PoliticsNation, Monday, April 7, 2014

April 7, 2014

Guests: Brian Wice, Ed Rendell, Krystal Ball, Marc Morial, Sherrilyn Ifill

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

Tonight`s lead, a federal prosecutors are closing in. There are two
reports tonight that a key figure in the Chris Christie bridge scandal is
talking. And it raises the prospect that David Wildstein has struck a deal
with the U.S. attorney. Of course, we don`t know that for sure.

David Wildstein is the bridge official who carried out the lane closings.
The one who replied "got it" after receiving that infamous e-mail, time for
some traffic problems in Fort Lee. Wildstein was photographed with
Christie at a 9/11 event last year on day three of the closings where he
said he told Christie about the closings. He is a person who could unravel
this mystery. But from the start, he`s asked for immunity to talk.


ALAN ZEGAS, DAVID WILDSTEIN`S ATTORNEY: If the attorneys general for New
Jersey, New York and the United States were all to agree to cloak Mr.
Wildstein with an immunity, I think that you would find yourselves in a far
different position with respect to information he could provide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s your job. We just want answers to our

ZEGAS: Understood. I`m suggesting a way you can get there.


SHARPTON: So he made it clear, he would only talk if given immunity. And
that`s why the news today is so striking. May justice which covers the
U.S. department of Justice reports Wildstein was, quote, "camped at the
U.S. attorney`s office in Nark (ph) last week meeting with investigators"
and, quote "Wildstein`s meetings indicate that prosecutors may have struck
a deal with him."

This comes after Christie`s loyal press secretary Michael Drewniak was
caught by news cameras after testifying before a grand jury last Friday.
There`s Drewniak. Here`s what his lawyer said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s the grand jury looking to talk to Mike about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I`m not going to get into the specifics as to
what would be discussed in the grand jury. I would say, though, that Mike
is a witness and we have been assured that he continues to be a witness
throughout these proceedings, and Mike has continued to cooperate, as
requested, by the government into this inquiry.


SHARPTON: It`s the first time we`ve learned a grand jury has begun hearing
testimony in the case. And it appears the U.S. attorney is making

Joining me now is criminal defense attorney Brian Wice who has experience
with political corruption cases and salon.com`s Joan Walsh.

Thank you both for being here tonight.

Brian, let me go to you. David Wildstein, camped out for days. What does
that tell you? Did he get immunity?

BRIAN WICE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Rev., I think it means he won
the race to the courthouse. Because in a situation like this, immunity
grants are like life preservers on a sinking ship. Unfortunately, there
aren`t enough to go around sometimes. And the fact that Mr. Wildstein, as
you reported in your intro, has been camped out, closed quote, at the U.S.
attorney`s office tells me he is meeting with prosecutors so that he can be
sanitized, and maybe get a dose of scotch guard before he goes in the grand
jury. You do not throw a potential witness in front of the grand jury
unless and until you sat down with them, vetted them and know the good, the
bad and the ugly. Because I`m telling you, Reverend, the place to find out
about the bad and the ugly is not inside that grand jury room.

SHARPTON: Now Joan, here`s what the "Star Ledger" wrote about today`s
news. Quote, "what began as a preliminary inquiry to determine whether any
federal laws have been implicated has now morphed into a deepening criminal
probe to decide whether federal laws have been broken."

So we seem to have an escalation here with the information that there, in
fact, is a grand jury taking testimony.

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, SALON.COM: We do. I mean, it`s really
unthinkable that Wildstein would be there answering questions when he has
refused on other occasions without some kind of immunity. So he`s clearly
talking. We obviously endured the Randy Mastro investigation. We have to
take that seriously. It spent a lot of time calling David Wildstein crazy
and Bridget Kelly emotional, but it did not seem to actually convince
anybody that needed to be convincing that the governor had nothing to do
with this and this was all the plot of two crazy aides.

So, it`s going to be interesting to see who else goes there. You know, I
would think they would be very interested in talking to Bridget Kelly and
granting her immunity as well. We haven`t seen that yet.

SHARPTON: Brian, what would prosecutors want to extract out of Wildstein.
What do you think are the things that he would need to cooperate and give
in order for the prosecutors to give them a feeling they`ve got something
for this immunity?

WICE: Well, Reverend, we can reset the time machine and go back to
Watergate. And that great sound bite of what the president knew and when
he knew it. Ultimately, these federal prosecutors are going to want to
know what Mr. Wildstein can tell them, if anything, about what Governor
Christie knew and when he knew it. Whether it was in connection with that
now famous 9/11 appearance, before, during or after that.

And it seems to me that by hitching their wagon to his star, these federal
prosecutors believe that Mr. Wildstein is the one that can lead them down a
path that might result in careers, lives and everything else along that
golden road being altered.

And I guess it`s funny. Because remember that governor Christie tried to
distance himself from David Wildstein as saying even though we were high
school friends, I was a jock and he was in the chess club. Well, Rev.,
maybe the ultimate revenge of the nerds.

SHARPTON: We`ll let that one go, but Joan, among those who worked for and
close to Christie, he, the ones we know that have talked to the feds. The
Christie`s loyal press secretary Michael Drewniak we saw there. We also
learned today Christie`s former chief council, (INAUDIBLE) met with
prosecutors back in January. And the big one now is David Wildstein. And
there, you know, these are just three we know. It`s probable that others
have been talking. So this looks like a real intensified investigation.

WALSH: This is a real investigation. There is absolutely no doubt about
that. We don`t know what it`s going to find, but I think what everybody
with any common sense agrees, Rev., is that there`s no way that Bridget
Kelly herself came up with this idea and had the power to pull the trigger
and say OK, now it`s time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.

We all know that did not happen. We do not know what did happen and we
don`t know where this came from. We don`t know why. But I think it`s more
than just, did Wildstein tell the governor about it while he was at the
9/11 event.

If that`s all he had to share with us, that would be small potatoes. It
would still prove the governor lied, but I don`t think that`s what they`re
going for here at all. I think that they`re trying to get to the bottom of
who would rain down political hell on their political opponents and for
what reason. And we do know that yet, but people are talking and that`s
bad news for governor Christie.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, I`ve got to ask you, Brian, when she raises --
Joan, that is, raises Bridget Kelly. Bridget Kelly appeared in court. Her
attorney argued with state lawmakers that they could grant his client
immunity. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You act as if they could very easily afford immunity
and that would take care of everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like that. Like that. They don`t want to give us
immunity, not that they can`t.


SHARPTON: So Bridget Kelly has asked for immunity. She is the names Joan
keeps mentioning. How critical is she? And do you think that she`s
potentially next in line to make a deal, Brian?

WICE: I think you make a great point, Rev. The fact that David Wildstein
has won the race doesn`t mean ultimately that the race is over. Because I
can assure you, Paul Fishman and his cadre of talented senior federal
prosecutors are going to want to construct a solid foundation and not a
foundation that`s ultimately constructed on quick sand.

The more people they know who are credible and believable and who are in a
place who could learn what happened are going to be essential. And I also
think it`s ironic that the report that we`re talking about today came from
a publication called "Main Justice." Because Reverend, those are going to
be the folks at main justice in D.C. Eric Holder has council who will have
to sign off on any high level indictments if they arise out of this

SHARPTON: Joan, the fact that we got the report you referred to, the Randy
Mastro report that the governor state had to port the state of New Jersey,
that the state of New Jersey taxpayers paid for and that was supposed to
close the door. Now here we are, right back to the federal government
talking to people. Does this now reopen this whole view of Chris Christie,
who seemed to be trying to get back on stride and get like this was behind

WALSH: Go out to Las Vegas and act like he`s a serious contender for
president? Look, you know, he must think we`re stupid. Yes, we played for
the Mastro report. But no, it was never going to close the door on these

These questions were always coming. That was a temporary side show that
you and I had to like through and we had to act like we were taking it
seriously. We had to read it. We had to look at it. But it was never
going to exonerate him and was never going to let him get off the hook. It
allowed him to go to Las Vegas. I hope he had a good trip. Because he`s
going to stop answering these questions for quite a long time.

SHARPTON: So Brian, if you were advising the governor tonight, what would
be your advice?

WICE: I would give him advice that ultimately I`m not quite sure if he
would want to hear, is that you need to be low key, you need to come in
under the radar. Like Joan says, it doesn`t do you any good to go out to
Vegas and go to the Taj, or maybe be one of the high rollers in national
political circles right now.

Look, for a 344-page report with 66 footnotes, you would think we would
have gotten something better than a term paper that these folks seem to
have bought on the internet. I mean, this is report is as relevant as last
week`s lotto ticket. And if the governor and his concillaries (ph) believe
that they put a stop as to whether or not he`s on the gun side of this
grand jury investigation, I think like Joan said, they`re sadly mistaken.

SHARPTON: Brian Wice and Joan Walsh, thank you both for your time tonight.

Still ahead, hitting back against the billionaire boys club. Democrats are
using what worked against Mitt Romney to expose the Koch brothers.

Also, you won`t believe which Republicans are actually trying to get advice
from Donald Rumsfeld. Here`s a hint -- they have big plans for 2016.

Plus, a strong new sign that the president`s health care law is working.
Right wingers are freaking out and getting the full SNL treatment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House is claiming that they met their goal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But look at our FOX News chart, OK? As you can see,
Obama needed to get seven million new subscribers and he only got 7.1
million. Not anywhere close.



SHARPTON: Democrats have launched a new campaign to paint the Koch
brothers as out of touch billionaires who are rooting against everyday
America. Will it work? Just ask Mitt Romney. That`s next.


SHARPTON: Democrats have a new line of attack in this midterm election.
They`re going all-in on an effort to expose the billionaire Koch brothers
who are helping bank roll the Republican pot. Today, a top democrat in the
Senate made it clear, his party is not going to stand by as big money helps
buy an election.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: They are spending $40, $50 million in
ads that are not focused on the real agenda, which is just eliminating all
regulations on corporation, cutting tacks to virtually nothing, and so
there demands a response. So I don`t feel sorry for them.


SHARPTON: In 2012 election Koch-backed groups raised more than $400
million. This year alone they spent more than $30 million to help the GOP
win control of the Senate. And in the wake of last week`s Supreme Court
decision, wealthy backers like the Koch`s could have even more power. But
now in race after race, Democrats are calling them out, saying they put
profit before people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Koch brothers --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The billionaire Koch brothers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not believe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They come to our town, buy our refinery --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just running in the ground, leaving a mess.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of Alaskans are losing jobs and I`m definitely
concerned about the drinking water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t go down and tell them what to do. I don`t
expect them to come up to Alaska and tell us what to do.


SHARPTON: A Koch spokesman told the "New York Times" that Koch companies
employ more than 60,000 people, saying, quote, "Koch like any other
business has to make difficult decisions to ensure the long-term viability
of our company."

They`re in business, all right. The business of trying to make sure their
conservative ideas win at the polls. And Democrats are not going to let
that happen without a fight.

Joining me now is Dana Milbank. Thank you for coming on the show tonight.


SHARPTON: So senator Harry Reid just tweeted, quote, "Many Republican
senators might as well wear Koch insignias to donate their sponsorship.
Why are Democrats hitting the GOP so hard on this issue, Dana?

MILBANK: I think the real question, Reverend Al, is why have they waited
until now to do it? Harry Reid has been out there delivering this message
for weeks. And I think others are just realizing the power of it.

Look. Everybody knows that in politics you need demons. And the Koch
brothers are uniquely qualified to play that role. I mean, they couldn`t
be any better for it if they were carrying out pitch forks and had horns.

It`s two of the wealthiest people in the world. Number five and six of the
world`s top billionaires. And they got their money from oil. It`s the
sort of thing that can really motivate the democratic base.

Now look, this is not looking to be a great year for Democrats, but it`s
always better to be on the offensive than it is playing defense. And I
think this gives Democrats something to be talking about other than
defending themselves.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, a new poll shows that 52 percent of Americans
have never heard of the Koch brothers. But of those who have heard of the
brothers, more than half had an unfavorable view.

MILBANK: Right. And large numbers of Americans had not heard of Tom DeLay
before he became a punching bag for Democrats. Certainly large amounts of
Americans have not heard of Bane Consulting before the Obama campaign made
that an issue in 2012. So the fact that they`re unknown actually allows
the Democrats to define them. Because they`re so secretive and add to the
mystique and it allows them to do that. It`s one reason why Democrats has
a feeling that the fortunes have shifted in the last week or so, part of it
is the Ryan budget coming out and part of it is hitting the $77 million
with health care. There`s a feeling that the ground is no longer falling
out in this midterm election.

SHARPTON: Now Dana, you recently wrote about the power that this small
group of wealthy donors has. You said quote "these and other wealthy
people are buying the U.S. political system in much the same say Russian
(INAUDIBLE) have acquired theirs. This pave to play culture is at best

What makes it ugly when it becomes obvious just how much the wealthy
corporate interests give in return?

MILBANK: Right. The ugly part is really not the money that`s being spent
but what`s being purchased for it. So, you`ve got the Koch brothers
spending tens of millions of dollars. You`ve got people flying out to Las
Vegas seeking to see Sheldon Adelson, hoping that he`ll throw millions of
dollars for their campaign. You know, lining up as if f they`re selling
their wares in some or the of a live auction.

But you seeing in town, you see it in the Ryan budget in terms of the
giveaways, in terms of tax breaks for the wealthy, a lot of cuts in social
programs that disproportionately affect the poor. You see it in the way
corporations, such as General Motors are getting away with the kind of
abuses they`ve gotten away with.

It`s become clearer than ever that if it wasn`t clear already, that in this
town, that the powerful and those who are spending their money get
protected by the people who work in this building.

SHARPTON: Dana Milbank, thank you for coming on the show tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend Al.

SHARPTON: Coming up, Elizabeth Warren unloads on Paul Ryan`s vision for

And they lied to us for too long. So why on earth are they being courted
by potential GOP presidential candidates?

And they said the sky would fall. They predicted Armageddon. But today
more good news for the president`s health care law. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: Ted Cruz is making his list and checking it twice. His to-do
list in his likely run for president. Phony filibuster to repeal
Obamacare, check. Logging serious time in Iowa, check. So what`s next?
Seeking advice from Donald Rumsfeld?

"The Washington Post" reports today, quote, "former defense secretary
Donald Rumsfeld has been courted by several potential candidates and plans
to meet with crews." Why on earth is Ted Cruz courting Donald rums
Rumsfeld? This is the man who sold us the war in Iraq, a man who just
revealed he never even read the torture memos and he`s what he said in a
new documentary.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: In 2003, in a Washington poll post, 69 percent
said they believe it`s likely the Iraqi leader was personally involved in
the attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda.

Bush administration saying anything like that, nor do I recall anyone
believing that.


SHARPTON: He doesn`t recall anyone believing that? How convenient. So
again, no potential candidate should be courting Donald Rumsfeld. It`s
like a wannabe firefighter courting an arsonist for tips.

But this isn`t the first time today`s GOP pursued one of the Bushes. House
Republicans south out former vice president Dick Cheney`s advice on foreign
policy just last year. The same Dick Cheney who recently said if he had
to, he would use torture all over again.

The world of foreign policy experts used to be filled by those who shaped
U.S. policy after World War II, who believed politics stopped at the
water`s edge. They were called the Wisemen.

But who are the Wisemen in the Republican party today? Dick Cheney and
Donald Rumsfeld? As Steve Bennen (ph) (INAUDIBLE) put it today, that`s
like 1940 Republican president Joe hopefuls courting Hoover`s economic
team, the folks that brought us the great depression.

They`re the last person`s advice anybody should want. Did Ted Cruz and the
GOP think we wouldn`t notice they`re still running back to the Bushes?

Nice try, but some mission accomplished because we got you.


SHARPTON: Republicans have spent four years predicting failure for the
Affordable Care Act. It was all doom and gloom. They called the law a
disaster, compared it to hurricane Katrina, and even terrorism. But guess
what? The sky is still there. And the law is working. Today, another
positive sign, a new Gallup poll finds the rate of uninsured Americans have
fallen 1.5 percent since the last quarter of 2013. In fact, the uninsured
rate is at the lowest level we`ve seen since 2008. So more and more people
are getting health insurance. All those kooky theories just weren`t true.
Remember those ads put out by conservative groups, Americans for
Prosperity, sharing so-called horror stories about the health care law?

One by one, they all fell apart. "The Washington Post" said that the
claims in one ad didn`t add up. The paper`s fact checker gave it three
Pinocchios. Fact check that all called, another ad misleading, saying the
family featured actually found a cheaper health care plan. And PolitiFact
labeled another ad just plain false. They couldn`t come up with real
problems with this law, so they just made some up. If that seems like a
joke to you, you`re not alone. This weekend "Saturday Night Live" got in
on the fun.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Now that the deadline has passed, the White House is
claiming that they met their goal.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But look at our FOX News chart, OK? As you can see,
Obama needed to get seven million new subscribers and he only got 7.1
million. That`s not anywhere close.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh, that`s a shame and kudos to our numbers guys here at
FOX. That`s a good chart.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes. I made a pie chart. This area represents the part
where I was hungry.


SHARPTON: Wow! It`s pretty funny. And not that far from what we`ve
actually seen from the right. Joining me now, former Pennsylvania Governor
Ed Rendell and MSNBC`s Krystal Ball. Thank you both for coming on the show

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST: Thanks for having us, Rev.


SHARPTON: Governor, the sky isn`t falling and the rate of uninsured
Americans is going down. How can anyone be against this?

RENDELL: Well, it`s hard to figure Rev, except it`s associated with
President Obama. Look, there is a little false debate going on, and I
would like to straighten it out. Republicans say a Rand Corporation study
says that only about 800,000 of the seven million didn`t have health
insurance before. That`s probably not correct, but that remains to be
seen. So they say only 800,000 uninsured people have been covered. But
they`re forgetting about the over four million people who are now covered
by the Medicaid expansion. Those people all did not have health insurance
and today they do. So even if you took their extreme figure of 800,000,
extremely low --


RENDELL: If you add the $4.2 million covered by Medicaid expansion, that`s
five million right there. That`s 5 million right there.


RENDELL: So, they`re full of hot air. They`re full of hot air.

SHARPTON: Well, you know, Krystal, a Gallup poll found a dramatic change
in insurance rates for low income Americans. The uninsured rate among
lower income people fell more than three percent since the end of 2013. I
mean, doesn`t this show the law is making insurance affordable?

BALL: It absolutely does. And we`re getting more and more proof that the
law is working as intended. Republicans were sort of fantasizing that the
whole thing was going to fall apart. And there was going to be this death
spiral, and the website was going to continue to have problems and none of
that is coming to through fruition. The reality is though that even though
they fixated on what they hoped would be problems with the law and problems
with the implementation, they have a fundamental, philosophical opposition
to the law.

That it doesn`t matter how successful it is, it doesn`t matter how much of
America is convinced that the law is working, because it is. They have
this fundamental, philosophical, ideological opposition to it, both because
they don`t want government involved in health care, and also because it has
the President`s name attached to it. So, it`s most of America recognizes
the law`s success. The Republican Party is going to be increasingly
isolated in this sheer ideological opposition to the law.

SHARPTON: You know, some of the health care law`s provisions have a huge
amount of support, Governor. Eighty percent support letting young adults
stay on parents` plans. Seventy seven percent support free preventive
care. Seventy four percent support the Medicaid expansion. Seventy
percent support ending discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.
People like what`s in the law. But the Republicans still want to do away
with the whole thing. I mean, listen to Paul Ryan.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Seven million people on ObamaCare. There`s
no way you can change it. You just going to learn to live with it. I
don`t buy that. I think the architecture of this law is so fundamentally
so flawed, that I think it`s going to collapse under its own way. And the
sooner those of us who want true real reform can show a better way forward,
the faster we can repeal.


SHARPTON: I mean, what kind of message is that Governor, for the millions
of people who`ve already signed-up?

RENDELL: Well, it`s terrible measure and it makes no sense. And they`ve
had how many years to show a better way and they haven`t come up with
anything that`s even close to feasible. That`s the big weakness. And
that`s one of the things that we have to highlight as we get into the 2014
election. The law is working, sure it`s had some problems. We need to
iron some of those problems out. Still. But what`s the alternative,
folks? They`ve offered you nothing. If you want to go back to the time
when the insurance companies could drop you just like this because you got
sick? Of course not.

The American people aren`t dumb. Do women want to go back to the time when
insurance companies could charge them a higher rate than men just because
they`re women? Of course not. So, that`s the weakness in their position.
If we campaign wisely, this can turn out to be a plus for us. It`s going
to be difficult, because they put so much money behind these lies that some
of it sticks, but if we campaign wisely, we can fight back effectively.

SHARPTON: You know, they`ve had 55 votes against this law, Krystal
against this law. Fifty five. I mean, are they going to run on anything
else? Are they going to do anything else?

BALL: Well, they`re still trying to recapture the magic of 2010 when they
ran against the Affordable Care Act in the abstract and it was successful
for them. So, since they have nothing else to run on, it`s the only thing
that they can figure out to do. But when you think about it, Reverend, I
mean, it is unconscionable that you would cheer for this law to fail. What
is the reason to cheer against something that`s goal is to get people
Affordable Health Care. And you can see Paul Ryan there. You can see
Republicans all over the place cheering for the law to not be successful.
I think to me, I mean, we`ve become so accustomed to it, but it`s just
nakedly, blatantly political, and hoping it doesn`t succeed, and hoping
that people aren`t covered in the way that it`s supposed to be.

SHARPTON: You know, Senator Mitch McConnell, Governor, got four pick
Pinnochios today from the Washington Post for claiming 280,000 people in
Kentucky got cancellation notices for their health care plan. His number
was completely off and the law actually helped 370,000 Kentuckians get
coverage. Is this all they can do is make wild claims and hope they don`t
get called out for them?

RENDELL: Well, sure. And again, because they`ve got so much money behind
this, Koch Brothers money, all sorts of money, they`re going to try to make
these wild, inaccurate claims, throw them up there and hope that if they
talk about him enough, it will stick. And it depends on us to step forward
and not just to people running. Talk about them enough they will stick.
And it depend on us to step forward. And not just the people running.
Like in Kentucky, Governor Beshear, who`s got a lot invested because his
state health exchange is one of the most successful in the country.
Governor Beshear has got to speak out, even though he`s not on the ballot
and say they`re lying to you. This exchange has been successful, this plan
is working in Kentucky.

SHARPTON: Will this fight, Krystal, backfire on them? They`re majoring
and putting so much in fighting the health care? Will it backfire for them
in the 2014 midterm?

BALL: I think 2014 is going to be a mixed bag. I think Democrats have an
opportunity as the Governor was saying, to capitalize on the fact that the
law is working. But the Republicans, the longer they hold on to this, the
further isolated they get, the more out on a limb that they get and
offering no solutions of their own. So, looking down the road, their
fantasy is that they take back the Senate in 2014 which I don`t think is
going to happen, and that they win the presidency in 2016, they still are
fantasizing about repealing this law, even though for millions of
Americans, it is providing health care that they`ve never had access to

SHARPTON: Governor Ed Rendell, Krystal Ball, thank you both for your time
tonight. And be sure to watch Krystal on "The Cycle" weekdays at 3 p.m.
Eastern right here on MSNBC.

Still ahead, it`s a funny smack down, Elizabeth Warren calls out Paul Ryan
for protecting the rich and attacking the poor. But first, 50 years after
the civil rights act, we are fighting some of the same old battles. How do
we protect and expand the promise of America? That`s next.


FMR. PRES. GEORGE BUSH (R), UNITED STATES: If someone said to me ten years
ago that I had to make a pitch for protecting voting rights today, I would
have said you`ve got to be kidding? Folks, this is a fight we have to make
again, but it`s a fight we can win again.


SHARPTON: That was Vice President Joe Biden today, urging Democrats to
fight back for voting rights as part of the Democratic National Committee`s
new voter expansion project. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the
signing of the civil rights act. But we`re still fighting some of the same
battles we did a half century ago. Voting rights, workers rights, criminal
justice, economic justice, education. These are just some of the issues my
organization the National Action Network will tackle in our 16th annual
convention this week in New York City. We made significant progress in the
fight for civil rights, but there`s still work to be done and we cannot
rest until justice and fairness is guarantee, not just for some but for

Joining me now are two leaning figures playing a huge role in that fight,
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and Sherrilyn Ifill,
president of the NAACP legal defense and education fund. Thank you both
for being here.



SHARPTON: Marc, did you ever think that 50 years after the civil rights
act, we would be fighting some of the same battles?

MORIAL: I wouldn`t have thought it five years ago. I thought in some ways
the nation had begun to turn the corner. But as much as we take a step
forward, the massive resistance, the opposition from those who are
threatened by this progress has re-emerged. And that`s why it`s up to this
generation to recognize that is a real fight.

SHARPTON: And Sherrilyn a lot of that fight from my perspective and
certainly your work is in the criminal justice arena. And how we get the
government to work to protect the citizens and their rights. And LDF has
been at the forefront of that. You right now are still dealing with
serious voter suppression questions, and you are gracious enough to come
talk about it at the convention. But tell people that listening and
watching the fights that are the legal barriers that we`re facing now.

IFILL: I think it`s difficult for people to really absorb and fully
understand the battle that were in around building rights. The Supreme
Court said 150 years ago, that the right to vote is preservative of all
rights. This is in contrast to what Chief Justice Roberts said in the
campaign finance case last week when he listed voting among a laundry list
of ways you can participate in the political process. Voting was always
supreme, it always had primacy, and what we`re seeing in the last two years
is a concerted efforts to keep segments of the population from voting
through voter suppression tactics that are familiar to us from the 1960s
but we hoped we wouldn`t see again. And so, we`re in courthouses all over
the south trying to stem the tide in the Shelby case last year that took
away the protection that many voters had in the south from discriminatory
voting practices.

SHARPTON: Marc Morial, the National Urban League came out with their
annual report, one nation unemployed. The 2014 state of black America, and
you made some very, very serious findings public. Could you share some of

MORIAL: A crisis for black America. It`s a crisis for brown America.
Indeed, it`s a crisis for all working Americans. Because what this report
shows is that as job creation has come back, many parts, Reverend, of our
communities are being left behind. This economic divide is growing. The
jobs divide is growing. The median income divide is growing. And like
voting rights, there are forces in this country that are seeking to block
an increase in the minimum wage that would give 30 million people a raise.

A jobs bill, the American jobs act that the president introduced with our
council advising inspiration. And the transportation infrastructure bill
that is solely needed to rebuild broken bridges. In other words, those
things that would stimulate economic growth, give people a raise and
address the problems we highlight in that report are being stymied by the
very same forces that are seeking to roll back the hands of time when it
comes to voting rights.

SHARPTON: We also see that played out in the whole problem of the
sentencing and incarceration of blacks, particularly black males.
Something that the present Attorney General Holder is addressing but that
new defense fund has really been in on this. So, we see it under
employment and unemployment as the urban league has comes out with new
report, and we also see it in the criminal justice system where we don`t
have equal protection under the law or equal punishment if we break the

IFILL: And we`re being essentially warehouse. You have nearly two million
Americans who are currently incarcerated, a system that is entirely
unsustainable. The vast majority of that increase comes from people engage
in non-violent drug defenses. And we have essentially snatched them out of
communities, leaving our communities devoid of men and women who are needed
in order to raise children, in order to stimulate the economy and so forth.

It`s been fantastic to watch this attorney general, Attorney General Holder
really make bold steps and make bold pronouncements about mass
incarceration in this country. But what people have to remember is that
the federal criminal system is just a fraction of the overall criminal


IFILL: Most of the criminal justice system happens at the state level.
And until we can begin to start really making interventions at the state
level and turning this around, we`re still going to be warehousing a
segment of the population in our prisons.

SHARPTON: But doesn`t it both work hand and glove?

MORIAL: Because there`s no doubt, Reverend, you`re absolutely right, that
those who may have a nonviolent offense on their record are barred from so
many jobs, barred from getting a license in many states from being a
barber or a cosmetologist or being a licensed electrician, or even getting
a student loan. So this mass incarceration, this system of locking up
nonviolent offenders is also having a drug on economic growth, economic
recovery and just the right of people to get their lives back together.

SHARPTON: Do you think Sherrilyn that people in the next election cycle
are going to be able to in enough time affect a lot of the state laws in
voting that the legal defense fund or Urban League, National Action
Network, all of us are concerned about?

IFILL: Well, two things people should remember, one is that organizations
like the NAACP legal defense fund has been on the ground since last summer,
since the Supreme Court`s decision.


IFILL: And although we report a lot of the bad things that are happening,
they`ve been some successes, we worked with local groups to turn back an
effort of the Georgia legislature two weeks ago to limit early voting by 21
days. We beat it back and we defeated it. We went into Baker County,
Georgia and we challenged them on their plan to close four of the five
polling places that would have require black voters to drive 25 miles to
vote. So, we`re doing some of that work on the ground.

Then secondly, you`ve got the federal legislation, the voting rights act
amendment that`s been proposed and that could make real change. We need a
hearing on that bill, and we haven`t been able to get a hearing. So what
people need to understand is they need to be calling their Congress person
and saying we need a hearing in the house. We need a hearing on that bill.
What are they afraid of? We can`t talk about voting? We can`t look at
this bill. Even I say the bill is not perfect but it`s a step towards
repairing the damage that was done last year.

SHARPTON: Well, Marc Morial and Sherrilyn Ifill, thank you both for being
here tonight and for the important work that you do, and for being on the
show tonight. And as I mentioned, the convention of the National Action
Network, my civil rights group starts this Wednesday of President Obama is
one of the speakers this week, it will go from April 9 to the 12th
including Rob Morial and Sherrilyn Ifill will be with us right here in New

Coming up, Paul Ryan is touting his vision for America. But here comes
Elizabeth Warren. She unloads on Ryan. You have to see. And the senators
voted to extend unemployment benefits for two million Americans. Will
Speaker Boehner do the right thing?


SHARPTON: Paul Ryan is out pushing his ruthless budget. It destroys the
safety net and attacks the poor. Sixty nine percent of his budget cuts
come from low income programs. But Senator Elizabeth Warren is ready for a
fight. Speaking at a recent dinner in Minnesota, she blasted Ryan`s
budget, took on his inner city culture belief and hammered his view of the


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Paul Ryan looks around, sees
three unemployed workers for every job opening in America and blames the
people who can`t find a job. In 2008, this economy crashed, wiping out
millions of jobs. Paul Ryan says, don`t blame Wall Street. The guys who
make billions of dollars cheating American families. Don`t blame decades
of deregulation that took the cops off the beat while the big banks looted
the American economy.


Don`t blame the Republican secretary of the treasury and the Republican
president who set in motion a no strings attached bailout for the biggest
banks. Nope. Paul Ryan says keep the monies flowing to the powerful
corporations, keep their huge tax breaks, keep the special deals for the
too big to fail banks and put the blame on hard working play to the rules
Americans who lost their jobs. Well, let me tell you, that may be Paul
Ryan`s vision of how America works, but that`s not our vision of this great


SHARPTON: That is not our vision of this great country, and it`s great to
see Elizabeth Warren fighting for our vision.


SHARPTON: We`re back with developing news on Capitol Hill. After months
of delay, the Senate has just passed an extension of unemployment benefits
that will help two million Americans who are looking for work. So now it`s
up to Speaker Boehner in the house. What`s he going to do? Is he going to
throw a "Nightline" to two million Americans who need a little help getting
back on their feet? Or is he going to send a message that Republicans only
care about you if you have a corporate jet and a big bank account?

This week, House Republicans will vote on the Ryan budget. Which lowers
taxes on the rich, while shredding the safety net. It`s the wrong path for
America. And today, Democrats released their own budget, showing a
different way forward. The democratic budget raises the minimum wage,
extends jobless benefits, protects the safety net, and invests in America`s
infrastructure to create jobs. And tomorrow, President Obama is going to
sign executive actions strengthening equal pay laws for women. Two
parties, two different visions for America. The question is, which side
will America choose?

And old civil rights song used to go, which side are you on? America this
year should not choose parties, they should choose sides. Are you on the
side of the average American? Or are only on the side of the super rich
and the super wealthy? Choose sides. And not just parties.

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


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