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All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 06/23/15

Guests: Steve Cohen, Jack Hunter, Derrick Johnson, Judith Brown Dianis, AriBerman, Traci Blackmon

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN -- PROTESTERS: Take it down! Take it down! Take it down! HAYES: The "take down the flag" movement begins to take hold across the South as a kind of virtual Appomattox halts sales of Confederate flags from Amazon to Walmart. Tonight, the backlash to the Confederate backlash online. The man formerly known as the Southern Avenger is repenting for his Confederate mask and he joins me live. And what happens after the flags come down? We will have some breaking news on that. Plus, Hillary Clinton`s strongest remarks yet on the Charleston massacre. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: An act of racist terrorism. > HAYES: And why the Donald Trump surge in New Hampshire is infuriating Karl Rove. CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: How should Republicans handle Donald Trump? KARL ROVE, GOP STRATEGIST: Ignore him. HAYES: ALL IN starts right now. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. The momentum against the Confederate flag today has spread beyond the state of South Carolina to neighboring states and cities, stores and corporations online and nationwide. In the wake of the church massacre in Charleston by a white supremacist who embraced the Confederate flag, the shift in attitudes about public display of the flag has proceeded at a head snapping pace, with protesters again gathered outside the state Confederate flag be removed from the capital grounds, the South Carolina House voted today by an overwhelming margin to allow debate on the issue. That came less than 24 hours after Governor Nikki Haley and a bipartisan group of lawmakers called for the flag to be taken down, prompting a handful of Republican presidential hopefuls to jump on the bandwagon announcing their support. Now, a number of other Southern states are rethinking the official prominence they`ve given to symbols of the Confederacy. Last night, Mississippi`s Republican House speaker announced he supports changing his state`s flag, the only one in the country that still displays the battle flag of the Confederacy. "As a Christian", he said, in a statement, "I believe our state`s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed." In a 2001 referendum, Mississippi citizens voted by an almost 2-1 margin to keep the current design. In Virginia, Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe unveiled plans to phase out license plates featuring the Confederate flag. Less than a week after the Supreme Court ruled Texas has a right to reject a similar design from a so-called Confederate Heritage Group, in Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, said he also supports the discontinuation of Confederate license plates. He endorsed a proposal to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate general who helped found the Ku Klux Klan from the state capital. But it`s not just public institutions taking action to vanish the battle flag and other Confederate symbols. Last night, Walmart, largest retailer in the country, announced it will remove all items that promote the Confederate flag from its shelves. This was apparently an unprompted move now a number of other outlet suits are following suit, from big box stores like Target and Sears, to huge online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, and even smaller businesses like Etsy and Pennsylvania-based Valley Forge Flag. Which means if you`re in the market for an authentic Confederate soldier uniform like this one from Target, you`re probably out of luck, no longer in the stores or on the Web. You can`t even be by a used version on eBay or a hand crafted one from a seller on Etsy. Likewise, this redneck firefighter t-shirt formerly available for Walmart, this Confederate beer pong table from Amazon or this Dixie doll baby onesie from eBay. There`s still demand, however. According to "Business Insider", sales of Confederate flag merchandise skyrocketed 3,000 percent in the last few days on, before the company took the listings down. In just a few days` time, opinion in this decades-long debate have shifted massively. One of the Republican politicians who initially in the wake of the Charleston massacre defended the flag in South Carolina was Lindsey Graham, another candidate for president. Yesterday, however, Graham was one of those individuals who changed his mind. Just moments ago in the capital, Senator Graham told Kelly O`Donnell of NBC News what made him change his mind and how he hopes fellow Republicans come around to his way of thinking. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I am cautiously optimistic that people in the statehouse will do the right thing, which is to remove the flag from statehouse grounds. If we fail in this endeavor, it will haunt South Carolina for decades and I think people understand the gravity of the moment. KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS: How do you explain your own shift, from believing the flag had a place there -- GRAHAM: Sure. O`DONNELL: -- and now saying it must come down? GRAHAM: This compromise in 2000 was to move it from the dome of the capital by the Confederate war memorial and build an African-American monument as a compromise. That stood for 15 years. The truth of the matter, if it had not been for this shooting, that flag would still be flying. So, don`t let anybody tell you otherwise. The people of Charleston, the AME church, Mother Emanuel Church, basically pulled at our soul and how do you go back in that church and say, "In spite of your desires, we`re going to leave the flag flying when you represented our state far better than anyone could ever hope to do." So, it`s a reaction to this shooting. If it weren`t, nobody would be talking about this. O`DONNELL: Do you think the Mississippi flag should be changed? Because it also contains the Confederate battle flag emblem? GRAHAM: If I were in Mississippi, I would take the opportunity to get this behind us. There`s the discussion, what is enough. The symbol of this -- this flag has become a symbol of murder, of racism and hatred, and the African-American community in South Carolina has been basically saying, we can do better, and the answer to them is that yes, you`re right. People in Mississippi will have to decide what`s best for Mississippi, but if I were in Mississippi, I`d vote to change the flag, because I think it`s just a better future. O`DONNELL: Is this a test for the Republican Party? GRAHAM: Yes, because Democrats will vote to remove the flag. The only no votes will probably come from our party, and everybody who says that flag means something to me is not a racist, but in the hands of this young man, it was the ultimate symbol of racism. In the hands of this young man, it was a symbol that no one can justify or explain. And what drives my thinking is that the families of the victims were so loving, so caring, so forgiving, I cannot in good conscience tell them they`re wrong to ask me and others to take this flag down is, because they`re right to do so. O`DONNELL: Are you hearing anger from those who believe removing the flag -- GRAHAM: Absolutely. O`DONNELL: -- dishonors that history that was a part of the South culture? GRAHAM: Absolutely. O`DONNELL: What are you hearing from people? GRAHAM: I`m hearing a lot from people --the flag didn`t kill anybody, and I fly this flag from my house, I never killed anybody. It`s a symbol that he appropriated, he misused, that the flag is not the reason, the flag is just a symbol. And, you know, I -- I look at the symbol and I have it in my house and I haven`t hurt anybody. I understand that, but here`s what I would say to those folks. If you care about your state, if you care about the future of our state and those who follow us, the young men and women who grow up in South Carolina and want to pursue their dreams -- black, white, and everything in between -- this is a roadblock to their dreams. You can think what you like about the flag, you can think what you like about me, but I am not going to be part of stopping the progress of my state. Again, none of this would have happened without this shooting. But now is the time to stand up and be counted and we are. I hope everybody who thinks about voting no, if you`re thinking about keeping the flag up now, please understand what that means to us as a state. It means that our kids for years to come are going to have to live with your decision and it will not be pretty. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: Joining me now, Congressman Steve Cohen, Democrat from Tennessee. And, Congressman, your governor today, Governor Haslam, saying he wants to remove option of having a Confederate battle flag on license plates in Tennessee. What`s your reaction to that? REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: I think it`s the right thing to do. I was state senator in 2000 and was the leader on the license plates issues, to specialize them and customize them for the arts, and they had a Confederate flag issue come up and that`s when it passed and I was one of the two people to vote against it. It went through 28-2 in the state Senate, argued against it on the floor because it was insensitive to African-Americans. It`s been insensitive and it`s been there for 13 years. But I commend Governor Haslam from taking the effort. It will have to be state legislative act to remove those license plates and they should be and I commend him also for suggesting that Nathan Bedford Forrest`s bust, which is right before you go in the State House of Representatives should be removed. It`s there and there`s no reason for it to be. We have a Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park. That`s a large park with signs on the highway directing you to it and the governor should be consistent and also have the name of that park changed as well. HAYES: You`re a southern progressive. You -- fourth generation from Memphis, if I`m not mistaken. You`re one of the few white members of Congress who represent a majority black constituency. COHEN: The only member of Congress. HAYES: The only one. A week ago, ten days ago, if I -- if I had come to you and said this would happen, this kind of incredible momentum, I mean, would you have believed it? COHEN: No. Sometimes, it takes tragedy and crisis to bring people to their senses. You know, there`s been a lot of change going on in the country and generally things happen for the best. There`s still some things that are slow to happen. But two of the issues that resonate with me and looking back to 2002 when I was a senator, one was gay marriage and I was the only senator to vote against the gay marriage proposition in Tennessee and gay marriage has now become fairly accepted, 57 percent in the last poll. And then drug reform, marijuana particularly, back when I was a senator and I was making arguments in the late 1990s and it was pretty -- not so popular maybe 25 percent, 30 percent. Now, it`s a majority. So, the country gets better, it gets more progressive and a lot of it is younger people not being born with and being exposed to prejudices and thoughts that aren`t scientific or aren`t tolerant and they`re starting to voice their opinions and participate in the political process. And they`re making it better all over the country. HAYES: Where does this go next, Congressman? COHEN: Well, I think, hopefully, it will go to substantive policy. The problem is, it`s wonderful if we take the flag down and it`s wonderful if we remove the bust and change the name of the park. But we need voting rights bill. We need the Voting Rights Act renewed. We need to have changes in the criminal justice system. We need reforms with police relations with minorities in the inner cities. We need opportunities for people to get jobs with job training and we need people to forget about being against Affordable Care Act. A lot of the reason they`re against it is because it`s President Obama who`s African-American and because it helps a lot of people that are poor and lower income. And so, in a lot of places that happens to be African- American people. We need to understand that everybody has a right to health care, that we`re all -- as President Kennedy said in that famous speech at the American University, we`re all on the same planet, we breathe the same air and we have the same desire for our children. We`re all the same and we need to understand that. HAYES: Congressman Steven Cohen, always a pleasure, thank you. We`ve got breaking news tonight on the Voting Rights Act, that we will get to that a little bit later in the show. Now, almost as soon as the backlash against the Confederate flag started to gain momentum, the backlash to the backlash got under way -- much of it from some pretty predictable sources. Rush Limbaugh railed that removing the flag from the state capital is all about destroying the South. Bill O`Reilly says it represents the bravery of Confederates who fought in the civil war. But while neoconservative Bill Kristol, a Yankee I hasten to add, tweeted "The left`s 21st century agenda, expunging every trace of respect, recognition or acknowledgment of Americans who fought for the Confederacy." It`s not just the talking heads defending the battle flag to score political points however. On the ground in communities around the country, passions run high. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEFF O`CAIN: It`s a war memorial to honor 25,000 men -- a quarter of the men in South Carolina died to protect this state. They stole it! They dishonored that flag! That flag never had anything to do about slavery! (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: I`m joined now by Jack Hunter, editor of "Rare Politics", former conservative radio personality, went by the name the Southern Avenger and was fired by Rand Paul once his past came to light. That`s him there in the mask with the battle flag. Jack, it`s good to have you on. How are you doing? JACK HUNTER, RARE POLITICS: Good to be with you, Chris. HAYES: All right. You wrote this piece in "The Daily Beast", a kind of recantation, if you will. Why you think it`s time to take the flag down and leave the flag behind. Take me through your thinking on this. HUNTER: Well, you know, I was a staunch supporter. I mean, I wore a Confederate flag on my face, for Pete`s sake, the Confederate flag for years, for at least a decade. I said it was about state`s rights. I said it was about heritage. I think I said it was about self-determination. Basically most of the arguments you`re hearing coming out of Charleston, South Carolina and across the south and country in defense of that flag are some of the idiotic statements we heard in that last clip that it had nothing do with slavery. It became very clear to me as the years went on and I sort of changed my mind and a lot of my politics and a lot of my thinking, a lot of my outlook, that is a very distorted way to view that symbol. That symbol does mean something important to some white Southerners, though I would say that number is beginning to diminish. But you cannot talk about that flag in a positive way without ignoring the overwhelmingly negative attitude that most Americans and particularly black Americans have toward it and for good reason. They have historical and political reasons to view the Confederate flag as a symbol of racial terrorism, which is what it was for black Americans. If you look at slavery, if you look at the KKK, if you look at Jim Crow, if you look at a deranged white man walking into a church in my hometown of South Carolina and murdering nine people for the color of their skin, and it`s associated with that flag -- that`s what they see, you can`t ignore that. HAYES: I`m sort of amazed that you`ve come around the way you have. I mean, it gives me a lot of hope, actually. What -- you know, I`m really serious because we don`t all change our minds a lot in politics. It`s very easy to sort of get dug in and I can almost understand -- there`s almost some part of me that can understand this feeling of being kind of besieged and persecuted and wanting to hold on to this thing, almost as a kind of screw you to the people that would take it from you. HUNTER: Right. HAYES: And you can see that psychology, you can even see its appeal in this -- how did you work your way out of that? HUNTER: Because that`s exactly what I think is wrong with our politics. So, what sort of changed my mind and my outlook, Chris, it`s -- I was so concentrated and focused on being right. You know, I`m right about this, I`m right about that, my politics are right, I`m right about the flag -- and not about being decent. Not being a human being. And I`m sorry, in a state like South Carolina, where 30 percent of the population is African-American and I`m there running around with a Confederate flag mask and being hyperbolic sometimes or often, and saying all these things, it`s something -- I`m ashamed to look at that picture of me today wearing that mask. It`s just horrible. What`s wrong with -- we in our politics, I don`t care if you`re coming from the right -- and I think both the right and left do this -- of looking at things from -- having empathy, of considering yourself from the other person`s position first. There`s nothing wrong with that. That`s not weak, that`s not selling out to the left, or selling out to the right. I think that`s just being a decent human being. I think we can do that across the political spectrum and we`d be a much better society. I`d also say, Chris, even just coming from a conservative perspective, the debate we see with the Confederate flag right now in South Carolina to me reminds me in sort of a way -- it`s not a microcosm but maybe an example of some of the debates that upset me on my side of the ideological spectrum and "The Daily Beast" piece I noted a week before the tragic massacre in Charleston, I was really angry at my fellow conservatives who thought it was completely appropriate and even praiseworthy for an adult white cop to throw a 14-year-old black girl in a bikini on the ground and stick his knee in her back. A lot of conservatives applauded that. That bothered me. I couldn`t figure out why. We saw same situation with the Baltimore riots and the Freddie Gray situation, where a lot of people on the right automatically took the side of the police and sort of dismissed the protesters` complaints and the things -- police brutality and things they were worried about. We saw it in Ferguson, we saw it with Eric Garner in New York City. This is something that -- it`s not just racial issues. I mean, you can talk about gay marriage and a number of other things, where we don`t do enough of trying to understand where other people are coming from and trying to be good human beings before we exert our political points. HAYES: If anyone`s watching this out there who`s a Republican consultant, you should hire Jack Hunter to go talk to some of your candidates. Jack Hunter, really, a great pleasure. Thank you very much for coming on. HUNTER: Thank you, Chris. HAYES: All right. What we really need to know about the Confederate flag has as much to do with the 1960s as the civil war. We`ll explain next. Plus, some good numbers for Hillary Clinton whose campaign continues to surprise observers with how it`s trying to win the White House. And Hillary Clinton isn`t the only one getting good polling numbers. There`s Trump. Yes, Donald Trump, coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: It is, improbably, day 18 now in the manhunt for two escaped convicts in Upstate New York. As the search for David Sweat and Richard Matt goes on, new details have emerged. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Sources close to the investigation tell NBC News convicts were caught by surprise in a remote hunting cabin, leaving food and even underwear behind. Today, more detail about their escape. The D.A. says prison worker Joyce Mitchell said she smuggled the convicts tools hidden in ground beef. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: In the meantime, Joyce Mitchell`s husband Lyle Mitchell spoke for the first time with Matt Lauer about the allegations against his wife. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: So, at that point, Lyle, you had no reason to ask your wife, "Do you know anything about this escape"? LYLE MITCHELL, HUSBAND OF JOYCE MITCHELL: No, no. Nope. And in the next morning, she said, "The state police called." I said, "For what?" "They wanted to know something about a package." I said, "Package? What are you talking about?" She said, "I need talk to the troopers", and the investigator came out and said, "Mr. Mitchell, your wife has more involved than what she`s letting on." What? That`s when he said she bought two hacksaw blades, a chisel. Oh, my God. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: There`s a Facebook post that went viral today, getting more than 50,000 shares that features an image of the Confederate flag with the words, "If this flag offends you, you need a history lesson." Now, it`s true, people need a history lesson about that flag, but it`s certainly not lesson offered by the author of that Facebook post. First off, when the Confederate states seceded in 1861, they didn`t adopt the flag we now associate with the confederacy. The first official flag of the Confederacy was this, which resembled the American flag and had stars added as states left the union. This flag we know today was initially the battle flag of one of the armies of the Confederacy, the army of northern Virginia commanded, of course, by Robert E. Lee. The battle flag was incorporated in later versions of the official Confederate flag, including this one with the battle flag and a sea of white, which was literally dubbed "the white man`s flag" by its creator. Think about that for a second. After the war ended in 1865, the Confederate flags were mostly put away though they popped up at memorials and sporting events. And the battle flag was incorporated into the Mississippi state flag in 1849 as reconstruction was coming to a close. For the most part, the flag itself was not prominently in use as a political symbol until 1948, more than 80 years after the war ended when it resurfaced for a very specific reason. In opposition to Harry Truman`s efforts to provide equality for African-Americans, which included desegregation of the armed forces. At the 1948 Democratic National Convention, a coalition of segregationists, southern Democrats known as the Dixiecrats, rebelled against Truman and embraced the Confederate battle flag as their emblem of revolt, eventually holding their own convention where the battle flag served as their segregationist symbol and where South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond was nominated for the presidency. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STROM THURMOND: It`s another effort on the part of this president to dominate this country by force and to put into effect these uncalled for and these damnable proposals he has recommended under the guise of so- called civil rights. And I tell the Americans people, from one side or the other, had better wake up, and oppose such a program. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: The Confederate battle flag was quickly embraced by the Ku Klux Klan and other racists organizations, and became a primary symbol of opposition to the civil rights movement. In 1956, that`s two years after Brown versus Board of Education decision to desegregate schools, that`s when Georgia incorporated the Confederate battle flag into its state flag where it remained until 2001. It was five years later in 1961 as those civil battles raged that South Carolina hoisted the battle flag above its state capital. The notion that the Confederate battle flag is simply a symbol of Southern history and pride somehow divorced from racism is directly contradicted by its appropriation as the primary symbol of opposition to the civil rights movement -- to claim otherwise is to ignore history, not to celebrate it. Joining me now, Derrick Johnson, state president of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP, who in 1991 was a plaintiff in the NAACP lawsuit against Mississippi over its state flag. Now, Mr. Johnson, Mississippi is the lone flag that actually has that battle flag embedded in it. How did it get there? DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, MISSISSIPPI NAACP: Well, it was an emblem of resistance. You had the civil war, you had the period of reconstruction which only last about 10 years in Mississippi and you what was called the redemption period after 1866. And it was during the time as you mentioned earlier, in 1884, that the state adopted a flag as one of the precursors of adopting a Constitution in 1890 which codified to racial segregation in the state of Mississippi. The question of whether or not the emblem in the state flag was a part of the Confederacy or not is a moot point. We know for a fact that the emblem that`s in our state flag was used as a flag of terrorism and that flag of terrorism we can trace back throughout the `50s and the `60s as synonymous to a cross burning that the Klan would use, and it was seen by whites in the South as a symbol of pride and white supremacy, but on the other side seen by African-Americans in Mississippi and the South as a signal of terrorism and suppression. HAYES: This is what`s key to she that the flag bears most of its sort of semantic weight at moments of the most intense kind of polarization, often violence, right? So, in the period as reconstruction ends and the, quote, "redeemers", the white supremacists take back the reins of government, that`s when the flag gets incorporated in the state flag. Again in this period of tremendous violence and conflict around the civil rights movement, that`s again when it achieves a prominence. It`s only really achieving peak prominence in moments of racial conflict when there`s a challenge to kind of white supremacist order. JOHNSON: Right. So for those who try to hold this up as a symbol of heritage, hate should not be a part of anyone`s heritage and if you choose to do so under the First Amendment, you have the right to in your private venue. But it should not be a symbol of any official governmental institution. In the state of Mississippi in 1991, Aaron Henry who was then the state president led a group of individuals to file a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi because the emblem embedded in our state flag was and still is a symbol of hatred. HAYES: Can you explain to me why? It seems around 2002, 2001, you had a sort of this issue really boiled up again. You had in the South Carolina and in Georgia and in Mississippi. What was it about that period? Why was that a period of the last time this was kind of revisited? JOHNSON: Well, if you take a look at that period, that was on the backdrop of the redistricting cycle, 1991, we saw the largest change of African-Americans being elected to office as a result of the Voting Rights Act and many of the southern jurisdictions being covered under Section Five. In the 2000s, you saw another increase of African-Americans asserting their ability to be elected into office and begin to raise substantive policy issues. But it was also this time that many of those African-American leaders start raising a question of what the images and symbols that represent governmental bodies that all of us are citizens of and whether or not those images and symbols should continue to represent the states and the municipalities across the south. HAYES: All right. Derrick Johnson of Mississippi, thank you. Beyond the flag, what if growing national momentum on racial justice were used to replace a section of the voting rights law the Supreme Court killed? Perhaps. That`s ahead. The man who may make it to the FOX News debate stage after all, presidential candidate Donald Trump. And Hillary Clinton is going where no Republican candidate may ever dare to go, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That night, word of the killings struck like a blow to the soul. How do we make sense of such an evil act, an act of racist terrorism perpetrated in a house of god? (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton was in Missouri earlier today where she spoke candidly about last week`s racially motivated attack at Emanuel AME church in Charleston. She also said the confederate flag should not be displayed anywhere and called for gun safety measures. After her remarks, Clinton took part in a roundtable discussion with community leaders, including Reverend Traci Blackmon, the church`s pastor, and a member of the Ferguson commission, a task force put together by Missouri`s governor in the wake of the unrest triggered by Michael Brown`s death. Now if you`re keeping track, since Hillary Clinton`s big campaign announcement in April, she has talked about reforming the criminal system, said she would go further than Obama on immigration while speaking to a group of Latino lawmakers, called for an extension of voter rights in a speech at Texas Southern University in Houston, a historically black college, told the Conference of Mayors this past weekend America`s struggle with race is far from over and today at a sitdown community meeting at a predominantly black church not too far from where Michael Brown was shot, she called last week`s shooting in Charleston, quote, "a racist act of terrorism." Clinton appears to be running for president with an explicit strategy of maintaining and building on the Obama coalition, which has, we should note, failed to come out in two elections of the last four, the ones in which Obama was not on the ballot. The brand new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showing Clinton with a big lead over her nearest Democratic competitor appears at least for now her approach is working. Joining me now, Reverend Traci Blackmon, the pastor of Christ the King church in Florissant, Missouri where Hillary Clinton spoke today. Reverend, how did this event today come about. Did your people reach out to the Clinton campaign? Did they reach out to you? TRACI BLACKMON, PASTOR: The Clinton campaign reached out to us. I understand that she was planning a visit to St. Louis anyway and decided in light of what happened in Charleston, and especially in light of the last year here in the Ferguson/Florissant area, that she wanted to make a showing at a church. She wanted it to be a different kind of gathering, a gathering where she could listen as well as be heard and so they reached out the me and asked that they hold that here. HAYES: There was a kind of panel discussion that that happened in your church and there`s been a few of these events that Secretary of State Clinton has taken part of. And I can never tell if anything real can be communicated in these settings or whether this is staged performance. What was your sense from participating in one of these? BLACKMON: Well, actually, the Clinton campaign gave me full rein on developing the format and developing the people that would be on the platform. And my intention today was to show that Ferguson has often times in the media been played as a place that is helpless and a place that is hopeless and I was hopeful that this opportunity to do a panel discussion, show what we are doing in the community, show how we are working would show a different image of Ferguson, show a different image of this region of St. Louis, that we are not helpless, we are not hopeless, we actually have solutions, we just need some structural changes to help support the things we`re doing. And I think that Secretary Clinton was amazed and astounded what she heard today. She said several times both in the panel and afterwards that much of the information and much of the innovation was new to her. She also talked to the panelist about some connections in other places she had made and said "I want to build on what you`re doing here." So for me that was an end goal and I think we accomplished that very well. HAYES: Durey McKesson (ph) who is one of the movement activists around Black Lives Matter tweeted after the speech, she said "so Hillary Clinton`s has speech ended, I heard a lot of things and nothing directly about black folk. Coded language won`t cut it." What`s your response to that? Do you think that she was too careful about addressing race and blackness head on? BLACKMON: I`m sorry, I could not hear your question. HAYES: You know what, actually, if you`re having trouble hearing I`m not going to repeat it because we`ll just go through it again. But there were some who thought that as Secretary of State Clinton stopped short of sort of naming blackness and talking about race directly. BLACKMON: I think that Hillary Clinton is a politician. I think that she`s a polished politician and I think that most of the people we will see in this presidential run are politicians. My goal today was to make sure that she heard our message, that we be clear what our expectations are of anybody that`s running for the chief office in this United States and that we aren`t going anywhere. HAYES: Reverend Traci Blackmon, thank you. Coming up, our exclusive interview on the big late breaking news about voting rights. But next, in a brand new poll of New Hampshire voters, Donald Trump is performing surprisingly well, probably to the chagrin of Karl Rove. (COMMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Let me ask you a couple of questions. How should Republicans handle Donald Trump? KARL ROVE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Ignore him. Look, he is completely off the base. I mean, you know, I`m going to negotiate with ISIS, I have a secret plan to deal with ISIS, but I can`t tell you about it because of my enemies. As president I have the unilateral authority to levy a 35 percent tax on any company that opens plants abroad? This guy is not a serious candidate. As of Friday 5:00 he had yet to final the one page declaration of his candidacy with the FEC. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Well, well, well. You`ll never guess who found his way to the old FEC filing station. Donald Trump, well, his campaign, released this one-page form stating the reality TV star is seeking a presidential run as a Republican candidate. Now, the form was stamped by the Federal Election Commission yesterday afternoon. Trump`s next hurdle is submitting disclosures detailing his finances. Now he can ask for up to two 45-day extensions. In fact, Rand Paul did just that, asking for an extension. And that would perhaps offer Trump a way to get on that debate stage without ever declaring his net worth. And while Karl Rove may not consider Trump a serious candidate, some GOP primary voters in New Hampshire are keeping their options open. Just one week after Donald Trump entered the Republican presidential field on an escalator ride of glory, new polling from Suffolk University shows Trump leading every single GOP candidate, declared and undeclared, except for one, that would be former Florida governor Jeb Bush. But everybody else: Walker, Rubio, Carson, Christie, Paul, Cruz, Fiorina, Huckabee, Kasich, Pataki, Perry, Santorum, Graham and Jindal are all polling behind Donald Trump. Worth noting, 29 percent of those surveyed are undecided. But if Donald Trump can keep this up, he may have a real chance of nabbing one of those (inaudible) Republican debate stage in August. So stay tuned. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONAL TRUMP, REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER: It can happen. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: The autopsy of 25-year-old Freddie Gray shows a, quote, "high energy injury" according to Baltimore Sun which obtained a copy of the report. The state medical examiner`s office also found that Gray was not belted in but his wrists and ankles were shackled making him, quote, "at risk for an unsupported fall during acceleration or deceleration of the van." The medical examiner concluded the Gray`s most significant injury was to the lower left part of his head. According to the Sun`s characterization of the report, Gray was arrested April 12, suffered injuries while in police custody notably in that van and died a week later. The medical examiner`s report was completed the day before criminal charges were announced against six officers. The report faulted the officers for, quote, "acts of omission" and ruled the death a homicide. All six officers have entered not guilty pleas. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Huge news out of Capitol Hill today on civil rights and it has nothing to do with the confederate flag, it`s about the substance of what that flag stood for -- denying equal rights and political power to black citizens in the south. Tonight, breaking news that Senate and House Democrats will introduce a bill this week that would bring back to life the part of the Voting Rights Act the Supreme Court killed two years ago. The Nation`s Ari Berman breaking the news that Senator Leahy will formally introduce legislation tomorrow co-sponsored by Congressman John Lewis that will compel states with a well documented history of discrimination to clear voting changes with the federal government. The move comes on the heels of the Charleston massacre and the fierce battle over the confederate flag, events that have put the South`s deep and long history of discrimination towards African-Americans in the spotlight. Still, many have argued that legacy is all but gone. You know 20, years back, in a 1995 interview with the neo-Confederate magazine first uncovered by Buzzfeed, Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, still Mississippi senator to this day, argued his state should be freed from the Voting Rights Act saying, quote, "there are probably as many or more instances of discrimination against persons in voting situations in other parts of the country as there are in the Deep South. We`ve elected more African-Americans in my state than any state in the union." Almost 20 years later, Chief Justice John Roberts made almost an identical argument when he struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act. So in two decades, arguments that the south was being unfairly singled out by the Voting Rights Act went from a neo-Confederate magazine that refers to the civil war as the, quote, "late unpleasantness" to the official position of the highest court in the land. Joining me now Ari Berman, contributing writer to The Nation, author of the forthcoming book "Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle, Voting Rights in America." OK, this is big news. Basically the court said you -- basically, we think that you don`t have any coherent rationale for what does and doesn`t get subjected to this extra scrutiny, therefore, we throw it out, come up with something better. And so what are Democrats going to introduce? ARI BERMAN, THE NATINO: So, congress has done that. They`ve come up with something better. Number one, they force those states with a recent history of voting discrimination to approve their voting changes with the federal government, so that includes 13 states, states that we know of when it comes to voting discrimination, places like Texas and North Carolina, but also states that we don`t often think about like New York and California where there`s a more recent history of discrimination against ethnic groups. The second thing the bill does that`s very significant is it looks at those practices that historically lead to discrimination. So new things like voter ID laws and proof of citizenship laws, but also things that fly under the radar like redistrictings, annexations, closing polling places that has a big impact in diluting and disenfranchising minority voters. So between the federal approval parts of the bill and the known practices, as they`re calling it, part of the bill, that`s a lot of protection for voters. HAYES: OK, so there`s two categories. They say OK, fine, you didn`t like our previous rationale, you said it was no rationale at all, you threw it out. But we`re going to say if there`s a record in a state that has had cases against it, that state is going to be in this category, it`s going to get this preclearance scrutiny. And also, we`re going to look for this set of practices that we know essentially have the effect of disenfranchising people and when those practices are put into effect, that will also trigger they are advanced scrutiny. BERMAN: Yeah, absolutely. What they`re saying is there are things we can look at, a legal record for covering states in the future. You look at Texas, they`ve had 170 voting rights violations in the last 25 years. So, obviously a state like Texas should be covered. But they`re also saying that racial discrimination in voting gets more sophisticated, it gets more advanced, that`s why you needed a Voting Rights Act in the first place, by the way. And they`re saying you have to look at these new voter suppression tactics, whether it`s closing a polling place, a redistricting that disenfranchises minority voters, a new voter ID law that on the face of it looks perfectly rational but you look at the data and minority voters disproportionately don`t have that ID. So it`s a bunch of different ways, innovative ways they`re looking at stopping racial discrimination of voting in this bill. HAYES: The big question is with Republicans controlling both houses, it is going to be introduced by Democrats, I remember after the Supreme Court made this decision you had Republicans saying "yeah, we`ll look at it, we`ll come up with something." Is there going to be anything, anyone on the other side to move this forward? BERMAN: It doesn`t look at it right now. I mean there was a much more -- to be quite honest, there was a much more modest bill introduced last year that had bipartisan support, and most Republicans still didn`t support it. So Senator Leahy, Congressman Lewis, they said listen if Republicans aren`t going to support the more modest compromise, why don`t we go with the stronger bill that would actually solve the problem. This is what this bill does. HAYES: And so this will be -- I mean, I think we are probably going to see this front and center in this presidential campaign, particularly from the Democrats, if this is one of the things that essentially is hanging in the balance as you wage a campaign in 2016. BERMAN: It should be a huge issue. Number one, this is the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Number two, this is the first election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. So we`re not just celebrating the history, we`re dealing with voting discrimination today. That`s why Hillary Clinton has made this such a big issue. This isn`t just a campaign issue, this is an issue that`s going to affect millions of voters come election time and that`s why it`s so important to talk about this issue now. HAYES: All right, Ari Berman whose forthcoming book is quite excellent. I`ve been making my way through it. I will recommend it to everyone. Thank you. BERMAN: Thank you, Chris. HAYES: All right, from Ferguson to Baltimore, the confederate flag to voting rights, are we in the biggest civil rights movement since the 1960s? Next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Joining me now, Judith Brown Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project. Judith, you`ve been working in civil rights law for awhile and I was going back through the record of when these confederate battle flags fights happened, and a bunch of them happened around the same time, right around 2000, 2001. And how do you make sense of this moment we seem to be in now from Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown and Freddie Gray to what we`re seeing in the aftermath of Charleston to these battles we`re having now around the Voting Rights Act? It does feel like we are in the midst of something now that really is its own kind of era of civil rights activism. JUDITH BROWN DIANIS, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: That`s right, Chris. You know, I think we always see moments of retrenchment before we see breakthroughs and I think that we are on the precipice of a breakthrough on race in this country created by a movement happening in the streets with young people saying Black Lives Matter to people understanding that what has happened in South Carolina is terrorism and a hate crime. So we`re seeing Americans coming together saying it`s time for change. But we also see at the same time the resistance movement. The flag, the confederate flag is the sign of white resistance in the South and so we`re going to have this inner struggle around race until we can have that breakthrough. And the breakthrough is coming at an important time. We`ve just seen these 50th anniversaries of the Freedom Summer of the Freedom Rides and now the Voting Rights Act. And 50 years later we`re still fighting. But I do think that we`re at a moment in time where it`s time for change. This new Voting Rights Act is going to give us the advancements that we need. The people in the streets crying for justice at the hands of police and state violence. We`re going to see a breakthrough, it`s just a matter of time and we have changing demographics. So our country has to be ready for a new America that includes everyone. HAYES: One of the dynamics here is that there`s a dynamic between equality and inequality or progress and the status quo or retrenchment. But one of the most interesting, I think, in the wake of Charleston particularly is between unity and division. We think of unity as a good thing and division as a bad thing, but there`s also the fact that part of the job of activists and part of the job of people who are trying to create social change is to create friction and Martin Luther King talked a lot about this. How do you understand the sort of relative value of those two things? Like, we think of polarization, particularly along racial lines, as a bad thing, but maybe it`s sometimes productive? DIANIS: That`s right. Division is often important because that`s where you get the breakthrough, because at some point we have to take a stand and we have to say are you with us? Are you on freedom`s side or are you against freedom? And it`s when we start to change hearts and minds around these issues of race is where we start to get the unity. But we have to underscore the division first in order for people to come along and say, you know what, I don`t want to be on the wrong side of history. I want to be an inclusive America. Everyone deserves the right to breathe in America and so I think that we`re going -- that`s the retrenchment part and that`s why I was saying we`re going to have retrenchment before we see some unity. And there will still be some who will resist, right? We will still have a George Wallace. Well, who is today`s George Wallace standing in the door of the schoolhouse or standing at the side of the flagpole? And so we`re going to see that happening, but I think eventually people -- like you saw in Charleston, white folks and black folks have come together in times of adversity where we have decided that we have to be together in order to make a better America. HAYES: Judith Brown Dianis, thank you very much. That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END