Dr. Vivek Murthy discusses the COVID-19 vaccination progress. Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump speaks out on the criminal probe into the Trump Organization. Manhattan DA Cy Vance is profiled. Dan Abrams discusses his new book, "Kennedy`s Avenger: Assassination, Conspiracy, and the Forgotten Trial of Jack Ruby."
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.
And we have a big show tonight.
A special report on the Manhattan DA who`s driving the Trump Org criminal probe. This is one of our legal breakdowns. I want you to stay tuned for it. It`s coming up. And I`m going to get into exactly what we know about the man who decides the fate of Trump Org and potentially the legal fate of Donald Trump himself.
Also tonight on the program, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
We`re going to get into everything.
But we begin with the two potential subjects of that probe that I mentioned, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. They actually have decided to do what many defendants in this Trump orbit have done. They`re subjects, potentially, not defendants yet, but what many people have done. We have seen this with Rudy Giuliani, who, of course, is under investigation.
They are speaking out on television. This is significant, because it`s the first time since the news broke that there is a grand jury impaneled, which is a significant escalation of that case, because it weighs charges. Now, charges may not mean anyone, right? You could always decide not to charge anyone, or it could mean Trump executives.
And, if it does, well, that could include them.
Along with CFO Allen Weisselberg, Don and Eric basically ran the company in absentia when Donald Trump was at the White House. Eric Trump with some sort of window into the grand jury process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC TRUMP, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: My father gets subpoena after subpoena. We do as a family. They attack us. They go after us for doing absolutely nothing wrong.
They look for any comma that`s out of place. And the prosecutorial misconduct in this country is out of control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Subpoena after subpoena. This could be rhetoric. We`re not hearing confirmation, of course, from the prosecutor side.
But we are getting a window into, A, why lawyers often tell people not to do these interviews and, B, at least the Trump family`s view of what`s going on, the heat down to the individual comma. The heat here looks pretty real.
Don Jr. speaking out, echoing his own father`s complaint about the New York attorney general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP JR., EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I think it`s a political persecution. And I know that because she literally campaigned on it.
In New York, it`s OK to try to persecute your political enemies, to try to target them, to try to hurt them. And they have been doing that for over five years. So, five years, no actual crime. They`re in search of a crime. They have been trying to investigate to create a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This is, of course, an echo of what Donald Trump has said.
And we report out what people involved in these probes are going to say. Whether it is credible or not is for everyone else to decide. So, part of the argument here is to distract from or push away from what the Trump Organization does and whether it`s done anything illegal, and try to turn the heat on Letitia James, who is the attorney general.
As for the allegation of potential partisan selection of her targets or people under investigation, it`s worth noting she`s also got a big open probe into the Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo.
Now, James is separate from, but working with the prosecutor who convened the grand jury Cy Vance.
Here`s another claim from Eric.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
E. TRUMP: They attack us. They go after us for doing absolutely nothing wrong. We gave up business when my father went to the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, the Trump brand may have been damaged, but Trump Org made over $1.9 billion in revenue through Donald Trump`s first three years in office.
Complaints about subpoenas, complaints about the prosecutors, complaints about the impact on business, we are seeing some round of nerves here as the grand jury shows this case is accelerated.
And we bring in our experts, Emily Bazelon, staff writer for "The New York Times," and Cornell Belcher, who knows his way around many of these issues with presidents. He was Obama`s polling guru and an MSNBC analyst.
Good to see both of you.
Cornell, I`m going to begin with you, because I`m not really beginning with the law, because I don`t think that the interview, while newsworthy, to be sure, was primarily legal. But it does show the way that Donald Trump, who is down in Florida and is in a certain position -- he clearly has sway over Republicans, but is not necessarily doing this interview himself.
He seems to be calling on the family to do what Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani and others did, which is defend him with or without all the facts.
CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
No, what he`s doing is, he`s being political, right? This is not about law at all. He`s trying to cover himself, trying to gain sort of political favor.
And, look, the FOX News network is a powerful one. And I think -- I think, Ari, you and I both agree that even getting Nixon out of office would have been difficult if FOX News was around. It is powerful. They have ways of backing and supporting their people, and, look, and even raising money for their people.
So, what clearly he`s trying to do right now is, is set the political table and spin this and look -- and make him and Donald Trump and the organization look like victims of this far left-wing conspiracy run by people like you and the media who are coming after him and, of course, hate him.
So it`s really sort of lifting up those long-term enemies, enemies that Trump and the Trump Organization have always gone after, the media as key here, and saying that they`re the bad guys and they`re coming after them, and it`s unfair.
What he`s doing right now is playing politics. And, by the way, it`s not bad politics on his part.
Emily, I`m going to tee up a little more Don Jr. saying something that -- again, I try to be as fair as possible. Some of what they have said appears untrue or is sort of beside the point. And then sometimes they overlap with arguments that serious independent legal experts have discussed.
There is a long-running debate about the type of qualified immunity that different government officials get during and after office. And Bill Clinton was pursued repeatedly by a range of cases. Some felt legitimate when all the evidence came in. Some were clearly right-wing-funded kind of things to hassle. And the courts have debated this.
So, with fairness in mind, Don Jr. says, well, wait a minute, is it fair if you just target politicians and a president, and it costs a lot, even if they win? Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
D. TRUMP: You can go after a former president, target them for years. Even if they don`t get anything, they get you to spend millions of dollars. And that`s sort of a win, in and of itself. And it`s tens of millions of dollars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Emily, on all the above.
EMILY BAZELON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think that if we worried about political prosecutions, about each president turning on the former president and illegitimately pursuing investigations, that would be a serious concern.
And that does happen in countries where controlling the machine of justice turns into a weapon that you use against your political opponents.
On the other hand, especially once you`re out of office, if you have done things that might violate the law, you don`t get a free pass because you used to be the president. That`s the kind of balance that we want prosecutors to strike.
And I think it`s still really hard to tell whether the New York district attorney and attorney general are striking the right balance, because we only are seeing kind of glimpses and maybe the tip of the iceberg of the evidence they have.
I`m interested in this idea that they`re filing subpoena after subpoena, because that is more evidence that this is a very document-heavy case, that they`re looking into tax fraud and to other uses of former President Trump`s business in ways that may have violated the law.
And so then you just want to know, like, OK, well, what are those subpoenas producing?
What do you think of the significance, if any, of these Trump family members and executives speaking out now, Emily?
BAZELON: I mean, I think that Cornell is right. This is a political move that you make to stir up your base. You`re going on FOX News. You`re saying to people, there`s nothing to see here, we have done nothing wrong, this is a witch-hunt.
And it`s a tactic that President Trump used over and over again in office. And I absolutely could see why it would be politically attractive to the Trump family to continue casting themselves in this light in front of their audience.
It`s also interesting that, even though there was some criticism of FOX from President Trump at the end of his term in office -- remember, they didn`t go along with like the election was stolen quite as much as some other conservative media outlets -- it seems like the family is back with FOX.
And that`s not surprising, because FOX has the biggest audience and, as you have said, has been so crucial in getting their message out.
MELBER: Yes, that goes to what would be the public perception, particularly on the right, but, also, they have been able to push out a lot of stories that then get echoes, Cornell, writ large about what this is.
Is this the music finally playing and something catching up with him about how he does business in New York, with an independent prosecutor and an A.G. who`s been investigating people in both parties, as mentioned? Or is this perceived as somehow, well, they never really dealt with him?
And I have raised this point on the program, so viewers can make up their own minds, Cornell, which is, well, if new prosecutors had all this information, he was, as we`re going to discuss later in the program, once investigated by this same office. Are they late to this only because he has become a more controversial political figure on the right?
Now, Cornell, to the political point Emily raises, they`re on FOX News for that reason. I guess I wonder, though, why not go somewhere with even more influence? Why not go and make the case in a video post on Trump`s blog?
BELCHER: Because I think that blog came down today because, apparently, not enough Trump supporters are reading that blog.
You can fill in the joke about whether or not Trump supporters, core supporters, can read. I`m not going to do that job, because I will get bad -- I will get mass -- mad Twitters.
MELBER: I`m not doing that. I`m only -- I`m not making fun of the readers in any way.
The blog didn`t last a month. We do have more on that as well later in the program, but go ahead, Cornell.
BELCHER: But it also speaks to, look, I think the power of mainstream media.
And, for better or worse, FOX is seen as part of this mainstream media, and I think it`s problematic, because I think we can argue that they`re propaganda at this point. But without mainstream media, the echo chamber just isn`t as big. When Trump just tries to do it on his own, he fails.
So, of course they go back to FOX. Of course they go back to as mainstream media as they can. If he were to come on your show or any of sort of the other mainstream media shows or even to the newspapers, they would pick it -- they would pick Don Jr.`s story apart, right?
This is someone -- this is a White House that is ensconced in a culture of corruption. I think I lost count, but I think they have had more people indicted or plead guilty or under investigation for crimes than any White House in modern history.
So the idea that they are that they are being unfairly prosecuted or come after, no. How about you all are a den of corrupt individuals? And that`s not me saying it. That`s what the record shows, when you look at the people who have pleaded guilty or been indicted who have been connected to this White House.
MELBER: Right. And that`s why there`s so much swirling intrigue about the fact that, under the rules, a sitting president wasn`t going to be indicted. A lot of people around him were.
So, it`s a very real question hanging over the nation right now, wherever it lands.
Cornell and Emily, I want to thank you.
What Cornell just said brings us to what we`re going to do next. I have a special report on the prosecutor who will ultimately decide whether Donald Trump is charged and faces the threat of jail time or not.
We also have the surgeon general tonight.
And the end of an era. The Trump blog folds in under a month.
Stay with us.
MELBER: Will Donald Trump ever be indicted or go to jail? That question has hung over his life more than most politicians or famous people.
And the reason is not that he`s controversial. The reason is that evidence suggests that Trump has done things that have landed other people in jail, like paying virtually no taxes for years, while claiming to be worth billions, and surrounding himself with convicted criminals, including his campaign chair, his longest serving adviser, his lawyer and several other top officials.
Donald Trump`s the most investigated former president since Nixon. And, unlike Nixon, he`s not holding on to a pardon. Whether Trump is ultimately indicted or not now turns more on one person than any other.
And it`s a person most Americans can`t even name. I mean, it`s not a Bill Barr type or Bob Mueller, although you can think of this person, in a way, as the Mueller of New York. And while this person`s not famous, well, his job certainly is. Being the top prosecutor in Manhattan is an iconic position. It`s the stuff of legend and film and comics, where the DA or Harvey Dent on the big screen presides over the big calls in New York.
Well, right now, the New York DA is running this accelerating criminal probe of Trump Org. He`s convened a grand jury. He will make the call on any possible indictments of the company, its staff or its founder.
That DA, Cyrus Vance, is a fairly low key 66-year-old prosecutor who`s been on the job for over a decade. He hasn`t become as nationally famous as figures like Giuliani or Mueller, but he will make one of the most consequential calls in the history of the American presidency.
How did he get here?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CYRUS VANCE, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We are really interested in using all the tools we have. So, we started the Pro Hoops program.
Our office will continue to cooperate with the federal government in its battle against terrorism. And we will continue to use every tool state law provides at our disposal.
Today marks the seventh major case involving sanction violations by a large international bank that my office has pursued and resolved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: New York DAs don`t just pick cases they want. They`re in Manhattan. the city`s legendary CEOs, bankers, power brokers present all kinds of tests.
The last DA before Vance one big fraud cases against the big kahunas, like the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. And just like some of the questions that face to Trump Org right now, legally, there is a fine line between aggressive business tactics and outright fraud.
Now, as DA, Vance launched a major economic crimes bureau. He`s pledged to be active in patrolling the entire financial community. On the other hand, he was criticized for following the path of many other prosecutors after the `08 financial crash, treating most banks` activities as something more akin to bad judgment than crime.
And he was criticized for ignoring many big banks, while making a case out of actions by quite a small community bank in Chinatown, which was a case his office went on to lose.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the DA accused Abacus Bank of was ridiculous, and really nothing, considering what the big banks were doing.
All the too-big-to-fail banks. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Citicorp, have admitted to massive crimes.
VANCE: That`s clearly not a big, big bank.
And, clearly, it was not representative of the entire financial community. But I think the principle was the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The larger principle here is deciding when a company`s crimes are so severe, it should be indicted as a criminal enterprise or seriously find, while it continues to do business.
Now, Vance has been winning large bank settlements, $14 billion overall, and plowing some of that money into what he calls other legal priorities, like addressing the systemic backlog in evidence for dealing with sexual assault cases.
It`s actually something he told us about here on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VANCE: What I decided to do last fall was to use $35 million of money we received through federal forfeiture and to commit to fund rape kit testing around the country.
MELBER: For a prosecutor, I mean, this is unusual. And it speaks to a national problem with a solution that`s not ideal.
VANCE: The reason why we got involved is, I think it is a tragedy. And I don`t think that`s an overstatement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Authorities say the money recovered from banks in that program led to over 180 new arrests.
Vance`s allies say it`s the kind of innovative approach that shows how much he really cares about those issues, going back years.
But you should know advocates also criticized his office for its approach to allegations of sex crimes against high-profile defendants, like Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein. Vance said Epstein should get the lowest possible sex offender status in a court proceeding. He charged and then dropped a New York sex crimes case against a prominent French politician.
Some legal experts said he bungled that case and it should have been handled differently. Others said he was actually scared to finish the job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: District Attorney Vance has abandoned an innocent woman and has denied an innocent woman a right to get justice in a rape case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why they were just so scared, why they were running away from this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, because of his power and who he was, got a free ride.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: In 2015, Vance also passed on indicting Weinstein for groping allegations, despite audiotape evidence.
Now, Vance defended that decision at the time as all about the evidence and the rules, not whether he wanted to get someone like Weinstein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VANCE: I, as DA, have to be guided by the evidence and the elements of the crime and my experts in the office. And if I stopped being guided by any of those things, and start being guided by outside influences, whether it is money or whether it`s public opinion, then I`m not doing my job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And that brings us to the key about DA Vance, which may turn out to be the key to the legal fate of the Trump Organization and Donald Trump.
If you remember one thing about this DA who will decide Trump`s fate, remember this. He moves slowly, but he will double down in illegal do-over.
Now, a lot of prosecutors don`t like do-overs. If they drop a case, even with controversy, they don`t want to lean into just bringing it back up again. But when more evidence did emerge about Weinstein, with possible cases in several parts of the country, DA Vance did lean back into the case that brought him so much earlier criticism.
He became the first prosecutor to indict Harvey Weinstein, scoring a major legal victory by winning the case, which "The New York Times" saw as the DA`s shot at redemption.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Breaking news tonight: the verdict handed down, Harvey Weinstein found guilty of rape.
DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: Guilty of rape and criminal sexual assault.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guilty on criminal sexual acts of Mimi Haleyi and guilty of rape in the third-degree of Jessica Mann.
VANCE: Harvey Weinstein has finally been held accountable for crimes he committed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Some may have thought that took too long, but that legal do-over worked.
And the history is relevant to the Trump Org probe, because this probe is also something of a do-over for DA Vance. He already probed the Trump Organization back in 2012 for allegedly defrauding tenants at Trump SoHo, but he dropped the case, saying the tenant victims settled and refused to cooperate with him, so he had to focus on other cases with victims who -- quote -- "actually wanted us to take the case."
He also faced criticism for taking tens of thousands of dollars from Trump`s top attorney before and after dropping that Trump Org case. He returned some of the money that year and the rest in 2017 after media scrutiny.
And he seemed more warm to Trump, according to some, after the 2016 election, even writing this note that -- quote -- "criminal justice issues" were important to President Trump and offering collaboration.
Now, we asked Vance`s office about that for tonight`s report. They stressed that Vance personally supported Clinton over Trump and that the letter was more about what they see as the DA`s traditional intergovernmental relationships with all White Houses, irrespective of political party.
So, some prosecutors might want to leave that old Trump Org case, with some of those things I just mentioned and the controversy, just leave it behind. But Vance clearly doesn`t avoid do-overs when he has the evidence.
And that brings us tonight to the ultimate do-over, the DA of New York`s second probe of Trump Org, an outcome that may define not only his entire legal career, but also, quite literally, the next few years of Donald Trump`s life.
And just as in past do-overs, which showed a willingness to get more aggressive and assertive, DA Vance has already deployed his power in this case to succeed legally where others failed, waging and winning that multiyear battle to seize Donald Trump`s elusive secret tax returns, setting new case law about the presidential power, about the idea that no one`s above the law, a win at the Supreme Court itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORAH O`DONNELL, CBS NEWS: Today, former President Trump suffered a major Supreme Court defeat.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN: A major decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Declining to block a New York grand jury from getting President Trump`s personal and corporate tax returns.
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS: Clearing the way now for investigations to finally get their hands on the former president`s tax returns.
MELBER: They have got them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Manhattan district attorney now is in possession of former President Donald Trump`s tax returns.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Millions of pages of Trump`s financial documents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The documents now under a microscope at the DA`s office.
If they reveal crimes, is a grand jury ready to act? And, legally, take this all together tonight, and there are basically three doors here for how this probe ends, according to precedent.
One, it could still end the DA`s last Trump Org case, after much attention and drama, closed, without any charges. Two, like Vance`s other do-overs, he could go farther and try to indict the Trump Org or indicts its staff, which is a big deal. Or, three DA Vance could indict the organization`s founder himself, Donald Trump.
When you actually take it all together, and you learn about this DA, it`s pretty simple where we go from here. We know that this grand jury has basically six months this year. We know the DA finishes at the end of the year his term.
And door number one that I just mentioned is basically nothing. That is status quo. Door number two could put pressure on Donald Trump and potentially bankrupt him by toppling the company that has kept him afloat all these years. We have seen larger companies than the Trump Org capsized by major settlements or indictments.
And then there`s door number three. That would be unprecedented in history, an ex-president reporting into central booking for a mug shot and then the trial of the century.
Now, as a matter of law, former presidents are citizens. They`re not immune from this kind of investigation or prosecution. They don`t have the powers or protections of a sitting president. Facts.
But I`m also here to give you context beyond facts. As a matter of practical reality, the indictment of any ex-president, let alone this one, would take America into uncharted territory at a time of tremendous upheaval.
Will that alone impact this DA? Well, as he said after one of those other controversial cases, he says he only follows evidence and the elements of the crime that he would have to prove, not, as he put it -- quote -- "outside influences" or public opinion.
Well, no other case has ever tested that goal and that principle as much as this one. So, perhaps understanding this particular DA will help us inform our understanding of what he might do on this very big question.
And from one New York lawyer to another, Dan Abrams is our special guest to get into all of this when we come right back.
MELBER: I`m joined now by ABC chief legal analyst Dan Abrams and author of the new book "Kennedy`s Avenger: Assassination, Conspiracy, and the Forgotten Trial of Jack Ruby."
Viewers who`ve ever followed news or law will also recognize Dan from many other titles.
I`m not going to list them all, sir, but thanks for being here.
DAN ABRAMS, ABC NEWS: Great to be with you, Ari.
MELBER: Great to have you back on THE BEAT. I love our legal conversations. I want to get into your book, and I want people to hear about it.
But let`s start with this big question. And I`m curious, you, as a New York lawyer yourself, what is it that we should know about Cy Vance that may inform what he does? And what do you think he may do with this big decision?
ABRAMS: Well, first, let me say that I think that the analysis that you just did is the most thorough and fairest one that I have seen on television about his career up to this point, the ups and downs of his career.
MELBER: Thank you.
ABRAMS: In the end, I think that one of the biggest decisions has already been made.
And I think it`s one of the least discussed decisions. And that was the hiring of Mark Pomerantz, who is a white-collar expert, former prosecutor, who was brought in here, out of private practice, making a lot of money, to work in the DA`s office overseeing this case.
That immediately tells me this is much more serious than the past investigation of the Trump Organization. This is more than just we want to figure out what documents we have and we don`t have. You don`t bring Pomerantz into the office full time unless you have already got a lot.
So, before I answer specifically your question, I will say that I think that, for them to move forward, they`re going to feel that they have got an overwhelming case. This won`t be a close call. This won`t be a sort of question of intent, et cetera.
And with that in mind, I think that the answer is that Cy Vance isn`t going to move forward unless he feels he has an ironclad case, not just on a minor crime. I think he`s going to want to feel like, because he knows the world is watching, because, as you just pointed out, the impact would be cataclysmic the former president being indicted, I think that he is going to be very careful and maybe even violate his own rule and apply a higher standard in this case and say, because he`s the former president, I want there to be even more evidence.
But, with all that said, I expect based on the impaneling of the special grand jury, the hiring of Mark Pomerantz, the fight over the tax returns, which they now have, I think, if we weren`t talking about Donald Trump, we would definitely be saying all signals point to an indictment.
MELBER: Yes, that`s something, and something from you, as a careful observer that you are.
You mentioned Pomerantz. I will remind this for viewers, overseeing major securities fraud cases. He`s done the organized crime, as Dan mentioned, and, most prominently, a name that many will recall, went after the Gambino crime boss, John Gotti, himself.
That brings me to the other story that we were discussing tonight, Dan, which is, what does it mean to you when individuals who have potential legal exposure into Trump executives and kids, Eric and Don Jr., are out there talking, when Ivanka has been quite quiet, but clashed with this office over the dealings of Trump SoHo, whatever brave or particular face they put out in public, they have clashed with this office before?
They have a sense of how it works.
ABRAMS: Yes, and I think you may see a very different message coming outside the courtroom and inside.
Remember when Rudy Giuliani, in the election fights, outside the courtroom, would say, this is all about election fraud, and then you get inside the courtroom, and he would say, this isn`t about election fraud?
ABRAMS: I think you may see something -- I think you may see something similar here, which is to say you will hear Don Jr. and Eric and Donald Trump all making political arguments, right? This is a witch-hunt, this is unfair, or this is et cetera.
But if there`s an indictment, you will hear in the courtroom a very different argument, a very legalistic argument, more along the lines of what I was talking about, which is lack of intent, or a lack of sufficient evidence here, et cetera.
But, remember, in these kinds of cases, as you well know, it`s documents.
ABRAMS: We can talk about witnesses who are critical, and they have to get this person to turn or that person, but it`s about the papers. It`s either there or it`s not there in the documents.
And, yes, witnesses can help bring to life those documents, but if they have got the paperwork that shows that he lied, the way that Michael Cohen claims exists, then there could be real trouble for Donald Trump.
MELBER: Yes, that makes sense, Dan.
And, I mean, that`s something we were exploring in our reporting night, because whether this is a good thing or not, people can debate. But it`s certainly the case that the New York DA, when it has a tie, the tie has gone to the banks and the big companies.
If they can explain away and say, well, that was a judgment call, or yes, you see that number, but, at the time, we didn`t know, we have seen time and time again the tie go to those companies. People can have a policy debate about whether that`s good or bad.
Here, if it`s like that, I would expect, if Vance does it like he has before, the tie will go to Trump Org. If, on the other hand, it`s voluminous documents, proven e-mails, contemporaneous records that show, no, this was the knowing deceit, fraud was the game, fraud was the modus operandi, then that would be different.
I`m only moving us along -- I could talk to you about this all hour.
MELBER: I`m only moving us along because I want to get to the book.
What made you write about this? What is relevant about "Kennedy`s Avenger" and this book you write to viewers today?
ABRAMS: So, remember, this is our fourth book, David Fisher and my fourth book about former presidents, and -- in some way, shape, or form.
And as we were going through, after having done a book on Lincoln and Roosevelt and John Adams, we were talking about the Kennedy assassination, and we both looked at each other and said, whatever happened with Jack Ruby`s trial?
And I was kind of amazed that I didn`t really know what had happened with Jack Ruby`s trial. Once we dug in, the details in this case are amazing. I mean, you have one of the most famous lawyers in America, representing Ruby. You have got a celebrity witness.
You have got a jailbreak that occurs literally during the trial. You have got the world watching what effectively became the Kennedy assassination case. And many of the biggest Kennedy conspiracies really were fueled because of this trial, because of questions that went unanswered, because of comments that were made during the trial, et cetera.
And so much fascinating happened after the case with Jack Ruby. He literally went one-on-one, face-to-face with former Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, who was leading the Warren Commission. He questioned Jack Ruby. Jack Ruby took a lie-detector test. I mean, this is just an unbelievable story that is so rich that I was kind of embarrassed that I didn`t know more about, and I`m so glad that I got to know about.
MELBER: Is it harder or easier to dispel conspiracy theories today, as opposed to the era you just studied?
ABRAMS: It`s always been hard. It`s so hard to dispel conspiracy theories.
I mean, and it`s very similar to those some of the ones we see today, in terms of trying to lay out facts as to why things aren`t true, because what you see very often with regard specifically to Jack Ruby is that I will lay out specific facts as to why the timing makes it impossible that Jack Ruby could have been involved in a broader conspiracy.
And yet, rather than address what I view as sort of definitive evidence that Ruby couldn`t have been part of a conspiracy, the answer goes to, well, what about his mob ties, and what about his relationship in Chicago? What about a phone call that he made to a mobster a few days before this happened?
And it`s a change of the subject, right? It`s not addressing what is the clear facts.
ABRAMS: It`s to sort of divert attention.
And I think that you see that in conspiracy after conspiracy. And the fact that more than half of the American public still believes that there was a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy tells you how powerful conspiracy theories can be.
MELBER: It`s a great point.
And I know that part of it is not the whole focus of your book.
MELBER: But it surely makes it relevant as we grapple with these things and we think about national traumas, whether that was the Kennedy assassination, a terrible tragedy. January 6, a horrific tragedy that also took life, took innocent lives.
What do we do about them, and how are we armed? And I know you wrote the book, in part, because we`re better armed with facts.
Let me remind everyone and put on the screen Dan Abrams`s new book, "Kennedy`s Avenger: Assassination, Conspiracy, and the Forgotten Trial of Jack Ruby."
I was interested in both topics, but when we have an excuse to get you on and talk law, we will always take it, Dan. Thank you, sir.
ABRAMS: Ari, I always love coming on with you.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
We have got a lot more in the program.
Up ahead: a crisis self-inflicted for one Florida blogger or, should I say, ex-blogger. We got it covered.
Also later: free beer and your vaccination for you or your friends? We will draw the links with the ultimate guest. I`m expecting to learn a lot scientifically.
An honor to tell you the surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, is on THE BEAT later tonight.
MELBER: After departing the White House, some presidents devote themselves to memoirs, long-form writing, or to nonprofit work.
Ex-President Trump chose a different path, which we have actually chronicled from time to time here on THE BEAT.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The blogger in Florida. The Florida blogger, Donald Trump. The Florida blogger. The blogger in Florida.
To appease the Florida blogger. One blogger in Florida quite upset. This Florida blogger. One blogger in Florida.
The failure of the blogger in Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And that brings us to tonight`s news.
After just 29 days in total, Donald Trump is shuttering his entire blog. And in a sign that the normally proud reality show star is apparently not very proud of this archive, he`s also removing all posts from the Internet. Page not found.
He was, according to reports, quite frustrated by the fact that nobody wanted to read his blog, an adviser telling "The Washington Post": "Trump didn`t like that this platform was being mocked and had so few readers."
Well, I can`t speak to the mockery, but I can tell you, facts are facts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Donald Trump`s blog, as a matter of metrics, audience, readers, every single way they measure blogs, it`s a failure.
Donald Trump, writ large, far less relevant online than in many years.
The complete, obvious public failure of this brand-new announced blog.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, was it a public failure?
Well, we had the metrics, and now we have the writer of the blog quitting.
It, of course, wasn`t supposed to be this way. This thing was initially announced with a Hollywood-style trailer. But this turned out to be more "Ishtar" than "Avatar" for the viewers and the readers, the blog lasting essentially three Scaramuccis, to use a short time frame that Trump may understand.
Now, that`s less then other Trump projects that also ultimately failed or ended or went out of business, like Trump Steaks, Trump beverages, Trump Mortgage, and, of course, Trump University.
Now, there was always the more serious question of whether this ex- president should be spending so much of his time blogging. Are blogs even that important nowadays? As Rick Ross once said, a real boss makes sure we`re going to eat. Forget a blog, dog, because, one day, we`re going to meet.
Well, Donald Trump rose to some of his recent prominence with all of his virtual online non-face-to-face spats on Twitter, where he, of course, has now been banned. And when he tried to re-up the whole operation, he found his blog was crashing so badly, he had to just quit.
Well, to BEAT viewers who have lived through these 29 days with us together, I will say, quoting a BEAT viewer, at least we will always have Mar-a-Blogo. June 2021, RIP.
And up ahead on THE BEAT, I promise we turn to something more serious and important than everything I have just said.
The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is here next.
MELBER: News on the ongoing battle against COVID.
President Biden calling for a month of action today to get to what they`re calling a summer of freedom. Seventy percent of Americans is the goal to get at least their vaccinations begun by the holiday on July 4.
And we are joined by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on this important effort.
Thanks for being here.
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Of course, Ari. It`s good to see you, and nice to be with you today.
MELBER: Great to have you.
I will tell you, in the news, sometimes, we get pitches on, hey, somebody wants to talk about some program or effort, and it may or may not be of interest.
We`re here to talk about something that`s of huge interest, and public interest, to the nation.
With that in mind, I have got some of the materials the White House put out. I want to play a little bit of some of what your administration, with the president, are highlighting, which is the positive, even fun ways to get a few more people into the vaccination game.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anheuser-Busch announced that beer is on them on July the 4th. That`s right, get a shot and have a beer. Free beer for everyone 21 years or over to celebrate the independence from the virus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prove that you`re vaccinated, and you can get a free doughnut a day for the rest of the year.
Krispy Kreme says it`s given away more than 1.5 million doughnuts.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would not recommend a Krispy Kreme with a beer, but I`ll leave that to other people to decide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Tell us what you`re doing with this effort and why it can be useful or really work in public health to emphasize the positive.
MURTHY: Ari, it`s a really good question.
And I`ll tell you, at the beginning of this pandemic, I remember doing an interview and saying to the host that, to overcome this pandemic, to turn it around would require an all-in approach in America.
And that`s actually what you`re seeing right here. Every sector is getting involved. So, employers, just as you showcased, have stepped up and are offering a series of incentives. In addition to the beer and the doughnuts, there are also companies like CVS which are offering sweepstakes where people can win a ticket to the Super Bowl. Microsoft is offering Xboxes.
Companies are just being creative in how they`re incenting people to get vaccinated. But it`s even more than that, Ari. It`s -- in addition to the businesses offering incentives, we`re seeing people in communities across America step up to talk to neighbors and friends, phone banking, text banking, going door to door, as they will be doing in -- with 1,000-plus events during the month of June as part of our month of action.
And if this seems like a lot, it is, because that`s what it`s going to take to engage and to succeed in what will ultimately be the most ambitious vaccination campaign in the history of our country.
MELBER: When you look at some of the states, we have a map here of efforts to curb or even ban regulations that help people understand whether everyone`s vaccinated, sometimes called vaccine passports.
Is that unhelpful to where you`re trying to go on mass vaccination?
MURTHY: Well, Ari, look, ultimately, we know that many businesses have been engaged in conversations around some sort of verification system for vaccines.
And we know the private sector is pursuing some of this. And I think that that -- that`s a reasonable thing for people to ask for and for them to get.
I think the challenge is, if you`re out there right now and you`re trying to figure out what to do in various settings, what`s safe, what`s not safe, you don`t have that kind of verification. And this is where the recent guidelines from the CDC became very important, because what they tell us is that, if you are vaccinated, that you do not have to wear a mask indoors or outdoors.
MURTHY: If you are unvaccinated, however, you absolutely should still wear a mask, because there`s still a great deal of virus that is present in the community. We`re seeing still tens of thousands of cases every day in the country.
So, the more people we get vaccinated, the more we will be able to relax some of these restrictions. And that`s really the goal here. We`re already at 63 percent of adults...
MURTHY: ... who have at least one shot, but we have got millions more people to go.
MELBER: And I got about 40 seconds.
We have also seen headlines of people who are vaccinated, but they say they`re still wearing their mask around, which sort of departs from CDC guidance. What do you say to them?
MURTHY: So, I mean, this is a really important point, Ari.
And what the CDC said is that, if you`re vaccinated, again, you don`t have to wear your mask indoors and outdoors. But there are some circumstances where people may make different decisions.
If they`re in an area that still has a very high level of transmission, if they live at home with people who are not vaccinated, like children, for example, and if they want to be especially careful about protecting them, there may be some circumstances where people opt to keep their masks on when they are in indoor settings with people, and they don`t know what their vaccination status is.
The key is, the more people we get vaccinated, the closer we will get to a point where more people feel comfortable taking their mask off.
But I will leave you with this. If all of us not only got vaccinated, but if those who are vaccinated today reached out to one friend or family member who`s not vaccinated and got them vaccinated, we would be done.
We would have everyone 12 and up ultimately vaccinated. And that`s why this has to be a truly people-powered effort and movement in our country.
So, get vaccinated. Talk to your family and friends, see if they`re vaccinated. If they`re not, help them. You can send them to vaccines.gov, so they can find a place to get vaccine and help them answer questions. You can get answers to science-driven answers and scientifically-based answers at vaccines.gov.
That`s how we`re going to turn this pandemic around. It`s going to take each and every one of us stepping up.
MELBER: I appreciate you saying that.
We all know people can make their own health care decisions, but your point that this is a moment where you don`t have to feel helpless, we are all in this together, and you can be a social supporter and a conduit of accurate information, I think, is great.
We will post what you said online as well, so it lives.
Dr. Murthy, thank you, sir.
MURTHY: Thanks so much, Ari. Take care.
MELBER: Absolutely. Appreciate it.
When we come back, an update in this Giuliani probe.
MELBER: An update on the Giuliani probe.
The Daily Beast reporting that the feds are now zeroing in on his consulting firm to determine whether or not the former mayor engaged in unregistered and illegal lobbying on behalf of foreign figures.
That does it for us. We wanted to give you that update.
"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts now.