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

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

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

Good evening, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.

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

The president is visiting a swing state and clashing with Michigan officials. That state`s own attorney general, the top law enforcement official in the state, is here on THE BEAT tonight. And she is telling the president in no uncertain terms, if he won`t wear a mask, he will not be asked to return to the state.

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

Also, jobless claims soaring to almost 40 million. Robert Reich, a friend of THE BEAT, is here to give us the perspective we need.

And, later, Donald Trump`s former lawyer Michael Cohen officially out of prison. You`re looking at him walking out with a newfound freedom with his mask, going into his home. The great Maya Wiley is here tonight. We`re going get into all of that.

But we do begin, as mentioned, in Michigan.

Here are the facts. Over 50,000 there have coronavirus. And like many other states, and, frankly, like Donald Trump`s own CDC, the official guidance there is, people have to wear a mask when they are at enclosed public spaces.

And this is already teeing up a battle, I guess, fit for the summer of 2020. The president using today to make it all about publicly defying that guidance, while also now offering a very Trumpian defense.

He is claiming he did wear a mask at one point, you just couldn`t see it because he wasn`t on camera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wore one in this back area.

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

Everybody has been tested, and I have been tested. In fact, I was tested this morning. So, it`s not necessary.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Meanwhile, experts are weighing the grim results of the policies that everyone`s been living through thus far. This can inform future decisions. This is not just idle review of what happened.

This is about what we do next. And the results showed that timing is key; 36,000 lives, according to this new study, might have been saved if social distancing began just one week earlier than it did in that crucial period.

And as the economy in all states are reopening, experts warning there is still this risk of the second wave, depending where you live in certain hot spots in the nation. The warning is that there is a risk for resurgence.

Now, one of these scientists is, of course, top infectious expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. You may have noticed that, after many public appearances, for whatever reason, we haven`t seen him on television with interviews recently, but he is telling print reporters there is no doubt there will be new waves of cases.

Let`s get right to our experts, Dr. Natalie Azar, a rheumatologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, "New York Times"` Michelle Goldberg, and Bill Kristol, who leads Defending Democracies together and has experience in a Republican White House.

And, Dr. Azar, I want to begin, as we often do, just running through the science with you. Your reaction first to this study that gives an estimate as to how we think about the policies and where we go?

DR. NATALIE AZAR, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, so I think -- honestly, Ari, I think the real take-home here is not so much what we did. We could hash that out, honestly, until we are just exhausted of it.

If you just look at a quick timeline of what happened in our experience, we had our first case on January 20. We had our first death on U.S. soil on February 29. And by early April, there were greater than one million cases worldwide.

And in that period of time that this study was referring to, that March time frame, we didn`t implement social distancing early enough, according to this.

And a thing to remember about these models is, they`re based on assumptions. They`re based on hypothetical assumptions. They`re also based on an ideal scenario. But, in reality, what we have is a lot of uncertainty. We have a lot of economic concerns and just, frankly, a lot of logistics.

But I think more important than going back to that is thinking about this as what we do in the future. And I think all experts would agree that, now that we know this -- and hindsight, of course, is 2020 -- is that, as we start to relax social distancing measures moving forward as we`re reopening, we have to be so astutely careful of a resurgence.

And we do that with testing, of course, and tracing, as that, as soon as we see that, we really, really strongly re-implement those social distancing measures. That`s really what we have to take from that, not what happened. We have to learn from that and use it as we move forward.

MELBER: You mentioned learning, and we have been at this from the start, trying to take the different bits of information, and even some true information can lead to disproportionate reaction or disproportionate focus.

You and other experts have come on the air and walked us through what to focus on, like the distancing, like the germ and handwashing and these basic things.

There is a study I want to point to for that very reason in proportion for you to walk us through it, CDC noting that the bottom line is, surfaces are not the main way this virus spreads, that it`s possible, but the main way the virus spreads is through this person-to-person contact.

Can you walk us through that again with news we can use tonight on plain English? Because, at the beginning, and some people were being very careful. They were scrubbing down every item, everything. And it`s fine to be more on the side of sanitized.

But walk us through what this means now.

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

The CDC is very, very much saying that their language on transmission has not changed. That means that the main mode of transmission is human-to- human, and it`s primarily through respiratory droplets.

Their purpose -- what changed on their Web site today was this, the area on other contact or other transmission. The headline used to read spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. It now reads, the virus does not spread easily in other ways.

Basically, all they wanted to do was clarify other types of spread other than respiratory, but they -- this isn`t new science. This isn`t a new study. It really is just in the wording, and they are reemphasizing that the major mode of transmission is, as we have said from the beginning...

MELBER: Sure.

AZAR: ... the respiratory droplets. Not saying it`s impossible that it can happen from contact with surfaces, but I think they really want to drive home the point that it`s all up here, rather than objects.

That make sense.

MELBER: Right, which is -- it makes perfect sense. And we wanted to get you on that, because, yes, if somebody comes from a particularly high-risk area and they want to discard things or be very careful when they go back to what some experts have called your more safe zone, that`s fine.

But your focus, your proportionate focus should be on what`s going on with your face, your hands and the people that you get near, not necessarily sanitizing every grocery bag.

AZAR: Exactly.

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

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

AZAR: Thanks.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want to normalize. One of the other things I want to do is get the churches open. The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of the Democrat governors.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Michelle?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, there has been a number of cases recently of churches that have opened and have had to immediately close, because there has been widespread transmission and even death.

And if you look at what we know about how this virus transmits, it`s having a lot of people in an indoor space. And things like singing and speaking loudly and sort of projecting your voice tend to be, at least in my layperson`s understanding of the scientific consensus, seem to be really dangerous.

And so I think a lot of people want the get churches and all kinds of other places where people gather for comfort at this horrific time open again. But I think what we see again and again is that this president has very little concern for the people who are actually in his base. He is perfectly willing to put them in very dangerous situations, if he thinks that he gets some short-term political benefit from it.

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

And for bonus points, if you have a priest and rabbi joke, you can tilt. That`s really your personal call.

BILL KRISTOL, FORMER EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": You know, I was thinking, though, about our synagogue. We

And Have it`s -- Judaism wants people to come together, obviously, and there are actual certainly -- certain requirements of having 10 people come together to fulfill certain requirements of the religion, to say a prayer for those who are deceased and so forth, and yet people haven`t come together.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Bill...

KRISTOL: Yes. Yes.

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

KRISTOL: OK. Well, OK, anyway.

(CROSSTALK)

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

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Go ahead.

KRISTOL: I don`t want to get in stuff (AUDIO GAP) orthodox, reform, conservative. We could really go down a rabbit hole there.

(LAUGHTER)

KRISTOL: Anyway, all I`m saying is, responsible religious leaders are telling their parishioners and members of their congregations, look, we have to sacrifice something here.

Now, everyone wants to open up, both in terms of religious observance and business. But this is why the mask thing isn`t just a little fracas, actually. It`s pretty serious. If you`re going to open up, the masks are more important than ever.

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

MELBER: Right.

KRISTOL: ... we don`t need masks, because we`re at home and we`re in our place and hopefully we have kept it fairly secure.

Precisely if one is going to go out to stores, precisely if one`s going to work, precisely if one`s going to go to a church service or something else, one needs to wear masks, not only -- not so much to protect oneself, but to protect others.

And that`s why Trump`s irresponsibility here, precisely as he`s calling for opening up, is particularly appalling. I mean, this is the moment where a responsible person who is on the side, so to speak, of let`s get the country going again, needs to say, but let`s do it responsibly.

And be careful and wear masks and do certain other things to make sure that this does not lead to a 1918-type second outbreak, which really could be terrible. And I`m now more worried about this than I was a couple of weeks ago, just watching the president and people react to him and feeling that, hey, it`s going to be fine.

The message the government sends now needs to be, in a funny way, even more cautious as we`re opening up.

MELBER: Michelle?

GOLDBERG: Well, I was struck by the president when he was at that -- when he was in Michigan saying he didn`t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing him in a mask, right, because what he is telegraphing there is that wearing a mask is somehow humiliating.

You don`t want to be caught wearing a mask. And most people in this country, I think, are behaving pretty responsibly, and you see people in surveys. There is pretty overwhelming support for wearing a mask when you`re in crowds.

But inasmuch as he is able to turn this into a culture war issue to make wearing a mask a sign of submission to democratic enormous and kind of make defiance of health guidelines a sign of your belonging in MAGA world, then we`re going to see a lot more cases, and we`re going to, ironically, end up reopening even slower or having to shut down again after these sort of initial gestures towards reopening.

MELBER: Yes, Bill, how about that?

Because there`s many issues, including all of these so-called nanny state issues, where, in the past, I`m sure you identified with some of the concerns about large federal regulation, et cetera.

But this isn`t close to that. This is, as Michelle said, obviously what his own administration experts say is required, and now it`s being maligned.

KRISTOL: Yes, it`s his own guidance from his own public health professionals and from elected professionals and people who work for elected governors in 50 states.

And I do think, to the credit, as Michelle says, of the country, people are trying -- mostly trying to be responsible. But it is bad to have this fake kind of, you know, this is freedom to infect other people or to put other people at risk. It`s going to cause other people who aren`t confident that the people are behaving responsibly not to go out.

It really is going to slow down a healthy reopening. Are you going to go -- if you think people aren`t behaving responsible and you`re a teacher or a janitor in a school, are you going to feel comfortable going back to school?

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

MELBER: Right. That`s a key...

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Yes. And it is irresponsible.

And one of the other things he`s doing, the voting thing too, which is its own issue and an important one too, and we have discussed it on this show, but just think what signal he is sending by mocking the notion that people, especially older people, would like to vote for mail. And it would be safe for everyone for them to do so. Safe for the poll workers not to deal with congestion.

(CROSSTALK)

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

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

I want to thank Bill Kristol and Michelle Goldberg.

Thanks to both you have.

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

We`re going to fit in a quick break, but I`m being told this, so we`re going get right into it. We have Maya Wiley here for that, as well as the other big story, Michael Cohen getting home tonight thanks to COVID relief.

And, later, our live interview with Michigan attorney general -- Michigan`s attorney general on this whole debate about masks and what`s really going on in that state.

Also, top Republican leaders now moving to cut off economic aid, even as the unemployment rolls swell.

A lot coming up.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

This is another arrest and new charges in that fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. This is the third individual, the one who is believed to have recorded that now widespread video, and he is being arrested on more than one charge, including felony murder.

Arbery`s attorney had called for this very arrest, saying it is not only about -- quote -- "the man who pulled the trigger."

This is a major development in this story.

I`m joined now by Maya Wiley, who is a former civil prosecutor in the Southern District of New York and who has worked on civil rights issues throughout her career.

Maya, thank you for joining us.

As I told viewers when we were going break, this is a topic you know intimately, but different than what we booked you on because of the breaking news.

Your response to both the timing and the development of this charge and the fact that it is what legally is a very aggressive charge in this instance, a felony murder charge.

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.

I think we knew that there was investigation from news reports about this third suspect or witness, depending on who took to believe.

MELBER: Yes.

WILEY: And what we know is that the family had been calling for his arrest because Mr. McMichael, Gregory McMichael, said apparently in an early statement to police that this third person, Roddie is his nickname, actually helped to block Mr. Arbery`s attempts to escape them.

And, remember, he was escaping someone who had a gun and a truck that had blocked his way. So, there`s obviously legitimate reason for anyone to try to run from that.

So why was this third person using his vehicle, according to Gregory McMichael to block his -- Mr. Arbery`s running away from someone who is armed...

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

(CROSSTALK)

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

MELBER: That`s the legal part of what would support this potential charge, that there was a part of a plot or a conspiracy to commit the murder.

Then there is the wider part of this that viewers are well aware of, which is, well, if this was such a terrible felony murder, as now charged in Georgia, why wasn`t it charged when it happened?

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

Can you give us any insights to what you think is happening here in a case that many have pointed out was, sadly, reminiscent of other cases of in alleged racism in the criminal justice system? But here something seems to be changing under pressure.

WILEY: Yes.

I think, number one, just to make sure the audience understands felony murder, you don`t actually have to plan to kill someone to be guilty of felony murder, as long as you had planned to participate in an underlying felony.

So, in this case, if they didn`t have a legal right to stop Mr. Arbery, which, according to some of the public records, it does not appear that they had, they didn`t witness him committing a felony, which is what is required under Georgia law to go chase somebody down and try to hold them for police.

And so, in this case, you know, remember that we had a series of prosecutors before there was a prosecutor who was willing to bring charges in the first place. We had the second prosecutor on the case write a lengthy letter essentially saying that the McMichaels weren`t guilty of anything, and that there were no grounds to release -- to arrest them, and had made that determination the day after the shooting, which means essentially there was not a significant investigation at the time of his killing.

MELBER: Right.

WILEY: So it really wasn`t until we get to this essentially fourth round of investigation and prosecutors that they start peeling back the onion and doing what investigators do and really looking at all the pieces.

And I would guess that there are things they wanted to sort out around the McMichaels before they expanded out to whether or not this third person was in fact a felony murderer.

MELBER: It`s incredibly striking.

And having reported on a range of cases, this one is a particularly delayed and unusual set of developments, with allegations of racial disparities hanging over all of it.

So, we really wanted to bring that up, this breaking news, again, for those joining us, a third arrest, this one on felony murder, in this Ahmaud Arbery case, the killing of an unarmed African-American jogger in Georgia.

So, Maya Wiley, I want to ask you to stay with me here for the thing that I planned to interview you about, and that we did mention higher in the show, which is this other development, Trump`s former lawyer Michael Cohen now out of prison.

Take a look at the scene today as he got his freedom and is heading to home confinement, walking here in New York with a mask on going into his apartment building. This was Park Avenue just this morning, Cohen stepping out of the car there with his mask, obviously, you see that, and plenty of press.

He has become something of a national political celebrity, one of the people who most notoriously turned on Trump. You see him here in that congressional testimony he gave. Cohen will serve out the rest of his three-year sentence basically from home.

The release comes just one week after Paul Manafort got out. And there is a lot of questions here about fairness, objections that Barr`s DOJ has been inconsistent.

And even beyond the Trump administration, I want to mention, many state systems continue to favor inmates with money to fund lawyers who can personally press their case to get COVID relief.

And, Maya, I turn that question back to you. These are complex issues. If there is going to be a humanitarian approach for more at-risk folks, fine. Then it should be done fairly and equally for all people of a certain age with a certain type of offense.

As we have documented, that`s not always been the case. So I`m curious what you think is important as we now watch two high-profile people from this Mueller prosecution, where it began, now out of prison.

WILEY: Yes, I think it takes us to essentially what we have been talking about around coronavirus and the Trump administration from day one.

The Bureau of Prisons, just like the Trump administration, writ large, denied the seriousness of COVID-19. It did not jump on how to protect inmates. And even, remember, the compassionate release, which is what this is called, existed before the pandemic.

MELBER: Sure.

WILEY: And what we saw is the Bureau of Prisons, essentially, you know, fumbling the ball repeatedly, to the point where we even had a federal judge here in New York call the Bureau of Prisons` treatment of the compassionate release process as Kafkaesque.

There is no question that, essentially, under the FIRST STEP Act, they took an important step in saying, we can`t have the Bureau of Prisons blocking prisoners from getting to the court to try to get to try to get this compassionate relief, because that`s what was happening before the FIRST STEP Act.

But it hadn`t really changed the equation. You have to go -- an inmate has to go to the Bureau of Prisons to the warden and say, look, I`m sick. I`m at risk. I have been basically playing by the rules here in prison.

MELBER: Right.

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

And what advocates have said is, that should be how it`s viewed. And, instead, the Bureau of Prisons wanted to use an artificial intelligence tool called PATTERN, which civil rights activists rightly immediately raised huge alarm bells around, once William Barr did issue guidance.

And that was discriminatory. Seven percent of black inmates would get released and 30 percent of white inmates would get released under that program.

MELBER: It`s all such important context.

And viewers will note Maya Wiley coming correct, as they say, both on a story you weren`t necessarily prepared or asked upon, but you were prepared in advance, because you`re probably well-informed, and then the story we planned to talk about.

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

WILEY: Thank you. Pleasure to be with you.

MELBER: Thank you. Absolutely.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

He has been going to several states that are also swing states for his COVID visits, unemployment, of course, surging. The so-called coronavirus crisis stops are, of course, on taxpayer dime, although other presidents have made similar trips.

In Pennsylvania, Donald Trump was attacking Joe Biden at a medical facility. In Arizona, he went to a mask facility, and then talked about his 2016 win, more of a political topic.

Today, in Michigan, a hard-hit coronavirus state, he was also attacking Biden, also clashing with Michigan Governor Whitmer, and threatening to cut off funding for the state for voting in the upcoming election.

And then there was the beef with the governor over not wearing a mask, which is a violation of the state`s executive order. We noted, Donald Trump says he did wear one at one point.

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

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

Thank you for joining us.

Your reaction to what the president has now done today?

DANA NESSEL, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it`s disappointing and yet totally predictable in what we have come to expect from Donald Trump as president of the United States.

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

NESSEL: Honestly, in the event that he decides to return, I`m going to have to speak to any and all facilities that he intends to tour and let them know that it violates the governor`s executive order for him to come at all, quite honestly, because visits aren`t supposed to be allowed.

Tours are not supposed to be allowed in the first place. But the governor indicated that she welcomed him here to the state for him to tour Ford and to see their amazing work transitioning now to working on ventilators, which have saved so many lives.

But he -- how disrespectful to come in and then to at least refuse to wear a mask publicly. What I have heard now is that, privately, he wore one for part of the time that he was on a tour. But as soon as there were cameras, he quickly removed it because he didn`t want the press to see him wearing a mask, which is absolutely ludicrous.

Leaders lead by example, and he is the poorest example of leadership that I think we have ever seen in this nation. And it sends a terrible message to the workers who work at that plant, who would probably be escorted out and fired if they did the same thing that the president of the United States did today.

MELBER: Donald Trump has a lot of support historically in your state of Michigan. It was typically blue in presidential elections, but he did win the state.

We have seen the activists and other largely conservative gatherings and protests in the state. What message does it send, in your view, to your constituents, whatever their party may be, when the president guess out of his way to flout and defy your state`s mask order?

Are you worried that fewer people may wear masks in Michigan because of this, or is this more symbolic?

NESSEL: Well, unfortunately, what happens is, even though I would say the vast majority of Michiganders approve of the governor`s orders, which I should tell you were just upheld today in the court of claims when they were challenged by the Republican legislature, so that is the law of the land, and it is completely lawful and enforceable.

But that being the case, it sends a terrible message. And the thing is, we had great uniformity in regard to people respecting that these rules and regulations were put in place for one reason, and one reason only, and that was to protect human life.

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

MELBER: Yes.

NESSEL: But as soon as the president started to say things like, liberate Michigan, and started to make disparaging remarks about our governor, that`s when people stopped following the rules, and that`s when more and more people started to die.

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

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

I appreciate getting your perspectives on this, Attorney General Dana Nessel. Thank you very much.

A programing note as well. Michigan`s governor, who we just discussed, Gretchen Whitmer, will be on MSNBC, joining Rachel Maddow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Now, coming up, we have a lot more in the show, including some special guests. Republican leaders trying to roll back jobless benefits. The former labor secretary and progressive author Robert Reich is here. He knows his way around these issues.

And later tonight, we look at a note of uplift with the Grammy name -- excuse me -- Grammy-nominated artist Wale, who is here live later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Turning to another feature of what we`re living through, new data tonight on these job losses; 2.5 million more people are out of work. That takes the total job losses since this pandemic hit to approaching 40 million, some calling it the Trump recession.

The human tragedy obviously very real. We`re seeing growing lines from unemployment offices to food banks. And economists warn this is far from over.

Meanwhile, in Washington, President Trump and GOP Leader McConnell say they oppose continuing key parts of the unemployment relief that Congress has passed.

We turn now to an expert who has been inside the government on this and is also a progressive thought leader and author, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. The book is "The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It."

Thank you for being here. Tough times all around.

For viewers who are watching this and saying , OK, Robert, OK, Ari, 40 million unemployed, I guess we`re sort of reopening, what comes next, and is there anything here that can be done short-term to make it any better?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Ari, there is not much that can be done short-term.

The big problem is obviously the pandemic. That is the number one obstacle to jobs, because, as long as people are afraid of going to the malls and going shopping, as long as workers are justifiably worried about going into factories and into warehouses, this economy is not going to go anywhere.

And, at the same time, you have a lot of people who have no income or who have got -- dipped into their savings or have lost all of their savings. And so you don`t even have the wherewithal to move the economy forward, even if people had more confidence about the future.

This is why Mitch McConnell`s decision -- or his decision and his statement yesterday that there will be no more unemployment benefits after the current round of unemployment, extra unemployment benefits is over, is so nonsensical and inhumane, and, from an economic perspective, completely, utterly ridiculous.

MELBER: And I do want to spotlight something you have done a lot of work on, which is the way that different disruptions don`t necessarily get equitably distributed.

You`re saying Mitch McConnell, in your view, economically has the wrong side of the argument, before you even get to people`s politics or morals.

Then you have got CNBC reporting how the billionaires are doing in what you have described as the -- quote -- "rigged system."

Amazon`s Jeff Bezos, Facebook`s Mark Zuckerberg are having the biggest gains during the pandemic -- quote -- "Bezos adding $34 billion to his wealth, Zuckerberg adding $25 billion."

Robert, how do we even understand that number -- that their numbers are going up that much? And if their companies are doing well enough, that`s probably, hopefully, positive in some way for everyone who works there. But in your view of the rigged system, how is that much money going up to the top right now?

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

The reason that you have got so much money going to people like Bezos is, Amazon is becoming the one place where people can go in terms of purchasing. Small businesses, retail establishments are all closing.

And so if you`re at the right place at the right time in this economy, if you are particularly a purveyor of goods online, or if you have any online -- major online presence, and you already have a lot of market power, you`re going to do very well, even though almost everybody else is doing very poorly.

Elon Musk is $11 billion richer than he was.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Is that, in your view, just inevitable, because someone listening says, OK, sure, people are using Amazon more, or is that a consequence of government policy?

REICH: Well, partly, it`s a consequence of government policy, because, for years, antitrust officials have turned their back on the increased market power of a lot of big companies, particularly high-tech companies.

And so if you don`t really care about monopolization, if you don`t care about market power, then, obviously, when it comes to this kind of crisis, Amazon and other -- a few other companies are going to be even more powerful than before.

MELBER: Yes.

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

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

REICH: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you.

We have a lot more in tonight`s show, including an update on another aspect of the Cohen case that I mentioned.

Up ahead also, I want to show you something that`s giving people a way to think about art through this pandemic, a video pulling back the curtain on race and class in the COVID era from a major Grammy-nominated artist, who joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: News breaking this hour on an important story we have been tracking, and I want to walk you through it.

There has been much national controversy over the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, an African American who was jogging unarmed in Georgia and was shot to death, it all caught on video.

Now, after a long delay, two individuals were charged in that case. The breaking news tonight is a third man, the one who recorded this now widespread video of this Arbery shooting, has been arrested on two charges, including felony murder.

And now, because this is all unfolding, just moments ago, we have reaction from one of the Arbery family lawyers, who posted online, William `Roddie` Bryan Jr. has been arrested on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. That`s that other felony I mentioned.

And this attorney, Ben Crump, writing: "We are one step closer to getting justice for Ahmaud."

What`s important here, above and beyond what we have been reporting, which is that there was at least a suspicious delay and unusual circumstances in the way that the police initially seemed not to really investigate, let alone arrest anyone, for this shooting on tape, but that now it has widened beyond the two individuals who were most directly involved in the shooting and involves, again, this additional individual who shot the video and may have been otherwise involved.

Felony murder, as we were discussing earlier in our broadcast, is an aggressive stance that prosecutors sometimes take when they believe and they believe they can prove that an individual set out to commit one felony, premeditated, and ended up committing acts or engaged in a conspiracy whereby others were, yes, murdered.

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

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

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT.

The coronavirus, as you know, is rocking American life, and health and the whole job market, which we were just reporting on tonight. It`s also proven to be a get-out-of-jail-free card for some inmates.

That includes former Trump aides released early, Michael Cohen today, which has been big news, Paul Manafort recently, and underscores how the justice system tilts towards the wealthy from the very beginning, whether you get arrested in the first place or whether you get a trial or whether they go easy on you, all the way to the end, as we`re seeing people get out.

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

Now there are also efforts to solve the problem. Civil rights groups pushing for more equitable systems for this kind of humanitarian release. Maya Wiley was discussing that earlier tonight. Congress eying reform, and other activists demanding it.

Now, these demands, they matter, because, as with so many other problems right now, there is a competition just to get on the board, just to say, this is at the level of something we should deal with during the crisis.

So, pressure is key. And the political argument around this, I want to talk to you about this tonight, is getting some reinforcement from artists.

Take the Grammy nominee Rihanna collaborator Wale, who teamed up with fashion designer Kerby Jean-Raymond to make this new music video confronting many modern injustices.

And, right here, you`re looking at this new fictional video, but it takes a documentary turn at the very end with what you see here. This is very real footage of an Ohio inmate objecting to how only some inmates appear to be benefiting from these coronavirus relief releases.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re not going to let us on home confinement. Why? Because they got to make money off of us, because they`re not going to make no money if we at home on home confinement.

I got less than a year left. I don`t want to die in this (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I don`t mean to cuss or nothing. You all might not see me again. I might catch (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and die. So, who knows? It`s crazy. Bye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That very real story is from the artist Wale, who joins us now, Grammy nominee, platinum-selling artist.

I want to mention, Wale has worked with everyone from Rick Ross, to Rihanna, to J. Cole. His album "Ambition" hit number two on the Billboard charts.

And, by the way, Wale is a huge fan of "Seinfeld." He raps about the show and teamed up for a dream collaboration with Jerry Seinfeld for the album called, fittingly, "The Album About Nothing," something we will definitely get into.

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

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

MELBER: Definitely.

You have this music video. I showed our viewers some of it. Why was it important for you to tell this story and go beyond the artistry to land or end on shining a light on very real experiences of inmates right now?

AKINTIMEHIN: It`s just like -- the whole thing is like -- it`s just -- it`s a genuine lack of empty think for people of color.

It`s just in general, just a mistreatment, you know, systematic oppression and just overt racism, blatant racism right now. It`s just a genuine lack of empathy for people like myself and people of color right now.

And this is just -- it`s just the juxtaposition, you know what I`m saying. You see it on the other foot and it hit different.

I had a lot of white friends hitting me when they seen the video, was like, damn, bro. That joint, it hit don`t hit me totally. You know what I`m saying?

I don`t know. I just think that even -- sometimes, it`s really kind of hard for me to watch, because it`s very triggering. You know what I`m saying? But it`s reality.

MELBER: You said you had white friends who -- because the video sort of imagines some of these racial and racist incidents with people reversed.

So you guys cast it that way, which takes people thinking through what they`re watching. You said you had white friends reached out to you and said what?

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

But it`s like I can hear through their voices and their tone that they`re like -- that was the desired emotion that me and Kerby was looking for, you know what I`m saying, just seeing it like that.

And all Easter eggs in the video, the dialogue in the middle, the white -- the black people on the toothpaste and the Morebucks store. Like, it`s all in there, and it`s all constant reminders that we live in a different world than white folks.

MELBER: You use the term triggering.

You talk about this your life and your work, these issues, the story, what you have been through, what people go through.

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

I want to read something that you posted. And I know it`s meaningful to people, because, sometimes, these conversations get very pushed to the corner.

And you talked about feeling like -- quote -- "Everybody hates me in my mind, and that`s the root of anxiety. So, people ask for pictures. You try to love yourself more, but it`s hard because of what you`re dealing with."

AKINTIMEHIN: That`s right.

MELBER: Why was it important to you to -- excuse me -- to share that? And what do you want your fans or people who hear that to think?

AKINTIMEHIN: I mean, like, being the first rapper to come from D.C. at a young age, touring the world, being signed to Jay-Z, then with Rick Ross, and this level that I got to, it comes with a price, man.

Mentally, it comes with a price. You know what I`m saying? And, yes, I ain`t going to lie. Like, that anxiety, that builds throughout your career, because you go from, like, OK, I could sign ever autograph, I could hug every person to, 10 years later, like, you got -- you`re weird with everybody, because your mind is different about -- you`re realizing a lot of things wasn`t genuine, a lot of things wasn`t real. You know what I`m saying?

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

MELBER: Yes.

AKINTIMEHIN: So, every time I -- if I`m away from the people for a long time and I come back, and it`s like, I`m in my head, too.

Like, some of the -- some people just float through it. And I envy them people. But, like, me, it takes me a while to get used to being around even my own fans. It just takes me a while.

And that`s like thinking, man, these people were like -- they don`t like me for real. They don`t love me for real. Somebody in here don`t like me.

It`s just -- it`s in your head, bro. And it`s everybody who deal with it -- and I talk to a lot of entertainers that deal with it as well, making people feel like you`re good enough for them and stuff like that. It`s a real thing in Hollywood or in the entertainment business.

I just wanted to speak on it. I know a lot of people don`t -- they be fronting or whatever, or they`re self-medicating, or do whatever they do. But it`s -- I be in my head, man, when I`m out on the scene.

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

You think about the emotional, mental challenges we`re all going through in this -- these conditions, and people have different challenges. And being able to speak on it, to share it, to be vulnerable, to grieve, and, as you know, hip-hop`s got a lot of different storytelling in it.

But some of hip-hop can feel like it`s, as you said, a little bit more on what might be fronting as tough.

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

AKINTIMEHIN: But everybody handle it differently, though.

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

MELBER: Sure.

AKINTIMEHIN: Some people might be like, man, what is he talking about? I don`t -- that`s just me, personally. Like, that`s my own thing, what I deal with when I`m in public.

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

I want to get into the "Seinfeld" thing, which I think a lot of people, of course, will appreciate.

You sampled the show in your music. You dropped a whole project, "The Mixtape About Nothing." You struck up this friendship with Jerry Seinfeld. And you guys collaborated on "The Album About Nothing." And you both got in the booth. We love that.

You`re recording these conversations. You`re having this exchange. And the whole idea, of course, draws on that famous moment when Jerry and George are pitching TV executives on their idea for a show.

Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SEINFELD")

JASON ALEXANDER, ACTOR: I think I can sum up the show for you with one word, nothing.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Nothing?

ALEXANDER: Nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What does that mean?

ALEXANDER: The show is about nothing.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

And Jerry`s style of comedy, he`s very observant, and it`s very -- it`s very -- like, the smallest things could be the biggest things, you know what I`m saying?

And like the way it observes things. And he will name something. Life is a glass egg, or, I got these white shoes, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, and it just sparks in my mind.

Like, man, it`s an interesting juxtaposition, you know, O.G. billionaire comedian, and this rap kid from D.C., like, kind of have the same philosophies on certain things.

And there you have it, you know? You have "The Album About Nothing," "Mixtape About Nothing," "More About Nothing."

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

And for you, as a dream, like, I -- I grew up on "Seinfeld." I read "Seinlanguage." And you jump in there.

I got about 20 seconds left. I will just say, I know you`re joining us from doing your working in the studio. And to quote Wale, it does seem like you are in your luggage, also known as your bag.

(LAUGHTER)

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

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: In my luggage. In my luggage.

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

But we are all going to stay in our luggage, but we`re going to push through as a people. We`re going to push through, everybody stays in their bag, in their luggage.

MELBER: Amen.

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

Wale`s debut on THE BEAT.

I hope you come back.

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

AKINTIMEHIN: I just want to say...

MELBER: Keep it right here on MSNBC.

 

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