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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, August 31, 2020

Guests: Mark Thompson, Susan Del Percio, Daniel Lippman, Jackie Speier, Neal Katyal, Mara Gay


Congresswoman Jackie Speier speaks out. Joe Biden goes on the attack, blaming President Trump for inciting violence. Melania Trump's former friend writes a book filled with alleged bombshells about Ivanka. A major legal rejection is delivered to Michael Flynn and Bill Barr's DOJ. The postmaster general is set to be subpoenaed for hidden documents.


YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT everybody. I'm Yasmin Vossoughian, in for Ari Melber.

We're going to begin tonight with Joe Biden on the attack against the president, blaming the president for inciting violence, Biden delivering a scathing speech in Pittsburgh, saying Trump's failing leadership is making things worse, not better.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership in this country. He can't stop the violence, because, for years, he's fomented it.

Does anyone believe they will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is reelected? We need justice in America. We need safety in America. We're facing multiple crises, crises that, under Donald Trump, have kept multiplying.

Donald Trump failed to protect America. So, now he's trying to scare America.


VOSSOUGHIAN: So, the speech is a direct response to Trump, who blames recent violence on Democratic-run cities, going all out on a fear campaign down the homestretch of this 2020 race.

Biden highlighting that violence in some cities is happening under the current president's watch. This forceful rebuke comes as Trump defies the governor of Wisconsin and will go to Kenosha, Wisconsin, tomorrow, where, one week ago, a 29-year-old father of three children was shot seven times in the back. He was unarmed.

Trump has no plans to meet with the family or the families of the victims of a deadly shooting that took place during protests there as well. He will, however, meet with local law enforcement and business owners impacted by this unrest.

All of this after deadly violence broke out in Portland over the weekend, a man shot and killed amid clashes between Black Lives Matter protesters and pro-Trump activists.

Trump fanning the flames on Twitter, criticizing the mayor and praising his supporters who showed up just before the violence began, calling them -- quote -- "patriots."

Today, Biden, in contrast to Trump, condemned the violence.


BIDEN: Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting.

None of this is protesting. It's lawlessness, plain and simple. And it must end. Fire are burning. And we have a president who fans the flames, rather than fighting the flames.


VOSSOUGHIAN: All right, joining me now, Reverend Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC's "POLITICS NATION" and president of the National Action Network, Mara Gay, "New York Times" editorial board member, and Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian Jon Meacham. His latest book is "His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope."

Welcome to you all this evening. Thanks for joining us, guys.

Rev, I want to start with you on this one.

As I was watching Joe Biden speak earlier today, there was a moment that he paused, and he actually looked at the camera and he said, we need to heal. And I asked myself, is this what Americans need to hear right now, when we are 60-some-odd days away from an election?

You see protests happening across this country. You see black men losing their lives amidst all of this. You see protesters losing their lives as well. Do you feel as if this is what Americans need to hear right now?

REV. AL SHARPTON, HOST, "POLITICS NATION": I feel that, in order to heal, we must deal with the injury.

And the injury is the problem of policing in this country. And we cannot get healing unless we get the poison out that makes it unequal in how policing is executed. When you have a city that -- Kenosha, where, in one city in one week, you have a young black man shot in his back seven times, unarmed, not a threat to police, and he's killed and -- he's not killed, but he's permanently damaged, shot in the back seven times.

And in the same week, a young white 17-year-old after curfew is walking down the street with an AR-15 and kills two people, and can leave the scene and go all the way back home in Illinois across the state line. That's the injury.

So I agree with the healing. But let's not heal the reaction. Let's heal the injury. And that's the imbalance. I think that the president has been part of the injury. The fact that he wants to not deal with the issue and distract us by demonizing protesters, when there has even been evidence some of the protesters were white supremacists that were acting like they were part of the Black Lives Matter protests.

We had tens of thousands of people march in Washington Friday, not one incident, not one. Those are patriots. Those that are standing up for new laws, those are in the Martin Luther King condition.

What we have seen from Mr. Trump, the president, is one that wants to try and distract and exacerbate tensions. And we shouldn't bite the bait.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Mara, let me jump off with the rev just said here. And we are going to get into the differences in the way folks are treated amidst all of this, when you're talking about the shooter who shot those two men in Kenosha, Wisconsin, vs. the other man who was shot seven times in the back, the African-American man.

We're going to get into that, but I want to talk about the injury and what we heard from Joe Biden earlier today. Do you feel as if, as the rev put it, injury, that Biden appropriately and effectively addressed the injury in this country, and how we need to change it and heal it and move forward?


I have to say that I think there's a huge opportunity for Democrats in particular here to redefine this conversation. Instead of speaking in the U.S. vs. them in terms that the president has laid out, which has really divided this country along lines of race, what the Democrats, I believe, should do and, frankly, what all Americans, I think, should do is start talking about what good policing and what competent and respectful policing should look like in every community.

And I think we need to give everyone an opportunity to sit at the table and to have respect, be respected and respect others. I think that would go a long way, frankly, to stop Republicans from somehow co-opting a -- quote, unquote -- "pro-police platform," when I really think that we're not making police officers or the people they police, that they are supposed to serve, any safer by stoking divisions.

The Republicans have been stoking those divisions for years now. And I think that Joe Biden could go much farther to say, hey, wait a second, these are police officers who should be respected. They need to respect community.

This is not an either/or situation. No one needs good policing, fair, respectful, policing better than communities of color, who are specifically living in high-crime areas. And in New York City, we have a really big problem right now with crime this summer.

And the fear is that there may be a slowdown. That's something that the police officers and the unions have denied. And I can't tell you one way or another that that's going on or not, but there needs to be a basic level of respect from police officers who are public servants, who serve the public, to every single citizen, no matter your race, and that doesn't exist right now.

VOSSOUGHIAN: I'm wondering, Mara, why does this have to be such a black-and-white conversation.

Jumping off of what you just spoke about, why can it not be a president visiting Kenosha, Wisconsin, if in fact, that's what he wants to do, when you have the governor and the mayor there saying, listen, don't come, you're just going to stoke more violence in the streets if you do come, but, nonetheless, going and meeting with the victims, and meeting with the families, along with meeting with police officers and business owners, as the president plans to do, but has no plans to meet with the families?

Because there are many parties involved in what is happening right now. And you have the president in a press conference just a couple of minutes ago saying, look, I could solve what is happening in an hour, if they let me. And that, to me, tells me this president doesn't understand how this is steeped in so much systemic, historical racism in this country that cannot be solved in one hour.

A lot of folks would want to solve this in an hour. If they could, they would have by now, but you can't, because it's not just about the violence that is taking place in the streets.

GAY: Well, Donald Trump isn't interested in solving this problem. He's interested in exploiting it for his own political gain. That's who he is. He's a racist.

And that's, frankly, what his platform is built on, is division. I think, in addition to policing, we do have a situation in this country right now where Americans are deeply suffering. And so you have very difficult conditions, high unemployment rate. You have a pandemic that's been devastating to American cities.

So -- and you also have the issue of gun violence, which has been going on for years. If the president really cared about the people in these communities, he would address each one of those issues and he would start by starting a real testing and tracing program in this country to save lives.

But that's not what we're seeing from him, because that's not where his interest is.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Let's play -- what we just heard the president.

Then I will have you all react to it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're trying to help cities. They are, in all cases, Democrat-run, but we're doing the best we can to help them without really much of a consent.

We'd like to have the consent. As an example, in Portland, we could solve that problem in approximately one hour, but the mayor refuses, perhaps for political reasons. I don't know why it's good for him to have a city that's falling apart.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Approximately one hour, Jon Meacham, he says right there that he could solve what's happening in Portland right now, in approximately one hour, again, underscoring what I just said, in that it seems as if this president doesn't actually understand what is driving what is happening in the streets of Portland.

And it's based on this sort of idea of law and order, this stance of the president is now taking 60 days away or so from the election in November. And many say it is reminiscent, Jon Meacham, of Richard Nixon back in 1968, when he was running for president.

I want to play a bit of sound of Richard Nixon back in 1968 vs. what we are hearing from Donald Trump now to show viewers just how similar their rhetoric is.


TRUMP: The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The forgotten Americans, the non-shouters, the non-demonstrators.

TRUMP: Republicans are the party of liberty, equality and justice for all.

We are the party of law and order.


NIXON: For those who say that law and order is the code word for racism, our goal is justice, justice for every American.


VOSSOUGHIAN: And it's interesting, Jon Meacham, because he also had this law and order platform back in 2016, saying that cities were distraught back then and they needed controlling. And that's when crime was at an all-time low in many cities across this country. So a lot of people didn't necessarily understand that platform at the time.

And when he was asked about why he was drawing from Richard Nixon back in 2016, here's what he said that was quoted in a "New York Times" article. He said: "I think that Nixon understood -- what Nixon understood is that, when the world was falling apart, people want a strong leader whose highest priority is protecting America first. The '60s were bad, really bad, and it's really bad now. Americans feel like it is chaos."

Again, I can only imagine that he's applying this same rhetoric, the same theme to what he is doing now.


In 1968, it did feel as though the country was falling apart. Dr. King was assassinated on April 4. Robert Kennedy was assassinated in the first week of June. Something like 45 Americans died every day in Vietnam, not wounded, died.

And at the end of that year, on Election Day, 1968, Richard Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey by the narrowest of margins, about a percentage point. But one of the things we have to remember is that George Wallace of Alabama, who had promised segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever when he'd become the governor of Alabama, won 13.5 percent of the popular vote, and carried five states in 1968 on a segregationist platform.

That means that 55 percent of the voting public voted for either Nixon or Wallace just a half-century ago. I used to think a half-century was a long time. As I get older, it feels closer and closer.

And one of the things that we have to remember is that this is a 400-year drama. It's not the work of an hour. And I just think we have a vernacular to talk about our presidential politics, that there's this candidate and this candidate, and they have competing visions.

This is not a -- this vernacular is really not commensurate with the moment, right? Donald Trump is not serious about solving these problems. He's just not. There's no evidence that he is. And that's not a partisan point. I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Republican. I have voted for candidates of both parties.

I live in the American South. I was raised in the American South. But does anyone really believe that Donald Trump is sitting, thinking deeply about questions of social justice, and legitimate questions of law enforcement and public order, which there are legitimate questions?

He's not a serious person. The tragedy of this moment in American life is that this unserious, self-centered person who is seeking to amass power for himself and for his family and for his supporters is intersecting with the most serious business we have as a country, which is the continuation, the offering of opportunity, and, as Reverend Sharpton was saying, the recognition of injuries done, so that we can deal with it.

We have a crisis in this country. And crisis, the original meaning of the word -- it comes from the Greek -- it meant the moment in a disease where a patient lived or died.

That's what this crisis is. And what is on the table now, what's hanging in the balance is our faith in the future. And I just -- I would say to every American, look at what Joe Biden said this afternoon. Look at what Joe Biden said at the convention.

Look at what Donald Trump says and tweets and just say, who is the more serious person to try to actually bring about justice coming down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream?

Joe Biden's not perfect, but Donald Trump is so fundamentally imperfect that it...

VOSSOUGHIAN: Not sure I can top that.

MEACHAM: ... shouldn't even really be all that close a call.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Jon Meacham always putting it in such a perfect way, though.

Joe Biden, as you say, may not be perfect, but you certainly, sir, have a way with your words.

Mara Gay, Reverend Sharpton, Jon Meacham, thank you to you all.

Rev, I'm going to see you back here in just about 20 minutes or so, so stick with me.

When we come back in just 30 seconds, everybody: Melania Trump's former friend writes a book filled with alleged bombshells about Ivanka. The chaos inside of the White House and more.

A special guest is going to join us.

Also, star athletes and musicians get emotional pushing for equal justice.

But, first, a major legal rejection for Michael Flynn and Bill Barr's DOJ. Neal Katyal is joining us.

And the postmaster general is about to be subpoenaed for hidden documents.

I'm Yasmin Vossoughian, and you're watching THE BEAT on MSNBC. We're back in 30 seconds. Don't go anywhere.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Welcome back, everybody.

A major legal rejection for Michael Flynn today, an appeals court denying Flynn's request to have his case thrown out immediately. Now it's up to the district court judge, who will likely schedule a hearing to decide if the Trump administration's request to throw out a case is in the public interest.

That judge had began to scrutinize the request to drop the case, which Flynn's lawyers opposed, leaving the DOJ to admit in response to questions from the court that A.G. Barr's decision to drop Flynn's case might have come from non-public information.

And here's what Barr had to say about the case earlier this month.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The case was sort of -- it didn't all add up, because the call on its face was a perfectly legitimate call for the incoming national security adviser to make.

They were saying they didn't believe he was -- that he thought he was lying at the time and various other facts like that about what the real purpose of the interview was. It was untethered to any legitimate investigative purpose.

Its sole purpose was to try to get him to lie.


VOSSOUGHIAN: All right, joining me now, U.S. -- is former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal.

Neal, good evening to you. Thanks for joining us on this.

I want you to clarify something for me here. As I was taking viewers through the top of this thing, at one point, you have the DOJ admitting in response to questions from the court that A.G. Barr's decision to drop Flynn's case might have come from non-public information.

What, in fact, are they referring to here?


I mean, there have been all sorts of shifting stories out of the Barr Justice Department. But I think today's decision really puts an end to all of this. It's a really bad day for Trump and a bad day for his Justice Department and a bad day for Michael Flynn.

I mean, it's ironic that Donald Trump is saying that he's going to keep us safe. He couldn't even keep Michael Flynn safe, and for good reason, because Flynn was asking to do something extraordinary here. He's asking to interrupt an ongoing criminal proceeding in which he pled guilty.

So, when you hear Barr say, oh, the evidence didn't add up or something, Flynn himself pled guilty, said: I did it.

He was the national security adviser. He was represented by all sorts of counsel. And for that reason, the Justice Department, which I used to work at, traditionally always opposes these kinds of motions to interrupt criminal proceedings, because, otherwise, every criminal defendant is going to try and do that.

And what, unfortunately, Trump has done is make the Justice Department bend to his will and side with people who are admitted criminals, just as kind of the Republicans on the Senate are now siding with Russia. And this is all about Russia.

The lies Flynn made were about his dealings with Russia.

VOSSOUGHIAN: It's incredible to me that this has taken place, because one feels as if, when they're looking at the office of the presidency, that the Justice Department should be a check and balance for the office of the presidency.

Do protections need to be put in place for future presidents, so as -- these sorts of things can no longer happen?

KATYAL: I'm so glad that you asked that, because I think the Justice Department traditionally does act independently and as a check to investigate executive branch wrongdoing. And that has been destroyed in this Justice Department.

And so it falls on the courts and today's decision, an 8-2 decision, a total rebuke of what Trump and his Justice Department have done. And these are not -- these are very centrist judgments. These are not like wild judges.

And they went out of their way to basically attack the author of the initial decision, who was actually someone who worked for Trump, and to say, this is just all wrong.

And so you see the courts pushing back. But you're absolutely right that I think our system has been built on some presumption of good faith, fair dealing by the president. And what he has done is spit on that.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Just quickly here, Neal, what happens to Flynn now? What's his trajectory?

KATYAL: So, it goes back to the trial court. I mean, Flynn can try and take the case to the United States Supreme Court, but I think it's going nowhere, and nowhere fast.

So I think it goes back to the trial court, where there will be an investigation by the judge, as is the right of the American people to know, why did this Justice Department do what it did for Michael Flynn, of all people, who is so closely allied with the president?

The whole notion of justice is that it's supposed to be blind, that it doesn't matter whether you're the friend's president (sic) or enemy. You get the same rules.

And what this episode shows -- and I think that's what the judge is trying to get at -- is, did that happen here? Almost certainly not.

VOSSOUGHIAN: All right, Neal, stay with me. I actually want to get you to weigh in on another story that's been making headlines today, the House Oversight Committee planning to subpoena Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, accusing him of ignoring the panel's demand for documents on mail delays and contacts with White House officials.

So that subpoena is scheduled to be served on Wednesday.

Want to bring in Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who sits on the Oversight Committee.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us on this. Really appreciate it.

I guess the basic question in here is, what documents is the House looking to gain from DeJoy?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): We want the background information about decisions made to shut off the sorting machines, to reduce overtime. We want records of his past actual calendar, so we can determine whether or not he was having political meetings, or was he having meetings with persons within the Postal Service to make these decisions?

VOSSOUGHIAN: It's interesting to me, because it seemed as, if after DeJoy's testimony, he wrote Carolyn Maloney and basically said -- I mean, I'm paraphrasing here -- but we're good, right? You have my testimony. You don't necessarily need these documents that you have demanded.

And, subsequently, she has turned around and said, no, no, no, we're going to subpoena you for these documents.

So, what do you think the likelihood is? How much are you going to have to fight, putting it bluntly, to get these documents from DeJoy? Because it doesn't necessarily seem like he's giving them up, and he wasn't forthcoming in the testimony that he gave.

SPEIER: So, I think it's absolutely imperative. And let me tell you why.

Americans throughout this country, regardless of their party affiliation, want the Postal Service to operate properly. And there is an effort under way to slow the mail. There's no question about it. I didn't receive documents for a board meeting that I was to attend. It took eight days for it to come from Oakland, California, to San Francisco.

There are 100 actual vacancies of carriers in the district here in the San Francisco Bay Area and 100 vacancies in the processing center. So, there are serious problems. I think they need to be actually investigated by the committee.

And, furthermore, I think we should expand it to ask questions about the actual search firm that didn't even have him on the list of candidates. Of the 212 candidates that were reduced to 50, that were reduced to 14, he was not one of them, until one of the members of the Board of Governors, one of President Trump's big fund-raisers, asked that his name be added to it.

So, I'd like to know what background information they had about DeJoy. We know full well that he has gross conflicts of interest, because he was the CEO of a company that is a contractor with the Postal Service. They're having a lot of financial difficulties right now, because two-thirds of their business comes from Amazon, and Amazon isn't providing them business.

Is he now trying to provide more business to this company in which he still has between $30 million and $70 million in stock?

VOSSOUGHIAN: Congresswoman, what are you expecting to achieve? What do you want from these documents and from Louis DeJoy, ultimately? We got 60 days until an election, an incredibly important election in this country that is going to be based a lot on this post office and what happens there with these mail-in ballots.

What are you wanting to achieve?

SPEIER: We want truth. That's all, pure and simple.

He wasn't able to give us the kinds of specific answers to many of the questions that document should support. Why do you cut out all overtime? Why do you shut down the sorting machines that are able to read the zip codes of 30,000 pieces of mail per hour that would take 30 people to do it for eight hours, if they had to just do one hour worth of that work?

So it's a very serious problem. And we have -- 80 percent of our veterans that get their medicines in the mail are also looking at it as a life-and-death issue. So this is not a game, and it's being played as a game. And it's like so many of the other federal agencies that this administration is manipulating for their own personal benefit, whether it's the CDC, the FDA, the intelligence community, and now the Postal Service.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Hey, Neal, we got 190 lawsuits across 43 states and the District of Columbia, issues like mail-in ballots, voter eligibility, voting deadlines, polling sites.

We could keep going here. What could happen with these lawsuits?

KATYAL: Well, I think the lawsuits -- and the congresswoman is exactly right -- these subpoenas are really important, because it's not just these agencies that Trump has corrupted.

Trump himself, it's his modus operandi to not turn over documents. I mean, we have been waiting years for his tax returns. We will hear that case tomorrow in the court of appeals. So they continually hide these documents, which makes it very hard to trust anything that's happening, particularly when you have delays like this at the Postal Service, which has worked fine for 200 years, until Trump's guy gets in and blows it in just a matter of weeks or months.

And I think the most important thing here is that the original Constitution, our founders, gave us a mechanism to deal with this. And I hate to invoke it, because it's extreme medicine. But they did allow Congress to have its own subpoena power, to even jail executive branch officials, including the postmaster general.

And, yes, that's the part of the original design of the Constitution. And maybe that's a weird thing to imagine. But Trump has made us get there. And it's certainly no weirder than having the person who lost the popular vote by three million votes be the president.

So if we want to play by original constitutional rules, I think the congresswoman is exactly right. And she's got all of the power herself, with her colleagues, in order to get to the bottom of this and get the documents.

VOSSOUGHIAN: I will say, in the last four years, it's not the first time...

SPEIER: If I can just add to that...

VOSSOUGHIAN: Yes, please go ahead.

SPEIER: Neal is absolutely right. Inherent contempt is something that was used by the Congress up until 1935. We have been loath to use it. I have been one of those proponents of using it, because this administration has gone out of its way to snub its nose at the House of Representatives in particular, in the obligation we have to look into what the administration is doing.

It is part of the powers given to the House and the Senate in the Constitution in Article 1.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Neal Katyal, thank you to you both. Fantastic to see you on this Monday evening.

And for more of Neal's insight, go to

Coming up, everybody, a lot more to cover here. Melania Trump's former friends speaks out on the Trump family and alleges a bombshell about her relationship with Ivanka.

But, first, Joe Biden in Pittsburgh on offense and saying he is not a -- quote -- "socialist," as progressives send out a warning. That's next.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Now to fears on the left over 2020 and growing concerns over Donald Trump's attempt to blame Democrats for violence and chaos.

Biden today punching back, saying Trump has -- quote -- "forfeited moral leadership and can't stop the violence because he fomented it," and mocking the president's attempt to portray him as a radical.

Watch this.


BIDEN: You know me. You know my heart. You know my story, my family's story.

Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?

I want a safe America.


VOSSOUGHIAN: So, that is the context for this bracing warning from leading progressive voice Michael Moore.

Back in 2016, Moore was one of the most prominent figures, as many of you know, I'm sure, on the left to predict Trump's rise. Now he is saying this -- quote -- "Someone needs to pull the fire alarm now."

Moore then pointing to new polling in his home state of Michigan, which Trump won back in 2016, that shows Trump up two points right now, Moore is not alone in his warning, though.

Former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod saying the Wisconsin protests could be a -- quote -- "gift to Trump."

Bill Maher saying this to my colleague Joy Reid:




MAHER: The same way I did four years ago at this time.


VOSSOUGHIAN: "I feel very nervous," as he said.

Joining me now, the host of the "Make it Plain" podcast, Reverend Mark Thompson, and Republican strategist and member of The Lincoln Project Susan Del Percio.

Welcome to you both, guys. Thanks for joining me this evening. Really appreciate it.

Mark, I'm going to start with you on this one.

As I said, Michael Moore over the weekend raising alarm bells. "Look here," as he tweeted this. "Look at these polls. It's happening again. It's 2016 all over again," basically saying Biden has to pull the progressive vote in. He's got to start going to the -- he's got to stop going to the center, stop going to the swing vote, and getting turnout from the progressive vote.

Where do you think we got to land on this thing? Where do you think Biden has to land on this thing?

MARK THOMPSON, "MAKE IT PLAIN": Well, all of the above. He's got to appeal to all of the above, which I think he's been doing, I think he's been trying to do.

There's always much more than can be done. But, I mean, there are some complications. This mail-in balloting issue is very worrisome. If we're saying to people to go ahead and figure out if you can get your ballots in now, mail them, that means we're assuming that a number of people have already made up their minds.

And that may very well be true. I respect Michael Moore, but, sometimes, when you say those types of things, they can be even more discouraging. We ought to be saying everything we can to encourage people that, if you would simply get out to vote, if you would do all you can to mail in your ballot now, if you can, pick it up now, take it in, in-person, which maybe even better than putting it in the mail, based on the other story you just had before this one, I think we just have to encourage people to do and do and do and act and act and act.

I think that's the best. And that goes for swing suburbia. And it also goes for progressives.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Susan, you got a lot of Democrats right now -- and I know that you are a Republican strategist in asking you this question, but you are a part of The Lincoln Project. So I think -- I think it's fitting.

You got a lot of Democrats right now, and folks like you that (AUDIO GAP) their hands watching Joe Biden, saying, he's got to get out there more. He has got to get out there more. They're seeing Donald Trump have a different press conference every single night, impromptu press conference, or now he's obviously on the campaign trail.

And this is where he likes to be, Donald Trump, is on the campaign trail in front of his supporters. So you saw Joe Biden today, this afternoon, giving his campaign speech. Seemed like he had a lot of positive reaction from a lot of folks that were watching it, but, nonetheless, is it enough? What does he need to keep doing at this point?

And how does he need to fight Donald Trump going forward?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first, he does need to get out there, but he should be doing it on his terms, not because Donald Trump said, you should be out there.

And what I mean by that is, one of the things that has been a big contrast, when you look at the two conventions, was how COVID-responsible the Democrats were, vs. the irresponsibility of the Republicans in sending a message to this country.

The reason why Donald Trump wants to go and go to major cities is because he wants to keep that conversation of that there's rioting in the streets, that America is not safe. It's not true. Yes, there are people out there, outside agitators, causing this problem.

But what Biden needs to do is talk about COVID and stay focused on that. And also to the point, as far as turnout goes, in 2016 -- and Michael Moore does make a good point. But, in 2016, Hillary Clinton underperformed in turnout Barack Obama by double digits in both Michigan and Wisconsin, where she met the numbers in Pennsylvania.

So the Democrats do have a map to start working today to get people to vote, if possible, today, but if not, to mail in their vote votes and really increase that turnout.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Mark, does Susan have a point here?

Because you had Joe Biden earlier today saying, yes, Americans are scared, Donald Trump, but they are scared of dying. They're scared of getting COVID. They're scared of putting their kids in school and having their kids get sick. They're scared of being in the streets and being shot and bad cops.

And he goes on and on and on. Does Joe Biden need to keep driving home the number of folks, of families, of brothers, of sisters, of mothers and fathers, 180,000-plus people that have now died in this country because of COVID, the millions of folks that have had the disease because of the way the Trump administration did not deal with COVID when it first came into this country?

THOMPSON: Needs to talk about every aspect of this disease and how it affects everyone in every way, economically, unemployment-wise. He's got to hit that.

And I think he did that today. His movements suggest that. Trump is just reckless. He wants to go out and be in places where no one is masking because he wants to prove that COVID doesn't exist. He thinks COVID is a hoax.

So, Joe Biden, I think, still needs to virtually do the things he's doing. Where he can go places that are safe, out in the open, maybe he can talk to people. He also needs to continue to emphasize not just the pandemic, but the police-demic that is ongoing as well.

And he talked about that today. He talked about people having fear of bad cops. One thing he can do by getting out there -- and I agree with Susan -- but he can get out there virtually. He can hold town halls with members of the community citizenry, those who are victims of both the pandemic and the police-demic, and have some serious, heartfelt conversations with them.

He and his very able running mate can do that immediately, and still keep everyone safe.

VOSSOUGHIAN: All right, Reverend Mark Thompson, Susan Del Percio, thank you to you both. Great to see you this evening.

Ahead, everybody, a new insider account of Melania Trump, revealing she's more like Trump than you might have thought.

But first: The Weeknd and others speak out for equal justice, as the cases in Wisconsin and Louisville continue to grip the nation. That is next.



QUESTION: Are you going to condemn the actions of vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse?

TRUMP: We're looking at all of it. And that was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw.

And he was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like. And he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we're looking at right now and it's under investigation.



VOSSOUGHIAN: That was moments ago, Donald Trump appearing to defend the alleged shooter in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Back with me, Reverend Al Sharpton.

Rev, I don't know how you're feeling hearing that, but I got to say it's pretty shocking to hear the president say something like that. Even after four years, I am shocked, to defend the actions of a 17-year-old man who killed two protesters, one of which was armed with a skateboard.

And the last time I checked, I don't think a SKATEBOARD COULD KILL someone. What did you make of the president's comments?

SHARPTON: It is the epitome of an insult to the intelligence of the American people for the president of this country to act like this young man that should not have been in the streets, by the way -- it was after the curfew.

He's walking down the street with an AR-15. Had he been a black kid on the other side of the city, he would have immediately, at best, been apprehended, because they were told it was a curfew.

But for him to act like a young -- one had a skateboard, one unarmed, and they're dead, and the president to come up with some mock defense or suggest we need to look into it, but could not at all deal with Jacob, who was uninjured -- since he wants to look at tapes, look at the tape of Jacob that had nothing in his hand, was no threat to anyone, that was shot in the back seven times.

This is why, tomorrow, his going to Wisconsin is a campaign stop. It's to try and act as though he's being proactive around something with law enforcement.

If he was serious, he would do what President Obama did during Ferguson. He would send the attorney any general in there, and the attorney general would tell all concerned, including the family of Jacob, that we're going to have a serious federal investigation.

That is why, as I said earlier, he has the -- you can't have healing without the injury. You have a bunch of people in the waiting room talking about healing each other, while you have the patient laying in the operating room hoping somebody would come and do surgery.

And he's being ignored.

VOSSOUGHIAN: It's like being an alcoholic and acknowledging you have a problem. You got to say, I am an alcoholic before you can actually address the problem and get better.

Rev, I think about this a lot. And you and I have had a lot of conversations about racial injustice in this country, because there's no better person to talk about it than with you.

And I wonder. There's no mile markers for change, because this is 400 years of systemic racism in this country, and there are so many folks that are distraught about what is happening in this country.

But what are the mile markers? What are the moments that we can look at and say, yes, change is on the horizon, something is happening, the hiring practices in police departments is changing, sensitivity training is happening in police departments, community involvement is moving forward, there are folks that are getting rid of the hate that they carry in their heart, that they have carried in their heart for centuries?

What are those mile markers?

SHARPTON: The first mile markers must be that we have to have equal protection under the law and have the right laws.

We have started going in that direction with the policing task force that President Obama and Biden set up that was totally over -- well, disbanded by the Trump administration. We have started going that way with consent decrees on cities that had a pattern of police abuse. We need to get back on that track.

We need to -- and also therefore pass to George Floyd Policing in Justice Act that the House of Representatives have already passed. McConnell needs to bring that to the Senate floor. That's what Friday's big march was about in Washington, and John Lewis' bill.

We have throughout American history made some steps forward and then was pushed back with a backlash. We are in the backlash that is personified by Mr. Trump.

We need to push past the backlash and go back on the road that was not perfect, and certainly was not as far as we needed to go, but at least it was headed in the right direction. We have gone on a detour that's dangerous for all, including police.

There are policemen that want to see this dealt with in a fair way, and not used as campaign props in Kenosha tomorrow.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Reverend Al Sharpton, thank you. I hope to see you in studio one day soon my friend.

And remember to catch the rev on "POLITICS NATION" weekends at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Great to see you, Rev.

Coming up, everybody: the tell-all from Melania Trump's ex-friend, the mood in the White House, how decisions get made, and why Trump is probably not happy about this book.

That's next.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Welcome back, everybody.

Melania Trump's former friend dropping a new tell-all book filled with alleged bombshells about the first lady, describing Melania Trump as someone who cannot be trusted.

The first lady's office saying the book is self-aggrandizing and not truthful.

Joining me now is Politico reporter Daniel Lippman, his latest, "8 Juicy Details From the New Melania Trump Tell-All Book."

VOSSOUGHIAN: Daniel, good to see you...


VOSSOUGHIAN: ... not at 5:00 in the morning, I got to say, wide awake.

Give me your big takeaways here on this, Daniel.

LIPPMAN: I think the biggest thing I learned was how much Melania and Ivanka Trump compete. They really don't like each other, as we saw last week at the convention.

Melania considers Ivanka almost trying to become first lady sometimes and even launched operation Block Ivanka to keep her out of that inauguration shot in 2017.

VOSSOUGHIAN: What also does she have to say about Melania's character in general in this book?

LIPPMAN: Yes, she says -- she says that Melania is just very private and has long come to terms that President Trump, her husband, is not going to be the best husband and partner.

They don't even like Valentine's Day. And there's also a sense that Donald Trump seems to ignore Melania. They aren't that close. They live in separate bedrooms often at the White House.

And it's -- she's kind of resigned to, boys will be boys.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Daniel, as you can tell, my kids are pretty upset about this book, because I'm sure a lot of folks can hear my kids screaming in the background, as I'm broadcasting from home.

So, my apologies to everybody on that. But they're super excited to read it.

Daniel Lippman, my friend, thank you, as always. Always appreciate seeing you.

And tomorrow, by the way, Rachel is joined by the author, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

We will be right back.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Welcome back, everybody.

One quick story before we go. I know it has been a painful year for a lot of Americans out there, but one couple was able to have a Supreme time this weekend, when RBG herself officiated their wedding.

Look at this photo. They are a very lucky couple to have a Supreme Court justice officiating their wedding. Despite the coronavirus, a lot happening at the Supreme Court, RBG made the time to do this.

Congratulations to the new couple and to Justice Ginsburg.

That does it for me. You can catch me tomorrow morning at 5:00 a.m. for "Morning Joe First Look."

"THE REIDOUT," Joy Reid, is up next.


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