Town Hall with Kamala Harris.TRANSCRIPT: 5/28/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
NARRATOR: She`s the daughter of immigrants raised in Oakland, California.
She started her career as a prosecutor, was elected district attorney of
San Francisco , then won her race for California attorney general.
Now as the state`s junior senator, she`s taken her prosecutorial skills to
the national stage.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Has the president or
anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an
investigation of anyone?
NARRATOR: Senator Kamala Harris has defined who she`s for.
HARRIS: My whole life, I`ve only had one client, the people.
NARRATOR: But how will she go up against the president?
HARRIS: I disagree with almost every policy perspective he has offered.
NARRATOR: And why does she think she`s the one to take him on?
HARRIS: We know the power of the people and we know we are all in this
NARRATOR: Tonight, just one month away from the first Democratic debate,
Kamala Harris prosecutes her political case against Donald Trump. Live
from Spartanburg, South Carolina, it`s a LAST WORD 2020 special, “The
Kamala Harris Town Hall.”
Here now is Lawrence O`Donnell.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC MODERATOR: Thank you. Thank you for coming.
Welcome to the Richardson Center for the Arts on the campus of Wofford
College right here in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
This is a crucial state on the way to winning the Democratic nomination for
president. South Carolina will be the fourth state that votes in the
Democratic primaries and the first Southern state that votes in the
And as everyone in this room knows, South Carolina has picked six of the
Democratic presidential nominees in the last seven elections. Tonight,
South Carolina voters will have the chance to let presidential candidate
Kamala Harris hear what`s on their minds and listen to her make the case
that she is the Democrat who can make Donald Trump a one-term president.
From her first campaign running for district attorney of San Francisco, to
her most recent campaign running for the United States Senate, Kamala
Harris has never lost an election.
Please give a South Carolina welcome to presidential candidate, Senator
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
HARRIS: Hi. Thank you. Thank you. Hi. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for doing this.
HARRIS: Thank you. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: OK. For the television audience who could not see the balcony,
that was about an 85 percent standing ovation. There were some people in
the balcony who I guess haven`t made up their minds yet.
I want to go – I want to go straight –
HARRIS: It`s early.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it is. Let`s go straight to the breaking news of the day.
O`DONNELL: The United States Supreme Court issues a new decision on
abortion. It`s a confusing decision for a lot of people.
O`DONNELL: They ignored part of an Indiana law, left it for a later
decision, upheld part of an Indiana law.
O`DONNELL: More restriction on abortion. Let`s get your reaction to that.
HARRIS: Lawrence, look, I think it`s very clear that – and it has not
changed that women`s ability to have access to reproductive health is under
attack in America. It`s under attack. And what we have seen from Alabama
to Georgia, you can go just a variety of states, legislatures, state
legislatures are fundamentally attacking a woman`s right to make decisions
about her own body.
And let`s understand what this means. Are we going to go back to the days
of back alley abortions? Women died before we had Roe v. Wade in place.
And so, I`m going to tell you, on this issue, I`m kind of done because
here`s how I feel about it, guys –
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
HARRIS: Let me tell you. Here`s the thing: There are states that keep
passing these laws. So when elected, I`m going to put in place and require
that states that have a history of passing legislation that is designed to
prevent or limit a woman`s access to reproductive health care, that those
laws have to come before my Department of Justice for a review and approval
and until we determine that they are constitutional, they will not take
O`DONNELL: How – that sounds like it needs 60 votes in the United States
HARRIS: You know what? Everything that we need to do is going to require
60 votes in the United States Senate, which is why I would say to
everybody, 2020 is about the White House, it`s also about the United States
O`DONNELL: The other – this is modeled on the components of the Voting
Rights Act that left tests in place for certain states when they wanted to
O`DONNELL: You`re using that model. That model has been challenged by
this Supreme Court. So that is a more – that is an already challenged
HARRIS: But the basis of the challenge was to say don`t – don`t base your
evaluation of the state`s history based on what happened 50 years ago. It
needs to be more current.
What I am putting in place and will put in place is it will be based on
that state`s history over the last 25 years. And in that regard, then, we
will review those through the United States Department of Justice and make
a decision, are they conforming with the Constitution of the United States
as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court or not?
And if they are not, then that law will be invalidated and it will not be
able to be applied to the women of that state.
O`DONNELL: The Supreme Court that decided this case –
HARRIS: Yes –
O`DONNELL: – includes Neil Gorsuch, who has that seat because Mitch
McConnell held it open, refused to even allow confirmation hearings for
O`DONNELL: President Obama`s last choice.
HARRIS: Right. For nine months.
O`DONNELL: And Mitch McConnell at the time said of course you don`t
confirm Supreme Court justices in the last year of a presidential term.
Let`s listen to what Mitch McConnell said today about that question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: If a Supreme Court was open before next year, what would you do?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We`ll fill it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: He`d do what?
O`DONNELL: He said, I will be filling – he`d be filling the seat, if a
Supreme Court justice were to die in the last year of the Trump presidency,
what would he do? He would go against what he said was the principle he
was using in the last year of the Obama presidency.
HARRIS: Well, he also said he will fill it, but that actually is the job
of the president of the United States, not Mitch McConnell. So, we also
have to do a little history about the division of responsibilities between
the United States Congress and the executive branch.
HARRIS: But that being said, Lawrence, speaking of the executive branch,
on the issue of choice, look, the current president of the United States
ran on a campaign that said women should be punished, punished if they have
an abortion. We have a president –
O`DONNELL: Well, he took that back just about as soon as he said it. He
said that to Chris Matthews in the middle of one of these.
HARRIS: It came out of his mouth and I think it`s a reflection of his
HARRIS: And we cannot deny that this is a very real issue in America.
There are states where women literally will have no access to reproductive
And, you know, my – look, it`s personal to me. My mother was a scientist,
a breast cancer researcher. She was one of the very few women of color
doing that kind of work, and she would come home ever since I was a child I
remember her coming home and talking about how we have as a society still
diminished women`s health care issues. We have not allowed women to be in
control of their bodies and make decisions.
This is not new. It is constantly under attack. But I`m here to say we
will be vigilant and we will fight against it every day of the week and we
will fight for women and their right to make decisions about their own body
in consultation with their physician, with their god, with their priest,
with their rabbi.
When we look at a law like what`s happening in Alabama and they say they`re
going to sentence a doctor to 99 years, as a prosecutor, let me tell you, I
got a real problem with that. I have a real problem with that.
HARRIS: And so we cannot go backwards and we cannot tolerate a perspective
that is about going backward and not understanding women have agency.
Women have value. Women have authority to make decisions about their own
lives and their own bodies.
HARRIS: And let me just tell you, as president I will fight every day for
a woman to make the decision for herself, which means I will respect any
woman who decides that is not the decision she wants to make, that she
wants to make a different decision, but we have got to respect women in
You know, another issue I`m taking on if you`ll just let me keep going is
the issue of what we`re doing around pay equity in our country. So the
other initiative that I have is addressing pay equity. Women in America
today earned on average 80 cents on the dollar as compared to men. Black
women, 61 cents on the dollar. Native American women, 58 cents on the
dollar. Latinos, 53 cents on the dollar.
And this is an issue of pay equity that has been around since the 1960s
while we had the Pay Equity Act and we were talking in Congress about that
and still it has not been fixed.
Another issue where I say enough is enough and I`m going to tell you what
I`m prepared to do. On the issue of pay equity, instead of requiring a
woman to prove to everybody else that she`s being paid less than the man
who is in the cubical next to her doing the same job, I`m now going to
shift the responsibility on corporations to prove they`re paying their
employees the same amount based on the same amount of work. If they fail
to do it, they will be fined, because as far as I`m concerned, you pay
women equally or you pay the price.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
O`DONNELL: Let me ask you about something that happened this weekend, a
presidential moment this weekend. It involves foreign policy converging
with domestic politics. The president was in Japan. He said that it was
no problem that North Korea was firing off some short-range missile tests,
which, by the way, could reach the place he was standing at the time in
Japan. And also said that he agrees with Kim Jong-un`s insults of Joe
If you are president and you are in Japan and North Korea has just tested
some missiles and Kim Jong-un insults Mitch McConnell –
O`DONNELL: What would you say?
HARRIS: The president of the United States when speaking has a profound
amount of authority and power and must then use the microphone before her
in a responsible way. And in a way that is appreciative of the fact that
we should always be concerned, especially on foreign soil, about the
integrity and the safety of our nation, which is the United States of
The idea that this president on foreign soil attacked the previous vice
president of the United States, I don`t care what the differences on policy
issues, I don`t care what the differences in terms of party affiliation, it
is wrong, it is contrary to our values and it is contrary to the best
interests of our country and the integrity of our country and he should not
have done it, he is irresponsible and it`s one of yet another examples of
why he should not be president of the United States.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
O`DONNELL: I want to – I want to go to a passage in your book. There are
so many passages in this book that I want to ask you about. You mentioned
your mother a few minutes ago.
O`DONNELL: And you have had many titles. You`ve hat the title of district
attorney, the title of attorney general, now the title of senator, and you
say in your book: There is no title or honor on earth I`ll treasure more
than to say I am –
HARRIS: The daughter of Shyamala Gopalan Harris. Yes.
My mother, you know, I have a sister, Maya, and our mother was an
extraordinary woman. Our mother was all of 5 feet tall, but if you ever
met her, you would have thought she was 7 feet tall, and, you know, she was
the kind of parent who would tell you, you know, you don`t let anyone tell
you who you are, you tell them who you are.
My mother through the book I talk about it, she had many sayings. You
know, she said to me: Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, make
sure you`re not the last. And then I joke about, you know, one of the
reasons I`m running for president is because I was raised by this mother
who if you ever came home complaining about something, our mother would
look at you maybe one hand on her hip and the first thing out of her mouth
she`d say, well, what are you going to do about it?
So I decided to run for president of the United States.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to the president on immigration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: – is full. We don`t want
people coming up here. Our country is full.
We want Mexico to stop. We want all of them to stop. Our country is
packed to the gills. We don`t want them coming up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Where would you be today if this government told your immigrant
parents that this country is full?
HARRIS: Not only me, Lawrence, but you and most of this audience wouldn`t
me here. Let`s be clear.
HARRIS: Let`s be clear. This is a nation founded by immigrants. Unless,
you know, your history is of – your ancestors being kidnapped and brought
over on a slave ship, unless you are Native American, your people are
And the idea that we have a president of the United States that on this
issue has vilified a whole group of people – and by the way, I believe it
is because it is a distraction for him. He talks about that wall. He
wants everyone to be preoccupied with this billion dollar, multibillion
dollar vanity project, because he`s not dealing with the real issues
impacting people in our country, the fact that almost half of American
families can`t afford a $400 unexpected expense.
On the issue of immigration, he has also defied who we are morally and who
we say we are to the world. We have always presented ourselves as being a
nation of strength with strong arms that when people are fleeing harm, we
will embrace them. But look at what has happened with this administration.
There are children who are fleeing murder capitals of the world.
Let`s be clear about this. Imagine a mother who makes a decision to pay a
coyote to transport her child across the entire country of Mexico, facing
unknown peril. She does that because she believes for that child to stay
where they are is worse.
But what does this president do? He virtually looks at those children and
says go back to where you came from.
What do we have in this president? A policy that was about taking
children, separating them from their parents and calling it border
security. No, that was a human rights abuse being committed by the United
States government and it is against the morals and the values of who we are
as a nation.
O`DONNELL: We are – we are going to squeeze in a break here and when we
return it`s time to hear from the voters –
O`DONNELL: – of South Carolina.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to your questions when we come back with
presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris.
O`DONNELL: Welcome back to the Wofford College here in Spartanburg, South
Carolina, with presidential candidate, Kamala Harris.
Now let`s hear from some voters right here in Spartanburg County. We have
some questions from the audience.
We`re going to begin over here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good evening, General Harris.
HARRIS: Good evening.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good evening, Mr. O`Donnell. Good evening to everyone
here. Thank you for giving me a moment of your time.
I`m an American of Cuban descent. My fiance and I have travelled over 160
miles from Charlotte, North Carolina, to hear your passionate view of the
American future that will remove the existing embarrassment that`s in our
executive office and one that we can again be proud of.
My two-part question is this. Do you fully support in undertaking the
impeachment process through to its completion, knowing the risks which will
impact the 2020 election for all of us involved and the possibility that
the Senate will not go along with the impeachment?
The second part of that question is, if you`re not successful with the
impeachment process, will you continue to pursue legal action against 45
and his cabinet as well when they leave office for their numerous egregious
offenses they have all incurred against the American public, regardless of
the time expended in the courts? Thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you. And thank you for traveling to be here. I appreciate
that. I really do. And we are all part of the American story, to the
point of Lawrence`s last question.
So, yes, I do support and have advocated for us going through the process
toward impeachment and seeing that through. I absolutely do.
But you`re right to mention the United States Senate because while I am
calling for us to go through that process, I also am fully aware that the
Senate in its current configuration I doubt very seriously will actually
vote to impeach this president, given its current configuration, which is
that the majority is run by Republicans who consistently, be it on his
wall, be it on the Affordable Care Act, on so many issues have stood with
this president even when what he has done is so clearly and so blatantly
wrong and in many cases in the worst interests, not the best interests of
But on the issue of impeachment, let`s be clear. You know, I`ve read the
Mueller report and they outline in that report, and it was a team of some
of the best career people in the Department of Justice who were a part of
that, career people who had been in the Department of Justice. There are
at least ten separate instances of obstruction of justice.
I am also clear from reading what he wrote in that report that the only
reason they did not return an indictment against this president on
obstruction of justice is because of an opinion from the Department of
Justice that suggests that you cannot indict a sitting president. But
there is no question that the evidence supports a prosecution of that case.
So, taking it to the point of your next question – absolutely. Listen, I
believe that there needs to be transparency, there needs to be
accountability. There is a clear track record of this president and
members of his administration obstructing justice.
Not to mention what we have seen from the current attorney general of the
United States, who I questioned in connection with the Judiciary Committee,
who clearly thinks his job is to represent the president and his peculiar
interests as opposed to representing the people of the country in which we
live. So, there is a lot of work to do and I plan on seeing it through.
O`DONNELL: Senator –
HARRIS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Senator, I want you to listen to what Congressman Justin Amash
said today. This is the only Republican in the Congress who has come out
in support of impeachment. He had a town hall in his Republican district
in Michigan today. Let`s listen to just a bit of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R-MI): I think it`s really important that we do our job
as a Congress, that we not allow misconduct to go undeterred, that we not
just say someone can violate the public trust and that there are no
consequences to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He began with a standing ovation.
O`DONNELL: He has gone beyond what the Democratic leadership –
O`DONNELL: – of the House of Representatives has said about impeachment.
HARRIS: Yes, and what he has done is what we need more people in the
United States Congress to do, which is to put country before party. Put
country before party.
We are looking at a system right now where, you know, and I – this is
where I derive optimism but also concern. You know, the framers of our
country they designed a beautiful system in terms of our democracy. They
designed a system where they said, OK, then they presupposed in some branch
of government there might be abuses.
So they designed our democracy, our Republican – our republic in a way
there would be three co-equal branches of government and then a free and
independent press, with the idea that each would then be the check and
balance against each other. So when we talk about a process of
impeachment, it is about the checks and balances that the framers imagined
would be in place to be a check against abuses, and that is another reason
why I support that process.
And what he is talking about is right. We must put country before party on
a fundamental interest that is about the integrity of our democracy.
O`DONNELL: Let`s hear from another South Carolina voter.
Just please give us your name and your question.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good evening.
HARRIS: Good evening.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you for coming, Senator Harris and Lawrence.
My name is Rosemary Smith (ph), I`m 54 years old and I work in the food and
Earlier this year, I had colon cancer and fall into the group of uninsured
people in South Carolina because we didn`t expand Medicaid.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My question to you is, for people who don`t have access
to programs to help with their medical needs or lack the resources to care
for themselves, what will you do for those individuals? I was very lucky
but others may die.
HARRIS: Yes. Well, first of all, thank you, Ms. Smith, for sharing your
story and having the courage to do that and I wish you all the best and it
looks like you are fighting this thing. So we are fighting with you.
Listen, you said it. We have millions of people in our country who do not
have access to health care and it`s a fundamental point, in my opinion,
which is access to health care should be a right, not a privilege of just
those who can afford to get it. And on this issue that is why I`m
supporting Medicare for all because I believe that we need to have a system
where everyone has access.
You know, the pharmaceutical companies, the drug companies have been hiking
up the prices. The biggest barrier to access to health care in our country
is cost, is cost. And we`ve got the pharmaceutical companies and the
insurance companies that keep jacking up premiums and co-pays and
prescription drugs and the cost of prescription drugs, and I`ve taken them
When I was attorney general, I took on the pharmaceutical companies. I
delivered over $200 million for the people of my state because of their
practices that were about fraudulent practices. And we need somebody in
these United States of America who is at the top level of leadership who
understands that there are people every day in our country suffering
because they don`t have access to health care.
And, by the way, you know, there are some who say – well, you know, but if
you change the system, is it going to mean I don`t have access to my
doctor? And that`s – that`s an understandable point. We like our
doctors, those that we know. We`ve been seeing them for years.
Well, 91 percent of the doctors in the United States are in the Medicare
system. So, the odds on favorite is that you will be able to keep your
But here`s the deal, guys. Here`s how I think about it. I think about it
based on a typical scenario – not only yours, someone who has faced an
acute illness and thankfully you are battling it and what that means in
terms of everything you have to go through.
My mother, who we talked about, Lawrence, she passed away a few years from
cancer, and, you know, for any of us who have had that experience of loving
someone and a family member who is going through that, it is the experience
of every day figuring out how you can get the person to the hospital, in
and out of the hospital. It is the experience –
It is the experience of some doctor talking to you about have you heard the
term anticipatory grief, which is the grief that you experience when
someone is still here but it weighs on you. The experience of trying to
cook for somebody and hope that whatever I make is something you can hold
down or you have an appetite for.
The experience of hoping when you`re going through chemotherapy that we can
give you clothes that are soft enough because your skin is so sensitive.
The experience of trying to make sure that the medication on each of the
charts actually matches up.
And the fact that in our country, in our America, people are going through
that experience every day, and on top of that have to worry about how
they`re going to pay a hospital bill is immoral. And this also relates to
people who do have insurance.
Every day in America, there is also some story about some parent who calls
up the doctor or the hospital and says my child has a fever that is
reaching a peak and they`re told come to the emergency room. And that
parent then drives to the hospital and is in their car in the parking lot
of the emergency room with their hand on that child`s forehead hoping that
temperature goes down because they know if they have to walk through those
sliding glass doors and get into that emergency room, they`ve got a co-pay
of $5,000. They`ve got insurance.
This is not a system that is right or fair or just. And for all of those
reasons, I support Medicare for All.
O`DONNELL: There are – there are now a few different versions of Medicare
for All that people are talking about there. It won`t be exclusively up to
the president. Congress, if it does, will deliver some version of Medicare
for All for the president. So let`s just rattle off a few of these, which
ones would you sign.
O`DONNELL: Would you sign a Medicare for All bill that simply made
Medicare an option for people under 65 to buy in to?
HARRIS: So I`ll take it to the end and then I`ll bring it back to your
HARRIS: My preference is Medicare for All.
O`DONNELL: Mandatory Medicare for everyone?
HARRIS: For everyone. But I am also supporting currently the steps
getting – to get –
O`DONNELL: So that does mean giving up current private health care plans?
HARRIS: No, but they would be entitled to receive and have basically
supplemental insurance. But under Medicare for All and my vision for
Medicare for All, we would expand the coverage of Medicare so it would
include dental, it would include a vision for our seniors, it would include
hearing aids which are so expensive.
O`DONNELL: So the version you support is the way Medicare currently works
for people 65 and over, which means it might be what they depend on, it`s
the only thing they have. Or if their union has a retirement plan that
works as a supplemental, they can have that private supplemental plan on
top of Medicare.
HARRIS: They can have the supplemental plan on top of it. But the idea
and the goal is that everyone is going to be in the same system. We still
do need to deal, though, with the fact that we`ve got plenty of men and
women who work in unions who have given up extra pay to get more benefits
under their health care plan. And that`s a real issue.
HARRIS: I know. So that`s a real issue. That`s something I am aware of
and want to be able to reconcile because they should not have to pay the
price of having giving up some of their salary to get greater benefits and
then we should have a Medicare for All system.
O`DONNELL: So would you then veto a Medicare for All bill that doesn`t
include that option? A Medicare for All bill that simply makes it
mandatory for everyone and there is no private insurance system?
HARRIS: I would not support something that did not take care of the men
and women of organized labor who have negotiated those plans and deserve to
receive the benefit that they`ve negotiated.
O`DONNELL: OK. We`ve got another question on this side of the room.
CHRISTINA FULLER-GREGORY, LIBRARIAN: Good evening.
HARRIS: Good evening.
FULLER-GREGORY: Senator Harris, my name is Christina Fuller-Gregory and I
am a proud librarian.
My question for you is this. Racism and sexism are no longer hidden
agendas. How will you as a woman and a person of color lead the country in
the face of such overt and pervasive division and begin rebuilding a
country that truly embodies the phrase “United We Stand?”
HARRIS: Right. Well, first of all, I want to thank you for being a
librarian and for doing that work. I`ve got a whole proposal on teacher
pay and closing the teacher pay gap, which includes all of whom are in that
ecosystem of teaching our children. So thank you for taking on that noble
profession. Thank you.
So to your point, racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia,
Islamophobia, these issues are real in our country. And they are born out
of hate, hate which over the last couple of years has received new fuel.
And we need to call it out when we see it. And I feel very strongly that
all of us must speak up when we see it and that no one who is the subject
of that hate should ever be made to fight alone.
That being said, we also have a situation – and I mean, look, I grew up –
you know, my sister and I went to knock on the door of the family that
lived next door because we used to play with the kids there and then the
daughter said we can`t play with you anymore because our parents said we
can`t play with black children.
I don`t know a black man that I know, be he a family member, a colleague or
a friend who has not experienced some level of racial profiling or
discrimination. We have seen from Mother Emanuel Church to Charlottesville
to the Tree of Life Synagogue to in my backyard Poway, that these issues
are real and they take on lethal proportions.
But we have a president of the United States right now that has been
fanning the flames. And we have got to agree that the president of the
United States should be in the business of lifting people up, not beating
We must also agree that the vast majority of us have so much more in common
than what separates us. That when we wake up in the middle of the night
with that thought that`s been weighing on us, regardless of our skin color,
the language our grandparents spoke, the God we pray to, we are all waking
up in the middle of the night having the same thought.
It`s about our health care. It`s about the education of our children.
It`s about keeping a job. It`s about paying the bills.
And in our America, people who hold the highest levels of leadership should
be in the business of unifying our country, not dividing our country. And
as far as I`m concerned, we`ve got a president who is not trying to make
America great. He`s trying to make America hate and we need to get rid of
O`DONNELL: Let`s try to get in one more before the break.
MEGAN SMITH: Hi. My name is Megan Smith.
HARRIS: Hi, Megan.
SMITH: And we here in the upstate, we`ve had some of the fastest Latin X
population growth. We have international companies and students, refugees
and immigrant families who are all contributing to our community.
And yet, as we just saw, we have some really deep anti-immigrant rhetoric
that`s being promoted from the highest in the land. How would you talk to
South Carolinians who are afraid of immigration and a portrayed loss of
jobs and culture?
HARRIS: Thank you, Megan. Thank you for bringing that up.
And I – here`s the thing. It`s a myth, right? What we know is that –
and especially under this current administration, the issue of immigration
has been about stoking fear instead of speaking fact. It`s been about
talking about immigrants as rapists and murderers instead of acknowledging
the fact that the vast majority of immigrants in our country are living
lawful lives in terms of working hard, paying taxes, you know, we have in
colleges, in serving in our military.
And so there is no question that we need to deal with the issue, and part
of how we need to deal with it is we need to pass comprehensive immigration
reform with a pathway towards citizenship. And by the way, there is
bipartisan support for this but we can`t get it out because this guy said
he won`t sign it.
So, one, there is that, which is that we need to speak just based on fact.
The other thing that we have to do is recognize that it is actually good
for our economy. It is good for our economy.
I speak with farmers from Iowa to California who know that and will tell
you that a large part of the folks who are their labor who are actually
helping them produce what we are growing in our country, what we are
eating, what we are selling to foreign countries is supported by immigrant
Let`s talk about the fact that we can look at the economy and look at –
from Google to you name it, big corporations that are headed by immigrants.
So the idea that it is a drain on the economy is not correct.
But we also have to agree that we cannot have a policy in this country that
is about saying we`re going to close ourselves off. And, frankly, I think
that part of the reason that this president campaigned on that and came
into office on that is because he actually could not offer a plan that was
about getting people jobs. He had no plan for closing that gap.
Instead, he comes in – he made all kinds of promises about what he was
going to do for farmers, what he was going to do for auto workers. And
what does he do? He passes a tax bill that benefits the top one percent
and the biggest corporations in this country.
And see, he ain`t fooling nobody because the thing is we can actually see
through that. And then you want to point to the shiny object over here and
talk about the need to build a wall.
Help people get a job. Help people figure out – our infrastructure.
That`s going to produce jobs but there has been no meaningful work in that
Let`s look about – at the fact that in America today, for almost half of
American families, they cannot afford a $400 unexpected expense. I`m
proposing that we change the tax code. I`m proposing that for families
that make less than $100,000 a year, you get a tax credit of $6,000 a year
that you can collect at up to $500 a month, which will be all the
difference between being able to get through the end of the month with
dignity or not for almost half of the American families.
This guy instead is talking about building a wall. So these are the ways
that I think about what has been happening recently and I think it is
really important that we focus on fact and not fiction and that we get back
also to who we are in terms of our core values. We are a nation of
immigrants. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to squeeze in a break here. And when we
come back, we have a surprise for Senator Harris. We have a surprise for
you. One of the distinguished graduates of Wofford College will join us
after this break.
HARRIS: Oh, great. OK.
O`DONNELL: So this morning on the “Today Show”, my dear friend Craig
Melvin said something about what`s happening here tonight at Wofford
HARRIS: He did?
O`DONNELL: He did. Let`s listen to Craig on the “Today Show” this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG MELVIN, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: There`s a big event tonight. I
don`t know if you`ve heard it but it`s happening at my alma mater down in
Wofford College, dear old Wofford, the site of a town hall with
Presidential Contender Kamala Harris. They`ll be on campus, 429 North
Church Street with my friend and colleague Lawrence O`Donnell. He`s going
to be hosting it tonight, MSNBC, 10:00. I know I`ll be watching.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And when I heard that, that Craig is going to be watching, I
thought maybe, maybe if we`re lucky, we could get him to join the crowd
here at his alma mater, Wofford College.
O`DONNELL: And see if maybe he has some questions for the senator. He is
a South Carolina native.
O`DONNELL: Is that OK with you?
HARRIS: Is he voting in South Carolina?
O`DONNELL: We can find out. We can find out. Joining us now from New
York, Craig Melvin.
MELVIN: Hey, Lawrence. Good to see you, buddy. Senator Harris, good to
see you again. Thank you so much for your time tonight.
HARRIS: Good to see you, Craig.
MELVIN: You know, Senator, in the past you`ve said that you Support debt-
free college. You`ve talked about scheduling repayment based on income.
You`ve even said that there should be a total conversation about total loan
You may not know this, but you`re on a campus where the four-year
graduation rate is about 80 percent. Nationally, it hovers at around 50
percent. If you stay in college longer, it ends up being more expensive.
Moreover, you`ve got a lot of colleges and universities that are graduating
kids who don`t necessarily have the skills to get the jobs to pay back
those loans. We know where you stand on student debt. Where do you stand
on holding colleges and universities more accountable to students and
HARRIS: Yes. I agree with you. It`s a really important point you`re
One, the student loan debt issue. Here in South Carolina, it`s one of the
highest, among the top 10 in the country. There is no question that we
have bright young students who are coming out of school making decisions
about their careers based on how they`re going to pay off their debt not
based on their passion.
You know, I talk about teachers. For example, here in South Carolina, over
5,000 teachers left the profession last year in South Carolina. A
profession that they love because they simply could not afford to pay the
bills with a combination for some of their debt plus the salary.
So you`re right, we need to hold everybody accountable. I`ve talked a lot
about loans and what we need to do to reform the system around loans, bring
them down and also debt-free college. But to your point, we also need to
have a relationship between the United States government and our
educational institutions to prepare students for the jobs of the 21st
So over the next 15 years, up to 40 percent of the jobs that currently
exist will no longer exist in this country. You look at the Bureau of
Labor Statistics came out with a list of the 10 jobs that are going to see
the greatest amount of growth over the next 10 years – the 20 jobs that
will see the greatest amount of growth over the next 10 years in our
country and they`re jobs that relate to renewable energy and things of that
We have got to have a relationship between the government, between the
educational institutions, between the private sector and between organized
labor such as the building trades to actually have a better plan for
preparing our students for the work that needs to be performed and the work
that will need to be performed as we go forward.
So there`s a lot of work to do there. I agree with you.
O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Craig. One more.
MELVIN: Senator Harris, thank you.
MELVIN: Really quickly. Senator, I know you`ve described yourself I
believe it`s a progressive prosecutor, but there have been a number of
measures that have come under scrutiny as you know that you undertook as
the attorney general, the two ballot measures that would have ended the
death penalty ballot, for instance.
There was this piece of legislation that allowed parents of elementary
students to be prosecuted if their children were frequently truant, a
measure that as you know disproportionately affects students of color. How
would you explain some of those measures and how would you square that with
the label of being a progressive prosecutor?
HARRIS: So I will tell you as I shared with the audience earlier, my
parents met when they were active in the Civil Rights Movement. I am a
daughter of that movement. I grew up knowing about the disparities,
inequities, and unfairness in the criminal justice system.
As I shared earlier, almost every man I know, black man I know, be it a
family member or a friend or a colleague has experienced some level of
profiling or unfair stop. I have seen throughout my life – I mean my
cousins, when they were driving their father`s car, got pulled over because
the car was a nice car, suspected of being drug dealers. I would be in the
car with them when that happened.
So I am acutely aware of the inequities in the criminal justice system. I
went to Howard University. I went back home to law school.
And I made a very conscious decision to become a prosecutor. And what I
said to my family and friends is look, if we`re going to reform these
systems, we should also be on the inside where the decisions are being
And that`s why I chose to do the work I did. And I am proud of the work
that I did, bringing the first reentry initiative. One of the first in the
nation focused on drug sales offenders and getting them jobs and
And Craig, when I created this, I was I elected D.A. back in 2003. When I
created this initiative, people would say to me, “Why are you getting jobs
for people who have committed a crime? I need a job.”
People would say to me, “Why are you letting people out of jail? You
should be putting people in jail.” But the initiatives that I created
ended up being designated by the United States Department of Justice as a
model of innovation for law enforcement.
I created initiatives that were about saying that we needed to focus on the
issue of children who are missing 50, 60, up to 80 days of the school year
because I did an analysis of who our homicide victims were who were under
the age of 25, and realized that the society and the system`s only response
was to prosecute those cases or lock people up instead of asking what`s
I asked and I learned that of the homicide victims who were under the age
of 25, 94 percent were high school dropouts. When I went over to the
school district, I learned that up to 40 percent of the chronically and
habitually truant students were elementary school students, missing up to
80 days of the 180-day school year.
So I started an initiative saying this system has got to focus on putting
resources into helping those parents get those kids to school every day,
and we improved attendance by over 30 percent, which is why when I was
attorney general of California, I created one of the first in the nation
Bureaus of Children`s Justice, which I named, focused on getting services
to children and in particular, poor children, children of color who was not
receiving the benefit of the public services that they should receive in
order to be able to live a productive life.
O`DONNELL: Craig, I know you have a thousand follow-up questions maybe.
When Kamala Harris comes to the “Today Show,” save them for that, or when
she comes to your hour on MSNBC. She will be there, I`m sure. Craig –
HARRIS: And I look forward to continuing our conversation, Craig.
MELVIN: Also, Lawrence, quick correction. I see so many familiar faces.
You described me as a distinguished graduate. I can tell you, I graduated
Magna cum lucky from Wofford College.
O`DONNELL: Craig Melvin, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Really appreciate it. Craig has to get up in a few hours to do the “Today
Show.” So we were lucky to get him.
We`re going to take a break here. And when we come back, we`re going to
get more from you South Carolina voters, more questions for Presidential
Candidate Senator Kamala Harris.
HARRIS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And we`re back in South Carolina with Presidential Candidate
Senator Kamala Harris. Let`s go to more voter questions. We have one
EDGAR BROWN, MEMBER, IBEW: Hi, Ms. Harris. My name is Edgar Brown. And
I`m a very proud member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers, Local Union 379 here in South Carolina.
We had a previous governor that used to love to get on T.V. and say when
she said union busting, another company would call and want to come to the
state. And I felt that was very detrimental to all citizens of the South
BROWN: And what I`d like to know is how do you feel about unions? And as
president, what would you do to help us change that image?
HARRIS: I am thankful to our unions and I am thankful to you. There is no
question at all that organized labor and our unions are the reason that all
of us, regardless of whether you are a member of a union or not, it is the
reason all of us have a five-day workday. It is the reason all of us have
an eight-hour of work week, have an eight-hour workday.
It is the reason we have sick leave. It is the reason that we have issues
about what we do to preserve workplace safety. These are all the benefits
that all of us have derived, whether or not we are a member of a labor
union because of our unions.
And it is our unions that built the middle-class of America and they are
under full attack in so many states. And I will fight every day to
preserve folks` right to organize, to collective bargaining, to strike, and
to do whatever is necessary to make sure that working men and women of our
country have a voice and a voice that is strong.
Because it`s a really simple point. We should not support any system that
requires an individual worker to have to bargain against an entire employer
for their wages and benefits and workplace safety. It`s a simple point
that let`s let the collective exist to support and represent any
And I feel very strongly about that as president of the United States so I
will always support your right to organize, to collective bargaining, to
strike. I will also run a Department of Labor that actually respects the
dignity of labor.
And as far as I`m concerned, every working man and woman in America owes a
debt of gratitude to the work of organized labor and the history of that
work in our country.
O`DONNELL: Senator, there`s another union member I`d like you to speak to
tonight. Rick Marsh is actually a Michigan voter. He`s on the front page
of the “New York Times” today in a major, major piece – oh, I`m sorry.
He`s an Ohio voter. He worked 25 years –
O`DONNELL: In the Lordstown, Ohio G.M. plant which just closed down.
Three generations of his family working in that Ohio plant.
O`DONNELL: He has one issue. He`s saying to “The New York Times” going
into this election and that is, he wants someone who can save that G.M.
O`DONNELL: And get that G.M. Plant reopened. And he said, this is his
quote today, “I really don`t care if it`s a Democrat, Republican, male,
female, black, white, I don`t care.” You are three of those things.
O`DONNELL: So Rick Marsh is listening.
So, Mr. Marsh, first of all, I want to thank you for having the courage to
tell your story, and to share with us your family and the circumstances
including your daughter and all that she needs and that you have fought
for, for her.
Listen, he`s right. He is right.
And the reality is that under the current administration we have a
president who has been playing games with workers. On the issue of trade
we have a President of the United States who has been playing games. He
made promises to workers in America. Those promises he did not keep, and
instead he is been conducting trade policy by tweet which has resulted in
farmers having to have bins full of soybeans sitting around rotting because
they could not sell them to China where they had cultivated a market over
As a result of trade by tweet we have families who are paying more for
washing machines and shampoo and clothing. As a result of the so-called
trade policies of this administration and this president, over 700,000
workers auto workers, are likely to lose their jobs, like Mr. Marsh`s story
because of this policy.
O`DONNELL: Senator, can I just tell the MSNBC audience what`s going on
O`DONNELL: Because we are now two minutes into overtime, into Brian
Williams` “11th Hour.” Brian Williams is working tonight. He is going to
come on. We`re going to extend into overtime just a couple more minutes to
get in these final questions here in South Carolina.
People out there waiting for Brian, you`re going to get him. We`re going
to go right to the next question right here.
HARRIS: But here is what I want to say –
O`DONNELL: OK. Go ahead.
HARRIS: – to finish, Lawrence.
And as a result of what we have seen in terms of this administration`s
trade policy which has hurt workers, what we have instead is what we should
all recognize is the Trump trade tax. We are all paying a price for the
policies which have resulted in the Trump trade tax.
We are paying more for washing machines and shampoos. We`re paying more in
terms of our farmers having to eat the cost of having soybeans that they
have been growing, rotting in bins. We are paying more in terms of auto
workers losing their jobs. It has not been smart, and it has not been in
the best interest of the productivity and the workers of our country.
O`DONNELL: All right we`re going to get one more and we`re going to go
SHIELA KEEPERS: Hi, Senator Harris, I`m Sheila Keepers (ph). I turn 18
tomorrow. So the first time I vote will be in the South Carolina primary.
HARRIS: Happy birthday. That`s great.
KEEPERS: Thank you.
HARRIS: That`s great.
KEEPERS: I was wondering what you have to say to my friends and my
generation who just don`t think that it`s important to vote and are kind –
KEEPERS: – of tired of this political process.
HARRIS: Well, I`m so glad you`re here Sheila (ph) and happy birthday. And
it`s so important that you`re here.
Listen, our democracy is at its strongest and most powerful when everyone
participates. And the reality of it is this, you know, I think of us as
being a nation that was founded on noble ideals, right? And part of the
strength of who we are as a nation is by our very nature we are
aspirational. We are an aspirational people.
We were founded on noble ideals. The ideals that were present when we
wrote the Constitution of the United States and all of its amendments and
the bill of rights and decoration of independence. We said you are equal
and should be treated that way.
And this is a moment in time where we must fight for those ideals. And
it`s a fight born out of aspiration. We know we`ve not yet quite reached
those ideals, but the strength of who we are is we always fight to get
there, and this fight will not be meaningful or robust unless everyone
participates. And that includes you and all your friends and all of the
people in our country, because we are all in this together.
And the thing that I think we know right now is this. This is a moment in
time for us to look in the mirror and ask a question. That question being,
who are we? Part of the answer to that question is we are better than
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
HARRIS: So let`s fight for that. So let`s fight for that. Let`s fight
for that, and let`s know this is a fight that is born out of optimism. And
this is especially for you and your friends and those who are 18 and
thinking about voting and should they be involved?
Listen, this is a fight that`s also born out of knowing what can be
unburdened by what has been. And I can`t think of a group of folks who are
best equipped to know what can be than our young voters. So I`m so happy
O`DONNELL: And we have our last question right here.
JUDI CIG: Hi, Senator Harris.
CIG: My name is Judi Cig (ph). My question is in a field of two dozen
Democratic hopefuls, number one, why are you the one who can beat Donald
Trump? And number two, when you are the nominee, would you consider asking
Rachel Maddow to be your running mate?
HARRIS: She is terrific, and I always love the way that she and Lawrence
pass the baton, you know, one after the other.
O`DONNELL: Brian is really waiting for me to pass the baton.
HARRIS: So I will tell you and I`ll try and make it short. And I`ll
answer the first question, which is this. I believe that we are going to
want on that stage in the general election.
Someone who has a proven ability to know how to fight and win fights, I
have that experience. I have taken on everything from big oil to
pharmaceutical companies. I`ve been in the big banks, around the
foreclosure crisis where I brought $20 billion back to the homeowners of
On almost any subject that you can discuss with me, I have a proven track
record of actually working on that. And I think we`re going to won on that
stage someone who can do more than just give a beautiful speech.
The second part is we`re going to won on that stage someone who has a
proven ability to know how to successfully prosecute the case against the
policies of this administration. I know how to do that. And we`re going
to win. And we`re going to win.
O`DONNELL: And that will have to be “Tonight`s Last Word from our town
hall here in Spartanburg. Thank you Spartanburg. Thank you, Senator
Harris very much. Really appreciate it. Thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the