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Mueller veteran TRANSCRIPT: 6/24/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Ted Lieu, John Flannery


Good evening, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we have a big newscast night, top DOJ prosecutors making explosive allegations under oath against Bill Barr and Donald Trump.

Later in the show, Dr. Fauci fact-checking Trump as he downplays the pandemic.

And a very special panel, we`re going to get to that. It`s something you won`t see anywhere else, or even usually on THE BEAT. That`s later tonight.

We`re also staying on stories of protests and policing. We have a new update on an important one later in the show.

So, that`s all ahead.

But we begin with something truly unusual today, this testimony from normally tight-lipped federal prosecutors. Indeed, you could actually go through an entire four-year presidential term and never see what I`m about to show you right now, because, like Bob Mueller himself, prosecutors in general and certainly those who served under him, tend to err on the side of no comment.

In fact, even years after leaving government, they don`t typically discuss what was internally debated or clashed about in their prosecutorial office, unless -- there is an exception -- unless they think their constitutional oath and that justice itself demands it.

And, so, here we are. The scene, with social distancing, DOJ veterans who worked with Mueller and Barr being sworn in and then blowing the whistle. What they allege was improper political pressure to abuse the DOJ`s powers, the power to charge or not charge, to imprison Americans or not, and to do so for Donald Trump`s political and personal agenda.

This is serious stuff, and all of it puts even more pressure on Attorney General Barr. Today`s testimony alleging that Barr tried to kneecap the D.C. federal prosecutors to help Donald Trump. And that echoes that other new controversy for Barr, allegations that he tried to kneecap the New York federal prosecutors to help Trump.

Are we following the storyline here? It is pretty consistent. When this many insiders and experts and eyewitness witnesses who saw it with their own experience in the office, when they`re all alleging the same thing and pattern in literally different geographical offices together, what`s important, why this is our lead story tonight, why I want you to know about this, together, it starts to look like corroboration.

That`s before you even add in John Bolton alleging that Trump`s approach to DOJ was, in his view, criminal obstruction of justice.

So let`s get into what Congress heard today, a key Mueller prosecutor who led the successful charges against Trump adviser Roger Stone giving his eyewitness account of two bad things, one, the improper motive, helping a friend of the president, and, two, the improper act, interceding to soften that particular case.

So here`s that prosecutor, Aaron Zelinsky, a pretty somber, careful line prosecutor, doesn`t do interviews, doesn`t go on television. And he`s walking through the facts as he knows them.

What this testimony might lack in some sort of D.C. rhetorical drama, I think it makes up for in a chilling warning that America`s justice system is now compromised by Bill Barr, that it is in danger, a chilling claim that there was fear in the office, there were warnings to do this stuff for Trump or get fired.


AARON ZELINSKY, FORMER ROGER STONE PROSECUTOR: I was told that the acting U.S. attorney was giving Stone a break because he was afraid of the president of the United States. We were told that we could be fired if we didn`t go along.

I was repeatedly told the department`s actions were not based on the law or the facts, but, rather, on political considerations, Mr. Stone`s political relationships, and that the acting U.S. attorney was afraid of the president.


MELBER: Afraid of President Trump.

And Zelinsky is not alone today. Another prosecutor who served during this administration alleging the same improper motives were driving interference in other types of cases regarding the auto industry, and that Barr`s personal distaste for cannabis companies, which operate legally in many states, led to pressure for investigations that might not have been valid.

Now, this other prosecutor telling Congress he was so concerned, he actually requested that the DOJ watchdog render an independent judgment on whether Barr was abusing his power that way.


JOHN ELIAS, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ATTORNEY: Earlier this year, I asked the DOJ inspector general to examine whether multiple antitrust investigations launched under Attorney General Barr were abuses of authority or other misconduct.


MELBER: Note the Trump administration has also ousted several of those same inspector generals in agencies who check on this kind of stuff, who investigate it.

Now, what was the Republican response to these very serious claims? I mean, one response, as always, would be, this isn`t true or you have misunderstood it. Obviously, if true, it would be bad.

And to be very clear and fair, at times, there were some legal arguments offered,. For example, Republicans debated and contested the independence of Mueller`s team. And whether the team is independent or not is a valid factual point of inquiry.

But that`s not all that happened. I have to show you this as well. Other times, the Republican pushback devolved completely. We had at one point a congressman loudly trying to tap to prevent this witness from being heard by his own committee, a witness who actually, by the way, happened to be a former DOJ official in a Republican administration who`s now critical of Barr.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, to me, Barr`s crowning dishonesty is the portrait of Edward...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, I would ask that the sergeant at arms -- the witness -- is being called upon to stop the disruption of this meeting.

I can`t hear this witness. This is a very important witness.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): Yes, well, he`s way beyond the time.

And if there no rules about when people can talk...


GOHMERT: ... there`s no rules about when you can make noise.


MELBER: "There are no rules about when you can make noise."

If that is your defense of what you`re doing in a serious committee meeting about the independence of our justice system, referring to your own contribution as making noise, you might want to think about your debating skills.

In fact, I have to quote my colleague Lawrence O`Donnell, a former congressional staffer himself -- he knows those committees well -- saying today that the breach of decorum you just saw there was a sort of new petty low for interrupting and that at least some of those Republicans were acting like -- quote -- "parliamentary vandals."

Now, as Congress probes how Barr pressured that D.C. office, there`s also news in a case coming out of the same office, Michael Flynn`s guilty plea, which Barr has been pushing to drop.

The top federal appeals court siding with DOJ to order those Flynn charges dismissed. So, legally, that makes that the very likely outcome, unless a special appeal were to go higher.

Meanwhile, Roger Stone facing a deadline for reporting to prison within the week. He wants a delay, Congress deciding what to do about Barr`s conduct in these new allegations. Bipartisan legal experts warn, if Donald Trump can personally dictate who goes to prison or gets protected, if that`s where we are now, out in the open, confirmed, evidence, defended, then the rule of law itself is in doubt tonight.

Now, from street protests to public pressure on a variety of issues, again, when we report out these stories, when you go and talk to them -- talk about them, I should say, to your friends and colleagues, and we think, OK, on all this type of stuff, it does lead back to the question, does it matter?

Do witness accounts, blowing the whistle, new evidence, this public pressure, does it change anything? Well, we have an answer on that too right now.

For Bill Barr, who was caught in that false claim about ousting one prosecutor Friday night, who`s facing this evidentiary battering ram today, who`s being warned of congressional subpoenas and budget cuts, the answer is, yes, it matters, because, under fire, now, suddenly, he has agreed and relented, and he will say -- he says he will testify, facing the House Judiciary Committee in July.

One way this already may be catching up to him.

I want to bring in two experts who have been with us from the jump, as we say, from the origins of the Mueller probe from before Roger Stone was charged, and followed this all along the way and helped guide our understanding, John Flannery, former federal prosecutor, as well as a congressional counsel, and Maya Wiley, a former federal prosecutor in the civil division of SDNY and counsel to the New York mayor.

Good to have both of you back.



MELBER: Maya, some of what was presented today is familiar to people who follow the news, and yet it is more important legally, congressionally, perhaps even politically, as an additional layer, when it is laid out, tested and presented in this formal, binding process.

Walk us through what you think matters about a prosecutor actually putting this on the record, under penalty of perjury and all that, to say that this is how bad it was under Barr.

WILEY: What we heard today was essentially the equivalent of a demand to impeach William Barr.

William Barr wants to make history. I think he established the strongest case I know of for doing something we have not done before in this country, and that`s take out a Cabinet member through impeachment. And I am not blowing smoke here.

These are career public servants. And let`s step back and talk about what that means in the context of the rule of law. What that means is, people who go into government, instead of the private sector, people who take cuts in pay that, even though they get paid well compared to a lot Americans, substantially less than they could earn if they went into the private sector to represent big companies.

And they do that for a reason. They do that because they believe that it makes a difference to serve the people. That`s what public service is. And when you take that oath of office, the oath you are taking is to put aside your own personal interests.

Well, Bill Barr took that oath. And what we are hearing from his own staff, from the people who are way down on the totem pole from where he sits at the top of that ivory tower of his, and what they are saying is that he is saying that , yes, indeed Donald Trump is above the law.

The GOP has a lot to -- that they have to answer for allowing that from the last impeachment hearing on Donald Trump, but that they now are demonstrating in this hearing that career public servants of all parties calling on them to protect the very sense of what this Constitution is, which is that there is one law, it applies to all of us.

And that they not stand up to that would be nothing short, nothing short of telling Donald Trump, not only did we not impeach you, we actually did mean, you abuse all the power you want, go right ahead.

And for all those protesters in the street, you`re right too. There is no equal protection of the law. You don`t get the protection that Donald Trump or his rich friends get. Welcome to America.


FLANNERY: Well, following upon Maya`s lead, I would expand it this way. We have as a law enforcement officer who is lawless. He`s not above the law. He just entirely disregards it, in part because he believes that the president, as he said in his testimony and his writings and so forth, we have a unitary executive, and the president can do what he want, when he wants it, and if he does it, it is the law.

So, you have Trump and Barr. And I think what we`re talking about is, we`re not just talking about misconduct or some of the polite phrases. And I`m so glad that Maya talked about impeachment, because there`s almost nothing less than that congressional tool.

But the next tool is to pass legislation now, which may not become law until the next session, that says we can have an independent counsel to investigate and prosecute public officials, including Barr, including Trump, particularly if he loses the election, for things like obstruction of (AUDIO GAP) for lying to the court.

MELBER: And, John...


MELBER: Let`s dig into that, John, because the fact that Barr now admits he will testify -- and I have more on that later in the show -- does create legal questions.

I mean, what he said Friday was false. He said that publicly. Everyone knows politicians and Cabinet officials can lie in public. But, boy, would he have a bigger problem if he tries the same thing under oath in a perjury setting facing Congress.

Take a listen to this other exchange regarding a lot of these related issues, John, including Zelinsky. Take a look.



REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): You wrote in your written testimony that it pains you to describe these events. Can you explain why it pains you?

ZELINSKY: We are immensely proud of what we do. We are proud to serve in the Department of Justice and we are proud that we prosecute without fear or favor.

To describe an abdication of responsibility like this and this sort of contradiction of all the reasons that we have taken these jobs is deeply painful to me.


MELBER: So let`s go -- same question to both of you, first Maya, then John.

When you look at what is being laid out here, what do you see as the legal hooks, the pressure on Barr, if there is basically now more than one allegation of misconduct?

Maya first.

WILEY: Well, let`s just start with the fact that he will be under oath. If he wants to do what he did in his confirmation hearing and in other hearings and pretend like he doesn`t understand what basic words mean, that should be an indication to Congress that they should take it a step further.

I suspect he will be very smart about avoiding those kinds of traps. The trap that we can`t avoid as a people is allowing him to be Slick Rick and try to get out of this hearing without being truly accountable.

But that also means calling other witnesses and testing everything he says, getting every document. And I fully suspect that this administration will continue to make a fight of public accountability on whether or not they`re abusing power and whether or not they are lying under oath.

MELBER: Well, Maya, you mentioned Slick Rick.

Obviously, to quote Slick Rick, the problem would be if Barr is telling children`s stories that don`t really add up. And, as you know, John, because I`m sure you`re also a big Slick Rick fan...

FLANNERY: Absolutely.

MELBER: ... the issue is the stories, you tell can catch up with you. They can put you in danger when they`re false in the wrong situation.

All tongue in cheek aside, Maya is making the important point that Barr knows that better than anyone. It`s almost like a tell. I mean, I`m going to get into this with a member of that committee. But the more that he is, shall we say, so confused about what words like ask and direct mean, the more you`re getting to the heart of the matter of whether this individual, who does not have the deference or immunity that a sitting president does, under at least the traditional DOJ memos, this individual is up for -- John.


Well, the thing about a person who lies and lies under oath is to find the inconsistent statements they made before. So, for example, you said on Friday night he is saying, oh, he`s decided to leave the office and not that he was being fired. Well, that`s a statement that was public and is known, but there are two parts to that.

Not only is it an inconsistency he will have to defend when he appears before the Judiciary, that he (AUDIO GAP) did that happen? And you and I may be more likely (AUDIO GAP) past performance.

But if he does appear and he`s sworn under oath, the thing that`s interesting to me is, that false statement was part of a movement to remove a U.S. attorney who has a series of important investigations. He didn`t do that alone. And whether or not he conspired with Barr -- I`m sorry -- with Trump, which appears to be the case...


FLANNERY: ... that`s a very special problem.

And the same is true of the other cases, because his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee is going to involve all these things. It`s going to involve the firings. It`s going to involve the substitution of personnel. It is going to involve the Stone case, going to involve the Flynn case.

It`s going to involve what associations or promises or statements were made to judges even on the bench. There are all sorts of things that suggest exactly the crimes that I outlined before, obstruction and perhaps perjury, and misleading the courts and filing through the court of which they were directed by Barr.

So there`s a whole host of things that mean Barr should not just be this disbarred or (AUDIO GAP) but he should be charged and ultimately confined for his misconduct.


FLANNERY: It happened for Mitchell. It happened for other (AUDIO GAP) of the Justice Department in the past.

This guy is a prime candidate for exactly that kind of treatment.

MELBER: Well, it`s certainly a disturbing scenario. As you say, there is precedent for it, Watergate ending with an attorney general going to jail.

I`m, as a journalist, not able to render, given the public evidence, whether that does or does not apply to Barr, but both of you making the point that the evidence requires more investigation, for starters.

John Flannery, Maya Wiley, always indebted to you, given all the expertise you have covering this with us from 2017.

We`re going to fit in a break, but, coming up, I will be joined by the actual lawmaker who will be questioning Barr if he shows up at that hearing.

Also, COVID infections are surging to some of the worst we have seen in months. Some states now delaying, canceling, changing these reopenings. This is a story that obviously affects your life. We have a veteran doctor from the Obama administration about what really needs to happen.

Also, there are new indictments against the three men accused in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a story we have been staying on. And that`s not all.

I want to tell you, we`re doing something very special later tonight. My conversation with different people around the country who are directly affected by COVID and the recession. We`re going to get into it, a special dialogue, different than what we usually have day to day on the news.

So I hope you will stick around for it later on this special edition of THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.


MELBER: Welcome back.

I`m joined now by Congressman Ted Lieu of California, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, was at that big hearing today, as well as a member of the committee that will obviously be questioning Attorney General Barr next month.

Thanks for being here, sir.

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Let`s -- we will get to Barr. But let`s start with, given that you`re on the committee, for folks who didn`t watch all of it, we have shown some of the substantive excerpts.

What do you think was important that Congress learned that was put on the record today?

LIEU: Thank you, Ari, for your question.

And let me first say that, as a former prosecutor, it`s always been clear to me that the only reason we can deprive someone of their freedom and lock them up in prison is based on the consent of the people.

And that consent is based on our shared understanding that no one is above the law and that prosecutions are fair and based on the evidence. One of the greatest dangers to a democracy is if people start believing that prosecutions are based on politics or based on who the defendant happens to know.

And, unfortunately, Bill Barr has perverted the Department of Justice, where friends of Donald Trump gets special favors no one else could. And what the evidence today showed at the hearing is that Roger Stone got special favors, according to prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, that no American ever could.

He got a reduced sentencing recommendation because Donald Trump went nuts on Twitter after the first sentencing recommendation was made public by the Department of Justice.

MELBER: Congressmen, is that a legal term? He went nuts on Twitter?

LIEU: That is a legal term. And we have seen it, unfortunately, happen quite a bit with this president.

MELBER: Let me play -- because you bring up Stone and what he was in trouble for.

There were things he was convicted of. So a jury of his peers found them to be criminal. And there were other things that directly contradict claims that he and the White House and at the time the Trump campaign had made about what Mueller was investigating, which is how much foreign coordination was there.

And even if it didn`t rise the level of a crime, Congress obviously has an interest in protecting against the foreign interference in our free democracy.

Take a look at this exchange from today.


REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): There are dozens of calls between Stone and the Trump campaign`s top officials, right?

ZELINSKY: That`s correct.

RICHMOND: Witnesses also testified that they were present when Stone spoke to then candidate Trump, right?

ZELINSKY: Mr. Gates testified to that at trial. Mr. Cohen testified to that before Congress. And Mr. Manafort told that to the special counsel`s office.


MELBER: I always try to be clear and fair. And so I`m emphasizing that Bob Mueller did not charge crimes related to that foreign interaction, in fairness.

Stone is a convict for other reasons. But, from a policy and democracy view, did you think that exchange and that part of this inquiry is important to your committee? And, if so, why?

LIEU: Absolutely.

I`m glad you brought up that exchange. This is why we even had this hearing. It`s because, in 2016, the Russians engaged in a sweeping and systematic attack on our elections. Roger Stone coordinated with WikiLeaks, who took the stolen e-mails that the Russian hackers had from the Hillary Clinton campaign.

And then he coordinated with members of the Trump campaign and spoke to Donald Trump himself. And then the Trump campaign used these stolen e- mails. They based their campaign messaging on it. And Roger Stone was then convicted of multiple crimes, and Bill Barr steps in and lowers the sentence. That is a perversion of justice.

MELBER: Congressman Lieu, with an inside seat, we appreciate you breaking it down. And, obviously, we will be coming back to you and your colleagues, as Mr. Barr does finally have that day of reckoning in your committee, something I have been emphasizing in our reporting.

It would appear that some of the pressure was working. Thank you, Congressman.

LIEU: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Yes, sir.

Meanwhile, on this virus that is surging, Donald Trump downplaying it, getting fact-checked by Dr. Fauci himself. We`re going to show you exactly what you need to know when we`re back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: Donald Trump continuing to try to downplay the coronavirus, but the actual reality -- and this is important, regardless of anything he says -- it`s cases nationwide surging in just the last two weeks.

Look at this chart. You will see here these steep climbs in several states of different geographic styles. You have got Texas, you got Florida, Arizona, California, which was hit hard early, but look at how bad it`s getting right now.

These are states you`re looking at, with the seven-day moving average surging, these are states that have largely tried phased openings. Then you can count hospitalizations. I need you to see this. You need to know this for your family and your choices.

Texas, where Houston`s ICUs are approaching 100 percent. They`re basically 97 percent full. Arizona, North Carolina, Arkansas, record highs and hospitalization, which is another way to measure this totally apart from testing debates.

And then more than 35,000 cases recorded here in a single day. You see the red arrow on April. We want to show you, at that period of time, it surged up, and everyone thought, gosh, this is the time to shut down, right?

Now look where we are on the far right of your screen. Keep this in mind if you hear people say they`re tired of this, it`s time to move on, we have done enough. We are back to the April peaks. The seven-day moving average is not our friend.

We are facing the worst day since April. If you count it up, it`s up 40 percent in just these last two weeks, 27 states seeing increased cases.

And today in New York, the governor issuing restrictions to visitors who are coming from those places.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): So we`re announcing today a joint travel advisory.

People coming in from states that have a high infection rate must quarantine for 14 days.


MELBER: Today, Dr. Fauci, who has been breaking with Trump on the severity of spikes, said some states opened too soon.


QUESTION: So ,we`re talking about states like Arizona, Texas, Florida particularly hard-hit right now.



QUESTION: So, is any of this -- is the spike linked to the fact that these are some of the states that opened up early?

FAUCI: You know, you can`t specifically pinpoint it and say, yes, this is the case, but it`s highly suspicious.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Dr. Kavita Patel, a former Obama health policy adviser, also an MSNBC medical contributor.

Good to see you.


MELBER: Here we are. Walk us through what these charts mean, because it would be easy for people day to day to say, well, we went through that bad period. Obviously, there are problems, but there`s a feeling in some places like it`s time to move on.

And we`re actually going back to the worst days.

PATEL: Yes, that`s absolutely right.

And I think it`s -- like all things, it`s complicated, and that it`s not just the one thing. It`s not that states only reopened too soon, Ari. It`s also the fact that most of these states also did not put any mask requirements into place in public settings, combined with the fact that you do have hospitals that were ready for coronavirus cases, did not get that many cases early on, and have already resumed elective procedures, procedures that they delayed or canceled.

And that`s all leading to kind of this increased hospitalization or capacity issue. To be candid, what we need to do to kind of move forward is actually take a step back.

So, take Texas, for example. They need to kind of take a step back. You have already heard the governor making comments about staying at home, but they need to implement mask policies. This isn`t a political issue. It doesn`t need to be.

And then they need to take a step back in kind of decreasing store capacity. We do not need to turn the dial back to zero and all hide in our basements, but we do need to kind of go back.

And then we also, as hospitals and leaders around health care, we`re probably going to have to look at suspending a proportion of those procedures that are also leading to beds.

And, Ari, the final point, but we can go into more, younger adults are accounting for up to half of the hospitalizations. So a story that`s being spun even by the Trump administration is that, no, these are young, healthy people, it`s no big deal. It`s a big deal, and people should respect that, and not be trivial, no matter what age you are.

MELBER: Appreciate all that, Doctor.

We showed some of the facts here, so people really understand it, and separating that from the understandable fatigue in many places.

I want to show you two more items for you to walk our audience through.

Number one, just the hospitalization rate in the states, as mentioned. This doesn`t even get you into that testing debate. We just look at how many states have rising hospitalization there in the Sunbelt and down South. Numbers are even worse when you count the other metrics.

And then look at USA vs. Europe. You have that week-by-week rolling average. And you see, in April -- and this really connects, Doctor, with what we showed earlier, that, in April, everybody was surging in that problem.

The E.U., which is a lot of different places, different geographies, seems to show a model, even in a democracy, for how to bring it down going into May and June. And there we are.

What is the import and the difference, in your view, between these two lines?

PATEL: Yes, it`s very clear to me, Ari, I mean, it starts at the top.

We really have not had any of the leadership that we need from the top, despite having pretty amazing kind of scientists and civil servants. You`re seeing Dr. Fauci and other public health leaders making kind of guidance, putting that out to Americans.

But that delta you showed in the graphs really is kind of the representation of the piecework, where we had states that decided to reopen, but said, we don`t want to put a mask policy in place. You also had states -- you saw very creative solutions to work force shortages in hospitals.

You saw lots of different things to try to flatten the curve. And now we`re just seeing those increases and, unfortunately, just something that gets lost on a lot of people, that we still have not put in enough of what we call contact tracing into place.

MELBER: Right.

PATEL: So, a lot of you see in the E.U. is , they know why people are getting sick. And, in many cases, Ari , we have some clues, but we still don`t exactly know where people are getting an infection from.

MELBER: And you know, I struggle with math. We`re over on time, but what exactly is delta?

PATEL: The -- oh, sorry, the difference, the difference between the two.

MELBER: The gap between the two.


PATEL: The gap between the two, why it`s so big. And that`s -- those are the reasons to unpack some of that.

MELBER: Right, to really understand why they can do it. Why can`t we, and if that`s motivating in any way, right? I don`t know how people are thinking about it.

But, hey, other places are saving more lives. Do we want to save more lives? We are in this together for the long haul.

Dr. Patel, you always teach us so much. Appreciate your clarity tonight.

Still to come, we`re going beyond the Donald Trump distortion on the virus with a special look at what`s happening out there. How are you feeling? How are you dealing with this? How do you struggle, as some of our guests have told us they`re going to talk about, with getting COVID and losing your job, or how do you run a business?

We have all of that in a very, very special conversation that`s coming up only right here on THE BEAT.

Also tonight, I`m going to give you the update on this developing news in Georgia, where three suspects indicted in the Arbery case.


MELBER: Turning to an update on the policing and justice issues that have, of course, gripped the nation.

In Georgia, lawmakers passing hate crimes legislation with bipartisan support. It was just one of four states that didn`t have such a law. The bill passed after the Ahmaud Arbery case, the black man who was killed by three white men while he was jogging unarmed in February.

Today, those men indicted by a grand jury with four counts of felony murder and five other counts.

Turning to Louisville, a detective involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor, a very important case, has now been fired. This is three months after that incident.

Brett Hankison entered Taylor`s apartment on this controversial no-knock warrant and then fired 10 rounds. She was not even a suspect.

All of this happening as Senate Democrats are blocking a Republican police bill today, saying it just does not address these problems in a substantial way. The Democrats pushing a vote on a separate bill in the House tomorrow. They say it goes much farther. We have been showing some of that.

While progress may be uncertain for those who want criminal justice reform, a new poll shows 50 percent -- 54 percent of African-Americans do think some sort of police reform will actually likely happen.

We are seeing more and more calls to get this done and people believing it`s necessary.

Now, when we come back, if you have been watching this hour, you heard me mention this at the top of the program, a very special conversation. We`re convening with real people, Americans around the country, addressing coronavirus as it spikes.

We talk to the directly impacted and we try to get into this with what you`re feeling, what you`re going through -- that special conversation right after this break.



MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT.

We hear from experts and politicos all the time. But, right now, we turn to people who are living through all of this around the nation, workers and small business owners adapting to the new normal.

And we want to go directly to the ground to both some of the hardest-hit places, like people in New York that you see in front of you, as well as regions that opened early on, like Georgia and Florida.

So, to do something a little different, I am joined right now Annette Nielsen (ph) from New York, Tom Bosco (ph) from New York, Lee Depew (ph) from Georgia, and Melissa Hilaire (ph) in Florida.

Thanks to everyone for joining this conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Ari. Thank you.


MELBER: We have been talking and reporting with people around the country.

Annette, you have been in the heart of this in New York. So, beginning with you, how did coronavirus hit your family? What are you going through?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it started back in March.

My husband, who`s a family doctor, was seeing patients certainly who were infected. I was working, managing a cooking school that existed inside a huge market. So, I was in contact with a lot of people too.

And we both came down with it around the same time. My position was basically eliminated where I work. Yes, I`m concerned about my next job and where it`s going to be.

But I believe that something will come up. And I`m lucky that my husband is still gainfully employed.

MELBER: Tom, you`re also in New York, speaking to us from a restaurant that you`re still running.

How`s it going?


Oh, it`s tough. We`re running at a fraction of what we were doing before. Our sales are down 75 percent. But we made the decision early on to stay open.

It`s giving us the opportunity to forge a deeper relationship with our community.


MELBER: What do you do keep your customers safe?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we -- first of all, we -- it`s a very interesting question, because what we did two months ago is not what we`re doing today. And it`s so funny. Things change constantly.

We`re wearing gloves. We`re wearing masks. We wipe everything down. I could tell you, the first week, though, I couldn`t find hand sanitizer.

And this is like, they were -- in New York -- and we couldn`t find toilet paper.


MELBER: Let me bring Lee in and then come back to you, Tom.

Lee, you`re in your barbershop in Georgia. You`re shaking your head. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that`s one of the biggest problems we have, is finding hand sanitizer, Lysol, just cleaning supplies.

And then you got the mask. And people are going up on the prices of everything. Like, masks, you go to the store, and they were once 50 cents. Now they`re $5.

MELBER: What portion of your business would you say has dropped since this outbreak?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before, we would do each -- barber could do four haircuts an hour. And now we`re -- the best we can do is two.

MELBER: It`s really changed what seems like a very traditional thing. We know what goes into a haircut. It`s completely changed the way you do it.

Tom, what`s the portion of business you have lost even with the way you were operating?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The portion we lost were the sit-down; 75 percent of the business was lost through sit-down.

MELBER: The majority of your -- majority of revenue gone.

We hear a lot about what the federal government and state governments are trying to do. Some of it hasn`t worked. Some of it`s getting out there. Have you gotten any funding support?


And it was hard. I will be honest with you. When this thing first started, it was devastating. I was resentful. I was frustrated, dejected. And, look, it -- I didn`t think it was going to happen. And I didn`t think -- even when I was applying at the small, tiny bank in Upstate New York, I did it thinking, this isn`t going to happen.

MELBER: And then what was the result?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A week later, I was picking up a check for a significant amount of money.

MELBER: We`re hearing from two business owners here.

And I want to turn to Melissa.

You`re in Florida. How is all this affecting you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Melissa, and I`m a home care worker.

I was working with a 95-years-old lady in Miami, Florida. And since the pandemic happened, in the beginning, the daughter of the old lady told me that, you`re not coming to work anymore, and I don`t want you to bring the virus in her home.

I`m a single mother with a 6-years-old boy. And we are home. And we are safe, thank you.

Well, yes, I want -- I want to go back to work, but how? Where I`m going to leave him? Because everyone -- you cannot leave your son any -- there was no day care. There was no place you can leave your son. You have to take care of your own family now.

MELBER: Annette, what do you think about all that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I look at the situation now with an older kid. What`s their life going to be like? Are they going to be able to find work and have a life of their own?

MELBER: I want to turn to also something that is in the news a lot, which is, how is the leadership at the state and federal level doing?

Tom, how do you think the president is doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he`s doing a good job, as good as he can.

I think there`s definitely been some mistakes made. And looking in hindsight, there`s definitely some things that could have been done differently.

But, at the end of the day, I support him, and I support my governor, and I support my mayor.

MELBER: You`re speaking both about Governor Cuomo, who is a Democrat. You`re speaking about the president, who`s a Republican.


MELBER: And did you vote for Trump last time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did. I voted for Trump last time.

MELBER: This virus response and what is now a recession, for all the factors we have discussed, does Trump have your vote next time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, yes. Yes, he does.

MELBER: And when you see the concern raised by doctors and experts, that, even after more information was available, the president would say things that weren`t medically grounded and weren`t always scientifically...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. That was frustrating. Yes, that was frustrating.

I can see through it . The people that support our president, I think we hear things differently.

MELBER: Lee, you were shaking your head along.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he does go off the cuff sometimes.

I think he`s doing a good job with the information that he has. You know, our governor...

MELBER: I will ask you the same question from Tom. Did you vote for him last time?


MELBER: And when you look at the virus and the economy, all things considered, does he have your vote next time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, yes.

MELBER: And what could change that, or nothing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, if this thing comes back in November, and the economy does this, and I was expecting some help from the government, because they said they were going to help. Nobody helped.

It kind of makes you lose a little bit of faith. If the economy shuts down again, and this thing comes back, and it`s raging, like the media is saying that it`s going to do, and we go three or four months without having a business, well, that`s three or four months.

Next thing you know, we don`t have a home. It`s hard to be positive about anyone if your home, your livelihood, and everything else is taken away from you.

MELBER: Melissa, what do you think about all the above?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This experience is a big one for every one of us, even the president of the United States.

And it`s an experience that will pull every one of you to know -- to act -- to have to act like -- to act better and to have a better system when something like that happen, and not to know exactly what you`re going to do.

MELBER: Before we go, what I want to try to do with you all is a quicker lightning round.

What was the worst thing, worst news, worst day that you had during all this so far?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Canceling on going to visit my parents, who are elderly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mother`s in a nursing home. I haven`t been able to see her in a month-and-a-half, two months now.

MELBER: Melissa?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stay home, I don`t like that.



The day that the PPP -- the first round of PPP loans dried up, and we couldn`t get anybody on the phone. And they didn`t know if it was coming back.

MELBER: What`s given you the best cause for hope?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The humanity that I see in New York with people helping others.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, it`s been a reset, a reset.

I get on my knees and pray and have hope, not only of my fellow man, but the Christ.

MELBER: Melissa?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope that things will be better, but we keep faith, and we pray for that too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People want a sense of normalcy.

Getting your haircut is a sense of normalcy. Going out and getting some food is a sense of normalcy. Now, we need to combine that with safety.

With what we`re learning and with the support we`re getting, I think, as a country and as a community, and then as a business, that we will be better prepared to be able to live with this disease.


All really important thoughts. And it`s great to hear from each of you in your different places in the country and your different experiences.

So, thank you. Stay safe out there. I want to thank Melissa, Lee, Tom...






MELBER: So interesting to hear all those views from the ground.

That conversation was, of course, previously recorded on Zoom. Again, thanks to everyone for sharing their stories and that civil dialogue.

We also have some breaking news on the pandemic coming in -- when we return.


MELBER: We have been covering the surging coronavirus cases in the U.S.

And now, since we came on the air, this breaking news. The caseload in America has now tonight hit its highest daily total ever, a count of 36,358 cases, a record since this pandemic began.

The number will continue to climb, as this is a threshold that was met in under 24 hours. Hospitalizations surging around the country, including Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, North Carolina. Officials saying hospitals in Houston are at 97 percent capacity.

U.S. cases up 40 percent just over these last two weeks. You have to see what`s happening out there and understand what we`re facing. The president has tried to downplay it, but these are the actual facts.

Meanwhile, we can listen to the experts as well, a doctor on the front lines of Alabama saying this:


DR. NATHAN ERDMANN, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: This is not going to go away quickly.

And I know people are exhausted and have kind of gotten tired of hearing news about this, but this is what we get to deal with here for the next weeks to months.

When I talk with my family, I don`t expect things to fundamentally change well into next year, would be my best guess.


MELBER: We are back to where we started in April, when everyone said that was the worst period, something to keep in mind.

That does it for our show tonight. As always, thanks for watching. I will be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.

And keep it right here, right now on MSNBC.