Trump facing bad poll numbers. TRANSCRIPT: 8/16/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Guests: Barbara Boxer, Neera Tanden, Chris Lu, Mehdi Hasan, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Aaron Regunberg

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Donald Trump's entire political success has been and is.  His awareness of those lonely millions who felt left out in cold by those good people who can we all agree might have worked a little harder to keep their faith.  And that's HARDBALL for now.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight on ALL IN.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You have no choice but to vote for me.

VELSHI:  A panicked president tries the hard sell.

TRUMP:  Because your 401(k)s down the tubes.  Everything is going to be down the tubes.

VELSHI:  Tonight, how new polling and possible recession are reportedly rattling the president.  Then --

TRUMP:  I'm going to speak to some of your union leaders to say I hope you get to support Trump, OK.

VELSHI:  New reporting on workers in a Trump crowd that were ordered to show up or not get paid.  Plus, ICE protesters run down by a corrections officer and Trump T.V. comes to his defense.

LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK HOST:  He thought to do what is within his rights which is to proceed to park his vehicle and go to work.

VELSHI:  And Trymaine lee and Nikole Hannah-Jones on the legacy of slavery in America 400 years after it began.  ALL IN starts now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  Good evening from New York I'm Ali Velshi in for Chris Hayes.  Donald Trump appears to be in deep trouble when it comes to winning re- election and he seems to know it.  He's reportedly rattled after a week in which we saw the market stumble on fears that the economy could be heading into recession.  And now he's facing a round of new poll numbers that border on catastrophic.

A poll conducted by none other than Fox News finds the Trump isn't cracking even 40 percent support in matchups against the leading Democratic presidential candidates.  He trails Joe Biden 50 percent to 38 percent.  He's down to Bernie Sanders -- he's down -- Bernie Sanders is at 48 to Donald Trump's 39.  He's losing to Elizabeth Warren 46 percent to 39 percent.  He's trailing Kamala Harris 45 percent to 39 percent.  And his approval ratings continue to be pretty terrible.

Nationwide Fox found that 56 percent of registered voters disapprove of Trump's job performance and things are not looking better for him in key states.  A polling this week found Trump with a net negative approval rating in states like Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all states that he won in 2016.

Republicans are trying to put the best possible face on the disastrous poll numbers after a conservative think-tank released a poll showing that Trump barely leads the Democratic contenders in North Carolina.  Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel posted a celebratory tweet crowing that Trump is "beating every leading 2020 Democrat."

That prompted a data journalist for The Economist to respond with this.  "A poll from right-leaning think-tank shows Trump within the margin of error versus Biden Sanders and Warren in a state that leans six points to the right of the nation, and the Republican chairwoman thinks this is good news?"

Of course, polls can and will move in the run-up to the election but things probably aren't going to get better for Trump if the economy falls into a recession that can be traced at least in part to a trade war with China that he created.

Just this week the Dow had its worst day of the year dropping over 800 points in a single day on signs that a recession could be on the horizon.  Now, publicly Trump has been pretending that all is fine with the economy but privately it's a different story.  He's reportedly quote sounded anxious and apprehensive and essentially been retreating into fantasy to make himself feel better.

A Republican close to the administration telling The Washington Post that Trump has been telling some confidence that he distrusts statistics that he sees reported in the news media.  "He's rattled.  He thinks all the people that do this economic forecasting are a bunch of establishment weenies, elites who don't know anything about the real economy and they're against Trump."

Last night in New Hampshire, Trump told his supporters that they have to -- they have to back him or face financial ruin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I know you like me and this room is a lovefest.  I know that.  But you have no choice but to vote for me because your 401ks down the tubes.  Everything is going to be down the tubes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  Joining me now to talk about all of this Zerlina Maxwell, Senior Director of Progressive Programming for Sirius XM and an MSNBC Political Analyst, former Senator Barbara Boxer Democrat of California, the co-host of the Boxer Podcast and Neera Tanden a former policy director for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's presidential campaigns and the President of the progressive think tank the Center for American Progress.  Welcome to all of you.

Neera, let's start with you.  The president moving as we said into a hard sell now.  It's no longer I'm the better candidate but you better vote for me or someone else is going to tank the economy in a week that he's widely thought to be tanking the economy.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Yes, I think he knew obviously economic news, bad economic news is a problem for any president.  But Trump isn't a particularly precarious position because first of all, his approval ratings are lower than his -- people's views of the economy.  So it's clearly the economy has been bolstering him.

Now, the economy goes south and it can be tied to his actions which is very unusual for a presidents.  They have good news economic news, there are very bad economic news, but it's not usually their actions that can be so directly tied to what he's doing.

So obviously the trade war in just the general lack of ability to plan business investment itself as declining.  That's very much related to the erratic nature of this White House and the decisions they make.

So I think he understands he's particularly vulnerable to poor economic news and that's why he's saying insane things about your 401k plan.  Obviously, it's just a massive scare tactic that any rational person which never applies to him, but applies to him less this week than in prior weeks.

VELSHI:  Barbara Boxer, the fear goes deeper.  There is reporting from around the White House that his advisers are saying they're not prepared for a recession.  They're not even thinking about how that's going to work out.  We're ten years and two months into an expansion.  Everybody should be thinking about the fact that there might be a recession.

Does somebody who doesn't acknowledge his contribution to an economic downturn and certainly has no planning in place for what would happen if there is one, I think the issue is going to be how does he possibly even start to see America through such a thing?

BARBARA BOXER, FORMER SENATOR, CALIFORNIA:  Exactly.  And I was there during the Great Recession, the greatest recession since the Great Depression.  And I remember standing on the Senate floor, my state just was losing jobs hand over fist, there were hundreds of thousands of jobs lost month after month, and then remembering when we got calls from the Bush administration, you have to bail out the banks.  It's a nightmare we're going to lose our whole economy.

And here you have a man who criticized deficits and debt and we don't really get to talk about that much.  You do once in a while but most people gloss over it.  He's got trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.  Now, what does that mean it means when you do start to tank, you have nothing in your toolbox.  Interest rates are fairly low so where do you go.

And so I do agree if there's really no thought.  And in my very early days, I was an economics major and I was on Wall Street.  Then it wasn't thought of as such a terrible villain.  And you know, people hate volatility in the market.  It's very -- it's very worrisome because one day you think you're going OK, then you're not going OK so they flee the market.  And you're right he doesn't have anything in his toolbox.

VELSHI:  Yes.  And you know, Zerlina, I'm not sure if Barbara Boxer got the memo that the tax cuts are going to pay for themselves.  They're not going to actually cause a greater deficit or greater debt.  But this is the thing, right.  That's what Donald Trump says.  He says these things.  He goes on he speaks at rallies and he just says things that are now provably wrong.

Some people don't even bother correcting him anymore because they're just lie after lie after lie.  But the fact is there are some people who are believing him.  There are some people who are going to believe that you can't let the Democrats touch this economy because they'll tank it, not his trade war with China, not his economic policies, not his tax cuts that have actually increased the deficit something as Barbara Boxer said he railed against when campaigning.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Look, the number that I always have to remind myself of every single day is that Donald Trump only got 26 percent of eligible voters.  And so the economy to Neera's point absolutely has bolstered his support and he's you know, up in the 30s because there are a lot of people who did get tax cuts, corporations and rich people, not necessarily the average American worker.

And so I think that Donald Trump you know, has essentially been coasting here on a 77,000 vote margin that gave him the Electoral College.  And the chickens are coming home to roost.  You cannot you know, perpetually lie every single day to the American voter and then when it comes time to tell the truth about the economy no one's going to believe you.

So I think that yes, he probably is fairly rattled because the only issue that he had going for him was the economy and I guess racism which isn't really an appealing message.

VELSHI:  Though he uses that at rallies as well sometimes.  Neera, here's the question.  Are the chickens coming home to roost?  Obviously, if there's an economic downturn in which unemployment increases, wages fall, that will have a material effect on people, they'll feel it.  And probably if prices go up because of this trade war as they're starting to, people will probably see it.

So at what point does the president's ability to say anything he want at these rallies coincide with reality?

TANDEN:  So I mean, we should be clear that already lots of Americans feel like they -- that there's been an economic boom for other people, not for them.  So he already has to deal with that.  And it does affect a fair number of his voters.  The big challenge he has is that as you see in polls -- and it's not just one poll it's multiple polls, not -- it's not just states he won by a little bit, it states like Arizona.

A Republican hasn't faced a real race in Arizona in decades.  The fact that Trump is underwater in the state like Arizona is probably one of the reasons why he's rattled because that should be rattling for anybody and that's where -- that's from where the economy is now.

So I think this is a real I think he's rattled for a very good reason and what he will do is what he always does which is attack the opposition.  He will -- I don't think -- you know, he can't really blame Obama for this economy though he may try because he's taken so much credit for it.

But he will do what he tried to do yesterday which is to say if you vote for Democrats, this terrible thing will happen.  You're -- the economy will tank more or worse because that's really his only tactic.  It is to destroy the other side.

I assume people will remember that the economy was pretty good at the you know -- particularly the second term of Obama, but Democrats have to make the case and we have to be clear that when there are challenges, they're his challenges and it's because of the actions like the trade war and the deficits and other things, actions he's taken.

VELSHI:  Barbara Boxer, let's talk about Congress.  The count -- the number of Democrats supporting an impeachment inquiry now 124.  Representative Anthony Brown came out in favor of it today.  It's more than half the caucus.  Talk to me about the politics of impeachment in an environment like this where Donald Trump is weakening.

BOXER:  I tend to take my cues from Speaker Pelosi.  I know her for so long.  And I think what she's come around to is there's just no choice.  You know, if there's high crimes and misdemeanors and it goes way beyond the Mueller report and obstruction of justice to you know a president who winks and nods at white nationalism and tells women of color in the Congress to go home and the rest.  I just think there's no choice.

And I do believe it's -- the Congress is going to have to do everything.  They're going to have to keep on passing legislation.  I want to point out, they have passed great legislation such as raising the minimum wage.  It's been 12 years since that's been done.

And where's the check from Mexico Mr. President to help us with our deficit?  You know, we have to keep reminding the people of these things.  Where's the infrastructure bill?  You gave it away Mr. President when you gave that huge tax cut.  That puts people to work.  I know that.  I was proud to lead the Environment and Public Works Committee.

So look, we have to look at this president.  We have to uphold the Constitution.  The Congress does.  They take that oath.  And if it leads to impeachment, so be it.  But there's lots of other things out there including a backdrop of you know, chaos, and diversion, and narcissism.  And as Vice President Biden says, the soul of our country is really on the ballot.

VELSHI:  Barbara Boxer, Zerlina Maxwell, Neera Tanden, thank you all for joining me on this Friday night.  Coming up next, union workers have their pay held ransom unless they attended a speech by President Donald Trump.  His captive audience after this.

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VELSHI:  All right, on Tuesday, President Trump appeared at a Pennsylvania Shell petrochemical plant to give what was billed as remarks on American energy and manufacturing.  It was a non-political event if there is such a thing in 2019.

Of course, because it was a Trump event, he bragged about the economy and he attacked Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, the media, and the Academy Awards for good measure.  Now, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the workers standing behind Donald Trump in their matching high visibility clothing were not given a realistic option to not attend.

The Post-Gazette reports that rules sent to union leaders said attendance was not mandatory but -- and this is a very big but, "only those that showed up at 7:00 a.m., scanned their pro cards and prepared to stand for hours through lunch but without lunch would be paid.  No scan no pay the rules said."

These people are standing there is if they all chose to be there.  Maybe some of them are Trump supporters.  Now that we know the option was to attend or take the day off and not get paid, it casts their presence in an entirely different light.

One union leader told the Post-Gazette, one day of pay might amount to around $700 in pay benefits and a per diem payment that out-of-town workers received.  So basically these workers had to go unless they wanted to pay basically it was going to cause some 700 bucks not to attend in some cases.

Not only that, they were given a list of rules about their behavior.  No yelling, shouting, protesting, or anything viewed as resistance will be tolerated at the event, the paper read.  And so these workers stood like props behind the president at an event that was not supposed to be a rally and listen to him say things like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I'm going to speak to some of your union leaders to say I hope you go to support Trump, OK.  And if they don't, vote them the hell out of office because they're not doing their job.  It's true.  Vote them out of office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  All right.  Then President Donald Trump stood in front of those workers and claimed responsibility for the project that they're working on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  We have thousands of tons of concrete aluminum and steel and nearly 6,000 of the strongest, toughest, and most talented workers anywhere on earth.  I know.  It was the Trump administration that made it possible, no one else.  Without us, you would never have been able to do this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  That last part is just straight-up untrue as The Associated Press reports, "Shell announced its plans to build the complex in 2012 midway through President Barack Obama's term in the White House.  Lots of going on here.  Joining me is more -- with more on the President's captive audience as Chris Lu, White House cabinet secretary under President Obama and former Deputy Secretary of Labor.  Chris, good to see you.  Thank you for being with us.

CHRIS LU, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF LABOR:  Absolutely.

VELSHI:  Your thoughts on this, a staged crowd, people who were told you don't get paid if you don't show up.  It does seem a little not the way things are supposed to be in 2019.

LU:  Yes, Ali.  We have seen a lot of bizarre events from Donald Trump since he first announced four years ago.  This is clearly one of the most bizarre.  And this idea of holding a captive audience offends me as somebody who helped plan President Obama's travel.

We never had to force people to show up there.  We never made people stand for 10 hours without lunch.  We never docked them their pay if they didn't show up.  It also frankly offends me as the former Deputy Secretary of Labor who worked to ensure that American workers had opportunities and one of the opportunities is you don't have to listen to a forced speech by your president.

But there are so many just crazy statements that he makes.  This idea that Obama would have stopped this project.  This project was as you said proposed in 2012 it was approved in June of 2016 before Obama left office.  In fact, if there's one person who potentially impeded the construction of this plant, it's Donald Trump.

Pat Toomey, Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania complain that the President's steel quotas on foreign steel were preventing the construction of this plant.  So actually, if there's anybody who potentially helped this thing up, it was Donald Trump.  And then there's a whole litany of just missed statements and gaffes and lies.

And the kicker of all this thing is that this ended up becoming an official event.  So American taxpayers paid for this entire travesty.

VELSHI:  Yes, that's -- right, we paid for it and it became a rally.  I mean, I think the average person watching this show is -- has become confused over what the difference is between an official event and a rally because the rhetoric sounds similar.

Now, we don't air a lot of these rallies so people don't realize he gets much more animated at these rallies and he says things -- you know, he stands there while people chant "send her back" and things like that.  But we do see these events that are supposed to be you know, actually official events that feel much like what political rallies used to feel like.

LU:  And until this administration, there was a clear line that if the president was appearing in official context, he did not talk about his reelection.  And if he did talk about his reelection, the entire cost of this including Air Force One, all the staging for the event get paid for by political parties or by his campaign reelection.

And so he's essentially profiting as he always has by blurring this line or just trampling all over the line yet again.  And this is just normal now.  And there again is no fuss at all from Republicans in Congress who would have lost their minds had Barack Obama had done this.

VELSHI:  Let's talk a little bit about the -- what the law says about this.  Are you allowed to do that?  Are you allowed to dock people there, pay if they don't -- if they don't do a political thing?

LU:  Well, look, I think -- I think it's a little fuzzy and I think the union leadership has to answer for why they did this.  So essentially what they said was this is not a mandatory event.  But if you choose to sit this out, we will pay you for the day off, but it will not count towards the overtime that you would have earned for that week.

And as you pointed out, that extra overtime potentially amounts about $700 a day.  So again, not mandatory but they suffered a pretty severe financial penalty for not attending.

VELSHI:  What a thing.  Chris, thanks very much for joining me.  Good to see you as always.

LU:  Always.

VELSHI:  Chris Lu.  All right, coming up next, the President tonight attacking a congresswoman for declining to go to Israel after he told Israel not to let her in.  Mehdi Hasan joins me with his thoughts on Rashida Tlaib next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI:  Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan has a history of being outspoken about her principles.  Back in 2016, long before she became a member of Congress, she was part of a group of women who staged a protest against Donald Trump at a campaign speech in Detroit, Michigan.  That's her in the middle.  She was escorted out of that event.

Last year, she went on to run for Congress and won become one of the first two Muslim American Congresswomen.  Shortly after she was sworn in, literally on the same night, Congresswoman Tlaib was caught on camera promising to impeach the president in words I cannot repeat right now on T.V.

When what she said all but dominated the news cycle, she made no apologies.  I will always speak truth to power and she hasn't backed down since.  Yesterday, Congresswoman Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were blocked from entering Israel at the urging of President Donald Trump.

For Tlaib, that visit, that trip was going to include a visit to her grandmother who was from the occupied West Bank.  She lives there.  Well, today, the Israeli government changed course.  They said that Tlaib could come if she agreed in writing not to promote boycotts against Israel during the trip.

Congresswoman Talib initially agreed then changed her mind saying she would not be silenced.  Here with me now someone who's been closely following Donald Trump as he increasingly leans toward authoritarianism and who has been following this story as it continues to develop, Mehdi Hasan is a Columnist at the Intercept and the host of Up Front on Al Jazeera.

Mehdi, look, the irony of the Rashida Tlaib stuff is that at some point a few weeks ago that the president said "send them back," Rashida Tlaib is from Detroit but her parents are actually from Palestine.  She was going back and then he told Israel to stop her.

Colin Kahl, former Deputy Assistant of President Obama said that Trump can't even keep his racist demands straight.  What do you make of this mess?

MEHDI HASAN, COLUMNIST, THE INTERCEPT:  Surprised Donald Trump has no consistency or principles.  What do I make it a mess, Ali, two big takeaways.  Number one, the President of the United States who Styles himself as a great patriot, nationalist, wants to make America great again, wants to stick up for America in the world, allies with a foreign government in order to throw two duly elected members of the United States Congress under the bus simply because they are women of color, they are Muslims, and they are strong critics of his.

He doesn't care about the fact that they're members of United States Congress.  He allies with the Netanyahu government saying yes, don't let them in.  Outrageous, unprecedented -- even AIPAC, even AIPAC comes out and says this is not a good move.

Number two, the other big takeaway...

VELSHI:  By the way, which has been clear about the fact that they are not on the same side as Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar...

HASAN:  Not at all.  Not at all.  They're very much on...

VELSHI:  ...about Israel, yeah.

HASAN:  They're very much on Netanyahu's side on everything else.

But here's the big other takeaway related to Israel and the debate in the United States, which Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have done so much to kind of highlight, which this is stark proof, if any more was needed, that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is a reality, that the Israelis control the lives, the everyday lives, the freedom of movement, the freedom of speech, of ordinary Palestinians to the extent that a Palestinian- American, who is a member of congress, wants to come to visit her grandmother and she's told you must sign a letter giving up your freedom of speech.  That's absurd.  Even Steney Hoyer, Democrat who has criticized Ilhan and Rashida, big supporter of Netanyahu, even he came out today and said this is unprecedented.

VELSHI:  So, that would be a problem for anybody, but there's -- if any American were blocked for a lot of reasons, except that America has given Israel, since 1945 in some fashion or other, whether it's deals or direct assistance or military aid, something along the lines of about $143 billion, about three plus billion last year, or in the 2017 fiscal year.  Only Iraq and Afghanistan were ahead of Israel in 2017.  But historically, no one is even close to Israel as a recipient of American money.

Last night Bernie Sanders was on the show and had a few that maybe this is the opportunity to rethink whether that's a good return on investment.  Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Israel doesn't want members of the United States Congress to visit their country to get a firsthand look at what's going on?  And I've been there many, many times.  But if he doesn't want members to visit, maybe he can respectfully decline the billions of dollars we gift Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  Your take on that.  American members of congress pass and determine that money  going to Israel, two of them got blocked.

HASAN:  So I remember interviewing Bernie Sanders a couple of years ago when he first floated the idea of making U.S. aid conditional on behavior, which it really should be.

And, by the way, Ali, you mentioned the U.S. gives aid, it's congress, really, who gives that aid.  And it's two members of congress who are being blocked.  Ilhan Omar has said that we should use U.S. aid as leverage, to get Israel to stop violating international law, stop building illegal settlements.  Bernie is saying similar things.  I'm sure Elizabeth Warren and others will soon follow.

What's interesting now is that Netanyahu and Trump have made Israel a deeply partisan and  polarizing issue in the United States.  They've become the biggest recruiters for the BDS movement, the boycott movement, that so annoys them.  That's the irony.  They've taken this issue and actually energized it.

And people who don't like Trump's racism at home are saying, well, why should we ally with Netanyahu's racism abroad?  So, it's become a very much a partisan issue.  The Democratic base, which is younger, less white than the rest of the party, is far less pro-Israeli than other generations and other Democrats, all the polls show that.  And not a good direction for Israel if Israel continues to behave in this illegal, and, yes, racist way.

Tim Kaine said today Prime Minister Netanyahu, lift your Muslim ban.  It's Netanyahu's Muslim ban to go with Trump's Muslim's ban.

VELSHI:  Mehdi, good to see you as always.  Mehdi Hasan for us.

HASAN:  Thanks, Ali.

VELSHI:  All right, coming up, the corrections officer who drove through ICE protesters resigns.  I'll talk to one of the organizers of that event who watched it all happen, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI:  A corrections officer who drove his truck into a crowd of protesters outside an ICE facility in Rhode Island has resigned.  The Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island, is a privately run holding center for migrants held by immigrations and customs enforcement.  Two nights ago, a group of protesters from the never again project gathered outside the building to call for the end of ICE detentions, forming a line in front of the facility's parking lot.  And when a corrections officer who works in the facility approached that parking lot in his truck, things turned very ugly.

The video I'm going to show you is disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shame, shame, shame!

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shame, shame!

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The world is watching!  The whole world is watching.  \

CROWD:  The whole world is watching.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  Organizers say five protesters were hospitalized after being struck by that black pickup truck.  Guards from the detention center also deployed pepper spray on the crowd following the truck incident.  The man believed to be the driver, Captain Thomas Woodworth, was initially placed on leave.  And today he resigned.

The Rhode Island attorney general and the state police are now investigating the incident.  Equally shocking is the reaction of people who are supposed to be a little more responsible with what they say, especially at an age where terror attacks have taken place that look a lot like that scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP0

DOBBS:  In jurisdictions all around the country, by the way, what they committed is assault.  Trying to stop and block a vehicle is considered assault.  It must just gladden your heart to see a bunch of demonstrators at an immigration customs enforcement facility blocking the path of a guard and then complaining about the fact that he sought to do what within his rights, which is to proceed to park his vehicle and go to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  All In asked Fox Business Network for a comment on Lou Dobbs' endorsement of a truck driver purposefully driving his vehicle through a crowd of protesters.  We have not received a reply.

Joining me now is Aaron Regunberg  .  He is a former Rhode Island state representative, who helped organize the Never Again protest at the Wyatt Detention Facility, and was there when the incident happened.

Aaron,  our view is from one perspective where you see the truck turning and making a right turn into the crowd.  We can't see what happened right at that line where people were.  Where were you and what did you see?

AARON REGUNBERG, FORMER RHODE ISLAND STATE REPRESENTATIVE:  So I was right along that line.  And I'd actually like to give a little context for that demonstration.  It was a peaceful protest.  This was hundreds of Jewish Rhode Islanders, alongside immigrants and allies of all faiths, who came together on Tisha B'Av, the week of Tisha B'Av, that's the most powerful Jewish day of mourning, to mourn this state's sponsored violence that we're seeing at places like the Wyatt, at ICE detention facilities.  And to say that we're not going to allow Rhode Island institutions to continue partnering with ICE and perpetrating that violence.

So, again, it was a peaceful demonstration.  It was full of prayer and song.  There were faith leaders, there were rabbis, there were imams.  And then as you showed at one point, the prison officer drove his truck into a line of peaceful demonstrators that included three minors, it included seniors and elders, a number of people were hit, several were hospitalized.

And then a squad of prison guards marched out of the Wyatt and pepper sprayed this crowd of young people, of seniors, of elders.  It was...

VELSHI:  I just want to add -- I want to interrupt you, because we're showing this picture of the truck.

REGUNBERG:  So, what happens, the truck goes up there at quite a clip.  I'm a little surprised.  Clearly, you can see the protesters.  Everybody was wearing a brightly colored shirt.  What happened?  When that truck came up, did it hit anybody at the first instance, or once everybody stood up?

So it initially drove up.  It did hit several people.  We rushed forward to make space to try to shield some of the folks that were sort of pushed back that were on the ground.  So as you saw, it paused.  And then it's very clearly deliberate.  He made a choice to then accelerate through the crowd once again.

So...

VELSHI:  I don't know if you heard Lou Dobbs' comment that the protesters, you were doing  something unlawful by preventing a vehicle from getting through.  What's your take on that, that he was doing something lawful, he was trying to get to his parking spot?

REGUNBERG:  Well, obviously there is no right to drive a truck into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators.  That is a violent act.  It's assault.  And I think for us the real lesson was to see that if this system is willing to unleash that kind of violence against us, against peaceful protesters with cameras and media and lawyers there, you know, what is happening behind those walls?  What kind of violence is being perpetrated on immigrant detainees who do not have cameras, who do not have  bystanders, who do not have legal access to anything that can shield them from that violence?

VELSHI:  I'm a little curious.  When this happened, and then the truck seems to get stopped a second time, people sort of got on it and stuff, and then you see these corrections officers coming out and momentarily you see the pepper spray, there we go, what -- was the officer in the car, was he apologetic?  Was he belligerent?  Did the officers who came out have some sense of what had  just happened or they pepper sprayed the crowd?

Because that seemed to be not the right thing to do.

REGUNBERG:  It was not. Certainly there was -- no one was apologetic.  The prison guards came out very aggressively to pepper spray, and people were put in real harm's way.

And it underlines why we are in this fight.  It underlines why we are coming together to say never again, because this is too violent of a system to allow to continue operating.

VELSHI:  Too violent of a system indeed.  Thank you for being with us.  We appreciate it.

Aaron Regunberg is a former state legislator, and he was there and an organizer of the protest.  Thank you, sir.

Just ahead, an amazing new project on the lasting legacy of slavery in America.  400 years after the first African slaves set foot on this land.  Trymaine Lee and Nikole Hannah-Jones join me ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  We know Donald Trump is obsessed with his crowd sizes, which is why the hashtag #emptyseatmagatour that has been trending on Twitter today is such a masterful troll, highlighting examples of empty chairs at Donald Trump rallies.

Take a look at this example.

But there is another issue at those rallies that is clearly bothering the president, all the protesters.  And he has found an interesting way to deal with it recently.  Instead of just continuing on with his speech and talking over them, he stops mid-sentence, turns around and stares until they stop, for whoever long it takes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  In Chicago last year...

CROWD:  (BOOING)

TRUMP:  This guy was running against a so-called star.

CROWD:  (BOOING)

TRUMP:  Minnesota, great state.

CROWD:  (BOOING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  It really happens that way.

It happened again last night at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire.  And after a whole minute, a whole minute of standing silently, an apparently frustrated Trump started throwing insults.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  That guy's got a serious weight problem.  Go home, start exercising.  Get him out of here, please.  Got a bigger problem than I do.  Got a bigger problem than all of us.

Now he goes home and his mom says what the hell have you just done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  There are a lot of things wrong with that, but perhaps what the president got most  wrong is that the guy he was talking about, the guy with the weight problem is actually one of his own supporters.

His name is Frank Dawson.  He is a retired law enforcement officer.  The president called him from Air Force One last night after the rally, notably not to apologize.  In fact, The New York Times reports that Trump claimed he wasn't even talking about him.

Either way, Frank Dawson didn't seem to care.  When interviewed today, he basically said thank you, Mr. President.  May I have another.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK DAWSON, TRUMP SUPPORTER:  He said hey, that guy needs to lose a little weight.

Everything is good.  I love the guy.  He is the best thing that ever happened to this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI:  400 years ago this month, in 1619, 20 enslaved Africans arrived in what would become the United States, ironically, a place called Point Comfort in the British colony of Virginia.

The 1619 Project is a remarkable commemoration of the 400-year anniversary and the legacy its The New York Times magazine.  Joining me now, Nikole Hannah-Jones, the domestic correspondent for The New York Times magazine, focusing on racial injustice.  She conceived this massive 1619 Project and produced it with The New York Times.  She also wrote the lead piece entitled "Our democracy's founding ideals were false when they were written.  Black Americans have fought to make them true."

Also joining us at this table, MSNBC correspondent Trymaine Lee who contributed to the project with his piece on the wealth gap that separates black and white America.

Thank you to both of you for being here and for this remarkable project and the remarkable work that it has taken to get it done.

Your argument here, it's written in sort of a sub-headline.  It says America wasn't a democracy until black America made it one.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE:  Yes.

VELSHI:  It's a very long piece that I think everybody should actually read.  It printed out as 20 pages for me.

What's the argument in the shorter version?

HANNAH-JONES:  So the argument is basically two pronged.  The first argument is that we were a country based on both an idea and a lie, that our founding fathers as they were writing these words of liberation and that -- saying they were going to found a country based on the individual  rights of men were also holding one fifth of the population in bondage, and those people would receive none of those rights.

And the second prong is that black people actually believed in those words and took those words literally and have spent really the entire time we've been in this country fighting to make those words real and to make our constitution, which actually was somewhat anti-democratic, it excluded the franchise...

VELSHI:  More than somewhat.

HANNAH-JONES:  Right, women were excluded from the franchise, native people, black people.  It codified slavery, even though it never mentions the word.  But black people fought to make those ideals real for all Americans.

VELSHI:  You mean really fought.  I mean, dying in the Revolutionary War, dying in the Civil War, dying in the economic pursuit of making this the wealthiest country in the world.

HANNAH-JONES:  Absolutely.

So, the very first person to die in the Revolutionary War is a man named Crispus Attucks, who himself had run away.  He was a fugitive from slavery, and fought for a freedom that his own people wouldn't see for another 100 years.

Black people have fought in every single war in this country and to this day are the highest percentage of people who fight in the military.

So we're much more likely to be in the military than any other group.

VELSHI:  Which means die for your country.

HANNAH-JONES:  Exactly.  But outside of that, outside of just fighting in external wars, black Americans have also had to fight an internal war.  So, if you do the body count of how many black people have died trying to get the right to exercise a franchise, trying to get the right to be seen as equal citizens before the law, they were always having to wage both an internal war and an external war.

VELSHI:  Trymaine, this is not just a commemoration of something that happened 400 years ago, the piece you've written is about how this is currently a fight.  And the fight now, and this is where -- this is where my work is done, is in economics.  The median wealth for white families, the point at which white family -- half of all white families have more wealth and have less is $171,000.  That's everything, that's homes, cars, bank accounts, all that kind of stuff.

For black families, it's one-tenth, it's one-tenth the value.  And that's because we have not been able to build up the ownership society in black America as we have in white America.  There haven't been the houses to pass down, or where they have been, which you point out, sometimes they've been taken.

TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  So, it's not just the inability to acquire the wealth, right, it's once you've got the wealth and any degree of progress made, of success, it was violently stripped away.  And I think that's one of the points I think is often missed is that the violence it's taken to maintain this system, this caste, the way it is now, it was very violent and very bloody.

And I think that's one thing that's really important about this project is the reframing, because it's been intentionally misframed all this time.  And so trying to set the record straight that black folks didn't just fall from the sky and here we are one-tenth of the wealth, struggling to make ends meet and send your kids to college and get housing.

There's been an intent here all along.  I think that's the part that has been missing.  Really looking at -- you know, there's a saying I like that you can't separate the leaves of a tree from the roots.  And when it comes to our American experience, the violence, the wealth stripping, what I call the violent economic dispossession that folks experienced, especially in -- there was a sweet spot right  after Emancipation with Reconstruction and there was so much hope.  But then the redemption.  The pendulum of white supremacy swung back so hard and so violently, and we've never recovered.

VELSHI:  Nikole, you make an argument in here about the flag when you were a little girl, and your father would fly the American flag, and everything you had learned.  Your learned experience at that point in school and in society was that this wasn't really as much your America as it was white America,  And you didn't really get why your dad was flying this flag, and you have learned that it was his flag, and black people's flag, and earned to be their flag as much as it was anyone else's.  And your pride in America grew from that realization.

HANNAH-JONES:  Absolutely.  If you look at from our founding documents, if you look at the Supreme Court ruling that said black people no matter if they were enslaved or free could never be citizens of the country of our birth, if you look at the fact that it took until 1968 before black people got full legal citizenship in this country.  As a child, it was very perplexing to me, because I had always been taught through society, through reading texts in school, that we actually weren't fully citizens, that this country did not belong to us.

VELSHI:  Why is my dad so happy  to fly that flag?

HANNAH-JONES:  Exactly.  Abraham Lincoln called us a troublesome presence and actually tried to ship black people out of this country after Emancipation.

So to see my dad fly that flag, it seemed like he was kind of bowing to our subordination, that he was admitting that.  But really through working on this project and having to think about the role that black people have played, and really the undying faith that black people have had in this country, made me understand that we have as much right, and maybe more in some ways, to be patriotic about this country and claim the flag of this country, and that there's no shame in our ancestral lands beginning here.

And that always felt like that was shameful to me, that slavery had erased a connection to our ancestral land.  But really what I'm arguing is through slavery we created ourselves as a new people, and we should have a tremendous amount of pride to the accomplishments that we have made here on these lands.

VELSHI:  Trymaine, are we, in your opinion, in 2019 the face of racism and white supremacy and bigotry and division like we haven't seen in a long time in America.  Are we actually heading toward possibly righting this wrong because we're talking about, because people are having conversations around righting some of these historical wrongs even through things like reparations?

LEE:  Righting the wrong would be a big step forward.  I think first is a true accounting, a true reflection of who we say we are, because the picture so many people have grown up with of what America is, we always kind of knew that it was false, because we're living a different kind of reality.  And I think until we first have that full picture, we will continue to be un-moored.

But that first step of realizing that we aren't still just some sub-human, second class -- because a lot of people grew up, whether they're racist or not, grew up -- they're inferior, they must be.  But that other part of the story of their legacy is tied into everything that we've experienced.

VELSHI:  I'm so grateful to both of you for that. 

Unfortunately we're out of time, but we will continue this discussion.  I guarantee that.  I have a lot of shows in this place,  so you'll come back and talk to us.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, Trymaine Lee, thank you to both of you.  Please read that article.

That's All In for this evening.  Chris Hayes will be back Monday.  "The Rachel Maddow Show" starts now.

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  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.