Joe Biden's choice to pick Kamala Harris as a running mate is discussed. Is President Trump targeting the Postal Service to impact mail-in voting? Attorney Benjamin Crump discusses the Breonna Taylor case.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you so much.
And welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.
Senate Republicans are continuing to block this critical COVID relief bill. Now Donald Trump is attacking voting by mail, as he trails Joe Biden in the polls.
But there is more. And if you haven't heard about this, we're going to get into it right now.
In an incriminating and sweeping claim, the president is brazenly saying he will take the instruments of voting hostage right now. Now, this, of course, comes as these talks have stalled over relief for millions of Americans. You know it. A lot of people know it. People are without jobs through no fault of their own.
There was jobless benefits, until they ran out. So, that is the backdrop for Donald Trump now formally blocking $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service.
Making it harder to vote is not something politicians generally admit is their goal, and certainly not as part of a strategy to take a hostage, as a hostage, your COVID relief from your taxpayer dollars for you and millions of others.
So, this is a big story here tonight, with echoes of the confessions everyone remembers from Ukraine collusion, which, of course, led to impeachment. Sometimes, they just say it out loud. Donald Trump admits it on camera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want $25 billion, billion, for the post office. Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.
Now, if we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money. That means they can't have universal mail-in voting. They just can't have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: If we don't get the deal, your president says, then they don't get free and fair voting, which is your actual constitutional right?
This is the president conditioning your jobless benefits on your right to vote.
It comes amid slowdowns that have been widely reported at the post office under this administration and warnings from, again, nonpartisan independent election officials, not the anti-Trump resistance, that there is serious potential for further problems counting what will be more crucial in a pandemic, which is mail-in ballots.
Now, one way to look at this is, OK, the president said something in an interview, he says a lot of stuff, but, Ari, how real is this?
Well, we try to make sense of that for you. And I have some caveats about all this as well for accurate context.
But the sign that this is real and intentional also comes from other parts of this administration, a top White House economic adviser saying something very similar. Listen to Larry Kudlow admitting that, at the White House, they see the constitutional and universal foundation of a democracy -- quote -- "voting rights" -- listen for it -- they see that as some sort of liberal idea to be negotiated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: So much of the Democrats asks are really liberal left wish lists. We don't want to have vote -- voting rights and aid to aliens and so forth. That's not our game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Voting rights, that's -- we -- that's not our game.
I'm showing you this so you can make up your own mind about what it means. But this is what you're hearing from the president and his adviser.
And then Speaker Pelosi responding with something that is factually important. Whoever you prefer on the ideology or the politics or the debate between these individuals, she's invoking an actual piece of numerical information, which is bad news for Trump in this standoff.
She notes that voting budget figure comes from Donald Trump's own administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We put $25 billion. That figure is the figure that was recommended by the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service, 100 percent appointed by Donald Trump.
The president is afraid of the American people. He's been afraid for a while. He knows that, on the legit, it'd be hard for him to win. So he wants to put obstacles on participation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The speaker arguing that this comes out of Trump's weakness, that he is shook, that he's worried he's losing to Biden if they just count all the votes.
Now, there are caveats. And if you watch THE BEAT, you know we always bring them to you, again, for fairness and context.
So I want you to understand, of course, it is true that high-stakes deal-making in Washington can be a tough game, that sometimes people in either party will threaten to block something that is a key provision or a sacred cow of the other side, that that becomes part of a negotiating strategy. And then, ultimately, maybe the deal still gets done. Maybe the postal money still comes through.
I can't tell you tonight whether that's going to happen or not. But, in fairness, that is a possible defense, that this is hardball.
But, then, even beyond this deal, Donald Trump, of course, has been publicly attacking voting by mail anyway. And if Donald Trump does, as he's announced tonight he says he wants to, use his budgetary power to starve the instruments of voting during this pandemic, Democrats are warning, a free and fair election itself may be in peril.
Let's turn to our experts, the former chairman of the Republican Party and a former lieutenant governor, Michael Steele, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham, and a political strategist and recent fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School Aisha Mills.
Good evening to both of you.
Aisha, where do you see this in the space between hardball negotiation, which, as I say, in fairness, happens in Washington, and what critics say is an illegitimate attack on our right to vote?
AISHA C. MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Ari, I missed you. It's good to see you again. And I'm glad to be back.
MELBER: Nice to see you.
MILLS: I just want to remind people that, while hardball happens in Washington, nothing about it is actually fair when it's on the backs of Americans' lives.
And that is literally what's happening right now with this president. He is -- I love that you frame this as holding hostage unemployment benefits, literally COVID relief at this point, because that's exactly what he's doing.
MELBER: Yes. Yes.
MILLS: Where I see this going -- I mean, Donald Trump has showed us time and time again who he is. And so we need to just start believing him.
And I think that where this is going is just further political peril for him. All of the polls are showing that he is trending way downward. And I don't know why he thinks that it is wise to hold hostage people's relief funds. And these are his people, by the way, because the states that are suffering deeply right now are red states.
MILLS: Folks are out of work, need their unemployment, as people are literally getting sick.
And so I think this is all going to backfire on him in terms of the politics of it. What really frustrates me -- and I'm glad that Speaker Pelosi is trying to figure this out -- is that, for whatever reason, this Teflon Don dude, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of legal remedy and intervention that can be employed in the short term.
And so I am hoping that we do on a political spectrum try to navigate this and let's shame and, at minimum, get Republicans in the Senate to turn against the president, because that seems to be the path forward.
MELBER: Aisha, when you say Teflon Don, are you referring to Donald Trump or Rick Ross?
MILLS: I am referring to Donald Trump.
MILLS: And I heard the Mobb Deep references with the "Shook Ones" earlier.
MELBER: So, that's Pelosi going Mobb Deep. But I appreciate you.
MILLS: ... because it's not legal.
MELBER: Jon Meacham, your view on this.
And I'm curious your response to the very serious point Aisha raises that we mentioned in the setup, which is plenty of hardball out there, but the desperation out there, and whether or not this is, in your view, normal and precedented or something more sinister to really use the desperation of what people need, the eviction protection, the job benefits, in this battle, with what we're hearing from the president tonight.
JON MEACHAM, NBC NEWS HISTORIAN: It's predictably cataclysmic, which we have become accustomed to.
But just because we're accustomed to something being cataclysmic doesn't mean it's not cataclysmic. And I think that the public attention this has been gratifying in many ways, and I hope that it translates into actual action.
The story of America is the story of suffrage. And it's the reason we fought a revolution. It's the reason for Seneca Falls. It was the reason for the 15th Amendment. It was the reason for the 19th Amendment, where 100 years -- this is the centennial of women's suffrage.
And in that era, in that moment, we have a president who admits he doesn't want to count ballots that are against him. And no politician wants to count ballots who are against them.
But it seems to me that, if we know on the front end that there is a significant fraud -- I will repeat that -- that a significant fraud being planned on the American elections, then, really, I think Republicans have to ask themselves -- and it's not a partisan point -- we'd be saying this if it were a Democratic president -- they have to ask themselves, is the clinging of power, is the clinging to this moment in time worth wrecking, perhaps for a long time to come, a system that has, in fact, built a nation that a lot of us think is worth defending?
And it's -- that sounds grand, but, again, it's a cataclysmic moment.
And you lay it out. That's so important.
Michael, I want to show you something in particular, which is how we have seen, from literally asking foreign governments for collusion help to go after Biden, to kneecapping the Russia probe, Donald Trump many times has said the quiet part out loud. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Russia if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
What I did is, I was going to fire Comey. This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
China should start an investigation into the Bidens.
If we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money. That means they can't have universal mail-in voting. They just can't have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Michael, where does tonight's news fit into that history of what would seem to be incriminating confessions in public?
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it leaves us with a lot of reality right in front of us. We see it.
And the one thing -- regardless of how you feel about Donald Trump, he always tells you what he's thinking. He's always going to tell you what he's going to do, because his attitude is basically, what are you going to do about it? You can't stop me. You couldn't stop me with Mueller. You couldn't stop me with impeachment. You couldn't stop me in the courts. I still haven't given you my tax returns, and you ain't going to get those either.
So, what are you going to do about it, America?
MELBER: Let me play it.
MELBER: First of all, I love that. That's -- rarely, do I feel there's a meme in the making, but what you going to do about it, America, Michael Steele, is one.
But let me push back on you for the journalistic colloquy, Michael.
MELBER: The one rebuttal for folks watching here -- and you lay it out -- is, yes, that sounds true. He definitely has that attitude.
But he lost a Supreme Court tax case. His aides did get convicted. Paul Manafort was in prison. He got out eventually for COVID. Others did get their sentence commuted.
That voting by mail, as other panelists have raised, is now getting enough attention that you even have Republicans on the record saying, well, no, we don't want to cosign with abusing just a power to steal an election.
STEELE: Well, the -- can you hear me, Ari? I think I have lost you guys.
But the reality of it is, all that may be true. But, for Trump, the facts remain that he set the narrative in place. So, even though, yes, he may have gotten it on the back end with a court decision here or there that went against him, what is the narrative that he's already fed to the American people?
What is the narrative that he continues to feed to his base supporters. And that's the part that needs to get interrupted. When you're talking about vote by mail, that's the part you need to interrupt. You don't have the authority to do what you say you want to do.
The Congress has appropriated the money. It's money you requested, your administration requested. So, now the blatant politics that you're playing is something that we, the voters, have to step into and make sure that it is fixed.
We do that at the polls. That's what this November election is about.
Look, we have all gotten punked along the way in this administration over the last three years. The final punking is under way. It is around the fundamental right to vote.
MELBER: I'm joined now by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart from "The Washington Post."
Good to see you, sir.
Well, I would say good to see you, but I don't think we have Jonathan yet. It's one of those days.
Why don't we see if we have Khyati?
Michael Steele, I'm dialing for guests here.
MELBER: I'm trying to auction -- look, there we go.
STEELE: I can be Jonathan Capehart, if you want.
MEACHAM: Capehart is better...
MEACHAM: Capehart is so much better than we are.
MELBER: I'm just going to level...
MEACHAM: This is really low...
MELBER: I'm going to level with everybody.
MEACHAM: This is a triumph of technology over skill, man.
We are having a few technical difficulties. Jonathan Capehart and Khyati Joshi are booked later.
But let me say start with both of you on this topic.
And, Michael, as an actual expert on national politics, what does it say to you that, yes, there's always some buzz around the running mate, but there was absolute donor and activist enthusiasm that broke records in response to Harris?
STEELE: I think that's -- I think, in one sense, you want to say expected. I mean, you expect the bump. And the way the rollout came and the way it was done was all very well-orchestrated, given the difficulties, under COVID-19 conditions, to do something like that.
I think it also speaks to a very core truth that I have been thinking about and certainly talking about for the past year, that, at the end of the day, the test and the question for Democrats is, do you really want to win? Do you want to win?
Everything else notwithstanding, do you want to win? And I think that $26 million dollar haul in 24 hours says, you're damn skippy we do. And they're willing to put their money now behind the effort.
So I think what you will see -- I don't know if I want to say, don't hold me to this, but I think what you will see is that, among Democrats and left-of-center and right-of-center independents, that there's going to be a coalescing to get this done, and that a lot of the objections and a lot of the obfuscations and difficulties, progressive this and moderate that, a lot of that is going to peel off, because folks want to get this done.
STEELE: And given what we were talking about in the first segment, Ari, about what the president is doing with the Postal Service, what the president's doing trying to block people to have legitimate access to the ballot box, that's only going to impassion those efforts more.
MELBER: Really interesting.
I want to turn to Robert Caro.
Oh, no, we don't have him. I guess I will settle for Meacham.
MEACHAM: OK. All right. Here I am playing -- sitting in for Capehart, helping you. And this is what I get.
MELBER: You're right. You're right. Excuse me.
MEACHAM: Geez. All right.
MELBER: Look, you're right. But I had to. I had to. Look, I had to.
MEACHAM: I was hoping for -- I was hoping for Joy Reid, but go ahead.
MELBER: Zing, right back at you.
MELBER: And who among us at MSNBC wouldn't prefer Joy Reid? That's a fair one.
Look, here's what I have, all jokes aside. We're having fun with our tech glitches.
Kamala Harris is widely known for her ability to land the punch.
MELBER: I mean, we have heard, when we cover particularly Republicans who talk to us not for attribution, boy, sometimes you go into those hearings, and some of these Democrats, you could walk right through him, and not her.
And here she is now out in that new role.
So, Jon, take a look at how she's on the stump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): 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 the guy who just isn't up for the job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Jon Meacham, effective?
MEACHAM: Absolutely. Yes, she's a great prosecutor. It's how she spent most of her professional life.
And, to some extent, this is kind of an analog conversation, because it would be like talking about Wilson and what his campaign was like in 1932, right? I mean, this is a -- we're talking about a global pandemic, an economic collapse, 54 million people out of work.
This is an inflection election. And one of the things -- I don't want to in any way minimize the historic nature of Senator Harris' pick here. But here's the good news about America, is, you can absolutely, without an imaginative leap of any kind, see her doing that job or doing the first job, doing the presidency.
And my friend and colleague Jonathan Darman had a great -- here's a small category, a great Twitter comment -- it's like the best restaurant in the hospital.
But, anyway, he said the other day, Biden 2020 motto, let's not overthink this. And I think that's absolutely right.
MEACHAM: And it was a -- it's a good choice. You can absolutely see her doing the job. That's the fundamental -- it's the Hippocratic oath in vice presidential things.
MELBER: Yes. That's fair.
MEACHAM: And what's so interesting is, so often, they get it wrong.
It's actually not a great batting average, where you have a rough rollout, or someone, you can't quite see them being president.
What Vice President Biden did here is, he found a totally plausible future president who absolutely reassures in her skill set. You can disagree with her ideology and all that. But no fair-minded Republican, it seems to me, can say, oh, she couldn't be president.
STEELE: Yes, they could.
MEACHAM: And so what we're looking at here is where -- fair-minded, Michael, really?
STEELE: I mean, give me the poison that seeped into the...
STEELE: I mean, seriously, I mean, you have already seen some of the comments...
MEACHAM: But fair-minded, fair-minded.
STEELE: OK, well...
STEELE: Find me -- find one.
MEACHAM: Well, you're the one, man. Come on.
MELBER: Well, look, I -- here we are.
STEELE: No, I agree with you. No, I agree with you.
MELBER: No, let me say this. I love this. I love the colloquy. I'm going to keep both of you.
And I'm going to say something I said earlier, but, this time, I think it's true.
I want to bring in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart to join the conversation.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Hello.
And social science researcher Khyati Joshi, who we also had planned. And we're bringing her in.
And welcome, both of you, to this panel, which has been discussing a couple of issues, ranging from Donald Trump's attack on voting earlier in the hour, to the unique road to the Harris-Biden teammate ticket now.
And, Khyati, you're here, in part, because you were part of a group of women of color who've been advocating this. Tell us about that inside effort.
KHYATI JOSHI, PROFESSOR, FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON UNIVERSITY: Well, we have been -- thanks for having me.
And I will say that I don't think Michael Steele or Jon Meacham could have gotten away with subbing in for me, so I will just make that super clear.
JOSHI: I will say that Indian Americans, so many of us are very, very excited about Kamala Harris' candidate -- candidacy.
I was born in India and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and often was fairly invisible. People didn't know quite what to do with me. And when you're not black and you're not white, and you're Hindu, it's kind of like, well, what's going on there?
And so what we're really excited about is that, with Senator Harris' candidacy, I think many communities, be they Jamaican, black, Indian, Hindu and our biracial, multiracial population, so many people are going to see their life experience reflected in her, which is going to mobilize and galvanize people to get out there and vote.
And that's going to allow us to take our country back and get it right on track.
MELBER: It all really makes sense.
And I want to give a little more context to this with the whole panel, because it's pretty interesting, and first going to Jonathan out of this, but just to remind everyone, this wasn't automatic. There was an outside game for a diverse ticket.
Let's remember, after Obama's two terms, both parties basically reverted back to all-white tickets. The Democrats started 2020 with the most diverse primary field ever, only to end on Joe Biden, which raised the prospect potentially of another all-white field in 2020.
Now, everyone remembers Biden pledged to pick a woman, but didn't say anything about diversity. And that drew these public demands that we just mentioned from this broad coalition, 700 women of color in April encouraging Biden to pick a black woman straight up.
And Biden then spoke to these diverse crowds and some prominent black figures in media who also pressed him on making the pledge diverse. Just this month, the pressure was continuing.
A group of -- and I'm quoting -- "self-declared black male leaders" said they offered solidarity to black women in this effort. And they added, Democrats have asked -- quote -- "black women to rally the troops and risk their lives." So they wanted to tell Biden -- quote -- "Failing to select a black woman in 2020 means you will lose."
Jonathan, your view of where that pressure fit into this.
CAPEHART: The selection of Kamala Harris was always the commonsense choice.
And I have been on record for a long time saying she should be the vice presidential nominee. I wrote a two-part series laying out the case why it should be a black woman, one, and why that black woman should become Kamala Harris, two.
And the idea that he -- that -- people are always looking at politicians and asking the question, here's the commonsense solution. It's right there in front of your face. Why don't you ever take the commonsense solution?
And so the American public has just become disillusioned, because they just expect that the pol will, like, do the most complicated thing possible. And so, yes, there were people who were putting pressure on and making their feelings known and making the case, because it's politics.
That's what you do. What those folks did was not unusual. What was unusual was a politician running for president of the United States who actually made the commonsense decision and made the right choice, which is why I think there was so much excitement out there for the naming of Senator Harris to the ticket.
Even my own "Washington Post" columnist colleague, our colleague, former Congresswoman Donna Edwards, she wrote a column saying, it doesn't matter if the vice presidential nominee is an African-American woman. She wants him to pick the person he's most comfortable with.
Today, she has a column saying, yes, I said that, but I'm glad he did it.
And so we can look at the pressure campaigns, if you want to call them that, and trying to -- and I have a problem with that, because it sounds like these folks were asking something of Joe Biden that was unreasonable, something that they shouldn't...
MELBER: No, I don't think there was anything...
CAPEHART: No, no, I'm not talking -- no, no, I'm not talking about you. I'm talking just out there in general
MELBER: But let me press you. Let me press you, Jonathan.
Does it matter -- and you're such a student of this in your Washington reporting. Does it matter that we're seeing elements of whatever you want to call it, civil rights advocates, progressives, et cetera, really being clear in public, because we have all seen cycles where there's a lot more of Democrats saying, let's work it out, kind of like kumbaya talk.
And, on the right, it's, you don't get to be the nominee without doing XYZ, and the Supreme Court judges, and it's quite explicit.
CAPEHART: Oh, yes.
And so what we saw was Democrats, and particularly, in this case, African-Americans taking some of the positive lessons from the Republican Party. Like, if you want something, don't hope for it, ask for it, demand it.
And in this case, they were asking for and demanding something that was not unreasonable. I mean, Vice President Biden, when we were all in South Carolina, we were all just sort of waiting for what was going to happen.
Now, I always knew Biden was going to win South Carolina, but, if he hadn't won South Carolina, we wouldn't be talking about a presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
CAPEHART: But Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the pride of South Carolina, gave his endorsement on that Wednesday -- or a few days before the primary -- yes, Wednesday or Thursday, and pulled the plane out of a deep nosedive.
You cannot -- and then African-Americans through Super Tuesday hurled their votes at Joe Biden, because they were saying to the nation, look, we heard you. Now hear us. And so how...
MELBER: Right. Let me bring Khyati in on...
CAPEHART: After having your campaign being saved, how do you turn your back on the people who brought you to the dance, bought you a drink and took you home safely?
MELBER: Khyati, how about that?
CAPEHART: I'm channeling Seal.
JOSHI: I actually agree with Jonathan about what he's saying about being -- this was a commonsense answer, and picking her makes so much sense, and I'm so glad it happened, because the tea leaves beforehand, they were going through all kinds of gymnastics, and it really -- to me, it seemed like it wasn't going to be her.
And, look, we need to energize people. What's one of the best ways to energize people? Where people feel like they're part of this process, when they feel like they're part of this campaign.
So, you have all these communities, like I said, who see themselves reflected in her, and they're going to get out there and get excited.
And I also want to say that her candidacy also allows us to have more complex and nuanced discussions about race in America, for example, thinking about biracial, multiracial people.
And let me just say for the record, Senator Harris has the right to identify how she wants to. She is also biracial, right? She's -- and we talk about people being half this and half that, and that's language that's actually very harmful to biracial, multiracial people.
I'm always advocating for, well, she's 100 percent black and she's 100 percent Asian or Indian, because, honestly, like which leg is black, and which arm is Indian? It's kind of crazy, right?
So this allows us to have certain conversations...
MELBER: I don't how to -- you framed that question so well, I don't know how to answer it.
Maybe we could make Michael Steele answer it, because he's always good on his feet.
STEELE: No, no, no, no, I got no answer for that one.
MELBER: Well, me either.
But I think you add nuance to it, particularly as we are -- again, we're at the front end of something that we know is historic.
If anyone is saying, well, how much does this matter to voters, the number of people who rallied around this in the last 24 hours -- money is just one quick measurement we have. It's just one indicator, but we're seeing literally hundreds of thousands of voters energized by this. It's fascinating.
Go ahead. You had a final thought?
JOSHI: I'm sorry?
JOSHI: Oh, yes. Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know you were calling here.
I would just say that I think, as hopeful as I am, I'm a little concerned about the birther movement that's already started, the sexism and racism that is coming out against the senator.
And there's parallels we can draw with what happened to President Obama. He has the name Barack Hussein Obama, and people would often want to accentuate Hussein to show that he's not American.
And she is Kamala Devi Harris. Devi is the Sanskrit term for Hindu goddess and also a term for goddess, like the female energy of the divine. So, it's going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out. Stay tuned.
MELBER: I will just say shout-out to the energy of the divine, on that note. We have needed some energy just to keep our show running tonight with our tech.
MELBER: I want to thank our entire panel.
And, Meacham, you know I got you. I love you. You know that, right?
MEACHAM: You got it, man, over there.
MEACHAM: I will tell Joy next time I see her, yes.
MELBER: Since I made a joke earlier.
Thanks to the entire panel.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us.
We have a lot more in this hour.
Michelle Obama coming out in public with a powerful message about Kamala Harris. Also, Oprah Winfrey getting downright emotional, as she joins the calls for justice.
And a grassroots campaign we're going to tell you about in the Breonna Taylor case. It's been five months since that police killing, and the family was meeting with the lead investigator today.
The family lawyer joins us live on THE BEAT next.
MELBER: Turning to a critical justice story that we have been covering, it's now exactly five months since Louisville police used a no-knock warrant to bust into Breonna Taylor's department, where she was home unarmed, and then kill her. They fired eight shots.
Now, after public outcry, the police chief said some of those tactics show disregard for human life. Yet there are no arrests or charges. Today, the Taylor family met with the Kentucky attorney general for the very first time. And they're speaking out on the issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIANCA AUSTIN, AUNT OF BREONNA TAYLOR: It's been 150 days, but it still feels like March 13. It never gets any easier.
TAMIKA PALMER, MOTHER OF BREONNA TAYLOR: At this point, it's bigger than Breonna. It's bigger than just black lives. It's about just being able to stand up for each other. And there definitely shouldn't be another Breonna Taylor anywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Kentucky officials publicly claim they agree with that part -- quote -- "There shouldn't be another Breonna Taylor," because police erroneously killed her for no reason.
The only legal question remaining is if that acknowledged mistake will be charged. Was it illegal? Or do investigators find that it was a -- quote -- "lawful mistake"?
Protesters, though, skeptical that any such investigation will be fair. Many activists pushing to keep up the pressure on this case. Louisville officials, meanwhile, banning all protesters from even being out in the streets. A new -- on the street. A new lawsuit arguing that itself is illegal unless the protesters make the entire street impassable.
And in a week that, of course, began with the buzz over whether Biden would tap Kamala Harris, note that, on Monday, the senator, who certainly at that moment knew she was either on the short list, if not already the one, she selected this time, this week to reinforce the pressure on this case, posting this: "We must keep saying her name."
As a former prosecutor, Harris knows it would be improper for a government official to demand one outcome like an indictment. By invoking Taylor's name, Harris is responsibly pressing for a full and fair investigation.
Now, of course, regular citizens can speak more freely. They can say, under free speech, what they want. Activists have been arguing the public evidence does support an indictment of these officers, while Oprah Winfrey is devoting her new issue of "Oprah" magazine to this cause and also running a pretty broad campaign on the ground you see here with 26 billboards across Louisville calling for justice for Taylor.
And Oprah says she's supporting these BLM protests.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, PRODUCER/PHILANTHROPIST: If not for the coronavirus, I'd be out in these streets marching with the Black Lives Matter protesters.
But these 26 billboards, one for every year of Breonna's life, are my offering, my form of protest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We are joined now by the attorney for Breonna Taylor's family, Ben Crump. He was in those very newsworthy meetings I mentioned today with the attorney general and other officials. You can see there the gathering.
What did you get or learn, if anything, out of this meeting?
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF BREONNA TAYLOR: Well, Ari, thank you so much for covering this important matter for all these months here, because it matters.
MELBER: Of course.
CRUMP: This was the first time that the attorney general of Kentucky, Daniel Cameron, has met with Breonna Taylor's family in person.
Her mother was obviously very convicted that her daughter should not have been killed by the police. And she wanted assurances from him that he was going to do everything in his power to bring those who are responsible for her execution to justice.
Attorney Lonita Baker, my co-counsel, and I, we really pressed to say that it's been 150 days. We would hope that it won't take 200 days. However, he said that he wants to get it right, and so that's why he is saying that he doesn't want to put a timetable on it.
But me, myself, personally, Ari, I just don't understand why, over 200 days, we won't have ballistic reports back, and we cannot finally answer this question for Tamika Palmer why her daughter was executed in the sanctity of her own apartment by the people who were supposed to protect and serve her?
MELBER: Did the meeting with the investigators tell you anything specific that made you think this is a full and fair investigation? Or are you concerned, as we have seen at least in past examples, that they're running out the clock to wait out the pressure and then that there may be no action taken?
CRUMP: Well, Ari, being the attorney with so many of these cases...
CRUMP: ... I think that's the playbook.
CRUMP: The playbook is delay, delay, delay. And, as Martin Luther King said, justice delayed is justice denied.
And I do believe they intended to sweep this under the rug initially, because the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department for two months just stonewalled and stonewalled, while Tamika, her brokenhearted momma, every day, Ari, would call the police department to say, can you give me answers why you all killed my daughter?
And every day, she would get the runaround.
CRUMP: And it wasn't until we got involved and started saying that black women lives matter too, because, oftentimes, when black women are killed by the police, they don't get the same attention and recognition that brothers get.
CRUMP: And so Breonna Taylor has interjected into this conversation that black women should be given the same respect that any other citizen is given in America.
MELBER: Right. And you're right, factually. We have emphasized this in our reporting.
While, as a legal journalist, I can say everyone is legally presumed innocent and there's a process, as a reporter, I could have also emphasized that it doesn't take this many lawyers and a Ben Crump and a pressure campaign for other cases, when the decedent, when the dead individual looks different, and that we just have that statistically, that that is obviously a justice problem.
I want to get you, while you're here, because, as I think our viewers know, you know a lot about these legal civil rights issues, including voting rights.
The president making some news here, many people calling it a kind of an incriminating confession. And he's followed up on it. Take a look at this brand-new sound.
CRUMP: Yes, sir.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: You said you do want an accurate vote.
TRUMP: That's right.
QUESTION: Would you direct the postmaster general to reverse some of the policies changes...
TRUMP: No, not at all.
QUESTION: ... that have occurred there, in order to prevent delays?
TRUMP: No, I wouldn't do that at all, no.
They want a trillion dollars to go to states that are run by governors, who happen to be Democrats, who have not done a good job for many, many years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Ben Crump, your response, legally, when you see the sitting president say that he might support here -- he won't really interfere with policies that could, by delaying the handling of the ballot, might deny the person their right?
CRUMP: Ari, as you know, I'm a civil rights lawyer, which means I champion everybody's constitutional rights equally.
And what we saw there was somebody who was trying to be an impediment to the constitutional rights of our citizens, the most basic constitutional right. That is our right to vote, to elect the leaders who will represent us.
And so for him to even make it about Democratic governors...
CRUMP: ... as if citizens who live in a state that has a Democratic governor, I'm not going to give them their constitutional right to be able to vote, is just -- it's astonishing that you will have a president doing this.
And that's why I'm so happy, Ari, that we do have Biden and Harris.
Obviously, I'm a dear friend of Kamala Harris. And I do believe she is the one prosecutor who Trump won't be able to get by. And she will call this kind of stuff out every time she sees it, Ari, I promise you.
MELBER: Well, it's very interesting, is you bringing that up.
Ben Crump and Kamala Harris are both known to be, I think it's an accurate statement, talented lawyers. We will see how she does out there.
I appreciate getting you on more than one topic, sir.
Up ahead, we have this Michelle Obama response to that same issue of Harris joining the ticket, and a special report on why Florida teachers are suing the governor of Florida.
MELBER: Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has been under fire for his handling of the coronavirus.
There is a surge in the state, and they're trying to reopen schools. Over half-a-million cases, the second highest infection rate right now in the nation, in fact, this week, there were a record 277 deaths in a single day, Florida battling over 30,000 cases as well among children under 14.
Now, there can be ways to reopen schools safely. But there have been protests here. In fact, now, teachers on behalf of the largest union in the state, are suing the governor over the way that he is opening schools and holding in-person lessons.
DeSantis, for his part, threatening funding for schools that try to go remote without his personal permission. Teachers say some schools ought to have that option. He's also been echoing the way that Donald Trump falsely suggested that there's almost no risk to children. And when this all started, he was downplaying the virus risk, even picking battles with reporters over it.
Now, under this order from Florida's governor, schools are having to organize which teachers go remote, which go in-person. Teachers are marching, and they're saying that a lot of this just isn't being done in a way that protects their safety.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX INGRAM, FLORIDA TEACHER: We have called upon local officials, the mayor, to return us to phase one, due to the increase in COVID-19 deaths.
We have called upon the school board to close schools. We have called upon the health department to close schools. So, now we're calling on the governor and the Department of Education to close schools.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: For his part, DeSantis, a well-known Trump ally, is arguing that this is the time to conquer any obstacles, and he's likened one school county's battle to -- quote -- "bringing bin Laden to justice."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Just as the SEALs surmounted obstacles to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, so too would the Martin County school system find a way to provide parents with a meaningful choice of in-person instruction or continued distance learning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
The teachers, though, and the critics here who are arguing that Governor DeSantis has been blowing all of this, making unforced errors that jeopardize people's lives, they actually have a new ally, reports that Donald Trump himself blames DeSantis for the exploding numbers.
"He thinks Ron has made it a lot worse," says one source.
With millions of kids going back to school, teachers and parents have to figure out what to do, how to stay safe, and many of them here, with this push, arguing Governor DeSantis is making those tough decisions even harder.
We wanted to give you an update on that local story.
When we come back, Michelle Obama speaking out on Kamala Harris.
Stay with us.
MELBER: Barack Obama has said that Joe Biden nailed this Harris pick for vice president.
Meanwhile, his wife, Michelle Obama, weighing in, it's time to embrace and celebrate the barrier-breaking choice, and saying: "I have been thinking about all those girls growing up today who will be able to take it for granted that someone who looks like them can grow up to lead a nation like ours," and that Harris may be the first, but Michelle Obama says she won't be the last, adding -- quote -- "Go get 'em, girl."
Michelle Obama recently noted that she has at times felt a kind of low-grade depression about Donald Trump's approach to civil rights, but it is time for people to come together going towards November.
That's our final word tonight.
"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END
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