Justice for Breonna Taylor TRANSCRIPT: 6/25/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Christie Todd Whitman, Isaac Wright Jr., Laura Owens, Gertrude Lamb, Bill Kristol

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

Good evening to you, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we are tracking news on several fronts right now.

Brand-new action race and policing in Congress, the House on the verge of passing a major police reform bill. We`re tracking that live on the floor of the House, and we`re going to bring you updates, including a special guest on that, throughout our coverage tonight.

Also, disturbing new video of an Arizona man killed in custody. And these are the stories, I have told you before, we`re staying on them. So we have the facts for you on that tonight. And, also, Reverend Al Sharpton will be here on what he says people need to do about the new facts coming in, in that case.

We begin with our top story, a coronavirus spike that`s breaking records, cases now surpassing the dangerous highs from April, over two million total. You see the red arrows from how bad it was and how bad it is right now tonight.

The CDC chief, meanwhile, rattling many today, stressing that, for every confirmed COVID case, there can be 10 more that exists in the United States, but are undiagnosed. Over 20 states seeing spikes right now, like Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas reporting their highest single-day totals ever on Wednesday.

So, if this is CDC is correct in the way they are estimating this, those two million confirmed cases now would reflect a total estimate climbing towards 20 million COVID cases in America.

This is the brutal reality and undercuts President Trump`s false claim this week that the virus was -- quote -- "going away." It also undercuts what Mike Pence has been up to. He is, of course, the designated leader of the Coronavirus Task Force, but he has been revising his approach to all this, releasing an op-ed playing down the virus, and now telling House Republicans to just focus on -- quote -- "the encouraging signs."

Trump, meanwhile, also pressing towards his third rally as COVID surges, this one plan for July 4 weekend at Mount Rushmore. It looks to many like another effort to just try to pretend that things are going back to normal.

And that`s just the politics. At the policy level, it`s that same instinct you can see, let`s just pretend it`s normal, with the Trump administration now ending funding for 13 COVID testing sites across five states.

Now, as many people are venturing out more and sometimes breaking the guidelines for just keeping themselves and their community safe, we want to show you what we`re getting in our reporting from the front lines, doctors who actually treat the sick explaining why they are alarmed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROBERT HANCOCK, TEXAS EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: I just kind of cringe when I go out and see people clearly that are just have gone back like nothing`s going on. And I`m afraid that we`re going to get to a point where all of a sudden everybody realizes, this is bad, but a lot of the damage is done.

DR. SAMAD KHAN, WELLHEALTH CLINIC: We had 50 patients test positive on Friday alone in our in our clinic.

An uptick in kind of clusters of patients that were out in bars and clubs over the past two three weeks have been coming in, in droves testing positive, unfortunately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: People testing positive in droves after flouting guidelines on social distancing.

When COVID first hit, there were many states in America, many countries around the world that did struggle, of course, with this new pandemic. And the virus, to be clear, it can hit people who did follow the rules, of course. It can spare others who don`t follow the rules.

There`s no perfect scientific karma in the data here. But look at what we`re learning about how similarly wealthy Western democracies are handling this differently. European countries, including many with dead cities and free societies like America, they are bringing their cases down, you see, from similar highs on the left in April, those European countries bringing their cases way down here in June, by following the medical rules, as the U.S., for its part, is not.

You see the surge, the United States failing to bend the curve around the corner. Now, there is some talk about a second wave or the coronavirus coming back this week. The facts are actually worse than that.

To paraphrase the Canadian writer Aubrey Graham, we can`t say this is back or nothing, because that implies it`s back from something.

Coronavirus is not back in America. It never left, because too many people, from the top of the Trump administration to places all around the nation, are not taking it seriously enough.

We turn now to our experts.

I`m joined by the former Governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman. She led the EPA under President George W. Bush and has worked at the intersection of science and government policy. Dr. Natalie Azar, a rheumatologist with NYU Langone Hospital, back with us, and Bill Kristol, a conservative and director of the group Defending Democracies Together.

Good evening to all.

Doctor, why is it important to understand that we didn`t round the corner, coronavirus is not back, medically speaking, it has been with us this whole time and continues to surge?

DR. NATALIE AZAR, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, absolutely, Ari .

And this was always the expectation, that we would have waves of transmission across the United States as the months progressed. And what we did in the Northeast is, we successfully flattened the curve, implementing all of the mitigation strategies. And we did that effectively.

And it`s unfortunate -- although I did hear an earlier show had on an emergency room doctor from Texas who said, we did see what happened in New York and New Jersey in the tristate area, and we have prepared for the possibility of needing to have even more capacity as they enter into their steepest part of their curve and potentially hit their peak, especially around the July 4 weekend.

MELBER: Bill?

BILL KRISTOL, FORMER EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I mean, it`s really terrible. You see that chart of us and then our counterparts in the European Union, countries with similar wealth, as you say, with dense cities, countries that were hit very hard, Italy and Spain early on, and they succeeded in being serious about it.

They had serious governance. The public rallied to the government. They weren`t getting mixed signals. And they now have a manageable situation. It could go back up. I mean, this is a tough virus, and you know that nothing is done forever. But, at least for now, they have got it under control. And it`s allowing the economy to open up. It`s allowing schools to open up.

If you look at that U.S. chart, I really worry about the whole school year. And that poses all kinds of economic and social costs on the country as well. Mostly, I worry about the people obviously getting sick. I worry a lot about the emergency room doctors and so forth in Texas. They`re going to go through now what people in New York went through a few months ago.

It`s really terrible. And I do think just the total failure of the federal government, the degree to which the president just seems to have decided, well, he`s finished with this, and, unfortunately, the virus isn`t finished with us, the failure to tell people what to do, the testing is still not adequate, apparently.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: ... thing, finally, I will just say, I mean, Vice President Biden gave a speech today, a pretty good speech, actually, it seemed to me, from the parts I read.

When he finished the speech, if I`m not mistaken, he left the stage -- as he was leaving the stage, he put on a mask, because he was going to be in closer proximity to other people. It`s a little gesture. He didn`t say anything about it. He just put it on and he went down and stayed...

MELBER: Yes.

KRISTOL: And Trump can`t even do something simple like that to show Americans, hey, we all have to -- we`re in this together. And we have to be serious.

MELBER: Bill, that goes the other thing I want to ask you, you and then Governor Whitman, on where the politics and the landscape meets the health policy, because, to paraphrase I think the point you`re getting at, Bill, people may be over dealing with the coronavirus, but the virus is not over killing Americans.

So this is a literally deadly serious challenge. If you look down in Texas -- and I know you know what`s happened to the Republican Party under Donald Trump, because you have spoken out about it, Bill.

You had Governor Abbott, as someone who has been highly conservative and tried to be yoking himself to Trump and MAGA, suddenly backing away from that on this policy. Governor Abbott pausing what had been an aggressive reopening plan, according to health officials, Bill.

I`m reading here, delaying the return of city employees, Houston employers reversing course, scaling back reopening, as the COVID cases spike.

First, Bill and then Governor, what does it mean to you when the red state governor, where Trump does remain popular, says, I reopened as much as I could, we have to back off to save lives?

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: I`m sorry. My bad.

I was going to go Bill and then Governor. Sorry.

FORMER GOV. CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN (R-NJ): OK.

KRISTOL: Governors have to deal with reality.

And Governor Abbott made a lot of mistakes, in my opinion, and went much too far with President Trump, but he is trying at least. I give him credit. He has some conscience here, honestly. And he seems to be trying to do the right thing. I wish you could say the same for the president.

WHITMAN: I would agree with that.

I mean, there`s no question that what`s gone on in this country has been unconscionable. It didn`t have to be this way. If the president from the get-go had relied on the scientists, let them tell everybody what we know, what we don`t know, what we think this is going to do, because science is evolving.

We`re finding out more about this virus every day. I mean, we`re finding out things that, even though you might have a relatively mild case, it may not go away after you`re released from the hospital, if you are hospitalized. It can have knock-on consequences.

There are just a whole lot of things that we could -- we could have put this in much more of a box. If the president had gotten up and said, we`re in this together, as you point out, Ari, wore a mask -- I mean, it`s a simple gesture, Bill, as you say.

But it tells -- it speaks volumes. And it tells people to take this seriously. To make this pandemic into a political statement, which is what it is now -- his supporters don`t -- real people don`t do that. Real Americans don`t wear masks. We`re not scared of this thing.

It`s not a question of being scared. This is a virus. It is going to kill you. It can kill you. And it can -- and it`s getting all age groups now. I mean, we have seen, fortunately, very few little children who have had whatever this other complication is that`s like Kawasaki disease.

But now you see the 18-to-25-year-olds. In Florida, that`s where they`re seeing the uptick in cases, the biggest uptick. Nobody is immune from this. The president lives in a bubble. I mean, nobody gets near him who isn`t tested repeatedly. And he gets tested repeatedly.

So he can afford to look like he doesn`t care and this isn`t a big deal, because he is so isolated and protected. But there are a whole lot of other people that are putting their lives on the line for no good reason.

MELBER: And, Governor Whitman, health experts talking about the surge -- depends on where you are -- but we`re seeing that across the West and South.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: We have very good evidence that this is not just about more testing. It is pretty alarming. It`s pretty worrisome, but we`re seeing these resurgences largely because we opened up too quickly and we opened up without the right safeguards in place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Governor?

WHITMAN: Well, I agree.

And the problem is that, because the president didn`t take it seriously, because we didn`t have enough of the masks and the personal protection equipment right away, and there seemed to be no great rush to do it, that it made it very hard for the governors who were trying to be responsible, trying to do the right thing, to convince their citizens that that`s what they were doing and they weren`t just being arbitrary.

And I have said before on your show, there isn`t a governor who doesn`t want to open up business, because that`s revenue, and they`re all facing budget problems, particularly those that have a requirement, constitutional requirement, to balance their budget.

So they want to open up. But they also care about their constituents, and they want to do it responsibly. And they recognize that a second, not wave -- I agree with you -- this thing hasn`t -- we`re not over the first wave. So we don`t have to worry about a second wave.

But we are as far as the economy goes. And if we were to have a second big hit, if it were to get bigger, grow bigger even faster than it`s doing, and more governors have to shut down again, have to pull things back from where they were when they started to open up, that`s going to really hit the economy.

MELBER: And, Bill Kristol, on THE BEAT last night, we actually heard from regular people around the country dealing with COVID, including two people who voted for Trump last time, a barber in Georgia, who I appreciated coming on the show and basically opened up about what he`s dealing with his own household, his economic anxiety.

There were things that he disagreed with on Trump a little bit. But, as you know, Bill, like many other Republican voters, at the end of the day, he told us in what we aired last night that, if he doesn`t -- unless his business goes, it can be hard to stay positive, but he`s planning to vote for the president again.

And we see that in a lot of the base, as you know. We also see in state polling -- and I remind my viewers, having worked on a presidential campaign myself a long time ago -- national polls are pretty worthless, because there isn`t a national vote. There`s only states and the Electoral College.

But if you look at the states, Bill, we are seeing some shifts, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, those key Rust Belt states, where it`s not allegedly closed, Biden opening up double-digit leads amidst all of this. How do you view that? And is that a rejection of Trump on COVID that could also reverse itself by November?

KRISTOL: I mean, there`s clear evidence that jumps out, a very bad couple of months politically. We have this organization, Republican Voters Against Trump, when we talk to actually a lot of these people.

Some of them only recently have switched over. Some of them were very doubtful about Trump and thought they might give him the benefit of the doubt. No more. I think it`s a combination of the virus, the economic effects of the virus, general lack of seriousness, and then the lack of empathy in terms of race relations and the kind of pouring gasoline on that fire.

All together, it`s created a sense of, whatever you might approve of that he`s done, whatever your thoughts were in 2016 about Hillary Clinton, however much you don`t like elements of the Democratic Party and of the left, four more years of this, we just can`t have it. That`s what we have heard over and over.

People are sort of thinking -- they`re not even arguing about 2016. They`re not arguing about the judges. They`re not arguing about decisions that were made a year or two years ago. It`s, can we really put up with four more years of Donald Trump as president?

And I do think there`s some number of voters, it`s not that huge -- but 3, 4 percent is huge in those states -- that are moving over.

MELBER: We`re running over on time, and I always try to respectfully keep Dr. Azar out of the politics.

But, from a health perspective, Doctor, do which way to vote is best for your own blood pressure in November?

AZAR: Which way to vote for your own blood pressure, you said?

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Which candidate would help lower your own blood pressure, just as a health question?

AZAR: Would lower your blood pressure.

OK, I`m going to take that question and answer. I`m going to weave in high blood pressure. The CDC had quite a lot to say today, actually, in addition to the fact that we might be woefully underestimating the number of cases in the U.S.

Dr. Redfield also said that about 92 to 95 percent of the population is still susceptible. The CDC also expanded their description of at-risk groups. And they gave a lot of medical conditions, of which cardiovascular disease, hypertension is in there.

They also no longer have that age cutoff, that you`re over the age of 65. They basically say, any advancing age, in and of itself, is a risk, dependent on your underlying medical conditions.

And, finally, 60 percent of Americans have at least one chronic medical condition. And wait. I lied. That`s not finally.

You know the young people who get really, really sick and they didn`t have any medical conditions? There is there is the syndrome that`s evolving of these people who are recovering. And it`s not pretty. It very much can resemble a chronic fatigue-type of syndrome.

MELBER: Right.

AZAR: So it`s not just these people with chronic medical conditions. We know that. And we are seeing this every single day.

As Governor Whitman said, we are all potentially vulnerable to this.

MELBER: Really important points that I think viewers can keep in mind as we make decisions that affect your community, your health, your life.

And, Governor Whitman, the doctor could go into politics if she wanted to, because she knows you answer the question you want, not the question you got sometimes.

WHITMAN: She`s good.

AZAR: I learned that.

MELBER: And a good sport, too. And we will keep the politics on the wings of the screen, so to speak.

I want to thank Governor Whitman, Dr. Azar, and Bill Kristol, everybody in their own lanes of expertise. We will be seeing you all again.

I`m going to fit in a break, but I want to tell you about some of what we have coming up. This is very important, this disturbing video of a man`s death in police custody, a new case. He`s begging for water. He`s crying out at times for his grandmother.

Reverend Al Sharpton is here. These are stories that are hard, but we are staying on them, as we promised. And I want you to stay with us for both the story and what to do about it.

Later, John Bolton revealing how Trump is viewed by world leaders, including Putin, in his conversation with my colleague MSNBC`s Nicolle Wallace.

And, later, we have a special interview with a student athlete who says she won`t race anymore for Robert E. Lee High.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Turning to an important new story, another man dying in police custody.

Three Tucson police officers resigning already over this. The chief offering his resignation. Body camera video is brand-new. So, this is newly released video. The incident was in April. It shows officers approaching a house where 27-year-old Carlos Ingram Lopez was reportedly drunk and acting disorderly.

It is not clear from the available public evidence which of the three officers was taking the video. And, as always, we warn you, this brand-new story that is already leading to reactions involves video that is disturbing to watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) ground!

CARLOS INGRAM LOPEZ, 27 YEARS OLD: No. it`s OK. It`s OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) ground!

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground.

LOPEZ: I`m sorry. Oh, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground.

LOPEZ: OK. OK, please. Please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on your stomach now!

LOPEZ: OK. OK. Please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, give me that hand, OK?

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will Tase you. I will Tase you.

LOPEZ: OK. OK. No!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The scene, of course, appearing chaotic at times. Then officers restrain him, and he is face down for 12 minutes, restrained, meaning handcuffed in what is referred to in these situations as a -- quote -- "prone position."

Then he yells out in pain and he tries to plead with them to understand that he could not breathe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOPEZ: May I please have some water? Please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Negative.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just need a blanket. He`s on something.

LOPEZ: Oh (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Oh, I can`t breathe. May I please have some water?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: "I can`t breathe." That`s captured here in this newly released evidence. He would be face-down for another 12 minutes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. Hey. Roll him over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put him on his side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. Hey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roll him completely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s not very conscious right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Police eventually did try CPR. Lopez died at that scene.

The autopsy report states that the cause of death was a sudden cardiac arrest in the setting of acute cocaine intoxication and physical restraint. They note the manner of death was essentially undetermined.

Now, officials were briefed the day after the death. But this is very important as we dig into both these incidents. And how does policy work? How do the police operate? How do the mayors that are supposed to oversee them operate?

Well, I can tell you something else disturbing here. They are saying they didn`t even initially look at the video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MAGNUS, TUCSON, ARIZONA, POLICE CHIEF: There have also been questions asked about why it took so long for those of us at an executive level within the department to become aware of the very troubling actions of the officers, as seen in the body-worn camera footage.

Although we were briefed the day following the incident, we did not view the footage at that time. And, frankly, that`s something we should have done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Something they should have done, they now say, the actual live contemporaneously video of the death.

Tucson`s mayor says she`s deeply troubled. A criminal investigation has already been launched. This is a new and developing story.

And we turn out to Reverend Al Sharpton. He`s the host of "POLITICS NATION." He is the president of the National Action Network. Viewers and people around the nation known him for working on these types of issues in many, many different communities around the country.

And so, Rev, I have much I want to get with -- get you on tonight, but beginning with what we`re learning about this, what was wrong, in your view, based on the evidence and this interaction? What should happen now?

REV. AL SHARPTON, HOST, "POLITICS NATION": Well, clearly we are looking at something that reminds us of the Eric Garner case in New York six years ago, and that happened after this, because this happened in April, with the death, 30 days ago today, of George Floyd.

The connecting thing, "I can`t breathe." Policemen are not there to make sure that they punish a suspect. They`re there if they`re going to make an arrest to arrest the suspect, bring him in or her in. And if they`re pleading that they can`t breathe, you should accommodate that.

They`re handcuffed. In this case, Mr. Lopez was handcuffed and was nude. Clearly, there was some issues there about him. He may have been intoxicated. You do not withdraw any medical assistance from him, and you certainly do not allow him to die.

That`s first. I think that that is why you need federal law on how police can and cannot behave. And if they cross the line to where it becomes that they are adding to someone`s demise, which happened in this case, or injuries, that they open themselves up to criminal exposure.

But the other thing is, when you have the authorities say a man died, and they know he`s dead, and they didn`t even look at the videotape, then all of the fighting that occurred and that was successful in parts of the Obama administration and getting cameras on police means nothing if those in authority won`t even review the tape.

Then why are we having you with the cameras on police, when the heads of the police department admit, we didn`t even look at the tape? What could be more serious than a man died in custody, and you didn`t review the tape?

MELBER: A hundred. I mean, you just hit it on the head. You have worked on this for so long.

The push to get the videos and the evidence is so that it can be a source of facts. You have people admitting -- you have one of the most serious things that can happen, right, a death. Legally, some deaths are ruled no fault or a justifiable homicide.

SHARPTON: Right.

MELBER: Others are crimes. It`s the most serious thing. And they said, we didn`t even want to look at it. It`s a huge tell.

Rev, I want you to stay with me, because I promised viewers. There`s something else big I want to get you on, another development that`s really related, which is right now, tonight, Congress is on the verge of passing a major bill reckoning with problems in policing. It`s called the George Floyd Justice in Police Act of 2020.

And there`s nothing automatic about what the House is deliberating on right now. Indeed, this bill has changes that were once considered controversial among Democratic politicians, because it takes on powerful police unions by restricting their tools, from aggressive no-knock warrants to choke holds to tracking misconduct.

And in the most legally consequential move, if you remember one thing about this bill, it will reform the greatest shield that officers have in courts across America, qualified immunity. This could be a legal game-changer.

And politicians in both parties have generally stood by that immunity shield on the theory that they say officers need deference for what they do in the line of duty. So let`s be clear tonight. Democrats didn`t touch that immunity last year when they took over the House, or in 2009, when they had Congress and the White House.

Indeed, the Justice Department in the Obama administration largely defended qualified immunity when it came up in court as the law of the land.

So, it is big tonight that one party is shifting on this, demanding accountability for police in court, largely because of the protests, change that began in the streets now hitting Washington.

In fact, the last time Congress did any sweeping crime bill was 1994. And it pushed things to the right, harsher penalties, crackdowns, very few measures that took on police union power. Democrats suggesting they have the votes to pass this tonight.

So I want to be clear as I bring back here the rev for his views. This isn`t something that was just going to happen. It`s a win for reformers and, as best I can tell, for Black Lives Matter activists, a movement, moving the ball, even as many are putting pressure for a lot more to come.

Rev, what does it mean to you to see Congress actually step up on all these issues, including that key immunity that officers tend to benefit from in court?

SHARPTON: Well, it means a lot, because movement without -- demonstration without legislation is incomplete.

And many of us that have been fighting for this for years. And now seeing finally the Congress moving, heartened by it. But we do not want them, as it goes back to the Senate, whose Senate bill had no penalty at all, no criminal exposure at all.

I don`t think that it is worth the paper that is written on, that they not give up any major parts of holding police accountable, because I think, without qualified immunity, without making choke holds illegal and without dealing with the other things in this bill, it becomes toothless.

And that is what we are going to keep the pressure on. That is why we`re going to continue to protest. The only reason we`re here is because many of us have stayed on this for years. and with the death of George Floyd, it expanded the movement of all races, but we still must turn it into legislation, so it is not drama without justice for these families and for families to come.

MELBER: All of that makes sense.

We have covered here, Reverend, obviously, another disturbing incident and the calls for justice in that individual case.

But, also, we`re not -- as we have said on THE BEAT, we`re not dropping these stories. What`s happening in the House tonight would not have happened but for the action in the streets.

SHARPTON: Absolutely.

MELBER: The members of Congress themselves saying that.

Rev, good to have you back. We will see you again, sir.

SHARPTON: Thank you. Good to see you.

MELBER: Thank you, Rev.

People can also find the Reverend Sharpton always, every weekend, "POLITICS NATION," 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Now, we have two special guests as protests are breaking out today over policing in the Breonna Taylor case when we`re back in just 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Protesters demonstrated today at the Kentucky state capitol, demanding charges against those three officers involved in the Breonna Taylor killing.

It has been more than three months since that incident, no arrests made, one officer fired long after the fact. It was just this week. These calls are coming amid other shocking reports out of North Carolina, where three officers in Wilmington were just fired after a supervisor discovered a nearly two-hour-long rant with racist statements and threats.

It was apparently accidentally recorded, a patrol car camera capturing one of the officers saying the country needed a -- quote -- "civil war" to -- quote -- "wipe black people" -- quote -- "off the map."

An officer also talked about -- quote -- "slaughtering people based on their race." The officers also use racial slurs that we will not note or repeat in our broadcast.

Now, Wilmington`s police chief, a black American who actually is in his first week on the job, responding by saying this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONNY WILLIAMS, WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA, POLICE CHIEF: When I first learned about these conversations, I was shocked, saddened, and disgusting. There is no place for this behavior in our agency or our city, and it will not be tolerated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We`re now for a special discussion with Janell Ross from NBC News Digital and Isaac Wright Jr. He was sentenced to life in prison after being wrongly convicted for a drug offense. He became a paralegal in prison, working with others on his own exoneration.

He`s now a licensed attorney in New Jersey. And we should note the ABC "For Life" is actually based on his experience, so may be familiar to some.

Thanks to both of you for joining me.

ISAAC WRIGHT JR., ATTORNEY: Thank you. Glad to be here.

MELBER: We`re going to get into all of it.

But, Janell, your view of the story we just showed, and what it says about what`s available, what you sometimes find under the hood, at least in some departments?

JANELL ROSS, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Well, a few things.

I think, one, it does really emphasize something that Reverend Sharpton just said, which is the importance of actually making use of the technology that many police officers have been outfitted with, actually listening to tapes and not relying simply on what police themselves report.

I think, obviously, police are a microcosm of the American public. So you`re going to find police officers who say many of the same things that people across the country say. It is, in that sense, not completely shocking that this tape exists.

Is it disturbing? Yes, in the sense that these are people who have -- they are armed and they have been given license to enforce the law up to an to death, right? So it is certainly scary that this is their sort of goal or even casual conversation.

But what we can extrapolate from this, beyond these particular officers, it`s pretty hard to say.

MELBER: Isaac, you`re nodding?

WRIGHT: Yes, yes, I am nodding. I agree with everything she says.

I think one of the major tragedies in this, when you look back, and you look back at American history, is that, for some reason, we`re always looking for the federal government to come in and protect us.

I mean, since Reconstruction, we have been looking for the federal government to come in and protect us. And I think that`s a tragedy, specifically because that is not supposed to happen. The states -- at the time this country was created, the states were impugned with the authority and the power to not only police its citizens, but to protect its citizens.

And for some reason, we`re repeating the same things over and over and over again. And so when you hear these comments by these police officers, when you hear these racial slurs, I agree, that`s not a surprise. That is something that is deep-rooted in American history. That is something that is deep-rooted in American culture.

And when you look at our leaders, who have consistently failed to do anything, they`re sending an implicit message to the police that, as long as you`re not caught, it`s OK. But when you do get caught, we have to figure out a way to punish you or to deal with the issue without making major changes.

And it brings us back over and over and over again to the same cycle, and that`s where we`re at today.

MELBER: Well, and your point there really dovetails with what Janell and the rev were saying, which is, you get this far to create evidence, AKA, facts, and then you have leaders who are so bent on avoiding it that they will admit it, we didn`t look at the video, we didn`t look at the facts, we look at the evidence.

That`s a tell. And a private citizen who doesn`t have the, as Janell was saying, the authority to detain, arrest and kill, a private citizen wants to stay ignorant, that`s their call. Free country.

WRIGHT: Right.

MELBER: But when you have those powers, it`s not acceptable.

Go ahead. You were saying, Isaac?

WRIGHT: Well, when you look at the issue of the video and the fact that a high-ranking law enforcement official that`s impugned with the -- not only the authority, but the responsibility to make sure these things doesn`t happen, hadn`t looked at the video, there`s a message in that.

The message is, is that these are things that are not only acceptable, but they`re leaving -- they`re leaving the people on the ground, the foot soldiers, to actually look after themselves. They`re not -- they`re delivering the judge, the jury and the executioner upon the feet of police that are on the streets, without any type of supervision.

And these guys, they understand that. So, when they go out, and they rough a guy up or they choke him to death or they treat him inhumanely, they understand that there`s nobody watching.

MELBER: Right.

WRIGHT: And that`s why it continues to be done.

MELBER: Yes.

And to your point -- and we saw that in the Floyd case. Garner came up earlier today. We have covered these stories. Americans are confronting the fact that you`re witnessing extrajudicial killings, slow executions.

WRIGHT: Absolutely.

MELBER: And what do you want to do about that?

And both of you obviously have worked on that.

I have to turn now, Isaac, to something that mixes in with your life story, which is obviously a lot of hardship. But, at the end, if I may, always kind of cool if they make a TV show about someone`s life, right? That`s not that -- not that anyone would trade for that deal.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: But, if I may be positive, there you are.

So let`s take a look on ABC at how they`re making -- they`re making a show out of your life. Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What I did as prison rep, it`s commodity to keep me alive. Becoming a lawyer is what is getting me out.

Everything I do, everything I have done is about getting my freedom, getting back to my family.

So, you want another lawyer, have at it. But you`re not going to find anybody more motivated than me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You have been through a lot. How does it feel reliving it through a fictionalized narrative here? How do you feel watching that? What do you hope everyday Americans who may not be in this the way we are or some of our viewers are, what do you hope they take from this show?

WRIGHT: Inspiration first, in a conglomerate effort to go out and pound the pavement for change.

I mean, one of the things that brought me through my challenge is my innate understanding on how the system and how law enforcement works. And I think that`s one of the problems with society as a whole. When you look at what happened with George Floyd, the reason why there was this big outpouring, because George Floyd`s case was very, very unique.

For the first time, the public was able to understand not only the ruthlessness and callousness of law enforcement, but the total disregard, the kind of another day at the office attitude of taking a man`s life slow.

And it wasn`t just a shot in the back and an instant kill. It was a slow, torturous death, while he begged for his life, and while the people on the sidelines was also begging on his behalf. For the first time, the public was able to see that thing play out, that kind of scenario play out over the course of 10 minutes.

And so it woke them up to what the reality is. And that was one of the things, that`s very, very important, education. The public`s understanding of how our government works, how law enforcement works, how culture is embedded in not only laws, but the way they treat other people, it`s very, very important, because one of the things I always say, if you don`t see yourself in a person`s pain, you`re not going to do much to help that situation.

MELBER: Yes.

WRIGHT: And until we`re educated, until we begin to see ourselves, nothing`s going to change.

MELBER: Amen to that.

I`m running over on time. I want to give Janell a final thought.

ROSS: I would just say, I`m grateful to have heard, I guess, what was just said, because it`s a really important point.

We have a justice system that I think we like to describe in one way as the envy of the world. And then I think, for many people, there is a dawning recognition that it functions day to day on the ground level in a very different way.

And the responsibility for trying to close the gap between what we say we want and what we say we have and what people are actually experiencing is falling on individual citizens and people who are willing to stand up and challenge what is happening.

MELBER: Well-put, a point for us to meditate on.

I will say, for viewers, you can always find Janell and I on MSNBC.com, and wherever. Isaac, is there anywhere, for people are interested in your story, where they might be able to find you online?

WRIGHT: Streaming live on Hulu. They can binge-watch it now before season two comes out.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: There you go, and learn a little bit about your story.

Isaac Wright Jr., really fascinating. Janell, we will see you again here on NBC.

ROSS: Thanks.

MELBER: Tomorrow, we want to mention, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, my colleague Joy Reid hosting this town hall featuring Representatives Karen Bass, Val Demings, and Hakeem Jeffries.

And you can submit questions right now at MSNBC.com/townhall. That`s MSNBC.com/townhall. Join us in this dialogue.

We`re fitting in a break. When We come back, a new warning about where Trump is headed from his own national security adviser and the Putin issue.

Also, we`re going to be joined by a high school athlete who says she won`t wear a school jersey featuring the name of a Confederate general anymore.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Some news right here on MSNBC.

John Bolton has new warnings about potential interference in the 2020 election. He spoke with my colleague Nicolle Wallace about how Vladimir Putin views Trump. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: People need to appreciate Putin as a former KGB agent. He was a man born with a poker face.

But in the meetings that he had with Trump, I thought I could see behind those eyes a man who was just having a great time, because he didn`t consider he was facing an equal on the other side of the table.

I believe the Russians, the Chinese, perhaps the Iranians and the North Koreans are working actively to disrupt, not just our elections, but our entire political process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You heard it there straight from someone working directly with Trump.

Now, when we come back: a student athlete taking a stand against Robert E. Lee High School. She`s here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: A Texas teenager taking a stand in this ongoing debate over the legacy of slavery in America, now refusing to wear her school`s jersey until the name Robert E. Lee High School is changed.

Trude Lamb immigrated from Ghana in 2014 and is a star track athlete. And she wrote this letter to the local school board referencing her birth country and saying, point blank: "I can`t be playing sports, supporting and going to a school that was named after a person who was against my people right here in the U.S. He owned slaves and didn`t believe people like me were 100 percent human. I cannot bear and will no longer wear his name on my race jersey."

And joining us now on THE BEAT is the high school student athlete who wrote that letter, Trude Lamb, and her adoptive mother, Laura Owens.

And thanks to both of you for being here.

GERTRUDE LAMB, PROTESTING TO CHANGE SCHOOL NAME: Thank you.

MELBER: So, Trude, what made you speak out about this now?

LAMB: Because I was shocked.

MELBER: About everything that`s happening?

LAMB: Yes, sir.

MELBER: And when you look at this high school name, I mean, do students in that school, you or your peers, is this something you guys were talking a lot about in the past couple years, or with everything going on now, people are thinking about it more deeply?

LAMB: Yes, yes. We have been thinking about in the past year.

And, like, with everything else going on, yes, that kind of -- I feel like, with everything going on, this was the right time to do it.

MELBER: Mm-hmm.

Laura, will walk us through how this has been greeted in the school community.

LAURA OWENS, ADOPTIVE MOTHER OF GERTRUDE LAMB: This is something that has been an issue for 50 years down.

The name, they started to try this in 1971. So it`s nothing new to us. But, right now, as Trude said, now`s the time to make this change.

MELBER: And do you think it`s having an impact? It can often be hard to tell at first, but it`s a stark way to tell people a student doesn`t want to participate, doesn`t want to race under this brand, this name.

OWENS: Yes. These athletes are taking a stance that is a moral issue for them.

And we are all very proud of not just Trude, but the other athletes who are standing beside her and doing the same thing.

MELBER: Trude, what have you learned in sort of talking to your fellow athletes, coach, teachers? What have people been saying to you since you put this out?

LAMB: I had a lot friends tell me they were proud of me.

I had a lot of parents tell me that they were so proud of me for standing out and for doing the right thing.

MELBER: And so, Laura, what do you think comes next here?

OWENS: Ari, I want to take this moment just to say how proud I am, truly, of Trude for bringing this to my attention.

This is something I have known about, but until she really brought this to my attention with the letter she wrote, I was just incredibly moved. And so what we want to happen is to call on our local politicians, Kevin Eltife, board President Washmon. The time is now.

Call a vote before that July 20 meeting. There is no reason to wait. Do this, so we can start our school year on a fresh start.

MELBER: And I guess my last question to Trude, is, you`re doing this. You`re getting understandable shout-outs.

What do you say to other people watching, people your age or in high school who might be thinking, it seems scary, or it makes you feel nervous to speak out on something like this? What would you say to other students?

LAMB: I would say, just do you best, because I know it`s really hard. And it was really hard for me.

MELBER: Yes.

LAMB: Just go out there and do this, and just do what you believe in.

MELBER: I think that`s a fitting point for us all to reflect on.

A lot of people are -- through the protest pressure, a lot of people, I think, are trying to think, wait, what do I believe in? What`s the right thing to do?

And it`s not about reliving everything you could have done different, but what do we want to do today and tomorrow? So, a lot of people have looked at what you`re doing, Trude, and I think agree with you.

Trude Lamb and Laura Owens, thanks for telling us about this effort.

OWENS: Thank you.

LAMB: Thank you for having us.

MELBER: Thank you. Good luck to both of you.

We`re going to fit in a break. And we will be right back with one more thing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Thanks for joining us on THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER tonight. We will be back here tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

But keep it right here, right now on MSNBC.

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