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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, October 22, 2020

Guests: Chuck Schumer, Robert Gibbs, Juanita Tolliver, Julian Barnes, Libby Casey


President Trump and Joe Biden prepare to face off in the final presidential debate of 2020. Senator Chuck Schumer discusses the Supreme Court battle and the presidential race. Reports emerge of new Russian election interference.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber joining you 12 days out from Election Day, hours away from one of the most high-stakes moments for President Trump, trailing in many polls, reeling from a new health care gaffe and a cash crunch.

And, tonight, here we are, the final presidential debate, even more pivotal, as Donald Trump failed, of course, on the last one while he was contagious with coronavirus. Tonight, the candidates square off in person at this very stage you see right here in Nashville, with some new rules, like a temporary mute button to control Trump's rule-breaking interruptions from the first debate.

And Joe Biden raised that very issue today.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hopefully, he's going to play by the rules. Hopefully, everybody's been tested. Hopefully, it's all worked out, just the way the rules are. I'm looking forward to this.

Thank you.


MELBER: He's looking forward. And there may be reasons why he's excited about coming out on that stage one more time, because in every way we can measure. Joe Biden is winning this air war on TV.

His town hall recently outrated Trump, even as the president's was aired on more channels, Joe Biden drew better reviews in the first debate, which was much watched; 73 million people tuned in for that one. And Biden is on air more because his campaign is flush with cash, while Trump, running so lean, they're actually looking at -- quote -- "taking out a loan or delaying bill payments in the homestretch," according to new reporting in "The New York Times."

Now, those metrics that I mentioned, they show preferences, which, of course, can change. Democrats are also banking on the apparent lead in the early vote, which doesn't change. These votes are in.

And it tops a record-breaking 40 million ballots in battleground states that matter, Democrats building on an edge now over a million votes you see there, while Biden is up in most polls in the key states, all of that blue, although many of the leads that you see as blue, we should note, are fairly tight at this point.

Now, here on THE BEAT, I could tell you, tonight, a big night in American politics, we have a very special show planned, including the top-ranking Democrat in the United States Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, here tonight on THE BEAT, new reporting on Russian interference, with a "New York Times" reporter breaking that story late today.

We just changed our story order for that news. So, it's truly a big hour on the program.

But we begin with our top political experts, Professor Jason Johnson, "Washington Post" reporter Libby Casey, and Robert Gibbs, who helped lead media strategy for Barack Obama's first campaign and served as his first White House press secretary.

Welcome, all.

Jason, going right to you.

The candidate who's behind tends to have more to prove at a debate. Is that pressure on Donald Trump tonight?


Donald Trump has to try to do something tonight that he's never been able to do, which is appeal to his base, and then also expand that base. And that's going to be really challenging, because, tonight, he's going to be muted.

But the crazy, outlandish things that he says that tend to be beneficial and excite his base, he's not going to be able to do it. He's going to be the clean version of a Donald Trump album tonight. Every time he tries to interrupt, every time he tries to say a lie, someone's going to block him.

So this will be a very challenging night for him. I don't know if he has the skill set to do it. But if he can't at least change the media narrative after tonight's debate performance, this is all going to be a ground game, but, right now, he's behind both in cash and feet on the ground.

MELBER: Robert, you have prepped these.

And you know, whether you're going to admit it or not, Barack Obama and Donald Trump do have one thing in common as president. Maybe it's the only darn thing. But neither of them had their best first debate as an incumbent.

We have certainly seen Obama in other debates do better than he did in that first one. And Trump, who, whether you like him or not, has at times been wide-ranging, be -- quote, unquote -- funny," different styles in the primary debates with Republicans, none of that. I mean, he came off terribly last time.

He was haranguing. He was interrupting. He was negative. He was churlish, childish, you name it.

Do you see Donald Trump, having advised people in these debates, these presidents, as you have done, turning any corner here, or is that hard for incumbents to do?

ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, look, I think the question boils down to, are we going to see a more disciplined Donald Trump tonight?

And I think there's four-plus years of evidence that makes that likely a pretty hard lift and a pretty big lift for him to do. Look, I actually think that Presidential Debate Commission is going to help him. And I don't mean that in a nefarious way.

I think the mute button will help him, in the sense that he's not going to seem, at least for those two-minute answers, overly boorish and bullying in the answers, like he did last time. I think that will help him.

The question is, tonight, can he press a case either against Biden that's disciplined about whether it's on the economy or what he's running on or what have you? And can he get people in this country, as was said earlier, to think differently about him as president?

He has to come off as somebody who's different than we have seen in the past, somebody who makes you feel better about who he is as a leader. And that, to me, is the lift, again, that just seems somewhat unimaginable to see.

It was a little easier to get Barack Obama back on track after, admittedly, a terrible first debate in 2012.


And, Libby, you have Robert Gibbs here making the gentle shading of Donald Trump that anything that produces less Trump, like a mute button, may be good for him. But that's a media strategy from someone who knows it well.

Libby, what do you see tonight?

LIBBY CASEY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, that's about listening, right?

President Obama was listening to his counselors and advisers and course-correcting. We saw right after that first debate Ari Fleischer go on "FOX & Friends" with a whiteboard with instructions to President Trump. And some were joking, it was like their kids' Zoom classes, right? It was like, interrupt less, three-step, let Biden flail, and sum it up.

Now, that was weeks ago, right? Has President Trump taken that advice into his mind and his technique? It's highly unlikely. We will see if he can stay disciplined tonight.

But what you're having is the war between what President Trump's own advisers know he should and potentially could do and what President Trump does as his fallback and what his routine is. But he is essentially the challenger here, even though he's the incumbent.

And he has to defend his record, even as he tries to sort of run as an outsider and run as this challenger. But it is his record that's on the line tonight that the moderator and that the nation will be asking questions about.

MELBER: Yes, it's the record. It's tens of millions of people watching, Jason. And the record, as Libby says, matters.

And if you're concerned or cynical about that, the evidence is that even Donald Trump and many of the Republicans in the Senate have been speaking to the health care record, because it turns out they found that parts of Obamacare, I wouldn't say necessary all of it, but some planks of it are very popular, especially when people think about health care in a pandemic.

So they have spent weeks -- we have covered this on the program -- trying to claim there are for parts of Obamacare. We have done fact-checks. That's not really true. They have obviously voted it down in the legislature, and they went further and are trying to get it reversed literally next month, OK?

So there's that. Donald Trump comes out. And this is audio that is from his own interview in "60 Minutes." He made a big show of leaking it, because he's in the -- he's beefing with Lesley Stahl.

But now Trump flatly admitting, yes, he wants the Supreme Court to completely end Obamacare. Take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will see what happens. I think -- I think it'll end. I think -- I hope that they end it. It'll be so good if they end it.

LESLEY STAHL, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: And if they end it...


TRUMP: Because we will come up with a plan which will be a...

STAHL: Will.

TRUMP: Yes, we will.

STAHL: But you said it would already.

TRUMP: We have large sections of it already done. And we have already come up with plans.


MELBER: Jason, he's admitting it.

JOHNSON: Yes, this has been clear all along.

And, Ari, we saw this in President Obama's rally in Pennsylvania, where he said, look, these guys want to destroy Obamacare, and they don't have a plan and they don't have a suggestion.

And here's, again, going back to what I said at the beginning about this mute button. Look, Donald Trump, when he has to talk about policy fails. He only wins when he is loud and bombastic. He doesn't -- his staff, if they're smart, look, don't save him. He doesn't want to be saved, right?

He wants to be able to be loud and rude and obnoxious.

MELBER: Your second reference.

JOHNSON: If he's got to justify...


JOHNSON: If he's got to justify his second term, he will fail.

So that's going to be a real challenge tonight. And health care is a major issue. Medicaid expansion is one of the single greatest reasons why Joe Biden is as competitive as he is with white voters, because a lot of working-class white voters and a lot of working-class black and Latino voters like Medicaid expansion, and they don't want to see it taken away by second Trump administrator.

MELBER: Right, which is -- and that's a play for states who participate in Obamacare.

And, again, Robert, my job here is not to tell people how to vote, but my job is to report the facts that may relate to their voting. So, if you're wondering which candidates supports the current health care laws that provide the funding and the mechanistic support at the state level for health care, for the insurance market, for the preexisting condition protection, which Donald Trump has said is a good thing, claims he's for, you read it on your screen right now.

Brand-new from President Trump, Robert: "I hope they end Obamacare." And his DOJ is the one that brought it to the Supreme Court, is pushing that plank.

And so, Robert, I guess you imagine all the -- if Mitch McConnell were in the interview room with "60 Minutes," he would hope that he had a debate moderator mute button, because he'd want to mute Donald Trump admitting and giving the game away 12 days out.


GIBBS: Yes, but I think, in some ways, Mitch McConnell is complicit in this.

We have -- as President Obama said last night in Philadelphia, we have been waiting for the replace of repeal and place (sic) every two weeks for a decade. OK? It's become the new infrastructure week, all right? We're waiting. We're still waiting.

Chris Wallace was told it was going to be signed in two weeks. Apparently, President Trump and his staff handed Lesley Visser -- Lesley Visser -- Lesley Stahl -- sorry -- a giant binder of all of their plans. It's being written. Large sections are done.

I mean, this is more top-secret than anything that the Trump administration has done over the past four years. We haven't seen it. And there's a reason why you haven't seen it. It doesn't exist.

MELBER: Right.

GIBBS: It hasn't existed on the Republican side for a decade.

And I will tell you this. It's pretty remarkable to watch -- and I think people should pay attention to this -- that Republicans have gone to great lengths over the past two weeks to tell people that this Supreme Court case about Obamacare and preexisting conditions, isn't going to overturn anything, it's not real.



You just heard it from Donald Trump. Eighteen attorneys general have brought this case, OK? This wasn't written by a bunch of first-year law students. This is 18 attorneys general. And there's a strategy to overturn it. There's not a strategy to replace it.

MELBER: Yes, I think that's a fair point. And you liken infrastructure week to the missing replace plan, which is something I guess they both have in common with Godot.


MELBER: I'm turning to plays, because I have run out of lyrics, Robert.


GIBBS: We're waiting to...


MELBER: We're all waiting...

Libby, "60 Minutes" does get these big interviews going into the last weekend, as people make up their minds, people watch the debate.

I want to show some of the Biden part where Lesley Stahl was also pushing him for what she thought was him overselling the economy and other things. Take a look.


BIDEN: If elected, what I will do is, I will put together a national commission of -- bipartisan commission of scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservative, and I will ask them to over 180 days come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system.

QUESTION: So you're telling us you're going to study this issue about whether to pack the court?

BIDEN: No, whether -- there's a number of alternatives that go well beyond package.

The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football. Whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want.

STAHL: Let me ask you what you think your biggest domestic priority is for you right now.

TRUMP: Well, ultimately, let me -- and I will tell you, it was happening. We created the greatest economy in the history of our country.

And the other side was coming in...

STAHL: You know that -- you know that's not true.

TRUMP: It is totally true.


I asked you, what's a priority? I mean, those are all the good things. What do you have to solve?

TRUMP: The priority now is to get back to normal, get back to where we were.


MELBER: Libby?

CASEY: Well, I mean, everyone would like to get back to normal, right?

So, I think the question is, can Joe Biden talk about the economy that he and President Obama were creating and were -- if he can tell that narrative of what they inherited and what they were able to do in their eight years. And can they get to something more other than Donald Trump just saying, I created a great economy, let's all get back to normal?

The court issue that you played is also so interesting. Biden has to keep his options open for what to do. He is a traditionalist, a creature of the Senate, but he can't close the door to the idea of court packing. He can't close the door to what comes next.

So he's trying to thread that needle, and at least he's come out with a plan now, so he's got a response ready. We can predict what he's going to say if that's asked about by Kristen Welker tonight or President Trump tries to criticize him on it.

MELBER: Yes, you could definitely see it coming up tonight.

It's a partial punt, but it's important. It's big on the table, given what's going on in the Senate. We have Chuck Schumer on tonight. And that's a big issue there as well.

I want to thank Libby, Jason and Robert for joining us on such a big news night.

We are going into our shortest break of the hour, just 30 seconds.

There's this breaking news later in the program, Russia hacking into U.S. computer systems. We have the reporter who broke the story.

New reaction to Barack Obama's absolutely scathing attacks on Donald Trump.

And, as mentioned, coming up tonight, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on THE BEAT.

We will be back in just 30 seconds.



BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot leave any doubt in this election, because you know the president's already said, if this is even close, I'm going to just make stuff up.

He's already started to do it.

So, we can't have any doubt. We can't be complacent. I don't care about the polls. There were a whole bunch of polls last time. Didn't work out, because a whole bunch of folks stayed at home and got lazy and complacent.

Not this time. Not in this election. Not this time.



MELBER: Not this time, Barack Obama warning there against complacency, as Democrats do lead in some indicators. But anything can happen in this race, be it on tonight's presidential debate stage or in these days ahead.

Now, that speech you just saw a clip of, that's Obama's first in person rally for Biden this cycle. It's already drawing rave reviews and headlines about the famously measured former president torturing and hammering Trump in that outing, Obama also pressing policy, as the virus resurges in many parts of the U.S.

Obama saying Trump ignored his own plan, the Obama White House's pandemic playbook, and that the president can't even protect himself.


OBAMA: We literally left this White House a pandemic playbook that would have shown them how to respond before the virus reached our shores. They probably used it to, I don't know, prop up a wobbly table somewhere. We don't know where that playbook went.

Eight months into this pandemic, cases are rising again across this country. Donald Trump isn't suddenly going to protect all of us. He can't even take the basic steps to protect himself.


MELBER: Can't protect himself.

Well, careful listeners will know Obama's words there echo the famous lines about incompetent government from "The Dark Knight." You can't protect me. You can't even protect yourself.

Joining us now, a friend of THE BEAT, Juanita Tolliver, from Supermajority.

Obama hit a lot of notes there and seemed tougher on Donald Trump than he has been in the past, when he's tried to be more magnanimous.


Like, there was no hyperbole, there was no exaggeration. Obama just laid a clear picture of the reality of what the country is up against and who brought us here. Trump did, and the fact that his administration laid out the playbook for handling a pandemic, his administration cued Trump administration up with a great economy, and his administration worked to expand health care to millions of people in this country.

But all three cases Obama laid out, Trump is absolutely knocking apart right now, piece by piece, bit by bit, and what do we have to show for it? We have a failed economy. We have eight million more people experiencing poverty than before Trump's administration. We have 220,000 people dead in this country from a pandemic that was completely controllable.

And we just have failed leadership.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned health care, which we were just discussing, given all these other reports, and Donald Trump sort of doing the cell phone.

Here was Obama hitting that on health care in that rally last night.


OBAMA: They keep on promising, we're going to have a great replacement. They said, it's coming.

It's been coming in two weeks for the last 10 years. Where is it? Where is this great plan to replace Obamacare? They've had 10 years to do it. There is no plan.


MELBER: What do you think about Obama, who, of course, was initially associated with that law -- obviously, under the statute, it's not technically named Obamacare -- and there was a time when views on it were so split, there was a discussion about getting his name out of it.

I'm curious what you think about -- politics has a long life. We're in a place now where even independents and some conservative voters are literally saying, wait, we don't want to lose health care in the middle of this pandemic, which is why it's become such a closing argument issue.

TOLLIVER: We don't know health care in the middle of this pandemic.

However, Trump and his administration have been trying to take it away relentlessly. And it's still up for debate in the courts in Texas right now. And what Obama was communicating was that, in this moment, that's millions of people who would be kicked off of their plans for preexisting conditions, millions of young people who would be kicked off their parents plans because of age caps that were raised for them under the Affordable Care Act.

And so there's a lot at stake right now. So, in addition to Trump being on the ballot, health care is on the ballot, as well as plenty of issues that impact regular Americans every single day.

MELBER: Do you think that there is an appetite for the way that Obama is telling everyone, don't take this for granted? It's sort of this balance of being positive, being confident, not going in like you're afraid of Trump, not like he controls everything, but also using the -- sort of the fear side, if you want to call it that, because there was a lot of concerns the last cycle -- again, not the same things, not the same fundamentals.

But when it comes to the idea that Democrats have gone into two cycles in a row with apparent leaves, and, last time, didn't win the Electoral College, how relevant is that? How do you think he's sort of trying to remind people of that?

TOLLIVER: I'm not trying to move you away from fear, Ari. And it's called reality, right?

We have explicitly heard these threats from Trump. And so the reality is that Biden is going to need to put up numbers and win this decisively in order for us to see this move forward smoothly.

I don't think he's tapping into fear again. It's the reality of the, let's be real, PTSD that I'm sure a lot of voters across this country experienced after poll after poll said Hillary had it in the bag. Take nothing for granted, I think, is absolutely true.

And I think it's something that's going to turn out voters, as we know, this election is going tighten, and it's got to be a game of turnouts across all demographics across the country. And so I think that's what Obama is appealing to here. And I think it's smart. It's something that we have also seen from the Biden campaign as well.

Jen O'Malley tweeted, we don't have anything in the bag. There are still two weeks left in this election. Show up, show out, and bring three friends with you to the polls.

MELBER: Right.

And, obviously, it's human nature to say, if you don't think it's close, then maybe your individual vote doesn't matter. It's a collective thing. And yet you could go into a debate tonight, could have one moment, 30-second moment that might change views of either candidate in a key state and change everything.

That's why it's just so fluid, which is what makes it, among other things, high-stakes.

Juanita Tolliver, always good to see you.

TOLLIVER: Thanks, Ari. Good to see you.

MELBER: Thank you.

We have a lot more in tonight's program. We're going to keep it moving.

We have got new reporting from "The New York Times," Russia hacking computer networks, trying to disrupt the election. We have the reporter who broke the story. I am interested to hear about all that, amidst everything else going on.

And then the reason why we think it's a special show, the very top Democrat in the United States Senate, Chuck Schumer, makes his first ever appearance on THE BEAT tonight.


MELBER: We have breaking news on a report of new Russian election interference.

This is from "The New York Times." And they're reporting that Russia in recent days is hacking into state and local computer networks, which would set up Moscow to potentially have -- quote -- "broader access to American voting infrastructure."

The report documents Russia's plans to interfere in the presidential election, potentially, in these final days -- that could be next week -- or immediately after if there are contested results, all of which they say reaches to the issue of potentially exacerbating any disputes if the race were to be -- quote -- "too close to call."

This is a brand-new story. We scrambled our rundown to get it in.

And we have Julian Barnes, national security reporter for "The New York Times," who was on the team that broke it.

First of all, thanks for joining us on a busy night for you.

JULIAN BARNES, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Thanks for having me.

MELBER: What does your new reporting tell us?

BARNES: Well, look, it tells us that the biggest threat out there to the election is still Russia.

Russia has the capability. They have the experience. And now we know they actually have penetrated some state and local networks.

Now, they haven't done anything yet. They haven't changed any votes. They haven't altered anything. But the fact that they have been in there, maybe have taken information, certainly have learned about these networks, positions them to make trouble. And intelligence officials tell us that they know of plans Russia has to interfere, to influence.

MELBER: You said Russia is the biggest threat, based on your objective reporting and the evidence you have.

That contradicts what some Trump senior officials, including Bill Barr, have said, pointing to other countries.


Look, Iran is doing influence operations. What the director of national intelligence said last night is true. Like, these spoofed e-mails that were purportedly sent from the Proud Boys do seem to have come from Iran.

But, as one official told us, Iran is the single-A team. The major league team is Russia, and it remains Russia. So, Iran is a threat, but there are bigger ones out there. And that's Russia.

MELBER: Right.

And, in the article, you also sort of document why, although any messing with our democracy and our internal communications is bad, there are levels, and that e-mails or communication is at a lower level than this.

And you write: "Russia could change, delete, or freeze voter data, making it harder for voters to cast ballots and validate mail-in ballots, create enough uncertainty to undermine election results."

When I read that, it's kind of cuts both ways. It sounds more serious than the e-mail, for sure. But do you have evidence that they are in there in a way that can change the vote tally, or not?

BARNES: That's very important.

There is no evidence right now that Russia is in there to change any vote tallies. And voters, Americans need to understand that. There's nothing that says they have changed any votes.

And we don't know precisely what the threat is. But I have talked to a number of intelligence officials who see the biggest threat as a post-election period, if there's a lot of close states, hard-fought states, where we're counting absentee ballots...

MELBER: If it's not totally resolved.

BARNES: ... then, even if you didn't change any votes, you could mess with the results. You could...


So, this goes to something I think viewers remember from the Mueller probe, which was how foreign governments were learning about our system, which even we struggle sometimes to explain and understand, let alone out there what they may know.

And we're in a situation, as you were -- if it were really close, you have multiple states, like Michigan, Wisconsin, who said they don't expect to have all mail votes counted that night. You have got PA that has an open legal case about how late you can count ballots that are cast on time.

So, if it were up to those few states, what you're educating us on here is that Russia wants to get in and mess with the conversation around that, the confidence around that.

BARNES: Right, the confidence.

And you hit on the right word. They want to undermine confidence in the democratic system. They want to create evidence that maybe Mr. Trump could use to justify his allegations of a rigged election.

The worst-case scenario is, there's a lot of mail-in ballots, and they go in and they delete the voter record behind that. And, all of a sudden, those voter -- those mailed-in ballots are challenged.

Now, no evidence that they have done that, but that's the worst-case scenario that people are talking about.

MELBER: Now, Julian, I have a lighter question for you before I let you go.


MELBER: Are you like the least popular person at your, like, election dinner parties, if you're always bringing all this bad news?


BARNES: I am the real downer at all election dinner parties, when they happen in the pandemic, which is...


MELBER: Yes, Zoom, Zoom, wherever you're talking to people, because it's -- everyone's got different worries. This is a big one, although you are giving us real nuance about it.

I would say it sounds bad, but not as bad as it could be. And, obviously, inoculating everyone and helping everyone understand and take a breath, if we're in this scenario, is vital, regardless of who's up or who's winning.

"New York Times" reporter Julian Barnes, very busy person, thank you for being here.

BARNES: Thank you. Appreciate it.

MELBER: I really appreciate it. Appreciate the reporting.

We have so much in tonight's show. I want everyone to stay with us.

It is, of course, debate night. We have the top Democratic senator, Chuck Schumer, and a lot more election news. It's his first time on THE BEAT.

That's next.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): This is not a decision the members of the committee have taken lightly, but a Republican majority has left us no choice. We are boycotting this is illegitimate hearing.

The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett is the most illegitimate process I have ever witnessed in the Senate.


MELBER: Joining me now is the top Democrat in United States Senate, Chuck Schumer, Senate minority leader.

Busy times. Thanks for coming on THE BEAT, sir.

SCHUMER: My pleasure, Ari.

MELBER: In this campaign, as you know, Republicans closing by basically opposing Obamacare and opposing COVID relief.

Senator, what's your party's response, as voters are heading to the polls?

SCHUMER: Our party's response is, we want a COVID deal.

We want a big, strong, bold COVID deal. This is the greatest economic crisis since the Depression 75 years ago, the greatest health care crisis since the pandemic flu 100 years ago. And the only -- the only instrument to get us out of this is a big, bold federal package.

Our problem, Ari, as you indicated there, but a little deeper, there are 20 Republican senators in the Senate who want no money. One of them said, not one dime.

They don't have any solution how to get out of this, but they have this ideological fervor that government shouldn't do anything, except tax cuts. They don't care when that increases the deficit. And so they're just stuck.

So, McConnell has a bunch of senators who are running for reelection who say, help us. But then he's got close to the majority of his caucus saying zero money.

And Nancy Pelosi and me, we would both like to come to a good, strong COVID deal as quickly as possible. Now, we're not going to do the kind of emaciated thing that McConnell did, which leaves almost everything out, no state and local money, no mass transit money, not close to enough money for testing and tracing and dealing with that.

But to get a decent bill, a good bill, we came down to trillion dollars. We're willing to meet them in the middle. But it's got to be a build that strong enough to help America.

But once we get there, it could happen. Now, Mnuchin, he's negotiating, but he sometimes doesn't even have the ability.

MELBER: Right. And so you're dealing people sometimes that can't even deliver on the compromise, as it might be.

The other big news, Senator, is, today, you led a boycott of the committee's vote on Judge Barrett, the president's SCOTUS nominee.


SCHUMER: The process is the most rushed, most partisan, least fair process on a Supreme Court nomination in the history of America. They are rushing this nominee through.

This nominee's views are so far to the right that even Republican mainstream wouldn't -- wouldn't vote for these kinds of positions, like get rid of ACA. Well, some of them would. And the process is so unfair.

Now, we don't want to give them a quorum. The -- we don't want to participate in such an illicit process. So, the rules of the Judiciary Committee are that you need two Democrats to send somebody -- to send a nomination to the floor, two of the minority party.

We weren't going to participate in that. And if they obeyed the rules, things would have stopped. But, of course, they just steamrolled over them, as if the rules didn't exist. And this is so typical of Lindsey Graham and of Mitch McConnell.

Mitch McConnell, Ari, has defiled the Senate like no person in this century. He has made it into a nasty, hypocritical body. The hypocrisy of McConnell will go down in history, calling for Merrick Garland not to be appointed eight months before the election, so we should wait. And, eight days before the election, he's willing to put a nomination forward.

It's total, rank hypocrisy. Why are they doing it? The hard right.

MELBER: And, Senator, well, let me ask you about...

SCHUMER: The hard-right pay -- the hard-right paymasters who run the right wing of the Republican Party and run McConnell don't want a bill. So these guys are not for a bill.

They want to put on the Supreme Court someone who is so far over that they know they could never accomplish those goals legislatively. But in the one unelected body, the courts, they can. So they're rushing her through.

MELBER: And let me ask you about that, because you came out today there in front of Congress. You were joined by the ranking member, the Democrat, Senator Feinstein.

You're criticizing Lindsey Graham. I think you have been clear. I think people hear you, and a lot of people understand the evidence for that. She, of course, ended those hearings by saying she thought that Graham led some of the best Supreme Court confirmation hearings ever.

Do you agree with her on that? And do you think she will definitely be the chair, should Democrats win back the Senate?

SCHUMER: Well, just let me say one thing.

I had a long and very serious discussion with Senator Feinstein after she uttered these -- those remarks. That's all I'm going to say about that right now.

I will say, today, she was very strong in her statement that we should boycott the hearing.

MELBER: You don't want to go further than that, although it sounds like you two disagree, based on what you have said about Graham and the Republicans.

SCHUMER: I will leave it -- I will leave it at that for now.

MELBER: Let me ask about the other piece of this, which is, the Democrats say that McConnell helped lead the hijacking of the Obama Supreme Court vacancy, and they changed, at least for about a year, the number of justices on the court.

Are you open to changing the size of the court through legislative measures in the future? Or is that, to you, a nonstarter?

SCHUMER: OK, what I'd say is this.

First, we have to win the majority. And I'm doing everything we can to win the majority, because, if we don't, it's all moot. We won't be able to do what thing. And McConnell will run the Senate in the same autocratic, hypocritical, nasty, almost vituperative style that he does now.

If we win back the Senate, we will all sit down and discuss things.

And I will say this to you, Ari. Everything, everything is on the table.


SCHUMER: We're not taking anything off.

MELBER: Interesting.

Because you are running to get control, as you say, and people care about a lot of issues out there, and I know you care a lot and work a lot on policy...


MELBER: ... I'd like to go through just a couple of policy items, and find out if, as Senate majority leader, if you win, would you bring these to a floor vote or not, the first being a big one, Medicare for all.

SCHUMER: Look, we have to do much more to make health care more affordable and better for the vast majority of Americans.

There are different ways, different proposals in our caucus to do it. But you will see strong health care legislation on the floor the Senate.

MELBER: Would you commit to that as a floor vote?

And Kamala Harris, by the way, as you know, on the ticket is for it. Or you're not ready to commit that that would get a vote?

SCHUMER: Well, our caucus -- I have a leadership team. We meet every -- every Monday night. It has Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on it. It has Mark Warner and Joe Manchin on it.

And we come together. And what we have come together here to agree on is that we need big, strong change in health care. Different people have different paths to do it. Should we get the majority, we will come together and find the strongest thing that gets the most votes.

MELBER: You mentioned Elizabeth Warren on the team. You were out with her earlier just this week at a press conference. I saw you guys giving each other tips on the best way to wear the masks and your Yankees mask.


MELBER: And she has a plan that, as you know, has a lot of support, AOC and other progressives very interested in this.

It goes beyond just the normal tax approach in the United States, given the explosion of the super 1 percent. And she would -- I'm simplifying, but, as you know, she would basically make new brackets for people in households that are over 50 mil and over a billion.

Do you support having a vote in a Schumer Senate on that kind of package, or is that, for you, too far?

SCHUMER: Well, again, I'm not going to commit to a vote on a specific piece of legislation that I haven't seen.

I can tell you I think the tax code, particularly after Trump, favors the wealthy, not the middle class, not the poor. And we have to reverse that and change it in a very serious way.

MELBER: OK. Ever the tactician and lawyer, I see you're not making hard commitments.

I will do one more on this list, though, because, as you know, people want to know...


MELBER: Yes, sir?

SCHUMER: Ari, if you were sitting in my chair, you wouldn't either at this point.


MELBER: Well, I'm a long way from your chair, Senator.


MELBER: But the last one, actually, weirdly too many, came up in McConnell's Senate when he was pushing for a Green New Deal vote.

You said at the time it was basically a diversion, that it was in bad faith. I think a lot of viewers and citizens would look at your view and agree, because Mitch McConnell wasn't supporting the Green New Deal.


MELBER: So it seemed like politics.

SCHUMER: It was vintage McConnell, all political trickery, no substance, no belief.

MELBER: But, given everything going on, from global warming, to these fires, to all these problems, to the racial and economic injustice, and the environment...


MELBER: ... do you see a Schumer Senate as going towards a Green New Deal vote?

Or was the reason -- this is my question for you -- was the reason that was vintage McConnell was precisely because he thought and argued that it would pit certain Democrats, maybe like you, against the greens?

SCHUMER: Look, there's a new program called the THRIVE agenda.

Eddie Markey, the author of the Green New Deal, and I are the two lead sponsors. It takes the basic principles of the Green New Deal and makes them -- puts them more specifically.

I am for big, bold climate legislation early on. One of the things that I have introduced already, which Biden put into his platform, is called Clean Cars for America, which would take all internal combustion engines off the road by 2040.

And guess what? We have worked this legislation. I like to take big, bold ideas and then make them passable, get the votes. Guess who's for this for the first time? All the unions, AFL-CIO, IBEW, UAW, because all the new electric cars will be made in America with strong union labor, and the -- Ford and GM, because they want to become the center of electric car manufacturing and don't want to let China do it, in addition to all the environmental groups, from the more moderate to the most progressive.

We put that bill on the floor, it's going to pass. We want to do the same thing for electricity, for buildings, and for agriculture and manufacturing, so that -- so it's a big, bold, strong bill along the concepts and principles of the Green New Deal.

MELBER: Really interesting.

SCHUMER: It won't be the same.


SCHUMER: Green New Deal is not legislation. It's goals.

MELBER: A plan, yes, a prism to view some of the issues.

Well, look, these are a bunch of important policies. So, I appreciate you going back and forth with me on them, as voters make up their mind.

The other thing I want to show for you, you may or may not like as much, but it's definitely a criticism that's out there. And I want to give you the chance to respond to it, which is, for years, there's a view among some progressives that, on certain big issues, Senate Democrats, they don't fight hard enough.

A lot of people, as you know, are concerned that Donald Trump is openly attacking election integrity. There is reporting that Republicans might actually try to somehow steal states that go to Biden by overriding...


MELBER: ... them with faithless electors or fraudulent Electoral College votes.

So, I want to show you, from someone that you may or may not agree with, but Michael Moore thought that Senate Democrats really blew it and didn't fight hard enough in 2000.

Let's take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, the objection is in writing, signed by a number of members of the House of Representatives, but not by a member of the Senate.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is the objection signed by a member of the Senate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not signed by a member of the Senate. The Senate is missing.

GORE: Is the objection signed by a senator?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unfortunately, Mr. President, it is not signed by one single senator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a sad day in America, Mr. President, when we can find a signature to sign these objections.

GORE: The gentleman -- the gentleman will suspend.


GORE: The gentleman will -- the gentleman will suspend.


MELBER: He dramatized that factual moment where many CBC members were looking, and, as they put it, they couldn't find a -- quote -- "single senator," a Democratic senator, to join in their challenges.

SCHUMER: Look, I can't tell you what -- I can't tell you what happened back in...

MELBER: What do you say to the critics who are concerned about the Senate Democrats not always fighting to the end?

SCHUMER: I can't tell you what happened in 2000 there, but I can tell you what's going to happen now. We are fighting really hard to make sure they don't steal the elections.

The DSCC, our Senate campaign committee, has the best election lawyer, who's won victory after victory. He's relentlessly fighting court cases, just won two big ones in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

There's a task force of senators, with Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Chris Murphy, Amy -- Tammy Duckworth, and Martin Heinrich, that's reaching out in a variety of different ways to prevent them from stealing the election.

We are going to fight tooth and nail.

I don't know if you want to blame the senators or somebody else, the Gore campaign or whatever. But we are going to fight, fight, fight, and not let Donald Trump steal the election. And we will do everything that it takes.

MELBER: Would you say, then...

SCHUMER: And we're working on it now. We're working on it now.

MELBER: Would you say, then, you're linked with the Biden campaign to be more aggressive perhaps than in the past?

SCHUMER: Much more.


My last question you, sir, is a straightforward one. There's a lot of focus on Trump v. Biden, a lot of votes already out, record-breaking early vote.

But what do you think is important that people keep in mind down-ballot in the Senate races? How would their lives change if McConnell's out, and you and the Democrats are in?

SCHUMER: Their lives would change in a whole lot of ways.

Health care would be better. There would be greater -- many more jobs. We would try to put broadband in every home, whether it be rural homes or inner-city homes, which really matters to those folks. We would have immigration reform and say that immigration, that immigrants are going to have a path to citizenship, and can live in freedom, and spur on the economy in a whole variety of different ways.

We would make sure that the -- that LGBTQ rights were protected. Go up and down the line, we have a big, bold agenda that will make lives of average American families better. They will have more money in their pockets. Their kids will have more opportunity.

Elizabeth Warren and I are asking the Biden administration on day one -- we think they have the power to do it -- to forego 50 -- every student has $50,000 of their loans forgiven.

We are going to -- we are looking up and down the line at what ails average middle-class people the most, and trying to make it a lot better. It'll be a strong, bold agenda. And we're going to fight very hard to get it, provided, of course, we get the majority.

So don't forget to vote everybody.

MELBER: Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a very busy time, thank you for coming on THE BEAT. I hope you will come back, sir.

SCHUMER: Nice to talk to you.

MELBER: Thank you.

And, as the senator encourages everyone to vote, you can learn about who to vote for at this debate tonight in Nashville. The final one is just hours away.

We have updates on that, our special coverage, and one more thing when we come back.



We are tracking what everyone in politics is tracking. Two hours from now, Biden and Trump walk out to that stage for their final debate. And they are going to be going at everything, including some of the issues raised by, of course, the person who put Joe Biden in the position to be running for president at this level in the first place, his former running mate, Barack Obama.


OBAMA: Look, I get that this president wants full credit for the economy he inherited and zero blame for the pandemic that he ignored.

But you know what? The job doesn't work that way. Tweeting at the television doesn't fix things.


MELBER: Barack Obama, the former president, addressing the current president, as he faces off tonight with someone else who's a would-be president.

MSNBC's full coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. We have expert analysts immediately afterward.

And if you're up late, come on and join us. We do our special post-debate coverage. It's a late-night show. It's live, and we think it's fun, 12:00 a.m. Eastern tonight.

But, first, right now, "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.


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