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Transcript: The ReidOut, 12/8/21

Guests: Madeleine Dean, Steve Schmidt, Danaya Wright, Kevin Strickland, Tricia Rojo Bushnell


Mark Meadows sues Speaker Pelosi and January 6 committee. Meadows says, Trump`s claim of executive privilege is not mine to waive. January 6 committee lays out evidence against Mark Meadows. Meadows sues January 6 committee, claiming subpoenas are overly broad and unduly burdensome.>


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: But we all might benefit from listening to the next generation, when as he put it, they step up to speak their minds.

Those were just some of your nominations, all of them called from the most popular ideas for protest songs from MSNBC viewers.

Now, that does it for me. I turn it over to THE REIDOUT with Joy Reid. I want to say hello, Joy, and I also want to say happy birthday, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much, my friend. I appreciate you.

MELBER: You know what we`re going to do?

REID: What are we going to do?

MELBER: We`re going to party like it`s your birthday and sip Bacardi like it`s your birthday.

REID: We`re going to sip Bacardi like it`s your birthday, but not for the next hour.

MELBER: After the show.

REID: After the show. Thank you very much. I appreciate you, Ari. Have a wonderful evening.

All right, good evening, everyone. And we begin THE REIDOUT tonight with the latest signs of, well, let`s just be blunt, utter Republican moral decline and the consequences for Trump`s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows after he declared yesterday he will no longer cooperate with the January 6th investigation. Meadows again refused to show up for his deposition, which was scheduled at his request and was supposed to take place today.

And unbelievably late today, Meadows filed a civil rights lawsuit against the members of the January 6th committee, as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi. According to his suit, he is seeking to invalidate and prohibit the enforcement of what he calls too overly broad and unduly burdensome subpoenas. And Meadows claims that senior executive officials are immune from such compelled testimony, including former officials like him.

It is the latest delay tactic in his long flirtation with the select committee, an on again, off again negotiation, which Meadows has been using to drag out for almost three months now this investigation. And, no surprise, he`s also hiding behind nebulous claims of executive privilege.


MARK MEADOWS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The president has claimed executive privilege. I`m going to honor that. I`m not going to be the first chief of staff to actually waive that. It`s not mine to waive.


REID: Okay. Now, Meadows is right on one count. It is not his privilege to waive. But Donald Trump is not the president. Joe Biden is. And Biden has already waived executive privilege for the testimony of other former Trump administration officials.

In reality, what we`re likely really watching is just a pathetic attempt by Meadows to get back into the good graces of his former boss. That`s because Trump is reportedly angry with Meadows for revealing in his book that Trump tested positive for COVID almost a week earlier than previously known. In other words, Trump knowingly and recklessly came into contact with more than 500 people while keeping test results secret.

And rather than stand up for the truth, Meadows, he publicly agreed with Trump that his own book was fake news. He actually re-tweeted an attack on his integrity from a Trump spokesperson. It is bizarre and it is humiliating. But that is just the kind of degenerate sycophant that Mark Meadows is and it no doubt explains why Meadows is now suddenly snubbing the committee once again at Trump`s behest.

But now it`s clear that the committee is done playing games. As Chairman Bennie Thompson wrote to Meadows` attorney, there is no legitimate legal basis for Meadows to refuse cooperate. The select committee is left with no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution.

All of this is just another example of the unprecedented stonewalling that we are seeing from members of Trump`s inner circle. Trump`s closest allies from inside and outside his former administration are either baselessly claiming executive privilege, declining to show up for depositions or pleading the Fifth, making a mockery of what used to be the most basic rules and norms of our democracy.

Joining me now is Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, who was an impeachment manager earlier this year, and Steve Schmidt, former Republican Strategist who`s here in the studio with me.

And Congresswoman Dean, I want to start with you. The challenge with what Meadows is doing is that he`s already given information. Let me just give you a couple of examples of what he`s already turned over. The text messages -- this is what Chairman Bennie Thompson wrote to Meadows` lawyers, saying, you already turned this over. The text messages that you did produce include on November 6th, 2020 text exchange with a member of Congress apparently appointing alternate electors in certain states as part of a plan that the member acknowledged would be highly controversial into which Meadows said, I love it.

He also described more things Meadows has already given over, an early January 2021 text message exchange between Meadows and on organizer of the January 6th rally on The Ellipse and text messages about the need for the former president to issue public statements that could have stopped the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

He`s already given information. He wrote an entire book with information in it that they could simply read to him from, in theory.


Upon what basis could he possibly believe that he does not have to appear before this committee? You`re an attorney if you can try to help me out with that.

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): I don`t think it has anything to do with the law. I think it has to do with total fear. I think Mr. Meadows is caught between a rock and a hard place. And I wish he would recognize that his duty is to the American people. He should rise and be a patriot and, of course, turnover more records. But you`re absolutely right. You point from the letter from the chairman, he`s handed over more than a thousand text. He`s written a book, which is published. He`s claiming privilege without claiming privilege.

And you read the final sentence of Chairman Thompson`s letter. You know, I`m right here off the floor between votes. It is extraordinarily sad that a former member of this body would put himself in this flip-flop untenable tethered to a grotesquely failed former president position, and for all history remain this person who is not doing his patriotic duty. Tell us what he knew about January the 6th and all the days leading up to it and the days after. What does Mr. Meadows want to be remembered for? Sadly, he`s going to be remembered for having the very body in which he served refer him for criminal prosecution.

REID: And, Steve, it brings basically the only sort of logical conclusion here, is that Mark Meadows and all of the others are, A, either willing to go to prison, right, to be jailed for Donald Trump, that that is the fealty they must show to the president, they must be willing to go to jail, or they believe that they can just stall this out by lawsuits with no real merit and just go through and just try to drag out the process hoping that Republicans win back the House of Representatives and that it`s wiped away because whether the speaker of the House is poor Kevin McCarthy or they just run him over like a truck and put someone else, Matt Gaetz or someone else as the speaker, that it will all just go away.

STEVE SCHMIDTR, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, that`s exactly what this is all about. It`s the race to Election Day. These Republicans all believed that they will take back the House majority and will end the mandate of the January 6th committee. So, what Mark Meadows is doing is playing chicken with the committee. He`s buying time trying to see like in the end he has no intention of serving a day in prison. I can promise you that.

If at the end of the day, he`s compelled to testify, he`ll testify before he goes to prison. But what he`s doing is buying time. That`s what the lawsuit is about. Can he burn up a year? And if you look at how this last year has been used to look at these issues to address these issues, which are crisis for this country, time has not been managed very well, to say the least. So, there is a lot of reason for them to have confidence about their ability to do that.

REID: Well, and that is the challenge that I have, Congresswoman Dean, is that I`m not so sure, you know, other than some people like Adam Schiff, who I think does get how serious the emergency is, there isn`t a lot of sense of urgency that I personally see among Democrats to understand that they`re not facing just, you know, Bob Dole, the late Bob Dole, or just sort of old Reagan Republican Party, that this is a different kind of party.

I mean, Matt Gaetz has made it very clear that, A, he`ll try to make Donald Trump the next speaker of the House, which he theoretically could do. You don`t have to be a member of the House to be speaker, or that they`re going to use the speaker, the House as a sort of star chamber to do their same sort of theatrical attacks on Democrats but do it with committee chairmanships.

And that they want to use the House to continue to do this demonstration of autocracy not to govern and that Democrats seem to be laying back and sort of waiting for that to happen and drawing out this investigation. I mean, Steve Bannon`s case isn`t going to come to trial until next July. Is there enough urgency to stand in the way of what is not just a nasty party that could take power but an autocracy, a party that wants to implement something fundamentally, you know, different from American democracy?

DEAN: I can tell you I personally feel the urgency. I can tell you from being a member of my own caucus, we feel the urgency. Yesterday`s decision by the Trump-appointed judge to not bring Bannon for another eight months only added to our urgency.

And to your point, Adam Schiff has brought forward a bill that we`ll be discussing this week, the Protecting Our Democracy Act. In that bill is one of my bills, which is a Subpoena Compliance Act. I feel an extraordinary urgency. We saw how Don McGahn used the courts and delay, delay, delay to not allow us to hold him accountable.


The Protecting Our Democracy Act, there is an urgency about it. Because what it does is establish or reestablish guardrails that were blown through in the Trump administration, aided and abetted by people like Attorney General Barr, sadly by Mark Meadows, a member of -- the former member of this body. So, I disagree with you. There is an extraordinary urgency. I hope we will pass the Protecting Our Democracy Act. I hope the Senate will act as well. It`s very similar to the post Watergate reforms.

In addition to that, the January 6th committee has interviewed more than 250 people. And so while we`re seeing these shiny objects of a Bannon or a Meadows, who are really disrespecting our democracy, I know that within those 250 people, there are patriots who will help us connect the dots, who will help us follow the money, the planning, and in the end, we will hold accountable those who need to be held accountable. I am confident we will get it done this session.

REID: Congresswoman, I know you have to go vote. So, I won`t hold you, I`m going to allow you to go and do that. Thank you very much. And I`m going to turn back to Steve. And I believe the congresswoman is sincere. However, I think bringing a legislative bill to a gunfight is not necessarily going to save our democracy. I`m just being honest. Because a bill like that would go through the House and die in the Senate because there are two Democrats in the United States senate who don`t seem to have any interest in or any fear of a Republican takeover of this country. They don`t care. And so without those two who they`re unwilling and there might be more that are hiding behind them.

Let me read something to you. There was a gentleman named Dr. William Horne and he`s the co-founder of the activist history review. And he`s a PhD history guy from George Washington University. And he wrote about the biggest fear he has is that, essentially, because no one has failed to meaningfully punish those who carried out the deadly 1/6 assault on the Capitol, much less punish its organizers and Trump, Bannon, Giuliani, Christopher Miller, Josh Hawley, et cetera. He says why this matters is that white backlash movements have relied on a collaboration between vigilantes in the state.

We see this most clearly in the local nature of coup attempts during reconstruction and Jim Crow. Lawmakers encouraged supremacist violence and legitimize participants, meaning that you have sort of this desire or to have this sort of civility on the state level that we`re just going to pass bills. We`re not going to punish people in the other party. We`re kind of going to let it go so when the massacres happen in North Carolina or in Oklahoma, we let that go when we don`t punish anyone and we get back to a kind of civility, and it happens again and again and it just gets worse, and that`s what I worry is happening now.

SCHMIDT: Yes. Churchill talked about this with regard to the Second World War, which he said could have been called the unnecessary war. And in explaining it, he said the malice of the wicked was aided by the weakness of the virtuous. And so we look at this moment in time, what is it that we see? What I see is an autocrat movement that has taken root and has bloomed on American soil. That autocratic movement is led by Donald Trump. He is the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party in 2024. That much is clear. We`ve seen Matt Gaetz say that he`ll nominate Trump to be the speaker should Republicans take the majority, which they are on track to do.

Where has there been an argument made in a sustained way over the last year about the danger we face and the advocacy for what we ultimately have to decide in this country, which is do we want to live in a multiracial, multiethnic, pluralistic society where everybody, at long last, is considered equal under the law in the American experiment, that all of us are created equal, endowed by our creator, whatever we call him or her or whatever with inalienable rights, among them, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That`s what is at stake here.

What Trump did was break the compact that existed between us in a society fraught with all manner of tensions and problems but has always believed that the way we assign power under the law is through an election`s process and everything that we`re seeing play out has nothing to do at this point with the last election. It has everything to do with the next election.

And mark my words, looking ahead to 2024 on election night should it be the case that Donald Trump is defeated, he will not yield to those results.


And the next time that it happens after years of this, you`re going to have some significant percentage of the population that has been primed and incited and radicalized for violence over a period of years. And that catastrophe to me is looming in plain view.

REID: Yes, absolutely. People should Google the Wilmington massacre in North Carolina. This was how reconstruction was undone. Because after the civil war, the formerly enslaved leaned into democracy and said let`s do this. There was a black and tan collision in your party, in the Republican Party. And the black and tan Republicans won elections all across the south. And how was that undone? Violence, violent over throw of black and tan, black and white coalition governments in the south was undone by sheer autocratic violence.

I`m going to bring you back, Steve, for the next block, because coming up next on THE REIDOUT, progressives introduce a bill condemning Lauren Boebert speaking of violence for her venal, stupid and frankly dangerous anti-Muslim comments while hundreds of Hill staffers demand action to protect people from her.

Plus, in Florida, Ron DeSantis continues to pretend that COVID just isn`t real. And college professors say that they felt pressure, get this, to actually destroy COVID data.

Also, Kevin Strickland says that he remembers every single second of the 43 years that he spent behind bars for a crime he did not commit. He joins me live tonight. And I`m going to ask him about being robbed of so much precious time.

THE REIDOUT continues after this.



REID: It has been nearly two weeks since the first video was publicly released of Congresswoman Lauren Boebert`s Islamophobic comments suggesting that her colleague Democrat -- Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was a suicide bomber.

Since then, more videos have surfaced along the same lines, including one that we showed you yesterday of Boebert directly calling Representative Omar, one of only three Muslim members of Congress, a terrorist.

But instead of apologizing to the Minnesota congresswoman, Boebert has continued to attack her and to play the victim card. Republican -- and I hate to use this word here -- leadership, because there really just isn`t any leadership going on, has not only not admonished the mini-MAGA minion, but won`t even condemn her comments.


QUESTION: Do you believe that Representative Boebert`s Islamophobic comments about Representative Omar were wrong?

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Well, first of all, if you look at what Lauren Boebert said, she came back and apologized. And I do think this gets lost too often, because we have had members on both sides that have said things that we disagree with.

I don`t know if I have seen a time where Democrats apologized for their statement.

Lauren apologized for what she said.


REID: No, she didn`t.

And, of course, it Mr. David Duke without the baggage there and little Kevin are hoping that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will just step up and handle it, like she did with their other problem children, Marjorie three names and white nationalist-curious Congresswoman Paul Gosar, so that they can blame her for overreaching and being the adult in the room.

Speaker Pelosi today said the responsibility is on them to do their jobs and -- quote -- "honor the dignity" of the House of Representatives, which, again, is their jobs.

In the absence of that, House progressives today demanded accountability and introduced a resolution to strip Boebert of her committee assignments.


REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): When we called on Republican Leader McCarthy to hold this member of his caucus accountable, we were met with defiance and gaslighting.

Enough is enough. Each day that passes without meaningful accountability, we risk normalizing this behavior and endangering the lives of our Muslim colleagues, Muslim staff and every Muslim who calls this country home.


REID: Joining me now is Juanita Tolliver, Democratic strategist and MSNBC political analyst, and Steve Schmidt is back with me.

Let me read for you guys this letter that was an open letter from 400-plus Capitol Hill staffers. And it says: "The recent remarks by Representative Boebert have heightened the climate of Islamophobia on the Hill, creating a feeling of anxiety and fear for many Muslim staff, our families and communities, and leaving many of us to look to our congressional leaders for support.

"Hateful rhetoric by public officials directly impacts us and puts our safety at risk, both at the workplace and in our everyday lives. We must now come to work every day knowing that the same members and staff who perpetuate Islamophobic tropes and insinuate that we are terrorists also walk by us in the halls of Congress."

Juanita Tolliver, I can`t imagine any workplace where people have to come to work afraid of the people they work with. But this is what Congress is now.

Your thoughts?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: This is what Congress is now, especially as the GOP ushers in these extremist voices and centers them in their party without any type of accountability, without any type of, like, response to it.

And I just want to comment on the bravery of those 400 staffers, because we know how hard it is to speak up in a toxic workplace, and remind viewers here that this isn`t the first time that we have seen the toxicity of this workplace.

Representative Cori Bush had to move her office after being berated by folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene and others. We have seen Representative Ocasio-Cortez being harassed and that violent video released her as well.

So, that toxicity level, I think, is boiling over to the point where staffers are speaking directly to leadership and giving them the same side- eye that progressives are giving leadership right now, saying, do something, it`s your move, because we all know that McCarthy has no will or desire to do anything to rein in his caucus.

If anything, he`s clearing the path for these extremists to have even louder voices as he makes a way for them in the hopes of, what, the coming speakership?

I think what needs to happen here is the same accountability that we have been hearing progressives call for, for weeks now. And, as Representative Ayanna Pressley stated, it is a shame that it`s taken so long. It is a shame that she, a black woman, is now having to step in for other black women and other people of color to make the workspace safe for them, to call this out and demand the accountability that we know Representative Boebert deserves.


REID: And, Steve, Lauren Boebert is not -- she`s not dissuaded by the criticism. She`s encouraged by it.

She put out -- she`s trying to compete with Congressman Massie, tweeting out her little Christmas pack of her little children holding firearms, which somebody should call child protective services, because -- I mean, I know a lot of people who have guns. I grew up around people with guns.


REID: People don`t do that, OK? This is not...

SCHMIDT: It`s weird.

REID: It is not -- it is a weird cosplay of violence. It`s literally saying: You think I`m violent?

She`s calling Congresswoman Omar a terrorist, but she`s the one cosplaying terroristic behavior. I don`t even understand it.

SCHMIDT: She is certifiable, period. She is unfit. She has no business, other than by being elected, serving in the House of Representatives, by any standard of dignity or comportment, which all of us have always attached to this institution.

When you look at that building, it`s awe-inspiring, that dome. It`s awesome, lit up at night, the honor to be able to serve under it in this year where we have seen the Capitol, the floors of the House and the floors of the Senate desecrated.

And so I`m sympathetic to Nancy Pelosi here. You figure out this when you`re a parent, which is that punishing your children, which sometimes is necessary, is more work for you.



REID: Yes. Yes.

SCHMIDT: The commitment, right, not to let them off the hook, right, immediately, right, like, it means you got to put the time in.

She has to put the time in here. This is something you can`t look away from. It doesn`t matter how many of them there are, by the way. It doesn`t matter if there`s 35 of them at the end of the day.

As the speaker of the House, she has to insist on some elementary decorum, dignity and comportment from its members. These are -- from my perspective, these are conservative virtues in some way, defending...

REID: They used to be, yes.

SCHMIDT: ... defending the institution, the integrity of the organization.

And what she needs to do here, respectfully, is to drop the hammer and to drop it every time one of them crosses the line. It`s an incitement to violence. It is an incitement to religious bigotry in a country that applies no religious test to political office.

And so this climate of extremism is being fueled by unaccountable members. And it`s important that the broader society, through the institution that is our vessel to participate in the American system of government, say, enough, enough.

REID: Yes. Yes. Yes. It is definitely time.

And, Juanita, I -- look, I`m old enough to remember or at least to have read enough history books to remember when people used to find the Black Panthers objectionable because they displayed firearms in public and to find them frightening and scary. And Ronald Reagan supported the Mulford Act to say they couldn`t open carry in public, because they found that intimidating, because they were carrying their firearms in public.

But this -- they were doing that to try to demonstrate, we are concerned for the safety of people who look like us from police. These people are literally saying, I`m going to show you how many weapons I have, and that my children could shoot, and that my wife could shoot.

It`s like a demonstration of not saying we want to protect ourselves, but of saying, I am a threat. You think I`m a threat? I am a threat.

And then those same people who say, I`m a threat, which, again, no gun owner with any good horse sense ever does, just displaying them to say, I`m a threat, then they want to turn around and say the people they`re threatening are the terrorists.

Nobody of color could ever, ever, ever get away with that. Your thoughts.

TOLLIVER: It`s the ultimate display of white supremacy, Joy.

We know that, if black families started to release their holiday cards with full artilleries, then the NRA would lose their minds. We know that 2A would out the window. They would absolutely go crazy at the notion, just like you mentioned, with the Black Panthers displaying arms for reasonable concerns about safety.

But let anyone with melanated skin do that, and you see how we`re treated. You see how we`re treated. And that`s the basis, let`s be real, of what happened with the stories that Boebert keeps telling about Representative Omar. It`s based in white supremacy and it`s based in Islamophobia, and it`s harmful.

REID: Yes.

And what is the basis of her calling her a terrorist? She`s not walking around showing off AR-15s. She`s saying it`s simply because she is a Muslim and because she`s visibly a Muslim. You`re saying, by definition, you`re putting every single person who looks anything like her at risk, and she knows she`s doing it.

And to let you know that she knows she`s dangerous, and that what she`s doing is dangerous, she`s like, let me show you me and my 5-year-old`s guns.


You`re dangerous, Lauren Boebert. You`re dangerous. And people are rightly afraid of you. You don`t need to be in Congress. I`m so embarrassed that you`re representing Colorado, my former living, growing-up state.

Juanita Tolliver, Steve Schmidt, thank you very much.

And don`t tweet at me, Lauren. I`m not going to respond to you. I don`t have time.

Coming up: good news on the Omicron front, as scientists say that three vaccine doses should protect you against the new variant, this as Senate Republicans tried to ditch Biden`s vaccine mandate for private businesses. Of course!

We will be back after this.


REID: According to the CDC, 199 million Americans are fully vaccinated.

That accounts for 60 percent of the U.S. population. That is huge news, given that COVID is surging again, most of it tied to the Delta variant, causing a 25 percent spike in hospitalizations since last month, driven by the still unvaccinated.


Michigan is seeing a record number of COVID hospitalizations, straining limited resources, beds and emotional reserves. Across the country, new cases have climbed from an average of 95,000 a day to nearly 120,000.

Roughly 1, 600 Americans are dying every day because of this virus. And we are on track to hit the horrifying milestone of 800,000 COVID deaths in a matter of days. Meanwhile, the new Omicron mutation has been detected in 21 states.

But, this morning, we received some good news from Pfizer. Lab tests seem to suggest that people who have received three doses of the vaccine are better protected against this new and highly transmittable variant.

Now, note of caution. These were lab tests on blood samples. We still have to wait to see how this plays out in the real world. To that point, the CDC also announced that nearly 48 million people have received a booster.

Moments from now, Senate Republicans, with the help of two Democrats, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Montana Senator Jon Tester, are expected to pass a resolution to undo the Biden administration`s vaccine mandate on the private sector.

Now, it`s likely dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled House. It`s just more political theater from a feckless Republican Party seemingly looking to undermine our country`s effort to beat back this pandemic, plus those two Democrats.

Now, if that`s not craven enough, Tennessee`s medical licensing board voted to reverse a policy that would punish doctors who spread vaccine misinformation. They were threatened by a Republican member of the Tennessee General Assembly that, if they didn`t repeal the rule, the board would be dissolved.

Now, just take that in for a second. A medical board was punished for asking people to tell the truth.

An equally chilling story is playing out in, where else, Florida. According to a report by a faculty committee at the University of Florida, researchers working on a COVID -- on COVID-19 described external pressure to destroy data and to not criticize Governor Ron DeSantis.

One of the faculty members behind that report joins me next.



REID: The state of Florida has taken steps to limit COVID data, while Governor Ron DeSantis touts doing nothing to combat the pandemic.

In June, the state just stopped reporting daily COVID numbers altogether. And at the height of a Delta-driven surge this summer, "The Miami Herald" reported that the state changed the way that it reported data to show an artificial decline in deaths.

Around that same time, DeSantis just gave up on promoting vaccination to hawk his Regeneron pop-up clinics. Conveniently, his top political donor happens to be a Regeneron investor, although his press secretary told PolitiFact that no donor had anything to do with his decision.

Now we`re learning that faculty at the University of Florida felt pressure to not challenge the state`s position on COVID. A report released Monday by a faculty Senate committee found that researchers felt external pressure to actually destroy COVID data, and that there were barriers to accessing data.

Employees were also told to avoid criticizing DeSantis or university policies regarding COVID. And some faculty expressed concern that funding would be in jeopardy if they did not follow state policy on pandemic rules in opinion articles.

Now, we did reach out to Governor DeSantis his office, and his spokesperson said the report contains no evidence that the state directed researchers to destroy data or that the governor or its office attempted to exert improper influence.

And joining me now is Danaya Wright, professor of law at the University of Florida, and Fernand Amandi, Democratic pollster and MSNBC political analyst and friend of the show.

And, Danaya Wright, let me start with you first.

Explain to us in very -- in simple terms, what was in this report? The external pressure that University of Florida researchers felt, is it -- do we specifically know where that pressure was coming from?


So the report reflects a bunch of comments that were given to us as members of this committee. And we were tasked with collecting information from as many faculty as we could. And I will say that some of us have information about where the pressure might be coming from and who the pressure was imposed on.

But we are trying to protect the confidentiality of those faculty.

REID: Right.

And can you say that the pressure was coming from the DeSantis administration, even if it wasn`t specifically from the governor?

WRIGHT: I don`t want to say specifically. I just want to say that it can`t came from above, right?

And, in my opinion -- and this is my opinion -- the governor appoints the Board of Education. The governor appoints the board -- members of the Board of Governors. The governor appoints the -- most of the board -- members of the Board of Trustees, and they appoint the president and the provost and the deans.

So it`s hard to say did this -- I`m not here to sort of -- to point the finger at any particular person.

REID: But you say above?

WRIGHT: I think the reality is, there was just this pressure.

REID: Yes.

WRIGHT: It was coming from above. And I sort of lump all of them together.

REID: And, Fernand, my friend above in Florida. I lived there 14 years. You and I have known each other a long time. We know what above means in Florida.

Ron DeSantis has made it very clear that he does not want COVID to be real, or that he just doesn`t believe it`s real, or he thinks it`s just like a flu and you can just have natural immunity to it. He doesn`t care. He`s appointed people like Dr. Ladapo, who seems to believe the same thing and who is embarrassing Harvard with those beliefs and out there basically promoting: Don`t worry about COVID. Just live your life. Don`t wear a mask. Don`t do anything.


Would it surprise you if the above that was pressuring people at the university to not -- don`t say that that isn`t true, don`t dispute that, even if you`re writing an op-ed, and to be very quiet about it if that`s -- if you don`t agree?


REID: And this is for Fernand. Sorry.


It wouldn`t surprise me in the slightest.

Joy, I`m going to answer your question about the wannabe dictator dangerous Florida man, but I would not be a good friend if I first didn`t wish you a happy birthday.


AMANDI: So, happy birthday to you, my friend.

REID: Thank you.

AMANDI: A little sanity oasis in this desperate time we find ourselves in.

REID: Thank you.

AMANDI: But, look, this is part and parcel with Ron DeSantis, imagine, on the heels of the announcement last week, where he now wants to build his own private paramilitary militia. This is an autocrat acting in the manner of an autocrat.

What surprises me, candidly, about the actions of the University of Florida is, where are the resignations and protests by the university president, by members of the board of regents, by others who are calling out this assault, this declaration of war on academic freedom, for that matter, the other public institutions across the state of Florida and the country acting in solidarity?

We know these commandments, these pronouncements are indeed coming from above. You`re hearing the professor talk about it now. The message is very clear. Don`t criticize. Don`t say anything untoward. Don`t make the dear leader look bad, because, if you do, we will pull your funding, and we will pull your job, and, in the future, we may do worse.

And that, my friends, is what fascism and autocracy sounds like.

REID: And the thing is, Danaya Wright, this is the context in which this report is coming. I know you`re a member of the six-member committee, I believe.

The context of this is that Florida ranks third in the number of COVID cases, behind California, which has a big size issue in early onset cases, Texas, which is basically acting just like them and trying not to do anything about COVID. They rank number three among states in COVID -- in number of deaths.

Their numbers aren`t good, but this guy wants to run for president. He`s hired people and brought people around him who are COVID denialists, including your new -- the new surgeon general.

So, inside of the university, what did people feel would happen to them if they were to dispute that Florida is not doing well on COVID? What did they -- what were they afraid would happen?

WRIGHT: Well, I think there were -- there`s sort of very real threats about reducing funding. We saw research on COVID being cut, the funding, right -- right in the middle of a research project. We were told about that.

We have reports of scholarship being stopped, which has a tremendous impact on faculties` professional lives.

REID: Yes. Well, let me very quickly...

WRIGHT: There is also...

REID: Go on.

Well, I was going to ask you, why haven`t people resigned, then, to answer Fernand`s question?

WRIGHT: Are you asking why the higher administration hasn`t resigned or why faculty haven`t?

REID: Why anyone hasn`t?

WRIGHT: I don`t know. I honestly don`t know.

REID: Yes. Yes.

I just kind of just resigned, from the video, from the visuals there. I think we`re kind of running out of room here.


REID: Fernand, I will give you the last word on this.

If this doesn`t change, and Ron DeSantis is allowed to go through messing with the data and sort of faking through it, isn`t this just a glide path for him to be on a ticket with Donald Trump or to replace Donald Trump on the ticket in 2024?

AMANDI: Well, he`s not going to be on any ticket that Donald Trump wants to be on...

REID: Yes.

AMANDI: ... because Trump is going to decide first. We know that for sure.

But, again, I think this speaks to a pattern of behavior where Ron DeSantis is just one of many Republicans acting in this manner by fiat.

REID: Yes.

AMANDI: This war on academic freedom is not dissimilar to the war on science, the war on truth, Joy, this positively Orwellian idea that we cannot talk about what is before our eyes.

REID: That`s right.

AMANDI: It`s fascism happening before our eyes.

REID: Including in education, in health, and everything else.

Danaya Wright, thank you very much. Thank you for that report and research. And, Fernand Amandi, my friend, thank you. And thank you for the birthday greeting. Appreciate you.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

AMANDI: And happy birthday.

WRIGHT: Happy birthday.

REID: Cheers. Thank you so much.

And up next, Kevin Strickland, wrongfully convicted by an all-white jury in 1979, joins me to talk about his exoneration, after spending 43 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

Don`t go anywhere.



REID: Kevin Strickland was exonerated a few weeks ago, after spending 43 years in prison, in one of the longest wrongful imprisonment in U.S. history.

In 1978, Strickland was arrested at only 18 years old in a triple murder case. He was convicted the next year, despite no physical evidence tying him to the crime. The sole survivor of the attack, Cynthia Douglas, only named Strickland after her sister`s boyfriend suggested he could have been one of the perpetrators. And her relatives later said that she was pressured to identify Strickland by detectives.

Strickland`s first trial ended in a hung jury, with the only black juror holding out. The prosecutor in the case later said including a black juror was a mistake he wouldn`t make again.

Strickland was then convicted by an all-white jury and spent 43 years in prison. Last year, prosecutors started reviewing his conviction after "The Kansas City Star" published an investigation, and he was pronounced innocent in May.

But the Republican attorney general delayed a hearing on the case twice, maintaining Strickland was guilty. And Republican Governor Mike Parson said Strickland`s case was not a priority. Instead, he pardoned the McCloskeys, the couple who felt the need to pull guns on Black Lives Matter protesters and wave them around.

During that time, Strickland`s mother died, and he was unable to attend her funeral.

Though he`s now exonerated, the state of Missouri gave Strickland nothing, nothing, for what he went through. The Midwest Innocence Project, which has been representing him since 2018, crated a GoFundMe for Strickland, which has since raised $1.7 million, hardly compensation for losing 43 years.


I`m joined now by Kevin Strickland, who indeed was released after those 43 years in prison, and Tricia Rojo Bushnell, Kevin`s attorney and executive director of The Midwest Innocence Project.

Thank you both for being here.

And, Mr. Strickland, I first want to say to you I am glad to see you. I think, obviously, what happened to you was just the ultimate sort of miscarriage of justice. You were only 18 years old when this happened. You are now 61, 62 years old.

Talk about going away from society as basically a kid and coming out now. What has changed? What have you missed? What do you feel that you have missed?


I mean, the technology that you`re dealing with today, I`m not familiar with it. It`s difficult. I`m having a phone issue every day, trying to learn how to just turn a phone on.

REID: Yes.

STRICKLAND: I mean, just going into public restrooms and sticking my hand out, and a paper towel will come out or the soap will come out, they didn`t have that kind of system back then.

Just little things. Like, there`s a lot though. Just the roadways, they`re -- navigating the roadways is something. There`s nothing familiar about this to me.

REID: It is. It`s like -- it`s almost like you went to sleep in 1978, and then woke up and there`s this whole new world. I mean, you`re on a Zoom right now. That was something that wouldn`t have been familiar to you.

It is unfathomable to me. But even worse is what you have lost as a human being. I mean, you lost your mom. Was their family who you knew back then who are still here for you and surrounding you with love? Like, what did you come back to in terms of your family?

STRICKLAND: This situation kind of busted my family up a little bit.

People were somewhat disappointed. They -- I was the first one in my family to be sentenced to a prison term. And my family were law-abiding citizens. And they kind of -- I kind of shamed and disappointed disgraced the family name. And so a lot of family kind of turned away from me.

But there`s still a few that`s hanging in there.

REID: Let me ask you very quickly, Ms. Bushnell. And thank you for coming back.

We had you on before this -- the actual release happened. This is devastating, because we know the job prospects for people who have a record, even though he`s been -- Mr. Strickland has been cleared and is declared innocent, he now has to deal with a world in which those who have been incarcerated are discriminated against in the workplace.

He`s a black man in a country where that doesn`t exactly help him in terms of getting jobs and getting opportunities. What now? What is to be done? The money that was raised, that`s not going to change 100 percent of his life.


I mean, I think -- I think Kevin would be the first to say there`s nothing we can ever do that will give him back what he`s lost, right? I mean, there`s nothing we can do that can give him not being there for children, not having a relationship, getting married, having a career, all of those things.

And so when we look at the what now, it`s not -- it`s just like -- in the same way as when anyone comes home from an incarceration. For the wrongfully incarcerated, there`s also additional hurdles, in that there aren`t any services provided for them. So, when someone gets out on probation or parole, the state has to provide services to help you find housing and education.

That`s not the case for someone who`s exonerated. And so, for Kevin, not only is it trying to navigate what to do with this amount of money, but he`s not entitled to Social Security because he didn`t pay into that system. And how do you start a life or return a life that you didn`t have when you went in at 18 and when you`re now 62?

REID: Yes.

ROJO BUSHNELL: It`s just a very different scenario.

So, it`s really, what do we owe him for the wrong that we did?

REID: Absolutely.

Well, what -- people who support you -- and there`s so many people out there who were praying for your exoneration, sir. And now you are free. What do you want? What do you -- what do you want to do with your time? And what can we do to support you?

STRICKLAND: This entire experience has kind of made me not want to live in a city life.

I mean, I need -- I need space.

REID: Yes.

STRICKLAND: I need to be able to -- I still don`t feel free right now. I have been out two weeks ago, and I still -- I`m still in jail.

REID: Yes.

STRICKLAND: And what society can do to help me along, it`s difficult to say.

I really can`t say that they can...

REID: Yes.

STRICKLAND: ... because this thing that is going on in my mind are some things that you would -- could never imagine witnessing.

REID: Yes.

STRICKLAND: And I`m still -- I`m still in jail.

REID: I am so sorry, sir.

STRICKLAND: I mean, I`m here.

REID: I`m so sorry for what happened to you.

And I wish there was a way that we could just give you back that time, because -- and time is something, it -- we can`t give it back.


REID: But will we -- I know so many people are going to be praying for you and thinking about you. I hope you find the most amazing farmland that you can just be by yourself and just have space and have everything that you have ever wanted.

Wishing you the very best, sir. And thank you for giving us a little bit of your time tonight.

Kevin Strickland and Tricia Rojo Bushnell, thank you both very much.

STRICKLAND: Thank you.

REID: And that is tonight`s REIDOUT.