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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, August 12, 2020

Guests: Robert Gibbs, Jill Louis, Daniella Gibbs Leger, Carol Moseley Braun, Terri Sewell, Brittney Cooper


Former Senator Carol Moseley Braun discusses the Kamala Harris vice presidential pick. Congresswoman Terri Sewell speaks out. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris appear together at an event.



Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, Chuck.

And if it's true that Kamala Harris has made some people off-kilter, nut Chuck Todd. He has been on-kilter, covering the big story. Our thanks to Chuck.

And let me tell you exactly what we're doing right now. I'm Ari Melber. This is a new episode of THE BEAT. And we are, with you, living through another historic night in American history, regardless of your politics, because, across the country, wherever you are on the spectrum, everyone's taking in the news that began to be made late yesterday, a new Biden/Harris ticket.

And now, tonight, for the first time as a country, we're seeing this for the first time. There you have it, their first appearance together in this COVID world since forming this historic ticket.

Crowds were gathering outside at this high school in Wilmington, Delaware, people excited about it. Inside, this was a physically distant pandemic era appearance, the former rivals coming out in a show of energy, diversity and unity and taking on Donald Trump.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump has already started his attacks, calling Kamala -- quote -- "nasty."

Is anyone surprised Donald Trump has a problem with a strong woman or strong women across the board?

She's going to stand with me in this campaign, and all of us are going to stand up for her.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Joe, I'm so proud to stand with you, as the only who has served alongside the first black president and has chosen the first black woman as his running mate.


MELBER: The arrangement inside was pretty measured and quiet. You see it here, chairs separated widely for safety.

And Harris, in this first joint appearance, addressing the pandemic head on.


HARRIS: Like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground.

Because of Trump's failures of leadership, our economy has taken one of the biggest hits out of all the major industrialized nations. This is what happens when we elect a guy who just isn't up for the job.


MELBER: And in a historic appearance today, I want you to see something else, neither of these candidates waiting to tackle the ongoing divisions that we are all living through.

They tackled them head on, speaking about Trump's -- quote -- "racist failures," as well as the power of protest.


BIDEN: Trump seeks only to inflame it with his politics of racist rhetoric and appeals to division.

HARRIS: I devoted my life to making real the words carved in the United States Supreme Court, equal justice under law.

My parents would bring me to protests, strapped tightly in my stroller. And my mother, Shyamala, raised my sister, Maya, and me to believe that it was up to us and every generation of Americans to keep on marching.


MELBER: Keep on marching, words that resonate well outside of electoral politics, when you look at the bipartisan or even nonpartisan protests that animated this summer and that are now ricocheting clearly at the top of the Democratic ticket, as named by Senator Harris herself.

Will people keep on marching to November?

Let's get right to two expert friends of ours.

Daniella Gibbs Leger was an Obama administration official. She's now with the Center for American Progress. And Brittney Cooper, a professor at Rutgers university.

Good evening to both of you.



MELBER: Brittney, you have been with us on so many issues for years on this program, as well as other coverage on MSNBC.

So, in addition to what was new tonight, your first reaction on THE BEAT to this ticket in its entirety now.

COOPER: Look, I think that Biden made a very smart decision. He understands that black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party.

And, as I have said many times, it's -- time is out for a black women to simply be asked to do the custodial work of keeping the Democratic Party going and doing the custodial work of democracy. It's time for us to be in the room helping to make decisions.

And so this pick of Kamala Harris affirms that black women matter to the Democratic Party and that our demands matter. This was a concerted effort by lots of black women to get -- to lobby Biden to pick Kamala. She is entirely qualified.

And I think she came up with a really strong showing today. What we need is some straight talk in this political moment about what Trump has cost us. And I think she's pulling no punches. That's what she's known for. It's on brand for her.

So I think it's a good signal. And I think that it's going to energize the Democratic Party, because, for once, finally, after many years of lobbying, they seem to be listening to who their core constituency is.

MELBER: Daniella, I'm curious what you thought of Senator Harris' invocations of the protests, because, as we have pointed out in this program, both historically and up to today, while you can definitely apportion different responsibility -- and everyone knows the Republicans, starting with Mitch McConnell on down, blocking the Voting Rights Act, blocking civil rights.

We have covered that, but a lot of these protests were against Democratic-run police departments and Democratic mayors. And so it is not such a crisp or universally pro-Democratic point to invoke them, as many BLM activists and other leaders have made that point on this program and others.

But what did you think of the substantive points she made invoking those protests, which she argues today, on balance, go towards voting for her ticket?

GIBBS LEGER: Yes, I think it was very smart of her to mention it. I think, if she didn't mention it, people would say, well, wait a minute. How could you not mention the most important movement that has been happening in this country over the past couple of years?

And, look, she would be the first person to talk about that you need to hold everybody accountable. You need to hold Democrats accountable, Democrats who run these cities, Democrat to stand up with some of these police departments, when perhaps they shouldn't, and understanding that that anger that was in the street, that has been decades brewing.

And what we know for sure is that this administration and their policies have just put gasoline on that fire. And what this country needs is, like, we need some calm, we need some leadership, we need some adults in the White House.

And I just have to take a point of personal privilege, As the daughter of two Caribbean immigrants, seeing her up there today really had me all in my feelings.

MELBER: Appreciate you sharing that.

And we see that in the way that this -- again, I mentioned that up top -- it doesn't have to be only partisan, although, lord knows, things are polarized. But people will read about yesterday in their history books for decades to come, even before you get to the outcome of this election.

And I don't say that as a blue or red thing, as you mentioned how that's meaningful to people from a lot of different groups, from the American pride, which is something I believe, personally, I think we can reflect on, even in our polarized times.

Both of you, stay with me. We're going to bring in someone who's actually mulling a potentially historic candidacy herself, among other things, but also an expert analyst for us.

Maya Wiley served as a New York City -- oh, I'm told. This is breaking news. Maya is trying to join us, but not good yet on tech. So, call that a partial tease. Maya may get her Skype worked out.

Both of you still stay with me. And the other thing I was going to play for her, but I will play for both of you is, let's have real talk. Not every campaign decision gets turned into an ad, because it wouldn't be that interesting. It wouldn't connect with regular voters.

We had guests last night talking about the texts and the excitement they're getting from apolitical, less political people. And here you have an ad flipped right away for a moment that does seem to resonate with a lot of people. Let's take a look.


HARRIS: Hi, hi, hi. Sorry to keep you.

You ready to go to work?

HARRIS: Oh, my God, I'm so ready to go to work.

BIDEN: First of all, is the answer is yes?

HARRIS: The answer is absolutely yes, Joe.


HARRIS: And I'm ready to work. I am ready to do this with you, for you. I'm just -- I'm just deeply honored, and I'm very excited.


MELBER: Daniella, we all have lived this lately, looking into that Zoom screen. Who among us hasn't mulled our vice presidential pick, and then messed with the Zoom connection, trying to make sure it works?

But what did you think of them flipping this moment politically right now tonight?

GIBBS LEGER: I thought it was really smart and very brilliant of them to do that.

Look, we are all living through Zoom. We all can relate to being on these calls for work all day long. And so I thought it was just a really relatable moment for people, but, also, even though it was him speaking to a computer, you could still hear and feel the emotion in her voice.

I thought it was a great ad.

MELBER: I think we do have Maya Wiley, as mentioned, an expert analyst for us, a former New York City official in the de Blasio administration, and mulling, we should mention, a potentially barrier-breaking bid for New York City mayor.


MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you, Ari. It's great to be here.

MELBER: Great to have you.

Maya, take a look at something else that we wanted to reflect on with all three of you. We have been collecting, of course, reaction, reporting on it in Florida, a key state where we're seeing voters take this news in. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a massive underrepresentation. And I think that that's very important, A, for everyone to look up to and, B, hopefully to bring about some real change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden really needed someone on the ticket who represented kind of a bridging together of the divides in our country.

And I think Kamala Harris fits that bill perfectly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's a progressive thinker. She is very much on immigration, which is good. So, I think it was a wise choice.



WILEY: You're hearing what the nation has been seeing and protests that have been happening across the country, which is a real demand for exciting, new, transformational leadership.

And I think what we're hearing is, black women increasingly are seen not just as the workhorses of the party, not just as the heart of the party, but also as the leaders of the party.

And that is something that's exciting not just to black women or women of color, but to Americans to see that this country is finally looking like in leadership what it looks like in representation across the country.

MELBER: Are you announcing your candidacy right now?


MELBER: And she froze. Look at this. You can't make it up.


MELBER: This is pandemic era vibes.

Maya Wiley not ducking the question, but actually technologically frozen. We have been having some issues there. We will re-rack the panel.

But, Brittney, I want to play a little bit more from today, so we take this in. Some people, of course, did watch it live or stream it live online.

But some other key moments where Kamala Harris was also getting personal, take a look.


HARRIS: He really was the best of us.

And when I would ask him, where did you get that, where did this come from, he'd always talk about his dad.

I will tell you, the love that they shared was incredible to watch.

I've had a lot of titles over my career, and certainly vice president will be great, but Momala will always be the one that means the most.


MELBER: Brittney?

COOPER: Look, she's doing that thing that good candidates have to do, which is, she's softening, she's being charismatic, she's letting people in so that they get a sense of what she values, because we're used to seeing the kind of -- when she goes after people, when she is grilling them in the Senate.

And I personally love that, right? I love that fire. But we really need to see her as somebody who's relatable and who's connected to communities.


MELBER: You're talking about her George Foreman side?



MELBER: Just grilling, just grilling the witness.


COOPER: Listen, the George Foreman grill ain't got nothing on Kamala when she goes after people.

But which -- but we need that. Very early in her presidential campaign, she said that she wanted to prosecute the case against Donald Trump. And so we know that part.

But black woman also have this additional mountain to climb with the American public, which is about helping them to see us in all of these different capacities. So we can't just see her as the kind of passionate sort of bulldog in Congress, because that might cause her to be read as angry.

So I like that she's -- that there is an attempt to soften her.

Let me also say, though, with that Biden ad, my one critique of it, is we need to see Kamala in the ad, though. She can't kind of be a disembodied voice helping bring Joe into the presidency. That's just me putting on my scholar hat briefly and saying that we want to see black women represented. We want to see them in the picture.

I don't just want to hear about black woman being like, I'm ready to work. Show her. Show her leading. And I know what it's going for. And I think it's pegged to the moment.

But how this campaign visually represents itself is going to be incredibly important, because representation matters. We're excited because we have a black woman in this space. But we also need content.

And, look, it's not just Kamala who has to prove something to the people. Joe Biden has also got to prove that he is really committed to this. And so he has made this pick. But now we don't just need it to be symbolic.

Part of the reason that people have been protesting in the streets all summer is because they are tired of the symbolism of American progress and the symbolism of American diversity. And people are really looking to see, what is substantively going to change with a Biden/Harris presidency?

But what I do love and what I think is really working today is there seems to be a genuine warmth and collegiality between them. And I do think, in a moment where Americans are so polarized, seeing a team that is working together and seem to genuinely like and respect each other, I think that's going to go a long way for them as we move toward November.

MELBER: Yes, really, really important points. And I appreciate, Professor, you bringing out, what do people take from these visuals?

And, lord knows, Donald Trump, whatever you think of, him, as a communicator, visually and otherwise, has definitely hammered message. And we're seeing kind of a new phase, obviously, in this Biden campaign, with them coming outside, presenting all of this.

We have a lot more on it in the program.

So, I want to thank Brittney Cooper and Daniella Gibbs Leger and, of course, Maya Wiley, who did her best, even with modern 2020 tech issues.

Coming up, we have some special guests, including the first woman senator ever elected, Carol Moseley Braun, to the United States Senate. We also have Kamala Harris' former sorority sister from Howard University.

And it ain't over until "SNL" gets involved. We're going to show you Maya Rudolph, the "SNL" actor's reaction to the news.

I'm Ari Melber. You're watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.



HARRIS: Joe, I'm so proud to stand with you. And I do so mindful of all the heroic and ambitious women before me whose sacrifice, determination and resilience makes my presence here today even possible.


MELBER: Kamala Harris there touting women leaders who came before her and helped build this path to today's historic appearance, as Harris joins Biden as the first woman of color on a major-party presidential ticket, the first black woman, the first woman of Asian descent.

And, if elected, she would be the first woman vice president, period.

Now, as Harris noted late today, and as many experts have been telling us, this has been, of course, a long road, dating back to the first woman elected to Congress, Jeannette Rankin. That was in 1916, four years before women got the formal national right to vote.

It's a path that also draws on a barrier broken by Dalip Singh Saund, the first Asian American ever elected to Congress, and then wound its way towards more recent and more well-known candidates nationally, like Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin, who were, of course, running mates for each major party's presidential ticket, although both of those bids lost.

Now, for today's Democratic Party, which has faced down Trump's bigotry in this summer of civil rights protests that we have been discussing, Harris draws the powerful leadership of other individuals as well, like Shirley Chisholm, who was both the first black woman elected to Congress and the first to run for president, daring people to take that idea seriously, and pushing her own party, which has come to rely so much on black voters, to take black leadership seriously.


SHIRLEY CHISHOLM (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Friends, I am a candidate for the presidency of the United States.

I make that statement proudly, in the full knowledge that, as a black person and a female person, I do not have a chance of actually gaining that office in this election year.

I make that statement seriously, knowing that my candidacy itself can change the face and future of American politics.


MELBER: She was speaking that about a future that we're living today.

And it's actually easy to forget that, back when Barack Obama joined the Senate, at that time, he was the only black member, and that Harris, now leading her entire party tonight, joined a Senate that at that time, in 2017, had literally only included one other elected black woman senator ever, Carol Moseley Braun.


CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: It's a new day in America!


BRAUN: Illinois is sending a woman to the United States Senate.


BRAUN: You have made history.


MELBER: We're joined now by a special guest, the trailblazer you just saw there, former United States Senator Carol Moseley Braun.

Thank you for joining me for this conversation.

BRAUN: I'm delighted to be with you. Thank you for inviting me.

MELBER: Of course.

How are you feeling about all this right now?

BRAUN: I'm over the moon. I am so happy. I'm delighted that Joe Biden made the absolute right decision.

And I think Kamala will be fabulous as vice president. We have to get them elected, obviously, as a first step. But I think it's important that we celebrate and revel in this very happy moment. With all the ugliness around us, between the pandemic and all the other economic issues in the country, this is a moment to savor and enjoy.

And I am just delighted to actually be able to live through it and see it.

MELBER: You mention living through it, living history.

What do you know and what does Senator Kamala Harris probably know that the two of you have experienced on the inside of that Senate and the way it looked when you got there, and, as I mentioned, the way pretty it much similarly looks, although there's been progress -- we're not undercounting it, but a little bit.

What do you two know about operating in that world that many of us outside it might not understand or fully appreciate?

BRAUN: Well, just that politics reflects the culture, not the other way around.

And so it's important. One of the reasons I'm so proud of Kamala is that she has been able to navigate the cultural eddies and the cultural back-and-forth to get to where she is now, and to come through California politics.

And California is as large as some countries. And so she's been able to be a survivor, to make a record for herself and for her community. And she's always been there in public service, dedicated to public service. And so I'm just so proud of her and absolutely delighted with Joe Biden that he has made this decision.

I think it's the absolute right one in helping him get elected president of the United States and help us turn the page in this country.

MELBER: Stay with me.

I want to as well for this special discussion bring in another one of your respective colleagues, in the larger sense the word, Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell.

How about you -- same question -- how are you feeling about all this?

REP. TERRI SEWELL (D-AL): I am so excited.

Kamala has been such a delight to work with over the years. I was honored that she came on the Faith & Politics pilgrimage with John Lewis several times.

And the opportunity to have not only a strong legislator and a fighter for the people, but also my sorority sister, AKA, in the House, I think that she has -- really adds something to this ticket and is going to be the winning combination to get us, as Carol said, to turn the page of history from this administration.

MELBER: Now, Congresswoman, I will tell you and anybody watching, we have more AKA later in this very program tonight. So, it's all happening.

SEWELL: It is.

It's not just the 300,000 ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha, all of that, so a big constituency. It's really the Divine Nine, the importance of fraternities and sororities in the African-American community will bring to this ticket 2.6 million very highly motivated men and women of our community to try to make sure that the Biden/Harris ticket get elected.


For both of you, I want to play something that we were hearing from our colleague Rachel Maddow in her coverage last night. And I was watching it myself, as I'm sure other viewers may have been.

And I wanted to tee it up for your analysis here, because she makes the nuanced point both that there has been more of this kind of barrier-breaking change in the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. But she also makes the observation, historically, that many of these initial barriers broken -- Senator Braun being an exception, obviously -- have been a part of tickets and times that Democrats have lost.

Take a listen.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": The first time a woman was on a presidential ticket in the United States, it was 1984. The first time an African-American was on a presidential ticket in the United States, it was 2008.

The first time a woman was at the top of a presidential ticket as the presidential nominee of a major party, that was 2016.

The Democratic Party keeps breaking these barriers. That said, only one of those pioneering tickets I just described actually won the presidency, Barack Obama in 2008.


MELBER: Senator Braun, your response?

BRAUN: My response is just what I said before. It's the politics follows the culture.

When the community as a whole is ready to make that move and ready to embrace diversity in all of its magnificence, in gender, and race, and culture and class, all those things, when the community is ready for it, that's when it happens, and not other -- not before.

And, frankly, I'm thrilled, because now we have got a chance to rally around a ticket that represents working-class people, that represents black people, that represents immigrant people, that represents women.

I mean, these are -- you take these numbers, and you put them together, and you should have a winning majority in America. And I'm convinced that this ticket can do it, because Joe Biden has a record of having served people all his career, as long as I have known him -- I worked with him for six years.

And I got a chance to see him in action on any number of different issues. And I was always so pleased to know that he came out on the right side of history as far as my interests were concerned.

And so I'm convinced that, between his background and his training and his record, and what Kamala brings to the ticket, they will be able to pull it together, and we can take this country back and get it on the right track.

MELBER: Congresswoman?

SEWELL: Absolutely.

The common thread between the last time that Democrats had a record-breaking candidate with Barack Obama, that ticket of Obama and Biden won, and that common thread is Joe Biden.

Joe Biden is also on this historic winning ticket. And I truly believe that this ticket complements and adds to the American fabric. It really does. It's a heartwarming story, both of them, Biden and Harris, of the American dream manifested.

And I think it's really important, as we see this candidacy, the presidency of Donald Trump, really be one that has seen our country lose its luster in the rest of the world. And it's about bringing back integrity and bringing back dignity and bringing back excellence to the presidency and to the White House.

I think that we have seen this president time and time again be misogynistic and racist. And, frankly, a Biden/Harris ticket is a ticket that is a reminder of the very best of America. And it would fully restore our country, as well as the presidency.

And I must tell you, I know a little something about the power of black women. I know that Carol Moseley Braun does as well. But being from a red state like Alabama, I saw African-American women really help carry Doug Jones across that finish line in a really ruby red state.

So let's not underestimate the power of having a dynamic and obviously qualified African-American woman also on that ticket.

MELBER: Would he have won without black women voters?

SEWELL: I think -- I don't think he would have.

Doug only won by a hair. And, frankly, he needed the fact that African-American women overperformed in Alabama, was really the key to him winning. And so I think that it was a very important constituency for him to have that winning combination.

And I know that he knows that, and he's working just as hard, doubling down on that winning coalition, to try to regain his seat in the -- or keep his seat in the Senate.

And so I think it's really important that we -- I think that Kamala would have been an asset to the ticket, irrespective of her gender and her race, but those only, I think, add to the flavor of the ticket, because she has shown herself to be overly qualified when it comes to her ability to fight for the common man in order to help us restore dignity to the American public and also to restore our democracy.

I think that both Joe and Kamala equally are wonderful examples of the American dream...

MELBER: Right.

SEWELL: ... and what's possible in America, if you're (AUDIO GAP) American and if you're a hardworking white American.

At the end of the day, they are a great combination and the winning combination to get the Democrats back into the White House.

MELBER: Congresswoman Sewell, Senator Moseley Braun, thank you both for reflecting with us on how we got here tonight.

When we're back in just 30 seconds, we will tell you why Trump insiders appear rattled over this pick.



BIDEN: Kamala, as you all know, is smart, she's tough, she's experienced, she's a proven fighter.


MELBER: Well, it is still too early to know exactly how Kamala Harris may reshape many aspects of this race. We're just a day into it.

But I can show you something pretty interesting right now, brand-new. Many activists and donors love this pick, Biden's campaign raising well over $10 million, powered by Harris as the new running mate.

And while Donald Trump has tried to cast Biden as a radical liberal, among other things, Harris' law enforcement background has initially, at least, appeared to complicate that attack.

Look at this Trump ally conceding that Harris puts the Trump campaign in a box, whether you portray her as pro-police or anti-police, while few of Trump's top political advisers were rooting for Biden to pick Harris. That would be a sign of her potentially perceived strength.

Meanwhile, another GOP insider says she's a fierce questioner and is certainly an energetic candidate.

That is what many voters are sure to see between now and November, someone making the case against Donald Trump and Pence.

And let's take a listen to her just moments ago.


HARRIS: As somebody who has presented my fair share of arguments in court, the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut.

Just look where they've gotten us, more than 16 million out of work, millions of kids who cannot go back to school.


MELBER: Harris is now elevated, of course, on the stump with this new profile.

She will also go presumably head to head with Mike Pence in a scheduled V.P. debate. And she could get potentially inside Donald Trump's head, as he goes after her from his currently overshadowed White House briefings.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Republicans do know -- and guests were mentioning this earlier tonight on this program -- how tough Kamala Harris has been in high-stakes cross-examination and debate-style settings.


HARRIS: Do you believe that President Trump has accurately conveyed the severity of the threat of COVID-19 to the American people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you saying presently?

HARRIS: You wrote, "Nor do I recall, do not have recollection, do not remember it."

So, my question is, for any of your testimony today, did you refresh your memory with any written documents?

Do you believe that the previous interrogation techniques were immoral?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, I believe that CIA officers to whom you referred....

HARRIS: It's a yes-or-no answer.


MELBER: There may be some of those teed up Mike Pence's way.

We are joined by two people who know these issues, Obama alumni. Robert Gibbs was a campaign adviser and then White House press secretary, of course. And Cornell Belcher was Obama's 2012 pollster, an MSNBC analyst.

And, Cornell, you know why you're back tonight, right?

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: To talk about Curtis Mayfield and that being the blackest presidential theme song ever for a campaign.

MELBER: "Moving On Up?" Which one?

BELCHER: "Moving On Up." Keep on pushing, Ari. Move on up.


MELBER: Moving on up.

That album -- actually, this is not what you're here to talk about. But that album has that beautiful shot of Curtis in the sort of light pastel '70s suit, a side picture. Yes.

You know what I'm talking about, Robert, right?

BELCHER: Well, I have got a picture of Robert Gibbs in that same outfit.

MELBER: Yes, Robert likes a cream-colored bell bottoms suit?

ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I am wearing bell bottoms now. You just can't see them.


GIBBS: Ari, I'm just glad -- Cornell rarely returns e-mails. So I'm just happy to be within his presence.


MELBER: I will say, you don't always get a ton of Cornell. He was so happy last night.

And I love it when people share their honest selves, even as a grizzled political pollster. Then we say, yes, we don't usually do two nights in a row. Bring him right back.

And that's what I want to get into, the -- we just saw some of what Harris does.

Cornell, listen to her moments ago on the real serious issue of the day, this pandemic.


HARRIS: Joe likes to say that character is on the ballot. And it's true.

When he saw what happened in Charlottesville three years ago today, he knew we were in a battle for the soul of our nation.

There's a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation. It's because of Trump's failure to take it seriously from the start, his refusal to get testing up and running, his flip-flopping on social distancing and wearing masks, his delusional belief that he knows better than the experts.


MELBER: Cornell, what do you see here politically in her as an attack dog against Trump?

BELCHER: No, I think, look, she's going to use all her skill as a prosecutor and to prosecute the case against Trump and Pence.

And she started doing that today. And, by the way, she's very, very good at it.

But I will say this. And I'd love to hear Gibbs jump in on this as well. But there's also the likability factor of a woman, right? And Hillary certainly had to deal with it. And women have to deal with it all the time.

So, her as the classic attack dog, I think -- I think there's going to have to be some nuance, because we know that sort of the bias is there that we don't like women to be too tough or to sort of attacky.

But she is very, very good at that. But I do think her being a woman and her being a woman of color, they're going to have to nuance it a little bit.

GIBBS: Ari, I think that's true.

And you could see today -- I mean, one, it is not easy to give a rally stump speech in front of no crowd. And she did it remarkably well.

The tone in which she prosecutes that attack is not something that is going to turn a lot of people off, is my guess. You can see it when she asked those questions. She's not screaming. She's being very matter of fact. And I think she elicits some pretty damaging answers.

She's also got a tremendously inspiring story. And I think so many people see America in that story, much like they did with Barack Obama. So I think this has been a very, very good rollout.

And, look, you have already seen probably three of the five things that you expect a vice presidential nominee to do. She's already done probably three of them, right?

One is, she's answered the question as whether she's ready. The American people believe that, right? She's able to be inspiring. That's two. And, three, she's able to prosecute the case.

We will see -- and she will be very good in the debate. That's probably four. And maybe the convention speech is five. There's not a lot that a V.P. nominee does. And she clearly is a five-tool player.

MELBER: Well, and you hear -- Cornell, you hear Robert use the very apt word prosecute the case.

But prosecutors are not uniformly popular, at least in the traditional sense. And we have been tracking sort of the reaction to this.

And one of the most substantive civil rights, crime record interviews that Biden has faced since being the nominee came from the radio host Charlamagne tha God on "The Breakfast Club." It got a lot of attention for more than one comment in it. You and viewers may remember.

And so it's interesting. So, he's been someone who's really pressed Biden on this and was -- pressed him in that interview for why he thought it should also be a black woman running mate.

Here is Charlamagne's new response, as someone who's been pretty critical of Biden and, at times, prosecutors.

He says, look: "Here's what I know. Whether you like Kamala or not, the administration is going to unleash a disgusting attack on her, mainly because she's a black woman. We have to protect her and uplift her as much as possible throughout this campaign."


BELCHER: A couple things.

One is, I'm very happy to hear him say that. One thing is, I think the early parts of her speech today, she was actually doing some inoculation, when she was talking about from the time she was a baby in a stroller, her and her parents were at civil rights movement, right? She was part of the civil rights -- she's grounding herself in that sort of black movement.

And the conversation she has about why she was went into the criminal justice, right, she went there to protect victims. She went there to look out for children.

I mean, she sort of begins some of that inoculation that I think is going to come from the left about -- around policing.

But, I think to the point that Charlamagne has made is -- gives an -- and we never talk about this, but we know very well that there was a lot of criticism for -- among African-Americans of Barack Obama that never came to the light of the day while he was in office...

MELBER: What do you mean?

BELCHER: ... because there is this ideal that this is one of us.


MELBER: What do you mean it didn't come to the light of day? What do you mean?

BELCHER: Well, a lot of the sort of criticisms about the Democratic Party that you hear right now, Ari, very loudly and clearly, we didn't hear all that -- so much criticism when Barack Obama was at the top of it, because it was really like protecting family.

He was the first. He was a historical figure. So it was really sort of rallying around a family member. And that's really the sort of importance and power of Barack Obama. And you see the same sort of thing happening sort of organically around Senator Harris right now.

For someone who's been so strident, like Charlamagne, who -- great respect for him and his show -- that he's standing up right now, saying, we're going to have to protect this black woman, no matter what they throw at her, you can't -- you can't buy that. I mean, that is just magic, political magic.

And, by the way, it's true. We are going to need to protect her, because I think they're going to focus a lot of their firepower now at Senator Harris more so than Biden, because it's been -- it's not been working, their attacks on Biden.

MELBER: Very interesting.

I got to fit in a break, because we ran over on time. We will be having both of you back. You're going to be busy, especially going into these conventions.

Cornell Belcher and Robert Gibbs, experts, Obama alumni, thank you.

Part of the reason we're moving forward after this break is that we have a special interview with a longtime Kamala Harris insider, her college classmate and sorority sister, when we come back.


MELBER: We are back with a friend and lifelong sorority sister of Kamala Harris, Jill Louis, who attended Howard with Harris and, like Harris, we should mention, went on to get a law degree. She's now on the Board of Trustees at Howard and a practicing attorney.

Thank you for being here.

What do you know about Kamala Harris that the rest of us might not? JILL LOUIS, LONGTIME FRIEND OF KAMALA HARRIS: The main thing I know about her is that she's a real person.

She was a real classmate, a real sorority sister, and someone who's a real friend. And I think we tend to think that these people who are in public life are some breed of cat that is wildly different than your walk-a-day human.

They may have been called to do something particularly extraordinary, but they really are a real person. And I think that gets lost sometimes.

MELBER: I think you're absolutely right.

And we think about that, because we could be a part of the problem sometimes in the media, or sometimes we really try to understand and learn about people.

When Harris was first elected, she sat down with me. And we did a little bit of a lightning round, which includes the serious and the fun. Let's see if you recognize some of the person you have known for so many decades. Take a look.


MELBER: Democrats must?

HARRIS: Speak truth.

MELBER: Vladimir Putin should?

HARRIS: Stop interfering with our elections.

MELBER: Ted Cruz is?

HARRIS: From Texas.

MELBER: Hillary Clinton is?

HARRIS: A great, great public servant.

MELBER: Donald Trump is?

HARRIS: President of the United States.


MELBER: Did she always have that tact when you knew her?

LOUIS: Oh, absolutely. That's one of the things. She was a cool, calm and collected person.

In fact, that was something that we referred to her by, is her ability to be calm, and to really be incisive. She keeps her wits about her in both a humor way, but also it in a way of keeping her focus.

MELBER: Did you have the sense then that she would run for office?

LOUIS: Absolutely not. It just wasn't a thing.

You have to realize that, when we were in college, we didn't even have Title IX. We did not have things that encourage women to move forward into these types of spaces.

And I don't think that many of us visualized ourselves in that way. And what's particularly amazing now is that so many young girls can visualize themselves with limitless potential. And so, no, we thought that she would do something special and impactful. We were all there in college to do that.

But I don't think that we ever thought that she would be on a major ticket in this way.

MELBER: What did you relay to her or tell her when you heard about this news?

LOUIS: Just how excited we were, proud of her, and that, as her sorority sisters, that we were there for her.

And I think that it's important to know that your real friends are still there with you and for you. It can be very isolating, I think, to be in public life...


LOUIS: ... and how careful you have to be and who you associate with. And you don't really even own your own calendar.

But to know that you're 30-plus-year girlfriends are still those same people, I think that's reassuring.

MELBER: Well, isn't that why Drake says, no new friends?

LOUIS: That may be why Drake says that, but I have not had the opportunity to ask him.


MELBER: Me either, something we have in common.

Jill, I appreciate you giving us a little bit of the insight into the real, full person, as well as something we have heard about, which is this lifelong sorority sister bond, and just what that means.

And I suspect, during this campaign season, we will be hearing from you and your sisters again. So, thank you.

LOUIS: Thank you. Take care.

MELBER: Absolutely. Cheers.

We fit in a break.

When we come back, live from New York, it's Maya Rudolph as Kamala -- how the comedian reacted to all the brand-new news.


MELBER: A Biden/Harris ticket means one thing for sure. We are all going to see a lot more as a great actor Maya Rudolph.

She, of course, is an "SNL" alum and famously impersonated Harris in those Democratic presidential debates.


MAYA RUDOLPH, ACTRESS: I'm a smooth-talking lady lawyer. I'm Rizzoli and I'm Isles.


RUDOLPH: I'm a walking, talking TNT show.


MELBER: And Maya actually found out about this news, like a lot of other people, on the fly.

This was yesterday real time during an interview.


RUDOLPH: I'm so thrilled to even be associated with the show and that I got to go back. But I'm as surprised as you are, guys.

That's -- that's spicy.



MELBER: President Trump just now launching a new attack on Kamala Harris.


TRUMP: He made a choice. He picked her.

I watched her. I watched her poll numbers go boom, boom, boom, down to almost nothing. And she left angry. She left mad. There was nobody more insulting to Biden than she was.


MELBER: The Democrats' new pick clearly making an impression at Trump's own briefing.

That does it for THE BEAT tonight.



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