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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, November 19, 2020

Guests: Mary Trump, Larry Wilmore, Richard Painter, Margaret Carlson, Melissa Murray


President Trump's niece, Mary Trump, discusses her uncle's reaction to his election defeat. Comedian Larry Wilmore speaks out. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani continues to spew conspiracy theories about the election.


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

Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

The election is over. You know that. The legal wrangling is almost over. No pending case could overturn the election.

And team Trump has now lost 19 different cases on this. There are about 11 left. They face steep uphill battles. But, remember, if Trump were to win any of those cases, as we have reported, they are on such narrow issues, they don't change the outcome of the whole race.

But, tonight, the effort does continue. And there are aspects of it that matter, as well as aspects that are ridiculous. I'm going to walk through all the facts with you.

President Donald Trump is pressing on with this approach that ensures -- we can tell you this based on the reporting we have -- it ensures even more losing for Donald Trump in court, while he's also leaning into an approach that seeks any possible stage for the few lawyers he has left to argue they went down fighting.

Now, you may hear about that. Indeed, Donald Trump's next career move, which could affect the Republican Party in a great way, may rest on the idea that what we're living through right now is Donald Trump going down fighting.

But it turns out that's even a stretch. When you dig into the facts, they're often going down surrendering. Looking at headlines like this, the Trump campaign dropping yet another lawsuit today, this one in Michigan, where Trump's loss in that state was just formally certified.

That actually makes seven different cases where Donald Trump or his allies just dropped their own allegations, meaning their cases were so weak, they didn't even wait to get to the point where a judge would reject them.

We're getting to a stage in all of this that goes beyond weak sauce. If this sauce were any weaker, it wouldn't be sauce. And that was certainly the mood at this long, winding and often just objectively bizarre presentation by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani today.

It featured a whole string of false claims that are legally irrelevant that we won't repeat.

But I will note that Donald Trump's own lawyers have admitted under oath in court they have no evidence of voter fraud, which undercuts much of the thrust of what Giuliani labored to argue today.

There's also the obscure complaint, Giuliani making, that some poll watchers in some parts of the country didn't get a clear view of the counting. You don't need to be a lawyer to know that sounds like a small matter. It also, however, happens to be another one of the legal claims that the Trump team already dropped.

And, if you're keeping track, as we do, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court already formerly rejected that kind of legal claim in a similar lawsuit.

Longtime Republican strategist Scott Reed now saying Giuliani is turning the entire production into a clown car.

So, when you take it together, there's two things here. We have covered both of them, but with Giuliani out on the warpath and Donald Trump making a big deal out of this right now, it's worth keeping them both in your mind.

On the one hand, this is all theatrics. This is not real, actual litigation strategy. It is using and some nonpartisan experts say abusing the courts to try to create conditions where they can go back out hold press conferences and go on certain conservative channels talk about it.

And that's why it's ultimately, substantively, meaningless. So why even talk about?

Well, the other side of this is what they're trying to actually normalize. It may be the last bout of semi-authoritarian normalization of this Trump era. And that part is worth scrutinizing, particularly because, as we have reported and so many experts -- if you watch MSNBC, you have heard this in other hours, you have heard it said, you have heard it reported -- so much of this comes down to disenfranchisement, to trying to steal an election, even though that's not working, to try to disenfranchise certain voters based on their beliefs, which is First Amendment discrimination, or based on their race, which is racial discrimination.

We see that in Detroit. We see that happening, allegedly, attempted, in Georgia. That part matters a lot, even as you can keep clear in your mind from the walk, I just walked you through that there isn't an open case that would overturn the actual results.

Now, keeping those two things in your mind, the irrelevance and the significance, I now give you a brief look at today's strange press conference, before we turn to our experts and fact-checks.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There was a plan from a centralized place to execute these various acts of voter fraud, the massive fraud. How is it they all turned around?

What do we have to do to get the FBI to wake up? Because I'm sending my votes of people in Michigan over to Germany? I'd fire everybody that was involved in this election.


MELBER: We turn now to the former head of the Republican Party, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, and Melissa Murray, NYU law professor.

Professor, I go to you first.

Part of this is irrelevant theater. I have tried to be clear about that in my role as a news reporter. And then part of it is still disturbing. Your views on that, if you want to call that, two things in mind, at once, that dichotomy, as well as fact-checking that little bit of Giuliani that we heard?

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, I don't know if it's just a part of it that's disturbing. All of it is quite disturbing, but it's part of a well-worn pattern.

We saw this preceding the election with the attempts to limit early voting, with the attempt to limit curbside voting in certain states where they thought that there might be an up rise in Democratic voters. We have seen this after the election in the efforts to go to the courts to seek to have these ballots invalidated.

Now we're seeing the Trump administration moving into the courts to try and have the certification stopped. And now Rudy Giuliani is circulating theories that George Soros, Hugo Chavez, and Dominion, voter machinery companies, are in cahoots to perpetrate some massive election fraud.

All of this is about disinformation and the idea that democracy is somehow dangerous to this particular administration.

MELBER: Michael?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well I have been watching this, Ari, and I have really actually come to an interesting conclusion.

This is such an incredible, incredible period for future law students. They're going to learn all about Rule 11 sanctions. They're going to learn all about how not to approach a court. They're going to learn so much of what you don't do if you want to be a good lawyer, what you don't do if you want to represent your client.

And so this -- in one sense, it's theater, it's drama. And I have stopped really kind of taking it seriously and paying attention to it, because the courts have already made it very clear to me there's no there. There's nothing to be alarmed about.

The Biden operation needs to move forward and do its best efforts at putting together a transition. And the rest of us can get ready for hunkering down to the long winter of COVID-19, because we're going to be doing it yet alone without the help from this administration.

So this is just a sideshow. This is just the legal spaghetti drop, just throwing stuff up against the wall to see what will stick, getting out and giving performance art like we just saw. There's nothing serious about it.

America, there's nothing serious about any of this.


MELBER: Yes. No, that's a fair warning to everyone. And I'm glad you said art, because we have always been interested in this program -- we're not the first, we don't think we will be the last -- to note how sometimes life imitates art.

I want to keep our guests for something that is as fun as it is worth considering where we are right now. But we actually reported on THE BEAT that Trump's team's problems in the case had already reached "My Cousin Vinny" territory, referencing, of course, the famously comedic, inexperienced lawyer who goes to court and is struggling, Joe Pesci really struggling there in court. Everyone remembers that in the film.

Well, now Rudy Giuliani today is also invoking the famous legal film, but not because of the bumbling lawyer part, but, rather, because he wanted to reference the scene where they're discussing how far away something is, Giuliani alleging that the Republican observers were in court too far away, a part of the case I mentioned that they have dropped.


GIULIANI: Did you all watch "My Cousin Vinny"? You know the movie?

He says to her, how many fingers do I got up? And she says three. Well, she was too far away to see it was only two. These people were further away than "My Cousin Vinny" was from the witness.

They couldn't see a thing.

JOE PESCI, ACTOR: Mrs. Riley, and only Mrs. Riley, how many fingers am I holding up now?



MELBER: And he comes all the way up.

Now, everyone remembers that was making a point about the difference between two and three and how far away you would have to be for it to make a difference.

So, Giuliani invited it. Let's go ahead and do it briefly right now. Let's look at the actual numbers and whether it matters how far away you are. These are the margins in some of the key states where suits remain, PA, Michigan, Georgia, 82,00, 157,000, even 13,000, the closest margin there in Georgia.

Now, pop quiz, America. What's the largest margin in all of American history to ever actually change during these kinds of things like a legally mandated recount?

Well, it's all the way down to something you can barely see on the chart. It's under 1,000. It's 355 votes.

This chart doesn't matter whether you are very, very close, like the end of that Joe Pesci scene, or very far away.

Michael Steele, as someone who knows your way around recounts, no matter how far away you are, if you're down by tens of thousands, there's not a case or a recount that's going to change that, right?

STEELE: No, because math is a you know what, you know?


STEELE: And the reality of it is, you can't undo the math. If you're sitting there looking at 13,000, 82,000, 157,000 votes in Michigan's, where the hell do you go with that?

Oh, I tell you what you go with that. You try to have every vote in the city of Detroit not counted. That's what you do. And that's what that -- that's what's left for these folks, is to go and displace the black vote as much as possible as they can.

So let's just be up straight about what we're seeing here. This is -- this is about the math. It always has been about the math. The math doesn't work for them; 270, they aren't got; 355, they're nowhere near.

The reality of it is, they need to get votes thrown out. And so whatever step and whatever measure -- I'm getting texts from friends who are now where, can they really do this in Michigan?

People see what they're attempting to do here. So let's not sugarcoat it. They're trying to erase black votes. That's simply how they think they can win this election, because the math is on the side of the folks who voted in Detroit, not Donald Trump.

MELBER: Professor?

MURRAY: Well, I mean, that's exactly why this isn't mere theater or art or something irrelevant. I mean, we are sowing the seeds of distrust among certain members of our community.

We are giving some groups within the United States the view that when African Americans go to the polls and huge numbers, that what follows is massive voter fraud. And that is just not the case. It is a kind of disenfranchisement of the worst order, but it mirrors the disenfranchisement attempts that we saw that preceded this election.

So it's all part of the same playbook. But it's all playing out in the most horrifying ways right now.


And what I mean about the part that is irrelevant is, it's important that viewers understand there is not a case that could change the result...

MURRAY: Right.

MELBER: ... because the efforts at smoke and misinformation can lead people, if they're not versed in it the way you too are, they might say, well, if there's -- if it's going to court, doesn't that mean anything could happen?

That's sort of the mood, when, in fact, on that part, it's irrelevant. The other parts, as you have both elucidated, are important.

Before I let you go, I did want to play the actual president-elect weighing in on all this at a time where we're seeing the strategy go to these lengths. Take a look at president-elect Biden today.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I don't know his motive, but I just think it's totally irresponsible -- think this debilitating. It's not a -- it sends a horrible message about who we are as a country.


MELBER: Professor, you get the final word in this segment.

MURRAY: I cosign that.

I mean, it is actually reprehensible. We have always prized ourselves on our ability to transition power seamlessly and without rancor and without violence. And this is not a seamless transition of power. This looks like the kind of coup you would see in a country that has not had a democratic majority or democratic institutions for over 200 years.

It's, frankly, appalling.

MELBER: A strong warning here from Professor Murray. I thank you.

Michael Steele comes back later in the hour.

We now have our shortest break, just 30 seconds.

We get into how Biden won and why it's become a clown car. New comments from former President Obama on the way Republicans are enabling what Professor Murray was just talking about.

And I am so psyched to tell you, later this hour, we have "The Daily Show" star and comedian Larry Wilmore here live.

But, first, coming up, Donald Trump's niece Mary Trump on her uncle hiding out after the loss -- when we're back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: Turning to what's happening inside the actual White House, the president has basically been in hiding. This is a fact you may not have seen yet.

They release a schedule. It's a public schedule. It often has things the president is doing, some sort of top-line readout. There's usually several things a day. Donald Trump has had nothing, not even a pretend event or phone call, on the schedule in 12 of the last 16 days.

NBC analyst and presidential historian Michael Beschloss puts it like this: "When before in history have we seen a president of the U.S. disappear from public view like this?"

It's a big question.

We turn to someone who knows the mind-set of the man in the White House. Mary Trump is President Donald Trump's niece. She spoke out long before the election with her book "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man."

And, as someone, as I have mentioned before, in the unusual position of breaking with her own family for what she thought was right for the public interest, very good to have you back.


MELBER: Of all the ways this would have ended, I'm not sure that any of the many people who have spent perhaps, we might argue, too much time and energy thinking about this man would have thought it would have been this quiet, this much hiding out, this much what the kids call sub tweeting, and having other people speak for you.

I'm curious what you think, as it's become clear not that he's processing or waiting, but that the loudest man in the world has gone mute for a while.

TRUMP: Well, Donald is a coward.

He is a small, racist man who lost decisively, and can't handle the fact that he lost. He is also desperate, because he knows, once he loses the power of the Oval Office, he has enormous debts that are going to be called, and he has potential prosecutions awaiting him.

So, I'm less concerned about his having gone silent. First of all, it's kind of a relief. And, secondly, it just underscores how ill-equipped he is to meet this particular moment.

I'm infinitely more worried about the people who are doing his bidding. I'm consistently shocked to find that there are people even weaker than he is on the planet. And then, of course, we have the craven opportunism of Republican leadership, and they're the people we should really be focusing on right now.

MELBER: Yes, it's a great point, when you look at how much support there is, even with the clear fact that he's lost and is leaving the White House, for political or other reasons, to support the disenfranchisement, what I called the both racial and First Amendment free speech discrimination at the top of the show, which is ongoing as an effort, although I have pointed out why it has limits and its efficacy.

You mentioned what you call cowardice. We heard from someone who knows his way around pretending or acting as a tough guy, but who has also, like you, been very critical of Donald Trump. That's the great Robert De Niro.

I want to play just a little bit of what he had to say.


ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR/PRODUCER: It's like being in an abusive relationship. We don't know what's going on. Nobody knows from one day to the next. I don't even think he knows what's going on.

And that's what he's capable of, just not respecting anything. It confounds me how he ever got to be elected, but he did. I think there's a screw loose there.



TRUMP: Well, that's an understatement, but, yes, I agree.

Donald is acting out of instinct and the desire for self-preservation. That's about it.

Again, what is so worrisome is that so many people in positions of power are willing either to support his anti-democratic potential coup or who are remaining silent, people like Mitch McConnell who, for reasons of just wanting to hang onto power, is completely willing to let this unfold because he needs Donald's base on January 5, and he needs Donald's base in 2022.

It's despicable. And on top of everything else, we lost almost 2,000 Americans yesterday because this administration and Republican leadership are doing absolutely nothing.


When you look at what the off-ramp is, there is reporting on this. It does matter, because, for one thing, the problems that you and others are diagnosing with the Republican Party's relationship with Donald Trump don't just magically end on January 20, even when he will literally be out of office and out of power and not have that federal immunity and all those things, because he could go away.

I mean, people don't hear much from George W. Bush, as a former Republican president, for example, or he could try to make himself a really big presence in the party. He could run again or threaten to run again. He could do this media company.

Here's what NBC is reporting about this plan for the off-ramp. "Trump's advisers talked to him about what the end looks like, using the word conclusion, rather than concession. One off-ramp being recommended as a conclusion is that he admits Biden will enter the White House on January 20, while continuing to allege the results are questionable."

Given your knowledge of your uncle, how natural is that for him to try to find a -- what would here be, as a journalist, I would say a lie and a grievance to ride for however many years, because that could matter in American life and politics?

TRUMP: I think that's the most likely outcome here, but, unfortunately, it's also the most dangerous.

He's going to continue to interfere with the incoming administration. He's going to continue to undermine its legitimacy with his base. And, again, as long as Republican leadership steps aside and allows him to do it, it's going to be -- it's going to continue to erode people's faith in the system.

It's going to continue to erode our democracy. And we're going to have to hope that the Biden administration is going to be willing to hold these people to account.

MELBER: Yes, it's interesting you mentioned about holding to account.

We were reporting last night about signals coming out of some Biden advisers anyway about that issue. And that's a big and live one, given the level and range of alleged improprieties.

Mary Trump, thanks for coming back on THE BEAT.

TRUMP: Thanks so much, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Coming up tonight: I mentioned it. We're excited about it. You know the face, the great Larry Wilmore from "The Daily Show," the White House Correspondents Dinner and, tonight, all the way on to THE BEAT. We're thrilled to have him, so stick around for that.

Also, President Obama tonight speaking about Trump's denial of the loss, new comments. And these, I'm happy to tell you, actually an MSNBC exclusive. We will show them to you airing for the first time.

But, first, fact-checking Giuliani's circus, what this is really about, and what you need to know -- when we come back.


MELBER: Even Republicans are now calling the Trump-Giuliani legal appeals a -- quote -- "clown car."

We're about to turn to some great experts you may recognize about what this really comes down to.

Let me tell you a little bit of the update. You had that theatrical press conference from Giuliani, no evidence. You have the lawsuit in Michigan that was actually pulled. That's a Trump surrender, although there was those initial attacks on the majority black city of Detroit and whether and how to certify the vote.

You had two Republican board members who initially tried to block that and gave it up. Now, remember, Donald Trump then calling those two people to see if they were OK, praising the move as a beautiful thing.

The theater of all this continues here, Donald Trump now inviting some of those same Republicans from Michigan to the White House.

Now, on the one hand, it's a little late to have plotting sessions for something that is already ending. On the other, it's very important. I want to show you something from these heated proceedings, which, again, to remind everyone, because I'm trying to be very clear about this, the Michigan issue is over. Trump's loss in the state has now been certified.

But, during that tussling, we have the actual video of something that you wouldn't normally even see on the national news, because we don't cover video of these certifications at the local level. But this one got heated for the very reasons we have been reporting on tonight.

We want you to see it now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would be open to a motion to certify communities other than the city of Detroit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to certify this election the way we're supposed to. But we're not going to be playing games and picking out the people of color. That's not going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame on you. Shame on you for leading to this level of corruption. You have disavowed your right to even sit in the seat that you occupy. You are a disgrace.


MELBER: We're joined by The Daily Beast's Margaret Carlson, and Richard Painter, who was a chief White House ethics lawyer in the Republican Bush administration.

Richard, I turn to you.

When you see what I just reported, when you see that Republican effort to certify everything but Detroit, what say you?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: That means it's an ongoing effort that's going on to disenfranchise voters, predominantly African American voters, other voters of color. And that's what's going on in Michigan. And that's what is being pushed in Georgia by Lindsey Graham and others and what's being pushed in Pennsylvania and in Arizona, Nevada.

There's a consistent theme here, to disenfranchise American voters, predominantly voters of color. And I just filed an ethics complaint against Lindsey Graham, with Professor Claire Finkelstein of the University of Pennsylvania and Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics.

And we charged him with conduct unbecoming of a senator for calling the Georgia secretary of state and asking that ballots be thrown out. This is not how we do business in a democracy. And the senator, Senator Graham, should be ashamed of themselves.

President Trump should be ashamed of themselves, the Michigan Republican Party for engaging in such conduct up there in Michigan. It's absolutely reprehensible. And this election has been decided. Every American gets a vote, and that includes African American voters.

But, once again, I would emphasize there's been a consistent effort to disenfranchise those voters by throwing out the votes, throwing out the votes but the candidates who they support. And that's just not how a democracy works.


And, for listeners and viewers, many know Richard Painter from his years of work and time on air, but some may not.

I would just remind everyone, Margaret, that's the statement of someone who was at the highest echelons of legal ethics in a Republican Party completely rebuking today's Republican Party, because it sounds like it's no longer recognizable to him.



And I call Richard Painter for help when I need it. But I would disagree with him on one point, which is, it's not, in the case of Lindsey Graham, conduct unbecoming a senator. It's conduct unbecoming a law student.

I taught legal aid students when I was pretending to be a lawyer, Ari. And they wouldn't go into court with what Rudy Giuliani goes into court. And the other night, you read out parts of the judges' decisions in these various cases.

And they weren't just throwing out the cases. They were throwing out the lawyers. That's how bad it was. And the only thing we on the other side have going for us here, it seems, because Donald Trump isn't going to stop and Republicans aren't going to come to their senses and not be part of this, is that Rudy Giuliani is now the lead lawyer.

And at his press conference today, he said one true thing, which is that "Cousin Vinny" was a great -- "My Cousin Vinny" was a great film.

But Rudy is not a great cousin Vinny. He's a terrible lawyer. And I thought the most embarrassing thing that Rudy would do this year was the "Borat" movie, but it turned out to be today's press conference, when -- will we ever forget how much he sweat, sweated -- is sweated a word? -- how much he sweat while he was describing what he was doing, because who wouldn't?


CARLSON: I mean, he is -- he has a terrible hand to play. He's not winning.

Now we see that the strategy is just to stall until they can get to the certifications, and they -- and what they hope for faithless electors, and it's not going to end soon. I thought it would end once all these cases were thrown out.

I don't know if the Wayne County canvassers are actually going to come to the White House. But I do understand that Trump invited them to the White House.


CARLSON: There's nothing left to be done to those people, because now what they did is now certified.

But I guess he's going to twist -- twist their arms and go on twisting arms all along the way. And can I just say, a profile in courage award to the secretary of state of Georgia? He's got more guts than any U.S. senator in the Republican Party.

MELBER: Yes, we have been covering that.

And the reason, in part, that Lindsey Graham's scandal and allegations have been corroborated is because that secretary of state, who happens to be Republican, has been very clear, providing information and standing up to the pressure.

On a smaller point, Margaret raises the question of what is the past tense of sweat? I can tell you, people on Twitter will have an answer for you as soon as you're done with this segment.

CARLSON: Oh, I know they will.

I shouldn't have...


CARLSON: ... that.

MELBER: Go @MargaretCarlson.

Well, the Internet's big on grammar. You mentioned many other things.

And I want to get Richard's view on Giuliani.

I was mentioning in the lead we have been covering this a certain way deliberately, as we have throughout the Trump era, because you don't just get automatic repetition of lies.

Richard, as a fellow attorney, though, and one with a lot of experience in the Republican Party, although you ultimately left it over Trump, I want to play a little bit as for your view from today.


GIULIANI: I know crimes. I can smell them. You don't have to smell this one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your question is fundamentally flawed when you're asking, where's the evidence?

GIULIANI: You think anyone in that government has credibility after using a machine and fooling their citizens?

Let me answer the question. Let me answer the question. Happens all the time in Philly. It's about as frequent as getting beaten up at a Philadelphia Eagle basketball -- football game.


MELBER: Richard, what grade do you give him?

PAINTER: I give him an F. He doesn't talk like a lawyer. He doesn't know anything about Philly. And he is mouthing off all the time. I swear he sounds half-drunk when he talks. He's incompetent as a lawyer.

I have got to say, though, that I'm a lot more worried about the attorney general of the United States, who has the real power. Rudy Giuliani doesn't have power. He's just a private lawyer.

But the attorney general of the United States has been ordering bogus investigations into election fraud. And that's a real threat. And I spent the summer working on a 250-page report on the conduct of Attorney General Barr and the Justice Department. It's on the Web site of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law University of Pennsylvania and CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

And this Justice Department has been trying to throw this election to Donald Trump for well over a year. And I think it's very important to make sure that Attorney General Barr butts out of this so-called recount business and plans for his next job or his disbarment or whatever is coming up next for him.

But Rudy Giuliani is just a joke. But I don't want to spend too much more time talking about him. He definitely needs to retire from the practice of law.

MELBER: There you have it straight up.

Richard Painter, Margaret Carlson on this story, thanks to both of you.

We have a lot more in the program.

We have former President Obama weighing in on this collusion.

But up next, look who it is, yes, Larry Wilmore live, along with Michael Steele -- when we come back.


MELBER: There are many signs so we have been reporting on about why this presidential transition is basically becoming as abnormal as many aspects of the last four years, Trump officials delaying basic cooperation with their legal successors, Senate Leader McConnell the Senate home on recess early, even as COVID spikes to its worst rates ever, and no action on extending COVID relief.

And then these theatrics we have been covering at the top of the program, a defeated president still pushing lies about voter fraud, which, as many people have pointed out, sounds more like a joke.

Comics like Larry Wilmore have been shredding it.


LARRY WILMORE, COMEDIAN: All this concern trolling about voter fraud, it's just so (EXPLETIVE DELETED) disingenuous.

Yes, it's like how they pretend they don't know how to pronounce Kamala's name. I mean, what is that? Just stop it. You damn well know how to say Kamala. And you damn well know Trump's reelection bid is over.


MELBER: Wilmore may look familiar from his star turn hosting the White House Correspondents Dinner or his pioneering work at "The Daily Show," where he served in the comedic role as -- quote -- "senior black correspondent" -- end quote.

And we often turn to cultural insights here on THE BEAT. Now, Wilmore, to be clear, stands more at the intersection of humorous culture and deadly serious political insights.

So, I'm thrilled to tell you the great Larry Wilmore joins us live right now to assess the election, the transition, and the future. He also has a brand-new weekly show, "Wilmore," on our sister platform Peacock.

And coming along for the ride, our friend Michael Steele is back with us as well.

Great to see you both.

WILMORE: Hey, Ari. So happy to be here, man. We have been looking for word to this for a while.

MELBER: Yes, me too.

So, Larry, comedy mixed with tragedy. It's ridiculous. It's baroque. But then some of it, as guests have reminded us tonight, is deadly serious.


MELBER: What do you see out here during this bizarre transition?

WILMORE: Oh, man, it's -- it really is a tragic comedy, because for people me, I mean, we have to make jokes about it.

But it is tragic. And I will tell you what is the thing that is really not funny, Ari, is the people who believe the disinformation that is being put out there, especially about COVID, and people who are dying while they're continuing to believe in all this disinformation.

That is not funny. It is a dereliction of duty, as far as I'm concerned, by all of those people in charge, especially the top one.

MELBER: Yes, right, especially people pushing that.

We were having fun looking back at when Washington really had to grapple with the Larry Wilmore experience, which was at the Correspondents Dinner.


MELBER: I mean, it's a huge honor, as I think viewers know. You're up there. How often does anyone get to stand up there while a sitting president -- that was President Obama -- watches you do your thing?


MELBER: Let's take a look at a couple of moments which are right on point as far as the political commentary. Here we go.



WILMORE: Nice to be here, though, at the White House Correspondents Dinner, or, as you know, they're going to call it next year, Donald Trump presents a luxurious evening paid for by Mexico.

I want to thank Mitch McConnell for not blocking my nomination.


WILMORE: Seriously, you got to give Mitch McConnell credit. At this point, he could block LeBron James. He's unbelievable.


MELBER: How do you update that joke, when he's stolen more Supreme Court seats since then?

WILMORE: I know. Call me Negrodamus, Ari. I don't know how I know all these things ahead of time.


WILMORE: But Mitch McConnell has always been the same. It's easy to do jokes about Mitch McConnell that kind of last forever, that have no expiration date, which is why -- by the way, I wish he were a Democrat. It's why he's good at his job, you know?

I'm sure the Democrats are probably jealous of Mitch McConnell, too, because he does exactly what his constituents want him to do, put in conservative judges, and he's very successful at it.

MELBER: And, Larry, people got a wonder. I wonder, we got to ask, like, is it different doing the whole bit in front of the sitting president?

WILMORE: Oh, God, it's so bizarre.

I mean, when you're right next to him, all kinds of things go through -- first of all, you want to make him laugh, you know? And you don't want to just go crazy and just have something else take over you. It's like, Larry, just stay calm. Don't do anything weird.

Don't make any sudden movements, because you don't know what's going to happen. But you do want to try to make him laugh, but who knows. I did this one joke about him dropping drones, and I kind of felt him go, ooh.

Like, it was this -- you could feel the disapprovement just wafting over you, the way like Pepe Le Pew, like, that smell just comes over here.


WILMORE: You could just feel it. And I could feel him cringe. And I'm like, oh, great, I have already lost the room. Now I have lost the president too. It's just downhill from there.

But all I can say, at that moment, Ari, I just stopped caring. I just looked and said, what, am I wrong? It just went on from there, so...

MELBER: Now, hang with me.

Michael, you know why you're in this segment, right?

STEELE: I just go for the ride my friend. I have learned with you to do that. And hanging out with Larry's always fun, so I figured, no matter how this worked out, I'm going to have a good time. So, I'm good.

MELBER: Amen. But...

WILMORE: We just had Michael on my show, yes.

STEELE: Yes. Yes.

MELBER: I love that.

But we think these things through.

And, Larry, whether you remember it or not, Michael Steele knows his way around at least what we consider a lower-rent version of late night. He stayed up late with us on all those debate nights and even busted out his own Muppet from your same "Daily Show," which breaks the rule that says you can't talk to your own Muppet live on cable news, Michael.

WILMORE: That's right.

STEELE: Yes, exactly.

Look, I have to tell you, Larry and the ladies and gentlemen over at "The Daily Show" beat the crap out of me for two years on the program. And it was such fun to go back and watch.

WILMORE: Oh, my God.

STEELE: And Larry is so right about the humor.


STEELE: It is the great leveler. It really is.

And it tells us in important times and sometimes very serious moments try to find a little bit of the humor in it. And guys like Larry, they do that. They kind of reflect that instinctively.

WILMORE: Oh, thank you, Michael.

STEELE: And it's good.

No, seriously, man. I mean, and it's good. And, certainly, being the only black correspondent on that program, that's an important first step for the rest of us brothers out here who are looking for role models.


STEELE: So, you play a double role here.


God, Michael, I hope to have a puppet of me someday, is all I can say at this moment.


MELBER: Well, that's the last question.

We got -- we're looking at it now when he was with Jon Stewart.



MELBER: ... MSNBC viewers have come to know the Michael Steeles.

Do you like better the original RNC chairman, the new Michael Steele who said that, because of Trump's leadership and record, he was breaking with his party to endorse Joe Biden, or the third choice, the original Muppet Michael Steele?

WILMORE: I'm always going to prefer the Muppet, because the Muppet has a type of facial hair that humans just can't achieve.


WILMORE: And it's fantastic.

It's this fuzz that it kind of -- it's coming at you, but it's kind of spreading out at the same time. See what I mean? It's like -- it's just a beautiful type of thing.


MELBER: Hold on, fact-check.

Are you talking about the fuzz, the blue fuzz, or the actual mustache?


No, no, the moustache and the hair on top, all of it. I mean, you can't duplicate that. It's fantastic.

STEELE: No, you can't.


STEELE: I tried.

WILMORE: Michael has been trying to duplicate that. But he has not been successful, as far as I'm concerned.

I don't care whether to trying to hide it in the Republican Party or trying to act he's a woke one too.

Whatever, Michael. You're never going to outdo your Muppet. Sorry.


MELBER: A woke one.

Larry -- Larry, I'm running out of time, but there is a lyric, there is a lyric that applies to this.

WILMORE: Uh-oh. What can it be?

STEELE: Uh-huh.

MELBER: From Young M.A. We in the streets like Sesame.

WILMORE: There you go.


STEELE: There you go.

And the day's number is three.


MELBER: I thought, Michael, the number of the day was 270, and only one side has it.

STEELE: Well, look, I can only -- the only thing I have to say about 270 the only way Donald Trump gets to 270 is if he loses 50 pounds, so we can just let that go and move on.


MELBER: All right. We will end with the heat.

Michael Steele, Larry Wilmore.

Larry, I hope you come back.

The show is "Wilmore" on Peacock.

WILMORE: Absolutely. Thanks, guys. That was fun.

STEELE: It's good stuff, man.

MELBER: Absolutely.

And we will be right back. We have an update on COVID, what President Biden is saying, and something important about the pandemic.

Stay with us.


MELBER: The pandemic is surging.

President Trump today skipping the meeting of his COVID Task Force amidst a relatively empty schedule. In fact, he hasn't been to one in five months.

The Biden/Harris team is meeting with their COVID advisers today, along with a bipartisan group of governors. And Biden spoke out on these issues.


BIDEN: There is no excuse not to share the data and let us begin to plan, because, on day one, it's going to take us time. If we don't have access to all this data, it's going to put us behind the eight ball by a matter of a month or more. And that's lives.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: President-elect Biden and I will make sure you have the resources and support you need to save lives and help get our economy back on track.


MELBER: A show of coordination from people who say the current administration is offering anything but.

The virus, of course, continues to surge. The U.S. has passed the grim milestone of 250,000 COVID deaths. Nationwide, there's almost 1,200 deaths a day. That is the highest rate yet, so be careful.

We're going to fit in a break, but, coming up, something I have been telling you we're excited to share, an announcement about former President Obama -- next.


MELBER: This pandemic is putting a strain on many parts of life.

Vic Mensa is leading a campaign to put homelessness on the agenda right now, raise money. He's asking people to spend one night sleeping on the streets of Chicago. This is in support specifically of many members of the African-American community there, who are disproportionately affected during the pandemic and facing higher rates of homelessness in Chicago, as well as some other places.

You can learn a lot more about this at his organization, I think we even have a clip.

Do we have the clip we wanted to play you guys?

Well, you can always tune in to our socials there, as I was showing you, @THEBEATWITHARI.

We're going to tell you more about the program there that he's doing on behalf of homelessness in Chicago, SleepOut, and that agenda.

Now, there's one other thing I want to share with you tonight. We mentioned this throughout the show. President Obama has been on his book tour. He has brand-new comments tonight on Donald Trump. Take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you start having attempts to block, negate, overturn the people's vote, when there's no actual evidence that there was anything illegal or fraudulent taking place.

These are just bald assertions. They have been repeatedly rejected by the courts.

I'm less surprised by Donald Trump doing this. I'm more troubled that you're seeing a lot of Republican officials go along with it.


MELBER: Now, that full interview with Jonathan Capehart airs tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC, "A Promised Land: A Conversation With Barack Obama."

And it's interesting, as you saw in just that short excerpt, to hear the president, the former president, make a point we have heard from experts throughout this hour and across the news, that what's going on right now is bigger than just what one politician or one president's doing, if an entire political party is joining in on disenfranchisement, on calling into question our democratic process, on not acknowledging the fact that there was a result in this election.

A final thought tonight.

And that does it for me. We will see you back here tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.



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