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Trump Justice Department Under Fire; Reckoning With Racial Violence; Interview With Former Senior White House COVID Response Adviser Andy Slavitt. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 18, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: This is like COVID on steroids.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Is the Delta variant threatening the global recovery? I ask former White House adviser for coronavirus response Andy
DAWN PORTER, DIRECTOR, "RISE AGAIN": It wasn't a movie. It wasn't a chapter in a book. It happened to real people.
Director Dawn Porter on making America reckon with the racial violence lingering in its past.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): This was nothing less than a gross abuse of power, an assault on the separation of powers.
GOLD: Legal analyst Elie Honig makes sense of the avalanche of allegations against the Trump Justice Department.
we have generational systemic racism that is embedded in our education system.
Education justice advocates Bernita Bradley and Keri Rodrigues explain why more African-Americans are choosing to homeschool.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
The global death toll from the coronavirus has passed four million. That's according to a Reuters tally; 600,000 of those people died in the U.S.
The unimaginable scale of global deaths puts the last year-and-a-half into stark focus. But this also comes at a time when many people believe the
pandemic is in the rearview mirror. The White House says more than 175 million Americans have received their first dose of the vaccine, while the
European Union is lifting nonessential travel restrictions on 14 countries as the summer season begins.
But we're not past it yet. The slow rollout of vaccinations in the developing world could cause future variants. And the U.K. is a case study
of how damaging this can be. There, the Delta variant, originally identified in India, is causing a spike in cases despite mass vaccinations.
Joining me now on this is Andy Slavitt. In his new book, "Preventable," he digs into the failings of the initial U.S. response. Slavitt has served as
White House adviser for coronavirus response, and he oversaw Obamacare.
Andy, welcome to the program.
SLAVITT: Hi, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: So, let's begin there with Obamacare.
I have to get your reaction to the Supreme Court decision upholding the ACA in a 7-2 decision there.
SLAVITT: Well, over the last decade, the ACA has become kind of really integral part of the fabric of the health care system here in the U.S.
And, at the same time, there's always been the sword that's hung over its head, as President Trump used every means possible, including the courts,
including the legislature, including executive authority, to try to undermine it.
And I think yesterday saw the end of that. A 7-2 ruling which says you don't even have standing is as close to get this case out of my court as
you're going to hear from the Supreme Court. You do have to ask why people who don't have standing -- in other words, they're not even being harmed by
the law -- would want to work so hard to take health care away from so many people.
But that's probably a broader topic for us.
GOLODRYGA: So let me ask you one more question on this subject, because what does it mean going forward?
I mean, you talk in your book about the need for better public health policy. Does now the opportunity to expand health care for millions of
Americans address some of those concerns that you raised in the book?
SLAVITT: Well, one of the things that the book shows is that, the way our health care system worked, is, as people lost their jobs here in the U.S.,
as they were by the millions, they were also losing their health -- access to health care.
And so we had a situation -- and there was someone followed in the book who works at an Amazon warehouse who had this sort of triple threat of lost his
job, got COVID, couldn't get paid, and couldn't get a COVID test, because we didn't have enough.
So the situation for many Americans was sort of a system that was the opposite of resilient. It didn't help us in times of pain. It piled on top
of us in times of difficulty.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, a nightmare scenario that you just painted right there.
Speaking of a potential nightmare scenario, let's talk about this Delta variant first detected in India. The CDC director saying today that she
does anticipate that it's going to become the dominant variant here in the United States, the World Health Organization saying the same globally.
You have called this COVID on steroids. How concerned are you about this particular variant?
SLAVITT: So, I'm quite concerned for the globe.
The unvaccinated parts of the world, which, as you know, Bianna, we are many, have a more transmissible bug to deal with. And so it steps up the
urgency to vaccinate the globe. Same is true with the parts of the U.S. and the people in the U.S. that aren't yet vaccinated.
Their chances of walking into a room and getting COVID are probably about double than the original COVID of 2020. So, if it took you 10 minutes of
exposure before, it may take you five minutes now.
So, that's the kind of thing that's invisible to us and we should be wary of. And it's another reason why, if you're not vaccinated, you should
strongly consider talking to your doctor and getting vaccinated and protecting yourself, because, if you are vaccinated, here's the good news,
then this variant is very, very harmless.
In some parts of the country and parts of the world where people are vaccinated, this is not a real threat. And so it's -- it is, once again, a
haves and have-nots story.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, that is reassuring.
How about for children, however? We know that not all children are vaccinated now. They haven't been approved to receive their vaccines,
children 12 and younger. Are you concerned at all about how this could impact them going into the summer and then obviously in the fall, the start
a new school year?
SLAVITT: I think it's very low risk.
I mean, I would classify COVID-19 today as a manageable risk, a manageable challenge. We have lots of manageable challenges. And it is -- if it is
threatening to children, it is less threatening than so many other things in their lives, including drowning in a swimming pool, including other
types of things.
So, certainly, it's possible that someone under 12 who's not vaccinated could get COVID. But, remember, they won't be able to pass it to you, their
parents or their teachers, as an adult, if they have been vaccinated, unlikely to spread it to one another. And it's likely to be very mild.
So we obviously want to get children vaccinated as quickly as possible. But, until that time, I don't think we should give it undue concern.
GOLODRYGA: It doesn't look, however, that the president of the United States is going to reach the president's goal of 70 percent of the country
being vaccinated by July 4. We know that vaccine hesitancy is very high in this country, stubbornly high, especially given the amount of vaccine that
is available in the U.S.
It is sort of an embarrassment of riches compared to other countries, especially developing world countries. I was listening to an interview
earlier about sort of the U.S. dominance in the vaccine rollout relative to Europe.
And this expert said that that may be the case now, but, by the end of the year, barring one or two countries in Europe, that most of European
countries will have higher vaccination levels than the United States.
Do you agree with that? And how worried are you about this vaccine hesitancy here?
SLAVITT: Well, I think the question for the U.S. is going to be a regional one, because I think we're going to be very close to the president's goal
of 70 percent by July 4, and they're going to keep going. And I think it'll move beyond then.
I suspect, when the FDA approves -- gives formal approval for the drugs -- which, by the way, the miraculous development process, which was led by
three heroes, is outlined in "Preventable," which is in the book that we're talking about.
But, when we get through that, I think we're going to find is that there are pockets of the country that are 80 to 90 percent vaccinated and
therefore very safe, plus some of the natural immunity, and other parts of the country that are 30, 40 50 percent. And a lot of that is in the
And so I think that's where there's going to be exposure, and there's going to be risk. And I know that the president doesn't want a country of haves
and have-nots, wants to see this happen. So, it's going to just take tremendous focus on the parts of the country where we don't yet have high
enough vaccination levels.
And I think we need to -- I would advise people, to a certain extent, to take a little bit of a step back from how we think about vaccine hesitancy
and acknowledge that there are indeed people that are anti-vaccine, but the vast majority of people that haven't taken the COVID vaccine have taken
So the question is that they -- we should assume that they have questions, that they have concerns, that it's a more considered process for them than
it was, say, for me, who knew right away that I wanted to get vaccinated, and that they probably will eventually get vaccinated. But we have to help
them get their questions answered by their doctor or other people they trust, and not go on Facebook to get influence about whether to get
GOLODRYGA: Right, which is why perhaps it would be a better idea for many of those who have questions to be able to get vaccinated by their doctors,
who they do indeed trust.
Before we get to your book, I do want to ask you about the E.U. lifting that nonessential travel ban from U.S. travelers to Europe. Is now the time
to do that? And why has the U.S. not done the same? Should they do that now or should we continue to wait?
SLAVITT: Well, I think that we are moving towards a place where we should be -- and I'm going to say a word that people are going to have a hard time
stomaching -- but celebrate the success we have had, and the fact that we are able to get important parts of our life back.
Exactly when and what order we do things like lifting travel and go to concerts and so forth are going to be both governmental decisions, as well
as individual decisions that we're going to have to make.
But for many of us who, for more than a year, have seen COVID as this big existential threat, it's hard to picture that a lot of the things that we
were not doing are indeed safe again, and they are.
Now, in the fall, things could change, and we will need to pay attention. But, right now, I think people would regret not viewing this summer, when
we have very, very low exposure, as a time to get back to things in their life that they have missed so much.
GOLODRYGA: I love hearing that from you, Andy, because I have been following your work throughout this past year-and-a-half, if not longer.
And there were times where you were very, very concerned. You were not always sounding this optimistic. So it is reassuring to hear this coming
from you right now.
Let's talk about the book and what you have uncovered here, because you focus on the lack of leadership, right, the technical mistakes that were
made in the United States that were never expected to have been made in the most advanced and richest country in the world.
No doubt we would have been suffering many, many thousands of deaths regardless of who was in leadership here. But can you talk about that the
impact of all of those mistakes combined having on a country as advanced as the United States?
Well, let's posit some mistakes are forgivable, right? I mean, managing a pandemic is hard. And if someone gets something wrong, but they're -- but
they're well-meaning, and they're empathetic, and they fix them, we should be forgiving of those types of leaders, because this was a novel pandemic,
and tough choices to be made. Nobody's perfect.
But there were three, I think, what I would call deadly sins that I think we witnessed from the Trump administration. And, by the way, this isn't a
Democrat-Republican thing. I think a Mitt Romney or another type of Republican would have managed things very differently.
But what we witnessed were, I think, three things that really cost us, above and beyond just pure mismanagement. One was just Trump's ability to
deny, and his willingness to deny the virus and to try to contort reality to his version of events.
If he would have very simply said early on, when he knew in January, look, we have a problem, and we all need to be careful, it would have saved
hundreds of thousands of lives, that one thing alone, just simply not denying the problem and then downplaying it continuously.
The second is the quashing of dissent. When you have a scientific phenomenon strike your country, and you decide that you don't want people
to speak out who have expertise, It's very dangerous.
I will give you one example in the book is Alex Azar, who is not painted necessarily particularly sympathetically, at one point, wants to go on "FOX
& Friends" and say that things are going well, which they weren't, but that things could change rapidly, just that one phrase.
The White House took him off of "FOX & Friends" and banned him from media for 45 days. So, imagine this. We have a pandemic in this country and our
own Department of Health and Human Services isn't allowed to talk to the press or the public, because it was different from the president's
narrative, which is, this whole thing is overblown.
We saw that continuously throughout the process. So, those types of things were things that are just well above just normal kind of fog of war kind of
mistakes that one might make.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, I think it was exactly right around this time last year where Jared Kushner came out and said that we had overcome COVID, right,
that it had been defeated.
And just next month last year was when Mike Pence wrote the similar op-ed as well. It was just shocking to not be able to trust public officials in a
country like the United States of America. But that is where we were.
Looking forward, you have also sounded the alarm that we're not prepared, we're not in a place where we can be prepared, where we need to be, in
terms of the next pandemic. You list a number of issues as to why. Some of that is on us, as Americans, as citizens, to watch out for each other as a
But I'm curious to get your take on how much of that depends on finding the origins of this pandemic, and whether there was a lab leak, whether this
was naturally in nature from bat to animal to human.
How important is that, in your view, in terms of making sure something like that doesn't happen again.
Well, first, on Jared Kushner, one of the one of the reasons I wanted to write the book "Preventable" is because I had a first person kind of set of
interactions throughout the course of last year with Jared and with Debbie Birx and with Anthony Fauci.
And so there's an inside story to be told, which is told in kind of narrative form, virtually verbatim, all of those interactions, which is
As we think about preventing this from happening again, first of all, the question of the origin of the virus is unsettled. We don't know. There's
some circumstantial evidence which would cause you to paint a picture, which is, hey, was this aerosolized in a lab and did it leak? There's
another scenario which says, look, most viruses are zoonotical and they jump from bat to human, so this is more likely that case.
But neither -- in neither case, do we have the evidence, and we need China's cooperation. And we should be putting a lot of pressure on China.
But I think we should be saying to ourselves here in the U.S. is, regardless of the cause, cause doesn't matter, viruses are going to be with
us. And we have sort of led a charmed existence in the U.S. where we have not been as affected by them. And we tend to think in this -- in the U.S.
that we're somewhat above the world problems, being a wealthy nation, being an island nation.
But the truth is, we're not. And so the question is, we have to be prepared next time, and not just better technically prepared. Not only does the CDC
have to do a better job, but until the time there's such a vaccine, the only medicine we have is how we relate to one another. It's how we
communicate with one another. It's whether we protect one another.
And so there's some hard questions that the book raises to say, are these things we can get better next time? And I think those are things I
hopefully have a dialogue about.
GOLODRYGA: Well, look, a constant reminder of that forever in our history, unfortunately, will be the 600,000 American lives that were lost, because -
- in part because of what you describe in your book as just not being prepared. And we do need to look out for each other.
Andy, thank you so much for your time and for all of your work. This has been nonstop blood, sweat and tears for you. And we appreciate everything
you have done in your service for this country. Thank you.
SLAVITT: Thank you so much.
GOLODRYGA: Well, this week, in a rare bipartisan achievement, the U.S. named Juneteenth a national holiday, finally making June 19 an official
commemoration of the end of slavery.
On the eve of this holiday, we reflect on America's troubled past with race; 2021 marks 100 years since the Tulsa massacre, when a white mob
killed up to 300 black Americans and destroyed an area known as Black Wall Street.
But that violence spread far beyond just Tulsa. And director Dawn Porter is shining a light on that period in her new film, "Rise Again."
Here's some of the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The white folks are killing the colored.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barbaric violence was committed against black people across this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kerosene was dropped from an airplane.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did nobody ever teach us this? Because they didn't want you to know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Dawn Porter joins me now from New York.
Welcome to the program, Dawn.
First of all, I am such a fan, the whole production he was such a fan of your work and your past pieces as well. But let's talk about this one.
First of all, Juneteenth is now a federal holiday, a big step that had been years in the making and happened way too late for many people's opinions.
But it's here. And it's happening as more people are learning about events like the Tulsa massacre. I never learned about that. I don't remember
learning about that in school.
So, on the one hand, it does seem like we're making a lot of progress. On the same hand, we still have a lot of tension in this country, so much
division over racial issues, still seeing Americans, especially black American men and women, die at the hands of police.
Where does that put you in this moment right now? Are you optimistic that we're taking a step forward, or are you not?
PORTER: Oh, I'm absolutely optimistic that there is a push for good information.
I was struck by your excellent interview with your last guest about the importance of accurate information for the public. And that's true, not
only for our present-day medical circumstance, but it's also true for our history.
We need to understand what has happened in our past in order to prevent similar occurrences from happening in our future. But I am absolutely
encouraged. Naming Juneteenth as a holiday means that people will -- a few years ago, most people didn't know what that date signified.
We have -- we saw so many people marching and protesting and asking for a reckoning in our recent killings. And then, of course, we do have so many
commemorations of Tulsa, also something that I did not learn in school. I learned about the -- most of the details in the process of making this
So, I'm absolutely optimistic that Americans have kind of an insatiable need to understand what is true. And I think what this film in this
circumstance proves is the question -- the answers are there for the understanding. You just have to ask the questions.
GOLODRYGA: And, listen, as somebody from the Soviet Union, from a country where my parents were raised to not know about some of the atrocities that
happened there, I am shocked to hear about things that I didn't know about in this country alone, and not only Tulsa, but you talk about the Elaine
race massacre, which happened prior to that.
I had no idea what this was as well. Can you explain to our audience what happened there?
While I'm so I'm pleased that we are examining what happened in Tulsa and recognizing this devastating anniversary, it's really important to
understand that there were a series of massacres that occurred before 1921, that occurred before the Tulsa events.
And Elaine, Arkansas, is one of the most deadly massacres in American history and one of the those that is that is not very well-known. There
were black citizens who were organizing for better wages. They were attempting to unionize. And there was a pushback at that attempt at
And so we have a situation where local white mobs literally mowed down African-Americans who were forced to run and hide in fields. The military
was called out. And instead of -- the people who were hiding in the fields thought the military was coming to save them. And, instead, they were
coming to shoot them.
And so we see this story again and again in American history. And that was actually one of the biggest discoveries for me, is, when we talk about
atrocities against a particular race or gender, particular group, often, we talk about those activities as if -- we talk about the persecution of
blacks as if the blacks were only victims, and as if they were just downtrodden.
And here, in the story of the American massacres that occurred during the Red Summer and in Tulsa in 1921, the reasons, the origin for those
massacres is usually some sort of envy of black progress. And that is really also important to focus on, is that the real reasoning behind these
atrocities is envy at how well the black communities were doing in different cities across this country.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, they were prospering.
And just, obviously, for many people that had never heard of the Tulsa massacre as well, I mean, it was called Black Wall Street because that was
a prosperous area. And, as you say, it wasn't just an angry white mob. This mob consisted of law enforcement.
And you make a point of reminding viewers, though it's unfortunate that this needs to be done, that these were Americans attacking Americans, that
these were people permitted a badge, law enforcement officials, attacking their own country men.
PORTER: You know, there are so many heartbreaking aspects to this story.
One of the ones that has affected me really deeply, because my great- grandfather was a veteran of World War I, is, you had African-American men coming back from fighting for their country, fighting honorably for their
country, and then returning and seeking to get rights for themselves and for their families.
And you saw time and again that those soldiers returning were -- now needed to turn their attention to protect themselves and their families against
law enforcement in this country.
GOLODRYGA: The issue of reparations has been widely discussed, related in large part to slavery, in and of itself.
But now that there has been so much attention focused on the Tulsa Race Massacre, because there had been an argument, well, how do you quantify?
How do you define who it is that's entitled to get reparations? It's too far back.
Well, when you have these sort of massacres that are specific to a city, to an area, to a community, when you can put numbers to the amount of loss
that -- attributed to these families for decades to come, do you think that the issue of reparations has become something that more people are open to,
or, as you discuss in your book -- I mean, in this piece, in this documentary, that it's actually just as divisive?
I want to get your response after we play a clip from it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The city of Tulsa has never paid reparations for those that they killed.
This city and the law enforcement officer, the district attorney has never filed charges on those who committed acts of mass terror. Black lives have
never mattered in this city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So, the tensions are still there, Dawn.
One of the things that was so interesting, I worked with journalist DeNeen Brown of The Washington Post, and it was really important to me that this
film be based on facts that could be verified and confirmed.
And one of the things that we know from the situation in Tulsa is that black residents, 35 blocks of the historically black Greenwood section of
Tulsa, Oklahoma, were completely obliterated, including from the air with, kerosene firebombs dropped on the neighborhoods, and the entire area of
black Tulsa was burned to the ground.
In the wake of that violence, the black residents of Tulsa itemized their losses and submitted them to insurance. And one of the reasons that the
insurance companies denied those claims is by calling it a riot.
But we have documented proof that each of the families has in trying to secure some sort of compensation in order to rebuild. So, not only were
their losses documented, but we know that up to 6,000 black Tulsans were interned in camps.
Where you have a situation of documented losses and people who were put in internment camps, I'm not sure how you deny those claims for reparations.
This is not an amorphous claim. This is very, very specific.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, we're talking about losses in the millions of dollars.
Look, I know you want to make a point that this is about resilience of a community as well. You quote DeNeen Brown, who says: "Our people are still
standing. Our people have not been defeated."
It is a story of celebration. It is a story that children across the country should be learning going forward. It's important to see President
Biden visit Tulsa as well.
Dawn Porter, thank you so much for bring us this magnificent documentary. We appreciate it.
PORTER: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
GOLODRYGA: And you can watch "Rise Again" on Hulu from today.
Well, now to the legal crisis engulfing the Justice Department of President Donald Trump, who is facing a tidal wave of new allegations, among them,
that the department secretly obtained private data from journalists, Democratic congressmen, and a former Trump lawyer to find a leak. This is
just the tip of the iceberg.
Joining us now to sift through it all is senior legal analyst Elie Honig, whose timely new book, "Hatchet Man," argues that Trump's Attorney General
William Barr corrupted the Justice Department.
Elie, welcome to the program. Congratulations on the book. We're going to be talking about that as well, because much of it relates to these latest
allegations and headlines.
So, walk us through who the main targets of this surveillance was and why it stands out to you so much.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Bianna, so there were really two groups of people who appear to have been targeted by this surveillance that
are of great concern, first of all, members of the media, including Barbara Starr, one of our colleagues at CNN, and other outlets that had been
publicly targeted and attacked by Donald Trump, second of all, members of Congress, importantly, only Democratic members of Congress, who Donald
Trump had publicly said he suspected of leaking.
Why is this such a problem? Because the Justice Department fundamentally must stand above and apart from all of our other political institutions and
from politics itself. And, really, the most dangerous thing that can be done with the Justice Department is to turn it into a weapon, to use it to
carry out the president or any other powerful person's personal or political grudges.
Now, there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered by the current Justice Department and by Congress perhaps about why this happened
and how this happened. However, it raises that fundamental concern about the independence of the U.S. Justice Department.
GOLODRYGA: and this isn't the first time that the Justice Department has issued investigations and surveillance warrants, right, on journalists in
particular. We saw that happen in the Obama administration.
There were an unprecedented amount of leaks that took place that came out of the Trump administration too. We know that they wanted to crack down on
that. But it does seem to be an unprecedented response that we have seen as well.
What is your reaction to the news from people like Bill Barr, from Rod Rosenstein, from Jeff Sessions, who claim they knew nothing about these
HONIG: Yes, that is hard for me to believe and understand and accept given the way that things work within the Justice Department.
There is guidance within the Justice Department that essentially says, if you have an investigation that begins to touch on members of the media who,
of course, have important First Amendment protections or politically sensitive targets, you need to start sending notice up the chain of
command. And any, I think, responsible prosecutor would know to do that.
One of the fundamental questions that we need an answer to is, how high do this go? Who authorized these intrusions? And why? What was the basis? What
was the justification for this?
And, Bianna, you're right. This is not brand-new to the Trump administration, prior political administrations of both parties, Democrats
and Republican have, at times, intruded on the privacy rights of the media, of journalist, and it is a concern no matter who does it.
And what I think is different here, we'll see how strongly they adhere to it is that after the story came out, this is the power of the media,
President Biden said, my Justice Department will not do this. That is an important first step, that is an important step to take to protect the
rights of the media, the First Amendment rights, that their privacy will not be intruded on for political reasons or really any other political
So, it will be interesting to see how that plays out in the coming months and years.
GOLODRYGA: But we also did learn that these gag orders, first imposed under the Trump administration, had carried on into the Biden
administration now. The administration said that they weren't aware of this, that the president himself had not been aware of this when he had
said that this would not occur under his watch.
But do you subscribe to some criticism that is being leveled at the Garland Justice Department that some of these policies continue to play out?
HONIG: Yes. So, Merrick Garland's Justice Department has a job to do here, a difficult job to do here. Just so people understand, the reason this is
coming out now is because these subpoenas, another request for information, are under what we call gag orders. Meaning, the Justice Department went to
a court, went to a judge and said, judge, we need this to remain quiet. We have to tell Apple or the other companies, you can't notify the people
whose records we're getting, Barbara Starr, Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell. You can't tell them that we're doing that.
That is a fairly extreme thing to do. It was done here. And those gag orders were renewed year after year and they're just running out now, which
is why we're learning about them now. Here's what I think Merrick Garland has an affirmative obligation to do. He can't just sit back and wait for
these other orders to lapse because there's still could be other orders in place that may lapse two weeks from now, four months from now.
I think Merrick Garland has to get together with the entire Justice Department say, I want to know what orders, what gag orders we have in
place right now on anyone in the media, anyone in Congress, we're going to review those orders. If they're absolutely appropriate and necessary,
perhaps keep them in place. But if they're not, go back to the judge and say, we don't need these, we need to let people know what's happened here.
They have to clean that up.
GOLODRYGA: Do new laws need to be put into place and how much responsibility lies with Congress itself? Because I think for many
Americans who heard of this sort of unseemly acts that the president, President Trump at the time, wanted to see come to fruition, many of them
felt reassured that there are laws in place that allow for the independence and the separation of the White House and the Justice Department.
And now, we've come to find out that many of them were not laws, that there were just the norms that were followed. And obviously, it wasn't just the
president who was speaking his mind. Many were acting on that as well.
HONIG: Yes, there is no law in our system that says the Justice Department shall be separate and independent from the White House. So much of that
depends on what we call norms, just long-established principles of fair play and integrity. And so much of that comes down to just the principles
and integrity of the people who hold these positions.
I worked half my time to DOJ under Republican president and AGs, half under Democratic president and AG, and it made no difference which administration
it was. That changed, I believe, under Trump and Barr. Now, we do have some formal guardrails, but there are ways to improve those. For example,
Congress can pass a law making it much more difficult, or perhaps even impossible for prosecutors to go and get the records of media members or of
DOJ itself also can adopt internal guidance. I'll give you one example. There are strict rules within DOJ that regulate and limit the
communications that DOJ officials can have with members of Congress. There is not an equal set of rules or regulations in place that limit DOJ's
communications with the White House, that may be because DOJ and the White House are both part of the executive branch. But DOJ can and needs to adopt
more strict internal regulations that very strictly limit its ability to communicate with the White House and the White House had any say whatsoever
in prosecutorial decisions.
GOLODRYGA: It seems, Elie, that you are not giving any benefit of the doubt to Attorney General Barr and his actions while he was attorney
general, and that was, by the by the way, his second time as attorney general. He was attorney general also under George H. W. Bush. But in your
book, you describe him as the most corrupt attorney general in modern U.S. History. Quickly, how so?
HONIG: Well, first of all, I did give him the benefit of the doubt. I said on our air on CNN, the day he was announced that he seemed like a good
pick. He spent the next two years undoing all of that goodwill. He lied to the American public over and over again. Not just about the Mueller report,
but about the potential for election fraud in the months leading up to the election to the fact that the reasons that he fired the southern district
So, he lied to the American public, which is unthinkable for an attorney general, and he compromised the independence of the Justice Department. He
used DOJ to shield Donald Trump, to protect Roger Stone, to protect Michael Flynn. And will learn, hopefully soon, about these subpoenas on media
members and the congressional members to see whether Bill Bar abuses power with respect to those cases as well.
GOLODRYGA: Elie Honig, duly noted. You did give him the benefit of the doubt and then you saw his actions come out in play. Thank you so much. We
appreciate it. Congratulations on the book.
HONIG: Thanks, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Well, now, here's a staggering statistic for you. Homeschooling among black families increased by 500 percent last year. It's an increasing
trend across the U.S., but especially in communities of color. Well, our next guest said good-bye to the public school system after feeling like it
failed them and their kids
Education justice advocates, Keri Rodrigues and Bernita Bradley, now run homeschooling initiative that aim to give power back to parents. Here they
are speaking to our Michel Martin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thank, Bianna. Bernita Bradley, Keri Rodrigues, thank you both so much for joining us.
KERI RODRIGUES, FOUNDING PRESIDENT, NATIONAL PARENTS UNION: Thanks for having us.
BERNITA BRADLEY, FOUNDER, ENGAGED DETROIT: Thanks for having us. Yes.
MARTIN: You know, I'm going to ask each of you like what was your journey to home schooling. Keri Rodrigues, you had this experienced that a lot of
parents have had that just -- that, you know, this is just not working for your children and you got to figure something out. Like what are some of
the thoughts that led you to where you are now?
RODRIGUES: I grew up -- you know, I was in foster situations. I was growing up in a home that was mired with addiction. So, my I journey
actually begins with myself and my firsthand experience. I was expelled from a public school. I got my GED from Boston public schools. I was lucky,
I was able to kind of scratch and claw my way in the college, but it was by the skin of my cheek.
So, by the time I had children, and I had three little boys, you know, I came in, I was a union organizer. I was teaching other people had an
advocate for themselves. So, when my oldest son was diagnosed with ADHD and autism, I was like, this is going to be fine, because even though I'm
coming into this my dukes up (ph), like I'm going to be able to advocate for my kids and I'm going to get this done.
Well, what I found out very quickly when my son was suspended from school 36 times in kindergarten, was at the end of that IEP table, I have no
voice. As a parent, no one cares, no one's on your side. And all of those educators had already given up on my son by the age of six. They were done
with him. They were pissed off at him. They were writing him all. They're calling me to pick him up. They're putting him in a redirect room that
looks like a cinder block cell. And I was horrified.
But I had no idea what was going on in our education system. I just -- you know, the great trauma of my life was being expelled from school. I thought
it was my fault. Not knowing that literally we have a system that set up to fail kids like me, kids like my son. I didn't know any of this. All I knew
was that I had no power. And when I get mad, I organize.
MARTIN: Tell me about your organization, Keri. What does the National Parents Union do? What is -- what do you do and what's the goal?
RODRIGUES: So, we are all parent advocates, activists and agitators. That's what we are. We are more than 500 organizations, all across all 50
states, D.C. and Puerto Rico and its parent led advocacy. You know, there are pockets of parent power in all corners of this nation, where mamas who
are building groups in their neighborhoods who are doing building solidarity together so that they can speak with a united voice, so that
they can share resources and we can talk back and forth, and then we can speak truth to power.
MARTIN: And what's the goal of the Parent Union? How would you describe it, the National Parent Union, of which you are the president? How would
you describe the goal?
RODRIGUES: The goal is to ensure that every child in America has equitable access to high-quality education.
MARTIN: So, Bernita Bradley, tell me your story. You've been committed to homeschooling for some time. So, as briefly as you can, tell us your
journey on that, will you?
BRADLEY: Yes. So, I'll say here in Detroit, we only had 13 percent of our kids' reading on grade level. 16 percent right before the pandemic. And
during the pandemic, beginning of the pandemic, children didn't access to tablets, tools to even make online learning possible. Families were tapping
Specifically, my daughter, asked me in fifth grade to homeschool her. But during the beginning of the pandemic, she was in a lot of grey. And she
came to me at the end and told me after having interactions with only one teacher for five months, and she was like, if my senior is going to be like
this, I'm dropping out. And I was like, well, no, you're not. So, what do we need to do? Right? And so, she was like, well, let's try homeschooling.
And I'm like, OK. Well, let's do this. What do we need to do to do this?
So again, we activists, right? So, if my child -- like in baseball and just the other voices we were hearing from our community parents tapping and
tired, we were like, what do we need to do? What do we need to learn how to do to home school? And then we opened up Engage and Trade, our homeschool
So, now, we had coaches for parents who wanted to homeschool. What you need for your child for your individual household to home school and make sure
it's successful for your kid.
MARTIN: Let me go back to something, you said that your daughter has been asking to be homeschooled since fifth grade. How did you react when she
said that to you? Like I can only imagine the feelings that you would have had.
BRADLEY: Yes. So, my daughter had been through extreme bullying. She'd been through bullying with teachers, schools that were just were poor
managed. And at fifth grade, she was just like, I'll tap out. I'm ready to -- can you homeschool me, right? And my thought, first of all was, OK. I'm
not an educator. I don't need to be at a desk with you all day like, hey, get it done. Do this. Do this. And I'm working all day. So, I didn't have -
- I felt like I didn't have the autonomy to do that.
I didn't have the where was to do it in as far as all the other tasks I had as an advocate, as a community organizer, as a mom. So, I tried to find my
daughter better schools. I tried to find her -- like she got into an A rated school in first grade, and that A rated school still failed her in
City of Detroit. It still did not have what she needed.
Throughout her lifespan, my daughter has been in eight different school. And that right there was not just like oldest parent who is like, I'm just
going to keep switching schools. We fought for change in those school, fought not just for chance for me daughter but the change on all the kids
in the school.
MARTIN: Keri Rodrigues, if you were to sort of sum up what you think is wrong with the way education is set up in this country right now, and I'm
thinking particularly here at K thought 12, what would you say that is?
RODRIGUES: We have the systemic racism in literally every system in our country. And we have generational systemic racism that is imbedded in our
education system, and we don't address it. We cover it up. We say we want more money to fortify the school, the prison pipeline, and we do not
confront the deep problems that we have in our education system.
MARTIN: How do you think that played out? Like can you just give me an example?
RODRIGUES: Well, take a look at the demographics of the people who are leading our classrooms. 80 percent of our education -- our educators are
white men. OK. The belief gap in this country is very real and we do nothing to confront that elephant that is in the room.
I mean, we have two people who are leading our classroom who believe kids like mine are not capable of proficiency, are not capable of excellency.
That is embedded in our school system. We have people who are literally calling the cops on our kids. We don't address any of that. Instead, we
blame them, we blame people like me and people like Bernita.
Like, I'm a parent, I'm a former student. I have lived experience. I already went through this system. And now, I'm told that I am mandated by
the government that I had to put my kid in the same seat where nothing has changed.
MARTIN: One of the things, the interesting things that's happened is that the parents who are pushing for kids to go back to school, the physical
school, tend to be white, tend to be -- and the kids who are going back tends to be white among African-Americans, Latinos and Asian parents, they
are more likely to continue to keep their kids at home, or to continue to ask for a remote learning option. So, it isn't just African-American
parents, people of color, writ large. And I'm just wondering why you think that is.
RODRIGUES: Fundamentally, like this is laid out in our living rooms. Like we were very witness to what goes on in classrooms the way that educators
talk to our children, the lack of rigor, the lack of competency. And parents were watching -- literally watched the system failed in front of
our eyes. What the pandemic did is, for the first time ever, told poor black and brown folks that, oh, only you know what's best for your child.
We've seen that actually having our kids in a different environment, some of them blossom when there's not racism that they have to deal with on an
ongoing basis, where there's no distraction, where there's actual choice around the curriculum that they get to access, that we could actually have
a culturally competent curriculum introduced to our children. And we, we get to opt into that. And we get to play the role that we've always wanted
So, we have -- this toothpaste has been led out of the tube. I don't know how you put that back in.
MARTIN: There haven't been a lot of large-scale studies on this, but the data shows that the number of black parents' home schooling has increased
exponentially in the last like five years. Isn't your view that part of the reason you saying, more parents of color, not wanting to send their kids
back to in school learning and more parents of color opting out in a long- term basis for homeschooling is that they see that schools are built for white kids, or at least they're not built for their kid. Is that the
bottom-line? Do you think that these schools --
BRADLEY: You said it right the first time.
MARTIN: Right. Go ahead.
BRADLEY: You said it right the first time. Schools were built for white kids. They didn't even want our kids in schools back in 1920s, in the early
1900s, they didn't want our kids in their schools. And when our kids did come to their school, they changed. They changed curriculums. They got
older books for our kids, right?
History lessons are not built for black children. And families, again, they're recognizing it. And the families that are tapping out, though mind
you, they're not just tapping for one place, they are tapping out after they've tried public school, they've tried charter school, they've tried a
whole lot of things. Most parents aren't just saying, I'm just done -- one and done.
MARTIN: So, how does homeschooling fix this problem? How does homeschooling change does dynamics?
BRADLEY: Yes. So, homeschooling puts the power back in the parents, right? If you want to reinvent and reimagine education for the sake of all
children, of the sake of our children, specifically, because they're the most marginalized. If you won't do that, we decided to do it ourselves. We
no longer go and wait for you. We're pushing for change. We're showing change.
When a parent can understand that they can educate their own child and they see it happening, other parents see it happening. And we create this
collaborative of our own to say, we're going to try if we can get it. We create partnerships in the community to make trust with STEM program,
science programs or type of programs to make sure our children get it. And those children are going off to college. They're going off to careers,
becoming engineers. We're seeing it happen.
MARTIN: You know what's interesting about this though, it's fascinating to talk with both of you because there are elements of what you're saying
that, of course, that have been advanced by a lot of the conservative political activist for some time now whose primary goal, I think is -- I
think it's fair to say, is weaken the teachers' unions which they see as a peak (ph) of constituency of the Democrats.
And I take it that that's clearly not your motivation. But what do you say to that? I mean, I know that some of your organizations do get funding from
some of these conservative activist groups. But how do you deal with that?
RODRIGUES: But we --
MARTIN: Go ahead, Keri.
RODRIGUES: Like, listen, we don't have permanent funds, we have permanent interest. Our NorthStar is our children, OK? And that is what we're
primarily focused on. I don't have the same funding mechanism that a teacher's union is going to have. I can't pass a law that says, anybody who
becomes a parent is going to have to pay me dues the way the teacher's union can.
So, when people talk about our funding, it's kind of comical. Like where would you like -- we need to do this work to advocate for our children.
Right now, the conversation is dominated by the people who are running the status quo in the system and our voices aren't even a part of the
conversation. So, we need to be a part of it. To do that, we have to write grants to anybody who will fund us, including as teachers (INAUDIBLE).
But let me say this --
RODRIGUES: -- again, like the problem we have in our education system is that we don't even -- that the outcomes that we get for our children are
secondary, if secondary. You know, it's of no consequences, how do you maintain this employment system that we have created? Now, I don't think
that teachers, you know, shouldn't be a part of the conversation.
Of course, they should. But right now, it feels like they have every seat at the table, including ours. They speak for us and they don't do -- they
are not close enough to the pain. They don't have the firsthand experience. And that's why we keep doing the same things like over and over and over
MARTIN: Bernita, can I ask you to get your take on that too? I want to ask about the fact that a lot of the people who are financially supportive of
these efforts are some of the same kinds of conservative activists who have also been, A, are very interested in disrupting the power of the teachers'
unions, who are very interested in weakening a core democratic constituency, and frankly, have not been terribly interested in kind of a
systemic racism as a social sort of problem. And I just want to ask, Bernita, how you think about that?
Because I'll just say to you, if I may, since we've been very frank with each other here, that there are those who believe that the reason that some
of these groups are as interested in African-Americans and people of color homeschooling their kids is that they would like to get them out of the
school system. So, what do you say to that?
BRADLEY: So, let me address the public schools being a threat. Public schools are not threatened because of charter schools or the push to try to
destroy public schools. Public schools are threatened because public schools fail children. Public schools fail brown children as historically
has failed us, right? And parents are tired of it.
And the cycle of continuously doing the same thing is what (INAUDIBLE). And if parents are going to keep trusting in the fact that you're going to be a
best actor on behalf of our children but we don't see any evidence of it, we don't see any evidence in the MEAP scores, we haven't seen any evidence
in the college rate scores, we haven't even seen it in the economical status of black people in inner cities who go off to college and come back
and they're working at Applebee's for 20 years, because they were not prepared for school.
Public education had devastated some household. Generations and generations of children going to the same schools. That is the problem, not where bonds
from or any mission driven agenda on my behalf.
MARTIN: Are you ever concerned that the homeschooling movement takes the most activist parents like yourself out of the system?
RODRIGUES: I'm not concerned about it. I'm a hybrid parent. You know, my kids go the different kinds of schools based on what's best for them. So --
and I don't think any parent is going to just completely throw up their hands and say, I don't care about any other kids. Especially activist
parents, like we don't do this work because it's fun, because -- trust me, it's not fun. It's emotionally draining. Like people call us everything
except name our mama gave us, like it states a lot.
MARTIN: Like what? Like what do they say?
RODRIGUES: Well, they assume that because what we've built here is so powerful because we're able to do things. We're able to be part of policy
conversation, because we're able to get seats. We work together. We speak with the united voice. And now, they is in the united independent voice of
parents. It's not coopted by anybody.
But what they try to do is make it seem like poor black and brown women could not have come up with this idea. That somebody gave it to us.
Somebody installed me as president. I was elected to this position by 185 organizations across this country in New Orleans. Nobody gave us this idea.
We created this together. We speak together. We are a council to each other. But there's always --
BRADLEY: See, that's part of the problem though, they don't want to think that we can call this, like they don't want to think that we have that
power or that much where we live (ph) to be able to combine together and combat what they are doing.
MARTIN: So, they see you as this sort of a front for their, say, white conservative movement? Is that it?
MARTIN: That was --
RODRIGUES: That's the --
BRADLEY: But they don't see the years of advocacy where we were advocate came in from everything from little corners of our community to across this
country, right? They don't see that.
MARTIN: Keri Rodrigues, what do you think? What do you think should happen now?
RODRIGUES: We're in a transformational moment, OK? And all of our poll, and we've done 18 national polls. And parents, families and community keep
saying the same thing over and over and over again by more than 2 to 1 margin, this is a moment to reimagined education. They don't want to put
their kids back in the same box that was not working before. We are addicted to an antiquated system that does not meet the needs of our
So, what we have an opportunity to do is something transformational and say, instead of just doing things the same way, we've had an unprecedent
disruption by necessity. Are we going to take this opportunity to learn these lessons and say, you know what, by any means necessary, we're not
married to a particular government's model, a particular way of doing this? What married to getting it done for our kids. The outcomes that we want is
equitable access to opportunity.
And if that looks different for different kids, then we're going to create a system that's flexible to meet their needs instead of meeting the needs
to be adults that really like the system that does not work. We know it doesn't work.
MARTIN: Bernita Bradley, Keri Rodrigues, thank you so much for talking with us today.
BRADLEY: Thank you for having us.
RODRIGUES: Thanks, Michel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Such an important conversation about our children's education.
And finally, earlier in the program, we touched on that rare consensus in American politics on Juneteenth. And now, we want to celebrate the
extraordinary woman known as its grandmother. Opal Lee was just 12 years old when on June 19, 1939, a white mob torched her family home in Texas.
She then spent decades working in the movement to make that day a national holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. Well, that
moment finally came yesterday in an emotional ceremony at the White House with President Joe Biden getting down on one knee to greet her amid a
This brings tears to your eyes and give you goosebumps. So, here to this nation's first Juneteenth holiday tomorrow. And of course, here's to Opal
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online and on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching. Christiane will be
back in this chair on Monday. So, do join us then. Goodbye from New York and have a great weekend.