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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, August 18, 2020

Guests: Michael McFaul, Juanita Tolliver, John Flannery, Maura Healey, Brittney Cooper


Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaks out. The Senate Intelligence Committee finally publishes its report on Trump-Russia collusion. Democrats get set for night two of their nominating convention. The postmaster general agrees to halt his controversial changes to the U.S. Postal Service.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin tonight with a loss for Donald Trump, Congress officially thwarting his plot to hinder voting by mail.

President Trump had openly admitted his goal of undercutting this forthcoming election. And, tonight, that does not look like some kind of grants strategy, but, rather, Donald Trump sabotaging himself, instead of the election, because Donald Trump's own postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, is now formally backing down from those controversial changes to handling the mail, which includes mail ballots, until this election is over.

So the reality tonight, as the nation takes in the Democratic Convention this week, and, of course, Trump's convention next week, is that even in this, yes, polarizing, chaotic era, facts still matter and pressure works.

Americans saw this new pressure immediately, from protesters outside the postal chief's home, showing that direct action can work on seemingly broad issues, like the fair handling of mail-in ballots, which is sort of conceptual, just as direct action worked on more tangible issues, like the police killings that were protested this summer.

And this pressure has swiftly changed postal policies that might have helped suppress the vote. It was fortified by Speaker Pelosi taking the unusual and severe step of calling Congress back early from its August recess for an emergency session to protect the vote.

And DeJoy agreed to testify. This all comes after legal expert Neal Katyal was telling us on MSNBC just last night that this forthcoming hearing, as well as going under oath, would put legal and even potentially criminal pressure on the Trump appointee.

He will face the Homeland Security Committee in the Senate first this Friday, the House early next week. And, apparently, to get ahead of any such grilling, today, he literally caved in writing, formally halting these new policies before the election and committing -- quote -- "We will deliver the nation's election mail on time."

Meanwhile, top attorneys general say their approach will be trust, but verify when it comes to Donald Trump and the vote, 20 states standing ready to sue over any backsliding.


JOSH SHAPIRO (D), PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: I guess I will say, I will believe it when I see it. I will not let my foot off the gas so long as the postal officials continue to violate the law.


MELBER: One attorney general prepping to take the Trump administration to court all over all this joins us later this hour.

House Democrats also intend to press DeJoy and basically get into those dramatic Postal Service letters, which, as you see here on the map, argued recently that they didn't think they could process ballots in time in most states.

That apparently may be nixed by these changes. And, as Donald Trump loses this round in the standoff, Americans are seeing a postmaster general who, let's be clear, was faced with a choice, like so many other Trump employees before him, from Michael Cohen to Gordon Sondland. If you follow the news, you're familiar with this choice and different people handle it different ways.

But the question is often the same. Do you pick Trump over the law? Do you pick Trump and what he's saying this week over your own personal career or even freedom? It appears this postmaster general, who was, of course, hand-selected as a Trump supporter, did not want to spend the next two months as the person standing between America and a fair election, and not amidst this pressure, which, of course, was dialed up on the convention stage just as it was being ratcheted up in Congress.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: We have got a request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): The unthinkable has become normal. He has tried to prevent people from voting, undermined the U.S. Postal Service.

OBAMA: Put on our mask, pack a brown bag, dinner, and maybe breakfast too, because we have got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to.

SANDERS: The future of our democracy is at stake.

OBAMA: We have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.


MELBER: I'm joined by the former chair of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, Juanita Tolliver, the national political director for Supermajority, which focuses on political opportunities for women, and our friend Professor Brittney Cooper from Rutgers University.

Good evening, all.

And, Juanita, does this look to you like a Trump loss in the face of both the public pressure and Speaker Pelosi doing something that even some of her own members might not like, which was seize on this and say, we're going back to work?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, SUPERMAJORITY: This is a massive flex from Pelosi and congressional Democrats, because what they knew is, when Trump and his allies are held and to task and put their feet to the fire, they will acquiesce.

And this is a scenario where she flexed that muscle. But here's the thing, Ari. This is not enough. While the postmaster general said he's going to pause on any of the actions that -- from now through the election, that does not retroactively reverse all of the mail ballot sorting machines that were removed, all of the barriers that were already put in place for the U.S. Postal Service to operate.

And so there's more to be done. So I'm really looking forward to seeing oversight from folks like Representative Ayanna Pressley, Representative Katie Porter, really call this out get to further naming the intention behind this, from not only the postmaster general, but also Trump, so that we can get folks' ballots counted on time and counted in this election cycle.

MELBER: Well, to your points, Michael Steele, NBC has been reporting on this and the folks who are really close to it who understand what the service can or cannot do.

Concerned postal workers say this goes all to the Trump ally running it. One postal union president saying, look: "We process over a billion holiday cards every year, almost all of them delivered on time." You're going to know if you get your card before Christmas or not. "Can we handle it?" -- quote -- "Yes. Is DeJoy trying to stop us from handling it? Yes"



That's -- I mean, the postal workers are telling you what the truth is. I mean, they know. They got a 91 percent approval with the American people. They know. We know what they can do. We know what their limitations are. We have all heard the postal jokes before.

But we know what's vital at this time. And it's no joke. It's serious. And I think it's important that not just what the leadership on the Democratic side, Pelosi and others, are doing. What's also equally important is what's not happening on the Republican side, where the Republican leadership haven't stepped up to sort of be in the face on this moment.

It's taken the people actually to move the needle here. And I think that's the most important storyline to come out of the last 24 hours, is that the American people said, OK, we got your game, we figured it out. We're going to start voting now. We're going to do as the first former first lady said.

We're going to get all these groups and organizations aligned, moving in the right direction. And when you catch up to us, it'll be too late, because we will already be in the game. We will have all the ballots on the street. We're already going to be out there do what we need to do.

So here's the bottom line at this point. OK, your cease-and-desist orders gone in place. Now reverse. Put everything back in that you took out. Put the post office -- put the postboxes back in the neighborhoods that you took them from. Put the high-speed machines back in the post office where they were located, and do that toot sweet, baby, because an election starts in about three weeks, when voters start early voting.

So let's get the game going.

MELBER: There you have it.

Brittney Cooper, I'm curious, because our first two experts here have really laid out the story pretty -- I think pretty clearly. When we dig into the next layer of the political theory that Speaker Pelosi was applying, to apparent success, I'm curious if you might walk us through any of your thoughts on the difference between cynicism, which we do also here in this area -- you know what, maybe nothing matters, doesn't seem to work, he gets away with so much -- and skepticism, which still leaves a lane to fix things.


BRITTNEY COOPER, PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: Yes, this is no time for cynicism. That is a tool of the privileged. That is the tool of people who have not been affected by all of the things that we're dealing with from COVID to this ruining of public institutions.

I think two things are really important to say in this moment. One is that we're being reminded as a country about our essential workers. Postal workers are also essential workers. They deliver the mail rain or shine, right?



COOPER: So we have been reminded that we have to take care of the people who make this engine go, right? I think that that's important.

The other thing is, part of -- one wonders why Trump reversed course so quickly today. But, look, the left also now has a version of the thing Trump does on the right when he's like, oh, the caravan is coming. They're coming to take your guns.

You say to the left, they're coming to take the post office away, and whenever somebody is like, you're going to take what away, this thing we value, this thing we need, people are rallied, because that is a basic non-political thing that folks believe in.

And so we had a thing that the American public will rally around. Voter suppression is not new. It's been used to suppress the votes of minority folks in this country for a long time, particularly the black vote.

But now Americans are being subjected to the idea that they might be massively voter-suppressed. And so you have got buy-in. And so this is the thing that Trump is fighting against. He's actually become the kind of enemy that he is taking things away that we can rally around, we can show up to physical locations and protest.

And so that's powerful. And that's happening at the same moment where the Democrats, as they killed it last night at the DNC with this sort of narrative right about how we're -- we are we, the people.

And the post office is one of the ways that Americans are we, the people. He missed that. And so it was the wrong line of attack. So now you see him reversing course. And when the enemy reverses course, our job in this moment is to stay vigilant and to not retreat.

We have got to advance. That's what we have got to do.

MELBER: I think, if I'm not mistaken, you're spitting so much news fire, that Michael Steele was moved to bring his hands into the frame.

I'm not sure what expression you were making. OK.

STEELE: No, push it forward, push it forward.


STEELE: Don't let up. You can't let up. There's people crazy out here.

MELBER: Juanita?

TOLLIVER: I think the other thing that Professor Cooper hit on the head is that the Postal Service does more than deliver ballots.

My mother's a veteran.


TOLLIVER: She receives her medication via the mail. My grandfather is retired. He receives his Social Security benefits via the mail, right?


TOLLIVER: Like, this is impacting people's way of life. That transcends partisanship.

And so I think Professor Cooper hit the nail on the head. This is something that is nonpolitical, that people across this country, no matter their background, can rally around.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, I'm writing a couple notes, as I do when people are making interesting points.

I mean, for one thing, Professor is reminding us something that is true, but can be obscured with the talk of privatization and saving money. And everyone understands why different entities are trying to save some money in the recession. But this is a public utility.

It is not auctioned off, where, at least traditionally, rich people get mail all the time and poor people get no mail.

STEELE: Right.

MELBER: No. As mentioned, it's a public utility. And whether it's for public safety or your benefits or the things you have earned and worked and paid into and deserve, the mail is supposed to go out as a utility.

And then, number two, Michael, I wonder if you could speak a little more to the professor's point, which one Juanita as well spoke to, about the nature of this as coalition-galvanizing, which I hadn't thought as much about it until Brittney just mentioned it, but police brutality in this country, we have documented, is used more against some groups than others.

We have documented that. And yet the response to the police brutality protests, when some police then brutalized people protesting as a response, including the tragic footage we saw of someone who remained in a coma, an elderly white man, and people of color, and young people, it actually seemed to politically galvanize a wider coalition.

And that, I believe, is the point Brittney was gesturing at here, that the long and sordid history of voter suppression against black Americans is well-documented, it's its own thing, but that there was a galvanization of people going, oh, this is what Trump wants to do.

And he's not just saying black, although it may be that. He's also just saying anyone who disagrees with him.

STEELE: Right. Right.

So, on the first point, about the postal -- the post office system in the main, I think the thing we keep in mind, Ari -- you know this -- all of what you described there about what's going on in the system and what the president was doing, remember what the initial pitch was.

They wanted to privatized the Postal Service, right? So this was to deconstruct the Postal Service. This has been a long time in the making, to deconstruct it to the point, where its utilization as a public utility was futile, it was useless.

Then you come around and you wrap around with a back-in argument, saying, see we got to privatize it because they can't deliver the mail. So that's one.

Now, we have disproved that lie. We can push that out there, because that ain't happening. I think the professor is the professor for the right reason. She's figured it out. She's laid out the truth here.

And it is around this idea of galvanization. Let me break it down a little bit further. It's now impacting white folks, so they are a little bit more concerned about it. OK?


STEELE: So they are not getting their medicine in their mail. So now it's an issue.

And then that's our truth. And that's what we have had to contend with for generations in our community, when the mail didn't show up. So the reality of it is, this galvanization is because folks are now seeing the story, reading the story, hearing the story the way we have lived it in our neighborhoods and our communities for generations.

So, welcome to the conversation. Thank you for the pushback. Let's keep pushing it back, because folks, there's more to come. He ain't done yet.

Oh, he is just warming up, baby. He ain't done yet. So, strap in and get ready.

MELBER: I'm running over on time, but, Brittney, final thought?

COOPER: Yes, look, that's it. We got to stay vigilant. Trump has retreated here, but he's coming back with all he's got.

This is his last opportunity to stay in office. He's going to hit us with everything he has.

MELBER: Right.

COOPER: Everybody needs to take a cool drink of water today. They need to take a breath and then folks leave the rest and wake up vigilant tomorrow and have all hands on deck, because we have got a push to November. We have got to be safe. We have got to win this thing.

MELBER: All really important context.

And as we go, Juanita, you do know what Biggie Smalls said, on the "Flava In Ya Ear" remix?

TOLLIVER: Drop the line, Ari. Drop the line. Come on.

MELBER: Don't be mad. UPS is hiring.


MELBER: Facts. He did say that.


MELBER: It's facts.


MELBER: This is a great group of experts, so we will be bringing you back, of course.

Michael Steele, Juanita Tolliver, Brittney Cooper, thanks to all of you for kicking off a big news night in America.

We're going to fit in our shortest break, just 30 seconds.

When we come back, an attorney general prepping legal action against voter suppression. So we get into that.

And Michelle Obama's speech getting some unlikely praise.

Plus, what's happening with AOC tonight, James Carville and more.

Stay with us.


MELBER: President Trump making waves by seeking a public meeting with Vladimir Putin before this election, while also promoting the Kremlin's own material attacking Biden, which shows Donald Trump remains defiant, even after all the evidence and convictions from the Mueller-Russia probe.

And, remember, that probe only focus on the high bar of criminal acts, completely left aside any conduct that might undermine democracy or American interests, but wouldn't technically be a crime for a DOJ prosecutor to pursue.

Now, that's where Congress comes in. And that's where there's big news today. The Senate Intelligence Committee finally publishing its sweeping 1,000-page report on what it found went down between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign and what was wrong, even if certain conduct did not lead to indictments.

Now, this is, keep in mind, a probe led by Republicans, it still digs deep into the molten core of collusion with some damning details about Trump's appetite for dining out on Russian help.

Trump's campaign chair Paul Manafort famously went to prison for crimes other than a collusion conspiracy. But look what's new tonight, this report finding his work for Russian interests posed a grave counterintelligence threat.

Now, remember, while hundreds of other junior campaign employees were paid, Manafort suspiciously led the entire Trump campaign then for free. But the report is suggesting his real payday may have been from Russia, and it raises the possibility that he was connected to the 2016 DNC hack-and-leak operations.

Now, today, think about what's happening here. Donald Trump's own party is not clearing Trump's number one aide from that campaign of collusion, but, rather, warning the evidence shows the possibility that he colluded on criminal hacking against the opponent Democrats, while the report, to be clear, does not prove that either.

Then there's Roger Stone, convicted, famously, then commuted by Trump. Now, we already know that the final roads in the Mueller probe led to Stone. In fact, when we talked to four different key witnesses during the probe, most said Stone was crucial to investigators, that they were asking most about him. And he, of course, became the last person indicted.

And he suspiciously said he would never turn on Trump. But turn about what? Well, this new report out tonight says that, at the direction of Trump and aides, Stone shared his WikiLeaks information directly with Trump to maximize the impact of those leaks to help Trump's electoral prospects.

Now, the Russian hackers committed a crime. That's not in doubt. The report by Republicans tonight now says Stone was the link between that crime and Donald Trump, who famously denied that by telling Mueller he did not recall talking to Stone about WikiLeaks.

This Republican-controlled investigation also debunks that. Let me read it to you exactly -- quote -- "Despite Trump's recollection, the committee assesses that Trump did, in fact, speak with Stone about WikiLeaks."


That sound you might hear, that's the sound of Republicans tonight saying Donald Trump basically lied to Mueller about the Russia scandal that haunts his presidency, at the very time that he continues to do his prudent outreach. Republicans impeached Clinton for the same allegation, lying to a DOJ prosecutor.

Now, Trump's already been impeached for one foreign election plot. Today, he's also on defense for a thwarted plot against voting by mail. And now some in his own party are warning Americans, warning you, about what he did, as news you can use, apparently, before the next election.

That's the breakdown of the facts.

Now let's go in our experts, the former Obama U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and former federal prosecutor John Flannery.

Good evening to both of you.


MELBER: John, you and other expert legal voices reminded us throughout the Mueller probe that the criminal bar is different than other things.

This is an exhaustive report. I just highlighted a few facts for viewers. Separate from criminal liability, what is your view? I should remind people you also were a counsel to a congressional committee investigation. What is your view of what was found here? Is it OK?

FLANNERY: No, it's not OK.

And it adds additional information of what we suspected all along, which is that they were using middlemen between the campaign and Russia to help influence the election in favor of Trump. And the Russians were doing that in the primary. And they were doing that in the general election.

And what Manafort, this campaign manager, talking to now identified as a Russian an operative, who was in connection with GRU, which was involved in the hack and leak, and the hack and leak, you could say, at least, the WikiLeaks leads to Stone and leads back to Trump.

And you said at the beginning of your read something interesting, which is, now we have Trump eliminating the middlemen, talking directly to Putin in anticipation of this election. And Putin does know how to fix an election. And Trump seems to be following that kind of playbook.

Now, you talk about whether it's criminal or not. The fact that he would lie to the special prosecutor, Mueller, at this point doesn't surprise us. He lies about everything. But the interesting thing is, what can we prosecute him for?

So we have them interfering in the first election with the cooperation of the Russians. Then we just impeached them for interfering in this election with Ukraine. We see what he's done with the mailings.

And we stand here today, and we're suckers with all these data points if we're not saying this man is a despot who thinks he can feel this election the way any other dictator would.

MELBER: Right.

FLANNERY: And we have to stop pretending that this man thinks that we're a democracy, because he doesn't. He's above the law, the Constitution, everything else.

So, yes, it's very important.

MELBER: Yes. Well, you couldn't time it, obviously, any more clearly, given the open admissions, right.


MELBER: Many of the worst evidence against Trump comes from the admissions.

And yet he still was, whatever you want to call it, adept enough or sneaky enough -- people will make up their own minds -- to not admit it to Mueller in that setting in the written interrogatories that were largely drafted by his lawyers.

Before I bring in the ambassador on the foreign policy, I also want to play for you -- as viewers, longtime viewers of THE BEAT may recall, we always try to get as much evidence as possible, which means talking to everyone we can, whether you like them or not.

And that includes Mr. Roger Stone, who I interviewed back when he was willing.


MELBER: He's declined recent invites. He's still invited to come back on. His sentence has been commuted.

But I did try to get answers from him on the public record about this very issue that he then says he wouldn't turn on Trump for, that now Senate Republicans say looks bad for him and Trump. Take a look.


ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: That does not say that I knew in advance that Julian Assange was going to hack his e-mail account.

That is false. I have a common friend with Assange who communicated with him and communicated with me. And what I knew was that he had devastating information on Hillary Clinton that he would begin disclosing in October.


MELBER: But you hadn't seen any e-mails in advance?

STONE: I have never seen anything in advance.


MELBER: His claim then was he didn't have it, meaning whatever exaggeration or puffery he engaged in, his defense was, he didn't have it.

Do you view anything in the new report, John, as advancing the incriminating idea that maybe Stone did have it, and there was collusion, even if it fell below the criminal bar?

Or, again, being fair is it possible that, even with the new report, there was not an actual conspiracy, because Stone was puffing?

FLANNERY: Well, I don't believe he was puffing.

And I think what happened at his trial, and the report today draws some links between. The ambassador may agree with this. And I think that what we're looking at is Stone, himself, we have just found out, is going to give up his appeal, suggesting that Trump is so anxious that he may pardon him, instead of him having to appeal his convictions on those seven counts.

So, yes, I think Stone, his communication to Trump, we had witnessed by Cohen, and we have had others testify about it. I think that that carries the day, I think Bannon as well.

So I am not a moment thinking that Stone is somehow an innocent person who came into information that just happened the fit of this network of intervening players that, if you will.

MELBER: Ambassador, your view on all of this and the Russia relationship?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, first, Ari, I haven't read all 1,000 pages yet. I do have a day job out here at Stanford.

So -- but I have skimmed it. I'd say three things. What's legal and what's not is a different matter for you guys to decide.


MCFAUL: Was it wrong for the Trump campaign to seek help from Russians to win the election? The answer to that is, absolutely, yes. And here's 1,000 more pages to document that they did that. That's what the American people need to understand. They sought help from Putin to win in 2016.

But, number two, they haven't said that they're not going to do it again. That's what's so outrageous. Four years later, when asked many, many times, would you take aid from a foreign government, Trump has said time and time again, well, I'd have to consider it.

And the other campaign, Vice President Biden and his campaign have made very clear they will accept no help from any foreign government. To this day, in August 2020, President Trump has not said that.

And then, number three, for reasons that I find totally inexplicable, Trump wants to provide more attention to this by seeking a meeting with Vladimir Putin before the election.

Now, I don't know why. I don't understand it. But I find it very strange that, four years later, after all this has happened, the logical political thing for me -- I'm not a politician, but it would be, maybe I should have a little distance from Putin. Maybe I should just leave that until after November.

And yet he decides that he wants to meet with him. That is very, very strange to me.

MELBER: Well, Ambassador -- Ambassador, I can say this, because we have become friendly. You're not a politician, but you're also not an idiot.


MCFAUL: I appreciate you saying that, Ari.

MELBER: You don't need to be a political science expert to say, if this was your vulnerability, this report is coming out, and you don't need anything from Putin, in election that's focused on the domestic economy and COVID, what are you doing out there?

MCFAUL: Right.

MELBER: And another piece for both of you, again, that I want to be as precise as possible, has not been proven -- and we have studied a lot of these details over time and talked to a lot of participants.

But it is interesting. Again, a Republican-written report about Roger Stone telling Jerome Corsi, who was in that other interview I mentioned, that he wanted WikiLeaks to drop those infamous Podesta e-mails when this "Access Hollywood" tape came out.

Quote: "Corsi recalled learning from Stone the 'Access Hollywood' tape would be coming out. Stone wanted the Podesta stuff to ballots the news cycle. Stone also told him to have WikiLeaks drop the Podesta e-mails immediately."

John Flannery, the Republicans in the committee are writing this narrating people who sound like they think they have some operational control over the ill-begotten fruits of an international criminal...



MELBER: ... hack.

FLANNERY: Yes, they do.

And the proof it is, we have the Republicans saying that this doesn't show any collusion. And we can talk about what the definition is. The Democrats have said, this is what collusion looks like.

And what is the proof? And it's the consciousness of guilt of a president who would obstruct the investigation of the interference in the first election, so that we wouldn't get to this information. It's the pardons. It's the people lying to Congress.

It's all of that conduct to try to cover it up, or at least confuse the issue on some level, so it looks like maybe we didn't do anything. We're just the beneficiaries of the Russians deciding to cause chaos, which is the Republican view, as opposed to causing the election of Trump, who has been one of the best presidents for the Russians, given the sanctions and other matters that we had in place after what happened in Ukraine.

Ambassador, final thought?

MCFAUL: Well, the part of the report the Republicans want you to focus on is that the Russians didn't want to help Donald Trump win, they wanted to cause chaos, as if those two different motivations are somehow separate from each other.

By electing President Trump, they did cause chaos. And, by the way, you can pursue multiple objectives at the same time. I have worked with Vladimir Putin. He's talented at that. That is not an alibi to suggest that they were not helping Trump to win that time.

And it doesn't -- there's nothing to suggest that they won't do it again this time around.

MELBER: If you have worked with Putin, can you tell us, what's his vibe on Zoom?


MCFAUL: That, I don't know. I think he wouldn't Zoom for security matters.

MELBER: He avoids it.


MCFAUL: ... more secure ways to talk, yes.

MELBER: He's now one of the people who tries to be the first -- some people, they want to be the first out of the Zoom. You ever notice that?


FLANNERY: You think he's the first out?

MCFAUL: I have not seen Putin on Zoom to date. I think he uses other way to communicate.

MELBER: Well, we just ask around here. We just ask the questions.


MELBER: This is an important story, one we have been tracking for a long time.

Ambassador McFaul, John Flannery, my thanks to both of you.

FLANNERY: A pleasure.

MELBER: You both have a lot of expertise here.

We're going to fit in a break, but Donald Trump appears to be caving on these changes to the Postal Service, but that doesn't mean the fight is over, as our guests have emphasized.

And we have a special guest who's actually leading one of these legal challenges. So we're going to learn a lot there.

But, first, the AOC factor, with Bill Clinton. It's night two at the DNC, and we have quite the guest, James Carville back on THE BEAT next.


MELBER: The DNC began with Obama vibes and turns to the Clinton legacy tonight, night two's headliners, former President Bill Clinton.

And here we are, joined by one of the Democratic gurus most closely aligned with Clinton's victories. James Carville was the lead strategist for '92's campaign, when Clinton defeated an incumbent president in a recession, a playbook Democrats want to reprise now against Trump.

Good evening, sir.

JAMES CARVILLE, MSNBC ELECTION ANALYST: Well, thank you. Good evening to you, Ari.

MELBER: Does any of that stuff you did then apply now, or these are just two different times?

CARVILLE: Well, I think what you're going to see tonight, if you're President Clinton, he doesn't call it a speech. He calls it a little talk.

And he's got a very important mission for the party and for the Biden campaign, and that is to put this economy in context, because he has, obviously, an enormous amount of credibility, led the best economy we have had in this country since the end of World War II.

So I think he will do a really good job tonight. I'm really looking forward to his presentation. And I expect that, as usual, when he talks, I will learn something, as we all will. So, I know he's going to communicate in a way that people will be able to understand it.

And it won't be a speech. It will be a little talk.

MELBER: A little talk.

And, as you say, that's a challenge that is all the more critical, as we have been half-joking, half-covering the Zoom era we're living in, for good health reasons.


MELBER: But there's also the message. He's a clear communicator on the economy.

But when it comes to the economy and balancing government and progressive goals, as you know, part of the party has shifted.

I want to play a little back and forth we have between old Clinton, new AOC for your reaction. Take a look.



REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): A Green New Deal is all about preserving our planet.

CLINTON: I say again, the era of big government is over.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: We have long been talking about how health care should be treated as a human right in the United States, why we need Medicare for all.


MELBER: I will give you the tough question, and I'm sure you will give me a good strategic answer.

Which one of them is right?

CARVILLE: Well, the truth of the matter is, is, they both represent generationally the enormous talent that is in the Democratic Party? They really do.

And I don't know if it's a question a lot of one being right. I think President Clinton was obviously right for his time. I think many of the things that he did are right for the future, in terms of he expanded children's health care, he did -- he expanded the EITC.

He did a lot of things. I think, Congresswoman Cortez is really -- I think she's a talent that is really -- she's going to go places. But, obviously, two different people, two different generations, two different times.

But a party has to evolve, and it needs new leaders at different times. And President Clinton was a different leader than President Wilson was, or a different leader than President Truman.

MELBER: Did you think AOC could be -- do you think she could be president someday?

CARVILLE: Well, I don't know. That's a pretty big -- but I think she's going to go very far.

And she's obviously one of the more talented people. I watch her. She has very good -- she has very good instincts. She has very good staff work.

If you watch when she's questioned someone, she's very on point. She's a very good public speaker. I -- my politics are probably not quite aligned with hers. But the Democratic Party is a coalition.

And we have got to remember that. And she's part of our coalition. But there are other Democrats that are part of the coalition. And she and other Democrats have to figure out how we're going to adjust this.

I suspect we're going to pick up a lot of Senate seats in 2020. If we do, you're going to have Senator Bullock and Senator Hickenlooper and Senator Kelly and Senator Harrison, all right? These are -- Senator Gross.

These are people that are going to fit into the coalition. They are probably not going to be totally aligned with Congresswoman Ocasio -- I mean, Cortez. I'm sorry.

But they all have talent. And they're going to have to sit down and deal with this. This is what politics is. This is the nature of politics. And if we don't understand that and adjust for that, we're going to miss a large point.

And I'm glad that the Democratic Party has Steve Bullock in Congress Congresswoman Cortez. I really am. And we got to figure out a way to keep this coalition going.

MELBER: We were looking through the vaults at the '92 convention, which worked out well for Democrats. And we found you talking a couple days after.

And if there were ever a time to go to the vault, it's now. Take a look.




CARVILLE: If the American people want a president who is going to talk about change, vote for Bill Clinton.

This is the best event, not the best convention, the best event that the Democratic Party have put on in my memory. I know that.



MELBER: What is key in making the case, because some strategists do well behind the scenes? You obviously then and now made your way about through the television channels effectively.

It is hard to think of -- and this is different era, but there isn't necessarily someone on the Biden team right now that sort of pops the way you were then, but maybe that's OK right now.

I'm curious about what you think of his team and that balance.

CARVILLE: So, I was very fortunate in politics.

I came along with the kind of celebrity campaign manager, Lee Atwater, me, Karl Rove, Axelrod, you name it.

I think the Biden style is different, and I think it's better for this time. His campaign manager, Ms. O'Malley, is an enormously talented person.

And we just -- it evolves. And the roles are different and the roles shift. I don't think one model is necessarily better than another. I think I have always been gifted with having attention-deficit syndrome. So it makes me think in bursts of creativity.

I really think it's been an advantage in my life. But Mike Donilon is an old friend of mine. He's a very talented political strategist. And Vice President Biden is different person than President Clinton is. Although they're of the same generation and served together, they have different personalities, and they have different kinds of staff.


CARVILLE: And there's nothing wrong with that.

MELBER: The last thing I want to ask you, because I'm -- just 30 seconds left, Donald Trump talked a big game about kneecapping the post office. He appears to be beat back, on defense on that tonight.

What do you politically take from what Pelosi and the Democrats did in that short time?

CARVILLE: Very high marks for Speaker Pelosi.

And I don't understand what Trump thought he was doing. I don't think the guy has led a life. Ari, I think Bill Clinton has led a life. He understands what the Postal Service means to people.

I think Trump had no idea. He's sitting in the middle of Manhattan. He doesn't know anything about the Postal Service. What fool would attack and try to defund something with a 91 percent approval rating?

And the truth of the matter is, he is a urban product of New York City and has no concept of what it is like to be from a place like Carville, Louisiana, or Hot Springs, Arkansas, or Wilmington, Delaware, where people -- the Postal Service is part of everybody's life.

I mean, it was just a stunning thing, politically, to me, just stunning.

MELBER: Are you calling him a coastal elite, James?

CARVILLE: Well, I wouldn't call him elite, but I would call him a product of an urban area that does not understand the way that the rest of America works, and how essential the post office is to large, large parts of the United States.

I don't think he understands that. I wouldn't call him elite, although he's an Ivy League guy. Goes to show you what that's worth.


CARVILLE: But I don't think he's elite. I just think he's clueless about the way that people live in the rest of the country.


Well, look, it's great. These are the weeks, these kind of news cycles, where we love getting your perspective, especially with your history.

And, as always, I think I join all the anchors in saying, James, thank you for dressing up for TV.

CARVILLE: Yes, sir, legend, LSU's football 2019. Go, Tigers.

MELBER: There you go.

CARVILLE: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: James, enjoy tonight. Enjoy your old boss. Have fun tonight. Thank you.

CARVILLE: You bet. Thank you.

MELBER: Up ahead: Donald Trump's virus leadership has been hammered.

We also have a state attorney general with the playbook for what's next in this postal battle, a newsmaking interview, we think -- coming up.


MELBER: Under pressure over Donald Trump's admitted voter suppression plot, the Trump ally Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has caved.

Postal Service changes that were planned are now completely on hold until the election. They put it in writing. But there are still questions about guaranteeing these votes will be counted.

In fact, just today, one postal employee in New York shared a photo of packages unsorted for over nine days, sounding an anecdotal alarm, while 20 states say they're ready to take Trump to court over all of this.

One of those states is Massachusetts, where Attorney General Maura Healey joins us now.

Good evening.

What are you planning on doing to ensure that the Postal Service honors what is now a pledge not to mess with the ballots?

MAURA HEALEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, as we have said, we're going to take them to court, because, right now, as we speak, Ari, people are worried about receiving their Social Security, their unemployment checks, their prescription drugs.

And, yes, we're concerned about what's going to happen with mail-in ballots. And so we have said we're going to go to court. Today, in response, you saw that DeJoy appears to have issued a statement rescinding some of those positions.

So we're going to continue to press ahead with our litigation until we have assurance, Ari, that no games are going to be played, and that, to the extent games have been played, those are remedied immediately.

MELBER: So, you will sue. What is the best-case outcome, in your view? That you could get a kind of a national order that would put the USPS under more explicit supervision than the current situation?

HEALEY: Exactly.

We need to make sure we have an order in place or at least an agreement in place, a binding agreement in place, that ensures the integrity of this election. America is supposed to be about free and safe elections.

And so we need to look at what DeJoy came up with today. But we are going to be really pursuing this hard, because this is serious business. For the first time in our country, we will have tens of millions of people voting by mail.

And we need, first of all, the public to trust that. And I want to say clearly and unequivocally they should trust the hardworking men and women of the Postal Service. But, two, we want to make sure that (AUDIO GAP) Donald Trump (AUDIO GAP) DeJoy attempt to use the U.S. Postal Service to undermine democracy, we're going to be there, and we will see them in court.

MELBER: Attorney General Maura Healey, really important to get your update on the work you're doing.

And making a little bit of news for those following this, that, like some other states' strategies, you're not waiting, you're not taking their word for it, and you want to get a binding national order, something that could be a big story and obviously big for voters' lives.

Thank you so much for joining us.

And we will be right back.


MELBER: We're heading into the second night of the convention.

Our journalists and analysts have covered many conventions, from Andrea Mitchell on the crowded floor partying with the balloons, remember that, to Brian and Rachel tracking all sorts of newsy clashes.

I myself have been at the last four conventions in a row over the last 16 years. And the events we saw yesterday, they were a far cry from all those conventions we have all covered or been at.

We saw Zoom conversations with people going straight to camera or talking to Joe Biden that way. We didn't see cheering crowds in person. The only virtual crowd was clapping from their homes, not, of course, together in an arena.

This virtual convention, though, also draws attention to the Trump administration's failure to curb COVID, the way other countries have.

The impact of the virus was an issue, of course, last night, when a daughter spoke out about her father dying.


KRISTIN URQUIZA, DAUGHTER OF CORONAVIRUS VICTIM: My dad, Mark Anthony Urquiza, should be here today. But he isn't.

My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump. And, for that, he paid with his life.


MELBER: A somber reminder, as we watch virtual conventions in both parties, about why this year is so different. We did want to mark that.

We also want to tell you what's coming up because, all night tonight, we do have full coverage of the second day of this convention on MSNBC with all our great anchors and analysts.

And I should tell you, as a programming note, if you're up late, I will be back with the special late-night post-coverage at 1:00 a.m. Eastern, 10:00 p.m. Pacific, with all the highlights and the breakdowns, with some very special guests.

So, keep it right here on MSNBC.

Joy Reid starts now.


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