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Transcript: The ReidOut, 10/1/21

Guests: Harry Reid, Pramila Jayapal, Jaime Harrison, Jenifer Lewis, Eric Boehlert, Don Calloway


Progressives prevail in Democratic negotiations. Biden meets with Democrats to sell his agenda. Biden on negotiations, we`re going to get this done. Progressive Caucus Chair Jayapal says, Biden was very clear that infrastructure, reconciliation are tied together.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: There you go. You know, we didn`t know this is a conversation -- we didn`t know this is a conversation we`re going to have but here we are because we list to our guest on fallback, I love it. Congratulations to you and your wife and your family, Charlamagne, David. Again, the new shot, the God`s honest truth Fridays 10:00 P.M. Comedy Central. I got to get it to Joy. Thanks for watching "THE BEAT." Joy Reid is on now.

Hi, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much, Ari. Have a great weekend.

All right, everyone, cheers. Good evening. We begin THE REIDOUT with a win for progressive Democrats. 24 hours after the self-imposed deadline to vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill, a critical element of President Biden`s agenda, progressive Democrats have fundamentally changed the game and Democrats are now closer to getting what they and the president want. As progressives held the line, keeping the bipartisan bill, known as the BIF, tied to the larger reconciliation bill and policies the American public think are worth spending money on, like child tax credits and free community college and action on climate change.

The White House made it abundantly clear whose side they are on. And it turns out it`s team progressives. President Biden himself made the trip down Pennsylvania Avenue to make the hard sell. Following the meeting, he made clear that the timeline for a vote was irrelevant.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I`m telling you, we`re going to get this done.


BIDEN: It doesn`t matter when. It doesn`t matter whether it`s in six minutes, six days or six weeks. We`re going to get it done.


REID: There is no vote expected on the bipartisan infrastructure bill tonight but today`s events are a deathblow to the false narrative it was progressives who are blowing up the Biden agenda. Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal acknowledged that the build back better plan might be scaled back but that they are at the table and ready.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): He was very clear that we are tied together. We`re going to have to get -- and, look, he said, I support the BIF entirely. If I thought I could do it right now, I would. But we need to get this reconciliation bill and, you know, it`s going to be tough. We`re going to have to come down in our number and we`re going to have to do that work. So, we`re going to get to work and see what we can get to.


REID: And now it`s time for the media to catch up. Instead of making it sound like moderate Democrats are the reasonable ones, running wild with a narrative that Democrats were divided and feuding, the way we think about how Democrats fight has got to shift. This is how lawmaking is done. It is messy. But also it`s not about progressives always needing to bend the knee to moderates and it`s still the pair of so-called moderate Democrats in the Senate who need to get onboard with the president`s full agenda. Progressives are the ones who are trying to advance it.

Conservative Democrat Krysten Sinema left Washington today. She`s back home in Arizona for a doctor`s appointment. But The New York Times reports she will also attend a fundraiser, Saturday, at her PAC`s retreat, at a high- end resort and spa in Phoenix, complete with a cocktail reception and dinner.

And then there`s West Virginia`s Joe Manchin, who like Thirstin Howl III, just before the three-hour tour, addressed activists from his yacht named, Almost Heaven, since they could only get to him by floating up on the kayaks to make their case.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I agree 1,000 percent. We`re on the same page, gang. We really are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Adding dental, vision and hearing coverage to Medicare, that`s a real opportunity that we can do --

MANCHIN: Let me just explain on that one. We can get to that eventually. But right now, we can`t even take care of. It`s going to go broke in 2026. Let us fix and repair that first.


MANCHIN: We`re taxing the rich. I agree. We`re going to make the rich and the famous pay.


REID: Eventually he`s doing a lot of work there. And while he claims they`re on the same page. The reality is the country is on their side. Those activists and progressives in Congress, if you look at the polling, they`re the ones with the popular positions.

A majority of American voters support the infrastructure plan and the build back better plan, both bills once progressives have been trying to pass together. And now it`s clear progressives have the speaker on their side, they have the White House on their side. And now, it`s time to get it done, as President Biden said, no matter how long it takes.

Joining me now is Don Calloway, Democratic Strategist and Founder of the National Voter Protection Action Fund, and Eric Boehlert, Author and Editor of

And, Eric, it`s been too long -- thanks for being on. I want to start with you. Because one of the things that has irritated me and I suspect it sometimes irritated you, based on me reading you a lot, is that this narrative that the moderates are always reasonable ones and the progressives are always wild-eyed crazy ones and they are the ones who need to be reined back and put back on track.


I just want to throw you a few headlines. There was this sort of really kind of loving Axios, sort of boosting Axios piece called, Cracking the Sinema Code, which is the way that sort of John McCain treatment to sort of make her seem like this important maverick and made just a few headlines. CNN, the left defies Pelosi as Biden`s big hopes are in limbo, Politico, Biden faces fractious Dems with his agenda on the line. And you can go on and on and on, The New York Times, Washington Post, yet, the narrative is always that it`s the progressives that are the problem.

Where does that come from and why does that seem to survive when the facts are the opposite, that it is literally the progressives pushing Biden`s agenda?

ERIC BOEHLERT, FOUNDER AND EDITOR, PRESSRUN.MEDIA: Yes, they really are. And, yes, the drama is just out of control. I mean, The New York Times last night claimed Biden had been humiliated because this artificial deadline had passed. The New Yorker called it a civil war. I mean, come on, it`s very complex negotiations for a very complicated piece of legislation, one of the largest, you know, this country has ever seen.

The press is really -- this is what happens when you stick to a narrative, when you want drama and a story line and arc and deadlines and misvotes and things like that. But to your point, look, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is now the mainstream of the Democratic Party, and that the press, as you point out, is playing catch-up. It is not used to covering progressives, particularly, let`s say, women of color in the Democratic Party as our brokers, as being the center of the party. So they`re catching up.

And progressives have always been, you know, kind of covered as a fringe group or throwing, you know, rhetorical grenades and kind of getting in the way. But as the last 24 hours have proven, they are driving this truck, or whatever you want to call it and they`re the ones who have to be dealt with. And the press is in love with the Manchins and the sinemas of the world and they want to portray them as super savvy and the ones who are holding all the cards and things like that.

So, just to keep it simple, I mean, the press has never really treated the progressive wing in the Democratic Party as particularly serious and they ought to after now because this has been a very serious and very substantial negotiation on their part.

REID: And, you know, Don, the point I think that Eric made that think I think is really important, the progressives are the diverse. They are the racially and ethnically diverse part of the party and they represent that wing. And that is the base of the party. And because these are primarily women of color, they`re making arguments on behalf of communities they understand.

Kyrsten Sinema, she very openly negotiated only with a group of conservative white senators. And so you`re looking at the future of the party having a fight. It`s only a civil war if only two people in South Carolina had seceded, right, because there is two of them. Anyway, your thoughts?

DON CALLOWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST (voice over): Yes. Well, Joy, I think Eric is spot on. And forgive me for not being able to get my video together for today.

REID: No worries.

CALLOWAY (voice over): But I think we`re not only talking about the base of the Democratic Party. We`re talking about the base of the country. And so history is important and were not also able get into it in the television hits, but the reality is that robust public infrastructure spending has often saved this country from the brink of collapse at least twice in recent memory, 1929, the stock market collapses and FDR comes in with a new deal. And that includes broad public infrastructure spending that created a lot of what we have in place today, including social security. 2009 Barack Obama does it again, rebuilding after the collapse of 2008.

The problem now is that when you`re talking about broad government public infrastructure spending for the public good, now we`re talking about those dollars going to a country that is majority and actuarially trending towards brown and black and younger and LGBTQ and people who have been historically excluded. So, that is the root of what this fight is about, is do we want robust public infrastructure spending in this country for a country that everybody is going to have equal opportunity to participate in a robust democracy.

And so when you look at Kyrsten Sinema and when you at a Joe Manchin, I`m reminded that these quote/unquote moderates are really holding on to an antiquated version of legislative austerity but really white supremacy. And we`re talking about are we going to make the resources of this country available to all or available to just a few? And the Democratic -- we call them progressives but they really represent the expanding, changing base in the face of this country.

REID: I think they should be -- right. I`ve been challenged with the nomenclature. I think they should be called the majoritarian wing of the Democratic Party or the future wing of the Democratic Party.


I mean, they are even holding on to the filibuster, people like Manchin and Sinema. They`re holding on to every vestige of the old, as you say, sort of white supremacist sort of system in American.

Just to stay with you for just a moment, Don. You`re Democratic Strategic. Adam Jentleson tweeted the following. He was chief of staff to Harry Reid, no less, Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader. I`ve been up there on late nights when it really matters if a vote happens, shutdowns, fiscal cliffs, defaults. And it really does not matter if the BIF vote happens tonight. The closest sort of backstop is next week when you have pre-recess jet fumes. But even that`s not firm.

Isn`t it the case that these bills often get negotiated at the last minute, that the timelines are fake, as you heard Eric say?

CALLOWAY (voice over): That is not only the theme of this week but it should be the theme of Congress and it`s so critical that we have avenues like yours to get the American people to understand that Nancy Pelosi set this deadline this week for her internal purposes. Perhaps we can question whether or not it was smart to publicize that to the public (INAUDIBLE) deadline.

The real deadline was hit. And that was the deadline to fund ongoing government operations. We avoided and averted the government shutdown and that`s a major victory, right? And instead of talking about a civil war, we should be lauding Pelosi and Biden for getting that done over Republican obstruction, right? And so that was a deadline that mattered. But I`ve been in D.C. long enough to see these things come down to the 11th hour literally on December 31st at 11:58 and infrastructure packages passing and the country being able to move forward. So, that`s the real deadline.

I really resent people in the media, al the blue (INAUDIBLE) on Twitter talking about how Jim Clyburn and Nancy Pelosi don`t know what they`re doing. That`s not true. They`re just not trying to tell you because we don`t need another false firestorm. Right.

REID: Well, I mean, here is the reality, Democrats in disarray, Erica, is the favorite theme of the political media. It just is. Democrats in disarray always work. Two things, number one, we don`t talk enough and we try to do this all the time, we made these wonderful graphics. I love my producers. They made these graphics. This is what`s in the bill. This is not about progressive wing, these labels. It`s about what is in the bills. Do you want clean drinking water? Do you want high speed internet? Do you want new spending on things like climate change? Do you want your airports to be fixed? Do you want paid family leave, universal pre-K? These are the things that we`re actually negotiating is things that are policy.

The country spends $7 trillion on the military, or whatever. It`s like it`s not about the dollars. But also the absence of Republicans doesn`t get any coverage. They don`t exist here. These are highly popular ideas with 60 and 62 percent support and the Republicans are absolutely opposed to them. Why don`t we talk more about that?

BOEHLERT: Well, we just saw that with the COVID relief bill earlier this year, right? That was a bill with 80 percent public support, did not get one Republican vote in the House and the Senate. I didn`t see two reports about what is the political fallout for the Republican Party for opposing the bill that was almost universally proven.

You talk about the polling for the infrastructure bill. It`s like a Christmas list for most of Americans. And there is just an assumption and we just saw it with the debt ceiling. There is just an absolute media assumption the Republicans are going to vote no on everything.

Forget the raising the debt ceiling has always been bipartisan. Forget that infrastructure bills have always been bipartisan. They`re coming in with this radical agenda and they are just disappeared. They just don`t have a role to play in any of this. You know, the press hits the Democrats, why can`t you pass this bill? It`s so popular. Why can`t you pass this bill? Because they`re doing it with one hand tied behind their back. Again, this is incredibly complicated piece of legislation and you have got the entire Republican Party essentially saying no.

So I read long reports about the update of the negotiations, the word Republican does not appear in the infrastructure cover and they love that.

REID: Yes. They`re getting away with a kind of extremism that is shocking that you can get away with it in a country where we have so much access to information. The level of extremism on the Republican Party is shocking and should be shocking and I think we should report it as shocking. And the Democrats, it`s disarray with two people, two people in disarray.

Don Calloway and Eric Boehlert, have a great weekend, y`all. Thank you very much.

And next on THE REIDOUT, the Democrats Manchin and Sinema dilemma, who is interested in those two representing, and how should Democratic leaders deal with them? Former Majority Leader Harry Reid joins me.

Also with me, DNC Chair Jaime Harrison on how everything playing out right now in Washington will impact the Democrats in the midterms.

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Justice has to happen in this case because the evidence is right there.


REID: I talked to one of my absolute favorites, actress Jennifer Lewis, about her involvement in a new documentary about 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson and the disturbing, unanswered questions about his death.


Plus, tonight`s absolute worst, pre-Donald Trump, could you ever have imagined school board members across the country asking for federal protection?

THE REIDOUT continues after this.


REID: President Biden`s agenda is currently being held up by two so-called moderates who seem to be more beholden to their corporate donors than to their own constituents. There`s Joe Manchin, of course, who, The Guardian reported in July, made $500,000 last year of a coal company now owned by his son. He`s also received significant campaign contributions by ExxonMobil, who straight up called him their kingmaker in the Senate. So it`s not surprising that he does not support the climate provisions in Biden`s build back better agenda.

But then there is Krysten Sinema, and we never really know where she stands. This is her incredibly disrespectful answer to reporters earlier this week, and by extension, to her own constituents in Arizona earlier.


REPORTER: What do you say that progressives that are frustrated that they don`t know where you are?

SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): I`m in the Senate right here.

REPORTER: The progressives? There are progressives within the Senate that are frustrated that they don`t know where you are either.

SINEMA: I`m, like, clearly right in front of the elevator.


REID: As we have said before on this show, Sinema used to be somewhat of a progressive. In 2010, she said that Congress should use reconciliation to pass health care reform. The following year, she even tweeted that asking big corporations and the rich to pay their fair share is common sense, not class warfare.

And if you think that`s going too far back in time, here she is in 2018 campaigning on lowering prescription drug prices.


SINEMA: Growing up, our family struggled to make ends meet, and we didn`t have health insurance. No child should go without a doctor. And no family should be bankrupted by medical bills.

We need to make health care more affordable, with access to the lowest-cost prescriptions and fix what`s broken in the system.

I`m Kyrsten Sinema. I sponsor this message because every American deserves quality, affordable health care.


J. REID: Oh, but now Sinema has said she`s against that provision in the bill, as well as the corporate tax increase.

Might have something to do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars groups lobbying against the bill have donated to her this year. Plus, Salon reports that her former top aide is a lobbyist for J.P. Morgan Chase, which does not support that tax increase, not to mention her extremely strange internship last summer at a winery owned by a private equity donor, where she also hobnobbed with other multiple -- multiple other donors at a fund- raiser.

So how do Democrats deal with Senators Manchin and Sinema and get Biden`s agenda passed?

Joining me now is perhaps the greatest expert on the subject, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

It`s always great to talk with you, Senator Reid.

And I`ll just throw it out there to you. If you are in the position of having to deal with somebody -- let`s start with Manchin, who you are accustomed to. How do you deal with him?

FMR. SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): There`s no state in the union that needs more help than West Virginia.

And, in my opinion, Joe Manchin is hurting his own state. The state of West Virginia would benefit so greatly with infrastructure. It`s the poorest state in the union anymore.

So, with Senator Sinema, I think the thing with her is that Arizona is a state that is really trying to live up to the legacy that was established with John McCain. And she needs to understand that people in Arizona still look up to the legacy of John McCain, who was ever -- who was a really a -- I won`t say a heretic, but he was on occasion, was somebody that kept the pot stirred.

I think that`s what they need in Arizona, a little pot stirring.

J. REID: And so if you -- do you believe that there is some -- because the old-fashioned way of doing politics is to sort of horse-trade with these two. It doesn`t seem like there`s anything you could trade Sinema for, because she`s getting so much money from her donors.

I mean, she`s literally flown home to Arizona for a doctor`s appointment that also includes a massive fund-raiser. It doesn`t seem that anything but donors influence her. So what else -- what other carrots and sticks are there?

H. REID: Well, there are carrot and stick. The stick, it`s the voters. Voters are not going to put up with this.

And I think that the press has done a -- really a good job of setting forth what she`s been doing that has been really negative, not only for the country, for the state of Arizona.

J. REID: And with Manchin, he also has a lot of big donors, but he`s also an oil man. And he founded an oil company. His son now runs it. He says it`s in a blind trust. But it`s hard to believe if he says that he`s not influenced by big oil, because you`re right. West Virginia is a very poor state.

It`s also a state very dependent on oil companies. But companies like the Koch brothers have disordinate influence. Do you think that we`re at a point where we need to root out the influence of money altogether, somehow get it out of politics altogether, something like what was in that voting reform bill that died?

H. REID: Without any question.

The campaign financing is the root of all evil in Congress. It`s very, very bad. And we need to start with something very simple, be done with a simple majority.

J. REID: Yes.

H. REID: That is get rid of the filibuster.

It is nothing that -- as Barack Obama said at John Lewis` funeral, it`s part of the leftovers from the days of the slave owners. You got to get rid of it. It`s very, very bad.

J. REID: Absolutely.

I`m going to ask you to hold on, Senator Reid, because I want to bring in Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington. She`s also the head of the Progressive Caucus in the House. We were waiting on her to come through.

So we -- I want to bring you into this discussion, Congresswoman.


Can you give us any updates on these negotiations? Where do we stand as of now?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, Joy, the really wonderful thing is that the president also affirmed the need to do both bills together, and made it clear that where we are is that we will not be able to do the infrastructure bill without the reconciliation bill.

Now, he also made it clear that we have to get all 50 senators on board, that we have to keep all House members on board. And that means that we may have to think about, what are the absolute priorities that we have, and then go back after we get those priorities to see where that leaves us.

But I think we feel very strong and proud of the Progressive Caucus, which really held together, because we are not going to leave anybody behind. We`re not going to leave behind families that need child care, unpaid leave. We`re not going to leave behind taking real action climate change. We`re not going to leave behind housing for the unhoused across the country, and we`re not going to leave behind health care and Medicare expansion.

And we`re not going to leave behind immigrants who have held this country up through this terrible pandemic, and for so long. So, now we`re working on, what is the agreement that gets the two senators on board and that gets all of us on board?

And, hopefully, that will happen soon. And then we will be happy to vote on both bills once that passes the Senate, once we get to the end.

J. REID: And just to make it very clear, what you`re saying is that you want to see not just a framework, but an actual reconciliation bill pass the Senate before the Progressive Caucus is willing to vote on what`s called the BIF, the bipartisan infrastructure bill? Is that accurate?

JAYAPAL: Well, Joy, what I want to do is make sure that whatever we agree on is going to pass the Senate.

And you had Senator Reid on there. He knows they have got those rules where they can have a vote-a-rama. They can vote -- they can bring any amendment to the floor. It`s not like the House. And so we really need to have these negotiations and figure out, what gives us that ironclad commitment?

If it`s not a vote, I just want to hear what it is, because I am worried that there will be misunderstandings or that something will change or that things will get delayed, because the other way to kill a bill is to continue to delay it.

J. REID: Yes.

JAYAPAL: Because if it gets delayed for another three months, and we get into next year, all of a sudden, the politics may not align for this. We need to get it done right now.

And so that`s what we`re working on.

J. REID: Well, Congresswoman you have already heard and you have seen senior Joe Manchin actually does talk to the media, unlike Kyrsten Sinema.

And he has said pretty openly that he would like to push the -- just the negotiations, not even writing a bill, on the reconciliation side into next year, which, of course, as you said, is an election year, which would make it very difficult to pass anything. He`s made it pretty clear he`d like to basically stall or forestall even talking about the reconciliation bill until next year.

That doesn`t sound like he`s movable.

JAYAPAL: Well, I will just say I think both senators have been having negotiations, and they have been productive with the White House.

And my hope is that we can all come together and pass the president`s agenda. And that was the president`s message to us today, that he wants both of these bills to pass, that one will not pass without the other, and that we both -- we all need to come together and figure out how to get there.

So, Senators Manchin and Sinema are important. So are the 60 or so members of the Progressive Caucus that said...

J. REID: Yes.

JAYAPAL: ... that we are not going to vote for this infrastructure bill unless we can pass the reconciliation bill, because we`re not leaving anyone behind.

And I`m just so proud of our caucus for fighting for working people, for fighting for poor people, for fighting for women across this country to be able to see their lives transformed. That is what the Build Back Better bill will do.

And, look, there`s good stuff in the infrastructure bill too. I want roads and bridges, and we are going to get it, but we need to get them both together. And then I promise you, we will get this done. We will get them to the president`s desk. And we will have not only roads, Joy, but we will have families who can actually use those roads, because they have child care and all of these other things we`re fighting for.

J. REID: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thank you so much. Thank you for scrambling quickly to get on the show. We really appreciate you being here tonight. Thank you so much.

I want to bring back in Senator Harry Reid.

So, you heard Congresswoman Jayapal.

Does -- in your mind, can this process work? If they`re able to get an agreement that isn`t an actual vote on -- on a bill, right, if it`s just an agreement in the United States Senate that says, we will craft a bill with X, Y and Z in it that Sinema and Manchin say they`re OK with, and they agree, and they shake hands and say, that`s fine, in your mind, is that binding enough to make it possible for progressives in the House to vote for the bipartisan bill?


H. REID: In my opinion, I think they better be very careful.

The Senate is a place to kill things. It isn`t a place that you look to get things done. The Senate is set up to make sure that things move very slowly. I would be very careful about that. I believe the infrastructure bill is so important. There are all terms about reconciliation, all these other terms, but what we`re talking about is infrastructure.

That`s climate change, getting rid of all the (INAUDIBLE) that we have around the country, a lot of it, at least, doing something about our own bridges, our dams, our rivers, making sure that the American people have some progress in this regard right now.

It`s just a lot of talk. And I think that we need something specific, not something that is -- we will do it some other time.

J. REID: You heard it -- you heard it here first, Senator Harry Reid, who would know.

Thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate your expertise. Thank you very much.

You heard it, pass a real thing before you agree to give Manchin and Sinema their infrastructure bill. You heard it here first.

Up next: Democrats are running out of time to pass that agenda that they can campaign on in the midterms. We`re going to go to DNC chair Jaime Harrison next on his strategy and a potential boom in black Americans running for office.

And that is after this break.



J. REID: As negotiations continue within the Democratic Party of the reconciliation bill, and with Republicans nowhere to be found, of course, because, apparently, governing is not their job, what winds up happening or not happening will clearly be a key issue in next year`s midterms.

Remember, the Build Back Better agenda would check off a lot of the items that help Democrats win control of the Senate and White House last year, including expanding the child tax credits, establishing paid family and medical leave, funding universal preschool and free community college and more robust action climate change.

With me now is Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee.

How are you processing -- Jaime, thanks for being here.

How are you processing these negotiations? Is the reconciliation bill, in your view, or the BIF bill, are they must-passes for the midterm strategy to work, in your view, the Democrats` midterm strategy?


Listen, the message for Democrats going into 2022 is that we deliver, Democrats deliver. Republicans obstruct. Republicans don`t do anything else. But we deliver. We were able to do that with the American Rescue Plan.

But these two bills are essential for our candidates to run on next year. And so we have got to continue to deliver for the American people. And I can tell you, Joy, the debate between 1.5 and 3.5, that is a Beltway debate.

J. REID: Yes.

HARRISON: In the barbershops and in the beauty shops, all they care about is, what are you doing for me and my family and my community?

And so that`s the thing that I am telling my members you have got to focus on. Just get something done, so that we can go to the American people and say, when we ran the last time, we promised you this. Now, when we are in power, we were able to deliver this. Now we need bigger majorities, so we can do even more.

J. REID: Yes.

And, I mean, part of the issue, too, is that there were some big things that didn`t get done, right? Voting rights didn`t get done. In fact, the Voting Rights Act -- the Voting Rights Act is on its deathbed. And police reform didn`t get done.

So does that make it more urgent, because those two things weren`t done? And if voting rights didn`t get done, aren`t you also going to have a hard time getting voters even into the polls because of the obstruction against them?

HARRISON: Well, listen, we are definitely going to have to deal with the situation at the polls.

But you know what? We always do, and we will continue to do that. But what voters want to see is that we`re going to fight, that we`re going to put everything on the line, and do everything that we possibly can to fight.

I mean, the reality is, we have a 50/50 Senate and everybody has to be on good behavior and on the same page in order to get the vice president to break the tie.

J. REID: Yes.

HARRISON: Well, you can`t think that you can really deliver it -- when you step back and look at what Joe Biden is trying to do, we haven`t done legislation this large since probably FDR. Maybe you can say LBJ.

But FDR probably is the best comparison. FDR had huge majorities in the House and the Senate.

J. REID: Like two-thirds.

HARRISON: We got a three-seat majority in the House and we got the -- need the vice president to break the tie in the Senate.

J. REID: Yes. Yes.

HARRISON: But we`re still trying to do something on that magnitude.

J. REID: Yes.

HARRISON: We need more margins. And so we got to get more -- we got to get more bodies in the House and the Senate to do even more for the American people.

J. REID: The problem is, the more bodies argument says -- the people say, well, we already gave you more bodies and you didn`t do anything.

But let`s go to this other thing. And this is one of my favorite topics and I know one of yours too. I want to talk about the South.


J. REID: There are so many Southern races that are hot this year. And there are so many African-Americans running, Cheri Beasley in North Carolina, Val Demings in Florida, Krystle Matthews in South Carolina. You have got Chris Jones in Arkansas, Mandela Barnes. And outside the South, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, there`s Malcolm Kenyatta in Pennsylvania.

You have got even somebody in Iowa, but even Charles Booker in Kentucky. Why do you think there`s such a huge crop of black candidates in this particular cycle?

HARRISON: Well, Joy, we have been building on cycle by cycle.

About four years ago, we had and Stacey Abrams in Georgia. We had a gubernatorial candidate in Florida. When you think about it, they really broke -- they started to break through on that ceiling. Stacey`s -- we are really standing on Stacey`s shoulders in terms of statewide.

J. REID: Yes.

HARRISON: You remember, you were the first reporter that actually had I think it was all five of the black candidates running for the United States Senate on your show last cycle.

J. REID: Yes.

HARRISON: And what we`re going to see is a continuing -- yes, black candidates bring a type of energy to Democratic politics that you don`t see or we haven`t seen in a long time.

J. REID: Yes.

HARRISON: They`re able to galvanize the body politic and get people excited.


J. REID: Yes. Yes.

HARRISON: And so I think you`re going to see more and more black candidates come up.

I mean right now, we have got six African-American lieutenant governors. One of them, Mandela Barnes, is running for the United States. And I think you will continue to see the growth of African-Americans running on a statewide basis and winning.

J. REID: And not to mention, to say nothing of Stacey Abrams herself, whose gubernatorial race, presumable gubernatorial race, presumptive gubernatorial race in Georgia, will be the probably the hottest race in the country.

HARRISON: The hottest race.


J. REID: Oh, a hundred percent, a hundred percent.

Don Calloway, earlier, who I`m sure you know well, made a point that...


J. REID: ... this fight that we`re having in Washington, in a lot of ways, is about the diverse part of America finally being able to benefit from government in a big and serious way.

Do you think that`s part of why the fight has been so hard?

HARRISON: Well, I do.

I mean, you think about the Democratic Party, I mean, we`re a diverse party.

J. REID: Yes.

HARRISON: And diversity is our greatest strength. It`s a great strength as a nation, but it`s also our party.

But along with diversity comes some challenges. That means you -- sometimes, you come from different communities, you come from different backgrounds. You think about and prioritize things differently.

J. REID: Yes.

HARRISON: So that means it`s going to take a little more to get to consensus in order to get it.

J. REID: Yes.

HARRISON: But, in the end of the day, when you do, it`s a stronger -- it is a stronger product because of it.

J. REID: Amen. And it`s more like what the country is.

HARRISON: Exactly.

J. REID: Jaime Harrison, it`s always great to talk to you, my friend. Thank you very much. Appreciate you.

All right, coming up -- thank you.

Coming up on THE REIDOUT, my conversation with award-winning actress and activist Jenifer Lewis on the powerful new documentary she produced and narrated, "Finding Kendrick Johnson," that investigates the suspicious death of a black teenager in Georgia.

Stay with us.



J. REID: We now bring you the story of Kendrick Johnson, whose lifeless body was found upside down wrapped in a wrestling mat at his high school gym in Southern Georgia.

His death was ruled an accidental asphyxiation by state and local law officials. He was only 17 years old. This was back in 2013. And his family still has questions, and they suspect foul play.

There`s now a documentary film on what happened to Kendrick called "Finding Kendrick Johnson," the result of a four-year investigation into the facts of the case.

The filmmaker Jason Pollock asserts that Kendrick`s death was no accident.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We opened the body in this particular case, and the origins were not there. Paper had been stuffed into the cavity to fill it up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Body parts are missing. Evidence is missing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we tested it. It was blood. Then we did DNA testing, and it was not the blood of Kendrick Johnson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it wasn`t Kendrick`s blood, whose blood was it?


JENIFER LEWIS, ACTRESS: If K.J. had been white, we wouldn`t have had to make this film.


J. REID: This week, I spoke to actress Jenifer Lewis, who is also the narrator and executive producer of "Finding Kendrick Johnson."

And I asked her how she got involved in the project.


LEWIS: Well, I was on book tour with my memoir, "The Mother of Black Hollywood," and I did an interview with Charlamagne tha God on "The Breakfast Club."

A young man asked me to take a photograph with Mike Brown and asked if I could -- if he could send it to the director, Jason Pollock. He did. And Jason in that photograph saw my passion and called and asked me to narrate this amazing documentary.

J. REID: Yes. Let`s play a clip of it. This is...


LEWIS: And I want to say...


J. REID: Please do.

LEWIS: I just want to tell you, it`s the hardest thing I have ever done...

J. REID: I can imagine.

LEWIS: ... to sit there and talk about them taking this boy`s organs and killing him.

J. REID: I can only imagine.

Let`s play a little clip of the documentary for those who are watching.


LEWIS: A 5`10`` kid decided to go hit first into a six-foot mat, then realized after he was stuck that he was going to die down there. And then he died down there, stuck, somehow silently, with a gym full of kids playing basketball and changing classes around him.

Then his shoes magically appeared on the top of his body inside the mat, shoved into the hole. His legs became twisted in the mat.


J. REID: There are so many discrepancies in this case, the original finding that he died of accidental asphyxiation vs. the finding that it was blunt-force trauma, the organs being missing.

There`s so much here. Now, the filmmakers are saying they found new evidence. What can people expect to learn from this documentary that we didn`t already know?

LEWIS: Well, that it was just a cover-up.

Mitch Credle, the whistle-blower who was sent from D.C. to investigate this case, acquired enough evidence that a judge gave permission for an all-out raid into these people`s home, the Bells` home. Now, that`s a lot of evidence for a judge to get permission to storm someone`s house.

What happened? What happened after that? They pushed it all under the rug. This is one of the biggest tragedies I have ever heard, that they took that baby`s organs, murdered him, and then took his organs. They exhumed the body and found that the child had been stuffed with newspaper.

This family has to live with that. And I`m here to tell you right now I am going to fight for justice for Kendrick Johnston`s family, until that case is open.

We are calling on Biden, the Congress, the Senate to open this case, now that we have this evidence.


J. REID: Let me play one more clip, because I want people to hear the parents of Kendrick here, who`s called K.J., his nickname. Here are his parents as part of this documentary.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How would you feel if your son went to school and never came home, never returned home, and then the next day you found out he was rolled up in the a gym mat?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My thing is to let people know that they have a voice. They don`t have to be silent. They don`t have to be scared to fight no more. They can speak out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They killed the wrong child this time. We ain`t going nowhere, nowhere. My baby`s life mattered.


J. REID: This case is one of the most disturbing, I have to say, that I have ever heard about, the sense that there`s a cover-up, the sense that it`s a much bigger case than we have even been led to believe in the beginning.

You have said you have called on the Justice Department to intervene? Is it your expectation that you think that that is going to happen? Do you think it`s likely that, with this publicity and with you, with your prominence, do you think it will happen?

LEWIS: Oh, it`s going to happen. It is going to happen, because I`m telling you right now, Joy, I am going to fight.

I am going to use my platform for this case. I had that family here in my home. I gave them a big Southern dinner. Valdosta, Georgia, this is where this whole murder occurred. This is the same town where Mary Turner was harmed from a bridge they have actually named in Valdosta the Hanging Bridge, hung her and cut her baby out of her stomach.

It`s time for us to stop turning away from all of this. Justice has to happen in this case, because the evidence is right there. Imagine being the mother of this child, 17 years old...

J. REID: Yes.

LEWIS: ... knowing somebody, probably rich and white, are walking around with his organs.

It`s not right.

J. REID: It`s not right. And it would be nice if we had an anti-lynching law in this country. That would actually be nice, too, because it feels like that is what we`re talking about here.

Jenifer Lewis, thank you for using your platform for doing something so important. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being here.

LEWIS: It is my pleasure. Thank you, Joy. And I`m a big fan.

J. REID: I`m a big fan of yours.

LEWIS: You keep telling the truth. You keep telling the truth, baby. I admire you for it. Thank you so much.

J. REID: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much.


J. REID: She is absolutely amazing.

"Finding Kendrick Johnson," a documentary by Jason Pollock and narrated by the great Jenifer Lewis, is now available on digital and on video on demand.

And one final note on this story. Jenifer Lewis mentioned a raid on the home of two of Kendrick`s classmates, the Bells. The Bell brothers denied any involvement and were never charged in the case. And an FBI analysis concluded they were in different areas of the school when Kendrick entered the gym.

Up next on THE REIDOUT: Tonight`s "Absolute Worst" are prompting a plea for federal help to protect standard, run-of-the-mill school board meetings across the country, because that`s definitely normal.

We will be right back.



J. REID: OK, remember when the fight against COVID was about the actual virus?

Now it`s about so much more. It`s a war against misinformation and political extremism. And it`s all thanks to the outrage machine on the right run by conservative operatives, the same ones that created the meltdown over Critical Race Theory.

They have kind of moved on from that nonsense, at least for now, putting all their resources into something else instead, the anti-vaccine con job and making sure it unfurls very close to home.


PROTESTERS: No more masks! No more masks!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We should take our kids and we should pull them out of school.


Don`t (EXPLETIVE DELETED) touch me!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey, hey. Whoa, whoa, guys. Come on. Come on. Hey.

Officers. Officers, please come to the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are. We know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are! We know who you are!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are.

You can leave freely, but we will find you, and we know who you are. We know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will never be allowed in public again!


J. REID: The ones fringy anti-vax movement has been hijacked and radicalized by a far right agenda, which puts a dangerous target on the backs of educators and young people.

It`s why the National School Boards Association is asking for help, saying in a letter to President Biden: "America`s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat. These heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes."

This all comes as California will enact the nation`s first coronavirus vaccine mandate for eligible students statewide and as Justice Sonia Sotomayor denies a request from New York teachers to block that state`s vaccine mandate.

Look, mandates work. History is on our side here. State governments that began issuing vaccine mandates for measles in the 1960s had up to 51 percent fewer cases than their neighboring states without the order. Those are the facts.

What are not facts are what you hear from people like this guy, saying mandates will open a pit of hell, or this nurse who claimed that the vaccines will make you into a magnet. I wouldn`t mind being a magnet.

You wouldn`t trust these folks with your kids, guys. And guess what? Neither would these right-wing operatives. Yet some of these operatives are even in those meetings pretending to be parents or prepping parents on what to say, because, in the end, it`s about preying on parents` fears about their freedom not to wear a mask and to die, in a cynical attempt to help Republicans win in 2022, which makes the conservative fake outrage machine that`s targeting school boards tonight`s "Absolute Worst."

Oh, and before we go, a palate cleanser to end the week. Tonight`s "Moment of Joy" takes us to New York City, where the tragedies of 2020 have been turned into art. Yesterday, an exhibit called See Injustice was unveiled in Union Square, including 10 foot wooden sculptures of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Congressman John Lewis, the three busts shining in the heart of New York City.

They stand as an honor to their memory and a reminder of great injustice.

And that is tonight`s REIDOUT.

Be sure to check out THE REIDOUT blog for Ja`han`s take on the rising power of the Congressional Black Caucus.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.