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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, September 3, 2020

Guests: Ellen Weintraub, Doug Jones, Benjamin Crump


Attorney Benjamin Crump discusses the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Senator Doug Jones speaks out. Joe Biden visits Wisconsin and talks to Jacob Blake, a man shot by police in the back. New York police officers are suspended after a controversial death of a restrained man in their custody. New warnings of Russian meddling emerge, as Bill Barr states legal falsehoods in a new interview defending Trump. President Trump suggests voters vote twice this November.


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

Ari, what have you got?

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Nicolle, I have a quick question for you.

WALLACE: Anything.

MELBER: You know many things, including elections.

It's vote once, not twice, right?


WALLACE: Oh, my gosh.

What's so amazing is, unlike you, I'm not a lawyer. But when I can Google that something is against the law, and I can find the law, and then I can even Google whether the law that it breaks is a felony, you have broken a big bad law.

I mean, the notion that this is where we are is staggering. And the question I keep asking is, what do we do? I mean, this is who he is, but what do we do?

MELBER: This is who he is. And he can say what he wants. He has that freedom.

But you're right. And we're going to get into this later in the program. When the attorney general United States backs that up, then you have the government supporting that, that urge to break the law. As you put it, Nicolle, it's surreal stuff.

Always nice to see you, neighbor.

WALLACE: Nice to see you, my friend. Have a good show.

MELBER: All right. Thank you, Nicolle. Always good to see Nicolle Wallace.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

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

Joe Biden talking to Jacob Blake during his Wisconsin trip today. That's after Donald Trump snubbed the Blake family. New York police officers suspended after a very controversial death of a restrained man in their custody. Also, new warnings of Russian meddling, as Bill Barr states legal falsehoods in a new interview defending Trump.

We begin right now with Joe Biden making this rare trip during a pandemic. He went to Kenosha, Wisconsin, a deliberate contrast to Trump's visit this week, where the president snubbed the family of Jacob Blake, but Biden meeting with them, and where Trump emphasized property damage, Biden emphasizing damage to human lives.

Where Trump outlined a potential legal defense for that young man indicted for murdering two protesters, Biden flatly condemning that shooting and all violence on the ground.

Now, the emotional meeting with the Blakes, who are still reeling from when police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back, what you see here serve as something of a shadow president moment, Joe Biden showing through what was an hour-and-a-half discussion with them and community members how he would confront these problems as president.

Now, today, of course, what you're looking at here was Joe Biden as a private citizen and candidate, listening, thinking, engaging. But Biden also spoke by phone to Mr. Blake, who is recovering in his hospital bed.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Had an opportunity to spend some time with Jacob on the phone.

He's out of ICU. We spoke for about 15 minutes.

He talked about how nothing was going to defeat him, how, whether he walked again or not, he was not going to give up.

What I came away with was the overwhelming sense of resilience and optimism that they have about the kind of response they're getting.


MELBER: That is the human side, the recovery, the perseverance.

Now, what about justice and policy? Well, in just a few moments on tonight's show, we're actually going to hear directly from the Blake family representative civil rights lawyer Ben Crump about meeting with Biden, about their view of what justice requires.

On policy, Biden saying there is racial injustice across America, while Trump argues the problem is actually, in his view, the protesters.

Now, most Americans do know there are sharp contrast between these two candidates. But I will tell you tonight, this Wisconsin debate is putting those differences into sharp relief.


BIDEN: I am not pessimistic. I am optimistic about the opportunity if we seize it.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are not acts of peaceful protest, but really domestic terror.

BIDEN: Fear doesn't solve problems. Only hope does.

TRUMP: We have seen tremendous violence. And we will put it out very, very quickly, if given the chance.

BIDEN: A significant portion of the police are decent people. But no one -- there's a lot of bad folks in every organization.

TRUMP: We must give far greater support to our law enforcement.


MELBER: We're joined now to kick things off by Professor Jason Johnson and NBC News' Janell Ross, who is actually live in Kenosha, Wisconsin, outside that very church where Biden attended the community meeting.

Jason, what do you see in this contrast? And what will Americans see going into this election?

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: They're going to see the difference between a president who stokes violence and terrorism and a president who actually goes into try to control a situation.

Joe Biden, it's not just that he met with Jacob Blake's family. He listened. Like Michelle Obama said two weeks ago during the convention, he's a man who actually listens, which is part of being the president of the United States.

Donald Trump didn't just go there and refuse to speak to Jacob Blake's family. Remember his reason why. He didn't want lawyers on the phone. Why are you concerned? You're the president of the United States. You have got Bill Barr.

But you have one candidate who actually cares about how people live. And he also spoke to businesspeople. He was also concerned about the community as a whole. And another who is only stoking racial violence and destruction.

So I hope America sees this, but I hope they also recognize that this manifests itself and policy. One thing I will say really quick, this is also the morning that Biden campaign rolled out their new commercial of, we're listening, where he talked about police reform.

He and Harris said, we're not just visiting these places. But here's how we're going to change the dynamic of policing in America.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, you say like that. We're in it now.

I mean, Janell, you're out there. You have been an analyst, a reporter, an expert for us sometimes in a Zoom studio room, now obviously out there with what this community is going through. And many Democrats, like other candidates, many activists had criticisms of Joe Biden, including his role in the incarceration '94 bill.

I'm curious what you saw, both substantively and politically, in him listening and being there, being on the ground today.

JANELL ROSS, NBC NEWS REPORTER: I think there are a wide range of responses to the vice president's presence here.

There are a number of people who were very happy to see him or felt that it was absolutely necessary that he comes, given that the president had been here and made such a distinct effort or perhaps show of avoiding the Blake family.

I think that the vice president's approach, the former vice president's approach, certainly for those people, was very welcome. There are also people here who I think have a lot of grave concern about the serious things happening with policing in America becoming a sort of political football, and assuring that, in the effort to politically appeal to moderate voters, that the Democratic candidate is not going to avoid making the kinds of commitments that might be necessary legislatively to actually make changes in communities like Kenosha and others around the country.

MELBER: All really important points and nuance there.

Before we bring in Ben Crump, who, as I mentioned, is representing the black family, there's a bit more national business I want to get to with you, Jason.

And that is Governor Cuomo, who has been a very visible Democrat on coronavirus and other issues, speaking in a way that I think, if Donald Trump spoke this way, or his allies did, would earn rightful concern and condemnation.

There's plenty of rhetoric in politics, but he certainly comes close to making it sound like Donald Trump might have a -- quote -- "bodyguard and army"-related security issue if he wants to visit a state in the country. The president, like anyone, can go anywhere.


MELBER: I say that as setup to listening to Governor Cuomo hitting back on Trump's threat to defund certain cities, which he doesn't really have the authority to do. Take a look.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): He better have an army if he thinks he's going to walk down the street in New York.

He can't have enough bodyguards to walk through New York City. People don't want to have anything to do with him. It's more of the same from him. It's cheap. It's political. It's gratuitous. And it's illegal.

But it is another attempt to kill New York City.


MELBER: Jason, tensions are high out there for all the reasons we know. We don't need a president defending an accused murderer, according to the authorities in Wisconsin.

Do we need other politicians, whatever party they may be, bringing up whether someone needs bodyguards?

JOHNSON: You know, here's the thing, Ari.

I think, to me and you, a lot of us in the press, we may hear this and say, oh, my gosh, we're concerned. I think to people who may be New Yorkers, this rhetoric may not locally hit quite the same way.

I mean, look, yes, Cuomo could make some nicer ways to express his concern, but also, look, he's a governor, and he is saying, this president has consistently attacked me. He has attacked my state. He has attacked my citizens. He has threatened not to send equipment here.

If this was a regular way for Governor Cuomo to speak, I would be the first person to say hey, look, that's unnecessary. Nobody needs to walk around with bodyguards.

But as a moment of frustration, after six or seven months of the president of the United States basically attacking his state, I can accept it. I will allow it in this particular situation.

MELBER: And, Janell, before I lose you out there, I did want to put up one interesting statistic we have here.

Polling is early. It moves a lot. But it's striking that the gap, whatever it may be, between Biden and Trump in preference is smaller than the gap over whether Americans simply feel Donald Trump keeps them safe. His ads make that argument, as you know.

But here it is; 50 percent of people say Trump makes them feel less safe. Only 35 percent say more safe. As you are out there, I'm curious how that relates to anything you're hearing from your reporting in Wisconsin.

ROSS: I will say, I certainly have talked to many people who expressed a lot of concern about a general level of chaos that seems to be developing in the country that they do attribute to the president.

I also, however, talk to people here who were 2016 Trump supporters who intend to be 2020 Trump supporters, and who really find a lot of comfort in the idea that he has a particularly strong hand in leading the country or in leading government and is willing to break rules.

So I think that I would say what I found is very much consistent with the polling that you were describing. But it's also important to remember that, right here in Kenosha, Kenosha County went to Donald Trump by 255 votes in 2016.

So the idea that people may have a variety of opinions and be closely split is -- probably remains relevant today.

MELBER: I appreciate you reminding us of the diversity in every sense, a diversity of people, diversity of views, Wisconsin a state many Democrats have carried until Donald Trump on the recent map.

Janell, always appreciate your nuance.

And, Jason, we're going to get more from you later this hour.

We turn now, as promised, to a very newsworthy guest at a serious time, civil rights attorney Ben Crump. He knows many of these issues well. He's also the representative of the Blake family in the room with what we showed you earlier today with the Biden meeting.

Thank you for making time.

What did you see your experience that we and our viewers may not have fully known from just what we saw in the footage? What was going on in that room? What's important to you tonight, sir?


What Jacob Blake's family and Jacob Blake himself experienced with Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden was the embodiment of leadership.

The meeting was hopeful, it was spirited, and, at times very substantive.

Julia Jackson, Jacob's mother, prayed for everybody. His father, Jacob Blake Sr., talked about systematic reform and the fact that we have to do something about this epidemic of systematic racism that continues to see black people killed by the people who are supposed to protect and serve them.

And Joe Biden really talked about his plan. He talked about things he wanted to do, him and Kamala Harris, and that they want to listen and learn from the family.

And then finally the climax was him talking with Jacob Blake Jr. in the hospital room. And Jacob was so optimistic about: I'm not going to give up. I'm not going to give up. Even if I can't walk again, I'm not going to give up on life because my little boys need their daddy.

And it was amazing to see Joe Biden empathize with him. It was just those two having a moment about, I believe in you. I believe in humanity. I believe you're deserving of consideration and prayers, which is a stark contrast to President Trump's visit, as such.

MELBER: Do you think authorities are closer to charges in this case? Or do you believe there may be no charges?

CRUMP: Well, based on the evidence, Ari, I mean, you got eyes. You can look for yourself.

The video shows that Jacob Blake Jr. was never posing a threat to those police officers as he's trying to get away from them, get in his car, and get his little boys out of a volatile situation.

And then you see the police, I mean, hold his T-shirt, shoot seven times at him. And when you look at the video, Ari, you see women and children in the line of fire. And we don't think it was a missed putt, a choke.

This was somebody who had deliberate time to follow him around the car, never de-escalating the situation.

MELBER: Right.

CRUMP: And when you juxtapose that with the young white kid who shot the people, everybody let him walk right by, didn't shoot him in the back, didn't kill him. He was uninjured.

There's two justice systems in America.

MELBER: Two justice systems, which is something we're getting into in the night's show as well, given several of the responses to that.

As you mentioned, the side-by-side of the Wisconsin shooter indicted for a double homicide, apprehended peacefully, walked off that night, despite National Guard and other authorities there.

As you say, the video does not show Mr. Blake armed in any way. Have the authorities -- and I'm going to play some of Attorney General Barr -- but have the authorities indicated to you in any way locally that they have any evidence or believe that Mr. Blake was armed at the time that he was killed -- I mean -- excuse me -- the time he was shot in the back,. yes or no?

CRUMP: No, they have not. In fact...



So, with that fact-check. I want to just -- I'm going to let you respond, sir. But I want to be very clear, because the facts matter.

The most powerful law enforcement official in the nation, Attorney General Barr, just claimed otherwise. Take a look.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Floyd was already subdued, incapacitated, in handcuffs, and was not armed.

In the Jacob case, he was in the midst of committing a felony, and he was armed. So, that's a big difference.


MELBER: He asserts that your client was armed. Is that false? And does the attorney general then have an obligation to correct that?

CRUMP: We believe the attorney general -- Patrick Salvi, B'Ivory LaMarr, and my legal team believe the attorney general is grossly misinformed.

The police were the aggressors from start to finish. And this is by way of video evidence and all the witness accounts. And they were never in a life-or-death situation.

He finishes that...


MELBER: But, just to be clear, just to be clear -- and lawyer to lawyer here, I'm going to push you a little bit.

You say the attorney general is grossly misinformed. So, as an attorney, you're giving him some benefit of the doubt tonight and saying he was misinformed.

If he doesn't retract the statement that's contradicted by the video, then what?

CRUMP: Well, he's the attorney general of the United States. He's the highest law enforcement officer in America.

We can't make him do anything. But we would hope, Ari, that he would take due process of the law for every citizen, even Jacob Blake Jr. and other African-Americans, and say that we deserve equal justice under the law.

And the attorney general can't put his finger on the scales of justice to try to justify yet again another killing of an unarmed black man who's not threatening the police.

These extrajudicial killings of black people in America has to stop, Ari. It has to stop.

MELBER: I appreciate your time and your work on this.

And we did want to get your official response to that, because this is an open case, as you mentioned. This is currently a state case, but there may be federal intervention at some point. And the attorney general seems to be falsely putting a weapon on the individual who was shot that's not on the video, unless he has evidence or knows something we don't know.

So, getting your official response is important. We're obviously going to stay on the case.

Ben Crump, thank you, sir.

CRUMP: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

I want to turn now to a scandal over voting integrity. President Trump discussing absentee voting and now suggesting people could go vote a second time in person.


TRUMP: They will go out, and they will vote, and they're going to have to go and check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way.

And if their system is as good as they say it is, then, obviously, they won't be able to vote.

You send them in, but you go to vote. And if they haven't counted it, you can vote.


MELBER: This is what we were just discussing with Nicolle Wallace, the president wrong to suggest people test the system's accuracy by trying to vote again.

And that has North Carolina election authorities telling people, voting twice is a crime.


GARY SIMS, WAKE COUNTY ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: If you have already voted, you should not be entering the voting enclosure, period, OK?

And if you're going to try to vote again, even the act of trying to vote is a crime. Don't go and try to vote twice. It's a crime.


MELBER: This is a crime, and not some kind of joke.

I want everyone to understand this. While in-person voting crimes are statistically extremely rare, because very few people deliberately take the risk of crime and punishment just to be one of millions of votes, in terms of motive, this is a crime.

And people can and do get in trouble for it. In Texas, Crystal Mason said she didn't realize that she was actually barred from voting in 2016. And a judge hit her with a five-year sentence.

That very harsh sentence is provided for by the law. Any lawyer knows that, which makes Attorney General Barr's new response to this controversy striking. And we're going to play this for you.

If his answer is true, then he might be the most legally ignorant attorney general ever. If his answer is false, meaning knowingly false, and he just knows voting twice is illegal, but doesn't want to admit that his boss would appear to be recommending people break the law heading into the election.


BARR: He's trying to make the point that the ability to monitor this system is not good.

And if it was so good, if you tried to vote a second time, you would be caught, if you voted in person.

I don't know what the law in the particular states say.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Any state that says you can vote twice?

BARR: Well, there's some -- maybe you can change your vote up to a particular time. I don't know what the law is.


MELBER: I don't know what the law is.

I hope you do. You're the attorney general, and it's illegal to vote twice. I can't even believe I'm saying this on the news.

And we want to make sure we focused you towards what's really going on. Beyond the rhetoric about voter fraud, the Trump campaign is already trying to limit voting by mail in many places, in Montana, taking the state to court, one of 19 states Republican groups have sued to limit ballot access in some way.

Now, like some other Trump scandals, it's not actually his opponents that offer the incriminating evidence on the motive. It's Donald Trump himself.


TRUMP: The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you would never have a Republican elected in this country again.


MELBER: Now, how do you protect an election against all of this?

Well, we have a current member of the Federal Election Commission to help us through all of it -- when we're back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: Amidst these voting scandals, we are joined by someone with both expertise and authority, Ellen Weintraub, a current member of the Federal Election Commission, back with us, Jason Johnson.

Commissioner, thank you for being here.

We have discussed some of these issues before, but not a day like this. When you hear the attorney general say he doesn't know whether it's illegal to vote twice, your response is?

ELLEN WEINTRAUB, COMMISSIONER, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: I think everybody knows that it's illegal the vote wise, matter of state law in every state. It's also a matter of federal law.

And since this will be a federal election, anybody who tries to vote twice in this upcoming November election would be guilty of a federal crime, five years, $10,000 fine, potentially. So...


MELBER: Yes, I don't want to make light of any of this.

But, as you emphasize, this is federal law as well.


MELBER: And this is the federal attorney general United States.

Isn't federal law sort of his thing?

WEINTRAUB: One would think.

MELBER: Are you concerned, then, that with the president saying this and the attorney general acting this way, that this undermines their ability to be fair referees, as any government in a democracy has to be?

In addition to trying to win reelection, which they're allowed to do every which political way, the attorney general could be involved in the integrity of the election.

WEINTRAUB: Well, what I'm concerned about is that voters will be confused, that voters will hear information like this, and they will say, oh, well, I guess it's legal to vote twice. Better get both my votes in.

I mean, that's really bad advice. And you're going to get your supporters in trouble if you give them that kind of advice, because it is flat-out illegal. I know the election authorities -- we don't run the election at the Federal Election Commission. It's done at the state and local level.

But I know that the state and local officials are very concerned about this. I saw advisories put out by the North Carolina election officials, by the Michigan election officials. They really want to discourage this.

And they also want to discourage people from gumming up the works by showing up on Election Day after they voted by mail, showing up in person to try and verify that their vote was received. That is not the right way to do it. You're just going to cause longer lines. And stay home. You can check these things online.

If you get your vote in early, you should be fine.

MELBER: Yes, it really is a felony.


MELBER: Oh, go ahead. Sorry.

WEINTRAUB: Once. Get your vote in early once.


Well, who knew that we were going to have to adjust the civic message, which is, choose who you want to vote for. I'm not here to tell you who. But we do encourage people to civically participate and vote. And now, yes, you can append once on it, if we need to.

Jason, I made a point of in my coverage before the break showing that, while rare, these are real laws, And they come with real consequences.


MELBER: And I showed the case of a woman in Texas, an African-American woman, who got a hefty sentence for doing the kind of voter crime that the president appears to be encouraging people, Jason.

JOHNSON: Well, yes.

And notice who those sorts of voter enforcement laws get enforced against, right? Black people.

This is the whole point of what Donald Trump is doing, and I will maintain this. The Trump administration and the Republican Party stopped running a presidential campaign six weeks ago. All they want to do now is suppress. They want to get rid of mailboxes. They want to stop early voting. They want to sue places like Montana and Iowa.

They don't even want white people to vote. And so we have to understand that anything that this president says about voting cannot be trusted. Anything that William Barr says about voting cannot be trusted. The way they are destroying equipment right now at post offices, which is going to make it difficult -- I mean, you're going to have postal workers and election workers working on the weekend as usual.

They will be working for days in order to count the ballots coming in because of what Trump is already doing now. So we have to remember, he is a perpetual liar. Get your votes in early, as soon as you can. And if there's a drop box in your state, that's where you should go.

MELBER: All fair points here.

And, both of you, I appreciate speaking practically about what viewers can do. It's not a time to be confused or apathetic. It's not a time to think, oh, I guess none of this is even going to work.

And there are state authorities that oversee elections. Donald Trump is not personally overseeing the state results.

Also, for extra credit, not required, Commissioner, did you hear Jason artfully slip in a Drake-Future reference?


MELBER: Did you hear it?

WEINTRAUB: I didn't know I was going to get quizzed on music here.

MELBER: You're not. You're welcome to come any time. It's not a requirement.

JOHNSON: It's not a quiz.


MELBER: But Jason, who's a professor, he's artful with it. He did tuck a reference to Drake and Future, "Life Is Good," working on the weekend like usual, in a tribute to the public servants at the post office.

I would say, well done, Jason.

JOHNSON: Yes. Thank you very much. Life is good.


MELBER: Life is good if we work together.

Commissioner, Jason, thanks to both of you.


MELBER: We are going to fit in a break.

And up ahead, we have these new comments from Michelle Obama also about your rights this election, important stuff.

But, before that, Attorney General Barr also saying he doesn't see two justice systems in the U.S. We have a fact-check with a special guest.

Also in tonight's show, important protest brewing out of Rochester, New York. New video of an older incident. We're going to get into all of that. We have the coverage for you in tonight's show.


JOE PRUDE, BROTHER OF DANIEL PRUDE: I placed a phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched.



MELBER: Breaking news tonight: newly released video police brutality out of New York.

The video showing a man in Rochester, New York, Daniel Prude, being restrained during an arrest. You can see, he was naked outside, and he was then held by police. They put a spit bag hood over his head. They pressed his face into the pavement for two minutes.

You can see here him on the ground, not appearing at that time to pose a great threat. He died of asphyxiation. Now, the bag that was used, which you see, can be lawfully used to protect officers from a suspect's fluids.

Prude reportedly said he had COVID. Now, police say this was a lawful arrest.

The video you're seeing, though, is from all the way back in March. This was only released this week, leading to these new protests. And, today, the Rochester mayor, a Democrat, is keeping those seven officers you saw there on payroll, but says they will be suspended pending this investigation.

The New York attorney general's office also investigating. Prude's brother says he was mentally ill and that the police were actually called to help the situation.


PRUDE: I placed a phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched.

How did you sit here and not be directly safe? The man is defenseless, butt-naked on the ground. He's cuffed up already. I mean, come on.

How many more brothers got to die for society to understand that this needs to stop?


MELBER: This needs to stop.

You just heard a family member say it who actually called the police still thinking they might help. You civil rights attorney Ben Crump say it earlier in tonight's broadcast.

This is the question we do keep hearing. And it's not about politics or partisanship. It's about police killing people in America, disproportionately killing black people.

Mr. Prude's voice may be echoing across America night, after the summer of turmoil over, you might say, eerily similar instances of the same evidence of excessive force against Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd.

And, remember, this is important. The killing of Mr. Prude, unarmed, restrained, visibly distressed, that came two months before George Floyd's killing. Like so many reports, it was often minimized by local authorities, until this video finally came out now.

And civil rights experts are stressing how this does reveal the two ongoing separate, unequal justice systems. But the top law enforcement official in the Trump administration, in an interview with several newsmaking remarks, is denying there's any -- quote -- "epidemic" of shooting unarmed black men.


BLITZER: Are there two justice systems here in the United States?

BARR: No, I don't think there are two justice systems.

Let's -- I think that narrative that there's -- that the police are on some epidemic of shooting unarmed black man is simply a false narrative, and also the narrative that that's based on race.


MELBER: We're joined by Jelani Cobb, a "New Yorker" writer and professor at Columbia who has tracked many of these issues with us since this show began.

Your response?

JELANI COBB, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It's just flat-out untrue.

Rather, I should say, that is about as true as his summation of the Mueller report was.

What we see, if we just look at the data, it points to the disproportionality of this. And as I have written and pulled this information, in 2019 -- this is just dealing unarmed people. Of course, with unarmed people, it's a little bit more complicated, because, in lots of cases, people are shot who were technically armed, but they're in open carry states.

But if we just remove all of those cases, we'd see that there were 14 unarmed African-Americans killed in 2019. And they constituted about 36 percent of the number of unarmed people who were killed. African-Americans only represent 13 percent of the population. And so you can see it's vastly overrepresented in those numbers.

And to the extent that you can say anything in defense of Mr. Barr's comments, it's not that African-Americans are shot by the police less than we anticipated. It's that white people have shot much more than we anticipated.

And so, when we see, in this country, we average about 1,000 police fatalities a year, which is an astounding number, compared to the U.K., which has about 20 percent of our population, and they have about three or four people who are shot each year fatally by the police. Canada, which has a little bit less than 10 percent of our population, they have about 30 fatal shootings per year.

So, we are wildly disproportionately represented in this, in simply saying the police in the United States seem not to know how to reconcile or how to de-escalate situations without the use of firearms...

MELBER: Well, as you say...

COBB: And that falls disproportionately (AUDIO GAP) African-Americans.


And, as you say, in the Rochester case, if you care about policy and policing, it's a family member who called. That immediately gives a context that there is not an individual even claiming to be a potential victim or saying they have identified, even potentially misidentified unknown danger, a stranger intruding.

There's someone saying, hey, let me identify, in this case, according to the evidence, that their brother has a mental health challenge, is naked in the street, does not visibly pose the legal requirement of a deadly threat, indeed looks more like potentially a danger to themselves.

I also appreciate, Jelani, the point you raise that there is a problem with systemic racism, and it operates inside a larger structure of a very harsh justice system...'

COBB: Right.

MELBER: ... that disproportionately affects on race and class, but also is just very harsh.

And the point I made in introducing this, it's a bipartisan, if you want, or nonpartisan problem in America. This is out of New York. The Rochester mayor's a Democrat, as I mentioned.

We will play briefly the claim there. Take a listen.


LOVELY WARREN (D), MAYOR OF ROCHESTER, NEW YORK: After our police department responded to the 911 call on March 23. I was informed later that day by Chief Singletary that Mr. Prude had an apparent drug overdose while in custody.

Chief Singletary never informed me of the actions of his officers to forcibly restrain Mr. Prude.


MELBER: And so for anyone who has perceptions or assumptions about it, this is systemic, in the sense that, even if you have people who are involved and may run on -- Democrats have run, some of them recently, on more reform.

COBB: That's right.

MELBER: But, systemically, unless the videos and the evidence is actually being sorted in a manner that goes above and beyond taking the police's word for it, if the mayor is accurate, her claim, Jelani, is that the police were basically lying about this in-custody death.

COBB: Sure.

But if you're the mayor of the city, and you don't know, then you certainly should know. And we have seen that police reports are not to be trusted on face value about matters like this. And this is just -- I mean, as journalists, I tell my students all the time the police report is one tool that you use in reporting a story, but we don't take their reports as gospel.

And so it's surprising to hear a mayor say that this is why she didn't understand it and know what happened.

But, to your earlier point, mental distress calls are one of the worst circumstances to call police to. We just -- just stories abound of people who are in mental health crisis, who are fired upon by police.

They simply don't have the tools and the training or, in many instances, the disposition to handle these cases in the way in which they should be handled.

There are instances of police who've been called to subdue people in crisis in hospitals and shot them in the hospital. And so we see these kinds of problems again and again and again. It's one of the reasons that people think that -- the defund the police people believe that there should be other entities that handle these kinds of calls.

MELBER: Yes, all very important points, particularly the nuance you mentioned that is part of, but also broader than even the racial justice dialogue that America has been trying to have this summer.

Jelani, always good to see you, sir.

COBB: Thank you.

MELBER: Up ahead, we get into a big race.

Senator Doug Jones, Democrat in Alabama, joins me live and has words for Mitch McConnell -- when we come back.


MELBER: Senator Doug Jones of Alabama joins me live on THE BEAT.

Thanks for being here, sir.

SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): Hey, it's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Let's start with a big issue of for so many Americans, including your constituents, Mitch McConnell making waves here, saying he doesn't know if they will even be any other COVID relief package or not.

Is that acceptable in your state?

JONES: No, it's not acceptable. And it shouldn't be acceptable to Americans.

I mean, I can't -- whether we have a COVID package or not is going to depend almost entirely on Mitch McConnell. Democrats, like myself and others, have been talking and trying to get something done for months now.

The HEROES Act was passed by the House in May. And that -- and it was not a perfect bill, by any stretch, but it provided the framework. We knew this virus was going to be with us. We knew that PPP was going to run out. We knew unemployment was going to run out.

We knew that schools was going to -- were going to start opening. And yet McConnell just sat on it. It is an unconscionable failure of leadership on his part.

We can get something done. But he's got to sit down and talk and be willing to. Let's what we did with this CARES package and find the common ground on a broad range of issues.

MELBER: How do you get that across in what we all know is quite a red state? You're in MAGA country.

And we hear from a lot of Trump supporters, hey, Trump's trying, he did an executive order, he pulled this and that string. What do you say to them?

JONES: I tell them, he didn't try at all.

He provided a few odds and ends. For two-and-a-half months, he didn't come to the table at all. He didn't send the secretary of the Treasury. He didn't send his chief of staff. He didn't attempt to talk about this. He pretended that the virus was going to go away.

He kept using -- talking about hydroxychloroquine and things like that. He did not want to talk about unemployment compensation. He didn't want to talk about the cities and counties. He didn't want to do anything that -- until right before we were to leave.

And then, all of a sudden, they sit down. But they didn't talk at all. They just simply said, it's our way or the highway, take it or leave it.

And Democrats and myself were just not -- that was just not an acceptable way to do it. They left out so much of what they were proposing.

MELBER: Your opponent in this race clearly is betting on hugging Donald Trump. Take a look.


TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R), ALABAMA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm ready to fight for Alabama. As your senator, I will have President Trump's back.

Week-kneed career politicians aren't tough enough to stand with President Trump. But I am.


MELBER: It's politics, so I will let you answer the question, Senator.

According your opponent, are you just too -- quote -- "weak" to stand with Trump? Or what's your rebuttal?

JONES: I think the question is, are you strong enough to pull against him and push back when he's doing things that hurt Alabama, when he's doing things like he's talking about this year in not giving another package for unemployment benefits and extending unemployment benefits?

When he's doing things that hurt Alabama, the question is, whose back are you going to have? You going to have his, or are you going to have the people of Alabama?

I think -- I have got a two-and-a-half year record of representing all the people in Alabama, not that they agree with me on everything. But they know I have got their back. And so that's the question. Who's going to be strong enough to push back against a President Trump or a President Biden to stand for the people of Alabama?

MELBER: And, finally, your opponent, who's known for football, for his business dealings, and all's fair there. You want voters to know about his history, but what are you really getting at?

You got an ad that talks about he was in a hedge fund that settled a case. But are you fundamentally saying that he's corrupt, that he's a con man, or what are you saying to voters?

JONES: No, what I'm saying is that he didn't pay attention. He didn't care.

He ended up -- he was in this to make money. He had one other person that formed this hedge fund. And he let this person -- that he solicited money primarily from some of the Auburn family, from parents, from retirees. He solicited these funds, but then just let this guy, who he didn't do any due diligence on, take it, run with it.

And the money was lost. They were defrauded. So, what he did was breach a duty to the investors. He was right there, a 50 percent partner, and he was -- he decided to just ignore it.

Well, if you can't trust his -- if his own investors can't trust him to help manage the money, which he said he was going to do, as the managing partner, how can the people of Alabama trust him to do what's right by the people of Alabama, as opposed to just simply what maybe Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell tell him to do?

You have got to exercise some independent judgment. He said he didn't have a clue about the pandemic, he didn't have a clue about stocks and bonds.

I'm not sure he has a clue about the functions of the United States Senate.

MELBER: But he is good at football stuff?

JONES: Well, he has been OK.

Remember, he had -- he got kind of fired by his last two out of three jobs at Auburn. And then he left at Texas Tech. But then he kind of got fired from Cincinnati. So, there's kind of a mixed bag there as his football career.

MELBER: I will tell you, Senator Jones, it's your first time on the program as you run. I hope you will come back.

People say about you sometimes that you're moderate, but you seem pretty tough in the way you're waging this race. I'm sure a lot of Democrats appreciate that, as they root for you.

And I appreciate you coming on the show, sir.

JONES: Hey, it's my pleasure. You have me back anytime. Appreciate it.

MELBER: Yes, sir. We will do it, Senator Doug Jones.

We will fit in a break.

When we come back, what I told you you're going to hear, Michelle Obama speaking out on voting and the consequences of anyone who thinks they could sit out this election.

That's in tonight's show.

But, first, when we come back now, Democrats bluntly telling Donald Trump, it's past time to get tough on Putin, and why Facebook is under fire again. We will get to that.


MELBER: Facebook sounding the alarm about more Russian meddling after receiving a tip from the FBI. The idea is that Russians are targeting Americans with disinformation.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg out now with the company's response.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, FACEBOOK: We're going to block new political and issue ads in the last week of the campaign.

If someone is kind of dumping some new information, if it's misinformation in the last days of the election, well, there may not be time for the normal kind of debate and process to play out.

And that's why I think it's important to have extra restrictions in the last week.


MELBER: This idea is a pause heading into the final days.

Facebook taking a lot of heat, though, for the response.

Meanwhile, in Congress, Democrats telling Trump it's time to get tougher on Putin, calling on the administration to impose actual sanctions, given this now ongoing and publicized interference.

Democrats argue, Donald Trump's not even pretending to defend America's interests here, making it all the more crucial, when it comes to Facebook or anything you do online, that you stay vigilant and informed every time you log on.

When we come back, as promised, Michelle Obama on voting and hard truths.



MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: There are folks who want nothing more than for you and all of your friends and all your neighbors to stay home this election, because they want to be the ones making the decisions that affect your lives.


MELBER: Michelle Obama speaking out starkly about the importance of voting.

This was a virtual rally, and it came into us just late tonight. The former first lady also reminding people just how close elections can be.


OBAMA: Because the margin of victory or loss in elections are so small, in the last election, in one of the swing states, I reminded people it was two votes per precinct.

And I want you all to sit with that truth.


MELBER: Sit with that truth.

She gets the last word tonight. The Obamas know elections. And when it comes to Democrats, they know about winning elections.

I will see you tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.



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