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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, September 11, 2020

Guests: Andre Leon Talley, Mary Trump, Katty Kay

Summary

Mary Trump discusses President Trump and her new book, "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous." Fashion icon Andre Leon Talley speaks out. Dr. Fauci breaks publicly with a key Trump claim about the pandemic. A key aide in the John Durham investigation resigns. A man Rudy Giuliani was working with to go after the Bidens has now been exposed as an active Russian spy.

Transcript

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

Hi, Ari.

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

WALLACE: Nice to see you.

MELBER: We're interested here, excited to have Mary Trump -- nice to see you too -- to have Mary Trump on.

And I always wonder, in our jobs, how much do you think it matters what people like the president really think and feel vs. just the rest of their actions, because she has insights on the former?

WALLACE: Well, it's so interesting.

I mean, I think that you know how much Donald Trump thinks his family matters to his political fate, because they spoke all over his convention, multiple family members every night. So we know he thinks that voters care about what his family thinks of him.

I think it makes Mary even more important.

MELBER: Yes, it's a great point you say, because, usually, it's in other countries where you see the family take a bigger, bigger role in government. We have seen that certainly the last couple years here.

I hope you have a well-earned and nice weekend.

WALLACE: You, too. And that's a nice way to say it. That's your charm, Ari.

Have a great show. I'm going to go upstairs and watch.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: There we go. Thanks, Nicolle. Good to see you.

And welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

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

Dr. Fauci breaking publicly with a key Trump claim about the pandemic. We have that. A top DOJ official, brand-new, out, amidst reports that link Giuliani to Russian agent, an important story up later this hour. And all four officers charged in the George Floyd case in court today. Prosecutors say they should be tried as one conspiracy.

Now, we begin right now with fear and loathing on the campaign trail, to quote Hunter S. Thompson. But, right now, it's also fear and lying. President Trump campaigns amidst blowback for lying about COVID both in the past, but on through this week.

You're looking at this MAGA rally in Michigan, where Donald Trump was pushing his own supporters to trust that things are getting safer in the pandemic. Now, what drives him to do that kind of thing? Well, as mentioned, we will be joined by Donald Trump's niece Mary Trump in just a few moments.

This is at a time, of course, when Trump's exposed strategy of COVID deceit is drawing a blunt rebuke from his own COVID task force member Dr. Fauci.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: You said it was time to hunker down, because the fall and the winter is -- quote -- "not going to be easy."

The president says we have rounded the final turn. How do you square those two messages?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, you know, I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with that, because, if you look at the thing that you just mentioned, the statistics, Andrea, they are disturbing.

We're plateauing at around 40,000 cases a day, and the deaths are around 1,000.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That caseload and death rate an obvious reminder of why these scandals are not just about history. They're not just about what Trump knew only in February, but where does the U.S. go from here in a pandemic that could last years?

Dr. Fauci also went further than usual, recounting how Trump undercut those medical safety warnings previously, just as Trump continues to do today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: Certainly, there were disagreements. As you know, there were times when I was out there telling the American public how difficult this is, how we're having a really serious problem, you know, and the president was saying it's something that's going to disappear, which obviously is not the case.

When you downplay something that is really a threat, that is not a good thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, Fauci is famously quite careful and measured about how he navigates these disagreements with his boss.

But, right here, you see him leaning on the sad fact that, of course, it was Dr. Fauci, not Donald Trump, who proved to be right in his public statements, Trump wrong. None of this disappeared. You know that.

False information, though, goes further. It can actually be actively dangerous to your health. So, Trump continues to spin this situation. Keep in mind the dangers are the backdrop, for example, Donald Trump misleading how the virus here compares to other countries.

When you get out to treatment, well, Donald Trump faces an opponent offering a different approach to health care. And Trump's just lying about the Biden plan, a sign he doesn't think the truth works for him politically on that issue of health care, and then stumping in the Midwest with lies about jobs.

And we have a BEAT fact-check about that big campaign issue later in the program.

But you take it all together here, and the president's ending the first week of the official general election -- that was this week -- I know there's a lot going on -- facing a major scandal over his failure to honestly lead in a crisis.

And the pandemic is not the only crisis unfolding right now. There are these historically large wildfires that continue to rage out West; 15 people have already died, a whopping four million acres already devastated across California, as well as Oregon, where you can see right here why the mayor there declared a state of emergency, the governor also publicly pleading for the Trump administration to support its governmental emergency response.

Officials on the ground say Donald Trump failing them through inaction. Some critics compare his sort of public denial of even admitting what's going on with the wildfires, that posture to, of course, his deceitful approach to COVID.

New reports today are the things are even worse than all of that, because right-wing conspiracy theories supported publicly by Donald Trump are leading to dangerous activity. Again, we're living in a time where misinformation can be dangerous to your health.

And officials are warning they're getting flooded with false phone calls fanned by QAnon, which incorrectly try to blame the fires on Trump's perceived opponents.

Translation: What happens on Facebook doesn't always stay on Facebook. This is a real-world emergency. Political propaganda is making it harder for these firefighters to get the real information and warnings they need as they go out and do their work and risk their lives.

That's why sheriff's departments are pleading with people with messages like this: Just stop spreading rumors. Stop calling 911 with political pranks. They say it has now gotten to the point where it is hampering their bandwidth to respond to the fires and real emergencies.

It's 2020, so, sometimes, we have to state the obvious around here. Do not call 911 with QAnon Trumpy fake news propaganda. You do have the right to think and say whatever you want, including typing it up on the Internet. You do not have the right to deceitfully thwart firefighting in the middle of this very real crisis.

And for those calling from the West Coast, where some of these calls have been traced, if you need to, think about it like this. Misinformation is expensive, and the house you save could be your own.

As mentioned, we're thrilled to have Mary Trump live in the hour.

But I want to begin with some of our analysts, Jason Johnson, professor of politics at Morgan State University, and Katty Kay, Washington anchor BBC News.

Good evening to both of you.

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Ari.

MELBER: Jason, there's much talk about misinformation and people don't like lying, even when it's just verbal, if you want to be that specific.

JOHNSON: Right.

MELBER: But given these twin crises, your view of the costs of this kind of misinformation?

JOHNSON: Ari, it's massive.

I'm in California right now. And the difficulty, the difficulty that local officials are having in managing people when it comes to these wildfires is immense. And it's partially because of QAnon. It's partially because the president basically sort of thumbs his nose at these sorts of issues.

The rate of destruction that is happening out here, basically, the size of Central Park is being burned every other day in Northern California and Oregon. Central Park every other day is being burned, devastated.

There is a haze over the sky on a regular basis. At the bottom of a pool, you can see ash settling after every single night. So, the idea that people are wasting public resources with crazy conspiracy theories because they think that the fires were created by 5G or invading Muslims or George Soros doesn't help the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people who are either going to be out of their homes or not able to stay safely in their homes during a time when we have a pandemic, where rescuing people and putting them into shelters is all the more difficult.

So, yes, this is propaganda that's costing lives. When Trump lies, people are dying.

MELBER: Well, and, Katty, the White House has often tried to reposition the COVID conversation in the election as, well, this hit everywhere, this is a global thing.

It seems that, this week, there is a rightful focus and scrutiny on the president's leadership, on his honesty, on his approach, which is relevant as you go into election about who you want to continue to deal with this crisis or do you want to change the commander in chief?

KATTY KAY, BBC: Yes, the virus has hit everywhere.

But my 14-year-old daughter is on online schooling here in Washington. Her friend in France is in class. Her friend in London is in class. Her friend in China is in class. Her friend in Senegal is in class. And her friend in Germany is in class.

They're all going to school. And the reason they're going to school is because those countries have handled this better. So, that's a direct comparison.

And in a globalized world, our children here in the United States, make no mistake about it, they're losing out, because those other kids are in class going to school and advancing, while our kids are not advancing.

So we're kicking this down to the next generation as well. But we elect leaders to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. It is totally possible that you can give people the facts, that you can trust the American people with the facts of something as it is, and also be inspirational and motivational and lift them up with a plan and show leadership.

Those two things are not mutually exclusive. And I think that's what the president is mistaking when he says he didn't want people to panic, and so he downplayed the virus.

MELBER: Well, and, Katty, you talk about how that stacks up in a global context, which I think is very interesting to remember, and then how people are receiving these messages.

Reporter Jim Acosta spoke to some people going to the Trump rally. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN: Why are you not wearing a mask?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because there's no COVID. It's a -- it's a fake pandemic created to destroy the United States of America.

ACOSTA: But the president said to Bob Woodward that there is a virus, the coronavirus, and that it is deadly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's his opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Katty.

(LAUGHTER)

KAY: Well, where do you start?

I mean, you start by asking all of our leaders to come out with consistent, clear, accurate, honest messaging.

And I really felt for Anthony Fauci in that interview, because I have interviewed Fauci, and he is so careful not to wade into political waters, where there's going to be a difference between him and the president, because he says that will be the only story, and he is trying to get out of the public health story. He doesn't want to make it a political story about a disagreement.

He clearly feels now he has to set a marker. He has to wade into the politics of this and say, no, when the president says we are turning a corner, we're not actually turning a corner. We're in this for the long haul, because when the president says we're turning a corner, when he says we're about to get over this or that it's magically going to disappear, what happens?

That guy doesn't wear a mask when he attends a rally because he thinks it's not there. That's the risk.

MELBER: Go ahead, Jason.

JOHNSON: Yes.

Look, Trump can say he can see the light at the end of the tunnel all he wants. It's a train, right? It's a train coming at us. We are about to head into fall, which is flu season. This is a time where not only do you have kids going back to school, but you have people who have to shelter in place more because it's cold, you can't eat outside, and that makes us much more difficult.

And I think, Ari, the real danger here is that, as we recognize that the president is grotesquely incompetent, right, he's driven by sort of racial malice and paying off his friends and everything else like that, at the base of all of this, we cannot forget two key things, one, that the president is still trying to steal the election with the post office.

That you still have right-wing Supreme Courts in Wisconsin right now that are trying to block people from getting absentee ballots, that you have the president of the Republican Party suing in Iowa to prevent people from getting their absentee ballots, that he's still trying to steal the election, at the same time that you have literally millions of Americans now who are out of work, who will be out of their homes, who are being evicted, which will make it more difficult for them to actually vote.

So, as much as the president is a horrible human being and trying to bankrupt this country and pay off his friends and stay in office, he is also doing things -- his incompetence has disrupted the ability of regular people to remove him from office in a democratic way.

We can't ever lose sight of that, because if we can't get rid of him, everything that's happening now will be 10 times worse by next year.

MELBER: All important warnings and thoughts.

Jason Johnson, I thank you.

And, Katty, were going to have you back in the show.

To many MSNBC viewers, Katty Kay is an icon. You're going to be joined by another one, Andre Leon Talley, by the time we make it to "Fallback." So, we will see you then.

KAY: Thank you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

JOHNSON: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Joining us now, as promised, Mary Trump, who is President Trump's niece.

She warns, his reelection might spell the end of American democracy. And she's the author of a bestselling book you have probably heard about if you watch the news, "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man."

You are in a very particular situation that, frankly, most people probably don't have personal experience with. And so I really appreciate what you're doing in speaking out your understanding of the situation, your truth, and making time for us tonight. Thank you for being here.

MARY TRUMP, AUTHOR, "TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH: HOW MY FAMILY CREATED THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS MAN": Oh, Ari, it's so great to be here. Thank you.

MELBER: We were just discussing and the world is dealing with President Trump's lies.

Your view of whether he's always been this way or it's gotten worse, and any insight you have into why your uncle lies so much. M. TRUMP: He's always been this way. It's worse simply because of the power he unfortunately wields and the exponentially greater number of people who listen to him.

So, the problem is that nobody is holding him to account. Why does he lie? Because he can. He lies when he doesn't appreciate the value of the truth or when the truth doesn't benefit him.

So, lying serves the same purpose for him. It always has. Unfortunately, it's having an impact on an increasingly large number of people.

So, I completely understand why people talk about the problem that Donald is. He is responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of people every day. We cannot forget that.

However, he has so much help that we need to start talking much more directly about the horrors that the Republican Party is allowing him to inflict upon the rest of us.

MELBER: You mention accountability. That has been a big theme and concern in this era.

When you were around the family, did you ever see anyone call him out on his penchant, as you put it, for lying just within family dealings?

M. TRUMP: Never. Never.

My grandfather treated Donald as somebody who could do no wrong, even though, at some point, he must have known that Donald was not particularly intelligent or he didn't have any particular business savvy, because my grandfather supported him with money, power and connections every step of the way.

But the rest of us didn't know that. So, Donald was put on a pedestal that he didn't deserve to be on, of course, but it trained him to believe that he was completely above the fray and beyond any reckoning.

MELBER: Did you ever hear Donald, as you put it, say or do anything that suggested an awareness or an insecurity about that?

M. TRUMP: No, never.

And that's sort of one of the interesting things about him. Deep, deep down, he is a very insecure person. He's very afraid.

But to...

MELBER: You're sure of that?

M. TRUMP: I'm sorry?

MELBER: You're sure of that?

M. TRUMP: Yes, I'm absolutely sure of that.

And that explains, in part, the extreme degree to which he has to convince himself and other people that he's always right and he's always great and he's always the best.

MELBER: It's really striking, especially given your proximity.

As you know and our viewers know, we have been living through a racial reckoning this summer. The roots of it obviously predate everyone alive right now, including the president. And yet he is the leader at this time fomenting so much of it.

I want to play something we put together -- and we do this sometimes with our archival footage -- of the way Donald Trump has discussed these issues of police brutality and how they overlap with race. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said, please don't be too niece.

(LAUGHTER)

D. TRUMP: Like, when you guys put somebody in the car, and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over -- like, don't hit their head. You can take the hand away, OK?

QUESTION: Why are African-Americans still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?

D. TRUMP: And so are white people. So are white people.

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

D. TRUMP: We're looking at all of it.

That was an interesting situation. He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like. And he fell. And then they very violently attacked him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: From your family time with him, why does he view the world this way?

M. TRUMP: It suits his purposes.

First of all, he just is fundamentally a racist. He thinks he's better than the other. My -- he grew up in a racist family with a racist father.

But, beyond that, Donald thrives in chaos and division. And he will, because he is so weak and incompetent, pick the lowest common denominator. And, in this country, especially with somebody who has the access to power that he has, that means creating strife between black Americans and white Americans, and making his followers feel that they're superior, because, like him, they don't have a lot going for them, I'm sorry to say.

I don't understand, honestly, why this is something that continues to surprise people. Donald has been showing his stripes since the early '70s. What he did in the '80s with the Central Park 5 was so vile that he should never have been allowed in polite society after that.

So, we are, again, reaping the benefits...

MELBER: And let me press you, Mary.

M. TRUMP: Mm-hmm.

MELBER: I want to press you because -- and, again, it's so difficult to talk about one's own family.

But you are, in your own words, saying that you viewed part of that family environment as racist.

Does that mean, then, that you view him as sort of in the center of that average, if you will, or do you feel that the way he was and grew to be was more racist, more hateful, more bigoted than perhaps just the environment he was in?

M. TRUMP: I think that -- I don't think my family was any -- they weren't virulently racist.

And I don't know if Donald would be if it weren't, in his view, expedient to getting what he wants, which is to sow division because he thinks it plays his base .He thinks it's going to keep him in power. And, also, it makes him feel like a tough guy.

But the things he says and the things he continues to get away with are not surprising, but appalling. And not one elected Republican speaks out. And it's, again, why we are where we are.

If they're not going to hold him accountable, how can anybody else, right? So, in my view right now, the entire party is the problem. And he's just being allowed to sow division.

I think it's a smokescreen for whatever is going on. I heard Jason Johnson say that Donald is trying to steal the election. And I agree with that.

But I would I would say, even more pointedly, he's already cheating. He's cheating right now by dismantling sorting machines at the post office, and calling into question the legitimacy of election -- an election in which not one vote has yet been cast, and telling people that voting by mail is suspect somehow in the middle of a pandemic, in which he is responsible for the death of over 185,000 people.

I mean, it's -- it's -- quite honestly, it's a little hard to take at this point. And, as we saw at the beginning of your show, it's more every day. I mean, the things you talked about could have happened in a year, and they happened in a -- the matter of -- a matter of two days.

MELBER: Yes..

I think you're making so many important points, including about the way these things happen and the collective responsibility of other individuals and institutions.

Would you stay with us? We have our shortest break, 30 seconds. Will you stick around for a little more, Mary?

M. TRUMP: Yes, of course.

MELBER: All right.

We will be back in 30 seconds with Mary Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT. I am here with Mary Trump.

Thanks for being with us.

M. TRUMP: My pleasure.

MELBER: We also have seen this public health issue around the lies with COVID. I think we have -- and, if we do, I want to play -- we don't.

Let me just read some of what the president said. The Woodward tape, as I think everyone has heard it now, is striking for proving something.

You know Donald Trump. You have described him as, your uncle, being a racist and a liar. Other people can draw their own views.

But, to be fair, on any specific issue, like COVID, thinking someone's lying and proving it is different, right? And, in court, there's a high bar for that.

Donald Trump owned himself with his own evidence on that here, when saying, in February, it's more deadly then even a -- quote -- "strenuous flu," and then, within weeks after that, saying, this is just like the flu.

And those contrasts go back and forth.

When you see that, what do you think is important for Americans to know, and what do you know, from being around him, about something that, even by a low bar, seems extreme, which is knowing how bad something is as a risk to people, and giving them misinformation that puts their health at risk?

M. TRUMP: If being honest about something like that, in his view, hurts him somehow or makes him seem weak or associates him with an illness or a failure of some kind, he will lie about it, regardless of the consequences to other human beings.

And the thing with Donald is, a lot of times, he knows very well when he's lying, and yet has absolutely no trouble a minute later, a month later, three months later totally contradicting himself if it suits him in that particular moment.

So, there's no -- there's no logical consistency. The consistency is always he will do and say whatever he feels he needs to in order to benefit somehow, even if tens of thousands of Americans die.

MELBER: When you saw him at earlier points in his life, did you find that he was as effective and endeared as much of a loyal following with these tactics that you say are basically unchanged or have only hardened, as compared to what he's done now politically?

M. TRUMP: I think it was a similar mechanism.

One thing you can say about Donald is, he is superficially charming. If you just met him, you would find him relatively charming. And that's enough for some people to be fooled by, plus the myth I spoke about earlier that my grandfather perpetuated, that he's so rich, he's so smart, he's a self-made man.

And the glitz and the media in 1980s New York did a lot to burnish that image and draw more people in. But there are similar parallels, because there have always -- there's always been a significant number of people who've never been taken in by him.

So, we see the same thing playing out on a nationwide level. But, obviously, the consequences are much more serious now. But he's doing what he's always done.

MELBER: He also has broken fundamental rules of politics and public life about what you do when you're caught red-handed, or when you're caught doing and saying things that at least fracture the value system that you have said you follow or that your supporters claim to follow.

And you write about this. I want to read this.

You say: "Donald takes any rebuke as a challenge and doubles down on the behavior that drew fire in the first place, as if the criticism is permission to do worse."

And given your psychological insights, I really wanted to drill down on that.

What do you mean by subverting or reversing the criticism and making that the permission structure to go further than what you were initially criticized for?

M. TRUMP: Sure, because it is a really interesting point, and it helps explain a lot, I think.

Being criticized -- if you're criticized, the implication is that you were wrong somehow, right? So, accepting that criticism means admitting you were wrong.

That was not allowed in my family. My grandfather hated weakness. And, unfortunately, in his view, things like being kind, admitting your mistakes, and owning up to -- owning up to them were weaknesses.

So, Donald learned that lesson very clearly. And, unfortunately, my grandfather also ran our family as a zero sum game, which meant there could only be one winner. And Donald was absolutely determined that that winner be him.

And he had permission to do whatever he needed to do, whether it was lying, exaggerating, et cetera. So, being criticized is permission to double down on your original mistake or a lie, because, otherwise, you're considered weak.

And that is the thing that maybe terrifies him more than anything else.

MELBER: It's -- I understand what you're -- the type of logic or perverted logic, when you put it like that, which is very interesting, although people can see how limiting that is.

You have been generous with your time. I only have about 30 seconds left. The last question is the most fundamental.

For people who say, well, they have a view of this election, or they're concerned about Donald Trump, but, even if it's another four years, America is strong, and we will get through this either way, as his niece, being so close to this, you say to them what?

M. TRUMP: I say that Donald is a very sick man. He's never going to get better. He's only going to get worse.

And if it suits his purposes, he will take this entire country down with him. And he clearly has a lot of people willing to help him do just that. So, please vote carefully.

MELBER: Mary Trump, thank you for being able to spend time with us tonight. I do appreciate it, as mentioned.

And I want to tell everyone, if you're looking for it, the book is "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man."

We fit in a break here, but we have a lot more ahead, including breaking news late today, a top DOJ official out, raising new questions about Bill Barr's probe that tries to undercut what Mueller found.

And a man Rudy Giuliani was working with to go after the Bidens has now been exposed, literally, as an active Russian spy.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Attorney General Barr has been under fire for undercutting the independence of the Justice Department.

New evidence breaking tonight, though, on that very issue. A respected top prosecutor who was detailed to this team that's investigating basically the origins of the Mueller probe is now resigning. Reportedly, she was concerned about pressure to be political, to publish whatever they find before the November election.

Barr had said this about the same probe last month:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: There are going to be development, significant developments, before the election. But we're not doing this on the election schedule. We're aware of the election. We're not going to do anything inappropriate before the election.

But we're not being dictated to by this schedule. What's dictating the timing of this are developments in the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I'm thrilled to tell you, on this breaking news, we are joined by Michael Schmidt.

You may recognize him from MSNBC's airwaves. But, more importantly, he's a Pulitzer Prize-winning "New York Times" journalist who's broken so many of the stories we have relied on in our Mueller coverage.

And I can tell you right now he's got a new book out, "Donald Trump V. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President."

Thank you so much for making time on THE BEAT, sir.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: I want to get to your book and all your shoe-leather reporting.

First, your view and the context for what it means to have this Barr-ordered Russia probe sequel having this kind of resignation with this kind of reporting a rumor about the reason?

SCHMIDT: At the most fundamental level, this underscores the problem with the president and the attorney general talking about investigations, because they have stoked interest in this investigation so much, and built it up so much on the right, that, if there is any type of development in it like this, it's looked at as potentially problematic.

And we know that there has been pressure from the president on his attorney general, specifically on this investigation, and we know that Bill Barr has followed what Donald Trump wants more than any of his -- certainly any of his previous attorney generals, and his previous FBI Director Jim Comey.

So, that is the situation that we have here as we look at this news.

MELBER: Yes.

And, as you say, the context is the history and the past, particularly with the attorney general's unusual public statements. The past is the subject of this book, which I think a lot of people are interested in.

I'm just going to read a little passage from one of the ways that you go inside the probe that so many news viewers lived through and remember.

And you talk about how Trump told his top White House counsel, who turned out to be a key Mueller witness, Don McGahn: "There was nothing to worry about, because if it was zeroing in on him, this criminal probe, he would simply settle with Mueller. He would settle the case, as if he were negotiating terms in a lawsuit."

Interesting new details from behind the scenes. What does that reveal? And what else do you think your book shows about this pivotal period?

SCHMIDT: There's a theme that runs through the Trump presidency that I capture in the book about the president not understanding how Washington functioned, whether it was early on in the presidency, where he didn't know what the filibuster was, whether it was early on in the presidency, when he wanted to do things and was told, well, you need Congress for that.

And he says, well, let's just do it, and they will sue us, and they can sue us, or whether it was staring down an existential threat in the Mueller investigation, a criminal investigation, and saying that, if it got close to him, he would settle. The president has a fundamental misunderstanding of Washington.

Now, unlike many of his predecessors and other politicians, he has not changed his behavior because of that. He has tried to bend Washington to his will, and not given up on that, and been undeterred.

MELBER: Yes, and I think you're -- what you show, which is objective, so people can draw their own conclusions, is, he had this approach.

And, in some ways, it violated norms, it defied rules and expectations. And we have featured many people, including some earlier in the program, who talked about why that's so wrong.

On the other hand, the things he did that were technically legal may just expose problems in the system. And then a society, a democracy has to decide whether those things maybe should be illegal, should be crimes.

And I think the objective reporting is really useful for people who care a lot about that.

Michael, I appreciate you coming on THE BEAT, sir.

SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Absolutely.

And, again, the new book, if you want to get it, "Donald Trump V. The United States," by Michael Schmidt is out now.

Up ahead, another important story. You may feel like we have a lot of them tonight. Well, a lot is happening. This is new, a man linked to Rudy Giuliani literally exposed as an active Russian spy. I have that update for you coming up. It's brand-new.

And then later, thrilled to tell you Andre Leon Talley is back for "Fallback Friday" to end the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT.

We have been tracking several big stories here to round out the week. And here is a new one that sounds a little bit like a spy thriller.

The U.S. government, which is, of course, still overseen by the Trump administration, is now revealing a man Giuliani was working with to go after the Bidens is a secret Russian spy.

Now, this was a Ukrainian lawmaker. He studied at the spy school that Putin overseas in Russia. And the Treasury Department has now sanctioned him for interfering in the U.S. election. He is labeled as -- quote -- "an active Russian agent" for conduct going back over a decade. You can't get much clearer than that.

Now, some of this election interference appears to have been facilitated, like so much these days, on camera.

In fact, earlier this year on THE BEAT, we did an extensive report about a conservative media outlet, OAN, and what they were doing with Rudy Giuliani going to Ukraine and why they were putting out this programming about it. And we asked whether it was false or true, whether it was political propaganda.

Rudy Giuliani, you can see, with that now labeled -- quote -- "Russian agent," and the anchor openly talking about what they were doing, trying to find negative information, dirt, true or false, misinformation, whatever, to hurt the Bidens.

This was before Donald Trump was impeached for part of this plot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We sat with him for over three hours. We asked about Burisma.

Joe Biden and Hunter Biden pop up. Tell us how their names are involved in these criminal cases you are looking into.

Derkach goes at length, talking about the political context in which Burisma was operating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That tape looks even worse now.

And the revelation comes after an internal whistle-blower is saying Trump officials also are trying to kneecap any factual reporting about Russia's ongoing meddling.

Apparently, they didn't kneecap the Treasury Department with this sanction.

We wanted to update you on that. We will stay on that story.

But we have a lot more in the program, including, as promised -- what a way to end the week -- Katty Kay's -- I mean, Katty Kay with Andre Leon Talley on "Fallback Friday" -- when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Friday on THE BEAT, and that means it's time to fall back.

We have a special duo, fashion icon and a celebrated journalist longtime "Vogue" editor Andre Leon Talley, a global brand name. He's collaborated with countless innovators in the fashion space, Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs. He was dubbed one of the most famous people in fashion by "The New York Times" and the Mandela of couture in this memorable 2018 documentary "The Gospel According to Andre."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's like a black superhero. He's like Nelson Mandela of couture, the Kofi Annan of what you got on.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, ACTRESS: He was so many things he wasn't supposed to be.

ANDRE LEON TALLEY, FASHION JOURNALIST: You don't get up and say, look, I'm black and I'm proud. You just do it, and, somehow, it impacts the culture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: For the culture.

And Talley is now out with a new book, "The Chiffon Trenches." And our friend Katty Kay, who got her start as a Zimbabwe correspondent for BBC News, where she's now Washington anchor, the former "Times" journalist, also the bestselling author of "The Confidence Code" and "Womeneco" -- "Womenomics." It's like economics, but harder to say.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: She will teach us about it.

Andre Leon Talley and Katty Kay, great to see you both.

TALLEY: Thank you for having us.

KAY: Good to see you.

TALLEY: Thank you for having me. I'm happy to be here.

MELBER: How you doing, Andre? How you doing during this period?

TALLEY: I'm doing great.

I actually like sheltering in and being at home. I don't like -- social distancing is perfect for me.

(LAUGHTER)

TALLEY: I'm just a recluse reading books. I'm reading books and looking at old movies.

MELBER: It's funny, because you're fun to look at. You have been seen on the scene, but some people may not know that you actually like -- you like your downtime.

TALLEY: Oh, I love it.

This summer, I have been reading books. Every morning, I get up, sit on my porch. I try to read one book a week or two.

I have been reading Eddie Glaude Jr. I have got Jon Meacham's book, all these people on MSNBC.

And, Ms. Katty Kay, I have to get your book. I got all the books that MSNBC is pushing.

(LAUGHTER)

TALLEY: And I love them.

MELBER: How about it, Katty?

And I'm going to have to note, in a fashion icon segment, I don't know if you guys planned it, but you both have beautiful shades of yellow going.

Katty.

TALLEY: I would call this mustard. I would Katty's shade moutarde, mustard, moutarde.

KAY: I'm just feeling kind of -- I think this is sort of grossly unfair that I get to be put on a segment with a fashion icon such as Andre, and that just -- no woman should have to do that on a Friday evening, Ari.

(LAUGHTER)

TALLEY: Oh, come on. You're wonderful, Katty.

I watch you all the time on Mika and "Morning Joe." You're great. You're a regular on that show. I always watch.

I watch everything on MSNBC. I'm hooked.

MELBER: Well, we love that.

TALLEY: I'm hooked.

MELBER: And I think, look, for those of us who are staying home more, maybe being on with Andre is an inspiration for all of us to feel like it's a night out.

Now, it is "Fallback Friday."

What's on your list, Andre?

KAY: Yes.

TALLEY: Well, there's this designer of fine jewelry, an Israeli, I think.

And he came up with this mask that's worth $1.5 million in gold and diamonds. Now, I think this would be the perfect mask for the dude at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the first lady...

(LAUGHTER)

TALLEY: ... because they have to have everything big and gaudy, diamonds and platinum.

And so they could both have one mask each, and they could loan it out to Ivanka and Jared, and then they can walk through the Rose Garden on night promenades, midnight promenades in the garden that she refurbished, a la Marie Antoinette.

But it would be Maria Antoinette, because there's a Maria Antonietta syndrome here. And I think -- I love the mask. And I would love to see them have that mask, acquire it, and also have one copy on Air Force One. And it would be taken off at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. And he can also walk around Mar-a-Lago with the mask on.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: Katty...

TALLEY: To belong only to Ivanka and Jared.

MELBER: Katty, I have heard of fan fiction. This is fashion fiction.

KAY: Hey.

MELBER: But what do you think of the bejeweled mask?

KAY: have a small problem with a mask costing quite that much money, when so many people have lost their jobs, because of the reason that we're having to wear that mask.

TALLEY: Yes. Yes.

KAY: But listen, it might suit Mr. Trump very well. It could go.

I can see the bling factor going well.

MELBER: Maybe it was just late, and had they brought that out in February, when he was admitting his lies to Bob Woodward, it might have sweetened the deal for him to...

TALLEY: Absolutely, Ari, absolutely, without question.

Give him a diamond mask, and of course he will put it on.

KAY: Yes.

MELBER: I'm reminded of the biblical story, Andre, where the young baby Moses is going towards the shiny diamonds.

TALLEY: Yes.

MELBER: And the pharaoh thinks that means he will be a threat to the kingdom.

So, the guardian angel pushes him towards the hot coal, because babies, like some call the person in the White House, they like shiny things.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: Now, I want to ask you a serious fashion question, though, while I got you on COVID, Andre, which, is it a good thing that we are seeing, at a more affordable level, designers and others use the mask for a fashion statement, embrace the mask?

TALLEY: It is very important that -- there are people who have wardrobes of masks, and it works.

And I want to cite Nancy Pelosi, because her masks are always coordinated perfectly to her outfit, the color. And I think that a person has a choice of mask.

It only elevates your day, and masks say statements and have word messages. I'm waiting to get my mask via e-mail or sent to me. Look at my mask. It comes from San Francisco. And it's a chintz mask. You see this? This is called a chintz. And I can wash it and put it on.

So, it matches my caftan. Look. So, you have to have a variety.

(LAUGHTER)

TALLEY: And, Katty, I know you probably have a variety of masks. And these things are cheap.

I'm not going for the diamond gold mask. That is something for the Trumps, you know? That is -- and, listen, I heard Jeff Bezos made $13 billion.

KAY: You're right. I...

(CROSSTALK)

TALLEY: Yes. Sorry.

You have to have a wardrobe of masks.

KAY: And it's a great way to use up bits of fabric.

TALLEY: Absolutely.

KAY: You can have all those little scraps of fabric that you have lying around, a great way to use them up.

TALLEY: Absolutely.

MELBER: And, Katty -- I give Katty the last word on this.

Andre makes an important point, which is, people do want to fit in. They do want to be cool. They do want to have free expression.

Can we find ways to do that during what is it obviously a tough year?

KAY: Yes.

I mean, the problem is, we have to get out. I'm talking to you from my basement, right? What's my incentive to try and -- and I love the fact that Andre has done it. I'm going to be sitting at home for the gazillionth time with my kids watching TV tonight.

It would take a will of iron to get me to dress up to do that.

(LAUGHTER)

KAY: So, I'm going to have to drag myself out of my basement, take off my shorts, and find...

(CROSSTALK)

KAY: ... to wear tonight in honor of Andre.

(LAUGHTER)

TALLEY: Thank you, Katty.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: I got to hand the mic to Joy Reid.

I loved seeing you guys together.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Katty Kay, our friend. Andre Leon Talley, good to see you, sir.

TALLEY: Thank you.

Thanks, Katty. Thank you. Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: You bet.

And the book is "The Chiffon Trenches." Check it out.

And we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: It's been quite a week.

I want to thank you for ending it with us right here on THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.

You can always find me on social media, like Facebook or Instagram @AriMelber. And I hope to see you back here Monday night, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, as always.

Right now, it's "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID."

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END

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