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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 6/21/21

Guests: Tristan Snell, Alvin Bragg, Adam Schiff


President Obama speaks out on voting rights. Chairman Adam Schiff discusses the Trump DOJ surveillance scandal. The high-stakes investigation of the Trump Organization in New York is examined. New York district attorney candidate Alvin Bragg discusses the race.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.

We`re tracking President Obama speaking out on voting rights today. Chairman Adam Schiff is here later admits that Trump DOJ surveillance scandal, which included him. So that`s tonight.

But we begin with new reporting from "The Washington Post" on the high- stakes investigation of the Trump Organization in New York. Tonight is also the eve of the New York primary for DA, a reminder that the current DA, Cy Vance, leaves office in just seven months, which sets that time period as the likely deadline for any decisions on charging alleged criminal conduct at the Trump Organization, where chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg has been seen dutifully going into work at Trump Tower.

With "The Washington Post" reporting on how the moneyman is balancing the appearance of those normal job duties against huge pressure from prosecutors for evidence implicating Trump, with reports that he continues to resist cooperating.

One DA veteran likening his approach to playing Russian roulette with prison time, a serious game for a 74-year-old. "The Post" reporting reinforces the picture from a recent "New York Times" account on the road to charges for Weisselberg as soon as this summer and also reinforces the stakes at play.

Also new today, "The Wall Street Journal" reporting prosecutors investigating whether Trump`s former bodyguard Matthew Calamari, who`s also a Trump executive, received his own tax-free fringe benefits and whether that is a scandal, or, worse, a crime.

Now, there is plenty of bad news and all these developments for Trump. But if Weisselberg stands tall against the DA, it could give Donald Trump the out he needs. That same "Post" article reports that, without Weisselberg`s cooperation, it`s unclear whether prosecutors would be able to establish any required intent on Trump`s part for crimes.

So, yes, there is heat on Weisselberg, a lot of it. But there`s also heat on the prosecutors, because Trump kept such a small financial circle, which means very few people can speak to his decisions.

And that same "Washington Post" article includes a point that we first reported last week here on THE BEAT and then in an interview with a veteran of the DA office doing this probe, Dan Alonso, who told us about this other legal road, where, as "The Post" puts it in their new story, the DA has the option to indict companies, rather than individuals.

Now, that would split the proverbial legal baby. If Weisselberg gives up nothing, but if there is enough evidence for prosecutors to indict him and the company as sort of a first step by December, to then see what the players would do then.

Joining us right now is NYU law professor Melissa Murray and former RNC chair Michael Steele.

Professor, your view of the combined picture we`re getting from each of these reports about the probe.

MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it`s definitely a case of keep your friends close and your enemies or at least those who can testify against you closer.

And so it seems that former President Trump is keeping tabs on Mr. Weisselberg, because Mr. Weisselberg is one member of that very small circle of trust. And it`s not just that the fact that the circle of trust is small that makes it difficult for the prosecutors. It`s also that former President Trump has over his course of business been really reticent to document his doings in e-mail.

He famously doesn`t use e-mail. He doesn`t write things down. So it`s really Mr. Weisselberg who has been sort of the eyes and ears of this whole operation that can provide the information to link any misdoings to Trump. And that`s really what`s needed here.

So, if Weisselberg isn`t talking, it`s going to be very difficult to actually get the goods to prove intent on the part of Trump.


And, Michael, this "Journal" story again shows all the different ways that the probe is going forward, because we have had all these drips of news, from the grand jury being impaneled, to who`s facing it, to who has the heat.

Matthew Calamari, some careful "Apprentice" viewers may recall. But they say prosecutors have this interest in him, once the bodyguard, indicating the probe in the Trump Organization`s alleged practice of providing employees with cars and apartments extends beyond Weisselberg, and also extends to whether this was, Michael, in the eyes of the DA, a kind of a modus operandi, that, from beginning to end, they were always, according to at least to this theory of the case, looking for ways to cheat the government, to lie to regulators, to kind of nip and tuck every which way.

And alone, isolated, some of these things might get by. If you take it all together, the question is, does it get to a financial number where you have not only a case, but you have a jury going, oh, well, if it`s tens of millions of dollars, why do they get to write that off if nobody else does?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I agree with that approach analysis, Ari.

But here`s the rub. I mean, look, the reality of it is -- and I think this is what a lot of this investigation is exposing -- that this is a corrupt enterprise. I mean, it`s just the way Trump did things, deliberately or not so deliberately. There are corrupt elements to it.

The question still remains, what can be proven? And that`s one. Two, how much of it rises to and sticks to Donald Trump? I`m still not convinced that, with all of the hand-wringing about Weisselberg and his daughter-in- law, so on, prosecutors are talking to her, and she`s out here, OK, laying out some tracks, I still don`t know how much of this is really going to double back on him.

Bodyguards, Weisselberg, Trump endears a level of loyalty that, absent someone like his lawyer, it just seems to be one of those things that everyone just kind of sticks close to this guy. Michael Cohen is the only who has really kind of gone out here and laid down a little bit of the inside on the inside.

But others have not. I mean, even those who are sort of tangentially attached to Trump haven`t turned state`s evidence to the degree, whether you`re talking about the Mueller probe, or I think now with what`s going on with Weisselberg. I still want to sit back and just sort of assess this.

I`m skeptical that there`s a lot there that Weisselberg and others are just going to just turn over. Look, cut the deal. Take care of my family. I got your back. Don`t worry about it. I mean, that`s the kind -- it`s that scene from "The Godfather" where they go visit the -- what`s his name in the jail and they sort of say, look -- he asks, where`s -- how is my brother doing?

We will take care of your brother. Don`t worry about your brother. It`s that kind of deal. So, if the family is going to be taken care of, OK, maybe I don`t turn state`s evidence, and I take one for Trump.

I just don`t -- that`s how people think in this world. And I just don`t know how we can rely on something other than that.

MELBER: Yes. No, I think that`s a skepticism that`s relevant.

And that brings us to the ways that, even when caught, he`s gotten out of things.

Our panel stays, but I want to also mention some special reporting here on Weisselberg`s past depositions. It was the criminal probe of Trump U. Weisselberg described his relationship with Trump as close, but one-sided, then. He said: "I wouldn`t go in there and just chitchat. But if I had a reason to go in and discuss a business matter, we`d have a conversation."

This is context for a very special guest we have to join our panel tonight, Tristan Snell, a prosecutor who helped lead the investigation of Trump U.

Thank you for joining us. Trump U famously was a business that gave out business advice that ultimately went out of business. So it wasn`t a great, smash success. But, to Michael Steele`s point, which you can pick up on, there is the view that, even when caught, even to the tune of millions, the big guy tends to swim off.

What are your insights on all of this from your experience there?

TRISTAN SNELL, FORMER NEW YORK ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, we actually got a court decision in that case that he didn`t swim off. We actually got a court decision in the intermediate level of that case before it settled, where it was decided that Trump and the Trump Organization were liable for Trump University`s misdeeds.

So he doesn`t always swim off. It`s just that no one`s really come at him this hard that often. And as for Cohen being the only one to turn, well, he`s the only one or one of the only ones who`s actually been indicted in Trump`s inner circle.

When things are actually hitting you, and you`re actually really seeing the prospect of being convicted of a crime, people`s tune can change. So I think we`re way too early to say that he`s going to turn or not turn. I think, once he`s indicted, we could see a very different situation arise.


MELBER: Yes, if he`s indicted, "The Times" says...

SNELL: By whom, I mean Weisselberg. If he`s indicted.

MELBER: Weisselberg, right, although "The Times" said that could happen very soon.

SNELL: If Weisselberg is indicted, we could see a very different story. Yes. Yes.


Well, I`m going to let Michael respond to you, because the orator that he is, I`m sure he has a rebuttal cooking.


MELBER: But I will give you one more question before we bring him in, which is, Weisselberg is someone that you dealt with in this manner.

I`m reading here from "Washington Post" reporting. He oversaw the spending decisions at Trump U, the online program which drew those three lawsuits. The deposition in the case speaks to that. And so there are experts here who say, moneyman only scratches the surface. He was at times basically the acting CEO.

What, if anything, can you tell us about that, based on your knowledge? And is that good or bad for him as he faces this heat?

SNELL: Well, first off, you can find out a lot about an organization, about a company about a target without actually having them cooperate with you.

So we were able to get a lot of information on how the Trump Organization worked and Weisselberg`s role in it, despite the fact that we did not have Weisselberg`s cooperation. We never even felt like we needed to bring him in as a witness, because we had already had enough knowledge of everything that we didn`t really need Weisselberg.

But we were still able to find the Trump Organization liable. And a lot of why the judge in the Trump University case decided that Trump Organization was liable was because of Weisselberg`s very heavy-handed day-to-day control of the organization. Very much, he was the acting CEO.

I would also say that he was basically the COO, the chief operating officer, of the Trump Organization, a role which has never really been filled, at least not that I know of in the past 20 years.

So, the CFO, they`re the ones actually like keeping the books and tracking the P&Ls and seeing exactly what money is coming in what money is going out and making some high-level decisions based on that.

But Weisselberg was doing more than that. He would actually decide which businesses would live in which businesses would die. At one point, Trump University was not making very much money at first. And it was Weisselberg who actually had the Trump University people come in and say, hey, this business better start making more money, or I`m shutting it down.

He gave them an ultimatum. That came from Weisselberg, not from Trump. We think of Trump being the guy who runs around telling people, you`re fired. In real life, a lot of times it was Weisselberg who was the enforcer.

He was not just the bean counter. He had a lot of power within the organization to determine what businesses were going to do what, which ones would actually go forward and which ones would be shut down.

MELBER: Michael?

STEELE: First off, I`m not going to clap back on the assistant attorney general. That`s number one. So, the brother, he`s got the cred.


SNELL: Thank you.

STEELE: I`m going to rely on that street credit on the point.

But, two, he actually just made the point I was probably not that well- articulating. And that is, at the end of the day, Trump is in the game, but he`s removed from the game. In other words, he`s in the process, but he`s removed from it. He creates that distance that, when stuff goes south, he can go, well, that wasn`t my decision. Weisselberg made that decision.

He was running these operations. He was the one who made the financial determination to do XYZ, to open something up or shut it down. It is that part of this process that -- to the first point, where Weisselberg goes, yes, but we know how the communication goes in Trump world, right?

So I act, understanding what it is you want done. And whether -- if he comes forward and says, well, time-out, let me just clarify how this communication process work, yes, I made the decision, but here are the series of conversations I had with Trump, in which it was either relayed to me indirectly or directly what strategy I should take.

So, if he does that, then all hell breaks loose, it opens up the game. But if he keeps it tight, that`s where I`m like, I don`t know how much they`re going to be able to land on Trump. They will get Weisselberg. But I don`t know how much they will be able to land on Trump.

But I`m not in the case. So I rely on the attorney general who did prosecute the university case.


MELBER: So let`s go Tristan and then Professor.

SNELL: Yes. No, I agree with that. I think the kicker is, that is Trump`s defense, is,basically, I had nothing to do with that it was Allen`s problem, or it was the finance department`s problem.

I think the danger for Weisselberg there, as a number of other observers have pointed out, is that Trump could just throw Weisselberg under the bus here. So, Weisselberg, if he wants to actually come out of this OK, if he thinks showing up to work every day is going to somehow endear him to Trump and that Trump will take care of him, it doesn`t matter.

Trump ultimately doesn`t have loyalty about any of the other people around him. We will see about how loyal he is to his own children. But right now, he`s never really shown much loyalty to anybody that works for him. So we will see.


SNELL: He could just decide that he`s going to use Weisselberg as the scapegoat. So I very much agree with that.

MELBER: Professor?

MURRAY: I think this all goes to the question of what the prosecutors are going to be able to prove here.

And, as Michael Steele says, the fact that Trump has managed to keep himself somewhat removed from the operation of all these businesses makes everything hinge on what Allen Weisselberg will provide by way of information, and how much Allen Weisselberg is really willing to go to the mattresses to preserve his relationship with Donald Trump or to save his own skin.

So, again, it really depends on what the prosecutors know about Weisselberg, what Weisselberg is willing to turn over and ultimately how that connects, if at all, to former President Trump.

MELBER: Melissa Murray, Tristan Snell, and Michael Steele on all the angles, thanks to each of you.

Michael comes back later.

Coming up, as mentioned, President Obama going at Republicans over voting rights and obstruction, Democrats going after McConnell, saying there`s a huge test tomorrow.

The fight to be the next top prosecutor in Manhattan, meanwhile, is shaping up, voting tomorrow. A major candidate will join with us here on THE BEAT tonight.

And Adam Schiff, as mentioned on accountability -- that`s coming up.


MELBER: Voters rejected Donald Trump`s Republican Party in the last election.

But, since then, Republican politicians have been trying to, well, reject the voters, 14 states passing new limits on voting, over 300 other proposals pending. Democrats pushing back with a major bill to protect voting rights in the Senate tomorrow, but Republicans are condemning the plan, among other things, on the grounds of states` rights.


SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): It`s a federal takeover of our election system.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It`s the biggest power grab in the history of the country. It`s just a bad idea.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There`s no rational basis for the federal government trying to take over all of American elections.


MELBER: The Democratic Party has featured many powerful advocates for the constitutional and political potency of voting rights, from John Lewis to Stacey Abrams to Barack Obama, who often stays out of daily politics, but is speaking out now, linking this current GOP crackdown to the authoritarian impulses of the January 6 insurrection.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the aftermath of an insurrection, with our democracy on the line, and many of these same Republican senators going along with the notion that somehow there were irregularities and problems with legitimacy in our most recent election, they`re suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and figure out solutions on the floor of the Senate.

They don`t even want to talk about voting. And that`s not acceptable.


MELBER: The former president is referring to the crackdown by Republicans and their inability to even talk or debate the Democratic plan to mandate voter registration, expand mail-in voting, limit the controversial practice of gerrymandering and make other reforms, like restoring voting rights to people who serve time, and adding barriers to stop those very state level crackdowns I mentioned.

Now, the context for the crackdowns in many of these states gets racial in a hurry. Take the pivotal state of Georgia, where traditionally conservative voters just handed the Senate to Democrats. There are these local purges. They don`t always make national news, but they have already ousted 10 elections officials, most of them Democrats, and most of those officials racial minorities.

Tomorrow`s battle is about voting rights. It`s about America`s atavistic racism. It`s also -- when you think about it, and you see what`s coming down the pike, it`s about more than that. The Democratic Party`s liberal wing is saying, enough is enough, and now is the time.

And if the GOP can use anti-democratic tactics like the filibuster to block even a floor vote on the rules that would protect democracy itself, then there is no more urgent time to reform those very obstruction tactics, that this would be the time.

So we`re going to dig into all of it, the voting rights and the future of the Senate and really the Biden agenda -- when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: We are back with former RNC Chairman and MSNBC analyst Michael Steele.

Michael, I just walked through some of the stuff here that I think everybody knows, because I think the battle lines on voting are pretty clear, and then the political intrigue about Biden facing a party and a grassroots here that really wants to go hard.

Your thoughts on all of this, what we`re going to see in the Senate tomorrow?

STEELE: Well, what you`re going to see, I think, is the first part of a political ballet that the Democrats are going to try to perform, if you will. They will put this vote up.

I think they have an idea of where it`s going to go. I think all of us, to your audiences and the country, we understand one thing that`s true. There is no political incentive for Republicans to agree to anything, whether it is or voting or anything else.

And specifically in this space, given what`s happening at the state level, to hear McConnell and others scream that this is an affront to the Constitution, it`s a grab for power, what the hell do you think state legislators are doing around the country?

You saw the election unfold in these various states. They didn`t like the outcome. They didn`t like the fact that the Democrats were able to put together a coalition and win in their states, like Georgia. So what do they want to do? They want to grab the power back and rewrite the rules.

So talk to the political hand about that. We don`t really -- we don`t -- we know you`re not serious. So what the Democrats now have to figure out is, in the first part of this ballet, when we put it all on the table, we show you the grand stage, right, everything, do they now come back and say OK, Mitch, you don`t like the whole package, here is bill sub-one on that?

Carve it out. Take out the various sections of the voting bill and put that in front of Republicans and say, all right, do you want to do this? Do you want to do that? Where do you draw the line on what you will support in addressing the voting problems that we have in the country, that you claim we have, number one, and, number two, how we better enfranchise the American people access the battle about bots and incentivize them to do it.

That, I think, is going to be an interesting opportunity. Whether or not Democrats are able to take advantage of it in this first round, we will see, I think you don`t stop at just putting the voting bill, whether it`s the John Lewis bill or Senate Bill 1 or whatever, H.R.1, whatever it is, put the initial thing out there, and then break it into smaller bite-sized chunks, and watch the Republicans choke on it.

MELBER: Shout-out to the talk to the hand reference, first of all.


MELBER: I think your approach to the legislative strategy is very interesting, because it is a question of where people stand.

And then the racial component is so glaring. Although there`s certainly plenty of Republican officials who are on record who just want to make it hard to vote and sheet for partisan reasons, there`s also the racial overlay coming amidst this symbolic breakthrough on Juneteenth, which brings us to some of the way that was playing out in the country, because you do have some Republicans who are trying to have it both ways, or they still don`t want to get -- they don`t want to be outed as too publicly obviously against certain racial justice initiatives.

But we see how they vote. So this was a little moment people may not have seen yet from very right-wing Senator Ron Johnson. Take a look.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I support celebrating the emancipation of the slaves. I just didn`t really understand why the only way to do that is to give two million federal health care workers, cost $600 million a year, a day off, but, apparently, the rest of Congress wants to do that. So I won`t stand in the way.



MELBER: We put that together for the context, because he`s sort of against it, but then said, OK, and was then roundly booed when he showed up.

I`m curious what you think, especially given your history in the Republican Party and trying to move it on some of these issues, because there are those who look at that and say, well, at least he showed up. But there`s a lot more people in the country right now who say, well, we got big problems to fix. And that means doing the work.

STEELE: Yes, we do have big problems to fix.

And it requires the work. But can we just be honest? They don`t want to do the work. They don`t even want to have the debate. I mean, I can see if Ron Johnson, like, you know what, I`m going to support S.R.1, put it on the floor, because I want to debate what`s in this bill, and I want to let the American people know why I think XYZ, or I want to -- in the debate about Juneteenth or anything else, I want to tell you why I think it`s a waste of public funds to give federal employees another holiday off.

OK, let`s have the debate. But you don`t want to do that, because there is no upside for you, because, as my momma would say, your ass is exposed, right? You`re exposed at that point. What do you do? What do you do when you`re exposed politically to the truth?

And so that`s what the Ron Johnsons in the world -- of the world are at right now. That`s where they are. They don`t want to have the debate. They don`t -- that does not help them. It goes back to the first point. There is no incentive to have the debate.

It is much easier to send out the Marjorie Taylor Greenes and have them go out and scream and yell and grift and get the residual benefit from that, than it is to actually engage in a conscientious debate with your political opponents, not enemies, your political opponents, who may have a different political, philosophical, or ideological perspective on policy.

That`s what we used to do. But these guys don`t want to do that. And the race issue really trips them up, because that`s just all kinds of gnarly entanglements that they don`t want to have to discuss. That`s what -- why they they`re trying to use the critical race theory as a sledgehammer, and they`re hitting themselves in the head with a 40-year-old policy -- or not policy, but idea, discussion that occurs at the college level.

They`re talking about, oh, my grade school students, I don`t want -- that shows how ignorant they are about basic stuff.


STEELE: And instead of learning, they just retrench and react.

MELBER: Yes. All fair points, which is why I wanted to check in with you on this. And it`s going to be the big story tomorrow as well.

Good to have you on more than one topic, Michael. Appreciate it.

STEELE: Always, my friend.

MELBER: Thank you, sir.

Still to come, the election that could set the course for the Trump Org criminal probe. We have a major candidate running to be DA on the eve of tomorrow`s vote in New York.

And, as promised, Adam Schiff saying it`s time for more accountability. He is pressing this Justice Department. And he`s my guest next.


MELBER: Turning to accountability and the new call from a powerful Democrat for answers.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff joins me now. He`s been calling on the Biden DOJ to undertake an extensive, full review of alleged abuses during the Trump era of the Justice Department. Schiff also became part of all of this news with reports that his phone records were seized or swept up by investigators with the Justice Department under then President Trump.

Congressman, thanks for being here.

Let`s start with what you`re calling for from this Garland Justice Department and what, if anything so far they have given you or told you they`re going to do.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, they have referred the matter to the inspector general of the Justice Department to look into this broad sweep of records belonging to members of the press and media organizations, as well as records belonging to members of Congress and committee staff and family members.

But I really want the attorney general to go beyond that. The abuses during the department included very graphic interference by the president in specific cases in which he was implicated, for example, urging the Justice Department to lower the sentencing recommendation of someone, Roger Stone, and a close associate of his who lied to our committee during our investigation of the president.

And Bill Barr acted on that, reduced his sentence. The president later pardoned him. Similarly, the president intervened with Michael Flynn, another -- this time the former national security adviser the president, someone who pled guilty to repeatedly to federal crimes. And, in that case, Bill Barr and the Justice Department made that case go away.

So it goes well beyond anything impacting Congress or the press to very specific abuses, and essentially authorizing a criminal investigation of the people who were investigating him in the case of what Bill Barr did in authorizing John Durham to move forward with his probe.

MELBER: With the questions that you have posed to the Garland Justice Department about the nature of that surveillance, have you gotten all the answers that you need at this point?

SCHIFF: No, we really haven`t gotten any answers. We still aren`t sure, what was the predicate for seeking congressional records? Did they know whose records they were seeking? Were they seeking only Democrats` records or also Republicans?

We haven`t been able to get any answers to that. And I`m not sure that we will before the inspector general concludes their report.

But certain things need to take place now, and that is, I think, the need to put in much stronger safeguards to make sure that their leak investigations or any kind of investigations aren`t essentially broad fishing expeditions, don`t intrude on people`s First Amendment rights in the media, but also don`t violate separation of powers concerns when it comes to a co-equal branch of government.

MELBER: Barr and Sessions have issued various forms of denials of knowing about or being involved in this. Do you take them at their word?

SCHIFF: Well, look, you can`t take them at their word because they have demonstrated too often their word doesn`t mean very much.

In the case of Bill Barr, federal judges have repeatedly stated how he has been misleading with the court and with the country. And we know that, of course, he lied to the country about what was in the Mueller report.

So we can`t take them at their word. But I will tell you this. It`s either one kind of problem or another. They are either involved and knowing and deliberately trying to go after the president`s enemies and critics, or they were not knowing, in which case someone at the department was running these investigations, and apparently violating DOJ policy by not getting the required approvals.

I don`t tend to think that`s very likely, given what a priority the president and Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions put on leak investigations. The idea that they wouldn`t know that members of Congress were being swept up in this seems pretty farfetched.


And, finally, Congressman, you have been diligent and sort of following the rules and the process, the inspector general report, as you mentioned, plus a further review. You`re also telling us, though, that, at this point, Attorney General Garland has not provided you any of even the basic information.

And that`s quite striking, given both that you were apparently swept up in it, and also that you have an important role in oversight, where there is a legal process for that.

And so I guess my final question is, at what point, are we there yet or not, that you call on the new president, President Biden, who I know you agree with on many things, to, at a policy level, not individual cases, get more involved in changing the way the DOJ runs?

Or are we are -- are you not at that point yet?

SCHIFF: Well, we are at a very similar point.

I introduced legislation last year, which we will be reintroducing I hope within the next month, something called Protecting Our Democracy Act. It`s a comprehensive package of what I`m calling our own post-Watergate reforms to strengthen the independence of the Justice Department, to strengthen enforcement of the Emoluments Clause, so a president can`t enrich themselves in office, to strengthen the Hatch Act, so that a president can draft the federal work force to work on their campaign, to protect inspector generals, a whole host of other protections.

And I have to say, we`re getting some pushback from the administration that is treating -- acting as executives do and trying to protect executive prerogative. But after the abuses of the last four years, I would hope that President Biden and others within the administration and Justice Department would recognize there`s a higher priority here, and that is making sure that our system of checks and balances works.

And if that means making sure the Congress can do its oversight, that`s what needs to happen. And so I hope we will get movement from them. But I`m determined to push forward regardless.

MELBER: Very interesting to get your views and your candor on all of that, including what you call the pushback from the Biden White House.

Congressman Adam Schiff, as always, thank you, sir.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

MELBER: And up ahead, we turn to the election that could make or break this Trump Org trial, plus talk of police reform, a new mayor, a new DA.

We have a special guest on this next.


MELBER: This could determine the course of any potential Trump Org trial.

The big race, the primary for Manhattan`s next DA, is tomorrow, along with the elections for mayor. Now, whoever wins the DA race could inherit one of the biggest legal cases in our nation`s history. Current DA, Cy Vance, has been digging into Trump Org, but leaves office at the end of this year.

Early voting is already under way.


WALLACE: Manhattan DA Cy Vance.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, NBC NEWS SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Whose office is investigating former President Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He will not run for reelection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eight candidates are vying for the district attorney seat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tali Farhadian Weinstein and Alvin Bragg.

ALVIN BRAGG, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY CANDIDATE: I`m the candidate in the race who has the experience with Donald Trump.

ELIZA ORLINS, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY CANDIDATE: I`m Eliza Orlins. I`m the only public defender in this race.

LUCY LANG, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY CANDIDATE: Lucy Lang, formerly an assistant DA in Vance`s office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A Vance exit would mean a new Manhattan DA in the spotlight.


MELBER: On election eve, we are joined by a big name, New York DA candidate Alvin Bragg. He`s considered one of the front-runners and has worked in the New York attorney general`s office and the famed SDNY.

Thanks for being here.

BRAGG: Thank you so much for having me tonight.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Crime is going up in New York City, as well as other big cities. How would you tackle that as DA?

BRAGG: Look, I have lived in Harlem my whole life.

I`m no stranger to violence. I had a gun pointed at me six times by the time I was 21, three by the police and three by people who weren`t police. I was a federal prosecutor, you mentioned, in the SDNY, doing gun cases. And as chief deputy of the New York attorney general`s office, we developed a portal that I would use as DA.

We examined every gun found at a crime scene in the state of New York and traced it back to its last lawful sale from a licensed firearm dealer, mostly shops down South. It`s a literal blueprint for how we can focus on gun interdiction, and I plan to operationalize it were I to become district attorney.

MELBER: If you were to win tomorrow, you would be inheriting this big Trump Org investigation.

What should voters know about your approach to that? Would you be as aggressive as DA Vance? Or might you look at the case from scratch anew?

BRAGG: Well, voters should know that I have spent a career following the facts wherever they go.

So, I`m a public corruption prosecutor. I prosecuted the majority leader of the state Senate. I prosecuted two mayors, one for bribery, one for campaign finance fraud. And, at the attorney general`s office, I led the team that held Trump and his children accountable for their misconduct with the Trump Foundation.

So I go where the facts go. I do know that, in complex investigations, I have come into them late in the stage before, been brought in to try complex cases. It`s important to have consistency and continuity. I know the team that`s been established by reputation is great, and certainly would look at everything with the new eye, as would be my responsibility, but, certainly, given my experience, would expect to keep that team intact, given the -- what I understand to be the complexity of that matter.

MELBER: You mentioned going after mayors.

But an ex-president is different. It is more pressure. Do you believe that this office, the DA, has the legal authority to indict an ex-president, if warranted?

BRAGG: Oh, certainly. I actually haven`t heard any colorable argument to the contrary, in terms of the legal authority to investigate and prosecute a former president, certainly not on these facts, which, as I understand them to be, are ones unrelated to the presidency.

MELBER: Well, James Comey, for example, has said that, basically, he thinks it`s not a good idea, prudentially, as lawyers say, to go forward with cases against the ex-president, in relation the fact that he is the ex-president, even if the conduct, as you mentioned, occurred in New York, not pursuant to the White House.

BRAGG: Yes, so I -- yes, I`m familiar with those prudential arguments.

I think that the better part of that argument is that we can`t have a system where anyone is above the law, all right? That is a bedrock principle of our entire judicial system, one standard of justice for all. I have been fighting for that for 20-plus years.

And so while I certainly understand former Director Comey`s prudential argument, I think there`s offsetting principles that really outweigh it, that we have to hold everyone accountable, should the facts take us there.


Well, Alvin Bragg, we have been talking to a couple different candidates. You are considered one of the front-runners or a major candidate. We will see what happens tomorrow.

As with everyone, I wish you all luck, and thanks for coming on THE BEAT.

BRAGG: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

And everyone in New York should go vote tomorrow.

MELBER: That`s something we can definitely agree on.

Anyone in New York, go vote. I did my early vote yesterday, for those who are curious.

Thank you, Mr. Bragg.

What we`re turning to next is something that I actually can say I know will interest a lot of you watching THE BEAT, because I have heard from a lot of you watching THE BEAT about this. It started with a conversation with Ben and Jerry`s about police reform.

And now we`re going into Beyonce, Busta, John Lennon, and your ideas on THE BEAT -- when we come back.


MELBER: After the long, tough slog of 2020 and 2021, many people are finally enjoying summer right now, states ending all COVID restrictions, people venturing out into the streets And the parks for fun, for revelry, for ice cream, which brings us to a follow-up to a story we first brought you not long ago, when the iconic Ben and Jerry`s stopped by to discuss police reform, ethical consumerism and ice cream.

We covered the filling ratio and where Cherry Garcia got its name.


JERRY GREENFIELD, CO-FOUNDER, BEN & JERRY`S: All I know is people, seem to be purchasing and enjoying Ben and Jerry`s ice cream.

BEN COHEN, CO-FOUNDER, BEN & JERRY`S: sometimes, there would be like, pints that were like 80 percent Heath bars.

What we have got is the best of both worlds.

Cherry Garcia, man, that was the -- that was really the first living flavor.

We had a suggestion from a customer who wrote in anonymously that you should come out with the flavor called Cherry Garcia.

MELBER: I love that. It came from a Deadhead ice cream eater.


MELBER: Somewhere, a Deadhead was listening to Jerry, thinking about ice cream. And that late-night brainstorm actually became a reality, which is pretty wild if you think about it.

So we asked you all for other ideas for musical ice cream flavors. And messages from BEAT viewers have been pouring in online. We actually got thousands.

There are artists that cry out for a flavor, like Fiona Apple and "Strawberry Fields Forever," to a BEATnik who recommends having Depeche Mode a la Mode. Get it?

Now, with no further ado, let`s get into your top 10 flavor ideas all from BEAT viewers. Several people suggested honoring artists who are no longer with us. John Lemmon comes in at number 10 from viewer John Alpert (ph).

Then there is the idea for a Chocolate Chipsey Hussle, a tribute to the late rapper and father of two from BEAT viewer Donovan Healy (ph).

Another idea, I Heard It Through the Grape Sorbet, a shout-out to the late, great Marvin Gaye. That`s courtesy of Old Yeller on Twitter.

Or turning to only, Ben and Jerry`s were here rebuking the legal immunity for police. Viewer Cortez Santini (ph) suggests a Defund the Peach Cobbler.

And, at number six, there`s this punk, Rock the Cashew from The Clash. That`s from Danny@Mardigroan on Twitter.

So, already, right here, you see some great ideas. Ben and Jerry, are you listening?

So, the top five are strong as well.

Kevin Lang (ph) is not waiting on any ice cream companies to act. He already started making his own art for his idea you see here of a Busta Limes flavor. Mr. Lang tells us it has to be sherbert because he`s lactose- intolerant.

Shout-out to all the people having a good time without lactose.

And, Kevin, maybe we will tell Busta about this the next time he`s here.


BUSTA RHYMES, MUSICIAN: And when something greater than your clock is working, that`s when it kind of feels like it`s a divine thing happening.


MELBER: We feel that, well, some of your brainstorms have been divine.

Other viewers suggest The Real Cream Shady With Extra M&Ms for the rapper Eminem, of course.

And we also got ideas for Wu Tang Flan for a group that`s always been about that cream.

Or David Bowie`s famous Ziggy Stardust character gets a nomination with a suggested chocolate and vanilla swirl with gold flakes and chunks of chocolate covered toffee. You guys got specific.

Now, we had suggested that we do the musicians, because we learned about that Deadhead who came up with Cherry Garcia.

But another viewer branched out to suggest something that is meaningful to me and so many of us who love "Curb," who love comedy, who love one of our original BEATniks, Richard Lewis.


RICHARD LEWIS, COMEDIAN: These are my anti-Trump depression glasses.

Tell you brother, if he continues to bug me about going to a deli, I`m going to snap thing.

You would have been Kerouac`s favorite show.

MELBER: What`s his Twitter handle?

LEWIS: Huh? I`m dead. That`s his Twitter handle.




MELBER: I`m dead. That`s his Twitter handle.

So, from BEAT viewer Tom Rapier, the nomination is for Richard Lewis High Anxiety Fudge Crunch, which begs the question, does the flavor give you anxiety or treat it? Well, if it ever gets made, you can decide.

Now, as I mentioned, these ideas were all posted online. Anyone could read them.

And it turns out Richard already has, and he`s just responded, suggesting the name be the Richard Lewis Death Wish Spectacular With Nuts and, as you see at the end there, miniature coffee coffins.

Shout-out to Richard Lewis, and we love your sense of humor. Keep it light.

Finally, @kerry_jae tweeted her idea for a tribute to both Beyonce and her fans. She calls it Beyonce Bee Hive. And the recipe is honey ice cream with waffle cone chocolate-covered almonds and a lemon ginger swirl.

As Beyonce might say, that sounds like an upgrade.

I really enjoyed this. We had no idea how into so many of you would get. I mean, these sound like real actionable recipes.

So, I want to thank everyone for being so creative. We will see if any ice cream makers take you up on the ideas. It did happen with Cherry Garcia.

I want to thank everyone for making this actually our most popular BEAT question ever.

And so we want to keep it going a little bit. Our next question tonight is, dun-duh-dun-duh, what ice cream captures the year 2020 and 2021? What ice cream, in your view, captures 2020 -- we all know what that was like -- and the time we`re living through now?

And as you can see on your screen, you can always tell me. Write @AriMelber on any social media. You post your flavors that capture these years. That`s @AriMelber. Or you can also always connect with me directly at, where you can subscribe to my newsletter. Just type into your browser and keep the ideas coming.

And I will tell you, full disclosure, we are ending the program slightly early tonight because we wanted to get through all the ice cream ideas.

So, I will just say, before I go to Joy Reid, that the Internet is a funny place, because, sometimes, when I post something about law, or politics, or a Supreme Court ruling, there`s like three replies, and two of them are from, like, bots.

But when we asked you about music and ice cream, we got a lot of replies, as mentioned, which I think reminds us something that we already knew, which is ice cream and music are much more beloved than just about all the stuff we talk about on the news. And that`s OK.

So, thanks for watching THE BEAT.

I want to toss the program off to my good friend, "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID," who is up next.

Hi, Joy.


OK, so, first of all, the answer to your question is Rocky Road, clearly. And that`s the ice cream, right, from last year.


REID: And the other thing is, how am I supposed to have hot vac summer if now I want ice cream? Because now all I want to do is sit and eat an entire tub of ice cream.

You are undermining my progress.

MELBER: I am -- I don`t mean to undermine anyone`s progress.

I will say the Ben and Jerry`s, it`s at that size where, sometimes, like, if I have started it the night before, then, the next night, I just finished the carton.


MELBER: But then I look and realize that was supposed to be like eight servings. So, I feel you.

REID: I wish that I could do that. I just eat it all. I just finish it all.

Thank you very much. I appreciate it -- the whole tub, it`s just gone.

MELBER: Thanks, Joy.

REID: Thank you very much, Ari. I appreciate it.

Have a wonderful rest of your evening.