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THE VAN JONES SHOW
Chrissy Houlahan, Mary Gay Scanlon Talk About Midterm Elections; Parkland Shooting Survivors Talk About Thousand Oaks Shooting; Federal Justice Reform Bill; Jared Kushner's Advice to Saudi Crown Prince About the Murder of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Peace in the Middle East; Jared Kushner Talks About Working in White House With Family. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired November 10, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAN JONES, HOST, THE VAN JONES SHOW: Good evening. I'm Van Jones. Welcome to VAN JONES SHOW. It has been a non-stop week, another one - another deadly mass shooting. That is two in two weeks. We had an insane clown car of a presidential press conference, after which Trump just up and fired Jeff Sessions.
Now, that's a decision that could derail Bob Mueller's Russia investigation, which could lead to a full-blown constitutional crisis. And by the way, we had a major midterm election with the vote still being counted in some of the big races, and all of this happened literally just in the past few days. So I'm still trying to make sense of all this stuff.
But here's where I am. I see new reasons for real concern about our country and new reasons for hope. Now, on the concern side, Trump is acting less and less like a traditional U. S. President or any leader in a Western democracy. Instead, he's acting more and more like an authoritarian strongman.
Now here's my evidence. First, he's trying to use his influence to sway our free and our fair elections by calling regular ongoing ballot counting in Florida a disgrace. A disgrace - why? Look, it seems like he's upset that a full vote count might derail his handpicked leaders down there at the province level like Brian Kemp in Georgia or DeSantis in Florida.
And before that Trump was going all over the country barnstorming, using lies and fear-mongering to whip up his supporters into a frenzy. That sounds more like Hugo Chavez than Ronald Reagan.
Now next step for authoritarians, you got to crush or coopt any center of power that's not under your control, and Trump is following that plan too. He's attacking the media. Punishing and putting down reporters just for asking tough questions.
He's trying to capture and curb the National Police for us as the FBI, Department of Justice, by putting them under his control, putting a stronger loyalist there. He's packing the courts. He's threatening a war against a co-equal branch of government Congress which will soon be controlled by the opposition party. If they dare to fulfill their constitutional duty as a check on the President, it's a war footing.
This sounds like Putin's playbook - right out of Putin's playbook. Now these are the foundations of our democracy, and instead of protecting them, the President is consistently undermining them. And unfortunately, Trumpism is real and it's working. The Republicans actually made some gains in the Senate and the ones that won are more like Trump. The moderates will end up getting booted out, so that's the negative part.
But on the hope side, folks, the opposition is real too. Now to stay with this metaphor we've got a beautiful, determined, pro-democracy movement inside the United States and it just proved that it can elect courageous champions in every corner of our country. You remember the women's March, all those people were marching almost two years ago.
This week tens of millions of Americans marched into polling booths and ended one-party rule in Washington D. C. That is the first step toward hopefully restoring some balance and some sanity to our country.
And I also think that in the end this blue wave was actually bigger and bluer than actually it looked at look like at first. Republican gerrymandering actually ensured that Democrats got fewer seats than they would have gotten if the districts were drawn fairly. But when you look at the numbers, on a percentage basis of the popular vote, this win was actually bigger than the Tea Party wave in 2010.
Also, our voters passed positive ballot measures, Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana, criminal justice reform even in Red states. And perhaps most exciting, this week's Rainbow Wave elected more than 100 women of every color and creed to the U. S. Congress, so we're going to meet a couple of them right now.
Please welcome to The Van Jones Show my reason for hope, newly elected Congress people and leaders in America's pro-democracy movement, from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Chrissy Houlahan and Mary Gay Scanlon.
Welcome. Congratulations. No women from Pennsylvania before you. Now there are four women in Congress and you're two of them.
[00:05:00] First of all, you are going to be some of the people in our government now who might be able to do something about this situation. What are you most concerned about as you get ready to get sworn in and to become Congress people?
CHRISSY HOULAHAN, (D) PENNSYLVANIA, CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: So I am concerned about our nation and that's largely why I decided to run for Congress. And in terms of my background, I'm an engineer. I'm a veteran. I'm a successful businesswoman. I've been an educator and I really thought that our government was supposed to be doing its part to advance those things that mattered to me and to all of us, and I was so alarmed after the election of 2016 that clearly that wasn't going to happening.
And you alluded to the fact that over the course of the next 22 months it hasn't been happening. That it's disheartening. And you're absolutely right, it just feels as though every day is a dog year. It just feels exhausting and you're just waking up every day with a different reason to be motivated to run and to help make change. And so I'm worried about a lot of things.
But I'm hopeful that there is this Calvary of fresh legs that are coming through that are motivated to affect change into right the ship.
JONES: One of the things that is a tension, do you operate as a check and a balance on the President, try to stop him from doing crazy stuff? Or do you find ways to work with him to get stuff done? I mean, how do you how do you see this cut? It's almost like this impossible choice between stopping him on bad stuff and trying to get something good done. But what's more important to you?
MARY GAY SCANLON, (D) PENNSYLVANIA, CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: Well, I think the country and what we certainly heard from voters was that they think both. They think that Congress hasn't been doing its job of making policy, legislating, acting on behalf of voters, but also not working to act as a check and a balance on the President.
JONES: Now the President says you got a pick. He says if you want to work with me, we'll have a big beautiful bar partisan moment. But if you come against me, it's going to be a warlike posture. What do you say to a President who is saying you can only do half your job?
SCANLON: Read the Constitution.
JONES: That's beautiful. But my job--
JONES: But - I mean, even Mitch McConnell says, you folks - you're coming in. If you are too tough on this President, it could backfire on you guys. You're not in super blue districts. You're in purple districts.
HOULAHAN: I am.
JONES: Could it backfire on you if you stand up to the President?
HOULAHAN: So I think a lot of us are answering this call, never having expected to be doing this and never frankly needing to be doing this. We're doing this because it's the right thing to do for the nation right now.
I'm not going to serve because I'm looking to be wheeled off the floor of the House in 35, 40 years. I'm doing this because the nation is in peril. And I think that a lot of us are doing it for that reason. And so you can threaten me all you want. I'm going to represent the people of our community--
JONES: Well, speaking of people who've been there for a long time, Nancy Pelosi has been there for a long time. She's going to be asking for your vote to return her to be the Speaker of the House. She broke that glass ceiling once. You can help her break it again?
HOULAHAN: You go first, then I'll go.
SCANLON: Well, right now she's the only person running, so that makes it easy.
JONES: OK. She's good. Do you worry though that as great as she is and she's been a great leader that she's just too toxic? I mean, people keep saying she's too toxic. You need you need fresh faces. Does that move you? Does that sway you?
SCANLON: I mean, she's certainly been an amazing leader. We have the Affordable Care Act because of Nancy Pelosi. But she's also been very proactive. She's been to the region where I live in Philadelphia several times to help mentor younger women, helping them move into office. So as long as she's willing to help do that succession plan, I think that's great.
JONES: That's great. We were a little bit kind of sad. I was sad - I was sad on election night, because I wanted everybody to win every race, and so I was a little bit sad. And then looking at the numbers, should we have been happier given how many races we actually wound up winning?
HOULAHAN: I'm enormously happy. Many of us made it through that gauntlet and all of us who tried made a huge difference. And I think that that's something that I take away is that, no matter if we won or lost, we pushed the narrative and we pushed the country. And I'm very happy that we've at least taken the House back. That was a goal number one.
SCANLON: It would be very hard for me not to be happy, because I won two races on Tuesday. I won a special and a general.
SCANLON: So I'm going to D. C.
HOULAHAN: Monday probably.
SCANLON: Yes. I'm getting sworn in on Tuesday. And it's a seat that - I mean, in some ways the special election was sweeter, because it was a district that had been gerrymandered to be a Republican seat and we were able to take that back.
JONES: Look - that means you're be in Congress in like 20 minutes or something like that.
JONES: Well, that's - well, that's good. What advice would you have for other women? I mean, I think it's a totally different thing - even today the level of sexism, the double standards. But a lot of women, I think, that are great, but even hold themselves back a little bit in other professions. What did you find in yourself that let you make this step and what
would you say to other women who might want to make other kinds of steps?
SCANLON: I think it was important that at key points in my life I saw other women stepping up.
[00:10:00] When I graduated from college, I got to work for a woman who was running for Congress in New York State. I got to hear Shirley Chisholm speak. She'd only been elected a few years before. She was - she had just run for President.
So seeing other women take on those roles has been really helpful. And regardless of what the outcome of the election was, the number of young women who said that they felt like they could do this now, made it really, really gratifying.
HOULAHAN: I'll tell you the guy who was a doorknocker for me was driving with his three-year-old daughter this weekend, saw one of my signs - yard signs. And she said, Chrissy Houlahan. "Daddy is she a fairy or is she a scientist? "
I mean, isn't this a coolest thing. You know, you are making a difference. You could be a fairy and a scientist.
JONES: Exactly. And amazing new leader of our Congress and our democracy movement.
JONES: Thank you for being here. You're both special. You got special elections and you're special people. We appreciate you.
SCANLON: There we go.
JONES: I want to thank you both. Good luck in D. C. Now coming up, we got a - unfortunately, another week, another mass shooting in our country. That's two in two weeks, so I'm going to be checking in with survivors of the Parkland shooting for their reactions and hear how they're dealing with the results of the midterm election in Florida.
As we go to break, one big question this week, should Democrat's newly in-charge of the House, be a check on Trump or work with him on new legislation? Here's what some of you had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that holding the President accountable is more important than passing any legislation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've wasted too much time with the shenanigans from the White House. It's time to get down to business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JONES: Welcome back to The Van Jones Show. Well, so far 68 people, 68 human beings have been killed in mass shootings in 2018, including 12 at a California bar just this week.
[00:15:00] And that 68 number is just a fraction of the more than 12, 000 gun related deaths so far just this year.
And here's a problem, because of the power of the gun lobby, the United States doesn't even maintain an official count of firearm deaths. So we've got to rely on information from advocacy groups like the Gun Violence Archive to even know what's going on.
Doctors are now calling gun violence a public health crisis and they want more freedom to do research into firearm deaths, but the NRA doesn't like it. It's firing back on Twitter saying self-important anti-gun doctors should stay in their lane. I'm sorry, I think, bullet holes are very much in the lane of doctors.
Our next guests are leading the charge to stop mass shootings. They are both survivors of the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Please welcome Samantha Fuentes and Tyah-Amoy Roberts.
I am really, really honored to have you here. You guys are leading one of the most important movements in the country. But with two mass shootings in the past two weeks, given what you guys have survived and gone through, how does that make you feel when you see once again the country going through this?
TYAH-AMOY ROBERTS, PARKLAND SHOOTING SURVIVOR: You know, and I'm almost ashamed to say it, but at first I was completely numb.
ROBERTS: I was just like, well, look at that, and then I kept scrolling. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that that was so awful and convoluted to ever think that any act of violence was just something that you can keep scrolling past.
JONES: I mean, you guys have been through it. You actually were shot, had to survive. You had shrapnel in your face for a while. How do you feel watching this whole thing repeat itself?
SAMANTHA FUENTES, WOUNDED IN PARKLAND HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING: I definitely agree with you, in the sense that I do feel numb. And I feel that way maybe because it happens so often. And because it happens so often - people, they turn into statistics. Shootings become another number.
JONES: That's right.
FUENTES: But I think more than anything, I'm just devastated, because it's grown to be personal at this point for me. I walk every single day of my life now and until the day I die with not just memories of February 14thand losing some of my closest friends, but the physical evidence in my body and my journey is never going to be the same. And I know what that pain feels like, and I would never wish that upon anyone else.
JONES: One of the things is that, you all could just be under your bed, but you're not. I mean, you're out there you're raising your voice. You're trying to organize. What have you been learning about your generation and about the political process by being involved and by trying to get other people to get involved?
ROBERTS: I think something about our generation, specifically, that a lot of people saw is like a negative thing, but is now what's been pushing us, is that we don't really know how to take no for an answer.
Like somebody tells us no - so - but that's something big about activism in general across all generations.
JONES: What do you say?
FUENTES: Something I learned is this idea of like connectivity and this idea of being like connected with each other on like social media or on the Internet. I think that connectivity starts conversation and it gives people the education and the information they need in order to actually become activists themselves.
JONES: What do you say to people who say like at the Thousand Oaks shooting it was a handgun, it was an assault thing. There was a mental background check. People might say, well - none of what you're saying is got to make a difference anyway. What do you say to those people?
FUENTES: Well, I think those people are a part of the issue. That kind of denial and an ignorance towards the scenario is only just going to perpetuate more of it. It shouldn't matter what kind of gun or what kind of state of mind that person is or if he was weird or like he was bullied. It's the fact that the person had the ability to get his hands on a firearm in the first place.
JONES: Even they passed a mental background check?
FUENTES: Even if. There has to be - the thing is, it's like the mental background checks that we have like readily available are not efficient enough. There hasn't been enough research put in place.
And to actually be able to make sure that these evaluations are thorough enough, there hasn't been enough money put into research when it comes to gun violence prevention or any of that, in order to make sure that these things are going to be efficient enough to work for cases like when people buy a handgun.
JONES: You guys put some work in you and your peers into the midterm election. In Florida, we don't know who's going to win. But it looks like people who are more pro-gun may squeak it out in the Governor's race, in the Senate race. How does that make you feel? Do you feel like you wasted your time doing all this work and you didn't win?
ROBERTS: Not at all, definitely not.
[00:20:00] FUENTES: No. I think there's definitely win involved. The fact that people of my age, Millennials are going out to the polls and advocating for people to register to vote and just advocating in participating in politics is an accomplishment on its own.
JONES: What do you say to young people who might feel disappointed? How did you keep them inspired?
ROBERTS: You know what? I was disappointed too at first. And then I thought about it and I said to myself, how long has it been since we've been advocating for this cause?
JONES: A few months.
ROBERTS: Not long at all. It feels to us like forever.
ROBERTS: But it wasn't - it hasn't been long. Rome was not built in a day. And the country is not going to be changed in about nine months. So we still have a lot of work to do, but regardless of who gets an office we're going to hold them accountable.
JONES: That's awesome. I can't tell you how much we appreciate you. And you have put a completely different, I think, face and voice behind an issue that really touches everybody. We appreciate you. We love you. Keep going. We got your back.
Coming up, if there is any hope for bipartisanship right now one area may be prison reform, and I've been reaching across the aisle to work closely with White House Senior Advisor, Jared Kushner. He's got a very personal reason for taking up this issue. I want you to hear about that more in my exclusive interview with Jared Kushner when we get back.
[00:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JONES: Welcome back to The Van Jones Show. A bipartisan glimmer of hope this week, voters passed ballot measures for criminal justice reform in blue states and red states. Florida restored voting rights to 1. 4 million people convicted of felonies who've already served their time. Colorado banned forced prison labor without pay and Washington state passed a measure requiring mental health and de- escalation training for all of its police officers.
I love this stuff, because when I'm not on TV, I'm working hard with people on both sides of the aisle every day to fix our criminal justice system. And to the surprise of many one Republican leading the fight is president Trump's son-in-law and Senior Advisor, Jared Kushner.
Now remember, Jared's dad went to prison and the pain of that experience gives him a personal connection to the issue. So even though Jared and I disagree on a bunch of stuff, we joined forces this year to pass a federal justice reform bill and this month that bill could pass the Senate and become law.
So in that bipartisan spirit I invited Jared to join me at CNN's first CITIZEN conference. Now fair warning, I didn't ambush the guy and start going off on him. Fireworks are easy. I want to give you something more useful in the long-term, insight into how Jared's brain actually works.
So I hope the following conversation helps you better understand Jared Kushner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: I think that for your critics some that disquiet is like you - for politics you have a very small resume and you have this big, big portfolio. What do you say to people that say like, what qualifies you to go and take on these tough issues with like all around the world? Why should we have confidence in you to do all this stuff?
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I think the first thing is that the President trusts me. I think he knows that every task he's given me from the start of the campaign through, I've been able to do it quietly, I've been able to do it effectively, I've been able to deliver results.
I don't make a lot of noise. So the noise is sometimes made about me. But I try to keep my head down. And I think that he's a businessman and I'm a businessman, and the way I look at it is that it's all about accomplishing the objectives. You have to be very laser focused, not get distracted by it.
But I find that when I'm asked to take on something I - the first thing I'll do is I'll reach out to people who have experience doing it. I'll talk to a lot of people, I'll put together the different perspectives and then I'll come up with a plan of action to try and execute on. And to date we've been successful on lot of things that people thought we wouldn't be successful on.
JONES: Well, one of the reasons we want to have the conversation is because you do have an unorthodox approach. And I think a lot of people expect the megaphone approach, which is to broadcast your ideas, get a lot of people on board.
You have more the cell phone approach. You're not you're not broadcasting, you're kind of narrowcasting to particularly leaders. And I think it's important for people to understand how you approach this stuff.
But let's start where we started on prisons. Why are you working on prison reform and criminal justice?
KUSHNER: So when I came to Washington, obviously I had two primary things that I want to work on. The first one was helping the transition. I think that we had a first six months that maybe we're a little chaotic. A lot of people hadn't been in government before, and I do think the President made a lot of the right adjustments to get the right team on the floor.
And I think now he's got a fabulous team and I think that the next thing I really want to focus on was the U. S. -Mexico relationship. The President asked me to do the Middle East peace process, which is something that, I think, we've made a lot of progress on. I'm as optimistic as you can be about that.
And then there was one issue that was very close to my heart, because I had a personal experience, which was prison reform. Then what I did very quickly was I said, OK, let's look at this like I would at any other problem.
Because when I had my personal experience, I wished that there was somebody who was in my office in the White House who cared about this issue as much as I do and if they had been focused on it and making it difference, perhaps that would have made an impact on a lot of people who I came to meet and care about through my experience.
JONES: A lot of people don't know you had a family member who went to prison--
KUSHNER: Yes. And so I did a very similar approach like I've taken to all other problems whether it's in business or in politics, which is I usually have a three-phase approach.
The first phases is an assessment approach where you try to understand what the issue is and what's been tried and what can be done. The next phase is you develop a strategy. So we came up with strategy. And then the last phase is really vigorous execution.
What I found through the assessment phase was actually quite surprising to me which was that there really was a lot of bipartisan support for this issue.
[00:30:00] In the sense that, a lot of the conservative states have been leaders on this issue, saying that the prisons have become too full.
We're spending too much money on warehousing people. We should be figuring out how to improve people, so that when they get out, they can become productive citizens again. And they've been very successful in conservative states like Texas and--
KUSHNER: --and Georgia. And then and then the Democrats, obviously, liked this issue for a long time, so that was the first thing I found. I saw that you know 90 plus - 95 plus percent of the people who are in prison are going to get out eventually.
We have 650, 000 people who leave prison every year, not just in federal, in our whole country. Out of those 650, 000 people, 400, 000 will commit crimes in the future. That's just the statistic right now.
So if we have these people in our custody now, instead of warehousing, we should be figuring out how do we help them get the skills so that when they get out of prison they get a real second chance, and they become productive members of society as opposed to spending their time in prison, learning how to become better criminals. JONES: This is my heart and soul. As you know, I've worked on this
issue for 25 years, and I've always said, I'll work with anybody or against anybody to try to get something positive done. But I think there's just like an incredulity that people have.
It's like, Donald Trump cares about people in prison, because his rhetoric is so tough on so many different people. It's just so hard people to believe. I get that you care. Does the President actually care about this stuff?
KUSHNER: So when I finished my second phase, which was the strategy phase, I had one small problem, which is that I hadn't really spoken to the President about this yet. So that was after about a year of really research and bringing in a lot of people from different places, and coming up with what we thought was a good plan to really try to make progress.
If you're a business guy this doesn't really come up unless you have a personal experience. So we set up a meeting with the President, like with all policy processes and we went through the issue. First we went through the statistics. We started explaining kind of the problem.
How these people - they obviously have problems, that's why they commit crimes in the first place and then they leave prison with the Scarlet Letter of having a criminal record. Their skills have atrophied. Their connections with community have grown further apart. And they're not trained to become productive members. So what do you expect them to do?
Right? So most of them will commit crimes, and the President got that. And then somebody in the meeting said to him, when you campaign, you said that you're going to fight for the forgotten men and women of this country and there's nobody more forgotten or underrepresented than the people in prison.
And, look, I talked to President all the time. I know sometimes when I tell him something and he's listening, but he's not really wanting to listen to me. I know what he's listening to me and it penetrates. I could tell right then that that really hit him in his heart. And since, then he's actually spent a lot of time on the issue. He's pushed us to really see if we can be successful with the effort.
And I think that the President's tough. I mean, he could be tough on crime. He's tough on a lot of things. But he also has a lot of compassion that not a lot of people get to see as much as I do and this is an issue that's really I think hit his heart. And something that I've seen him want to make a difference on, because I think he sees it as a fairness issue.
JONES: The FIRST STEP Act, the bill you've been pushing, it got through the house 360 to 59. The bill would get - have a 100, 000 federal prisoners able to earn their way home earlier. It's stopped women from being abused. But it - nobody's been able to figure out how to do something, and you figure out how to do. You have Trump and Pelosi on the same bill. How did you do that? KUSHNER: So it starts with the fact that we had a very good
substantive bill. In business, I would always say, if you can't measure something, you can't manage it. And right now in the prisons, we don't know what we're striving to achieve.
So what this bill does is, it creates a risk assessment for each prisoner and then it gives some kind of prescription for them to earn their way down to become a lower-risk. So it means you have to do jobs, do job training, you get skills, mentorship, mental health, drug addiction, it deals with all the different things that allow them to have a higher probability of leading a productive life and not going backwards into prison. So--
JONES: You got a good bill.
KUSHNER: So it starts with substance. If you don't have substance then it's harder to get people to come together.
The next thing was, I had a lot of help - I had help from obviously, Hakeem Jeffries and Doug Collins. And there were a lot of Democrats who were saying to Congressman Jeffries, well, you're doing this. This is something that Trump says he's for. How could you be working with him? Well, this doesn't go far enough.
And he said, no, no, no, this policy is virtuous. This policy is right and he continuously would win the argument. We had somebody sent him a letter. I basically had all these pages saying why the bill was racist, why the bill did all these things. And I said, well, let's respond to this.
He said, no, no, I want to respond to it. He basically wrote back a seven-page letter, which I can summarize basically. You should read the bill before you actually criticize it, because he was able to win all the substantive arguments.
JONES: Everybody don't like this bill. It passed huge in the house, but there's still people on the right who say, are you letting out drug dealers in an opioid crisis - quick response to those critics?
[00:35:00] KUSHNER: So the way we were able to overcome that in the House is that, yes, people have the ability to earn marginal decrease in their sentences. But the operative word there is earned.
So if you have somebody in prison for 10 years, you can say, would you rather than go back after 10 years of no programming to the streets, or would you rather than leave after nine or nine and a half years, having spent those nine or nine and a half years earning that six months to a year off, by participating in all of these programs that will give them a much higher probability of becoming a productive citizen.
And I think that once you explain that to people, we find that everyone gets on board. And to the question you asked before about how we got it through. We also had a lot of help from people like yourself. Again, you were able to take the situation and put the politics of it
aside, and say if we're fighting for something that's right, I'll be out there vocally for it, and I think that gave a lot of courage to a lot of Democrats and a lot of the traditionally left-leaning organizations to come out in support of the bill when they were being pushed to be against it, because Trump was for it--
JONES: Speaking of those left-wing groups, some didn't like because of Trump. Some said this bill didn't go far enough and the bill should have had sentencing reform in it. So one thing to make the prisons better, send people home job-ready, but why don't we put fewer people in prison in the first place?
KUSHNER: For me, I think that if both sides got exactly what they want, then you'd end up with nothing, which is what's happened for the last ten years. And I think the process of Washington is bringing people together.
And everyone says Washington is broken. And the time I've spent on this bill actually shows me that our system of democracy is really an amazing system, because it shouldn't be easy to get lost past. You should have to fight, you should have to bring people together, you should have to win the arguments.
What I would tell these people is that, look, this bill will help 100, 000 people find a way to not become future criminals, to become productive members of society. These people have families. If these families can have these people back spending their time improving themselves, and back sooner, that's a win.
And sentencing reform, one of the senators who's very smart said to me that, the sentencing reform is basically impacting people who haven't committed crimes yet. Whereas the prison reform is helping people who are in prison today that if we don't help them, their probability of committing future crimes is much higher than it should be if we implement these programs.
So it's called the FIRST STEP Act. The goal is for it to be the first step towards hopefully broader reforms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: We got a lot more of my conversation with Jared Kushner coming up, including what advice did he give to the Saudi Crown Prince about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, plus his plans to tackle what it seems like Mission Impossible, peace in the Middle East, when we get back.
[00:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JONES: Welcome back to The Van Jones Show. It has been weeks and we still do not have a good enough explanation for the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Jared Kushner's close relationship with the Saudi Crown Prince has been under intense scrutiny ever since the incident went down. I asked him about the potential geopolitical consequences of all of
this and if he finds what the Saudis are talking about to be remotely credible, here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KUSHNER: I'd say that right now as an administration we're more in the fact-finding phase and that will determine which facts are credible. And then after that the President and the Secretary of State will make a determination as to what we deem to be credible and what actions we think we should take.
I'll also say that we have to be able to work with our allies, and Saudi Arabia has been, I think, a very strong ally in terms of pushing back against Iran's aggression, which is funding a lot of terror in the region. The Middle East is a rough place, it's been a rough place for a very long time and we have to be able to pursue our strategic objectives, but we also have to deal with, obviously, what seems to be a terrible situation.
JONES: Do you trust the Saudis to investigate themselves? I mean, it seems like MBS is like the prime suspect? He's also the prime investigator. I mean, do you trust the Saudis to sort this out?
KUSHNER: Yes. Like I said, I mean, we're getting facts in from multiple places and then once those facts come in, the Secretary of State will work with our national security team to help us determine what we want to believe and what we think is credible and what we think is not credible.
JONES: Even Trump said there's like deception and lies. I mean do you see anything that seems deceptive?
KUSHNER: I see things that are deceptive every day. I see them in Middle East, I see them in Washington. And so, again, I think that we have our eyes wide open. I think that - again, the President is focused on what's good America. What are our strategic interests?
KUSHNER: What kind of advice have you given MBS in this whole situation?
KUSHNER: Just to be transparent, to be fully transparent. The world is watching this. This is a very, very serious accusation and a very serious situation, and to make sure you're transparent and to this very seriously.
JONES: There's anything about this kind of just shaking your basic confidence in MBS as a partner? Like, I think, a lot of people were making a big bet on MBS. Here's a guy, he's a reformer. People on Wall Street, Davos, people are really betting on him. I think you made a bet on him. Anything happened out of this that makes you reassess that?
KUSHNER: Look, like I said, once we have all the facts then we'll make an assessment. But, again, I think that our administration's made a lot of gains in our fights against terrorism. We have to deal with the long-term ideology of extremism and Saudi Arabia is a critical partner in that.
I mean they're the custodian of the two holy sites, which is very significant in the religion of Islam and a lot of the reforms they've been making there to help us track down the terror financing, and then also to push back against people who are perverting the religion, have been very historic over the last year.
So we're hopeful we can keep pushing forward with a lot of the initiatives that further American interests in that push back against Iran's aggression, and so we're going to stay focused on that.
JONES: I guess, my - I think the core of it, like a people - the people who are like mad at Jared Kushner right now is, I think, people feel like we got this.
[00:45:00] This American prince, he's making friends with the Saudi prince. But the Saudi prince like killed a dissident, and it's your fault, because if you hadn't been friends with him, he wouldn't have felt like he can get away with it. How do you respond to those kind of critics?
KUSHNER: I'm not even sure where to start with that. Look, I don't respond to the critics. I think that my job is to every day focus on what are the objectives I have to accomplish. Things come up every day that can make that more challenging. But we have to work through it.
I mean - and you look at all the different you know projects I've worked on for the start. In prison reform, we've had you know setbacks, some were self-inflicted, some were not. In the Mexico deal, and the Canada deal, we had a lot of setbacks, somewhere self- inflicted, somewhere not.
But, again, there's a short period of time that you're serving in government and what we have to be doing is figuring out how do we leave our government much better off than we found it. And I come in every day trying to figure out how do we push forward to accomplish the objectives that will make the American people better off. And so, no, I don't really spend a lot of time worrying about the critics.
JONES: We did prisons, we did the Middle East - well, actually we did Saudi Arabia. How are we going to get peace in the Middle East, by the way?
KUSHNER: So this is - I think we've made a lot of progress and the President's done a very good job of not allowing the old ways of thinking to constrain his actions. So what we did when week got to Middle East, I did the same approach, which basically was to go out and talk to people and to understand kind of what had been thought of, what the what the situation is today.
I spoke to a lot of the people in the region. I spoke to the past negotiators. We've been fighting about the same thing for the last 25 years in the conflict. But we have - but not a lots has changed.
And so what we did is, we took an approach where we thought we would create a very in-depth document that goes through the issues and we thought something much more prescriptive. I've always found that with conflicts - when I was in business, when you're fighting over a concept, it's much easier to disagree than when you're fighting about specifics.
And I think that we're hopeful that on the same, we can at least isolate where the disagreements really are and then see if we can make progress. And I think that there's a bigger gap between the negotiators than there is between the people.
I think the people want to have a better life, they want to have better opportunity, and I think that what we're working on will allow both the Israelis to have the security they want and to allow the Palestinian people to have the opportunity they want, while respecting a lot of the bigger issues.
JONES: I don't think anybody can argue with those principles and those ideas. But other people have come up short and the - this is the one area with dealing with the Palestinians is it feels to me a little different in that you don't have that partner with the Palestinians. How are you going to get it done without the Palestinians with you?
KUSHNER: I think that - look, I've gotten to know Palestinian leadership. I've gotten to know a lot of Palestinian leaders who are not necessarily in the existing leadership. But our sense is that when we put our plan out, if there's reasonable leadership and if it's a reasonable plan, then they'll come to the table and try to fight for how to create the best opportunity, the best outcome for their people.
I think people are tired of the situation. I think this has gone on for too long. I think the status quo is not acceptable and I think that it's just getting worse and worse. And so at some point leaders have to be able to take the bold step and make the compromise and we're hopeful that that will find leadership that will be willing to do that.
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JONES: Coming up, I'm about to tell Jared the real reason I wanted to sit down with him and that's next.
[00:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JONES: Welcome back to Van Jones Show. Working in the White House is a family affair for Jared Kushner, so I asked him, what's that like? Take a look.
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JONES: What's it like working with Ivanka every day. I mean people talk about you guys is like super impressive power couple. I would - my observation, I would say, if you could take the power out of it, you guys are just are going to really extraordinary couple.
What's it like working though with your wife every day in that environment with little kids. How do you guys manage that? KUSHNER: Yes. So anyone with Ivanka would be a power couple. No, she's
really amazing. I mean, I - when we started dating, I told her that, if I wasn't so attracted there, she'd just be my best friend.
And, again, Ivanka is brilliant. I think we work - we were always involved in each other's business and knew what was going on. But working together has given me an even greater appreciation for just how effective she is with everything she does.
I mean, she puts her mind to accomplishing things and she's able to get them there. Everyone wants to work with her and she's a great team player. And it's obviously challenging enough having one parent working in the White House. Having two parents in the White House is a big strain, obviously for the family.
But she does a great job balancing it, and I don't know how she does it, because I wouldn't be able to do it. And the kids, they've been great about it too.
JONES: Are you having fun, because you hear about is the chaos and the destruction and y'all going to be just blown away by a meteor called Mueller. You have any fun?
KUSHNER: I wouldn't say fun. I mean, I have a lot of joy in my life and I feel very blessed to be there every day fighting for the things I'm fighting for. It's a lot of responsibility to do the jobs that we have.
But I'd say more - I'd say more invigorated by it. I think that it's obviously the challenge of a lifetime. And, again, like I said, every day we're in the arena, we're fighting forward. And I think when people look back, a lot of people get caught in the day-to-day and they look at maybe some of the more colorful personalities.
But one of the big blessings of this is, we work with so many incredible people and you have obviously - obviously you've got the waves and the action above, but then you have everything that's happening below the water where it's calm and everything's moving forward.
And I think that when this presidency is over, you'll look at the full body of work and you'll see that a lot of progress is made on a lot of fronts that don't get covered every day on CNN.
[00:55:00] But I think you'll see a lot of progress.
JONES: Well, listen, I want to appreciate you for being here. I thought it was important to have this conversation and I hope that people can see that, we don't always have to agree with each other on everything. We should fight hard where we disagree and we should work hard where we do agree. And I feel very, very proud to have a chance to work with you where we do agree, and I'm also going to work very hard to get you a new job in 2020.
KUSHNER: Thank you.
JONES: Jared Kushner.
KUSHNER: Thank you.
JONES: Thank you, buddy.
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JONES: And I want to thank all my guests. And I want to acknowledge something, my audience tonight is short. At least one important viewer, my mother, Loretta Kirkendoll Jones died last week after a long illness. I was there her side in the nursing home where she always watched this show. She always believed in me and my sister Angela. We're both going to miss her a great deal.
And if your parents are still with you give them a call, tell them you love them. Sure, wish I could call mine. I'm Van Jones. This is The Van Jones Show. Peace and love for one another, thank you.