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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, September 1, 2020

Guests: Gwen Moore, Lonita Baker, Marq Claxton, Brittney Cooper


Carly Fiorina discusses why she is supporting Joe Biden. New calls for healing and justice come from Jacob Blake's family, as President Trump travels to where police shot Blake in Wisconsin. Kentucky prosecutors are on defense over reports they tried to set up Breonna Taylor after police killed her. Joe Biden hits back at Trump. U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore speaks out.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, and thanks for joining us on THE BEAT as we track these stories now.

New calls for healing and justice from Jacob Blake's family, as President Trump travels to where police shot Blake in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Kentucky prosecutors on defense over reports they tried to set up Breonna Taylor after police killed her.

And Joe Biden hitting back at Trump, as Facebook knocks out a Russian network pushing disinformation inside the U.S., the same group Bob Mueller indicted when it helped Trump in 2016.

Much to get to, but we begin with this story, the president leaning into these growing tensions, visiting Wisconsin to talk up the impact of unrest on the economy there, while noticeably declining to meet with the family of Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old who police shot in the back seven times, leading to those waves of protests.

Today, he focused on local property damage, the president talking with local business owners, meeting with law enforcement officials, along with his attorney general, Bill Barr there.

Now, the president's visit was not requested by local officials. He's using it to stake out his priorities right now, and spending more time on damage to property than the shooting of people.

Now, I want to be clear. That may sound like criticism, but it's actually just the president's literal schedule. And it's a message compounded by a truly unusual spectacle, Donald Trump outlining a public defense for someone charged with a double homicide, hours ago, Trump arguing the Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old charged with killing two protesters, was acting in self-defense when he was -- quote -- "very violently attacked."

Trump also claiming he -- quote -- "probably would have been killed" if he didn't act. Now, that is not what Wisconsin prosecutors found. The criminal complaint against Rittenhouse states that the people he killed were unarmed, that one threw a plastic bag at him, and it indicts him on six counts, including first-degree homicide, which is akin to murder in the state of Wisconsin.

So, Donald Trump's claims, sympathizing with this alleged killer, are a break with, of course, the very Wisconsin police and law enforcement that he was huddling with today, the entire approach a contrast the Blake family's new calls for reform and healing.


JUSTIN BLAKE, UNCLE OF JACOB BLAKE: We're going to make some big changes that affect all the little Jakes around this nation, so their parents can let their children go outside the door, play in the yard, go down the street, drive the vehicle, and not have to worry about police officers that might do them in or shoot them in the back seven times.

So, we're here today in our community not only healing our family, the Blake family, but this is our family. Kenosha is our family now.


MELBER: Now, even if the president wouldn't meet with the Blake family -- you just heard from them there -- reporters did ask the president to address the shooting, and wider systemic racism.

Now, he ducked those questions, telling a reporter that he thinks questions should be about looting and unrest. And since the president did not venture to even try to answer that question, we are not going to broadcast his non-answer for you right now.

But the unanswered question does hang over his trip to Wisconsin and many argue the presidential election ahead.

If the arrival of police is what creates a crime scene, as is alleged in the George Floyd case, and as is under investigation in Wisconsin, if it is the protesters that claim to be for law and order who are charged with the most serious crimes, like murder, over property damage, and the protesters who are demanding an end to crimes by the state, an end to alleged killings and brutality are the ones being smeared by the president, then the question that hangs over all of this, is this time for America to do something about it's well-documented original sin of systemic racism?

For more, we kick things off in our coverage tonight with Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post Eugene Robinson and Rutgers Professor Brittney Cooper.

Brittney, I put those questions to you.

BRITTNEY COOPER, PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: Yes, look, America has two original sins. It's stealing indigenous land and it's bringing stolen Africans here to work that land.

But I really want to make a more current point, because we don't have to go back that far to think about what why we have arrived here. Let's think about two administrations. So, in the Obama administration, when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed and his killer was acquitted, the president came out and asked a simple question: Could Trayvon Martin have stood his ground, right?

Now we have a president and we have another 17-year-old boy, this time a white boy, Kyle Rittenhouse, who has killed protesters, unarmed protesters, and you have a president who is defending his vigilantism and lawlessness.

And that is really where we are as a country, that the Trump project is about empowering white people, deputizing them to enact violence and to act as the police. It is deputizing the police to execute black folks, and it is deputizing non-police to also kill anybody who is against Trump's white supremacist project.

I know I'm speaking in really strong terms today, but lives have been lost here, lives have been taken here, innocent, unarmed lives, and there's no greater time for us to speak with clarity about what is happening, so that the right can stop arguing that black people who are protesting being killed by the police are doing violence, while refusing to acknowledge that it is really right-wing white supremacist rhetoric that is actually enacting violence on communities, and now not just on black people or brown people, but also on unarmed white people.

All of it is a problem.

MELBER: I appreciate that.

And digging into that, Gene, as Brittney puts it, there are all kinds of scandals in life, in even the Trump era. Charlottesville played out as a large scandal. There was, of course, a loss of life, a killing. And there was also a sound bite of the president that, even for his most loyal supporters, they had to run away from, lie about, et cetera. That's how bad the words were.

What I am emphasizing to viewers tonight, is that what the president said here is a Charlottesville-level claim, although it might have been slightly more complex. And so as a -- quote -- "political scandal," it might take a minute to digest, because saying that white supremacists were -- quote -- "good people," boom, done.

This is a little more Gene. And I'm curious if you would tease it out, based on what Brittney just reminding us, that this is a president offering a public defense of justifiable homicide by this alleged killer.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, this is a president who is choosing sides in a war that he is imagining and apparently trying to bring into being.

And it's a race war. It is by -- I mean, there's just no other way to see it. His exculpation of Kyle Rittenhouse was stunning. To me, that goes beyond just saying very good people on both sides, because it was an affirmative defense for a man who is charged with double homicide, first-degree homicide, for killing unarmed people, who actually happened to be white people whose crime is protesting on behalf of the idea that Black Lives Matter.

So, even the idea is worthy of capital punishment, basically. It's stunning.

What Donald Trump does, has a real talent for, is driving wedges. And this is the most dangerous, vile wedge he has driven to date. But he's going to keep driving it, and we're going to see more of this during the campaign.

MELBER: Both of you, stay with me. I appreciate the seriousness here.

I want to bring in Wisconsin Congresswoman Gwen Moore.

Good to see you. It's a hard time. I appreciate you joining us.

REP. GWEN MOORE (D-WI): Thank you, Ari, for having me.

And I just learned just now that the president defended this 17-year-old and called it self-defense. I mean, I thought I couldn't be shocked anymore. But I am.


MELBER: You said you're just hearing about.


MELBER: I guess then I will play some of this. This is not the non-answer that we're not playing, as I told you viewers, but this is what I quoted, but we haven't played yet.

Question on whether he condemned the vigilante killing, alleged killing, and what I'm calling him really giving a defense to it. Let's take a look.


QUESTION: Are you going to condemn the actions of vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're looking at all of it. And that was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw.

And he was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like. And he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we're looking at right now and it's under investigation.

But I guess he was in very big trouble. He would have been -- I -- he probably would have been killed. It's under investigation.


MELBER: Congresswoman, as I mentioned at the top of the broadcast, the actual Wisconsin criminal complaint fact-checks all of, that he was not in mortal danger, that the other individuals were not armed.

Your response?

MOORE: Well, I was in Kenosha today. And I have been for Kenosha for two or three times.

And I can tell you, I was with that family member, and they want peace and reconciliation in that community. And Donald Trump's visit, we know what it was about. It's to recreate the 1968 law and order campaign.

And I know -- I know that you have got Pulitzer Prize winners and professors, but just let me say it the way Biggie Smalls would say it, Ari, because I know you.

This is the president's thinking: Even when I was wrong, I got my point across.

And his point is, is that he's going to push the chaos and the violence and even -- and not even mention Jacob Blake's name, not to mention the victims of Rittenhouse, not to show any empathy or concern for the community.

And I was there today. And they made a decision in that community to turn it into a community Jacob Blake celebration day. They gave free haircuts. They did voter registration. They played music. And they loved up on each other to sort of blunt the insult of his visit to that community.

MELBER: Well, Congresswoman, I appreciate both you tell us the seriousness of what you're seeing on the ground and bringing a little BEAT, a little Biggie Smalls.

I'm reminded of Biggie saying no to the plaintiff, your daughter's locked up in a Brooklyn basement, face it, that's how I stay filthy, not guilty, by which I mean lines that are associated with sheer thuggery are now associated with the president of the United States.

And so it's both grabbing and even, in a way, sardonically funny, the way we can also quote "The Godfather." But it's also dead serious, because what does it mean to you, as a member of Congress who's just been with the people affected, to hear the president openly muse about the defense that he would offer, which I already fact-checked as untrue?

But even if it were rooted in any evidence, he is publicly defending the alleged indicted killer, Congresswoman.

MOORE: And he is publicly defending the thing that people are afraid of, violence. People want to feel safe, as you look at all these polls.

And this strategy of embracing violence and chaos will backfire on him. As Biggie said, I think he -- never get high on your own supply. And he is just high on his supply of violence and chaos, and it's going to bring him down in Wisconsin.

MELBER: Brittney, the Congresswoman bringing out "Ten Crack Commandments."

Your response on any of the above?

COOPER: Absolutely.

Look, it's like a jungle sometimes. It makes me wonder how I keep from going under, right? Let's take it back to the very beginning.



COOPER: He is fomenting violence and he is doing it to win reelection. It is a strategy that has worked for him before.

We are at a very dangerous threshold in America, where the president is literally giving sanction to people killing black and brown people in the streets, killing white people in the streets, killing citizens who disagree with him in the streets.


COOPER: That is a fast march into fascism.

And we have got to fight back with everything we have got, and not violently.


MELBER: No, understood, the distinction you draw.

And so, Gene, when you take it all together, we are heading into the general election. It is here now. We are post-convention. Everyone has heard. All our news viewers are up on this. They remember all the talk about, do you take him literally or figuratively?

And like all nuance in life, there's more than one way to take it. Obviously, some of what Donald Trump ran on in '16 was with an nod and a wink and a joke to his supporters. But there is nothing figurative about this defense of a killing, alleged, that's going through the court system in Wisconsin.

And so I'm curious if you want to tie it all together for us. What does it mean to have a president claim that he wants to be -- quote, unquote -- "law and order" and do those meetings today with those officials in Wisconsin, while he is very tangibly, literally, not figuratively, undercutting the state of Wisconsin's homicide case by pushing out this defense and appearing to embrace the defendant?

ROBINSON: Well, first, Ari, let me let me echo everything that Brittney and Congresswoman Moore said.

To quote the bard of Brooklyn, if you don't know, now you know.


ROBINSON: But, in terms of the president, what we saw today was a purely political trip, right? Everything is politics to Donald Trump right now.

MELBER: Right.

ROBINSON: Everything is getting reelected.

And in the service of that, he has once again violated -- not just violated his oath of office, but all that is decent and sacred, right, because he is encouraging, he is encouraging far right white vigilantes to go into communities not their own armed with powerful assault weapons, and to protect property that is not their own, in -- against a protests in favor of racial justice.

And he is, in the process, denying that such a thing as racial justice exists or racial injustice exists. It is a stunning stance for the president of the United States to take at a moment of peril, frankly, for the country...


ROBINSON: ... a moment of peril that he has largely helped create, and that he is helping to exacerbate.

This is going to be a very rocky few months. I agree with Congresswoman Moore. I believe this will backfire. I do not believe that, in the end, people will be fooled, or enough people will be fooled, or enough people will buy into Donald Trump's dystopian vision of America.

And I believe that Democrats will continue to remind voters that what they see around them, all the dysfunction, the disease, the violence, this is Donald Trump's America. This is Donald Trump's America. And if they want more of it, they can vote to reelect Donald Trump. If they want something different, they can vote for Joe Biden.

MELBER: Well, I appreciate you saying that, particularly the notion of which way the fear goes, which is something we're going to explore more in this program.

The Russian expression is always laughing through the tears. It's a serious time.

Congresswoman Moore, I know, because of what you did today and spent time on the ground, how real that is to you and all of our guests, and yet we could still have a little bit of laughter within all of that, which I appreciate each of you for.

Congresswoman Moore, Eugene Robinson, Brittney Cooper, thanks to each of you.

MOORE: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate you guys.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

MELBER: We will be back on THE BEAT here in just 30 seconds with a lot more, including tonight the attorney for Breonna Taylor's family, a disturbing new report about a potential setup, all of this happening after her death.

But, first, Michael Steele is our special guest from we're back in 30.


MELBER: Let's start with reality.

The United States faces very real dangers right now, a pandemic with the death toll that rivals the body count in several wars, racial injustice and violence that has many rethinking the entire U.S. approach to policing, what we have been covering at the top of the show, then the long-term costs of a recession that obviously poses the most pain and risk to the poorest in the country.

It's against that real backdrop that Donald Trump is running for reelection, trying to turn people towards other fears. Now, some of them are theoretical, but some of them are just false, as a normally friendly FOX News host recently put it to his face, fears based on conspiracy theories.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Who do you think is pulling Biden's strings? Is it former Obama people?

TRUMP: People that you have never heard of, people that are in the dark shadows, people that are...

INGRAHAM: What does that mean? That sounds like conspiracy theory of dark shadows. What is that?

TRUMP: No, people that you haven't heard of. They're people that are on the streets. There are people that are controlling the streets.

We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend. And, in the plane, it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear, and this and that. They're on a plane.

INGRAHAM: Where is this?

TRUMP: I will tell you sometime, but it's under investigation right now.


MELBER: No, it's not. That claim is totally false.

Trump didn't even make it up himself. He appears to be echoing a false post online from several months back about these nonexistent idea of travelers heading for the suburbs.

Now, the factual part of this is straightforward. I can tell it to you. It's not a hard part of my job. The president is lying again. And, apparently, because he didn't even come up with this part himself, he is doing what he did before, plagiarizing his campaign slogan from Ronald Reagan, just like he's plagiarized this conspiracy theory, as even FOX News noted.

But the political part may be more challenging. How do people interested in reality or facts and Donald Trump's opponents confront all this without reinforcing his fear frame?

Well, we turn to a real expert, former Lieutenant Governor and Republican Chair Michael Steele.

Thanks for coming on, sir.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey. No, it's good to be with you, Ari, always, buddy.

MELBER: These are serious times. The guests we had at the top of the hour really laid some of this out right into what we wanted to ask you about, which is, given those fears and the reality, what, in your view, is the way to tangle with this without falling into Trump's frame?

STEELE: Well, it's a great question.

And I think the only way you can begin to address what Trump is doing is to be honest about what he's doing, and to be honest about how this has played out in the past. This is not the first time we have been in this space.

And it's something that I have kind of concluded in watching these narratives unfold, Ari, that whenever African-Americans get to that point where they have had enough, where their cup runneth over with anger and frustration with the killings and the redlining of the neighborhood, the miseducation of their children, whenever they then reach out to the broader community, the nation, and start shaking it by the lapel, either through a Black Lives Matter movement or a Black Panthers movement back in the '60s, or whatever it happens to be, what does the instinct go to?

White fear. So, all of a sudden, the conversation pivots away from the underlying nature of the frustration and the anger that is causing the protests -- and, again, just for -- we got to do this because we're in the age of Trump -- no one is condoning, accepting or promoting violence. It is stupid. It's ignorant. And we know who they are. And they're taking advantage of the narrative.

Set that aside for a moment. The key thing is, you wind up all of a sudden suppressing the energy around the idea of the change that people are seeking for white fear. Now we have to address white fear.

Donald Trump has made that the narrative. So, unless we're honest about what it is we're dealing with here, we're dealing with trying to get white people from being -- stop being afraid. That's -- now, all of a sudden, that's the first thing we got to do, because what are the polls showing us?

That fear is now -- looking at having them look at the race a little bit differently. Well, maybe Trump is the only one who can stop this. I don't like the violence, but he says he can stop it.

Really? Don't fall for that sucker move, because that's all it is. What your guests said first part of the show is exactly right. Understand what's happening. And, for me, the words of Sam Cooke put it best. Change is going to come right.

So -- that lyric, that line requires work. It requires people being smart about that work. That change doesn't happen by itself. You can't get duped and fooled and thinking and believing something that's not in front of you.

And this fear narrative is something that is not real. White folks are armed to the teeth across this country. I was talking with some folks today talking about all the guns they have. I'm like, what the hell are you afraid of?

And the other thing is, people who are claiming to be so afraid are thousands of miles away from where all the action is. So, again, this fear narrative is sort of a straw dog that distracts us from the change that has to come.

MELBER: They sometimes say straw man, but I like straw dog as well, because it's like a cross between a straw man and a dog whistle.


MELBER: You're onto something.


STEELE: That's the point.

MELBER: You make so many key points there, particularly with proximity. This is a heavily armed nation with a lot of problems, but a lot of people fixating on mediating, whether that's the ad, the president, the television, mediating something from over there and saying, now this -- you got to feel this way and do this. It's not even in your face.

The last thing I want to get you on, because we're curious about your political side of this, an election, is, here's how Joe Biden's hitting this outrage, the latest outrage.

He says -- quote -- "Trump declined to rebuke violence. He wouldn't even repudiate one of his supporters charged with murder. He's too weak and too scared."

Does that get it? Or, as someone who used to run the Republican Party itself, is that not strong enough?

STEELE: No, that's pretty strong language. I mean, that -- look, you you're calling out the president of the United States for being weak and scared on something that is very obvious, where you should not show weakness, nor be scared.

What are you afraid of? Why can't you? I watched the president today sort of dance around that and sort of pivot off of addressing the fact that one of his supporters is involved, because you know, if it was a Bernie Sanders supporter or a Joe Biden supporter, that Trump would have been all over that, calling those gentlemen out for repudiating the actions of those individuals.

So, the same applies to him. And that's what he gets away with. No one applies back to him the standard he imposes on everyone else, the language, the narrative that he imposes on everyone else. So it's good to see Biden do it. He should have done it two weeks ago, but, hey, I'm not going to say anything about that, because looking backwards doesn't advance the ball.

What he needs to do now is to figure out and continue to put the pressure on this president to account for his silence and his weakness for not even addressing the Baker family, not even having the human decency to call this mother.

You talk to someone he claims was their family pastor. And the father comes out: We don't have a family pastor. Who's he talking to?

So this idea that he's going to script this sort of sanguine narrative around this family and sort of pretend that he's making these efforts needs to get called out.

MELBER: Understood. And what's understood ain't got to be explained.

Michael Steele, thank you, sir.

STEELE: Amen. You got it, buddy.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Up ahead: You know there's an undefeated record that the Kennedy family is actually defending in Massachusetts tonight? AOC is in on it as well, but not the way you might think. Interesting story we have later this hour on the politics.

Upcoming, though, star athletes using their platform increasingly for justice, a tennis player invoking Breonna Taylor.

And this comes amidst disturbing new reports about an effort by authorities to potentially set her up after police killed her. We have the Breonna Taylor family lawyer here next.


MELBER: Turning to a disturbing new development in this now infamous case, the police shooting of Breonna Taylor to death.

Now, authorities have been under fire for the shooting, basically, the situation here, shooting an innocent woman in her own home, and then there have been no arrests.

What I have for you tonight, though, is actually a new twist in a case I have told you from the start that we would stay on, reports that prosecutors were offering Ms. Taylor's ex-boyfriend a plea deal if he would commit to claiming that she was some kind of criminal.

Now, the ex-boyfriend was already incarcerated on a drug charge. "The Washington Post" reporting that authorities told him, if he said Taylor participated in his organized crime syndicate, he could see a possible 10-year prison sentence turned into only a probation.

They were literally hanging a decade of prison over this person's head, allegedly, just to go after Ms. Taylor after her death.

Now, let's be clear. The offer came five months after police killed her. Taylor's family is saying it shows that authorities were more focused on basically setting her up and smearing her after death than making the arrests in the police killing.

Now, authorities are denying any type of setup. They say this was a draft offered as part of typical -- quote -- "pre-indictment plea negotiations." Remember, the Taylor family legal team calls this entire escapade -- quote -- "B.S." and says: "Shame on that office trying to attack a woman when she's not even here to defend herself."

Joining us now in a special segment when is Lonita Baker. she is a member of the legal team for the Taylor family. We're also joined by Marq Claxton. He's a retired NYPD detective, director of political affairs at the Black Law Enforcement Alliance, and an expert on policing and civil rights.

Good to have you both here.

Lonita, we have been on this story. This is quite a twist. In your view, what does this reveal about the authorities' approach to this case?

LONITA BAKER, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF BREONNA TAYLOR: This is shameful that the commonwealth attorney's office would stoop to this level in working with local Metro Police.

I am a former prosecutor. And the term co-defendant is very specific. It's someone who is charged in a pleading. Breonna Taylor was never named as a co-defendant any offenses. And to name her in a plea negotiation is reprehensible on the part of the commonwealth attorney's office, and they should be ashamed of themselves to try to smear Breonna Taylor's name after her death.

MELBER: And to be clear about the process here, in the open case, she would be the alleged victim if there were charges in the shooting case.

Is there any other evidence -- as a journalist, I have to ask this, so we're clear -- that suggests they had a lead about her being somehow involved in criminal activity that night that might be germane? Or do you view this as the authorities trying to cover themselves and smear her to sort of justify the shooting in the court of public opinion?

BAKER: It's definitely a chance of the authorities to smear Ms. Taylor's name once all of the evidence is put forth to the public. Again, we're under protective order. So some things that we have received privy to discovery, we're not able to talk about.

But once the public is able see all of the evidence that we have seen, they will know for certain that this is nothing more than a smear attempt for Ms. Breonna Taylor. We have seen this time and time again in police-involved shootings where they try to go back and some are the victim.

But there is nothing that indicates that Ms. Taylor was involved in any illegal activity. Jamarcus Glover is adamant that she was not involved in criminal activity, so much so that he rejected the plea deal, which would have offered him minimal -- a minimum sentence if he would sign the paperwork. He said no.

This plea deal was made available to him in July. He rejected it in July. He still rejected it. And he has made it clear that he will not sign anything implicating Ms. Taylor because it's simply untrue. He's not going to lie just to get a favorable deal.

MELBER: And on that, just briefly before I go to Marq, viewers are familiar with -- we have covered all kinds of cases, including in the Mueller probe, where people make deals. They trade on information.

Ms. Taylor, tragically, is gone and dead. Just to put a point on it, you're saying these other individual, whatever his situation may be, is risking years in prison, rather than do what he says would be saying something false about her?

BAKER: Correct. He has said time and time again that he refuses to implicate her, even if it means that he face more time, which he would be facing more time if he does not come to a plea negotiation with the officers.

I did want to go back a little bit. The commonwealth's attorney, his response was that this was just a draft. However, it was a draft that was tendered to the defendant in the case, and he rejected it. That, of course, was not a part of the record, because he didn't accept it, but he's the one that came forward with this information with this plea deal.

MELBER: Right.

BAKER: So it was tendered to him.

MELBER: I appreciate your legal distinction there, which is helping us all understand, this was very real. This was in play.

Marq, you have been with us and a lot of different stories. You have a lot of professional experience. But this is really something. Your view, big picture?

MARQ CLAXTON, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Well, it's interesting, because the reports that are coming out lay waste to the idea that what's taken so long with this prosecutorial decision in regards to Breonna Taylor is that there's some type of investigation going on.

And I think, oftentimes, people have the impression, when you hear an investigation is going on, you have (AUDIO GAP) on the ground with magnifying glasses looking for hair and fiber evidence and bug larvae, et cetera.

But, in fact, what's happening now is that they have already collected physical evidence, sent it off to the lab, had it back, processed, video evidence, witness evidence. And what they're actually doing is sitting around the conference tables or working on PowerPoint presentations figuring out how to control the narrative in a way that either absolves the police or minimizes governmental responsibility.

That's what is going on.


MELBER: On that, again, I want to be clear.

So, Lonita is here in her capacity as a representative, and doing that work, and sharing with us her view.

In your capacity, as an independent expert, with the 30 seconds I have, do you view this, then, as adding insult to injury and trying to smear the life of this woman who is -- I'm just being plain -- is a dead black woman in America because police came into her home and shot her to death?

CLAXTON: It is absolutely inappropriate. Is absolutely outside the realm of professional investigations and law enforcement.

And this case in particular reminds me so much of a case from 2006, a 92-year-old woman, Kathryn Johnston, in Atlanta, the circumstances surrounding her death. It was a no-knock warrant. The efforts after her death to kind of cover up and the subsequent conviction of those police officers who were involved in the planting of evidence, in the other incidents of falsifying documents, et cetera.

A lot of that fact pattern is ringing true in this particular case, it appears. And I think we have to be mindful of it. We have to have that muscle memory that these cases oftentimes can connect farther back to other cases.

And Kathryn Johnston, 92-year-old woman from Atlanta in 2006, it seems to me that this case really mirrors that particular (AUDIO GAP)

MELBER: I got to fit in a break.

But, as I have told viewers, we have been on this case. We're going to stay on it.

Lonita Baker from inside the negotiations, appreciate you, Marq Claxton, thanks to you as well.

After the break, I want to tell you, we have something totally different. All these Republicans breaking with Donald Trump. We have a very special guest.

But, first, next, all eyes on Massachusetts right now, a Kennedy primary with an AOC angle. We have you updated when we come back.


MELBER: That music, it means there's an election today, even if it is August.

Voters have been heading to the polls in Massachusetts. They will be open there until 8:00 p.m. Eastern. And they're choosing between two prominent names in the state, Senator Ed Markey, who has been in Congress now 44 years, and Congressman Joe Kennedy III. He is the grandson of RFK himself.

Now, a big number hangs over all of this right now, 26-0. That's the Kennedy family's undefeated election record in Massachusetts. They have actually never lost an election there.

The most iconic dynasty in Democratic politics has powered quite the winning streak. But it's actually on the line in this race, which cuts against some conventional wisdom, because the candidate with the famous name and connections here is the upstart, the challenger, while Senator Markey has been in Congress longer than Joe Kennedy III has even been alive.

Now, few bet against Kennedys in Massachusetts, but Markey has been fortifying his standing, with backing from a younger liberal part of the Democratic Party, drawing a coveted endorsement from AOC. She, of course, defeated a 10-term incumbent to enter Congress.

But now, in this race, she's backing the incumbent, Markey, over a fellow primary challenger, like herself, in Kennedy. There's also the liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren getting in on this.

And all of it is scrambling some other assumptions, because incumbent Democrats often stick together, just like the other party. But Pelosi is backing Kennedy, a member of her own House caucus, over, yes, an incumbent senator, who is backed by her counterpart in the upper chamber,Chuck Schumer.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Never before have the times demand that we allow courageous leaders as today. And that is why I'm proud to endorse Joe Kennedy for Senate.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): The problems that we're facing today require strong, progressive leaders. And Ed Markey is that champion.

PELOSI: He knows that to achieve progressive change, you must be on the front lines, leading movements of people.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: When it comes to progressive leadership, it's not your age that counts. It's the age of your ideas. And Ed Markey is the leader that we need.


MELBER: AOC touting Markey as a very strong progressive.

She's also making a related point to the speaker, arguing: "No one gets to complain about primary challenges again" -- hug emoji.

And in a sign of AOC's growing influence, Markey not only ran the ad we just showed you, but he also name-checked this out-of-town first-term Congressman in his closing arguments just last night, a sign this 74-year-old is nimble enough to know a new star when he sees one.


SEN. EDWARD MARKEY (D-MA): I never had a doubt from the beginning that my progressive message was going to be successful in this campaign.

As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, it's not your age, but the age of your ideas.


MELBER: And it's clash over ideas within the party here has been narrowing. Back in September -- this was before Kennedy officially announced a run -- he was technically up 14 points, early polling, by August, Markey leading by 10 and doing well with younger voters, despite his own age.

Both candidates playing up the idea that, in Massachusetts, they are progressive.


REP. JOE KENNEDY (D-MA): I'm running and challenging the notion that we can do better against a man who I respect, but has been in office for nearly 50 years.

And, as were at the last location, somebody said, it's been 50 years and this is what we have. It's time to try something new.

MARKEY: In this race, when it comes to ideas, I'm the youngest guy in the race. And I think I'm getting that response all across the state of Massachusetts.


MELBER: And there you have it, a Kennedy running against the notion of old-school brand-name politics, and, yes, a senior citizen running on the youth of his ideas.

Well, tonight, we wanted to get you updated. The voters of Massachusetts will decide which pitch reflects the future they want for the Democratic Party.

Now, after a break, we have Joe Biden getting some support where you might least expect it, and what some people say could be key to him defeating Trump -- a special guest next.


MELBER: Top Republicans have been coming out for Joe Biden.

And that includes Carly Fiorina. Of course, you remember her. She was a rising Republican star who Ted Cruz himself tapped as a potential running mate for a stop-Trump ticket in April 2016. She also confronted Trump in that same cycle for everything from failing in business to lying about his bankruptcies.


CARLY FIORINA, FORMER HEWLETT-PACKARD CEO: There are a lot of us Americans who believe that we are going to have trouble someday paying back the interest on our debt, because politicians have run up mountains of debt using other people's money.

That is, in fact precisely the way you ran your casinos. You ran up mountains of debt, as well as losses, using other people's money, and you were forced to file for bankruptcy, not once, not twice, four times, a record four times.

TRUMP: I never filed for bankruptcy.

FIORINA: Why should we trust you to manage the finances of this nation?


MELBER: Carly Fiorina, you asked the question there. Why should he be trusted to manage the nation and its finances? How do you think that question, his answer, and the results are aging now?

And tell us about how you're involved in this cycle.


FIORINA: Well, let's just say he's run up mountains of debt as president as well.

I come from the world of business. And in the world of business, I have learned to focus on someone's behavior, someone's leadership, and someone's results.

Donald Trump's behavior is demonstrably divisive and corrosive. His leadership is incompetent, demonstrably, and his results are lousy.

And so faced with a binary choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, I announced in June that I would support Joe Biden, because what Joe Biden has demonstrated through a lifetime is his ability to work with others to solve problems and make progress, the humility and empathy necessary to collaborate with others.

And what we need now is problem-solving and progress on a host of longstanding issues. COVID is, of course, an issue that we need to make progress on. But so is racial injustice and economic injustice and the environment and a whole host of other issues.

MELBER: You also confronted him there to his face about being a liar. You mentioned your business experience, which is how many people know you.

A lot of his supporters will say on the record and off, yes, but that's what he's like, we know it, we get it.

Why was that important to you then? And does it matter now that, as you put it, the president lies constantly?

FIORINA: Of course it matters.

It matters any time. Actually, character does count, just as leadership matters. And integrity is a part of character.

But it particularly matters when you are the president of the United States. When we cannot as a nation even agree on the facts because the leader of the nation misstates the facts or ignores the facts, then we will never solve problems and make progress.

So, yes, indeed, it does matter.

MELBER: What is the conservative case for Joe Biden, given, as you alluded to earlier, that you publicly have disagreed about certain things, certainly certain tax policies, et cetera?

What do you say to other conservatives who go, oh, well, I actually agree with some of what Carly says more than Joe Biden? Why is she for Biden now?

FIORINA: Well, look, as I said at the outset, an election is a binary choice. Write-ins don't count, in my opinion. We get a choice, a Republican and a Democrat.

And so we have to make sometimes tough, less-than-ideal choices. There is much that I disagree with Joe Biden about. However, what I do know is this. None of the problems that we all care about, whether it's the environment, whether it's racial injustice, whether it's the economy, whether it's COVID, none of these problems are going to get fixed unless and until we will set aside our political differences for a period of time and find common ground on solutions.

Let me give you a great example, infrastructure build. We all agree infrastructure is a great idea. It's going to have to happen with business and government, Republicans and Democrats.

And so what I would argue to my conservative friends is, all the issues we care about, Trump has set aside. Even if you say, but he's put all these great justices on the bench, well, honestly, I would give Mitch McConnell more credit for that than I would give Donald Trump.

But, in the meantime, if there are issues that we care about -- and we all care about the nation's health and the nation's well-being -- and we care about racial injustice, and we care about economic inequality, longstanding issues -- we're not going to make progress...

MELBER: Right.

FIORINA: ... unless people on both sides of the aisle and across society we work together.

And Biden has demonstrated his willingness to do that and his ability to do that.

MELBER: All very interesting, especially given the record that people know.

I got to fit in a break before we go to Joy Reid.

Carly Fiorina, thank you so much.

FIORINA: You're welcome. Thank you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

We will be right back.


MELBER: One final note.

Let me jump into our TV graphics. Did you know can always DVR THE BEAT from your remote? You just press on your cable home page, search Melber, like you see here, and you press DVR for the show. We love when you do it, because then you won't miss any episodes of THE BEAT right on your DVR.

That does it for us. We will be back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.



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