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Transcript: The ReidOut, 3/29/22

Guests: Nick Akerman, Oleksandra Ustinova, Julia Ioffe, Brandon Wolf, Robert Jones, Toure

Summary

Trump phone records show seven-hour gap on January 6. January 6 committee member to Attorney General Garland, do you job so we can do ours. Trump claims he has never even heard the term burner phone. Former Trump NSA John Bolton disputes Trump`s claim he has never even heard of burner phones.

Transcript

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And so do you think you could be neutral if you had to rule on or make a big decision that would touch on someone on your family, spouse, family member, your kids? That`s the question. It`s literally just simple. Let me know what you think and we`ll discuss it, because this is the big issue hanging over the Thomases in the Supreme Court.

As always, thanks for joining me here on "THE BEAT." THE REIDOUT with Joy Reid is up next.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everyone. We begin with THE REIDOUT with a little history. 49 years ago, in 1973, the American public learned that crucial evidence in the Watergate investigation into President Richard Nixon was suspiciously missing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. The White House this afternoon disclosed that something else is wrong with the president`s secret tape recordings, that an 18-minute section of a critically important conversation is inaudible, consisting only of a single tone on the tape. That conversation took place just three days after the Watergate break-in last year and it involved the president, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: That recording was critical because it was supposed to capture President Nixon`s earliest reaction to the news of the Watergate break-in, but it disappeared into thin air. Conveniently for Nixon, it was supposedly erased by his personal secretary, Rosemary Woods, who claimed that he she did so by accident with an errand (ph) foot pedal.

Needless to say, the missing 18.5 minutes suggested a cover-up and it was one of the many contributing factors to Nixon`s eventual downfall.

Fast forward to today and we`re learning now of a new gap in another White House record, this time pertaining to the presidency of Donald J. Trump. Only this gap isn`t just 18.5 minutes, it`s more than seven hours.

The Washington Post is reporting today that internal White House records from January 6th show a gap in Trump`s phone records of 7 hours and 37 minutes, including the period when the Capitol was being violently assaulted. That sprawling gap that spans from 11:17 A.M. to 6:45 P.M. represents the most crucial timeframe for congressional investigators who are trying to piece together what Trump was doing while his supporters overwhelmed police and occupied the Capitol.

These White House records are not just incomplete. The gap suggests staggering and potentially willful omissions given what we already know. For instance, public reporting has established that Trump spoke with at least three Republican lawmakers that afternoon, including Senator Mike Lee, Senator Tommy Tuberville and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. But none of those conversations are accounted for.

No surprise, the select committee is now investigating a possible cover-up of the official White House record from January 6th, according to one member of the panel. Additionally, they`re looking into whether Trump communicated that day through backchannels, phones of aides or personal disposable phones, known as burner phones.

While the omissions from the record are significant, what the law does actually show is also quite damning. Most of the names included are the very people at the center of Trump`s effort to steal the election, people like Steve Bannon, Jim Jordan, Josh Hawley and Rudy Giuliani, among others who continue to stonewall the select committee`s probe.

They could be accomplices in what a federal judge yesterday described as a felonious attempt by Trump to obstruct the joint session of Congress. And yet the Department of Justice has shown no sign that it`s even opened an investigation, which has frustrated many on the January 6th committee.

Here is Virginia Congresswoman Elaine Luria last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): I will echo what my colleagues have already said, but more bluntly, Attorney General Garland, do your job so that we can do ours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Joining me now, Barbara McQuade, former U.S. Attorney and MSNBC Legal Analyst, and Nick Akerman, former Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor and former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

And, nick, I have to go to you first. 7.5 hours is a whole lot different from 18 minutes. Your thoughts on this bombshell reporting from The Washington Post.

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: There is no question. I mean, this is deja vu all over again. We`re dealing with significant evidence during a period of time when all of this mayhem was going on happened. And the real question is looming all overall of this is whether or not Donald Trump knew that there would be violence and participated in organizing the violence or had encouraged the violence. If that is so, there is real doubt that he would be prosecuted criminally for what he did that day.

But that is the looming question here and we have no idea what was in that phone record. My sense is, you know, the phone record just stops at a certain point in time and then there`s nothing for seven hours, which leads me to believe he put it down the toilet or destroyed it.

[19:05:05]

REID: There also, Barbara, is evidence of consciousness of guilt. I`m not a lawyer but Donald Trump putting out a statement saying, I don`t know what a burner phone is. Well, yes, you do. Yes, you do. He says, I have no idea what a burner phone is, never heard of it. Well, John Bolton says yes, you do.

In an interview, Tuesday afternoon, former National Security Adviser John Bolton said he recalls Trump using the term burner phones in several discussions and that Trump was aware of the meaning. Bolton said he and Trump have spoken about how people use burner phones to avoid having their calls scrutinized. He knows what it is. He apparently used them.

If you`re a prosecutor looking at this evidence, do you -- can you see how Merrick Garland can look at all of this and say nothing?

BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, your notion of consciousness of guilt is right on, Joy. This is a classic example of it. So, a burner phone is a phone used by drug dealers and other criminals. It a prepaid disposable phone that you can use when you don`t want a call traced back to you. So, you use it and you get rid of it when you`re done.

So, did he use a burner phone? We don`t know. But the statement that I don`t know what a burner phone is, is one of those things of you doth protest too much when you have got John Bolton who say, yes, he did, he did used that phrase all the time. So, when he`s saying this, he`s trying to distance himself from even knowing what this thing is.

And I think, as you say, sometimes that can be used as consciousness of guilt, denying even knowing what this thing is, is an effort to downplay the possibility that he was using one. So, it`s a really interesting thing.

But with regard to your question regarding Merrick Garland, I know there is great frustration that charges have not yet been filed and there`s not even an overt indication that there is an investigation going on. I agree that if I believe that to be true, I too would be outraged and I certainly don`t have any inside information. But I can`t believe that the Justice Department is not investigating here.

I think that people base that on the fact there have been no leaks and also the fact that there have been no court challenges to subpoenas, the way we`ve seen with people like Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows and John Eastman and the like. But there is an awful lot of investigation that can be done covertly, for example, the Justice Department has access to search warrant authority that the congressional committee does not have. And so the Justice Department can obtain things with sealed search warrants from providers and get all of the email content in that way instead of relying on the user to provide it in response to a subpoena.

So, I think that it`s quite possible and even quite likely that the Justice Department is investigating here and I take Merrick Garland at his word when he says they will investigate anyone at any level, whether they were at the Capitol or not on January 6th who is responsible for this assault on our democracy.

REID: Right, because it`s a coup. Excuse me.

Let me go back to just some of the people Donald Trump has acknowledged that he did speak with. It`s a long list. It Steve Bannon, it`s William Bennett, the people that you would expect. It`s Rudy Giuliani, Sean Hannity, sorry, Kayleigh McEnany. You can go all the way down.

And to just stay with you for a second, Barbara, would this be a case where the Justice Department would go down this list of people that they that know Donald Trump did speak with and try to backfill and figure and get their phone records? Like, how would you go back and piece together who he might been speaking, we know he spoke with. We just don`t know whether there were any other lawmakers he spoke with. There are stories that talked about Ted Cruz`s involvement. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley were intimately involved in this congressional side of objecting to the electors, which was exactly the John Eastman`s plan, as laid out in his memo. They were following the playbook that John Eastman laid out.

There is so much here that`s circumstantial that suggests that lawmakers knew what was happening, that Trump`s aides knew what was happening, that maybe Mark Meadows knew what was happening, that maybe Clarence Thomas` wife knew what was happening. They all seem to have the same information, Barbara. I don`t see how everyone could have come to the same idea about how to steal the election and not talk to each other.

Is there any way that a prosecutor can look at that set of facts that all these senators seem to know what is going to be done? Eastman has written it down in a memo and everyone is acting the same way but they somehow don`t know and aren`t talking? That doesn`t make sense.

MCQUADE: Yes. I think that that`s one of those situations where the prosecution would try to prove that there is a conspiracy and different people have different input and different roles and different participation but they were all in the same page and part of the same agreement.

And there is law that says a conspiracy may be proved that it was not just an explicit agreement but it can be an implicit agreement. You don`t have to get-togethers in the same room and sign a document that says here is the agreement. As long as they`re all on the same page and they have the general gist of the same plan. And it does appear that`s what happened here.

And as for this absence of phone records, the absence of phone records does make the prosecutor`s job substantially harder here. One of the values of having a list like this is you can see who the calls were and then you can go talk to those people about the subject of the conversation.

[19:10:00]

Now, you have to piece it together by reverse-engineering it and finding out from the callers themselves or the other recipients of the calls, who they were. And it may be some calls are now lost to being reconstructed in that way.

But as you said, we do know from reporting and statements by the people on the other end of the line that there were lots of calls that day. So, now, what you have to piece together the content of the calls from that end of things and that`s going to be much more difficult and finding out how is it that Donald Trump talked to all of these people and yet there is no record of it. It`s either is a burner phone or there`s been reporting that he sometimes had a habit of just grabbing a phone from an aide and say, give me your phone, I want to make a call, and using that person`s telephone to do it.

So, it is true that you can put together a conspiracy even if you don`t have Donald Trump being the one who is communicating every directive in this plot.

REID: And, you know, Nick, to take this back to Nixon to Watergate, and I don`t know if you even have the answer to this but I`m going to throw it out there and ask you anyway, who is responsible for making sure that all the communications from the White House wind up in the National Archives? Is there one person that you can lay that on? Because my presumption it would be Mark Meadows, he`s the chief of staff, but I guess it could be someone else.

AKERMAN: Well, let me say this. This whole Presidential Papers Act was not enacted until after Watergate. It was enacted in response that, one, Nixon back dating his (INAUDIBLE) papers for the government basically committing tax fraud and, two, because he was also not releasing any of these tapes that were in the White House. And Congress just decided to step in and make the presidential papers, the property and the people.

So, the question is who is responsible? We don`t really know who that is. We know that Donald Trump would continuously rip up documents, ignore the act, put documents down the toilet. What we really need here is a grand jury investigation.

The problem we have right now is that this committee is unwilling to bring its own members of Congress in and take their testimony. This would not be an issue if you had a grand jury with a prosecutor who could bring people in and question them. They have three choices. One, they either take the Fifth Amendment, two, they tell the truth, or, three, they go to jail. And if they take the Fifth Amendment, the government then has the opportunity to provide them with used immunity and force them to testify. And if they don`t testify, then they go to jail for the life of the grand jury, which is 18 months.

That is the only way you really are going to pull this apart and find out exactly what happened. I mean, if they`re not going to go to Jim Jordan in the House committee and they`re not going to go to other members of Congress, you can be sure that a grand jury could do all of that, put it together and be able to put together a case here and find out what happens.

So, I agree with Barbara. I think the documents that relate to the phone calls, they are gone. I mean, it`s going to be almost impossible to reconstruct everything that happened over a seven-hour period. I mean, that is quite remarkable. But I think getting people to testify and doing this, the government ought to do it. Nobody is saying that they should necessarily indict anybody right now. All I`m saying is they ought to have a grand jury investigation that would be a lot more effective than what the January 6th committee is doing now.

REID: And, I mean, there was more vigor to find out that Hillary Clinton had her risotto recipes and her daughter`s wedding planning information on a personal server. There was an actual investigation, criminal investigation that got announced 11 days before the election because she was using a personal server not to hide crimes but for everything. So, we literally on news, on the news, on national news, were talking about her freaking risotto recipes and this may have cost her the election.

There was a criminal investigation about this woman`s emails and we can`t get Merrick Garland to even indicate that he even cares to do anything about an attempted coup that involved the United States senators and the White House. I don`t get it. Merrick garland, are you alive and awake?

Barbara McQuade, that`s just me, I will not put that on my guests. Nick Akerman, Barbara McQuade, thank you both very much. You`re much more sober. I am much more angry about this.

Anyway, up next on THE REIDOUT, facing fierce resistance from the Ukrainian military, Russia announces a pullback of its troops from two cities, including Kyiv as glimmers of hope from the peace talks.

Also, Ronn DeSantis is the future of the Republican Party and he is looking to the path for its inspiration. But instead of going after same-sex marriage, like Republicans did in 2004, this year, he is targeting the discussion, just the discussion of sexual or orientation and gender identity in schools.

[19:15:09]

And other Republican governors are jumping on board.

Plus, Chris Rock is still silent but Will Smith has a new apology, and Jada had something to say too.

THE REIDOUT continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: In what might be the most tangible sign yet of progress toward an end to the war in Ukraine, Russia`s deputy defense minister announced that the Kremlin would sharply reduce its military activity near Kyiv and Chernihiv.

A White House official tells NBC News that the U.S. is seeing the movement of Russian troops away from the capital city but the official cautions that it could just be an indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been forced to adjust his original plan in the face of fierce resistance from Ukrainian fighters.

President Biden says the proof will be in Russia`s actions.

[19:20:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We`ll see. I don`t read anything into it until I see what their actions are. We`ll see if they follow through and what they`re suggesting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: This comes as Russian and Ukrainian officials met in Istanbul today for face-to-face talks.

Ukraine again indicated its willingness to abandon efforts to join NATO in exchange for international security guarantees. There was also a discussion of a possible face-to-face meeting between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy if a peace treaty can be worked out.

In a new video tonight, Zelenskyy said that, while negotiations continue, there can be no compromise regarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of his country. For now, Russia`s assault continues.

In the southern port city of Mykolaiv, a missile attack today left a gaping hole in a government building. According to Ukraine`s emergency services, at least seven people were killed, and more than 20 were injured.

And in the Western city of Lutsk, firefighters are dealing with a massive blaze after Russia struck a fuel storage facility, a common target in recent days.

And joining me now is Oleksandra Ustinova, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, and Julia Ioffe, Washington correspondent for Puck News.

Thank you both for being here.

And, M.P. Ustinova, I`m going to start with you first.

These signs of a potential peace deal, I guess they sound good to us far away here looking at what`s happening in Ukraine. But I know your family is still there. And I wonder, in your view, how does this talk of potential progress toward peace sound to you?

OLEKSANDRA USTINOVA, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Well, you should understand that every Ukrainian would like to see hope in what Putin is basically saying and what he`s promising.

But it is difficult not to agree with President Biden when he says that, if they follow through with what they`re saying, that might be one of the solutions. Unfortunately, so far, we have never seen Putin keeping his word, because I remember he has been saying that Ukraine has to give up the NATO.

And, in 2014, when he invaded Ukraine, we had zero intentions for NATO. It was not in the constitutions, and the majority of the population did not support it. In -- now, a month ago, a little bit than a month ago, we were said -- we were told that, if there is no escalation on the Ukrainian side, then there would be no war.

Well, there was zero escalation, but he still started it. So we would like to see this happening. We would like the cease-fire. But we totally understand that you cannot negotiate with the person who never keeps his own word.

So, probably he just needs time to regroup for his own military, and to show that it was his plan, now that he`s actually failing in Ukraine, and that his army is stuck and almost surrounded in the suburbs of Kyiv, because that`s what`s happening.

And just one of the examples that you haven`t mentioned before, about a few hours ago, they bombed the city of Khmelnytskyi, which is in the western part. They shot missiles there. And this is a city that has nothing to do with army. It`s just in the western part. And it was not the fuel storage or something they were shooting.

They were shooting just like in Mykolaiv today. They were shooting their areas where people live and where actually people work, like the governmental buildings. So far, they have been negotiating, but continuing shooting the missiles and dropping bombs on our cities, unfortunately.

REID: Yes.

And there are signs of -- what do you make of this, Julia Ioffe, because our good friend of the show Naveed Jamali tweeted that the Russian announcement that they were going to reduce their military presence around the capital was not even made by Putin himself.

It wasn`t even the defense minister. It was a deputy defense minister was a low-level -- a lower level person making the announcement, which made him a little bit dubious as to how much we should take from it, because, meanwhile, Russia is just shifting their rhetoric and saying, oh, we`re now going to focus on so-called liberating the Donbass region.

Well, they have been occupying the Donbass region since 2014. Liberate what? Like, none of it seems to make a lot of sense, what you`re hearing coming out of the Kremlin. How do you read all of this?

JULIA IOFFE, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, PUCK NEWS: Well, I think the announcement was made by the people who were actually in Istanbul for the talks. And that`s interesting, because these are not -- this is not the A- team.

There`s not the A-list team who is negotiating with the Ukrainian side. As for the Donbass region, the Donbass region is much bigger than the areas that were occupied right before the war. And that was -- that`s part of the goal of the war is to "liberate" -- quote, unquote -- the entire Donbass region, to make the boundary -- or the borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk people`s republics, the so-called people`s republics, coincide with the territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are much bigger than those little people`s republics.

And even in that part of the country where, before 2014, there was a lot of support for Russia, these were Russian speakers, even in that part of the country, they`re having a very hard time making any headway because people are resisting. People don`t want to be liberated.

[19:25:13]

REID: Yes. And, I mean, they don`t want to be part of Russia.

And that is -- I guess begs the next question, M.P. Ustinova. Is there any circumstance under which, in any peace agreement, Ukraine would accept to allow Russia to annex pieces of Ukraine?

USTINOVA: No, because it means to give up on our own people.

And when I hear people -- and when I hear foreigners, I`m so sorry to say, telling, like, why don`t you give up the Donetsk or Luhansk region or Crimea or already occupied regions, let`s say, like -- for example, like Mariupol, which is actually a part of the Donbass region as well, I`m asking, would you give up your mom or any other area in Ukraine?

Or can you imagine somebody telling the United States, OK, give up, I don`t know, Florida, or Alaska or Hawaii? And I cannot imagine even these negotiations with any -- like, any other country with Russia. So we`re not doing that either.

And, unfortunately, from what we see so far, Putin just needs time, because he`s been losing, and he has been losing heavenly. You have seen the numbers of the soldiers that died. And that`s why they started using the new strategy called kill as many civilians as we can.

And that`s why Ukrainians kept begging for the air defense systems, for the jets that we still have not received from the -- our international partners, because this was the only chance for us to survive and fight back on the ground.

But, so far, it seems like he literally needs to pull out his army from Kyiv, because, in Kyiv, he was stuck. His plan was to take Kyiv down in 24 hours. He didn`t manage to do it in more than a month. And even now, his army is totally surrounded.

So, basically, I think it will end up in maybe a partial cease-fire, which is good for us. The only thing we keep asking is just to let us take our people out on the occupied territories so far, because they`re still stuck in Kherson, in Mariupol.

And I don`t know if you have seen this footage, but they`re literally taking passports away and sending people to Russia. And, unfortunately, for example, the Red Cross is supporting this, creating special refugee camps in Russia for Ukrainians who do not want to live in Russia and move to Russia.

This is something unbelievable that we used to have when Stalin was in power, what, 60, 70 years ago, but this is something you could not even imagine now in the 21st century. So, Putin needs time. He`s playing with us. But we will negotiate until the very last moment, because, if we can -- if our negotiations gives us extra time to take people out, to save people`s lives, or even gives time for our international partners to provide us with the air defense system that we need to protect our city, well, we will do that.

REID: You know, and last question to you, Julia, because the international community has not been successful in negotiations where there are questions of who owns what land.

We have seen, in Palestine, that the international community has been sort of impotent to try to deal with these arguments over what pieces are Israel, what pieces are Palestine. So the international community doesn`t have a great track record in this regard.

And I think the worry for a lot of people is that we`re just sort of watching this horror take place in Ukraine, and the international community and the West doesn`t really have an endgame in mind either, and doesn`t have a way that this ends with a -- with Ukraine keeping its territorial integrity, but also feeling safe from Russia doing it again.

If they say, well, we will no longer want to be a NATO, doesn`t that just invite Russia to just take more territory and eat up more pieces? I -- do you see a way that the international community has concocted some sort of endgame that leaves Ukraine whole and gets Russia to pull back?

IOFFE: Well, unfortunately, there`s not a lot the U.S. -- the international community can do.

And I think it`s something that`s very hard often for Americans to understand, even after the debacle of Afghanistan, the debacle of Iraq, that there isn`t all that much we can do, short -- even if -- even when we invade and occupy a country, to change the culture of a place, to change the political reality on the ground, especially from the outside.

And this is -- I think, for once we have an administration that clearly sees both what it can and can`t do and what tool -- what levers of power it does and doesn`t have over Vladimir Putin, those being the sanctions, arming the Ukrainians, making sure that they have as much of what they need to fight as the U.S. is willing to give them.

[19:30:05]

But all my sources in the Biden administration, before February 24, were saying, we`re trying to make this war not happen, but we can`t get inside Vladimir Putin`s head and make him not do it.

And, ultimately, this still comes down to him and what`s in his head, and what he`s willing to give up, when he`s willing to stop this war. Unfortunately, he has now -- with the propaganda apparatus that has been running at full steam for the last few months, he has created a real contingency inside Russia that wants blood, that wants this war.

And it`s going to be hard for him domestically to climb down from the maximalist demands he`s created.

REID: It`s shameful. It`s shameful.

IOFFE: And, again, there`s not a ton that the U.S. can do about that.

REID: That is a crying shame. I think most people would agree with that.

Ukrainian member of Parliament Oleksandra Ustinova, thank you so much. Julia Ioffe, thank you. Really appreciate you both.

Still ahead: It is deja vu all over again, as conservatives recycle their anti-gay marriage push from 2004, this time targeting even just discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools, because, if you don`t talk about the LGBTQ community, they must not exist, right? See how that works? Magic.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:36:00]

REID: Governor Ron DeSantis is solidifying and congealing his status as America`s worst governor.

On Monday, flanked by schoolchildren, he signed into law the Parents Rights and Education bill, better known by opponents as the don`t say gay bill, which would prohibit discussion of gender or sexual orientation in primary schools.

The law allows parents to sue if they think teachers are talking about LGBTQ topics to children from kindergarten to third grade, silencing students from talking about their own families or allowing a safe environment to ask any questions, which is terrifying.

But that is just the start. Equally alarming, at least 15 other states, 15, are pursuing legislation similar to Florida`s, restricting how LGBTQ issues are taught in schools. Democrats would be well-served to pay close attention, not just because Ron, the junior Don, is running the most thinly veiled presidential campaign in history, but also because we have seen this demagoguery before.

What Republicans are doing now is simply a repeat of their 2004 playbook. Back then, it was all about banning gay marriage, especially as officials in San Francisco and Massachusetts began recognizing that right, with an eye toward helping George W. Bush retain the White House.

In February of that year, President Bush cynically backed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, complete with the requisite right-wing fearmongering.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution. Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious, and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Ah, W.

The proposed amendment was later pushed by the right as a cudgel against his opponent that fall, Senator John Kerry, in an effort to paint him as out of touch with voters on values. There was also a raft of gay marriage bans on the ballot in 11 states, all of which passed, including critically in Ohio, which narrowly handed Bush his victory.

And much like in 2004, Republicans today are pushing their LGBTQ attacks on steroids. An NBC News analysis found that state lawmakers have proposed nearly 240 bills targeting LGBTQ students, athletes and curricula in the first three months of this year alone, most of them targeting transgender individuals specifically.

In fact, just today, Pennsylvania Republicans became the latest to propose a ban on transgender women in sports, claiming to support women. But Republican lawmakers in states across the country are also targeting women by racing to pass laws that restrict access to abortion and set women up for lawsuits.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Missouri want to go full Gilead to ban residents of that state from accessing abortion even in another state. And, of course, how can we forget the other GOP boogeyman, Critical Race Theory, the blueprint laid out by Glenn Youngkin in Virginia that Republicans have already admitted they are running on this year to scare the hell out of white parents and drive them into Republican arms?

Because, when it comes down to it, Republicans are just throwing it all at the wall, a stew of open bigotry to appease one group of voters in particular.

That is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:43:14]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Today, we will sign HB.1557, the Parents Rights and Education bill.

Parents have a fundamental role in the education, health care and well- being of their children. We will not move from that. I don`t care what corporate media outlets say. I don`t care what Hollywood says. I don`t care what big corporations say. Here I stand. I`m not backing down.

We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Let`s just be clear. The fringe is now the norm for the Republican Party, with Ron Death-Santis leading the charge by signing the bigoted don`t say gay bill into law yesterday.

Join me now, Brandon Wolf, press secretary of Equality Florida and a Pulse nightclub shooting survivor, and Robert Jones, the CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute and the author of "White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity."

Brandon, I want to go to you first.

The law that was signed, the don`t say gay law that was signed, it doesn`t even track with what Floridians think about LGBTQ issues. Non- discrimination laws, Americans and Floridians have equal support for them. Religious-based refusals, opposed by 66 percent of Americans and 66 percent of Floridians, same-sex marriage, supported by two-thirds of Americans, supported by two-thirds of Floridians.

So there isn`t an actual sort of constituency that`s demanding this. So, in your view, what`s the point?

BRANDON WOLF, EQUALITY FLORIDA: Well, thank you so much for having me. It`s great to be here. And it`s also very great to be gay on this show. And I`m going to say that over and over again.

REID: We can say gay here.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: We can say gay here.

I think you hit the nail on the head. I think that`s the reason you saw the governor sign that bill in the most cowardly fashion possible.

[19:45:01]

Just so people know who are listening, he hid this from his agenda until the very last minute. We didn`t get confirmation until probably 45 minutes before he signed the bill that that`s what was happening in that room. He also tucked away this event at a charter school to which the law won`t even apply when it goes into effect on July 1.

And he closed the event to the public in order to avoid coming face to face with the ramifications of signing such a hateful, harmful piece of legislation, the ramifications the likes of which he`s seen across the state, as students have walked out by the thousands.

But to your question, what is the point, the point is cynical and political in nature. This is not the first time that we have seen politicians like Governor Ron DeSantis join forces with the far right, the anti-democratic far right, by the way, to whip up sort of fear and fervor against LGBTQ people to help further his political careers.

There has long been this marriage between right-wing forces in this country who view democracy as merely an obstacle and the U.S. government as a vessel for imposing their beliefs on everyone else and the cynical, power- hungry, self-obsessed politicians like Governor Ron DeSantis, who are willing to fuel their hatred at whatever cost in order to climb the ladder.

That`s what we`re watching right now.

REID: Right.

And, Robbie, thank you for being here, because, look, I have worked -- I was not in media. I was working in politics in 2004. I have seen this movie before. George W. Bush was a Methodist. I grew up Methodist. I know what a Methodist is. It`s one of the most moderate religions in the world. Like, we were home in time for football games, the Methodist Church, right?

But he decided to go full sort of phony sort of far right, even though most people didn`t believe that was what his real sort of internals were, because he saw -- the party saw that this was a way to win. And it was all about one group.

Ron DeSantis might have stood up there and that sign in front of him might have said, protect white Christian children, because this isn`t about everybody. It`s definitely not about people who look like me. It`s not about Brandon. It is about white Christians and getting them all ginned up for this election. Your thoughts?

ROBERT P. JONES, CEO AND FOUNDER, PUBLIC RELIGION RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Well, I think that`s dead on.

And I think you`re right to telescope us back both in time and kind of widen the lens. So it`s a little whiplash, if you look back 2004. What`s strikingly different, though, right, is that, in 2004, most Americans actually did oppose marriage equality, right?

Today, it`s nearly seven in 10 Americans and Floridian. So, DeSantis, this big speech about, I don`t care what corporations say, whatever, he might want to care what Floridians have to say, right, about these issues. And the data is pretty clear about that. They`re broadly supportive of LGBTQ rights.

And you`re right that one of the challenges is that our two political parties have become very polarized, and the GOP has become very homogeneous. It`s seven in 10 white Christian in that party, and half of those are just one group of white Christians, white evangelical Protestants.

And they`re the only group by the way in the country today -- and this is also what strikingly different than 2004, when many people thought of marriage equality as a kind of religious vs. non-religious American issue. Today, it`s not that at all. Today, every major religious group, except for white evangelical Protestants, supports marriage equality, right?

But it is about ginning up kind of fear. And, really, if you step back, and you see this against the anti-CRT bills, the emerging picture is that the don`t say gay, don`t say racism bills are really part of this coordinated effort, that it`s just this message.

And they are really cynical. They are cynical. It`s a culture war. And they`re really about fashioning weapons for the culture war and for political campaigns in the guise of legislation.

REID: You know, and, Brandon, they`re doing everything from -- I mean, the QAnon thing is an open sort of blaring attack, really a sort of sideswipe at the LGBT community, claiming that there`s all these pedophiles or all these people grooming people.

They have used that kind of language of Marjorie Taylor Greene ordering Pete Buttigieg in his, like, electric car to stay out of the restroom? I`m really not sure why you would take an electric car into a restroom, into the girls bathroom. I don`t even know what she means. It`s so dumb.

You have people like Madison Cawthorn claiming he`s been invited to orgies, the final thing, the one thing that has finally gotten Kevin McCarthy exercised to speak to him. I mean, the things they are saying -- Mike Braun saying, we should relook at whether -- the Loving vs. Virginia law. So, basically, interracial marriage should be on the table.

Like, they`re hitting all the hot buttons. But it`s so cynical, that it is specifically to generate excitement among this one group. In Florida, is that going to be a strategy, in your view, that Democrats are prepared to fight back against or that anybody can fight back against?

I know that you`re not a partisan.

WOLF: Yes, I sure hope so.

And I hope that some of the lessons we have taken away from this fight against the don`t say gay bill is that we have got to tackle these things head on. We have got to call them what they are. We have got to name them in the context, as you`re doing. We have got hearken back to where these things came from.

[19:50:06]

There`s a reason that -- keep in mind, it`s not just the QAnon supporters. It`s not just the furthest right wing of members of Congress who have said these horrible things. The governor`s office said that anyone who opposes the don`t say gay bill is complicit in pedophilia -- in pedophilia.

That is the office of the governor of the third largest state in the union accusing Floridians, a majority of whom don`t support this bill, of being pedophiles.

REID: Yes.

WOLF: And the reason that that stings so much to our community is because they`re the same dangerous tropes that have been used to justify discrimination and violence against -- violence against us forever.

I hope that we`re prepared to push back and be firm in our opposition to that kind of hateful and bigoted rhetoric.

REID: And when you say encouraging violence, it`s literal, because QAnon was part of the January 6 insurrection. This is a violent cult. And they`re saying these things specifically to get those people exercised and to turn them on people and sic them on people. This is violent stuff.

And the governor of Florida, as you said, third largest state in the union, is engaging in it. It`s wild.

Brandon Wolf, Robert Jones, thank you both very much.

Up next: the slap, the apology and the fallout. You know what I`m talking about.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:55:22]

REID: This year`s Oscar ceremony was loaded with historical moments, but let`s just be clear. All people are talking about is this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: Oh, wow. Wow.

Will Smith just smacked the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Last night, Will Smith took to social media to formally apologize to Chris Rock.

And, today, Jada Pinkett Smith made her first public comments posted on Instagram: "This is a season for healing, and I`m here for it."

Joining me now is Toure, creative director for The Grio.

Toure, I am -- we are short on time. So I just want to let you go. What did you -- what do you make of this whole incident and the reaction and the fallout?

TOURE, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, THE GRIO: The whole incident, I mean, Joy, I`m stuck on this.

If you insult my wife in public in front of the whole world, I`m going to have to do something about it in front of the whole world. I am not a violent person. I am a reader. I am an intellectual. But if you -- if you insult my wife and her physical appearance, in the midst of her going through a difficult, sensitive medical situation, I don`t know how many times he`s had to hug her, hold her, try to make her feel better about losing her hair in front of the whole world.

And then you stick your finger in that in front of everybody, my whole work community and the whole world...

REID: Yes. Yes.

TOURE: ... and you expect me to just be the gentleman about it?

REID: Yes.

TOURE: I can`t do that.

I can`t blame Will for snapping and wanting to protect her in a way that he wasn`t able to protect his mother when he was a child, right? We have to link it back to that. I cannot -- I`m not saying I would have done it, but I understand.

REID: Right.

Yes, I mean, there`s two sides of it. Like, on the one hand, I agree with you. And -- but, number one, we`re not sure that Chris Rock knew about her alopecia, knew about the extent of her medical issues.

TOURE: But that doesn`t matter, Joy.

REID: Yes.

TOURE: You can`t make jokes at the expense of a specific woman`s physical appearance.

REID: Yes, yes. yes. No, I agree with you.

And so here`s -- so here`s the other thing. The sort of fallout or people sort of claiming that now he should have to pay a price with the -- his Oscar, to me, seems insane. Jemele Hill and Cari Champion made the point today that Harvey Weinstein still has his Oscar.

TOURE: Hello.

REID: Like, if they`re not going to take action against other people, all the people commenting, some of them really seem like they should just simmer down. Your thoughts.

TOURE: Yes, they should simmer down.

Look, Will Smith, I`m sure, does this, stands up from his seat, knowing full well his privilege in that room and in that town .He is one of the triple-A-list, maximum, elite stars in that world. He knows that he can get up there and smack Chris Rock and sit down and nothing will happen.

So he decided to take out his entitlement card, and, yes, I`m going to max this out right now, because I can. But he knows nothing`s going to happen. LAPD is not going to be called.

REID: Right.

TOURE: And you know what? Next year, the Oscars will have him on stage presenting the award for best actress like nothing happened.

REID: But, I mean, in a sense, though, I mean, Chris Rock`s side of this story, right -- he hasn`t said anything yet.

The idea -- he`s probably going to speak through his comedy routine, because he is on tour right now. I`m assuming -- it`s -- the tickets are already selling out -- that he is going to have his say when it`s his turn to do his routine, no?

TOURE: Look, he can have his say about Will. He will say whatever he wants.

Will is like, I am fair game. Stick knives and arrows at me. It`s all good. Don`t make more jokes about Jada.

And, really, part of the reason why this is a conversation is because black women can be attacked in that way. Imagine him saying something that I like that about Selma Blair, right, who`s going through M.S.

Imagine him saying, hey, Judi Dench, you`re looking fat this year? Like, can you -- I mean, like the room reacted negatively to the Jada comment. The room would completely destroy him for attacking a fragile white woman in the same sort of way.

And there`s the lack of understanding of the primal notion of you insult my wife, my children, my mother, I`m going to be moved to do something about it. I`m not sure why that is so lost in this.

REID: I think people understand that.

But what do you make of the argument that he also did commit violence on national TV, and that he wouldn`t have struck potentially maybe a white comedian that way?

TOURE: I mean, I can`t do the hypotheticals, right? And I don`t know.

But, I mean, like, I don`t believe that he would not have struck a Jimmy Kimmel in the same way.

REID: Fair. Yes.

TOURE: But I also don`t know that a white comedian would be repeatedly attacking Jada from the Oscar stage.

Let`s not forget, this is Chris Rock`s second time attacking Jada. And she is not a huge actress.

REID: Yes. Well, we got to go. We got to go.

Toure, I appreciate you, brother.

TOURE: Thank you.

REID: And, listen, I am for both of them healing and winning. So, that is my verdict.

Toure, thank you very much.

And that is tonight`s REIDOUT.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.