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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, August 11, 2020

Guests: Vanita Gupta, Seema Mehta, Barbara Lee, James Clyburn, Niki Solis


Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden picks Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Steve Schmidt is a Republican strategist, was a Republican strategist a long time ago. He is an MSNBC analyst and co-founder of the Lincoln Project. August 11th, 2020, remember that date, the day on which a woman of color was put on to a major part ticket for the vice presidency of the United States.

That is "ALL IN" on this Tuesday night.

My friend Rachel Maddow is joining us now -- Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ali. Thank you very much, my friend.

And thanks to you for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.

California is the most populous state in the country. The only attorney general in the whole country who runs a larger operation than the attorney general of California is the attorney general of the United States. California is just enormous, right? Forty million people.

And in 2011, when Kamala Harris became attorney general, when she took the reins of California's justice system, the state at that time was just going through the bottom lands in terms specifically of the massive housing crisis that was brought on by the financial crash of 2008 and the ensuing great recession. Millions and millions of Americans forced out of their homes, having their homes foreclosed on. And, of course, this was not a natural disaster. This was brought about by bad behavior, banks and mortgage lenders behaving in a wildly, terribly destructive way, right? This terrible, deceptive, predatory practices from banks and mortgage lenders.

The foreclosure crisis hit California harder than any other state. A fifth of the nation's foreclosures were in California alone. But the crisis did hit all 50 states.

And when Kamala Harris became attorney general in California, at that time, the attorneys general in all the 50 states were engaged in this group effort to get help, get compensation for homeowners who had been screwed over by the bad behavior of the industry.

All the attorney generals in all 50 states were trying to reach a cash settlement with the country's five largest mortgage servicers. And in 2011 Kamala Harris, the brand-new attorney general of the country's biggest state, the state with the most foreclosures, she was immediately and very visibly at the forefront of that effort, right? States were desperate to get money from these giant banks. They were desperate to get some relief from people who will been foreclosed on and kicked out.

Frankly, at a political level, the Obama administration in Washington really wanted some kind of settlement with those big mortgage servicers that they could tout as a victory, right, with the financial pain of the recession dragging on. They wanted the banks and the mortgage lenders to have to pay some price to help people out some way. They were rooting for that settlement.

But less than a year into her tenure as California's attorney general, nine months into her time on the job, it seemed like a deal for some kind of financial relief from these mortgage giants might be near at hand. These mortgage groups put a multibillion-dollar settlement offer on the table to the 50 states.

And Kamala Harris, as attorney general in California, did something kind of astonishing. She looked at that multibillion-dollar offer to the states from the mortgage lenders and she said, no. She walked away. Left the table, said that offer, sure, was multiple billions of dollars, but it was nowhere near good enough. California in this deal, for example, would end up with just a couple of billion dollars, which is a ton of money, but was a drop in the bucket compared to the scale of the crisis.

And so, she walked away, said no, we are not taking that deal and people freaked out. I mean, in California and across the country, critics said with what Kamala Harris just did, with her walking away from this, I mean, California's going to have to start all over from scratch negotiating with these guys. That's going to delay any settlement. National critics said the negotiations between the other 49 states and the big banks would obviously collapse after Harris did this because the banks weren't going to negotiate a settlement without the country's largest state, she might have screwed it up for everybody.

It turns out the critics were all wrong. Kamala Harris ended up walking away from that deal that had been offered by the mortgage lenders. Instead, she worked with a handful of other like-minded, tough-minded attorneys generals who thought this wasn't good enough deal. She said she grew close in particular with Delaware's Attorney General Beau Biden, the vice president's son. Of course, who has since passed.

But in this small group they hashed out a new demand to present to the banks, basically demanding that the banks quintuple their offer, and it worked. A few months after she said no and walked away from the table, Kamala Harris did get a much better deal, a new deal, a much better deal, not just for California, but for all 50 states.


KAMALA HARRIS, THEN-CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: This morning, we are very proud to announce a tremendous victory for California. As a result of 13 months of intense discussions, sometimes battle, we have delivered to California $18 billion in relief for California's homeowners.

In September of last year, after months of discussions, I made a decision to withdraw California from those discussions because the offer on the table was just simply inadequate and insufficient. And we were very determined to make sure that California, the hardest hit in the country, would receive its fair share.


MADDOW: That is how Kamala Harris met the United States of America as a nationally recognized nationally consequential political and public figure.

As attorney general of California, getting something from the banks and the mortgage lenders that nobody thought anybody was going to be able to get, she got it not just for California, but for the country, and her first year in office as A.G.

The first time a Catholic was on a presidential ticket in the United States of America, it was 1928. That was Al Smith, Democratic Party.

The first time a woman was on a presidential ticket in the United States, it was 1984. That was Geraldine Ferraro, Democratic Party.

The first time a Jewish candidate was on a presidential ticket in the United States, that was the year 2000, Joe Lieberman, Democratic Party.

The first time an African American was on a presidential ticket in the United States it was 2008, Barack Obama, Democratic Party.

The first time a woman was at the top of a presidential ticket as the presidential nominee of a major party, that was 2016, Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party keeps breaking these barriers, keeps making these landmark choices in terms of leadership. That said, only one of those pioneering tickets I just described actually won the presidency. Barack Obama in 2008. With his running mate, of course, Joe Biden.

And now, here comes Joe Biden with the running mate decision of his own and he has chosen the first black woman, the first woman of color to ever serve on a presidential ticket in our country, the first south Asian American to serve on a presidential ticket in our country.

Kamala Harris is the daughter of immigrants. Her father is an immigrant from Jamaica. Her mother was an immigrant from India. Her parents divorced when she was 7 years old. She and her younger sister Maya were raised mostly by their single mother.

She grew up in northern California, the east bay. She went to Howard University, the excellent historic African American university in Washington, D.C. She came home to the bay area for law school at Hastings, which was the name for the law school at the University of California at Berkeley.

The Harris sisters ended up becoming lawyers. Kamala Harris, the older sister, went to Hastings. Maya, the younger sister, ended up going to Stanford Law School. She ended up becoming the head of northern California chapter of the ACLU, storied civil rights attorney.

Kamala Harris, the older sister, became first an assistant D.A. in Alameda County, in Oakland. And in 2003, she made a bold move, she ran for the elected position of district attorney in the city and county of San Francisco. She ousted an entrenched incumbent district attorney from that part of the world. I remember what it felt like when Kamala Harris ousted Terrence Hallinan as San Francisco D.A. It just felt like something impossible had happened.

In winning that D.A.'s race in San Francisco, Kamala Harris became the first black person, the first woman, the first South Asian American to run that office.

She was then re-elected to that office four years later. Then she ran for state attorney general in California.

And when she ran for state attorney general in California, you could tell that Republicans not only realized that that race was on the line, but also here was somebody up and coming, who it was worth them training their attention on for all sorts of negative reasons. I think they could see at the time what a rising star, Kamala Harris, might mean for the future of California politics and maybe bigger than that.

Part of the way you can tell is that the Republicans for that state attorney general's race, they brought big national guns to bear against her. George W. Bush politics guru Ed Gillespie ended up running this absolutely scathing Republican campaign against Kamala Harris for attorney general in the state of California. Just a no holds barred campaign.

She won that race so narrowly in 2010 that her Republican opponent gave, actually gave a victory speech that he later had to take back whether it turned out he hadn't won at all. The "San Francisco Chronicle" actually ran a headline online on election night that said Harris lost to her opponent for attorney general. She had not lost. She, in fact, never lost a race in California.

That's how she became attorney general in the state of California. Then she had that huge $18 billion win against the big banks, national recognition for that. She was then re-elected attorney general in California in 2014, and then in 2016, she ran for the United States Senate. She just destroyed all competitors in that race for the Senate seat in California. She won by more than 20 points.

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris is still in her first term as a senator right now, although she has been such an important part of Democratic politics for long enough now that it seems almost impossible she is a first-term senator. Senator Harris ran for president this past year.

If you had asked me at the start of the Democratic presidential primary who among the 27 candidates in the race was most likely to win, I would have told you I thought Kamala Harris was most likely to win that race. I thought that she was going to win the primary. She was going to become the Democratic nominee.

This is why I am not a pundit. Do not ask me to pundit. My punditry tree is stunted. It bears no fruit. I cannot see in the future when it comes to electoral prospects. Do not ask me.

But I thought she would win. She did not win. That said, I think there is a reason this is where we are. In terms of that presidential campaign, she announced she was running for president in January 2019. That made her the third office-holding African American woman to ever seek the Democratic nomination. She announced her candidacy on MLK day, that also happened to be 47 years to the day that Shirley Chisholm had launched her presidential bid. Shirley Chisholm, of course, the first African American woman to serve in Congress, the first woman to seek a major party nomination for president.

Kamala Harris' campaign logo actually gave a nod to the Shirley Chisholm for president campaign. They used similar colors. They used a similar font that Shirley Chisholm had used for her landmark campaign. Senator Harris entered that crowded somewhat impressive field of Democrats vying for the nomination. As I mentioned, she was one of 27 candidates, but she set herself apart from the rest of the field at least in early days.

She held her official campaign launch in Oakland, California, more than 20,000 people showed up for her campaign launch in Oakland. It was like 22,000 people. Look at that. More people turned out to see Kamala Harris announce her candidacy in Oakland than turned out to see Barack Obama announce his candidacy in 2008.

She told that gargantuan crowd, we are at an inflection point in the history of our world. That was January of 2019, and that started the long slog of the very crowded Democratic primary. By the end of it, by December, even before the first Democratic voters had to gone to the polls, the Kamala Harris campaign was plainly running out of steam. She had taken long stretches off the campaign trail, basically to try to bolster lackluster fundraising. But lackluster fundraising has a way of proving out.

Amid that and weakening performance in the polls, Senator Harris decided to drop out of the 2020 race before the first votes were cast. She cited an untenable financial situation in dropping out early. But like I said, she has always sort of loomed larger in Democratic politics, in modern Democratic politics than her exact job title or exact stature in any office or any race would tell you.

And as such, she was an early and then constant presence on the proverbial short list for Joe Biden's potential running mate. And as of tonight, she has the gig. Kamala Harris tonight is the vice presidential nominee for the Democratic Party, joining former Vice President Joe Biden on perhaps the most consequential presidential ticket in modern American history.

The news that Senator Harris is making history in this multidimensional way struck a personal note today, I think, for many Americans. I saw this today and it resonated with me. This is from Vanita Gupta, who's the head of the civil rights division in the Obama Justice Department, herself a trail blazer.

She tweeted this: Not gonna lie, tears. She said, quote: It's a historic day for black women, South Asian women, women of color, women everywhere for America.

Joining us is Vanita Gupta. She is president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. And as I mentioned, she was head of the civil rights division in the Obama Justice Department.

Great to see you. Thanks for being here.

VANITA GUPTA, FORMER HEAD OF DOJ, CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION: Great to be here. I am still tearing up, so I'm sorry, Rachel, but I feel emotional tonight.

MADDOW: Well, tell me about your emotions. It's okay if you are emotional about it. Talk to me about why you feel that way.

GUPTA: It's a historic day in so many ways. I mean, you know, to think of the daughter of Indian immigrants, Jamaican immigrants on the ticket, this is a woman who has been a fighter her whole life. She has been a trail blazer, a blazer of firsts.

She had to take a lot of hits from a lot of people in all of the roles she's played. She's been one of the most progressive U.S. senators we have. And so, today, for this announcement, for her to be a first, the first black woman, the first South Asian American woman, it's really a statement.

And you know this, Rachel. It's been some dark times in this country for those of us who work for justice, who are trying to protect vulnerable communities, who are trying to stand for a new America, and this announcement today gives us all hope. It has us fired up because of what it says about our future, about the future of this country, and I just think it's an absolutely historic choice.

MADDOW: Specifically, the issue of her being the daughter of immigrant parents. I mean, there is a lot about her biography that resonates with a lot of different people. There is a lot about her palpable political skills that resonate when people when they are trying to handicap how this is going to help the Biden ticket in the general election.

But on the issue of her being the daughter of immigrants, that resonates differently now under this administration than it even did when Barack Obama was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in 2008, who was the son of an immigrant father. I wonder if there is something either to the emotional resonance here or potentially the political utility here for her to bring that biographical background, to bring that life experience to the fight with an administration that has been more vocally anti-immigrant than anything in the last -- than any administration in the last century.

GUPTA: Yeah. Look, I think there is no question about it. I think her own biography as the daughter of immigrants, her story, but also what she has stood for. I mean, we -- you know, this has been, the Trump administration has really declared a war on immigrants, has undermined our democracy, has undermined notions of inclusion and justice and fairness.

And her biography stands as something very different. As a U.S. senator, she has been a champion for the minimum wage for LBTGQ rights, voting rights, justice and police reform. She was out in the streets protesting after George Floyd's murder. She led the charge on key legislation in Congress on these issues.

And so, I think there is a very kind of particular resonance. She reflects the coalition that is the future of America and there is a particular resonance based on her record and the things she fought for. Americans are hungry for this now after what we have been dealing with. And her record is one of the most progressive U.S. senators as a rivalry rights champion, her biography I think really speaks to this moment.

And it's going to fire up and already is firing up a lot of people who are energized to fight for the soul of this country in the next several months.

MADDOW: Vanita Gupta, the head of civil rights under President Obama, now president of the leadership conference on human rights -- I appreciate you being here. Thanks for being willing to put your heart on your sleeve a little bit more than I know you are sometimes comfortable doing. It makes a big difference. Thanks a lot.

GUPTA: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. On this night of firsts, I am pleased to bring back into the conversation the first black woman to serve as mayor of Chicago. Joining us now is Mayor Lori Lightfoot of the great city of Chicago who considers herself a friend and colleague of Senator Harris.

Mayor Lightfoot, it's really nice of you to make time tonight. Thanks for being here.

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO: I am unbelievably thrilled. It's great to be with you.

MADDOW: Talk to me about what you believe the Kamala Harris nomination means both for the election and for the country. Talk to me about how you felt when you heard the news.

LIGHTFOOT: I burst out in a huge grin. And my 12-year-old daughter, sorry for my voice tonight, my 12-year-old daughter was extremely enthusiastic. Kamala Harris represents a true American story -- the daughter of immigrants, a black woman fighting for justice and making sure that people who have been left behind have a path forward and a fire in an advocate. This is exactly the right pick.

This ticket, I think, we're going to face some tough times because we have already seen today that Trump and his people pick. Pick. This ticket, I think, we're going to face some tough times because we have already seen today that Trump and his people are going to race to the bottom. But Kamala Harris and Joe Biden together are tough. They are determined, they're experienced, and this is going to be, I think, an amazing campaign all the way through November 3rd.

MADDOW: In terms of that race to the bottom that you just described there, I was struck, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. The Trump campaign is out with an ad characterizing Senator Harris as radical. Senator Harris has been characterized as a lot of things. I think she is very rarely construed as radical.

Part of me thinks that was inevitable no matter who the Biden campaign was going to pick, that they had that rubber stamp ready for whoever the nominee was going to be because that's the kind of caricature they want to run against. But I wonder if you think that -- you know, as somebody who has broken multiple glass ceilings yourself, looking at her as a woman of color, a black woman, a south Asian woman, a daughter of immigrants, as a woman who's broken glass ceilings all over the place, if you think there is a specific way that we should think about the way she'll be attacked, the strengths from which she can speak and the ways in which she will be caricatured in a way, a white woman or man of any color may not have to deal with?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, look, we know that Donald Trump is hostile to women. He is a misogynist. He doesn't regard us as being worthy. He has attacked women all summer long.

Me, Jenny Durkan, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Muriel Bowser -- like every single time he does he underestimates how tough we are, how resilient we are, and how we are ready and able to lead. He is going to make the same mistake against Kamala Harris and he is going to be pushed back on his heels.

This is not a woman to be trifled with. She is tough. She is fearless. And more importantly, she is going to bring into the conversation of this campaign lots of people who are going to be looking to her as a leader, going to be seeing themselves in her and going to be proud that she is on the stage at a national level.

And he is underestimating the unifying factor that she is going to bring to this election. And they always underestimate us to their peril. And they are going to do the same thing with Kamala.

MADDOW: Underestimate her to your peril -- a helpful caption for everybody moving on from this moment. Mayor Lori Lightfoot of the great city of Chicago, Madam Mayor, I can hear the strain in your voice. I hope you are taking care. Thanks for taking time to be here tonight.

LIGHTFOOT: Yes, I am a little tired these days, but doing okay.

MADDOW: All right. Take good care, Mayor. Thank you.

We have got much more on this here tonight. We're going to be talking live with a couple of elected officials who have governed alongside Kamala Harris, who have campaigned alongside Kamala Harris and have known her for a long time, including one member of Congress who is sort of seen as a Democratic Party politics sort of wise whisperer at this point. Somebody who gave the Biden campaign a huge and potentially determinative boost in the primary.

Jim Clyburn of South Carolina is going to be joining us later on this hour.

Lots to come. Stay with us.


MADDOW: This from "The L.A. Times" in early 2016.

Quote: I have always entered races early and run hard and that's what I have done in this race. I make no apologies for it.

That was Kamala Harris in her first big interview after she announced a bid for the U.S. Senate for the Senate seat left open by the retirement of Senator Barbara Boxer. Harris, of course, went on to win that Senate race, but that first interview that she gave after jumping in she gave it to "L.A. Times" political writer Seema Mehta.

Seema Mehta had covered Harris extensively during her tenure as California A.G., long before she was a national figure, long before she became a household name in the Senate now, and as of tonight, a member of the 2020 Democratic presidential ticket.

Joining us now is "L.A. Times" political writer Seema Mehta.

Ms. Mehta, thank you so much for joining us. It's nice to have you here.

SEEMA METHA, POLITICAL WRITER, THE L.A. TIMES: Thank you for having me on.

MADDOW: So this isn't exactly like winning the journalism lottery, because it comes with no -- but it is a special form of kind of journalistic either foresight or luck when somebody you have been covering since before nobody knew them ends up in a position of national prominence. I have to ask you, if there was any foresight on your part, if you knew she was going places or if it was lucky that you were on that beat?

MEHTA: I think that people in California, not just me, obviously political reporters across California have known for quite a long time that she had eyes beyond being San Francisco's district attorney or California's A.G. So, no, I'm not surprised by this, the presidential race certainly, they make a bet (ph), showed that.

MADDOW: In the attorney general's race, when she first ran statewide in California I was struck by how hard the Republicans ran against her, how they brought these national resources to bear against her, how close that race was. But then she was re-elected more easily to her second term as A.G., and then she walked into that Senate seat. I mean, she won that by more than 20 points.

Having watched her compete in those types of races in California, which is a big stage, what do you think we should understand about her sort of competitive skills and how she runs, particularly in races that are tight?

MEHTA: I mean, I think that what's happened is California has changed and she has changed. When she ran in 2010, California wasn't quite as blue and she was still unknown. She was running against Steve Cooley, who was pretty well-known, he's Republican, but he wasn't a super conservative Republican, and this is at a time when California was still electing Republicans or had two years prior, a couple years prior.

So, that was an incredibly tight race. We didn't know the results almost until Thanksgiving. And in the year since then, I think she became a candidate, and the state became a lot more liberal, and she sort of became one of the darlings of the California Democratic Party. When she ran in 2014, she mended a lot of fences. When she was D.A. in San Francisco, she angered a lot of law enforcement because she didn't support the death penalty for a cop killer.

Dianne Feinstein, the senator, spoke out at the funeral of that police officer and laced into Kamala Harris for not supporting death penalty. So, she was viewed as pretty liberal. But then once she became A.G., she really mended fences with police officers, with the D.A.'s office. When she ran in 2014, they pretty much all supported her. I think it's two things. The state changed but she changed.

MADDOW: In terms of what's going to happen next here, as you know, as a political reporter, political reporters from all over the place, oppo researchers from Republican Party that aren't there yet already, are all now going to become very California focused, trying to develop back story about Kamala Harris that doesn't exist yet or to turn up some sort of scandal, some sort of skeletons in the closet.

I mean, I feel like she had a problem, there was a problem in the crime lab when she was D.A. in San Francisco, that controversial decision about not seeking the death penalty. There was certainly fights she stayed out of as A.G. and a few she got into where people can take issue. But I sort of feel like that's all pretty well trod. I feel like all of those things are kind of in plain sight.

Do you feel like there is more in her California history in her previous political life that will be a surprise to national voters, either positively or negatively? Do you feel like there is more to be said about where she has come from that maybe isn't well known already?

MEHTA: I think she is going to take hits from the left and right. We talked about the police officers. In terms of the other side, when she was A.G. some would argue she was overly cautious, didn't way in aggressively, for example, about police officers wearing body cameras, issues like that that she could have. So, she's not (INAUDIBLE) from tem, but I don't know that it's going to convince the broad swathe of Democratic voters whether to support this ticket or not.

And also, I mean, I think when you look at a presidential campaign, one of the criticisms of her was that you weren't sure where she stood. If you looked at her answers on Medicaid for all, she couldn't answer the question for a bit.

But now she is not the main character. She is the secondary. She just has to bolster Joe Biden's message. And she is very charismatic, she's a great campaigner.

And I think that she won't have any problem with that. And I would be sort of surprised to see if Democratic voters had any problem with her record. I mean, the president -- President Trump's campaign, Republicans are trying to paint her as the next coming of AOC. If you look at her record, though, it really -- that doesn't -- that doesn't bear fruit.

MADDOW: Yeah. And at this point, had Joe Biden, you know, nominated whoever the current incarnation of Joe Lieberman is, they would be calling that person a crypto Marxist radical anyway. I mean, it doesn't -- the label isn't just going to fit.

"L.A. Times" political writer Seema Mehta, long time chronicler of Harris' career, thank you for your time and congratulations on this gift -- this -- for your own career in terms of being a great bearer of institutional knowledge about Senator Harris. Thank you so much.

Now I want to bring somebody who has known Senator Harris for a long time, first in California politics and now as someone who serves alongside her on Capitol Hill, California Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

Congresswoman Lee, I really appreciate you being here with us tonight on this historic night. Thank you so much for making the time.

REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): Absolutely happy to be with you, Rachel. It's hard to contain my excitement and my joy this evening. So thank you so much.

MADDOW: Tell me about that excitement and that joy. I mean, this is part of the dynamic that I think people in Democratic politics went through today is that while everybody knew that Kamala Harris was one of the top contenders for this spot, it didn't leak and we didn't know who the last people were still in contention, we didn't know exactly what day it was going to be announced.

What did you think? What was your reaction when you heard that the decision had been made and that it was Senator Harris?

LEE: Well, my -- it was wow. First of all, she -- I was overjoyed. My phone started ringing. I was talking to a reporter from the "San Francisco Chronicle" and it was a moment to behold for me.

I screamed, you know, cried some, and then I said, wait a minute. Kamala Harris is so prepared to be our vice president. I've known her for years and years. I supported her when she ran for president. And who else is better prepared to be Joe Biden's partner than Kamala Harris.

MADDOW: Tell me about this, the historic nature of that moment. We have had both parties nominate a female vice presidential contender. Geraldine Ferraro for the Democrats first, then years later, Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin actually posted something on Instagram that was very constructive and sort of kind to Kamala Harris about how sort of how to stay true to herself in this moment, which I thought was interesting.

We, of course, saw Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2016. But we have never seen a woman of color on a presidential ticket, on a major party presidential ticket when it came to the nominees and going forth to that convention and standing up at the general election. All of the while in the Democratic Party, women of color, black women in particular, have been the absolute bull's-eye mainstay of the base of the labor of the party and of the hard political work of turning out the vote for the party. Feels like finally the Democratic Party is matching the power of its most devoted constituency to its leadership and who it's putting forward.

LEE: That's right. And the historic nature is so profound. When you look at 1972, when the first African American woman elected to Congress, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, she ran for president. That's how I got involved in politics.

And Congresswoman Chisholm, our presidential candidate then, she fought just like Senator Harris has been fighting to break so many grass ceilings for so many women, so many African American women, so many people of color. So, I think about the historical context of Shirley Chisholm passing this baton to Kamala Harris as our vice president to come.

I am so -- it's so important that black women are seen upfront now. We will be seen in the cabinet rooms, we will be seen in the Situation Rooms, we will be seen through all of our foreign and domestic policy as leaders and as the vice president who will bring so much to the table as it relates to making sure that all Americans receive a fair shot at the American dream -- at the American dream.

And so, she is the person who has embraced this country. She loves this country and she is going to fight for racial justice, economic equity, and health, security, and economic security, especially in this moment of this horrific pandemic. She is the right woman for the right time.

MADDOW: Congresswoman Lee, I have talked to you off and on over the ten, 12 years that I have had this TV show. I have never seen joy on your face like I'm seeing tonight talking to you about this nomination. It's nice to see you so enthused and so psyched about this, Congresswoman. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

LEE: Thank you, Rachel. She was born in Oakland, California, too, right next to your hometown. Thank you.

MADDOW: That's exactly right. I will tell you the Maddow family, to the extent that we can claim this, the Maddow family is very proud of it being someone from the East Bay, a woman from the East Bay who is on this ticket. Thank you for knowing that, too.

LEE: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me tonight.

MADDOW: All right. Coming up next, we are going to be speaking with the man who brought the Joe Biden presidential candidacy back from the brink, some say almost single-handedly. A man who is just incredibly important in this moment in Democratic politics and in terms of the Biden campaign specifically, Congressman Jim Clyburn, the dean of the South Carolina congressional district will join us live next.

We've got lots more still to come tonight. Stay with us.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINE: Thank you, thank you, thank you, South Carolina!


My buddy Jim Clyburn, you brought me back.



MADDOW: You brought me back!

He means it. That was Joe Biden in February, thanking South Carolina congressman James Clyburn for helping him turn the tide with a crucial very well-timed endorsement.

After Jim Clyburn endorsed Biden, Biden's big win in South Carolina set the stage for him inexorably to win the nomination and ultimately set the stage for tonight's historic vice presidential pick of Senator Kamala Harris of California.

Joining us now is South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn.

Sir, it's great to see you. Thanks for coming back. I told you I'd try to get you back soon when I last saw you. Thank you for making good on it.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me back.

MADDOW: So, when we talked a few days ago I asked your take on how the Biden campaign is doing and you talked about the care they were taking to vet running mates and some other running mate decisions that have been made by other campaigns that had not been good decisions.

You said Joe Biden needed to take his time to find the right person. Did, in your estimation, did he find the right person? How do you feel about this?

CLYBURN: I feel great about this. I really think that what Joe Biden did here put to rest a lot of things, and I think it creates the kind of faith and confidence in his leadership. Joe Biden has put to rest that old saying that we hear all the time, the Democrats take the black community for granted.

Well, he has demonstrated that he does not. And if you recall, on the day of my endorsement, he committed at that time that he was looking forward to putting an African American woman on the Supreme Court.

So I think that we've got the kind of candidate that has demonstrated by this pick that he can be trusted to move people of color into the mainstream of the Democratic Party. I just love this decision. My three daughters are very happy about it, and I cannot be more happy for them.

MADDOW: Let me ask you about what Senator Harris should expect and what the Biden/Harris campaign should expect in terms of the way a woman of color, the way a black woman, South Asian woman, daughter of immigrants, how she will be treated differently than a white woman would be treated or than a man of any color would be treated. What we understand about racial and gender dynamics in politics right now and with this president in terms of what they should be bracing themselves for and how Senator Harris should expect to be targeted.

CLYBURN: We got some of that already today. Trump's reaction to this nomination was to be expected. But, you know, she has been out here a long time. She has learned California, statewide, twice. She got out in the middle of this campaign for the presidency. I watched her in this campaign. She knows how to take a punch and she knows how to throw one.

Joe Biden found that out and the whole country saw it. And we watched her doing hearings, the Barr hearing, Kavanaugh hearing. She has demonstrated that she knows how to take the opposition on. And it's going to come her way. She knows that.

But I think that she is prepared for it. She has demonstrated that. And I think that Joe Biden has done himself a great favor by bringing her on to the ticket.

MADDOW: Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina -- sir, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I'm really glad you were able to come back as soon as I wanted you back, as soon as we asked again. Thanks for making the time, sir. I know you're in demand.

CLYBURN: Very good.

MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Do stay with us.


MADDOW: Some of the toughest criticism Senator Kamala Harris has had in the national spotlight has actually been from the left, specifically tuned to her experience as a prosecutor, as San Francisco's elected district attorney, and as California's elected attorney general. When Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were still competing against each other in the presidential primary, Biden himself drew a contrast with her, when he intended to be an unflattering contrast, when he said that he worked as a lawyer, he worked defending people, while she had worked on the other side prosecuting them.

That history and the very real politics that come with it, today it bumped up against this really interesting op-ed that was written by a long-time public defender in San Francisco named Niki Solis.

Niki Solis says this. Quote: There's been much talk about the time Senator Kamala Harris spent as a prosecutor. As a public defender for 24 years, I examined, critiqued, and battled Harris when she was the San Francisco district attorney and more often than not, Harris and I were on opposite sides. Having had this experience, I feel compelled to speak on Harris' record while she was a district attorney.

Quote: Simply put, Kamala Harris was the most progressive prosecutor in the state. This is not an anecdotal opinion. It is based on facts.

Joining us now is Niki Solis, the author of that op-ed. She's been a public defender for over two decades. She was a manager in the public defender's office in San Francisco when Kamala Harris was district attorney there.

Ms. Solis, first of all, thanks for your service as a longtime public defender, that critically important work, and thanks for taking time to help us understand your take on this tonight.

NIKI SOLIS, CALIFORNIA PUBLIC DEFENDER: Thanks, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: One of the things that struck me about your op-ed is your sort of confession that you grappled with whether to say this. You said: I grappled with this idea of defending a former prosecutor for a long time, but Harris is more than that. I have to acknowledge the truth and say what I feel is right to set the record straight.

Tell me about that grappling with that and why that was a difficult decision for you.

SOLIS: Well, we were adversaries, and Joe Biden said something during that debate, and he said he was a public defender. And in that moment, I didn't know that fact, and I thought, you know, so much is being said about Senator Harris that doesn't tell the complete story. There were so many progressive policies that she implemented, Behavioral Health Corps, which is a mental health treatment corps that became a national model. And our office pushed for that.

There were other programs, back on track and other things that I didn't include in the op-ed. But I know and a lot of people in our office knew of the progressive changes that she was implementing. The problem was that there was criticism, but there wasn't this balance. So I felt like I had to fill the void because I didn't feel like it was a fair representation of Senator Harris' record when she was district attorney in San Francisco.

And I battled with it because I honestly felt that, you know, as a public defender, people may not understand or might think that somehow, you know, we were on the same side. We weren't. We were opposed ideologically in many ways. But I had to speak out and give credit where credit was due because there was a lot being said that weren't true, simply put.

MADDOW: In terms of that criticism, she's definitely -- you know, she has answered to that criticism at all sorts of different levels, particularly as her national profile has risen and risen. And I feel like I don't know how much of that is going to follow her into the general election. It's hard to imagine the Trump campaign or Republicans, for example, hitting her for being, you know, too tough on crime or not progressive enough on criminal behavior.

But do you feel like sort of a close examination of her record in context in San Francisco, in terms of how she behaved when she was running that office, would be an effective defense should she continue to get that criticism? You feel that basically what we need to do is study her record in order to be able to defend against the criticism that may still follow her?

SOLIS: Absolutely. And I think that more importantly, the left have to be excited about Kamala being vice president. I think that the left have to understand that the narrative that was being spun wasn't necessarily true. And so I do believe that from a political standpoint, it may help. I don't know.

What I do know is the truth. I was there. I was on the front line. I battled -- we battled as public defenders. We disagreed a lot.

But when it came to progressive values, when it came to prosecution in marijuana cases, when she was running for president at a time, there was some suggestion that she was not progressive. That's absurd. She was -- there were not marijuana prosecutions on a daily basis the way that was being spun. It was more of, you know, drug court and treatment programs, but also these cases were although initially prosecuted, a lot of them resulted in misdemeanor deals because of her progressive stance.

MADDOW: California Public Defender Niki Solis, you have a unique perspective on this. Thanks for being willing to talk about it on the national stage both in this op-ed and here tonight. It's really helpful. It's really helpful. Thank you so much.

SOLIS: Thank you. Thank you, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: We'll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: It is a -- an absolute privilege to have this job every day. It is a particular privilege and pleasure to have it on a history making day like this. The first black woman, the first South Asian woman named to a presidential ticket, this is a big deal.

Thanks for being with us tonight. That's going to do it for us now. We'll see you again tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence.


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