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tv   Velshi  MSNBC  October 17, 2021 5:00am-6:00am PDT

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♪♪ well, good morning. it is sunday, october 17th. i'm ally velshi. will it stay or will it go? that's the question ringing throughout capitol hill this week as democrats negotiate which programs will remain in president biden's ambitious social spending plan and which ones will be sacrificed. it appears that a key climate measure that would help reduce greenhouse gas pollution is on the chopping block. and west virginia senator and so-called moderate democrat joe manchin is the one who put it there. it's a roughly $150 billion policy, known as the clean electricity performance program, which would reward energy companies that transition away from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to clean energy like solar and wind. it would also fine companies that refuse to make that transition. the program could help cut emissions by as much as 50% by
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2030, according to the proposal. considering that man chin's home state of west virginia is one of the largest producers of coal in the united states and the senator himself as a financial stake in the coal industry, his opposition to this program is not particularly surprising. but a spokesperson for manchin told "the new york times," quote, senator manchin is clearly expressed his concerns about using taxpayer dollars to pay private companies to do things they're already doing. well, regardless of the reason, manchin's rejection of the climate program is yet another thing that democrats will be considering as they continue negotiations this week. and as they work to pass two major parts of biden's economic agenda. the stakes couldn't be higher. right now democrats have a very narrow majority in the house of representatives and in the senate. but republicans are practically salivating over the chance to take back both chambers of congress and prevent democrats from following through on any of
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joe biden's agenda. now, we are still a little over a year out from the midterms, a dizzying amount of money is being poured in on both sides. "the new york times" reports, quote, the two parties main war chests for the house combined a total of $128 million. more than double the sum at this point in the 2020 cycle and far surpassing every other previous one. the investigation into the january 6th attack on the nation's capitol is also up against the mid term clock as the house select committee is hustling to keep its momentum going. this tuesday the panel is set to vote on whether or not to refer steve bannon for federal criminal contempt charges. the former chief strategist and long-time ally of the failed ex-president is refusing to comply with the committee's subpoena and could now face up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000 for not cooperating. joining us now is betsy woodruff swine, a national correspondent
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for politico and msnbc contributor. betsy, good morning to you. on a number of fronts, this is a very, very busy week for capitol hill. i do want to start with january 6th stuff, though. the bottom line here is that they had subpoenaed four people. three of whom they say there's still some conversations going on with, but steve ban nonhas been really clear, you're not getting papers, text, testimony from me and they're going to vote on whether to hold him in contempt on tuesday. >> that's right. and it's particularly unusual that of this group of four officials, bannon is the one doing the most to stiff ample the select committee. at issue here he claims this question of executive privilege, which is the kind of fuzzy, murky but real right that presidents exist to some extent to keep their private conversations secret. now, the other three folks who have been subpoenaed, kash patel, mark meadows and dan scavino were administration officials on january 6th.
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bannon, of course, was a podcaster. but bannon is the only one so far who told the committee nope, i'm not helping you. even though he has the flimsiest case to make that executive privilege would give trump the right to keep that conversation secret. so, this is a pretty tough and unusual spot that bannon finds himself in. that said, we had a little bit -- teeny intraadministration drama last night. yesterday on friday president biden said that he thinks the justice department should prosecute witnesses like bannon who defy these subpoenas. shortly after he made that comment a doj spokesperson said the justice department will decide who to prosecute based on the law and the facts, period. full stop. that's doj signaling, hey, we don't want the president telling us who to charge. and it just introduces another slight level of tension into
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this very interesting complicated episode for the committee. >> although, and as much as it may not please some of my viewers that that's what the doj said, that's what the doj is supposed to do. that's how the doj is supposed to work. we complained for five years that the department of justice was a patsy for president donald trump. it was donald trump's attorney general. it was donald trump's justice department. they were doing donald trump's bidding. we did agree we didn't like that. we preferred department of justice that looks at the facts and determines itself what it's going to prosecute or not. >> that's right. biden selected merrick garland as attorney general specifically because he's the kind of person who would want to issue statements like this. he selected garland with the specific goal of bringing in someone who was not a long-time political ally and who would be committed to restoring this gap of separation between the white house and the justice department so that americans can be confident that the criminal justice system is not operating
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as an arm of the republican national committee or the democratic national committee, which was a concern that people had under the trump administration. and the interesting piece about this is to the extent that you see that tension and sometimes little bit of friction between doj and white house to that extent, doj's independence is being restored. if it's not uncomfortable, it's not happening. >> that's a good way to put it, betsy. thanks for your great writing. betsy woodruff swan is a national correspondent for politico and msnbc contributor. joining me now is mondair jones of new york. he serves on the judiciary and ethics committee and the deputy whip of the congressional progressive caucus. happy to talk to you about the january 6th stuff but want to talk to you about the legislation, the social programs that we're trying to put through, congressman. this is the week in which you, progressives and democrats in general are going to have to decide what stays, what goes, what gets funded possibly at a
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lower level, what gets funded for a shorter period of time. how are you thinking about how you head into this week? >> ali, great to be back on with you. this is an exciting time. we have a real opportunity to deliver for the american people in a way that we ran on. so, i'm very optimistic. i will say that even some of the things that we don't particularly like that we've been hearing from manchin and kyrsten sinema are only possible to know because of the strategy that the progressives undertook to link the two bills, the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the much larger human infrastructure bill called the build back better act. compromise is a messy thing. legislating is a messy thing. but progressives are pragmatic and we are committed to getting a final product that actually delivers for the american people by improving their lives? >> i want to ask you about something you wrote. the proposed programs in the
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build-back better program have to be accessible to people in -- but in your latest op-ed you wrote that means testing which limits these benefits based on income would actually prevent more people from accessing these programs. i just want a quote from you, in theory, means testing excludes the undeserving rich in practice it often excludes the most vulnerable poor who aren't always able to jump through the required hoops to prove their eligibility. can you tell me a little bit about what you mean here? most people say if you means test, that means the wealthy don't get benefits that they don't need and the working poor and poor and low income do. >> ali, it's an easy mistake to make. it sounds good in theory. but in practice, we know that it's not true. we know that when you force people to prove they qualify for a social program, you have to create processes and an entire administration to then verify
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eligibility. we know that that is overly burdensome for the neediest americans, people who either can't obtain the documentation they need or otherwise don't have the wherewithal to prove that they qualify for something or may be intimidated by the countless pages that they had to complete. and many instances complex pages. we know that the research, because we care about research, says that a lot of people are excluded as a result of this. there was a study that we cited from 2011 when it was proposed that folks mean test social security, that not only would it cost as much as it currently does to administer the program, but to actually lose a lot of folks who would otherwise benefit. we know that universal programs are popular. there's a reason why social security and medicare have with stood the test of time despite the best efforts by republicans to roll those programs back. so we have to make sure we don't means test these programs in the build back better act. >> so big picture, let's think
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about how this goes forward for all policies that are meant to help the poor and the working poor, low income people. is there a way in which you apply them universally and then you take them -- take that money back from the wealthy through tax policy? because how do you make sure that the rich don't get benefits that they don't need? >> look, we obviously need to be taxing the very wealthy in our society and the biggest corporations in a way that is fair. and that means we have to increase those rates. there is a way to get at that excess in terms of wealth in society to fund essential government programs more efficiently than the means testing that has been proposed by people like joe manchin. you're talking to someone who proposes and supports a wealth tax, which is popular with both democrats and republicans in this country. we have seen wealth skyrocket
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and wealth inequality widen. even over the past year and a half. and so, we obviously have to get at that, but the way to do it is not to means test. that is inefficient and actually leaves out the neediest americans who for a variety of reasons are unable to prove in many instances that they qualify for these programs. >> just speaks to the way we think about poverty, right? we penalize people in poverty. we treat it as their failure. and we make it as complicated and put as many hurdles in the way of them being able to get government assistance as we can. i was talking to stephanie landa a few weeks ago the author of the book "made" now made into a tv series about -- it illustrates the difficulty that people in poverty have obtaining the things that by right we say they can have. the unemployment insurance at which they are due. the food assistance for mothers and children. we just make it really hard. >> we really do. and some instances it's unintended. in other instances it is
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intentional. it comes from this sort of i think outdated conservative ideology that people are trying to game the system. when the fact is that the system is already rigged against these people. we still haven't passed a $15 minimum wage. which reasonable people have concluded still would not be enough to afford the cost of living, especially in districts like my own like places like new york and california. so this is something that we need to do. i'm so grateful to be joined by colleagues like katie porter and others across the democratic ideologic spectrum. you know, we signed a letter signed by 106 people to leadership saying please keep the universal childcare program in the final reconciliation bill and we got conservative democrats on that letter because they, too, understand that we have to move forward into the 21st century. and ensure that everyone can live in dignity. we have to learn from past mistakes. democrats and republicans have cut snap and tannif but we kept
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medicare and social security in tact, even donald trump ran on keeping those programs in tact. that is the power of university in our society. >> i remind people that $15 an hour is $31,201 a year. try living in your constituency in west chester and rockland county in new york for $31,200 a year. congressman, always good to see you. thank you for joining us. mondaire jones of new york. terrifying breaking news out of haiti. group of 17 u.s. missionaries and their families including children were kidnapped by gang members in the capital of port-au-prince yesterday on their way home from building an orphanage. joining me is raf sanchez. what do we know? >> reporter: ali, u.s. officials are scrambling to find out what happened to these missionaries, but that is not a straight forward thing to do in haiti, which is one of the most chaotic and violent countries in the
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western hemisphere. here is what we know. the associated press reports this group of missionaries including children were kidnapped by an armed gang as they were coming back from that orphanage. "the washington post" says one of the missionaries was able to send a message to a whatsapp group as the kidnapping was happening, saying they were being held hostage and their driver had been kidnapped. but a lot of key questions unanswered. what condition are the missionaries in? who is holding them? and is there going to be a formal request for a ransom? now as you said, this happens in the capital city port-au-prince a city where large swaths of territory are controlled by these gangs who can outfight and outgun the beleaguered haitian security forces. ali, kidnapping is a booming industry in haiti right now. according to the u.n., there have been 328 kidnappings in the
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first eight months of 2021, that's more than all of 2020 combined. the vast majority of the victims are haitians, men, women, children, kidnapped sometimes for as little as $100. we're talking about this case today because it's americans involved. foreigners can make a very tempting target because they may end up fetching a higher ransom. now, this is all playing out against a general chaos, chaotic background in haiti. the president assassinated back in july. so a really unstable situation there right now. ali? >> raf, thanks for your reporting. nbc news foreign correspondent raf sanchez. coming up, we'll continue the infrastructure and january 6th conversation at the top of the hour with the michigan congress woman debbie dingell. dr. francis collins is retiring after more than 12 years but not before joining me on the show iter today. supply chain chaos. how the distribution bottleneck can affect your daily life.
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♪♪ from port congestion to a lack of workers to pandemic fallout there a lot of reasons the global supply chain is buckling under immense pressure. it's a perfect storm. it's wonky, it's affecting your lives and our finances on a daily basis. so i want to walk you through a hypothetical day in the life of betty. as she navigates all her typical everyday tasks up ended by the supply chain crisis whether she realizes it or not. we'll start over here. betty wakes up and remembers that it's her partner's birthday tomorrow so she checks on the delivery tracking of that brand new iphone 13 that she ordered as a gift. but it's delayed because apple has cut its iphone production targets because it can't get enough of the micro chips needed
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to make its phones. this is the same underlying reason why cars have become more expensive, a chip shortage. so look like someone is not getting their birthday gift on time. now it's time to send little bobby off to school. the very last minute, betty gets an email from the school explaining the only hot lunch option this week is nachos. fine for me but not for bobby. the school didn't receive its normal food shipment this week. the food is sitting in a warehouse somewhere unable to be delivered due to a shortage of truck drivers. bobby doesn't like nachos so betty scrambles to pack him a lunch that he'll actually eat. well, betty finally leaves for work and she stops for gas. $4 a gallon, by the way. she pays $20 in total for 5 gallons of gas because of the increase in energy costs worldwide. this isn't a shipping problem. it's that opec, the organization of petroleum exporting countries has not increased production to coincide with much of the world
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getting back to work and as a result gas prices have gone up. now on betty's way home she stops for groceries because she's all out of toilet paper except so is the store. she finds empty shelves and reminded at the time of the start of the pandemic but this time the store isn't out of toilet paper because of panic buying, the toilet paper is stuck on a container ship stranded at the port of los angeles because of a major backlog at that port. and once it gets off the ship, it still needs a truck to get to the store. she picks up a few other items, paper towels, dish soap, tooth paste and notices the bill is much higher than usual. all the shortages and backlogs make everything more expensive. she's paying about 5% more than she was for the same stuff last year but she's not earning 5% more in her salary. next, betty and her family go out for dinner. little bobby is still upset about the nachos he had to have for lunch so he wants a cheese burger. the restaurant buys meat and
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poultry wholesale and there's a shortage there because meat processing plants are still working at less than full capacity because of the pandemic. not that you can't get all the stuff that it takes to make a cheese burger, it just all costs a little bit more. betty had a rough day. she's back at home, goes to pour herself a glass of red wine but she's all out of wine. this part has nothing to do with the supply chain crisis at all. betty drinks a lot of wine. she wants to purchase more, she'll find a smaller selection and higher prices at the wine store. the long story short, this global supply chain crisis is having ripple effects and cause disruptions in your daily life. hopefully you'll be more prepared than my friend betty was. was. t to deal with. not just unpredictable relapses. all these other things too. it can all add up. kesimpta is a once-monthly at-home injection... that may help you put these rms challenges in their place. kesimpta was proven superior
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♪♪ for several weeks now we have been following the dramatic consequences of senate bill 8, the near total ban on abortion
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in texas and one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in a generation. still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the feature of abortion rights in america. the texas ban is circling back to the supreme court soon as the united states department of justice continues its attempt to block sb8. all of this is happening while mississippi is prepare its arguments in a separate case that's headed to the supreme court. and should mississippi prevail in overturning roe the ramifications will be swift and widespread because for years now some states have been so eager to see roe v. wade gutted that they developed and passed in their legislatures these things known as trigger bills. trigger bills are essentially laws that are lying in wait. in this case 11 states have trigger bills that would go into effect and ban abortion as soon as roe is overturned if it is overturned. now right now they are just dormant bill. they can't be overturned. in the event roe is overturned they take effect and ban abortions in 11 states on top of
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all the work that red state legislatures. 2021 is, quote, a year marked by unprecedented threats to u.s. abortion rights and access. in total, 19 states have enacted 106 restrictions including 12 abortion bans. now, in an entirely separate study, it estimates that nearly 10% of all women of reproductive age are directly affected by the near total abortion ban in texas and that about 40 million women of reproductive age live in states that have hostile policies toward abortion rights. here with me to discuss this is elizabeth, the interim associate director state issues for the good macker institute and tracking the number of anti-abortion laws making their way through state legislatures this year. good to see you here. thank you for being with us. the reason to have this discussion is to understand that for some people the texas bill
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is its own thing. for other people, the mississippi bill will trigger these other laws in other states. but, there have been slow cuts in abortion rights for decades across this country. >> right. so, what we're looking at right now is 133 -- 1,336 abortion restrictions enacted since roe was handed down. and each one of those restrictions makes it harder and harder to access abortion and provide abortion services. and so what -- >> go ahead. >> sorry. what we're really looking at over time is this whittling away of access. so much so that it's really very difficult to get an abortion in many states, although texas right now is at the forefront.
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>> because texas has said you're not getting an abortion after six weeks and anyone who assists you in doing so can be pursued by vigilante justice, someone snitching on you and claiming $10,000. so it's put an absolute chill on this and clinics in texas said nothing we can do about that. we can't work around this. but what do some of these other restrictions look like and how do they manage to be put into place despite the fact that roe v. wade is still the law of the land? >> right. so, the types of restrictions that we've been seeing are things like abortion counselling requirements. waiting periods where you have to make at least two trips to the abortion clinic. one for the counselling and then one for the abortion. that time frame might be as much as 72 hours which in reality for real people means many more days than that. sometimes a week or two. you know, so the kinds of other
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restrictions we see are abortion coverage restrictions where you cannot use your employer's health plan to pay for abortion or medicaid restrictions that limit access to abortion. and what we know is that an abortion costs about $550. if you add in these restrictions and start thinking about what's happening in texas with people traveling, you can tell that that $550 which is already very hard to come up with especially as you're talking about earlier with inflation rising, the cost escalate dramatically if you have to travel anywhere. if you have to go and stay somewhere for a day or two, you're talking about maybe getting a car and gas money, a bus, plane, you need a hotel room and you are taking time off of work. that's key because so many people do not have paid time off
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and because 60% of abortion patients have a child already. we know that childcare is critical to accessing abortion services. especially if you have to travel. so this is -- these restrictions create a thicket of logistical barriers that people and patients have to navigate. and it's very, very difficult, especially if you're thinking about texas. and at most, a person has two weeks to make a decision, make arrangements and pay for everything. even with the support of abortion clinics, abortion funds, practical support and family and friends, this can be incredibly difficult. >> why do these laws stand? because in theory they are all challenging what roe -- the principle behind roe v. wade, the intent behind roe v. wade. have they all just not been met with challenges at the supreme
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court? how are they allowed to stand? are they just that creative that they work around it effectively? >> well, some of this has to go back to the u.s. supreme court decision in casey in 1992. in that decision the court essentially re-did the standard for abortion and said that no state can ban abortion before viability, essentially around 24 to 26 weeks, and if you ban abortion after that point, you still have to have protections for life and health. but they also upheld some restrictions. they upheld restrictions on counselling, 24-hour waiting period, some parental involvement restrictions and that opened the door. they sent this undue burden standard which meant that if restriction places an obstacle in front of a person seeking an abortion, that's a problem. >> elizabeth, thank you for giving us some clarity on this. elizabeth nash, the interim associate director of the state
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issues at the guttmacher institute. first, update on former president bill clinton. his spokesperson says he spent another night in the hospital last night, his fifth since being admitted on tuesday with a urological infection that spread to his bloodstream. good news, clinton is expected to be released some time later today. we're sending the former president our best. hope for a speedy recovery. more "velshi" after a short break. ter a short brk.ea i don't just play someone brainy on tv - i'm an actual neuroscientist. and i love the science behind neuriva plus. unlike ordinary memory supplements, neuriva plus fuels six key indicators of brain performance. more brain performance? yes, please! neuriva. think bigger. ♪ well the sun is shining and the grass is green ♪ ♪ i'm way ahead of schedule with my trusty team ♪ ♪ there's heather on the hedges ♪ ♪ and kenny on the koi ♪ ♪ and your truck's been demolished by the peterson boy ♪ ♪ yes -- ♪ wait, what was that? timber...
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tina, a career foreign service officer stationed in cuba was standing t at her kitchen window washing dishes when she felt a force. >> all of a sudden with no reason or explanation i felt like i was being struck with something. it was gripping. it was like i had been seized by some invisible hand and i couldn't move. >> reporter: meanwhile, diplomats kate husband and doug ferguson, he now at the u.s. embassy in paris, were then stationed in havana and experiencing a piercing sound from outside their home. >> kind of at the same level all the time. very, very loud. it's nothing you could sit with. >> reporter: they didn't know it then, but kate, doug and tina would become three of the original u.s. diplomats diagnosed with neurological symptoms after experiencing mysterious episodes in havana. >> brain injury related to directional phenomenon exposure. what did the neurologist tell you about the changes in your
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brain? >> he said, well, it's like you aged, you know, 20, 25 years. all at once. >> reporter: cases like their's are on the rise across the globe. who or what is to blame? is it a device or a weapon? while some remain skeptical that these are attacks, a top scientific panel found the most likely explanation for the havana cases was directed pulse radio frequency energy. >> one of the reasons i haven't talked to the news is that i feel that i'm telling these bad actors how their weapon worked on me. like they're getting intel on what they can use it for. and how they can use it. are we guinea pigs, test mice? a little bit, felt like it. >> reporter: doug recovered and is back at work, kate's diplomatic career is over and tina's is sidelined. >> yeah. this is the heart breaker. this is the document that says maximum medical improvement which means i won't get any better. >> that's the great loss is you get all these people who have so
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much to offer, who are not going to be the same. it's not just us. >> reporter: their lives forever altered, they're speaking out now so americans can understand the impact of these mysterious episodes. >> it's very easy for people to be dismissive and say but you look fine, but the reality is i'm not. and i don't think very many of us are. and we just want to have our lives back. >> some people believe that the technology used in the attacks is something similar to what russia used to spy on adversaries during the cold war. both russia and cuba deny any involvement in that. our thanks to andrea mitchell for that exclusive reporting. well, the big lie is the biggest issue at the ballot box. and this is specifically evident in pennsylvania where republicans are actively trying to prevent as many citizens from getting to the polls as possible. the state's attorney general joins the show after a quick break. after a quick break. cus on what matters most.
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♪♪ the big lie itself is on the ballot in 2022 and american politics as we know it could depend on next year's midterms. the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from donald trump has become fuel for republicans looking to run for office next year from u.s. congress all the way down to state legislative seats, but particularly with republicans running for secretary of state roles, a position that oversees elections in many states. joining me now is josh shapiro, the attorney general for the state of pennsylvania. he just announced his run for governor of the state. attorney general, good to see you. there's a specific reason -- >> good to see you. >> we have been talking about election shenanigans in arizona, in texas, in georgia, in michigan. pennsylvania is interesting because your republican
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colleagues in the state legislature have been working to enact voting restrictions since long before the 2020 election. >> right. >> but before for the fact there's a democratic governor in your state some of those things might have become law in pennsylvania. pennsylvania is really ground zero for this discussion about voting rights restrictions. >> without a doubt. i really think we're the epicenter of it. and this same types of bills that have passed into law in georgia and texas, restricting voting rights, rolling back the gains and progress that's been made over the years, those bills have been introduced and in many cases passed here in pennsylvania. but for the veto pen of our governor, they would be law here as well. and so, what will be on the ballot next year and the stakes couldn't be higher is whether or not we're going to elect a governor who here in pennsylvania then appoints the secretary of state who is going to protect and expand voting rights or one that's going to restrict voting rights. and that has been central theme
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in the early days of my campaign and you know that has been the very foundation of my work as attorney general here in pennsylvania. >> so, the interesting thing is as part of your work as attorney general, you have had to fight some of these things. you had to take certain action. what does it all do? in other words, has it been effective? and as governor, how would that be different? how would you continue to swat down these efforts? because your state has republicans that have gone down to arizona and are looking at that as an example of what they might do in pennsylvania. >> yeah. i think by any measure we've been successful as attorney general, just look at our record in court, we have been to court dozens of times to stop efforts first that would have restricted people's access to the ballot box and, second, with a sued to try to make it so the votes wouldn't be counted. every time they went to court to undermine our democracy, they lost. we won. and the will of the people was respected. so we've been successful in
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court. as governor, i'll continue to push back on the big lie. i'll continue to make sure that the only bills that get my signature when it comes to voting reforms are ones that protect and enhance access to the ballot box. and so, that's the kind of work we've done as a.g. and the kind of work i'll continue to do as governor will be the same, protect voting rights. here is the thing, ali. if we're going to make progress on the main challenges we face, the inequities that exist in your education system, our healthcare system, our criminal justice system and make real progress there, you can't make real progress if certain people don't get to be around the table. if certain people's voices don't get heard. so our democracy, voting rights, is the foundation upon which everything else is built. and so that is why i have been so out front and so strong to protect voting rights. if we're going to tackle these other big problems we have to make sure we have a strong system in place. >> i think that's right. that's where it start. but, here is the irony, when
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wanting to talk about healthcare, which we do on this show, or inequity, which we do on this show or wages or criminal justice, that's not actually going to be the conversation in the gubernatorial race in pennsylvania, nor are a lot of these other things because so many -- this is really coming down to whether or not you think the 2020 election was stolen and america is full of fraudulent voting and pennsylvania's voting system is broken, which we have proved that it is not, and yet that's the republican/democratic divide today. i think that's just weird. >> weird is one word for it. but let me respectfully push back a bit on you. i don't think that it's the only thing that is being talked about in the race. it is certainly the only thing that's being talked about by the 12 or 15 people on the republican side looking to run against me for governor. they're all big lie all the time. they're all sham audit and voting restrictions all the time. for my part, yes, i talk about
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protecting our democracy, protecting voting rights, but as a pathway to get to the progress we need to make on these other issues. so there's a stark contrast between where the modern day republican party is today, big lie, sham audit and where i think i am trying to take our democratic party which is making sure that these concrete issues get addressed. small business owners, for families and for everyone in between. >> josh shapiro, always grateful for you joining us on the show. the attorney general for the state of pennsylvania. he is running for governor of pennsylvania. after the break, the disturbing story out of tennessee involving the arrest of four young black girls for a crime that simply doesn't exist. believe it or not, that is just the beginning. we'll have more on that next. l t ♪ ♪ ♪ hey google. ♪ ♪ ♪
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a recent disturbing report grabbed our eye this week about the unchecked power of a juvenile detention system in rutherford county, tennessee. the investigation conducted by pro publica and nashville public radio begins with the story of four young black girls, one of them eight years old, who were arrested in school and taken to jail. for what, you might ask. for being bystanders to a fight between three other boys that happened off school grounds. they were not part of the scuffle at all, they just happened to witness it. in fact, one of the girls could be heard on video pleading for the boys to stop fighting.
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the four girls were arrested along with six others and were charged with, quote, criminal responsibility for conduct of another. the one huge problem is that criminal conduct -- criminal responsibility for the conduct of another is not an actual crime. but that story barely scratches the surface here. here are some more jaw-dropping vehicles propublica uncovered. in tennessee, the statewide average for children in juvenile court was 48%. they locked 986 children for a total of 7,932 days. the judge has been known to hand out 2 to 10-day sentences for
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cursing. this judge has held this office since it was created in 2000. the judge denied to be available for this report. in june they agreed to pay $11 million for part of the lawsuit, although they didn't apologize for the issue. but they paid $11 million. you are a professor at the alabama school of law and you gave a lesson about this very situation. tell me what you've learned from this. >> this is an important topic that i would put under the rubric of something called the school to prison pipeline. it's the way in many ways that schools have outsourced punishment for minor infractions in school disciplinary actions into the criminal justice
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system, into the juvenile justice system. here in rutherford county, we see an extreme level that, really, i think, ali, just boggles the mind in this case. this notion that a judge with marginal qualifications was able to disregard the law, disregard children's constitutional rights, and essentially run a one-woman disciplinary shop. school districts don't pay $11 million unless they realize something has gone badly wrong. it's important to me that my law students understand this, and the last thing i'll say is when you ask students why do you find higher crime in areas that are majority black or majority people of color, which was happening in these schools, students know the answer. they know the answer is because that's where people are looking for it. it's not that there is innately
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bad behavior or criminal behavior in these areas, we're looking for it and it follows these students throughout their lives. >> people watched the remarkable documentary "the 13th." you get a sense of this pipeline and why it's been profitable in the united states. we had a situation in pennsylvania a few years ago where a judge was sentencing children to long terms and it ended up they were getting pickbacks from private prisons. in this particular case, rutherford county profited from its juvenile detention center because it charged neighboring counties $175 a day to jail children. it may not be the whole problem, but there is a weird profit motive that comes into all of this that probably shouldn't be there when we're trying to determine criminal justice and how to deal with criminal matters. >> yeah, for-profit prisons skew all of the goals of the criminal justice system, what should be to make our communities safer, to deter criminal behavior, to
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rehabilitate people who stray strayed off the path. once you you have the criminal proof, the idea is to stray as far away as possible. then attorney general sally yates actually banned the use of for-profit prisons in the prison system. unfortunately, her orders were countermanded by attorney general jeff sessions once he took over. every time we see the use for for-profit prisons, there is a need to fill the beds rather than for the crime that arose. perhaps that drove this judge's decision that children should be arrested for things that weren't crimes even with police officers and school district officials questioning that move, because that's what happened in the propublica reporting. there were school officials and two police officers who didn't want to make the arrests. >> the middle tennessee state
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university says davenport is no longer affiliated with the university. she worked as an adjunct professor in 2020. they said we are concerned about the reports and we believe they should issue a full review. as you have discussed, this is a problem that's much larger. what is the fundamental solution to this? >> fundamentally the solution to this is it has to be addressed as the larger issues the country faces, but that's not an analysis of where we are because criminal justice reform has been elusive in this country. so in a sense this notion of asking a state judicial ethics organization to eyeball a situation like this and to impose discipline on a judge, that can speak very loudly. it puts other judges on notice, civil suits can be effective and even criminal prosecution where it's appropriate. it's not a stretch to believe
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that doj is taking a look at this situation. you know, they've run a very aggressive docket looking into those police departments and prison systems that are violating the rights of people in this country. doj civil rights division has asked for about a $25 million budget increase that would give them 60 more prosecutors next year to go over these practice cases. that would be the best solution here. >> we need to encourage that sort of solution. i appreciate all the time you put into this and the teaching you've done. joyce vance is a teacher at the university of alabama, and is a law professor that learns a lot about what they contend with. the director of the national institutes of health is set to leave his post by


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