Show: POLITICS NATION Date: July 30, 2017 Guest: Kerry Kennedy, Vivian Nixon, Kirsten Haglund, Zerlina Maxwell, Francis Rooney. Tom Perez
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good morning and welcome to "PoliticsNation."
We often speak of injustice in our nation`s criminal justice system. Now that spotlight is focused on a New York teenager, recognized as an honor student, his cry of innocence from infamous Rikers Island has inspired the Kennedy family to help. That`s later in the show.
In other news, outrage, real outrage this morning over the president`s comments to the nation`s law enforcement telling them to, quote, don`t be too nice.
But we start with what`s going on inside the White House and the future of health care in this country.
Joining me now is Kirsten Haglund, a conservative commentator and Zerlina Maxwell, the director of progressive programming for Sirius XM and former director of progressive media for the Clinton campaign.
Let me start with you. The week has been more some would say unusual, I would say crazy, than the preceding weeks and every week seemed crazy to me, but this is particularly crazy.
So we end it now with the chief of staff coming in, General Kelly, after last weekend we saw Spicer going out and all of the up and down upheaval in between as a conservative, how do you try and make some rational sense out of this?
KIRSTEN HAGLUND, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Well, I think as you said quite eloquently there, rationality is not necessarily a word that can apply to the political situation right now and I think that frustrates so many Americans no matter what side of the political aisle you`re on.
What this week unfortunately showed and that`s someone that is more conservative is that the GOP has made a lot of promises over the last seven years, had a real opportunity here to have cohesive policy that addressed some of the difficulties of ObamaCare which many people recognize, democrats as well that there are a lot of things that need fixing in this bill, but they were unable to actually govern.
They were unable to bring out coalition together around a policy that people could actually agree upon and that their constituents also wanted.
I think there`s been a lot of attention especially from the president on Senator Collins and Senator Murkowski and obviously Senator John McCain, but those women especially who from the very beginning were like we can`t address this. Just saying step in line -- step in line with the party.
They are representing their constituents. Right? That`s a major problem - -
SHARPTON: And you have to respect the fact that they stood loyal to their constituents, what they felt was best, both Murkowski and Collins. And I`ve got to give credit to John McCain who took a stand and he and I have not been fans of each other, but I give him respect.
Zerlina, at the end of the day when we get past the drama and the soap opera stuff, we are talking about millions of people`s health care and we are talking about we do need something that even former President Obama said that needs fixing because the premiums can rise here.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, FORMER DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE MEDIA FOR THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Right.
SHARPTON: Does anybody care that there are people sitting there needing their health care to be stabilized and affordable and those that have preexisting conditions are really being almost -- they`re stressed out. They`re now traumatized by what`s going to happen to me. We`re forgetting about the people here.
MAXWELL: Right. And I think that the tragedy of all of this is if you are somebody who had cancer or a terminal illness right now when they`re debating health care and you`re not sure if you`re going to lose your health care, as a result of the vote, that`s just an additional level of stress on top of your illness.
And I think that that`s really unfortunate and un-American. Republicans never came up with a message around what this bill actually did for people, how does it actually make the health insurance system better for Americans?
They never ever came up with a bill that actually solves the problem and they were never able to communicate why they were doing this other than we wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act to basically get back at President Obama. And I think that they were essentially revealed as having no substance.
SAHRPTON: Kirsten, isn`t that the politics of this, that while we are talking about real problems, real people, people watching us concerned about their health, their mothers, their grandmothers, I mean, real stuff, that people play in politics say, we`re going to repeal and replace, we`re going to make it better and caught people`s hopes up and faith up and they really didn`t have a replacement in mind, they had no policy there.
HAGLUND: Well, this is the thing that I think is so sad about this entire conversation is that people are so exhausted with the politics as unusual as you just mentioned.
What`s really interesting is if you go back to 2009/2010 when the whole debate over the Affordable Care Act was starting, you know, that mindset of the average every day American was very different than it is now. People are used to having these benefits for seven, eight years now.
HAGLUND: So the concept is entirely different and they`ve been competing on repeal and replace and that energized people`s emotions and that caused them to vote, they raised millions of dollars on that message but the American mindset is different now and people want universal health care coverage and they also want to make sure --
SHARPTON: And millions had started getting coverage. I mean, if they probably going to run into in the midterm elections is what happens to those that have become or just accustomed to being covered, and now all of a sudden you`ve got this kind of uneasiness.
So it`s one thing when I didn`t know that I could get relief, it`s another when for millions under what is called ObamaCare I did get some relief and now you`re playing games with it.
MAXWELL: It`s always more difficult to take away the entitlement once people have it, once social security was implemented and Medicare was implemented it is nearly impossible to take it away.
Former speaker of the house John Boehner earlier this week said ObamaCare is here to stay. That was before the health care vote failed. And I think that it`s important to give credit where it`s due. There were a number of different activists and organizers all over the country, dying in, sleeping in offices all around the country, going to the capitol, getting arrested, people in wheelchairs literally getting arrested. And I think --
SHARPTON: People being taken out of wheelchairs by the capitol police. I`ve never seen that in all my years of civil rights, I`ve never seen that.
MAXWELL: That surprises me that you`ve never seen that, Rev, given your history. I think that that was a powerful moment for the resistance to this administration that showed that, no, you`re not going to take our health care away without a fight.
SHARPTON: I`ll get to, quickly, some of the inside baseball because I`m much more concerned about what happens to people than what happens on the West Wing.
But I must touch on this whole fight, Scaramucci coming in, the Reince Priebus being dismissed. How does this play in terms of making the West Wing under Trump even look more unstable than the unstable appearances it has given us in the other parts of the first six months?
HAGLUND: You know what? Actually, the kind of chaos that has existed -- and managed chaos, which Donald Trump has previously and in his businesses has said he kind of enjoys that competitive nature, Sarah Huckabee Sanders now press secretary mentioned that as well that he likes to foster that.
That actually does have a real impact on the policy that does or doesn`t get passed in the legislature. So even though it does seem a little bit like we`re talking inside baseball here. When you don`t have a president necessarily who has a legislative vision that does affect how things work on Capitol Hill.
And so far as this latest staff shakeup is concerned, Reince Priebus was the real line to the establishment wing of the GOP.
SHARPTON: Right. He was the chairman of the party.
HAGLUND: Exactly. And he wasn`t real safe in the White House to begin with. General Kelly has a lot of great experience in being chief of staff. If the president can actually give him and invest him with that power which Reince Priebus didn`t necessarily have to organize the staff, then he might be able to at least succeed in getting them coalesced around a message and --
SHARPTON: Well, good luck with that.
Zerlina, when you look at the fact that the so-called on the record/off the record kind of seen vulgar conversation with New Yorker magazine with Scaramucci. I mean, what kind of example is that to the young people in the country reading this? I mean, aside -- and I`ve been accused of being passionate, and I don`t know why, but, I mean, getting that way out of bounds is a little upsetting.
MAXWELL: Right. I don`t think I`ve ever said anything like that much less said it to a reporter on the record.
And as a communications director, I think that`s basics, that`s one-on-one level, off the record, on the record, on background. You should know what these terms mean and ensure that you`re not going and ranting about a colleague on the record with the New Yorker.
But again, I think this goes back to the management style of Donald Trump. It all goes back to the top and it`s really ironic that they`re bringing in a wartime general, literally, to fix the office politics in the White House.
I think that that`s a really alarming reality that we`re living in.
SHARPTON: Maybe you want the general to deal with the war.
SHARPTON: Thanks to you both. Zerlina Maxwell and Kirsten Haglund.
Coming up, with upheaval inside the White House and a stalemate on health care, how can legislation on such issues as infrastructure and taxes move forward? I`ll ask republican Francis Rooney of Florida next.
SHARPTON: A failure to pass the republicans so-called skinny health care bill in the senate and to changes at the senior level inside the White House in two weeks which has spilled over into the loss of leadership at homeland security.
Here to discuss all of this is republican Congressman Francis Rooney of Florida.
Good morning, congressman. Thank you for being with us.
I don`t want to really get into our differences politically on how we may see different issues as much as how it impacts and affects people, we are looking to deal with things like an infrastructure bill which is needed as I travel around the country from roads to bridges to highways to tunnels, we really need the repairs, and the jobs that it could create.
We have a real problem with jobs when we look at tax bill, what is that going to mean for the middleclass, what is that going to mean for the working poor?
These issues seem to be at risk of not even coming to the front burner because of all this other drama and trauma in Washington. How do you see this getting through so that the people become part of the agenda?
REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: Well, first, Al, thanks for having me on.
I`m hopeful kind of being an outsider to all of this and being a businessperson. I`m hopeful and optimistic that the two things you talked about infrastructure and tax reform will be less contentious than this disaster discussion of health care has been for the first six months.
We desperately need the infrastructure improvements around the country that you`ve mentioned. President Trump did that infrastructure permitting event over at the Department of Transportation a few weeks ago and showed a chart of all the paperwork and problems of getting permits to just get one bridge built.
SHARPTON: Now, when you look at that shot, when you look at the plans and the jobs it will create and the fact that a lot of these entities that we`re dealing with that are part of what we need to have, the infrastructure rebuilt with will actually save lives, I mean, because some of these bridges, tunnels and others are to the point of disrepair where lives could be at stake here.
When you look at all of this, isn`t the president and this whole White House shakeup and this tweet, that tweet, this drama, aren`t they in many ways an impediment to moving forward, even in the way you would want to go forward where I may disagree with how, but all of us say we need to deal with these issues?
ROONEY: Well, I think we need to keep our head up. We`re elected by the American people to do a job and not let the noise maybe happening in some parts of the government distract us from the pursuit of the agenda that we were hired to execute.
SHARPTON: Now, when you say keep your head up, does keeping your head up also tell the president will you quit tweeting and will you quit doing these kinds of attacks that distract from the message? I mean, when do republicans back their back up and stand up to the president that has been in many ways a distraction in chief?
RONNEY: Well, what I think we need to do is use the article one legislative powers that we have to put forth a reasonable hopefully bipartisan tax reform proposal that will stop incentivizing capital to leave the country and bring it back here and invest in creating those jobs you talk about and we can move forward on some kind of infrastructure program to repair those defective bridges, to make it easier and cheaper to get projects built and accomplished.
SHARPTON: Does Speaker Ryan, to your knowledge, have a real plan to have such a bipartisan effort go forward in terms of infrastructure, in terms of tax reform? I mean, has Speaker Ryan reached out to Congresswoman Pelosi and the democrats and really started trying to frame this so we will not see what we`ve seen with health care?
ROONEY: I don`t know exactly what the speaker is doing, but I know that the discussions in the various committees that have involved democrats and republicans, I`ve spoken with several democrats about some of the ways we can get capital back into this country by sorting out the taxes, you know, the disincentives for investments to stay here and some of the things we can do to simplify the personal taxes for the average American taxpayer that spends too much time trying to comply with the law. Those kinds of things are bipartisan issues really.
SHARPTON: Congressman, one of the things that`s of real concern to many of us and certainly in your home state is the voting because at the end of the day, we have a midterm elections coming, after that a census and we will be setting state districting lines and all of that right after that and we`ve had the president say there`s been voting fraud, many of us don`t see it including studies by the justice department, but putting that aside in this discussion.
The fact of protecting voting rights and protecting the whole sacred nature of voting, sacred to the concept of American democracy, how do you see the congress in a bipartisan way move to really strengthen and support the rights of voters without suppressing the vote of those that have in my judgment and many others been threatened by a lot of the tactics of late.
ROONEY: Well, I`ve never seen or heard anyone want to suppress vote. I think the dialogue that I`ve heard on both sides of the aisle is we want all American citizens to vote. People would have the right to vote, to exercise it, that`s one of our sacred rights as an American, but we don`t want fraud.
And I don`t know whether there`s fraud or not, it`d be above my pay grade to say. I know one thing like in Florida, we have some very strong voter protection rules, the voter -- the computers at the various county offices do not connect to the internet so there can`t be any attack on them or anything like that, so I think we have a good system here.
SHARPTON: Yes, but in Florida, you stopped a lot of days in early voting. You started coming up with voter I.D. laws that in many ways eliminated voters. I mean, Florida has been a real problem in terms of voting. If we want all the citizens to vote as you say, why would we limit the days when they would vote? Why would we stop Sunday polls in Florida?
ROONEY: Why wouldn`t you want to have I.D.s to make sure that you know the people who are voting?
SHARPTON: We always had I.D.s. Why do we need new I.D.s? We`ve always had I.D. There`s not new about having I.D.s. What`s new is having that special federal photo I.D.s. I mean, I had I.D.s when I registered to vote many years ago. That`s not new.
ROONEY: Well, if you have a photo I.D., there`s no doubt who you are.
SHARPTON: Well, if you don`t need it, there`s no doubt it`s moving towards suppression, but we`ll take care of that next time you come.
Thank you, congressman, for coming on and I hope you`re right about moving forward on infrastructure and tax reform. We`ll talk about voting next time we have you on.
ROONEY: All right. Thanks for having me on, Al.
SHARPTON: Coming up, crossing the line with the nation`s men and women in blue. Why I believe the advice President Trump gave police officers doing an address is not only outrageous, but racist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The laws are so horrendously stacked against us because for years and years they`ve been made to protect the criminal. Totally made to protect the criminal, not the officers. You do something wrong, you`re in more jeopardy than they are. These laws are stacked against you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: President Donald Trump in Long Island, New York, Friday delivering what he thought was a law and order speech to police officers.
And in the speech, he told them to -- don`t be nice to criminals or don`t be gentle and when you`re putting them away, be rough on them.
This in an era and a time where we are dealing with more graphic displays of police misconduct because of social media and cable news than we`ve ever seen before.
I`ve been on this issue for decades and it is chilling to hear the reprehensible statement by the president to tell police to be rougher with what he calls criminals.
Let`s remember, he`s talking about while they are arresting people. First of all, people that you arrest have not been convicted to be criminals in large party, many of them could be first-time arrests.
In a city where Donald Trump and I grew up, New York, there was a policy of stop and frisk where many people were being stopped and some arrested that ended up totally innocent of what they were being arrested for. So you`re also telling people to rough up people who may not even be criminals at all.
But even criminals are supposed to operate within the presumption of innocence. That you must be proven guilty. And policemen can never be told that they could be the judge, the jury and the executioner.
But I guess if you know Donald Trump like I do, who started his for race into social and political commentary by buying ads calling for the death penalty on five young men in the central park five case who ended up being totally found to be innocent, I shouldn`t be surprised that he would overreach now.
But he is the president and we can`t normalize a president speaking like that even if it`s in jest. And then listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, please don`t be too nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you`re protecting their head, you know, the way you put your hand over -- like don`t hit their head and they`ve just killed somebody. Don`t hit their head? I said you can take the hand away, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So when we go from Rodney King being beat by police to all the way to Freddie Gray who was killed by police in a rough ride in Baltimore some of the studies show, don`t be too nice? Be rough?
And, oh, by the way, President Trump, paddy wagon? Ethnic slur. Paddy wagon. An anti-Irish ethnic slur. So let me get this right, you`re not sitting up in Trump Towers arguing with me in the office anymore, you`re in the White House making ethnic slurs to in jest tell police to be more rough, violate more of people`s human civil rights, violate the law.
It`s against the law, Mr. President. It`s against the law for police to mishandle people that they`re arresting. It`s against the law to go beyond the presumption of innocence and it`s against decency to use ethnic slurs.
We`ve all used them and we`ve all corrected them. I thought as president you would at least know better than to repeat them.
Coming up, convincing voters to elect democrats this November, the challenges, the issues and swinging attention away from President Trump.
I`ll ask the chair of the DNC Tom Perez how he`ll do that.
SHARPTON: Eight months after the presidential election the, Democratic Party continues to search for a voice to excite and sway voters. The chance to make that happen comes as President Trump dominates the headlines, through his campaign-style rallies and tweets.
With so much on the line from health care to taxes and infrastructure, how can the democrats` message break through? That falls on the shoulders of Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic Party. I had a chance to talk with him earlier.
SHARPTON: Thank you, Tom, for being here.
TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Reverend Sharpton, it`s always great to be with you and your viewers.
SHARPTON: The Democratic Party had a big rollout where they`re making an appeal more toward the populous voters. What is the target of that because there are some in the base that say does that mean they`re abandoning us?
PEREZ: Let me answer your second question first and the answer to that is heck no. You and I talked every first Friday of the month when I was labor secretary, we talked about jobs and we talked about justice. That`s what the Democratic Party has always stood for, jobs and justice.
Too many people are taking it on the chin. They haven`t had a meaningful raise in years, they`re looking for retirement security, they`re looking for a government that`s looking out for them and that`s what Barack Obama did, that`s what the Democratic Party does and what our better deal is all about is making sure we`re fighting for good jobs, for good pay, for better futures and for opportunity in every zip code. That`s what I`ve always been about, that`s what you`ve always been about and that`s what the Democratic Party has always been about.
We`ve to be clear in articulating that message and in the health care debate this past week was a great illustration.
We believe as democrats that health care is a right for all and not a privilege for a few and republicans believe that it`s a privilege for a few and it`s more important to cut taxes for the wealthy than to enhance access to health care.
SHARPTON: So the appeal is to say to all voters that where the democrats bringing forth in raising is in their interests, but you`re not changing your message and your emphasis because you know the criticism many had including me that had the party gone more to the base in Michigan and Wisconsin Mrs. Clinton might have won. That it wasn`t the lack of other voters, it was they didn`t mobilize the vote in our communities, not only communities of color, but workers and all and that they can`t feel abandoned now. We don`t need another triangulation strategy.
PEREZ: Absolutely. I`ve been traveling all over the country in this job. The woman in the African-American church in Detroit said to me, you`ve to stop showing up every fourth of October and tell me that you care. She has a point.
Our most loyal part of our Democratic Party has been African-Americans. We need to make sure we`re out there not just mobilizing in the run up to an election, but organizing, standing up for our values, standing up for opportunity.
As Dr. King said, you know, what good is a seat at the counter if you can`t afford to buy a hamburger? And that`s what we`re about, making sure that people have that seat at the counter but that people have opportunity to realize their highest and best dreams.
In the Democratic Party, we`re organizing everywhere. We have a 57-state and territory and District of Columbia strategy because we`ve got to talk to everyone and not just in the run up to the election. And we`ve got to work to make sure that we elect democrats from the school board to the senate. That`s why we`re working on local races. Because if we want to flip the U.S. House of Representatives, we`ve got to flip state houses too.
SHARPTON: You had a very good week, the president had a bad week, the health care vote, Senator John McCain making a very symbolic vote against this whole Obama skinny health care, ObamaCare skinny health bill.
Even though he and I have had our differences, I did respect what he did. The whole thing with Scaramucci and all of these almost daily things, the president starting a war with the LGBTQ community around transgender.
The temptation, though, is to do a victory lap prematurely and I`ve seen and heard you caution people, wait a minute, we have work to do, let`s not get distracted.
I remember when they went in the Rose Garden declaring victory in the health care bill and now, look at it.
SHARPTON: And I think you`re being very cautious, the democrats don`t get caught up --
PEREZ: George W. Bush learned that on the floor of the ship.
SHARPTON: That`s right.
PEREZ: Donald Trump was doing a victory lap after a house vote. And by the way, he called that bill a mean bill a week or two later.
There`s no one in the Democratic Party who is spiking the football.
I`ll tell you what I was thinking about when that vote occurred, I was thinking about all the people who came up to me and they`re scared to death because they`ve got a kid with autism and they rely on Medicaid for their treatment, this he rely on Medicaid to keep their kid in the home.
People who rely on prescription drug relief from the Affordable Care Act, it`s changed millions of lives. And so what we have to make sure we do is never allow Donald Trump to distract us. We have to continue to fight for the issues that matter most to people. Health care is a huge issue and I do -- I applaud not only Senator McCain, but I applaud Senator Collins and Senator Murkowski.
They stood up to withering attacks from the president and they stood strong. We should always applaud folks, republicans and democrats when they do the right thing.
We need to improve the Affordable Care Act and democrats are the first to say that we have a lot of ideas, but let`s do it in the right process. That`s what we have to do and, again, we have to avoid these distractions from Donald Trump.
You look at what distracting Donald does every day, trying to take our eye off the ball. The democrats` eye is clearly on the ball and that is to help people get better jobs with better pay that gives people a brighter future.
SHARPTON: That`s one of the more impressive things that you`ve shown in leadership that I`ve known working when you were in the justice department, labor and all, is that you keep your eye on the goal and the goal is not just winning a round with your opponents, the goal is really taking care of people. We are talking about people suffering if they don`t have health care. The goal is not getting one up on Trump.
PEREZ: My parents taught me, Reverend Sharpton, that if you want to get to heaven, you`ve got to have letters of reference from people living in the shadows and that`s why I`ve spent all my life doing civil rights work and labor activism because that`s what it`s all about. It`s about helping people improve their lot in life. And that`s what we`ve been fighting for as democrats.
We have to continue this movement forward, fighting for good jobs. We`ve got to fight against these efforts to suppress the vote. Every conversation I`ve had with you throughout our long relationships has been about jobs and justice.
PEREZ: Making sure that, you know, opportunity is there in every zip code, making sure that people have second chances and frankly in many cases a fair first chance.
SHARPTON: Quickly, let me ask you this, we`re out of time. Virginia, New Jersey, governor races this year. How does the democrats look, Mr. Chairman?
PEREZ: Well, I feel very optimistic about both states. We announced a $1.5 million initial investment in Virginia, it`s all about organizing, getting out there and mobilizing, we`re doubling the number of organizers on the ground within the next week, we`re expanding our capacity to elect democrats up and down the ticket.
Ralph Northam is a great candidate for governor. We have a great opportunity to elect an African-American lieutenant governor in Virginia Justin Fairfax and reelect Mark Herring, Phil Murphy is a spectacular candidate in New Jersey.
But we`ve to get out there and vote. And we`ve got to get out there and organize and we can`t do it every fourth of October.
PEREZ: This is a 13-year election in New Jersey, why? And Virginia? Because redistricting is at stake. And when you elect a democrat in these states, you assure that we can create a fair playing field for future elections.
SHARPTON: Well, those elections this year, we`ll be watching and we`ll be talking to you. And some say that Tom Perez is not a politician, he`s a leader, an organizer. But you are not a bad politician to tell a preacher on Sunday morning. Your mama told you how to get to heaven. That`s good.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
PEREZ: Always a pleasure to be with you, reverend.
SHARPTON: My thanks to Tom Perez.
Still ahead, risking the loss of an academic scholarship, why a teenager chose to stay in jail while maintaining his innocence and the help he`s received from the outside world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA PEREZ, MOTHER OF PEDRO HERNANDEZ: Now I know we`ve got a good cause to fight for. Our kids don`t deserve plea bargains, especially when they`re innocent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That was Jessica Perez, mother of Bronx teenager Pedro Hernandez who was released on bond this week from New York`s Rikers Island Jail after spending a year in the facility for a crime he and several others insist he did not commit.
The 17-year-old was arrested last July in connection with a non-fatal shooting incident in the Bronx borough of New York, despite multiple eyewitnesses and the victim himself contending that Hernandez did not fire the shot in question.
Hernandez was offered a plea bargain of five years probation by the Bronx district attorney, but refused to accept, maintaining his innocence, but a full academic scholarship that the teen earned while in prison hung in the balance as his family crowd sourced to post his $250,000 bail.
Enter the Robert F. Kennedy human rights organization which having heard Hernandez`s story not only got his bail reduced, but agreed to pay the sum of $100,000.
Hernandez`s legal future remains uncertain as he will return to court in September. But for now, he`s free to make up for lost time.
Joining me now is Kerry Kennedy, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human rights. And the Reverend Vivian Nixon, executive director of college and community fellowship.
Thank you both for being on.
Kerry, always good to talk to you. What was so compelling to you and the Kennedy foundation about this particular case?
KERRY KENNEDY, FOUNDER, ROBERT F. KENNEDY HUMAN RIGHTS: Well, you know, this is an extraordinary young man who is an honor student before he went - - he was picked up, went to Rikers, continued to be an honor student, finished his high school degree, applied for this extraordinary fellowship, got a four-year ride through college to the college of his choice, about 30 different colleges involved there, and all evidence points to his innocence.
What we were really looking at here is the cash bail system in New York and we`re trying to end that cash bail system because it`s used to coerce people to take a guilty plea instead of --instead of standing up for their innocence and fighting for their rights, and also to close Rikers Island.
And Pedro is an extraordinary example of why this system of justice is so unfair in New York and why we have to change it.
SHARPTON: Reverend Nixon, Kerry hit the real point, the real point is the bail system as well as many of us agree on closing of Rikers island, but the bail system that really forces a lot of people into plea bargaining, saying that they did things they really didn`t do, but they can`t get around these enormous bails that are put on them and it`s this or you end up losing years of your life and altering your future.
VIVIAN NIXON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COLLEGE AND COMMUNITY FELLOWSHIP: That`s exactly right. Seventy-seven percent of the people on Rikers Island have not yet been convicted of anything, and many of them are there because they can`t afford bail.
And it doesn`t really matter if the bail is $100,000 or $500, if you don`t have it, you don`t get out. We all know --
SHARPTON: Which is many in our communities don`t have.
NIXON: Many in our communities don`t have it. And we know that there`s multiple tragic stories, Kalief Browder, et cetera, but these singular stories bring attention to a much bigger problem, that Rikers Island is outdated, unneeded, our bail systems are outdated and not needed and they are discriminatory.
In the United States, if you are rich, powerful and white, you have a much better chance of getting justice. If you`re not any of those things, you get the three-fifths justice.
SHARPTON: Right, exactly.
Let me go to this to you and Kerry, I want you to listen to what Senator Kamala Harris who recently teamed up with Senator Rand Paul on bail reform, this is what he she told CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: We cannot have a one size fits all approach to criminal justice policy and so on the issue of bail reform and the work that Rand and I are doing together, it`s about recognizing that for some of the lowest level offenses, non-violent offenses the only difference between someone being in jail pretrial or being out is if they can afford to write a check.
That`s not fair, it`s not right and it`s not reflective of a system of justice that`s supposed to be blind to who you are in terms of your wealth.
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SHARPTON: Kerry, I mean, when you think about how just the statement that Senator Harris said and Reverend Nixon is saying and you`re saying, a lot of Americans, a lot of people watching us this morning have no idea that this is just stacked against people who just don`t have money. And they are disproportionally in African-American and Latino communities and that they did nothing wrong.
That`s why I was so out raged with President Trump`s statement in jest about be rough on people that arrested them -- and I`m glad law enforcement people, I might add around the country came out and said what Trump said was outrageous, too. I`ve got to salute the law enforcement people.
But aside from that, I don`t think people understand how serious this is. This ruins people`s lives who did nothing wrong.
KENNEDY: That`s absolutely right. You know, when you`re arrested within 24, 48 hours, you go before a judge and the judge sets bail. And if you can make that bail, then you go free.
But if you`re too poor to post bail, you end up at Rikers Island or a jail like facility like Rikers and so the rich go free and the poor go to jail.
SHARPTON: Reverend, let me say this because we`re going to run out of time. That is why ministers like you, people like Kerry and the center are important because all of that is the drop in the bucket. This is a system- wide problem nationwide.
NIXON: It is a system-wide nationwide-problem. And you`re really blessed that the Kennedys helped Pedro out. But not everyone is going to get that benefactor to come and help them out, so we need to change the structures and the systems that are oppressing people in this country
And we need to set a better example at the federal level because, you know, while we`re being rough on teenagers, we`re letting people working in the White House get away with bashing employees publicly and all kinds of stuff that would be prosecuted otherwise.
SHARPTON: All right. Well, Kerry, keep up the good work. Good to talk to you again, as always. Reverend Vivian Nixon, thank you for being with me.
Up next, my final thoughts on Michelle Obama opening up about racism she faced as first lady. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: I remember when Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. It was said we were entering a post-racial era. And many of us knew that was fantasy even before Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner and Ferguson made it clear, many of us understood that we had achieved something that was tremendous. But racism had not ended.
We heard this week Michelle Obama talk about how while she was first lady, she still had to deal with the problems of racism, and how people would never see her any differently or see her in a way they saw the first ladies because of the color of her skin.
I thought it was important she brought that out so that we don`t think we`ve come further than we have, not to condemn people but to challenge them that we must still go forward.
And when Michelle Obama with all of her popularity says there`s still people who won`t see me for what I am because of my skin color, it brings an issue back in front of this nation that we need to deal with that has even been prevalent while a woman of color lived in the White House as the first lady.
That`s why some of us will continue to move. That`s why we`re having the ministers march, 1,000 ministers marching on the anniversary of Martin Luther King`s "I have a Dream" speech, from the King Memorial to the justice department.
You should register right now. And keep the march going. We are not there yet, but we can get there, if we don`t turn around.
Thank you for watching. I`ll be back next week to keep the conversation going. Like us on facebook.com/politicsnation. And follow us on Twitter, @politicsnation.
See you back here next Sunday morning.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END