IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, November 16, 2020

Guests: Neal Browning, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, John Flannery, Adam Schiff, Alex Wagner


Joe Biden warns that the country may be harmed by President Trump's refusal to let the transition process begin. Congressman Adam Schiff discusses the Trump administration's refusal to provide president-elect Biden with intelligence briefings. President Obama speaks out on President Trump. Trump turns to Rudy Giuliani for some of his election legal battles.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT" with my friend Ari Melber starts right now.

Hi, Ari. Thank you for filling in, doing double duty last Wednesday. I'm grateful.



And that was just one. I don't know how you do two hours in a row every single day. But you do it well, Nicolle.


WALLACE: It's in the good graces of our viewers who keep me for two hours.


MELBER: Thank you very much. I hope you enjoyed your rest.

WALLACE: Have a good show.

MELBER: As I told people at the time, you deserved it.

We will have a good show. Thanks, Nicolle.

I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT. I'm Ari Melber.

Today, President Trump made what was actually today -- get this -- his first reference to president-elect Biden's victory, saying -- quote -- "He won," in reference to Joe Biden on Twitter.

It was followed by some other complaints and misinformation that I'm not repeating on this newscast. But the words there you see are real, "He Won."

And by the strange and low standards of a Trumpian post-election period, that was actually the outgoing president's first direct reference to president-elect Biden's victory. Even, as Donald Trump is also backpedaling on it and testing out a range of messages online for why he says that this all happened.

Meanwhile, top Trump aides are increasingly following reality and not Trump's denial. Here is his own national security adviser.


ROBERT O'BRIEN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We may have policy disagreements, but, look, if the Biden/Harris ticket is determined to be the winner -- and it's -- obviously, things look that way now -- we will have a very professional transition from the National Security Council. There's no question about it.


MELBER: There you have it. That sounds straightforward, perhaps borderline boring, but Mr. O'Brien is actually, I can tell you, the highest-ranking White House official to refer to Biden winning, even with the weird reference on the side of, things look that way now.

Things are that way. That's just a fact.

Outside of Washington, we also want to update you after this weekend. Some Republican governors are moving on from the GOP's attempt at a sort of deny-and-delay strategy. They're just saying the obvious.


GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): It's clear that, certainly, based on what we know now, that Joe Biden is the president-elect. And that transition, for the country's sake, it's important for a normal transition to start through.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): I expect Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States.


MELBER: As some Republicans break with Trump in public, we always want to try to show you what's really going on.

So it's key to note that the Trump White House is privately planning for the obvious and inevitable end of the administration. So, there are reports coming out about it rushing to finish certain goals before January 20, like trying to auction off more drilling in the Arctic, to working on this reported loyalty purge for the few days remaining of the administration.

Those are the tells that the Trump administration does know it's over, regardless of what Trump tweets or doesn't tweet. It also makes clear the current interference with the transition is not part of some grand larger strategy. It is just an act of personal enmity and pettiness, even, if in so doing, at Trump's behest, it risks the health of the American public.

Now, that's not my view that I'm coming up with. That is something that Dr. Fauci himself is now calling out directly. And that's the context are president-elect Biden turning up the heat now.

And this comes, let me be clear, after that full week we live through last week of president-elect Biden being quite diplomatic with the president he defeated and is about to replace. But the news tonight is, Biden is laying it out, telling his soon-to-be predecessor that these transition games could end in unnecessary deaths.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: More people may die if we don't coordinate.

So, how do we get the vaccine, how do we get over 300 million Americans vaccinated? What's the game plan?

It's a huge, huge, huge undertaking.


MELBER: We're joined now by Alex Wagner, the co-host and executive producer of Showtime's "The Circus, and, as a full disclosure, a longtime colleague of mine back here at MSNBC and a friend.

Nice to see you on THE BEAT.

And Gene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winner from "The Washington Post."

Good evening to both you.

ALEX WAGNER, CO-HOST, "THE CIRCUS": Good evening, Ari.


MELBER: I'm all right. New day, Monday, new week.

Gene, I'm curious what you think about what we do in our business, your newspaper, our network. We have to follow what's going on. And so it's a little funny to follow the delayed ability of people who run entire states to state now, yes, we have a president-elect.

ROBINSON: Yes, it's weird and stupid and unnecessary, and pointless, ultimately.

But it just shows what a cult of personality the Republican Party has become, and how in thrall to Donald Trump this party -- and it's hard to kind of call it a party. It's not a body of organized political thought, but it's just Trumpism now.

And until, I guess, they want to wait, what, a few more days for him to spew more nonsense about how he won this and the other -- that was stolen from him? It's absurd. And it is damaging. I mean, we are in a -- reaching a horrible crest of this -- of the coronavirus.

And it's essential that we have an orderly transition. And that is not what we're having.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, Gene, I think you just hit the crux of it.

And, Alex, this is the negative part, that the pettiness and the politics of it, of course, are, at least through January 20, going to have a tangible countervailing impact on the virus, transition process and everything else.

So, as much as anyone might like to wipe away the politics of it, it's part of it.

And I want to play for your journalistic fact-checking, which I know you will deal with great clarity, what is essentially as a softball over the place, but what's going on in other places where Trump people are talking. Take a listen.


PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: Looking at this election, we have what appears in some sense to be an immaculate deception.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: President Trump believes he will be President Trump, have a second term. And litigation is the first step.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the words of Kayleigh McEnany, President Trump will show up to his own inauguration. We are confident in our strategy going forward.



WAGNER: I hope President Trump doesn't want to get the official crowd size of that inauguration, because I think it's going to be one person, President Donald Trump.


WAGNER: The reality is, Ari, there are immediate and long-term implications of all of this.

In the immediate to Vice President Biden, president-elect Biden's words, there are practical, urgent public health implications of not actually conceding the election and having an orderly transition of power. There are national security implications. We don't need to go into great detail. But that is real.

And then there is the medium- to long-term implications of all of this. I have spent enough time crossing the country and talking to Trump supporters to know that there is a certain section of the American public that will never believe that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president.

These are pernicious theories. And Donald Trump has a way of very successfully poisoning the groundwater. And what he's doing right now is dangerous for American democracy. We can't overstate how risky it is to suggest to maybe even a third of the country that the person who will take power in January, Joe Biden, is not the legitimate president.

The implications for the Republican Party are vast. The implications for a Biden presidency as he tries to reach across the aisle to get Republicans to work with him on anything, if Republican constituents do not believe that Joe Biden should and is president, it is going to make the work of Republican senators and legislators that much harder as they have to manage a public health crisis with a Democratic president.

So it's not just kind of the rhetoric and the nonsense. It is a very real, immediate, medium- and long-term disaster that could be on our hands, unless the president decides to change course shortly.

MELBER: Yes, I think that makes a lot of sense. And that's why it's concerning.

And, Gene, it goes to these rituals that seemed to be fomented by a certain part of the political class about, well, there should be empathy and sympathy and go learn what motivated Trump voters in '16, when he won the Electoral College, but that is one-way request.



MELBER: There was a delegitimization against Barack Obama. For those reasons, we have called out the birther lies and racism. Now, as Alex just walked us through, there's a delegitimization of this president on different terms, but it seems, oh, whenever the other side is winning, that process kicks in.

And for the stakes of it, we want to turn to what both of you have referred to, but it's COVID. It's a recession. It's food insecurity. It's all the real stuff that whoever was going to win this race, if they were all responsible, was going to have a lot on their plate, while Americans have less and less on their literal plates.

Take a look at something we have just from a Dallas food bank today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the ground, you could see cars lined up everywhere at Fair Park. When you take a wider view from the air, the length of the line was as far as the eye could see, backed up onto the freeway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't been working since December, March. Can't find a job. They cut off our unemployment. It is a big deal. It's a real big deal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, this is a big blessing for us to be able to get this.


MELBER: This is what people are living through around the country. We go back to it. We cover it in different ways, Gene.

It's the stakes of this as the virus surges. And I want to emphasize this. It's not a binary of, oh, responsible CDC-type policy means, you shut everything down. You have to trade off as well. How many people are trading a public health risk with eviction and not being able to work, as that individual said, since December?


And what is being said by Dr. Fauci and others, not being listened to by the president, is that, of course, you don't have to shut down the entire economy.

But you do have to perhaps selectively shut down some kinds of businesses in some places for some length of time. Ideally, you want to have as many schools open as you can, because that's good for the kids, so you should try to do that where you can.

But we're -- this place is on fire right now. That's the -- the problem is that the Trump administration has been so irresponsible, that the reasonable measures that now we should be able to take to control the fall spike of the virus, in a lot of places, may not be enough. And we may have to do more, just because it's been allowed to get so far out of control.

And those long lines that we saw at that food bank, I mean, that is the reality for a lot of people in this country, that we are in a deep economic crisis, as well as a public health crisis. Those of us who can work from home and we have secure jobs aren't feeling it, but a whole lot of the country is.

And it's a tragedy. And, of course, the president cares only about himself. So, he doesn't seem capable of that sort of empathy. But this is happening in Donald Trump's America.


WAGNER: I don't know.

I mean, I think we listen to news about COVID every day. And we -- I think it's really important that you're playing the visual of people on that food line, Ari, because we have lost a sense of -- like, we have lost the humanity in discussion of the numbers. People are dying alone in hotel in hospital rooms and saying goodbye to their loved ones on iPhones.

People are lined up, people who've worked all of their lives, trying to get food from the government because they can't find jobs. This is the United States of America. And we are out of touch with our suffering, in large part because the president, our leader, has lost all empathy for the human suffering that occurs on a minute-by-minute, hourly basis in the middle of one of the worst crisis in our history.

And I think one of the things that is incumbent upon Joe Biden, one of the reasons I do think he was elected is to restore a sense of shared humanity, because that is the only thing that is going to get us through this. It's not about the economy or public health. Those two things are twinned.

And until you solve the pandemic, you will never get the economy back on track. And the way to solve that is by realizing and reaffirming that we are all in this together.

MELBER: Yes. And, Alex, you lay it out. I know you're not a candidate, but you could be when you lay it out with that much forethought, because what -- no, what you're saying is what...

Go ahead.


MELBER: I missed it.

WAGNER: I will never be a candidate.

MELBER: Never?

ROBINSON: Wagner 2024.




MELBER: Is that now -- now I got to go to Gene.

Gene has the Pulitzer, so he's better at this than I am.

Does that count as breaking news if I got a never from her, or would she have to have announced for it to be news?


ROBINSON: I think, if she had announced, that would be really news. I'm not sure the never is a stop the presses moment.

MELBER: Yes, Gene -- and Gene knows how this works better than I do. I'm new to it.

But I will say, what I was going to say, in addition to the compliment, was that, Alex, you're hitting on something that is a point of unity, which is, yes, people want jobs and economic progress, and we want to be safe and not be at risk.

And so finding the ways to get to that, that's not a political, polarized thing. That's just, how do we get back to those kinds of solutions?

And if Twitter wants to weigh in and encourage Alex to run, sometimes, you push people off never. Who knows.


MELBER: Alex Wagner, Gene Robinson, thanks for kicking us off tonight.

WAGNER: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate both of you.

Coming up after our shortest break of the hour, just 30 seconds, we have tonight Obama's new comments on Trumpism and Trump's ego.

A new setback for Rudy Giuliani, with one of my legal fact-checks and a great guest.

And an interview with the very second person who ever did the Moderna vaccine trial, big news there tonight, good news, many say.

But, before all that, when we're back in 30, Adam Schiff is here on this transition and the intel briefings -- 30 seconds.

Stay with us.


MELBER: What's the proof that Donald Trump's continued resistance and denial over this election and interference with transition is a problem?

Well, will look to his own top national security advisers. These are the people he put in charge. They say we're entering a national security risk territory. Biden's not getting the intelligence briefings or security clearances for his team. American adversaries don't stop just because we're during a transition.

Now, here's the some of the evidence. Former National Security Adviser John Bolton says this -- quote -- "harms the country."

Trump's own Chief of Staff John Kelly, who you see there, says this whole thing could be -- quote -- "catastrophic."

Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff. He is the powerful chair of the House Committee on Intelligence.

Good evening, sir.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Good evening.

MELBER: First, big picture, what are the stakes here?

SCHIFF: Well, in a pandemic that is killing more than 1,000 Americans every day, the stakes are enormously high.

In the best case, in the best of worlds, you have a smooth transition in a peaceful time. But we're not in a peaceful time right now. We're in a time where this virus is claiming so many of our fellow citizens.

And with very promising vaccines now on the horizon, you want something seamless. You want to be able to roll that out, bring in the new team that can help organize what that will look like. You also want to make sure that we don't run into shortages of protective gear during this transition, as these hospitals confront this surge.

And, finally, Ari, it is very possible to school administration has some kind of a national security crisis in its first weeks. And if intelligence briefings would help them see that coming and plan for it, then the absence of those is really a danger to the country.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, you're speaking to -- we have lived through -- I think viewers know there are many things that were traditions, customs that Donald Trump flouted, to varying degrees of pain.

This would appear to be one, in the sense that they're getting away with this thus far. But, as you say, the tradition, custom, cooperation of doing this is important. And when it hasn't worked in the past, for more legitimate reasons, that's been an issue.

I want to read from something that's been going around, citing the bipartisan 9/11 report, which noted that, for unintended consequences, the -- quote -- "dispute over the election cut in half the normal transition period, which hampered the new administration."

Do you see something like that here? The inference there, although no one's saying you could isolate any one variable, but they were saying the variable of messing with that allotted transition time definitely hampered the understanding and preparation of the new administration for all those threats, which included Osama bin Laden.

SCHIFF: That's unquestionably the case.

And if you look at Afghanistan, again, there are indications that the Trump administration may try to precipitously draw down troops in these remaining few weeks. Now, that's not something that he can probably implement in that time. But what he may do is undermine the leverage of the incoming administration in any discussions with the Taliban.

And so there are going to be real-world consequences there. And, of course, one liability we're already seeing, one danger deficit we're already seeing is the damage that's being done to our very democracy by the idea being promoted by the president and his acolytes that Americans shouldn't rely on this election, that the election of Joe Biden was somehow tainted by massive fraud, which is, of course, a completely bogus claim, but undermines our democracy, and not only undermines it here at home, but in the eyes of the rest of the world.

MELBER: What can Congress do at least to get the intelligence briefings and that stuff going?

SCHIFF: You know, my sense is that the pressure is mounting without Congress having to act.

And it may very well -- the president, if we make a confrontation with Congress about this, there's nothing that excites his base more than that.

But what we're seeing, I think, is already constructive. And that is more and more former administration officials, like Kelly, like Bolton, like others, are acknowledging the reality Trump lost.

But they're also acknowledging the danger in this petulant conduct by the president, that it really is harming our national security. And I think, as those voices multiply, it will put an inexorable pressure on the administration to start to brief the new team.

But, look, if it doesn't happen, then we will have to contemplate what next, because we can't leave the country unprotected.

MELBER: Yes, it's an important issue, among many during this period.

And, as the leader of the House Intelligence Committee who has tangled with this president on the Ukraine plot, among other things, appreciate you joining us.

Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you, sir.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

We have a lot more in the program, more from president-elect Biden speaking out about the stakes of this and the blocking of COVID information, as America eyes a vaccine, hope around the corner.

Now, what do we know about that? Ninety-five percent efficacy for one of them. And the second person to ever take it -- this is what we call primary experience -- joins us live tonight. I'm interested in hearing about that.

Later, former President Obama getting quite candid on Trumpism.

And coming up, Donald Trump lost the election. He was the loser of the election. That's a fact. He's losing now again in court, but changing up the style with a little more Giuliani.

We're going to explain why that is actually a bad sign for fighting in court -- when we come back.


MELBER: Donald Trump is the loser of the election.

And, lately, he has been adding to that loss record in court. Now, we have been covering these cases on THE BEAT for what they are, theatrics, from a Bill Barr election memo that made headlines for about a day, even as it didn't change anything, which we showed you the moment the news broke, to a series of irrelevant court cases that basically are continuing to get tossed or pulled by Trump officials and allies themselves.

Now, that's now happening to a key allegation in a Trump Pennsylvania lawsuit, which is dropping the claim that hundreds of thousands of ballots should have been tossed because how -- because of how they were monitored.

Now voters in full other key states who had alleged voter fraud are dropping their lawsuits.

This is a continuing trickle of courtroom failures that have been tied together by the visage of this man, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who's now supposed to lead some sort of new litigation, but it will work independent of the Trump campaign's formal legal operation, which even Republicans admit is another sign that Trump is giving up on the formal attempt to win cases and instead turning to a TV lawyer, who could just use the theme of court as a foundation for these theatrics.

And Giuliani is definitely already going down that road with outlandish and false claims on FOX News this weekend.

Now, you're about to hear some of the false claims that we have been fact-checking, followed by a legal expert who will further correct them. So, just buckle up briefly for this bonkers clip.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As he's gotten more evidence of the rigging that went on, he's really outraged.

It's way beyond what people think, including a very, very dangerous foreign company, a company that has close, close ties with Venezuela and therefore China, is a radical left company. One of the people there is a big supporter of Antifa.

Our votes are sent overseas. This is another attempt to try to defeat him by illegal means. It's no different than the impeachment. It's done by largely the same people.


MELBER: The reference to impeachment is particularly rich because it was the former mayor's Ukraine plot that got his client, President Trump, impeached.

Then, as now, Donald Trump is relearning a very old legal concept, mo' Giuliani, mo' problems.

We turn now to former federal prosecutor John Flannery, who knows Giuliani personally. You can see they worked together in the mid-1970s. He has extensive experience, as well as advising congressional investigations on these types of issues.

Good to see you, sir.


MELBER: Let's start with the Giuliani of it. I guess this is where the vaunted legal challenges end, fittingly, perhaps, not in a courtroom, not in some other method of protest or civil disobedience or anything that might be vaguely civic...


MELBER: ... but in a FOX News green room.

FLANNERY: Well, that's the safest place to tell lies these days.

Faux news. Maybe you can't say it, but I certainly can. And, objectively, if you take that bonkers segment that you just had, he made reference to contacts to Venezuelans, to strongmen and so forth. And that corporation has none. They reached out for a liberal contributor and tried to merge that together with it. And that's not true.

So, it's always been true, I guess from day one, with Trump, even as a candidate, you couldn't believe what he said, unless he made an admission against his own interests. And Rudy Giuliani has been that and worse. It's sort of he's made admissions for other people.

And the worst thing we have here is a man who had the capacity as a young man to be a great trial lawyer and a great model for people to understand the law in America. And, instead, he's taking the talents he's lost as a young man and distorting and misrepresenting our election process.

And he's attacking it with no facts in any of these actions, judges we're lucky to have who have questioned the facts. Was there a person who could observe? Oh, well, yes, there was, and they were closer, but we had other people that we wanted to be present.

There are these kinds of contradictions. And then, when people are about to come to court and to be judged by a judge who's going to ask facts and see if the law fits, they either withdraw their case or it's thrown out.

So, I think the long game here is to undermine our electoral process. And if you think about -- I mean, you had Schiff on here a few moments ago, and I was glad to hear him speak. But if we go back to that, what was Trump to do for his puppet master, Putin? Was it to destroy or to compromise or to harm in any way possible the American principles of justice and law and the Constitution?

I think so. What does he get out of it? I don't know. Is it defensive or whatever? But if you were to take how he's run this election and how he's failed us in the coronavirus, just the most recent errors, and how he's compromised our society, these are -- he is the enemy of the people. He is the enemy of the state.

And if we had time, he should be impeached, so he could never hold office again. And right behind him should be Rudy Giuliani, who's going into court. And, apparently, there's a conspiracy of a confederacy of dunces who are prepared to tell the most bizarre things to judges in order to distort this process.

And it was interesting. In the lawsuit that was filed that is considered frivolous, rightly so, in Pennsylvania, they make reference to Gore against Bush. And it's like they're trying to squeeze what they don't have in fact into something like the question of equal protection in Florida, where there was a separation of, I don't know, 574 votes, whereas we have, if I remember correctly, something like 70,000 spread in Pennsylvania.

And that's not the only state in which Biden is beating his fill in the blank.

And so I think what we have here is, Rudy has proven himself, by his different adventures, as rogue Rudy or silly Rudy, when he's not protecting his shirt or whatever else he's doing, he is part of this cabal of people who would compromise what's best about America and who would literally support a man who is, by doing nothing, killing people in America, not protecting us against this virus.

So, if there's a legal pathogen, it's this duo. And if there is one, that's true that is actually killing people, it's the failure to act on the coronavirus.

I probably went on too long. I'm sorry, Ari.

MELBER: Don't be sorry. You went from Putin to a confederacy of dunces to Borat, with mellifluous logic throughout.

FLANNERY: Seemingly.

MELBER: I think viewers are reminded why people would want you to make their case in court.

But I can't respond everything you said, but I will say, particularly on the notion of basically trying to instill doubt, rather than go somewhere, is, if there were widespread voter fraud...


MELBER: ... that would be bad.


MELBER: If an election were spoiled in some way, we all have an interest -- I don't care which candidate you might support -- in dealing with that.

But, likewise, the false claims in the other direction are bad.

I want to play one more bit of Giuliani, because we just reported about how they completely dropped, they're not even trying to prove the voter fraud there in PA. And yet here he was out selling it. Take a look.


GIULIANI: And they don't allow any Republican to inspect.


GIULIANI: That is illegal, unlawful, against the law.

We can prove that 632,000 ballots were handled that way, particularly in Philadelphia. And if you tell me that Philadelphia doesn't cheat in elections, I will tell you're living on Mars.

We already have enough affidavits from people who were pushed out of being able to observe.



MELBER: Now, I just want to be very clear.

The banner on the screen is the news, OK? Everyone can read it. It's very simple.

FLANNERY: Right. Yes.

MELBER: It doesn't involve a judge or a Democrat or even any outside party. The Trump folks admitted defeat. They dropped that claim. They can't prove 600,000 or 1,000 of those ballots.


MELBER: And yet Rudy runs around on TV doing that.

My final question to you -- and we're running short on time -- though, is...


MELBER: ... if he said that kind of stuff in court, would he have a legal problem on his hands?

FLANNERY: Well, yes, absolutely.

We call it Rule 11. But what it is, is you're supposed to make representations of fact that are true and law that you could argue are true. And, in these cases, we have a whole phalanx of lawyers filing documents that can't satisfy either.

And Rudy sort of twist these things, to a great extent -- and I know you're running out of time -- but I think that the notion of attacking our electoral system, that people have literally fought to be citizens to have the right to vote, have died fighting to have that right, should be compromised by these guys, who apparently only can win an election if they can suppress the vote.

MELBER: Right.

FLANNERY: And that's what this was before the vote happened. And that's what's happening now. And...

MELBER: Yes. No, I think...

FLANNERY: ... they're trying to -- yes.


MELBER: No, I think you make that clear.

Only, now I am running out on time. So now I am going to jump in.

But, John Flannery, great to see you again, sir.

FLANNERY: Good to see you, sir. Bye-bye.

MELBER: Absolutely.

We have a lot more in the program.

Donald Trump impeding the transition, slowing the work on COVID, but that doesn't stop this big, good news on the vaccine. And we have a very special guest, one of the first volunteers in this successful Moderna vaccine trial, live, and a medical expert.

And later night, Barack Obama back, going after Trump again.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Donald Trump has refused to concede. And there are new warnings of the real-world impact, with the deliberate undermining of the transition work. We have been discussing that with intel and the pandemic.

Today, someone who knows all about this, former President Obama, who has not always attacked Trump, is speaking out on this, saying this is denying reality and a lot more.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When your time is up, then it is your job to put the country first and think beyond your own ego.

My advice to President Trump is, if you want at this late stage in the game to be remembered as somebody who put country first, it's time for you to do the same thing.


MELBER: We turned now to Brittany Packnett Cunningham, an activist on police reform who was a member of President Obama's 21st Century Policing Task Force, you can see there in the pictures.

Good to have you.


MELBER: Your thoughts on the way President Obama is weighing in on this as the days go by. I reported earlier night president-elect Biden speaking to the stakes, and President Obama clearly deciding it's important to weigh in.

PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: I read both what Barack Obama had to say and also what Michelle Obama had to say about his complete and utter lack of respect for the American people.

And I will tell you that it is something to watch black people have to leap over our own degradation time and again to save America from itself.

That they withheld so much of this for so long, knowing that people would not be able to properly digest what they were saying simply because they were the messengers, to now have to come out and say these things because we are all at great risk, watching this man try to continue to steal an election that he lost, is really saying something about where we are as a country.

Repeatedly, America requires black folks to look past our pain and to show up as patriots. And that's, frankly, what the Obamas are doing right now. They are saying what is necessary. They're saying what is true. They're saying what is right.

This transition is urgent. We have a pandemic to get over. We have an economic recession to deal with. We have violence that is happening all over this country, from hate crimes to police violence, that we have to face head on. And we cannot do that when someone is throwing a temper tantrum because they lost the contest.

Frankly, I would say he's being childish, but that's insulting to children. At the end of the day, Donald Trump is the egomaniacal white supremacist that we have always known him to be. And we have to be very clear about what needs to be done to move past this moment and get back to work.

MELBER: I hear you on that.

And I would say this is America, but that would be insulting to Childish Gambino, while we're...


PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: Well, it might actually be accurate to precisely what he was trying to say.


MELBER: Well, while we're speaking about childish tendencies.

And you mentioned the crosscurrent of race that is so clear here. I'm excited to read all of Obama's new book. We're getting him speaking out on it as it comes out. But we know from excerpts and his interviews that he talks about as well what it means to have a backlash to the first black president go towards the bigotry of what is a large animating force of Trumpism.

Here was the president, former president, on that and Trump growing his vote total. Take a look.


OBAMA: We're very divided. It's not just the politicians now. The voters are divided.

It has now become a contest where issues, facts, policies, per se, don't matter as much as identity and wanting to beat the other guy.

I do think the current media environment adds to that greatly.


MELBER: He's a careful writer and speaker, and he uses the word identity, Brittany.

A lot of what we have in the actual polling results that I have walked through with my viewers is race.

PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: Well, it's interesting that he uses that word, especially in a time when people so often try to saddle those of us who are people of color or come from marginalized identities with degrading ourselves and debasing ourselves in this phrase and idea of identity politics, that we simply are unsophisticated, is what they say.

But the truth of the matter is, it is folks with marginalized identities who showed up and voted for everyone's sake, and not just our own sake.

There is only one racial identity in this country that consistently votes not in favor of all American people, but simply of themselves. I think it's unfortunate when we continue to see Democrats chase that population, when we know that they have not actually shown themselves to be loyal to these ideas en masse.

And so identity is absolutely the point here, not the identity of marginalized folks, but the identity of people who are clinging so closely to their privilege, so closely to a supremacist culture that continues to elevate them, and push others down, when they cling so closely to that, that they're holding on to that, holding on for dear life, trying to make sure that they don't lose, instead of recognizing that, if we share power, everybody actually wins.

Identity is entirely the point. It is the lever that Donald Trump holds. It is the thing that he played on. And it is the thing that he used to make white Americans particularly fearful of the future. Creating a future that actually works for all of us does not cost anyone anything, except for maybe the myth of supremacy that they had been holding on to for a long time.

MELBER: Right.

And to your point, 57 percent of white Americans stood up, went out, and voted to try to give him four more years, which is a context to all this.

I got to fit in a break.

Ms. Cunningham, thanks for being here.

PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: Thank you for having me.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

When we come back, lame-duck President Trump trying to block COVID information, transition materials.

And, as mentioned, this new vaccine approaching 95 percent efficacy. It's good news on the horizon. The second person to test it is here next.


MELBER: Quote: "More people may die."

That's how president-elect Biden is putting it today when it comes to Donald Trump now blocking key COVID information, including coordinating on this eventual vaccine distribution. It comes as the virus continues on this alarming trend we have been reporting, cases arising about 170,000 a day, state officials issuing new mandates.

The U.S. total tops 11 million cases. That's up over one million in just over a week. The chart tells the story. And that contributes to what we're dealing with here, something we have tried to bend over time with public health policy, over 247,000 deaths.

But there is potential good news on what would be a second potential vaccine. A biotech company, Moderna, has finished what is called phase three of its COVID study, and they found almost 95 percent efficacy, the shot also reducing severe cases of the virus.

The company's president tells NBC News the first 20 million doses could actually be rolled out as soon as next month.

We turn now to something very special that I told you in the beginning of the show we have. Neal Browning is part of this very maternal trial. He is the second person in the world to receive a COVID vaccine. And he joins us, along with Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease physician and director at -- director, I should say, at Boston Medical Center.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

Neal, walk us through when and how you got started with this.

NEAL BROWNING, VACCINE TRIAL VOLUNTEER: Well, it all started eight months ago to the day.

I went into the downtown research facility run by Kaiser Permanente. And they gave me the first injection of this experimental COVID vaccine for testing.

MELBER: And what did you learn, being a part of it, about how it works, potential risk, whether it worked on you?

BROWNING: So, this is something brand-new that's not really ever been done before.

It's messenger RNA, which is a set of instructions that reprograms your DNA in order to take healthy human cells. And they still function the way they normally would, but, from the exterior, it builds the spike proteins around them, so that they mimic COVID-19 as a virus.

This is intended to trigger an immune response, so that your body can identify, learn how to fight, and how to make antibodies that can attach to and help destroy the COVID-19, should you ever be encountering it in the wild.

MELBER: When people look at someone like you, especially in that early stage, I think people can think back to February/March, and it was really a confusing time for a lot of folks. And someone says, gosh, that sounds scary or dangerous.

What do you say to them, based on just your own lived experience?

BROWNING: Considering I'm in Washington state, where we had the first confirmed case, the first confirmed outbreak, and the first confirmed death, it was really something that hit home and personal to me.

I have a wife. I have three little girls. And I don't want to see any more suffering and pain than we have to. Things in Italy were spiking pretty bad. Spain got to be pretty bad. And we could see that this was impacting the entire world.

So, as a member of the human race, if I can step up and help and do something, I feel like it's my obligation to do so.

MELBER: It's great, Neal.

I mean, it's so important, as there are so many aspects of this. And we have our heroes in front-line workers and nurses and doctors, all sorts of first responders. But we also -- of course, we need people like you.

And, again, I stress the time period, because the earlier it was, the more confusing of a time it was, at a minimum.

Doctor, your thoughts?


And, Neal, I want to start by thanking you for your service, because the results we see today are promising for three reasons. One, as you said, Ari, the effectiveness, it shows us that this was effective as another second candidate that could provide more doses.

But the trial that they had included, actually, 42 percent of the people who got it were people who were -- had comorbidities, had risk factors for severe disease, and it seemed to produce no severe disease in those folks.

It's also great because both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are both aimed at that spike protein that Neal talked about. And, believe it or not, that's the same target that the other two Operation Warp Speed vaccines, the AstraZeneca and the J&J, that are in advanced trials, they're also aiming against the same protein, which tells me maybe -- fingers crossed -- that potentially we might get positive results there as well.

The last bit, mRNA vaccine, so much easier to produce. First person who got an mRNA vaccine from the time that China released the genetic material to the day the person got the vaccine was 66 days.

You don't need cells. You don't need eggs, easier to produce. And by Neal being part of this trial and proving this technology, one, it keeps us safer from future pandemics as well.

MELBER: Doctor, do you think -- there's public health and there's then public health communication, and we have seen the politicization and problems with that since the jump.

Is it important not only that folks see the rates? We can all understand 95 percent. If you're in school, sounds good. Sounds like an A. But is it important, do you think, for public health communication that the public also sees -- again, I'm using Neal as a guest, and with your blessing a little bit as a prop -- to see people like Neal, that this works, that it's real, that you can join in and try this too, if the public health guidance will be that everyone, with perhaps very rare exceptions, get it when available?

BHADELIA: That's right.

Yes. And, Neal, I -- we're going to be probably picking on you for a while, as these vaccines roll out, because even before COVID, vaccine hesitancy was ranked by WHO as one of the top 10 concerns in the world.

And what's even making it worse is the vaccine hesitancy, which we will need Neal's help with, but that this is a long haul in getting the vaccines distributed, the cost of it, the logistics of it, and the politics of it, unfortunately, that we're seeing.

And so all of that is going to be -- between now and then, there's a time. And I want to just remind everybody the darkest months are, unfortunately, still ahead of us.

MELBER: Right.

BHADELIA: So, just wear your mask and keep that distance and just know that this is coming down the tube.

MELBER: Right.

And I'm running out of time, but, Neal as a -- Seattle's my hometown. I see the Hawks behind you. It makes me think sometimes the best offense is a good defense.

BROWNING: Hey, anything that works.

And the way 2020 has gone, if we can kick this out at the end with some good news, all the better.

MELBER: Amen, Neal Browning.

Our special thanks to you, Dr. Bhadelia, walking us through all of it. I appreciate you both.

Coming up, president-elect Biden, we just learned, making a major announcement about his top White House staff. We have the name and the news next.


MELBER: Breaking news.

NBC reporting on a significant new staffing move by President Joe Biden, one of the first clues about how he is staffing the White House. He will, we're told, name his campaign manager, Jen O'Malley Dillon, as deputy chief of staff. She was, of course, one of the key architects of this historic victory over the incumbent president, Donald Trump.

Now, this will be Biden's, of course, second big White House staffing announcement. He named his longtime aide, the person who actually was his chief of staff in the Obama administration, Ron Klain, back to that same position, with the upgrade of being chief of staff to the president-elect. That came last week.

I want to give you one more reminder before I go. You can always DVR THE BEAT. Do it right now from your remote. You press your cable home page. Search for MELBER. Press DVR for the show, and then you won't miss any episodes of THE BEAT.

For example, we recently had Robert De Niro, Fat Joe, Carole King. If you're DVRed, you can always go back and catch anything you missed.

That does it for us.



Content and programming copyright 2020 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.