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The Van Jones Show

Van Jones Talks to Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy and the Host of Netflix's Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj, About Taxes, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, Donald Trump, Jussie Smollett, and Healthcare. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 23, 2019 - 19:00   ET



JONES: Good evening, I'm Van Jones. Welcome to The Van Jones Show. You're going to love tonight's program. We got quality time with two of America's biggest rising stars. One of them is a proud son of America's most famous political family. Now he's in Congress, he's fighting for civil rights, carrying out the legacy of his late grandfather Bobby Kennedy, Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy is with us tonight.

I can't believe it. So happy to have you. Also we got stand-up comedian/political commentator, the host of Netflix's Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj, also in the building. I cannot wait. It's going to be amazing.

But first let's talk. This week was rough. People on both sides of the political divide saw a few of their nightmares come true, this week. And we should try to learn something from this. Look, on both sides, left and right, people have power just in different ways, different places.

The right wing has power at the top of our government, mainly in the White House. And liberals' big fear is that Trump will recklessly abuse his power, his influence and put vulnerable people at risk.

On the left, we got power too at the top of our culture, places like Hollywood, university social movements like 'Black Lives Matter' and the conservatives are afraid that we're going to recklessly abuse our power and unfairly brand and treat them. Well, congratulations America, both nightmares came through this week. Okay?

And you can see the danger now by the overheated rhetoric and people rush to judgment on both sides. On the one hand, cops arrested a Coast Guard officer who they described as a white nationalist. Now authorities say he was stockpiling weapons, he planned to have a massive attack against civilians and the hit list of people he wanted to kill included Democratic lawmakers like Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Alexandria Acosta Cortez and apparently he also wanted to kill TV host at MSNBC and even right here at CNN.

It's the second time in less than 6 months that journalists and critics of the President have become targets of potential violence on a huge scale and that is terrifying. Now look, obviously other factors are playing but you cannot fully discount the heated words coming from the highest office in the land.

When the head of the U.S. military, the Commander in Chief calls himself a nationalist and calls the media the true enemy of the people. Somebody in uniform might take him seriously and the consequences could be horrific. So in addition to all the bad policies, attacking immigrants and transgender people, this is exactly the kind of stuff that liberals worry about that Trump might be aiding or abetting the spread of hatred and right wing extremism.

Mr. President, please be more careful. At the same time many of us, especially some conservatives are shaking their heads in disgust at the conduct of a Hollywood actor and actually Chicago Police say that Jussie Smollett "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism and staged a hoax attack on himself to get a pay raise." Okay, now there's a lot that's wrong here. First of all, this is a tragic fall of an icon, you know, Smollett's rise to fame as black gay character, it was historic.

It helped to push back on homophobia in the black community. If the police account is accurate and they got a lot of evidence now - Smollett has betrayed millions of people who looked up to him and needed him to be that icon and also given the rise hate crimes, this hoax actually hurts real victims and that's totally unfair. But it's not just about blaming Smollett. We got to look in the mirror. Two white men spewing racial epithets with a lynching rope screaming, this is MAGA country.

Well, were we a little bit too willing to rush to judgment and assume the worst about Trump supporters? Is that fair and also the people who question the story, they got called racist and homophobes too just for being skeptical.

Have we created now a world where people cannot question a claim of bias without being called bigots themselves, that's not good so progressives, please be more careful. I say this because we got another political firestorm on the way. Almost two years, 34 people charged, 7 guilty pleas, hours of cable TV analysis, 25 million Bucks and 166 tweets from Trump, calling it a witch hunt; it looks like we finally have the Mueller probe coming to an end.

[19:05:00] So please be careful because I predict a whole bunch of confusion, more partisan spin from people who haven't even read the report, which is exactly what we don't need. Before you even had a chance to read whatever they release, you're going to have 1000 post on your social media feed either claiming that Trump has been fully cleared or saying, lock him up depending on whatever camp they're in.

Slow down, be vigilant, focus on facts, not spin and think twice before you click that share button because America's enemies now know how to weaponize information and push your buttons. You can't just blame Trump or blame Hollywood celebrities or blame Facebook, we are doing the dirty work ourselves when we jump on these digital bandwagons, rush to judgment and share inflammatory posts without any investigation.

The bots are bad enough, let's not become bots for the bots. Now if there is anybody who can help us, find our way back to some humanity and some grace, it is my next guest. Please welcome to The Van Jones Show, Representative Joe Kennedy on The Van Jones Show.

Oh I love this guy. Finally, finally got you. I got you. I knew I could.


JONES: No, no, but you are in a position now in Congress, this Mueller report is coming to you, people are going to be run all over the place, how do you think about staying sober and stand strong in the face of this kind of hooplas coming your way with the Mueller report.

KENNEDY: It is probably too much to hope that what Mueller's report is actually going to say is nothing to see here, nobody did anything wrong, we got everybody already and case closed. That's what I hope it says.

JONES: And why do you hope that?

KENNEDY: Because I really hope that what I think many of us fear about what has been alleged over the course of the past two years from those 34 people that are charged, from all those guilty pleas is an insinuation that there were people in the highest levels of a campaign that were engaged in nefarious activity to essentially mislead the American public and elect potentially elect a President that didn't actually earn every vote.

And I hope that just did not happen, I hope that is not true because I don't want for the sake of our democracy, for the sake of every single voter out there who voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or somebody else, I want everybody to believe that that process has the integrity that we believe it should have.

JONES: This is why we love you and you are weird. Listen, you should want - don't you want the partisan and don't you want to be able to beat him up, don't you want to be able to redeem Hillary Clinton.

KENNEDY: Whoa. He's given us plenty to beat him up for in office. We don't need the rest of it, right? And there's been from day one in office a transition in the campaign, plenty for folks that do not believe in the policy or the rhetoric or the example the Donald Trump's sets for us to fire back at.

You cannot say over the course for this election now that is just gearing up, we cannot say that there's not going to be a choice before the American people in 18 months and that folks have an opportunity to actually make that choice. That choice is going to be very, very clear and that is on us in order to cease it.

But I do hope - I hope that if it comes to one of the most nefarious accusations that somebody can say about the United States of America, the most powerful democracy in the world, the example that we hope we set for the world is that somebody actually meddled with our democracy successfully, I hope that didn't happen. If it did happen, then they should be held accountable to the highest possible penalty of law.

JONES: You know, you endorse Elizabeth Warren, right out the bat. Did you rush to judgment? You got a bunch of more people jumping in now. You got Bernie jumping in, your friend Beto might jump in, why did you go so early for Elizabeth Warren?

KENNEDY: I got a bunch of friends that might jump in, it is a little bit awkward when you have a bunch of buddies that are running for President.


KENNEDY: And I might be one of the few Democrats aren't going to announce on your show, my bad. So -

JONES: Next.

KENNEDY: Great interview while it lasted folks, wonderful to see you so I think a couple of things, one, I have had the opportunity to know Senator Warren back when she was a law professor. She was my teacher. I met my wife in her class. I took another class from her, bankruptcy, just because she was such an incredible teacher.

I know her on a personal level. I have deep admiration and respect for the work that she is done and then I think really kind of critically of all the candidates that are in this race or might get in this race, I believe that the most critical issue that we are confronting as a country is in fact an economy that is not working for everybody.

You find this a lot and one of the reasons why I signed on to the Green New Deal is the way that you frame this as trying to look at the big challenge we have in this country and climate change and an economy that's not working and so leverage that economy to actually address climate.

[19:10:00] But it is that ineffectiveness, the inability of our economy to actually touch and inspire and get to leverage the potential of every single person and to actually contribute back to the economic success of our country and the structural failures that our economy now has, that leaves all those folks behind.

There is nobody that has done more work on this for a longer and deeper than Elizabeth Warren.


KENNEDY: You care a great deal about the economy, you're backing somebody who cares about the economy, but you care about so much other stuff. You guys may not have seen this. Show the video of you talking about healthcare and the way you talk about it, making it a moral issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENNEDY: Chairman, I was struck last night by a comment that I heard

made by the Speaker Ryan where he called this Repeal bill, "an act of mercy." With all due respect to our Speaker, he and I must have read different scripture. The one that I read calls on us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless and to comfort the sick.

It reminds us that we are judged not by how we treat the powerful, but by how we care for the least among us. Mercy, there is no mercy in the system that makes healthcare a luxury. There's no mercy in a country that turns their back on those most in need of protection, the elderly, the poor, the sick and the suffering.


JONES: It's beautiful.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

JONES: It's beautiful. It's a kind of poetry I don't think we hear enough from Democrats and also you're bringing in scripture. Why do you bring in these moral themes so often?

KENNEDY: So - and I think, when it comes to healthcare and almost uniquely in health care, there is I think, just a critical moral dimension to it and it is my wife actually framed it this ways to me and she's a healthcare policy expert.

She said look, healthcare is not a moral question but how we treat the weak, the moment that they are most in need knowing that every single one of us at some point is going to need that system too.

And so at that moment what kind of system do you want there to protect us or a loved one. And that fundamentally is what differentiates our parties about the role of a federal government to make sure that that system is robust and there to care for you when you need it.

And what Democrats believe is that system should be as good for anybody as the system that you would want for your loved one. Now Republicans say, let the free market solve it. Folks, the free market isn't going to solve this problem. If the free market could have, it would have solved it by now and it just can't.

JONES: You talk about this moral capitalism and I'm trying to place you in this party. Okay? We've got you know pragmatists, we got idealists, we got socialists, is more capitalism just a cooler way of saying socialism? Is that what - I mean, help me understand?

KENNEDY: No, no, look, I think what it is my take on it anyway is a reflection of a couple of realities. One that an American -American economic system has brought more people out of poverty around the world over the course of the past 40-50 years than any other system in human history.

There is real value here that I don't think we can just pretend doesn't exist or pretend hasn't done good things. The problem is that particularly of late and domestically, that's come on the backs of an American middle class, that has seen their own economic advantage eroded for the advantage of other folks overseas and that's at its core, is an erosion of worker power.

And an ability of capitalism that is structured to actually empower employees and American families to be able to take advantage of their own talent and potential. And when reconfigured and restructured, that's what our system should try to unlock, not the criticism - not let folks that are already doing well do even better and that's what we got today.

JONES: The thing is I mean you're a man of faith and you know, we share the same faith but you got faith in the government. You want the government to do all this stuff and what makes you think at this point, looking at the crazy stuff that you guys go through every day, that America's government can do all these things that you want to do?

KENNEDY: Touche, right? So look, that's part of why you have to - you recognize the government's not going to be perfect and this is a long hard slow slog. The most optimistic person in Congress without question - without question is John Lewis.

JONES: John Lewis.

KENNEDY: John Lewis because at least in my mind, this is a man who not only has led our country to pursue the change and become those better angels but has bled for it. But has over the course of his life time, seen us change and seen us be better. And part of that is government leading the way, part of it is when it's not, you go out there and as he says when you pray, move your feet.

You do not accept the status quo and you just keep fighting and scratching and clawing and marching on every single day, that's what we got to do.

JONES: Well, listen, beautiful words, beautiful words. You all not moved, something wrong with you all.

[19:15:00] We're talking with Joe Kennedy when we get back including how does his family legacy shape his views on issues like immigration or marijuana and other issues when we get back.


JONES: Welcome back to the Van Jones Show, I am here with Democratic Congressman, Joe Kennedy. You know, we had this whole big thing with the National Emergency announced by the President about immigration and now the lawsuits and stuff but you took the more human approach and you went to the border where you saw these families being separated, babies being taken away.

Talk about the impact of you as you know, from one of the most famous immigrant families, the Kennedys going to the border and seeing what you saw?

KENNEDY: Van, so this one's hard, right? Went down to the border once at a rally with Beto O'Rourke, we weren't allowed in, met a mom in Boston who had been separated from a child and was trying to get back to her baby, make contact with others that were trying to do that, help support organizations that were trying to make sure that these families never got separated to begin with and you know, look, the folks that were working in facilities on the border I think were on the whole, doing the best that they tried they could to try to make sure people get together.

But it never should have happened in the first place.


KENNEDY: There's a facility in New York that I visited to which had just hundreds of kids that people there, I mean, these were child care professionals, they were doing the best they could but they shouldn't be in - they shouldn't have been in this position to begin with.

I speak Spanish because I was in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic and so you start just chatting with folks and not too sure everybody else there would have expected. So and I won't forget this. I don't think for a very long time.

[19:20:00] There was a girl probably 13-14 years old maybe, may be a bit younger who said that she was hoping to get to Boston where her relatives were and asked me to take her with her on the airplane because she knew I was going back to Boston.

The story that my family still holds so dear on both sides and more well-known perhaps on my dad's side, my relatives came here because of an abject failure of government in the ruling class in Ireland during the midst of a potato famine when there was actually more food grown to feed all of Ireland than was necessary to feed all of Ireland.

But the British lords took and exported to Europe and as a consequence of it, people fled all over the world to try to actually just meet a basic, a basic human quality of how do I - how do I create a better future for me and my self and what risk am I willing to take.

It is impossible then to understand for me anyway to understand a bit of my own story. So I spend some time in Latin America. I've gone down to Guatemala and Honduras and El Salvador in northern triangle.

He said go to some of the places where people are fleeing from, to say that if they are coming here doing the most human, basic human thing that you can think of and the most basic responsibility of a parent which is trying to protect and provide a better future for your kid and willing to take that risk to do so, that our response to it is to say, we're going to separate families to punish you for making that trip, that we're going to build a wall that most folks will say, it's just a symbol anyway because in order to make that effective, you need enabling technology and people and the rest of it.

But the symbol to say this land is not open to you and what's even worse is instead of recognizing that humanity, preying on - preying on the fact that you have no place else and no other choice. JONES: I think about your grandfather Bobby Kennedy going and sitting with the farm workers. Cesar Chavez over the same issues and you continue this legacy of sticking up for people. I can't understand why you guys care so much? Why do you care so much? I mean there are other immigrant families that do not take the composition that you do.

KENNEDY: People find a way to contribute the best they can and look, my family ends up being a bit more high profile than others and so you have a platform to do it and so some of that gets more attention but -

JONES: But you, you, you. I want to talk about you, why do you care?

KENNEDY: Yes, I don't.

JONES: Listen, it's a remarkable thing. First of all I want to tell you something. You may not have figured this out. You are a straight white male with money.

KENNEDY: I got that part, yes.

JONES: You shouldn't be a Democrat. I don't know why you're in that party. Like, I mean, if you look at the -

KENNEDY: So one after the election in November, a close friend of mine, Democrat Hispanic, came up to me, gave me a big hug and said, man, I just want to shake your hand. There are not going to be very many of you straight white guys left in here and I want to see you. Like thanks.

JONES: But seriously, think about that.

KENNEDY: Look, this was not all roses when Irish Catholic immigrants landed in Boston either, right? But they - there was the promise of this place is that working hard today means you can achieve something tomorrow and the reality is as a member of our government at the moment, House Representatives, you stare out a supreme court's across the street and etched in stone says Equal justice under law.

And you know better than anybody, we have failed to live up to our values in tying to the constitution from literally day one. All men are created equal, we meant rich, white, protestant men, that's it.

But our history is actually improving on those words and recognizing the failures that we have made but the progress we have made too. And to know that if we are able to actually make a contribution to that, you can make this a bigger, brighter, bolder place which is the place that I think everybody actually wants this place to be.

And we can do it, it's going to take an awful lot of hard work.

JONES: Well, look, I mean, I think that you know, you in your heart, certainly your grandfather Bobby Kennedy, you know that's the Democratic Party that my parents believed in. I was born in 68, there was a year that unfortunately Bobby Kennedy was murdered. Dr. King was murdered. They tried to murder hope in American that year and it took a very long time for the hope to come back. You know, what did you hear about Bobby Kennedy that you lean on today that gives you hope to keep going forward because you're just - you're just as strong with it now as he was 50 years ago.

KENNEDY: The lesson that I take from my family are a couple of them is that this country - this country is an achievement and it is only achieved whenever all of us do our part. And those parts are going to be different and those parts, some folks can do it in more high profile ways.

Some folks do it in ways that might not get the notice but each contribution matters.

JONES: Look, you probably like you said, you're the only prominent Democrat not running this year and people do want to know what you think of next. Are you thinking about Governor, Senator, are you happy where you are.

[19:25:00] I know you got little kids at home that makes it hard to think about anything but what's next for you.

KENNEDY: Sleep and coffee. Look, I do think there are a lot of issues out there that I'm passionate about, from mental health, which you mentioned a little bit earlier and healthcare and immigration.

I do think that the seminal moment, the seminal issue that we have to address is an economy that does in fact see and recognize and empower every single American and if we can empower an American populace, 325 million strong, there isn't nothing this country can't do.

And so I think the way that you do that, that what President Trump has done is very powerfully segment our society into a zero-sum game where people are fighting against each other. What Democrats job is to do is to convince over the course of the next 18 months, every single slice of our society that Donald Trump is trying to divide and conquer.

That those folks are - rather than fighting over the scraps of a system, that they are worthy of more than just scraps to begin with and actually make this case that they're more in common with a coal miner in Kentucky and a fisherman in Massachusetts but we don't do that by exploiting those families.

We do it by empowering them and letting them help decide the next future for their own lives. We can do this.

JONES: Sounds like there might be a President Kennedy, another one? Possibly.

KENNEDY: Coffee and sleep. Coffee and sleep.

JONES: Thank you Congressman, for being here, it means the world to me to have you here. Next up, the political comedian that is taking on some of the biggest issues in United States and some of the most powerful governments in the world. Hasan Minhaj is going to here when we get back.


JONES: Welcome back to The Van Jones Show. My next guest is taking on a big pharma, affirmative action even the Saudi regime, all in the name of comedy. He made headlines earlier this year when Netflix pulled an episode of this show, the Patriot Act in Saudi Arabia at the request of their government.

But he is not backing down and here's how he recapped the whole drama on the second season premiere.


HASAN MINHAJ, COMEDIAN & HOST, PATRIOT ACT WITH HASAN MINHAJ: Let's break down how I became Internet bad boy. According to Article 6 of the Saudi Arabian anti cybercrime law, any content that impinges on public order, religious values or public morals is prohibited.

Of all the Netflix originals, the only show that Saudi Arabia thinks violates Muslim values is the one hosted by a Muslim.


JONES: Please welcome to the Van Jones Show. The host of Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj. Good to have you man. Oh my goodness, rockstar. We got a Rockstar.

Listen, I got so much to get into with you but I got to ask you the question about Jussie Smollett. Obviously you know, you're a big star, he's a big star, you've been a victim of a real racism and you've come through it, it's a big part of your of your comedy.

How do you feel knowing that he may have just made up a racist attack?

MINHAJ: Yes, I mean the disappointing thing and a lot of us have covered this is that it's going to negate future, you know, real sort of people coming forward and sharing their story and people sort of doubting it, that's the disappointing thing. Is how that becomes a data point that's then used against other real victims.


MINHAJ: That to me is the most disappointing part.

JONES: Yes, were you surprised?

MINHAJ: I mean, I mean, the way in which all the plot points were unfolding it, it felt like I was watching a TV show like it was - it was crazy but it was as things started to unfold that it started to really bum me out.

It's disappointing and it's not - it's not just - to me, it's just - it's one small case that's indicative of a larger sort of problem.

JONES: Yes, yes, well, I mean, I hope that people will recognize that these hate crimes really are rising.


JONES: And I hope that people keep that in mind.


JONES: You have decided to do something that is in the real world quite heroic, possibly reckless, possibly crazy.


JONES: Why you still messing with the Saudis? Man. I don't understand.

MINHAJ: Look, I know. My parents told me the same thing.

JONES: Yes. They are correct, sir.

MINHAJ: Yes like - and I get it, like here's the thing, when the episode got pulled, I'll be a 100% honest with you, I'm not built for this beef like barely. I'm like barely filling these mediums. I'm not ready to go head to head with dictators or autocrat. So I'm sorry in advance.

JONES: I know, exactly.

MINHAJ: Like I want to live to see the retweets. All right? Because everyone's coming up to me and saying, man, this is the bravest thing you could have ever done. I'm not trying to be comedies Tupac. I'm not so yes, but we interested in the top of the show and yes so I'm going to do the best I can to not poke anymore.

JONES: Yes, I mean, in all seriousness.


JONES: I mean this is a brutal dictator. I mean are you - would you be able to complete your Hajj, will you be able to go back to Mecca? I mean, how do you think about - listen, you're a comedian, you're a star. You're also a Muslim, you're human being.


JONES: How do you think about the impact on your real life? Can you go there?

MINHAJ: So look, I have to just make personal choices and professional choices and that's the tough thing that I think a lot of people sometimes don't understand you know. I think we take it for granted here. Safety is something that we take for granted here in America. I'm not the real victim here, the victims are the activists in Saudi Arabia. The journalists in Saudi Arabia. Dissenters who get sort of silenced. I'm fine, I got 60 new Instagram followers. I'm great. I'm - I got the blue check, I'm great.

So the heart breaking part is yes, you know if I speak out about certain things, will I be able to -

JONES: To travel to do your thing.

MINHAJ: Yes, but I think God understands.

JONES: I hope so.

MINHAJ: I hope so you know.

JONES: Did you feel let down by Netflix?

MINHAJ: Well, to be fair Netflix, let me say what I wanted to say so that I appreciate, right? The philosophical debate, the reason why this became an international case study is how are the big 5 tech companies that are no bigger than countries themselves Netflix, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon.

[19:35:00] How are they going to interact with otherwise questionable regimes and look, I mean, my show, of course, it's not that popular, it became a thing because it's now this case study of okay, so now Apple, you want to go into China. Can you write episodes in your dramatic series that are maybe negative of the CCP?

Are you going to pre censor? Are you going to post censor? Where's the line? We're going to see a lot more stuff like that in the future.

JONES: Well, that's about the tech companies, it's also true of you talk about the safety or whatever but you know, Donald Trump, says he wants retribution against Saturday Night Live. I mean, that seems bad. I don't know if that's good. How did that land in the world of comedians?

MINHAJ: I mean, look, for me, that's why I always defend satire like through and through. I even - unfortunately even will defend bad jokes because the good meaningful ones also need to be there too.

JONES: Do you think about the White House correspondents dinner. They're now not going to let - the President's not coming and the comedians not coming so I guess we have to go for the food.

MINHAJ: I don't know about that. I mean, you were there when I did man and the food's not great.

JONES: I know.

MINHAJ: It was - it was - it was lukewarm but here's the way I say it. I say it this way, comedy and jokes, they have an impact in ways we could never imagine. So sometimes I think people assign too much value where they're like you're the voice of the revolution, Hasan Minhaj.

And I'm like relax man. Like I do my little show in a little black box studio. If people see it, you know what I mean, that's you know but the impact of jokes occur in ways we could never even imagine.

Who would have thought a throwaway line by Hannibal Burress, doing just crowd work with the crowd in Philadelphia would lead to a perp walk.

JONES: For Bill Cosby.

MINHAJ: For Bill Cosby. Who would have thought, right? Or an eyeshadow joke by Michelle Wolf would lead to where we are with the White House correspondents; dinner but at the same time you know, I've said a million jokes that don't lead to massive political or social change.

JONES: Right.

MINHAJ: You know what I mean? They have impacts in ways we could never imagine. That's the way I think of it.

JONES: Part of the reason I think people are so excited about you, first of all, there are just not that many Muslims who have any platform.

MINHAJ: Right.

JONES: Let alone the young and cool and all the stuff you get accused of being.

MINHAJ: Thank you man. You didn't read that from a prompter because the prompter screen is blank so -

JONES: Exactly.

MINHAJ: That was from the heart.

JONES: It was from the heart, truly from the heart but you arrived at it in such an interesting way because you say, you're an insider and you're an outsider.


JONES: You know, your family is an immigrant family.


JONES: Muslims from India.

MINHAJ: Correct.

JONES: But you were born here.

MINHAJ: Correct.

JONES: And so you're an insider.


JONES: But you're also an outsider. Just talk about that a little bit and how that affects your whole approach to the comedy.

MINHAJ: Yes, I mean, you know, growing up you feel this sort of X-men mutant feeling where you know, you have these two lives where it's like yes, I'm a child of immigrants, I speak this one language at home but then I speak this other language in school, on the playground with friends.

And I sort of have to bridge the - you started laughing, right? Yes, it's like we have two different identities. When I first watched X- men, I'm like I know what that's like.

JONES: Yes exactly.

MINHAJ: Mutant but you just M U. S. L. I M you know, but it's I get it. And I totally understood that, right? But that's actually great fodder for comedy, that pressure, that feeling of like hey, like where do I fit in? You know? And that to me has worked to my advantage on the show and also having the show in it being in 190 countries.


MINHAJ: Because there's a lot of countries that look at us from the outside and I'm waving at them, hey, I'm an outsider too, I don't get it either but then I'm also able to communicate with people because I'm just as American as they are.


MINHAJ: And I think it's a cool sort of dynamic.

JONES: It's awesome and you're a bridge builder in a world where people are trying to build walls and I want to talk to you with you about that more when we get back, including I want to talk with you about which 2020 candidates you might like. Who you think might be the best fodder for comedians and also what exactly is a brilluminati? I want to know what's a brilluminati when we get back.

MINHAJ: All right.


JONES: All right, welcome back to The Van Jones Show. I'm here with comedian Hasan Minhaj. Pretty good?

MINHAJ: There we go.

JONES: Okay - Okay?

MINHAJ: I don't you know but you did it you know, like people order like you know when they go- some people go to a Mexican restaurant, like let me get a burrito. Hasan Minhaj. Look, man, I'm just glad to be on CNN and I'm not yelling over 17 other players.

JONES: Hey listen.

MINHAJ: Sometimes when I watch CNN, I feel like I'm picking a player in Street Fighter. Right you all right, cool.

JONES: You got a show, this Patriot Act show, it's a big deal on Netflix, you're going to the slick, are you going to stick with issues now like you've been doing or are you going to start talking about some of these candidates? How do you deal with a show like yours, heading into a Presidential election?

MINHAJ: So for me like I'm really interested in you know, coming from the daily show, we would do a lot of coverage on the day to day. I'm really fascinated with the problems themselves, not the symptoms. You know, I really don't want to be in the business of tweet chasing or you know, making a meal out of a gaffe and following the sort of day to day stuff that happens.

JONES: Why not?

MINHAJ: Because you end up - it feels like sugar man, it's really fun man like watching someone slip up and say something silly on CNN or whatever, it's great. You can you can do six minutes of jokes but then when you walk away, you're like what's the greater take away? So this weekend we're doing a big thing on student loan debt.

To me, that impacts a lot of people. Does anyone here have student loans? There we go, all right, there we go. That's what I'm talking about versus like hey, did you see the covfefe. Yes, you have like - you have a few laughs and then you keep it moving you know.

JONES: Right.

MINHAJ: And so to me talking about stuff that actually really, really does impact people's lives and you can walk away from the episode with a piece of information like, oh, I never thought of it that way or thank you for talking about that issue.

JONES: You do come out of this incredible university of John Stewart and you were the last of that bunch. You know you're like the last one hired and now you're out here doing this great stuff. What was it about that environment that perhaps produced so many stars out of the John Stewart Big Bang?

[19:45:00] MINHAJ: Okay so I'll tell you guys, this is the real - this is the secret sauce. The real secret sauce is this, it is for the longest time as a comedian, I just thought you just got to be - you just got to do jokes, that's it. Just think of as many funny jokes as - it's a volume game, you got to be the Allen Iverson of jokes, just put up a lot of jokes.

The thing that separates, that separated John and made that show so revolutionary was take. What's your take? What is the way you can condense the information and slice it in a comedic take? That's why people tune into the shows.

JONES: You are not going to do a lot on candidates but there's at least one candidate I got to get your take on, Kamala Harris. Everybody talks about her as being the possibly the first black woman.

MINHAJ: Right.

JONES: But she's also half Indian.


JONES: Since people are trying to put people in different boxes, this is the female candidate.

MINHAJ: Right.

JONES: This is the gay candidate, this is whatever.

MINHAJ: Right.

JONES: Does the Indian community feel about Kamala Harris any particular way or is she kind of like neither nor? I'm just curious.

MINHAJ: No, no, because you don't know this, the minternet, they rock with Bernie hard. Right? You don't know, the minternet is the Muslim Internet. It's like black Twitter but for Muslims. It's popping, right?

JONES: People talk about black girl magic, black girl magic with regard to Kamala, does she have like Indian girl magic too or not so much?

MINHAJ: I don't know. You know, I haven't checked in with the brilluminati yet.

JONES: We are going to find out what is the brilluminati. What is it?

MINHAJ: All right, all right, the brilluminati is a group of brown artists that have Trojan horsed their way into this thing called show business so I'm talking about Mindy Kaling, Riz Ahmed, Kumail Nanjiani, like it's like this group, accountable, this group of sort of south Asian, brown, middle eastern artists that have started to make waves in the industry.

I call it the brilluminati.

JONES: I see, I see. I've got to tell you something. Conspiracies are supposed to be secret. You ruined the whole thing.

MINHAJ: That's why I'm bad at being in secret societies because I'm the first student that'll run out and be like yo, I just got inducted. We out here. I'm throwing out all these signals and yes.

Yes, that's why I tend to get in trouble. Oh. these are very flattering photos of me. That's really, you guys picked that boy band, that like emo sort of -

JONES: You call yourself an angry optimist.


JONES: And I mean first of all you don't seem that angry and you may have us rolling around the floor laughing but talk to me about this identity that you have politically of the angry optimist. What does that even mean?

MINHAJ: Yes like to me, I look at nihilism, I don't think gets you anywhere you know and -

JONES: A lot of companies out there.

MINHAJ: I know, I know man but it's just not - it just doesn't work for me, it just doesn't sit right in my heart, it just doesn't and I think you know for me, I'm a child of immigrants. My dad, his position on a lot of things, he comes from a place of pragmatism, like just hardcore pragmatism.

JONES: Right.

MINHAJ: You know what I mean? He's conservative in the sheets, he's liberal in the streets. I mean, at home he's like pro child abuse, he's pro fear, you got to be a doctor, like I'm physically conservative, pull up your pants, all of that stuff.

And then in the streets, he like, hey, equality for all. What about free your son? Not for my son, all right. But - but what I've learned from my father is that is you can be pragmatic, understand the rules of the game but also then be optimistic too.

You know, change is only possible with optimism so that's how I try to navigate my life.

JONES: Listen man, I'm so glad to have you here. I hope that you'll come back. You can catch new episodes of the Patriot Act every Sunday on Netflix. When we get back, Democrats are pushing to raise taxes on the rich. Republicans say No Way.

Who's right? Who's wrong? How is this going to play out 2020? You're going to learn all of that when we get back next, thank you very much.


JONES: Look, the 2020 candidates are already making really big promises on everything from healthcare to college tuition to paid family leave and most of them say that raising taxes on the rich is how they're going to pay for all this stuff.

Now they throw out all kind of terms like marginal rates and individual assets and wealth taxes, all kinds of stuff I don't understand. This financial jargon could be so confusing that I created an explainer to break down a few of the most popular proposals. Take a look.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: An ultra-millionaires' tax to make sure that rich people start doing their part.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Of course, taxes should go up for them.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: They need to pay more taxes.

JONES: Many Democrats say they want to raise taxes on the rich but they got very different ideas about how to do it. REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: One of the most effective ways to stem income inequality is through a marginal tax rate on the highest brackets of income.

JONES: Let's start with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's call for that 70% marginal tax rate that caused so much controversy. Here's how that would actually work.

You're probably familiar with tax brackets. Now some people might think when they see this chart, that a person making $80,000 a year gets 22% tax out of their whole salary, that's not actually how this system works.

Instead of brackets, it's probably more helpful to think of our income tax system as a series of baskets, all right? So let's say you make $80,000 a year as a single person. The first $9700 that you make is tax at a marginal tax rate of 10%. So that's $970.

The next chunk of your income, up to $39,475 is charged at a marginal rate of 12% and the rest of the $80,000 is taxed at a marginal rate of 22%. Right now, the highest marginal tax rate is 37% for all income over $510,301. That means a person who make $600,000 is effectively fax at the same rate as somebody who's making $600 million in income.

Ocasio-Cortez's proposing adding another basket. So any income over $10 million would be taxed at a new rate of 70% but a lot of people have problems with this.

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To pave the way for socialism, Democrats are calling for massive tax hikes.

JONES: Even those who agree that the wealthy should pay more in taxes.

[19:55:00] BILL CLINTON: These great fortunes were not made through ordinary income. Bill Gates is right. Many millionaires and billionaires don't earn typical salaries and therefore they don't pay much in income tax. Instead their wealth comes from assets like stocks and real estate and interest on savings.

Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, each have plans to increase taxes on assets. Elizabeth Warren would create a 2% wealth tax on Americans who owns $50 million or more in total combined assets and 3% taxes on every dollar of assets above 1 billion.

Meanwhile Bernie Sanders wants to increase taxes on inherited assets otherwise known as an estate tax. Right now, your kids won't get tax for any assets you pass down to them worth less than $11.4 million. Under Bernie's plans, your heirs would have to pay taxes on inheritances that are worth $3.5 million or more.

Now some experts find problems with these tax plan. They say people will work hard to find loopholes like moving their asset such as cash or gold overseas.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JONES: Now we're going to be hearing a lot more about that as this

contest goes on. I want to thank you for watching and learning with me. I'm Van Jones, this The Van Jones Show. Peace and love for one another.