UP with STEVE KORNACKI
August 16, 2014
Guest: Amanda Sakuma, James Cavanaugh, Ben Jealous, Tony Plohetski, Joy
Reid, Evan McMorris-Santoro, Lynn Sweet, Lizz Brown, Dave Helling, Hank
Johnson, Stephen Ryals, Jerry Nadler, Charles Dent, Norm Ornstein
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI": One more night of
protests and looting in Ferguson and two felony indictments against a
Good morning and thanks for getting up early with us this Saturday morning.
Last night brought news from Texas that a grand jury has indicted Governor
Rick Perry on two felony counts of abuse of power. The case against the
2012 and potential 2016 presidential candidate is controversial to say the
least. We`ll be breaking down what`s in the indictment, whether it will
hold up in court and what penalties Perry might face if he`s convicted in
just a bit.
But we start this morning with the events overnight in Ferguson, Missouri,
where the calm that had prevailed since the state police took over was
broken by more unrest and looting. Hundreds of people gathered for a sixth
straight night to protest last weekend`s police shooting of an unarmed
teenager named Michael Brown. Protesters marched in the rain to the site
where Brown was killed as well as to the store that Brown is alleged to
have robbed. One NBC producer on the ground last night said he witnessed a
member of the crowd throwing either a rock or a bottle at the uniformed
officers outside the convenience store in the standoff that followed cops
are believed to have fired at least one tear gas canister.
Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson has confirmed there was looting
overnight at the convenience store. Other protesters attempted to set fire
to a pizza restaurant. The restaurant suffered minimal damage, no arrests
were made and three officers suffered minor injuries.
MSNBC.com`s Amanda Sakuma is live in Ferguson for us this morning. Good
morning to you Amanda. So, let me just start with, you know, yesterday
coming off of Thursday night we were talking about what a sea change it was
both in the tone of the police, the response from the crowds. Now this
morning on the wake of Friday night the headlines are a little different.
And can you just take us through exactly what happened in Ferguson
AMANDA SAKUMA, MSNBC.COM: Exactly. Even throughout the day yesterday, the
protesters were largely peaceful. People were gathering even as they heard
from officials the official name of the police officer who was responsible
for Michael Brown`s death. But as the night turned, as did the protests.
Many of the protesters out there were -- it split into many different
factions at a point. There were several protesters who came out later in
the night. Now, remember, this is a Friday night. The crowd was getting
increasingly younger as the night went on. And then shortly before
midnight was when police officers were said that they -- the objects were
being thrown at officials and as rocks and potentially plastic bottles were
And that is when the police presence went from being a relatively small
presence in the area to transitioning to we see the full riot gear. There
were armored vehicles there. Now, when we were at the looting site, at the
convenience store and liquor store where there were looters, it`s worth
mentioning that there were a number of protesters who came out and made a
human barricade in front of the doors. They were saying, man, you`re
better than this. You do not want to be doing this. And for a while they
were very successful in making it so that more people could not go through
the door`s entrance.
KORNACKI: Well, Amanda, I`m reading an article you have up on MSNBC.com
right now because you were with Tremaine Lee (ph) and you are quoted one
resident I think this might have been a protester surveying that senior
describing and said to you, I guess, when the people are peaceful, the
police throw the tear gas. When there`s a riot, they just sit back. It
made me wonder are people out there dissatisfied with the police response
to what you`re describing that played out last night?
SAKUMA: They -- they`re very dissatisfied with the response coming out
especially with, we`re not only did we learn that the police officer`s name
who is responsible for Michael Brown`s death but also in releasing the
surveillance video of the alleged theft that they say that he was involved
in. Many of the protesters here say that the numbers don`t add up and
they`re very fraught with anger over the timing of the release of the tape
and they are dissatisfied with what they`re seeing on the ground.
And so what was interesting about last night is that liquor store that was
being looted just yards away, there were four, maybe five armored vehicles
just standing there slowly. You could hear in the overcome that police
officials were saying please disperse, please go home, this is for your own
safety, please leave the area.
KORNACKI: Right. MSNBC there comes Amanda Sakuma live on the ground for
us in Ferguson, Missouri this morning, I appreciate that, Amanda.
And it was one week ago today that unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was
shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson shocking the people in that St.
Louis suburb and people across the country as well. The next day the St.
Louis County police chief said Brown had assaulted the police officer while
being stopped while walking down the street with a friend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BELMAR, ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE CHIEF: In fact, one of those
individuals at the time came into -- as the officer was exiting his police
car allegedly pushed the police officer back into the car where he
physically assaulted the police officer. It is our understanding at this
point in the investigation that within the police car there was a struggle
over the officer`s weapon. There was at least one shot fired within the
car. After that, the officer went -- came back out of the car. He exited
his vehicle, and there was a shooting that occurred where the officer, in
fact, shot the subject.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And later that evening a candlelight vigil for the slain teen
turned violent. Local businesses were looted, vandalized and burned to the
ground the first of several nights of unrest on the streets of Ferguson.
Tensions rose as community members demanded transparency in Brown`s death.
Why was he killed? What was the name of the police officer who killed him?
By Wednesday the city of Ferguson called for the growing protest to be held
during the day time.
As night fell that night police in riot gear launched tear gas canisters
and shot rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Also caught on tape, police
throwing tear gas at an Al Jazeera American news crew and then taking down
their light and pointing their cameras to the ground. A reporter from "The
Washington Post" and one from the "Huffington Post" both detained in
McDonald`s where they were working.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OFFICER: Grab your staff. Let`s go.
WESLEY LOWERY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I`m working on it.
OFFICER: Stop videotaping. Let`s grab our stuff and go.
LOWERY: I don`t have the right to videotape you sir?
OFFICER: Hurry up, let`s go.
LOWERY: Please don`t wave your gun at me.
OFFICER: Let`s go.
LOWERY: You see me working on it. Please do not tell me not to use my
OFFICER: Time to go. Let`s go.
LOWERY: Please don`t wave the gun at me.
OFFICER: We`re down to about 45 seconds. Let`s go!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: As those images were broadcast around the country and as the
stories from Ferguson made their way around the world President Obama
weighed in from his vacation in Martha`s Vineyard the next day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When something like this
happens, the local authorities including the police have a responsibility
to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death and
how they are protecting the people in their communities. There is never an
excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy
as a cover for vandalism or looting. There`s also no excuse for police to
use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in
jail for lawfully exercising their first amendment rights and here in the
United States of America police should not be bullying or arresting
journalists who are just trying to do their jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And President Obama also spoke with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon
who later in the day announced that the town security would be handed over
to Missouri Highway Patrol which is headed up by Ferguson native named
Captain Ron Johnson and on Thursday evening Johnson and his officers
marched with the protesters. There was not a single arrest that night,
peaceful protests sprung up around the country calling for answers on the
circumstances surrounding Michael Brown`s killing.
On Friday morning, yesterday morning, police finally released the name of
the officer who shot Michael Brown, his name is Darren Wilson, he`s a six-
year veteran of the force, the police did not release a picture of Officer
Wilson, they also withheld the two incident reports on the shooting. What
they did release however was an incident report on a convenience store
robbery that happened 16 minutes before the shooting saying that Brown was
the prime suspect in that robbery.
Police also released a surveillance video and stills from the convenient
store showing what police believed to be Michael Brown stealing cigars from
the convenience store and then pushing the clerk who tried to stop him.
Later in the day though, the Ferguson police chief clarified that they did
not know if the robbery had any connection to the deadly confrontation with
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The officer involved in the shooting, was he aware of
the robbery call?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I don`t know. I don`t know what came out in his
interview. I know his initial contact was not related to the robbery.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: At this point why did he stop Michael Brown?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Because they were walking down the middle of the street
blocking traffic. That was it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: After that, however, the police chief did try to clarify. He
then changed his story again and seemed to say that the officer had seen
cigars in the hands of Michael Brown and then made the connection on the
scene. Anyway, last night in Ferguson we had all the scenes that we just
mentioned that included looting and firing at least one canister of tear
Joining me now is law enforcement analyst and retired ATF Special Agent
James Cavanaugh. Yet, the Department of Justice also have their own
investigations in the Brown`s death underway. But Jim, I want to start
with the confusion yesterday that resulted from the police giving --
releasing this video in the morning and the clear implication when they
released that video was that there`s some connection here and then the
police chief comes out and says, well, no, there`s no connection.
The officer stopped him essentially for jaywalking and then after that
press conference the police chief seems to clarify again and seems to say,
well, no, actually, the officer stopped him and then saw cigars in his hand
and then made the connection. Based on what we`ve seen, based on the story
the police have told right now, I guess it raises a simple question of,
would the tape even be admissible in court?
JAMES CAVANAUGH, LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Probably not. I mean, it
matters not what Michael -- I`m sorry, Michael Brown did at the convenience
store. It doesn`t matter if he`d just been anointed a saint or his
burglarized every home in the city, it matters not because the conversation
with the officer stands on the facts right there whether the shooting is
justified or unjustified. And from one of the witness` statement Dorian
Michael Brown`s friend, you know, the officer told him to get on the
sidewalk and cursed at him. And so, you know, those facts seem consistent
that the officer said something to him, probably something ugly to him, to
get on the sidewalk and that`s where the interaction started.
So the cigar theft, the strong-armed robbery, which that is a strong-armed
robbery and Dorian, which is Michael Brown`s friend, his attorney I believe
has made a public statement that they`ve told the FBI that yes, they took
the cigars or at least Michael took the cigars because I think Dorian put
the cigars back. So, I don`t think that`s in dispute that that occurred at
the store but it doesn`t really mean anything in the context of whether
this is an unjustified shooting by the officer.
KORNACKI: And I think the other question and maybe you can shed some light
on it from the law enforcement standpoint, the justification from the
police standpoint of not releasing the incident reports involving the
shooting of Michael Brown, because as they put out the video, they put out
the stills, they put out the incident report from the convenience store,
but everybody is saying, well, OK, what about the shooting that took place?
What`s the justification for not releasing that at this point?
CAVANAUGH: Yes. Well, the justification for that in the minds of the
investigators and the prosecutors is that, you know, it`s still an ongoing
investigation. But the problem with that is what should have already
happened and what should happen quickly which I`m sorry to say is not
happening is warrant should be issued for the officer for the shooting
whether that`s a state, murder, manslaughter charge or a federal civil
rights violation under color of law or denying someone their civil rights,
that should have already happened. Look, we`re on a search here for
something that`s not going to change the event.
While from Times Square to Oakland, we`re having demonstrations and police
mobilized and still having looters and Molotov cocktails on a small scale
last night in Ferguson, it`s less than one percent of one percent of the
people of Ferguson doing that but it still occurred on a minor scale. Now,
the police response with the state trooper commander in charge was much
better couple of nights. Last night there was small incident and the
police were much more restrained but the angst will continue until justice
begins and the justice begins when the charge is preferred.
There are three witnesses Steve, we`ve seen on NBC all the anchors have
interviewed, Lawrence O`Donnell interviewed one the other night. Chris
Hayes has interviewed them, all of the people have interviewed this --
three eyewitnesses. Now, could there be more? Maybe. But there`s not
going to be less than three. We know who had the firearm. We have the
autopsy. We have the bullets. You know, we have the circumstances from
the police. This is not a mystery. This is not a mystery.
KORNACKI: No, I take your point. There`s strong reason to move forward.
Anyway, my thanks to law enforcement analyst James Cavanaugh. I appreciate
the time this morning. I want to turn now to former NCAA President Ben
Jealous. So, Ben, I may pick up on the point that I guess Jim was just
making. He`s saying, look, we`ve got some eyewitness testimony certainly
in the public arena that`s emerged and obviously, you have the
circumstances that are known, because the incident report that is not out
When you look at the response from the police yesterday, this sort of
conflicting stories from the police yesterday, are you confident as you
look forward towards these investigations that are taking place right now
one by the county police and one by the Justice Department, the FBI, are
you confident that this is going to get satisfactory answers?
BEN JEALOUS, FORMER PRESIDENT, NAACP: No. You know, look, I think we will
find ourselves at some point in a conversation about actually how the cops
in this town treat this town. I mean, the chief -- folks haven`t asked the
question whether this chief should be fired yet. They will soon be asking
it because every time he gets in front of a mic, he seems to actually
provoke this community. Across the country on cop cars it says that they
are there to respect and protect. Well, you can`t protect unless had you
And the fact and the fact that, you know, we`ve seen him come out, you
know, with these stories that conflict, you know, not naming the officer
for days, provoking, provoking, provoking and then naming the officer and
in the same breath trying to indict the victim`s character, it`s a -- you
know, we need the chief to actually calm things down not ramp things up.
And if that is who is actually leading the cops, then we`ve got to be very
worried about -- about --
KORNACKI: Ben, I wonder, what do you think the reason was or the motive
was for releasing the video yesterday? Because again, we got conflicting
accounts from the police. Was it to deflect attention from the officer?
JEALOUS: It seems like basic deflection. It seems like basic deflection.
JEALOUS: And, you know, it`s the type of thing that we`ve seen again.
And, you know, it`s -- and it`s very frustrating. Because, you know, this
should be fairly straightforward. An officer killed an unarmed citizen.
There should be -- not just an investigation. That officer should be taken
into custody. He should be treated like a suspect in a murder. Until his
name is cleared or he is convicted. But they`re sort of, you know,
treating him as if, you know, sort of the presumption is that nothing was
wrong here is insane.
I mean, yes, people are having the talk across the country, you`re seeing,
you know, #I had to talk, #I gave the talk. We shouldn`t have to have the
talk. It doesn`t matter what a young people steal things from convenience
stores all the times. They don`t -- they shouldn`t have to worry all the
time about crossing the street and getting shot and one in this case really
has nothing to do with the other. The only issue here is that a young man
was crossing the street, came in contact with an officer, and was dead a
few moments later from that officer`s bullet. And the fact that the chief
can`t get his mind wrapped around that is deeply concerning.
KORNACKI: What -- in terms of having confidence in where these
investigations are going because we say there`s two different
investigations taking place right now, what is the most important thing
that can happen right now to give you confidence that this is moving in
the right direction?
JEALOUS: Right now they need to actually focus on putting out a warrant
for this officer and stop provoking the community each day. You know,
Captain Johnson needs to be fully in control. This chief, you know,
frankly should be sent on leave. He is actually endangering more people
than he is protecting at this point. And we`ve got to get focus on the --
on the issue at the center of all of this, which is that a young man was
killed essentially for crossing the street. And that -- and the fact that
the chief keeps trying to deflect --
JEALOUS: -- and not deal with that is extremely disturbing. They need to
take him off the mic, frankly put him out of his job for a few days, you
know, set him off to the side, send him on some R&R and let somebody who
can actually keep the people safe put in charge.
KORNACKI: All right. Ben Jealous, former NCAA president, calling for the
chief of police out there in Ferguson to take a few days off at least.
Anyway, all the details and what`s likely to happen next in the felony case
against Texas Governor Rick Perry. The other big headline from last night.
That`s when we come back.
KORNACKI: All right. Turning now to Texas where republican Governor Rick
Perry has now been indicted for abusive power and coercion of a public
servant. The indictment lists two felony counts for making good on a veto
threat to deny more than $7 million in funding for public corruption
prosecutors in the most democratically leaning county in Texas.
Here`s what happened. Last year, Perry threatened to use his line item
veto power to eliminate funding for the district attorney of Travis County.
Travis County, that`s where Austin is, state government. If the D.A.
didn`t resign from her job and that D.A., A woman named Rosemary Lehmberg,
a democrat had been convicted for driving while intoxicated and had been
sentenced to 45 days in jail. And it is her office that runs the state`s
integrity unit. It does public corruption cases for the state of Texas.
When Lehmberg resisted calls for her resignation that is when Perry
threatened to veto funding for office.
He said, she was unfit to hold it. One of Perry`s lawyers said the
governor had every right to issue any veto he wanted to as he saw fit.
Here`s the statement, quote, "This clearly represents political abuse of
the court system and there is no legal basis in this decision. Today`s
action which violates the separation of powers outlined in the Texas
constitution is nothing more than an effort to weaken the constitutional
authority granted to the office of Texas governor and sets a dangerous
precedent by allowing a grand jury to punish the exercise of a lawful and
constitutional authority afforded to the Texas governor."
Just two months ago NBC`s Casey Hunt asked Governor Perry about the
investigation being pursued against him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS: You are facing a probe in to what happened with the
office of public integrity in Travis County. Did you or anyone on your
staff commit a crime when that was occurred?
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: No. We -- I`ve been the governor for coming
on 14 years, seven legislative sessions and I know the constitution and the
duties of the governor. And vetoing a line item is certainly within the
rights and the law and the constitution of the state of Texas. Very
confident that vetoing a line item for whatever reason is an appropriate
thing for the governor to do.
HUNT: And do you regret making that veto concerning what happened?
PERRY: Oh, not at all. I considered that $7 million was going to an
agency that was ill-run.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right. For more on these developments I want to bring in
Tony Plohetski, he`s the investigative reporter for the "Austin American-
Statesman" and he joins us now from the Texas capital. So Tony, thanks for
joining us this morning. So, I guess we`ll start to sort of layman`s terms
to make clear to everybody exactly what this indictment is all about. This
is the district attorney from Travis County. She gets DUI, her blood
alcohol level is three times the legal limit. The video comes out of her
arrest. I guess she`s belligerent, she`s hostile, she`s 45 days in jail
for this. And Rick Perry said she ought to resign. She hasn`t resigned.
He vetoes the funding for her office. So, where`s the crime here?
TONY PLOHETSKI, AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN: Well, the crime according to
prosecutors and according to this grand jury lies with the fact that the
governor issued this threat and then vetoed that money. Yes, according to
them it is legal for him to issue that veto, but you can`t tie that veto to
a threat according to the prosecutor and this grand jury.
KORNACKI: So, is the crime, then -- it`s publicly saying these things are
linked in my mind, the funding for your office and your continued service
in this office. If he had kept that to himself and vetoed it, there`s no
PLOHETSKI: Well, my understanding is had he just done the veto, that would
have been one thing. That he is indeed constitutionally able to veto
anything in the state budget but it was the linking of those two things or
had he just issued a threat or not a threat but a call for Rosemary
Lehmberg to resign and then not, you know, linked that to the veto, well,
that could have left him on solid ground. But it`s the combining of those
KORNACKI: What is the reaction so far? This happened pretty late last
night, what is the reaction in Texas to this?
PLOHETSKI: You know, I have to tell you, this has been a real bombshell.
People knew that this grand jury was meeting, they had had been convened
back in April. A special prosecutor had been appointed months before. But
of many, many legal people I had talked to, defense attorneys, prosecutors,
former defense attorneys, former prosecutors, I think the number of people
who actually thought a grand jury would bring a criminal indictment against
the governor was really, really small. So then to have this happen last
night was a real surprise and I think the surprise not only is that there
are criminal charges but they`re not just misdemeanors. These are two very
KORNACKI: Yes, right, exactly. So if he is convicted, what is he facing
PLOHETSKI: Well, for the most serious felony the punishment range is up to
KORNACKI: Wow. They`re not messing around. All right, my thanks to Tony
Plohetski, Austin-American Statesman. He`s been all over the story. We
appreciate you taking a few times this morning.
PLOHETSKI: Good to see you.
KORNACKI: I appreciate it.
Well, here to discuss the charges against Perry. We`ll bring in our panel,
we have Evan McMorris-Santoro of BuzzFeed. Lynn Sweet of Chicago Sun-
Times. And our very own Joy Reid, host of "The Reid Report." As you can
see here daily at MSNBC.
So, yes, this caught me by surprise yesterday. I know we did a little
thing on the show about it a while back and I didn`t think it was going to
actually lead to a criminal indictment let alone one that brings 99 years
in prison. I`ve got to say, I`m looking at this. I don`t think there`s
much of a legal case here. I`m really surprised this has been brought
against it. Democrat, republican, to me it doesn`t matter. It`s a line
item veto. A lot of governors have this authority and they get to exercise
it and if you have a problem with it the punishment should come
legislatively. This is something that should be handled by a legislative
branch and impeachment would be the most significant punishment that you
can bring. I don`t know that -- on something like a piece of line item
veto the judicial branch are beginning involved.
JOY REID, HOST, "THE REID REPORT": You know, it was shocking I agree with
you when I saw it come across my twitter feed. I was like, what, I thought
maybe it was "The Onion" or something tweeting it out. Because it is
weird, but I mean, look, the Texas governor is a weak governorship but it
is a much weaker governorship than most of the other governorship. One of
the few sorts of independent powers that the Texas governor has.
I mean, he`s even weak relative to the lieutenant governor in Texas as part
of kind of the post civil war reconstruction kind of creation of that state
and its constitution imposed on it by the union. Right? So, you have one
of the few powers that the governor can exercise independently is this line
item veto, the ability to veto. But I think it`s the linkage of that veto
to basically a demand that another elected official step down, that`s the
problem that Perry had.
KORNACKI: I guess as I was saying, Tony, the thing that I have trouble
putting my mind there is, if he doesn`t articulate that though, he has that
power, his mind, he`s like, if she won`t resign, if she won`t take my hint,
then I`m going to veto that. There`s no crime.
LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, now they are saying there might be a
crime. Because just think you have one public official saying you`re not
doing your job, you should step down and I`m going to pressure you to do
that. And that is what is discussed. And I know we`re all surprised but
in the meantime, though, the context to this is also it`s not only
democrats that have been pursuing these ethics charges against Texas, Tom
Delay, Kay Bailey Hutchison but as most of you know or maybe our viewers
don`t know, there is a whole democratic movement in Texas called
battleground Texas where some veterans of the Obama administration are down
there doing what they call a people --
KORNACKI: Turning the state blue.
SWEET: Metric-driven campaign. They`re already all over this. So, yes,
it does seem to me legally it would be perhaps hard to convict though I
could see the rationale for the indictment, but in the meantime this is
going to give an organizing group stuff to organize to.
I mean, I think this whole thing is just completely fraught with politics.
There`s very little that democrats control in Texas in the government. I
mean, Perry said it in the interview with Kasie Hunt that he`s been
governor for 14 years. I mean, this whole thing, this whole government is
Rick Perry`s creation.
SWEET: And now they`re surprised?
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, BUZZFEED: So you have this sort of weird way their
law works down there. That you have the D.A. for Austin, Texas, obviously
not the most conservative part of Texas has this power to investigate the
government for corruption or whatever. And so you have this sort of cases
that they`re bringing, that you know, against Tom Delay, for example, that
sort of caused a lot of issues and caused a lot of anger among republicans
and then you have this D.A. down there who -- I mean, you showed the video
and you showed the mug shot, that`s not a great thing for anyone to have on
their political record. And then you have, you know, an ability of
republicans to move in and try to seize some control of this agency that
they don`t like.
Meanwhile, democrats have this -- this indictment to point to Rick Perry
trying to, you know, change his ethics board to stop it from investigating
his government. But also, you know, we saw him calls for him to resign
last night. We saw, you know, democrats jumping all over this from the
national democrats who want to talk about his 2016 prospects and now he`s
Chris Christie and now he`s whatever and local democrats are saying that he
I mean, I think the hard thing about this whole issue is that there is, you
know, the legal issues. And I agree with you that legally I think we`ll
going to see this work out and maybe not be as tough on Perry as it looked
like but the politics are really rough here and it`s rough for both sides
in a way. I mean, Perry does have little questions to answer about why are
you defunding an agency that is questioning cancer research funding that
you`re alleging --
KORNACKI: At the same time I wonder how the poll -- because we`re so used
to like, you know, the headline governor indicted shouldn`t kill anybody`s
political career. Generally that`s true. But I wonder if in this case in
a court of public -- but in the court of public opinion if it`s, like,
look, you know, she`s three times over the legal limit. She`s running the
public integrity unit for the state and she`s on tape, you know, basically
trying to pull rank with the people who, you know, who arrest her. And
yes, I`m going to use my power as governor to try to get her to resign, I
think that`s a pretty easy thing that sell publicly.
SWEET: He could have done that the right way. You use the bully pulpit to
pressure her to resign, you use the bullet pulpit to whatever the procedure
is to get, you know, whatever it is in Texas and how you get rid of
somebody who is not doing a public duty, though, in most parts of the
country, they call that an election.
KORNACKI: I get that. But the point if you read this indictment seems to
be saying, if I`m getting it right it seems to be saying that if he kept
this all in his head and he came up with some trumped-up reason for vetoing
out funding for this agency for the District Attorney is totally fine.
It`s that he steps forward and this is what he said.
SWEET: Governor Blagojevich is sitting in prison for 14 years for shooting
off his mouth.
KORNACKI: Articulating it. Right.
REID: No matter what happens, the bad things about trial is the discovery.
And you don`t know, it`s never a good look to be the person on the other
end of the indictment because discovery is deadly usually.
KORNACKI: Right. I`m not saying this is a plus for Rick Perry. I`m just
wondering how big of a mind it is.
Anyway, criticism over the speed of the response by officials in Missouri
in particular Governor Jay Nixon, that angle of the Ferguson story, that`s
when we return.
KORNACKI: Five days, five days, that`s how long it took Missouri Governor
Jay Nixon to come to Ferguson after Michael Brown was shot. One Missouri
state senator who represents part of Ferguson had very harsh words for the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. MARIA CHAPPELLE NADAL (D), MISSOURI: Now that the world`s eyes
are on Missouri, on St. Louis, on the Senate district that I represent, the
governor is now here. But he`s not really at ground zero. He has never
come to ground zero. Right now, in fact, he`s in a different municipality
and he`s speaking but he has not been to ground zero and for that I call
him a coward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Chris king of the "St. Louis American," an influential black
newspaper in that city told Politico that Nixon`s quote, "political
deafness is staggering. He came, he came late. I think he did almost
everything wrong." This is just the latest chapter in Nixon`s rough
relationship with the African-American community in St. Louis when he was
Missouri`s attorney general more than a decade ago he led an effort to end
the city`s school desegregation program in which after African-American
students were bused to better schools in predominantly white areas in St.
One local NAACP official called him the reincarnation of former Alabama
Governor George Wallace. Nixon portrays himself as a moderate democrat.
Among other things, he`s a strong supporter of the death penalty. And in
the past, he`s even stoked chatter that he might run for president some
day. He also won 92 percent of the black vote when he was re-elected in
2012 the same year that Barack Obama lost Missouri`s presidential vote to
Mitt Romney. The difference is that Nixon ran much stronger than Obama in
the more conservative, heavily white parts of the state.
Joining me to discuss Governor Nixon now is Lizz Brown, she`s an attorney
and columnist for the "St. Louis American." And Dave Helling, columnist
with "The Kansas City Star."
So, Lizz, let me just start with you. The story initially here was that
Jay Nixon, Governor Nixon wouldn`t go to Ferguson at all. He then showed
up, he`s been much more visible the last few days. What do you make now --
a week in to this, what do you make in totality of Jay Nixon`s response?
LIZZ BROWN, ST. LOUIS AMERICAN: I think that his response is going to be
remembered as a delayed, inattentive response. I mean, think of the photo-
op that is running through people`s mind, what he chose not to go to, what
he was planning to go to, was the Missouri fair to have corn dogs and fried
ice cream. And so that`s what he was planning on doing and then he decided
to stop doing that. How is that even on your agenda? How were you even
planning to go to the state fair?
KORNACKI: Why do you think he was so hesitant to go?
BROWN: I think -- I think his hesitance is really part of the problem
here. The problem is, is that we have issues of race that are hitting,
that are confronting this community for generations and we have politicians
that run from a discussion of that or politicians that put wood on the fire
of it or politicians that ignore it. So, I mean, in fairness to Governor
Nixon, he was -- it`s habit so, you know, he`s trying to break a habit of
KORNACKI: So, Dave, maybe you could talk to us about sort of the statewide
politics of Missouri, we know there`s, you know, St. Louis in the east and
Kansas City in the west and, you know, a lot of -- I remember the
Obama/Hillary Clinton map from 2008 in the primary, 114 counties in
Missouri. Obama won the state and he won only five counties. Hillary
Clinton won 109 counties, a lot of them heavily white. Is that the --
politically speaking is that the Jay Nixon calculus when he`s confronted
with something like Ferguson, he`s thinking of the more heavily white
areas, the more conservative areas and he doesn`t want to risk alienating
DAVE HELLING, KANSAS CITY STAR: Well, in part. I mean, I don`t want to
attribute any real sinister motives. I don`t think Jay Nixon sat in a room
and thought, gee, I can`t go to Ferguson because white people will be upset
in Missouri. But as Lizz suggests, you know, Jay Nixon has a real habit of
triangulating the state between the rural interests and the urban interests
and while that helps him politically, he won overwhelmingly in his re-
election campaign, when something goes wrong, as it did in Ferguson, he`s
He doesn`t really have anyone in his inner circle telling him, hey, look,
this is going to look bad if you don`t go to Ferguson and his natural
instinct isn`t to respond to a situation like that. So, that leads to a
delay. That leads to criticism. And then, frankly, he has no goodwill to
fall back on, no reservoir of support in the African-American community.
And you see the reaction that you saw in Ferguson this week.
KORNACKI: And, Dave, what are -- so, he`s in his second term as governor
right now. I don`t believe he can run for re-election.
HELLING: That`s correct.
KORNACKI: Long term, what is Jay Nixon looking to do? We know, I said in
the opening, he has -- I remember being at the convention in 2012, there
were people sort of in his orbit I think who were kind of trying to put out
the word that he was interested in running for president. Is that
something he`s still thinking about?
HELLING: No. Yes, sometimes he`ll say yes. Sometimes no. He`s very coy
about that. He`s publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. The consensus
is that he`s seeking some sort of cabinet post, maybe attorney general in a
democratic administration. That seems much more problematic now. He did
make a trip to Iowa a couple of weeks ago and that raised some eyebrows.
So, I don`t think he`s given up on future ambitions for higher office.
This incident in Ferguson, though, will be a very, very difficult thing to
explain and has really set back any ambitions he might have for, say, a
presidential run or even a place on the ticket in 2016 or even beyond.
KORNACKI: Yes. I think if somebody has a national political future on
this it might be Ron Johnson at this point.
HELLING: Could be. Could be.
KORNACKI: Thanks to Lizz Brown of the St. Louis American. Dave Helling of
the Kansas City Star, I appreciate you both for joining us this morning.
And coming up. The Ferguson shooting, there`s a lot more to discuss about
the biggest story of the morning and the week, we`ll do it with our panel
right after this.
KORNACKI: All right. We`re back with Evan McMorris-Santoro, Lynn Sweet
and Joy Reid. And you know, the story of the week obviously is Ferguson.
We thought we would just sort of talk around a weekend where we are right
now. You know, we have the obviously the news overnight. We have the
state highway -- the state police basically coming in, President Obama
weighing in this week. Joy, looking at this just, you know, from the
week`s perspective right now, just curious what your thoughts are.
REID: Well, I mean, how many mistakes, missteps and wrong turns can you
see out of one police force -- two police forces if you count the Ferguson
police and the St. Louis County police and the governor who I think, you
know, probably best advise Hillary Clinton, I mean, not even think about
putting him in the cabinet, because he`s been a disaster. I mean, I think
it`s been incredible to watch an entire state of the politicians with a
very few exceptions of Claire McCaskill was out there and did a pretty good
But you`ve just seen a complete breakdown in what appears to be authority
other than Ron Johnson who has come in now and been sort of a star it`s
just been a complete breakdown and I think the police made a colossal
mistake yesterday by responding to very broad media requests for those
police reports, those incident reports about the shooting by giving us
different incident reports that were about a robbery that they now admit is
not even related to the shooting.
KORNACKI: And saying it`s because --
REID: Because the media asked for it when the media clearly didn`t. I
mean, the media were asking for an incident reports. We were, I`m sure you
guys were, our producers were calling and asking. The incident report we
wanted were very clear, it was the ones about the shooting. And so, I
think this attempt to try to protect the officer at every turn whether it`s
the city police or the county police, it does appear everything they`ve
done has been about protecting the officer and not about providing the
public with information it`s entitled to under public disclosure laws.
SWEET: If I may pull up the scope a bit, I think, just think a few, what,
weeks, months ago, we were celebrating the anniversary of the 1964 civil
rights act and then you have this kind of racially explosive situation in
Missouri. So, I mean, that`s one big injection once again of where do we
stand on civil rights in the nation. Once again, this has dragged
President Obama into a discussion of civil rights which is not anything
that he had -- you know, he has -- he dips in, he dips out. You know, the
White House started this effort but, you know, using -- becoming the Man
Program (ph) and trying to deal with race-related issues but now the
context is shifting. It`s polarizing and one more quick thing.
SWEET: It has brought a whole new subject into the discussion which is the
militarization of --
SWEET: -- local police forces. It`s an issue. A lot of us really weren`t
covering or aware of, the amount of the surplus Pentagon equipment that is
going to police forces, and that is actually being highlighted in a very
thoughtful way by of all people Senator Rand Paul.
KORNACKI: That`s right. It`s jumbling party lines. President Obama`s
role this week in speaking out, I wonder what you made of the remarks he
made. Some people are saying you compare it to -- Lynn, I think you were
the one that asked the question back in 2009.
SWEET: July 2009.
KORNACKI: About the Cambridge police and he was a lot maybe less reserved
in what he said in 2009 than what he said this week.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Yes. I mean, underplayed story in this whole thing is
how engaged the administration is kind of is in this even though Obama gave
a statement that was like fairly tepid I think and got some criticism.
Eric Holder on the other hand, and the Justice Department, there are six
agencies on the ground in Ferguson now and it includes the FBI which is
doing its own investigation in to the death. Eric Holder spoke about
militarization, Eric Holder spoke about police tactics in his statement,
Eric Holder has been talking about, you know, the civil rights issues and
all this stuff that goes on with that.
It`s sort of the weird double track that we see with the Obama
administration quite often where Obama goes out there because when he sort
of said some stuff that has been more strong against police, I think back
to the skip-gate situation, we think back to the Trayvon Martin, that tends
to cause a big kerfuffle for the White House where as when Eric Holder says
really tough stuff about the police --
KORNACKI: Now, that`s --
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: That it doesn`t cause a much of your problem. So, I
mean, Obama does his sort of statement and Eric Holder right on the same
day, on the same track is a very strong statement against police
militarization, police tactics down there and concerned about everything.
KORNACKI: We talk about the bully pulpit of the presidency all the time
but you also have the Justice Department, your disposal and that makes a
difference to me. Thanks though to Evan McMorris-Santoro from BuzzFeed,
Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times, MSNBC`s Joy Reid. I appreciate you all
joining us this morning.
To there and back again with President Obama. We will explain what that
means right after this.
KORNACKI: No president ever really gets to go on vacation. Even when they
are on vacation. With the Ferguson shooting and the crisis in Iraq, that`s
been especially true for President Obama`s currents stay on Martha`s
Vineyard. Tomorrow, he`s returning from the island.
NBC`s Kristen Welker joins us live from Massachusetts to tell us why. Good
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning,
Steve. Well, the official line from the White House is that the
president`s going to return home on Sunday evening. He`s going to have
some meetings on Monday and Tuesday with his top advisor, his chief-of-
staff Dennis McDonough. He`ll meet with Vice President Joe Biden. The
White House won`t tell us what the nature of those meetings are going to
be, and it`s important to point out that they were scheduled prior to this
busy week. So there`s a lot of questions sort of surrounding what
specifically (audio gap).
We do know of course that the president has said he`s going to make some
type of announcement on immigration. Announcing an executive action on
immigration at the end of the summer. So it is possible that the
discussions will include that. White House officials saying that there
won`t be any major news unveiled though while the president is home for
those short two days. He`s going to be back here on Martha`s Vineyard
Tuesday evening. Steve, back to you.
KORNACKI: Kristen Welker live for us in Martha`s Vineyard. I appreciate
that. And much more ahead this morning including the calls to demilitarize
the police. The latest air strikes in Iraq and whether that means this
will be a limited operation after all. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: The week`s events in Ferguson, Missouri have led the calls for
America`s police forces to be demilitarize. There was also a primary last
night in the big Hawaii Senate race. We wish we could go to the big island
ourselves to cover it. We`ll going to discuss the results straight ahead.
Mahalo for sticking with us.
KORNACKI: As we mentioned in the last hour, overnight in Ferguson,
Missouri, hundreds of people gathered for a sixth straight night to protest
last weekend`s police shooting of an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown.
Protesters marched in the rain to the site where Brown was killed as well
as to the convenience store Brown was alleged to have robbed. One NBC News
producer on the ground last night says he witnessed a member of the crowd
throwing either a bottle or a rock at the uniformed officers outside the
In the standoff that followed, the cops are believed to have fired at least
one tear gas canister. Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson has
confirmed there was looting overnight at the convenience store. Other
protesters attempted to set fire to a pizza restaurant. Restaurant
suffered minimal damage. No arrests were made. Three officers suffered
NBC`s Mark Potter joins us live from Ferguson right now.
So Mark, what can you tell us about what we know about what happened last
night and what`s on tap for today?
MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Steve, what I can tell you first
is that the rains have come. And it`s very calm this morning. It`s nice
and quiet down in the protest zone. The only people that are there now are
some citizens who are out actually cleaning up some of the debris.
Last night it was a much different situation. Hundreds of people were out
there seeking justice in the Michael Brown case. Very loud, passionate,
but peaceful, trying to get their message out. It almost was festive up
until about midnight. Then the tone began to change.
Some young people came in and the police say that some rocks were thrown, a
bottle was thrown, three officers were injured. Police in tactical gear
did move in briefly to confront the crowd, but then backed off. The report
is some tear gas was fired.
Right after they backed off and the protesters seemed to move out the
looters came in and they hit the Ferguson Market and Liquor Store. They
were photographed taking bottles of liquor out of there.
Then some of the protesters got involved to stop them, to prevent them from
looting and telling them that they were undercutting their message, that
this was a protest, a legitimate protest and they were hurting their
Now Captain Ronald Johnson from the Highway Patrol in charge of security
out here said that when the protesters moved out, the looters did go in.
And we`re going to hear from him later today as to -- hopefully from him as
to the assessment of whether the police should have moved in a little
quicker or how they handled this.
I can also tell you that local radio stations are filled with people this
morning decrying the actions of the looters, saying that they really did
hurt when they were trying to do. They were trying to assemble peacefully
and the scene that everybody is showing now is the looters and they`re very
upset about that.
KORNACKI: And so -- I think to clear this up for people, we`re talking
about two separate groups of people here. This is not protesters,
demonstrators who turned to looting; these are protesters and demonstrators
who were peaceful, totally fine, then a separate group moved in, separate
POTTER: That`s what it appears. The protesters are very, very upset.
They have a legitimate message that they`re trying to get out. They were
concerned, they were doing what they were allowed to do by the police.
Everything was peaceful until about midnight.
Then another crowd came in. It was -- and the tone changed. And that`s
what everybody on the radio is talking about today. They really wish that
that had not happened.
KORNACKI: All right. My thanks to NBC`s Mark Potter live on the ground in
Ferguson for us. Appreciate that.
After a week of clashes between police and protesters and one particularly
violent evening officers in riot gear filled tear gas and rubber bullets to
disperse the crowd. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon handed control of
Ferguson`s security to the state`s Highway Patrol. And that led to a
dramatic change in how the protest unfolded.
On Thursday night, the leader of the Highway Patrol marched with the
protesters instead of standing off against them. And last night as we`ve
reported was another tense night in Ferguson. It did include some looting
and the firing of at least one canister of tear gas.
One of the persistent questions throughout this crisis remains.
How is it that a police department of 53 officers in a sleepy St. Louis
suburb of about 20,000 people even has the heavy equipment that it appears
that it has, to make it look like sometimes even a paramilitary force?
It turns out the officers involved were not just one police force, but were
many; they were drawn from different communities in St. Louis County.
And the assault rifles, the ammunition, the gas masks and more that they
carried were provided and intended not as a means of crowd control, but to
fend off against a possible terrorist attack.
That`s because ever since the September 11th attacks, for more than a
decade now, the federal government has paid to give local police forces
body armor and tanks and all kinds of military gear.
As "The New York Times" pointed out there has not been a debate about
whether this should happen at all. The arguments have come over who
deserved the most money to make this happen.
On Thursday the police chief of Ferguson, Missouri, pushed back against the
idea that his department was a paramilitary force.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS JACKSON, POLICE CHIEF, FERGUSON, MISSOURI: The whole picture`s
being painted a little bit sideways from what`s really happening. And it`s
not military, it`s tactical operations. It`s SWAT teams. That`s who`s out
there. Police, we`re doing this in blue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Nevertheless, from a political standpoint, what`s unfolding in
Ferguson is raising questions.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, asked authorities to
demilitarize the situation. She said that, quote, "This kind of response
by the police has become the problem instead of the solution."
President Obama asked Attorney General Eric Holder to begin an
investigation of Michael Brown`s death and Holder himself said he was,
quote, ".deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment sends a
And Ted Cruz was critical as well as was Rand Paul, who wrote in a "Time"
magazine op-ed that, quote, "Washington has incentivized the militarization
of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal
governments build what are essentially small armies."
Joining me now is Congressman Hank Johnson from Georgia, who`s working on
legislation to demilitarize the police.
So Congressman, thanks for taking a few minutes this morning. Let`s just
start actually at the root of this because, as we say in the intro, I think
this has sort of been a moment of revelation for a lot of people in this
Looking at the scenes out of Ferguson this week and saying, wow, I can`t
believe the police, this is what the police have become. This is not what
I imagined. I didn`t know this was happening.
And now we`re finding out that this has a relationship to 9/11, to money
that`s been spent in the last 10, 12 years.
I guess the root question is how did this happen in the first place?
REP. HANK JOHNSON (D), GA.: Well, it stems from the failed war on drugs
that this country has been engaged in, both in our streets and also in the
streets of other nations south of the border for at least the last two
decades. And that war is not working.
One of the offshoots of that war is the militarization of the police
departments across the country. And it was heightened by the 9/11
incident. And so it`s just a program now: it`s called the 1033 program by
the Pentagon. It`s a Pentagon program. It`s just now gotten out of hand.
I think we have seen from looking at the incident in Ferguson, how this
equipment, how this military grade equipment can actually make things worse
in a community, as opposed to be conducive towards community policing,
which policing is all about.
KORNACKI: Do you, when you look at the range of equipment, that military
equipment that has made its way into the hand of police departments across
the country, do you see some of that equipment?
Are there things that the police forces have now because of the military
that are useful and that are necessary?
JOHNSON: Yes. There are many items that are procured by local law
enforcement agencies directly from the Department of Defense that are
useful in fighting crime. And my legislation does not seek to get it back.
But it seeks to put limitations and restrictions on the types of property
that can be supplied to local law enforcement agencies.
KORNACKI: What are those restrictions?
What do you not want getting into the hands of police forces?
JOHNSON: We don`t want automatic weapons; we don`t want weapons that are
higher than 50 calibers. We don`t want tanks. We don`t want armored
personnel carriers and Humvees. We don`t want silencers for police
weapons. We don`t want stun grenades. They`ve been misused many times by
many departments in the past and anything that the military would actually
use offensively in a war-type setting.
And so the legislation is very specific about the types of property, and I
think what we`ve seen in Ferguson is a demonstration of why we need to pass
this legislation. We don`t know, once that property is transferred to the
local police agencies, we don`t -- we don`t have any restrictions on what
that department can do with the property.
So conceivably, property could make its way directly from the Pentagon,
from a war zone, through the Pentagon, to a local law enforcement agency
based on a one-page application.
And it can be a tank or an armed drone. And it can be transferred directly
to the law enforcement agency. And then the agency, after a period of
time, may decide that they want to just sell the property at public
auction. And then anyone would be able to get their hands on that kind of
And so it`s not good for the safety, long-term safety of our nation. And
certainly police departments patrolling in a armored personnel carrier down
the streets of a city or a town or even on a college campus is just
KORNACKI: Well, we`ll keep an eye on your legislation and it`s
interesting, too, to see that the sort of traditional partisan lines may be
blurring a little bit on this issue of the militarization of the police.
My thanks to Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia for joining us this
morning, I appreciate that.
And I want to turn now to Stephen Ryals. He`s a civil rights attorney
who`s written extensively about police misconduct.
He`s also from Ferguson, Missouri, and he joins us right now.
So, Steve, I want to talk to you a little bit from your perspective there
in Ferguson and in dealing with these issues involving the police and their
use of force. Tell us a little bit about your experiences in Ferguson
because obviously the rest of the country started paying attention to this
in the last week, but it looks like there are issues here between the
police and between the community that go back much farther than that.
How much farther do they go back and what do you see as the roots of the
STEPHEN RYALS, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, thanks very much, Steve. I
grew up in Ferguson and went to high school there, lived there most of my
And to be honest with you, the problems that we`re seeing now are a
relatively recent phenomenon, in my experience. When I was growing up,
there was not really a consciousness of the race of the people we moved
with. My -- the community was racially mixed, my high school was racially
mixed and, even after I moved back after law school, it`s a very
progressive community. And it`s really very unfortunate that the view of
Ferguson that the world is seeing is not at all like my experience.
KORNACKI: Was there a -- was there a tipping point then?
You`re saying is it a recent thing.
Was there -- what would you attribute it to, the sort of chill in relations
between the community and the police?
RYALS: I don`t know what to attribute it to exactly. But I can tell you
that only in the last four or five years have I noticed an increase in
complaints about the Ferguson police. And the complaints that I`ve
received are of a number and of a kind that I`ve also received about other
municipalities that are having challenges in race relations.
And I -- you know, there could be a number of different causes: the change
in the community, a change in the orientation of the police department and
its officers or both.
But, it is a relatively recent phenomenon, in my experience. Ferguson has
always been a racially mixed area. And I don`t think the racial
composition of the community has changed in any significant way in the last
So we were talking about militarization of the police department. And I
would say this: the closer or the more the police officers identify with
the military, the greater the risk to the civil liberties of the community
Police officers, police, a civilian community, the military fights without
the same rules and without the constitutional limitations that civilian
And so, it may be an example of the tail wagging the dog. When you give
police agencies the tools of war, one wonders whether that has the effect
of causing police officers to identify more with a military mindset.
KORNACKI: Right. All right, well my thanks to attorney Stephen Ryals,
joining us this morning, a Ferguson native. Appreciate that.
Up next, just how limited will this new operation in Iraq be?
We`ll talk to two members of Congress about that straight ahead.
KORNACKI: This morning, U.S. military officials tell NBC News that a joint
military operation with Iraqi and Kurdish forces is now under way to retake
control of the Mosul dam seized by ISIS militants. U.S. fighter jets and
armed drones are launching airstrikes.
The dam is, of course, of critical importance. President Obama even
mentioned it as a primary concern last week before he took off for his
Then on Thursday, the president announced U.S. airstrikes had stopped a
potential genocide, breaking the siege of Mt. Sinjar and allowing thousands
from a tiny religious sect to reach safety.
The Yazidis were chased from their village in Northern Iraq into a desolate
mountain range by the Sunni military group ISIS. That`s when America
stepped in, dropping bombs on ISIS, delivering food and water to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Because of the scale and professionalism of our military and the
generosity of our people, we broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar. We
helped vulnerable people reach safety and we helped save many innocent
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But the crisis is not over yet. While the humanitarian mission
is complete, the military operation to stop ISIS goes on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We will continue airstrikes to protect our people and facilities in
Iraq. We have increased the delivery of military assistance to Iraqi and
Kurdish forces fight ISIL on the front lines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So there you have it, a continued military operation in Iraq,
one that the administration has gone to great lengths to assure Americans
will be limited in scope nearly three years after combat troops left and
six years into the Obama presidency, one where the president campaigned on
the promise we would leave for good.
The president confirmed that a military and civilian team landed on Mt.
Sinjar to inspect the operation. This came after Deputy National Security
Advisor Ben Rhodes had left some wiggle room for potential boots on the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think the principle holds
that we`re not putting ground forces into combat role in Iraq, we`re using
U.S. military personnel to assess what the best way is to bring people to
safety and what the best way is to provide them with humanitarian
But again, always, force protection is a mission for U.S. personnel
wherever they are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Iraq is still a dangerous place and a politically unstable one.
This week Iraq`s embattled prime minister agreed to step down, caving into
international and domestic pressure after struggling to hold on for another
term. As Nouri al-Maliki is fiercely pro-Shiite agenda that`s alienated
the Sunni minority and has made it easier for the Sunni ISIS militants to
gain their foothold.
Question now is whether the formation of a new government can unite the
country and stem the growing Sunni insurgency.
Well, here at home, question now is just how limited the president`s
military operation can be, especially given the supposedly existential
threat that some in the administration seem to be suggesting ISIS could
Here to help us figure it out, we have Republican Congressman Charlie Dent
And joining us in the studio in New York is Democratic Congressman Jerry
Nadler from New York.
So -- well, Congressman Nadler, let me just start with you because there`s
a couple different ways of looking at this. I think everybody`s instinct
when the president talks about taking some kind of action in Iraq is to get
very nervous and we don`t want to go back there, and then that`s certainly
At the same time, when you hear some of the comments from the people in
this administration about what ISIS is and what ISIS represents, it does
raise the question to me of, if it`s this big of a threat, why aren`t we
REP. JERROLD NADLER (R), N.Y.: I think you have to analyze what the threat
from ISIS is and what the purpose of any American action is. I think we
have two legitimate causes of action. One is to stop genocide, such as the
murder that would have occurred of all the Yazidis had we not stepped in.
And it`s hard -- as a major power, we should stop genocide.
If "never again" means anything, it means that. And we`ve done that.
The second thing is the military threat that ISIS poses, not to the
government in Iraq, which it certainly does, but to the United States.
And here, I think that a lot of the discussion misses the mark. ISIS does
pose a major threat to us, but the threat is not that they`re going to
conquer Baghdad and go on from there to New York. The threat is that
people from the United States, from Western Europe, go there, are
radicalized before they go there, learn combat techniques and come back
here to create murder, mayhem, terrorism. That`s the threat here.
That -- the answer to is not dependent on how well ISIS does militarily.
If they conquer an extra province or not, that doesn`t affect that threat.
What affects that threat and what we have to be concentrating on is keeping
an eye on people who go to join ISIS, doing proper counterintelligence,
stopping them at the border coming back and proper police work.
This was a problem of domestic, potential domestic terrorism, and you have
to concentrate on those people.
Now, we can and should help Iraq, especially if the Iraqi government is now
not just a Shiite sectarian government that chases away the Sunnis as they
did, but if it`s more inclusive government, we should help them in many
ways against these really savage opponents. But that should not be an
American combat component.
KORNACKI: Let me -- I want to play a clip here that got a lot of attention
this week and I think stoked a lot of concern from people who heard this.
This is Lieutenant General William Maba (ph). This is the official
Pentagon briefing on the -- this is before the president`s announcement
this week. This was on Monday.
And he was talking about what we are and were not able to do when it comes
to ISIS. And let`s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM MABA (PH): We assess that U.S. airstrikes in
Northern Iraq have slowed ISIL`s operational tempo and temporarily
disrupted their advances toward the province of Erbil.
However, these strikes are unlikely to affect ISIL`s overall capabilities
or its operations in other areas of Iraq and Syria. In no way want to
suggest that we have effectively contained or that we are somehow breaking
the momentum of the threat posed by ISIL.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So Congressman Dent, I think that caught a lot of people by
surprise that he even qualified that to say we`re not even stopping their
momentum. I don`t want to say we`re even stopping ISIS` momentum here
Do you agree with what Congressman Nadler just said, that primarily when it
comes to containing the threat of ISIS the United States and Europe that
primarily, we`d just be monitoring people going over there?
Or do you think there is more of a military role that needs to be played
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENN.: Well, I agree with Jerry`s assessment about
the threat to the homeland, that it`s -- that these ISIS fighters, many of
them from Europe, some from the U.S., have the potential to get back to the
Europe and the U.S., enter the U.S. through the visa waiver program and
they represent a real threat to us. I agree with that point that Jerry`s
I do believe that, going forward, a few things are going to have to happen
here. First, this new prime minister Ibadi is going to have to form a
government very, very quickly. He`s going to have to reconcile with the
Sunni and the Kurds and the Shiite, but specifically, he`s going to have to
make real concessions very fast, maybe give the Kurds Kirkuk and help them
with the oil revenue.
And he`s going to have to, more importantly, bring the Sunni tribesmen,
who`ve allowed ISIS in, he`s going to have to bring them back into the
government. I don`t know if they can do that. But that is absolutely
essential. And we`re going to have to develop a strategy going forward,
we, the West, and our friends in the Arab world, because that, I believe,
is really what`s driving this problem now.
We do need a comprehensive strategy. Nobody wants boots on the ground. As
it was just mentioned, airstrikes alone will not, will not stop ISIS.
Sure, and I`ve been supportive of the administration using these airstrikes
to protect the Yazidis and the Christians from Mosul, and certainly to help
our friends, the Kurds, to arm the Kurds to the greatest extent possible,
to protect them. They are our friends. They`re standing between the --
much of the world and ISIS right now.
So I think our options right now are not very good, and much of what
happens is going to be dependent upon this new government in Iraq. And I
think -- I don`t know how that`s going to play out. But in the meantime,
Iraq is a partition; it`s a fractured nation today because of the vacuum
that was left.
KORNACKI: Well that`s -- and Congressman Nadler, that`s, I think a lot of
people look at that, too, the history of Iraq. I mean, it`s a fractured
nation. It`s a manufactured nation in a lot of ways in the wake of World
War I. And people say, well, can any government, can any leader ever
really put back together as a country?
And if it can`t, given what Congressman Dent`s just saying about how
important it is to have an Iraqi army to deal with ISIS, if the government
of Iraq is not able to do that, then do we have to then reassess what we`re
doing in terms of ISIS?
NADLER: First of all, I agree, Iraq is shattered. I hope the Kurds will
finally get their independence, that the United States will recognize an
independent Kurdistan. They`ve earned it by moral behavior and a lot of
But second of all, we cannot, any more than we could in Afghanistan,
determine who`s going to win a civil war in Iraq. That`s going to be
determined by the people in Iraq, in Syria, in the Middle East; it`ll be
heavily influenced by neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran on
opposite sides and so forth.
We can`t -- we can`t send in American troops and affect the outcome of
that, really, as in Afghanistan. We had every right to go in, get rid of
the -- bomb the camps that were the Al Qaeda training camps that was
creating mayhem here.
We should have been out in three weeks and not try to determine who
governed Afghanistan for the next 10 years.
Same thing in Iraq. We can help them, but if this new government, unlike
the Maliki government, gets the loyalty of the Sunni, of the Sunni tribes,
they can contain. There are only 10,000 or 15,000 at the most ISIS
fighters. There are hundreds of thousands of people, supposedly, in the
If that society wants to stop it, they can. But they have to determine
that. We can`t.
KORNACKI: And so Congressman Dent, do you think -- should there be some
sort of date here? Should there be some sort of time limit here that the
U.S. is willing to continue to do the airstrikes and basically say, Iraq,
if you can`t get your act together by then, we`re done with this?
DENT: Well, I think the situation`s a bit more complex. Look, these
airstrikes that are ongoing now, at some point, the clock will start
ticking on the War Powers Act and Congress may have to be engaged in terms
of an authorization.
But our ability to help force reconciliation that Jerry just talked about,
and he`s correct, we need to make sure that these Sunni tribesmen reject
The way we did it during the surge back in `06, `07, you know, that was
part of a broader counterinsurgency strategy where we had a lot of American
boots on the ground to help protect the Sunni tribesmen from the Al Qaeda
at the time.
Now that`s not going to happen this time. We`re not going to have an
American military presence on the ground there to provide that kind of
And so the question is, you know, can they reconcile?
Can they bring the Sunni tribesmen in?
And then of course you have got Iran filling the vacuum, the fact that we
don`t have anybody, what we have, maybe closer to 1,000 people in Iraq now.
But you know, I always thought we should have left a residual force there
because that -- once that residual force of 10,000 to 15,000 Americans was
gone, that created the vacuum.
And it`s been filled by the Shiites through Iran and it`s been filled by
the Sunni through ISIS. And its led to this regional -- at least this
conflagration that we`ve seen. So I -- at this point, there are not going
to be boots on the ground but, at the same time, we are going to have to
arm our friends and use proxies to do the fighting for us.
KORNACKI: All right. Congressman Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania,
Congressman Jerry Nadler from New York, appreciate you both being here this
The question is do you want to go to Hawaii? Well, that`s not really a
fair question. We wish we could go, too; we can`t. You probably can`t
right now, either. But the next best thing to heading to Honolulu is
KORNACKI: Maybe a Saturday in the middle of August, but while you were
sleeping, a U.S. senator survived a fierce challenge for his job. The
Associated Press is reporting that interim senator Brian Schatz has
defeated Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa in Hawaii`s Democratic primary.
The actual primary was held a week ago today. That happened to be the same
day the Tropical Storm Iselle slammed into a remote rural region on the big
island. A few thousand register voters who were unable to participate in
last Saturday`s Democratic primary participated yesterday instead. And
those few votes were a big difference.
From out of the 200,000 votes that were cast last week, Schatz led Hanabusa
by only 1,600. So they completed yesterday, the votes in just two of the
state`s 247 precincts. It reminded many people of the forgotten 2008 Kevin
Costner movie, "Swing Vote," where a lone voter gets to end up deciding a
Well, when yesterday`s Hawaii vote was all over, Schatz added another 134
votes to his tally. And in all likelihood, that means another two years in
the Senate for him. The seat is next up in 2016 although, in Hawaii, where
they seem to value and prize incumbency, it may really be decades before
Brian Schatz leaves the U.S. Senate now anyway.
Up next, my pick for the biggest thing at stake in every other Senate seat
this fall. I`ll tell you about that straight ahead.
KORNACKI: This week President Obama highlighted what may be the single
biggest item at stake in this November`s elections when control of the
Senate will be up for grabs. At a fundraiser for Senate Democrats in
Martha`s Vineyard where he`s on vacation, the president said, quote, "We`re
going to have Supreme Court appointments and there are going to be a whole
host of issues that many people here care about that are going to
determined by whether or not Democrats retain the Senate."
After a flurry of news reports, White House officials insisted that the
president doesn`t have any inside information about potential Supreme Court
vacancies, that he was just speaking in general terms.
But whether or not there will be a Supreme Court vacancy before the end of
his term, another one at least, Obama`s ability to fill any vacancies that
could arise in the final two years of his presidency would be threatened if
Republicans win control of the Senate this fall, positions like Cabinet
members, federal judges, ambassadors, a whole host of top positions
required to conduct foreign policy, to run a justice system and to regulate
In November, the Democrats changed the rules of the Senate so that many of
the president`s judicial nominees could be confirmed with a simple majority
Senate Republicans who were outraged by that rules change took some revenge
last month when they blocked routine confirmation of several ambassadors.
Here`s Mike Enzi, Republican from Wyoming, on the floor of the Senate
explaining that last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MIKE ENZI (R), WYO.: We used to pass ambassadors and all kinds of
people en bloc like that, but we have this nuclear option now that the
majority chose and so it takes a little longer to do the whole process and,
on that basis, I object.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So if the GOP takes the Senate and there`s a vacancy on the
Supreme Court in the next two years, what happens then?
Would it affect President Obama`s other nominations?
Will Republicans stonewall no matter what happened?
And also what happens to the other appointments the president wants to make
besides Supreme Court picks?
Will Republicans just stop every nominee he has of any kind from being
confirmed for any position?
Well, here to talk about all of this is Norm Ornstein. He`s a contributing
editor and columnist for "National Journal" and author of "It`s Even Worse
Than It Looks."
So Norm, I guess we could do a play on the title of your book there because
if Republicans get control of the Senate this fall, they have the potential
ability to basically block anything they want nominations wise. I guess
I`ll start with the question of a Supreme Court nomination.
If let`s say Republicans win the Senate this fall, spring of 2015, Ruth
Bader Ginsburg announces her retirement, what do you think happens then?
NORM ORNSTEIN, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Well, you know, it may be -- may be
different if it`s Ruth Bader Ginsburg compared to one of the conservatives
-- say Scalia or -- who`s 78 -- and Anthony Kennedy.
But, at minimum, if it happens early in the next two years we`re going to
see probably Obama forced to pick somebody who would be considerably less
liberal than he might otherwise.
But it`s going to be pushed to the limit and my guess is if it happens
after 2015 into early 2016, there`s zero chance that even a replacement of
a liberal with another moderate or a liberal would happen. And if it`s a
Scalia or a Kennedy vacancy, then you`re going to get DEFCON 1 and we`ll
see nobody confirmed no matter who is nominated.
KORNACKI: It seems like -- I mean, we play that clip from Mike Enzi,
talking about the ambassadors on the Senate floor last month. It seems
like Democrats in some ways were happy to do the -- by the result of doing
that limited nuclear option last year on changing some of these filibuster
rules. But the flip side of it is, clearly Republicans remember that.
ORNSTEIN: Well, they remember it. You know, there were other options
here. Unfortunately we didn`t have a group of people coming together to
say do a trade-off, allow some more amendments for Republicans and bills on
the floor and return for expediting the nomination process.
But what`s happened is every confirmation battle down to the most limited
trivial nominations now gets a filibuster. And it takes up time on the
Senate floor. Harry Reid has pushed through a number of nominations. It
takes hours because, after you invoke cloture, after you get the 50 votes
now required for most of these nominations, you still have a post-cloture
But the price of it has been that almost nothing else is there available to
take up the limited time on the Senate floor.
Now I`ll tell you, Steve, if the Republicans win the majority in early
November, almost certainly what`s going to happen is that Harry Reid will
bring back the Senate in the lame duck session and use that time to push
through as many judicial confirmations and major administration executive
nominations as he can.
And that will enrage Republicans even more and give them even more of an
excuse to block all nominations for the final two years, which would be
very difficult for Barack Obama.
KORNACKI: Is that -- is that -- how serious is that prospect? Beyond the
Supreme Court, just all nominations, blanket, block everything, whether
it`s executive branch, judicial, whatever, how serious a possibility is
ORNSTEIN: I think it`s a real possibility. And you may see a handful go
through. What we did see, Mike Enzi first blocked the confirmation of the
ambassador to Russia -- imagine, at a time when we`re in the middle of
these enormous tensions, they backed down on that one, but other
ambassadors, including to Turkey, have not gone through.
You may see a handful go through. But you`ll see very few. And because
Barack Obama is using his executive authority now in the face of this
dysfunction and the inability to find any common ground for Republicans to
work with him on any major piece of legislative activity, he needs his
executive people in place.
And what we know is that, in the final couple of years of a two-term
president, people leave. They leave before the final term is up; they`re
looking for other jobs. They want to get out; some of them are just tired.
If you can`t replace those people, you`re going to be limited in what you
can do. And so there`s an added incentive for Republicans to block those
KORNACKI: And could you see any scenario -- the term the president used in
the 2012 campaign, "the fever will break" if I get reelected, that doesn`t
seem to have happened. But Republicans, given their expectations for this
fall, if they were to fall short, if they were not to take back the Senate,
if this were to be a disappointing election for them, do you think that
might affect their psychology as they approach nominations in the next two
ORNSTEIN: I do actually think that if the Republicans fall short, we are
going to see some Republicans in the Senate, those who are a little bit
more oriented towards solving problems.
That includes the Lamar Alexanders and Bob Corkers of the world, for
example, the Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowskis, who might be willing to
work out an arrangement with Senate Democrats to make it easier to enable
some of these confirmations to go through.
But of course, if Democrats have the majority with the changes they`ve made
in the rules, they can still manage to get their nominations through. It
just takes time.
But let`s face it, you are still not going to have a House of
Representatives that`s willing to do anything that would enable Barack
Obama to get a signing ceremony.
So the legislative prospects will remain grim and that means that Harry
Reid and the Democrats can use more of their time pushing through
confirmations of judges and executive officials. But it`s no way to run a
government and it`s going to look even worse than it has looked for the
past two years.
KORNACKI: All right. There we go, we bring it around to the book title
again. My thanks to Norm Ornstein from "National Journal" --
ORNSTEIN: It`s still on sale.
KORNACKI: Get your copy on Amazon, I`m sure.
Still ahead, not one, but two big Senate races are taking place outside the
continental U.S. The wilds of Alaska and the wild, wild contest there,
interesting race taking shape. Let`s take a look next.
KORNACKI: Six: that is a number you will hear over and over again this
election year. Six is the number of Senate seats that Republicans need to
pick up if they`re going to win back control of the chamber this fall.
In Alaska, maybe one of their best chances to win one of those six seats.
Democratic Senator Mark Begich is up for reelection there this year. He
barely beat long-time Republican senator Ted Stephens six years ago and
that election was less than four months after Stephens had been indicted on
federal corruption charges.
More recently, President Obama lost in Alaska by 14 points in 2012. So it
seems that whomever the GOP picks to run against Begich has a good chance
of winning, at least a decent chance. In only three days Republican voters
are going to pick their nominee, their candidate to run against Begich.
And right now, former Alaska attorney general Dan Sullivan, lieutenant
governor Mead Treadwell are the leading contenders. But it is the
Republican running in third place who could shake up the race. That is
attorney and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller.
If you remember his name it`s because he beat Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski
in the 2010 Republican primary, a shocking upset when that happened, but
then he ended up losing to her write-in campaign in the general election.
Alaska Democrats who see Miller as the weakest Republican candidate think
he could pull another upset off on Tuesday with one Democratic official
saying Miller is running a lot better campaign than last time.
"And I would say, based on what we know of the unreliable polling in
Alaska, he has a very clear chance to win."
Even the loss on Tuesday doesn`t guarantee that Miller will go away, says
he won`t back Treadwell or Sullivan if either of them wins. And he hasn`t
ruled out running as a third-party
candidate or an independent. That could split the conservative vote and
once again deny Republicans a victory in Alaska.
NBC News` Kasie Hunt was just in Alaska to cover that Senate race. She is
back now in the lower 48 and she joins us now.
Well, you`re not in the lower 48; you`re in Washington, D.C. That`s not a
state but that`s a whole other matter. Anyway, thank you --
KORNACKI: You`re back in the United States. So let`s start with this one.
We have the quote from the Democrats there, saying, hey, look, they see Joe
Miller as another Todd Akin type who blows a race Republicans could
otherwise win. And there`s like, hey, look, doing better. He could win
Is that wishful thinking or could he actually pull that out (INAUDIBLE)?
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Miller did, in a
recent debate since I spoke to him actually, he ruled out running as a
third party. He said he would support the Republican nominee, no matter
who it is.
That said, this is something the Democrats absolutely love. They love the
idea that Joe Miller is back. They love the idea that he has all these
ties to Sarah Palin, who is a figure they would really love to be able to
draw into this race.
When I asked Senator Mark Begich about Palin, he was very eager to
criticize her for having quit the governorship in Alaska. He said that
she`s not Alaska, which, if you`ve been up there, you`ll come to quickly
learn is a pretty big insult for a place that refers to the rest of the
country as the outside or as the lower 48, as you said.
So at this point it really is, I would say, one of the things I learned
when I was on the ground there is that this primary race is really more
unpredictable than many people here in Washington have portrayed it as.
The establishment has really gotten behind Dan Sullivan, he was somebody
who worked in the Bush administration. He knows Karl Rove personally from
when he worked in the White House and then at the State Department for
Condoleezza Rice. Condoleezza Rice cut this ad for him. They have already
spent a lot of money on the air. Democrats have spent millions on the air
beating up on Dan Sullivan.
But the electorate up there in Alaska, especially in a primary, is so small
and so unpredictable that, at this point, it`s really hard to say that he
will be guaranteed to be the guy who comes out on top. And I think you`ve
seen some of that in just how much these two candidates have been conscious
of the positions and stances that Joe Miller has taken.
I spoke to both Treadwell and Sullivan about the Violence against Women
Act, for example. That was something that the whole Alaska delegation
voted for; two Republicans, one Democrat. Neither one would commit to
saying they would vote for it. And I would say that that probably has
something to do with the fact that Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate, is
also in this primary.
KORNACKI: Yes, there`s another example of the Tea Party influencing non-
Tea Party candidates.
Quickly, when you look at begich and you look at his path to victory in the
general election, 2008 was a great year relatively speaking for Democrats
in the state of Alaska. They`ve never had really great years, but that`s
probably about as good as it`s going to get.
The presidential race was relatively close up there. You had -- he`s
running against a senator who was convicted. It was later overturned, but
convicted right before the election. He still barely wins.
In the climate of 2014 what`s the key for Mark Begich to win this fall?
HUNT: The key for Mark Begich is really the idea that he knows his state
better than whoever ends up running against him and also that he can sort
of prove that he is actually accomplishing things for the state.
One of the things with about Alaska is that the gridlock in Washington has
really hung around Mark Begich`s neck in a way that it might not be for
many other vulnerable Senate incumbents and that`s because the state
itself, most of it`s owned by the federal government and most of the
industries in Alaska, oil, fishing, they`re all very heavily impacted by
regulations coming out of the government.
When I was up there talking to these fishermen, they`re all very
knowledgeable about the rules and the laws, and they want something from
begich. And if he can`t show that he`s gotten something done, it`s going
to be a real problem for him.
KORNACKI: All right, this is one of those we`ll be keeping a very close
eye on. Not the last time we`ll be talking about Alaska. My thanks to NBC
News` Kasie Hunt for joining us. Welcome back to the United States if not
one of the lower 48 states.
HUNT: Happy to be home.
KORNACKI: All right. What we have more on what we have ahead. Stay with
KORNACKI: So I think in that last segment I told Kasie Hunt welcome back
to the United States -- she was coming in from Alaska -- as if Alaska is
not part of the United States. What I thought I had said to her was
welcome back to the lower 48. And then I got all flustered because she`s
in Washington, D.C., which would not be one of the lower 48 since it`s not
So I was -- anyway, I got -- if I confused anybody, I certainly confused
myself. But if I confused you, I`m sorry.
Thank you for joining us, though, today for UP. We`ll be keeping a close
eye on what happens Ferguson, Missouri, overnight. So please join us
tomorrow morning starting at 8:00 for the very latest on that.
And until then, coming up next is Melissa Harris-Perry. On today`s "MHP,
Melissa and her guests will tackle the story in Ferguson as it is still
developing right now. So stick around for that. And thanks for getting UP
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