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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, September 10, 2020

Guests: Hakeem Jeffries, Chryl Laird, Tony Schwartz, Robert Reich, Christine Todd Whitman


Congressman Hakeem Jeffries speaks out. COVID victims say Donald Trump himself cost lives by misleading the public. New revelations emerge about Russian hackers targeting the election. The Breonna Taylor case reportedly heads towards a grand jury, six months after police shot her dead in her apartment.


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

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you very much. Nice to see you.

Welcome to THE BEAT.

WALLACE: Thanks.

MELBER: I am Ari Melber.

And I want to thank you for joining us, as we track these stories now.

Today, COVID victims say Donald Trump himself cost lives by misleading the public. New revelations about Russian hackers targeting this election, 2020, groups including a firm link to Joe Biden, all brand-new. Plus, the Breonna Taylor case now reportedly heading towards a grand jury. that's six months after police shot her dead in her apartment.

We begin with the scandal of Donald Trump's own making, new fallout over Bob Woodward's book, documenting the president's erratic leadership and strife within his own generals and admissions that he publicly downplayed the coronavirus, while privately understanding how deadly it was.

Now, this is not how Donald Trump wanted to begin the formal launch of the general election campaign after Labor Day. A president who prides himself on directing the public narrative, from his tweets to his press conferences, finds himself right now on defense in a story dominating the week.

Now, one sign that this is not what Trump wanted came late today, as he lashed out at reporters who were pressing him on the scandal. He's also finding the Biden campaign wielding its new cash advantage, dropping new ads going on the attack.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.

NARRATOR: While Donald Trump was telling America the virus was nothing to worry about, he knew it was deadly.

TRUMP: It's also more deadly than your -- even your strenuous flus. This is deadly stuff.

NARRATOR: And now 190,000 Americans are dead, our economy crushed, our kids not safe in school. And Trump knew it all along.

TRUMP: I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.


MELBER: Joe Biden going even further in his own words, saying Trump's disregard for human life here was -- quote -- "almost criminal."

Now, Woodward's Watergate reporting partner meanwhile, Carl Bernstein, goes even further than that. He says that he views Donald Trump's confession as -- quote -- "maybe the greatest presidential felony of all time" -- end quote.

He calls this tape a smoking gun. That's a pretty major assessment coming from a veteran reporter who was also, of course, witness to his own presidential crimes in the Watergate era.

And perhaps the Watergate tapes did feel larger because of their secrecy or their intrigue. Politico teeing off that same issue today by dubbing Donald Trump himself Shallow Throat, instead of Deep Throat, stressing that both the embarrassing self-own that Donald Trump has committed here and this tension between these gaffe-like confessions in the open really shows something else going on, that there aren't the complex leaks you had in the Watergate/Deep Throat era, but shallow leaks from a shallow state and Donald's Trump and his aides owning himself.

Meanwhile, Speaker Pelosi says Trump's approach shows contempt for the public.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): What the president did showed -- yes, in those comments, showed his contempt, contempt for the American people and their health, contempt for science, contempt for any real effort to crush the virus, contempt for his supporters, their children, their parents.


MELBER: Now, that is a lot of different criticism. How do you rebut all that?

Well, Trump allies like Sean Hannity are straining to defend this one. But Hannity came up with something. He argues now that Trump's claimed desire to avoid a pandemic panic is just like FDR rallying Americans against fear in World War II, which drew headlines like this: "Hannity's Most Absurd Defense Yet of Trump on Woodward's tapes."

The seriousness of this, of course, hangs over all of it, the American death toll approaching 200,000. Health experts emphasize that curbing the virus requires more vigilance, not happy talk, anti-science or denials about worrying about a panic.

Now, Donald Trump's also tried to turn the scandal into an attack on the journalist who happened to report it, Bob Woodward. And on this newscast, we're not quoting Donald Trump's new claims or tweets about Woodward, because they're not newsworthy.

We will show you, though, what Bob Woodward says about why all this reporting matters.

And, remember, this is more than just a tape or a confession or an interview. This is reporting from someone who is widely considered a chronicler of reality in Washington, administrations in both parties, a book with many sources that provide an account of a dangerously failed administration.

And Woodward says those factually documented failures go to the top and are a tragedy


BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": This is the tragedy. A president of the United States has a duty to warn.

The public will understand that. But if they get the feeling that they're not getting the truth, then you're going down the path of deceit and cover-up.


MELBER: I'm joined now by former Governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman, who served in the Bush administration, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich from the Clinton administration, and Jelani Cobb, professor at Columbia and a writer for "The New Yorker."

I'm curious, Robert Reich, given your government experience, what you think about that duty to warn.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Well, the duty to warn and the duty to tell the truth in terms of a public health crisis of the scale that we are now experiencing could not be greater.

That is, the public is completely vulnerable and helpless, even under the best of circumstances, in this kind of a pandemic. But you need a chief executive who is going to take every action to make sure the public is informed.

And what Donald Trump did is not just play it down, I think it's important to understand he also said in February and in March that it was a hoax. He used the word hoax. He also said he wasn't responsible.


REICH: He gave it to the states. And he said, everybody should come back to work as fast as they can.

MELBER: For your analysis, let me play a little bit more of Trump, and so viewers can remember this and walk it through. Take a look.


QUESTION: Why did you lie to the American people?

TRUMP: I didn't lie. What I said is, we have to be calm. We can't be panicked.

It's also more deadly than your -- your -- even your strenuous flus.

We lose thousands of people a year to the flu. We never turned the country off. We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We didn't call up the automobile companies, say, stop making cars.


MELBER: Some evidence in support your point, and continue.

REICH: It's simply this. And I think this is the heart of the matter.

There is no way that the public can protect itself on its own from this scale of a problem. And so that Donald Trump or any chief executive's leadership -- and part of that critical aspect of leadership is to tell the truth, to level with the American people, and also to take all necessary precautions.

And that's what Donald Trump didn't do. And, as a result, we have the worst situation, the worst rate of coronavirus deaths and cases of any advanced country by a huge margin.

MELBER: And, Jelani, I'm curious about the conclusion Woodward draws, because he is old-school. Everybody knows that. He has a pretty high bar for issuing conclusions.

Indeed, one way that he has continued to get in and out of administrations in both parties, more than one book, is often by letting all the stories speak for themselves, and people take different things.

I think you have to go back to Nixon or maybe ever to find Bob Woodward just saying straight up: This is what I found. These are the facts. But also let me be clear before November. The president failed to warn the public of danger.

And then, again, even further, I want to read this for your thoughts as a writer, Jelani. He says -- quote -- "When his performance as a president is taken in its entirety, I can only reach one conclusion. Trump is the wrong man for the job."


And so I think that if you take that performance, even in isolation, not necessarily in its entirety, you probably draw the same conclusions.

Now, in the kind of -- give it the most broadest latitude that you can imagine in terms of presidential obfuscation. There are legitimate points at which the president does not want to inform the public about something that may be going on that's a threat.

A public health crisis does not meet that bar. If you were talking about some matter relating to espionage or a matter relating to delicate international relations, certainly, the negotiations around the Cuban Missile Crisis, there are things that the president has to keep close to his or her vest.

That's not the situation that we're in right now. And to compound this matter is the question of why this obfuscation took place. If we looked at the earlier reporting about why Jared Kushner sounded a similar note, in terms of downplaying the severity of the virus, he was primarily concerned with not spooking the financial markets, which seems to be the same sort of impetus for Mr. Trump's behavior and his deception on what was actually going on.

And so I think it's very damning and you have really no real comparison, outside of Nixon. Some people might say the Gulf of Tonkin. But it's very hard to find something that you find in the sheer volume of deception that compares with this.

MELBER: Governor?

FMR. GOV. CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN (R-NJ): It's unconscionable, frankly.

And it shows he does not understand the American people, and he does not understand how to be a leader. This idea that he would jump -- he didn't want to jump up and down. Well, first of all, that's a horrific vision, in my mind. It will give me nightmares.

But that's not what you do. You go out before the American people and you say, this is what we know. This is what we don't know. This is how serious -- these are the steps we know we can take to help control it.

Americans aren't going to panic. And the idea that he wanted to keep this secret because it's important to have secrets, then why on earth did he tell Bob Woodward that we have a new secret weapon?

I mean, this man has no understanding of the importance of his words and the importance of the office and the sacred trust we put in him as president of the United States. He has failed again and again.

And this -- he has to take the blame for the economy cratering, for all the people who are dying. I mean, not all of them. Obviously, you don't lay that totally. But we could have saved tens of thousands of lives if he had acted right at the beginning and started to ramp up PPEs and ventilators, and started to get these things.

Now, we still don't have enough. I just talked to a doctor nearby me, and they don't have enough in their office, should we hit another spike with the flu season starting.

It's mind-boggling to me how any Republican who respects the oath of office that they took can continue to look the other way. This man is clearly not presidential material. And it's all about him. And he doesn't care about the American people.

MELBER: Pretty unequivocal.


MELBER: Yes, I was just going to say -- Jelani, I will go to you next -- pretty unequivocal coming from, as I reminded viewers, someone who served in the Bush administration, who doesn't -- obviously, Governor, you don't come to this with far left, socialist views that you have a beef with Donald Trump.

You come to this concerned about the facts and the leadership.

And so, Jelani, I want you to bring us whatever point you were going to make. But also what I wanted to ask you, Jelani was, the president has been accused of many things, including having misplaced priorities, at a time when every hour and every decision could make or break how we handle the response.

The fact that he himself viewed it as so deadly so early is bad for him, is incriminating. Then you add to that, on a smaller point, Jelani, he did 17 interviews with Bob Woodward. I mean, that's a wild number.

So I'm curious, as a journalism professor, what do you think of that and what else you wanted to tell us.

COBB: Well, the thing that I was going to say, really quickly, is about the context of. This doesn't come out of nowhere.

This comes out at a point in which he is still defending himself against the claims that he said titanically disrespectful things about American troops who had been captured, who had lost their lives, who have been injured and so on.

And so this would seem to make the case about the same sort of absence of empathy, absence of fundamental human decency in the White House.

Now, as for the 17 interviews, it's kind of astonishing to have that kind of access. But it also, I think, is contextual in a certain way, that we have seen in this presidency a tendency to frame people who are nice, who are cordial to him as his friends, and therefore worthy of confidences, if we recall even going back to the kind of casual camaraderie he had in talking about the departure of James Comey with the Russian ambassador, which is something that you would not do under other circumstances.

And so when you saw the tweet about Bob Woodward and the beginning of him attacking him in these personal terms, it wasn't what you would expect in politics. It was more like a betrayed friendship. It seemed like a kind of a wounded person speaking that way.

And, of course, we didn't know exactly what prompted this until a few days after and we got the -- at least what we have seen so far in terms of what Bob Woodward has uncovered from him.

MELBER: Robert?

REICH: Well, for the entire presidency, you have somebody who views the world through the prism of either somebody who's for me or somebody is against me. It is a zero sum game.

And that clouds his judgment about everything. It's vindictiveness or it's friendship, or then it's friendship and then vindictiveness. It is impossible to get a clear line out of this president with regard to what is good for the public, what is good for America, what's good for the United States. It's all about what's good for him.

And I think that the ultimate outcome of that, sadly and tragically, is 20,000 lives unnecessarily lost, at least that many, if you look at what happened in the United States relative to other countries struggling with the COVID, the same virus, but countries that were headed by people who understood science and did not deceive their publics.

MELBER: Well, and, Robert, I'm curious, because you're a policy expert on this, at the intersection of data and also being in government, which is different than just observing it. You're saying something that a lot of people and Trump critics have said.

The flip side to that -- I'm curious your response -- is, some folks who argue, well, even in places that have been more scientific, there have been punishingly high caseloads and death rates at a per capita level in Western Europe, as you know, in New York, where Governor Cuomo, who by no means handled it perfectly -- we have covered some of that on the show -- but was far more scientific and factual than President Trump, and they still got hit very hard.

What do you say to the argument, which is not a dismissal of Trump's failures, but, rather, the empirical difficulty of really putting any big number on it?

REICH: Well, obviously it's difficult.

But you just compare the United States to any other major country, major rich country. I mean, even Italy, which does not have a reputation as being a country with an extraordinary record of great leadership or with citizens who follow their leaders wherever they want to go, even in Italy, you had a huge problem, but then that problem was brought under control.

In New York, that you had a huge problem but that problem was at least contained. The containment is the issue, the effort of using science, using data.

Even today, Ari, we have a president who is who is belittling and diminishing the importance of using masks, diminishing and pooh-poohing the importance of maintaining social distance. I mean, things that scientists, public health experts are telling us are critical, we know have worked and are working in other countries, our president, even to this day is saying, forget it.

MELBER: All really important and really context on why this matters.

It's not just a -- quote -- "Washington gaffe" story, to be sure.

Jelani Cobb, I don't want to overinterpret your emotional setting, but it seems like you might be getting so depressed about the state of things that you just turn off the lights and were done with the segment.


COBB: Yes, I'm in a ballroom at the National Press Club right now. And there's a lighting situation going on here.

MELBER: So you -- we appreciate that.

To make THE BEAT -- this is a little peek behind, because you're all busy, all three of you. But, Jelani, you stepped out from other work to do this remote hit. We appreciate that.

COBB: Thank you.


COBB: I will say that I want to have fun with a dimmer in the future.

Like, every time we have something that's bad news, we can just turn the lights off and say, I'm done.


MELBER: Hey, the light -- lights is like music. It sets the vibe, for sure.

I want to thank Professor Cobb, Secretary Reich, Governor Whitman.

Thanks to each of you.

We have a lot more in the program. In fact, we come back in just 30 seconds with reporting on new Russian hacks. We have one of the Trump impeachment managers live on the show tonight with new issues relating to Biden.

And new photos and what they reveal about the Breonna Taylor case.

Also, Tony Schwartz is here live on Trump's false claims and why Tony says you have to understand everything through the prism of Donald Trump's relentless, amoral lying -- when we're back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: The latest scandal engulfing the White House is really about Donald Trump's state of mind.

It is about the fact that he's admitted he knew in his own mind how deadly the virus was and then told you and the rest of the nation the opposite, an admission to Bob Woodward that does also fit with Trump's longstanding problems dealing with reality.


TRUMP: I wanted to -- I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down...

WOODWARD: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: ... because I don't want to create a panic.

TRUMP: Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.

Just remember, what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.


MELBER: Trump admitting he misled the public about COVID, just as he admits he is in an open, unending clash with the facts.

That includes the non partisan press, the government watchdogs, all those independent prosecutors who find facts. It's an open effort to defy and lie about reality.

Now, it's on display in this new scandal, but it is, to be clear, if you want to understand this news, much broader.

Now, a Trump insider who had to get inside Trump's mind to help write his first book, "The Art of the Deal," has explained it simply -- quote -- "Lying was second nature to Trump, one more way to gain advantage."

He argues Trump doesn't even accept the notion solely of independent facts, because facts were whatever he deemed them to be.

And I'm excited to tell you that's actually a sneak peek from a new audiobook out today from our friend Tony Schwartz, this particular item not co-authored with Donald Trump. If you want to get it, it's called "Dealing with the Devil: My Mother, Trump and Me," an Audible original.

Tony, congrats on the book and thanks for being here.


MELBER: When you look at this scandal, which is partly about Trump admitting it and lying, and partly about the consequences, how much of this comes from the original sin of him being, as you write, totally fact-free?

SCHWARTZ: Well, Donald Trump has spent his life inventing a fictional reality that would replace the emptiness of who he actually was and, as he became president, that would allow him to say the things that he wanted to say that he believed would get him the approval he wanted.

He has made this his way of life. And you do have the sense -- and I have said this before, but I believe it now -- you do have the sense that it's closing in on him.

Trump is the most destructive human being, perhaps of our times, but he's also the most self-destructive. And the real question is, will he end up destroying himself or us first?


We have talked about some of those themes, but you put it very well there, Tony, especially amidst a pandemic, which raises everyone's awareness of how the government's decisions affect your life.

As you say, he has practice destroying things and people because he's also practiced on himself, with the life he's led, with the businesses he's destroyed, with the bankruptcies, which then he lies about, but are documented bankruptcies. I don't say that to shade him. They just are.

And so I'm curious. We take a look briefly with you at some vintage Trump and his notion of keeping it real, and only using, as he calls it, some positive thinking. Take a look.


TRUMP: I have always believed in positive thinking. At the same time, I don't want to mislead.

I also believe in aspiring, in terms of what you're doing, aspiring to protect against the downside. You can't just be this wonderful guy walking around, everything's positive, because, unfortunately, that's not the way the world is.

I love to tell people to think about the challenges, so that when they do come along you're ready.



SCHWARTZ: Yadda, yadda, yadda.

You can run, but you cannot hide, because, wherever you go, there you are. And this is what my book is really -- the story my book is telling. It's a story of my attempt to understand and redeem the choice I made around Trump 30 years ago to write that book.

And it's also an attempt to do that by looking back at what propelled me to write it, and then afterward at how I could change my life in such a way that it would feel redeemed.

And the truth -- honest to God, Ari, the truth has set me free. The truth is something that has eluded Trump all his life, and he is the prisoner of his lies.

MELBER: Well, you put it that way, and it is interesting that you tried to reckon with it, because I'm not going to say you're the same as Michael Cohen. Indeed, you guys are different in many ways.

But you emerged on the national stage first in a much-read "New Yorker" reassessment review of the book, but then on our program and others, and people have heard from you and they can judge for themselves.

But you went through that process earlier than some others and, as you say, tried to bluntly deal with it. And yet now we have seen, whether it's General Mattis and how much ownership or not he's taken, or other people who said they'd never put up with XYZ, like Ted Cruz, warned us that Trump was a pathological liar.

You and Ted Cruz sounded the same on that point. But now Ted Cruz is laying in the cut on the Supreme Court list and buddying up to Trump for his own career. And it's all played out in public. Lindsey Graham.

So, it is striking that you're sharing that, and it's something that may be relevant to many people's lives, Trump being just an extreme version.

So, with our eyes on your new book, I want to read one other part for you to explain. You say that you were initially -- quote -- "fascinated by the larceny in Trump's heart, his blind willingness to say his own rules and define his own reality."

That's that thing that we like in mafia movies, in rough gangsta rap music, that you don't want to endorse the violence, but it obviously appeals.

Did you have a "Godfather"-esque-type initial fascination with the way he rolled?

SCHWARTZ: When I was 20 years old, I was doing a article for my college newspaper, "The Daily," "The Michigan Daily," and I was in a local jail, and I had kind of fallen for a hustler named Putty Balls (ph), who said to me one day: "Tony, you're the easiest guy in the world to hustle because you have larceny in your heart."


SCHWARTZ: And my reckoning over these last 30 years and my attempt to redeem myself is out of the recognition that there was a Trump in me.

There's a Trump in all of us, the worst parts of ourselves, the part we -- the parts we disown and despise and avoid.

And what I found was that the more I could own all of who I am, the good and the bad, the less I had to defend and the freer I became.

MELBER: I haven't heard you say it like that.

It makes me wonder out loud -- always be careful thinking out loud on TV -- but whether that's part of what made him so watchable, both as a reality TV character and now as this political character, that the venality, like a mafia movie, is interesting?

Embracing our own problems is important. Was it not Rick Ross who said, I am flawed?

SCHWARTZ: I am flawed.

And what I'd like to have on my tombstone, if I have a choice about it, is three words: He owned it.


What about Ram Dass, three words, be here now?

SCHWARTZ: Be here now. That's another good three words.

MELBER: I have three more words for you. Are you ready?


MELBER: We gotta go.

SCHWARTZ: Well, it's really been a pleasure to be with you.

MELBER: Always a pleasure to be with you. I can't wait until we do these again in-person, safety permitting.

Tony Schwartz, thank you.

And, for viewers, again, a pretty interesting thing to check out for yourself. The audiobook is "Dealing with the Devil: My Mother, Trump and Me."

We fit in a break.

When we come back, an important story we have been tracking for you on this program, the Breonna Taylor police killing case. New reports it will go to a grand jury and new photos from the crime scene and a special guest.

Also, something that was raised by a guest earlier on this very program: Why are Republicans so silent on Trump's COVID confession? And new responses from Mitch McConnell.

Also, a developing story on Russian hackers and a whistle-blower alleging the Trump administration wanted to censor references to what Russia is doing in this campaign cycle -- when we come back with Hakeem Jeffries.


MELBER: New reports Russian forces are criminally hacking U.S. political targets in this 2020 campaign. Now, this is happening right now.

Microsoft out with a warning about hacks against people tied to both the Biden and Trump campaigns. They point to the same Russian military unit that attacked in 2016, plus efforts to hack Microsoft's e-mail accounts by China and Iran.

One target is a Democratic firm linked directly to the Biden campaign run by some of this top advisers, according to Reuters.

Now, this is not a drill. Microsoft does know that the hacks failed so far. The tech giant also backing up Bob Mueller, echoing his past warnings for this very 2020 race we're now in.

And this is interesting. Microsoft notes that a group operating from Russia is the same one identified in the Mueller report as responsible for the attacks on the Democratic presidential campaign in 2016.

Now, that matters because it fact-checks Trump's false attacks on findings by Mueller and his own intelligence agencies about Russia's meddling.

And all this comes amidst these new whistle-blower allegations that the administration tried to halt intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference and to get them instead to focus on China and Iran, all because of a concern that an accurate report about what Russia was doing would make the president look bad.

We're joined now by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries on the House Judiciary Committee. He was also a House impeachment manager during the trial of Donald Trump.

Good evening. Thanks for being here.

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

MELBER: Congressman, it's all laid out. You have tech companies that are independent backing up both what Mueller warned and also what we're told the intelligence agencies are trying to put out and being thwarted by this administration.

Your response?

JEFFRIES: Well, in 2016, Russia interfered in that election in sweeping and systematic fashion, and the Trump campaign welcomed that assistance.

And, as Bob Mueller warned, as the Senate Intelligence Committee found, as others within the national security apparatus have confirmed, Russia is at it again.

And, unfortunately, it appears that Donald Trump, the Trump campaign, and his allies within the administration are trying to run away from that reality and/or systematically cover it up.

MELBER: And this goes beyond just what the whistle-blower is saying, some of it playing out in public.

Attorney General Barr, who was given unusually broad intelligence authorities by Donald Trump after sort of proving himself in all of the Mueller battles, which we covered and you lived through, and viewers have heard you speak to that, here he was on this issue. Take a look.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Of those three countries that the intelligence community has pointed to, Russia, China and Iran, which is the most assertive, the most aggressive in this area?


BLITZER: China more than Russia right now?

BARR: Yes.

BLITZER: Why do you say that?

BARR: Because I have seen the intelligence. That's what I have concluded.


MELBER: While China and Iran are a part of this, as I mentioned, that does seem off from other reporting.

Your response to that. And do you see this as a role for Congress to play to do anything about all this until November, or this is just sort of what it's like, protect your e-mail, go vote, and take it from there?

JEFFRIES: Well, we're going to continue to defend our democracy and make sure that we can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in a meaningful and transformational way. That will remain our top priority.

But that statement that you just played, Ari, from Barr is one of the most dangerous statements that any attorney general has ever made, because it is so clearly wrong, based on the facts, the data and the evidence.

Russia is the primary threat to the safety and security of the 2020 presidential election. And Barr knows that to be the case.

Perhaps China has a preference. I think almost every reasonable country in the world has a preference. We all want to get beyond the long national nightmare, international nightmare that is Donald Trump. But China isn't weaponizing that preference against American democracy.

But the attorney general knows that that is exactly what Russia is doing at this very moment.

MELBER: As for other things in the intelligence, there's plenty to look at internationally.

But we have also been living through this tough time domestically, issues you have led on with regard to civil rights, police reform, addressing white supremacy, as well as white supremacy terrorism.

They're still adjudicating the tragic shooting of those protesters. The feds may or may not deem different things a hate crime.

But I wanted to get your reaction to this other part of the same whistle-blower report domestically, which says there was inappropriate or political pressure to -- quote -- "modify the section on white supremacy to make the threat appear less severe."

Your response?

JEFFRIES: Well, Donald Trump has weaponized the intelligence community, and he's also weaponized the Department of Homeland Security, all connected to him being a master of deception and misinformation, and, in this particular instance, designed to suppress the clear and present danger that white supremacists present to the safety and security and stability of the American people and our democracy.

And it's consistent with the fact that Donald Trump, for whatever reason, has continued to play footsie with racists and haters and neo-Nazis and others. He did it during his previous campaign with David Duke. He did it in the aftermath of the tragedy in Charlottesville, and he's doing it right now through his Department of Homeland Security.

I don't believe the American people will buy it, and he will be held accountable on November 3.

MELBER: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, member of Democratic leadership, always good to have you, sir.

Up ahead, we have a wild response from some Trump allies to that COVID confession, and this big legal news in the story we have been telling you about, about Breonna Taylor's police shooting, six months, no charges.

An update when we come back.


MELBER: Turning to new action in the open case regarding the controversial police shooting of Breonna Taylor.

As we have emphasized in our reporting, authorities have now gone six months with no charges whatsoever, amidst growing calls from legal experts, activists and others for answers, including tennis player Naomi Osaka, who was just touting the case, you see there on her mask, during the U.S. Open.

Now, the latest comes after disturbing accounts suggesting a potential cover-up and bid to frame Taylor, the alleged victim, as some sort of member of a drug conspiracy that would justify the killing, but now potential shift, reports that prosecutors may actually present evidence against police to a grand jury. It could start as soon as next week.

And there is much evidence to choose from. Police executed a controversial no-knock raid, which could be seen to escalate the encounter, reducing any chance for those same officers to even identify who they ended up shooting at and killing.

Also new, the release of over 1,000 photos from the scene, revealing what you see here, dozens of shell casings on the ground on the floor there, a range of bullet holes in Taylor's clock, chairs, cabinets, even in her shoes, while an attorney for Taylor's boyfriend says these photos make it all look like basically at least turned it into a -- quote -- "war zone."

Evidence of 10 rounds also fired through the patio door and the window. Now, most of the photo evidence adds context about that scene. It may be useful to the grand jury. But photos of a scene after a shooting don't always establish whether authorities were doing a cover-up of what police did.

Then, though, there's a picture that does raise new evidence of a potential cover-up. It's this picture of an officer on the scene wearing a body camera, very clearly. You can see it there. And that is a clear lead to go get that camera and review it for any possible video evidence.

To state the obvious here, if you're honestly investigating a potential crime scene, and you find out there might be more video of it, you go get it.

But the former Louisville police chief said in March on the day of the shooting there was no body cameras worn by police.


STEVE CONRAD, FORMER LOUISVILLE POLICE CHIEF: I want to start by letting you all know that we have no body-worn video cameras to share with you from this morning's shooting.


MELBER: Now, the question here is whether all of that is true, or how you accommodate that with the video that was apparently there on the body camera, right? So, was that a deliberate lie? If there was body camera video taken, what happened to it?

And now we checked in with Taylor's family lawyers today. And they told THE BEAT they are demanding any potential body camera video, if it does exist.

I'm joined now by Chryl Laird, a professor from Bowdoin College who covers and discusses many of these issues.

And I want to start with the context for this, which is, six months, and the question of whether there is a legitimate inquiry going on, or a lot of stalling and hiding of evidence. What's important for people to understand?

CHRYL LAIRD, PROFESSOR, BOWDOIN COLLEGE: I mean, the grand jury process is something that takes a lot of time to develop. But I think it's seen as right now that not a lot of action is moving in a way that seems to be bringing justice to this family.

I was in Ferguson during the Mike Brown case. And the same type of issue was going on, where people were wanting this indictment. The process of the investigation really is something that is time-consuming. But I think that there's now questions being brought up about potential delays.

Like, is there things happening that are trying to undermine the evidence that are being presented? Is there evidence being done to potentially taint the background of Breonna Taylor and Kenneth? Is there things that are missing that we should have, right? Why wouldn't we have information about the body camera? Why wouldn't we also have things like the autopsy from Breonna Taylor?

Why wouldn't we have key information about the photographs around what happened at the apartment? All of that really lacking right now and is just kind of coming out into the public eye.

And so it speaks a lot to what may possibly be able to happen with the grand jury case and what Cameron is going to be able to present to get an indictment of any kind.

MELBER: Right.

And more so than some, this case really has shined a light on the conflict inherent when police are asked to investigate themselves. Right all the way down to after the shooting, Ms. Taylor's boyfriend was forced to do what, call 911, call the police.

But it was the police that it became clear had killed her. Take a listen to that call.


911 OPERATOR: Is she alert and able to talk to you?


Bre, my God. Help! Oh, my God.

911 OPERATOR: Can you see where she's been shot at?

WALKER: I can't -- on the stomach.


WALKER: No, Bre, my baby. Oh, lord God.


MELBER: So he calls 911. The police are already on the scene.

I'm wondering if you could walk us through that and specifically what hangs over all of this that some Americans are learning more about, which is the different and distinct relationship between police and communities of color in so many parts of the country.

We have been reporting this week as well about the Prude case in New York, where someone called the police because his brother was having a mental problem, and the police ended up killing his brother.

LAIRD: Yes, it's been a tenuous relationship historically.

Like, there has been a long period in which police have been used in ways that have been problematic for communities of color. They have felt like they're under attack, that the state does not respect them.

Even in Kentucky, in the lead-up to what happened with Breonna, there was discussions about profiling that was going on that was being done to try to deal with crime and going after people within those communities who actually hadn't committed any crimes, and then feeling like they were under attack, and being basically profiled by the state.

And so this is something that historically has gone on. And so African-American communities and communities of color are constantly in a position where they do want people to help them deal with some of the issues of crime, like any other community that is dealing with issues of crime or challenges to the basic day-to-day activity.

But at the same time, they don't want to necessarily find themselves under a spotlight, where they are going to be disproportionately acted upon in violent ways. And with Breonna Taylor, it's just another example.

And with these no-knock warrants, I mean, we have seen, again, historically, where these have been utilized and have led to adverse outcomes, right?

So, this is Aiyana Jones in Chicago. This is also things -- we can even look to Fredrick Hampton back in the '60s. That was also a no-knock warrant that was also part of a federal conspiracy with COINTELPRO.

And so the state action towards black communities and communities of color is one that has been very tenuous, very problematic, and often been something that has led to distrust within those communities.

And so going into this indictment, I think there really needs to be a discussion between the state and between the citizens within these communities directly and openly about what has gone on, the problems that it has created, and who will be being held accountable for what has happened.

MELBER: Professor Chryl Laird, thank you, as always.

When we come back, the dodging, the ducking and the silence, plus new reaction from Mitch McConnell on Trump's latest scandal -- when we return.


MELBER: You spend time on Capitol Hill, you will notice the office TVs are always set to the news.

And every news channel has been covering Bob Woodward's scoop that Donald Trump admitted on tape he knew how deadly this virus was back in February.

So, whether you have read the whole book or not, if you're in government or media, you know about that central claim, a sound bite Trump might actually wish he could take back.

But top Republican officials are not defending Trump's confession, not most of them, but, rather, claiming they don't even know much about it.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Look, I didn't look at the Woodward book. I will later, but I haven't even seen what you're referring to yet. Clearly, that's a question for the White House anyway.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I haven't seen the book.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I haven't read it.

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): I haven't seen the book. I have not read it. But I want to read it.


MELBER: Haven't read it.

This ain't a book club. Journalists and citizens want to know whether the GOP stands with Trump on this now admitted strategy of lying about the severity of the virus when it first in America. They're asking for a position or for leadership, not a full book review.

That would be so voters know where these individuals stand.

It matters. McConnell's Kentucky has seen over 1,000 people die of the virus. McCarthy's California, it's over 13,000. In Ted Cruz's Texas, the number approaching 14,000 deaths.

Even the normally mild-mannered Dr. Zeke Emanuel went farther than usual by saying that Trump now has blood on his hands.

We're going to fit in a break.

When we come back: Donald Trump's niece Mary Trump wrote a blockbuster book blasting her uncle. We have an update on that for BEAT viewers after this.


MELBER: I want you to know that Donald Trump's niece Mary Trump will join us live on THE BEAT tomorrow. I hope you will tune in or DVR the program. Mary Trump tomorrow.



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