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Transcript: The ReidOut, 3/2/2021

Guest: Alex Padilla, Karen Bass, Ari Berman, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, Laurie Bertram Roberts


White House is said to withdraw nomination of Neera Tanden as OMB chief. FBI Director Wray testifies on extremist threats. Wray says racially-motivated extremism is elevated to FBI`s highest threat priority. Wray says there is no evidence that riot involved fake Trump supporters, Antifa or BLM. FBI director warns threat of domestic extremism is growing. Biden vows to find other role for Tanden in his administration. America lost yet another legend. Vernon Jordan, civil rights icon and political power broker, passed away at age 85. The case heard before the Supreme Court today involves two Arizona laws that make it harder for some voters to cast their ballots.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Shannon, reporting for us outside of the White House tonight. Thank you, appreciate it, a breaking story there.

Thank you as always for watching THE BEAT with Ari Melber. And "THE REIDOUT" with Joy Reid starts now.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everyone. We begin THE REIDOUT with breaking news. President Biden tonight has accepted the request from Neera Tanden to withdraw her name for nomination for the director of Office and Management of Budget tonight. We`re going to get to that breaking story in just a moment.

But we actually begin with the very real, present and growing threat of right-wing extremism in America. In ominous testimony delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee today, FBI Director Christopher Wray sounded the alarm, saying the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol in January will serve as an inspiration to more extremists here at home as well as abroad. Despite Republican attempts to downplay the January 6th insurrection, Wray was unambiguous in labeling the attack an act of domestic terrorism, warning that the threat is far from over.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: That attack, that siege was criminal behavior plain, and simple, and it`s behavior that we, the FBI, view as domestic terrorism.

January 6th was not an isolated event. The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it`s not going away anytime soon.


REID: More broadly, Director Wray said the FBI is now pursuing roughly 2,000 domestic terrorism cases, which represents a huge spike since he took the job in 2017. And he reiterated that the FBI treats the threat of racially-motivated extremism like violent white supremacy the same as foreign terrorism, like ISIS.


WRAY: We elevated racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism to our highest threat priority, on the same level with ISIS and homegrown violence extremist.

The number of arrests ,for example, of racially motivated violent extremists who are what you would categorize as white supremacists last year was almost triple the number it was in my first year as director.


REID: More specifically, Wray said there was no doubt that some of the insurrectionists on January 6th harbored white supremacist views. And as we`ve been increasingly seen, it represents a growing and pernicious threat.

Take, for example, the case of Riley June Williams, the 22-year-old who stole Speaker Pelosi`s laptop and tried to sell it to Russian intelligence. Newly uncovered video appears to demonstrate her neo-Nazi sympathies, showing her saluting Hitler in a disturbing clip posted to a white supremacist chat group.

But in recent weeks, we`ve seen Republican attempts to whitewash the events of January 6th, trying to deflect responsibility from the former president as well as from themselves. They`ve raised the specter of the so-called left-wing extremists, trying to pin the blame on their favorite boogeyman, Antifa, AKA, anti-fascists. They`ve equivocated on the danger of right wing violence while pretending that Black Lives Matter, the movement against police and other violence against black Americans, is the real threat.

And most notably, Republicans like the party`s chief conspiracist, Senator Ron Johnson, have falsely claimed that, quote, fake Trump supporters were the ones who were really responsible for the deadly siege.

Today FBI Director Wray slapped down those Republican-fueled conspiracy theories.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Do you have any evidence that the capitol attack was organized by, quote, fake Trump protesters?

WRAY: We have not seen evidence of that at this stage, Sir.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Is there any evidence at all that it was organized or planned or carried out by groups like Antifa or Black Lives Matter?

WRAY: We have not seen any evidence to that effect thus far.


REID: Not only that, but prosecutors are now alleging that the neo-fascist militantly pro-Trump group, the Proud Boys, coordinated the breach of the Capitol at several different entry points. In other words, these were not left-wing extremists. Their ideology was firmly on the far-right.

Joining me now is Senator Alex Padilla of California, a member of the Judiciary Committee who participated in today`s hearing.

And, Senator, I want to play for you -- thank you for being here this evening. I want to play for you one of your exchanges with FBI Director Wray. Take a listen. This was on law enforcement.


SEN. ALEX PADILLA (D-CA): Do you believe that there`s a concerted effort by right-wing extremists to infiltrate law enforcement agencies?

WRAY: We work very closely with both our law enforcement partners and our military partners in their efforts to address any kind of violent extremism that may be in their midst. We view that as, in effect, the kind of insider threat, if you will, and they do too.

When there are bad apples in the midst, we work with our partners to try to get ahead of it.


REID: The sort of bad apples answer, were you satisfied with that answer?

PADILLA: Well, it was the beginning of a conversation, obviously, the need for additional questions, additional fact-finding, additional inquiry. The FBI themselves have said this is a concern given their relationship in coordination with law enforcement agencies across the country. I think, hopefully, there`s an opportunity here to figure out what the best practices are for identifying and weeding out these, quote, unquote, bad apples so that law enforcement returns to a position of regaining trust in the community and not just protecting us but respecting us.

REID: You know, we`ve had for a very long time conversations within black and Latino communities about law enforcement and about worries that law enforcement harbored biases. But we`re now talking about, you know, there have been for many, many years conversations about whether or not extremist groups were attempting to deliberately infiltrate law enforcement.

We`ve seen instances where sort of, you know, Klan activity. We saw that in South Florida among law enforcement where, you know, this sort of bias and extremism plays out in their everyday jobs. And now we have the acting chief of the Capitol Police saying that this same sort of milieu of groups want to blow up the Capitol.

If you`ve got Three Percenters who are basically law enforcement and military, if you had people with badges showing them to black police officers, who are also getting called the N-word hurled at them, do you think it should be more urgent to start looking at law enforcement and the military to try to weed out white nationalist and other extremists?

PADILLA: Absolutely, you know, and law enforcement across the country and even different branches of the military. Look, it`s not lost on a whole lot of us, right? I`m talking about my colleagues here in the Senate, both through observation and through feedback, the differences in how the Capitol Police and greater law enforcement community in the Capitol prepared for and responded to peaceful protests last summer after the killing of George Floyd versus the deadly insurrection that took place on January 6th.

And some of the initial inquiry, some of the initial investigations have already highlighted some officers who -- you know, there`re reports were either directing, plotting directions for insurrectionists may have been helpful, were taking selfies with them, and what kind of response to that to a violent mob?

And so what the red flags that are being raised, they`ll be looked into. And whether it`s Donald Trump, his enablers or anybody involved with the planning and execution of the insurrection on January 6th must be held accountable and use that as a basis for how do we plan and prepare for the future to ensure safety going forward.

REID: Yes, indeed, not to say nothing of the Proud Boys and the questions of whether they`ve had too close relationships with police. It`s all very weird.

But I do want to ask you before I let you go about this Neera Tanden nomination. What do you make of the fact that Republicans who, for four years, were absolutely silent and would run from cameras at the vulgar, misogynistic, racist, Nazi-cuddling commentary of the president of the United States along with one Democrat at least, at least one Democrat, Joe Manchin, essentially torpedoed the nomination of a woman of color and are setting up more people of color?

They`ve got an interesting observation of the people that they don`t like, Xavier Becerra, Deb Haaland. People of color seem to have a problem with Republicans supporting their nominations. What do you make of what`s happened with Neera given the fact that the former president was a constant racist, misogynist, et cetera, and they seem fine with it?

PADILLA: It`s an insulting double standard. And I tried to call it out during Neera Tanden`s confirmation hearing in the committee, right? It coincided, by the way, with the impeachment trial. If you want to hold somebody accountable for offensive tweets, you know, let`s be consistent, not hypocritical.

I called the double standard out when I was introducing Attorney General Becerra in Finance Committee last week because he`s up for confirmation as secretary of Health and Human Services. I have lived through that double standard throughout my 20-year career in public service and that now have the voice as a United States senator to call it out in this venue.

You know, I hope that President Biden finds another spot for Neera somewhere in the administration. She`s a tremendous asset that can be very helpful for the administration and for government as a whole. But we will address and call out the double standard at every turn.

REID: Yes, absolutely. Hopefully, he will, and somewhere where she doesn`t have to get Joe Manchin`s permission to serve in the service of her country. Thank you, Senator Alex Padilla. Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now is former CIA Director John Brennan and former FBI Special Agent Clint Watts. Thank you both for being here. Actually, I`m going to go to you first, Clint, because it occurs to me that what we heard today, these repeated attempts that Republicans have tried to do to reframe what happened on January 6th as some sort of both sides thing, to try to invent Antifa, which is basically anti-fascists. You know, that`s -- of course, they hate that, and say that they and Black Lives Matter were somehow equally culpable for what happened on January 6th when Chris Wray had to keep saying to them, that isn`t true.

As a law enforcement matter, do you think that having the base of one of our two political parties connected to the people that are being investigated will impede the work of organizations like the FBI?

CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I definitely think so, Joy. I mean, over the last four years, we`ve seen the FBI being degraded by the president, whether it was during Russia investigation or many of the different financial crimes that have been investigated. So when you look at it, this has really put a divide in the country between those that support Trump and those that don`t. And I think one of the things that you can look at is there is overlap between some of these militia groups and law enforcement. There`s overlap between them and the military.

There`s an issue right now with what`s known as constitutional sheriffs, essentially. Those local law enforcement that don`t believe Joe Biden legitimately won and say essentially that they will not respect him as the president of the United States. That`s a fundamental breakdown of law and order in the country.

There is no equivalency by any measure between Antifa or any political left terrorism right now and what`s going on on the political right. And I always like to remind people when they hear Antifa, that means anti- fascist, which is in response to another. So if you have Antifa, then you have Fa, or as in fascist, which comes down to white supremacy. It`s the number one issue in the country in terms of domestic terrorism and terrorism overall. And it`s followed up very closely behind by anti- government militia groups. And that`s really where the FBI -- I think Director Wray said that today. He`s going to focus on that. I would like to see our elected leaders focus on that as well.

REID: Well, it says something about one political party when they think that the most dangerous thing are people who are against fascism. I think it says more about them than it does about Antifa.

Mr. Brennan, you know, today, Mr. Wray, Christopher Wray likened this domestic terrorist threat to ISIS. But I wonder if -- from your experience, they`re more like Al Qaeda, because in the case of Al Qaeda, they are embedded in and have the support of the government. That was part of the reason we wound up in Afghanistan. They`re being shielded by the government in Afghanistan.

In this case, even some of the people in the hearings want to defend fundamentally the people who committed the attack on our country because they view them as part of their base. They need their votes. And so they don`t want to harm them. They don`t want to end their power. They -- I don`t know how you can investigate something that one of our two major political parties sees as part of their base.

JOHN BRENNAN, MSNBC SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I agree, Joy. And one of the most disturbing things that Christopher Wray said today was the tremendous surge in the number of investigations, over 2,000, a tremendous surge since he came into office in 2017. And I think it just shows how pervasive this problem is.

And as he pointed out, these racially and ethnically-motivated hate groups, the militias, the white supremacists and others, they are representative across this country. So unlike an Al Qaeda, that has just a handful of individuals that it was able to sneak into this country, the fact that you have so many of these individuals. And as you point out, there are politicians who not only coddle them, but continue to fuel the sentiments that give rise to their violent attacks.

So I think Chris Wray I think has done a good job the last four years. This is a time now in light of the sacking of the capitol on January 6th as well as the surge in domestic terrorism to review the statutory authorities of the FBI, the collection and analytic capabilities, the distribution system of the information that they have. But there is going to be tension between civil liberties and privacy on the one hand and the FBI`s investigative methods. And this is something that I think the Congress would be ideal if it was operating in a bipartisan and fair manner, really needs to work with the leadership of the FBI to make sure that they get this balance right.

REID: That`s a really important point. Clint, you know I mean, I think about you know when President Obama came into office, and his Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, they came out with this report warning back then, you know, about white nationalist extremism that was tied to the election of the first black president and that it was going to increase.

Republicans slapped that down because, again, that`s their base. They`re like, well, you can`t say anything about people on the right or anyone who`s considered right-wing. You can`t do that, so that ended up going away. And then you had Christopher Wray last year, in September, before the 1/6 attack, say, hey, you know, white nationalist extremism, that`s the biggest threat. That was sort of shut down. And so you have -- no one`s doing anything about it.

And what I worry about, Clint, and I wonder if you worry about this too, as we get closer and closer and closer to that date that triggered a lot of people back during Obama`s era, when we lose our white majority, when America becomes a country without a racial majority, isn`t this just going to get worse? Are you worried that it`s just going to ramp up more and more?

WATTS: I definitely am, Joy. And you could see it when President Obama took office. And there were warnings, as you said, not just that one about white supremacists rising essentially in the last decade, but there was also one about former military potentially joining extremist groups. The Department of Homeland Security put out a report and they essentially had to retract it because the Republican Party did not like hearing that. But we saw how this unfolds here today.

I think what we will see, there`re really three things that will unfold, I think, as we head into summer. One, President Trump has been fairly quiet. If he is to enter back into the stage, if he gets a platform again, when he starts talking, that`s when these people start moving to whatever the targets are he designates. That`s why Governor Whitmer and that plot with the Wolverine militia, which the FBI you know foiled thankfully, that`s why they were going there.

I think the second part is the pandemic will come to a close to some degree. And as the country opens back up, there will once again be targets available. That`s one of the things that`s kept a lot of this on the lid is we`ve been able to fight this domestic terrorism because there`s no big targets out there.

I think the third thing is there`s a lot of splintering going on after this January 6th attack right now with these domestic extremist groups. A lot of the young upstarts that had a presence there on January 6th or endorsed it are now further motivated to go ahead and pursue extremism. And I don`t see it going away anytime soon. They`re going to be motivated throughout this year, and it will continue on.

REID: Well, scaring is caring. So, Mr. Brennan, if you tell us, what should we be worried about? Should we worry about the inaugural in the near future? There`s the whole QAnon conspiracy that on the 14th, somehow, Donald Trump is going to be inaugurated. I mean, what is keeping you up at night?

BRENNAN: Well, I think there could be any number of flashpoints that could motivate these individuals to take violence into their own hands once again. But what gives me a sense of optimism here is that we now have a White house that is focused on this issue. We have competent people in charge.

One of the things I still don`t know whether or not there was any discussions and meetings that the White House had prior to the January 6th event because it was quite clear that all these various groups were going to be descending upon Washington. When I was President Obama`s homeland security adviser, I`d be talking to the direct over of the FBI. I`d be talking to the director of Homeland Security, Capitol Police, the sergeant at arms in both Houses to make sure that all of the preparations were in place. I don`t believe that the White House did any of that in advance of January 6th.

Now we have adults in the White House, and I think they`re going to take this seriously as well they should.

REID: Yes, indeed. It`s good to have adult in the White House. John Brennan, Clint Watts, thank you very much for your expertise.

And up next on THE REIDOUT, more on the breaking news tonight that the White House has pulled the nomination of Neera Tanden after criticism from Republicans and, of course, Senator Joe Manchin.

Plus, Democrats are on the verge of passing a huge, major piece of legislation that will bring desperately needed relief to millions of struggling Americans. So what does old Ted Cancun Cruz think about that?


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): The Democratic Party has abandoned the working class men and women.


REID (voice over): Says the Harvard and Princeton-educated senator who opposes the $15 minimum wage, who has a wealthy banker wife with whom he fled to the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun. Ted, you were last night`s absolute worst. But tonight, I can`t even believe it, but there`s actually someone even worse than you. The big reveal is coming up. Stay with us.


REID: Democrats are on the cusp of doing something really big, passing transformative legislation that will have a real impact on millions of Americans, urgently needed COVID economic relief. It will put $1,400 checks in the hands of millions of you and extend unemployment insurance for five months.

And its child tax credit aims to put child -- cut child poverty in half, the largest reduction in child poverty in decades. It`s also overwhelmingly popular. Three-quarters of Americans back it. But in the Senate, which will begin work on it tomorrow. Democrats are standing down after barely letting out a whimper last week when the Senate parliamentarian slapped down the inclusion of the $15 minimum wage.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has vowed to force a vote to overrule the parliamentarian and get rid of the filibuster. But West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin says he will never vote to end the filibuster, telling reporters -- quote -- "Jesus Christ, what don`t you understand about never?"

Well, that`s a charming guy.

Manchin also says he`s concerned about the size of the bill, which presents a problem for President Joe Biden, who`s working to unify Democrats behind the plan. Today, Biden told Senate Democrats to stick together and pass it quickly.

Meanwhile, Ted "Cancun" Cruz, who was chilling at the Ritz-Carlton in Mexico while his constituents literally froze, and whose party is undyingly servile to a man who lives in a resort, and who opposes a $15 minimum wage, well, Ted -- Ted claims it`s actually Democrats who have abandoned the working class.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): The Democratic Party has abandoned the working-class men and women, the millions of people who are out of jobs, who are seeing their wages pulled down. They don`t represent unions anymore. They don`t represent construction workers or truck drivers or working men and women anymore.

The Democratic Party today is the party of wealthy elites on both coasts.


REID: Joining me now is Congresswoman Karen Bass of California.

You know, Congresswoman, Ted Cruz is the absolute worst. But this argument that he keeps making that somehow working-class people reject the idea of getting $15 an hour, have you met many of these truck drivers and working- class Americans who are like, no, no, no, no, I don`t want $15 an hour; pay me less?


REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): I have never met anybody that said that. And he is speaking those words just like a wealthy elite. I don`t think he would know a working-class person if he was sitting next to one.

So, it is ridiculous. Frankly, in some states, $15 an hour is not even enough. And California has been in the process of raising the minimum wage for quite a while. And guess what? Our economy is doing OK. Obviously took a hit from COVID, but it is not ruining life, the quality of life in California to raise the minimum wage.

REID: You know, Steny Hoyer, your majority leader in the House of Representatives, Democratic majority leader in the House, has said that he says that the $15 minimum wage should happen in the near future.

He says that the House will take up a bill to try to do that. What does that mean specifically? Do you foresee a stand-alone bill to try to get the $15 wage through?

BASS: I do see a stand-alone bill.

However, throughout the year, there will be many significant pieces of legislation that we have to pass. And maybe there`s a way to join the minimum wage to another significant piece of legislation. So we will just have to wait and see.

But the most important thing is, is that we`re not...

REID: And then it goes back -- yes.

BASS: The most important thing is, is that we`re not going to stop the fight until we get it done.


REID: OK, thank you. I`m sorry. I didn`t mean to interrupt you.

And then we wind up back in the United States Senate. What do you make of Joe Manchin`s claim that he essentially has a veto? He has declared for himself a veto over Joe Biden`s Cabinet. He`s decided that he doesn`t like Neera Tanden`s tweets. Therefore, she may not have a job in the administration.

He`s decided he doesn`t like the minimum wage being $15 an hour, even though there are a lot of poor folks in his state that I will bet would love to make the kind of money that he and his daughter, who`s a health CEO, make. They make lots and lots of money. I bet lots of people in his state would like to have it. But he said, no, you can`t have that.

He`s also raised questions about Deb Haaland, another woman of color, who Republicans don`t seem to like having women of color get Cabinet spots and men of color as well.

He seems to be standing in the way of a lot. Do you think, at this point, Democrats like him are as much an issue as Republicans?

BASS: Well, I don`t think so, no. I don`t think there`s any way you can compare him to Republicans, and the way they have stopped everything.

But I certainly hope that he gets with the program, especially with the $15 minimum wage, because I know the wages in West Virginia are low. And so it`s sad to think that he would stand and block that.

REID: If the Republicans, which I don`t doubt -- I don`t think there are 10 of them, but let`s just say there were 10, magically, who showed up and said, we will buckle and we will go to $10 or $12 an hour. Would you advise your colleagues in the Senate to go for that?

BASS: No, $10 and $12 an hour are not livable wages. We need to have the $15 minimum wage, and that is a minimum wage.

I would also like to see it indexed, so we wouldn`t have to fight this fight every few years. You know it`s been years since the minimum wage has been raised.

REID: Yes.

I want to ask you. With Vernon Jordan having passed -- a lot of us are very sad that he is gone -- whether you think that other really important things that people voted for, like voting -- preserving the Voting Rights Act, which is now threatened by the 6-3 majority that Republicans have in the Supreme Court, or a bill, the George Floyd Act, which I know is very important to you and to other Democrats, are any of these things going anywhere...

BASS: Absolutely.

REID: ... with a 50/50 Senate in which you have some Democrats like Manchin and Sinema and others who aren`t sticking with the White House?

BASS: Well, I will tell you that I am very optimistic about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

We`re on the 30th anniversary of the Rodney King beating, where we were first introduced to police abuse on video. And so I believe that we will pass it out of the House on Thursday, and we will immediately begin discussions with the Senate. I have been in conversation with Tim Scott. And, of course, Cory Booker will be leading the way in the Senate.

And I am very hopeful that, with bipartisan support in the Senate, that we will be able to put a bill to transform policing in America on President Biden`s desk.

REID: You trust Tim Scott to be the negotiator? The last time he put up a bill, it was essentially a gutted shell of a George Floyd Act.

Do you think that he`s an honest broker here?

BASS: There have been many -- there have been many conversations that have happened since then. And I do believe that we will be able to reach an agreement.

And we`re going to get to work right away.

REID: I love optimism.


BASS: ... off the floor on Thursday.

You will see.

REID: I love optimism.

All right. All right. I`m waiting. I want to be -- my name is Joy. I want to be optimistic.


REID: Congresswoman Karen Bass, thank you very much. Really appreciate your time tonight. OK.

Well, we had an absolute worst all picked out for tonight. We were all ready to go. But then a big story broke involving someone even worse than our pick, perhaps worse.

Stay tuned to find out who that is next.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we`re announcing a major step forward. Two of the largest health care and pharmaceutical companies in the world -- that are usually competitors -- are working together on the vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson and Merck will work together to expand the production of Johnson & Johnson`s vaccine.


REID: That announcement by President Biden today means millions more vaccines will be made available to the public, with enough doses for all adults by the end of May, two months ahead of schedule. That is huge and great news.

But with the threat of new COVID variants, health officials are pleading with the public not to let their guard down.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We cannot be resigned to 70,000 cases a day, 2,000 daily deaths. Please hear me clearly.

At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.


REID: Well, surprise. Those warnings are not being heeded by some Republican governors.

Here is absolutely terrible Florida Governor Ron DeSantis welcoming CPAC attendees, reveling in his belief that he knows better than the health officials.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): For those of you who aren`t from Florida, welcome to our oasis of freedom.



REID: Well, at least he didn`t scream freedom.

But, believe it or not, DeSantis is not the worst, at least not tonight.

The absolute worst is Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Now, mind you, Texas is still recovering from an historic winter blast that left millions without water and electricity. But, today, Abbott made this announcement.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): It is now time to open Texas 100 percent.

Effective next Wednesday, all businesses of any type are allowed to open 100 percent.


REID: Yes, yes, you heard it right. The Texas governor said, COVID, be damned. Everybody, go ahead and open up.

And that`s not all of it. He`s also lifting the state`s mask mandate. Perhaps the governor should take a look at what happened when he eased restrictions in the past. Cases went right back up.

You get some COVID, and you get some COVID, and you get some COVID, and you get some COVID.

For the 29 million Texas residents, please, please do not listen to your governor. Keep taking all safety precautions and protect your health and your lives, because your governor, Greg Abbott, is the absolute worst.


REID: This morning, America lost yet another legend. Vernon Jordan, civil rights icon and political power broker, passed away at age 85. The Atlanta native once served as the Georgia field director for the NAACP, where he fought to register voters where his friend and counterpart, Medgar Evers, who was later assassinated, did the same in Mississippi.

Jordan himself survived an assassination attempt in 1980. He went on to run the Voter Education Project, which helped register a million black voters in the south after passage of the Voting Rights Act. Sadly, Jordan joins a generation of civil rights heroes who we`ve recently lost.

And now the Supreme Court seems inclined to kill off the remnants of their seminal work, the Voting Rights Act.

The case heard before the court today involves two Arizona laws that make it harder for some voters to cast their ballots. A lower court found the laws racially discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Republican lawmakers why the law mattered so much to their party.


JUSTICE AMY CONEY BARRETT, U.S. SUPREME COURT: What`s the interest of the Arizona RNC here in keeping, say, the out of precinct voter ballot disqualification rules on the books?

MR. MICHAEL CARVIN: Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero-sum game, and every extra vote they get through unlawful interpretations of Section 2 hurts us.


REID: Mm-hmm. You hear that? The case isn`t about reducing fraud. It`s about keeping people from voting to give Republicans an advantage. I guess we can appreciate the honesty.

For more, I`m joined by Ari Berman, senior reporter with "Mother Jones."

Ari, I am not hopeful that this 6-3 majority will keep the Voting Rights Act in place. Are you as pessimistic as I am? Is the Voting Rights Act about to be eliminated?

ARI BERMAN, SENIOR REPORTER, MOTHER JONES: It`s hard to be optimistic about the Voting Rights Act with this court that already gutted the Voting Rights Act.

I`m not sure they`re going to go so far, Joy, to say the voting rights act is completely eliminated. But they might just interpret it in such a restrictive way that it will be functionally eliminated or reduced to so little protection for minority voters that they can`t really look to the courts for relief anymore. The fact that Republicans are challenging the Voting Rights Act at the very moment that they`re trying to pass all of these new voter suppression laws that very likely violate the Voting Rights Act just shows how big of a threat to democracy we see right now from the Republican Party.

REID: Yeah, while claiming that their strategy for 2022 is to run women and people of color for election.

Here`s former Georgia -- here`s David Perdue, who is the governor, obviously, of Georgia, and here he is -- I`m sorry, former Senator David Perdue, the ex-Senator David Perdue talking about the voting laws down there. Take a listen.


DAVID PERDUE (R-GA), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Martha, we had significant irregularities in the November election that may have affected the outcome. So, what the state is trying to do right now is correct some of these potential irregularities and create a level playing field for all legal voters to have equal access, make it easier to vote, harder to cheat, and give everybody equal access to their constitutional right.


REID: You note he started with a lie. There were no significant irregularities in the November election. Their Republican secretary of state and all the election officials said that, but that`s the argument.

What`s the counterargument to that? They`re claiming they just want to make things fair and equal for everyone.

BERMAN: Well, the counter argument is they wrote the state`s voting laws in Georgia, that Republicans created the entire system and they were perfectly happy with it until Democrats and black voters started using it to their benefit. So it was Republicans that were for mail-in voting. It was Republicans that were for early voting. It was Republicans that were for automatic registration.

The Republican secretary of state, every single press release from him says Georgia is the leader in elections because it has automatic registration. It has early voting. Only when Democrats started winning in Georgia and black voters turned out in record numbers did they start trying to repeal all of the things that Republicans bragged about that made it easy to vote.

So, Georgia is a fascinating test case because it goes to show you, it has nothing to do with election integrity, because the secretary of state was so clear it was a well run election. It has to do with the fact they are trying to target the voting methods they created after Democrats and black voters used them in large numbers really for the first time in the state`s history.

REID: Well, yeah. You heard that in Arizona. They were very clear. They`re like, we have a disadvantage when everyone can vote. We need to get our advantage back.

Here`s what Stacey Abrams told us last night on the program about this very issue.


STACEY ABRAMS, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: When you can win elections not by having the best ideas but by stealing the right to vote, then you do not deserve to win, and you don`t deserve to participate. So what we need is a call to action that not only stops these bills in local -- in the state legislatures, but we`ve got to also fight hard to make certain that H.R.1 and S.R.1 and H.R.4 become the law of the land in the United States.


REID: Ari, H.R.1 -- S.R.1 obviously contained the John Lewis Voting Act would try to restore and bring back the voting rights act to its full strength. This is coming in the wake of 253 different laws being proposed by Republican legislatures in 43 different states. And like almost a dozen Republican United States senators who are 100 percent in favor of just overturning the Voting Rights Act, period. Just get rid of it, including Mitch McConnell, including Ted Cruz, including Rick Scott from Florida, where they do a lot of voter suppression down there as well.

How hopeful are you that Democrats will get the will, develop the will to do what it takes, meaning end the filibuster or at least change it so that they can get the Voting Rights Act through? Because if they don`t pass the John Lewis Act, then what?

BERMAN: Well, all of the voter suppression in Georgia, efforts to weaken the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court, this is putting a tremendous amount of pressure on Democrats to respond, that we are in a make or break moment for democracy. That Republicans clearly are going to do everything they can to undermine the democratic process through voter suppression, through gerrymandering, through other anti-democratic methods.

And Democrats have to respond. The best way that Democrats can respond is by passing H.R.1, the For the People Act, and by passing H.R.4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. This would go a very long way towards protecting voting rights. It would go a lot further than hoping that the Roberts court, the 6-3 conservative court protects voting rights. That`s very unlikely to happen.

But the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the For the People Act, this could stop voter suppression. So, yes, Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, they`re not going to decide tomorrow to eliminate the filibuster, but Democrats are betting if all of these anti-democratic tactics by Republicans are accelerated, that will put more pressure on Democrats to have some sort of response, not just to help the Democratic but literally to possibly save American democracy. That`s how high the stakes are right now.

REID: Oh, absolutely. Having a zombieified Voting Rights Act means having no Voting Rights Act essentially.

Ari Berman, thank you so much for all that you. Really appreciate you being here tonight.

And coming up, two weeks after being slammed by a historic winter storm, residents of Jackson, Mississippi, are still without running water with no relief in sight. That is next.

Stay with us.


REID: The whole country has been focused on the infrastructure crisis in Texas. There are people in Jackson, Mississippi, who have gone more than two weeks without running water. After two winter storms forced Jackson`s water system, which hasn`t been updated in decades, to shut down.

The city has been working to restore service, distributing water residents in the meantime. But it`s been slow going. And officials are unable to give an exact timeline on when water will be restored everywhere.

More than a quarter of the people in Jackson, Mississippi, a city that is 82 percent black, live in poverty. "The Daily Beast" reports residents noticed that the crisis has his south and West Jackson hardest, while leaving the predominantly white corner unscathed.

It`s a reality officials attribute to the distance between these neighborhoods as they work to raise the water pressure high enough to reach those neighborhoods.

Jackson`s mayor has estimated that updating Jackson`s water system to prevent future crises will cost $2 billion, which is more than six times the city`s annual budget.

I am joined by the Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, and Laurie Bertram Roberts, co-founder of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund and she has been distributing water and other necessities to Jackson residents.

Mayor Lumumba, I want to start with you first. Jackson has long history of having issues with water. There are T-shirt shops that are say welcome to boil water alert Mississippi, which is not funny at all, but that`s T- shirts that are being sold. It`s been likened to Flint. How bad is the crisis and what is the timeline for people in Jackson to get their water back on.

MAYOR CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA (D), JACKSON, MS: Well, first and foremost, Joy, thank you for having me on this evening. I thank you, Laurie, for being here, as well.

This situation is extremely critical. As you can imagine, you have residents who don`t have the necessities that they need not only for drinking and cooking and bathing, but we are in the midst of a pandemic, which, you know, necessitates the need for water even more.

What took place was that the pressure in our distribution system was interrupted by the storm. It froze pipes, it froze water coming from the intersection. We don`t have a water treatment facility which is weatherized and years of a lack of investment not only locally, but more importantly, state and federal funds that could support these types of infrastructure needs have not -- it has not been a joint effort and it has not been viewed as a necessity for both entities.

And so, where we are right now is that we are increasing the pressure. The system is moving forward. One of the solutions is, unfortunately, time. We do, while we cannot share the exact day and hour that each -- the last resident will have water, we know that we are towards the end you have our journey because we are starting to get reports of residents at the furthest point in the distribution line that are starting to receive it. And so it`s a constant effort of working day in and day out, and we are grateful for the residents that are offering their time, volunteering to distribute water, bottled water, non-potable water to help residents in need.

REID: You know, Laurie, this is an age-old story. The parts of the city that are predominantly black don`t have water, the part that is predominantly white, things seem to be fine. This kind of racism dates back.

A lot of these states, not just the southern states, but the southern states seem to be particularly a thing, where there is lack of investment in communities of color, lack of investment in infrastructure. It`s about privatization and profit.

I wonder -- I mean, in your view, what can be done about that?

LAURIE BERTRAM ROBERTS, MISSISSIPPI REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM FUND CO-FOUNDER: I mean, what really needs to be done is major infrastructure investment on the federal and state level, right? It was not shocking to me that it took the state so long to even show up in Jackson, even though our governor made, had the nerve and the audacity to say our mayor wasn`t available to speak to him, although I checked and it`s a five-minute walk from his office in his mansion to town, you know, to city hall, right?

So, even if it was true that our mayor could not be reached by the phone, he could have sent any number of his staff right up the street to city hall to speak to any of the mayor`s staff, right? He could have sent anyone to speak to anyone in the city of Jackson.

But that`s how little a priority Jackson is. It`s not just Jackson. It`s the Mississippi delta is without water right now. Other parts of Mississippi, but it`s majority black parts of Mississippi.

So it`s not a priority for Tate Reeves. And it`s never been a priority for Tate Reeves, not Haley Barbour, and not, you know, Phil Bryant.

REID: It sounds a lot like Texas, Mayor Lumumba, quite frankly. This sort of failed states where there are states where there are a small number of very, very wealthy people and all they do is prioritize themselves, low taxes for themselves, private schools for their kids, mostly white, and everyone else is left to suffer and maybe even to die.

Talk about your governor a little bit. Has he been in touch with you since his apparent failure to get you on the phone?

LUMUMBA: Well, we have reached out throughout this process. I have been on -- I have had the pleasure of joining you before, Joy, as we talked about COVID and talked about those communication challenges. Nonetheless, we still pushed forward and pressed forward and asked for support. We need that support. I think it`s also important to lift up, based on Laurie`s point, we make it clear that cities are not designed by happenstance.

I am a part of a city initiative which talks about city design and how, you know, wealthy communities are closest to the resources. It`s because of this design in that way. So we have to get more equitable models of how cities are built. We need to look at more equitable models of how resources are allocated to communities. So we need the state of Mississippi to understand that when Jackson`s water system failed, it isn`t a Jackson, Mississippi, problem. It`s a state of Mississippi problem.

We are the economic engine for the state of Mississippi. We are not only the capital city and the largest city by a factor of three. We are the capital of health care in the midst of a pandemic. And so they have to understand the seriousness and the severity of the challenges we suffer from.

REID: Laurie, in the midst of that pandemic the governor has relaxed the mask mandate. You are going door-to-door and talk with folks. How are people able to fight the pandemic if they don`t have water and now mask mandates gone. What then?

BERTRAM ROBERTS: Yeah, it`s absurd to me. At the same time, he is trying to get people to go out and get vaccinated, right. And those two things are oppose today each other, right. It`s like on the one hand he is touting science and the other hand he is -- I call it the hokey-pokey with science. On one hand he takes his MAGA hat off and goes, yeah, science and the other hand, he`s like, I put it back on now, so forget science. It makes no sense.

Also, it`s just a big F-U to black citizens in Mississippi who are dying at disproportionate rates. We can go ahead and die. He made sure that a bunch of white people are vaccinated now, and therefore, you know, the rest of us poor white folks and black folks can die.

REID: Yeah, indeed. This is Medgar Evers`s city, Jackson.

So, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, we`re really think of y`all. God bless you.

Laurie Bertram Roberts, thank you and bless you for all you are doing.

That is tonight`s REIDOUT.