Politics Nation, Transcript 7/16/2017
Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: July 16, 2017
Guest: Jason Johnson, Matthew Miller, Yvette Clarke
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good morning and welcome to “PoliticsNation.”
I went to Chicago this week, among other things, to meet with local leaders
regarding the Trump administration`s decision to send federal agents to
that city in order to stop the epidemic of gun crime. I`ll tell you more
later in the show.
But also, we`ll talk to a former congresswoman who is pleading with her
former colleagues not to take away her health care coverage after she`s
been diagnosed with MS.
But we start with President Trump. This morning, a fresh new poll shows
Americans give Trump the lowest six-month approval rating of any president
dating back 70 years. Just 36 percent.
His White House is still dealing with the fallout from Don Trump, Jr.`s e-
mails suggesting potential collusion with the Russian government during the
The president played defense and went as far as blaming the Obama
administration, accusing former Attorney General Loretta Lynch of granting
a visa to the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Junior. How twisted is
Joining me is Matthew Miller, the former chief spokesman for the justice
department, and an MSNBC justice and security analyst. And Jason Johnson,
politics editor at the root.com and MSNBC political contributor and a
professor of politics and journalism at Morgan State University.
Let me go to you first, Jason. These poll numbers are devastating to anyone
but Donald Trump. I mean, you and I know that he will probably have some
way of dismissing them or pooh-poohing them.
But this is really, really a very bad sign for his party who is dealing
with health care legislation after McCain`s recovery this coming weekend,
other legislation as they faced the midterm election.
So these poll numbers have a lot of serious ramification for the White
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they do, Rev. And one of
the things I think everybody needs to pay attention to is, it is that Trump
becomes a drag not necessarily just on congress but even locally.
You`ve seen at state level races in Oklahoma, Illinois, Delaware and
Connecticut where republican seats are being flipped to democrat and those
are state special elections.
So if these kind of low poll numbers continue, he will be a drag on his
party next year. But I also have to caution people, you got to remember, if
you actually look into this poll, it shows that the number of republicans
who actually believe that Russia tried to meddle in the U.S. elections it
dropped. Eighteen percent of republicans thought that that was the case in
April, now only nine percent do.
So sometimes in the face of increased evidence, lots of people continue to
support this president more. He`s really losing against democrats and
SHARPTON: Yes. I mean, it`s like over 80 percent republicans still support
But the problem is that for him, he`s got a solid maybe 30, 35 percent. But
can the democrats come up with a candidate that can really coalesce the
SHARPTON: Let me go to you. Let me ask you this question. You are the
expert, used to be a justice department. I want to deal with the whole
question of the legal ramifications, if there are any, about the e-mail
scandal with Donald Trump, Jr. When we talk about collusion, where does it
become criminal, where is it just something that is inappropriate and
MATTHEW MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I think there are
two potential problems for Donald Trump, Jr. based on what we found out
this week. One, is a potential violation of campaign finance law. You are
not allowed to accept anything of value from a foreign national. Obviously
taking opposition research would be a thing of value.
We learned over the last few days through interviews with Rinat Akhmetshin,
the Russian-American lawyer who was in this meeting that the Russian lawyer
who came over left a memo with the Trump campaign.
So we`re going to need to find out what that is. That`s one potential
violation. The other potential –
SHARPTON: Left a memo. We heard this now from the other party that was in
the meeting. We now know there were a couple other parties, but one of the
parties that there was a memo left. This is the unknown here of what was in
the memo, but there was a memo left with Donald Trump Jr. and other
parties, Manafort and Jared Kushner.
So clearly, we don`t know what that was, but it appears that it was more
than adoption being talked about.
MILLER: Yes, it`s clear that it was. So we need to find out what was in
that memo and the answer that may go to the second potential criminal
charge and that would be whether the Trump campaign or individuals on the
Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government to break laws and
those could be a number of laws. It could be potentially hacking John
Podesta`s e-mails, hacking the DNC e-mails.
And what we found this week is we now have a smoking gun of what is usually
the hardest thing to prove and that`s intent. Donald Trump Jr. got an e-
mail from an intermediate who said – I am bringing – we have someone who
wants to bring you information from the Russian government to help your
campaign. They want to help elect your father and he said, great, I love
Now, we don`t know how that was consummated. We don`t know if there were
further contacts that would show collusion and coordination, but that`s
what this investigation will show you.
And I think based on what we know now, we have to look at everything
different including the constant lies all last year and even as late as
last Saturday when this meeting was first reported and they didn`t tell the
truth about it.
SHARPTON: Jason, isn`t that the point, though? Regardless as to whatever
was discussed or not in the meeting, the fact that it not only said on the
e-mail that there are those in the Russian government and Russian people
that want to help your father`s campaign, but that I`m bringing you
information against Hillary Clinton, and the response says, I love it.
Isn`t that the point, the intent is established there, not only about
receiving aid in your campaign for your father to be president, but in
using information from a foreign enemy against a potential candidate, at
that point a potential candidate who ended up being his opposing candidate.
JOHNSON: Right. The whole thing was problematic from the beginning. I mean,
even him claiming that I only kind of knew a little something about the e-
Look, we all know. If I got an e-mail from some deposed prince who said you
won the lottery and you got to send the money to a foreign country, I`m not
going to answer that, either.
So the fact that he got the invitation and it was from a foreign government
and he decided that I guess I`ll explore this is a problem. As we all
remember, it was what, almost 20 years ago, Al Gore magically got
information during the debate about George Bush. He immediately called the
FBI and that was from an American address.
So from the very beginning, it shows that this entire campaign is open to
the idea of foreign influence in an election, there are multiple things
that we still don`t know about this meeting and I suspect that we`re going
to find out more because it seems like every other person in the White
House and our current White House was in that room.
SHARPTON: All right. Thank you, Matthew Miller and Jason Johnson.
For more on this, I want to bring in democratic Congresswoman Yvette Clarke
of New York, Brooklyn, New York, I might be specific since we`re both home
Congresswoman, how disturbing – let`s put aside partisan politics, let`s
put aside democrat, republican.
How disturbing is it that you see an e-mail that says, I will bring you
people that will bring information to discredit your potential opponent in
an American election from Russia, from what is supposed to be an enemy
state and the answer is, I love it?
REP. YVETTE CLARKE (D), NEW YORK: Well, it`s extremely disturbing, Reverend
Al. This is clearly a real violation of everything we believe in in this
nation to have our foremost adversary reach out to a campaign and have that
campaign respond in the way that the Trump campaign did.
It`s a disgrace. And we have to get to the bottom of it because, you know,
everyone is toying around and playing footsie with the terminology treason.
But at the end of the day, it`s a sub version of our democracy aided and
abetted by a campaign.
SHARPTON: Well, what amazes me, congresswoman, is some are saying, well,
let`s wait and let Mueller do his job. But what about you and your
colleagues doing your job regardless as to whether this ends up being
criminal or not, isn`t there an obligation of the congress to protect the
United States against this kind of activity, whether it crosses a criminal
line or not, it clearly crosses the line in terms of the United States
interest in regard to its elections and having foreign enemy powers
influence those elections.
CLARKE: Absolutely. Every member of congress raises their hand and swears
to protect the United States of America in its constitution.
Any members of congress at this time who is not ready to move with inquiry
into this, not ready to look at articles of impeachment as far as I`m
concerned are derelict in their duty.
Democrats in the house unfortunately are not in the majority, but we have
stood firm in our belief that our government has been subverted and that
there was a role of the Trump campaign in doing so and we have to get to
the bottom of it.
We need to stop everything and make this a priority because indeed, we are
about to go into another election cycle and there are many unanswered
questions, there`s still concerns about intrusion into our networks by the
Russian government and Donald Trump has been playing footsie with Vladimir
So we have some very legitimate concerns that need to be focused on at this
point in time by the House of Representatives and the leadership of that
body needs to step up and do their job to preserve our democracy.
SHARPTON: wow. So I`m hearing you saying we need to stop everything and
deal with this.
CLARKE: That`s right.
SHARPTON: How do your republican colleagues, how do they justify this? I
mean, you and I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, you know, in public schools.
We were taught Russia is the enemy, the great Russian threat, even after
Russia fell and now you have in writing this kind of response.
How do they get away with not dealing with this as the priority?
CLARKE: They`re delusional right now. You know, they are so focused on an
agenda that they want to get done. You know, whether it`s health care
reform, whether it`s tax reform, whether it`s voter suppression. They are
trying to move that agenda using this vehicle which is a flawed conflicted
SHARPTON: As a distraction.
CLARKE: As a distraction.
SHARPTON: Now, let`s not re-distract it. Health care, it got through the
house, it`s before the separate we`re told now because of Senator John
McCain having the surgery that they`re going to delay until he recovers
because they don`t have the votes.
SHARPTON: How devastating to people that are watching our viewers, how
devastating will this really be? We keep hearing that, but explain to
people what we mean when we talk about how devastating it is?
CLARKE: We cannot underestimate the number of Americans who will lose
health insurance. They will be taken completely out of the system and will
be left to go to emergency rooms for health care.
We can also talk about persons who may be in nursing homes, who will not be
able to continue their care because of the cuts, the deep cuts to Medicaid.
We can also talk about those with preexisting conditions whose deductibles
will make it cost prohibitive for them to continue in their care. This is
From the oldest of us in our society to the youngest of us in our society,
we are being left high and dry with respect to health care.
SHARPTON: And the other thing you`re talking about fake news, real fake
news, is that Obama was not working. Insurers are saying now that it`s
doubling back and it is viable and working.
CLARKE: It is extremely viable and working. There are some places where we
can do some tweaking, particularly in the individual market, but that is
such a small portion of those who are now having access to health care that
never had access before. And I believe that – you know, we just need to
mend it. There`s no need to repeal or end it.
I think that there is, you know, a whole bunch of folks in Washington in
the Republican Party that want to be able to extract dollars from health
care to be able to reward their friends who are extremely wealthy and who
have not asked idea for this type of financial support.
SHARPTON: Thank you, congresswoman, Yvette Clarke.
Coming up, a personal plea, what a former congresswoman is revealing
publicly to convince republicans not to take away her health care. This is
“PoliticsNation” on MSNBC.
SHARPTON: Welcome back. Last night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
announced he will delay a vote on the GOP`s bill to repeal and replace
The reason, republican Senator John McCain cannot cast his vote as he
recovers from surgery to remove a blood clot. The announcement comes after
a revised version of the plan was released last week. The intention was to
apiece more senators to vote for the change.
So far little support has been shown to get the 60 votes needed to pass the
legislation. In fact, a new poll released this morning shows Americans
prefer ObamaCare over the republican plan 50 to 24 percent. That`s a margin
of two to one. Another quarter of the people want something entirely
That concern is also shared by former Congresswoman Donna Edwards of
Maryland. In a “Washington Post” editorial last week, she wrote about being
diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year.
Edwards wrote, quote, “If we return to a time when people with preexisting
conditions can be charged more than healthy people, it will surely result
in my never being able to afford insurance again.”
Earlier, I had the chance to talk with Donna Edwards.
SHARPTON: You were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and you have said in
the editorial that I just quoted that if, in fact, this bill, the revised
bill is passed, that you would be put in a situation that millions of
others will be and that is you will never be able to afford insurance.
DONNA EDWARDS, FORMER MARYLAND REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I mean, that`s exactly
right. I mean, I was diagnosed with MS last year and in that time and the
medication that I take costs about $73,000 a year, I have regular visits to
get MRI scans and those run about $7,000 every time I get a set and now I
have to have one done at least once a year.
And I look at the senate bill and when I see it, I see that I am written
out because now I`m one of those people who has a chronic illness that
needs to be treated, I need regular quality care and the senate bill is
telling me I`m going to be put into a pool with a lot of sick people and
that`s just going to make the rates go right through the roof.
I think this is a real disaster for millions of people who are just like I
am and who have a preexisting condition and under this new approach to
health care it`s not better care at all for us, it is really – you know,
it is life changing.
SHARPTON: So in this revised bill, to be very clear, the Affordable Care
Act had it where you who has been diagnosed with MS could be covered. In
the revised bill, this new form that they are looking at, you are
completely cut out as well as people that are similarly situated as you
are, are cut out of being insured because of a preexisting condition.
Because people need to understand this doesn`t even give wiggle room. This
means you will not have the ability to afford to keep the insurance that
you now have under the Affordable Care Act.
EDWARDS: It is really and it will be unaffordable. You know, particularly
the amendment that Senator Ted Cruz from Texas has tried to strike where
you basically allow a two-tier system of health care delivery. One system
for really healthy people and another system for people like me who have
Well, inevitably, it`s going to make the insurance markets completely
unstable. And I never thought that I would be the one to say it, but I
actually agree with the insurers on this one, that this is a system that
would be completely unsustainable because you would have one pool of people
like me who would bear all of the risk and pay all of the cost and then
you`d have all the healthy people in another pool.
It would be the American two-tier system of healthcare and I think it would
be a disaster for me and I know I wouldn`t be able to afford it.
Look, I was a member of congress but I am not by any stretch of the
imagination wealthy. And so, you know, as it is now I pay about $800 a
month because I`ve had to COBRA my care.
In June 2018, I lose that COBRA protection and I had planned to go into the
Affordable Care Act to transition so that I could actually afford my
Look, this is my story. I only told it, frankly, Al, because I really
wanted to humanize for members of congress, for senators – many of these
senators who are on the fence know me, they`ve played softball with me and
football with me, we`ve done legislation together, we`ve sat on committees
together and I want them to understand that my voice represents the voice
of millions of people across this country who are so afraid of losing their
People who are in nursing homes, people who are on Medicaid and who work
every single day as well are not going to be able to afford health care
under the senate bill. It is just that simple.
And so this is not better care at all, and I think what Americans across
the country have to do in these next several days is burn up the phone
lines to your senators and tell them to stop this insanity.
SHARPTON: Well, we thank you for also putting a human face on it to our
viewers. A human face in your particular case that members of the senate
know personally. This two-tier plan that they are proposing is really
something that is devastating for a lot of people like Donna Edwards, one
of their former colleagues, is now facing if this bill passes.
Thank you very much former Congresswoman Donna Edwards.
EDWARDS: Thank you, Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: Up next, a congressman with a great idea on how to fund President
Trump`s beloved border wall. And, no, it`s not Mexico. That`s next, coming
SHARPTON: Now for this week`s gotcha. This one fit for a king.
On Tuesday, the house appropriations committee unveiled a bill to fund
President Trump`s beloved border wall to the tune of $1.6 billion.
Apparently spending nearly $2 billion on a dumb idea wasn`t enough for Iowa
republican Congressman Steve King who wants an additional $5 billion, and
he told CNN exactly where he`d get – I mean, take it from.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: I`d throw another $5 billion on the pile and I
would find a half of a billion dollars of that right out of Planned
Parenthood`s budget. And the rest could come out of food stamps and the
entitlements that are being spread out for people that haven`t worked in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Just in case you`re not evil and this sounds like unmitigated
racially tinged cruelty to you the congressman elaborated on why he`s for
this, along with job growth, it would save America`s waist lines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I wouldn`t impose anything more strict on anybody in America than
what Michelle Obama did with her school lunch program.
We built a program because to solve the problem of malnutrition in America
and now we have a problem of obesity. And when you match up the EBT card
with what the scales say on some of the folks, I think it`s worth looking
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Congressman, if I were a dog I`d be going crazy from all the
whistles, but I guess with Iowa having the 12th highest obesity rate in the
nation you have good reason to be concerned. You might want to pump your
brakes, though, because according to federal data, seven of the 10 states
most reliant on food assistance went for President Trump in 2016. And
nearly two third of individual recipients are children, the elderly, or
They can`t eat your precious wall. And as Planned Parenthood pointed out in
response, the organization is funded through Medicaid reimbursement.
Playing with that to fund your wall would literally endanger lives.
Oh, and while first lady Obama still cares about the health of our nation`s
youth, I think she`s too busy living her best life to worry about what
grown up children think.
So, Mr. King, why don`t you try putting this on the scale, the scale of
justice? Because I`m confident it`ll read I gotcha.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The Feds need to talk to ministers, grass root leaders and others
that will say there are two sides to this. One, we`ve got to deal with the
violence, but we must deal with how law enforcement deals with the violence
because there`s a law enforcement issue in the city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: On Thursday, I was in Chicago meeting with several faith leaders
to do two things, first, to announce their participation in the minister`s
march for justice next month in Washington, D.C., marking the 54th
anniversary of Dr. King`s “I Have a Dream” speech and taking the Trump
administration to task for endangering that dream.
But secondly to address the administration`s recent decision to send
federal agents into Chicago to address its epidemic of gun crime without
actually talking to the activists and community leaders that have been
fighting that fight in some cases all of their lives.
This in the face of a justice department report released earlier this year
that found Chicago police routinely violated the civil rights of minority
Chicago`s crime problem fits right into a conservative tactic that
undermines any focusing on policing by contending the sole threat to urban
black America is from within. A threat that somehow only conservatives are
doing anything about.
On behalf of the activist community, I have to ask, where were you at the
Joining me now is Reverend Ira Acree, pastor of Chicago`s Greatest St. John
Bible Church and Charlene Carruthers, the national director of Black Youth
Project 100. Thank you both for being with me this morning.
IRA ACREE, PASTOR, GREATEST ST. JOHN BIBLE CHURCH IN CHICAGO: Glad to be
CHARLENE CARRUTHERS, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, BLACK YOUTH PROJECT 100: Thank you
for having us.
SHARPTON: Charlene, let me go to you. I met with a lot of faith leaders and
those that we call legacy organizations like National Action Network, but
there are young activist groups like yours that are doing effective
concrete work dealing with violence, but also pressing on there must be
police accountability because they act like that is not going to continue
to exacerbate the problem.
How do you respond of this whole notion of sending in federal troops and
ignoring the findings of the DOJ around policing in Chicago?
CARRUTHERS: So I`m clear that Mr. Trump doesn`t know Chicago like I know
Chicago. I was born and raised on the south side. I attended Chicago public
schools my entire life.
And just from the work we`ve done in the past four years alone, we`ve
changed the conversation in Chicago. One that says, hey, look, we – our
communities need resources to actually invest in things that create real
safety like social services, mental health care and quality public schools
and not more resources that invest in things that perpetuate
criminalization, policing, or harassment and that`s what not only Mr. Trump
is advocating for, but also the people in city hall are advocating for.
And they show that to us every single day by investing nearly 40 percent of
our public service budget in the Chicago Police Department. That makes no
sense to me. Where we spend nearly $4 million a day on the police
department while families are struggling, while our unemployment rates are
high, and people frankly don`t have what they need. And that`s what we`ve
been calling for, divestments from policing and things that don`t create
real safety and real investments in our communities.
SHARPTON: Reverend Acree, in the meeting we had with clergymen we heard
some of these same concerns, as well as the concern of what the national
administration is doing, not only in Chicago but in cities around the
country, and clearly, which is why ministers – 1,000 ministers are
following this march we call on Dr. King`s “I Have a Dream Day.”
In fact, Congressman John Lewis, let me show you what he said about the
president, which he`s about a generation ahead of me and Charlene`s
probably a generation or more behind you and I, but it shows we`re all
saying the same thing.
Listen to John Lewis here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: We have come a distance. We made progress,
but there are forces in America trying to slow us down or take us back. I
think the person we have in Washington today is uncaring, know very, very
little about the struggle and the history of the civil rights movement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: When you hear John Lewis and earlier this week when I was in
Chicago we went and visited with Reverend Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young,
when you hear these people saying this about Donald Trump, then you and I,
then or Charlene, different generation and sometimes different approaches,
but everyone saying the same thing, doesn`t that heighten your concern that
he`s talking about bringing in the feds without talking to anyone and
dealing with the issues that Charlene has laid out here this morning?
ACREE: She has laid out the issues quite eloquently. It`s rather
insensitive and arrogant of the president to address the symptoms and not
address the cause.
Why not send resources here to open up some of those 50 schools that the
mayor of this city closed just a couple years ago? Why not send in
workforce development, opportunities and send some funds here to build the
economic infrastructure so people can have job opportunities?
Also, this current mayor right now is sitting on nearly a billion dollars
in federal money, in HUD money, for housing. People are homeless, people
have financial challenges. Why don`t we have the president preside and
lead, if he really wants to turn things around?
We`re tired of this let`s make America great again. The reality is we all
need to work together to make America greater than it is and for it to be
great for everyone.
SHARPTON: Charlene, you know, we often hear about the whole question of gun
control as part of this argument when we see the headlines, over 100 people
shot at last weekend fourth of July weekend in Chicago, 15 dead, but what
is strange to me is the same people that don`t want to see gun control,
they want all of the data, social security number, who you would vote for
and all in order for you to vote, but they don`t want background checks in
order for you to get a gun.
I mean, this kind of contradiction while you`re dealing with the
contradictions of closing schools and tearing down housing and the whole
question of gentrification, all of that feeds what you`re dealing with on
the street every day in Chicago.
CARRUTHERS: Absolutely. So between city hall and the White House, we see a
number of contradictions. What I`m clear about, though, is that there are
families on the south and west sides who are in pain and are hurt by the
things that happen in our community every single day.
And, you know, that was actually backed up by a study we just did with
center for popular democracy and law for black lives, it`s a 12-city and
county study and a lot of alarming things came out. It showed us time and
time again city across city and especially in Chicago that our local
elected officials are saying we`re going to prioritize things like building
sports stadiums like we`ve done here in Chicago over things like public
schools. We`re going to prioritize funding the Chicago Police Department
over mental health services.
And to me that`s not only alarming, it`s absurd. And so we can`t turn
around and wonder why when we put people in a situation where they have to
survive that they`re not thriving and the work that we do in BYP 100, Black
Lives Matter Chicago, organizations across the city, we`re saying, hey, we
are clear about the vision that we have for our city and we all want to
stop the pain and the suffering that`s happening in our communities, the
difference is the solutions that are coming out of city hall and the
solutions that are coming out of the White House are completely different
from what we believe in.
You know, we`re committed to doing that work and carrying on that legacy,
Reverend, that you`ve spoken about and continuing to innovate and push,
push, push in this moment because we know that not only can things be
better, but they have to get better for our people and for the sake of our
SHARPTON: Reverend Acree, this is the same spirit the ministers said in our
meeting at Reverend Hatcher`s this weekend, we saw in the convention. This
we have no choice but to move forward and to really challenge the
administration and city hall in Chicago and city halls around the country
about what needs to happen here.
ACREE: Reverend Sharpton, I just want to thank you for challenging the
ministers because it`s going to take every institution and it`s certainly
going to take the faith leaders to come outside of their churches. I`ve
been outside of my church and I need to get outside even more.
When we look back at the accomplishments of the civil rights movement in
the `60s, ministers played an integral and pivotal role. Martin Luther
King, Jr. was a minister, Andrew Young was a minister. Shuttlesworth was a
minister, Joe Lowery, James. These were ministers.
We must use the moral voice that we had to kind of duplicate what they did
back in the `60s. They pressured presidents to enforce equality and that`s
the only way we got things done when we pressured them.
So we will be meeting you in Washington and we`re excited that we are
bringing some moral voices back, putting them in the right place, because
restorative justice is putting the power back or restoring power back to
SHARPTON: I`m going to have to leave it there and, Charlene Carruthers is
not a minister, but she`s doing the Lord`s work. Thank you, Charlene.
ACREE: She`s doing great work.
SHARPTON: Thank you, Reverend Ira Acree.
Up next, changing how parole works in this country. What one state is doing
differently and is it making a difference? Don`t go anywhere. This is
“PoliticsNation” on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Released from prison.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom at last.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people think being on parole is you`re free.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m better off sometimes in jail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frontline examines how one state is trying to change the
way parole works.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The parole system needs to be completely reimagined.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And whether it`s making a difference.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sending them out and expecting them to be perfect to
abide by standards that don`t apply to the rest of us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My life is pretty much ruined for the next two or three
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The physical and psychological dangers of prison life have been
thoroughly illustrated by film and television. Perhaps less commonly
depicted are the dangers that parolees face when they return to civilian
Not least of which being the struggle to secure employment with a criminal
record, or finding treatment for a drug addiction nursed while
incarcerated. “Life on Parole” a new PBS documentary is a collaboration by
Frontline and “The New York Times” and it follows four recently released
Connecticut prisoners as they navigate their new lives on the outside.
Joining me now is the director of “Life on Parole,” Emmy Award winning
documentarian, Matt O`Neill. Thanks for being with us again, Matt.
MATT O`NEILL, FILMMAKER: Thanks for having me.
SHARPTON: Tell us about this documentary and why – and why you did it and
what you hope people will get from it.
O`NEILL: Well, we`ve had a lot of conversations and you talk on your show
all the time about the huge population that`s incarcerated in the United
States, almost two million people.
If you look at the number of people who are then supervised in the
community, it`s almost twice that, 4.5 million people are on probation or
It`s something that hasn`t been looked at before. We wanted to understand
what happens to people when they reenter society after a period of
incarceration, how this supervision helps them or hinders them, what the
obstacles are and what the opportunities are.
SHARPTON: And the obstacles are very formidable.
O`NEILL: There are so many different obstacles. When you`re on parole, your
parole officer and the parole board decide what stipulations that you might
have to obey.
You could have to check in with your parole officer weekly, monthly, every
three months, not drink alcohol, not have contact with the police officer.
It`s a very complicated process for people who are just getting out and
need a lot of structure and support.
SHARPTON: So people outside of the whole area of this or that on that term
is, have no idea you could be out but you`re not really out because you
have so many traps that you can have to deal with even outside of the
incarcerated space that life is nowhere near normal and as easily
productive as other citizens.
O`NEILL: Over and over you hear in this film about the parole officers and
the parolee say, free but not free, because that`s the reality on parole.
You may have freedom, but there are still be strict rules that you have to
live under. Some people call them trip wires because they`re so easy to set
off and then find yourself re-incarcerated.
What interesting in Connecticut is that they`re trying to change that
dynamic and give people more second chances and help them integrate.
SHARPTON: Well, I think that`s good, but Connecticut is different than many
parts of the country that those trip wires are very much alive and very
much returning people back to prison.
But, Matt, I`ve to go. Thank you for being with us.
You can watch “Life on Parole,” a documentary by Frontline and “The New
York Times” this coming Tuesday, July 18th, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
Up next for my final thoughts, what`s wrong with this picture? Stay with
SHARPTON: This picture that I showed was a photo taken last Monday of
evangelical ministers in the oval office laying hands and praying on
President Donald Trump.
Now let me be clear, I`ve been a menace to all of my life just about, and I
don`t find anything wrong or inappropriate about praying for the president
whoever that might be. And I think it`s appropriate they do that.
But what I also challenge ministers is who`s going to lay hands on those
that are losing their Medicaid? Who`s going to reach their hands out to
those that can`t get jobs, that are living in communities that are closing
schools? Don`t just lay hands on the mighty and the powerful. Lay hands on
those that need an uplifting.
This weekend is the 3rd year anniversary of the choking death by a New York
City policeman of Eric Gardner. Who`s going to lay hands on those that feel
that those that they entrusted to protect them harm them?
That`s why on the 54th anniversary of the march on Washington of `63 where
a menace, I think million, told the world about a dream he had, we call for
thousand ministers, whether you are Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, white or
black to join us in Washington so we could remind the world of that
menace`s call about a dream.
That dream is at stake now because when you talk about taking away
healthcare and voting rights, and police reform, all of which was in that
speech. When you`re talking about that, you become a dream buster and we`ve
got to lay hands on those that need that dream.
That does it for me. Thanks for watching, I`ll see you back here next
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST: Good morning, everyone, I`m Alex Witt here at MSNBC
headquarters in New York. It is 9:00 in the East, 6:00 our west.
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