PoliticsNation, Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
Read the transcript from the Wednesday show
September 3, 2014
Guest: Brian Katulis; Jamal Simmons, John Wisniewski, Jonathan Capehart
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR, THE ED SHOW: Thanks for your time. We`ll be
back tomorrow with the story.
That`s "the Ed Show." I`m Ed Schultz. "Politics Nation" with Reverend Al
Sharpton starts right now.
Good evening, Rev.
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed and thanks to you for
Tonight`s lead, justice will be severed. That was President Obama`s
message today to the terror group, ISIS. Today American intelligence
officials confirm the authenticity of this ISIS video showing the beheading
of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff. And early this morning,
the president made his strongest statement to date on ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever these murderers
think they will achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they
have already failed. They failed because, like people around the world,
Americans are repulsed by their barbarism. We will not be intimidated.
Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our result to
take the fight against these terrorists. And those who make the mistake of
harming Americans will learn that we will not forget and that our reach is
long and that justice will be served.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The president then headed to Wales for a key NATO summit where
the threat from ISIS will be a major point of discussion. We are also
learning today about Steven Sotloff, the freelance journalist that was
killed. He was a dual American-Israeli citizen. A contributor to some
Israeli media outlets, a fact not acknowledged publicly in an effort to
keep him safe.
One fellow captive told an American newspaper that he hid his Jewish faith
from his captors, even telling them he was sick so he could fast for Yom
Kippur. Today we caught glimpses of Sotloff`s mother at home in Florida.
And late today, a family spokesman spoke to reporters saying Steven will
endure and the mother of other American journalists executed by ISIS
offered her some words of comfort.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE FOLEY, JAMES FOLEY`S MOTHER: We send all of our love and hugs to
them. Unfortunately, they are sharing the pain we are. So we just ask the
world to embrace them as the world has embraced us. It helped us so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: We`re all thinking of these families. We`re all sickened by
this brutal murders. And today vice president Biden channeled the nation`s
anger and demand for justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When people harm
Americans, we don`t retreat. We don`t forget. We take care of those who
are grieving and when that`s finished, they should know we will follow them
to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice. Because hell is
where they will reside. Hell is where they will reside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Americans want justice done. President Obama is rallying the
world to fight ISIS overseas because this group is like none we`ve ever
seen. Reports say there are 3,000 ISIS fighters from western countries
including around 500 from Britain, around 500 from France, and as many as
100 Americans fighting under a black flag thousands of miles from home.
Joining me now from Turkey, is Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign
correspondent. Richard, thanks for being here.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It`s a pleasure to
talk to you.
As you said, there are thousands of westerners and many from Arab countries
who have gone into Syria, many of them coming through this city where I am
right now in Turkey and decided that they wanted to take part in the war
there, and they wanted to join ISIS. An unknown number of Americans have
done the same or tried to do the same, but they`ve been quite illusive. We
have only learned about them after they`ve been killed.
Tonight on "NBC Nightly News," we are going to hear from one American who
tried to join ISIS, aspired to join ISIS, who was a self-recruit. He
actually got on the plane, came here to Turkey. Had been in contact with
ISIS members. And quite openly says that that was his objective. His name
is Donald Morgan. He is now in U.S. custody and he is --
SHARPTON: You wrote about this. You posted it online.
ENGEL: Yes, we released some reporting on-line.
SHARPTON: -- about an American who wanted to join ISIS. So what prompts
him and hundreds of thousands to joint terrorist group?
ENGEL: Exactly. Well, our reporting shows that he, like other recruits,
went for personal reasons. There was a spiritual element. He became
convinced that ISIS` brand of radical Islam offered the answers. Offered a
clear path of what is right and wrong. But he was also an angry person.
Someone who had been struggling with the law. Had many different jobs. He
wanted to join the military but never had a successful career there. And
after struggling to fit in, he found this calling. He wanted to be part of
something bigger. It is almost like someone who 10 or 15 or 20 years ago
might have joined a religious cult. And this time he did join or tried to
join a religious cult but a very, very aggressive, a very violent one,
SHARPTON: Now what kind of impact have the U.S. air strikes had on ISIS,
ENGEL: The impact has been limited to Iraq. ISIS, a few months ago, in
June, broke out of Syria, took over the city of Mosul, and captured a huge
stash, a horde of weapons and starting marching toward Baghdad. Now U.S.
troops are there advising. They are trying to stop the ISIS advance in
Iraq. And they are having some success in Iraq. The problem is, they are
not doing anything to stop ISIS in its strong hold of Syria.
They are pushing some of the militants out of Iraq, pushing them back into
Syria. But they still hold their strong hold there and that is where they
-- where many believe they held their hostages and where they executed
those two Americans, inside Syria.
SHARPTON: Will the U.S. have to take action there and can the U.S. take
action there without allies or coalition?
ENGEL: Most military experts, officers I have spoken to, think that some
military action will eventually be need. But a few air strikes, even an
air campaign, isn`t enough. Because you also have to figure out who will
take over afterwards. And for the last three years, the United States and
many other countries, in fact, have not been supporting or adequately
supporting an alternative. They haven`t been supporting a moderate
opposition. So if you bomb ISIS, you could end up just having a situation
like we do in Somalia where you continually have to bomb a few places, but
that there is no stable alternative.
President Obama said he is still trying to find a strategy and I know many
people have spoken to in the military, desperately wanting to find that
strategy soon because the ISIS threat is not going away.
SHARPTON: You have covered a lot of terrorist groups. What is different
about this group, Richard? Are they more ruthless, more brutal. What is
so different about ISIS?
ENGEL: They certainly are brutal. They certainly like to expose their
brutality online. But what`s significant about this group is that they
hold terrain. They hold a large part of Syria. They still hold a large
part of Iraq and they have an enormous amount of weaponry. The Iraqi army
in the city of Mosul collapsed. It was humiliation. They humiliated
themselves. They didn`t stand a fight. They outnumbered ISIS something
like 20-1 but decided to run away from the fight, handing this group an
enormous amount of firepower.
So when you have a violent group, a vicious group, with a state, with
weaponry, that attracts lots of people. Success from their perspective
builds on success and that attracts recruits. That attracts this --
creates this mystique of ISIS that they are trying to build upon.
SHARPTON: Richard Engel, thank you so much for your time tonight.
I want to bring in Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the center for American
Progress. Brian, first of all, thanks for being here.
BRIAN KATULIS, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Great to be
with you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: The President at the NATO summit this week, what do you think he
will push for to fight ISIS?
KATULIS: Well, I think there should be two things. One, is to make sure
our defenses, our homeland security defenses are strong. As we have talked
about and you mentioned, at least 3,000 Europeans and Americans that are
part of ISIS. And we definitely want to continue to coordinate with our
NATO allies to make sure that our intelligence collection, our law
enforcement mechanisms are in place to prevent attacks.
I think the second thing they should talk about is the aspect of what needs
to be done. The contingencies inside of Syria`s border against ISIS.
Because for the last nearly month, we have been conducting air strikes in
Iraq. The Kurds of Iraq have been fighting with us and some Iraqi security
forces have been fighting. But since there is no border between Iraq and
Syria, it seems difficult to dismantle, disrupt and defeat ISIS some taking
some action inside in Syria. And I think that the discussion at NATO will
be, how do we actually build an international coalition? One that includes
NATO, and one that includes NATO members like Turkey as well as some
regional partners who have definite interest in defeating this threat.
SHARPTON: Brian, I want to play to you some more of what the president
said today on ISIS. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So the bottom line is this, our objective is clear, and that is to
degrade and destroy ISIL so it is no long ear threat. Not just to Iraq,
but to the region and to the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, you know, Brian, it is very similar to what he used to say
about Al Qaeda. I mean, what reaction to you have to this statement?
KATULIS: My reaction is that this is an administration that seems poised
to do what we did in Pakistan and what we are doing in Yemen and what we
did earlier this week in Somalia. It sounds like an administration that is
preparing to actually meet out some justice and to take strikes against is.
We have done so in Iraq. But that sort of language to me indicates that
we`re taking this threat seriously. I think when you add that with what
President Obama and his top team has been saying about building an
international coalition, I think what we`re going to see is a very busy
fall with sharper focus on Syria and what`s going on inside of Syria.
Again, I don`t think we`ll ever see boots on the ground and nor should we.
U.S. troops going into Syria. But I do think we are looking at some
prospect of somebody, if not us, somebody going after is inside of Syrian
SHARPTON: Preparing to meet out justice, those are strong words, Brian.
Brian Katulis, thank you for your time tonight.
KATULIS: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, how did a man handcuffed behind his back supposedly
shoot himself in the front of his chest? He died in police custody. And
now his family is demanding a federal investigation.
Also breaking news from the Chris Christie bridge gate scandal, an
explosive new report on how port authority officers were told to stay quiet
and ordered not to reopen lanes during the traffic jam.
Also, a new reason for Rush Limbaugh to be hopping mad. Looks like his big
prediction about the midterm election may turn out to be just a bunch of
SHARPTON: A quick update in the Michael brown investigation in Ferguson.
Today the St. Louis report dispatch reported on the criminal record of
brown. A Missouri court official revealed Michael Brown was never
convicted of a serious a or b felony at the time of his death.
This news lit up our social media accounts and many of our responses were
Cathi wrote, even if there had been, it has nothing to do with his death.
Nor would it make his death justified in any way. Cathi, I couldn`t agree
with you more.
Please keep your conversation going on our facebook page or tweet us
SHARPTON: Republicans have been talking about it for months. The
political wave was coming to Congress. They predicted doom and gloom for
Democrats. This was their year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I fully expect the 2014 midterms to
be a way of election like 2010. I think the people of this country are
going sweep Democrats out of office every clans they get. Every
opportunity that they get.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A big political wave is about to break in America. And
the Obama care Democrats are on the wrong side of that wave.
REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think that
we`re in for a tsunami type election in 2014. My belief is that it is
going to be a very big win, especially at the U.S. Senate level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Well, today, two months before the election, they`re giving a
lesson in how hard it is to forecast the political weather. The fight for
Senate control is up in the air.
The "New York Times" gives the Republicans a 70 percent chance of taking
control of the Senate. But a Princeton analysis gives the Democrats the
edge with 65 percent chance of keeping Senate control.
And today, "the Huffington Post" also put the odds in favor of Democrats at
57 percent. A close fight is not what Republicans had in mind. And today,
we see the panic. The right wing national review warns, quote,
"Republicans continue to lack any strategy for winning the November
elections beyond avoiding mistakes and hoping that President Obama`s
unpopularity delivers control of the Senate to them.
Make no mistake, Democrats are in for a serious battle, but for the GOP,
predictions of a big wave have crashed into reality. Joining me now,
democratic strategist Jamal Simmons and salon.com`s Joan Walsh. Thank you
both for being here.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thank you, Rev.
SHARPTON: Jamal, was this a classic case of overconfidence from the right?
SIMMONS: Yes. This would be what my dad would call, selling wolf tickets.
They are not actually going to do as well as they are telling people
they`re going to go but they`re talking the game up so much to try to get
people to believe it. I was talking to a senior White House economic
official today who was talking to me about the unemployment rate, and the
economic rate. And you could start to see the long-term unemployment is
coming down. Short term unemployment is coming down. Job growth is
continuing. We have some new numbers at the end of this week. We just
don`t feel the same build that you felt even in 2010 toward those
elections. You don`t have Obamacare being the hot flash. There just isn`t
that combustible energy that out there before. So I don`t see a way. They
are going to do well. I`m sure Republicans will do fine, but I don`t think
they will take the Senate.
SHARPTON: You know, Joan, let`s look at what the Senate looks like now, 53
Democrats, 45 Republicans. Two independents who caucus with the Democrats.
So the Republican needs -- the Republicans really need to take six seats to
gain control. But we just saw how close this is with nine toss-up races.
What do Democrats need to do in the next two months to fight for control,
JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, SALON.COM: Well, I think they really need to
churn out. And there is a kind of funny balancing act we have do with this
news, Rev, where I think when it looks like a way of election Democrats can
get depressed and stay home. But we don`t want anyone to think that, you
know, this is the bag for Democrats, because if isn`t. It is still up
Republicans count. Every four years they do better when fewer people turn
out. That is sad. That is, to me, a sad way to an election if I had to
count on fewer people turning out, then I win. That`s what they do. They
are right, that`s what happens. So if Democrats can bump up their turn out
and make it a little bit more, it is not going to get to that 2012 level
but make it more like 2012 and less like 2010, I think they are going to do
better than --
SHARPTON: No. I have been talking about this a lot. It is going to be
down the turnout.
You know, Jamal, the Senate is really what everyone is watching and there`s
a lot at stake here. Listen to what Republican candidates in key states
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOM TILLIS (R-NC), SENATE CANDIDATE: What we have to do is find a way to
divide and conquer the people who are on assistance.
REP. TOM COTTON (R-AR), SENATE CANDIDATE: I think that the Congress as a
whole may need to say hell no to Barack Obama little bit more.
JONI ERNEST (R-IO), SENATE CANDIDATE: Facing repercussions. Whether that
is removal from office, whether that is impeachment. He has become a
dictator. He is not following our constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: You know, Jamal, we haven`t seen a Christine O`Donnell or Sharon
Engel. But how can they use this rhetoric to run against them and get the
base turned out?
SIMMONS: You know, I was listening to what Joan was saying. And I wish
Republican operatives probably had the same value structure that she has.
But basically we are in the middle of the campaign. You want to win,
regardless of the number. You just want that w on the wall.
But, the Democrats have got to be able to turn this around and talk a lot
more about things like impeachment. Talk a lot more about things like
shutting the government down. Use some of the rhetoric they`re hearing
from the right to kind of animate the base.
Sadly, I will say, I`m not sure as many Democrats have done the work they
need to in terms of building relationships. With the people on the ground,
the communities, to get that new Democratic majority animated. So now
they`ve got the back up against the wall. So they have to do what they can
and turn people out in whatever method they can.
SHARPTON: Impeachment, Joan, Ferguson, in terms of the African-American
vote, which crucial in The New York Times, a big story on that over the
weekend. I mean, talking about minimum wage. You have to turn people on
to turn people out and the Democrats have got to show that.
WALSH: Yes, I think Democrats at times have been afraid of linking them
self with the president, of linking them self with the affordable care act.
There`s a little timidity that I think people may regret. But we see the
first lady is going to campaign in Georgia for Michelle Nunn. That`s a
SIMMONS: That`s great.
WALSH: I think that we`re seeing people get more energized. And I also
think, you know, Republicans are saying, we`ve got these great candidates.
Nobody is talking about legitimate rape. But they actually have some
really extreme candidates who have learned not to use the "R "word but they
do use the "I" word like impeachment. And Joni Ernst is talking about
nullification. I mean, they have got some people who are way out of the
main stream. Joni Ernst is way too conservative for the state of Iowa.
And I think Democrats are starting to get their voters tune in to that and
get independent to tune in to it, too.
SHARPTON: I want to get -- let me ask this before I run out of time. I
want to hear from both of you on this. NBC first highlight today, what`s
at stake for the GOP not running the Senate, could saying it could turn
into a nightmare for the party. Quote, "it will hurt recruiting in 2016.
It could spark leadership fights. And it could rekindle the central
ideological debate inside the party. Shouldn`t it be more conservative or
more pragmatic? Jamal.
SIMMONS: You know, the Republicans, they want to try to run a conservative
campaign because they want to turn out as many Republicans as possible.
But Joan kind of just start said to touch on something that`s really
important. There are other states out there that are important. Georgia,
they have a good candidate with Michelle Nunn. Kentucky is going to be
tough for the Republicans. Kansas, Pat Roberts is not doing a great job.
So you can even see Democrats put up a good fight in Kansas. It doesn`t
mean we will win all the races but Republicans will be consumed by trying
to hold on to some of those Senate seats.
SHARPTON: Joan, what`s at stake for Republicans?
WALSH: Well, I think they will have another bloodletting, if they don`t --
if they don`t take Senate. If they don`t do as well as expected. Mitch
McConnell may not be part of that battle. Because he is fighting for his
political life. He is not just fighting to gain leadership. So it is
going to be interesting and it is not what they expected. Not at all.
SHARPTON: Jamal Simmons and Joan Walsh, thank you both for your time
SIMMONS: Thank you, Rev.
WALSH: Thanks, Rev.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, breaking news from the Chris Christie bridge gate
scandal. New details about how police officers were literally told to shut
up about the traffic jam. Ordered to stand aside and not do their job.
And Scott Brown is running into more trouble in New Hampshire or is it
Massachusetts? That`s in tonight`s "Got You."
Also, a pitch perfect night from little league star Mo`ne Davis.
SHARPTON: The New Hampshire Senate race is starting to heat up. Incumbent
democrat Jean Shaheen is trying to fend off a challenge from the carpet
bagging former senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown. The latest polls
show Shaheen leading Brown 46-44. So what his plan to close that gap in
coming weeks? He floated an interesting idea during a radio interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ask Scott why people should vote for him after the other
-- instead of the other GOP candidates. That`s from Vermont, actually.
FMR. SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Sure. Well, the first -- where
is it from, Vermont?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes, 860. Yes.
BROWN: Well, they can come over and do same-day registration and say, if
they want to come down and vote. So if they feel compelled to do so, come
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That 860 Connecticut. That`s maybe Connecticut. I`m
BROWN: Yes, well, whatever it is, they can come up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: People who live other states should come on down and vote. Are
you kidding, Senator Brown? Actually his campaign did release a statement
saying, he was clearly joking. But he does know a thing or two about
coming from another state. Let`s remember, Scott Brown is running for
Senate in New Hampshire. Just a few years after losing a Senate seat in
Massachusetts. But even before Brown formally announced his campaign, we
knew this was going to be a bad idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: What I`ve heard from the republicans up here is they are thankful
that I`ve been around for a year helping them raise money. Helping them
raise awareness as to the issues that are affecting people not only here in
Massachusetts -- uhm, in New Hampshire --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Uhm, New Hampshire. Then he gave an interview and said, quote,
"Do I have the best credentials?" Probably not. Because you know,
whatever, but I have a long and strong ties to this state. He used to be a
senator from Massachusetts. But you know, whatever, people should come
from other states and you know, whatever, vote for him. Does Scott Brown
think we wouldn`t notice he`s in a state of confusion? Nice try. But we
SHARPTON: Breaking news tonight on the Governor Chris Christie, George
Washington bridge scandal. The Bergen record on-line has posted new
documents showing that Port Authority police were told not to reopen access
lanes during the closings. These newly-published documents show police who
worked at the bridge were horrified at the chaos caused by the lane
closings. But they were ordered not to reopen them by their superior. A
police lieutenant who grew up in Governor Christie`s hometown, Lieutenant
Thomas Chip Michaels, the details came from accounts provided by an
attorney representing 11 officers.
They depict the role played by Lieutenant Michaels, as well as the bridge
official who ordered the lane closings, David Wildstein. Starting on the
first day of the closings when one of the officers says he, quote,
"observed Lieutenant Michaels driving David Wildstein into Fort Lee."
Another officer said, he got the lane closing order from Michaels that day.
Quote, "Lieutenant Michaels informed him of the new traffic pattern and
instructed him not to move the cones."
The closings caused massive traffic right away. One officer described it
as horrible. Another called it horrific. But when one 12-year police
veteran complained on his radio, he said he was told to quote, "to shut up,
and there could be no further discussion of the lane closures over the
air." The documents also reveal that during the closings, a rumor kept
circulating, one 20-year police veteran says he heard it from Fort Lee
Police Chief Keith Bendul. Quote, "He recalls that Chief Bendul attributed
the lane closings to a political disagreement between Governor Christie and
Mayor Sokolich." Governor Christie has denied involvement or any knowledge
of the lane closings.
Joining me now, New Jersey democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the co-
chair of the select committee investigating the bridge scandal. Thank you
for being here, Assemblyman.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLYMAN: Good to be here. Thank you.
SHARPTON: These documents appear to show high-ranking bridge officials
were aware of the chaos on the bridge as it was unfolding. What do you
make of this?
WISNIEWSKI: Very troubling. Police officers are supposed to be there to
provide safety, to protect lives, to direct traffic. And yet when they
notice that this was a disaster in the making, they were told to shut up,
to not do their job. Somebody ordered them to do that. Somebody told
these police officers that they shouldn`t do their job, and one of the
things we need to find out is why that happened.
SHARPTON: You know, one officer who had been with the Port Authority since
2000, he says, quote, during the closings, he heard, and I`m quoting, "talk
in the Port Authority Police Department break room. That the closures were
part after dispute between Governor Chris Christie and Fort Lee Mayor Mark
Sokolich." So this appeared to be a common believe that the lane closings
were part of a political fight and the Fort Lee mayor.
WISNIEWSKI: And we`ve heard press accounts way before this that police
officers were asked by motorists why this happened and we told those
motorists that there`s a disagreement between the mayor and the governor
and you need to talk to the mayor. And so, that confirms what was said
SHARPTON: Another 20-year veteran says when he saw the lane closings, I`m
quoting him, "he noticed the cones were physically touching each other and
immediately realized the lane reduction would create a nightmare." I mean,
can it be any doubt that this was done by someone who was motivated to
intentionally wreak havoc?
WISNIEWSKI: This was done by people who had ill will. We heard Bob
Dorando and Cedrick Fulton testified in front of the transportation
committee, they said, this was a disaster in the making and they were told
that they had to go ahead and do this, and they feared for their jobs. Now
we see a police officer being told to shut up when he saw the same problem.
SHARPTON: You co-chaired a committee. Do you intend to talk to any of
these officers, or would you like?
WISNIEWSKI: This is the beginning phase. We wanted to find out what these
officers knew. I`m not sure how this got out. This is certainly part of
our work product. But we`re going to continue to pursue this because we
need to understand how this abuse of power could happen. It shouldn`t
have, they`d put lives in danger and we need to make sure it can`t happen
SHARPTON: Do you believe the U.S. Attorney is also looking into this and
will run up against your investigation?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, certainly the U.S. attorney`s office has not told us
exactly what they are looking at but they are doing a very thorough job and
my understanding is, is that many of the same people that either we have
talked to or want to talk to are people that they are interested in as
SHARPTON: All right. Well, this is certainly adding to a very troubling
story. What`s your next step before we go?
WISNIEWSKI: Our next step is to talk to as many people as we can, to see
if these facts bear up under scrutiny. We`ve had testimony already that
does not match these stories that we`re hearing today. And so we have a
lot of people telling different versions of stories. We need to make sure
we get the truth.
SHARPTON: Assemblyman John Wisniewski, we thank you for your time tonight.
WISNIEWSKI: Thank you very much.
SHARPTON: Coming up, the mysterious shooting death of a man who was
handcuffed in the back of a police car. Officials say he committed
suicide. The family is demanding a federal investigation.
Also, the shocking thing a Supreme Court justice said about this man.
Walking free today after 30 years on death row for a crime he didn`t
SHARPTON: We turn now to a disturbing story out of Louisiana. A young man
who mysteriously died of a gunshot wound while he was handcuffed in a
police car. On March 2nd at around 11:30 at night, 22-year-old Victor
White III and a friend were at a convenient store in New Iberian,
Louisiana. White and his friend left the store and were soon approached by
police car looking for two people who were allegedly involved in a fight at
that same convenient store. They were stopped and patted down.
Police say, they found a substance they suspected to be marijuana in Mr.
White`s pants pocket. And a small amount of suspected cocaine on him as
well. But there are so many questions about what happened next. Reports
say, White was taken into Custody, handcuffed, behind his back. And
transported to the Iberia Parish sheriff`s office for processing. But
somehow, while handcuffed, he produced a handgun, and fired one round
striking himself in the back killing himself.
Handcuffed in the back of a police car, and he shoots himself in the back.
Last week, almost six months after White died, the Iberia Parish coroner
released their report on his death saying, White shot himself in the chest,
not in the back, as police previously reported. And ruled Victor White`s
death a suicide. His family is demanding answers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICTOR WHITE II, FATHER OF VICTOR WHITE III: My son had too much going on
in his life, at that time, to take his life. And we`re devastated.
Because my kids, he has other siblings, no answers on how he died. He has
a one-year-old daughter, that at some point, will say, papa, what happened
to my dad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: How can a man who was patted down by police and handcuffed
manage to shoot himself in the chest?
Joining me now is Jonathan Capehart of "The Washington Post." He is
writing about Victor White`s unbelievable Houdini handcuff suicide.
Jonathan, thank you for being here this evening.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST": Thanks, Rev.
SHARPTON: You think this story is unbelievable, why?
CAPEHART: I mean, you laid it out there, Rev, in your introduction.
First, the police say -- the police report says that I handcuffed Victor
White, with his arms behind his back, somehow produced a gun that they
didn`t find over two separate searches, shot himself in the back with it,
and then six months later -- and that by itself, Rev, is already
unbelievable. But then the coroner`s report comes out six months later and
says oh, no, he committed suicide but still while handcuffed produced a
gun that hadn`t been found in two searches but shot himself in the chest.
The first --
SHARPTON: While he was handcuffed.
CAPEHART: While he was handcuffed. The second explanation doesn`t make
any sense. And that`s why I think it`s important that family is calling on
the federal government, the Justice Department, to do an independent
investigation of this case.
SHARPTON: Now, you know, I`ve heard a lot of cases been involved in many,
but they found marijuana and maybe a small amount of cocaine but they
couldn`t find a gun?
CAPEHART: Right. Right. And they found the marijuana in the first
search, they found the cocaine in the second search. But still, what comes
out in this story, and especially the story that was written by
nbcnews.com, that Victor White and a friend of his were in that convenient
store. They were inside the convenient store. There are other witnesses
that say that they were inside the convenient store and did not leave the
convenient store until the two people who are allegedly fighting outside
that store had left.
Only then did Victor White and his friend leave the convenient store and
that`s when cops stopped them and again, according to NBC News reporting,
they told the cops, hey, if we go back to the convenient store we can look
at the tape and we can talk to the other people who were there so you can
find the two people who were involved in the fight.
SHARPTON: I want show to you how Victor White`s father says he learned
about what happened to his son. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITE II: Go back home to Alexandria. I got call friend, family members,
neighbors, telling me to go on the -- on Facebook and look up on the
Louisiana state police website. And it say, man, they got a story about
your son. He produced a handgun, when the officer went to go for
assistance, he produced a handgun and shot himself in the back. And
believe me, I was angered and outraged. Because they didn`t tell me
anything. But everybody, everybody all over the place knew what they were
saying happened to my son. That she shot himself in the back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So they refuse to tell him anything after he spent hours at the
station, trying to find out what happened to his son. But they post the
story on Facebook. I mean, that`s unbelievable, Jonathan.
CAPEHART: Well, it is unbelievable and also incredibly disrespectful. I
mean, here is a parent trying to find out what happened to their child and
yet the authorities there refuse to tell them. And also, imagine -- in the
indignity of it all, that you`ve gone down there, trying to find out
answers. You don`t get any. You travel all the way back home to find out
from friends and family who are calling you to tell you, hey, did you see
what the Police Department put out on its Facebook page. I mean, just on a
human level, that should not have happened. There should be more
SHARPTON: Well, let me continue with what sounds ridiculous. The coroner
alleges that it is possible that White could have shot himself. Dr. Carl
Ditch said, "White, who was handcuffed with his hand behind him in a police
car could have manipulated a handgun to the point of entry which appears to
be between his right breast and right armpit based on the autopsy and
subsequent prepared statement." I mean, that`s what the other side says,
Jonathan. Your response?
CAPEHART: Yes. Well, my response is, you know, I have to repeat the words
of Attorney Benjamin Crump who is representing Victor White`s parents,
calling this a Houdini handcuff suicide. And how this is the -- at least
the third one that he we know about over the last couple of years with how
miraculously someone who has handcuffed behind their back can somehow
manipulate a gun to the point where they can shoot themselves anywhere on
their body. But in this case of Victor White, to go from him shooting
being able to manipulate a gun and shoot himself in the back to the
coroner`s report that says, he was able to manipulate the gun and shoot
himself in the chest while handcuffed behind his back. It is remarkable,
it`s unbelievable, it`s outrageous.
SHARPTON: Well, I have said on my radio show, and I`ll say it here and
I`ll say it at the Baptist convention, this warrants a real serious
impartial investigation. Jonathan Capehart, thank you for your time
CAPEHART: Thank you very much, Rev.
SHARPTON: Coming up, two men set free after 30 years in prison for a crime
they didn`t commit. You need to hear what Justice Scalia said about these
men. And the death penalty.
And on a much lighter note, everybody`s favorite little leaguer, Mo`ne
Davis, was at Dodger Stadium last night, throwing a perfect strike. That`s
SHARPTON: She`s the break-out star of the summer. She`s Mo`ne Davis. The
13-year-old pitching superstar was the first girl to throw a shutout in
Little League World Series history. She was the first little leaguer ever
to grace the "Sports Illustrated" cover. And last night, Davis was at
Dodger Stadium to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. She got a standing
ovation from the crowd. And both teams. And Queen Latifah announced her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUEEN LATIFAH, ACTRESS: Mo`ne Davis!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Wouldn`t you know it? It was a perfect strike. Right over the
SHARPTON: Finally tonight. Justice, three decades in the making. Today,
Henry McCollum and Leon Brown walked out of prison in Riley, North Carolina
as free men. After spending 30 years in prison for crime they didn`t
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY MCCOLLUM, FREED FROM DEATH ROW: I came here in 1984 me and my
brother Leon Brown. It was a rough experience, sometimes I felt like
giving up and stuff. But I said, `No, I can`t do it. Because life moves
on. I knew one day that I was going to get out of prison. I just did not
know when that time was going to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: McCollum was on death row. Brown was serving a life sentence
but yesterday a judge declared them both innocent of a 1983 rape and murder
of a child. DNA evidence implicated another man in the crime. This man
had been overlooked by police even though he lived just a block from the
crime scene. And even though he admitted to committing a similar rape and
murder around the same time. Lawyers say both men are mentally challenged.
They were just teenagers when they were arrested. After five hours of
questioning, with no lawyer present, McCollum confessed to the crime. His
brother soon followed.
And supporters of the death penalty used both men as example of why we need
capital punishment. Twenty years ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
said, McCollum deserved to die. Scalia wrote, quote, "how enviable a quiet
death by lethal injection." For McCollum and the other accused men.
Scalia was wrong. McCollum and his brother were innocent. And they lost
30 years of their lives. We cannot continue to have a sentence that would
take people`s lives. And find out later we were wrong. We cannot give
life back after we take it. And the system is too flawed to take that
chance. Today is another example of why.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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