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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, August 17, 2020

Guests: Michael Moore, Neal Katyal, Chai Komanduri, Danielle Belton, Tom Steyer, Tim Kaine, Mara Gay

Summary

Senator Tim Kaine speaks out. Filmmaker Michael Moore discusses the presidential race. Democrats prepare to kick off the Democratic National Convention.

Transcript

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening to you.

And I want to thank our new neighbor, Nicolle Wallace, who you will be seeing nightly right here before THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And as we come on the air right now President Trump under fire for undercutting an election where he appears to be falling behind, as we are, of course, now just hours away from political and pandemic history, the first time a major party has made its national convention virtual.

The Democratic Party format here, of course, will be the same as past convention. State delegates will formally make the primary winner the party nominee And they will formally vote to confirm the new running mate, but there will be no giant crowds or balloon drops or fireworks are spontaneous in-person moments.

Instead, there will be scenes like this, a prominent Democrat addressing the camera. Call it the Zoom era or very 2020. But, tonight, the Biden campaign is arguing it has the hot hand with the electrifying V.P. pick of Kamala Harris and this forthcoming star turn by Michelle Obama.

Here's a preview that campaign just dropped.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: He knows what it takes to rescue and economy, beat back a pandemic, and lead our country. And he listens. He will tell the truth and trust science.

His life is a testament to getting back up. And he is going to channel that same grit and passion to pick us all up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That is the very first sliver of what tonight might feel like.

And if the Obamas are offering a Biden continuity and a reminder of the Obama-Biden era, tonight will also directly feature a call for unity, with a top spot for the progressive leader who, of course, came in second in the last two contested primary presidential seasons in a row, Bernie Sanders, who will speak to his loyal supporters, as well as other viewers, who will be seeing this across dozens of live feeds that we have been learning about across the whole country.

So that is the message to voters. As for the vote itself, other news tonight, Speaker Pelosi making it plain she thinks Trump wants to -- quote -- "sabotage the election" and disenfranchise voters by kneecapping the way that many ballots would be handled and counted, through the mail.

Democrats not being complacent about this one. They're turning up the heat with an outside and inside strategy. Here, you can see out on the streets new protests at the whole of the Trump appointee who leads the Postal Service, Louis DeJoy, while, on the inside track, Democrats demanding he go under oath immediately.

And they have already won a high-stakes hearing which is now set for next week, which happens to be during the Republican Convention. Pelosi also calling Congress back to Washington early to keep the heat on the Postal Service, as well as the COVID relief battle.

So, we have special coverage for you tonight on this big, big news night on THE BEAT.

We have heavy hitters Neal Katyal and someone who knows a thing or two about being a running mate, Tim Kaine, plus, later this hour, Michael Moore on how Biden and Sanders are showing this unified political front tonight.

And we have some special guests kicking off our broadcast, including some convention veterans.

Before we get to them, though, we turn right now and begin with The Root's Danielle Belton and "The New York Times"' Mara Gay.

Good evening to both of you.

DANIELLE BELTON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE ROOT: Good evening, Ari.

MELBER: We just heard the preview, which is what campaigns are telling us they're focused on. So they're leading with, of course, Michelle Obama speaking from that Zoom setting that we're also familiar with.

Mara, let's take just a brief listen to the Michelle Obama speech that many remember. And I will just say, as an aside, convention speeches are not always memorable. Maybe because it was Michelle or because it was the time period, it's a quote that has gone on to be echoed.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: That hateful language that they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: How we explain that, when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don't stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Mara, how does that in your mind play into what we're going to hear tonight?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it's interesting, Ari.

I mean, thinking back to 2008, 2007, we had never seen anything like the Obamas before. And, actually, Michelle Obama, in some ways of breaking so many stereotypes about womanhood and beauty, was even more revolutionary than her husband in many ways and too many people.

And I think there's so many goes into that in the Democratic ticket this year. This is really about things coming full circle. So we had Michelle Obama breaking barriers years ago, and now we have got the first African-American, the first black American woman and Indian-American woman to be a vice presidential candidate.

And I think it's about generating that excitement, but also it's going to be some comfort food to Democrats, who I think are still shell-shocked, frankly, not just from what happened four years ago, but from the past four years and past four months.

This is about getting people excited and getting them motivated to go to the polls.

MELBER: Danielle?

BELTON: You know, you can't go wrong with Michelle Obama. Her popularity is hovering somewhere between the heavens and the stars amongst the general public.

I think, last I checked, she's close to 60 percent. And so I'm looking forward to this convention, but part of me wonders, do we really need one at this point? Like, I understand why we're having a convention 100 percent, but only about 16 percent of voters are undecided.

How that's possible, I will never know. The difference between the candidates couldn't be more stark. One candidate has 170,000 dead Americans on their hands and the other is Joe Biden. So, if they're comfortable with the current thousands of deaths per day from COVID, I assume you would be OK with anything Trump does.

You're the Trump could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue voter, and you're going to rock with him until the wheels fall off. And I'd say, with 1,000 deaths per day, that presidential motorcade is up on blocks.

MELBER: Mara, thinking about that -- and, of course, the conventions will be very different. So we really don't know what these next two weeks are going to feel like and whether they could range from different advantages in the way they do it to potentially some people may find it to be a dud, as compared to some of those other exciting moments.

For viewers, I want to just give a little preview, Mara, from some of the coverage. Unconventional is the word of political folks are using, juggling hundreds of live feeds to recreate, they're saying, the feel of a celebration, live footage, mini-documentaries, video testimonials, real-time reactions.

So they do want to show the delegates across the country, as well as the pre-recorded performances, which folks have seen on everything from "SNL" to late-night shows in the pandemic era, like Billie Eilish.

Mara.

GAY: You know, my instinct is that this is actually extremely important, because I think that the number one barrier that Democrats are going to have to overcome, and really anyone who's interested in seeing Donald Trump replaced, is the voter apathy and just malaise that has settled over parts of this country that are traumatized, whether they're sick, they had a loved one who died, or whether they have lost their job in this -- amidst this trauma and really just amid the political crimes that are being committed by this White House.

And I think the fears about whether or not Americans will have -- see their vote protected are very real. And I think it's extremely important that Americans who are on the fence really get invested in this process. And that needs to begin right now, because there are some voters who are -- they vote in local elections.

They vote every -- every six months, they're at the polls, but that's not most Americans. And I think it's going to be harder than ever to vote. And so people need to be extremely motivated. And this is really kind of the beginning of that pep rally.

And that might just sound like pageantry. But I think it's really important to create awareness about the election that's coming up and to really get people thinking about how -- what their plan is at the poll.

And that's the most important thing that the Democrats can do right now.

MELBER: Mara Gay and Danielle Belton, kicking us off, thanks to you.

I turn to two more live guests, because, with special coverage, we're going to keep it moving.

We have a businessman and billionaire philanthropist, as well as a former rival of Joe Biden. That is former presidential candidate Tom Steyer, who is speaking tonight. And we're joined by Chai Komanduri, who's worked for the Clinton and Obama conventions and knows his way around at least the old-school conventions.

Tom, what are you going to say tonight? What's the best preview you can give us?

TOM STEYER (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I'm incredibly excited about this team.

And I believe that the moment has found the people who are going to lead us into a transformational and better America. And that's what I'm going to say. I am 100 percent behind Joe Biden, and I think he's made an inspired choice in Kamala Harris.

And I believe that they're going to get a turnout that is going to be historic, and that then they're going to be a transformational team for America next year.

MELBER: How did your prep work? Did you submit sort of your written draft, or they send you something? And how different was it from your experience as a candidate from other cycles?

STEYER: Oh, I think this was very much a spontaneous interview, so that they could get things that were natural, that were from my heart, explaining really where I am and why I'm so excited about this campaign, why I think it's so pivotal in American history, and why I'm optimistic that, in fact, the outcome is going to be fantastic for the Democratic Party.

But, more than that, it's going to be fantastic for this country and for the American people.

MELBER: Chai, full disclosure, we first met in 2004, when you were working on the Kerry campaign, as was I at the time.

CHAI KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right.

MELBER: Real quick, how many conventions have you worked?

KOMANDURI: I worked four, the 2004 convention that we first met at, 2008, 2012.

MELBER: And, as a politico, what was your most senior title? Because you have helped put these things together.

KOMANDURI: Oh, I was -- I have been deputy floor manager for the last three conventions.

MELBER: Yes, deputy floor manager.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: That's not nothing.

So, this year, no shade on you, Chai, but that they don't really need a floor manager, at least not a physical floor.

KOMANDURI: Correct. Right.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: Given your expertise -- and you have done this -- what do you think the challenges are? By the way, these are bipartisan challenges in a pandemic era, as someone who's put on so many conventions.

KOMANDURI: Right.

Well, I think the most important aspect of any convention is to unify the party. And I think that Biden has actually, by and large, done that going into this convention.

I think the secondary aspect is to put on a good show. Quite frankly, like, there's nothing else on TV in August for the most part. There's also the fact that people are locked in. And so I think you're going to have very good ratings and a very good show.

And so I think the show business element of this, I think, will really show through much better than, say, the Republicans will have.

MELBER: Why would it be better? I mean, a lot of folks listening to this would think, whatever your views are of Donald Trump, the reality TV star does understand this medium.

KOMANDURI: Right.

Well, I think the big aspect is, Democrats have been realists about coronavirus. We started working six months ago to think about what a coronavirus convention or effective convention would look like. Donald Trump only started a month ago, if not even that.

He was toying around first with Charlotte. Then he got pissed off, pulled it out of Charlotte, went to Jacksonville. Then he got pissed off, pulled -- went -- now did the virtual convention.

Democrats, however, were way ahead of the curve. We understood that this convention was not going to have a crowd, it was not going to be conventional. And so the planning and preparation that you will see in the next four days, I think, speaks well to the type of planning preparation Joe Biden will do as president of the United States.

MELBER: Well, Tom, what do you think about that?

It's interesting point that Chai raises, which, again, seems a little bit off of the main stage and how we think about the pageantry. Chai is talking about the nuts and bolts of a Trump-led convention that had to be as all over the place as his planning process, which Chai just narrated, vs. a Biden-led convention.

Do you think the voters could see these couple of days, Tom, as a dry run of who actually has the better approach?

STEYER: Well, I think there are those nuts and bolts, Ari.

But I think, much beyond that, what we're going to see out of this Democratic Convention are the values and the soul of this party, of this candidate, and of his vice presidential pick.

And I think what the Americans are going to be able to see and what is going to pull this party together is that Joe Biden is a unifier. He's somebody who leads with his heart, with compassion. That's going to come across throughout all of the talks. That's what Michelle Obama was just talking about.

And what we're going to see is a stark contrast between someone who absolutely, clearly cares about the American people, is experienced, but where policy comes from his caring about people, that, in fact, he is someone who is experienced and can lead us out of this crisis.

But, more than that, he will do that with his heart up front. And that's a dramatic change from what we have seen in the United States for the last four years.

MELBER: And we're also going to going to hear from Bernie Sanders. That's a big part of the political argument. Sanders also, like many top Democrats, Chai, has been quite assertive in taking on what they have argued is, in effect, kneecapping the election by going after the Postal Service.

Since ,again, you have all the campaign experience, Chai, this is the other big story tonight. Take a look at Sanders on this. Take a listen.

KOMANDURI: Right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): This is a deliberate effort to defund and destroy the U.S. Postal Service, so that people cannot engage in mail-in ballots. That's about Bernie Sanders talking. That's what Donald Trump is telling the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Chai, how does a campaign balance mobilizing people, so they don't feel like, well, my vote doesn't even count, it's all chaos, which is part of Trump's rhetorical goals, and the on-the-ground plans that Sanders and Pelosi are talking about, which is to protect the vote?

KOMANDURI: Yes.

Well, basically, it's you -- and you're going to see it in the next four days. It's a very simple thing, preparation and planning. There will be enormous preparation and enormous planning that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will do to make sure that every vote is counted, that every vote is collected, and that the -- and that the post office works, and that voting locations are safe.

All of those things will be done via preparation. Now, Democrats are right to be worried about this. They are right to lose some sleep over this, because the only way Donald Trump can win is through a turnout gate by basically driving down Democratic turnout as much as he can, which is exactly what he's doing in terms of trying to fire up the chaos of the current campaign.

MELBER: Well put.

Chai Komanduri, a veteran of these conventions, and, Tom Steyer, a veteran of this campaign cycle, who viewers will see later, thanks to both of you for being part of kicking off our coverage.

We go now to our shortest break in the hour, just 30 seconds. When we come back, we get into Michelle Obama's big headlining night. I have a special guest.

And, later, as Biden hopes to attract supporters of Sanders, what do progressives want out of this ticket? Michael Moore, who backed Sanders, is here live.

We also will have former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal on the voting fight.

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

We will be back in 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back on a big night here on MSNBC.

If any presidents spent the general election trying to close down polling locations or defund machines that count ballots, it would be a giant scandal. Abusing government power to thwart an election is the most fundamental abuse of power in a democracy, because it can end a democracy.

In an election where the winner this year could be decided by mail-in ballots, that is part of what the president appears to be doing, because the post office is now, of course, a main instrument of processing ballots,, which is why Speaker Pelosi is literally calling the House back on this issue, and to hold this emergency hearing.

It's why there are calls to investigate the man Trump installed as postmaster general and to look into whether he's already executing Trump's desire to affect mail-in balloting, while Senate Democrats are pressing for a reversal of these mail policy changes, and real people, as we have been reporting, are taking the pressure to the home of the postmaster general himself today.

Now, some of these efforts are already working. Pressure can work, as Donald Trump knows. Protests can work, as America has been seeing this year. Pelosi calling Congress back puts Americans on notice right now, this week, that she views this as an emergency, even in, yes, a year of emergencies.

Now, some of these measures wouldn't happen by November. The Senate Democrats' bill is basically dead in the GOP-controlled Senate. But is there a larger legal challenge here? How can it be up to only protesters or the opposition party to guard democracy alone?

Well, tonight, we can report for you that attorneys general in six different states are exploring the best way to stop Trump in court with possible suits, one of them speaking out on that strategy today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSH SHAPIRO (D), PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, Chuck, what we're doing is gathering evidence right now. We're looking at how it's worked in the past. We're examining the timelines that things have taken, and we're looking at what the postal regulations and the statutes require.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I'm joined now by the former acting Solicitor General of the United States under the Obama administration Neal Katyal.

Good evening, Neal.

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Good evening. I love the glasses.

MELBER: Well, sometimes, they come out, although I'm mostly a contacts person. I love your glasses.

Here we are on a big political night, and viewers understand, soon we're going to have all that pageantry, our full MSNBC coverage. And, normally, we'd be talking politics and a little less likely to book former solicitors general.

You're here because this is now as much of a legal story. Is what Donald Trump says out loud that he wants to do to the post office constitutional? And, if not, what do you do?

KATYAL: It's obviously illegal, Ari. And it's obviously on American. And it's obviously incompetence.

I mean, we have had mail delivered for 200 years, and this guy comes along and can't even do that. And it would be suspicious anyway, any mail slowdown, because, after all, in December, we always have mail surges over Christmas, and the Postal Service having billions and billions of pieces of mail.

And now, all of a sudden, magically, before an election, they can't do their job. And it's not just about the election, of course. It's about people getting medicine and business records being transmitted across the mail, all sorts of things.

So, the basic deal is, there's a federal statute and there are state statutes, which both make what the president's doing illegal. The federal one is 18-USC-1703. And it says, whoever being a Postal Service officer or employee unlawfully detains or delays any letter or postcard shall be imprisoned for up to five years.

Now, sometimes, you might think, well, the president, if there's mail slowdown, it may be for other reasons or so on.

But here -- and you know I have said this before -- Donald Trump is the best co-counsel an opponent can ever have. He admits the game. Here, he did that. He said, the reason why he's worried about this is because of mail-in balloting, and that's why the slowdown is occurring.

And that's just admitting, basically, a federal felony.

MELBER: Now, we will put that up on the screen here as we go full legal, the delay or destruction of mail.

When you sign, who would that potentially apply to? Who does that work against?

KATYAL: Well, it works against any -- the statute is very broad. It says any postal office employee who's involved in this scheme.

And some -- this is a circumstance in which the president has himself kind of effectively given up the motivation. And so I think it really puts the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, in a tough position. He's, after all going to have to testify next week.

And now he's testifying in a circumstance in which his own criminal liability, and perhaps those of his subordinates, is on the line. That is an ugly place to be. And while DeJoy may feel some security with Barr as the attorney general, Barr may not be the attorney general forever.

And as I said before, there are state attorneys general, each of whom are investigating their own counterpart state crimes here, which may be at play, because there is nothing more un-American than messing with an election.

And if you're messing with the mail to do that, absolutely, it's a state crime and it's a federal crime.

MELBER: What can Congress do, in your view, to make that pressure real on this individual, who may, like many in the Trump era, ultimately be forced to make choices, as Comey, McCabe and others testified they were asked to, between their constitutional obligations and what Trump wants?

KATYAL: Well, I'm very pleased to see that Congress has been called back into emergency session over this, and DeJoy is going to have to testify.

And he's going to testify with the threat of criminal sanctions hanging over him. So it may be a circumstance where DeJoy finally does the right thing and comes clean before Congress. Now, if he doesn't, Congress still has tools available to it. They can use the subpoena power to drag people through, and even perhaps jail people in the Postal Service, if they try and refuse and don't give up documents and the like.

But they also have the budgetary powers. They can defund various aspects of the Trump administration in retaliation for what they want to do. And states, of course, in addition to filing lawsuits, can pass laws that say, for example, your ballot is going to count as long as it's postmarked on Election Day. Even if it comes two weeks later, your ballot is going to count.

So there's a lot of stuff we can do to deal with this. And we got to start now.

MELBER: Well, Neal, you just laid something out that's so important. Again, as I have mentioned, we're on a political night, but you just talked about something that could literally swing the outcome, which is whether ballots are counted because they were postmarked in time or there are, to use a legal term, shenanigans, and the margin of victory of whoever side could literally hang on that.

So that's why I think it seems like it's our political nights are going to be legal nights in this environment with this president proposing the things he is.

Neal Katyal, we always benefit from your real-time law school.

And I'm going to remind people they can go to MSNBC.com/openingarguments, where we will have this and other recent segments that are your guide to so much of what's going on.

My thanks to Neal Katyal.

Now, coming up, Michelle Obama is the headliner. We have a very special guest joining us as well, as this progressive push going into the convention, Bernie Sanders speaking tonight, Biden saying it's a show of unity.

And one of the biggest Sanders supporters we all know, Michael Moore, is here live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Joe Biden's not wasting any time when it comes to building bridges at tonight's convention, using this first night to showcase one of the party's most popular progressives, who hasn't always been a member of the Democratic Party.

Bernie Sanders finished second to Biden this year and to Clinton last cycle and addressed his loyal followers then at her convention during a time of Russia-induced party acrimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: How will Sanders tackle a similar role tonight?

One of his most famous supporters joins us now. Michael Moore is an Oscar-winning filmmaker. He's host of "Rumble With Michael Moore," the podcast, and he's a political surrogate. Moore campaigned for Sanders, spoke at his rallies.

In fact, you may remember we caught up with him out on the campaign trail this year in New Hampshire.

There we were right after one of the rallies you spoke at, Michael. And I don't know about you, but that feels like way longer than six months ago to me.

MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Yes, it could have been the 1950s. I mean, yes, that feels like ancient history in some way.

But maybe that's a good thing because I have this weird optimism that we're going to come out on the other side of this pandemic better, better than we were, and creating a better country than the one we had. So I am that optimist, in that sense.

By the way, when you say that I was a surrogate, I was -- it's always a weird word, like I was on the campaign trail carrying Bernie's baby or something.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: Well, words evolve in our culture.

I always thought, politically, surrogate is a funny word, but it means something that takes us into the very first thing I'm going to ask you about, which is, at the time, you were making the case for Bernie Sanders, and, as one does in any contest, making the case against others.

I understand that Sanders tonight is going to argue the best thing his supporters can do is vote early and take their friends to vote for Joe Biden.

But here's some of how you were sounding then. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOORE: Joe Biden is the center. Joe Biden is this year's Hillary.

Joe Biden is not going to excite the base to get out there and vote on November 3, 2020. Seventy percent of the people voted next year are either women, people of color, or young people between the ages of 18 and 35.

That's 70 percent. Who is going to excite that 18-to-35-year-old person? Who's going to excite women and African-Americans and Hispanic people?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now there's a Biden/Harris ticket. What do you say tonight, Michael?

MOORE: Well, first of all, the one demographic that Joe Biden is polling best in of all demographics is the under-35 demographic. So, clearly, he listened to me, which I knew he was watching your show and others back then and took my advice.

(LAUGHTER)

MOORE: No, seriously, I think that he won.

So...

MELBER: Yes.

MOORE: But even your own poll today, the NBC poll, showed that, when asked why are you voting for Joe Biden, 58 percent said because, he's not Trump. That's the number one reason.

So, I look at that, and I worry, because people do need to get excited and do need to understand that the Ari Melber and the Michael Moore that you showed there from January, I think we're different people now after what we have gone through. I am.

I have had a lot of time to think and to do and to create during this time. You can speak for yourself. But I think that Joe Biden, I was shocked that he picked Kamala Harris, frankly. I thought, for certain, he would swing to the right and pick Susan Rice.

Instead, he swung to the left and picked Kamala Harris. So...

MELBER: Well, let me -- let's dig in on that.

MOORE: Yes.

MELBER: Because that's -- we have seen -- I tell viewers we always try to follow the evidence.

Tim Kaine is joining us later this hour. But Tim Kaine did not generate the evidence of excitement in the first week that Kamala Harris has, for whatever range of reasons.

People may feel, oh, is this nice or mean? No, I'm just -- we track the evidence. Activists, small dollar donors, new donors, people who are -- and we're all -- people are going through this recession, people who said, oh, Kamala is on the ticket they gave their first $10 ever. She's smashed records that Kaine or anyone else would have held.

Are you, as someone who's coming from the Sanders wing, saying, you feel more enthused because she's on this ticket?

MOORE: Well, I think it's a very good sign.

But I'm enthused anyways. I mean, even the 58 percent who are saying they're voting for Biden because he's not Trump, great. That's fine. Any way into it you can find is important, because we must remove Donald J. Trump. That is job one for all of us.

And I think that somebody was asking me today, well, how do you feel about the fact that platform committee essentially didn't listen much to the Bernie people, and it's pretty much -- it's Biden's platform?

And I say to them, well, yes, it's the old Biden. It's all -- a lot of the old party people that are on the committee. They have been there for a while. There's some new ones in there. But they -- it doesn't matter what the platform really says anymore, because we're -- those are the old days.

MELBER: Right.

MOORE: That's pre-pandemic. That's gone.

What matters now is reality. And reality will write the platform during this election. And reality is...

MELBER: Well, let's dig into that, because you're making an interesting point.

MOORE: Yes.

MELBER: We will put up on the screen what you're talking about on the issues, because...

MOORE: Yes.

MELBER: ... there are issues around environmentalism, around Medicare for all, which is something that Sanders and you have talked about, as well as dealing with student loan debt, at a time where the Congress found money for all kinds of other stuff. And we have got people who went to these schools and are coming out and are saddled by that debt, something you and others have talked about.

You're saying, though, that, in a post-pandemic, activist world, what matters more than what the delegates do this week in that platform is what the larger conversation activists do, what we saw this summer, what might push a potential Biden administration over its term?

MOORE: Absolutely.

I think it'll happen even before the election. I think that, because all those candidates talked about how Americans love their private employer health insurance back in the debates. Nobody would dare say that now that tens of millions of people have lost their health insurance.

They have lost it in a second, as soon as the pandemic hit. And all of us -- but all the other countries, all the other industrialized countries, they didn't lose their health care, because it was a right. It was paid for by the government.

We must -- and I think I'm in the majority on this. We must never be in this situation again where people are ending up without health insurance because of something that happens. It has to be right and it has to be backed by the government. Same thing for paying off your student loan.

That's not going to happen. People don't have money. There is going to be such a groundswell of citizens who are going to demand of the Biden/Harris administration that things have to operate a different way now, different than the way they were thinking eight months ago.

MELBER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: And if it's good enough -- your point -- well, your emphasis on what we have learned through the pandemic, I mean, if it's good enough for Shake Shack...

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: ... why isn't it good enough for a 26-year-old nurse who played by the rules and is saddled with this debt, and, by the way, is an essential worker, pre-vaccine, risking his or her life for us?

MOORE: Right.

MELBER: On the economy, I want to get you on this as well, because...

MOORE: Yes.

MELBER: Do you know why "Roger & Me" holds up as a timeless film?

MOORE: Because I'm in it?

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: Maybe not, would be my answer. That might not even be the reason, Michael, although I always appreciate your sense of humor.

Because you go in, in plain English, and you ask all the fundamental questions about, if capitalism works, if this is the best we got, why does it seem to give such a raw deal to the people who work hard and play by the rules of capitalism?

And that's a fundamental question.

MOORE: It is. Yes.

MELBER: And here we are in this period, this Trump-COVID recession, and this is the stock market recovery right here.

MOORE: Right.

MELBER: These stocks -- I was asking Krugman about this recently on our show -- these stocks are going up.

I think we have this, the V-shaped stock market recovery.

MOORE: Yes. Yes.

And, also...

MELBER: And I'm going to put this up.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Can somebody in the booth put that up?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: They're saying, Ari, move on to the next -- oh, there it is. OK. So...

MELBER: Yes, there it is, and so here you are.

MOORE: Notice, once I asked for it, it came up. I'm just saying.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: The stock market in August on the right-hand side of your screen is back where it was pre-COVID. And the rest of America, real world, real people, real economy, isn't.

MOORE: Boom. It's not.

MELBER: Where does that play into the election for you, Michael?

MOORE: Well, I -- the public knows this.

And, again, the Biden/Harris ticket has to address this, has to promise people that they're not going to be evicted, they're not going to be foreclosed, that we're going to have a tough go of it for a while. And the government may just have to print money, which will devalue it, and the rich won't like that. And that's just too damn bad.

I think that -- I'm also concerned, because I'm from Michigan, that we just had two elections here this month, where Rashida Tlaib won in Detroit by a landslide, a Muslim woman. I'm guessing her district, maybe 5 percent of the district is Muslim women.

Ilhan Omar wins by a landslide in Minneapolis. And these are two swing states. And, in Michigan, Detroit, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Philly and Pennsylvania, this is where Hillary lost the election, in these three states, with the African-American vote.

And attention must be paid to this. And this is why their voices have to be heard. What does that tell us that, during this pandemic, people who are not Muslim American, who are not Muslim women overwhelmingly came out and voted for these two women and for Cori Bush in Saint Louis, and for Jamaal Bowman in the Bronx in Westchester County.

So, look, we have to win this election. And we have to pay attention to what the people want. And this is -- this is why I'm so hopeful, because of this uprising, because of this large -- what do you guys call it, the largest protest movement in the history of this country.

It continues every single day. And this movement will continue after the election. And we would much rather, instead of playing defense against four more years of Donald Trump, God forbid that I just say those words, we would rather play offense with Biden and Harris.

That's the way we're going to improve this country. That's the way that the chart for the people is going to go up, not just for Wall Street. And I think -- I'm looking forward to hearing Bernie tonight. AOC gets a whole minute. Hey, that's something.

And...

MELBER: Are you being -- are you being sarcastic?

MOORE: I'm being a little -- a little sarcastic.

Because, my friends, this is the future of the Democratic Party, and it's the future of this country. And it should be respected, because it is the way we're going. The majority of this country, every poll you guys show, they want universal health care, they want $15-an-hour minimum wage, they want women to have control over their own bodies.

Go down the whole damn list. It's the liberal position that the majority of Americans want. And, as Trump said, one of his rare honest moments, when he said that, when more people vote, Republicans lose.

That was just such a genius observation on his part. He's -- that's why he is very up front and in the open to suppress the vote, because he knows the American people are not with the Republican Party, and they're certainly not with him.

So, he's had to admit that: The only way we can win is essentially by cheating.

And that's pretty sad. But it's such a such a support of who we all are on the left, liberals, Democrats, whatever you call yourselves, that he's that afraid of us. He's that afraid of us.

MELBER: Well, you're -- yes, you're making me think of three things, Michael.

I was writing down some of what you're saying, as I do from time to time. First of all, the fact that Donald Trump literally admitted what generations of politicians who practice voter suppression would deny in public, that he did admit what you just said about the goal...

MOORE: Yes. Yes.

MELBER: ... which obviously is reminiscent of Jeru the Damaja, who famously said, I never knew gangsters confessed in stereo. Why would you go out and confess your crime publicly?

But two of the things you said...

MOORE: Fortunately, we will always have is Jeru, but we will not have Donald Trump. And I will miss Trump's honesty in these rare moments, when he says he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it.

That's gangster, yes.

MELBER: We will always have Jeru is sort of like, we will always have Paris.

But you said two other things, Michael,. One, perhaps risibly, you said, four more years of Donald Trump. So I will look on the Internet if anyone clips just that quote out of context.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: And, two, you said -- and this is interesting, because you do have a gift for clarity -- with regard to who we see on that stage tonight and passing the torch, which Joe Biden says he wants to do to Harris and a new generation, a next generation, you said very simply -- quote -- "Respect the future."

A very interesting theme to think about as we go into this convention night.

Michael Moore, thank you, sir.

MOORE: Thank you so much, Ari.

It's a joyous night. And I think all of us, regardless of where you stand on the spectrum, this is the first step of what can be a great redemption moment for the United States of America.

MELBER: Really interesting getting your, as I said, Sanders perspective and more. Michael Moore, thank you, sir.

Going to fit in a break.

We are going into the first virtual convention, but there's news on the pandemic, and tension inside Trump world's way of dealing with what are now these virtual conventions and these precautions.

We also have a special guest on Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama, and what to make of Republicans who say now the best thing to do is vote for Biden -- when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We are back with our special coverage.

And we are joined by Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. He was also, of course, famously, the running mate for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

There you were on a convention that was in-person.

Very busy time, so I appreciate you joining us on THE BEAT tonight, Senator.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): You bet, Ari. Glad to be with you, man.

MELBER: Glad to have you.

We have talked about many issues, policy and otherwise. My job now, as a journalist, you know I have to ask you the tough question. Sorry.

But what do you think of the new Democratic running mate? And do you think there are ways that Senator Kamala Harris is potentially filling in this role and this excitement better, different than you, the same? What are your thoughts on obviously the person now in this spot?

KAINE: Ari, I can't believe you think that is a tough question.

So, look, I was a civil rights lawyer in the South for 17 years before I got into state politics. I was proud to help my state go from red to blue, putting votes behind Barack Obama, of whom I was an early supporter.

I was thrilled to help Hillary Clinton try to break the glass ceiling that kept women from our nation's highest office. So, what do I think about Kamala Harris? I am absolutely thrilled.

The civil rights lawyer in me who has tried to help minorities and women break ceilings is thrilled. I'm so psyched that she's on the ticket. I think she is a superb choice for President Biden.

And I'm -- listen, I'm already claiming it. And I have been very, very excited to be out on the trail for her already. And I look forward to doing everything I can to make sure this ticket is successful.

MELBER: Cool.

Well, look, you sound very game. You know how -- you're around. You spend some time around politicians.

KAINE: Yes.

MELBER: Some of them, for whatever reasons, they don't like even comparing, because they want to always be the best, the number one or what have you. You sound game.

I'm curious what you learned in that role. We have talked to people in the running mate role who say, it is a funny role, because you built your career, as Senator Harris did, winning and being herself.

KAINE: Right.

MELBER: Then, at this apex, you're then the teammate. So, you're both in that role, but also asked to be the attack dog, the loyal soldier, et cetera.

Is there anything you learned or that surprised you in that role last cycle that you might here publicly tonight share with our viewers and with Senator Harris?

KAINE: Ari, it is a challenging role. And then you add the COVID thing to it as well, which makes campaigning circa 2020 completely different than it's been before.

So, a couple of things that I learned that I think are really important. The good news was, I had been the number two guy before. In addition to being a mayor and governor, I'd also been lieutenant governor and chairman of the DNC when we had a Democratic president.

So I was used to supporting the president or supporting the governor.

I don't think Kamala is going to have a challenge with that. I think a couple of pieces of advice, though, I would give them is, number one, I would encourage them to do events together, because I do think Americans like seeing the working relationship that might be in the Oval Office.

And there's a temptation to send, look, if you do your events, Joe, and, Kamala, you do yours, we can do twice as many events.

But I think events together, like the rollout last week, show the working relationship. And that's helpful.

The other thing I would be blunt about, this is a president who will do anything to win. So, in 2016, Ari, the day that I was nominated in Philadelphia, Donald Trump took a stage the same day and asked Russia to help him beat Hillary Clinton.

The reason I remember that so clearly is, I got "The New York Times" the next morning thinking I might be on the front page. No, Donald Trump seeking help from the Russians was on the front page, and I was on page A-17.

But, remember, in 2016, that was what Donald Trump would do as a candidate without power. Now he's a president with power. He's trying to screw up the post office. He's trying to preach racist birther lies about Kamala Harris, which are completely false.

He's got a lot more power now. And that means Dems have to understand, this is a guy who will do anything to win. And we have to make it as clear as day on Election Day, including early vote beginning in Virginia on the 18th of September -- some states are even earlier -- we got to make it as clear as can be, so we can sweep a would-be authoritarian out of office.

MELBER: Would-be authoritarian.

I'm running over time, but that means you are looking at what he's doing, and you think he might actually try to end American democracy, when you use that word? Is that what you mean?

KAINE: He's not thinking about it in those conceptual terms.

But I will tell you this. I lived in Honduras when it was a military dictatorship. And I know it a would-be dictator when I see one. A would-be dictator is somebody who thinks there are no rules that apply in Donald Trump's case, to him, and he will do anything to win.

That's who this guy is. It was clear to me in 2016. It's only gotten clearer the last four years. We're in for the fight of our lives to save our country. And we have to be at our very best right now.

MELBER: Senator Tim Kaine giving it to us straight on the politics and American democracy.

Thank you, sir.

KAINE: Absolutely. Good to be with you, Ari. Thanks.

MELBER: Good to have you. We will have you back.

We're going to fit in a break.

When we come back, though, a story I mentioned, updates on the coronavirus and how it plays out over, obviously, these two weeks of virtual conventions.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back.

We are gearing up, as you probably know, for a big night in politics and on MSNBC. Throughout the evening, we have the special coverage here of this kickoff night of the Democratic National Convention with all of our anchors you see here.

And I also want you to know, as a programming note, I will be back on air with you tonight at 1:00 a.m. Eastern with live special coverage and all of our great guests.

I will also be back, of course, for THE BEAT at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.

So, we recommend that you keep it right here on MSNBC all night, no matter what.

And that includes right now, because "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID," on this big night for politics, is up next.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END

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