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Trump's relationship with Putin TRANSCRIPT: 7/3/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Esther Choo, Mark Thompson, Barry McCaffrey, Brittney Cooper, YelloPain


ARIMELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Welcome to a special live holiday coverage. We are tracking many developments. I am Ari Melber with you live for another hour but a lot of new material, including growing concerns about whether July 4th celebrations will exacerbate the spread of the pandemic.

Thousands standing crowded together at President Trump`s MAGA-style celebration at Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota right now, social distancing not enforced, very few masks, they are optional. And the backdrop is the virus cases are soaring, 52,000 today, 38 states with increasing caseloads. And we are learning eight to ten Secret Service agents on the Pence detail have contracted coronavirus just this week. That`s altered the vice president`s travel schedule. Secret Service agents also contracting COVID during Donald Trump`s MAGA rally in Tulsa last month, something of a theme.

This is a big holiday weekend. This is the middle of summer, people celebrating, obviously. People want to honor the holiday in many different ways. But we are being told by experts, be careful about how you congregate. The last big holiday weekend was, of course, Memorial Day. Many states saw cases and another metric, hospitalizations rise over that period, younger people also engaging in very risky behavior.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While people are dying, others are partying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Young adults in Louisiana have more coronavirus cases than any other age group.

BRITTANY DECKER, WVTM ANCHOR: And parties have turned into breeding grounds for COVID-19.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It started with a house party June 17th, a gathering of young adults in their 20s, the host already showing symptoms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The party is called Pongfest. 300 teens attended the party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Students are having parties and putting money into a pot. Then the first person who gets COVID after the party gets all the money in the pots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need that something to unwind. I like going and seeing other people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get over it. It`s like any other sickness, I feel like any other flu.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don`t have the right to tell people that you can or cannot go.


MELBER: That`s just a sampling of what`s going on out there.

I want to bring in our expert guests, Mark Thompson, the Host of Make It Plain Podcast, Dr. Esther Choo, an Emergency Physician and Professor at the Oregon Health and Science University, and Zerlina Maxwell, Director of Progressive Programming for SiriusXM and the Author of The End of White Politics.

We don`t generalize around here, Zerlina. There`s all kinds of habits being followed by people of all ages. But what do you think of some of what has been reported out there from some young people heading into this big weekend?

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don`t want to shame them too much, because I do think that this is the result of poor messaging from the federal government from the beginning. They were very unclear about the impact on young people. They told us that largely, the vulnerable and the elderly were the most at risk, and so I think that they gave young people a false sense of security.

What we`re seeing now though is that the virus doesn`t discriminate against anybody depending on their political affiliation or their age. And so I think everyone just needs to take their appropriate precautions.

You know, when I watch that video, I think about the fact that I`ve lost five family members. So this virus is very real and it is impacting people`s lives and their health. And it has long-term consequences. It`s not just you get sick and may recover and you move on. They`re still studying the long-term health consequences. And that`s important to keep in mind, as well.

MELBER: Doctor?

DR. ESTHER CHOO, ASSOCIATTED PROFESSOR, OREGON HEALTH AND SCHIENCE UNIVERSITY: I`m so sorry to hear that, Zerlina, I didn`t know that. Yes, I agree with everything you said. I mean, we talk a lot about how young people are not hit as hard. But the thing is, as cases rise and this disease becomes more commonplace, we will see less frequent things more often. So we will more and more hear that young people have gotten gravely ill and have died. We didn`t hear that when the numbers were small. And it will start to feel very real even for young, previously healthy people.

And then, yes, the disease will go to the vulnerable people that we all care about, our grandparents and our family members with chronic illnesses. So, really, it`s, as we see, diseases shifting from nursing homes to recreational activities, we don`t want to replicate what happened after Memorial Day. Again, after July -- after July 4th. So I hope that we, at least a little bit, can learn from those lessons.

MELBER: Yes, I appreciate both of those points, Zerlina, and condolences, and the doctor, on the larger context.

And I`ve got to tell you, according to some, Mark Thompson, you may have drawn the short stick now with the topic I`m about to give you. Are you ready?


MELBER: Uh-oh is right. You get the topic, for anywhere you want to go with it, of people joining these public service announcements about masks and a new entry into this space is Sean Hannity. Take a look.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Masks, PPE, it kept them safe and I was right here in the epicenter. At every store I went to, everybody was wearing their masks and thankfully, my grocery store, nobody got COVID-19. So what did I learn? I don`t have a problem wearing a mask, especially if it means we can go to a ball game or to defend grandma, grandpa, mom and dad.


MELBER: Take it away.

THOMPSON: That`s a fastball right down the middle for me, Ari. For people who have gotten sick, remain sick, and who have died, we really have to lay all of their circumstances at the feet of Donald Trump. He ignored all the warnings about this. In fact, at one of his last speeches, the one in Tulsa, he said, what does 19 mean? I don`t know what 19 means. This was discovered in 2019 and he`s still in denial about it.

Everyone in his administration and all of his Republican sycophants said that this would just wash over, it wasn`t a big deal. They were more concerned about the economy, allegedly. They minimized mask wearing. And so now it`s kind of Johnny come lately. It`s good. People should be talking about wearing masks now. But it`s Johnny come lately.

You know, right down the street for you, Ari, in Time Square, is a Trump death clock because it shows how many people have died from this virus, because of the negligence of his administration. So I pray that all of the young people, everyone this weekend realizes how important this is to wear masks this weekend, to be safe, not to be running around outdoors with him at any fireworks display.

And let me just say this. He`s running around saying, oh, 4.8 million jobs. But as soon as people went back to those jobs because of premature reopening, many of them are losing those jobs again now because of those reopening, and it`s just not safe.

So we can`t rest on these laws. This thing is still out here. It`s very, very serious. What, their cases have gone up more than they`ve gone up ever, over 50,000 in the past 48 hours. So we hope and pray that people will show some responsibility for everyone.

And just one thing on Sean Hannity --

MELBER: Well, Mark -- Mark, hold up. Hold up. I was going to say, and then I`ll let you continue, that maybe it`s the holiday spirit, but so far, you`ve been quite diplomatic, because I know that you and Sean Hannity clash on a variety of items. But so far, you`ve been diplomatic. But go ahead and finish.

THOMPSON: Well, I`m going there. It was on and, of course, he`s a member of the kitchen cabinet, he`s de facto chief of staff in the White House. But it was on Fox News that they had the lieutenant governor of Texas saying, grandma and grandpa might just have to sacrifice their lives for the good of the economy. And -- but they do that. It`s the Putin tact, the fog of unknowability. They say one thing and then they come back and say something else, like they always were for masks in the first place.

So, yes, for the sake of their audience, God bless them, their audience who are victims of their false propaganda, good, listen to Sean. Sean is right to say put the masks on, but we must remember the hypocrisy. It is as hypocritical as Frederick Douglas called the fourth of July for black people itself.

MELBER: An apt reference. I appreciate the nuance you bring to that. And I want to let Zerlina weigh in, as well. Zerlina has worked for Hillary Clinton, among others, who obviously got the brunt of the Fox News treatment. And yet it`s bigger than one`s personal views of any given person, because, A, better late than never for Hannity, and people can debate his motives, B, most importantly, there are people, Zerlina, who will take his word for it.

So, finally getting into the CDC landscape of the right thing to do is good, and yet Mark draws our attention -- I would like your views on the fact that that doesn`t mean that you get a full shout-out when you burned up this many months endangering your own viewers who take your word for things. And I should note, not challenging the president and many officials who have been on FOX News about these issues. So more than one way to feel about it, Zerlina. How do you feel?

MAXWELL: I mean, I feel like you don`t really need to give Sean Hannity any credit here. He said he agreed with the CDC. We all should agree with the CDC. They`re the ones who follow the science and know what they`re talking about, so Sean Hannity agreeing with them. That`s easy.

The bottom line here though is that President Trump is having a rally tomorrow, on the fourth of July, with a multitude of issues. One is that 7,500 people, not social distancing, in a state that as yet does not have an outbreak as bad as some of the other hot spots. Now, you`re creating an event where it could be a community spread event, because you`re putting so many people together and not requiring them to do what the CDC is requiring them to do.

Additionally, in terms of the fireworks, the reason why you shouldn`t be doing fireworks in this location is because of the threat of forest fires. So until we have a president who believes in science, we are not going to be safe. Not in a pandemic or not when a climate crisis inevitably comes up.

MELBER: Well, Zerlina, you know that we quote from time to time, we quote wisdom on the program. You know that.

MAZWELL: I do know that.

MELBER: Was it not Smokey the Bear who said, only you can prevent forest fires?

MAXWELL: He was right about that, and so can Donald Trump.

MELBER: Doctor?

CHOO: Yes, I`m not going to argue with Smokey the Bear. Yes, I`m worried, you know, we, now just have a handful of states that are maintaining plateau or even going in the right direction. To go to one of those shrinking number of states with a large group event, literally exactly the type of event we`re asking people to refrain from.

I mean, understand that healthcare people are really happy to see people out of doors. We want people to be healthy. We want people to start doing activities that are -- feel good in their daily lives. There`s a few things we`re really discouraging. Those are large group events for prolonged periods of time without face masks or any social distancing measures. And so this event (INAUDIBLE) check, check, check. It`s checking off all the dangerous boxes.

MELBER: That brings us, Doctor, to the next question we wanted to get you on before we lose you. Take a listen to the surgeon general on the point you`re raising.


CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC HOST: We know that large gatherings present the biggest risk right now. Would you advise someone to go to a large gathering? Yes or no?

JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, Craig, it`s not a yes or no. Every single person has to make up their own minds. There are going to be people going to beaches, going to barbecues, going to different environments and they have to look at their individual risk.


MELBER: Doctor, can you give us your expertise on that?

CHOO: Yes, well, Dr. Adams is a good friend and I think we sometimes fall on different sides of how the messaging should go. I think there`s a pragmatic thing he`s addressing there, is that people are making decisions to go to events and I think there`s some mitigation strategies.

I think what people need to understand is that it`s not put on a face mask and then do whatever the heck you want. That`s not the messaging we`re going for at all. Face mask wearing is one of many layers of keeping yourself safe. You know, there`s still the hand washing. There`s still the social distancing. There`s still avoiding the highest risk activities, like large groups. Like going together into restaurants, and, you know, in restaurant dining, things where you`re just at close quarters with lots of people. And you can`t have a lot of control over sort of hand-to-hand and face-to-face transmission.

So I just want to put the reminder out there that it`s not face masks and go to town, you know? Please try to -- everyone, keep yourself as safe as possible.

MELBER: I appreciate that. The doctor gets the last word in this segment. I want to thank the doctor and Zerlina for all of your insights, really important stuff. Mark, we`ll come back later this hour. We have a lot to get to.

Also coming up, folks, retired General Barry McCaffrey. Someone you want to hear when it comes to how do you deal with Vladimir Putin.

Our experts also looking at a time period that many say, maybe literally one of the worst for Donald Trump ever, which is saying something.

Also new actions by local New York prosecutors against Paul Manafort, we`ll explain.

I`m Ari Melber and we will be right back.


MELBER: Turning to a new reporting tonight on that Russia bounty scandal. The Daily Beast says White House officials urging Trump to snub Putin, withholding an invitation to the very big G7 summit. Trump has not agreed to even that small response, according to the report. Meanwhile, The Washington Post, says Trump does not actually believe the Russia bounty reports are true or actionable.

We turn now to a very special expert, retired General Barry McCaffrey. Good evening.


MELBER: When you look at this story, what jumps out to you and what should the United States do?

MCCAFFREY: You know, it`s hard to know how to even approach this. It seems clear -- I`ve worked for two administrations, Republican and Democrat, in the White House, as part of the uniformed military. I`ve dealt with two more Republican and Democratic administrations in the National Security Council arena. I`ve never seen anything like this.

Clearly, the intelligence community was largely believing that the Russians were putting out a bounty to kill U.S. troops. I think that`s probably the case. The intelligence community put it in the president`s daily brief. They had an NSC policy meeting to discuss options. Of course, they told the president of the United States. He had five phone calls with Putin.

I have been in the room when the president meets a foreign head of state or calls him on the phone, and you prep the guy for what`s coming up. And, an oh, by the way, Putin put out a hit on U.S. troops, you would think, would be part of that background briefing.

So, the question, why is he doing this? It`s a slap in the face to the U.S. armed forces, who are suffering casualties in Afghanistan. And, by the way, it doesn`t make a lot of sense.

Russia, which I spent a lot of time in and out of, brilliant people, good people, they deserve more than Putin, a kleptocrat, a dictator. It`s no longer a great power. The military is no longer -- except for nuclear weapons and oil, they have almost nothing that people are concerned about.

What is he doing? The GNP of Russia is less than that of California. Something unusual is going on to have Mr. Putin have such an influence on the president of the United States.

MELBER: It`s great evidence you put forward that reminds everyone that, while Putin may seem like a villain and a boogeyman for all of these reasons, you`re reminding us of the fundamentals and the geopolitical imbalance, which makes it all the more suspicious, the way Trump acts.

When you look at a situation like this as a military strategist, there are always risks to acting or overreacting or escalation. Do you believe this is a situation where there is also risks if Donald Trump settles on basically no action?

MCCAFFREY: Of course.

You know, the bottom line is, when we believe that we have credible intelligence that somebody is about to conduct lethal attacks on U.S. forces, we have the intelligence community find out where they are, and we go kill them. That would have been step one inside Afghanistan, to find Russian intelligence operatives, the Haqqani Network, the Taliban people involved in these purported strikes.

We would have picked up the phone and called the U.S. ambassador in Moscow and said, go on in and tell these people to knock it off. We would have told the CIA, go snag some of their people in Syria as a counterpunch. Do economic.

But the bottom line is, NATO, the European Union, is threatened by Russia and their armed forces. We briefed NATO that this was a concern. The Brits have their forces at risk also. What were we thinking of?

And even now, the president says, it`s a hoax. A hoax from the CIA, from his own intelligence community, from the special operations people in Afghanistan? Just an unbelievable situation.

MELBER: And, General, you have this headline here I want to read you. Is it possible that no one told Trump about the Russian bounties?

You just explained through the policy process why you don`t find that very credible.

A quote here is: "I believe his staff was afraid to tell him about it, for fear he would erupt and do something damaging, like calling Putin and tipping him off," a former CIA general counsel.

What does it tell you that people who have a duty to do better -- I mean, if they`re inside a government, they have got to do their jobs, especially the career appointees -- may be operating in this way, where they`re, for whatever reasons, just not bringing this stuff to him?

MCCAFFREY: That`s not uncommon in Washington.

You find out the boss doesn`t want to hear certain kinds of information or doesn`t like certain figures in government or international figures, and people are reluctant to bring it up. They want to avoid trouble.

However, at the end of the day, the president`s a politician. I can`t imagine that Jared or the White House chief of staff or the national security director wouldn`t have gone in and said, look, this stuff might leak out, as it has finally. Your buddy Putin is trying to kill our troops to humiliate us as we leave Afghanistan.

No, I don`t believe for a minute that he wasn`t told verbally by senior people in the White House. And if he wasn`t, as you suggest, what a comment on the public officials surrounding him at the apex of the American government.


General McCaffrey, as always, we appreciate your expertise, sir.

MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you.

We are back in just 30 seconds, a Trump insider talking about how overwhelmed, angry, and scared the president is.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Trump holding this big rally tonight, no real social distancing plan, masks are optional, and a lot of other July controversies.

That comes out of a tough month, from the Tulsa embarrassment, which has Trump`s own aides talking about changing the campaign manager, to, of course, the very real public health problem of the surging virus, to this reckoning on race.

"The New York Times" saying many of Trump`s biggest problems are self- inflicted wounds.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outrage is growing of the forceful removal of peaceful protesters to clear the way for the president to hold a photo-op.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president`s methods make him vulnerable and losing ground to Joe Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disapproval rating, 57 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another military leader is speaking out against him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Inside the arena, empty seats, outside, the overflow area torn down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are seeing cases across the country spike, and now many states are putting a pause on their reopening.


MELBER: I`m joined by Professor Brittney Cooper, author of "Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower," and Mark Thompson back with us.

Brittney, your thoughts?


Look, Trump is a total failure. And, unfortunately, the country got to see that in stark relief in June. We could anticipate that this was going to happen when he decided to make this, as I have been calling it, necro- political calculation in March and April that he was going to ignore the coronavirus, and then, when it really hit the country hard and 100,000 folks died, and over 20,000 of those folks were black people, when we began to see that disproportionately black people were dying, the conversation about reopening ramped up from his administration.

That frustration, plus the killing of George Floyd and the killing of Breonna Taylor by police, drove people into the streets in the middle of a pandemic. And so what we got to see was the way in which he`s not prepared to lead.

When terrible things happens, he sticks his head in the sand, he engages in wishful thinking. And he also thought that the old playbook that got him elected in 2016 would actually work, that he could stoke racial fires and racial animus in the country, that he could antagonize these protesters, and that that would actually make him look strong.

The problem was that he did that in the middle of a pandemic, when people had a front-row seat to seeing George Floyd be killed. And when folks are forced to see state power enacted in that way, up close, and they have the time to digest it, as we all do these days, then people had a sort of consciousness shift that said, look, something is very wrong here, and the president is not providing the leadership that we need.

It was a terrible month. I think that it will go down in infamy as the turning point of the Trump presidency. At least, this is the thing I pray for. And so I don`t think that there`s any coming back for Trump from this point forward.

MELBER: Mark, you`re nodding.

THOMPSON: Yes, first of all, I`m honored to be on with Professor Crunk. She always drops it.

And we should learn that term, necro-politics.

Let me also -- if you don`t mind, Ari, let me commend you on the segment you did in the last hour on the history of black artists and violence against them and police violence in particular against them. I really want to commend you for that. That`s documentary work.


THOMPSON: I agree with everything that Professor Crunk said.

I would only add a couple of points to it. He clearly is exploiting race. And as people like him, demagogues like him have often done throughout history, race and racism becomes a distraction from reality.

White people are dying in this pandemic. Now, clearly, we`re dying disproportionately. But if he can convince them, as he`s always saying, the economy is fine, everything`s OK, Fourth of July, it`s really -- tomorrow is really more so the fourth of his lie.

The segment you just did on Russia -- I want people to think about this. This is -- and I think this is a direct example of how he exploits race. He knows about the Russian bounties. He knows all about it. He`s lying when he says he doesn`t.

So, watch this. He strategically starts talking about the Confederacy, so that he can trick people into thinking he cares something about U.S. military history or U.S. service members. And that`s supposed to distract from the fact that the very service members of today have bounties on their heads.

How dare he accuse Colin Kaepernick of disrespecting the troops, when he is disrespecting the troops by not speaking out against Putin, number one? And, frankly, every NFL player ought to get on their knees, because what Putin is doing is to -- to our troops in Afghanistan is the same thing that the police are doing to black people in America.

It is appalling and a disgrace. And I pray with Professor Crunk. People have got to wake up and make sure that, once and for all, he is sent home for good come November.

MELBER: Well, I believe the name of the show is "Make It Plain," your series, Mark, which is what you do. So I appreciate you being in two segments with us tonight and all the food for thought you gave us.

Mark Thompson, thank you very much.

Professor Cooper stays with us, because I wanted to show one other item.

"The New York Times" here, Professor, really going through what the terrible -- what they call the terrible June. We will put this up, why June was such a terrible month for Donald Trump.

The White House has been paralyzed by Trump`s erratic behavior. Trump remains stubbornly determined to feed the appetites of his hard-right base.

When you look at that, Professor, there is the fact that we`re going into the rally tonight, the weekend of July 4, and White House was signaling, as they do -- they sent out these notes. Sometimes, we report them. Sometimes, we don`t find them to be anything worth reporting.

But I will tell viewers, they are saying that Donald Trump wants to use this holiday weekend to rev up a fight about statues and monuments and American history.

So, there we go back to what "The Times" also has reported on a larger basis and what you were saying, which is leaning into those things, as if it would help him this time, Professor.


Look, one of the things that happens every July 4 on my social media feed is black people reposting the famous Frederick Douglass speech "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?"

So there has always been a counterdiscourse in this country from African Americans about the fact that July 4 did not signal our freedom, and that, in many ways, it called the country to account for its utter hypocrisy, its commitment to guaranteeing the freedom of white folks, but sort of brazenly fighting against making every other group of people in the country free, particularly people of color and black people.

And so Trump is trying to play from this playbook, where he wants to stoke racial fears. I think Mark was right that he wants to distract Americans from his many different failures.

The problem with that is that, when we saw these protests that happened in May and June all over this country, there weren`t just African Americans in the street. We saw people from all races and all ethnic backgrounds in the street saying, we are fed up with this president. We are not going to fall for this anymore.

And so he could have -- he could take this opportunity to shift. But this is a man who is committed to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Up until March, he was winning the fight, and he had a good chance of being reelected, simply because the economy was doing well.

He chose to mismanage COVID in a way that means that we`re just going to continue to see delay after delay in terms of reopening the country and, therefore, reopening the economy. He has over 100,000 people dead under his watch, people who would be alive but for COVID.

So, his leadership has shown that people die, people of all races and colors and classes and creeds die, because Donald Trump is the president and because he is not suited for the job.

And then he stands by and watches the police abuse African Americans, and he takes no moral stance on that that says, as a country, we won`t stand for it.

He`s not using the Fourth of July message to say, look, our founders said that we were a country that believed that all men were created equal, that all people were created equal, and so our job now is to rally as a country and figure out how to make that happen for these groups we have marginalized.

That would -- even that shift would give him the cover to perhaps make it to November. He`s uninterested in that. This man is a brazen racist. He has deep disdain for African Americans, for Latinos, for anybody who is non- white. And he is showing that.

And so I think that, rather than trying to give him any credit, I think that we should see that the gloves are off, that he is fighting in the way that he knows, and that way is simply to say that the only lives that matter to him are the lives of white people and the lives of people that support him.

That is the way that he has always governed. And I think what is hard for many Americans is that, in this moment, we have been exposed. Even when we think about what`s happening with Russia and with these bounties on the military`s head, we had the opportunity to impeach this president because of his problematic relationships with Russia, because of the Mueller report.

We have impeached the president for other crimes. No, we, as a country, kept on failing to hold him accountable. And now we`re in this position.

And my appeal to the American people is to recognize, right, you know, it`s an old black saying. First time, shame on you. Second time, shame on me, right, which that famous quote that George Bush could never get right, right, and that J. Cole likes to sort of make -- you know, make fun of George Bush. He has this song about that.

But the point is, we kept on missing the lesson. And now the lesson is here again. And the question is, are we going to get it? Are we going to change?

MELBER: Right. Right.

COOPER: Are we going to stand up and listen to these people in the streets and say that we want to actually be the America that our founders said we were?

MELBER: I appreciate you mixing the epic seriousness of your point, which I hope everyone hears, as we reflect on history, with the lighter quote, when George W. Bush said, fool me once, don`t fool me again.


MELBER: And J. Cole put it at the top of a song for good reason. It came out ridiculously.

Brittney Cooper, I wish you a very good weekend, if you get any time off. Thanks for being with us.

COOPER: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Fitting in a break. And then we have big news on Paul Manafort when we come back.


MELBER: New developments in legal problems for Trump`s former campaign chair Paul Manafort.

Local New York prosecutors want to revive the criminal charges against him, with a lot of talk about whether he could ever get a Trump pardon.

Now, Manafort served some time in prison, but then got spared and got home confinement. He was convicted in federal court on a range of charges, but that state charge, which was separate, was previously dismissed by a judge on double jeopardy grounds, a legal concept that, no matter how bad the thing you did is, you can`t be tried twice for it.

Now, Trump has been hinting for a pardon for a different person who was actually Paul Manafort`s business partner, Roger Stone. He was convicted of obstruction, witness tampering, and lying to the feds during the Mueller probe, but he has not yet reported to prison.

That would be on July 14, two weeks from today, unless something changes.

We are joined by David Cornell, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones," the author of the book "Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin`s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump."

And if you don`t like a hardcover, because sometimes they`re hard to use at the beach, you can socially isolate with this one in paperback, because it`s now out on paperback.

And many people feel, David, that it`s a good read.


DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you, Ari. I think it`s a good read.

MELBER: And you put a lot of time into it. People still write books in this country.

We have relied on...


MELBER: Go ahead.


CORN: I would say the thing is, too, because we`re talking about Manafort and Stone now, we still are going back to Russia, Russia, Russia.


CORN: We see the bounty program. That was the heart of the impeachment case, because he was trying to get Ukraine to -- the president -- to absolve Russian of intervention in 2016. That was one of the investigations he wanted.

And we still have new information coming out of the Mueller report that was recently unredacted. And it was about both Manafort and Stone. So, the original sin of the Trump presidency, the Russian intervention, and I would say Trump`s complicity in it, not collusion, but complicity, is still with us today.

And we still don`t even understand everything that happened in 2016 and all the reasons that Trump still won`t criticize Putin, even when he`s putting a bounty on Americans in Afghanistan.

MELBER: So, what can you prove the reason might be for Trump`s reticence?

CORN: I think it`s mind-blowing, in a way, because any other politician, just if you want to get elected, will at least pay lip service to protecting American troops overseas, whether they cared or not. And he won`t even do that.

We see in John Bolton`s book that part of it that was not covered extensively when it came out a couple of weeks ago was that he tried to get Trump to challenge Putin on intervention in U.S. elections in 2016 and make sure they`re not going to do it again in 2020, even though the FBI says they are up to it again, and Trump refused to do this.

Bolton gave him a memo. Just gave this memo to Putin. You don`t have to say anything to him.

And, still, Trump wouldn`t do it. So, we`re left with this puzzle that just won`t go away about why he is so enthralled with and by Putin and refuses to stand up to him, even when American lives, let alone an American election, is at risk.

MELBER: Where does Bill Barr fit into all this?

CORN: That`s interesting, because he -- one of his major priorities, it seems to be, since he took office as attorney general, is to basically undo the Mueller investigation and anything related to the Russian investigation.

So, he intervened in the Roger Stone case to get Roger Stone a lesser sentence that may lead to a pardon. We don`t know yet. And he intervened in the Michael Flynn case. And he has taken U.S. attorneys and had them reinvestigate the Russian investigation itself.

So, even though the FBI director, Chris Wray, and the director of national intelligence, who Trump appointed, John Ratcliffe, say that Russia is yet again, right now, as you and I speak, trying to intervene in the 2020 election, Bill Barr is assigning people to go back and look at the 2016 investigation to try to clear Trump, rather than saying anything publicly about Russia is doing right now to perhaps throw the next election into chaos and maybe once again, as the intelligence community once concluded, try to help Donald Trump win.

MELBER: And we`re about out of time, David, but will you keep the beard post this pandemic period?

CORN: You know, I was thinking that maybe I will wait until Election Day.

MELBER: And will the results affect -- will the results affect your grooming, or just Election Day`s a natural time?

CORN: It seems to be a point, a natural point that we`re working towards as a country that could be somewhat significant.


Well, and all I would add to that is, you said Election Day, but, depending on how close it is and counting mail ballots, it could be Election Days.

David Corn, we will be coming back to you. I hope people check out your book, sir.

CORN: Thank you, Ari. Happy July 4.

MELBER: Happy July 4, which is a time that generally kicks off the kickoff to the general election. The stakes couldn`t be higher this year.

And I want to tell you, our next guest argues that, for liberals who want to stop not only Donald Trump, but Trumpism, you have got to look beyond just that election and get active at every level.

This is a very special political conversation when we come back.



MELBER: It`s certainly true that control of Congress and state and local government is key.

Presidential campaigns spend the most money, they get the most attention, but it`s the other offices that decide rules for key issues, like minimum wage, health care, housing, law enforcement.

And voter interest and turnout typically drops for all of these other races. And that is part of the argument from a new music video that just went viral with a civics breakdown that is on point.


YELLOPAIN, MUSICIAN: So, the Congress or the statehouse, that`s legislative. They make laws. So, what we want from the president is what they do, OK, you all?

See, they election every two years, but we don`t ever even go to those. The Congress, they could raise minimum wage, but we ain`t even really know it, though.

Somebody told us that the government want to keep us broke, but the only reason why those people in the government is because we ain`t vote.


 MELBER: That song is "My Vote Don`t Count" by Ohio rapper YelloPain, whose style is to confess really more than preach, recounting his own political awakening as Obama ran for president and fact-checking the narrative that maybe President Obama didn`t get enough done, when the action required also involved the Republican Congress.


YELLOPAIN: Don`t nobody care about us. And that`s why I don`t vote.

Voted for Obama back in 2012. I remember that`s when I had hope. He was saying, yes, we can. Everybody got less food stamps. So, when the news station tried to tell us that Barack Obama couldn`t put us on, we was all salty at Obama, when it was the Congress members all along.

We got to focus on the legislative branch. Yes, they the ones that make the laws. Yes, they the ones that write how much food stamp money you get on the card.


 MELBER: The video you are seeing a clip of went viral. It is headed for a million views after just one month online.

And it is the rare piece of political culture that`s drawing praise from everyone from Chelsea Clinton to the rapper Meek Mill, and writeups everywhere from "Forbes" to Blavity, while YelloPain is educating and engaging politics himself, recently huddling with Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is rumored to be on Joe Biden`s short-list for V.P.

We turn to a musician driving this conversation.

YelloPain is on THE BEAT.

Thanks for being here.

YELLOPAIN: Yello. What`s going on?


MELBER: Yello. There it is.

YELLOPAIN: You got to say it like that.


MELBER: You have gotten a lot of people`s attention here. What did you set out to do with this video?

YELLOPAIN: The purpose really was to just take people like me who recently -- you know, a person who recently didn`t know nothing about the voting process who is now educated on it, to just give everybody else that same wakeup moment I had.

MELBER: And you break down, OK, this is the system of government.

Where did that come from? I mean, we all go to school, but a lot of people don`t really pay attention to politics, especially when you`re young and busy. And we know -- and, overall, voting rates are lowest among people in their 20s, while they`re trying to get their job sorted.

So how did you kind of brush back up on giving this civics lesson?

YELLOPAIN: Yes, that`s a fact. We learn, so briefly, younger, but the president is kind of the face of it, but there`s so many more different parts, and how us voting can change the community. I really woke up to it. Like, wow, this has got to be something we talk about.

MELBER: What issues do you think are most important then at that local level, not just the presidential level?


It`s a lot of different issues. The ones that are most important for me, things that affect me every day as far as like the piles in the street. I went from Dayton, Ohio. And you ride up Salem Avenue. I mentioned it in the song. And it`s like -- and it`s like the most important street in the city, for real.

It`s one of the most important streets. So, just things like that, from that to minimum wage. Some of my family, you know what I`m saying, being able to get more bit money every two weeks to help with things. You know what I`m saying?

Like, so, just really stuff that affect our every day lives. And we -- a lot of people think it is the president, but it is like the local government.

MELBER: Music so often is people`s experiences. That`s why we connect with it, because it`s like, wow, you can really understand a little bit more about where someone is coming from.

But it can also, of course, be dreams. It can be vision. You have a very positive, kind of hopeful vision here which I wanted to share with our viewers , because may not always know about this.

Let`s play one other part of this song where you are talking about what a better life through politics might look like.



YELLOPAIN: Imagine life on the other side, roles better, schools better, everybody get they license back, grocery store food better, custody of your kids back, homeless people get new shelters.

If we going to fix the U.S., we got to start with them two letters, me and you.


YELLOPAIN: It wasn`t really about it being cool, you know what I`m saying, when I made this song.

It was about the purpose. And we rally for so much, for change in our community, and we don`t -- we personally feel like there`s nothing we can do about it. We`re waiting for somebody else to do it for us.

So, my purpose of making that song wasn`t really to be cool. I got enough cool rap songs. There`s enough cool rap songs out there. I just really wanted to start a conversation.

It`s about following up, staying on your candidates, you know what I`m saying, so that your children and children`s children reap the benefits of us voting consistently.

MELBER: Stay involved, keep people accountable in the community.

YELLOPAIN: Exactly, not just this time.

MELBER: And you got to give me the lesson. YelloPain, how do I say it better?


MELBER: Yello!

YELLOPAIN: That`s how you say it.


MELBER: Yello!

YELLOPAIN: Yes, very...


MELBER: Thank you very much.


MELBER: And congratulations on your work, a lot of people clearly inspired by it.

YELLOPAIN: Thank you so much.


MELBER: Yello!

And you can check out YelloPain`s video about voter registration yourself. Go to YouTube right now. You can search "My Vote Don`t Count."

We appreciate him stopping by. And we should note, the interview was obviously taped on set before the coronavirus surge.

We had held it back for breaking news.


MELBER: I`m Ari Melber.

And thanks for sticking with us, as we tried to cover a lot of ground over our special coverage.

One more note: I will be back anchoring at 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight for more live special coverage, as we head into the Independence Day weekend.

Right now, keep it right here on MSNBC.