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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, August 14, 2020

Guests: Billy Porter, Brittney Cooper, Cori Bush, Aaron Gordon, Paul Krugman, John Flannery


Missouri congressional candidate Cori Bush discusses the state of U.S. politics. Paul Krugman discusses the U.S. economic outlook. Actor Billy Porter speaks out. The Trump administration continues to target the U.S. Postal Service.



Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck.

You mentioned your new time. That will be great.

I do have a political question for you, which is, being around these things, this news cycle, this level of attention on voter suppression, this usually feels like something in October. I mean, have you ever seen it this early? And does that make this a theme for the rest of the race?

TODD: Ari, I have to tell you -- it's a number we're going to show on Sunday -- the amount of interest in the election from the voter right now, we are measuring numbers, just overall interest in the election, we have already measured numbers that we have never seen this early before.

We're not only -- we're seeing numbers now that you don't even see in late October. There's that much interest. And that to me is going to be the unintended consequence of this controversy around mail-in voting.

One of two things is going to happen. A surge of people are going to mail in their ballots before October 15, or a surge of people are going to vote in person or early in that front. People are paying attention. That's the point, Ari. I think it's going to be hard to slip one -- slip one through the goalie or something without us looking, without us noticing.

MELBER: Well, it's a great point, because a lot of what happens later is mobilization. It may remind people, hey, there is this election. These are these deadlines. You want to vote by mail even earlier.

But, as you say, Chuck, some of that is being pushed out right now. It'll be interesting to watch. And we will be watching on Sunday, sir.

TODD: Thanks, brother.

MELBER: Thank you, Chuck. Have a good weekend.

And now to this episode of THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.

We are rounding out, as just discussed, this major week in American politics. This is the week when Democrats made history with the diversity of their ticket. And a sitting president admitted to a plot to literally take voting rights hostage, then argued maybe it was all a bargaining position.

Well, tonight, these new developments add to the evidence against the Trump administration, exposed for trying to limit how mail ballots will be counted, the president politicizing the Postal Service to his benefit, according to critics and some of this evidence.

Most states are now getting warnings that some votes may not be counted at all. That's a constitutional issue if it happens anywhere. And, politically, it includes, as you can see, eight key battleground states, which could decide everything.

Take, for example, this new letter to Arizona, which admits ballots may not be counted based on the process for mailing them in, the key word there, a claim that deadlines would be incongruence with how the Trump administration is running the mail service.

So here's where we are, the Trump administration openly admitting to restricting your voting rights. Now, they claim it's largely for budgetary reasons. Many independent experts, though -- I have an obligation to tell you about this -- say that is a lie. They say this is election interference, an effort to sabotage the election playing out in plain sight.

As for the Donald Trump backtracking, well, amidst all this, he also claims that he would give up the money for voting by mail if he gets what he wants in the COVID legislation.


QUESTION: would you be willing to accept the $25 billion for the Postal Service, including the three and a half billion dollars to handle mail-in voting?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sure, if they give us what we want.

It's all ready to go. Democrats are holding it up. So they're holding, John, all of that up.


MELBER: Speaker Pelosi hitting back today on what she calls a domestic assault by Donald Trump on the Constitution, Democratic leaders say Trump openly trying to cheat to win already.

Meanwhile, the GOP has a companion effort to restrict voting in advance and then target some mail ballots after they are cast.

So, we want you to see both, beyond the rhetoric or what Donald Trump says and the reasons he says things, that there is a wider policy here, and it may even cross legal lines. That, of course, has to be tested in court when people do these things.

Meanwhile, Kamala Harris out speaking in her first interview as the vice presidential candidate.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Why don't they want us to vote? Why are they creating obstacles to us voting?

Well, the answer is because, when we vote, things change. When we vote, things get better. When we vote, we address the disparities we have been talking about. We address the need of all people to be treated with dignity and respect.

These are the things that are on the line in this election.


MELBER: I'm joined now by "New York Times" columnist Michelle Goldberg, former federal prosecutor John Flannery, and Aaron Gordon, a senior staff writer at VICE. He obtained the internal USPS documents with these proposed changes that change the mail processing in a way that could disenfranchise people.

Hello, everyone.

Aaron, you got the big story and the big headphones, which gets you extra credit here on THE BEAT. I hope that, by the middle of the weekend, you're listening to something better than the news.

But walk us through what it means when you take something that can sound like bureaucracy, OK, deadlines, third vs. first class, but many experts are sounding alarms tonight that this actually goes to the heart of our voting rights.

AARON GORDON, SENIOR STAFF WRITER, VICE: Yes, I think that's what's so interesting about these changes is that they can sound so innocuous when put through the language of, like, business conservatism and just like -- and efficient operations.

But when you actually look at the changes that they will make on the ground, it could be quite impactful for how mail moves. Basically, what the post office is doing is, they're removing about 15 percent of the letter sorting machines that ballots may go through in October and in the early part of November from their sorting facilities around the country.

Now, this move has been in the works for a long time because mail volume is down. That's a trend that's been going on for a long time. So you can kind of see the logic there. But at the same time, it's such a large amount of machines being taken away prior to a surge in the type of mail that we're expecting to see in the coming months, that it is obvious why it's raising alarms.

MELBER: As a reporter, where do you figure out the line and the evidence for whether this is a bad idea with bad consequences, a neutral idea with bad consequences, or, the worst thing, potentially, an unconstitutional use of power to undermine the election?

GORDON: I think that's a great question. And I think it's something we're all trying to figure out right now.

I don't think any of us know for sure exactly what is motivating Louis DeJoy or the officials at the post office for doing the things that they're doing. How many of these decisions have been in the works for a very long time? How many of them may have been in the works for a long time, but he thinks they're a great idea for other reasons and wants to speed it up?

All of these things are still up in the air and things we have to figure out, as reporters and hopefully as members of the United States Postal Service see as their duty to let reporters like us know what's going on.

These are things we have to figure out in the coming weeks and months.

MELBER: Michelle?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, I think that Donald Trump -- there's no more mystery about Donald Trump's intentions here than there is mystery about his intentions in firing James Comey, right?

He told us. He went on -- he told a FOX News host that the reason that he wanted to hold up money for the post office -- for the Postal Service was because he doesn't want to see mail-in voting.

And let's remember that removing these machines is not the only thing that this postmaster general has done to slow down the delivery of mail, right? He's also canceled overtime. He's undertaken this reorganization that has slowed down mail delivery all over the country.

I think they're being extremely blatant about it. This president knows that the majority of this country has never voted for him, has never wanted him to be president. He can only win if he's able to institute a strategy of minority rule. The structure of our democracy, the structure of the Electoral College gives him some advantage.

But he's so unpopular that even that is not enough. And so we're watching him sabotage this election before our eyes. And I think it's imperative that Democrats in Congress come back, that they hold hearings, that they perhaps impeach the postmaster general, at the very least that they focus the attention of the country on the fact that everybody who wants to oust this president has to take extraordinary measures -- they shouldn't have to, but they do -- to make sure that their vote counts in November.

MELBER: Right, and you lay that out in terms of the wider context of that voter suppression.

John Flannery, the former President Barack Obama has been stepping back out now, obviously, as the campaign heats up, and he spoke directly about this. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we have never seen before is a president say, I'm going to try to actively kneecap the Postal Service to encourage voting. And I will be explicit about the reason I'm doing it.

That is sort of unheard of. How do we protect the integrity of the election process? How do we make sure that people's votes are counted?



JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, he's as clear as could be. I think he really nails it down. You cited it somewhat.

It's an unconstitutional and criminal conspiracy by high-level persons from the president on down through, of course, the Postal Service, and what they're really doing is they're (AUDIO GAP) because Trump is convinced he can't win it any other way.

And the crimes that he's doing in this context of the Postal Service, as opposed to other things, is, what he's doing is, he's obstructing the mail, he's impeding the mail, he's probably interfering with the passage of the mail. Both of those are different kinds of crimes.

And then if you have public officials interfering on behalf of individual candidates for office from the president on down, that's also a crime. Now, not only can we look at the federal government, say, for impeachment and stuff like that, but we have individual states, 50 states.

And if we look at those states, each of them has criminal laws, and there is no protection from prosecution by the states by a pardon by the president.

And all of these things, I think, are critically important in how we deal with this. There's also civil authority to go against the Postal Service.

But it's like the biggest argument why this person should not be reelected. He is obstructing our right to vote, our First Amendment right of access to the government, a vote many people died for. This country was founded on the fact that we had to have representation if there was going to be taxation. And a democratic nation doesn't exist without representation.

So this is a core value in America. And the section of the Constitution that we're dealing with is Article 1, Section, Subparagraph 7, which says that the Congress establishes a post office. And he is disestablishing. He is trying to destroy a post office.

And I also think you want to look at where those machines were taken down. What precincts were these machines taken down? Were they Democratic precincts...


MELBER: Let me take that to Aaron.


MELBER: That's -- Aaron, before I lose you, do you yet have any evidence on whether this has folded into political targeting?

GORDON: It doesn't seem like there's any pattern for where the machines are being taken down. It's incredibly widespread. It's affecting every single region in the country, every state, every -- seemingly every facility.

So I think if you're looking for political motivations in exactly where the machines are being taken down, you might come up empty.

MELBER: And that's why we appreciate your reporting. Aaron Gordon, thank you very much. We will be coming back to you, I am sure.

Our other two panelists stay as I get into this other big story tonight.

We're talking about debating the legal baseline of American democracy. As we look at that story, you have Attorney General Bill Barr reminding everyone he's still running an investigation of the investigators of the Mueller probe.

And despite restrictions on the DOJ announcing legal matters close to an election, Barr now claims that, while he won't do anything inappropriate, he's also literally teasing significant developments in that probe before the election.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: There are going to be developments, significant developments, before the election. But we're not doing this on the election schedule. We're aware of the election. We're not going to do anything inappropriate before the election.

But we're not being dictated to by this schedule. What's dictating the timing of this are developments in the case.


MELBER: Legal experts say that unusual statement just there by a sitting attorney general promoting developments before the election is a new scandal all on its own tonight.

It is obviously political. It edges very close to breaking DOJ rules. And while the Justice Department's post-Mueller work is also grinding on -- for example, you should keep in mind this factoid you may not have heard recently.

The internal review, which did find some problems with the FBI surveillance process, has now led to a former FBI lawyer pleading guilty to altering e-mail evidence that was used to surveil a former Trump adviser.

Now, this is a pretty simple one. Tampering with evidence is wrong. But Bill Barr's critics say something true, that he has been looking, publicly and admittedly, the other way on far greater reports of alleged law enforcement misconduct, for example, when officers literally kill unarmed innocent.

But he is now throwing the book at a legally smaller report of that internal misconduct.

I bring back our panel, John Flannery and all the above, including that very unusual statement by a sitting attorney general, tying -- quote -- "significant developments" before the election.

Have you seen anything like that? Is it inappropriate? Is it legally wrong?

FLANNERY: It is inappropriate and it is legally wrong.

I would have been fired in a minute in the Southern District of New York if I was making statements before we had a charge (AUDIO GAP) that charge and only then.

But there have been a whole series of comments, including when the I.G. came out with his report saying there were errors, but there was no conspiracy, there was no outright wrong. And both Durham and our attorney general's (AUDIO GAP) at that time.

They had not issued a report. They had not finished an investigation, but they were telling America, oh, no, no, no.

Now, what this is pretty weak tea, this plea that they're getting. He didn't say that Page was a source in an e-mail. But he also communicated the e-mail. And he has a felony (AUDIO GAP) years old, as compared to Flynn, who pleaded guilty twice to this, and the whole department moves to try to dismiss the case against him.

No man's above the law. Well, if you're a friend of the president, you're above the law. There is no law. And that's the problem even with the invasion -- we were talking earlier about the postal matter. If you can't go to a law enforcement officer with a decent crime and evidence of it, and that is this Justice Department, then you have no law.

And that's why I suggest you have to go to the state for some of these things. So this is going to be a dribble, dribble, dribble. And Durham has been, I think, wary of giving us anything, except some language about, oh, I'm going on here, I disagree with the I.G.

That is venomous. That is the wrong...


MELBER: Let me bring in Michelle, because, Michelle, on a lot of these issues since day one of this administration, you have written and spoken about the need to be plain and clear.

And I'm curious what you think is the import of telling people it is not normal and not OK that, yes, amidst everything else and other things taking up attention, you have a sitting attorney general out there on a political broadcast touting the release of developments before the election calendar?

GOLDBERG: It's staggering.

And let's remember that there is this Justice Department policy, this FBI policy about kind of taking actions that will influence an election within a certain window. And Barr has simply said that he has no intention of being bound by this, right? He's just going to cast it aside for the president's benefit.

This latest indictment, the news of this misconduct is not new, right? This was in Horowitz's I.G. report many months ago.

MELBER: Right.

GOLDBERG: So this isn't a new finding. This is something that everybody has known about for quite some time.

And I think, look, what they're doing is, he's been teasing for months now. He keeps saying that the big revelations are to come. And I think that there's two possibilities here. Either he just kind of keeps -- he wants to kind of keep suspicion alive, or he is timing it for a quite literal October surprise.

It's astonishing to me that Durham is going along with it, somebody who had -- unlike Barr, who's always had a reputation as kind of a bag man, Durham had a reputation with some -- for some degree of integrity.

But like everybody who gets involved with Trump, nobody comes out of their dalliance with this administration with their reputation intact.

MELBER: I think you make the really important points there, particularly because there were those who said, well, what Durham has done in the past is indicative or predictive, Durham being this U.S. attorney who does have a fine record in the past.

But the issue on the table, as you both laid out, is, what is he doing right now? And there are other prosecutors, I can say, as I imagine John may agree, who would have resigned by now if their boss was using an election timeline to tease things. True or not, even that gets right up to the rules.

We're going to stay on that story. I want to thank Michelle and John, as always, for your prescient analysis. And I hope you have a good weekend.

We have a lot more in the program, Kamala Harris giving her first interview as a V.P. candidate and accusing Trump of pushing hate.

We're hearing more from Barack Obama. We played a little bit of his new statements, also revealing insights as he opens up to how he picked Biden.

Also tonight, very special, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is here live, as the Senate ditches town without any deal on the COVID recession relief.

And, later tonight, we end the week in style with Broadway icon Billy Porter.

I'm Ari Melber, and you're watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: Americans are hearing a lot more from Kamala Harris now.

She's speaking out in her first interview since Biden announced her as his V.P. pick. And she discusses, of course, what everyone is also noticing, among other things, the historic nature of her candidacy.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Joe Biden had the audacity to choose a black woman to be his running mate. How incredible is that?

And what a statement about Joe Biden, that he decided that he was going to do that thing that was about breaking one of the most substantial barriers that has existed in our country, and that he made that decision, with whatever risks that brings.

I think, as much as anything, it's a statement about the character of the man that we're going to elect as the next president of the United States.


MELBER: Kamala Harris there showing part of why she's on this ticket, going positive on Biden.

She's also been going negative on Donald Trump. And since joining the ticket, it's been just four days, the Donald Trump campaign, as well as Republicans, have not exactly landed on one way to attack her.

She is, of course, the first black woman and the first South Asian candidate on a major party ticket. And they have launched a range of attacks, which include calling her -- quote -- "phony Kamala," also accusing her of tacking far to the left, among other things.

This is a new ticket. And we have two special guests to join us on this and the fight ahead when we're back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: Welcome back.

We have special guests for a special conversation, Black Lives Matter activist and Democratic congressional candidate out of Missouri Cori Bush. We should note she's part of a wave of progressive candidates who have, against the traditional odds, ousted some longtime Democratic incumbents in this primary season.

Congratulations to you, as I would say to any victorious candidate.


MELBER: And Professor Brittney Cooper from Rutgers back with us.

Good to see you both.

Cori, given that you're in this, obviously, we will get into how it feels to be a candidate, what you're fighting for.

I want to start with Brittney, who BEAT viewers have heard walk us through a lot of these things over time.

And, Brittney, as you know, when available, I like to go to the evidence, so not just people seem to like Kamala Harris, or was this a smart pick or somebody said something, but the first numerical evidence we have about how this is playing out for Democrats is right here, record-smashing $48 million in 48 hours powered by the Harris pick.

And so, Brittney, as you know, it's no shade or disrespect to past running mates to note that she has drawn more activists, small donor and large donor interest in two days than others recently.

I'm curious your view of that.


So, first, I got to congratulate Cori Bush. I'm a fangirl. So I'm just so excited about your candidacy.

BUSH: Thank you.

COOPER: But, also, this is what black women have been arguing, Ari, to the Democratic Party since 2016. We have argued for leadership. We have told them that we are the backbone of the party.

We have said that black women are -- we are big tent in the way that we think about American politics and that, when you bring us to the table, we bring more people, we bring resources, we bring excitement. There was polling about Kamala Harris by Higher Heights much earlier in this a couple of weeks back, and folks were saying, we want a black woman V.P.

People in Midwest swing states said, we want a black woman V.P. So this was a smart move by Joe Biden, but it was also evidence, as others have argued, that black women have been working behind the scenes to say, you will give us power.

And so now Kamala is in the tradition, and so she -- so people are excited about her. But they are also excited by this very important gesture from Joe Biden that hopefully the Democratic Party understands that its future is with people of color, its futures is with women, and its future is certainly with black women.


BUSH: Yes, Joe Biden had an opportunity to choose whoever he wanted to choose, and he chose her.

And so we're going to -- we have to rock with who he chose. And, for me, I'm not going to tear down another woman to make -- for the sake of an election. I'm not going to do that. But I will stand with my progressive values. And I'm not going to back down on that.

Would I love to see Medicare for all? Absolutely, because my people are dying. Do I want the things -- we -- there are certain things that we need in this country, and we need them now. I'm tired of waiting for it. So many people are tired of waiting for it.

So I'm going to stand with our incarcerated community and our formerly incarcerated. I'm standing with our Latinx community, our sex workers and our disabled community and so many other groups. I stand with them. And I'm going to continue to fight for them.

But will you get me to tear her down? Absolutely not.

MELBER: Right.

BUSH: She did something that my grandmothers have been waiting to see.

MELBER: Well, you're speaking...


MELBER: Well, I'm going to ask one thing to Cori, Brittney, and then I will come to you, OK?

But just -- since you just said it, I wanted to follow up with, you're speaking to that you're supportive and you appreciate the change, but, from where you're coming from, in also being a pressure point on the Democratic Party, are you still concerned -- you mentioned health care -- that you have basically two moderates on health care now on this ticket, Cori and then Brittney?

BUSH: Hey, but we have Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones. We have the Squad. We're all going to be in there doing our work.

So we're going to do our part. They're going to do theirs. But what we won't do is, we won't be separated.

COOPER: Right.

This is the thing I was thinking, Ari, as I was listening to Cori. So, Cori has radical, progressive, feminist values. And we need that. But very often, part of what happens is, is that that happens at the grassroots level, right?

Cori is here in part because of her work in movements. And so sometimes we get disheartened because we don't see that massive change at the presidential level. But presidential politics is inherently conservative. It's about conserving the republic.

And so movements happen from the ground up. You have got to have young activists who are pushing us at the local level and the state level. And part of what that does is, it creates the context. So that push that's happening that Cori and Jamaal and all these folks are bringing, it's going to force Biden and Harris to govern more to the left. That's what we need.

So they may have a centrist agenda. But given who their Congress is going to be, assuming we get victories in all these races, they're going to have to move to the left, because they're going to have to move with the people. And they're going to have to recognize that this groundswell that even allows this ticket to be possible is about people demanding more.

And so there is a lovely arc between a Cori Bush and a Kamala Harris, because we also are at a moment in Democratic politics where we need to see that there's all kinds of diversity in what black people want, and we're deeply strategic about how we get there.

So we might have a more centrist person at the top of the ticket, but when you look at what's happening on these on-the-ground races, folks are saying, come on. Let's move. Let's take care of our people. Our folks are dying. We want more than this.

And that's what Cori represents. And that's why I'm excited about the entire universe of possibility that we have in this moment.

MELBER: Well, let's take that then to Cori.


MELBER: Let me ask you Cori one thing, though, about this.

BUSH: Yes.

MELBER: Because what Brittney's saying and what some people are saying about you -- we keep it very direct here on THE BEAT.

Some people say, if you win, you could be the next AOC. And I'm sure you're also your own person. But is there something that you think people had underestimated -- I'm not just talking about the right -- but within the Democratic Party?

AOC was running against number four, Joe Crowley. Pelosi and others had obviously his back on that whole incumbent thing, because they all -- they stick together. And people said she was underestimated. We're hearing some people say you were initially underestimate.

I'd love for you to speak to that, as well as the other point you wanted to make.

BUSH: Yes, so my first point was #Brittneyisdope.

And then the other thing is, look, I'm going from unhoused to the House. So, absolutely, people had me underestimated. Even my own party felt like it can't happen. This is a 52-year dynasty. It won't happen.

But -- and when people say you're the next AOC, call me what you want to call me, but I'm walking in those doors, it looks like most likely. So, as long as I'm bringing home deliverables to my community, that's what I care about.

As long as there are little black girls and all kinds of other children coming up to me saying, you know what, I want to do that, show me how you did that, that's what it's about. So if I can inspire a movement, if I can help in that movement, if I can be like -- I have said it before. If I could be like Harriet Tubman, get in and go reach others and bring them in too, it's not about me, it's about all of us.

And this change starts now. And it is going to continue to roll if we keep fighting. When we stop and allow the party or whoever else to tell us who we are, that's how we miss it. And so we won't. They people like me, but they also need -- we need people that have a bunch of different views.

You won't change Cori. I still face -- I still can feel the dirt on my face. I can feel the gravel on my face from the last time my face hit it. So you won't take -- you can't take that from me.

But we're going to make sure that our community is well taken care of.

MELBER: Well, you said Harriet Tubman.

Was it not Diddy who said, all about the Tubmans, baby?

BUSH: Oh, my gosh, Ari.


COOPER: Ari, the ladies run this. Hip-Hop said, do the ladies run this? Yes, we do.


MELBER: Well, look, Brittney gets the last word. Brittney's a BEAT regular.

Cori Bush, your debut here. I hope you will come back and become a regular as well.

BUSH: Absolutely. Thank you.

Thanks, Brittney.

MELBER: Thanks to both of you.

And you guys, keep -- keep talking even post-show. Keep talking to the Zoom.

We have to fit in a break, of course. But we have a lot more from Barack Obama's first big interview since this Harris pick was announced and there was all this energy in the Democratic Party. And he gets pretty candid. We're going to show you that.

But up next, something we are so excited about the famous and celebrated Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman here live on what you need to know about the Trump recession.


MELBER: Returning to a story we have been on, millions are out of work in the pandemic recession, no end in sight.

Senate Republicans have left Washington without passing a bill. And as you see here, my special guest is the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who writes for "The New York Times." And his book "Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future" is very relevant.

Thanks for coming on THE BEAT, sir.


MELBER: Let's start with Congress, specifically Senate Republicans leaving without a relief bill.

How do you view that on humanitarian and economic terms?

KRUGMAN: Both, it's incredible.

I mean, we have had some return of jobs. Things are not quite as bad as they were a couple of months ago. But we still have tens of millions of people out of work. And the reason that things aren't -- the reason we don't have soup kitchens and bread lines and massive suffering is because the CARES Act back in March provided a lot of special benefits, provided extra unemployment benefits, kept people afloat.

And all that expired at the end of July. And the idea that, with all of these millions of people still without work and all of these businesses without business, the Congress just left -- and, essentially, it's Republicans -- just left without any kind of resolution, not even to mention state and city budgets, it's unbelievable.

I mean, it's -- I read lots and lots of financial newsletters, and they all assumed that Congress would do something by now. And they didn't even contemplate the possibility that we'd have complete inaction.

And yet there we are.

MELBER: Paul, I heard you read so many financial newsletters, you even read ones you don't like.

KRUGMAN: Of course. You want to read the ones -- you want to read the ones who are predicting hyperinflation every month. You want to read the ones that are predicting that Trump will bring the second coming of whatever, because you want to hear different opinions.


KRUGMAN: But the ones that -- but even the ones that are sensible -- I mean, I have to say, not only -- whatever you think of Goldman Sachs, Goldman Sachs is a pretty sensible organization when it comes to economic analysis.


MELBER: Right. You look at...


MELBER: Let me throw some evidence up that Goldman and those guys do.

Take a look at -- I want to show you this, and then I will let you keep going, Paul.


MELBER: But look at this on the market recovery, right?

The stock market up, while all these regular people are suffering. So, you have this so-called V shape.


MELBER: Can you put that in the context of what you're -- what you're reading, and how regular people are hurting, while some stocks go up?


So there's four -- I'm probably going to do a Monty Python routine here, but I think there are four things to say about the stock market. The first is that the stock market is not the economy. It just -- it has never been. It's the old joke that the stock market has predicted nine of the last five recessions.

The second thing is that stocks -- when you buy stocks, you're buying stocks as opposed to something else. And look at the alternatives, bonds. Ten-year U.S.-inflation-protected bonds are yielding minus 1 percent. They -- basically, if you're trying to buy something else, is, they're -- you're going to lose money. So people are buying stocks because they might at least get something.

The third thing is that it's a global world. And stocks -- the stocks that are doing well are global corporations. They have get a lot of their money from outside the U.S.


KRUGMAN: So it's not really a verdict on the U.S. economy. It's a verdict on sales in Europe and sales in Asia.

And the last thing to say is that there's -- Larry Summers, whom I have known my whole life, has a famous paper on the stock market that begins: There are idiots. Look around.


KRUGMAN: And there are clearly some naive investors who saw stocks rising and bought in.


MELBER: Right, the wave, yes.


MELBER: I got to show you one more thing.

Before I lose you, I got to show you Steve Mnuchin for a quick Krugman fact-check, because he's out there. People hear him. Here's some of the zombie ideas he's pushing. Take a listen.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: As I have said previously, we believe that the tax cuts will pay for themselves.

This will pay for itself. With growth, we will more than pay for the tax cuts.


MELBER: Is that true?

KRUGMAN: No, it's not true.

But, look, if there were things I would never have predicted, it is that Steve Mnuchin has turned out to be the voice of reason in the Trump administration. Compared with Kudlow, compared with Peter Navarro, he's actually the person who actually seems almost sometimes to be making sense.

So, the idea that -- if we actually do get any deal, it's going to be Pelosi and Mnuchin, and somehow or other all these other crazy people will be pushed aside. So, Mnuchin is clearly not one of your smarter -- well, he made "The LEGO Movie," but not one of your smarter economic analysts.


KRUGMAN: But he's better than anybody else in this administration, which tells you a whole lot.

MELBER: Well, the old -- there's the old country line, from the gutter to you is not up.

And so I suppose, in any group of business economists, it would be a question who's in the room.

But, Paul, we really appreciate your insights here. And you always play it very factual and straight.

And I want to remind everyone this book, which is so relevant right now, is "Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future." You can get it online right now by Paul Krugman.

Our thanks to him.

When we come back, we're going to hear from Obama's first interview since the Biden V.P. pick.

And, later, we end the week in style, making his BEAT debut, the Emmy and Tony winner Billy Porter speaking his mind -- coming up.


MELBER: Right now, Barack Obama is gearing up for his biggest political speech since leaving office.

The politician who burst on the scene from his own 2004 convention speech about to headline next week's convention to tout his own former running mate. Obama also comparing his own ticket to this new Biden/Harris ticket.


OBAMA: Joe was not the person I was closest to of the candidates. We were different in age, different in background. His politics were a little bit different than mine.

But it was precisely those differences that I thought made him ideal.


MELBER: Obama also using this new interview to address concerns about the understaffed polling locations and the risk to elderly volunteers.


OBAMA: One of the things that is going to be of concern is just getting poll workers.

Everybody who's voted in person knows that, historically, that's been disproportionately seniors, people who volunteer their time. I think a lot of older poll workers are going to be a little more hesitant about exposing themselves to the pandemic.


MELBER: All eyes in the Democratic Party on what Obama says next week.

And he's actually one of many prominent Americans taking the stage to rally support for Joe Biden.

The Broadway legend Billy Porter also performing at the convention, and he joins us live after this break.


MELBER: Welcome back.

We are ending this week in a very different political place than where we began it. Kamala Harris now on the presidential ticket, and already using her new platform to hammer Trump for, as she put it, preventing us from voting.

The sitting president now admitting his plot to thwart certain voting. And, as we have been covering tonight, all these issues are sure to be big at the first virtual political convention ever, when everyone from the Obamas, to AOC, to artists will rally the troops for Joe Biden, including award-winning Broadway icon Billy Porter performing at the DNC.

That political news broke just today that shows how Democrats are invoking the power and reach of culture, not just politics, this cycle.

Porter, who's about to join me, of course, has won an Emmy for his role in the groundbreaking series "Pose," where he's nominated again this year. He also has a Tony and a Grammy for his beloved role as Lola in the hit musical "Kinky Boots." And he recently spoke at the Lincoln Memorial on the Voting Rights Act anniversary.


BILLY PORTER, ACTOR: I don't care what you do or how you do it. Vote. People laid down their lives so we could exercise this right. Vote.

I know they're coming for us with this suppression mess. Ain't nothing new. It's all good. Vote. Show up and participate in our democracy now.


MELBER: And now Billy Porter makes his debut on THE BEAT.

Thank you for being here.

PORTER: Thank you for having me, Ari. It's so good to be here. I watch you every night.

MELBER: Oh, well, that's great to hear.

Let me start with how you feel. And this is quite a week. Where does it leave you on this Friday?

PORTER: It started out hard.

I was watching Rachel Maddow on Monday, and she was talking about how dictators hold onto power by wielding their power to fix elections. And it really took me out.

But then Tuesday happens, and Ms. Kamala got on the ballot. And I have been seeing the young people come out, and I have been seeing hope, and I have been feeling the possibility once again of real change and real significant change, and, this time, change for good.

MELBER: When you went there and talking about voter suppression, you knew what was coming, even if not in the details.


MELBER: So, we just heard you saying, this is coming.


MELBER: Now, you didn't necessarily say, and it's going to be this machine in this state and this mail ballot.

But, why is it so important to you to be fighting on that now? And what do you say to people who feel exhausted, like, it shouldn't be this hard for this long to exercise your rights?

PORTER: Well, Frederick Douglass says, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

We got a black president, and we thought we won something. And everybody sat back and wiped their hands of paying attention and engaging. And this is what happens when we don't engage. Hundreds of years of progress can be rolled back in this short of time because of whiteness, because of white supremacy and the need to hold onto that power.

That's what it feels like. That's what we're going through right now. And it's time for the people to rise up and fix it.



MELBER: When look at...


MELBER: when you look at the diversity that perhaps part of America is catching up with, but that exists -- full stop, it exists in our country -- second of all, it exists...


MELBER: ... and is sometimes earlier embraced in the arts, in Broadway.


MELBER: What do -- is there something -- as you prep your performance at this convention next week, is there something you think that the rest of America can learn from some of that cultural leadership?

PORTER: Well, arts and artists have always been at the forefront of speaking truth to power.

We have a special way of reaching into the hearts and minds of people and changing the molecular structure of what's inside, from the inside out. And that is the gift, that is the blessing that we have as artists.

And so this idea that we're supposed to shut up and sing, or shut up and dribble, that rhetoric that comes out sometimes, where people think we're not supposed to be here and we're not supposed to have an opinion, this is historical, children.

We have been here the whole time. And we're not going anywhere. And so the best thing that we can do is figure out how to respect each other's humanity. That's the conversation that is on the table right now, and as far as I am concerned.

It's not about tolerance. It's not about acceptance. It's about respect for our humanity. We're all human beings, period.


Well, and I feel you on that, because the arts, whether we talk about people playing characters, or beating a drum, or dancing, we were doing this before we had language.

PORTER: You're right.

MELBER: So, what we connect with -- right?

PORTER: Right. Right.

MELBER: When we -- people look up to you for what you do, and what you convey, and it's deeper than language.

Now, Billy, with the two minutes I have before Joy Reid, you know we do at the end of long weeks here. It's Friday.

PORTER: Yes. Yes.

MELBER: So we did save a little, a little bit for you a little time to "Fallback."

My guest for "Fallback Friday" is -- no spoilers -- it's still Billy Porter.

PORTER: Billy Porter.


MELBER: Anything on your "Fallback" list after the long week?

PORTER: Well, I was reading about rats who are hungry. Even the rats are hungry, you all.


PORTER: They coming out and they harassing the outdoor diners.

That's how bad it's gotten. The rats...



MELBER: I heard about this.

PORTER: Come on, people.

MELBER: And this is -- as I understand it -- and I have spent a lot of time in New York and Brooklyn -- this is because there used to be a lot of people eating enough...

PORTER: Right. And they had food in the garbage.

MELBER: ... so that the rats -- the rats were...

PORTER: They were getting fed and getting fat from the food that was put out in the garbage.

Ain't nobody been eating outside they house.


PORTER: The rats are hungry.


PORTER: And they're coming for your shoes.

MELBER: I mean, and here's the other thing. And this is real talk. I mean, you have been on Broadway.

In New York City, it's no joke. If a rat is hungry enough, it's dangerous to a human.

PORTER: They will come and get you. They will come and get you.

MELBER: They come right at you.

PORTER: They will rise up on their hind legs and come right for your neck.


MELBER: Well, Billy, you know Wu-Tang said.

PORTER: Tell me what Wu-Tang said.

MELBER: Protect your neck.


PORTER: Protect your neck. Yes.


MELBER: We started with protect...

PORTER: That's what I love about you the most.


MELBER: We started with protect your right to vote, and we end with protect your neck. You need both, really.

PORTER: Protect your neck. We do need it. That jugular is important.


MELBER: Billy Porter, you have been an inspiration for many reasons for many people. I love you coming on THE BEAT. I hope you will come back. I hope to meet you in person someday, sir.

PORTER: Yes, absolutely. I will see you soon.


PORTER: Thank you for all you do.

MELBER: Thank you for saying that. We will see you on Broadway.

That does it for THE BEAT tonight. We will be back Monday 6:00 p.m. Eastern. So, I will see you Monday, I hope.

But don't go anywhere. "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID STARTS" now.


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