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Dems hit GOP TRANSCRIPT: 8/7/20 The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Stuart Stevens, Kendrick Sampson, Norm Eisen, Chris Van Hollen, Brittney Cooper

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now. 

Hey there, Ari. 

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hey, Katy. Thank you very much. 

And welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber. 

And the Trump campaign is underwater in the polls and under fire for new  evidence of its dirty tricks 88 days out from the election. The domestic  brawling now faces new Russian efforts to help Trump by denigrating Joe  Biden. That`s from brand-new intelligence asserting China would prefer  Trump lose and Biden win. 

Meanwhile, Trump dealt another loss in court, House Democrats winning their  suit to force testimony from a veteran of Trump`s White House legal team. 

And by the end of tonight`s show, we will turn to a broader conversation  with the HBO star Kendrick Sampson. 

So, we have a lot 

And we began with the new heat on Donald Trump, backed into an electoral  corner for alleged dirty tricks designed to mislead voters and short- circuit this election. Top Democrat Elizabeth Warren demanding a probe into  Trump administration efforts to hamper the U.S. Postal Service, amidst  internal reports that cutting costs has already delayed mail delivery and  ensnared ballots in recent primary elections. 

That`s policy. On rhetoric, Trump has spread disinformation about voting by  mail, and his campaign getting called out for deceptive ads that manipulate  images of Joe Biden, like this photo of Biden praying in a church that  darkens the background to actually make it seem like he might have been  somehow cowering. The real photo, though, the actual factual image, is on  the other side. 

And this one. Manipulated images on the left shows Biden would seemingly be  sitting alone, but, in fact, you can see how edited it is because he was at  a group event. This is visual misrepresentation, "The Washington Post"  giving the ad four Pinocchios, its worst rating. 

So that is a distorted reality field.

Back in actual reality, a very real pandemic is raging, with death  projections approaching 300,000 by the end of the year. That`s according to  a scientific coronavirus model used by the White House. 

The United States currently on the cusp of five million cases, more than  160,000 deaths. Trump White House, meanwhile, at this impasse with  Democrats over COVID relief. Speaker Pelosi lacing into Republicans today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The middle ground is not "Sophie`s Choice," how  many children will be fed, how we`re going to deal with evictions, and how  many people will remain -- will be relegated to eviction and homelessness.

So, when we`re talk -- this is a different kind of a negotiation. This  isn`t just about dollars. It`s about values. 

You`re mistaking them for somebody who gives a damn about a lot of these  things. They don`t. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: "They don`t."

Let`s get right into it. 

I`m joined by Brittney Cooper, professor from Rutgers University, and  Stuart Stevens, who`s a former Republican strategist. He worked on the  Romney campaign, but is the author of a new book telling it all. It`s  called "It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump."

Good evening to both of you.

STUART STEVENS, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Good to see you.

BRITTNEY COOPER, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: Good evening.

MELBER: Stuart, you heard Speaker Pelosi lay it out. Does that feel to you,  as a critic of where the party`s gone under Trump, as fair for a standoff  that affects millions of people`s lives right now going into this weekend? 

STEVENS: Sure, of course. 

Look, this is a failure of such epic proportions. I think it`s always  difficult when you`re in the middle of these things to kind of grasp the  totality of it. 

But if Trump is a wartime president, we`re getting slaughtered out there.  The enemy is winning. And it doesn`t have to be this way. It`s not like the  Canadians are some brilliant scientists that have figured out how to crack  the code of this virus. They just have a pretty competent government. And,  as a result, a lot fewer Canadians are dying than Americans.

I just find it astounding, not that Donald Trump is who he is, but that  Republicans are not rising up more to take control of the situation just to  protect the people who elected them. 

MELBER: Yes. And it goes to the realities of this and whether, Brittney,  we`re in a world where people can see and respond to those realities.

For your analysis, something we have discussed before, but we try to keep  it front and center. We`re in the top of the news hour, right? This is the  top story. 

And part of this story is what real people are going through. Our  colleagues, our reporters continue to track that during this horrific time  for so many families. So Well,et`s listen a little bit to real people, real  pain at these food banks around the nation. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will see all walks of life in here, people that  never thought that they would ever be in a food bank line and are having to  ask for help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw the need increase and the amount of food that  we were distributing increase by two-and-a-half times, so a 250 percent  increase.

DONNA RICKER, MAINE: We`re hurting a little bit. Between the rent and the  car payments, I have like $89 for the month.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Professor, walk us through that aspect of this, when, weeks into  the relief running out, you have the Republican Senate with no urgency. 

COOPER: Look, this is what happens when you have a party and really  American politics in general that are controlled by money and that forgets  that working-class people and the American middle class are the core in the  heart of our country. 

You have a president who governs by creating chaos and confusion. He likes  for people to be off their footing and unclear about what`s going on,  because, when you`re afraid, and when you`re confused, it becomes very hard  to figure out who the enemy is. It becomes very hard to figure out how to  solve the problem. 

And so he wants us not to have our bearings. But we need to really clear  that over 160,000 Americans have died. And with projections to 300,000 by  the end of the year, that literally means that like every three months of  this pandemic, we have lost 100,000 Americans. 

And that doesn`t even take account of the human toll we`re seeing, because  people are struggling to eat, people are struggling to get tests. And then  the president responds to that by skewing people`s confidence in the vote. 

So even when we think about the way that he has attacked the post office,  right, this full-scale attack on public institutions is part of the  problem. We are in a moment where we are seeing that we need a robust and  we need a federally coordinated government response in order to respond to  this pandemic. 

We need the Congress to show up, so that people can eat, and we need the  Postal Service to show up, so that people can vote. These are sort of  fundamental things. But, instead, what you have is this fearmongering.

And, really, it comes down to a values issue, that the party that says that  they`re about values doesn`t have any empathy for poor people, for  struggling people. They care about power. And they have abdicated all sense  of responsibility to govern in ways that ensure the well-being of Americans  and anybody who lives in this country, because they are in a brazen quest  for power in November. 

That is all they`re focused on, and if that means that we have to lose  300,000 people, including over 30,000 African-Americans, right, and a  significant swathe of indigenous people, we see Latinx people dying at huge  numbers. 

So, communities of color are being assaulted here, and I`m no conspiracy  theorist, but sometimes I think to myself, is this the endgame? Like, are  you all allowing this carnage to happen because these are the people who  don`t vote for your side?

And I hate to be so cynical, but it`s -- but this isn`t cynicism when you  see dead bodies of real actual people who matter piling up, and the  president does nothing and says nothing.

MELBER: Yes. 

And, Brittney, this also goes to the current dynamic, where the Trump folks  appear to think -- and I have said this -- I will say it all the way  through the election -- what`s happening today doesn`t tell you what will  happen in three months. 

But they appear to think right now they`re trailing. And so they want to  distract, distort and change the topic. But they also want to get in the  ring with Biden.

Chris Wallace, who had a pretty good back and forth with the president,  explains his view, he`s close to this, why he thinks they want the debates.  Take a listen to Chris Wallace on the radio. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": I think were they to open it up and  say, well, no, let`s have another debate, I just think that it would  jeopardize a lot of things. 

And if Donald Trump were leading, instead of trailing in the polls, my  guess is, he wouldn`t want it. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MELBER: A diplomatic way of saying the reason why there`s talk on the Trump  side of having these debates and maybe an extra one, which incumbents don`t  usually demand, Brittney, is that they think they`re losing.

COOPER: Look, Donald Trump is -- he cares about being in front of the  media. He thinks that he wins this by getting advertising and airtime  through these debates. 

And he also -- people -- his base likes to see him sort of pick on and be  aggressive and confuse and skew the national narrative. And so what we need  to give him is less airtime. 

But let me also be honest and say, I`m not invested in seeing either of  these older white men debate. I mean, Joe Biden is prone to gaffes. He had  a bad news day yesterday talking about the diversity of African American  and Latino communities. 

And so, essentially, both of these...

MELBER: Do you want to -- well, let me -- before I lose you, because we got  the Russia thing coming up, which is another big story, before I lose you,  do you want to speak on that? 

COOPER: Oh, yes, look. 

Biden continues to have a poor understanding of African American  communities, despite the fact that we have been loyal to him in the vote.  And so he -- even when he doubles down and tries to clarify what he means  by diversity, he just simply doesn`t understand that black people don`t  march in lockstep. 

Part of the reason that it looks like we are non-diverse as a people is  because we have a set of social conditions that target black people. So,  when black people are dying, one in every 1,250 black people has died  during COVID, then we`re trying to vote for the candidate that is going to  save us and give us the possibility to actually exercise the kind of  cultural and political diversity that we have the right to and that has  always been a hallmark of our culture. 

And so, Biden, he claims that he knows and understands African-American  communities. And so, frankly, he just needs to stop saying things like that  and get his talking points together, or he will lose. He will be alienate  the base of people, his most staunch supporters, by arguing that we`re  monolithic and that we`re not creative and interesting and diverse. 

And so, he`s -- he needs us. The Democratic Party needs us. And I continue  to be shocked that, in 2020, they don`t have better messaging and  understanding about who black people are in the U.S. 

MELBER: I appreciate all that from you. This is why we rely on you.

If you have a demo, Brittney, I think it would be called blunt nuance,  because you`re very direct.

(LAUGHTER) 

MELBER: But you`re giving us nuance, this idea of, oh, you obviously have  told us why you want Trump to lose, why you think that`d be a good thing.  But that doesn`t mean you`re above telling us what you think Joe Biden or  anyone else got wrong, which makes you a great BEAT analyst.

So, Brittney Cooper, good to see you, as always. 

COOPER: Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you. 

Stuart, stay with me. 

I`m bringing in an intel expert. 

We`re learning U.S. intelligence has been privately briefing lawmakers  about something that`s now spilling into public view, Russia back at it.

Our other top story tonight, they`re boosting Trump and targeting his  political opponent. This is U.S. intelligence, overseen by the Trump  administration itself, asserting Russia is using a range of measures to  primarily denigrate Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia establishment. 

Now, everyone knows, historically, Russia prefers Trump. U.S. intelligence  and the Mueller probe found that. What`s new tonight and why we`re about to  bring in an extra expert is that this is intelligence saying Russia is  taking measures to hit Biden now, in this 2020 campaign. 

U.S. intelligence also making this statement, that China supports a Biden  presidency, viewing Donald Trump at this point as too unpredictable. 

We bring into the conversation for our special coverage Malcolm Nance, an  intelligence analyst and MSNBC contributor, the author of the book "The  Plot to Betray America: How Team Trump Embraced Our Enemies, Compromised  Our Security, and How We Can Fix It."

Welcome, Malcolm.

What does this brand-new, late-today breaking intelligence mean? 

MALCOLM NANCE, NBC COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: I want to  show you two sides of how the intelligence community does analysis and how  this Office of Director of National Intelligence and head of the  Counterintelligence Security Center has managed to craft accurate  intelligence and deliver it in a way that`s palliative, not only to Capitol  Hill, but to Donald Trump. 

First component of this is that he gave an accurate report. Russia is  working in a much larger scale, but in a different way, in order to  influence the election by providing false data, most notably through  Ukrainian -- pro-Moscow Ukrainian organizations, and has injected that  information into the American political body, as well as the other methods  that they used in 2016.

Then he shifts over to China, which hasn`t really been as aggressive as  Russia. But that`s not shown inside the report as well as it could be. And  then mentions Iran, one of America`s eternal foes.

I was quite surprised by what was missing from that report. And that was  any effort that might be done by an ally of Donald Trump, and that would be  North Korea, which actually has a very robust. They have focused  intelligence capability.

MELBER: Let me narrow you on this. And then I`m going to bring Stuart in.

When they say, OK, Russia is doing stuff, do we have any idea what scale  that is? 

NANCE: No. 

Well, they may know, and I understand the House and Senate and some of the  Intelligence Committees have been briefed on that. And they say that the  scale is quite broad, as compared to China. 

But we already know, for the most part that, starting a year ago, that the  Russians, through Rudy Giuliani, through pro-Ukrainian businessmen, were  injecting themselves into the American political process, and that got  Donald Trump impeached. 

But one thing....

MELBER: I`ll tell you something. A lot has happened...

NANCE: Yes, go ahead, Ari.

MELBER: Malcolm, a lot has happened. But I do remember that. I even  remember covering it. It was a huge story, when you look at what got Donald  Trump impeached, which was openly soliciting the foreign interference that  he previously claimed he was against with Russia.

With Russia, he denied it. With Ukraine and others, he welcomed it. 

Stay with me here.

I want to bring Stuart back in, because, on the political side of this,  Stuart, you have been on the inside of more campaigns than most people. And  so how does a campaign deal with this environment? 

STEVENS: Well, it`s just an extraordinary moment. The Trump campaign  obviously welcome any help they can get from any source. 

What I think we`re seeing here is the failure of Republicans to hold Donald  Trump responsible for what he did in the last election, which was to accept  Russian help, and attempt to solicit more help from the Ukrainians. Once  you say that`s OK, someone like Trump and the Russians, they`re just going  to do whatever they can. 

They don`t care. That`s what we have to understand here. Donald Trump has  always benefited from the inability to imagine Donald Trump. Normal people  tend to think that people who are acting abnormal real revert to normality. 

And that`s always been a great advantage of Trump, because he`s not a  normal person. And this isn`t going to stop. It`s only going to get worse  and worse. And I think that there needs to be just an acceptance that we  are in an election environment that is unlike any other.

And the danger here to the legitimacy of the democracy is extraordinary.  And I think extraordinary measures need to be taken to protect. 

MELBER: Well, Stuart, you say that about normalcy. It`s interesting. It  reminds me a little bit of Edgar Allan Poe, who famously said he had  periods of sanity interrupted by the great delight of insanity. 

And if the world`s bad enough, sometimes, you want to get away from reality  or sanity.

But specifically to the Biden campaign, Stuart, what are they supposed to  do, particularly when voters, as a political matter, are thinking about  their lives, what we just opened with, all this hardship, not what might  feel like a rerun of this endless Trump-Russia stuff? 

STEVENS: Look, I`m very impressed with the Biden campaign. I think they  have run a very mature campaign, serious campaign. They haven`t been  diverted. 

They have a pretty simple mission. I mean, if I just woke you up a year ago  and I said, the incumbent president is dealing with the worst economy in  the history of the country, worsening depression, and over 160,000  Americans have died in the past few months from a pandemic, how do you  think the incumbent is doing? 

You wouldn`t say great. 

MELBER: No.

STEVENS: So, they just need to bring it back to this line of scrimmage.  Donald Trump has failed. 

And that failure is costing your lives in many cases, lives of your loved  ones. It`s threatening your job. It may have cost you your job. He is the  problem. 

And the easiest way to fix this is to get rid of Donald Trump. Just bring  it back to that every time. That should be the line of scrimmage of this  campaign. And they should fight every day on that line of scrimmage,  because, if you win that debate, you`re not going to lose this race. 

MELBER: Stuart Stevens and Malcolm Nance, a lot of different aspects of  this. Thank you both. 

We have a lot more in tonight`s program. Donald Trump has lost a huge court  battle. This is a new one. It`s about alleged abuse of power and defying  Congress. And we have the info for you.

Also, schools are reopening with crowded hallways in some places, new  reports revealing that 10 percent of COVID cases are still children,  something to keep in mind. 

Tonight, we also have a live interview with a senator trying to stop Russia  from hacking the 2020 election, that big story I mentioned.

And a "Fallback Friday" to end the week with Kendrick Sampson from HBO.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

MELBER: President Trump hit with another major legal loss today, the second  most powerful federal appeals court in the U.S. siding with House Democrats  in their bid to force testimony from a veteran Trump aide who`d been  resisting.

This ruling, which is brand-new, backs up Democrats` argument that Trump`s  attempt to defy Congress and block any testimony is not constitutional. 

And one of the issues at the heart of Trump`s impeachment, of course, was  about how much you could just defy Congress. This loss comes in the wake of  Trump losing that Supreme Court case over hiding his taxes. 

Now, those are the principles. As for the impact, Democrats are closer to  compelling testimony from the confidant to Donald Trump with a front-row  seat to his alleged obstruction of Mueller, former White House counsel Don  McGahn. He was in the room for the clashes. He gave testimony to Mueller,  but fought Congress.

He had the evidence and the insights into Donald Trump`s state of mind. So,  McGahn`s testimony has loomed large because, kind of like John Bolton, he  was talking a big game in other venues, while refusing to face Congress. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: The man who may know the most about President  Trump`s actions in the White House and the legality of them is said to be  cooperating extensively with special counsel Robert Mueller.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don McGahn spending some 30 hours cooperating with  Robert Mueller`s team, as they look at whether the president obstructed  justice.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": How come White House  counsel Don McGahn is so good at playing the hero in the press? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The last question there from our colleague Rachel Maddow, she was  referring to how much McGahn and his team seem to speak to the press and  then to Mueller but claiming he couldn`t possibly speak to Congress. 

So, this ruling puts Democrats on a path to finally getting his testimony,  unless the Supreme Court intervenes. That looks less likely, though,  because the court`s most recent rulings have been against Trump`s secrecy,  like the big tax case I mentioned, while Trump faces other legal losses,  setbacks in New York, where the DA already got his financial documents from  his longtime lender, another Mueller-related case in Washington where the  effort to cancel the conviction of Trump aide Michael Flynn has hit a  roadblock. 

So, a lot of legal problems for Trump. And so, for all the questions about  whether there`s still rule of law in this era, we`re seeing that, while  these cases do take time, Donald Trump didn`t keep those finance records  secret. He didn`t win the tax case. He didn`t successfully evade this  criminal probe in New York, and now he`s losing this bid to duck  congressional testimony. 

As the old saying from 21 Savage goes, how many problems you got? A lot.  How many lawyers you got? A lot. How many times did you lie? A lot.

Well, if you apply that here, how many legal problems does Trump have? A  lot. How many lawyers? Well, way fewer than he used to, with lawyers and  aides leaving him for prison or testimony dates. And how many times did he  lie? Well, that 21 Savage question can`t be answered yet. But the courts  may get to the bottom of that too by the time this is all over. 

We`re going to get into all of it with special legal context when we`re  back with these two experts in just 30 seconds. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We are back with two former Obama officials. 

Norm Eisen was the lawyer to Chairman Nadler and the Judiciary Committee as  well, and he`s the author of the book "A Case for the American People: U.S.  v. Trump," and former U.S. attorney in the Obama administration, MSNBC  analyst and our friend Joyce Vance.

Nice to see you both. 

NORMAN EISEN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Great to see you,  Ari. 

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you, Ari. 

EISEN: Hi, Joyce.

VANCE: Hey, Norm. 

MELBER: And, Norm -- I love seeing you together.

Norm, whether or not you apply it through the D.C. Court of Appeals, or the  open questions, as I mentioned, that one can pose from 21 Savage, this  would seem to be a clear loss for another Trump effort on secrecy. 

EISEN: That`s right, Ari.

The president has been ducking and dodging for his entire presidency,  indeed for his entire life. 

But this is one more wall that is closing in on him. He cannot dodge  forever. I believe that Don McGahn is going to show up sooner or later  before Congress, but the principle is the most important thing. 

Congress has the power to go to court. They have standing, as lawyers say.  They have a case or controversy. They can go to court to enforce their  subpoenas.

MELBER: Joyce? 

VANCE: I agree with Norman. 

And in the short term, this principle is very important, this notion that  Congress can enforce subpoenas against the executive. But these subpoenas,  as Norm knows well, was lodged against McGahn in April of 2019. And it took  all the way until the end of that year to get a ruling from the court. 

We`re only just now, a year and four months later, finding out that  Congress can go back to the lower court to enforce that subpoena. Whether  or not that will be in time for the January 3 deadline, before it runs out,  we don`t know. 

But I would say, in addition to a lot of lawyers and a lot of lies, the  problem is, there are a lot of delays here too. 

MELBER: There are. In law school, you learn this word dilatory, which,  Norm, like so many legal words, is useless, because it`s jargon for what  Joyce already said in plain English, which is, they have been playing out  the delays for strategic advantage. 

So, in a way, you could argue that, if you were a unitary executive type,  and you want just a totally powerful executive branch, they could be  creating what lawyers would call bad law, bad precedent for that. 

But, on the other hand, what do you say, as someone who used to work for  the chairman, to Joyce`s fair point, that some of this did run out the  clock? 

EISEN: Well, I have one word. And I know Joyce supports the word:  impeachment. 

We did not wait around, as some said we should, on Ukraine, go to court,  enforce the subpoenas. Who knows what administration would have been in  office if we had done that, Ari? 

So, sometimes, Congress has to exercise its power. And we need to toughen  the congressional powers. We need to give Congress the ability to enforce  subpoenas faster, to apply strict remedies. So we have learned a lot of  lessons in the age of Trump. 

I feel good about impeachment, because, as I say in my book "A Case For the  American People," we have cued it up for America now to make a choice, the  ultimate impeachment verdict on Trump. 

MELBER: Well, Norm, you generally feel good because we have learned you`re  an optimistic person. 

I mean, you come in sunny even on the rainy days, and there`s nothing about  that we don`t like. 

(LAUGHTER)

EISEN: Well, the...

MELBER: But I`m curious what also on Don McGahn himself -- go ahead.

EISEN: The only way to get through these kinds of stresses and strains,  Ari, is to do it with a sunny disposition. If you`re not optimistic, you  can`t get out of the bed in the morning in the era of Trump.

MELBER: All right, well, there you go. 

So, on Don McGahn himself, though, Norm, what would Congress expect to  learn? One of the mistakes people make is going all or none. You impeach or  nothing. Did it work or not? 

Well, the impeachment process played out. As you say, people can take from  that what they will and voters can take from that what the Senate decided. 

But then you have the ongoing oversight. If Don McGahn really did tell  these things that, as I noted Rachel and others pointed out, that he and  his team seemed to share with "The New York Times" and with Mueller, what  value is that to Congress as it oversees this president? 

EISEN: Well, Congress is going to hear from Don McGahn.

I agree with Joyce, it`s unlikely to be before the November election. But  it`s very important, Ari, because we`re going to be -- we have learned a  lot of hard lessons about presidents. And part of the reason Congress has  put forward -- and I hope they will speed things up and they will get him  in before the election. 

But part of the thing that we have learned is we need better laws to  regulate this kind of presidential misconduct. So, McGahn still has a  relevant story to tell whenever he goes in there. Perhaps things will speed  up.

I think that that is a steep hill to climb. 

MELBER: And, Joyce, finally, as I mentioned as we got into these topics,  the New York criminal case proceeds.

Would you expect any action that? 

VANCE: That`s a hard one to crystal ball, Ari.

We learned later this week that the Manhattan DA, Cy Vance, had already  received documents from Deutsche Bank, sort of quietly while everything  else was going on. It looks like he`s building a case. When or if he will  be ready to indict is anyone`s guess.

But, as Norm said, the walls are closing in on Trump. The question is how  quickly that will happen and how much the voters will know when they have  to make their decision in November. 

MELBER: Norm Eisen, thank you, as always. You have been in the arena. We  appreciate your insights. 

Joyce, I want you to stick around for "Fallback."

And when we come back, we have other news on Pelosi absolutely ripping  Republicans over this issue we have been covering, the COVID relief bill.  We have a top Democrat on that. And we`re going to get back into this new  intelligence site.

And, later, we`re going to look at that startling picture of crowded school  hallways, very few masks, and what parents and communities are doing with  these tough decisions to make. 

We also have new guidance from Dr. Fauci on how to go back to school. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: I offer to them, we will take down a trillion, if you add a  trillion in. They said absolutely not. 

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): And you should have seen their faces.  "Absolutely not."

I said: "You mean we -- you want it to go almost all in your direction, or  you won`t negotiate?" And they said, "Yes."

So, we are trying to compromise. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s the state of play. 

And we turn now to get the information directly from Senator Chris Van  Hollen, Democrat from Maryland, who serves on the Budget Committee. 

Thanks for making the time. 

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Ari, good to be with you. 

MELBER: That`s your side we just heard from.

Where do you get through the impasse? Or are you concerned at this point  that this is where Washington sits until the election and it`s a gamble  over who`s going to pay the price?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I am concerned, Ari.

Look, you have an administration whose priorities going into this  negotiation were, one, getting a tax break for three-martini lunches for  business executives. The president personally wanted to have $1.8 billion,  so the federal government would renovate the FBI headquarters at its  current site, so nobody else could compete with his Trump Hotel nearby. 

They did not want to extend the $600 per week in unemployment benefits. And  now they have walked away from the table. 

And, as for the Republicans in the Senate, like Mitch McConnell, he`s  publicly said that half of his Republican senators don`t want a deal. And  so he contracted out all his negotiating authority to Trump, who happens to  be on the golf course today, but, obviously, Mark Meadows and Mnuchin were  not prepared to do a reasonable deal. 

MELBER: Yes, when you put it like that, I mean, people are out of work, for  no fault of their own. People want to go back to work. And people are  hurting.

Then, as you put it, Senator McConnell isn`t doing his job, which the  people are funding, as a taxpayer, if he`s outsourcing to someone else, who  you say is out on the links. 

What about trying to just get at least a breakthrough on some of these  stand-alone items that affect people`s lives? Eviction, I will give you the  headline. You know the facts. Millions facing eviction now with this  expiring; 30 million-plus tenants could risk being evicted in these months,  according to a new report. 

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Ari that`s right. 

And the impact on families is devastating, both from the end of the  eviction moratorium, as well as the lapse in the $600-a-week payment. I was  on the Senate floor reading stories from my constituents yesterday, people  who are just getting by, and some can`t get by even with that.

Look, the fastest way to...

MELBER: So, could you educate, Senator? Could you get that in as a one-off? 

VAN HOLLEN: The Republican position, at least in the Senate, the only  public position I know they have taken is to cut the unemployment benefit  to $200 a week. 

The eviction moratorium is not part of what Senate Republicans have  proposed, to the extent they don`t even have the rental assistance portion  of the HEROES Act, which passed the House three months ago. 

So, the bottom line, Ari, is, we have been trying to get an up-or-down vote  on the HEROES Act in the Senate for the last three months. 

MELBER: Yes. 

VAN HOLLEN: And McConnell has just said no. 

He wants to vote against it, go for it. Tell his constituents why he won`t  support it.

MELBER: Yes. 

VAN HOLLEN: But why not allow the Senate to have a vote?

And, certainly, we should all be in there every day next week, instead of  away from the Senate. It`s pretty outrageous that he`s decided to take a  leave.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Yes, sir, I think you put it plainly. It`s not our job over here  just to tell people how to vote. That`s your job. 

But I can say, with what everyone`s going through -- and we have been  covering it here night in and out -- that our democracy should work. There  should be open, transparent votes on whether or not people are going to be  protected from eviction, again, through no fault of their own, and whether  they`re going to have jobless benefits. 

So, appreciate your clarity on that. 

While I have you on a big news night, wanted to get you on the  intelligence. You and others have worked on this. What do these new  intelligence reports about 2020 mean to you, Senator? 

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Ari, the Russian threat is very real. 

And you`re going to hear some Republicans and certainly the Trump  administration are going to try and cherry-pick this to say, on the one  hand, Russia is against Biden, but China`s against Trump and Iran is  against Trump. 

Don`t fall for it. There is no equivalence between the kind of interference  the Russians are engaged in to try to disrupt our elections again and  support Trump and the policy positions that other countries may take. 

I have introduced, as you have suggested, the DETER Act. It was bipartisan  with Rubio to say that, if we catch Russia interfering in our 2020  elections, they will pay a very high price, so Putin will know that this is  not cost-free. 

But at every junction, the Trump administration and Mitch McConnell has  blocked the vote. They have not allowed a vote on the simple idea, Putin,  if we catch you interfering in the election, there will be a big price to  pay in terms of sanctions, which tells me they`re happy to look the other  way while Russia interferes again, which is outrageous. 

MELBER: All very important. 

Senator Van Hollen, I appreciate you making time Friday evening here. I  hope you will come back. 

VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you, Ari. Thanks a lot. 

MELBER: Thank you, sir. 

Coming up, we get into the idea of, how do you go back to school in this  environment, as photographs like this go viral? And we will hear directly  from a student on the ground. 

And, later, we have special guests, as we think about this long week and  who needs to fall back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

MELBER: It may be time to go back to school, but there is a roiling debate,  Governor Cuomo in New York clearing all schools there to open.

And we know the Trump administration has been pushing for that, claiming  children are sometimes basically far less at risk of COVID. 

But here`s the fact, CDC now noting children make up about 9 percent of  cases, while Dr. Fauci reminds everyone, "The default principle should be  to try as best you can to get children back to school."

So, the idea is not to keep everyone home forever. But the doctor goes on  to say, the consideration here is safety, health and welfare of the  children. We can all agree, if schools are going to reopen, we have to take  precautions. He mentions keeping distancing. 

And that`s why this new photo from a Georgia high school is currently going  viral. If you haven`t seen it on the Internet, you may soon, everyone  sharing this as an example of how at least to try not to do it, crowded  hallways, very few masks upping the contagion risk. 

Now, the superintendent there says they can`t really require students to  wear masks. The school does have a dress code, though, that notes what  people can wear. Indeed, it is 24 bullet points-long. 

Now, the student who took that photo, interestingly, got suspended. But  then that suspension was later overturned, under scrutiny. She says she  does not regret sharing that visual fact. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANNAH WATTERS, STUDENT: This is some good and necessary trouble. So I  don`t regret posting this, because it`s -- it needed to be said. 

My biggest concern is not only about me being safe. Behind every teachers,  student, and staff member, there`s a family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That reference there, of course, from a Georgia student is citing  Congressman John Lewis, who recently passed. 

And that idea of good trouble, of course, shouldn`t require students to  post what`s happening in their schools just to make sure the rest of us, as  adults, do our part to keep them safe. 

We fit in a break, but, when we come back, we have a very special  conversation that we`re very excited about. And we`re also going to get  into what Mitch McConnell is up to and a whole lot more.

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT, so you know it`s time to fall back. 

We are now joined by two very special guests. Kendrick Sampson stars and  HBO`s "Insecure" and is known for shows like "How to Get Away With Murder"  and "The Flash." Beyond acting, he`s also pretty outspoken on civil rights  and other issues and joined the protests in the wake of George Floyd`s  death. 

Back with us is University of Alabama Professor Joyce Vance. President  Obama nominated her as the U.S. attorney in the Northern District of  Alabama. She was also a part of the action in the impeachment debate,  providing expert testimony to Congress.

Kendrick and Joyce, thanks for being here. 

KENDRICK SAMPSON, ACTOR: Thanks for having me. 

MELBER: Absolutely. 

VANCE: Good to be here.

MELBER: Plenty to get to.

As we do sometimes at the end of the week, I like to start light, mix it up  a little. 

But, Joyce, what`s on your list to fall back? 

VANCE: On my list, Ari, is the Austrian tourist in the museum in Italy who  sat on top of a 216-year-old sculpture, Napoleon`s sister modeling his  Venus, then broke the toes off of this ancient, irreplaceable statue, only  being caught because the museum was keeping a register of its visitors due  to COVID.

MELBER: And all for a selfie. I mean...

VANCE: All for that great photo. 

MELBER: I mean, Kendrick, there is a saying. People say you can do it for  the Gram, but you shouldn`t do everything for the Gram. 

(LAUGHTER)

SAMPSON: Yes, we take it a little bit too far sometimes.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMPSON: But they got a really great photo out of it. 

MELBER: Yes, I am sure the photo was great. That would be the only great  part of it. 

What else might be on your list, Kendrick? 

SAMPSON: Oh, man. I`m not sure.

I think that that beats mine, whatever it was.

MELBER: Well, I will throw one out there that we were looking at, because  we go through a bunch of these.

And I will eat just about anything at any time. So I`m really not like  vigilant about dietary rules or whatever. But we did find a story here at  the end of the week that they are actually trying to move from Kraft  morning cereal boxes to get people into mac and cheese breakfast. 

And I`m going to call it a "Fallback," and you can both weigh in on this  inanity. My view is, if mac and cheese naturally becomes a breakfast food,  because it`s in your fridge, and you wake up, and you don`t to make  anything, and you eat it cold out of the fridge, cool.

But Kraft branding it to get us all to do it on purpose, Kendrick, I feel  like that`s reach.

SAMPSON: They`re trying to kind of force the mac and cheese on us for  breakfast.

Listen, I got to watch the cheese. I love cheese. I love cheese. 

MELBER: OK.

SAMPSON: But I don`t know if I want to start my day with it. You know what  I`m saying? 

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: And, Joyce, Joyce, everyone knows you as such a serious attorney,  so it`s my fault to make you weigh in on this, but do you have a view on  this on this breakfast debate? 

VANCE: I have really strong views about macaroni and cheese. It should  always be homemade. I`m a purist. And leftover homemade mac and cheese for  breakfast is legitimate. Out of the box, never.

And this is a terrible marketing strategy. 

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: See, Kendrick, she really...

SAMPSON: I will be with you on that one. It has to be baked.

MELBER: There you go. And she laid it out like a lawyer`s closing argument.  I love it. 

All right, that`s some of the fun stuff. There`s also plenty more to get  to. 

And, Kendrick, I know that you guys I have worked a lot on these issues and  thought about them. In this year of protests, what else is on your mind? 

SAMPSON: Man, just organizing and making sure that we utilize whatever  privilege we have to liberate folks. 

So, even in my art and the things that I love to do, I do my best to make  sure that we are all doing that. Even when we`re by ourselves, we`re  working to liberate our mental health and fight for those who need those  resources. 

MELBER: How have you felt watching these protests that are pushing a lot of  big demands that range from the basics, like, this should be tracked and  documented, so in a democracy, we know what the police are doing -- I mean,  that`s straightforward -- to the bigger debates over cutting or defunding  police?

SAMPSON: So, I`m an abolitionist. 

I believe that at the root of these systems is oppression, that  slavecatching is the foundation of policing. And I usually lean on the  analogy that we learn in church that a bad seed produces a bad tree  produces bad fruit. And all these videos and brutality and murders that you  see by police are the bad fruit. It started with slavecatching. 

And it`s the continuation of that legacy. So, it needs to be uprooted. And  those roots need to be burned, and they need to be -- it needs to be re- soiled, and a new seed needs to be planted that`s actually rooted in  accountability and care for our communities. 

A new system is necessary that has a foundation in something good, so that  it could be a good seed that produces a good tree that produces good fruit. 

MELBER: Joyce?

VANCE: I think that everybody agrees that police should be guardians of our  communities, and it shouldn`t be the police against the population. 

We have differences of opinion over how we think we might best get there,  but the important thing is that we have this national conversation, and  that, instead of just letting this moment go and letting George Floyd`s  death not have meaning, we use it to bring about a real transformation, so  that our policing system works for everyone, and so that we finally bend  the moral arc in the criminal justice system. 

MELBER: Well, and something that I know you both care about from your work  is whether or not things that are happening are across the board, or -- and  fair, or whether they`re racial discrimination.

And harsh sentencing, we will put up some examples that have come up where  you have someone who was appealing a sentence where they ended up in life  on these harsh sentences over stealing something. You could see this  headline, and this was in Louisiana, and it`s been upheld. 

And then you have Black Lives Matter protesters in Utah. So these are two  different cases, where they could face many years or life. 

I`m curious, Joyce, what you think about how we still have this overzealous  sentencing.

VANCE: Prosecutors have a lot of discretion when they bring charges, Ari.  And that often cabins the judge`s authority over the sentence that they  impose. 

It`s really time for us to have a conversation about how we use our  resources and whether prosecutors are prosecuting the most significant  cases that help their communities move forward, as opposed to some of these  charges that look retaliatory and dismissive. 

Look, we don`t know all the circumstances. But, in Utah, this is over  buying some red paint for a protest. So, I think we should always wait and  hear all of the facts. But, on its face, these are very difficult and  disturbing circumstances. 

MELBER: Kendrick, in your business, we`re going to yell cut in 25 seconds,  but I give you the last word. 

SAMPSON: Yes, I do believe it`s retaliatory. I believe it seems like a  fascist sort of move to discourage protests. 

And I believe that that adds to the call to defund these oppressive  programs, these oppressive systems, and move that towards community care  and systems that actually help and heal the community, so that we don`t  have to continue seeing these problems and talking about these.

And we could actually get to the other issues that are important in lifting  people up and lifting up the more vulnerable and liberating.

MELBER: Right. Very important. I hope this dialogue continues.

Kendrick Sampson, Joyce Vance, thank you. 

That`s THE BEAT for tonight.

"THE REIDOUT" starts now.

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