July 27, 2020


WASHINGTON – Today, Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) appeared on MSNBC’s The ReidOut to discuss Republicans’ lackluster and late response to the COVID-19 crisis.

JOY REID: You know, when you hear this, combine the fact that Donald Trump is completely confused, there is complete confusion in the messaging coming out of the White House. The other piece of confusion that I see, respectfully, is out of what's happening in Congress right now. You have Mitch McConnell wearing a mask in a video, but as far as we can tell, they've not agreed on even what would be in their version of a bill, and they're rejecting the Democrats’ bill to try to alleviate the economic torture on Americans right now. What is going on up there?

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: […] Mitch McConnell's response is consistent with President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic. He's been stumbling, fumbling and bumbling, and that is what they've done from the very beginning. We have a situation right now where you have more than 150,000 Americans who have died. More than four million Americans have been infected. More than five million Americans have lost their employer-based health care. More than 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed, and more than 50 million Americans are newly unemployed. We passed the Heroes Act, a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic two and a half months ago, and yet, Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans, along with Donald Trump, have not seen fit to act. It is legislative malpractice. And so, Joy, what you're seeing in terms of the confusion that seems to be coming from the Senate side of the Capitol and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has been their playbook for the last several months. They have failed the American people.

JOY REID: And maybe he didn't get the message that, quote unquote, our people are being affected now. Apparently, that's what got to Donald Trump. When you hear that, what do you think Donald Trump means by that when he says "now it's affecting our people," and the people around him have said "now it's affecting our people, it's time to act."

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: The most significant lie of the 20,000 that Donald Trump has told over the last three and a half years is that he cares about the American people. He does not. He cares about himself. And in that context, his only real concern appears to be electoral survival. It's no surprise to me that what may have gotten Donald Trump's attention is the fact that his campaign appears to be going down in flames, in part because who he views as his people are turning against him because of the failed leadership coming out of the Oval Office.

Now, we are still going to try to find common ground because that is what the circumstances require. But we need a robust, meaningful, transformative intervention. We need $875 million for states and localities. We need another round of direct stimulus payments. We need to extend unemployment insurance emergency benefits, which are scheduled to expire on Friday. We need to provide real assistance to renters and homeowners who are struggling to pay the rent and the mortgage. We should settle for nothing less than that. Mitch McConnell should stop nickel-and-diming the American people.

JOY REID: Speaking of nickel-and-diming the American people, NBC News is reporting that Senate Republicans, one of the things they want to do is to cut down that $600 extra jobless benefit by two thirds by making it only $200. That's the plan that they unveiled today. Have any of your colleagues on the other side of the aisle explained what is their objection to giving average Americans a mere $600? It's not like the trillions of dollars that they gave to the airline industry and to individual restaurants -- giant restaurant chains got tens of millions of dollars. Why are they so against the average person getting just $600 dollars extra on unemployment benefits? Did they explain that to you?

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: It's a great question. They haven't explained it because they have no good explanation. But what it illustrates is there's a clear difference between what we're about as House Democrats and Senate Democrats, which is fighting For The People and what they're about, which is fighting for the privileged few. They passed the GOP tax scam where 83 percent of the benefits went to the wealthiest one percent. They had no problems doing that and drowned us in about $2 trillion in debt. Now they want to nickel-and-dime the American people for $600 per week in emergency benefits when we're in the midst of a deep recession heading possibly toward a depression. It's shameless. We are going to hold the line on behalf of the American people.

JOY REID: Before I let you go, I have to play this piece of audio for you. Donald Trump was finally asked about these Russian bounties. He spoke to Vladimir Putin. We know that he had that conversation, another one of his conversations with his favorite leader. Here he was being asked about whether or not he brought up the issue of Russia offering bounties for our troops. I just want to ask you for your response.

REPORTER: You did talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I wanted to ask if you brought up the reports of Russia having bounties on our soldiers in Afghanistan?

PRESIDENT TRUMP We don't talk about what we discussed. But we had plenty of discussion and I think it was very productive.

JOY REID: In your view, do you trust Donald Trump with our national security? We have an election coming up that Russia is already trying to interfere. Do you trust this man with America's national security?

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: The American people should decide an American election. Donald Trump has solicited foreign interference in our election multiple times. He did it with Russia. He did it with China. He did it with Ukraine. His primary focus is his own personal, political and financial interests. There's no evidence or reason to believe that he will ever lift up the best interests of the American people, in national security or otherwise. That is quite unfortunate.