Beto O’Rourke interview. TRANSCRIPT: 8/7/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us. Happy to have you here.
At this hour, the president is on his way back to Washington from El Paso,
Texas. The president visited both El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, today – two
cities, of course, that were the sites of this weekend`s back-to-back mass
Not incidentally, these are also two cities that were in large part
resistant to the idea of the president making these visits there today.
Nevertheless, the president did go to both cities today, although it was
very interesting. While he made these visits, he kept a very low-profile
in both of these cities and particularly, he stayed away from the public.
In El Paso, the president went directly from the airport to El Paso`s
University Medical Center, where survivors of the shooting are being
treated and where at least five of the shooting`s victims remain in
critical condition in the ICU.
Oddly, the president and the White House communication team tried to hype
this hospital visit in El Paso today as if it was like a poll or a rally or
something. The White House communications team today tweeting about how
they thought everybody they saw at the hospital was very pro-Trump and very
happy to see President Trump there. The president literally came out to
talk to reporters in El Paso about how wonderful he thought it was that
everybody in the hospital loved him so much, and had so much respect for
him as president.
That was his remarks. Those were his remarks to the assembled press about
what was important about that hospital visit. The president talking about
how much people there liked him. It was just truly a very strange display
from the president after this hospital visit in El Paso today.
Just down the street from that hospital in El Paso`s Washington Park, this
was the scene today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FERNANDO GARCIA, BORDER NETWORK FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Trump is responsible and
he`s part of the problem! He`s not welcome!
BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We live in a country where we
have a president who demonizes communities like this one, who vilifies
REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): There have been words that have been
powerful and painful and full of hate and full of bigotry and full of
O`ROURKE: El Paso, I am proud of you. El Paso, I love you! El Paso, we
are bigger and better and greater than this!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: El Paso is trying to come to grips not only with the fact that 22
people were killed last weekend in the deadliest attack on the Latino
community in modern American history, but also with the fact that the
shooter, now in custody, apparently uploaded a diatribe online, echoing the
president`s own rhetoric about a Hispanic invasion at the southern border
and describing that invasion as the motive for these El Paso murders.
Well, in the wake of the murders and the diatribe from the killer about why
he did it, the president`s campaign now says that it will continue to use
the theme of a Hispanic invasion, specifically to use the word “invasion”
in the president`s re-election campaign ads. Quote, the Trump campaign was
unapologetic about a “New York Times” report – a “New York Times” report
Monday night on its Facebook advertisements, its Facebook advertisements
which use the word “invasion.” The word “invasion” also featured
prominently in the El Paso suspect`s manifesto.
When asked in the wake of the El Paso massacre, if the president`s campaign
would change the tenor of its ads, a senior Trump political adviser had a
single-word answer. “No.”
And so, the president was in El Paso today, largely against the wishes of
the people of El Paso and their elected representatives. The most high-
profile of El Paso`s representatives is Beto O`Rourke, who represented the
city and Congress until last year and who is now running for the Democratic
Since the immediate wake of the El Paso shooting, Mr. O`Rourke has left the
presidential campaign trail to instead be in his home city of El Paso.
MADDOW: Congressman O`Rourke joining us now live from El Paso.
Sir, thank you very much for your time this evening. I know it`s a – it`s
a busy and difficult time.
O`ROURKE: It`s – it is and really tough time for El Paso but we are
really tough people and just visiting with the families, with the
survivors, with all those that assembled behind me at this vigil right
outside the Walmart. This community has come back so strong, supporting
one another, loving one another and not just here in El Paso but also in
Ciudad Juarez which lost seven people who are here buying at Walmart before
school starts just like anyone else would. So the way this community has
come together, this community of immigrants, this very diverse community.
This community that`s 85 percent Mexican-American, it`s just really
powerful, very beautiful and the best possible answer I think to this
hatred and to the terror that we saw on Saturday.
MADDOW: And as – as you say, El Paso is a majority Latino population as
you say, 85 percent Mexican-American, very close with it`s sister city of
I am very much still stopped in my tracks by the fact that this was the
worst terrorist attack on the Latino community in the modern history of the
United States of America. And as a community and as one of the – the
citadels of that community in our country, what do you say as a
representative from El Paso, what do you say to the Latino community? To
the Latino communities all over the country that really do have terrifying
new concerns about their own safety, about their communities being targets
for homegrown terrorists.
O`ROURKE: And to some degree they should. You – you have a president who
has repeatedly as a candidate, once in the highest office and position of
public trust in the land vilified Hispanic and Latino members of our
communities and of this country. Warned of invasions not just once of
twice but repeatedly bought as you mentioned, Facebook ads warning of that.
Describes people as an infestation or animals who are coming here. Send
the United States military to a community like this one, which is one of if
not the safest cities in the United States of America, that gins up
extraordinary fear in America, anxiety and paranoia.
And when you have Trump at a rally in Florida describing this invasion
saying what is it going to take to stop these people? And some one in the
crowd yells out shoot them and the crowd roars its approval and the
president smiles. If that does not send a signal that it`s OK to do this
kind of thing, I don`t know what does. Now he`s not the original racist.
Racism has existed for as long as we have been a country but he is giving
license to people to act on that. He`s making permissible to say awful
things and do terrible things.
We know for example, on the day that he signed his Executive order tempting
to ban Muslim travel in the United States. The mosque in Victoria, Texas
burned to the ground. That shooter who walked in and killed at the Tree of
Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was mouthing some of the same lines that the
president had used about caravans coming to get us and – and to take what
is ours in this country.
So, this is the result of – of what this president has been doing and
we`ve got to stop it. We`ve got to stop – all of us stand up not just
Democrats, not just me, members of the press, Republicans alike. Everybody
standing up – up against this and for an American that respects everyone.
Treats everyone with dignity.
MADDOW: That kind of language that you are describing there invasion,
infestation, describing people as animals. You`ve been very acute in your
criticism of the president for that but also in drawing the historic
analogies there, saying that this is redolent of things that have happened
in the past that have led to genocide and horrific tragedies. Because
you`ve drawn those historic analogies, do you feel like there are lessons
from history or are there lessons that we should be learning right now in
our country in terms of what can be the anecdote to that?
In terms of how you defy not only those sorts of characterizations of
people as subhuman but how you mitigate it`s effects. How you stop those
sort of dehumanizing imagery from infecting the culture and from
propagating more violence?
O`ROURKE: You know, I think historically people like Donald Trump are –
are dismissed as clowns or are forgiven because it`s assumed that the
economy`s running better. We have law and order where we didn`t have it
before. Neither of which are true here in the United States despite what
the president is – is saying but – but – that`s – that`s what I hear
sometimes for his apologists in Congress or those people even in my home
town who may want to turn a blind eye to things that he`s been saying.
But – but when you connect the dots, you don`t get kids in cages. You
don`t lose the lives of seven children who are in our custody who had fled
the deadliest countries in the world who are coming here to seek shelter
That doesn`t happen unless you had a president who`s described them as
animals, as an infestation, who has dehumanized them to make it OK to treat
them as something less than human. You don`t get the acts of terror or
violence. The rise in hate crimes, every single one of the last three
years, unless you have a president who is doing this. So I guess our
lessons from history is you cannot dismiss this. You can`t say, well he`s
just a different kind of politician. Doesn`t know how to talk to the
media. This is a guy who`s been very open about what he wants to do.
I mean, when in history can we think of in a modern western democracy, when
the leader has talked about all people of one religion being inherently
defective and should be banned from the shores of – of that country. It`s
chilling, or – or that rally in Greenville, North Carolina. The chants of
– of send her back to me that is reminiscent of – of Nuremburg something
you would see in Germany. Not something you`d see in the United States of
America in 2019.
And we can no longer accept it, no longer say that this is an isolated
problem. This is on all of us and, you know, in El Paso one of, if not the
safest cities in America. You know, we used to pride ourselves on that but
no matter our geographic distance from the other centers of power and
population, this problem will find you. This problem of gun violence.
This problem of hatred. This problem of white nationalist terrorism, it
will come find you.
So, it`s on all of us. I don`t care how safe you are in your home right
now. Unless you stand up and act on it, it – it will come to you as well.
So, I – I hope that this is what it takes to galvanize us to act on
sensible gun policy on stamping out this kind of hate speech and open
racism. On ensuring that our social media platforms are regulated so that
when someone is trying to incentivize this kind of behavior, they are
stopped before it is too late. We have our work cut out for us but I know
as a country we are up to it.
MADDOW: I want to ask you about something that Congresswoman Veronica
Escobar said before the president`s visit. She, of course, holds the seat
you used to hold now in El Paso and – and she said in the wake of the
shooting, of course, that she didn`t think the president should come to El
Paso. And in fact, she didn`t meet with the president on his visit today
but it was interesting.
I interviewed her on Monday – Monday night and she surprised me when she
said with clear eyes and a clear heart. She said for all of her criticism
of the president and for all of her belief that he should not travel to El
Paso, that he would not be welcome there now.
She did say it would matter and it would matter to El Paso if the president
apologized for what he has said in the past about immigrants and about the
border and about El Paso specifically. The kind of language that you`re
just decrying right now in such strong terms. She made the case that while
the president has caused a lot of harm, it would materially help if he took
back what he had said.
If he acknowledged that it was wrong and it was hurtful and he`d say he
wouldn`t do it again. I wonder, given the sharpness of your criticism on
the president on this, if – if you agree with her. If you think that
something like that might help from the president or – or do you think
it`s just too late for that?
O`ROURKE: No. I think Congresswoman Escobar is exactly right on this
point. It would be helpful if the president were to renounce the language
that he`s used. If he explicitly said, immigrants pose no threat to this
country. In fact, we know that they commit crimes at a far lower rate than
those who are born here.
If you pointed to my hometown, El Paso, Texas, or McAllen, Texas, or San
Diego, California, and said, these communities of immigrants have crime
rates that are far lower than cities in the in – you know – deeper inside
the United States.
In fact, their very presence makes us stronger and safer and more secure as
a country, I`m not going to hold my breath but if he were to do that it –
it could – it could only help. And – and I hope that he or the people
around him can – can help him come to this conclusion. Help him to say
the right thing because it`s not just an effort to make up for what
happened in El Paso.
I don`t know that he can. It`s – it`s an effort to stop this from
continuing to happen in this country and his language right now is so
provocative. Has found a home with someone like this killer, this
terrorist who literally drove more than 600 miles to bring this hatred and
terror to our community. So it`s – it`s really important that the
president act while he still has time to. In the absence of that upon all
of us, regardless of the differences including party, to stand up right now
and be counted on this important issue.
MADDOW: So, I know that you have cancelled your campaign`s upcoming events
in Iowa this weekend. You essentially have left the presidential campaign
trail to be at home in the wake of this tragedy.
I just want to ask if you know at this point what your plans are. If you
have any sense of when you plan to return to the campaign trail? If this
is going to change things for you fundamentally? Are you waiting to see
how things evolve or do you have a plan at this point?
O`ROURKE: I will return to the campaign trail. I will pursue the
nomination of our party to serve this country as president of the United
States. But right now, I`m going to focus on my community, on our family,
on those families who are grieving right now and on those families who have
somebody who`s not yet out of the woods.
We are daily visiting Del Sol and University Medical Center to be with our
fellow El Pasoans. Tomorrow, I`m going to Ciudad Juarez to visit with
families who lost somebody from that side of the border but this is the
right place for me to be right now.
MADDOW: Beto O`Rourke, Democratic presidential contender, former member of
Congress from El Paso, Texas – sir, thanks for taking the time to be with
us tonight. I really appreciate you being here.
O`ROURKE: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Again, Congressman O`Rourke, as he mention there had,
is off the presidential campaign trail right now, although he said
emphatically there, he will be rejoining the campaign trail. He is in
contention for the Democratic nomination for president in his hometown
grieving El Paso right now, will be there, it sounds, for the foreseeable
This was the scene in El Paso as the president arrived there today. It was
100 degrees or more in El Paso today. But Congressman O`Rourke was out
there along with all of these El Paso residents and community leaders and
elected officials. Veronica Escobar, who I had just mentioned, who
succeeded Beto O`Rourke and is now El Paso`s representative in Congress, an
exceedingly eloquent and intelligence member of Congress, they are lucky to
have her, she was there today as well.
She declined an invitation to accompany the president on his visit today,
but she was out there in the community. And there did seem to be this
feeling in El Paso today that the president`s visit wasn`t helpful. That
in many quarters, it was not welcome.
And that`s just a remarkable thing for an American city that has
experienced a wrenching tragedy, especially when it`s not, you know, a big
natural disaster where the city just can`t logistically handle a visit. I
mean, this – in El Paso today was an American city telling the president
of the United States that he`s not wanted there because he was a
contributor to the violence that has just befallen them.
Here was another thing that greeted the president today in El Paso. A
giant letter to the president on the front of “The El Paso El Paso Times.”
Dear Mr. President, quote: For many of us, our parents were born in Mexico.
We`re proud of that and we are also proud Americans. America is our
country. We are home.
Not everyone who visits El Paso has understood this. Mr. President, in
your February State of the Union Address, you claimed that El Paso was one
of our nation`s most dangerous cities before a border wall was built. Mr.
President, that is not El Paso. Some in our community doubt we will be
able to change your view of our border community, but it`s important to us
that we explain all that is good about El Paso.
Our people are scared. Many of us feel our city is still viewed as a
target. The hatred that came to us came from an outsider. It did not come
from El Paso.
Mourners who gathered at a makeshift memorial behind the Walmart where the
shooting occurred in El Paso told “The Washington Post” today that the
president`s visit would make them feel worse about what has already just
happened. Quote: Now`s not the time, said one man, a veteran`s advocate.
Quote: We do not need anybody fanning the flames of hate, anger, and
racism. There`s enough in this world already.
Quote: Maxine Morales, who was born and raised in El Paso, brought her two
children to the memorial. She said the president`s rhetoric about
immigration and the border have caused deep wounds in the city.
At this moment, she says, I am just filled with anger and frustration and
sadness, her voice breaking. My parents were immigrants and they came here
to better their lives and to make sure that we all had better lives, so
that really hits home. It really hurts.
At that Walmart where 22 people were murdered, there will be a more formal
vigil getting underway in the next hour. As you saw, Congressman O`Rourke
is at that site right now. We`re going to be keeping an eye on that site
tonight. We`re expecting a large vigil to kick off at 10:00 p.m. Eastern
But all of that is just El Paso. The president also today went to Dayton,
Ohio. This is what it looked like in Dayton, Ohio, when the president got
there. The president arriving, protesters lining his motorcade, his
motorcade route from the airport to the hospital. And then some of the
protesters headed over to the back entrance of the hospital, because they
were quite sure that`s how the president would get in and out of that
facility and they wanted to make sure the president would see them on his
The mayor of Dayton, Ohio, has not been shy about voicing her disagreements
with the president, particularly in the wake of what just happened there
this weekend, but the mayor of Dayton did meet with him while he was there
today. You will not be surprised to hear that. Afterwards, he
nevertheless lashed out at her publicly.
We`ll be speaking with the mayor of Dayton, Ohio, live, coming up. Stay
MADDOW: When you are the mayor of a city, you get the calls. The buck
stops with you. They call you when there`s a snowstorm. They call you
when a water main breaks.
They also call you, God forbid, when a mass shooting erupts near downtown
on a summer weekend night and nine people are killed almost in an instant.
And your city goes from being familiar, vibrant Dayton, Ohio, to a city
that is reeling, that is grieving, that is anger.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley is a Democrat. She has been outspoken about the
politics that led to this moment and the politics that have followed. She
has called the president unhelpful on gun policy and said that his rhetoric
has been painful for many in her community.
But nevertheless, Mayor Whaley did meet with the president earlier today on
his visit to her city. The mayor met with the president along with Ohio`s
Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.
Later, the mayor described the visit for reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mayor, how would you characterize your conversation with the
president? Do you feel like he was hearing you?
MAYOR NAN WHALEY (D), DAYTON, OHIO: I think he heard me. I don`t know if
he will take action. I`m hoping, for the people of Dayton, that he does,
but we – both the senator and I spoke very directly what we`ve been saying
the whole time about the need for common sense gun legislation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who knows why, but apparently those remarks from the mayor did not
meet with the president`s expectations for what he wanted said about him
after he left Dayton. On his way to the next city that was reeling from a
shooting, on his way to El Paso, the president, apropos of nothing, went
online to accuse Mayor Whaley and Senator Brown of totally misrepresenting
what happened during his Dayton visit and slagged off both of them for it`s
not totally clear what.
The president then kept up that criticism inexplicably, even after he
arrived in El Paso, going back to it again unprompted with reporters in
Texas. So why is this happening? This is just what it`s like now. But
you can add to the president`s accomplishments today, his unsolicited
insults and invective for the mayor of a city that just suffered a massacre
and to whom he was supposedly offering the government`s help and assistance
Joining us now is Nan Whaley. She`s the mayor of Dayton.
Madam Mayor, thank you so much for making time for us. I`m sure it`s been
a hell of a day.
WHALEY: It`s been a day, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Yes. First of all, let me just ask, how you`re doing? How you
assess as its leader, how Dayton is doing? Whether Dayton has what it
needs now three days out from the shootings?
WHALEY: Well, I think Dayton is an amazing city. I know I`m biased as its
mayor, but it has a lot of grit and resilience. And, you know, Sunday
evening, we had a vigil on the streets of the Oregon District where the
And it was thousands and thousands of people coming together. They were
grieving. There was compassion, there was hugging, there was tears, and
there was anger.
And, you know, really, the community shouted “do something” pretty
organically, and it moved the governor, who is a Republican here, Governor
Mike DeWine to take action on some gun legislation here in the state.
Frankly, I was hoping that would be the same case when the president came
here today, but I don`t – I don`t get the sense that that`s going to
MADDOW: When the president was in Dayton today, there was some ambiguity
as to what his exact itinerary would be, where he would show up, whether
the public would see him and whether he would see the public. And you
suggested today in your remarks that maybe it was a good thing that the
president didn`t go specifically to the Oregon District, to the site of
where the shootings happened, and where that vigil was with that powerful
moment with Governor DeWine.
Why did you think it was probably a good thing on balance that the
president didn`t do that today?
WHALEY: Well, even while the president was at the hospital today, meeting
victims and first responders, the tension in the Oregon District was
already very high, and just imagining the president in that with already
the tension between both supporters and folks that are opposed to the
president, I think would be very difficult. Our community is on
tenterhooks, the minute that the president announced he was coming to
Dayton, people had a lot of opinions. And it`s kind of sad, frankly.
Before the president`s announcement on Tuesday, there was a real sense of
togetherness, but I think because of his rhetoric over the past three years
and just hyper-partisan nature, just him announcing has really put the
community on edge. And, you know, it was a little tough, even in the
Oregon District, while he was in the city, even though he wasn`t at the
MADDOW: And when you say “it`s a little tough,” do you mean that you were
worried about people fighting or there being conflict of some sort of
WHALEY: Sure. You know, we didn`t have any arrests or anything like that,
but, you know, some of my city commissioners were also, in the Oregon
District, de-escalating some of the disagreements between pro and anti-
Trump groups. I mean, I think that is what so tough about this president,
is because his rhetoric is so hot in situations where we`ve seen the
community come together, the community can get so hyperpartisan and
nationalized, because of the president`s actions.
MADDOW: It`s striking for me to hear that. What you`re scribing in terms
of the city being unified and the community being unified, and really, the
country being unified in support of Dayton in the immediate aftermath of
what happened, and you describing that real U-turn, where you have to worry
about this incredible conflict all around the issue of the president and
his behavior, the way that his politics inflect or don`t these mass
It`s – I mean, national leadership should hopefully do the opposite,
right? National leadership should hopefully – and local leadership, even,
should hopefully be able to take zones of conflict and zones of
consternation and help people see common ground and bring themselves
together. I wonder, seeing this happening in your city over the last few
days, if you have ideas for how to get past that, to sort of either smooth
over or re-knit the community together, even as you`re seeing these rifts.
WHALEY: I think we`ll be fine, now that the president has left. You know,
we`ve seen some really great movement that`s been very bipartisan effort
around some common sense gun legislation here in Dayton and across the
state. I mean, one example is the community, you know, really chanting to
Governor DeWine Sunday night “do something,” and on Tuesday, the governor
We also saw our Congressman Mike Turner, a Republican, calling for an
assault weapons ban, a man who had a 93 percent NRA record. You know,
really seeing what the community was going through.
So, you know, I`m very hopeful about those folks that are, you know,
recognizing that this is really a bipartisan issue. In the state of Ohio,
you know, background checks are supported by 90 percent of Ohioans. So,
assault weapons ban supported by the vast majority of Ohioans. And you
know, when you have an issue like this in your community, and we`re the
250th city that`s had a mass shooting since January 1, it`s really
happening to everybody.
And so, I do think there`s pieces, if we can really stitch together and get
past some of this hyperpartisan rhetoric that we can actually move
ourselves forward. And we`re seeing some of that in the statehouse and
here locally. And that makes me hopeful.
The presidential visit, while the victims were super excited to see him,
the first responders were grateful, it was hard on the community at large,
because everybody has a very, very strong opinion, either positive or
negative, about the president.
MADDOW: Nan Whaley, mayor of Dayton, Ohio, I really thank you for your
time tonight. I know there`s a lot of demands on your time. Please stay
in touch. Keep us apprised as your city recovers.
I mea, to the extent you need national attention to things and national
resources, keep us on your rolodex.
WHALEY: We sure will, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks very much.
All right. Coming up, we heard from a couple of the leading Democratic
candidates for president today on this crisis, on the roots of this crisis
in our country, about what ought to be done about it. This was some pretty
striking stuff. A lot of people are really rising to the moment.
Stay with us. That`s next.
MADDOW: Democratic presidential candidate and senator, Cory Booker,
visited the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, today.
That, of course, is the site where a white supremacist who was hoping to
start a race war gunned down nine mostly elderly African-American church
members, inside the church in 2015.
Soon thereafter, after Senator Booker`s remarks, we also heard today from
presidential candidate and former vice president, Joe Biden, who, of
course, centered his campaign from the day he announced it on the idea that
the foundations of this country are threatened by President Trump`s embrace
of white nationalists. Vice President Biden gave his own speech today in
Burlington, Iowa, on what he called the battle for the soul of this nation.
Here`s a little bit from both of these specious today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The act of anti-Latino,
anti-immigrant hatred that we saw this weekend did not start with the hand
that pulled the trigger. It was sewed by those who spoke the same words
the El Paso murderer did, warning of an invasion. It was sewed by those
who have drawn an equivalence between neo-Nazis and those who protest them.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s both clear language and in
code. This president has fanned the flames of white premise in this
nation. His low energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him
condemning white supremacists this week I don`t believe fooled anyone.
American history is not a fairy tale. The battle for this soul of the
nation has been a constant push-and-pull for 243 years between the American
ideal that says we`re all created equal and the harsh reality that racism
has long torn us apart.
BOOKER: Patriotism is love of country, but you can`t love your country
unless you love your fellow countryman and woman, all of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Cory Booker and Joe Biden both speaking today, both giving major
addresses on the current crisis.
That was the sort of focus and tone that we heard today from the Democratic
field. There`s been so much focus on what President Trump himself has done
that may have helped fuel or lead to this point. Also, tons of focus on
what he has done since these mass shootings, including these inexplicably
divisive statements from him today, even as he visited these grieving
But, you know, for all the focus on the president, it`s clear that this
moment is also helping his would-be opponents find their voice as well.
We`ve got more on that ahead tonight as well.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The president`s visits to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, today
come as both cities, of course, are still reeling from the mass shootings,
the back-to-back mass shootings in those communities. The country is also,
I think it`s fair to say, rattled. And as part of that, we are yet again
having another national discussion about gun policy, about the prospects of
gun reform and what gun reform could be and what we should dare to hope for
in terms of those prospects and whether this might be another moment that
might change it.
But you know, as scary and frustrating and emotional as this is for all of
us in this country right now, this is a different moment entirely for
people who have unwillingly and unexpectedly become sort of public figures
on this issue because of their own deeply personal loss because of gun
massacres in the past.
Nicole Hockley lost her son, Dylan, in the Sandy Hook shooting that killed
25 other people, most of them little kids, nearly seven years ago now.
Mrs. Hockley became the cofounder and managing director of Sandy Hook
Promise, which is a nonprofit dedicated to ending gun violence and she
joins us now here in studio.
Nicole Hockley, thank you very much for making the trip to see us. I
really appreciate you being here.
NICOLE HOCKLEY, SANDY HOOK PROMISE: Thank you so much for having me.
MADDOW: I think of you and the other Sandy Hook families wherever
something like this happens, because it must be a different thing for you
even when the country is as rattled and upset and emotional as they are by
these back-to-back incidents.
MADDOW: Am I putting that on you? Or do you think that`s a fair –
HOCKLEY: No, there`s an element of deja vu, and a sense of, here we go
again, I`m experiencing the same trauma and the same conversations happen
and we go through the same cycles and you just wonder, when are we going to
get through this to something positive on the other side? And it`s
MADDOW: Do you feel like these same conversations that we keep having,
this sort of playing the tape, this recursive stuff that we keep going
through as a country, is it helpful at all? I mean, we do have a choice
about how we talk about these things in the wake of them. We do have a
choice about what to focus on, about what to ask about elected officials,
about what to talk to each other about? Is this the conversation the wrong
conversation or just the one that we`re stuck with?
HOCKLEY: I don`t think it`s the one – I think it`s the one that people
are choosing to be stuck with at the moment because I think there are so
many solutions and ways through out there but people`s ears aren`t open
enough and their minds aren`t open enough. It`s just still stuck in the
fight for gun control or gun freedom. It`s these partisan conversations
that aren`t moving forward that are also scaring too many people to get
engaged in the movement.
Yet, the good thing about all of these conversations is that they are
reaching more and more people and therefore, more and more people are
getting involved in this movement and demanding solutions from their
communities, as well as from their politician.
MADDOW: I just spoke with the mayor of Dayton, Ohio, who said something
very striking at the end of the interview, she said, we`re the 250th
community to have a mass shooting since January 1st this year. And knowing
you`re going to be here tonight, it does make me think that one of the
things that`s happening is that the community of survivors grows every day.
Literally, every day, people who have been touched by one of these
incidents, and you do speak from a position of moral specificity and moral
power because of your loss.
But I wonder if – how you see that. If you feel like you`re in a growing
community or a community that is able to sort of marshal its power and
resources for what you want it to be used for.
HOCKLEY: We`re absolutely a community that`s growing far too quickly than
it should and a community that shouldn`t exist in the first place. And I
don`t think we`re that far away from a point in this country where anyone
knows someone or has themselves been affected by gun violence. It`s that
dominant in our culture. It`s that part of our every day.
I was reading an article today about bulletproof backpacks for school kids.
And I was like, when did back-to-school shopping become looking for
bulletproof backpacks? This isn`t – this isn`t the America that we should
be providing. And I think it`s down to all of us to force the way through
to these solutions.
MADDOW: Part of the idea, I think, in Sandy Hook promise, was the idea of
getting past some of the jargon and some of the knee-jerk sort of dyads
here where it`s one thing or the other and nothing in between. Do you feel
like over these seven years there have been any at least points of
discussion if not points of advancement where you feel like they have given
you hope and they have made you feel like there`s a constructive reason to
keep talking to each other and keep trying?
HOCKLEY: Absolutely. And on the policy front, we have seen progressive
discussion on background checks and extremist protection orders. I`m
waiting for the action to come from those talks.
HOCKLEY: And there`s bipartisan proposals in Congress right now, so when
the president talks about pushing these things forward, these are actions
that he can take and encourage both sides of the party to take as well.
But in addition to that, we all know that preventing gun violence isn`t
just about policy or limiting who has access to guns. It`s also about
pairing those real policies like community solutions, like education on how
to recognize the signs, then the willingness to stand up and say something,
as well as the tools to report it.
That`s where we focus at Sandy Hook Promise, but you`d need both. You need
legislation and you need community efforts, as well, because we can look
after each other.
MADDOW: You need that commitment that it`s worth looking at as a community
in a sustained way.
One other question for you, and again, not get too into the weeds on this
one specific policy. But I wonder if it has been heartening to you or if
you think it`s been constructive to see frankly Democratic-controlled
states try a bunch of new laws around gun reform? I mean, California
passed background checks for ammunition.
MADDOW: New York state passed a number of different laws, gun policy
reforms after Newtown, after Sandy Hook, that they believe have made a
difference in terms of New York state gun violence. Seeing, obviously,
every state that does something, it sort of creates a loophole. Because
when there is ant federal change, that means that you just crossed state
lines and you`ve escaped that new restriction.
But is it helpful to have blue states experimenting with what`s practical
and what might be effective?
HOCKLEY: Absolutely, because then we know what works and what doesn`t and
also how we teach the communities about those laws, so they know what to
do, like extremist protection orders are in effect in a lot of states, but
if you don`t know that that`s state law is available to you or how to use
it or what signs to look for in the first place, then it`s not as helpful.
So, that`s why the training to go with the legislation is super important.
But also, it shows ways forward and ways that are still constitutionally
appropriate that people can still be gun owners and engage in these
policies as well, and save lives. And it points to instances where someone
can`t get a gun in one state and commit a crime from a gun purchased in
another state, then it clearly shows where those gaps are.
MADDOW: It essentially creates a lot of pilot programs around the country
for the federal government to considering what would be more meaningful
HOCKLEY: Yes, good model.
MADDOW: Nicole Hockley, cofounder and managing director of Sandy Hook
Promise – again, I really – I know you do not have to do this and I
appreciate you being here in person in particular, but also be willing to
talk about this stuff. Thanks.
HOCKLEY: Thank you. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. More news ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: If you`re ever called upon to be White House counsel like say John
Dean in the Nixon era, or Alberto Gonzalez, remember him in the George W.
Bush White House, or Bob Bauer under President Obama, or Don McGahn under
the current president, if you are White House counsel, it will behoove you,
always, to keep in mind that you are not a personal lawyer representing the
president. You are the White House counsel. You represent the White
House. You represent the office of the presidency.
I mean, presidents can hire personal lawyers, too, and they do. But the
White House counsel, that is a public employee, and you answer to the
Well, today, the Judiciary Committee in the House sued President Trump`s
first White House counsel Don McGahn to compel him to obey a subpoena, to
compel him to show up to testify before Congress. Don McGahn, of course,
is the key witness in the volume of the Mueller report that`s about the
president potentially committing criminal obstruction of justice.
So, if Congress is going to get to the bottom of the allegations in the
Mueller report, obviously, they`re going to want to hear from the key
witness in that report who is Don McGahn. Now, the White House not
surprisingly has told Don McGahn that he can`t testify, that he shouldn`t
testify. The president beyond that has called Don McGahn all sorts of
names and said he`s a liar and threatened him and threatened his law firm
and incidentally that may itself be illegal witness-tampering to try to
keep don McGahn from talking in an ongoing federal investigation.
But for his own part, Don McGahn has been trying to get out of testifying
as well, in part, he is now trying to get out of it by saying that if you
think about it, he wasn`t really White House counsel at all. This is
remarkable, but Don McGahn put out a statement today in response to this
lawsuit filed to get him to testify, put out a statement today claiming
that he was just a lawyer with a client and that client happened to be the
president. And since the president doesn`t want him to testify now despite
that subpoena to testify, he`s going to respect his clients wishes and defy
the subpoena, unless and until a court order sentences him to do otherwise.
That would make a lot more sense had he been the president`s personal
lawyer. As White House counsel – doo wop!
With this lawsuit today in any case, the court may very well order Don
McGahn to do otherwise and stop defying that subpoena. If this case that
was filed today goes the way Democrats want it to, the Democrats in
Congress think that this may be the lawsuit that basically breaks the dam
and allows Congress to finally get not just Don McGahn but all of the
witnesses they want who testified as part of Mueller`s investigation.
So, this lawsuit today to compel this testimony, this is kind of the big
one we`ve been waiting for in terms of the House investigating Mueller`s
findings and deciding what they`re going to do about it. So, we`re going
to be watching this case really, really closely. I`m hoping we can speak
with the Judiciary chairman about this landmark lawsuit filed today and in
the coming days.
But one other thing here, while we`re on the subject and while we`re
talking about White House counsel, there`s just one other heads up for you
and something you should keep an eye on in the next few days. I mentioned
White House counsel for various presidents at the top of this segment.
Greg Craig was one of the White House counsels who worked under President
Trump. He was, in fact, Obama`s first White House counsel, although he
wasn`t there for that long.
Greg Craig is the only Democratic first official criminally charged in any
of the cases deriving from Robert Mueller`s investigation. He was charged
with two felonies related to his work outside the White House when he was
in private practice. When he and his law firm helped out in what was
basically a scheme by Paul Manafort to smear a political opponent in
Ukraine of the pro-Russian leader guy who Paul Manafort was working for.
Greg Craig was indicted in April. He`s due to go on trial on Monday. But
just as that Gregory Craig trial is due to start on Monday, the judge
overseeing his case has thrown out one of the two felony charges that
Gregory Craig was facing.
Now, this is not something that`s happened in other Mueller prosecutions,
but it is worth watching. Both because this is the only Democratic
official caught up in the Russia mess so far, and because this is the
prosecution that is in the most trouble. One of the two charges being
thrown outright before the trial starts.
It`s also worth watching though just because this thing is about to start
in open court, Monday in federal court in D.C. So, yes, I know there`s a
lot going on right now but honestly there is a lot going on right now. No
time to waste.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: I have one little bit of my own news to give you tonight. If you
have been wondering why I`ve aged ten years in the past two years, it`s not
actually what you think. Turns out what you`re thinking about, that
doesn`t affect me at all. That just makes me stronger.
What has actually been killing me the last two years is I`ve been writing a
book in my spare time in addition to doing this show. The book is called
“Blowout.” It`s going to come out this fall, on October 1st. I will say
more about it when it`s about to actually go on sale. You can preorder it
now if you want, but you won`t actually get it until it comes out on
However, here`s the news. I did just get confirmation of the dates and the
cities where I`m going to go this fall to talk about the book. So, here`s
those dates and those cities. If you`re all interested in hearing about
the book from me in person, if you`re at all interested in seeing me head
to toe instead of at a desk on your TV, these are the dates, these are the
cities that I`m going to be going to.
And you don`t have to worry about taking a picture of that list. It is all
online if you want to check it out at MSNBC.com/blowout because “Blowout”
is the name of the book.
It is very embarrassing to talk about these things. I`m still nervous
about the book even though it`s done and written, it`s still killing me.
But at least now, this part, the itinerary for the book tour is settled.
So, if you do want to come see me, you can do so. OK, thank you for
That does it for us. I will 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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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the