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Transcript: The ReidOut, 3/29/21

Guests: Jennifer Bates, William Barber, Bridgett Floyd, Juanita Tolliver


Today was the last day of voting to unionize for nearly 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. Derek Chauvin murder trial begins. Prosecutor says, Officer Chauvin applied excessive force for nine and a half minutes. Chauvin attorney argues crowds distracted officers during arrest. Chauvin attorney argues Floyd`s health problems caused his death. Chauvin jury hears eyewitness testimony. Prosecutor says, video evidence will show Floyd did not die of a drug overdose. Independent autopsy contradicts official autopsy, says Floyd suffocated. Floyd`s brother says, the video is the proof.



JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everyone. We begin THE REIDOUT tonight with the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin. Opening arguments began today, ten months after the death of George Floyd witnessed by millions of people in excruciating detail all nine or so minutes of it, after that triggered yet another national reckoning on race in policing.

Prosecutors in Chauvin`s defense presented their respective cases offering competing interpretations of the events that unfolded that day.

Opening for the prosecution, Attorney Jerry Blackwell argued that Chauvin betrayed his badge by using excessive force. And in laying out the timeline, he revealed that Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd`s neck for longer than we previously knew, for a total of 9 minutes and 29 seconds.


JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTOR, DEREK CHAUVIN TRIAL: You will learn what happened in the 9 minutes and 29 seconds. The most important numbers you will hear in this trial at 9:29. What happened in those nine minutes and 29 seconds when Mr. Derek Chauvin was applying this excessive force to the body of George Floyd, you will see that he does not let up and that he does not get up, even when Mr. Floyd does not even have a pulse. We`re going to prove to you that Mr. Chauvin`s conduct was a substantial cause of Mr. Floyd`s death.


REID: According to prosecutor, Floyd said he couldn`t breathe 27 times. And as Blackwell, an officer at the scene even checked Floyd`s pulse after Floyd had been pinned to the ground for 6.5 minutes. Let`s watch that moment.


EYEWITNESS: Does he have a pulse?

EYEWITNESS: No, bro. Look at him, he`s not responsive right now, bro. Bro, are you serious?

OFFICER LANE: You got one?

EYEWITNESSS: Let me see a pulse.

EYEWITNESS: Is he breathing right now? Check his pulse. Check his pulse. Check his pulse now. Now, check his pulse.

OFFICER KUENG: I couldn`t find one.


REID: And though Floyd had no pulse, Chauvin continued to pin his lifeless body to the ground for another three minutes, and he did not let up even as paramedics arrived with a stretcher. All the while, bystanders at the scene were reacting with increasing concern for Floyd`s life.

But today, Chauvin`s defense lawyer that the bystanders themselves actually bear some responsibility for what happened?


ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, DEREK CHAUVIN TRIAL: There are people behind them. There are people across the street. There are cars stopping, people yelling, here is a growing crowd, and what officers perceive to be a threat. They`re screaming at him, causing the officers to divert their attention from the care of Mr. Floyd to the threat that was growing in front of them.


REID: And as many legal observers had predicted, the cause of Floyd`s death was subject of debate, Chauvin`s lawyer arguing that it wasn`t due to suffocation at all.


NELSON: The evidence will show that Mr. Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia that occurred as a result of hypertension, it`s coronary disease, the ingestion of methamphetamine and fentanyl and the adrenaline flowing through his body. There was no evidence that Mr. Floyd air flow was restricted.


REID: The jury also heard from three witnesses for the prosecution, including a 911 dispatcher who watched the scene unfold live on traffic cameras that she was monitoring. She said the officers had Floyd pinned to the ground for so long that she thought the video had frozen.

Joining me now Paul Butler and Glenn Kirschner, both former Federal Prosecutors. And, Paul, I want to start with you. Let`s start with blaming the crowd. That is a very innovative defense, I would say, on the part of Chauvin`s defense, essentially saying that, you know, because they want to get to the perceived of threat, right? That`s part of the magic words that normally get police officers off on charges of murder or of killing someone. And so he wants to get a threat in there. So he says the crowd was the threat. What do you make of that defense?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So we always knew he was going to put George Floyd on trial. But we didn`t know the defense was also going to put the people, the bystanders, who did what they can to stop George Floyd from being killed, we didn`t know that the defense was going to put them on trial as well.

What he`s trying to do is paint a picture of a chaotic situation in which the officers didn`t have any good choices. That still doesn`t explain that final two devastating minutes in that video when Chauvin is told that there`s no pulse but he still keeps his knee on Mr. Floyd`s neck. You can`t use the crowd and you can`t blame Mr. Floyd for what that officer did.

REID: And, Glenn, on that point, if you can just zero in on that in a little bit more, because I talk to a law enforcement world friend just last evening who said the same thing to me, which is that, you know, it`s very hard to convict police officers of crimes like this. It`s just is. You know, it`s very rare, that police officers actually get convicted even when you can see on camera what happen. Take Eric Gardner, right? They blame that on his weight, and tried also to what the defense is in. And there was never even a prosecution.

So in this case, what this law enforcement friend said to me is, the key to this prosecution is the point at which the officers were told there is no pulse. Because at that point, the officer actually had been warned, Chauvin had been warned, this guy has got no pulse. So, basically, you`re pinning a body to the ground that cannot be a threat to you, and that that warning, that there`s no pulse can be the only thread that could produce a conviction. Do you agree with that?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don`t think it`s the only thread. I think it`s helpful to the prosecution that they can --

REID: Okay, we`re going to hold on for just one second, Glenn, because your audio is giving us some issues, so we`re going to hold off on that. I`m going to throw that same question to you, Paul, while we try to fix Glenn`s audio.

Same question to you. Is that the thread that prosecutors are going to need to hang their hat on in order to try to get to a conviction on one of these counts?

BUTLER: So, prosecutors have very good evidence on the two points that they need to make. First, that the officers use of force was unreasonable. And that`s where this evidence that two minutes after Mr. Floyd was still - - had no pulse, the officers still continued to use that force. That`s just not going to fly with the jury.

And what the defense is doing, Joy, is to make it look like George Floyd was the perpetrator here. So in the first five minutes of their opening statement, we learned that Mr. Floyd was on drugs, that he tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill, that somebody call 911 and said there was a big man who was drunk and could not control himself, and that Floyd so violently resisted arrest, that three police officers could not overcome his strength. So they are doing that to claim that the force used against Floyd was reasonable.

Yes, part of that strategy make sense, Chauvin did what he is trained to do. They said use of force isn`t attractive but it`s part of the job of policing. Neck restrains were legal at the time. But, Joy, of course, the defense is also trying to make Mr. Floyd less sympathetic to the jury, and they are doing it in a problematic way by summing up stereotypes about black men high on drugs, having group like strength. That was a successful strategy in the defense -- in the case against the police officers who beat up Rodney King.

REID: Yes.

BUTLER: So I guess we have to see whether that defense works in 2021.

REID: But here -- a lot to exercise (ph), right? Okay. So if they`re going to say that he`s just this brute force guy, that so threatening that they need all of these force, but they`re also trying to say he was near death. So you can`t be both a brute that could just take down three officers in one shot but also dying any way, right? Because they`re also trying to say he was already dying and then nothing that Chauvin did could have stopped him.

Here is the Prosecutor, this Jerry Blackwell, because that was a second thing. First, it was a blame the crowd then it`s blame the drugs. Here is Jerry Blackwell rebutting that.


BLACKWELL: You will learn that he did not die from a drug overdose. He did not die from an opioid overdose. Why, because you`ve been able to look at the video footage, and you see he was absolutely nothing like a person who would die from an opioid overdose.


REID: So we know that there are competing autopsy result here. So that`s an issue, is that, you know, the family got their autopsy done and then there`s official autopsy. You know, work through that piece of this, Paul, because you can`t argue both things simultaneously, if he was practically dead is what they`re making it sound like, he can`t also be alive and active threat. But what do you make of these sort of competing results as to whether or not drugs were the real cause?

BUTLER: So the official medical report from Hennepin County says essentially that Mr. Floyd died of a heart attack. But that cause of death was homicide, meaning that there was a human actor involved other than the person who died. The family medical report goes on to say that the cause of death was asphyxiation. The official medical report rebuts that.

And so the defense is saying, well, gee, you would think that if someone`s knee was on another person`s neck, and that person died, that they would die because of asphyxiation, and that`s not what the report says. Remember, all the defense has to do is to poke holes in the prosecution case to create reasonable doubt. They don`t have to come up with an actual reason why Mr. Floyd died. It`s essentially throwing mud, hoping that something sticks.

But here is why I don`t think that going to work. If the jury buys what the defense is saying, they would have to think that it`s just a remarkable coincident that Mr. Floyd just happen die of a heart attack after Officer Chauvin had his knee on Mr. Floyd`s neck for almost nine minutes. I don`t think the jury is going to buy that.

REID: Yes. And, again, that he is the most threatening nonresponsive person without a pulse ever for three whole minutes. Derek Chauvin continue to restrain somebody who had no pulse. I don`t know how you make all of those arguments at one time, but I guess they`re going to try. Paul Butler, thank you so much for being here. Sorry that we could not Glenn Kirschner`s sound back. Next time we will have him on again.

And joining me now is George Floyd`s sister, Bridgett Floyd. And, Bridgett, thank you so much for being here, great to talk with you. Your brother, Philonise, he called the case a slam dunk today. This was his take. I want to let you hear that.


PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD BROTHER: We know that this case, to us, is a slam dunk because we know the video is the proof. That`s all you need. The guy was leaning on my brother`s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, a guy who was sworn in to protect, he killed my brother in broad day light. That was a modern day lynching.

It was at least second-degree murder. Third-degree murder, that just dead (ph), but second-degree murder, it clearly showed that he killed my brother.


REID: And by the way, third-degree murder, essentially sort of accidental death, causing the death accidentally, not intending to. Do you feel the same way, Bridgett? Do you feel confident that this is going to be a case in which there`s a conviction?

BRIDGETT FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD SISTER: I absolutely agree with my brother, Philonise. This was intentional. We`ve all seen it. And we will -- we will get justice. That officer will be charged. And I say that with mighty, mighty power because there`s a God that sits high but he definitely looks low. And the world will never forget, never forget what that officer did to my brother because he was not trained to do such things as he did.

REID: And apologies for mispronouncing your brother, Philonise`s name. But, you know, that confidence, I think is hopeful. But you also, I`m sure, know the record. You know, I think of Eric Gardner when I think about your brother. I covered that case as well. And that was a case that seemed incredibly obvious, that what happened to Mr. Garner was clear. It was on tapes. Very similarly, he said I can`t breathe. It`s so sort of a really similar. And in that case, you know, it didn`t get even pass the grand jury. There was not even a charge.

If it turns out that it`s not -- that the outcome here is not a conviction, then what? What will you think about the American criminal justice system at that point?

BRIDGETT FLOYD: I don`t even want to think like that. I don`t even want to speak like that because I know we`re going to get justice. And we`re going to get justice for all families who did not get justice. So we`re standing tall with them. We`re praying for them as they`re praying for us because my brother was the chosen one.

It took me a long time to accept that. But God chose him to change this world. And he would not let us down without giving us justice because he took something special from us. That officer took something so special. And when God takes things from you, he replaces them. He replaces it. So I know we`re going to get justice, without a shadow of a doubt.

REID: My final question to you, has the police department in any way, you know, spoken with the family? Has there been ever an apology, or any official sort of -- you know, anything from the police department to say that this was not the intention, that they are sorry that this happened to your brother? Have you heard anything like that from the police department?

BRIDGETT FLOYD: No, no, ma`am, I have heard nothing. And it`s okay. It`s okay that they don`t reach out to us, because there are going to be some laws placed where officers are not going to be able to do the things that they want to do. They`re going to have to abide by the rules. They`re going to be held accountable for their actions.

So it was okay that they haven`t reached out to us because they know what the officer did and they know it was wrong. Maybe they don`t know how to approach us. But it`s okay, because we`re going to get what we`re striving for, and that`s justice.

REID: Bridgett Floyd, thank you so much. Our condolences again from me and everyone here at the show. So thank you so much for taking some time this evening. Be well.

BRIDGETT FLOYD: No problem, thank you.

REID: Thank you.

All right, and up next on THE REIDOUT, I`m going to show you e exactly what is in -- this is important -- the For the People Voting Rights legislation, that`s the right is screaming about, and why Republicans like Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz are indeed so afraid of it.

Plus a new COVID warning from the CDC director as Dr. Deborah Birx, one of Trump`s top experts, tries to rehabilitate her tattered image, saying many lives could have been saved if Trump had done the right thing, the same Trump that she once effusively praised.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: He`s been so attentive to the scientific literature and details and the data.


REID: Never challenge Trump`s lies when it mattered most, could be tonight absolute worst. She`s sure good but she`s not. The big reveal is coming up. THE REIDOUT continues after this.


REID: As political and legal backlash to Georgia`s new draconian voter suppression law rolls in, Republican senators are not concerned about George`s blatant attempt to restrict voting by black, brown, AAPI, and young voters, no, no.

But they are losing their minds about the effort by Democrats in Congress to expand voting rights, namely, the House-passed For the People Act, H.R.1.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): H.R.1 is the biggest power grab in the history of the country. Every time a Republican does anything, we`re a racist. If you`re a white conservative, you`re a racist. If you`re a black Republican, you`re either prop or Uncle Tom.

They use the racism card to advance a liberal agenda, and we`re tired of it. H.R.1 is sick, not what they`re doing in Georgia.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): ... is, it automatically registers everyone to vote if you interact with the government, so if you get a welfare payment, if you get an unemployment payment, if you get a driver`s license, if you go to a public college or university. It is a profoundly dangerous bill.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): Everything about this bill is rotten to the core. This is a bill as if written in hell by the devil himself.


REID: By the devil himself.

Whew, except, for what they`re calling evil, most people would call convenience, since H.R.1, and it`s Senate version, S.R.1, expands voting largely by, yes, taking the burden off of you, the voter, and putting the onus on your state to make voting in federal elections easier.

It includes things like, yes, automatic voter registration through agencies like the DMV and public universities, places where you are already providing information. It requires states to provide online and same-day voter registration to make signing up easier for you.

And since your life is busy with work and family and school obligations, it would require states to allow two weeks of early voting and no excuse mail- in voting. And it prohibits states from requiring I.D. when you mail in your vote. So, you don`t have to like make that extra trip to the copy place, which many people will not have time to do.

And shock of all shocks, not everybody has a copy machine in their home. All these things are remarkably non-controversial, even mundane, as opposed to, I don`t know, making it illegal to give food and water to folks waiting hours in line to vote, like Georgia`s law has done.

Today, another lawsuit was filed in response to that GOP-backed voter suppression law by the Georgia NAACP, joined by several other groups. It alleges -- quote -- "Officials have resorted to attempting to suppress the vote of black voters and other voters of color in order to maintain the tenuous hold that the Republican Party has on Georgia."

Meanwhile, calls for an economic boycott of Georgia or of Georgia-based corporations in the wake of the law continue to grow, including a boycott of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, which put out a statement praising parts of the bill.

There are also calls to boycott several other Atlanta-based corporations, including Coca-Cola, UPS, and the Home Depot.

Joining me now is Democratic strategist Juanita Tolliver and Michael Steele, former chairman of the RNC.

And, Michael, I have to go to you first. It is a little comical to watch Mike Lee say this was, like, written in hell, and Lindsey Graham whiny, whiny, oh, you`re just mad because I`m a white guy.

It`s like, it`s whiny, but it`s also weird, because, if they -- if the concern by Republicans is election security, putting governmental agencies and entities that are already taking in all this data about people and know who everyone is seems to me the easiest way to ensure that the people voting are legitimate voters.

The DMV knows who you are. The federal -- the local governments know who you are. They`re making this sound like it`s some sort of weird space alien monstrosity, when it`s literally like voter convenience.

It -- I mean, I wonder, just from your point of view, as a Republican, this -- doesn`t this make it clear that they just don`t want more people to vote because they think they will lose?



STEELE: You have just summed it up.

REID: Yes.

STEELE: Look, that`s -- the legislation in Georgia that was signed into law, what you see in Arizona, what`s bubbling around in other states right now, a significant number of states, is all about the inability of the party to win elections.

And so this is born out of that fact. I have been an advocate of voting reform since I was a county chairman here in Prince George`s County back in the 1990s. My view then, being in a county where I was outnumbered, Joy -- there are 800,000 residents, 58,000 of whom at that time were registered Republican voters, OK?

REID: Right.

STEELE: So, just to let you know what the landscape was like for this brother...


REID: Right.

STEELE: ... this black Republican, since Lindsey wanted to call me out, right, was virtually about how we access the ballot box, and creating the narrative to get voters to support your agenda, support your views, your policies, your candidates.

When you can`t do that, you game the system.

REID: Right.

STEELE: When you can no longer win with the direct approach to voters with candidates and ideas.

Remember, you just played a montage of Republican officials who don`t have a platform.

REID: Right.

STEELE: They have nothing to sell to the American people. They can`t even sell it to their own constituents in their state.

So, look, we know this -- what this is all about, voter suppression. We know this is all about a fear of black voters. This is targeted to states like Georgia, like Michigan, where black voters turned out in numbers.

REID: Yes.

STEELE: And so, you can beat the numbers, you game the system to repress those numbers as much as you can, so, therefore, you can`t bring water to someone standing in line for eight hours to vote.

REID: It`s wild, Juanita.

I mean, Republicans passed the voter expansion bills in Georgia to make it easier to vote absentee, to say, you don`t have to be sick or out of town. They passed those things to make it more convenient to vote. They passed all of the laws that Democrats then used to win those elections.

So, these were their rules. And until Democrats used their rules -- I have worked in elections. You have worked in elections. Republicans are like usually the kings of absentee. That`s how they keep winning.


REID: And that was their thing. And they were like, wait a minute, you use our rules to win? Get out of here. We`re going to get rid of this thing, which makes it inconvenient for them.

I mean, and, by the way, let me just mention to Lindsey Graham, it`s not being a black person and being a Republican. Michael Steele gets to come to the cookout. He`s at the cookout.

Lindsey, you can`t come to the cookout.


REID: And that`s because of you. That`s not because Michael Steele -- it`s because of you, Lindsey. You`re not invited.

Let`s go, Juanita.



REID: Michael Steele can come.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Joy, I think you -- he can come, right? He can come. He can maybe even bring the potato salad.

But the reality is, like you said, Joy, Republicans wanted those accessible points for voting, as long as it worked for them. But as soon as black and brown voters turned out en masse to deliver the U.S. Senate, to flip Georgia, which hadn`t gone for a Democratic presidential candidate in, what, 20-plus years, now they`re pulling all the way back.

And, look, be very afraid. Fear me. Fear voters who look like me, because the moment you give the access points that H.R.1 offers, once you get that legislation through Congress, the communities that need the most help, the communities that are most impacted by legislation will be showing up at the polls, because those barriers will be removed.

So, I`m looking at H.R.1 like Congress has a massive opportunity to shore up our democracy, at a moment when Republicans are actively working to dismantle it brick by brick, state by state. And this is an opportunity for Congress to really step up and make sure our democracy functions and our voting rights are protected.

REID: And there`s -- exactly.

And there`s a reason that I went through and said what`s in the bill, because they`re trying to do the same thing they tried to do with the stimulus, Michael, and try to make it sound scary just in general, but not tell you what`s in the bill.

I mean, when people think about, wow, I don`t have to go to a copy machine and, like, Xerox my I.D., and then put my I.D. in the mail, which is actually not the safest and most secure thing to do, I don`t have to do that, I can actually just go ahead and vote, it`s easier, and I can -- and have an automatic registration, so I don`t have to actually do anything, it`s like a coupon in reverse. It`s like easier.

I mean, Utah votes all by mail. They have managed to elect Republicans.

STEELE: Right.

REID: You ran in Democratic-leaning Maryland. You -- there`s a Republican governor who managed to win there.


REID: If people like your ideas, they will vote for you in any -- Colorado does it, Washington state.

Let me read Delta Air Lines` statement on this law, because this is the problem these corporations are going to have, Michael, and also Juanita.

Here`s Delta`s statement: "The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process and expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting, protects the voters` ability to cast an absentee ballot."

So, basically, they`re just lying about the law and trying to make the law sound better, because they don`t want to get boycotted. Coca-Cola had a similarly sort of lame statement: "We believe voting is a foundational right in America, and access should be brought-based and inclusive," bluh, dah, deep, bleep, bloop, bloop, bloop.

This isn`t going to help them, Michael, right?

STEELE: No, it`s not.

REID: These kinds of statements are just going to put the crosshairs back on them.

STEELE: It does. It does.

You -- because those statements are nowhere near reflective of the onerous nature of the law that they`re talking about, the law that they`re referring actively disenfranchises voters, specifically black voters. And so you have to speak to that. You cannot come with some sort of soft pedaled, sort of warm, fuzzy, oh, we love voting, and we support voting, kumbaya to the voting, you know?

REID: Right.

STEELE: That`s not what this is about.

REID: Real quick...

STEELE: You have got to take a public stand here and push back against.

REID: Yes.

STEELE: Can I just real quick...

REID: Yes.

STEELE: Because you said something that is very, very important.

And I think it`s a serious point for Republicans to understand exactly what this -- I`m speaking specifically Republicans. How do you think we won in 2010? What do you think I did as national chairman in 2010? I galvanized our vote, because a lot of our voters actually are seniors who couldn`t get to polls.

REID: My...

STEELE: So, we utilized the vote-by-mail system...

REID: Michael...

STEELE: ... to allow them to vote that way.

REID: ... the vote -- the heart -- my heartbreaking first election campaign I worked in was 2004. You know how Republicans beat us in Florida?

And we just knew we had George W. Bush on the campus.


REID: We are -- the canvas.



REID: We -- their voters were invisible. We couldn`t see them, because they were voting absentee. Republicans kill it absentee. You guys are cutting your own throats.

Really quick. We are way out of time. Very quickly. I`m being told to stop.


REID: But, Juanita, very quickly, are you with Bernice King or -- and those who are saying don`t boycott the state, boycott the companies, very quickly?

TOLLIVER: I think boycott the companies, right?

Like, this is an opportunity for black and brown individuals to show their economic power here...

REID: Yes.

TOLLIVER: ... and especially in the face of companies that don`t care about their voting rights.

REID: Yes.

TOLLIVER: Stand up and use your economic ability.

REID: Yes. That`s what Bernice King said.

All right, Juanita Tolliver, Michael Steele, I really got to go now. Thank you both very much.

Coming up: The CDC director says that she has a sense of impending doom, with too many Americans apparently under the impression that the pandemic is over.

Guys, it`s not over. It`s still a threat. Hang in there. Mask up.

We will be right back.


REID: Like most things connected to this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, we continue to toggle between the good and the bad.

First, the good. President Biden announced today that 90 percent of all adults over 16 will be eligible for the vaccine by April 19. He also announced that the U.S. will more than double the number of pharmacies where people can get the shot.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the vast, vast majority of adults, you won`t have to wait until May 1. You`ll be eligible for your shot on April 19.

The failure to take this virus seriously, precisely what got us in this mess in the first place, risk more cases, more deaths.

Look, as I do my part to accelerate the vaccine distribution and vaccinations, I need the American people to do their part as well.


REID: The United States has administered more than three million shots a day for the past three days.

More good news? The CDC is reporting that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are providing high -- or proving highly effective at preventing symptomatic and asymptomatic infections.

Unfortunately, after seeing the positivity rate decline, daily cases are now rising again. The average number of new cases has increased 10 percent over the past week. Hospitalizations have also increased, and deaths are once again averaging about 1,000 a day.

A visibly shaken Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pleaded with Americans to keep fighting the spread.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth and I have to hope and trust you will listen.

I`m going to pause here. I`m going to lose the script, and I`m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.

We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But, right now, I`m scared. I so badly want to be done. I know you all so badly want to be done. We are just almost there, but not quite yet.

And so I`m asking you to just hold on a little longer, to get vaccinated when you can, so that all of those people that we all love will still be here when this pandemic ends.


REID: Joining me now is Dr. Kavita Patel, former Obama White House policy director.

And I`m going to come back to that very emotional plea that we heard from Mrs. Walensky -- Dr. Walensky.

But let`s go backwards just for a second, because Dr. Deborah Birx has been doing some sort of reputation maintenance recently. Here`s part of her interview, the former White House coordinator Deborah Birx, this weekend.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FMR. WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.


REID: You can go through her. You can go through Brett Giroir, who was the former coronavirus testing czar. You can through the former CDC Director Dr. Redfield.

This is -- this is a lot too late, right, that kind of retrospective?

DR. KAVITA PATEL, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that`s absolutely right, Joy.

And, honestly, all they did was exactly as you said, reputation management. We did not hear about any of the atrocities that we know are still uncovered, unearthed, and that have been candidly supported by a lot of those physicians who went there.

And, honestly, a lot of us have been in similar positions, where we`re working for very powerful people. And the truth is exactly what we should be telling people. That`s always kind of the ultimate job, especially as a physician. It`s very disappointing, Joy.

REID: And so, meanwhile -- so, we had to get that out.

But let`s talk about what we`re dealing with now. We have got Florida, where the governor is like, bring back the cruise ships, right, and fighting the CDC on that. Spring break, we saw all those pictures of people partying for spring break.

We`re now seeing the results of that with increased infections in Florida. We`re seeing this just go up all over the country.

Are you as scared as Dr. Walensky?

PATEL: I am.

I will say this. I think that offering Dr. Birx`s comments and Dr. Walensky`s was actually a very interesting contrast, because what if we had had that level of impending doom vocalized by Dr. Birx, by all the doctors?

We would probably be in a better place, not -- you know, not zero death, but certainly nowhere near what we have today. So, I definitely think that we have to still maintain vigilance.

If you are vaccinated, Joy, you can have semblance of normal lives. I see friends and family who are vaccinated, hugging them, and having a meal without masks.

But for goodness sake, please do not go and gather in person in a tight setting. Avoid scenes where you do not have any clue who these people are, and what their vaccination status is. And for the love of everything, please put a mask on.

REID: Yeah.

PATEL: Because we don`t know who is vaccinated. We don`t understand who and what risks people have. We don`t know who has a chronic disease that could kill them if they get exposed to this.

REID: Yeah.

PATEL: So, no, I do have that sense.

REID: You don`t have to tell me twice. I`ve gotten a vaccine, number one. But I`m not going anywhere. I will be hiding out still at my house.

And by the way, Donald Trump issued a statement, you know, that was written like a 6-year-old wrote it. So, I won`t even read it, you know, going after Dr. Birx. Who cares?

Do you agree with me? I have the sort of working theory that we should be taken the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and basically giving it to every person who is between 18 and 30, because they are taking the most risks. They are partying. They`re out there.

Do you agree with me? Because they don`t have to come back a second time. Should we maybe, you know, sort of sectioning the vaccines that way?

PATEL: Yeah, Joy, when they said there is a one dose vaccine, I had actually said, like we should be going to people who are less likely to come in for their second shot, and who we have a hard time following up with. And that is a hundred percent demographic you described. I have parents like who don`t follow up to get their HPV vaccines --

REID: Yeah.

PATEL: -- with some of the other ones that take multi-doses.

So, I`m a huge proponent, instead of this priority grouping, where we`re still working our way to 1A, 1B, 1C, 2A, get it out to the very people --

REID: Yes.

PATEL: -- who we know all yearlong have been spreading this virus, and that has been younger people who tend to not want to wear masks or stay indoors, et cetera. So, you`re absolutely right.

REID: And get some of these --

PATEL: I like that plan.

REID: Get some of these right wing, you know, whoevers, pay them to go out and just promote the vaccines, to let the Republicans do it, and take it to the club and let the young people do it. That`s what I say. Just get everybody vaccinated.

Dr. Kavita Patel, thank you very much. Appreciate you.

Up next on tonight`s -- is tonight`s absolute worst. You have been waiting all this time. So, you don`t want to miss it.


REID: So, one Texas senator is still trying to convince America that he is no longer in Cancun. Hence the border antics starring crocodile Cruz, who perhaps thinks that swamp creature realness will make him more electable, and who claimed to be heckled by the brown boogie men known as human traffickers and cartel members on the other side, that is Mexico.

Ted, are you sure should that wasn`t just people in Mexico laughing at you? I mean, come on.

Cruz also made sure that he was behind the camera when inside a Customs and Border facility in Donna, Texas.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): They`re designed to keep the American people in the dark.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please respect the rules and give the people dignity respect. That`s all we ask.

CRUZ: No, it`s not. You`re asking, is this dignity and respect?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please give dignity and respect to the people.

CRUZ: Look at these people, there`s a pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I ask you, I respectfully ask you, sir.

CRUZ: There`s a pandemic, is this respecting the right to these kids?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wholeheartedly I ask you, please respect the people.

CRUZ: Are you respecting the rights to these kids?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not a zoo, sir.


REID: This is s not zoo.

Of course, we see the people in that video, we aren`t saying that they aren`t there. We just don`t believe Cruz or any of those Disney jungle boat Republicans actually see them as anything other than background, for publicity stunt.

Cruz accuses the staffer and the Biden administration of trying to hide the migrants. Never mind that during the Trump administration, reporters and government officials were barred from entering facilities days after inspections found squalid conditions that threatened the health and safety of migrants staying there.

And never mind that in 2019, we saw higher numbers of unaccompanied children under Trump. Back then, did you see crocodile Cruz or Lindsey Graham, (INAUDIBLE) away from his AR-15 long enough to condemn Trump for is border policies? No, of course not, because one of this is about the people, and a path to citizenship to give them a chance.

It`s about the racist dog whistles and performative B.S. distractions that now officially define this party. The Republican Party like doesn`t do anything anymore other than perform political theatrics, something we can pin entirely on the Florida man, who without Twitter or the presidency is so desperate to hog the mike that he busted in a wedding toast last Saturday at Mar-a-Lago that was predictably all about him.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: The border is not good, the border is the worst anybody`s ever seen it, and what you see now, multiply it times 10, Jim.

What`s happening to the kids, they`re living in squalor, they are living like nobody has ever seen anybody, there`s never been anything like what`s, and you`re going to have hundreds, and you have it now.

And I just say, do you miss me yet?



REID: Yeah, cheers to the bride and gloom.

You know, the wedding crasher in the ill-fitting suit says that he will probably visit the southern border in coming weeks, asked by nobody. Meaning the antics there will continue. And that is why the GOP party of theatrics is the absolute worse.

We`ll be right back.


REID: Okay, admit it. We`ve all been addicted to Amazon during this entire pandemic. And Amazon`s profits went up 84 percent last year, and CEO Jeff Bezos`s personal wealth rose by about $70 billion off our obsessive purchasing.

Bezos is so rich that as of last year, he makes more money per second than the typical worker makes per entire week. Bezos had made a point to be publicly philanthropic with Amazon donating $10 million to organizations including the NAACP and the National Urban League in the wake of Black Lives Matter protest over George Floyd last summer.

When it comes to the conditions of his own workers, many of them black, Bezos hasn`t been so charitable. Amazon has a history of being anti-union, and that behavior hasn`t changed the most recent efforts by its workers to unionize.

Today was the last day of voting to unionize for nearly 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. If successful, it would be the first union at any Amazon facility, and it could spark a movement across the country, particularly across the South.

Alabama workers are fighting for the right to collectively bargain over working conditions including safety standards, training, breaks, pay, and benefits. Amazon has pointed out that the company offers a $15 an hour starting wage, benefits, and a clean working environment for its employees. The National Labor Relations Board will begin tallying up the vote tomorrow, but it could take a few days to get the final results.

I`m joined now by Bishop William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People`s campaign. He`s called this tight to unionize Our Selma.

And Jennifer Bates, a pro union worker at Amazon`s Bessemer warehouse who testified in front of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee on the working conditions at Amazon earlier this month.

I want to start with you, Jennifer, because there have been a lot of competing claims. There was a claim that paying workers $15 an hour doesn`t make you a progressive workplace, said Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, saying your union-busting makes workers urinate in water bottles. That was what he said.

Amazon responded and said, you don`t believe that peeing in bottles thing was true. If it was true, they wouldn`t work for us.

But there is reporting at "The Intercept" and "Vice News" that it is true.

So, I just want to clear that up, are workers being forced to pee in bottles rather than take bathroom breaks at Amazon?

JENNIFER BATES, AMAZON BESSEMER WAREHOUSE EMPLOYEE: I haven`t heard it at the Amazon that I`m working at. I haven`t seen it either. So, if it`s happening, I`m not sure.

REID: OK. And what are the conditions then? So that`s one thing. What are the conditions that in your mind make it that you would want to have a union rather than work as you are now?

BATES: Well, most of the -- some of the issues are we have safety issues. Longer hours of work and less breaks that we have. No communication or support from leadership.

REID: And then, let me actually bring in Bishop Barber into this, because you have called this Our Selma. And I know that there is obviously a connection because Dr. King was fighting to unionize sanitation workers, you know, at the time he died.

But why do you think it`s so important? Amazon does pay $15 an hour minimum wage.

BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER, THE POOR PEOPLE`S CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR: With our economic Selma, and actually before `68 in `65 at the end of the Selma to Montgomery march, Dr. King connected the union fight and the fight for rights. The battle to suppress the vote and the battle to suppress labor rights has been a tactic used by southern white aristocracy to hold on to their money.

Listen, retail workers union has shown that while Amazon claims $15, that plant is great, their warehouses near there, they make $18 and $21 starting, $18, 21 hours. You have the Amazon took the people`s $2 an hour hazard pay while Jeff Bezos made $180 billion plus.

The workers have no contracts. Real workers can be fired for any cause. Over 20,000 Amazon employees contracted COVID.

Yes, they gave $10 million of chump change to certain groups and civil rights organizations, and claiming that he supports black lives. Well, what about the 5,500 black lives in that plant? What about the white lives, the brown lives, the Asian lives in that plant who have no contract, who had their $2 hazard pay taken, who are not making what their counterparts are making right near them?

You know, he`s been very good at camouflaging the real battle here. And we know in the South, the battle for voting rights and the battle for union rights is the same fight. Because what it does, Joy, it brings together the coalition that the aristocracy and the ruling classes always feared. Black people, white people, brown people, Asian, and native, poor and low wealth workers.

When that coalition is organized in the South and votes together, it fundamentally changes. We saw it in 2008 in North Carolina with Obama. We saw it in 2020 in Georgia. And that`s one of the fears about all of this spreading across the south and the country.

And that`s why in many ways, Bessemer is our economic -- I call them the Bessemer 6,000, is our economic Selma, because here we are again in Alabama. Here we are right down the road from Birmingham that Dr. King fought in, in `65, and here we have all kinds of tactics.

I tell you one other tactic, Joy, they`re using. They bring in people to teach about the union and they teach the wrong information. And when the workers question that, the workers have to come before the class and have their pictures taken as a form of intimidation. So there`s a lot of wrong going on here.

REID: Very quickly, Jennifer, what would it change in your working life to have a union there? In your mind, what do you think would change if this was a unionized workplace?

BATES: To unionize the Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama, actually, what it would mean to me and a lot of my coworkers is that we`ll have job security, and that we`ll have a seat at the table to speak to Amazon about the working conditions. We`ll be able to speak about some of the things that they need to take care of to allow us to work comfortably.

Even with human resources, we`re not able to talk with them, or they ignore us, so actually it would give us a seat at the table to sit down and force Amazon to talk with us about the safety issues that we continue to, you know, speak to them about, or just firing the young people without giving them information on the things that they should or should not be doing in the facility.

REID: Right.

BATES: We have people being rolled out in wheelchairs, heart attack, you know, it`s a lot that`s going on in there that the people on the outside don`t understand.

REID: Well, thank you for helping us to understand it this evening and being with us on this evening.

Bishop William Barber, Jennifer Bates, thank you both very much.

And that is tonight`s REIDOUT.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.