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Politics Nation with Al Sharpton, Transcript, 7/3/2016

Guests: Mark Hannah; Marvin Aspen; Terry O`Neill; Elise Jordan

Show: POLITICS NATION Date: July 3, 2016 Guest: Mark Hannah; Marvin Aspen; Terry O`Neill; Elise Jordan



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could it be a cruel summer for Trump?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s something really good going on. We are going to make America great again. Believe me.

Crooked Hillary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or will Clinton melt as the campaign heats up?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are not going to let Donald Trump bankrupt America the way he bankrupted his casinos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will preview the road ahead for both candidates to the conventions and beyond.

Also, the real Obama legacy. We will separate fact from fiction as the president enters his final moments in office.

And our interview with the judge who sentenced a man to life in prison and then thought to set him free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a very cruel and unusual sentence. It was a terrible mistake and injustice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From Rockefeller center in New York, this is a special July 4th edition of politics nation with Al Sharpton.


REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good morning. I`m Al Sharpton.

Today a special July 4th weekend edition of "Politics Nation." We will be previewing the summer ahead and tackling the biggest questions of 2016 looking at the politics, the polling, and the policies.

We start with Donald Trump. Two weeks before the Republican convention, is he finally ready to pivot to the general election? Change his tone and scale back his rhetoric? In the past he has vowed to become more quote "presidential," but he also said he will never change.


TRUMP: I`m going to be so presidential. I`ll be so presidential that you people will be screaming loosen up president. Loosen up. Why wouldn`t I change? You have a football team and you are winning and then you get to the super bowl you don`t change your quarterback, right. So I`m not changing.

At some point I`m going to be so presidential that you people will be so bored.

I promise you this, I swear to you this, President Trump will never change his tune.


SHARPTON: One reason he may need to change, the math. Look at this chart. Since Trump became the presumptive GOP nominee in May, general election polls have shown him slipping farther and farther behind Hillary Clinton. Leading Republicans are taking notice and getting blunt about the need for Trump to change.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Trump clearly needs to change in my opinion to win the general election.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: He is the nominee and we will have to deal with that. I hope that he changes. We haven`t yet seen it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that that guy is capable of projecting the tone you have so carefully articulated?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Look I think anything is possible.


SHARPTON: Could a running mate help Trump pivot? Can he use the convention to overhaul his image? Does he even want to change? Is he capable of change? And if he does change will that turn off his base?

Joining me now is MSNBC`s Joy Reid. Host of "AM Joy" and NBC political analyst Jonathan Alter and Elise Jordan. Thank you all for being here.

Elise, Trump has brought in staff, ramped up fund-raising and begun using the teleprompter more often so he made changes, but has he changed?

ELISE JORDAN, FORMER ADVISER TO SEN. RAND PAUL: I think absolutely not. And I think that it`s delusional to think that he`s going to change at this point. And when you look at just this week on Monday when Elizabeth Warren was out with Hillary Clinton. His campaign released a very disciplined message that was anti-Clinton and anti-Warren based on the ground of free trade and Trump`s policy of being anti-free trade. Then the candidate himself gets on the phone about an hour later and starts calling Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas. So he cannot change. He simply cannot help himself. He has no self-control whatsoever. And I really think that the Republican convention is heading into a disaster.

SHARPTON: Now, Jonathan, he says that if your game plan is working during the primaries you don`t get to the super bowl and change quarterbacks. But you may change your game plan because you`re up against a different team in the super bowl than you were during the season. I don`t know if he gets that. He is up against a well-oiled, well experienced political team in terms of Hillary Clinton.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he is making some adjustments. He fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. And, you know, he is obviously taking some time before the convention to plan his convention and try to do something exciting and turn into a fun reality show.

The question is whether it`s too late because he hasn`t really raised any money and he is going to get out spent two or three to one. Even if he doesn`t change, even if none of these things happen, he is still a very serious contender. And I think the liberals are getting a little complacent. He had a terrible June and he is within the margin of error in some polls.

SHARPTON: And key states.

ALTER: Yes. And he is much closer than other candidates have been who have actually then gotten back into the lead. So he is far from being out of this.

SHARPTON: But even looking at that, Joy, let me quote this NBC poll. It shows that 45 percent of Republicans voters are satisfied with Trump. But 52 percent, this is an NBC poll, 52 percent would have preferred someone else. I mean, where does the never Trump effort stand and will it make one last push to stop him this summer when you have over half the Republicans polled seeming like they`re having voters remorse.

JOY ANN REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I`m a big skeptic of never Trump because, you know, I have said several times. You can`t beat something with nothing. And the problem with never Trump is they have always said people don`t vote for him but they don`t have alternative. They have don`t have something to substitute for him. I think the big risk to Donald Trump in those numbers, not only the number that you cited, Rev., but also the number on white college educated voters being essentially tied with Hillary Clinton so the Democrats have not managed to win. They have won since the Eisenhower era. Harry Truman I think was the last Democrat to win any bank of white voters to college educated be one of them. I think that`s one of the big risks for him.

And even though Jonathan is right, he is polling pretty well because he is Republican. At any generic Republican, you look at a generic republican versus generic Democratic poll you are going to give any Republican about four in ten voters, really no matter who they are.

I think the problem for Donald Trump is whether or not he is going to have motivation on his side and whether Democrats will be able to actually increase the motivation of their voters.

SHARPTON: Their motivation on the Democratic side is --.

ALTER: Also is micro-targeting. The Democrats have a very sophisticated voter outreach program. The RNC which is --.

SHARPTON: But you need an infrastructure for that. And we have not seen that on the Trump`s side.

ALTER: Right.

SHARPTON: But Elise, I want to get back to something you said about the convention, the Republican convention could be a disaster. Do you see the possibilities of a last ditch effort at the convention establishment?

JORDAN: Well, I think certainly there are people who are trying. And they are still as the Stop Trump movement. And they are working from within the rules committee. They are trying to persuade delegates to the convention rules committee unbind delegates so that they can vote their conscience. How that goes, who knows. I do know though that this committee of 112 people is stacked with a lot of Cruz people, a lot of people who are establishment Republicans and who aren`t necessarily allies of Donald Trump. And he didn`t do the leg work quite frankly to make sure that his people would be on that important committee.

SHARPTON: Jonathan, you mentioned the one big show, a reality show. And Trump has said that the GOP convention may be where he actually launches his campaign. Listen to this.


TRUMP: It`s going to be a tremendous success. The convention, so many people want to speak.

I`m just literally just starting. And I view the convention as probably a real starting point.

We are going to have a great convention in Cleveland. And we are going to -- I think have a winners night. There aren`t many winners but you take these winners and we`re going to have them speak.


SHARPTON: I mean, what should we expect? We are seeing reports that he is having problems even giving people with real gravitas to even agree to speak at the convention.

ALTER: Well, I don`t think he cares whether it gravitas because their instruction just members of the establishment. Now, he wants entertainers. And don`t underestimate his ability to put on an entertaining show even though he`s likely to have a lot of B or C list celebrities at the convention. It will make people like you and me think what the hell is this because we are used to conventions going a certain way. But the American public might see it as an entertaining TV show. And he got what he is after.


SHARPTON: But then let me ask you, Joy. If he is having problems getting speakers with gravitas, whether he cares or not, will he have a problem getting a vice presidential candidate with gravitas and will that not impact on his vote or not?

REID: No. I think the biggest risk to Donald Trump right now is the Trump brand. It is actually really been deteriorated badly by this campaign. You have corporate sponsors who don`t want to get involved. That`s a real problem for the convention. You got to pay for it. And they are having trouble getting any sort of A-list political leaders to speak at the convention. OK, so he can get, you know, Ted Nugent and John Boyd. OK.

I think that to the extent that it makes Trump voters feel like they`re more in a bunker they will be more passionate about him because they feel, again, the culture is turning on us. Big corporations are turning on us. No one is with us. But that doesn`t grow his base enough to win a presidential election. The problem for Trump is he now needs to find some VP candidate who is willing to marry their brand to his. What A-lister is going to want to do that? I think he is going to end up with a sort of c- list candidate. I don`t think it will matter in the end to his core voters. But it isn`t moving new people.

ALTER: And real quick, politics is about addition not subtraction. And it`s also about, as Nixon said, the mobilization and resentment. But when you are mobilizing these resentments, you want to be adding and not subtracting and he doesn`t get that.

JORDAN: What he doesn`t get, he can`t beat up with his natural allies also known as the Republican Party. He can`t be beating up on a significant portion of the party and expect them to fall in --

SHARPTON: That his natural allies who are the Republican Party were the ones he ran against. Everybody stay with me. Lots more ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next. Deal them in. Fifty years after the founding of the national organization for women, their president joins us to talk about this historic year.

And later, our bending toward justice series. Meet the judge that wrote to President Obama urging clemency for the man he sentenced to life in prison.



TRUMP: She is playing the woman card.

She is playing the women`s card.

She plays the woman card.

CLINTON: Deal me in.


SHARPTON: I don`t know about all this talk of playing the woman card, but I do put a lot of stock in the views of our moms, daughters, and sisters. And 96 years after winning the right to vote, women voters, women`s issues and a woman nominee are dominating the 2016 race.

This past week the Supreme Court made the most important abortion rights decision in a generation and women will be the biggest voting bloc in this election. In 2012, women voters outnumbered men by nearly 10 million. And turn out among women has seeded male turn out in every presidential election since 1980.

In other words, women matter. Women along with minorities will decide the election. And apparently just the site of two powerful outspoken women on stage together is enough to send the right into a tail spin.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you see the matching pan suit? I mentioned the matching suit and the need for maybe a color wheel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not only that they have a matching suits, they have the matching hair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They look ludicrous.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies, can I just start with the obvious there? Those blue suits. The matching blue suits and they call Donald Trump goofy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re Thelma and Louis at the end of the movie.


SHARPTON: Joining me now Terry O`Neill, president of the national organization of women which is by the way celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Thanks for being here.


SHARPTON: So Terry, Thelma and Louis, I mean, did you expect this kind of anti-woman backlash we are seeing with Clinton as the nominee?

O`NEILL: I think that kind of anti-woman backlash is to be expected from anti-woman conservatives but they really are the dream team, right. Hillary Clinton is an unapologetic feminist progressive. And to have her in the White House would be absolutely amazing. And Elizabeth Warren is truly, she is the leader of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, I think, both certainly, in the United States Senate but in the Congress as a whole.

So yes, they would be powerful, they would be fabulous for our country and they would really help move our country forward.

SHARPTON: You know, when you look at Secretary Clinton`s edge over Donald Trump in the poll among women voters in recent polls, the Quinnipiac Polls has her up 17 points. "Washington Post" poll has her up 23 points, NBC up 17 percentage points over Donald Trump with women voters. I mean, that`s not a gender gap. It`s a canyon. I mean, can the GOP appeal to women voters with Trump as the nominee, Terry?

O`NEILL: Honestly, it cannot. Rev., look. Donald Trump is a racist, xenophobic misogynist. And he now has the endorsement of Paul Ryan speaker of the house and Mitch McConnell the leader in the Senate, the Republican leader in the Senate. That makes the entire Republican Party the party for racist xenophobic misogynistic policies. I don`t see how the Republican Party gets around that in any kind of way. And honestly, it`s not just the misogyny that turns off women voters, it is the racism. It is the xenophobia. It is the homophobia.

Women really do tend to be much more interested in (INAUDIBLE) shared prosperity policies. And Donald Trump is simply a huge turn off for the vast majority of women.

SHARPTON: You know, I couldn`t help but to notice that even when he is not talking about women, Donald Trump manages to be offensive. Let me show you when he was talking about the trade agreement this week. Watch this.


TRUMP: The transpacific partnership is another disaster. Done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country, just a continuing rape of our country. That`s what it is do. It`s a harsh word. It`s a rape of our country.


SHARPTON: I mean, can you imagine a woman politician discussing or describing a trade deal that way?

O`NEILL: No, I mean it`s completely offensive. This is another way that he is misogynistic just honestly in the way that he thinks.

You`re right, Reverend. It`s absolutely ridiculous. And I say that as the leader of an organization that does oppose the TPP as Hillary Clinton oppose the TPP. But to talk about it many those terms is offensive.

SHARPTON: I`m out of time but I need to ask you, quick answer, is America ready for two women at the head of the table?

O`NEILL: I think we are.

SHARPTON: All right, Terry O`Neill, thanks for your time. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend.

O`NEILL: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming up, the best-worst president, a new book on the real Obama legacy and why the right got him so wrong.



TRUMP: What I always thought about Obama - look, obviously, he has been horrible president. He will go down as one of the worst presidents in history, but he will be truly one of the worst presidents in history.


SHARPTON: Donald Trump saying President Obama has been the worst. It`s extreme but it fits a chorus of voices on the right who have long taken aim at the president.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: One of the most disturbing aspects of the Obama presidency is the willingness of this president to disregard the law.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Now this president wants to act as if he is a king, as if he is a dictator.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m afraid that President Obama may have this king complex developing.

RYAN: We have an increasingly lawless presidency.


SHARPTON: Or how about the claim that President Obama is destroying the economy?


JOHN BOEHNER (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president`s policies have made income inequality worse.

RYAN: Obamanomics, economy is even worse.

CRUZ: Policies that are hurting apart working Americans.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: We have a president asking us to abandon our economic heritage.


SHARPTON: Interesting, except for one thing, the numbers. President Obama has presided over 75 straight months of private sector job growth. Since he took office the nation has added nearly 10 million new jobs, 10 million and unemployment is down to 4.7 percent. You could write an entire book debunking the attacks against the president. Luckily, you don`t have to. Because someone else has done that for us.

Joining me now is Democratic political analyst Mark Hannah. He is the author of the new book, "the best worst president, what the right gets wrong about Barack Obama."

Just about every week I do a got you debunking right wing myths. Your whole book is one giant I got you. Why did you decide to write it?

MARK HANNAH, DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think, look. The conservative movement has been trying to delegitimize President Obama ever since he took office. Too many of my liberal friends just sort of block that out and drowned that out and stick cotton in their ear and don`t want to hear it. But I grew up sort of listening to conservative talk radio. My dad had Rush Limbaugh on at his job site. And so, I was exposed to this. And you know, I think it`s important that we actually engage with the conservative world view on some level. We actually take what they are saying at face value and actually systematically try to debunk this with reality. And I legitimately and maybe somewhat naively hope that this will change some minds. I think that this entire republic, our country was founded on this idea of a sort of competition of ideas and the truth will win out ultimately. Unfortunately, with Donald Trump and you have seen what he has introduced to the 2016 campaign which is just an abundance of false information and the media needs to end it. And you are doing a great job on your show of holding him accountable for that information but we need to make sure that the truth that reality is actually winning out at the end of the day.

I think the president has done a phenomenal job. I think his record comes out crystal clear in the book you see the way in which he is restored America`s prestige on the global stage, stabilize the economy. I go point by point. And it`s not just, I want to be clear, it is not just sort of a tedious fact checking process here. There`s some interesting stories there. There`s some sort of fabrications and hypocrisies to the right that I try to expose as well.

SHARPTON: Let me show you something the president said in this year`s state of the union. That one of the things he regretted was that Washington D.C. is still very much partisan and divided among party lines. Watch this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s one of the few regrets of my presidency that (INAUDIBLE) and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. It`s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a president. We have to change the system to reflect our better selves.


SHARPTON: One of the things president Obama came into office wanting to do was work across the aisle.

HANNAH: Right.

SHARPTON: Was there ever a chance for him to really achieve that? Because it seems like from day one that they were determined not to do that. Am I missing something? Was there ever an opportunity that was there and he blew it or --

HANNAH: I don`t think so. This president showed from the very beginning from that DNC speech in 2004 where he said there is no red America. There is no, you know, red states and blue states. We are all Americans. He has gestured toward bipartisanship since the start of his presidency but he has been obstructed at every term by the most sort of do nothing Congress that has existed going back to Harry Truman`s era. So I think that there has been a disingenuousness on the part of Republicans when they just - they see compromise as a dirty word. They see any kind of working with this president as, you know, their strategy has been absolutely, has been extremist and it`s been unfortunate. My book is basically trying to answer the call to be more bipartisan. If I didn`t respect the conservative argument on some level, I wouldn`t have the right to spent - all this time writing a book about it.

SHARPTON: Well, the book is "the Best-Worst President."

Mark Hannah, congratulations. Thank you for your time this morning.

HANNAH: Thank you. Thank you, Rev.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next, our July 4th special edition continues with a look at the fireworks Hillary Clinton could face this summer on the campaign trail.


AYMAN MOHEYDIN (ph), MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Ayman Moheydin (ph) in MSNBC world headquarters in New York.

Break news in Baghdad. A bombing at a market killed 167 people. Many of the victims are children, 185 people are also injured. The bombing hit as families and young people were out on the street after breaking their Ramada fast. ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted online. That statement could not be independently verified. The attacks come after forces retook the city of Fallujah from ISIS earlier.

Hillary Clinton has given her first interview since meeting with the FBI. That discussion was about her private email server. She talked exclusively to "Meet the Press`" moderator Chuck Todd and he asked her how that discussion went.


CLINTON: It was something I had offered to do since last August. I have been eager to do it and I was pleased to have the opportunity to assist the department in bringing its review to a conclusion.


MOHEYDIN (ph): Chuck also asked her about reports about a potential final decision in the case already surfacing.


CHUCK TODD, HOST, MEET THE PRESS: Are you confident no charges will be filed?

CLINTON: Chuck, I am not going to comment on the process. I have no knowledge of any time line. This is entirely up to the department.


MOHEYDIN (ph): Much more of that interview on "Meet the Press" later this morning.

Right now it`s back to "politics nation."


OBAMA: I`m proud to call her a friend and I know how much we need Bill and Hillary Clinton as a party and as a country in the months and years to come.

CLINTON: And today and every day going forward we stand shoulder to shoulder for the ideals we share the values we would cherish and the country we love.


SHARPTON: That was 2008. In 2016 the roles are reversed. Just look at the front page of Clinton`s campaign Web site which features a photo of President Obama with the words he is with her. The president approval rating is at 56 percent, the highest number since Osama bin Laden was killed. They make their debut together on the campaign trail this Tuesday in the battleground state of North Carolina which helped propel the president to his first term in 2008.

Let`s bring back our panel. Joy Reid, Jonathan Alter and Elise Jordan.

Joy, there`s been a lot of talk about the power of Elizabeth Warren but what about the power of President Obama.

REID: Yes.

SHARPTON: We see two days from now.

REID: Absolutely. I think the smartest decision that Hillary Clinton made she made it early on in her campaign was to associate and marry herself to the Obama brand because it is the most popular brand in Democratic politics. It enables her to bring in his base of voters which she needs particularly African-American voters, the kind of voters who love Barack Obama and who are giving him those 56 percent approval ratings. And that by the way does include a temptation for the very kind of white suburban voters who look at that Obama brand and compare that to a Donald Trump brand. Very smart on her part.

SHARPTON: Elise, let me show you how dynamic a campaign appearance we have seen. And that was Elizabeth Warren and Secretary Clinton this week. Let me show this to you.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: What kind of a man roots for people to lose their jobs, to lose their homes, to lose their life savings? I will tell you what kind of a man, a small insecure money grubber who fights for no one but himself.

CLINTON: I must say I do just love to see how she gets under Donald Trump`s thin skin.


SHARPTON: Elise, is that one of the strengths of Elizabeth Warren that she gets under Donald Trump`s skin? You mentioned earlier about how he came out calling her a name after this very kind of reasonable position policy attack by his campaign. He just went straight for the name calling.

JORDAN: Well, this week actually that`s what my column was about. How Elizabeth Warren tactically is so great for the Clinton campaign because she really does manage to get on Donald Trump`s skin. And really, the only attribute that she brings to the ticket is that ability to really just drive Donald Trump crazy. And I don`t think that Hillary Clinton would risks that seat being up for - her senate seat being up for grabs in Massachusetts. But she is a really effective surrogate and she is able to attack. And Trump just looks like a pathetic bully coming back at her.

SHARPTON: Does she fix the Bernie problem?

JORDAN: I think, yes. I mean, it is going to take time. But I think that certainly having her wholehearted support behind Hillary really helps bring in the Bernie campaign.

SHARPTON: Jonathan, you know, Trump`s kitchen sink approach when it comes to going after Clinton is -- well look at this.


TRUMP: This is crooked Hillary Clinton.

She ran the state department like her own personal hedge fund doing favors for oppressive regimes and many others and really many, many others in exchange for cash.

We call her crooked Hillary because she is a crooked person.

She`s a world class liar.

Hillary Clinton may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency of the United States.


SHARPTON: The question, Jonathan, do these kind of attacks stick? You know, the name calling? The sloganing? And then you said the Brexit vote in England takes away one of his key policies attack.

ALTER: Yes. So this is where Trump is at is most effective when he plays (INAUDIBLE), in this case, her around Republicans. When he is on the attack, there a lot of Americans who like to see him in that mode. I think it is not politically correct. And it has been - they love everything about it. And it does put Hillary on the defensive. So in those debates, she is going to have to find a way to deal with this kind of Donald Trump. And just not assume that everybody will go, you know, he is over the top. We are against him. She is going to have to put him in his place because a lot of presidential politics is king of the hill. Who is the strongest? That`s what people want from a president. So she has to be very strong in the teeth of a very intense attack, but on Brexit she got a huge break. Because if the economy went in decline, economists say there is about a 30 percent chance of a recessions this fall, before Brexit Trump could say it`s the Obama-Clinton economy. Blame her if you are suffering in your pocket book. It is Hillary`s fault.

Now Hillary can say no. Donald, it`s your fault. You supported Brexit. Brexit is what sent these markets tumbling. Brexit is Elizabeth Warren just mentioned, taking a lot of money away from ordinary people while you`re helping your golf course. It`s the Trump recession. And so, she is kind of check mated Trump on this question of the economy. It is always number.

SHARPTON: Joy, taken that and taken other things, the Democrats are feeling pretty good this week. Is there anything that can see that would derail it?

REID: Turn out. I think that what you saw in England was essentially our midterm electorate is what (INAUDIBLE). It was an older whiter electorate. Britain`s electorate is already about 90 percent white. It is more like on midterm electorates are. But the other thing you saw in the Brexit vote was very (INAUDIBLE), about 36 percent. If the U.S. electorate on November looks more like a midterm, meaning that people of color are not energized. Even having Elizabeth Warren out there does not energize African-Americans. Does not energize Latinos. It just keeps Donald Trump --.

SHARPTON: And don`t forget you have new laws in 17 states by Boyle that I think people are not talking about. The new laws and I think three states even say proof of citizenship.

REID: Correct. And Wisconsin`s voter I.D. law has already prevented those that have not been able to register in Wisconsin, 85 percent people of color. North Carolina, their redistricting is going to the Supreme Court. You had really aggressive voter suppressions in state like Texas. Even places like Pennsylvania. So if voter`s oppression works as it is intended to work and you also have a lack of excitement among voters of color, you could have an electorate that actually looks more like a midterm, actually looks more like the Brexit vote. That`s how Donald Trump wins. Making the electorate older and wider.

SHARPTON: What role should Bill Clinton play or not play?

JORDAN: I think for now Bill Clinton is doing what he needs do and that`s staying quite quiet. Because he really can`t stay on message and he becomes somewhat of a distraction. I think he is definitely an advantage, but I think as little he can be seen but not heard I think that is probably the best role for him. Because after all, at the end of the day it`s Hillary Clinton`s campaign and it is about her.

SHARPTON: But Bill Clinton is popular among some Democrats in some voters. Does he have to stay all the way off the scene, Jonathan? I mean, doesn`t he look a less out of what she would say you can`t control? Does he look a lot more contained when you have a Donald Trump on the other side?

ALTER: Yes, absolutely. Also there are some states where he remains very popular. It would be crazy not to go to Arkansas and New Hampshire to campaign. But the real asset to bring the conversation full circle for her is going to be President Obama. And he has indicated that he will be out there campaigning very hard in the fall. He knows his whole legacy is on the line. Everything he tried to do as president the last seven years is all on the line right now. If Hillary loses, history has a totally different view of Barack Obama.

SHARPTON: Joy Reid, Jonathan Alter and Elise Jordan, thank you. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend.

And remember you can catch "AM Joy" coming up at 10:00 a.m. eastern right here on MSNBC.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just ahead, our one-on-one with the federal judge who urged President Obama to commute the life sentence of the man he sent to prison.


SHARPTON: We turn now to our special series, bending towards justice in the fight for criminal justice reform. More than two million people are behind bars in America. And when they released, many don`t have the support they need to give back on their feet. This issue has been a priority for the president. And I have been in many White House meetings focused on this fight.

Now with legislation stalled in Congress the president is taking action. The White House unveiled several programs to help inmates find work after prison. A major hurdle for those who have spent decades in jail. People like Alton Mills whose story we have been covering here at "Politics Nation." At age 25 Alton was sentenced to life in prison for a nonviolent drug offense.


ALTON MILLS, SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON: I knew that one day I was going to be going to jail. But I didn`t have a thought in my mind that I was going to going to jail for the rest of my life.

At the time the sentenced hearing, I clearly expressed my discomfort with what the law required me to do and I had no option. He has never been in prison in his life and he is going to, presumably, he is going to die there.


SHARPTON: The judge who sentenced him wrote a letter asking for clemency. And last year President Obama commuted Alton`s life sentence after 22 years in prison.

Joining me now is Judge Marvin Aspen who originally sentenced Alton Mills to life in prison and later wrote the letter asking for him to be set free.

Judge, first of all, thank you for being here.

JUDGE MARVIN ASPEN, U.S. FEDERAL JUDGE: Happy to be here, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Now, tell us what moved you to fight for his release?

ASPEN: Well, I remember the sentence very well. It happened in 1994. And at that time, I stated On the Record that I thought that the whole sentence was (INAUDIBLE), was a very cruel and unusual sentence. And I had no recourse at that time because the law was what it was. That if somebody had a third narcotics offense no matter how minor the first two were, that person would get a mandatory life sentence. And when I heard that the president was being petitioned for clemency, I wrote the president also and told him my thoughts about the law and the terrible unfairness that Alton was subjected to and had been subjected to.

SHARPTON: If you, Judge, could talk to Mr. Mills, if you could talk to Alton Mills, what would you say to him?

ASPEN: I would say to him that I hope that he has left prison with a positive attitude. I know it`s difficult after what he has gone through. But so many people were concerned about him. His lawyer, people today like you, people in the community, and that I hope he can be a positive example to show that not only was a terrible mistake and injustice done to him, but that he can prove by the rest of his life that he was a worthwhile person and justified the confidence that all the people had in him including myself.

SHARPTON: You know, we talked recently to Alton Mills. And we, of course, he knows the mandatory sentencing and all, but we asked him did he have any ill will toward you. And let me play what he told us by phone to you.


MILLS: I have no anger toward the judge Aspen at all. He wrote a beautiful letter to for me to the president of the United States. That meant a whole lot to me that letting me know that he was giving me the opportunity that he couldn`t have gave me the first time this time. I would actually thank him for giving me a second chance at life.


SHARPTON: What`s your response to hearing Alton`s words to you?

ASPEN: Well it`s a very moving letter. And it just reinforces my confidence in the goodness of humanity that there are people who make mistakes, who have done bad things in their life, but really basically should not be just thrown away and discarded the way Alton was initially in the 90s.

SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you. You have seen the toll that these sentences have taken on families, on people`s lives. How would you, looking at this as a judge, how would you feel that the criminal justice system should be changed to deal with this where we protect ourselves from crime but at the same time not continue to do situations like this that go far beyond what is necessary toward reformation or toward protecting the public.

ASPEN: I think we are in the process of reforming our system. There should be a way for the judge to consider all the factors even with a suggested guideline range. And then have that available for review. So every sentence could be tailored to the crime to the best we can do in an imperfect system. That`s something we still have to work on.

SHARPTON: We have a ways to go. Thank you for being us this morning. U.S. federal judge Marvin Aspen. Thank you again for your time. And thank you for speaking with us today.

ASPEN: You are welcome.

SHARPTON: Stay tuned in the coming weeks. We will air part two of our special series on Alton Mills and his path to redemption as a freeman.


SHARPTON: Tomorrow, Americans will celebrate our nation`s birthday and the declaration of independence. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. But of course back then that didn`t really include all men and it didn`t include women. American history is the record of our fight to live up to the true meaning of those words as President Obama said at Selma last year.


OBAMA: These are not just words. They are a living thing. A call to action. It`s the idea held by generations of citizens who believe that America is a constant work in progress. We know the march is not yet over. We know the race is not yet won.


SHARPTON: Now once again in this election year, we are hearing debate about what it means to be American. And who gets to be an American. And we are hearing talk about how America used to be great but isn`t anymore.

Last year at Selma, President Obama seemed to predict this debate and urged us to embrace our new more diverse and more tolerant country.


OBAMA: That`s what America is. Not stock photos or air brushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others. We respect the past but we don`t pine for the past. We don`t fear the future. We grab for it.


SHARPTON: We grab for a future that will make America live up to those words. Think about this as we celebrate this 4th of July weekend.

That does it for me. Thanks for watching. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend. I`ll see you back here next Sunday.