Show: POLITICS NATION Date: April 2, 2017 Guests: Ras Baraka, Yamiche Alcindor, Azi Paybarah, Ella Jones, Deborah Watts (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good morning and welcome to POLITICS NATION.
Another busy week of news behind us, and a packed show for us this morning. We`ll talk about the latest on the Trump Russia connections, and we`ll tell Fox host Bill O`Reilly what we think about his comments on black people`s hair.
Also more unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and a fight to keep a law that promotes investigations of unsolved civil rights murders from before the 1980s.
But first, sanctuary cities have become a major battleground in the immigration debate in the U.S. Why does President Trump want to get rid of them? And what does his new budget tell us about his plans to help inner cities with education, policing, and health care?
Joining me now, the mayor of one of those sanctuary cities, Newark, New Jersey`s mayor, Ras Baraka. Good morning, Mayor Baraka.
RAS BARAKA, MAYOR OF NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Good morning.
SHARPTON: The president -- let me start with sanctuary cities. I want to get into the budget and how it affects inner cities, but the president has gone out of his way, Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying they -- actually threatened mayors like you of sanctuary cities off I turning off certain funding. Why are they targeting and how do you respond?
BARAKA: Well, I think that them targeting sanctuary cities is a way for them to tell mayors and other folks around the country, one, that they`re sticking to what I think is a very unconstitutional an un-american policy and trying to intimidate us into being what I`ve called fugitive slave catchers, to run around and do their bidding in our cities. And if we refuse to do that, then it makes it difficult for them to continue their policy because they don`t have the resources to kind of run down all the undocumented residents locally.
SHARPTON: Now, when we talk about undocumented residents locally that have sanctuary in certain cities like Newark and et cetera, we are not just talking about Mexican-Americans. I mean, in Newark, we`re talking about people from the Caribbean, we`re talking about people from Africa, we talk about people -- and I think that they tried to racial stereo type this as a mention Mexican border issue when you`re giving sanctuary to people from many places who have married and had children in your city.
BARAKA: Absolutely. Newark is pot city. Which means that we`re a city of immigrants. We have Portuguese, Brazilian, Easter Europeans, Africans, Caribbean, like you said, Haitian. All over the world are in the city of Newark who are undocumented and are terrified by what`s happening in this country today.
SHARPTON: What happens if they start cutting your federal funds because you won`t break rank and do what you said a fugitive slave kind of --
BARAKA: Well, there`s some entitlement funds that most cities get CDBG dollars, home funds, dollars for federally qualified health care centers. Opportunities for us to fixing neighborhoods that had been run down for a very long time.
This is going to probably hurt the most vulnerable in our community, which I think is terrible, but we have to find creative ways to adjust. The irony of it is his budget says he`s going to cut the money anyway.
SHARPTON: Yes, I want to get into that. But before we go there, you said that we`ll find ways. So you are determined even with the threat of federal funds being cut by the attorney general and the president, you`re going to take a principle stand here?
BARAKA: Absolutely. We have no choice. Newark is an immigration city. It`s an immigrant city. I mean, it`s nothing -- all of the economic wealth that`s created because of undocumented and documented residents in our city, that buy some clothes, that participate in the entertainment life in our city, that walk every day up and down the streets of Newark, that make sure that our stores stay open, it`s important for them to stay there.
SHARPTON: Let`s go to the budget. President Trump said that he was going to do amazing these things to bring America back and make America great. His budget is out. Any budget is a road map to the priorities and policies of a president. He has really not shown a lot in that budget that will help inner cities despite the fact he said that he was going to help black people more than anybody, and that we had nothing to lose. Well, it seems like we lost something in this budget.
BARAKA: Well, according to his budgets, he`s cutting billions from HUD which affects us. We have 20,000 people waiting on a list for housing in the city of Newark alone to cut that would be incredibly detrimental to our city.
SHARPTON: He`s cutting HUD that you have 20,000 people on waiting lists for HUD in Newark alone?
BARAKA: That`s right.
SHARPTON: Which Dr. Ben Carson is a HUD secretary and he`s cutting his budget?
BARAKA: Oh, absolutely. HUD, I heard lately Meals on Wheels. I mean, I don`t know what kind of people it is. I want to cut a food for senior citizens. I mean, this is a little dangerous. All these cuts in his budget shows what his priority is. And his priority seems to be to really hurt African-Americans, Latinos, poor people in the cities and make it difficult for us to make a living here.
SHARPTON: The resistance to this certainly came from many of us in the civil rights community, some with the elected officials. But what about the pressure on the congress? Have you and other mayors that want to resist on sanctuary and that all feel short-changed on the budget, have you been able to get your congressional delegations like in the state of New Jersey to deal with this?
BARAKA: Well, our congressional delegation has been on the forefront of the sanctuary city issue, whether it`s Senator Menendez, Congressman Payne, Senator Booker, all of them have been together around sanctuary cities and protecting what we`re doing in Newark. So I`ve been very positive about that and very hopeful about our delegation and other mayors in the state have been coming together talking about how do we resist collectively if the president decides to defund some of the things that we need in our cities.
SHARPTON: Let me go a little New Jersey, but still dealing in national realm. Chris Christie. Everyone was watching Chris Christie as he had ran for president. Didn`t do too well. Then he had the Bridgegate scandal. Two of his people were sentenced to jail this week.
Does it seem ironic to you he does not have a major role in the Trump administration?
BARAKA: Well, for a minute there, I thought that he would even be a vice presidential contender.
BARAKA: I mean, there were a lot of people in New Jersey actually hoping for that. That we wanted him to get out of New Jersey. But it is ironic that he has not had a real kind of position in the forefront in that administration.
SHARPTON: now, let me ask you this. I`ve known you a long time, most of your life. Knew your father before you who was one of the people we grew up under as he set a course for the national black political convention.
So just between us, is Cory Booker going to run for president? I mean, you succeed Senator Booker as mayor. So you know. You can tell me.
BARAKA: Well, it feels like it. I mean, he said that he wasn`t thinking about that now on a -- I heard a couple of interviews where he expressed that, but I don`t -- anything is better than what we have now. And I think Cory Booker would probably make a good president.
SHARPTON: Well, anything is better than we have now, I think that when you put the sanctuary situation, when you put the situation of the budget there, it`s really a time to gear up and see.
Thank you, Mayor Ras Booker. Let me remind people, the mayor will take part in the National Action Network annual convention from April 26th-29th in New York City. It is our first convention and first national civil rights gathering in the era of President Donald Trump. We`re featuring the best of civil rights leaders, grass roots leaders, elected officials, business executives, activists, clergy and more. GO sign up. It`s all free at www.nationalactionnetwork.net.
Coming up, both President Putin and Trump insist that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election, but every day seem to reveal more information that shows the opposite. We`ll try to make sense of that.
And later, we go back to Ferguson, Missouri. Still a symbol for civil unrest in America. They`re voting there in two days for a new mayor, and we`ll talk to one of the candidates. This is POLITICS NATION on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINT WATTS, FORMER FBI AGENT: What no one is really saying in this room, which is part of the reason active measures have worked in this U.S. election is because the commander in chief has used Russian active measures at times against his opponents. He denies the intel from the United States about Russia. He claims that the election could be rigged. That was the number one theme pushed by RTs, news, white outlets all the way up until the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Welcome back. There are now three investigations into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election. And whether the Trump campaign played a role.
But meanwhile, house minority leader Nancy Pelosi says she has no confidence in house intel committee chair Devin Nunes. She has no confidence in him to lead a fair investigation. And we`ve learned this week that former Trump NSA Adviser Mike Flynn requested immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony on his Russian dealings. The request was denied.
Joining me now is New York Times national reporter Yamiche Alcindor and senior "Politico" reporter, Azi Paybarah.
First of all, let me go to you, Yamiche. The whole question that we are faced with this week, three investigations. We saw Nunes, the head of the house intel committee, say first he had an unnamed person he met that allegedly had given him some classified information or at least let him view them. Then we found out he was on the White House grounds. Then we found out it was people on the White House staff.
And then if he was on the White House grounds, it was White House staff that showed him this. Why did he have to be the one to bring it to President Trump then? Why wouldn`t the White House staff have given it to Trump? I mean, this all smells so fishy.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, I think that`s the feeling of a lot of democrats, that democrats have come out pretty strongly to say that Devin Nunes should recuse himself or back away from this investigation because they don`t have confidence in him and that`s also why you saw this week that the top senator, the top democrat and the top republican for the senate committee looking into this, came out in a rare joint press conference and saying, you know what, we are going to take this very seriously. You have the republican on that committee saying, you know what, as a sitting senator, I`m going to follow where the evidence takes me.
So I think even the republicans are feeling as though this investigation needs to really have more confidence.
SHARPTON: Wasn`t that a little unprecedented, Azi, to see while the house is supposed to be going forward in this investigation, for the senate to almost big foot them and come out with a republican and democratic senator saying we will be serious, we`ll follow this to the end? That was a little unprecedented, wasn`t it?
AZI PAYBARAH, "POLITICO": Well, it`s sort of easy to look like a grownup and a responsible person in comparison to what`s happening in the house with Devin Nunes. Remember, he initially came out and said that Trump`s accusations were wrong. That was his first response to that information.
SHARPTON: Nunes said that?
PAYBARAH: Nunes said that. Then he gets this call. He hops out of the Uber, goes to the White House, looks at something, and the first thing he does is he goes and tells the president. He doesn`t tell the leading democrat on that committee. He doesn`t tell the committee members. He tells the president who by presumption is one of the people that helped gather the information to give to Nunes.
It all looks orchestrated like they`re covering their tracks. And if you`re using intelligence --
SHARPTON: And wouldn`t you say if you`re getting the information from someone on the staff, forget the fact that we didn`t know it -- wouldn`t you if you were objectively investigating it, say well, am I being set up here? So, why would I run around him unless this is some orchestration that had been figured out that --
PAYBARAH: It looks like it`s something orchestrated. Remember, one of Nunes` colleagues in a television interview was asked, well, who did Nunes work for? And this colleague says well, he works for the president. And this person was challenged and says doesn`t he work for his constituents? And the guy says, well, he sort of works for both. No. You`re elected independently. The White House has their own people who are appointed to do their job for the president.
Nunes and the other members of the house are supposed to work for the public. We`re seeing that a lot more happening in the senate than in the house.
SHARPTON: Yamiche, also I think it goes to the Michael Flynn question. Michael Flynn who was going to be the national security adviser until we found out that he misled Vice President Pence and others on his meetings with Russians.
Now he`s saying that he would testify if given immunity which has now been turned down. Now, a lot of people are saying that, well, if you need immunity, you must be afraid that you have done something.
In fact, Flynn himself said that no one asked for immunity as, I think he was referring to former Secretary Clinton, unless you had done something criminal. Are we taking too much of this? Is this a routine thing to ask for immunity, or does this seem as though he is concerned about something and possibly going to reveal something that will shake us all again?
ALCINDOR: Well, the republicans I`ve been talking to are very uncomfortable with the fact that he asked for immunity. And it doesn`t bode well for Michael Flynn that the only way he would sit down if he had some sort of immunity. It adds more spoke to this issue of Russia, and what he knew. And the fact that he was close to the president that he was hired into this cabinet.
Just even today, we`re reading stories now that you can go online on our paper and see that he also didn`t reveal that there was money that he was making giving speeches.
ALCINDOR: Yes, that he didn`t disclose it on his personal finance form. So the idea is that Michael Flynn seems to have all these different connections to Russia, and he`s saying essentially that I need to be cleared of all wrongdoing in order for me to actually talk very openly about this. So it doesn`t bode well for him. And again, it adds definitely more smoke.
SHARPTON: Now, one of the things that was very interesting to me this week, Azi, which is hard to, you know, decipher through all of this drama and theater. But when you had formal special FBI agent Watts testify, and he said that the goal of Russia, looking big picture now. Not in the reality show filings that we`re going through, is that they wanted to meddle with this election. They even hacked in the republican primary, they went after Senator Cruz, and then, of course, Mrs. Clinton, because they really want to bring down the faith of the world and American people in the electoral process, and this was not just about doing favors for some kind of business dealings which may exist.
It was about really the fight against American democracy and embarrassing and bringing it down in the face of the world and people feeling democracy can`t work. It`s a big picture, gently saying?
PAYBARAH: Right. And I don`t think many people could have planned for a Trump presidency. This was sort of like a Hail Mary pass that somehow worked. They wanted -- the expectations were that Hillary Clinton was going to win. So the idea was --
SHARPTON: To mock us?
PAYBARAH: Well, to mock us, but if we can -- if the Russian plan appears to have been Hillary Clinton is going to win. So the only thing we can do and the best thing we can do is to sew distrust, and have people feel like somehow not legitimate. That`s just democracy doesn`t work, and in response to her questionable victory, you have Vladimir Putin on the other side. And therefor they won`t be on equal plains.
Trump overplays his hand. He somehow wins and now we have seemingly Russia`s very best friend in the White House.
SHARPTON: Yamiche, then Mrs. Clinton starts coming out public this week. In the middle of all this confusion, in the middle of all revelations going maybe two or three times a day, I mean, 12-hour news cycle has become 12 minutes, where does she fit in now that she`s gone public, or does she play a role of? Does she just step back and let them ruin themselves?
ALCINDOR: Well, to tell you the truth though, a lot of the republicans -- a lot of the democrats that I`ve been talking to are saying that it`s too soon to hear from Hillary Clinton. That while it`s true that she feel someone who has legitimacy and is someone who a lot of democrats can rally behind. At the end of the day, the Democratic Party is in some ways in turmoil and looking for a new leader, and that leader is going to be likely someone who`s more progressive than Hillary Clinton and someone who seen as maybe for a fresher face in Hillary Clinton.
So for her to be coming out every 12 hours or coming out and commenting on Donald Trump, it`s in some ways problematic for the democrats who are really trying to get a facelift and really trying turn a page here.
SHARPTON: Thank you very much Yamiche Alcindor and Azi Paybarah. Now a quick update. Last month, I had on this show Michael Lomax, the president of the United Negro College Fund. It was on the same week he and other leaders of historically black colleges and universities, met with President Trump at the White House and asked him to increase funding for their institutions. Many were skeptical about that meeting. But Mr. Lomax told me to wait until President Trump`s budget is out.
Well, it`s out, and we did some looking into it. The budget calls for, quote, "maintaining $492 million in appropriation for HBCUs and minority serving institution, and that is below the spending for those schools right now at $577 million.
For the record, there`s no mention in the budget of any federal investment in scholarships, summer grants, technology, or campus infrastructure for historically black colleges that the leaders requested. Here`s Mr. Lomax`s reaction. Quote, "President Trump pledged to do more for HBCUs than any other president has done before. However, this budget is not reflective of that sentiment. Without strong federal investments, President Trump`s commitment to HBCUs and the rebuilding of African-American communities will be promises unfulfilled.
So Donald Trump got his photo op, but did not create more funding for HBCUs. Just keeping your posted and keeping it real.
Coming up, Bill O`Reilly makes comments on a black woman`s hair. Yes, he did go there, and I`ll tell you about what I think about it, next.
SHARPTON: Now for this week`s gotcha. The shade heard around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what does that mean, Bill? We`ve been listening all morning.
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: I didn`t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Yup. Yup. That was Fox News Channel`s Bill O`Reilly Tuesday morning retaliating against Congresswoman Maxine Waters, consistent criticism of the Trump administration by reporting to what many called racially insensitive name-calling.
I don`t have to tell you that Mr. O`Reilly was dragged by social media and feeling the heat. He did apologize on his show that night. Well, kind of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`REILLY: This morning on "Fox and Friends" I said in a simple jest that the congressman`s hair distracted me. Well, that was stupid. I apologize. I had no place in the conversation. But in order to succeed in this country, you must be self-reliant, not dependent on the entitlement system that Maxine Waters loves so much.
(END VIDOE CLIP)
SHARPTON: Even those parting shots, even with those parting shots Representative Waters was not fazed by the comments as she told our own Chris Hayes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Let me just say this. I`m a strong black woman, and I cannot be intimidated. I cannot be undermined. I cannot be thought to be afraid of Bill O`Reilly or anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Wow. Well, now with that mike drop, you`re thinking there`s not much left to be said, right? Well, let me clear one little thing that might have been misunderstood. As a close personal friend to the late godfather of soul, James Brown, I can tell you that may have been confused that his signature perm was no wig. I know this because for 30-plus years I was around the same hairstylist that he used and he would have me use. As you can see, his sense of style rubbed off on yours truly. But please believe me. This is no wig either.
So Mr. O`Reilly, let me share three things with you. One, you`re never, ever speak ill of a black woman`s hair. Two, James Brown`s unique style was many things, but it was always authentic. And what`s the third thing? Oh, yeah. I gotcha.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Michael Brown does not want to be remembered for riots. He wants to be remembered as the one that made America deal with how we are going to police in the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: In two days, the town of Ferguson, Missouri will hold its first mayor election since the 2014 shooting death of teenager Michael Brown and the protests that made Ferguson a shorthand for racial tension in America after Brown`s death.
The relationship between Ferguson`s overwhelming white city government and its predominantly black residents came under fire and change has, indeed, come. Ferguson`s police chief is now black as are the majority of the city council members, but some are insisting that in order for the town to fully move forward, it needs to elect the first mayor of color in its history.
Earlier, I talked to Ella Jones who became Ferguson`s first black city council woman just seven months after the shooting of Michael Brown.
She`s currently challenging incumbent James Knowles for the office of mayor.
SHARPTON: Tell us why you want to be the mayor, the election is two days from now. Tell us why you want to be the mayor, and tell the nation what is the state of conditions in Ferguson today?
ELLA JONES, COUNCILWOMAN, FERGUSON, MISSOURI: Thank you, Reverend Al Sharpton, for giving me an opportunity to come on this show.
The reason why I want to be mayor, because Ferguson need to be more inclusive instead of exclusive. We are a city that is divided, and we can no longer move forward if we are divided. It comes very important that we close that gap between the haves and the haves not. And right now the city of Ferguson, the people are hurting.
We just had a flashpoint a couple weeks ago when they brought out the Michael Brown taping, and people took to the streets again. We`ve got to work to the point that we must unite and change and become one Ferguson. It is very important that the mayor be the symbol of the city, and when you are the symbol of the city, people should be able to trust you. People should be able to believe in you. People should be able to know that the leadership that you demonstrate in front of them is for the good of all of Ferguson.
SHARPTON: Now, let me stop you right there, Councilwoman Jones. Because you brought up a point that is very critical to me. Just a couple of weeks ago, we saw a new tape that we`d never seen before in all of the activities that went around the 2014 shooting, and as you know, I was very involved, and I remained in touch with the family and involved with people, and then when this tape came out just two weeks ago, things we had not seen, activists called me. I`m hearing from people. People are back in the streets. Some of our people from National Action Network there.
So even though a lot of people around the country don`t know what`s going on in Ferguson, there has not been the kinds of changes that we wanted to see. There`s been some forward movement, but clearly there`s not been the fundamental difference that people wanted to see in 2014 going forward.
JONES: OK. That flashpoint, it gave -- it awakened the people again to let them know that they still have more work to do.
JONES: And it`s very important that we pay attention to the activists, because they are on the front line. And they know what is going on. And right now they are out there every day. I had an opportunity to go out there with them yesterday and talk with them, and that Ferguson market allegedly does a lot of illegal things, and people want that type of business shutdown. We want neighborhoods that are free of liquor stores. We shouldn`t have to drive two and three miles to go to grocery store when there is two liquor stores there.
Ferguson people want to know that they have a place -- a grocery store in their community that`s going to serve milk.
SHARPTON: That`s important. People don`t understand that, what you just said, because that was one of the alarming things to me when I was rioting around Ferguson as we were dealing with a lot of these issues.
They don`t have a grocery store in the community, but have two liquor stores. People around the country couldn`t fathom, you can`t go buy a carton of milk for your child in the neighborhood. But you can get booze.
How does the mayor and those in the city not try and repair that and try to deal with that and address that?
JONES: It`s very important that we have a mayor that`s going to look at all these grocery stores with these liquor license that are planted in the African-American community and say enough is enough. We are not looking to put nobody out of business. But we`re looking to have quality stores that are going to service our people.
When a mother need pampers or she need milk for her babies, she don`t want to step over all the liquor and everybody loitering in front of the store. She needs some milk for her babies, so we want to attract stores that are going to be able to serve the people in that area.
SHARPTON: Now, you are running a very basic campaign, a very basic issue. I remember there were no blacks on the city council. You became the first. Now there are three. Are you confident that on Tuesday there`s enough blacks and whites that can come together and bring a new day to Ferguson and then bring about the change that you want to see happening there in your town?
JONES: I know that I am going to win this election. Ferguson is 70 percent African-American. We have boots on the ground. We are doing a grass roots campaign nature we are canvassing every day, every Saturday, every Sunday after church. We are knocking on doors. We are asking people what do they want to see different happen in their neighborhoods.
So people are unifying. We are knocking on doors, and we will bring home the win on Tuesday night.
SHARPTON: All right. Well, Councilwoman Ella Jones running for mayor. A lot of people may have forgotten about Ferguson. I won`t let it go, and I`ll be watching what happens there on Tuesday. Thank you for being with me this morning.
JONES: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, should we investigate unresolved civil rights murders predating 1980 like the outrageous one of Emmett Till? This is POLITICS NATION on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: His death spurred the civil rights movement that made me possible. Attorney General of the United States to make Barack Obama possible, President of the United States. All that is directly tied to the death of Emmett Till.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The murder of Emmett Till was one of the most definitive and shocking moments of the early civil rights movement. While visiting family in Mississippi in August, 1955. The black Chicago teenager was kidnapped and tortured to death by two white men. His body thrown into a river wrapped in barbed wire. His alleged crime? The now debunked claim that he had sexually accosted this woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, who in recent years has admitted she had lied about the charge that resulted in the teen`s death.
When newspapers picked up the image of Till`s mangled body, black America was outraged with thousands attending his funeral. Where despite the horrors inflicted on his body. Till`s mother insisted on an open casket so the world would see what had been done to her son whose killers, by the way, were not -- were found not guilty.
Earlier this week members of Till`s family met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions to press for the enforcement of a law allowing prosecutors to investigate unresolved civil rights murders predating the 1980s, authorized by President Obama last year. The law is named for the slain teen whose death helped spark a movement.
Joining me now is Deborah Watts, Emmett Till`s cousin and head of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation.
Let me first go, Deborah, I remember when we were funeralizing Rosa Parks who did the Montgomery Boycott, Bus Boycott. It was raised at the funeral that she said that when she refused to give her seat on the bus up, when ordered to go to the back where blacks had to sit, all she could think of is Emmett Till, what they had done to him a year before that.
He sparked a movement, because he was falsely accused of looking at a white woman who has now taken it back. But the viciousness of his killing, and I remember when his mother visited us at National Action Network, she talked about how she wanted to open that casket that`s now in the Smithsonian museum to show the world what they did to her son and to show the world how vicious it was based on just a black kid in Mississippi, and a white woman saying something that wasn`t true about a look, and they would kill him just for appearing to have looked at her when it didn`t happen.
You, therefore, brought that to the Attorney General Sessions this week, not just about Emmett about a law named for Emmett saying that they are to continue investigating a lot of murders like Emmett`s that predates 1980s. Why?
DEBORAH WATTS, EMMETT TILL`S COUSIN: Yes. Well, it`s important. There are so many unresolved issues, unsolved crimes, families out there like ours that have experienced pain. For our family, 62 years. For some of those, it`s been even longer than that. Even shorter than that, but any amount of pain with an unresolved issue, a murder, a disappearance, the injustice that many of our families have experienced, we need to right those wrongs.
And the justice department, this is a bipartisan effort, a bicameral effort led by Congressman John Conyers along with John Lewis, I should say and John Conyers along with Senator Burr out of North Carolina, Senator Blunt as well, Simpson & Brenner, McCaskill and Leahy have been very instrumental in making sure that this bill has received the attention that it`s received. And now we`re moving forward, because it`s important to implement this bill. No longer should it just sit in the law books or as just a law. It needs to be implemented. It needs to come to life.
SHARPTON: What did Attorney General Sessions say to you in your meeting? How did he respond?
WATTS: Well, you know, that meeting was solely for the purpose of talking about the bill. Our initial invitation or my initial invitation was extended by Alvin Sykes who leads up the Emmett Till justice campaign. And as a family member, of course it was a wonderful opportunity for me to sit there and provide a face to how important this bill is.
Our objective there was to open the lines of communications with the justice department and our Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The second piece was to make sure that we impressed upon him how important this bill was, what other families are out there that need to achieve justice, and then to talk about implementation and how important it is to make sure that this bill is implemented and that the funding is appropriated and that there`s a line of communications and a way forward for the cases to be presented.
This was an initial meeting that Alvin set up and one that I think we were able to open those lines of communications and I believe Attorney General Sessions was very open to that and positive in a sense because he was familiar with the Till case. He`s familiar with the issues surrounding other families. He was familiar with some of the cases that had been opened and closed and then those that had received some sort of justice, and that was the historical one with -- that started the Selma March for voting rights.
SHARPTON: All right. Well, we`re going to see if he and others have a firm commitment and move forward on this.
Thank you for being with me this morning, Deborah Watts.
WATTS: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.
SHARPTON: Up next, my final thoughts on the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King this Tuesday, and why he matters today more than ever. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: This Tuesday, April 4th will be the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. He had gone to Memphis, Tennessee to support and aid striking garbage workers. He was involved at the time in a national campaign around the poor people`s march that he had conceived to bring the question of income inequality and racial inequality to Washington D.C.
I remember that night he was assassinated like it was yesterday. I was 13 years old and had just been appointed the youth director of his New York City chapter where I was born and raised.
Here, I look 49 years later and see the Washington he was on his way to now dealing with the issues of income inequality like Martin Luther King never lived, ignoring the continued racial disparities, ignoring the fact that life in America if you`re white or if you`re black or Latino, or Asian, is much different, if your woman is much different, if you`re LGBTQ.
Martin Luther King changed this country. Martin Luther King put laws on the book that changed the very nature of what this country was about, but we are not where Martin Luther King wanted us when he died 49 years ago. We even see them threatening to take away some of the laws he made possible. That we can`t stand by and allow to happen.
That does it for me. Thanks for watching. And to keep the conversation going, like us @facebook.com/politicsnation and follow us on Twitter @politicsnation. I`ll see you back here next Sunday.
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