All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 8/18/17 What a Week
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: August 18, 2017
Guest: Gabriel Sherman, Philip Rucker, Mickey Edwards, John Harwood, Kal
Penn, Betsy Woodruff, Ben Howe
JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like Mr. Bannon, he`s a
friend of mine.
REID: Bannon gets bounced.
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: It`s not only not going
to get better, it`s going to get worse every day.
REID: Tonight, inside the departure of one of the most controversial
figures in the White House.
TRUMP: Mr. Bannon came on very late, you know that.
REID: A new threat of war from the world of Breitbart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there going to be a war with this White House?
REID: Plus, why Bannon`s departure doesn`t fix Trump`s problem with race.
TRUMP: We really do have to ask you something, where does it stop?
REID: Then, another mass resignation from yet another White House council.
TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me.
REID: My exclusive interview with the man who let the Exodus, actor Kal
Penn. And a look back at Trump`s worst week yet.
ROBIN ROBERTS ABC GOOD MORNING AMERICA ANCHOR: Have you talked to him
SUSAN BRO, MOTHER OF HEATHER HEYER: I have not and now I will not.
REID: ALL IN starts now.
Good evening from New York, I`m Joy Reid in for Chris Hayes. Steve Bannon
is out but he`s not going easy. Exactly a year and a day after taking over
the Trump campaign, the former Breitbart chairman and right wing lightning
rod was dismiss zed, effective today from his job as Chief White House
Strategist, telling The Weekly Standard tonight “The Trump presidency that
we fought for and won is over. We still have a huge movement and we will
make something of this Trump presidency but that presidency is over.
Bannon had positioned himself as a voice inside the White House for the
president`s political base. A famous leak keeping a list of all Trump`s
major campaign promises on a white board in his office. And this week, he
was the only White House official to publicly embrace and encourage the
president`s widely condemned response to the violence in Charlottesville in
which he defended participants in a white nationalist rally. As business
leaders and Republican lawmakers denounced Trump`s conduct according to the
Many on the White House staff let a drum beat for the president to dismiss
Bannon and any other aides who have connections of any kind to the white
nationalist movement. But long before Charlottesville, Bannon was known to
clash with some of his White House colleagues, including National Security
Adviser H.R. McMaster and economic adviser Gary Cohn. And rumors of his
imminent dismissal accelerated with the appointment of John Kelly as the
new chief of staff who reportedly has been determined to bring order to the
But according to report, it may have been a book that decided Bannon`s
fate. The devil`s bargain by Bloomberg Joshua Green on Bannon`s role in
shaping and paving the way for the Trump campaign. Listen to Trump`s
response when asked about Bannon earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I like Mr. Bannon. He`s a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on
very late, you know that. I went through 17 senators, governors and I won
all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that and I like
him. He`s a good man, but, we`ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: BuzzFeed reports that the president recently told the confidant that
effing Steve Bannon taking credit for my election. Tonight, Bannon is
already back at Breitbart cheering this evening`s editorial meeting as he
told The Weekly Standard and this is a real quote, “I feel jacked up. Now
I`m free. I`ve got my hands back on my weapons.”
Joining me now to talk about what just happened are two men deeply sourced
inside the Trump administration. Gabriel Sherman, special correspondent
for Vanity Fair and Philip Rucker, White House Bureau Chief for The
Washington Post. Gentlemen, thank you for being here. Gabe, I`ll start
with you at the table because – well, that`s quite a quote. I`ll give you
another one from The Weekly Standard`s interview from Bannon. I`m
definitely going to crush the opposition. There`s no doubt. I built a
bleeping machine at Breitbart and now I`m about to go back knowing what I
know and we are about to rev that machine up and rev it up, we will do.
Who is Bannon talking about going to war against? Is it Donald Trump?
GABRIEL SHERMAN, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR: Yes. Well, that`s
classic Bannon you know, he is a bombastic character. And I think really
first he`s going to go to war against his globalist as he likes to call
them moderate enemies inside the White House, that includes Jared Kushner,
it includes H.R. McMaster, Gary Cohn. These were the people principally he
was battling to and execute his populist nationalist agenda. I think when
it comes to Trump, really it`s going to come down to policy. I don`t think
he is going to be driven by vengeance personally This is a matter of
Bannon`s ideas. He has ideas, whether you agree or disagree. He was going
to fight from the White House to pressure the White House not to abandon
his populist message.
REID: And Philip, let`s go backwards now to talk about just how this came
out because of course you have the White House and the Bannon folks now
first leaking and then confirming, saying what he really resigned on the
7th. That`s when he really resigned, it was just effective today. Is that
true or was he flat out fired?
PHILIP RUCKER, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR: Well, that`s what
Bannon is telling his friends. But other White House officials are saying
that he was fired and that this was a decision that General Kelly largely
made himself of course with the blessing of President Trump. And it`s
important to remember what Kelly is trying to accomplish here. He is
trying to bring some order to a White House that for seven months now have
been ridden by inciting, by backstabbing.
A legislative agenda is basically in shambles, nothing is really happening
when it comes to the priorities that the president wants to get done. And
so, Kelly is trying to bring some order and feels like getting rid of
Bannon is a way to do that.
REID: Phil. we`ll stay with you for just a second. Is it – where were
Javonka, they called Jared and Ivanka, were they a part of this push to get
rid of Bannon?
RUCKER: Well, we know from reporting a few months ago that Jared and
Ivanka Trump made a direct appeal to try to get their father and father-in-
law to fire Steve Bannon. This is back in sort of April or May. There`s
long been tension between Bannon and the Kushner group, Cadre if you will.
But Trump didn`t act on it then. Certainly, they`re encouraging of
removing Bannon but I – I`m told that this is really a Kelly-driven
decision to fire him.
REID: And let`s talk, Gabriel, about the Mercers because of course the
mercers are the money behind Breitbart. Did the money actually behind
Kellyanne Conway and a little money behind Bannon, he`s now back talking to
them. Did they try to fight to keep Bannon in place and what might they do
now that he`s gone?
SHERMAN: Mercers have been the money behind Breitbart. They were Bannon`s
advocate, they brought him into the campaign last summer. They wanted to
keep him, the Mercers really see if Bannon as the avatar of this populist
movement. Now that he is out, they are billionaires, they are going to
contribute millions of dollars presumably to whatever venture he does next.
Right now, it is going to be Breitbart. But I would not be surprised to
see Steve Bannon leverage the Mercer`s billions of dollars and maybe try to
turn Breitbart into a global media platform, a television network, maybe
buy a company. I mean, I think s Steve Bannon sees himself in world
historical terms. And that he`s outside of the White House, he is not
going to want to do something small. So, whatever he does next, you can
pretty sure it`s going to be a big thing.
REID: (INAUDIBLE) just stay with you for a second because they have always
had Fox News, so the Republican Party has Fox News in their corner, that`s
sort of the state-run media if you will but there are these other media
entity sort of swirling around. At one point, people thought Trump might
make one. So, now, what you`re saying then is Bannon might go out there
and try to create his own media empire?
SHERMAN: Without question I think that has to be on the table. And we
know from my own reporting that there`s a of tension between Steve Bannon
and Rupert Murdoch. He – we used to know from reports the other day that
Rupert Murdoch told Donald Trump at a dinner at the White House to fire
Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon sees Rupert Murdoch and Fox News by extension
really as part of the globalist establishment (INAUDIBLE) as hard as that
might be to imagine. But I think Steve Bannon sees them as part of the
D.C. swamp and he wants his media empire to be the voice to be the new
right which is the Breitbart populist in some cases white nationalist
REID: And the demographic is about 40 years younger which is something
that value – makes that Breitbart valuable. Philip, Donald Trump is not
yet, I haven`t checked his Twitter feed in the last, what, seven minutes,
but he hasn`t yet attacked Bannon despite the fact that Bannon is out there
talking which Trump hates in getting headline instead of Trump. Is Donald
Trump afraid to attack Steve Bannon? We have heard some rumors that there
are Right Wing bloggers who said if Bannon goes, we`re unleashing all of
our upper research on this White House?
RUCKER: Yes. You know, he is not engaged with Bannon and it`s
interesting, he didn`t – the president didn`t issue any kind of statement
today praising Bannon for his service which seems unusual for an official
that senior. But I know that he is worried about the kind of impact, the
kind of damage that Bannon could have on the outside, certainly if he is
going to try to go to war with people inside the administration, try to
hold the president to his campaign promises that could potentially get ugly
at some point.
REID: Yes. The plot thickens. Gabriel Sherman, Gabe Sherman, and Philip
Rucker. Thank you guys, have a great weekend.
SHERMAN: Thank you.
RUCKER: Thank you so much.
REID: All right. Thank you. Now, I want to turn to somebody who`s been
incredibly vocal about the president`s behavior this week. Senator Brian
Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii joins me from Honolulu. Senator, welcome.
SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D), HAWAII: Thanks, Joy. Thanks for having me.
REID: So after Charlottesville, you essentially said this is not your
president, that Donald Trump is unfit for office. It`s not something we
haven`t heard before. With Bannon gone, does that change your view?
SCHATZ: No, it really doesn`t. And I – there was a fascinating panel
about what happens next with Steve Bannon and he obviously an outside
character, grandiose character and a dangerous person to have proximity to
that much authority. But in the end, the failures of this presidency are
the president`s failures. And what happened in the wake of Charlottesville
was a perfect example of that. What we saw was that by all accounts, the
president had a script that he was supposed to read where he met the basic
moral test of being the leader of the free world which is to say that he
knows the difference between Nazis and people who protest against Nazi and
he`s the one that went off script. So, as dangerous as Steve Bannon is and
as thankful as many of – as many of us are, that he`s leaving the White
House, I think the real problem is the president of the United States and
that`s not going to change anytime soon.
REID: And I want to put up the tweet that you put up on Tuesday. This is
the day after Donald Trump`s unprecedented press conference where he
supported the white nationalist marchers are you wrote, as a Jew, as an
American, as a human words cannot express my disgust and disappointment.
This is not my president. Bannon has signaled he`s going after “The
globalist” that usually the – a very loaded meaning when people especially
at Breitbart use that term. Do you believe that Jewish members of this
cabinet should resign in protest, particularly given that Breitbart is
signaling they`re coming for them?
SCHATZ: Yes. I think they have to. I think people of conscience can`t
pretend that this president is something that they hoped he would be. That
they were hoping that he would be competent, that he would be a deal maker
in the middle, that he would be a pragmatist. I remember reading an
article online at the very beginning of the presidency that he was going to
function as sort of an executive chairman and allow each one of his cabinet
officials to run the government as they see fit. None of that happened.
And his ability to make deals, his ability to be a pragmatists, his a
ability to be a competent leader for the United States, none of it came
through and so I – what I thought was really hopeful over the last few
days is that there are Republicans who are patriots, who are finally
standing up and saying enough is enough. Mitt Romney, both Presidents,
Bush, many of the leaders of the service branches of the Department of
Defense and finally, some of my senate colleagues on the republican side
whom I`ve been relatively critical of for not doing enough.
They said it`s a pretty harsh things and I think that this is the beginning
of the end of Republicans being able to hide behind some imaginary Donald
Trump that clearly doesn`t exist anymore. This person is not capable
morally, politically or in terms of his competencies to lead the free
REID: But it – notably not on that list of people who stood up to Donald
Trump in the wake of this – the Monday press conference are Mitch
McConnell who issued a statement much later and some private concerns and
over on the house side, Paul Ryan. Without their leadership, do you expect
your colleagues on the other side of the aisle to have the courage to stand
up to him with more than words?
SCHATZ: I think there`s a ground swell. And I imagine that Majority
Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan will be among the last to turn but I
think, you know, one of the things that was exciting for the country in the
last week or the work period was John McCain`s no-vote where we rejected
what they were going to do the ACA but also a 98-2 vote for tough Russia
sanctions which obviously the president was trying to stop all the way
SCHATZ: So even in that week and add to that Jeff Flake`s very sharp
comments that week, you have the beginning of the mouse that is the
legislative branch starting to roar. I don`t want to overstate this
because I think we have a long way to go but I was encouraged by Republican
patriots, people with whom I disagree on almost everything when it comes to
policy but who are moral and decent human beings who want to do the right
thing by the country, who say look, I have very few bright lines but
understanding the difference between Nazi`s and the people who oppose Nazis
is one of those bright lines and I think we`re going to see more of that
rather than less through the fall.
REID: Yes. You would think. Senator Brian Schatz. Thank you very much
for your time tonight.
SCHATZ: Thanks, Joy.
REID: Thank you. Let`s turn now for some republican reaction to the
Bannon ouster. Mickey Edwards represented Oklahoma in the House of
Representative for 16 years. He is now vice president of the Aspen
Institute. Congressman, thanks for being here.
MICKEY EDWARDS, VICE PRESIDENT, ASPEN INSTITUTE: Sure. Glad to be here.
REID: So (INAUDIBLE) photo, this was a staff photo of the Oval Office back
in the beginning, this must be in January earlier on on the campaign, you
have Steve Bannon there, you have Reince Priebus, you have Sean Spicer, you
have General Flynn. You can see it there. Now, everyone at that table,
with the exception of Mike Pence is gone. And most of the people around
that table represented the Republican establishment, except for Bannon.
What do you make of the fact that now Bannon, the anti-establishment guy is
EDWARDS: I don`t make much very of it, Joy. The problem was not Steve
Bannon. I mean he`s – he`s a terrible human being, he`s got crazy ideas,
but the problem is Donald Trump. I agree with what Brian was just saying.
You know, it is Donald Trump who doesn`t know the difference between people
who are neo-Nazi or whatever term they want to use that the white
nationalists and the people are standing up against them. It is Donald
Trump who doesn`t understand that you have to have a certain level of
competence in order to make things work. You know, this is – he has a
good habit here for himself of throwing something out there that switches
our direction, gets us to look in the other direction. It`s not Steve
Bannon, you know, it`s Donald Trump and he is still there.
REID: And let`s talk just a little bit about the Republican base. I mean,
you`d run, you know, in the Republican Party. Obviously, Donald Trump knew
something about the GOP base that the rest of the party did not. He
defeated 16 other people who are more establishment types. Is the base of
the party more Bannonite than average Republicans want to admit?
EDWARDS: Well, they might be. I think there are a lot of people in the
Republican Party, especially those who are from areas that have been hard
hit economically, who are just desperate. They are looking for something
different. But I will tell you, I mean, I`m concerned by the number of
people who have remained silent, not only as we just talked about, both
Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. So let me add to the – there are people
within the Republican Party in the leadership and in the base who are
speaking out and saying, we don`t support bigotry, we – you know, big
deal. You know, it is not about that. That`s easy to say.
What you need to do is call out the president and these people voted for
him. They put him in office. He didn`t just parachute in. And so they
have a great responsibility now. And I personally think those members of
congress, Republican or Democrat, those who don`t call out Donald Trump by
name at this point are going to have a legacy that they`re never going to
be able to repair.
REID: Should congress censure the president?
EDWARDS: I think Congress they should censure the president, you know, not
just for what he said in Charlottesville but for a lot of things. I mean,
here is a man who is the enabler of what the white nationalists are doing.
He is the validator of the kinds of things they are putting for. So, he is
not just somebody who sits there and failed to say the right things. You
know, he just kind of messed up, he didn`t say the right things when this
happened. Now, he is the person who gives them the credibility to say,
look, the president does this, why can`t we?
REID: Yes. And what do you say to members of Congress who are in, you
know, still actively in politics who say, if we turn against this
president, we will lose our seats?
EDWARDS: Then they lose their seats. You know what, the United States is
more important than rather anyone member gets to remain in congress
forever. You know, there`s life after congress. So, what`s happening is
you see among members of congress, you know, this is part of the
partisanship that I talk about all the time. These are members of congress
who took an oath of office and the oath of office was not to defend their
party. It was not to help their party or to pass a particular tax bill or
a particular budget.
You know, the oath of office was to defend the United States to defend the
constitution of the United States. And if you lose your seat because you
stood up to do what was right, you know, people are going to cheer you and
they`re going to look back and say that was somebody who had courage, who
had principles and these people now who aren`t doing it. I don`t know how
they are going to live with themselves.
REID: Yes. History definitely will judge. Mickey Edwards, thank you so
much for joining me.
EDWARDS: Yes. Thank you, Joy.
REID: Thank you. And next, more on what Steve Bannon means for the Trump
White House with John Harwood and Jason Johnson after two-minute break.
REID: Long before Steve Bannon joined up, Donald Trump launched his
campaign with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When Mexico sends their people, they are not sending their best.
They are bringing drugs, they`re bringing crime, they are rapists, and
some, I assume are good people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Without any help from Steve Bannon, Trump repeatedly claimed this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: People that were cheering in the other side of New Jersey where you
have large area of population, they were cheering as the World Trade Center
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And long before that, Trump skyrocketed to a place of political
relevance by trafficking in the racist birther conspiracy theory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: A birth certificate is not even close. A certificate of live birth
is not eve signed by anybody. I saw his. I read it very carefully.
Doesn`t have a serial number, it doesn`t have a signature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And decades before that, in 1989, Trump stoked racial tensions with
full-page ads calling for the execution of the teenagers dubbed the central
park five when they were falsely accused of rape. He was incensed years
later when the wrongly convicted men, four African-American and one
Hispanic, received a settlement from the city. And so, as the president`s
chief strategist leaves the Trump administration, does anything really
change inside the White House? MSNBC Contributor Jason Johnson, he`s
politics editor at The Root, and John Harwood, he`s CNBC editor-at-large,
they join me now. Jason, you know, Donald Trump have a reputation that far
proceeds Steve Bannon.
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
REID: So, it – was Steve Bannon the reason that Donald Trump seemed to
truck with racism and xenophobia?
JOHNSON: Not really, Joy. Because like who you hire is a reflection of
your values? So you had Steve Bannon, you had Steven Miller, you had
Gorka, Trump was racist enough before he brought Steve Bannon in. He
didn`t need Bannon`s help. But what Bannon did provide him with was a
cover in media so that Trump could pretend that what he was doing was
policy oriented and political as just a being a racist on a regular basis.
REID: Yes. And John, I want to play, you know, what actually Bannon said
at CPAC, this was sort of a thing that Donald Trump didn`t have when Bannon
joined up. And this is him talking about globalists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANNON: It`s not only not going to get better, it`s going to get worse
every day. And here is why. By the way, the internal logic makes sense.
They`re corporatists, globalists media that are adamantly opposed –
adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And John, is there a case to be made that the racism piece in the
sort of, you know, allowing white nationalists to march and saying they`re
good people that that part might have been inherit and Donald Trump didn`t
need Bannon for it. But what you just heard is what Bannon brought to the
table, the sort of populism that agenda that Trump may not have had going
JOHN HARWOOD, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNBC: I don`t think so, Joy. I think
Donald Trump was talking about bad trade deals for a very long time, all
the way back to NAFTA and before NAFTA. So, I think Donald Trump, as Jason
was indicated was reaching out for somebody with some of the same
sentiments as he had at a time when his campaign was doing badly. You know
hat, Donald Trump does when times are tough is to go ever more fiercely
toward his comfort zone because that`s where he`s going to get some
And I think Internally, Bannon reflected that. Externally, these rallies
he has reflect that. He wants – he wants to be bathed in applause. And
the other thing I just wanted to point out, it`s not irrelevant in this
week, when we`re talking about white supremacists and neo-Nazis that 90
years ago, Donald Trump`s father was arrested at a Klan event in New York
and then some years after that, in the 1970s, a Republican Justice
Department sued the Trump company that involved both the father and the son
for discriminating against African-Americans.
So, there are some things that are deep within Donald Trump that Steve
Bannon had nothing to do with.
REID: Yes. And, you know, Jason, to that very point of needing to get
applause and the things that he wants applause for. I want to play you
Donald Trump, this is March 10 of 2016, this is before Steve Bannon came on
to the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think Islam hates us. There`s something – there`s something
there that – there`s a tremendous hatred there. There`s a tremendous
hatred, we have to get to the bottom of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That – and that sentiment didn`t come from Steve Bannon.
JOHNSON: Right, right. Bannon is like the emperor and Trump is like
Vader, right? Like –
JOHNSON: – and Vader, like – he`s like teach me how to be more racist
and more effectively racist I can be and that`s pretty much what their
relationship was. And I think what`s dangerous is look, now that Bannon is
on the outside, he can – he can pretend he`s got this sort of a globalist
agenda, he`s going to start a media empire, he`s going to expose just how
dangerous and how close this Trump administration is to white nationalists,
to people who wanted (INAUDIBLE) no nationalist white state and how
dangerous that`s going to be for all of us.
And the thing is, Trump has no ground to stand on. He can`t say I don`t
have these beliefs. So he`s going to be in a tremendous amount of trouble
especially now that he`s surrounded by people who don`t necessarily agree
with that belief.
REID: Well, and then that is the question, John Harwood, for the
Republican Party. Because to admit that this is the core base, right?
That Donald Trump still has the base would be to say that that white
nationalist base is the base. If Donald Trump loses Steve Bannon, does the
bottom drop out of his base?
HARWOOD: Not necessarily. And I think the kind of people that we`re
talking about, you could call them white nationalists, you could call them
people who are motivated by racial resentment, that`s` part of the
Republican base. It`s not most of the Republican Party but it`s the part
that got Donald Trump the nomination and put him over the top in those rust
belt states. I think the Republican Party, if they are rational and
looking to the future, a country that`s getting better educated and more
diverse with every passing year, it`s going to be a majority, minority
country within 30 years, they are going to have to separate themselves from
the rawest elements of this base, which Bannon speaks to and figure out a
way to develop a different identity. And some of them are talking about
doing that, talking about pretending as if the president doesn`t even exist
and trying to define the Republican Party their own way.
REID: You know, Sean – pollster Sean Trende, you know, had this theory
which Donald Trump proved out, that Republicans just maxed out the white
vote and resentment helps you do that and they could win without minority
voters. Does Donald Trump prove they should triple down on that and be
afraid to walk away from his base or can they still win the election
without the Bannonites?
JOHNSON: I remember literally sitting in a meeting with Reince Priebus
where he was talking about essentially that Trump couldn`t do this, that he
didn`t believe that they could win the white base only. But you can, you
can win with white voters only with voter suppression and making sure that
those people are turning out to vote on a regular basis. And I think the
other thing is this, you know, Bannon, even though he is gone, you still
have Republicans in the party who want to push forward those policies, they
want to limit immigration, they want to make voting more difficult. I
think this is a winning strategy for the Republican Party. Now again,
whether those will be inning strategy in 2020, we I don`t know but for now,
they have no reason to change.
REID: Right. And it works because they had a charismatic guy at the top
of the ticket Trump would be pulling off. Jason Johnson, John Harwood,
thank you guys. Have a great weekend. And still to come, my interview
with the great Kal Penn on his message to the president as he led todays`
mass defection from the Trump White House. That story is next.
REID: Trump has lost an average of one advisory group a day since his
impromptu Tuesday press conference on white supremacist violence in
Charlottesville. By Wednesday, at least a half dozen CEOs had ditched his
manufacturing council. Then word broke that his strategic and policy forum
was disbanding itself. In response Trump Tweeted, “Rather than putting
pressure on the business people of the Manufacturing Council and Strategy
Policy Forum, I am ending both. You can`t quit me. I quit you.”
Then on Thursday, continued backlash forced him to abandon an
infrastructure council while it was still being formed. And today the
President`s Committee on the Arts and Humanities quit on that. Politico
pointing out that the PEAH is an official agency. That makes that the
first White House department to resign. But the President insisted that
no, no, he was the one doing the dumping. A White House spokesperson
saying, “Earlier this month it was decided that President Trump will not
renew the Executive Order for the President`s Committee on the Arts and the
Humanities which expires later this year.”
That`s not the way the Arts Committee remembers it. Actor Cal Penn was on
that committee and he spearheaded the mass resignation and he joins me live
to respond to the White House next.
REID: The entire president`s committee on the arts and humanities resigned
today in protest of
his equivocation around white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Their blistering
resignation letter concluded, quote, “supremacy, discrimination and vitriol
are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be
better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you,
then we call on you to resign your office, too.”
The note included one additional message. The first letter of each
paragraph spelled out one word: resist.
The man behind that message, actor and now former member of the president`s
committee on the arts and humanities, Kal Penn joins me now.
Kal, thanks so much for being here.
KAL PENN, ACTOR: Yeah, thanks for having me. How are you?
REID: So, you – I`m good. I`m good.
So, you tweeted out earlier the letter, you said earlier this month, it was
decided – I`m sorry, you tweeted out yours that said, “Dear Donald Trump,
attached is our letter of resignation from the president`s committee on the
arts and humanities.” That got retweeted a lot.
Then the White House came out and made this statement that, no, no, no.
They decided to disband it. It wasn`t you guys. So, who broke up with
PENN: Yeah, no, I mean, unfortunately, we broke up with him first, so he
is not allowed to break up with us after that, but I learned that in fourth
REID: And so how did it come together? Explain the process by which the
members all came together and decided to quit together.
PENN: Sure. So, probably about half of the original members left after
the administration change but the – we were a committee that doesn`t turn
out. And I think you mentioned, you know, as Politico did, that we are
technically an official White House agency. So, half of us figured, look,
we don`t agree with the president on almost anything, but if our mandate is
to execute arts education and cultural diplomacy, and that is sort of what
we are there for, why not stick around and see how much we can actually get
But I think this week was particularly pronounced and a lot of us said we
don`t want to be complicit in any of this. So, you know, we`re also
friendly with each other. There were text chains and email chains, and I
think, you know, a few of us said, look, I`m thinking of resigning, is
anybody else feeling the same way? And it turned out we all did.
REID: And, you know, we`ve had over the course of a last few weeks, you`ve
had the several honnorees of the Kennedy Center honors say, no, not going
to show up to the White House event. You then had a lot of business
leaders walk away from the business of manufacturing councils. You`ve
started to see it – Mar-a-Lago losing at least five I think or more
charitable events that were going to be at Mar-a-Lago. Were you guys
influenced by the sort of trickle that is turning into a flood of people
PENN: No. I don`t think so. And I think, look, we didn`t set out to
influence anybody else or to do what anybody else had done, we just sort of
looked at ourselves and said this has gone far beyond – you have got a
sitting president who is essentially equating, or is equating a terrorist
with the quote, unquote, other side.
And we sort of said, look, we have got this incredible arts program called
Turnaround Arts that was launched through the president`s committee, now
it`s housed at the Kennedy Center. It is very vibrant, it`s still doing
very well. What do we tell our kids when they ask us, is this normal?
And we just sort of said, we just can`t stand around and have our names
attached to something like this. And so for us, that certainly was the
You mentioned the Kennedy Center. And I think about it, you know, I have
only gone one time, got to go last year, and you famously people know you
as having gotten really involved in the sort of quasi-governmental programs
during the Obama administration. How difficult has it been for people in
the arts to reckon with this new administration given the blatant
statements of bigotry whether it`s against Muslims, or against Mexicans or
against, you know, pick a group.
PENN: Yeah, sure, it`s a great question, because I think artists sort of
view themselves and
folks who work in the humanities do, too. It`s both, you try and spark a
conversation and the arts should, in an ideal world, spark that
And they also sort of capture what`s greatest about America and our great
diversity is I think the president`s FY 2018 budget, while not shocking,
was definitely disturbing. Zero dollars for both the NEA and NEH. So, you
can have somebody like Ivanka Trump or Melania Trump talk all they want
publicly about how great the arts are and how we should be educating our
children in the arts, but when, particularly Ivanka when she was senior
adviser and the budget that she puts out has zero dollars for the National
Endowment for the Arts, zero dollars for the National Endowment for the
Humanities, it is very clear how they feel.
And I think most artists know how to do a lot with very little. And so you
have got very small arts organizations with incredible staffs, incredible
outreach, folks like Americans for the Arts, that are really doing
everything they can to make sure that not just the NEA and NEH budgets are
put back in when congress and the White House negotiate, but the folks are
aware of all this.
REID: And lastly, if you were invited to the White House, would you go?
PENN: I mean, I don`t think I`m getting that invite.
REID: If Donald Trump wanted to heal and he wanted to invite you to come,
would you go?
PENN: I would politely decline right now, but I do have to say I certainly
hope they don`t abandon the arts, particularly if folks don`t know there`s
a huge economic imperative there. If we`re talking about pumping out
engineers and job creators and innovators, I mean, that`s a difference
between just an engineering education and an engineering education, STEM,
with the arts.
So, if they are serious about any of this, I hope that they continue down
REID: Kal Penn, who is currently part of the great cast on Designated
Survivor on ABC. And when he is not helping kids learn about the arts and
the Turnaround Arts program, he`s doing all sorts of amazing things as an
artist. Thank you very much. Really appreciate your time.
PENN: Thank you. Good to talk to you.
REID: Thank you.
And still to come, the completely catastrophic week in the Trump
presidency, which started with white nationalist rallies and didn`t get any
better from there.
And, another of Trump`s billionaire buddies backs out in tonight`s Thing
One, Thing Two, next.
REID: Thing One tonight, if there`s one guy Donald Trump really likes to
talk about on the campaign trail, it was his billionaire investor buddy
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want Carl Icahn negotiating for me. I want the greatest business
people negotiating my deals, not hacks.
Carl Icahn just endorsed me. You know, Carl.
Carl Icahn endorsed me.
I have some of the greatest business leaders.
I have Carl Icahn.
I will call the executives, or I`ll have Carl Icahn do it.
I`d either get myself, Carl Icahn, or somebody else that`s very good at
this stuff, OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Trump was so excited to have Carl Icahn that during the transition
in December, Trump
named him to be his special adviser on regulatory matters. But we have an
update on Trump and
Carl Icahn. Can you guess what it is? That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
REID: As organizations and business leaders cut ties with the Trump
administration in droves this week following Donald Trump`s defense of
white supremacists, there was this interesting announcement from
billionaire investor Carl Icahn. Today, with President Trump`s blessing, I
cease to act as special advisor to the president on issues relating to
Icahn posted the letter he sent Trump, claiming he was resigning to avoid
any appearance of overlap with the appointment of Neomi Rao as regulatory
czar, which happened over a month ago.
Icahn writes, “I chose to end this arrangement with your blessing because I
do not want partisan bickering about my role to to cloud your
administration or Ms. Rao`s important work.
But the timing is notable given the events of this week as well as the
other point that Icahn seemed determined to make, “I had no duties
whatsoever. I never had a formal position with your administration nor a
policymaking role and sincerely hope that the limited insights I shared
helpful to you.”
So, to anyone asking Carl Icahn wants you to know he barely had a
connection to the Trump administration before, but even that has been
REID: Just around this time last week, images of a veritable who`s who of
white supremacist hate groups holding Tiki torches and chanting Nazi
slogans begin showing up online. They were in Charlottesville, Virginia
for a Unite the Right rally, which turned deadly on Saturday when one of
the attendees drove a car into a group of counter protesters, killing 32-
year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
After botching his initial response on Saturday, the president appeared to
try a script to do-over on Monday, denouncing the hatred. That lasted
until the very next day when he was once again off script in the lobby of
Trump Tower and defended the people who rallied in Charlottesville.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have condemned neo-Nazi`s. I have condemned many different
groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazi`s, believe me, not all of
those people were white supremacists by any stretch.
You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had
people in that group – excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures as
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And today, near the end of a week in which the president failed to
show any moral leadership whatsoever, when chief White House strategist
Steve Bannon left the White House and marched straight back to the so-
called platform of the alt-right and some of the world`s most prominent
magazines explicitly linked him to white supremacists, we learned that
Donald Trump never spoke to the mother of the young woman killed in
On Saturday, apparently, his staffers tried to call Heather Heyer`s mother
during her daughter`s funeral.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER`S MOTHER: At first, I just missed his calls. The
first call it looked like actually came during the funeral. I didn`t even
see that message. There were three more frantic messages from press
secretaries throughout the day.
I`m not talking to the president now, I`m sorry. After what he said about
my child. And it`s not that I saw somebody else`s tweets about him, I saw
an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters like
Ms. Heyer with the KKK and the white supremacists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Can this president sink any lower? We`ll take stock of the events
of this truly unbelievable week next.
TRUMP: Does anyone know I own a house in Charlottesville?
Oh, boy, it`s going to be – it`s in Charlottesville. You`ll see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it the winery?
TRUMP: It is the winery.
TRUMP: I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a
great place that`s been
very badly hurt over the last couple of days. I own actually one of the
largest wineries in the United States, it`s in Charlottesville.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Believe it or not, the president had just been asked a question
about whether he had any plans to visit Charlottesville in the wake of the
attack there. And he responded by talking about his
Betsy Woodruff has been covering the administration for The Daily Beast,
and Ben Howe has been doing the same for the conservative blog Red State.
Ben, I have to start with you, on this day when Bannon has left and
essentially kind of declared
war on the White House. If it comes down to a war between Bannon and
Breitbart and Trump, who would the base of the Republican Party choose?
BEN HOWE, RED STATE: Well, that`s been the question all day, honestly. I
mean, if you look at the way Drudge came out very early to try to almost be
a peacemaker, it seemed like, saying Bannon
had one heck of a ride, or whatever it was he said, I think that there`s
going to be some divisions about Trump`s style going forward and there`s
going to be a lot of criticisms coming from Breitbart that we hadn`t seen
before. But I think they`re mostly still on the same side.
That said, I think – I think Bannon specifically, when he gets the idea in
his head that he needs vengeance on some one, that`s – I know this man –
and when he gets the idea that he needs to get revenge on somebody who has
wronged him, then all of the things that should be important have stopped
mattering and what matters most is winning.
And he`s sort of a Game of Thrones style guy, it`s win or die.
REID: That sounds exactly like Donald Trump, Betsy, that sounds exactly
like Donald Trump, which – you know, and when you see that clip of him
talking about his winery instead of talking about the tragedy – you know,
when he turned it right back to himself, I wonder what kind of Trump he
becomes without Bannon.
I mean, what tea leaves can you read for us?
BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: All we have to do is look at the first
few months of his candidacy for president to understand what he`s going to
be like before Bannon, as you guys
have highlighted on the show, President Trump was someone who pushed
conspiracy theories and demonized people of color, demonized women,
criticized his enemies often based on alternate facts, if you will, and in
the era after Bannon, Trump is going to be the same.
I think something that`s important for viewers to understand is that a lot
of the narrative of Bannon as a puppet master or a Darth Vader figure or
the man behind the curtain is something that was pushed really
enthusiastically by Bannon himself. He spent a whole lot of time on the
phone texting with reporters trying to persuade them that he was the power
behind Trump, that he was this driving force when in fact he wasn`t
actually doing a huge amount for the last few weeks.
Symbolically, he was very important, but practically he wasn`t a huge
player. He didn`t even really have much of a portfolio. When he was
pushed out, reports indicate that General Kelly didn`t even know what
Bannon`s real job was.
For the most part, he was kind of a nonplayer. He was basically a
figurehead. Now that he`s moving to Breitbart, he`ll be able to weaponize
that symbolism. But the idea that all of a sudden Trump is going to be
different just doesn`t pass the smell test.
REID: Yeah, he`s got his weapons, like that 13-year-old sort of rant that
he went on at Weekly Standard was something special.
WOODRUFF: This dude bro machismo that is so goofy and over the top and you
see it at Breitbart and you see with Trump and it`s this exaggerated
cartoonist chest thumpin that many of us are acutely familiar with and
that usually is a sound and fury signifying nothing.
REID: But I wonder what happens if functionally, even if Donald Trump
continues to be, you know, flipping out on Twitter and being himself in his
persona, but that if functionally and policy wise the Gary Cohn`s of the
world prevail and he becomes a garden variety Republican, policy wise just
pushing tax cuts, taking office, trillion dollar infrastructure off the
table, no more trade wars with Mexico. If he becomes sort of a garden
variety Republican, what happens to his base then?
BOWE: I think that a lot of his base will abandon him if he turns on
conservative policies any more than he already has.
But really I think a bigger issue is going to be no matter if he embraces a
more moderate platform, no matter if he starts coming around on various
things that the Republican Party have wanted him to come around, or things
he might have come around with Democrats on, he will always find a way to
insert himself in such a chaotic, ridiculous way that he will make it
difficult to pass things that
might have bipartisan support.
So, I have a hard time seeing even if he finds some middle ground in talks
in the White House, I have a hard time seeing anyone ever wanting to be
near him publicly because he`s such a train wreck.
REID: And you know Betsy, I guess that`s kind of what I kind of picture,
too, right. I`ve had this song Mr. Lonely in my head all day. Because you
have got Republicans who can`t exactly do a photo op with this guy. He`s
defended neo-Nazis. And so even if he went toward them on policy, it
doesn`t seem that they would come back to him either, right?
WOODRUFF: No. And not just Republicans, but also the CEOs and business
he and his White House were relying on to pass tax reform.
Remember, after the failure of the ACA repeal, the one thing Republicans
really have left as
a possible win was doing some tax reform package. And the White House`s
communication strategy was to spend the month of August getting CEOs and
business leaders and corporate icons to try to push
their constituencies, to push their employees, their group members to try
to get tax reform to happen. And perplexingly, the president seemed to
think that the best way to push tax reform was by kicking off a national
conversation about Robert E. Lee. It`s extremely baffling. And that`s why
he`s going to have so much trouble getting anything accomplished.
REID: Very quickly, ben, is Donald Trump a lame duck?
HOWE: I think that he may as well be considered to be a resigned president
as of today. I cannot picture how he can get anything done.
REID: Wow. Betsy Woodruff, Ben Howe, quite definitive. Thank you guys
for making the time. Appreciate it.
And that is All In for this evening. You can catch me Saturday and Sunday
for some AM Joy starting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
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