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Transcript: The ReidOut, 5/9/22

Guests: Shevrin Jones, Maksym Borodin, Julia Davis, Anthea Butler


The public outcry continues to grow, as protests intensify over the Supreme Court`s upcoming Roe v. Wade decision. First lady Jill Biden becomes the latest high-profile visitor to Ukraine`s capital to show international support. Documents reveal no evidence of what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called indoctrination in Florida math books. Why do Republican operatives with Kremlin ties keep emerging in presidential campaigns?


JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: Those who know him say he was a kind soul.

And I know that he inspired millions of kids and adults to see their dreams play out on paper in bright and authentic colors. He will be greatly missed.

That does it for me tonight.

"THE REIDOUT" up with Joy Reid is next.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everyone.

We begin THE REIDOUT tonight with the frightening truth about where we are headed post-Roe, as the public outcry continues to grow and as protests intensified. Over the weekend, abortion rights protesters demonstrated outside the homes of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts, which even some Democrats joined right-wingers in criticizing.

I mean, I suppose, if the justices don`t like the First Amendment, they could just drive to another state, where the legislature is determined that the constitutional right to privacy applies, right? I mean, that is what they`re telling women to do if they want to control their own bodies, right?

But I digress.

Tonight, I would like to draw your attention to a rather telling footnote in Justice Samuel Alito`s treatise on stripping the rights of half our population by overturning Roe, which caught a bit of online -- online attention this weekend.

Now, in this footnote, Alito cites a CDC report from 2008. And it notes -- quote -- "Nearly one million women were seeking to adopt children in 2002, whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted had become virtually nonexistent" -- unquote.

The domestic supply of infants. Hmm.

Well, that line caught some diligent Twitterzens as weird, kind of creepy. But, in fact, Alito`s citation backs up an argument that was pushed by fellow religious ultra-conservative justice Amy Coney Barrett during her questioning in the Dobbs v. Mississippi case last December.

After Barrett noted that both Roe and Casey emphasized the burdens of parenting and focuses on the consequences of parenting and obligations of motherhood, she asked, why don`t the safe haven laws take care of that problem?

Safe haven laws, of course, refer to laws in several states that allow people to drop off infants that they don`t want at firehouses and police stations and other safe locations without legal consequences, like being charged with abandonment.

It is, in short, the forced birth adoption option. And there is a long history of the Christian right seeking to do that, to make abortion illegal, but to push women who don`t want to be pregnant to stay pregnant anyway and give the resulting infant up for adoption, long history of that, and of pushing evangelicals to have big families and to adopt en masse.

Take the Betsy DeVos-funded Bethany Christian Services scrutinized for allegedly trying to resettle migrant children who arrived in the U.S. unaccompanied or who were stolen from their parents by the Trump administration`s child separation policy to put them into Christian adoptive homes, something the organization vehemently denied.

Less in doubt, the recent case in March of this year of Matt Shea, a far right former Washington state representative who was accused of domestic terrorism in relation to allegedly helping to plan the 2016 Bundy ranch standoff with the federal government in the state of Nevada.

Remember that? Well, he was in Poland in March trying to secure adoptions for more than 60 Ukrainian children that he arrived from -- arrived with from across the border.

Now, of course, shutting down row would increase the number of domestic available children, overlooking the fact that using women against their will as incubators for adoptive families is literally the basis of "The Handmaid`s Tale."

There`s also Alito`s other fixation on what was and wasn`t legal during the 19th century. He notes that, by the time the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, three-quarters of states had made abortion a crime.

And in yet another footnote, he writes, in relation to Massachusetts` now- defunct 1845 law, case law, he said, held that abortion was allowed when, according to the judgment of physicians in the relevant community, the procedure was necessary to preserve the woman`s life or, or her physical or emotional health.

Now, it is telling that Alito notes the timing of the 14th Amendment, because, when citing the legality of abortion for the physical and emotional health of women, well, that could only have meant certain women, because, in 1845, enslaved women had no protection under law and were not treated as citizens or really even as people.

It was, indeed, the 14th Amendment that granted, at least on paper, citizenship and rights to the formerly enslaved, women for whom the reality of abortion had a very different significance in bondage.

The College of Charleston notes that enslaved women knew that enslavers valued and dependent upon their ability to bear children and to increase the slave population. With this understanding, enslaved women participated in acts of resistance specific to the labor demanded of them, from avoiding sexual intercourse, to terminating pregnancy, to taking the lives of their own infants.

That includes the very real tragedy of Margaret Garner, who took the lie have her own daughter, rather than subject her to the horrors of slavery. That slavery is the -- that story is the inspiration behind Toni Morrison`s "Beloved," which goes a long way toward explaining this big push to ban that book in schools and libraries.


And, as the ACLU points out, just like slavery, maximizing wealth and consolidating power, motivated the anti-abortion enterprise.

Republican politicians, meanwhile, are making clear that they are not finished trying to consolidate power, by not just simply overturning Roe. They`re making clear that they would like to go further. And Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves evaded all sorts of questions this weekend, while refusing to rule out banning contraception, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said a national abortion ban would be possible, would be possible, if Roe is overturned.

Joining me now is Anthea Butler, chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America," and former RNC Chair Michael Steele, who is an MSNBC political analyst.

Thank you both for being here.

Anthea, I do want to start with you, because I went into a very deep wormhole about the history of enslaved women and abortion over the weekend. And the reality is, it was an act of resistance. And it was also an act of desperation for a lot of women who would take roots, things that were passed down to them, their knowledge from the continent, from Africa that their mothers and four mothers knew about, certain herbs you could take to abort.

And they did it because slavery was worse than death. And I know that they`re -- the anti-education Republicans would like to sort of portray slavery as this benign institution that wasn`t so bad. But people would rather die, would rather have their children die, and would abort on their own to stop creating more product, more available domestic supply of children.

What do you make of this fixation Samuel Alito has with that era? But, in his mind, that 19th century era was the good old days.

ANTHEA BUTLER, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, for Samuel Alito, I`m pretty sure that he would like to be able to sell babies again if he possibly could.

But let`s take it back for a minute and talk about the 19th century, because I think this is really important to part of what`s going on. This idea about family and the way that family gets constructed for evangelicals really starts in the 19th-century post Reconstruction period, where the deification of white women and the protection of white women comes out of a fear of rape by black men.

And we know that this is a lie. But, on the other hand, I think what`s important here is to say two things. Number one, black women were never afforded these kinds of protections because they were always in peril and their children were always in peril, and their children could be sold from them at any particular time.

So it`s no surprise that they would want to have their children not grow up in slavery and take their own lives, instead of letting their children be sold by a slave master. That`s number one.

But let me put a finer point on it, because you showed a picture of a plantation. I`m not sure that everybody knows where that plantation is. It`s called Oak Alley in Louisiana. When I visited that plantation -- the reason why I recognize this picture is because it`s a very arresting one. The oaks go all the way up to the plantation.

You get a list of the slaves on the back porch of that plantation, and many of those slaves were mulattos. How did they get there? It was because of right by the white slave masters.

So I think that this whole thing that Alito is alluding to in this document is about two things, number one, wanting to make sure that the white personhood of babies is preserved, that`s number one, and that they will be protected, and, number two, that there`s going to be enough children so that, if you want to cross-racially adopt, you can adopt.

And that doesn`t matter if somebody has a baby and you`re not able to get an abortion.

REID: You know, and listen, Michael Steele, my friend, here`s the challenge.

If you go back and you read the Old Testament of the Bible, or -- which is the same as reading the Jewish Bible, the Torah, you know, they`re -- these traditions, all the Abrahamic traditions, they all share books, they share Abrahamic storylines and characters and et cetera.

The idea of a handmaid is in there. So when Margaret Atwood wrote this book, she didn`t take it out of whole cloth. She took it from old biblical stories, and the idea that the woman who was barren -- this was an agrarian society, 1600 to 900 B.C., where being -- quote, unquote -- "barren" -- they always ascribed it to the woman -- they never ascribed it to the man, until very recently -- was horrible.

It was sort of a curse from God. And so you would take your handmaid, your servant in those cases, and then they would have the baby. This is not a consensual situation. This is a servant.

I feel like trying to ground American law in that kind of, not even New Testament Christianity, but Old Testament Christianity, that is a frightening start. And you don`t -- it doesn`t end with just abortion. You now have Mississippi, Tate Reeves, the governor, "on STATE OF THE UNION," sort of, you know, we may -- maybe I`m trying to ban Plan B and IUDs.

That maybe next, because a lot of these same evangelicals believe those things are abortifacients. Marsha Blackburn opposing the Griswold decision, that`s the one about contraception. So they`re saying that`s also wrongly decided.


You have this guy in Arizona, Blake Masters, Tucson-based venture capitalist, he`s Peter Thiel`s guy. He says, oh, no. Oh, yes, we want to go further. We want to overturn Griswold. That`s the Plan -- that`s the contraception one. Mitch McConnell saying, national ban on abortion, entirely possible.

This is the definition, Michael of a slippery slope, is it not?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It is, on a number of levels.

And to your first point, it is -- it is much more difficult to reconcile this emerging theocracy within this conservative evangelical/political space against the New Testament story, against a New Testament background,because it doesn`t align.

The New Testament narrative is very different, where the Christ embraced everyone. So, the prostitute, the sinner, the tax collector...

REID: Yes.

STEELE: ... was a representation of all those great sins that were condemned in the Old Testament.

Christ talked about the fixation of the rule and the order, to the extent that it ignored the person.

And that`s exactly what we see now emerging in this space. And, as someone who is pro-life, I have always had a problem with the ignoring of the human person part of this.

REID: Yes.

STEELE: You -- and this idea that it`s a zero sum situation, particularly in the draconian laws that you`re seeing now that say, we won`t even acknowledge the -- we want to do away with the child conceived in -- we won`t allow that to happen and rape or incest.

And so there is this sense that the party that`s now trying to write this new narrative is doing so, and this basis is going to be tried to be put in this sort of Old Testament space to make those folks who probably would have some problem otherwise feel better about where this is going, because it`s aligning with their Christian narrative.

And there are a number of great pieces out right now that have been written by some Christian philosophers and doctors of the evangelicalism, David French, for one, that are beginning to peel back that a little bit more, to expose it and talk more honestly about what`s really going on here.

REID: You know, it`s interesting.

And I know my brother, you went to seminary. We all grew up in the church. I think all three of us that are on this panel right now, we all grew up in the church. I used to teach Sunday school when I was in high school.

And so I -- we`re not supposed to talk religion in politics. I know that`s usually quite rude. But I think we have to do it now, because you have to understand these are not Book of -- this is not a Book of Matthew Christianity.

I want to -- I`m going to bring you back in, Michael. I want to bring you and Anthea, because what`s missing here is the Book of Matthew Christianity, the Christianity that says blessed are the immigrant, that we`re going to care for the immigrant. Where`s the Christianity that says children deserve to have food and clothes and they deserve to have school lunch? School -- kids are being called greedy if they`re having school lunch.

Where is the belief children should have health care? None of that is there.


REID: If you force a woman and say you must give a rapist`s baby life, but we`re going to do nothing for you to make sure that life survives, that you survive, that`s not the Christianity I think any of us, whether you`re anti-abortion or you believe abortion is a woman`s choice, nobody is supposed to recognize that.

And I just want to play one person who I think sort of crystallized it for me. This is a woman, an anti-choice activist. The gentleman who did this interview, his name is Ashton Pittman. He`s in Mississippi. He writes for "The Mississippi Free Press."

And he did an interview with this woman the day after the SCOTUS leak. And here`s what this woman said. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Abortion should be obsolete.

ASHTON PITTMAN, "MISSISSIPPI FREE PRESS": Does that include, like, ectopic pregnancies?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything. Everything, because he`s in control.

PITTMAN: Even if a woman would die, even if a doctor said, oh, this woman will die without an abortion?


I have to put it in his hands. He`s the -- he`s the maker of all. So, if he wants that woman to live, if he`s not ready to take her home, he`s going to make it happen.

We are at his mercy.


REID: This is the God that smites, not the God that loves. This is not the kind of Christianity that -- I guess they think this is a winning version of Christianity?

This is madness. Your thoughts, Anthea?

BUTLER: Well, first of all, I want to kind of put a point on this, because I think it`s a very important point.

We can`t really judge what kind of Christianity. There are Christianities, I-E-S.

REID: Yes.

BUTLER: And what that means is, is that there are different people who determine what they think, from their reading of Scripture, what it means, because there are many Christians out here right now who are pro-choice.


And we are paying a lot of attention to the pro-life people right now. But There are people out here who believe in Jesus and all this stuff, and who are pro-choice, because they respect a woman`s right to choose. That`s first off.

But, secondarily, I want to pick on these Scriptures that you have picked, that go back to something that you really said. Let`s talk about who was a surrogate in the Bible.

Hagar was a surrogate for Sarah. And because of that, she got cast out. I am wondering about all women who are going to be cast out because of these rules, because of the way that these laws that are draconian will put harm to them.

How will we deal with women who are forced to have birth and forced to be pregnant, when they have these babies, they can`t take care of them? You see, this is the problem. It`s not about the Old Testament or the New Testament. It`s about the fact that these people do not want to care for anyone else other than themselves.

And what they care about is prosperity, their prosperity, not the nation`s prosperity, not women`s prosperity, not anyone else`s.

REID: Yes.

BUTLER: And so while we`re sitting here talking about evangelicals -- now I get to pick on you, Michael Steele -- this also about Catholics too, because Catholics are right in the mix of this.

We don`t get here without Catholics first starting this drive against abortion, and about Catholics saying that, back in the 1960s, during Vatican II, that they did not want to have contraception.

And so we cannot talk about this as though this is just an evangelical story. This is an evangelical and a Catholic story. And it is a story of people who don`t understand what`s going on.

STEELE: So -- so...

REID: We are out of time, but I`m going to let you respond, Michael.

And it`s also happening in a country that is increasingly secular, because we all are believers. Not every -- this country is not a country that is full of people who are Christian, Catholic or not. There are people who are also not in the church.

How is it that people who are extreme right -- a certain snitch of Christianity can impose their biblical version, their version of the Bible on 327 million people?

STEELE: So, just to the point that was just made, the Catholic Church, you may disagree with the theology behind the pro-life position, but you cannot disagree with the work.

And that`s the difference, is that the -- between the hospitals and the institutions, the Catholic Charities, all the organizations that are designed and built around the idea of giving women who make that choice of life the opportunity to bring that child to term, to receive what they need, that`s the rest of the story, to Joy`s point, that`s not being dealt with politically.

And so, when you look at this, you can look at it holistically or you can look at in individual pockets, but, at the end of the day, it`s about...

REID: Yes.

STEELE: ... how do we -- if we`re going to do this, how do we continue to care for those folks once we say of them, you must do this or that?


REID: We are not. And you know what? We are not going to do this, because women are not going to be slaves of the state.

STEELE: That`s right.

REID: Women will not allow their bodies to be state property. I don`t care what you all say. You think that people will respect this Supreme Court decision, they will not. Women will not, not, not become property of the state. Watch what happens. It`s not going to go down.

Anthea Butler, Michael Steele, thank you both very much.

STEELE: All right.

REID: Up next on THE REIDOUT: Putin`s Victory Day speech came with the usual propaganda, but no claim of victory.

Meanwhile, on Mother`s Day, first lady Jill Biden became the latest high- profile visitor to Ukraine`s capital to show international support. And she was not alone.

Also, documents reveal no evidence of what Ron DeSantis called indoctrination in Florida math books, but he banned them anyway. What`s up with that, Ron?

And the Republican operatives with Kremlin ties who just keep popping up in presidential campaigns.

THE REIDOUT continues after this.



REID: Today, Russia held its annual Victory Day parade, Russia`s celebration of the Soviet Union`s role in the defeat of Nazi Germany, where Vladimir Putin once again tried to justify his murderous attack on Ukraine by basically framing it as a continued fight against the Nazis. But the Russian dictator did not announce any new escalation of the war, as some observers thought he might do.

The military parade comes as Russia really is not doing well in this war, with a senior U.S. defense official telling NBC News that Russia`s progress in the Donbass is somewhat anemic, and that the U.S. has seen anecdotal evidence that some Russian officers are refusing to obey orders.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy remains confident, saying today that -- quote -- "Very soon, there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine and someone won`t have any."

This comes as the West has given him a big show of support. First lady Dr. Jill Biden crossed into Ukraine yesterday to meet with her counterpart, Ukrainian first lady online Olena Zelenska. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made a surprise visit to meet with Zelenskyy and to raise the Canadian flag at the reopening of the country`s embassy.

And members of the ban U2 ed to Kyiv to perform, in a show of solidarity for Ukrainian troops inside a makeshift bomb shelter. And, today, President Biden signed a full bill reviving a World War II-lend lease program that would speed up the process for U.S. military aid to reach Ukraine.

With me now, Julia Davis, columnist for The Daily Beast, and Maksym Borodin, Mariupol city council member.

Thank you both for being here.

Julie, I do want to start with you, because this victory parade, there have been a lot of sort of -- sort of presaging what might happen at this victory celebration on the 9th and that it might be an opportunity for Putin to announce an escalation of the war, to sort of try to proclaim some sort of victory. He did neither.

What do you make of that? And what are they saying on Russian state TV about it?

JULIA DAVIS, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: There is no victory for him to proclaim. They`re not doing well.

And even on state TV, that kind of an admission is starting to break through. They`re admitting that their economy is not able to maintain this war effort. They have even talked about having to crowdfund drones. They`re very envious of Ukraine`s supply of Turkish-made drones.


And, also, for Putin to announce any type of an escalation would already be an admission of defeat. He framed this offensive as a special military operation because he counted that it would be something akin to what happened in Crimea. It would be quick and relatively painless, the sanctions would be manageable, and it would be all over before you knew it, and he would be sitting with an entire country in his pocket.

Of course, it didn`t work out that way. And if he starts calling it a war, that would mean that he failed to achieve his goals through the military operation. And I don`t think he`s willing to admit that.

There are arsons happening at the military enlistment offices in Russia. And people are growing more and more resistant to this war. And on state television, they`re trying to scare people into fighting against Ukraine, which they`re framing as a war against NATO.

And they`re claiming that the West, if they managed to crush Russia, would open up concentration camps there and subject all Russians to mandatory sterilization. So, there are fear tactics that are being applied both internally and externally, where, the rest of the world, the Russians keep threatening with nuclear weapons, because, basically, that`s all they have got to threaten us with.

REID: Yes.

And, meanwhile, they`re putting on what sure does look like North Korea. That -- those images look like straight out of North Korea, with the sort of big military parade. I`m wondering how much money they spent on that, how many rubles that are pretty much worthless at this point.

Maksym Borodin, how -- it must be very strange to watch this sort of propaganda failure take place across the border, while, in reality, in Ukraine, Russian forces are still massacring people.

MAKSYM BORODIN, MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: It`s very hard to look for the Russian propaganda videos. It`s -- they always make a lot of lies. Most of the news are lies.

Today, we seen some short videos from Mariupol, where the invaders and collaborants take part in some kind of celebration. But the most people on this video is not local. But most cynical in the celebration that invaders is made a show with the biggest flock in the world, and they did it against the background of the fact that, in Mariupol, the work on cleaning rubble and getting the bodies out of them is not nearly finished.

Warm weather makes them decay much faster. And the smell of Russian atrocities is in the air of the celebration.

REID: And...

BORODIN: So it`s terrible.

REID: Yes.

And, Mr. Borodin, what is it -- does it -- at this stage, does it mean a lot to Ukrainians for people like Dr. Jill Biden to come, for U2 to come and perform, for the Canadian prime minister to come? What does that mean? And what does that do, if anything, for the people in Ukraine?

BORODIN: I think any help for Ukraine, any moral help is very important.

But, in addition of -- to obtaining the high-precision weapon, we need jet planes and we need to impose total sanctions on Russia, no Russian gas, no Russian oil to USA or to E.U. countries at all. And with this all help, we can stop Putin. Without this help, Putin not stopped in Ukraine and go and going further and further to E.U. countries and to -- even now, we see the global problem of the Russian war in Ukraine, the problem with grain and problem with food for all the people for all the world.

So, Putin don`t kill people only in Ukraine. He killed people in all the world. But he made it -- he will -- made it tomorrow.

REID: Yes. No, I agree with that. I think every everybody watching the show agrees with you on that.

And, Julia, I wonder -- there was even sort of this attack -- Russian satellite TV, like sort of message, they sort of hacked into it, and it altered the message that people saw on their screens. And it said, "You have blood on your hands," according to screen grabs that were obtained by Reuters.

So there`s that sort of stuff. But does the -- is there value, in your mind -- or what is the reaction, I should say, to things like that and to things like Dr. Biden and U2 and sort of pop culture and the sort of world converging inside of Kyiv to show support to Ukraine?

Does that have any resonance inside of Russia?

DAVIS: I believe it does, because a lot of people simply choose to believe in propaganda because that frees them of accountability or of feeling guilt.


But these kinds of reminders are powerful. There was also an entire Web site called Lenta, where there was a number of articles that were published exposing Putin`s role in this war and calling him paranoid, describing the bloody massacre that he is inflicting upon Ukraine.

It is very important, and especially -- Putin is all about symbolism. And every gesture of support is important, not only for Ukraine, but also a reminder to Russia that it`s not getting away with what it`s doing, and it will be up to the global community to stop him.

REID: Julia Davis and Maksym Borodin, thank you both very much. Much appreciated.

And still ahead: the disjointed, divisive and downright bizarre process that led to Florida banning dozens of math textbooks.

We will discuss when we come back.



REID: Last month, Florida`s Education Department made a big to-do about publishers allegedly trying to indoctrinate children through math books, saying it rejected books that included references to Critical Race Theory, the conservative Bat Signal for anything to do with race, gender history or any of the other stuff that frightens DeSantis and his friends.

The department has now released nearly 6,000 pages of textbook reviews to show what exactly they took issue with. And what we got was a whole lot of nothing. Dozens of state reviewers found no, zero, zip, no, no evidence of prohibitive topics like so-called Critical Race Theory.

One of the rare reviewers who flagged content is a conservative activist from, you guessed it, Moms For Liberty. "The Orlando Sentinel" reports that she called one book biased when it came to global warming and climate crisis. Another reviewer took issue with a math problem regarding equal pay and discrimination.

A review by "The New York Times" suggests that the problem in question was this word problem comparing salaries for men and women`s soccer players using Megan Rapinoe as an example. That, of course, is not Critical Race Theory. But, as we know, none of this is.

Joining me now, Florida state Senator Shevrin Jones.

And, Senator Jones, we found nothing. So, if there weren`t Critical Race Theory scary race things in the books, have you been able to figure out, as a member of the Senate Education Committee, what was wrong with the books?


First of all, Joy, thank you for having me. I have not found out what was wrong with the books. But neither were my Republican colleagues, nor the governor`s office or the Education Department were able to find out what was wrong with anything that was inside the books.

I think what we can agree on is that this is just a continuation of the cultural war that we dealt with in this last legislative session. Reviewers were asked to flag Critical Race Theory, culturally responsive teaching, social justice, as relates to CRT, and they found none of it nowhere within the books, because it`s not being taught.

REID: Interesting.

So, one of the -- why one of the reviewers said the book -- said a book was acceptable -- this "The Tampa Bay Times," said: "One reviewer vetting a middle school math textbook said the book met all the state`s standards on Critical Race Theory and justified it this way. First example with a black student pic is basketball, most pictures of white people, unless sports- related." That was approved.

So they`re saying, as long as the black people who are showed are playing basketball, and the -- most of the other pictures are white people, book`s good.

Your thoughts?

JONES: Well, here`s the thing.

I think, as we look at what`s happening right now in Florida and nationally, this is all the boogeyman approach that we see that`s happening. The state of Florida continuously, they`re going after these issues that are not issues within the state of Florida.

Yes, listen, yes, I think, Joy, to be honest with you, the time that the state of Florida is wasting on these types of things, we should be looking at what we can do to put teachers in the classroom, considering that we have this mass exodus that is happening, but yet and still, here we are bending over 54 books.

Now, mind you, we have had this process in place long before the governor was here, book reviews. I served as a book review when I was a teacher. And never were we dealing with things like this, to where it was censorship...

REID: Yes.

JONES: ... like the state of Florida is doing.

REID: And here`s another one.

Moms For Liberty. This Moms For Liberty review, per "The New York Times," Chris Allen, an activist with the conservative group Moms For Liberty, objected to math problems that she wrote "suggested a correlation between racial prejudice, age and education level," stuff like that.

You have a reviewer who is not a math expert named Jordan Adams. He`s a civic education specialist at Hillsdale College, a conservative college in Michigan. He`s part of a leadership team at Hillsdale working to expand its network of charter schools. Huh. Critics have raised concerns that his curriculum -- that the curriculum he wants promotes politically conservative views on American history.

He flagged the textbook because it talked about racism at all.

Do you -- what is the mix in your mind that you have been able to look at between wanting to cleanse books of anything about race that makes people like the Moms For Liberty and people like Ron DeSantis uncomfortable? What percentage of it is that? And what percentage is wanting to buy the books from this one Carlyle Group-related entity that is also related to the governor of Virginia?


JONES: Well, that`s where it`s at, for me.

The fact where it`s at for me is, who`s benefiting from this? Because while you are banning books all for the sake of the -- it`s teaching Critical Race Theory, someone`s making money on the other side. And I think is a great deal -- a great percentage of it is the person who was making money off of the state of Florida, off of the Critical Race Theory.

REID: Very quickly.

Did you have -- have you gotten any information? There was a story that came out this weekend that maybe what the governor should be paying attention to is the $200 million that was lost from a Florida pension fund because they had investments in Russia that Ron DeSantis decided not to retract.

There were $300 million invested in Russia-backed companies; $200 million of that is gone. Any answers on that?

JONES: I think the governor has said that he`s going to leave it up to the legislature to make that decision.


JONES: Behind you, 12 dozen other legislatures have already made laws to make sure that we push back on what Russia is doing.

REID: Yes.

We`re out of time. But, very quickly, I know that you`re trying to activate black voters in the state. Tell us very quickly about that.

JONES: Very quickly, May 21, 2:00 p.m., statewide rally for black people, going to Jacksonville, to Key West to push back on what`s happening in the state of Florida with the trampling of black people.

REID: Good luck with that.

Florida state Senator Shevrin Jones, thank you very much, sir.

Still ahead: There are still so many unanswered questions about the Republican Party`s embrace of lobbyists who were pushing Putin`s agenda here inside the United States.

Back in a sec.



REID: So, I want to tell you a little story about the very corrupt consultant class in Washington.

This story stars two people. You will recognize one named, Paul Manafort. He was partnered with this fellow named Rick Davis. One was heavily involved in a campaign, and the other was known to be buzzing around it.

But these two men also had their own lobbying firm together, whose main clients all point back to the Kremlin. In fact, Manafort`s objective on behalf of his client had been to overturn a democratic revolution in Ukraine and prop up the Kremlin`s man in Kyiv.

Now entrenched in this American presidential campaign, they got to work, setting up a meeting between the candidate and a guy named Oleg Deripaska on a yacht. His name should be familiar to you. He is a now-sanctioned Russian oligarch who has many ties within American politics, at least with one party.

The goal was to manipulate this candidate into helping Russia`s attempts to take over a country, a neighboring former country -- formerly neighboring country -- or neighbor former satellite called Montenegro, by pushing for its independence from Serbia.

Now, you might recall that it was Montenegro`s prime minister who was shoved aside at a NATO summit during a group photo by a certain orange person. And, by the way, I am not talking about Trump`s 2016 campaign or his 2020 election effort.

No, this is a story about John McCain`s 2008 presidential campaign. These men, especially Rick Davis, who was McCain`s campaign manager, entangled John McCain, of all people, someone who is very, very anti-Russia, to help advance Putin`s imperial ambitions.

That bizarre story came back to life this weekend, by dint of an epic series of Twitter rants by one Steve Schmidt, who you seen frequently on this show. The rant was originally about McCain`s daughter. And, yes, yes, he definitely knows who her father was.

Of course, McCain lost the 2008 election to Barack Obama. But, as we know, Manafort, along with his Kremlin allies, found their way into yet another campaign, namely, the campaign of probably the most dangerous, almost cartoonishly derelict person ever to run for, let alone win, the presidency of the United States. And that, of course, is Donald Trump.

And as much as we already know about the catastrophic dangers of Trump`s presidency, we are learning even more about the incredibly disastrous actions he and his administration were looking to pursue.

And that is next.



REID: As dangerous as the Trump administration was, it could have been a lot worse.

And that`s coming from those who were on the inside. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was fired by Trump just after the 2020 election and is now trying to gin up sales of his new book, and launder his reputation in the process, is dishing about all the dangerous things he claims that he heroically helped Trump -- help prevent -- sorry -- from happening.


NORAH O`DONNELL, HOST, "CBS EVENING NEWS": What kind of terrible things did you prevent?

MARK ESPER, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: At various times during the -- certainly the last year of the administration, you have folks in the White House are proposing to take military action against Venezuela, to strike Iran.

At one point, somebody proposed we blockade Cuba. These ideas would happen, it seemed every -- every few weeks, something like this would come up, and we`d have to swat them down.


REID: Joining me now is Matthew Dowd, MSNBC contributor and founder of Country Over Party.

Matthew, it`s always great to talk with you.

I know that my mom used to always say, don`t roll your eyes in your head because they might stay that way.


REID: But I am tempted to roll my eyes all in the back of my head when I hear these people who, in the moment of our greatest peril, they thought to write down everything that was happening and keep copious notes, so they could write a book.

Here is another thing that Mark Esper, who, let me remind everyone, was nicknamed the Yesper during his tenure as defense secretary, because he let Trump do whatever he wanted. Here he is now saying Trump is indeed a threat to democracy.

Here he is.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Do you think Donald Trump was a threat to democracy?

ESPER: I think that, given the events of January 6, given how he has undermined the election results, he incited people to come to D.C., stirred them up that morning, and failed to call them off, to me, that threatens our democracy.


BAIER: So, yes?

ESPER: I think the answer would -- what else can you conclude, Bret?


REID: I`m just going to roll my eyes and let you talk.


MATTHEW DOWD, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don`t think you should give anybody any credit for anything they do when they didn`t have the courage to do it at the time it could have had an impact.

I mean, all of these folks that are these former Trump folks that now come out and say, I did X, Y and Z, whether it had to do with the pandemic or now all these crazy things that we all knew at the time were going on in the midst of this, it would have had an impact if, in that moment, they had the -- they were brave enough and had the courage enough, especially somebody like Mark Esper, who was commanding people that were in the field, that had the courage to fight in the field.

He didn`t even have the courage to say it in the moment that it could have a significant impact. So I give no, absolutely zero credit. And, actually, I am critical of people that try to profit off of writing a book, when they weren`t -- didn`t have the bravery to do it in the moment.

REID: Yes, indeed.

And then some of the stuff he said -- I mean, I think, while I am rolling my eyes at people like him, and Barr, and all the rest of the enablers who are now running out trying to hawk books to make themselves sort of seem heroic, some of this stuff -- I still believe what they`re saying.

I mean, he says here that Trump proposed launching missiles into Mexico to destroy drug labs. I mean, just that the stuff that is coming out is terrifying. What does it bode if Donald Trump were to be president again? Because my presumption is, all of the same figures or their replacements would let him do whatever he wants, as they did before, meaning we could be in for a world of hurt if this guy was ever president again.

DOWD: Well, I think, if Donald Trump is elected president of the United States in 2024, then we might as well just mail -- mail our democracy in and we`re no longer that.

REID: Yes.

DOWD: I mean, I think, if he is able to get reelected, and he`s going to surround himself -- we thought some -- there were many bad people he surrounded himself with.

He`s going to surround himself with the worst of the worst, because he`s going to want to do exactly what he wants to do. And now we have discovered, if that were to happen, the Republican Party will do nothing to push back...

REID: Yes.

DOWD: ... absolutely nothing to push back. So, if that occurs, I think we`re on the -- we`re over the precipice of a loss of our democracy.

And I`m not -- I`m not a person of hyperbole, but I think, if that was to happen...

REID: Yes.

DOWD: ... that`s where we`d be.

REID: I agree, or, really, I mean, any of them, because I don`t know that DeSantis is any better than Trump.

And I think that it`s clear that the people who -- like the current House minority leader, would let whoever it is get away with it, because they have made it very clear that, even when they personally believe the truth and they know the truth, they don`t care. If it`s part of being an apparatchik to power, they will do it.

I see no heroes here. Mark Milley, I will give as an exception.

Here`s a "Washington Post" headline. "Mark Meadows," who was the chief of staff, "granted those peddling conspiracy theories about a stolen election direct access to the Oval Office, personally connected with the president. He pressed the Justice Department to investigate spurious and debunked claims, including the bizarre theory that an Italian operation had changed the votes in the United States. He pushed the Justice Department unsuccessfully to try to invalidate the election results in six states," on and on and on.

At this point, former Attorney General Eric Holder says that there should just be an indictment, that that might be what needs to happen. Do you think the Justice Department -- I don`t even think they will, but should they, if they were so inclined, to indict Trump?

DOWD: Well, I`m one of these ones of the only people that are prosecuted thus far are all the foot soldiers, and not a single leader.

REID: Yes.

DOWD: And if no single leader of what`s -- what happened on January 6 and what happened throughout the Trump presidency has been held accountable in this, then we`re not going to get any further in this.

And I would ask your viewers, in the midst of this, as we head into `22 and the judgments they need to make, let go of dogma, let go of ideology, and they should just vote to things on Election Day: Who has integrity and who`s willing to stand up with integrity...

REID: Yes.

DOWD: ... and who supports democracy and our Constitution?

Let it -- all else go. Vote on those two things.

REID: Yes.

DOWD: And that`s the only way.

I don`t have confidence that the Justice Department is going to hold them accountable.

REID: Same.

DOWD: But the voters will.

REID: Maybe if Eric Holder was still there.

Last question. Comment for me, if you will, about the fact that the Paul Manafort-Rick Davis wing has been trying to insert Kremlin politics into our -- into our politics, at least maybe since the Bob Dole campaign, at least according to what Steve Schmidt was tweeting this weekend, and definitely into the McCain campaign.

DOWD: Well, you know I was involved with the George W. Bush campaign in 2000, and I was his chief strategist in 2004.

One of the common things that we knew is, don`t go near those guys.

REID: Yes.

DOWD: Those guys are corrupt. Those guys are slimy. Don`t go anywhere near them.

And I think one thing about John McCain, you can hold two things simultaneously. Yes, he was a war hero, but, two, he had really bad judgment at really crucial times.

And Sarah Palin and Rick Davis being in the middle of a campaign is a sense of really bad judgment that John McCain had, and he was a war hero. You can hold those two things simultaneously.

REID: Yes.

And one of the things Steve Schmidt said is, the people who pushed to have her be on that campaign, these same slimy individuals. The Russia wing wanted Palin to be on that ticket.

Matthew Dowd, it`s scary stuff.

Thank you very much, sir. Really appreciate you.

That is tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.