Joe Biden raises $6.3 million in first 24 hours. TRANSCRIPT: 4/26/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Sherrilyn Ifill, Ben Wittes, Dave Kanninen, Barbara Boxer, Tiffany Cross, Dorian Warren

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.





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.




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

the government.


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.




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. 




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.




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! 




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.




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





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.



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

the Constitution.


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

at stake.


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.







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?




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.



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

it well.


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. 

That`s next.






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





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

judiciary committee.


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

compelled to

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.



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

anything like

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

they go. 


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.






TRUMP:  I`m a champion for the second amendment, and so are you.  It`s not

going anywhere.


It`s under assault.  It`s under assault, but not when we`re here, not even





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

different operation.


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

struggle with.


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

Mother Jones.


\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.




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




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.







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