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The Axe Files

David Axelrod Interviews Former Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV); Reid Weighs In On President Trump And The Impeachment Investigation. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 12, 2019 - 19:00   ET





ANNOUNCER: Tonight on THE AXE FILES, Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid weighs in on President Trump and the impeachment investigation.

FMR SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): All you have to do is have a basic understanding of what the law in America. He can't do what he did and go unpunished.

ANNOUNCER: His former Republican colleagues.

REID: He is a total fetch guy for the President. I'm so disappointed with what's happening.

ANNOUNCER: And the 2020 Democrats.

REID: You'll wait and see how it all turns out.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN HOST: So you think he's more pragmatic than--

REID: Oh, I know she's more pragmatic.

ANNOUNCER: Plus his biggest battles from the boxing ring to Congress to the fight for his life.

AXELROD: You said I wasn't the fastest and I wasn't the strongest but I knew how to take a punch.

REID: Yes, I that's for sure.

AXELROD: That's kind of the story of your life and this is part of it.



AXELROD: Senator Reid, good to see you again here in your home town in Las Vegas. Let me ask you when you watch the news from Washington these days, you find yourself saying, man, I'd love to be back there now?

REID: No, I believe in the Old Testament for that there's a time for sowing, time for harvesting, reaping. That was a time for me. I enjoyed every minute in Senate but that's not where I am now. It's - senate is not my senate. It's been really damaged significantly.

AXELROD: What do you think now as you're watching the story of the moment which is this Ukraine story unfold? Are you shocked? Are you surprised?

REID: No, there's nothing in this administration that surprises me anymore. The answer's no. It's not often in the history of United States that somebody self-impeaches, I mean he makes - on national television what he did was against American policy, against American law. You can't go to a foreign government and have them investigate your opponent.

AXELROD: His answer is yes, so I did it and I was just investigating corruption. He then came out and said China should do this as well. There's a brazenness to his response.

REID: Well, when you have not one whistleblower. Now there's two, maybe three who have alleged with their whistleblowing that crime has been committed and all you have to do is have a basic understanding of what the law in America. He can't do what he did go and go unpunished.

AXELROD: Do you think that he was withholding aid as leverage to pressure the Ukrainians?

REID: Of course, that's what he did. Evidence is very clear.

AXELROD: So you concur with Speaker Pelosi in beginning these impeachment proceedings?

REID: I think Nancy Pelosi, when I was a leader, she was the Speaker the first time. I never work I have worked with anyone who is as visionary as she is and she has absolute control of her caucus. She has set an example for everybody else.

AXELROD: President suggested this week that she's also guilty of treason. He called her Nervous Nancy but she hadn't looked nervous to me at all. Nancy Pelosi is a true patriot. I found her to be someone who really understands the issues. And somebody who is courageous enough to carry them forward.

She doesn't do anything on the fly. She is prepared and has her troops in order before she does anything.

AXELROD: The consensus opinion and Trump has amplified this is that if this were to go to your old body, to the United States Senate, that he - there's almost zero chance that he would be convicted because it would require 20 Republicans to concur. Is that your read as well?

REID: One of the things that I'm disappointed in about Washington is what the Senate has become. I'm also tremendously disappointed in what the Republican senators have not become. They have not become the more Catfields in the world, the John Chafees, the John Heinz who were Republican senators, who did what they thought was the right thing to do.

And we have these Republicans, they are afraid to speak out against things that he does. They're absolutely wrong and they know they're wrong. The only person we've gotten to say anything is Mitt Romney and Sasse said something about Nebraska. Other than that they don't say anything.

AXELROD: If there is an impeachment trial and the evidence is compelling, do you think that there will be some Republicans who will vote for conviction? [19:05:00]

REID: Well, of course, that depends on what evidence is put forward. It's not that simple. You know I served as a juror on the impeachment of Bill Clinton. It was a formal proceeding. A lot depends on how well the managers do through presenting that case in the Senate.

So yes, I think a decent case can be presented to the Senate. But unless something changes dramatically, the Republicans are afraid that Trump will question them in the primary and they're more afraid of being re-elected than doing the right thing for the country.

AXELROD: Lindsey Graham was someone you worked closely with across the aisle and you've said nice things about him in the past. He's become a very staunch supporter of the President.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I just told you. I have zero problems with his phone call. To impeach any President over a phone call like this would be insane.


REID: It's amazing what happened to him when John McCain died. He suddenly was no longer a John McCain Republican. He became a South- Carolina-I-want-to-get-re-elected Republican and he is a total fetch- guy for the President. It is so - I had such admiration for him. I'm so disappointed with what has happened to him. His whole personality has changed since John passed.

AXELROD: Setting apart the substance of these matters, you have to acknowledge he has - I always call kind of a feral genius but he's got an instinct for politics. His strategy here is to say, I'm not corrupt, they're corrupt, they're the ones who are guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.

They're the ones who were treasonous and it's too muddy the waters, it's a cynical strategy but might have been an effective one.

REID: I used to think that Donald Trump was not too smart. I certainly don't believe that anymore. I don't think he's intellectually a powerhouse but he is basically a very, very smart man. He - no matter what the subject, any argument he involves himself in,

it's on his terms. You're always arguing against him. He never-never is going to debate an issue on terms that aren't his.

AXELROD: So how do you deal with that? If you're a candidate for example running against him, how would you advise they deal with that?

REID: Well, what I say initially I see it right here on your show. Anyone that thinks Trump's going to be beaten easily should have another thing coming. He is a man who has a start, a 40 percent people out there who'll vote for him no matter what he does. As Donald Trump said I could shoot somebody in Times Square, they would still support me.


REID: That's sad but probably true. So I, number one, I repeat he is not going to be beaten easily. It's going to take a campaign of wisdom and patience but he is beatable for sure.

AXELROD: You - you mentioned the Bill Clinton impeachment trial in1998. There is this theory that is somewhat myth and somewhat reality that Republicans paid a price for that in the fall of 1998 and that they lost seats in an election they should have gained seats. Are there risks here for Democrats?

REID: David, I've heard that argument and I don't agree with him, here's why. The reason that Bill Clinton didn't get hurt in the impeachment is because it was on such a weak ground. It was - he had a sexual relationship supposedly with a girl in the White House.

AXELROD: But it wasn't supposedly. He acknowledged it.

REID: Yes.

AXELROD: Eventually.

REID: Yes but I mean it wasn't as if he was bringing her to the Lincoln room. It was an issue dealing with impeachment that people thought was not strong enough to bring an impeachment proceeding. With what is alleged against Trump, it's clearly a crime, what is going - what he's done.

And I think there's a tremendous difference between the little episode with Monica Lewinsky and this.

AXELROD: This whole thing was at its core an attempt to weaken Joe Biden as a candidate who's leading in the polls right now and he has thrust front and center these questions about Hunter Biden.

This notion of corruption's been debunked by a lot of the media but there are these questions as to why Hunter Biden was even involved in Ukraine. Is this going to be a problem for Biden in the long term, this repetitive meme out there?

REID: Joe Biden has a lot of strong suit. One of the things that Joe Biden is admired for is his life story. He's had a lot of - lot of difficult times in his life. And I think for now someone to pick on his remaining son that he basically helped raise after his - after the boy's mother was killed, I just think they're gone too far.


I don't think that anyone's going to accept the fact that Joe Biden's son has some kind of - some person is going to drive down Joe Biden, I don't think so.

AXELROD: But you - you would agree that it probably wasn't that prudent for Hunter to be accepting a large fees from the Ukrainian oligarch while his father was Vice President?

REID: I think that it's not something that is going to help Joe.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up.

REID: I can remember the first time I ever heard his name. He said, his name was Barack Obama. I said what are you talking about? Barack Obama? What kind of a name is that?




AXELROD: So I want to talk to about this 2020 race. Where do you think the race is right now?

REID: Well, it's so Joe Biden's race to lose. We all know where Elizabeth Warren's coming on. She's doing well. She's taking tens of thousands of selfie pictures with people every time she gets a chance so she's doing very well.

AXELROD: You said she's doing well here in Nevada.

REID: She's doing very well here in Nevada.

AXELROD: I recall getting a call from Senator Barack Obama in the spring of 2006 and he came back from a meeting with you. He said he encouraged me to run for President.

REID: I can remember the first time I ever heard his name. I was in the House gym. I was a retired member. I was in the Senate but I was like in the House gym for many years and Abner Mikva who had been Chief of Staff to Clinton and a judge. He's from Chicago.

AXELROD: Both Congressmen from--

REID: And he said I've got the greatest person - going to run for the U.S. Senate. And I said who could that be. He said his name was Barack Obama. I said what are you talking about, Barack Obama? What kind of a name is that?

That's exactly what I said to him. I say this about Barack Obama but understand his response to me was not done in a form of being a braggart, being conceded. He had given a speech on the Senate floor and went into a quorum call. I walked over and looked down on him.

He was sitting in his desk and I was standing. I said Senator, that was really a good speech. He looked up to me so seriously, said yes, I have a gift. Now I know that sounds who the hell does he think he is but think about that. This man had the gift of communication. He has that.

Before he came to the senate, he wrote a couple of books on subject who cares. He wrote a book about his growing up how he had a dad in Kenya.

AXELROD: Yes, Dreams from my Father.

REID: And they were best sellers and he didn't have somebody write the book. He wrote it.


REID: So I had a sense the Barack Obama - it was a time for someone as articulate as he, someone who could really command an audience. I just felt it was a time for Barack Obama and I was--

AXELROD: He also had opposed the Iraq war which was an asset. You've also had - you had something to do with Elizabeth Warren being where Elizabeth Warren is right now. You recruited her to head up the oversight panel on the bank bailout. You recruited her for the Senate race.

REID: I had read some stuff basically a couple reviews of her book and I was fascinated about that.

AXELROD: The two-income trap about the middle class.

REID: So I called her and she said she was doing a party for some of her students at her home. I called her and I don't have a very loud voice and she couldn't hear me very well. She said, who's this? I said, Harry Reid, I'm Majority Leader of the Senate. Oh, she said. I said, I want you to come visit me in Washington.

So she came down, brought her daughter with her. I told her I want to put her on my debt commission. I said I think you could do a good job so she didn't want to think about it and said - she said, I'll take it.

And she was immediately confirmed as the Chair of that board and did such a good job. She was good. So good that we get the Dodd Frank Wall Street reform bill and she came up with the idea to have a Consumer Affairs department.

AXELROD: Right. REID: And we thought that would be a good spot for the President,

thought it would be a good place. President Obama wanted to put her there.

AXELROD: Then he did to set the thing up.

REID: Yes but we couldn't get her the job because the Republicans opposed her and frankly, a couple of my Democrats opposed her.

AXELROD: Why did they oppose her?

REID: Well, she damn sure knew more than they knew and they were afraid of her. She knew Wall Street and Wall Street, they were up in arms that she would run our country. I think that she proved - what they should have done is they should have given her the job because they didn't give her the job, we had a run for the senate.

AXELROD: Yes, she said she'd still be there if they had given her the job.

REID: Yes, but they didn't do that. I think she's overcome a lot of the concern that people had about her. She was in the Senate. I put her on the banking committee. Some people say you shouldn't do that. She's a flame thrower. She never surprised anybody, never surprised the ranking member or the chairman of the banking committee. She's a team player and I think that--

AXELROD: You put her in leadership as well.

REID: Sure did. As Linden Johnson said he'd rather have them on the inside of the tent because it's better to have them pissing out than pissing in.

AXELROD: And there was a concern as well that's expressed by some establishment Democrats that she is too far left.

REID: I think that let's just wait. For example Medicare for all. They ask me how do you feel about that? I said I think what we need to first is let's make sure Obamacare is strengthened again.


Republicans have done everything they can to hurt it. Let's strengthen it. We almost got the public option the first time. Had as good as Medicare for all anyway and so--

AXELROD: That's not what she's saying though.

REID: Well, but I think you should give her some time. I think that she's not in love with that. I think she - you'll wait and see how that all turns out.

AXELROD: So you think she's more pragmatic than--

REID: Oh, I know she's pragmatic, just wait.

AXELROD: Do you think the party itself - there's this lament that the party is drifting left?

REID: David, you and I have been involved in democratic politics for a long time.


REID: I think that what's going on now is no different than what's happened in the years past. Primary they're always pulled over left, that's what the parties do to candidates.

AXELROD: In the general election you--

REID: Oh, they move quickly, that's what history is all about.

AXELROD: So when you decided to retire from the Senate, you said I want to go out on top - on the top of my game. I don't want to be a 42 year old trying to become a designated hitter which I loved as a baseball fan. I love the reference. I know you're a baseball fan as well.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are older now than you were then. And as we speak Senator Sanders is recovering from a heart attack and we obviously wish him a speedy recovery but here's, let me ask an indelicate question. Knowing what you know about that job, are they too old to be running for President?

REID: Healthcare, medicine is so much different than it was five years ago, certainly 15 years ago. And I'm not really concerned about age. It's - you know you take President Carter's now 95 years old.


REID: Still very active. I'm not really sold on certain age means you're not qualified for the job. I think that the race is Joe Biden's to lose.



REID: I'm the only Senator in the history of world that learned to swim in a whorehouse swimming pool.





AXELROD: Here we are in this remarkable city of Las Vegas, your city by the De Blasio hotel where the great water show goes on from time to time in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower but this isn't where your story began. A lot of politicians talk about their hard Scrabble story. Yours is

something of a completely different order. Talk about growing up in Searchlight, Nevada.

REID: David, I never felt poor or o felt that - I felt I had pretty good life. It wasn't until my dear brother died and he's quite a bit older than I and his little daughter, my niece sent me some pictures. She had gone through some of his belongings and sent me pictures of me in Searchlight. I couldn't believe that that's how I was raised.

I couldn't believe it. I mean the house was just made out of railroad tiles that had been picked up from the railroad.

AXELROD: No running water.

REID: And no inside toilet of course and I didn't realize till I saw this picture. Damn, that was - I didn't remember that was that bad.

AXELROD: Yes, it was a mining town that got hard on its luck.

REID: Well, the number one industry when I was a boy there was prostitution. At one time there was 13 brothels in Searchlight area. 13.

AXELROD: And how many people in the whole town?

REID: 200. Because it was during the time when they had military basis in Southern Nevada and on Payday that place would be like Grand Central station.

AXELROD: Did you know as a kid what was going on?

REID: Well, yes I did but I thought not much different there than anyplace else. I'm the only senator in the history of the world that learned to swim in a whorehouse swimming pool.

AXELROD: They had a law that said you couldn't have a brothel close to a school. I read that they moved the school in order to accommodate the brothel.

REID: That's very true. That's in my book. It's true.

AXELROD: They also only had school up to eighth grade.

REID: Right. No kindergarten.

AXELROD: You had to hitch hike - no kindergarten but you had to hitch hike--

REID: Well I--

AXELROD: 45 miles to go to high school.

REID: Yes, of course I didn't do it every day but I did do it.

AXELROD: As a young kid you came here to Henderson right outside of Las Vegas where you--

REID: 46 miles away.

AXELROD: And some things happen there that were life changing. One is you met your wife, Landra.

REID: Yes.

AXELROD: Tell me about that.

REID: Well, you know I came over from Searchlight dressed different than the other kids. Here wasn't the same. But people were pretty nice to me and I've had a lot of elections but the most important election my life, I was a junior in high school and I was elected junior class treasurer.

I know that sounds like nothing to everybody else but to me I had finally been accepted. That was to me most important election in my life.

AXELROD: Before we leave Searchlight, I need to talk to you about your dad in particular. He was a miner, he was a brawler, he was a drinker. You wrote that you had to intervene at times to protect your mother from your dad.

It sounded like a very, very difficult environment for a kid.

REID: Well, my dad was a big tough guy, drank way too much. There were times when it became necessary for my brother and I to intervene. Now one on one we couldn't have taken our dad but both of us could.


So we didn't hit him but we took him down and he was so mad but he couldn't handle two of us.

AXELROD: Because you didn't want him to lay hands on your mom?

REID: That's right. He was doing that's why we did it in the first place. So he meant well. My dad was never physically abusive to me. But I can remember one of the best days of my life turned out to be one of the worst. I had the opportunity so Caesars palace here in Las Vegas.

I had the good fortune of being able to come and spend two hours with Muhammad Ali. He was in his trunks, had a bathrobe on and was getting ready to go spar.

AXELROD: And you were a boxer.

REID: Oh yes and I had such a good time with him and he was so personable, so nice. So I left there and went back to my office as I walked in, Johnny Shea was the receptionist of my law office. She said your mom's on the phone. I picked the phone up and she said, your pop shot himself.

And so he was dead at that time so I had to go out and he was on the bed there, blood all over.

AXELROD: He was still there when you got there?

REID: Yes so I remember that. Now suicide was something that happens to other people. And that's the way it is with people who have a loved one that commits suicide, never do you expect it.


REID: And but I learned a lot about suicide but it took me quite a while to acknowledge that my dad killed himself.


REID: And it wasn't till we had a hearing. We were doing hearing on senior depression and during that hearing Mike Wallace testified, the famous journalist. He said you know I wanted to die for years.

AXELROD: Suffered from depression.

REID: And he said now I talk to somebody once a while, I take some medication. I want to live. First time I acknowledged that my dad had committed suicide and that hearing was so important.

We have done so little to understand suicide.

AXELROD: Well, my father committed suicide as well, Senator and I was 19 years old when it happened. I didn't talk about it for 30 years.

REID: I know this, yes.

AXELROD: And it was a terrible mistake because--

REID: I know.

AXELROD: - there's a stigma associated with it that is terribly unfair and wrong. It's not a defect of character. It's mental illness and it has to be treated like any other illness.

REID: And as we look back, if we had known what we were doing, we could have seen this coming.


REID: Because he was a terribly withdrawn, introvert his whole life and he had been sick and killed himself.

AXELROD: You went to law school.

REID: Yes.

AXELROD: In the east after graduating from Utah state.

REID: That's right.

AXELROD: And you had what? In retrospect it's like an incredible - incredibly ironic job to put yourself through law school.

REID: As a policeman.

AXELROD: You were a policeman, where?

REID: Capital police.

AXELROD: So your job was to protect members of Congress?

REID: Yes.

AXELROD: You came back to Nevada and you were practicing law and you pretty quickly got involved in in politics. First on a hospital governance board, then the state legislature and by the time you were 30, you were lieutenant governor of Nevada.

REID: That was a race and so we're getting ready for re-election and one of them says to me, why don't you run for lieutenant governor? I said, lieutenant governor? Never thought of that before. And before I left there, they had typed out a press release that I was running for lieutenant governor.

So I went home. I said Landra, I'm running for lieutenant governor. That was it.

AXELROD: Yes. Did she think that was a good idea?

REID: She didn't pay attention to me.

AXELROD: And then 4 years later, you're 34 years old, you run for the United States Senate. In a year that was a historically good democratic year in the midst of Watergate and you lost.

REID: By 524 votes.

AXELROD: And then one year later, you lost a race for Mayor of Las Vegas so you're a preening peacock at 30. You're on your way--

REID: And a two time loser.

AXELROD: And by the time you're 35, you're a two time loser. Did you ever - did you think that was the end of your political career?

REID: I thought about it but one reason I work so hard to make sure it wasn't the case so I didn't want those bastards to think they had buried me very early so I just kept plugging along and looked for my opportunities and my friend Michael Callan was governor.

AXELROD: Who was a mentor of yours. He was your history teacher, your boxing coach.

REID: He was the only mentor I really ever had and he appointed me to the state gaming commission and I was Chairman of that.

[19:35:00] And that was a time, a very, very difficult time in the history of the state of Nevada. Organized crime came out of the woodwork. We always thought it was here but and it was here big time and I survived through that.

AXELROD: Yes, you survive through it. You're being modest. Your friend, the governor appointed you head of the gambling commission and you almost - you almost got killed doing it.

REID: Oh yes, they put a bomb on our car.

AXELROD: And then as you pointed out, it was actually your wife who saw some suspicious wires coming out of your car.

REID: Yes, the car wasn't running very well and she's a not much mechanic and that's an understatement. And she lifted up the hood and she did she these wires down there so she stopped and the fire truck came, fire engines and police came and I can still see my little boy.

He was 5 years old at the time, looking out the window and saying all the police and everything and I'm sure that had a - I know it had an impact on his life.

AXELROD: And so that must've made - when you finally got elected to Congress, what 1982?

REID: Yes.

AXELROD: There was a new district from Las Vegas area. It must have - everything most have seemed like child's play after dealing with the mob.

REID: Oh, I loved that job so much, I kept thinking. Am I going to have to pay somebody. I should be paying somebody. They're paying me to do this. It was just so wonderful.



REID: I think Comey elected Trump. He was afraid to take a stand for fear he would be seen as a partisan and you end up hurting everybody.





AXELROD: In the process of your autobiography you wrote about and I'm quoting now, "presidency that has tested our values, usurped our rights as Americans and ushered in era of crippling partition rancor, during which the President's opponents were branded as insufficiently patriotic." And you called the President, a liar. These were not comments about the incumbent President. These were

comments that you made in 2008 about George W. Bush.

REID: President Bush is coming to Nevada today and I've written him a letter but I, in this letter said to him, you know I was a leader, you were President and we knocked heads. I look back with such nostalgia to those days because I lament the fact that you're not there now.

And that's really how I feel about it.

AXELROD: He's going to probably check the authenticity of the letter you know.

REID: No, I don't think he will. I think he knows. He knows that a lot of what we did was partisan bickering I had a job to do and I did the best I could.

AXELROD: But it does speak to the fact that this moment is been building up for some time. Trump didn't create this moment, he's exploited it perhaps, he's exacerbated it.

REID: I've said this, people think Trump created the Republican Congress. That's not true. The Republican Congress created Trump. Look at the Senate today. They don't do anything there, the new judges, they do nothing. You can't vote on an amendment and that's why I wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times saying the filibusters gone.

Might as well accept it. It's not a question if it's going to be gone, it's when and it's gone. The Senate as we've known it, is gone. The Senate is going to become, another House of Representatives, it's not the end of the world. You know, instead of having 60 vote threshold, it will be a 50 vote threshold.

That's a democracy. And it's a bi-camel legislature, the secured terms. It's just still going to be good but understand it's not going to be the way it was.

AXELROD: Talk to me about Mitch McConnell. He was your counterpart throughout your time as leader. He held up the Merrick Garland nomination for the better part of the year but said he wouldn't take it up. Did you guys sit down and talk about this privately?

REID: Mitch McConnell and I were together a lot in leadership. He was a whip - when I was a whip. He was Republican leader when I was a Democratic leader so I know Mitch McConnell very well and I'm not going to disparage him here today.

But I have been somewhat disappointed. I think what he did with the Supreme Court is something that will go down in history as a very dark time in the history of this country.

AXELROD: He's now said that he wouldn't do that if there were an opportunity to appoint another judge.

REID: Well, it doesn't say much then.


REID: That's not a positive thing for Mitch.

AXELROD: Back in 2016, you were briefed as were the other leaders on what Russia was up to in our election. You were more outspoken about it than anyone else. There was a time when the President wanted all 4 leaders, Republicans and Democrats to sign a joint statement about this and to issue a warning to Russia.

Why didn't that happen?

REID: Jay Johnson came to brief us with the FBI and others.

AXELROD: The Homeland Security Director?

REID: That's right, a very fine man. And he was there to tell us that the Russians were interfering in our elections and he thought every governor should reach out to him for help to make sure the elections are prepped.

And I wanted a letter written by me and McConnell and Mitch wouldn't sign letter.

AXELROD: And did he say why?


REID: Yes, he did. He said he thought the elections were not federal, government should stay out of it, should be a state function. And we got a letter but it was so weak. It was just - it was meaningless. The letter that we finally got out.

AXELROD: Do you think that he felt that it would disadvantage Trump if there was such a letter.

REID: I don't think it was Trump. I though he - I think he believes it would disadvantage the Republicans.

AXELROD: One thing that you and the President agree on is neither of you were that crazy about the way Jim Comey handle the election at the FBI.

REID: Well, I think - I think Comey elected Trump. I think that he's a Republican. He didn't want to seem that he was partisan. And he was so unfair so he's the cause of her not winning in my opinion.

AXELROD: Because the charge from the Trump side is that he was the one who started this investigation and it was partisanly - partisan motivated against Trump.

REID: Well, I think that he was afraid to take a stand for fear he would be seen as a partisan. And he end up hurting everybody. It was a really a bad move and every time I see him in his self-righteous manner, talking about people should do the right thing.

AXELROD: How much culpability do you feel for some of the partisan rancor. You mentioned earlier that you regretted some of the things that you said about President Bush but you did what you needed to do in the role that you were in. Are there other things--

REID: I don't really. I don't - I don't go back and lament what I did or didn't do. I did what I did. I don't go back and say, I could have been nicer, I could've been meaner, I could've done - I just did at the time what I thought was the right thing and that's one thing about me, David.

No one ever had to guess how I stood on an issue. I was always very, very candid about how I felt.

AXELROD: The vote that you said that you most regret it was the vote for to authorize the war in Iraq.

REID: The war in Iraq is the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of the country. Now I feel the biggest mistake I made legislatively was voting for that. But within week or 10 days at the most I realized I had been misled. General Powell, my friend, he misled me. I understand he didn't do it on purpose.

But there's no question that I realized quickly that was wrong and I became a tremendous opponent of the war. I think what that war did destabilized that part of the world and now it's already damaged Europe. We have no one knows how many Iraqis have been killed like hundreds of thousands.

Millions displaced. The whole Middle East is in a state of turmoil.

AXELROD: What do you think of the President's decision earlier in the week to pull out of northern Syria and leave the Kurds in a--

REID: I mean he did this in a tweet in the middle of the night sometime.

AXELROD: This is one where he's getting Republican opposition as well.

REID: Thank goodness. I'm happy to hear that and because that you know the Kurds have been our allies. The Kurds have been people we depend on. They're the only good fighters in Iraq and to pull a rug out from under them is just not right.

AXELROD: The Affordable Care Act, there are very few people who had as much to do with its passage as you. There were other issues that people wanted to take a cap in trade, on climate change which is something I know is a great interest of yours.

Immigration reform and you hear in retrospect well, they should have taken those things up in the first two years but I remember getting a call from you explaining why you couldn't and what the Senate calendar wouldn't do.

REID: But also I had to endure Barack Obama because this good man told me I would call I couldn't get the healthcare bill done and he would say it's more important my re-election. We've got to get it done so I felt tremendous pressure to get it done and having been raised the way that I was with no healthcare, my mother had no teeth.

We didn't go to doctors. Thought she had TB and when we went to the doctor, it was a false positive, I don't know how but I can imagine how she must have worried about it. I did as a little boy. So healthcare was something we had to get done and it was one of the landmark piece of legislation in the history of this country.

AXELROD: Were the votes there in those two years when you had a 59-60 Democratic senators, could you have passed comprehensive immigration reform out of the Senate?

REID: It was all we could do get the health care bill done. We could not have stuck in their immigration reform. We couldn't have stuck in cap and trade. We just couldn't do it.




AXELROD: You were diagnosed in the spring of 2018.

REID: Lost my hair.

AXELROD: Yes, you said when they find cancer in your pancreas, you're dead. We're here 17 months later and you're very much alive.



AXELROD: I remember being here in Las Vegas and at the end of the campaign in 2012, you asked to see President Obama. I think you wanted him to cut a radio ad for Mazie Hirono who was running for the Senate in Hawaii. We met behind the stage in the arena.


REID: I remember that.

AXELROD: And you know in typically efficient manner made the case for why you needed him to do it. He agreed to do it and then there was this moment of silence and you reached out and you gave him a hug.

And you know my sense is that you're not that frequent a hugger. That that's not your way and I was touched by that moment.

REID: He for me stood for everything that's good about America. I have been in government my whole life. I never came across anyone that changed the country and the world as much as he did.

AXELROD: You seem to have almost a filial relationship, you took like a filial pride in him and maybe part of it is that you helped - helped launch the whole endeavor. REID: Well, I don't hesitate to say on this show, I don't care who is

listening and this is something I don't pour on very often but I love Barack Obama. I really do, man to man, I love Barack Obama. No one else could do what he did. He did it alone. Of course he had help. From the time he was a boy in Hawaii raised by his grandmother. At the time he was a became known as intellectual genius at Harvard.

He's did it on his own.

AXELROD: You're someone who has your own extraordinary story. You like - you like people who have a history, who overcome thing.

REID: I love the stories of Barack Obama.

AXELROD: You're wearing a hat. You were diagnosed in the spring of 2008.

REID: Lost my hair.


REID: With cancer.

AXELROD: And you said when they find cancer in your pancreas, you're dead. We're here 17 months later and you're very much alive.

REID: Well, you know one of my friends wrote a very long column for the New York Times. In effect he said Reid's dead and I think I said at the time you know, my Mark Twain, rumors of my death are exaggerated. But you know in the last 3 or 4 years, they've come up with tremendous medical advances that I have the good fortune of being part of now.

And you know my cancer is not in remission but you know I'm still doing OK and a future doesn't look so bad right now.

AXELROD: I remember story you told President Obama when he first took office. You said you were a boxer as a young man and you said, I wasn't the fastest and I wasn't the strongest. But I knew how to take a punch.

REID: Yes, that's for sure.

AXELROD: But that's kind of the story of your life and this is part of it.

REID: Part of it David was my nose, I had a great nose for fighting. There's very little bone in my nose so I have been hit in the face so many times. I have never ever had a bloody nose.

AXELROD: But you've been knocked out in other ways in life.

REID: Yes.

AXELROD: And losing elections and a range of other things so that may have something to do with the fact that you're sitting here with me today after that diagnosis.

REID: You know, last time I ran, I said if the bastards left me alone, I probably wouldn't have run again. But they thought I couldn't win. So I ran. I beat them.

AXELROD: When - how do you hope you'll be remembered?

REID: David I have 5 children and I have 19 grandchildren. I want those children and grandchildren to understand what a love affair I've had with my little wife. She is the most wonderful human being, I'm sure there have been marriages happy as ours but not happier.

I'm still in love with my wife after having been married 60 years as I was when we were teenagers when we met.

AXELROD: More important than any of your public accomplishments.

REID: Oh yes. That's all that's I want is people to remember that he had a great marriage and that was a good example for others I hope that and I hope that's the case because I've had love affair with this little woman for a long, long time.

AXELROD: You know one of the things that was your signature, you would finish the conversation and you would be gone but you never--

REID: President Obama used to always tell jokes about that. But here's the way it is. I'm not much for small talk. The conversation is over, we've done our business. There's no need to talk anymore so I would just -