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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, August 28, 2020

Guests: Aisha C. Mills, Kenny Smith, Jennifer Horn, Bill Kristol, Richard Painter, Barbara Res, Christina Greer


Thousands gather peacefully to commemorate the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington and demand racial justice. Hundreds of GOP defectors endorse President Trump during the week of the Republican National Convention. What tactics might President Trump use in the run-up to Election Day? Did the Trump administration break the law by holding speeches for the Republican National Convention at the White House? Former NBA player Kenny Smith discusses athletes boycotting games to protest for racial justice.


AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT everyone. I'm Ayman Mohyeldin, in for Ari Melber this evening.

We start with thousands of Americans repudiating the dark messaging of Donald Trump just hours after he used his RNC speech to warn of violent cities overrun by chaos.

This is the scene today, thousands gathering peacefully at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, protesters and speakers condemning the treatment of blacks in America calling the gathering the Get Your Knee Off Our Necks March, a reference to the death of George Floyd.

It was in that very same city, the nation's capital, that Trump delivered his RNC speech, Americans this morning waking up to the headlines about Trump's dark view of the election after he told voters they would decide -- quote -- "whether we protect law-abiding Americans or give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals."

Trump not mentioning Jacob Blake by name once. Now, this morning, this stunning word from Jacob Blake's father that police handcuffed his paralyzed son to his hospital bed. This afternoon, police reportedly taking the handcuffs off.

The story now rippling through America, from protests in the streets to widespread player boycotts across multiple sports leagues.

In a minute, I'm going to talk to former NBA player Kenny Smith. Now, at the March on Washington today, scrutiny on the violence against unarmed black men and women by police, the families of many of those victims calling for urgent change.


TAMIKA PALMER, MOTHER OF BREONNA TAYLOR: What we need is change. And we're at a point where we can get that change. But we have to stand together. We have to vote.

PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: It has never been more clearer than change right now. It's happening right now, because we demand it.

JACOB BLAKE SR., FATHER OF JACOB BLAKE: There are two systems of justice in the United States. There's a white system, and there's a black system. The black system ain't doing so well. But we're going to stand up.


MOHYELDIN: All right, joining me now is political strategist and a former fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School Aisha C. Mills, associate professor of political science at Fordham University Christina Greer, and presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

Great to have all three of you with us starting off this hour.

Aisha, let me start with you. Your view of the march today, one day after Trump's speech. Contrast the message we saw from the White House last night to the reality and the messaging we saw on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial today.


Well, the first contrast that we see is, if you look at this march, people are actually wearing masks, unlike last night, when Donald Trump got together a bunch of people to applaud him who had no masks on.

He is literally living in an alternate universe where he is attempting to make people believe that there's no pandemic, to make people believe that the Democrats are somehow socialists because we care about justice, to make people believe that there is rioting happening in the streets for no reason, because mayors can't control their cities.

Today, what we're seeing is a sobering, sobering reality. Not only is this commemorating an anniversary of the March on Washington, but I believe it's 65 years to the day that Emmett Till was killed.

And here we are again 65 years later still having the same conversations, the same tears, the same pleading with the government to actually care and do something.

And if anything strikes me about the last week, the entire summer, is that if there's anyone in this country that has the right that we could empathize with just being frustrated with our democracy, being done with America, it would be black people.

And yet here we are constantly standing up, trying, trying to make this a better nation, trying to make this country live up to its ideals, while you have Donald Trump trying to destroy it. So the contrast couldn't be any starker certainly from last night to today.

MOHYELDIN: Christina, this has been a week that many have described as an inflection point in this country, from Sunday, when the shooting of Jacob Blake happened, to the march and the protest that we're seeing today that culminates this week against the backdrop of the RNC.

What are your thoughts when you see how this week has played out, and the divisions of the narrative that we're seeing in America in real time?

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: I think it's just really important to recognize that so many black Americans are having a really traumatic week.

We're witnessing the country that we helped build, right -- this is our nation. Black American history is American history. And so we're watching yet another innocent black person being murdered by the state, right, and then in the backdrop of having a white nationalist president deliver a message at the people's house, at the White House.

And then we have to remember and commemorate the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy, so long ago, but this March on Washington, as Aisha mentioned, it's a march on Washington for jobs and freedom. So we can't also forget about not just the health effects in how COVID-19 has really destroyed so many black families and communities, and really created devastating effects.

It's the recession also that so many black communities are still struggling from. And we have a president who does not care. He sees his supporters as marks and rubes. He sees black Americans as not worthy of being full citizens.

And this has been a week where people are trying to figure out how to send their kids back to school. And we have to go about our daily business knowing that we are not protected in a nation, not just by our president, but clearly by police forces who have been infiltrated by white nationalists as well, police forces that will allow a 17-year-old boy with an AR-15 to walk past them after he's just murdered two people.

And they will see someone's black skin and no weapon as more of a threat than a child with an AR-15, that's illegal, by the way. And so this is -- we put all of it together, it's a collective traumatic experience that black Americans have been living in for quite some time, but this week seems particularly poignant with the RNC and also Jacob Blake and what's been going on in Kenosha.

MOHYELDIN: Let me just ask you really quickly, Christina, to follow up on that sentiment.

I don't know if you had a chance to hear Doc Rivers, the famed NBA coach, earlier this week. He had a very powerful sound bite, very emotional. He said, he doesn't understand why black people continue to love this country, and this country does not love them back.

And it just came to my mind when you were talking about the pain and experience of black Americans in a week like this.

GREER: Oh, indeed.

I mean, we think about so much of the greatness that is this country, this is a beautiful nation that is trying to live up to its ideals that the framers put on paper, but we have still not gotten there.

But when we think about so many of the gains that we have made as a nation, it's because of the sacrifices of black people. When we think about the Immigration Act, and how so many different races and cultures are allowed to be integrated and incorporated into the society, it's because of the struggles of black Americans over centuries.

When we think about the ways in which black people have cared for this country, physically, mentally and emotionally, have cared for the people in this country, with little to no respect, we have to understand that this is -- it is exhausting. It is exhausting to love something that refuses sometimes to love you back.

And I agreed. And so many people felt Doc Rivers, they felt Chris Webber, they feel so much of what LeBron James says, because we're expected to be immune to the abuse and the fear that so many black Americans have in their own nation.

And so it really does beg the question of, can black Americans ever be full citizens in this nation? That's a question that we have had for hundreds of years. And we still have no resolution, especially under this president.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, and we're going to talk about all that NBA discussion in a moment.

Michael Beschloss, we're lucky to have you here, a historical perspective on this week.

Give us the big picture. How should we think about this march in its place in history? We obviously, for all Americans, look at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and the National Mall with a certain degree of reverence in its place for so many of the movements in this country.

What does today mean in the history of this country?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, what today shows, Ayman, is something that the founders really felt deeply about emotionally, the founders of this country.

And that is that the person who does peaceful protest is contributing as much to this country as a person who serves as president. They wanted a new country that was different from the dictatorships of Europe. They wanted to learn from our mistakes. They felt that the critic is our friend.

Therefore, when someone like John Lewis, for instance, 1963 and 1965, was marching and showing America its flaws, President Kennedy and President Johnson responded. After Birmingham, the violence there in '63 and Selma, the violence that almost killed John Lewis in 1965, Kennedy and Johnson, who were presidents who were much too slow, but who had empathy and a strong moral sense, they said, what we need is a Civil Rights Act to make sure that everyone in this country can use public facilities.

We need a Voting Rights Act to protect the rights of everyone, black or white, to vote. That all works when you have got a president with that kind of moral sense and empathy. We lack that nowadays.

All Donald Trump sees peaceful protest as is a way of sort of hauling out the old Richard Nixon-George Wallace playbook from 1968. Your lives and your safety are in danger, and I am the only one who can protect you.

I don't think that's going to work.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, and this is a president who's also, it doesn't appear, recognizes he is the current serving president. Anything that is happening now is happening under his watch, not that of Joe Biden's.

BESCHLOSS: Right. Absolutely.

MOHYELDIN: And it seems to have been lost on him.

Let me play for you guys. Trump going after Biden. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists and agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens.

If the radical left takes power, they will apply their disastrous policies to every city, town and suburb in America. Just imagine if the so-called peaceful demonstrators in the streets were in charge of every lever of power in the U.S. government.


MOHYELDIN: Aisha, Trump didn't use those words when he was talking about the protesters in Michigan with the rifles taking over state capitols.

What is Trump trying to do with the words that he put out last night?

MILLS: Well, what Trump is doing is, Trump is invoking the history of America.

I get anxious when we kind of suggest that the only reason that we have gotten anywhere is because black people decided to be -- to know their places and be kind and warm in a way that made white people feel like they weren't threatened.

The history of this country and the United States becoming the United States ultimately was based on violence that was predicated by white people. It's not a surprise that we're seeing Donald Trump say what he says, that we're seeing militias literally travel across state lines with guns to protect the police.

It's because, when you think of, how did we even get free from England, it wasn't because people just sat around and prayed and had silent protest. It's because they fought. It's because the history of this country and every revolution in some way has been based on, frankly, the white people who were in power trying to use excessive force to quell folks.

Power has been used against black people since the beginning of time. White folks in the Confederacy fought and were violent to try to get their point across.

This is not a situation, I think, that we can continue to dismiss in our history where violence came from and not acknowledge that, as Christina just said, black people, despite it all, have tried to step off and be the bigger people and say, wait a minute, we're going to use our voices, we're going to use the levers of democracy and our vote to try to make gains here, we're going to try not to be as violent as you all were, and to follow that model.

But what we're seeing, I always remind us, with Donald Trump, he's just a symptom of a system that existed long before him. He is playing off of fears that were already there. He is inciting a part of our history, literally the founding of this nation, that is so true in the hearts of so many people and certainly in our land.

He's just lifting all of those things up. So, in the moment, we need to get rid of him. He's a bad actor and a disaster and a wannabe dictator. But let us not forget that America isn't the roses that sometimes the history books want to make it out to be, and that we are in this constant struggle of trying to figure out how to move forward.

And I want us to also be reminded that it is black people who are constantly being called upon to be superhuman in the way that we show up, in the way that we handle our emotions. When it's OK for other people to just get mad and go wilding out, for some reason, we have to muster more dignity, even when we did nothing wrong and are shot in the back and paralyzed, and still being handcuffed to a bed, right, can't move, being handcuffed to a bed.

We're supposed to come up with some sense of more dignity, when, in fact, our history shows that violence has just been foundational to this country. And I hope that we can move beyond the violence, but let's not pretend that it is something new that only black people are getting anxious about and participating in. That's just false.

MOHYELDIN: All right, Aisha Mills, Christina Greer, and Michael Beschloss, thank you all for starting us off this hour. I appreciate your perspectives.

I want to dig in further into a major part of this story. That is the protests sweeping through professional sports leagues in this country. It obviously started with the NBA and WNBA boycotting games. The NBA playoffs, they are set to resume tomorrow.

In the middle of all of this, a viral moment this week. Watch as former NBA player Kenny Smith, now a TV analysts for TNT, walked off set in solidarity with the players.


KENNY SMITH, HOST, "INSIDE THE NBA": And, for me, I think the biggest thing now is to kind of -- as a black man, as a former player, I think it's best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight, and figure out what happens after that.

I just don't feel equipped to be here.



MOHYELDIN: Kenny Smith joins me live when we are back in 30 seconds. Don't go anywhere.


MOHYELDIN: All right, we're back with Kenny Smith, co-host of TNT's "Inside the NBA" and a former NBA player playing for 10 years with various teams.

Kenny, it's great to have you with us. Quite the week for everybody in this country.

Let me start by asking you, sir, what was going through your mind when you decided to walk off the set.

SMITH: Well, the games had been canceled. We found out earlier that day.

I think, as an American, as a black American, you feel a lot of different emotions that are gone through, through this time and through the pandemic and through social injustice in general.

And I thought the players had made a monumental statement about the injustice that they were feeling with inside the bubble. And I thought the best thing, instead of this being a talking head on television that night, was to support them, and support that, because I did believe that it was important to point.

So I joined the march, so to speak, and allowed them to have that opportunity. Then it gave me an opportunity to hear what they were thinking as well, and not just comment on some things that I wasn't 100 percent in accuracy of.

MOHYELDIN: I'm sure you're aware it obviously triggered a nationwide conversation, you, the players, everybody else.

We now know that the playoffs are going to resume tomorrow. Do you think it is the right move? What's your opinion on it?

SMITH: Well, I think, overall, the move actually does is, it shows that there's a unified power within the community of sport.

There are so many things that are related to that the sport touches, from television revenue, to ancillary revenue, to the endorsements, to sponsorship, far beyond anything that you could have ever imagined, even from a popcorn vendor.

So everyone is touched. And who drives that force in the NBA is predominantly African-American men, who are the wealthiest men, if you put them collectively together, in the world.

So, at times, they don't realize, and, at times, we haven't realized the voice that we have. And I think yesterday was -- the other day was an indication of what kind of voice you could have if you move in unison, because it affects so many people in so many ways.

And I don't think it's -- I think it's more than racism. I think it's a war on humanity. And this is how you can get into a negotiation to have a more humane and humanitarian atmosphere that we can all live in.

MOHYELDIN: It was probably just a generation ago -- and you just touched on this point -- that most people in this country would have said that the power in these leagues lies with either the TV companies, the owners of these teams.

Very few would have thought that it was the players who had this kind of power to set the tone, set the agenda for a national discussion. How would you assess the response from the team owners over the past couple of days?

SMITH: Well, I think that the -- we all realize, I think they all realize that it is not the ownership group.

It is a collective group of great men inside their league that make the league have the engine of the league. And so -- and that's those players. And their ability to perform well generates all of them all the success that they have.

And I think that they understand that. But, more importantly, I think ancillary, everyone around it, now ow everyone understands the value of what the voice could be. And I think, as an American citizen, and as a black person, that's your first obligation, is to be heard first.

And then your job is your secondary. Your home, you're American, being black American, your home, and then your job. And that's what the players let that their voice is very loud, and it affects a lot of people.

And this is the first time that I have seen -- and I don't speak for all black people at all. I speak for the circle that I'm in and the people that touch me, but it's the first time I have heard people say, well, hey, what do you actually want?

Like, before people just did things.


SMITH: Now they ask you what they want. And so that's why that voice is super important.

MOHYELDIN: OK, so let me ask you this. And you're certainly more plugged in to the league, the players.

As I mentioned, the playoffs are resuming tomorrow. What have you learned about that decision in terms of how they got to it? What role did superstars like LeBron James play? Michael Jordan reportedly serving as the voice of reason between the two parties here.

Do you have any insight in terms of how people got to that decision to resume play?


This doesn't start with -- this is not recent. You know how it started? Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This is a legacy of guys that have -- Oscar Robertson -- who have brought this into the forefront. Jackie Robinson.

So we understand what it is now today and how to apply it differently in a mechanism now that you can be heard around the world in less than five seconds.

So, it didn't start with LeBron James. It doesn't end with him. It doesn't start with Michael Jordan. It started with a long legacy of great Americans before us, black Americans, who really put down a path for us to understand how to do this.

And we shook the world in terms of -- they shook the world. And I was -- like I said, I just wanted to join the march, and understand that, as a black American, it feels like, at times, everyone else skips a process, skips a step. But we fought we fight for the flag.

I have family members that have been in the military, police force. We have -- I have family members that fight for the Bible. I have family members that do all the things. And we have always had to be inclusive to every race, gender and creed. And, at times, we weren't included. And we're not included.

MOHYELDIN: Let me get your thoughts -- and I don't want to ask you to become political. But I do want to play for you something Doc Rivers said earlier this week in response to Republican fear-mongering at the RNC. Take a listen to this.


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.

It's amazing to me why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.


MOHYELDIN: You talked about members in your family serving this country. Kenny, I'm curious to get your thoughts about Doc Rivers.

SMITH: Well, I think Doc Rivers has a great point and a great opinion.

But, for me, it's not Democratic or Republican at this point. It's about -- it's about humanity, because we have all -- we could go through history and say, on both sides, that there have been some systematic racist things -- racism things that are done on both sides and parties, and we could point to that.

But what are we going to do about that? And I think, at times, even our president at times takes a little bit too much credit for the seriousness of what he thinks is going on.

There is no -- no one believes that he started this or he's going to end this. But because you're able to have it, a dialogue of, oh, more employment, or you're able to make great business deals, it's still enabled -- when you're enabling certain behaviors in terms of racist behavior, then it outweighs anything else.

So, there's only three words that really could make, I think, as Americans, and even -- especially black Americans, make us feel good, is like, black lives matter. If the president said -- came out and said black lives matters, how much of a difference would that make?

If he says, you know what, there have been systematic things that have, for genders and race of people in this country, that we need to change, regardless of that, then we could look at all candidates in a singular point of view about their political views, and not their character.

Now everyone is judging everyone on character. So, sometimes, someone who might be more equipped could get lost in this, because we're looking at character, instead of the actual view.

And what I feel is, I know people that do that, that enable.


SMITH: And it just feels like he's enabling people who have a vicious viewpoint to actually have a voice.

MOHYELDIN: Kenny, final word. Are you back to work tomorrow?

SMITH: The players are back, and I'm back.

I watch with them. I stand with them. And I stand with everyone here and I'm back tomorrow.

MOHYELDIN: And we are all very lucky to have your voice back in the mix.

Kenny Smith, thank you so much for joining us this evening. I appreciate your time.

SMITH: Thank you.

MOHYELDIN: All right, coming up, I have a special guest who is trying to defeat Donald Trump from within the Republican Party.

And, later, my live interview with a former Trump Organization vice president speaking out tonight.


MOHYELDIN: Now to the GOP counterforces that push back against Trump throughout the RNC, a remarkable cascade of public defections by longtime Republicans all week long. It was hard to miss them, headlines popping up day after day, undermining MAGA supporters' attempt to show a unified front.

You had 100 or so ex-John McCain staffers endorsing Joe Biden. Then you had a group of top GOP national security officials declaring Trump unfit for office, all of that part of what some observers say is an unprecedented flight from the GOP.

Joining me now is Jennifer Horn, former chair of the New Hampshire GOP, now with The Lincoln Project, out with a new op-ed in the "USA Today," writing, the RNC left her overwhelmed with dismay, and Bill Kristol, director of Defending Democracy Together.

Great to have both of you with us this evening.

Jennifer, let me begin with you.

Obviously, as a Republican, did the RNC do anything to change your view of the party and this president?

JENNIFER HORN, FORMER CHAIR, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, first of all, thank you for having me tonight. It's great to be with everybody.

But, unfortunately, no, absolutely not. What we saw unfold for the past -- this past week at the RNC convention was just sort of a confirmation of everything that we know Donald Trump to be, whether it was the racist dog whistles, the positioning women as accessories to the president, the constant barrage of lies and mistruths and misleading.

What happened at the RNC this week was that they made -- the Republican Party themselves made the clearest possible contrast between Donald Trump and the decency and steady leadership of Joe Biden.

They made the argument for him, unfortunately.

MOHYELDIN: Jennifer, what alarmed you the most about this week? You mentioned some of the those issues in terms of how we talked about or how he used women as accessories to his administration, the dog -- the racist dog whistles.

What stood out for you this week that would make you have serious reservations?

HORN: Well, I have to say, I came into this with serious reservations.


HORN: I have had serious reservations since before Donald Trump was elected, frankly.

But the president's speech itself, a lot of people talked about how he seemed more restrained or that he was somehow -- that he was trying to stay on script, trying not to offend, for example, suburban women, the voters that we know he needs. He just can't stop himself. He can't avoid it.

For me, what was so distressing was to watch people like Nikki Haley, an accomplished, intelligent woman, have to stand there and kowtow to an aggressive, dangerous misogynist just in order to hold her position in the party, just in order to have her place there on stage.

And as long as this is what is required of women in the Republican Party, they're going to continue to leave in droves. And anybody who thinks that they're not is not being honest with themselves.

MOHYELDIN: Bill, speaking of leaving in droves, the stampede from what we saw this week, it was clearly timed for the RNC.

The real question now is that it certainly drew a lot of headlines. Every morning, as I said, we were waking up to more and more defections, so to speak. How much impact did it have and will it have come November 3, you think?

BILL KRISTOL, FORMER EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, hard to know, but Biden's ahead by, what, eight, nine, 10 points in the polls.

And some four or five six of those points are, by definition, since we know what happened in 2016, are Trump 2016 voters who have decided they don't want a second term for Donald Trump. And a lot of them are independents and Republicans who, for various reasons, just can't stand the thought of another four years.

They made a bet. They took a gamble. They didn't like Hillary Clinton. For whatever reason, they went with Trump. Republican Voters Against Trump, that's our group -- and Jennifer is fabulous, I think, at The Lincoln Project too -- people really -- decent people thought, you know what, he's not great, there are things about him I don't like, but he will grow a little in office, people will check him, he will respect the guardrails, he will be impressed to be in the White House and the Oval Office.

And all that hasn't happened. And people now who've worked for Donald Trump -- Elizabeth Neumann, who made a bit of a splash this week, came out with a wonderful testimonial, a pro-life woman who had voted for Trump in 2016, worked in the Department of Homeland Security, did her best, just why she really thinks you cannot, we cannot afford, we cannot afford four more years of Donald Trump.

And it gets into that terrific interview you just did with Kenny Smith. I mean, it really is about character, I find. I don't know if Jennifer finds this too. It's less about discrete issues. People don't like him on particular aspects of what he's done, obviously.

But people have seen this character. They see the divisiveness it's causing the country. They see the lying. They see the use of the White House for his own personal and political ends. And they just think, it's been a rough -- it's rough already. What would another four years of this be like?

So, I think it is about decency and character.

MOHYELDIN: There may be some discouraging news for both of you guys, which is the base of the GOP, in terms of his support, seems to suggest, according to Gallup, that 90 percent of Republicans still approve of President Trump.

That's the new Gallup poll there from July 30 to August 12 among Republican voters.

Does that imply, Bill, that while many high-profile and experienced GOP figures are against Trump, the base is still with him?

KRISTOL: Most of it is.

I mean, Jennifer and I met -- I was thinking about this when I heard we were going to be on together. What, almost two years ago, in New Hampshire, I flew up and we tried to see what we could do to get Republican elected officeholders in Washington to come out and check Trump.

HORN: Yes.

KRISTOL: And then we tried to find someone to challenge Trump in the primaries. And a couple people came forward, but it didn't go anywhere, because, unfortunately -- and this is very depressing for both people like Jennifer and me who have been Republicans for quite a while -- I mean, the party has sold its soul to Donald Trump.

But if six, 7, eight percent of the Trump 2016 voters defect, Trump will lose. Then there's a whole fresh discussion to have about the future of the Republican Party.

But to see these people who should know better, what about -- people two weeks ago, I think you asked a couple of Republican senators, could he use the White House for the convention?

HORN: Right.

KRISTOL: I think John Thune, the number two Republican in the Senate, said, well, no, that would be ridiculous.

Has anyone said a word this week? Has anyone said a word when you watch this Third World-type spectacle taking place at the White House? So that is depressing about the Republican Party.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, we will certainly see what happens in the future of the Republican Party, when you have people like Nikki Haley vying for positions in it.

Bill Kristol, Jennifer Horn, thank you both for joining us this evening. I appreciate your time.

Coming up, I'm going to talk to a former White House ethics chief who says that much of what transpired this week at the RNC might have been illegal.

And still to come, my live interview with a former Trump Organization vice president.


MOHYELDIN: Democrats today targeting a top Trump official, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, announcing contempt proceedings, accusing him of not complying with a subpoena, as they probe his -- quote -- "transparently political misuse of State Department resources."

It is the second time this week that Democrats are blasting Pompeo, earlier saying he misused tax dollars with a partisan RNC speech that he delivered while on an official trip to Jerusalem, that speech part of a larger controversy around the RNC.

Ethics experts say that Trump spent the week exploiting the office of the presidency in ways no president in either party has ever done, culminating, of course, in Trump's RNC speech on the South Lawn of the White House, turning the property into a political prop.

The former White House ethics chief for George W. Bush invoked the Hatch Act, supposed to prevent federal employees from taking part in partisan politics, saying -- quote -- "Almost the entire RNC convention was a Hatch Act violation."

That statement was from Richard Painter. His new book, "American Nero," is out now.

Good to have you with us, Richard. Always a pleasure to get your thoughts on this.

Let's start with the basics. Is Trump's RNC speech and ethics violation, from your perspective?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, the president's speech from the White House definitely is a violation, not because he violated the Hatch Act, but everybody else at the White House who participated in that event, if they are federal employees -- that includes Jared and Ivanka and all the White House staff -- they violate the Hatch Act if they participate in partisan political activities on the White House grounds.

And we have never had a president have any political events at the White House, public political events. This is the first time that we have ever seen this. And everybody who was there who is a White House employee violated the Hatch Act merely by showing up.

And then, of course, we have Secretary Pompeo's speech and the rest of it. This is an unmitigated disaster. This entire convention has been nothing but Hatch Act violations frontwards and backwards.

MOHYELDIN: And let me just get your thoughts on something "The L.A. Times" pointed out, which was that Presidents Carter and Presidents Reagan, both of them -- excuse me -- they spoke from the East Room and the Oval Office, respectively, when they announced that they would run for reelection.

Is that different to what we saw from Trump's RNC speech?

PAINTER: Because that is just an announcement that they are going to run for reelection, and we have had presidents announce that they're not going to run election. President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not run for reelection.

That's information that the American people are entitled to know. That's very different than a convention speech, which is partisan political activity. And if any White House staff show up at such an event on the White House grounds, they're violating the Hatch Act, just as Kellyanne Conway did when she was attacking Joe Biden on the front lawn of the White House.

MOHYELDIN: One of the criticisms has been that the Hatch Act doesn't necessarily have a lot of teeth to it. At least, that is according to one State Department official I spoke to earlier in the week.

What consequences are there for these types of ethics violations that some say are more norms than laws?

PAINTER: This is a law.


PAINTER: And this is a law that must be complied with. The presumptive penalty is firing.

And that is why, this week, I and Professor Claire Finkelstein from the University of Pennsylvania, the two of us filed a Hatch Act complaint against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo because of his address from Jerusalem during a diplomatic mission, where he's using Jerusalem, the Old City, as a backdrop for a speech.

He's referring to the president's initiatives to move the embassy in Jerusalem. He is clearly mixing a diplomatic mission with a political speech, taping it in Jerusalem. He could have taped that in the United States. The speech was probably written before he even left the United States.

And he did that in order to use that backdrop, the Old City of Jerusalem, to win an election for the president. This is a violation of the Hatch Act, very clearly.

So, what happened? Well, Professor Finkelstein and I filed the complaint. I received the notice today from the Office of Special Counsel that they're investigating it. But all they can do is conclude there's a violation. The president has to make a decision. Is he going to tolerate violations like this?

And, apparently, Donald Trump's already made that decision.


PAINTER: He not only tolerates them. He encourages them.

MOHYELDIN: All right, Richard Painter, I always appreciate your insights. Thanks for joining us this hour, Richard.

PAINTER: Thank you very much.

MOHYELDIN: All right.

Next, I'm going to talk to a former Trump Org vice president, as legal pressures swirl around Trump himself.

Stay with us.



TRUMP: We had a D from the Better Business Bureau, a D.

You know what? That's a kill for you. You call someone up, we're going to sue you. An A. Got the D removed.

Did you know we were rated D?


MOHYELDIN: Wow. That was a newly revealed video from four years ago, when Trump was running for president facing a civil lawsuit over Trump University, with former students accusing him of fraud.

"Mother Jones" published the video this week from a source who sued Trump. And what you actually heard in that clip is a window into Trump's thinking about this, how he operates, using the threat of lawsuits to beat back criticism, foreshadowing his own approach as president in this country, where he has threatened critics and opponents, both real and imagined, with lawsuits.

Joining me now is Barbara Res, an expert on the Trump Organization. She was an executive vice president at Trump's construction company, working on Trump Tower.

Good to have you with us, Barbara. Welcome back to THE BEAT.

I'm curious to get your thoughts on this tape. Does this tape match your knowledge of Donald Trump from your experiences with working for him?


Number one, who knows if it was a D and who knows if he was an A. He may have made that up.

But as far as the idea that he would go and sue somebody to win whatever he needs to win, and increase his standing, or intimidate them to change their mind, that's something -- that's very commonplace. He's done that many times.

MOHYELDIN: There's a clip on the "Mother Jones" tape where actually Trump seems shocked, not that this is actually happening, but that he personally is being sued.

I want to play it for you.


TRUMP: Well, there's a reason for a corporation. Isn't there something you can do about it?

DANIEL PETROCELLI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: You're the only reason why this case is going on.

TRUMP: You know, I've got hundreds of cases, and I never get sued. I don't even get sued.

PETROCELLI: Because they are saying you are personally involved in making false -- in making false statements.


MOHYELDIN: It seems he's agitated that he's being -- personally being sued here.

Trump suggests that he usually is insulated, and that he insulates himself from these types of lawsuits. What do you think about that?

RES: Well, he has a perception of law that's very interesting. He sort of writes the law as he goes along.

And he does have this idea that he can hide behind a corporation, absolutely. And he picks and chooses what he does when he hides behind them. Like, when he's -- I have a particular experience in my dealing with him where he didn't want to be involved, because something was going on with the corporation that was bad.

But with the corporations that went bankrupt, he's bragging about how he played the game and he gamed the system. So it's -- he has this notion that he can do whatever he wants with his own standing in a corporation.

MOHYELDIN: There's no doubt that...


MOHYELDIN: Sorry. Go ahead. You wanted to add something?

RES: I was just going to say, that must have killed him.


MOHYELDIN: Yes, I was going to say, speaking of something that also might have gotten under his skin, the ratings from last night, because we all know that Trump is obsessed with how things rate whenever he is speaking.

And he tweeted about it this morning, obviously. Trump's reaction to the fact that Biden had better ratings than the president last night, give us your insight into how he might react to that news.

RES: Well, I -- he will try to deny it, for one thing. He might try to say that it was reported by the fake news. That's another thing.

And I don't think he would ever acknowledge that. I don't think he would admit to it. I think he would deny it. But how is he reacting? Oh, he hates it. He hates it, because he does not live in reality. He lives in Trump world.

And to him, this election is sewn up, and then he's -- everybody loves him. He's got all these notions. So...

MOHYELDIN: Yes, I was going to say, it immediately conjures back that, obviously, press conference after inauguration, in which Sean -- excuse me -- Sean Spicer came out and tried to suggest that the inauguration crowd size was larger than what we're seeing.

Let me play this for you. Last night, during his speech, Trump pointed to the White House. He bragged. Let -- watch.


TRUMP: The fact is, I'm here.


TRUMP: What's the name of that building?


TRUMP: But I will say it differently. The fact is, we're here, and they're not.


MOHYELDIN: Your thoughts about that?

RES: It sort of plays on the same thing I just said.

He has this notion that he won legitimately, which is -- everybody knows now that he did not win legitimately -- and that the Americans are behind him, and that he's the king. He thinks he's the king. And that's the kind of notion that he has, that we won, we did it, we will do it again.

Meanwhile, it was, he lost, in my opinion, and he won only with manipulations.


Speaking of, we're going into the final stretch here of the elections, about 66, 65 days out. How do you think he will react in these final couple of weeks and months, if you will, before the election?

If you were to look at the polling, if you would look at the ratings, if you would look at the pressure he's under politically, the number of Republicans that came out this week and distance themselves, voting for Joe Biden, instead of the president, how do you think he will lash out or behave under this type of stress that we haven't seen from him before, with all -- even with the politics of what we're seeing in the country, the protests, the pressure?

RES: I think the lies are going to be more outrageous.

I think he's going to put a tremendous amount of pressure. Somebody mentioned the pressure that he put on Nikki Haley to make the ridiculous speech that she did. That will be all over the place. Everyone that is tied into him, that is in his area will be out there touting his nonsense, telling his lies.

As far as Biden's concerned, he will have anyone and everyone looking for any kind of research on Biden, and saying things, and he's got -- under the counter, he's got people saying he is a pedophile. And he's got all his -- this is all, in my opinion, from the Trump campaign, from the Trump people.

And it'll get uglier and uglier.

MOHYELDIN: And, of course...

RES: And...


MOHYELDIN: Yes, I was going to say, and, of course, even with that, a lot of people are saying you he's also trying to sow doubt about the integrity of the elections by raising doubts about mail-in voting and what have you.

RES: Yes.

MOHYELDIN: So, trying to undermine the integrity of that process as well.

Barbara Res, always a pleasure. Thank you very much. Always come back to THE BEAT. We love having you on.

We will be right back.


MOHYELDIN: All right, that does it for me.

THE BEAT will be back here on Monday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

And, of course, you can catch me on Monday at 3:00 p.m. right here on MSNBC.



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