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Transcript: The ReidOut, September 21, 2020

Guests: Mazie Hirono, Sherrilyn Ifill, Michael Schimdt, William Barber, Jimmy Williams, Stuart Stevens, Thomas Frieden


Justice Ginsburg's death brings sorrow and uncertainty. Trump suggests Democrats are lying about Ginsburg's last wish. Democrats mobilize for historic fight over Supreme Court seat. Democrats are exploring all options in response to GOP's SCOTUS push. Democrats, GOP prepare for epic political fight over SCOTUS seat. Trump says he will announce Supreme Court pick Friday or Saturday. Manhattan district attorney says Trump could be investigated for tax fraud. Mitch McConnell's Republican-controlled Senate has proven it can't get much accomplished, except when it comes to ramming through a Supreme Court nominee before the election.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I will be here tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. And right now, "THE REIDOUT" with Joy Reid is up next.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: The loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues to reverberate throughout the nation with thousands of Americans, most of whom had never met the iconic judge, taking the loss personally.

Now, that makes sense giving the acutely personal impact her fiery decisions and dissents have made on countless lives, from the ability to pursue higher education as a woman, to where and to whom you can marry, to whether you can have access to the ballot box, to fair pay, or to contraception.

Ginsburg's passing also jolted us into an unknown future where a conservative successor could move the Supreme Court into overturning the right to abortion, while also empowering Donald Trump to dispute the outcome of the November election.

And, critically, this empty seat will likely impact whether or not you, your parents, or your children will or will not have health care during a pandemic that has now taken 200,000 lives in the U.S. With Ginsburg gone, there is no clear Supreme Court majority for these outcomes. We are now in a fight for our lives.

Trump knows this. We know that he's briefed on those numbers or at least he sees them on T.V., and yet he shows no remorse, frankly, not even any interest, choosing instead to amuse himself playing golf and holding more super-spreader rallies to remain entertained by his campaign, all while gleefully plotting to fill the seat while peddling conspiracy theories about Ginsburg's dying wish that she not be replaced before the next president is in place.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't know that she said that or was that written out by Adam Schiff and Schumer and Pelosi. I would be more inclined to the second. That came out of the wind, it sounds so beautiful. But that sounds like a Schumer deal or maybe a Pelosi or Shifty Schiff. So that came out of the wind. Let's see. I mean, maybe she did or maybe she didn't.


REID: Wow. I'm not sure it gets grosser than that.

Unsurprisingly, the Trump party, if we can even call it a political party at this point, is marching right in step. Mitch McConnell, pushing his neck out to support a nominee that Trump says could be announced this week, mind you, before Justice Ginsburg will even be laid to rest.

The Democrats are snapping right back mobilizing for an unprecedented fight over Ginsburg's seat with donors contributing more than $91 million in the 28 hours following her death.

Joining me now is Senator Mazie Hirano of Hawaii, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And, Senator, I'm just going to get straight to it. Republicans have been straight up hypocrites on this. I'm just going to play a little bit of a montage. You've probably heard many of these quotes before from your colleagues. This is Cut 3 from our producers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've advised the president that we're not going to consent to one of his nominees. We're going to let the American people speak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American people deserve to have their voices heard.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): And we think that the American people have a voice. That voice should be heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to drop any nominee into an election year cauldron.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The precedent that no president would be allowed to make a nomination to have a nominee voted on in the last year of their term is a precedent I want to protect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The same rule is going to apply this year, as it has in previous years that we don't nominate to the Supreme Court in the final months of a president's term.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think we should be moving forward on a nominee on the last year of this president's term. I would say that if it was a Republican president.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The goal is to let the American people pick the next president who will make the decision.


REID: I don't think at this point anybody's shocked by Republican hypocrisy. I could play 40 of those. Ted Cruz has said the same thing. They have all said the same thing. They have now completely flip-flopped on this.

Given that, wouldn't the appropriate proportionate response to that be what you saw in this headline, the Armageddon option that Chuck Schumer has said he'd be open to, meaning, get rid of the filibuster, make D.C. as a state and add Puerto Rico as well a state and essentially eliminate their ability, add more justices to the Supreme Court, put 15, put 16, put 20 justices on the court. Wouldn't that be the proportionate response if they do this?

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): We only get to do a proportional response if the Democrats take back the Senate. And that's why -- I don't hold that much hope that we're going to have two more Republicans to actually follow their conscience because that is actually missing with that caucus. So what we need to do is take back the Senate so that we can consider a proportionate response so that we don't let stand Trump and his minions steal two Supreme Court seats.

And the first thing that's going to happen, for whoever this person that Trump is going to nominate will do two things. One, she or he will strike down the Affordable Care Act when already 55 million people are without health care, and all the millions of people with pre-existing conditions will be out in the cold. So that's the first thing that this Trump appointee, her or she gets confirmed, will do.

The second thing would be to cut back Roe v. Wade, either to totally undo Roe v. Wade or restrict it to the point where it's basically no protection at all for a woman's right to choose.

So those are the two criteria that the Trump appointee will have. And that is why Mitch McConnell is rushing so hard to get this person on the court for life. This person will be on the Supreme Court making decisions that impact our lives for decades.

Now, Joy, you know that we have a pandemic. Over 200,000 people have died. Millions are out of work. We have small businesses closing. And, yet, we confirmed six more federal judges to lifetime appointments last week. Mitch McConnell sits on the HEROES Act for over four months but we keep confirming judges to our courts. And that is Mitch's goal in life, apparently, and so they are going to do what they're going to do.

A proportionate response only gets to be discussed when the Democrats take back the Senate. And this is why -- this is really important for the American people, not only to keep seeing those tapes of all the senators, seeing what they did, going back on their word, which means that they can't be trusted. They can't be trusted to keep their word. They can't be trusted to protect our head care. They certainly can't be trusted to do the right thing, to help millions of people with the COVID response. No. We can't trust them.

And that is why Democrats need to take back the Senate. American people I think get it. It's sinking in.

REID: Senator Mazie Hirono, thank you very much, Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, thank you very much. We will definitely be watching the Senate Judiciary Committee very closely. I really appreciate it.


REID: I want to now bring in Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

And, Sherrilyn, the Trump campaign is already selling T-shirts saying, fill that seat. There is not even a certain reverence for the life of this woman. I mean, I saw the texts that they sent out to their campaign saying, fill that seat with all caps and asking for a $30 donation. So at this point, it's already a meme to them. So, there's no respect here for process. And it seems like the proportionate response for Democrats is to say the rules as Democrats have been following them should no longer apply. What do you make of these ideas about making these changes?

And keeping in mind that there are two special elections that are happening that actually would, if the Democrats in those seats won in Georgia and in Arizona, Martha McSally and Kelly Loeffler seat, they would actually be seated in November. So it would put Democrats even closer to being close to a tie in the Senate.

What do you make of the argument that Democrats could then go in and say, okay, there are going to be 15 members on this court if this is what you all do?

Do we have Sherrilyn? Okay, I think we have lost Sherrilyn's audio. So we're going to hold on just one second. I think we've got her back. Sherrilyn, do we have you now?


REID: Got you, okay.

IFILL: So first of all, Joy --

REID: That's quite okay.

IFILL: Yes, I heard that. I'm ready. I'm ready. You talked about the memes, the obscenity of the T-shirt and the fill that seat. I mean, I think I'm glad that you talked about that. It's so important to not push past the fact of how indecent this is. So the fact that Justice Ginsburg has not even been funeralized yet and that the glee with which the president and his cohorts have decided to try and fill the seat is unbelievable.

In addition, I do think this question about what the Democrats can possibly do is an important question on the other side of this election, if this election changes things in Washington. Look, first and foremost, I'm a lawyer. I'm interested in the integrity of our legal system, the integrity of our courts. And therefore that's important to me.

But I think we've been talking about this incorrectly. I hear people talking about the Democrats having the option of packing the courts. The reality is the courts have been packed. That's been the project that Mitch McConnell has been on since 2016 since Judge Garland was not Justice Garland, and since he's been packing the circuit courts and the district courts.

So the question facing the Democrats on the other side or, frankly, anybody who cares about having a legitimate, sound judicial system that is one of integrity is how do we ensure the integrity of the federal bench, what needs to be done by (INAUDIBLE) important, Joy, (INAUDIBLE) how we're using (ph) this. Because the suggestion that there is something untoward about what we have on the other side kind of already sets things up. We need to be talking about what has already happened, which is the courts have been packed.

And the questions how do we --

REID: That's a very good point.

IFILL: -- in the federal judicial system this year.

REID: Yes. And I heard Elie Mystal, he was on with Ari, he a very good point that some of the lower circuit courts have lots members on them. There is no magic to having nine people on the courts. And to your point, we're going to talk just a little bit later on the show, but the Republicans are governing from a minority position. It's not as if they have majoritarian views. They have views that are in the far minority and they're forcing them on Americans through the courts.

You've had Speaker Pelosi talking about everything is on the table, also impeachment might be on the table. It's not clear what impeachment would be for because Donald Trump does have a constitutional ability if he chooses to add someone to the court. But that would certainly tie up Senate Judiciary if an impeachment were to go through the house and wind up in the same Senate Judiciary Committee. What would you make of that kind of a gambit?

IFILL: I can't really speak to the political gambit of the Democrats because I run a non-partisan organization. What I can say with absolute certainty is that we are in the middle of a presidential election. People are already voting through early voting, through absentee voting. It is (INAUDIBLE).

I hear people talking about filling the seat during an election year. It's not during the election year. It's during the actual general election, which is happening right now.

REID: Yes.

IFILL: And the idea that we would do this during this election is absolutely an affront to our Democratic values.

REID: Yes, absolutely. It's a very good point. Two states are already fully voting right now. People are standing in line right now. It's happening now. Sherrilyn Ifill, thank you very much, always great to talk with you.

And with me now is Michael Schmidt, New York Times Washington Correspondent. He's also the author of Donald Trump versus the United States, Inside the Struggle to Stop a President.

And, Michael, I'm sure you've been hearing the same names being bandied about as I have been all weekend, Amy Coney Barrett, who always comes up in these conversations, Barbara Lagoa, started hearing those names this weekend. I'm sure you did too. This is all about politics for Donald Trump, right?

And I wonder if in looking at the way they're playing these politics, it matters to them whether or not they're able to jam this through during the election, which is now, because you're right -- Sherrilyn is right, we're having an election right now, or during a lame-duck.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Look, I think the most important thing to understand here is that the president's umbilical cord to his base is the judges. It's the fact that he, with the help of his aides, remade the federal judiciary with very conservative, very young judges. And we will be living in that Donald Trump's version of the judiciary for decades to come.

And that's important because that political tie, that umbilical cord is what has allowed the president to behave the way that he has in extraordinary ways and for the Republicans to stay with him. It is one of the main reasons the president was able to behave the way that he did and weather the investigations he did.

REID: And I know that you talk a lot about that in your book, and I think that's an important point, right, is that he's been able to get away with, as you said, behaving in a very unchristian way because the evangelicals right is with him no matter what. But there is a lot more potentially to come.

There is a New York Times headline right now that Donald Trump could be investigated for tax fraud. And this is for the -- this says the -- D.A. says for the first time. And I'll just read a little bit of it.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office, which has been locked in a yearlong legal battle with Trump over obtaining his tax returns suggested for the first time on Monday that it had the grounds to investigate him and his businesses for tax fraud. And Trump has said he expects the dispute over the subpoena to end up, voila, in the Supreme Court. That's the point, right, that Donald Trump is trying to stack a court for his own personal purposes because he understands that he's on the hook potentially for tax fraud, for insurance fraud, for other crimes.

SCHMIDT: I'm not sure how much the court would matter in a case like that. But what I learned working on the book and what I've seen in the past few years is that there will be a relentless effort to go after Donald Trump and to hold him accountable. And that will extend into next year regardless of what happens in this election. And questions about things like his taxes and his behavior in office are things that we will be dealing with for many years to come, because of questions like this and because of prosecutors like Cy Vance in New York, who has taken this independence and this willingness to take the president on.

REID: The book is Trump Versus America. Everybody, please pick it up. Michael Schmidt, thank you very much. I really appreciate you being here tonight.

And up next on THE REIDOUT, Lindsey Graham's epic hypocrisy. Former CIA Director John Brennan says, the Gremlins told him don't pay attention to any of my public statements because it's all just politics. With polls showing him in a tie with Jaime Harrison, will South Carolina voters punish Lindsey Graham for his complete and utter lack of integrity?

Plus, the staggering loss of 200,000 Americans from coronavirus and what Donald Trump thinks about that.


TRUMP: We've done a phenomenal job, not just a good job, a phenomenal job. On public relations, I give myself a D. On the job itself, we take an A+.


REID: Unreal. THE REIDOUT continues after this.



SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If there's a Republican president in 2016, and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say, Lindsey Graham said let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination, and you could use my words against me, and you would be absolutely right.

If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump's term, and the primary process has started, we will wait until the next election. And I have got a pretty good chance of being the Judiciary...

QUESTION: You're on the record.


QUESTION: All right.

GRAHAM: Hold the tape.


REID: Who among us was actually surprised that Lindsey Graham would become the hypocrite in chief in the looming political battle over the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Ginsburg's passing?

Well, Graham vowed, first in 2016 and then again in 2018, as you just saw, that he would not consider a Supreme Court nominee in an election year. This time, it's different, he says.

He road-tested the explanation for his change of heart on Saturday, blaming Democrats for changing the confirmation process, saying, Harry Reid changed Senate rules to allow for a simple majority vote, and accusing Chuck Schumer and Democrats of conspiring to destroy the life of Brett Kavanaugh and hold that Supreme Court seat open.

Graham's toadying to Donald Trump in moving forward on a nominee should surprise approximately no one, given that, at this point, he's much more of Trump's caddy than a leading member of a co-equal branch of government, to be honest.

But the South Carolina senator's hypocrisy takes on a different significance this time, because he is now the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Today, he sent a letter to committee Democrats, again blaming them, and trying to hide his shameful behavior under their coattails, adding: "I'm certain, if the shoe was on the other foot, you would do the same."

Whomp, whomp.

Notably, Graham is also very much up for reelection right now. He's one of the 22 Republicans facing reelection. And he's one of Democrats' biggest targets.

And it's in that atmosphere that the folks over at the Lincoln Project have partnered with the anti-Graham super PAC Lindsey Must Go with a new ad noting that, if Lindsey wants people, voters, to use his words against him, done.

I'm joined now by Jimmy Williams, South Carolina political consultant and senior adviser to the Lindsey Must Go PAC, and Stuart Stevens, senior adviser to the Lincoln Project and author of "It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump."

And the polls, Jimmy, in South Carolina are tied, at least according to the latest polls, 48-48 Jaime Harrison, Lindsey Graham. At this point, are there undecided voters left in South Carolina who might actually be surprised that Lindsey Graham is being hypocritical on this?

JIMMY WILLIAMS, SENIOR ADVISER, LINDSEY MUST GO PAC: Well, there's not a single person in South Florida that thinks that Lindsey Graham isn't being hypocritical or is shocked and bewildered by it, no, not at all.

Are there undecided voters? Yes, of course. There are always some undecided voters. But let's be clear. I have tobacco farmers that live a mile from me, one mile from me. They have asked to get meetings with Lindsey Graham or his staff because Trump's Chinese tariffs have screwed them over. They're about to go bankrupt.

They now hate Lindsey Graham. If white tobacco farmers in South Carolina don't like Lindsey Graham, man, oh, man, that guy's got a problem.

REID: And, Stuart, that -- I think Jimmy makes the point that, sometimes, it's the thing that tips people over, right?

It's -- because, at this stage, it feels like the only undecided voters are, do they -- do I vote or do I not vote, right? There don't seem to be too many people who are like, I wonder which of these two guys is for me? Like, they're very -- it's pretty clear.

So, I wonder if something like this, where it's so blatant, and where Lindsey Graham himself said, "Use my words against me," and now you two -- or these organizations, Lincoln Project and Lindsey Must Go PAC, have come together and said, yes, OK, we will do it.

Do you think that's the kind of thing that tips elections in a Southern state, in a red state like South Carolina?

STUART STEVENS, THE LINCOLN PROJECT: Well, look, Joy, I worked for five Republican presidential campaigns. And I'm a Jaime Harrison donor. And I hope a lot of people will join me.

To me, Lindsey Graham just represents everything that's wrong with politics, forgetting party. He's just become this sort of classic Washington pol who doesn't stand for anything but reelection.

You know, I'm from Mississippi, not South Carolina, but I think a sense of integrity, a sense of honor, a sense that your word is your bond still means something in the South that goes beyond party.

I will tell you how naive I am. I wrote a book that's pretty bleak about the Republican Party. I turned out to be an optimist. I really felt 48 hours ago that Lindsey Graham wouldn't do this, just because it was just too far even for him. But it just shows how naive I still am about the Republican Party.

REID: And what's the closing argument, then, Jimmy?

There's so many things that have happened. I mean, so many people have died of COVID. There's so much economic devastation.


REID: You just talked about the tariffs and other things.

What becomes the closing argument? Does this become the closing argument? Because it looks like, for Lindsey Graham, the closing argument is going to be: I stood by Trump. I stood by evangelicals.

That's his closing argument.

WILLIAMS: So, look, South Carolinians, Mississippians, we just don't like to be B.S.ed. I'm trying to be polite here, OK, and not use profanity, so that your producers don't have to scramble.

But it's just that simple. People believe you when they -- when you give them their word, and then, when you turn your back on them, and don't even give them meetings or you ignore them, or, as we like to say that here, if you get too big for your britches, or you forget where you came from, or you forget who butters your bread.

Lindsey Graham doesn't know where he came from anymore. He's not from Seneca, South Carolina. He's from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That's not a good address to be from these days.

And so I guess most people here in South Carolina are just upset about it. And that's why we established this PAC,, because, honestly, we're really just frustrated with the guy. And he's a flip-flopper. He's worse than a flip-flopper, Joy. He's a liar. Lindsey Graham is a liar.

I went to the Citadel. We have an honor code at the Citadel. A cadet does not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do. South Carolinians, I don't think this time are going to tolerate Lindsey's lying, because, since 1999, we don't know who the hell he is anymore. He doesn't even have a Southern accent anymore, for God's sakes.

He's a fraud.

REID: You know, and, Stuart, beyond Lindsey Graham, I mean, you have got -- just if you look at the really competitive Southern races, Joni -- well, not even just Southern races. Joni Ernst is in Iowa. But you have also got Thom Tillis. You have also got John Cornyn in Texas.

There are all of these races. You're from Mississippi. There's the there's the Espy race, which people write that off and say, no Democrat could win in Mississippi. But he did take Cindy Hyde-Smith right to the mat, right to the end, in that special election before in that run-off.

And you think about some of these races, the Georgia races, where Kelly Loeffler has this just -- just wild ad out now with Attila the Hun in it.

Are there more than one vulnerable Southern Republicans in this environment where they're chasing after evangelicals with the Supreme Court seat, but where they're just blatantly lying about what they have said, what they promised that they would do?

STEVENS: Yes, in the previous segment, Michael Steele was saying that he thinks that conservative judges is what holds this coalition together for Trump.

I have to disagree with that. I think conservative judges have become an excuse for people to say that they're for Donald Trump. Most of those people are white. And I think really, ultimately, it's more about race than it is about conservatism.

Ask most people, OK, you think conservative judges, tell me what your favorite, most important five last Supreme Court decisions are? Most people can't get past one. It's just a thing that they have decided it's socially acceptable to say this, because it's better that than to say, I would really like to hold on to like some powerful white guy who is going to be like me, who will try to protect my interests.

Listen, I think Espy could win. Look, Donald Trump is president of the United States. Anything's possible. I think this is very bad politics for Trump. I think the best move for Trump would be to say, look, 2016, this is what we said, I'm not a king, let the people decide.

And then he could have put the Supreme Court nomination on the ballot, and he would have been a lot better served than running with Mike Pence.

REID: Yes, very good points, two experts in Southern politics.

Jimmy Williams, Stuart Stevens, thank you both very much. Really appreciate your time.

And still ahead: As America passes 200,000 deaths, Donald Trump gives his administration an A-plus in handling the pandemic. Seriously.

The reality is next on THE REIDOUT.





REID: Those were the bells at the Washington National Cathedral.

The church tolled its morning bells 200 times on Sunday, once for every 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. It's just yet another gut-wrenching milestone, 200,000 fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers who were taken too soon.

At the same time those bells tolled, Donald Trump was squarely focused on his golf game. Trump, who privately admitted to downplaying the dangers of the virus, which led to those 200,000 deaths, thinks that he deserves high marks for his laissez-faire approach to this highly communicable and deadly virus.

Take a listen.


BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": So, what grade do you give yourself on the virus for the last six, seven months?


But the grade is incomplete. And I will tell you why. If we come up with the vaccines and therapeutics, then I give myself an A-plus.


REID: Unsurprisingly, Larry Kudlow, a economic adviser who has zero, no medical degree, no experience, is parroting this success story.


LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: The USA is in a much better position, thankfully. We have regained control of the virus, both the cases and the fatalities.


REID: At this point -- and this should come as no surprise -- he is not quite right.

According to Reuters, the weekly number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States rose last week, for the first time, after falling for eight straight weeks. And death rates have risen 5 percent, after falling for the previous four weeks.

Earlier today, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden slammed the president for his handling of the pandemic.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What worries me now is, we have been living with this pandemic for so long, I worry we're risking becoming numb to the toll that it has taken on us and our country and communities like this.

We can't let that happen. The president knew of these dangers back in February, and he hid it from the American people. Trump panicked. The virus was too big for him.

All his life, Donald Trump has been bailed out from any problem he faced. And with this crisis, a real crisis, the crisis that required serious presidential leadership, he just wasn't up to it.


REID: For more, I'm joined now by Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And, Dr. Frieden, I think, former Vice President Biden is absolutely right. The thing we can't do is become numb to the idea of 200,000 people debt, which I -- it freaks me out to read those numbers every time they tick up.

But, based on what you have seen happen and how we got here to 200,000 deaths, what grade would you give the response of the federal government of the Trump administration?

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Well, I'm a scientist, not in the job of grading people.

But what I can say is that the U.S. response has really failed. If you look at countries like Germany, they have one-fifth the U.S. death rate, Canada about half the U.S. death rate. Sure, you can point to other countries that have also failed, but the U.S. shouldn't fail.

The U.S. has the potential to beat this virus. It is not currently under control. It's better than it was, but nowhere near where it should be. And because of that, tens of thousands of Americans have died who didn't have to die.

And because of that, our economy is in worse shape than it could have been. Millions of jobs have been lost that didn't have to be lost.

REID: Yes.

You ran the CDC. One of the most disturbing things that has happened just in the recent few weeks, as we have learned more and more, is the extent to which I personally find it very difficult to trust the CDC now, very difficult, I think anybody who's been paying attention, to trust the FDA, which are sort of government agencies.

That's part of the alphabet soup of, like, trusted agencies always, that we have always just by default just have trusted what they have said.

A couple of headlines, "New York Times." This is the extent to which Health Secretary Azar, Alex Azar, has seized control of the FDA for Trump's political purposes.

"Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services this week, barred the nation's health agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, from signing any new rules regarding the nation's foods, medicines, medical devices and other products, including vaccines. Former senior officials at the FDA and HHS speculated that the intent was to remove rulemaking power from Dr. Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, and to send a signal to Trump that no surprises would come from the agency in the weeks before the election."

So they're sort of like wrestling back and forth over whether or not the FDA would approve any kind of vaccines.

And one more headline. "The Wall Street Journal": "The CDC has removed guidelines saying that the coronavirus can spread from tiny air particles. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control pulled new guidelines, acknowledging the new coronavirus could be transmitted by tiny particles that linger in the air, saying a draft version of proposed changes was posted in error on the agency's Web site and acknowledging aerosol transmission of the coronavirus could carry significant implications for how businesses and schools proceed with reopenings."

You have had political people even at the FDA edit what's on the CDC Web site, so that we don't know if it's scientists who wrote it or if it's political people who wrote it.

What is the risk, in your view, of people not trusting these agencies going forward?

FRIEDEN: When we look around the country and around the world, the places that have done the best have been guided by and have supported public health. They have fewer deaths, less disease and less economic devastation.

What's happening now is really the politicization of public health agencies and the risk of undermining trust, particularly when we're facing a choice about a vaccine. There may be a vaccine available in the future.

We need to be able to trust that the decision on whether or not to approve that vaccine and who to recommend it to has been made by the experts, not by someone trying to make political points.

I just wish the folks in Washington would spend more energy fighting the virus and less energy fighting the science.

REID: Yes, indeed. And less time golfing might be helpful too.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, thank you very much. Really appreciate your time tonight.

And still ahead: Mitch McConnell's Republican controlled Senate has proven it can't get much accomplished, except when it comes to ramming through a Supreme Court nominee before the election.

More on McConnell's shameless hypocrisy, next on THE REIDOUT.


REID: When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, the thing that has killed more than 200,000 Americans and is still raging through our population putting people out of work, out of their homes and into food lines, you would think that Donald Trump, president of the United States, and Addison Mitchell McConnell, Senate majority leader, were completely helpless.

Trump, McConnell, and their political party just can't help you, America, when it comes to passing a second coronavirus relief bill. They can't find the time to pass the HEROES Act that the House already passed, which would put some $3 trillion into the hands of unemployed Americans, cities, and small businesses, hospitals, and first responders.

Nor can they come up with a bill of their own. They simply don't have the time, between hitting the greens with the boss, enjoying their fun vacations, and getting their comfy couch time in. So much to do, so little time to do anything about the pandemic.

And when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, however, Trump, McConnell and friends, well, they didn't even let the sun go down on Rosh Hashanah before prompting salivating to steal their second Supreme Court seat.

And yes, this naked hypocrisy reveals that this Republican Party is all about power and maintaining power through the courts through white, Christian men-centric American demographics changed. But if you think this is just about Roe v. Wade, you missed half of the movie. When you peel back the greasy film of Republican Party politics, what you'll also find is greed, particularly corporate greed. The greed of insurance and drug companies who Republicans want to give back the right to charge you more if you have a pre-existing condition or to even deny you coverage at all for any reason they want. That's why Trump and Republicans are in the federal courts right now trying to cancel 20 million Americans' health coverage under Obamacare, in the midst of a pandemic.

It's the super rich who Trump, McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and old Paul Ryan and friends, handed a trillion dollars in tax cuts that Republicans want to let them leave to their heirs, tax-free, like old-style lords and Russian oligarchs. It's for them that Steve Mnuchin forked over another trillion to the largest corporation, while leaving your local mom and pops to die. And because these things are Republicans want to do are deeply unpopular, they can't get them through their elections so they need the courts. That's why they care so much.

And for decades, Republicans have also needed something else, minority rule. It's why they won't restore the Voting Rights Act. So black, brown, Asian, American, and indigenous voters can't vote in large majorities because if they do, well, how would big business, big pharma, and big oil win?

Minority rule has become so endemic to Republican politics, they go way out of their way to try and hide it.

Case in point, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, trying out this excuse on Fox News for stealing the RBG seat.


SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): In 2014, the American people elected a Republican majority of the Senate to put the brakes on President Obama's judicial nominations. In 2018, we had a referendum on this question. Just a month before the 2018 midterms, we had the vote on Justice Kavanaugh.

There could not have been a clearer mandate because the American people didn't just re-elect Republicans, they expanded our majority. They defeated four Democratic senators who voted against Justice Kavanaugh. They re-elected the one Democratic senator who did vote for Justice Kavanaugh.


REID: Nice try, Cotton, except that as "The Washington Post's" Philip Bump points out, the Cotton math leads out too little election called 2008 and 2012 where Democrats elected President Barack Obama and a Democratic Senate. And remember Harry Reid, he was Senate majority leader from January 2007 to January 2015.

And as for the mandate in 2018, Democrats won 22 of the 33 Senate seats that were up, winning by more than 17 million more votes. Bump points out that the Republican Party has repeatedly failed to win a majority of the vote in presidential contest as well, relying instead on the Electoral College to win the White House. It keeps winning a majority of the Senate by taking seats from states that make up less than a majority of the population. In other words, minority rule.

And if Trump fills the Ginsburg seat, five of the nine justices would've been nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote when initially elected. And it will get worse. According to one analysis, by 20 years from now, about 70 percent of Americans are expected to live in the largest 15 states. They will have only 30 senators representing them while the remaining 30 percent of Americans will have 70 senators representing them.

And that, of course, would suit people like Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, and their rich super friends, their super rich friends just fine.

We'll be right back.


REID: Many Americans have made it clear over the last 72 hours that they aren't going to sit down and let Mitch McConnell get away with stealing a second Supreme Court seat.

Bishop William Barber led caravans of protesters today at McConnell's D.C. home, as well as his office in Kentucky.

And joining me now is Bishop William Barr, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign and author of "We Are Called To Be a Movement."

And, Bishop Barber, you know, in the last block, I kind of went through some of the things that I think people pay so much attention to Roe v. Wade when it comes to the court. You and I have talked about this a lot, that they're losing some of the other stuff that Republicans want the courts for, whether it's, you know, environmental regulations. They love to deregulate and destroy things like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Power Act and give away a lot of our land to be drilled up, and, you know, they want to do things to help rich corporations, drug corporations, insurance companies and rich folks.

Do you think that message has gotten through to people on the ground, that it's more than just Roe, they want to do a lot more than that?

BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER, THE POOR PEOPLE'S CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR: Well, Joy, when I think about the thousands of people that organize with us today, you know, we've been doing these march, Monday marches on the (INAUDIBLE).

But thousands of people joined us online. They shut down all these phone lines. They were many, many people across the state.

I think people are getting it, that the Republicans actually want only a fight on Roe v. Wade. That's the fight they want. The fight they don't want is us to show that the same way that they claim to be for life but they're actually not with Roe, they are undermining so much else.

You think about it, 200,000 people dead today from coronavirus. Didn't have to be, a lot of them. (INAUDIBLE) were dead.

McConnell won't vote on a stimulus because he can't get protection --

REID: Right.

BARBER: -- for liability for corporations. He can't get $2 billion in tax cuts. He can't get his fighter jet.

He won't vote on that and neither will he vote on fixing the Voter Rights Act for over 245 days today. But he wants the court to fill a seat.

And we know when we check all of these justices that have come through him, 95 percent of the time, they vote for corporations. They want to treat corporations like people and people like things. They vote for the health insurance companies and not for health care for the people. They vote for the polluters. They vote against labor unions.

So we have to be very clear about what we see.

McConnell is infected. He's infected with lies. He's infected with greed. He's infected with a lust for power. He's infected with a commitment to the corporate bosses.

He's infected with racism. And the only vaccine is the people's voice and the people's vote. And I believe people are starting to get it.

REID: Yeah, I think Lindsey Graham is feeling a lot of the heat on that.

I mean, you think about it, the stuff that's on the table right now, Roe versus Wade, yes, is on the ballot in November, absolutely. But Obamacare might be doomed if you have an 8 -- 4-4, you know, ruling that does not overturn this just wild case that's coming up that most legal scholars say is ridiculous.

But there is -- it's their last attempt to get rid of health care. You're talking 20 to 30 million people who would lose their health care, including something like 400,000 people in Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky who actually got the Obamacare expanded Medicaid.

And, so, I guess, is that the fight that Democrats should be having, is over things like Obamacare, over things like the Voting Rights Act, as well as just Roe?

BARBER: Yes, certainly, because, also, we're talking about death in that reality, Joy. Now, you know, you're talking about the 400,000 people that receive health from affordable care in Kentucky, but nearly a million people that are uninsured. And when we think about it, they're rolling back the Affordable Care Act, you're rolling back protections for pre-existing condition. But if you had COVID, that's a pre-existing condition.

We're talking about the possibility of rolling back health care at a time when we had 87 million people uninsured or underinsured even with the Affordable Care Act before COVID, and now, another 27 million people are uninsured because they lost their jobs and we have an insurance policy in this country where more often than not, people are voting -- people's health care is connected to their job and their humanity and their body.

This is serious business. And that's why I say he's infected with greed and lies and infected with racism. And the only vaccine is the people's vote and the people's voice.

Now, you did something earlier on that segment, and I want to mention it. In the segment you talked about these states and you said how they are the smallest population states but we're getting -- you know, they are getting so much representation.

The other part of that is, though, those small states, if poor people, and low wealth people of every race, creed and color, many of them if they vote just 1 percent, 2 percent, 19 percent higher, 1 percent in Michigan, 19 percent in North Carolina, so forth and so on, those states don't have to produce Republican senators. They can actually produce senators that will be more concerned about the people than their own greed.

So this is a real fight. And this is not a fight that we can't win. It's a fight that, in fact, we have to win and there are 34 million poor people who are already eligible people to vote, that didn't vote last time. I say to the Democrats and progressives, talk to them. Speak to them. Make sure that you're clear that this is a battle for life and death in this democracy.

And let -- and if they're going to do this, if they're going to do this, they must pay a political price. We must have a voter turnout like never before.

REID: Yeah.

BARBER: We must expand that voter turnout and we must make clear that you don't get to even threaten to do this, let alone do it.

REID: Bishop William Barber, a very important voice in these very, very troubling time -- Bishop Barber, thank you so much. Really appreciate you as always.

And before we go, I actually have an exciting announcement I would like to make. And it is the launch of my new podcast "Kamala Next in Line." It's produced by MSNBC and Wondery, and it goes inside the cross cultural journey that lead Senator Harris from her humble roots to become the first African-American woman to represent California in the Senate and now, the first African-American woman to be the vice presidential nominee for a major party.

The first two episodes are available on October 5th -- and that is right before the presidential debate. But you can subscribe for free right now wherever you get your podcast.

That's it for tonight's REIDOUT.



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