FBI invest. Gilroy shooter’s “violent ideologies.” TRANSCRIPT: 8/6/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
BRIANNA BROWN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, TEXAS ORGANIZING PROJECT: We don`t have an
– we, you know, getting – just getting to the polls. In 2016 we took
2,500 people to the polls in our drive for democracy program because that
is an additional barrier that people have.
So I think that it`s important to think about the conversation about like
how to expand our democracy by speaking directly to the voters.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Right.
BROWN: And in this case voters who are often left out of the conversation.
HAYES: Evan Smith and Brianna Brown, thank you both.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you
So, he was 19 years old. His name was Michael Donald. He was an Alabaman.
He lived in Mobile, Alabama.
And one night in April 1981, 19-year-old Michael Donald was set upon for no
reason at all. He was ambushed and attacked, he was beaten and strangled.
He was killed. He was then hanged from a tree.
One of the men who attacked Michael Donald that night in Alabama would
later admit in court that that teenager, Mr. Donald, had done nothing
whatsoever to attract the attention of his attackers. They did not pick on
him for any particular reason other than the fact that he was convenient
and he was a young black man. He was attacked and he was killed and his
body was put on display the way it was, specifically because he was a
random victim. All the more terrifying that way, right?
It`s because the Klan, the Ku Klux Klan in that part of Alabama wanted to
show their strength. They wanted to show what they were capable of and one
of the attackers, one of the Klan members who took part in that murder, he
would explain later in court that he and his coconspirators were
specifically hoping that this murder would not just generically terrify
African-Americans in Mobile, Alabama, they were hoping it would
specifically intimidate African-Americans into not participating on juries.
They wanted black Americans in Alabama to be too afraid to show up at the
courthouse and sit for jury duty. They wanted all-white juries in Alabama.
They thought that killing 19-year-old Michael Donald would be a good way to
terrorize the black community in Alabama into achieving that or at least
getting them part of the way there.
One of the Klansmen who confessed to that murder, who confessed to why they
did it, who actually expressed remorse in court. He told Michael Donald`s
mother eye-to-eye in that courtroom, quote, God knows if I could trade
places with him, I would. He tearfully expressed remorse to Michael
Donald`s mother in the courtroom.
He testified against the other Klansmen. He explained why they did it. He
described the crime to the jury. He nevertheless got a life sentence in
that killing. One of his coconspirators, another man convicted in the
killing, got the death penalty.
But beyond that criminal case that put those Klansmen away for that murder
in Alabama in 1981, Michael Donald`s murder also led to a different kind of
case that became a real landmark in the fight against white supremacist
terrorism. It was the first case of its kind, but it wouldn`t be the last.
In a civil suit brought on behalf of Michael Donald`s mother and Michael
Donald`s family, not just the individual Klansmen who killed Michael
Donald, but the organization they belong to, the Klan itself, their chapter
of the Klan was the United Klansmen of America.
The defendants were forced by the court to not just face criminal
penalties, but they and the organization they belonged to were forced by
the court in this civil suit to pay, literally to pay money. There was a
$7 million judgment handed down by a federal jury in Alabama in 1987.
Again, the crime was 1981. It took until 1987 for the criminal cases to be
over and then for the civil case to produce the $7 million judgment – $7
million that was to be extracted from the bank accounts, the assets, the
garnished wages, the property of the defendants themselves, the killers
themselves and from that United Klans group that they belonged to.
Now, if this is ringing a distant bell for you, if you think you might have
heard about this case, it`s probably because one of the unforgettable
details, one of the unforgettable consequences from that case is that at
the time 19-year-old Michael Donald was murdered the United Klans of
America, the oldest Klan chapter in America had a headquarters in
Tuscaloosa, Alabama. They had a 7,000 square foot national headquarters.
They had that headquarters at the time they killed Michael Donald. They
still had that headquarters at the time the Klansmen who killed Michael
Donald were convicted and sent away, including one of them to death row.
But after all of that, after this civil case was brought against the
defendants and brought against the Klan itself to make them pay for what
they did, not only did they have to pay, did they have to give up all of
their property and all of their money, but the title to that 7,000 square
foot national Ku Klux Klan headquarters in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the title
for that property, the ownership of the Klan headquarters was signed over
to Michael Donald`s mother, whose name was Beulah Mae. It made national
news at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The United Klans of America, the country`s
old group of Ku Klux Klansmen is threatened with financial ruin. That`s
because of a verdict last night by a jury in Mobile, Alabama, giving $7
million in damages to the family of a black man murdered by members of this
As NBC`s Dan Molina reports, this is a new way of fighting back against the
REPORTER: No comments at all?
DAN MOLINA, NBC REPORTER: Leaders of the largest and most secretive of the
Ku Klux Klan organizations were not in a talkative mood last night as they
left federal court. Robert Sheldon, imperial wizard of United Klans of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t have any comments. Move, sir. I`m fixing to
MOLINA: But anti-Klan groups were jubilant today.
IRWIN SUALL: I think it`s going to hurt them. I think they`ll find it
more difficult to recruit. I think they probably will lose some members as
MOLINA: The crime in question was committed March 21st, 1981. The
savagely beaten body of Michael Donald, a 19-year-old black man, was found
hanging from a tree. In 1983, Klan member Henry Hayes was sentenced to
death for the murder. Another Klansman, James Knowles, received a life
Now, $7 million in damages awarded to Donald`s family.
BEULAH MAE DONALD, MOTHER: Because that was my baby and nothing they do
can bring him back. But I still say I am proud that this came.
MOLINA: Until now, no Klan group had ever been found liable for the
actions of its individual members, and the federal court judgment came from
an all-white jury.
MICHAEL FIGURES: We think this verdict sends a very strong message across
the country that white Southerners, white Mobilians will not tolerate this
kind of activity.
MOLINA: It`s not known if the United Klan has $7 million, but the aim was
to dismantle whatever financial base the group has and to establish a
precedent that can be used by another victims of Klan violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The aim was dismantle whatever financial base the group has and to
establish a precedent that can be used by other victims of Klan violence.
That case did said a precedent that was used by other victims of Klan
violence and other victims of white nationalist, white supremacist, neo
As I said, it was a landmark case. But that kind of violence is something
that never really seems to go away in this country, although, boy, does it
have its peaks and its troughs.
Civil rights groups, particularly the Southern Poverty Law Center, which
pioneered that technique, they went on to file a bunch of cases like this.
Not just against individual criminals that carried out violent attacks
because of their white nationalist, white supremacist ideology, but they
filed these cases against the groups and the organizers that helped promote
this ideology and spread it and that encouraged its violence.
The year after that Alabama case that handed Beulah Mae Donald the keys to
the headquarters of the oldest Klan group in America, the year after that,
it was a different case, it was a horrific case out of Portland, Oregon.
There was a racist skinhead group operating at the time called East Side
White Pride in Portland. Three racist skinheads from that group laid in
wait. One November night, Portland, Oregon, 1988, they ambushed a 28-year-
old man, an immigrant from Ethiopia named Mulugeta Seraw.
He was on his way home to his apartment. They set upon him. They beat him
to death. They split his head open with a bat.
All three of those skinheads that committed that murder ended up going to
prison for that crime. Obviously, beating someone to death is a crime
regardless of why you do it. They were all caught. They were all
convicted, they were put away.
But that`s as far as the criminal lawn was going to take it. That was not,
however, the whole story of that crime and why it happened. It emerged
that a group called White Aryan Resistance, which was headquartered in
California, had dispatched its operatives to Portland, Oregon, specifically
to try to further radicalize the racist skinheads who were already
operating there, to try to incite Portland skinheads to further and more
extreme random violent attacks.
For all the groups think the reason violence is so good for their cause,
right? I mean, these groups think that violence is so good for them,
because they find these attacks intrinsically valuable, right? They`re
white supremacists. They seek to hurt and terrorize and kill their
perceived racial and demographic enemies. So they see the attacks
themselves as a positive.
Further, they hope these attacks will be cathartic. They`ll be
inspirational to other people who share the same beliefs but haven`t yet
acted them by hurting or killing someone, right? They`re always trying to
set off wider and wider and more and more terrifying racial murder and
violence and terror. The more the better.
Ultimately, finally, they hope they can engender enough violence and terror
and murder against, you know, you name it, people of color and immigrants
and Jews and people they perceive as leftists or anybody else they define
as their enemy or their target, they ultimately hope to cause as much
violence and terror and murder against those populations that they inspire
inevitable violent backlash. Because they want it to be a war. They think
once the country gets into a full-on whites against everyone race war,
they`re quite sure they`ll win and they`ll get their, you know, white
homeland or whatever it is they want.
So, in the late 1980s there is this guy named Tom Metzger who had inspired
lots of violent white supremacist groups. He had mentored several white
supremacist murderers over the years. He and his latest group at the time,
White Aryan Resistance. It was run by him and his son. Nice family.
They decided they would put a sharper edge, a more violent edge on the
existing race skinhead movement in the late `80s in Portland, Oregon. And
so, they sent their guys, the White Aryan Resistance, up to Portland to try
to incite the local racist skinheads up there to further and more radical
and more violent action. And when those Portland skinheads then killed
Mulugeta Seraw outside his apartment building that November night in 1988,
the criminals themselves, the skinheads themselves who did it, they were
punished by the criminal law.
But then there was this lawsuit that was brought not only against them, it
was also brought against Tom Metzger and his organization, White Aryan
Resistance. And that lawsuit, of course, was not a criminal case. It was
not going to add criminal charges against Metzger or his group. It didn`t
add additional prison time to anybody`s sentence and, of course, it didn`t
bring back the man they beat to death.
But it did put a $12.5 million price on that murder, as the cost to be paid
by that corner of the white nationalist terrorist movement. So, I mean,
where were these racist thugs and these skinheads and these, you know,
Aryan organizers going to get $12.5 million to pay the judgment in that
case? Obviously, that`s a reasonable question. They were never going to
get all the way there. They didn`t have that kind of money.
But anything they did have, right, their homes, their cars, their bank
accounts, their personal property, any donation anyone ever decided to make
to White Aryan Resistance, any future wages they might earn, all of that,
now by court order would be taken from them. And would go instead to the
family of that Ethiopian man who those skinheads murdered in the street.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: White supremacist Tom Metzger got one thing right when he
addressed the jury in his own defense.
TOM METZGER, WHITE ARYAN RESISTANCE: They want me.
REPORTER: And that is indeed what they got. Metzger calls himself a TV
repairman, but from his base in San Diego, he has run a racist mail order
and cable TV business called White Aryan Resistance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, ma`am, can I give you a copy of our White
REPORTER: The jury in Oregon decided that from San Diego, he encouraged
his followers to invade Portland and commit violence. Encouraged three
members of his gang to attack and kill an Ethiopian student here on this
street with a baseball bat.
In the end, the Seraw family of Ethiopia, victimized by skinheads, will
receive a portion of Metzger`s income and all of his property.
MADDOW: And all of his property. After that – after that verdict, the
father of Mulugeta Seraw told “The Associated Press”, quote, this is the
happiest I feel since my son died because I know he has not died in vain.
So this tactic has a certain elegance to it, right, when it comes to
strategizing against ongoing violent terrorist movements in this country,
right? Responding after the fact to the individual attackers and murderers
who commit these atrocities – I mean, it`s obviously necessary but it`s a
little bit like pouring waters on the – pouring water on the ashes after
the fire`s already burned through, right?
But if alternatively you can bankrupt these organizations that spread and
advance this ideology, if you can cripple their ability to receive funds,
to own assets, to have headquarters buildings, to pay their bills to pay
for postage, what it is they need to do in the real world to organize and
incite and encourage further attacks – well, that`s more proactive, right?
That`s, you know, getting the matches wet, right? That`s clearing out the
dry brush. That`s stopping or mitigating the impact of the next fire they
might try to set.
One of the most famous of these cases resulted in the I think very
satisfying outcome of this Aryan Nations compound in northern Idaho, in
Hayden Lake, Idaho, not only being seized from Aryan Nations after some
skinheads from that group beat and shot at a couple of random passers by
one night in Idaho in 1988. That land which was an ongoing gathering place
for neo-Nazis for years. Ultimately after one of these cases, that land
itself was awarded to the family that was attacked by those skinheads.
The family then sold it to a guy who put up sort of a museum of tolerance
on the site, which must have delighted the Aryan skinhead guys who had been
using it as their camp in the woods for years. That was 2000 and 2001,
another one of these cases that made national news at the time that put a
real spotlight on that hallmark tactic in fighting at least that era of
white nationalists, white supremacist, violent terrorism in the United
You know, that news footage I was showing there, you know, it`s old
looking, right? We`re a couple of decades at least down the road from that
stuff, and now, it sort of feels line the matches are dry again and the dry
brush has grown back, right? When the Aryan Nations and White Aryan
Resistance and the United Klans of America lost their shirts, you know,
lost their robes and their headquarters and their houses and their ability
to ever have donations and have their wages garnished and all that stuff –
I mean, surely those kinds of cases and the way those organizations
suffered from losing those cases, that surely undercut their organizational
capacity, these Klan chapters, these skinhead outfits, right?
But the ideology hasn`t gone away and their movement has been sustained and
it certainly exists among us right now and it perceiving itself to have
friends in very high places, including in their view in the White House.
The shooter from El Paso this weekend is in custody now after having killed
22 people at least and having apparently uploaded a diatribe online echoing
the rhetoric of the president`s re-election campaign about Hispanic
invasion at the southern border and repeating lots of other longstanding
white supremacist tropes that he says he learned about online.
Federal prosecutors have already announced that that El Paso attack will be
investigated as a potential act of domestic terrorism and that killer will
be tried because he survived his attack. But in addition to that El Paso
case, today in Gilroy, California, the FBI announced that they are looking
at potentially the same sort of framing for the Gilroy shooting last
weekend, which the shooter did not survive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BENNETT, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: We have uncovered evidence throughout the
course of our investigation that the shooter was exploring violent
ideologies. We are striving to find several things. What, if any,
ideology he had actually settled on? Who, if anyone, he may have been in
contact with regarding these ideologies? Who, if anyone, helped him or had
advanced knowledge of his intentions and why he committed this specific act
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Again, in this case, the Gilroy case, the shooter is dead. He
reportedly killed himself in the midst of all the carnage that he caused.
With him dead, there is nothing at all they can do to him through the
criminal law, right? That will change the fact of what he did or how he
paid for it.
He took his own life. He`s beyond the reach of anyone`s retribution or
accountability. Now, this prospect that law enforcement may try to
determine if anyone else was involved, if anyone else knew or helped him,
that is an interesting prospect if he was, indeed, part of something
larger. He was motivated by, inspired by, encouraged by an ongoing violent
Now, what law enforcement will do about that if they find out the answer is
yes will be interesting to see. I don`t think there are broadly speaking
any high hopes that, you know, this federal government, that this Justice
Department under William Barr, this Justice Department under President
Trump is going to take a broadly aggressive tack of this particular type of
But it`s worth thinking about the tactics here, right? This weekend, it
will by two years since the huge neo-Nazi gathering and the murderous
attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, after which President Trump proclaimed
there were very fine people on both sides. I went back and looked at our
coverage immediately following the Charlottesville attack. I was struck by
the fact that even at the time, it sort of felt like we could have seen
Remember, Charlottesville was August of 2017. In the six months before the
Charlottesville conflagration, there were a whole bunch of pretty high-
profile racist attacks in this country, and even though that was only a
couple of years ago, most of them have already been forgotten, but the day
after the Charlottesville attack happened, here on the show we ran down
some of them just in the six months before Charlottesville. I mean, in
February of that year, in Kansas, two Indian engineers were shot in a bar
by a guy who screamed racial and religious epithets at them. One of those
two engineers was killed. The other was wounded, as was a bystander.
The following month, March of that year, midtown Manhattan, young white guy
from Maryland drives all the way from Maryland to New York City with a
sword so he can randomly stab to death a black man on the street who he
didn`t know from Adam. He thought doing it in New York, in Times Square
would give them the most attention, because he was hoping to set off more
random killings of black men in America with his totally unprovoked
Just weeks later, it was Portland, Oregon. Two girls on a commuter train
subjected to a torrent of racial and religious abuse and violent threats by
a guy on the train. Threatening them, screaming at them, passers by on the
train intervened, put themselves between this attacker and the girls he was
going after. Two of those passers by were killed, another one seriously
That same week, this young man who had just been commissioned as a second
lieutenant in the U.S. Army, three days away from his college graduation,
was stabbed to death in Maryland by a young white student who was a member
of a hardcore right-wing racist online group. That was all right in the
lead-up to Charlottesville, Virginia.
In the last couple of days, “The New York Times” did a big list of about a
dozen white supremacist attacks that have happened in this country over the
past six or seven years. I was looking at that list today. Actually none
of the events that I just described that happened in the six months before
Charlottesville even made this list from “The New York Times” for whatever
reason. I mean, not faulting “The Times” for that, I`m just saying there`s
been a lot of them in recent years. Kind of even hard to track, even over
the last couple of years.
And to the extent that this is not random stuff, to the extent that these
are not, you know, bad apples, to the extent that this is the manifestation
of an organized white nationalist movement in this country that seeks
violence, that is deliberately trying to inspire and encourage and enable
racially motivated and anti-Semitic attacks and any other kind of they know
that would advance the cause of white nationalism or bring about their
fabled race war – I mean, if you are worried that this federal government
at this time may not be inclined to do enough about that, but they may
treat these things as if they`re individual crimes, all committed in
isolation, just a few bad apples, nothing connecting them. If that is a
realistic downside risk of having this president at the head of the federal
government at this time, well, then aren`t we back to a question that was
first called a few decades ago?
Can the victims of these crimes and their families play a part in shutting
down this terrorist movement in a way that the federal government may not
be able or willing to do? Can the victims do it? Can the victims and
their families bankrupt these organizations and these organizing hubs,
right? Is it possible strategically to organizationally decapitate these
organizations and these hubs that facilitate this kind of terrorism in
America? Can you organizationally decapitate them, even when law
enforcement will not?
Hold that thought. Live question. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Two years ago this weekend, a young woman named Heather Heyer was
killed. Twenty-eight people were injured in a terror attack that was the
culmination of a gathering of neo Nazis and white supremacists in
Charlottesville, Virginia. The man who drove the car that deliberately
plowed into that car and killed Ms. Heyer, just last month, he was
sentenced to life in prison with an additional 419 years in prison for that
But, you know, the Charlottesville case is not over. Ten of the people who
were injured in Charlottesville, including three of the people who were hit
by that car and survived have now brought a murderer against the lawsuit
against not only the murderer who drove his vehicle into the crowd but
also, and this is interesting, the leaders of all the white nationalist
groups that organized and promoted the Charlottesville event.
There are more than two dozen individuals listed as defendants in this
case. Here`s from – this is a quote from the – from the complaint as
filed with the court.
Quote: The violence in Charlottesville was no accident. Under the pretext
of a rally which they termed Unite the Right, defendants spent months
carefully coordinating their efforts on the Internet and in person. They
exhorted each other. If you want to defend the South and Western
Civilization from the Jew and his dark-skinned allies, be at
Charlottesville on 12 August.
Also, quote: Next stop Charlottesville, final stop Auschwitz.
In countless posts on their own Websites and social media, defendants and
their co-conspirators promised that there would be violence in
Charlottesville. The violence, suffering and emotional distress that
occurred in Charlottesville was a direct, intended and foreseeable result
of defendants` unlawful conspiracy. It was all according to a plan they
spent months working out and whose implementation they actively oversaw as
events unfolded on the ground. The events of August 11th and 12th were
part of defendants` coordinated campaign to intimidate, harass, incite and
cause violence to people based on their race, religion, ethnicity and
sexual orientation in violation of numerous, state and federal laws.
This is a call back to a previous strategy that has been used in this
country in the past to try to bankrupt and organizationally decapitate the
terrorism organization that have used white nationalism and white
supremacism as an umbrella in this country for years. In the wake of the
El Paso attack this weekend, another recent incidents of white nationalists
and white supremacist violence and amid worries about the Trump
administration`s attitude toward extremism of this exact kind, should this
sort of thing be seen as a viable tactic? I mean, practically, can it
work? Is this the kind of movement that could actually be hurt by being
bankrupted, by being organizationally disrupted? Could these kinds of
legal strategies be a strong alternative, particularly if the federal
government is going to be an unreliable partner for the victims of these
After the Charleston massacre, the Charleston church massacre in 2015, a
“Washington Post” reporter was working on the story about the white
supremacist who shot and killed nine mostly elderly black worshippers
during a prayer service at the Mother Emanuel AME Church. It turns out
that gunman had been active on something called Stormfront, which is an
online hub for white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
“The Washington Post” reporter who was following that lead went to
Stormfront to look for reaction to the Charleston attack, given that one of
their own had carried it out. What he found was people on Stormfront
celebrating the attack in Charleston.
But the reporter also discovered a whole different story line on Stormfront
that he wasn`t expecting, an ongoing robust discussion about the son of
Stormfront`s founder, a man named Derek Black. He was the long-expected
next leader in waiting of America`s white nationalist movement.
And the discussion on Storm Front was about him leaving the movement, him
turning his back on white nationalism and walking away. Finding leads to
that story in that unexpected place, that reporter from “The Post” tracked
down Derek Black, that former national white nationalist. He spent the
next few years researching him, researching that movement, and ultimately
produced this best-selling book “Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a
Former White Nationalist.”
The reporter behind that story, Eli Saslow of “The Washington Post”, joins
Mr. Saslow, I really appreciate you making time for us tonight. Thanks for
ELI SASLOW, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: So I read your book. I learned a lot from it and part of the
reason I wanted to talk to you about this tonight is I feel like you gave
me some new insight I didn`t have before into sort of the modern structure
and the modern evolution of the white nationalist movement. And it got me
thinking about your perspective on how to fight it. We have seen in the
past people go after the organizational hubs, the leaders of various
groups, trying to bankrupt them, trying to sort of organizationally
decapitate them to slow down the movement.
Do you feel like with the modern iteration of this movement that might be
an effective strategy?
SASLOW: I think it definitely can be effective and it has a place.
Unfortunately, I don`t think it`s a way to defeat white supremacy in the
United States overall. That`s unfortunately a really tall order because
it`s so endemic in what this country is.
But I think these judgments that have been won in some of these cases that
you`ve highlighted tonight, they`re empowering for people who historically
and currently have been disenfranchised by the white supremacy movement or
killed by the white supremacy movement or wounded or injured. And, you
know, that matters. To acknowledge that matters.
And our country as a whole has not often been good at acknowledging that
pain and suffering that has come on the other end of white supremacy. So I
think as a tactic, it`s really useful and it`s emboldening for anti-racists
to see that you can win and you can get big judgments against these people.
And, unfortunately, white nationalists over the last 50 years have gotten
very used to transforming themselves and moving from one platform to the
next, one organization to the next. So, it`s a little bit like whack-a-
mole in terms of how insidious the, you know, the organization – the
movement as a whole is. And that`s partly because it`s so tied into what
the United States, unfortunately, has been.
MADDOW: In terms of that whack-a-mole problem that you`re talking about, I
hear you there and I`ve been sort of intrigued but also frustrated by a lot
of discussion that`s happening right now about the online presence of white
nationalists organizing, white nationalist incitement, you know, these
screeds and diatribes being posted on various forums where white
And I feel like a lot of that discussion is about how outlets like – that
are ostensibly neutral. Anything from Instagram and Facebook and Twitter
to places like, you know, even radical – radical spaces like 8chan and all
those things. Whether or not they can be held accountable for this content
that happens to sit or travel through those formats.
But one of the things that you wrote about in your book and the history of
Derek Black is how some of thee platforms are native grown. A place like
Stormfront was an early outpost online for the white nationalist movement
and it is part and parcel of how that movement organizes itself and the
people who have been leading it.
It seems like Stormfront and some of the other groups – some of the other
online hubs like that might be vulnerable to this kind of a tactic.
SASLOW: I think they have been vulnerable to this kind of tactic. The
problem is they`ve moved faster than the tactic catches them. So, you
know, Stormfront gets attacked frequently. Its servers get shut down. It
gets legally attacked. That gets shut down and then that audience goes to
The Daily Stormer. The Daily Stormer comes under siege and people move to
Gab or 8chan.
You know, I think, unfortunately, we`re talking about a very powerful
connected movement. I mean, these radical domestic terrorist acts are not
– they`re not lone wolf acts. I mean, they`re talking to each other.
They`re talking to each other, frankly, through their manifestos and trying
to inspire one another to do similar things.
So I think figuring out a way to stop them from having that conversation is
going to be very difficult. I`d say the more long-term strategy to
potentially have some success partnering with that is to change the
conversation that they`re having and that we`re having in the country about
what the United States and is has been in terms of often prioritizing the
interests of white people.
I mean, I think another complicating thing about relying on the courts to
fight white supremacy or to provide some answers to white supremacy is that
historically in our country, the courts, the criminal justice system, law
enforcement, those have done just as much work and probably more work to
enable white supremacy as they`ve ever done to destabilize it.
And that`s included recently. I mean, the rally in Charlottesville
happened in part because the ACLU went to court on behalf of those white
supremacists days before it happened to restore their permits so they could
hold the rally in the first place. So, the courts can break either way.
MADDOW: Eli Saslow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, reporter for “The
Washington Post” – I`m really glad that you`re able to join us tonight. I
know it took some rigmarole to get you here. I really appreciate you
making the time. Thank you.
SASLOW: It`s my pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So hundreds of people had gathered for a vigil in downtown Dayton
in memory of the nine people who were killed in the mass shooting this
weekend. People held candles. People released balloons into the air to
honor the victims. There were local officials who were making remarks.
And something then unexpected happened. Ohio`s Republican Governor Mike
DeWine started to address the crowd and something happened. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: We are here tonight –
CROWD: Do something! Do something!
DEWINE: – because we know that we cannot –
CROWD: Do something!
DEWINE: We know that we cannot –
CROWD: Do something!
CROWD (chanting): Do something! Do something! Do something!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That caught on.
Those shouts from the crowd “do something, do something” overwhelming
Republican Governor Mike DeWine, bringing him to a halt in the middle of
what otherwise would have been his remarks. That happened on Sunday, just
after the Dayton mass shooting.
Now, it seems like it`s possible the governor might have actually heard
what people were trying to tell him. That`s next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD (chanting): Do something! Do something! Do something!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In the aftermath of this weekend`s mass shootings, the talking
point from President Trump and many Republicans, their central message has
been that the issue is not guns but mental illness. The president saying
it`s not guns that pull the trigger, it`s mental illness that pulls the
Forgive me for saying this bluntly, but that`s bullpucky and we can all
prove it. First, obviously, we as a country do not have a monopoly on
mental illness and yet only in America do mass shootings happen anywhere
near this often. Beyond that, though, all of the studies, all of the
research disproves the notion that mental illness is the thing you should
blame for mass shootings in America. Only a tiny fraction of violent crime
is committed by people with mental illness. People who are mentally ill
are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than its perpetrators.
So claiming this is a mental illness problem that explains what`s going on
in America with gun violence is bull.
Here`s another way you know it, though, another way to know that Republican
lawmakers specifically do not mean it and they are not serious about this
supposed problem of guns in the hands of the mentally ill, the other way
you know that for sure and can prove it is that among the very first things
Republicans did after Donald Trump moved into the White House, when they
had a Republican House and a Republican Senate and a Republican president,
one of the first things they did was take deliberate, specific action to
make it easier for people who had been adjudicated mentally ill to get
And I don`t mean like someone slipped a longstanding provision into some
omnibus bill and nobody noticed that it was loosening some regulation. I
mean, they literally signed and Donald Trump passed a standalone law that
said if a person is classified seriously mentally by the Social Security
Administration, if a person is adjudicated to be too mentally impaired to
handle his or own affairs like cashing his or her own checks, Republicans
as soon as Trump became president went out of their way to change the law
so that after such an adjudication, that person can still get a gun –
after such an adjudication, you couldn`t previously get a gun but they
changed the law so that you can, right after you`ve been found to not be
mentally well enough to handle your own affairs as far as cashing a check
So, when the president and Republicans in Congress tell you that what
they`re really concerned about is mental illness, that`s the real problem,
what their real priority is, people with mental illness getting access to
guns, you can prove to them that is bullpucky. You can prove it to them
not by what they have said, by what they have done.
That said, maybe change is possible. Following the Dayton, Ohio, mass
shooting this past weekend, the state`s Republican Governor Mike DeWine has
just laid out ten proposals for the state`s legislature to take up. And
yet, some of them are about mental illness. But they also include things
like universal background checks in the state of Ohio and allowing a judge
to confiscate firearms from anyone who`s deemed by the judge to pose a
threat to himself or to others.
Now, it may seem tempting to say that as lip service. But you could also
take it in good faith.
Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning nationally syndicated prize
journalist is based in Cleveland, Ohio. She responded this way to this
announcement today from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. She posted this on
Do we have that? Do we have that? Thank you. Sorry. There we go.
Connie Schultz posted this on Twitter after this announcement from
Congressman Mike Turner today. I announce my support for restricting
military-style weapons sales, magazine limits and red flag legislation.
Read my fullest statement here. Connie Schultz respond, quote, we can`t
ask people to change and then not give them the chance to do so.
In other words, consider the possibility that this is real. Connie Schultz
joins us now from Ohio.
Connie, it`s great to see you. Thank you so much for being here.
CONNIE SCHULTZ, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING COLUMNIST: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So this was I felt like an act against cynicism for you and a big-
hearted statement to make. A lot of people I think greeted this with
cynicism, assuming that this is something they`re going to say and never
do, but you`re essentially saying that this is something that might be
SCHULTZ: You know where I first learned that as a columnist was when Ohio
seemed so radically against same-sex marriage and gay rights and over time
incrementally I could see change, and you had to create the space for it,
to allow for it.
And I believe Congressman Turner. I saw him the day after the shootings.
I saw how emotional he was about it. I don`t doubt his good intentions.
I know that there are people who say, well, wouldn`t it have been nice
sooner? Yes, all kinds of things would be nice if they had come much
sooner, but I will take them where we find them and whatever gets them
here, welcome, because we need major action.
And if we don`t show that support, if we just greet it with cynicism, not
only are we being predictably liberal, but we are betraying an awful lot of
people who need us to be advocates right now. I`m so grateful to you for
what you said about mental illness. Some of the most moving messages I`ve
gotten in the last 48/72 hours are from people who have been diagnosed with
mental illness and they give me all the reasons that they are sick, all the
ways they have dealt with it and how often and how close they`ve come to
Their point, of course, being that they don`t have any attention of getting
a gun and killing anybody. And they need our advocacy. So, I really want
to start by thanking you for starting with that.
MADDOW: Well, sure. I mean, I do feel like it`s worth calling out
disingenuous arguments and also false arguments in this case. But I –
what you`re saying about being open to the possibility of change here, I
think also – it`s almost hard to hear in this environment. It`s like even
opening our hearts to that idea that you have to be not just open-minded
but willing to work, willing to do the work, willing to meet people where
you are, I think it`s – I mean, I think you`re advancing this in a
But I just also wanted to ask you substantively what you think of that list
of proposals that Governor DeWine put out and that some of the Republican
members of Congress from your state are now potentially signaling support
SCHULTZ: Well, the first law that Mike DeWine signed as governor was to
supposedly fix a law that had limited the length of some guns. He wanted
to improve that for gun owners, right? Two years ago, they started
allowing guns in daycares unless daycare centers put up signs prohibiting
it. That`s a very helpful law, as you can see.
SCHULTZ: So my point is here, the Senate and House leaderships are
overwhelmingly Republican, both bodies, and the leadership has made clear
already that they are – they`re very much in opposition of what Mike
DeWine – most of what Mike DeWine is arguing for. Even though a
Quinnipiac poll showed I think in July that 90 percent of Ohioans, this is
a nonpartisan issue, 90 percent of Ohioans want universal background
The thing about that shouting crowd, and I do give Mike DeWine credit for
paying attention, that also was a nonpartisan event, Rachel. That was a
town of grieving residents who were there to show support for the victims,
the people who died, the people who have been injured, the people who love
them and cannot even believe yet that they have lost these people. So,
that was not your typical – I mean, it feels very Midwestern in a way.
There wasn`t a lot of chanting swear words. They weren`t calling him
They were telling him to do something. When you look at the video of that,
you see people of all different ages doing that. It was quite moving.
MADDOW: When you talk about that sort of a tableau, and also that poll
result of 90 percent support for universal background checks, I mean, even
if you only poll gun owners, you will find numbers like that in terms of
support for universal background checks.
MADDOW: How do you envision this changing? I mean, when you think about
this in an optimistic way, just thinking on that issue of universal
background checks, does it take – I mean, sort of tactical trickery, you
know? Does it take some way of doing it where the people who are going to
oppose it don`t have access to stop it, or is it going to take some sort of
catalytic act of bravery? Does it – does tragedy help in terms of moving
people off the starting line there? Can you imagine it happening?
SCHULTZ: I think what tragedies, multiple, tragedies, plural, are doing is
making a different group of people scared. And a different group of people
The gun lobby – you know, I`ve been dealing with the gun activists for
almost 20 years as a columnist here. Some of my first death threats came
from open-carry people that were so angry that – at “The Plain Dealer”, we
started publishing the names and addresses of people getting permits
because the state legislature passed a law saying only journalists and law
enforcement could find out if your neighbor had a gun in the house, was
walking around your children with guns.
So this has been a long battle. They`ve counted on making us afraid, and
what I am seeing increasingly – look, leadership is lonely. You know
that. In your own way you`re a leader. It`s a lonely hill to stand on
often. That`s why it`s leadership because not everyone can do it.
The thing is we need to see more of our citizens who never imagined
themselves doing this. I think of mothers, for example, immediately come
to mind who have had it and grandmothers. My generation of women, we are
really starting to look at this in a different way. I hear from them every
day. That is not an overstatement.
And they`re deciding, you know, it sounds cliche, what answer will I have,
right, for the children in my life, for my family? But if you really do
ask yourself that question and you look where we are in this country right
now, the wrong people have been afraid. The people who should be afraid
are these Republicans who think they can keep doing what they`re doing even
if 90 percent of Ohioans tell them they want something different.
MADDOW: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist
covering Ohio and beyond, one of my favorite people to talk to on any
subject – Connie, thanks for making time tonight. I really appreciate you
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
MADDOW: I should mention, in the interest of full disclosure, that Connie
Schultz is married to Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who is also one
of my favorite politicians to talk to on any subject. So, there`s my bias.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So here`s something to keep an eye on, and I`m saying that
selfishly because I`m not sure this is something I understand so I feel
like the more eyes on it the better.
There are two more presidential Democratic primaries coming up, September
and October. The rules to qualify for both debates are the same. You need
to in at least four polls to get 2 percent support. That`s the polling
threshold. And you need 130,000 donors – 130,000 different people
contributing to your campaign.
Now, so far, there are only eight people who are qualified under those
criteria, as far as we can tell, for the next debate. But here`s the thing
I don`t understand. The DNC has apparently just sent a message to all the
candidates clarifying the cutoff deadline for the polls that you`d need to
qualify to get into the debate. And apparently, the cutoff deadline for
getting into the September debate and the October debate are going to be
the same. Meaning the same universe of polls is going to be looked at for
both September debate and the October debate.
The reason I don`t understand this is that what this would seem to mean is
if you`re a Democrat running for president and you`re one of the 12 to 14
candidates who isn`t going to qualify to get into the September debates,
they`re going to give you a whole extra month of time to try to qualify
into the October debate. So, the September debate`s going to be much
smaller, only eight people and then the October debate`s going to be way
bigger again and go back up to the bigger field?
That`s what it seems like the DNC is offering. Like I said, I`m not sure I
understand, but watch this space.
MADDOW: One thing to keep an eye on in tomorrow`s news, early in the day,
I mentioned the Charleston, South Carolina massacre earlier on this show
this hour, the place where a young white supremacist killed nine mostly
elderly worshippers at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South
Carolina. Tomorrow morning, early in the day, I believe in midmorning,
there`s going to be speech made at that church by Democratic presidential
candidate Cory Booker.
Obviously, this is a fraught and important time for everybody in national
politics, but for Senator Booker, one of the African-American candidates
running on the Democratic side, speaking tomorrow from that hallowed
ground. It should be a dramatic and important moment. So, keep an eye out
for that earlier in the day.
We`ll see you tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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