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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/4/21

Guests: Michael Osterholm, Nikki Fried, David Enrich


New evidence emerges in President Trump`s attempts to overturn the election results. President Barack Obama turns 60. The infamous MAGA couple who were waving guns at protesters is pardoned. President Trump continues efforts to keep his tax return out of Congress` hands. COVID cases continue rising in the United States.



Hi, Ari.


I only have a quick question.

WALLACE: Anything.

MELBER: You`re the hardest-working person in the news this week. You`re in for your show, which is double duty. You have got Rachel`s show last night.

Is it coffee or sleep? What is your secret?

WALLACE: It is coffee in the mommy mug. And I got to talk to Colonel Vindman today. And I saw him on Rachel`s hour at the beginning of the week and that really sustained me through today.

We will see how I get through the rest of week.


MELBER: I hear you.

Well, you have been doing it. We have been enjoying it. Shout-out to the mommy mug.


MELBER: I learn a little bit more every day. Sometimes, it`s about how you get your coffee.

WALLACE: You asked the question.


MELBER: Good to see you.

WALLACE: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: I will see you, Nicolle.

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

We`re also working hard here because we have a lot of stories we`re tracking, including an absolute bombshell on Trump`s alleged criminality. This is an important one. Don`t be fatigued just because these stories come out a lot. This one has the evidence on paper, Donald Trump demanding the DOJ overturn the election in ways that experts and people with government experience are calling a -- quote -- "coup attempt."

Tonight, we see just how far the pressure campaign got, because it went deep inside the Justice Department. These e-mails newly released and first obtained by ABC show DOJ officials rejecting this attempt within the building, within the DOJ, within the Trump administration to pull off what some are calling this coup, their colleague`s request to intervene in the certification of Georgia`s election.

A top DOJ official had tried to draft a letter -- and this is truly damning. I use my words carefully here. I want to tell you. This is not something we have seen before at this high level inside the DOJ.

I will read to you what you see here. It`s very clear. They wanted to do Trump`s bidding and say the governor of Georgia should immediately call a special session to consider the important and urgent matter of trying to overturn what the voters there decided, to overturn Georgia`s results, to have basically a legalistic or state run-coup out of the DOJ.

Now, you may be thinking, OK, Ari, that looks really bad. That`s certainly worse than anything we have seen from inside the DOJ. This is separate from what was happening outside the buildings, if you will, on January 6. This is the secret stuff. This is the stuff that Trump might have hoped wouldn`t come out soon, wouldn`t come out tonight, wouldn`t ever come out, perhaps during his life.

Now, that letter was never sent. A different DOJ official had to go to the mat to stop what was this secret attempted coup, according to some government experts, saying in an e-mail: "There is no chance I would sign this letter or anything remotely like it."

And we reported as recently as last week that Donald Trump had this pressure campaign on the DOJ, that we were learning that he was asking for this. We were learning about notes where he basically laid out the strategy, push the agitators from the outside, bring them in for January 6, while also, on the inside, secretly try to get a government effort to have states overturn the vote.

And had he gotten farther, this might have gotten a lot uglier. The new e- mail about the votes in Georgia drafted just one day after that phone call that we mentioned that`s been reported on in the print press. And there are more details emerging about how deep the Trump pressure campaign went.

Politico has a story about a top DOJ official who was so concerned that Trump would continue down this path -- and he was, of course, still president at the time -- that he would fire his acting attorney general for not doing this, that official actually had a resignation letter, as did another top official.

In other words, the DOJ at this pivotal time, with a president in office who still has his hands on the military, still has his hands on the nuclear codes, they were preparing for what everyone would understand from the Nixon context could be another Saturday Night Massacre over this interference.

Now, the new evidence comes while Trump is still, remember, under criminal investigation in Georgia for this related stuff. Now, we don`t know from inside that probe how much they already knew about this, or whether this assists the investigation.

Trump DOJ officials also face Congress this week. And on that, a story we have been following, we had one of the biggest newsmakers involved, the chair of the entire Judiciary Committee, Senator Durbin. Here`s what he told me last night.


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

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): 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: That`s on the record. And that`s why it`s interesting to hear from the senators doing these investigations, the next few days and weeks.

We should note that ABC News and "The New York Times" and other outlets that have obtained some of this information have gotten it, in part, they have said, from sources in the Congress because of those open probes.


So, for everyone who says, well, what`s the point of all this and where do you go, well, we can`t prejudge what will happen in the criminal probe of Donald Trump in Georgia, which overlaps with these issues, and we can`t prejudge how the investigative process is working. We can just see some of it working.

Now, you take it all together, I just told you a lot. We`re going to have experts break it down.

But there`s one expert who has been on this program before. He`s not here tonight. But he did say in public exactly what he thinks this amounts to. And he`s going farther than others in the past.

Robert Reich, who is an author and a White House Cabinet veteran, so he`s been at the highest levels of government, he says it`s time to make no mistake, and treat this for what it was -- quote -- "an attempted coup."

Now we turn to our experts tonight, former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance and journalist and national correspondent for "The Nation" Joan Walsh.

Joyce, what is the significance, legally and constitutionally, of the fact that the -- according to these reports and this written document, this pretty damning document, that Donald Trump got this far in finding some people at DOJ who wanted to basically abuse federal power to try to get a state, Georgia, to use it to local Republican officials to steal the race there in the Electoral College?

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: This is extraordinarily significant, just on the face of this written document, which tells us, I think, Ari, what we already suspected, what we already intuited from surrounding circumstances.

But this is hard, undeniable evidence that there were folks inside of the Justice Department -- and this individual, Jeff Clark, is someone that we know former President Trump had actually referenced in his phone calls with then acting Attorney General Rosen, and had said, well, I hear this Jeff Clark guy is good. Maybe he`s somebody that I should bring on board.

And now here he pops up with his own plan for circumventing the results of the election in Georgia.

Ari, it`s also important to look at this not as just a single moment in time, but as part of a longstanding course of activity by the former president that starts at least as early as when he`s trying to get the Ukrainians to help him out to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, on through to the moment where he suggests that he should use COVID as an excuse to delay the election, and into his efforts to spread the big lie after he lost the election.

This is a long-running just standard of conduct by Trump that results in the attempted coup.

MELBER: Yes, and I hear you using that same language.

And, Joan, I mean, this is so serious. The reasons that some of these things might wrongly seem less important are, as best I can tell, arbitrary. For example, whether or not someone was there to stop it is arbitrary. Whether or not this is shockingly new to people or they have become accustomed to this kind of chicanery and I would say alleged unconstitutional conduct is arbitrary.

The fact is that, in my estimation as a journalist, we`re learning about a lot of this stuff faster than usual. I mean, in the Nixon era, some of this stuff came out because the process, and then some of the other really bad stuff took years to out.

And people need to understand, with the person who did this still here and alive and in politics and a lot of his enablers alive, what we`re dealing with.

So, with all of that said, Joan, I`d love your analysis. I want to read here from the DOJ officials` planned resignation letter, which was what they were willing to do to try to stop this if it got that far, saying: "Acting Attorney General Rosen repeatedly refused the president`s direct instructions to utilize Department of Justice law enforcement powers for improper ends."

Again, this is something that Politico obtained, which shows how far these people who, again, were picked by Trump in the first place and were Barr`s deputies and lieutenants, how far they were about to go to try to protect democracy, in their view.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, I also hope he was planning to hold a press conference if he had to submit his resignation, Ari.

And that`s been a problem with a lot of the wonderful, heroic whistle- blower`s that we have talked about over the last five years, right? They leave. It leaks. We find out what they were trying to do. But it`s always after the fact, as is this.

I`m so glad Joyce is here, as along with you, because you`re lawyers. And I don`t really know I can speak to the legal issues entirely. But, yes, this was an attempted coup. And he was ready to try it in other ways. And it goes so much far beyond Nixon.

I mean, I`m old enough to kind of remember the Nixon situation and remember him resigning. But he was kind of in the early stages of Trumpism. Like, it was awful to try to mess with Joe and Hunter Biden. But then he went so much further. And Nixon didn`t get a chance. He got caught trying to mess with Democratic opponents.


He broke a lot of laws. I don`t mean to excuse it. But this is, in the final days of his presidency, really trying to use every lever at his disposal. And we know he considered using the military, and he got pushback.

And we know that he used every lever he had in the Justice Department. And I just don`t think we have enough hair-on-fire reaction to this. We have like a depletion of outrage. We have been outraged for six years.

But I was so glad that you asked me to talk about this, because I have been -- my hair`s been on fire, if you can see. It`s such a serious story.


WALSH: It should be the number one story. So, thanks.

MELBER: Yes, it`s our number one story tonight, even as we have a lot going on and a lot of interesting stuff, we think, coming up in the hour.

WALSH: Great.

MELBER: But, Joyce, where`s the crime for Georgia to pursue here?

I mean, either this stuff matters or it doesn`t. Either there were federal laws that protect elections or they don`t. We have covered racial disparities in other issues, where individuals have gone to jail for single allegations of fraud. This would look like the mother of all frauds, in that he was working every angle, including an insurrection, to overturn the results.

VANCE: I would agree with your assessment, Ari.

And I think one of the problems is that, when we have written are criminal laws -- and, of course, criminal law is statutory. You can`t just look at conduct and say, that`s awful, let`s lock that person up. You have to have a law that creates the crime and sets out what the government has to prove to convict someone.

And no legislature had the foresight to say it is a crime for a sitting president of the United States to meddle in election outcomes. But, of course, we have other laws that can get to that conduct. Georgia has statutes that make it illegal to try to interfere, to meddle in an election.

And, clearly, there`s evidence of the former president making this phone call. So that`s an investigation. And that`s, frankly, a heavy lift, asking a DA in one county in Georgia to investigate a former president of the United States. But that`s the situation that DA Willis faces. And it looks like that investigation has entered a grand jury phase or that there`s more investigation ongoing.

There are also federal statutes that could be implicated. And if DOJ is not already investigating, it should open an investigation at this point, because there are conspiracy issues here. There are criminal Hatch Act issues here. There`s interference with a government function, and several other options.

And that`s not to prejudge the evidence.


VANCE: We would do wise to let investigators do their job and see if the evidence rings the specific bells of what prosecutors need to prove here.


Well, you said something very important, which is that there should be an independent investigation of this. And that may not be Merrick Garland`s mood at the DOJ. And it may not, frankly, be Joe Biden`s preferred focus, with everything else going on. And I would just call that -- whether it`s well-intentioned or not, I would call that politics, and it shouldn`t come into view.

It literally should have nothing to do with it, any more than whether an investigation of a given senator or Congressman Gaetz in Florida or any other thing fits people`s agendas. That`s exactly the kind of meddling philosophy that we have tried to get out of from the last four years.

And so, yes, let the investigations go where the facts are. But, clearly, when you have this at the highest levels inside our Justice Department, which, by the way, would have given a patina or more -- that`s a piece of legal jargon I have tried to get out of from law school.

But whether it would have given a little -- a little slice of legitimacy or not, the fact is that that was the intent, to get the DOJ on board with what would have been a shakedown in Georgia. And if the race -- I want to say this before I bring in -- we have got another piece of news.

But if this race had come down to one state, instead of several, if Biden was hanging by just one state, you can only imagine what this would have been.

Now, our panel stays.

The next news, as promised, Trump today asking a federal court to block the Treasury Department from a case where he was losing because they have been ordered to give over his tax returns to Congress. He says they`re just trying to dig up something embarrassing. The DOJ has cleared the way, basically deciding against Donald Trump, that the tax returns, which are currently housed in the federal government, can go from one part of the government, the Treasury, to another part, the congressional Ways and Means Committee, under the law.

Now, we have a "New York Times" journalist, David Enrich, on this. He is the author of the book "Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction," a real expert on all of this.

What does this all mean? Where do we go from here, sir?

DAVID ENRICH, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think we`re in for months, if not years, more of legal wrangling.

This has been Trump style going back to his days before he got into the White House, that he uses the legal system and the judicial process to kind of beat his enemies and rivals into submission. And that`s clearly the strategy he`s deploying here and he`s been deploying all along in fending off efforts by Democrats or other investigators or prosecutors to see his tax returns.


And I think there is a better chance than there had been a couple of years ago that lawmakers would get a look at these tax returns, but the fight is far from over. And this could go all the way back up to the Supreme Court again, and we could be waiting a very long time to see the fruits of this investigation.

MELBER: Yes, clearly put.

David, let me ask you a follow-up, which is, we have invited Trump lawyers and representatives in the New York criminal case on. No one`s taking us up on it. But when we have heard their views sort of off-air, which we try to gather, in fairness and in coverage, just like you do, one of the arguments that`s been made is, well, the DA in New York had these -- already got these tax returns that Congress wants, and had all the experts in time with them, and didn`t come up with something yet against Donald Trump, although there are serious allegations against the company and the CFO of the company.

So they make the argument that it can`t be that bad, whatever`s in there, if this aggressive prosecutor, who`s willing, clearly, to indict the org, didn`t indict Trump over it.

What is your response to that kind of argument in this case? Because I`m thinking, if that were true, and that`s your argument, then why be worried about it going to Congress?

ENRICH: Yes, I think that`s exactly right.

I mean, I would say two things to that. The first is basically, Ari, what you just said, which is that, for someone who has nothing to hide, Trump sure has been fighting hard for years to keep this stuff secret. And so that, to me, suggests that, regardless of whether there`s anything criminal or illegal in these returns, there certainly is stuff that Trump wants to hide.

And the most likely thing he wants to hide is that he is not nearly as good of a businessman and his organization is not nearly as financially stable as he kind of publicly presents.

But I think the other argument here is that the Trump camp is making the point that this is a political witch-hunt and that Democrats really do not have any legitimate interest in these returns, they are simply trying to make -- drag Trump through this very harsh spotlight and share his personal secrets with the world.

And I think courts up and down the federal hierarchy, all the way up to the Supreme Court, have repeatedly ruled that legislators, in an oversight function, have a legitimate interest to conduct investigations that -- not only into the president`s finances, but into issues that are raised by the president`s finances.

So, in this case, the notion of whether very rich businessmen are finding creative ways to evade or avoid taxes is clearly a legitimate thing for the House Ways and Means Committee to be investigating. And so I think, ultimately, at the end of the day, these legal arguments that the Trump camp is putting forward are going to be defeated.

I just -- but I do think, the way our system works, it`s going to take quite a long time for us to get there.


WALSH: Yes, I agree it`s going to -- he`s going to wrangle as long as he can. And that`s depressing.

But, obviously, all these different entities have different oversight responsibilities, Ari. And they are looking for different things. And so it`s a ridiculous set of arguments, but he`s got -- apparently, he`s got the money. We don`t think he has as much money as he says, but he`s got the money to do this.

So, we will be living with this for a long time.


And on a smaller note, David, you know what they say in the newsroom about you and Trump`s finances?

ENRICH: God, I have no idea.

MELBER: They say you wrote the book on it.

ENRICH: Ah, good. I like that. I was wondering what...

MELBER: Which it`s true.


MELBER: Well, it`s always a little nerve-racking on live TV. OK, what`s the answer going to be?

But, yes. No, he wrote the book on it. And, honestly, the journalism and the work here, it takes work. I mean, there was years where people said, well, maybe it`s hidden for some other random reason. And even before DA Vance won the Supreme Court case, Trump being again a loser at the Supreme Court, even before that, David, your book and some of this reporting that we have seen in print has shed a lot of light on an important subject.

So, there it is. He wrote the book on it.

David, Joan, Joyce, thanks to each of you on these multiple stories.

Coming up tonight, Dr. Fauci with a reality check against right-wing claims on COVID.

Also, a pretty emotional and independent new documentary about Obama. We have a very special guest, as he celebrates today his 60th birthday.

And some news on those gun-waving -- the gun-waving MAGA couple that tried to sort of menace BLM protests. We have an update on that.

And before we go tonight -- and, by the way, I read -- when you guys write me e-mail and you guys write me on social, we read it. A lot of you responded to the Chuck Schumer power play last night. We have an update on that tonight.

Stay with us.



MELBER: Turning to what you need to know now that the pandemic.

Well, the new side on COVID is simple and bracing. Dr. Fauci warns potential variants that are worse than Delta can continue to develop at this pace and cause infections to double. And in a theme that we have been exploring last few weeks, there is also good news as people get, well, more aware of how bad it`s getting.

More Americans continue to get vaccinated and more are open to some of these safety and health measures that can mitigate what is a growing risk. That can include mask mandates, polling showing a majority of Americans, even in our polarized world, are for it, given what they`re learning about how bad things are getting.

And, by the way, something that`s very important is the ability to change your mind. That`s true on any issue. And it`s certainly true on this one.

Arkansas Republican Governor Hutchinson now saying he regrets signing a law that banned safety measures and masks.


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Well, I signed it at the time because our cases were at very low point. I signed it for those reasons, that our cases were at a low point.

Everything has changed now. And, yes, in hindsight, I wish that had not become law.


MELBER: Shout-out to that statement. Some politicians have trouble doing it.

And look at how things are changing. We have a daily chart here of the daily deaths from COVID. And you can see the difference in counties where people are not choosing to get vaccinated or are waiting. Those are the low vaccination rate areas. And you can see that yellow charts spiking.


Keeping this on the screen, I just want to walk through it. You also have, of course, that blue line. Those are counties where you have the high vaccination rates. And you can see there was already a gap, but, boy, is it getting worse now, as we go through that month of July, and you see the new spike.

Now, put that in the context of different places. Well, Alabama, for example, has the lowest vaccination rate in the nation.

And there is nothing easy about reporting this stuff. Today, an Alabama mother who lost her son, because he died of COVID, describing how his last words were: "This is not a hoax."

And she and her daughter spoke with our MSNBC colleague Hallie Jackson.


HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I know that it`s been said that Curt in his final moment said something like, this is not a hoax. This is real.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the vaccine that is just recently coming out being out right before we were diagnosed with positive, we were hesitant. But knowing now and seeing everything that we have been through, and watching my son suffer, why wouldn`t you want to get the vaccine and try to keep from that happening?


MELBER: As with any story like this, our heart goes out to them.

I just want to reflect their words there. They said they were hesitant, and now they`re not. And it`s OK that they were hesitant. It`s OK to be hesitant. It`s OK to have questions. And it will always be your own decision, because you live in America, if you`re watching this in America.

But we should also listen and learn from people who say that they learned the hard way, the tragic way, when we have the size and objective evidence that the best, safest way to protect yourself from what is an ongoing COVID that`s not going away is consulting with your doctor and getting the vaccine.

This is a matter of life and death.

Another place that`s being hit hard right now is Florida. And you have school districts trying to deal with the MAGA governor, DeSantis, who has been punishing them if they want to choose -- we have heard about freedom - - if they want to choose at a local level to have safety measures like masks.

DeSantis says he will use his powers to stand in the way of we will call it their freedom or their local decision-making.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you`re trying to restrict people, impose mandates, if you are trying to lock people down, I am standing in your way and I`m standing for the people of Florida.


MELBER: Well, that`s one formulation.

Of course, he`s standing against the people of Florida who chose at the local level to want those masks in their schools. Florida`s hospitals, meanwhile, are peaking. It is worse in Florida right now than it`s ever been.

So, we have Democrat Nikki Fried, Florida`s agricultural commissioner, who is running against DeSantis for governor, and an infectious disease expert, Dr. Osterholm, together when we`re back in just one minute.


MELBER: We`re back with Nikki Fried, a Florida official running against Governor DeSantis, and Michael Osterholm, who oversees infectious disease research at the University of Minnesota.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

Doctor, I want to start just with the story that we just aired. And, again, as mentioned, there`s humanity to all this. Our heart goes out to these families. I also think that, in a time of grieving, it`s totally understandable if people don`t want to speak out, but some choose to. They`re sharing with us that they have changed their minds and they want other people to know.

Where does that fit in to helping people get accurate information about their choices as COVID surges in some areas of the country?


There are three groups of individuals today in terms of getting vaccinated. There are those what I call vaccine-affirmative. They`re already done. They`re the ones that couldn`t wait to get the vaccine. They drove 100 miles in February to get to a vaccine site to get the vaccine.

Then we have the vaccine-hesitant, the middle group, people who are actually really concerned yet about the safety of the vaccine. Only 20 percent of pregnant women in this country have been vaccinated. If you`re a young black man in this country, you are concerned that this is an experiment, any number of those people.


But they are the ones that, with more information, will, in fact, decide to get the vaccine.

And then we have the vaccine-hostile. These are the ones that believe that, in fact, the pandemic is a hoax, it`s not real, these vaccines are meant to hurt them somehow. And I think, right now, we`re trying to concentrate on the vaccine-hesitant. They`re the ones that we need to focus on, because they`re the best chance we have of converting more people to getting vaccinated, which, as you have pointed out, is the essential issue right now before us.


Nikki, what do you think of the COVID response of Governor DeSantis?

NIKKI FRIED (D), FLORIDA COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE: He`s being absolutely irresponsible.

He continues to put his head in the sand, and not only give no information, but, unfortunately, misinformation. And, Ari, if I can say for a second, I was listening to that press conference earlier today.

And so I have got a really clear message to Ron DeSantis. Start doing your job. And until you do your job, don`t say blip about my president. He goes on these airwaves and talks about blaming immigrants, I think, was the latest of his tirades.

And so what we need to be doing here in the state of Florida is coming together, and talking about these vaccines, making sure that people are going out and getting vaccinated. We know that this is the only way that we are going to get in front of this virus, as we have heard earlier on your show, and we`re hearing across the country, that new variants are popping up.

And so we have got to be having those hard conversations. And as I have been traveling our state, talking to our first responders, talking to our nurses, to our parents, to our hospitals, they`re scared. They`re at capacity.

And this governor is sending misinformation across our state and not taking them seriously. And I have asked him to declare a state of emergency. Instead, he`s just blaming everybody but himself for what is happening in our state.

MELBER: What do you say to his argument that the information is out there, people have been living through this for a long time as adults, and if they want to put on a mask, they can choose to, and if they don`t, they don`t want to?

He`s trying to position this as an argument about freedom? What is what is your concise response to that, especially for people in Florida who may assess both of you?

FRIED: My answer is very simple.

Be a leader, Ron. Be a leader. And that means going out and encouraging people to get vaccinated. Encourage people to wear masks. And, as we know, that he handcuffed all of our local governments and our school boards.

These are the individuals and these are the organizations and governments that stepped up last year to get us through the first round of the pandemic. And now he`s taking away power away from those individuals and those local governments that are the closest to the people. It`s the people that I trust, to make the right decisions. They got us through it the first time.

And instead of having these tirades and these temper tantrums, he should going on and using his power to go and encourage people to wear a mask, encourage people to get the vaccine, and listen to the science.

MELBER: Yes. Yes.

FRIED: And that`s not what he`s doing.

MELBER: And, Doctor, NBC`s Kerry Sanders has been reporting on this and speaking with medical professionals like yourself.

Take a look at some of that.


KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: The Florida governor has indicated that the numbers, like the 537 that you gave, it`s all hype, and that it`s not as bad as it sounds, media hype, hype.

What about the numbers? And how do you respond to the governor that is suggesting this is all hyped up?

DR. MARC NAPP, MEMORIAL HEALTHCARE SYSTEM: I can tell you what we are seeing in the hospital. The numbers of patients are unprecedented. And that`s like in black and white.

We have more patients in our hospital now than ever before. And if you look at the slope of the curve -- and we`re happy to provide you with our census curves -- you can see that the line is going straight upward.


MELBER: That`s the chief medical officer there Memorial Healthcare.

And, Doctor, I wanted to play exactly that because we have viewers in Florida, like we do anywhere else. There are things that are debatable, and part of our job as journalists is to be honest about what is unknown or debatable.

But what we have here from what we consider reliable sourcing, on the record, verified, are the hospitals and the doctors and their leadership saying it`s worse today in Florida hospitals because of COVID than it`s ever been this year or last year.

What does that tell you? And what does that tell you about the risk going forward in some of these places that have lower vaccination rates?

OSTERHOLM: Well, let`s put this into perspective.

If Louisiana and Florida were countries, and not states, Louisiana would be the highest incidence country in the world and Florida would be the fourth one. So it gives you some idea.

MELBER: Wow. Hadn`t heard that.

OSTERHOLM: So, here we are in modern America with vaccines, and it`s incredible to think that that`s where it`s at right now. So you can`t say that it`s hype. It`s not hype.


As far as going forward, the question we`re going to have is -- to answer is, will we see the other states in the United States light up like these seven or eight Southern Sunbelt states or Oklahoma and Nevada? And that`s unclear yet.

We have all 50 states and the District of Columbia seeing increases in cases. And the question is going to be, if they -- any of them turn out to be like we`re seen in the South, then we have got even a much larger problem on our hands going forward.

If not, I think that, by the early part of September, we will see this curve come down. But, in the meantime, is going to extract a tremendous amount of pain from us in society.


Well, I hope people are listening to the facts and the experts.

Dr. Osterholm and Commissioner Fried, I want to thank both of you.

Coming up tonight: Barack Obama is turning 60. We have been talking about facts. That means, according my calculations, he`s getting older. Maybe we all are. We have a very special guest, though, on that.

And news on the infamous MAGA couple who were waving guns at protesters and the hypocrisy.

Plus, before we go tonight, we listen to you guys, at least on some things, and we`re going to give you what you need, an update to this story about Schumer`s epic power move on McConnell.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Barack Obama came into office as one of the younger presidents in American history. He was a first-term United States senator. And we watched him and his family grow.


Well, today, believe it or not, marks his 60th birthday. It`s a sign that we`re all getting older, as I mentioned in the lead-up to this.

And while they were going to do a big bash, well, you got to adjust. The news today is that the president, the former president, is scaling back the plans for what was going to be a very large birthday bash in Martha`s Vineyard, given the COVID surge.

That`s a precautionary note because most of the people are believed to be vaccinated that would be attending.

Now, many of the celebrations continue on the virtual level. "The Daily Show," well, they saluted Obama and mocked some of the futile right-wing attacks on the successful two-term president. That`s one more term than his successor. They wished a happy birthday to the most scandalous president in American history, posting clips of the infamous tan suit, which was a sort of a nontroversy, if there ever was one.

And a sports network also posted about Obama`s well-known skills on the basketball court.





MELBER: "That`s what I do," yelling it over the mask. As you can tell, it was a recent clip when he was campaigning for Joe Biden, who won.

Obama`s own foundation also posted a little 2016 clip to look back at how some young African leaders serenaded him.


OBAMA: Settle down! Settle down!




MELBER: So a lot of people are getting in on the good feelings and the memories.

HBO, meanwhile, is out with a long-planned documentary series that takes an independent look at Obama`s journey to the presidency.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama gets flack for the first black presidency only being symbolic, but people underrate the value of symbols.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was on a mission to create a sense of community, a sense of family.

OBAMA: We may have different stories, but we hold common hopes. We may not look the same, but we all want to move towards a better future.

We have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Jelani Cobb, who is one of the producers of that new documentary, "Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union," and known as an MSNBC guest and a writer for "The New Yorker."

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: One thing that people may know is that there`s a lot of Obama- backed media. Michelle Obama`s podcast was one of the most listened to on Spotify. They`re working with Netflix and other streaming services.

I think it`s important to note, this is an independent documentary.

What did you want to convey or explore that might have been different than what we already know, having lived through this whole era?

COBB: So, first, thank you for having me on the talk about the film.

And I was really excited to work on this project, and particularly always eager to work with Peter Kunhardt, who directed it, and the team at Kunhardt films.

But one of the most important things, obviously, the way in which race ran through his presidency, his candidacy, his life, as this prominent theme, and what it meant for this black person to occupy the most powerful office in the world.

And we would -- we have seen in the chaotic, bedlam-filled politics that followed his presidency that there was this connection between him and the fact that that he had been a black president and what we have seen since then.

But I think, in doing the film, we got a chance to really walk through the mechanics of all that, and how you could almost see the current era of really fractious, volatile politics coming into existence as his presidency progressed.

MELBER: That makes a lot of sense.

And I think it`s something that we`re living through that, on the one hand, is quite obvious, but was also repeatedly denied at the time. So we all lived through people saying -- quote, unquote -- "don`t overemphasize race" or -- quote, unquote -- "the ascendance of the first black president means that some of these problems are behind us."

Well, in the last four or five years, I don`t think anyone would actually say that with a straight face, unless they were trolling.

With that in mind, and you look at this whole period, we want to pull some really prescient remarks by then President Obama in 2011 where, after trying a strategy of denying oxygen to birtherism for many years, he and the White House team concluded that Donald Trump`s trip to New Hampshire and his embrace of the long-form birth certificate issue required a change in approach. And so they released the long-form birth certificate.


And as anyone knows the cycle of conspiracy theories, and especially those built on hate and racism, nothing will quell a leader like Donald Trump. At the time, many people were underestimating him. You explore this in the doc, but I`m reminding viewers a little bit, because we`re going to play now that prescient statement from then-President Obama.

This was 2011. Take a look.


OBAMA: We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We got better stuff to do.

I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve. And I`m confident we can solve, but we`re going to have to focus on them, not on this.

We`re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We`re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.


MELBER: Carnival barker, a reference to Donald Trump, who did not run for office that year, but talked about it.

Did that set of warnings from a very measured Obama there, did that age well? What are your thoughts today?

COBB: I mean, it`s the standard kind of philosophy of, when they go low, we go high.

But we saw the limitations of that, particularly in 2020. And, also, I mean, this is a playbook on this. I would add Elizabeth Warren, and when she gave up information about her ancestry, and to quell the comments that people were making about her.

But when people are dealing with you disingenuously and operating in bad faith, they will simply twist facts. They have already twisted facts to come up with the lie in the first place. And they will just twist the additional facts into something that bolsters their ridiculous lies.

And so it seemed like this was the office of the presidency, the prestige of office of the presidency, the calling -- as is textbook Obama, the calling to a higher purpose and the need to not be distracted by small and petty concerns. But we have actually seen just how resonant pettiness, the smallness, meanness, as Adam Serwer has framed it, cruelty, just how politically profitable those negative personality traits can be.

And so those were two completely different political languages that were being spoken in that moment.


And I think it`s very interesting. And you`re exploring this. You have worked on this. You have written about it. And it comes to something that may be uncomfortable to face, which is Barack Obama, who proved to be a successful two-term president, who had no one around him indicted, let alone convicted, as his successor did, whatever other disagreements there may be about ideology, which are fair game, it was the very fact that a black man was in power that upset people.

COBB: Right.

MELBER: The fact that he did the job reasonably well. Again, you can debate parts of it, but the fact he did it did reasonably well seem to anger them more.

That`s racism. It`s alive and well. And we would do -- we would do better to face it in the open light.

I appreciate you, as always, shining some light, Jelani Cobb.

Shout-out to the documentary here, and we will put it on the screen, "Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union." You can find it on HBO.

Up ahead, we have that update, as promised. We will show it to you, remixing Senator Schumer`s power play against McConnell.

But first: What happened to these MAGA icons infamous for menacing BLM protesters with guns?

Stay with us.



MELBER: A Missouri couple who became infamous MAGA heroes of a sort last year for what looked like a crime, well, now suddenly they have a clean record.

Let`s explain.

Mark and Patricia McCloskey had pleaded guilty to assault and harassment charges for this incident you see on your screen, basically coming out with a gun and menacing peaceful protesters. So, what looked like a crime was one. Even they admitted it, you can see there, pointing the weapons at these people who were passing by their home, not really dealing with them or bothering them, apparently, from the photographs, just going out to peacefully protest.

What the couple of initially said was they felt danger. And that was their justification for what you see there, pointing an AR-15 out at people in a crowd. If you have ever gotten training, you know you don`t point a loaded weapon unless you`re about to use it. So they don`t even use guns well, given that they claim they didn`t want to shoot it.

But, nonetheless, in parts of MAGA and the Internet, they became heroes. Then they were invited for that stunt incident that was a crime to speak at the Trump convention. Later, they took the show on the road on the Trump campaign bus.

And now your update, the news today in America, the couple has been formally pardoned by Missouri`s Republican governor, raising questions about deep inequities in the state`s justice system.

There are so many other people who are in jail for reasons that are far more suspect than that. But this looks like a classic political pardon.

Indeed, just for context tonight, there are over 200 nonviolent drug offenders in Missouri`s prisons without the possibility of parole, meaning what they would need would be a pardon to ever lessen their sentence, even though the law they put them there in the first place was already repealed four years ago.

We should also tell you, Missouri`s incarceration rate is much higher than national average, with a disproportionate effect on black and brown Americans, a harsher effect than any other group.

Those are some of the people overlooked in favor of this pair of gun-toting MAGA icons who pled guilty to something they actually did and looked like they were threatening others.

McCloskey, we should tell you, wants to write the laws that govern your life. He`s announced he`s running for the United States Senate.

Just a couple of facts to go with the stunt for you tonight.

Now, when we come back, we will finally get to what we promised, the remix update of Schumer`s drop-the-mic moment on Mitch McConnell.



MELBER: Finally tonight, here`s that scene from the United States Senate where Mitch McConnell was reminded who is boss.


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


MELBER: It was a passing moment that captures a big reality. Elections have consequences.

And, sometimes, Mitch McConnell just has to wait for the people who actually run the Senate.

Now, as for Chuck Schumer`s part, the majority leader`s vibe may be a little easier to understand if you add the right soundtrack, because his move was pretty savage.




MELBER: This is THE BEAT, so we put it to Megan Thee Stallion`s "Savage."

Now, if you have ideas for other songs from any era that we might want to remix, well, we like to get your ideas.


You can go to @AriMelber on any social media. Go to @AriMelber on Twitter or Instagram. Or you can visit me at and tell us, what song should we remix to that moment? What song was playing in Chuck Schumer`s mind when he took the mic right out of Mitch McConnell`s hands?

Tell us, and we might even do updates to this story.

That`s it for THE BEAT.

"THE REIDOUT" starts now.