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COVID cases hit records TRANSCRIPT: 6/23/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Lupe Contreras, Neal Katyal


Good evening, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we are tracking several big stories right now, including more reporting on a story we brought you last night, Trump Attorney General Bill Barr`s controversial ousting of one of the federal prosecutors with jurisdiction over Trump Tower. We will get to that.

We begin right now, though, with the preparations here at a megachurch in Phoenix, Arizona, preparing for Donald Trump`s political reopening, these efforts sold campaign rallies as if things are back to normal. And, as you know, and as people saw at that other rally, in terms of public health, as well as the political reaction, this is not normal. It`s not even working.

It`s not going as President Trump had hoped. This second rally, which, again, is about to tee off -- you`re looking at these live pictures -- is in a coronavirus hot spot. It`s the second rally Trump has held in four days, and it`s already drawing concern for what we see, what you and I are watching together as the news unfolds inside the venue.

You could see some masks. There`s one, an American flag, on the left your screen, but you also see a lot of people not only without masks, which can be acceptable if you`re far apart or outside, but really jammed in pretty close here, hanging out, talking, socializing.

We also have footage of people who were basically knee to knee in some cases. This is all happening right now. This is America.

And this follows what reporters and cameras caught just earlier today, long lines of Trump supporters also with very few masks in sight. Local guidelines require more social distancing than what you see there, as does Donald Trump`s own Coronavirus Task Force.

That is, of course, a group of medical experts that the nation relies on for exactly these kinds of calls, some of them facing Congress today. And you can see the contrast here in how they presented, with masks and social distancing, to what you see in Phoenix, Arizona, shaping up for tonight. They were following the guidelines.

Now, as for the news, Dr. Fauci testifying about hope for a vaccine that could come within six months. He also mentioned a surge in several states, including Arizona.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: In other areas of the country, we`re now seeing a disturbing surge of infections that looks like it`s a combination. But one of the things is an increase in community spread. And that`s something that I`m really quite concerned about that.

The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surgings that we`re seeing in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona, and in other states.


MELBER: And here`s a little riddle. Do you know when the next several weeks begin? Right now. That`s how it works.

This will affect the next several weeks in Arizona and elsewhere. And we can tell you the cases are surging 30 percent up from just a week ago, a reminder that, even if people are, understandably, tired have all of this - - you might be, your friends might be, I might be -- and that`s a feeling. That`s fine, exhausted, fatigued, over it.

You can have the feeling. But let`s be clear about the facts and the science. That feeling, which you can process, does not mean and does not tell you anything about whether this is going away. It`s not. Indeed, in many places around the nation, the worst would appear to be ahead, according to the science and the charts.

And the geography shows the virus is hitting more rural states. Here`s the surge in Arizona, today, the state reporting, as the president arrives, a single-day record of over 3,500 new cases, as well as 42 more deaths.

The state total surpasses the 58,000 cases and over 1,300 deaths that we have been charting. The city`s mayor, meanwhile, saying Trump`s event won`t adhere to CDC guidelines, the way it`s being executed right now, as we just showed you.

Meanwhile, back in Tulsa, attendees of the Phoenix event signing this waiver to attend, acknowledging the health risks several Republican governors, including in hot spots states like Texas and Florida, breaking with Trump to sound the alarm as they deal with what they call spreading at an unacceptable rate and the acceleration of people testing positive.

This is all reality.

And we begin on the ground with NBC`s Vaughn Hillyard live in Phoenix right outside of the megachurch. We showed pictures of what we`re seeing inside there.

Vaughn, take it away.

VAUGHN HILLYARD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Ari, I think today can be marked June 23 as the day of just defiance by President Trump to what Dr. Fauci was testifying on Capitol Hill today, but also the scary reality of the health statistics here.

You said it, more than 3,500 new cases today alone. That is a record of any day yet in the state of Arizona, but also today marks some most hospitalizations of any day yet here, the most ICU beds in use, the most ventilators in use. Cities around the state put in a mask ordinance, which, frankly, you can see from the shots inside -- I was just talking to our photographer Ray (ph) inside.

The entire lower bowl is full, and maybe one out of every 30 or 40 people have masks. Every seat is being used. We were out here earlier today, as hundreds, perhaps thousands of folks waited out here. The president`s motorcade literally just arrived here to this megachurch in the heart of Phoenix.

If the president was looking to travel into a hot spot in the middle of this COVID pandemic, well, he picked it today by going down to Yuma County, and then coming back up to here.

I want to let you hear directly from two individuals that did make their way out today to support the president.


HILLYARD: Does COVID concern you?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s not as bad as the flu. And the flu doesn`t concern me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have had this virus in the states for how long?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really think herd immunity is the better way to go. I think the numbers are skewed. I don`t think the numbers are correct.

A virus is a virus. It`s going to go no matter what.


HILLYARD: Ari, every individual I talk to, the first question I ask is, why are you here today?

And the response from every individual was, President Trump. President Trump chose to come here today and bring these thousands of folks together in this hot spot. And I don`t think the reality of it can be ignored is that we`re just over four months from the general election. And let`s say Joe Biden wins Pennsylvania and Michigan.

All it takes at that point is Arizona to clinch it for Joe Biden. And when you`re looking at the poll numbers here in the state, Donald Trump and Joe Biden are neck to neck. Martha McSally right now is losing to the Democrat, Mark Kelly, in the Senate race. There is a reason they are here for the second time in two weeks and in the middle of a pandemic -- Ari.

MELBER: Vaughn Hillyard on the ground with the eyewitness reporting, as well as an outlook on that election, including that pivotal state. Thank you so much, sir.

We want to turn right to our experts, Dr. Natalie Azar, a rheumatologist with NYU Langone Hospital, and Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland and chairman of the RNC.

Good evening.

Doctor, your views of what we`re seeing on the ground there right now. And we will have you speak to it as we look. We`re going to look at some of these pictures as you give us your insights tonight.

DR. NATALIE AZAR, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: So, Ari, just for the sake of acting like no one`s ever heard me say it before, let`s say what the public health experts have been saying now repeatedly.

Large crowds, standing close to one another, in an indoor space, potentially, not moving, also shouting, and not mask wearing equals a super-spreading event.

Today`s testimony from the four doctors on Capitol Hill were again undermined by the president and his behaviors. It is clear that his supporters model what they see and echo what they hear him say.

The little sound bites that you just gave of those supporters, they`re completely in contrast with every bit of messaging that Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield, and Dr. Hahn and everyone`s been trying to communicate.

So I`m nervous. I`m nervous for these folks. I hope that they get tested afterwards. And they should consider self-quarantining themselves for 14 days.

MELBER: Yes, and you can see some of the footage we`re looking at.

And I told viewers at the top, some of -- we`re looking at slides. Some of this is footage we have gathered in our reporting throughout this evening, but it`s all new stuff. We`re getting into see how this is going, Doctor.

I want to read to you where the medical and the legal intersect. And as viewers may have heard me say before, we need doctors way more than lawyers. But the way that they are teeing this up is an intersection.

When you go to this Phoenix rally, Doctor, you sign this thing that says: "By attending this, you and any guests assume all these risks, exposure to COVID, and agree not to hold" this company Turning Point Action that works on it, "the affiliates, Dream City Church, employees, agents, contractors," everybody, "liable for any illness or injury."

I`m curious what you think about that at a time of COVID? Because it would seem that, while the president and many of his aides are literally misleadingly playing down the risk to these people`s health and lives -- I`m not dramatizing, I`m just saying what we have been learning -- while they play that down, other people involved in this know the risks are so great, that people could die, there is legal liability, and they want their own supporters to sign that away, Doctor.

AZAR: Yes, I mean, there`s a complete dissonance there.

I think anybody reading that would interpret that as, what I`m about to do could pose a health risk to myself. And the fact that the administration acknowledges just how dangerous it is by having participants sign this to waive their liability is sending a mixed message, right?

It says, we`re worried about ourselves because of the danger of this pandemic, but we`re not exactly worried about your health.

MELBER: Michael?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, at this point, I mean, what should we expect?

The rationale, thinking, the logic, if you want to call it that, inside that room and certainly with the leadership team outside that room, meaning the president and his folks, is that, well, it`s OK. This isn`t as bad as we thought it was going to be. We`re on the downward side of this thing.

So, everything you just heard from the good doctor, everything you just other health professionals in their mind is part of the ruse to undermine the president. This is about propping up a man who is in desperate need to be propped up.

This is about providing a nice balm to an ego that has been bruised by polling numbers that have decimated his narrative. So the thinking is, let`s go into a hot spot, let`s go into a part of the country where people think that -- like we do, and prove the point.

And then we will see in two weeks how many of those folks wind up going to doctors and getting a cough and going through all of the process.

In the meantime, the rest of us are stuck with stupid. And we have got to spend our times now figuring out how we further protect our own lives, our own health, our own communities, when these folks come back into those spaces with the rest of us, having given such disregard for not just their own health, but, more importantly, their neighbors, their friends, their family members, who will likely get sick, because they are that stupid.

MELBER: I have a little bit of good news to get to, Doctor, but did you want to say anything else about all of that?

AZAR: Yes.

So, I think we always can learn from what`s just been happening. So far, we haven`t seen the kind of estimated or, what`s the word, projected uptick in cases from the protests yet. But here`s the caveat. They were outdoors.

MELBER: Right.

AZAR: Mostly have the participants were mask wearing.

And here I think is the most important thing and what experts have said is that, in the first two weeks after a rally or after a march, the people who are going account for the positive cases will be those people who are symptomatic, right? They will go to the doctor, they`re sick, they`re going to get tested.

The concern that experts have is that we know already about a third of people spread the disease when they don`t have symptoms, and that those folks who were protesting and those folks who are in the rally are going to go back to their -- to their cities and their and their states, and they may not have any symptoms at all.

They will not come to medical attention, but they can potentially spread the disease. So, yes, Michael, you`re correct. In the next two weeks, we`re going to see what happens. But it extends even beyond that. It`s going to be the next couple of weeks up to a month before we may really know whether or not the Louisiana rally and these Arizona gatherings today will have had an impact on the numbers.

MELBER: Really helpful to have you walk us through that. And we care about that, obviously, regardless politics.

A presidential election in the middle of COVID and a recession and these protests is a big deal. So it`s news. But this is also important for everyone to keep in mind anywhere they go where they might be at a large indoor gathering.

We saw in the megachurch several of the seating arrangements did not even follow the spacing, which is not hard to do. I mean, you can space people out if you choose.

Now, Doctor, having gone through all that, how about we turn to some potential medical good news? Is that all right with everyone?

AZAR: Yes.



MELBER: I don`t know about you. I sometimes...

AZAR: Do I have that good news?

MELBER: No. No. I`m going to play it. Dr. Fauci does.

I sometimes feel like it`s a lot of -- I don`t know -- maybe it`s just me - - a lot of sad news. It`s just living inside a newsroom.

But Dr. Fauci said something that we could all hopefully get behind, if true, his cautious optimism about a vaccine. This is brand-new. I want viewers to see this, brand-new, Dr. Fauci today. Take a look.


FAUCI: I feel cautiously Optimistic, Congresswoman, that we will be successful in getting a vaccine, always knowing that there`s never a guarantee.

I still think there is a reasonably good chance that, by the very beginning of 2021, that if we`re going to have a vaccine, that we will have it by then.


MELBER: Doctor?

AZAR: Yes. Yes, that is good news.

So, what we know right now is that there are a number of vaccine candidates that are heading into phase three trials right now as we speak. That`s fantastic. That`s when you have thousands and thousands of participants. And that`s the last step, where you`re really trying to determine whether or not a vaccine is both safe and efficacious.

But paralleling that, which is unprecedented -- this doesn`t normally happen until after phase three is completed -- is that the government is already collaborating with pharma, and they are already manufacturing these vaccine candidates, so that, when we get to the finish line, and there doesn`t appear or emerge a concerning safety signal, and it is found to be effective, they can ramp up production quickly and scale it to administer it to the entire country.

So, this is his timeline. This was his timeline from the beginning. He said 12 to 18 months. We started talking about it in January. And I trust Dr. Fauci, so let`s hope that he`s on the right track with those numbers.

MELBER: Well, Michael Steele, to paraphrase Don Jr., if it`s what you say, I love it.


MELBER: Only, I`m speaking about a vaccine, and not an offer of illegal foreign election help.



MELBER: But, look, I try, Michael. I try. I don`t succeed.


STEELE: We will leave it alone.


MELBER: But I try.

STEELE: You did.

MELBER: This is my question to you, Michael.

STEELE: You got props for trying. You got props for trying.

And the good doctor even smiled at your effort, so that`s a good sign. That`s a good sign.

MELBER: Look, Dr. Azar puts up with all kinds of things around here, as we -- and she does the science while we do also the politics.

But I will tell you, on the politics, Michael, it would be great if vaccines had nothing to do with politics. The truth is that there are ways that the president`s allies have been inaccurate about this and other things and tried to seize on it as, oh, well, let`s just wait, and that will solve everything.

And I want to be clear as we get into politics and vaccines. There are some whatever you want to call them on the far left or wherever that have politicized and attacked the science and the facts of vaccines.


MELBER: So, it would be nice if it wasn`t the case. But since it is, I`m curious what you think about the politics of this going into an election year, the pressure on this whole process?

Because the White House does want to be able to say, we`re around the corner, so it`s over.

STEELE: Well, the vaccine question is a lot like the testing question for voters out there.

And the president has been wrong on both, one in the sense that he says, the testing -- we want to slow down the testing because, the more testing we do, the more cases we have. And everyone`s scratches their heads and go, well, that`s the point. You want to find out where your cases are, and you`re going to have your cases whether you test or not.

On the vaccine part, you`re absolutely right. From the left to the right, you have this class of people who have taken very little interest in the issue of testing.

But the American public is very much reliant on the government, in combination with our pharmaceutical businesses, coming to the table with something that`s going to help them, because that is how we actually get back to opening the economy fully, going about the daily course of our lives, without the worry and concern that the guy or gal next to us has been stupid and basically bad behavior with respect to their own health now that could potentially infect me.

So they want that security. So the politics of this is going to cut against the president, if he`s not able to, A, articulate sound policy around it, but, B, people don`t believe that the effort is meeting the need at the moment.

And that`s why what Dr. Fauci said is so important, because they`re going to pay more attention to what he is saying, quite honestly, than what Donald Trump is saying. That`s the reality of it.

MELBER: Well, Michael, as the old saying goes, you don`t got to go home, but you got to get out of here.

STEELE: Uh-oh.

MELBER: But we`re keeping Dr. Azar for other segments.


STEELE: All right.

MELBER: I appreciate you so much, Michael, such clarity.

And, Doctor, we will have you later in the hour. Thanks to both of you.

I`m going to fit in a break.

When we come back, these accusations from a prosecutor who actually ran the Roger Stone prosecution, saying pressure at the highest levels to cut Stone a break because he was friends with Trump. Completely improper. Neal Katyal here on that.

Also, the general who once oversaw all ground troops in Iraq going on the record confronting Donald Trump over race. It`s an important story tonight. We have that later.

Also, an emotional scene, as Rayshard Brooks` widow and daughter attend his funeral, held in the church where Martin Luther King once preached.

So, we have a lot going on. All of that ahead on this episode of THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: Attorney General Bill Barr facing calls to resign and a major new allegation leveled against him.

This is from a key prosecutor who worked for Bob Mueller and who resigned Barr`s DOJ in protest of meddling. Well, now, tonight, we`re learning more, because this prosecutor bluntly stating, Bill Barr`s DOJ used improper political influence to go easy on longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone.

This prosecutor saying, Trump`s pressure ensured Stone was treated differently from any other defendant.

Pause right there. A respected nonpartisan prosecutor is doing something that I can tell you is actually pretty rare, blowing the whistle, based on what they saw inside the room, on this evidence, which, if you follow the news, already looked bad outside the room, these repeated blatant efforts to help Trump allies, to undercut the Mueller probe.

And that`s not all night, because do you ever wonder, how do these kind of meddling efforts even work? Well, we`re getting new clues into that as well. Sometimes, it can be, with Bill Barr, very heavy-handed.

The same Mueller prosecutor revealing DOJ warnings that his attorneys, his team dealing with Stone were warned they could lose their jobs if they didn`t toe the line.

This is a bombshell. And it`s coming from one of the few people in the nation who worked for both Barr and Mueller dealing with Roger Stone, and who can speak to what is changing now. This is an eyewitness account on alleged attacks on the rule of law.

As if that wasn`t enough, let me be clear. This news, these rare public criticisms of what happens behind closed doors in federal prosecutions, is the backdrop, as there`s a new move from Roger Stone himself today seeking extra special treatment. He`s now asking a judge to postpone his date of surrender, because, remember, he was convicted, and he wants it to be pushed all the way to September.

And the way the world works these days, well, that`s a possible lifetime away, although it`s still before the election.

Barr under fire, meanwhile, from hundreds of DOJ veterans and many legal experts for subverting the independence of the Justice Department, and some calling it a string of miscues, both substantive and procedural.

Now, as all this builds up, a lot of pressure on Barr, top Democrats saying they want to subpoena him. Now, he hasn`t even tried -- think about this. Mr. Barr has not even tried to explain in public why that Friday night statement falsely claimed the top New York prosecutor was resigning, which he wasn`t.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): We have begun the process. It takes a process. We have begun the process to issue that subpoena. Yes, it is very much true we are doing that.

We have other remedies too to try to force the attorney general. We can eliminate his office budget. There are a number of things we can do, which we will do.


MELBER: Chairman Nadler there speaking to Rachel Maddow going over several ways to put pressure on A.G. Barr.

Meanwhile, the very top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, calling for the inspector general of the Justice Department to probe this firing.

And given Mr. Barr`s sudden silence about so many key aspects of that, the question does remain why. The answer could be potential obstruction of justice. Why is Barr acting like this? Why is he seeming so clearly to intercede for Trump allies?

And why the rush, when the election is just months away, and there are other times where anyone could have gotten away with this easier? Why the rush, in the middle of everything going on? You know what`s going on right now out in the world. Why rush to fire New York`s top prosecutor in such a heavy-handed way right now?

Well, I suspect we will get answers and insights from what we consider the perfect guest on this, Neal Katyal, when we`re back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: We`re back with former acting Solicitor General of the United States Neal Katyal.

We just went through the reporting of what Barr has done, Neal. Why?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Well, this is about as grave as it gets, Ari. This testimony that we have seen that`s going to come out tomorrow, we have the written copy of it.

And it really is a bombshell. I think any attorney general, frankly, any president, when faced with this story, should be resigning. And I don`t say that lightly.

But the most sacred duty you have as attorney general or the president is to take care of that the laws be faithfully executed, to use the words of our Constitution. And all law enforcement systems depend on the evenhanded administration of justice.

I mean, that`s true even if you have got like two kids, and you discipline one for taking cookies out of the cookie jar. They`re going to say, hey, that`s not fair. You didn`t go after my brother or sister or whatever.

And when you`re talking about massive things like law enforcement and putting people in jail and punishing them, the system depends, the rock of the system is evenhandedness.

And I was privileged to serve in two different administrations. And I saw that evenhandedness every day in both of them. Just to give you one very clear example, imagine that this would happen today, that, in the Clinton administration, Rostenkowski, who had become a member of Congress, was one of the president`s -- President Clinton`s closest allies, and was running, for example, the health care legislation and all sorts of stuff.

But they discovered he was engaged in wrongdoing. And that U.S. attorney, a guy named Eric Holder, went and prosecuted Rostenkowski, with no interference whatsoever from the White House, not a word.

And, by the way, Holder at that point held the exact same position as these folks who are being accused now of misdeeds, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. And no pressure from the attorney general at the time, Janet Reno. He was able to do his job. That is the Justice Department.

It was the Justice Department under Obama, under Bush, under Clinton. But these folks have thrown out that rule book and are bent on destroying the department.

MELBER: And I know you take no joy in that scenario, because I know how hard you worked for that department, Neal, and represented it, literally represented the United States before the Supreme Court, no small matter.

You mentioned the calls, the idea that any other attorney general would have to resign. We have seen -- I mean, no one points to the Bush administration as some high watermark for dotting every I. and T. on law, but, even then, Attorney General Gonzales, ultimately, as you say, did resign when caught with certain things regarding basically allegations of impropriety and meddling.

That`s what people from Barr`s own alma mater are now saying. We just got this story late today. Members of the George Washington University faculty -- this makes things extra, given that they`re -- that`s where he went to law school -- saying his actions can pose and create a clear and present danger. He`s "besmirched the basic values of our law school."

And so, Neal, my next question for you is a little more slightly legal, personal, which is sometimes, on the outside, we wonder, well, what affects people? What do they care about? And there are certain people who are more affected by their own peer group, particularly in fields of expertise.

I`m curious what you think both the significance of this is and whether it`s the kind of thing Barr may notice.

KATYAL: Well, it wasn`t just the G.W. faculty. I see today also the New York City bar and hundreds and hundreds of prosecutors calling for his resignation...


KATYAL: ... I mean, particularly after the events that you were discussing over the weekend involving the Southern District of New York.

I mean, this is incredibly troubling. And I just think that the attorney general -- I think everyone I served with at the Justice Department, the mission wasn`t about them. The mission wasn`t about the president. It was about protecting the rule of law.

And that`s why you see this career prosecutor coming forward and saying what he`s saying, which has got to be one of the most difficult things one could imagine.

And so I am aghast at the fact that our Justice Department is doing this. They`re torching its legacy, and making it really hard for those who come afterwards.

And I think one of the most important things about this testimony tomorrow, we have -- as I say, we have already seen it -- it points to documents in written record. So you don`t just have to take the word of this prosecutor, who`s enormously well-respected on both sides, a career prosecutor.

He says, there are written documents that document what he`s saying. And so Congress has got a call for those. One of the things I have been frustrated with, when you get to -- you were asking about Barr`s, motivation, Ari.

I mean, I don`t think the Congress has done a particularly good job of oversight. I don`t understand why Barr hasn`t been forced to testify. I don`t understand why the House of Representatives keeps on funding this Justice Department, when they act in such a lawless way.

I don`t understand why the subpoenas haven`t been issued yet. So, I think the first and most culpable party is, of course, that the Justice Department and the president, but I do think that the House has something to bear here and the Senate as well.

MELBER: Yes, I appreciate the points there. And you certainly know the ins and outs how the DOJ responds.

And your point that there may not be enough assertive acuity with regard to getting those answers, getting that done, doing that oversight is an interesting point.

Neal, as always, we benefit from your experience and wisdom here tonight.

I want to remind viewers something that we love to tell you, you can always find. For Neal`s insight, you go to We have an archive of specifically these legal discussions with Neal and the explainers. And we think, boy, a lot of them are quite relevant right now.

Going to fit in a break, but we have a lot ahead, including Donald Trump getting ready for this Arizona rally.

A bracing new critique of him from a top military figure. His words, he says the evidence is in, and that President Trump is a -- quote -- "racist."

Steve Schmidt is here live when we come back.


MELBER: Tonight, Donald Trump is facing critiques on his leadership on two key fronts that have, frankly, been problems for him the whole time, race and the coronavirus, which has dogged the president since it existed.

Retired General Ricardo Sanchez, he was the top commander in Iraq under Bush, has now become the highest-ranking military officer to speak out publicly confronting Donald Trump`s responses to the George Floyd protests, as well as his entire approach to civil rights, saying -- quote -- "I believe the president is a racist," citing all of the -- quote -- "overtly racist comments and discriminatory actions" from Trump and his administration.

This comes on the heels of other military leaders criticizing Donald Trump, Generals Mattis and Kelly, as well as four Joint Chiefs of Staff speaking out.

Also tonight, Donald Trump`s former aide John Bolton, with his own national security role, has been slamming the president`s coronavirus response as a security risk and saying the U.S. is basically dangerously unprepared for both the virus and a potential biological attack, given the way that Donald Trump fails to lead.

We`re joined now by political strategist and MSNBC contributor Steve Schmidt.

I will just say it off the top, Steve. You got two pineapples there, instead of one. And, well, that`s not going to escape our notice.

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: We`re coming up on International Pineapple Day, Ari, so you can never have enough.


MELBER: Can never have enough. Just add a coconut, and you`re good.

Having cleared the brush on that, I want to tell you, I`m curious how you walk the line, because, on the one hand, it is not as if voters should just listen to military leaders to make up their own personal minds. On the other hand, something bigger seems to be happening with people who`ve been in those rooms not saying, oh, they just disagree with a given policy, but there`s something higher that they`re concerned about, Steve.

SCHMIDT: It is very, very rare, and it`s frowned upon within the community, for retired four-star officers to weigh in on politics. So a lot of military officers, retired, found it shocking with regard to General Flynn`s conduct during the campaign, when he was up on a podium at the convention yelling, "Lock her up."

So, these officers that are speaking out, and some of the finest military leaders of this generation, Admiral McRaven, General Mattis, what they`re speaking out about is Donald Trump`s threat to the institution of the armed forces of the United States and his threat to liberal democracy, to the Constitution of the United States.

That`s what prompted it. These military officers have spoken out because they saw the president of the United States threaten to turn the active- duty forces of the United States against the American people who were peacefully protesting that the military is sworn to protect.

So, for Admiral Mullen to go out and to say the things that he said, as a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is just remarkable, but it`s understandable, in the context of the uniqueness of the threat that Donald Trump poses.

And the sentinels of the constitutional republic, of our constitutional order, are the military. They serve no party. They serve the nation. They defend the Constitution of the United States.

And they are speaking out because, as some of them have pointed out, Jim Mattis in particular, a great threat to the Constitution that they have spent their entire career defending is, in fact, the president of the United States.

MELBER: Yes, you put it starkly, but I think in line with what they are saying, in really voicing alarm. It`s not just a view or an opinion, which everyone has a right to have in a free society. It`s an alarm.

I wanted to get your views as -- given your deep experience in the campaign, Steve, as we are entering the campaign season. It just feels different than some, because the president and a lot of his allies, particularly on the Internet, where, the younger you are, the more likely your views may be shaped and you get news, really went in on Hillary Clinton in `16 about health and stamina.

That was their thing. And I think, at times, some of the traditional media, we may have even missed how much that was taking root. So that`s his thing.

Now that seems to be potentially boomeranging. We have a look here at what he said then, and a little bit of what`s been going on with him now. Take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hillary Clinton doesn`t have that strength or stamina. She also lacks the mental and physical stamina.

I said: "General, there`s no way I can make it down that ramp without falling on my ass, General."


MELBER: What do you make of all this, Steve? And can it matter? Or is it just more Trumpy talk?

SCHMIDT: Well, the enfeeblement of the president is something we`re all watching happen before our eyes.

He routinely slurs his words. He routinely makes nonsensical statements that are just plain gibberish. He is often confused. He speaks in non sequiturs. We have seen a deterioration of his physical mobility. We know that he was rushed to Walter Reed Hospital for unknown reasons. And we know about his track record of lying.

And it`s not just specifically the lying 20,000 times about issues from big to small. Let`s just look specifically about his lying about his health.

I mean, the president has represented -- the White House, when they have released information about the president`s health, has tried to maintain that Donald Trump weighs 243 pounds. That`s obviously not so.

It`s a ludicrous statement. But where there is smoke from dishonesty, look for fire. And so whatever is going on with Donald Trump, in any other administration, if we saw the president`s deterioration, the way we have seen Trump`s deterioration, under stress, we see somebody telling the American people to consume household disinfectants and Lysol and bleach to deal with coronavirus.

You talk about mental stamina. Imagine the intellectual failure involved in his statements around testing, the concept that, if we don`t test, then coronavirus goes away. It`s so idiotic, it`s hard for me to wrap my head around it and try to explain.

But when you put it all together, the Donald Trump of 2020 is a different Donald Trump than he was in 2016, is as equally vile, but he`s a lot slower. He`s not packing the punch that he once did. And this is a legitimate issue.

This is a legitimate issue to understand how the president functions under stress.

MELBER: Yes, and I...

SCHMIDT: Why did the president (AUDIO GAP) with the protesters in Lafayette Square and agree to vacate the Oval Office and being taken to the bunker?

I mean, we just don`t know what his mental state and his mental health is, other than what we see in front of us.

MELBER: Right.

SCHMIDT: And a lot of that is deeply alarming.

MELBER: And all I will add, Steve, is that people can debate whether the evidence and the facts mean this is a big enough legitimate issue or not. And we have a democracy. People can debate that.

On the political lens, Donald Trump made it a gigantic issue in `16. So people, whether they like him or not, know that he thought this was some -- a way to appraise a candidate. And now we see a little bit of that boomeranging.

Steve Schmidt, always good to see you and your pineapples, sir.

SCHMIDT: Good to see you, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you, Steve.

We`re going to fit in a break. When we come back, we`re looking here at some of these live pictures, Donald Trump getting ready for the megachurch rally, without social distancing or masks.

But we`re not just going into the rally. We have a medical fact-check and a very special guest responding on behalf of Democrats to the president when we come back.


MELBER: A live look in Phoenix, Arizona, Donald Trump holding that rally we were covering in the megachurch.

Supporters have been packed inside the venue, drawing attention, not only the president on the stage, but what happens at these gatherings, which could become normal in the `16 (sic) campaign, many without masks, despite all the health warnings from officials.

Joining us now, Arizona State Senator Lupe Contreras. He actually fought his own battle with COVID-19. He contracted the virus in April. It spread to five family members within a week. And back with us, Dr. Natalie Azar.

State Senator, we welcome you on a speedy recovery.

I`m curious how that all comes together for you, your role protecting your own constituents and citizens, what you went through on -- what`s on your mind watching the gatherings that we have been showing, going to the rally.

LUPE CONTRERAS (D), ARIZONA STATE SENATOR: Well, thank you, sir. Thank you for having me.

And, yes, there`s a lot of stuff going on right now. Thank God my family, myself, my family, we`re all good. We have gotten past it.

I wish every other family was as blessed as we came out of this, but they`re not. And for those, I -- my deepest condolences to all of them.

But that`s what we have to as -- I think, as individuals, as people in elected -- elected officials in elected offices, we have to come together and we have to do something about this.

It`s still -- it`s still something that`s multiplying in drastic form here, especially in Arizona. And although some individuals like myself and others that have had it understand the severity of the issue, others are still not, until it impacts their own family.

Doing what they`re doing today, having the Trump rally here and having the president here in our state, is probably one of the -- one of the craziest things to happen. We are trying right now to get people tested, getting things done here in Arizona.

And to put all these people at risk, Trump will not see anyone without getting them tested prior to standing next to them. But yet I guarantee you everyone that was there was not tested walking in that door, because he`s not standing next to each and every body in there.

But people there are standing next to each other.


And, Doctor, we have some reporting here from the front lines here, a nurse who`s in Phoenix discussing the challenge. Take a look.


MELODY NUNGARAY-ORTIZ, ICU NURSE, BANNER - UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: I hope that not every shift I will leave feeling like things are a little bit worse every day.

That`s our only choice, is to go back time and time again, until it gets better, but I feel like the worst is yet to come.


MELBER: Doctor?

AZAR: Ari, it`s -- I just get so frustrated, because I feel like we have been trying so hard to be communicating just how significant this virus can be in certain individuals.

And, yes, the vast majority of people do well, and if you`re younger without medical problems, you likely will do well. But it seems like that messaging has been filtered, so that that`s the only news perhaps that the Trump supporters are hearing.

I agree with the senator. Senator, right, not congressman?


CONTRERAS: Senator, yes.

AZAR: That -- yes, that it`s very likely that these individuals won`t understand the significance of this unless they or a loved one is affected.

And one thing that stood out from Dr. Fauci`s testimony today, too, was about the mask wearing and how he said, I wear it for myself, to protect myself a little bit. I wear it for other people. And then, most importantly, I wear it to set an example.

And that`s what`s missing. That is what`s missing. And what has bothered me the most about the president`s behavior from the beginning is this conflating that, I get tested all the time, so I`m OK, so I don`t have to wear a mask, with the appropriate behavior that will prevent transmission and save lives.

Those are two disparate things.

MELBER: Senator?

CONTRERAS: It`s hard, it`s difficult seeing the camera there and the shots that they had there of everyone just walking around without anything on, although Arizona right now, since the governor wouldn`t make the call and make Arizonans make -- wear masks in public and in getting together in situations like they are right now, he left it up to the cities and the counties.

And they have all come together to make that happen. And, here, we can see, as you can show right there on the screen, that -- I mean, I would say at least 90 percent of those people, if not even higher, don`t have any masks on, although the cities have imposed that on everyone.

And here we are, the president of the United States pretty much saying, break the law.

MELBER: Yes. Yes, and break his own rules, for these reasons, and the double standard, which, actually, perhaps sadly, unites some of what the doctor and I were speaking about at the top of the hour and here, in two different ways.

Senator, you spoke to and we discussed there liability issues as well, where it`s very clear that a lot of people in the top of the Trump Organization there, they know the risk, they protect themselves, they don`t want to be sued over hurting other people, but everyone else can just go take on the risk themselves.

And that double standard, I think, is striking, when you look at the facts of it.

State Senator Lupe Contreras and Dr. Natalie Azar, thanks to both of you.

When we come back, we`re going to turn to another important story that we have been tracking here, Rayshard Brooks laid to rest, his family dealing with this, attending, as the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. was speaking.

We will take a look.


MELBER: Rayshard Brooks laid to rest today in Atlanta, his widow and their 2-year-old daughter among the mourners at the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. was once pastor.

In fact, King`s daughter, Reverend Bernice King, spoke at the service.


REV. BERNICE KING, DAUGHTER OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: Having a father killed when I was only 5 years of age, my heart deeply grieves.

There can be no peace in Atlanta, nor anywhere in our nation, where there is no justice. No justice, no peace. It`s now time for black lives matter.


MELBER: What is justice?

Well, when you look at these protests across the country, they`re having an impact. A new survey shows 94 percent of Americans now want some kind of change to criminal justice. That is big.

And that`s our final thought tonight. Thanks for watching THE BEAT. We will be back tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Keep it right here on MSNBC.