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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, September 2, 2020

Guests: Chryl Laird, Heather McGhee

Summary

Erin Brockovich discusses racism and environmental justice. Joe Biden's campaign raises a record $350 million in August. The Trump administration talks up a possible vaccine by November. A key planner in Trump's inauguration criticizes Melania Trump as untrustworthy.

Transcript

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I'm Ari Melber.

And thanks for joining us, as we track these stories now.

Joe Biden raising a record $350 million in August, while Trump under fire for slow-walking a key warning about Russian meddling targeting Joe Biden. And then the vaccine hunt, the Trump administration talking up a possible vaccine by November, but with pushback from Dr. Fauci himself.

Much to cover tonight, but we begin with the measurable news in the 2020 race, signs that August mattered, as over 70 million Americans watched some of the conventions, over 1.6 million people also donating to the Biden campaign. That smashes fund-raising records, with a whopping $365 million total in August, powered partly by the surge of interest from Biden adding Kamala Harris to the ticket.

Now, today Joe Biden says this is about more than the Benjamins; it's about funding his own man and countering the most dishonest president ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I'm having to spend a lot of it on is to counter the lies that are being told by my -- Trump's campaign and swift boaters out there.

What I will spend most of it doing is trying to explain to the American people how I want to unite the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Biden touting unity, while Trump openly embraces conspiracy theories and fear.

Now, today, the president continued to snub any victims of recent police violence, while talking up what he calls the danger of violence in the streets, citing -- quote -- "anarchists, looters and rioters" -- end quote.

The president also made some false statements that we're not repeating in this newscast, because this is a factual program.

But as for the argument, President Trump is launching, basically, a post-convention general election period, what is a time now when everyone tunes in, by defending, literally, the person indicted for murder in Wisconsin and also claiming to be against violence and rioting.

Now, as a factual matter, it's obviously a contradiction.

But, as "The New York Times" is reporting today, what Donald Trump wants is for voters to focus on certain crime, the specter of danger in the suburbs, while he literally supports other crime, be it defending the shooter in Wisconsin -- again, we can't emphasize that enough -- or using his pardon power to spare his own indicted aides, like Roger Stone.

In fact, over 60 percent of Donald Trump's ads now highlight the issue of crime, "The Times" reports, a reflection of the Trump campaign's determination to frame the election around law and order and Biden's ability to keep people safe, rather than around the coronavirus crisis and Trump's leadership.

Now, that is the message amidst new reports that Trump's also seizing on government power to deliver it, corrupting limits on partisanship across the entire federal government. The administration also trying to downplay reports of Russian meddling that targeted Biden.

And, even as the Postal Service partly backed down, a new audit showing ongoing problems that face its handling of ballots by mail. House Democrats responding by dialing up pressure with a subpoena for the postmaster general to demand key evidence about how it will handle ballots that could decide the election.

Let's get into all of it.

I'm joined by Cornell Belcher, who was a pollster for Obama in 2012, Chryl Laird, a professor at Bowdoin College, and Heather McGhee, co-chair of Color of Change, the organization aimed at addressing and changing inequality in America.

Thanks to all of you.

Cornell, as the Obama pollster with a lot of experience on the presidential side, your thoughts on what it means to have Joe Biden raising so much money? Obviously, he can spend it, but it would also seem to reflect more Democratic enthusiasm for his campaign now than, say, a month ago.

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think this is the Senator Harris bounce that you see.

And I really do. I think you see the grassroots of -- and I think you see people who would not typically give to a presidential campaign now giving to a presidential campaign and wanting to be involved in a presidential campaign.

I think this is clearly a Harris bounce for the campaign. And I think it's the energy. And, Ari, you and I have talked about this. I mean, we put too much energy on who's energized.

In the end, we're never going to be more energized than Trump voters, because he's appealing to a narrow swathe of voters. But I think, whether you're energized or not, there's certainly a lot of determination to remove this man from office particularly.

And you're seeing that in the fund-raising numbers.

MELBER: Yes.

And as we just showed in the ads, Heather, the campaigns don't always agree on what's important. Democrats in Congress have certainly put more emphasis on coronavirus and jobs than the president's daily rhetoric.

So it's actually striking that, right now, coming out of the protests in Wisconsin, there's both so much focus on that topic. And, obviously, people think the topic is important. They're just disagreeing on what to do about it.

Here was Joe Biden today talking about making a rare trip, because he hasn't been campaigning out that much in the rest of the country, to Wisconsin. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: What we want to do is we've got to heal. We've got to put things together, bring people together.

And so my purpose in going will be to do just that, to be a positive influence on what's going on, talk about what need be done, and try to see if there's a beginning of a mechanism to bring the folks together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Heather?

HEATHER MCGHEE, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's great that Joe Biden is making this trip to Wisconsin, I think it's wonderful that he's meeting with Jacob Blake's family.

I think the base of the Democratic Party that absolutely has to be not just voting, but overcoming incredible voter suppression and then organizing our friends, which is black voters, we have got to feel like this man understands the pain that our community is feeling.

And, also, I will say, he is spending $45 million on an ad buy about crime and law and order. And Donald Trump is incredibly effective at making people talk about what he wants to talk about.

This huge shift, right, from the absolute manifest overriding priority of the American people, which is, am I going to get sick and die, can my kids go to school, do I have a job, to shift to law and order, crime, to Joe Biden sort of repudiating rioters and looters, Donald Trump has already won this messaging week.

And it's very painful, I think, for black Americans to watch and see this. And so he's got to do a lot, Joe Biden does, in Kenosha. He's really got to show that he can be the kind of president that will make these moments that happen with all too much frequency ones that do feel like healing moments for black and white America.

MELBER: How do you mean that you feel Trump, whether you like it or not, whether you want that outcome, has bested the message this week?

And what do you what specifically do you mean, compared to Biden, Heather?

MCGHEE: So, Joe Biden's message had been almost entirely about the coronavirus and about sort of healing America and solving big problems.

And now the biggest ad buy of his campaign, $45 million, it was reported by "The New York Times," is going to be about law and order and responding to the attacks over the past week that have said that Joe Biden is somehow responsible for violence in the streets, Joe Biden is soft on crime, Joe Biden is basically too soft on black people, and white people should be afraid of black people, and, therefore, white people should be afraid of Joe Biden.

The fact that he feels that he needs to do a big ad buy to counteract that, that he needed to do a big speech most recently to say, you know what, I'm going to be the one to really solve this problem and to sort of point by point counter what Joe -- what Donald Trump was saying, means he's already on Donald Trump's turf.

MELBER: On the turf.

I think it's a great point you make and one that I -- viewers may take a minute to hear, because you might say, well, wait a minute, a lot of these protests, a lot of what Trump's responding to are things that his critics argue are negative about Trump's America.

But, to your point, the topic leads, which builds on what Cornell was saying.

I want to bring in Chryl on this, because this is one of those times I'm actually going to read the headline on the screen, Chryl, not to be too meta, but the president is out this week defending an indicted murderer -- fact -- and then claiming his opponent, Biden, causes violence. That's where we are.

If you were gone for a couple years, if you quarantined for not 14 days, but two or three years, and landed and saw the headline, you would be, wow, that's what's going on in America, whoever the president might be.

I have covered different presidents. They rarely offer justification defenses for people indicted for murder, and then the shift in the blame.

And so I'm curious, Chryl, given your scholarship and your work, what you think about what Americans should take from all this. And to Heather's point, I want to play a little bit more of Joe Biden, where he still sounds at times a little bit at a loss to explain what's wrong with Trump.

He sort of literally out loud will say, gosh, I don't know. It's so terrible. And other people, other of his fellow Democrats may feel that way, but take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Nothing this administration does is normal. And so I'm not being facetious when I say that.

So, who in God's name knows what it was all about? I just don't know.

The only time that I have been on notice is when the president's out of the country and I'm in the country, that -- not that I should wait for something to be immediately be aware of anything, but that's something that might be called for. It wasn't called for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Chryl.

CHRYL LAIRD, PROFESSOR, BOWDOIN COLLEGE: Yes.

No, I think Joe Biden has to be very careful. As was noted by both individuals on the panel, it's something where he has to be careful of how much he plays into the agenda that's being set by Donald Trump, and making sure that he speaks over that then, because there is some contradiction that is going on there, right?

Like, to be defending an individual who did the acts that have happened, and also -- then also calling for law and order, that doesn't necessarily connect.

But, however, the appeal of law and order is something that historically has been brought to bear more than once, right? This is not something that we have never seen before, but, in fact, is very common and has historically been the case, especially coming from the Republican Party, to appeal to law and order.

We saw this happen even if you look back to things like Willie Horton, Dukakis and Bush on crime, and talking about law and order at that time, talking about law and order during the war on drugs, talking about law and order during the civil rights movement, and the pushback against Jim Crow that we were seeing from African-Americans.

MELBER: Now, Chryl...

LAIRD: And so you be careful there, because it is contradictory in a lot of ways, what we're seeing.

MELBER: Chryl...

LAIRD: And Joe Biden has to make sure he ensures that that is coming through to people of where he is.

MELBER: Can I ask you a question?

LAIRD: Yes.

MELBER: Can I ask you a question?

Are you suggesting that Donald Trump is not an original thinker when it comes to just plagiarizing Nixon and Reagan and everybody else's campaigns? I mean, what you're alluding to, and a half-joke, but a serious joke, is that this is nothing new. It's just him taking the playbook, whether or not he even understands the references.

And I guess that goes to, given the scholar you are, what does that tell us, as a society or as Joe Biden, if we have lived the playbook before? And Nixon did benefit politically from a version of law and order against the relief of protests in then the civil rights movement.

LAIRD: Yes, but I think context is important too. Nixon wasn't dealing with a pandemic, right? Like, Nixon wasn't dealing with some of the issues and the concerns that are going to be primary in people's minds.

I think the law and order appeal works well for his base. But I don't know if it's necessarily going to be something that's going to mobilize people to swing towards him, especially individuals who are dealing with the economic challenges that have come about much more so due to the COVID-19 crisis, and less so due to the things that we have seen from the protests.

They have maybe felt discomfort from that, but they're not going to necessarily find themselves economically damaged as a consequence of that, unless they're in some of these key locations.

So, Joe Biden should really point to that and say that this isn't new, but this is something that we have historically heard.

MELBER: Cornell?

BELCHER: And, Ari, if I can jump in here on this, it's brilliant points made by both the panelists. And I'm a little ashamed to be on the panel with them.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Well, Cornell, Cornell, let's be clear. The other two panelists are basically scholarly. I mean, they write. They analyze.

BELCHER: Yes.

MELBER: That's how I know them.

What do you do? You do polls and you helped Obama get elected. It's different.

(LAUGHTER)

BELCHER: That's fair. I'm a hack.

(LAUGHTER)

BELCHER: But, coming from a hack's perspective -- hey, hack lives matter too.

(LAUGHTER)

BELCHER: Coming from a hack's perspective, this is a better position for...

MELBER: Hack lives matter. OK.

(LAUGHTER)

BELCHER: Hack lives matter.

This is a better position for Donald Trump. It is better turf for him to fight on than COVID.

But also -- and, at this point, even economy. But, also, let's be clear. This is not great territory for him. I mean, he's a president who is one of the most corrupt presidents of modern times. I have lost count at how many Trump officials or people associated with Donald Trump have been indicted, pleaded guilty or in jail.

And, look, look at the polling. The polling that is out right now shows that voters actually trust Joe Biden more with dealing with crime and safety. Only 35 percent, I think it was, in a Quinnipiac poll that said Donald Trump makes them feel less -- Donald Trump's presidency will make them feel more safe.

You got a majority of -- in the YouGov poll said -- think that actually a second term for Donald Trump will increase violence. This is a better space for him. But I don't think by a long shot it is a winning space for him, where he has advantages over Joe Biden.

MELBER: Heather?

MCGHEE: I think the most important thing to remember here is that this fight, which seems to be probably, barring any other circumstances we can't anticipate, the sort of closing argument for Donald Trump, which, frankly, was his opening argument.

Before, it was about immigrants being criminals and rapists. Now it's really specifically about black people and white left-wingers, but more really about black people.

It's really the heart of American politics. Let's be clear. When we're talking about crime, we're not talking white-collar corruption, which is powerful people doing what powerful people do.

We are talking about the fundamental fact that the majority of white voters have voted against the Democratic nominee for president since Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Where goes white politics goes the fate of the country.

And this is a fundamental question that they're really trying to peel off a sliver of white voters who've been sold a story, not just for their entire lives, but through generations, honestly, about the need to fear and resent black people and black power.

So it is a fundamental question to white America. Are you going to vote with the future, with your sort of better angels, or will you continue to fall for the siren song of fear and alienation? And that is the question.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Go ahead.

BELCHER: Because that issue scares the living daylights out, because, historically, we know where they have gone.

MCGHEE: It's scary.

LAIRD: It is very -- it can be very scary.

I mean, I think we have to think about where white voters are going to be looking at their positioning right now in the society. And we're also in the midst of, like, a census, right? There's so many things overlapping here, where people -- the threat of the increasing minority population in the United States has been talked about as something that people have been worried about, with the population of white individuals decreasing, or at least not increasing, right?

And so that those types of fears are things that are being played to at this point, and that says a lot about where the campaign for Trump is really trying to focus its attention.

But, again, there's a lot of other things that are going on that are at the focus of people's minds, where some of these appeals will be effective for some individuals, but I don't know if it's going to do as well as it would have done before within the context of something like this pandemic and the other challenges that people are facing day to day, where this may not be their primary focus.

MELBER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: Do we have time for quick point, Ari?

MELBER: Of course, Cornell.

BELCHER: This also speaks to the need for us to expand and rebuild the Obama coalition, because, as your panelists know, Barack Obama didn't win the majority of white voters, right? It was not a post-racial breakthrough.

It was a demographic breakthrough. We got -- in 2008, we got the same percentage of the white vote that John Kerry got on his way to losing. The difference was several million more brown people. And we saw a pullback of those voters in 2016.

If the Democratic Party progressives are not putting the energy and the resources and expanding that electorate and bringing the people of color back into this process, and they're depending on, again, what I think Hillary Clinton was too dependent on, that she would do better among white voters and Barack Obama did, that is, I think, a strategic problem.

MELBER: Yes, all of it really important.

And I think to interplay here, part of the points you're making, Heather being quite blunt and honest about why she thinks Trump has moved the conversation, but also looking at the historical context and, yes, the coalition, and to Chryl's point, whether these appeals work the same when people are living through a recession and a pandemic and there's real-world things going on.

Cornell, Chryl and Heather, thanks to all of you.

We have just a 30-second break, the shortest one in our broadcast. When we come back, we have a lot in the show, including James Carville.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: This is the first official week of the general election, the conventions over. We're headed into Labor Day.

And what that means, in addition to everything we have been discussing in the show and across the news this week, what that means is, Americans who don't follow politics or the news as much are now comparing these two nominees for the first time.

And how do we know that? Well, think about it like this. A few million people watch cable news nightly. Up to about 10 million may watch the nightly news. But over 75 million Americans saw some of the Republican Convention. Over 85 million saw some of the Democratic Convention with Joe Biden.

So that is a huge sea change. And as views are taking shape, there are signs of a tight race in many places that matter. Biden has a small lead in some swing states. Other places are within the margin of error.

And while Donald Trump had a tough summer, there's a forecasting firm that now this week sees rising odds of a Trump reelection, J.P. Morgan telling investors -- quote -- "The momentum in favor of Trump will continue."

Now, famed political strategist James Carville does not think much of Donald Trump or his chances. In fact, just this summer, he was saying Trump's position was so poor, he might not finish the race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CARVILLE, MSNBC ELECTION ANALYST: I think there's a significant chance he doesn't run.

I mean, this thing is going so poorly, he's so far back, it doesn't even -- to me, it doesn't make much sense for him to run.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And James Carville clearly joins us now.

Sir, so far, he is running.

CARVILLE: Right.

MELBER: What do you think of these kind of forecasts that are different from iterative polls, but read all kinds of macro factors and say, rising odds of Trump reelection?

CARVILLE: They're scaring people. They need to just go back and figure out how to make money in the financial sector.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: The truth of the matter is, Trump's at 42 percent in a 80 percent wrong track country.

That's just -- there's such a thing as political physics. And right now, political physics is telling us one thing. Now, there's a lot -- some of these Democrats, they either got to get a diaper or get to work.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: I mean, they're just like falling apart. They might go somewhere.

And all J.P. Morgan is doing is scaring a lot of their investors with this. If the facts change, I will change my mind. But they haven't changed. And like everybody else, I was nervous waiting on these polls coming out today. And they showed very little change.

And, Ari, you know this. At this point, at September 2, 2008, John McCain was ahead of Barack Obama, was ahead, with an incumbent Republican in the White House.

I mean, they're talking 100 -- 1.5 million new donors. I have no idea what that means. Neither does anybody else, because there is no historical precedent for this.

MELBER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: It's never happened before. Right.

But it means something. How much, I don't know. And so I do feel confident.

Look, he's going to try -- of course, they're going to try everything they can. They're going to make it -- as my brother hack pointed out on the previous segment.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Are you calling -- you're calling Cornell your brother hack?

CARVILLE: Well, he calls himself a hack. And I'm a proud hack.

So, Cornell and I, we're brother hacks. They got hacks all over the country.

MELBER: OK.

CARVILLE: But Cornell has seen enough data. And, as he points out, the data coming out now is that Trump -- that Biden is actually better in this.

By the way, you cannot have order without law. And when the White House chief of staff says no one 10 miles outside of Washington cares about the Hatch Act, well, that's just an attack on the law.

I mean, you're a lawyer. You don't get to pick and choose what laws you follow. You really don't.

MELBER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: You're talking about Mark Meadows.

When it was pointed out that they were breaking laws in the way they staged the convention, Mark Meadows said, oh, well, people out in other areas don't care about that. And you're saying, that's a defiance of the rule of law itself?

CARVILLE: Well, of course it is. Of course it is.

And if the White House says, we don't have to follow the law, then some of these people who are appropriately angry and frustrated say, well, they're not following the law. Why do you want me to follow the law?

I mean, it's just a terrible example for everybody. It's a terrible example for young people. And there's no -- you can talk -- you can talk all you want about order, but if there's no law or you have lawlessness like we have, that is not any good.

And I think the public understands that better than we give them credit for. And I think that's why you're seeing the kind of polling numbers you're seeing.

I think we diminish or maybe underappreciate where the American public is now. I think there's as tired of this as some of us are.

MELBER: Interesting.

CARVILLE: I really do that.

MELBER: Well, let's look -- you mentioned law and order. We were talking about this higher in the show.

I haven't had the chance to air some of these ads. And so we're -- this is what a lot of people are seeing. And just as the conventions and debates matter, because so many people see them, ads do have a big impact.

I remember watching "The War Room," where you were sitting there. That's what you were putting your time into. You're sitting there editing the ad over the conference call. I think it was with Mandy.

And you say...

CARVILLE: Mandy Grunwald, sure.

MELBER: Yes.

And you say, no, sir. No, sir. You said, no new taxes. And they say, well, we only have time for two no, sirs. You said, no, it's got to be three.

I mean, you were in every word choice for those ads, right?

CARVILLE: Right.

MELBER: So, with you as ad maker and an expert, let's look at these dueling ads.

CARVILLE: OK. Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Lawless criminals terrorize Kenosha. Joe Biden takes a knee. Biden and the radical left's weak response has led to chaos and violence and their calls for defunding police would make it worse.

BIDEN: Fires are burning. And we have a president who fans the flames. He can't stop the violence, because, for years, he's fomented it.

His failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows how weak he is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Your view of the ads James?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, the Trump ad is out of the 1968 playbook.

One of the things that you know and I know is that, from the early '90s through the Trump present, Trump taking office, there was a significant and really significant drop in crime.

MELBER: Right.

CARVILLE: And what has changed?

I will tell you what's changed. We have changed presidents. And we have a president that has no respect or no interest in following the law. And that sets the entire tone of the country.

We had 16 years of Democratic rule, eight years Republican rule, and you have had consistent drops in crime rates. Now, the people didn't change. The president changed.

And he has -- he's sent a signal that this kind of lawlessness is OK. And I don't think that -- and I understand how people are traumatized by this. I understand why people are concerned by this.

I don't think the 1968 playbook is going to work in 2020. I hope I'm right. I was wrong about him dropping out of the race. But when you make a lot of predictions, sometimes, you're wrong.

But I think, in this one, so far, what I think of this race and the structure of this race has been validated by the latest spate of polls. And like anybody else, I hope it continues, but we will see.

MELBER: Well, James, you know what Yogi Berra said. It's hard to make...

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future.

CARVILLE: Right.

Well, we never -- it never stops me from trying. Like I say, that's what you got to do.

And I do feel confident that the United States is dissatisfied with the current state of American politics. And I feel very confident that they're anxious to make a change.

And I think they will. I really do.

MELBER: All good insights from you, and your love for your -- as you put it, your hack brother. Hack is clearly the word of the day on THE BEAT.

James Carville, always good to see you, sir.

CARVILLE: Thank you. Thank you, Ari. Appreciate it. You bet.

MELBER: Thank you.

CARVILLE: The rule of law. Thank you.

MELBER: There you go.

We have a lot more on tonight's show.

Dr. Fauci making a warning that breaks with the Trump administration's talk on vaccine timing.

Also, this huge story,. Melania Trump's friend and adviser now telling all in a book, recording the first lady and explaining why she thinks she can't be trusted. It was a story Rachel Maddow has been covering, and then also news about personal e-mail use from the first lady, and later on the show, Erin Brockovich.

It's all coming up on THE BEAT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Now to another Trump insider turning on her former employer this time.

It's, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a key planner in Trump's inauguration, who dishes on her criticism of Trump world in a new book and claims Melania Trump is untrustworthy and threw her under the bus after the feds began probing transition spending regarding corruption.

Now, that inaugural committee and its processes are now missing over $40 million -- nearly $40 million. Wolkoff, meanwhile, was just speaking to Rachel last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANIE WINSTON WOLKOFF, AUTHOR, "MELANIA AND ME": Melania and the White House had accused me of criminal activity, had publicly shamed and fired me and made me their scapegoat.

At that moment in time, that's when I pressed record.

She was no longer my friend, and she was willing to let them take me down, and she told me herself that is what -- this is the way it has to be. So I was going to do anything in my power to make sure that I was protected.

And, at first, I really did think maybe she would come to my aid, maybe she would tell the truth. She turned her back. She did. She folded like a deck of cards, and I was shocked when she did it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We're joined now by "New York Times" writer Michelle Goldberg.

This is a familiar pattern. What, in your view, matters about this particular fallout?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the thing that matters the most is clearly the investigation into the inauguration spending, right, which, as far as we know, seems to be ongoing.

And this is more confirmation about how -- that there was something wrong there, right, that there's many millions of dollars that have gone -- that have gone missing.

And so in terms of kind of real-world import, I think that's the most significant thing. I also think it pulls back the curtain on this cultural tendency we have had throughout the nightmare of the Trump administration, which is to project hope onto various figures to act like very -- it's -- I think it's hard for people to accept that you truly have a White House full of unrepentant villains.

And so it's people at certain times try to pretend that there really must be good guys working on the inside, right, or at least people who silently object to what they're part of.

And so people like to pretend, right, that Melania -- that Melania was somehow a prisoner of all this. And even up until the Republican Convention, you saw, after her kind of fairly formulaic speech, there was pundits who were saying that she really showed empathy, that she's maybe different than the other Trumps.

And, clearly, she's not. There's pretty shocking revelations, I think, about her disdain for the children -- disdain and really disregard for the children who were separated from their families at the border, and I think confirmation that when she wore that coat or that jacket that said, "I don't really care, do you?" it was in -- it was what it looked like, right, a reflection of her feelings.

MELBER: Yes.

Well, was it not Maya Angelou who said, when someone's overpriced jacket says something stupid, believe it?

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: Something like that.

The other part that comes up is, again, not shocking, but doesn't mean it should be normalized, which is the e-mails.

We all remember the 2016 e-mail topic. And there have been a parade -- I will say, as a journalist, that the first lady is generally thrust into a different category, because it is a quasi-government position with that support, but it's also a family member who was not -- didn't ask to be appointed. So it is a little different.

Having said that, in fairness, it is a long, long list that now includes Melania Trump and people who did ask to be appointed and who are public stewards and who are taxpayer-funded in the Trump administration that completely are doing exactly what they thrashed Hillary Clinton for.

GOLDBERG: Well, look, I think, at this point, it's pretty clear that the people who howled "Lock her up" at Trump rallies were not actually outraged by poor e-mail server management.

And I think it's also true with the Trumps -- I have said this before -- that really any accusation they make is a secret confession, right? They project all their own crimes and misdemeanors and misdeeds onto other people.

And so I guess, except -- with the exception of birtherism, I can't think of a single thing that Trump has accused of his opponents of that he is not guilty of himself.

MELBER: Well, it's funny you bring that up, because the Trump SoHo actually had a birther problem, Michelle, in that it was not in SoHo.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: That's a true thing.

They were actually sued because they just built it in a cheaper neighborhood, called a Trump SoHo. People who wanted to stay at a Trump property would fly to New York and think they were going to be in SoHo, and they weren't.

And although not the same as birtherism, it was a lie.

GOLDBERG: Look, I have long thought that one problem with the Hillary Clinton campaign is that people in New York didn't understand the extent to which people outside of New York considered Donald Trump a legitimately successful and glamorous businessman, because he was always such a joke here.

And so, like, I mean, it's astonishing that somebody would fly to stay in Trump's SoHo, thinking that was a SoHo destination, but -- right? I mean, everything about this family is kind of ersatz and fraudulent.

MELBER: Yes, put clearly and plainly. And we appreciate it.

Michelle Goldberg, always good to see you.

GOLDBERG: Thank you so much.

MELBER: Thank you.

We have a lot more in tonight's show that we're excited about, including the one and only Erin Brockovich, making her BEAT debut, new book, and she's also discussing racism and environmental justice, something we want to get into tonight.

But, first, an update on a very important story. Dr. Fauci is back on the air and breaking with the Trump administration with a key warning that also relates to the election -- when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: The Trump administration CDC is sending letters to states discussing the prospect of a coronavirus vaccine being ready and thus having distribution centers going by November 1.

Now, that's interesting. But Dr. Fauci, a recognized nonpartisan expert, is actually breaking with the CDC, saying today that, while he is optimistic about a vaccine being potentially ready by the end of the year, he doesn't see November 1, let alone the election, as the timeline.

Fauci also speaking bluntly about this virus, a contrast to the president, and urging everyone to continue to take everything seriously going into flu season.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We're right around 40,000 new cases. That's an unacceptably high baseline. We have got to get it down.

I really want to use this opportunity almost to have a plea to the people in this country to realize that we really still need to get our arms around this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: So, stay vigilant, but a little bit of good news in here, too.

Fauci says that he believes there will be enough data from the vaccine trials that, when it's time, people can feel -- quote -- "comfortable" that a vaccine is safe and effective to implement.

Now, that's an update we wanted to give you.

Up ahead, we look at racism's impact on the environment with our special guest Erin Brockovich -- when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Protests over police brutality in Wisconsin are drawing, of course, national attention, but they're also drawing new figures into a national conversation.

Take this rising star in Democratic politics, 33-year-old Mandela Barnes, the second highest ranking official in Wisconsin. He actually became the state's first black lieutenant governor when he was elected in 2018.

Now, he backs peaceful protests, but is also making waves saying Trump Republicans are -- quote -- "enabling conduct that leaves people dead."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES (D-WI): The people who were killed in Kenosha were protesters. They were killed by people who felt that they had a responsibility to help things.

The National Guards was already there. They didn't need help. Yet these people were free to just walk the streets with long rifles, intimidating people.

I hope that folks do understand that Republicans continue to enable this sort of behavior, the sort of behavior that actually leaves people dead.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MELBER: Barnes using his platform here to speak out.

He also says the reckoning on race must go beyond policing and tackle other problems, like environmental justice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARNES: Black communities are expected to live in more polluted communities, dealing with environmental hazards and toxins and contaminants.

These too are forms of systemic violence. And the social and economic consequences of these deep-seated inequities, they reach every community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Every community.

Now, environmental justice doesn't require any master plan of discrimination. It can range from just broad deregulation, like Trump green-lighting more toxic water than the Obama administration, which then hits poorer committees harder.

Or there's that lead water that made thousands of children sick in Flint, Michigan. Residents just got restitution after six years of battling.

And then, of course, there are policies that do explicitly discriminate, like housing redlining that can illegally push people into areas where they bear the brunt of global warming. Residents of color live in places that are up to 20 degrees hotter in the summer than wealthier white neighborhoods, as "The New York Times" reports.

These are just some of the battles that Erin Brockovich has been fighting. She makes her BEAT debut right now, tonight, of course, known from Julia Roberts portraying her in the film documenting her battle over toxic water, one of many crusades.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These days, everyone wants to hear from the real Erin Brockovich. She's still on the job, investigating environmental hazards across the country.

ERIN BROCKOVICH, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: This school has four times the national average of Hodgkin's than anywhere else in America.

And why is that? That's what they're going to argue in court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Erin continues to fight those battles for the little people against big companies today.

BROCKOVICH: And I'm here for these victims to ensure that they are made whole again.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": I admire you. Like, you're a real-life superhero. You're like water Batman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Water Batman joins us now, Erin Brockovich.

The book, brand-new, "Superman's Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It."

Thanks for being here.

BROCKOVICH: Thank you for having me, Ari. It's good to be here.

MELBER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

So, starting on racial justice, when you see everything happening and what we just saw there in Wisconsin, what's important from your work about countering that?

BROCKOVICH: Well, exactly what the book says. Superman's not coming.

And we do see environmental racism. And they oftentimes bear the brunt of the issue. And it definitely takes longer to fix.

But we're seeing it everywhere. And I think that's one thing that's happening, as we're waking up and you're watching this unfold. It has been years of no action. They have felt they can't speak up. They have been suppressed back not to speak up. There's been socioeconomic factors.

There's been deceptions. There's the idea that they're going to go away. And they have been overlooked. And we are not listening. And I think we're at a moment where we are seeing it, acknowledging it, speaking out against it, and up for it, and getting right down to we, the people, where, if this isn't going to get done, we have to act.

We have to get involved. We have to join together. And we have to make a change.

MELBER: How much of environmental justice in today's global world requires people understanding and regulating what international corporations do?

Because some of them are as powerful as countries, if not more so. They have their own foreign policy. And part of the argument I think you and others have alluded to is, yes, they make money and employ people, and people need jobs.

But, sometimes, what they do is externalize their costs. So we read about this settlement or what it takes to make people whole, and sometimes taxpayers end up footing the bill for that later, while, in the short run, the corporation says, oh, look how much money we made.

BROCKOVICH: Correct.

And we often talk about, we need -- we're doing things kind of ass-backwards that way, if you will, and need to look at some new business models, if you will. And the idea that you have to do it the way you do in order to make money is ridiculous, because the environment is being degraded, people are being harmed, our health is suffering.

And we have got to start putting infrastructure, safety and people first. And when you do that -- I think there's this idea that, if you don't do that, you don't make money, which is ridiculous.

I think that it's like, the gig is up. We're all starting to see what's happening. And it's a business model that doesn't serve any of us moving forward into the future.

And we have neglected putting our money first in infrastructure, safety and people, and then down the line creating horrific scenarios, huge lawsuits, and billions and billions and billions of dollars that should have gone in on the up-front for infrastructure, safety and people first.

MELBER: Understood.

Politically, of course, we all know how polarized so many things are, but it's useful to remember that there were presidents who happened to be Republicans that did a lot for the environmental conservation, Roosevelt. Nixon.

BROCKOVICH: Yes. Yes.

MELBER: And there's nothing automatically -- as far as I understand it, there's nothing automatically conservative or right-wing about being against conservation of the environment or the globe.

Take a look at a little comparison here from Nixon to today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can no longer afford to consider air and water common property, free to be abused by anyone without regard to the consequences.

Instead, we should begin now to treat them as scarce resources, which we are no more free to contaminate than we are free to throw garbage into our neighbor's yard.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Paris climate accord, which was unbelievably expensive to our country, would have crushed American manufacturers.

We stopped the egregious abuse of the Clean Water Act, which extreme activists have used to shut down construction projects all across our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What do you see there in that evolution?

BROCKOVICH: You almost don't seem the same party.

We talk about that speech in my book "Superman's Not Coming." And I don't understand. The politics of it really drives me crazy. I was actually raised by a Republican man who worked for industry and taught me the very value of the environment and water and clean air.

And it's like the party has moved away from that. This should be both sides of the aisle's issue for the common good for all of us. And I think the politic makes a big, big problem in getting that message out.

And we have made some terrible environmental moves, leaving the Paris climate accord, rolling back regulations, and the split. We have somehow got to come back to that middle again, where we aren't -- especially on the issues of water and air, for not only everybody here in our country, but on this entire planet that we all call home.

And it is in peril. Every one of us is experiencing and seeing what's happening, with back-to-back hurricanes, more flooding, rising sea levels, drought on the West Coast, more fires burning hot.

I don't understand why both sides of the aisle -- put down the fight. Get back to your job. Get to the business at hand of the environment, which all of it cannot be sustained without.

MELBER: Right. We only have one Earth.

Look, I appreciate your passion, how long you have worked on this, getting on THE BEAT. I hope you will come back.

And for anyone watching at home who looks up to Erin Brockovich, if you work hard like her, someday, Julia Roberts will play you in a movie, right?

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: That's how it works. It's automatic.

BROCKOVICH: No. No.

We, the people, we are rising up, and we must speak up. There you go.

MELBER: Amen to that.

Let me remind people, as I sign off here, the book is "Superman's Not Coming" by Erin Brockovich.

Thank you, Erin.

We will be right back.

BROCKOVICH: Thank you, Ari.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Thanks for joining us on THE BEAT this evening.

I do want to do one quick thing. Let me dive into our TV graphics for the reminder, because you know you can always DVR THE BEAT. In fact, you can do it right now. On your remote, you just press the cable home page, search Melber or THE BEAT. Press DVR for the show.

We want you to do that, because then you won't miss any episodes of THE BEAT. We even made this special graphic to remind you.

I will be back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

But, 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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