THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
July 28, 2014
Guest: Mark Thompson, Michael Skolnik, Vikas Bajaj, Khary Lazarre-White,
Sonia Nazario, Adam O`Neal, Nick Confessore
ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And thank you very much.
RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST: Of course.
MELBER: The mayor of America`s largest city addressed a racial crisis
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just wanted them to leave him alone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The arrest of 43-year-old Eric Garner.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Caught on video by a bystander in his fueled protest.
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: We will fight to get justice for Eric Garner.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William
Bratton just addressed the death of Eric Garner.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Died after an NYPD officer placed him in an apparent
chokehold. A maneuver that`s prohibited by the department.
WILLIAM BRATTON, NYPD POLICE COMMISSIONER: We want to build that trust
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this a rogue set of police officers?
SHARPTON: He can be heard 11 times saying he couldn`t breathe.
ERIC GARNER: I can`t breathe. I can`t breathe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband was not a violent man.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Esaw Garner demanded justice for her late husband.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was a quiet man, but he`s making a lot of noise
now, and --
MELBER: Good evening to you. I`m Ari Melber. Lawrence has the night off.
We begin with new developments in an important story that continues to draw
outrage around our nation, how Eric Garner, an unarmed 43-year-old father
of six, died at the hands of the NYPD. The incident is testing the
relatively new liberal mayor of New York and his celebrated police chief.
Today, they addressed the city together. Their first appearance since the
mayor returned from vacation last week. Mayor de Blasio said he`s making
major structural reforms to address this kind of failure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: A number of steps have been taken
aggressively, a number more will be taken. All with a common goal, to keep
this the safest big city in America, to constantly seek to be even safer,
to create a real working partnership between police and community, create
mutual respect wherever it hasn`t been before. To improve the training of
our police so they can be ever more effective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The mayor spoke for over an hour and touched on tensions that are
well known in cities around the country. How police operate in communities
of color, how the fear of violent crime paralyzes sometimes our feelings
about an open society and, of course, the enduring politics of race.
De Blasio won the mayor`s office by campaigning against the racial
profiling of stop and frisk policing and he often included his multiracial
family in his campaign ads.
But, today, he held back from issuing any racial judgments and last week,
his police commissioner basically ruled out race as a factor here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE BLASIO: The question of race, again, the concept here, I think everyone
in this room needs to feel this, if anyone is accused of anything, they
deserve due process and democracy. That`s true for any individual New
Yorker. That`s true for any law enforcement professional. Everyone
deserves due process. It`s not appropriate to pass judgment on the Garner
case until all the facts have been looked at.
BRATTON: I personally don`t think that race was a factor in the incident
involving this tragic death. That our officers understand the importance
of consistent policing, no matter whether the area is black, Asian, Latino,
white. It`s the consistency and the equal enforcement of the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Let`s stop right here because this obviously matters. The
officers in this incident are certainly innocent until proven guilty and
the mayor does have a careful line to walk, but when it comes to ruling
race out as a factor, as you heard the commissioner say just then, does
anyone who watched this video think the police would approach a dispute
with a well-dressed, unarmed white man on Wall Street the same way?
As MSNBC has reported, the city did strip the police officer who
administered the apparent chokehold of his badge and gun. And the NYPD has
ordered retraining for the police force, but if an investigation determines
this was, indeed, excessive force and unjustified killing, far more
accountability is need.
And like so many cities around the nation, this incident wasn`t unique. It
wasn`t a surprise to many people. The main reason it`s garnered so much
attention is not that it happened, but that it was recorded. So, it
couldn`t be spun or waved away, even though actually the first police
report about it did downplay the role of the police in Garner`s death.
It`s worth noting that thousands of New Yorkers have raised concerns about
this kind of conduct -- 53 percent of the 5,410 complaints last year were
charges about police brutality. But nowadays, sometimes it`s a single cell
phone camera that`s more powerful than any complaint or protest people
lodge with the government.
Joining me now is Jim Cavanaugh, former police officer and ATF agent, and,
of course, an MSNBC law enforcement analyst. Good evening to you.
Mark Thompson, host of "Make It Plain" on Sirius XM radio.
And here in New York, Michael Skolnik, editor in chief of "Global Grind"
and documentarian who`s been an advocate on these issues in New York.
Welcome to you all.
Michael, how do you define accountability and success in what the mayor and
police commissioner are doing?
MICHAEL SKOLNIK, GLOBAL GRIND: Well, I want to commend the mayor. He came
back from vacation yesterday and today, he went right to business, in the
Eric Garner, tragic death of Eric Garner. I think the mayor has taken
proactive steps to address this case.
But I do think as the mayor said, everyone deserves due process under the
law, but this police officer has to be charged with manslaughter. He has
to be charged for the death of Eric Garner. As you said, Ari, this was
videotaped. We didn`t see (INAUDIBLE) and the sodomy that happened, or
that 41 shots that was shot at Amadou Diallo on the steps in the Bronx but
we saw the death of Eric Garner. He heard him cry, said, "I can`t breathe"
11 times. They`re saying, put your hands behind your back, put your hands
behind your back. I can`t breathe, I can`t breathe.
Somebody has to be held accountable in the court of law, and not just
reprimanded in the police department.
MELBER: Right, and to go to Mark on that, to Michael`s point, someone has
to be held accountable. Yet, we looked at these numbers here. There`s a
reason why people are skeptical about accountability.
In 2013, civilian complaint review board received those 5,500 I mentioned.
Only 152 officers ultimately disciplined. That`s only 3 percent of
officers who received complaints, Mark. So, people are worried that there
won`t be justice here.
MARK THOMPSON, SIRIUS XM RADIO HOST: And they have reason to be worried.
This happens not only in New York, but in cities across the country where
there`s very little accountability.
It`s naive even for a Democratic liberal mayor of New York to think that he
can come in office and not really address this issue and address it
It`s also, frankly, a bit concerning. I think you just alluded to this,
Ari. To hear them discount race, both the mayor and the police
commissioner, and to hear them talk about the rights and the due process of
the officers involved. To say that I think is somewhat insensitive and
Of course, the officers and those involved have due process. That`s never
been in question. The issue, now, is whether or not Eric Garner had due
process, whether or not he was judged, sentenced, and executed right there
on the spot just because of probable cause which he denied the allegation
of what he was doing.
So, you know, I think that we have to look at this very, very carefully.
There has to be accountability. And if Mayor de Blasio is going to be a
different type of mayor, this is going to be addressed any differently.
For a change, there has to be some accountability and some type of
punishment for those involved in this case.
MELBER: Yes. Jim, I want you to speak to that point, particularly because
Mark is putting his finger on that gap between what the mayor said, hey,
I`m open minded, and what the police commissioner said which is apparently
at this juncture, he`s already figured out race wasn`t a factor. That
strikes me as putting a thumb on the scale and that matters a lot in the
tone that is set for the police.
And I want to read to you something that a lawyer who`s been involved in
some of these cases told "The New York Daily News." He said, "Look,
there`s a culture in Staten Island where this occurred and particularly the
precinct where you break the rules and serve your own interest and don`t
have to worry about getting into any kind of trouble."
Jim, that`s at least one view of the police conduct there and it`s an issue
we`ve seen in a lot of police departments around the country.
JIM CAVANAUGH, MSNBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I agree, Ari. I mean,
I think it is true. I mean, are people on Park Avenue being treated like
this in the most minor offenses? I think you can`t eliminate race as a
factor in the arrest of Mr. Garner.
And I think that what`s got to happen now is the talk has got to be walked.
The prosecutors have to move on this. I mean, there`s got to be an action,
a charge of manslaughter or civil rights violation.
In the case where the man`s head was stomped on the sidewalk, he should
have been arrested on the spot. If a citizen did that to another citizen,
we would have arrested them right away on the spot. And I could draw a
complaint up on that in 15 minutes.
Now, in a fatality case, Mr. Garner`s case, I think it`s going to, you
know, there is a little more time. Medical examiner, some facts need to be
gathered. A little more interviews. It`s a more serious charge.
But they need to move quickly. People want to see action, not promises.
Walk the talk. The police are not better than the citizens.
MELBER: Right. And those questions, of course, are open as to what was
the proximate cause of his death. That is different from whether it looks
like excessive force. Those are things that can be dealt with in the
We mentioned that Mr. Garner is not with us and not here to tell his side
of the story. I want to play, more, though, from his widow remembering her
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ESAW GARNER, WIFE OF CHOKEHOLD VICTIM: My husband was not a violent man.
Not in any way, shape, form, or fashion. He only yelled at me. He didn`t
yell at nobody else. And he was a quiet man, but he`s making a lot of
And I don`t want no violence in his name, none whatsoever, because he
wouldn`t have stood behind no violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Powerful words there, Michael, from Esaw Garner, the widow. And
an allusion to the fact that protest and pressure matters here, but people
want it to be peaceful. You`ve been out there on the streets here in New
York. What are you seeing?
SKOLNIK: You know, look, far too times we`ve been to the House of Justice
with Reverend Al and with these families who are grieving over their lost
As the mayor said today, we have to fight until the death of us that every
New Yorker, every American, every person who is being racially profiled in
any city across this profile is respected and treated fairly. We`ve had 20
years in this city of a bad relationship between the police and the black
community and Latino community. That has to change. If this is not
another wake-up call, then what will be?
MELBER: So, Mark, how do you come down on that? How much pressure should
be on Bratton -- one of the interesting things to be clear, Reverend Al has
been a leader on this a long time, but so far he`s been working more
constructively trying to have some sort of alliance here with the mayor in
trying to get to some sort of solution.
Where does pressure fit in, though, if there aren`t fast enough actions on
THOMPSON: Well, I understand Reverend Sharpton`s position. Before Bill de
Blasio became mayor, he attended every National Action Network rally I
attended. He was practically every Saturday. So, I think we go into this
with this new mayor with good faith.
I think a lot of us held our noses, probably including Reverend Sharpton,
when he appointed Bratton. We`re going to try to work with this.
But I think now what this has exposed is what we`ve really always known
about Bill Bratton. What upsets us about the new mayor, though, this is
his first real test.
THOMPSON: I believe that this will make or break this de Blasio
administration. Again, it`s naive to think this wouldn`t have come up with
Bratton in office. And whether Bratton was there, we know this culture of
policing, targeting people of color has been going on, as Michael said, for
several decades now. So I think the accountability has to be ramped up.
It has to be confronted.
And, again, if the mayor does not respond effectively, if Bratton does not
respond effectively, this could really spell doom for his administration.
MELBER: All right. Mark Thompson, Jim Cavanaugh, and Michael Skolnik,
thanks to all of you for joining me tonight.
SKOLNIK: Thank you.
THOMPSON: Thank you.
MELBER: And coming up, "The New York Times" editorial board, end the
prohibition of marijuana. What does that change? Why are politicians
And conservative columnist George Will is going totally against the
Republican Party and thinks it`s actually humane to welcome some 8-year-old
immigrants to the U.S. We`ll tell you why.
Also, Mayor Adam O`Neal, a story Lawrence has been reporting on, finished
his walk to Washington, D.C., trying to convince North Carolina`s
Republican governor and Republican legislature to back off and simply take
that Obamacare Medicaid expansion money. Is anyone in Washington
listening? He`ll be here to tell us about it.
MELBER: The White House announced money to help Ukraine tonight. Vice
President Joe Biden told the Ukrainian prime minister the U.S. would give
almost $7 million in reconstruction aid to parts of eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, things continue to grow tense with Russia. The Obama
administration now claims tonight that the Russian government violated the
intermediate range nuclear forces treaty when it recently tested a new
long-range cruise missile. That`s a treaty that Gorbachev and Reagan
signed back in 1987.
Now, up next, "The New York Times" now says it favors complete legalization
of pot. But what about its reporters getting high?
MELBER: You could usually bet a political idea isn`t too radical if it`s
endorsed by "The New York Times." While the paper`s editorial board
doesn`t always lead the boldest policy debates it reflects where the
enlightened accomplishment is heading. So, politicos viewed it as a major
breakthrough when "The Times" came out and endorsed pot legalization in a
blockbuster editorial this Sunday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: "The New York Times" this morning with a major
statement. A lead editorial calling for the legalization of marijuana.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The old gray lady is going senile. "The New York
Times" shocked many of us this weekend with an editorial that was pro-pot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When "The New York Times" editorial board called for
the U.S. to legalize marijuana over the weekend, the paper was reflecting a
clear shift in how Americans view the politics of pot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And the paper put the pot crusade on the level of America`s most
embarrassing constitutional amendment. Quote, "Repeal prohibition again",
the paper thundered, recalling that it took 13 years for the U.S. to come
to its senses and end prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking.
Otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates
It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on
marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance
far less dangerous than alcohol, "The Times" writes.
Now, 35 states have already loosened marijuana laws in some way, either
decriminalizing or allowing some kind of medical use. Two states have
legalized it completely.
And a recent pew poll shows views on marijuana are significant he evolving
over the last quarter of a century, 54 percent support legalization today
versus the 81 percent who opposed it in 1990.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration`s office of National Drug Control
Policy responded directly to that "New York Times" editorial tonight,
writing, quote, "We agree the criminal justice system is in need of reform
and disproportionately exists throughout the system. However, marijuana
legalization is not the silver bullet solution to the issue. Policymakers
cannot ignore the basic scientific fact that marijuana is addictive and
marijuana use has harmful consequences."
Joining me now is Vikas Bajaj, member of "The New York Times" editorial
board that wrote that piece, and Khary Lazarre-White, co-founder and co-
executive director of the Brotherhood Sister Sol.
Good evening, gentlemen.
VIKAS BAJAJ, NEW YORK TIMES: Good evening.
MELBER: You were part of this editorial. You have the Office of National
Drug Control Policy responding to you. Why was it important to do this,
and were you leading or following?
BAJAJ: I leave the question of whether we are leading or following to
others. But I think it was important to do this because the states are
clearly moving. The country is clearly moving on this issue and it was an
important issue for us to take an issue on.
We`ve long supported medical marijuana in New York and other states and
given what`s happening in Colorado and Washington which have legalized, and
Alaska and Oregon who are going to vote on legalization this year, we felt
like it was time for us to take a bolder stand on this issue.
MELBER: And your deliberations, did you discuss what portion of the
editorial board has used pot?
BAJAJ: No, it didn`t come up.
MELBER: Why not?
BAJAJ: I think, you know, probably quite frankly most probably all of us
have used marijuana or most of us have used marijuana in the past, but that
is not germane to the discussion. I think a lot of -- you can ask the same
question of the board members as to how many of them have children. Most
of them have children. What do they think about that?
So, I don`t think it was a question about personally what we, our
experiences with marijuana, it was more of a policy discussion.
MELBER: Let me tell you whew I think it`s relevant, Khary. It`s because
for many people who are affluent professional and particularly white
Americans, the data suggests that the choice to use pot may become a fond
memory or a sidebar. Yet for many young black and brown men, as you`ve
pointed out in your work, it can be life-changing. While the rates of
usage are similar across racial lines, we know African-Americans are almost
four times as likely to be arrested and in our criminal justice system,
that arrest can trigger a whole lot of problems in the rest of your life.
KHARY LAZARRE-WHITE, THE BROTHERHOOD SISTER SOL: That`s right. It`s a
misuse of police, a misuse of law enforcement, and it has a disparate
impact on people solely because of their race and the community they`re
born into it.
Just a few statistics to give you an idea around this. Last census, 2012,
around these issues saw 650,000 people were arrested for marijuana in the
United States, 250,000 for cocaine and heroin.
So, number one, where is law enforcement utilizing its resources? Number
two, in New York, 87 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession are
black and Latino, even though we know racial groups use it according to
The result of those arrests, what are framed in terms of your last report
by Commissioner Bratton as a broken window approach is something that
results in people not being able to access their housing if they live in
public housing. Not being able to access money for college in terms of
scholarship, often not being able to have jobs such as being a barber.
There are long-term effects around misdemeanor arrests and this is
particularly focused on black and brown men, and it`s a part of the general
policing approach that reveals itself in a specific way but interconnected
to the first story you explored.
MELBER: Yes, I think that`s fair and we know the `96 Welfare Reform Act
took food stamp and welfare benefits off the table for tokes for one pot
I want to play what former Senator Clinton said about this because she is
not leading. She said she needs more evidence. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think we need to be very
clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. I don`t
think we`ve done enough research yet.
On recreational, you know, states are the laboratories of democracy. We
have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I
want to wait and see what the evidence is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to wait and try it? You said you`d never
CLINTON: Absolutely not. No, I didn`t do it when I was young, I`m not
going to start now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is she right? Do we need more evidence?
BAJAJ: Well, you know, one of the problems with what she`s saying is that
the federal government has actually been the biggest road block to having
more research on marijuana. It`s incredibly difficult for researchers to
get access to legal marijuana to do their research. A lot of the projects
don`t get approved, don`t get funding from the government or other sources.
So, it`s kind of like saying, oh, yeah, let`s study it, we don`t have
enough information so we can`t make it legal, but we won`t let you study it
because we think it`s a terrible substance.
MELBER: That`s right.
And, Khary, in terms of moving on this issue, do you think it works better
as a federalist, local, let the states expand kind of thing? Or do you
think it`s important to point out all these justice issues?
LAZARRE-WHITE: I think both have to happen at the same time. I think,
one, we have to see there`s an incoherent policy now if you have 37 states
who have articulated some form of legalization or some form of de-crim and
others that have not.
But this other issue that`s very important, you saw it in the interview
with former senator and former Secretary of State Clinton is that there`s
almost this humor around the issue.
LAZARRE-WHITE: It`s problematic because the results of the enforcement
around marijuana, the disparate results, there`s nothing funny about it at
all. It has resulted in the tragic effect on the lives on literally
hundreds of thousands of people that continues today.
Here in New York City, that continues every single year, 30,000 to 50,000
people arrested a year for marijuana possession. And I would just point
out that the district attorney of Brooklyn, law enforcement has gotten
ahold of this issue, has refused to prosecute cases for misdemeanor
marijuana arrests because he sees the arrests, themselves, as questionable,
and the district attorney of Manhattan, Cy Vance, went to Albany to
advocate for a change in the law. So, this framing that it`s either a
funny issue or on the other hand, that it`s only an issue of certain
elements of society is problematic.
MELBER: Well, you`re hitting on an important point, it`s your culture
experience and privilege that shows how you feel. This is something I did
in college, or changed my whole life because I got grinded in a criminal
justice system that`s very hard on any drug offense whatsoever.
Vikas Bajaj and Khary Lazarre-White, thank you both.
BAJAJ: Thank you.
MELBER: Coming up, George Will shocks his party by saying the U.S. should,
yes, welcome immigrant children. The outrage. That is next.
And later, how things got more difficult for one of Hillary Clinton`s
potential Democratic challengers, if either of them are Democratic
aspirants for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I`d like to act. We`ve
got a humanitarian crisis on the border. Then it has to be dealt with.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: But you`re not willing to commit to delay your
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: We`re not even on recess, Chris. We`re
here right now and ready to work. We`re going to do our job this week.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MELBER: Remember when House Republicans said thousands of immigrants
fleeing to the Southwest border was a total emergency, it was a crisis?
Well, now, there`s only four days before the House gives itself a vacation
and doesn`t give much time to pass a border bill. Now, we`ve just learned,
House Republican leadership will present a border bill at their weekly
meeting tomorrow morning, but they`d have to file the bill by tomorrow in
order to vote on it before they give themselves this August recess.
If they leave town for a five-week recess without a bill, well, maybe this
wasn`t such a crisis after all. We should note, though, one conservative
is making waves with a humanitarian stance on this humanitarian crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: We have to say to these children,
welcome to America. You`re going to go to school and get a job and become
Americans. We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per
county. The idea that we can`t assimilate these 8-year-old criminals with
their teddy bears is preposterous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Amen, George Will. But one of his FOX colleagues didn`t line that
or didn`t get it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He implemented some simple math that made it sound like
it was not a big deal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he missed the primary point. It`s illegal. You
have to get in line. That what he said is insulting to everybody who
legally emigrated, including my wife, who had to fill out a lot of
paperwork and wait a long time to get in line.
So George, George loves baseball. He writes books about baseball. You see
him in the stands. I think he`s a Chicago cubs fan. Not sure. What if I
bring a family to your luxury box and demand that they sit there in front
of you and they haven`t paid? No big deal, right? It is only 162 games.
There are plenty of seats. No, you would have me escorted out.
People wait in line, George. He applies that being against this is against
immigration. No, it`s against illegal immigration. He was trying to score
sense points, points of compassion, and it failed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, actually it is legal for some of these minors to stay. It is
in fact the bipartisan 2008 law that lets more migrants from certain
distant countries get asylum. You don`t have to like it, Greg, but should
know it`s currently legal. In fact, that`s what this whole debate is
Now joining me is Steve Schmidt, Republican strategist and MSNBC political
analyst, and Sonia Nazario, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist and author
of a national bestseller, "Enrique`s Journey, a story about a Honduran
teenager who comes to U.S. in search of this mother."
Good evening to you both.
STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER SENIOR STRATEGIST FROM MCCAIN/PALIN 2008 CAMPAIGN:
SONIA NAZARIO, AUTHOR, ENRIQUE`S JOURNEY: Thank you.
MELBER: Sonia, let`s start on this point, legally and morally, the idea
that this, as you`ve written, a refugee crisis as much as it is an
immigration crisis. What does that mean to you?
NAZARIO: I think many of us are strongly against unlawful immigration.
But there`s a difference between people who come here as economic migrants
to better their lives and these children. I just went back to Honduras a
few weeks ago to this neighborhood that I hadn`t been in, in a decade. And
what I saw was appalling level of violence because of these Narco Cartels,
all this cocaine that used to come up the Caribbean corridor, we disrupted
that by spending $8 billion to disrupt this movement, but it just simply
went inland. It is a lot of these flights from Colombia are landing in
places like Honduras and it`s created a real battle amongst cartels to
control this turf.
And children in these countries like Honduras have been caught in the
crossfire. They are the new foot soldiers that these cartels are
recruiting, and so I saw children who are 10, 11 years old who were being
threatened multiple times, schools that were being controlled by these
And I think that these children are not primarily economic migrants like I
saw a decade ago. Children who are coming to reunify with a parent. Their
primary motivation is I have to get out of here, or I am going to be killed
by the cartels. They`ve threatened me multiple times. And I saw this, you
know, with many children that I interviewed in Honduras.
And so I think we need to draw clear distinctions, and I see this as an
extraordinary moment in American history. In the 1990s we allowed 40,000
Haitians in. After Castro, we allowed about 125,000 Cubans into the United
States. There are moments when people are fleeing for their very lives.
And we have to take a stand and say, we will protect these people from
harm. Just like we call on other countries to do this.
MELBER: Right. But if there`s a politics to this, Steve, it is that the
politics of asylum should be different than the politics of immigration.
Because it is by definition an emergency status for certain people.
SCHMIDT: Absolutely. Look, let me step back for one second and just
address something that Greg on FOX was talking about that I think
illuminates so clearly how broken our immigration system is.
We should not have an immigration system that who gets in the country is
predicated who gets on line where like it was a Rolling Stones concert.
There should be preferential treatment for people who are entrepreneurs,
highly educated, people that will drive economic growth. And at the same
time, we have to be cognizant of the moral obligation this country has to
protect those who have no other place to go to be protected.
We`re some shameful chapters in this country. In the 1930s, ship coming
from Europe full of Jewish refugees trying to escape Adolf Hitler, turned
back. Many of those refugees did not survive the war. Send me your tired,
your poor, your hungry. These aren`t just empty words. They mean
something. And an awful lot of these children qualify under any classical
definition of political refugees, and they`re escaping a region plagued
with violence, caused very directly by the policies and the neglect among
many administrations, both Republican and Democratic.
As we look around the world, but often not to what`s happening on our
southern border. This issue has nothing whatsoever to do with the
immigration bill that`s languishing, stalks Congress, and has little chance
of being passed. And to the great detriment of the Republican party`s
ability to compete in the future, I believe.
But when we look at this issue, and I do believe that any sovereign country
has to have control of its borders. Has to be able to determine who`s
going to come in the country. But we`ve had a de facto amnesty in this
country for a very long time.
What to do about the people who are here illegally. We have to deal with
that. What we do with children who are arriving on our border. Who are --
who meet every classical definition of refugee, is we need to have an
administrative process that adjudicates this under the rule of law. And
determines who is an economic migrant. And if they`re an economic migrant,
they need to be returned, but if they are a refugee, that classical
definition, they need to be let in, consistent with the charter of our
MELBER: Right. And that is bipartisan agreement there. And I think if
the Republicans leave town here after asking President Obama to go to the
border, visit the border and they don`t fund the money to send some of
these immigration judges to the border and some of those border patrol to
help process this, I do think it will be a moment of extreme and noticeable
Steve Schmidt and Sonia Nazario, thank you both for joining us tonight.
And coming up, the Republican mayor of Belhaven, North Carolina, will join
us with the latest on his efforts to get the GOP in his state to expand
Medicaid and save his town`s hospital.
And next, "SNL" actually predicted one of today`s big political
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: The president so disparages these
cats in public, but in private, there`s a whole lot of cuddling and purring
and tummy tickling with the one who feeds him. See, for them, politics
isn`t a passionate cause. It`s a moneymaker. It`s a business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It`s a business. That was Sarah Palin in Denver a week ago
complaining that Democrats use politics as a money-making business. Some
certainly do. But one week later, the former politician turned pundit
announced this new business.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: This is a news channel that really is a lot more than news. This
is a community where we`re going to be able to share ideas and discuss the
issues of the day. Most importantly, I want you to talk directly to me.
That`s what I`m most anxious about, hearing from you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: She`s using the word "News" loosely there. And if hearing from
Sarah Palin makes her anxious, well, Tina Fey and "Saturday night live"
actually predicted this entire Sarah Palin network.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time has come for the Sarah Palin network.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, my fellow Americans. It`s me. You know, ever
since I won the silver medal in last year`s vice presidential election,
I`ve made it my goal to connect with as many people of this great nation as
possible. There`s so much more. Man in a helicopter with a sniper rifle
versus wild. So you think you can make me fill out the census. Dateline:
to catch a Levi Johnston. I`m Sarah Palin. Good night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This morning mark the end of the two-week, 200 and 73 mile-walk
from North Carolina in Washington. It wasn`t Forrest Gump and it wasn`t a
grassroots activists. This trip was made by a politician and a Republican
one as it happens. Belhaven mayor Adam O`Neal reached the capitol. He
began his marched after a local North Carolina hospital closed on July 1st,
the result of some corporate interest and the GOP controlled legislature`s
refusal to expand Medicaid under the ACA.
But the problem is facing rural hospital extend far beyond North Carolina.
Only 26 states in the District of Columbia had hopped in to the Medicaid
expansion. That bonus money in the ACA. And the leaves hospitals and
other states rely on charitable giving and 5.7 million people without
health insurance expressing their frustrations through any way they can
protest or what.
Now, Mayor O`Neal and his supporters have highlighted not just a local
issue for them but an issue that affects millions of people throughout the
Joining me now from Washington D.C. is the mayor of Belhaven, North
Carolina, Adam O`Neal. Good evening.
MAYOR ADAM O`NEAL (R), BELHAVEN, NORTH CAROLINA: Thank you for having me.
MELBER: What is this day like for you completing your journey here?
O`NEAL: It was quite exhilarating when we took the last steps. And then
we didn`t have to walk 20 miles tomorrow. That was great thing to
MELBER: And you met Reverend Barber there on the steps of Lincoln
Memorial. And he has been our guest before and Lawrence as reported on,
the effort you guys have made. What is your working relationship like now?
O`NEAL: Well, we went very well friend at the beginning. We have a
situation where people are being done wrong, not just African-Americans,
but all people -- poor, white, black, everyone. And out Reverend Barber
stepped up from the get-go and has helped us and has been a terrific ally
throughout the process.
MELBER: Yes, you talked about alliance is there. You guys are also a
model of a kind of bipartisanship locally. And I know you also talk to
Senator Kay Hagan today. What can you tell us about that?
O`NEAL: Well, Senator Hagan has a lot of interest in our story. She has
helped us with the justice department trying to make sure that we get a
very fair deal and thing get look that honestly and fairly. So she has a
lot of interest in what we are doing. And we are happy to have her helping
us. And Reverend Barber had her with relationships has been a front
benefit in our calls.
MELBER: And meanwhile, the North Carolina state senate just last week
passed a bill. I want to put this up. They change Medicaid and they says
in the "New York Time" about this, hoping to contain Medicaid cause to
senate on Thursday, pass a bill that would turn North Carolina`s management
of the program over to commercial-managed care companies.
What is that mean? And what do you think of that?
O`NEAL: Well, in North Carolina, there is go to be something done. For
example, the expansion of Medicaid. If the legislature is not going to
accept the expansion of Medicaid, they got to go to some other ideas. And
I just wish they would go ahead and see the writings on the wall and go
ahead and accept Medicaid expansion. So particularly, our rural hospitals
would have easier go of it.
Rural hospitals have such a hard time breaking even. That without Medicaid
expansion, a lot of really struggling and on the brink of closure.
MELBER: And you know, when we talk a lot about Republicans and Democrats,
we zero in on the ones who work for worse together in Washington. Yours, a
Republican, are you hearing from other Republicans on the ground or local
mayor to local officials about your effort here to try to get this health
O`NEAL: Well, I heard not really but positive comments. I think a lot of
folks has realized that Medicaid expansion is coming. And it think that
someone need to move on with. The ACA is law now. And it is something
that is here to stay. And putting this off while indigent care and
reimbursement are falling and not have those revenues are placed by the
Medicaid expansion is hurting everybody.
And I think -- I keep thinking about the issue from the view point of say a
25-year-old mother of three who has cancer and can`t get treatment because
she doesn`t have health insurance, even though she has a little job she
works. Maybe works at a past food place.
I think everybody in America would like to see that person get cancer
treatments. So when you look at the real world here, I think most people
are in favor of other people having health care.
And that`s what we are talking about. I think this is an issue that`s par
above politics. It is a personal issue. And we need to be talking about
people and we need have Democrats and Republicans working together because
really this is an issue I think 90 percent of the people, if they totally
understood the issue , they will be supportive.
MELBER: Yes. And what you are talking about looking at it from that human
perspective and looking at a program like Medicaid and in saying we don`t
want to cut this up red and blue, this is a program that`s supposed to be
national and available to Americans around the country and following your
work on this has been interesting.
Mayor Adam O`Neal, thanks for spending time with us tonight.
O`NEAL: Thank you for having me.
MELBER: And up next, things did get harder this week for one of Hillary
Clinton`s potential presidential challengers.
MELBER: New York, like a lot of places, has ethics problems with ethics
scandals and campaign finance. That is why last July, Governor Andrew
Cuomo created a special commission that tackle public corruption. Before
hit done anything, he was already busy touting it in re-election ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK: Rust everything to me. That`s why for all we
accomplished to fix state government our job is not done until we cleaned
up the legislative corruption in Albany. So I am appointing a new
independent commission led by top law enforcement officials from all across
this great state to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing. The politicians
in Albany won`t like it but I work for the people. I won`t stay fighting
million we all have a government we can trust.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: But it turns out the politicians that didn`t like the commission
may have also included the governor himself. When he formed the
commission, Cuomo had said it would be independent and could investigate
anything. Quote, "anything they want the look at they can look at -- me,
the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller, any
senator, he said."
But in an explosive new investigative article "The New York Times" reports
that Cuomo`s office cracked down on the commission as soon as it got
anywhere near the governor`s office. "The Times" reports that Cuomo`s the
top aides requested the commission withdraw subpoenas issued to political
firms that worked more the governor. Cuomo also defended his
administration by clarifying, quote, "it is my commission. I can`t
interfere with it because it is mine. It is controlled by me."
He rolled out a new defense to "The Times" report today, though, saying his
team offered, quote, "advice to the commission and his work was a
phenomenal success." As the Times reports, however, not everyone agrees.
Quote, "for days, Mr. Cuomo has been thrashed in newspaper editorials and
on radio and television shows over what had been one of his signature
issues cleaning up Albany. Mr. Cuomo was also (INAUDIBLE) on "the Daily
Show." And one of the most powerful investigators in New York also looks
unimpressed. He was the turning Preet Bharara is to try to keep the
investigations going seized the documents from that commission and he said
that his office has the fearlessness needed to finish the job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PREET BHARARA, U.S. ATTORNEY: We have the documents and we have resources
and we have the wherewithal and we have the kind of fearlessness and
independence that is required to do difficult public corruption cases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me Nick Confessore, a political report employer "The New
York Times." He covered Albany for five years. Good evening.
NICK CONFESSORE, REPORT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Hey, Ari. How are you?
MELBER: I`m good. This has become a big story for Governor Cuomo. What
did he go wrong here according to "the Times" report?
CONFESSORE: Well, he set out this commission to investigate corruption.
And as you were saying in your intro he said it can investigate anybody.
But when it came knocking on his door, he had his top aides telling them to
back up. And it really raise it is question of what was the point of this
commission, he has said over and over again it was way to build energy for
At the end of the day he traded it for a budget deal. And made a lot of
people wonder how serious he was about battling corruption when the people
he`s battling against on corruption are also his partners in deal making in
MELBER: Yes. And the reporting by "the Times" and some other accounts
suggests that he actually might have wanted to play around with the idea
the commission would help squeeze or pressure legislators. That alone
seems a little like a bad idea whether or not it is technically improper.
These commissions are sort of created. And yet, he was attorney general
himself. Shouldn`t he know better than anyone, Nick, that he can`t just
set up a hunt like this and then expect to make it stop the moment you
don`t like it?
CONFESSORE: Well, before he was A.G. and after he was A.G., he was also
master of political strategists and he understands power. What I think you
didn`t quite expect was on have this kind of have this blow newspaper his
face. You know, he has been in hiding for five days. He finally came out
and gave a set of responses on these questions that were a little bit
baffling. He changed again his explanation about why he set this up and
who had the power to investigate who. But when your answer is to kind of
bang there and say, you know, it is my commission. I can do whatever I
want, it is not going to be persuasive to voters or the reporters for that
MELBER: And now he`s got the U.S. attorney as I mentioned in control of
these documents. Does that mean that there might be a federal
investigation of his sort of investigation?
CONFESSORE: Well, as far as we know, Ari, the U.S. attorney for New York
has not ruled out investigating the second floor. But that said, it seems
that the main focus of Preet Bhahara it is to try to keep the
investigations going that were halted by the kind of unceremonious ending
of the commission by the governor.
So what we have basically is a pile of leads about how lawmakers were using
their campaign donations, what business they were transacting on the side
in their part-time jobs as lawyers and consultants and businessmen.
So it is kind of a treasure throw for any prosecutor. And I think what the
feds are saying is that if Andrew Cuomo`s commission isn`t going to follow
up and they will.
MELBER: And politically, does this tell us anything in your view as a
political reporter about Andrew Cuomo? He is someone that`s rumored as
potential presidential aspirant as his father was almost a presidential
aspirant, if the other big New York player, Hillary Clinton doesn`t run.
CONFESSORE: Well, you know, and I covered him for a long time. And I
think, you know, he is a very shrewd guy. But one thing that you do see
from time to time, is he gets too clover for his own good. He gets in
these word salads about who has the right to do what. And he argue as lot
of things and gets tied up. That`s what we have seen in some of the
appearances, you know. It is my commission. I can`t interfere with it.
You know, you can get -- you can get in too deep with the political
operative side of your brain when the governor`s side of your brain may
tell you to go in a different direction.
I`m not really sure what the long-term impact of this will be. In the
past, he has shown, Ari, that as long as he delivers on fundamentals that
are important to New Yorkers on the budget, on economic growth, on
development, they aren`t, you know, hugely concerned about shenanigans in
CONFESSORE: So we will see in the next few days. And yes, we talk a lot
about citizens united and all the money gushing through politics. This is
one of those stories where you have to look at his actions and not just his
Nick Confessore, thanks for joining us. You get tonight`s LAST WORD.
I`m Ari Melber. I have been in for Lawrence O`Donnell. If you want to get
in touch, you can always email me at Ari@MSNBC.com.
And "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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