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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, December 4, 2020

Guests: Rick Ross, Tommy Duncan, Michael Eric Dyson, Glenn Kirschner


Rick Ross speaks out on the election and his health care project. President Trump reportedly contemplates multiple pardons for friends and allies before he leaves office. Republican infighting in Georgia ahead of the run-off elections continues. Michael Eric Dyson discusses his new book.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin with quite a scene involving Rudy Giuliani. Remember, as Donald Trump's legal project dies out and also complicates the Republicans chances in Georgia, it's Trump and Giuliani who are keeping the former New York mayor in the news.


QUESTION: Mr. Giuliani, did you ask the president for a pardon?

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Oh, are you really going to ask me that? Of course, I didn't.

That's so ridiculous.

QUESTION: Have you committed any crimes that you would need to be pardoned for?


GIULIANI: That's a very insulting question.

QUESTION: Are you a crook?

GIULIANI: I did not ask the president for a pardon, and I have not committed any crimes.


MELBER: Mr. Giuliani's denial does not rule out whether he discussed this with President Trump, amidst reporting that the president is mulling pardons for up to 20 allies, with Republicans worrying about the prospect of an unprecedented string of pardons that they concede could be seen as an abuse of power, and thus backfire.

A political report I just mentioned includes names that do show why some Republicans are already getting nervous about this. Possible beneficiaries ranged from convicted felons like Paul Manafort, who Trump long claimed he barely knew before 2016, so why pardon him, to the eclectic visage you see there on the screen, the absurd concept of a celebrity pardon for Joe Exotic from the hidden Netflix show "The Tiger King."

This is real life.

The pardon debate has Republicans nervous because Trump has shown little concern for anything other than trotting out Giuliani to lie about the election since his loss. There's really been no other pro-Republican or pro-American plotting, as far as we can tell.

So, regardless of how this impacts democracy, the rule of law or the GOP's hold on the Senate. Donald Trump is mulling barreling ahead. Meanwhile, the legal team's efforts have been rejected by the courts, his lawyers forced to drop lawsuits after admitting under oath there was no voter fraud and no evidence. We have reported that.

And now we have hit a period where Giuliani himself is attacking a Republican legislature for letting down America, adding he's ashamed of them, stoking internal divisions heading into the critical Georgia runoffs.

Now, like it or not, presidents have broad pardon power. So, this particular Trump era battle, which you can see Republicans are increasingly nervous about, it boils down to judgment, not breaking rules or norms.

The rules authorize Trump to pardon anyone for federal crimes if he chooses to. But the president-elect is already warning that, even if it's allowed, the current president's actions could undermine the nation's standing around the world.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, it's -- it concerns me, in terms of what kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks at us as a nation of laws and justice.


MELBER: We're joined now by former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner and Michelle Goldberg from "The New York Times."

Good to see you both.

Glenn, given that this is allowed, what are your views of the point the president-elect makes, that there are other costs?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, Ari, we're going to be talking a lot about pardons, I fear, for the next couple of weeks and probably for the next 48 days, because it is likely to rain pardons.

We're hearing more and more reporting that Donald Trump is considering pardoning any number of people. And it raises so many questions about the pardon power. The first, I think most important thing to know -- and everybody has said this repeatedly, including me -- is that if you're granted a pardon, that generally extinguishes your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, such that you could be forced or compelled to testify, even if that testimony included things that incriminated you, because you can't be prosecuted for it.

But it's not quite that simple. It's more complex than that, because if you're granted a federal pardon, you could very well say, that's fine, but I may have committed state crimes. So, I could still be prosecuted...

MELBER: Well, let me steer you...

KIRSCHNER: Go ahead.

MELBER: Let me steer you, counselor, a little bit back to the question. I appreciate the Fifth Amendment privilege.

But I'm curious, bottom line, do you think it is a problem, even if allowed, that Donald Trump go forward with these type of pardons? And what do you think of saying, well, we showed Rudy Giuliani claiming that he has no interest in any of this?

Meanwhile, there's reporting, hard reporting, multiple sources saying they're talking about this for a lot of these people.

KIRSCHNER: Ari, ordinarily, it would be a political problem, but Donald Trump seems to be largely immune or unconcerned about political pardons, as do his Republican supporters, some might call them enablers in Congress.

MELBER: But, Glenn, I'm asking you, do you think this is a good idea or not?


KIRSCHNER: Oh, I think it's a horrendous idea for the rule of law.

Prosecutors -- yes, prosecutors, Ari, generally are not fond of pardons, because we spend months and months, sometimes years, investigating, indicting and prosecuting crime. And when somebody wipes all that away with a sign of a presidential pen, that's not only bad for the prosecutors, for the victims. It's bad for the country.

MELBER: And what message does it send?

And I'm going to bring Michelle in, but I'm going lawyer to lawyer with you on the colloquy here. What message does it send, again, even if it's allowed -- a lot of things are allowed. It's legal to lie out of court, right, or not to Congress, but a lot of people criticize politicians when they do it.

What message does it sent at the end of the Trump era -- again, these things can become normalized, but they shouldn't be -- that, in this final, these final two months, December, January, according to the reporting, he is focused not on battling COVID, not on even the legacy of the other putative policy goals that they claim to have about the rest of the nation, but just trying to get other people off the hook that are in his circle?

KIRSCHNER: It sends two messages, Ari.

One is that the Trump administration was rampant with crime, because, if it wasn't, Donald Trump wouldn't need to start delivering pardons to everybody. And the second message is that future politicians who are contemplating coming into power and committing crime, have at it, because you know what, you can always be pardoned at the end of the day.

MELBER: Michelle?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I thought that I was a pretty close student of the criminality and corruption of the Trump administration, but it shocked me that they have 20 people in mind, right?

I'm thinking, who are the 20 people close to Trump who have committed potential crimes? And, look, I think it goes without saying that this would further disgrace America on the world stage, that this would -- that this is another example of Trump sort of burning the place -- burning down the place behind him on the way out, salting the earth kind of -- it's a smash-and-grab administration, that they're now doing all sorts of crazy things during their last days, putting utterly unqualified, super partisan conspiracy theorists at high-level positions in the Pentagon.

I mean, it's just a sort of free-for-all in these last few days.

I would say that, if he ends up pardoning his children, which is something that has been talked about, that he's going to -- like, that he's considering a preemptive pardon for his three oldest children -- and, again, I have a very low opinion of Ivanka Trump. I don't know what federal crimes she is even alleged to have committed.

But I think that she is being -- she is at least part of investigations in Washington, D.C., and a state investigation in New York. And I really hope that state prosecutors, if she accepts a pardon, will look at that as evidence of guilt on her part, and that that will some -- I hope that that will sort of help them make the case publicly that this is not just a political vendetta, as Ivanka Trump has claimed on Twitter, that, in fact, by -- if she accepts a pardon, it will mean that there is real criminality that Democratic attorney generals and Democratic district attorneys have a right to be investigating.

MELBER: Yes, I think you put it really well, because, again, this is so important for the record and going forward and governing this nation.

The fact that there's even 20 people you can come up with, beyond the well-known folks like Manafort, who've been convicted, or Flynn, who have been pardoned, is really striking.

And the Supreme Court has clarified and held that it is tantamount to an admission of guilt. So, you don't even want your name in any of this if you feel you're completely innocent, and there's no doubt. And then you have the way this is all playing out as not exactly the best closing message for arguing that you're going to fix the economy or COVID or anything else, especially in Georgia.

Reading from your piece, Michelle, you say: "The MAGA revolution devours its own. Some conservatives discovering the downsides of a president who spreads malicious conspiracy theories, subverts faith in democracy and turns the denial of reality into a loyalty test."

This may seem like a plot twist that would work in a novel where, oh, of course, it's karma. But it's happened all rather quickly since the election loss. What were you getting at in this piece, which was rather interesting?

GOLDBERG: Well, I was talking about, we have all seen a lot of footage of particularly election officials in Georgia denouncing the conspiracy theorizing, denouncing the incitement to violence from Trump and his lackeys.

And while, on the one hand, I appreciate the integrity of these officials, and I think that they're the reason we have averted a constitutional crisis, state level officials in many places, I also have to wonder where their outrage was before it was before Trump's violence and before Trump's conspiracy theories and before the threats and his supporters was directed at them, because nothing about what Trump is doing is particularly new.

And so these are Republicans, they supported Trump. In the case of Georgia's secretary of state, he says he still supports Trump, even as Trump continues to demonize him and kind of incite threats against his family.

And so I think you're seeing Republicans who tolerated a huge amount of abuse, a huge unleashing of civic evils by this administration are suddenly kind of taken aback when it's directed at them.

And then the final part of this is, you're seeing certain kind of allies of the president or at least people who fancy themselves allies of the president creating so much doubt about judicial -- about electoral integrity in Georgia that they're saying, don't even vote in the upcoming run-off.

I don't know how effective that's going to be. But, again, I think you see some conservatives who've tolerated huge geysers of misinformation, rampant undermining of our democratic institutions, suddenly, when it threatens Republican power, they -- they're outraged.

MELBER: Yes, I think you lay that out. And there's a hypocrisy to that, obviously, but it may also be a learning curve. So you could ethically look at why it's absurd and ridiculous and late, but also question how that affects what Donald Trump's impact is in the Republican Party.

"The New York Times," your paper, has reported, oh, he wants to control the RNC and the party. But if it keeps going like this month after month, there may be a growing chorus of folks who just on self-interest say they don't even want that.

I want to keep those panelists here for another update we have on the reporting into that story we first brought you a few days ago, the bribery-for-pardon scheme.

"The New York Times" also reporting Trump associates have been scrutinized, and that the DOJ investigating how a donor and fund-raiser for President Trump and his son-in-law, Kushner, had this suspected scheme, the idea to offer a bribe to get some sort of clemency for what they believe was a tax crime.

Now, sources say San Francisco real estate billionaire Sanford Diller was seeking clemency for a psychologist convicted of tax crimes. Diller allegedly -- again, these are just reports about the investigation -- but enlisted someone you may have heard of, Elliott Broidy, a prominent Trump fund-raiser, and also tried to enlist Jared Kushner's lawyer, very well-known in Washington, Abbe Lowell, to get some sort of message to the White House.

As part of the effort, Diller said that there would be some sort of -- quote -- "substantial political contribution."

Abbe Lowell's lawyer tells "The Times" there was no bribe ever paid.

Glenn, this is a tricky one. When it first broke, it was very tantalizing. I was holding up the redacted pages. We were also careful to note at the time what we didn't know, and it didn't necessarily state from that first filing, who, if anyone, at the White House might have been basically exposed by this.

With that reporting, what's your analysis?

KIRSCHNER: So, I agree with you, it is a tricky one, because people want to leap to the conclusion that folks in the administration must be involved, they must be culpable. And I don't think we are there, at least not in the reporting yet. So we have to wait to see when more information comes out.

But Michelle made such a great point, which is that, if Donald Trump starts delivering pardons to, for example, his family members, like Ivanka, as Michelle says, we don't even know what federal crimes Ivanka might have committed.

So, how do we go about evaluating whether, for example, that is a corrupt pardon, and potentially challengeable in court, or whether it's perfectly fine, but it just happens to be born of nepotism because Ivanka is the president's daughter.

So, I think it's going to be important to keep a close eye moving forward on, OK, what are the scope of these pardons, what crimes are included, and what do they tell us, because -- and I will finish with this -- if Donald Trump pardons Ivanka for something that he may have been culpably involved in as a potential co-conspirator, now we have a part of a different color, and it might be susceptible to a court challenge.

MELBER: Yes, I have been reporting. And I think with the precedent, there's really not much that's reviewable on the pardon power. I think that that's pretty clear in the precedent.

But the wider question of, why are you being pardoned, what did you do, and only you know what you did, I think, hangs over all this. And that's not just an outside legal view. That's what we reported with Republicans going, wait a minute, if you do this much pardoning out the door, you're kind of closing the circle on one of the main concerns from both your opponents and independent experts, that this was a very swampy and corrupt administration.

And I use corrupt in the legal sense, not as an adjective.

I got to fit a break. So, I want to thank Glenn and Michelle, both of you, for kicking off THE BEAT tonight.

Coming up in just 30 seconds: They're calling it the MAGA civil war in Georgia, Obama now with a call to action.

And we're following the money, new revelations about where Trump was spending campaign money.

Plus: Biden getting blunt and planning for this transition and saying what it means if Trump skips out and snubs.

All that, plus Michael Beschloss and Michael Eric Dyson tonight.

We're back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: Well, the theme is in the air in politics right now.

Michelle Goldberg was just talking to us about it. What happens if Trumpism starts eating itself alive? You have the president going to Georgia tomorrow. Now, this will be his first rally since losing the election.

What he says he wants to do is boost Republicans in those two critical run-off races that will determine control of the United States Senate. But he's also heading right into something that many say, even in his party, is of his own making, Politico calling it the MAGA civil war.

A prominent pro-Trump lawyer telling Republicans, don't vote, because why? Because of everything Donald Trump told them. The election is rigged, right?

And that has other pro-Trump voices at their wit's end.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Do these suburbanites need a united Republican Party, or do they need people running around saying, oh, don't vote on January 5 because that would be perpetuating a corrupt process?

When I heard that the other day, I almost fell out of my chair. Like, you all almost don't deserve to win if you're that stupid, frankly. Sorry.


MELBER: "You don't deserve to win if you're that stupid." That's coming from FOX News.

Well, Trump ally and longtime Republican Newt Gingrich saying: "This is totally destructive. Their don't vote strategy will cripple America."

So, Donald Trump, of course, has been fomenting this legal circus -- emphasis on circus -- because it's not very legal anymore, which is feeding this sort of political internal chaos.

Trump allies Ingraham and Gingrich at times amplified that same messaging. Now they just don't like the idea that they're worried it could cost a Senate seat or two.

Now, Republican senators in the critical Georgia run-off, well, they're getting involved as well, Senator Perdue refusing to admit publicly that by one. But he was caught on tape in what he thought was basically a private Zoom -- it's not private anymore -- talking with Republicans, acknowledging, I guess, that he wasn't telling the truth in public?

Because he talks about a -- quote -- "change at the top."


SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R-GA): We know what this change of command at the top will mean with our foreign relations.

If we can keep the majority in the Senate, we can at least be a buffer on some of the things that the Biden camp has been talking about in terms of their foreign policy.


MELBER: "The Washington Post" obtained that. That's what they say when they don't think people are listening.

Politicians, you know how they roll.

Now, I want to be clear with you. A lot of this is self-inflicted wounds. Politico calls it a GOP civil war. It's not good.

But Georgia, mathematically, remains a tough climb for Democrats. At the presidential level, Biden narrowly flipped it. But, remember, no Democrat has won a Senate race there in 20 years. Democrats, to try to demote Mitch McConnell, would need to win two.

That's a tall order.

Meanwhile, former President Obama campaigning virtually for those Georgia Democrats, talking about what's at stake.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The special election in Georgia is going to determine, ultimately, the course of the Biden presidency.

If you don't have a majority, they can block just about anything. The Senate really matters.


MELBER: Obama speaking from experience there.

Now, coming up, we have a very special guest who worked with Obama on civil rights issues.

Also tonight, I'm proud to bring back Professor Michael Eric Dyson. We're going to get into a lot of important stuff.

But, first, Donald Trump, the consequences of what he's doing for history, our friend Michael Beschloss to end the week, an important conversation next.


MELBER: President-elect Biden takes office in 47 days.

And while Donald Trump reportedly now is planning to snub the entire event, which is unusual, Biden speaking out and says it's important for the country, not to Biden personally, that the outgoing president swallow his pride and show up important.


BIDEN: Important in the sense that we are able to demonstrate, at the end of this chaos that he's created, that there is peaceful transfer of power, with the competing parties standing there, shaking hands, and moving on.

But it is totally his decision, and it's -- it's of no personal consequence to me. But I do think it is for the country.


MELBER: That's a very diplomatic way of saying: I don't care if you come to my party. I won. It's my party. But you might want to do this for everyone else.

Whether that prevails on Donald Trump, well, only he will know.

I also want to share with you some other reporting we have that's pretty interesting, financial information, new, which reveals that, while running for reelection, Donald Trump was continuing to prioritize personally enriching his family over spending resources in a tight race that he -- of course, he went on to lose.

Donald Trump's campaign, for example, spent over a million dollars at Trump properties in the final weeks before the election. The RNC paid $300,000 -- that's real money -- just to buy up a bunch of copies of Don Jr.'s book.

And since the defeat, Donald Trump's now raised over $207 million, a whopping amount. This is for his post-presidency PAC, which is fine. You can have a PAC. But he's been doing it by misleading his own supporters, implying that most of the money would go to his legal fight to stay in office, which was a lie.

I'm joined now by presidential historian Michael Beschloss, as we say, on Fridays, for really all of the above.

Nice to have you, sir.


MELBER: What did you think of Joe Biden's answer on that tricky one?

I'm not in the prediction business. We will find out what happens on January 20, on January 20. But your thoughts?

BESCHLOSS: Well, Ari, I have been trying to imagine what this is going to be like.

So, what is it? Donald Trump is going to have his own counterinaugural; is that it? So, maybe across the Potomac, there will be a circus tent. And maybe he will get Rudy to swear and then for a fake second term as president.


BESCHLOSS: And then he will have a counterfeit presidential motorcade that we will all be paying for, as American taxpayers, paying for what is actually a former president. And maybe he will put it on pay-per-view. And guess who gets the money along, with the $207 million that you just mentioned?

When I got into this business some time ago, I didn't think that presidents would basically treat the presidency like their personal GoFundMe page. I mean, are those hundreds of millions of dollars going to be used to pay off his loans or his expenses at Mar-a-Lago?

We used to be scandalized by things that Richard Nixon did, like improve his homes at government expense, and backdate a gift of his vice presidential paper papers to get a tax benefit. That is nothing like what we're talking about.

MELBER: Yes, you make great points. That's why we wanted to spotlight this, because it's evidence. It's financial. It's clear.

It may feel like more than four years ago, but it was only four years ago I was out at MAGA events in 2016. And particularly in the primaries, one of his biggest applause lines, you may remember, Michael, was saying...


MELBER: ... that he was rich, so he didn't need the money like the other politicians. That was appealing. And he had been promoted as rich by many, including, of course, famously on an NBC entertainment program.

So, I could understand why people, having been told that over and over, thought, oh, yes, well, if he's rich, he won't -- at least he won't be on the take, almost as a -- quote, unquote -- "nonpartisan point."

The problem is, it wasn't true. It's not how he governed. He was more on the take, more swampy, more corrupt in ways documented.

And now, I give you the easy question, if he's so rich, and he's been in office for years leaving office now, why does he need to swipe 200 mil from people with allegedly far less money from him just to leave the White House?

BESCHLOSS: Well, thank you for the straight line, Ari. The answer is that he must not be very well off and must need the money.

And that opens up all sorts of possibilities for the next 47 days. Is he going to start selling state secrets to foreign governments who are hostile to us? Is he going to threaten to do all sorts of bad things unless he's paid money? Is he going to sell his endorsement of one of these vaccines?

I mean, I'm not suggesting he's going to do any of these things, but not impossible, when you have got a president who needs money and may be willing to do a lot of things that maybe Abraham Lincoln wouldn't.

MELBER: I don't know if I'm talking to Michael Beschloss or Tom Clancy, because you just rattled off a bunch of horrific White House plots that we would all hope are nowhere near possible.

But, as you say...

BESCHLOSS: We hope they stay imaginary.

MELBER: Yes, imaginary.

But, as you say, this is of a piece with a level of self-enrichment. I mean, if you are donating, for example, to the RNC, and you're being told that this alleged billionaire family needs to spend campaign money on Don Jr. books, something doesn't add up. And I say that on behalf of people who will exercise their political free speech to make those donations.

The other thing I got to get you on is, take a listen to Joe Biden discussing what he says is the secret outreach he is getting from some Republicans.


BIDEN: There have been more than several sitting Republican senators who have privately called me and congratulated me.

And I understand the situation they find themselves in. And until the election is clearly decided in the minds, when the Electoral College votes, they get put in a very tough position.


MELBER: What do we glean from the way he wants to govern from what he's doing there?

BESCHLOSS: Well, that he wants to have a unified country and reach to the other side, the same way that almost every other president in American history has done, with the exception of Donald Trump.

And this so-called Trump counterinaugural, if he's going to really have a publicity stunt on the day of the Joe Biden's inauguration, what are we going to see now, Ari, for the next four years? Is Donald Trump going to be parading around county fairs, charging money to see him, claiming that he's the legitimate president, the United States, and Joe Biden is not?

And given the state of things in this country, an awful lot of people might believe that? That's not going to be great for Joe Biden. So, we have got a president coming in with a shadow over him that we should ignore, but may be something that other presidents have not dealt before with before. It's unbelievable.

MELBER: Yes. And you are such a thoughtful and restrained person, what with you being a historian, Michael, that...

BESCHLOSS: I don't usually talk this way.

I mean, I listen to myself. I don't even -- it's hard for me to even believe it's me talking and saying these things. But this is the situation we're in.

MELBER: Well, that's all I was going to do. My job is often very easy. I just -- I repeat my obvious observations.


MELBER: But I'm reminding viewers, if you have watched Michael like I have over the years on TV about a range of parties and presidents and figures, I don't usually hear you talk like this.

But you're speaking about the historical import of what this post-presidency could be, and the challenge that poses, and then...

BESCHLOSS: The answer is, you live long enough, you get to see everything in life, right?

MELBER: Amen. Spoken like a historian.

Michael, always good to end the week with you. Thank you.

BESCHLOSS: Same here. Have a great weekend.

MELBER: You too, sir.

We're going to fit a break, but up ahead, how everyone from Obama to artists are making a big push to replicate what they say helped Biden in November with a very special guest. Everything's on the line in Georgia.

But, first, Donald Trump disappearing, Biden with a new call today on the economy, COVID and social justice.

Another friend of THE BEAT, Michael Eric Dyson, with a new book and some special thoughts -- next.


MELBER: We turn now to the one, the only Professor Michael Eric Dyson.

He's the author of over 20 books. His latest is "Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America." It's out this week. He wants you to go get it. And I want what he wants.

Good to see you, sir.


MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR, "LONG TIME COMING: RECKONING WITH RACE IN AMERICA": Bless you for that, man. I appreciate that so much. It's good to see you as well.

MELBER: Let's get right to it. It's got so much, serious topics.

Sometimes, you write as these letters.

You write: "Dear Emmett Till, slow terror bleeds into every crevice of black existence. It's not difficult to understand how Ferguson fatally combusted into screeching chaos several decades of aggressive and intemperate policing, the unyielding bias and deeply rooted racism in societal institutions, the astonishing and persistent social inequality and unreliable escalated upward mobility growing shakier by the day."

Tell us what you're saying and why you said it this way.

DYSON: Yes, I'm saying that what we saw in Ferguson, what we see in so many poor black communities is the accumulation of hurt, of trauma over decades and sometimes over centuries.

Professor Walter Johnson has a brilliant book that traces it from the history of enslavement down to what happened with Mike Brown in Saint Louis.

So, we know that that community, like so many others, are under enormous attack and enormous assault. And when you see them fatally combust, when you see them finally explode, it is not something that was lit -- a fuse lit just yesterday. It's been lit for quite a while.

And the inequality, the social injustice, the inability to have access to housing that is fair and just, the inability to have educational opportunities that provide people an entree into the middle class, along with homeownership, when you look at all of those deficits that people of color endure, especially black people, finally, when a police person kills a black person, that is igniting something that has been indeed building up for so long.

MELBER: Yes, and that's why the history is so alive, indeed.

There may be areas of life where some people feel they have a fresh start, they can live without the oppression or the knowledge of history, and it's just kind of an intellectual choice.

And you're really recounting how racism makes that not available for so many people because of ongoing historical oppression and everything that it leads to, which brings us to the policing issues that now are at the forefront of pressures on the Biden administration.

Barack Obama was talking about, hey, you got to stop Mitch McConnell before he stops you. But Obama, anything he did get done was earlier in the first term.

DYSON: Right.

MELBER: Will police reform be big?

This is already -- I want to get your views on it, Politico reporting Democrats' own internal battles. House Democrats have a bill that would do something that many have called for, which is just ending this type of immunity for police. Biden hasn't gone that far, instead saying they want to -- quote -- "rein it in," and providing little indication of what that looks like.

Your view on that issue, and how important should it be in a Biden era?

DYSON: That's a healthy discussion.

Isn't it beautiful to have a return to introducing squabbles among parties, not the -- not the total subversion of democracy, not the neo-fascism, not the shadow government that this ostensible post-presidency will provide for us?

I mean, Donald Trump is engaging in a soft coup, they say, but maybe in a coup that is silent, but at the same time trying to subvert democracy. It's a return to business as usual, in the best sense of that word.

I think the Democrats ought to hammer that out. I think that those who understand that policing has been detrimental -- and for everyone who says, oh, no, let's just reform the police, that's been tried for a long time. We have tried a lot of stuff.

But police unions are so powerful that the attempt to rein in police departments is often thwarted by the independent, autonomous and outrageous, and, sometimes, it seems to me, nearly unlawful practices of police unions.

And, at the same time, when we talk about community policing, where police pay attention to those neighborhoods that they come from, maybe because, if I'm from part of the community, I see my uncle, my aunt, my cousin, it's kinship. And because of kinship, I won't treat you as dreadfully as other cops may do.

So, I think that battle is a necessary one. Are we talking about reform from within? Are we talking about abolition? And let's not forget, in the 1800s, they had an argument about abolition of slavery, and a lot of white people and others were opposed to that.

But, eventually, it became the law of the land. And it made for better communication and better democracy in this country. Perhaps policing is headed in the same direction.

MELBER: Yes, and you see that distance, as you mentioned, between Biden and others, and that's an important one, particularly because you have to act fast typically in an administration.

I'm running out of time, but you are joining us on December 4. We want to wish, on behalf of THE BEAT, a happy birthday to Shawn Carter, to Jay-Z today, which is someone that you have worked with and you have written about.

Your thoughts?

DYSON: I mean, he said, I would write it if you all could get it. But being intricate will get you wood, critics. On the Internet, they are like you should spit it. I'm like, you should buy it, like my book. That's good business, right?



DYSON: My boy Zueike, Zueike gave me a shirt, "Long Time Coming." And if you're a good man -- and I think you are -- I'm going to get you one as well, man.

Ari Melber, Zueike, hold, Dyson, "Long Time Coming." You know what it is. December 4. What more can I say?

MELBER: What more can I say?

Look, I don't -- I haven't -- I haven't gotten close to Jay the way you have. But he is a businessman. I'm sure he would appreciate you rapping a shout-out with supporting a new book. And we all need to support literature and bookstores and all the rest.

Professor, thanks for joining us.

The book is a "Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America."



MELBER: Straight ahead, we take a turn.

We have the one and only Rick Ross with us on Obama, activism, and more -- after this.


MELBER: It's been quite a week.

And, in politics, all eyes have been on these pivotal Georgia Senate races. We covered some of the GOP battles there tonight, while, on the Democratic side, everyone from Obama to leading artists and celebrities are pitching in, hoping to replicate the record 2020 turnout in November, when many more people across society and culture were emphasizing voting.

And let's be clear. While participation was up, artists have long advocated for all kinds of causes. Some said Biden's history with Obama was important for credibility. As president, Obama had strong support and relationships with artists.

Take this iconic Oval Office picture after a meeting about reforming criminal justice with a range of musicians, from Janelle Monae, to Swizz Beatz, to Common, quite the group, like a family photo.

And over there you have, you may see on the right, the famous rapper rocking sunglasses there. It's the legendary Miami artist and entrepreneur Rick Ross, our next guest. Ross is a five-time Grammy nominee, founder of the Maybach Music Group, known for his energetic solo projects, and collaborating with icons, including Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Snoop, Kanye, Lil Wayne, at least 10 songs with Drake.

He's also the author of the memoir "hurricanes," a "New York Times" best seller, and an entrepreneur across industries from restaurants to spirits to hair care, putting in on "Forbes"' hip-hop list, a record that Rick touts in his work. As he famously wrapped, self-made, you just affiliated. I build it ground up, you bought it renovated.

Thanks for being here.


RICK ROSS, RAPPER/ENTREPRENEUR: Thank you for having me. Thank you for having me.

MELBER: A hundred percent. I'm thrilled to have you.

We're going to get into many things. You look at that photo, you look at your life, what did it mean to be in that Oval Office with President Obama, and your reflections on what just happened in November?

ROSS: Well, really, it let us know that we had a lot of potential in our future. We sat down there. It wasn't too political. It was more about just conversing about what was going on in our communities. What did we think our future held?

And amongst artists, it's a lot of different views. And I think that's what really made it dope, was just sitting there with the damn President Obama. Man, it just really inspired me on a whole 'nother level.


And, Rick, you go from Obama to Trump. Now you have Obama's V.P., Biden, as president-elect. As you know, hip-hop is heard. Sometimes, it's misheard or misunderstood. But many, many rappers used to shout out Trump. And you have some of the most Trump references in the old days.

Walk us through, especially for some viewers who might wonder, well, what's that all about, what did that mean then, and how has that evolved at all for you?

ROSS: I think, obviously, our early references to Trump was the lack of knowledge. We had very little knowledge of his personal history. I think it was more leaning towards his financial status.

When you go into Vegas, you may have seen a hotel that was named after him, or you're in Manhattan. And I think that's what it was.

Hip-hop, we love -- we lean and we idolize success and wealth. And I think that it's a lot of positive things in that, but, at the same time, as you grow and get older and you learn more things, you kind of -- you have to make a few changes.

MELBER: Yes, that's interesting. And I appreciate you saying it in that candid way. It's like, OK, you know what you know when you know it.

Obviously, now, we do hear you shout out Obama more, when you say like, thought it was Obama when I came through. I'm talking different commas than you lame dudes.

ROSS: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

MELBER: Where does Biden fit into all this? Because I mentioned the Obama cosign seems to matter a lot of people. But he's neither as big a personality as the last two presidents, nor maybe as flashy. Maybe that's a good thing. What do you think of Joe Biden being our next president?

ROSS: I think my personal opinion wouldn't even really -- really matter at this point.

I think, right now, it's all about supporting our upcoming president and see what turns out to be. That's the way I'm going to do it. I'm going to sit back and watch him work.

MELBER: OK. I want to get into your business ventures.

The other thing I got to ask you, whenever you and Drake come together -- you write about this in your book -- it's a hit. It's like, every single time, it's a hit. He's, of course, a global pop sensation.

I think it's fair to say -- you can tell me if you disagree -- that you guys have somewhat different life experiences. You certainly have different flows, my opinion as a listener. Tell us about what is working with Drake and why it's always a hit.

ROSS: I believe he has so many different angles he can approach records. We all know Drake is a very lyrical emcee.

But he also has one of the most candid voices that women really gravitate towards. So, once we're in the studio, he could go from spitting bars to hit a note.


ROSS: And it's just one of those things that make him the artists that he is. It makes him so unique. It makes him one of the greatest hit-makers of our time.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, you're talking about versatility, which brings me perfectly into...

ROSS: Yes.

MELBER: ... the next Ross project I want to talk about.

So, Ross hangs with me. Let me give everyone a little background. We're talking what's going on with this pandemic.

You have -- this is very important -- with health care, five million people have lost coverage since COVID hit. And we know, statistically, that adds to people's risk factors for both getting sick or getting treatment.

So, as I'm about to turn to another item, which is Rick Ross' new project, it's worth noting he's spoken out about his own health scares.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick Ross is back at home after four days in the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The medical scare began after someone called 911 reported that he was unresponsive. This isn't the first time the music mogul has had major medical issues. He suffered two seizures on two separate flights in 2011.

ROSS: I will stay up 18, 19 hours a day at a time. And after doing this for years, after drinking codeine, Tussionex and other things, and stand up for years, I actually suffered a seizure from my body not being able to take no more.


MELBER: That's some context.

Ross is now partnering with a digital health care company that's trying new ways to provide and offer affordable health care.

And I want to bring in health care entrepreneur Tommy Duncan, who's teaming up with Rick Ross and spearheading this new platform. It's called Jetdoc.

This is important stuff here. We love to end the week looking at what people are doing in business. The health care business is one out of six jobs.

Tell us what you're doing, Tommy.

TOMMY DUNCAN, HEALTH CARE ENTREPRENEUR: So,, it's like a health plan for $10 a month. You have unlimited access to doctors 24 hours a day, seven days a week, right on your cell phone.

And that's for your entire household. You can add four dependents for the same $10 a month. And you can go to pretty much any pharmacy in the country, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart, and receive up to 85 percent off the cost of your medication.

MELBER: And...

DUNCAN: And let me share with you, Ari...

MELBER: Go ahead.

DUNCAN: Yes, let me share with you.

So, before we launched Jetdoc together, I just sold an insurance company that I built from scratch to Blue Cross Blue Shield. We insured about 50,000 people between Washington, D.C., and Detroit, Michigan.

And after selling the company January of this year, I decided, as a way to give back, I wanted to provide access to health care to tens of millions of people. And the only way to do that is to make it affordable. And $10 a month is that affordability.

A lot of people, as you just mentioned, talk about the five million people that have lost their insurance due to the pandemic. But there's also a lot of people that have high-deductible health insurance, where they're paying the $7,000 to $10,000 for their health care coverage.

So, every time they see a doctor, they're paying out of pocket. For $10 a month, you can avoid paying that and keep some of that money in your pocketbook.

MELBER: And, Tommy, given your background in the industry, one of the reasons I mentioned -- beyond the fact that I'm a fan of his music, I mentioned Mr. Ross' entrepreneurship, because people make a lot of mistakes when they have preconceptions or they narrow people.

Walk us through what it means, the way you're trying to approach this and work with Ross and get this out to people as an option in business. '

DUNCAN: A hundred percent.

So, for me, it's all about affordability creates access. Ten dollars a month, everyone can afford it. We have over 1,000 doctors that are supporting Jetdoc already. So, people can call in and get access to a doctor.

Even though we have a system in place that provides great access for affordability, we need to bring eyeballs to it. And there is nobody -- as I was thinking about, who can I work with to bring attention to health care? And Rick Ross is one person who's different than most, who dealt with their private -- their health care issues privately.

He's dealt with his health care issues publicly. He's open to talking about them. And because of it, he's the right person to be my partner.

MELBER: Rick, what does this mean to you?

ROSS: Oh, man, it's a great opportunity to share my platform in one of the greatest ways I can and maybe save lives.

One of the things that I experienced the most when I would go visit my doctor is, I would be sitting in the waiting room. And it's a different experience when you're sitting with people that -- when people usually see you.

No, when you're sitting and you -- it's a life-and-death situation, and you're sitting in the waiting room waiting on the doctor and that conversation, you spark, and they tell me they can't afford insurance, or whatever it was, I had some of the deepest conversations and developed several relationships waiting on a doctor.

And I felt this was the best way for me to take advantage of my platform.

And I thank Tommy Duncan for giving me this opportunity.



And, Rick, I got about 40 seconds.

But, in your book, you're very blunt, almost vulnerable about that period with the health scare, even though a lot of your persona is bossing up, being tough. What did that feel like for you to share that just with people with your own health scare?

ROSS: I mean, bossing up and being a boss, that's most definitely cool.

But life or death is something you can't control. And I was really chasing my dream. I thought I was doing the right thing staying up 20 hours a day chasing my dream. This is something I have been working on for 20 years.

And I guess my body couldn't take it no more. So, once I began suffering seizures shortly after becoming successful, I realized this wasn't the way to go about this.

So, we had to make some changes. And this most definitely was the best change I felt we could make. It's -- the accessibility is so convenient.


ROSS: Yes.

MELBER: I appreciate what you're doing.

DUNCAN: Hey, can I just add before you close...

MELBER: I got to go to Joy Reid. That's the only reason.

Rick Ross...

DUNCAN: I know.

Just real quick, just real quick, You got to come check us out. We're signing up 100,000 people this week; 25,000 have already signed up.

MELBER: There he goes.

DUNCAN: Come join.

MELBER: Point to the Web site. The candidates do that too.

Tommy Duncan, appreciate hearing about what you're doing in your community. Rick Ross, thank you.

That does it for me.

Joy Reid starts next.


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