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Biden launches White House bid. TRANSCRIPT: 4/25/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Guests: Neera Tanden, Ro Khanna, William Barber, Katie Fahey, BarakGoodman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Well, 25 years later, the message today is powerful and similar to the message from 1994.  It seems that to fight off evil we must constantly call it out for what it is.  That`s HARDBALL for now.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  America is coming back like we used to be.

VELSHI:  The man at the top of the polls finally enters the race.

BIDEN:  We are in the battle for the soul of this nation.

VELSHI:  Tonight, can Joe Biden`s general election strategy to attack Donald Trump work in a contested Democratic primary.


VELSHI:  Then, is the president creating more problems for himself when he calls his former White House Counsel a liar?

TRUMP:  Don McGahn is a really good guy.

VELSHI:  Plus --

FRANKLIN GRAHAM, EVANGELIST:  I appreciate the fact that the President does have a concern for Christian values.

VELSHI:  A Trump supporting evangelist calls for Mayor Pete to repent for his sexuality.

TRUMP:  Nothing beats the Bible.

VELSHI:  Reverend William Barber is here to respond.  ALL IN starts now.


VELSHI:  Good evening from New York, I`m Ali Velshi in for Chris Hayes.  The man who has been leading the 2020 Democratic primary polls since they started is now officially in the race.  After waiting for 19 other candidates to enter the field, former Vice President Joe Biden officially announced his candidacy today in a video basically saying his entire reason for running is Donald Trump, specifically Trump`s comments after the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.


BIDEN:  He said there were "some very fine people on both sides."  Very fine people on both sides?  With those words, the President of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those who have the courage to stand against it.  And in that moment, I knew the threat to the station was unlike any I`ve ever seen in my lifetime.

The core values of this nation are standing in the world, our very democracy.  Everything that is made America-America is at stake.  That`s why today I`m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States.


VELSHI:  Trump responded as he usually does on Twitter giving Biden a nickname and saying "I only hope you have the intelligence long in doubt to wage a successful primary campaign.  It will be nasty.  You will be dealing with people who truly have some very sick and demented ideas.  But if you make it, I will see you at the starting gate."

Biden who was rarely shied away from attacking Trump ducked questions today about his decision to run as if he`s in a general election and not a primary.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Your message very clearly made this about the debate about President Trump, but you`re going to have to get through the Democratic primary first.  Why are you the best choice for Democrats?

BIDEN:  That will be for the Democrats to decide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But how could you --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you think about the Mueller Report --


BIDEN:  I`ll talk about all of those stuff in time, OK. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is the case against Donald Trump strong enough for impeachment?


VELSHI:  Despite joining the race with consistently the highest poll numbers of any Democrat, Biden has significant baggage including more than 30 years of Senate votes, his treatment of Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas` Supreme Court confirmation and recent allegations from multiple women that Biden touched them in ways that made them uncomfortable.

Joining me now for a look at Biden`s prospects are Jonathan Allen NBC News Reporter and Author of Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton`s Doomed Campaign.  His latest column is titled "Biden bets on Democrats fear of reelecting Trump."  Jonathan, good to see you, my friend.  Let`s talk about what that column means.  What do you mean that he bets on Democrats fears of reelecting Trump?

JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS REPORTER:  Well, you heard the vice president right there.  That was not Barack Obama`s message of hope and change in that video right there.  He was talking about what`s at stake for America, the fundamental character of our nation.  What America what makes America- America, the dangers he said of giving Donald Trump another four years.

What he`s arguing to the Democratic electorate and I think to the broader general electorate is that if Donald Trump is given another four years, America we`ll be inalterably changed.  And so that`s a fear message.  That`s saying if you do this, if you go down that path of Donald Trump, you won`t be able to go back to what you had before.

And it`s a very, very different message not only from what you heard from Barack Obama who he ran with but also from these other Democrats that are proposing some very big ambitious left-leaning proposals.

VELSHI:  Cornell Belcher joins me now, Democratic Pollster and MSNBC Political Analyst.  Cornell, great to see you.  Let me ask you about this.  What is the zeitgeist of the moment because Donald -- Joe Biden said some weeks ago, I am an Obama-Biden Democrat.  What is the thing he`s trying to capture right now?

Because a big portion of the Democratic Party would like the party to be as Jonathan Allen said more progressive, a larger portion according to polls would like it to be more progressive to do what Nancy Pelosi says, to be able to continue to win in those swing districts influenced by moderates.  So what`s Joe Biden in this mix?

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I`m going to back up from all that for a moment, and understand what a -- what an Obama Democrat is.  Obama -- you`ve got to go a long way back in our country to find a Democrat who`s won back-to-back majorities.  Heck, you got to go a long way back in our country to find a Republican who`s won back-to-back majorities.

So when he`s talking about being an Obama kind of Democrat, you`re talking about in fact a big party, a big tip, right.  And Obama brought you know, eight percent of our lecture in 2008 where people who had never participated before, eight or 11 percent.  So it`s about -- it`s broadening and expanding the party and bringing more people into the conversation.

This back and forth about progressive, whose progressive, not progressive I think that`s the insight Washington game.  I think it`s an elite game.  When I talk to Democratic voters and I`ve been in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire, been all over place.  When you talk to Democrats in those states, real Democrats in those states, what they`re talking about is kitchen table issues.

What they`re talking about is the division that`s happening in this country.  What they`re talking about is health care.  What they`re talking about is not just jobs but in fact, a wage where they can get ahead again in this country.  So this left and right and sort of who`s progressive not progressive conversation, I don`t think it`s a real voter conversation.

VELSHI:  Jonathan, Biden claims to be the O.G. progressive in fact.  He says that he`s been fighting for these policies and even in the midst of the criticism that Joe Biden has had both about Anita Hill and about his habits about touching people, many people have come and said from a legislative perspective, this is a man who`s had some evolution but has actually been as he described as progressive.

ALLEN:  Well, he`s been a progressive after the progressives got to the progressive position.  I mean, if you look at the history of Joe Biden, he was against Roe vs. Wade when it originally came out.  He was in favor of the Iraq war, a vote that he`s since said that he regretted.  He was against busing in the 70s sort of led the southern block of senators on that.

You go through the various issues, Joe Biden eventually got to where the progressive position was but it`s never where he started or almost never where he started.  And even the Violence Against Women Act, something that he`s he talks about a lot and will talk about a lot, if I`ve got the history correct, I believe that was after those Anita Hill hearings.

So this is not somebody who`s going to lead on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.  The argument he`s going to make is -- and this is the anniversary, the 100th year since Warren Harding ran on a return to normalcy, he`ll be making that return to normalcy argument.

VELSHI:  Cornell, almost never where he started what Jonathan said.  If the zeitgeist is about progressiveness to some people, and I think that is probably true, he`s going to have to make the argument that he`s evolved to that.

But I see a poll from The Wall Street Journal, an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll from February.  I have trouble believing if this is actually true, but it asks the most popular and unpopular presidential traits.  Listing the most popular, an African American, then a white man, then a woman, then a person who is gay or lesbian, then somebody who`s over 75, and finally just in sixth or fifth is a socialist.  Do you believe polls like this?

BELCHER:  Well, I think they`re -- I think they are measuring something.  And clearly what Democrats want is diversity.  But Jonathan is absolutely right.  Biden does have a record that he`s going to have to explain and he`s going to give some of the progressives and some of his opponents plenty of firepower to come at them.

Because Ali, they`re going to have to come at it because he`s the front- runner.  So you`re going to see in the next two weeks Democratic candidates try to figure out how they chip away at Biden.  And I don`t think the old man route is really the one way to go about it.  I think from -- I think that`s part of it, but also if voters are looking -- Democrat voters are looking for the future, who`s going to sort of build a progressive movement for the future and something larger than just beating Donald Trump, I think they have a whole field of other people.  If they`re looking just to beat Donald Trump, I think that`s a really safe place for Joe Biden.

VELSHI:  Guys, good to see you both Jonathan Allen and Cornell Belcher.  Joining me now for more on Biden`s 2020 strategy are Neera Tanden, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress.  She was the Director of Domestic Policy for the Obama-Biden Presidential Campaign.  And Michael Steele, former RNC Chairman, and an MSNBC Political Analyst.  Both of them two of my favorites.  Thank you for helping me out tonight.

Neera, let`s start with you.  Let`s take this question out of the Democratic primary where Joe Biden is acting like the presumptive nominee.  He`s in the lead.  And assuming he were to prevail, what does that look like against Donald Trump?

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  I actually think the fact that Trump engaged Joe Biden today actually helps Joe Biden`s argument.  Joe Biden`s argument as discussed earlier is that he is a person who can unite the party, that he is willing to take the argument directly to Trump.  I do think people can imagine him on a debate stage with Donald Trump.  He has had exchanges with Donald Trump in which he does not shy away from being a pretty aggressive, assertive voice against what Donald Trump is doing.

And I do think in a party that you know, from the most moderate to the most liberal left person, Donald Trump is anathema on so many issues most fundamentally on race and division.  And so I think the fact that Vice President Joe Biden is actually talking about those issues, it does help make the argument that he`s the best candidate against Trump.  And that really reinforcing. 

In the primary, candidate -- the public, the voters are really focused on electability.  So the more he makes the argument about being able to take on Trump, the more he has strength within the party because they are looking at these polls where he`s doing pretty well.

VELSHI:  Michael Steele, Donald Trump appealed to -- by the way, so did Bernie Sanders, but they appealed to in many cases working-class disaffected people who thought that elites and the system, and global trade had all conspired to make everybody rich but them and had taken their jobs away.

Donald Trump won on a -- to some degree on a message of economic populism.  Joe Biden would like to take that message back.  He does have the problem of being part of an administration under which things continued to be difficult for Americans.  What`s his best case when it comes to economic populist?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think it comes from different perspectives from him.  Number one, you know, Joe is an everyman.  I mean, I think Joe despite you know, his time in the administration had a relationship, a pre-existing relationship with a lot of those voters and a lot of those workers across the country.  So they know him.

There`s a reason why he`s going to kick off this campaign working with you know, union -- with union workers in Pennsylvania.  There`s a reason why he`s walking the neighborhoods in the streets of the community right out of the gate because he has that connection with people.

So people kind of understand when he starts talking about bringing it back to the kitchen table, bringing it back home for people, to retain their jobs, to grow their jobs, to get a livable wage, to have access to better health care.  That`s a fight that he`s been on the frontlines of for a long time and certainly led the charge in some respects during the last administration.

So I think he`s got that sweet spot that Trump is going to have a hard time I think taking from him.  Look, Trump can go after everybody else to Joe`s left all day long.  The basil of it and certainly you know there`s that center-left center right in the country that will be amused by it.  But when it comes to actually bringing home the votes, Trump is concerned about what Joe can do to peel back some of those white working-class voters out there who came to him after Barack Obama.

VELSHI:  Neera, tell me about the white working-class in generally speaking non-college educated voters if Joe Biden is the kind of candidate who might appeal to them.  Is he also the kind of candidate who needs to appeal to those people who -- to his left who are angry with the way things were before Donald Trump got there and are angrier now?

TANDEN:  You know, actually if you look at polls within the Democratic Party, Barak Obama himself is extremely popular.  I mean, he`s at what, 85- 90 percent popularity.  So there are -- there is a contingent of voters who are unhappy with the Obama presidency, but it is pretty small within the party.

And so you know, I -- my own view is that whoever the nominee is actually has to make a case about how they`re going to improve wages, ensure that their jobs with economic dignity.  The Center for American Progress and ACLU is holding presidential forum with many of the presidential candidates this weekend in Las Vegas.

The Vice President won`t be able to make it because he just launched but a lot of the candidates will be there.  And I think that Vice President Joe Biden`s argument is that he has a claim to those voters.  He campaigned in the midterms and a lot of swing districts.  He`s campaigned in places like Alabama and reached out to those voters.

And anything -- but I do think whoever the nominee is going to have to make an argument about how they are -- they have the ability to bring back some of those voters who were lost in 2016 but who did come back in 2018 and a lot of these swing districts.

VELSHI:  Michael Steele, there are a lot of people, a lot of Democrats who say they would like to see a woman candidate.  They`d like to see a woman on the ticket for sure.  How did you think that the two issues that Joe Biden has had to contend within the last couple of months, the resurgence of criticism about how he handled the Clarence Thomas nomination and Anita Hill, and these allegations from women who said they -- he did things that made them feel uncomfortable?  How do you feel he`s handled that and will that be enough for him?

STEELE:  I think it`s going to break oddly enough not so much along gender lines but long age lines.  I think you`re going to find younger millennial voters between 18 and 25 or 30 are going to apply today`s standards to a process in a period that`s 30-35 years old and say well, why didn`t you answer it this way or why didn`t you address the issue a certain way the way we would do it today.

For older voters, this is not going to be so much of a barn burner for them, I don`t think.  I think there`s polling that kind of shows that split by the way, that older voters tend to look more a little bit more substantively at what are you going to do for me now because I`ve got a business I`m running now.  I`ve got issues related to health care and other things now.

And so to the extent that Joe I think out of the box, Ali, comes out and says look, I`m not going to apologize for what I did then because that was time in place.  The vast majority of Democrats supported him on the crime bill.  A vast majority of Democrats are sitting at that same panel with him with Anita Hill didn`t raise objections.

So there was a time and place analysis that can be done but right now he`s got to be focused on what he`s going to do about tomorrow because I can`t - - I can only address yesterday but so much.  And I don`t think he wants to get caught in that trap up having to apologize, and re-explain and explain again what he did then.  I think voters right now want more now.

VELSHI:  Neera Tanden -- Neera Tanden, can you get past it?

TANDEN:  You know, I actually think the Vice President is going to be asked about these issues.  He`s going to be asked about the crime bill, he`s going to be asked about Anita Hill.  I think those are very legitimate questions.  The questions about Anita Hill are exceedingly legitimate in this moment where we are going through the #MeToo Movement.

And I do think people young, old, everyone within the party wants to see that they were going to have a president and a presidential candidate who was strong, can withstand a lot of give-and-take.  And so I think the vice president knows, I hope he knows that he`s going to have to answer questions about these issues.  He`s going to be in a debate where opponents are going to raise them and he has to have a comfort level and an acceptance that this isn`t you know, this is the 1990s.

People want to know how you`re going to handle these issues in the future.  What is your attitude toward sexual harassment?  What is your attitude towards the #MeToo Movement?  What is your attitude towards mass incarceration?  People are going to understand that that happened then but you have to have a plan and an idea about how you`re addressing these issues now that are different from the past.

VELSHI:  What a great conversation with the two of you.  Thank you for joining me, Neera Tanden and Michael Steele.  All right, next, the President is stonewalling any congressional oversight saying he`ll fight all House subpoenas while baselessly denying one of the central pieces of the Mueller Report.  Oversight committee member Ro Khanna and what happens next in two minutes.


VELSHI:  The White House is now denying the request from the chair of the House Oversight Committee to hear testimony from senior adviser Stephen Miller about the administration`s immigration actions.  Miller you might recall was also all over the Mueller report just one week ago -- that was released just one week ago.

The President says he is fighting all House subpoenas right now and he`s suing the Oversight Chairman to block a subpoena of his financial records.  And while Trump stonewalls any form of congressional oversight, he`s also trying to deny one of the key parts of the Mueller report, the detailed account of how he asked his then-White House Counsel to fire the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The president tweeting today "I never told then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller.  Here to talk about what happens now, one of the Congressman who sits on the key House Oversight Committee, so named because it is intended for oversight, Democrat Ro Khanna of California.  Congress Khanna, good to see you.

I am at a loss for where to start but I`m going to start with Stephen Miller because he has been subpoenaed to testify about immigration policy, not the Mueller report and the president isn`t even allowing that to happen.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA):  Well, it`s important, Ali, to understand that this is unprecedented.  Elijah Cummings articulated that the Clinton chief of staff testified, White House counsels have testified, numerous White House aides before in both parties have come and testified, so it is just factually false when the White House says that White House aides haven`t appeared before the committee.

And you`ll remember in the Obama case, Solyndra and Benghazi, and all those bogus investigations, well, the Obama White House was producing documents.

VELSHI:  I`m not really understanding what the prohibition should be on Stephen Miller who everybody acknowledges is the heart and soul of the Trump administration immigration policy.  What`s at issue here?

KHANNA:  Well, this has nothing to do frankly even with the president.  It`s all about policy.  I mean Stephen Miller is the person who allegedly is saying that Department of Homeland Security people should be fired and replaced.  He`s the one who`s the architect of the policy to separate babies from their parents.  He`s the one who`s the architect of the policies on the border wall.

And this is the Congress saying you have some accountability to the elected people to explain why you`re doing what you`re doing.  I mean it`s the -- goes to the essence of separation of powers and the role of Congress that this president is defying.

VELSHI:  This tweet about Don McGahn saying I didn`t tell them to fire Robert Mueller, the interesting part about that is Don McGahn is a lawyer.  He`s not just a lawyer.  He was the White House Counsel.  He`s not just the White House Counsel, he was the guy who was preparing the president for the -- as part of the investigation who said under oath in cooperation with the Mueller investigation what he said.

So the President is basically not just saying he didn`t say something, he`s accusing the White House Counsel -- former White House Counsel of lying under oath which of course would be a criminal offense.

KHANNA:  Well, it just shows that the President has learned nothing from this Mueller a probe or report.  You would think he`d actually be thanking Don McGahn and thanking the aides who saved him from further embarrassment.  I mean, the report basically says that the president attempted to obstruct justice and he was inept at doing it because of the insubordination of people like Don McGahn.

But what the president really fears is Don McGahn going before Congress on television telling his story.  He isn`t as concerned about the written report but he knows the power of television and he`s petrified of that.

VELSHI:  Yesterday our reporter Vaughn Hilliard caught up with the Vice President to ask him in the wake of the Mueller report whether he would actually not use stolen information from a foreign government, an adversarial government in an election.  Let`s listen to the exchange.


VAUGHN HILLIARD, MSNBC REPORTER:  Do you regret using e-mails stolen by Russian intelligence officers during that campaign, and do you pledge to not do so in this upcoming presidential campaign?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The United States is taking strong action against the Founder of WikiLeaks.  We`re seeking extradition and we`ll be holding him accountable for his actions on compromising American secrets.


VELSHI:  That was an interesting answer that had nothing to do with the question that was asked.  That went on for a long time by the way.  We showed you a shortened version of it, but at no point in an almost two- minute answer did the Vice President say no, I actually won`t.  We won`t take that sort of stuff.

One of your colleague Sheila Jackson Lee has tweeted today that she`s filed a bill called H.R. 2353, duty to refuse and report foreign interference in American elections act of 2019 which imposes a duty to refuse an offer of campaign assistance from a foreign entity and a duty to report the overture to the FBI which congressman Khanna you would think would be the normal response.

KHANNA:  Well, Ali, it`s said that we`re at a state in this country where even these questions have to be asked.  I mean, how difficult is it for the Vice President or anyone to say I will not in any way accept any assistance from a foreign power.

VELSHI:  Right.

KHANNA:  That should be self-evident.  And the Mueller report concluded -- this is important for people to realize.  It concluded that the Trump campaign had an expectation to benefit from the Russians.  So it`s very concerning to me that the Vice President is unwilling to just flat-out say that they do not want any help from any foreign country.

And I support Sheila Jackson Lee`s bill which would simply require any notification to the FBI if there is foreign interference or attempts for foreign assistance to a campaign.

VELSHI:  Remarkable that you need bills filed to do the things that most Americans would think are just normal things to do when you see a crime in commission.  Congressman, good to see you as always.  Thank you for joining me.

KHANNA:  Thanks for having me.

VELSHI:  Congressman Ro Khanna.  All right, coming up, Reverend William Barber is here to respond to the homophobic attacks on Mayor Pete Buttigieg from a Trump supporting evangelical leader.  Reverend Barber joins me next.


VELSHI:  Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a historic candidate, the first openly gay major party candidate in the United States.  And he`s been gaining traction generally running third in national polls of Democratic primary voters.  And one of the things he`s done is take on Vice President Mike Pence for his hypocrisy as an evangelical Christian in so strongly supporting and enabling Donald Trump.

Now, Franklin -- Reverend Franklin Graham, a vocal Trump supporter himself, has had about enough of it.  And in a series of tweets, Graham has attacked Buttigieg saying, quote, "Mayor Buttigieg says he`s a gay Christian.  As a Christian, I believe the bible, which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praise said or politicized."

It should be noted, Graham has never asked Donald Trump to publicly repent for anything, not for his habitual lying about things big and small, nor for his Muslim ban, nor for separating families at the border, nor for his personal failings like adultery.  Graham was vocal in his criticism of President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, writing an op-ed the Wall Street Journal in 1998 "Entitled Clinton`s sins aren`t private."

But regarding Trump, Graham told the Associated Press, quote, "I think this thing with Stormy Daniels and so forth is nobody`s business."

So, Graham has stepped up to the virtual pulpit to attack Mayor Buttigieg.  And while Buttigieg has chosen not to respond to Graham`s attack, the Rev. Dr. William Barber has taken issue with Graham`s comments, and Rev. Dr. Barber, co-chair of Poor People`s Campaign, a national call for moral revival, joins me now.

Reverend, good to see you, thank you for joining us.

What`s your issue with Franklin Graham?

RE. DR. WILLIAM BARBER, CO-FOUNDER POOR PEOPLE`S CAMPAIGN:  Well, what you see here is the religion of Franklin Graham, not the religion of Jesus.  And he and many others try to perpetrate that as such.

Jesus is very clear about what sin is.  Sin is refusing to love people, it is refusing to show grace.  Sin is refusing to address the issue of poverty.  Sin is refusing to deal with injustice.  Sin is refusing to welcome the stranger and to feed the hungry and to care for the least of these.

And what it always amazes me about these who he know claim the bible say -- he never said Jesus said, that`s important to recognize.  But Graham says so much -- he and others -- about what Jesus says almost nothing about, and so little about what Jesus says everything about.

There are more than 2,000 scriptures in the bible that say that what god calls us to be about in the public square is how we care for the children, the widowed, the stranger, the immigrant, and the poor, and you hardly ever hear him say anything about that.

And yet he tried to present himself as being authentic Christianity when in fact what you see from past comments or whatnot is a form of hypocrisy.

VELSHI:  What`s interesting about Mayor Pete is that he does not shy away from his religion.  He does not shy away from his Christianity.  He does not reject the idea that there are some Christians who is take issue with his homosexuality.  He believes in a faith, as he interprets it, that is inclusive.

BARBER:  Sure.  And this is not new.  You know, Frederick Douglass took issue with the slave master religion, he said, because he loved the religion of Jesus Christ.  He had to hate the slave masters religion.  And the slave masters told the slaves it was sin if ran away from slavery, but never said the slavery was sin.

There were those who used to say black and white people marrying another was a sin, the segregationist, never said anything about segregation being a sin.

Graham and his philosophy and logic lines up with those folks.  But not only is it on the LGBTQ issue, you know, health care is a moral issue, it is a form of sin if public policy and violence that we have, you know, millions and millions of people without health care in the richest country of the world, 140 million people who live in poverty and low wealth, created by policies, not by the immorality of poor people.  If you look at scripture and Jesus, those things would be categorized as sin, and we ought to be dealing with those in this society.

VELSHI:  You talk about welcoming the stranger and feeding the hungry, certain as it -- regards to the southern border, that is not the policy that is being followed by this administration, so what is a guy like Franklin Graham get for coming out and attacking Pete Buttigieg, but never speak about these things of which you speak, never speaking about the things that the Trump administration or Donald Trump himself has done?  What does -- how does that enrich Franklin Graham?

BARBER:  Well, I don`t know how it does, but evidently it does in some way.  The reality is I wish we had a long show to deal with this, that this has a history in America.  You know, you had a group called the spiritual mobilizer that came out against Roosevelt when he was pushing Social Security and the New Deal.  You had the Moral Majority and other groups that have come out.  You know the so-called religious right, I don`t like to use those terms, really started around the issue of privatized school and wanted to refuse to engage in desegregation.

So, we have had for years this strange heretical form of undergirding extreme policies where people say basically if you are against a woman`s right to choose, if you are for prayer in the school and you are against gay people and for guns and for tax cuts, somehow you are on god`s side.  And we have to challenge it now. 

He can say this is the religion of Franklin Graham, but he cannot get away with saying his statements are the religion of Jesus Christ or the religion of Christianity, we have to challenge it.

And I challenge it as an evangelical, as someone who is a pastor, who is a theologian, who loves Jesus.  And I can`t find Jesus saying any of the things he has said.

VELSHI:  Rev. Dr. William Barber, you are right.  I wish we had an hour to do this.  One day, you and I will.

Thank you, sir, as always, for joining us.

BARBER:  Thank you so much.

VELSHI:  Rev. Dr. William Barber.

Just ahead, Republicans caught cheating in order to maintain power.  The Michigan ruling today that calls their gerrymandering efforts unconstitutional coming up.

Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts next.


VELSHI:  Thing One tonight, last week when the Mueller report exposed the fact that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders just straight up lies to the American people from her podium in the White House, our friend Sam Stein jokingly tweeted Sarah Sanders is going to have some tough questions to handle at the daily briefing today.  And that is hilarious, because Sarah Sanders doesn`t do briefings anymore, silly.

The White House daily briefing used to be a thing when our government cared about transparency with the American people, open dialog, that sort of thing.  But we are 114 days into the year 2019 and the White House has held exactly two briefings.  At this point last year, there had been 36.  President Obama`s last full year in office, they had held 50 by April 25.

But tonight, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was back in the briefing room, although she wasn`t actually there to talk to the media.  And that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.


VELSHI:  All around the country, it is take our daughters and sons to work today, or as they call it at the White House, Thursday.  But on this special day, it`s not like little Jared and Ivanka, who get to run around the White House were doing that, the children of staffers and even reporters got to come into the office, and the White House pulled out all the stops, even opening up a special room they`ve used only twice this year.  That`s right, Sarah Huckabee Sanders dug out the key to the White House briefing room, wiped off the dust, chased out the bats, and held an actual briefing, just, you know, for kids.

Now, we would show you some video of that, but the White House insisted it be off the record.  Some reports have emerged about a few of the questions the kids asked, like what kind of ice cream the president likes and why the administration is separating families at the border.

But after the briefing, the children got to meet the president himself, and luckily that was on the record because it gave us another strange Trump talking to children moment.


TRUMP:  I even love the media today.  I see these beautiful children, products of the media.  And I actually like you much more than your parents.

You visited with our terrific presidential photographers, very talented people.  You take pictures you have seen people from all over the world, some of the great pictures that they get.  Very talented, talented people.

I wish they could make me look just a little bit better.  Sometimes I think they do it on purpose, actually.  They give me pictures always my chin is pulled way in.  I look terrible, but that`s OK, they do that on purpose.



VELSHI:  A very important ruling out of Michigan today where a three judge federal panel ruled that the state must redraw legislative and congressional districts for the 2020 election, because current maps drawn by Republicans represent a political gerrymander of, quote, historical proportions.

Partisan gerrymandering is the process of drawing congressional districts to benefit a certain political party by manipulating which voters end up in which districts.  Both parties have engaged in the practice, but Republicans have been far more aggressive in drawing districts to their benefit.

In Michigan, for example, quote, one staffer bragged the GOP map was, quote, a glorious way that makes it easier to cram all of the Dem garbage in Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and McComb Counties into only four districts.

And the result is in 2018, Republicans kept control of the Michigan legislature, quote, despite Democrats winning the popular vote in legislative races.

Michigan Republicans are vowing to appeal the decision to the conservative dominated U.S. Supreme Court, which is already weighing partisan gerrymandering cases out of North Carolina and Maryland.

We know what the people think, because last year Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved an anti-gerrymandering proposal that would take the power to draw districts away from the GOP-controlled legislature and give it to a 13-member citizens redistricting commission made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and five people who identify with neither party.

The initiative grew out of a Facebook post from a young Michigander named Katie Fahey who is featured in a new documentary on gerrymandering and how the GOP has deployed the tactic to subvert the will of the people.

Katie joins me to tell her story right after this.


VELSHI:  Starting last year, there have been a string of court decisions striking down partisan gerrymanderers, with judges in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina, ruling that legislative districts were illegally drawn to benefit a political party, more often than not, Republicans.

And now, a federal court in Michigan has ruled that the political maps were illegally rigged by Republicans to, quote, historical proportions.  And ordered new maps and special early elections.  This is a big deal.

Last year, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved an anti-gerrymandering ballot initiative, which began with Michigan resident Katie Fahey who is featured in a new documentary on gerrymandering called "Slay the Dragon."

Joining me now talk about this, Katie Fahey, founder of Voters not Politicians.  Also with me is Barak Goodman, co-director of the new documentary, "Slay the Dragon."

Welcome to both of you.  Thank you for being here.


VELSHI:  What`s the dragon?

KATIE FAHEY, FOUNDER, VOTERS NOT POLITICIANS:  It`s the gerrymanderer, it is this thing that we`ve had since the founding of America, which basically rigs elections 10 years at a time based on one political party or the other having more control.

VELSHI:  And in the beginning, one of these things was shaped like a salamander, which got the name gerrymandering.  But the point is, this has been with us for a long time.  What`s different now?

GOODMAN:  What`s different is that one political party figured out how to weaponize this, old political dirty trick, and make it a national strategy.  And that happened in 2011, right after the 2010 census.

So they figured out that if they won a bunch of state legislatures all around the country, they would control the redistricting process, and they could gerrymander those states so that they could basically cheat their way back into power and hold onto power for a decade until the next redistricting.

VELSHI:  Katie, how do you -- you couldn`t have even been in -- you know, you were a kid in school at the time.  How are you involved in this?

FAHEY:  Yeah, so I remember learning about gerrymandering in elementary school actually and  asking my teacher, you know, if we know it`s broken, why don`t we fix it?

VELSHI:  Excellent question.

FAHEY:  I got an it`s always been this way.  And it really bothered me. 

And after the 2016 election, Michigan behaved in a really interesting way.  In the primaries, a lot of voters -- actually Bernie Sanders won, and then Donald Trump won in the general.  And when I was going to Thanksgiving dinner, I was really nervous. I didn`t want to go.  My family was very politically divided.  But they had started talking about politics.  And I thought, what do the two  characters have in common?  And it really was this message of like tear down the system.  We have got to restart.

VELSHI:  That`s right.

FAHEY:  And I think that`s a lot of systemic frustration that voters feel because they realize that when they show up to the ballot, no matter who they vote for, they aren`t getting solutions.  And I remembered that gerrymandering is part of the reason why that mathematically, we get divided up once every 10 years, so that whether we show up at the ballot box or not our voices really don`t matter as much as they should, and we`ve lost our power to unelect people we don`t like and to elect people we do like.

VELSHI:  And then you come out, you emerge from Thanksgiving dinner and you realize that there`s -- that the problem is one you should deal with.

And people are angry about systems that are broken, this is one of the easiest to comprehend.  It`s like look at an electoral map and tell me why that makes sense.

So what do you do about it?

FAHEY:  Yeah, so I didn`t know at first.  I made this Facebook post.  I wasn`t in politics.  It got shared a bunch.  And then in Michigan we have the ballot initiative process, where if people in Michigan can write constitutional language, gather a ton of signatures, then the populous can vote on it in a general election. 

And I thought, you know, there`s no way that the legislature can interfere, so let`s go for direct democracy. And see if people want voters choosing their politicians instead of the other way around.  And we saw November 6 that 2.5 million people did.

VELSHI:  Barak, what is the solution moving forward?  There are going to be a number of these cases, particularly North Carolina, now Michigan, that are going to -- that are going to the Supreme Court.  What do regular people who are mad about this do?

In Michigan, it did, to Katie`s point, it got a lot of people out there to vote.  Some argue, Michael Moore has been on with me saying that, alone, got people who weren`t otherwise going to vote to go out to vote because it was an initiative that was important to them.  But what does the rest of the  country do?  Because we all -- in all of our states, have gerrymandered districts.

GOODMAN:  Well, there are a couple things.  I mean, first of all, we can`t rely on the Supreme Court.  The betting money is this Supreme Court will not find with the plaintiffs in these various states, unfortunately, because these cases to me are open and shut.  But what Katie demonstrated, Katie and her folks in Michigan, demonstrated in states those have ballot referenda is that ordinary citizens can take this on, through the referendum process, they can basically take the power to redistrict away from  legislatures and invest it in citizens groups instead.

If the state -- if a state doesn`t have that ability, I would just say voters should vote on this issue.  I mean, if you have legislators who are not willing to give up the power to redistrict, it makes no sense for politicians to be drawing their own lines, it`s just a conflict of interest on its face.

So vote on the issue, elect those politicians who are willing to give up that power, because right now, it is a totally corrupt system.  And as you point out, it`s affecting states all over the country.

VELSHI:  Katie, there are powers behind this.  This doesn`t just happen, right?  Influential people put money into certain elections that they can influence so that they, as you said, they got the people in position to be able to be there to redistrict in their favor. 

Can this be fought on a citizen level?

FAHEY:  Yeah, I think we`re proof that it was.  You know, it wasn`t just me it was actually thousands of people putting their lives on hold for two years to dedicate their time, their energy, their resources, to talk about something that feels like it should have been left in civics class, but the reality is that people recognize that politics is not working for the everyday person, especially in Michigan.  And it hasn`t been for decades, whether the Democrats were gerrymandering or the Republicans.

So until we start fixing some of these things, we are going to continue to be unhappy, and the people who suffer are the everyday people.

So we had over 4,000 people gathering signatures, we had over 425,000 signatures gathered, you know we filled the Supreme Court case -- we filled the court when we were there and had 300 people outside.  This really was connected to voters, because it felt like a way we could actually start addressing these issues instead of just talking about them.

VELSHI:  There`s a piece from the film, I just want to ask my control room if we`ve got it.  There`s a short bit of you in the documentary that I just think captures what you were thinking and how you got this to catch fire.  Let`s listen to it.


FAHEY:  I think Flint woke people up.  Just sitting and watching, like, these politicians just so blatantly disregard the will of the people.  You have these officials who feel untouchable, who feel like they can`t get unelected, because they`ve designed and rigged a system to make it that way.

I just reached a point where it was like, why aren`t we -- how can we do something about this, like, how?


VELSHI:  There are a lot of people, Barak, in this country, who will watch this film who were the ones who were behind gerrymandering.  This is not a random thing.


VELSHI:  They are not going to like this.  As you said, the Supreme Court - - the betting is not that they will rule for the plaintiffs.  But they will redouble their efforts to do what they were doing.


VELSHI:  Who are -- who are people who want to fix this broken system up against?

GOODMAN:  They`re up against entrenched money.  They`re up against plutocrats who have enormous power in this country.  They`re up against incumbent politicians who don`t want to face the voters and have a free and fair election.  And it`s not -- it`s not just Republicans -- although Republicans have perfected the art, it`s Democrats, too.  There`s a case in front of the Supreme Court involving a Democratic district. 

It`s really about incumbents not wanting a competitive election.  And until that happens, we really don`t have a real democracy in this country.

VELSHI:  Thank you for making the film.  Thank you for doing what so many Americans will find inspiring, getting up and taking action about something that you didn`t think was right.

Katie Fahey and Barak Goodman, thank you both for being with me tonight.

FAHEY:  Thank you.

VELSHI:  And that is all for this evening.  "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now.