All in with Chris Hayes, Transcript 8/15/17 Trump Tower Debacle

Guests: Michael Eric Dyson, William Kristol, Traci Blackmon, Leon Wolf

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: August 15, 2017 Guest: Michael Eric Dyson, William Kristol, Traci Blackmon, Leon Wolf

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

TRUMP: I think there`s blame on both sides. You look at -- you look at both sides, I think there`s blame on both sides.

REID: The President off-script and off the rails.

TRUMP: What about the alt-left that came charging at the -- as you say at the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

REID: Defending the rally in Charlottesville.

TRUMP: You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK?

REID: Standing up for the rally goers.

TRUMP: You had some very bad people in that group but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

REID: Blaming protestors.

TRUMP: You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.

REID: Supporting confederate monuments.

TRUMP: This week it`s Robert E. Lee. I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it, Thomas Jefferson, the week after?

REID: Using white nationalist talking points --

TRUMP: You`re changing history, you`re changing culture.

REID: And defending the alt --

TRUMP: When you say the alt-right, define alt-right to me. You define it, go ahead.

REID: All in starts right now.

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REID: Good evening from New York, I`m Joy Reid in for Chris Hayes. Well, today President of the United States reminded us who he is. Despite all the handlers and the personnel changes and after a delayed attempt at damage control yesterday with a scripted statement condemning the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on Saturday, today according to a senior White House official, Donald Trump went rogue stunning his advisers. He dropped the pretenses and when what started off as a press event about infrastructure quickly devolved into something else entirely as Trump veered way off his talking points and engaged in a rant like nothing we`ve ever seen from a President defending white nationalists and claiming that the protesters who came out to oppose them this past weekend were equally to blame for the violence. Violence that left one person dead at the hands of an apparent neo-Nazi supporter who`s been charged with ramming his car into a crowd.

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TRUMP: I think there`s blame on both sides. You look at -- you look at both sides. I think there`s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it. And you don`t have any doubt about it either. And if you reported it accurately, you would say.

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REID: In his extraordinary defense of people who have been universally condemned for the violence in Charlottesville, Trump trotted out the old, there`s blame to go around on both sides name.

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TRUMP: what about the alt-left that came charging at them, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Let me ask you this. What about the fact that they came charging, that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.

You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that. But I`ll say it right now. You had a group -- you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.

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REID: And while Trump did denounce the driver of the car that killed 32- year-old Heather Heyer, calling him a disgrace to the country and his family, he defended many of the other groups who marched on Charlottesville, even seeming to identify what their cause.

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TRUMP: I`ve condemned neo-Nazis. I`ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee.

So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?

You`re changing history, you`re changing culture. And you had people, and I`m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK?

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REID: And wait, there`s more. This is how the President of the United States described the events of Friday night when white nationalists holding Tiki torches marched on the University of Virginia Campus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There were people in that rally. And I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee

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REID: Now, Trump may have seen a group of people protesting quietly but this is what is the rest of us saw.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD (Chanting): Blood and soil! Blood and soil.

CROWD (Chanting): You will not replace us. You will not replace us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: The President`s performance today left the political world in utter shock and apparently his aides as well. Lawmakers in both parties were rushing to distance themselves but former KKK grand wizard David Duke, well, he was delighted, tweeting, "thank you, President Trump, for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville and condemn leftist terrorists." Joining me now, Michael Eric Dyson, Professor at Georgetown University and Author of Tears We Cannot Stop, a Sermon to White America and William Kristol, Founder, and Editor of the Weekly Standard. Thank you, both for being here. I`ll start with you, Dr. Dyson. Your response to this press conference today?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: Well, it`s one of the most reprehensible performances of any President in not only modern and recent history but in the history of this nation. Look, there have been begets in the White House before, there have been racists in the White House before. The Andrew Jackson that the President admires, or Woodrow Wilson for that matter, with the sheen of Patina and a pedigree of Ivy League notwithstanding. But the reality is this was a depth that we have not plumed because you had the fusion of remarkable and remorseless ignorant on the one hand and a relentless assault upon truth on the other.

And the refusal to acknowledge that what we saw there in its anti-Semitic, anti-Black, anti-America moment was the most reprehensible display that a President could easily disavow, could say, this is not who we are. This is not what represents us best. Not only did he double down on his refusal to come hard at them, he gave them red meat so to speak. David Duke is absolutely right. He was right to thank this President. This President went out of his way to embrace not only the alt right but the white supremacist, white nationalist ideology that has fueled and funneled so many people in the Trump administration in terms of their voting for him and in terms -- literally the administration in terms of Mr. Bannon, Mr. Miller, and others.

So I think what we saw here was unfortunately, and tragically, the reflection of a man who has long since lost his moral compass is incapable of leading us politically, and has been to the shame and derision and should round up even outstanding conservatives like Kristol or other Republicans who deemed themselves worthy of carrying that name forward. Mr. Trump today did grant disservice not only to the party that he ostensively but t the very nation that he is the President of. This is a low moment in the history of the American Presidency.

REID: And Bill Kristol, there were a lot of people who have laid the blame of Steve Bannon and the Bannonized within the administration for the sort of alt-right tinge in the White House. Did Donald Trump kind of make him a relevant today? I mean he voiced this stuff on his own.

WILLIAM KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. Trump has always been the issue, the problem. He`s the President. He`s got the kind of administration he wants. Look, I think it`s important he is the President and it would be better for the country if there were more responsible people hemming him in, containing him in the White House, preventing him from doing more damage than he will otherwise do. But he has done damage with the last three or four or days. Unfortunately, he`s not the dictator, there are many other officials in the United States, both in the federal level and at the state level who can speak -- who can speak with moral authority.

There are obviously huge numbers of people in the private sector and civil society who can and must speak up. I think we just have to say from now on in this administration, maybe from the beginning but certainly, from now on, the President is not going to exercise moral leadership, unfortunately. He`s not going to bring us together, it looks like, unfortunately. It doesn`t mean that others can`t do it and others have to do it more so. Because really, he`s going to be President for some period of time from now on and we have to deal with this. But I am depressed and very alarmed by it. And I think for Republicans, to get into that point though, actually, my wife Susan Kristol had an excellent tweet about this which I will read if it`s OK with you.

REID: Sure.

KRISTOL: She`s not a big tweeter but this was a very, very good point she made late this afternoon. It`s now time for every GOP officer there to come out forcefully against Donald Trump. It`s not enough just to decry the KKK and Nazis. And I really do believe that having watched it today. I mean, it`s one -- it would have been two or three years ago, fine. (INAUDIBLE) if you`re a Senator or a Governor, that you have nothing to do with this white supremacist. You denounce them, you don`t want their support, that`s fine, that`s adequate, that`s appropriate.

Now, with the President having said what he said today, I think it`s really important for people who are in his party, the huge majority supported him in the election have met with him and been seen with him in rally, public events and so forth. It`s really important for them to say, not just, I don`t approve of the KKK and white supremacist obviously, they need to say that, but to say, I disavow what President Trump said today and I have no problems with his leadership doesn`t mean they have leave with Republican Party or something like that but they need to be explicit about their disavowal of Donald Trump.

REID: And you know, you just to stay with you for just a second Bill, you know, you saw General Kelly`s understanding looking down at the floor during this event. There have been a few people who have tweeted that people of conscience that are in this administration should resign. Are you among those who believe that people like General Kelly should leave the administration?

KRISTOL: Not necessarily because I think that people, especially, he`s a unique White House Chief of Staff. People of the national security area like H.R. McMaster, but General Kelly as well, Jim Mattis, at the Defense Department, I mean, is somewhat has to stay there and prevent the President from doing more severe damage to this country than he`s otherwise will do. It`s one thing for them to do -- I don`t mean to minimize at all what`s happened in the last three or four days, but you know, we will overcome that. We are pretty great country. We have a lot of other people who can provide leadership with moral clarity. He is the President though and so, in terms of actually conducting policy especially foreign policy, I would feel a lot better with John Kelly, H.R. McMaster and James Mattis there.

That`s not say that they can`t -- might not come a moment with someone like John Kelly whom I know some have very high regard for might feel as a matter of conscience that he has to quit. I think that`s a decision he`ll have to make knowing sort of the -- you know, what he`s been able to do, what he`s been able to prevent, whether he can still you know, do that job conscientiously. So they all have to make that decision. But I`m not willing to say as a blanket matter that no decent person could serve in the Trump administration. I am willing to say that no decent person to defend what the President had said today.

REID: And Michael Eric Dyson, you know, the response of Democrats, I mean, obviously they`ve been a lot of condemnations but at this point, Democrats can do nothing to stop this President or contain him. So what should they do?

DYSON: Well, they have to do as Mr. Kristol has suggested. They got to raise their voices (INAUDIBLE). They can`t be feckless or spineless, they have to be articulate. They have to not only express outrage and put forth public policy alternatives to what this President has done. But they got to keep up the pressure to make certain that they don`t go, oh, my God, wring their hands, there`s nothing we can do, therefore let the statuesque exist. They have got to raise with serious issue, with serious candor the issues not only of how we can resist this President but to encourage their people across the aisle.

They have Republican if you will colleagues to stand up and speak out against this. This is un-American. This is not about party. This is not about left or right. This is not about the alt-right or the alt-left. This is what they ought to do. And what they ought to do, that moral imperative from the (INAUDIBLE) down to now. what they must do is raise their voices in serious opposition to this President and make sure they go back to their home states and their cities into like and then organize the resistance of their constituents as well.

REID: Michael Eric Dyson and William Kristol, thank you both. I appreciate it. And joining me now -- thank you -- and joining me now is reverend Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister on Justice and Witness -- Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ. And she was one of the counter-protesters in Charlottesville. And thank you so much for joining me, Reverend Blackman. We spoke over the weekend first on Friday night when you were inside of a church on the grounds in the University of Virginia. Donald Trump said that the night before the Saturday melee, there were good people who were quietly marching in Charlottesville. And he was talking about the white nationalist protesters. You were inside that church. Did you hear people quietly marching?

TRACI BLACKMON, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST EXECUTIVE MINISTER: Thank you for having me on, Joy. And no, and I say these words with the utmost seriousness. I rarely use these words but they apply here. Donald Trump is lying and here`s the deal. He spends more time on Twitter than he spends anywhere else. And what was happening Friday night was being live streamed. I am telling you that we were in a church having a worship service.

At no point in that service was there even a protest. It was a multi-faith worship service in a standing room only capacity filled church with children, with mothers, with elderly, with people my age, in the middle and with young people. We were worshipping. And close to the close to end of our worship service, we received the message that we cannot leave the church because a mob was approaching the church with torches. They were chanting blood and soil. They were chanting, you will not replace us. They were chanting, Jews will not replace us. They were chanting white lives matter.

And for over 30 minutes, we were not allowed to leave the church. When we were finally allowed to leave, we could not go out the front door for fear that we would be assaulted. We were ushered out the side door, and the back, into alleys. This is America in 2017 and I would not have believed it, Joy, I was going to tell you before when we were trying to do an interview. I`m from Birmingham, Alabama. This is not the first time I`ve seen Klan rallies. It`s not the first time I`ve seen Klan parades. But when I tell you that we got in a car to leave and had to drive through this mob which was then on the sidewalks, and not in the street, when I tell that you that I wept as I saw people who had exchanged sheets for polos and oxfords, many of them were wearing the make America great again baseball cap, holding baseball bats in one arm and torches in the other. It is unconscionable that this President would suggest that that was a deserved thing that happened this weekend.

REID: And I mean, as chilling as that is, the next day then was pretty violent. And this was the time that I was attempting to talk to you during the weekend show. I want to play you what Donald Trump had to say about the people who were there protesting the removal of the statue on Saturday. Take a listen.

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TRUMP: But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protests. Because, you know, I don`t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn`t have a permit.

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REID: And of course his event today was about reducing the permitting and red tape for infrastructure, so that`s ironic. He also said that the people who were in your group and the counter-protesting group were violent toward alt-right -- so called alt-right protesters and set upon them with clubs and other implements. Is that accurate?

BLACKMON: Again, Donald Trump is lying. What I am telling that you is yes, they had a permit for the park. They did not have a permit to harm people. They did not have a permit to throw full bottles of water and full cans of soda and splatter urine on people who did not agree with them. Their permit did not cover that, Joy. And I`d like to ask Mr. Trump, he`s had time now to make three different responses to this incident. Has he even taken a moment to call the family of Heather and offer condolences on behalf of this nation? Has he taken a moment to consider the 20 people who were hurt and offer the sympathy of this nation? This is not a leader. This is not a leader. And I am ashamed of what is happening in the highest office.

REID: And lastly, Reverend Blackmon, who was in -- describe to us who were in your group. Because Donald Trump has essentially described your group and the protesters, the counter-protesters as equivalent to the neo-Nazis and white nationalists, who was there?

BLACKMON: That`s very interesting because this was a faith-based led group, largely clergy, all people of faith, different faiths. There were Jews, there were Muslims, there were Christians. There indeed were some people who didn`t profess any faith in that way but just had a moral consciousness that said to them, it is not OK for people to descend upon a city, a city by the way where the majority of residents are the descendants of the enslaved. It is not OK for them to descend upon the city and to wreak terror. We knew that this was going to be violent because we had the flyers, the promotional flyers that these groups had already sent out. There were flyers calling for a race war. Flyers calling to say we`re coming to take our country back. Are you kidding me? And this President wants to talk about revising history? Read some history. Black people built this country.

REID: And we know there were Black Lives Matter, we know there were some anti-fascist group just lastly in our last few seconds, in your view as a witness to these events, were the anti-fascist groups perpetrating the violence or were they the victims of the violence?

BLACKMON: No, they were not. As a matter of fact, there were some clergy standing on the steps to the entrance of the park. They were not in the park. They were standing on the steps to the entrance of the park singing this little light of mine. The neo-Nazis group came burst through them with shields, began to beat them and trample on them. And the groups that Donald Trump are calling terrorists are the ones who save their lives because the police were standing down. They saved their lives.

REID: Wow, thank you, Reverend Traci Blackmon. I really appreciate you. You`re a witness to both the Friday night and the Saturday events in Charlottesville. Thank you so much for your time tonight.

BLACKMON: Thank you.

REID: Thank you. Wow, well, the President`s stunning defense of the alt- right after this two-minute break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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TRUMP: I like Mr. Bannon. He is a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late. You know that

He is a good man. He is not a racist. I can tell you that.

But we`ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he`s a good person and I think the press treats him frankly very unfairly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Among the questions that Donald Trump fielded during this remarkable performance at Trump Tower today was about the fate of his Senior Adviser, Steve Bannon and the home for the alt-right that he fostered on breitbart.com.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks and he linked that same group to those that perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.

TRUMP: Well, I don`t know. I can`t tell you. I`m sure Senator McCain must know what he is talking about. But when you say the alt-right. Define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: What we do know after today`s bizarre press conference is that Donald Trump doesn`t really need Bannon or Brightbart or indeed anyone else in order to recite by heart the talking points of the alt-right including on monuments and culture.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do.

TRUMP: OK, good. Are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue? So you know what? It`s fine. You`re changing history, you`re changing culture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Joining me now is Leon Wolf, Managing Editor of The Blaze. Well, Leon, one of the more extraordinary moments in this press conference was when Donald Trump essentially equated George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Robert E. Lee and other civil war generals. I mean, that is something that I have actually heard and seen tweeted at me by people in the alt-right. Was he adopting an alt-right talking point or was that a broader conservative view?

LEON WOLF, THE BLAZE MANAGING EDITOR: Well, you know, I`ve heard a lot of people kind of say that. I`m always frustrated when people don`t view historical figures kind of within the historical context in which they occur. I mean, if you go back five, six hundred years, you`ll not find anybody who had attitudes about race, no matter how good of a person that they might have been otherwise that would be acceptable in today`s --

REID: Including Lincoln.

WOLF: Yes, Abraham Lincoln. You`re right. You know, he said some things about black people that would have made him totally unelectable anywhere in America today. You know you have to judge people I think by their historical context. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are simply different people. Now, look, I don`t mean to excuse George Washington you know, for having slaves or for the fact that after the revolutionary war, one of his primary aims was rounding up his slaves that the British have helped escaped and sending them back to his plantation.

I don`t like that about George Washington but it`s different I think for George Washington and the importance of his historical figure as opposed to people like Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest who were generals in a war that they`ve lost. It`s not generally common to venerate the military leaders of failed rebellions unless you know you have like some kind of ideological things that says of basically what they`re fighting for is right. So, I`ve always -- you know, look, I lived in the south -- I lived in the south for 26 years. I`ll never get over the confederate statues and I don`t understand why they`re in the public square. I mean, if we want to move them to some place that recognizes you know, the history of this, to graveyards or whatever, that`s fine. I don`t like to see them in the public square.

REID: And do people -- you know, that you talk to sort of in the conservative world, do they get that the -- you know, that the origin of these statues really was in a pretty dark period in American history, the sort of Woodrow Wilson era, when lynching was bounding then they sort of backlash against reconstruction was reaching its apex. Do people know that?

WOLF: Yes, you know, that`s part of it. I mean, definitely, a lot of these statues were -- excuse me -- erected a long time after the civil war. That also kind of period happens, coincidentally happened 50 years after the civil war and there were kind of a lot 50-year, 100-year demonstrations of that but no. Look, I -- you know, would not like kindly upon the idea of erecting you know, a Nathan Bedford Forrest statue. You know, he`s one of the guys who was a co-founder of the KKK. And I don`t -- and look, I understand that he kind of later repudiated a lot of those views in his life and he was interesting guy and everything. But for me, as a person who lives in the south, and who`s proud of the south, there`s plenty of people who I would much rather see erected statues to who have done great things who are from the south. People like Faulkner, Martin Luther King. I mean, let`s have statues of those people instead of the people who led this war that we lost, you know. That`s kind of the idea I have.

REID: So, I want to play this really quickly, Steve Bannon at CPAC and after it a question on the other side. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S CHIEF STRATEGIST: I think the center core of what we believe, that we`re a nation with an economy, not an economy, just in some global marketplace with open borders but we`re a nation with a culture and a -- and a reason for being. And I think that`s what unites us and I think that`s what`s going to unite this movement going forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: After hearing Donald Trump today, would you say that he himself is a member of the alt-right or he trucks with alt-right ideology?

WOLF: You know, I don`t -- I don`t know that Donald Trump actually believes much of anything. I would say that mostly though, he understands that they`re people that he needs or wants to have on his side politically and he`s definitely willing you know, to dog whistle or whatever the term you want to call it is. Look, these people understand how they have to be dealt with in public. They understand the winks and the nods they have to get. They understand that people can`t openly come out and say, I think these people are great. But the -- but the things like the 48-hour delay, the things like the oh, well, it`s both sides. Those -- that`s exactly what they understand. They hear from that, here is someone who`s on my side.

REID: Yes. Leon Wolf, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

WOLF: Thank you.

REID: Thank you. And next, the Confederate statue that started it all and the President`s defense of it. Reverend William Barber and State Representative Stacey Abrams was calling for the removal of a Confederate statue in her own state join me just ahead.

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TRUMP: And many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So this week it`s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should the statues of Robert E. Lee stay up?

TRUMP: I would say that`s up to a local town, community, or the federal government, depending on where it is located.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Donald Trump is apparently unaware that the reason that a grab bag of white nationalists and neo-Nazis were in Charlottesville on Saturday was precisely because the local community decided to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee. Back in February the Charlottesville city council voted to move the statue. They want to sell it. But there`s a pending lawsuit challenging the right to do so.

Since this weekend`s violent protests, which left a 32-year-old woman dead, lawmakers in other states are ramping up efforts to get rid of Confederate monuments in their cities.

In Lexington Kentucky, Mayor Jim Grey said that he`s planning to remove a pair of Confederate statues, writing on Facebook on Saturday he said, "The tragic events in Charlottesville today accelerated the announcement I intended to make next week."

While Baltimore`s Mayor Catherine Pugh released a statement yesterday announcing her intention to move forward with the removal of Baltimore city`s Confederate statues.

It is easier said than done. Particularly when we have a president who suggestions the confederacy and all that it stood for, slavery, succession, and the subjugation and terrorizing of people solely based on the color of their skin, is nothing to be ashamed of.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of to them, a very, very important statue, and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down, excuse me, are we going to take down statues?

How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? Do you like him? Are we going to take down his statue? He was a major slave owner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Joining me now, the Reverend Doctor William Barber, member of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP, and by phone, Georgia state representative Stacey Abrams, Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia, who received a barrage of hate tweets after calling for the removal of Confederate monuments.

Thank you both for being here. Reverend Barber, I`m going to start with you. There are more than 700 -- 718 to be precise Confederate monuments and statues on public property throughout the country, there are ten American military bases named for Confederate military leaders, nine Confederate holidays that are observed in six Southern states. In your view, is that about heritage or something else?

REV. DR. WILLIAM BARBER, NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS, NAACP: Well first of all, some of this history, people are misappropriating to certainly Donald Trump, but he can`t challenge -- you know somebody said you can`t challenge what you are unless you really repent.

But let`s talk about the Charlottesville monument. 80% of these monuments were erected between 1898 and 1920. They were erected to celebrate the deconstruction of reconstruction. They were erected to celebrate the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, separate but equal.

In 1915, Woodrow Wilson kicked out civil rights leaders from his office. 1916, he played Birth of a Nation in the oval office, and that sent word to white supremacist that they had a friend in the oval office and that statue in Charlottesville was commissioned in the 1917.

It was commissioned to celebrate the deconstruction of reconstruction. The rolling back of the all of the rights. It was not about so much of the Civil War, but to celebrate, and Woodrow Wilson sent that signal from the White House, the statue was put up. During the period from 1915 to 1922, more African Americans were lynched and killed, and more riots than any time in this nation`s history.

So when white supremacists go to that particular statue, what they`re saying is once again we are celebrating that we have a sympathizer in the White House who will appoint sympathizers in various federal departments who endorses our policies like rolling back voting rights, like rolling back affirmative action, like deporting immigrants, like Islamaphobia, like being against LGBT community.

That`s the reason you go to Charlottesville. These statues were raised during a particular period of time and we have to know that history to understand the strategy behind Richard Painter and the other folks in the white supremacist.

REID: Let`s talk about what you`re doing in Georgia, Stacey, Representative Abrams.

You are looking to have the -- you`re supporting the idea of removing the stone mountain Confederate memorial carving. And you`ve gotten some response to tweeting about this today. I`ll read one hate tweet, we`ll put it up there, sorry to offend anyone in the audience.

Someone sent you a tweet saying, "Another crispy coon trying to deny history. Next it`s 40 acres and a mule, then respiration." Word that rhymes with `witch`, "clean up your black community first."

That`s the kind of response that you`ve gotten. Is that emblematic of the kind of response that you`ve gotten to the idea of removing this stone mountain Confederate memorial?

STACEY ABRAMS, (D) GEORGIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I`ve been incredibly gratified by the number of tweets and e-mails that I`ve received actually supporting the idea.

Similar to what Doctor Barber said, Georgia has a very long history that is not at all tied to conversation of confederacy. The brothers who resurrected the KKK in Georgia at this site in 1915 deeded the land in 1916 to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and it took another 20 so years to carve the full monument, and then they gave it to the state.

So this is not a function of grand history. This was a monument to segregation, a monument to domestic terrorism, a monument to racism. And over the years, Georgia has grappled with this. We`ve taken steps of removing the Confederate flag as our state flag. We have finally, due to the leadership of Calvin Smyre and the legislature and others including myself, we will soon have a statue of MLK on the capitol grounds.

But, as a candidate for governor, and in the light of the urgency of this moment where the person elected to be our leader refuses to admit that white supremacy and domestic terrorism should not be part of who we are, I think it renews the cry and the call to reexamine every decision we`ve made, and every statue that we erect, and every memorial that we hold up. Because the reality is that these are not memorials that teach us history. They teach us myths. The myth that this is somehow venerating the confederacy.

This is about venerating and holding up the domestic terrorism that plagued this nation post reconstruction through Jim Crow into today, and there`s no right thinking person who should object to the removal of the statuary, especially the largest in the world, that depicts the architects of domestic terrorism that threatened to tear this nation apart.

REID: And Stacey, to stay with you for just one moment, you`re running for governor of Georgia as people can see from the photo we just put up, you are African American. I saw in your Twitter feed a lot of people saying, well, good, I will not vote for you if you`re trying the take down these monuments. Do you think your stance will negatively impact your run for governor?

ABRAMS: I don`t care. A glib answer but a very real answer. If do you things only because they are popular, then we miss opportunities to do what`s right. And what is right, especially in this moment, when a woman has lost her life, when people are terrified, not simply because of Charlottesville, but because of the raids by ISIS, because of the deaths of so many. Because of the fear being fomented by a president who does not condemn bigotry and racism in our nation.

We have obligation, every person who stands for public office, has an obligation to speak truth and demand we do what`s right. And in this case, it is the removal of those monuments.

I will say this other piece. I want to give great credit to the managers of Stone Mountain Park. They`ve done an excellent job of trying contextualize and turn the park into a museum, and that has happened over the last few years. But the problem with that is, unless you have those head phones on, unless you`re walking through with the intention of learning, all you see is a giant monument to racism. That cannot stand.

REID: And. Reverend Barber, in light of Donald Trump`s press conference today, a really extraordinary display in which he took side of the people who marched to save Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, what did you make of it and what should Republican do in response in your view?

BARBER: Well, first of all, Donald Trump`s press conference today is really Donald Trump. He has shown us that time and time again that he is a sympathizer for hate and violence and racism.

But I want to go a little bit further. These statues do represent the mythology of racism but they represent some truth about America. It was when Woodrow Wilson rolled back the desegregation laws, and lifted up white supremacy that these statues, 80% of these statues were raised on that period of time.

We have to be careful in this moment. There are some people that would condemn the death. They will say, I`m not an extremist who will drive a car through a crowd of people, but they will not condemn the policies.

And what we have to do is line up the policy of these white nationalist groups. Where do they stand on voting rights? Where do they stand on immigration? And then ask politicians, where do you stand? Because if you stand politically and in policy the same place that the white supremacist and the white nationalist stand on policy, then you are engaging in the emboldenment of them.

That`s why they`re happy now. They believe it is not just about statues for them, its about policy, and they believe that they have a policy sympathizer in the White House, in Steve Bannon, Miller and others, and sympathizers throughout the federal government that can destroy and undermine the progress that has helped us move closer to one nation under all.

This is what this is really about and we have to put our hands up. It`s bigger than statues. A lot of people will condemn. I heard Ted Cruz condemn, Ryan condemn what happen on Saturday. But have they condemned the way they`ve held up fixing the Voting Rights Act? That`s racism, that`s white supremacy.

Have they condemned the way they have targeted our immigrants brother and sisters? That`s a form of racism and white supremacy and it is in line with the policy position of the white nationalists. We`re going to have to bring that out as well. Otherwise, we`ll have what James Baldwin calls sentimentality that`s just a match for cruelty a betrayal of they really believe.

REID: Doctor William Barber and Georgia state representative and governor candidate, Stacey Abrams, thank you both for joining us.

Ahead, presidential historian Jon Meacham and Charles Pierce will join me to talk about the unprecedented Trump remarks today, and the swift bipartisan rebuke that it generated.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Some of the folks that will leave, they`re leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside, and I`ve been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you`re referring to, about, you have to bring it back to this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Moments after Trump slammed the executive who had already left his manufacturing council after his initial response to Charlottesville, and moments after he offered his bizarre defense of the white nationalist rally, two more council members quit.

Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO along with former Deputy Chief of Staff Thea Lee announced that quote, "We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism."

Even before today`s bizarre press conference, the CEO`s who weren`t part of Trump`s council felt compelled to speak out. The Chief Executive of Walmart saying in a statement quote, "We, too, felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists."

The reaction from inside Trump`s own party, coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You have some very bad people in that group, but you also have people that were very fine fine people on both sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: The president`s statements on white supremacists in Charlottesville, prompted a variety of responses from his own party. Senator Marco Rubio addressed him directly tweeting, "These groups today use the same symbols and arguments of Nazi and KKK groups responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity ever. Mr. President, you can`t allow white supremacists to share only part of the blame. They support the ideas which cost the nation and world so much pain."

Kansas Senator Jerry Moran wrote, white supremacy, bigotry and racism has absolutely no place in our society and no one, especially POTUS should ever tolerate it."

Congressman Justin Amash of the Conservative Freedom Caucus quoted the president`s own words at him, tweeting, "Very fine people do not participate in rallies with groups chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans and displaying vile symbols of hate."

But the top three Republicans in the House who all released statements condemning white supremacy after the impromptu press conference did not address the president directly.

Joining me now are Jon Meacham, presidential historian and author of "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power", and Charlie Pierce, writer at large for Esquire.

Jon, I`m going to start with you first. You wrote a book about Thomas Jefferson. Your thoughts on the President of the United States today equating Robert E. Lee and other Confederate generals with Jefferson and Washington.

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well monuments often tell us as much about their makers as they do about the people being memorialized. And I think you have to look at the context of a given time when a monument, when something was erected.

The Jefferson Memorial, for instance, was a pet project of Franklin Roosevelt`s who wanted a Democratic monument to stand against the Lincoln memorial, which he thought of as a Republican one. He dedicated it in 1943 and tried to appropriate Jefferson`s language for the struggle given the current subject, the struggle against Nazi tyranny.

Washington and Jefferson are flawed people. They are people. They are imperfect heroes in many ways and they have to be judged in the fullness of their character. They should not be mindlessly celebrated but nor should they be mindlessly condemned it seems to me.

Washington and Jefferson were nation builders. General Lee and his officers were in fact trader to the American union that Washington and Jefferson created. I think that`s the central distinction.

REID: To stay with you for a moment, there have been lots of Republicans coming out, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who`s a mentor of Senator Rubio said, "Blaming both sides for Charlottesville, no. Back to relativism when dealing with KKK, Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists, just no."

And one more, Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania said, "POTUS must stop the moral equivalency. AGAIN white supremacy were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville."

Is this ignorance of history on Donald Trump`s part or is it a window into something more insidious?

MEACHAM: I think it`s good phrase. I think it is a window into something for insidious.

You know what he reminded me of this afternoon, although the accent was different? An old southern governor in the `50s and `60s talking about outside agitators coming down, that they were the real problem. He could have been Orval Faubus or Ross Arnett.

And just because he speaks with a Queens accent on Fifth Avenue doesn`t mean that he`s not representing the same kind of difficult and just the worst part of the American tradition.

He talked about -- to try to make this morally equivalent I think is reprehensible, and it distracts us from the central point, which is we have a cultural and political climate, an economic climate in which it`s somehow acceptable and attractive for a number of people to march in the streets carrying the symbols of the third Reich. What does that tell us about what we have to do as a country?

REID: Indeed.

And Charlie, Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, he tweeted out today, "We must be clear, white supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity." To which you replied, "Say his --" you know, name. I`ll try not to cuss on TV. What were you getting at there?

CHARLES PIERCE, ESQUIRE: Say his name. Don`t tell me that white supremacy is bad. I know that. Tell me that you`re a Republican leader who finds your president reprehensible. That will be news to me. That will make me feel better as a citizen.

I have to say, though, that, you know, I guess, you know, Jon must be delighted as a historian because he gets to relive in real time all of the great political debates of the 1850s.

He`s going to have Webster replying any day now.

MEACHAM: It`s a great analogy. I was thinking of the great rhetoric of that time period. It tells us something. We all know the history but it`s worth going through again.

Quickly by the way, President Trump had a tell today. Remember he talked about, we`re trying to change history and culture. That was a tell. He`s not just talking about the chronological facts of history. He`s talking about what those facts have come to mean to an important part of his base.

I live in the South, I`m from the South, I grew up on a Civil War battlefield. The Neo-Confederacy has always been code for a reaction to broad important cultural shifts in racial, cultural and economic ways. And that`s what he`s speaking to.

He needs to defend a culture that is ultimately fearful and that`s the thing we have to worry about.

And Charlie, the alt-right traffics in that kind of language too. They talk about culture.

PIERCE: Sure. And I think Jon is absolutely right. That was not a dog whistle. That was an air raid siren basically. And I think he`s also right in the fact that there is a germ of a really healthy debate here where we, after many many years, finally reevaluate the Civil War in our history in light of the advances of the Civil Rights Movement.

I noticed today that the Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan is going to move a statue of Roger Taney, the reprehensible Chief Justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision off the grounds of the state house there.

I think Roy Cooper in North Carolina said later today that he was thinking of moving the Confederate monuments.

If you move the monuments, you have to discuss why. And the debate of why we`re moving the monuments is a healthy one. The problem is it`s been hijacked by a president, they need a tranquilizer gun at this point.

REID: For those who look at the presidency with a certain awe and reverence at least up to now. Bill Crystal talked about containment for this president, containing him like we did the Soviet Union.

What will it mean to have a presidentless country, a country where a president cannot provide moral leadership. Is it a permanent damage to the office, do you think?

MEACHAM: I like to think that the institutions that were created 230 Augusts ago, the framers were locked up in Philadelphia. They had shut the windows so that there couldn`t be reports and leaks so that they could do something -- here`s a remarkable thing to a remarkable point in our culture, so they could change their minds. So that reason could play a role in their deliberations.

They could take a stand early in the convention and if they heard arguments that god forbid might change their mind, they could do so and not be publicly embarrassed.

The battle between reason and passion is one of the most fundamental struggles in all of human affairs but certainly in the American experiment. The presidency developed in ways they couldn`t have imagined. I don`t think it`s permanently damaged. What I worry about most is so much of our governance requires people to credit what a president says, to actually believe what he says and to give him a certain benefit of the doubt.

It`s very hard and it gets harder, not just day to day but my god hour to hour for that to happen. We have allies who are deeply skeptical, we have enemies who are watching this, I think, with great interest and hopefulness. And, you hope the institution is strong enough and I think we all have to work for that as we go forward.

REID: And Charlie, to you for Republicans who are afraid to fully distance themselves from Donald Trump for fear of electoral disaster, what would you say to them?

PIERCE: Well, I would say that do the moral thing and distance yourselves. I don`t know electorally given the way the country has been gerrymandered over the last five or ten years, if some of them would play a political price for not distancing themselves.

But I think if they`re Patriots to their country and they have moral compasses that still point north, distance yourself from this guy because this guy needs to be distanced from. That`s the simple calculation.

I was just re watching Ken Burn`s Civil War thing and there`s a moment at the end where the great historian Barbara Fields comes on and concludes that the Civil War can still be lost in many ways, and I think that`s where we are at this point right now.

REID: Yeah, very poignant way to end it.

Jon Meacham, Charlie Pierce, thank you guys for you time.

That`s 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

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