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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, November 17, 2020

Guests: Hakeem Jeffries, Amber Ruffin, Melissa Murray


Congressman Hakeem Jeffries speaks out. Comedian Amber Ruffin discusses the end of the Trump era of comedy. President Trump's legal team continues to come up short in its election court cases. Senator Lindsey Graham comes under fire for allegedly trying to have legal votes thrown out in Georgia.



Hi, Ari.

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

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

And president-elect Biden has a new message for the nation.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: My basic message, America's back, and it's no longer America alone.

I have been unable to get the briefings that ordinarily would have come by now. And so I just want to get your input on what you see ahead.

And, to state the obvious, there's no presidential responsibility more important than protecting the American people.


MELBER: What you see there is the president-elect of the United States holding meetings with national security experts, some of whom could ultimately serve in his administration.

But, as he just referenced, Biden has not been meeting with anyone within the government for the traditional briefings because of these Trump officials' delay tactics.

Now, as Biden previews a more multilateral approach to the world, President Trump is also eying foreign policy, "The New York Times" now reporting he asked aides about launching strikes against Iran before leaving office.

That's notable, considering he also just ousted the Pentagon chief, whose replacement, the acting defense secretary, is now rolling out some new planned troop withdrawals from Iran and Afghanistan, which will occur in Trump's final week on the job, six days before the inauguration of what would then be President Biden.

So, after all of Donald Trump's bluster and denial heading into Election Day and thereafter, the broader picture here is coming into view in this second week since he became the loser of this race. There is no constitutional crisis. There's certainly no coordinated legal plan.

And, later in the hour, we have an update on another Trump loss in court on a 2020 case. And there's no reported plot to abuse federal power to do anything other than delay and annoy the Biden transition. There's not, for example, reporting or signs of misusing federal power to stop it.

But there's also increasing evidence that President Trump is breaking with the tradition of the orderly transition that tries to at least leave -- and this is something presidents of both parties have done -- reasonably calm waters, a policy path for one's successor, whether you agree with them or not, the idea of America and the government and public interest being higher than your disagreement.

And to see how just how aberrant that is right now, look no further than the bipartisan stated intense concern about Trump's foreign policy moves, starting with the person who will, when you think about it, actually become the number one most powerful Republican in government when Trump leaves, a former longtime Trump ally, Mitch McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I think it's extremely important here in the next couple of months not to have any earthshaking changes with regard to defense and foreign policy.

I think a precipitous drawdown in either Afghanistan or Iraq would be a mistake.

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): This really rash decision which will want to put our troops in harm's way. You know, President Trump just literally wants to blow everything up as he goes out the door.


MELBER: We turned now to David Plouffe, Barack Obama's 2008 campaign manager, former Obama pollster Cornell Belcher, and "The New York Times"' Michelle Goldberg.

Good evening, all.

Michelle, I'm curious of your view of what we just saw there.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I don't think that the most -- what frightens me much more than these drawdowns, which I think that the military would have excuses to kind of never want to agree to these drawdowns in Afghanistan and other places.

That's not as frightening as the news that Donald Trump came close to, or at least is asking about starting a war with Iran.


GOLDBERG: Excuse me.

And I think it goes to -- there's this idea in some quarters that Donald Trump is something of a dove, of a noninterventionist. I don't think there's been nearly enough coverage to the escalation of drone strikes under his presidency. And he's certainly an isolationist.

But he is willing to blow up agreements and understandings and alliances that have kept the United States out of war. He's willing to leave Joe Biden a much more inflammatory, much more volatile international situation, because I think he just -- he wants to see Joe Biden fail.

He wants to see the country fail if he can't run it.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, this goes, David, to the eras we're in now.

You were part of the Obama/Biden era and that shift in the country. And then you have Trumpism, which now is just one term, although there's all these echoes around the nation in the body politic. You have a return to what may be the Obama/Biden vibes, or we will see if Biden is very different in his own way, because he's now number one.

But, to Michelle's point, there's disagreements in foreign policy, and then there's a kind of a just general amoral, disaster-prone ideology. It's more like having "The Dark Knight" Joker, who has no goals, we're taught over the course the film, but just wants things to burn.

Is that how you view this foray into a possible hot war with a country like Iran, which is not nothing, on your way out the door?

DAVID PLOUFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well, I think we have never seen a president lay land mines both to punish his successor and the American people.

I don't know whether Netanyahu's on the phone with Trump saying, hey, you have got a few weeks left, let's get the war drums going.

But I think the question -- Ari, you mentioned this era we're in. The question is, in '22, and '24, and '26, are we going to have more Republicans say, I'm not going to abide by the election results; I might have lost; I don't agree with it? Are we going to have future Republican presidents refuse to engage in peaceful transfer of power?

I think we'd all like to comfort ourselves and say that this is unique to the moment, but, at the end of the day, I think the energy in the Republican Party, at least in the short term, is going to reward people who break these norms.

And so, as important as it was for the country, I think, to get rid of Trump, I think we have to understand the battle to come is going to be even more important, and even more difficult and even more multipronged.

MELBER: It's a great point, which takes us right to Cornell and your eye on the actual data, what you actually see out there.

Political scientists, Cornell, they can get all fancy with it. They sometimes talk about asymmetric polarization, which, as I understand it, is a lot of syllables for Republicans getting cray.


MELBER: And not all -- not all Republicans, like, will follow the data, but they have data -- Cornell, walk us through it -- that seems to show what David just said.

I'm not talking about differences about the size of government or the role of government in your life, right? These -- those are valid, long-running good-faith debates in American life, but the notion that, as David just outlined, it is more acceptable to have the anti-democratic or quasi-authoritarian view that it's only a real election if your side wins is happening more on the right.

Does the data back that up, Cornell? Or educate us.

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, take your -- I'm going to take your "Dark Knight" and run with it, because Biden may not be the hero that we want, but he's the hero that we need right now, because, right now, we need a return to normalcy.

And I think, whether you're Democrat or you're Republican, if you look at what's happening across the globe, and you look at how he's destabilizing our relationships across the globe, destabilizing NATO, and destabilizing what we have been building in the Middle East, I mean, Putin is better off today around the globe than he was before Trump got in.

It does call this ideal of, is Trump a Manchurian Candidate? I think, if you look at the how he's destabilizing things for America and our allies, you can certainly make that case.

And we need a return to normalcy, both domestically, but also internationally. The Republicans and what Lindsey Graham is said to have done is very troubling, because, look, whether you're Republican or you're Democrat, we're supposed to believe in sort of democracy, supposed to be our fundamental values.

And I think you're increasingly seeing Republicans, and particularly what you see what they're doing with the courts, you're seeing Republicans understanding that the future does not belong to them, and that the only way they can win is by rigging the system.

So I'm very concerned -- the actions of Lindsey Graham and the actions of some Republican. Look at some of these Republican state legislators that are making it more difficult to vote.

And here's the thing, Ari. You only need one corrupt Republican in the secretary of state's office and to call into question some votes, and all hell breaks loose. And are we far from that in the future? I certainly hope not, but we do need to return to normalcy.


Does anyone else have a "Dark Knight" quote?


MELBER: Just Cornell.

Never forget what Joker told...


MELBER: Never forget what Joker Batman. Never start with the head.


MELBER: We start with the heart. I'm flipping it.

Let me say this. Donald Trump may not listen to anyone. But we actually happen to know that there's certain things that bother him more, particularly when his old perceived allies or friends in the celebrity circuit go to him.

So, we just showed Mitch McConnell pushing back on foreign policy. But Mitch McConnell's also talking about how there will be an orderly transfer of power. But one beat away from that is Howard Stern getting real with Trump. Take a look.



Help this guy. Tell him, you lost the election, and you're going to help a transition. Now they're saying he's going to start his own news network. Wait -- he thinks running the country is hard. Wait until he has to run a news network. That will fail inside of a year, like all the other businesses.


MELBER: Cornell?


BELCHER: Well, maybe he listens to Howard Stern. He doesn't seem to listen to anyone else. He doesn't seem to listen to anyone else. Maybe HE does listen to Howard Stern.

But it's pretty darn good advice, because it's over. And I think Mitch McConnell and some of the other Republicans are saying It's over, although they still have Georgia, and they do not want to undermine the energy of Trump's base there IN Georgia, because they desperately need them.

MELBER: David?

PLOUFFE: Yes, well, maybe Howard Stern's The hero we need. I don't know.


PLOUFFE: But I would say this, back to our previous, Ari.

So, listen, we're going to see primaries in the Republican Party in '22 for Congress and statewide '24 where you're going to have Republican candidates to task. You wore a mask. You said Donald Trump lost the election.

So, this is what we're heading into, OK? Marjorie Q from Georgia is the bright, shining new Republican star. And I don't think that's just momentary. I think we're heading into a really, really dark time, where, right, it's not about the size of tax cuts or how we provide health care or even our foreign policy.

And I think the entire enterprise -- I have often said the entire enterprise is on the line in this last election. But I think this has now only provided us the opportunity to save the republic, because I think these forces -- listen, I never thought I'd see a day where you saw pretty much an entire party in this country refuse to accept election results.

Of course, they accept every election result that was favorable to them. And we're -- this is like a sick, childish fantasy that these Republicans, OK, are basically tiptoeing around Donald Trump. And we're going to have tens of thousands of people die. We may end up getting into foreign policy entanglements we shouldn't get into.

And we're going to handicap the next administration. It is treasonous, OK? It is outrageous. And we all need to wake up and understand that this is not going to end with Donald Trump sulking off to Mar-a-Lago. The fight is only beginning.

MELBER: Michelle, I'm curious your view on that, having written so much about this creeping attack on our -- the basis of our government.

And, again, to echo David's basic foundation here, it's not like all the members of Congress are running around saying their elections are still unresolved, that you need to wait three more weeks, that we're not sure what happened.

It is all such an obvious emperor wears no clothes farce, because it's just for Trump and what he represents in whatever they're politically afraid of, Michelle.

GOLDBERG: Well, and I would say that they're not necessarily -- some of them are tiptoeing around him, and some of them are very actively and enthusiastically enabling him, right?

There's been shocking reporting about Lindsey Graham calling up the secretary of state in Georgia and trying to get him to throw out batches of legally cast ballots.

And Cornell said before that we're -- that it would only take one bad secretary of state to really throw the wrench in things. We're really lucky that the Republican secretary of state in Georgia is this honorable, upright, process-oriented man, who is not letting himself be intimidated, even though he's getting death threats and his family's getting death threats from the supporter of the president.

But, like David said, there's going to be primaries, and we can imagine the sort of litmus test that we will see for these sorts of positions in the future.

I'm not the first to say it, but we don't have a Democratic and Republican Party. We have a Democratic and an anti-Democratic Party. And trying to maintain a democracy when only one party is really invested in it, and the other party has committed itself to a future of minority rule, is an extremely difficult -- and we don't know yet, I think, if it's an even possible proposition.

MELBER: All really important points, a lot of insights, and some warnings, kicking off our broadcast here.

I want to thank Michelle Goldberg, David Plouffe.

Cornell, we're going to bring you back in the hour.

We go to our shortest break, just 30 seconds, but the story we were just discussing, we're going to give you the full breakdown on Lindsey Graham facing very serious accusations of meddling in this election.

And we will be joined by a member of Democratic leadership, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

Joe Biden also hitting a new milestone in the popular vote, the counting still being completed, and you see the scope of the victory.

And a story we have been staying on for you, Rudy Giuliani trying to go back into court for the first time in over 20 years. This is new footage. We have a fact-check on that.

And we have two of our favorite legal experts, Maya Wiley and Melissa Murray, live on that -- when we're back in 30.


MELBER: There is no big recount or open case that can change the outcome of the presidential race.

But we are now witnessing the last embers of the dumpster fire that is the Trump 2020 legal strategy. I say dumpster fire because the legal claims have been largely trash, which is why judges have thrown them out.

And I say fire because, as other lawyers leave this project, we have been left with the hot mess that is Rudy Giuliani now taking a larger role, you see today entering court there.

Today, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court rejecting the Trump campaign's claim about how vote counting was observed, which is a minor issue to begin with.

We have been reporting how Trump lawyers have admitted they have no fraud evidence -- they have said that under oath -- how several Trump cases have just been dropped, admitting defeat before even going to a judge.

And now, for what's left of this effort, you have Giuliani as the new head of litigation. And while he is widely known in America, it's actually an unusual choice to send someone in to win a case at trial, because what you see here, a little bit of grainy footage we have that was captured of him heading into court, this was actually the first time Rudy Giuliani has gone in to argue in federal court in 28 years.

Now, he told the court he believes there's widespread nationwide voter fraud. That's what he thinks. And Giuliani made the false claim that Trump has -- quote -- "10 times more votes" than needed to overturn the election.

Now, those kind of false claims fare worse in court than, say, on Twitter.

Now, I can just tell you, having followed this, we have now reached this irrelevant, absurd and somewhat baroque stage of Donald Trump's legal challenges. And that includes not only Rudy taking this bigger role, but also adding a conservative activist lawyer who happened to already do a radio appearance before joining the Trump team where he admitted the fundamental core fact that he now has to argue against in court, that Joe Biden won the presidency, with no lawsuit that can change that reality.


MARC SCARINGI, ATTORNEY: Joe Biden has won Pennsylvania and Nevada and has now won the presidency. In my opinion, there really are no bombshells that are about to drop that will derail a Biden presidency, including these lawsuits.

The litigation will not work. It will not reverse this election.


MELBER: It will not reverse the election. Take it from the new lawyer to reverse the election.

Joining us now, Maya Wiley, who was a former counsel to the mayor of New York City, a civil prosecutor in New York. She is running for New York City mayor, we should note. And law professor at NYU Melissa Murray.

Maya, your response to what we're seeing in these last losses by the Trump team?

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: You know, this is the Trump team as toothless tiger, desperately trying to pull defeat out of the jaws of defeat, because that's all they're going to do here.

As you pointed out, Ari, their own attorneys know it, admit it. They have been bleeding lawyers, because lawyers just tried to -- three lawyers just dropped out of the case on Monday, because there is no evidence.

So, this is not going well for team Trump, but maybe for Giuliani, who apparently is charging $20,000 a day for his services.

MELBER: It's a high price for what he's offering, even by the standard of legal fees. We have the headline, Giuliani said to seek -- quote -- "$20,000 a day for Trump legal works, stirring opposition from Trump's aides and advisers." They may have already ruled out paying that much.

I should note, publicly, Giuliani has denied that report.

Professor, what do you see as potentially important here? You do this, as they say, for a living. So, if you were teaching your students or all of us who are students of your insights, what do we take from this? And do you see any positive notes about the court system here and how this is being handled or dismissed?

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: One of the first things any good lawyer knows, and certainly all of my law students know this, is that to get into federal court and to have your claim heard there, you have to have standing. You have to have a particularized injury.

And what Judge Brann, who is the judge presiding over this particular dispute, has emphasized over and over again in this hearing that's been continuing to go on right now is that it's not clear that there is any kind of particularized injury. Like, what exactly is the nature of the grievance, beyond these generalized claims that some Democratic machine has thrown the election for Joe Biden?

So, I really take heart that Judge Brann is emphasizing this, underscoring the need for some kind of particularized injury, and not to waste the court's time.

But make no mistake about it. This is not only devastating for general rule of law and the work of democracy. It's bad for the courts. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Courts have already been limited in the kinds of disputes they can hear because of COVID closings.

This is just opening up an entire can of worms that prevent real disputes from being heard when they need to be heard.

MELBER: And, Maya, you have really operated at the intersection of law and the actual governing and political process.

Being counsel to a big city mayor, for example, is right in that. And we all can think of examples of cases where something might be a long shot, or the lawyers might say, this is likely to lose, but for other, even out-of-court reasons or to make a point, you proceed.

I wonder what you think here, where this doesn't seem to be that kind of case, or, to the extent that Donald Trump's play is to talk in other forums like Twitter about this and try to mislead some segment of the population about what happened in the election, just as there's been the final scam of him misleading his own MAGA supporters to donate to funds that he says will be for appeals.

And, as we have documented and others on this program, they're not, it would seem, in that scenario, that dragging everyone into court to be fact-checked under oath, to have lawyers, who have their own careers to worry about, to, as we showed last week, have a Trump lawyer go to court and say, I admit it, there's no voter fraud evidence at all, not thin, not a little, we're not sure.

No, there's none -- quote, end unquote. That would actually seem to hurt the out-of-court political process. So, I'm curious what you think of it, given your expertise?

WILEY: Yes, you're exactly right. Ari.

Look, it's one thing for someone in government to say, this is a hard case, and I might lose, but it's worth arguing the point.

Here, the only point anyone on the Trump team is arguing is an effort to lie to the American public to undermine our constitutional order. It really is that simple. So, I completely agree with Melissa. (AUDIO GAP) U.S. Constitution (AUDIO GAP) because, as we know, this is the president who actually convened a commission to suggest voter fraud where there was no evidence of it because of the 2016 election.

And it just undermines our democracy, for no purpose, except some strange Trump agenda we don't understand.


And then the smaller point we had up on the screen, I mean, Rudy rejected. And it's one way to get back into court after all this time and just get shredded.

But, Professor, even if you try to drain this of some of the other issues we mentioned, and obviously some of the politics, do you -- would you tell your students, is there any -- is there any sort of warning in the story of Rudy Giuliani who, whatever you think of his ideology, there was a time earlier in his career when he was a more serious public servant, when he and Ms. Wiley might have disagreed on approaches to cases, but were both, I would say, members of the bar in good standing in the Southern District, to whatever this is that he's become?

What is the cautionary tale, in your view?

MURRAY: Well, one of the things I learned when I was in law school was that the only thing you have to bring to the table in each and every meeting is your reputation, your ethical reputation, your reputation for being a straight shooter at all times.

And, sometimes, that means you have to tell your client unwelcome news, like, you have lost this election, and you can't mollify the client by bringing frivolous lawsuits. All you have is your reputation.

And you're exactly right. At one point in time, Mayor Giuliani was America's mayor, well-known for his courageous acts at 9/11. But, today, this is not an act of service to the American people. In fact, it's the exact opposite. And it's exactly the sort of thing a good lawyer would not do.

We would play it straight with the client, but wouldn't do this.

MELBER: I really appreciate that. I didn't know you're going to say, which is why I was curious. But that's a really great point for us all to reflect on.

We're three lawyers talking here. I wouldn't say lawyers are the same as doctors. I'd say doctors are more useful sometimes, a lot of the time.


MELBER: But a good doctor cannot, under their ethical oath, just do anything a patient wants.

And a good lawyer who cares about honesty, integrity, and the justice system, as Melissa reminded us, whether it's a paying client or the president of the United States or anyone in between, there's obligations. There's oaths there. And this would seem to be one of the other things that's in question about Mr. Giuliani's service to what we have reported as a badly losing cause.

Professor Murray, Maya Wiley, thank you both.

Up ahead: new reporting on Joe Biden's views about Trump investigations.

Also, a new update on the total vote count. Biden's vote margin continuing to grow, as all votes are counted, and that speaks something about his mandate.

But coming up: Trump ally Lindsey Graham -- the story we mentioned -- engulfed in a voting scandal, and election officials saying he actually pressured him to toss ballots.

We have a very important guest, member of Democratic leadership Hakeem Jeffries, when we return.


MELBER: Tonight, notorious Trump ally Lindsey Graham facing an outcry and new calls for an investigation after something we just mentioned at the top of the program.

This is -- make no mistake -- a bombshell scandal allegation. Georgia's secretary of state, who's a Republican, saying that Senator Graham called him on the phone, pressuring him to explore how they might just throw out what were apparently valid and legal ballots that helped Joe Biden win the state.



BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Senator Graham implied for us to audit the envelopes, and then throw out the ballots for counties who had the highest frequency error of signatures.

He asked if the ballots could be matched back to the voters. And I got the sense it implied that then you can throw those out for any. So, it's just an implication that look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out.


MELBER: Georgia's secretary of state specifically laying out an allegation against Senator Graham.

Now, today, a top aide to the secretary, who also is a Republican, saying he was also on the phone call. This is what legally would be called corroboration, and backing up that very account.


GABRIEL STERLING, GEORGIA VOTING SYSTEM IMPLEMENTATION MANAGER: What I heard was basically discussions about absentee ballots, and if a -- potentially, if there was a percentage of signatures that weren't really truly matching, is there some point where you get to where you could say -- somebody went to a courtroom could say, well, let's throw out all these ballots because we have no way of knowing because the ballots are separated?


MELBER: These are officials in this state who happen to be in the same party as Lindsey Graham blowing the whistle on him.

They're doing this in real time, contemporaneously, presumably because they want people to have the facts. And they're doing it in coordination, so people understand exactly what they say happen.

Now, as with all stories, you get all sides.

Here's Senator Graham when asked directly about these accounts.


GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Did you or did you not ask him to throw out votes?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): No, that's ridiculous.

I talked to him about how you verify signatures.

HAAKE: Why is a senator from South Carolina calling the secretary of state in Georgia anyway?

GRAHAM: Because the future of the country hangs in the balance.

I have talked to Doug Ducey in Arizona. I have talked to the people in Nevada. We have got contests all over the nation.


MELBER: Wow. That's some kind of answer.

Senator Graham going out to further admit that he's actually just talking to people in numerous states. As a basic primer, a United States senator has a lot more business talking to officials in their own state than other ones.

The allegation here is that a sitting Republican senator is basically pressuring officials to throw out legal ballots to get what he wants.

We are going way beyond just Twitter or talk of claims that may help Donald Trump feel better, which guests on this program have criticized tonight, but which are, of course, things any politician can choose to do.

We are now in the scandal territory of an allegation of active involvement in the handling of or denial of votes.

We're joined now by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat from New York. He's chair of the House Democratic Caucus and serves, very relevantly on this matter, on the Judiciary Committee.

Thanks for being here, sir.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Great to be with you, Ari.

MELBER: I mentioned the act of involvement because there is plenty going on around Trump and the Republican Party right now on voting that is very shady, but would generally be covered by free speech.

No matter how terrible people -- it is, and everyone can go and criticize it, people could say stuff, they could tweet stuff.

It seems now Senator Graham, according to these officials, faces an allegation of something more. I'm curious your view of all of this.

JEFFRIES: Well, there's nothing more important to the fabric of our democracy than the integrity of our free and fair elections. It's at the core of who we are in the United States of America as a democratic republic, one person, one vote.

And it appears that Lindsey Graham may have crossed the line into illegality as part of an effort to rip away Joe Biden's victory in Georgia. And perhaps this is connected to a scheme to try to steal this election in other places.

And it seems to me that there's got to be some accountability, some understanding of what took place, why it took place, and whether there was illegality that occurred.

MELBER: But you view the allegation -- and it's harder for members of Congress to say this about each other, because you all end up going back and trying to work together.

You view the allegation as potentially illegal -- an illegal election crime?

JEFFRIES: It certainly seems possible. I'm not familiar with Georgia state law.

But I presume that there will be folks who are going to look into this, not because Lindsey Graham is a Republican. But the reality is, in America, no one is above the law. Presidents aren't above the law. Governors, mayors aren't above the law, certainly, members of the United States Senate.

And this is out-of-control behavior, Ari. The Trump campaign is out of control. Rudolph Giuliani is out of control. Lindsey Graham is out of control.

And what they seem to be suggesting to us is that it's just not going to stop. And perhaps the only way that it stops, their efforts to poison our very democracy and rip us apart, is if there's going to be some accountability.

And I just think, follow the facts, apply the law, be guided by the Constitution, and let the chips fall where they may.

MELBER: Fair, and interesting hearing you say it. I'm struck by what you're saying, because I know it's not anything anyone wants to rush to, obviously, but you laid out the underlying evidence.

It's certainly striking that you have, again, these Republican officials saying they want it out now. You and I know, from working around a case, you don't want to wait and be telling the story later and be on the -- behind on it.

They got multiple people on the call. They viewed it as problematic enough, they have put it out in the open, let Lindsey deal with it, not -- they're not going to be spun back on it when they think they have powerful Republicans or whomever calling in to try to do the stealing of a race.

And I guess one way to look at it, given all the coverage we have shown of where the Trump lawsuits are failing, is, it's a reminder of what -- what would happen if Lindsey Graham met more compliant people in more states? Boy, we might be looking at a real different, hot clash here.

As for the history here, Lindsey Graham has become, I would say, an outsized force. People know him from the Trump era. Before that, they knew him for buddying up and a very different set of goals with John McCain.

President Obama, as you know, is diplomatic with a lot of things. But this is what he wrote in the new book. We're getting more and more quotes from it.

"You know how in the spy thriller or the heist movie, you're introduced to the crew at the beginning? I told Rachel Maddow, Lindsey's the guy who double-crosses everyone to save his own skin" -- end quote.


JEFFRIES: Without question.

I mean, we would say in Brooklyn, Lindsey Graham has gone flip mode on just about everybody he can go flip mode on in the United States Capitol, and it's been extraordinary.

Here is part of the challenge. The Georgia secretary of state, who appears to be a straight shooter, is a Republican. And he's the one who now has corroboration that Lindsey Graham apparently has crossed a line.

Crystal Mason -- and you have covered this, Ari...


JEFFRIES: ... is a black woman who -- in a Texas prison right now, five-year sentence, for inadvertently voting because she thought she was eligible.

And the Texas courts just recently upheld that outrageous five-year sentence, again, one standard that should apply for everyone. They always are talking about voter fraud, but it appears that they are endeavoring to engage in it right now. Perhaps they should be held accountable.

MELBER: You tied it all together.

I was thinking of her, actually, today, in whether -- how we covered this. And you tied it all together.

And, again, no fraud in the courts when independent observers are looking at it and the judges are looking at it. But the allegation -- as a journalist, I will say, the alleged plot to turn an entire state's election results into a fraud in a backroom deal, where the whistle was blown by local Republicans, it's a big story. We're going to stay on it.

Congressman Jeffries, always good to see you, sir. Thank you.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Up ahead: Trump facing this loss. We have a very special guest on how we really confront the absurdity of this era, along with Cornell Belcher, who is coming back, as I mentioned.

And new details on the scope of Joe Biden's win. We will break down the numbers, the way we have been bringing you the facts on that, as the numbers evolve -- when we come back.



SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": We have just concluded a successful presidential election with a clear and decisive result, amid a deadly plague that's spreading rapidly out of control, and an outgoing president who not only doesn't care, but hasn't even been to a Coronavirus Task Force meeting in at least five months.

Five months? What's he been doing, catching up on the first three seasons of "The Crown"? Because that's how long it takes to watch that show.


MELBER: Roasted, right?

That's NBC late-night host Seth Meyers taking on Donald Trump, as a sore loser, among other things, considered a last bout of the kind of comedy that's often helped narrate what has been, of course, a dark and sometimes absurd era, when big moments have often been first processed collectively by intellectual comedians like Dave Chappelle, on programs like "SNL" that reach more people than many newscasts.

And hosts like Meyers have noted on their programs they rely on many talented writers, including Amber Ruffin, who has written there since 2014 and is now taking a turn as a brand-new late-night host herself. She's the first black woman to write for a late-night network talk show in the United States.

Now, what she's breaking out on, we want to tell you, is on our sister streaming platform Peacock. She has never been afraid to tackle the issues with comedy.


AMBER RUFFIN, HOST, "THE AMBER RUFFIN SHOW": Senator Kamala Harris was elected vice president on Saturday, and though the economy is not quite back on track, the airbrush T-shirt industry is thriving.

Yes, it's your man Lil Doof. And you know what I always say. Anyone who makes me pay a lot of taxes can't have my vote.

Oh, Donald Trump, you raggedy bastard.

(singing): Go back to your country. Go back to Africa.


MELBER: Amber Ruffin joins us now, the actress, comedian and host of "The Amber Ruffin Show."


RUFFIN: Thank you.

MELBER: And rejoining us -- thank you for being here -- famed Obama poster Cornell Belcher back in the mix.

Let's start with one of the jokes we just heard there, rappers who want low taxes for Trump.


MELBER: How important is it to you to have a new platform where, with representation inclusion, you can come with these issues? And, also, why is it that so many Trump issues are as effectively dealt with punchlines as a serious debate?

RUFFIN: Because everything he says is absolutely absurd.

And when a person who has any whatsoever talks about Donald Trump, they sound ridiculous. But when a comedian talks about Donald Trump, they sound perfectly fine, because every thing he does is ridiculous.

Well, that goes right to where we're living right now. I mean, we don't even have to go back. You're part of the -- as I mentioned, the creative team behind Seth Meyers.

He had a joke this week that was: Trump tweets, Biden won, and Trump tweets why he won't concede. When you say someone won, you are, in terms of English, making the concession to their victory.

It's like, we're just in this orbit for as long as we're in it, Amber.

RUFFIN: Yes, it's ridiculous.

And I just -- I love to get lost in thinking about what must he be surrounded by to behave this way? Who is there? And what are they hearing? Can they hear him when he is saying these things? Does he say it, and then he tweets it? Is it new every time?

I mean, if someone in your presence said something like this, you would grab them and you will whisper, oops, I think you need to go home.


MELBER: Yes, you might need a nap or a rest, or you're not -- it's not all functioning.

And -- but we have some reporting on that. There are White House reporters who say that he requests printed copies of his most retweeted tweets. So, they go print them on a printer, bring them out.


MELBER: This is real. And he looks at those, which I actually think speaks to -- Cornell, that's only a few beats away from the -- one of the challenges of the Internet, which is, if we're all just looking at our own likes or whatever, sometimes, we become more extreme versions of ourselves.

It's not really a question, Cornell, but take it.


BELCHER: Well, first of all, I'm a big fan of Amber, but I have no idea why I'm on this segment.


BELCHER: I know, Ari, you think polling is kind of like comedy, but I think comedy is more reputable than polling these days.



BELCHER: So, I have no idea why you're putting me in Amber's segment.


MELBER: He doesn't know why he's here.

Amber, tell him why he's here.

RUFFIN: You're here because you have the facts, and I have the goofiness.

MELBER: Yes, we didn't -- going to go solo goofy. We put a political person with a funny person.

RUFFIN: Because, Cornell, if it was just me, people would change the channel. But then I say something goofy, and then you say something normal.

But it's all gone crazy, because you said that people print out his tweets.


MELBER: Facts.


MELBER: Facts.

All right, I will give you another...


BELCHER: Ari, I need to double down. I need to double down on "The Dark Knight," because, as they say...

MELBER: Oh, go ahead.

BELCHER: ... as they say, madness is kind of like gravity. All it takes is a little push.


MELBER: Just a push. I remember that line.


BELCHER: And that's what we have right now.

We have madness in our political system right now. And, hopefully, that will change soon.

MELBER: I will flip it on you.

The greatest Estelle in the song "Wait a Minute" says, sometimes, love takes just a push. So, we could go mad or we could return back.

Amber, you knew this was going to happen.


RUFFIN: Yes, I know you.


MELBER: I got something to play for both of you, which is, with Donald Trump, although he has his supporters, as we have covered -- and we have had them on the program -- and many of them find him edgy or they say he's funny, but it's certainly -- I think fair to say, it's a harsher, rougher style.

Barack Obama, as a president, used his power in a different way. It was -- the joking was -- it felt somehow a lot more warm.

This was one of his classics that everyone in politics can remember, because it's funny, if you know the characters. Take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some folks still don't think I spend enough time with Congress. Why don't you get a drink with Mitch McConnell, they ask.



OBAMA: Why don't you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?




MELBER: Amber, funny, but not mean.

RUFFIN: It's funny.

I mean, if you're Mitch McConnell, it doesn't feel great.



RUFFIN: But Mitch McConnell is lying in the bed he made. So, it's not totally terrible, yes.

MELBER: Yes. And it's not mean-spirited.

It's more like -- because Mitch McConnell's thing is not -- he's not like a proud, socializing beer drinker. He's more of just like getting judges confirmed.


MELBER: I'm out of time.

Amber, I hope you will come back.

RUFFIN: They printed the tweets out.


MELBER: That's her takeaway. That's what she took from this.

Everyone, check out the show on Peacock.

Amber Ruffin, my special guest, Cornell Belcher in a segment for reasons he didn't understand.

When we come back, we have an update...



MELBER: ... an update on the Biden total vote count. It's growing.

Stay with us.


MELBER: President-elect Biden won the election. We know that.

But the total vote that he got is now a record count swelling, Joe Biden surpassing 79 million votes. The margin of victory over Donald Trump, the loser of this race, is now over 5.6 million.

Now, in the Rust Belt, which has been so key and at times bedeviled Democrats recently, the Biden lead in Pennsylvania alone nearly equals Trump's 2016 edge in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin combined. There are still about four million votes to be counted, now, many of them in California and New York, which means this lead could grow further.

That does it for THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER. We will be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.



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