Trump tax fight TRANSCRIPT: 5/12/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Tammy Baldwin, Ron Klain, Neal Katyal, William Schaffner

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber on a very busy news day.

The fight over Donald Trump`s tax returns hitting the Supreme Court in a historic standoff, while job losses drive what some are calling a Trump recession.

We have special report on inequality and the racial disparities circulating throughout this pandemic tonight.

Also, late-breaking news on Jared Kushner`s medical supply task force.

So, we have a lot tonight on a whole variety of topics. So stay with us.

But we begin with a basic fact right now during this pandemic. Much of the government is an essential service. That`s true for public servants leading this pandemic response, and for the Congress that overseas them, and the courts that also provide oversight in our system of balance of power.

And, today, I can tell you what this all looks like.

One, the Supreme Court holding, as mentioned, these unprecedented oral arguments by telephone conference call, no Zoom for the justices, in this case overseeing Trump and his historically unusual secrecy.

And then this visual of the Senate holding its own virtual hearing, Zooming along of sorts, just like so many other Americans. And these were for reasons even more pressing than what faces the high court, because three top health officials testifying from home are doing so because they`re self-isolating after West Wing staffers tested positive for the virus.

The most prominent, Dr. Fauci, facing the senators and at times undercutting and debunking misinformation from the president. Now, this was a doctor in a setting with several other leaders who are, of course, in a co-equal branch of government. So it`s different than when we see him in those other settings, like the president over his shoulder at a press conference.

And let`s be clear. What you need to know tonight, the doctor clearly breaking with parts of his boss` push to reopen, providing facts and science. Dr. Fauci warning that states who try to reopen too soon could face deadly consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: It`s my concern that, if some areas, city, states or what have you jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up, without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.

There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, the doctor chooses his words deliberately.

So let`s listen to them deliberately. An outbreak you might not be able to cancer is more than a warning. It`s a reminder that this devastating bout of the virus has actually been controlled in certain ways, and the experts are telling us that, even amidst all of the death we`re living through.

So any failure on the road ahead, Dr. Fauci is warning everyone in public, in this setting, in this testimony. He warning us that something potentially worse could happen than what we have been already going through.

Now, another exchange today that I want to show you is when Donald Trump`s former GOP rival turned congressional supporter libertarian Senator Rand Paul tried to make some sort of point by pressing Dr. Fauci on humility.

And if it was an attempt to cow the doctor, well, he wasn`t having it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I think we ought to have a little bit of humility in our belief that we know what`s best for the economy.

And as much as I respect you, Dr. Fauci, I don`t think you`re the end-all.

FAUCI: I have never made myself out to be the end-all and only voice of this.

I`m a scientist, a physician and a public health official. I don`t give advice about anything other than public health.

But I am very careful and hopefully humble in knowing that I don`t know everything about this disease.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, exchanges like that were not the only tone we saw.

Senator Mitt Romney, who has become something of an outlier among Republicans on the Hill, you see him here at home flanked by family portraits, and he went ahead and used some of this time to fact-check Donald Trump`s claims about testing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): By March 6, the U.S. has completed just 2,000 tests, whereas South Korea had conducted more than 140,000 tests. So partially as a result of that, they have 256 deaths and we have almost 80,000 deaths.

I find our testing record nothing to celebrate whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: All this comes as Donald Trump tries to push to reopen the country; 32 states are already technically open, another eight gearing up to do so next week.

And there are some safe ways to start this process. But, again, let`s listen to Dr. Fauci stress that some progress is a long ways from acting or living like this is under control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: If you think that we have it completely under control, we don`t.

I mean, if you look at the dynamics of the outbreak, we are seeing a diminution of the hospitalizations and infections in some places, such as in New York City, which has plateaued and started to come down, New Orleans.

But in other parts of the country, we are seeing spikes. I think we`re going in the right direction, but the right direction does not mean we have by any means total control of this outbreak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: This is news you can use, literally.

Look, if you`re in America, you`re watching this, most of us are living through this, trying to understand how to manage risks, trying to figure out what we`re up against as things evolve, making plans, talking to other people about it.

I`m sure you have had plenty of conversations about it, and you try to draw on what you have learned along the way, especially what we have learned from experts.

So, let`s be clear, a partial reopening does not mean business as usual. Leaving the house a little more in an area where that is clear to do is a risk that can be managed. It doesn`t mean that everyone should then just go out as much as possible in any place that is reopening.

And in new parts of the country, let`s be clear about what we`re hearing. These numbers show that one region`s May is going to look more like another region`s harrowing April or March.

Consider how the New York City area has been flattening, something that we just heard the doctor reference. But the rest of the country has cases on the rise.

So there are certain places that are getting worse, that are getting more dangerous for you. Donald Trump has been urging all states basically to basically uniformly move quickly, and he says, he thinks the cases are sharply decreasing. Move quickly.

But it depends where you are. And he knows this, or at least his staff does, because an unreleased White House report was showing the coronavirus rate spiking in the heartland of America, including many states with a different regional makeup than where we first saw it hit, like New York and Seattle.

You can see the increase in cases here in these hot spots, several cities registering surges over a one-week period. That includes Nashville, Des Moines, and at the top of the list, with a 650 percent increase, Central City, Kentucky.

Meanwhile, I want you to know several other cities are now on a watch lit, Kansas City, Omaha, Lincoln, and Montgomery, Alabama.

We have to keep track of the details across each part of the country to keep each part safe, based on what`s is going on where you are, where you live.

To that end, I want to bring in our experts, beginning with Dr. William Schaffner, professor at Vanderbilt and a CDC adviser, Ron Klain, the chief of staff to two vice presidents. He oversaw the response to the Ebola outbreak during the Obama administration. And Heather McGhee, a distinguished senior fellow at the progressive think tank Demos and an NBC News analyst.

Good to see all of you.

Doctor, how do you apply what Dr. Fauci was saying about different regions having to do it different ways right now?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, DEPARTMENT OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE CHAIRMAN, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Public health is local, Ari. You have got to know what`s going on in your neighborhood.

And, basically, all neighborhoods ought to be moving very, very cautiously. You know, it is a new normal. We`re not going back to the old normal. The coronavirus is with us.

So, all the social distancing recommendations need to be kept in mind. We ought to minimize going out in groups, wear those masks when you`re out in public, wash your hands a lot. Don`t congregate in large groups. We don`t want to do that. We`re not ready to do that anywhere, because we need to keep this virus under control.

MELBER: But, specifically, the strange thing about this is, there is going to be a type of -- beyond all the hardship, there is also a type of fatigue from people who have been doing certain precautions and hearing about this and living with it.

And it`s human nature, as we know, where people want to move on. But, Doctor, what we`re seeing, again, according to the numbers I just put up, is that there are places in this country that are probably, unfortunately, more at the front end of this than in rounding the corner this week.

SCHAFFNER: It`s all local.

Watch what`s happening in your own neighborhood. Listen to your local public health authorities. That`s very, very important. I understand the fatigue. I`m not saying we have to keep our doors locked and stay inside all the time. Go out carefully.

Yes, relax some of what you`re doing, go out, but always do so carefully. The mask is now a fashion statement, as well as a public health protective garment.

MELBER: Sure.

SCHAFFNER: We need to do these things in a very sober, careful way.

MELBER: Well, and if anyone can make the mask fashionable or cool, that`s obviously a net positive.

We have got other, you know, areas where form follows function.

Ron, Dr. Fauci also poured more cold water on the silver bullet part of this. Everyone would love to get a vaccine, the sooner, the better. The president has talked that up a lot.

But he really was very clear about understanding the limits of that as one way to resolve or end this.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: There is no guarantee that the vaccine is actually going to be effective.

So one of the big unknown is, it will be effective. Given the way the body responds to viruses of this type, I`m cautiously optimistic that we will, with one of the candidates, get an efficacy signal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Ron, how is that important, particularly when you`re managing expectations, as you have done on the government side of this?

Because everybody is looking for good news. Everybody wants to know how it`s going to end. But experts are telling us the vaccine is one, but not the only way that you wind this down.

RON KLAIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE EBOLA RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Yes, I mean, I think there are three ways this potentially ends.

I think one is with the vaccine. I think what Dr. Fauci was saying today is, until we know it`s effective, we don`t really know we have a vaccine solution.

By the way, even after it`s effective, it has to be manufactured in massive quantities. That will take months, not weeks. And then administered, and that will take months more. So, I think the vaccine is, in a best-case scenario, very far away.

The second would be through having really widespread therapeutics and know that, if you get it, you could get treated. It might have not that bad effects. Again, we`re far away from that too. We`re seeing some promise there. But, certainly, people can`t take this disease for granted.

And the third way -- and I think the more practical solution here in the short term, in the medium term, is to have widespread antigen testing, so we can identify who has the virus. We can contact-trace those people, so on and so forth.

Now, good news/bad news on that, Ari. I think there are promising signs that that may be available in August or September. But that`s still August or September. It`s not next week. It`s not next month.

MELBER: Yes.

KLAIN: And so I think what the doctor was saying earlier, this is a test. This is a war of wills between us and the virus.

And the question, who is going to win that war of wills? And that`s the real challenge here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back. This is THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER on MSNBC.

I`m joined by Ron Klain, who managed the Ebola response for the Obama administration, and Heather McGhee. We have Dr. Schaffner with us.

I will be joined momentarily by a senator.

And I will tell viewers watching we were having some tech difficulties a few moments ago, but we think we`re through them.

And, Heather, I want to play something that we put together for your analysis here, Dr. Fauci testifying today before the Senate.

And we were seeing him really contradict things that the president has claimed. Take a look overall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s going to disappear one day. It`s like a miracle. It will disappear.

FAUCI: That is just not going to happen, because it`s such a highly transmissible virus.

TRUMP: Through an incredible amount of work by the federal government, we have a big, big beautiful overcapacity.

FAUCI: We`re going in the right direction, but the right direction does not mean we have by any means total control of this outbreak.

TRUMP: They have a very low mortality rate, like we do. We have a low mortality rate also.

FAUCI: The number of deaths are likely higher than that number.

TRUMP: The people aren`t going to stand for it. They want to get back. They`re not going stand for it. They want our country open. I want our country open.

FAUCI: There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s all new testimony, the doctor speaking from home. Like so many people, as mentioned, he is self-isolating. But that`s all brand-new today in formal testimony.

What does it say to you, Heather?

HEATHER MCGHEE, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, thankfully, the American people are putting a bet on Dr. Fauci.

And if it`s Trump vs. Fauci or even Alexander or Paul or most any of the other Republicans in Congress vs. Fauci, they`re listening to Fauci.

"The Washington Post" released a poll today that showed that, generally speaking, governors are getting high bipartisan votes from Americans and support from Americans, but the governors, mainly the Republican governors who have moved to open up their economies and put workers and the public at risk, they`re underwater, in Georgia, in Texas, and Florida.

And so the American people, you know, for all the protests that we see and all that Donald Trump wants to tweet about, are scared. They`re cautious. They`re trying to look for expertise. And I think it`s really important.

Today`s testimony was extremely important for the American people, who are just wanting straight, sobering answers.

MELBER: Yes, it`s really important. That`s why we have been highlighting that.

Before we bring in the senator, Ron, I have one more piece of business with you. It involves a compliment to your public service. So there you go. Sometimes, that`s going happen.

But it also guess to the larger dynamics of this, with a president, in Donald Trump, who is obsessed with comparing himself, often inaccurately, to everyone, but particularly Barack Obama, and a time period where, on the one hand, a lot of people say, look, let`s put all the comparisons to the side and focus exclusively on doing the work and reporting the facts.

But then, with this president, that leaves a lot of his comparisons unanswered.

This is a longtime Republican operative who worked for John McCain, among others, known to our audience, Steve Schmidt.

And we did want to play for you, Ron, what he said about the Obama administration and your tenure. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: If Barack Obama was the president of the United States, this would not have happened. We would have had competent, professional people.

We would have had someone like Ron Klain in charge of it, not the confederacy of dunces that we see running around the West Wing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Ron, disaster and disease response involves, by definition, some unavoidable loss of life and tragedies when it gets to this level. We have seen that in many countries, in fairness to any leader.

But we`re also hearing from experts -- and I just showed you Steve`s opinion -- that there have been policy failures and leadership failures here is that could have saved lives.

You were name-checked. Your response?

KLAIN: Well, I appreciate the compliment. It`s very kind.

I don`t really deserve the credit. The credit really goes to President Obama himself. And I`m sure that must be frustrating to President Trump.

But, you know, here are the big difference, Ari, which is, President Obama put science first. He listened to Dr. Fauci. Dr. Fauci was an adviser to President Obama and five other presidents, and President Obama took his advice.

He wasn`t busy debating Dr. Fauci in public. He was busy listening to him in private. He used every tool of the government at his disposal to fight Ebola overseas and here at home.

President Trump still refuses to use the Defense Production Act to fix the testing problem, using to it send some meatpacking workers back to work, but not to make the workplace safe for the rest of us at all, and for meatpacking workers too.

And then the President Obama listened to other government experts and really used the power of the government. Instead, we have heard that basically Jared Kushner brought in a bunch of young consultants and turned them loose to try to solve these problems, and really didn`t listen to the great teams that are in the government.

Look, I`m grateful I have gotten the credit from Steve and others. The key to the Ebola response was leadership by President Obama and the many, many experts inside our government on logistics, on testing, on organizing.

There are brilliant men and women who give their careers to work for our government. This president derides them as the deep state. They are the people who can solve problems like this.

MELBER: All fair points.

Stay with me.

As promised, we have been keeping up with a lot of different parts of this story.

Now I want to bring in a U.S. senator, Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin. She was at the hearing today, pressing on questions about testing capacity and other aspects of reopening the country.

Thank you for joining us.

Real quick, before we get to the meat of it, I`m just curious. At the basic level, just like everyone who has had a Zoom birthday call these days or anything else, how was it trying to do this remotely at your job today?

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D-WI): Well, it was absolutely remarkable to have all four witnesses join us remotely, and all of the members teleworking from their offices or Capitol Hill apartments or their home.

Both the chair and ranking member were remote in their home states. And, you know, we were called back to Washington, D.C., to do oversight and to work on issues.

And I just have to throw in my criticism of the fact that we have done nothing related to the pandemic on the Senate floor since we were called back into session.

MELBER: What did you think that you learned? We highlighted a few aspects of today`s hearing.

But what did you learn and what is important for your constituents and Americans to know from Dr. Fauci and the other testimony you received today?

BALDWIN: Well, it was dramatic in terms of how significant -- significantly behind we are in lacking a national testing strategy, and, for that matter, a national strategy around providing PPE and other medical equipment.

We have seen this all play out, and we keep getting promised that it`s at hand.

My first question of Dr. Redfield was whether he believed that the testing strategy and protocol at the White House was a standard that should be viewed as a best practice for the rest of this country.

He stammered and gave basically a non-reply, but it`s really, really clear that what has been put in place to protect the White House is not available for people in essential workplaces across this country right now.

When I hear from people who work in meatpacking plants in the state of Wisconsin who can`t get the PPE they need, and certainly waited far too long to get testing, there`s just two standards, the one for the White House, the one for the president, and the one for the rest of the workers in this -- in the United States.

MELBER: And, finally, what`s the most important thing that you think Congress should do next?

BALDWIN: Well, I think that there`s two things.

One is, there is more work to be done in terms of passage of another coronavirus response package. One was unveiled just a few hours ago that would represent the fourth major package.

And I will have to say, I have only begun to review it, but I was very pleased to see my OSHA legislation that would finally direct the Occupational and Health and Safety Administration to do its job and issue a mandatory and enforceable standard for all workplaces, especially as the president prods people to open up.

Right now, we just have voluntary guidance, and it`s insufficient for the protection of workers in this country. Secondly, we have to continue oversight.

So, obviously, this hearing today with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Redfield and others is a part of that effort. But I can tell you the administration has been reluctant to send members of the task force, the secretary of the Treasury, the Small Business Administration to come before Senate committees, so that we can keep a spotlight on the implementation of the CARES Act and make sure that there is transparency and accountability as this is implemented.

MELBER: Understood.

Senator Baldwin, I really appreciate you joining us. You were in that big hearing with Dr. Fauci.

I want to thank Ron Klain for being here.

Heather McGhee will stay with us and come back.

We turn next to this fight over Donald Trump`s tax returns. It hit the Supreme Court today, and I have the full report with Maya Wiley and Neal Katyal when we`re back in just 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Donald Trump has taken his years-long fight to keep his taxes secret all the way to the Supreme Court today.

This is a sign of just how far Donald Trump will go to hide evidence of his own finances. Now, some investigators say the records could reveal key information about his conduct, about whether he has lied about his money, and if he lied to the feds at any point in time, which is, of course, a crime.

Now, House Democrats invoked one federal law to request the tax returns. Meanwhile, the Manhattan DA requesting records as they investigate potential local crimes related to the 2016 election, Stormy Daniels, all that stuff you may recall.

So, the Supreme Court could force the release of these records. Trump`s lawyers have argued that lawmakers here have no legitimate legislative purpose in seeking them, and thus they`re fighting the congressional request.

Justice Kagan today suggested, though, the president cannot simply dictate how Congress performs its oversight of the president.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: What it seems to me you`re asking us to do is to put a kind of 10-ton weight on the scales between the president and Congress, and essentially to make it impossible for Congress to perform oversight and to carry out its functions where the president is concerned.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MELBER: When Congress impeached President Trump, you may recall, we heard similar arguments.

But the final word in that one rested with a Senate vote, a body controlled by the president`s party. What`s going on right now in Washington is totally different.

An independent court will decide whether Trump wins or loses, or if there is some kind of legal middle ground compromise.

And, of course, in modern history, presidential candidates have typically shared a lot about their finances and taxes, even when they knew some of the stuff would look bad.

That`s why Kanye West could famously invoke Republican nominee Mitt Romney for clever tax dodging, saying -- quote -- "I`m just trying to protect my stacks. Mitt Romney don`t pay no tax."

Well, over several years, Donald Trump also paid no tax, according to an exhaustive "New York Times" report. But Donald Trump just attacked "The Times" over that and denied it, but never provided public proof.

Meanwhile, there are other experts who stress that this type of secrecy leaves open questions about whether Donald Trump as president still owes foreign governments tons of money, which could compromise U.S. security.

Let`s be clear. This could actually turn out to be the biggest case on presidential secrecy and power of the whole Trump era, which is really saying something, with implications for both Donald Trump and, yes, the presidency itself.

Joining us now, we have two of our favorite legal eagles, the former acting Solicitor General of the United States Neal Katyal, who has argued more than 40 cases before the court, although not by telephone conference call, as was done today, and Maya Wiley, former counsel to the mayor of New York City, a former civil prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. She knows her way around some of the New York legal issues that were part of today`s case.

Thanks to both of you.

Neal, bottom line, based on what we heard, all caveats included, where do you see the court headed on this case? Could Trump lose?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Well, there are caveats, because the justices today, like in every oral argument, they are just trying to probe both sides, the weaknesses and the contours of their positions. So, you can`t always tell.

Having said, that I thought there was incredible skepticism from both the left and the right of the court about President Trump`s position, particularly when it came to the case from the Manhattan district attorney`s office.

That argument was, I think, brilliantly done by the Manhattan DA, and the Trump lawyers, frankly, fell apart. It was bombast. It was not actual much argument.

They kept saying that this is unprecedented. But, actually, you know, going all the way back to the founding, starting with President Washington, all the way up to Nixon and Clinton and Billygate with President Carter, this information has been turned over.

So I thought it was a very tough argument that Trump tried to advance through his lawyers, and one that ultimately I didn`t think resonated with the court.

MELBER: Very striking, because you`re basically telling our viewers that, based on your knowledge, caveats included, you see the Supreme Court heading toward ruling against Trump`s secrecy here on his finances, which would be a big, big deal.

Maya, I played a little bit of Justice Kagan.

I want to play something else, which we don`t usually hear, and that`s Justice Clarence Thomas, both to reckon with that part of the case, what those justices were saying, and to remind everyone we`re in this pandemic era, and it has all sorts of odd outcomes.

And Justice Thomas famously -- lawyers know, but I think a lot of news viewers may know -- spent years without ever speaking on the bench at all. You get on a conference call, and, apparently, he is a little more comfortable.

So, here is something rare in the news, Justice Thomas discussing whether or not this could, if Trump loses, this kind of records request could debilitate a president. Take a look.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CLARENCE THOMAS, U.S. Supreme Court ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: At some point, there is a straw that breaks the camel`s back.

And it seems as though you`re saying that we should look at these in isolation, as opposed to in the aggregate.

Why wouldn`t we look at all of them and look at the full effect and whether at some point it debilitates the president?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MELBER: Maya?

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it was very interesting. Thomas actively participated. It wasn`t just the one question.

But this comment that seemed to suggest that somehow, if the president does enough to call so much attention to himself and create so much legal concern, that there is a lot of attention on him, that, somehow, that might make it too burdensome for him to actually address all the subpoenas.

It`s a little bit troubling, because it`s a little bit like saying, if you get yourself into a lot of trouble, you have more of an argument that you shouldn`t have to answer for it.

So I would be a little bit concerned about the line that I was hearing from Thomas there.

MELBER: And real quick, do you think he is just more comfortable by phone?

WILEY: It`s the only thing I can think of, because he is very comfortable.

It`s not just that he is participating. He really sounds at ease, and he thanks people at the end after they have answered his questions. It`s a pretty striking difference.

MELBER: Yes, it`s a whole different thing.

Neal, you mentioned how some of the arguments, in your view, on the Trump side fell apart. I want to play some selections from Jay Sekulow. Longtime BEAT viewers may recall he has been on this show.

And this is from different parts of the argument, to be clear, but gives some flavor of what the president`s lawyer was arguing and where there may have been some turbulence. Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Criminal process targeting the president is a violation of the Constitution.

This is a temporary immunity. This is for while the president`s in office, and we think that is required by the Constitution.

SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: It seems that you`re asking for a broadness of immunity that Justice Thomas pointed out is nowhere in the Constitution.

SEKULOW: Well, he`s the president of the United States.

KAGAN: The president can`t be treated just like an ordinary citizen, but it`s also true, and indeed a fundamental precept of our constitutional order, that a president isn`t above the law.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MELBER: We`re a long ways from Ukraine, Neal, and impeachment, but this back and forth did have echoes of some of the more extraordinary arguments that were offered on that Senate floor, that maybe we don`t live in a law - - a lawful democracy at all.

KATYAL: Yes, it`s very interesting to hear Trump lawyers -- after all, Trump claims to be a textualist president who follows the Constitution as written -- making up wholesale immunities that are nowhere in the Constitution, which is what I think you heard the justices saying.

At the same time, Trump`s argument is a fundamental betrayal of kind of the most core principle about American law, which is, nobody is above the law. And that`s what the president -- that`s what the Supreme Court said in the Paula Jones case in 1997.

It`s what they said unanimously in the Nixon tapes case in 1974. It`s what Chief Justice Marshall said in the Aaron Burr trial in 1807. So President Trump`s lawyers have this really tough burden of trying to basically say, oh, don`t pay attention to any of that. All of that`s wrong. This is somehow really different.

And they just didn`t make the case today. So, I think there may be some decisions around the edges in terms of Congress and how much they can subpoena and the like. But I think, you know, the indications are today that President Trump has lost his ability to keep his financial returns fully private.

MELBER: Very interesting.

And so the last question I have for both of you is, moving beyond all the law and all the constitutional details, with about 40 seconds left here, briefly, what is, in your view, the potential benefit, what is the constructive outcome?

If we learn, as Neal says, the Supreme Court may rule against Trump, that means that there is a majority in our system saying this stuff should get handed over, what is in your view potentially good about that, Neal and then Maya?

KATYAL: Truth, transparency, the American way. That`s the way our country`s been since at least 1807 or, actually, since 1792 and President Washington and the St. Clair thing.

And we shouldn`t deviate from that. We, as Americans, have a fundamental right to expect this from our leaders.

WILEY: I agree.

It would send the message that a sitting United States president is not above the law and can`t stop, hopefully, Congress, because I do hope the Supreme Court recognizes congressional power here, but also a criminal investigation against many people.

The subpoena said it was investigating, you know, several different people and entities, that a president can`t stop that because a president doesn`t like the fact that it might uncover something about him that he doesn`t like.

MELBER: Copy. Both strong arguments there.

Neal Katyal and Maya Wiley, thank you on a big day at the high court.

We`re going fit in a break, but when we come back, top health officials breaking with Donald Trump`s message on reopening. What does it mean for the economy? What does it mean for unemployment, which is surging?

And then later, some big news on Jared Kushner`s famed COVID task force. Insiders have ripped it as downright chaotic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: States are reopening. We`re all talking about it. We`re all covering it.

More people will be put at risk. That is an inherent fact. But how is it happening?

Let`s dig into it.

There is a new study AP has showing thousands of infections as people do return to work. It includes surging in meatpacking and poultry processing plants, plus construction workers.

Now, today, in that hearing that got so much attention that we have been covering, this is a different aspect of it that we want to get into right now, Dr. Fauci discussing what he calls a -- quote -- "moral responsibility" for employers when workers are out there putting their lives at risk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: I would think, when you`re calling on people to perform essential services, you really have almost a moral responsibility to make sure they`re well-taken care of and well-protected.

And, again, that`s not an official proclamation. That`s just me speaking as a physician and as human being.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I`ll tell you what. We could use people speaking as physicians, as experts, and as human beings, if by that we mean with a little bit of heart and moral center, because we`re going through this tough, tough transition as a nation.

What the doctor is asking us to do is to pay attention to how this is really going down, that there are two different groups when we talk about who has to go back out there, reopen the economy for the rest of us.

There is a group of low-income communities which is disproportionately made of racial minorities that are shouldering the burden of the crisis, which means, yes, being more likely to get sick, even as you do the essential stuff that everyone is asking.

And then you`re more likely to also lose a job, and you`re also taking risks for the people around you, people in your home or community. You can`t social distance inside your apartment.

A new study also reveals that counties where African-Americans are a disproportionate share of the population reflect over half of the coronavirus cases and 60 percent of all COVID deaths.

This is something we have touched on before in our broadcast, but the new studies add context, revealing factors like employment status and access to quality health care, not the bare minimum, can be predictors of both whether you get sick, how you handle it, and whether you die from related health conditions.

This is as important as it gets. It`s about how we protect each other when we now see, eyes wide open, what the risks are, and how do we deal with getting the facts and the information out there -- that`s part of what we do in the news -- so that everyone, as a nation and a democracy, can decide how we do this.

These are issues of wealth and access, and they implicate everything about how we approach this, including the hopeful road ahead of whether you can treat and get better treatments or vaccines.

Now, Senator Bernie Sanders was pressing officials on some of that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If and when the vaccine comes, it won`t do somebody any good if they don`t get it. And if they have to pay a sum of money for it in order to profit the drug companies, that will not be helpful.

Are you guaranteeing the American people today that that vaccine will be available to all people regardless of their income?

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, COMMISSIONER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: Sir, the payment of vaccines is not a responsibility of the FDA, but I`m glad to take this back to the task force. I share your concern that this needs to be made available to every American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We`re joined by Heather McGhee, a distinguished senior fellow at Demos, an MSNBC political contributor and someone who I know who has been working and leading on these issues for many years.

We wanted to spend some time with you, learn from you, what is it about this crisis, this pandemic that reveals and exacerbates the underlying economic and racial disparities in health care and the economy?

What do we do about it?

MCGHEE: You know, this virus doesn`t attack people based on race or class or gender, but American society does.

And what we are starting to see with sobering clarity is that, if you have the underlying condition of being a subject of radical inequality, if you are an immigrant, if you are a person of color, if you are someone who is working in a low-paid job who is just denied health insurance and paid sick days by their employer, if you`re an essential worker whom corporations are now seeing as sacrificial workers, with the complicity and support of Republicans in Congress and in the White House, then you are on the front lines of a war that nobody has signed up for.

This is the American inequality that makes us sick being revealed to us all. It`s also showing right now that American workers who are disproportionately black, immigrants, and women are the ones who are knitting this country together with our labor.

And the most important and basic thing that they deserve is the Essential Workers Bill of Rights, which is a bill that is in the House and Senate, Ro Khanna and Elizabeth Warren. Most of it was put into Nancy Pelosi`s proposal today that just came out mere hours ago for the next round of stimulus.

But it`s basic things. In the exact opposite way than the Republicans are saying, it`s saying that the onus is on employers to make sure that, if they are demanding people come back to work, they`re giving them protective equipment, paid sick days, hazard pay, health care, and a right to have a voice on the job.

But even more so, I think at this moment we are seeing that so many of the front-line workers are also people who have a target on their backs because of racial inequality in this country and because of racism.

You know, Breonna Taylor, who is someone everyone should know, she was in her home in Louisville, Kentucky. She was a 26-year-old aspiring nurse who was an EMT, right, exactly who we are depending on right now. And police charged into her home, shot eight rounds into her while she was sleeping and at rest, because they were looking for some person on a drug charge who actually, it turned out, was already in custody.

MELBER: Yes.

MCGHEE: It`s heartbreaking.

And that`s just the kind of life that Americans...

MELBER: I`m only jumping in...

MCGHEE: Yes.

MELBER: Well, we`re -- and I appreciate that. We`re on a slight tape delay.

I`m jumping in because there is one thing I definitely wanted to include, Heather. So often, we -- we`re hitting what needs to change and the news hits the negative.

I did want to note, in the Senate Judiciary Committee, that Rebecca Dixon, who runs the National Employment Law Project, was testifying about these issues. It`s important that the government is actually doing that as part of oversight.

So, for your response on the other side, we did want to play this. It`s in the language of testimony. It would appear dry. If you listen closely, just as we were to you, you hear the import.

Let`s listen to that briefly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REBECCA DIXON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAW PROJECT: Though all the workers on the job now and returning in the next weeks and months that are risk of illness, black and Latinx workers and other workers of color, including immigrants, are more likely to be in front-line jobs and among indigenous people.

These communities have disproportionate rates of illness and death related to the pandemic.

As detailed in my testimony, far too many employers were slow to follow the most basic CDC recommendations, such as the use of protective equipment, handwashing and spacing at least six feet apart.

Let me be clear. Workers are getting sick and dying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Heather, that`s where the moral meets the economic.

The Judiciary Committee looking at these COVID liability issues and who is actually going to be on the chopping block when you have the economic questions.

I give you the final word.

MCGHEE: There is just one question right now. Whose life are we valuing? Who are we protecting?

And right now, there is a very clear difference between the response from the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. And it`s sad to say that it should be partisan, but that`s what`s going on right now. Republicans are protecting corporations and Democrats are trying to protect workers and the American people.

MELBER: Heather, we were running over on time.

I appreciate your clarity. We had you in more than one segment tonight, and we`re the better for it. I hope you will come back.

MCGHEE: Will do.

MELBER: Thank you.

We fit in a break.

And when we come back, an update on a story we have been tracking, Jared Kushner`s problems getting medical supplies. He brought in a lot of people he knew. And he is just speaking out about it.

We have all of that coming back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: An update on a story you may have heard about.

Jared Kushner had a very controversial project for this pandemic, and it`s ending. It was called Project Airbridge, designed to help deliver supplies to medical workers who were lacking protective equipment.

But it has had a host of problems, a host of investigations, including new NBC reporting revealing it used federal funds to underwrite shipping for private companies, offered no-bid contracts, failed to deliver on basically -- quote -- "everything they promised."

Now, if you listen to Jared Kushner, he has a different idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: The notion of the federal stockpile was, it`s supposed to be our stockpile. It`s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use.

So the government, federal government, rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story.

I`m very confident that we have all the testing we need to start opening the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: When someone tells you that a giant failure that you can see right in front of your eyes is a great success, well, you need to keep an eye on them.

We certainly will continue to do so in our reporting here on THE BEAT.

And we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Thanks for watching THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.

I will be back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.

Keep it right here, right now on MSNBC.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END