Joe Biden raises $6.3 million in first 24 hours. TRANSCRIPT: 4/26/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being
with us. “ALL IN” with Chris Hayes starts right now.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening from Washington, I`m Ali Velshi in
for Chris Hayes. Tonight, new reporting from the Washington Post on Deputy
Attorney General Rod Rosenstein`s tearful plea to keep his job and the
assurances that he gave the president during the Mueller probe. Plus, as
the president spoke to the National Rifle Association, there was
blockbuster new reporting on the absolute chaos happening inside one of the
nation`s most powerful lobbying groups.
We`ll have that incredible story ahead but we begin the show with today`s
extremely dangerous rhetoric from the President of the United States.
Donald Trump inflaming his supporters before an adoring audience at the NRA
effectively characterizing Robert Mueller and members of the U.S.
Intelligence Community as traitors intend on staging a coup.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They tried for a coup, it
didn`t work out so well. And I didn`t need a gun for that one, did I?
Corruption at the highest level a disgrace, spying, surveillance, trying
for an overthrow, and we caught them. We caught them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That is the President of the United States suggesting that those
engaged in legitimate oversight and investigation. Investigation which
found significant wrongdoing and potentially impeachable offenses are
traitors to attempting – who are attempting to illegitimately overthrow
But that wasn`t it. While criticizing the Mueller investigation, Trump
defended a man who led an actual armed revolt against this nation, Robert
E. Lee. Now, let me provide the context. You`ll recall that yesterday in
announcing that he was entering the presidential race, Joe Biden cited
Trump`s defense of white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville saying
Trump`s words helped him understand that we are in “a battle for the soul
of this nation.”
Asked about his Charlottesville comments, Trump made it crystal clear which
side of that battle he stands on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you still think there were very fine
people on both sides in Charlottesville?
TRUMP: I`ve answered that question. And if you look at what I said, you
will see that that question was answered perfectly. And I was talking
about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument
of Robert E. Lee, a great general. Whether you like it or not, he was one
of the great generals.
I`ve spoken to many generals here right at the White House and many people
thought of the generals they think that he was maybe their favorite
general. People were there protesting the taking down of the monument of
Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Robert E. Lee, the man Trump holds in such high esteem tried to
destroy this nation. As Adam Serwer writes the Confederate commander was
“responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in
defense of the South`s authority to own millions of human beings as
property because they are black.
And as for white nationalists in Charlottesville that Trump continues to
defend, this is them. They had a March. They had a much larger agenda
than simply defending a statue of Robert E. Lee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMERICAN CROWD: Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews
will not replace us!
Blood and soil! Blood and soil! Blood and soil!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: It may have been hard to hear that at the end. They were chanting
blood and soil, blood and soil. Blood and soil has a very specific
meaning. It`s a Nazi rallying cry. These are the so-called fine people
that Trump continues to defend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of
those people were white supremacist by any stretch. And you have some very
bad people in that group, but 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 you did. You had people in that group that
were there to protest the taking down of to them a very, very important
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right, let`s discuss the president`s comments. Joining me
Sherrilyn Ifill, the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal
Defense and Educational Fund and the Reverend Al Sharpton, Host of MSNBC`s
“POLITICS NATION” and Founder and President of the National Action Network.
Thank you to both of you for being here.
Sherrilyn, the President earlier today said that he answered that question
perfectly. It could be right. He could have answered it perfectly because
he does not seem to be making a mistake about what he intends to say about
those demonstrators, those marchers at Charlottesville. He seems to be
very clear on the fact that they, in his opinion, constitute a group of
very fine people.
SHERRILYN IFILL, PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR COUNSEL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE AND
EDUCATIONAL FUND: Well, Ali, it`s really important that we not get sucked
into this game that the President tries to play. This is now two years
after 2017 and we were certain in August 2017 that the president knew
exactly what he was saying and said what he wanted to say.
As you recall, he had three different opportunities over the course of
about 48 hours, and each time he doubled down on his belief that they were
very fine people on both sides, many fine people, and he insisted on
characterizing the Unite The Right Nazi rally as a rally about – as though
it were a rally of the Charlottesville Historical Society interested or
interested in the military tactics, an acumen of Robert E. Lee.
And that`s why we have to not get distracted with the conversation about
General Lee and the civil war. We know what that rally was about, the
people who sought the permit were white supremacist. We saw what they
said. We saw what the Tiki torch marched looked like. The idea that
somehow there was a quiet protest that evening. Those were the words that
the president used. So he knew exactly what he was saying.
We`re here two years later, and Ali, in the intervening two years, we`ve
had the president`s actions to confirm that he knew exactly what he was
saying. And so actually what he said today in some ways was even worse
because he now knows that there are people who listen to what he says and
some of them are violent.
We know about the Coast Guard lieutenant. We know about the man who was
planting the pipe bombs and targeting people including people on this
network who he regarded as enemies of the President. So he knows that his
words have this kind of power. He knows that there is an element out there
that is following him and yet he still makes these comments. But more
importantly, his policies are consistent with his words.
VELSHI: And not only that, but Reverend Al, the President today at the NRA
expanded on that. He talked about a coup, an attempted overthrow, how we
beat them. So there`s an audience for his language, his rhetoric and that
rhetoric, Rev. Al, you`ll know is familiar. It is – it is rhetoric we
have seen around the world usually from dictators. The idea that
legitimate interests who oppose the government are not legitimate and they
are trying to stage coups and they are trying to – trying to overthrow the
elected government of the United States.
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: First we must understand he said what he meant
and he meant what he said, and his policies and how he has presided over
this nation reflects that. When you can call traitors of people that are
doing investigations on whether a foreign adversary interfered or in any
way was part of trying to affect an American election, and you try and call
them traitors while you praise a traitor who caused the death of hundreds
of thousands of people that are of this country and they were fighting for
the right to keep blacks property, they were fighting to overthrow the
government, and even say that there are some generals that sat in the White
House and said he was a fine general like he was a general in the U.S.
Army, he was a general in an “overthrow the government Confederate army,
Confederate government,” then we know we are really fighting not only for
the soul of the country but fighting for what the country is going to stand
And I think that when you look at the fact that he is now facing the House
of Representatives and he`s saying I`ll defy them which means he`s really
dealing with we`re not going to have co-equals of power, executive,
legislative, and judicial branch. The president is now autocratic in his
mind. I`m above all of that. When you put that all together, praising a
traitor, calling legitimate investigators are traitors, and then says and I
am not even going to answer you, I will fight to be an autocrat. Clearly,
he is consistent with autocrats and dictators around the world in his train
of thinking and his dangerous rhetoric.
VELSHI: But Sherrilyn, that is chilling. If that is true, for two to half
years we`ve known where Donald Trump stands on this stuff, but we know he`s
got a base of people who continue to believe the ideas that he puts forth.
Now, when he exerts this autocratic authority the idea that people who are
summoned to Congress are not going to be allowed to go and testify before
Congress, before a co-equal branch of government stated in Article One of
At some point, at some point, it has to worry right-minded Americans who
say we have seen this play out in history before where law enforcement,
media, and the judiciary were undermined by an official, a leader, and it
leads to bad things.
IFILL: Ali, I`ve studied and I`ve written about this. I`ve written about
Nazi Germany. I`ve written about Rwanda. I`ve written about white
supremacy here in the United States. We are at a very perilous moment in
this country. And you know, you intuitively say right-minded people have
to stand up. But are they standing up? Are a majority of Americans
standing up and fighting for this country?
I`ve been calling out my own profession. There are wonderful lawyers, many
of whom regularly appear on this network who are speaking truth to power,
who are speaking about the rule of law that undergirds our democracy and
who are recognizing that the president is not only himself a dismissive and
violative of the rule of law but he is now encouraging and indeed demanding
those who work for him to violate the rule of law as well.
But my profession contains many lawyers. Many of whom are very prominent
in this country who have been silent. And I really believe we are at the
moment when if not now, when. This President is making his intentions
perfectly clear. He is demonstrating quite clearly his intention to defy
the rule of law, that he believes that he is above the law. He is also
grooming the population, his followers.
He is grooming a set of people to believe what he says, to not understand
what the rule of law is, to believe that he is a victim and to believe that
anyone who comes against him is part of a plot. This is extremely
dangerous stuff. And I think that some people are thinking we`re kind of
automatically going to come out of this, that there`s something inevitable
about our ability to come out of this as a democracy.
It is not inevitable. It requires each of us to stand up to speak and to
demand that the president comply with the law.
VELSHI: It is – it is not, Rev. Al, inevitable that we come out of it,
and it is not inevitable that we do not slip deeper into this. Sherrilyn
mentions Rwanda, a perfect example of a place in which authority was
undermined and incorrect messages, hateful messages, racist messages were
spread through the media. 1933 Germany that looked very similar.
These are examples in which people thought you can`t really – society is
not going to come apart because of the nonsense of a rhetorical you know, a
rhetoric from a leader. But Rev. Al, you`ve seen it. It does.
SHARPTON: I`ve seen it. I went to Rwanda. I saw it firsthand. And let
me say the real danger is we are normalizing this rather than really saying
that we are at a moment where this country is going to decide not on a new
president, but whether the presidency becomes an autocratic leader.
We are talking about whether or not we redefine how this country is in fact
enforced in terms of its laws and whether we have an executive, chief
executive that has all-consuming power at his discretion and he alone will
make that decision.
So we keep acting as if we`re in a normal election, we`re really selecting
what kind of government we`re moving forward when you have someone as
blatant as this that will come in and praise traders and normalize people
talking about Jews will not replace us and using blood and soil, Nazi terms
in open and public in the media.
I think that we really need to understand where we are in history and we
must stand up if there are right-minded American people, the majority of
them need to stand up not only from the legal profession but all the way
across the board whatever profession because the future of this nation is
VELSHI: Reverend Al, the future of the nation is at stake. Well said.
Sherrilyn, thank you for joining us tonight. Rev. Al, thank you as well.
Be sure to check out Rev. Al special Not Just Black And White Race And The
2020 Election which airs tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on
MSNBC where the Reverend is talking to the presidential candidates about
things they will actually do to remedy some of our problems with race in
I want to bring in NBC News Reporter Ben Collins to talk about what exactly
took place at the rally in Charlottesville. Ben is my colleague who
unfortunately dwells in the darkest corners of the web to find out what`s
actually going on in there. Ben, you sent out a tweet that said that
there`s been a concerted effort by far-right grift YouTube to say that the
President calling Charlottesville rally goers very fine people is a false
memory in the past few months. It is some psychedelic galaxy brain jujitsu
but they realize it`s a problem for their main man. What are you talking
BEN COLLINS, NBC NEWS REPORTER: So in the past couple of months, there
have been a couple of YouTube channels that are adjacent to Infowars I
would say, that sort of space and Infowars picked up on this talking point
later on that the idea that Donald Trump said that very fine people were on
both sides at this rally referred to neo-Nazis wasn`t true.
Now, we know that`s not true. And the other thing is the most – the most
important thing that we know about this is the guy that filed the permit
for this. His name is Jason Kessler is a white nationalist. That is true.
And when Heather Heyer died, when she was murdered at that rally he said it
was payback time.
So the idea that they were fine people over there who were walking along
flags of swastikas, who walking along SS flags and didn`t decide to leave
is not possible. But there is a – there was an ecosystem on YouTube that
exists to absolve the president of every wrongdoing. And it`s – it feels
very good for a lot of Trump voters to keep watching these things over and
over again even though there are no facts there.
VELSHI: So if it`s incidental, Ben, as the President would have you
believe that there might have been some white supremacists and neo-Nazis
mixed in with a group of people who actually thought that tactically Robert
E. Lee was just a great general and you shouldn`t take down a statue. Then
it wouldn`t have been taken up as the cause that has been taken up as by
the white nationalists and the neo-Nazis who are on social media.
COLLINS: Yes. After the rally, the Daily Stormer which is the – I would
say the most pivotal white nationalist publication, white supremacist, neo-
Nazi publication, thanked the president for saying you know that he`s
speaking to us. That`s what – that`s what they said in return.
And in the run-up to the rally, the flyers were about how this was about
white displacement. This was about white genocide. You know, in one of
those things right there, you can see it, you will not replace us. That
turns into Jews will not replace us at that Tiki torch ceremony.
All of those talking points by these people came into the rally, you heard
them at the rally. If you were at that rally and you were talking about
you know, how Robert E. Lee was great and how southern history should be
preserved, you were at the wrong rally. That was not what was happening.
This was a neo-Nazi rally.
VELSHI: Then – and thank you for reminding us that this wasn`t a rally
that had no consequence. Heather Heyer lost her life in a deliberate act
by somebody who held these abhorrent views. Ben Collins, thank you for
your insights tonight.
COLLINS: Thank you.
VELSHI: Alright next, breaking news tonight about rod Rosenstein`s
conversations with President Trump during the Mueller investigation
promising he was on the President`s team, begging to keep his job. The
details of that report after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: Some of the
nonsense that passes for breaking news today would not be worth the paper
it was printed on. If anybody bothered to print it was these days. One
silly question that I get from reporters is, is it true that you got angry
and emotional a few times over the past two years. Heck, yes, didn`t you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Rob Rosenstein taking a swing at the media last night perhaps
because he knew that this Washington Post report was coming out which
details the lengths Rosenstein went to in order to keep his job last year
after the New York Times reported that he had suggested wearing a wire to
secretly record the president.
According to the Post, Rosenstein got “teary-eyed in a meeting with Trump`s
then Chief of Staff John Kelly although a DOJ official disputes that
account. And then in a phone call with Trump sought to assure the
president he was on his team and told the president he would make sure he
was treated fairly.
Joining me now is Washington Post National Correspondent Phil Bump who
contributed to that Rosenstein report. Philip, good to see you. In the
report, I just want to read you a part about it. Rosenstein tells Trump, I
can give the investigation credibility, Rosenstein said in the words of one
administration official, offering their own characterization of the call.
I can land the plane.
This, of course, coming on the heels of the reporting that Rod Rosenstein
had offered to wear this wire. Rod Rosenstein gets called in he`s being
told or it`s been suggested that is going to have to resign or he`s going
to get fired and he`s now trying to convince the president you got to keep
me, I`m good for you.
PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, that`s
right. So the Post report goes into detail about what that moment actually
looked like. And obviously, this is a moment that – I mean it`s sort of
hard to imagine having your boss hear these things about you and being a
sort of person who`s very publicly going to call you out on it.
Obviously, there`s tension there, but I think in that moment too, there
were two conflicting tensions within Rosenstein himself. There`s obviously
the fact that he had this job and he wanted to keep his job, but he also
had helped initiate this entire probe. He is the person who chose Mueller
in part because of concern about how the Russia investigation could be
And I think that it`s probably the case as well that part of Rosenstein was
trying to ensure that they that he was still able to maintain that
protection over the investigation as well. I mean, there`s you know, there
is a lot of complexity here. And the article also goes on to note you
know, that Rosenstein has been sort of generous to Trump even after he`s
announced that he`s leaving which a lot of people were sort of surprised
by. There`s a lot of complexity there. I think that moment encapsulates
VELSHI: So I guess the question when reading that article, or listening to
Rod Rosenstein last night, or seeing him behind William Barr the Attorney
General when he was talking about holding the press conference about the
Mueller report. Trying to understand who Rod Rosenstein is, what do you
come away from?
Was he – was he a guy who was desperate to save his job or not be sent out
in disgrace and hence was saying things to endear himself to the president
or what is his role in this thing because this was about the most important
thing that Rod Rosenstein will ever have been involved in.
BUMP: No, no, I think that`s true. I mean, I think – I think he
recognizes certainly that this is his legacy, this investigation to a large
extent. This is someone who had been working with the Department of
Justice for well over 20 years. He is – he is a lifer. He was an
institutionalist. He served as a U.S. Attorney in Maryland prior to
becoming the Deputy Attorney General. He`s someone who was very invested.
At this speech last night, you could hear, he was speaking to a room full
of people who similarly had built. Many of them had held government jobs
were learning, or attorneys, or U.S. Attorney`s, or professionals, or
judges, and you could hear him talking about these institutions, and in
expressing how he felt about them and how much they meant to him. And I
think that is a primary motivation.
This is someone who you know, he explained. He`s standing behind Barr and
everyone commented while Barr was giving out press conference, how stone-
faced Rosenstein was. And he said last night, well, the reason I was doing
this because my job is to stay in there and be stone-faced. And that is –
that I think encapsulate say decent amount of who Rod Rosenstein is.
He is the guy who if his job is to stand there stone-faced, he`s going to
stand there stone-faced. And so I think that yes, it is the case that he
was in this point of tension with a very unusual boss which I think anyone
would acknowledge, but again, at the same time, he had this investigation
that he really.
Did he wanted to land that plane? He helped that plane take off and he
wanted to make sure it got back to the ground safely.
VELSHI: Philip, thank you for your reporting as always, Phil Bump of the
Washington Post. Still ahead, blockbuster new reporting on the absolute
chaos that is threatening to rip the powerful gun industry lobby apart.
And William Barr is set to testified before Congress next week. We`re
going to talk about what lawmakers want to know from the Attorney General
as they return to the Hill for the first time since the Mueller report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Article Three of impeachment against Richard
Nixon, the article was based on the idea that Richard Nixon, as president,
failed to comply with subpoenas of Congress. Congress was going through
its oversight function to provide oversight of the president. When asked
for information, Richard Nixon chose not to comply. The day Richard Nixon
failed to answer that subpoena is the day that he was subject of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: 1998 Lindsey Graham might have some thoughts for 2019 Lindsey
Graham whose good pal, the current president, is launching an aggressive
fight against congressional oversight.
Over the past two weeks, that congress has been in recess. The Trump
administration has told officials to defy subpoenas in House investigations
– security clearances at the White House and the citizenship question on
the 2020 census. It has stalled on a congressional demand for the
president`s tax returns and is now threatening to block all witnesses in
the Mueller investigation from testifying before congress, that includes
former White House Counsel Don McGahn, a star witness on obstruction of
justice, who has already gotten a request to appear before the House
Congress will be back in Washington on Monday for the first time since a
redacted version of the final Mueller report was released to the public.
And later in the week, the man who tried to spin Mueller`s findings before
they came out, Attorney General William Barr, will face his first grilling
on Capitol Hill, testifying before the Judiciary Committees in the Senate
and the House.
I`m joined now by MSNBC legal analyst Benjamin Wittes, the editor-in-chief
of LawFare, who just published a detailed, close reading of the entire
Mueller report; and former Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat from California,
host of the Boxer podcast. Welcome to both of you. Thank you for joining
And Ben I`m very grateful for you and people like you who have conducted a
close reading of the 438-page Mueller report. But in it, if one conducts
that close reading, you will see a specific
reference to impeachment and several references to things that congress
could investigate about the
obstruction of justice.
There are arguments that people make that say congress should be compelled
to follow those roads of investigation.
BEN WITTES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF LAWFARE: Yes. so, congress cannot be
whether congress conducts impeachment inquiry or votes to impeachment
inquiry or votes to impeach or does not do either of those things is
entirely at the discretion of congress. The only thing that can compel
congress to act in impeachment, or in most other things for that matter, is
political will by
members and political pressure by voters.
VELSHI: So the problem, Barbara boxer, is that there are people in the
Democratic Party who
think it would not be politically expedient to follow a road that leads to
impeachment even though a lot people think impeachment is not a political
possibility anyway, but there are those who are arguing don`t go down this
road, it won`t bear fruit. Democrats can win another way and get rid of
Donald Trump a different way.
BARBARA BOXER, (D-CA) FORMER DEMOCRATIC SENATOR: I side with Nancy Pelosi
on this. She says let`s investigate and see where it leads.
I reread my little pocket constitution today. Impeachment is at the very
beginning, really, of Article 1. Because the Founders were so afraid of a
president who would overstep his or her bounds and would abuse power. Now,
that`s what we see happening, even in the Rod Rosenstein situation, where I
can`t believe this. He called up the subject of an investigation that he
was overseeing to say let me land the plane. This adds more for grist
congress. They have to look at this.
So, I don`t know what they will decide. I have been through impeachment
trial. It was tough in the Senate. It was awful. It was one of my worst
times I ever spent in the senate, it was so – takes the air out of the
room. We all know that. But you have to look this right in the eye, and
if it leads you there, so be it.
VELSHI: Ben Wittes, as you read the Mueller report, you will – most
people will come to the
conclusion that the first pass that William Barr took at explaining to us
what was in it was a liberal interpretation.
WITTES: It was deficient.
VELSHI: It was deficient. Given what you have read, what basic question
should congress be asking of Bill Barr when he appears, knowing that he
provided a deficient explanation to start with?
WITTES: Yes, I guess my question to Bill Barr would be, why did you
produce that account of this document, given that you knew you were making
it public, and you knew people were going to be able to see what it
actually said. Is this because you actually believed that that was a
reasonable account of what was in it? In which case, I would have serious
questions about his judgment and his ability to read and understand the
text that was put in front of him.
Or as I fear is more likely, is the reason because he was actively spinning
the document on behalf of the president? And I think the question of why
he behaved the way he did, knowing that the document was about to become
public, indeed the morning he himself was releasing it, bears a lot of
examination between him and the committee.
VELSHI: Interesting, we had the screen up of that, the press conference in
which Barbara Boxer – William Barr held a press conference before
releasing the document in which he continued to spin it in certain ways.
You said you agree with Nancy Pelosi. One of the things Nancy Pelosi is I
think hoping to do is there are six separate investigations going on,
oversight committees that are looking into various parts of what this –
what was really going on in the government, but just this week the
president said that Stephen Miller cannot testify to congress on
immigration policy. And everybody knows he`s the guy setting the
immigration policy, it`s got nothing to do with the Mueller report. This
president is simply saying that the Article 1 in your pocket constitution,
the Article 1 responsibility of congress just don`t appear as serious to
him and his administration as they are supposed to, or as they were to the
framers of the Constitution.
BOXER: What we are seeing is obstruction of congress. I have never seen
that. They can`t get documents. They are going to fight every subpoena,
Trump is. I have never seen it before. And it goes not only to the
Mueller investigation, but Trump surrounded himself with people who are
toadies. They are not acting on behalf of this nation. We are at a moment
in time that I have never seen, and I have been around a while. And I
think it is critical that there be investigations and let them go where
I agree, is impeachment risky politically? I understand that. I won a lot
of elections. I
lost one. I know what it takes to win, and I know it`s hard, but this is a
constitutional responsibility and if Trump continues to obstruct congress
in its important constitutional duties, that`s another reason to go down
the road of impeachment or censure or both, frankly.
VELSHI: Thank you to both of you for joining me on this Friday night. Ben
Wittes and Barbara Boxer, it`s a pleasure to have you here, thank you.
All right, coming up, is the NRA losing its foothold? The internal power
struggle and accusations of extortion in one of the nation`s most powerful
lobbying groups, is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`m a champion for the second amendment, and so are you. It`s not
It`s under assault. It`s under assault, but not when we`re here, not even
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Donald Trump spoke today to the NRA for the third straight time as
president, but behind the scenes the gun lobby group is in shambles. The
Wall Street Journal today reporting that the group`s long time leader,
Wayne LaPierre, is accusing NRA President Oliver North of extortion, and of
pressuring LaPierre to resign. Down to allegations of more than $200,000
of wardrobe purchases by Mr. LaPierre.
The dissension does so deep that the NRA complained about its own president
in its lawsuit against the contractor behind NRA-TV, which by the way, is a
This comes on the heels of a New Yorker report this month detailing the
organization`s deep financial disarray. Here with me now is Mark Follman,
national affairs editor for Mother Jones who recently wrote about why the
National Rifle Association is under fire like never before. Mark, thank
you for joining me.
And I guess we have to start with this. The NRA is not some group or
organization that is having certain trouble, the NRA is the lobby for the
gun industry in the United States.
MARK FOLLMAN, MOTHER JONES: Yeah. Well, and this turmoil they are going
through now with their leadership, it`s quite interest in terms of the
timing, because it comes at a time when they are really facing all kinds of
problems, and some of them related to this apparently their tax-exempt
status is under scrutiny in New York. They reportedly have a lot of
financial troubles with fund-raising and other things, and reports of
lavish spending on executives.
And then there are other things, too, going on with congressional
investigations in to them both in terms of political finances and political
activity and their ties as well to Russian operatives.
You know, an interesting side note to today`s story is that Maria Butina
was just sentenced to prison for 18 months and she has a multi-year
relationship with NRA readers that still goes unexplained. So, there are
many things arrayed against this organization right now, I think, that
interestingly enough kind of lends credence to its long sort of political
theater that we`ve seen for many years where they declare they`re under
siege and everybody is out to get them, and, you know, we have to go
against our enemies. So, now it`s actually seeming to take shape.
VELSHI: But here`s the interesting thing, some of the pressure has come on
to them because Donald Trump is president and because people don`t fear –
Donald Trump, you just heard the clip at the beginning, Donald Trump saying
your rights are not under pressure, nobody is taking your guns away. T hat
is not a common refrain from them, so they`ve actually started to lose a
common enemy, and they declined to continue down the road of being a
sporting gun organization that focuses on training and safety. They are
all about the Second Amendment and the threats to the Second Amendment by
the boogie man that has, on some levels, strengthened because of some
legislation and on the hand they have got Donald Trump who is their guy in
the White House.
FOLLMAN: Right, it`s an interesting paradox for them. Because they claim
that Trump is, you know, their best friend in the White House they`ve had
in modern memory, and yet it seems hurts them in terms of raising money and
motivating their base and it kind of takes away their boogie man argument
that they had during the Obama years and against Hillary Clinton when she
was running for president. So, it`s an interesting thing to watch them
And to watch them also, you know, effectively double down now with this
kind of extremist rhetoric of politics headed into 2020 and just, you know,
working in lockstep with Trump. I mean, I think that`s the purpose of
having him, you know, front and center again today. is to say this is where
we`re headed politically and he`s our guy.
VELSHI: What`s happened here that is different from the tobacco lobby or
the pharma lobby or the insurance lobby where you don`t ever hear about the
politics inside that lobby? Why are there politics inside the gun lobby
given that it`s largely funded by the gun industry?
FOLLMAN: It`s hard to say, but I think we`re going to learn about this
soon. And, you know, my speculation would be that because they`ve come
under so much pressure, the NRA, in recent years, you know, there`s this
also happening against the backdrop of a big shift in the political
landscape on gun violence with the era of rising mass shootings we`ve
And particularly since Parkland last year, I think the political tide is
turned in some major ways against this organization. And it`s probably no
coincidence that it`s causing this kind of turmoil now internally because
they`re just under intense scrutiny. And, you know, for a long time they
were able to keep their operation kind of like a black box, but inevitably
it`s starting to – there are cracks in the wall now, so I think we`re
going to learn more about why and how this is happening.
VELSHI: Mark, thank you for your reporting on this. Mark Follman is with
\Still to come, what to make of Joe Biden`s fund-raising haul. How he
stacked up compared to the competition and the primary w eek that was
VELSHI: Close political observers will tell you that Joe Biden has never
been known as a prolific fund-raiser. As he entered the Democratic primary
this week with a massive fund-raising deficit. Well, as of today, that no
longer appears to be a challenge. The Biden campaign today announced it
raised $6.3 million in its opening 24 hours, that`s the biggest first day
haul of any 2020 candidate.
The campaign also said that 97 percent of online donations were below $200.
But that`s some interesting math. It didn`t disclose the share of overall
contributions that were below that threshold.
While Biden`s campaign is quick to highlight new and small money donors, it
doesn`t look like it`ll be turning away any big donors. CNBC reporters New
York Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to open up his fund-raising network to
Biden, and that`s a network that includes movie mogul Steven
Spielberg, Walmart heiress Alice Walton, and hedge fund titan Steven Cohen.
Biden is now the 20th Democrat running for president. And his competition
has had a heck of a week on the trail. Where things stand now is next.
VELSHI: The Democratic front-runner finally made it official this week.
Joe Biden announcing his presidential run with a video on Thursday one day
later than expected. His team reportedly decided to delay his big
announcement so it didn`t coincide with another huge 2020 event that day,
the She the People presidential candidate forum featuring eight of Biden`s
To help take a look back at the 2020 democratic campaign this week, I`m
joined by Tiffany
Cross, co-founder and managing editor of The Beat D.C.; Dave Kanninen,
Democratic strategist and
Barack Obama`s former state director in Wisconsin; and Dorian Warren,
president at Community Change and Community Change Action.
Welcome to all three of you. Thank you for being here.
Tiffany, good to see you again.
TIFFANY CROSS, CO-FOUNDER, THE BEAT D.C.: Good to see you.
VELSHI: And personal friend.
Talk to me about your sense of how this went. Joe Biden shoots into the
top spot, automatically becomes a target for everyone. Hasn`t had a
stumble free last couple of days. A couple of things came back to him that
some think he might have had a better answer for.
CROSS: Yeah, I mean, obviously, the Anita Hill incident. This is
something that I do think Joe Biden is going to have to get an answer a
little tighter in this incident, because there are a lot of young
voters, new to this process who are going to look at him through a 2019
lens for things that happened over 30 years ago.
So this is something that he`s going to have to adjust and give a better
answer for. I think it sounded like Joy Bahar (ph) was trying to spoon
feed him a better answer on The View.
VELSHI: It did not side like a gotcha interview on The View today.
CROSS: It wasn`t. They were trying to help him out and he still didn`t
quite get it.
But listen, I don`t think we should get so caught up in all of these things
too. I want to make it clear to everybody, look, this is not a battle
between Joe Biden and Donald Trump at this point. They`re running against
each other, so this is his time to make his case on why he`s the best
candidate and you can expect people are going to swipe at him for other
That doesn`t mean he would not from day one make a phenomenally better
president than the
catastrophe we have in the White House right now or anybody.
VELSHI: That bar is low.
CROSS: It is an incredibly low bar, but I would say that with Joe Biden`s
foreign policy experience – I mean, listen, our global standing is scary
right now. I mean, this is a man who strongly
supports NATO and could get us back in good standing on a global stage.
His domestic policy is something that I think quite frankly was a little
more progressive than Obama`s.
If you remember, he was the first person to come out in favor of gay
marriage and Obama, OK, trailed him on that. So, I think you have to look
at the full picture here. Also, he rolled out a really very diverse staff
this week that I thought was really impressive.
And saying all that, though, I do just want to point out that we like have
this assumption, he`s the front-runner, like it`s all final.
VELSHI: Well, this is a good thing to remember, Dan, somebody who comes in
often sucks a little bit of the oxygen out of the room, right. Mayor Pete
has been doing it for awhile. Beto O`Rourke did it for awhile. Is there a
danger? Because the one neat thing about this front-runner-less discussion
until now, a lot of policy discussions.
DAN KANNINEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: A lot. And I think these candidates
are showing they have to have more policy chops, deeper thought on their
positions, their ethos for running in the first place – why you, why now
is a question he will get, especially in this moment in our politics.
I think on the fundraising numbers, you know, it`s interesting, he had a
$6.3 million haul, as you said in the setup, but you know a lot of that,
probably a bunch of that, was from high dollar donations. It remains to be
seen if he can keep that momentum going through the whole quarter, which
will be telling about his overall support.
But I think ultimately he`s going to have find a way, as will all the
candidates, of not just having a policy position that`s progressive or
centrist or appealing to some segment of the population, but to inspire.
And the best thing that Barack Obama did was let moderates feel like he was
acceptable and let the base feel like he was a liberal hero and had a way
to communicating something that was authentic, but let everyone into that
tent. And the winning candidate, whether it`s Biden or anybody else is
going to have to do that at broad level.
VELSHI: You know, sometimes you get lost in the shuffle, but Elizabeth
Warren drops policy once a week or every 10 days, and it`s well thought
out, serious policy. I wonder whether she`s just sort of doing it to take
fire or to have other people agree with or disagree.
Brookings came out and said that her colleague financing plan may not be as
good for everybody as she`s advertising, but the point is she puts out
policy that`s good enough that Brookings will take the time to analyze it.
Does Joe Biden address a different need than people with interesting
DORIAN WARREN, PRESIDENT, COMMUNITY CHANGE: Oh, I don`t know. I think the
verdict is out on what policies he`s going to offer. And, in fact, that`s
for entire field. And that is one advantage, I think, Senator Warren has,
no relation, by the way, to – in this field, because she is – she is the
smartest girl in the class. And she`s done the homework. She`s done the
study. She`s putting out not just incremental policy idea…
VELSHI: Correct, they`re fully baked.
WARREN: They are bold, transformational policy ideas. And she doesn`t
just – she doesn`t just do the wonky thing, she tells a story about why it
matters for people`s lives. And so I think that`s what voters are going to
want in the Democratic primary.
By the way, voters of color, especially women of color, and white voters –
and I just want to suggest we can walk and chew gum at the same time here
in terms of how do you mobilize the base and persuade persuadables. And I
think people want to hear a story that`s aspirational with some detail
about what are you going to do to change their lives for the hell that
people are catching in the last three years?
VELSHI: Mayor Pete was a guy we were talking about a lot recently. He
said he`s swearing off lobbyist money. He says he`s going to return
contributions that he`s already accepted from lobbyists, which his campaign
says totaled $30,250 from 39 individuals.
Sort of par for the course right now. But the guy is interesting. There
is a guy who most people couldn`t pronounce his name a month ago, and he`s
capturing some interest. What do you think?
CROSS: He`s interesting. But this is what I want to say about Mayor Pete,
I think, you know, there are some challenges with him. And you have to look
at this – so many of us get our news and form our opinions by this echo
chamber of this 24 hour news cycle. And you look at who the media pays
attention to, and they`re a little fickle.
And I would say a part of that is because a lot of the decision makers at
cable news look like Mayor Pete. And so when he does something, it`s like,
oh, let`s everybody pay attention to the new shiny object.
But when you dig a little deeper, one, how does Mayor Pete feel about
anything? I don`t know, because he hasn`t put out any policy. Elizabeth
Warren, I could tell you how she feels about things. Two, what does the
economic inequality look like in South Bend? I`ve looked at it, Dr. Jason
Johnson, an MSNBC contributor, went to South Bend, did some great reporting
out there on how the black people feel about his leadership there. It does
not echo what everybody else feels. And, three, I want to know about the
secret tapes with Mayor Pete. What happened with you firing this black
policy chief? I want to know what was on the tape, what was your thinking
behind it. And I don`t think we`ve gotten a full explanation there before
all this, you know, chatter about him.
To your point about Elizabeth Warren, I would say, I think it`s super
important she has the most policy substantive campaign out there, for sure,
without a doubt. Unfortunately for her, and for us, people tend to vote on
personality. She actually has personality, though. But she doesn`t get
the coverage that she warrants. I mean, she is an amazing candidate. And
she, I think, of all the field, she`s one of those people who can say,
look, I`m not new to this. I`m true to this. I`ve been fighting for these
things a long time. And I`m not so sure everybody else can say that.
VELSHI: It has been great to have you guys here on a Friday night, thank
you for joining me. I appreciate it.
Tiffany Cross, Dan Kanninen and Dorian Warren joining us tonight.
And that is it for this evening. “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right
Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the