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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/3/21

Guests: Corinne Ramey, Nancy Erika Smith, Ezekiel Emanuel, Richard Durbin


Senator Richard Durbin discusses the Trump DOJ probe. Is Donald Trump losing influence over not only the country, but the Republican Party? President Biden pleads once again with Americans to get vaccinated. A scathing report alleges New York Governor Cuomo sexually harassed 11 different women.



Hi, Ari.


Two hours of Nicolle. The only thing better is three. We will see you at 9:00.


MELBER: I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we have a lot in the news tonight.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a member of leadership for the Democratic Party, Senator Durbin, is here as the Trump DOJ probe preps for witnesses. So that`s tonight.

Also, we have a special report on new signs that Donald Trump is losing influence over not only the country, but the Republican Party. We will explain, with the evidence.

And Governor Cuomo under investigation here with a new report. We have that for you later in the program.

But we begin with the president imploring the unvaccinated to go ahead and do it, get the shot, pay attention, as he discusses and as everyone is seeing how this deadly Delta variant of COVID is surging in different parts of the country, President Biden calling out some Republican governors for standing in the way of what he calls an urgent fight to save lives.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And worst of all, some state officials are passing laws or signing orders that forbid people from doing the right thing.

As of now, seven states not only ban mask mandates, but also ban them in their school districts.

I say to these governors, please help. But if you aren`t going to help, at least get out of the way.


MELBER: That is tough talk, but put in that Bidenesque way, full of empathy, but he`s literally telling people like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis: Get out of the way. Let me handle this. Don`t make it worse for the very least of the requests that the federal government might make of governors.

DeSantis, though, a Trump favorite down in Florida, continuing to vow to fight these safety measures. His state, though, is hitting a record, more than 11,000 people in Florida rushed to hospitals over COVID, meaning it`s worse today in Florida than it`s ever been since we got COVID-19, when it first spread around the world starting in 2019.

The governor is not trying to thwart the surge in ways that medical experts tell us what work. He`s also now taking it further and threatening to defund a district that is following safety measures like masks, and also downplaying the spike as the unvaccinated fill up Florida hospitals.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You know, I just sick of this judge -- I`m sick of the judgment, the judgmental stuff on some of this stuff. Nobody`s trying to get ill here, OK?


MELBER: That`s the pushback with a bit of a fake response there. The issue isn`t whether people are trying. The issue is whether the state is doing what has been proven in these tough sort of year-and-a-half-plus period of time to curb the spread of COVID.

There are things that we know work. And it is certainly a remarkable and disturbing event when the government that you pay for to keep you safe is basically refusing to even do those things.

Now, that is a kind of a broad view of it. There are other state officials in Florida who argue that the approach that the governor there is taking is dangerous. That includes one of the people running to replace him.


NIKKI FRIED (D), FLORIDA COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE: He`s being extremely irresponsible, and is not doing everything possible to protect our families and protect our communities.

And, unfortunately, our governor, again, is only taking a hands-off approach, but very dangerous, spreading a lot of misinformation, and really should, instead of being yelling at reporters, should be taking the opportunity to educate the people of our state.


MELBER: Now, this is not just about which particular state has it worse or even political policies.

New York City has a higher vaccination rate, but it has announced today it`s going to tighten up some rules, requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining, gyms and concerts, as a way to try to get a hold of this.

President Biden says it`s a pandemic of the unvaccinated. We`re also seeing each day who`s getting vaccinated and who`s not, and where the lag is, because you need to hit a certain level for any of this to work long-term.

So, for example, when people sort by party, 92 percent of Democrats are vaccinated, but Republicans on one list, according to polling by Monmouth - - this is somewhat self-reported -- are down at 51 percent. So either they`re not getting vaccinated or a lot of them are claiming not to get vaccinated when they speak to pollsters; 99 percent of COVID hospitalizations now are among the unvaccinated.


And that has nothing to do with polling. That is a medical fact of who is bearing the brunt of this. It`s not, let me be clear, about antagonizing anyone for their personal decisions. Indeed, it is more of a point of concern we`re hearing from health experts, from doctors and, yes, from many in government, including the president today.

They are pleading with people who have chosen up to this point to hold back on getting vaccinated for whatever reason, look around. The people in the hospitals, the record-breaking hospital rate in Florida, these are people who haven`t gotten vaccinated yet. That`s a fact.

For more facts, we bring in Dr. Zeke Emanuel. He`s vice provost of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania. He also advised President Obama on medical and ethical issues, and Juanita Tolliver, an MSNBC contributor and Washington-based analyst.

Doctor, there`s so many aspects to this, but I want to begin with what President Biden is doing. We reported last night he`s going all the way from TikTok to any place that people are getting information to, today, I would call it empathetic brawling. I mean, he called out Republicans, but from a position of, please get out of the way and let me try to save lives.

What do you think is important here in something that has become really a challenge of reaching the people who remain unvaccinated?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: Well, as you point out, there`s been a big surge among unvaccinated people. And if you get COVID, and you`re unvaccinated, your chances are much higher, 25-fold higher, of ending up in the hospital, and, unfortunately, a much more serious outcome, and, God forbid, including death.

And so I think the president is very concerned. His administration, I think, deserves a huge amount of praise. They have made the vaccine accessible. You can go to almost any pharmacy and get the vaccine. They have made it free. States are -- with encouragement from the federal government, some of them are providing financial incentives of $100 to get vaccinated.

We have educated the public. And now they`re pleading with the public. And I think he`s also said to governor DeSantis, you have got to encourage people. There`s been a lot of misinformation put out by a lot of Republicans, mainly, and then inhibitions by, you can`t require the vaccine for, say, cruise ships, you can`t require masking in schools.

These are -- I think the president is 100 percent right -- not helpful directions. We should be encouraging people to get vaccinated any which way, including by mandates, and mandating masking, especially when indoors for prolonged periods of time.

MELBER: Doctor, I want to ask you something that we have posed to other experts, but we think it`s a worthwhile question.

What do you say to someone who says, well, they were holding out, they were waiting, or they were waiting, and they don`t like feeling pushed into things, they don`t like feeling like now it`s become something that they`re being told they should be ashamed of, or it`s going to be required somewhere?

There`s a long-running American spirit of a certain plucky individualism. So I say that with all with all respect. If somebody is engaging a friend on Facebook or catching up with someone, and they hear, yes, I haven`t gotten it yet, what do you think is the best way to responsibly, but respectfully engage them on that decision?

EMANUEL: Well, I think it`s important to find out the underlying why you haven`t gotten it, and to not get them to dig in their heels and try to justify their decision.

Many people, it`s either disinformation. They`re going to have to pay for it. We know that there`s still a lot of people who believe that. False. It can cause fertility problems. False. It can get into your DNA. False. So just try to marshal the facts there.

I do think that this isn`t about individualism, because your not being vaccinated affects everyone around you. It affects obviously your own health, it affects your family, it affects your community, it affects other people walking around. This isn`t about just me, I want to do whatever I want.

You are part of a whole. And with infectious diseases, what you do affects other people. And that`s where freedom really ends. The other thing I would say is that polling does suggest that, if employers mandate a vaccine, people follow.

I just actually was on the phone today with the head of the Houston Methodist Hospital, the first major hospital to come out with a mandate. And he said there was a lot of noise, but very few, very few, 150 people out of 26,000 employees, who decided they didn`t want the vaccine and would find employment somewhere else. He said they didn`t notice it in just their normal turnover.

And I think that actually turns out to be right. If employers mandate it, most people are going to get it and not quit their job or try to find another job.

MELBER: Yes, and I appreciate that on the -- this is a conversation we`re having in all sorts of ways the doctor brings up, Juanita, which is about freedom and responsibility.

You have the freedom to listen to whatever you want. And if you want to blast Tom Petty as high as your earphones will go, you`re good. But if you want to -- shout-out to Tom Petty.



MELBER: But if you want to go out in the middle of the street at 3:00 in the morning with your biggest speaker and blast Tom Petty and wake up the whole neighborhood, this is a free country, but you don`t have the freedom to do that.

They will call cops in a lot of neighborhoods. They will come and give you a ticket. And if you keep resisting, this -- there is a limit to even something as simple as that. And that volume of Tom Petty, whether you like it or not, is nothing compared to the volume of viral load if you want to run around and spread COVID. So freedom does have limits.

I`m curious what you think about that political -- or call it political ideological aspect, Juanita, of the medical crisis that we`re facing with Delta surging.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, Ari, we`re having that play out in real time in states like Texas and Florida.

What you said, yes, it was an empathetic brawl from Biden today in calling them out for the one-third of new national COVID cases that are just in those two states alone. And I, of course, would have gone a little harder there than Biden did. But what he did was he pleaded with them to save lives, because that`s what`s ultimately at stake here, Ari.

And so while I wish this wasn`t political at all, I wish this was about the humanity and reality of the people who are losing their lives and family members who are losing loved ones, that is what`s playing out in states like Texas and Florida.

That is what ultimately is behind a lot of the misinformation and the lies that we`re seeing circulate, whether that`s on social media, whether that`s on conservative media, wherever it is. And so what it comes back to is this need to, again, prioritize -- because, as Biden said today, the president said, this is fully preventable.

We have enough vaccines to vaccinate every person in this country.


TOLLIVER: But they`re choosing not to.

And so this uphill battle against misinformation and conspiracy theories is one that is going to take a while to wear down, Ari, because once you get people squarely in the mind-set of, this is wrong, I refuse, getting them off of that ledge is important.

And I appreciate the doctor for emphasizing that recent polling that said one in three unvaccinated people said, if their employer required it, or if it was required for a sporting event that was held indoors, they`d get the vaccine.

So I say it`s time to put away the carrots and really bring out the stick, bring out the mandates, and stop trying to plead with people and actually show up in a way that we know is going to impact their day-to-day lives.


TOLLIVER: If they refuse to accept the reality and the science of the vaccine, we know they will respond to an employer or an activity they enjoy doing being taken away from them.

MELBER: Yes, and you said you appreciate the doctor.

Dr. Emanuel was well-known as the third most famous of the Emanuel family, after Rahm and our namesake, Ari. Then you have a pandemic and, suddenly, who is mom`s favorite now, Doctor? I mean, come on.


MELBER: You`re doing real work.

So I want to play something out of Florida, where one of our reporters have been out there. Doctor, the other challenge here is getting people to understand something that they are tired of, which we get, that they are fatigued by, and that, like all medical scientific stories, at times gets very confusing.

So we have tried to come up with a number of ways.

Kerry -- Kelly Alexander -- excuse me -- Kerry Sanders, who a lot of us know, is out there. And he`s talking to folks on the ground, including how young people are reacting and hearing about this as it evolves. Let`s take a quick look at this.


KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: What is that awakening like when they realize?

DR. AHARON SARELI, MEMORIAL HOSPITAL MIRAMAR: It`s so tragic for us to see it, because, at that stage, it`s too late. It`s too late at that stage to effectively fight this virus.


MELBER: That`s the front lines, Doctor. And that`s with regard to some people who are not in the worst at-risk, older pool who then find out that they`re actually in trouble, and, as said there, it`s too late.


EMANUEL: Yes, I think that it`s a terrible tragedy.

Just imagine. We have something that`s lifesaving for you. And you`re not willing to take it, even though it`s free. Who could imagine such a situation? I mean, it is very befuddling to get into the head of people who just aren`t willing to take this vaccine, despite everything that`s been done.

And I think that`s what you`re seeing. When they get seriously ill, then they suddenly say, oh, then give me the vaccine. Unfortunately, medicine doesn`t work that way. I believe it was Ben Franklin. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, for many patients, unfortunately, we don`t even have the pound of cure.

And so getting that vaccine that has been so safe -- I mean, we have to remember more than 160 million Americans have gotten it, with very, very few side effects, especially compared to the side effects of COVID, long COVID, cognitive fog, fatigue.


It is -- I mean, it really is a no-brainer to get that. And once people are very sick, unfortunately, we have very limited interventions for this illness.

Plus, I would say one last thing.


MELBER: Yes, go ahead.

EMANUEL: Given the transmissibility of this Delta vaccine -- virus, really, wearing a mask when you are going indoors in another place is not too much to ask.

We`re not talking about wearing a mask for eight hours a day. We`re talking about wearing a mask for the 15 minutes that you`re going into someone -- some other facility where you`re going to intersect with people you don`t know, where you don`t know the ventilation system.

Get one of the good masks, the N95 mask, and wear it properly over your nose, under your chin. That`s another thing you can do, not very onerous, to protect yourself over the long term. We really have to do our part.

This is part of freedom is doing your part for the community.

MELBER: Yes, Doctor, you have drawn a line from what was that new reporting in Florida, people saying, oh, yes, they`re looking for -- they`re looking for some way to clean it up, when they could have prevented it.

And you drew that line all the way back to Benjamin Franklin. Some of these are age-old pieces of wisdom. And a lot of people don`t know, when Diddy was saying it`s all about the Benjamins, some people think he was talking about Franklin on the 100.


MELBER: He was actually talking about the idea that an ounce of prevention is the way to go.



MELBER: A little trivia.

EMANUEL: Absolutely.

I mean, look, our forefathers knew about immunization, right? They knew about variolization with smallpox to prevent yourself from getting smallpox. Jefferson did it with his family. Jefferson -- Benjamin Franklin, unfortunately, did not do it with this child Francis, but did do it with Sally.

Francis died. And he was ever regretful of it. But he did variolize his daughter.


EMANUEL: Our forefathers, the founding fathers, knew the benefits of these vaccinations and knew that...


MELBER: Now I`m supposed to fit in a break.

But as you say, you`re reminding us of the history and also what people lived through and learning by example, and hopefully not learning by tragedy, as you remind us.

So, Dr. Emanuel, Juanita, on more than one point, thanks to each of you.

We have a lot more in the program, including why Donald Trump is losing primaries with the people he backed, Democrats tackling student debt.

And live on THE BEAT tonight, the number two Democrats, one of the most powerful people in Washington, Senator Durbin is here.

Stay with us.



MELBER: A big test for Donald Trump and his sway over the Republican Party tonight.

And this is amid some new and measurable signs of erosion, which range from the tangible, like a Trump-backed candidate losing a primary, to, frankly, the baroque, as Trump tries to burnish his conservative appeal by teaming up with a well-known conservative to do it live.


BILL O`REILLY, FORMER HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": Do it live! I -- go write it and we will do it live!


MELBER: Donald Trump is going on tour with that individual, Bill O`Reilly, but also reportedly struggling to even sell tickets for their big teamed-up tour, which has led to some fresh mockery.


SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": We should say the shows are in December, so they have plenty of time and could very well end up selling out. Who knows?

But, so far, it`s not going great. Let`s just say there was still a lot of seats left as of Friday morning. Yikes. We have more people in our audience, and we don`t have an audience.


MELBER: Meanwhile, polls will close in just over an hour in Ohio, where this Republican primary for a House seat is causing some very serious consternation among Trump advisers and Trump, with fears that Republican voters will again reject the Trump-endorsed candidate.

And that, if it happens tonight, would be the second straight week that Republican voters may rebuff Trump.


JOHN KING, CNN: Texas voters defy Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A special congressional election in Texas may have set the tone for the 2022 midterms, Congressman Jake Ellzey edging out President Trump-backed candidate Susan Wright for Texas` Sixth Congressional District.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is the first time a candidate backed by the former president has lost an election since Mr. Trump left office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is still being seen as a blow to the former president`s endorsement power.


MELBER: A blow to the president, and not one that can be easily hidden. You just saw coverage there on the networks, on FOX Business.

And, of course, if you live in those conservative areas, you know when the Trump candidate loses. And that`s not all. I mentioned several measurements.

You also have Republican senators turning against Donald Trump`s efforts to quarterback or ghostwrite Republican policy in the Biden era; 17 voted to advance the Biden deal that Trump proposed.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if the Democrats get some of the things they currently want passed, including the election of corrupt politicians act, and infrastructure, which isn`t infrastructure, it will get even worse.

What they`re asking for is incredible.


MELBER: So what`s going on here? Well, the narrative could be wrong again.

The Washington narrative has been that Donald Trump is super powerful, and there are certainly signs that Republicans are afraid of him. But are they right to be afraid?

A political strategist in front of THE BEAT Chai Komanduri argues it`s possible that the long-awaited demise of Donald Trump, even on the right, is beginning. The obedience Republicans still have for Trump, he emphasizes, is based on the idea that they believe he can still win.

Perception plays a role in that. If you can`t sell tickets, if your candidates lose, and if these Republican senators say, we heard your ideas, they suck, we`re going to work with Biden on a few things, what does that mean when you take it together?

Well, guess what? We`re going to go to the source itself, Chai Komanduri, a veteran of the Obama campaign, when we`re back in 60 seconds.



MELBER: With Trump in trouble, we turn to our deep dive political conversation, which takes place on a special day here on THE BEAT.

It`s known as "Chai Day," with political strategist Chai Komanduri, who worked on three presidential campaigns, including the Obama effort. And we`re indebted to him for several of the points we just raised.

Chai, I hope you will join me in doing it live.

CHAI KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, absolutely. I love joining you live, Ari.

MELBER: Here we are. We`re doing it live. That`s a deep cut, for those who remember.

As Trump struggles to sell O`Reilly-based tickets, the more memorable thing in Congress is losing that race last week and what`s up for tonight. What do you see here?

KOMANDURI: Yes, I mean, there`s been a lot of discussion about a GOP civil war. To be frank, there`s been no GOP civil war. It`s been a one-sided massacre of anti-Trumpists in the GOP.

However, I do think we are beginning to see green shoots emerge beneath the ice of Trump tribalism. I think you`re seeing it on multiple areas. You`re seeing it in this bipartisan infrastructure deal. You`re seeing it in the about-face that a lot of Republicans are doing on vaccinations.

And you`re also seeing it in the special elections, where Trump is proving of being unable to win GOP primaries in deep red states like Texas and Ohio. If he loses today, I think that those green shoots become full-grown trees. I think the question now becomes, can Trump win?

And I think the answer a lot of Republicans are going to come to is probably not. When we go into this midterm, it`s important to win voters, particularly female voters, who are very much antagonistic and dislike Trump and tribalism.

And that will start to become the focus of the GOP going forward.

MELBER: Yes, and I think you make an important point that, having become the loser of the last election, while these are sporadic indicators, because they`re primaries and they may or may not tell you what the whole Republican Party is, he`s supposed to do well among the type of far right, more activist people who vote in these primaries.

So that`s the kind of thing that should have helped him. And I wonder, does it come down to whether he doesn`t have any other moves? Does he have only one move?

I`m reminded of "Zoolander," obviously a classic, where Ben Stiller plays a model with incredible facial abilities, but he can`t turn left. So when he models, sometimes, he has to do a full twirl, because he can`t turn Do you remember this?

KOMANDURI: Yes. And he had one great look. I believe it was Blue Steel was the one sort of look that he had for the camera that was kind of just every -- his pose for everything and every mood.

And I think that`s very similar to what Trump...


MELBER: Well, he always had the same look, but I think Blue Steel, to be clear -- and you`re the movie buff -- was in development. I don`t know that he`d ever unleashed it.


MELBER: But he always had the same look in every photo cover...


MELBER: ... which goes to the point you`re making, right? Does Trump have any other moves left?


And I think the answer is probably not. I mean, if you think about it, in 2014, Democrats only won 40 percent of women voters. In 2018, they won 53 percent of women voters. Trump has proven toxic to women voters. If Democrats lose women voters the way they did in 2014, they`re going to get clobbered.

If they win women voters the way they did in 2018, they have a very good chance of holding onto the House. And the problem is, Trump needs to show a new move, a new pose, a new look to those voters that he hasn`t shown any ability to win.

Now, the House GOP and the congressional GOP, like Mitch McConnell, there`s a lot of hubris and confidence that they have this. They believe, if we just turn out the MAGA base, everything will be fine.

However, it`s very possible that the MAGA base simply is not as into Trump as we thought they were. Look at the ticket sales. Look at the failed blog. Look at these special election results. I think it`s very telling. It`s very possible that D.C. Republicans are overrating how popular Trump is with Republicans throughout the nation.

MELBER: Yes, and you make such an important point, because the irony is, having underestimated Trump in 2016 -- and, in the press, we heard from top Republicans days out of the election that they were bracing for him to be the loser in `16 and then they were going to move on.

They tried to respond to that by overloading in the other direction. Now they actually might be making the same mistake twice, just in a different direction, which is just completely overdoing it and not really understanding that the electorate can be fluid even on the far right, because these primaries which we`re going to watch tonight are definitely a fascinating indicator.


Chai, always good to see you on "Chai Day," sir.

KOMANDURI: Thank you. Good to be with you, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Coming up, another big story, the Judiciary Committee interviewing key witnesses in the Trump DOJ probe. And we are honored to have the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a member of leadership, Senator Durbin, live next.


MELBER: We`re joined now by Senator Dick Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, leading this pivotal election investigation.

Thank you for being here.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): Glad to be with you.

MELBER: Did then-President Trump try to steal the election? And what witnesses and evidence is your investigation seeking?

DURBIN: Well, I can`t answer that question until we finish our work.

And our work involves documents, evidence that`s been cleared by the Department of Justice, and very soon some interviews of key people. That will happen in the next few days and weeks.

MELBER: Let`s look at some of the people reportedly of interest here, key witnesses.

You have got Mr. Meadows, who remains a Trump ally, was chief of staff in a key time, Mr. Rosen, who was at the DOJ, and some other of those kind of administration officials.

Whose testimony is key? And from public reporting, it would appear that Meadows and others joined with Don Trump to sort of break down the barriers that typically would try to insulate the DOJ and make it independent on matters like these elections.


DURBIN: I can`t tell you which person is a key witness.

Most attorneys would tell you it isn`t until they have taken the oath and start to testify that you start measuring the value of each and every witness. But I will tell you, we`re getting to the heart of the issue. And this Justice Department has told us that they are not protected by any privilege or protected in any way from giving us clear answers to our questions.

So this could be very candid and very much of a revelation. We will only know as we get into it.

MELBER: How does this probe relate with or even potentially overlap with the independent January 6 investigation that people have heard so much about?

DURBIN: I don`t know if there`s any connection. I wouldn`t assume it, but I wouldn`t rule it out either.

There are so many unanswered questions about what happened on January 6 in the White House, in the Oval Office with the president. I know there are those who reached out to him. Some of them have said so publicly at this point. But the nature of the conversation, the requests and his replies are still unknown.

MELBER: Something that has been discussed a lot and that I know you care a lot about is not only learning all the facts, but trying to improve and fortify the protections that we have to maintain our democracy and a functioning government.

And some of these things appear to deal with perhaps breaking the law of the Constitution. That is sort of one category, if you will. The others seem to be norms or traditions that this president violated. Do you view the end of this process, when you have, as you mentioned, gathered all the information, as a time for the Congress and the Senate to also look at things that might need to be better defined in law, if traditions don`t work anymore?

DURBIN: That`s always the case.

Each generation swears to uphold this Constitution and to protect this union. And there are different challenges at different moments in our history. We don`t know until we have seen the evidence, heard the testimony of these witnesses how far this former president went.

But we know he was a desperate man, from the conversation that was recorded that we heard with the Georgia election official. And it`s pretty clear this president was willing to go to great lengths, even to kind of in a circumspect way challenge this official and say that, if he didn`t play ball, if he didn`t cooperate, he would pay a price.

So I`m not sure what we will get into. But I don`t know another moment in history when we had a rogue president who`s disputing the outcome of an election, who was reaching out in every direction to every person he could think of to try to make his case.

MELBER: I also want to get in while we have you, as a powerful Democrat, with some of these other economic issues.

Senator McConnell was speaking out today. Take a listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This is an extremely important bipartisan bill. To try to truncate an amendment process on something of this magnitude I think is a mistake.

If the majority leader files cloture today, I will be encouraging my colleagues not to invoke cloture on Thursday. My best advice to the majority leader would be slow, but steady wins the race.



DURBIN: It`s a time-honored Senate tactic known as slow-walking.

And it`s designed to drag things out as long as humanly possible, until everybody`s just had it. And what we`re up against is a promised August recess with our families. Many of us are looking forward to it. Well, it is unfortunately being eaten away by this strategy.

But so be it. We have got work to do.


DURBIN: And we`re going to stay here. And Senator Schumer`s made that clear.

MELBER: And, finally, your work on student debt. What should we expect there?

DURBIN: Good news.

We had a bipartisan bill today. Senator John Cornyn of Texas and I have introduced a bill which restores bankruptcy as an option for student debt. That has been gone for years. And we hearken back to the period where, once the debt was 10 years old, 10 years old, at that point, you could go to bankruptcy court and to be discharged from that obligation.

For some people, that is the only rescue possible for them. They`re so deeply in debt, with all the principal and interest that`s been building up, their lives have been compromised. And we heard from one of them today.

So, we got a possibility. And in the meantime, we`re also -- fair warning to the schools out there. You just can`t give away taxpayers` money in these student loans, have the students default, and walk away with the profits to college and university. You`re in this too. You have got some skin in the game.

We say, if they are notorious for the loans that they have made and the default rates, they`re going to pay some money back to the government.


MELBER: It`s such an important issue and one that affects so many households, and yet can get lost. So, interesting to hear you`re working on, Senator.

And I will tell viewers, you just talked about a reform that might put people on par with corporations. How many big companies benefit from bankruptcy law? As you`re explaining, it`s been kind of a black hole where regular people, even very young people, don`t even get that same option.

So, I`d love to keep up with you on that work, as well as following the Judiciary investigations. Appreciate your time tonight.

DURBIN: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you, Senator.

Up ahead: The other Democratic leader who works side by side with Senator Durbin, well, it`s Chuck Schumer. And he had a power play you have to see to believe on McConnell. We will show you the drop-the-mic moment and a lot more.

Stay with us.



LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and by making inappropriate comments.



MELBER: New York Attorney General James there announcing some of the findings from a scathing report alleging Governor Cuomo sexually harassed 11 different women, including current and former employees, her investigators revealing many new harrowing accusations.


ANNE CLARK, SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR: The governor hugged executive assistant number one, and reached under her blouse to grab her breast.

There were also several occasions on which the governor grabbed her.

Butt in an elevator, while standing behind the trooper, he ran his finger from her neck down her spine and said: "Hey, you." He took his open hand and ran it across her stomach.

The governor crossed the line many times when speaking with Charlotte Bennett, a briefer and executive assistant. He asked her whether she had ever been with older men. He told her that he was lonely and wanted to be touched.

He suggested that she get a tattoo she was contemplating on her butt and asked her if she had any piercings anywhere other than her ears.


MELBER: The 165-page report is exhaustive. It finds the governor also led a team that retaliated against at least one employee for coming forward, the entire office found to be -- quote -- "rife with fear and intimidation," a hostile work environment enabling that harassment.

The governor repeatedly denied these allegations, issuing a written response and today a video.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.

Politics and bias are interwoven throughout every aspect of this situation.


MELBER: The report concludes a five-month probe. The governor did agree to cooperate with it. And the report states Cuomo violated civil law.

But it does not take the most serious step possible of recommending that he be criminally prosecuted in New York.


JAMES: The matter is a civil in nature and is not -- does not have any criminal consequences.

CLARK: All the information is fully documented in the report and any prosecutors or police departments can look at the evidence and determine if they want to take further action.


MELBER: This is all new today.

And the local DA did have an ongoing criminal investigation into these accusations. The DA saying they will request an any new findings they can get from this probe.

There`s also an impeachment probe under way in the New York legislature dealing with Cuomo.

We`re joined now by "Wall Street Journal" reporter Corinne Ramey, who has been covering this story, and Nancy Erika Smith, a lawyer who`s represented people in harassment suits.

Welcome to both of you.

On the substance, Nancy, what did you see in the results and findings of this report?


Basically, it proves pretty conclusively that Andrew Cuomo is a serial sexual predator and a liar. There`s plenty of evidence that these women, 11 women, and their witnesses are not the crazy liars he`s portraying them as.

He`s cloaking himself as the feminist in the room. He was helping a 25- year-old victim of sexual assault when he asked her about her sex life, asked her if she wanted to date older men, told her that he would date anyone over 22. She`s 25. He`s 63. This was his idea of helping a victim of sexual harassment.

A lot of the behavior recounted actually reminds me of Roger Ailes, this sort of grooming, this system of breaking women down. Charlotte Bennett is the perfect example and the kind of victim that a serial sexual predator will seek out, because she`s been victimized. She`s a sexual assault survivor.

So, making her learn the lyrics to "Danny Boy," and questioning her on it, and then generally -- slowly moving into sexual comments about her, asking her about her sex life, singing "Do You Love Me?" to her. And then he claims he doesn`t even know the song. It`s on tape. She has a tape of it.

She has contemporaneous texts, contemporaneous witnesses, contemporaneous e-mails. To call her a crazy liar is so outrageous. And to call himself the person helping her is such an insult to all of us, to everyone in New York, to everyone everywhere, especially to women.

MELBER: And, Nancy, as you were speaking, our team, my producer tells me "The Nightly News" has just now aired moments ago an interview with the DA in Albany who has jurisdiction. So this is brand-new airing for the first time on MSNBC.

Let`s take a look.


DAVID SOARES, ALBANY COUNTY, NEW YORK, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We are conducting our own separate investigation.

I think, after today`s presentation, it`s pretty clear that we have an obligation here. And, thus, we have reached out to the attorney general`s office, seeking all the evidence upon which they have uncovered.

The allegations early on certainly led myself and other prosecutors with concurrent jury distinction to believe that criminal activity in fact had taken place.


But we will conduct our own independent investigation. It will be done expeditiously. And we will arrive at those conclusions.


MELBER: Some striking new comments there. That`s in an NBC News exclusive with our colleague Lester Holt.

Before I bring in Corinne, Nancy, briefly, just your response, context of that?

SMITH: Well, the context of that is touching a woman`s breasts and butt is a sexual assault. The upper thigh, the butt, the breasts, they`re the women`s sexual parts.

And if you touch them without a woman`s consent, you have committed a sexual assault. So, yes, there should be a criminal investigation. This goes beyond.

And the idea, his idea, because you call it hugging, and because you have pictures of yourself kissing kids, that somehow you`re the governor of New York, and you think it`s not inappropriate to put your lips, your hands or your entire body on women who work for you without their consent is just outrageous.

And cloaking himself as the feminist in the room, and if you criticize his female enablers, you`re anti-feminist is so galling. But, yes, there should be a criminal probe, for sure.


Corinne, on the side -- you have been covering many aspects of this. But people have wondered, given that some of this has already been out there and the governor has been defiant, what do you see in the legislature? Are they closer to doing something, to forcing him out of office? Or will this, politically, remain a question of whether the governor decides to leave or not?

CORINNE RAMEY, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": No, I think this absolutely makes a difference in the impeachment probe.

Carl Heastie, the Assembly speaker, released a statement today after meeting with fellow Democrats, saying that Cuomo had essentially lost the support of the Democrats in the Assembly, and that they would request evidence from the New York attorney general, and made it sound like impeachment was certainly closer than it was prior to the report.

MELBER: And the report has many details.

We have tried to give people a clear understanding of the highlights, as we do in the news. People, of course, can download and read it. Another aspect of this that goes to the kind of powerful family involved that I wanted to get your response on, Corinne, is here`s how "New York Magazine" put it.

"CNN anchor Chris Cuomo advised brother on response to allegations," according to new report. Indeed, they have an e-mail that is included in the new government report from the attorney general`s office, and it appears to draft a statement that the governor would read.

I`m curious what you think, if anything, of that, Corinne, that would seem to imply that the CNN journalist -- of course, people know that they`re family members -- but that he was secretly ghostwriting what would be a government response?

RAMEY: I think, in general, what the report showed, it had extensive appendices with all kinds of e-mails showing the process of drafting responses to these allegations.

And I think it really showed just the input from various people and the lengths that the Cuomo administration would go to decide how to reply to reporters` questions and how to refute these allegations.

And, sometimes, it was surprising, like the Chris Cuomo example you mentioned.

MELBER: Briefly, I mean, are you saying that it was just information or that the report, in your view, was trying to show a level of misleading or retaliatory intent?

RAMEY: I don`t want to speak for the report.

I mean, I think, certainly, with one woman, the report says that -- at least one woman -- that the Cuomo administration tried to retaliate. I don`t think -- in terms of the responses to allegations, I don`t want to put words in the report`s mouth and say it`s misleading, but it certainly shows the length the Cuomo administration went to respond to those kinds of queries.

MELBER: Yes, I understand what you`re saying. And, as a reporter, I understand you`re trying to be precise, because the report is voluminous, and, at times, it has findings, but, at times, it`s saying here.


MELBER: And, as we have reported, and Nancy gave us insight on, there may be -- there may or may not be other actors in government, the legislature on impeachment, the DA on a criminal probe, that may also deal with the evidence.

So I do appreciate everyone`s precision on an important story.

Nancy Erika Smith, Corinne Ramey, thanks to both of you.

When we come back, the last word tonight will be Senator Schumer with video you need to see.

Stay with us.



MELBER: A lot of things happened today.

And it was also a busy time in the Senate, where Mitch McConnell came out to address reporters. Here, you can see the Republican minority leader plodding along, making his way towards the Senate lectern. It`s a pretty standard sight.

But what happens if you`re out of power, and the more powerful Senate leader wants to use that same single Senate lectern that McConnell was walking so confidently towards?

Well, McConnell was reminded today that elections have consequences.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The prerogatives of the majority.


MELBER: Majority Leader Schumer there referencing the prerogatives and power of the majority.

We can`t tell whether it was planned this way, but it was something of a drop-the-mic moment by someone who, well, you see right there, just took the mic. He is the majority leader.


That does it for me. Thank you, as always, for spending time with us here on THE BEAT. You can always find me online @AriMelber across social media.

"THE REIDOUT" is next, with Jonathan Capehart in for Joy.