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PoliticsNation, Thursday, May 21st, 2015

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Date: May 21, 2015
Guest: Brian Katulis, Ryan Grim, Paul Butler, Brandon Scott, Clint van Zandt, Jim Cavanaugh, Jess McIntosh, Dana Milbank

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC HOST, THE ED SHOW: That`s "The Ed Show." I`m Ed Schultz. "Politics Nation" with Reverend Al Sharpton start right now.

Good evening, Rev.

REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you for tuning in.

We start with breaking news, indictments in the Freddie Gray case. The announcement comes almost three weeks to the day state`s attorney Marilyn Mosby first announced charges against six Baltimore police officers. Within the last hour, she had another announcement. A grand jury has returned indictments on most of the charges.


MARILYN MOSBY, BALTIMORE STATE ATTORNEY: This pass two weeks, my team has been presenting evidence to a grand jury, that just today returned indictments against all six officers. These officers, who are presumed innocent until proven guilty, are now scheduled to be arraigned on July 2nd.


SHARPTON: Each of the officers faces multiple counts. Their union has criticized the investigation, saying it was rushed. But today, the grand jury found sufficient evidence to indict on the most serious charges. Including second-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree intentional assault, and misconduct in office for an illegal arrest.

Changes include the dropping of false imprisonment charges for all three officers who face them, the dropping of some assault and misconduct charges, and the addition of reckless endangerment charges for all six officers.

Freddie Gray`s death set off waves of unrest and protests in Baltimore and the eyes of the city and the country are watching how this case unfolds.

Joining me on the phone is Baltimore city councilman, Brandon Scott. I`m also joined by a former federal prosecutor, Paul Butler, and MSNBC national correspondent, Joy Reid. Thank you all for being here.



SHARPTON: Councilman Scott, let me go to you first. What`s your reaction to these indictments?

BRANDON SCOTT, BALTIMORE CITY COUNCILMAN (via phone): Well, my reaction is, well, we think for me, it just shows that we can, in America, get an indictment on a lot of these cases. But my reaction, also, as a leader in my city, is to help people understand in the city of Baltimore that this, again, is just a part of the legal process and this is nowhere near the end and has nothing to do with actual justice.

The facts will bear themselves out in court, and those who are very excited about the indictments, I`m telling them that they should try to remain in the middle. Those who are upset, I`m telling them the same thing. Because what we have to realize is that in the beginning of this process, and as a leader in my town and my city that I love, it`s my duty to make sure the folks understand totally what`s going on, outside of, you know, just dealing with the raw emotion.

So we think that this shows that this can be done in America. But we have to also understand that this is nowhere near the end of this process.

SHARPTON: Paul, what`s your reaction?

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: This is a major step forward by a tenacious prosecutor. You know, she heard the concerns from the defense attorneys and the police union, that she was overcharging the case. And we know that sometimes prosecutors use grand juries to provide political cover to make unpopular decisions. We saw that in Ferguson and Staten Island.

But you know what, she said she`s going forward. She got 23 residents of Baltimore in the grand jury to say that it`s likely that these six cops committed major crimes, including murder. This is a big deal.

SHARPTON: Joy, a grand jury indicted on most of the original charges. What does that suggest about her case?

REID: Yes, and I think that was the core complaint by critics of prosecutor Mosby, that she was overcharging or couldn`t prove it. Because, remember, prosecutors are not supposed to bring charges. They don`t have a good faith belief they can actually prove in court.

And in this case, the really only substantial change to what she put forward on May 1st, was the dropping of those false imprisonment charges against the three bike patrol officers which means that the only sort of subtle difference that the grand jury saw in what they originally charged and what they indicted on is whether or not false imprisonment was at play. But as you and see as you said, reckless endangerment was added across the board.

I think the fundamental accusation by this prosecutor stands, which is that these officers detained Freddie Gray for no legal reason, and that refutes the people who said, well, the knife really might have been illegal. Well, that`s refuted by this indictment, at least. And then the idea that she was overcharging on the notion that this is a manslaughter, that this was the taking of a life in a criminal manner. But what she originally said is there was an indifference to the life of Freddie Gray, the way he was handled, put into that van, and the way he was essentially not responded on these various stops along the way.

SHARPTON: And basically refutes the criticism of those that question her charges, because, basically, the grand jury said what the charges said, in somewhat different ways up towards the bottom charges, but basically the same charge.

REID: Right. And remember in the state of Maryland, it is common for grand juries, because you have charges and you have a period in which the grand jury looks at those charges and returns an indictment. And as prosecutor Mosby said, it`s not uncommon for those charges to be suddenly changed, when they become indictments. These changes, I think, are so subtle and so small, that it really substantiates the breadth and depth of original charge.

SHARPTON: And Paul, that happens around the country. I know in New York and even across South Carolina, you can have arresting charges and wait on indictment. So this is not unusual in a process.

BUTLER: Not at all, Reverend. I`ve been in front of grand juries many times. They do this all the time. But you do use a grand jury to both investigate your case, to develop more evidence. You don`t show everything to the grand jury. You want to save some stuff for trial.

I think the decision to drop the charges regarding false imprisonment is a big strategic move. Look, the defense attorneys were making a big deal about whether this was a switchblade or a spring knife. That`s not what this case is about. This case is about Freddie Gray, who when the police encountered him was healthy, ten days later, had a severed spine and a crushed voice box. So she`s saying, this case isn`t about false imprisonment, this case is about murder.

SHARPTON: But, Councilman, it`s also about, there is no -- there was no grounds for an arrest on approach, in the first place, because what I`ve heard, in my trips to Baltimore, and I`m sure you`ve heard it as a leader right there, that`s there every day, the real basis was, of a lot of the protests, was they had no reason to arrest him or approach him in the first place.

SCOTT: Yes, you know, that`s what most of the citizens were upset about in the first place. And to me, that`s one of the things I`m going to be paying close attention to when the trial actually gets to court, to see, you know, what`s said about that. Because, as you know, you were here. You know that is what people were really upset about. That was something -- they were just as upset about that, as the tending. Because people feel good, bad, or indifferent, they feel they had no right to chase them or arrest them in the first place, or the other stuff that happens. And that`s what I`m going to be paying particular close attention to when we get to the trial, to see how that portion is managed.

SHARPTON: Now, Paul, the state`s attorney of Maryland, Marlin Mosby, says that her investigation has uncovered additional information. Listen.


MOSBY: On May 1st, our investigation revealed that we had sufficient probable cause to bring charges against six police officers. As our investigation has continued, additional information has been discovered and as is often the case, during an ongoing investigation, charges can and should be revised based upon the evidence.


SHARPTON: What kind of evidence might she have uncovered, Paul?

BUTLER: So, Reverend, the hardest charge to prove is, of course, the second-degree murder charge. So she`s going to have to prove that this van driver intentionally deprived Mr. Gray of care, knowing that that would kill him. So that`s a hard thing to prove. Presumably, she`s got one of the other five officers cooperating, so essentially telling on this van driver, or she`s got some circumstantial evidence, like, she knew how bad -- like he knew how badly off Mr. Gray was, and just refused to get him any medical care until it was too late. We do know that normally the drive from where he was arrested to the police station, less than five minutes. He took 40 minutes, made four stops. Again, that`s pretty damning evidence that he wished Mr. Gray Hill.

SHARPTON: Joy, what are we hearing about a tape?

REID: Well, see, this is one of the things that we definitely know has emerged since this case started. There are these video cameras that are posted around the city of Baltimore that attempt to catch criminal activity. There are about four or five of these surveillance videos that show the van at various points along that five-minute route that was just described. At one point, one of those tapes was not posted to the You Tube account of the Baltimore city police department, which they normally are routinely posted, but that video was subsequently obtained, I believe by "the Baltimore Sun," and they posted that video, along with a cell phone video, that was made by a person who encountered the van at either the fourth or the fifth stop. And that video shows Freddie Gray being placed in the leg shackles.

Now, we do know that in the original police reports, they said he was placed in leg shackles, because he was belligerent, which would indicate that he was talking, that he was moving. But in the video that emerged from a cell phone of a person, a bystander, you can see that Freddie Gray is completely immobile. That he is not making any sound. The person who shot the video with another woman`s phone, you can hear her yelling, are you OK, in the direction of Freddie Gray, and he does not respond.

SHARPTON: Big story, huge story, and we`re going to watch it as justice takes its course.

Councilman Brandon Scott, Joy Reid, and Paul Butler, thank you for your time tonight.

REID: Thanks, Rev.

BUTLER: It is great to be here.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, breaking news on that manhunt for a suspect in those gruesome D.C. murders. He`s now thought to be here in New York. We`ll have a live report.

Also, President Obama responds to Republican critics of his fight against ISIS. What would they actually do differently?

Plus, Jeb Bush finally finds a way to criticize his brother`s presidency.

And celebrities get silly for a good cause. It`s red nose day.


SHARPTON: Developing news ahead, startling new gains for ISIS in Iraq and Syria is triggering a new political fight here at home, with Republicans blaming President Obama. But he`s hitting back at his critics on ISIS today. That`s next.


SHARPTON: We`re back with developing news. NBC News reporting Iraqi forces are planning a counteroffensive to retake the city of Ramadi. The U.S. is sending the Iraqis a thousand short-range rockets, to help reclaim the city. Those gains have led many to question if the U.S. should reassess its ISIS strategy.

But in a new interview, President Obama insisted we`re not losing this fight, but Republicans don`t understand the realities we face in Iraq, saying, quote, "one lesson that I think is important to draw from what happened is that if the Iraqis themselves are not willing or capable to arrive at the political accommodations necessary to govern, if they are not willing to fight for security of their country, we cannot do that for them."

We need to have a real debate about what we`re willing to do to fight is, and right now, that`s not what we`re seeing from Republicans. Take Jeb Bush, he`s more than happy to blame the president. But what`s his plan to fight is? Does he want to send in more troops?


JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I would take the best advice that you could get from the military, make the decisions based on that, conditions on the ground, not for some political purpose.


SHARPTON: For a man who wants to be commander in chief, that answer is short on specifics. And he`s not the only one.


RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER SENATOR: Here`s what we need to do. We need to ramp up, if these folks want to bring back a seventh century version of Islam, then my recommendations is, let`s load our bombers up and bomb them back to the seventh century.


SHARPTON: The U.S. has already launched more than 4,000 air strikes against ISIS. That`s not enough? And the biggest hawks, they`re calling to send thousands more troops overseas.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many thousands of troops --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About ten thousands.

Ten thousand. But we`ll take thousands of American soldiers over there to protect millions of us back here at home.


SHARPTON: I doubt most Americans will like that plan, but at least he`s being honest. Because if Republicans want to invade Iraq again, the least they could do is admit it.

Joining me now is Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He testified this morning at a Senate hearing on Iraq in Syria. And Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for the "Huffington Post." Thank you both for being here.



SHARPTON: Brian, today you said the Obama administration has made some important steps in the fight against ISIS, but could do more. Short of invading Iraq again, what could they be doing?

KATULIS: Well, this is the problem with their debate, and the panel we had this morning on the Senate, everybody defines doing more as military steps. And what I`ve talked about is getting the countries in the region and our partners in Iraq to do more for themselves.

President Obama said something in that interview with "the Atlantic," that in essence, we could actually do more to help channel the resources, the money, and the weapons that countries in the region have been offering. And I`ve talked to diplomats from countries from the gulf region, who say we want to deliver weapons to the Sunni tribes and to the Kurdish forces. And I think we could actually do more to help facilitate that, but that doesn`t mean putting U.S. boots on the ground, which is how I think, unfortunately, many Republicans still define that, due more question.

SHARPTON: Ryan, most Republicans are very critical of the president, but why don`t they want to offer any specifics of their own plans?

GRIM: Well, for the simple reason that there is no good solution. And there`s also no solution that could even remotely be politically popular, even if it was a good solution. You know, take sending even 10,000 troops to the Middle East. There`s just no appetite for that whatsoever. And it`s not even obvious that that would do anything, other than continue to inflame the crisis. It`s not like, what the Middle East is lacking are weapons and people squeezing triggers.

But, you know, after ten years plus of this, the American people certainly don`t want to hear somebody say, sure, what we need to do is go back into Iraq. And that`s why Jeb Bush gave that mealy-mouthed answer of, I would listen to the best advice of the generals and do whatever they said. And actually, I don`t think the generals would say, you know, that we should send a lot of troops back into Iraq.

SHARPTON: You know, following that up, the polls kind of indicate that, Ryan, because the American people seem to have mixed feelings about what to do about ISIS. On the one hand, a recent poll found 68 percent think ISIS is a serious threat. But they`re very split on whether the U.S. should use ground troops to fight them. Forty-seven percent said yes, while 50 percent said no. Ryan, do the American people have the appetite for another huge war in Iraq?

GRIM: They don`t. And kind of a proxy for that question would be, last fall, when the president asked Congress for authority to strike Syria. You know, that`s not Iraq, but it`s next-door, and it wasn`t boots on the ground, but it was an increased military intervention. And members of Congress are closer to their constituents than members of the house, at least, you know, than other elements of the federal government. And they heard from people. And they realized that people did not have any appetite it, and it didn`t even come up for a vote. And I think that`s extremely telling from a political perspective, of where this would go, if the debate were over Iraq.

SHARPTON: Brian, you talked about doing other things, not necessarily in a military way. On today`s "Morning Joe," former White House counterterrorism adviser Richie Clarke was asked about alternatives to putting boots on the ground. I want to play you this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any alternative to boots on the ground --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- if we want to have a substantial impact?

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: Yes, there is. Depending on how you define boots on the ground, if you define it as combat units, we don`t need to do that. Special forces units, yes. We could arm the Kurds. We haven`t been doing that because the Baghdad government doesn`t want us to. We could arm Sunni militia. We haven`t done that because the Baghdad government doesn`t want us to. We could provide air support for the Iranian-backed Shia militia.


SHARPTON: Brian, do these options make sense to you?

KATULIS: Only some of them, but again, those are largely focused on weapons and kinetics. What I think we also need to talk about is how do we actually cut off the financing of these groups, and I think we`ve taken some measures, if you saw the special operations raid, which was quite daring this past weekend, from Iraqi territory into Syrian territory. We got one of the top officials in ISIS, who was responsible for some of the funding.

In addition to this, all of their propaganda, we need to turn against them, because my experience in the Middle East, and when I go to the region pretty regularly, this is not a popular phenomenon in most of the countries. These are fringe elements that have exploited sectarian civil war, both in Iraq and Syria, to expand their power.

So all of these other tools, and then I would add to it, the tough diplomacy to actually get countries in the region themselves to do the sorts of things Richard Clarke had talked about there, arming Kurds and other things.

Why should it be about U.S. troops or U.S. taxpayer dollars or what we`re doing, when you`ve got a region of the world that actually has accumulated a massive amount of wealth, because of the oil wealth, and they`re now using it already, so let`s channel it. Let`s use our leadership to achieve constructive ends as opposed to destructive.

SHARPTON: Brian Katulis and Ryan Grim, thank you both for your time tonight.

KATULIS: Thank you.

GRIM: Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, the manhunt for the D.C. murder. The murder suspect moves here to New York. Why does his girlfriend say he might turn himself in?

Also, Jeb Bush makes a big move to try to distance himself from his brother. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: Breaking news in the search for the quadruple murder suspect in that chilling D.C. home invasion. Police in at least two states are looking for 34-year-old Daron Dylon Wint. Officials believe Wint may have fled to Brooklynn, New York. He`s facing a first-degree murder warrant and he is looked at in connection with last week`s killing of a wealthy Washington executive and his wife as well as their 10-year-old son, and their housekeeper.

Police say they linked Wint to the crime scene after finding his DNA on a pizza, delivered to the house during the invasion. Police also say the executive`s assistant dropped off $40,000 in cash, the morning of the murders. Hours later, the victims were dead and the house was on fire.

Joining me now is NBC Rehema Ellis, who`s live at NYPD 69th precinct in Brooklyn.

Rehema, what`s the latest there?

REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Reverend Al, what we can tell you that this precinct house, we understand that a girlfriend of the suspect is being questioned by authorities. There was a report of a sighting of that suspect in this area. There are also sources who are saying that he may have spent the night with his girlfriend. And where he is at this point, authorities are not saying as to whether or not they know anything about that.

Forgive the fact that there is a signal going off here on the side of the road here. It is a little bit disturbing.

But, again, they`re here because of the connection with the girlfriend. They got the information about the suspect, as you pointed out, they got a hit on the DNA from a pizza crust, as a result of it being delivered to the house, and this person is known to authorities. He has a criminal record for assault, carrying a concealed weapon and theft. So his information was included in criminal records, so they were able to track him down. And they found out that he was known to the people who were murdered. He was a welder at the company where the business executive worked and in fact owned that company.

So this, authorities are saying, does not appear to be a random act of brutal violence. But, instead, that this family was targeted. We don`t know exactly why they were targeted in any matter, but, certainly, that is why police are trying to track this suspect down, so they can get some answers to this.

SHARPTON: Rehema, what is the mood there? Does this have the feeling of a huge manhunt?

ELLIS: You don`t get that feeling, but there is extreme curiosity and concern on these streets that someone who is suspected of committing the brutal and terrifying crime that occurred in that Washington, D.C. suburb, that that person could be here. It is frightening to people. One person who walked past and saw it said that she was going home and locking her door right now because she was afraid.

SHARPTON: Rehema Ellis, thank you for your reporting.

Now let`s bring in former FBI profiler and MSNBC contributor, Clint van Zandt, and MSNBC law enforcement analyst, and former ATF special agent, Jim Cavanaugh. Thank you both for being here.



SHARPTON: Jim, what are police doing right now to try to find him?

CAVANAUGH: Well, since he was seen, or, you know, they believe he was near the girlfriend`s house in Brooklynn, Reverend Al, what they`re doing is they`re looking real heavy around Brooklyn. You know, as far as the subway will carry you, from Coney Island over to Manhattan, are places where he could likely travel easily. Apparently he`s not traveling with a vehicle, he must have been on mass transit, maybe a bus from Washington. So he`s got cash, so he could be in a hotel like I say from Coney Island to Manhattan or he could be trying to walk the streets around Brooklyn. You know, I know Brooklyn and you know Brooklyn.

SHARPTON: Yes. I know that precinct. I grew up in that area.

CAVANAUGH: Exactly. And you know you can stay on the street there, if you have cash, you can eat in a restaurant, if you can walk around. There`s a lot of people, you know, going about their daily lives and business there. So you can kind of meld in with the street. But as the night gets later, you`re going to have to have a place to go. And if you don`t have a friend to keep you or a girlfriend, you`ll have to rent a room or he`s going to have to leave New York. But right now, I think they may think he`s in that greater Brooklyn area.

SHARPTON: Clint, Wint`s girlfriend reportedly told police today, he was thinking about surrendering. Do you think he`ll give up easily?

ZANDT: Well, this is the same guy, Al, who when he had a problem with a girlfriend in the past, he was on the phone and he`s threatening her. Now, a police officer is listening in on the phone. And this is a guy that says, I`m going to get a knife, I`m going to kill you, I`m going to kill your kid, and I`m not afraid of the cops. This is also a guy who`s been seen walking around the streets in Washington, D.C., carrying a machete and some type of pistol at times. So he knows, right now, Al, he is probably one of if not the most wanted fugitives in the United States. He`s got a $25,000 reward on his head. And there`s a lot of people in New York City, number one, they`re looking because they don`t want to run into this guy and have problems with him. But number two, they know he`s worth $25,000. And I`ve run into people before, that will sell a relative for 25 grant, much less somebody who`s suspected in a quadruple homicide.

SHARPTON: You know, Jim, police made it clear that there was a connection between Wint and the family he killed. Listen to this.


CHIEF CATHY LANIER, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE: We do believe that there is a connection between this suspect in this case, through the business. So right now, it does not appear that that was just a random crime, but there is a connection through the business of the suspect and the Savopoulos family business.


SHARPTON: Jim, are investigators running through contacts who might have known both the suspect and the victims?

CAVANAUGH: Absolutely, they`re going back and looking at the history of the family, the history of everything at the iron works, and the history of Wint`s employment there and when he was there. And there was one media report that Wint was supposed to be in court on the morning of the murders. So there might have been some pressure on him, Reverend Al. You know, like Clint`s talking about, he`s alone, you know, this guy`s alone. Who`s with him now? Not his girlfriend, not his family. You know, nobody wants to be around him. He`s toxic. I mean, he might be sitting there in a hotel somewhere, even watching your show. Or he could be on the street. You know, is he likely to turn himself in?

Well, no. I don`t think he is. Because his past doesn`t indicate that. But, you know, you almost have a chance to change something, and he could. He could not hurt anyone. You know, the message to him would be, don`t hurt anyone. You know, you can do the right thing now. You can stop now. The past is gone. And you can try to do the right thing from here on in. And don`t hurt anyone. You can make a phone call. There`s still a future. There`s still a way to proceed. But you have to change. But every officer is going to be looking for him. The citizens of Brooklyn are looking for him and he may make his way out of there, but if he does, it may be in a violent way, you know, with a carjacking or something, because he doesn`t have, you know, a car.

He`s not going to be able to buy a car unless he just pays cash to somebody on the street and takes their car or forcibly takes their car. He can`t walk pinto a gun shop and buy a gun. He`s not going to be able to get through an airport. So, his options are shrinking by the hour and something`s going to happen. So, you know, basically, if he sees a news report, maybe he will think, with you know, maybe it`s time. I don`t hurt anybody and maybe I`m going to make a phone call. Do I think that`s likely, given his history? No, Reverend Al. But you know, everybody`s a human being, and like Clint said, everybody, you know, has a chance. So, you know, there`s always a slight chance that he could do it.

SHARPTON: Now, Clint, another housekeeper who worked for the family said there were clues that something was wrong. The night before the four victims were found, she said she received text messages and a flustered voice mail from the executive, saying, it seemed like he was kind of building stories. The next morning, she got a text from the executive`s wife, who said, I am making sure you do not come today. Clint, does this guy, does -- well, let me ask you this, on the text messages, does that give us any clues about what`s going on behind those doors?

ZANDT: It gives us a terrible picture, Al, worse than any horror movie on television, because what it looks like is that one or more subjects realize, and the D.C. chief of police says there could easily be two or more subjects involved in this, they somehow get into the house. It could be as much as, knock, knock, I used to work for your company, I would like to talk to you. However it is, Al, they get into that house and they`re able to take control of a man, his wife, their housekeeper, and this precious little 9 or 10-year-old boy. And then apparently what goes on from maybe 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon until almost noon the next day is some terrible type of torture. Al, they weren`t just stabbed, they were slashed, they were cut. The little boy was tortured. It looks like, Al, what the subject or subjects were doing were torturing the family members, trying to make the father come up with a certain amount of money. And as you suggest, there were clues. There was evidence that the family might have been held under duress, but evidently, nobody thought of that.


ZANDT: You know, after the fact, we`re thinking of it. But, again, Al, this was one more reason why we need a national DNA database. ATF and the D.C. police were able to identify this guy, based upon a burnt piece of pizza that he left laying there. That`s a real CSI in real life.

SHARPTON: No doubt about it. Clint van Zandt and Jim Cavanaugh, thank you both for your time.

ZANDT: Thanks, Reverend Al.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, Jeb Bush today finally explains where he differs from his brother. Is it enough to escape his family`s legacy?

And the holiday weekend`s right around the corner, but are some politicians already taking a vacation from the facts? Stay with us.


SHARPTON: Big news tonight. Jeb Bush finally thought of something his brother did as president that he didn`t like. But is that going to be enough for voters to forget about Jeb`s famous last name? That`s next.


SHARPTON: Jeb Bush may have finally found a safe way to distance himself from his brother, criticizing former President George W. Bush at a New Hampshire event for overspending.


JEB BUSH (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Were there differences? Yes. I mean, sure, I think that in Washington, during my brother`s time, republicans spent too much money. I think that he could have used the veto power. He didn`t have line item veto power, but he could have brought budget discipline to Washington, D.C.


SHARPTON: But this critique comes as his last name is proving to be a major handicap for Bush among voters. In a new focus group, Bloomberg politics asked Iowa vote republicans how they felt about the potential 2016 contender?


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Why is there nobody in the room who`s either more enthusiastic or more curious about him?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I think it goes right back to his name. Because we talk about somebody who`s electable, and he could be the best candidate, but I just don`t know, if with the daily connotation, to me, if he is electable or not.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I think our country is a country and it should be run by -- like a business, and I don`t think it should be run like a family business.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I don`t know if he can beat Hillary.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It goes back to a Bush versus Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I think that`s exactly --

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What`s going to happen? That scares me. I don`t have a problem with him. We`re learning about him, but I am really worried.


SHARPTON: She`s worried? So is the Bush campaign. Joining me now is Jess McIntosh and Dana Milbank. Thank you both for being here.

JESS MCINTOSH, EMILY`S LIST: Good evening, Reverend.


SHARPTON: Jess, Jeb tried to create some space between himself and his brother. Is it enough?

MCINTOSH: No, I don`t think he`s ever going to be able to create the kind of space that one would need to create between yourself and the recent history`s most unpopular president, who happens to be your brother. Like, that`s just not a possibility for him. So I think the more that he attempts to, the more it draws attention to all the ways that they`re exactly alike. And the idea that, like, somehow W. wasn`t conservative enough is just such a republican base answer. When he just twisted in the wind for a week or more, over whether or not the biggest mistake of his brother`s presidency was, in fact, a mistake. I think this just highlights that Jeb Bush has a really long, difficult, twisty road ahead of him to make the case that he`s his own man.

SHARPTON: Dana, did Jeb Bush need to find some way palatable to criticize his brother`s record?

MILBANK: Well, criticize him without really criticizing him, Reverend. I mean, you know, Jess is right. The way, I mean, short of changing his name, there`s not a whole lot Jeb Bush can do to differentiate himself from his brother. But, yes, this was a little bit too convenient, suggesting that George W. Bush should have been vetoing more. Well, he was right there with the Congress spending all this money, and is Jeb Bush saying he wouldn`t want prescription drugs under Medicare? Is Jeb suggesting that he wants much deeper cuts to Social Security and Medicare and all the other programs Americans rely on? So it`s not -- and he`s certainly not taking issue with his brother`s tax cuts, which were the main problem in terms of budget busting. So, yes, it is an answer that`s designed to make him look right with the conservative base. It just doesn`t make a whole lot of sense.

SHARPTON: Jess, you know, we learned yesterday that the first couple of republican presidential debates are going to have to limit the field.

MCINTOSH: Which is so sad.

SHARPTON: Yes, it is. The first debate will feature the top ten candidates in national polls. The second debate will be split into two parts. Part one will have the top 10 candidates, part two will feature the rest of the field, as long as they get one percent in the polls. Now, here`s what Governor Bobby Jindal said today about the size of the field.


GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: A lot of republican leaders like to complain or moan about how many candidates we have running. I think that`s a great thing. I think the more, the better. I know that there are some that want to clear the field or think that this is too messy. Democracy is messy.


SHARPTON: Now, clearly, he`s one of those that may not make the main stage, so is he in denial, Jess?

MCINTOSH: I think that, honestly, the republican candidates who are most hurt by the idea that they won`t be able to be on this stage are the ones who aren`t really running for president, they`re running for vice president, and I would put Bobby Jindal at the top of that list. Being able to perform well, be interesting, be substantive, be a little funny is a great way for one of those second-tier candidates to get noticed. I mean, do you remember Joe Biden`s amazing, yes, I can be brief enough moment in the debate that really got everybody sort of talking about what kind of a VP he would make. So by not letting people like Bobby Jindal on the stage, you`re really denying him one of him like one of his only shots to get that number two spot. So, I do kind of feel for the guy. And I think it would be a lot more fun if we just threw up all 18 of them.

SHARPTON: You know, Dana, here`s what the "Iowa republican" said about the size of the GOP field in that Bloomberg focus group. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I`m a little overwhelmed. It`s like, whoo, there`s lots of people.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Hopefully, you know, somebody strong will rise to the top. And I think that`s scary right now, with that big wide-open field, I don`t see a really good strong candidate.


SHARPTON: You know, I`ve got to say, when your own voters are not impressed when you put out almost 20 candidates, is the party in trouble, Dana? Seriously?

MILBANK: Well, I mean, it is a problem in terms of, how do you differentiate yourself? If you`ve got 15, 20 candidates on the stage and an hour, even a 90-minute debate, you may have the best candidate in the world there, but he`s not going to get or she`s not going to get more than a couple of minutes to speak. So the republicans do have a problem in terms of how does anybody break away from the pack. It doesn`t necessarily mean the candidates are awful. Some of them are, some of them are good. But it`s hard to understand how you get around that if you`re going to put some of them at a kiddie table based on polls, and then you`re going to have Donald Trump based on the polls playing with the big guys and you`re going to have serious people like John Kasich in Ohio at the kiddie table. So it doesn`t --

SHARPTON: Well, Jess, there it is. That`s one that would break away from the bunch. Donald Trump. He makes the top polling.

MCINTOSH: He differentiate himself really well. I mean, I think it`s hilarious and indicative of the sort of substantively bereft nature of the Republican Party today that Donald Trump would crack the ceiling, whereas, you know, leaders who have actually held office, say, couldn`t make it. I`m thrilled to have Donald Trump on the stage. I think he`s sort of the aid of the Republican Party. Like let`s hear what`s going on in the subconscious.

SHARPTON: Jess McIntosh and Dana Milbank, thank you both for your time tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, surf`s up! GOP lawmakers are riding a wave of right-wing talking points on food stamps.

Plus, celebrities get funny for a serious cause. And it`s helping out all around the world. It`s Red Nose Day.


SHARPTON: He`s back! FOX News` favorite surfer dude and apparent poster child for everything wrong with the food stamp program.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Meet Jason Greensled. Food stamp recipient.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It`s $200 a month, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes. Two hundred dollars, free money. Radical.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The California surfer, he lives on food stamps, eats lobster, and avoids work --

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Got the escalade, going to the strip club on food stamps, free gear. What`s this look like to most people?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I would say a good time, man.


SHARPTON: What it really looks like is a tailor-made talking point for the GOP. And now republicans are picking it up and riding the wave.


REP. BOB GIBBS (R), OHIO: I can`t remember what network did it, like sometime last year, there was an expose about, you know, a surfer out in California, living on food stamps and eating lobster and everything else.

REP. TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: The surfer that was on one of the news channels, but unfortunately, we see in that our district and I hear stories about that every day.


SHARPTON: They forgot which news channel featured surfer dude? Well, maybe they also forgot this. Forty four percent of households on food stamps have children. Seventeen percent have an elderly individual. And 31 percent work. They`re not laying in the sun, eating lobster. All told, food stamps help lift four million people poverty. Those are cold, hard facts. But these republicans look like they`re taking a vacation from facts. They`re surfing right over reality, and hanging loose with the truth. Do they think we wouldn`t notice their food stamp wipeout? Nice try, but chill out, dude, because we gotcha.


SHARPTON: Celebrities worldwide are coming together to use a little humor to raise a lot of money for children. Red Nose Day is a huge effort to use comedy for a cause. It helps kids living in poverty in the U.S. and some of the poorest communities globally. For example, Matt Lauer took a 226-mile bike trip in five days to raise money. The "Today" show welcomed him back this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Welcome home! Matt Lauer!

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Well done! You did it!



SHARPTON: Celebrities across social media are getting goofy to ask for donations. You may have seen their photos with red noses, some of the world`s biggest stars are showing why this mission is so personal to them.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We`ve been to Ghana and saw the overwhelming needs with our own eyes. We know that your money can change a lot of kids` live.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You can donate. Help use the power of social media to help kids in desperate situations.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Without this you`re seeing right here, without that mobile clinic, a lot of these kids wouldn`t see a doctor at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is not a place for a 12-year-old boy to be sleeping alone. This is his life. This is where he lays his head at night.


SHARPTON: It may be a little goofy, may be a little silly, but if it takes that to expose a serious cause, then I will help and join the cause myself. Because we need to deal with poverty. We need to expose what children are going through. And you and I can sometimes get a little silly if it will help us deal with raising attention to something serious. Make sure you watch "Red Nose Day Special" tonight on NBC at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. And do your part to donate to this great cause.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.


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