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Transcript: Alex Wagner Tonight, 8/31/22

Guests: Keisha Lance Bottoms, Nsombi Lambright


The DOJ is going to file a response to Trump`s request for a review of Mar-a-Lago material anytime. President Biden summons dark Brandon, calling the Republican Party and not mincing words.



Good evening, Alex.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Oh, my god. Cy and Rafa, if you`re up, we failed as parents.

HAYES: We got problems.

WAGNER: I just want to say, I cannot imagine being so desperate to hold power that you would choose to chill the vote. That literally decreasing turnout, and yet that is the bread and butter of modern conservative movement.

HAYES: Obviously, in the work that we work in, we encounter outrageous stories. This one, this story of like these people going in being like, yeah, I have a felony, and getting the car and then a SWAT team, like, it`s really just beyond, beyond.

WAGNER: It`s unconscionable, but it`s DeSantis`s Florida, and thank you for reporting on it, Chris.

HAYES: You bet.

WAGNER: Good to see you.

And thank you for joining us this hour. We are expecting tonight, any minute now actually, a filing from the Department of Justice responding to Donald Trump`s lawsuit requesting that a special master review documents retrieved from his Palm Beach home. Donald Trump sued the Justice Department last week to stop the review of those documents, in a move many are seeing as a delay tactic.

In that lawsuit, Trump`s lawyers claim that he always gave the government complete cooperation. Well, the Justice Department has until midnight tonight to respond to those claims, and by all accounts they sure have a lot to say. Yesterday, the department asked the judge permission to go beyond 20-page filing limit, and submit a 40-page response, 40 pages to Trump`s lawsuit.

The government said it needed the extra pages to, quote, adequately address the legal and factual issues raised by Trump`s motion. And again, that filing can come literally any moment now. That DOJ filing could potentially shed more light on the government`s criminal investigation, and will no doubt serve as a 40-page rebuttal to Donald Trump`s claims of complete cooperation.

Remember that one of the three crimes the Justice Department is investigating is obstruction, not just of an investigation, but just plain old government functions, like preserving the presidential records. There has been a lot of concern that Donald Trump has not been on the open up when it comes to important classified information. For example, throughout his presidency, there was a ton of reporting that Trump like to rip up documents, and notes. Even the national archives, confirmed that some White House records that he had been trying to shield from the January 6 committee, that those have been ripped up and taped back together again.

There is even a report that Trump allegedly flushed some papers down the toilet. This is not a man who is known for diligent records preservation, by a long shot. This time around, there are many lingering questions. Why was he squirreling away documents at Mar-a-Lago in the first place? And why didn`t he just handed documents over when the government first asked?

All this shady paper shuffling and document destruction, all of that calls into mind another high profile case that is become virtually synonymous with disrupting an ongoing investigation. It involves a company called Enron, a Houston-based energy company whose fraud scandal became one of the most famous high-profile cases ever, of obstruction of justice.

It happened 21 years ago, and it had everything. Corporate executives serving prison time, employees shredding and destroying documents. And one now defunct company caught up on a scandal -- Arthur Andersen, Enron`s accounting firm.


REPORTER: The indictment claimed that on October 19th, Andersen learned Enron was under investigation. And soon, the shredders at Andersen`s office at Enron ran virtually nonstop for a month, in what was called an unparalleled effort to destroy evidence. Shredding also occurred in Chicago, Portland, Oregon, and London.

Andersen`s response today? Defiant. In a statement, it calls the obstruction of justice charge baseless and a gross abuse of government power.


WAGNER: It took a federal jury ten days to find the accounting giant guilty of obstruction of justice, and while the conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court on a technicality, the Enron and Arthur Andersen scandals, as well as similar large-scale corporate frauds at and Taiko, they all led Congress to pass and Georgetown has signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002. That law instituted a number of reforms, clamping down on corporate fraud.

One of those reforms was this statute, 18 U.S. Code Section 1519. It tightened the penalties for destroying or concealing any record with the intent to obstruct just about any federal government function including investigations. Section 1519 is one of the three criminal statutes the Department of Justice cited in its application for a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, obstruction of a federal investigation.

So there is an active question about whether or not the stuff Andersen and Enron did 20 years ago is akin to what Donald Trump has been doing with this new criminal investigation.


Is it the same kind of obstruction? You know, the illegal kind?

What`s clear is that Donald Trump certainly has some explaining to do. For starters, we learned from the unsealed search warrant documents that the Justice Department believed quote evidence might be destroyed if the warrant`s existence was made public, and from the FBI affidavit, there was, quote, probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at Mar-a-Lago.

The FBI affidavit explained how for months, the National Archives sought to recover the documents from the former president without success. Remember, the archives didn`t get those initial 15 boxes of documents until January of this year. Why did it take Trump so long to hand over those documents? Why did one of Trump`s attorneys sign a statement telling the DOJ in June that to the best of their knowledge, all classified documents had been handed over when that was obviously not the case? Why did Trump allegedly not keep the remaining documents preserved in the storage room at Mar-a- Lago under lock and key as instructed shortly after that June visit from investigators? Why did subpoenaed surveillance footage later show, according to "The New York Times", people moving boxes in and out and quote appearing to change the containers some documents were held in. And why?

Again, after that June visit from investigators and after months of back and forth with the DOJ and the National Archives, why were troves of classified documents still at Mar-a-Lago on August 8th, and why were they in Trump`s office and in his bedroom in addition to the storage room? Why not just cooperate with the investigation?

I want to bring in now the great Andrew Weissmann, former FBI general counsel and a former senior member of special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigative team he was also I think you could see him and -- yes, there he is, head of the DOJ`s Enron Task Force which prosecuted the Arthur Andersen accounting firm for, you guessed it, obstruction of justice.

It is a thrill and a delight to have you on set, Andrew. Thanks for joining me.

ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Nice to be here. I have to say, it`s odd seeing a photo from that many years ago.

WAGNER: It`s odd that we`re talking about obstruction of justice and paper shredding all over again, isn`t it?

WEISSMANN: Absolutely, and one of the things that`s really interesting is that the work that Sarbanes-Oxley did is actually really coming home now because the law that was changed and fixed which is 1519, which is the law that everyone was surprised to see in the search warrant actually really fixed some of the problems that we had in prosecuting Arthur Andersen, the main one that I think is relevant here is in Arthur Andersen, there was this anomaly and ambiguity about whether there had to be an official proceeding at the time of the obstruction, and there was an issue there about whether the SEC had actually commenced an official proceeding.

Here, that`s not in 1519 at all. As you correctly said, it just has to be something within the administration of an agency or department of the United States. So that fix in Sarbanes-Oxley is something that the department`s taking advantage of.

WAGNER: Yeah, and could be a fix for Donald Trump. Let`s just start with the documents that we`re waiting for at this hour right, and it pertains to all of us these claims about cooperation and obstruction. The DOJ is going to file 40 pages of paper responding to president Trump`s request for a special master. I`m not going to ask you to tell the future. But the mere fact that they`re asking the judge to double the like page limit suggest they have a lot to say.

What are you looking for?

WEISSMANN: Yeah, and to be clear, the judge actually ordered the department to respond to everything in the submission and not just to the special master request. And then the department in asking for the pages said that they are going to respond to the law and the facts. The law I think everyone, you know, has been talking about how there`s not a lot of law to support what it is that Trump is asking for. It`s everyone`s focusing on the facts.

WAGNER: Yeah. So as you said, the issue of Donald Trump saying that he was continuously cooperating is one that I would hope to see some refutation of that. And then the other is what exactly happened in June of this year at that meeting in Mar-a-Lago where if you remember Donald Trump and his papers made it sound, and this is hyperbole on my part, but, you know, this is the best safe and I kept it under the absolute best locking key and he has an FBI agent saying, oh now, I understand why it`s totally safe.

And you know, it just didn`t have the ring of truth and it`d be nice to see the department taking that up and saying this is what we say happened.

WAGNER: Yeah. It goes right to the heart of the matter when we`re talking about obstruction, right? The president actually, was his word bond? And apparently, it`s not because it wasn`t all just under lock and key. It must not have been a master lock that he used because those papers ended up all over the house.


WEISSMANN: And I just don`t think with the this Department of Justice in Merrick Garland that these kind of misrepresentations are going to put him in a good stead when the department has to make the discretionary call, assuming they can just they have enough proof to charge. The next question they have to decide is, should we charge? Because you don`t always bring every case.

Having this pattern of misrepresentations to the court is really not going to be something that is a plus factor on his side of the ledger.

WAGNER: I mean, you get this sense that the DOJ makes its voice heard through these filings, right? There is -- in his filing, President Trump`s legal team accused the DOJ of political bias, in the lawsuit last week. Politics cannot be allowed to impact the administration of justice. President Donald J. Trump is the clear front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary and in the 2024 general election should he decide to run, just a little bit of burnishing of Trump`s ego in the process of all of that.

But would you expect that the department of justice is going to push back on that?

WEISSMANN: Yeah, no.


WEISSMANN: I think they`re going to take -- they`re going to take the high road on that. I think they`re going to deal with the actual facts relevant to the issues and not deal with his claims about how he`s doing in any potential.

WAGNER: Right, not his like his polling numbers in red states. But in terms of this notion that somehow this is politically motivated, would you expect them to respond to that or in some way address it?

WEISSMANN: You know, I think that is something that they won`t need to say. I think they`re going to be judged by their actions and, you know, frankly, I think one of the things that I think was really good about Merrick Garland speaking and giving a press conference is he sort of exhibit A to -- he`s not political. I mean, he`s such an earnest man and so I don`t think there`s anything they can say that would change anyone`s minds one way or the other on that. I think they`re going to just stick to the facts and the law.

WAGNER: Just the facts.

Now, I do wonder as we talk about the lawyering of all of this, we know that Evan Corcoran drafted a letter that Evan Corcoran, one of the president`s lawyers, drafted a letter that Christina Bobb, another one of his lawyers, signed, affirming to the Justice Department in June that they had all the documents that were at Mar-a-Lago, which later proved to be untrue. Do you think they risk exposure there?

We know that Donald Trump has brought on a new legal eagle to his case, Chris Kise, who was a former advisor to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Do you think that`s indicative of them being concerned about their lawyers Christina Bobb and Evan Corcoran having exposure?

WEISSMANN: Well, I think they`re -- they either have exposure or they may be witnesses. So in the special counsel investigation, there was an analogous situation where Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the campaign manager and deputy campaign manager, had made representations to the Justice Department through an attorney. That attorney was totally unwitting, she clearly did not know that she was making false representations but Chief Judge Howell let us put her on as a witness and to ask her questions about where she got the information from.

And you know, I can definitely see the department following that. They have now of clear precedent from the chief judge of the D.C. district court. And so, I think for those two lawyers, one of the things if they`re witnesses, they can`t also be counsel.

WAGNER: Right.

WEISSMANN: So I can see that would be one reason to bring on additional people.

WAGNER: I was impressed that anybody wanted to sign on to this case given how complicated it`s proven to be for President Trump.

WEISSMANN: I think there are other reasons as well that you might not sign on to it. I think as a friend of mine, Professor Murray, has said, MAGA can also mean making attorneys get attorneys, and so that`s been a --

WAGNER: It`s like a bar association joke.

WEISSMANN: Yeah, it`s a little inside lawyer joke.

WAGNER: But I like it.

Could this not actually be the -- this is a terrible way of raising a question, I will rephrase. Is it possible that there are actually still more documents? We have some initial reporting from "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times", namely that the Justice Department investigation is continuing, suggesting officials are not done, they`re not certain whether they`ve recovered everything from Mar-a-Lago or elsewhere, and the Archives also may not be finished. Some Archives officials believe there still might be records missing.

I mean, do you -- again I`m not asking you to predict the weather but --

WEISSMANN: I think there are two things to be concerned about. One is if there are additional documents in Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster or in Trump Tower. The other is even if the physical documents are all sort of been recouped from by the government, has the information been disseminated in some way? And there have been reports about certain information for instance about the president of France, that that`s been communicated. But is any other information been communicated?


And that`s where I think the DNI, the head of the intelligence community, I think is going to be looking very hard at that issue, to see, has anyone been told the information contained in the documents even if the physical documents have been brought back into the government.

WAGNER: Oh, there are questions that beget more questions that beget more questions.

Andrew Weissmann, former FBI general counsel and a former senior member of special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigative team, thank you for being here and thank you for the lawyer jokes.

WEISSMANN: You`re welcome.

WAGNER: Up next here tonight, President Biden summons dark Brandon, calling the Republican Party and not mincing words.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can`t be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurrection. You can`t be a party of law and order and call the people who attacked the police on January 6 patriots. You can`t do it.


WAGNER: We will talk live with senior Biden adviser and former Atlanta and mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, about the president`s new aggressive push to hold Republicans accountable.

And the GOP is trying to have it both ways and to gain the Internet on key issues. My money is on the Internet.

Stay with us.



BIDEN: Let me say this to my MAGA Republican friends in Congress -- don`t tell me you support law enforcement if you won`t condemn what happened on the 6th. Don`t tell me. Can`t do it. For god`s sake, whose side are you on? Whose side are you on?

Look, you`re on the side of a mob with or the side of the police. You can`t be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurrection. You can`t be a party of law and order and call the people who attacked the police on January 6 patriots. You can`t do it.


WAGNER: That was President Biden today on the trail in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, calling out in no uncertain terms the hypocrisy of Republicans who refused to condemn the January 6th attacks. It was the latest appearance of what you might call Biden 2.0 or dark Brandon.

With his approval rating rising, a string of significant victories in Congress and his predecessor facing serious ongoing legal drama, the president is unleashing pretty wildly pointed attacks on Republicans ahead of the midterms. Last week, Biden likened the MAGA movement to semi-fascism and call the Republicans enthrall to it a threat to a very democracy.

Later this week, Biden plans to deliver a primetime address warning that Americans rights are under attack by anti-democratic forces within the -- you guessed it -- GOP. And today, the president hammered Republicans over their recent attacks on the FBI, following the search of Donald Trump`s Florida home.


BIDEN: Now, it`s sickening to see the new attacks in the FBI, threatening life with law enforcement agents and their families for simply carrying out the law and doing their job. Look, I want to say it as clear as I can, there`s no place in this country, no place for endangering the lives of law enforcement, no place. None, never, period. I`m opposed to defunding the police. I`m also opposed to defunding the FBI.


WAGNER: There are 10 weeks until the midterm election friends and President Biden would seem to have his eyes on the clock.

Joining us now is Keisha Lance Bottoms, White House senior advisor for public engagement and the former mayor, of course, of Atlanta.

Mayor Bottoms, thank you so much for joining us and congratulations on the new position.

Let me just first start with President Biden who to borrow a phrase from the Obama era seems very fired up and ready to go. I wonder if you believe you know amid the swirl of Trump`s legal problems in the recently notched legislative victories whether this is a real moment for him to go on the offensive in a way that we really haven`t seen the president in recent months.

KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, what we know is that President Biden has been fired up his entire term but what we have our string of victories to support the work that he`s been so passionate about. What we are seeing is his work in action, his leadership in action.

What we talked about during the campaign was needing his leadership at this time, someone who had experience, someone who knew how to get things done with Congress. And this is just a continuation. We saw him today, very passionate about something that we should all be concerned about. And that`s safety in America.

When you hear the president give statistics that talk about the thousands of children who`ve been killed by gun violence, the number one killer of children in America that he knows that history will judge us all on how we respond to this moment. And I`m so proud to have seen the president respond in the way that he did today.

WAGNER: I mean, certainly, he`s been talking about his record. But he`s also been launching some pretty, pretty pointed attacks against the GOP and I wonder if the White House believes this is the moment to try and turn the conversation back on Republicans look at their, you know, chance of defunding the FBI and reframe the conversation about who`s better in terms of law and order is that sort of one of the goals of all of this?

Well, what the president is doing is calling it like he sees it he is giving facts you can`t support law enforcement and support and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. We all witnessed that. This is not something that`s an opinion. This is a fact.

And what the president has said and his actions have shown us that he supports law enforcement but he also supports our communities. What the president has been very clear about is that we want law enforcement officers in our communities who are guardians, not warriors, who have care and concern for the people they are sworn to protect and serve.

And the president knows at the end of the day, law enforcement wants to return home safely as well as communities wanting to return home safely to their families when they`ve had interaction with law enforcement. And supporting law enforcement and supporting our communities are not mutually exclusive and the president has made that very clear where he stands.

When you look at the support of the American rescue fund funds every single Republican in Congress voted against that. These funds went into our cities not just to support law enforcement but in cities like Atlanta and communities across America they helped us pay sanitation workers they helped us bridge the gap in our budgets when we were facing economic uncertainty at the height of COVID.

So the president is continuing to remind the people of why he was elected president. It`s because he puts people first and we`re seeing that in action and his policies.

WAGNER: I know you`re stressing the work in terms of community support when we`re talking about law enforcement, but he did say explicitly today, I am opposed to defunding the police. I`m also opposed to defunding the FBI.

We know that that is a you know it`s a -- there are some Democrats within the party who wouldn`t agree with that and who have said publicly they don`t agree with that. Is there a place for them and Joe Biden`s part a Democratic Party?

BOTTOMS: Well, that`s the beauty of Joe Biden being the leader of the Democratic Party. There`s room to disagree, to respectfully disagree and what the president has been very clear about is that he supports law enforcement but also supporting communities is not mutually exclusive.

And I always said when I served as mayor of Atlanta, we can stop having police officers on our streets when we no longer have crime. And what people have to remember it`s not just about law enforcement showing up when something bad happens, think about when you have that fender bender and you`re waiting on the side of the road for three hours for a police officer to show up and write a report or if you`re attending a large event or concert, you want law enforcement in place.

But also in the Safer America Plan, what the president is doing is asking for funding to help support mental health professionals who can respond instead of law enforcement, when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, drug courts -- expanding drug courts. We know a number of people who enter the criminal justice system have substance abuse problems, making sure that there`s funding in place for after-school programs, making sure that their funding in place for crime intervention programs that we know have been successful in cities across America.

So this is really a holistic approach. It`s not just about putting officers on our streets, but really about asking Congress to support programs that really get to the root causes of crime in our communities.

WAGNER: Let me ask you just one more question it`s not going unnoticed that this is the president`s third trip to Pennsylvania or he`ll be making three trips to Pennsylvania in the next week. It bears mentioning that John Fetterman, the Democratic Senate candidate, is leading his Republican opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz by 13 points. Josh Shapiro running for governor on the Democratic side leading Doug Mastriano by 11 points.

I wonder if we can expect President Biden to allocate his very powerful resources as the president of the United States to other Senate races that are perhaps closer like the one in your state of Georgia between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker which I believe has a two-point spread well within the margin of error.


Is he going to go down to Atlanta?

BOTTOMS: Well, I think what you will see is the president will go wherever he is needed and wanted. And we know Pennsylvania is home for the president, so it`s very familiar territory to him and he`s always happy to go there. But the president is watching closely what`s happening across the country and what we know with the support of Congress, President Biden has been able to get things done and he`ll continue to remind people that elections matter.

With the support of Congress, we`ve been able to get funding into our cities. With the support of Congress, with bipartisan support, we were able to sign some of the toughest gun legislation in the last years and the president`s calling for more, an all-out ban on assault weapons. So the president wants people who want to work with him to get things done on behalf of the American people and if that means going to Georgia and Pennsylvania to do that, I`m sure we`ll see more of him in many, many places.

WAGNER: We will be on the lookout for the travel itinerary.

Keisha Lance Bottoms, White House senior advisor for public engagement, thanks so much for joining us tonight.

BOTTOMS: Thank you.

WAGNER: Still ahead, the politics of abortion get very real for Republican politicians and activists, as they realize their views are wildly popular.

We`ll be right back.



WAGNER: One of the first lessons of politics is that when you try to win a primary race, you campaign to your base, the people who tend to be more ideologically shall we say focused than your average American voter. If you make it through to the general election, you soften your edges and campaign towards a more elusive middle. That is the conventional wisdom at least and we are watching exactly that play out in any number of races this cycle for Republican candidates in particular, especially those who pledged allegiance to Donald Trump in order to get their party`s nomination.

For example, the Republican candidate who is running to unseat Democratic Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona, it`s this guy, Blake Masters. He is a 36- year-old venture capitalist and protege of billionaire Trump supporter and right-wing king maker Peter Thiel. Since Masters won his party`s endorsement earlier this month, he`s been systematically trying to rewrite history in terms of what he stands for. But unfortunately for Blake Masters, the Internet is sometimes forever.

The most recent example of this published late last night by CNN`s K-FILE compared the current version of Blake Masters` campaign website with the one that existed just a day before he won his primary election. His website used to have the following language, quote, the election was a rotten mess. If we had had a free and fair election, President Trump would be sitting in the Oval Office today and America would be so much better off.

All of that has now been deleted from Mr. Masters` website -- the stuff about the election being a rotten mess and not somehow free and fair, gone.

And then there is his position on abortion. NBC News was the first to point out that Masters, quote, softened his rhetoric, rewriting or erasing five of his six positions, including this one. I am one hundred percent pro- life, or at least that`s what it said last Thursday morning, because that language is to now gone.

As is his support for a federal personhood law, ideally a constitutional amendment that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed. This sort of politically convenient amnesia or strategic deletion frenzy is sweeping the GOP. Over in Michigan, "The Detroit News" reported this weekend that a Republican state senator who is running for Congress a man named Tom Barrett removed a section from his website under the heading values and we`ll refrain from commenting on the irony there.

Anyway, you can see what it used to say courtesy of the Internet archive`s Wayback Machine. Quote: I am a Christian and I believe our elected leaders have a responsibility to represent the values our faith teaches, protecting individual rights includes protecting the unborn. I will always work to protect life from conception.

Barrett told "The Detroit News" that he hasn`t actually changed how he feels about abortion which based on previous statements means he`s against abortions even in the case of rape or incest. Barrett said, quote, I am sure we probably were updating things based on the issues that were most salient right now.

Hmm. I can think of another reason why Barrett`s abortion values were erased. In 2022, the politics of abortion are terrible for Republicans. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, Democratic voters have been awoken and they are enraged and they are galvanized which maybe helps to explain why certain groups in Michigan are working extra hard to get a citizen-led ballot initiative off of the Michigan ballots this November, because if it passes, that ballot measure would enshrine the right to abortion in Michigan`s Constitution and that is the sort of stuff, you cannot erase or delete very easily.

But it`s not on the ballot yet. The coalition behind the initiative spent months gathering signatures to put the measure on the November ballot. And so far, they have passed one major hurdle, by collecting nearly twice as many valid signatures as required to get that petition certified. The next hurdle comes tomorrow when the state board of canvassers meets to vote on whether or not to actually put this thing on the ballot and let Michigan voters have their say on reproductive choice.

But a group is now challenging the way the ballot initiative is formatted. It`s saying there aren`t enough spaces or the spaces aren`t big enough between some of the words and it is resulting in what they call incomprehensible argle-bargle.

Here`s an example of what they mean: One line of the proposed text does kind of look like it`s all one word decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care childbirth postpartum care. It`s kind of tight the spacing there.

So what happens now? I mean, literally hundreds of thousands of Michiganders have signed a petition saying yes, we would like a chance to weigh in on abortion this November. But now, at the 11th hour, they may be denied that chance because of formatting errors?

According to an election lawyer and former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, quote, non-material changes can be made, which is good, right? You`d think that Republicans who have spent the last few weeks making very material changes to, well, a lot of things you`d think that they of all people would understand.

Stay tuned.




REPORTER: Tonight, a race to distribute water in Jackson, Mississippi. Cars lined up for miles outside distribution centers full of locals hoping for water, who left empty-handed after the supply quickly ran out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water that they`re giving, you can get to it because the line is so long.

REPORTER: For weeks, Jackson residents have been under a boil water notice put in place last month because of contaminated water concerns. Now they are on the brink of having no water at all.

State officials say floodwater complications impacted storage tanks, pumps, and water flow, resulting in a failure at Jackson`s main plant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lack of water was due to a lack of pressure in the system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water is not to safe to drink, and I`d even say it`s not safe to brush your teeth with.


WAGNER: That is all happening right now. But as far back as hundred years ago, the leaders of Jackson, Mississippi, we`re worried about water infrastructure in that city. This is a headline from the local paper in 1922. Jackson`s great growth develops a new problem.

A population boom had pushed the city`s water treatment plant to the limit. As the city of Jackson grew and expanded, the problems with that city`s water supply only got worse. But to truly understand how Mississippi`s capital city found itself at the water supply that has been pushed way past the brink, it is worth looking at what happened in the October of 1969.

By that point, it was already the law of the land that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. That have been decided 15 years earlier by the Supreme Court in Brown versus the Board of Education.

But Mississippi had defied the court, keeping its schools completely segregated until 1969, when the Supreme Court essentially had to come back and say, Mississippi, do it now.

At that point, the high court came out and said that continued operation of racially segregated schools under the standard of all deliberate speed is no longer constant constitutionally permissible. In other words, integrated immediately. White parents of Jackson were so upset by this ruling, and about the potential for their children to attend school with black children, but they packed a city auditorium to attend a raucous rally and air their grievances.

The governor at the time, who was himself a staunch segregationist, he was so worried about parents becoming violent, that he called for restraint. Saying quote, let`s remember that the public schools, after, all are still public property, and willful damage or destruction of these properties is senseless. It`s like cutting off nose to spite the face.

That anger among my parents did not ultimately stop school integration. But it did drastically change the city of Jackson, Mississippi. It is estimated that in the three years after Jackson schools were integrated, more than 11,000 white students left Jackson school district. And with them also left many of the white, wealthy taxpayers who moved just outside the city, all the while Jackson`s water infrastructure continue to deteriorate and the fight for who`s going to take four for it -- well, that fight continues to this day.

Jackson was left with outdated, subpar pipes and no money for a long term structural overhaul. Over the decades, it`s only gotten worse, which brings us today, August 30th, 2022 and a complete system breakdown triggered by heavy flooding, with raw untreated water flowing through Jackson`s taps, unfit for drinking.

People in a city are now stocking up on bottled water, so they can do the most basic everyday things, like cook and bathe themselves.


Meanwhile, Jackson`s public schools are being forced to hold virtual classes, once more impacting the education of young children in a critical moment following the pandemic.

It is all very, very bad, but it is a crisis, a total system failure, that has been decades in the making.

Joining us now is Nsombi Lambright, a Jackson native. She`s also the executive director of One Voice Mississippi, and state policy advocacy organization.

Ms. Lambright, thanks so much for being here tonight, I can only imagine what life is like for the residents of Jackson, Mississippi.

Can you tell us how people have been surviving without running water in the United States of America, in the year 2022?

NSOMBI LAMBRIGHT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACLU OF MISSISSIPPI: It`s been really, really tough for us here in Jackson. It`s unimaginable to think about waking up every morning, and not being able to take a shower, or having to use bottled water to brush your teeth, and having to use bottled water to wash dishes and to cook with, and to even provide world bottled water to your pets because they can`t drink the water that is being used, coming out at the facets.

But it`s been really tough on us here. And to imagine that we just went through this last year, and we haven`t resolve this issue yet, is very discouraging for us here.

WAGNER: Yeah, I think it bears mentioning this is happened one spot for. The problems that hand they are even worse than they were a year ago, but it doesn`t give a a lot of hope about a long term solution here. What resources are available to people, and are advocates working to try to solve this problem with local leaders? I mean, is there any sense that this problem is going to debate anytime soon?

LAMBRIGHT: We are very hopeful, that with federal funding, we can fix this problem. As an advocate in Jackson, because I have to start with, I listen to your description of history of Jackson and I was born there in Jackson in 1973. So, you know, my family is rooted here. I`ve seen Jackson go through a lot of changes, and I`ve been very hopeful Jackson here, and going to college here. And seen a city grow and also seeing people leave the city, and seeing people not invest in the city and seeing people leave the city and say, I`m not going to leave my business here, and I`m not going to support the school system here.

And so I`ve seen people this invest in the city. So I know that with federal funding, and state funding, we could`ve had this problem solved years ago. And I`ve seen our city leadership attempt to fix this problem, over the years, but this problem has taken so long to get to this point. This problem, like you said, has taken 100 years to get to this point. This is not an overnight problem.

WAGNER: Yeah, I mean, we have to leave it there. We will continue our coverage of this it bears mentioning that the Republican governor of the state is the person who controls some of these purse strings. There is an enormous amount of money for a huge problem.

What`s happening in Jackson is untenable. It is un-American that people have to live like this.

Nsombi Lambright, Jackson native, and executive director of One Vice Mississippi -- thank you. Good luck, keep us posted on everything down there.

LAMBRIGHT: Thank you so much.

WAGNER: We have one more story tonight. How parents in one suburban Texas school district are challenging a new state law, and fighting the encroachment of Christian nationalism in public schools in the process.

Stay with us.



WAGNER: If you send your kids to a public school in Texas, they are now required by law to see this, quote, in God we trust. That sign is now displayed in each of the 11 schools in one district, in Dallas-Fort Worth areas, because Texas passed a law last year making it mandatory, mandatory to have this hang in public schools if someone donates it.

And here`s some of the members of the school board in that particular district looking super excited to get the signs donated, courtesy of a company called Patriot Mobile. Remember Patriot Mobile? We talked about them recently on the show, very, Christian nationalist mobile phone company responsible for pumping money into school board races in order to retake schools from woke liberals.

Patriot Mobile successfully won majorities in four school districts in suburban Fort Worth. Now, after the far-right company donated those "in God we trust" signs this week, some parents and activists were a little bit concerned and got creative. They press decided to present their own science to the school board, within god we trust translated into Arabic, and against a backdrop of gay pride colors. They look a little different than the patron signs.

The man you see here, Chauvin Krishna (ph) is a parent whose kids go to school in that district. At a board meeting yesterday, he asked the school board to accept this donation of these new posters. The school war didn`t even less him finish before interrupting him with a flat out denial. Their reasoning was that they had already met their so-called quota for "in God we trust" signs. Who knew there was a quota?

Apparently no one, because there isn`t actually a quota, Mr. Krishna went on to argue that nowhere in the law does it say that schools are limited to one sign per school. The school board can, it seems, except these signs even written in Arabic and with rainbow colors, but it refuses to, which raises a new and very legitimate question, is that against the law?

Mr. Krishna told us that he and his fellow parents and activists are exploring their legal options, and may in time find out, and we in turn are definitely going to keep our eye on this. That you can trust.

That does it for us tonight.


Good evening, Lawrence.