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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, November 11, 2020

Guests: Mathew Littman, Michael Hirschorn, Barbara Res


President Trump continues to refuse to acknowledge his defeat to President-Elect Joe Biden. President Trump's reality show presidency nears its end. How much damage can President Trump do on his way out of office?



Hey, Ari.

Tag. You're it. Hello again.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Here we are, splitting the difference.

Like Nicolle, you have been doing a lot of the work as well over these marathon coverage days. So -- but you don't seem tired. You seem energized.

REID: That's called makeup.


MELBER: I have it too.

REID: See?

MELBER: I know what that's about.

There we go.

REID: Magic.


MELBER: Joy, we will be seeing you again soon. Thank you, as always.

REID: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: I want to welcome -- thank you.

I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And I want to tell you right now, the sound that you hear, that's the sound of a defeated Trump. Five days since this race was formally called,even as Trump finally left the White House for the first time today since becoming the loser of this race, visiting Arlington Cemetery for Veterans Day, he avoided questions. He kept this same silence.

And that makes this now the longest stretch of Donald Trump's presidency out of view. This is the sound of silence, as the song goes, with top Republicans taking Donald Trump's silent denial as an order to join his charade.

And, in so doing, we must know they are rejecting the wise counsel from Simon and Garfunkel. Fools, you do not know. Silence, like a cancer grows.

And this silence does continue to grow in the Republican Caucus, even amidst the clear results that Trump is the loser of the race, with independent judges getting Donald Trump's own lawyers to now admit they actually have no fraud evidence.

This is a transcript of what occurred under oath in the key state of Pennsylvania, no fraud, while, around the world, leaders like the U.K.'s Boris Johnson are prepping for a Biden White House.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. Speaker, I had and have a good relationship with the previous president. I do not resolve from that, as is the duty of all British prime ministers to have a good relationship with the White House.


MELBER: That previous president he's referring to is the outgoing president of the United States, Donald Trump.

NBC reporting Trump's own aides see his current silent denial as -- quote -- "unsustainable" today. They know the legal talk is -- quote -- "theatrics." Everybody knows it.

And while most Republican legislators are giving Trump more time to basically absorb all this, some are pushing forward. Here's Republican Senator Pat Toomey.


SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): We're on a path it looks likely that Joe Biden is going to be the next president of the United States. It's not 100 percent certain, but it is quite likely. And so I think a transition process ought to begin.


MELBER: We turn right now to Michael Steele, former RNC chair, and "The New York Times"' Michelle Goldberg.

And, Michael, it is the sound of silence. You might agree that's unusual for this president.


And, as you were doing the opening, I was just sitting here thinking of a little Prince. This is what it sounds like when doves cry, right?


STEELE: Or, more appropriately, die, you know?

So it's the end. It's the end of...

MELBER: Are you saying -- Michael, are you saying maybe he's just like his father, he's never satisfied?

STEELE: That's what it sounds like, yes, never satisfied. You're so good.

But, no, seriously, I think that the reality of all of this, Ari, is setting in. It has set in for the vast majority of Americans. So let's just be clear about that.

MELBER: Right.

STEELE: Let's not pretend that we're all kind of slowly kind of evolving our way to the same conclusion. No, 90 percent of us are there, all right?

But the reality of it is, for those in Trump world who have to maintain the facade, who have to maintain this sort of indestructible defense, the reality is harsh. And it's cruel.

And I think Senator Toomey is further acknowledgement of those end days that lie ahead for this president. So, instead of just sort of basking in the land of pity and trying to score as many pity points as he can, go about the business of transitioning your administration, and go about the business of helping the country move on.

But we know that's not what this is going to be. So, the rest of us have to do that for him. And I think that's what you're starting to see.

MELBER: Michelle?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I wish I could be as sanguine as Michael about 90 percent of the -- 90 percent of Americans being already there.

I mean, I think that they would be if we had remotely responsible political leadership in this country that was leveling with people. But it seems to me that you have huge numbers of Republicans who don't understand that this is all playacting, who don't understand that this is all sort of theater that's meant to salve the ego of this incredibly broken man, and do, in fact, think that the election either was stolen or is in the process of being stolen from Donald Trump, and are never going to accept the legitimacy of a Biden presidency.

And what's so grotesque is how this is being enabled by almost the entire Senate caucus in the Republican Party, right? It's news. It's -- I'm glad that Senator Toomey said what he said. But why -- I mean, it's so mind-blowing that it is news for a Republican senator to acknowledge the obvious, which is that Joe Biden is going to be the next president of the United States, absent a truly kind of history-breaking coup.

And I think there are people in the Trump orbit who would welcome such a coup. I just don't think that they're capable of pulling it off.


Well, that actually brings us to something General McCaffrey was saying that, since you bring it up, we will go there. We spoke to him today, a very serious person. He mentioned in the prelude to these remarks, Michael. And here we are, of course, on Veterans Day. We thanked him for his service.

But he mentioned, he brought up, he said that he's been shot at, that he doesn't consider himself an alarmist, that he takes his role now as an analyst quite seriously, as a prelude to sounding a bit of an alarm.

Take a listen.


GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), NBC MILITARY ANALYST: If I was a CIA officer trying to understand what was going on in a Third World country, and I saw this pattern of behavior, I would say, the strongman is trying to take over the government and defy an election.

And I think they're playing with that idea inside the White House.


MELBER: Michael, he was warning that that is actually on the board of potential things that he believes this current president would try to do. He also said that, based on his knowledge of the Joint Chiefs and the way things work, they would not be able to pull it off.

STEELE: Yes, look, I don't discount that at all. I take the general very seriously when he says that, because he's not a man who plays lightly in this space. He does not assume things or take them for granted. He's very deliberate in his words.

And I think we should pay attention to that. And, to be honest with you, I have kind of thought about that myself, when you start to step back and look at, OK, so he's targeting the Department of Defense, the CIA, these intelligence agencies for the immediate firing of individuals.

He's stacking them with people without a direct report but to him. So, yes, there is a reason, I think, for us to be very, very concerned about that, and, yes, to raise if not a yellow flag, maybe hit an alarm button or two.

And I suspect that there are people doing that. There's not much we can do about it from where we sit. So we have to trust that the general is right that those people within the intelligence community, within the Joint Chiefs understand that their oath of office was to the Constitution, not to Donald Trump.

MELBER: Right.

STEELE: It was to the Constitution, not to Donald Trump. I just wanted to repeat that, because that is the most important part here.

And I take those men and those women, particularly on this Veterans Day, at their oath, that when the...


STEELE: If there's a critical moment, Ari, that they will remember where that oath lies.

MELBER: Right.

Yes, and it dovetails with what Michelle was warning about as well, which is, if this drags on, with support from these purported leaders of one-half or so, a little under half of the country, one wing of the party, half of the Senate -- we will see where the run-offs go -- if all those people in the bulk and in the main tell their own followers there's more here than there is, the problem could get worse, not better, which is part of what we're tracking.

There is, though, additional bad news I want to show for Trump. It's literally splashed across this dramatic front page of "The New York Times" today. You see it here: "Election Officials Nationwide Find No Fraud," that reporting extensively based on the people who run elections in every state in both parties.

The piece also notes the Republicans in many states were engaged in a widespread effort to delegitimize the nation's voting system, but the facts carry the day.

The headline, no fraud there, which you see across every paper all over the country from "The Times," is essentially channeling Nicki Minaj's classic, "No Frauds," where she made it quite plain, I don't need no frauds, don't need no drama, don't need no lies.

And yet, Michael Steele, we have seen an effort at all three of those things from this gang in the White House.

STEELE: We have. And that's -- that headline kind of goes to my first point, and why I say that a significant portion of the American people, when they see something like this, it all kind of comes together.

I mean, this is not just "The New York Times" reporting, "The New York Times," so people can dismiss, well, that's just the mainstream media doing the anti-Trump stuff. This is headlines from across the country, from red states and blue states, from red newspapers and blue newspapers.

And it's unfortunate I have to put it that way, but that's where we are. And so I really do believe that that is a turning point in this narrative for a lot of folks out there.

Look, we know 70-plus two million Americans voted for Trump. We also know that, of that 70 million, there's probably a hard 38 to 40 million that ain't going nowhere, and you can show them every headline in the world and they won't believe it. OK, we got that.

But for the rest -- and I have even begun, anecdotally, to see this, there is slippage there. People are starting to say, OK, we got -- yes, you're upset, you lost, we got it, it's time to move on.

And we will see, as Trump continues to play this out, how that's received. But I think it's going to be received in the way in which the American people are going to be accepting of Biden, as they should, as the next president.

MELBER: Michelle, your colleagues went through meticulously to check this, to double-check, if you will. And this is what they found.

GOLDBERG: Well, of course, but it's never been a question of there being any material reality to these claims. Right?

These claims have always been preposterous. And Donald Trump has claimed fraud, as far as I know -- I mean, he claimed fraud in the primary when he didn't win in Iowa. He claimed fraud in the general election, despite winning it, to explain his loss in the popular vote.

There's never been any actual substance there. But it's what he does. And what's so dangerous now is that you have an entire political party that's dedicated to backing up his lies.

And I don't think we know -- I think we need to walk a fine line here, because, on the one hand, we don't want to give the impression that there's a debate here, that a Biden presidency is anything but a fait accompli, that Trump has a chance of staying in office.

But I also don't think we should underplay the danger of what he is attempting to do, even if he's not likely to get away with it, right? They're going to ask state legislatures to certify alternate -- to basically ignore the vote in their states and certify alternate slates of electors.

They're going to hope that some of these utterly ridiculous cases somewhere pulls a particularly wacky Trump judge, and they're doing something with the military that none of us quite understand. But that has involved decapitating the military leadership and installing a bunch of loyalists, some of whom are known for spouting incredibly lurid and crazy conspiracy theories.

And so, again, I don't think that they can pull it off. I don't think that we should act as if Trump has a chance of staying in office after January 20. But what they're doing is so unbelievably dangerous and so unbelievably irresponsible.

And, like General McCaffrey said, we would recognize exactly what was happening if we saw it in another in another country.

MELBER: All really important context. I particularly appreciate the framework you gave us for it, Michelle, which we may be using in the days ahead.

Thanks to you both.

Michael comes back later in the hour.

Right now on THE BEAT, we have our shortest break of the hour, just 30 seconds, when we have more from Trump's inner circle on his problems right now.

We just heard from Michael Cohen and Mary Trump this week in our special coverage. Tonight, I have an exclusive with someone who worked for Trump, and is now explaining why she's long opposed him in office and what comes next.

And a special interview later tonight with another Trump critic and reality show guru on the efforts to keep the reality show going.

We will be back in 30 seconds.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, ultimately, you didn't blame Lil Jon or Meat Loaf. You fired Gary Busey.


OBAMA: And these are the kinds of decisions that will keep me up at night.




MELBER: If you're keeping score, it is five days since we have seen or heard from Donald Trump in any public remarks since Joe Biden is the projected winner and president-elect, and Donald Trump is the loser of the race.

Now, Donald Trump did emerge today, observing Veterans Day at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier. He did not take questions. He did not speak. It is rare, as you know, if you watch the news, to have the president at any time come out, be near cameras and reporters, and not say a word.

Donald Trump has been spending his days, though, holed up in the literal bunker of the White House and exhibiting a bit of a bunker mentality of denial. He keeps using his Twitter fingers, pushing these conspiracy theories.

His former lawyer Michael Cohen told us about Trump's feelings about being a loser.



He feels like a loser. And that's the worst thing that Donald Trump can feel. So, what he'd rather do is burn the house down than to hand over the keys to the house when it's taken over.


MELBER: A White House official telling NBC News today that all of this is -- quote -- "unsustainable," they know it's theater, and that they see this, ultimately, as ending with Donald Trump finding a narrow rhetorical escape hatch, where he says something to the effect of, we don't trust the results, but we're not contesting that he lost.

We're joined now by someone who knows him well, as mentioned.

Barbara Res is a former Trump Organization executive. Her new book is "Tower of Lies." She has been a friend and decoder of many of these issues for us on the program. And we are also joined by our friend "The New Yorker"'s Jelani Cobb.

Barbara, do you agree with Michael's point that there is not much strategy here, but rather a man so unable to process or deal with being the loser, that he is now on the quietest stretch of his entire time in office?


The notion of a loser is something that he couldn't even possibly conceive or believe. So, I don't think he believes that he's a loser quite yet. I think he's so angry that all the plans that he set up to make sure to guarantee him a win, like, for one thing, the voter suppression, which he had going all over the country with his Republicans and the Post Office, he's in shock that he didn't win.

I think he thought he was going to win. So now it's a matter of wresting -- and, again, I'm not sure that he's convinced he didn't win. But based, on his logic, it's a matter of wresting now this loss, as it were, from the victory of Biden.

And he will do anything. He will do -- Michael is absolutely right. If all else fails, he will burn down the house.

MELBER: When you worked with him, did you ever see him this quiet this many days in a row?

RES: I have seen him quiet. I don't know if it's been this long. I don't think anything has ever lasted this long in his life, anything like this. And this will last for a long time.

He's being quiet because he doesn't exactly know where he's going yet.

MELBER: When did you see him this quiet?

RES: Oh, a couple of times when he had minor setbacks, like -- the big thing in my mind is always the West Side Yards problem that he had. He had this big plan.

And he was going to build the world's tallest building, blah, blah, blah. And he got knocked out by that. The opponents were more powerful than he. And he had to capitulate to what they wanted. And he was very quiet during that period of time, where he was thinking and admitting that he could not do what he wanted to do, that he would have to give in.

And, of course, by the way, he didn't give in. He did what was right. He managed to get the city that hated his plans behind him for standing up and doing what was right for the city.

MELBER: Jelani?

RES: Story of his life.

MELBER: Story of his life.


JELANI COBB, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: So, I mean, I think that the silence is what concerns me, because this is still a person who wields an extraordinary amount of power.

And I think that we have a checkered record when we talk about institutions keeping Donald Trump in check, quite frankly, time and time again. First, it was the Republican Party was going to rein him in. And then it was the awesome responsibility of the office would do it. And then it was the general. And then it was the norms.

And then it was the inspector generals. And then it was the threat of impeachment. Remember when Susan Collins said that.

None of those things have chastened him. And so I take this very seriously. I don't think that -- the one thing that I think is beneficial is that the consistent thread in his career, his business career and political careers, is ineptitude, showmanship that masks an underlying -- a great reservoir of ineptitude.

And so I don't know that you -- that he has the wherewithal, capacity to execute something as complicated as undermining the government of the United States, after a duly elected person will be inaugurated. But I don't know that he can't do serious damage outside of that.

And there's one other thing that I think that we should be mindful. We're embarking -- even if we have a smooth -- smoother transition of power in January, we have embarked on an extraordinarily dangerous path, because Donald Trump began his political career by delegitimizing Donald -- excuse me -- Barack Obama, a person who was born in the United States, a citizen of the United States, and whipped up a mass frenzy around the belief that he was not, in fact, a citizen.

He's effectively doing the same thing to Joe Biden, to place him in a position where, even if he gains access to the Oval Office, there's a huge constituency that not only didn't vote for him, that not only disagrees with them, but view him as the illegitimate occupant of that office.

And that is a dangerous position to be in. And it makes me concerned that the threat of violence may extend beyond simply this kind of maelstrom of Trumpism into the next administration.

MELBER: Well, let's engage with that premise a little bit, Jelani, because we were talking about it earlier with other guests.

There is this line of being serious about the threat and the goal. And it's early days. We also do have data that I want to present, so viewers can understand this in context, where there are many issues we all know, climate change on down, where relatively clear facts and science are overwhelmed by these political agendas and conspiracy theories.

You can go all the way back to Richard Hofstadter, if you want.

COBB: Right.

MELBER: But we're not yet seeing that here. And I do think that's also important.

And I think it may be partly because Donald Trump has been, to get back to the theme, so quiet. He hasn't used the messaging architecture that he maybe has and found ways to give people something to hold on to. So this could yet change.

But I want to show the viewers here, most Americans know exactly what's going on. They actually polled this kind of goofy thing to have to pull, but the vast majority say Biden won. And Republicans, you see six in 10 say Biden won.

I think we have a bar chart as well I want to show, where only 3 percent -- yes, here you go. Biden won, blue. That's everybody -- 13 percent not yet decided, whatever that is.

If you actually go to where Trump's message would want to get to, it's a rounding error -- we can reveal this, Jelani -- it's 3 percent, Trump won. I think we have that. Three percent -- whether it reveals or -- yes, there it is.

So you see, Jelani, it comes up slow, just like Donald Trump's arguments have come up pretty slow, but it's there. Three percent, that is a sliver of a sliver of a rounding error. Does that tell you that people aren't buying it at this time?

COBB: I don't know.

I mean, I will -- you and I can both camp out in front of the Four Seasons Landscaping and see if there's another press conference that is going to enlighten us about where the state of our democracy is.

MELBER: Hey, you first, dude. You first.

COBB: I mean, I'm also a little skeptical of polls.

I don't want to go conspiratorial here myself. I'm just saying that I remain concerned. I think just the nature of what we have seen in the past four years has been so corrosive and so dangerous, that I won't really feel relieved until we're on January 21 and there's another administration of sworn in and operating on behalf of the American people.

MELBER: Barbara?

RES: Let me say, has it mattered what the people think, honestly? The people are for health care. The people or for freedom of reproduction. And yet it doesn't matter. It's what Trump wants, what the Republicans want, that little target of people that they need to support them want.

So now you have got 3 percent. But you have got Mitch McConnell buying it. You have got Pompeo, for Christ's sake, buying it. And you have Barr out there encouraging people to just start lawsuits. So it doesn't really matter what the people are thinking right now. It's a matter of what Trump can pull off.

And, also, I think he is keeping his base running because when he goes...

MELBER: Right.

RES: And I think he will go. And, by the way, I think he will lose the country.

He's going to have the people he needs here to stop all -- and foment all the problems that he needs them to do to keep himself going, to keep him being, he's the guy on the outside, he's the objector, he's the strong person.

And so this is part of all -- everything -- there's always a demented plan some way or another. It may not even make any sense to anyone but Donald, but it's there.

MELBER: Right. Well, you speak from knowledge.

I will say, Barbara, we're going to keep an eye on it. You said does it even matter? We're tracking that. I think it will matter a lot if there's just a wing of people who are angry that he lost, which is what it currently looks like, the 3 percent saying very few people on his side actually are confused. They think he lost.

And they're angry about. That, to me, would actually be different than the feature that Jelani was talking about, if it's a birtherist-type scenario, where they actually over time are genuinely tricked into something else.

But we will be tracking all of it.

And, Barbara, I know your style, the Upper West Side diner style. You have you said, does it even matter? Rhetorical questions. When COVID ends, I look forward to going back to a diner with you in the real world. We will take Jelani too, as long as he doesn't make us walk to the -- to that other press conference facility.

RES: Oh, God.

COBB: Deal.


Jelani and Barbara, thank you both.

Fit in a break, but up head: Joe Biden's vote lead in the total vote in America is swelling. People say it means a big mandate and more problems for the congressional Republicans.

Later, this Trump reality show, well, in a way it's been canceled. We're going to get into this with someone who's been a leader of the Trump resistance who also knows his way around reality show plans.

And coming up: the anti-Trump, President-elect Biden moving forward with some major moves. We have a special guest from Biden world next.


MELBER: President-elect Biden moving ahead with his transition and plans for the White House. There's also a major contrast between him and the president he will replace.

As we have reported throughout the day today, both marked Veterans Day at these somber wreath-laying ceremonies. Trump did not follow what is a mask requirement at Arlington. In Philadelphia, Biden appeared to be wearing, as you see there, essentially two masks.

Now, Biden has already moved forward on appointing a COVID response team and charting a course for the new administration. He says America is back. He has a transition advisory board. He's including Republicans, like Cindy McCain, to add input and make real what he said he would do with regard to unity.

Now, what are we seeing and hearing? Often, it looks really, if you boil it down, to reversing Trump.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: It's time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again.

And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans. This is the time to heal in America.


MELBER: Regardless of what the loser in the race does, this is always a period of transition.

We spent some time in the broadcast discussing what's different. But what is similar is president-elect Biden basically easing into this. Just this week, he held questions for the first time as president-elect. And I don't have to tell you, everybody knows, the statements you make when you're about to become the president matter more than anything you have probably ever said previously in your life.

And here he was taking journalists' questions on how it's all going to work. Like, how would he really achieve change in this climate?


QUESTION: How do you expect to be able to work with Republicans when so many have thus far refused to even acknowledge your victory?

BIDEN: We're already beginning the transition. We're well underway.

QUESTION: Mitch McConnell has suggested today that he may not recognize the outcome of this election.

Have you spoken to your longtime friend in the Senate?

BIDEN: I haven't had a chance to speak to Mitch.

QUESTION: How do you expect to work with Republicans if they won't even acknowledge you as president-elect?

BIDEN: They will.


MELBER: What is Joe Biden thinking? How is he choosing his words?

Well, we turn to Mathew Littman, who has helped choose words for the vice president. He was a speechwriter for Joe Biden. He also runs 97 Percent, a gun safety group. And Michael Steele is back with us.

Mathew, you are one of these people that, I will be frank, we're more interested now than we would have been two years ago, when Joe Biden was one of many primary candidates and nobody knew what was happening. He's now the president-elect.

Take us through your unique insights into what is up -- what he's up against, which is more unusual than a typical transition and the notes he just struck there that we saw.


Well, I think, if anybody who's going to be able to do this, with the Republicans not helping at all, it's Joe Biden, who's had an enormous amount of experience.

I'm reminded of a quote from George Washington when he first became president when he was elected. He said, "I walk on untrodden ground," meaning no one else has done this before. No one else has put together an administration before.

Joe Biden is going through a similar situation, in that no one has gone in with the other party not helping at all, in fact, being a hindrance.

But given Joe Biden's volume of experience, who better to do it than Joe Biden?

MELBER: Can I ask you a funny question I have been thinking about that that we haven't had time for?

Michael and I have been busy just in the fire hose of news, if I say so myself.

But does it strike you -- obviously, viewers understand you are going to be partial to Joe Biden. And we have had all kinds of guests on. I had Trump's aide Rick Gates on the other week. I mean, we talk to everybody.

But I'm curious. Do you think there's something that's gone on here where Joe Biden gets underestimated, even by his own sort of like-minded supporters and fans? Was he underestimated in the primaries? Was he underestimated in the general, as we now look at him as president-elect, saying, hey, I got this, they will work with me?

LITTMAN: Ari, I will be the first person to say I underestimated the Biden campaign in the primary. He did better than I thought he was going to do in the primary.


LITTMAN: And I -- yes. No, I am totally impressed by what he was able to do, bringing people together in the primary.

And then, in the general, once he got into the general election, I felt very confident in the Biden campaign, not just in Joe Biden himself, was terrific, but in the people that work for Joe Biden, who are also really great at this.

So, yes, was Joe Biden underestimated? Absolutely. If you look at Twitter, it's very, very left-leaning, right? When you go on Twitter, people are...

MELBER: I thought it was...

LITTMAN: ... much more passionate about some of these causes.


MELBER: Mathew, I thought it was bot-leaning.


LITTMAN: Well, you know better than I do, Ari. You're spending more time on there.

But, no, I think Joe Biden was underestimated. He knew where the American people were. And that was part of it.

I just have one more thing to say. I didn't know I was going to be on with Michael Steele today. Michael Steele is like the nicest guy on the planet. I worked on something called Politicon for a couple of years.

Michael was the MVP of the event. He walked around and talked to everybody. There is no nicer guy than Michael Steele.

MELBER: We agree.



MELBER: But I will tell you this. I will tell you this. If you think Michael is nice, wait until you meet his Muppet.


MELBER: Because I'm -- that guy, I haven't heard him say a bad word about anyone. I mean, he's really the heart and soul, the Muppet soul, the fuzzy -- fuzzy soul, Michael.

STEELE: I appreciate the love, brother. It's been a long time, man.

I will tell, Politicon is -- is such a novel and important idea of pulling everybody together. And it's been good stuff. So I was glad to be a part of it.

MELBER: And what about Mathew's points about Biden and being underestimated, Michael?

STEELE: Yes, I think Mathew is exactly right about that, Ari.

Look, I go back to the week Joe Biden announced. And I remember being on this air and other programs on MSNBC very clearly making the point that Joe Biden would be the nominee of the party, and everyone looking at me like, OK, so clearly you have had too much to drink today.

And -- but there's something about this guy that I think really kind of sums up the American journey. I mean, you think about his political journey, his personal journey, and how throughout all of that he has persevered. He has found a way to remain resilient. He's found a way to speak to the moment, even when he loses, even when he loses.


STEELE: And I think that's something -- character a lot of Americans will respect during his time as president.

MELBER: Yes, and something that they saw in the last round, when he last to Obama, was gracious, the whole history.


MELBER: To say nothing of the personal scale, which so many Americans are dealing with, when you think about COVID and all the losses, real losses.

Mathew Littman and Michael Steele, I want to thank both of you.

Fit in a break, but coming up, we have the new numbers that show Joe Biden's vote totals increasing and why Democrats say that adds to his mandate. I'm going to give you the new numbers. We like to show you the facts.

And, later, the Trump reality show canceled, with a special guest.


MELBER: Turning to an update on the election results, Joe Biden's total vote win is growing. It's now way larger than Donald Trump's narrow Electoral College victory from last cycle, which Republicans hailed like this:


FMR. REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): Enormous political feat. He just earned a mandate.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We truly do believe that our president-elect has secured a mandate for leadership.


MELBER: You hear it there. They all agreed it was a mandate, this authority from the American people to now lead.

But, if that was a mandate, what is this? Joe Biden's advantage in the total vote tops five million now, with more votes coming in. Biden's percentage of the total vote is basically about to hit 51 percent.

And it's already surpassed what Reagan got in 1980, which now makes Joe Biden -- get this -- coming through with the highest number of any challenger to an incumbent -- incumbent presidents are hard to beat -- since all the way back to 1932.

And when you look across the country, take these three key Midwestern states that clinched Trump last time, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Biden winning all of them by more than double Trump's edge in 2016.

Now, tonight, ballots, of course, are still being counted. And we know and we have reported on the fact that Trump upped his vote total to 72 million votes.

But here's the full map. Republicans did do well in the House, but Biden's total vote edge continues to grow, and those gray states, if they ultimately are called blue, would build the Electoral College edge as well.

So, let me take it all together for you. Joe Biden didn't just win. He won decisively across this whole country with the kind of numbers that Trump's own aides used to say was a mandate.

Call this a super mandate. Call it what you want. We have a winner and a loser and one of the largest margins in many decades.

That's the update.

We want to fit in a break, but when we come back, the final season of that Trump show, and why it is heading for a cancellation, with a very special guest.



JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Here's a question. Are we sure Donald Trump isn't just stuck in a White House bathtub and too embarrassed to call for help?


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Trump just doesn't know when it's time to pack it in. I mean, even the creators of "The Walking Dead" are like, enough already.


FALLON: The president has gone from firing people on reality TV to denying the reality that he's fired.


KIMMEL: We have reality show hosts who will not accept reality.


MELBER: Yes, there's that word. The reality show has become a punchline, Donald Trump crashing into one narrative he cannot control at all. He is the loser of this election, not a pejorative statement, just the technical reality.

And in Trump's TV terms, this is the ultimate ending, the Trump show canceled.

But, in terms of media, Trump has been here before. "The Apprentice" first did begin, remember, with high ratings and that memorable fake executive persona.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My name is Donald Trump. I'm looking for "The Apprentice."

Here we doing? This is week two of your 13-week job interview.

A lot of business is done on golf courses. Trump National Golf Club. Good luck.

Kevin, you're fired.

Stacy, you're fired.

Keisha, you're fired.

Bill, you're hired.



MELBER: Who could forget?

Now, as Donald Trump ponders his next moves out of the White House and possibly fusing other media or political programming into some kind of enduring force or moneymaking project, or even, yes, potentially another run in 2024, there may be lessons in the limits for any show that runs too long like this.

Trump's "Apprentice," of course, made him famous enough to run for president. But, remember, by the end, the ratings crashed, and it was not even appealing to Trump's own fans. And the gambits then to try to find new interest got -- basically, they got more and more desperate as a D-list cast of characters multiplied and bizarre challenges became normalized.


TRUMP: Your "Harry Potter" facts were not accurate. Who did the research?

FMR. GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D-IL): Well, it's Slytherin, and it's Hufflepuff, and it's Ravenclaw.

TRUMP: Marilu, do you remember when you got fired? You think you have a better memory than Dennis Rodman?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not so scary. More like you're having fun.


MELBER: Almost unwatchable.

By the end, "The Apprentice" was losing millions of viewers. It dropped a third of its original ratings. In TV terms, it was what people were watching when the TV was left on, but no longer appointment viewing.

But people tuning Trump out and voters and news reporters are also now, in a more serious, way filtering out Trump and the lies, all of it less compelling than it was once viewed.


TRUMP: The Democrats, but, in all cases, they're so one -sided.

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: We're watching President Trump speaking live from the White House.

And we have to interrupt here, because the president has made a number of false statements.

TRUMP: Likewise, in Georgia, I won by a lot, a lot, with a lead...

NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS: And there the president of the United States addressing the American people for the first time.

There were a couple of statements that the president made. Do you have a fact-check?


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: OK. Here we are again in the unusual position of not only interrupting the president of the United States, but correcting the president of the United States.

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: We're going to fact-check this in real time for you tonight, because that's not the case. We don't have any evidence of illegal votes in this country.


MELBER: Our next guest points out that some reality shows like "Real Housewives" do start out as big phenomenons, as "The Apprentice" did, but, over time, if they survive at all, it's by appealing to a narrower and more fanatic base that follows along with even ridiculous twists and turns, and no hope for new viewers.

Well, Trump is the show, but that only works if he can keep driving the show, if he can get people, for example, even on his narrow side to glom onto fanciful plot twists like a stolen election.

Now we turn to that expert, as promised.

This is the reality TV guru and innovator Michael Hirschorn. He created the concept of celebrity reality TV at VH1 with hits like "Flavor of Love," "I Love the '80s," and "Celebrity Rehab."

As he likes to say, you're welcome, America.

He's now the CEO of Ish Entertainment and a cultural analyst for "The Atlantic."

Thanks for coming back, sir.


MELBER: As mentioned, we wrote this setup partly from speaking with you today.

Tell us what you mean by these different paths that shows take?

HIRSCHORN: Well, I think shows either completely run out of steam and get canceled, or, if they're going to survive, they recognize that they have a small group of fans that they have to feed over and over and over again.

And the problem is that, by so feeding their base, if you will, the show becomes completely incomprehensible to people who are outside of the bubble. And that's what you see happening with Trump now, right?

For a minute, he had the entire country in his thrall, and what he said was culture. At this point, the culture that he's selling is so arcane and internal and bizarre and meta that, if you're not a regular watcher of FOX News, you're really going to have no idea what he's talking about.

MELBER: Yes, you say that, and that goes to things that happened at the end of the campaign, where, in '16, he seemed to close hitting on themes that people recognized.

Whether you think a wall is a good idea, not everyone understood that related to being a president, immigration policy. It didn't close with just Hunter Biden's laptop or these other eccentricities.

And so you have likened that to more of the late-stage "Real Housewives." Let's take a look at that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't you ever...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just saying. Just saying.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For everybody to know, you better watch what you talk about me, or everybody will know.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never go near my husband.



MELBER: For those who aren't well-versed in this, your...

HIRSCHORN: Yes, it's basically professional wrestling.

MELBER: Your argument is that it's even more fake than how it began. Explain.

HIRSCHORN: Yes, I think that, as people become more sophisticated about their own role as reality stars, they start becoming more and more self-conscious and start realizing that there's a feedback loop, wherein they have to be increasingly outrageous and generate wilder and wilder stories in order to keep people's interest.

So, what started as, the "Real Housewives" did, it was almost a documentary, the first season in Orange County. And it was an amazing vision of really the America that we have turned into.

At this point, it's people sort of auditioning and using the show as a way to build their brands and their career. And it really has no actual relationship to reality. So it becomes essentially unmoored.

And that's what you're seeing with Trump at this point. The problem with Trump as well is that the new story-producing, the production is just subpar, right? If you -- it's almost like the show runner quit and the new show runner doesn't quite understand the show.

They're like, I want you guys to hold a press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, and the cast is like, what? OK. We will go do that.


MELBER: And they're like, will this rate? And the new show runner is like, yes. But it doesn't.

I mean, this also brings us, as every -- as every conversation like this much sooner or later -- you know where I'm going, Michael. It brings us to the Meat Loaf subplot on "The Apprentice." Sorry.

Take a look.


MEAT LOAF, MUSICIAN: I bought those mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sponges. Part of that paint is mine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meat, don't do it. Don't do it.

MEAT LOAF: Mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you do not want to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) with me. You look in my eyes, I am the last person in the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) world you ever (EXPLETIVE DELETED) want to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) with!


MELBER: People may forget that is how "The Apprentice" ended, when people stopped watching it.

Your final thoughts here? We have about 40 seconds.

HIRSCHORN: Well, today, we're all Gary Busey, I think.


HIRSCHORN: We're completely insane, and yet we think we're the sane ones.


HIRSCHORN: But I just want to quickly propose a spinoff show.

It's Rudy Giuliani, Don Jr., Jerry Falwell Jr., Matt Gaetz. You put them all in a house together, and they work through their psychosexual and substance issues together. I think that would do really well.

I think Mark Burnett should produce that immediately for FOX.

MELBER: Well, I know you're joking. We're all open to working through anything that's out there.

But you have a lot of insight into this, and particularly the way the president thinks about it and, as ex-president, whether he's doing this programming and how that relates to the actual political stakes.

Michael Hirschorn, thank you very much here on THE BEAT.

We will be right back.


MELBER: As always, thanks for watching THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.


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