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All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 3/4/2016

Guests: Kevin Alexander Gray, Charlie Pierce, Ben Domenech, Francesca Chambers, Brent Brown, Jon Favreau

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: March 4, 2016 Guest: Kevin Alexander Gray, Charlie Pierce, Ben Domenech, Francesca Chambers, Brent Brown, Jon Favreau


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They`re small. Something else may be small. I guarantee you there`s no problem. I guarantee you.

HAYES: The Trump campaign turns even more vulgar as the Republican frontrunner promises to commit war crimes.

TRUMP: They won`t refuse. They`re not going to refuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But they`re illegal.

HAYES: And his fellow candidates pledge their support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, yes or no?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ll support Donald if he`s the Republican nominee.

HAYES: Tonight, the clear and present danger of Donald Trump and why today he ditched the conservative movement that made him a star.

Plus, a look at the last time Republicans had to deal with a white supremacist resurgence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Lee Atwater should simply have said, well, people have spoken. The Republican Party is available for everybody.

HAYES: Why this man got a once in a lifetime to introduce the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am a Republican who cursed his name.

HAYES: And on the eve of Super Saturday, examining the rational divide between the Bernie and Hillary voters when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.

We`ve got breaking news tonight from a Donald Trump rally in New Orleans where moments ago, a group of Black Lives Matter protesters had a tense confrontation with some Trump supporters.


TRUMP: Get that guy out of here, please. Thank you. Get them out. Let`s go. Get them out fast. He`s swinging and he`s hitting people.

If we hit back, we end up on the front page of the paper. It`s a disgrace. Get him out. Get him out. Get him out. That`s not the reputation I have to tell you.


HAYES: Trump, of course, accused protesters of swinging their fist. From that angle at least, it did not appear to be the case. We`re still trying to track down what exactly happened. But after another protester disrupted the rally, Trump fully lost his cool.


TRUMP: Oh, no. Not another one. Get out of here. Get out. Get them out. Get out of here. Troublemakers. Real troublemakers. This is a wild evening. This is one hell of the way to spend the Friday evening.


HAYES: Now, this comes as the country is still recovering tonight from its collective hangover after last night`s Republican debate in Detroit, an event that seemed to mark the absolute rock bottom of American political culture. More like the Jerry Springer show than a presidential debate, with candidates calling each other name and a rowdy audience repeatedly booing and heckling them.

Viewers from across the political spectrum expressed their disgust to the spectacle, including the participants in a highly unscientifically focus group held on the very same FOX News.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want a word or phrase to describe tonight`s debate.







UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Low on substance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Schoolyard brawl.


HAYES: Jamie Johnson, a former senior aide to the Rick Perry campaign, tweeted during the debate, quote, "My party is committing suicide on national television."

To the extent that policy came up at all, it was in a series of fact checks on Donald Trump`s budget proposals and his business ventures, and clips showing him contradicting himself on issues from the war in Afghanistan, to guest worker visas. Time and time again, Trump breezed past the discrepancy.


TRUMP: I`m changing, I`m changing. We need highly skilled people in this country. And if we can`t do it, we`ll get them in. But we do need. In Silicon Valley, we absolutely have to have.


HAYES: But if there`s one defining on the night, one exchange that really captured the state of race and perhaps even the modern Republican Party, it had to be this one.


TRUMP: He hit my hands. I`ve never heard of this. Look at those hands. Are they small hands? And he referred to my hands, if they`re small, something else must small. I guarantee you, there`s no problem. I guarantee you.


HAYES: Remain to be seen if any of this will have the slightest impact on Trump support.

Right now, self-proclaimed gatekeepers of the conservative movement are gathering outside Washington, D.C. at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference known as CPAC.

The decision to give Donald Trump a speaking slot tomorrow reportedly prompted an acrimonious backlash from conservatives making a last-ditch attempt to stop him, with at least one prominent activist planning a mass walkout.

So, it probably shouldn`t have come as a surprise when Trump announced he is cancelling his speech to campaign in Kansas, which, of course, holds its Republican caucus tomorrow. CPAC couldn`t resist taking a shot at Trump in a tweet, "Very disappointed real Donald Trump has declined, decided in the last minute to drop out of CPAC. His choice sends a message to clear message to conservatives."

The thing is, CPAC can wring its hands in righteous outrage all it wants, but the organization played major role in validating Trump in the first place. They`ve given him prime speaking slots four times since 2011. That same year just happened to coincide when Trump first gained notoriety as America`s birther in chief and CPAC has long cultivated and promoted the incendiary of political theater that Trump is now exploiting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peace begins with courageous leaders who willing to identify and define our enemy and their objectives, because political correctness has no place in our national security strategy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Liberals say the word lazy is a racist code word as is Chicago. The word apartment, mentioning that Obama golfs. Now, these are all according to liberals racist dog whistles, which why maybe only Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews can hear them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You carry two things with you, wherever you go, in case one of you gets to be president of the United States, make sure you carry your bible with you and your woman.


HAYES: Now, Trump`s employing the same rhetorical tactics without sticking to conservative ideology, and a lot of Republican voters don`t seem to care much. Donald Trump doesn`t need CPAC anymore. While much of the fallout from the debate last night is focused on Trump`s coarsening of the political discourse, it was something else the front-runner said last night that shows just how dangerous, indeed, how fascistic the man`s impulses truly are.

Trump was asked about his past comments on expanding torture and targeting the families, presumably including children, of terrorists.


MODERATOR: What would you do as commander in chief if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

TRUMP: They won`t refuse. They`re not going to refuse me, believe me. I`m a leader. I`ve always been a leader.

I`ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they`re going to do it. That`s what leadership is all about.


HAYES: Today, the Trump campaign backed off the statement, telling "The Wall Street Journal" that he wouldn`t order the U.S. military to break international law. But then, at a rally later the same day, the candidate repeated his usual line about going much farther than waterboarding.

And still, after calling him a con man and a fraud and after hearing him endorse war crimes and threaten a showdown with military over ordering them to do war crimes, on the debate stage, Trump`s rivals had the same response when asked if they would support him if he wins the nation.


RUBIO: I would support Donald if he`s the Republican nominee.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, because I gave my word that I would.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If he ends up as the nominee, sometimes he makes it hard, but you know. I will support whoever is the Republican nominee for president.


HAYES: Joining me now, Charlie Pierce, writer at large for "Esquire Magazine", Ben Domenech, publisher of "The Federalist", and Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent for

Ben, let me start with you. What happened to "never Trump"? I`ve been watching this deflowering of never Trump. And I have to say, and I`m saying this in a non-concern truly way, I have been genuinely impressed by the sort of faction of the sort of conservative movement that has really tried to draw this line in the sand that, you know, this guy is over this line. We cannot support him.

And last night, after all of these things are hurled at the guy, they basically say he`s a complete con artist but, yes, if he gets the nomination, I`ll support him. What was up with that?

BEN DOMENECH, THE FEDERALIST: You know, I think that, obviously, there are people who are signing onto that hashtag, you know, Senator Ben Sasse being the most prominent among them and getting into it a little bit at CPAC, with Sean Hannity the other night about that issue.

I think, though, that there`s one issue you didn`t mention in your roundup there that I think is kind of the most critical moment of the debate, as crazy it was. And that was Trump backing off the H-1B visas comment. The comment you played there from him talking about changing and softening his position on that.

I think there`s already been some significant blowback from the sort of very hard core immigration crowd. We saw people like Michelle Malkin going after him on that issue, basically saying can we trust him, this is the one thing that`s been the core element to this campaign since day one. I think that is one of the things that prompted him today to dismiss CPAC in the way he did.

He knew had he shown up there, there would be a lot of people questioning him on that immigration issue and I think demanding answers. We would much rather play to the campaign that you saw there in Louisiana.

HAYES: Well, to Ben`s point here, Charlie, I mean, he`s now on both sides of basically every issue. I mean, to the extent there`s any issue, he wants to build the wall. Mexico is going to pay for it. Order torture, war crimes. Make the military obey his illegal orders, also maybe he`ll be flexible when it comes -- I mean, at this point, it`s unclear what the heck this thing is that is this phenomenon and yet it still continues to sort of mow its way forward.

CHARLIE PIERCE, ESQUIRE MAGAZINE: Well, let me be clear. The moderate Republican position on torture now is let the CIA do it.

HAYES: That`s right.

PIERCE: Just so we know. I`ve been reading and re-reading Mark Twain`s "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" for the last couple of months, and I look at CPAC today as sort of Hadleyburg.

They are Donald Trump`s last suckers. He doesn`t need them. They threw their little hissy fit. He said, to heck with it, I`m going to Wichita.

They are the last -- they are the prime cut of Trump steaks right now. They are the high end Trump vodka. They`re the last students at Trump University.

He`s played them all for suckers and played them all for fools. There`s no going back from it right now.

HAYES: Ben, you`re nodding your head. I want to get your response.

DOMENECH: I`m -- yes.

HAYES: Hold that response. Francesca, the big question is this is the same thing we get at every debate. You know, will this change things? But there was sort of this -- I thought last night, there was an interesting moment where it just felt and maybe it was the joke about his endowment, or whatever it was, partly it was the crowd that was so bizarrely raucous and sort of lusty. It felt like it was sort of Roman gladiator.

It had this feel of like this is how the empire falls kind of way with the crowd rooting them on. But it really did feel like we were watching collectively some kind of low point last night.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, THE DAILY MAIL: Well, the debates, if they continue down that road, may have outlived their usefulness because they were not discussing for the most part, as you noted, some policy issues. There are very serious policy issues to be discussed last night. They were right outside of Flint, Michigan and you didn`t hear too much about the water crisis, particularly when there`s a Republican governor of that state.

Going back to the CPAC thing though for a moment, you know, you guys have made a point that he doesn`t need CPAC anymore. I think that`s correct. He does need the votes of Kansas. Kansas is where he`ll be going instead. And Kansas is a caucus situation, much like Iowa and Oklahoma.

Ted Cruz won both Iowa and Oklahoma. And so, Donald Trump could find himself in a situation had he not been visiting caucus sites like he`s now planning to, where Ted Cruz could have snuck up on him and posted a higher delegate count --

HAYES: Right.

CHAMBERS: -- which is exactly I think Trump is worried about.

HAYES: Ben, you respond, so there`s this idea, right, that CPAC remarks, right, that they`ve been played for four years, and now he`s used them and he`s leaving which is Charlie Pierce`s point and I think a lot of people feel that way.

DOMENECH: I think, though, that there`s something, a distinction that we need to make clear here, which is that CPAC really is a conservative conference first. Most of the people there who I talked to today, this is the first time I`ve actually gone, were Ted Cruz supporters and were passionate about him. He had a great reception today within that context.

I think this is a situation where the people kind of holding onto that Cruz hope, that faction asking whether there`s any way for him to block Donald Trump, I think that Trump knows that as well. I think his reception would not have been as positive as it is for all the mainstream sort of moderate Republican who are coming out and supporting him within all these different huge rallies, as you saw today.

HAYES: Let me say this. So, there`s nothing monolithic.


HAYES: I think CPAC has demonstrated they`re two different establishments, right? There`s the kind of -- there`s the sort of conservative establishment, there`s the more -- the Republican Party establishment as representative by Mitt Romney coming out and then there`s the base of Republican Party and Republican voters who are going out and voting, you know, in these actual elections who literally don`t seem to care at all about whatever heresies that Donald Trump is spouting or even to be honest Charlie Pierce policy in any remote sense.

PIERCE: No, they are looking for enemies to blame. He`s feeding them enemies to blame. It`s the distillation of 30 years of essentially it`s a distillation of everything that came out of the southern strategist of the mid-1960s.

I mean, I remember seeing video of delegates to the 1964 Republican convention, Goldwater delegates literally trying to climb into the network sky boxes, trying to get at Huntley and Brinkley and Uncle Walter and the rest of those guys, and things are getting real out in the campaign trail. If they try to stop Donald Trump short of the nomination and take it over at the convention, I don`t even want to know the kind of spectacle you`re going to see there.

HAYES: But, Francesca, that idea, I mean, the "Never Trump" hashtag. You had Marco Rubio saying, you know, never Trump, and then today the Kentucky sports radio interview, he says, yes, I`m never going to vote for him in the Republican primary. And the guy says, well, you`re running in the Republican primary, he`s like, yes, that`s what I mean. OK, that`s meaningless, right?

I mean, if all of this is the normal posturing everyone will endorse the guy. I mean, they were floating contested convention, they were talking never Trump. After last night, it seems to me like all he`s got to do is get the most delegates and no one is gong to try to stop him.

CHAMBERS: Well, if he were to win Florida and Ohio, it becomes very difficult for any of the remaining candidates in this race to catch up with him. And as far as supporting him, polls show if he ran as an independent against a Republican and if Hillary Clinton were the Democrat in the race, then he would split votes with the Republican in the race.

So, even if Marco Rubio or John Kasich or Ted Cruz or anyone else was able to wrestle that nomination from him at a contested convention, it would make it very difficult for them, in November, to win the election.

HAYES: Yes, there are sore loser laws that make it difficult to get on the ballot. But he would not have to take that many votes in a write-in campaign.

Charlie Pierce, Ben Domenech, Francesca Chambers, thank you very much.

DOMENENCH: Thank you.

HAYES: Still to come, how it came to be that one of the first questions at the Republican debate in the 2016 presidential election was about the KKK.

And, later, a preview of this weekend`s Democratic fight. Can Bernie Sanders overcome the grip Hillary Clinton has on Southern states?

But, first, the story of this man who said he voted against President Obama twice, who condemned the Affordable Care Act and now thanks Barack Obama for saving his life. That story is next.


HAYES: If last night`s debate was a low point for the modern day Republican Party, there was one Republican speaking on the stage yesterday who sounded like the antidote to all the shouting and childish insults. His name, Brent Brown.


BRENT BROWN, REPUBLICAN WHO SAYS OBAMA SAVED HIS LIFE: While attending college I was diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disease. Devastation. Now labeled with a preexisting condition, I am disqualified from any and all health insurance options. More devastation.

I feel, I watch my body tearing itself apart but I don`t go to the hospital until I can barely move. It cost too much.

After numerous hospital stays I eventually drain all my savings. Bankrupt. I cannot afford the surgeries I need to save my life.

Literally, a dead man walking. Hope, gone.

But then this guy signs this bill. Now I have access to health insurance and I receive the care that I do desperately need.

Over the last several months --


Thank you.

Over the last several months, and several surgeries later, I can now say I had a serious autoimmune disease.


You`re too kind.

The Affordable Care Act saved my life. I want to repeat that. The Affordable Care Act saved my life.


To be clear, I have never voted for President Obama. Ever.

I am a Republican who cursed his name, who falsely accused him and someone who zealously worked to ensure he would never be my president.

But thanks to him fortitude, thanks to his unwavering vision of mercy, even towards me, this chump gets a second shot at life.


To the Republicans who wish to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I plead with you to reconsider. Swallow your pride, as I am doing right now, in front of what I assume are many Democrats, and do what is right. Do what is right for the people.



HAYES: What you saw on display at the debate last night represents one side of American politics. But Brent Brown represents another. He`s going to join me, next.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We agree, Brent and I, that the Affordable Care Act is helping a whole lot of people like him.


That is why we fought so hard to fix a broken health care system in the first place. It wasn`t about Democrats or Republicans. It was about our values as Americans and making sure that hard working Americans like Brent are no longer locked out of health insurance through no fault of their own.


HAYES: Joining me now is Brent Brown.

Brent, I want to thank you very much.

You know, it`s kind of hard in the very politically polarized times we live in to even just admit to friends that you changed your mind about something. I wonder sort of -- take me through the process of you coming around on this specific act, Obamacare, coming around to seeing it as a good thing rather than a threat.

BROWN: Right. You`re very correct in your assessment. It was difficult and it really didn`t happen, unfortunately, until I was personally impacted, when I got terribly sick, when I did not have health insurance. And then, all of a sudden, I did have health insurance. I could get care.

So, the main thing that changed my mind is also something that I regret in that it is the empathy that I found for people, but it was only empathy I found after having a major and serious disease ravaging my body.

HAYES: Do you remember following the Obamacare debate and what you thought about it when it was talked about as this abstraction?

BROWN: Initially?


BROWN: Republican, good. Democrat, bad. That is -- that was my thought process. That it is going to be very expensive and there are going to be many loafers that will take advantage of the system, and that it`s not an OK thing to back if you are a conservative.

HAYES: Well, Brent, my understanding is your health is good right now.

I just want to say I really admire what you did a tremendous amount. I don`t say that because I feel the same about the Affordable Care Act, but it`s very courageous thing to do. Thank you very much.

BROWN: Well, thank you.

HAYES: I want to bring in Jon Favreau, who is former director of speechwriting for President Obama.

John, I saw you sort of reacting in real time last night to this Republican debate. I just felt like there was a contrast between what was happening on the stage and what was happening not that far away in Milwaukee at the same time. Do you guys think there would be more Brent Browns by now when you were fighting so hard on this bill?

JON FAVREAU, FMR. WHITE HOUSE CHIEF SPEECHWRITER: Yes, we certainly did, because I can remember so many stories like Brent`s as we were trying to pass the law and the president campaigning in 2008. You`d hear the Republicans say I don`t agree with the president on a lot of things, but I have this story about needing health care and needing to get covered, so I`m going to give it a try.

But I was trying to imagine as I watched the debate if they debated the merits of kicking 18, 20 million off their health care instead of talking about the size of Donald Trump`s penis, but then I realized I guess that`s fantastic s fantasy land at this point.

HAYES: I mean, it is striking, right, about central Obamacare was in the right wing imagination, in the conservative attacks on the president. Here`s the uninsured rate in the U.S. which has fell to 12 percent in the first quarter in 2016, which is the lowest since we`ve been measuring it for a very long time.


HAYES: It`s more or less disappeared. There`s this sort of phantom idea that they`re going to replace it. But it`s moved from the center of this campaign or the center of the last campaign to the margins, it seems to me.

FAVREAU: Right. I watched the entire debate. I don`t remember them bringing it up because it`s like a throwaway line. Obviously, we`re going to get rid of Obamacare. It`s the biggest job killer, which there`s no proof of that at all. But, yes, they don`t talk about it now.

I mean, none of their websites even have a plan. Donald Trump put out like five or seven bullet points about the whole thing and that`s about it. They just don`t care.

HAYES: You were part of the speechwriting apparatus both in -- first Obama campaign and the White House. Obviously, a lot of thought goes into presidential communication. Tremendous amount of thought, tremendous amount of revisions, sometimes painful, arduous processes, a million different people editing, you know, struck at the last second --

FAVREAU: It`s a good time.

HAYES: As someone who did that, who spent a lot of time crafting and pouring thought into those words, what is your reaction to watching the kind of political communication that is happening in the Republican Party right now?

FAVREAU: Makes me want to cry. No, it`s sad. They`re using communication the way it shouldn`t be, which is in the most manipulative way possible, right? And I think -- you know, you can -- Obama has faults and he`s made mistakes, but he would always tell us to be as real as possible, to try to say what`s real, to try to tell people stories, to describe policy, to get into the details.

Sometimes we didn`t want him to get into as much details because he would get down into the weeds on policy. But he just believe that`s the way you persuaded people and that`s the way you govern. We moved to what we saw last night which was just a national embarrassment.

HAYES: How do you feel when you see someone like Brent Brown`s story and look at as the end of this term comes into focus on the horizon?

FAVREAU: Yes, it makes me feel good. I mean, it makes me feel embarrassed. I`m someone who pays attention to Twitter all day long. I watch the news.

You know, all day long, it`s like let`s make Trump jokes. Let`s see what Trump is doing. What crazy thing will he do now?

And then I happened upon this Brent story, and I read it yesterday. And I`m like, what are we doing there, you know? Like there`s someone with so much courage to get up and tell that story. And his life was saved because of something we did together and we`re off here, most hours of the day, all we`re talking about is, you know, Donald Trump and the latest crazy stupid grab he does, you know, it`s terrible.

HAYES: 2016: what are we doing here? That one`s written by famous speechwriter Jon Favreau, thank you very much for joining us. Appreciate it.

FAVREAU: Thanks for having me, Chris.

HAYES: All right, a look at the white supremacist it took Donald Trump a day to disavow. The story of David Duke history with the Republican Party ahead.



HAYES: A lot of that has to do with stagnating wages in the middle, but you see that play out in different ways in both Trump`s, particularly closing message and railing against pharmaceutical companies and the like, and Bernie Sanders message from the beginning.


HAYES: As you may have heard, I once called Bernie Sanders Bernie Sandwiches live on national TV. The election night surprise yielded a batch of memes for all of America to enjoy.

Bernie Sanders with lipstick.

A health option to a show favorite from @Darth (ph) who tweeted this video with thank you for reminding me, Chris, I have not eaten all day to be honest.

The meme graduated to some interesting t-shirts. And tonight big news, Bernie Sandwiches has made yet another leap. I present to you Bernie Sandwiches, a run to the White House, the iPhone app, a surprisingly difficult yet addictive game where Sanders tries to collect as many sandwiches as possible on a stroll through the primary states.

The current All In staff highest score is a respectable 31 points.

Game on, and you`re welcome.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney also talked about your position on race and the controversy over your failure to denounce David Duke on Sunday. You have repeatedly disavowed him since then. But I`d like to go deeper than that, what are your views on the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists.

TRUMP: I totally disavow the Ku Klux Klan. I totally disavow David Duke.


HAYES: There`s a reason why that was one of the first questions asked in the Republican debate last night. And there`s a reason why an apparent protester had his sign reading Trump/Duke 2016 ripped out his hands at Trump`s rally in New Orleans tonight.

We are at this moment right now in the campaign where white supremacists are turning to Donald Trump as the political leader who will mainstream their ideas. And one of the last times this sort of thing happened was with a guy who is now back in the news for supporting Donald Trump. His name: David Duke.


DAVID DUKE: The only way people can judge the Klan is by, you know, from our own lips. What we can say about it. And I`m hear to say anything that anybody who wants to be a Klansman, the way to do it is not being violent but by being legal and trying to work within the system.

HAYES: In the 1970s, David Duke was a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. The young leader with the goal of mainstreaming the Klan`s racist ideas.

DUKE: There`s plenty other places in this country that I could live maybe with some Negroes that are integrationists, but what are we talking about? I don`t want to live with Negroes.

HAYES: But in order to effectively go mainstream, the hood had to go. Duke resigned from the Klan, and he founded a new group: The National Association for the Advancement of White People.

He also started running for public office, first as Democrat, but soon after an unsuccessful bid for president, he switched to the Republican Party running for a seat in the Louisiana state legislature in 1989.

DUKE: I think there`s a lot of racial hatred today, but I think it`s coming from the other side. There`s more minority races in today then coming from the members of the white majority of America.

HAYES: Duke`s white supremacist views became a focal point in the race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The newsletter for Duke`s white rights organization regularly carries ads for Neo-Nazi literature and articles urging readers to run for political office to promote a white agenda.

The New Orleans telephone directory lists the same address for Duke`s residence and the Ku Klux Klan.

HAYES: Yet many Louisiana voters embraced Duke.

DUKE: You got my full support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s good.

DUKE: Yeah, it`s about time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you know what, time for white people to start sticking together.

HAYES: But the notion of a former Klansman running for office in 1989 was too much for the standard bearers of the Republican Party.

UNIDENIFIED MALE: The GOP is embarrassed that Duke is running as a Republican. There is concern that a victory for him would tarnish the party`s image with black voters.

HAYES: That concern went all the way to the White House.

DUKE: I`m shocked about it. In fact, I heard that George Bush is sending out a letter to my district supporting my opponent.

HAYES: Both Duke and his opponent for a seat in the state legislature, businessman John Treen are running as Republicans. President Bush sent this letter to voters in the district asking them to support Treen.

HAYES: Yet those efforts weren`t enough to dissuade voters. Duke won by less than 300 votes.

Republican Party chairman Lee Atwater, the brains behind George H.W. Bush`s infamous Willie Horton campaign ad wanted Duke kicked out of the party.

DUKE: Mr. Lee Atwater should simply have said, well, the people have spoken. The Republican Party is available for anybody.

HAYES: The national party censured Duke, and President Bush defended his involvement in the local election.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, 41ST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Maybe there was some feeling in Meterie, Louisiana that the president of the United States involving himself in a state legislative election was improper or overkill. I can`t deny that. But what I can affirm is I did what I did because of principle.

HAYES: Duke`s political aspirations only grew. And in 1990 he ran for U.S. Senate and found a base of support.

DUKE: One reason why the welfare system is out of control is because we have a massive illegitimate welfare birthrate in this country. I mean, they are literally breeding faster than you can -- they can raise your taxes to pay for them all

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s a symbol of frustration for these people. They don`t feel that major parties are answering their questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve got a lot of good ideas. And we`ve been saying for a long time, it`s time for somebody to do it.

HAYES: Yet Duke`s days as a Klansman played out in a political ad by the Democartic senator he hoped to unseat.

ANNOUNCER: David Duke led the Ku Klux Klan as an adult.

DUKE: There`s no more truly representative symbol of the white race than a fiery cross. It`s our symbol. White victory.

CROWD: White victory.

HAYES: Duke lost his bid for senate, but that didn`t deter him from running for governor of Louisiana the following year. And a few familiar themes reappeared.

TED KOPPEL, NBC NEWS: The nomination of a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan as a Republican candidate for governor has the political establishment and a lot of other in a state of anxiety.

HAYES: Efforts from local political leaders to derail Duke`s campaign didn`t seem to matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The voters of Louisiana have heard all that before. They have seen television images of Duke at Ku Klux Klan cross burnings, and yet a growing number of voters like Laurie Roy (ph) are willing to overlook that, because they are angry with other politicians.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody overlooks us. And we`re here. They can`t overlook us. They can`t do it. And he understands.

HAYES: It was a contentious run off race against Democratic Governor Edwin Edwards who had stood trial for racketeering and had been acquitted.

DUKE: For business to vote for you, they`d have hold their nose, close their eyes and cover their ears. Now, business, you have been...

EDWIN EDWARDS: As opposed to you, they`d have to get out from under their sheets, but nevertheless, they`ve have to make their decision.

DUKE: That`s a cheap shot.

HAYEDS: It soon became clear that Duke was woefully unprepared to run for governor of Louisiana.

TIM RUSSERT, FRM. MEET THE PRESS HOST: How many people in your state live below the poverty line?

DUKE: A great percentage, sir. We have the highest per capita percentage in the country just about. About the last five states of the country.

RUSSERT: How many?

DUKE: I don`t have exact numbers in front of me, sir. I don`t carry around an almanac with me.

RUSSERT: If I told you it was 25 percent of your state lived below the poverty line, would you believe me?

DUKE: I could believe you, yes, sir.

RUSSERT: Are these the things the governor should know?

HAYES: Duke lost the election, but won over half of the white vote. A few more ill-fated runs at political office followed, including another bid for president. By 2000, Duke decided to join a political group known as The Reform Party. That didn`t sit well with one of the party`s big wig who himself was mulling a presidential run on the Reform Party ticket.

DONALD TRUMP: I`m not going to be running. The party is, as you know, self-destructing.

MATT LAUER, NBC: What do you see as the biggest problem with the Reform Party right now?

TRUMP: Well, you have got David Duke just joined -- a bigot, racist, a problem. I mean, this is not the people you want in your party.

HAYE: 16 years later, Trump and Duke find themselves in the same party once again.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don`t want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?

TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don`t know anything about David Duke, OK. I don`t know anything about what you`re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.


HAYES: 16 years earlier he said David Duke, this is not the kind of person you want in your party. And 16 years earlier, Donald Trump was right.

Still to come, four states on the line for Democrats this weekend. Can Bernie Sanders overcome what is turning into a defining schism of the campaign? What that is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Today in Flint, Michigan the first city sanctioned effort to dig up the lead contaminated pipes began almost two years after the decision was made by state officials to switch the source of drinking water to the Flint River to save money, resulting in some lead levels so high they were twice what the EPA considers toxic waste.

I say city sanctioned because yesterday a private contractor started digging up a service line leading to a Flint home as part of a separate effort that was paid for by the Flint Coalition, a group of charitable business and community organizations who said they were tired of waiting. That effort was stopped by police.

Now, some of the best, most in depth and tenacious reporting on this outrageous story has come from my friend and colleague Rachel Maddow. And tonight she has a special look at how the lead poisoning disaster in Flint is just one part of a failed experiment in state governance in Michigan. Make sure to catch that at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight right after this show.


HAYES: Four states vote this weekend in Democratic contests -- Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska and Maine. And I`m going to make a prediction without -- and I`m serious about this -- looking at a single poll. Hillary Clinton will do best in Louisiana and Bernie Sanders probably has his best shot in Maine. The reason I know that`s the case, or can predict that fairly confidently, is because the defining feature of the race between Sanders and Clinton right now is race.

Sanders almost won Iowa, romped in New Hampshire, came close in Nevada and then got crushed in South Carolina. And on Super Tuesday, Sanders largely got swamped in the states with substantial numbers of black voters but remained very competitive or even won in states where the Democratic electorate is predominantly white.

According to exit polls, Clinton won black voters by more than 70 points on Super Tuesday, 70 points.

Now, if Sanders is to have any chance of overtaking Clinton, he must shrink that huge gap and he has to do it fast.

In 2008, a large racial gap opened up between the two contestants in that contested primary, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with Hillary Clinton on the other side of the same racial divide.

So, what explains this year`s massive gap? We`ll try to get to the bottom of it, next.


HAYES: Joining me now MSNBC National Correspondent Joy Reid and civil rights activist Kevin Alexander Gray.

And Kevin, let me start with you, because you`re in South Carolina, you`re a long-time South Carolina activist. And you`re also someone -- I read your piece in the Progressive about why black voters are not feeling the burn. And you`re someone who I think personal politics are pretty far left, certainly to the left of Hillary Clinton. And you wrote your piece about your understanding watching the campaign unfold in South Carolina of why the results came out why they did. What`s your explanation?

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, there`s a degree of familiarity with Clintons that black people have. Black people, black voters participate in the Democratic Party of which the Clintons and Barack Obama are the heads of that party and Bernie Sanders is new to that. So, you know, a lot of people didn`t vote for Bernie because they would say I don`t know who he is. Some people use a lot stronger language than that.

And then when you talk about the day-to-day material politics of it all, who you go to when you need a road fixed, who you go to when you need that letter for someone written to college, you`re going to listen to black elected officials. So, the answer isn`t why black folks aren`t voting for Bernie that they`re uninformed or their ignorant, or they`re just not as smart as voters in the north and they need to wake up, it`s the devil that they know for the most part and the Democratic Party in the south represents the opposing force to the Republican Party, which is the party of white people.

HAYES: That basically sums it up perfectly.

Joy, you know, you wrote this great book about some of the contours of the racial fissures in the Democratic coalition that surfaced in 2008. And it`s amazing to go back and watch that. Obviously, Barack Obama had no problem with white voters, right, because if he did he wouldn`t have won the nomination. But there was a moment where in places like Kentucky and West Virginia Hillary Clinton`s campaign was making the kinds of arguments your seeing the Sanders campaign make now. They were essentially, you know, retreating to these very white states saying like these are the voters we can get and no one else can get them.

JOY REID, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, at one point even Hillary Clinton said they were going after the hard working voters, the hard working white voters, essentially. And she was making that push to go into places like western Pennsylvania, the sort of culturally southern parts of Illinois and Ohio, and that was their game plan once they realized after South Carolina that they lost black voters.

But the thing I think a lot of Sanders voters, and it confound them and sometimes they insult black voters, which is not helpful, but what they don`t understand is that the 90s as we look back on them now, through the lens of Black Lives Matter, is the sort of horror story, right, of compromises not only gay rights but of real negative consequences -- I mean, things that created real negative consequences like the crime bill, like welfare reform.

But as lived by African-Americans, particularly those generation and older, the 90s is actually remembered as an era of opportunity. This was an era where you could get a job and leave a job and get another one. When black prosperity demonstrably increased, when people felt wealthier. They felt they could own a home. They felt they could have good employment. They felt that they were actually getting more prosperous.

So, that memory is there too. And the Clintons still get a benefit from that.

And then you add to it the fact Hillary Clinton went and worked for Barack Obama, became a part of his administration. And got that blessing. That blessing is on her. And there`s nothing Bernie Sanders, who is an outsider to the Democratic Party and to that team, there`s nothing he can do about that.

HAYES: Yeah, how -- Kevin you didn`t mention this when you were going through the reasons, this sort of idea of Obama and the kind of Obama blessing and the fact that obviously Hillary Clinton has made it a point of hugging Barack Obama very closely and praising him.

How much do you think that`s a factor?

GRAY: I think for the party regulars, the people that participate in Democratic Party politics, that`s important. And when you bring Cornell West to South Carolina, those people look at Cornell West as somebody who is antagonistic to the president.

Now, saying that, Bernie Sanders is claiming to want to lead a revolution, well it takes time to build that kind of grass roots support and build those in roads and those relationships in the community. And you really can`t do it in all fairness to Senator Sanders in a campaign cycle. Those relationships go back years and years and years.

HAYES: This is, I think, an excellent point. And this is, I think, the most charitable interpretation when people say, well, it`s a familiarity issue. I actually saw interesting data about his approval rating among African-American Democratic voters, Bernie Sanders has tracked pretty well with his name recognition, which is to say there has been a sort of correlated trajectory. The more that voters have come to know him, the more they actually have felt favorably about him, which is encouraging. But they are going to run out of runway, essentially, for the plane unless something changes very soon.

REID: Especially since Hillary Clinton -- the Clintons have these preexisting relationships, for instance. They know all the lead pastors they go to. They know which is the big pastor to go to in town.

You know, Flint, which is about 50 miles from where I am in Detroit, Hillary Clinton called the mayor. She knows the mayor. She already has a preexisting relationship with black leadership. She can actually get the process going on the ground. He can`t.

GRAY: But I think that you have to look at the number of people in South Carolina that didn`t vote. 157,000 didn`t vote from 2008 to 2016. And so that could be the people who voted totally for racial solidarity.

HAYES; That is a big question going into the general. Joy Reid, Kevin Alexander Gray, thank you both very much. That was really great.

That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Shows starts now.