The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/19/15
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Good evening to you, Chris. Thanks for
Thanks to you at home for joining us for the hour. Rachel is off
We have some truly gripping video we`re going to play for you
tonight. I don`t know if this is anything I`ve seen before, anything quite
like this. It`s about the victims. It`s about the gunman in Charleston,
South Carolina. It`s incredibly moving and it`s coming up in just a few
But before we get to that quoting from the affidavit, “The defendant
did enter the church at 8:06 p.m. with a fanny pack. He met with
parishioners who are conducting bible study for the evening. After
approximately an hour of studying, the defendant stood up and with malice
and forethought pulled out a handgun and began shooting at the parishioners
inside the hall, striking nine victims. All victims were hit multiple
times. All victims died as a result of their injuries. Prior to leaving
the bible study room, the defendant stood over a witness to be named later
and uttered a racially inflammatory statement to the witness.”
We now know more about what happened Wednesday night at the Emanuel
AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. We know that Dylann Roof
confessed to being the gunman that night, to killing those nine people.
We now know he was able to wreck that devastation with a single gun.
We also know that the wife and child of one of the victims, state senator
and reverend, Clementa Pinckney, his wife and child were also inside the
church the night of the shootings. They were in the church office. They
heard the sounds of gunshots. They called 911 and then they hid. They
huddled under a desk until it was all over.
We also learned today according to the affidavit released by the
Charleston Police Department that both Dylann Roof`s dad and uncle got in
touch with the Charleston Police Department to tell them they knew who the
police department was looking for, to turn him in, their own relative.
We learned lots of new details about the massacre at the church and
about the search for the man who has now confessed to carrying out that
massacre. As the community of Charleston, South Carolina and the whole
country continue to grieve, each new detail continued to reckon with the
shock of what happened.
Today was also, though, a day of action. Just a few hours ago,
President Obama speaking out against about this latest mass shooting in
Charleston. He made a direct and pretty impassioned plea that we as a
country have to reckon with the uniquely American disaster that is our
country`s struggle with gun violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we have to stop
being confused about this. At some point as a country, we have to reckon
with what happens. It is not good enough simply to show sympathy.
You don`t see murder on this kind of scale with this kind of
frequency in any other advanced nation on Earth. Every country has
violent, hateful, or mentally unstable people. What`s different is not
every country is awash with easily accessible guns.
And so, I refuse to act as if this is the new normal, or to pretend
it`s sufficient to grieve and that any notion of us doing something to stop
it is somehow politicizing the problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: In Charleston tonight, hundreds of people gathered for a
prayer vigil honoring the victims and sharing their community`s pain with
And earlier today, the city`s prosecutor explained that while there
are more facts to gather, more details to investigate, that this crime is
now moving from the investigation phase to the prosecution phase. She
thanked the country for wrapping its arms around the city of Charleston.
That is how she said it. She thanked the congregation of Emanuel AME
Church for the grace they have shown in the wake of this violence and she
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCARLETT WILSON, CHARLESTON CO., SC PROSECUTOR: As a chief
prosecutor I`m not here to pontificate or to predict. There are many who
and will do that for you I`m sure. As for me and my staff, we will serve.
We will serve justice.
My mission is to bring justice for this community and especially for
the victims in this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The confessed gunman is now charged with nine counts of
murder and one count of possession of a firearm. And today, Dylann Roof
had a bond hearing. A bond hearing is usually the most routine thing in
the world when it comes to charging someone with a crime.
If you`re charged with a crime, a bond hearing is where the judge
tells you how much money it`s going to take to get you out of jail
temporarily, similar to bail. Dylann Root`s bond hearing was conducted
remotely today. He was heavily guarded in a secure facility. The judge
and lawyers and victims family members were all in the courtroom.
They could see. They could hear him on that screen you`re seeing
right there. He could see and he could hear them in the courtroom as well.
What is usually a fairly routine legal proceeding was instead
extremely raw today, extremely emotional, utterly gripping as the loved
ones of some of his victims, the ones who could be there today, who wanted
to speak out, as one by one they got the chance to tell him exactly what
they think of him.
JUDGE JAMES GOSNELL, CHARLESTON CO., SC CHIEF MAGISTRATE: Before we
go into the bond process, I would like to ask, is there any member, or is
there a representative of any of the families that would be that which like
to make a statement before this court – before I would set the bond?
I`ll go through this. Susie Jackson? Is there a representative of
the family of Susie Jackson? No.
Sharonda singleton? Ms. Singleton? There are.
Will you please stand?
You have a right as the representative of the family to make a
statement today before we set bond. Would you like to do so, ma`am?
SINGLETON FAMILY: No, sir.
GOSNELL: Thank you very much.
Ethel Lance, would you like to make a statement in regards to this
hearing concerning Ethel Lance as a victim, ma`am?
NADINE COLLIER, DAUGHTER OF ETHEL LANCE: Yes.
GOSNELL: Would you like to come forward, please?
You are representing the family of Ethel Lance; is that correct?
And you are whom, ma`am?
COLLIER: The daughter.
GOSNELL: The daughter.
I`m listening and you can talk to me.
COLLIER: I just want everybody to know, to you, I forgive you. You
took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever
again. I will never be able to hold her again.
But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You
hurt a lot of people. But God forgives you. And I forgive you.
GOSNELL: Thank you, ma`am. I appreciate you being here.
Representative of the family of Myra Thompson? Sir, would you like
to make a statement before this court?
ANTHONY THOMPSON: Saying the same thing that was just said. I
forgive you and my family forgive you. But we would like you to take this
opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess!
Give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ. So that he
can change it. And change your ways no matter what happens to you and
you`ll be OK. Through that, you will be better off than what you are right
GOSNELL: Thank you, sir.
Your name, ma`am.
FELECIA SANDERS, MOTHER OF TYWANZA SANDERS: Felecia Sanders.
GOSNELL: Thank you for being here.
SANDERS: We welcomed you Wednesday night in our bible study with
open arms. You have killed some of the most beautiful people that I know.
Every fiber in my body hurts. And I`ll never be the same.
Tywanza Sanders was my son, but Tywanza was my hero. Tywanza was my
hero. But as we said in bible study, we enjoyed you. But may God have
mercy on your soul.
GOSNELL: Thank you, ma`am.
A representative of Daniel Simmons.
Your name, ma`am?
ALANA SIMMONS, GRANDDAUGHTER OF DANIEL SIMMONS: Alana Simmons.
GOSNELL: Thank you, Ms. Simmons, for being here. Your statement
SIMMONS: And although my grandfather and the others died at the
hands of hate, this is proof, everyone plea for your soul is proof that
they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So, hate won`t
win. And I just want to thank the courts for making sure that hate doesn`t
GOSNELL: Thank you, ma`am for being here.
Cynthia Hurd, a representative of the family of Cynthia Hurd.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have nothing to say.
GOSNELL: Thank you very much. Thank you for being here today, sir.
Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor?
Your name please, ma`am?
BETHANE MIDDLETON-BROWN, SISTER OF DEPAYNE MIDDLETON-DOCTOR:
GOSNELL: Thank you for being here.
MIDDLETON-BROWN: She was my sister. And I do thank you on behalf of
my family for not allowing hate to win. For me, I`m a work in progress.
And I acknowledge that I am very angry but one thing DePayne always joined
in my family is that she taught me we are the family that love built. We
have no room for hating. So we have to forgive.
I pray God on your soul and I also thank God that I won`t be around
when your judgment day comes with him. May God bless you.
KORNACKI: Now the judge set a small portion of the bond at $1
million. That doesn`t mean that Dylanna Roof is going to be getting out of
prison anytime soon. Legally, he still can`t get out of prison even if
somebody did want to put that money up. He is going to be there for now.
He`s going to be there for a long time now awaiting justice in this case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR JOSEPH RILEY, JR. (D), CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA: If that
young man thought he was going to divide this community or divide this
country with his racial hatred, we are here today and all across America
resounding say he measurably failed.
This disillusioned killer is on the wrong side of history. His ideas
long discredited about racial superiority are in the dust bin of failed
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, Joseph Riley,
speaking at a prayer vigil earlier tonight at the College of Charleston.
Now, that vigil this evening included remarks not only from the mayor
but also a number of religious leaders from all different faiths across the
city of Charleston. Tonight`s vigil comes at the end of a day in which
there are a number of new developments in terms of what we have learned
about the suspect, actually the admitted gun in this case, and about what
happened inside the Emanuel AME church on Wednesday night.
And joining us now is MSNBC national reporter Trymaine Lee, who is in
Charleston, South Carolina, tonight.
Trymaine, thanks for taking a few minutes.
So, we say there are new details we have learned today. We have
learned tonight about what played out in that church. What can you tell us
on that front?
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: I tell you what, that are
details are still coming out, and I don`t want to jump into it too much
because I`m not sure of the exact details. But one thing that I think is
clear though is that what happened inside that church, the terrible events
that transpired is in stark contrast of what you see happening right now.
Hundreds of people gathered outside of this church. I`m not sure if you
can hear them now but they`re singing.
Earlier, they came down holding roses from a prayer vigil at the TV
arena not far from here. People were handing water. And the common theme
under this, Steve, has been that despite the horrific nature of what
happened inside that church, that hate, the racism, the violence will not
break the back of this community. And so, even as you mentioned, while
details are still trickling out, what`s happening out there in this
community seemed to be those seeds of healing and hope.
But to your point, in the coming days, more will be coming out.
KORNACKI: So, Trymaine, we just played in a segment before this, an
extend clips from that bond hearing today, and I think my reaction to it
and people I`m talking to are just amazed by the attitudes of the families
of the victims. Just the generosity of the spirits seeking forgiveness of
this man who killed in cold blood their loved ones.
What`s been the reaction down there to how those family members
conducted themselves today?
LEE: You know what? For so many people I talk to who heard those
clips or saw that, it kind of broke their hearts, because again, those
families, their faithfulness is what made them vulnerable.
When that young man came to this church, they welcomed him in. He
sat next to the pastor. He sat for an hour during bible study.
This church opened him with open arms and they were repaid with
unspeakable violence. And so, people, to see the tears of the family and
to really, for the first time, get the taste of that anguish and that true
hurt, it shook this community.
But again, it also displayed what so many in this community talked
about healing and moving forward and that was on full display. The idea
that even though this man apparently killed their loved ones in cold blood,
there was still room in their hearts to forgive or at least, you know, hope
God offers mercy on his soul.
KORNACKI: And it sounded, Trymaine, at least in my interpretation at
that hearing today, from a legal standpoint, the process that still has to
play out here, is actually going to be quite lengthy.
LEE: Oh, yes. This is just the beginning. Not only you have to
actually have the indictment, and charges, and the whole trial process if
that will happen. And then there are appeals.
This is the beginning of a very long road and I think sometimes we
get consumed in these cases and all the sparks and the fervor and the anger
and emotion and passion in the beginning of these cases. But again, this is
a very long road.
Just a month and a half ago or so, we had the Walter Scott case.
That case is still playing out. That officer just got indicted against the
last week or the week before last.
And so, again, these – the road toward justice is often a slow one.
KORNACKI: All right. MSNBC national reporter Trymaine Lee in
Charleston, South Carolina – thanks for your time tonight. I appreciate
LEE: Thank you.
KORNACKI: All right. The American flag flew at half mast outside
the state house in Columbia, South Carolina, today. There was another flag
flying nearby that was definitely not at half mast. We have some breaking
news on that bitter controversy and that is next.
KORNACKI: All right. We have breaking news tonight, on an issue
that this shooting in Charleston, Carolina, has brought back into the
headlines. For at least 20 years now, South Carolina has been debating
about the Confederate flag.
You can look all the way back to 1994 when South Carolina got a new
governor, a conservative Republican governor. His name was David Beasley.
He had strong support from the Christian right. He had impeccable
credentials as a conservative Republican. And before becoming governor, he
had served in the South Carolina state legislature, where the Confederate
flag flew above the dome.
And Beasley said back then when he became governor that he was fine
with that. Let the flag fly. That was his position.
But then a rush of racially motivated violence in South Carolina and
a surprise announcement from Governor Beasley. It was time, he said, to
take down the flag. He talked about why he changed his mind. He said the
flag had been adopted by so many hate groups that it could not represent
all of the state`s people.
He asked South Carolinians, quote, “Do we want our children to be
debating the Confederate flag in 10 years?”
And David Beasley ended up serving just one term as governor, pro-
confederate flag groups mobilized against him when he ran for reelection.
They helped to elect a Democrat to replace Beasley in 1998. That Democrat
became South Carolina`s only Democratic governor since the mid-1980s. He
lasted one term. He was a one term governor.
The debate over the Confederate flag didn`t end with Beasley`s
governorship however. It was still raging in 2000 when South Carolina
became a major battleground in the Republican presidential primary.
Senator John McCain that year, you might recall, had just won the New
Hampshire primary by a wide margin, and suddenly, people were wondering if
South Carolina would be where he finished off the front running George W.
Bush was suddenly fighting to keep his campaign alive. He chose the
side of keeping the Confederate flag flying over South Carolina, and so did
John McCain. And taking that position didn`t save McCain, though. McCain
lost the South Carolina primary by a wide margin. Three weeks later, he
ended his presidential campaign and Bush won the nomination.
Now, not long after that episode when he was an ex-candidate, McCain
came out and said that he`d actually made a mistake by backing the
Confederate flag. Quote, “I feared that if I answered honestly, I could
not win the South Carolina primary. So I chose to compromise my
principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth.”
That same year, in 2000, South Carolina state legislature reached a
compromise of sorts. The flag would be removed from the dome of the state
house and brought to a Confederate soldiers monument nearby on the state
capital grounds, and that is where it still flies today and where it is
again the center of a heated local and national debate, this time sparked
by the murder of nine African American worshippers in that Charleston
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN: And what is the answer? What is the answer
today for race relations?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the answer is that
we move forward in a balanced way, that we make sure that the compromise in
South Carolina works here. That we look and see what is going on that
involves our –
CAMEROTA: No, meaning the compromise of being able to still fly the
Confederate flag because it`s part of the proud tradition for some
GRAHAM: Yes. There`s a confederate war memorial out front and
there`s an African-American memorial.
CAMEROTA: And that works for you?
GRAHAM: It works here. That`s what the state house agreed to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: South Carolina U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham today saying
the compromise works for his state. But the political ground is shifting
Tonight, on this network a Republican state lawmaker from South
Carolina told my colleague Chris Hayes that he will sponsor a bill to have
the Confederate flag taken down. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Representative Rutherford was just saying he spoke to you
today and you called him to tell him you`re going to sponsor a bill in the
next session to take that flag down.
STATE REP. DOUG BRANNON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA (via telephone): That`s
HAYES: That`s pretty remarkable. What made you want to do that?
BRANNON: I had a friend die Wednesday night for no reason other than
he was a black man. Senator Pinckney was an incredible human being. I
don`t want to talk politics but I`m going to introduce the bill for that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Again, that happened on this network. That`s real news.
A Republican lawmaker in South Carolina saying he will join the push to
take down the Confederate flag.
Also just over an hour ago Charleston Pastor Nelson B. Rivers III
made his own appeal in a speech that seems destined for history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. NELSON B. RIVERS, III, CHARITY MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: So, I
come by to tell you, I know, I know you`re telling me that you can`t take
the flag down. I know you are telling me that it`s too late. It can`t be
done. But I got a recommendation for you, members of the House, members of
the Senate, if you want to do a living testimony to these nine lives, you
will take that flag down. You will take it down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right. Joining us now is another South Carolina
leader who has called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the
state house grounds, State Senator Vincent Shaheen.
Senator Shaheen, thank you for taking your time tonight.
Let me just start – for people who don`t know nationally the sort of
intricacies of South Carolina politics, this news that this state
representative, Doug Brannon, a Republican state representative, says he`s
going to introduce this bill to get rid of the Confederate flag from the
capitol grounds, what does that do to the political debate in South
STATE SEN. VINCENT SHAHEEN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think it helps
tremendously. You know, it`s not only been hard to get Republicans to take
a stance but it`s been difficult for Democrats over the years as well.
I took this stance last year during a campaign because I felt it was
the right thing to do. We needed white voices in South Carolina who would
speak out, and I think it`s great to have Doug join that chorus. I know
Doug. He is a sympathetic and compassionate man and it doesn`t surprise me
KORNACKI: Right. So, you ran for governor last year as the
Democratic nominee against Nikki Haley, you were unsuccessful in that
campaign. But as you say, this is a position that you took, I think
specifically in the home stretch of that campaign.
So, tell us, what were your experiences going around South Carolina
advocating that position? What were you hearing back from people?
SHAHEEN: Well, I represent in the Senate a very rural mostly white
district, and as I travelled the state I felt more and more that we were
having a growing racial divide in South Carolina, and I felt like while I
had the bully pulpit, while I have the spotlight, it was important for me
as a leader to do something to show leadership.
I know that there was a lot of hate in the state. We have a
wonderful state with wonderful people, but there was too much hate and I
wanted to lift this issue so that in the future, there would be a platform
for people to build upon.
I`m so sorry that, you know, it took the assassination of my seat
mate in the State Senate, Clementa Pinckney, Senator Pinckney. And that`s
what I believe it was. And the other tragic lives that were lost to bring
this to an even higher level of discussion.
But I`m glad that we set that ground work and laid it out so that
when the time was right, we could continue to have this discussion and
hopefully make changes.
KORNACKI: I wonder what you would say to what we just played from
Lindsey Graham right there, from of the U.S. senators from South Carolina.
He seems to be arguing that basically, look, there are sensitive feelings
on both sides of this. There are African-Americans –
SHAHEEN: Hey, I`ve heard – I have heard that rhetoric for years and
KORNACKI: He is saying specifically the sensitivities of both sides
are being respected with sort of dueling memorials on the capitol grounds.
What do you say to that?
SHAHEEN: Oh, I say I`ve heard that kind of namby-pamby talk from so-
called leaders in South Carolina for years. That`s our problem. We don`t
have leaders that will stake out strong positions about what`s right.
You know, what`s right is when we have symbols that divide us, and
there are good people who feel strongly either way but clearly this is a
symbol, that divides us that we stake out strong positions to try to lead
and move forward and just rhetoric like we have heard from years and years
and years from elected people in South Carolina. It really doesn`t move us
KORNACKI: All right. Vincent Shaheen, South Carolina state senator,
last year`s Democratic candidate for governor – appreciate your time
tonight. Thank you.
SHAHEEN: Thank you.
KORNACKI: All right. Ahead, the widely varying responses to the
Charleston shooting by our presidential candidates.
And later, at what point do we or should we call this an act of
Stay with us.
KORNACKI: When an incident happens like what happened this week in
Charleston, South Carolina, it`s a moment for national leadership.
President Obama spoke again tonight about that tragedy in Charleston.
We`re going to have more from his remarks in just a moment.
But this is also now unfolding right in the middle of the race to
succeed him as president. How prospective national leaders react and
respond to situations like this can be clarifying and can be instructive
and sometimes even a little bit baffling. And that`s next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The apparent
motivations of the shooters remind us that racism remains a blight that we
have to combat together. We have made great progress, but we have to be
vigilant because it still lingers. And when it`s poisoning the minds of
young people, it betrays our ideals and tears our democracy apart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: President Obama earlier today regarding the shooting
deaths of nine people at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina,
on Wednesday night. President Obama today casting the tragedy as a
reminder that racism is still alive and well in the United States.
The president first addressed the nation on the incident yesterday,
lamenting the fact that he`s had to speak to the country so many times
about tragedies like this.
But in the hours since the shooting on Wednesday night, it`s eye-
opening to see the folks who would like to replace President Obama next
year try to formulate their own thoughts, their own reactions about the
attack and what it means for the country moving forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the days ahead, we
will once again ask what lead to this terrible tragedy and where we as a
nation need to go. In order to make sense of it, we have to be honest. We
have to face hard truths about race, violence, guns and division.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The hateful
killing of nine people who were praying inside a church is a horrific
reminder that while we have made in our country significant progress in
advancing civil rights, we are very far from eradicating racism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders
yesterday calling for a national conversation about how to combat racism in
the United States. It`s a sentiment echoed by President Obama today.
Former Maryland Governor Martin O`Malley, also a candidate for the
Democratic presidential nomination, putting out a statement today with some
colorful language, saying that he is, quote, “pissed” about the shootings
and how Congress has failed to expand gun control laws in the United
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Rick Santorum yesterday connected
the attack to what he called assaults on religious liberty.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You just can`t think
things like this can happen in America. I mean, it`s obviously a crime of
hate. I mean, I don`t know – again we don`t know the rationale, but I
don`t know, what other rationale could there be? I mean, you`ve sort of
lost that someone would walk into a bible study at a church and
indiscriminately kill people.
All you can do is pray for those and pray for our country. I mean,
this is one of those situations where you have to take a step back and say
we, you know, you talk about the importance of prayer at this time and now
we`re seeing assaults on religious liberty like we have never seen before.
So, it`s a time for deeper reflection even beyond this horrible situation.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Ohio Governor John Kasich, who`s expected to announce his
2016 plans next month, today said it appeared to him to be a racially
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Such a terrible tragedy. What I`ve
noticed is that the entire country is now standing shoulder to shoulder
with the minority community, African American community in South Carolina,
and God bless them.
REPORTER: Was the shooting a hate crime in South Carolina? In your
mind, was the shooting a hate crime?
KASICH: Well, there`s nine people dead –
REPORTER: Was it racially motivated?
KASICH: Well, you read what they said about the guy, it sure appears
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s the Ohio Governor John Kasich speaking to reporters
following his remarks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition event in
Washington, D.C. today.
Jeb Bush also addressed the tragedy at that same event today. In his
remarks, he said he didn`t know what was on the mind or in the heart of the
gunman who, quote, “committed these crimes.” When asked later by reporters
whether he believed that the shooting was racially motivated, Bush
responded, quote, “It was a horrific act and I don`t know what the
background of it is, but it was an act of hatred.”
When asked again whether it was about race, Bush said, quote, “I
don`t know. Looks to me like it was, but we`ll find out all the
information. It`s clear it was an act of raw hatred for sure. Nine people
lost their lives and they were African-American. You can judge what it
Bush taking some heat today for seeming perhaps reluctant to connect
the massacre explicitly with racial animus or maybe just not being able to
answer a question he should have known was coming.
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The very first antiterrorism bill that was signed into law
was done – was done so by the 18th president of the United States. The
former commanding general of the Union Army, Ulysses S. Grant. He signed
that into law on April 20th, 1871, came about as a result of a slew of
attacks on freed African-Americans, systematic attacks on their homes and
their churches by the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan, which had just been created a
few years earlier.
Now, these attacks on African Americans were meant to intimidate
anyone who might vote in a way that would interfere with the KKK`s value
system and they were particularly prevalent in places like South Carolina.
So, President Grant asked for legislation to address this and it was
passed for a month and he immediately signed it into law. It was called
the Ku Klux Klan Act or the Enforcement Act of 1871, and President Grant is
said to have taken that law very seriously. He sent out federal militias
to round up lawbreakers. He charged Klan members in federal court, and
many say that it was this law, this antiterrorism law that helped to
destroy the first iteration of the KKK.
That was the first antiterrorism act on the books in this country
back in 1871. Yesterday following the massacre in Charleston, South
Carolina, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the Justice
Department would be opening a hate crimes investigation, looking into the
21-year-old shooter and why he did what he did. She said the DOJ would be
looking into all the facts and all the motivations in order to determine
the best way to prosecute this case.
Now, while that announcement was received positively in Charleston,
South Carolina, it also raised some questions, like, why a hate crime and
not terrorism? After all, isn`t it – isn`t what the shooter did pretty
much the definition of what an act of terrorism is?
There had been a number of instances of domestic terrorism here in
the U.S. that have been prosecuted as terrorist acts. On April 19, 1995,
Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. He
detonated a truck bomb. He killed 168 people, injured over 700 people. He
said he did it because he wanted to inspire a revolt against the federal
The Justice Department investigated, included that the Oklahoma City
bombing was indeed an act of domestic terror.
The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, the man who sent letter bombs to
people, killing three and injuring almost two dozen, he was caught in 1996.
He was prosecuted as a domestic terrorist.
So, what about Charleston? What about the shooting of nine people at
the Emanuel AME Church? Could that be considered an act of domestic
Well, today, the Justice Department said they are not ruling that
out. A spokeswoman for the department saying they are, quote, “looking at
this crime from all angles, including as a hate crime and as an act of
The Justice Department told us today that they have not ruled
anything out and that they will be following the evidence, seeing where it
leads them, and then they`ll decide whether or not to pursue charges
In order for something to be classified as domestic terror by federal
statute, that means that it must include the following three
characteristics: one, it must involve acts dangerous to human life that
violate federal or state law. Two, it must appear intended to intimidate
or coerce a civilian population, or to influence the policy of a government
by intimidation or coercion or to affect the conduct of a government by
mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping. And three, it must
primarily occur within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
So, that is what is required. The question is, does this fit the
Joining us now is Tarek Ismail, former counterterrorism and human
rights fellow at Columbia Law School`s Human Rights Institute, and co-
author of “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism
Tarek, thanks for joining us tonight.
So, we put the criteria out there, those three things. In your mind,
when you look at what happened here, should this be, is this a case of
TAREK ISMAIL, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL`S HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE: Well,
the main question is whether or not it fits that first – the second,
sorry, of three requirements that you mentioned – whether or not this was
an act intended to coerce or intimidate a population.
And we`ve seen so many crimes as we wrote about in our reports, since
2001, prosecuted as terrorism offenses when the perpetrators of those acts
were Muslims and when the population that was intended to be intimidated
was the general public, the American public.
Here, it`s fairly clear that the population that was intended to be
intimidated or coerced were black folks in South Carolina. And so, the
question is, is the government going to recognize that intent to intimidate
or coerce those people as the Black Lives Matter campaign has been saying
over and over again for the past year, will the government recognize that
intent on the part of Mr. Roof?
KORNACKI: So, what is the difference here when we`re talking about
hate crimes and terrorism? And so, we`re talking about – we have one of
the relatives here saying that this shooter basically said you all have to
die because you are black.
KORNACKI: Now, that seems to me it could fit the definition of
terrorism that we just laid out there, but that also a hate crime to me.
So, what`s the difference?
ISMAIL: Well, they overlap. A hate crime is defined as a willful
act, a willful crime against a person because of his race, ethnicity or
national origin. The difference here is the intent to intimidate, the
intent to scare someone basically, the intent to make someone afraid to
walk out of their home because of the color of their skin or their
background, or whatever reason really, but based on that grouping, and here
I think it fits the bill.
KORNACKI: Are we talking in terms of the difference between hate
crimes and terrorisms, are there a significant difference in terms of
punishment, or does it lead to the same place either way?
ISMAIL: Well, you know, beyond – I think this man is facing
significant punishment, regardless of what he`s prosecuted for. He`s going
to be convicted of killing nine people. The punishment won`t get any more
harsh. There are significant enhancements for terrorism crime, but we`re
talking about here really is the poll associated with the terrorism crime,
what the national attitude will be toward someone who`s charged with a
terrorism crime and will it?
I mean, the question is why aren`t we talking about this in
terrorism? That question is aimed not just at the Justice Department, but
also the general public. Why aren`t we talking about this as a terrorism
crime? Is it – are we – are we going to make the general public think
about white supremacy as put on by this man, in the same way that we`re
thinking about the other things that make us think of terrorism, and the
So, I think that`s what`s at play here.
KORNACKI: All right. Tarek Ismail, co-author of “Illusion of
Justice: Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism Cases” – thanks for your
time tonight. I appreciate it.
We will have the very latest from Charleston in a just few minutes,
but first some much-needed good news. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: Even a normal news day, the news has almost always bad
news. But after a week like this one, that feeling rings even more true.
But we do also have some good news to share with you tonight. It`s
from a part of the news that almost never produces anything positive at
all. Two stories here with refreshingly and surprisingly good news.
The first one is about weapons. For all that`s wrong in Syria, in
that country`s devastating never-ending civil war, for all the terrible
things that it has spawned, one good thing happened this week. The Syrian
government used to have a huge arsenal of chemical weapons. The United
States and Russia and a bunch of other countries led negotiations to get
Bashar al-Assad to hand over those chemical weapons and finally, he did
hand them over.
And now, the U.N. chemical weapons inspectors have announced that the
U.S. Navy has essentially finished getting rid of those weapons. Now, to
pull this off, the Navy had to invent system where this ship would be used
at sea as a chemical weapons neutralizing factory. Nothing like that had
ever been done before. They had to do it at sea in part because nobody
wanted them to do on the land in any country, but they did it and now it`s
The Cape Ray finished its job. It doesn`t fix Syria, obviously, but
it fixes one absolutely terrible part of Syria. And so, it`s good news.
And now, here`s some more good news on a night when we sure could use
it. We are closing in right now on the one-year anniversary of the United
States declaring war against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. It is a war that
has been conducted basically just on President Obama`s personal say so,
even though it is the responsibility of Congress to make decisions about
war, to authorize military force, to declare war.
But for all this time this past year, Congress has been refusing to
even debate whether the U.S. should be formally involved in the fight
against ISIS. Two weeks ago, Rachel hosted a Democratic congressman from
Massachusetts on this show, Jim McGovern.
And what McGovern said was that he had come up with a plan that
wouldn`t exactly trick Congress in to it, but it would basically force
Congress in to actually debating the war in Iraq and Syria. And now, we
can tell you that that plan – well, it seems to have worked, because
Congress just had two hours of earnest, serious, combative debate about
this war, a war that up until now they haven`t been willing to say much at
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Do our job. I`m sorry so many
people think it`s a radical idea.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: We either stand up and fight is
now, or we sit on our knees and cower before them later.
REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: Have the debate on the House floor.
National security threat, yes, go after them. If not, then do something
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: People are sick and tired of war.
REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: We continue to fight the terrorists
with one hand behind our back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are waging a war that is probably
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The world has watched for the last several
years of our lack of a foreign policy plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To force a debate that – we wouldn`t even be
talking about the Middle East if it wasn`t for this resolution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, it took almost a year, but Congress finally did start
a debate on the war. Like as we were saying, it took what amounts to a
trick to make this happen. What Congressman McGovern made them debate is
something that would have pushed an end to the war, that would have brought
all of the troops home, unless Congress did its real job and voted to
authorized the war.
And the House still hasn`t voted to authorize the war. And on Jim
McGovern`s amendment, they voted it down. They said they wouldn`t pull the
troops out either.
But to do all of that, they did have to stand up and be counted.
And, yes, this is a baby step but it is still a step.
Now, there are all sorts of opinions about this war out there,
whether we should be fighting it, how we should be fighting it, how wide it
should be, how narrow it should be. No matter where you come down on it,
it is good news when our elected represented in Congress play the role they
are supposed to play and actually have this debate themselves.
At the end of the week, when we need some good news, there you go.
Two pieces of good news.
We`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: Prayer gatherings and vigils continue today in Charleston,
South Carolina after the shooting deaths of nine people at the historic
Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday night.
But the work of justice also moved forward. Sources telling NBC
News, the shooter has confessed to the police. He had his first hearing
this afternoon in the local bond court. He remains behind bars without
Looking ahead over the weekend, we`re expecting several events in
memory of the victims. There`s going to be prayer services, including a
couple of interfaith services tomorrow, Saturday. On Sunday morning at
10:00 a.m., the churches of Charleston will ring bells in solidarity.
Emanuel AME will welcome visiting congregations after the morning and
evening services on Sunday.
And on Sunday night, everyone in town is invited to form a human
unity chain across the big Ravenel Bridge in Charleston.
I will be around this weekend on my usual show with more coverage, on
Saturday and Sunday mornings, starting at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Rachel
will be back Monday night.
Have a great weekend and good night.
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