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Rob Reiner recruits celebrities to share Mueller report. TRANSCRIPT: 6/20/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Guests: Mazie Hirono, Mehdi Hasan, Rob Reiner, Ta-Nehisi Coates

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  And that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  Here`s what Iran needs to get ready for, severe pain.

HAYES:  The usual suspects bang the drums of war as the President says the Iranian downing of an American drone was an error.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have a feeling that it was a mistake.

HAYES:  Tonight, the potentially catastrophic implications of war with Iran that no one is talking about.  Then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There are some other specific examples from the Mueller report.

HAYES:  Filmmaker Rob Reiner on his high-profile push to get Americans to read the Mueller report.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That`s collusion.

HAYES:  Plus, the Justice Department`s push to deny beds and soap at migrant detention camps.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you`re really going to stand up and tell us that that being able to sleep isn`t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?

HAYES:  And my exclusive interview Ta-Nehisi Coates on the movement for reparation.

TA-NEHISI COATES, WRITER:  The real dilemma posed by reparations is just that, a dilemma of inheritance.  When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES:  Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes.  From day one, in fact, stretching back before day one of the campaign, forces within the Trump administration, and the Trump campaign, and the Republican Party, and the conservative movement have been pushing for war with Iran.

Now, that has at times included the President himself depending on which side of the bed he woke up on and which cable news hosts he`s been listening to.  And at every turn, the Trump administration has taken concrete steps using its power and authority to heighten tensions with Iran starting famously with pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions even though Iran was in compliance according to Donald Trump`s own government.

And now that they`ve managed to provoke Iran into what seems to be an endless cycle of escalation, they`re on the brink of getting what they always wanted.  And I have to say the idea that a war with Iran is now on the table is utterly deranged.

We`re going to get to the latest developments in the news in just a second but just -- let`s take a step back and consider the context.  Iran is a country of 83 million people, much larger geographically than either Iraq or Afghanistan where the U.S. still has boots on the ground after years and years and years of grinding war.

We have up to 15,000 troops in Afghanistan today, 18 years, 18 years after U.S. forces first invaded, the longest war in the Republic`s history.  We`ve got some 5,000 servicemembers in Iraq, another 2,000 in Syria, and then on top of that, the Trump administration has ordered another 2,500 troops to the Middle East in just the last month.

All of those American servicemembers would be directly in harm`s way if we went to war with Iran and yet war with Iran is now a possibility apparently, the Washington is somehow taking seriously.  After Iran shot down an American surveillance drone last night, the U.S. says the drone was over international waters, Iran says it had ventured into Iranian airspace.

And after this latest incident, Senator Lindsey Graham took to every available microphone on Capitol Hill to share the advice he gave the president.


GRAHAM:  So I talked to the president this morning.  You need to tell the Iranians that if they increase their enrichment program for uranium, that would be a provocative act toward the United States and Israel and all bets are off.

I think the target list should include the naval vessels that have created the problem in the Straits of Hormuz, the Iranian naval vessels.  That`s what Reagan did in the 80s.  And if you want to break this regimes back and make them stop being provocative, take them out of the oil business.


GRAHAM:  We`re a lot closer today than we were yesterday and only God knows what tomorrow brings.


HAYES:  This afternoon the White House summons national security officials, congressional leaders in the Situation Room for a briefing where Democrats warned the president against bumbling into war by accident.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  We told the room that the Democratic position is that congressional approval must be required before funding any conflict in Iran.  One of the best ways to avoid bumbling into war, a war that nobody wants is to have a robust open debate and for Congress to have a real say.


HAYES:  This weekend, National Security Advisor John Bolton, a longtime proponent of attacking Iran will travel to meetings in Israel, a country whose Prime Minister is also a longtime proponent of attacking Iran.  And I should note that both Bolton and Netanyahu also pushed very hard and successfully for the war in Iraq which ended up strengthening and expanding the influence of none other than the Iranian regime they want to go to war with again.

As to the president who is theoretically, constitutionally, technically in charge of the whole situation, he started the day with what sounded like a threatening message tweeting Iran made a very big mistake but later clarified that he meant it literally.


TRUMP:  I think probably Iran made a mistake.  I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down.  I have a feeling that it was a mistake made by somebody that shouldn`t have been doing what they did.  I find it hard to believe it was intentional if you want to know the truth.  I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.


HAYES:  Asked about the possibility of military conflict, the president answered with all the gravity of a reality show star teasing the season finale.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How you respond, Mr. President?  How will you respond?

TRUMP:  You`ll find out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you willing to go to war with Iran over this?

TRUMP:  You`ll find out.  You`ll find out.  Obviously, obviously, you know, we`re not going to be talking too much about it.  You`re going to find out.  They made a very big mistake.


HAYES:  I`m joined now by Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat from Hawaii, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  The president says you`ll find out as if he alone has the inherent and unilateral authority to make decisions about a military attack on Iran.  Do you agree with that?

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI):  Of course not.  And this is why you know, you just have to scratch your head as to who`s running this show.  And with the president, a lot of it is a lot of show.  So this is serious business.  We have escalating tensions now with Iran.  And when you have a situation for example where the Iranians are saying that they shot down the drone in their airspace, we`re saying it was international airspace, this is a kind of situation that leads to miscalculations.

Which is why at this point, Congress needs to be -- to do what its supposed to do which is to I tell the President you cannot go to war with Iran in an unauthorized way.  So we have an amendment that I hope will be the subject of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act if Mitch McConnell will let it come to the floor and so far he hasn`t said it will, that will prevent unauthorized military operations against Iran.

We need to be that specific to tell the president what`s what.  But you know, as you say, he`s acting as though this is some sort of individual thing that he can just run on his own.  It`s just terribly disturbing.

HAYES:  Is the United States Senate getting fully -- do you feel like you`re getting good information, fully briefed, being consulted with throughout this process?

HIRONO:  Of course not.  So yes, we did get a briefing yesterday but it is very disconcerting when one must question whether or not you can believe what`s coming out of the mouth of the representatives of this administration.  And I`m not the only one who has those kinds of thoughts, disconcerting as they are.  But when the information came forth that possibly the Iran had attacked some ships, even our allies in Europe and Japan said they`d like more information.

When our country`s credibility is questioned in a situation as serious as this, I think that it is ever more important for Congress to say to the president through this amendment that I just mentioned that you are not going to take military action against Iran without congressional approval.

HAYES:  This is sort of a mood question but I`ll ask it.  I mean, I feel like I`m watching this and thinking this is insane.  This is utterly insane.  We`re going to go to war with Iran?  We`ve got 15,000 troops in Afghanistan, we got another several thousand in Iraq who of course would be directly in harm`s way because of the Iraqi government`s relationship to Iran and Iranian backed militias there.   Is -- do people on Capitol Hill feel that sense that they cannot believe what they`re watching?

HIRONO:  I cannot believe what I`m watching and hearing.  And one would think that even the president who said that the Iraq war was one of the stupidest things that could have happened, and here he sits playing -- being very flippant from what I can gather.  And so when you don`t have a Jim Mattis there at the Department of Defense, for example, who`s running this place, is it Bolton?

As you mentioned, you know, Bolton was right there during the lead-up and the attack on Iraq.  Have we not learned a thing?  The last thing we need is another ground war in Iran and in the Middle East because it`s already a very unstable area and we`ll have further instability.

And when will you do something like this, one would hope that we would be thinking about the unintended consequences and we obviously did not when we went into Iraq.  So you can count on it that if there`s something untoward that happens such as our country unilaterally without congressional approval attacking Iran, you`re going to have some consequences that will probably haunt us for a long, long time because we`re still in Afghanistan, we`re still in Iraq.

HAYES:  All right, Senator Mazie Hirono, thank you for making some time tonight.

HIRONO:  Thank you.

HAYES:  For more on the Trump ministrations illogical escalation I`m joined by Mehdi Hasan Columnist for the Intercept and Presenter for Al Jazeera English.  You know, Mehdi, I just saw someone saying that inside the administration it`s Trump versus Bolton and a bunch of different swing votes.

And I think to myself -- here it is, senior White House official tells me it`s Bolton versus Trump on how to proceed on Iran.  Trump does not want conflict, Pompeo, Pence, Esper are swing votes, etcetera.  What a remarkable thing to say.  That`s what struck me.  The entire thing here is that the president seems to be essentially a kind of pundit commentator sitting at a bar on his own administration as it moves almost inexorably towards actual military confrontation.

MEHDI HASAN, COLUMNIST, THE INTERCEPT:  Yes.  And it`s -- what`s so absurd as you said in your intro, it depends what side of bed he got out on when you know, he makes hawkish noises one moment saying watch out Iran.  Iran will regret it.  Next minute he`s like oh it`s just a small thing.  These tanker attacks are not a big deal.

And you have people on left and right trying to give Trump cover saying well, he doesn`t want a war and I just don`t buy that.  I don`t think you can give him a get-out-of-jail-free card on this because he`s the one who appointed all those hawks to his cabinet.  He`s appointed John Bolton knowing that Bolton`s lifelong mission has been to start a war with Iran.  He appointed Mike Pompeo who said when he was a member of Congress that we shouldn`t have a deal with Iran, we should just have 2,000 sorties, that was Pompeo`s phrase, air strikes.

So he`s a point of these people.  You know he could talk about swing vote or you know being on the fence but this is his administration.  This will be his war if god forbid happens and what a catastrophe will be as Senator Hirono says.  This is a guy who claimed that Iraq was a mistake and Libya was a mistake, but Iran will make Iraq and Libya look like a walk in the park.

HAYES:  As someone who has covered the region for a while, what do you -- what is your response to people like Lindsey Graham and others who are now saying oh the Reagan recipe, we`ll just -- we`ll just drop a bunch of bombs on Iranian naval ships.  What do you think of that?

HASAN:  Lindsey Graham a man who`s never met a Middle-East nation he didn`t want to bomb, invade, or occupy.  The Reagan analogy is silly because that was in the middle of an Iran-Iraq war which America was already involved in on the side of Iraq which led to a million deaths, not the same principle at all today.

The idea that you could just drop a few bombs, Chris, is absurd.  It is this kind of -- the Hawks want to have their cake and eat it.  On the one hand, Iran is this mad, messianic, theocratic regime that can`t be reasoned with.  You can`t do a deal with them.  You can`t negotiate with them.  They`re crazy they want to take over the Middle East.

On the other hand, we`ll drop a few bombs on their ships and they`ll go quiet and bow down to us.  You can`t have it both ways.  And this is just - - this is a re-tread of the Iraq war.  It`s the same people who pushed for the Iraq war.  You mentioned John Bolton, Benjamin Netanyahu, and it`s not just the same people it`s the same absurd arguments.

You have Mike Pompeo claiming that Iran is working with al Qaeda which any expert on terrorism will laugh at that idea.  They said the same thing about Saddam, Chris.  Remember Saddam Hussein is harboring al-Qaeda when in fact the invasion of Iraq gave us ISIS.  So what the hell will the invasion of Iran give us?

HAYES:  What`s also striking to me is that the problem that those who want to confront Iran put their finger on and it -- and this aspect of it is not completely wrong which is that the Iranians have had a kind of expansionist push outwards particularly in the last ten years in terms of influence is largely borne of the fact that we bombed Iraq and invaded Iraq and that the Iranian influence has landed enormously due to listening to people like John Bolton the last time around.

HASAN:  Indeed.  John Bolton and Benjamin Netanyahu who testified in Congress, yes, they`re the ones that complaining about the fact that Iran controls Iraq allegedly.  Well, who allowed them to do that?  And you know, knocking out the Taliban which was a good thing but nobody likes the Taliban but Iran benefited from that too.  They`ve benefited from many U.S. military interventions in that part of the world.

And now you have this situation where Lindsey Graham talking about you know, retaliation.  One important point, Chris.  The way this is being framed that the United States has to decide whether or not to retaliate to a drone being shot down or a tanker being attacked, in fact, U.S. intelligence says it`s Iran that`s retaliating.

Senator Tim Kaine had a briefing with intelligence officials yesterday and U.S. intelligence officials told him that all of the Iranian action so far, all of them, are a response to Trump`s "maximum pressure campaign."  So let`s get our framing right here.  It`s Iran that`s been subjected to massive sanctions, Iran that`s had the nuclear deal undermined and violated.

You know, I`m not defending Iranian actions but who`s brought us to this point?  It`s the Trump administration.

HAYES:  Yes.  Can you imagine what the reaction would be if the Iranians happen to hack a U.S. columnist to death in an embassy.  I mean, imagine what people would say.  Mehdi Hasan, thank you for joining me.

HASAN:  Thanks, Chris.

HAYES:  We have a packed show tonight.  Ta-Nehisi Coates is here to talk about his case for reparations, plus filmmaker Rob Reiner and his campaign to get people to read the Mueller report.  And next, if you`re still worried about what to call the places that we keep migrant families rounding up, you might want to pay attention what`s happening inside of them.  That new reporting in two minutes.


HAYES:  Amidst the debate about what to call the government-run migrant detention facilities comes a horrifying news story from the AP today.  Lawyers interviewed more than 60 children and a border patrol station, some place they should be held for a maximum seventy-two hours and what they heard was truly awful.

"Three girls ages ten to 15 said they had been taking turns keeping watch over a sick two-year-old boy because there was no one else to look after him.  When the lawyer saw the two-year-old boy, he wasn`t wearing a diaper and wet his pants and his shirt was smeared with mucus.

Children told lawyers they were fed uncooked frozen food or rice and had gone weeks without bathing or clean change of clothes at the facility.  Yes, you may think one facility just fell through the cracks but it`s actually worse than that because in fact, the government, our government, is now arguing that it doesn`t need to provide things like toothbrushes or even soap.

Right now detention of migrant children is guided by a legal agreement called the Flores Settlement and Donald Trump has been railing against that agreement and trying to get out of it because it requires minimal standards of care for children in U.S. custody.

Tuesday, a government lawyer argued before a three-judge panel over the level of care that was required and shocked judges by suggesting what was not needed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you`re really going to stand up and tell us that that being able to sleep isn`t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?  You can`t be safe and sanitary or safe as a human being if you can`t sleep.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And you said in your brief, suggesting anything about sleeping so, therefore, there`s nothing in here about being able to sleep.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think the concern there is, your honor, the court finding that sleep for example falls is relevant to a finding of no safe and sanitary conditions is one thing, but the ultimate conclusion is safe and sanitary is a singular category in the agreement and it was -- it was - - one has to assume left that way and not enumerated by the parties because either the parties couldn`t reach agreement on how to enumerate that or that it was left to the agencies to determine -- to determine --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Or it was relatively obvious and is least obvious enough so that if you`re putting two peoples into a crowded room to sleep on a concrete floor with an aluminum foil blanket on top of them, that doesn`t comply with the agreement.  I mean, it may be that they don`t get super thread-count Egyptian linens, I get that.

But the testimony that the district judge believed was it`s really cold.  In fact, it gets colder when we complain about is being cold, we`re supposed to sleep crowded with the lights on all night long and all you have to put us on is the concrete floor with and aluminum blanket.

I mean, I understand that some outer boundary, there may be some definitional difficulty, but no one would argue that this is secure and sanitary -- safe and sanitary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Which is your strongest argument then?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I mean, I think what I would go to is that when you start in numerating for example specific hygiene items and the way that was done is that the court sort of enumerated these and say these fall under the rubric, these following the category of what can be required --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, it can be -- again, it wasn`t perfume soap, it was so.  It wasn`t you know, high-class milled soap, it was soap.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It`s within everybody`s common understanding that you know, if you don`t have a toothbrush, if you don`t have soap, if you don`t have a blanket, it`s not safe and sanitary.   wouldn`t everybody agree to that?  Do you agree to that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I think it`s -- I think those are -- there`s fair reason to find that those things may be part of safe and sanitary --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not "maybe," "are a part."  Why do you say maybe?  You mean, there are circumstances where a person doesn`t need to have a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap for days?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I think in CBP custody, there`s frequent -- it`s frequently intended to be much shorter term so it may be that for a shorter term stay in CBP custody, that`s those things may not be required.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, but I don`t think that was the situation over the court was confront.  I mean it wasn`t as though those people were there for 12 hours and then moved on to the Hilton Hotel.  No, they were there for a very -- fairly sustained period.  And at least according to the evidence that the judge believed, they weren`t getting these things for a fairly sustained period.


HAYES:  All right, so call the facilities where this is happening whatever you want, but arguing that children don`t need to be provided beds or soap is well, nothing short of deplorable.



REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-IL):  Hi!  I`m Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky.  Today I am announcing that I believed that the House of Representatives should begin an impeachment inquiry officially because President Trump certainly has committed all kinds of offenses that meet the standard of impeachment.


HAYES:  The list of House Democrats calling for the impeachment of President Trump continues to grow.  As it stands right now, 72 Democrats and one lonely a Republican have publicly taken that position.

This comes as new Politico morning consult poll found that 65 percent of self-identified Democrats support impeachment up from 59 percent just after the Mueller report was released in April.  Meanwhile, legendary filmmaker Rob Reiner has produced a video, for now, this explaining some of the more dramatic findings of the Mueller report for those who have not read it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  On August 2nd, 2016, Trump campaign managers Paul Manafort and Rick Gates met with a Russian agent in a cigar bar in New York City.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This was one of many meetings where they share the campaign`s internal polling data and their electoral strategy specifically the targeting of Midwestern states,.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Let me say that again.  Trump`s campaign manager shared Trump`s election strategy with Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That`s the textbook definition of collusion.


HAYES:  And Rob Reiner joins me now.  Rob, this is the second video.  I think I`ve seen them both.  What is the goal here?

ROB REINER, ACTOR:  The goal is to educate the public.  You know, virtually nobody has read the Mueller report.  And if you do read it you will see that there is more criminality in that relating to President Trump than any other sitting president in American history and most people just don`t know about it. 

So we`re trying to educate the public.  It`s kind of like a weird catch-22 where if you don`t know about what he has done in terms of not only collusion which it`s loaded with, but obstruction of justice, then how else can you start an impeachment proceedings.

HAYES:  Right.  I mean, here`s the tricky thing.  In the days of Nixon, they had hearings, bipartisan hearings in the Senate which educated the public.  They had actual witnesses come in public under oath and you heard what Nixon had done.  The American public has no idea what President Trump has done, no idea.

HAYES:  You know, it`s funny you say that because I generally think that that`s largely true although it is interesting to me, the polling indicates that the public opinion has moved in the direction of impeachment, that as many as 50 percent of people think that he should be impeached.  I think around half of folks think that he actually coordinated with Russia.

So what`s sort of striking to me is that despite the fact that those hearings aren`t really happening, if they`re happening they`re not having it in public, some messages are getting through, maybe through Rob Reiner effect.

REINER:  Well, I don`t know if it`s that.  But I think people are reacting to the fact that they see a president who is clearly a criminal, and they see his behavior, and they see how you know, his policies of putting kids in cages and not giving them blankets and then soap and all these things, and they`re appalled and they abhor that, but they don`t know specifically what`s in report which is totally loaded with criminality.

HAYES:  Well, what was most striking to you?  Obviously, you`ve gone through the report you and you`ve been sort of building these segments, right, around what`s in there.  Like what was striking to you when you went through it?

REINER:  Nothing.  Nothing to be honest with you, Chris.  Because you know, when President Trump first came on the scene, I knew a lot about him.  I knew who he was and I was -- my hair was on fire.  You can see I don`t have any hair anymore.  It all went away.  But I mean I had been apoplectic from the get-go.

And I launched the committee to investigate Russia knowing full well that these connections were there.  But I also was real realizing that the public, it`s complicated for them.  They don`t really understand it.  But in the Mueller report, it`s very clearly laid out.  Criminality, there are ten instances of obstruction of justice.

Over a thousand federal prosecutors that serve both Republicans and Democrats have said that this is a slam-dunk case for obstruction.  So it`s this weird thing now where you know, Nancy Pelosi wants to make sure that there`s going to be a guarantee of a conviction in the Senate.  We know that`s probably not going to happen.

But you pointed out just now, we`re at around 50 percent thinking that the president should be impeached.  When the hearings in Watergate started, they were only at 19 percent.  By the time the public was made aware of everything, they moved and moved very quickly.  And I believe that will happen here.

You know, you remember when Mueller came on television for eight minutes, that`s all anybody talked about for two days.

HAYES:  It`s true, yes.

REINER:  That`s it!  Hope Hicks did not testify.  Nobody knows about Hope Hicks.  It didn`t happen.

HAYES:  Because it didn`t happen in front of the cameras.

REINER:  And that means it didn`t happen, because...

HAYES:  Spoken like a true Hollywood man.

REINER:  Well, no, but in terms of the public, in terms of the public.  they need to see people on television telling the story.  If Hope Hicks, for instance, did what she did in closed session on camera, it would be shocking and people would be talking about that for days.

HAYES:  I one hundred percent agree with that.  Very good point about what we`re seeing and what we`re not seeing, the book version and the movie version, which is sort of the key part of this whole thing.

Rob Reiner, thanks so much for making time.

REINER:  Thanks for having me, Chris.

HAYES:  All right, still ahead, my exclusive interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates on his congressional testimony on the case for reparations.

Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts next.


HAYES:  Thing One tonight, we now know the Trump tax cuts were a scam.  They did not deliver on any of the benefits they promised, except for wealthy people and corporations. 

Now, that`s not exactly a surprise, all Republican tax cuts going back to the Reagan area are basically designed to do this.  All of them, based on the same economic model from the 1970s, the so-called Laffer Curve.  It`s the idea that basically says, you can increase revenue by cutting taxes, and it`s been proven not to work over and over and over again. 

But that did not stop Donald Trump from giving Art Laffer, creator of the Laffer Curve, the presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday.


TRUMP:  The now-famous Laffer Curve, still a very, very highly respected economic curve.


HAYES;  Really one of the best curves, just a legendary curve.

But did Laffer get that medal because Trump really respects his curve, or was it maybe for something a bit more recent?  That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES:  Economist Art Laffer came up with his famous Laffer Curve back in 1974, but it was  something he did a lot more recently that may have been his greatest achievement, because it is perhaps the thing that really brought him to this moment when a presidential Medal of Freedom was placed around his neck.  "Trumponomics," a book he wrote with Kudlow and Steven Moore about how smart Trump`s policies are, which are, of course, their policies.


TRUMP:  I`ve heard and studied the Laffer Curve for many years.  The Wharton School of Finance, it`s very important thing that you`ve done, Art, very important.


HAYES:  Very important, though I don`t think Trump studied it at the Wharton School of Finance.  Trump was a student there in the `60s, Laffer came up with the curve in `70s.

Maybe he heard about it from the Ferris Bueller movie in the` 80s?


TRUMP:  Art drew on his napkin a series of lines and a curve that changed history with the now-famous Laffer Curve still a very, very highly respected economic curve.

BEN STEIN, LAWYER/ACTOR:  Does anyone know what Vice President Bush called this in 1980?  Anyone?  Something d-o-o economics.  Voodoo economics.



HAYES:  Right now there`s a national conversation going on about whether this nation should be paying reparations to its African-American citizens.  Recently, reporter Trymaine Lee visited Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where students are pushing for their school to repair the sins of its past.


TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Georgetown is one of the most prestigious universities in the United States.  It was founded by Jesuits in 1789 on the backs of slave labor.  The university owned plantations in Maryland and even enslaved people on campus, but it wasn`t until 2015 that a student researcher discovered that the university sold off 272 people to stay a float in 1838.  Those people ended up in Louisiana on some of the worst plantations in the U.S.  One of their descendants is Melisande Short- Colomb, a current student at Georgetown.

MELISANDE SHORT-COLOMB, GEORGETOWN STUDENT:  My ancestors were here until members of their families were sold in 1838.  So my family and who I am as an American actually goes back 11 generations.

LEE:  Melisande is among a group of student activists pushing to make the university the first in the country to pay reparations for slavery.  Recently, they got one big step closer to their goal, an overwhelming majority of students voted to increase their own tuition by $27.20 a semester, that`s 10 cents for each of the people the university sold.

The administration still has to approve it.

Money and the field will go to a Louisiana community where many of the descendants live, a community that lacks basic services like a hospital and secondary school.

MILE BLASS, GEORGETOWN STUDENT:  We`re not making a gift to these people.  Their, like, quality of life is directly tied to the actions of the university, even just geographically, being put in communities in Louisiana and Maryland.  If you`re put in a community that doesn`t have a lot of social mobility and resource, that`s directly the result of Georgetown selling you -- your ancestors to individuals in this location.

LEE:  Shepard Thomas is one of the many descendants of those 272 people.  He still has relatives in that community in Louisiana.

SHEPARD THOMAS, GEORGETOWN STUDENT:  I treat this as justice.  So even though like you can say justice is victory, I just feel like it`s fairness for all, you know.  Equality is one thing, but equity is another.  And I would hope for that to  come from this.

LEE:  What do you hope for, when you think about the what the university could do?

THOMAS:  I hope for the university fully acknowledging us by providing things which could forward the lives of others, like education, medical help, or other ways that people can go further in life, because they weren`t granted certain opportunities that students who go to Georgetown University have.

LEE:  Georgetown is just one of countless American institutions with its foundation and buildings built with slave labor.  Many of the most iconic buildings in the nation`s capital were built in part or whole by enslaved people.

There are buildings all around this city that were at least built by slave labor or funded by the sale, I`m sure, including this building right here.

MARCIA CHATLAIN, GEORGETOWN PROFESSOR:  Absolutely.  I think the White House is the quintessential American building -- its exterior signals purity and grace and grandeur, and behind the scenes, at its very foundations, is the work of  enslaved people.

I think the thing that people need to understand about the issue of reparations, it`s an attempt to settle a debt that can never be settled.

LEE:  And it sounds like you`re talking about justice, but sometimes in America, justice is hard to come by.

CHATLAIN:  Justice is incredibly hard to come by.  And in these little glimmers, when we see young people invested in the possibilities of justice, it reminds us that even in our darkest hours, that there is hope and that when we show that to other people, that they see the possibilities in their life, that they didn`t know were there the day before.


HAYES:  Yesterday, in of those buildings you saw there, built with slave labor, congress held its first hearings on reparations in more than a decade.  Among those testifying was journalist and author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose 2014 article entitled "The Case for Reparations" helped renew the reparations debate.  I`ll talk to him about the case for reparations and the push-back from Republicans who say they don`t want to relitigate the past right after this break.


HAYES:  It was a rare sight in congress, a hearing on reparations held yesterday in one of the many buildings in Washington built on slave labor.  Ta-Nehisi Coates helped kick start this round of the reparations debate.

Joining me now is Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of three best-selling books, recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, current author of the Marvel comics The Black Panther" and Captain America, and his debut novel The Water Dancer, which is exceptional and I finished a night ago, will be published in September.  Good to have you here.

TA-NEHISI COATES, AUTHOR:  Thanks for having me, Chris.

HAYES:  Well, you`ve never testified at a congressional hearing before.


HAYES:  What was it like?

COATES:  There was no possible way to prepare for it.  It was completely, completely dizzying.  I think the particular intensity -- I mean, as I was joking, you see I still have the same suit on, so I mean, that`s a statement.  I apologize, Black Twitter.

But it was dizzying.  I mean, and I think the particular energy around this was just like, I mean, unlike anything I`d ever seen.

You know, I`m a writer, I`m a journalist.  I`m used to writing things and then, you know what I mean, going ahead and doing whatever I`m doing.  But this is proving to be quite different.

HAYES:  Well, it`s interesting to me, the moment for this particular issue.  I mean, this is not -- you know, the issue did not arise with your Atlantic article.  It`s a long-standing, and as you say in that article and say at every opportunity, it`s built upon decades and decades of scholarship and other folks. 

But it does feel like there`s a moment now where it has achieved degree of mainstream legitimacy that is new.

COATES:  Right.  I think two things are responsible for that.  The first is -- and this is not fair -- but I think The Atlantic enjoys a kind of space among quote, unquote, very serious people.  So, I just have to be frank.  And I actually knew this at the time. 

Look, people can be right up on one side and down the other about something, but when an outlet with a kind of cachet among certain people says it, it becomes a little different.  Again, that`s not fair. 

And the second part of that I think, Trump -- and Trump particularly following Barack Obama has had a kind of radicalizing effect on a lot of people I think.

HAYES:  You know, one of the things that we hear a lot about, and you talked about yesterday, and I want to play the sound of Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, sort of the big argument against it always -- there is a bunch of arguments, but the big one is, look, this was a long time ago and no one alive today is responsible for it.  Take a listen to what they had to say.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA:  I just think we are so far removed from the event.  It was the original sin of the country.  And I think let`s just make it a more perfect union rather than looking backward, because I don`t know where it stops when you do that.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY:  No one currently alive was responsible for that.  And I don`t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it.  First of all, it would be hard to figure out who to compensate.


HAYES:  You addressed that directly yesterday in the testimony.

COATES:  I did.  I think that`s an opportunistic notion of citizenship.  As I said yesterday, we obviously have ties and debts and credits that we acknowledge that go far back beyond the time of the last slave holder and the last enslaved person. 

I mean, you can just look at the building in which these people work.  You work in a capital that was built by enslaved people.  You are there enjoying the benefits of their labor.  If we don`t want to acknowledge our ties to that, how about you go work on the Anacostia River, you know, somewhere or something like that.

You know, and I`m being flip about that, but this is true.  I was doing the research for that testimony, as latest as 2017, we were paying pensions to the last heir of a civil war veteran.  We are at this very moment still paying pensions to the veterans from Spanish-American war, World War I, I mean, things that happened long before, you know, I was alive and you were alive and yet we don`t have a problem with that.

HAYES:  You know, and one of the points that struck me about the Georgetown story -- and I think Georgetown is fascinating, right, because here is like -- this isn`t the whole country, it`s one university.  It`s a laboratory.  It`s a little pilot program.  But in that case, it`s like there are records of this stuff.

COATES:  Oh, sure.

HAYES:  They have the 272 names.  They have the amount of money that they are going to spend.  And they have a community where they can track the descendants.

COATES:  I mean, listen, the first thing is, you know, as I said yesterday, a, this isn`t just about enslavement, right.  So, yes, you can actually track enslavement, but Jim Crow, I mean, that`s easy.  I went and found them.

HAYES:  The first -- the opening of that article in The Atlantic is an interview with a homeowner from Chicago -- west side of Chicago.

COATES:  Right.  It`s not actually hard to find people that were victimize, that suffered, you know, that lost wealth or had wealth stolen from them underneath it.  And as far as I`m concerned, people who feel like the problem here is we can`t identify who it is, why don`t you support HR 40 and then let`s find out, because HR 40 is just a study.  Why don`t we find out?  That`s my challenge.

OK, you feel like that?  Possibly you are right.  Support the study and then let`s find out.

HAYES:  Right, the legislation that you were testifying on tomorrow, right -- I`m sorry, yesterday -- is essentially to commission a study for -- to look into all of these different sort of particularities about the logistics of it.

COATES:  Right.  And so if your objection is procedural, I don`t know, you know, if we can find these people, let`s have the study.  That`s what the study is for.  You know, how much are we going to pay.  Who are we are going to pay it to.  That`s why we need a study.  Let`s have a study.

You know, the other thing I have to add, Chris, is we did this before.  This is not unprecedented.  We did this with Japanese-Americans who were interned rightfully during the period of World War II.  You know, so it`s not like we`ve never done this before. 

The city of Chicago has done reparations for the victims of John Bird.  The state of North Carolina has actually done reparations for the victims of what was basically a state-wide eugenics policy practiced against black women and poor women.  So, this is not unfounded territory here.

HAYES:  You know, I want to ask you a little about the politics of this issue.  It`s very interesting to me.  So, you`re getting -- you have candidate get asked about it.  Mitch McConnell gets asked about it.  It is in the blood stream of the American political body politic.

But here`s the polling on it, four different polls, Marist, Data for Progress, which leans left, Fox News, Rasmussen, they`re all with about 25, 26 percent.  And big majorities saying no, 68, 40, 60, 66.  My feeling about reparations is that the case substantively is basically ironclad.  I`m 100 percent persuaded.  And I think it`s political suicide for a national politician to run on it on a national campaign.

COATES:  Yeah, I mean, first of all, that`s not my problem.

HAYES:  Yeah, right.

COATES:  That`s actually not my problem.  I would not -- I don`t think any of us would say during a period where, for instance, marriage equality enjoyed terrible, terrible poll numbers that people should have given up the pressure on politicians, that we should have let up on Barack Obama, for instance, or, you know, the Clintons for signing the Defense of Marriage Act.

If I as a writer, and to the extent that -- god I can`t believe I`m going to use this word -- advocate to the extent that I -- if I say, well, you know, if it polls well, you know what i mean, that`s what I will be writing about, then I`m dead.

But the other thing in, I think part of that polling is the result of the fact that we haven`t had serious discussions.  I think like that polling is not an abstract figure that is not connected to other things.  The fact of the matter is we haven`t had the kind of discussions that we actually had yesterday.  So, I think to the extent that we can push this forward, have serious substantive conversations like we did yesterday, you know, I would expect that polling to change actually.

HAYES:  Yeah, do you think that the sort of -- do you think the one thing that would change that polling is actually talking about some of the nitty- gritty of it?

COATES:  Listen, there will be -- when I wrote The Case for Reparations in 2014, one of the most shocked -- one of the things that shocked me the most was the sheer number of white people throughout the country who either came up to me or wrote me and said I didn`t know about red lining.  I just legit didn`t know.

I mean, because as a writer, my perspective is -- listen, my job is to tell you the truth.  I have no idea what comes after that.  At that point I probably did not view myself -- I would have askance, for instance, at the possibility of me testifying before congress.  And so one of the things that shocked me was the sheer ignorance. 

So, there`s a group of people who legit don`t want to know.  They don`t -- you can lay out the facts for them and they just care.  You are never going to convince them.

But at the same time, there is also, you know, a large number of people who literally don`t know. They just don`t know.  They have never given reparations a serious consideration.

HAYES:  You and I discussed this all the time in our private conversations about reconstruction particularly, and about the birth of Jim Crow, no one knows.  No one knows the history of it.

COATES:  No one knows.

HAYES:  That chapter is lost -- it`s memory hold in American history about what happened.

COATES:  No one knows.

HAYES:  There is a comment I wanted to ask you about Joe Biden made, because it relates directly, right, about the sort of ways that we configure our memory of the past, particularly vis-a-vis white supremacy and segregation, talking about the fact that there were white supremacist segregationists, Democratic senators, that he was elected to sort of oppose, and he did oppose -- I mean, he had different views than then, but that he was able to work with them.

And, you know, he`s talking about this old model of how the senate worked.  He has come under criticism for that, and other people -- Cory Booker, among others, have asked him to apologize.  Just curious what you made of that.

COATES:  So, listen, the problem here is not that he had polite relationships with people who  had deeply, deeply deplorable views, the problem is those very polite relationships were premised on the fact that those people`s deeply deplorable views actually disenfranchised an entire sector of the electorate.

There is a reason why those polite relationships went away.  And part of the reason they went  away was because black people are now a voting force in the south, you know, much to the chagrin of some other people.

And so I think there is a lack of acknowledgment.

HAYES:  The price of that cold peace.

COATES:  Yes, yes, yes, yes.

HAYES:  Was that you didn`t cross them on race.  You could deal with all sorts of different things.  You can trade horses on a million different things.

COATES:  and I don`t think he -- you know, to the extent that I can credit him, I don`t think he realizes that.  Maybe he doesn`t want to realize that.  But there is a reason why those people were able to be polite with him.

And so I think for a lot of black people when we hit it, it`s actually a kind a secondary endorsement, as crazy as this sounds, of Jim Crow, because Jim Crow was the basis on which that peace was in fact constructed.

And so...

HAYES:  but you don`t think Joe Biden...

COATES:  That`s not the point, that`s not the point.  Like you can -- and that`s why I said secondary endorsement.  Like what he`s endorsing is the peace, right.  But the peace is actually built on something quite horrible.  And without that horrible thing, there never would have been that civility in the first place.

HAYES:  I mean, the peace built atop horror is the story of American politics.

COATES:  It`s the story of reconstruction, redemption, you know, and that extends right up to him having that great relationship with Herman...

HAYES:  Well, I should this, yeah -- in the year 2019, it`s remarkable how much untold there is about, I mean, -- or needs to be retold time and time again which brings me to your novel, which comes out in September, which I just finished.

COATES:  Are we talking about this?

HAYES:  We are not talking it.  I`m just going to give it -- I`m just going to say Water Dancer and it`s remarkable and it`s really a beautiful piece of work and people should check it out.  Ta-Nehisi Coates, thanks so much for bringing me here.

COATES:  Thanks for having me. 

HAYES:  All right, man.

That is ALL IN for this evening.  "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.  Good evening, Rachel.