tv Alex Witt Reports MSNBC October 9, 2021 10:00am-11:00am PDT
visit tdameritrade.com/learn ♪ a very good day to all of you from msnbc world headquarters here in new york. welcome, everyone, to alex witt reports. we begin this hour with new reaction to the reinstatement of the nation's strictest abortion law in texas. the law had been blocked for two days before a federal appeals court put it back into effect. the department of justice now has until tuesday to file a response, while a house bill to protect women's rights under roe versus wade appears headed for defeat in the senate with skepticism over a senate bill being drawn up by senator susan collins. >> this bill preserves what exactly is in roe versus wade,
so i'm not sure what susan collins is talking about except possibly to make this bill that she is proposing less protective of women's constitutional right to abortion. >> also new today, speaker nancy pelosi had an audience with pope francis. she is currently in europe for a climate conference. she said she thanked the pope for his leadership on, quote, the immense moral clarity and urgency that his holiness continues to bring to the climate crisis. back in washington, the showdown over subpoenas between capitol riot investigators and donald trump's inner circle associates certainly heating up. at least one recipient steve bannon is openly refusing to cooperate with the select committee. the white house is officially waiving executive privilege to protect donald trump, and two sources tell "politico" that trump's former social media adviser dan scavino has finally now been served with his subpoena. new reporting by nbc news shows
division over how to pare down president biden's agenda and its $3.5 billion price tag, but many democrats are hopeful pay forwards will save social programs. >> we were able to find 2.3 revenue generation through corporate tax increases as well as to increasing the tax rate on the wealthiest americans and not touching others to be able to pay for that. >> 3.5 trillion will literally be zero once you include the pay forwards. unfortunately some in our party don't accept them. they don't want to raise taxes on the wealthy, they don't want to raise corporate taxes. donald trump is calculating his comeback, he will speak at a rally in iowa tonight. we're going to have a live report from des moines where that rally is being held in just a few minutes. joining us right now, nbc's laura egan and gary grumback as
promised in des moines, the site of the rally for donald trump. lauren, we're starting this hour with you. why did the white house decide to reject donald trump's executive privilege claims nd release the white house documents to the january 6th committee? >> the white house has said that the president feels very strongly that it is important to get to the bottom of what happened on january 6th so that it never happens again. so it's no surprise yesterday when the white house announced that the president would not block the national ar kooufs from handing over this first batch of documents to that house committee. former president trump, of course, did not want these documents to end up in the committee's hands. as to what's in these documents, we don't actually know what's in this first batch of documents, but we do know that the house committee had requested really a wide range of materials from the national archives. everything from phone and visitor logs, really any kind of materials that can shed some
light as to the events that happened the day of january 6th. this will not be the last time the president will likely have to weigh in on these documents. there are going to be more document requests ahead. listen to what jen psaki, the white house press secretary had to say about this yesterday. >> the president has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not warranted for the first set of documents from the trump white house that had been provided to us by the national archives. as we've said previously, this will be an ongoing process, and this is just the first set of documents, and we will e. questions of privilege on a case by case basis. >> reporter: the decision as to whether or not to turn over documents to the house committee ultimately might not lie with president biden. donald trump has vowed to fight this move by president biden, and we expect him to seek legal action. so ultimately, this could end up in the courts, and the decision
could lay with them. alex. >> okay, lauren, thank you for that. joining me right now, msnbc legal analyst danny se value cevallos, and katty kay. what is the best case the biden administration can make that trump can't claim executive privilege? and is it strong enough to stand up to a legal challenge? >> the biden administration can say that they are not going to shield what they perceive as wrongdoing by the former president because when it comes to wrongdoing, even though we don't really know the full contours of executive privilege after the decades since the nixon cases, we know it exists. we don't know how far it goes, but we know this. it does not protect wrongdoing. but the biden administration must thread a needle here. they don't want to create a precedent that by simply invoking the word wrongdoing that congress can get ahold of presidential papers and
testimony because what's good for the goose then becomes good for the gander and the biden administration knows that should they face a republican congress the same thing could happen to them. >> okay, but danny, the actual events that we're talking about they did occur while donald trump was president, so does it matter if he's now out of office? i mean, are those things that happened then not still privileged events? >> again, that's an open question as to what extent, to what extent a former president can invoke executive privilege. the lesson we learned from what's called nixon two, the second of two major supreme court nixon cases is that the former president may have a voice in this area, but ultimately it is the incumbent president who has the say. neither the former or current president has the records or the data. they're over at the national archives so they don't have physical possession of it, the real keeper of the cup here is the national archive. >> yeah, so politically speaking, katty, did president
biden have no choice but to deny president trump's executive privilege claim? he would not want to be seen as obstructing the january 6th investigation, right? >> no, and if you look at the polling on this, there was a really good pew poll that showed while support of the january 6th investigation and for holding people, finding them and then holding them accountable for that insurrection has fallen pretty dramatically by about 22% amongst republicans over the last six months, of course amongst democrats it hasn't shifted. so amongst the president's own supporters, there's still a very strong desire to see this investigation completed and then lead to prosecution of the people who were involved of it, so he doesn't want to be in that position, but i think there's a broader question here about what the executive privilege is for and the precedent here, danny will know this much better than i do. it seems to be the executive privilege is to protect the
public, not to protect the person of the president or the former president, and the person who's in a very good position to know whether the republic is being protected is the sitting president. that does give biden, you know, constitutional legal power to say, look, i think it is in the interests of the united states of america. it's not about donald trump really that we find what happened on january the 6th and get to the bottom of this investigation, and certainly democrats would support that. >> now, listen, that's a very good point she's making. is executive privilege about protecting the man or woman or the republic? >> it's always been about protecting the presidency in communications within the presidency, and remember that james madison, the architect of our constitution made the point that the legislature, not the president predominates in our system. yes, we have three equal branches. we learned that in high school, but really the framers of the constitution saw the legislature
as the most powerful, and when they seek to investigate, they should have very broad powers to do so. from there, the current president clearly has more power than a former president to control privilege. we need privilege. there's no question that we need it so that people are frank and honest in their communications in the white house without fear that it will be broadcast to the world when they made very candid statements to each other. >> 100% i get that. in this particular instance, how much is this related to a specific case that may not have, you know, a broader effect to it because of what this is about. when is the last time that we questioned whether or not a president was a driving force behind an insurrection in this country? >> exactly right, so when you use that analysis, you have the fact that this is a former president that reduces the power to object, then you have the fact that they're investigating wrongdoing and that you have so much evidence of actual
wrongdoing, and congress is just looking for a connection from that wrongdoing to the president and his aides, so ultimately a claim of executive privilege if considered by a lower court and ultimately the district court would likely conclude that executive privilege does not extend to protect this kind of -- these kinds of communications. after all, what did these communications possibly have to do with the white house, the running of the country or anything like that. if they had to do with the insurrection, then that falls pretty clearly, i would think, into the category of wrongdoing, which has never been protected understood executive privilege. >> yeah, yeah, do you think, catty, that it's been a subject of discussion in the white house exactly how far this could go toward altering executive privilege permanently, or do you think it's kind of an easy decision under these circumstances? >> i think as danny lays out, if this is a clear case of wrongdoing, then it's a pretty easy decision, and i just think
history would suggest that biden waived the executive privilege in this instance doesn't mean that every subsequent -- because the fear, of course, for the people in this administration or democrats would be, well, that would mean that, were donald trump to be reelected or the next republican to be reelected, they could use the same weapon against democrats, right? it could come back to haunt them. history suggests that some presidents have protected the executive privilege of their predecessors and some haven't. there have been instances of both. if the system is working well, if the u.s. democracy is robust, then it ought to be possible for it to be held -- undertaken on a case by case basis rather than seen as the first salvo in a weapon of what could then potentially become revenge by the subsequent president. >> so these subpoenas, at least steve bannon appears to be fighting one and might try to invoke executive privilege to some degree. how is that even relisted for
steve bannon. if he doesn't comply, how far can the panel go to pursue criminal charges against him or charges in general. >> steve bannon arguably has the weakest case of executive privilege because he was never actually a member of the administration. so you're right in that his claim, if they choose to litigate it, that's the key, and that is the leverage that these subpoenaed witnesses always have. it's basically like, yeah, we know congress has the power to subpoena. we know they can investigate, but when the rubber hits the road, if we just delay and you have to file a lawsuit, lawsuits take a lot of time. that's why we usually see these congressional subpoenas negotiated. even though -- and this is frustrating, even though congress is in the right, yes, they can send the sergeant at arms or go after criminal content, they could do that. that takes valuable days and months off the clock. when that happens with more time, there's a chance that there could be a new congress coming in, a new president, things change, people forget,
people stop caring. they move on. congress knows that the easiest path -- and by the way, for administrations, the easiest path historically has been to negotiate. we're just not seeing that now. both sides playing hardball. >> last question real quick to you, katty, what is the overall political appetite to see these trump characters answer publicly for their actions whether guilty or innocence related to 1/6. >> i think danny's point is key here, the longer you delay, the longer the public appetite to see people held accountable whether it's for january 6th or other issues during the trump administration diminishes, and we're seeing that. it's holding up pretty steady amongst democrats but really amongst republicans the degree to which the appetite has fallen for any kind of accountability has fallen pretty dramatically. so i think that's why they want to not go down the legal route of these subpoenas and have them
challenged legally. they need to get this done while people still remember. it's amazing how we live in a world where our memories are short-term, right, and we forget things pretty quickly. >> although this one is kind of hard to forget. you just go what? danny cevallos and katty kay, thank you both. let's go to gary brum bau at the trump rally. what are you seeing and hearing? >> reporter: hey there, alexment of you know the old proverb absence makes the heart grow fonder. that's exactly the situation here on the ground in iowa. a poll out this week shows that donald trump has more support and more favorability in this state right now than he did when he was president. 53% of respondents to this poll said they viewed him favorably. that's a higher number than governor kim reynolds and chuck grassley. another question in the poll was about whether people think the country is on the right track or going off on the wrong track.
70% of the country said they believe it's going on the wrong track, and that's sort of a line up of what we're seeing in terms of biden approval ratings from quinnipiac and others. none of this is happening in a vacuum. it hasn't been all good news for trump this week. we're seeing a number of things as you were talking about with the subpoena situation, we're seeing investigations into donald trump himself through the southern district of new york with his total and the trump organization as a whole. i talk to folks out here who are simply just angry. they're upset with the way the country is going right now, and frankly, they're upset with the way the republican party is handling everything. here's what one woman had to say. >> i think the republicans are about as weak as they possibly could be in congress. you have maybe six that are worth their salt. ted cruz, mike lee, rand paul, and two or three others. the rest of them are just the same as the democrats. they've been there too long. they're establishment. they don't care about the american people because they're
in their elite little tower. so we're just sick of it, you know, and we're not going to take it anymore. i see a civil war coming. i do. i see civil war coming. >> reporter: a civil war coming. that's what she said, and that's the sentiment that we're hearing from a number of people on the ground here today at trump's rally. there's already thousands of people here. the president's not supposed to be on stage until 7:00 or 8:00 local time. there's a preshow that includes governor kim reynolds, senator chuck grassley and a throwback of a name for you, acting attorney general matt whitaker will be speaking here as well. >> alex. >> thank you for taking the temperature on things there, appreciate that. the new texas redistricting plan that aims to increase republican territory and force two long-time democratic house members to run against each other. one of them joins me to explain the fight against the new map. e.
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. today we're getting some new details on that massive oil spill off the california coast. investigators now believe the anchor strike that caused the initial break in the pipeline could have happened months ago. let's go to nbc's scott cohn who's joining us from huntington beach with the latest on this. scott, what's led to this development, and how hard is it now going to be to pinpoint which ship is responsible? >> reporter: yeah, it's going to be very hard, alex. the plot thickens, kind of like the oil. it's almost exactly a week now since this disaster became apparent, although even that part of the time line is in some dispute now. the -- pretty much the authorities, the company all suspected that there was an anchor strike that caused this pipeline to rupture, but then they got a closer look at it, and it does seem to show that something interfered with the pipeline, but where the pipeline is ruptured, there's marine life growing on it, so that means it
didn't just happen. it may have been as long as a year ago, and then you put on top of that all of the ship traffic that's going on as ships wait to get into the harbor in los angeles and long beach, we've been talking about all of that, and you can see the kind of traffic there, the pipeline is roughly to the right of the clump of green ships on your screen there, and so there could have been some contact there as well. in any event, they think that this pipeline may at least have been seeping oil for some time until last week. >> the fact that there were no -- at least no known reported other sightings of oil from this incident, that leads to believe that it was -- you know, if it was a small fracture originally, that it must not have been leaking a good deal of oil. you know, that's the analysis. >> reporter: so this does complicate matters considerably, they can track ships that have been in contact or near the
pipeline going back for months, but they'll have to find where that ship is and what that company was. and then the other question was how did the company not know that this was going on. the company, amplify energy based in texas has said that it was regularly inspecting the pipe as was required, and they did not notice any problems until last week. a lot of questions about what the company did, who it notified and when, this investigation is going to go on for a long time, alex, along with the cleanup. >> yeah, and who was doing the inspecting. come on, thank you so much, scott cohn. >> new today in texas the gop controlled state legislature is one step closer to increase the number of white majority voting districts. the state senate yesterday approved a new redistricting plan that breaks up communities of black and hispanic voters, and one part of houston puts two house democrats in the same district potentially forcing them to compete for one single seat. joining me now, congresswoman sheila jackson lee, one of two
houston representatives affected by this. congresswoman, i'm always glad to have you on the broadcast, but disturbingly looking at this map, it shows how calculated the gop legislature carves up your district pinning you directly against congressman al green you might have enjoyed welcoming on this had show a number of times as well. first, when and how did you find out about this? >> well, can you believe it, alex? thank you so very much for having me, ask and hello to all of your viewers and congrats to the astros, can you imagine in the debate on the debt ceiling in the middle of the build back better and of course the infrastructure bill, it didn't even come by any notice by the state senate last week about the fact that this map was to be offered. no engagement, no call. this map was drawn by outside republican operative directed by the gop congressional
delegation, who promised that they would engage with us as they have done in the past. this is really a blight on democracy. it is a blight on the republic. it is a blight on texas. it's a blight on lyndon baines johnson and barbara jordan who were able to have a seat that all viewed as crucial when barbara went as the first african-american to go to the deep south, go from the deep south along with andy young, to the united states congress. my mentor, endorsed me when i ran, and to see this district that had been together for 50 years demolished by this state senate inputting my dear friend congressman al green and myself in the same district, the 9th congressional district -- >> just had clearly a hiccup right there. this is a very important conversation. is she back, guys, or do we have to move forward for right now --
>> -- of the process. >> there you are, fabulous. we know that 95% of the population growth in texas over the last ten years, that is among non-white residents. 86% of that growth took place in big cities like dallas, like austin, like your city of houston, right? but take a look at how republicans are just carving up another part of houston to add more gop voters to the democrat strongholds. why doesn't the gop plan give a voice to the new growing demographic? is this extremely shortsighted of them? >> it is extremely shortsighted. it is unconstitutional. it violates the voting rights act, and frankly, i'm asking -- i'm making an inquiry as to why. why did -- >> once again, a bit of a technical hiccup there. is she going to come back up like she did a moment ago? perhaps not. you know what, let's clear this
out, guys. we're going to take a short break and see if we can hook this back up properly, we'll be right back. if we don't get to that, we'll talk about the beginning of the end, falling case numbers, a vaccine for kids on the way. what will it take to transition out of the pandemic and into the next phase of our recovery. we'll get to that if we can't get back sheila jackson lee. i got a fancy grown up lamp to make me feel like a fancy grown up. mhm. adulting ain't easy. ooh! check this one out. waffles loves her dog bed. we can hardly get her out of it. she's kind of a diva. yes, waffles! living your best life. [woof] i'm telling y'all there's no place like wayfair to make your home totally you. ooh! i want that. my retirement plan with voya keeps me moving forward... even after paying for this. love you, sweetheart they guide me with achievable steps that give me confidence.
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♪♪ okay, despite the technical difficulties, we're going to try to ask one more question of you, ma'am, because when it comes to redistricting, i know that you went to the texas state senate. you talked to them about that. you went accompanied with al green. your good friend, the person with whom you would have to face off potentially in a primary. what was the reason they gave for you for drawing the lines this way? was there anything logical behind it? was it looking towards the election? i mean, did anything you were told make sense?
>> well, first of all, let me thank you again. this is now a national issue. texas is now setting the tone for republican legislatures across america to eliminate minority districts of african-americans and hispanics. that's what they're doing. because when the question was asked by me specifically, an inquiry, what was the purpose of this map, there was no explanation. what was the purpose of taking barbara jordan's map and literally imploing it, cutting off its legs and its arms. separating people who had been together for 50 years, and i can tell you, alex, the community is up in arms. and then to diminish another district, district 9 that al green holds and in essence, not create an expanded district but to zero out districts who could elect an african-american called black opportunity district, just like hispanic opportunity district and map after map was voted down.
map after map was voted down that had anything to do with correcting districts that were held by hispanics. >> all right, congresswoman sheila jackson lee, thank you so much. clearly it's frozen again, but we got the gist of all you were saying, and i imagine you went home and just took an aspirin after that conversation. anyway, thank you. let's go now to some new optimism in the fight to end covid as cases and hospitalizations are trending downward, many parents are just weeks away from being able to vaccinate their children as pfizer is filing for emergency authorization for kids 5 to 11 years old. let's go to nbc's sam brock who is joining us with the latest on this. what do you know, sam? >> reporter: alex, good afternoon. the metrics as you suggest are moving the right direction. nationally cases have dipped about 12%. this as some 28 million children, alex, are about to become eligible for the covid vaccine pending fda review of pfizer's request for kids. but health experts say we've been down this road before only
to see the situation regress badly. >> hope with the fourth wave of covid recently taking a dip signs the life altering 19-month pandemic could be transitioning to an endemic. >> by endemic, everybody has to understand the virus won't disappear. it will smolder in our population, but we can keep it down. >> reinforcements could soon be on the way in the form of a covid vaccine for kids. >> as a grandparent and a former educator, i have been waiting for this moment. >> kids are really -- you just want to be really careful with them, so introducing something that's so brand new is always questionable. >> as many parents remain on the fence about vaccinating their children, covid's grip on the country is loosening. the two-week case average in 43 of 50 states and washington, d.c., has dropped, and the seven-day averages for cases, deaths and hospitalizations are all down by digits or close to it.
still, in minnesota hospital beds are dwindling in some areas, especially for children as the nih director warnings the battle is far from over. >> we have about 100,000 cases every day, and we are still seeing more than a thousand people dying every day, so this is no time to relax your guard. >> reporter: mask and vaccine battles are still tearing through schools and even police departments. in los angeles, the sheriff refusing to enforce a county order to vaccinate the force. >> i don't want to be in a position to lose 5, 10% of my work force overnight on a vaccine mandate. >> threads of opposition on established science continuing to hold america back. >> the disinformation and misinformation that is flowing abundantly on social media and other technology platforms is having a profound negative effect on our ability to address this pandemic. >> reporter: and the surgeon general went on to say there, alex, that misinformation is literally costing lives.
this is in the state of florida, the board of education here is sanctioning eight school districts including miami-dade for not following orders and making masks optional, alex. so part of the whole conversation here, what's going on in police departments. what's going on in schools. we're going to have much more on this coming up on nbc "nightly news". >> i'll be tuning in to that. thank you so much. there's a new warning about the ever present dangers to donald trump as a country and the democracy itself. a former trump white house insider sounding the alarm joins me next. insider sounding the alarm joins me next.
♪♪ in 2019 during donald trump's first impeachment hearings, fiona hill, an expert on russia who worked at the trump national security council gave a warning amid her testimony. >> the impacts of the successful 2016 russian campaign remains evident today. our nation is being torn apart. truth is questioned. our highly professional expert career phone service is being undermined. >> fast forward to today, senate the judiciary committee releasing a report on former president trump's plan to pressure the doj to overturn the 2020 election. a house select committee is investigating the january 6th attack on the capitol, an event believed to be fueled by those efforts, and now in a new book, fiona hill has another warning writing in part, for me watching trump's disorganized but deadly
serious attempt at a coup unfold during the court of 2020, the clearest and most unmistakable parallels were with russia. fiona hill joins me now, from 2017 to 2019 she served as senior director for european and russian affairs on the national council, and her new book is "there's nothing for you here: finding opportunity in the 21st century." we're going to get to details about the book specifically, but talk about these parallels that you see with russia and when you started seeing them. >> well, unfortunately, i started to see them during my time in the national security council. it became, you know, more and more evident obviously from president trump's own fascination with vladimir putin, that style of presidency that putin was laying out, you know, someone who was very much a populous making a direct connection with the people.
someone who is basically governing without really any formal checks and balances. putin is the head of a movement, not a political party, and of course we've seen in 2020 putin amending the russian constitution so that he can also stay in power essentially indefinitely, but at least out until 2036. and president trump was fascinated by putin's style and his approach. you know, we saw -- and i think that this is the picture showing here on the screen during the press conference after their meeting, their bilateral meeting. >> in helsinki, yeah. >> exactly. president trump was all eyes on putin, didn't want to be shown up in front of putin. the part of his press conference is of course trump's, you know, evident admiration of the russian leader. it wasn't about russia itself, it was about putin. >> remember that when he actually backed up putin when he said, oh, he says he had nothing to do with the election and all of that, which defied i think it
was 17 intelligence agencies and the conclusions they had drawn. that was one that was just jaw dropping for so many of us watching that. let me talk about another part of your book in which you write, the example of modern russia, which i have spent most of my career closely studying offers a cautionary tale for the united states at this juncture. russia is america's ghost of christmas future, a harbinger of things to come if we can't adjust course and heal our political polarization. so fiona, what do you think is the key to adjusting course, and is time running out to do it? >> look, time is running out to do this, and this is why i and many others are coming forward with these urgent appeals, i think, you know, particularly there are appeals to members of congress, particularly those in the republican party who are continuing to give credence to the lie, the big lie of president trump that he won the election in 2020, not joe biden. i mean, we're seeing this all around the backdrop of the
investigation into january 6th with the continued denials of what actually happened there, even from people like vice president pence who was going to be strung up by the mob, and him now saying this is somehow the media trying to defame and denigrate millions of americans who voted for president trump. of course they voted in november 2020 before the events that we saw on january 6th, but what we saw on january 6th was an armed insurrection. people were arming themselves not just with pipe bombs that were left around the capitol building, but any kind of implement they could get their hands on. they were threatening members of congress. they were trying to stop the certification of the election. this was nothing more and nothing less than an insurrection and a mob attempt. it came, of course, as we all know after a whole year of attempts by president trump to denigrate the elections. it wasn't just the impeachment
hearings at the end of 2019. it was everything he said about the election. he said even before it happened that it would be falsified, that it would be stolen, and he said repeatedly so many lies, and the fact that he was president of the united states that he's given credence to these lies and he's been enabled and backed up by members of congress and members of the senate. and i would just like to, you know, look into the eyes of these people now and to tell them you should be ashamed of yourselves because, you know, you're throwing away american democracy and putting us on a path that many other states have tread before toward autocracy by basically enabling these lies. >> you said something interesting to npr saying that trump himself was a massive counterintelligence risk because of his vulnerabilities and the fragility of his ego. what led you to say that? >> when i saw this firsthand over and over again. he was incredibly susceptible to flattery and persuasion. he also could be induced to lash
out at people simply on the smallest amount of criticism. it didn't take any blackmail or holding any derogatory information over him. it simply was a matter of people realizing what his vulnerabilities were. you become a counterintelligence risk when anyone can manipulate you and that means also foreign adversaies and vladimir putin, we have to remember, used to be an operative in the kgb and the russian intelligence services. he's adapted all of the things that he learned there to his presidency. and he knows how to manipulate people, how to upstage them. he knows how to target in on what makes them tick. and with president trump, the most important thing that vladimir putin did was always praise him, flatter him. he never criticized him, and he could that way get trump to do and say all kinds of things as we saw helsinki. >> in your book, fiona, you say without creating opportunity for all, democracy will die. it's pretty sobering.
explain that. >> well, what we're seeing here is the consequence of a very long period of industrial decline in the united states. i mean, obviously there's been a lot of manufacturing changes that have led to a new economy, but a lot of the country hasn't kept up with it and i trace in the book, you know, the path of deindustrialization particularly in the midwest and the rust belt, which is very similar to things that happened in russia and where i grew up in the united kingdom over a similar time frame. and people there have been deprived of the opportunity for education and for a job, and it becomes fertile ground with all the discontent and the grievances for someone like vladimir putin or someone like donald trump to come along and say we see your pain. we see your problems. we're going to fix them. just give us your votes. this is, you know, really the kind of pattern that we're seeing here in the united states where president trump was able to whip up a mob of people who feel left out of the current system, the political system, or the socioeconomic system or feel
that the world changing around them far too quickly, demographically they don't recognize the country from their perspective anymore, and trump specifically saying i'm going to put it back for you. i'm going to fix all of this. >> fiona hill, it is such a pleasure to speak with you. i will relay to our viewers that i told you i was really looking forward to our chat during the commercial break, but i want to also let them know it's a well worth it book to read, it is called "there's nothing for you here: finding opportunity in the 21st century." is remarkable as is your life story, which you chronicle in the book. thank you so much, fiona hill for your time. i hope to see you again. so from the author of the trumpty dumpty, comes "a confederacy of dumptys, the latest series of books by actor and author john lithgow, and he's waiting to tell us all about it next. so excited to talk to you too. >> hi, alex, great to see you again. thanks for having me. you again. thanks for having me
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after a long dormancy due to coronavirus, broadway is back, including this, the tina turner musical you see there, opening its doors to a fully vaccinated and masked audience. well, tina is just one of the several broadway shows raising its curtains for the first time since the start of the pandemic a year and a half ago. and joining me now is john lithgow, actor and author of the new book "a confederacy of dumptys: portraits of american scoundrels in verse." john, welcome back to the broadcast. before we get to this book, i want to ask you as an actor, how thrilled are you to have broadway back up and running? i've already been to two shows. i have two next week. >> yes, i've been to two shows and i have actually been on stage twice in the last two weeks, and it's fantastic to see broadway coming back to life. i went to see "moulin rouge."
i've been full of broadway the past couple weeks. >> that's a wonderful thing and one of the many places where you belong. okay, let's look at the ne'er-do-well characters that you compiled for "a confederacy of dumptys" and i find out not only is your wife a ucla american history professor but you went to some great minds to discuss the prospects, our friends doris kearns goodwin, rachel meechum, rachel maddow. what made you want to move beyond king dumpty, donald trump, book? >> moving on is the wordment of i think we all need to move on. when i penned the book, trump had just been voted out of office. i didn't expect it to be such a contested election. i didn't expect january 6th to come along. basically my intention was to
dispose of dumpty in the very first poem and then go back in history and have a look at his precursors, almost as a way to try to come to terms with the fact that all of this has happened at all. put it in the context of our own history and events and characters. that have sort of marched through time over the last 200 years. >> which you did, because it really spans a lot of u.s. history. i think the first, goes back to president andrew jackson t trail of tears that he created by displacing several indian nations from their native lands. but here's something that you include and there's one non-scoundrel, the 19th century political cartoonist thomas nast. why the fascination with thomas nast? and what's the connection with tweed? >> that's such a good question, alex. i paired them together pretty much to explain my own role in this whole landscape. i wrote -- i've become a
political satirist in the last few years, not something i've done for a living in my career, and thomas nast is simply one of my heroes. he's the only good guy in the whole book, and i simply pair him with tweed and i point out probably none of us would have even heard of boss tweed had it not been for a satirical political cartoonist. >> that's right. so, for a little speed reading, if people so desire, limericks for the here and now, that makes up your rogue's gallery, rudy giuliani, marjorie taylor greene, matt gaetz, any number of folks. but you take these dubious news makers, take the headlines, five lines of verse summing up the atrocities. do you have a favorite? >> i have a couple of favorites. you're right, the book is a history that takes you from the deep past right up to the present and these come right near the end of the book. i call it limericks for the here
and now, marjorie taylor greene is a fountain of hatred and spleen. when she opens her trap, her fanatical crap can shatter a video screen. and there you see her characterized. >> can i tell you, john, i wanted to read that one, but that one particular word, i thought, you know, fcc and all of that. >> oh. >> may i offer one that i love? that's a ted cruz one. this is one because there's a great word in there. ted cruz, that ladaceuos baboon is the maestro of inopportune. with his state in deep freeze, this titan of sleaze, took his family off to cancun. >> alex jones as a fiendish ability to monetize rank imbecility. the best is tricks to use politics to sell cures for diminished virility. >> yep.
that's another really good one. look, i mean, i'm enjoying laughing and smiling through this interview, but i want to talk about the last part. it was pretty chilling. the final offering, "dumpty's dream," a very long look, you take, john, at january 6th through trump's eyes. you end up examining the legacy of this day. here's a question. are you confident that january 6th commission will uncover the details of what happened, or do you think stonewalling from donald trump and his associates will prevent us from ever finding truthful accountability? >> i think it's very important that we find out everything that can be found out about what happened on january 6th. but we already have perfectly obvious evidence that this was a colossal crime, and it was incited by our president. i mean, we simply saw -- we have clear visual evidence of that. january 6th took place about
halfway through writing my poems. and it's -- it started me. it made me realize that i'm writing light political satire, but there's nothing light about this political moment. and i decided halfway through that i would end the book with something gravely serious, and it is a long, long poem. i've now read it out loud to a broadway audience, last week. i read two-thirds of the poems in the book for the round about theater as a way of bringing up the curtain on their reopening. and it is startling, the impact it has on people, because it evokes everything that they lived through on that day and on the night that followed, and i think it's very important that even a light book has got to address the gravity of this moment. >> absolutely. it's one way to deliver the message and i appreciate your doing so. i'm sure that audience was very
lucky to have heard from you directly from the book. i'm going to keep my copy with me, if i think there's a chance in you know what, i'm going to bring it and you're going to be signing it for me, my friend. i appreciate that. thank you so much. >> zoom is fine, but it's not enough. i want to meet you in-person. >> i would look forward to it, john lithgow, thank you so much. best of luck with the book. it's terrific. we'll be right back. wh the book it's terrific. we'll be right back. ♪ birds flyin' high you know how i feel ♪ ♪ breeze drifting on by you know how i feel ♪ [man: coughing] ♪ it's a new dawn, it's a new day... ♪ no matter how you got copd it's time to make a stand. ♪ ...and i'm feelin' good ♪ start a new day with trelegy. no once-daily copd medicine has the power to treat copd in as many ways as trelegy. with three medicines in one inhaler, trelegy helps people breathe easier and improves lung function. it also helps prevent future flare-ups. trelegy won't replace a rescue inhaler for sudden breathing problems. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure before taking it.
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