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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, August 26, 2020

Guests: Tony Schwartz, Neal Katyal, Bill Karins, Karen Bass, William Rhoden, DeRay McKesson, Brittney Cooper


Police arrest a 17-year-old for homicide who opened fire, killing two people and injuring a third near a gas station in Kenosha, Wisconsin. NBA players boycott tonight's playoff games over police violence. A hurricane targets Texas and Louisiana.


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

And here's what we're seeing in America right now. Summer 2020 is on its way to ending much as this summer began, more protests over systemic racism, in the wake of more controversial police shootings of, yes, black men.

The breaking news today is police arresting a 17-year-old for homicide who opened fire, killing two people, injuring a third near a gas station in Kenosha, Wisconsin, amidst what have been tense but largely peaceful protests, over the Sunday shooting, where Wisconsin police approached Jacob Blake, an African-American man, and they shot him several times in the back.

It was high alert overnight, a man openly carrying a large gun, some protesters, you see here, chasing him. He then discharged his weapon multiple times at those giving chase. The footage appears to show one man shot, then falling to the ground.

Now, this will be paused before that actual shot. That's part of our standards.

Now, police are also using in those protests armors vehicles, tear gas, and rubber bullets on the demonstrators, quite a scene. Now, that unrest, a state police shooting of a black man, allegedly without cause, then peaceful protests met with allegedly anti-black violence, that, obviously, right now is all playing out against the backdrop of this Republican Convention, now half over, and trafficking in both suburban fear, as well as appeals to basically the way Donald Trump wants people to view criminal justice.

And that included last night, for example, a diverse speaking roster, as well as a controversial made-for-TV pardon.

And think about it like this. State attorneys general do not usually get prime-time speaking slots at either party's convention, but the RNC went out of its way to feature Kentucky's A.G., who tried to defend Trump policies on criminal justice and then brought up another incident of an unarmed innocent black American killed by police, Breonna Taylor, already prompting outrage and accusations of hypocrisy, because her case, of course, has not yet resulted in any arrests for any offense, let alone the murder charges many are demanding.


DANIEL CAMERON (R), KENTUCKY ATTORNEY GENERAL: It was General Dwight Eisenhower, a future Republican president, who said, democracy is a system that recognizes the equality of humans before the law, whether you are the family of Breonna Taylor or David Dorn, these are the ideals that will heal our nation's wounds.


MELBER: No, Breonna Taylor's family does not agree with that. I want you to keep that in mind if you listen to them, as we have, because we have been covering their public calls for justice on this program.

They have not been talking about -- quote -- "ideals" or "thoughts and prayers," but, rather, they and their civil rights representatives and attorneys have been demanding tangible action towards what they see as justice in their case.

I tell you that tonight because it is similar to what the protesters are demanding in the new Blake case in Wisconsin before it reached this new fever pitch, before that anti-violence effort was met with new violence in America.

Now, amidst all these stories, the NBA formally postponing its playoff games tonight over this Blake shooting. President Trump says he will send federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, Wisconsin.

And we also want you to know, in terms of everything going on, there's a new hurricane, Laura. It's now a Category 4. It's approaching Texas and Louisiana. We're keeping our eye on that with public safety information for you later this hour.

Right now, we begin our broadcast joined by the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus and a longtime leader on civil rights policy, Congresswoman Karen Bass, as well as Rutgers Professor Brittney Cooper.

Congresswoman, when you look at both the original shooting in Wisconsin and the reception to those protests, which are fundamentally against police violence, what do you see in America tonight?

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Well, I see despair. I see absolute despair, because I think people in the communities just ask themselves, how many times do we have to endure this?

But I also have to mention Trayford Pellerin, because he was killed in Louisiana. He was shot 11 times in his back. And it was almost within hours of the Blake shooting.

And so, at some point, you just have to say, when? And you know, Ari, that we passed the legislation in the House that has been languishing in the Senate. Hopefully, this might create some new emergency over in the Senate to take up our bill.

MELBER: Professor?

BRITTNEY COOPER, PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: I'm teeming with rage, Ari. There's only so much people can take before they absolutely break.

And we have watched the RNC stoke these fears, and then people act surprised when you then see white men take to the streets and engage in these acts of violence. But what we have been watching is the president and his cronies set the emotional and political stage for this kind of violence to occur.

Let's not forget on the first night of the convention that we had a white couple who had been brandishing guns at protesters. And so then, in Wisconsin last night, we have this 17-year-old kid who finished the threat that those white people started in Saint Louis, which was that we will bring out our guns and we will shoot you for exercising your right to peacefully protest.

And this kind of white rage -- let's remember who's actually being violent here. It isn't the protesters standing up for their rights. It is people who are terrorizing them. They are the people who have Jacob Blake fighting to get back to health. And now we have got two people dead.

And, look, let me say this and let me be very frank. White people really have to reckon with what it means that a 17-year-old kid, a kid who isn't even able to vote yet, feels like his rage is such that he can take somebody's life simply because they are asking to be treated with dignity and respect.

Why are people who are not yet fully adults are this angry and exercising whiteness in the public square in this way? It disturbs my soul. It should disturb us all. And I'm with these protesters who are saying, we're not going to have this anymore. We're going to keep fighting for this to change.

MELBER: Congresswoman, you have always been known as a progressive leader on civil rights, but you're also known as someone who's very thoughtful and responsible and careful in your role as a government official.

What do you say to the people -- the professor mentioned she's teeming with rage. What do you say to the young people, where I know you -- from your work, I know you share their goals. But what do you say to them tonight when they look at this and they say, the state shoots down black people for no cause, allegedly? As a reporter, I will say allegedly. We will follow the case.

Then there are peaceful protests against that state violence. And it's met with, allegedly, white anti-black violence. And they say, what else are we supposed to do? We have had enough.

BASS: Well, you know, absolutely.

And I share the rage and agree 100 percent with everything the professor said. But I do think my challenge, my challenge is not just an elected official, but as an activist and as an organizer, is to organize that rage, to organize that energy and to channel that energy into the next 69 days, and it's my responsibility also to explain to the people why, because the problem is, is that the violence -- and now I'm talking about the violence in terms of looting or vandalism -- plays right into the hands.


BASS: That's exactly what the Trump people want. That's exactly what they want to show, because they want to focus as though all of the protests are violent.

And you and I know that 90-percent plus of it is not the case. And even sometimes, when there is violence, you have the question where that violence is coming from, because we also know that there have been white supremacist organizations that have infiltrated the protests, like the shooting that took place in Oakland, for example.

That was a man who infiltrated the protests to make it seem as though that violence came from the protesters. And it did not.

MELBER: All very important. I know it's a busy time on the Hill.

Congresswoman Bass, I appreciate you making some time for us at the top of the program. Thank you.

Brittney, stay with me.

I want to get into the national political and cultural reckoning that continues in response to the Blake shooting.

Breaking news tonight: the NBA and its Players Association announcing just late today here that all three playoff games are postponed. They cite the player boycott and saying, in a statement: "In light of the Milwaukee Bucks' decision to not take the floor today for game five against the Orlando Magic," all three of today's games are postponed.

Now, this unusual development comes after many players, including those like LeBron James, have been very vocal in activism against police shootings and alleged police brutality and, of course, amidst this summer, when several sports leagues have been wrestling with mounting pressure on these civil rights priorities.


LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: We are scared, as black people in America. Black men, black women, black kids, we are terrified, because you don't know.

You have no idea. You have no idea how that cop that day left the house. You don't know if he woke up on the good side of the bed. You don't know if he woke up on the wrong side of the bed. You don't know if he had an argument at home with his significant other.

You don't know if one of his kids said something crazy to him, and he left the house steaming, or maybe he just left the house saying that today is going to be the end for one of these black people. That's what it feels like.


MELBER: William Rhoden, a longtime "New York Times" sports columnist, now with ESPN's "The Undefeated," jumped on to his FaceTime as this news was breaking late in the day.

I appreciate you rushing to join. Professor Cooper is still here.

What do you see out there in America tonight and the role of the NBA?

WILLIAM RHODEN, SPORTS COLUMNIST: Well, you know, I'm proud of the players, because they're doing the only thing they can do.

These are people of action. And a lot of them didn't want to go to the bubble in the first place, but they said, you know what? We will do our part. We will do our part. We will come to the bubble. You know, the owners let them have -- take a knee and scribble stuff on the -- scribble slogans and that kind of stuff.

But it got to a point where we have run out of slogans. You know, we have run out of gestures. We have run out of words. And what they're doing now, that, you know what? We're going to withhold the one thing that you want from us, which is entertainment. Entertainment is over.

They're going to meet tonight at 8:00, and they're going to decide whether they unplug the whole thing. But the next level, though, we talk about the players, but, you know, each of these teams is owned by multibillionaires.

You know what? The players did their part. Now these billionaire owners in Milwaukee, in Orlando, they have got to do their part. They have got to speak to their -- they have got to speak to the politicians. They have got to use their muscle to say, listen, this has got to stop.

We have got a league that's 70 percent, 80 percent of black men who have got -- many who have sons, who are like 18, 19, 20. This has got to stop. So, I'm calling now -- the players are doing their part. But now it's up to these billionaire owners, and not just in the NBA, right?

The NFL, you know, they have got to step in, and they have got to speak the same language of these people who are perpetrating this violence and say, listen, this state-sponsored violence against black people has got to stop. So that's the next level.

But I'm really proud of the players for unplugging and saying, you know what? We have done the pantomime. We have done the gestures. We're done.

MELBER: You lay it out, William, and it's a reminder to folks, although we cover politics a lot, this is not, at its core, a -- quote unquote -- "story about politics" or politics on the field.

Brittney and I have been covering these stories and civil rights as long as THE BEAT has been on the air, and we have had a dialogue about how this is about whether people will be gunned down and killed or allowed to live. And nobody, when they look at their own child or their own family, thinks that being able to leave the home and come back alive is politics.

That's life. That's survival. And I say that first for William's response and then Brittney, as we tee up something that's a little long, but we want everyone to hear it tonight. We make our decisions deliberately here.

I want you to listen to, to my viewers, the L.A. Clippers coach, Doc Rivers. And he starts, I believe, by laying out the logic, and then I think the feelings, the reality of it overwhelms him. Let's listen to that and then hear from our guests on the other side.


DOC RIVERS, L.A. CLIPPERS HEAD COACH: All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear.

We're the ones getting killed. We're the ones getting shot. We're the ones that were denied to live in certain communities. We have been hung, we have been shot.

And all you do is keep hearing about fear. It's -- it's amazing to me why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.


MELBER: William?


No, I mean, that's -- you can hear the frustrations. And all of us, we're all frustrated. But when you get to the point where words no longer are enough, it's almost as if it's a dare. It's almost, in the face of all of this Black Lives Matter stuff, you have got this state-sponsored violence, and saying, OK, what are you going to do now? What are you going to do next? OK, now what?

You know, I mean, we're coming up on the anniversary of the March of Washington, right? And remember, the March on Washington was August 28. Well, about a couple months later, there was a bombing. And then September, a month later, the Klan bombed a church and killed four little girls.

So I think that we're naive. It's kind of like, this is like a competition. It's not like we're not -- we're not opposed. We're not unopposed. There is an opponent. There is an opponent there.

So it's not like everybody's on board with this. I guess we have to figure out, whether it's the NBA, whether it's billionaires who own the NBA teams, how are they going to use power to meet power? That's it. How are you going to use power for the good to meet this darkness?

That's kind of where we are, and I think that some people are naive that this is not a battle. This is a battle. You know, it's Celtics-Lakers. And who's on my squad? Are you with me? And I think that that's what not only NBA players, NFL players, all players -- you have to stay in your lane, say, how can we use our power, our muscle to end this stuff?

So it's not really complicated. It's emotional, but it's not that complicated.

COOPER: You know, Ari, I'm listening to this, and the thing I'm thinking about, besides my rage, is, we need to make a clear distinction between the things that white people fear, which are largely based in delusion.

White people fear that black people are coming to take their power. This is the thing the RNC is actually promoting this week, the idea that black people are coming to abolish the suburbs and take their neighborhoods and take their guns.

And so what is problematic is that there's a segment of white people in this country who are actually in a race war. And the president is ginning them up to treat us like we are enemy combatants that they can shoot on sight and they can do with impunity.

And so we need to be calling out that thinking, because what I want people to hear when they hear Doc Rivers speak is the actual fear that black people face that our lives are actually being taken.

We aren't going into white neighborhoods and killing anybody. We aren't going into white neighborhoods. We can't -- have you seen all of the stories about how black people can't even get the same refinance rates on their mortgages in this moment, where people are getting great deals on refinancing?

We can't even refinance the homes we have, let alone going and taking over the wealth of the suburbs. And so there is a delusion at the heart of whiteness that is driving this violence. And it is our job to say something.

And one of the reasons that I'm so happy that these players are standing up and saying, we will not play, is that they are tapping into the source of their power. They know that one of the ways that whiteness will relent is when you begin to hit it in the pocketbook.

And one of our most recent examples of that, remember, is that at the beginning of Black Lives Matter, in 2015, football players at Mizzou boycotted because they wanted the president to resign. He wouldn't resign after engaging in lots of racial activity that was problematic, and one game where the players said, we will not play, forced him to step down.

MELBER: Right.

COOPER: And so sports has to reckon with the way that it has exploited black men over many years to build up the entertainment that most Americans love, and then say that you will play for us, but we will not participate in a world where we protect you.

And so they are using their power to demand protection, not just for black men, but for all black people who are killed by state violence. And it is our job, particularly if you're a white person of conscience, to begin to really reckon with this white violence that is at the center of this thing...

MELBER: Right.

COOPER: ... and not get so upset when black -- when I say it, and I'm mad, it isn't because I lack objectivity. I'm very clear.

I'm angry because we are the ones who are clear. Whiteness is the thing that is moving from a space of delusion, but it is also the thing that is moving from a space of power and an active willingness to use violence.

Very last thing. Let us not ever equate black people expressing their frustration when they do attack a building or a window. I know that that frustrates people, but let's be clear about something. Life matters more than property.


COOPER: I am not suggesting that people should loot or riot, but I am saying, let us keep our priorities clear, because no one is trying to destroy buildings and people's livelihoods when they know that their lives are going to be protected.

MELBER: Well, and I appreciate everything you and William Rhoden have said.

And, Brittney, you referred to the white violence, the white supremacist violence. We saw a multiracial coalition during this summer. We saw some change already. Many say not nearly enough, but let's be clear, some change is afoot . And there's two people dead today from that violence last night.

And that is an attack, not only, obviously, on those people -- the courts will adjudicate whether it is a murder. But it also, politically, as you have reminded us, is an effort to stop the multiracial coalition, to scare people, all people, but also, yes, the white people who were joining that, as well as black activists, as well as everyone else of any creed or color, from going out tonight, because two people are dead.

COOPER: And, Ari...

MELBER: I'm supposed to fit in a break.

I will give you a brief final word.


When I say white violence, I mean white ideology. I'm not saying all white people are violent. I'm saying whiteness as an ideology.

MELBER: Understood. Understood.

Loyal viewers of THE BEAT know Professor Cooper has been here since the beginning.

We have you tonight. We will have you back to continue some of the important stuff we're talking about.

My thanks to the professor, as well William Rhoden, who hopped on FaceTime with us last minute.

We have a 30-second break.

When we come back, we have more on the Wisconsin shooting. We have a special civil rights guest.

But we also have an important report about Donald Trump abusing power, according to legal experts. Neal Katyal here.

We're back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: Welcome back on a big news night.

Political conventions, understandably, focus on what's said. It's actually a rare time, politically, when you think about it, that more voters are hearing both parties' messages directly, unfiltered.

But here's something different. Unlike 2016, Donald Trump's convention this week is drawing fire for what he's doing, exploiting the office of the presidency in ways experts say no president has ever done.

Take this government action of issuing a pardon, which, of course, is significant amidst this race and policing debate coming out of Wisconsin that we have been covering.

Well, this new pardon was explicitly served up, so it could play as a partisan convention gimmick.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jon's life is a beautiful testament to the power of redemption.

In the last 10 years since Jon was released, he has created one of the most successful reentry programs, Hope for Prisoners, in Las Vegas.

JON PONDER, FOUNDER AND CEO, HOPE FOR PRISONERS: I gave my life to Jesus and made him a promise that I would spend the rest of my days helping others like me.

TRUMP: So, now, I'd like to invite Jon's wife, Jamie, to join us, as I grant Jon -- I'm not sure you know this -- a full pardon.


MELBER: "I'm not sure you know this." Full theatrics.

Meanwhile, the White House doubling down on this approach. Tonight, Mike Pence will give a convention speech from a federal facility.

Trump also spotlighting uniformed Marines as kind of extras last night for a different government activity, the exploitation of the formal immigration naturalization process, as a staged set piece of televised propaganda.

That's not all. Your tax also dollars misused by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a partisan speech from a Jerusalem roof, now under investigation.

This is not normal. Unlike some nations, the U.S. has a bipartisan tradition of protecting government power and funds from partisan use. Indeed, you're supposed to leave politics at the water's edge, as the saying goes.

In the past, Republicans condemned far smaller breaches than a campaign rally from Israel.


REP. ADAM PUTNAM (R-FL): There is no more important issue for this Congress than the issue of resolving the situation in Iraq moving forward together, leaving politics at the water's edge.

REP. STEVE KING (R-IA): I regret that we have partisanship that's gone beyond our water's edge. It is a fact and fixture of this country's national makeup today.


MELBER: We're joined now by former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal.

Sir, does this meet the standard of politics at the water's edge? Was government power abused? If so, is it unethical and potentially illegal?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: All of the above, abuse of power, unethical, illegal.

And, Ari, we have discussed over the years some really arcane federal laws. This is nothing like that. These are really simple laws. Like you can't use the hallowed ground of the White House as a political prop for your convention, you can't use the awesome powers of the presidency, like naturalization, pardons, as part of your presidential campaign, because think about it.

If a president can do it for those powers, why not for the Army? Go launch a war right before an election. Why not for the economy? Go order the Fed to pump up the election right -- pump up the economy right before an election.

There have been a set of norms, Ari, that every decent leader has followed in this country, and President Trump is shattering them. These laws go back to 1939, the Hatch Act, even before that, designed to limit these kinds of political activities, and Trump is basically spitting on it all.

MELBER: You lay it out clearly.

I'm interested that you brought up the military, because there are the rules, and then there are the examples. Americans understand the examples, because they're not necessarily requiring any legal background.

But, for us tonight, are you saying that Secretary Pompeo using State Department funds and being abroad and doing it that way is legally a similar breach to if they had done this on an aircraft carrier?

KATYAL: Yes, so, both parts are illegal, both Secretary of State Pompeo's action, as well as the use of the troops.

So, with respect to Pompeo, it's been very clear. Every secretary of state in the past doesn't do political stuff. So, Colin Powell said in 2004 -- quote -- "As secretary of state, I'm obliged not to participate in any way, shape, fashion, or form in a political debate. I take no sides in the matter."

Condoleezza Rice, John Kerry, all of them said similar things. And even the Trump administration's defense secretary, Esper, had a memo earlier this year which said, you're not supposed to take place in political debates if you're a DOD employee. You're not supposed to do politics.

And these folks are just doing all of that and more. And it's both illegal, but it's also so corrosive to what the government is about, Ari, because, if you allow a president to use the massive powers that the presidency gives him to help cheat in an election, to get a leg up on your opponent, well, then, you're basically undoing what elections are all about.

And I think the Trump folks are saying, oh, people only inside the Beltway care about this. Ordinary Americans won't care. I totally, fundamentally disagree. I think there's a huge opening for Biden, because it really reveals that Donald Trump needs to -- feels like he needs to cheat to win. He is the cheater in chief.

MELBER: Wow. Very strong. Very strong.

I want to direct you to one other rebuttal and get your views on it. I have about 30 seconds here, but Trump allies who say, look, these are pardons, these are leniency, they're touting them for various individuals, several of whom happen to be minorities, they say, why can't lawyers like you get on board with that?

Your rebuttal?

KATYAL: Oh, I'd be totally on board if they did it not in a White House televised RNC ceremony, but this is a president who actually doesn't do naturalizations, who's trying to cut naturalizations, who's trying to cut pardons, who's trying to basically undermine the treatment of minorities and immigrants in this country.

So, it's the most cynical thing in the world for the Trump administration to say, oh, we're not getting behind it.

Of course, we get behind you doing your job. Just do your job, first of all, and don't pretend to do your job in a national convention on television.

MELBER: A clear rebuttal, although we expect nothing less.

Neal Katyal, important stuff. Thank you very much.

I want to remind everyone you can go to see these breakdowns, tonight's and in the past.

We're going to fit in a break, but we have a lot more in tonight's show, including going inside some are calling Trump's campaign of darkness, someone who knows how he thinks, how he argues, his rhetoric. Our friend Tony Schwartz is here.

And, as the NBA makes news, canceling all these playoff games, new calls for justice in Wisconsin. We have a very special guest that we haven't heard from yet on this story this week. That's also in tonight's show, so I hope you stay with us.


MELBER: Turning to some new details with this story we're covering, tensions rising in Wisconsin. Protesters have been taking to the streets, a new arrest today after, as we have been reporting, two people shot to death last night.

Meanwhile, the president's talking up sending in the National Guard. As we have covered this story since it first broke, the shooting of Mr. Blake in the back is clearly reigniting the national movements we have seen all summer against systemic racism and police brutality.

For more of our special coverage tonight, we bring in NBC's Shaquille Brewster, who's live from Kenosha, Wisconsin, on the ground, and the special guest I mentioned earlier, the Black Lives Matter activist and civil rights leader DeRay McKesson. He's a former candidate for the mayor of Baltimore and the author of "On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope."

Shaquille, what is happening on the ground, particularly since this arrest?

SHAQUILLE BREWSTER, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, right now, it's -- things are calm, but the tension is still there, because we saw this happen just yesterday, where, ahead of the curfew, things remained relatively peaceful.

But, after the curfew, that's when you saw the clashes between protesters and police.

Of course, today, the difference is the curfew is one hour earlier, the police explaining that and the reasoning they did that as being they wanted to be able to clear areas like the area I'm in, this park that's in front of the courthouse. They want to be able to clear it from protesters, from people once that curfew is in effect.

And they want to do that in the daylight and take advantage of the daylight there.

But of course, police have that 17-year-old in custody right now. That was a shooting that happened that turned the situation deadly, where we had an altercation, and you saw several people with long guns, but he ended up shooting two individuals, killing -- or shooting three individuals, killing two of them.

That is part of the tension that you see. And that came despite the pleas from the family of Jacob Blake to keep things calm, to keep things peaceful and the prayers that they were calling for.

The last that we have of Mr. Blake's condition, his family says he is still in a lot of pain. They say he's doing better, but he is not out of the woods yet. They said yesterday it would require a miracle for him to walk again, to be able to walk again. So they're still asking for the prayers of people here in Kenosha and people all the country -- Ari.

MELBER: Shaquille Brewster on the ground, thank you.

And, as always, stay safe.

We turn to DeRay McKesson, who's worked on these issues as an activist and, as I mentioned, in policy and politics.

What do you want people to know, as America faces a situation that you and many of your colleagues have been warning about and pushing on literally for years?

DERAY MCKESSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Yes, so here's the thing, Ari, is that there have only been 12 days this year where a police officer has not killed somebody.

So, quarantine, lockdown, the protests, coronavirus actually has not slowed the police down at all. They have killed at the same number and rate today as they did at the same time last year.

Kenosha's really interesting. Remember that the police actually kill more people in suburban communities than almost all other communities combined. So Kenosha is more representative in a lot of ways of where the problem actually is across the country.

What's different is that we just have this on camera, so people saw it. But the police have killed over 700 people so far this year. Now, Kenosha's really interesting. The Kenosha police union contract has a police officer bill of rights that gives the police special protections so they can't really be disciplined all the way.

There are 20 states that have officer bill of rights and hundreds of cities across the country that have these same protections. And, you know, I have seen a lot of people circulate demands that we call the mayor or the police chief.

In Kenosha, and in Wisconsin, with every town over 4,000 people, there's actually a board of police and fire commissioners. They have the power to fire the police commissioner, and they have the power to fire police officers.

So, the pressure should be on the Kenosha board of fire and police commissioners. Like, they are the power brokers right now in the moment that can fire the police chief or the officers.

MELBER: I mean, DeRay, this is why you do what you do, because you're right in on the details and the pressure points and the leverage.

Wisconsin, as you mentioned, looks like many other states that viewers may not think of, potentially, as the place where all this is automatically happening. And yet police-involved shootings hit an all-time high just last year in Wisconsin.

As you mentioned, a lot of the underlying systemic oversight is built largely to evade legal process for potentially unlawful shootings, rather than investigate and punish it.

What do you see as the national imperative here, at a time when the Democratic Party ticket is diverse? That wasn't going to be automatic. There's racial protests around the country. And, as I was just discussing and covering, the RNC has been touting some of the few elected minority members that it has, and arguing that this president is issuing pardons and is part of the solution.

MCKESSON: Yes, so, the only thing I will say about Wisconsin is, remember, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, is another place that's really important, small town, about 50,000 residents.

They have one officer in Wauwatosa who has killed anybody in the past five years. He has killed three people in the past five years. He got an award, a medal for the first killing. He got suspended for the second killing, and he is under investigation for the third.

So, like, people are sleeping in the national conversation on places like Wauwatosa and Kenosha, but these places are where the problem is really acute.

In terms of what the solutions are, it's true that, if the structures don't change, the outcomes don't change, right? So it is repealing the officer bill of rights in the 20 states that have them. It is making sure these police unions and the police union contracts don't block accountability.

And there are a lot of places where you can't even move money away from police departments until you address the budgets. The Seattle City Council said they were going to cut 50 percent of the police department budget, and then, when they went to go do it, they realized they couldn't do that until they engaged the police union contract.

And that's true of a lot of cities around the country. These contracts and these laws really stop a lot of things. Maryland's a great example, the oldest officer bill of rights in the country. There have been pushes there for a long time in my home state to make sure that we roll back these protections, so you can't do anonymous complaints to the police in places like Maryland.

And Louisiana -- Louisiana, Ari, literally say officers get 30 days before they can be interrogated. Baton Rouge says that any sustained complaint of sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, domestic abuse, they must be erased after five years.

So, there's a whole infrastructure that protects the police.

MCKESSON: And it's time for it to crumble down.

MELBER: Really important, the details that you're sharing, DeRay, as well as, in Wisconsin, they claim to have passed body cameras. So, we would have had more of this documented. Those still haven't been fully implemented, which is why it's still up to civilians recording this stuff, which, as you say, is part of how this one got more national scrutiny.

We will be having you back.

DeRay McKesson, thank you, as always, sir.

MCKESSON: Good to be here.

MELBER: Up ahead, "Art of the Deal" co-author Tony Schwartz with a big take on the convention.

Don't miss it.


MELBER: We're heading into the third night of the Republican Convention. Donald Trump's slated to speak tomorrow.

And we're joined now by "Art of the Deal" co-author and CEO of The Energy Project, Tony Schwartz.

So much going on, but many, many Americans will see tonight and tomorrow, in a climate of fear, what do you think people need to keep in mind as they prepare to hear from the president in what is, all cable news hyperbole to the side, one of the most consequential political speeches of his life tomorrow?

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMP: THE ART OF THE DEAL": Well, there's three audiences that speech will have an -- a different influence on.

There's his base. They don't care what he says. They're with him night, day, eyes open, eyes closed, doesn't matter. There's the Biden supporters and the Democrats, who are not going to be -- it will affect how they move forward in the campaign, but they're not the target of this speech.

So, really, we're talking, Ari, about the 7 percent, 8 percent who, in one measure or another, are swing voters or on the fence. And, you know, what he's going to do, almost surely, is, he's going to continue to build this bizarre fantasy that he's a reasonable human being and that he's got progressive instincts, that he loves women, and he loves black people, and he loves Mexicans.

And that's been the fantasy that he has built during this week. And, by the way, I don't think it's been his choice. I think it's one of the rare times where he's listened to other people, and they have said to him, we know you hate all those people. We know you want to speak to your base. But what we want you to do is to bring 1 percent more black people to you and half-percent or 1 percent of suburban women.

MELBER: Right.

Well, Tony, you know Donald Trump, and you make an interesting point, which is that he didn't get up one day and say, let me have a naturalization ceremony where I can tout all this diversity. That's not his thing.

And yet millions of Americans -- this is the political imperative -- are seeing that and going, well, how bad can it be? I saw that with my own eyes.

What they're not seeing is the other thing I really want to get you on, which is, Steve Bannon ran the winning Electoral College part of the 2016 campaign. He really brought it home. He was just arrested and indicted going into this convention, and not just for something random, which would still be bad, but for literally political fraud, for defrauding MAGA supporters who believed in the wall.

And I asked, more writ large, Matt Schlapp, who is a big Trump supporter, here about all these indictments around Trump. It's a short clip. Take a look.


MELBER: Why does Donald Trump have so many people around him, why does he hire and rely on so many people who end up convicted felons?

MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Why are there so many people who were around Obama and Biden who haven't been locked up?


MELBER: Tony, I will let viewers decide...



MELBER: Go ahead -- that rebuttal.

SCHWARTZ: No, I don't have a response. What's your question, based on that?


MELBER: I guess my question is, if that's what a professional political communications specialist can respond with, which led to your, huh, how weak and bad is that problem for this president this -- in this convention?

And do you view that as something that is telling about his leadership, that he has hired and relied on so many convicted felons?

SCHWARTZ: He's hired and relied on people who have been willing to play by his rules and do his thing.

And what you're looking at for the next, what, 68 days, is it, is, you're looking at a very unfair race. He's right about that, but it's unfair because, if you imagine being in a football game, this is a guy who's going to run his campaign outside the playing field.

He's going to bribe the umps. He's going to sucker-punch wherever he can. And Biden has to run against a guy who plays by no rules. And that is a very, very difficult thing to do.

I genuinely can't predict. I think we don't know. And anybody who says they do is lying. We don't know what's going to happen here.

MELBER: Right.

SCHWARTZ: And it is a momentous 64, 68 days and election. And I think -- you know I'm big on hyperbole at times.

MELBER: So true.

SCHWARTZ: But I think, in this case -- thank you.

I think, in this case, the future of civilization truly, truly does -- will be profoundly influenced by the outcome of this election. That's an amazing thing to have to think.

And Obama -- and both Obamas suggested something very similar to that when they were on -- I mean, when they were giving their talks.

MELBER: Right.

I think President Obama tried to get people there in his own way, and we know how he speaks, and it's worked very well for him, because he's an artful orator, one of the best living orators that I have covered.

You speak more bluntly, but you're also a writer with a lot of writing under your belt. And when you say that about civilization, whether people see it as overlapping with Obama or not, I think it's striking to consider when you look at what's happening around the nation.

Our friend Tony Schwartz, we will be having you back. Thank you, sir.

SCHWARTZ: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

We turn now to public safety, the update we promised you, very important.

NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins is our colleague with the latest on Hurricane Laura.

Go ahead.

BILL KARINS, NBC NEWS METEOROLOGIST: This storm is now only about six to eight hours away from just doing complete destruction in Southwest Louisiana.

A lot of people are already out of harm's way, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Cameron, Holly Beach, a lot of those people are gone. At least, they better be, because the water is already beginning to rise.

Now, if we look at this picture here, this is the sunset you're watching in the eye. The tall thunderstorms are so high here on the west side of the eye that it's casting a shadow all the way across the middle of the eye. Yes, you only see that in, like, the strongest of storms that we get.

So, here's the latest from the Hurricane Center. It's 145-mile-per-hour winds. This rapidly intensified over the last 24 hours. We thought it would. We were hoping it wouldn't get quite this strong, but, obviously, it did.

Now it's making that north-northwest jog towards Southwest Louisiana. You can see how quickly it's closing in on the coast; 150-mile-per-hour winds is what they predict at landfall right around 1:00 a.m.

So, you know, a lot of people have their last couple hours of power before they could go days, if not weeks, without power, especially along the Texas-Louisiana border and in areas of Eastern Louisiana.

The worst of the storm surge all through Southwest Louisiana. Then, tomorrow, still a big power outage storm through Northern Louisiana into Arkansas, and then we will deal with a good deal of flooding problems from it.

So, here's the timing of the landfall. That northern eye moves on shore around 2:00 to 3:00 a.m. That's when we get the landfall. And then we will watch that storm surge.

And, Ari, if there's going to be one historic impact of this storm, 15-to-20-foot storm surge. Lake Charles is vulnerable to this surge, and they're 30 miles inland. Ari, right now, they're expecting the river to crest at 15 feet, the elevation of the city, max, is 15 feet.

You can do the math on that one. We're very fearful of what it's going to do.

MELBER: Understood. I hope everyone in those areas is watching and preparing, as you say, and doing what they need to do. We will have coverage throughout the night.

Bill Karins, thank you, sir.

We're going to fit in a break.

And, boy, has this been some news day. I have something very special. It's an exclusive, so you literally won't see it anywhere else. It's after this break, and it involves "Curb Your Enthusiasm"'s Jeff Garlin and our friend Richard Lewis on how to get through what we're living through.


MELBER: All right, these times are obviously something else in America, but we do have a quick, lighter note to end the show.

BEAT viewers may recall comedy legend Richard Lewis is our friend. He even declared himself the original beatnik -- his quote -- recently toasted Al Roker on the program.

And many know Lewis from his work with Larry David and a whole 'nother goofball, comedian Jeff Garlin from HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Well, here's where I'm going with this. Last night, I hopped on the Internet for an Instagram Live video. And it turned out, randomly, Garlin was watching. And he agreed to a spontaneous chat, no prep, on the spot, unplanned from his own bedroom.

I guess technology is pretty wild, and this is very 2020. And, naturally, we discussed not only comedy, but Richard Lewis.


JEFF GARLIN, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: The only way to get through the era is to laugh, find joy where you can, and laugh if you can. I never stop laughing.

MELBER: Who on "Curb" is most like their -- quote, unquote -- "character" in real life, Larry or Richard Lewis?

GARLIN: Richard in real life is crazier than he is on the show.

So, if you watch the show and you go, this guy's nuts, real life, it's a whole other level.



MELBER: We would definitely welcome a whole 'nother level of Richard Lewis. I didn't even know that was possible, from spending a little bit of time with him.

I will also tell you, we asked Garlin if he would make his debut on THE BEAT for a "Fallback Friday." He said yes. We have it on tape, and we want to hold him to it.

A little something fun to end what is, of course, quite a night.

Now, don't go anywhere, because, tonight, you have coverage of night three of the RNC with all your favorite anchors on MSNBC. And if you stay up late, I will be back tonight at 1:00 a.m. Eastern/10:00 p.m. Pacific.

But, first, "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts now.


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