Show: POLITICS NATION Date: February 5, 2017 Guest: Barbara Lee, Liz Plank, Jamal Simmons, Aisha Moodie-Mills
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good morning, and welcome to POLITICS NATION.
Last night, President Trump was confident his administration will win an ongoing legal battle over his immigration ban. Even as protesters across the country took to the streets.
Last night, a federal appeals court refused the White House request to immediately reinstate its travel ban on refugees and immigrants. When a judge temporarily blocked the ban on Friday, Trump attacked in a tweet, saying, "The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country is ridiculous and will be overturned."
Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says Trump`s attack raises the bar for his new Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California. Thank you for being with us, Congresswoman.
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Good morning, Reverend Al. Glad to be with you.
SHARPTON: Now, when the president says, first of all, a personal attack on a federal judge, "this so-called judge," how do you respond to that?
I mean, this seems to be a little over the line to, you know, a sitting president attacking a federal judge as a "so-called judge." Let`s start there.
LEE: It`s outrageous. First of all, another bit of evidence that this president does not either understand or respect the three branches of government in this Democracy. And when you denigrate and dismiss the judiciary, a judge, and a judge that President George Bush nominated for the bench, come on! This is another clear indication that something is very, very wrong with this administration in terms of how they are attempting to undermine our Democracy here and our form of government.
It`s dangerous, it`s serious, and people need to continue to protest and raise their voices and put that street heat on this administration, because we`re at a very, I think a defining moment in our country.
SHARPTON: Now, when we see the street heat and the continued demonstrations from various constituencies on various issues, but really coming together questioning this, one of the things that has become of serious concern is now his nomination for the Supreme Court.
And in light of the fact that this nomination is to really supersede the nomination that President Barack Obama had given a year ago this month when Justice Scalia passed.
Now, many, including me, have said we can`t just walk past the fact that they in many ways have went around what is procedure, normal, traditional, whatever term you want to use, and denied even a hearing to Judge Garland, who was the nominee of President Obama, and are we going to proceed here and really establish now a historic pattern, Congresswoman, where parties are allowed to just ignore, decide, side-step a nomination of a sitting president if it`s a president that they don`t like, don`t agree with, or not of their party?
What is the historic precedent here? And in light of that, how do you and other members of Congress go forward on dealing with the nomination of Donald Trump without dealing with that?
LEE: There`s no precedent, Reverend Al. First of all, Senator Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate, they really stole the seat. It`s a stolen seat. And so, we have to remember that as we move forward.
Secondly, when you look at that this nominee`s record, you know, and Donald Trump`s criteria, it`s very dangerous when you look at some of his decisions, especially as it relates to Roe v. Wade, the litmus test in terms of women`s reproductive health care.
And so, as the Senate moves forward, you know, we`re going to be raising our voices, especially from the Congressional Black Caucus in terms of how this nominee would, you know, at least judge in terms of the criteria as it relates to fairness and justice, but also remembering that, you know, we have to play by the same rules, and they`re not playing by the same rules.
And it was really outrageous, it was ridiculous, it was unfair that at least Judge Garland did not get a hearing. It was disgusting, really, when you look at how the Republicans treated Judge Garland and the Obama administration, and I would say that we need to really look at the rules and how they changed the rules and understand what we have to do to ensure fairness and justice.
SHARPTON: But what can you do? When you say look at the rules, what can you do? Can there be a showdown by the Democrats in the Senate and the Congress, saying, wait a minute, you changed the rules to block Garland, now what are going to be the rules here? We`re going to play by the same rules here to block Gorsuch, or we`re going to all agree that you robbed it last time, you were wrong, and this is going to be the precedent?
I mean, can we call for this to be a showdown and define what is going to be the procedure from now on?
LEE: Absolutely. I think members of the Senate can do that. They can also filibuster. And they have to game this out how they want to do it, but as a member of the house, I would suggest that, first you know, we have to just say we`ve got to play by the same rules. If those were your rules, why aren`t they our rules, and really move forward on that basis.
Reverend Al, may I pick up on one appointment of the administration, Steve Bannon? I just want to say how dangerous it is to have -- Nancy Pelosi described him as a white supremacist -- sitting on the National Security Council.
Members of Congress of the progressive caucus, black, Hispanic and Asia- pacific caucus, we sent a letter to President Trump and said that he should be removed from the National Security Council, but also, he should be removed from the White House.
His fingerprints are all over foreign policy issues now, and especially as it relates to the Muslim ban that has been, thank goodness, you know, suspended.
And so, I think we need to look at the dangerous nominees that he`s placing forward in terms of what it means to our country. Also, here we are now looking at a possible confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions next week during black -- this is black history month -- someone who has stood on the wrong side of civil and human rights.
And so, I hope that the public really understands that nature.
SHARPTON: And voting rights.
LEE: And voting rights. Civil rights, voting rights, human rights, all of the issues.
SHARPTON: I`m glad you brought that up, though, about Steve Bannon, because twice in Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader of the house, twice in her statement she referred to Bannon as a White Supremacist. Twice. And I thought that that was very, very, very telling of the attitude of many of his record.
And to have him on the NCS, National security, NSC -- correcting myself -- is something that is alarming at best. So I`m glad you went there.
What can be done in the Congress to really fry and force the president to at least remove him from there, if he can`t be removed from the White House, other than a bully pulpit?
LEE: Right now, we are actually looking at legal ways to approach this in terms of the research we`re doing to see if we can find a mechanism to remove him if President Trump does not remove him.
Right now, the public pressure and the street heat, the marches and the protests will help. And the more we expose this man and who he is as a white supremacist, his background, Breitbart News, you know, many of the terrible, dangerous statements that he`s made, and to see those statements now and his views reflected in our foreign policy, it`s dangerous, it`s wrong, it`s serious, and we have to fight every way we can to make sure that he is removed from the NSC and also from the White House.
So, we`re in the process now of trying to determine if we have some legal mechanisms to really remove him, if the president won`t.
SHARPTON: What is the danger? If I`m sitting at home this morning sipping my coffee before doing whatever I do on Sunday, explain to me, Congresswoman, the danger of having someone with the radical thoughts and radical expressions of Steve Bannon on the NSC.
LEE: Look at the chaos, for example, that the Muslim ban has created to people who should be able to enter into our country, to refugees, people who have been vetted. Look at the madness that it really shows as it relates to our international standing in the world.
When you have someone there who has made statements and is anti-Muslim, for example, then these views are reflected in an executive order, come on! This is dangerous. This is serious. And he`s made statements and believes other things about other people, and it`s a very serious moment when you have a white supremacist, a white nationalist making influence in the direction of our foreign policy.
The immediate situation as it relates to the ban is a clear example of the confusion and the disregard for the constitution and for the humanitarian concerns, for the economic concerns of the country.
We`re a country built on immigrants, and he just has no clue in terms of executing or putting forth his views, you know, on this religious ban, which is what it is.
SHARPTON: Well, thank you for joining us this morning, Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
LEE: Thank you. My pleasure.
SHARPTON: Coming up, Democrats are fighting back against the Trump administration on all fronts, but will it be enough? Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I think they ought to stop posturing and acting like idiots, stop holding news conferences and come here and express yourself here and then vote one way or the other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Senator Orrin Hatch called Democrats idiots for boycotting committee votes on some of President Trump`s nominees. Democrats sat out votes for treasury secretary, Health and Human Services and EPA administrator, but Republicans simply changed the rules and voted them through anyway.
Joining me now, Liz Plank, senior correspondent for vox.com, and Jamal Simmons, Democratic strategist.
Let me go to you first, Liz. The street heat is there. We had a civil rights march. We had the women`s march. We had the immigration marches. Street heat is there. And many of us were saying we wanted to see the Democrats in Congress stand up. They began standing up. They boycotted at least three of the hearings.
LIZ PLANK, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, VOX.COM: Right.
SHARPTON: Republicans just changed the rules, voted anyhow. What do they do? I mean, how do they break through with some wins here? Or do they need some wins or do they just need to keep fighting?
PLANK: Right, I mean, I think the secret weapon of the Democratic Party isn`t necessarily Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi. It`s the voters. I mean, Donald Trump is extremely unpopular. And in fact, there`s a poll that came out this week showing that since we`ve been doing polls, there has been no president that has been this unpopular.
And the Democrats need to start governing. I mean, what they`re doing is governing like a minority party, but they`re the opposition party, and that`s what Elizabeth Warren said last night, and I think it`s starting to, you know, it`s a message that`s starting to ring true with a lot of them.
But you know, they need to recognize that Donald Trump is a minority president and that a lot of the things that he`s doing, he`s not governing for everybody. There has been no pivot since the election, and Democrats have an opportunity to have a proactive agenda to fight against him.
SHARPTON: Well, Jamal, but he was elected a minority president. I mean, he lost by 2.8 million popular votes. The question is, how do the Democrats in the Senate and the Congress proceed?
I just talked to Congresswoman Lee about how you deal with Gorsuch`s nomination. Do they just keep using their opposition as a public platform, a bully pulpit to keep the public informed as we head towards the midterm elections, or are there things they can do that will actually block what Trump is trying to do?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Reverend Al, they`ve got a tough two-step in front of them. On one hand, they`ve got to continue to show that they are in stark opposition, do things that make sense.
Look, last week, we had one of the most courageous acts I`ve seen in public life when Sally Yates, who was the deputy attorney general -- or the acting attorney general for Donald Trump came out and said she would not -- told the justice department not to enforce Trump`s bad Muslim ban and then Donald Trump fired her.
She`s the kind of person, Sally Yates, that people on the left like because she`s got courage and she`s willing to take a bullet for this president or for her beliefs from this president. So they want to see Democrats do that kind of thing.
On the other hand, they also want to see positive -- I think Americans want to see positive agenda-setting from the Democrats. What is it that we would do if we were in charge? We all know why Donald Trump is bad. We knew that in November when we all went to vote. The question was, people weren`t so sure what the Democrats want to do. So, looking forward to 2018 and even further to 2020, Democrats have to have a positive agenda that people are going to rally around.
SHARPTON: And I wanted to follow up on that, Liz, because I think it`s the lack of defining an agenda that Jamal just raised is somewhat a part of what happened in the last year`s election, even though they did receive the majority of the vote.
The refining, being clear, even people like me really not clear on what is the agenda in the areas that we`re concerned about. So, this can be a defining moment as they use opposition.
PLANK: Absolutely. And one of the biggest issues with the election was the low voter turnout with demographics who are usually very loyal to the Democratic Party. So you have people of color, millennials.
I mean, if you`re looking at 2018 as a pivotal moment where there could be, you know, Democrats could take back some seats, the millennial voter turnout at the last midterm election was 21 percent. It is so low. But who`s out in the streets? I`ve been to the protests. There`s a lot of young people, there`s a lot of millennials. And the leaders of a lot of these rallies, Linda Sarsour being a perfect example, Carmen Perez, these are all young millennial women of color, and the Democratic Party has an opportunity to embrace that.
SHARPTON: And there have been millennials at the demonstrations around immigration, millennials at our civil rights march, will -- I would say Mary Pat Hector and Reverend Shane Harrison, other millennial leaders, in traditional civil rights organizations.
But the question is, these same leaders are not the ones that the Democratic Party listened to last year and have really brought in, Jamal.
How do you get the Democratic party to expand their base while they define their JEBD and define what they`re standing for, going back to your point?
SIMMONS: Well, Reverend, you know, like I do, Cornell Belcher. Cornell has the best handle, I think, on the polling out there about what happened.
And if you take a look at it, the problem for Democrats is not that we don`t have a base of people that agree with us. I mean, we`ve got -- 54 percent of the country voted against Donald Trump.
What we`ve got to do is find a way to get those missing voters, the people who chose not to participate, the people who to go for a third-party candidate, we`ve got to channel the energy that they have into Democratic candidates.
And that means that those candidates have to build relationships with those communities. They can`t outsource it. We`ve all learned this time and time again. Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, who we love more than anybody else, are not going to seal the deal for you with this population.
You`ve got to go out there and build it yourself. And that`s what I want Democrats to understand. And in the course of this DNC campaign for DNC chair, Democrats have to understand that they have to build relationships with these communities, find out what they want. I`ve got a radical idea - - why --
SHARPTON: But they don`t seem to know who they are. And it`s not even about just relationships, it`s what they stand for. But how do we gauge, where do we determine that this is victory? How -- what are the goals here?
SIMMONS: That`s the radical point I was about to make. Why don`t we have Democrats go ask people what they want and then offer to do it for them? It`s not that hard.
SHARPTON: But, Liz, where do we understand victory? I mean, when we lead protests around voting, we say we need to make this happen. We`ve done it around racial profiling. We did it in New York with stop and frisk. We`ve done it in terms of private sector. I know what we`re after. We did the march a couple weeks ago. We know what we`re after.
Where do we know the dramatic party`s change agenda? Where`s the wind? Explain to me where we gauge this.
PLANK: Well, I think there was a huge one this weekend, I mean, at the local level with attorney generals who have been standing up against Trump`s policies since he`s been in power.
What we`ve been seeing is incredible and something that we don`t often talk about is what happens at the local level. There are mayors. I mean, most mayors of major cities are Democratic.
And so, they can truly become champions and have these wins and then have those wins become a national story and have a national effect on what`s happening at the national level.
SHARPTON: And, Jamal, isn`t that how the Tea Party movement translated into a majority of Republicans in the house and the Senate and on to Donald Trump`s election, is they started very local and began with the state legislative seats, went on and built up? Movements start from the bottom up, not the top down?
SIMMONS: They do. And Democrats are going to have to do better at tapping into that energy to elect those people. I think we started the segment off talking about the Senate. The Senate can take symbolic actions, but the Republicans have already proven they`re going to change the rules to get what they want.
The Donald Trump from the "Access Hollywood" video is the Donald Trump we`re going to see as president. He`s going to grab what he wants to get what he wants.
The question will be in the courts. And the courts are going to have to go out there and I think the lawyers are going to go out there and fight this fight for us to protect American liberty in the courts.
SHARPTON: All right. Thank you to Liz Plank and to Jamal Simmons.
SIMMONS: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Still to come, Trayvon Martin`s parents join me to talk about their new book, "Rest in Power." You don`t want to miss it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS HOST: In a social media firestorm set off by the Reverend Al Sharpton, after he slammed President Trump`s border order by calling Jesus a refugee.
CARLEY SHIMKUS, FOX NEWS HOST: On Sunday he tweeted, "before you head to church today, remember to thank God for his son, Jesus, a refugee who fled to Egypt."
DOOCY: Well, that`s not exactly accurate.
SHIMKUS: Well, according to the bible, it`s really not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Some folks are relying on alternative facts to challenge my criticism of President Trump`s immigration policies and my reference to Jesus as a refugee.
Let`s start with Webster`s definition of refugee -- one that flees, especially a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.
Now let`s go to the bible. Matthews second chapter 13th verse tells us, "And when they departed, behold, the angel of the lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt and be thou there until I bring thee word for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him."
That is fleeing persecution. And then in the 14th verse. "When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night and departed into Egypt."
So, the fact is, Jesus was a refugee, according to the bible and the dictionary. I don`t know which one my critics need to read, but either way, I got you.
SHARPTON: Five years ago this month, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman argued that he acted in self-defense. He was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter in 2013, but Trayvon`s death sparked a national movement.
Now his parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, have written a new book, "Rest in Power: A Parent`s Story of Love, Injustice, and the Birth of a Movement."
This week, I sat down with them and asked them what motivated them to write this book.
SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN`S MOTHER: We wanted to tell a parent`s version of what happened and who Trayvon was. We wanted to just be our voice for our son. And so, we felt it was important to write the book from a parent`s point of view.
SHARPTON: You know, Tracy, I remember when I first heard about this from the killing of Trayvon from Ben Crump, the attorney, and you and he came right here. We met, you did the show that night. I had just heard about it. And there was no way you or any of us knew a movement would develop. And you and Sybrina recount in the book that when we got finished, I told you all to go down, to Union Square there was a rally and then they went on and on and on and Beyonce and everybody got involved in the movement.
These things are not planned. They kind of just happen. But the thing I most remember is how you and Sybrina always stayed level-headed and calm and wouldn`t be pushed or pulled. You always had this commitment, you wanted Trayvon to be remembered for something big, but not violent or destructive.
TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN`S FATHER: Correct. And I think that`s just a part of who we are as people, and that`s a part of the book.
We wanted everybody to know who we are as parents, who Trayvon was as a child, and we just felt that it would have been a dishonor of service to him to go out and do something that goes against what we believe in.
SHARPTON: I know, Sybrina, that it has been painful, and I know that there`s been ups and downs. Part of this book tells people how to deal with tragedy and disappointments.
I remember you at National Action Network convincing, when you and Tracy, when the prosecutor called and talked about they were going to indict. And then I remember right after the acquittal, we had organized 102 cities and you and I and Tracy stood with Jay Z and Beyonc‚ here in New York at a rally that I personally led as other chapters did their thing.
So, you`ve been to the highs and the lows. But what touched me is you kind of, like, were counseling others on how to deal with the highs and lows in this book.
FULTON: Because what I felt that I needed to do was -- nobody really gave me a blueprint of what to do. And so, I kind of felt my way through. And so, I want to try to make the pain, lighten the burden on another mother that was going through the same thing that I was going through.
So, I feel it`s necessary for me to talk to other mothers. And so, I try to encourage them, I try to tell them to lift their heads up and make sure they surround themselves with positive people.
And so, those were some of the things that I did. I`m not the specialist, I`m not an expert on it, but I`m just telling them simply what I did and what got me through.
SHARPTON: Tracy, one of the things that I heard all over the country, as this movement built, we were all right in the center of it, is that you were an example of, no matter what happens in life, sticking by your family, sticking by your son. And black men -- this is Black History Month -- have been given an image that in many cases is unfair, of not keeping a relationship with their children.
How important is that to you? And do you discuss that in the book?
MARTIN: Yes, I discuss it in the book, but I think the importance of it, Rev, is that we as black men have been removed from the home, whether it is through breakup through our marriages or through the legal system. We`ve been removed from the home, which gives our young men a sense of resentment towards the absent father.
So, I thought it was -- you know, I just felt as though me growing up without my father in my home, it was important for me, even though I was not in the home, but to be engaged in my kid`s life.
And so, with the events that we hold, the men`s conference that we have, I think that just keeping our men engaged in our young men and young women`s lives are real prevalent to what we`re doing.
SHARPTON: You have the men`s conference. You had a very effective foundation and have been the face of mothers of the movement. Certainly, you didn`t expect to be in the middle of all of that, standing on the stage of the democratic convention, at the White House and all with the president.
Now people are saying y`all should run for office. Is that something that is in your -- even in your slightest dreams, Sybrina, just between us? Now, we`ve been tight.
FULTON: Well, the question was posed to me about maybe about a week and a half ago, and it actually aired this weekend. And I said it was something that we are exploring. I never said I`m going to be in the White House. I said I was going to start with local government, that we`re just doing our research and our homework right now to see what area we can be the most effective in and see where we can make the biggest difference and the most change.
We want to see change, and we know that we have to be a part of that change, and that`s simply what I said, so we are looking at it.
SHARPTON: And you are committed to staying in the change movement.
SHARPTON: What do you hope people walk away from this book with? When they put it down, what is the message you want them to walk away with? Sybrina and Tracy.
FULTON: I want people to walk away with inspiration. I want them to see it from a parent`s point of view. I want them to know a little bit more about who Trayvon Martin was at 17 as a person, as a person, not a person with a hoodie on, not a kid that`s walking and had been chased, followed and killed, but who Trayvon Martin really was.
We hope that this book offers some support to families who have lost a child through senseless gun violence or maybe suicide or maybe a car accident or some type of way. It helps other parents to know that they are not alone.
MARTIN: I think that for the most part, we want them to know that this book is therapeutic, that it`s good for the soul, it`s a good read, that we want them to walk away with feeling inspired, motivated, and most of all, educated and informed.
SHARPTON: Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, authors of "Rest in Power." Thank you very much. Thank you for being yourselves.
MARTIN: Thank you, Rev.
FULTON: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Up next, Donald Trump commemorates Black History Month. How did it go? Stay tuned to find out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who`s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more I notice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: President Trump this week kicked off the first Black History Month in eight years without a black president, a tough act to follow, but you don`t have to be black to know at least a few facts about Frederick Douglass, and that he`s been dead for more than a century. And even though President Trump noted the contributions of people like Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he couldn`t resist painting a grim picture of black America, again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We need safer communities, and we`re going to do that with law enforcement. We`re going to make it safe. We`re going to make it much better than it is right now. Right now it`s terrible.
If you remember, I wasn`t going to do well with the African-American community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and lots of other things, we ended up getting -- I won`t go into details, but we ended up getting substantially more than other candidates who had run in the past years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is James Peterson, MSNBC contributor, and Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.
Let me go to you first, James. President Trump clearly not knowing Frederick Douglass was no longer with us for over 100 years, but aside from that, really pivoting toward raising the issue of crime and violence, something that we all denounce, something that we all want to deal with, but clearly, you can`t give this one-dimensional picture of black America over and over and over again, as he`s done, like that`s the only issue in black America, and really not even dealing with the underlying issues to the violence in Chicago that he refers to.
JAMES PETERSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it seems like he has kind of a one-track mind when he thinks about the experience of black folks in the United States.
It`s quite ironic, Rev, that he`s not literate about the history of Frederick Douglass, given the fact that so much of Frederick Douglass` first narrative was about how literacy led to liberation for him.
And so the fact that they don`t know much about black experience or about black history and this administration couldn`t give you any information at all about Frederick Douglass or any sense that they even know who he was or what role he played in this country of this country, what extraordinary privilege, Rev.
Like the privilege to be a 70-year-old white man as president and not even know who Frederick Douglass is, someone who`s Seminole in terms of forming the concept of liberation and liberty in this nation, it`s insane.
But it`s also is sort of in the same vain that the Trump administration, every time they want to talk about policy when it`s related to African- Americans, it`s often about policing. And what he doesn`t understand is that while policing and law enforcement narratives with respect to inner city America may sound good to his base, that doesn`t sound good to the folks who work in inner cities, who work around folks who are wrestling with police departments.
Look at the DOJ reports on the police departments of Chicago and of these other cities that are being challenged. It`s clear to me that that`s not the only solution to some of the challenges that these cities face.
SHARPTON: Well, Chicago`s under consent decree. You can`t talk about the feds coming into Chicago, working with the local policemen without dealing with the justice department report, Aisha, on how policing in Chicago has been unfair to blacks. You can`t divorce one from the other.
But what was interesting to me is that he talks to people that have supported him, people that clearly have been the cheerleaders in the black community, and points out like he met with African-American leadership.
No policy people, no leaders of national organizations, none that are out there, which even President Obama, President Bush used to meet with all of us.
I mean, to have this kind of meeting with people that were connected directly to your campaign and act like you met with black leaders. And I mean, he can meet with who he wants, and certainly, they can meet with him. I`m not saying they shouldn`t meet, but let`s not mischaracterize what was in and what was not in the room, who was not in the room, and therefore, what was not discussed.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CEO, VICTORY FUND: Yes, yes. Yes, sir! I mean, you`re absolutely right. You know, guys, we are sitting here trying to have a thoughtful, intellectual conversation about black history and the president`s role in some way in showing leadership and understanding history.
And here`s the reality. What we saw is that this president does not have any interest in intellect or history, one.
MOODIE-MILLS: The conversation that he had that day was -- and every day, for that matter, which is what`s so embarrassing -- was mostly giving shout-outs to the handful of black people that said something nice about him on TV and pushed back against, you know, the news outlets that he didn`t like, essentially is what he had to say.
There was no policy conversation. There was nothing fruitful to come out of that, other than popping his own collar about some so-called, you know, performance that he had in the election with black voters, 90 plus-percent of whom voted for the other candidate.
So you know, I find myself really struggling to try to find anything to point to about anything that this president says that in some ways suggests that he has the intellectual ability or even the care to want to have the intellectual ability to, like, process history, what is happening, current affairs with our african-american community in America and any policy solutions that he`s going to put forward.
And the last thing I`ll add to that is that we need to look no further than his adviser, Steve Bannon, who is a white supremacist, to know everything about what this president thinks about black America.
PETERSON: That`s exactly right.
SHARPTON: Well, let me push there, James, because I talked to Congresswoman Lee at length this morning about Steve Bannon. But let me push there that people in dismissing the lack of intellectual discourse and dismissing the seriousness, there are some very serious issues around this that the president needs to be dealing with, needs to have to come to the table on, like putting someone like Senator Jeff Sessions in charge of the justice department when we`re dealing with voting rights issues and dealing with them saying they`re going to have a national stop and frisk, when you`re dealing with education with DeVos.
I don`t want us to give the perception, James, to people that because he may appear less than serious that the situations are not less than serious, and in fact, could lead to even more dire circumstances than we`ve seen, and they`ve been bad as they are.
PETERSON: Yes, I mean, the administration seems to have a strategy of disinformation to create chaos to distract the media and distract sometimes even their own constituents from some of the machinations that they`re engaged in that have real, real serious consequences for all Americans, but certainly for people of color.
Obviously, if you look at how the news cycle gets bifurcated between what he`s tweeting or what outlandish thing he`s doing versus what`s actually happening in terms of ministry to policy, there is a sort of chaotic distraction, sort of process that the administration engages in.
You can look back to history to see that this is a very calculated effort to not only keep us sort of on the defensive and keep the media and folks who are trying to hold this administration to account in some sense of disarray, but the disinformation campaigns are something that Breitbart news and folks who are interested in keeping America fragmented along the lines of race or class or culture or religion, they invest in those things to try to weaken our capacity to critique them, Rev.
SHARPTON: And so where are we at this point in black history? It`s Black History Month, but we are making black history every day, good or bad. Where are we right now? I`m out of time, but I just want you to quickly assess, what are the challenges for black history right now in America?
MOODIE-MILLS: We have made tremendous progress, and I want us all to hold on to that and be reminded that we just had a black president for the last eight years, so I think that we are still postured in a place of hope and opportunity.
If we look around us, we see so many African-Americans as still first but as leaders in our businesses, our communities and driving our economy in multiple ways and education, et cetera.
So I want us to be reminded that we are still making black history, but we continue to drive ourselves forward and we have momentum.
SHARPTON: And that history is threatened if we don`t stay focused on what gave us the ability to make those historic leaps forward. They did not happen by themselves.
Thank you, James Peterson and Aisha Moodie-Mills.
PETERSON: Thanks, Rev.
MOODIE-MILLS: Thanks, rev.
SHARPTON: Up next, for my final thoughts, another history lesson. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Soon after Donald Trump took office as president, he returned to the oval office the bust of Winston Churchill, former prime minister of England, and there was the reports that, oh, he took the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. out, and he very proudly said, no, I`ve kept Dr. King`s bust in and returned to the oval office the bust of Winston Churchill.
In fact, when he met with the prime minister of England, you could see they stood on both sides of the bust of Winston Churchill. Now, Winston Churchill stood up against Hitler, was one of the heroes of World War II, and fought against Nazism. But that`s not the whole story.
Winston Churchill was a clear imperialist that clearly was an advocate for England colonizing and having imperialistic policies toward India and parts of Africa, the Caribbean, all around the world.
So, at best, putting that bust back in the oval office sends a mixed signal. And in fact, to those that were colonized by England under Churchill, it sends a clear signal of what Mr. Trump finds applaudable.
I wonder what Dr. King, whose bust is still there, would say to Churchill, who was very derogatory toward Dr. King`s mentor, Mahatma Gandhi, one he admired and studied. So, you have the American Gandhi facing England`s imperialist who derided Gandhi and Indians.
Looks like a contradiction? I guess I shouldn`t be surprised of contradictions in the Trump presidency.
That does it for me. Thanks for watching. And to keep the conversation going, like us at facebook.com/politicsnation. And follow us on twitter @politicsnation. I`ll see you back here next Sunday.
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