PoliticsNation, Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Read the transcript from the Wednesday show
Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: March 4, 2015
Guest: Joseph Crowley, Jeffrey Rosen, Jamal Simmons, Ryan Grim
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"PoliticsNation" with Reverend Al Sharpton is up next.
Good evening, Rev.
REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you for
tuning in. I`m live tonight from Miami. We start tonight with breaking
The dramatic Supreme Court fight over the president`s health care law.
Justices today hearing a case that conservatives hope will gut the law.
The lawsuit claims that federal exchanges in 34 states should not be
allowed to provide subsidies. A claim that could force between seven and
nine million people to lose insurance.
The entire lawsuit hinges on one small part of the law. It found in
subtitle E, part one, subpart A, section 36B. The lawsuit claims that a
phrase there indicates that subsidies are only available for exchanges of
established by the state and not the federal government.
Today, several justices, including Elena Kagan pushed back against that
narrow reading. Kagan said quote "it`s not the simple four or five words.
It`s the whole structure and the context of the provision." But Justice
Anthony Scalia disagreed saying quote "it`s nonetheless mean what is it
Meantime, a potentially good sign for the White House. Justice Anthony
Kennedy who could cast the decisive vote telling the challengers who want
to gut the law quote "there`s a serious constitutional problem if we adopt
The other big question today, what is Chief Justice John Roberts thinking?
Today he was notably quiet. Apparently keeping his cards close to the
vest. Outside the court, a raucous scene with protesters on both sides,
including many of who have personally been helped by the law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened to medical school, I got diagnosed for
oral cancer and I lost -- at medical school, I lost my medical insurance
for six months until Obamacare went into effect.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would not be able to pay with the -- you know,
without the subsidy. It was really would be impossible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am an ovarian cancer survivor and if it wasn`t for
the exchange, I would not be standing here before you today. Not only --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Congressman Joseph Crowley, Democrat from New
York, he was at the Supreme Court today. And Jeffrey Rosen, president and
CEO of the National Constitution Center.
Thank you both for being here.
REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Rev. Good to be with you.
JEFFREY ROSEN, NATIONAL CONSTITUTION CENTER PRESIDENT & CEO: Thank you,
SHARPTON: Congressman, what was the mood in the court today? Was there a
sense of how high the stakes are?
CROWLEY: I don`t think there`s any doubt. The room was packed. People
had been waiting out in the middle of the night to get a seat in that room.
It was solemn. We all listened very intently to the words of all the
justices and the questions they asked as well as the plaintiff and the
government defense in this case. It was quite solemn.
SHARPTON: Jeff, does the whole fight really come down to one phrase tucked
inside a 900-page bill?
ROSEN: It really does. As Justice Kagan said, the question is, are you
going to take those words out of context or read them in context? The
challenger say that if the exchange is not established by the state, you
can`t get the tax breaks. But that would mean a death spiral where, as you
said, more than eight million people in the 34 states that have established
federal exchanges would not get the tax breaks.
It was very interesting to hear this debate between Justice Kagan who said
the whole context matters and Justice Scalia who said only the text matters
and we can`t look at the context at all. This is a long simmering debate
they`ve had and it`s never been more dramatically on display.
And as you also suggest that it was significant that Justice Kennedy, who
could be the swing vote, said that he was very concerned that if the
challengers` argument were accepted, basically the states would have been
coerced into establishing exchanges for fear that if they didn`t, they
would lose their tax subsidies. He said that kind of coercion can raise
federalism issues and might itself be unconstitutional which gave the
government some hope.
SHARPTON: Now Congressman, let me push a little long with Jeff said
because it was Justice Sonia Sotomayor who warned if this challenge
succeeds quote "we`re going to have the death spiral that this system was
created to avoid." Will the justices take this into account that a ruling
could have a negative impact on millions of Americans, Congressman.
CROWLEY: I think it have to. That was made very clear in the
deliberations today. And I agree with Jeff. I mean, it was very spirited
in terms of the question both for the plaintiff and for the Solicitor
I do think that`s the bottom line here, Revered Al, that if they do decide
to find this -- that the law unconstitutional, will this provision to be
unconstitutional, that it will be a death spiral. That the cost of health
care delivery in this country will go to the roof. Maybe (INAUDIBLE) an
immediate increase of 35 percent or more.
So well, I also want to think the bottom line is, Revered Al, is that so
many millions of Americans now have health insurance through these
subsidies. If they are forced to give them back, it will be a tax increase
for those individuals. But, more importantly, they will lose their health
care and that will be tragic for our country.
SHARPTON: Jeff, let me ask you the same question. Do you think the
justices will care that this will affect millions of people?
ROSEN: The liberal justices are more willing to take pragmatic
consequences into account. Justice Scalia said he did not care and the law
says what it says. But what really matters is what is Chief Justice
Roberts thinking. And he did care about the courts institutional
legitimacy a few years ago when he cast that historic vote to uphold the
affordable care act and this time he faces a really tough choice.
As you said he did not show his cards. We don`t know whether he`s inclined
to read the law as a textualist (ph) or not. But he does care about the
legitimacy of the court, he said so repeatedly and he`s may, once again,
face this one of the toughest decision of his career in a case where it`s
possible that his legal principles clash with his sense about the court`s
SHARPTON: And he barely spoke at all today. Is that right, Jeff?
ROSEN: He did. He said two things. He made a joke about how the Mike
Carvin and the lawyer had changed his position from the last time. But
then he said one interesting thing. He said, if you`re saying this whole
case turns on deferring to the internal revenue service`s interpretation of
the law, that mean as future president could change that interpretation
almost seeming to contemplate that maybe a future Republican president
might view the law differently than President Obama does.
SHARPTON: Now Congressman, in the 2012 challenge to the affordable care,
the court was tightly divided and came down to Chief Justice Roberts`
decision to side with the more liberal justices and preserve the health
care law. This time, court observers say it could come down to Roberts and
Justice Anthony Kennedy. How do you read this?
CROWLEY: I felt the same way. I was sitting next to Paul Ryan, the
Republican Congressman from Wisconsin, House Ways and Means Committee, we
were sitting side by side in the chamber today and I -- every time one of -
- it was Sotomayor or it was Kagan, I would put fingers in front of him, I
got up to four with Sotomayor and when Justice Kennedy spoke, I sort a wave
my fifth my thumb, then when he went up, he started counting his. And then
he started waving on his thumb.
I think Kennedy left it up there for both to sides to me. We find some
hope but I do think in the end that he was more, I think, my sense is and I
hope winning towards the more moderate voices. And I would agree that
Scalia seemed to be very cavalier about the notion that if it disrupts are
or hurts some millions of people, so be it. I thought that was evident as
SHARPTON: How do you read Kennedy, Jeff? How do you read Justice Kennedy?
ROSEN: As the Congressman did. I mean, he was not hiding his cards. He
said several times, I`m very disturbed by the idea that if the challengers`
argument is accepted, this would be unconstitutional coercion and an
offense against federalism. Though we know how much Justice Kennedy cares
about federalism. That was why he voted for straight down the mandate the
first time around.
ROSEN: So he will be -- he definitely votes his principles and that is
encouraging for the supporters of the law.
SHARPTON: Congressman, you know, Justice Scalia did push back against the
Obama administration`s attorney who was warning the lawsuit poses serious
threat, would we`ve been talking about. Justice Scalia said, quote "you
really think Congress is just going to sit there while all of these
disastrous consequences ensue?" And the Solicitor General responded,
"Well, this Congress, your honor." And then there was laugh in the court
room as it sure, you --
CROWLEY: Yes. It was the biggest of blast of laughter. There are quite a
few, Justice Kagan had a few as well that drew some laughter and so did
Justice Sotomayor. But I think that one drew the biggest laugh.
After what we`ve just gone through this week, you know, in terms of the
dragging out of the homeland security bill, if that gives anyone faith and
confidence that this Republican leadership can do anything to fix the
affordable care act if this court decides against it, I think they are
really -- there here may be in Washington D.C. smoking something.
SHARPTON: Well, I think we talk about the laughter in the courtroom but
this is no laughing matter at all.
SHARPTON: Jeff, bottom line it. What do you think is going to happen?
ROSEN: I don`t like to predict but the fact that Kennedy was openly having
questions about the challenger`s argument may lead to some hope for the
SHARPTON: All right. Congressman Joe Crowley and Jeffrey Rosen, thank you
for your time tonight.
CROWLEY: Thank you, Rev. Great to be with you.
ROSEN: Thank you, Revered.
SHARPTON: Breaking news tonight, the Justice Department releases the full
Ferguson report full of startling details on a pattern of racial bias from
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: In every case in which
Ferguson police records reported their race of the person bit by a police
dog that person was African-American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: And the House Benghazi Committee just subpoenaed emails from
Hillary Clinton`s personal account but a very prominent Republican also
used a personal email account. Please stay with us.
SHARPTON: Opening statements today in the Boston bombing trial. The
defense for accused bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, admitted his client was
involved. But claimed he was acting under the influence of his older
brother. The prosecution says that Tsarnaev had quote "pretended to be as
spectator but had murdered in his heart." And said he even went out to buy
milk just 20 minutes after the bombing.
Jurors also heard emotional testimony from witnesses describing the
gruesome scene just as the two bombs detonated. Tsarnaev is facing a
possible death sentence for the attacks that killed four and injured over
260. We`ll certainly be watching this trial as the days go on.
SHARPTON: Breaking news tonight on the controversy over Hillary Clinton`s
emails. The House select committee on Benghazi just issued subpoenas for
Hillary Clinton`s emails. The move comes as there are new questions about
her use of personal emails while secretary of state.
Today, the Associated Press reporting, Clinton also had her own computer
server for official emails. A business record for the internet connection,
it was used was registered under the home address for residence in
Chappaqua, New York.
But Hillary isn`t alone in using personal email for business. General
Colin Powell used private email at the State Department and we`re learning
Jeb Bush used a personal email server when he was governor. Clinton`s camp
says she acted within the rules. But I don`t expect this story to go away
any time soon.
Joining me now are democratic strategist Jamal Simmons and Ryan Grimm from
"The Huffington Post." Thanks to both of you for being here.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good to be here, Rev.
SHARPTON: Ryan, some are saying this is secretive. But are the critics
overheated on this?
RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: You know, it`s not clear exactly how much
people will end up caring about this over the next year or year and a half.
I mean, you know, the biggest problem that she would have is that this
could play in, you know, to an idea that people have about her that she
doesn`t think that rules apply to her and that she`s too secretive. So to
the extent that it plays into that narrative, it is somewhat troubling and
also is a reason for her campaign to get up off the ground so she can
actually start responding personally to these things because there`s a
vacuum created by the fact that she is, in all intents and purposes, a
candidate, but she doesn`t have any positions that are out there. And so
the vacuum is filled by scandals like this. So until she gets out, this is
the kind of thing that we`re going to be talking about.
SHARPTON: Jamal, the House Benghazi Committee issued a subpoena for her
emails. Is this an issue Hillary should be concerned about?
SIMMONS: Of course it`s an issue she should be concerned about. I mean,
if you`re going to be running for president and you got a congressional
investigation going on, they`re going to be netting and picking at her the
entire time while she`s running. But you know who`s ready for that?
Hillary Clinton. The entire time that Clintons have been in political
life, they have been under investigation, whether it`s Whitewater or the
Mena Airport or -- you can name a thousand things that the Clintons have
been investigated for.
But Ryan is right. Until she tells us why she wants to be president, what
she wants to do for the country, even the people who are allies are
eloquent to be able to defend her. Because they don`t have a narrative
voice to go out and believe argue on her behalf with.
SHARPTON: Ryan, many are asking, why would Clinton do this. We know she`s
not the only person to use personal email. Why do you think politicians
use personal email?
GRIM: You know, it`s interesting. As a journalist, I like it when my
sources are using personal email because it means they are going to be more
open, they`re less worried about that, you know, that getting captured and
As a journalist, journalist generally, though, somebody who`s pro
transparency, you kind a want everything to get out. So you know, in this
situation Hillary Clinton wanted full control over her emails. So even
now, so they`re issuing a subpoena. If they issued a subpoena even to G-
mail, you know, she would have less control over what was distributed. But
because she had her own server, now, you know, it`s up to her and her
lawyers what she ends up turning over to trade got it (ph). You know, the
Clintons have always been people who have felt unjustifiably so actually or
under attack. You know, by the right wing and so I think they set up, you
know, these extra walls that from the outside may end up looking like
SHARPTON: Jamal, you know, after the news broke, Jeb Bush Tweeted, quote
"Transparency matters, unclassified Hillary Clinton emails should be
released." But NBC reports, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush owns the
server that runs the personal email he used as governor to conduct official
political and personal business. Both of them have servers. Is this
SIMMONS: Look, it`s not normal for most people but neither the Clintons or
the Bushes are most people. They are, you know, two families that have
been in political life for most of the last, you know, 20 or 30 years. For
the Bushes, longer than that. So they -- they, you know, as Ryan said,
they kind a understand the way the adversarial relationship will go with
reporters, what opponents will be looking for, and in a way you kind a have
to respect their game.
I mean, they went out and created this entire, you know, network of
personal server to be able to control access to this information, which is
probably -- you know they probably made a calculation that this was better
than having all of this stuff subpoenable (ph). At the end of the day, I
get back to the earlier point, which is people didn`t know why Hillary
Clinton wants to be president, once we know that question the rest of us
we`re of theater, we can have an argument about what she wants to do and
how she`s going to get it done versus her opponents.
SHARPTON: Ryan now, what are you hearing around Washington about this
GRIM: You know, what a lot of people are saying is that, you know, Hillary
Clinton is winding up to be at this point, you know, perhaps, you know, the
weakest front-runner, you know, that the Democrats have put forward and a
lot of that is a function of what Jamal was just saying. She`s not out
there. Like take the net neutrality issue. You know, several months ago
when it mattered, she could have come out and said I`m for net neutrality
and when the FCC the other day came out for it, then it would have appeared
as though she was part of the conversation. Instead, you know, she came
out basically, the day that the FCC was ruling on it.
So there`s a sense that she`s not a kind of organic part of the national
conversation, that she`s just sort of waiting for her inevitably to carry
here in to the White House and this email scandal is causing a lot of
nervousness among Democratic establishment types who are wondering when
something good is going to start happening for Hillary Clinton. It`s been
a long time that she`s been out there and just getting hit after hit after
SHARPTON: But Jamal, is this really a scandal? I mean, we mentioned the
Benghazi Committee subpoena claims emails tonight. Listen to her
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The state department never came forward
this information, which clearly should have been revealed to other
committees reviewing Benghazi, making any claim of a definitive report
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Congress has also asked for these in light
of Benghazi and a lot of other investigations and evidently those emails
were not included in the document production.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I mean, could this stretch, Jamal, into 2016?
SIMMONS: Benghazi is a tragic story that the Republicans and right-wing
media have been able to turn into a big political mess for themselves.
It`s something that they care about a lot. I don`t think anybody else in
the country cares about it. People have looked at this case over and over
again, and every time come back and said there are mistakes made, people
owned up to it. We got stuff to fix.
Hillary Clinton will not be elected or lose a presidential campaign based
on this email controversy. This is something that people who are against
Hillary will have in their quiver and all and they`ll shoot these arrows at
her but for the Hillary defenders, who have put Hillary`s campaign, they
will have an easier time making the case when she comes out and gives them
SHARPTON: Jamal Simmons, Ryan Grim, thank you both for your time tonight.
SIMMONS: Thank you.
GRIM: Thanks, Revered.
SHARPTON: Breaking news on that explosive Justice Department report on
racial profiling in Ferguson. City officials in Ferguson are about to
respond. That`s coming up.
Also, Jeb Bush`s surprising request for his rich donors.
And the Ben Carson statement that reveals a lot about today`s GOP. Stay
SHARPTON: The Department of Justice accuses the Ferguson, Missouri, Police
Department of racial profiling. Now the city of Ferguson responds live.
We`ll have that, next.
SHARPTON: Breaking news out of Seoul, South Korea, the U.S.
Ambassador Mark Lippert has been attacked with what appears to be a razor
blade. He`s been taken to a hospital. Injuries do not appear to be life
threatening although you can see from the photo he is bleeding quite
substantially. We`ll keep following this story.
And breaking news also from Ferguson, Missouri, where city officials
are about to respond to explosive charges from the Justice Department on
racial profiling in the city`s police department. We`ll have that for you
live. Today, the Department of Justice released its full report
investigating the conduct of Ferguson police. Attorney General Eric Holder
said it revealed systemic abuses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This investigation found a
community that was deeply polarized, a community where a deep distrust and
hostility often characterized interactions between police and area
residents, a community where local authorities consistently approached law
enforcement, not as a means for protecting public safety but as a way to
generate revenue. A community where both policing and municipal court
practices were found to be disproportionately harmful to African-American
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The details of the extent of the misconduct were
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: The Police Department`s routine use of tasers was found to be
not only unconstitutional but abusive and dangerous and even minor code
violations can sometimes result in multiple arrests, jail time and payments
that exceed the cost of the original ticket many times over. In every case
in which Ferguson police records recorded that a race of a person bit by a
police dog, that person was African-American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: It paints a troubling picture of life in Ferguson,
particularly for its African-American residents. The investigation came
after the shooting of Michael Brown. Today, the Justice Department also
announced there would be no federal charges for Officer Darren Wilson
stating, quote, "There`s no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to
disapprove Wilson`s stated subjective believed that he feared for his
safety." But Attorney General Holder acknowledged that the shooting and
subsequent protest didn`t happen in a vacuum.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: Of course, violence is never justified but seen in this
context, amid a highly toxic environment, defined by mistrust and
resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings and spurred by illegal and
misguided practices, it`s not difficult to imagine how a single, tragic
incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg. In a sense, the
members of the community may not have been responding only to a single
isolated confrontation but also to a pervasive, corrosive, and
unfortunately deep lack of trust attributable to numerous constitutional
violations by their law enforcement officials.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Ferguson officials are expected to speak at any moment.
The attorney general is demanding change in Ferguson. So what happens now?
Joining me now is Jonathan Capehart of "The Washington Post." Thank
you for being here.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Thanks, Rev.
SHARPTON: Jonathan, we`ve been hearing about these kinds of issues
from Ferguson residents for months. But hearing it from the Attorney
General, what does it do?
CAPEHART: It gives it power. It gives it official power. People of
Ferguson have been protesting the killing of Michael Brown since within
moments of his killing and it was then that we learn of all sorts of
disparities there in Ferguson from a majority African-American city that
had a majority white police force. We then started learning about how
these -- how Ferguson was basically funding its budget on the backs of the
poor through fines and fees. People who were being arrested and losing
jobs and losing livelihood all over minor traffic offenses, just as an
example. And so what sounded probably to some like a bunch of whining from
people in a community, to have the Justice Department first step in and
say, we`re going to investigate what is going on not only in the shooting
of Michael Brown but also what is happening with the Ferguson Police
CAPEHART: And then to have the report come out and show in detail --
SHARPTON: Well, let me get to that because the Attorney General got
into some of the specific numbers in how African-Americans are targeted.
Let me play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: Between October 2012 and October 2014, despite making up only
67 percent of the population, African-Americans accounted for a little over
85 percent of all traffic stops by the Ferguson Police Department.
African-Americans were twice as likely as white residents to be searched
during a routine traffic stop, even though they were 26 percent less likely
to carry contraband.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: These are cold, hard numbers. What kinds of changes will
the Police Department have to make, Jonathan?
CAPEHART: Well, one, I think they have to start viewing the people of
Ferguson not as piggy banks for municipal coffers but as people they are
sworn to protect and serve. I mean, this is going to require not just one
Justice Department report, not, you know, simple little changes here and
there, this is going to require a multi-year, multiple personnel changes
movement to change the focus and attention, not only of the police
department because the Justice Department report makes clear, the Ferguson
Police Department was one part of a really ugly system that had grown up
there in Ferguson. You then have the court system. The court system and
the police working together.
SHARPTON: Stay with me on the police department because we are about
to speak. What do you think they are going to say? I mean, how can they
argue against these hard numbers?
CAPEHART: I don`t know how they can argue against the hard numbers.
I`d be very disappointed if the Ferguson folks come out there tonight and
don`t talk about substantive changes that are going to be made. What`s
going to happen to the command structure there in the Ferguson Police
Department, what about the police chief, the Ferguson police chief? What
are they going to do to ensure that the Ferguson police department
accurately reflects the community that it`s serving?
SHARPTON: But even before we get to that -- and as you know, the
request of the family, Michael Brown, I was out there in 48 hours and back
and forward and did his funeral and I heard all kinds of things from the
community throughout the whole last several months. Here you have hard
numbers. You have e-mails that refer to the President as a black being
able to keep a job for four years. The First Lady, whether she was in some
tribal dance. I mean, I would look for not only the police chief and the
hierarchy to be changed but some people should lose their jobs. Can you
imagine people that are still working that have done these e-mails on city
CAPEHART: Right. You need to have a personnel change from the top
but also I think you`re going to see or you should see a wholesale change
within the police force in general. You also need a culture change and
that`s something that goes beyond the Ferguson police department and again,
as we were focusing on the Police Department right now because the press
conference is about to happen. But as the DOJ report shows, it`s the
police department working hand and hand, with the court system working hand
and hand with the municipal government. You`ve basically have three
branches of the Ferguson city government where the culture allowed for this
to happen in plain sight. That`s the other thing reading what the
statistics -- hearing the statistics, but reading the statistics, reading
about the e-mails, reading about real-life situations that happen, they
were happening in broad daylight. Violation for constitutional rights.
SHARPTON: And they had to be known.
SHARPTON: And when you look at the facts and we`re waiting on the
mayor, the police chief and others to come out, we`re going to go to them
live to hear what they have to say. But when you really get in to how
Ferguson residents are targeted to gain revenue, I mean, look at this
example. In 2007, an African-American woman was fined a $151 for parking
violation, she`s been arrested twice, spent six days in jail, paid 550 in
court fees, all related to this one parking violation. And after paying
hundreds more than the original fine, she somehow still owed $541 as of
December of 2014. I mean, what do you make of this, Jonathan?
CAPEHART: Well, I mean, that`s just -- one of those heartbreaking
examples of how African-Americans in Ferguson were being used to finance
city government and have their lives ruined in the process. Also, a part
of the story Rev, is that she tried to pay in installments and they
wouldn`t let her because the law requires people to pay their fines in
full. And we`re talking about a community, a working class community where
$150 is a lot of money. And so to be able to pay that in full is a
hardship, to not be able to pay in installment is a hardship. And to
barriers in place, to make it virtually impossible for someone to do right
by the law, to take responsibility for what they`ve done, even if it`s for
a parking ticket, to stack the deck against them time and time again, no
wonder you saw -- we saw Ferguson blow up after the killing of Michael
Brown. People were -- had been fed up for a very long time. And that was
their opportunity to say, you know, we`ve had enough, we`re not taking it
anymore. And because of their protests, they got the attention of the
Justice Department not only to investigate the killing of Michael Brown but
to look at the real life experience as lived by the people of Ferguson when
it comes to their interaction --
CAPEHART: -- with the police department, the fines that are imposed
upon them, the arrest that they have to endure because a fine hasn`t been
paid. I mean --
SHARPTON: We just learned we were expecting to hear from the mayor
and the police chief. We`ve just been told we will only hear from the
mayor. The police chief will not be speaking. I don`t know what to read
into that and won`t publicly but a last minute change, any moment now, we
will only from the mayor of Ferguson now we`re told. And we will not be
hearing from the police chief as well. And it`s hard for me to even
conceive how all of this could have been going on from the fines to the
targeting, to the Attorney General saying, only blacks were bitten by the
dogs. I mean, without the police chief and people in the hierarchy of that
police department not knowing about it and if it`s not deliberate in their
mind from the beginning, you have to question whether it was deliberate in
not stopping with it and in not dealing with it. This seems to be pretty
CAPEHART: Yes. I mean, these are people -- the police department,
police officers are sworn to uphold and protect the constitution and the
laws. And what we now know officially from the Department of Justice, the
federal department of justice is that a police department that took the
oath to protect and serve did neither and actually did things to the
detriment of the majority African-American community, targeting them for
fines, targeting them for arrests, targeting them for racist jokes, doing
it on official e-mail. I mean, that`s what is so breathtaking to me. Here
we are --
SHARPTON: On official e-mail about the President of the United
States and the First Lady, among others, in clear, graphic racial
references and people want to know why there was anger there. Clearly I do
not condone violence. Said that there over and over again, got into
debates about that there on the ground. But the anger you can see was not
something that someone was just making up. There is, as stated today
systemic problems going back years in that community. According to the
Justice Department of the United States.
CAPEHART: Right. The systemic problems there in Ferguson are
actually breathtaking. You know, here we are, about to celebrate the 50th
anniversary of the march on Selma, President and the First Lady, the first
family is going down there. Everyone is talking about the movie "Selma,"
how much progress has been made, how we have a federal government that buy
and large looks out for its people. African-Americans, everyone, and yet,
here we have in a Missouri town, city officials, police officials using
official e-mail to tell racist jokes, having basically an official policy
to target African-Americans for abuse, to basically turn the community
upside down and shake them to get every last dime, nickel, quarter, penny
from their pockets that they can barely afford to --
SHARPTON: Here comes the mayor. We`re being told by "The Washington
Post" that the mayor will make a statement, the police chief will not be
there and the mayor will not take questions. The mayor will make a
statement and will not take questions.
Let`s go live to Ferguson and hear from the mayor as he responds to
MAYOR JAMES KNOWLES, FERGUSON: Good afternoon. I`m James Knowles,
mayor of the city of Ferguson. Yesterday, Ferguson City Manager John Shaw,
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson and Ferguson City Attorney Stephanie Carr
along with myself met with the Department of Justice officials in downtown
St. Louis to receive the final report of their investigation into the
policies and practices of the city of Ferguson Police Department. The 100
page document outlined five specific areas of concern in which the Ferguson
Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct that
violates the United States constitution and federal law.
The Department of Justice began their investigation of the Ferguson
Police Department on September 4th, 2014. During the past six months, city
officials have cooperated with the Department of Justice to supply tens and
thousands of documents which included thousands of e-mails from 75
employees of the city of Ferguson and other electronic materials from the
Ferguson Police Department. The city also arranged ride-a-longs for the
Department of Justice investigators to observe Ferguson police officers
while on duty. During the meeting on Tuesday, the Department of Justice
officials informed the city of Ferguson that a review of city e-mails
uncovered explicit racial bias by three individuals who are employed by the
city of Ferguson Police Department.
Let me be clear, this type of behavior will not be tolerated and the
Ferguson Police Department or in any department in the city of Ferguson.
Immediately upon leaving that meeting, the three individuals were placed on
administrative leave pending an investigation. One has since been
terminated and the other two are still awaiting the outcome of an internal
investigation. These actions taken by these individuals are in no way
representative of the employees of the city of Ferguson. But today`s
report allows the city of Ferguson to identify the problems not only in our
police department but in the entire St. Louis region. We must do better
not only as a city but as a state and their country, we must all work to
address issues of racial disparity in all aspects of society. As mentioned
by the Department of Justice, there are several initiatives that are
already taking place in the city of Ferguson and in the Ferguson Police
Department. They are as follows.
The Ferguson Police Department is in the process of hiring three new
officers. We hope to have an update on these positions and the racial
makeup of these new hires sometime in the next week. The Ferguson Police
Department has hired one correction officer since August 9th, 2014. One
African-American female candidate was hired for that position out of a pool
of approximately 91 applicants. The Ferguson Police Department has also
hired two assistant court clerks since August 9th of 2014. Both positions
were filled by African-American females from a pool of 64 applicants. All
Ferguson Police Department officers have completed mandatory diversity
training as of December 31st, 2014. The Ferguson Police Department has
also begun an explorer program in the Ferguson Florissant School District
beginning in January 2015.
The goal of this program is for officers to engage youth and the law
enforcement profession as well as potentially recruit them for police
officer positions in the future. I`ve also convened a task force made up
of residents, businesses and law enforcement to create a civilian oversight
board that will review complaints and provide citizen input into the
policies and procedures of the Ferguson Police Department. The task force
meets weekly and its efforts are already under way. This groundbreaking
initiative will be one of the first of its kind in this region. Lastly,
the city of Ferguson has retained the services of an independent
consultant, recommended by the Department of Justice to conduct a patrol
staffing and deployment study. Finally, I would like to speak briefly
about our efforts to reform the Ferguson municipal court. The city of
Ferguson has acted in August and in September of 2014 to implement several
additional reforms and programs.
The city of Ferguson was the first community in this region to
undertake such steps. In September 2014, the Ferguson City Council
appealed several provisions of municipal codes relating to fees such as
administrative fee of the Police Department for overseeing the release of a
towed vehicle or on the recall of a warrant upon request. In addition,
there is no longer a specific offense for failing to appear which would
eliminate certain additional fees and court costs for individuals in the
court system. Pending charges of failing to appear, which were issued
prior to the reforms taking place, are being dismissed as they come before
the municipal court. Finally, the municipal court judge has also
implemented new procedures and programs. A new docket was established
specifically for those who were having trouble paying fines.
A defendant may appear and speak to the judge and/or prosecutor about
different payment plans or potential alternative sentencing. The city has
also passed an ordinance in September 2014 to cap municipal court revenues
at 15 percent of the city`s overall budget. This is half of the legal
limit allowed under state of Missouri law. This ordinance is also
specified that any excess municipal court revenue will be appropriated for
community projects. These are just some of the initiatives that the city
of Ferguson has taken and will continue to take moving forward to hopefully
move this city, its residence and our entire community forward. Thank you.
SHARPTON: You had the mayor of Ferguson and he made a statement
taking no questions on the Justice Department`s scathing report on racial
profiling in Ferguson. I must say, Jonathan, that I heard a lot about
programs going forward, about consultants, about a task forces but it seems
like the only action that he`s announced tonight is that maybe three
officers that had done e-mails are up for review. Only one terminated.
The other two waiting. He said nothing about the hierarchy of the Police
Department that were the over ones, that were overseeing this kind of
systemic problem nothing about the top brass that could have not known of
the disparities in terms of the racial makeup of those that were being
targeted for traffic stops and tasers and police dogs. It would seem to me
that he did not do very little, very little about making people accountable
that had in fact engaged in these practices and he really did not address
it. I do not know how firing one cop, possibly three, clearly who were
blatantly wrong with the e-mails deals with all of the systemic issues that
you and I have been discussing in the report.
CAPEHART: This was a missed opportunity by Mayor Knowles. But we
should not be surprised, as he said on air in two interviews with Tamron
Hall, that he didn`t think that there is a race problem in his city. So
the missed opportunity here was, you have a federal report from the
Department of Justice that says your town, your police department, your
court system is rife with people who are trampling the constitutional
rights of African-Americans in your city. He doesn`t address that and say,
so any kind of remorse or talk about how they are going to move forward
from that. And as you said, he did not talk about what is going to happen
to the hierarchy of the police department. The three people who sent those
e-mails, the one who was fired, the two who are under investigation, that`s
a drop in the bucket. There`s a culture change that needs to happen and
has to start with Chief Tom Jackson.
SHARPTON: Jonathan Capehart, thank you for your time tonight.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Rev.
SHARPTON: We`ll be back.
SHARPTON: We`re back with Jimmy Williams and Jonathan Capehart, you
just heard the mayor of Ferguson make a statement. Jimmy, my takeaway was,
what he did not say was resonated more than what he did say in terms of how
to hold accountable those that were over this systemic problem of racial
profiling in his city or in his town.
JIMMY WILLIAMS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. There`s a lot left to be
desired in this announcement per se. I am struck by this civilian
oversight board. Out of everything that he said, that is the one thing I
thought, wait, that actually might do something. Jonathan talked about the
culture of corruption. That cannot change overnight. And it can`t change
just by having three people fired, it literally -- they should just clean
house, per se. But again, if the mayor doesn`t recognize there`s a racial
problem in his own town, maybe he should go. That perhaps is the bigger
problem here. So, you know, you have a town that is made up of certain
percentage of African-Americans, they have zero representation, now three
people are going to be fired and that`s pretty much the penalization of all
this? It`s not enough.
Second point, the militarization of our police across America, this is
a bigger problem and that goes to that culture of corruption. That has to
stop. Those kinds of things should be left on the battlefields on foreign
countries. They should not be on our streets in America. And guess what,
African-Americans, white Americans, every American does not like that sort
of thing and that has to stop as well. There`s a bigger concern here, in
my opinion, and he did not address any of it, frankly.
SHARPTON: Well, the mayor did say, for those just turning in, that
three officers that had sent racially charged e-mails are under review, one
already terminated, the other two on investigation. The three officers
being hired but he didn`t know the race of them. There was a black hired,
there`s a consultant firm that has been brought in that was recommended by
the Justice Department and he said that there would be a civilian review
board which Jimmy just said could be the best thing that was announced. He
also did not address at all the hierarchy, the police chief, the top brass
that were the ones that were overseers of what the Justice Department said
was a systemic problem and laid out some very hard numbers that definitely
can`t be argued with and that definitely can`t be disputed. I think that
it is absolutely a missed opportunity to really start a procedure of
accountability and I do not think the mayor who was in denial at the
beginning has shown that he has come out of his problem of denying what is
Jonathan Capehart, Jimmy Williams, thank you for your time this
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
CAPEHART: Thanks, Rev.
SHARPTON: And I hope we can bring this country together but we must
do it by holding people accountable.
WILLIAMS: That`s right.
SHARPTON: Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts
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