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All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 8/14/17 Charlottesville & the backlash against President Trump

Guests: Jelani Cobb, Jennifer Rubin, Asawin Suebsaeng, Gabe Sherman

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: August 14, 2017 Guest: Jelani Cobb, Jennifer Rubin, Asawin Suebsaeng, Gabe Sherman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: - got it right on instinct, who called it as he saw it and called it as an American, who didn`t need 48 hours of the country telling him what to say. That`s HARDBALL for now, thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" starts right now.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence.

REID: Two days late, the President changes his tune on Charlottesville.

TRUMP: Hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.

REID: Tonight, Trump`s defense for delaying his condemnation of white supremacists.

TRUMP: They`ve been condemned. They have been condemned.

REID: Plus, reading between the lines.

TRUMP: Cherish our history.

Other hate groups.

Many sides, on many sides.

REID: And the reaction from Republicans.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: These groups seem to believe they have a friend in Donald Trump in the White House.

REID: Then, the Russia investigation goes inside the White House. And the President`s approval rating hits another historic low.

TRUMP: And I`m not sure that anybody`s done what we`ve done in a six-month period.

REID: ALL IN starts now.


REID: Good evening from New York, I`m Joy Reid in for Chris Hayes. Earlier today this country reached a grim and ugly milestone. The President of the United States succumbing to overwhelming pressure was forced to clarify that he does not in fact support Nazis and white supremacists.


TRUMP: Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.


REID: Those scripted comments from the President came more than 48 hours after violent clashes broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia at a rally held by a collection of white supremacist groups where neo-Nazis and Klan members marched openly in full regalia with polo shirt-wearing so-called alt-right true believers. They chanted bigoted slogans including the Nazi German slogan "blood and soil" in the pure light of day.

CROWD (chanting): Blood and soil!

You will not replace us! You will not replace us!


REID: Now, listen to how former KKK leader David Duke described Saturday`s turnout.


DAVID DUKE, FORMER KKK LEADER: This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We`re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.


REID: And later a car allegedly driven by a 20-year-old whose social media is littered with Nazi material rammed into a crowd protesting the rally, wounding 19 and killing a 32-year-old woman named Heather Heyer. The alleged driver who attended the rally as part of a white supremacist group has been charged with second-degree murder and denied bond. And yet when the President of the United States finally addressed what happened, hours later, he chose not to denounce the white supremacists and ignored reporters` questions on the subject.


TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides. Thank you very much, everybody.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) white nationalists -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President do you want the support of these white nationalist groups who say they support you, Mr. President?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you denounced them strongly enough?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A car plowing into the people, would you call that terrorism, Sir?


REID: Those comments were praised by the editor of a prominent neo-Nazi website that said, "He didn`t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. Really, really good. God bless him." To just about everybody else, however, Donald Trump`s remarks were an astounding new low. The man occupying the office that has for decades been the leader of the free world refusing to denounce an abhorrent ideology of racial supremacy or to call out Nazis by name. The backlash was immediate and bipartisan with Trump`s approval rating falling to 34 percent on the new Gallup daily tracking poll, the lowest ever in that survey. And this afternoon amid mounting pressure, the White House tried for a redo with a reluctant President going before cameras to finally denounce those hate groups by name but only after ticking through a list of his supposed economic accomplishments first. Later at a second public appearance, he declined to explain what took so long.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, can you explain why you did not condemn those hate groups by name over the weekend?

TRUMP: They`ve been condemned. They have been condemned.


REID: Tonight the President was back to lashing out on Twitter, "Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realized once again that the fake news media will never be satisfied. Truly bad people." I`m joined now by New Yorker Staff Writer Jelani Cobb, Jennifer Rubin, Conservative Columnist for the Washington Post, and MSNBC Political Analyst Michael Steele, former Chairman of the RNC. And Jelani, you know, Donald Trump, it took him days to finally denounce the Nazis and neo-Nazis and others that marched in Charlottesville by name. But he was real quick this morning when Kenneth Frazier who was the CEO of Merck, who was African-American, resigned from his manufacturing council.

He went right out minutes after that announcement and tweeted "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President`s manufacturing council, he`ll have more time to - all caps - lower rip-off drug prices." What do you make of the reluctance to denounce white supremacists but the speed at which he denounces people who criticize him?

JELANI COBB, THE NEW YORKER STAFF WRITER: Look at the relative amount of provocation that it took. The letter that Frazier sent was fairly respectful, saying that he was not going to be part of this council anymore, and gave a very principled explanation for why he would not continue to participate. On the other side of it, we`ve seen a group of people who are allied with a movement that was at the center of a world war that the United States` main claim to moral authority in the world has been centered around defeating this force of evil, which explicitly believes in the inferiority of other peoples. And they were responsible for allegedly the death of an American citizen.

And yet we got this evenhanded response to it. And so it`s unconscionable and it`s bizarre but it also opens up these other questions. When he says that racism is evil, so the logical follow-up is do you know rescind the comments you that made about Judge Curiel when you said that he could not be objective because he was, "Mexican" even though he was born in the United States? Do you rescind the comments that you`ve made about Muslims being hostile to the United States and to America? What - where do we stop here? Because there`s a reason. People had a real concrete reason for believing that he was a person of like mind. And so this simply raises more questions. The statement that he gave today raises more questions than it answers.

REID: Yes, and you know, Jennifer, we`ve been here before, right? When the you know, the holocaust -- I remember a statement came out that erased Jewish victims from the holocaust and you had this sort of bland statement that a lot of white nationalists tend to go in that direction where they try to take the Jews out of the Holocaust. And then you have today, the behind-the-scenes from the A.P. saying that Trump later expressed anger to those close to him, he was angry he had to do this.

He was angry about what he perceived of the media`s unfair assessment of his remarks, believing he had effectively denounced all forms of bigotry according to outside observers, several Trump Senior Advisers including his new Chief of Staff urged him to make a more specific condemnations or the negative story would not go away and the rising tide of criticism for Republicans, et cetera. He would have endangered his legislative agenda, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But you have seen with Donald Trump, who does have a Jewish son-in-law, and yet this sort of reluctance to really go directly at Nazism when to Jelani`s point the reason that the President of the United States is leader of the free world is that we defeated the Nazis. I don`t get it.

JENNIFER RUBIN, WASHINGTON POST CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: I think there are two things going on. One is these people are part of his base. However he wants to phrase it and gussy it up, he wants to call Steve Bannon part of the alt-right, the white supremacists, the white resentment, the fear, the anger towards non-white Americans is what has fueled his campaign from the get-go. And like it or not, that`s who these people are. They`re not a totality. They`re not a majority of his base but they are part of it. And he does not want to dump on them.

Second is Donald Trump, of course, is a narcissist. The definition of anyone who is a bad person is someone who is disloyal to him. So he will snap and hurl epithets at someone like Mr. Frazier or any aide who betrays him in his eyes, at the Attorney General. The only qualification for being in his good graces is loyalty. The only disqualification, the only unpardonable sin is disloyalty to him. So I think this is classic Donald Trump. It`s a mix of this very deliberate, manipulative, cultivating of white resentment and Donald Trump`s famous narcissism.

REID: And you know, Michael Steele, you know, John Harwood had a great you know, piece out today where he talked about the private disgust of Republican Lawmakers and calling it really remarkable, the personal disgust. And yet publicly you`ve had a lot of, you know, strong denunciations of the neo-Nazis but still this reluctance to make that disgust with Donald Trump public. I mean, do they get any credit for being privately disgusted?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hell no. Come on. No. Not at all. Because this is the moment, this is the seminal moment for the Republican Party. You`re going to be defined by the stench that comes from this. The country`s watching, the country wants a response and you cannot have this both ways. You cannot on the one instance say oh, my God, this is terrible privately and then publicly hem and haw and figure out a way to sort of smooth over hurt feelings in the White House. That`s not what this is about. This is about how you hold a country together. This is your Lincoln moment as a Republican, Mr. President. This is not something that is part of reality television because this is real for a lot of people out there, particularly a family that lost a daughter, that lost a sister, and I think that`s the thing that`s missed here more than anything else.

REID: And Jelani, you know, I don`t know why I was surprised, people were so surprised. They`re acting so surprised. I mean, Donald Trump hasn`t changed.

COBB: No, he hasn`t. And this is consistent I think we - people who were New Yorkers who remember the central park five, who remember people who were a generation before that, who remember the housing discrimination issues, this is pretty much vintage Trump. And it`s kind of linear progression from where he`s been. And just one other quick point about this I think is interesting, it`s notable that we have seized upon the Nazi element of this, that this was the line that could not be crossed. But they were there to defend a Confederate statue. And so, we are perfectly willing to countenance a kind of muddy or hazy morality around America`s sin of racism, the Confederacy being directly connected to the abominable practice of slavery in this country. It`s when we talk about something that`s external, something that happened in Europe, something for which we don`t feel morally culpable that we can say OK, here`s the line, we have to stop here, we can`t - we can`t tolerate this.

REID: It`s a really good point. You know, Michael Steele, as we look - for those who are looking at the left side of the screen or the right side of the screen depending on your point of view, those are protesters outside Trump Tower. Those marchers actually marched down Sixth Avenue earlier and they`re now protesting outside Trump tower where Donald Trump is expected to be tonight. You know, and Michael Steele, during the election you had Donald Trump`s namesake son Donald Trump Jr. fly down to Mississippi, which was not in contention. It was a - it`s a deep red state just to support the confederate flag. You`ve had these you know, long known positions of Donald Trump on things like birtherism and Republicans applauded and you know, Marco Rubio said he`s honored to help him become President. You know, shouldn`t Republicans do a little more self-examination? The Confederate flag piece of this, the monument piece, Republicans have tolerated it for generations.

STEELE: I appreciate your use of the words self-reflection because I think that`s what`s needed here. And you don`t have that far to go. Go back to what Reagan said, go back to what George W. Bush said, go back to that convention speech by Bob Dole in which he pointed out the exit for those who want to bring that kind of filth into the Republican Party. That`s the Republican Party I think needs to step up right now. This isn`t about just supporting the President. This isn`t about just supporting the party. This is how we as a political party want to govern at a very critical time and show the kind of leadership that the American people have come to expect from us. We have a history of standing in that crucible on civil rights, for example. Why do we relegate that to the ash bin of history just to get a vote from a neo-Nazi? Are you kidding me? This makes no sense.

REID: And Jennifer Rubin, we`ve had in Durham, protesters have brought down a statue, a confederate-era statue. It is quite ironic, isn`t it, that when those statues went up it was Democrats that were - that were the southern conservative party and Republicans were hated by southern Democrats. And now you have a party that isn`t really willing to denounce these Confederate statues and in fact defending them.

RUBIN: Exactly. I began with Nixon and the southern strategy, and it`s gotten well out of control since then. And your other panelists are exactly right. This is something that Donald Trump has cultivated his whole life. He cultivated it during the campaign and now I think through our failed education system, through some laziness in the press, people still think that there`s something to revere in these statues. These are the people who killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and fought a war to enslave other Americans. So I think we need some public awareness here.

REID: We`re out of time. We`re out of time. I wish we had more time. Jelani Cobb, Jennifer Rubin, Michael Steele, I`m sorry. Thank you all for your time tonight. And up next, taking cues from the White House. Some of the highest staffers in the current Presidential administration and their ties to the so-called alt-right after this two-minute break.



STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: The same mentality, they don`t know what negotiating leverage is, whether it`s China, whether it`s Mexico. They mock you because you said hey, I`m going to build a wall and they`re going to pay for it.

TRUMP: Oh, 100 percent they`ll pay, Steve, by the way, 100 percent. Do you know what we lose on Mexico a year? 45 billion in trade. We have an imbalance with Mexico. 45 billion. The wall`s going to cost you know, they said it was going to cost 12, I can build it for 6 and it will be bigger, better and stronger.


REID: Donald Trump and Steve Bannon have long had a cozy relationship. That was Bannon interviewing Trump on his first Breitbart News daily radio show back in 2015. Less than a year later Trump made Bannon his campaign CEO and then brought him into the White House as his Chief Strategist. Despite his ties to the white nationalist ideology calling itself the alt- right, Bannon once even bragged that his media outlet was, "the platform for the alt-right." But Bannon is far from the only member of the Trump administration with ties to anti-immigrant, anti-multicultural, anti- Muslim, and pro white nationalist ideology. There are in fact a disturbing number of top Trump advisers who somehow just happen to keep mimicking the talking points of the racist fringe.

For example, after the atrocity in Charlottesville, Vanity Fair`s Gabe Sherman reported that "When I asked a senior official why Trump didn`t condemn C-ville Nazis, he said, "What about the leftist mob? Just as violent if not more so." And Gabe Sherman joins me now along with Asawin Suebsaeng Politics Reporter for the Daily Beast who also spoke to White House officials one of them telling him today when asked if the President would visit Charlottesville, "Why the hell would we do that?" Well, all righty then, let`s start - let`s start with you on this, Gabe. There does seem to be beyond just Donald Trump a reluctance among Trump White House - amongst White House aides to really understand the gravity of the alt-right white nationalist sort of affinity for the President.

GABE SHERMAN, VANITY FAIR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I think without questions, you know, the last few days we`ve seen actions speak louder than any of these quotes can. Donald Trump was slow to acknowledge the atrocity that took place in Charlottesville. And I think this gets at the core of really what Donald Trump`s governing philosophy is. This is his base. He speaks the language of sales. He is a salesman first and he knows that these are his most loyal customers. So why would Donald Trump including his advisers come out and alienate the people that are going to be buying his product, a.k.a. the voting booth.

REID: And Asawin are you able to - do you know who - can you give us your reporting on who wrote these two different speeches? Well, not really speeches, the remarks that Donald Trump has given on Charlottesville.

ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, THE DAILY BEAST POLITICS REPORTER: I haven`t been able to 100 percent confirm that yet. Having said that, from my reporting over the weekend, I can confirm that in crafting the first speech that the President gave on Saturday, addressing the attack in Charlottesville, the President when he was talking to aides before the speech was written and of course before he gave it, he specifically stated that he wanted to emphasize a restoration of law and order and the rule of law, which is something he repeated in his speech today and something he repeated on Twitter after his initial speech. That`s where his head is at. The initial version of the speech was never going to be a specific denunciation of white nationalism or neo-Nazis, it was going to emphasize what candidate Trump and now President Trump had been known to emphasize, even though Nazis are bad is literally the easiest gimme in the history of American politics.

REID: It`s a layup. Yes. I mean, anything on many sides, there had been - there had been speculation whether it was ad-libbed or written. Do you know?

SHERMAN: I don`t know it specifically. I do know in private that this is what Donald Trump you know, has talked about with aides. And I think what the issue is -I think fundamentally this White House doesn`t see the White Nationalist Movement as a problem. They see it as a legitimate expression of a constituent group. The same way Black Lives Matters is an activist group. They don`t see them, I don`t think, from my reporting, as, you know, a fundamentally bad actor. So in this calculus, the Trump White House says well, if White Nationalists want to turn out in Charlottesville and march, they should have the right and that the counter protesters were as much to blame and obviously we know that`s not the case.

REID: Right. And what`s interesting about that is that if you actually read what alt-right says about themselves, as when Milo Yiannopoulos co- wrote this guy to the alt-right that`s on, it`s still there. And one of the things it said is certainly the rise of Donald Trump perhaps the first truly cultural candidate for President since Buchanan. So this grassroots appetite for more robust protection of the Western European American way of life, that`s one of the milder things that say on there. They also talked about the fact that in group identity, racial identity is a legitimate thing that white Americans should pursue and it essentially tells you, you know, yes, we want to pursue white national identity and identitarianism and separation. So, how - you know, it is incredibly offensive to equate that with black people saying please don`t shoot us.

SUEBSAENG: Right. There`s a weird equivalence that happens among not just people who read and write at Breitbart on the right, what they like to equate Black Lives Matters and fringe groups like neo-Nazis or alt-righters whatever you want to call them. And there is quite frankly that`s one of the most dishonest and disgusting arguments going on right now in conservative circles I can think of. And that is a refrain that you will hear fairly frequently including from some conservatives who don`t consider themselves pro-Trump.

REID: Yes, and you`ve never heard, Gabe, you know, anybody that`s in Black Lives Matter or any you know, religious - any religious leaders were there marching against these protests. You never heard people in these counter- protest groups saying things like Michael Anton, who works in the White House, used to be a right-wing blogger, who when he was blogging as Publius, this pseudonym he used, wrote, "The ceaseless importation of third world foreigners with no tradition of, taste for or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican - big R, less republican - small R, and less traditionally American with every cycle." I don`t - I only see the alt-right talking about the ceaseless importation of third world foreigners.

SHERMAN: Many people on the right -

REID: Will he put (INAUDIBLE)

SUEBSAENG: Many people on the right would reference pigs in a blanket when they talk about -

REID: Those people weren`t Black Lives Matter. Go on.

SHERMAN: Well, I think, yes. I think this is a false - in other case of false equivalence. And I think as much as anything, this is a test for Donald Trump`s new Chief of Staff, John Kelly because you know, this is a crisis where we could have seen leadership, where we could have seen a new leadership in this White House. And Donald Trump, true to form I think as you pointed out in the last block, he has not changed. He has reverted to the same style of politics that he ran in this campaign. I think it`s beyond the point of us expecting to see a new kind of leadership from this White House.

REID: Bannon likely to stay?

SHERMAN: I think, you know, the more he is attacked, I think Donald Trump you know, digs in and says that this is the far left pushing his guys out.

REID: Gorka likely to stay even with that medal from -

SHERMAN: I think Bannon clearly has probably more of a chance of staying than Gorka because he is you know, closer to Trump than Gorka.

REID: Yes, all right, not much is going to change, Gabe Sherman, Asawin Suebsaeng, thank you guys very much for being here. I appreciate it. And coming up, the Robert Mueller investigation showing no signs of slowing down. New reports say the Special Council is looking to interview current members of the Trump administration. What they`re reportedly looking for next.


REID: Just hours ago yet another story dropped on the investigation into ties between Trump`s campaign and Russia. The Washington Post reporting that three days after Donald Trump named his campaign foreign policy team in March of 2016, the youngest of the new advisers sent an e-mail to seven campaign officials with the subject line "Meeting with Russian Leadership Including Putin." The adviser, George Papadopoulos offered to set up a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russian ties under President Trump telling them that his Russian contacts welcomed the opportunity according to internal campaign e-mails read to the Washington Post.

The suggestion reportedly set off concern inside the campaign including from then Campaign Chair Paul Manafort. In a statement to NBC, a spokesman said, "Mr. Manafort`s swift action reflects the attitude of the campaign. Any invitation by Russia directly or indirectly would be rejected outright." Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, is now in talks with the White House to interview current and former officials. The reporter who broke that story joins me next.


REID: The Russia investigation is now reaching into the White House. According to the New York Times, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is in talks with the west wing about interviewing current and former senior administration officials, including the recently ousted White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus according to three people briefed on the discussion. One of the things Mueller might want to talk to Priebus about, the president`s decision to fire James Comey from his job as FBI director. Comey testified to Congress that he had a number of interactions with the president, including a February 14 meeting in the oval office in which he said the president, after shooing everyone else out of the room, asked him to back off the investigation of Michael Flynn. According to Comey, Reince Priebus was one of the people asked to leave the room.

One of the reporters who broke that piece, Matt Apuzzo, Pulitzer prize- winning and investigative reporter for The New York Times, joins me now. Along with Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who has litigated multiple cases of public corruption. Thanks for being here.

Matt, I`ll start with you. So there aren`t any interviews scheduled yet, my understanding is, but what is that process and how far up the food chain in the White House are we talking about in terms of these interview requests?

MATT APUZZO, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It doesn`t get too much higher up than the now former chief of staff to the president. This is kind of a back and forth process right now. We`re not talking about subpoenas. No interviews are scheduled.

But certainly if you`re the White House, what you`re seeing here is a fall season that is going to be pretty busy. And if you`re hoping to push your tax cut agenda, if you`re hoping to put your domestic policy agenda, you`re going to have to deal with Robert Mueller kind of looming over all of these things.

And for all of President Trump`s kind of allusions to maybe I`m going to fire Mueller, to that`s not decided or stay tuned, the White House is really taking a posture of we are in full cooperation mode, we want to move past this, we want we want to get this done as fast as possible.

I think they know that going to war with the special counsel right now is probably not in their interests.

REID: And Renato, I asked that question about the food chain because when I think back to the Comey memos we saw released one of the things he said is that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, was shooed out of the room. So would it be logical for the prosecutors to want to talk to Jeff Sessions because Comey said he then had subsequent conversations saying keep this guy away from me.

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yeah, there`s no question that Sessions was a witness to that interaction, that dismissal from the room, which would be important if Mr. Mueller is going to try to prove that the president had a corrupt intent when he fired James Comey, which would be required to prove obstruction of justice.

So I would expect Sessions to be a witness in that investigation.

REID: And Matt, do we know specifically if the Comey firing is all that the Mueller team is interested in, or is there more that is related to sort of directly to the Russia investigation?

APUZZO: Oh, no, it`s very broad. We obviously know that Robert Mueller is looking at Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, and his business dealing. They`re looking at Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, not just for Russia stuff but for general banking and financial issues.

So there are a lot of irons in the fire for the special counsel and a lot of pressure points. If I`m the White House, I see a lot of pressure points that Bob Mueller has to put -- you know, to put pressure on my administration.

REID: And Renato, I`m wondering, a, if the fact that we`re hearing about the Comey piece of this signals that obstruction of justice might be the thing the White House is in jeopardy of here.

And b, is there any chance at all that these interviews would not be under oath?

MARIOTTI: So first of all, it certainly suggests to me that Robert Mueller has already looked at the documents related to the Comey obstruction piece of the investigation and is ready to move forward on that basis.

A prosecutor like Mueller would not interview people until he had already reviewed everything else. So it certainly appears to be a focus.

Regarding whether or not the interviews are under oath, it won`t be that important for Mueller to have the interviews under oath because an FBI agent will be present for all those interviews and lying to an FBI agent is a crime.

So typically, what happens in these investigations is you permit an off- the-cuff interview -- or not off the cuff but a more informal interview so that the person`s more comfortable and can have their attorney present, but it`s still a crime to lie.

REID: Matt, I`m wondering just about the breadth of sort of the lawyering up that`s taking place inside the White House. We`ve heard names pop up like the president`s long- time secretary, works out of Trump Tower but who people still go through to get meetings. Obviously Reince Priebus, people who worked inside of the West Wing.

Are people lawyering up and is there some sort of legal defense fund that Donald Trump is helping them to pay these bills?

APUZZO: Well, so far I`m not aware of any legal defense fund, but obviously everybody is seeking counsel and that isn`t necessarily a bad thing. Frankly, that`s a really smart thing in any sort of situation like this.

And you know, to echo the remarks that were just made, clearly we know Bob Mueller has got the -- has got access to the Comey memos. We know that that is one thing that`s being looked at. The question of obstruction.

And the White House, frankly, the conservative lawyers really believe that the president cannot be prosecuted for obstruction under this sort of unified executive theory of government, that the FBI director really only gets his power to investigate from the president and since the president has the power to pardon can he really be indicted for obstruction?

There`s going to be a legal back and forth. A little legal dancing that occurs if Mueller wants to go down that road.

REID: You`re the former prosecutor here, Renato, do they have a leg to stand on saying the president can`t be prosecuted for obstruction?

MARIOTTI: I`ve got to say, there certainly have to be cases where a president, if he fired an FBI director or tried to end an investigation for an improper purpose that that would be obstruction of justice. You can imagine a president who received a bribe, for example, and ended an investigation on that basis. Is it really -- under their theory that president would not be obstructing justice, and that just can`t be right.

I don`t think a court is going to go that way.

REID: We shall see. Matt Apuzzo and Renato Mariotti, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

We have breaking news tonight. A second CEO has now quit the president`s American manufacturing council following Donald Trump`s response to the atrocity in Charlottesville.

Kevin Plank, the founder and CEO of Under Armour, tweeting out "I love our country and company. I am stepping down from the council to focus on inspiring and uniting through the power of sport." Plank`s resignation follows Merck CEO Kevin Frazier`s resignation earlier today, and he also cited the president`s response to Charlottesville.

Donald Trump has attacked Frazier twice on Twitter since he quit the council. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: Thing 1 tonight. The escalating feud between White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. Following a weeks-long war on McMaster from alt-right publications including Breitbart, several prominent Republicans are coming to McMaster`s aide. Senator John McCain writing tonight, "The recent attacks upon him from the so-called alt-right are disgraceful. Such smear tactics should not be tolerated."

And one of the GOP`s biggest donors, Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson declaring his support for McMaster.

Yesterday McMaster repeatedly dodged questions from my colleague Chuck Todd about his relationship with Bannon.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC: Can you and Steve Bannon still work together in this White House or not?

H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I get to work together with a broad range of talented people, and it is a privilege every day to enable the national security team.

TODD: You didn`t answer. Can you and Steve Bannon work in that same White House?

MCMASTER: I am ready to work with anybody who will help advance the president`s agenda and advance the security, prosperity of the American people.

TODD: Do you believe Steve Bannon does that?

MCMASTER: I believe that everyone who works in the White House, who has the privilege, the great privilege every day, of serving their nation, should be motivated by that goal.


REID: Wow. Following those notable non-answers, tonight there`s new reporting on Bannon`s future at the White House, and a trump allies` foreshadowing of a shake-up. And that is Thing 2 in 60 seconds. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: The New York Times reports late tonight that Steve Bannon is in limbo as Trump faces growing calls for his ouster. Rupert Murdoch has repeatedly urged President Donald Trump to fire him, and reportedly at a recent White House dinner "Mr. Trump vented his frustrations about Mr. Bannon." That comes as Anthony Scaramucci in his first interview since being fired as communications director offered this veiled prediction of Bannon`s future.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve been tough on Steve Bannon does he have to go?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think the president knows what he`s going to do with Steve Bannon.


SCARAMUCCI: Well, let`s leave it up to the president. It`s his decision. But I mean, at the end of the day I think the president has a very good idea of who the leakers are inside the White House. The president has a very good idea of the people that are undermining his agenda that are serving their own interests.

UNIDENDTIFIED MALE: They include Steve Bannon?

SCARAMUCCI: Yeah. Look, I mean, we`re not on a phone call and a taped phone call, and so we`re on live television, and so I would prefer to let the president make the decisions the president needs to make. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


TODD: Was that domestic terrorism yesterday?

MCMASTER: I think what terrorism is is the use of violence to incite terror and fear, and of course it was terrorism.

TODD: So you do classify that as terrorism.

MCMASTER: Well, and from a legal sense there will be a full investigation as you know, but certainly I think we can confidently call it a form of terrorism.


REID: National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster certainly had no trouble calling Saturday`s deadly racist vehicle attack in Charlottesville an act of terrorism. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the attack "does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute."

These statements by members of the Trump administration are not insignificant. Especially considering his administration`s policies toward hate crimes and domestic terrorism. The president`s 2018 budget proposal would cut more than $600 million from grant programs to state and local agencies, including pre-disaster mitigation grants and counterterrorism funding.

And in June the administration did away with a $400,000 grant for a group called Life After Hate, which is dedicated to de-radicalizing neo-Nazis and stopping white extremism.

The trump administration`s mixed message on what exactly constitutes terrorism, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Authorities say 23-year-old Jerry Drake Varnell has been arrested. This was after 1:00 a.m. on Saturday. Authorities say he allegedly attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosive laden van that he had parked in an alley near Bank First.

According to the FBI, Varnell had a quote, "anti-government" sort of ideology. He allegedly intended to targeting the federal reserve building in D.C. at first but, according to an affidavit obtained by News Channel 4, then switched to the Bank First building because quote, "I didn`t want to kill a bunch of people."


REID: Wow, on the same day as the attack in Charlottesville, a 23-year-old man in Oklahoma City acting on what the FBI says was a hatred of the U.S. government tried to detonate what he thought was a 1,000 pound bomb.

Joining me now is Vanita Gupta, who headed the Justice Department Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama, Malcolm Nance, MSNBC terrorism analyst, and Ben Howe, senior contributing editor at RedState.

Malcolm, I`ll start with you here at the table. We know that the Department of Homeland Security did a joint report, they do these every couple of years, on domestic extremist groups and found that white supremacists were responsible for 49 homicides, 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016 and that is more than any other domestic extremist group including Islamic related groups.

Why do we put so much emphasis on Islamic related terrorism, people who claim to be Islamic and not on white nationalists.

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC: Law enforcement in the United States has their head in the sand.

I train hundreds of homeland security officers every year. This state, every squad officer in this state, their intelligence staff, and I tell them every time, anyone that you`re going to go to guns with is not going to be a member of ISIS or Al Qaeda. Those will be extremely limited incidents.

If you`re going to have a shootout on the streets, it`s going to be a member of the Sovereign Citizens Movement or someone in the neo-Nazi movement. They have guns and an ideology and they want to use them.

So long as we think that only terrorism that comes around in this world comes from the Muslim world, you`re going to get bit and we`re finding that out from the individual that the FBI arrested. He had an inert, but an improvised explosive device of a car bomb, ISIS style, thousand pounds of inert explosives, but he thought it was real when he pressed the little detonator and the FBI arrested him.

So long as we hide away, we`re going to have incidents that surprise us in the future.

REID: And you know, Ben Howe, going back to Oklahoma City, you`ve had manifestations of this anti-government extremism. In 2012 a gentleman from DHS tried to raise that issue, he was shouted down, they withdrew the report. There`s a bit of reluctance on the right to deal with it.

Now that we know that Richard Spencer, the avowed white nationalist is going from campus to campus, he`s got more of these rallies planned, Texas A&M on September 11th, he`s going back to Virginia, he`s back to Florida, is there less reluctance after Charlottesville among conservative to deal with this? They`re targeting young conservatives, including on college campuses.

BEN HOWE, REDSTATE: I wouldn`t say there`s more reluctance. I see a lot of pundits and writers that are definitely speaking up saying what they think about all of the hate that`s been coming out of Charlottesville, but I think that it has to come from the top.

And the alt-right which encompasses a lot of the white nationalist movement on the right, and I`ve been saying that since they made their appearance a few years ago, they`re in the White House. I mean Steve Bannon is basically the leader of that movement and he`s called himself that. He said Breitbart News is the platform for it.

And when all of these various groups were called out by Trump and everybody applauded, he called out the KKK and the white nationalists movement, he still left out the alt-right and there`s no excuse for that. He`s only doing that because he know it`s part of his base, and until he gives lip service to the idea they need to be condemned, then it`s going to be a problem.

REID: Yeah. I`ll just note, for the Texas A&M rally scheduled for September 11th has been canceled. That one has been canceled. We still await word on the Virginia and Florida events.

Vanita, you know, one of the issues that we did see in Virginia, according to Governor of Virginia, these people are not only young, angry and a lot of them are armed.

Terry McAuliffe claimed that up to 80% of the people on the streets of Charlottesville protesting the removal of that statue were armed. Reason Magazine did came out and refute that saying wait a minute, they have the same tanks and body armor that every other city has gotten from the Department of Justice. Why do you supposed that kind of fire power wasn`t deployed.


REID: From the police.

GUPTA: By the police. Well, look, I think that people have -- the law enforcement has learned from the lessons of Ferguson. There`s been a lot of training around deescalation and the like.

Right now there are questions about the policing tactics that are with engaged that day. But I do have to wonder whether the Charlottesville police actually had the kind of training post-Ferguson to know that going into the streets with tanks and armor may not be the way to go because it can sometimes escalate it.

People are asking questions is this because folks of a different race that were out on the streets and yet the harm that was caused was so incredibly severe that I`m hoping that right now Charlottesville is debriefing on what lessons they`ve learned from managing what happened on Friday night and Saturday.

REID: Malcolm doesn`t law enforcement have to begin to see just because they`re young white men in polos, you still need to treat them as radicalized people, right, if you`re going to deal with them the way that they even dealt with peaceful marchers in Ferguson.

NANCE: Well I understand that they had 1,000 law enforcement officers and national guardsmen there on the site. But where I can tell you right now, there was a failure of intelligence, a failure in their operational tactics on the streets to get the proper heavy forces between the two sides.

I mean if they need some help, they need to go to Germany and watch how the German police handle it. Their job is to come, segregate, keep the forces aside and dissipate.

And I think for the most part they`re going to have to understand that these rallies are going to get bigger. The neo-Nazis are now viewing themselves now as a growing movement where they own the White House. And they say that. I read their websites. We gather intelligence on these guys.

So long as they do that, they`re going to look for confrontation, but the next time it may be an armed weapons confrontation. There were guys out there -- the governor said they had guns better than the state police. You need to put down a heavy force presence that shows that you can`t be overwhelmingly taken. I don`t think they did it this time.

REID: I think it does have to come from the top. You have people who are armed who are getting messages that they own the White House. What can be done and are conservatives powerless to stop this?

HOWE: I wouldn`t say conservatives are powerless to stop this but I think the Republican party has certainly made clear that they`re not going to do anything to disrupt what they consider their base in a lot of ways.

The alt-right whether or not it`s a fringe -- which I do believe overall it`s a fringe but they exalt a lot of power. At this point it would be ridiculous to claim they don`t. They`ve got their guy in the White House. They believe he is going to fulfill there dreams.

I think definitely people are going to find that the alt-right is going to continue to do this and continue to feel emboldened as long as the Republican party doesn`t really step down and say we don`t approve of any of this and unless Breitbart News doesn`t change the way they talk about it, we`re not going to give them exclusive interviews, we`re not going to be going on their radio shows, we`re not going to do it any more.

So far they`re not doing that.

REID: Vanita, meanwhile on the other side in Durham you had people pull down a statue, one of the confederate generals, you can see they pulled it down Saddam Hussein style. So you have people on the other side not willing to put up with being brutalized by these white nationalists groups.

You know, what do you anticipate the justice department response to all of this is going to be?

GUPTA: Look, I think that the fiver in America right now to fight back against white supremacy is as strong as ever. The justice department has opened the investigation. That`s good. But we`ve got to understand, as people have said before, there are folks steps away from the oval office that are promoting an agenda that is an alt-right agenda, that have the ear of the president.

You have a justice department that on a whole host of civil rights issues have had a decidedly anti civil rights agenda. I am heartened that the attorney general opened the investigation, that he is labeling it an act of domestic terrorism.

But I meanwhile, along with all of the other civil rights groups that are doing this work, am very concerned about the attorney general`s agenda on voting rights, on LGBT rights on a whole slew of civil rights issues trying to lock out key segment of the American population that also reflect an agenda that is brutalizing as well.

REID: The cycle continues. We don`t have many answers but we really appreciate you guys for sharing your views.

And that is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow show starts now. Here she is. Good evening.


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