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Transcript: The ReidOut, 6/3/21

Guests: Jason Crow, Matthew Dowd, Marc Caputo, Jemele Hill, Katie Benner


The Trump insurrection is ongoing. Trump reportedly believes he will be reinstated. During his four years in the White House, Donald Trump waged an all-out assault on the rule of law. While the DOJ rifling through journalists` phone records is a flagrant attack on the free press, what they were reportedly looking for is just as troubling.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOS: Again, our thanks to Sheryl Crow for telling us about her music and her work.

That does it for THE BEAT tonight, THE REIOUT with Joy Reid starts now. Hi, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Ari, good deal. Thank you very much. Have a great evening.

All right, everyone, welcome. And we begin THE REIDOUT tonight with the endless insurrection. The current Republican Party has allowed the delusions of a single individual, a disgraced twice-impeached failed Florida blogger to reveal what frankly has long been its one true ethos, that when Republicans lose, it can only be because of fraud.

This didn`t just start with Trump. Republicans believed the same thing about Bill Clinton`s election and President Obama`s. It`s actually just a garden variety belief among not just Trumpists but regular norm core Republicans too because of who votes for Democrats, just think about it.

In his lair meanwhile down in Mar-a-Lago, the infamous retiree is currently living in an alternate reality, appearing to genuinely believe that he won the election last year and that somehow, any day now, he`s going to return in triumph to the White House. And Trump`s delusion isn`t fading with time. Instead it`s metastasizing, as state-level Republicans use it to discredit the election in the eyes of their voters and as an excuse to put laws in place to try to ensure that Republicans can never lose elections again.

The Washington Post reports that like a mango McBeth, Trump is relentlessly focused on the lie that the election was stolen and thinks bogus, anti- democratic fraud it like the one underway in Arizona, are going to prove it.

He`s also plotting similar magical thinking recounts in Pennsylvania and Georgia. And, apparently, he`s taking his cues from, among others, Mike Lindell, the former drug addict and MyPillow salesman who told The Daily Beast he probably inspire the idiotic belief that Trump could be reinstated in August. Another proponent of the delusion, a Pennsylvania state senator, who recently visited the Arizona debacle and called it a model for his state in future elections.

Republicans who ostensibly know better and who take oaths to defend the constitution are also co-signing, like Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who had displayed a hint of spine last fall, but who has now given in, welcoming a fakey recount in Fulton County because he`s up for re-election and he needs the votes of the gullible Trump cultists who believe the big lie and it made it their new religion.

And I can`t believe I have to say this but, really, kind of do. These states are not going to overturn the election. There was no fraud that rigged the Biden win, he just won more votes. But more importantly, there is no constitutional mechanism for a redo. We had one election. It`s over. We have a president. His name is Joseph Robinette Biden.

This weekend in North Carolina, the two sides of this Republican coin, the elections are only legit when Republicans win normies and the Trump is still president lulus are on a collision course ahead of a speech from you know who at Saturday`s North Carolina GOP convention. He`s texting supporters ahead of it, ahead of time, making it sound like he`s still the president and needs their input.

The problem is millions of the MAGA base is actually believe him. And the only nuance between them and the regular old Republicans, as The Atlantic`s Adam Serwer writes, is not whether elections laws should be changed to better ensure Republican victory but whether political violence is necessary to achieve that objective.

The MAGA true believers showed they think so on January 6th. And with disgraced former president`s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, an ex-general, mind you, calling for a coup before he said that he didn`t, you have every right to be alarmed.

As Representative Jason Crow and Chrissy Houlahan, both veterans, write in the magazine, let us be clear. This attack on democracy is as intentional as it is insidious. Michael Flynn`s comments about a Myanmar-style coup are shocking only to those who haven`t been paying attention.

And with me now is Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado. And, Congressman, you know, Adam Serwer has this brilliant piece and I recommend everyone read it, I`m going to put it on my Twitter feed, but he makes the point that I think has been lost in all of the outrage and fear that we`re all feeling over what happened on January 6th, but that the actual norm core Republican reaction to elections has always been that they`re illegitimate because Republican voters are real Americans and Democratic voters, who are black and brown and younger and unmarried women are basically just a bunch of fraudsters.

So, I wonder how we push back against what`s really a dangerous movement when regular Republicans believe it too, they just aren`t necessarily backing violence to achieve victory, at least not all the time.

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Right, yes. Though thanks for having me on, Joy. I mean, the simple answer to that is that we have to end the filibuster and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. We just make it law, right? We can stop counting on people`s good graces. We can stop counting on people having an epiphany and starting to do the right thing when they don`t do the right thing over and over again and we just actually make it law and protect people`s right to vote that way. That`s the simple answer.

But, yes, this isn`t random. As we wrote in our op-ed, it is intentional, it is insidious. It is a reason why people like Michael Flynn get up in front of a convention of conspiracy theorists in Texas talks about a coup and then he tried to walk it back afterwards. Sorry, the damage is already done. He did what he intended to do. We`re beyond dog whistles here. They`re just outright trying to undermine the elections. But at the same time, you also have a violent (INAUDIBLE) movement that is spreading too.

REID: Well, and the thing that`s frightening. I mean, Michael Flynn, obviously a former general who was drummed out on his ear but he is a former general. You`ve had a lot of these indictments that are coming through. We had another person plead guilty recently in these indictments about the January 6th insurrection. A lot of these people are turning up to be military veterans. There were some off-duty police there.

But the military veterans in particular part of it, you yourself as a military veteran, what do you make of the fact that this ethos has seeped into parts of the military, because that means that this weirdo QAnonish belief is not just weird and dumb, it`s actually dangerous?

CROW: Yes. Well, first of all, I want to also make clear to the folks that the vast, vast majority, about 99 plus percent of our servicemen and women are bright people, they are some of the best people we have, and they serve with integrity and honor. But, you know, 1 percent or less than 1 percent is too much when we`re talking about people in positions of public trust that are doing public work in our law enforcement or military.

This also is not an accident. You know, these extremist groups have actually targeted the military, recruitment in the military, targeted veterans because of the skill set that people have. They understand that when folks leave the military, that it`s a difficult transition to make. I actually made that transition, and it was tough for me too. You miss that camaraderie, you miss that kinship, that sense of purpose. And I understand that some people are vulnerable and ripe for recruitment in some of these movements.

So, we have to make sure we`re addressing that. And I`m working with some of my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee and DOD to make sure that we`re vetting people, that we`re dealing with them when they are in uniform, we are rooting out extremism and we`re also preventing our veterans from being preyed upon as well.

REID: Yes. You wrote in your op-ed that people who don`t think this is real and dangerous aren`t paying attention. I totally agree with you. It`s kind of one of the premises now in this show. We`re trying to hammer that home every night.

President Biden has made it clear that he doesn`t want to form a presidential level commission on January 6th. We still need though a commission to get to the bottom of everything that happened, or whether lawmakers were involved as well. Do you think that Speaker Pelosi should impanel a sort of special blue-ribbon commission? Should the Senate do it? What do you think should happen next?

CROW: Well, I`m not ready yet, Joy, to let the Republicans off the hook here. We`ve got 54 votes last week on the bipartisan commission. There were three other votes had they been voting that we think we have, so we have to really look at can we get three other votes. But we`re not going to wait around forever and we`re not again going to expect Mitch McConnell to wake up tomorrow and have an epiphany and try to do the right thing.

So, let`s try to keep the pressure on the Republicans in the Senate, make sure they`re trying to do the right thing. But if they don`t, we`re going to do what we always do. We`re going to pick up in the House and we`re going to find the truth. And there`s a variety of different mechanisms and tools available for us to do that and we won`t back down.

REID: So, you think -- do you think something like a Watergate commission? Because look, if Republicans get involved, that they get on the bill, it probably has to be gutted so much and it would come out with nothing, and they`ll still going to call it partisan. Would it make more sense to do something like what the Watergate commission was, just do it in congress, don`t worry about them? The speaker could do that.

CROW: Yes, something like that I think is an option. Again, I don`t want to let the Republicans off the hook or do their job for them. I think we have to give them the opportunity to do the right thing and do their job. But if they don`t, there are options. And a commission that`s bipartisan, I think, is important. Because I think it is important that we have some folks that try to help us restore confidence and faith around the country in this process. And the speaker does have some options available for her to accomplish that.

REID: Congressman Jason Crow, from my growing up state of Colorado, you represent it well. Thank you very much sir. Appreciate you giving me some time tonight.

REID: And joining me now is Matthew Dowd, Founder of Country over Party. And you have been brilliant on this. I have really enjoyed listening to you. You`ve been scared but also scaring is caring, so I appreciate the things that you`ve said about democracy.

I mean, you have that there should be a presidential commission on democracy. I don`t disagree with you. But if we can`t even get a commission, and the president has said he`s not going to do a blue-ribbon commission of his own on January 6th, what else can be done to make sure that the full truth of January 6th comes out, in your view?

MATTHEW DOWD, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, the first part of that thing is to demonstrate that this is the most important issue of our time and I think it`s actually the most important issue in the last 150 years since the civil war, because we`re at that point in our history where this could really fall apart. Our grand experiment could completely fall apart.

So I think the president could start with demonstrating every single day this is the most important issue of our time. I think appointing the vice president to be the point person on this, I thought a cabinet person but she`s better. She`s great. I think she`ll do awesome. I think the Justice Department needs to weigh every single option that they can use to throw a wrench into what the states are doing, every single option they can utilize in this.

REID: And, you know, you`ve been a Republican in your career and so you`ve seen the party from the inside out. You know, I`m struck by the -- I can still remember, I`m old enough to remember the way that people talked about bill Clinton`s election as being fraudulent. He didn`t make 50 percent, he was illegitimate. The drive to impeach him began the minute he got there, Congressman Barr, I believe his name was, of Georgia. The same thing happened with President Obama, even calling him -- saying that he wasn`t even born in the United States, you know, a whole movement that Donald Trump participated in.

So this idea is not new that Democratic presidents, because it`s black and brown people and people of color and younger people who vote for them, those aren`t real Americans so that`s not legitimate. Do you think that the one thing that might be able to erase that as a temptation is what you heard Congressman Crow say. If you can pass S-1 and say we`re going to take this off the table, when you turn 18, everyone is registered to vote, the end. The same way you get a social security card, you`re already registered because the government knows who you are. Just take the whole registration process off the table so that we start out with everybody already registered. Is that maybe a solution?

DOWD: Well, I mean, I`ve always been -- I mean, I did Democratic campaigns before I did George Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I`ve always been an advocate of the more people that vote the better because it legitimizes an election so let`s make it as easy as possible because the American public will believe in the result if more people vote. So I think that should be the Republican and the Democratic position on this.

But I think we`re -- again, Joy, I think we`re at such a perilous moment in this. And I`m actually today more upset not at the mendacity out of the mad king from Mar-a-Lago, I`m more upset about the people, the sort of centrist and moderates who sort of want to preserve some tradition in this and say they`re for democracy but, really, they don`t fight for it in the way we need them to fight for it.

As you know, Martin Luther King talked about this a lot and he basically said the biggest problem was not the segregationists. The biggest problem were Americans of good conscience who didn`t have the courage to stand up in the moment. They talked about it, but they didn`t have the courage.

And so, to me, Joe Biden need -- and I know he`s going to do this and we all need to do this -- need to put pressure on the people that say they`re for democracy. They need to walk up to the line and do something.

REID: Amen. Thank you for saying that. I scream this at the T.V. all day long and because I see Democrats speaking, I see Joe Manchin, I see Kyrsten Sinema standing there next to John Cornyn who voted against the commission as if everything is normal, as if this is fine, as if there`s going to be a back door meeting and they`ll going to smoke a cigar and they`re all going to come to an agreement on a bill. It`s as if Democrats are not as alarmed by how close we are to losing our democracy, as they should be, because they`re on the frontlines of it. They can see it. They were there in the Capitol.

Can you explain? Do you understand why this sort of norm core Democratic response is we`ll just find some bipartisanship somewhere? I don`t get it.

DOWD: Well, I think Democrats -- I mean, my view of it, Democrats have always been the last people to say that we need serious reform, serious structural change, serious stuff. They have always been like we can make it work and we`ll have bipartisanship and we`ll do this while Republicans are throwing oil over the walls and launching all kinds of mortars at the thing and Democrats are like we`ll make it all happen.

I think that at this point, I mean one, we need to have Democrats. The Democratic Party, to me, is the only party today that can stop this from happening. It`s not a vehicle through the Republican Party. You`re not going to change the Republican Party. It`s gone. And I don`t care what Liz Cheney says. She needs to get out of her delusion. It is gone. That is a party of autocracy and white supremacy. That`s the Republican Party. So the Democrats right now are the only party to do that.

And if we don`t get people like Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin to stands up and say, filibuster, filibuster, they ought to research the history of the filibuster anyway, because the filibuster was used to keep people from having rights in this country, that`s where we`re at.

And I think until Democrats understand this is a four-alarm fire, it`s a four-alarm fire, and the most important issue of our time, they`re not going to get infrastructure done, they`re not going to get tax reform done, they`re not going to get health care reform done, they`re not going to get any of that if our democracy falls and voters don`t have the right to go to the polls.

REID: Yes. You know, what scares me the most, Matthew, that people like Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin actually are not on the side that we are on this, that they are actually okay with the future that Republicans have in mind. That`s what scares me.

And I`m not accusing them of that, I don`t know them personally, but until they convince me otherwise that they really care more about democracy than hanging on to the filibuster, which has the history you and I both know, I don`t know how to believe that they`re on the side of preserving democracy.

I don`t really know what the evidence of that is. I haven`t seen it. I would like to see it. I would like someone to ask them, do you favor the continuation of our democracy and what are you willing to do about it? I wish they would come on the show and I would ask them that. That`s my only question. Matthew Dowd, I would leave that -- go on, I`m sorry. Go ahead.

DOWD: No. I was just going to say, they seem to care about going to a subcommittee meeting or going to some meeting in Washington like it`s just the norm. We`re not in the norm.

REID: No. We`re not.

DOWD: We`re not in the norm. So you`ve got to give up on all of those props that you thought you could use. It`s over. The norm is over.

REID: It`s over. Please listen to Matthew Dowd, Senators. Matthew Dowd, thank you very much. I appreciate you being here. Scaring is caring.

Still ahead on THE REIDOUT, a new twist in the Matt Gaetz sex crimes investigation. That`s still happening. Did the Republican congressman obstruct justice?

And a huge development in the NFL`s use of something called race norming, which assumed that black players started out with lower cognitive function than white and other non-black players. Yes, you heard that right.

Plus --


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Absolutely positively wrong. It`s simply, simply wrong.


REID: Simply wrong. President Biden reacted to new reports of abuses from the Trump administration, the details of tonight`s absolute worst. THE REIDOUT continues after this.


REID: The walls just might be closing in on Florida Congressman and Trump worshiper Matt Gaetz.

Earlier today, NBC confirmed that federal prosecutors are looking into whether Gaetz obstructed justice during a phone call with a person who witnessed the potential sex crime he was allegedly involved in.

Politico`s Marc Caputo broke this story, writing: "The obstruction inquiry stems from a phone call the witness had with Gaetz`s ex-girlfriend. At some point during the conversation, the ex-girlfriend patched Gaetz into the call. It`s unknown exactly what was said. The discussion on that call is central to whether prosecutors can charge Gaetz with obstructing justice."

According to media reports, Gaetz is allegedly under investigation for having sex with a 17-year-old minor, paying for sex with women recruited online, possibly accepting paid escorts in exchange for political access or favors during a trip to the Bahamas, and having discussions about running a spoiler candidate in a Florida state Senate race.

Meanwhile, Gaetz is growing increasingly isolated, according to sources who spoke to Politico. Gaetz`s ex-girlfriend could sign an immunity deal by the end of the month.

Joel Greenberg, Gaetz`s former bestie who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a minor, among other things, is cooperating with the feds. And there are signs that the woman he allegedly sex-trafficked as a minor is cooperating as well.

Gaetz issued an oddly worded statement in response to the news -- quote -- "Congressman Gaetz pursues justice. He doesn`t obstruct it."


With me now is Marc Caputo, national political reporter -- national political reporter for Politico.

And, Marc, let`s go into this phone call, because you said it`s potentially obstruction. And I`m wondering about witness tampering. Why would he be on the phone with somebody who is involved in the case he`s in? Can you walk us through that timeline?

MARC CAPUTO, POLITICO: Well, I can`t (AUDIO GAP) we understand is, he was patched through.

The problem when you talk to people who understand obstruction of justice is that, if you are a suspect in a case, and if a witness is going to talk to a prosecutors or talk to a grand jury, and you wind up talking to that witness, you got to be very careful about what you say, because if it seems as you`re coaching the witness, if it seems as if you`re trying to tell them how to get a story straight, if it seems as if you are suggesting to them what to say to shade the truth, well, you can be charged with obstruction, even if you also say, hey, look, I`m telling you to always tell the truth.

I`m telling you hire a lawyer, and to make sure to (AUDIO GAP) to your lawyer. I`m telling you to cooperate. Even though he`s saying what you are thinking are contradictory things, what the obstruction of justice charge statute captures in its ambit is this idea that you might be suggesting (AUDIO GAP) person that they`re changing their story.

Now, to be very clear, Congressman Gaetz, through a spokesperson, denies having done this. And he`s denied all of the charges. I need to be crystal clear about that.

And I don`t know what was mentioned on that call. (AUDIO GAP) know if it had been recorded or not. If it had, that might make it a little more complicated for Gaetz, depending on what he said.

Like (AUDIO GAP) we`re kind of blind men describing an elephant with our hands. We don`t quite know what it is. The feds have a lot of information.

REID: Yes.

CAPUTO: And they have talked to a lot of people.

It looks like that investigation might slowly be coming to a close or to a head. Perhaps our sources say to look in the July time frame. If Gaetz is going to be charged, that will probably be the most likely time they say, once all of the evidence is gathered, Gaetz`s ex-girlfriend (AUDIO GAP) kind of that final piece to fall to help supplement what appears to be a record of evidence that might not be enough to stand on its own and would need to be supplemented by testimony of other witnesses, such as an ex- girlfriend, this one on the phone, and Joel Greenberg.

REID: Well, and I`m not sure your Zoom connection is the best. So, hopefully, people can understand what you`re saying.


REID: I`m going to try one -- let me try one more time here. We`re not getting the best connection here.

But at this point, Gaetz is going around the country with the QAnon lady as if nothing is wrong. He`s acting like it`s all good. Obviously, she`s his ally. And the QAnon, weirdly enough, likes him, even though he`s being accused of the thing that`s supposedly central to their argument about the world.

Who are his allies at this point? The governor, who there`s a big Politico piece about how close they were, about how, in a lot of ways, he helped to build DeSantis, that his political alliances, his donors, that he`s advised DeSantis. He`s been very instrumental in DeSantis` rise.

DeSantis has been pretty quiet about him. He`s been too busy vetoing mental health care for the survivors of the Pulse nightclub and signing anti-trans bills for kids in school and doing stuff like that.

Are they still allies? Who are his allies, Gaetz?

CAPUTO: That`s a good question.

Gaetz pretty much is right (AUDIO GAP) that farthest right corner of the conservative movement. From what we gather, there hasn`t (AUDIO GAP) a really close relationship between Gaetz and DeSantis for some time. DeSantis has kind of grown into his own as governor and gone his own way.

Interestingly enough, DeSantis is being bandied about as a potential presidential candidate. And Gaetz is on this tour with Marjorie Taylor Greene and has mused about running for president as well.

That would be (AUDIO GAP) speaking, that`d be one hell of a matchup that we would see in Florida and nationwide if those two politicians, one-time allies -- don`t know if they`re not allies anymore -- they`re certainly not enemies -- if they wind up running against (AUDIO GAP)

REID: As if Florida needs more shame.

Marc Caputo, thank you very much. Really appreciate you.

And still ahead: The NFL says that it will end its racist policy of assuming black players have lower cognitive function. Yes, race-norming is a thing. And we`re going to get into it next.


REID: The NFL has pledged to ditch the use of so-called race-norming, a eugenicist-sounding term for a racist and discredited practice.

When evaluating dementia claims made by former players in the league`s concussion settlement, it assumed black players started out with lower cognitive function than white and other non-black players. This made it harder for black retired players to show a deficit to qualify for a payout, which can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The announcement comes after two black players filed a civil rights lawsuit over the use of race-based benchmarks. Now all claims previously made under the concussion settlement will be reopened and reassessed without the discriminatory practice.

The NFL, though ending its use of race-norming, quite notably did not apologize.

Joining me now is Jemele Hill, contributing writer for "The Atlantic" and host of the podcast "Jemele Hill Is Unbothered," and my friend.

Jemele, when I first saw this -- the headline and just the, like, subhead, I assumed that this was some held-over practice from, like, the first decade of the NFL that got carried over. That apparently is not true.


And I think that`s the part that is -- mind-boggling is not the right word. It`s upsetting. It`s disgusting. It`s a whole lot of other adjectives, is that this is something that the NFL has regularly made a part of this settlement.

Like, to base this off of something that is so abhorrent, that so gets to the core of some very historical practices and mistreatment that we have seen of African-Americans, and for this to be something that they would look up and say, oh, our bad, and if not for a lawsuit, they had no intention to stop.

REID: Right.

HILL: And it just -- it just goes on to show that the NFL, despite doing all this, a lot of times, you have to pay attention to what they do and how they actually behave when it comes to addressing institutional racism.

I`m thinking of the statement of Roger Goodell putting out last year after George Floyd was killed, black lives matter. And then they have this whole campaign, Inspire Change, and all this other nonsense, when, at the end of the day, somebody thought it was a good idea to base brain injury settlements off the fact that black men cognitively were just not on the same level or were inferior to white men.

Somebody thought that was a good idea.

REID: Well, it`s the same league that, up until, I don`t know, probably my late teenage years, you rarely ever saw a black quarterback, right?

I feel like that this is a consistent thing with the way the NFL has thought about it, white man, coach, white man, right, should be -- should - - right, that black men should be on the line. Black men should be wide receivers. They`re not quarterbacks. They`re wide receivers.

That kind of ethos, to me, is very NFL. That doesn`t -- that part of it doesn`t surprise me. It just surprises me that they basically used eugenics from the early 20th century, because the -- aren`t the majority -- I mean, what is the percentage of black players in the league? You`re talking about like the vast majority of players, right?

HILL: Yes, you`re talking about a league that is 70 percent black.

And you couldn`t be more right, Joy. I mean, the truth is, based off their track record, the NFL has long sent the message that they care more about abusing black bodies than respecting black minds, when you look at the fact that there`s three black head coaches in the NFL, there`s never been a majority black owner, they got their first black team president in 100 years, OK?

And we went through a very long period, as you just alluded to, of where there weren`t -- or hardly any black coaches or black people in leadership, period, in the NFL. It`s because, at the end of the day, they do not consider black man to be leaders of men.

And I don`t know how many different ways that they can show that, but this, to me, is just the latest example of something that is very on brand for this league that continues to try to insult all of our intelligence by pretending to care about issues of equality and about addressing some of these larger conversations that we`re having in this country, when, clearly, they don`t.

REID: Yes. They can call us when Colin Kaepernick has a job and a team.

Let`s go on to -- because I feel like -- and you have been talking about this a lot, because you`re sort of -- sort of living through it. There has been this changing power dynamic, I feel, between -- in all the -- in all of the professional sports, right, where you`re seeing black athletes saying, you know what, nope, we`re going to use our voices, we`re going to stand up on civil rights issues, on voting rights, and we`re going to be very intentional about speaking the truth about our lives.

Outside of the league, we`re still able to be victims of police brutality. Our family members are still in the same victimhood. We`re going to stand up for the right to vote for black folks, and being open about that.

And now it feels like the backlash is coming.

Let`s talk about Naomi Osaka, because she`s somebody who is heroic. She`s one of the greatest athletes of our age, of her age, of her generation. She got fined $15,000, for not doing press. And then she backed out of the French Open.

Tell us what`s going on with her. And is this -- is this -- the tennis leagues, are they punishing her for being outspoken? What do you make of what`s going on with her?

HILL: Oh, there`s no question that the intention was to put Naomi Osaka in her place.

Athletes being fined for not appearing at press conferences and not fulfilling the media obligations is not a new practice. And they have done this in tennis before with other players.

However, the part that people need to pay attention to is that it wasn`t just the French Open officials who joined in to try to diminish and denigrate Naomi Osaka. It was all the heads of all the major tournaments, the U.S. Open and the -- Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

They signed that letter in which the French Open warned Naomi Osaka that not only would she face more fines, but she could potentially face explosion from other major tournaments.

That, to me, is a very serious gauntlet that they are throwing. I mean, they are basically bring a bazooka to a rock fight. Naomi Osaka said that she was willing to pay the fine. And I think they should have just left it there.

REID: Yes.

HILL: And, instead, they decided that that wasn`t good enough. They had to make sure that Naomi Osaka knows who runs the sport.

But I will tell you what, Joy. They messed around and found out.


REID: They did. They did.

HILL: Because she`s not at the French Open. Yes, and not only...


REID: And that means the French Open is going to get a lot less views. It`s going to get a lot -- it`s going to get a lot less clicks. And she`s -- she can mete her own kind of punishment.

This was a little bit of her statement. She said: "The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression" -- this was her statement -- "since the U.S. open in 2018. And I have had a really hard time coping with that. I have even -- I`m often wearing headphones, as that helps dull my social anxiety. I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts, and I wanted to highlight that."

So, she`s somebody who was dealing with mental -- with anxiety, and they didn`t step forward to help her. But let me play what Venus Williams -- no. I`m sorry. Let me not play Venus. Let me let you talk about Serena Williams being supportive of her and Venus Williams` statements in support of her as well.

HILL: Well, I mean, here`s the thing.

Naomi Osaka, I`m sure adding to her anxiety, because, as she alluded to in that segment that you read, is that a lot of these issues started to occur when she beat Serena in the U.S. Open in 2018. And if anybody recalls that moment, it was really uncomfortable.

And it was bad, because everybody wanted Serena Williams to win the U.S. Open. She didn`t. Naomi Osaka beat her. And people started to boo Naomi Osaka. This should have been the grandest moment of her career. And it wasn`t. And on top of the uncomfortable, unsettling dynamic of unseating an icon that you have grown up watching, now she has to deal with a certain amount of backlash.

And so what she`s talking about is something that, unfortunately, a lot of athletes, more than we would know, actually go through. Everybody isn`t born to sit through press conferences with dozens of reporters shouting questions, actually, and wanting to know everything about you.

And she has talked about this before in the past, long before this moment, about how these are uncomfortable environments for her. And so, to me, it seems like there was an opportunity to have a workable solution, and the French Open abandoned that.

REID: Yes.

HILL: Because I don`t know if they have heard of something, really strange concept, Joy. It`s called a pool reporter.

REID: Hello?

HILL: They could have also used that, right?

They use them in the White House all the time, right...

REID: Hello?

HILL: ... is that why not assign a reporter to Naomi Osaka, get her response after a couple matches...

REID: That`s right.

HILL: ... distribute them to the rest of the reporters, so that she doesn`t have to face that intimidating room.

But, unfortunately, she`s seen firsthand...

REID: Yes.

HILL: ... how the tennis media and how a lot of media have treated the Williams sisters their entire career.

So, can you blame her for not loving these environments?

REID: Oh, don`t get me started on the tennis media.

Growing up, I watched -- I watch tennis media, as black players, including the Williams sisters, especially them, were described as almost brute force, while the white players were using their intelligence and their minds.

Oh, tennis media is -- they have never had a reputation that they should be proud of, in terms of the way they have treated black players.

I don`t know who the brother is who`s...

HILL: I...

REID: Go on. Sorry.

HILL: No, I was going to say, think about this, Joy.

I don`t know if you remember this press conference, but somebody had the nerve to ask Serena Williams if she was intimidated by Maria Sharapova`s looks. They asked her that.

REID: Come on, now. Come on, now.

Who was the brother who said human zoo? The NFL -- the NBA player who said it`s a human zoo? You can apply that across the board to the way black players are treated across these leagues.

Jemele Hill, you are the one person I want to talk to about this tonight. Thank you so much for making the time.

HILL: Thanks.

REID: All right. Up next, if you`re keeping -- thank you. If you`re keeping a list of the number of ways in which Trump`s DOJ abused its power, well, stick around. You can compare it against our list which just got a little bit longer, next on tonight`s absolute worst. Don`t go anywhere.


REID: During his four years in the White House, Donald Trump waged an all- out assault on the rule of law.

Here`s a brief refresher: He politicized the Justice Department by pushing frivolous investigations into debunked allegations for his own personal benefit. He obstructed the Russia probe in ten different ways which were all documented in excruciating detail in the Mueller report. He trafficked political smears from a foreign country and then pressured the DOJ to legitimize those smears through his personal lawyer.

He openly attempted to influence the outcome of federal trials, including in the case of Roger Stone, who was found guilty of multiple felonies. And then he abused the system of presidential pardons, bypassing the DOJ to reward his friends and accomplices who faced serious prison time.

Oh, and did I mention his systematic effort to undermine and discredit the American system of free and fair elections? That led to a violent attempt to steal the election on January 6th that included white nationalist mobs flying Trump and Confederate flags, hunting the speaker of the House and looking to hang Trump`s own vice president, Mike Pence.

And for all of those reasons Trump is and will always be the absolute worst. But we continue to learn of new abuses about what was arguably the worst presidency in U.S. history, including the Trump administration`s war on the press.

"The New York Times" reports the Trump Justice Department secretly seized the phone records of four "New York Times" reporters spanning nearly four months in 2017 as part of a leak investigation. It should come as no surprise that those records were obtained in 2020 when the cover-up general, William Barr, was the attorney general.

While the DOJ rifling through journalists` phone records is a flagrant attack on the free press, what they were reportedly looking for is just as troubling.

And that is coming up next.


REID: Given wannabe autocrat Donald Trump`s complete disdain for the free press in this country, it`s no surprise that his Justice Department stooped low enough to seize records of four "New York Times" reporters. But those records didn`t pertain to a pressing national security matter or an imminent threat to the country. They are about former FBI director, James Comey, who Trump decided was his enemy, because he wouldn`t do corruption for him. And we know that, because of the timing of the seized records.

And it coincided with an April 2017 article, from those same reporters. An article about how former Director Comey handled the politically-fraught investigation of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.

Apparently, the Trump administration was so intent on charging Comey with leaking to the press, that they trampled over the First Amendment to find something on him. Anything, really, that might be criminal.

And "The New York Times" is actually the third media outlet the Trump administration went after. Earlier this month, we learned the Trump DOJ also obtained phone records from reporters at "The Washington Post" and CNN.

Joining me now is Katie Benner, Justice Department reporter for "The New York Times"; and Paul Butler, Georgetown law professor, and former-federal prosecutor.

Katie, I`m going to go to you first. We know that, you know, Donald Trump has long had this obsession with "The New York Times." When I first saw the headline, I`m thinking what is it he wanted from "The New York Times"? What did he want to scurry around in?

But it`s even worse, in a lot of ways. That he was trying to use these reporters` records, private information, as a way to try to get Comey. Do the dates line up here? That the thinking inside "The Times" is that this was about those -- the stories about Comey`s investigation of Hillary Clinton and an attempt to frame him?

KATIE BENNER, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yeah, that`s what the reporting we published yesterday shows. The Justice Department letter to the reporters shows records from that timeframe were obtained. What they got were call logs between reporters and whoever else they would have spoken with during that time.

Also, keep in mind, this is part of a long running investigation into the former FBI director, James Comey, came under investigation potentially leaking information almost the moment Donald Trump became president. You know, Comey was fired very soon after. And as report, after report, came out about Comey`s relationship with the president, leaked memos about Comey`s concerns about the president.

And then, stories like the one "The Times" published that spring. You saw the administration, particularly president Trump, become very forceful about wanting to show that this was James Comey, who leaked classified information. For which, he could be charged with a federal crime. That investigation, to our knowledge, has not been closed.

REID: Okay. So that investigation is still going. And I guess this is the thing, Paul. You know, every administration has these leaks investigations. You know, none of these administrations like leaks and they have gone to varying degrees and gotten in various degrees of hot water for trying to root out reporters` sources.

What should the current DOJ be doing to alter this? President Biden came out and said this is unacceptable, not going to happen. What can be done to clean this up?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Just follow the rules, Joy. By design, it`s very difficult for prosecutors to get approval to seek records from journalists. Open before they even before they go to a judge for permission, they have to follow the DOJ procedures that require prosecutors to, first, exhaust all-other investigative steps. If they can`t investigate the case, any other way, then by looking at phone and e-mail logs, they`re allowed to do that. But they`re supposed to inform the news organization, in advance, so that there can be an opportunity to challenge it in court.

There is an exception to that requirement of notice, but then the attorney general has to have a compelling reason to think there is a threat to national security or some other, dire emergency. Eric Holder put these rules in place. But apparently, and unsurprisingly, Attorney General Barr does not seem to have followed the spirit of these important rules.

REID: You know, Katie, can you just give us some insight into whether the reporting says how much of this was Trump? And how much of this was Barr? Like, who was the driver of this quest for reporters` e-mails not just at "The Times" but at these other outlets as well?

BENNER: From our past reporting, we know President Trump was obsessed with leak investigations. He wanted to know why so much information out of his administration was making into the pages of newspapers and on to networks like your own, like CNN.

And so, we sought both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Attorney General Barr pay special attention to these investigations. They personally briefed the president on them multiple times we have reported. This is how important they were to the former president.

So when you say how much of this was Trump? And how much was the attorney general? It is really, all, stemming from Donald Trump.

REID: Yeah. And how did -- you know, just as a "New York Times" reporter, this obsession with "The Times." I can still recall some of the interviews, the sort of interviews that get printed out, where you see all the ins and outs of what he said where he is like just give me a good headline. There did seem to be a particular obsession with "The Times."

Did you all -- did you feel that inside the paper? That you were more the focus than almost anyone else?

BENNER: You know, it was his hometown newspaper. It was a paper that he paid attention to. He felt that reputations in "The Times" mattered, as a New Yorker.

I think, all journalists, all reporters tried to make the story not about themselves and tried as much as possible to ignore that kind of attention because at the end of the day, whether or not the president loves you or hates you, you still have to do your job.

REID: And I do have to ask you, is there a demonstrable difference? Because I remember complaints about the Obama administration doing very aggressive leak investigations, too.

What is the material difference, in your view, between the way that these different administrations have pursued leak investigations? Was there something demonstrably different about the way the Trump administration did it?

BENNER: So, to your point, the Obama administration did aggressively go after reporters` records, so much so there were massive complaints. And as Paul just said, Attorney General Eric Holder actually had to change the policy. My colleague has had the misfortune of having his records seized now by two administrations, both Obama and Trump.

And so, you are right. This is very aggressive behavior and it was decried under Obama as well. One of the main difference, however, is that Trump was very openly hostile to the press, in a way that really no other president before him had been. So it wasn`t just the aggressive moves to obtain records and try to root outsources and try to root out leakers, which we have seen in the past. It was coupled with this idea that he wanted his supporters to believe the press. The press was the enemy of the people.

REID: Yeah, absolutely. And -- and he is low-key autocrat. Not even low key. Pretty high-key autocrat.

Let me change the topic just a little bit Paul Butler, because I am so glad we had you on, I have to ask you about this Derek Chauvin situation. Prosecutors are seeking 30 years in the -- for the murder of George Floyd. His defense is requesting probation. Citing all sorts of stuff about his age and as a former police officer, it`s going to be dangerous for him.

Chauvin is asking the court -- this is part of it -- asking the court to look beyond its findings of his guilt, to his background, his lack of criminal history and being a product of a broken system. Mr. Chauvin`s defense is best described as -- his offense is best described -- this is his defense talking -- as an error made in good-faith reliance on his own experience as a police officer, and the training he had received. Not intentions of an illegal act.

I was -- my -- you know, my whole face was hot reading that. What do you make of this attempt to get him a life sentence -- let him walk, basically? That`s what the defense wants.

BUTLER: He is not going to walk. The judge has already found aggravating factors for giving Chauvin more time than the 12 years that the Minnesota sentencing guidelines call for. Some of those aggravating factors include that Chauvin committed the crime in front of children and that he treated Mr. Floyd with unusual cruelty.

So, Joy, when the lawyer calls this a good-faith effort, it sounds like Chauvin is, still, not accepting responsibility, which judges don`t like, especially when a jury has found, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Derek Chauvin is a murderer.

REID: And he is saying he is a product of a broken system. Was it broken when he beat a 14-year-old? And also leaned on his neck as well?

I mean, his history is so full of violence, that it`s shocking to me that this defense attorney would try this. In your view, is the defense lawyer, at this point, hurting his case? Because he is trying to minimize a nine- plus-minute murder that everybody watched in horror.

BUTLER: He is absolutely hurting the case. It sounds like he doesn`t accept that the jury rendered a verdict of guilty. And, Joy, if there is anything that`s broken about the system, it`s that Derek Chauvin was allowed to remain a police officer, when there have reportedly been at least 17 complaints against him, including, another episode that he is now being prosecuted for by the federal government where he abused a 14-year-old boy, where he used excessive force against a 14-year-old child who he was trying to arrest.

So the real thing that`s broken about the system is that there was not enough transparency, accountability, in the Minnesota -- Minneapolis Police Department to get Chauvin off the force. If there had been that kind of accountability, George Floyd might still be alive.

REID: Amen, amen, amen.

Katie Benner, Paul Butler, thank you both very much.

That`s tonight`s REIDOUT.