both under scrutiny here.

Steve Schmidt, thank you, as always. We appreciate it.

A quick programming note: The one and only 50 Cent is back on THE BEAT, joins us here tomorrow, 50 Cent. We`re going to be talking music, COVID, Trump, and a whole lot more.

Excited to have him. That`s tomorrow.

Keep it right here, right now on MSNBC.