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Transcript: The ReidOut, 5/19/22

Guests: Julian Castro, Zach Despart, Chris Jones, Stuart Stevens

Summary

The January 6 Committee requests information from yet another one of its colleagues. The candidacies of big lie proponents are examined. President Biden employs the Defense Production Act to address the nationwide shortage of baby formula. Why were federal relief funds for victims of Hurricane Harvey diverted away from the hardest-hit areas to whiter, more conservative parts of Texas? Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones discusses his campaign.

Transcript

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everyone.

We begin THE REIDOUT tonight with democracy on the ballot in November.

Today, the House January 6 Committee requested information from yet another one of their colleagues, Georgia Congressman Barry Loudermilk. The committee said it`s looking for information a tour of the Capitol that he gave the day before the siege. We will have more on that later.

Loudermilk is also one of the several Georgia Republicans who voted to overturn Arizona and Pennsylvania`s results, and indicated that he would object to Georgia`s electors as well. Joining him in declaring objection to Georgia`s vote, Congressman Jody Hice. You will want to remember that name.

While that attempt to overthrow our democracy failed, pro-Trump insurrectionist Doug Mastriano is now the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, a role that would pick the secretary of state, who oversees elections, because there`s a very real threat, if elected, that he would use the power of his office to ensure that the next Republican candidate for president receives the state`s 19 Electoral College votes in 2024, no matter how Pennsylvania voters actually vote.

Mastriano is far from alone in threatening our democracy. In Georgia, voters will decide next Tuesday If another election denier gets on the November ballot, former Senator David Perdue, who was defeated by current Senator Jon Ossoff and who`s been endorsed by Trump in his race for governor. He has said that the election was rigged.

The man he`s running against, incumbent Governor Brian Kemp, earned Trump`s wrath by refusing to overturn the 2020 election in his state. Georgia was the center of Trump`s attempt to steal the election in 2020. He`s still under investigation over whether he broke state law with his mafioso-style bullying of Georgia officials, whom he be demanded that they deliver him exactly the number of votes that he would need to win the state`s 16 electoral votes.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

REID: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is resistance to doing Trump`s bidding earned him a primary challenge from another election denier, the aforementioned Jody Hice, whose entire candidacy is one giant insinuation that he will do what Raffensperger wouldn`t.

On January 6, it was Hice who lodged the objection to Georgia`s electoral vote being certified, even after the siege on the Capitol. The effort failed after former Senator Kelly Loeffler backed out.

His full-throated embrace of the big lie has earned Hice the endorsement of the twice impeached former president, who clearly indicated what he believed that Hice will do -- quote -- "Unlike the current Georgia secretary of state, Jody leads out front with integrity. I have 100 percent confidence in Jody to fight for free, fair and secure elections in Georgia."

Since then, Hice centered his campaign around false claims of fraud, saying Trump would have won Georgia if the election had been -- quote -- "fair" and repeatedly making false claims about the 2020 election, including in a debate with Raffensperger just a few weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JODY HICE (R-GA): The big lie in all of this is that there were no problems in this past election. This last election was filled with problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: But it actually gets worse.

The former president has also endorsed another election denier for secretary of state in Michigan. And you won`t even believe what he said about the incumbent in that race. And we will get to that soon.

But joining me now, Yamiche Alcindor. And she`s the moderator and anchor of "Washington Week" on PBS and an MSNBC Washington correspondent, and Stuart Stevens, former chief strategist for Mitt Romney`s 2012 campaign and senior adviser to The Lincoln Project.

Thank you all for being here.

So let`s just -- I have a map here that I want to show both of you. And this just shows you how serious this election denier situation is. Now, for those of you viewing at home, in yellow are the places in which there are election deniers running for secretary of state. That`s Connecticut, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Washington.

In red are places where election deniers are running for governor, Alaska, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. And the orange -- we brought the two colors together -- that`s where one of each is running, one for secretary of state and one for governor.

You see that map is a lot of the United States. That total adds up to two out of the three contests in the United States. And those states that we see in color -- that are colored in, that is 70 percent of the electoral votes that are up for grabs. If all of those places were to elect the Republican, in theory, 70 percent of the Electoral College would be under the control of a election deniers.

Yamiche, I want to ask you. You`re on the Hill. You talk to a lot of Democrats. Do they understand the seriousness of that threat in your reporting?

[19:05:12]

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, NBC NEWS WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Joy, that map is just so sobering.

And when I talk to Democratic lawmakers and White House officials, they say that they understand the magnitude of this moment. They understand that we`re really looking at January 6 forever, this long shadow of a lie that is now really a warning for the very credibility of our democracy.

And -- but I also should tell you, I just got off the road talking to everyday voters, and I will say, very concerned Democratic voters who say that they don`t feel like their lawmakers are being as aggressive as the Republicans are in being aggressive in not only getting their candidates in office who are election deniers, but also continuing that lie and pushing for things to be in their favor.

When we look at Pennsylvania, the man who has now won the Republican nomination to be governor in that state, Dave (sic) Mastriano, he is someone who would have the power to choose the secretary of state. So, this is no longer sort of just tweets and sort of speeches and rhetoric. This is someone who would directly be able to say, is -- the 2024 presidential election results, can they be certified or not?

And if it seems as though, with Republicans, based on their credits, that they are only going to go with the people that are sort of on their same ideology, if they want them to win, and they will question the election of a Democrat wins.

So I think lawmakers absolutely get the urgency of this. But I will say that the people who are backing them are very, very frustrated that they are not figuring out a strategy to really effectively push back on this.

REID: And this is the thing, Stuart. It isn`t just saying the election wasn`t won. It isn`t just denying it.

It`s actually being in a position to reverse it and essentially negate the vote in their states. That`s what they`re setting up to do. I mean, in the state of North Carolina, Democrats nominated the former chief justice of the Supreme Court, Cheri Beasley, a perfectly normal moderate Democrat.

The Republicans nominated a guy named Ted Budd, who voted to overturn North Carolina`s Electoral College votes, his own state. He voted to basically eliminate his own state`s vote.

Let`s go to Florida. Ron DeSantis has picked for his secretary of state -- here`s what "The Orlando Sentinel" said about Cord Byrd, who`s going to be the secretary of state in Florida: "Ron DeSantis has chosen a Republican ally with no expertise in elections, a history of excessive partisanship, and a provocative streak. This is the person who will oversee the newly created elections police force in the state Division of Elections. To make things worse, Byrd`s wife, Esther, is a Proud Boys supporter who has defended the January 6 Capitol riot and the far right QAnon conspiracy theory -- conspiracy cult."

One more. Let`s listen to Doug Mastriano, because he has a religious conviction that Republicans must win every major election. Here`s Doug Mastriano.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG MASTRIANO (D), PENNSYLVANIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Any freedom- loving Americans in the house here?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MASTRIANO: Wow.

First Corinthians 127 gives us all hope. God uses the foolish to confound the wise and the weak to confound the strong, right? That`s his story. And he uses people like you and me to change history. And we`re going to take this state by storm. We`re going to restore freedom and liberty. This is our time, right? And this is hour. So let`s walk in freedom. Let`s choose this day.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MASTRIANO: Let`s choose this day and serve the lord.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Stuart, when you have Republicans who now essentially view elections as a religious jihad, essentially, what does one do about that in a democracy?

STUART STEVENS, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Well, there`s only one thing you can do. You have to beat these people. They`re not going to change their minds.

There`s no -- you can`t meet them halfway and say, well, maybe half the ballot was legal, and the other half wasn`t. Maybe the governor`s race is legal, but the lieutenant governor isn`t. You just have to beat them.

And I`m really glad that you`re putting that map up there and showing it, because I think it`s -- one of the most difficult things here is for those of us who believe in democracies to concede the fact that it doesn`t always have to be this way.

And there is tremendous threat out there. And the map is actually worse than you`re showing, because there are very few Republican governors out there who will aggressively assert that Donald Trump lost a free and fair election.

And once that becomes the norm, then anything that you do is not about rigging the election. It`s about restoring what was right. So you not only have a rationale for doing it. It`s like Mastriano said. You have an obligation to do this.

REID: That`s right.

STEVENS: And all of this is really, again, about race. It`s about the Republicans` inability to come up with a message and a platform and candidates that will appeal to a changing, nonwhite America.

REID: And they have decided, Yamiche, then, that what they can do about that is to essentially eliminate the votes of voters of color.

[19:10:02]

They will say, well, we`re simply going to say Philadelphia votes no longer exist. We`re going to delete them. We don`t think Fulton County votes in Georgia exist. We`re going to delete them.

They`re just simply -- they`re setting up a situation. And that is what I wonder if -- I mean, I get the base of the Democratic Party understands this. But I wonder if D.C. Democrats -- because I don`t get the vibe that they understand this isn`t just politics.

Should these Republicans win in enough numbers to decide the election themselves, not the voters of this country, them, a small cult of MAGA worshipers, who have a religious conviction that white Christians must win, their type of Christian -- I will put an asterisk on it -- they must win because God wants that, there isn`t anything to stop them.

And I don`t see that D.C. Democrats understand that. I haven`t seen evidence of it, not many of them.

ALCINDOR: Joy -- well, Joy, what I get when I talk to D.C. Democrats is that they understand the situation, but that they also feel like they really don`t have anything that they can actually do.

When you talk to people off-camera, when you talk to people sort of straight shooting, they say the only way for this to really be fixed by Democrats is to get more U.S. senators and to get a bigger margin in the House, which we know at this point is not looking likely, because the midterm elections, when I talk to Democrats, they all sound like they know that they`re at least going to lose a big chunk of their power.

So, really, this comes down to sort of, what can they actually do? And that really becomes a sort of defeatist tone when I talk to D.C. Democrats. And the president, of course, has said over and over again that he understands the urgency of this moment, that he wants to be able to do something.

But he also has not been able to pass anything both by himself executively or get his party to pass anything that would put any sort of stop to this. You have Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and all these other Republicans -- Democrats, really, that are not wanting to be on board with a lot of the legislation that the majority of Democrats have wanted to pass when it comes to this.

So what you talk to you -- when I talk to black Philly voters -- and I just talked to a bunch of black Philly voters in the last couple of weeks -- they understand that their access to the ballot box might be taken away.

REID: Yes.

ALCINDOR: They also understand that the party might not have anything to do with it and might not be able to do anything about it, which is really a conundrum and really just -- I think really underscores the urgency of this moment and the dangers of this moment.

REID: Yes.

ALCINDOR: Because what we`re talking about and what you put up on that map is the electability of election deniers.

REID: Right.

ALCINDOR: That is the thing that is just -- it really just is something that haunts people here.

REID: These are primaries. So these were the base of the -- this was the MAGA base deciding who the candidates would be, because very few people vote in primaries.

And they have decided they will only elect people who guarantee that Trump and all of his MAGA devotees get elected, no matter what.

Let me just point -- put a final period on that. This is the Michigan secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson. She gave an interview to NBC News, Stuart, and she said the following.

Let me just -- let me just show you what she said. Here she is. She was talking to NBC News -- to CBS. I`m sorry, not to NBC, to CBS. Take a look.

Oh, I`m sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

REID: Go ahead. Sorry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN, NBC NEWS SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You have been called a traitor. It`s been said that you should be locked up. Some of this went very high up in our government.

JOCELYN BENSON (D), MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: Even the president himself had called on me to be arrested and tried for treason, potentially executed.

MCFADDEN: To hear that the president of the United States, when he loses the election in Michigan, decides that the way to deal with that is to accuse you of treason, to ask, isn`t there some way to arrest her?

BENSON: We should stop expecting that there is a bottom to the lengths that people will go to overturn legitimate election results and seize power in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: It`s Friday Jr., so my brain is only 80 percent working. That`s a great Cynthia McFadden of NBC News.

So that`s the mentality, Stuart, that Trump is saying to people in earshot that the secretary of state in a state where he doesn`t get to win because the voters didn`t vote for him should be executed, and -- she should be tried for treason and executed. That`s the mentality.

STEVENS: Yes, there`s no secret here.

REID: They`re denying it, by the way. They -- I should note that the Trump people deny it.

But go on.

STEVENS: The essence of democracy is that someone has to be willing to lose. And what Republicans have decided is that they`re democracy when they win and they`re not for it when they lose, which means they`re not for democracy.

And this isn`t going to change unless you defeat these people. And it`s a race-by-race struggle. And that`s really what we have to be. You have to be in this fight, and you have to understand what is at stake.

REID: Yes.

And when you`re in a fight, you have to know you`re in a fight. Otherwise, you`re just getting punched in the face over and over and over again. You got to wake up and recognize you`re fighting, so you might as well hit back.

Yamiche Alcindor, Stuart Stevens, thank you both very much.

Still ahead on THE REIDOUT: The January 6 Committee would like a word with Republican Congressman Barry Loudermilk about a Capitol tour he gave the day before the insurrection.

And President Biden fires up the Defense Production Act to address the nationwide shortage of baby formula. How the shortage came about and what`s being done to fix it.

[19:15:09]

Plus, how federal relief funds for victims of Hurricane Harvey were diverted away from the hardest-hit areas to whiter, more conservative parts of Texas.

THE REIDOUT continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:20:00]

REID: The January 6 Select Committee has announced a new development in their investigation with their request for information from Georgia Congressman Barry Loudermilk.

In their letter to Loudermilk, the committee says they believe he has information a tour he gave a day before the siege of the Capitol, noting that public reporting and witness accounts indicate some individuals and groups engaged in efforts to gather information about the layout of the Capitol complex, as well as the House and Senate office buildings, in advance of January 6.

What`s particularly notable about this is that House Republicans had vehemently denied giving any reconnaissance tours after Democrats said they had witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups at the Capitol on January 5.

Republicans were so up in arms over those accusations that they, led by Loudermilk himself, filed an ethics complaint against those Democrats. Well, according to the committee, that outrage was without merit. They have now directly called those Republicans out, noting that their review of evidence directly contradicts that denial.

But Loudermilk is doubling down, saying in a statement with a colleague that it`s false that he or any Republicans conducted reconnaissance tours. He says there was a tour on January 5, but that it was a constituent family with young children, and called for the committee to release their tapes from that day.

In other big news from the committee, Axios reports that former Attorney General William Barr is in active discussions with the committee to appear for a formal interview. We know that Trump consistently badgered Barr to overturn the 2020 election, until Barr resigned in mid-November.

With me now is Paul Butler, professor at Georgetown Law School and a former federal prosecutor.

Always good to see you, Paul.

Let`s start with these reconnaissance tours. Now, Loudermilk, who was screaming the loudest about these accusations that there were tours, he says he just had a family there, that the family went on the tour on the 5th, the day before the Capitol was breached, they didn`t enter the Capitol grounds on the 6th, and no one from the family has been investigated or charged in connection with January 6. That`s what he says.

However, the letter -- Democrats Mikie -- Democratic Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, she`s issued a letter in which she`s made it very clear. She said that: "Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seem to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex. The president of these groups within the Capitol complex was indeed suspicious."

She`s also separately said after the insurrection that there are members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that she saw herself on January 5, a reconnaissance for the next day, she called it. And there are images. There`s been an arrest of a woman in Pennsylvania who had a bullhorn. This is the famous lady in the pink hat that had the bullhorn that seemed to be directing insurrectionists on where to go.

So, how serious is this, the fact that there`s actually now an attempt to speak with maybe this member of Congress about whether or not there were reconnaissance tours? How legally serious is it?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It`s very serious, Joy.

So this was the height of the pandemic. So there weren`t supposed to be any public tours of the Capitol. And the Democratic congresspeople say that that`s why they noticed these folks being led around. The Republicans have always denied this. And now the January 6 panel is essentially calling them liars.

The most important legal question is whether the Republicans who led these tours knew what was going to go down at the Capitol the next day. If they did know, they could face expulsion from Congress and criminal prosecution for aiding and abetting the insurrection.

Joy, if these were just routine tours, and not reconnaissance missions, why are the Republicans lying and saying that they never happened? There`s still evidence that must be gathered. But this is starting to look like the classic Washington public corruption investigation where it`s the cover-up that`s most incriminating?

REID: Right.

I mean, it`s -- if it wasn`t the same members of Congress who then voted to overturn the election who were giving tours, maybe you could say they just gave a tour to the family. But then they gave a tour, and then they also vote to overturn. I mean, it isn`t direct evidence, right, but it certainly looks odd.

BUTLER: And, Joy, it`s shocking because it`s so bold.

It`s kind of like if you`re house got broken into by strangers, and then you learned the day before your neighbors had given these strangers a tour of your house.

But this is just the latest evidence of complicity by Republican congressmen.

REID: Yes.

BUTLER: The panel already has developed evidence that some Republicans worked with Trump to get the Justice Department and state election officials to try to overturn the election, and that some members worked to get Trump to issue or preemptive pardon of them before he left office.

REID: Yes.

BUTLER: So the fact that Republicans we`re involved in casing the joint, it isn`t really breaking news...

[19:25:05]

REID: Yes.

BUTLER: ... other than this evidence that the panel says that they have.

And, Joy, this is not a panel that writes checks that it can`t cash.

REID: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BUTLER: And so when Cheney and Vice Chair -- Vice Chair Cheney and Chairman Thompson say they have got this evidence, I think they do.

REID: Yes. They must have it.

Let`s talk about William Barr, because William Barr is not -- let`s not try to make him a good guy here. I mean, this is a guy who claims he didn`t think January 6 was an insurrection and said he would not have prosecuted Trump for snatching classified evidence and documents and taking it to Mar- a-Lago. So he`s still William Barr.

But doesn`t the fact that even that guy, who was Trump`s consigliere -- he acted like he was Trump`s lawyer the whole time he was attorney general -- also told Trump that you have no legal basis to contest the election?

What might the panel get from him?

BUTLER: Trump`s state of mind about whether he really believed that he had lost the election.

Barr left the White House on January 6. So his main evidence to the committee would be, how did Trump respond when Barr told him there was no evidence of widespread voting fraud in the 2020 election? He sure looks like he didn`t care, like Trump said, well, that`s not really the issue. I`m still going to be president no matter what the voters say.

REID: Right.

BUTLER: But, Joy, you`re right, though.

Barr, he put his integrity on layaway when he ran the Justice Department like it was a defense law firm for President Trump. So, in a trial, he wouldn`t have any real credibility, but, certainly, to the panel, for its investigation, his testimony could be crucial.

REID: Oh, his integrity was on layaway since William Safire, the conservative, called him the cover-up general in the `90s.

Like, I don`t know that integrity has known him for a long time. It might have been to his house like way back when he was a kid, but it ain`t seen him since.

(LAUGHTER)

REID: Paul Butler, thank you very much, my friend. Really appreciate you.

Still ahead: Emergency shipments and ramped-up production are expected to ease the nationwide baby formula shortage in a few days. But how did the shortage happen in the first place? And how can we make sure that it never happens again?

A baby formula scarcity explainer -- when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:31:54]

REID: So, for millions of parents who are facing the baby formula shortage and wondering how they`re going to feed the youngest members of their families, there is some good news today, with the head of the FDA telling Congress that parents should begin to see improvement on store shelves within days.

But he cautioned that it could still be weeks before the supply is back to normal. That follows the news that President Biden has invoked the defense authorization act to address the nationwide formula shortage.

And, earlier today, the Senate passed a bill by unanimous consent that would improve access to baby formula for low-income parents. But when it came to approving a $28 million emergency relief funding bill for the FDA to help alleviate the current shortfall and head off future shortages, Senate Republicans straight up blocked it, and are now on flights headed home without doing anything more for struggling moms.

And it`s not just Senate Republicans. Their counterparts in the House agree that they would rather have the formula shortage as an election year talking point, rather than, I don`t know, doing their jobs to help solve it.

Yesterday, the House passed the funding bill. democrats voted 219-0 to support it. Republicans voted 192-12 against it. How can a Republican Party that`s so adamant that the government should enforce that all pregnancies must result in births and that all lives matter only manage to produce 12 House Republican votes to support those same babies` lives?

What is almost -- what is almost as troubling is what is causing the baby formula shortage in the first place. Now, you see, in the United States, four -- that is one, two, three, four -- companies have a monopoly over baby formula, controlling more than 90 percent of the market.

These companies are so massive and have such tremendous lobbying efforts that they have ensured that our tariff and regulatory system makes it almost impossible for infant formula from overseas to come into the market, even when those formula manufacturers are completely safe. That`s what keeps their monopoly in place.

And when one of the plants for the largest company, Abbott, has to shut down due to their negligence over safety and sanitary standards and demand remains the same, you get a predictable result, a shortage.

And to add to the problems with our current system, about half of all formula sold in America is bought by the federal government for its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children known as WIC.

Each state signs an exclusive contract with one of the formula manufacturers to supply subsidized products for low-income families that are enrolled in the program. As NPR points out, Abbott has the WIC monopoly in about two-thirds of all the states.

That means that WIC recipients are required to only purchase Abbott formula through the program, but are unable to, as the supply has slowed to a trickle. Now, add to that the supply chain issues in a pandemic and, voila, you get a baby formula shortage.

The bill that the Senate did pass today is meant to address the WIC issue, but, unfortunately, more needs to be done, and perhaps now is not the time for lawmakers to be heading home with their little tummies full while their youngest constituents are very much in need.

[19:35:05]

And up next: Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush -- yes, from that Bush family -- has a new plan for distributing the hurricane relief, and, well, you wouldn`t know it`s a lot like the old plan, which means millions of dollars diverted to mostly white inland communities, instead of the mostly black and brown coastal communities that need it the most. Perfect.

More on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:40:05]

REID: Back in 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas with a vengeance, slamming the Gulf Coast with strong winds and torrential rain. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit the United States in a decade, damaging more than 300,000 homes and killing more than 100 Texans.

The following year, in response to Harvey, Texas received $4.3 billion in disaster aid from Congress to be doled out by the Texas General Land Office.

And that`s when a different type of disaster for Texas began, because the counties where Harvey made landfall received zero dollars. Jefferson County, which recorded the highest rain totals, also received nothing. Harris County, which saw the worst flooding, got just 9 percent of the $1 billion being allocated, while whiter inland areas far less impacted by hurricanes receive millions.

The Land Office is run by commissioner George P. Bush, the son of Jeb, who threw his own family by the side of the road to join the Trump cult and is running for attorney general against incumbent Ken Paxton. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has accused Bush`s land commission office of discriminating against black and Latino Texans.

After an outcry, Bush gave $750 million of the remaining funds to Harris County. But according to "The Texas Tribune," who did some fantastic reporting on this story, the Land Office is on track to follow a similar pattern as it prepares to allocate the next $1.2 billion of the federal aid.

Joining me now is the reporter on that piece, Zach Despart, politics reporter for "The Texas Tribune," and Julian Castro, former secretary of housing and urban development and host of "Our America" podcast.

Thank you both for being here.

Zach, great reporting on your part.

Talk about how this could have possibly played out the counties that receive the most damage from hurricane -- from the hurricane got nothing?

ZACH DESPART, "THE TEXAS TRIBUNE": Well, first, thanks for having me, Joy.

How it played out is, initially, the federal government had designated 20 counties in Texas, mostly coastal, as eligible for this $4 billion worth of aid. The General Land Office under Commissioner Bush decided to add 29 counties into the eligibility pool. That made it much harder for the hardest-hit coastal counties to get the aid because the competition was going to be more steep.

Now, you had talked about that initial $1 billion that was distributed last year. And our initial investigation and found that the Land Office had by far disproportionately spent that in the inland group of counties, which are far whiter, far more conservative, and, most importantly, have a lower risk of natural disasters than that initial group designated by the federal government that is mostly on the coast.

The story that we wrote this week focused on the Land Office`s amended plan to spend the rest of the money. And what we found is, basically, because the disparities were so great in that first round, this new plan does not close them. We are still seeing, depending on how it shakes out and the GLO`s decision-making, $2 to $4 per person more spent in the inland areas than the coastal ones that are hardest hit by Harvey and, again, most importantly, greatest risk for the future.

REID: And let`s show a map, because there`s a map here that shows the counties that are getting aid. Let`s just put that up.

So, these are the 20 counties that HUD picked is eligible for aid that were designated the most impacted and prone to national disasters. Those are mostly those coastal counties that you see there are in pink.

The counties covered in green, Bush added 29 more of these counties. And so those ones, you can just physically see where they are next to the coast, Zach, that they were not the counties that were the hardest hit by a hurricane.

Do you have -- in your reporting, did you get the sense -- because this is something that George P. Bush took great credit for, is distributing this money. He sees it as a campaign asset for himself. Was this about trying to feed money into counties he thought would vote for him in his current race?

DESPART: I mean, that`s mostly a question for Democrats.

REID: Yes.

DESPART: And, certainly, some of them feel like Commissioner Bush had let politics get in the way of his thinking when he -- his office decided to distribute that money.

I know there`s been a story that we published this week that it was 11 days after he had initially announced that billion dollars last year that he then announced he was running for attorney general, and, certainly, wanted to do well among Republicans in this primary that the election is -- the run-off is right now.

To be clear, I have spent some time in those rural areas that did get some of this money, and they definitely have infrastructure needs. They definitely could benefit from more disaster preparedness. There`s no doubt about that.

But, by the state`s own measurement -- they have a ranking of all 254 counties by their risk of disasters. The ones on the coast rank the highest. And those are the ones, from speaking with members of Congress who approved this money, that`s where they wanted it to go.

[19:45:00]

And on a per capita basis, that`s not where it`s going.

REID: Julian Castro, you used to run HUD. So talk about what this means in the real world.

I mean, you`re talking about depriving people who lost homes, who had homes damaged, who have housing needs of money, it sounds, like strictly for politics or some other thing that`s in this guy`s mind.

JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER U.S. HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: Yes, it is great reporting by Zach and "The Tribune."

Like, HUD does an extensive analysis beforehand to determine which counties were hardest hit by natural disaster and where the highest risk of the next disaster is and the infrastructure needs in those counties.

That`s why, when they designated these 20 counties, it meant these were the ones that needed the infrastructure investment. And then Congress approves that, right?

For Bush to add 29 other counties who are not as great at risk of another disaster, don`t have as many infrastructure needs for flooding and other natural disaster risks, that`s pure patronage. And for him to do it 11 days before he announces that he`s running for attorney general, I think, makes it a lock solid link to patronage.

Joy, I think the other thing, just from a political standpoint, that`s going on here is, I mean, he is -- right now, he represents kind of the last, best hope to continue the Bush dynasty, right? And he knew that he was going to be entering into a Republican primary 11 days later that has turned ultra MAGA, as Joe Biden has said.

These are exactly the type of counties, these smaller, more rural, whither counties, that would be a problem for him in that kind of primary. So what does he do? He starts doling out the dollars, like any slick old time patronage politician, to these places.

They put out, according to Zach`s reporting, 39 different press releases county by county heralding this new -- these new investments in these counties. So it`s clear that politics played a real role here.

REID: It reminds me, Julian Castro, of what Ron DeSantis is doing in Florida, where he`s taking money, the Biden bucks that came through the CARES Act and the infrastructure bill, that Biden signed this bill, that he`s been pillorying it as profligate spending.

But then he`s turning around and going with those big Publishers Clearing House-style checks and handing out money.

CASTRO: Yes.

REID: But it`s only handing it out in red districts in Florida. So he`s passing off this federal money that he criticized as money that somehow came from Florida`s own efforts and handing it out, but only to red counties.

This strikes me as the most flagrant type, as you said, of patronage politics. Do you -- you, as a Texan, do you think George P. Bush ends up paying a political price for it?

CASTRO: Well, I think he does.

I mean, as Zach pointed out, first of all, he may end up paying a price in terms of the Department of Justice filing suit if they determine that this outlay of these funds violates equal opportunity laws, fair housing laws, and so forth.

The other thing is, politically, I mean, he`s going to have to justify this. He really angered a lot of people in Harris County, the state`s biggest county, when he allocated such little resources to a community there that has been hit the hardest, something like six or seven times over the last 15 years, by natural disasters, and he barely gave them, I think, $9 billion or something, way underneath what they should have gotten.

That was a big mistake, and he could end up paying for that.

REID: Yes.

Republicans live in Harris County to George P. It`s not just Democrats who are hurting.

Zach Despart, excellent reporting. Thank you very much for being here. Julian Castro, thank you, as always, my friend.

CASTRO: Thanks.

REID: And -- cheers.

And up next: Arkansas -- Arkansans head to the polls next week to choose candidates for November`s general election.

Democratic candidate for governor Chris Jones could wind up facing the uber-Trumpy Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

He joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:53:33]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS (R), ARKANSAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: This president, since he took office, in the year-and-a-half that he`s been here, has created 700,000 new jobs for African-Americans.

President Trump in his first year-and-a-half has already tripled what President Obama did in eight years.

The president in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence, if anything, quite the contrary.

QUESTION: Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Yes, we have been clear on that from the beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Yes, remember her?

Yes, that was the twice-impeached, disgraced former president`s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, saying things that aren`t true and smearing the many women who accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault.

Ah, memories.

Roughly three years later, Sanders, following in her daddy`s Huckabee footsteps, is looking for a new gig as the governor of Arkansas. Next week, Arkansas Republicans will get to choose between her and some guy who thinks that she`s not conservative enough, because she`s endorsed a senator who said that Joe Biden won the election.

If she wins her primary, which is what most Arkansas watchers expect, she will face off against one of five Democratic candidates. The front-runner among the Democrats is Chris Jones, a seventh-generation Arkansan who happens to be an ordained minister and a physicist, a literal rocket scientist.

This past Sunday, "The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette," endorsed Jones in the Democratic primary, calling him one of the most impressive candidates we have seen in years.

Joining me now is physicist, minister and Democratic candidate for governor of Arkansas Dr. Chris Jones.

[19:55:05]

Dr. Chris Jones, thank you both -- for being here.

So, I read through the endorsement that "The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette" put in.

CHRIS JONES (D), ARKANSAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.

REID: And they talked about the fact that it`s a long shot to try to -- for any Democrat to try to win statewide in Arkansas.

But they said stranger things have happened, because they praised you as an outstanding candidate and a real Arkansan. How do you beat someone like Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who`s, number one, well-known, she has high name recognition, and she`s also willing to flagrantly lie?

JONES: Yes.

Well, first of all, Joy, thanks for having me on your show. It`s great to be here among fellow nerds.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: Look, I -- it`s going to take faith, hope and hard work. That`s what it`s really going to take.

And I`m a seventh-generation Arkansan. And I know for a fact that, when you engage Arkansans authentically, they can get past what should be the path that they take.

And that`s what I have been doing. I have traveled the state, hit all 75 counties. And I will tell you that we have been to places where they haven`t seen a black person in a very long time. And the conversations have been great, because people want good education, good infrastructure, and great jobs. So that`s how we`re going to win this race.

REID: You know, it`s interesting you say that, because like, right, the thing about Democrats is that Democrats tend to, like, hang in the cities and sort of give up on -- in a lot of ways on voters they think are going to be resistant, rural voters -- white voters, rural voters.

How do you approach those conversations? Because you`re right. No matter where people live or where they`re from, other than the people who are really QAnon and really not all here, people do generally want the same stuff.

JONES: They do. They do. It doesn`t matter.

So, look, we were in Marianna, today. It`s East Arkansas, really small town, and went there and engage -- and went to a senior citizens home. We were talking about health care. We were talking about education. We were talking about infrastructure.

I went to a place called Harrison, Arkansas, which is formerly a sundown town, and went into a restaurant, and 50 people gave us a standing ovation. Why? Because they want to choose faith, hope and hard work over fear, hate, cronyism.

And that`s what we`re offering Arkansans. And I will tell you, it`s working.

REID: Are people election deniers that you`re talking to? Do they believe that Biden is the president? Or is that an issue that they`re voting on? Is it stuff like that? And things like abortion, what do people tell you about stuff like that?

JONES: Yes, so you get a mix.

I mean, there`s a certainly a small portion of individuals who are election deniers and who really want to drive towards this weird world where neighbors are vigilantes.

However, the lion`s share of folks that we engage -- I met a guy in Lewisville, Arkansas, rural South Arkansas, named Jim, cutoff shirt, hat on, the kind of guy that you would never think would support Chris Jones for governor, tapped him on the shoulder. We were Sterling`s restaurant.

And I said: "Jim, how`s it going? I`m running for governor. And my name is Chris Jones."

And we talked for a second. And within 30 seconds, he said: "I just want my roads fixed." That`s it.

REID: Yes.

JONES: Well, then we talked about infrastructure. And that was -- that was the inroads.

REID: Yes.

JONES: So, I -- look, I tell folks, if we don`t ask for the vote...

REID: Yes.

JONES: And, by the way, Joy, I asked Sarah Sanders herself if she would vote for me, and she said maybe.

(LAUGHTER)

REID: OK, let`s OK -- nerd time, because I can`t have you here, I know, my rocket scientist friend.

Here`s a piece of your ad that`s called "Skywalker." Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: When I was a kid, growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, I dreamed of going to space, of adventures on other worlds.

But just as all great stories remind us to search inward for our strength, I realized my true inspiration was my own childhood in Arkansas, where space to play, space to explore and space to learn made anything seem possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Greetings, Skywalker.

(LAUGHTER)

REID: Let`s -- I have to show you this massive, super massive black hole that was recently found. I`m obsessed with it.

JONES: Yes.

REID: There it is.

And, of course, it`s named after the best star sign, Sagittarius. It`s called Sgr A, because Sagittariuses rule the universe.

(LAUGHTER)

REID: My question to you, sir...

JONES: Slow down. I`m a Libra over here.

REID: Don`t even try me.

(LAUGHTER)

REID: Oh, OK, number one, how cool is the black hole? And, number two, are UFOs real? Tell me now.

JONES: Super cool, and absolutely.

But, look, what I want to tell you...

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: ... is, folks really need to go to ChrisForGovernor.com and find out more about our campaign, because we are -- we`re excited about the future of Arkansas, but we are facing Trump 2.0.

REID: Yes.

JONES: And there`s a -- we`re at real risk of that cancer being spread across the state, across the country.

And we have to stop it now. So, I`m asking folks to lean in and go to ChrisForGovernor.com and help us stop it now, and make history in the process, because I will be the first nominee, African-American nominee of any major party out here in Arkansas for statewide office.

REID: You know what`s amazing?

The way that you know that, even though you`re not a veteran politician, but a good politician always asks for the vote and remembers to give how to contact me. You did both of those things, my friend.

So, best of luck to you.

JONES: Thank you.

REID: We will be watching to see how things turn out.

Thank you so much for spending some time with us and talking nerd stuff with me, because I got to get the nerd stuff in.

JONES: Always nerd stuff.

REID: Thank you.

Chris Jones, thank you very much. Appreciate you.

And that is tonight`s REIDOUT.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.