NARRATOR: She`s the daughter of immigrants raised in Oakland, California. She started her career as a prosecutor, was elected district attorney of San Francisco , then won her race for California attorney general.
Now as the state`s junior senator, she`s taken her prosecutorial skills to the national stage.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?
NARRATOR: Senator Kamala Harris has defined who she`s for.
HARRIS: My whole life, I`ve only had one client, the people.
NARRATOR: But how will she go up against the president?
HARRIS: I disagree with almost every policy perspective he has offered.
NARRATOR: And why does she think she`s the one to take him on?
HARRIS: We know the power of the people and we know we are all in this together.
NARRATOR: Tonight, just one month away from the first Democratic debate, Kamala Harris prosecutes her political case against Donald Trump. Live from Spartanburg, South Carolina, it`s a LAST WORD 2020 special, "The Kamala Harris Town Hall."
Here now is Lawrence O`Donnell.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC MODERATOR: Thank you. Thank you for coming. Thank you.
Welcome to the Richardson Center for the Arts on the campus of Wofford College right here in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
This is a crucial state on the way to winning the Democratic nomination for president. South Carolina will be the fourth state that votes in the Democratic primaries and the first Southern state that votes in the Democratic primaries.
And as everyone in this room knows, South Carolina has picked six of the Democratic presidential nominees in the last seven elections. Tonight, South Carolina voters will have the chance to let presidential candidate Kamala Harris hear what`s on their minds and listen to her make the case that she is the Democrat who can make Donald Trump a one-term president.
From her first campaign running for district attorney of San Francisco, to her most recent campaign running for the United States Senate, Kamala Harris has never lost an election.
Please give a South Carolina welcome to presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
HARRIS: Hi. Thank you. Thank you. Hi. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for doing this.
HARRIS: Thank you. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: OK. For the television audience who could not see the balcony, that was about an 85 percent standing ovation. There were some people in the balcony who I guess haven`t made up their minds yet.
I want to go -- I want to go straight --
HARRIS: It`s early.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it is. Let`s go straight to the breaking news of the day.
O`DONNELL: The United States Supreme Court issues a new decision on abortion. It`s a confusing decision for a lot of people.
O`DONNELL: They ignored part of an Indiana law, left it for a later decision, upheld part of an Indiana law.
O`DONNELL: More restriction on abortion. Let`s get your reaction to that.
HARRIS: Lawrence, look, I think it`s very clear that -- and it has not changed that women`s ability to have access to reproductive health is under attack in America. It`s under attack. And what we have seen from Alabama to Georgia, you can go just a variety of states, legislatures, state legislatures are fundamentally attacking a woman`s right to make decisions about her own body.
And let`s understand what this means. Are we going to go back to the days of back alley abortions? Women died before we had Roe v. Wade in place. And so, I`m going to tell you, on this issue, I`m kind of done because here`s how I feel about it, guys --
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
HARRIS: Let me tell you. Here`s the thing: There are states that keep passing these laws. So when elected, I`m going to put in place and require that states that have a history of passing legislation that is designed to prevent or limit a woman`s access to reproductive health care, that those laws have to come before my Department of Justice for a review and approval and until we determine that they are constitutional, they will not take effect.
O`DONNELL: How -- that sounds like it needs 60 votes in the United States senate.
HARRIS: You know what? Everything that we need to do is going to require 60 votes in the United States Senate, which is why I would say to everybody, 2020 is about the White House, it`s also about the United States Senate.
O`DONNELL: The other -- this is modeled on the components of the Voting Rights Act that left tests in place for certain states when they wanted to change things.
O`DONNELL: You`re using that model. That model has been challenged by this Supreme Court. So that is a more -- that is an already challenged model.
HARRIS: But the basis of the challenge was to say don`t -- don`t base your evaluation of the state`s history based on what happened 50 years ago. It needs to be more current.
What I am putting in place and will put in place is it will be based on that state`s history over the last 25 years. And in that regard, then, we will review those through the United States Department of Justice and make a decision, are they conforming with the Constitution of the United States as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court or not?
And if they are not, then that law will be invalidated and it will not be able to be applied to the women of that state.
O`DONNELL: The Supreme Court that decided this case --
HARRIS: Yes --
O`DONNELL: -- includes Neil Gorsuch, who has that seat because Mitch McConnell held it open, refused to even allow confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland.
O`DONNELL: President Obama`s last choice.
HARRIS: Right. For nine months.
O`DONNELL: And Mitch McConnell at the time said of course you don`t confirm Supreme Court justices in the last year of a presidential term.
Let`s listen to what Mitch McConnell said today about that question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: If a Supreme Court was open before next year, what would you do?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We`ll fill it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: He`d do what?
O`DONNELL: He said, I will be filling -- he`d be filling the seat, if a Supreme Court justice were to die in the last year of the Trump presidency, what would he do? He would go against what he said was the principle he was using in the last year of the Obama presidency.
HARRIS: Well, he also said he will fill it, but that actually is the job of the president of the United States, not Mitch McConnell. So, we also have to do a little history about the division of responsibilities between the United States Congress and the executive branch.
HARRIS: But that being said, Lawrence, speaking of the executive branch, on the issue of choice, look, the current president of the United States ran on a campaign that said women should be punished, punished if they have an abortion. We have a president --
O`DONNELL: Well, he took that back just about as soon as he said it. He said that to Chris Matthews in the middle of one of these.
HARRIS: It came out of his mouth and I think it`s a reflection of his perspective.
HARRIS: And we cannot deny that this is a very real issue in America. There are states where women literally will have no access to reproductive health.
And, you know, my -- look, it`s personal to me. My mother was a scientist, a breast cancer researcher. She was one of the very few women of color doing that kind of work, and she would come home ever since I was a child I remember her coming home and talking about how we have as a society still diminished women`s health care issues. We have not allowed women to be in control of their bodies and make decisions.
This is not new. It is constantly under attack. But I`m here to say we will be vigilant and we will fight against it every day of the week and we will fight for women and their right to make decisions about their own body in consultation with their physician, with their god, with their priest, with their rabbi.
When we look at a law like what`s happening in Alabama and they say they`re going to sentence a doctor to 99 years, as a prosecutor, let me tell you, I got a real problem with that. I have a real problem with that.
HARRIS: And so we cannot go backwards and we cannot tolerate a perspective that is about going backward and not understanding women have agency. Women have value. Women have authority to make decisions about their own lives and their own bodies.
HARRIS: And let me just tell you, as president I will fight every day for a woman to make the decision for herself, which means I will respect any woman who decides that is not the decision she wants to make, that she wants to make a different decision, but we have got to respect women in this country.
You know, another issue I`m taking on if you`ll just let me keep going is the issue of what we`re doing around pay equity in our country. So the other initiative that I have is addressing pay equity. Women in America today earned on average 80 cents on the dollar as compared to men. Black women, 61 cents on the dollar. Native American women, 58 cents on the dollar. Latinos, 53 cents on the dollar.
And this is an issue of pay equity that has been around since the 1960s while we had the Pay Equity Act and we were talking in Congress about that and still it has not been fixed.
Another issue where I say enough is enough and I`m going to tell you what I`m prepared to do. On the issue of pay equity, instead of requiring a woman to prove to everybody else that she`s being paid less than the man who is in the cubical next to her doing the same job, I`m now going to shift the responsibility on corporations to prove they`re paying their employees the same amount based on the same amount of work. If they fail to do it, they will be fined, because as far as I`m concerned, you pay women equally or you pay the price.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
O`DONNELL: Let me ask you about something that happened this weekend, a presidential moment this weekend. It involves foreign policy converging with domestic politics. The president was in Japan. He said that it was no problem that North Korea was firing off some short-range missile tests, which, by the way, could reach the place he was standing at the time in Japan. And also said that he agrees with Kim Jong-un`s insults of Joe Biden.
If you are president and you are in Japan and North Korea has just tested some missiles and Kim Jong-un insults Mitch McConnell --
O`DONNELL: What would you say?
HARRIS: The president of the United States when speaking has a profound amount of authority and power and must then use the microphone before her in a responsible way. And in a way that is appreciative of the fact that we should always be concerned, especially on foreign soil, about the integrity and the safety of our nation, which is the United States of America.
The idea that this president on foreign soil attacked the previous vice president of the United States, I don`t care what the differences on policy issues, I don`t care what the differences in terms of party affiliation, it is wrong, it is contrary to our values and it is contrary to the best interests of our country and the integrity of our country and he should not have done it, he is irresponsible and it`s one of yet another examples of why he should not be president of the United States.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
O`DONNELL: I want to -- I want to go to a passage in your book. There are so many passages in this book that I want to ask you about. You mentioned your mother a few minutes ago.
O`DONNELL: And you have had many titles. You`ve hat the title of district attorney, the title of attorney general, now the title of senator, and you say in your book: There is no title or honor on earth I`ll treasure more than to say I am --
HARRIS: The daughter of Shyamala Gopalan Harris. Yes.
My mother, you know, I have a sister, Maya, and our mother was an extraordinary woman. Our mother was all of 5 feet tall, but if you ever met her, you would have thought she was 7 feet tall, and, you know, she was the kind of parent who would tell you, you know, you don`t let anyone tell you who you are, you tell them who you are.
My mother through the book I talk about it, she had many sayings. You know, she said to me: Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, make sure you`re not the last. And then I joke about, you know, one of the reasons I`m running for president is because I was raised by this mother who if you ever came home complaining about something, our mother would look at you maybe one hand on her hip and the first thing out of her mouth she`d say, well, what are you going to do about it?
So I decided to run for president of the United States.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to the president on immigration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- is full. We don`t want people coming up here. Our country is full.
We want Mexico to stop. We want all of them to stop. Our country is packed to the gills. We don`t want them coming up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Where would you be today if this government told your immigrant parents that this country is full?
HARRIS: Not only me, Lawrence, but you and most of this audience wouldn`t me here. Let`s be clear.
HARRIS: Let`s be clear. This is a nation founded by immigrants. Unless, you know, your history is of -- your ancestors being kidnapped and brought over on a slave ship, unless you are Native American, your people are immigrants.
And the idea that we have a president of the United States that on this issue has vilified a whole group of people -- and by the way, I believe it is because it is a distraction for him. He talks about that wall. He wants everyone to be preoccupied with this billion dollar, multibillion dollar vanity project, because he`s not dealing with the real issues impacting people in our country, the fact that almost half of American families can`t afford a $400 unexpected expense.
On the issue of immigration, he has also defied who we are morally and who we say we are to the world. We have always presented ourselves as being a nation of strength with strong arms that when people are fleeing harm, we will embrace them. But look at what has happened with this administration. There are children who are fleeing murder capitals of the world.
Let`s be clear about this. Imagine a mother who makes a decision to pay a coyote to transport her child across the entire country of Mexico, facing unknown peril. She does that because she believes for that child to stay where they are is worse.
But what does this president do? He virtually looks at those children and says go back to where you came from.
What do we have in this president? A policy that was about taking children, separating them from their parents and calling it border security. No, that was a human rights abuse being committed by the United States government and it is against the morals and the values of who we are as a nation.
O`DONNELL: We are -- we are going to squeeze in a break here and when we return it`s time to hear from the voters --
O`DONNELL: -- of South Carolina.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to your questions when we come back with presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris.
O`DONNELL: Welcome back to the Wofford College here in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with presidential candidate, Kamala Harris.
Now let`s hear from some voters right here in Spartanburg County. We have some questions from the audience.
We`re going to begin over here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good evening, General Harris.
HARRIS: Good evening.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good evening, Mr. O`Donnell. Good evening to everyone here. Thank you for giving me a moment of your time.
I`m an American of Cuban descent. My fiance and I have travelled over 160 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina, to hear your passionate view of the American future that will remove the existing embarrassment that`s in our executive office and one that we can again be proud of.
My two-part question is this. Do you fully support in undertaking the impeachment process through to its completion, knowing the risks which will impact the 2020 election for all of us involved and the possibility that the Senate will not go along with the impeachment?
The second part of that question is, if you`re not successful with the impeachment process, will you continue to pursue legal action against 45 and his cabinet as well when they leave office for their numerous egregious offenses they have all incurred against the American public, regardless of the time expended in the courts? Thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you. And thank you for traveling to be here. I appreciate that. I really do. And we are all part of the American story, to the point of Lawrence`s last question.
So, yes, I do support and have advocated for us going through the process toward impeachment and seeing that through. I absolutely do.
But you`re right to mention the United States Senate because while I am calling for us to go through that process, I also am fully aware that the Senate in its current configuration I doubt very seriously will actually vote to impeach this president, given its current configuration, which is that the majority is run by Republicans who consistently, be it on his wall, be it on the Affordable Care Act, on so many issues have stood with this president even when what he has done is so clearly and so blatantly wrong and in many cases in the worst interests, not the best interests of their constituents.
But on the issue of impeachment, let`s be clear. You know, I`ve read the Mueller report and they outline in that report, and it was a team of some of the best career people in the Department of Justice who were a part of that, career people who had been in the Department of Justice. There are at least ten separate instances of obstruction of justice.
I am also clear from reading what he wrote in that report that the only reason they did not return an indictment against this president on obstruction of justice is because of an opinion from the Department of Justice that suggests that you cannot indict a sitting president. But there is no question that the evidence supports a prosecution of that case.
So, taking it to the point of your next question -- absolutely. Listen, I believe that there needs to be transparency, there needs to be accountability. There is a clear track record of this president and members of his administration obstructing justice.
Not to mention what we have seen from the current attorney general of the United States, who I questioned in connection with the Judiciary Committee, who clearly thinks his job is to represent the president and his peculiar interests as opposed to representing the people of the country in which we live. So, there is a lot of work to do and I plan on seeing it through.
O`DONNELL: Senator --
HARRIS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Senator, I want you to listen to what Congressman Justin Amash said today. This is the only Republican in the Congress who has come out in support of impeachment. He had a town hall in his Republican district in Michigan today. Let`s listen to just a bit of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R-MI): I think it`s really important that we do our job as a Congress, that we not allow misconduct to go undeterred, that we not just say someone can violate the public trust and that there are no consequences to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He began with a standing ovation.
O`DONNELL: He has gone beyond what the Democratic leadership --
O`DONNELL: -- of the House of Representatives has said about impeachment.
HARRIS: Yes, and what he has done is what we need more people in the United States Congress to do, which is to put country before party. Put country before party.
We are looking at a system right now where, you know, and I -- this is where I derive optimism but also concern. You know, the framers of our country they designed a beautiful system in terms of our democracy. They designed a system where they said, OK, then they presupposed in some branch of government there might be abuses.
So they designed our democracy, our Republican -- our republic in a way there would be three co-equal branches of government and then a free and independent press, with the idea that each would then be the check and balance against each other. So when we talk about a process of impeachment, it is about the checks and balances that the framers imagined would be in place to be a check against abuses, and that is another reason why I support that process.
And what he is talking about is right. We must put country before party on a fundamental interest that is about the integrity of our democracy.
O`DONNELL: Let`s hear from another South Carolina voter.
Just please give us your name and your question.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good evening.
HARRIS: Good evening.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you for coming, Senator Harris and Lawrence.
My name is Rosemary Smith (ph), I`m 54 years old and I work in the food and beverage industry.
Earlier this year, I had colon cancer and fall into the group of uninsured people in South Carolina because we didn`t expand Medicaid.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My question to you is, for people who don`t have access to programs to help with their medical needs or lack the resources to care for themselves, what will you do for those individuals? I was very lucky but others may die.
HARRIS: Yes. Well, first of all, thank you, Ms. Smith, for sharing your story and having the courage to do that and I wish you all the best and it looks like you are fighting this thing. So we are fighting with you.
Listen, you said it. We have millions of people in our country who do not have access to health care and it`s a fundamental point, in my opinion, which is access to health care should be a right, not a privilege of just those who can afford to get it. And on this issue that is why I`m supporting Medicare for all because I believe that we need to have a system where everyone has access.
You know, the pharmaceutical companies, the drug companies have been hiking up the prices. The biggest barrier to access to health care in our country is cost, is cost. And we`ve got the pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies that keep jacking up premiums and co-pays and prescription drugs and the cost of prescription drugs, and I`ve taken them on.
When I was attorney general, I took on the pharmaceutical companies. I delivered over $200 million for the people of my state because of their practices that were about fraudulent practices. And we need somebody in these United States of America who is at the top level of leadership who understands that there are people every day in our country suffering because they don`t have access to health care.
And, by the way, you know, there are some who say -- well, you know, but if you change the system, is it going to mean I don`t have access to my doctor? And that`s -- that`s an understandable point. We like our doctors, those that we know. We`ve been seeing them for years.
Well, 91 percent of the doctors in the United States are in the Medicare system. So, the odds on favorite is that you will be able to keep your doctor.
But here`s the deal, guys. Here`s how I think about it. I think about it based on a typical scenario -- not only yours, someone who has faced an acute illness and thankfully you are battling it and what that means in terms of everything you have to go through.
My mother, who we talked about, Lawrence, she passed away a few years from cancer, and, you know, for any of us who have had that experience of loving someone and a family member who is going through that, it is the experience of every day figuring out how you can get the person to the hospital, in and out of the hospital. It is the experience --
It is the experience of some doctor talking to you about have you heard the term anticipatory grief, which is the grief that you experience when someone is still here but it weighs on you. The experience of trying to cook for somebody and hope that whatever I make is something you can hold down or you have an appetite for.
The experience of hoping when you`re going through chemotherapy that we can give you clothes that are soft enough because your skin is so sensitive. The experience of trying to make sure that the medication on each of the charts actually matches up.
And the fact that in our country, in our America, people are going through that experience every day, and on top of that have to worry about how they`re going to pay a hospital bill is immoral. And this also relates to people who do have insurance.
Every day in America, there is also some story about some parent who calls up the doctor or the hospital and says my child has a fever that is reaching a peak and they`re told come to the emergency room. And that parent then drives to the hospital and is in their car in the parking lot of the emergency room with their hand on that child`s forehead hoping that temperature goes down because they know if they have to walk through those sliding glass doors and get into that emergency room, they`ve got a co-pay of $5,000. They`ve got insurance.
This is not a system that is right or fair or just. And for all of those reasons, I support Medicare for All.
O`DONNELL: There are -- there are now a few different versions of Medicare for All that people are talking about there. It won`t be exclusively up to the president. Congress, if it does, will deliver some version of Medicare for All for the president. So let`s just rattle off a few of these, which ones would you sign.
O`DONNELL: Would you sign a Medicare for All bill that simply made Medicare an option for people under 65 to buy in to?
HARRIS: So I`ll take it to the end and then I`ll bring it back to your point.
HARRIS: My preference is Medicare for All.
O`DONNELL: Mandatory Medicare for everyone?
HARRIS: For everyone. But I am also supporting currently the steps getting -- to get --
O`DONNELL: So that does mean giving up current private health care plans?
HARRIS: No, but they would be entitled to receive and have basically supplemental insurance. But under Medicare for All and my vision for Medicare for All, we would expand the coverage of Medicare so it would include dental, it would include a vision for our seniors, it would include hearing aids which are so expensive.
O`DONNELL: So the version you support is the way Medicare currently works for people 65 and over, which means it might be what they depend on, it`s the only thing they have. Or if their union has a retirement plan that works as a supplemental, they can have that private supplemental plan on top of Medicare.
HARRIS: They can have the supplemental plan on top of it. But the idea and the goal is that everyone is going to be in the same system. We still do need to deal, though, with the fact that we`ve got plenty of men and women who work in unions who have given up extra pay to get more benefits under their health care plan. And that`s a real issue.
HARRIS: I know. So that`s a real issue. That`s something I am aware of and want to be able to reconcile because they should not have to pay the price of having giving up some of their salary to get greater benefits and then we should have a Medicare for All system.
O`DONNELL: So would you then veto a Medicare for All bill that doesn`t include that option? A Medicare for All bill that simply makes it mandatory for everyone and there is no private insurance system?
HARRIS: I would not support something that did not take care of the men and women of organized labor who have negotiated those plans and deserve to receive the benefit that they`ve negotiated.
O`DONNELL: OK. We`ve got another question on this side of the room.
CHRISTINA FULLER-GREGORY, LIBRARIAN: Good evening.
HARRIS: Good evening.
FULLER-GREGORY: Senator Harris, my name is Christina Fuller-Gregory and I am a proud librarian.
My question for you is this. Racism and sexism are no longer hidden agendas. How will you as a woman and a person of color lead the country in the face of such overt and pervasive division and begin rebuilding a country that truly embodies the phrase "United We Stand?"
HARRIS: Right. Well, first of all, I want to thank you for being a librarian and for doing that work. I`ve got a whole proposal on teacher pay and closing the teacher pay gap, which includes all of whom are in that ecosystem of teaching our children. So thank you for taking on that noble profession. Thank you.
So to your point, racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, these issues are real in our country. And they are born out of hate, hate which over the last couple of years has received new fuel.
And we need to call it out when we see it. And I feel very strongly that all of us must speak up when we see it and that no one who is the subject of that hate should ever be made to fight alone.
That being said, we also have a situation -- and I mean, look, I grew up -- you know, my sister and I went to knock on the door of the family that lived next door because we used to play with the kids there and then the daughter said we can`t play with you anymore because our parents said we can`t play with black children.
I don`t know a black man that I know, be he a family member, a colleague or a friend who has not experienced some level of racial profiling or discrimination. We have seen from Mother Emanuel Church to Charlottesville to the Tree of Life Synagogue to in my backyard Poway, that these issues are real and they take on lethal proportions.
But we have a president of the United States right now that has been fanning the flames. And we have got to agree that the president of the United States should be in the business of lifting people up, not beating people up.
We must also agree that the vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us. That when we wake up in the middle of the night with that thought that`s been weighing on us, regardless of our skin color, the language our grandparents spoke, the God we pray to, we are all waking up in the middle of the night having the same thought.
It`s about our health care. It`s about the education of our children. It`s about keeping a job. It`s about paying the bills.
And in our America, people who hold the highest levels of leadership should be in the business of unifying our country, not dividing our country. And as far as I`m concerned, we`ve got a president who is not trying to make America great. He`s trying to make America hate and we need to get rid of him.
O`DONNELL: Let`s try to get in one more before the break.
MEGAN SMITH: Hi. My name is Megan Smith.
HARRIS: Hi, Megan.
SMITH: And we here in the upstate, we`ve had some of the fastest Latin X population growth. We have international companies and students, refugees and immigrant families who are all contributing to our community.
And yet, as we just saw, we have some really deep anti-immigrant rhetoric that`s being promoted from the highest in the land. How would you talk to South Carolinians who are afraid of immigration and a portrayed loss of jobs and culture?
HARRIS: Thank you, Megan. Thank you for bringing that up.
And I -- here`s the thing. It`s a myth, right? What we know is that -- and especially under this current administration, the issue of immigration has been about stoking fear instead of speaking fact. It`s been about talking about immigrants as rapists and murderers instead of acknowledging the fact that the vast majority of immigrants in our country are living lawful lives in terms of working hard, paying taxes, you know, we have in colleges, in serving in our military.
And so there is no question that we need to deal with the issue, and part of how we need to deal with it is we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway towards citizenship. And by the way, there is bipartisan support for this but we can`t get it out because this guy said he won`t sign it.
So, one, there is that, which is that we need to speak just based on fact. The other thing that we have to do is recognize that it is actually good for our economy. It is good for our economy.
I speak with farmers from Iowa to California who know that and will tell you that a large part of the folks who are their labor who are actually helping them produce what we are growing in our country, what we are eating, what we are selling to foreign countries is supported by immigrant labor.
Let`s talk about the fact that we can look at the economy and look at -- from Google to you name it, big corporations that are headed by immigrants. So the idea that it is a drain on the economy is not correct.
But we also have to agree that we cannot have a policy in this country that is about saying we`re going to close ourselves off. And, frankly, I think that part of the reason that this president campaigned on that and came into office on that is because he actually could not offer a plan that was about getting people jobs. He had no plan for closing that gap.
Instead, he comes in -- he made all kinds of promises about what he was going to do for farmers, what he was going to do for auto workers. And what does he do? He passes a tax bill that benefits the top one percent and the biggest corporations in this country.
And see, he ain`t fooling nobody because the thing is we can actually see through that. And then you want to point to the shiny object over here and talk about the need to build a wall.
Help people get a job. Help people figure out -- our infrastructure. That`s going to produce jobs but there has been no meaningful work in that regard.
Let`s look about -- at the fact that in America today, for almost half of American families, they cannot afford a $400 unexpected expense. I`m proposing that we change the tax code. I`m proposing that for families that make less than $100,000 a year, you get a tax credit of $6,000 a year that you can collect at up to $500 a month, which will be all the difference between being able to get through the end of the month with dignity or not for almost half of the American families.
This guy instead is talking about building a wall. So these are the ways that I think about what has been happening recently and I think it is really important that we focus on fact and not fiction and that we get back also to who we are in terms of our core values. We are a nation of immigrants. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to squeeze in a break here. And when we come back, we have a surprise for Senator Harris. We have a surprise for you. One of the distinguished graduates of Wofford College will join us after this break.
HARRIS: Oh, great. OK.
O`DONNELL: So this morning on the "Today Show", my dear friend Craig Melvin said something about what`s happening here tonight at Wofford College.
HARRIS: He did?
O`DONNELL: He did. Let`s listen to Craig on the "Today Show" this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG MELVIN, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: There`s a big event tonight. I don`t know if you`ve heard it but it`s happening at my alma mater down in South Carolina.
Wofford College, dear old Wofford, the site of a town hall with Presidential Contender Kamala Harris. They`ll be on campus, 429 North Church Street with my friend and colleague Lawrence O`Donnell. He`s going to be hosting it tonight, MSNBC, 10:00. I know I`ll be watching.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And when I heard that, that Craig is going to be watching, I thought maybe, maybe if we`re lucky, we could get him to join the crowd here at his alma mater, Wofford College.
O`DONNELL: And see if maybe he has some questions for the senator. He is a South Carolina native.
O`DONNELL: Is that OK with you?
HARRIS: Is he voting in South Carolina?
O`DONNELL: We can find out. We can find out. Joining us now from New York, Craig Melvin.
MELVIN: Hey, Lawrence. Good to see you, buddy. Senator Harris, good to see you again. Thank you so much for your time tonight.
HARRIS: Good to see you, Craig.
MELVIN: You know, Senator, in the past you`ve said that you Support debt- free college. You`ve talked about scheduling repayment based on income. You`ve even said that there should be a total conversation about total loan forgiveness.
You may not know this, but you`re on a campus where the four-year graduation rate is about 80 percent. Nationally, it hovers at around 50 percent. If you stay in college longer, it ends up being more expensive.
Moreover, you`ve got a lot of colleges and universities that are graduating kids who don`t necessarily have the skills to get the jobs to pay back those loans. We know where you stand on student debt. Where do you stand on holding colleges and universities more accountable to students and parents?
HARRIS: Yes. I agree with you. It`s a really important point you`re raising.
One, the student loan debt issue. Here in South Carolina, it`s one of the highest, among the top 10 in the country. There is no question that we have bright young students who are coming out of school making decisions about their careers based on how they`re going to pay off their debt not based on their passion.
You know, I talk about teachers. For example, here in South Carolina, over 5,000 teachers left the profession last year in South Carolina. A profession that they love because they simply could not afford to pay the bills with a combination for some of their debt plus the salary.
So you`re right, we need to hold everybody accountable. I`ve talked a lot about loans and what we need to do to reform the system around loans, bring them down and also debt-free college. But to your point, we also need to have a relationship between the United States government and our educational institutions to prepare students for the jobs of the 21st Century.
So over the next 15 years, up to 40 percent of the jobs that currently exist will no longer exist in this country. You look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics came out with a list of the 10 jobs that are going to see the greatest amount of growth over the next 10 years -- the 20 jobs that will see the greatest amount of growth over the next 10 years in our country and they`re jobs that relate to renewable energy and things of that nature.
We have got to have a relationship between the government, between the educational institutions, between the private sector and between organized labor such as the building trades to actually have a better plan for preparing our students for the work that needs to be performed and the work that will need to be performed as we go forward.
So there`s a lot of work to do there. I agree with you.
O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Craig. One more.
MELVIN: Senator Harris, thank you.
MELVIN: Really quickly. Senator, I know you`ve described yourself I believe it`s a progressive prosecutor, but there have been a number of measures that have come under scrutiny as you know that you undertook as the attorney general, the two ballot measures that would have ended the death penalty ballot, for instance.
There was this piece of legislation that allowed parents of elementary students to be prosecuted if their children were frequently truant, a measure that as you know disproportionately affects students of color. How would you explain some of those measures and how would you square that with the label of being a progressive prosecutor?
HARRIS: So I will tell you as I shared with the audience earlier, my parents met when they were active in the Civil Rights Movement. I am a daughter of that movement. I grew up knowing about the disparities, inequities, and unfairness in the criminal justice system.
As I shared earlier, almost every man I know, black man I know, be it a family member or a friend or a colleague has experienced some level of profiling or unfair stop. I have seen throughout my life -- I mean my cousins, when they were driving their father`s car, got pulled over because the car was a nice car, suspected of being drug dealers. I would be in the car with them when that happened.
So I am acutely aware of the inequities in the criminal justice system. I went to Howard University. I went back home to law school.
And I made a very conscious decision to become a prosecutor. And what I said to my family and friends is look, if we`re going to reform these systems, we should also be on the inside where the decisions are being made.
And that`s why I chose to do the work I did. And I am proud of the work that I did, bringing the first reentry initiative. One of the first in the nation focused on drug sales offenders and getting them jobs and counseling.
And Craig, when I created this, I was I elected D.A. back in 2003. When I created this initiative, people would say to me, "Why are you getting jobs for people who have committed a crime? I need a job."
People would say to me, "Why are you letting people out of jail? You should be putting people in jail." But the initiatives that I created ended up being designated by the United States Department of Justice as a model of innovation for law enforcement.
I created initiatives that were about saying that we needed to focus on the issue of children who are missing 50, 60, up to 80 days of the school year because I did an analysis of who our homicide victims were who were under the age of 25, and realized that the society and the system`s only response was to prosecute those cases or lock people up instead of asking what`s going on.
I asked and I learned that of the homicide victims who were under the age of 25, 94 percent were high school dropouts. When I went over to the school district, I learned that up to 40 percent of the chronically and habitually truant students were elementary school students, missing up to 80 days of the 180-day school year.
So I started an initiative saying this system has got to focus on putting resources into helping those parents get those kids to school every day, and we improved attendance by over 30 percent, which is why when I was attorney general of California, I created one of the first in the nation Bureaus of Children`s Justice, which I named, focused on getting services to children and in particular, poor children, children of color who was not receiving the benefit of the public services that they should receive in order to be able to live a productive life.
O`DONNELL: Craig, I know you have a thousand follow-up questions maybe. When Kamala Harris comes to the "Today Show," save them for that, or when she comes to your hour on MSNBC. She will be there, I`m sure. Craig --
HARRIS: And I look forward to continuing our conversation, Craig.
MELVIN: Also, Lawrence, quick correction. I see so many familiar faces. You described me as a distinguished graduate. I can tell you, I graduated Magna cum lucky from Wofford College.
O`DONNELL: Craig Melvin, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it. Craig has to get up in a few hours to do the "Today Show." So we were lucky to get him.
We`re going to take a break here. And when we come back, we`re going to get more from you South Carolina voters, more questions for Presidential Candidate Senator Kamala Harris.
HARRIS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And we`re back in South Carolina with Presidential Candidate Senator Kamala Harris. Let`s go to more voter questions. We have one here.
EDGAR BROWN, MEMBER, IBEW: Hi, Ms. Harris. My name is Edgar Brown. And I`m a very proud member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 379 here in South Carolina.
We had a previous governor that used to love to get on T.V. and say when she said union busting, another company would call and want to come to the state. And I felt that was very detrimental to all citizens of the South Carolina.
BROWN: And what I`d like to know is how do you feel about unions? And as president, what would you do to help us change that image?
HARRIS: I am thankful to our unions and I am thankful to you. There is no question at all that organized labor and our unions are the reason that all of us, regardless of whether you are a member of a union or not, it is the reason all of us have a five-day workday. It is the reason all of us have an eight-hour of work week, have an eight-hour workday.
It is the reason we have sick leave. It is the reason that we have issues about what we do to preserve workplace safety. These are all the benefits that all of us have derived, whether or not we are a member of a labor union because of our unions.
And it is our unions that built the middle-class of America and they are under full attack in so many states. And I will fight every day to preserve folks` right to organize, to collective bargaining, to strike, and to do whatever is necessary to make sure that working men and women of our country have a voice and a voice that is strong.
Because it`s a really simple point. We should not support any system that requires an individual worker to have to bargain against an entire employer for their wages and benefits and workplace safety. It`s a simple point that let`s let the collective exist to support and represent any individual.
And I feel very strongly about that as president of the United States so I will always support your right to organize, to collective bargaining, to strike. I will also run a Department of Labor that actually respects the dignity of labor.
And as far as I`m concerned, every working man and woman in America owes a debt of gratitude to the work of organized labor and the history of that work in our country.
O`DONNELL: Senator, there`s another union member I`d like you to speak to tonight. Rick Marsh is actually a Michigan voter. He`s on the front page of the "New York Times" today in a major, major piece -- oh, I`m sorry. He`s an Ohio voter. He worked 25 years --
O`DONNELL: In the Lordstown, Ohio G.M. plant which just closed down. Three generations of his family working in that Ohio plant.
O`DONNELL: He has one issue. He`s saying to "The New York Times" going into this election and that is, he wants someone who can save that G.M. Plant.
O`DONNELL: And get that G.M. Plant reopened. And he said, this is his quote today, "I really don`t care if it`s a Democrat, Republican, male, female, black, white, I don`t care." You are three of those things.
O`DONNELL: So Rick Marsh is listening.
So, Mr. Marsh, first of all, I want to thank you for having the courage to tell your story, and to share with us your family and the circumstances including your daughter and all that she needs and that you have fought for, for her.
Listen, he`s right. He is right.
And the reality is that under the current administration we have a president who has been playing games with workers. On the issue of trade we have a President of the United States who has been playing games. He made promises to workers in America. Those promises he did not keep, and instead he is been conducting trade policy by tweet which has resulted in farmers having to have bins full of soybeans sitting around rotting because they could not sell them to China where they had cultivated a market over decades.
As a result of trade by tweet we have families who are paying more for washing machines and shampoo and clothing. As a result of the so-called trade policies of this administration and this president, over 700,000 workers auto workers, are likely to lose their jobs, like Mr. Marsh`s story because of this policy.
O`DONNELL: Senator, can I just tell the MSNBC audience what`s going on here?
O`DONNELL: Because we are now two minutes into overtime, into Brian Williams` "11th Hour." Brian Williams is working tonight. He is going to come on. We`re going to extend into overtime just a couple more minutes to get in these final questions here in South Carolina.
People out there waiting for Brian, you`re going to get him. We`re going to go right to the next question right here.
HARRIS: But here is what I want to say --
O`DONNELL: OK. Go ahead.
HARRIS: -- to finish, Lawrence.
And as a result of what we have seen in terms of this administration`s trade policy which has hurt workers, what we have instead is what we should all recognize is the Trump trade tax. We are all paying a price for the policies which have resulted in the Trump trade tax.
We are paying more for washing machines and shampoos. We`re paying more in terms of our farmers having to eat the cost of having soybeans that they have been growing, rotting in bins. We are paying more in terms of auto workers losing their jobs. It has not been smart, and it has not been in the best interest of the productivity and the workers of our country.
O`DONNELL: All right we`re going to get one more and we`re going to go ahead.
SHIELA KEEPERS: Hi, Senator Harris, I`m Sheila Keepers (ph). I turn 18 tomorrow. So the first time I vote will be in the South Carolina primary.
HARRIS: Happy birthday. That`s great.
KEEPERS: Thank you.
HARRIS: That`s great.
KEEPERS: I was wondering what you have to say to my friends and my generation who just don`t think that it`s important to vote and are kind --
KEEPERS: -- of tired of this political process.
HARRIS: Well, I`m so glad you`re here Sheila (ph) and happy birthday. And it`s so important that you`re here.
Listen, our democracy is at its strongest and most powerful when everyone participates. And the reality of it is this, you know, I think of us as being a nation that was founded on noble ideals, right? And part of the strength of who we are as a nation is by our very nature we are aspirational. We are an aspirational people.
We were founded on noble ideals. The ideals that were present when we wrote the Constitution of the United States and all of its amendments and the bill of rights and decoration of independence. We said you are equal and should be treated that way.
And this is a moment in time where we must fight for those ideals. And it`s a fight born out of aspiration. We know we`ve not yet quite reached those ideals, but the strength of who we are is we always fight to get there, and this fight will not be meaningful or robust unless everyone participates. And that includes you and all your friends and all of the people in our country, because we are all in this together.
And the thing that I think we know right now is this. This is a moment in time for us to look in the mirror and ask a question. That question being, who are we? Part of the answer to that question is we are better than this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
HARRIS: So let`s fight for that. So let`s fight for that. Let`s fight for that, and let`s know this is a fight that is born out of optimism. And this is especially for you and your friends and those who are 18 and thinking about voting and should they be involved?
Listen, this is a fight that`s also born out of knowing what can be unburdened by what has been. And I can`t think of a group of folks who are best equipped to know what can be than our young voters. So I`m so happy you`re here.
O`DONNELL: And we have our last question right here.
JUDI CIG: Hi, Senator Harris.
CIG: My name is Judi Cig (ph). My question is in a field of two dozen Democratic hopefuls, number one, why are you the one who can beat Donald Trump? And number two, when you are the nominee, would you consider asking Rachel Maddow to be your running mate?
HARRIS: She is terrific, and I always love the way that she and Lawrence pass the baton, you know, one after the other.
O`DONNELL: Brian is really waiting for me to pass the baton.
HARRIS: So I will tell you and I`ll try and make it short. And I`ll answer the first question, which is this. I believe that we are going to want on that stage in the general election.
Someone who has a proven ability to know how to fight and win fights, I have that experience. I have taken on everything from big oil to pharmaceutical companies. I`ve been in the big banks, around the foreclosure crisis where I brought $20 billion back to the homeowners of California.
On almost any subject that you can discuss with me, I have a proven track record of actually working on that. And I think we`re going to won on that stage someone who can do more than just give a beautiful speech.
The second part is we`re going to won on that stage someone who has a proven ability to know how to successfully prosecute the case against the policies of this administration. I know how to do that. And we`re going to win. And we`re going to win.
O`DONNELL: And that will have to be "Tonight`s Last Word from our town hall here in Spartanburg. Thank you Spartanburg. Thank you, Senator Harris very much. Really appreciate it. Thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
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