Politics Nation with Al Sharpton, Transcript 1/29/2017
Show: Politics Nation with Al Sharpton
Date: January 29, 2017
Guest: Zahra Billoo, Trita Parsi, Elizabeth Wydra, Vince Warren, Elijah Cummings
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the government prepared to implement the
immigration executive order that you issued yesterday?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Totally.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And is it a Muslim ban?
TRUMP: It`s not a Muslim ban, but we are totally prepared to support it.
It`s worked out very nicely. You see it at the airports. You see it all
over. It`s working out very nicely, and we`re going to have a very, very
strict ban and we`re going to have extreme vetting, which we should have
had in this country for many years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good morning and welcome to “PoliticsNation.”
President Trump`s executive order starting extreme vetting has sparked
worldwide outrage. Airports in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, San
Francisco, and other cities were filled with protesters on Saturday, and
more protests are expected today.
The president`s order temporarily restricts visitors from seven Muslim
majority countries from entering the U.S. But late last night, a federal
judge in New York blocked deportations nationwide.
NBC`s Sarah Dallof, is live at Atlanta`s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
What`s the latest there?
SARAH DALLOF, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Well, good morning, Al. Atlanta`s mayor
has tweeted that 11 travelers detained here for hours yesterday have all
been cleared. This, of course, following this executive order being
issued, causing confusion, causing detainments across the nation for people
returning from these seven countries, permanent residents, green card
Here in Atlanta, that included a child, a 10-year-old, and an elderly
grandmother who were detained for hours. They had been visiting family, we
are told, over in Iran. But as I mentioned, all 11 cleared right now.
Now, this news comes as organizers put together protests across the nation,
including here in Atlanta where some 2,000 people have indicated that they
will be at the airport today to protest this executive order.
These protests happening across the country – Philadelphia, Los Angeles,
Washington, D.C., people coming out in mass to make their voices heard, not
only here in the country, the White House and around the world, Al.
SHARPTON: All right. Thank you for your report, NBC`s Sarah Dallof live
at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.
Joining me now is Zahra Billoo of the Council on American Islamic Relations
and Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian-American Council.
Let me start with you, Zahra. How do you react to an executive order that
is clearly targeting people based on their religion?
ZAHRA BILLOO, CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER: Thank you so much for having me.
Honestly, it`s been a mixed bag. Anger is a very common reaction. It`s
what I`ve been feeling. This president promised a racist ban targeting
Muslims and others from Muslim majority countries for months.
We should have expected that he would attempt to fulfill it. And what`s
most concerning is the level of fear that we`re seeing from impacted
individuals. Can they come in? What does it mean when a pregnant woman
gets stuck at San Francisco airport for several hours? How are elderly
people dealing with the fact that they may need to take two very long
flights, one sending them back to their country of origin because of this
So, anger is what I`m feeling. Fear is what I`m seeing in a lot of the
community members that we serve.
SHARPTON: And, Trita, a lot of people that are not Muslim have absolutely
joined the protests, joined the outrage. Many of us have been saying for
months this is something that is a threat to everyone.
But once you see it actually implemented, it really does raise the level of
outrage and fear. I mean, we`re actually talking about an executive order
that is based on who you are in terms of your religion or in terms of your
background and not based on anything that you`ve done to raise suspicion.
Is this unprecedented from where you sit?
TRITA PARSI, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL IRANIAN-AMERICAN COUNCIL: Well,
unfortunately, these things have happened in this country before, but it`s
been quite a while. And you`re absolutely right, the principle that this
is based on is probably the most threatening thing and the most scary thing
of all of this, because it essentially means that people are going to be
judged because of their DNA, because of their religion, not because of
And if this is a principle that gets established and becomes normalized,
we`re going to see some very, very nasty things happening in this country.
And I think it`s bear reminding that this is not just targeting people with
visas, this is actually now targeting people with green cards, people who
have been living here for 20 years, whose children are American, who may
have gone on a business trip and cannot get back to their children as a
result of this.
This is truly stunning and shocking. And I`m not surprised at all to see
that the entire world is just stunned that America could do something like
SHARPTON: Now, Zahra, when you mentioned that there was fear – we just
had a reporter in Atlanta. There was a child that was held. You mentioned
a pregnant woman. Is part of this fear also that it begins to stereotype
Muslims who are in the country and kind of give this blanket image that all
of them are suspects of terrorism?
BILLOO: I would say the fear is two-fold. First, we have someone holding
the highest elected office in this country continuing to spew racist
Islamaphobic rhetoric, and now attempting to put forward policy based on
So this makes people who were otherwise considering hate crimes but
wouldn`t have done them feel emboldened, feel like they are on the correct
side of things and feel like they have the support of the president.
The other part of the fear, I would note, though, is that this executive
order starts with seven countries and certain time limits on the various
restrictions it puts into place.
But what we`ve heard from some republican leaders, right here on MSNBC is
that they may add additional countries later. And so, what we permit to
happen today will continue to have an impact, a ripple effect on other
Americans beyond just the seven countries, and that`s a source of fear.
We`re hearing from people from Pakistan, people from Sri Lanka, people from
Malaysia who are asking, well, what does this mean for me, and can I travel
at this time?
SHARPTON: And as you point out, I think it is important to bring back,
Trita, that this also impacts people with green cards. I mean, for people
at home this morning, tell them actually what the practical implications of
this order is, because I don`t know that people really understand when we
say ban, what does that really mean? Who is banned and what does it do to
those that are banned, Trita?
PARSI: So, it`s targeting individuals who have been born in seven
countries and have citizenship in those countries. Now, when they first
talked about this earlier on, it gave the impression that it would be
banning new visas and immigration from those countries.
There was no hint that it would also be targeting people who already have
visas or it will be targeting people who already live here and have been
living here for years because they are green card holders.
SHARPTON: So, if you have a visa, if you`ve been living here for years,
you still fall under this ban?
PARSI: Absolutely, and this is the thing. There are students here from
these countries. About 48 percent of the people that are affected by this
are Iranians because that`s the biggest group in this. A lot of students
here. If they travel outside of the country right now, they`re not going
to be able to be let back in.
And also, I think one thing that I want to mention that people really
should be aware of, the green card holders that have been interrogated and
then decided on a case-by-case basis whether they can come in or not, I`ve
spoken to people who have been let in, and I`ve also spoken to people who
have been deported.
The people who have been let in told me that they were handcuffed, that
they were interrogated for hours, they were asked for their social media
and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram that was reviewed. They were also
asked their view on Donald Trump. And this is pretty scary. People are
walking out of this feeling that they always thought that they lived in the
SHARPTON: People who were held were asked their views on Donald Trump?
What does that have to do with anything about entering the country and
about whether or not you`re suspected, if that is the assumption, of doing
PARSI: And this is exactly the point. People walk out of this extremely
intimidated and feeling that they`re no longer living in a land of laws
because you`re being asked questions about what their views is on the
president. If they give the wrong answer, they may not have been let into
SHARPTON: This enhances, Zahra, the fear that you talk about, because if
you – let`s say, for example, you don`t agree with President Trump. Are
you supposed to out of fear say I like the president because you want to
get in the country? This is absolutely an outrage on its face on what the
United States constitutions supposed to guarantee you in this country.
BILLOO: I agree. I mean, and the difficult thing is that it targets the
most vulnerable populations. If I were advising a U.S. citizen coming into
the border and I was told that a law enforcement or other government agent
asked them about their religious or political beliefs, my advice would be
to say mind your own business, that is not a question I`m required to
But I can`t safely say that to a green card holder or someone with a visa
because they could very well be detained and turned away which is some of
what we`ve seen in the last 24 to 36 hours.
And so, it targets people who are most vulnerable, and then it asks them
about information that we as Americans believe at our core the government
has no business asking us.
SHARPTON: Trita, let me ask you quickly. I`m out of time, but a judge in
Brooklyn, in eastern district, stopped the deportations but did not have
order that they can actually enter the country. Where are we legally here?
What are the legal goals to try and deal with this executive order?
PARSI: So, right now where we are is that those that are already here
cannot be deported until this matter has been resolved, but people who are
not here, who are green card holders, who are about to board a plane or
students, they still would be in jeopardy if they got on. And in fact,
many of them are not even going to be able to get on the planes because the
airlines won`t let them on.
But I think it`s also important to keep one thing in mind – this is not
making America safer in any way, shape or form. This is only dividing the
country, turning Americans against Americans and dragging America`s name
through the mud internationally.
SHARPTON: Well, I`m going to deal with that in the next segment because it
doesn`t even really target where the terrorism that we`ve seen even comes
from, and I`m going to deal with that in the next segment. Zahra Billoo,
Trita Parsi, thank you.
Up next, more on the fallout from President Trump`s ban on refugees. Could
it actually backfire? I`ll ask terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance.
SHARPTON: President Trump`s immigration restrictions affect seven Muslim
majority countries, but it does not affect others, like Saudi Arabia, where
the Trump organization does business. It is also unclear whether this will
actually improve national security.
A new study finds that terrorism by Muslim Americans account for less than
one percent of all murders in the U.S.
Joining me now by phone is MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance. Malcolm,
let me ask you, first of all, these seven countries that have been
designated or that has been named in this ban, do they have a history of
terrorism in the United States?
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, technically, some do but in
the past, but under previous regimes, like Libya. But for the most part,
none of these countries have produced terrorists who have come to the
United States and carried out acts of terrorism.
A couple of them, like Somalia, Yemen, and Libya, do have members of ISIS
groups that are actually under great attack right now. Iran is a state
sponsor of terrorism. But as you know, we have millions of Iranians mainly
who live in this country out in the west coast.
But I don`t know where they chose these nations from, because none of them
have anything to do with international terrorism.
SHARPTON: So, if none of these have anything to do with national
terrorism, how do they then exclude Saudi Arabia, where coincidentally, the
president`s business does business, and other Muslim nations that are not
on this list? I mean, where did this selection process find its way of
deciding who`s banned?
NANCE: Well, I think that the writer Murtaza Hussain from “The Intercept”
put it succinctly, the other day, when he wrote that these seven nations
were the low-hanging fruit of countries that most people know. They have
very few people who come to the United States and that it would be very
easy to just call them Muslims, all Muslims, and put a ban in place. That
doesn`t mean that there won`t be a rolling ban over time where we start
excluding other Muslim nations.
But the ones right now where it appears that Donald Trump has a national
security interest or a personal financial interest, he has not expressed
any interest in banning those. And those are the countries with real
terrorism – Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia – 17 of the 19 hijackers were from
Saudi Arabia on 9/11.
SHARPTON: And they`re not a part of this ban?
NANCE: No, no, not at all. As a matter of fact, the largest country with
the largest number of members of ISIS per capita was Tunisia, which is an
ally of ours, who we`re helping fight is in their own country, but they`re
mainly concentrated in Syria. European ISIS members. There`s no ban on
them individually or as a collective.
This is just absolutely insane and it smacks of racism, to be quite honest,
because this has no intelligence or national security value. No one,
obviously, from the community was consulted about this. No one, none of
the experts from state department were obviously. This is done within
Trump`s inner circle from a group of people who seem to have a problem with
the word Muslim.
SHARPTON: Now, going into his inner circle, his chief strategist, Steve
Bannon, many feel has a lot of influence on this. How do you respond to
that? What do you know about Bannon and his background that would give us
some kind of reason to feel some of this may have come from his advice?
NANCE: OK. I`m going to give you my opinion, which is an intelligence
perspective based on what we know about him. He actually holds an ideology
and espoused an ideology when he was leading the alt-right, right? The
white supremacist Neo-Nazi movement media arm.
He believes in a thing called duganist eurasianism philosophy. It`s a
doctrine that was developed by a Russian, Aleksandr Dugin, who believes
that the west needs to be aligned in an axis, that Russia and the United
States, against Islam in a clash of civilizations.
Steve Bannon in the past referred to himself as a Leninist who believes in,
you who believes in, you know, the destruction of governments and also this
clash between Christian west, the United States and Russia, versus Islam.
And to me as an intelligence professional, although I don`t like to get
this deeply involved in politics, I have to understand that the principal
ideology of this individual is now guiding national security policy and
making the president, or drafting executive orders for the president of the
SHARPTON: So this man who has in the past – you`re quoting – has a real
self-portrayal of him believing that we must unite, even with Russia,
against Islam, this is the man that is the chief strategist for President
NANCE: Yes. Yes, it is. And unfortunately, he`s not only the chief
strategist, he now has a seat at the table on the National Security Council
and the homeland security councils at a time when no president have ever
brought a politician on board to do that role.
And to me, it just seems that he`s going to take on the role of commissar
to make sure that the national security apparatus is meeting the political
goals of the president.
SHARPTON: MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance, thank you so much for
NANCE: My pleasure.
SHARPTON: Next, we`ll take you live to the White House for reaction to the
blowback from President Trump`s travel ban.
SHARPTON: President Trump`s executive order on refugees continues to spark
outrage across the globe. Protests were held across the country last night
and even more are planned for later today, 2,000 people are expected to
march in Atlanta.
Let`s bring in NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell, who`s live at the White House.
Kelly, has the Trump administration responded to these protests at all?
KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have been reaching out,
Reverend Al, and we`ve not received a specific response to the protests or
an official statement on sort of judging the first day of this new plan.
However, this morning the president is using his Twitter feed to make a
comment that you can infer is a reaction to some of these protests. The
president tweets, “Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting
now,” all caps. “Look what is happening all over Europe and indeed the
world – a horrible mess!”
Of course, extreme vetting is a term that President Trump uses to describe,
in effect, the plan that he has set in motion, where his executive order
prohibits the admission into the U.S. from those seven countries that are
predominantly Muslim, for a temporary period of time and suspends
indefinitely the admission of Syrian refugees.
And so, all of what we`re seeing right now is a reaction to this in part
because even though Donald Trump talked about this on the campaign trail,
even though this is in many ways delivering on a promise he made to his
voters and following through on what he said he would do, the order itself
sort of came up quickly, and the implementation seemed to be a little
spotty, although the president said that he thinks it`s working out nicely
at airports. But there were questions at airports around the country. So,
you had democratic governors going to airports in their home states when
they learned of possible travelers being detained.
The numbers we have this morning from the department of homeland security
suggests about 375 travelers were either stopped at their point of origin
from flying to the United States or stopped upon arrival. And there isn`t
a hard number on the number detained.
Now, there was the court action in New York, a very narrow action filed
after an ACLU suit late Saturday night hearing, and a judge in New York did
decide to stay on an emergency basis any deportations that might result
from this travel ban.
That is a very narrow part of what this overall executive order would be,
and I did talk with a senior Trump White House official who reacted to that
piece, the judge in New York taking action, calling it a nonevent, saying
that it really deals with a very small number of individuals, it deals with
specific individuals who were in New York who were detained and then
released because their paperwork was reviewed, and saying that that judge
taking action does not really affect the Trump order.
So, this will play out, Reverend Al. We`ve also seen from republican
senators a handful who are concerned about the scope of this travel ban.
So democrats coming out were forcefully in public joining the protests.
Some republicans through statements and comments saying they have some
concerns about how this is playing out. Reverend Al?
SHARPTON: NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell at the White House. Thank you.
When we come back, who will Donald Trump pick to fill the empty seat on the
Supreme Court? And how could it impact the immigration debate? That`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will make your Supreme Court choice –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: – announcement. Two questions on that. One, will it
be from the list that you gave out during the campaign?
TRUMP: The answer is yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will it be an originalist?
TRUMP: I don`t want to say that. You`re going to see on Thursday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you made your decision?
TRUMP: I have made my decision pretty much in my mind, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next question –
TRUMP: Now, that`s subject to change at the last moment, but I think this
will be a great choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Donald Trump says he will announce his choice to replace the
late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia next Thursday. One of the
leading contenders is William Pryor, a prot‚g‚ of Trump`s attorney general
nominee, Jeff Sessions.
President Trump`s new executive orders on immigration and extreme vetting
could be one early test for the Supreme Court.
Joining me now, Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for
Constitutional Rights, and Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional
Let me start with you, Elizabeth. President Trump will make an
announcement Thursday. He will make it in the midst of this executive
order that`s to have extreme vetting and to ban people from seven
countries, at least until the extreme vetting is done.
In light of that, if he puts someone on the court that will in many ways be
in line with that, couldn`t we be looking at the fact that we would really
be changing from, on a permanent level, or at least as long as that court
is not overturned at some future date, immigration policy and immigration
law in this country?
ELIZABETH WYDRA, PRESIDENT, CONSTITUTIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY CENTER: Thanks,
Reverend Al. That`s a really important question. Obviously, the Supreme
Court is important, no matter the context. Every year it`s an important
court. If cases get to the court, they`re probably going to raise
important issues to the nation.
But I think this context shows exactly why the courts and the Supreme Court
at the pinnacle, are so important. We saw these orders coming in
overnight, starting with New York, serving as a check on the president`s
use of his executive order, when he`s violating the constitution, the
rights of these folks who are trying to flee persecution and come to this
And the court`s serving as a check on the elected branch`s violations of
the constitution or misuse of power is incredibly important. And whoever
the nominee, is he or she is going to have to show to the American people
and to the senate, who will give its advice and consent on this nominee,
that he or she does not hold the extreme views of the president who`s going
to nominate him or her.
The primary job of the Supreme Court, the highest calling of a judge, is to
be faithful to the constitution and the law, and these orders that we`re
seeing coming out of the Trump White House threaten to violate the
constitution, if they aren`t already put into action, and we`ve seen Trump,
he`s been incredibly anti-constitution.
SHARPTON: but, Vince, isn`t that the fear, though? If you have people
that see the constitution in a certain way, they can, in effect, if you put
the – if you put someone on the court that is very close to the
president`s views –
VINCE WARREN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS:
SHARPTON: – who will then sit in front of a senate that is majority
republican, they will in effect be able to vote and say this is
constitutional. So say, for example, if you, the Center for Constitutional
Rights, which I`m familiar with your work, you get a case. Federal court
says, you`re right, this is unconstitutional.
This appeal, it goes up to the Supreme Court, and the court says, you`re
wrong, it is constitutional. This has permanent damage not only on
immigration rights, but voting rights and gender rights.
SHARPTON: Roe versus Wade, voting rights bill. I mean, we`re talking
about things that go way beyond the tenure of a President Donald Trump.
WARREN: You`re absolutely right, Reverend. And you know, the Supreme
Court pick, this is really about what the soul of the Supreme Court is
going to be for the next many generations, or at least the next several
decades, and the Supreme Court is actually going to be looking at defying
what the soul of the nation is.
So, you`re 100 percent right that these terrible policies that are coming
down from President Trump, unchecked, un-reviewed, are going to be reviewed
ultimately by the federal courts and by the supreme court there.
Looking at the replacement for Antonin Scalia, what we`re seeing from the
three replacements that we know so far that are in the running, that
they`re very conservative. The conservatives are having a great time right
now because they are in line with what Donald Trump – well, who knows what
Donald Trump thinks? They`re in line with the conservative establishment.
WARREN: I do think, and I want to say this, and I agree with Elizabeth,
there is a chance that Donald Trump`s stuff is so crazy that the
conservative courts might actually say we don`t want to give the president
the type of authority and power that he`s trying to claim. There is that
scenario that`s down the road. It`s a difficult thing to bank on, though.
SHARPTON: Well, quickly, Elizabeth, do you feel that the threat of this
appointee or this nominee this week, and if he gets one more, which will
tilt the court – do you think that there will be any republicans, any
conservatives in the senate that will really stand up and really say, wait
a minute, we can`t have extremists in the court?
WYDRA: Gosh, I hope so. If this is ever a time to show backbone, to show
courage, you know, those both sides of the aisle should be doing it.
Because as you said before once this person is on the bench, the Supreme
Court is the final word on the arbiter of the constitution. So it`s an
incredibly important role and you`ve got to do it now before they`re on the
SHARPTON: They can wipe out now the last half a century of progress in
civil rights, women`s rights, LGBT rights. I mean, this is as serious as
WARREN: As serious as it gets, particularly on those issues, things like
criminal defense, things like fourth amendment challenges, fourteenth
amendment challenges, equal protection and what happens with the Trump
presidency is going to be key with this court.
SHARPTON: Thank you, Elizabeth Wydra and Vince Warren for being with us
Coming up, Donald Trump`s debunked claims about widespread voter fraud.
Congressman Elijah Cummings weighs in, next.
SHARPTON: We continue to follow the reaction to President Trump`s
temporary ban of immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
More protests are planned across the nation at airports today. But right
now we want to focus on the president`s completely false claim that
millions of people voted illegally in the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If you look at voter registration, you look at the dead people that
are registered to vote, who vote, you look at people who are registered in
two states, you look at all of these different things that are happening
with registration, you take a look at those registrations, you`re going to
find – and we`re going to do an investigation on it –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But three million to five million illegal votes?
TRUMP: We`re going to find out, but it could very well be that much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I spoke this week with democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings
about President Trump`s plans for an investigation into voter fraud.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I say it`s going to be a waste of
money and a waste of time, and I really do believe that this is a
Everybody knows that there is the voter fraud that there might be is very
miniscule or almost nonexistent. And the thing that upsets me more about
this, and when I meet with the president, I`m going to talk about this, is
that we know, Reverend, that there are many people, particularly African-
Americans, Hispanics and others, whose votes are being suppressed. We know
that. I mean, the research is done.
CUMMINGS: It is clear. As a matter of fact, the 4th circuit just said
that the North Carolina legislature surgically went through and figured out
how they could stop African-American people from voting and those who would
vote normally for democrats from voting.
SHARPTON: So based on race –
CUMMINGS: Based on race. That`s right.
SHARPTON: Clearly based on race.
CUMMINGS: That`s right. So, I`m saying to the president, if you`re
serious about doing some research, why don`t you do some research on white
people are being denied their right to vote. We know that. And we also
know for a fact there is no voter fraud. So, I`m basically coming at him
that way, and it`s a waste of money. I`m just being very frank.
But let me tell you one other thing. We can save the president some money
because I as a top democrat on the oversight committee, we`ve already sent
out letters a few days ago to every attorney general in the country.
CUMMINGS: To every secretary of state, asking them certain questions about
any kind of voter fraud. We`re already getting responses back, Reverend,
where they`re saying, no, no, no, no. And a lot of these are republicans,
SHARPTON: Well, see, one of the things I think you pointed is you and I,
many of us have fought hard around the denial of people of color, blacks in
SHARPTON: – North Carolina and others that have been established in the
court. So we`re not defending by any stretch of the imagination voting
fraud. But when you say –
CUMMINGS: That`s right.
SHARPTON: – three or four illegal. I mean, I have relatives in Alabama
that couldn`t get to vote because of the new government photo I.D. laws.
CUMMINGS: That`s right. That`s right.
SHARPTON: They closed – eight counties closed DMVs that were of the ten
majority black counties. So they couldn`t get government photo I.D. to
vote. And yet, you`re going to tell me three or four million illegal
immigrants can come in here? How did they get government photo I.D. in
Alabama, Texas, and other places?
I mean, you`re going to tell me that people who came here for economic
opportunity were savvy enough to get government photo I.D. in those states
that require it and people living here couldn`t get it and were prohibited
from voting? I mean, on its face, it just does not make sense.
CUMMINGS: But Reverend, there`s one thing that we`ve got to remember.
Back in 2002, remember when Robert Gonzales was – and Ashcroft were
attorney general of the United States, they tried the same thing.
CUMMINGS: They said go out there and find some people who are improperly
registering people to vote and all that kind of thing, and voting
improperly. And then when the attorney general, the U.S. attorneys general
of various states went out and could not find any evidence of it, then they
fired between seven of them or nine, between seven and nine of them because
they refused to go and prosecute people when they had no evidence.
So I`m wondering if this is a setup, Reverend, to then expand all of these
restrictive laws to even the states that don`t have them now. Do you
SHARPTON: And when you talk about a setup when they wouldn`t prosecute
people that they couldn`t find, in some of that discussion has been around
some of us that have raised questions about his attorney general nominee,
Jeff Sessions –
CUMMINGS: That`s right. That`s right.
SHARPTON: – who did prosecute some people who had been longtime civil
rights workers, had worked with Martin Luther King himself, and a jury came
right back and said there was no merit to it. So, that is all in the same
context of what many of us are questioning senator sessions about.
CUMMINGS: That`s exactly right. And Reverend, I am so glad that you`re
raising this, and I hope that your guests and others will continue to raise
this, because at this point in our history, we really do have to take these
kinds of situations that are – I mean, again, you and I agree, we want to
go against voter fraud, but we know, we know for a fact that there are
people right now watching this show right now who are not able to vote in
the last election.
As a matter of fact, back in 2014, it was estimated in Texas that
approximately 600,000 people were not able to vote that should have been
able to vote because of all kinds of restrictions put on them by state
SHARPTON: Now, let me raise another concern that you`ve raised about
looking in. And again, you`re the ranking member, house committee on
CUMMMINGS: Oversight, yes, sir.
SHARPTON: And you`ve raised concerns about the president`s connections to
Russia. And we`re hearing a lot over the weekend about that. What are
your concerns? And what do you want to look into?
CUMMINGS: My concern – very good. My concern, Reverend, is that we`ve
got 17 intelligence agencies of the United States who have unanimously
agreed, unanimously, that the Russians did, in fact, interfere with our
And for the life of me, seems like there`s just no urgency on the part of
the republicans to look into this. And what I want to know, what we want
to do is create a commission, a commission that would be sort of like the
9/11 commission. I don`t want any senators. I don`t want any congressmen
on it. I want reputable people who will then look at all the evidence,
have subpoena power, and figure out what happened here and then come back
and tell us how do we make sure that doesn`t happen again?
We can`t have somebody over in Russia controlling our elections. That`s
SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you this while I have you in the few moments I
You were on this network on “Morning Joe.” You pointed at the camera and
said to the president at that point, a direct message. He called you. And
I know that experience because he called me after a couple of “Morning Joe”
CUMMINGS: That`s right.
SHARPTON: And he talked about, though, the common ground that you two
could meet around your concerns about prescription drugs. Explain to us
your concerns and what you hope you and the president can do together and
how you feel the fact that you raise other questions and you`ve been
opposed to other things.
Do you think this president can deal with people that don`t agree with
them? When he called me, I said I would love to meet as long as you`re
meeting with other heads of national civil rights groups. I`m not doing
the one-on-one photo op.
But I think there are legitimate issues that you have to deal with, but
you`ve got to deal with people that would disagree and come out and say
what they said to you in disagreement.
Do you think this president can do that and explain the common ground you
would seek in the prescription drug area with President Trump?
CUMMINGS: I`m not sure. I`m not sure because I don`t know him that well,
but I do believe that people need to talk, because after all, he is the
president of the United States and is going to be the president of the
United States for the next four years.
And so, what I`m trying to do is find that common ground. With regard to
prescription drugs, he has said that a lot of these companies, these
manufacturers are getting away with murders. As a matter of fact, he said
it to me.
In other words, they`re jacking up the price of prescription drugs 100
times, 200 times, and the next thing you know, a person that paid $100 for
two EpiPens now pays $600 for two EpiPens. Now paid $600 for two EpiPens.
And I could go on and on.
So, I think we can try to address this issue by, say, proposals to import
drugs, proposals to make sure that there`s negotiation with regard to our
Medicaid, Medicare purchase of drugs. I think we can find some common
ground on that.
But I want to use this, Reverend, as a door to get into the White House and
talk to him about voting rights. I want to talk to him about the
Affordable Care Act. I want to talk to him about those things, educating
our children and improving our communities, and I also want him to
understand that I live in the inner city and have lived in the inner city
for 35 years and that I would appreciate him not just blanketing the inner
cities of our country as if they are some kind of hell hole.
SHARPTON: Yes, well, I agree people need to talk, but I think that we`ve
also got to say this is the agenda, have witnesses there, and he`s got to
be big enough – and he`s the president now – to deal with people that
will be critical and say that criticism outside. And O know that –
CUMMINGS: I want to be clear –
SHARPTON: – you are someone who has demonstrated integrity in that area.
CUMMINGS: Thank you, Reverend, but one of the things that I know that we
will be meeting with others – I`m not going in by myself. I`m like you.
SHARPTON: Well, there`s a difference between the red carpet going into
your reality show premiere, Mr. President, and taking care of the business
as head of state.
CUMMINGS: That`s right.
SHARPTON: Congressman, thank you for being with us this morning.
Congressman Elijah Cummings. Thank you for being here. Final thoughts
when we return.
SHARPTON: As one who has been a civil rights activist all of my life, I
look at this ban by President Trump as something that violates the human
rights, civil rights and constitutional rights of American citizens.
I cannot view this as anything other than as biased, racist, and
Islamaphobic. But it is more personal to me because I`m also a lifelong
Christian. I`ve been a Baptist minister and a preacher all of my life, and
I worship Jesus Christ, who according to the scriptures was taken to Egypt
as a child seeking refuge of his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph.
How do I preach about Jesus Christ, who was a refugee, and not be sensitive
to what we do with refugees today? Now, I am not saying people should
believe my religion. I`m not saying they should believe any religion, and
that is the point, that you can`t discriminate, ban, or have different
standards for people based on who they are and what they believe. You must
have a nation that protects everyone or you can`t protect anyone.
That does it for me. Thanks for watching. And to keep the conversation
going, like us at facebook.com/politicsnation, and follow us on Twitter
@politicsnation. I`ll see you back here next Sunday.