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Transcript: The ReidOut, 6/17/22

Guests: Erika Alexander, Whitney Dow, Robin Rue Simmons, Lexi Churchill, Roland Gutierrez, Bill Pascrell


Nixon`s Watergate scandal is examined 50 years later. The alliance between Ginni Thomas and the people plotting to overturn the presidential election is explored. Congressman Bill Pascrell calls on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to resign. Texas state Senator Roland Gutierrez discusses why the city of Uvalde has hired a private law firm to try to prevent the release of records related to the Robb Elementary School shooting.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a police photograph of James W. McCord. He is one of five persons surprised and arrested yesterday inside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington.

McCord is a former CIA employee. Now he runs his own private security service. And guess what else he is? A consultant to President Richard Nixon`s reelection campaign committee.


REID: Nixon`s Watergate scandal began 50 years ago today.

Like Trump, his presidency ended in crime and chaos, but there were major differences in the methods the two presidents used to cling to power.

Also tonight: the unholy alliance between Ginni Thomas and the people plotting to overturn the presidential election. A member of Congress who is now calling for her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, to resign joins me.

We begin tonight with June 17, 1972, the day five bungling burglars broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee located in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Two years later, President Nixon resigned.

The 50th anniversary of Watergate comes as public hearings are under way by the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Two major political scandals nearly half-a-century apart, two presidents driven by a thirst for power.

Unlike Trump, Nixon pulled his scandal, despite being on a comfortable path to reelection. And his efforts to meddle were more secretive than the very public, brazen attempts by Trump, who relied on the cameras and the Internet to provoke his Capitol siege.

Let`s not forget that Trump pressured Vice President Pence privately too, bullied him even. And while Nixon was a bully too, just behind the scenes, he never set up his vice president for execution.

Trump, however, did exactly that, relentlessly badgering Pence to break the law, incorrectly claiming that the vice president had the power to unilaterally overrule the votes of 80 million people and reverse the results of the election, saying, if he didn`t, he was a coward or the colloquial word for a kitty.

It was as Trumpian as it gets, filled with taunts, harassment and lies.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope Mike is going to do the right thing.

I hope so. I hope so, because, if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.

Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn`t, that will be a sad day for our country, because you`re sworn to uphold our Constitution.


REID: At 2:24 p.m. on January 6, Trump condemned Pence in a tweet, just as the crowds outside and inside the Capitol surged.

This is what Sarah Matthews, a former Trump press aide, said in an interview with panel investigators about that crucial moment.


SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: It was clear that it was escalating, and escalating quickly.

RIOTERS: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!

MATTHEWS: So, then, when that tweet, the Mike Pence tweet, was sent out, I remember us saying that that was the last thing that needed to be tweeted at that moment. The situation was already bad. And so it felt like he was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that.


REID: On Thursday, the January 6 Committee revealed in vivid, terrifying detail just when the target was seared onto the vice president`s back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m hearing reports that Pence caved.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m telling you, if Pence caved, we`re going to drag mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) through the streets. You (EXPLETIVE DELETED) politicians are going to get (EXPLETIVE DELETED) drug through the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing but a traitor, and he deserves to burn with the rest of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just heard that Mike Pence is not going to reject any fraudulent electoral votes!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re a traitor!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s right. You heard it here first. Mike Pence has betrayed the United States of America!


REID: Now, remember, this attack came with bloodshed, what a Capitol officer called carnage.

They erected a gallows outside the building fit for a lynching. And the third hearing revealed that the Proud Boys would indeed have killed the vice president if given the chance, forcing Pence`s security detail to rush him from the Senate chamber to a nearby room, then down a flight of stairs to an underground loading dock, where he waited for nearly five hours.


It is hard to imagine a bigger scandal than the one that forced an American vice president to literally hide in a basement as a mob just dozens of feet away called for his head.

But the scandals we remember, that history remembers are the ones, like Watergate, that result in meaningful consequences. Today, new details emerged from the January 6 Committee. It is now cooperating with the Department of Justice to share transcripts of their interviews two days after the DOJ sent the committee a letter saying it was critical that the committee provide transcripts of all witness interviews. Consequences may be coming.

Joining me now is Michael Steele, MSNBC political analyst and former RNC chair, and Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian and host a "FIRESIDE HISTORY" on Peacock.

We like to think of Michael as our -- Michael Beschloss as our resident historian as well.

So, Michael, I`m going to let you go at it.



REID: I want to let you go at it, because these are the parallels, right? Both presidents wanted to remain president, wanted to cling to power. They had two very different methods.

But I personally feel that setting up your vice president for execution takes it up a notch higher than Watergate, but I`m going to leave it to you. You`re the historian.


BESCHLOSS: No, I think it does take it a notch higher than Watergate.

And I grew up always thinking that Watergate was a terrible scandal and maybe the worst American political history. And, until Donald Trump, it probably was. But Richard Nixon never dreamt of doing things like disrupting the peaceful transfer of power, which, as both of you well know, is the foundation stone of American democracy.

And, also, just as you`re saying, he didn`t like Spiro Agnew. I`m not going to call Spiro Agnew Michael Steele`s fellow Republican in Maryland. Michael has evolved quite a lot since he was in Maryland politics in those days. He was -- I should say, long after Spiro Agnew. But the point is that Nixon didn`t like him. Nixon wanted to get rid of him, but never wanted to go to this extent.

And the point is that Richard Nixon, as bad as he was, if we`re talking about peaceful transfer of power, look at what he did in 1960. He lost to John Kennedy. That election, as you both know, was decided by two states, Texas and Illinois, Texas 45,000 votes, 9,000 votes in Illinois.

Nixon was convinced until the end of his life that those two states were stolen from him. Yet, when it came to certifying the votes, Vice President Nixon on the 6th of January, 1961, went into the House chamber and graciously said, John Kennedy has been elected president of the United States.

And one of the great features of democracy, he said, is that, when there is a winner and a loser, the loser admits it and the loser says to the country, let`s unite.

REID: Yes, indeed.

I mean, Michael Steele, in one way, the difference between Nixon and Trump is that Nixon was a patriot. You can say whatever else you want about him...


REID: ... but he had the dignity to resign, right? In the end, he loved his country more than he loved himself. That is not true of Trump.

But I want to talk to you just a little bit about kind of the trajectory, because I do feel like a lot of Republican Party politics was shaped in the post-Nixon era by a resentment toward Nixon being forced out.

I, to this day, will swear that the impeachment of Bill Clinton was, in part, a chance to sort of balance the checkbooks. There was a determination to impeach Bill Clinton, no matter what. You`re going to look for something because they wanted to balance the checkbooks.

You had people like Roger Stone that came out of the Nixon era that thought you could just get a better version of Nixon. And he explicitly said -- there`s a documentary called "Get Me Roger Stone," where he says Trump would be the perfect new Nixon.

And I feel like Nixon really shaped the kind of resentment politics, not to mention the racial politics, of the Republican Party. What do you think?

STEELE: No, I think that`s a very accurate historical point.

In fact, not just Nixon being balanced by what we see going on -- what we saw going on with Clinton, but also when you go back and you look at the Bork nomination, and Merrick Garland is paid back for Bork, and all the efforts beneath the surface, the other efforts that we have seen play out, in stalling and pushing back against Democrats on Supreme Court nominations.

So there is there -- we`re nothing if not petty.


STEELE: I mean, I think that that -- I think that that`s clear historically at this point.

We`re the elephant symbol for a reason, because we do remember the slights...

BESCHLOSS: Long memory.


STEELE: ... and the unfortunate knocks upside the head.

But the difference, though -- I think it`s important to point out, as Michael did, the difference between these two men. Nixon had a connection to the country.

REID: Yes.

STEELE: Say what you want about how he performed in office. He had a connection to the country, and he knew where the bright lines were.

Trump didn`t give a damn about the connection to the country, had no clue where the lines were, in fact, didn`t want to know where the lines were, because that was just an unnecessary burden he would have to carry around to know that, OK, I got to pretend like I really care here.

So there`s a big difference. And what stark about that, in my view, is how much the party, how much the party just acquiesced to obliterating the lines...

REID: Yes.

STEELE: ... no longer caring about the country, which is what the stand was for me personally in 2020, that country matters more than the party.

REID: Yes.

STEELE: And I think a lot of people see that now starkly, as these hearings on the hill have shown.

REID: And, Michael Beschloss, I mean, Nixon did usher in the Southern Strategy, which took the whole idea of resentment and racial resentment and weaponized it.


REID: And -- but he didn`t have FOX News. He didn`t have right-wing media. He didn`t have Breitbart. He didn`t have that ecosystem that could turbocharge that, to the point now where you do have a group of Americans who believe that any election that is decided largely on the basis of what minority voters want is illegitimate, period, and that they don`t have to accept it, and they actually don`t need to accept it.

I want to play Donald Trump. This is Donald Trump in October of 2020. This is October, before the election, making it clear that he really didn`t believe that he necessarily had to accept an election he didn`t win. Take a look.



QUESTION: Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferal of power after the election?

TRUMP: Well, we`re going to have to see what happens. You know that.

I have been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster.

QUESTION: I understand that, but people are rioting. Do you commit to making sure that there`s a peaceful transferal of power?


TRUMP: We will want to have -- get rid of the ballots, and you will have a very trans -- we will have a very peaceful -- there won`t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.


REID: There will be a continuation.

At this point, retired federal Judge Michael Luttig, who is about as conservative as they come, that he was -- he would have had, believe, the Alito seat if a previous president had wanted it.


REID: Said that: "Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy. They`re executing that blueprint for `24 in open and plain view of the American public. I would have never uttered one single one of those words unless the former president and his allies were candidly and proudly speaking those exact words to America."

Have we crossed a threshold where one of our political parties is actually a danger to our democracy?

BESCHLOSS: We have, because the majority of the Republican Party voters and also leadership seems to support Donald Trump, even though, on the 6th of January last year, he almost took our democracy away.

I always grew up thinking that conservatives were people who loved -- who loved our American institutions, like elections and the way the political system works. This is not a conservative party anymore. This is a party of radicals who want to destroy.

And the fact that Judge Luttig could have -- Luttig could have come so far as to say something like that, after being the darling of conservatives for decades, I think almost says it all.

REID: Yes.

I mean, they have ruined the great name of the radical Republican, because radical Republican actually was a good thing like in 18th century.


STEELE: Yes, it used to be.

REID: It was a...

BESCHLOSS: Radicals who were keeping on Nixon -- Lincoln`s back to make sure he was tough on the South, as he should have been.

REID: Don`t get me started on Hannibal Hamlin. I will do a whole hour on Hannibal Hamlin. Don`t get me started. Don`t threaten me with a good time.

BESCHLOSS: OK. We will talk about that...


REID: We`re going to do that one day. I`m obsessed with Hannibal Hamlin.

Let`s talk a little bit Michael, Michael Steele, because we`re at a point now where this is what makes me nervous. There was a Yahoo/YouGov poll that said half of all Americans -- and this is whether you`re a Democrat or Republican -- now predict the United States may cease to be a democracy someday.

And I wish they`d asked a follow-up question, are you OK with that? Because a new survey conducted after the first hearing found that fewer than one in, 24 percent, said they watched initial prime-time broadcast live. Nearly half, half, say they`re not following these hearings at all.

I`m not sure that we have enough of a critical mass of Americans that care whether we`re a democracy or not. There are much -- many more people, I think, out there who don`t necessarily care one way or another. They just really want to know what`s going to be the price of gas and do they get what they want when they vote for Trump or whatever other Republican they prefer.

STEELE: Yes, I`m going to try to do my best Ari Melber, but I won`t, in trying to recall the song that goes, yes, you`re going to miss me when I`m gone, right?



STEELE: And that`s basically what democracy is saying to us right now as a country.


BESCHLOSS: Or maybe, how could I miss you if you won`t go away?


STEELE: Right.


STEELE: Well, there`s that too.

BESCHLOSS: Sorry. Sorry.

STEELE: No. No, but that`s essentially what the country is saying, what democracy is saying to the people of this country right now. You`re going to miss me when I`m gone.

REID: Yes.

STEELE: You guys -- you guys, yes, I get your fixation high gas prices and inflation, yes, and those are important. They really are.

REID: Yes.

STEELE: But, in the final analysis, when you`re standing there at the pump paying $2 again for gasoline, but instead of going to the polling place, you have to go back home because you can`t vote anymore, or they stripped - - stripped your ability to do so freely, that`s a problem.

REID: Yes.

And, as you said, you only find out when it`s too late, normally, when democracies fall.

BESCHLOSS: That`s right.

REID: My favorite Michaels, Michael and Michael, Michael Steele and Michael Beschloss.

Wishing you guys a wonderful happy Juneteenth weekend. Thank you both for being here.

And up next...

BESCHLOSS: Thank you. You too. Thank you, Joy.

REID: Thank you.

And up next on THE REIDOUT: After new revelations about the connections between Ginni Thomas and the people plotting the events of January 6, a member of Congress is calling on her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, to resign. He joins me next.

THE REIDOUT continues after this.



REID: The news this week that Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was communicating with John Eastman, a man accused of illegally trying to corrupt the democratic process, has once again cast a shadow over her husband`s tenure on the court.

This isn`t the first time Mrs. Thomas` activism for conservative issues has landed a couple in hot water. Strangely, she`s the only spouse of a sitting justice who remains politically active. Chief Justice John Roberts wife gave up her law career and her work with a nonprofit anti-abortion group in order to help her husband avoid any appearance of conflicts of interest.

The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg`s husband, Marty Ginsburg, gave up his very successful law practice, so his wife was free from any conflicts as well. Not Ginni. Nope. She actively leaned into her political activism and launched a conservative consulting group, whose clients have filed amicus briefs before the court her husband sits on.

And Ginni Thomas` role in aggressively and repeatedly advocating for an undemocratic and illegal reversal of an election really calls into question Justice Thomas` impartiality. The justice did, after all, say that he and his wife are melded as one.

And, by sheer coincidence, Justice Thomas was the lone dissent in the Supreme Court`s January order rejecting Trump`s bid to withhold documents from the January 6 panel. The court has refused to weigh in on the growing crisis of confidence. And, frankly, they probably never will, because the court is held to a different standard, which basically is no standard at all.

They`re basically untouchable. Well done, founders.

In the meantime, the public is losing patience and faith. A recent poll showed that 73 percent of Americans believe that the justices should be bound to the code of ethics that all other federal judges are required to follow.

And, yesterday, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey said -- quote -- "Clarence Thomas cannot possibly be seen as a neutral actor, but instead as a corrupt jurist who has poisoned the High Court. Clarence Thomas should have dignity and final respect for our democracy and resign."

Congressman Pascrell joins me now.

Given the fact that he`s...


REID: Thank you so much.

Well, given the fact that he`s shown no interest in cleaning up this appearance of conflict, going all the way back -- I mean, I`m going to put up on the screen, Clarence Thomas` wife, Ginni, she`s publicly advocated over the years for repealing the Affordable Care Act.

He voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. She`s jumped on Donald Trump`s Islamophobic travel ban. He voted to uphold Trump`s Islamophobic travel ban. She`s advocated to overturn the 2020 election. He voted, as I just mentioned, to withhold documents. Repealing Roe v. Wade. He supports repealing Roe v. Wade. Gun restrictions. He doesn`t want him. He has -- he has voted in favor of overturning D.C.`s ban on guns and reversing transgender rights. He`s not for them. And he`s voted as such.

I mean, they track. He`s never shown any inkling to resign. Why do you suppose he would now?

REP. BILL PASCRELL JR. (D-NJ): Well, you know, Joy, no one is above the law.

I think we have already established that in this country, that there is no way out if the law says, this is what you need to do. And I will read you what the law says. You come to your own conclusion.

And that is, the law says: "Any justice, judge or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which the impartiality might, might reasonably be questioned."

Now, we know that the judge on the Supreme Court, Mr. Thomas, has already ready made decisions on whether or not cases would be heard in front of the Supreme Court talking about all these fraudulent activities, what 62 judges through the heck out.


And they`re coming before the Supreme Court -- and they want to come before the Supreme Court. And he did not recuse himself, even though his wife, which she has every right to do, but it`s his wife, and he is very special person the court. The law is clear.

And I believe that he does not deserve to serve on the court if the law says he can`t if there are problems, and there are problems and major problems here, Joy. So, I think...

REID: Are you implying that he`s -- are you implying that he`s broken the law?


The law says very clearly...

REID: How would he be held...

PASCRELL: That`s why I read it. My opinion is not important.

REID: But how would he -- how would he be held to account? Because we have separation of powers.

The Justice Department is in the executive branch. He is in, obviously, the judicial branch. The separation of powers, it feels like the way that the court was built, he is basically untouchable. Are you saying that -- who would prosecute him? And do you think Merrick Garland would?

PASCRELL: The Supreme Court -- the Supreme Court will have to be judge and jury. They take care of their own internal matters.

But Mr. Thomas should have at the time recused himself when, before his wife`s messages to Mark Meadows came out, all 230-some of them, and we find out that was a very interesting relationship.

But they`re going home at night with each other. And I don`t believe and nobody else believes -- and it doesn`t matter what I believe or you believe on this. It`s what the law says.

REID: Yes.

PASCRELL: He should have recused himself.

His wife is not an escape hatch for him.

REID: Last question. Do you believe that he should be impeached? And do you think there`s a chance he would be impeached by Congress -- by the House, even if the Senate wouldn`t convict them?

PASCRELL: Well, the point of the matter is, that is what the Supreme Court has decided, because there`s nothing written in the law that somebody else is going to oversee this.

The court would have to take care of itself.

REID: Themselves. OK.

PASCRELL: And within it -- it may not ask him to resign.

It would ask him to recuse himself from the things that are brought before the court that should not be.

REID: Right.

PASCRELL: Now, look, this has been a treacherous trail, Joy, from the very beginning.

REID: Yes, it has. Yes, I don`t think anyone disagrees with you.

PASCRELL: For four years past.

REID: I don`t think anyone disagrees with you.

PASCRELL: Four years past.

REID: Congressman Bill -- Bill Pascrell, thank you so much for being here. Really appreciate you being here.

PASCRELL: We can`t back off, Joy. We cannot back off.

REID: Thank you very much, sir. Thank you.

All right, well, you have heard him.

Well, the city -- still ahead: The city of Uvalde hires a private law firm to try to prevent the release of records related to the Robb Elementary School shooting, saying they could be highly embarrassing.

You think?

We will be right back.



REID: Today marks seven years since the attack on Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine people lost their lives to a hate- filled gunman who slaughtered them at Bible study.

Just last night in Alabama, there was another shooting at a church. Three people were killed. We have now had 56 mass shootings since the horrific massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, last month. That is more than two mass shootings per day.

There are still many unanswered questions about the police responsive in Uvalde. Late today. "The New York Times" reported that a Uvalde police officer armed with an AR-15-style rifle actually had a chance to shoot the gunman before he entered the school, but chose not to take the shot, out of fear of hitting a student. That is according to what the officer told a senior sheriff`s deputy.

And this afternoon, after initially refusing to cooperate, the Uvalde Police Department has agreed to testify before a House committee tasked with investigating the police response, according to Texas officials.

Meanwhile, instead of setting the record straight about what happened, multiple other agencies are pushing the Uvalde County district attorney to prevent records of the deadly shooting from being released, potentially for months or even longer. And they`re apparently trying to use a loophole in the law to do it.

Joining me now is Texas state Senator Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, and Lexi Churchill, research reporter for ProPublica and "The Texas Tribune" investigative unit.

Thank you both for being here.

And I want to start with you, Senator Gutierrez.

I mean, what we have had now is the Uvalde County district attorney -- and her name is Christina Mitchell Busbee -- saying that she will not be holding a news conference or releasing anything to the public, keeping everything very private until the Texas Rangers and the FBI finish their investigation, which could take several months. She`s talking about six months, at the earliest. That means after the election.

Do you feel that there`s been essentially a cover-up, a standoff? Are people stonewalling, in your view?

STATE SEN. ROLAND GUTIERREZ (D-TX): Well, Joy, up until June 2, we were getting pretty regular information from DPS, the Department of Public Safety.

And then, at that point, my last text to the -- with the DPS director was that he had been ordered not to speak by Ms. Mitchell Busbee. As of yesterday, she claims that she`s not overseeing an investigation. That`s what she told the local ABC affiliate.


And so it`s just been this back and forth. Last Sunday, she went on in the local Uvalde paper to describe her investigation, so, it -- suggesting that it was going to take six months. There`s certainly lots of confusion, but lots of obfuscation, lots of lying, lots of half-truths.

REID: And what do...

GUTIERREZ: Yesterday, she told, again -- go ahead.

REID: Go ahead.

No, you go ahead.

GUTIERREZ: She told the station -- she told the station she was protecting the families yesterday.

The fact is, I have talked to 17 families that want to know the truth. They want to know the truth.

REID: And what do you make, Senator, of this new news that there was an officer who had an AR-15, who had the kind of firepower that the gunman had, didn`t take the shot?

I mean, I -- when my producer told me this, I`m thinking to myself, it`s legal to carry an AR-15 in Texas. I`m wondering, how would you know who to shoot if somebody was just carrying one?


REID: It`s legal to open carry.

GUTIERREZ: Well, that`s right, exactly.

And that`s one of the things that I said last year, when we -- when these guys passed open carry. Unfortunately, the last thing I said, that, because of this bill, kids are going to die. I never would have thought that that was going to actually realize in my own community.

There`s a lot of malfeasance going on here. Unfortunately, it`s with law enforcement and this district attorney`s office. We need to get to the bottom of this.

REID: Indeed.

Ms. Churchill, welcome to the show.

"The Texas Tribune" and ProPublica together have submitted nearly 70 public records requests for everything from 911 recordings, death records, ballistic records, et cetera. Have you gotten any of the things -- have your outlet or ProPublica, to your knowledge, gotten any of the information you have requested?


The only record, to my knowledge, at this point that`s been released was earlier this week by Governor Greg Abbott, who released his written notes that he had taken before that initial press conference that he later mentioned as proof that he was misled. And the records do seem to show that he received information that an officer had initially engaged with the shooter from earlier on in the shooting that happened.

So that has been the only record that`s been released, to my knowledge, but I think it`s notable that, as you said, we have submitted almost 70 requests. Two of them have also been to the governor`s office for e-mails and communications from that week. And he`s fighting that request, although he did release the records to another station that requested them. And we have we have gotten them as well.

But I think it just shows the discretion that the state Public Information Act really allows these agencies to determine.

REID: Right, because it does seem that what the governor released, it was meant to exonerate him for doing that press conference where he was festooned with police officers and praised them. He released the stuff that says, well, that wasn`t my fault, right? It doesn`t seem like he`s releasing things that would really help.

The Texas House speaker has tweeted this, that they`re using something called the dead suspect loophole. And this is what the Texas House speaker tweeted: "More than anything, the families of Uvalde victims need honest answers and transparency, period. It would be absolutely unconscionable to use the dead suspect loophole to thwart the release of information that is so badly needed and deserved right now."

And under that dead suspect loophole, Senator, law enforcement records that deal with an investigation that doesn`t result in a conviction doesn`t have to be made public, because the suspect is dead. Is that what`s being used to keep the families from knowing what happened?

GUTIERREZ: Yes, unfortunately, I suppose that that`s what the district attorney is alluding to. Unfortunately, every time that a reporter tries to getting any information from her, she runs away.

And so far as the speaker of the House is concerned, he`s -- he can go off and have open meetings. He doesn`t have to have these cloistered behind- the-scenes meetings or -- that are done in executive session. I mean, they can do that if they so chose.

Unfortunately, we`re in this space where neither the speaker of the House or the lieutenant governor are going to let us know any information that the public has a right to know.

REID: And, Ms. Churchill, I have also just heard sort of anecdotal reports and reports from people who -- like yourself, who`ve been on television, that the families are not necessarily accessible to journalists, even if they want to be.

Is that true? Has there been any attempt to sort of keep families from talking, the families of the victims?

CHURCHILL: I can`t speak to that as much directly.

But I know there had been reporting that police officers and various other people were keeping reporters on the ground away from funerals, specifically, in the few weeks since the shooting has happened.

REID: And do you get a sense that, just as somebody, as a journalist who`s trying to report on what happened, that you have gotten enough information to be able to accurately report on what happened inside that school?

CHURCHILL: Definitely not, Joy.

I mean, there`s been so little -- as the senator mentioned, so little from public officials since that initial week. And so much of that was contradictory and has since been corrected or sidestepped at this point, that we were really hoping to get some of these records that aren`t filtered through public officials and showing us their -- the perspective that they want us to see.


It`s just that raw information that we were hoping to get some clear answers from that we`re not getting now.

And I do want to note. You mentioned some of the requests that we had put in earlier, as far as some traditional things like 911 calls and incident reports. But we have also had pushback to other requests that are really typically records that we would have access to usually.

One of my colleagues on the ground wasn`t allowed to view campaign finance reports, which is a really typically available type of record. So we`re really seeing a lot of sweeping pushback, as far as public records go, at least.

REID: Well, we`re going to stay on this story.

And I thank you, Texas Senator Roland Gutierrez. I know you are all over it. And so, hopefully, you will come back, and, Lexi Churchill, you as well, because we do want to keep following up on what happened in Uvalde.

Thank you both.

Up next: "The Big Payback," a thought-provoking new documentary, looks at arguments for and against reparations.

Co-directors Erika Alexander and Whitney Dow, and the focus of the film, activist Robin Rue Simmons, join us next.



REID: Sunday commemorates the newest federal holiday, Juneteenth, recognizing the emancipation of enslaved black Americans.

It`s been more than 30 years, meanwhile, since the late Congressman John Conyers first introduced a bill to study reparations for descendants of enslaved people, known as H.R.40, now sponsored by Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

Every Congress since 1989 has failed to pass it. Last year, H.R.40 got further than ever, passing the House Judiciary Committee, but it remains stalled. While Congress languishes on addressing the wrongs inflicted on generations of black Americans, cities and states are taking action. Last year, Evanston, Illinois became the first city to issue slavery reparations, a $10 million project funded with revenue from recreational marijuana sales.

The new documentary "The Big Payback" follows the fight of Alderman Robin Rue Simmons to obtain that big payback for black residents of Evanston and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee`s fight to pass H.R.40.


REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): We were so excited when we saw the legislation. In fact, we have used it in presentations that we have made.


JACKSON LEE: I use your outstanding construct. You have been, Councilmember, a real hero, shero to me. You really have.

SIMMONS: Thank you. Thank you.

Being a member of National League of Cities, we learn that government starts locally. And the thought was, why not do what we can, do here at a local level, while H.R.40 is working through its process, through your leadership? We could have layers of repair and layers of remedy, because, as we know, those damages, yes, were rooted in slavery, but it looked like discrimination even still today because of the color of our dark skin.


REID: Last week, I joined Simmons and Congresswoman Jackson Lee, along with co-directors, actress Erika Alexander and filmmaker Whitney Dow, for the premiere of "The Big Payback" at the Tribeca Film Festival.

And I should mention that my husband, Jason, and I are also among the co- executive producers of that film.

And I`m joined now by "The Big Payback" directors Erika Alexander and Whitney Dow and Robin Rue Simmons, former Fifth Ward alderman in Evanston, Illinois, and founder and executive director of FirstRepair.

Thank you all for being here.

And I have to start with you my friend, Erika Alexander.

Talk about the genesis of this film.

ERIKA ALEXANDER, CO-DIRECTOR, "THE BIG PAYBACK":Yes, thank you so much for having us on.

"The Big Payback," the genesis is that it`s a documentary about reparations. Obviously, it`s directed by me and a white male co-conspirator and collaborator, Whitney Dow.


ALEXANDER: And it`s following the historic stories of Alderwoman Robin Rue Simmons and then Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

We started this at the initial hearings in 2019. And then we heard about what Robin Rue Simmons did, and we totally pivoted and got there to start filming her, where we witnessed her beginning to implement the groundbreaking local bill in Evanston as the first tax-funded reparations bill in America.

And that`s what we did. And we also have been following Congresswoman Lee leading the 30-year fight to pass the national study in Congress.

REID: And, Whitney, I know you from The Whiteness Project. That is how we met. You used to speak to my classes when I used to teach at Syracuse.

And why did you think it was important for a white filmmaker like yourself to be involved in a project that was about reparations? Why should white audiences care about this?

WHITNEY DOW, CO-DIRECTOR, "THE BIG PAYBACK": Well, we created this situation. It`s our job to solve it, right?

I mean, we created slavery. We created the structural racism that disenfranchised black Americans for generations. And I really feel like -- I hope that, when audiences watch this film, they see a place for them in this story, and that they need to step up to the plate and participate in the repair.

REID: Absolutely.

And, Robin, we follow you, we get to know you and your daughter, your family through this film. Talk about the fight, because it was a fight, to try to not only get the reparations project in place, but also to have the recipients in the community of Evanston accept it as reparations. Talk a little bit about that.

SIMMONS: Absolutely.


So there was really no pushback in our city on passing reparations and beginning the process. But, as we got into identifying and prioritizing the harm, there comes the challenge, because there is such great harm. A portfolio of remedies are needed.

And to choose one and move forward with that, as you will see in the documentary, it is challenging. And so there`s really no right or wrong. All of it is needed. And in municipalities, we have far less capacity. We have more of a specific harm, and the repair will need to be in direct correlation to the harm.

And so, in Evanston, we started with housing, because our harm is specifically in anti-black zoning laws and housing practices.

REID: And, Robin, I want to talk about how it goes from here, because I -- the fight for H.R.40 is actually still going on. I know that you now do this work full-time.

There`s a headline here. There`s a coalition called We -- Why We Can`t Wait. It`s a coalition that`s urging the president to use his executive authority to start a reparation study. And it`s a coalition that`s a human rights and racial justice coalition that sent this letter to Biden, asked him to issue this executive order to create a commission to study reparations nationally.

Just from having gone through this fight, what do you think it will take to move the fight forward, to move H.R.40 out of committee and into passage?

SIMMONS: Well, we stand in solidarity with that group.

Many of us have the same expectation of President Biden at this point. We need to take action. There are now over 100 localities that have passed some form of a local reparations initiative. And Congress and our president should be hearing from these cities and states all across this nation that are calling for reparations.

We are standing, hopeful that he will do the right thing and sign by executive order. But we see the challenges, how this nation is regressing with voter rights issues and Critical Race Theory and so on. And it would be the statement that we need to hear from our president and this administration to pass H.R.40, that it is not just a ceremonial commitment to black lives, but it is an actionable commitment to black lives and redress with passing reparations.

REID: And I want to note that, California, there`s a task force suggesting reparations in a report detailing lasting harms of slavery in California.

It`s the first state to adopt a law, the first statewide law to study reparations proposals. It`s the Reparations Task Force. It`s a 500-page interim report that`s come out detailing those harms. So, there is movement on this issue.

Erika, the other thing that happens in this film is that we really get to know Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. I knew -- obviously knew her as a guest that I have had on the show, but we really got to know her in this film.

What is the importance of her place in history?

ALEXANDER: She`s carrying on where John Conyers left off, but she`s part of a very long line of people who have been in the fight since we had Reconstruction and it failed.

So, you`re talking about people like Callie House and Queen Mother Moore and John Forman. We have had a lot of people doing this work. And now we have a new group of people, NAARC, and several people that are not only continuing that fight, but helping her to stimulate from the outside and get that going, because she needs help. She needs our help on the outside.

And that`s what they`re doing.

REID: Absolutely.

I know there`s a free screening at the Apollo Theater on Sunday, I think at 5:00 p.m.


REID: So people should come out and check it out. There`s some ice cream involved if you go. It`s going to be good on Sunday.

ALEXANDER: That`s right.

Ben & Jerry`s is one of our partners. Yes.

REID: Absolutely.

ALEXANDER: Yes, on Sunday.

Go to for more information. Doors open at 5:00 at the Apollo. See you on Juneteenth.

REID: All right, the best ice cream ever.

Erika Alexander, Whitney Dow, and Robin Rue Simmons, thank you all very much. Appreciate you all.

OK, and up next, a very special edition of "Who Won the Week?" Don`t miss it.



REID: All right, everybody, we made it to Friday, which can only mean one thing.

It is time to play, ah, yes, "Who Won the Week?."

And this week, I do hereby declare that the winner of the week is you. You won the week, because, for the first time in American history, it is a national Juneteenth holiday weekend. That means you won the week, but also because, on actual Juneteenth, this Sunday, June 19, the first of four specials dreamed up by my MSNBC baby sister Tiffany Cross and me called "The Culture Is Black Women" premieres on MSNBC and Peacock.

Roll the clip.


TIFFANY CROSS, HOST, "THE CROSS CONNECTION": I look at this table and these amazing women sitting across this table, and I know everybody has earned their right to be here, beautifully placed at this table.

And, still, somebody can come in here and question our place at this table.

So, with that, I`d like to bring in Maria Taylor to the conversation.


CROSS: Because, young sister, we know that you earned your place, despite what others may say.

I`m just curious, because you have been in the line of fire. And we didn`t know you, but we knew you. We knew your story. You were our sister immediately.

So, how have you managed being in that line of fire, and handled it with such grace and success?

MARIA TAYLOR, REPORTER: The thing that keeps coming to my mind is, like, I just wish that there was a world in which everything that a black woman did, someone wasn`t coming to dim that light or blow it out.

Like, I wish that there was someone there fanning our flames.


REID: Now, in addition to that tea and my old hairstyle, this special also includes Nikole Hannah-Jones, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, comedian Robin Thede, and the vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, plus many, many more.

Join me and Tiffany Cross for "The Culture Is: Black Women" Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC and streaming on Peacock.

And that`s it. That is tonight`s REIDOUT.

Happy Juneteenth weekend, everybody.