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PoliticsNation, Monday, April 21, 2014

April 21, 2014

Guests: Marcia Fudge, Simone Campbell, Dana Milbank, Krystal Ball, James
Peterson, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto

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

Tonight`s lead, Democrats on the offensive, fighting for fairness. It`s a
vision that stands in direct contrast to a brutal Republican budget that
cuts from the poor. Make no mistake, this is a battle that`s more
important than ever. A jars new study says that nearly 49 million
Americans lack access to healthy food, 49 million. And what`s worse,
nearly a third are children. It`s a nightmare being played out all over
this country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now in Douglas, (INAUDIBLE) county, there are
30,000 kids who are considered food insecure. That means they do not know
where their next meal will come from.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just use our checks to pay bills. We cannot
actually afford food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are 300,000 children in south Florida who
aren`t sure where their next meal is coming from.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The organization has over 1200 elderly families are
currently on waiting list for the adopt a family program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a handful of 100-year-olds on the waiting list.
Can you imagine you being 100 years old and food insecurity?


SHARPTON: 100-years-old, 100 year olds and they don`t know if they`ll be
able to eat?

But despite this, Paul Ryan and his fellow Republicans are looking to
destroy programs for these very people. The house GOP voted almost
unanimously for a budget where 69 percent of the cuts target low income
Americans, cutting lifelines like the food stamp program, like Medicaid,
even abolishing the affordable care act. Why? Because we need to get


serious about helping working families or serious of getting families out
of work back to work, then it needs to get serious about our national debt.
How do we do it? First, we stop spending money we don`t have.


SHARPTON: Here is the problem with Ryan`s serious budget. It gives
millionaires a tax break of at least $200,000. It literally takes from the
poor to give to the rich. That`s wrong. And Democrats are exposing this
failed vision.

And Senator Elizabeth Warren`s new book, she writes quote "we can`t bury
our heads in the sand and pretend that if big government disappears, so
will society`s toughest problems. That`s just magical thinking and is also
dangerous thinking."

It is dangerous and she`s not going to let Ryan and the Republicans get
away with it.


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. Paul Ryan says keep the monies flowing to the
powerful corporations, keep their huge tax break, keep the special deals
for the too big to fail banks, and put the blame on hard-work in hard-
working play to the rule 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 country. That`s right.


SHARPTON: That`s not our vision and it never will be.

Joining me now is Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Democrat from Ohio and chair
of the congressional black caucus and Sister Simone Campbell. She`s the
executive director of network, a national catholic social justice lobby.
And an author of a new book, a great book by the way, "A nun on the bus"
which outlines her fight for economic justice in light of Congressman
Ryan`s new budget.

Thank you both for being here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Reverend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman, Chairman -- chairwoman, I should say, this report
says that 49 million people, 49 million, are food insecure. Aren`t
representatives supposed to help their constituents? I mean, what are your
GOP colleagues missing here?

REP. MARCIA FUDGE (D), OHIO: Listen, Reverend. Let me just say this to
you. I think by calling what Paul Ryan is doing, a budget is lending some
validity to it. It is not a budget. If it were a budget, he could justify
his revenue projections. He can justify his cuts and he can`t.

What this is, is a scheme to rob the poor and give to the rich. It is not
a budget. It is not going anywhere because anytime you cut $4.3 trillion
out of a budget or what he calls a budget and $3 trillion of it hurts the
poor, the working poor, the middle class and senior citizens, then what do
you expect for these people to do. You cannot base any kind of budget on
the backs of people who can least afford it.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, Sister Simone, new numbers show that there`s an
enormous and growing gap between CEO`s and minimum wage workers or minimum
wage earners in 2013, CEO`s made an average of $11.7 million. Minimum wage
workers got just over $125,000. I mean, how can anyone argue that we need
to focus on closing this gap.

SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL, A NUN IN THE BUS: Well, I am really worried,
Reverend, because many do argue that those at the top will eventually wake
up and care for those at the bottom. But what our experience is is that
that is not true. And we must change the direction of our nation. It`s
not good for our democracy. It`s not good for our economy to have so many
of our people, 20 percent, 25 percent of our people struggling so hard.
That is wrong. We`ve got to change that direction.

SHARPTON: You know, Congresswoman Fudge, when you look at the fact that
the president said that incoming inequality is the defining issue of our
time and "the Washington Post" reports that Democrats are being urged to
run and use the exact same one percent economic messaging that won
President Obama`s second term in 2012, how do you as a leader in the party
and leader of the congressional black caucus respond to the call for the
Democrats to run in this midterm election on that theme and the president
saying it`s a defining issue of our time.

FUDGE: There are two defining issues You`re absolutely right. We do need
to run on incoming equality. We also need to run on the affordable care
act. Let me just say this to you, Reverend Al.

If we dealt whether it be members of Congress, media included, we need to
tell the American public the truth. We need to let them know they`re not
the only ones struggling. As you said, almost 25 percent of all Americans
are struggling in some way, shape or form. And we need to say to them it`s
our job, it is our responsibility as representatives to help them. And if
we choose not to do that, then we should not be their representatives.

SHARPTON: Now, the right keeps arguing that poverty is due to people`s
moral failings. Listen to this, Sister Simone.


RYAN: We don`t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able
body people to lied into dependency and complacency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Studies show people on welfare are higher users of
drugs than people not on welfare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people are lazy and a lot of people are
becoming lazier.

NEWT GINGRICH, CNN HOST, CROSSFIRE: Really poor children in really poor
neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Supplemental nutritional assistance
program, the buy beer program with a government credit card.


SHARPTON: Sister Simone, is it people`s failings that have caused this big
gap in income inequality and that has caused food insecurity?

SIMONE: Reverend, those what we just heard breaks my heart because it is
so far from the truth of the majority of hardworking people. The fact is
people work hard and rely on Food stamp to be or SNAP program to be able to
feed their families. When they work full time, they still live in poverty.
That`s wrong in our nation. Students who are losing hope because of the
difficulty of finding jobs in this tough economy, what we need to do, what
is best for America is to raise wage, create jobs and then we will move
forward, hardworking people are trying their best. But those who hold on
to capital are not sharing the wealth and there is the problem.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman, I know your district well, go in often with our
work. Are there people sitting around with no value in working and men
just for generations just lazy and don`t work? I mean, I didn`t see them
in your district.

FUDGE: They aren`t here, reverend. And it would be amazed how many people
call my office looking for work every day. You would be surprised at how
many people are saying I`ve tried over and over again. Is there any way
you can help me or is there some way I can be retrained. What can I do to
be able to support my fem and myself.

Let me tell you, Reverend, this is just rhetoric we just heard is just a
mantra from the Republican parties to say to others, it`s OK to look down
on the poor. It`s OK to look down on those having a tough time. It is OK
to look down on people who are uneducated or who are not highly skilled.

They`re just trying to make it easy for people to not look at what`s going
on in this country. And until we stop listening to that foolishness, I
think that we`re going to be in serious trouble because everyone I know
wants a job.

SHARPTON: Well, be careful, though, Congresswoman, be careful Sister
Simone, because you were recently on FOX News and you were laying out some
of these arguments and Sean Hannity said this to you about your economic
theories and philosophy.


SIMONE: The bus we did and what the book is about is trying to lift up the
needs of low income people in our nation. And the fact that we, the people
of the United States --

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I think that`s a great idea.

SIMONE: But going after Paul Ryan`s budget. That was the big --

HANNITY: You`re a communist.

SIMONE: Oh, no, not at all.


SHARPTON: I hope he was joking.

SIMONE: Well, I don`t know if he was joking or not. Some people took him
seriously, but the fact is that name calling is about all that exists on
that side, that perspective. I wrote this book to tell this real story of
real people who struggle hard. And say to all of these naysayers, come
meet my people. Come meet the people in Congresswoman Fudge`s district.
Come meet the reality and quit the lies, quit dividing us. This is for the
100 percent. We need to come together.

SHARPTON: Well, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge and Sister Simone Campbell, we
will have to leave it there. Thank you both for your time.

And Sister Simone`s book, once again, is "a nun on the bus." You want to
read it so they quit throwing the poor in front of the bus.

Coming up, why is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia telling students to,
quote, "revolt if taxes get too high?"

Plus Attorney General Eric Holder took a major step forward in correcting
the injustices of our legal system today. And it`s a White House
tradition, the annual Easter egg roll. You want to see who was there to

And one year after tragedy, 36,000 run together and remind the world what
it means to be Boston strong. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: How can a politician turn down health insurance for their
constituents? It`s happening. And Governor Jindal better watch out. The
shame is coming next.


SHARPTON: How can a politician refuse to take federal money to expand
Medicaid? It`s happening now. Governors are literally turning away money.
Why? President Obama knows why.


States that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than
political spite. You`ve got five million people who could be on health
insurance right now at no cost to these states. Zero costs to these state,
other than ideological reasons, they have chosen not to provide health
insurance for their citizens. That`s wrong.


SHARPTON: It`s wrong. And this week in Louisiana, Democrats are fighting
back. Governor Bobby Jindal has said there`s no way he will expand
Medicaid. So Democrats are pushing a bail to put the issue to a
referendum, letting voters decide if the state should expand medicate. A
state committee will consider the bill this week. A local editorial says
passing it is a no brainer. Quote, "how can senators not approve? How
could the state not allow voters to decide if they want to expand
Medicaid." Governor Jindal`s refusal is denying 242,000 people in
Louisiana insurance. These are real people. Needlessly losing out on


OBAMA: This does frustrate me. States they have chosen not to expand
Medicaid for no other reason than political spite. You`ve got five million
people who could be adding health insurance right now at no cost to these
states. Zero cost to these states. Other than ideological reasons, they
have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens. That`s


SHARPTON: Governor Jindal and his Republican buddies don`t have an answer.
Get ready, Republicans. This fight is coming.

Joining me now is`s Joan Walsh.

Joan, thanks for being here.

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, SALON.COM: Thanks for having me, rev.

SHARPTON: Now Joan, Louisiana is not the only state that`s refusing to
expand Medicaid, 24 states have. And the White House says by 2016, 5.7
million will lose out on insurance. Are Democrats in these other states
going to follow Louisiana`s lead. Are they going to keep pushing this

WALSH: Yes, they are pushing this issue. And it is nice to see, you know,
I think we have been sole kind of false narrative on the affordable care
act that a, Democrats are running away from it and b, they really should
because the politics aren`t good.

But I think the politics are changing. And even in some red state where is
you`ve got some, you know, maybe shaky, wobbly red state Democrats who
aren`t sure to do with the whole lot, they`re pushing Medicaid expansion.
Mary Landrieu --

SHARPTON: Yes, I was going to say that.

WALSH: She`s been pushing --

SHARPTON: She`s a Democratic senator in Louisiana, Mary Landrieu. She`s
pushing for the referendum on Medicaid expansion.

And let me quote her, since you brought it up. She says the governor has
clearly put his political future ahead of the future of the state of
Louisiana. Let the people decide what is fair, whether they want to expand
or use over $16 billion in federal funds.

Now, this is a Democrat senator up for reelection in a red state. Is
Medicaid going to be a good issue for her?

WALSH: It is. And it`s going to be a good issue in other red states, Rev.
This is what some Democrats don`t seem to get. In Florida, 59 percent of
the voters support it. In Georgia, same thing. So you`ve got Michelle Nun
in Georgia, Jason Carter in Georgia. They`ve been a little wobbly on the
affordable care act, but they are pushing on the Medicaid expansion issue.
The politics of this generally are turning around, but they`re really
turning around when it comes to Medicaid.

SHARPTON: You know, there`s so much chaos in the GOP over health care.
Senator Mitch McConnell has a new ad out talking about the law. Listen to


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitch McConnell, he`s not a show horse. Mitch is a
genuine Kentucky workhorse. Last year he saved 99 percent of Kentuckians
from an income tax increase and he`s leading the fight against Obama care.


SHARPTON: Now, he`s leading the fight against the law. But just last
week, McConnell said insurance for everyone would be a great thing in
principle and we`re going to figure out a way to get this fixed. I mean,
which is it, Joan? Is he figured out a way to improve the law or is he
leading the fight against the law? Which is it?

WALSH: Well, right now with the tea party challenger, he`s got to say he
wants to get rid of Obamacare. But he was speaking to a group, I think, of
health care professionals when he said we`re going to fix it.

And the politics of this, I think, are terrible for him, especially in
November. Kentucky is one of those amazing red states with a blue governor
who has embraced this project. They have reduced the number of uninsured
people in Kentucky by 40 percent.

So Mitch McConnell is actively fighting to take away something from his
constituents, and even some of his elderly or aging white voters are happy
to get Kentucky`s version of Obamacare. They just don`t call it that so
they don`t know what it is.


Now, on Friday just past, the house GOP was out with a new memo debunking
Obamacare`s seven million enrollee success story. And they want the
administration to get a statistic on how many received a subsidy, raising
concerns about fraud.

Joan, you`ve been writing about this. What are they trying to say about
people who receive subsidies to buy insurance?

WALSH: They`re basically saying that they`re welfare cheats, right?
That`s the beginning. This is the kind of a new line. We haven`t heard
much of this new line, but you know.

SHARPTON: On good Friday.

WALSH: On good Friday. That was really a nice touch. But you know,
they`re running scared. It is not -- but when they wrote that memo, it is
7.1 million. By the time the memo went out, it was eight million. They`re
running scared from this. And so now, they`re trying to -- my for former
colleague (INAUDIBLE) in the "New Republic" said they`re trying to
welfarize (ph) Obamacare. They are trying to make it another program that
they can convince their constituents, this is not for you. This is for
those other people and they`re going to cheat and they`re going to steal
your hard-earned money.

But, you know, I really don`t know how much it can work. Medicaid, the
interesting thing about Medicaid expansion, Medicaid is the part where
people do get help from the government. They get it directly from the
government, not just help.

And it`s popular, Rev. This is what some Democrats don`t even seem to
understand. The American people seem to understand is that this is a
really vexing issue that it`s very expensive and they want feel to have
help. And they particular want it when it`s their tax dollars that are
now, if you`re in Louisiana or you are in Florida or your are in Texas or
you are in Virginia, your tax dollars are going to another state where they
have expanded Medicaid and not your own state where it would create job.
In Louisiana, I think it would create something like 15,000 health care
jobs alone if they took this money.

SHARPTON: Fifteen thousand just in the health care industry.

WALSH: In the health care industry.

SHARPTON: I`m going to have to leave it there.

Joan Walsh, thank you for your time tonight.

Coming up, why is Supreme Court Justice Scalia talking about a revolt over
taxes? And more derangement from the right. Why is one Republican talking
about arresting attorney general Holder?

Plus, it was a big day at the White House. You`ll want to see who joined
the president for an annual tradition. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: It was a weekend of senseless violence in Chicago. Nine people
in the city were killed and at least 35 wounded in shootings over the
holiday weekend. That includes five children who were injured while they
were walking by a park near an elementary school. This morning, Chicago`s
police superintendent said the city needs help.


unfortunately, I think we`re going to have the same conversation we`ve
always have. We need help with the gun laws because, you know, the
national averages for gun violence, we`re way above it as far as murder by
gunshot goes. So until such time we stem the flow of guns come into the
city and people start going to jail for it, we can make progress, which
we`ve made, but we`re not going to fix this problem without help from


SHARPTON: In 2012, there were 500 killings in Chicago. That number fell
last year. But we have a long way to go. And this isn`t just a Chicago
problem. It is a national problem. I worked with activists and community
leaders in Chicago to bring attention to this issue. After a cold Chicago
winter, we saw a significant drop in homelessness. But now that the
weather is getting warmer, we must stay vigilant. We must work to prevent
these tragedies and keep the spotlight on them. I will be there with them.


SHARPTON: It`s been a disturbing trend on the far right, a hatred of
government triggering threats of succession and revolt. But now it`s
coming from a place that may surprise you. The Supreme Court. According
to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Justice Antonin Scalia was at an event at
the University of Tennessee`s law school last week. He was asked whether
the income tax is constitutional. Scalia said that it is, but added,
quote, "but if it reaches a certain point, perhaps you should revolt."
Revolt? Because taxes are too high? It`s pretty stunning as a comment
coming from a Supreme Court justice who sounds more like a Tea Party member
of Congress.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I want people in Minnesota armed and
dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back.
Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good


SHARPTON: People should be armed and dangerous? That was Congresswoman
Michele Bachmann in 2009. Today we`re seeing more of the anti-government
movement. In Wisconsin, the state`s GOP is about to hold a vote on whether
it can secede from the country. In Nevada, a ranch that has become a hero
on the right for revolt against federal grazing fees. A hero for
obstructing federal agents trying to enforce law for court orders. A hero
for rejecting government, secession and rebellion, a trend on the right.
Now a Supreme Court justice is joining the party.

Joining me now are Dana Milbank and Krystal Ball.


SHARPTON: Dana is writing about the anti-government trend on the right.
Secession a tournament for the GOP. Thank you both for being here.

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

SHARPTON: Krystal, again, here`s what Scalia said about income taxes.
Quote, "But if it reaches a certain point, perhaps you should revolt." Now
maybe that`s his idea kind of a joke or something. But what do you make of
it coming from a Supreme Court justice.

BALL: It`s pretty remarkable. And one thing that we`ve seen about Scalia
is he is not afraid of adopting some of these Tea Party arguments drawing
things, even in oral arguments from the sort of Tea Party websites and far
right French of the conservative movement. I remember back in the
Affordable Care Act, oral arguments, he was picking arguments right from
the right wing blogs and airing them from the bench. So, for example, the
broccoli argument, that if we allow people to have health care, the
Affordable Care Act, next thing you know, government would be mandating

SHARPTON: Right. Right.

BALL: Justice Scalia made that argument from the bench. So, this is
someone who see --

SHARPTON: Not to mention, voting rights being a racial preference.

BALL: Entitlement, exactly, that was unbelievable to hear. And I know you
were in that room that day.

SHARPTON: Yes, I were. I was the guy that almost passed out in the room.

BALL: That was you. You probably weren`t the only one.


BALL: But so, he droves a lot from the far right movement and he just have
to think, if that was coming from, let`s say President Obama calling on
citizens to revolt, can you imagine what the reaction would be?

SHARPTON: Dana, your reaction to the Supreme Court justice`s statement
whether we had joke or not? It was really a note where the statement
coming from the Supreme Court justice.

MILBANK: It was because this particular justice is very attuned to what
the words are being used out there. And he frequently echoes them, so this
whole state sovereignty movement is frequently echoed by Scalia. And this
whole notion of a revolt as well. You have to realize as well, this is no
at typical Supreme Court justice we`re talking about. This is one who`s
appeared before the Tea Party caucus in Congress. It is one who talks very
frequently in the language of the political pundit rather than the Supreme
Court justice. So, in the Supreme Court, we`ve heard him invoke opinion
polls, newspaper articles to criticize Obama. Not necessarily the sort of
legal jurisprudence you would expect to get from the bench.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, it`s interesting to me Krystal, right wingers
call President Obama lawless. But yet, they take the law into their own
hands. Listen to this interview with a republican member of Congress that
surface today.


REP. LOUIS GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: When you have someone like an attorney
general who is in contempt of Congress, what could we do? Actually you
could pass a resolution directing the sergeant at arms to detain anyone who
is in contempt of Congress, somebody comes into our jurisdiction on Capitol
Hill, then you restrain them until such time -- and there is a cell there
on Capitol Hill.


SHARPTON: So let me get this right. He is proposing, they have a
resolution to arrest and detain the Attorney General of the United States?

BALL: Absolutely unbelievable.

SHARPTON: This is a sitting member of Congress.

BALL: Right. A sitting member of Congress. And he has been utterly
disrespectful to Attorney General Eric Holder in the past on numerous
occasions. It`s really been over the top. And you`ve seen a pattern of
behavior directed at this Attorney General and this president in particular
where nothing is too outlandish. You know, calling for the impeachment of
the president is another sort of me on the right that they`ve become very
comfortable with and that`s a great applause line at Tea Party rallies. It
seems like there is nowhere that is too far for them to go where this
Attorney General and this president are concerned.

SHARPTON: You know, Dana wrote, quote, "Are Republicans about repealing
ObamaCare, blocking conference of immigration reform and opposing
government spending and debt limit increases, even if this brings about a
government shutdown and default on the federal debt? Are they trying to
limit the scope of the federal government or to stop it from functioning?"
I think that`s a very good question, Dana.

MILBANK: Well, it depends on who you ask in terms of what answer you`re
going to receive. So, you know, somebody like Louie Gohmert, it`s easy to
say OK, he`s a character who says whatever comes to his mind. And he`s on
the fringe. Can`t say the same thing of Justice Scalia who is in this
Supreme Court majority that has completely rewritten the nation`s campaign
finance laws, among many other things. So, you know, there are always
going to be voices in the wilderness. So, what seemed to have happened
here lately is that it`s been mainstream. That`s part of why the Tea Party
has been less effective in mounting challenges. It`s because a lot of
elective Republicans have taken the rhetoric from the fringe, from the Tea
Party and now are applying that in the mainstream.

SHARPTON: You know, Krystal, we talked about secession vote in what`s
coming up in Wisconsin. And it`s an idea that we`ve been hearing a lot
since President Obama took office, frankly. And it`s been pushed by the
right wing media. Listen to this.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I`m not for secession, but I understand why
people might be.

GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: In the end, if you`re going to jam all
this stuff down our throats, yes, I guess there maybe would be about
secession. For some people, they would probably say, yes, I think it`s
maybe time to get out of this.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This is a reasonable woman talking
about secession. Civil war. She`s not alone, folks. This is not the
ravings of extreme kookism anymore.


SHARPTON: Civil war, secession. I mean, and this is from people that have
huge listening audiences and people that take them seriously.

BALL: And this is from the party who claims to have a lock on patriotism.


BALL: They call themselves patriots all the time. That`s the rhetoric
they embrace and meanwhile they`re pushing for the most anti-Patriotic Act
that you can possibly imagine, which is to break up the very country that
they`re supposed to be proud of and concerned for as patriots. And as you
point out, after this re-election of the president, there was a spate of
petitions at the website itself asking for states to secede.
I was home in my home state of Virginia over the week and I saw several
bumper stickers about secession. So I think it`s very strange to me that
this country that they claim to love so deeply, they`re so ready to abandon
and split apart from.

SHARPTON: Krystal Ball and Dana Milbank, thank you both for your time

BALL: Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: And make sure you catch Krystal on "THE CYCLE" weekdays at 3
p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.

Coming up, today President Obama and Attorney General Holder took a
powerful step forward in the fight for justice. Plus, Boston strong.
Thirty six thousand run in remembrance and inspire a nation. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: Today, major progress in the fight for justice for all.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department will be
broadening its criteria for certain nonviolent federal drug offenders
seeking clemency.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The White House has indicated he wants to
consider additional clemency applications to restore a degree of justice,
fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a
threat to public safety.


SHARPTON: The Justice Department anticipates it will receive thousands of
new applications for presidential clemency. And it will soon bring
additional lawyers to pardon -- to the pardon office in anticipation of
more requests. Far too many men and women are behind bars serving
mandatory minimum drug sentences for nonviolent crime, even though those
sentencing laws have been changed. These are the people today`s
announcement is designed to help.

Back in December, President Obama commuted the sentences of eight crack
cocaine offenders. All sentences on the harsh mandatory minimum
guidelines, five of those men and women were set to be released just last
week. Since he took office, President Obama has been committed to fighting
the injustices of our legal system. He spoke in very personal terms about
this at the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington last summer.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: To secure the gains this country
has made requires constant vigilance not complacency assuring that the
scales of justice work equally for all on the criminal justice system. And
that`s simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails. It
requires vigilance.


SHARPTON: It requires vigilance he said. There is so much more work to be
done in this area. But today, President Obama and Attorney General Holder
took up powerful step forward. Joining me now, James Peterson and Victoria
DeFrancesco Soto, thank you both for coming on the show tonight.



SHARPTON: Thousands of new applications for clemency. What`s your
reaction to the news today?

SOTO: I`m excited about the news. I hope that we can get the word out to
those citizens who have been incarcerated. It`s a great step for this
administration, spearheaded by Attorney General Holder`s efforts on all
fronts, with respect to commuting sentences, closing the gap between crack
cocaine and cocaine pieces. And although they`re casting this as an
economic issue, Rev, it is important to note that these kinds of laws
disproportionately affect people of color, poor people, people with mental
challenges, and people who have limited education. And so it`s also a way
of closing the inequality gap to give these folks a fair shake at
reentering into our society right now.

SHARPTON: Well, you know, Victoria, as he talks about the kinds of people.
We mentioned earlier the kind of people this announcement is aimed at.
There are people like the ones who sentence the President commuted in
December of last year. One of those individuals was Clarence Aaron. He
was 24 years old at the time of his arrest. It was his first time offense.
He wasn`t the dealer, supplier or buyer, and he was sentenced to three life
terms. Another was Stephanie George. She was 26 years old at the time of
her arrest. A mother of three. She hid boyfriend`s drugs in her house and
she was sentenced to life in prison.

SOTO: This is the sorry consequence of the movement that started in the
1980`s when the conservative movement was rising.


SOTO: So you started to see a skyrocketing of incarcerations. So, in
1980, half a million folks were incarcerated. Today, about 2.5. That is
quadrupled and it`s really a stain on us as a country. We have five
percent of the world`s population, yet a quarter of the world`s
incarcerated population. So it is time that we start righting the
direction. It`s not just about punishment. It`s also about rehabilitation
and reforming these individuals. There are some bad apples that you just
got to put away.


SOTO: But the vast majority can be rehabilitated.

SHARPTON: You know, James. I see you shaking your head.

PETERSON: I do because this is an issue I`ve been working off for a long
time, Rev. Doing a lot of work in our prison system and connecting with
some of these young people. We`ve been throwing away, we`ve been treating
people as disposable human beings. And the reality is, is that the cost of
this is important, the economic cost of this is important. It costs too
much to incarcerate people the way that we do. But there are civil rights,
inequality and social justice issues that also come into play.

We know for a fact that when we lock folk up for these nonviolent, and we
have to stress nonviolent drug offenses, and many of them substance abuser,
when they come back into the world, sometimes they commit crimes again,
sometimes worse crimes. So, the recidivism rate is almost two-thirds in
some city, some states. And this particular motion on the part of the
President and the Attorney General will help to stave off that time. We
have a lot more work to do, as you said, Reverend Al, but this is a great
step in the right direction.

SHARPTON: You know, Victoria, the President talks about this in personal
terms. And I`m always struck by it. In fact, not only the march on
Washington, but at Morehouse College. Listen to what he said.


OBAMA: The special obligation I felt as a black man like you to help those
who need it most, people who didn`t have the opportunities that I had,
because there but for the grace of God go I. I might have been in their
shoes. I might have been in prison. I might have been unemployed. I
might not have been able to support a family. And that motivates me.


SHARPTON: It`s personal and he says it motivates him. And many of us have
responded in different ways, but for the same reasons they`ve been

SOTO: Absolutely. So 60 percent of the prison population is black or
brown. African-American men, one out of three in their 20s is in prison.
These young men should be going to college. These young men should be
entering our work force, not being stuck in prisons. And it`s heartening
to see that we`re seeing this movement at the federal level. And also at
some of the state levels. For whatever reason, a lot of it had to do with
the recession. States, we don`t have the money to put people away. So
let`s reform the system.

SHARPTON: And it doesn`t have to be a partisan issue either, Jane. You
know, I don`t think I agree with Senator Ron Paul on much of anything, but
I have to say, he`s been a leader on the GOP on this issue. Here`s what he
said just last week.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: There was a young man given 55 years in
prison for marijuana sale. I`m not containing or the selling of marijuana,
but 55 years in prison, you can kill somebody in Kentucky and be out in 12.
If you look at the war on drugs, three out of four people in prison are
black or brown. But your kids and grandkids aren`t perfect either. Police
don`t come to your neighborhoods. You get a better lawyer. These are some


SHARPTON: I agree with your statements, James. I got like 20 seconds.
But do you think even on the dysfunctional Congress, he may be able to get
some Republicans to agree with the President and Attorney General Holder is

PETERSON: I hope so, Rev. It`s rare that you and I will agree with Rand
Paul, but we certainly do here. And I think it`s important to highlight
the racial nature of this issue. That black and brown folk are more
subject to these draconian drug laws more than anyone else. And the
economic is important, but it`s a social justice, inequality, racial issue
that must be addressed. Kudos for the President and the Attorney General
for addressing it directly here.

SHARPTON: James Peterson and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, thank you both for
coming on the show tonight.

SOTO: Thanks, Reverend.

PETERSON: Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Coming up, Boston strong one year after the tragedy. More than
36,000 people together in Boston. It was a remarkable sight to see. The
power of the people ahead.


SHARPTON: Only one event every year brings together the first family. All
star athletes, Hollywood celebrities and the Easter bunny. That`s right
folks. It`s the White House Easter egg roll. And first dogs Bo and Sunny
even made an appearance today. First Lady Michelle Obama was thrilled to
welcome over 30,000 guests to the White House. Earlier today, they all
came to participate. The President and First Lady got the eggs rolling and
the day was off to a great start. Then the President stopped to read one
of his favorite books to a group of kids. "Where the Wild Things Are."


OBAMA: And now said Max, lit the wild rumpus start. Let`s see you guys do
a wild rumpus. How do you do a wild rumpus? That`s a wild rumpus right
there. That`s one more right there. Who else has a wild rumpus? Go! Let
the wild rumpus start! These are wild things right here.


SHARPTON: Up next, President Obama hit the basketball court where NBA and
WNBA players were shooting hoops with some visitors. After some spirited
chanting from the crowd, the President took a shot. And missed. Then he
decided to give another go and missed again. But the third time was the
charm. He made it off the backboard. The White House Easter egg roll is a
great holiday tradition and I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend.


SHARPTON: Finally tonight, Boston strong. Today 36,000 came from all over
the world and ran together a year after bombs tore through the marathon`s
finish line. The second largest field in the history of the race took to
the course. Right before the race, runners observed a moment of silence to
honor those who lost their lives and those who were seriously injured last
year. And all the runners were given bracelets like this one to wear.
Made of banners from last year`s race to honor the victims. For the first
time since 1983, an American won the men`s marathon.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is beyond run-in, it`s just for Boston, for the
United States and for the world. We are resilient. We never gave up.


SHARPTON: No, you never gave up. A city that showed the world what it
meant to being resilient and come together. And we here at POLITICS NATION
have a very personal connection to the marathon this year. Our segment
producer Miriam LeBland (ph) ran today. Running the Boston marathon was a
long time goal of Miriam`s. For the past year, she`s trained morning and
nigh. Before and after work to meet her goal. And today, she did it.
Completing the marathon in three hours, 28 minutes and 29 seconds. A
personal best. Way to go, Miriam, we`re proud of you back here. And we`re
proud of all the runner and the heroes that showed the world what it meant
to be Boston strong.

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


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