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Transcript: The ReidOut, 9/19/22

Guests: Domingo Garcia, Nikki Fried, Asha Rangappa, Will Bunch


Is Donald Trump fully embracing the QAnon cult? As the new special master gets to work, why does Trump seem so confident that his claims of executive privilege will hold up? Did Ron DeSantis greatly miscalculate the politics of using migrant men, women and children as political pawns? Puerto Rico is without power again after Hurricane Fiona slams the island, leaving widespread flooding and destruction in its wake.



AMANDA GORMAN, FORMER NATIONAL YOUTH POET LAUREATE: Above all, I dare you to do good, so that the world might be great.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, her dare is our final thought for you.




QUESTION: The crux of theory it is this belief that you are secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Does that sound like something you are behind or...

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I haven`t -- I haven`t heard that. But is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing?



REID: Lordy Jesus.

Trump feigned ignorance about QAnon back when he was president. Now he`s fully embracing this dangerous cult, as evidenced by his creepy rally for J.D. Vance this weekend.

Also tonight, as the new special master gets to work, why does Trump seem so confident that his preposterous claims of executive privilege will hold up?

Plus, why Ron DeSantis may have greatly miscalculated the politics of using migrant men, women and children as political pawns.

We begin tonight with QAnon, the conspiracy-driven cult born in 2016 on the idea that there is a cabal of pedophiles, including prominent Democrats and media elites, running the world, drinking the blood of babies, and only Donald Trump can stop them.

They also believe that JFK Jr. is leading their resistance movement against the baby-eating hordes, despite the fact that he`s been dead for more than 20 years.

That bonkers idea, which used to be relegated to the darkest corners of the Internet, has now become mainstream in today`s Republican Party. They have even got some congressmembers in the faith.

That was evidenced this weekend at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, where, after years of playing footsie with the conspiracy theory, Donald Trump gave a full-throated embrace, specifically during this disturbing and just downright creepy moment.


TRUMP: A Department of Justice that refuses to investigate egregious acts of voting irregularities and fraud.

And we have a president who is cognitively impaired and in no condition to lead our country, which may end up in World War III.


REID: In that clip, where he`s speaking like this, you can hear music that`s almost identical to the QAnon on theme song, while scores of people in the crowd lifted their little pointy fingers in a salute, apparently a reference to the QAnon slogan, "Where we go one, we go all."

Many compared that display to something you might see in Nazi Germany, or from a Jim Jones cult gathering in the 1970s. But this was, in fact, a rally for a Republican Senate candidate, J.D. Vance, in 2022.

It comes just days after Trump reposted to his fake, sad, substandard version of Twitter a Photoshopped picture of him wearing a Q lapel pin overlaid with the words "The storm is coming," a message with dangerous implications.

One expert on this topic told the Associated Press: "`The storm is coming` is shorthand for something really dark that he`s not saying out loud. This is a way for him to point to violence without explicitly calling for it. He is the prince of plausible deniability."

In fact, just last week, Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that if he is indicted over his theft and mishandling of classified documents, the nation would face -- quote -- "problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we have never seen before."

Meanwhile, Republicans are silent because, even though he`s not in office, Trump and Trumpism have metastasized throughout the Republican Party like a cancer, so much so that Republicans running for office this November are taking a page directly out of his playbook.

"The Washington Post" reports that, out of 19 of the most closely watched statewide races in the country, a dozen Republican candidates have declined to say whether they would accept the results of the elections that they are competing in.

Joining me now is Will Bunch, syndicated columnist for "The Philadelphia Inquirer" and author of "After the Ivory Tower Falls," and David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and author of the new book "American Psychosis."

Thank you both for being here.

And, Will, since you`re at a disadvantage of not being -- sitting here at the desk with us, I`m going to go to you first.

I read your piece today on this mess, this thing that happened in Ohio. And the title of it, "This QAnon-flavored soundtrack to Trump GOP`s fascist right turn should terrify you," it did terrify me.

Talk a little bit about this merger. It seems now a full-blown merger between Trump and QAnon.



And I`m glad -- I`m glad you`re giving the story the importance it deserves, because, frankly, I think the media struggles with something like this, because it`s a style.

It`s not -- the words were terrifying, and you played some of them. But what`s really going on here is a paranoid style, a fascist style, frankly, because, as you said, I mean, to see those arms raised in unison and those fingers wagging really recall the scenes we saw in Nuremberg in the early 1930s.

There`s no escaping it. And we have to talk about this, because we`re seeing -- we`re seeing the core leadership base of one of our two political parties transubstantiate from a political party into a cult right before our eyes.

The -- and this embrace of this quasi-religious theme with the music that they played, and I think he`s appealing to QAnon. I mean, it`s -- first of all, it`s out of the -- it`s just out of the fascist playbook to create a cult of personality to try and save himself. He`s having a lot of problems right now, with the documents probe, with the January 6 probe closing in.

He is seeing some of his support peel off. So he wants to make the hardest- core supporters more rabid, more committed to him personally. And, frankly with some of these Q`s, like he said, who are willing to commit violence on his behalf.

And people need to be -- pay attention to this and be alarmed.

REID: I mean, it`s warlordism, right?

I mean, David, what he`s doing is, because, as Will said, he`s in trouble, he`s decided to become a warlord, and he`s gathering his people around him, much the way Jim Jones, when he was under fire, decided to hand out the Kool-Aid, much the way the movement in the 1930s around Mussolini and the one around Hitler in Germany, let`s just be honest.

And look, don`t quote me. J.D. Vance used to say he was America`s Hitler, before he joined the club.

This is something that you wrote in your in your new book, "American Psychosis." Here`s the quote.

It says: "The problem was Republicans, the voters, the people, not just those few thousand in the January 6 rage-driven mob, but the millions who accepted Trump`s reality-free and irrational assertions, who looks to this dissembling, power-mad egotist for the truth. Republican officeholders devoted themselves to Trump because he owned the allegiance of these voters. He had won the Republican masses. His prejudices, his lies, his resentments were theirs."

So this is not just a problem of Trump. It`s a problem of the people who follow him.


And what I write about and talk about in the book that just came out is that, for 70 years, the Republican Party has encouraged and exploited far right extremism,. You can go back to the paranoia of the McCarthy era, when they believed there was the cabal trying to bring the government down from inside the government.

It was QAnon without baby-eating and satanic rituals, right?

REID: Yes.

CORN: And then you can go all the way up through the alliance with the John Birch Society, the early `60s. You can go up through alliances with white supremacists and, of course, the Tea Party, which was conspiratorial- bent.

They believed that Barack Obama was a secret socialist Muslim who had a secret plan to destroy America, so he could impose a totalitarian dictatorship. And what did John Boehner do in those days? He embraced the Tea Party and brought it in.

REID: That`s right

CORN: So, for 70 years, there`s been this dark side to the Republican Party.

In fact, my book is basically the saga of the dark side of the GOP.

REID: Yes.

CORN: And then Trump came along, and either because he calculated this or he felt it instinctually, he said, this is where the heart of the party is.

REID: Yes.

CORN: These millions of people who have been fed this radicalized far right extremism from the party and have been authenticated and validated by John Boehner and Sarah Palin and others and Newt Gingrich going back a few more years.

They want red meat. They want the reddest meat possible. I can do that. And he did in 2016. It worked. It almost worked again in 2020. And now he`s just -- this is escalation, that he`s now just merging MAGA with QAnon. We should now call it QMAGA or something, and throwing in Christian nationalism.

REID: Yes.

CORN: So he`s taking the playbook that has worked again and again for the Republican Party and put it into, like, hyperdrive.

REID: Yes.

CORN: And that`s what we`re seeing today. And after the January 6 attack at the Capitol right across the street from us, it seems that the Republican Party did not put the brakes on the crazy.

They thought they could do that for a few seconds. Instead, everything since then has gotten crazier. And he just keeps going beyond. And now, with the full embrace of QAnon, it is a whole new ball game for the Republican Party. And the question is, J.D. Vance, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, are they going to follow him fully on this?

REID: I mean, yes.


CORN: I mean, we know they are.

REID: Yes.

CORN: We know the answer is yes.

But he`s taking the party even to a more extreme direction.

REID: Yes.

And, I mean, the thing is, Donald Trump, Will Bunch, he grew up in something of a personality cult himself. I mean, he and his father were devotees of Norman Vincent Peale. For those who don`t remember who that is, he`s the power of positive thinking guy.


Let`s play a little clip of him.

This is cut two for my director.


NORMAN VINCENT PEALE, AUTHOR, "THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING": Positive thinking works wonders. And it does too. That is for Sure..

Whatever your life is this morning, unsatisfactory, unhappy, defeated, perhaps, I want to tell you, it doesn`t need to remain that way.


REID: And he -- Donald Trump said this to "Psychology Today."

"I`m a cautious optimist, but also a firm believer in the power of being positive. I think that helps. I refuse to be sucked into negative thinking on any level, even when the indications weren`t great. That was a good lesson, because I emerged on a very victorious level. It`s a good way to go."

I mean, he is very much a devotee of that belief system. And on the subject that David mentioned, Will, about the conversion -- and he mentioned the Tea Party. And this is one thing I think the media missed. The Tea Party was stage one of this in the modern era.

Let`s look at the number of people who have not answered whether they will accept an election that they`re in. Inside of the governor`s office, I see Ron DeSantis in that list. He was a backbencher Tea Party congressman. He was a Tea Partier. You have people like Greg Abbott. You have people like Terry Mitchells (ph), Doug Mastriano, who is a Christian nationalist.

You`re seeing this merger. You go onto the Senate side, you have Marco Rubio, who was a normal, ordinary Republican, who then decided to jump on the bandwagon of what? The Tea Party. He became a Tea Partier, got on the cover of "TIME" magazine as the future of the Tea Party.

So you`re seeing that the Republican Party has willingly evolved into this, Lindsey Graham, all the rest. They`re doing this knowing what it is.

BUNCH: Yes, I mean, absolutely.

The Tea Party kind of subsided for a while when FOX News stopped promoting it for a couple years. But the sentiment never went away. The Tea Party basically faded from view right around the same time that Trump embraced birtherism.

And the whole Norman Vincent Peale thing, I mean, Trump sees himself as a master salesman. He loves this concept of the art of the deal. But we all know that, really, he`s a huckster, a con man. But that`s his sense, that he knows -- he knows what sells. And he probably doesn`t -- he probably doesn`t know the first thing about QAnon or understand what it`s all about. But he knows that it sells, right?

REID: Yes.

BUNCH: He knows -- he knows that they`re responding to people.

You see -- he looks out at the crowd, and he sees the people come in with their Q signs and their Q T-shirts. And he knows, I have got to -- I have got to sell these people.

REID: Yes.

BUNCH: And so he studies. He finds their music, and he plays it, right?

REID: Exactly, literally.

BUNCH: And he finds -- he finds -- yes, he finds their slogans and he adopts it.

And that`s his skill. You don`t -- you don`t become president of the United States without some kind of skill, even if it`s a diabolical one, which is what we saw in Trump`s case.

And -- but what`s alarming to me, I think, is the way that it`s not just Trump. It`s spreading throughout the Republican Party. I mean, it`s really -- it`s really very -- it`s really very vivid here in Pennsylvania with Doug Mastriano. He`s adopting the same things. There was a Mastriano rally where you had the same kind of raised right hand, bizarro pledge allegiance to the dear leader scene.

REID: Yes.

BUNCH: And so it`s morphing throughout the party.

REID: And, David, the question then becomes, is there anyone inside the party? And you have written an entire book about this? So, I expect you to answer this question for me right now.

CORN: Yes.


REID: Is there anyone in the party that has the moral gravitas left with this crowd of people who believe that there are people eating babies in Washington and in Hollywood who can arrest this movement before it turns violent, not for the first time, but, again, because it already turned violent in the Capitol?

CORN: You know, from a historical perspective, this is really interesting, because if you go back to the McCarthy era, you saw there were some Republicans -- the Republican Party first embraced Joe McCarthy even...

REID: The Kennedys did.

CORN: Even Eisenhower did.

But -- yes, but the -- but the Kennedys did. Then they saw it was a problem. When he was censured, half the Republican Party in the Senate censured him in the mid-`50s. Then you saw the John Birch Society rise up.

And Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley figured out how to use them at first. When they got out of hand and after Goldwater lost, then Buckley tried to excommunicate them, OK? So you have seen the early parts of this, some Republicans, Nelson Rockefeller and others, who are trying to keep the party from falling into the hands of extremists.

REID: But you don`t have anyone like that now.

CORN: You have no one like that now.

REID: Right.

CORN: I mean, my book opens with a bunch of Republicans trying to excommunicate the Birches at the `64 convention, and they get shouted down.

REID: Right. Yes.

CORN: You don`t have that anymore.

REID: There`s no one who`ll do it. Mitch McConnell sure as hell ain`t going to do, because he wants to benefit from it to get power for himself.

Will Bunch, David Corn, thank you both very much. Best of luck with the books, both of the books.

You guys, go out buy them.


Up next on THE REIDOUT: new reporting that the Trump team believed that they had a judge, OK -- get this -- who would validate their claims of executive privilege right in their little pockets. Who could that judge be, I wonder?

THE REIDOUT continues -- after this.



SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: When you saw the photograph of the top-secret documents laid out on the floor at Mar-a-Lago, what did you think to yourself? Looking at that image.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How that could possibly happen, how, one, anyone could be that irresponsible.

And I thought, what data was in there that may compromise sources and methods? And by that, I mean names of people who helped, et cetera. And it`s just totally irresponsible.


REID: The Trump legal team has until noon tomorrow to respond to the DOJ`s latest motion to temporarily block a judge`s ruling preventing them from accessing classified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.

The deadline comes just hours before the DOJ and Trump`s legal team will sit down for the first time with the newly appointed special master, judge Raymond Dearie. This all follows the decision from Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon siding with Trump`s legal team on the need for a special master, a decision that, by and large, the legal community, left, right and center, thought was bizarre and unprecedented and a mistake.

Even Trump`s former Attorney General and personal political fixer William Barr called it a crock of -- well, you know.

And new reporting from "The New York Times" about the infighting among Trump`s team of lawyers had this little interesting nugget. Over the course -- over the summer, when one of Trump`s former White House lawyers, Eric Herschmann -- you may remember him from the January 6 hearings -- tried to get guidance from Trump`s current lawyers on how to handle questions from prosecutors that raise issues of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege, two of the former president`s lawyers, Evan Corcoran and John Rowley, offered him only broad instructions in late August.

Assert sweeping claims of executive privilege, they advised him, after Mr. Corcoran had suggested that an unspecified chief judge would ultimately validate their belief that a president`s powers extend far beyond their time in office.

Joining me now is Asha Rangappa, special agent with the FBI is counterterrorism division, and the assistant dean of Yale university`s Jackson School of Global Affairs, and Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney and law professor at the University of Alabama.

Joyce, I`m going to go to you first.

That little nugget stood out to me and all of my producers, and we went "hmm" this morning. Did that little snippet about this unspecified chief judge stand out to you?

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s an interesting comment. But, frankly, Joy, we don`t know what it means. There are a lot of chief judges. We don`t know what the basis for the statement was.

I`m a little bit hesitant to get too far out on this one, simply because there`s such a lack of clarity. But that certainly underlines the need for DOJ to be able to proceed with the criminal investigation in this case, particularly since some of the charges that DOJ has suggested that they`re pursuing could involve obstruction of justice.

It`s a bright-line distinction between a federal judge in Miami and the Southern District of Florida who`s tried to shut down this criminal investigation and the need for it to proceed speedily.

REID: Let me go to you on this one, Asha, because, right, this idea of shutting down the investigation, what really, I think, has perplexed a lot of people, including laypeople like myself, is the idea that the federal government, that the FBI and the agencies involved in trying to investigate what happened to these documents, where they went, who they might have been shared with, et cetera, can`t even look at the documents.

But this judge thinks that Trump`s team, who are the alleged thieves of the documents, can review them, that they should be able to continue to have access to the stolen property, but the government cannot. I cannot make that make sense in my mind. And I`m wondering what you make of this ongoing contretemps?

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Yes, Joy. I don`t think that the confusion is just for laypeople.

I mean, we`re really in the legal Twilight Zone. This is a journey beyond imagination in terms of what the legal issues are, because what Judge Cannon has done is really muddy up what is I think the basic legal issue, which is, does Trump have a possessory interest in these documents?

As you mentioned, this is, at its core, a stolen property case. this is all government property, whether it`s classified, whether it`s declassified, whether it`s subject to executive privilege. All of this, except for a small sliver of personal records that do not have evidentiary value or attorney-client privilege materials that are not subject to some kind of crime-fraud privilege, all of this belongs to the government.

And so it`s not really clear what, to me -- and I would love to hear Joyce`s thoughts on this -- is what the purpose of the special master is. So what why sort all this stuff out? Because it`s not going to go back to Trump. They don`t belong to him. It`s not his records.

But I think, as you said, this judge has made it so that they have effectively shut down this investigation and, by the way, made the intelligence community unable to really assess the damage to national security that his actions may have caused.


REID: Right.

And so, Joyce, I will throw this back to you, because couldn`t Judge Dearie, since Donald Trump never actually produced any proof that he tried to declassified anything, never produced any proof that he did declassify anything, and never actually made the assertions that the judge made on his behalf about what he did with those documents, couldn`t Judge Dearie say, OK, here are these 100 records that issue; you, Trump team, you tell me which of these documents you think you own, and make his job like real quick, make it fast, and say you tell me, which of these things in here did you declassify? Which of these things do you think are yours?

VANCE: So there`s an argument that Judge Dearie can`t even handle these issues, that, because of the appeal to the 11th Circuit, he has to wait, and the district court has been divested of its jurisdiction until the 11th Circuit rules.

It`ll be interesting to see if DOJ makes that argument tomorrow or permits Judge Dearie to go ahead. And, as you say, Joy, he could absolutely engage in an order like that. Of course, it would have to be reviewed by Judge Cannon before it was affirmed.

But we have just gotten in the last few minutes some inkling from the Trump camp of where they`re headed on this. They have filed their letter to the court that Judge Dearie solicited from each of the parties in advance of tomorrow`s hearing.

And the Trump parties have said that they should not have to have any further support for their argument that these documents have been declassified put forward until November. And so what they`re, in essence, trying to do is get past the midterm elections, or it appears that they`re trying to get past the midterm elections before they have to engage on this argument, pushing back DOJ`s ability to reclaim control and the ability to use these classified materials even further.

Now we`re talking at least six weeks down the line.

REID: Let`s go through this just a little bit, Asha.

So we do have a few little details here. Apparently, the quarterback for Trump`s legal efforts is Boris Epshteyn. Now, back in the day, I used to be on TV with Boris Epshteyn. We used to like spar on daytime MSNBC together. I never thought of him as a legal quarterback of any significance.

But he apparently was the boss in charge of everything, which is the reason that Trump`s lawyer was like -- Herschmann was like, I think he`s an idiot. I think he`s an idiot and I`m not taking advice from him. That was -- that`s not me. That is -- that is what Herschmann said.

Trump team, apparently, according to an Axios story, said that they wanted Judge Dearie because they saw him as an FBI skeptic. They figured he`d be skeptical of the FBI. That`s why they wanted him.

When you just go through and you look at what they have said, and then you add in this nugget -- I will go back to it -- that they were like, we got a judge that`s going to affirm all our stuff, and then all this stuff happens, maybe -- I mean, I`m just super skeptical.

What do you make of all of these facts?

RANGAPPA: It`s really hard for me to get into the minds of Trump`s lawyers. It`s kind of a rabbit hole I don`t know that I can go down.

REID: You don`t to be there, yes.

RANGAPPA: This whole idea that Judge -- that Dearie would be sort of on their side because he`s skeptical of the FBI, I mean, it doesn`t make any sense.

So I think the premise here is that Dearie signed off on a couple of the renewals for the Carter Page FISA, which, later, the internal audit by the Department of Justice inspector general said should not -- weren`t accurate in terms of their presentation.

And so it may very well be that, when it comes to FISA applications, Dearie would be skeptical. But this has nothing to do with the FBI`s representations. These are about the status of these documents and whether the contents of them fall into particular categories. So this idea that somehow he`s going to be swayed to be on their side, to me, doesn`t make any sense.

REID: Yes.

RANGAPPA: But I think it`s actually worked out a little bit to the benefit, because I think you have a fairly objective person now handling this.

REID: I`m just going to say to our audience, don`t try this at home. Trust and believe, if you steal some government documents, nobody, nobody is going to give you all of this largess. You going to jail, baby. You going to jail. This is not normal. This is not normal.

Asha Rangappa -- don`t try this. I`m telling you, trust and believe, you going to jail.

Asha Rangappa, Joyce Vance, thank you both very much.

Still ahead: the stark contrast of American ideals. Attorney General Merrick Garland welcomes 200 new citizens to Ellis Island, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis takes a victory lap after turning new arrivals into political pawns.

We will be right back.



REID: On Saturday, Attorney General Merrick Garland swore in 200 new U.S. citizens on Ellis Island, the site of his own family`s American origin story.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Some of my family entered right here at Ellis Island. My grandmother was one of five children born in what is now Belarus. Two were killed in the Holocaust.


If not for America, there`s little doubt that the same would have happened to my grandmother. But this country took her in. And under the protection of our laws, she was able to live without fear of persecution.


REID: Garland`s heartfelt, emotional message evoked the very words etched on the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," while a different kind of leader waged war on that very tradition.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We are not a sanctuary state, and it`s better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction. And, yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you.


REID: "You are not welcome here" is the gist of what Ron DeSantis is all about. It can even be a slogan for what is clearly his already active presidential campaign.

His actions are callous and petty. He uses human beings fleeing violence and oppressive regimes, I guess, kind of like the one he`s setting up in Florida, as pawns for a cruel theatrical stunt that many are likening to kidnapping.

And because American conservatism since Trump has devolved into a contest for who can be the biggest Dickensian jerk, right-wing America is predictably fawning over the chaos, with DeSantis receiving a standing ovation during his remarks in Kansas on Sunday.


DESANTIS: The one place in our country where we see virtually no law and order is at the Southern border. And this is a crisis now getting a little bit more attention. This is a crisis.


DESANTIS: It is a crisis.


REID: DeSantis` overarching goal clearly is to change federal immigration policy, to inject it with less Statue of Liberty and more fascistic Trumpian cruelty, which he has made central to his feud with President Biden, which in turn is central to his presidential ambition, well, that, along with his war against COVID protections, wokeness, accurate American history, and the existence of gay and trans people, and drag shows.

He really hates those drag shows.

And despite all of this, much of the mainstream political media has created this weird fiction that DeSantis is somehow a better version of Trump, the solution to shifting Trumpism into something less dangerous and more mainstream and acceptable. After all, has DeSantis ever inflamed an armed mob to assault the U.S. Capitol and try to hang a vice president? Hmm.

Well, not yet. The reason junior MAGA is even considered the only Republican who can beat Trump is because he`s no different than Trump. He`s just the smirky, unsmiling, humorless version, all the fascism, but none of the shtick.

But underneath the less clownish, less orange veneer, it`s all the same, the inhumane, racist political stunts, the cruelty, the xenophobic fever obsession with the border, and protecting real Americans from the replacements, and from feeling bad about history.

In fact, DeSantis sending planeloads of migrants to a liberal haven is so akin to a Trump troll, Donald Trump himself is reportedly big mad about it. Something else that Trump can relate to is the question of whether DeSantis could wind up in legal trouble for his political stunt.

And that is next.



REID: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will not stop crowing about last week`s political stunt, flying Texas migrants to Martha`s Vineyard.

But he`s pretty cagey about how it was done. That`s probably because what reporters have uncovered is deeply problematic. State records show that his administration paid an aviation company $615,000 from the -- quote -- "relocation program of unauthorized aliens."

The payment was made by the Florida Department of Transportation, which received $12 million in state funding for the program. Again, these migrants were flown by DeSantis to Massachusetts from Texas, not from Florida, which Democrats say is a violation of state law.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, the president of the League of United American -- Latin American citizens, or LULAC, traveled to Massachusetts and spoke with a few of the migrants, who shared similar stories of a mysterious operative named Perla who lured the migrants onto the plane with false promises of employment.

LULAC is now offering a $5,000 reward for information about this woman known as Perla.

Judd Legum, who writes a news Substack called Popular Info, obtained a copy of a brochure that was provided to the migrants before they boarded the planes. The brochure says That migrants who arrived in Massachusetts will be eligible for numerous benefits, including eight months` cash assistance, assistance with housing, food, clothing, transportation to job interviews, job training, job placement, registering children for school assistance, applying for Social Security cards and many other benefits, none of which is true, because they are still in the process of seeking asylum.

And moments ago in San Antonio, Texas, the Bexar County Sheriff`s Department announced an investigation into the luring of those migrants. According to a sheriff, a Venezuelan migrant was paid a fee to recruit and lower those migrants under false pretenses.


Joining me now is Nikki Fried, Florida`s commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, who recently ran for governor, and Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC.

And, Mr. Garcia, I do want to start with you, because you have spoken with some of these migrants. Now that we have an investigation out of Texas of whether migrants -- of whether someone was paid to lure these migrants onto those planes, what do you know about that aspect of what happened?

DOMINGO GARCIA, PRESIDENT, LEAGUE OF UNITED LATIN AMERICAN CITIZENS: Well, we know for sure that -- I talked to you about 11 or 12 those migrants in Martha`s Vineyard.

They were told they were going to get three months paid work, they were going to get free housing, free transit, free benefits. It was all a lie. And it was -- the terrible part about it, they actually had a map of Martha`s Vineyard in the envelope with, along with that folder. And it said, this is refugee service. It was a parking lot at Martha`s Vineyard in Edgartown.

I mean, that`s how mean-spirited, how sadistically cruel the governor of Florida was in how he treated fellow human beings who are desperate, the least among us. And it was just not Christian charity at all. It was just a political game being played by the governor of Florida.

REID: And we do know now, Mr. Garcia, that they have been moved to a federal facility. Is that correct? And that is -- the right is trying to claim that is them being ousted from Martha`s Vineyard.

That is not true. This is the federal government taking control of a federal situation, no?

GARCIA: Actually, they -- at Saint Andrew`s Parish at Edgartown welcomed them. They gave them clothes, food, everything, what the Americans are -- should do for those that are seeking refuge.

And they were moved to Cape Cod because they had no housing. There`s no shelters there in Martha`s Vineyard. And so they put them into a military base there and barracks. They`re free to go. They`re not prisoners. And, therefore, they`re not been deported to Cape Cod.

REID: Yes.

GARCIA: They have just been relocated. They eventually get to the destinations they actually wanted to go.

One of the immigrants told me he wanted to go to Portland, Oregon. How far is it from Martha`s Vineyard to Portland, Oregon? He was sent to the opposite side of the country. That`s how cruel these people were.

REID: Wow.

And, Nikki Fried, let me bring you in here, because there`s a lot to unpack here. First of all, these migrants were not in Florida. They seemed to have touched down in Florida, maybe as a pretext, so that DeSantis could claim they were in Florida, but they came from Texas.

What do you know about this aviation company? I have heard it was -- it`s a flight school. Whatever it is, it has four employees. What do you know about this company that received $615,000 of Florida taxpayer money?

NIKKI FRIED (D), FLORIDA COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE: Joy, this is actually part of the disturbing part of all of this.

We know that these flights originated in Texas, and they stopped in Florida to refuel. Now, whether or not that that`s the governor`s way of having a nexus between that money and then being able to utilize these flights, there is something very strange going on, that this entity was actually represented at some point by the law firm that is now our immigration czar that is overseeing all of this.

So, as more -- I actually just got off the phone with a reporter who is starting to dig in more and more on this, that there`s a weird connection between this flight company that`s actually out of Oregon, I think is where it`s actually based out of. And so how exactly did this company received $615,000 of Florida`s taxpayers` dollars?

And so we have been asking for, obviously, Department of Justice to get engaged on this issue to figure out who paid for what, where this company come -- came from. The last time I knew anything about state contracts, you have to bid to receive money from our state government.

None of that was done. So you`re going to find that this company, there`s going to be direct connections to the Republican Party, that, just like we saw on January 6 about who was paying for those buses out of Florida, you`re going to find some really interesting connections between this company, as well as others who have been -- who are well-known in Florida politics who have had their hand in the cookie jar for decades.

And this is going to be just part of the unraveling that we need the Department of Justice to engage in.

REID: And, Commissioner Fried, do you know if any Florida taxpayer money was used to pay this person called Perla? Because this person is now being sought? LULAC has offered a reward for this person`s identity.

Do you have any information that this person was paid with Florida taxpayer dollars herself, the recruiter?

FRIED: I don`t know that. Yes, I don`t know.

And, hopefully, we will be able to figure out and continue to make that connection of, who is this person? Was there communication between the DeSantis administration and her? Did they hire her? Was it somebody in conjunction with Greg Abbott on the ground?

These are kind of one of those connecting of dots that we just don`t know the answers to.

REID: Yes.

FRIED: But we`re talking about 50 people whose lives were upended who are trying to get -- let`s go back to that human story of this.

These are individuals that crossed from Venezuela that came into America for a political asylum.

REID: Yes.

FRIED: For so many of the people down in South Florida, this is what -- how they got here to begin with.


REID: Yes.

Mr. Garcia, let me let you finish on that point. What did some of these folks tell you their stories where? Where were -- why were they fleeing -- why did they flee Venezuela?

GARCIA: They`re fleeing a communist dictatorship under Maduro there, who`s the president of Venezuela, terrible economic conditions.

They went through swamps through the Darien Strait, came to multiple countries. One man was kidnapped in Mexico. They pulled all his teeth from the front to pay a ransom, which he didn`t have. And he only got help when he got to Martha`s Vineyard. Nobody in Texas helped this man, who was literally bleeding from his mouth after the cartels got ahold of him.

And it wasn`t until he got to Massachusetts that he got assistance. And women with four-month-old babies on their hands that were dumped on the sidewalk of Washington in front of Kamala Harris` house at 6:00 a.m. in the morning, who does that?

REID: Yes.

GARCIA: Who has that kind of mean-spiritedness to use people like that and babies and families like that, when they are coming here for the American dream? And these people are spitting on the Statue of Liberty.

REID: I will tell you who does that. Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis and the governor of Arizona, Ducey, that is who does it.

Commission Nikki Fried, Domingo Garcia, please keep us updated as you guys continue to try to look into who these people are. Thank you, guys.

And up next: Puerto Rico is without power again after Hurricane Fiona slams the island, leaving widespread flooding and destruction in its wake.

More next.



REID: In Puerto Rico tonight, more than a million -- more than a million people are without power and hundreds of thousands or without clean water.

Hurricane Fiona made landfall Sunday, causing damage to Puerto Rico`s -- that Puerto Rico`s governor called catastrophic, bringing with it flooding rains that just devastated the island. Today, the storm slammed into the Dominican Republic on its way to The Atlantic, where it`s expected to strengthen.

President Biden has declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico. The islands energy provider said it has restored service to 100,000 customers, but it could be days before power is fully restored. It`s bringing back painful memories of Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico almost exactly five years ago, killing nearly 3,000 people and leaving much of the island recovering to this day.

For example, Fiona just washed away a bridge in a mountain town that was installed by the National Guard to be temporary after Maria hit in 2017.

Joining me now is NBC News National correspondent Gabe Gutierrez. He`s in San Juan.

What is going on there? And what are the conditions tonight, and how much power is restored?


Well, we`re here in Southeastern Puerto Rico in town of Yabucoa. This was actually hit very hard by Hurricane Maria, hit hard once again by Hurricane Fiona. There are downed trees throughout this region. The residents here have been going through today, trying to cut some of them down, trying to get them off the roads.

But, Joy, you mentioned the key here. Most of this island is still without power and, most urgently, without clean drinking water at this point. This is something that will go on for days, the governor says. He hopes it will not go on for months, like it was -- like it went on after Hurricane Maria.

Now, President Biden, on his way home from Europe today, called Puerto Rico`s governor and pledged more federal help. I spoke with the governor this afternoon as he toured this neighborhood. And I asked him whether this was something that the government adequately prepared for.

And I also asked him whether it was fair to say that Puerto Rico`s electrical grid was a complete disaster. He said it was fragile.

Now, Joy, you know this. It`s a complicated history here between the state- run utility that was then taken over by a private consortium last year that took over power distribution. Residents here in Puerto Rico have been complaining extensively over the last few months that these outages have gotten worse.

And now they have this. They are completely in the dark tonight. Adding insult to injury, Joy, a short time ago, the rain continued here. More than 2,000 people are in emergency shelters in Puerto Rico. Since the start of the storm, the governor says more than 1,000 people across the island had to be rescued.

And in this neighborhood, Joy, in Yabucoa, we spoke with residents, entire families that were whisked from their homes yesterday in this huge flood, as the floodwaters overtook their homes. In this particular neighborhood, they said they saw more water here than they did during Hurricane Maria.

The difference was, Hurricane Maria, five years ago tomorrow, by the way -- that`s the anniversary -- Hurricane Maria right heavy winds and a lot of rain, but, in this particular neighborhood, the rushing waters came here and destroyed so much.

The issue now is, rescuers have been able to get to some of the inaccessible parts of the island. And then the question will be, how long before power and water service is restored, Joy?

REID: And, Gabe, what do people on the island need? And is it possible to even get supplies and assistance in?

GUTIERREZ: Well, I will say this, Joy.

I came here after -- during Hurricane Maria. The communication system, cell phone service in many parts of the island right now are better than they were during Hurricane Maria. But that`s not to say they are good. Many roads in the rural areas and the mountains are impassable. It is a challenge to get some of that aid in here -- Joy.

REID: Yes.

Gabe Gutierrez, thank you very much. Stay safe, my friend. Really appreciate you. Thank you. Excellent reporting.

We need to just be thinking about that place, that island, and making sure their infrastructure is ready for the next hurricane. It`s shameful that, years later, they still were not prepared.

That is tonight`s REIDOUT.