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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 12/17/21

Guests: Mandela Barnes, Dan Helmer, Irin Carmon, Sheldon Neeley


Democrats have less than a month left controlling Virginia before Republicans take over the House of Delegates and the governor`s mansion. Robert Scott Palmer has been sentenced for 63 months for being a part of the insurrection on January 6th. Retired generals have warned of a possible 2024 insurrection and says the military should be ready and prepared. Republicans in Wisconsin increasing their effort to subvert Democracy as President Biden vows to pass the Voting Rights Act.



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: All right, that is going to do it for us tonight on this fine Friday evening. I`ll see you again on Monday, but now it`s time for THE LAST WORD which tonight is hosted by the great and glorious Jonathan Capehart filling in for Lawrence tonight. It`s great to see you, Jonathan.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MNSBC HOST: It is great to see you, too, Rachel. You know, you were talking about Robert Scott Palmer, the fellow who got the longest sentence of the insurrectionists so far. And I know you`re running out the building right now, but we`re going to be -- well, we`re going to be talking about him, but also the role you played for him in prison. I think you know about that.

MADDOW: Yes, I do know about it. Whenever your name turns up in a courtroom, it`s unsettling even when it`s nothing bad. In this case, it was weird.


MADDOW: We actually got the transcript from the sentencing hearing and I looked at it and I just -- I`m preferring not to think about it.

CAPEHART: Okay, you don`t have to think about it. I`ll talk about it. If I don`t see you -- if I don`t see you again, Happy Holidays to you and Susan.

MADDOW: You, too. Thank you so much, Jonathan. Take care. Thank you.

CAPEHART: All right. Thank you, Rachel.

A violent attempt to stop the peaceful transfer -- transition of power. That`s how a federal judge today described the insurrection at the capitol on January 6th while sentencing a member of the Trump mob. Robert Scott Palmer was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison, the longest sentence so far for any defendant in the capitol investigation.

On January 6th, Palmer hurled a fire extinguisher, a plank, and a long pole at police officers. Palmer requested a sentence of just 24 months reasoning that that was fair because the architects of January 6th haven`t been punished.

Judge Tanya Chutkan dismissed that argument telling the court, "It`s true that the people who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go take action and to fight have not been charged. The issue of who has been charged is not before me. You engaged with combat with those law enforcement officers. That`s what you`re being punished for. You have a point, maybe the people who planned January 6th haven`t been charged, but that`s not a reason for you to get a lower sentence."

Two things can be true. Robert Scott Palmer shouldn`t get off easily just because Trump hasn`t been punished, but he also has a point. Trump should be punished. At least 700 defendants have been charged so far for their role in the insurrection. More than 130 of those defendants have been charged with assaulting police. Three members of the Trump mob have received their sentences including Palmer.

But Trump himself hasn`t been punished for inciting the insurrection and neither have members of his administration. Yet, that`s where the January 6th Select Committee comes in. The committee has interviewed at least 300 witnesses and subpoenaed more than 40 people in connection with the capitol attack trying to get to the bottom of who knew what and when they knew it.

And we`ve seen what happens when Trump lackeys don`t comply with the committee`s requests. We`re looking at you Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows, and your criminal contempt referrals. Because you can`t punish the puppets and not the puppet masters. Even Mitch McConnell seems to finally get that point.


REP. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The investigation, it`s occurring over in the House, reading about it like everyone else, and it`ll be interesting to see what facts they find. It was a horrendous event and I think that what they`re seeking to find out is something the public needs to know.


CAPEHART: Joining us now is Ryan Riley, senior justice reporter for Huff Post. Ryan, thanks for being here. It seems like the federal judges overseeing these cases are really clear and unanimous about what happened on January 6th. They do not see it as a tourist event as one Republican member described it, do they?

RYAN REILLY, SENIOR JUSTICE REPORTER, HUFFPOST: They don`t at all. I mean, that`s something that`s been very clear to me. Saw it today in court is that, you know, regardless of whether or not people who were higher up who actually planned this day get charged, you`re still responsible for your conduct.


I think that what is sort of, you know, important to keep emphasizing about this is just like how clear it is that these were Trump supporters and how clear it is they -- you know, every time one of these people is charged, including with Robert Scott Palmer after (inaudible) back in March by one of these online (inaudible) looking into this case and found a video of him leaning himself on camera shortly after he assaulted officers.

It was a pretty easy case to get through and clear through the legal process because it was just so clear. And that`s why I think this one has gone first today. But when I look at these Facebook pages afterwards, what I see is all of these indications of how -- of why they did it and why they supported Trump.

It looks exactly how you would imagine their Facebook pages and their social media pages would look. Its years and years going back just posting all these pro-Trump memes, posting how the election was stolen. And because they actually believe that the election was stolen, this is what happened. This is what they did.

They were the foot soldiers and they`re going to be punished and ultimately might end up being held more accountable than the people who were really sort of the master minds behind this.

CAPEHART: You know, the rioters sentenced today as I was talking to Rachel earlier, told the judge he saw his case featured on the Rachel Maddow show in jail. He said, "Ma`am, I was horrified, absolutely devastated to see myself on there." I mean, Ryan, do most of the attackers express remorse? Do they sound sincere when they say they`re horrified in retrospect?

REILLY: I think it`s a real mix. For the people who assaulted officers and are really facing consequences, significant time behind bars I think we have seen whether it be legitimate or not expressions of remorse. But with Robert Scott Palmer, I think it`s difficult to say because he also, immediately after he pled guilty, posted or had a friend post this -- posting online to a fund-raising website that completely mischaracterized the events of the day.

I do think that, you know, some of the defendants like another defendant, a young woman who was in college who entered the capitol and was carrying around a members-only sign and was sentenced to a month behind bars today, I mean her life has been pretty torn apart by this event. You know, she was a senior about to graduate, and now her, you know, she went back, her parents are mad at her. She broke down.

I mean that was legitimate remorse and it wasn`t then, you know, she deserves an Oscar because it was -- it really seemed very compelling. She talked about how her life was torn apart. But there are a lot of the defendants in a similar category to her who were charged with these minor offenses or misdemeanor (inaudible) who I don`t think are really -- I think that they`re victims still.

I think that they are somehow getting the book thrown at them or saying, you know, what about BLM protest or trying to raise other factors here and really don`t seem to be legitimately sorry for their actions.

CAPEHART: Ryan Reilly, thank you.

REILLY: Thanks so much.

CAPEHART: Joining us now are Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney in Michigan and a law professor at the University of Michigan Law School. And Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law. They are both MSNBC legal contributors.

Barbara, I hear these judges and it`s hard to understand how nobody who assembled the attackers on January 6th has been charged with a crime.

BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Jonathan. I think that is something that is disturbing to everybody. And I would add the word after your sentence, "yet." I don`t know that this is the end of the road to investigate something of the magnitude of what we`re seeing from the January 6th committee with plots and e-mails and PowerPoints and other things like that would take many, many months to investigate.

And so the fact that we have not seen people charged yet does not mean they won`t be charged ever. I understand the frustration that we haven`t seen charges yet, nor have we even seen any inkling of charges. But that`s the way it`s supposed to be done, behind closed doors. We`re not supposed to hear about what`s happening in a grand jury. And so I remain hopeful that those at the higher levels will be ultimately held accountable.

CAPEHART: Joyce, "The New York Times" reports there are a small circle of Republicans who pressure the Justice Department in attempts to overturn the 2020 election results. They include Jim Jordan, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, Louie Gohmert, Mo Brooks and Scott Perry. What kind of legal exposure could they have if any?

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: So, the legal exposure is all involved in the investigation, Jonathan. We can look at the sort of tip of the iceberg series effect. But what DOJ has to do if DOJ is in fact engaging in criminal investigation, is they need to learn more. They need to know the entirety of the conduct to determine whether it`s criminal or not and to determine if it`s criminal where it falls within the parameters of crime.

Something that Barb and I have spent a lot of time talking about is whether or not there`s the possibility of prosecution of some group of individuals for a conspiracy to disrupt the functioning of government.


That would be akin to the sort of kind of conspiracy that Robert Mueller charged against Russian trolls and internet folks in the course of the Mueller investigation. That same sort of disruption of government function would be sort of the nexus of the investigation here. Of course, there`s no telling how far it could go.

CAPEHART: You know, Barbara, in a "The Washington Post" op-ed, three retired generals are saying the military must prepare now for a 2024 insurrection. And here`s what they write. "With the country still as divided as ever, we must take steps to prepare for the worst. The military and lawmakers have been gifted hindsight to prevent another insurrection from happening in 2024, but they will succeed only if they take decisive action now." What actions need to be taken to prevent a second insurrection in 2024?

MCQUADE: Yes, I think their warning is well-placed. I think there are a number of things that we need to do. And one is just be ready for it, make sure we`ve got responders ready at the capitol if something like this should happen again. But I think even more than that proactively, there are a couple of things that need to be done.

One is making sure that the right to vote is being protected. We`re seeing attacks on the right to vote in terms of suppression laws and other kinds of things. There is also the disinformation campaigns that are going on, to cause voters to believe that voting by mail for example means voting by fraud.

And so doing some things to make sure that accurate information is getting out. And that can be done with our secretaries of state around the country. And then finally, I think, one thing that needs to be done is there`s this statute called the Electoral College Act which talks about the certification and allows states to have their legislatures substitute the electors chosen by the people by the legislatures if an election "fails."

But there`s not a clear definition of what that means. And that was the part of the law that I think people in like John Eastman and others were trying to exploit to get Mike Pence to not certify the election results. So, all of those steps I think are places that we can look to, to fix to try to prepare America for the inevitable attack that`s going to come in 2024.

CAPEHART: You know, Joyce, we have the puppet-puppet master play there in my intro here, and we`re seeing lots of puppets like Robert Scott Palmer who are getting -- they`re getting charged and they`re being sentenced. But the puppet masters i.e. Donald Trump and others, but particularly Trump has yet to be charged with anything. Are we -- is it a mistake not to charge him and is it a mistake that a bunch of people want him to be charged given the way the law is?

VANCE: Well, I think the right way for us to consider it is to think in terms of investigation because what we don`t want to become is a country with mobs, you know, calling for people to be locked up before we know what the evidence against them is. The important step that needs to be taken here is investigation. And although I think we`re all concerned, we all want to see the former president held accountable appropriately so, the January 6th Committee is working at a speedy pace.

They`ve got their heads down. They`re talking to a lot of witnesses. They`ve made examples of those who won`t cooperate. We don`t know if there`s any sort of criminal investigation going on at the Justice Department. That`s a little bit frustrating given how much evidence is public that would seem to merit investigation.

But certainly one possibility at the end of the congressional investigation is that the January 6th Committee which can investigate but can`t bring criminal charges could make a criminal referral to the Justice Department.

And that sort of bipartisan criminal referral, could in fact carry a lot of weight and could maybe give DOJ some of the cover that it appears to have been looking for in this post-Trump era where the attorney general seems very concerned with the appearance of remaining apolitical.

CAPEHART: Joyce Vance, thanks for making heads and tails of the question I asked you. It`s a perfect answer. Barbara McQuade, also, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

Coming up, how urgent is the need to protect the vote from Republican chicanery? I`ll ask Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes who is running for Senate in Wisconsin, next.



CAPEHART: Even a deadly insurrection at the capitol hasn`t stopped many Republicans who are still trying to sow seeds of doubt about the integrity of elections in this country. And the state of Wisconsin is now as "The Washington Post" puts it, the leading front line in the war over the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Donald Trump pushed Wisconsin Republicans to back a sham investigation into the 2020 election results.

"The Post" reports that investigation "makes little pretense of neutrality and is being led by figures who have shown allegiance to Trump or embraced false claim of fraud." These election lies are fueling hundreds of Republican bills to suppress voting and subvert legitimate election results.

President Biden keeps pressuring Senate Democrats to pass voting rights protections. Speaking today at South Carolina State University`s winter graduation, the president called out these Republican-led attacks on our democracy.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This new sinister combination of voter suppression and election subversion is un-American. It`s undemocratic, and sadly it is unprecedented since reconstruction. But this battle is not over. We must pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. We must. We`re going to keep up the fight until we get it done and you`re going to keep up the fight and we need your help badly.



CAPEHART: Joining us now is the lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, Mandela Barnes. He is also running for the United States Senate. Lieutenant governor, thank you very much for coming to the "Last Word." What can we do to keep our elections safe while Republicans are continuing their attacks on the ballot box?

MANDELA BARNES, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF WISCONSIN: Well, thanks so much for having me. And I`ll tell you one thing we absolutely have to do is have action in the Senate. We need to expand the majority to make sure that there are people, representatives there who are committed to expanding our democracy to protecting the sacred right to vote.

Unfortunately, it feels that it`s not always top of mind for people. And in a state like Wisconsin as the things you just mentioned, we see just how fragile democracy can be. Because there are so many people who were just very intent on destroying and dismantling our sacred institutions, the things that people have fought so hard for, the things that people have died for.

I mean, I don`t have to repeat that to you all. We know how serious this is, but we also see how serious it is when these lies are continued to be told especially by people like Ron Johnson. And so you end up with the January 6th event. And unfortunately, the reality is it could be possible again in 2024. Nobody wants to live in that type of world. Nobody should have to experience that sort of chaos.

CAPEHART: Right. And you know what, let`s listen to what Congressman Ruben Gallego told Lawrence just two nights ago.


REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): There`s a lot who are not taking this serious. The fact that there is a slow moving crew that is happening right now all over this country. So instead of people being dressed up in, you know, uniform or wannabe uniform storming the capitol, now they`re actually trying to win statehouse seats, state senate seats, secretary of states seat, (inaudible) seats so they could actually overturn the future election, right?

So the coup is ongoing. The traitors are still there, and they`re going to continue to try to destroy our constitution.


CAPEHART: So, lieutenant governor, you know, to his point, why are so many people not taking this more seriously?

BARNES: Well, I guess to the congressman`s point it is slow moving. So it`s not the thing you see happening every day. It`s not on T.V. like the January 6th events. This is happening in state legislative races and it`s also happening in school board races and other local elections as well.

And so when things just aren`t as present as they were, then it can be out of sight and out of mind. And that`s why it`s important for us to make sure that we do the organizing work to get people involved and engaged and understand what`s actually happening.

Now, I know that there`s a whole -- the whole debate where they, you know, you can out-organize voter suppression and we shouldn`t have to. But at the same time, while these voter suppression tactics, these election subversion tactics are happening, we still have to make sure that our people are well- informed.

And when I say our people, I mean those folks who are committed to an American with a free, fair, and safe system of elections and democracy. And the Republican Party people like Ron Johnson have done everything they possibly can to sow seeds of doubt at every level of government.

They want to take over federal elections in Wisconsin. They want the gerrymandered legislature in Wisconsin and/or elections because they`re not comfortable with the fact they lost elections. They have completely fell out of step with the American people.

They have been unresponsive to the needs of the American people when it comes to a health care system that delivers for everyone, when it comes to an economy that delivers for everyone, when it comes to addressing the climate crisis. They have left the American people behind and the only way they feel that they can win elections because it`s the truth is if they cheat and they try to steal another race.

CAPEHART: And so then in the 20 seconds that we have left, lieutenant governor, what`s -- you ran for lieutenant governor in 2018. What`s changed since then in terms of fears about how republicans are restricting the access to vote?

BARNES: Well, there are lots of fears because we see how -- we see across this entire country how many voter suppression bills were introduced in state legislatures. And we also saw everything, again, come to a head on January 6th, chaos unimaginable. And that happened right in front of our very eyes.

So there`s very real fear about not just voter suppression but voter intimidation tactics. And that`s why the first thing I did was release a package of bills aimed at protecting our democracy, aimed at strengthening our democracy, making sure that a vote will be realized by all eligible voters in this country.

CAPEHART: Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes of Wisconsin, thanks for joining us tonight.

BARNES: Thank you so much for having me.

CAPEHART: Coming up, it is a race against the clock as Democrats in Virginia work to protect abortion access before control of the statehouse and the governorship is handed over to the Republicans. That`s next.



CAPEHART: The Supreme Court hasn`t yet ruled on Mississippi`s restrictive abortion law, but some states are already preparing for a future without Roe. Even if the court doesn`t eliminate a woman`s constitutional right to an abortion, access to reproductive health services could be severely limited for many women.

At least 21 states have laws to restrict legal abortion if Roe is overturned. Fourteen states in the District of Columbia have laws that protect legal abortion. And in some states, lawmakers are realizing that they don`t have state laws protecting legal abortion if Roe is overturned like Virginia.

Tonight, Democrats in the state legislature are working to change that before Republicans take control of the statehouse and Republican governor- elect Glenn Youngkin is sworn in the second week of January.


One of those Democrats is our next guest, Virginia House of Delegates member Dan Helmer. Delegate Helmer, thank you for coming to the "Last Word." What are Virginia Democrats doing to protect legal abortion in the Commonwealth?

DAN HELMER (D), VIRGINIA STATE DELEGATE: Jonathan, first of all, it`s worth noting the incredible progress we`ve made in Virginia these past two years, removing restrictions on the ability of Virginia women to make their own health care decisions. But with time running out, and with the Supreme Court, being on the path of overturning Roe, we have a last chance over the next few days to make sure that we enshrine in our law, the right of a woman to access abortion services, to make sure that our incoming governor- elect, our incoming speaker designate are unable to restrict the ability of women to terminate their own pregnancy. And that`s what`s really at stake here.

CAPEHART: And as we`ve been saying, you`ve got a Republican governor taking office in less than a month and Republicans taking over the House of Delegates. Can you get this done before then?

HELMER: Well, it`s my belief that we can get it done. We need to get people there. We need to put something on the books. And we need to make sure that we can all look our granddaughters, our daughters in the eyes and said that when Roe was on the line, we did our duty, we did every single thing we could to make sure that they had control of their own bodies.

CAPEHART: And Delegate Helmer, I mean, I know this issue is personal to you because you and your wife learn that another pregnancy could endanger her health?

HELMER: And for me, this is about the safety of my family. After our second son was born, my wife parent learned that she had a heart condition that means she could die if she became pregnant again. And that`s why I have fought so hard in the General Assembly to make sure that every single Virginia woman, including my wife, has the ability to make her own reproductive health care decisions.

And that`s what`s at stake. And we need to lean in and before January 12th, when this new legislature comes in, before January 15th, when this new governor is sworn in, we have an opportunity to become the 15th state in the country that codifies the ability of Virginia women to make their own health care decisions, and we need to do it.

CAPEHART: January 12th and January 15th are the two dates to keep an eye on in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia Delegate Dan Helmer, thank you very much.

Joining us now is Irin Carmon, Senior Correspondent at New York Magazine and Co-Author of "Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg." Irin, great to see you. With the real possibility of the Supreme Court altering or overturning Roe, states like Virginia, as we`ve just been discussing, are scrambling to codify protections for abortion. What other precautions are we seeing at the grassroots level?

IRIN CARMON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, Jonathan, I mean, I think it`s important to note the New York Times reported today that despite the valiant efforts of people like Delegate Helmer, there isn`t necessarily the political will at this moment among Democrats in Virginia to codify Roe v. Wade. I think it`s important to note that the -- as much as the Supreme Court seems poised to do something very drastic, this is not a crisis that emerged overnight.

Republicans have, for decades, been attacking reproductive freedom any possible way they can. And at least according to The New York Times, the leadership among Democrats in Virginia would prefer to go on vacation rather than spend political capital on this issue. Republicans work overtime to block people from accessing abortion.

And so the real question right now is, when Democrats can no longer count on the federal courts to make sure that there`s legal protection for reproductive freedom, will they then step up? And that`s happened in some states. In New York, where I live, it took actually Donald Trump getting elected for Andrew Cuomo to stop blocking the Reproductive Health -- Freedom Act.

In California, there have been strides every single year. They really lead the way. And in states that are really, really hostile to abortion, it`s left to grassroots activists really to try to help people. At this very moment in Texas, with most abortions illegal, help people leave the state for it -- to the best of their ability on extremely limited resources. So beyond the political leadership, it`s really the grassroots that`s left picking up the pieces here.

CAPEHART: There seem to be some good news earlier this week when the Food and Drug Administration decided to permanently allow patients to receive abortion pills by mail. But, Irin, states are already acting to override this?

CARMON: This is exactly what I`m talking about. For more than a decade, states have been restricting telemedicine for medication abortion, which we know from much research is extremely safe. And even the FDA restrictions that existed before were political and not medical. And again, there`s study after study showing that access to these pills from a pharmacy or through the mail is completely safe. It`s a safe way to end your pregnancy. People do it all the time.


There`s no reason to have to go to a clinic for it. So it`s huge, huge news that in states that haven`t restricted this, this unnecessary burden will no longer exist. But if you live in a state that`s already hostile to abortion, odds are that years ago, they restricted this ability to access this care through the mail or, and it`s -- so, unfortunately, not a lot of comfort for those individuals who are already going to have to travel out of state to even dream of accessing this.

CAPEHART: You know, you`ve noted in your reporting on the Supreme -- the Mississippi case that -- or arguments have misled people into making false predictions before. Explain that for us.

CARMON: Well, you know, a lot of times, the justices might be testing things out, they might be trying to see where their colleagues are going. They might be just trying to get a reaction from people. They might just be showing, they might have already made up their mind then they might be showing to public, look how fair-minded I am.

Sometimes after the oral argument, there`ll be a conference where people haggle and on very rare occasions, they change their mind. But I will say, there is not a single person who listened to the oral argument in dubs the Mississippi case who didn`t come away, convinced that the Supreme Court is about to radically overturn decades of precedent that have protected a pregnant person`s right to make decisions about their own body.

And so, the only question is, how many votes will they get? How will the decision be written? It may be a decision that looks like it is moderate and still radically undercuts that right.

CAPEHART: Irin Carmon, given us a roadmap to follow as we wait for this decision to come down. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CARMON: Thank you so much, Jonathan.

CAPEHART: Coming up, part of the Biden roads and bridges infrastructure plan includes actions to stop babies from getting brain damage in their own homes. This is really important. Here`s the Vice President talking about it yesterday, and we will be talking about it next.



CAPEHART: Would you put anything in your body if the potential effects included develop mental delay, learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness and fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, hearing loss, seizures, eating things such as paint chips, that aren`t food is a condition known as pica? No, of course you wouldn`t.

But what if that thing is water? That`s the risk millions of Americans face every day if their water comes from lead pipes. This is what lead poisoning can do to a human body, to a human being. And the most severe effects can occur in children whose brains and bodies are still developing.

We all remember seeing these images when the water crisis in Flint, Michigan casts the national spotlight on the issue of lead and drinking water seven years ago. And while the Flint water crisis is no longer making the headlines it once did, Flint is still living with the fallout of lead exposure. The Biden administration is tackling the problem of lead in the nation`s drinking water by replacing all lead pipes nationwide over the next decade.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here`s the truth, and it`s a hard truth. Millions of people in our country, many of them children, are still exposed to lead every day. The action is to direct and coordinate the efforts of local state and federal partners to a single goal, to significantly accelerate the removal of lead pipes and paint over the next 10 years, particularly in communities that have historically been left out and left behind.


CAPEHART: Joining us now is Sheldon Neeley, the Mayor of Flint, Michigan. Mayor Neeley, thank you very much for being here. Can you give us an update on the situation in Flint since the city began replacing its pipes, lead pipes in 2016?

MAYOR SHELDON NEELEY (D), FLINT, MICHIGAN: Yes, we`re almost completed replacing our lead service lines. But, you know, the good news is this, that more people are signing up to get all the lead lines replaced in our community. You know, it was a very daunting task.

You know, back six years ago, when we first discovered lead was in the water and people were negatively impacted, we set out on a course to be able to replace lead lines and now we`re on a course complete in 2022. And as I said before, the good news is that more people are signing up. And so funding is very, very critical.

So the high-minded legislation, and President Biden`s plan to be able to get the lead out throughout our country is very refreshing. And so, people can use the city of Flint (INAUDIBLE) how they can successfully remove lead from their community.

CAPEHART: You know, Mayor Neeley, the -- we in the media so often focus on the cost of legislation. But on this issue, Flint has experienced the high cost of doing nothing. Help us understand that high cost.

NEELEY: Well, you know, when people are negatively impacted in children`s life, in the course of their life, the trajectory is then altered. As all those things and symptoms that you talked about before, we cannot afford not to do this. We have to make an investment in our infrastructure, in our country to make sure that we can educate our children appropriately and that they won`t be negatively impacted by this lead in our infrastructure

And so, you know, this investment is worth it. Investing in our families, in our futures is worth it. And so, we want to make sure that we provide a level of example how we can do this, removing of lead from our communities and this environmental injustice that goes on in low to moderate income areas. And so, these funding streams are very important.


CAPEHART: Actually, let`s listen to more Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday on that very point.


HARRIS: When some communities learn that there is lead in their homes or in their schools, if they have the resources or the influence, then action is taken. However, so often for poor communities, rural communities, communities of color, that does not happen.


CAPEHART: Mayor Neeley, what more do you believe the federal government needs to do to tackle environmental justice? And can anything be done on a local level?

NEELEY: Yes, absolutely. You know, we have a good roadmap now. But definitely, resources -- and the federal government with the EPA, and our Environmental Protection Agencies in our states and through our local community, we need to do more aggressive testing, making sure that we don`t have any impurities.

The lead copper rule in our nation is set at 15 parts per billion as a standard -- standardized level. But we do now understand that no amount of land is safe and drinking water. We have been testing inside the city of Flint. And also we offer a level of free testing for residents in our community to ensure a level of trust because, you know, trust was lost.

We have a crisis and competence throughout America as it relates to our infrastructure. We see more communities, aging communities, all through our country that has this issue. And that`s why it really sparked into action, this level of investment in America. And I can only commend President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for the actions in which they`re taking to make sure that no families are negatively impacted in America anymore as it relates to lead in the water.

CAPEHART: And Mayor Neeley, how critical was the national spotlight to making the situation in Flint better?

NEELEY: Well, it`s very critically a bottle illumination of something that`s been going on for decades. And we talk about these things, especially in the low to moderate income areas where we have black and brown people. Well, we see more regularly environmental injustices. We can talk about, you know, in our infrastructure, our air quality, you know, it seems like they pushed communities to the side where they don`t have the level of influence as it relates to wealth.

And so we need to make sure that we equal the playing field in America that says every family, every community, everyone is important. You know, one nation under God, indivisibly, with liberty and justice for all is our pledge. And so we have to live by it.

And so what they`ve done now, in our federal government, they`re trying to live up to the pledge of America, making sure that every American citizen is served correctly. And we`re going to have to do that. We`re doing that right here in the city of Flint. And we`re going to be able to provide assistance and a level of education for any community around America.

We understand here now more than ever, that water is a human right. And so we believe that as an administrator, I believe that as a mayor, and we will continue to make sure we fight for Flint and all American citizens in this country.

CAPEHART: Flint, Michigan Mayor Sheldon Neeley, thank you for joining us tonight.

Coming up, it`s Friday night. How you feel it? Feeling good? Well, sorry in advance. There is new reporting about these two characters that`s going to make you mad. Eugene Daniels joins me next.



CAPEHART: Here`s some fun news that will make your blood boil. The Daily Beast is reporting tonight that Kanye West`s independent presidential campaign might not have been so independent after all. Federal disclosures show Kanye`s 2020 campaign, "appears to have disguised potentially millions of dollars in services it received from a secretive network of Republican Party operatives, including advisers to the GOP elite and a managing partner at one of the top conservative political firms in the country."

The disclosure to show the campaign also enlisted legal services from firms with links to Trump and the Republican Party. As one ethics experts described it, Kanye was clearly seen as a way to steal potential votes from Biden. And that kind of typifies the difference between the two parties and how they target black voters.

For Republicans, it`s helping to fund a straw man candidate designed to siphon votes from the opposing party. For Democrats, it`s creating actual legislation to help black communities. It`s talking policy, as President Biden did today when he delivered the commencement address at a historically black university in South Carolina.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With the infrastructure law we just wrote and signed into law, and that Jim did so much to pass, we`re going to create better jobs for millions of people to rebuild our roads, highways, bridges, cities, small towns, rural communities. It means more opportunities for black businessmen, black contractors, black engineers, building black communities back to where they have to be.


And I mean it. Because if you don`t know the community, it`s hard to know what it needs.


CAPEHART: Joining us now Eugene Daniels, White House Reporter for Politico and an MSNBC Political Contributor. Eugene, I`ve been waiting to talk to you all night about this. I want your reaction to this this Kanye report, but also, come on, Republicans yet think running Kanye is going to get you black votes? Why Republicans do this?


EUGENE DANIELS, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Look, you try to get me in trouble on a Friday night. I think the thing that, as you`re reading this over and over this story is what you realize is that the misunderstanding of black voters by certain segments of the political world, is still at an all-time high, in a way that is kind of shocking, right?

Because something that black voters have made very clear over and over and over again, is that they take their right to vote very seriously. That in 2020, they felt the stakes were very high. And so there was no world in which a bunch of black voters were going to change their mind and flocked to Kanye West, because they liked the grad -- the dropout or the graduate or any of his albums, right? That wasn`t something that was going to happen.

He wasn`t talking about policy. And they saw Joe Biden, they know Joe Biden as someone who is going to, you know, take, put his will hands on the will of the country and move them forward, right? That is what what black voters thought in South Carolina, in the primary, and they thought that all the way through the general election.

So putting Kanye or any rapper up I think would have not worked. Beyonce maybe, but Kanye, not so much.

CAPEHART: I was going to -- right. I was going to say, if you`re going to go down that route, Jay-Z, Beyonce, I mean, those are -- I mean -- OK. I don`t want to get you in trouble. I don`t want you to get fired. You`re just engaged. You`re about to get married. Don`t mess up the household.

All right, look, Eugene, it`s not just about stealing, potentially, Biden votes. Daily Beast reports, the Kanye 2020 campaign committee, didn`t even report paying some of these Republican advisers and used an odd abbreviation for another -- moves which campaign finance experts say appeared -- appear designed to mask the association between GOP operatives and the campaign and could constitute a violation of federal laws.

Gee (ph), it`s clear. Republicans wanted to hide their connections to Kanye, but come on. I remember during the campaign, and I`m sure you did, too, we all knew, we all been done knew that this was going on, right?

DANIELS: Right. I mean, the reporting in this story makes it pretty clear that it`s possible even Kanye didn`t know this was happening. That this -- that the Republicans are in -- within the campaign. And what`s really, really interesting, I think, is that trying to unspool this and really trying to figure out what happened here sounds like it`s going to be impossible, if not -- if the hardened, if not impossible, because as described in the story, that the bookkeeping was a disaster.

And so whether or not people will ever actually be able to find who was, who what, was wondering (ph) if Kanye knew anything that, I don`t think that`s ever going to be seen. But one thing that I think is really interesting, if Kanye sees this, if he sees the Daily Beast story, I am interested to see what he has to say about all this because he`s obviously one who doesn`t keep quiet online when he wants to talk about himself.

CAPEHART: Well, we`re not talking about him anymore. I would have end it. 90 seconds that we have left, let`s talk about the President`s visit to South Carolina to Jim -- Congressman House Majority Whip, Jim Clyburn`s commencement, gave the diploma to Whip Clyburn. The significance of the President going to South Carolina and going to Whip Clyburn`s alma mater.

DANIELS: Yes. I mean, there is no Joe Biden as President if it`s not for Clyburn, for South Carolina and for black voters. And I think Joe Biden knows that, he has said that. His advisers who said to me over and over, you have to dance with the ones who brung you, and black people brung him to the White House. And I think that is something that this White House and Joe Biden take seriously.

And looking at the way that he was -- how much he respects Clyburn and knows that he wouldn`t be President if Clyburn didn`t endorse him, before South Carolina and I think this administration has worked to continue that relationship and to try to figure out ways to continue to cultivate the relationship with the black voters. Because they know that this is the base of the Democratic Party, no matter who`s the loudest on Twitter, older black voters, or the ones that you need you want to be president. And that`s exactly what happened for Joe Biden.

CAPEHART: That was the key thing you said right there. It`s not the loudest people on Twitter who are important, it`s the older black voters who are the ones who are important when it comes time to vote.

Eugene Daniels, thank you for joining us tonight. Hope I didn`t get you into too much trouble.

That is tonight`s last word. I`m Jonathan Capehart. You can catch me on the Sunday show every Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC. But you know what starts next? "THE 11TH HOUR," and that starts right now.