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Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 12/19/2015

Guests: R.T. Rybak, Molly O`Toole, Katrina Vanden Heuval, Malcolm Nance, Hillary Mann Leverett, Nancy Kaffer, Dayvon Love, Marc Steiner, Billy Murphy, Zoe Salzman, Nykidra Robinson

Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY Date: December 19, 2015 Guest: R.T. Rybak, Molly O`Toole, Katrina Vanden Heuval, Malcolm Nance, Hillary Mann Leverett, Nancy Kaffer, Dayvon Love, Marc Steiner, Billy Murphy, Zoe Salzman, Nykidra Robinson


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my question, will there be justice for Freddie Gray? Plus, now everyone has a plan to be a war time president. And the Christmas Carol. First introduced on this day in 1843. But first, it`s fight night for the Democrats. Tonight. And they`re already throwing punches.

Good Morning, I`m Joy Reid, in for Melissa. Tonight is the third and final Democratic presidential debate of the year. And until yesterday, few expected there to be much of an interest, after all, the debate is up against college football games, the opening weekend of new "Star Wars" movie, and well just the fact that it`s Saturday night, more specifically, the Saturday before Christmas.

Now, there have even been suggestions that the debate being hidden under a proverbial bushel was by design, courtesy of a Clinton-friendly Democratic National Committee. The DNC denied that claim. But that hasn`t stopped people from floating the notion. But tonight`s debate could actually be a real throw-down. After a showdown between Bernie Sanders and the DNC.

The dispute erupted after staffers for Sanders obtained access to sensitive information from Hillary Clinton`s camp during a software glitch with the party`s critical voter file. A master list of information essential to get out the vote efforts. The Sanders campaign fired its top data staffer but he insisted he did not download any of the data.


JOSH URETSKY, SANDERS DATA DIRECTOR: I did not download any voter file data. I did look -- the only thing I looked at was making sure that it was not our data. And the way I did that could be considered a download but it didn`t give us anything useful.


REID: The DNC responded to the data breach by denying the Sanders campaign had any access to the voter database, including their own data. Prompting the Sanders campaign to file a federal lawsuit against the DNC. Accusing party leaders of actively trying to sabotage the Sanders campaign in order to help Hillary Clinton.

But then last night, just before they were scheduled to appear before the judge, the DNC agreed to restore the Sanders campaigns data access. Now, this is all very complicated and could make for a very combative night. MSNBC`s Alex Seitz joins us from Manchester, New Hampshire site of tonight`s debate. All right, Alex, first of all, tell us why this is important and how you think it might affect tonight`s debate.

ALEX SEITZ-WALD, MSNBC REPORTER: Well, Joy, this data, this voter data is critical to any complain. And once it was shut off from the Bernie Sanders campaign, staffers told me it was essentially a death sentence. If it would have continued, it would have prevented them from contacting votes, from doing any kind of field operations, knocking on doors, calling people, running their volunteer operation. And they were worried that if this shutoff continued for a long time, they would be in a deep hole. They said they were losing $600,000 a day.

At the same time, the Clinton campaign says, wait a minute, this is an act of theft. You broke into the system or you exploited a vulnerability to take our data that we spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of effort assembling. So both sides here have, you know, strong claims, very impassioned supporters that have bred a lot of resentment. And even though this ended as quickly as it escalated late last night just before the Bernie Sanders campaign and the DNC were to meet with a federal judge regarding the lawsuit that had filed, there`s definitely a lot more acrimony heading into tonight`s debate than we expected.

We expected a lot of talk about foreign policy, maybe some other issues of substantive debate, but this overshadows everything. The Sanders and Clinton campaigns have been throwing very sharp accusations at each other and the DNC, which is supposed to referee this, has been stuck in the middle with Sanders` officials saying they`ve been putting the thumb on the Clinton campaign. So going forward, there could be a lot of distrust here, Joy.

REID: All right, MSNBC`s Alex Seitz-Wald in Manchester, New Hampshire, thank you. Now, I want to bring in R.T. Rybak, the Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee. He`s joining me now from Minneapolis. And thank you for being here. Good morning to you.


REID: So, I want to, first of all, ask we know that there has been an agreement, but as of right now, does the Sanders campaign have access to their data?

RYBAK: Yes, and the good news is we have three candidates ready to debate and three campaigns that are fanning out across Iowa, New Hampshire, and all over the country, all with their data. That`s where we should be. And the goal of the DNC is to have a level playing field. And it`s really important when people are talking about data and all the complex issues behind it, this began not as a hack by a campaign, it began as an error by a vendor of the DNC, and that`s really important to start with.

What happened then is that for a short period of time, all campaigns had access to all the other`s data for voters, not for fundraising. That wasn`t part of this. And during that period of time, somehow someone from the Sanders campaign accessed some information from the Clinton campaign. That`s the core of the issue. The DNC is about a level playing field. So our goal was to make sure while we long term look at how that happened and how that can ever happen again. Short term, we got access back to all campaigns as quickly as we could. We could only do that once we were clear that information that was acquired then didn`t give anyone an unfair advantage.

REID: Well R.T., I want to stop you right.

RYBAK: . last night and we`re moving forward. Yeah, go ahead.

REID: OK. I want to stop you right there for a moment, because you said that this started with an error with the vendor. And that is absolutely true, R.T., the NGP VAN was the one whose error produced this. And you said the DNC`s about a level playing field. But I want to read you a tweet that David Axelrod posted last night that reflects a lot of what people are saying. And he said without evidence that his hierarchy knew about data poaching, the harsh penalty versus Bernie Sanders look like the DNC is putting its finger on the scale. If the error was by the vendor, why such a draconian punishment against the Sanders campaign?

RYBAK: Well, you know, this is extremely important. When you go into a campaign office these days, obviously what you see are people combing over computers, volunteers or sheets of paper in their hand or with apps. All of that is the most important element of the campaign. So you have to be careful with this. So if you`re a campaign and you felt the information you had was now in the hands of somebody else, you`d take it very seriously. This was a complex issue.

REID: Right. Really quickly, though, R.T. because what a lot of people -- what a lot of people are saying, is that the DNC is on Hillary Clinton`s side, favors the Clinton campaign and is not a neutral arbiter between the two. How do you respond to that?

RYBAK: I understand that. And that`s a concern. That`s why all of us vice chairs representing various parts of the party came together with the chair yesterday morning, talked those issues through. It`s really important also for people to know that people like me, who have been part of insurgent campaigns when Obama or Dean or Bill Bradley or something was part of that and you feel like you`re up against the establishment, we need to have that voice at the table too. So that`s why -- I was just on the phone with the Sanders -- go ahead.

REID: Well, do you feel that the chair favors the Hillary Clinton campaign?

RYBAK: I think the chair`s job is to be fair. And I think the job of all us vice chairs is to make sure that happens. And we have really robust conversations about what balance is. And it`s not easy.


RYBAK: There`s no doubt about it. But I need people to know there`s a group of people who are part of the leadership of the DNC. And I will make damn sure as a vice chair and so will others that we do everything humanly possible to have a level playing field. I`m not neutral in this election. I am euphoric about all three of these candidates. They`re great candidates and we`re going to do everything humanly possible to do it. When people think something`s unfair, bring it to us and we`ll do our very best.

REID: All right. Well, thank you very much. We appreciate for your time. R.T. Rybak of the DNC from Minneapolis. Thank you. And joining me now is Perry Bacon Jr., NBC News Senior Political reporter. All right, Perry, you just heard the vice chair of the DNC, said they`re doing everything in their power to prevent the appearance of fairness. But there is a lot of chatter out there, particularly amongst Sanders supporters, who say that the DNC is not neutral, that they favor Hillary Clinton. And quite frankly, Bernie Sanders isn`t even a Democrat. So, is there a perception at least that the DNC is not neutral?

PERRY BACON JR., NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: There`s perception, if you listen actually, when you ask the vice chair, Joy, is Wasserman Schultz neutral, he did not actually say yes she`s neutral. He kind of ducked the question. So you have the vice -- the vice chairs themselves have been very concerned about Wasserman Schultz, she`s for Hillary. The big thing also to think about is the Republicans had five debates. Almost all of them on week nights, lots of hype, lots of attention. The Democrats are now having their third debate. So two less. And the second one on a Saturday.

It sure seems like there`s an effort here intentional or unintentional to make sure people don`t watch the debates as much as the Democratic side. And that of course does favor the favorite, Hillary Clinton. There`s a legitimate argument here if you`re a Sanders supporter, he`s the insurgent candidate that maybe he`s not getting -- I think the data issue is different in some ways from the debate issue. With the debate issue, it`s very important. The debates are a way to shape the primary in a lot of ways and the debates (inaudible) in a way that`s really hard for Sanders to make a big impact.

REID: And Perry, just explain for the viewers because that argument has been made over and over again, particularly by O`Malley and Sanders supporters that not having a lot of debates favors Hillary Clinton. Our side of argument is she`s a great debater, why wouldn`t she want a debate? Explain for the viewers why having fewer debates and why hiding the debates at, you know, low viewership time would favor Hillary Clinton.

BACON: First of all, these debates, I mean, I know on the Republican side, they have Donald Trump that`s different in some ways, but you`re talking about 25 million people have watched some of the biggest Republican debates. I don`t have the numbers from the last one, but the last one was on a Saturday and it had a much, much smaller audience.

And so you go to the point where a lot of Democratic voters really don`t know, Bernie Sanders has fairly low name I.D. versus Hillary Clinton has been known in the public since 1992. So she has a much higher name I.D. One of the big challenges if you`re running for office is to get people to know you better. And by having two debates on Saturday and one when people are Christmas shopping and college football is going on, everything are going on, it`s hard for voters to get to know you. So that`s one big challenge. The debates in 2007 really helped establish Obama.

Hillary`s great in debates. I think that is true. But the debates in `07 helped Obama illustrate he also was a very competent candidate who knew the issues well and (inaudible) for. Hillary also made a big mistake in one the debates in terms of talking about illegal migration that hurt (ph) her down the line and she just doesn`t have those opportunities when the debates are not watched by many people. The cable news coverage is not as high. And this is an advantage for Hillary if the debates don`t change the status quo very much.

REID: Indeed. And very quickly, Perry. Does this controversy, which is being called Bernie Gate, hashtag Bernie Gate on Twitter, does it hurt Bernie Sanders` image with voters who might have otherwise been open to him?

BACON: You know, I don`t really think it does. I don`t think that this -- it`s one thing about debates if you`re -- but I think the polls show if the candidate who voters tend not to trust, even Democrats, is Hillary Clinton. I think Sanders people think is sincere in his beliefs. Their question is not is he cheating but is he able to win the general election. That`s the question. Tonight, you got to watch for him to see if he can talk about foreign policy in a more coherent way than he has in the past. That`s his challenge I would argue not this controversy.

REID: All right. But we do know this controversy will probably be question one in the debate tonight, many more people are going to watch than expected. Perry Bacon Jr. in Washington, thank you very much.

BACON: Thank you Joy.

REID: All right. And up next, the wartime president. Suddenly it seems everyone has a plan to be one.


REID: With polls showing a majority of Americans declaring that terrorism is the most important issue facing the country, the 2016 presidential candidates are reviving a familiar post-9/11 script. Saying the United States is at war. And making the case for why they would make the best wartime president.



BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are at war. That`s why I ask Congress, go ahead and declare the war. We need to be on a war footing.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`re at war. They`ve declared war on us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re at war, folks. They`re not trying to steal your car. They`re trying to kill us all.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have entered World War III. World war III has begun.


REID: At the Republican debate this week, each candidate was asked how they would fight and win what`s being called the, "war of our time against ISIS and other terrorist threats." Most claim they would be more aggressive than President Obama has been.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think if we truly are sincere about defeating terrorism, we need to quit arming the allies of ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to destroy ISIS in the caliphate which means we need to have a no-fly zone, safe zones there for refugees and build a military force.

CRUZ: We need to use overwhelming air power. We need to be arming the Kurds. We need to be fighting and killing ISIS where they are.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Air strikes are a key component of defeating them but they must be defeated on the ground by a ground force.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to be much tougher. We have to be much stronger than we`ve been.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to have a coalition that will stand for nothing less than the total destruction of ISIS and we have to be the leader.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must commit leadership, strength, support and resolve.

CARSON: We have to destroy their caliphate because that gives them a legitimacy to go ahead with the global jihad.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to focus our attention on Iran. Because if you miss Iran, you`re not going to get ISIS.


REID: Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton also weighed in this week, giving a speech specifically about how she would fight the war against ISIS.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Defeat ISIS in the Middle East by smashing its stronghold, hitting its fighters, leaders and infrastructure from the air, and intensifying support for local forces who can pursue them on the ground.


REID: Meanwhile, President Obama spoke this week at the Pentagon at the National Counterterrorism Center and at the White House to make the case that we are already fighting the best war we can against the so-called Islamic state.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We`re going to defeat ISIS. And we`re going to do so by systemically squeezing them, cutting off their supply lines, cutting off their financing, taking out their leadership, taking out their force, taking out their infrastructure.


REID: And joining me now is Malcolm Nance, Executive Director of the Terrorism Asymmetrics Project and author of the forthcoming book, "Defeating ISIS", who they are, how they fight, what they believe. Hillary Mann Leverett, former state department and White House staffer who has served in U.S. embassies across the Middle East. Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation magazine, and Molly O`toole, politics reporter for Defense One. Thank you and good morning to everyone.

And I want to start at this end of the table and go through some of the strategies that we`ve heard from Republican would be commanders in chief to combat ISIS/ISIS/DAISH. Let`s start with Senator Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz`s idea, the carpet bomb. Let`s listen.


CRUZ: You could carpet bomb where ISIS is, not the city but the location of the troop. You use air power directed and you have imbedded Special Forces to direct the air power but the object isn`t to level a city, the object is to kill the ISIS terrorists.


REID: And Hillary, I`m going to start with you on that. Would it be effective? Can you carpet bomb ISIS stronghold in Raqqa, in Syria, and not a city?

HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT AND WHITE HOUSE STAFFER: One thing we learned since Vietnam, is that if it were just about air power, if it were just about carpet bombing, never mind that that`s a war crime, but if it were just about carpet bombing, we would have been victorious in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, lots of other places, and we failed. Those were abject failures.

In places in the Middle East where we tried this massive bombing and killing, all that has brought about are bigger, stronger, more resolute organizations that hate America even more are more determined to get us here at home and in the Middle East. This is a recipe for proven failure.

REID: Not to mention the fact that it`s a war crime. All right, let`s go on to Senator Rand Paul. Rand Paul and Donald Trump both debating the idea of whether or not the right strategy is to kill the families of terrorists. Let`s listen.


PAUL: If you are going to kill the families of terrorists, realize that there`s something called the Geneva Convention we are going to have to pull out of. It would defy every norm that is America.

TRUMP: So they can kill us but we can`t kill them. That`s what you`re saying?


REID: OK, Malcolm. So, it`s actually sort of heartening that at that debate, Rand Paul actually got applause for what he was saying, for brining up the Geneva Convention, reminding Donald Trump of it. The idea of getting back at DAISH fighters by killing their families, how effective would that be?

MALCOLM NANCE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TERRORISM ASYMMETRICS PROJECT: You know, there`s an Arabic word for this, it`s "majnoon", it`s crazy. I`m telling you as a war fighter and an intelligence officer, this is not who we are. We do not go out and deliberately kill civilians just because it might seem interesting or politically expedient.

The very fact that it was -- that was actually spoken on a stage, the global stage, ISIS is going to be using this as recruiting all over the Middle East. And it makes our allies wonder what is going on back in the United States. It`s against the law, against U.S. code, uniform code of military justice, the Geneva Convention, just about every treaty signs since the birth of America, not going to happen.

REID: And I mean, I want comment as well. Because what does it mean, Molly, that we`re actually in a serious debate about foreign policy, one of the two major political parties actually discussing ideas, both of which are war crimes under the Geneva Convention?

MOLLY O`TOOLE, POLITICS REPORTER FOR DEFENSE ONE: Well, I think even suggesting that is a serious debate is another question entirely. I mean I think what it shows is, this is more about the politics, it`s more about the rhetoric. Because if we look at it from a military strategic standpoint, it`s not remotely realistic, so you have people who are sort of using bluster to cover for their lack of experience in this area.

REID: And I think one other person that is attempting to show they have the experience and have the smarts and the know-how is Chris Christi (inaudible) on the other side, we`re going to play what he believe the solution would be. And I want to ask Katrina just about what this means that we are debating these issues that I think on the face on them I think the rest of the world looks at and is probably aghast. So up next, we`re going to talk about trying to win an election by painting America as a loser.



CHRISTIE: I would talk to Vladimir Putin a lot. I`d say to him, listen, Mr. President, there`s no-fly zone in Syria. You fly in, it applies to you. And yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if, in fact, they were stupid enough to think this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the oval office is right now.


REID: So Katrina, now we have the Chris Christie solution, which is essentially start a war with Russia because it would project American strength.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER OF THE NATION MAGAZINE: Imagine -- It`s World War III. Imagine if this man was president during the Cuban missile crisis. We would not be sitting here today. The larger question behind this, Joy, is what we`re witnessing today is an important moment because the U.N. Security Council has just passed a resolution driving a peace process to resolve the conflict in Syria. I believe the only resolution is a political one. And it`s one that, as I write in "The Nation" in a piece called "Coalition or Cold War with Russia," it demands partnership with Russia. It doesn`t demand this kind of reckless bluster.

We`ve seen partnership with Russia drive a deal with Iran. It led to Syria dismantling its chemical weapons. The myopia in the political establishment in this country about Russia is very dangerous. And I might add in a bipartisan approach. Senator Hillary Clinton is for a no-fly zone. And according to administration sources, that would demand 200 U.S. aircraft. This is not a foreign policy. This is a freak show, these kinds of proposals, and very dangerous for national security, very dangerous for resolving the crises that afflict this world today, including the Syrian refugee crisis that is flowing out of Syria and its civil war.

REID: And very quickly, Hillary, in the break, you were talking about the Anwar Al-Awlaki example and what the killing of relatives of suspected terrorists or terrorists means to foreign policy?

MANN LEVERETT: Yeah. I mean Donald Trump puts this out as his own new brilliant idea. But we tried that. We killed Anwar Al-Awlaki and American citizen and his 16-year-old American citizen son and President Obama touted it as a great success. But now every terror incident up to including San Bernardino traces back to him, they watch Anwar Al-Awlaki`s videos. His YouTube hits are independent (ph) of thousands. We know that it creates more terrorists than it kills. We know that.

REID: And meanwhile, while we`re on the subject of the ideas of how to fight this war of terrorism against ISIS, you have on the one hand these attempts to show that Americans would be stronger by going back to some policies that defy the Geneva Convention. On the other hand, we have the way these candidates talk about the United States. And let`s contrast that with the past. With the way the presidents typically have opt to talk about the challenges facing the country. They would say America would overcome them, overcome the threat, stands strong and resolute and never be cowed by our enemies.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror. This will be an age of liberty here and across the world.

OBAMA: Our greatest allies in this fight are each other. Americans of all faith, and all backgrounds. And when Americans stand together, nothing can beat us.


REID: To say nothing, we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Now, let`s listen to how some recent presidential wanna-bes have chosen to talk about the very same subject.


TRUMP: Our country doesn`t win any more. We don`t win on trade. We don`t win on the military. We can`t defeat ISIS.


REID: So we have candidates who were talking about taking actions that for a lot of international observers would seem to be, you know, not legal in terms of international law but at the same time talking about America as fundamentally weak.

NANCE: There does seem to be this sort of contradiction between this bluster of, I would be tougher, no, I would be tougher. The sort of arms race of rhetoric, in terms of I would just be stronger, we need American leadership. But then also the suggestion that Americans should be afraid. There seems to be a contradiction there. It does represent the sort of idea of American weakness. At the same time, as they hit the Obama administration, claimed that they don`t have a strategy, you know, constantly used and reinforces narrative of a weak president (inaudible) president, we hear that language being used sort of across the field. And there`s going to be a contradiction there.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Fear and hatred have never made a great nation. I think of the 75th anniversary before freedom speech, Roosevelt`s great speech coming this January.

Freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech and religion, these people want to -- they know what hatred, fear-mongering, war-mongering does to a nation. It depletes its very best values.

So I think we need to fight that but at the same time, Joy, I think one problem is what`s lost in all of this when people talk about Obama leading from behind. I mean there is a bipartisan assumption in this country remaining that we are the indispensable nation that who will police the world. And I think, in that policing we deplete the very real security that our country needs.

REID: But yet, at the same time, Malcolm, I mean, the United States does have an overwhelming military force we can bring to bear if we so choose. And there is, I think, a pocket of American belief that we are restraining ourselves from using that overwhelming force to defeat a force we could defeat, ISIS.

NANCE: "Defeating ISIS": Let`s step back and do a little history here, and this is one of the things I think is absent in the United States. We have a bad case of amnesia.

We invaded Iraq in 2003. We had a combat force, a massive combat force and 125,000 men, which cut through all resistance within three weeks like a scythe, all right.

Now, I fought every war in the Middle East and let me tell you something, that was an overwhelming piece of force. However, we occupied that country for eight years. We took - I believe the number is 4,686 dead soldiers. There`s a number no one remembers.

People fought and they died for this operation. And it was not in vain. However, what it did do is it created this enemy that we`re fighting now. This is al-Qaeda in Iraq generation five, and they know and they want us back in there. And the question is, how are we going to do it smart, or we`re going to do it like we did last time.

REID: Yeah, indeed.

HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, AUTHOR, "GOING TO TEHRAN": Or look at the alternative. Instead of going to the Pentagon, President Obama could have come here to New York, to the U.N., to the Security Council, when they passed this resolution yesterday, and stood for international resolve, for diplomatic engagement, for a political solution to these problems. That the nearly 5,000 American soldiers killed in Iraq are tragic. But the hundreds of thousands killed across the Muslim world is what helped spur these momentum...

REID: Hillary, indeed.


LEVERETT: They`re just going to send me, our media too often, defines solutions in military ways. We`ve lost sight, I think, of political, diplomatic smart solutions. And let`s hope we hear some tonight in the democratic...

REID: Well, we`re all going to hear that and we, actually, we`ll hear more from this panel as well. Everybody, stay with me. Everybody has lots and lots of thoughts.

But coming up next, for all of those who would be a wartime president, the plan to win that war online.


REID: ISIS is not only fighting with guns and bombs but also with hash tags and viral means, as the terrorist group spread their ideology far and wide using social media. And so, the fight against the Islamic state has to happen not only in Iraq and Syria, but also in cyberspace.

And, Malcolm, I want to come to you on that because, the United States is fighting the sort of asymmetrical fight, right? You have the physical sort of fight against them to try to diminish their numbers, but you also have this incredible battle that`s taking place behind the scenes, online. Where they seem to have the upper hand?

NANCE: Well, I would really like to see that incredible battle that`s taking place in cyberspace. What I see is, I see a one-sided slaughter that`s going on by ISIS. They owned -- the cyberspace at this point.

REID: Talk about what they`re doing, specifically.

NANCE: Well, the things that they are doing out there, is they`ve learned to harness social media. The way that al-Qaeda used cassette tapes and pamphlets in the `80s, these guys went out and they`ve harnessed, you know, Vine and Twitter, and all this other small social media things to propagate their ideology.

We have not combated that at all. What - this is a war of counter ideology. We won`t touch it, because it involves speaking about Islam. But in terms of using technology, we have a billion dollar psychological operations budget in the Department of Defense. They`re not involved. We have an information warfare operations in branches, and every branch of the armed forces. They`re not involved. There should be thousands of people in a World War II style effort to knock down and take down all of these websites and all of the materials coming out.

LEVERETT: You know, we tried that a bit and there was a limited success. When President Obama first came into office, he said he was going to have a different relationship with the Muslim world. He went to Cairo, he went to Ankara, to give speeches about reengaging the Muslim world. He, you know, he said that it wasn`t about -- I wasn`t a fight against Muslims.

And you know what happened in the public opinion polling data in the Middle East? The hatred and resentment of the United States went down. But since he started, again, and it became public great fear, while he was doing in terms of drone warfare, what he did to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya, to surge more troops into Afghanistan, the numbers reporting hatred, documenting hatred of the United States, went sky high.

So we know the problem is ideas. If we`re selling something about having a productive constructive relationship with the Muslim world, Muslims buy that. If we sell we`re just going to kill you more and kill your relatives, they don`t buy that.

REID: But, Molly, you know, it`s not as if we lack for technically savvy Americans that could actually get into this digital fight. You have groups like anonymous that are involve in it, that are actually using ridicule to attack ISIS. We`ve got the savvy, why aren`t we able to engage?

O`TOOLE: There`s a few different things. I mean, you pointed out that the rhetoric is really important. This is why messaging is important. So however unrealistic, some of these suggestions might be as a military strategy, the message that it gives is important. And the Obama administration has emphasized this.

So while they are kind of combating in this digital space, when you talk about this war of ideas, that when they hear this sort of language, it reinforces ISIS propaganda. For example, the vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sort of responded when Cruz`s carpet bombing was brought up. And he said, "Look, this would hand the Islamic state a propaganda when not to mention the civilian casualty.

But when you look at the digital space, so Obama administration is sort of trying to counter the rhetoric within our own country as well as taking on Islamic state in that space. But it`s still an administration approach. It`s not really tapping into the innovation of the industry that we have. You know, you need multiple officials to approve a single tweet. I mean, if that`s what you were operating under as opposed to the Islamic state, the pace and the scale is just dramatically different.

HEUVEL: We can talk about messaging, we can talk about tweets. But I think it`s important I think, as Hillary alluded to, just talk about the reality on the ground as well. If the face of America for children in these towns, for women, families, is drones, the resentment, the anger, is going to fuel and ignite more terrorism.

So I think the other piece of this, Joy, like, is there`s an attempt now, after Paris, after San Bernardino, to roll back encryption into it`s essentially blame Edward Snowden. I think this is folly. I think our intelligence agencies have too much data, not too little, too much to collect. And I think we need to look at the policies which have led to the failure into terrorism and not to blame encryption for abetting terrorism.

Well, it just so happens that that is where we are going next, because the question is, can the united states fight a war in which it has its hands tied behind its back because it has no access, no data, no information.

When we come back, is big tech pushing back against the government?


REID: We`re talking about the asymmetric war against ISIS. And, Malcolm, I want to ask you about this question of using the tools available to us in terms of things like encryption, in terms of things like data gathering and Big Data. Should we be using it or should we walk away from it?

NANCE: Yeah. I have some experience in this. And let me tell you, I think that one of the things that most people don`t understand from the Snowden revelations is, you`re now been given access into classified programs which most people would never know about. And these things have been going on since, you know, the Black Chamber in 1912 when, you know, the army security agency did it.

One thing that does happen at Fort Meade that you don`t know is that, we do not target American citizens without a warrant. Now, people will say, "Oh, but you have the systems. You can go out and do that."

Capability does not mean we are wasting assets on that. We have enough overseas targets. I know the national security agency is overwhelmed with its foreign language targets. We don`t have time for the American public.

And for the most part, it`s all going to company down to a human being who`s going to have to process that intelligence. If it goes through the United States they`re going to have to work out legislation so we can actually collect. But for the most part, the American people need to know that what Snowden did was release programs which we`re actually helping us target people overseas who really, really needed to be neutralized.

REID: And the question, Hillary, if we can`t use Big Data to try to figure out who terror suspects are talking to? If we`re saying it`s not a good idea to go in and use force to bomb ISIS targets, have we left ourselves no other option to fight this group which, by the way is homicidal and genocidal, particularly against fellow Muslims?

LEVERETT: When Obama came into office during his first term, the talking in Washington, the talk all over the United States was how much do you bomb Iran? How often do you bomb Iran? How big is the ordinance you can drop on Iran`s nuclear facilities? And how many Iranian civilians can be killed on the process?

Two years later, Obama changed the rhetoric. Secretary Kerry change the rhetoric, change the policy, Pursued diplomacy. Now, nobody`s talking about bombing Iran. We`re talking to Iran that where else can Iran help us (inaudible) and where else can they help us. That`s the good one.

The bad one is Anwar al-Awlaki, this American-Yemeni citizen, who was put under 24/7 surveillance after 9/11. He went from being someone who used to go to the Pentagon to brief. He would say that he want to be a bridge between the United States and the Muslim world, explain Islam to America and America to Muslims.

He went from that to being a terrorist in Yemen. That`s the bad precedent. 24/7 surveillance can also radicalize. This intrusion into people`s lives whether its Muslims today or going back into other movements in our history can radicalize and it`s poisonous. And it doesn`t help. We have no successful case but we have these negative cases that have produced terrorists.

REID: And at the same though, Katrina, you know, when we were talking about the Edward Snowden revelation. Because one of the things that has happened is that, that those who we are trying to combat have simply moved off the system they were on before, onto less traceable platforms like what`s app. You`re constantly migrating to new ways of communicating, and to evade or intensifying -don`t we want to try to track...

HEUVEL: There is absolutely no evidence that Edward Snowden`s revelations played a role in that. In fact, Edward Snowden is four targeted legal surveillance. What he has exposed is lawless illegal mass surveillance of ordinary Americans.

I think we have the tools. Joy, I think when we say hands, our hands are tied, we`re buying into this narrative that we need to take the gloves off, an ugly expression Dick Cheney used after 9/11.

So I think the balance between security and safety is one we`re always grappling with. But the idea that encryption or that what Edward Snowden revealed is to blame, I think, is something ginned up by those whose very policies have failed us by evading Iraq, by the disaster in Libya, and they`re trying to shift the blame.

Let us find legal tools. And if you look at, you know, Mumbai, you look at London, you look at France, we`ve had, you know, blame those who instigated this, blame our policies, but not roll back of encryption.

REID: OK. We`re at the end but I feel like you wanted to get in, Molly.

O`TOLLE: Well, it`s about finding that balance. It`s not we`re about to give up surveillance tools or that, you know, or that it`s a surveillance state. I mean, it`s really about finding that balance.

I mean, it`s important to know with the San Bernardino attackers, all of these policies emerged so quickly, the sort of the encryption debate reignited again. All this legislation was introduced.

The FBI director said, "We don`t even know that they used encrypted method. Yet, we don`t even know that."

LEVERETT: San Bernardino is really important because there`s no evidence, no even hint of it, that there was a problem with encryption that they -- that they talking to somebody in Syria.

REID: Right.

LEVERETT: The problem is, the Youtube videos of Anwar al-Awlaki that they downloaded and listened to, the same guy we put under...

REID: And I think, unfortunately, we are out of time, but the other problem is that, we`re not making the equivalent. That we have the organization that`s making theatrical-style movies and we`re still attempting to figure out if we can use encryption.

Thanks very much to Malcolm Nance, Hillary Mann Leverett, Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Molly O`toole, really appreciate it.

And, up next, the trouble with what`s in the water.


REID: This week, the mayor of Flint, Michigan declared a state of emergency, after children in the city were found to have high levels of lead in their blood. The lead contamination has been linked to the city`s water supply, meaning, water from the tap, water that people drink, that they shower in, that they cook with. Water that city officials initially insisted was safe.

It turned out the city was wrong and the result has been what Flint Mayor Karen Weaver is calling a "manmade disaster".

A public health emergency that began within April 2014 cost-cutting decision to switch from using water, supplied by the city of Detroit, to using Flint`s river as the city`s water source.

After intense complaints and then protests by Flint residents, the water supply decision was reversed. In October of this year, water from Detroit began flowing once again into Flint, but for some, it was too late.

According to Flint, Michigan`s Hurley Medical Center, the percentage of the city`s infants and children with above average lead levels nearly doubled after the city began using Flint River as its water source.

According to the World Health Organization, the health effects of lead poisoning include reduced I.Q., shortened attention span and an increase of anti-social behavior. The neurological damage and behavioral effects of lead poisoning are believed to be irreversible.

Joining me now is Nancy Kaffer, a political columnist for the Detroit Free Press. And she`s been covering this issue for a year. Thank you so much for being here.


REID: So let`s just, you know, sort of make it plain. Is Flint a place where it is safe today to drink the water?

KAFFER: So, no. The thing when they started taking water from the Flint River, the local water treatment plant didn`t add a chemical that coats the inside of pipes that might have lead in them. So then when water travels through those pipes, it leeched lead from service pipes and wells into the water. They switched to the Detroit, back to Detroit system as you said, which does add that chemical but it takes a while for that coating to rebuild inside the pipes.

That process is happening now. Right now, I wouldn`t drink the water in Flint.

REID: And, I mean, there is, you know, obviously this is one of the most potent neurotoxins that there is, and we know the damage that it can do, particularly to children. Now that these health consequences have already happened, how is the city attempting to educate its own citizens as to what they can do now, if there`s anything they can do?

KAFFER: Well, so there`s been a -- the state and the city have worked together to try to get filters to people, to try to get information to people about what the consequences are, what -- to see how children have been impacted. And that, there`s some talk about looking at the impacts, mow many people have been affected, and trying to make some provisions to help them out. But that still - this is also a very much a situation that`s unfolding.

And what`s important to understand here, is when we talk about the city having signed off on the treatment plan or the city telling people the water was safe. The state of Michigan, the Department of Environmental Quality, signed off on their water treatment plan. They were involved in telling folks the water was safe to drink.

So this is a two-level issue of governmental oversight failure.

REID: Nancy, while you were talking, we were showing a picture of somebody holding a bottle of brown liquid that is the water from Flint. But I want to play a little clip from a June 2014 local news broadcast in which a resident is talking about their own water. Take a listen.


SENEGAL WILLIAMS, (PH) FLINT RESIDENT: I don`t know how it`s cleaned the smell, it taste bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flint resident Senegal Williams (ph) can`t even remember the city`s water tasting this bad. Now, he`s turning to bottled water and avoiding the tap.

WILLIAMS (PH): It`s not proper for people to be drinking that. If I can smell it. This is not a big debate. This is nothing that nobody can figure out.


REID: And, Nancy, you know, if this is something that was signed off on by the water treatment authority, if it was signed off on by the state, what kind of liability are we talking about here, in terms of financial liability to the citizens of flint?

KAFFER: That`s the question I think that has yet to be answered. This is - like this is so very much unfolding here. But the thing that we`re still trying to figure out right now is, who made the decision to start using Flint River water. The local government had voted to switch to a new regional water authority. But the decision to use water from the Flint River in the meantime wasn`t part of that decision.

The state has said it`s what the city wanted. The city, there`s no record that city officials ever made that decision or voted on that. And the city was at the time underneath state oversight because of its terrible financial situation.

So there`s a lot still here to unpack, trying to figure out where accountability is, who has responsibility to make things right in terms like future financially for victims who have been affected by lead poisoning.

There`s a lot still happening here, and there`s a lot of questions to be answered. When the state should have known or knew what was going on. It`s -- as we`ve released as public records have become available, and we`ve seen the state officials were e-mailing each other over the summer about knowing that lead rates in the water were rising. At the same time that they were assuring folks that there was nothing wrong with the water.

So there`s a lot of stuff -- just a lot of stuff that`s still coming to light here. The governor has appointed a task force to sort out some of this culpability, figure out what happened. There`s other efforts going on to look into what happened. And I think this is all going to be part of a long process of figuring out who`s to blame and what they have to do to make it right.

REID: Yes. And thankfully, there is also an independent set of journalists and media that are looking into it as well. I suspect that you guys will find the answers before the task force. Thank you very much to Nancy Kaffer, Detroit.

KAFFER: Well, thank you.

REID: Thank you, all right. Still to come this morning, will there be justice for Freddie Gray? More nerd land at the top of the hour.


REID: Welcome back. I`m Joy Reid, in for Melissa Harris Perry.

This week, the trial of Baltimore Police Officer William Porter, the first of six officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray, ended in a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Officer Porter faced charges of manslaughter, second degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. Freddie Gray died of a severe spinal cord injury. Prosecutors say he sustained while being transported in back of a police van in April.

Judge Barry Williams initially sent the jury back to keep deliberating. After they deadlocked for the first time on Tuesday after a day and a half of deliberations. He finally declared a mistrial Wednesday, after the 12 jurors declared themselves to be hopelessly deadlocked on the four charges, again on Wednesday.

Now, during the two-week trial, the jury heard arguments and testimony from nearly 30 witnesses, including Officer Porter, who took the stand in his own defense. Prosecutors argued that Porter was criminally negligent when he failed to belt Freddie Gray into a seat belt or call for a medic when Gray asked for help. Officer Porter`s defense team contended Porter thought Gray was faking his injuries and that it was -- then it was --oh, and that it was common for officers -- or rare for officers, I should say, to belt suspects in. But they also argued it was the driver`s responsibility to ensure Freddie Gray`s safety.

After the mistrial ruling, attorneys for the prosecutor and defense met privately with the judge to discuss when or if Porter will be retried. Prosecutors have yet to submit a formal request for a new trial. But a mistrial could complicate the state`s plan for a quick resolution in the cases of the other five officers whose individual trials are set to begin in January. And a potential retrial could pose a particular challenge for prosecutors who are expected to call Porter as a material witness in the upcoming case against the van driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, who faces the most extreme charge of the officers.

After the mistrial announcement, a small number of peaceful protests took place in the city, with many expressing frustration at the jury`s inability to reach a conclusion.

Joining me now is Judge Billy Murphy, attorney for the family of Freddie Gray, Seema Iyer, MSNBC contributor and host of "The Docket" on Shift on MSNBC, it and Marc Steiner, host of "The Marc Steiner Show" on WEAA 88.9 FM in Baltimore, and the founder for Center for Emerging Media.

And joining me from Baltimore is Dayvon Love, director of research and public policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a Baltimore-based grassroots think tank.

I want to start with you, Dayvon, talk about the reaction of people in Baltimore to the failure to reach a verdict in the Porter trial.

DAVYON LOVE, CO-FOUNDER, LEADERS OF A BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE: Well, I think a part of the issue that there are a bunch of issues that culminated in the uprising in April, that culminated in Freddie Gray`s death. So, I think what the trial represents to a lot of activists and people in the community, it`s just a small little bit of justice, given the larger structural issues that created the conditions that fermented the uprising.

And so, I think people are upset with the fact that in this small instance of justice where people simply want the officers responsible for Mr. Gray`s death to come to justice, it`s just frustrating for a lot of people, given the larger systems of injustice that need to be dealt with and the small little instances of justice. It`s going to take so much, you know, legal gamesmanship in order to effectively pursue.

REID: And, Mark, what are you hearing from your callers about the case?

MARC STEINER, THE MARC STEINER SHOW: I mean, first of all, the biggest issues here, a lot of us thought from the very beginning this mistrial was going to be a mistrial.

REID: Why did you think that?

STEINER: Lots of reasons. This is a difficult case to try. There are a lot of things that you can`t kind of put at his doorstep. You have to prove evil intent.

If you`re not a lawyer -- I`m not a lawyer, and if I`m sitting on a jury and I`m hearing, I have to prove evil intent, what does that mean? You know, I think they`ve got a really hard time with it. Also, the jury reflects Baltimore and the split between the white community and the black community and the perception.

So, I was not really shock by that, and I think most of our callers are expressing outrage. Expressing outrage because this is deep anger inside the black community about -- that`s come to the fore, bubbling for, for the entire nation to feel and see, and people are very upset and dissatisfied with justice, the whole question of justice. That`s what I think has been the biggest response.

REID: We`re talking about expectations. And, of course, Judge Billy Murphy, you represent the family of Freddie Gray. Were they surprised by the mistrial?

JUDGE WILLIAM H. "BILLY" MURPHY JR., GRAY FAMILY ATTORNEY: No, I had warned them of the possibility of that and they were very comfortable that the jury had worked very hard. That it was a cross section of the community. I think there were seven blacks and five whites.

REID: It was eight blacks, four whites --

MURPHY: No, I think it changed.


MURPHY: It was 7-5 at the end.

REID: At the end, OK.

MURPHY: They were philosophical about it. What they want is justice. Because they`re a unique family, they`ve sent out the message to the community repeatedly, take this with peace, take this with grace, because everybody`s working hard to bring about justice.

And their definition of justice is simply a fair trial, where all of the evidence came out, and the judge acted properly and the jury was properly selected and the verdict was the result. Their only frustration is that there was no verdict. But they`re not telling anybody what verdict they want, because they believe that`s wrong. They believe that that`s prejudging rather than judging.

REID: And, Seema, as a former prosecutor, let`s talk about how difficult a hill this was and is to climb for the prosecution. As Marc just said, they have to prove, in the case of Officer Porter, that he had some evil intent toward Freddie Gray. And, in fact, when the jurors were asking questions of the judge, when they were sending out notes, that`s one of the notes they were sending back, are definitions of things like evil intent.

SEEMA IYER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And you have to go back, Joy, and -- I wonder what judge billy thinks, in that -- what is the strategy of the prosecution? You have six defendants. And usually, the strategy should be start with your strongest, end with your strongest.

And that`s not what they did in this case. This was not a strong case. They could have set a better tone for the rest of the trials by either having him cooperate or giving him a good plea, because the whole issue was they need Officer Porter`s statement against the other two officers, good son and white. And that`s why they tried him first, not because it was the strongest case.

REID: If they don`t have a conviction against him what is the incentive to take a plea? Why not take his chances in court? Because for now, it`s working.

IYER: I agree. I agree. That`s why he didn`t. But they should have made a better deal for him. They weren`t making him a good offer, which is why he went to trial, exactly.

REID: And four officers, to say with you just for a moment, can you talk just how rare it is for a police officer to wind up in the position Officer Porter and these fire other officers are in? Because it`s not as if police officers get tried that often in cases where a suspect dies in their custody.

Very quickly, "The Washington Post" did a study on April 11th. They talked about police prosecutions. They said the following, among the thousands of fatal -- these are shootings. Among the thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of a police officer, since 2005, only 54 officers have been charged. Found that most were cleared or acquitted and the cases were otherwise resolved. We get only 11 convictions of those.

So, this is very rare.

IYER: It is very rare. But, Joy, I was in the Bronx during the Amado Diallo case. Remember that case.

And there was no video. There was no social media. But at least the Bronx took it head on and quite immediately, as opposed to looking at Chicago and McDonald where we had to wait 14 months after all of the officials saw the video. So, it depends on the video. That`s my opinion. It depends on the video, how quickly a prosecution will go forward.

But even when you prosecute on time, you still aren`t guaranteed a just disposition because prosecuting a police officer is like prosecuting your brother or sister when you`re a prosecutor.

REID: Very quickly, I want to try to get him back in. You mentioned Amado Diallo, one of the officers who was acquitted in the killing of Amado Diallo in `99, actually just got a promotion from the New York Police Department.

Dayvon, you wanted to get back in.

LOVE: Yes, two things. I think one thing that`s really important to put this in context is we shouldn`t need a trial. The internal mechanisms of law enforcement should be such that it`s beholding to the communities that they police.

But the other thing is, there are institutional pieces that get in the way that create strategic disadvantages for the prosecution. And this is kind of manifested and Maryland law enforcement officer civil rights, which is really important for people to understand.

And the two elements of the Maryland law enforcement officer civil rights that I want to highlight here. One is, is that police officers have ten days before they`re required to make a statement on the record, right? And this was something that those who are in the courtroom said played a role. And the fact there were multiple different stories Porter had throughout the time between the incident where Freddie Gray was killed and the trial.

The other piece is that only sworn law enforcement can interrogate police officers who have allegedly engaged in excessive force. And so, here you have mechanisms of law enforcement that undermine the public`s ability not only to have the substantive ability to administer law enforcement in the communities, but undermines the ability to have the transparency necessary to hold law enforcement accountable. Only when we deal with mechanisms that undermine transparency and accountability can prosecutors, even when they have to try these cases, have the things they need to be able to effectively prosecute these kinds of cases.

REID: And, Dayvon Love, thank you. And thank you for bringing that up, because those same kind of police protections exist all over the country. And we can certainly talk more about that. Appreciate it.

Hold on a second. And up next, why are so many Baltimore residents being kicked out of their homes?


REID: While the Freddie Gray case brings the question of police violence to Baltimore`s court, a new study fines the civil courts are creating a housing crisis for some of the city`s most vulnerable people. Nearly 7,000 Baltimore families are evicted from their homes each year, according to the findings of a new study from the Public`s Justice Center, a civil and legal rights group. It`s making the highest eviction rates country, second only to Detroit, happen in Baltimore.

They examined cases in the Baltimore district court`s rent court docket and found that the odds are often stacked against families trying to fight eviction. Impoverished families facing few options other than the city`s crumbling stock of housing are often unable to get legal representation. They often lose their cases and their homes, even when they have a strong legal case for refusing to pay.

According to the study, nearly 60 percent of renters had a serious housing defect they reported to their landlord before trial. But only 8 percent of those renters were able to bring that defense before a judge. The data also shows that the majority of rent court defendants are African-American women who live without public housing assistance on less than $2,000 a month.

And, Marc, you said you were very familiar with this rent court process.

STEINER: Many years ago when I used to try cases for tenants. I wasn`t a lawyer. You don`t have to be lawyer to defend tenants in the tenant`s court.

But the issue here, again, it`s a very political question. Think of Baltimore. Baltimore has 99,000 people looking for public housing, trying to find housing, who don`t know how they`re going to pay their rent. If you multiply that number by three or four, you`re talking about half the city of Baltimore lives in dire poverty. That rent court is the tip of the iceberg of what the problem is.

Think about Freddie Gray. Freddie Gray lived in one of those houses we`re talking about. Freddie Gray was a little boy, was peering over, probably looking out a window. Put his mouth on a windowsill, sucked in that lead, destroyed his brain, destroyed who he was as a human being. That`s happened over 150,000 times, 90,000 by one study and over 100,000 by another.

That`s what we`re doing to the black children in the city we live in. So, the rent court is just like the tip of this iceberg. It shows how dire the situations really are.

REID: And, we know, Judge Billy Murphy, in the case of so many Baltimore residents who find themselves in that situation, then there`s the process of a settlement that gets them taken advantage of and victimized all over again when that settlement is essentially clawed back again by predator institutions.

MURPHY: Yes, there are institutions who give you pennies on the dollar if you have an extended payment settlement. That`s not fair and we`re trying to do something about that in the legislature this year. We`ve come up with a new tactic at the Murphy firm.

We`re now suing these big slumlords because the housing conditions are abominable. The repairs just don`t get made. The residents don`t know there`s a rent escrow law that permits them to hold their rent in escrow to force their landlord to make the repairs that are necessary.

So, the living conditions are abominable. There is a lack of sensitivity in rent court. A lot of it has to do with the composition of the court. When judges are appointed in Maryland, they tend to be mostly white and male. When judges are elected in Maryland, they tend to represent the diverse community that they`re supposed to be serving. And so, that is a much more sensitive court. And so, we`re trying to do something about that.

But we have recently sued a slum landlord who had a huge multiunit development and we`re going to bring that landlord to her knees, because these kinds of living conditions shouldn`t be anywhere in the world. And they are among the worse in the world.

REID: So, Dayvon, talk a little about that, because I think for any reporter who covered the Freddie Gray case and the uprising in Baltimore, that was one of the most shocking aspects, just walking through West Baltimore, walking through the place where Freddie Gray grew up. Talk a little bit about what life is like for people like Freddie Gray who are growing up in those conditions.

LOVE: Well, I mean, what the conditions demonstrate is a fundamental lack of regard for the humanity of black people. And I think it`s important to recognize this in a larger context, where Baltimore`s predominantly black city, but there`s a shift going on that`s happened in other cities. Baltimore`s in the midst of this process where the gentrification is leading to the displacement of black communities for the purpose of moving in wealthier often white folks into communities that have been historically divested from, underinvested in.

And so, what we see is when we look at the issue of the rent court for me, this is just one part of the larger issue of undermining the living conditions and general welfare of black folks so that other folks can profit from that. We`ve seen in East Baltimore the way that Johns Hopkins has really changed east Baltimore and displaced, you know, hundreds of thousands of people or tens of thousands of people in east Baltimore. We see a similar process potentially going on in West Baltimore.

And a part of the issue is there need to be grassroots independent black organizations that can be in leadership of being able to make political decisions about their communities so proper investments in housing can be made to protect, you know, people`s livelihoods. So, I think that`s really what people need to get from this, this investment in the community`s capacity to be able to make the proper investments in housing that the community has control over, that the community has a stake in, is the only way that we`ll be able to begin to reverse many of the effects of poverty that deal with things like homelessness and deal with things like --


REID: This is a city that is run by --

STEINER: Sixty percent --

REID: Right, it`s a majority African-American city --

MURPHY: That`s what we hear from white folks who just don`t get it. You have black mayors. Why haven`t they solved the problem?

But by the time we get black mayors, the damage has already been done. Right after World War II, the FHA gave everybody who was fighting in the war and their families an opportunity to buy homes, except they didn`t extent that opportunity to black people. And so, 95 percent of the people who were able to use these low interest FHA loans to become homeowners for the first time were white. And the black community continued to decline because then we became renters. We didn`t own the equity in the home.

And when you`re a renter, you`re always on the defensive because you got to beg your landlord to do this, beg him to do that. After a while, if the landlord doesn`t respect you if the first place because of the color of your skin, things just go downhill. You move from one house to another. You don`t have a stable living place. You don`t have an investible opportunity where you can have net worth like folks developed right after World War II.

And so, this level of blatant administration is why we have the current problem today, because nobody ever undid it. Nobody ever leveled the playing field.

IYER: Do the renters have representation when they go to court? Because I know in New York, they now have a program, it`s almost a pro bono program where poor people who can`t afford a lawyer at least are represented.

STEINER: Most of these people who go to rent court don`t have representation.

IYER: That`s a huge problem.

STEINER: Part of the city funding, things like the public defender`s office, legal aid bureau, they don`t have the money to do that work.

MURPHY: The way you squeeze black people is you cut off the funding to give them that kind of representation that they could not possibly otherwise afford.


MURPHY: When you have a tenant who`s coming in against a powerful landlord representative who`s well-prepared and it`s usually a false preparation. And all you have is the word of the tenant, the tenant almost inevitably --


REID: I`m going to give Dayvon Love the last word from Baltimore.

Dayvon, very quickly.

LOVE: In addition to that, what we`re finding is there are -- there are individual black elected officials that are able to ascend to positions of power, but that doesn`t translate to the collective power of the black community. So, the question of resources has to be about building institutions that are accountable to the masses in the community, not just appendages of the Democratic Party or corporate institutions. But the investment in our own capacity to develop the resources necessary so that we can represent ourselves in the public policy arena to address these issues.

MURPHY: Dayvon, you a bad dude. The nation should know that Baltimore is one of the most segregated cities in the country and that was by design.

REID: Indeed.

I want to thank Dayvon Love. I wish we had more time. I want to thank Dayvon Love in Baltimore. Thank you very much.

Coming up next, President Obama is just beginning to ease into his year-end vacation in Hawaii this morning. But on his way there, he made a very important stop. That story`s next.


REID: President Obama and the first family are in Hawaii this morning as they kick off their holiday vacation. Before getting there, the president on Friday made a stop in San Bernardino, California, to meet privately with the families of the victims of the December 2nd mass shooting.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We met some of these folks, despite the pain and the heartache that they feel, they could not have been more inspiring. And more proud of their loved ones and more insistent that something good comes out of this tragedy. And many of them are taking initiatives to reach out, to speak out on behalf of community intolerance and treating people with respect.


REID: F or more on the president`s meeting with the victim`s families in San Bernardino, we`re joined by NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell who`s traveling with the president in Hawaii.

OK, Kelly, what was the response to the president`s visit?

KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS: Well, Joy, one the things that really stands out about that visit, it really lasted longer than expected.

The president meeting privately for about three hours, that is a lot of time to have those conversations with the families of the 14 victims, to hear their personal stories, to share the experience of what they`ve been going through.

And as you heard the president note, some of those family members obviously talked about the steps they`re already taking to deal with this in a positive way, amid unspeakable lose to try to be a representative for the community. And that`s something we`ve seen in other instances where the president has had private meetings with the victims and survivors of these tragic events, that personal connection with the president where he is able to learn about those who were lost and in the personal terms that only a spouse or parent or child can offer.

And at the same time, what the White House tries to create in this is a bit of privacy, meeting in a high school. No cameras in the room. No real reaction in terms of an event. This wasn`t a case where the president spoke to the larger community as he did in some other instances where there were mass shootings, for example, this being a terrorist attack, somewhat different circumstances. But the president wanted to add this stop on his way here to Hawaii where he and the first family will be noting their time in Hawaii as they do every year for the Christmas holidays.

So this was a way for the president to make that stop, to offer his sort of respects and sympathies, but also to listen to those family members and then he can, of course, begin this next phase here in Hawaii where, while the president is on vacation, no president is ever really on vacation, because the concerns of the world, especially in a time of heightened worries about potential terrorist attacks, as we`ve seen in Europe and in this smaller scale attack in San Bernardino, that worry continues, even when he is here. So he`ll be briefed on a daily basis on all of the concerns that are brought to him with his staff that`s also here.

He`s only been on the ground here in Hawaii for about four hours now. So, there`s time to acclimate to the time zone and time for family ahead -- Joy.

REID: All right. NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell, thank you.

Up next, three cities, one similar story. Police use deadly force, causing community outrage. But the way prosecutors approach their cases is the tale of their very different cities.


REID: This is a tale of three prosecutors, each of whom have faced high- profile cases of deadly police force in their respective cities. All three are Democrats, elected with the support of the communities with the biggest stake in cases involving police violent, and their future political prospects are now tied to how those cases play out.

There`s Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore`s newly elected state`s attorney who campaigned on a pledge to enforce police accountability, a pledge she made good on when she announced charges against six officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray, charges that came within weeks of Gray`s death. Mosby`s office was dealt a blow when her prosecutors were unable to secure a verdict against the first of those officers to go to trial. The case ended in a mistrial because of a hung jury.

Mosby was just elected last year but the outcome of the cases is likely to be on the minds of voters considering her husband, Nick Mosby`s, campaign for Baltimore mayor.

Then, there`s Chicago`s top prosecutor, Cook County`s state attorney Anita Alvarez. She faces a primary challenge next year after being elected to office with the Barack Obama wave in 2008. Her record during that time is under increased scrutiny. Since she charged the officer who killed Laquan McDonald after a 13-month delay it and only after a judge ordered the release of the dashcam footage of the encounter.

Recent polling suggests that Alvarez`s handling of the case has cost her the support of black Chicago voters as she prepares to face off against two opponents in March.

Last month, she defended the investigation and responded to calls for her resignation, saying, quote, "I offer no apologies for enlisting the FBI to investigate Laquan`s murder because obviously the Chicago police department could not investigate themselves in this case. I certainly do not apologize for conducting a meticulous and thorough investigation to build a strongest possible first degree murder case."

And there`s also Ohio`s Tim McGinty, the former judge who went to become the Cuyahoga County prosecutor in November of 2012, after winning 35 percent of the vote in a five-way Democratic primary. McGinty`s political prospects look different three years later after he failed to win the Democratic Party`s endorsement this week for his re-election bid.

McGinty will enter a primary runoff amid criticism of his handling of the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamer Rice. Attorneys for the Rice family have called for the special prosecutor to replace McGinty on the case, which has dragged on for a full year with no resolution. And the Justice Department is currently reviewing a request for a federal investigation into the shooting at the request of the family, who have accused McGinty of prosecutorial misconduct.

McGinty responded to criticism of his decision to release reports that concluded the shooting was reasonable with a statement, saying, quote, "Any suggestion that this office is protecting police is baseless and soundly rebutted when our record of prosecutions against police is reviewed," unquote.

Joining me now is Zoe Salzman, attorney for the family of Tamir Rice.

Let`s start with you, Zoe, and there have been a lot of accusations that Tim McGinty is allowing this case to drag on, and that he is releasing reports that are inherently biased in favor of police.

At this point, does the family have any faith in the prosecutor when it comes to seeking justice for their child?

ZOE SALZMAN, ATTORNEY FOR RICE FAMILY: Unfortunately, Joy, I think they don`t. They began this process very hopeful that there would be justice for Tamir who as you noted was a 12-year-old child when he was killed. So, this is a family who suffered the greatest loss a family can suffer, the loss of a child. And I think that grief is compounded in this case by the way the prosecutor is mishandling the presentation to the grand jury.

And there`s no question that his presentation to the grand jury has been biased in favor of the police in a really shocking way.

REID: Have the two officers testified, to your knowledge, before the grand jury?

SALZMAN: So what happened, this is one of the examples of why Prosecutor McGinty`s handling of this case is so improper and unusual, he allowed the officers to read prepared statements to the grand jury after taking the oath, and then he didn`t cross examine them. Or he perhaps sought to cross reexamine them and they refused to answer questions.

But rather than go to the court and seek to have their testimony compelled, or to have them held in contempt, he failed to do that. That`s just -- it`s black letter law. It`s been black letter law for a long time that if you take the stand in your own defense and you testify, you waive your Fifth Amendment right to stay silent.

REID: And, briefly, talk about the family`s objections to these reports that have come out. The prosecutor did release a couple of expert reports that he say -- that said that the shooting was justified. What is the family`s objection to those reports?

SALZMAN: Well, I think it starts right at the outset with the very idea that a prosecutor would go out and hire so-called expert witnesses to come in and tell the grand jury that the targets of their investigation committed no crime and acted in a way that was justified and reasonable.

I mean, think how crazy that is, right? Prosecutors don`t do that. This is a police case. The targets of the investigation are police officers. And because of that, Prosecutor McGinty has taken this unusual step of hiring three so-called experts who have come in and told the grand jury that no crime was committed here.

And that`s just unthinkable. The family has been very critical of that. The whole idea of using experts in that way is just unthinkable in a non- police case.

REID: And, Seema, you`re a former prosecutor, is this unusual?

IYER: Oh, my god, it`s bananas. And especially because experts in any capacity are not supposed to make the ultimate conclusion of law, right?

REID: Absolutely.

IYER: They just give the facts. They give a reasonable degree of scientific certainty or what-have-you, whatever their field is. But they can`t rule on the law is what you`re saying happened.

REID: I want to talk a little bit about Tim McGinty and put him in the context of these other prosecutors that we`re talking about. So, you have Tim McGinty, who was elected. He got 35 percent of the vote. He won by a 15-point margin in a Democratic primary in 2012, the year, of course, that President Obama was re-elected. He`s been -- he`s an 18-year veteran. He spent more than 18 years as a common pleas court judge.

But this time, he`s not endorsed for his re-election. He`s attempting to get re-elected in Cuyahoga County which is 60 percent white, 30 percent African-American, it`s 5 percent Latino. And I`m wondering if -- what are Tim McGinty`s incentives? Because this is a prosecutor elected on a law and order platform. He was not elected as somebody who is vowing to hold police accountable. What do political incentives look like for a prosecutor in this case?

STEINER: This happens all over the country. And I think it`s not just Tim McGinty alone, it`s the entire system and the way it`s been working for poor people, especially people of color, especially in the black community. These happen -- I don`t know about the --


IYER: When you say political incentives, Chris Christie used to be a prosecutor. The political incentives, everything is open. You can go anywhere from there. So that`s the answer.

MURPHY: Well, I think the problem is deeper. We have to confront race, especially Cuyahoga County.

When you have a county that is predominantly white, they have a difference experience with the police. They see officer friendly. We see officer unfriendly. We actually see officer man.

So, this is not something that they can properly, in a balanced way, process. And then when you add race to the equation, because some of these people are racist. Then you have a really toxic mix that keeps you getting these prosecutors are going to cover up what`s going on in the black community because it`s not in their political best interest to do anything else.

REID: Well, then, let`s talk about in that instance how do you account for an Anita Alvarez who`s also been heavily criticized for her term in office, but she is governing in a city, Cook County, where Chicago is located that is only 43 percent white, that is 25 percent Latino and 24 percent African- American --


IYER: But isn`t Chicago historically corrupt? So that`s one thing. Another thing --

STEINER: Every city`s corrupt.

IYER: No, when she says she can`t -- had to bring the FBI in to investigate because how can we investigate ourselves.

That`s not true. Prosecutor`s office, every prosecutor`s office, has its own investigative body. So, you get that investigative body to investigate the police.

MURPHY: Chicago is a little unique because Rahm --

IYER: The mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

MURPHY: Covered it up too.

IYER: Right.

MURPHY: He`s now facing dismal re-election prospects. His ratings are very low. He may have to be forced to resign.

So, I think there was a deal between the two of them this wasn`t the time during a re-election season to talk about something that could have forced both of them out of office for inaction.

In addition, this is a bogus excuse from her because the tape tells it all. You don`t need an investigation in this case. There are some cases that actually tell the whole story right on the tape. This is one of them.

And so, when she talks about letting the FBI investigate it, wrong. When she talks about not having the internal mechanism to investigate police, wrong. This isn`t a case that required any of that.

REID: Well, I want to -- we are essentially out of time. I want to give Zoe the last word.

I will say the mayor denies they had anything to do with covering up the tape --

MURPHY: Nobody believes it.


REID: Just want to throw that out there.

So, what does the family hope to gain by having the feds come in and take over the investigation?

SALZMAN: Justice for Tamir. A real investigation that`s not biased and skewed in favor of the police officers. I think -- I mean, I think this is a great point. Tamir`s case is also one that is caught on video. It shows the police officers pulling up and shooting this child within one second.

So, the idea it would take a year to investigate is really incredible. I think really it shows they used that year to try to find these so call experts who would exonerate the officers.

MURPHY: It`s bogus and nobody is fooled in the black community.

REID: We are out of time. I want to thank all of you for being here especially Zoe Salzman. Please pass along our continued condolences to the family of Tamir Rice. It`s Christmastime, so as a mom, your heart bleeds for her, so thank you so much for being here.

MURPHY: And keep up the good work.

REID: Thank you very much.

Thank you to all our panelists.

And up next, the story of a Christmas Carol.


REID: On this day in 1843, one of the most famous holiday novels of all time, "A Christmas Carol", was first published in England. It took Charles Dickens just six weeks to write the classic story about the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformative visits from the ghost of Christmas past, present and future.

Before a Christmas, Dickens was already falling deeper and deeper into debt as he struggled to support his large family. His own childhood had been mired in poverty. When his family fell on hard times, his father was sent to debtor`s prison, while 12-year-old Charles was sent to work ten hours a day in a shoe factory.

That experience would shape his work. After delivering a pivotal speech to working families in October of 1843, he was inspired to write the Christmas Carol. What better way to highlight the tale of the working poor than with a stingy boss who is shown the error of his ways and makes amends to his mistreated employee?

Dickens worked feverishly to complete the book in time for the holidays. When it was published, "A Christmas Carol" was an instant success. There were live stage performances in London. The book helped popularize the celebration of Christmas, which, until then, was sort of a humbug affair in England and considered a minor holiday.

The story helped promote the idea of Christmas as a time for giving to the less fortunate. With its iconic characters like Scrooge, Bob and Tiny Tim, "A Christmas Carol" has remained an enduring classic and has never gone out of print. And it`s been further immortalized on the big and small screens in countless ways. There are the celebrated classical renditions like the 1951 film version.


CHARACTER: Who and what are you?

CHARACTER: I am the ghost of Christmas past.


CHARACTER: Your past.

CHARACTER: What is your business here with me?

CHARACTER: Rise and walk with me.


REID: There are also more comedic takes on the story. Bill Murray may have been the funniest miser in the 1988 film "Scrooged."


CHARACTER: That was a good one. You are going to be visited by three ghosts tomorrow at noon.

CHARACTER: Tomorrow`s bad for me. As a matter of fact, the whole rest of the weeks is a wash out.


REID: And the message of a Christmas Carol is always effective, whether delivered by movie stars or Muppets.


CHARACTER: Oh, Mr. Scrooge, you be very merry and happy this day, I have no doubt.


CHARACTER: God bless us, every one. Life is full of sweet surprises, every day`s a gift.


REID: Little Kermit.

No matter which version is your favorite or how many times you read "A Christmas Carol", its celebration of holiday kindness is just as timely today as it was when this classic novel was first published on this day, December 19, 1843.


REID: We have been talking this morning about the challenges facing the city of Baltimore. And one of the ways that citizens can take action and affect change in their community is, of course, through the vote.

Our foot soldier this week has made her passion to impact local policy in Baltimore by urging African-American women to vote.

Nykidra Robinson is a 32-year-old Baltimore native and in November, she founded the group Black Girls Vote. The aim of the group is to bring together black women and educate, engage and empower them around voting. Black Girls Vote has had events at a high school and senior citizen homes and most recently, at a shopping mall.

Nykidra is also hoping to partner with the nail salon, churches, day care centers so that women can learn about the issues wherever they are.

And joining me now from Baltimore is Nykidra Robinson, our foot soldier of the week.

First of all, I want to make sure I am pronouncing your name right. Is it Nykidra?


REID: Just call you Nyki.

All right, Nyki. How did you come up with an idea for Black Girls Vote?

ROBINSON: You know what, Black Girls Vote came to me because this past summer, or spring, as we saw in Baltimore, there was so much going in the city. And we also saw the look of facelessness and hopelessness on the face of others, and so, for me, I said, what can we do, as far as where can we educate people and empower them, and what`s coming up? And that`s voting. And 2016, it is the year not only for the city of Baltimore, but it`s a big year nationally, and there is power in the vote.

So I said, let`s get together, and for black women, we vote already, and it is a concrete fact that black women vote. You know, it`s a call to action and our civic duty to vote, and that is it, Black Girls Vote, and let`s go.

REID: And, Nyki, what issues are you seeing that black women are saying are the most important to them?

ROBINSON: Well, my gosh, our platform is based on those issues, and I want to say, first is education. We have to advance the educational systems here in the city of Baltimore.

And also, economic opportunities. We know that African-American women, we start businesses at higher rates than any others, and we need help to start the businesses.

And last but not least is advancing and improving our access to quality health care.

REID: And, Nyki, we know that there is a lot of talk in Baltimore about the criminal justice system, about policing. Are you hearing those kinds of is issues coming up when you are talking to women about voting?

ROBINSON: Absolutely. You know, some people are discouraged, but we are telling them that there is power in the vote, and your vote is your voice, because everything that you do, whether it is policing that is happening in your neighborhood, whether it is your streets getting repaved and the interactions and the things that the politicians do, but also what our police department is doing, and it is all impacted by policy.

So, once we educate them, we will see that, oh, wow, they get it. And so, what we have to do is to talk to them in laymen`s terms in a second-grade level. And some of the girls that is who we are targeting the 18 to 25- year-olds, because they are not being targeted and the elected officials don`t pay them attention, but we call them our sleeping giants. Our women here in Baltimore, they are brilliant, they are smart and they`re beautiful and we want to empower them.

REID: Well, Nyki, I know that you live in a city that has a current black woman mayor, and the front runner for the next mayor is also a black woman, and where the state`s attorney is also a black woman, and you are not only doing Black Girls Vote, but black girls get elected, so thank you for what you are doing, and keep up the great work.

ROBINSON: Thank you so much.

REID: Thank you, Nykidra Robinson from Baltimore.

And that is our show today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll see you tomorrow right here at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

And now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".

Hey, Alex.