PoliticsNation, Monday, March 17th, 2014
Read the transcript from the Monday show
March 17, 2014
Guests: Kendall Coffey, John Cox, Jim Cavanaugh, Emanuel Cleaver
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you
for tuning in.
Tonight`s lead, I`ve got a news flash for the Republicans that are still
obsessing about so-called welfare queens on food stamps. The so-called
takers, the lazy ones, trying to get a free lunch, that`s how some
Republicans talk about the poor, but do you know who they really are?
Today, a dramatic new government report shows 45 percent of food stamp
recipients are children. That`s a total of 20.5 million kids, another nine
percent are elderly, ten percent are disabled adults.
So when Republicans are attacking people on food stamps, that is who
they`re attacking. But nationwide, there`s a new push against this
vilification of the poor. In fact, several governors, including a
Republican, are doing their best to soften the terrible impact of food
stamp cuts. But the GOP leaders, like Speaker Boehner, that`s just another
example of fraud.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It`s the passage of a farm
bill states those to cheat once again on signing up people for food stamps.
And so I would hope that the House would act to try to stop this cheating
and this fraud from continuing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Cheating and fraud? Those governors are taking action to help
real people, including the children we`re learning about in today`s report.
People all across America want a hand up, not a handout. They`re working.
They`re working people, trying to feed their families and make ends meet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am currently on food stamps right now, making only $8
an hour with no increase. I am living in hardship. It is hard, with the
bills, taking care of my family, my 1-year-old daughter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say, by mid- to end of month, I`m almost
empty and then I worry about where I`m going to get my next meal at.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Food stamps are supposed to be helping us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The paycheck I bring in is every two weeks. It`s
about $340. But how is that going to feed a family of four? A gallon of
milk is almost what, $5.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: These people don`t want to be on food stamps. They don`t want
to be poor.
Exactly, one year ago, the RNC released this report, promising that
Republicans would change the way they talk about the poor. But one year
later, we`re still waiting.
Joining me now are Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat from Missouri and
salon.com`s Joan Walsh. Thank you both for being here.
REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: Good to be here. Reverend.
SHARPTON: Congressman Cleaver, almost half of food stamp recipients are
children. How are Republicans vilifying these kids?
CLEAVER: Well, what they`re doing is hoping that the American public will
not be privy to factual information about the program. And if you add all
the people you talked about, the disabled, the veterans, and so forth, it`s
a clear sign that the program is geared toward the needy. And what we find
is that many of the Republicans are focusing on the negative as opposed to
the needy. And it is -- it`s actually making me sick, because as of today,
Reverend, we have not had one single banker prosecuted for almost taking
this country into the worst economic situation in history, as of today, we
had a lot of fraud there, but you don`t hear people talking about that.
Now, you know, Joan, today`s report shows 45 percent of food stamp
recipients are children, nine percent elderly, 10 percent the disabled.
And yet, many on the right continue to demonize the poor. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Self-reliance means if anyone will
not work, neither should he eat.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We don`t want to turn
this safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into
dependency and complacency.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: We need to make sure our government programs
encourage work, not dependency.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don`t we just pay for your clothes, pay for your
shoes, pay for your housing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: As they talk like this, Joan, do the American people understand
they`re talking about almost half of them kids and another nine percent
elderly, and then the disabled?
JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, SALON.COM: No, I`m not sure that they do,
Reverend Al. Because I think that these people, Republicans have really
dominated the rhetoric, they`ve dominated the debate, and Democrats haven`t
fought back as hard as they need to. So, we`ve heard years and years about
welfare cheats and people buying t-bone steaks with their food stamps. FOX
has been running wild with their stories now about alleged fad stamp
And so, you know, on the other hand, you`ve got a rising number of people
in the Republican party suggesting that even children, maybe children
should work, you know. Maybe children, Newt Gingrich said, they should be
janitors in order to get their school lunches. The governor of Maine is
trying to reduce the legal working age to something like 12. This is --
they really are trying -- as I`ve said this on your show before, they`re
trying to repeal the 20th century. They`re trying to repeal the
protections we`ve put in, up to and including child labor laws, so some of
them don`t even care that almost the majority of food stamp recipients are
SHARPTON: And you know, in that light, Congressman Cleaver, the
congressman, the chair of the house budget committee, Congressman Paul
Ryan, talking about tax on the poor, the offensive comments by him has
gotten a lot of attention as we`ve listened to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: We have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in
particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even
thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work. And
so there`s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: And you know, earlier this morning, Congressman, I was reading
Paul Krugman`s column in the day`s "New York Times" about Ryan`s statement.
Let me read to you some of what Krugman wrote.
American conservatism is still, after all these years, largely driven by
claims that liberals are taking away your hard-earned money and giving it
to those people. Since conservatives can`t bring themselves to acknowledge
the reality of what`s happening to opportunity in America, they`re left
with nothing but the old dog whistle.
And he talks about the dog whistle of playing this to those people, race
and class involved, Congressman.
CLEAVER: Yes. Unfortunately, there are those who are still trying to
spread this stinking thinking, where they`re trying to get people to
believe something that`s not a fact. And they keep saying it, even though
it`s true. And Congress needs to be, if they`re willing to try to deal
with the issue of poverty, pass the minimum wage to $10.10. Give
unemployment insurance, because 200,000 of those people who don`t have
insurance today were fighting in a wreck in Afghanistan just a few months
And so, I think we are in a situation now where the Republicans are saying,
we want to give our hands stretched out to the poor, the problem is the
that their palm is closed. And you know, there`s still a chance, bring it
up on the floor. I think people will vote for all of this. The problem is
that their palm is closed. And you know, there is still a chance. Bring
it up on the floor and thinking we are both for all of this. The problem
we also have is that, you know, some of them are stingy. As you know, God
lives a triple giver, but he`ll also take from a whiner.
SHARPTON: Well, that`s true.
You know, Joan, talking about clearing up the prospective of the American
people, though, in today`s "New York Times," they did an article on who
gets the minimum wage. Who`s paid by the minimum wage. And let me quote
from that article to you. It says, "more than half of those who make $9 or
less an hour are 25 or older, while the proportion who are teenagers has
declined to just 17 percent. Today`s low-wage workers are also more
educated, with 41 percent having at least some college." That blows up
this whole thing of young kids are the ones that want the minimum wage and
that these are uneducated --
SHARPTON: Right. This is really important stuff here.
WALSH: They`ve done everything right. I would really urge all of our
viewers to go read that story in "the Times" by Steven Greenhouse. He is a
I also have to say something on St. Patrick`s day, and I love your tie,
You know, Paul Ryan, as an Irish catholic, to hear him say those things
about the inner city culture, everything said about African-Americans,
virtually, was once said about Irish Catholics. We were lazy, we were
drunks, we were bums, we had a culture of poverty.
You know, he says, as people came over during the famine, if you look back
at the history of the famine, the British would not give aid, because they
were afraid of a culture of dependency, dependency on government. It`s
like history is repeating itself, but some of the people who were hurt last
time are the ones during the hurting this time around. And it`s shocking
to me that somebody like Paul Ryan either doesn`t know that history or
doesn`t care about it.
SHARPTON: That is shocking.
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, thank you. Joan, if you liked my tie, you`ll
love my glasses.
Happy St. Patrick`s Day. And thank you both for being on tonight.
Coming up, John Boehner`s swing and miss on Obamacare, with exactly two
weeks left to sign up, the GOP`s attacks on the law have gone from wrong to
Plus, new questions tonight about the pilots of the missing Malaysian
plane. Were they involved? Where is the plane?
And a new day in court for the mom who tried to drive her kids into the
ocean. Does she belong in prison or in a mental hospital? Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Developing news from the White House announcing a major
milestone for Obamacare. But Republicans are getting more desperate and
spreading more misinformation. That`s next.
SHARPTON: With exactly two weeks left to sign up for Obamacare, the
president`s getting into the March madness theory, launching a full court
press to get more people covered.
NBA superstar Lebron James filmed this PSA about the law that will hair
during the NCAA tournament. And the White House is out are a bracket of
its own today, of 16 sweetest reasons to get covered. But while Democrats
are racing to get more people insured, Republicans are playing dirty, using
the same old misinformation about the law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: You`re saying that Obamacare has resulted in a
net loss of insurance?
BOEHNER: I believe that to be the case. When you look at the six million
Americans who have lost their policies, and some, they claim, 4.2 million
people, who have signed up, I don`t know how many have actually paid for
it, that would indicate to me a net loss of people with health insurance
and I actually do believe that to be the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Speaker Boehner might believe it, but that doesn`t make it true.
Most people whose plans were canceled got better ones, or were allowed to
stay on their old plans for at least another year. In fact, "the
Washington Post" fact checker says Speaker Boehner`s whopper claim that he
made deserves four pinocchios.
Just moments ago, the White House announced five million people have
enrolled in health care plans, through their exchanges, five million more
people are covered. And Republicans just keep trying to take cheap shots
at the law. There may not be referees in politics, but if Republicans keep
pushing this nonsense, we`ll keep calling their fouls.
Joining me now are Michelle Cottle and Ryan Grim. Thank you both for being
RYAN GRIM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, HUFFINGTON POST/MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:
Thanks for having me.
MICHELLE COTTLE, WASHINGTON REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST, NEWSWEEK: Thanks,
SHARPTON: Ryan, five million people covered, with two weeks left for
people to sign up, how critical are the next 14 days, Ryan?
GRIM: I think you`re going to see a real surge in signups over the next
two weeks, because, you know, people being people, wait until the last
minute to do basically anything. You know, it wasn`t -- it`s not kicking
in until that anyway, so there`s no real incentive to do it early.
Also, people might think, well, I heard the Web site was kind of screwed
up, so I`ll wait until it works. And in fact, my father-in-law was a die-
hard Republican, just told me yesterday, he`s going to sign up for
Obamacare, one of the last two days. He`s in his early 60s, owns his own
business, and this will kind of be a bridge into Medicare.
SHARPTON: Wait a minute, Ryan. Your father-in-law is a die-hard
Republican and he`s signing up for Obamacare?
GRIM: Yes. I mean, he did not want to, for months, he resisted the idea.
You know, he thought it was socialism, et cetera, et cetera.
SHARPTON: What made him change his mind?
GRIM: Well, he explored all the different options. And, you know, he said
his plan will be about $140 a month. And, you know, you just can`t turn
that down. It`s going to be good coverage. It`s going to be better than
he has now. Right now, he says he doesn`t have hospitalization and the new
plan will have hospitalization. So, you know, he`s going to put all his
ideology aside and he`s going to sign up for it.
SHARPTON: So, Michelle, here you have Ryan`s father-in-law, a Republican,
who thought it was socialism, but now he`s signing up for Obamacare. And
you know Ryan couldn`t lie about his father-in-law, he has to live with his
COTTLE: Exactly. I suspect Ryan`s in-laws are not the only people who
have procrastinated. And if you`ll notice the White House is going after,
in particular, with its, you know, NCAA stuff, it`s going after young
invincibles, because this is really who they need to sign up. It`s the
same people they were targeting with the presidents, between fern`s web
interview they got so much attention. They really want in these last two
weeks to get as many people signed and as many young people signed up as
they can and hit all those targets.
SHARPTON: You know, while Speaker Boehner is spreading misinformation,
Michelle, the head of the Republican national committee is using very ugly
language to go after the law. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, I mean,
Obamacare is complete poison out there in the field. And so the lesson is
going to be, number one, you have to hit your main target, which is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: You know, poison and target, but don`t more people want to keep
the law of fix it than scrap it entirely, Michelle?
COTTLE: People are interested in certain provisions of it. They like the
pre-existing condition provision. They like being able to have their older
kids sign up for this stuff. But this is not the way to win an election
for Republicans by talking about, you know, tinkering with the law.
They`re feeling very optimistic, having won that special in Florida and
they think that bashing Obamacare and still pledging to repeal it is the
way that they`re going to not just increase their numbers in the House, but
take back the Senate. So you will, you know, continue to hear them talking
in terms of poison and hitting these targets.
SHARPTON: Now. let me go back to you, Ryan. The group, the American for
Prosperity, backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, is out with this new
add about a woman in Arkansas who says her plan was canceled. Listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We received a letter from our insurance company, as
of December of 2014, that we would no longer be covered by Blue Cross/Blue
Shield. You think that you`re going to be just one of those unlucky
people, but then to find out that it`s happening to so many.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, the ad isn`t telling the full story, because "the Wall
Street Journal" reports that because more insurance plans were
grandfathered in, quote, "no Arkansas residents have, as of yet, had their
plans canceled due to the health care law." So they`re trying to scare
people away from the law, over something that hasn`t even happened, Ryan.
GRIM: Yes, I don`t think AFP, you know, the Koch brothers` operation,
cares whether or not it`s true. They have -- they`re putting in more money
than any other single group into the midterms. And they`re just going to
blanket the air waves with these ads. And you know, who was it? Lennin
(ph) who said, you know, if you tell a lie often enough, it becomes the
truth. So, it ironic that the Koch brothers would be following along
SHARPTON: Go ahead.
GRIM: No. I mean, you know, they have so much money, that it simply
doesn`t matter. Because Democrats are going to say, look at this "Wall
Street Journal" debunking of this, and that`s not going to reach as many
households in Arkansas as that ad can, in a relatively cheap market.
SHARPTON: But, you know, aside from cheap markets, you know, the fact is,
Michelle, that the American for prosperity are pouring money in all over
the place. They have a $970,000 ad buy in Colorado, $70,000 in Louisiana.
I mean, they`re trying to flood markets. But the fact is, five million.
Let`s look at the positive, five million new Americans are now insured.
Why are we not happy about that, regardless of party?
COTTLE: Well, I think you have a certain segment of the Republican party
that is basically decided that the way forward is to trash this. They know
Obamacare has been very unpopular with the base. And they also know this
is a very kind of big, sprawling, complicated issue. And it`s very easy in
these circumstances to play on people`s fears, to, you know, cite certain
statistics and bury others, to make your case.
And they`re getting away with it. You know, it is absolutely true that
accuracy is not the most important thing in these situations. They going
to be loud, they`re going to flood the air waves, and they are going to
make their message the one that people remember, because they`re playing to
people`s gut level fear about their health care insurance.
SHARPTON: Well, with I think it`s a big deal to me and I`m going to keep
talking about it. Five million people that needed health care, that have
now an opportunity to get it or get a plan that is better. That`s a big
deal. They can`t scream louder than me. Five million. Five million.
Michelle Cottle and Ryan Grim, thank you both for your time tonight.
GRIM: Thank you.
COTTLE: Thanks for having me.
SHARPTON: Coming up, remember when Bobby Jindal rushed to the "Duck
Dynasty`s" defense? Tonight, he`s rushing into our got you zone.
Plus, the mother who drove her three kids into the ocean was back in court
today. Will she be moved out of prison?
And officials say the Malaysia airlines plane was deliberately diverted.
Now there`s a new focus on the two pilots. Who are they? Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Right-wingers sure do love free speech. Just as long as it`s
speech they agree with. Remember how Republicans flocked to "duck dynasty"
star, Phil Robertson, after he made anti-gay and racially charged comments
this an interview? Politicians like Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal wanted
to make sure everyone knew they were birds of a feather.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: The bigger issue is not what he said or
even how he said it. The bigger issue here is about religious liberty,
it`s about the first amendment and the right to speak up and say what you
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: It`s the first amendment, speak up and say what you believe!
Unless, of course, you disagree with Governor Jindal.
This billboard recently went up in Louisiana. It was paid for by a
progressive group, calling out Governor Jindal for not expanding Medicaid.
Mr. Jindal and his allies tried to have the ad removed, but the group
doubled down with a TV ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are Louisiana Republicans trying to take down this
billboard? Maybe they don`t want you to know that when Governor Jindal
refused to expand Medicaid, he said no to more than $1.65 billion in
federal funds and denied health care to 242,000 people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: 242,000 people. That`s how many will be denied health care
because of governor Jindal. So what are Jindal`s allies doing about it?
Suing the group that`s calling them out.
The state is taking Moveon.org to federal court, because its ad parodies a
Louisiana tourism slogan. So when a reality star makes an anti-gay
comment, that`s free speech. But when a political group attacks Jindal`s
viewers on Obamacare, that`s grounds for a lawsuit?
Did Governor Jindal think we wouldn`t notice how he`s stayed silent about
this real attack on free speech? Nice try, but we got you.
SHARPTON: Who are they? When Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 now missing
for more than ten days, there`s a new focus on the two pilots on board.
Could one or both of them be behind the plane`s disappearance? This
footage appears to show the pilot and co-pilot of the missing Malaysian
Airlines plane passing through airport security. NBC News has not verified
the time, date, or source of the video. Today, we also learned that the
final words out of the cockpit came from the plane`s 27-year-old co-pilot.
He showed no signs of trouble, simply saying, "Alright, good night."
But just two minutes later, the transponder which identifies the plane to
civilian radar stopped working. U.S. officials believe it was deliberately
shut down with manual intervention. The last satellite signal received
from the plane nearly seven hours later was somewhere along one of these
two massive arcs. And while the search for the plane has broadened, the
investigation into the people on board has narrowed. This weekend,
officials searched the home of both pilots. Even confiscating the
captain`s personal flight simulator. They`re also looking into the pilot`s
close ties to a Malaysia opposition leader.
So could there be a political motive or could a passenger be the mastermind
behind the plane`s disappearance? At this point, there`s still more
questions than answers.
Joining me are Captain John Cox, a retired airline pilot, and Jim
Cavanaugh, an NBC law enforcement analyst, who`s been deeply involved in
many high-profile investigations, including the Unabomber case. Thank you
both for being on the show tonight.
JIM CAVANAUGH, NBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Thanks, Reverend Al.
CAPT. JOHN COX, FORMER AIRLINE PILOT: My pleasure.
SHARPTON: Captain, Malaysia Airlines officials believe the co-pilot was
the last one to talk to air traffic controllers. What would be the
significance of that?
COX: There`s really no significance in it. The flight crew members swap
duties, depending on different legs, and that just means that the routine
radio transmissions were being handled by the first officer, fully
qualified, and he`s an experienced pilot. So this would be a very routine,
SHARPTON: Now, Jim, if you were leading this investigation, how intently
are you focused on the two captains on onboard the flight?
CAVANAUGH: I would be very intently focused on them, Reverend Al, because
they have the knowledge, they have the skills, they have the opportunity,
they have all the ability to do what was done with the plane, which we now
know from the Malaysian authorities and all the reporting on it that the
flight plan was manually entered and the plane went west. So, you really
have to look at them very, very deeply. You know, hijack is not out of the
question, but it`s easier for a pilot to divert this plane in the manner it
was diverted, and they`re sitting right there. Hijacking complicates the
facts more, and I`m not saying it couldn`t happen. We could discuss that
scenario, but the most likely scenario is pilot complicity, at least one,
to make this play go in this direction.
SHARPTON: Now, Captain Cox, that brings to mind that a second airplane
communications system was also cut. Now, how hard would that have been to
COX: Well, there are two communications systems that are involved here.
One is a transponder, and that feeds data down to civilian radar. It
ceased to function. That may be because of a loss of electricity. The
component itself may have failed or it may have been switched off. But of
greater interest is a data system known as ACARS. And this up links
certain parameters for engine monitoring and some other functions, but it
was disabled, but only partially. In other words, the data stream was
stopped, but the unit stayed in touch with the network, with the satellite
network, and to do that requires very special knowledge and it`s even above
and beyond what a lot of pilots would have. So this level of knowledge is
probably one of the leading clues that we have as far as being substantive.
SHARPTON: Jim, you know, this plane was in there for another seven hours
after its last contact. Isn`t it odd that no one on board tried to send a
message of any kind?
CAVANAUGH: Well, that`s a good point, Reverend Al. I think, you know,
they could be out of reach of a cell tower or anything out in the open sea.
There was one report, I think it`s pretty squishy, that the plane might
have went up to 45,000 feet after it made the western turn. Now, that`s a
little squishy, the facts. But if true, let`s just, for the discussion, if
true, it could be that the evil pilot in control of the aircraft was trying
to, you know, disable the other pilot, the good pilot, who might have been
locked out of the cabin or the flight crew trying to get back in and regain
control of the aircraft and he would take him up in and deprive him of
oxygen, a known pilot maneuver that`s been used by bad guys before as well.
So, we don`t know that to be the fact, what we don`t know that one pilot
could have done this. They would have to had killed or disabled or locked
out the other guy. Because if it`s a suicide plot, you usually don`t do
that with your co-pilot. Generally speaking, it`s an individualize event.
So one pilot could do it, they have all the skills. And the plan, this
airplane`s a mystery. Everybody says it`s a mystery, it`s a mystery. This
was planned to be a mystery, whether it`s suicide or hijacking, it was
planned that way. And that`s why it is so.
SHARPTON: Captain Cox, I saw you moving your head. You wanted to weigh in
on this point?
COX: Yes, we probably need to get back to a little bit of physics. The
Boeing 777, at weight that it was, I don`t believe, is going to be capable
of making 45,000 feet, much less staying there.
SHARPTON: So you don`t think this plane could have made 45,000 -- up to
COX: I think what we may have is an anomalous radar indication, the
triangulation, the trigonometry off just a little bit. I`m very, very
hesitant to draw any conclusions based on the altitudes. I don`t think
we`ve got anywhere close to sufficient underpinning of that data. I am
not, in any way, convinced that that airplane went above the 35,000 foot
cruise that it was whenever this catastrophic event unfolded.
SHARPTON: Let me ask you this. There`s a map going around today that
shows 634 runways in the range that have a runway long enough to land a
777. Is it possible that the plane could have landed?
COX: I think it is remotely possible, but recognize that we have
satellites, we have the ability to look at those 600 and whatever airports,
and none of them have an extra 777 sitting on the ground. This is a large
airplane. This airplane is the size of two-thirds of a football field long
and wider than a football field wide. It is not something you can easily
hide. Consequently, and I also believe that they would have noticed if the
air traffic control radar may not have noticed this airplane, but military
radar would. For it to fly into someone else`s air space unnoticed would
be very, very, very difficult. To me, the evidence points, unfortunately,
to the fact that the airplane is probably in the water.
SHARPTON: John Cox and Jim Cavanaugh, I`m going to have to leave it there.
Thank you both for your time this evening.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Reverend Al.
COX: Up next, a big day in court for the mom who tried to drive her kids
into the ocean.
Disturbing new evidence about what happened to her in jail after she was
Also, we`ll introduce you to the Republican lawmaker who says a member of
the KKK should be able to discriminate on the basis of race. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: It`s time for the Justice Files, the big criminal justice
stories making headlines today.
Joining me now, MSNBC`s legal analyst, Faith Jenkins, and former U.S.
attorney for Southern Florida, Kendall Coffey. We start tonight in Daytona
Beach, Florida, where Ebony Wilkerson, the pregnant mom who drove her three
kids into the ocean, was back in court today. She`s trying to get her $1.2
million bond reduced and her attorneys are asking for her to be moved to a
mental health unit. Prosecutors say she is a danger to the community.
Nearly two weeks ago, Wilkerson drove her van into the ocean in Daytona
Beach, Florida, with her three children inside.
She told police she was trying to get away from her abusive husband. But
bystanders ran to help with water rushing into the car and waves tossing it
around. All three children were pulled safely from the car. One of the
children later, allegedly, told police, mom tried to kill us. Wilkerson
faces charges of attempted murder and child abuse. Today, the judge said
she will not make a ruling until another hearing on March 25th. The
defense is expected to give more precedent for asking to move Wilkerson.
Kendall, she`s in solitary confinement. Should she be moved?
KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER FLORIDA U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think, of course,
she should be moved. She`s pregnant, that`s significant. You`ve got the
health of another life to consider. And it`s clear that there are mental
issues here. Whether she qualifies under Florida`s very, very difficult
standard for legal defense of insanity is one thing. But I think we all
know that inevitably, there are mental issues, mental conditions, and they
should be addressed in the right environment. You can have a locked down
institution, where there`s medical care, where there`s psychiatric care.
That`s what she needs. And by the way, normally, the prisons and jails of
the state of Florida, aren`t really all that great with respect to mental
health issues and mental health treatments. A lot of difficult issues in
the history of Florida in this area.
SHARPTON: Well, what was the precedent here, Faith? Do judges consider
pregnancy in decisions like this?
FAITH JENKINS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Obviously, they have to. Because it`s
not only her health, the health of the defendant, but also of the unborn
child. In our system, you know, we really struggle with cases like this,
because we recognize that people who are truly mentally ill and don`t know
the difference between right and wrong, when they commit crimes, we don`t
treat them the same as we do other people. We`re not supposed to treat
them the same as we do other people who intentionally commit crimes.
But we struggle with cases like this, because it`s a balancing act. We
have to protect society. This woman, obviously, tried to kill her kids.
She has to be protected from even her own children. But when you have a
mother in a situation like that, who commits an act like that, it`s
obviously she`s not in her right state of mind, and she should be in the
best place, where she can get the treatment that she needs.
SHARPTON: The state says Wilkerson was beating her own pregnant stomach
with a fist, and as she seemed to be a danger to herself. But the defense
says she reacted that way because her clothes were taken away, and that she
was locked in solitary confinement. Is she even in a state of mind for
COFFEY: Well, that`s going to be sorted out. There`s going to be,
obviously, expert examination to decide all that. But in the meantime, for
all the reasons you`ve just described, if she was beating herself,
apparently, attempting to do damage to her unborn child, all the more
reasons why she needs to be in an appropriate facility. It can be a
lockdown facility. It`s not going to be some kind, happy place. Believe
me. But it needs to be a place where she can be safe, where the unborn
life can be safe, and where she`s getting some kind of treatment for what
are obviously some very serious mental issues.
SHARPTON: Now, let`s move to the case of Marissa Alexander, who`s now
seeking a new stand your ground hearing. The Florida mother was sentenced
to 20 years for firing what she says was a warning shot at her abusive
husband in 2010. No one was hurt. On Friday, her attorney submitted
documents to reconsider a stand your ground defense, saying critical new
information wasn`t presented at the original hearing. And that new
evidence profoundly undermines the testimony of Alexander`s estranged
husband and his two children.
And the judge didn`t have the chance to consider Alexander`s ex-husband`s
pattern of similar violent acts against his female partners and his
intimidation of witnesses. This all comes down to unequal application of
the law. Marissa Alexander fires a warning shot, no one was hurt, and she
faces 60 years in prison. While others have shot and killed and are
walking free today. Kendall, should Alexander be able to claim she was
simply standing her ground?
COFFEY: Well, it appears that she should be. And it`s good that she`s
getting another hearing. There are going to be some serious credibility
issues raised this time with the three accusing witnesses from last time.
And it appears that there may have been a fundamental misapplication of the
stand your ground law. Because the judge in the last hearing denied stand
your ground immunity, concluded that because she went from the garage back
into the house, that somehow she wasn`t entitled to protection. She should
have taken it. Well, that`s not the law of Florida at all, Reverend. Like
it or not, the heart of stand your ground is that you don`t have to walk
away from trouble. You don`t have to leave a dangerous scene.
SHARPTON: That`s the point, Faith. Everyone knows I`m against stand your
ground. But if you`re going to have it, let`s have it equal. That hope in
the Dunn case was there`s no obligation to retreat. Why is Marissa
Alexander obligated to retreat?
JENKINS: I`ll tell you why, stand your ground seems to work best when you
don`t leave the other person able to stand their ground or even be around.
Because here, Marissa`s husband was able to -- he gave testimony in the
deposition. There`s no dispute that he was an abusive husband.
JENKINS: He gave testimony in the deposition that he put his hands on all
of his babies` mamas and he would have on Marissa, had she not had a gun.
But he`s alive and able to testify --
SHARPTON: This was his statement.
JENKINS: That was his statement. Because he`s alive. And able to testify
as a witness, he testified at the trial to something different. That he
was a victim, that he was in fear, and that he -- that she was not standing
her ground, because she wasn`t in fear, that he was. So that was the main
issue. When you have a witness who`s able to testify against you, this law
seems to not work. It works best when you actually shoot and kill the
other person and they aren`t able to speak out.
SHARPTON: Why is Angela Corey doubling down on this, if in fact, stand
your the ground is a law, and she`s a state attorney, she`s had to argue
in other cases, but clearly, this is a law there that she and other law
enforcement prosecutors in the state have not fought against, Kendall?
COFFEY: Well, and she`s pushing for 60 years, minimum mandatory, if, in
fact, Marissa Alexander is convicted of a shooting of a single bullet that
didn`t hurt anybody. That`s about as aggressive as you can get. Why is
she doing it? Because she thinks she`s going to force Marissa Alexander to
a plea deal. It`s all about leverage that`s holding this massive hammer
over somebody who believes they`re innocent and who may be innocent and
telling them, you better be 100 percent sure you`re going to win, because
if you lose this trial, your life is basically gone.
JENKINS: And it`s not justice. And as a prosecutor, your job first and
foremost is to do justice in your case and this case is not about justice.
SHARPTON: I`m going to have to leave it there. Faith Jenkins and Kendall
Coffey, thank you both for your time.
Coming up, a developing story in the George Washington Bridge scandal.
Tonight, newly released e-mails show a key Christie aide may have had more
involvement than we thought.
And remember when Rand Paul told Rachel Maddow he wanted to modify anti-
discrimination laws? Well, someone else in the party is talking like that
today. How`s that for rebranding? Next.
SHARPTON: A late-breaking development in the Chris Christie bridge
scandal. Newly released e-mails show a key Christie aide, former campaign
Manager Bill Stepien, may have had more involvement than previously known.
One potentially important e-mail came on September 12th, when the lanes
were still closed. Showing that Stepien was kept in the loop about the
closings, specifically he was informed that the mayor of Fort Lee was
complaining about the traffic. Stepien responded, thanks.
Stepien`s lawyer issued a statement dismissing the relevance of the
documents as saying, quote, "Desperate attempt to paint Mr. Stepien as a
central figure in the lane closure controversy. Also released, an e-mail
linking Christie`s chief political strategist Mike Duhaime to discussions
about the lane closings in December." The attorney for state lawmakers
released the e-mails as part of a court filing. We`ll talk to one of the
lawmakers leading the investigation tomorrow night.
SHARPTON: One year since the Republican Party`s autopsy. The RNC chairman
says he sees progress. But it looks like some in the party never saw the
report. Meet South Dakota State Senator Phil Jensen. He believes
businesses should have the right to turn away customers based on their race
or religion. Jensen tells the Rapid City journal, quote, "If someone was a
member of the Ku Klux Klan and they were running a little bakery, for
instance, the majority of us would find it detestable that they refused to
serve blacks. And guess what?"
In a matter of weeks or so, that business would shut down because no one is
going to patronize them. So how is that for rebranding? How is that
rebranding going again? This is only one local state lawmaker saying this.
But what about one of the GOP`s top candidates? Remember what Rand Paul
told my colleague Rachel Maddow in 2010 about modifying anti-discrimination
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: There are ten different titles to the civil
rights act, and nine out of ten deal with public institutions and I`m
absolutely in favor of. One deals with private institutions, and had I
been around, I would have tried to modify that.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So the Woolworth lunch counter should have been allowed
to stay segregated? Sir, just yes or no.
PAUL: What I think would happen -- what I`m saying is, is that I don`t
believe in any discrimination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So, we are one year since the GOP autopsy, I`m all for a party
trying to be more inclusive, but candidates with these views don`t exactly
move the party forward. You can`t equivocate on discrimination. People
have rights, but people have to be protected. That their rights are not
violated by what others believe and deem to be their right to discriminate.
The state must protect the citizens of the country. That`s what makes the
country great. I have the right to believe what I want. I do not have the
right to practice it to deny you your rights. And deny you your ability as
an American citizen like anyone else.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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