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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, August 21, 2020

Guests: Jamal Barrow, Christina Greer, Sam Nunberg, Gary Peters, Daniella Gibbs Leger


President Trump loses another court ruling over his tax returns. New information emerges in the George Floyd case. Senator Gary Peters discusses the Trump administration's targeting of the Postal Service. Musician Jamal "Shyne" Barrow speaks out.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT with my friend and colleague Ari Melber begins right now.

Ari, hi there. This is our first in-person handoff.


WALLACE: And I'm sorry to do on it a sad note.

MELBER: No, I was going to say two things, Nicolle.

Number one, obviously, thrilled to have you here as a neighbor, like so many of our other colleagues.

WALLACE: Thank you.

MELBER: And, number two, there are many things I appreciate about you on our team.

Obviously, like many people, we see the way you end the show and that you do these tributes. And I think they're so important.

And the other thing I was thinking about watching your coverage -- and we have all been watching these conventions -- you said something last night about how rare it is to have the challenger creditably take the high ground of patriotism from an incumbent president with the trappings of the White House.

I thought that was so, so striking when you think about what we're living through now.

WALLACE: Well, and, look, Donald Trump's actions match it every day. He talks about his people and his voters.

And the whole sort of corruption of the Postal Service was designed to deprive access to mail-in ballots, not from his voters, but to anyone who might not vote for him. So his actions give us more evidence that that's exactly what he's doing every single day.

I love your show, and I love getting to hand off right to it and just running upstairs and watching.

MELBER: Well, that's so sweet of you to say. Again, I'm happy to have a new neighbor, Nicolle Wallace, a big part of our team. And we will be doing more of these.

And, again, I have been enjoying your coverage. We will be watching and have a good weekend.

WALLACE: Thank you. You, too. Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you. Thank you.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin with Trump ally and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy speaking out now. This is the story we were just discussing with Nicolle.

But now he's speaking out, forced under oath, with this firestorm and the allegations of carrying out voter suppression for Donald Trump. This is a big story. We have been waiting to get this testimony.

DeJoy now testifying toward the Senate. This was days after he broke down and backed off under pressure from, yes, Democrats, stopping those planned voting changes.


SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): There will be no post office closures or expenses before November 3?

LOUIS DEJOY, U.S. POSTMASTER GENERAL: When I found out about it, and it had the reaction that we did, I have suspended that until after the election.

We removed 700 -- 700 post -- collection boxes. I decided to stop it. And we will pick it up after the election. The Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation's election mail securely and on time.

We are very, very comfortable that we will achieve this mission.


MELBER: So there it is. You heard it. He decided to stop it.

The "it" is what Trump was trying to do, what Nicolle and I were just discussing.

So, those mail-in ballots, according to this pledge under oath, will be counted. Now, that's a biggie. It is validation that pressure works, something we have been reporting on all week. It's validation that Speaker Pelosi was effective here as a governing strategy, all the way up to the point that she has the Republican-run Senate following her lead.

Now to part two tonight, what you need to know. What about those 700 mail sorting machines that were removed? Reports that over 90 percent are gone and will not be replaced by the Postal Service, contributing to major delays, including in potentially key swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

So, is anyone going to step up and press on that? It is certainly good for democracy tonight that the Trump administration was forced to back down on messing with future ballots, with your right to vote through the mail.

But isn't this other issue something worse pressing on at this hearing? The answer is yes. And the answer is also that it happened, because Michigan Democratic Senator Gary Peters went right at it, adding to the public evidence that may be very relevant as different states gather material to take Trump administration to court.


PETERS: Well, we have heard about the sorters. You addressed that earlier.

Will you be bringing back any mail sorting machines that have been removed since you have become postmaster general? Will any of those come back ?

DEJOY: There's no intention to do that. They're not needed, sir.

PETERS: So, you will not bring back any processors?

DEJOY: They're not needed, sir.


MELBER: That's the evidence under oath.

And that very lawmaker, Senator Peters, on a busy night, joins us live in just a moment. We are going to get his views after our experts break things down.

Fordham Professor Christina Greer and CAP's Daniella Gibbs Leger kick things off.

Now, Daniella a lot of voting rights experts say today did prove Pelosi right in her hardball. What do you see, though, as the next steps here?


I think Senator Peters, who we will from shortly, is absolutely right. What is going to happen with those sorters? Also, what is going to happen with the overtime that they cut for postal workers?

That also has contributed to a lot of the slowdown. And I just want to remind people, yes, it is affecting voting, but it's also affecting people's livelihoods.


GIBBS LEGER: You hear the story about farmers in Maine getting dead chicks because the mail is slow. So this is a huge problem. And I'm glad to see them walking back of what they did, but much more needs to be done.

MELBER: Right.

And that's part of why this has been real a political boomerang on Donald Trump.

Christina, we have had experts tell us he clearly didn't understand the vital roll the post office plays, especially for regular, everyday people.

Reading from "The New York Times," talking about the crisis hurting everyone, which includes, of course, people who voted for Trump: "Farmers, rural residents say they're particularly vulnerable to this crisis. Many being hurt live in the rural states that overwhelmingly support the president."


CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, the president can't hide behind consistently, I didn't know. He has enough people around him who should let him know.

If he doesn't know, then that is gross incompetence. I think we also have to remember that this isn't just about farmers who are not getting chicks or veterans who are not getting prescription medicine. We know that the U.S. Postal Service is a great player of black women especially.

It has been able to uplift so many communities, black communities especially, solidly into the middle class. So, we have to remember that the president and the shadow of white supremacy and white nationalism of this administration is keenly aware of how employment of the U.S. Postal Service helps uplift black communities, writ large.

So, when the president is working Mr. DeJoy, who has no postal experience -- he is one of the first postmaster generals in over two decades who has no connection to the post office -- we have to remember that the vast majority of the people that the president has put into agencies are there specifically to dismantle the agencies that they're in charge of.

And, sadly, the U.S. Postal Service is yet another one of those agencies.

MELBER: Christina, we're speaking here between, tonight, the two conventions.

And they have a lot that is different. And viewers can make up their own minds when they see who is on the stage, who is represented, and what is said.

But in these times of racial division, of a reckoning for policing and systemic racism, criminal justice reform and the right to vote, it is striking that -- and I want your views on -- there is some debate over this terrain.

I am old enough, as many people are, to remember Democratic Conventions that ducked criminal justice reform entirely and just said we are going to be -- quote -- "tough on crime," end of discussion.

And now you have the Republicans planning to showcase an African-American woman, Alice Johnson, who was let out by Donald Trump, but who does not reflect the general approach they have to most inmates.

The Democrats argued here just last night and other nights about larger reform, racial equality, voting rights, John Lewis. I'm curious as we see tonight this battle playing out over the vote what you see as the distinction -- excuse me -- the distinction between these two parties on these racialized questions of who gets human rights in America.

GREER: Right.

And, Ari, I have mentioned this several times to you on the show. The reason why I respect and love LBJ as my favorite president is because he had an evolution as a president. He started as a staunch segregationist and some may racist when he was a congressman from Texas, and he evolved into someone who helped pass through the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the Immigration Act.

Similarly, with the Democratic Party, we saw in the 1990s in the passage of the crime bill, which many CBC members supported, which many black mayors supported. They just didn't know the ramifications of what those policies and those bills would do to communities, widespread communities, especially black and Latinx.

And so we're seeing this reimagining of what criminal justice should look like in the 21st century from the Democratic Party, recognizing they made mistakes, recognizing that they had some adverse effects on men, women and children and families and communities.

The difference is, the Republican Party is going to use a scare tactic. They're essentially going to say, black and Latinx people are going to come into your homes, into your communities, into your nice good suburbs and take everything away from you, and this is why -- including your guns, right?

That's what the Democrats will do. And so this is why we have to be tough on crime. It is a very different philosophy in the 21st century behind policing and how we should support community members.

So we can actually have ideological diversity within the Democratic Party about what we need to do about policing. I don't think Joe Biden said that he was going to solve everything overnight, but this is a conversation worth having, unlike what we will probably see at the RNC, which will be pretty much a scare tactic and red meat for the base.

MELBER: Yes, really interesting, particularly at that elevated level.

Professor Greer, I want to thank you. Daniella comes back later this hour.

And now we move to another key thing I want to make sure we understand. DeJoy was pressed by Democrats over these changes to the Postal Service.

It's not just the voting itself. It is the worker trips, it's the hours, it's the major delays and everything the can contribute to that, which affects everything we're talking about.

Now, before we go to the senator, listen to DeJoy -- listen to DeJoy deny he ordered those changes.


PETERS: Are you suspending your policy eliminating extra trips? Yes or no?

DEJOY: No. first of all, the policy was not to eliminate extra trips. It was to mitigate extra trips.

PETERS: Are you limiting overtime or is that being suspended right now and people who work overtime, if necessary, to move the mail out efficiently every single day?

DEJOY: Senator, I -- we never eliminated overtime. That's...


PETERS: It's been curtailed significantly, is what I understand.

DEJOY: It has not curtailed by me or the leadership team.


MELBER: As promised, we turn to the senator of the hour, Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan.

Good evening, sir.

PETERS: Good to be with you. Thank you.

MELBER: When you look at where we are here compared to, say, two weeks ago, as Donald Trump began literally confessing this voter suppression plot, how far are you along in stopping it, big picture, and what is left to be done?

PETERS: Well, I think we have definitely made positive movement.

And the public pressure has made a difference, shining a light on some of these new policies that have been put in place by the postmaster general that is slowing down mail. It's very evident.

Certainly, it's what I have been hearing from folks all across the state of Michigan and my colleagues are hearing it all across the country, I mean, stories like Mary from Redford, who her daughter needs epileptic medicine. And it usually comes in two or three days.

It didn't come. She started rationing her medicine. It took nine days to come. And as a result of that, she had a seizure and had to be hospitalized.

When mail is delayed, it has a dramatic impact on people's lives. Elections are certainly critical, but this is about everyday events. And the evidence is clear. I have heard it from our postal workers, our mail -- our letter carriers who are on the ground that are saying these policies are slowing mail down.

It's frustrating them because they're committed to getting the mail out.


MELBER: Let's get into that, because this is, as you say, so important.

And I think viewers can see how central and credible you are on this right now. So, I ask you to be as fair as possible. You have obviously been clashing with the Trump administration, but you're also trying to do oversight, which when done best is factual, right?

You're not just making them look bad. So, factually, is DeJoy, in your view, trying to cut costs and doing so in an incompetent or potentially cruel way? Or are you concerned that he's in on a potentially illegal plot?

PETERS: Well, I think it's hard to say about a plot. I mean, that would be getting into his head.

I just look -- as you say, I look at the evidence. You look at the facts. And if you look at the chart -- we put out a chart today that showed that, really, you saw a drop of on-time delivery and mail that was pretty dramatic, starting in the middle of July, which was the same time that he put in these new policies.

Today, in the hearing, he said, well, these are COVID-related. That's why we have seen late deliveries. And yet, if you look at the chart, there was a slight decrease, but this goes back to March, a slight decrease. And then, in the middle of July, it just falls off a cliff that coincides with these policies.

So it's clear that these have had an impact. He more or less said that. But it's clear that he's not taking, in my mind, the kinds of actions necessary. It's why I asked him about sorters. You played that earlier. You have taken these sorting machines that are critical.


PETERS: You have taken them out. You're saying you're not going to take any more out. But he was pretty clear. He's not putting them back in. And yet we have these delays in the mail.

MELBER: Can you get him -- can you and the other states or the Michigan state attorney general get him and force him to put those back in?

PETERS: Well, I think, looking at what we're seeing here, what I'm hearing from folks who are on the ground, who are in our post offices are saying, this is having an impact. We need to keep putting pressure, saying where those machines are needed.

His response is, well, this is excess capacity. We don't need it. Well, if you don't need it, why has on-time mail delivery gone down so much since the middle of July? Maybe you really do need these. This makes some common sense.

And he talked about the transportation, the trucks that he always wants to move on time. What my folks who are postal workers and mail handlers are saying is that they won't let a truck stay an extra 15 minutes if some mail is coming and leave.

And then that mail just stays on the loading dock for an extra day. You keep adding days onto the delivery, which, of course, lengthens delivery time.

MELBER: Yes. Well, it is important.

And, Senator Peters, I will tell you, you don't jump on to postal oversight issues because you're trying to get the sexiest televised issue in the entire Congress.


MELBER: But it's super important. And you obviously are doing it for your reasons and your oversight, and we have got an eye on this. And we have been reporting on this a lot. We're going to stay on it and stay in touch with your office.

So, Senator, thank you.

PETERS: Thank you. Appreciate being on.

MELBER: Yes, sir. Have a good weekend.

We have a 30-second break.

When we come back, how Joe Biden's looking to build on the DNC, new action in Donald Trump's failed bid to hide his taxes, and Steve Bannon now speaking out after his dramatic arrest -- when we're back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: The MAGA world is still reeling today over this footage that came out late yesterday. Let's look at this in full.

Steve Bannon, you don't see this every day, this fall from grace, walking out of a courthouse, the man who ran Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. He was arrested for fraud and money laundering, Bannon projecting a smiling, almost sunny energy for the cameras, despite the serious and scary charges against him, and then doubling down in a statement, fiery, on his podcast.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Look, what I said yesterday, this fiasco is a total political hit job.

The timing is exquisite. I'm not going to back down. This is a political hit job. Everybody knows I love a fight. This was to stop and intimidate people that want to talk about the wall. This is to stop and intimidate people that have President Trump's back on building the wall.


MELBER: The self-proclaimed populist repeating that his mission was to build the wall. The feds say the evidence shows that was a lie, a front for ripping off MAGA fans.

They allege Bannon was stealing money people wanted to give to the wall for himself, pocketing nearly a million dollars.

Now, everyone has a right to defend themselves, including Steve Bannon. But unlike so many political battles, this is not going to be some endless clash, where people tweet about what they think is true or fake.

A court and jury will ultimately decide the facts. Now, Bannon's new defense does tell us something tonight. He's not backing down. And unlike the Mueller probe, where he cooperated, he's not talking here about cutting a deal with the Southern District of New York.

As Republicans prepare for a convention pushing many of Trump's big pledges, like draining the swamp or building the wall, there's something much larger here than the fate of one ex-banker operative. This case adds to evidence that Bannon's We Build the Wall campaign is what Trumpist private enterprise looks like, a gaudy scam that monetizes grievance, writes "New York Times"' Michelle Goldberg, which is how Bannon, a former Wall Street banker, was, of course, hoisted on his own petard, arrested on a $34 million yacht.

How can he allegedly steal from people with less money while claiming he's a populist? Or, as Goldberg argues, is it all part of the same wider con, some of it potentially legal, some of it potentially illegal, because he also ran Breitbart, the often debunked conservative Web site, which she argues preys on people gullible enough to believe what's in it?

And she notes Bannon has the same view. As he once said, Donald Trump Jr.'s problem is, he's a guy who actually believes everything on Breitbart is true.

Joining us is that writer from "The New York Times," Michelle Goldberg. As mentioned, the new piece, "Trumpism is a Racket and Steve Bannon Knew It," is out now.

And former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg, he is very close to Bannon, has worked with him and is also suing the owner of that yacht on which Bannon was arrested.

Good evening to both of you.


MELBER: Michelle, you connect the dots in an important way. It may be bad to do very harsh, demeaning politics. That's how a lot of people remember Steve Bannon in terms of his political operation, and it may be bad to con.

But what you connect is that Steve Bannon himself may be in on the con, not even a believer, and just abusing all of this. Explain.

GOLDBERG: Well, look, I think Steve Bannon probably is a genuine racist, but I also think that, like everybody connected to this administration, he's a con man and the con comes first.

And this isn't me trying to read anything into Steve Bannon's mind. I think if you just sort of follow some of his public statements or statements that have been made public, like in the case of the Senate Intelligence report -- what's so interesting about that comment in the Senate Intelligence report, where he sort of says derisively to these senators that Don Jr. is the guy who believes that everything in Breitbart is true, Steve Bannon was running Breitbart, right?

So, he -- Steve Bannon has, I think, real contempt for the base that he pretends to channel. You can also see it in a really good documentary that was made about Steve Bannon called "The Brink." There's a scene where he's sort of making cracks about populism while in a private airport in Van Nuys.

There's a scene where they're in this very modest living room of some supporters. They get outside. And the guy who he's with is like, oh, I wouldn't live in that room for a million dollars.

And so I think that the Steve Bannon that wants to be on the Chinese billionaire's yacht is the real Steve Bannon. And he wants nothing to do with this the sort of people that he has presented himself as a tribute for.

MELBER: Yes, that's an important part of this, because the legal part is, those are the people that he's allegedly stealing from. And then the political part is, how long can people go along with aspects of this con, which I believe is completely separate from other genuinely held ideology?

We're going to play a little more from his new comments, because you mentioned the yacht and those kind of cracks. He jokes about the yacht in the new comments. Take a look.


BANNON: Welcome back. This is Steven K. Bannon, and we're off the coast of Saint-Tropez in Southern France in the Mediterranean. We're on the million-dollar yacht of Brian Kolfage.


BANNON: And Brian Kolfage, he took all that money from Build the Wall.


MELBER: Sam Nunberg, do you recognize the Bannon Portrayed here and the evidence in these filings? Do you think that he did these things?

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Well, the allegations certainly are followed up with a clear paper trail, Ari.

This is a case that I think was brought very quickly. He's under multiple investigations, involved with the Chinese billionaire, who you mentioned I'm in a lawsuit with. I think that this is mainly a feeder indictment, because they are looking into Steve's finances.

And apparently there have been a lot of complaints about this We Build the Wall, and it's been complains in multiple states. I was very surprised about this.

So, when Steve came out of the White House, he would tell us, I didn't take the book deal. I'm here to work this movement. I'm going to start my own group. We're going to try to keep populism within the Republican Party.

And what it turned out, as we're finding out, is specifically, even with the billionaire, is that he was taking money from people immediately after he left the White House on issues that he had worked on while he was in the White House.

And I think that Steve is going to have a lot of problems. I have been on your show during -- when I was questioned by Mueller and still communicating with them. And I told you I thought Roger was going to get indicted. I think Steve is probably going to get more indictments down the tunnel, and he's probably looking at jail.

MELBER: Yes, you say all that.

The obvious implication here is that they're using this billionaire's yacht to go right into the heart of the swamp, that they are the swamp.

And so, Sam, again, with your experience, let's take a look a little bit at Steve Bannon in the way he did talk, because this is still what we're going to hear next week at the convention. And this is not an ancillary figure. He ran the general election for Trump last time.

Here he was at CPAC.


BANNON: The corporatist globalist media, they are adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has.

I think working-class people and middle-class people in this country realize that something's wrong, is that upon shoulders rests the entire tax burden. Populism is about getting decision-making away from a set of kind of global elites and get it back to working-class people.

We're trying to be the populist nationalist underpinnings of the Trump movement, trying to change the Republican Party into more of a workers party.


MELBER: Sam, was it all B.S.?

NUNBERG: Well, look, I think. I think when Steve left the White House, Josh Green really hit it in "Bloomberg Businessweek," he thought that he was going to be bigger than Donald Trump. He thought that Trump was going to get kicked out.

And he thought that he would be a leader of a movement. He had even talked about running for president, which I never personally took seriously. And ultimately what he ended up doing...


MELBER: Well, hold on. I'm going to let you finish.

But, Sam, I just want viewers to understand. You took Donald Trump running for president seriously. So think about the bar that you wouldn't take Bannon serious.

NUNBERG: Oh, well, I don't look at -- I mean, Donald Trump was elected president. I don't think I should be criticized for that.


MELBER: I'm not criticizing.

I'm just saying, in 2015...


NUNBERG: Excuse me. In 2011 and 2010...


MELBER: 2011, and you helped write his tweets.

I'm just -- my joke is not at your expense, but it is saying where the bar is with political realism. You thought even that was a bridge too far, Bannon?

NUNBERG: Yes, no.

Steve is -- Steve has a very -- like the president, Steve thinks very highly of himself, but he's not as smart as the president is.

Look, Steve had a major donor, go meet with the president a couple weeks ago and try to get him back into the campaign. The president flat out said, I don't want anything to do -- I don't want anything to do with Steve. He will say nice things about him publicly.

And, ultimately, it's a sad case, because Steve could have been a major figure had he taken the role he could have had in the White House seriously. Instead, it seems that he's decided to enter into financial schemes that are going to lead to this indictment and possibly more.

MELBER: I'm running out of time, but was that public? Or are you breaking that tidbit right here?

NUNBERG: No, that was public. It was in "The New York Times."


NUNBERG: He met with Bernie Marcus.

What's not necessarily known is that Bernie Marcus did say that they needed to make a change that -- he criticized Jared. I would also say, ironically, about this is, Steve was going around saying Jared was the one going to jail.

Steve is the one who got indicted here, not Jared, right?


MELBER: It's a lot to track.

GOLDBERG: The year is young. The year is not over.

MELBER: We're almost out of time, but, Michelle, final thought.

GOLDBERG: Well, the year is not over. That's my final thought.

But I just think that, look, he is -- I think if you look at the 2016 campaign staff, who of the leadership of that campaign has not either been indicted or convicted? I guess Kellyanne Conway? Is there anybody else? And so I think it is so indicative of who this president is, and it would be obvious I think that if the president -- if Donald Trump had not in fact won this election, he would also be on that board that you have among his criminal associates.


As you say, and that's the wider context. It's such a pattern and it's criminality. As we have mentioned in our coverage, Bannon presumed legally innocent until proven guilty.

Sam Nunberg saying, as a former associate, that he thinks there might be even more charges. Very interesting.

Michelle and Sam, thank you. And I hope you both have a great weekend.

GOLDBERG: Thank you so much.

MELBER: Up ahead: a rattled Trump making a new legal move, as the battle over his tax returns enters a critical phase for him, and bad news for him too.

But, first, the Biden/Harris ticket is official, but they're planning to blunt the coming onslaught at that Republican Convention next week.

That's up next here on THE BEAT.



JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president. I will work hard for those who didn't support me, as hard for them as I did for those who did vote for me.


MELBER: Joe Biden's big DNC acceptance speech last night, a speech receiving positive reviews across party lines, even some at FOX News.

Now Biden/Harris prepping to enter the homestretch of this campaign. Next week, it's Trump's turn at the Republican Convention, voters looking at the promises he made at the RNC, saying back in 2016.

Think about those compared to what turned out.


TRUMP: The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.

Anyone who endorses violence, hatred or oppression is not welcome in our country and never ever will be!

We are going to be considerate and compassionate to everyone.


MELBER: We are back with Daniella Gibbs Leger.

Good to see you.

It's a reminder that, if you have a microphone, you don't need to yell. But you can.


MELBER: And, as Sam Nunberg reminded me, accurately, he did win the Electoral College. So there you go.

Your thoughts on this moment we're in between the conventions and what Biden got out last night.

GIBBS LEGER: Yes, I think all the reviews are accurate about Vice President Biden last night.

He was great. He delivered what I think a lot of people were -- have been missing for the past several months and years, which is empathy and hope and a vision, like a vision for what you want the country to be for your kids and the future, and not just the bunch of yelling.

I actually think that clip that you just played of President Trump really could be spliced into a fantastic ad for Vice President Biden and just splice it with all the things that he's done that is the antithesis of what he said he stood for back then.

MELBER: Right.

I mean, the saying lately, oh, there's a tweet for everything, but an in-person speech, when you're in politics, as opposed to just whatever was said whenever long ago is different.

And by any standard you have, then candidate Trump saying, the most important thing is protecting lives, and everyone knows the United States, under the Trump administration, has fallen woefully behind on curbing COVID, even as compared to other similar countries.

Donald Trump hasn't had a good -- quote, unquote -- "news week," given losing this tax case, which we have more on coming up in this hour, his number one aide from '16 being indicted, which we covered, and now a Republican governor, indeed, from a moderate state, but still bailing on him.

Take a look.


GOV. PHIL SCOTT (R-VT): I have been quite adamant in not supporting the president. I won't be voting for President Trump.


MELBER: Vermont's Republican governor.

I should note that does not mean he's endorsing Joe Biden. They're not going that far. But he felt whatever political need to say that here going into the convention, Daniella.

GIBBS LEGER: Well, I think he sees what's happening.

And the Republicans who are up in the Senate who are very vulnerable, they're going to have a very tricky road to walk over the next couple of months, because this president is very popular with a base, a base that is not big enough to win a lot of these states.

So I'm not surprised that he had -- he felt like he had to come out and say, I'm not supporting him.

And I don't know how Trump is going to react to everything this week. But, if I had to guess, next week, it's going to be very dark. It's going to be talking about how Democrats are going to somehow ruin this country, and it's going to be a lot of revisionist history.

It's going to say that, if it wasn't for COVID, everything would be great, and that is not the case. And Vice President Biden and Senator Harris really need to make sure that they, while they're talking about their positive vision for the country, also talk about what's been happening over the last three years and who's been left behind in this economy.

MELBER: All important points.

Daniella Gibbs Leger, thanks, as always, for hitting more than one topic with us tonight.

GIBBS LEGER: Thank you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

We have a lot more in tonight's show, including Donald Trump, and why we can tell he's getting rattled as he keeps losing the last, last-ditch appeals to hide his taxes.

Also, later, there's news important in the George Floyd case, as we learn about emerging legal defenses.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Important story, and it's bad news for Donald Trump.

A federal appeals court denying Trump's motion that was filed today trying to hide his taxes from the New York DA. You may recall this comes one day after a judge rejected any attempt to hide the taxes, which clears the way for the DA to get the returns.

Trump had filed the emergency motion, his lawyers arguing the idea that a DA needs these records so badly, there's no time for review after he voluntarily stayed enforcement for nearly a year is implausible.

But what's more implausible is why he's fighting to keep this secret.


TRUMP: I don't mind releasing, I'm under a routine audit, and it'll be released, and as soon as the audit is finished, it'll be released.

Well, I'm not releasing tax returns because, as you know, they're under audit.

While I'm under audit, I won't do it. If I'm not under audit, I would do it. I had no problem with it.


MELBER: Bad news today, the court doesn't care about the legal audit claims.

It looks like, unless the Supreme Court intervenes, these taxes are going to the DA.

Now, coming up, I want to tell you, we have something very special planned to end the week. It is a story from New York to Israel to the Caribbean, with insights, we think, on growth and criminal justice reform, so I hope you will stick around for that.

But, first, we're learning some news about an emerging defense from one of the officers charged in the killing of George Floyd.

That's next.


MELBER: Turing to an update in the George Floyd case.

The attorney for one of the officers charged as an accomplice to murder is speaking out, and we're learning about a potential defense.

They tell "The L.A. Times" they plan to argue that Floyd died of an overdose and a heart condition -- quote -- "None of these guys killed Floyd. He killed himself" -- end quote.

The motion in court this week took also some shots of Floyd's character, going so far as to allege that he lied when he did say -- quote -- "I can't breathe," stating flatly: "Officer Lane did nothing wrong" -- end quote.

Now, you always have to learn what people are saying, as well as the facts. Two autopsies formally concluded Floyd's death was a homicide, not that he killed himself.

The officer charged with murder had his knee on Floyd's neck for two minutes and 53 seconds, even after Floyd became nonresponsive.

Floyd's aunt, meanwhile, telling local news -- quote -- "Regardless of his past, nothing justifies the way he died."

This is a story, as I have told you, we will continue to stay on.

Now, when we come back, after this long and interesting week, we have something very special planned. It's what I was mentioning about the story that goes from New York to Israel down to Belize and might teach us something about redemption -- when we return.


MELBER: There were many big themes at this week's Democratic Convention, but one that really showed some of the largest shifts in the party was the talk of justice reform.

A Democratic Party that once touted more prison time and zero tolerance, like President Clinton's '94 crime bill, now embracing reforms to confront systemic racism and harsh sentencing.

And that's more than just some attack on Trump. This is a rejection of both parties, longstanding approaches to crime and policing. It's also, of course, a political response to the protests over police killing George Floyd.

But the policy and moral reckoning is broader. It's demanding America stop using a prison system to overly punish poor and minority communities and to try to lean into redemption and paths out of prison, so we don't stigmatize every single crime as an end to a person's potential for a civilized life, from getting a job after serving time, to being able to vote.

So, right now, I want to turn with you to a special segment in the spirit of this dialogue and a story with some incredible twists and turns. It involves crime politics, Orthodox Judaism, Caribbean diplomacy, plus a little J.Lo and Diddy, so stay with me right now, because it begins in 1999, when Bill Clinton was president.

And the rising stars Diddy and his then girlfriend Jennifer Lopez were linked to a shooting.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rap star Sean "Puffy" Combs is out on bail. He was arrested after a shooting in a nightclub. Charges have been dropped against his companion, singer/actress Jennifer Lopez.

KATIE COURIC, NBC NEWS: Music mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Combs was charged along with his protege, rap star Jamal "Shyne" Barrow.


MELBER: Prosecutors actually threw the book at Diddy there and the protege just mentioned, the 21-year-old rapper Shyne, a Belize-born artist that Diddy signed to his label Bad Boy Records.

Now, Diddy was facing up to 15 years in prison then, which would have stopped the life and business that we all know he went on to build, hundreds of millions of dollars, thousands of jobs impacted.

Statistically, though, let's be clear, most black men in that position would have either been forced to plead out or lose the case. Diddy's expensive lawyers beat it.

Shyne's debut album, that artist I mentioned, came out during the trial, and actually reached number five on the charts. But, unlike Diddy, he was convicted, which upended his life with a 10-year sentence.

And he spoke out about Diddy backing witnesses against him from prison.


JAMAL "SHYNE" BARROW, MUSICIAN: It's not a matter of turning your back on me.

Like, how do you call a witness to testify against your comrade?


MELBER: Now, much of this story could end right there. Many promising lives are thwarted this way.

But what's interesting here tonight, why I'm telling you about this, is that Shyne kept on working and growing, releasing an album from prison called "Godfather" behind bars which hit number three on the charts.

And finding God? We should note, while Catholics are actually the most common religious group in his home country of Belize, Shyne embraced Judaism as part of his own reform while incarcerated, following that path when he got out, communing with people in Israel and regularly praying at the Western Wall.


BARROW: Being a Jew, being (INAUDIBLE) is the central part of my life. It's the center of my life. It's the nucleus of my life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least once a week, Moses Levi makes a spiritual visit.

BARROW: Growing up, I knew what was right. And it just so happens that what was right comes from the Torah.


MELBER: Shyne took his guidance from that Jewish book the Torah and Judaism and his time in Israel before returning to Belize.

His evolution continues. He says he doesn't actively practice Judaism at this point in his life, and he says he now holds no grudge against Diddy anymore. The two publicly reconciled.

And while Americans were watching Barack Obama rise in 2008, Shyne proudly saw his own father become the first black prime minister of Belize, a striking barrier to fall, considering that Belize's population is majority indigenous or mixed-race.

So what's next on this unusual journey from rap star to prisoner to the Wailing Wall? Well, Shyne's interested now in the family business. He's running for the legislature in Belize on the belief that even a mistake and prison does not have to limit the rest of one's entire life.

And Shyne is aiming to go, literally, from lawbreaker to lawmaker, and joins us for a special discussion now about life, redemption and reform to end the week.

Sir, thank you for being here.

BARROW: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me, Ari. It's a pleasure to be here.

MELBER: A pleasure to have you.

Many folks in Brooklyn and around New York's music scene know you. And some of our viewers are meeting you for the first time.

What did you learn, having gone through that experience and incarceration, and then not being broken by, but finding so much purpose? And what does that tell other people, as we have a big discussion about the way we do justice?

BARROW: You know, I really believe that I'm an example that is not necessarily unique of what could be.

I think all human beings have an indomitable soul, indomitable spirit, and that's why it's so important, especially young people. This was 21 years ago, 19 -- 2000. So, let's say 20 years since the conviction.

Had I given up on myself, I wouldn't be married with a daughter, I wouldn't be the evolution that I am.

When you hit Jay-Z rapping on 4:44, I embody that. I'm living that 4:44 for evolution, as far as financial responsibility, building a family, giving back to the community, all of the things that I think Tupac and Big and Ice Cube and all of these rappers back in my time were singing about the life that they would like to have, but they couldn't have because of systematic racism and systematic oppression.

But, as far as justice reform is concerned, I really think that I am the epitome of redemption, reformation. I made the choice, though. So I'd definitely like to say to anyone out there who has made a mistake, any of the young people out there who are subscribing to a life that they see in entertainment, or a life that they see very much real around them, and they may want to change.

They may feel, well, you know what? I'm feeling a lot of pressure. How could I change? I changed. I completely changed my life from the youth I was 20 years ago.

I always wanted to be what I am today. But I had the courage to change. And I didn't listen to the people who are going to say, no, you can't change, you're a criminal, you're deportee, you're a convict. You can't listen to the noise. I think evolution is real.


MELBER: Let me ask you.

Your spiritual side, your religious side, how important is it to you, when you look at the policing debate or the immigration debate, that you care as an artist about people as all having equal human rights?

Because it seems that, sometimes, the prison and immigration debates devolve into treating some people like they're really less than human.


And, again, justice reform and immigration is really about us as human beings taking care of other human beings. And my trip to Israel was really an ability to go extreme. I was practicing Ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

But what it really -- what it led me to, what led me to is the ultimate truth. And ultimate truth is really in how we treat other human beings.

MELBER: Right.

BARROW: It doesn't matter if they're, if they're Jewish, if they're Muslim, if they're Catholic, if they're Spanish, if the Garifuna, if they're black, if they're white.

What really matters is compassion, is tolerance, is love, is mercy, and that's religion.


BARROW: You could wear a kufi, you could have a payot, you can be shomer Shabbat, but if you treat other human beings less than you would want to be treated, if you don't have compassion, if you don't -- if you're not at generous person, if you're not an honest person, then religion means nothing.

MELBER: Right.

BARROW: So it's really about...


MELBER: I'll tell you, sir, we see you out there rocking the sideburn payot, and you did it, I would say, religiously and fashionable.


MELBER: I got about 30 seconds left.


MELBER: Now, I got to tell you one of the best hip-hop love songs of all time, right?

BARROW: "Bonnie & Shyne"?

MELBER: "Bonnie & Shyne." I mean, that is just -- you could put that on in any year, and it's just -- it's got the love and the romance and the swagger.

And a lot of your music, I know you're now leading your life. And I know you're into policy and politics. But some of your music still animates people, Shyne.

BARROW: Yes, well it's the 20th anniversary of the "Shyne" album.

And I'm really grateful to have been able to create something that's classic, that, to this day, you can still appreciate. And all the Belizean musicians, I'm very much into their development.

We have so many great musicians, Tanya Carter, Super G, legends such as Lord Rhaburn.

So, really, I try to lead by example and always, whether it be policy and legislation, or whether it be being a Grammy Award-winning -- putting on a number one album or number two album, and not just albums, but classic albums that you enjoy to this day.


MELBER: Respect. Respect.

BARROW: So, I appreciate...


MELBER: I got hand the mic -- oh, thank you, sir.

I got to hand the mic to Joy Reid.

Shyne Barrow, thank you. Thank you for telling us about your journey. And good luck in your campaign.

That does it for us.



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