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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, November 24, 2020

Guests: Mara Gay, Tony Schwartz, David Rothkopf


Congresswoman Karen Bass speaks out. President-elect Biden continues his transition after the General Services Administration finally allows the process to go forward. Trump co-author, Tony Schwartz discusses what the president's mind-set might be following his defeat.



Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber, reporting for you tonight on the new reality in Washington, president-elect Biden getting daily intelligence briefings, Biden staff coordinating now directly with current government officials for the first time on everything from COVID and vaccine planning to national security, and Biden drawing funding from the congressionally authorized transition account for the first time, all of that, of course, the standard transition work that happen within days of an election call in every other modern transition.

But President Trump's denial and delays make this more significant than usual, as there were mounting concerns about the risk and the cost of ongoing or further delays from Trump, who has now folded, and Biden doing his first interview as president-elect now talking with NBC's Lester Holt about this very breakthrough.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Immediately, we have gotten outreach from the national security shop, from just across the board.

So I think we're going to not be so far behind the curve as we thought we might be in the past. And there's a lot of immediate discussion. And I must say, the outreach has been sincere. It's not been begrudging so far. And I don't expect it to be. So, yes, it's already begun.


MELBER: Some news there in that new interview, Biden pressing forward with governing, tapping more people for his national security team, including some veterans of the previous Obama/Biden administration.

That's all for a range of top posts, as well as a newly created climate envoy. Now, foreign policy is always a key place that new administrations tend to begin. Biden officials stress tonight that they see extra work, though, given the many programs and alliances that they believe Donald Trump systematically attacked.

And while control of the Senate, of course, still hangs in the balance right now, it's worth remembering many of these are key issues where presidents have more unilateral control to set policy, regardless of who controls Congress.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States.

It's time to exit the Paris...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Iran's leaders are reacting with anger this morning at President Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from a landmark nuclear deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Children are heard wailing, desperately asking to see family members.

TRUMP: They are so well taken care of. They're in facilities that were so clean.


MELBER: One thing we learned today, Biden officials, these new appointees spoke about each one of those issues as foreign policy and national security items they intend to reverse.

Let's get right into it now.

We are joined by Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass from California, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Quite relevant. She was also at one time one of the people on that short list for Joe Biden's running mate.

Former Obama pollster Cornell Belcher, friend of THE BEAT, and David Rothkopf, who served in the Clinton administration. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His new book, quite relevant, is "Traitor: A History of American Betrayal From Benedict Arnold to Donald Trump."

Good evening to all of you.

Congresswoman Bass, your views both on the foreign policy implications, as well as what the U.S. government now marks as the first day formally of a Biden transition?

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Well, first of all, when I saw the team on the stage, I just exhaled. It was like, oh, my goodness, we're back, we can start over again.

And so I'm very impressed with the team that he's pulled together. And now maybe we can reestablish our standing in the world. There's so much work that we need to do, so much that we need to send a clear signal, whether it's the Paris accord, whether it is the Iran agreement. You can just go down the list

And then, of course, reigniting these children with their parents.

MELBER: Yes. And that's such an important issue and one that is both about foreign policy, if you want to talk about our relations with other countries. It's also about who we are as a nation.

David, you are known to our viewers over the over the months and years here as an astute observer of foreign policy. And these are nuanced issues. They are not always, as -- I would say, as boldly contrasted as I think they might be tonight between these two governments.

And so, for you, I want to just play a little bit from the new Biden appointees. They were not only making Biden's case, but really hammering this break with Trumpism.


BIDEN: After years of chaos, dysfunction, and absolute cruelty at DHS, I'm proud to nominate an experienced leader.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY NOMINEE: The Department of Homeland Security has a noble mission, to help keep us safe and to advance our proud history as a country of welcome.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: President Joe Biden will trust in God. And he will also trust in science to guide our work on Earth.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS NOMINEE: America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.


MELBER: David?

DAVID ROTHKOPF, AUTHOR, "TRAITOR": Well, I think what we saw in this press conference was that Joe Biden is valuing not just professionalism, not just people, each of whom has an extraordinary track record that makes them qualified for the job, but also character.

And character, as we have seen in the move from Barack Obama to Donald Trump, and now from Donald Trump to Joe Biden, is extremely important. Each one of these people offers a narrative that's radically different from the Trump narrative.

Alejandro Mayorkas, who is going to be the new head of the Department of Homeland Security, was a child refugee. He has a different sense of that issue from the Trump administration that put children in cages. Linda Thomas-Greenfield experienced extreme racism growing up, went to Africa, has dealt with human rights, has dealt with peacekeeping, believes in international institutions.

The stories go on and on. Tony Blinken, when he was introduced, talked about his stepfather and how he escaped the Nazis and how he spoke his first words to an American G.I., "God bless America."

And it was moving. I was choked up. But I was also relieved, because, all of a sudden, Biden is introducing these radical ideas, decency, humanity, competence, intelligence that have been missing from U.S. foreign policy for the past four years.

MELBER: You lay it out there with the history of it, I mean, what matters and the generational history even of what some of these people and their families have lived through. It's striking.

Cornell, as a friend of this show. I'm going to go to you, though, with the softball, OK, because we did the serious stuff.


MELBER: You know, hey, I keep it real with the viewers. Sometimes, we're talking refugee crisis. Sometimes, we're talking softballs.

The softball for you, Cornell, is, how are we to understand what seems like a really talented roster of people coming in, if Trump already hired and use all of the -- quote -- "best people"?


BELCHER: Well, I think -- thanks for the softball.

But I do think, to pick up on Chairwoman Bass' comments, we all exhaled. I think the global community exhaled. And I think of the American voters exhaled.

One of the things that I found fascinating, looking back, going into the 2020 election, is, you do these online focus groups, and voters will start talking about how America had become a laughingstock around the globe, and how uncomfortable they were even before the pandemic struck even to go outside of America and tell people that they were Americans, because we have become a laughingstock.

But I think the seriousness about American and the idea that America's back and that we are once again going to be taking our place as a leader on the global stage once again, I think, is important, not only for the global community, but also for Americans.

So, when I look at that team, I think this is part of the reason why so many Americans actually, more Americans than anyone's ever, ever before, had decided to vote for Joe Biden, is this sort of competence and this sort of leadership and this sort of seriousness that they were looking for.

MELBER: Yes, all good points.

Congresswoman, although there's been a lot of positivity here, I want to mention something that's a positive and a negative during what are tough times, of course, for so many Americans. We have talked a lot about how the Dow and the markets are not the only indicator of what people are going through.

It was striking, after an election where Donald Trump talked up what he viewed as his stewardship of the economy, to see, as far as business and Wall Street's concerned -- here, we will put this up -- Dow surging after Biden transition gets the green light above 30000.

This is actually -- quote -- "for the first time ever," investors cheering a transition to the Biden administration, presumably welcoming some stability after all of Trump's denial of the loss and whatever uncertainty there may have been.

And so, Congresswoman, I'm curious what you think of both pieces of this. And you have been, of course, very thoughtful about this in the past. On the one hand, great if the markets see stability. On the other hand, in your state and many, we're seeing tough trade-offs being pressed on working people, including, OK, yes, stay safe for COVID.

But if the retreat is forced in a lot of places, and businesses go under, people go to furloughs again, it's tough times, even as the Dow welcomes Biden. Your thoughts on all of the above?

BASS: Well, absolutely.

I mean, I do think that, over the last few years, he's tried to make the stock market be the only measure of the economy. And I do think that the reason why that surged is because, finally, finally, people can see that the chaos is going to end. It's going to end in a little over 50 days.

And I think that that's a great signal. But, as you said, in almost every single state, the virus is surging. I mean, we had to live for a month of the president traveling around the country spreading the virus. And so the economy is not going to be stabilized until we get a handle on the virus.

But I also think that that's the other thing that we can exhale about, because what has the president-elect been doing since the day of the election, if not before? Planning to deal with the virus? And so I think that that's a good indication.

And then, just on internationally, since I do focus on foreign affairs, I'm so excited to see Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, traveled to Africa with her and former Secretary Kerry, that we now do not have to be embarrassed when we travel overseas, because people have been asking us, don't run around the world spreading democracy until you fix your own. Then you can tell us how we should hold our elections.

MELBER: I think that's a fair point Americans have felt.

Congresswoman, always good to have you kick off at the top of the program.

I guess I'd be remiss if I didn't say that the theme of your remarks tonight has felt like you have been waiting to exhale.


BASS: I have been waiting to exhale for four years.


MELBER: I feel you. I hear you.

What I'm going to do is hold on -- we're going to dismiss our congresswoman. I'm going to hold on to both David and Cornell Belcher.

Congresswoman Bass, thank you, as always, for joining us.

BASS: Thanks for having me on.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Our other political panelists are going to stay with us here.

I want to go to another piece of news here. The way this delayed transition is playing out, this is what people across the country are finally digesting, major papers like "The New York Times" you see marking it on the front page the headline, "Transition to Biden's Administration Begins."

Or take the conservative-leaning "Wall Street Journal" tracking Biden's financial moves, like the new Treasury pick. And then you see on the lower right there, the headline also pretty clear, "Trump Clears Way to Start Transition."

Now, any Americans who are still holding out doubt have plenty of ways for this reality to sink in. They can read the paper. They can read the Internet.

There are, meanwhile, signs that Donald Trump has known it's been over. Word already leaking they're prepping renovations to Mar-a-Lago for when he moves in, in, yes, January.

And for our panelists, I want you guys to take a look at how this final nail was covered when the news broke on air, including over at FOX News, where one anchor tried to tell viewers, it really is over.


DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: Nearly three weeks after the election now, the transition officially begins.

HOLT: The government's General Services Administration is for the first time acknowledging Joe Biden's win for president.

BEN TRACY, CBS NEWS: President Trump is telling his team here at the White House tonight that they should begin what he's calling the initial protocols of the transition.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: As unpleasant and disappointing as these past three weeks have been to so many of us, as much as we wish things were different, this is where things stand tonight.


MELBER: This is where things stand.


BELCHER: It's funny, because I have this e-mail from the Trump/Pence campaign -- you can't -- probably can't see it -- that says, "The fight continues." And they want me to give them money.

So, I'm a little confused, Ari, that the fight is over, but they're still trying to raise money.


BELCHER: By the way, I have no idea how I got on a Trump/Pence e-mail list, but I am.

But I think that's part of the issue that they have, is that they are still trying to raise money to pay off their campaign debt. And they're worried about sort of turning off some of their voters who they desperately still need in places like Georgia.

But it does look like, even in the conservative press here, that Americans understand that, in fact, it is over, although they're still trying to raise money off of it.

MELBER: Yes, you make a great point, which, again, you're -- what you're saying is partly a warning in service to people who are sympathetic to Donald Trump.

And what you -- you happened to work for Barack Obama, but you're warning people, hey, if you're MAGA and you're on this e-mail list, Cornell Belcher of the Obama campaign, is warning you that they might be trying to defraud you of your money, because you won't be donating...

BELCHER: They're hustling you. You're being hustled.

MELBER: You're being hustled.

BELCHER: Yes, you're being hustled.

MELBER: yes.

And, David, the other part of this that is so blatant and is sort of political here is, we have heard a lot of talk about triggering the liberals or people crying or snowflakes or living in a bubble.

When you watched the FOX anchor there -- and, again, I'm not making it personal to any which one. That's not really my point. But, more broadly, why is it that this particular president and some of his supporters -- not all -- need some sort of multiweek snowflake off-ramp to accept that which every other candidate in both parties typically does night of or next day?

ROTHKOPF: Well, you know, when your entire candidacy and presidency is based on denying reality, it's kind of hard to adjust to when it rears its ugly head.

They don't believe in science. They didn't believe in history. They don't believe in climate change. The things that are real, like their collusion with Russia, they say are a hoax.

They're disoriented, and they're disoriented by the facts. And, of course, you on election night or two days or three days after election night, I remember that Saturday well when it became clear that the Biden team had won, and people were dancing in the streets. They were in denial.

But they're going through -- there's a psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, talks about the five stages of grief. And they're going through denial, and they're now coming to bargaining and acceptance. They're finally coming to the reality that this period is over for them, at least most of them.

We're not sure where Trump is on all of this. Maybe Mar-a-Lago is getting some renovations. But he's also talking about ludicrous ideas, like maybe I will run in 2024.

So, he's never had a real stronghold on reality. And, so far, we have no evidence that he's got one now.

MELBER: Cornell?

BELCHER: I actually don't think it's that ludicrous that he will run in 2024. I mean, what else -- what does this guy do?

And, by the way, Ari, I'm going to be one of the first to say it here. If Donald Trump actually does run for the Republican nomination in 2024, who's going to beat him? Marco Rubio? Ted Cruz? None of them are going to beat him if he decides to run in 2024.

MELBER: Well, "The New York Times," the way they put it -- and, again, this is one of the things people say, oh, you are talking about him too much or not.

Well, "The New York Times" noted he is the de facto head of the Republican Party, unless he walks away from that. Other ex-presidents are obviously different. Bush really receded. Obama left a lot of room, didn't even endorse early in the primary, even though that everybody knew that he was very partial to the person he literally picked as his would-be president if something happened to him.

So, you already kind of knew where he stood. We don't expect anything like that reticence from Trump, Cornell. And that means that you could have a party that is locked, perhaps to its detriment or not -- we don't know -- not my job to predict -- but really locked in whatever stage, whatever Kubler-Ross stage, to borrow from David, the president is in.

If he's the de facto head of the party, they're going to be living with those boundaries for however long.

BELCHER: Well, it's his party now. I mean, let's be clear.

The sort of cultlike behavior that you saw around Trump, you didn't see that around George Bush. I mean, heck, you didn't even see that around Ronald Reagan, who Republicans once upon a time loved.

This is Trump's Republican Party now, and a lot of the mainstream Republicans, like from the Bushes to the Kasichs of the world, they have no place to go in this in this Republican Party. It is Donald Trump's party right now.

And it will be interesting to see what the sort of more moderate establishment Republicans do in the coming years, because I think it's hard for them to beat Donald Trump in a straight-up primary right now.

MELBER: Yes. And I think those are all fair points.

And then, lastly, Cornell, are you going to donate then to that election fund or not?

BELCHER: I -- well, I might, because the stock market is doing so well, which I'm surprised, because I thought the stock market was going to crash and the suburbs were going to be burning if Joe Biden won.

So, I got to actually go and start burning down the suburbs, because we got to make that happen.

MELBER: Burn down the suburbs, or there's a famous book, "Bomb the Suburbs," all about graffiti.

You know that one? It's a good book.


MELBER: We're going to hit the break there.

David Rothkopf and Cornell Belcher, thank you both. And thanks for putting up with me.

This is our shortest break of the hour, just 30 seconds.

We have more from that Lester Holt exclusive with president-elect Biden, his first as president-elect. We have an update on the numbers, the total vote margin growing for Biden.

But, first, my special report tonight on how even Donald Trump had to come through and understand that he lost, what it means, and what should not be normalized.

Plus, Tony Schwartz -- when we're back in 30.


MELBER: Welcome back.

As the saying goes, today is the first day of the rest of the official federal transition process to the new administration. OK, that's not the exact saying, but it is what's happening, as we have been noting, newspapers marking what is typically a standard step, partly because this president made it so abnormally late. Transition to Biden administration begins.

And while things are more on track today, with the federal government green-lighting aspects of this transition, nothing about what got us here should be normalized.

And that's what I want to speak with you about right now.

It's been 16 days since Joe Biden was declared the winner and Donald Trump the loser of this election. It's been even longer since President Trump falsely claimed he won in the middle of the counting in our democracy. And remember what he pledged back then -- this is important now -- that voting should stop, and all of this would end at the Supreme Court.


TRUMP: We did win this election.


TRUMP: We want all voting to stop.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to go to court. We're going to prove it in court.

TRUMP: We will be going to the U.S. Supreme Court.


MELBER: Will you?

The president said he wanted voting stopped. Then, soon after that, he declared he wanted it to keep going in certain places. He didn't really know what he wanted.

But he did put America through one more crash course in the law and the Constitution before this Trump era formally ends. And this matters tonight. This should not just be forgotten as the nation turns another page.

Now, there's plenty wrong with how the U.S. government works and how our justice system works. We cover that on this program.

Let me tell you something. America's courts are still pretty good at catching blatant lies, even when they're pushed by literally the most powerful person in the nation. So, courts don't just let anybody go to trial, let alone get all the way up to the Supreme Court, even if the person asking is really powerful.

That's not true in every country, by the way.

This is a lesson that President Trump learned all over again the hard way, as his flimsy cases were rebuked, tossed and sometimes laughed out of court over these past 16 days.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Trump's efforts to challenge the election in court have been defeated in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Another court loss in an impressively long series of abject legal failures.

NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS: The latest in a string of legal defeats for President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president who talks often about winning, winning, winning is doing nothing but losing, losing, losing.


MELBER: That's what happens if you go to court. You will find out whether you win or lose.

It was a lot of losing because Trump was staking his last -ditch effort on tactics that just do worse in court than on Twitter, spinning, lying, making things up, faking evidence. Marching out famous/infamous advocates like Rudy Giuliani didn't help.

Even Chris Christie was critical of this. Trump's own allies began publicly warning it was another round of unnecessary self-inflicted damage and embarrassment. And you really don't need to be a lawyer to see why.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: The MAGA campaign was holding a press conference at the Four Seasons.

No, no, no, no, no, not the Four Seasons Hotel, but, rather, the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

GIULIANI: You're cheating. That could have been Mickey Mouse. That could have been a dead person.

You start doing ballots like this, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh.

I'd fire everybody that was involved in this election. Our votes are sent overseas. Dangerous foreign company, close, close ties with Venezuela, and, therefore, China.

Did you all watch "My Cousin Vinny"? How many fingers have I got up?


MELBER: We did watch "My Cousin Vinny." Did you?

The first hour of that movie is about how a bumbling lawyer can't just march into court with New York one-liners without knowing the law. It doesn't work.

Now, as the losses mounted, what may have once looked like a possibly undemocratic fire drill, with real stakes on the line, did become -- I think this by now if you watch the news -- it became more absurd and baroque, as states certified and locked in the Biden victories and Trump's losses.

And then, last night, the Trump administration folding and beginning the formal transition. Even after that, there was one more Trump lawyer left falsely claiming Trump won, even as he did the very thing no winner would swiftly do, hand the transition keys over to the actual winner, president-elect Biden.


JENNA ELLIS, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR LEGAL ADVISER: The election was stolen and President Trump won by a landslide.

MELBER: We have to take a pause. If you make false statements, you don't just run roughshod, OK?

ELLIS: What you're trying to do is piecemeal and break apart each of these different things to say, oh, that's not happened before, and that's...

MELBER: No, I mean, look, I'm trying to make sure people have the numbers.

But these are the margins that you see. If you look at, for example, Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Georgia, where you're seeking this extra recount, it's 12,000, and the largest change in ballots ever was 355.


MELBER: Those numbers don't legally add up for Trump.

So, that means, even if he wants some pending case, it's still game over in the election.

That's why it got more absurd. But, at the same time, I want to be clear with you, as we reflect on this first day of the formal transition, about what this president openly wanted to do, tried to do. He wanted to do crime.

It brings me no joy, as a reporter or an American, to say that that's what the evidence shows. The president wanted to do election crimes specifically. We know this because he told us: Stop the counting. Vote twice if you're for him. Restrict the voting in the opposing party's areas. Toss votes if they came from Democrats or from black Americans in Detroit.

And if none of that works -- and some of that, if executed, could be yes, criminal -- then go ask state legislators to steal their own states from Biden for him.

"The Washington Post" reporting that effort to get Michigan, for example, to steal the race was a wholesale assault on our constitutional democracy.

And this really happened, Michigan leaders going to Trump's White House, coming out of that meeting after that presidential pressure and then saying, look, they still saw no reason to do what? To steal an election in Michigan from Joe Biden. They went ahead and certified the votes.

So, it didn't work. The system of checks and balances worked, first led by the courts, as noted, also with pushback from some public officials.

When Donald Trump also wanted to talk about prosecuting voter fraud, which didn't exist, wasn't found in a way that changes this race, it couldn't be prosecuted.

So, remember, Donald Trump's own DOJ noting, in the midst of all this here, they had not concluded voting irregularities impacted the outcome of any election any single place in America, let alone in the whole Electoral College.

Now, that's not all. We can't normalize attempted felonies by a president, even if he's so bad at felonies that they didn't get far enough.

We just lived through a campaign where the sitting president's closing argument also included blatantly and publicly demanding the government abuse its power to investigate and jail American citizens, you and me, and turn that power in the middle of a campaign against his opponents, against the former president and what is now the president-elect.


TRUMP: Unless Bill Barr and dates these people for crimes, the greatest political crime in the history of our country. These people should be indicted. And that includes Obama, and it includes Biden.


MELBER: That's a blatant attempt to get someone to violate the law. It failed because it was clumsy and far-fetched and late and too much even for some of Trump's most loyal appointees.

But it would not be right to just rush ahead and turn the page without remembering how much of this was attempted through this period since the election was called and in that campaign homestretch. It is not normal. It is not acceptable.

And I say these things to you as a journalist, not with regard to the ideology or the personality traits of any given politician. I promise you, if president-elect Biden or later President Biden ever calls for the prosecution of his opponents, I will be out here telling you as well why it's wrong.

So, America was still decide, by the way, what the reckoning is for soon to be ex-President Trump for that.

Now, when you take it all together, you think, hmm, that was quite a lot that the sitting powerful president threw out there, at his opponent, at the system, during the campaign, as well as in this period I just described afterward, after he became the loser of the race.

And then you might reflect, how does Donald Trump feel about all this now that the transition is under way and he is the loser?


TRUMP: If I lose, can you imagine? If I lose, I will have lost to the worst candidate, the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics. That's why I can't lose.


MELBER: But he can lose. He did lose, when the rules were followed.

And I know they say you can't take him too literally, but, if you lost to the worst candidate in history, what does that make you?

We're going to get into all of it. We have the perfect guest on Donald Trump's state of mind in exactly these moments, Tony Schwartz, right after this.



TRUMP: No, I'm not thinking about concession speech or acceptance speech yet. Hopefully, we will be only doing one of those two. And winning is easy. Losing is never easy. Not for me, it's not.


MELBER: Losing is never easy.

That was Donald Trump on Election Day.

We're joined now by Tony Schwartz, a friend of THE BEAT, co-author of "The Art of the Deal," and his new audiobook is "Dealing With the Devil: My Mother, Trump and Me."

What do you think of this bridge we have shown, Donald Trump from there, Election Day, where he seemed at least somewhat more aware of the prospect of losing than usual, to what he put the country through, to this first day of the Biden transition today?

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMP: THE ART OF THE DEAL": Well, 100 percent predictable, Ari.

Donald Trump never surprises. He is who he is. And when I first came on your show, in 2016, right after the election, I said, this is about a man without character. Let's put aside ideology. This is a man without characters. He's a sociopath.

And he has proved that all the way through, but never more so than during the last couple of weeks, when it was time to concede. Of course, he didn't. And he attacked democracy.

But it reminds me, Ari, of a favorite rapper from the '60s, Joni Mitchell, who said, don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you have got until it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

Well, Donald, it's time to go. We're going to pull up that parking lot and plant some Democratic trees and flowers.

MELBER: It sounds like you're saying you think this White House is a very, very nice house with him gone.

SCHWARTZ: Yes. Well, thank you for descending back to the '60s to meet me there.

MELBER: I will meet you in the '60s in Laurel Canyon with Joni Mitchell any day of the week, baby. It's a little something different than our news topics, so I appreciate it.

I mean, you see a man here who, in part, will continue to walk away from that which he failed to do. There was no Russia redo report out before Election Day, the so-called Durham report, which, remember -- I mean, part of what we're doing here is keeping the record, because it matters.

Attorney General Barr falsely claimed it would be out before the election, which would have been bad for a different reason, but it shows their intent. Donald Trump calling for the prosecution. Donald Trump calling to stop the vote. Everything I just showed in the thwarted plot in Michigan.

What does it say to you, as someone who's been around Trump and who initially helped with the Trump mystique, that his very clumsy failure to pull some of these things off will become his defense, when he says, well, we didn't do it? I mean, that was one of the things in impeachment. We didn't get the fake Biden investigation.

No, because you failed and people stopped you.

SCHWARTZ: Well, it's always been Donald Trump's -- one of his primary tactics is to declare victory in defeat.

And that's obviously what he's trying to do here. The irony is that it will also be his legacy, these last couple of weeks and this naked attempt to destroy democracy.

The legacy, I don't know if it'll be three years from now or 30 years from now, but the legacy of Donald Trump will be as the worst president we have ever had and as someone who tried to bring down the system that made this country what it is in its best sense.

MELBER: Yes. And you mentioned Joni Mitchell.

I mean, I'm also thinking of someone who's -- a group that's sort of on par with her, Cypress Hill, as you know, Joni Mitchell and Cypress Hill widely believed at that same level. And they said, I ain't going out like that. I ain't going out like that.

And it's kind of like an angry battle cry.

And I don't usually do this, but I actually want to play those short 10 seconds from Election Day today again, because now that we're in the Biden transition, they look different. This is exactly how he's going out, losing so hard, he cannot even speak, has not spoken about it in any depth since it occurred.

Take a look.


TRUMP: No, I'm not thinking about concession speech or acceptance speech yet. Hopefully, we will be only doing one of those two. And winning is easy. Losing is never easy. Not for me, it's not.




SCHWARTZ: So, that's -- Ari, that's where you can almost feel compassion for this man, because he had such a twisted perception of the world, that he actually believes that you can only win or lose, there is nothing else.

So, he has been obliterated. It's really remarkable, for a man who needs a microphone, needs a screen, to have disappeared from view for two weeks. I mean, that's the first time in his adult life that he's disappeared from view.

MELBER: Would you say that?

SCHWARTZ: And it's because -- I would say.

MELBER: You have never -- but you have worked around him.

That not just presidency, the idea that he's not seeking the mic, press attention, et cetera, you're saying he's never gotten this long in adulthood?


And why not? Because that attention is the equivalent of oxygen to him. So he can't breathe right now. He feels obliterated. And he moves instead between delusion and rage, because he doesn't want to go to that impossibly difficult feeling that he's having.

But it doesn't change the reality of it. This is a man who has been stopped in his tracks. And democracy survived by the skin of its teeth. And it really does teach us that it's much more vulnerable and precious than many of us -- many of us took it for granted.

I will never take it for granted again.

MELBER: And that's an important point, because, again, the reckoning is not over. And whether or not it's normalized and things get better or worse, no single election resolves that. History teaches us that.

So, people have to stay engaged and decide, what do you want to do about all of it, which is one of our points here?

Tony, always good to see you, sir.

SCHWARTZ: Good to see you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

We're going to fit in a break, but, coming up, we have more, playing for the first time on our air the exclusive first interview with Joe Biden as president-elect and his rebuke of Trumpism.

Lester Holt with a doozy of an interview. We're going to get into some of it, with reaction.

And new details tonight on how, with all the votes being counted, Biden's win over Trump is historic.

That's ahead.


MELBER: Developing news here.

President-elect Joe Biden setting the tone here on the first formal day of his transition. He says America's back; it's no longer, under his leadership, going to be alone on the world stage.

This is from that brand-new interview I mentioned at the top of the hour. It's an exclusive with NBC's Lester Holt. This is the first since Joe Biden formally won the election.

We are about to be joined by our friend "New York Times" writer Mara Gay in just a moment.

But let me show you the full context. This is the clip with Joe Biden, president-elect Biden's comments. We're going to air it right now for the first time on MSNBC.


HOLT: You have announced some key members of your Cabinet today, a very experienced group, a very diverse group.

Clearly, you were trying to send a message. Can you articulate what that message is?

BIDEN: America is back. We're at the head of the table once again.

I have spoken with over 20 world leaders, and they all are literally really pleased and somewhat excited America is going to reassert its role in the world and be a coalition-builder.

HOLT: This lineup, those you have selected so far, a lot of familiar faces among them.

What do you say to those who are wondering if you're trying to create a third Obama term?

BIDEN: This is not a third Obama term, because there's -- we face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama/Biden administration.

The president, this -- President Trump has changed the landscape. It's become America first. It's been America alone.


MELBER: I'm joined now by Mara Gay with "The New York Times" editorial board.

Good to see you.

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Likewise. Great to see you, Ari, yes.

MELBER: We have mentioned in our coverage that things are different and delayed.

This is the kind of interview that president-elects do earlier. This president-elect was diplomatic through most of this unusual delay.

What do you think of what now is this opening message?

GAY: Yes, I think this is exactly spot on, which is that America needs an adult in the room, needs a cheerleader, somebody who can be a preacher, a teacher, all the things that America has been missing for the past four years.

Joe Biden is just one man, so he's got his work cut out for him. But this is the calm, soothing, authoritative message that Americans need to hear.

I think what's important as well is that, behind the scenes, the president-elect has an enormously busy and impressive and really important effort going on to make sure that they can hit the ground running, because this country really cannot -- there's no time to waste.

People are suffering. And I think it's still a major concern that this White House under Donald Trump has really not opened up its books to show the president-elect what the plans are for the vaccine.

That is a major concern right now. It's a huge logistical challenge.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, it's -- it's the big everything. It's the precursor to anything else, an economic rebound, helping get through the better public safety.

We have one other new part that's going to air for the first time right now from the interview.

And, for context, you viewers may have noticed there seems to be a lot of positivity for day one of the formal Biden transition. And part of that's because they have really gotten a lot of unity around these early picks.

I would note that tends to be easier to do with security and foreign policy picks than the domestic stuff, particularly when you talk about the Democratic Party's roiling debate over taking on Wall Street, student debt, what young people are up against in this COVID economy, and who's calling the shots.

And that's something that our colleague Lester Holt obviously also raised.

Here's the response on that and that sort of intramural debate. Take a look.


HOLT: What about former rivals from your own party, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren? Have you talked to them about Cabinet positions?

BIDEN: Well, what I have -- I have talked to them.

Look, as I said, we already have significant representation among progressives in our administration. But there's nothing really off the table.

But one thing is really critical. Taking someone out of the Senate, taking someone out of the House, particularly a person of consequence, is really a difficult decision that will have to be made. I have a very ambitious, very progressive agenda.

And it's going to take really strong leaders in the House and Senate to get it done.


MELBER: It sounds like a clue that he's skeptical of appointing Warren for those reasons.

Do you think, Mara, in your view, a Warren/Sanders-type voice needs to have a real job in this administration?

GAY: I do think it's important that all parts of the Democratic Party and all parts of the country are represented in this White House.

That was the promise that Joe Biden made, that he would be the unifier. Being a unifier doesn't mean picking people who are palatable mostly to all, but who won't get anything done. It means building coalitions.

And I think, not just Joe Biden, but the Democratic Party in general really needs to double down as we emerge out of the pandemic on what they stand for, what is their economic message to Americans, and how can they help the middle-class in a way that they can tangibly feel.

If the president can help lead them into doing that, the Democrats are going to be in really good shape for the next two to four years.

MELBER: All really interesting points in response to this newsworthy interview.

My thanks to Mara Gay.

We should also mention, there will be more of Lester Holt's interview on "The Today Show" in the morning, as well as on "The Nightly News" tomorrow.

Up ahead: the final turkey pardon for Donald Trump. But wait until you hear some remarks that are haunting the president. They're turkey-related, and they're recent. We're going to play those as well for you. They're making the rounds.

Also, an update I promised you on Donald Trump's historic loss, why the margin, as the votes come in, has gotten worse and what it may mean for Joe Biden's mandate -- coming up.


MELBER: Everyone from Steve Kornacki to the election experts has always warned it takes time to count all the votes.

And, as that process continues, the president's historic loss is getting even worse with all the votes in. President-elect Biden is now the first ever presidential candidate to break 80 million total votes. That's historic.

And he has a margin now of victory of over six million votes and counting. When you take it together, the lead ties Biden for the second largest total vote margin ever out of the six presidential elections in this century, behind only -- you see there -- Barack Obama.

So far, Biden tripling Trump's edge in the three battleground states that clinched the GOP Electoral College win in '16, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Now, the reason why the percent margin is so significant is that it's an apples-to-apples comparison. So, politically, President Biden now has the second largest victory margin of any candidate in the last six elections.

And that, his advisers say, gives him a real mandate going into governing.

Up ahead, we have a quick break, and then something really funny that we want to share about pardoning turkeys, and its link to Donald Trump's loss.


MELBER: President Trump making his first on-camera appearance today since the administration green-lit the Biden transition. This was for the annual turkey pardon.

And two years ago, actually -- this just has been going around again -- Donald Trump said something that offered a strange foreshadowing.


TRUMP: The winner of this vote was decided by a fair and open election conducted on the White House Web site.

This was a fair election. Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount. And we're still fighting with Carrots.


TRUMP: And I will tell you we have come to a conclusion.

Carrots, I'm sorry to tell you, the result did not change.


TRUMP: It's too bad for Carrots.


MELBER: The president joking about the turkey Carrots and raising the question, who's the real turkey?

That does it for us.

I concede the hour. "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts now.


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