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Transcript: The ReidOut, 9/1/22

Guests: Peter Welch, Jelani Cobb, Xochitl Hinojosa, Stuart Stevens, Karine Jean-Pierre


In a prime-time address to the nation, President Biden is expected to call out MAGA Republicans for extremism that threatens democracy. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre discusses the Biden administration agenda. A court hearing is held in the case of classified documents Trump stashed at Mar-a-Lago. Congressman Peter Welch speaks out.





JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Politics doesn`t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn`t have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.


REID: President Biden made an appeal for unity in his inaugural address, but, one hour from now, he will not be as gentle.

In a prime-time address to the nation, the president is expected to call out MAGA Republicans for extremism that threatens our democracy. Contrast that with the former president who`s certainly doing nothing to discourage his supporters` worst impulses. Instead, he`s flailing around with nonsense arguments about the classified documents he stole, as a judge prepares to make a decision on Trump`s request for a special master to decide if he can get the stolen property back or decide what happens to it next.

But we begin with the battle for the soul of the nation, the topic of tonight`s prime-time speech by President Biden. He will deliver that speech in about an hour in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, one week after calling his predecessor`s vision for America, semi-fascist.

Biden will make the case that the fate of America`s democracy is at stake. And here`s some of what he plans to say, that: "MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards, backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love."

He will also issue this warning that -- quote -- "For a long time, we have reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed, but it is not. We have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it, each and every one of us."

The speech will come just hours after the latest legal standoff over the boxes and boxes of classified documents found in the twice-impeached former president`s private home and golf resort in Florida.

Today, we also learned the fate of a former New York police officer who received the longest sentence yet in a January 6 case, 10 years in federal prison, for attacking a D.C. police officer with a flagpole and then tackling the officer to the ground and attempting to rip off his gas mask.

Also today, the Oath Keepers` top lawyer was arrested on charges related to the attack on Congress. These are some real, hefty consequences. But, still, the leaders of the insurrection, including the man it was intended to benefit, walk free.

In a new interview, Donald Trump said that, if he wins back the White House, he will look seriously at full pardons and a government apology for January 6 defendants, an apology not from them, but to them.

It`s a terrifying glimpse of what a second Trump term would mean for the nation and for the world. We already know what they`re capable of. We`re still in the midst of it, with their poisonous disregard for democracy, for elections,for the very world we inhabit, for public health and science, their cruel disregard for women and girls robbed of dignity, as stories of human tragedies mount.

This is only the beginning, which brings us back to the soul of the nation, the rallying cry of Biden and Democrats are amplifying two months before these pivotal upcoming elections, when voters will decide which vision of America will endure.

All it takes is one election, folks, one decision to exert dramatic change in the course of a nation. Never has that fork in the road felt more evident or more perilous.

Joining me now is White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

And, Karine, thank you so much for being here.

Give us a sense of what we`re going to hear from President Biden tonight, because you and I both know that Biden ran as somebody who could supersede the differences in this country. And, instead, he`s run into a buzz saw that included the January 6 insurrection. He has had to readjust his thinking about what could be done and what could be accomplished in partnership with the other side.

We just read some of the pretty strong quotes. Is that going to be the tenor of the entire speech?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, you got some excerpts, Joy, of what is in the speech, which is something just to give the American people and your viewers essentially a little bit of what the president is going to talk about, because it`s going to be an important moment, an important speech.

Look, what you`re going to hear from the president tonight are core themes that you have heard from him the last three years. As you know, Joy, we have talked about these, how to -- the need to protect our democracy, the need to protect our rights, our freedom, how important that is.

And he`s going to do it at Independence Hall, where those core democracies -- that core part of our democracy, our rights were debated, they were drafted. And that is so important to him to have the support in conversation right now.


Look, not -- for about two centuries now, more than two centuries, America has been a beacon for the world. And now what we`re seeing is an assault.

And so he`s going to lay that out, what that attack has been. He`s going to lay out who it is coming from. And he`s going to also lay out, what do we do next? How do we move forward?

One thing that I know you understand, Joy, is that this president, Joe Biden, is an optimist. So you`re going to hear as well how to move forward, how we can come together as a country to make sure that we are fighting indeed for our rights, fighting for our democracy, fighting for our freedom, because we do have a choice to make.

You were saying that at the top of top of your show. There is a choice that has to be made. And so we`re going to hear clearly from this president about what that choice is, and lift that out and lay that out for the American people very, very clearly and boldly.

REID: And we`re seeing President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, stepping off of Air Force One. You can see that happening right now, as he gets to Phil -- to prepare for this speech. They came a bit early.

And, Karine, I have to ask you this. There are -- there was some pretty frightening polling out there that shows a plurality of Americans believe that civil war is likely in this country. Is the White House at this point -- you said that Joe Biden is an optimist. It`s kind of hard to be an optimist when you have something like 40 percent of Americans and 54 percent of Republicans believing civil war is likely.

Does the president believe that we could wind up in literal armed conflict with these MAGA Republicans he says threaten our democracy?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, here`s the thing.

When you think about being president of the United States, the way that this president sees this is that the president has to be the strongest voice for our democracy. That`s what Joe Biden believes. When it comes the sitting in the Oval Office, when it comes to being here at the White House, you have to be the voice that is the leader, and that is fighting for that democracy -- our democracy.

That`s what you`re going to hear from this president. He`s going to continue to fight for our rights. He`s going to continue to fight for our freedoms, because he believes that is one of the most important jobs that he has.

Look, this is a scary time. This is definitely a time that we should all be concerned about. And you see that for a majority of Americans. But we also believe that a majority of Americans understand that there is a choice to be made, that we can do this together, that we can stand up to what is in front of us, this extremist, this extremist part of one party, these MAGA Republicans in Congress, and their agenda that is incredibly dangerous, that is going to set us back, that is going to take away our very rights, our freedoms.

So that`s what you`re going to hear from this president. And he believes we have to do this. He has to have this conversation. He has to be the leader that has that voice, because he is the president of the United States.

REID: Press Secretary -- White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, I thank you very much for being here this evening.

Let`s bring in Eugene Robinson, columnist for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst, and Stuart Stevens, former chief strategist for Mitt Romney`s 2012 campaign and a senior adviser to The Lincoln Project.

Eugene, I want to start with you, because you have covered and written columns about this president for quite a long time. He`s been around a long time in American politics. And he always occupied this sort of perfect mean, this median. He is a moderate Democrat.

So it struck a lot of people as sort of off Joe Biden`s brand to talk about fascism on the other side, because he`s always tried to reach out. What do you make of the fact that he now finds himself giving a speech about whether part of the other party threatens our democracy?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that is off his brand, Joy, but it`s the truth.

I mean, it`s where we are. Remember why he ran for president in the first place. He wasn`t going to do it. He saw what the Trump presidency and Donald Trump was doing to the nation, how it was dividing us. He saw the white supremacists in Charlottesville, and he decided that this was a pivotal moment and that our democracy was in peril.

And nothing we have seen since would disabuse him of that idea or disabuse anybody of that idea. This is a serious moment. This is a serious election coming up. There will be another one in 2024, one hopes.

But the very process of our democracy and the peaceful transfer of power is threatened when one party, and a lot of one party refuses, to acknowledge the results of free and fair elections. I mean, that`s the that`s the fundamental problem. The policy issues, we can deal with.

But you have to acknowledge elections and the peaceful transfer of power. And MAGA Republicans do not recognize that.


REID: You know, and, Stuart, it is -- it is -- Joe Biden has had no choice but to evolve, because the Republican Party has devolved in that way. It is -- it is, as Eugene says, a party that has a core, and it has a base that - - I mean, we can put that poll back up -- 54 percent of whom, strong Republicans, believe that civil war is likely.

And it`s not clear that they don`t want it. I think that when you see all adults saying they fear civil war, a lot of people fear it. One wonders whether there are some Republicans who wish it. And that puts Joe Biden in a position of having to be a very different kind of president than he intended to be.

STUART STEVENS, THE LINCOLN PROJECT: Look, I think the greatest danger in moments like this is not to recognize the greatest danger.

And I think what the president`s doing today is extraordinarily important. You have to go out and recognize what is happening in this country. There are no longer two parties in the sense that we have known them. There was a center-left and center-right party.

There`s really one party that still believes in democracy, and you can disagree with some of their policies, but they still believe in democracy. And then there is an autocratic movement. And what we have to realize is that all the elements of a successful autocratic movement are in place for Republicans that want to go this direction.

They have the propagandist wing in FOX and all their allies. They have the financiers, vastly wealthy people like Peter Thiel. They have the backing of a major party, the Republicans, and they have shock troops, like the troops that assaulted the Capitol.

Every time a democracy slides into an autocracy, those are the elements that are there. And it`s a lot better to recognize it now. It`s difficult to talk about this. It`s sort of like a pandemic, because you sound alarmist at the beginning. But, at the end, it will prove inadequate.

REID: You`re absolutely right.

I mean, it`s happened before, Eugene. And you think about the 1930s, when there was a fascist movement in the country openly supportive of the Klan, calling itself America First, that FDR had to face. And there were factions of it inside of his own party that he had to fight.

There was an alleged attempt to overthrow the FDR administration. It was backed by some very, very wealthy financiers that preferred the fiscal policies that were associated with a more fascistic form of government. So we have been here before. There was the propaganda, everything.

And you think about the cyclical nature of American history. Biden finds himself sort of in that sort of FDR position, trying to do all big economic things...


REID: ... while having to fight this.

ROBINSON: That`s absolutely right.

And FDR did not shrink from the fight. And Joe Biden has, I think, quite properly decided he will not shrink from this fight. And he will not decline to give it a name and to tell the American people, precisely identify the danger.

And, as Stuart said, it is -- there are not two parties, the way we used to have them in this country. There simply are not. There is one that still believes in democracy, and then there`s the MAGA Republican Party, which is not a -- not a small-D Democratic Party. And it seeks a very, very different America.

And I think he has to call this out. President Biden has to call it out. And I think he will tonight.

REID: And, Stuart, one would think that there would be somebody on the other side that would like to salvage what`s left of the Republican Party and respond in a positive way. But it`s hard to imagine who that might be.

I don`t know. One imagines that the response is going to be what Ted Cruz has already tried to do today, to call Joe Biden, of all people, a communist and that kind of thing.

Is there anyone left that has the stature in what`s left of the Republican Party to be able to meet Joe Biden in this center he`s trying to recreate?

STEVENS: Well, look, we`re living in a world in which a Cheney, a Cheney, was drummed out of this party...


STEVENS: ... because she spoke the truth.

REID: Yes.

STEVENS: I think one of the great misconceptions here is that something has hijacked the Republican Party. That is not what has happened here.

The Republican Party is what it wants to be. It is on the path that it wants to be. No one is forcing any of these leaders to stop them from going out and saying, I will never support Donald Trump even if he`s the nominee of my party.

But very few have done that. So I think we just have to deal with the world as it is. And when you look at the `30s, I think it`s a great topic of conversation. Why didn`t America become fascist, when so much of Europe did? Probably because Roosevelt was president, and not Lindbergh.

So maybe what we learned when we had civics classes still, the leaders matter. And, right now, it is tremendously important that Joe Biden is president in the United States and is calling this out.

REID: And thank you for mentioning civics classes and also history classes, both of which might not survive in about half of our states, unfortunately.


Eugene Robinson, Stuart Stevens, always a pleasure to speak with you both thank you.

And we are awaiting President Biden`s address to the nation at the top of the hour. And we will bring it to you live here on MSNBC.

And up next on THE REIDOUT: the court hearing today on the classified documents Trump stashed at Mar-a-Lago. His lawyers have compared it to an overdue library book, if you can believe that, and called espionage a mundane offense.

Sure, Donald, maybe if the library book was about how to out an American spy.

THE REIDOUT continues after this.



REID: As President Biden is preparing to address the country about the threats to democracy from the ideology of the extreme MAGA Republicans, the leader of the MAGA movement continues to show his disregard for the very system that allowed him to be president in the first place.

In Florida, we are awaiting a decision by a federal judge on whether she will grant Donald Trump`s request for a special master. A third party who would review the documents the FBI seized during its search of Trump`s Mar- a-Lago estate last month for any privileged material.

Federal magistrate Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, ended today`s hearing indicating that she would release her decision in a written statement in due course. The judge also said that she would make public the Justice Department`s more detailed list of what the FBI seized from Mar-a- Lago.

During the hearing, one of the lawyers for the twice-impeached former president tried to downplay the entire investigation of Trump taking countless highly classified and sensitive government documents and stashing them for 18 months in his public golf resort, comparing the documents to -- quote -- "overdue" -- "an overdue library book."

Kind of doubt that`s what our intelligence agencies will call some of America`s most closely guarded secrets. Interestingly, though, is what Trump`s legal team did not say. Namely, they never disputed the fact that Trump was in possession of these highly classified materials, even after Trump`s custodian signed an affidavit in June saying all of the classified material had been handed over.

The DOJ argued that approving a special master would disrupt their ongoing criminal investigation. And that`s because Trump is no longer president. He therefore has no claim of executive privilege over those documents.

And given Trump -- given that Trump`s team waited two weeks to even file a request for a special master, the DOJ noted it had already reviewed all the documents and set aside those that may be protected by attorney-client privilege.

Now, remember, last week, the judge had indicated that she was inclined to approve the request, though she did not say that was her final decision.

Joining me now is Andrew Weissmann, former FBI general counsel and a senior member of special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigative team.

I have so many questions. I wish I had more time, but I`m going to start with one. And this is just my geeky question. Is there any significance to the fact that the judge is saying she`s going to issue a written ruling, rather than reading a ruling from the bench? Does that mean anything?

ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So, Joy, I love geeky questions. I`m a total nerd. So I appreciate it.


REID: Nerds rule.

WEISSMANN: So, I don`t -- I wouldn`t put a lot of weight on whether it`s oral or written.

She could have maybe done an oral ruling and said written decision to follow. But I actually think it`s useful for her to take time and think through what she`s doing and put it in writing. Either side may try to appeal this. So she`s going to want to put, I think, her best foot forward.

So I wouldn`t put too much stock in the sort of medium that she chooses.

REID: To me, I wonder what it is that she`s considering.

I mean, Trump`s own lawyers -- Ms. Habba, Alina Habba, on "Hannity" last night, let me just play her. This is what Ms. Habba said last night on FOX.


ALINA HABBA, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I do have firsthand knowledge, as you know.

I have been down there. I`m down there frequently. I have never seen that. I have never, ever seen that. That is not the way his office looks. Anybody that knows President Trump`s office, he has guests frequently there.

It is -- it`s just a joke.


REID: Isn`t that an admission that he had the documents and that he had them in his office, where people visit?

WEISSMANN: So -- yes.

REID: That sounds like that`s not helping him.

What has she got to decide?

WEISSMANN: Yes, so -- well, I think I, in terms of that statement you just played she is invited herself getting a grand jury subpoena.

I mean, she said: I`m a fact witness. I was there.

So, it just seems highly unlikely that she isn`t going to be in the grand jury to testify.

I do think there`s one thing to clarify for people that I do think is fair game. There`s sort of two privileges that the judge is looking at, executive privilege and attorney-client privilege. The executive privilege, if she were to rule in Trump`s favor that a special master could review for executive privilege, I really think that -- I would expect the Department of Justice to appeal that.

It`s so off the wall -- that and there is just no law to support that position. And they -- and Trump`s lawyers did a terrible job of coming up with anything to deal with that.

But on attorney-client privilege, it really isn`t the case that the sort of horses out of the barn. The government has said there are a certain limited number of documents that may be attorney-client. So the judge could say, you know what, see if the parties agree or disagree, and if you have got an issue, bring it back to me.

I don`t think it warrants a special master, because we`re talking about a limited group of documents. In my view, that`s why a federal judge is a federal judge. They`re supposed to roll up their sleeves and do the work.


REID: Yes.

WEISSMANN: But at least on the limited attorney-client privilege documents, I wouldn`t be surprised and it wouldn`t offend me or be shocking to have the judge say that that`s something that needs to be brought to the court or, even though it wouldn`t be ideal, to say, I will have a special master review that and then report to me.

REID: Right.

And so that`s helpful. But we know that the -- Trump`s own attorneys have acknowledged he had the materials. There is no dispute that he had these materials. And it seems to me that the Presidential Records Act of 1977 is pretty clear that those materials belong to the United States government.

So, to be clear, anything -- the only thing that she could, in theory, even rule might be adjudicatable are things that you said might be something his attorney might have given him that might have been commingled with those documents. Is that -- is that what you`re saying?

WEISSMANN: Yes, exactly.

So, the executive privilege -- if he`s saying there`s executive privilege, the remedy is,those belong to the Archives. I mean, those are not his documents.

REID: Right.

WEISSMANN: So the only thing that could raise a sort of an attorney-client issue is if he had personal documents where he was communicating with his private lawyers.

REID: Right.

WEISSMANN: Just to be clear, it`s not communications with White House counsel.

REID: Yes.

WEISSMANN: That`s not -- there`s no privilege there.

If, for some reason, those documents existed in what was seized, then there might be an issue, and the judge can decide that, and the parties are heard. That happens all the time.

REID: Yes.

WEISSMANN: And that -- if this was any other case, this wouldn`t be going on.

REID: A lot of this wouldn`t be going on.

He wouldn`t have been 18 months been able to hold onto top secret document.

Let`s really quickly talk about Pat Cipollone now -- I suppose he`s now going to give testimony to the January 6 Committee, he and an aide. What`s the significance of that? What do we -- what are you expecting to hear from him, as well as Pat Philbin, White House counsel Pat Philbin?


So, two very senior former White House lawyers, they`re going to apparently be in the grand jury. I`m going to commend the Department of Justice. I think it`s really important, in a public corruption investigation, to lock people in the grand jury, because you know what? When they get to trial, they have a way of saying, I don`t really remember that anymore.

So having a written transcript of exactly what they said, really useful.

REID: Yes.

WEISSMANN: In terms of substance, Joy, they have so many pieces.

One, they have information about Mar-a-Lago, and because, you remember, these two lawyers were the ones who were designated by former President Trump to deal with the Archives and be his representatives. So they`re going to have information about that.

On the January 6 material, remember, they were in critical meetings on dealing with Trump`s plan to change the leadership of the Department of Justice, so they could put in a flunky to say that there`s fraud investigation, when there wasn`t one. They were in meetings where there was an issue of having a special counsel created, which was going to be -- I can`t believe I`m even saying -- Sidney Powell was going to be a special counsel.

I mean, it`s insanity. They should have evidence about the pressure on the vice president to get him to go along with his plan, pressure on state officials, as they were in a whole host of meetings that are critical and central to the January 6 investigation in Congress and the one at the -- at the federal Department of Justice.

REID: Yes, absolutely. Brilliant, fascinating stuff.

The great Andrew Weissmann, who was too much of a gentleman to rebuke me completely when I said the January 6 Committee, when I really meant the grand jury, but he sort of gently corrected me.

Thank you for doing that. You`re wonderful. Have a great day. All right -- evening.

President Biden -- up next: President Biden looks to thread the needle with an important speech balancing optimism with a condemnation of the forces threatening our democracy. That speech is coming up at the top of the hour, so stay right there.



REID: We are awaiting President Biden`s speech tonight, an appeal for normalcy in the face of chaos and a call to beat back the rising threat to democracy from MAGA Republicans, reviving the theme of his campaign from the very beginning, launched citing white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.


BIDEN: And, at that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.

I wrote at the time that we`re in the battle for the soul of this nation. Well, that`s even more true today. We are in the battle for the soul of this nation.


REID: The brokenness of our country has only deepened since then, with the former president`s denial of his loss in a free and fair election, the hallmark of American democracy, and as his supporters embrace political violence, exemplified by the assault on our Capitol on January 6.

Tonight, President Biden will defend American democracy as he tries to pull us out of this crisis of what he calls semi-fascism.

It`s an interesting role for a politician who came of age in the era of John F. Kennedy, who made a similar appeal against hatred and violence. It may be hard to believe now, but Kennedy didn`t start out as a warrior for civil rights.

He was reluctant to lose the support of Southern segregationist Democrats by pushing too hard for federally mandated desegregation, after narrowly, very narrowly, winning the presidency in 1960.

But after a summer of protests and racist government-enacted violence across the American South, and on the day that federal officials made possible the integration of the University of Alabama, June 11, 1963, with segregationist Governor George Wallace literally blocking the schoolhouse doors, that night, President Kennedy addressed the nation and, urged on by his brother Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, he put the full weight of the presidency behind the fight for civil rights.



JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities.


REID: The road to obtaining the freedoms in the Constitution for all would still be long.

Medgar Evers, the field secretary for the Mississippi NAACP, was assassinated in the early morning hours after Kennedy`s televised address. But just as the once reluctant JFK became a fighter for civil rights, President Biden, whose political career was inspired by his fellow Irish Catholic`s call to a new generation, will tonight also take to the airwaves as a fighter for our democracy.

Joining me now is Jelani Cobb, dean of the Columbia Journalism School and staff writer for "The New Yorker," and Xochitl Hinojosa, Democratic strategist.

Thank you both for being here.

And, Jelani, I have to go to you first, because Biden, to me, is such a fascinating character in history. I mean, he is the sort of moderate`s moderate. And he did come into office believing he could heal these rifts in the country that were characterized by Trump in Charlottesville.

And, instead, the blowback that he got was January 6, people literally believing he is not the elected president of the United States. He`s had to sort of ideologically grow up real fast.


And I think that one of the crucial things here is pointing out that, in general, presidents are given -- they govern in the times that they`re given, not according to their own predispositions. And so what your character is and what your beliefs are and what your hopes and aspirations are, are one thing.

But events have a way of kind of creating their own script. And so now we`re seeing these historical forces, which we have all talked about and we have seen, from Charlottesville to January 6 and all the kind of obscene -- obscenities that intervened between those two points.

We have seen this moment of crisis assert itself again and again and again. And now we`re seeing that Joe Biden recognizes the tenor of the time.

One other thing that I will say about this really quickly is that this is not entirely unprecedented. The last time we saw a president who was widely considered to be an illegitimate president from the opposing party was in 1876. That was the election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden, who was the Democrat in that case.

And that brought about the kind of calamitous demise of Reconstruction and a period of actual fascist rule in the South after that. And so the stakes for these kinds of situations are high. I`m not saying those things will be repeated, obviously, but saying that, historically speaking, the stakes of those kinds of moments are high.

REID: Yes, high indeed, yes, 1877, one of the darkest years in American history, in my view, because it was the literal end of Reconstruction as a result of the -- they used to call him "Rutherfraud B. Hayes" was the nickname they tried to give -- and Florida had played a part.

Of course it did.

COBB: That`s right. Florida did.

REID: Xochitl...


REID: As it always does.

Let`s talk about by just a little bit more on this -- his sort of evolution.

I got to play for you, Xochitl, this was president-elect Biden. This was his speech to the nation on January 6. Now, at this point, he`s president- elect. The January 6 insurrection has happened, and he started speaking literally 10 minutes before Trump tweeted out his video telling his supporters, go home, we love you, you`re very special, and after he also repeated his lies about the election being stolen.

This is what president-elect Biden said that day.


BIDEN: The scenes of chaos of the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are.

What we`re seeing are a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent. It`s disorder. It`s chaos. It borders on sedition. And it must end now.


REID: What do you think is going on in the mind of Joe Biden, Xochitl, as he discovers that it`s not a small fringe of the -- of people who were attacking the Capitol; it now is the baseline viewpoint of the Republican Party?

XOCHITL HINOJOSA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think that`s why you`re seeing President Biden give this speech today.


On January 6, President Biden was a leader, the leader that we needed at the time. He, as he did on the campaign trail, showed that he will be a steady hand, showed that he is someone who will continue to fight for our democracy, and he -- his entire campaign was based on the battle for the soul of our nation.

He wanted to return to normalcy, which a lot of Americans wanted as well. And that`s why he got elected.

And now what you`re seeing in the years since President Biden has been elected is not only people doubting our elections, but you have seen our rights taken away. And you have seen that this is also a fight for our democracy, but also equality.

And so you will hear that from President Biden. I think this is a smart speech for President Biden ahead of the midterm elections. He not only has to show the American people that he has delivered for them, which he has, and he`s had a hell of a few months to prove that, but he also has to show people what the contrast is, what`s at stake.

And we saw -- we have seen that through the Supreme Court. We have seen it through what happened on January 6 and the events after. But voters need to be reminded what is at stake in this election and how we could return back to where we were on January 6 if we do not put Democrats in office.

REID: Yes.

Jelani, I have a question, just sort of big picture. Are speeches like this meant to be persuasive, or are they meant to be sort of palliative for people who are afraid of the direction of the country? And at this stage in our history, could any speech by a Democratic president, given where we are, be persuasive still?

COBB: Well, I mean, I think that you have to consider these part of a bigger package of actions.

So, when we talk about presidential speeches of this caliber in these kinds of crisis moments, it`s partly the cultural symbolism of the presidency. And, in this instance, Joe Biden has done, throughout his career, but really in the time that he`s run for president and then taken office most recently, he`s really been driven by this belief that the country was better than its most recent behavior.

And so I think that`s part of it. In the bigger picture, however, no speech actually changes the tide in that way. You remember, LBJ gave the "We shall overcome" speech, but also had to send legislation to Congress after that.

So it`s not simply a one -- a simple one-and-done deal.

REID: Yes, absolutely. If politics were that easy, right?

Well, you almost -- I was going to say anyone could do it, but Donald Trump was president, so I actually have to amend that. You can`t say that line anymore. That doesn`t really work in our history anymore.


REID: Jelani Cobb, Xochitl Hinojosa, thank you for both for being here.

Meanwhile, we`re waiting President Biden`s address to the nation tonight. You can see all the microphone checks are happening right now. They`re making sure the prompters and everything are in place. You can see all the little behind-the-scenes pulling it all together on the tech side.

We will give you a little bit of through the window here and see how that looks.

But we`re going to go to a real quick break, but the battle for the soul of America, that is the theme of the speech that`s coming up right at the top of the hour, so stay right there.



REID: We`re just about 15 minutes away from the top of the hour. That is when we will see President Biden walk out to that podium that you see in front of you in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and give the battle for the soul of our nation speech.

It`s an important moment politically for the president as he tries to rally his party just 68 days before the November election, an election that could determine whether or not the country, frankly, remains a democracy.

Joining me now, Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont. He`s the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate in that state and a current congressman.

And I should note that you serve on the Intelligence Committee, sir, in the Congress -- in the House, where you are now.

So I do have to ask you for your opinion on where we even begin to assess the damage that the previous president has meted out on our intelligence services by hoarding documents in his house. And what do you make of the contrast between the previous president and the man speaking tonight?

REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): Well, no one -- no previous president has ever done what he did.

I mean, he basically stole documents -- and I say stole -- that are top secret. And no private citizen has authorization to do that. So it`s illegal. And when the president had them, the former president had them in Mar-a-Lago, he was a private citizen. So there`s a legal question. There`s a national security question.

Anybody could go into that room. It could be the pillow guy looking at those top secret documents that contain nuclear information. And we have got to assess that in Congress and in the Intelligence Committee. Have some of our human intelligence sources been compromised, their lives threatened, and have our collection methods been compromised?

And then, finally, there`s the political question. And that`s where Trump is comfortable in the swamp of accusations and denials and obfuscations and lies.

REID: What do you expect to hear from President Biden today?

Because it seems very difficult, the idea that he could ever reach across the divide to a party that does not believe he`s even the president of the United States, some of whom believe there are holograms around that make him...


WELCH: Well, he`s not speaking...

REID: ... sort of a fictional human being.


REID: ... and people who don`t believe in elections.

WELCH: Well, that`s exactly right.

And President Biden is not speaking to the MAGA Republicans, including the 100 or so Republican nominees for everything from secretary of state to the United States Senate who deny that he`s the president of the United States.

He`s speaking to each of us who has a deeply embedded hope and aspiration that we can maintain our democracy. What the president is doing tonight, he`s calling the question for each of us as a citizen, do we want to defend our democracy, because we believe in it, because we know it`s the way all of us can work together to try to solve our very difficult problems, or are we going to hit down the MAGA path of autocracy?

So this is timely. And it`s -- I expect him to be direct and straightforward, where each of us has to answer the question: Will we defend our democracy?

REID: Well, let`s talk about our democracy for a moment.

You are running to join the United States Senate, a body in which the Democrats have 50 seats, but represent 42 million more people than Republicans do. Our democracy is essentially designed to perpetuate minority rule in many ways.

You have people like Tom Cotton complaining and whining about Sarah Palin winning in a ranked-choice election vote, but minority rule is actually the way Republicans have power at all, between that and gerrymandering, which also is minority rule.

WELCH: Well, that`s right.


WELCH: We have structural challenges, the Electoral College, the extreme gerrymandering, really an unbalanced Supreme Court. These are all challenges that we have to face.

But the bottom line, a democracy is about majority rule and respect for minority rights. And we don`t have that right now. And, really, one of the biggest challenges in Congress is that we have finally been effective in doing things that will make a difference for the American people. And people want us to be effective. We have had to do that against the fight- for-failure approach of Mitch McConnell.

Now, McConnell does that because he thinks that, if we fail, he wins. But the casualty of his fight for failure is the erosion of confidence in democracy. So, it`s not just the MAGA Republicans. It`s the folks like Senator McConnell, who are hell-bent on doing whatever they can to get the gavel back, that is -- that they`re willing to do things that are going to undercut people`s faith in our self-governing institutions.

REID: Yes, indeed. It`s the reason the MAGA Republicans are allowed to thrive, because people like McConnell use them to stay in power.

Congressman Peter Welch, good luck with your Senate campaign. Thank you very much for being here.

OK, we`re just minutes away now from the start of President Biden`s prime- time address.

We`re going to get a live report from Independence Hall in Philadelphia next. Stay right there.



REID: There we have a live look at Independence Hall, where, in just a matter of minutes, President Biden will be speaking about the battle for the soul of the nation and the threats to democracy that our country is facing, specifically those from MAGA extremists.

Join me now from Philadelphia is NBC News White House correspondent Mike Memoli.

I will note that we`re going to hear you and not see you, because I know the cameras have to get ready for this address.

Mike, what are -- what is the White House projecting we`re going to hear tonight?

MIKE MEMOLI, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joyce, I think it`s so interesting the way that the White House has framed this speech about what they`re calling the continued battle for the soul of the nation.

That`s a recognition, an acknowledgement of the fact that Biden`s election nearly two years ago alone was not enough to drive a stake into the heart of Trumpism.

And what`s interesting is that Biden, in this speech, as one adviser put it to me, will be acknowledging and really coming to grips with the burden he has taken as president. He is dismayed, to some degree, not naive by any means, but by the fact that so many elected Republicans still are very clearly under the thumb of the former president.

But what the president is going to try to do tonight in what White House advisers insist will be an optimistic speech is really try to separate what he will make clear is the majority of the Americans, Democrats, independents, and he will make this distinction, mainstream Republicans, with that fringe, with that minority, albeit a potent one, of MAGA extreme Republicans who he will say are determined to take this country backwards, backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.

This is a president, though, who will try to express an optimistic tone, as I said, the White House saying that he really does still remain that congenital optimist who believes America`s best days are ahead of us, should Americans choose to take that path.

He is going to talk about what is -- the ways in which he has made democracy work, not just the partisan wins, the Inflation Reduction Act, the American Rescue Plan, but also some of those bipartisan achievements that Republicans have been willing to cross the aisle and to work for -- with him on, and that he believes there is still work to do.

But make no mistake, Joy, he is going to make that contrast very clear, an important one, with now less than 10 weeks before the midterm elections.

REID: Yes.

And, really quickly, this is a different president from the guy who was vice president to the first black president, yes? You have been covering him a long time.

MEMOLI: Yes, I have been covering for a long time the happy warrior Joe Biden, Joe Biden who was the Dairy Queen-eating, diner-visiting, handshake, selfie-taking vice president.

But now, as president, he has come to grips and acknowledged the burden of governing...

REID: Yes.

MEMOLI: ... at a time when there are still these threats to our democracy.

REID: Indeed.

Mike Memoli, the Biden -- really knowledgeable Biden reporter for a very long time, thank you very much.

That is THE REIDOUT for tonight. We are just moments away from President Biden`s address to the nation.

I`m going to hand it off to Chris Hayes for that -- Chris.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much, Joy. Really appreciate it.