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Transcript: The ReidOut, 5/10/22

Guests: Jason Beardsley, Jocelyn Benson, Tom Nichols, Alexis McGill Johnson, Sheldon Whitehouse


Republicans continue to lean in on dismantling a woman`s right to choose. The religious right`s history of anti-abortion politics are examined. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse discusses the threat to Roe vs. Wade. What sort of candidates are Republicans fielding on this primary day in two states?


JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: Finally tonight, we couldn`t help but notice that Mitch McConnell donned a tan suit as the weather turned nice here in D.C., reminding us, of course, of course, that Barack Obama once wore a tan suit, which the right turned into one of the biggest faux scandals of his presidency.


Here on THE BEAT, we stand up for a bipartisan right to go tan. So, you decide who wore it best, Obama or McConnell.

That does it for me tonight.

"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID," with all her fashion sense, is up next.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everyone.

We begin THE REIDOUT tonight, with Republicans leaning in on dismantling a woman`s right to choose.

We face the first big test tomorrow in the political fight for abortion rights, when the U.S. Senate will vote on legislation to codify those rights into law. The legislation, however, lacks the 60 votes needed to defeat a Senate filibuster and is expected to fail.

This is a moment of real fear and confusion and heartbreak for millions of Americans who stand on the brink of having their bodily autonomy snatched away from them. But for the religious right, it is an excuse for celebration. It is the Holy Grail finally within reach, the culmination of its decades-long battle to end abortion rights in America.

In fact, the religious right is so entrenched in anti-abortion politics, it`s arguably their most defining issue. There`s even an origin story about this movement being a reaction to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. But that`s what they want you to think.

It`s a myth, a hoax, a lie. Back in 2014, Dartmouth historian Randall Balmer did a deep dive into the real origins of the religious right. He also revisited the topic in a piece that dropped today.

As Balmer notes, before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject of abortion, which they considered to be a Catholic issue. According to experts featured in the PBS special "God in America," even famed televangelist Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, the founder of the Moral Majority, had very little interest in the issue.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was Catholic leaders more than evangelical leaders at the beginning who were most concerned about Roe v. Wade.

In fact, Pat Robertson kind of famously said after the decision was issued that it wasn`t necessarily a big concern of his.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dad was the one who talked Jerry Falwell personally in taking a stand on abortion. Before that, Jerry Falwell said, that`s a Catholic issue. It`s nothing to do with us. Why would I want to take a stand on that? I`m just a preacher. I want to talk about the Gospel.


REID: Now, keep in mind, evangelical Christians were largely apolitical back then.

Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and the architect of the religious right, well, he wanted to change that.

As Balmer, the historian explains: "The hypothetical Moral Majority needed a catalyst around which to rally."

Weyrich kicked around ideas, pornography, prayer in schools, even abortion. The galvanizing issue would not be abortion, not yet. It was, in fact, an organized fight to protect Christian schools from racial integration. That`s right. It was school segregation, not abortion, that brought white evangelical Christians to the polls.

Their activism emerged after another Supreme Court decision, 1950s Brown vs. the Board of Education decision, which changed the law, but not the racism. So white parents were taking their kids out of integrated schools, particularly in the South, and putting them into private schools, segregation academies, as they were labeled.

Decades later, religious leaders blamed fellow evangelical and Democratic President Jimmy Carter for IRS actions that removed tax breaks previously enjoyed by those private schools that failed to integrate, though the policy was mandated, in fact, by Nixon.

But, as Balmer notes, defending school segregation really wasn`t the best look for a movement ostensibly based on Christ`s teachings. So, evangelical leaders search for a more palatable rallying cry, the key issue that would unite evangelicals around the Republican Party.

That issue would become abortion. Five years later, Roe -- five years later, after Roe, Jerry Falwell gave his very first anti-abortion speech during the midterm election year of 1978. The work of Falwell and Weyrich continued with a fever pitch leading up to the 1980 presidential election, and a movement was born.


REVEREND JERRY FALWELL, FORMER CHANCELLOR, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: Abortion is not a Roman Catholic issue. It is a moral issue, an issue that concerns the human rights of unborn babies, who, by the hundreds of thousands, are being murdered in these United States of America.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re told about a woman`s right to control her own body. But doesn`t the unborn child have a higher right? And that is to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am pro-life, and I will be appointing pro-life judges.

CHRIS WALLACE, MODERATOR: Do you want to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade?


TRUMP: Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that`s really what`s going to be -- that will happen.


REID: But the right knows how easy it is to be on the wrong end of the culture war, which is why it wasn`t enough to just sink its teeth into the Republican Party.

They also had to stack the courts. Now, pay attention to this name, Leonard Leo, vice president of the conservative Federalist Society, whose list of potential justices Republican presidents, including Donald Trump, drew from time and time again during their presidencies.

Leo, according to his media guide, knew that the right had lost the culture wars on everything from segregation to contraception to abortion and liberalized Hollywood. So the only way to impose the -- quote, unquote -- "right thinking" was to take the courts.

And with his list, he and the Republican Party were perfectly positioned to cement a conservative majority to give the right everything they ever wanted, a repeal of the promise and progress of the 20th century.

And joining me now is Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And, Senator Whitehouse, always good to have you on.


REID: You have been one of the lonely voices letting people know about Leonard Leo and getting -- trying to get people to focus on this man.

You even had a chart up during the Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings. Talk about Leonard Leo`s influence in essentially stealing the Supreme Court for the religious right.

WHITEHOUSE: So, what they did -- Leonard Leo was an operative of the Federalist Society.

And what they did was, they set up within the Federalist Society the selection process for at least the last three Supreme Court justices. I don`t want to say that the Federalist Society decided it. I think the Federalist Society hosted it.

We don`t know who was in the room making the actual picks. But we do know that Leonard Leo was wired tight with Don McGahn, Trump`s White House counsel, and with Mitch McConnell, who was breaking every possible Supreme Court rule in the Senate to try to pack the court with his judges, and that he has the -- he had the intention to change the way the American courts see basic rights.

REID: And, you know...

WHITEHOUSE: And he was going for the courts for exactly the reason you said, which is that they had failed and failed and failed again in the democratic parts of the government. They had just been blown out. They hadn`t been able to accomplish the extreme things they wanted. So they were going to pack the courts with extremists, who would act irrespective of public opinion.

REID: And the thing is, what they did -- and, as you said, I`m glad you brought Mitch McConnell into this.

I mean, there was the chicanery, the McConnell chicanery, denying President Obama his rightful -- his right to choose a member of the Supreme Court, not even giving a hearing to Merrick Garland at the time, but also the lying.

These people were prepped very well to get up and say stare decisis and to lie and to pretend that they didn`t have this preordained mission to take down Roe, and I`m assuming also to take down the rulings that made contraception illegal (sic). Eventually, they will go for gay marriage.

They`re going to go for everything, because what Weyrich really talked about was the fact that they just haven`t been able to win these culture wars. And so people -- not only do they want to take away rights from people who they think have the wrong thinking, but to give extra rights to those who do have, in their mind, the right thinking, special rights, corporations, et cetera.

But I want to ask you about this, because one of the things that bothers a lot of people about the fact that Brett Kavanaugh is part of this decision, this guy was investigated for like four seconds by the FBI for a credible accusation of assault.

You have been one of the senators who said that it was an inadequate investigation. Were these people even properly vetted for lifetime seats on the court? And I mean him specifically.

WHITEHOUSE: Brett Kavanaugh was not properly vetted, and we pretty well know it.

We know that the FBI was not allowed to do a proper supplemental background investigation once this charge was raised. We know that the FBI very unusually became impervious to information. It was repelling people who were trying to bring it information about Brett Kavanaugh.

And we know that, when they finally had to give in and accept information, they did that through a tip line, and that the tip line violated the FBI`s own tip line procedures, and, instead of being sent for investigation, was sent to the White House for presumably a decent burial.


So, everything about the supplemental B.I. into Dr. Christine Blasey Ford`s allegations was tanked by the FBI, which takes political pressure at the highest levels.

REID: Yes.

Let me ask you very quickly before we go. You have had Ted Cruz lie about the protesters who are in front of the homes of some of these justices, basically saying they`re the real thugs and brutes, not the people on January 6 that he calls regular protesters.

But you have had serial violence. Let`s just put up this clip. "Ms. Magazine" put it together -- 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 956 threats of harm, 624 stalking incidents, kidnappings, bombings, arsons, attempted bombings, these are the things that have happened in front of clinics that are providing abortions.

Why is it that the Supreme Court has essentially ratified the idea that there needs to be -- the buffer zones get smaller and smaller around these clinics, but the Senate, which can`t do anything, suddenly is passing extra protection for Supreme Court justices, while stealing the rights of women?

WHITEHOUSE: Who was the U.S. attorney in Rhode Island at the time of the Boston clinic shootings? Somebody went into one clinic, murdered the receptionist, shot some other individuals, and then went down the road to another clinic, murdered the receptionist there and shot some other individuals, and then got away on the road.

And I went down to our Planned Parenthood clinic in Rhode Island with our U.S. Marshal and stood out front until we had police protection for that. So, I remember very well the violence that was associated with those clinic protests.

And you will have noticed that, in the last Supreme Court hearing, the Republicans brought in a very sweet elderly lady to provide a narrative that everybody out in front of the clinics was just providing love and support and compassion for people, when I remember having to push those people back.

I remember when people in pink T-shirts had to give people safe passage through the screaming crowds yelling "Murder." And it culminated in these shootings, with two women murdered by this lunatic.

REID: Yes.

WHITEHOUSE: So it was -- these were ugly times.

REID: Indeed.

WHITEHOUSE: And to try to paper that over is really wrong.

REID: Those ugly times are coming back tenfold.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, thank you, sir. We appreciate your time this evening.

And with me now, Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

I want you to take up that as well, Ms. McGill Johnson, because this pretense on the right, their talking point is to essentially say that it is protesting against the theft of these rights that is the crime, not the theft of the rights. They want us to look away from that and to pay attention to women who are sitting outside with candles outside of Kavanaugh`s home or something like that.

But let -- we`re going to put these numbers back up again. The amount of violence that is associated, this shift, this belated shift by the religious right to make abortion their main issue, it has come with violence and at great cost, including the cost of people`s lives.

Your thoughts?


As Senator Whitehouse just indicated, Planned Parenthood knows full well what it is like to have protesters outside of our doors. We also know full well what it is like to care for many of those protesters who come inside of our doors, and then go back outside and protest.

What we have seen just in the last nine months, in particular, with S.B.8 in effect, with the bounty hunting provision, the increased surveillance that patients are experiencing in parking lots, the -- taking the pictures with an iPhone of your license tags, the ways in which people are being treated just as they are trying to access care, all of those things.

I think they`re trying to focus on, I would say, putting the focus on a leaked brief or on a protester, as opposed to the actual stealing of a constitutional right that, as you have indicated, has come from weaponizing rules change in order to steal justices, delaying votes in order to steal justices, and now being in a place where you can actually steal a constitutional right in this moment. That`s what we should be talking about right now.

REID: And the reality is, is that this movement grew out of a deeply segregationist movement, and then belatedly latched on to abortion because it was better P.R., to be blunt.

What does it mean that the victims of this ruling are going to be disproportionately the very same people who were subject to segregation, black and brown folks, indigenous people, the people who`ve been beaten down over the course of the history that they no longer want us to learn?


And they have completely failed to change anyone`s mind on abortion, almost anyone. If you look at the polling, PRRI, which is the best at polling, has the biggest polls, people do not -- people oppose overturning Roe. And that means black Protestants, white mainline Protestants, all Americans, white Catholics, Hispanic Catholics. Even a plurality white evangelicals don`t want Roe overturned.

This is a super minority position, which is being imposed essentially by Christian nationalists, five Christian nationalists on the court. Does it hit even differently to know that this has grown out of this essentially segregation movement?

MCGILL JOHNSON: Look, I think it does. And I think it is completely consistent, right, with the segregationist moment -- movement.

We have seen essentially the same states that refused to expand access to Medicaid, states that have the most -- harshest abortion restrictions are also the same states with the -- some of the most disturbing maternal mortality rates for black communities, right?

So, we are looking at kind of a trend of disinvestment and disrespect of communities of color. All the while, what you see in this draft opinion, you see Justice Alito tried to use the frame of, isn`t it great that Plessy vs. Ferguson was overruled at one point, as a way to kind of gaslight us into believe that they`re actually civil rights heroes, when, in fact, what they are doing is taking away a right that is incredibly important for black health care right now.

It`s just preposterous.

REID: How ironic that Alito tries to put himself in the position of somebody who overturned Plessy, when he used the same reasoning as Plessy.

The Plessy ruling said, black people get to have no rights because they never had rights. And what he`s saying, because, in the 19th century, women had no right to abortion, therefore, they cannot have rights. He is making a Plessy ruling almost spot on, and then trying to disguise himself as the hero.

Throwing that cape on yourself does not make you a hero, sir. It makes you a thief.

Alexis McGill Johnson, thank you very much. We really appreciate you being here.

And up next on THE REIDOUT: It is primary day in two states, including Nebraska, where the Trump-endorsed candidate for governor is accused of being -- get this -- a serial groper -- oh, well, he should fit in just fine -- and where two Republicans vying to be the state`s top election official, well, of course, they believe the big lie.

Plus: Ted Cruz is apparently a horrible person. Don`t take it for me. Ask the parents of former Marine Trevor Reed, who was recently released from captivity in Russia, no thanks to Ted.

And the conflict in Ukraine is far from over. America`s top intelligence official says Putin will not be satisfied even if he takes control of the Donbass region. So, what happens after that?

THE REIDOUT continues after this.



REID: Republican primaries today will test not just the former president`s hold over the party, but also the strength of his big lie in two of the reddest states.

First up, West Virginia`s Republican-on-Republican battle for a newly drawn congressional district, pitting Congressman David McKinley against Congressman Alex Mooney. Trump endorsed Mooney and has actively targeted McKinley.

McKinley`s crimes against Trump include -- include voting for President Biden`s infrastructure bill and voting for a bipartisan January 6 commission. Trump`s guy, Alex Mooney, says January 6 was just a protest and that it`s insulting to label participants as domestic terrorists.

Votes are also being cast in Nebraska, where the Republican primary for governor is a three-way race featuring one of the Trumpiest Trump-backed candidates out there. That would be businessman Charles Herbster. He`s running against Jim Pillen, who was endorsed by the outgoing Republican governor. Also running, state Senator Brett Lindstrom.

Trump`s guy, Herbster, faces multiple allegations of groping, something he denies in Trumpian fashion, claiming that the allegations are a hit job by his political opponents. He`s also portrayed himself as the victim, comparing his treatment to Trump in 2016. Remember the old grab them by the hoo-ha imbroglio that turned off literally really not a single Republican voter?

And, of course, to Brett Kavanaugh, who is accused credibly of sexually assaulting a high school friend. So, it`s also a test of whether Republicans want to continue to be a sanctuary party for candidates accused of sexual misconduct. And that`s not all. Herbster also had a front-row seat to the insurrection.

Take a look at this. There he is attending the rally on the Ellipse on January 6. He was also president for a meeting at the Willard Hotel the night before with the elder Trump failsons, Rudy, and the rest of the conspiracy theorists.

And as if that isn`t bad enough, Nebraska`s secretary of state race to oversee elections is also a three-way race to the bottom. The current Republican secretary of state faces two election deniers. Both claim the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. So, even though the current guy put in place things like new restrictions on drop boxes and absentee ballots in a state with almost no voting Democrats, that is not enough for the other two guys, since he`s also told the truth that there was no evidence of widespread fraud in 2020.

I`m joined now by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and Tom Nichols, contributing writer for "The Atlantic."

I`m going to start with you, Secretary Benson, because you`re in the thick of this fight, because who controls the secretary of state`s office controls the outcome particularly of the 2024 election.

Tell me about the risk in your state, and who are you facing?

JOCELYN BENSON (D), MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think it`s clear that the chief election officer in the state has a responsibility to ensure, no matter where someone lives or who they vote for or what the results of the election are, that they stand, that the will of the people is protected.

And that`s what I did in 2020, despite at an unprecedented effort to block the will of the people. We stood firm and protected those accurate results, on the heels of the highest-turnout election we have ever seen in our state.


And so what happens if I`m not there, and I`m replaced by my potential -- my opponent? It means potentially not certifying. She may potentially not certify election results, though valid, simply because she disagrees with them. She may implement new voting rules to confuse voters about how to get their ballots or how to return them.

And we will see also a potential increase in the use of these secretary of state platforms, which are increasingly high-profile, to spread misinformation and lies, as opposed to be truth-tellers, which, in an era of disinformation that we`re in, we need to be able to rely on our chief election officers to tell the truth, not spread lies about who won and didn`t win an election.

REID: You know.

And, Tom, it`s one thing in Michigan, where there`s a Detroit, right? We know -- we get their whole message here, is that we got to make sure that the black people don`t pick another president, right, that they don`t -- that their votes don`t count, so we got to cut this off.

But when this is happening in red-red-red state, states where whoever the Republican is going to win anyway, where Trump is going to win -- there`s a map here that shows where they`re doing this. And it`s in a lot of states that are not in contention, places like Idaho and Nebraska -- we just talked about Nebraska -- places like Arkansas, Indiana, Alabama, places that Trump, if he runs or whoever the Republican nominee is in `24, is going to win.

Why are Republicans doing this full-court press even in red states and states that are completely non-diverse, where there isn`t a Detroit for them to try to steal?

TOM NICHOLS, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, you said, why are Republicans doing this?

This is the authoritarian movement that has taken over the Republican Party hunting down and pushing out the last few Republicans who actually believe in things like the rule of law or the Constitution or counting votes.

This is the Trumpist Republican Party purging the last Republicans who might actually want to fairly and accurately report the voting. So, that`s what -- that`s what the country is going to be facing in a year, in November, and then two years after. That`s why the stakes are so high at the state and local levels, where I think Democrats really need to concentrate their efforts.

I think there`s always been a problem that Democrats are very focused on the White House and national politics. But this, along with things like the Roe repeal, those are all questions that are going to be fought out in statehouses. And Democrats really need to pay attention to those statehouses, because this is where the danger lies.

REID: I wonder -- and I agree with that. I think Democrats have not -- have focused on the presidency and not focused on much else.

But why are -- you said they`re chasing out sort of the last of the normal Republicans. I presume that there are still some normal Republican voters who are just like tax cut people. Why are they so willing to suborn -- to stay with you for a moment, Tom, why are they so willing to live with these people?

Because some of them are kooks. Some of them are QAnon. They`re running around saying Trump won the election. OK, do you think that the election was stolen in Nebraska? They`re like, yes. But, like, but he won. But so they`re -- I mean, why are regular order Republican voters, in your mind, willing to go along with this stuff?

Because they are.

NICHOLS: Two reasons. One -- yes, two reasons.

One of them is just plain negative partisanship, which is, I may not like these Republicans, but they`re not Democrats, so, therefore, I`m going to vote for them, because the only quality they need to have is not being the other party.

And this actually afflicts both parties. But the Republicans, now it`s become absolutely obsessive that Democrats are evil and they can`t vote for them. There`s no -- they don`t want to split tickets. So that`s one explanation, is that it`s just purely negative partisanship.

The other is that there is still this kind of spiteful, resentful kind of voting among some Republican voters who may say, yes, that guy`s crazy, but it really annoys -- really annoys Joy Reid if I vote for that guy.


NICHOLS: It really annoys my left-wing neighbors. It really annoys people I don`t like.

And so there`s some of that tribalism. And they say, yes, they`re crazy, but there are still responsible people that will get things done at the top.

And I think they -- the stories that are coming out of the Trump White House and some of these Trumpy state-level officials, that we`re now finding out how close we came to a coup, are getting drowned out by a lot of other things. And I think people are just convincing themselves that: I can`t vote for a Democrat, and these people annoy the kind of people I want to see be annoyed, and, therefore, it won`t be so bad.

And I think -- I think they`re deluding themselves. And I think we`re in for a hell of a time if this doesn`t stop.

REID: I would argue that that is not as true on the Democratic side, because I`m just looking at Utah, where Democrats literally withdrew their candidate and we`re like, we`re going to vote for this very, very, very conservative independent just to make sure that Mike Lee, who is insurrectionist-friendly, gets out.


But we can debate that. We need to have a whole debate on that another time.

But I want to go back to Jocelyn Benson.

Armed protesters surrounding the home of the secretary of state, this was your -- the secretary of state`s home, your home, some carrying guns, surrounding your home, back in December, chanting "Stop the Steal." This is not even just theoretical kookiness. It`s dangerous. These people are dangerous.

Are you worried that the 2022 and 2024 elections are going to be national security risks and security risks to people like you and to election workers, et cetera?


I think one of the outgrowths of the misinformation, the lies, the unwillingness of some to accept that they lost an election has been violent rhetoric and ultimately violent threats and hateful attacks on myself and election officials at the local level.

These are folks who simply -- we all want to just do our jobs. We all just want to make sure that government works for everyone and that elections are run fairly and safely and accessible to all, and that we can trust the results of the election.

And yet, because of these lies, because of the deceit that many Republican leaders who know better are feeding to many of their supporters, who trust them, we see it growing into not just lies and misinformation and confusion about who won or lost an election, but actual violent threats against those of us who are charged with administering the process.

I absolutely expect to see an uptick in those threats. I`m already seeing them personally. Others are as well. And that`s going to carry us through 2024.

But make no mistake. I started my career investigating white supremacist organizations in the Deep South. Threats against me or my family are scary, and they`re tough, but they also embolden me to continue doing the work to protect democracy, the work that voters expect of me and every election official in our state and in this country

And we`re going to keep doing that work. And all these threats will just embolden us more to stand guard over every vote and every voice in our state.

REID: Very brave, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Who would have thought? Secretary of state has become like the pivotal position in our democracy.

And Tom Nichols, who, listen, you all, listen to Tom. Don`t vote to -- just to annoy me. My name is ironic. I`m annoyed anyway. So, I`m going to be annoyed either way, so just go ahead and vote for the person that`s not going to destroy our democracy. Try doing that for a change.

Still ahead: The father of the recently released Russian prisoner Trevor Reed unloads on Senator Ted "Cancun" Cruz, accusing him of doing nothing, nothing to help bring about his son`s release.

We will be right back.



REID: Senator Ted Cruz has made it his mission to put himself front and center on just about every issue, with some notable exceptions.

He couldn`t be bothered about the many Texans who were fighting to survive during a winter storm without power and water. He went to Cancun instead on a vacay.

And he apparently had very little interest in the U.S. Marine from Texas who was detained by the Russians for nearly three years. The father of Trevor Reed, who was recently returned to the U.S., gave an interview to "The Dallas Morning News," where he praised all the lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, who helped bring his son home.

But Texas Teddy was singled out for his lack of support. Not holding back, Joey Reed said Cruz "didn`t do anything. He`s an embarrassment to the state of Texas. Let me just say that. I don`t care what or who runs against him. I will work for their campaign to defeat that son of a" -- you get the idea.

Cruz`s office told "The Dallas Morning News" that his silence was out of concern of antagonizing Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.

Oh, well, how polite.

And that does seem to be a trend among some in this new Republican Party, concern not to anger the ex-KGB authoritarian dictator. Take, for instance, the president that Cruz enabled, Donald Trump. You might remember this Oval Office photo from exactly five years ago today. For those who don`t know, the smiling man next to Trump is Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

And, by the way, we only have this picture because Russia`s state news agency sent it out at the time. The Russian photographer was the only one allowed in the meeting in the Oval Office of our White House, while U.S. journalists were kept out. Strange, right?

That was also the meeting where Trump revealed highly classified information that was given to us by Israel to the Russians, all the more reason Trump was such a danger to our country, as his former and rather solicitous at the time Defense Secretary Mark Esper is now revealing to sell a book.


MARK ESPER, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Donald Trump, as best I can assess, is a person driven by self-interest. And in the case of politics, it`s his reelection.

And, as I note in there, he seemed to be willing to sacrifice anything to get there, whether it was a policy objective or people or our institutions.


REID: With Trump, the Russians were able to control the narrative, control events, and it appears, in some ways, to control the White House.

But they don`t have that anymore under President Joe Biden, as can be clearly seen in this administration`s backing of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Putin is losing control over the Russian narrative on the war, which is going very, very badly.

But the consequences for Ukrainian civilians remains severe and appalling.

And that is next.




AVRIL HAINES, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The next month or two of fighting will be significant, as the Russians attempt to reinvigorate their efforts.

But, even if they are successful, we are not confident that the fight in the Donbass will effectively end the war. We assess President Putin is preparing for prolonged conflict in Ukraine, during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbass.


REID: The assessment today from our top intelligence officials is that Russia`s offensive in Ukraine is not expected to end anytime soon and could be headed into an even more volatile and deadly phase, even as it appears that the two countries are facing a stalemate.


Russia is continuing to bombard Ukraine`s forces in the east, while also firing several missiles at the key port city of Odessa, striking targets including hotels and even a shopping mall.

The Associated Press reports that Ukrainian, British and American officials warn that Russia is rapidly expanding its stock of precision weapons, and may not be able to quickly build more, raising the risk of more imprecise rockets being used as the conflict grinds on. That could result in wider damage and more civilian deaths.

Grisly new discoveries of civilian losses are happening almost daily. In the Kharkiv region, 44 bodies were reportedly found under the rubble of a five-story apartment building destroyed by Russian forces back in March.

And, at this moment, the House was supposed to be debating a nearly $40 billion aid package for Ukraine. But, as per usual, Republicans are playing games and obstructing by attempting to adjourn for the day. Sorry, Ukraine.

It comes hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress met with President Biden in the Situation Room to update him on their recent trip to Ukraine.

And joining me now, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, and Jason Beardsley, national executive director for the Association of the U.S. Navy. He is a Navy and special forces veteran.

Thank you both for being here.

Ambassador McFaul, can you think of any, any reason why the U.S. Congress could or would adjourn, rather than pass this latest aid package?


I -- it`s unexplainable. Ukraine is fighting a war for its existence, for its independence, for its freedom, one that we have a giant stake in helping them win, so that we can guarantee all those things for our NATO allies and for the rest of the free world. So, I do not understand why it should be delayed.

REID: And, Jason Beardsley, it seems to me that there is currency in at least the perception.

I get what we are, and we have an authoritarian party that is attempting to govern alongside a normal political party. But the outside world, isn`t there currency in the outside world viewing the U.S. as more or less aligned, regardless of party, on supporting Ukraine? And doesn`t the opposite do some detriment?


But, Joy, I will take a departing view here and say, there is some value in pausing or making sure that $40 billion that are triggered for this are actually administered properly. We have been in this game already for a couple of months. And we really had an opportunity to get in front of the invasion.

Supplying weapons before the breakout of hostilities was the best way to manufacture and make sure and train the people that were going to integrate them. We`re in the middle of hostilities. So we have got to pull Ukrainian troops out, train them on new equipment, foreign equipment.

And, again, if we wanted to do this the right way, the better way was when we had six months of intelligence leading up to the invasion. And we could have potentially avoided kind of this long, drawn-out campaign. All right, now that we`re here, that $40 billion is about the same amount that the U.S. Navy has budgeted to plan for ships over the next year.

And we`re falling 50 ships short of that. Our national defense strategy is larger than just this one campaign. And for the world, as you pointed out, watching the United States, they should know unequivocally that we have supported Zelenskyy with our $16 million -- billion dollars so far, other packages we have triggered. So we`re in this all the way.

REID: And, Jason, to that point, let me ask you both. I`m going to ask both of you this, because what you just talked, about pulling Ukrainian troops out, training them, we`re equipping them, here is what the -- Fiona Hill, who -- those of you will remember the whole Mueller report and all of the sort of goings on in the Trump world.

This is what she said about Putin`s view of the war.

And she said this: "Putin wants us to make it a proxy war. Putin is still telling people outside Europe that this is still a -- that this is just a repeat of the Cold War, nothing to look at here. This isn`t a proxy war. It`s a colonial land grab."

In your view -- and I will start with you, Ambassador McFaul.

Anything that we`re doing, like training and equipping the Ukrainians, doesn`t that give Putin -- or isn`t Putin going to use that to continue his propaganda that, yes, this is really a proxy war between Russia and NATO

MCFAUL: Yes, he will, Joy, without question. But he`s been saying that for 15, 20 years. Even when I was the ambassador, he was saying we were fighting proxy wars against him.

So, to those that believe him, those that live in his bubble of propaganda, they`re going to believe him, and those that are outside of it won`t believe him. It`s a lot like the supporters of Mr. Trump and not supporters of Mr. Trump. New information is not going to change that debate.

REID: Yes.

MCFAUL: But I do think it`s important what Fiona said about framing this as an imperial grab.

I think some people think, oh, this is a proxy war between Russia and the West. And some people say -- think that here in the United States, by the way. It`s not true. This is Putin trying to recolonize Ukraine.


So, remember, the Soviet Union collapsed. It was the last big empire around the world. We thought it was over. We thought everybody was gone their independent ways. And now, 30 years later, he`s trying to bring back actually not the Soviet empire, the Russian empire.

And that`s why, if we believe in the rules of the game of the liberal international order, thou shall not annex the territory of thy neighbor is a principle that we have to defend. And we have to defend the independence of Ukraine.

And so that`s why this is bigger than just Ukraine.

REID: Yes.

MCFAUL: It`s about what kind of international system we want to live in.

REID: And, Jason, I think that is an excellent point. And I think pretty much everyone agrees to that.

But what does it mean that he`s failing to do that? I mean, Putin can have whatever grandiose goals that he wants. He ain`t succeeding in those goals right now. What did you make of the sort of rather subdued, even though it looked like -- a lot like North Korea, with the big military parade, et cetera.

But Putin hasn`t been able to claim anything, no victory, not even in the Donbass. What do you think that means? And does that make him more or less dangerous?

BEARDSLEY: Yes, I actually take it as a good sign he`s somewhat restrained in his celebratory parade, because he`s got people around him in the Kremlin and the Duma that have put a lot of pressure on him.

This is embarrassing. This has been humiliating. The empire of Russia, again, is being dissolved in the muddy fields of Ukraine. Meanwhile, he`s trying to make a face-saving, farcical, theatrical parade in Moscow, while conscripts are getting hammered on the ground in Ukraine.

Any conscript that`s watching that video is going to feel a lot worse today than they felt before seeing it. So I think they did the best they can to try to put a good spin on it. But this has been embarrassing from the outset.

And what I make of that is, number one, Joy, our intelligence organizations and military leadership really should have seen this coming. The analysis that we`re seeing now after months on the ground, watching Russia fail to - - multiple access fronts inside Ukraine, taking Kyiv -- they couldn`t do that. They just got pushed back from Kharkiv.

They`re trying to reposition in the east to take the Donbass. None of that seems to be working for them. They have had bad logistics, bad leadership, no NCO corps. Their generals are getting killed at a rate that we haven`t seen before.

And so all of this sort of should be assigned that, look, the way to intervene in these was to get on the front side of this. And here`s the lesson. The opportunity for the White House is, don`t let China and Taiwan become the next Ukraine.

Get in front of these things. And you can see the successes we have had. Green Berets training the Ukrainians since 2014 have flipped the tide in this table -- in this occasion.

REID: We`re going to have you guys back to have more conversation about this. We appreciate you this evening.

Michael, Ambassador Michael McFaul, Jason Beardsley, thank you both.

And don`t go anywhere, because, if you`re hankering for the good old days of authoritarian abuses, well, look no further than the Philippines, where the son of an infamous dictator appears poised to become the next president.

Back in a sec.



REID: The 1980s was an era embodied by ostentatious greed, selfish indifference and rank corruption, as exemplified by epic TV characters from shows like "Dallas" and "Dynasty" and "Miami Vice."

But no real-world characters embody that period better than Donald Trump, the king of bankruptcy, Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean, and Philippine politicians Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.

Ferdinand and Imelda ruled the Philippines from 1972 until their exile in 1986. Ferdinand Marcos maintained his grip on power by refusing to leave and declaring martial law. During that time, he suspended Parliament, arrested opposition leaders, controlled the courts, and imposed total censorship on the media, their craven greed marked by Imelda`s infamous shoe collection.

And his brutal authoritarianism led to a democratic uprising, which ultimately ousted him from power and from the country.

NBC`s Dennis Murphy reported on it back when Ferdinand Marcos died in 1989.


DENNIS MURPHY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Foreign aid rolled in by the billions, but little made it to the streets. Too many Filipinos lived in crushing poverty.

Meanwhile, Marcos` wife, Imelda, almost a co-ruler, spent millions on lavish buildings and antiques. Marcos and his wife fled into exile in Hawaii. Filipinos surged through the abandoned palace, staggered by the opulence and by Imelda`s famous closet with 1,000 pairs of shoes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is totally, totally un -- unforgivable, I can say, unforgivable.


REID: Almost four decades later, Filipinos did find a way to forgive that family.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who benefited from the roughly $10 billion that his parents stole from the country, has been elected president, alongside Sara Duterte-Carpio, the daughter of the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, who is under investigation by the International Criminal Court for his bloody drug war, in which he has publicly encouraged people to kill drug smugglers and even addicts.

His daughter will serve as vice president.

Now, many of you are probably wondering, well, what does this have to do with me? Well, what just happened in the Philippines should serve as a warning to democracy-loving citizens around the globe, because what once seemed relegated to the trash heap of history has now reemerged king of the pile.

Keith Richburg, former "Washington Post" correspondent and foreign editor based in Southeast Asia, has a theory as to why.

He writes: "In tough economic times, nostalgia and amnesia might be more powerful motivators than concern about democratic institutions and guardrails. Americans worried about a return of Donald Trump had better take note."

And that is tonight`s REIDOUT.