Cory Booker on criminal justice reform. TRANSCRIPT: 2/12/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Cory Booker

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  And Jesse and his colleagues at “ProPublica” have

taken a deep look into how Republicans, conservatives, anti-tax activists

and Republicans in Congress have all undermined the ability for the IRS to

do the thing it actually has to do, which is to collect taxes for the

American people so as to fund the U.S. government. 


That`s all on the scandalous story.  Make sure you download it wherever you

get your podcast.  Do not forget to subscribe.


That is ALL IN for this evening. 


“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.  Good evening, Rachel.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thank you, my friend.


HAYES:  You bet.


MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 


By the rocket`s red glare.  Every year, Fourth of – for the Fourth of

July, communities large and small across the country, they set off

fireworks, of course, to celebrate the Fourth of July.  These are some of

the fireworks that were set off for the Fourth of July celebration in our

nation`s capital this past Fourth of July.  D.C. every year puts on a great

huge fireworks display. 


And, you know, it looks like nowhere else in the country.  There is the

Washington monument, right?  It`s on the national mall. 


As the nation`s capital, Fourth of July is kind of a meta holiday, right? 

It`s a bigger deal than it is everywhere else in the country, and it`s a

pretty big deal everywhere in the country but it`s the nation`s capital. 

Every Fourth of July, there is big fireworks thing in D.C.  There is a

parade through downtown with the, you know, bands and the Uncle Sam guy and

the pipe and drum and all the rest of it. 


Today, President Trump told reporters at the White House that he is

considering a new idea that has just occurred to him, a new idea for

America.  Which is that he is thinking over, he is considering that maybe

from here on out there should be a parade and fireworks in Washington, D.C.

every year on July 4th.  How about that? 


He mused about this idea to reporters today.  He said, quote, we`re

thinking about doing something that will perhaps become a tradition,

proposing fireworks for the Fourth of July.  Even in D.C., it`s a bold idea

from the president today.  Presumably this will be followed by an executive

order proclaiming that from here on out, we`re going to start a whole new

calendar year every year on the first day of January.  What? 


Also, he`s going to declare that we`re going to start a new American

pastime, a ball game where one person holds a stick and that person runs

around a series of bases to come home if the person with the stick hits the

ball well enough and hard enough, a lot of people try to catch it and

prevent the batter from rounding the bases and get home. 


The president will soon announce a name for that and announce that he has

invented this game.  Also, he`s invented rap music and the idea of taking a

vacation in the summer if you`re a school kid.  I mean, I kid you not, the

president proposed to reporters from the White House in all seriousness

from the White House that he`s thinking there should maybe be fireworks and

a parade on the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C.  It could catch on.  It

could become a tradition. 


I mean, the best news about this is that it`s not actually a terrible idea

to have a parade and fireworks in Washington, D.C. on the Fourth of July,

as evidenced by the fact that we do always do it every year and nobody

minds.  People sort of like it. 


But what`s going on in the head of the president of the United States that

he thinks this annual celebration should henceforth be attributed to him as

if he dreamed it up?  I mean, I try not to get caught up in this stuff and,

like, generally in stuff he says, but, like, the weird vagaries of this

presidency are honestly really weird.  I mean, one of the stories that we

are covering tonight, that we`ll have an update for you later on this hour,

is the question of whether or not we`re about to have another shutdown of

the federal government as of the end of the this week because of the

president`s demand that we should build a wall between U.S. and Mexico. 


In the lead to that shutdown deadline at the end of this week, the

president last night just started declaring overtly that he has, in fact,

built this wall between the United States and Mexico.  He has already built

it.  He`s just finishing it up now. 


See, he got what he wanted.  He won.  Eventually he will presumably just

give tours on the border showing reporters and maybe his supporters what

looks like a normal section of the border with no wall and he`ll insist

that actually it`s there because he built it, and the reason you think you

cannot see it, well, he meant that on purpose because he`s so good, he not

only built the wall, he built an invisible wall. 


Oh, and also, he said it was always going to be invisible.  Don`t you

remember?  You don`t remember that? 


I mean, it`s just – it is – it`s – it is easy enough, I do it most of

the time, to just ignore what he`s saying, particularly when it`s patently

not true, but it is just bewildering, right?  I mean, this isn`t a dumb

movie.  This isn`t, you know, an old TV show. 


This is actually our president now in our lifetimes.  This is actually our

government.  It`s our country.  And this stuff, it does put us in sort of a

weird position as citizens. 


Also for the president`s political competitors and his opponents, right? 

It puts them in an odd situation, too.  Just around this latest shutdown

threat, do you point out that he actually has not built any wall at all

since he has been president?  Do you let him claim that he has even though

he hasn`t? 


Because, I mean, maybe that is just easier.  Maybe if he says it enough,

that he has built a wall, maybe he`ll believe that he has built a wall or

at least he`ll believe it enough that that will become enough to stop the

next shutdown of the federal government, that that will allow the

government to stay open based on a weird hallucinogenic lie that we have

bothered not correcting because may be it`s easier.  I mean, if we – if we

choose to apply that strategy, even to him saying he`s already built the

wall this week, I mean, do we – do we apply that strategy to everything? 


Do we smile and nod and let him believe what he wants to believe and say

what he wants people to believe is true?  Yes, sir, you won the popular

vote, sir, by a record.  Your poll numbers are sky high and North Korea

gave up its nuclear weapons just like you said they would.  And campaign

finance felonies, those aren`t really crimes.  Michael Cohen probably

doesn`t know anything about what you did, nor does Paul Manafort, nor does

your accountant, Allen Weisselberg, nor does David Pecker, your friend at

the “National Enquirer.” 


Nor does anybody else who`s been granted immunity by federal prosecutors in

exchange for their testimony that definitely, probably has absolutely

nothing to do with you?  Everything is fine.  I mean, do you just say it? 


I mean, the president flatly proclaims alternate universe things all the

time.  Because of that, you have the option to ignore it, but that doesn`t

change the fact that he`s president.  When he says stuff that isn`t true

repeatedly and you have to reckon with that strategically as to whether or

not it should be corrected, it can be hard to get your bearings as to what

we must insist is true, right?  And what you might just let go because

everybody knows it`s fake but the president is saying it anyway and who is

going to stop him? 


I mean, here`s another one about the Trump inaugural committee.  As you

know, the Trump inaugural committee was subpoenaed last week.  Federal

prosecutors sent a subpoena seeking detailed records and information on

donations to the inaugural and spending on the inaugural and whether the

twains shall meet.  It has been this puzzling thing about the Trump

presidency from the very, very beginning. 


President Trump, of course, followed into office an immediately previous

president who had the largest swearing in festivities ever in U.S. history

by a mile.  President Obama brought an absolutely unprecedented sea of

people to the nation`s capital to see him sworn in.  It was literally the

largest assemblage of human beings in the history of the District of



And to handle those giant festivities, that giant inaugural event, the

Obama inaugural committee raised and spent a huge new record amount of

money, just over $50 million.  As inaugurations go, that was mammoth.  It

was absolutely unprecedented.  But you can see why they maybe need to raise

and spend that much money.  It was something like we`d never seen before. 


Then the next president was elected, our current president, and his

swearing in was smaller.  And it was small, actually not just compared with

his immediate predecessor.  Trump`s inauguration was small compared to most

other recent presidents` inaugurations as well.  I`m not saying that to be

mean.  I`m not saying it to be insulting.  I fully believe if I were sworn

into anything in any city in the country, less than half of my own family

would show up for the swearing in, let alone the parade. 


I mean, I don`t mean to say this says something bad about him as a

president or I guess a candidate soon to be president at that – president-

elect soon to be president at that point.  I don`t mean it in a mean way. 

What I mean is that mathematically there was something weird about the

Trump inauguration.  The numbers, whether or not you have feelings about

them, they just didn`t make sense. 


I mean, for the giant inauguration for Obama, the biggest ever, they raised

and spent, again, about $50 million.  For the comparatively tiny one that

happened after that, they spent twice that amount.  They spent more than

twice that amount.  I mean, given what actually happened at the Trump

inaugural, how on earth do they account for raising and spending over $100

million on this?  I mean, if you take President Obama out of it, because

that was such a historical anomaly. 


For comparison`s sake, you can also take the George W. Bush inaugurals. 

Those are sort of normal size.  Nothing all that unusual about them. 


But the person who ran George W. Bush`s second inaugural told “ProPublica”

about the Trump inauguration, quote: They had a third of the staff we did

and a quarter of the events we did and they spent at least twice as much as

we did?  So the question is, the obvious question is, where did it go? 


Obvious question.  Good question.  And now, the Trump inaugural committee

has been broadly subpoenaed by federal prosecutors who presumably will get

answers to those questions.  And if you regularly watch this show, you`ll

remember that we have reported on this Trump inaugural story for a long

while.  Just because from the very beginning, it seemed like something was

mathematically wrong, something was fishy with the Trump inauguration, and

the numbers that we could observe around it. 


One of the things we noticed in our own early reporting on the Trump

inaugural is that some of the inexplicable and ultimately unaccounted for

money that flowed into the Trump inauguration came in late, came in after

the fact, and that`s not necessarily a sin, let alone a crime, but it is a

little funny because by the time the Trump inauguration was, you know, an

hour into it, let alone over, anybody who donated money to that thing

clearly would have realized they just paid 50 bucks for a $2 jaw breaker. 


I mean, it was clear as soon as the tractors rolled down the parade route

and deejay Ravi Drums kicked off the concert of Random Buskers who they

brought to the national mall.  It was clear that they had over-raised,

right?  They had raised way, way, way more money than this thing could have

conceivably cost to put on. 


I mean, by that point, even the Trump inaugural was promising they would

give some of the leftover money to charity because it was so obvious there

should be tons of leftover money. 

Still though, even despite that, some really big fat donations to the Trump

inaugural came in way after the inaugural was over, weeks and months later. 

Like, for example, this donation of hundreds of thousands of dollars from

the CEO of the largest coal company in America, Robert Murray, who runs

Murray Energy, directed this donation in mid-March after the inaugural had

happened in January.  Same guy later also gave $1 million to a super PAC

supporting Trump. 


There`s been so scandal, some public scandal associated with Mr. Murray and

his company and what he has received from the Trump administration since

making those big donations.  “The Washington Post” was first to report that

within weeks of the inauguration, but interestingly even before he cut that

$300,000 check to the inauguration, Bob Murray had drawn up a detailed

action plan for what he wanted the Trump administration to do.  Everything

from slashing the number of people who work at the EPA to scrapping anti-

pollution rules. 


By the anniversary of Trump`s inauguration, the one-year anniversary, “The

New York times” was reporting that, quote, the White House and federal

agencies have completed or are on track to fulfill most of the detailed

requests in Mr. Murray`s action plan, this coal baron`s wish list of like

14 or 16 different detailed requests that he was demanding the Trump

administration perform.  They just did them all. 


And if that story, that little scandal about Murray rings a bell or at

least doesn`t come as a surprise, it`s because we expect that to be the way

of the world a little bit.  We certainly expect that to be the way of this

presidency.  But in a democracy, in a republic where our elected leaders

are accountable to the people who give them their jobs, namely the

citizens, we the voters, in a real functioning democracy, of course,

investigative reporting is a sacrament. 


Constitutionally enshrined concept of a free press doesn`t just mean you`re

free for say what`s on your mind, it also protects the freedom of us and

our fellow citizens to figure things out, to dig stuff up, even when what

you dig up is unflattering or scandalous material about the people in

charge.  Especially if that is what you dig up.  So credit to where credit

is due to the enterprising reporters who have just dug up this new jaw-

dropping scandal about this White House and the government being put up for



This is the Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA, dates to the 1930s.  It`s a

federal agency that operates as essentially a gigantic mega utility in

Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, North

Carolina, Virginia.  Well, now enterprising reporting has turned up the

fact that the president personally has secretly weighed in with that

agency, with the Tennessee Valley Authority, that federal agency, to tell

them that despite the agency`s existing plans, despite that agency`s own

internal assessment of what`s right for that agency, what`s right for the

states that agency serves, despite all that, the president has told them to

not do what they otherwise intended to do, and instead he has intervened

personally and directed them, told that agency that they got to use a coal

plant, a coal-fired power plant that they were otherwise going to phase



But he`s telling them to keep that coal-fired power plant online.  Keep

using it despite what`s happened at your agency that made you decide to

stop using it.  Keep using it now because that`s plant buys its coal from

Bob Murray, from Murray Energy, from the president`s gigantic donor, both

to his super PAC and the mysterious late donation to the inaugural. 


This is like the platonic ideal of simple corruption, right?  Murray pays

Trump, including after the fact those slush fundy shenanigans were at the

inaugural, now under scrutiny by federal prosecutors, Murray pays Trump,

then Trump uses the presidency to direct a public agency to pay Murray, to

prop up Murray`s business.  Use federal resources.  Use the taxpayers`

resources.  Use the country`s assets to reward the guy who gave him money. 


And if what I just described is the way that we had learned about that

scandal, if it in fact had been some enterprising digging investigative

reporter who had turned that up as a secret deal, that would be a Pulitzer

Prize winning scoop for that investigative reporter who uncovered that

scandal.  But in our morally bewildering current environment, in fact, the

way we learned about that scandal is just from the president`s public

statements on Twitter.  It was the president himself who just broke the

news of this scandal, because he`s just doing it all out loud on his

Twitter feed. 


This is his tweet last night directing the TVA to use this one particular

power plant, Paradise #3, that gets its coal from his campaign donor. 

There`s the tweet from last night.  There`s the headline response, agog

that this is happening in the open. 


And, yes, this is the story of another destructive tributary of

presidential corruption that is flowing through U.S. government policy out

of this White House.  But it is also another element in this age of sort of

moral bewilderment we are now in as citizens, right?  Because you can`t run

that story about what Trump just did with the TVA and his donor and

demanding that they use this donor`s coal plant, you can`t run that story

as an expose of the president`s shocking behavior if the president is happy

to commit things like this in public.  I mean, there is no way to embarrass

somebody for doing something like this if they`re happy to be seen selling

the government in exchange for cash. 


If you can`t embarrass or shame anybody about it and you increasingly can`t

shock anybody about it, then what do you do with it?  I mean, how do you

stop specific government actions like this, if there is no shame from

public officials who are doing it?  But also, how do we become the kind of

country where that kind of thing would at least be a scandal?  If this

doesn`t get fixed, by the next Trump inaugural, presumably they`ll

distribute a menu. 


They`ll have a U.S. taxpayer funded calligrapher draw up a pretty menu

where they`ll just offer you, you know, what you need to pay for what type

of presidential tweet or proclamation or policy you expect in return.  Then

they send somebody out like with the beer tray from the ballpark to go

collect your funds.  I mean, if it doesn`t matter anymore, if we`re not

surprised and nobody`s embarrassed, how do we not just become that? 


And this is a day in the life of what`s going on in this presidency, right? 

This is a day in the life of this country in which we are citizens.  At a

time when a bunch of new leaders are competing to become the Democratic

Party`s nominee to run against this president, to try to make him a one-

term president and replace him in the White House.  And none of the

candidates who are declared thus far are exactly alike. 


If you want my take on it, I think they all have a lot to offer.  I think

broadly speaking Democrats have to be pleased with the depth and the

capability and the charisma and the ideas of the various contenders in this

field that is starting to take shape, even if the sheer number of them is

starting already to get a little bit daunting.  But out of everybody who

has said formally that they are running, in this age of bewilderment and

moral despair, I think it is fair to point out that none of these able

contenders approach politics and the issue of morality and despair in

politics quite like and quite as directly as the presidential contender who

is going to be our guest tonight, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. 


Senator Booker started life – started off life in public as a contender to

become Mayor Booker of the great city of Newark. 





campaigning, which is I walk every street that I want to represent.  All

I`ve been doing is in the evenings is walking the streets and talking to

people like you. 


I can`t even see you.  I`m talking to a screen, but I`ll just let you know,

I`m running for mayor, and the reason why I`m running.  Three reasons real

quick, okay? 


Newark faces real challenges.  We have a murder rate that is twice the

Bronx.  We have almost 1/3 of our people living below the poverty line and

we graduate only about 40 percent of our kids from high school. 


There`s no excuse for this.  This city can be doing so much better for the

people that live here. 


UNIDENTIFIED KID:  What are you doing? 


BOOKER:  I`m trying to get people to vote for me.  Are you going to vote

for me? 


UNIDENTIFIED KID:  Yes, I`m going to vote for you. 


BOOKER:  Are you going to vote for me? 


UNIDENTIFIED KID:  What does vote mean? 


BOOKER:  What does vote mean – it means participating in democracy, trying

to make your community better. 




MADDOW:  That`s a clip from a documentary called “Street Fight”.  Really

good documentary made about Cory Booker`s run to become mayor of Newark,

New Jersey, to try to oust a corrupt, entrenched, shameless forever mayor

of that city, someone who really felt like he was going to be there until

he was dead.  A mayor named Sharp James. 


And Booker initially lost to James and the James machine in Newark, but he

came back and he won.  And he became mayor and Sharp James ended up serving

a long term in federal prison. 


In Newark, Cory Booker as mayor, he faced all of the challenges of a big

city mayor in a working class city and then some.  But in a way you had

never really seen before from any mayor of any city of any size, Mayor Cory

booker also ended up making national news over and over again, not

necessarily for the stuff that he was like, announcing that he was doing

for mayor, the things that he was trying to shape his candidacy around, but

literally for being a guy who seemed committed to just personally fixing

stuff on a day to day basis, especially when there was like, a snowstorm or

something else that puts citizens out in a way that they weren`t

necessarily used to. 


For example, the case of the shivering dog.  Dog left outside in Newark at

night in cold weather.  Don`t just tweet about how sad it makes you to see

that.  If you really did see that, give up the address because the mayor

will go get that dog personally and he did. 


You complaining online about how much snow got dumped by the storm at your

family`s house and your family can`t dig out.  It`s too much to deal with. 

Here comes the mayor personally.  He will help you. 


You better not be complaining about something you yourself will not do. 

This is from the “New York Daily News” coverage of that incident.  Quote,

Booker also responded to a call from assistance from Newark resident TaJuan

Bonds.  Bonds tweeted an expletive-laced post about the amount of snow he

needed to shovel.  The agitated citizen tweeted skepticism that Mayor

Booker would show up like he said he would. 


Booker not only showed up to help the snowed-in family to shovel out

personally, he responded online to the guy who had been complaining and

swearing at him about the snow. 


Quote: Wow, the mayor said.  Wow, you should be ashamed of yourself.  You

tweet vulgarities and I come out to help and it`s your mom and sister

digging?  Where are you? 


Then he responded, word, he`s really here #can`t front.


Then they apparently met because the mayor tweeted next, quote, thank you

for coming to talk to me face-to-face.  You`re a good brother.  We need to

be positive in the face of outrageous negativity. 


The man responded online, you`re correct.  I got to channel my emotions. 


That happened as Newark was dealing with snow and ice.  I think along the

same lines, when it comes to a burning building.  This was Mayor Cory

Booker in April of 2012. 




REPORTER: Mayor Cory Booker rushed to rescue a next door neighbor on

Hawthorne Avenue whose apartment building was on fire.  Three residents

made it out of this building but flames and smoke trapped one woman on the

second floor. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Two detectives went with the mayor trying to slow him

down a little bit and they went through a kitchen fire.  The kitchen was

fully involved and the fire was spreading with a lot of smoke.  The mayor

then started calling out for the individual. 


BOOKER:  Mayor Booker and the detectives who are part of a security detail

heard a woman screaming for help in a back bedroom. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The mayor immediately, initially being held back by

detectives responded, look, we got to save her.  She may die.  She may die. 

Went in, grabbed the woman out of the bed and carried her through the –

through the fire with the assistance of his detectives down stairs. 


REPORTER:  Mayor Booker suffered smoke inhalation and second-degree burns

to his right hand.  The woman he rescued had burns on her back and smoke

inhalation as well.  Both went to the hospital. 




MADDOW:  This sort of thing happened often enough when Cory Booker was

mayor of Newark, New Jersey, that it eventually became something he almost

had to live down.  Unless you can actually fly, in terms of people`s

expectations for you, it is not necessarily a good thing in politics when

people start calling you Superman. 


Cory Booker was ultimately elected to the United States Senate from New

Jersey in a special election held after the death of incumbent Senator

Frank Lautenberg.  He was elected to a full term in 2014, which means he is

coming to the end of his first full term as a U.S. senator.  He has a

national profile.  He is a progressive senator by any measure. 


He also has a notable record of across the aisle friendships and

legislative collaborations, which is why we have rare pictorial evidence of

Charles Grassley being hugged by another adult human.  Of course that

colleague is Cory Booker.  Of course it is. 


Senator Booker was a driving force behind the major criminal justice reform

legislation that was brought forth by both Democratic and Republican

senators and signed into law by President Trump in December.  Senator

Booker has now announced his run for the U.S. presidency. 


In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I have known him

personally since he had hair.  I knew Senator Booker when we were in

college.  We overlapped both in college and in grad school.  We knew each

other in school and we were friends at that time. 


And, you know, you never expect somebody you know to run for president. 

Like, that`s just, I mean, maybe if you`re like born a Kennedy or

something, you expect that, but, like, for normal people, it`s such a weird

thing to think that somebody you know might end up being president or

running for president as a serious candidate. 


And that`s true in general, but I will tell you, from my personal

experience in life, honestly, now Senator Cory Booker is so different than

anybody I have ever known on earth.  He is such an absolutely unique

embodiment of moral energy and moral earnestness that he might be the only

person I have ever met and known in a personal context over the course of

my 45 years on earth for whom it might actually make sense that he`s

running for president.  It`s definitely not true for anybody else I ever

grew up with or knew in any other context, but for him, he might be the one

for whom it makes sense. 


Since he announced he`s running, I have not yet had a chance to talk to

him.  This is about to be his first cable interview since he`s declared his

candidacy to become the next president of the United States.  Senator Cory

Booker joins us next. 







a nation of love, not a nation of hate.  We are a nation of decency and

kindness.  We`re a nation of civic grace.  We`re a nation that sees each

other and loves each other and works together. 




And so, I want to win the next election and I believe we will.  I want to

bring the best policy ideas, I believe our party will, but I want to heal

this nation with you.  I want to bring folk back together with you. 


I want to call to the common decency of a nation and have us stand and work

and fight together because this nation not – is not yet a place with

liberty and justice for all, and every generation has an obligation to

honor their ancestors and join the fight to make this nation more fair and

more just, to make this nation a more perfect union. 


Thank you, everybody. 






MADDOW:  Joining us now for “The Interview” is Democratic Senator Cory

Booker from the great state of New Jersey.  Senator Booker has been a

member of the U.S. Senate since 2013.  B Before that, he was the mayor of

the great city of Newark, and before that, a member of the Newark Municipal

Council.  As of right now, he is running to be the Democratic nominee for

president of the United States.


Senator, it`s nice to see you. 


BOOKER:  It`s good to see you. 


MADDOW:  I was talking to my friend Chris Hayes today about our shows.  We

met literally at the water cooler.




MADDOW:  And he was like, I think you need to break the fourth wall and

talk about the fact that you know Cory Booker as a person.  I was like, I

talked about that before, but I don`t know that anybody believes me.


BOOKER:  You talked about one of the most embarrassing moments of my radio

interviews, about – we have a long friendship.  And I still remember

hoping those clips from radio interviews will never be found because

there`s a lot of personal stuff you talked about overlapping (ph).  So

let`s avoid that right now. 


MADDOW:  You realize you just directed every oppo research in country to go

find that stuff. 




MADDOW:  Listen, I never said anything bad about you because I`ve never

known anything bad about you. 


But let me – let me ask you, coming from that place. 


BOOKER:  Yes. 


MADDOW:  When you were mayor and the possibility aroused of you running for

the Senate, I remember having a conversation with you just as people who

knew each other, just as friends, where we were talking about whether that

would be a good job, not about whether or not you could win, not about what

it meant in party politics, but maybe you wanted to be a U.S. senator. 

Having gone from – and I had two different components: number one, it

meant you would be going from being the guy in charge, number one person in

charge of city government, to being 100 out of 100 in terms of seniority in

the U.S.


BOOKER:  Right.


MADDOW:  And number two, it meant going to Washington.  And I remember

talking to you about whether or not there was anything worth doing as a

human being in Washington, and you didn`t know the answer to either of

those but you did decide to run. 


BOOKER:  Yes, I had a lot of doubts about being a United States senator and

you were actually really good because you directed me to people that you

really liked.  One of them is a guy I have a lot of respect for, another

potential presidential candidate Sherrod Brown gave me his phone number,

and I went down there with some skepticism because so much cynicism is

surrounding Washington. 


And I – the woman in the projects who – I live in her building for about

a decade who first elected me, the reason the map of the central wards

behind me said, don`t forget where you came from where the people got you

in office.  And so, I remained in that neighborhood, but more importantly,

I went to work on the tougher problems that affect people in the

communities like the one I live in, inner city, low income communities.


And I`ll tell you, it`s been one of the most rewarding jobs I`ve had

because I`ve been able to get a lot of good things done in the last

Congress, couple very big things done.  One is criminal justice reform,

which literally is going to liberate thousands of people – just the crack

cocaine, powder cocaine disparities, making it retroactive will release

thousands of people.  Ninety percent of them black.


If you look at the Tim Scott, who is a Republican from South Carolina, he

and I sat and talked about poverty and why is it that the lowest income

areas in America, rural areas or even inner cities, don`t get investment? 

So, we wrote a bill that got very little attention to create incentives to

invest in low income areas.  It`s historically probably going to be the

largest economic development bill for low income part of our country, that

will put hundreds of billions, if not tens of billions of dollars into

rural areas, in places like Camden and Newark. 


So, I found a way of just buckling down, getting to work with people across

the aisle, and know them and go to bible study with them and go to the gym,

doing anything I could to build those relationships to get things done in

an atmosphere of cynicism, where you think big things can`t be done, which

is actually very similar to what I did in Newark, New Jersey. 


MADDOW:  That answers sort of both parts of that.  One, is there stuff

worth doing in Washington?  You`re saying, you have found a path as a

senator to do stuff that is worthwhile, that has a big impact. 


BOOKER:  Yes, and it doesn`t get the attention because people like the

brawls and the fights and the like.  But very quietly, if you put your head

down, you can get things done on everything from human rights issues.  I

got – I got a child, juvenile solitary confinement banned, effectively

banned on the federal level by just fighting for the human rights of our

children, all the way to animal issues.  I`m a big animal lover – to

massively end or and limit chemical testing on animals. 


Just very quietly, without fanfare, go to work every day, look for openings

and look for ways to bring people together to fix stuff.  


MADDOW:  And bringing people together literally with your Senate

colleagues.  I mean, you have been able to – this is one of the things

you`ve always done at least of course throughout the portion of your life

where I`ve known you is you`ve been able to make unlikely friends and

you`ve been able to start conversations with the people that might not

necessarily be disposed to like you when they first met you.  You have been

able to be constructive in terms of putting together legislation.


And yet, that would signal to me – if I was reading a book about this –

that maybe you want to stay in the Senate forever and maybe you want New

Jersey to keep sending you back, and maybe you want to end up being Senate

majority leader.  You don`t – you don`t have any cynicism anymore about

what it means to be one of the 100 people trying to work together.


At the end of your first term, you have signaled that you`re done with the

Senate and you want to be president instead.  Why that change? 


BOOKER:  Well, as a guy that led a city through crisis, we are a nation in

crisis.  We have people who are losing faith in our ability to solve our

problems, and more and more people in America just feel left out, left

behind or that this democracy is not working for them.  And even worse than

that, what speaks to my sort of sense of real crisis is that people believe

the forces tearing us apart as a country are stronger than those that tie

us together.  Well, I reject that.  And I know –


MADDOW:  Be specific about that, though, because that sounds – that sounds

like short rhetoric.  I mean, the – what do people believe that is tearing

us apart that`s winning? 


BOOKER:  So, look, you have a person heckling the president of the United

States.  President Obama giving a – giving a – his State of the Union

speech and you had a guy heckled him, goes out the next month, or next

quarter, has one of his best fundraising quarters ever. 




BOOKER:  You have major networks who get a lot of money often by telling us

to hate each other.  You have hate being spewed from the highest office in

the land.  You have people in my community who just think we have a

criminal justice system that treats you better if you`re rich and guilty

than poor and innocent. 


You have kids in my neighborhood who say, hey, I`m – you see people being

arrested in my town for doing things that two of the last three presidents

did.  You have entire families who raised their kids to do everything right

and then they find out their kids have lead poisoning. 


And we have more jurisdictions, thousands of places in this country where

it`s easier to find unleaded gasoline than unleaded water, and nobody seems

to care about it. 


And so, when I go around, I still remember campaigning for Secretary

Clinton and going to communities and often African-American communities,

and folks pulled me aside and said why?  They just lost their faith that

this system could work –


MADDOW:  In despair. 


BOOKER:  In despair. 


MADDOW:  And what I learned from – what I learned from that same woman I

mentioned before, my tenant president, I was taking my B.A. with you from

Stanford and my PhD on the streets of Newark, is that her – she taught me

that hope is the active conviction that despair will never have the last



And so, in the face of most despairing moments as my evolution into

adulthood where more and more people are rightfully, understandably

despairing about a country that what could do the kinds of things we do to

our people – people who are senior citizens work their lives and literally

are living below poverty line, the Social Security checks are too meager,

or people who have fear, shackled to fear because they worry if they get

sick, they won`t be able to afford it, or if their child gets sick, they

have to lose their job to be there for their kid because they are one of

the only industrialized nations that doesn`t have paid family leave. 


There are people who are frustrated, and when they look towards politics,

it`s the politics of tear down and take down or pitting people as opposed

to calling us to finish the unfinished business to this country.  Where is

the chorus of not just outrage which we need to have.  We`re so focused on



Most of the things I mentioned were going on before Donald Trump was

elected.  Massive environmental injustice.  Massive economic injustice. 

Massive race and racism embedded in our systems going on before Donald

Trump.  Obviously, he`s made it worse.  He`s a crisis.


But there is a worry and fear that we`re not motivated anymore,

collectively, in the way that we were to meet other morally unjust things,

whether it`s Jim Crow, whether it`s child labor that got so many Americans

to come together to solve them. 


So, I want to be the president that helps us again understand that across

this country, there is common pain.  This opioid addiction in the inner

city and in rural areas, there`s people working full-time jobs and still

living below the poverty line in suburban areas and factory towns.  To let

people understand again that we have a common pain but we`ve lost that

sense of common purpose in this country. 


MADDOW:  Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey is our guest.  We`ll be right

back with Senator Booker right after this.  Stay with us.




MADDOW:  Back with us live in studio is Senator Cory Booker who is running

to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States. 


Senator, thank you again for being here. 


BOOKER:  Thank you.  It`s good to be here. 


MADDOW:  Couple years ago you became the first senator to officially sit

down at the witness stand and testify against one of your colleagues at his

confirmation hearing when you testified against Senator Jeff Sessions and

his confirmation to be attorney general.  Are you still glad you did that? 


BOOKER:  It`s one of my prouder moments.  I sat next to Cedric Richmond, a

young up and coming leader in the Congress, and John Lewis and felt this

conviction because I don`t think Americans understand how race, especially

race within the criminal justice system still punishes entire communities

and Jeff Sessions is a guy that stood against constructive reforms.  It

would have made a difference, not only that but against voting rights and

against protecting LGBTQ kids. 


We knew and I`ve now seen it happen where the Justice Department would pull

back from defending voting rights, defending civil rights, fighting against

a criminal justice and broken and even just police accountability measures. 

Things that are happening all around our country, holding police

accountable and making sure we have a police department especially when

police -involved violence that are doing –


MADDOW:  Dropping those consent decrees.  Dropping those – 






MADDOW:  – in the city.


Let me ask you about who is the man who is likely to be Jeff Sessions`

replacement.  Am I right you voted against William Barr in committee in

terms of him being confirmed as the next A.G.? 


BOOKER:  Yes, that wasn`t hard to do when he literally wrote the book.  I

mean, he wrote a book called “The Case for Mass Incarceration” or something

to that extent. 




BOOKER:  So, he`s originally one of the architects of that tough on crime

movement that has devastated communities.  And when you say devastated

communities, let`s just be clear, already, Villanova says we have 20

percent less poverty in America if we have incarceration rates the same as

our industrial peers.  This nation, the land of the free, that incarcerates

one out of every three incarcerated women on planet earth in America. 


What does that do when you have a non-violent drug crime for doing things

that two of the last three presidents did?  Well, you can`t get a job.  You

can`t get businesses licenses.  It economically devastates you as well. 


So, we have economic devastation.  Voting rights in many states taken away

from people, disproportionately African-Americans because remember, the

same, there is no difference between blacks or whites for using drugs or

dealing drugs, but blacks are four times more likely, almost four times

more likely to be incarcerated for it. 


So, you have a system of mass incarceration that feeds upon the poor, upon

the mentally ill, upon the addicted, and among – on communities of color. 

And for me, someone who is not calling out that system that`s so broken,

that wouldn`t even – when I asked a question about implicit racial bias

and policing, something that former FBI directors, big city chiefs talked

about, hey, we need to do something about implicit racial bias.  He didn`t

know enough about it to say it even exists. 


So for these reasons and more, I can`t support him but he did come to me. 

I said to him after the hearings, would you come meet with me?  He came

with others and usually its staff meet all around.  I said, can I just meet

with you one on one in my office? 


MADDOW:  Uh-hmm.


BOOKER:  And I just wanted to make a heartfelt appeal to him from my own

experience as a young black man growing up, my run-ins with police, on how

we have this justice system that still needs people. 


MADDOW:  How did he react? 


BOOKER:  You know, he didn`t say what I wanted him to say and I felt at

times I wasn`t getting through.  I gave him a book, which Michelle

Alexander`s –


MADDOW:  New Jim Crow. 


BOOKER:  “New Jim Crow”, and asked him to please at least read it.  It`s

one of the most fact-based books, objective evidence about our bias



So, I felt it was honorable that he would come and sit with me and listen

with me one on one on the issues. 


So, I`m a prisoner of hope always, but I`m ready and poised to keep

fighting the Trump Justice Department as they continue to do attacks on

voting rights, attacks – or failure to defend voting rights, civil rights,

and you name it. 


MADDOW:  I have something else I want to ask you about which I never heard

you talk about and I have no idea what you think about it.  Will you stay

for one more segment? 


BOOKER:  Yes, absolutely. 


MADDOW:  Senator Cory Booker will be back with us tonight.  Stay with us. 




MADDOW:  Back with us is Democratic senator and presidential candidate Cory



Senator, thank you again for doing this. 


BOOKER:  It`s really great to be here, thank you.  This is a tremendous

presidential platform to come to.  So, it`s good to be here.


MADDOW:  Yes, I didn`t ever mean for that to be – 


BOOKER:  Yes, all of us.


MADDOW:  I have to not think about that or I can`t come to work in the day. 

I can`t put it together. 


Let me ask you about the big field that you are joining.  A lot of women,

and especially a lot of your women Senate colleagues –


BOOKER:  Yes. 


MADDOW:  – are already running.  You are blessed among women – 




MADDOW:  – in the field right now. 


If you got the nomination, would you commit to choosing a woman as your

vice presidential running mate? 


BOOKER:  I think it would be malpractice.  I`m not going to make any

specific commitments, but we clearly should have – I believe there should

be a woman right now and works very hard to get one.  But we have such a

great field of leaders, I think you will rarely see a Democratic ticket

anymore without gender diversity, race diversity.  I think it`s something

that we should have. 


So, I`m not going to box myself in, but should I come to it, you know I`ll

be looking to women first. 


MADDOW:  I know that you have positive relationships with some if not all

of the other people who are running on the Democratic side.  Certainly,

I`ve heard that from everybody else about you and about each other. 


What do you expect the primary is going to be like?  What are you hoping

for?  Can it be competitive and tough and trying while still being what you

want from public life? 


BOOK:  Look, we have great people running.  This is actually an abundance

of riches for the Democratic Party.  I hope that whoever wins, we all

support.  It`s really important to me that we have full support of whoever

that nominee is. 


But I`m just confident to tell my story, let people know I have a unique

pathway to running for president, coming from an inner city, managing it

during – through crisis with great results.  So, I`m hoping that people

will support me for who I am, in the spirit of – look, it`s not just about

beating Trump, it`s not just about what we`re against.  It`s got to also be

about what we`re for, bringing this country together to solve seriously



And if people want to support me, here`s my plug, go to, and

join the effort, join the fight. 


MADDOW:  Cory Booker, senator from New Jersey, my friend, thank you.


BOOKER:  Thank you.


MADDOW:  Congratulations on taking this stuff thus far.  I can`t wait to

see how this works.


BOOKER:  I`m grateful.  Thank you so much.  Thank you.


MADDOW:  Thanks.


All right.  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us.




MADDOW:  That pretty much does it for us tonight. 


There is a lot to stay in for tonight, though, here on MSNBC as we are

continuing to follow these reports that members of Congress have reached

some sort of tentative deal to avert yet another government shutdown at the

end of the week.  We still don`t know the exact terms of the deal.  It

reportedly does not include funding for the president`s wall.  It does

include funding for 50-plus miles of new fencing. 


But the president today says that he is unhappy with the deal.  He also

says that he is going to use other methods and other money because he`s

going to finish the wall, which he insists he has already been building,

even though he hasn`t.  There are some reports tonight that the House could

be voting on this tentative deal as early as tomorrow. 


Senator Mitch McConnell is saying today that he hopes the president does

sign the deal, which implies the Senate`s going to pass something, too.  At

this point, it is unclear how fast we are going to proceed to the next



But watch this space, by which I mean – now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD



Good evening, Lawrence.







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