The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 8/16/17 Fallout from Trump comments

Guests: Michael Dyson, Kristin Szakos, Gerald Horn, F. Michael Higginbotham, Donna Edwards, Joyce Vance, Traci Blackmon, Michael Eric Dyson

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 16, 2017 Guest: Michael Dyson, Kristin Szakos, Gerald Horn, F. Michael Higginbotham, Donna Edwards, Joyce Vance, Traci Blackmon, Michael Eric Dyson

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": You can call him the favorite in this race, not to just get the nomination, but potentially when the general, Sen. Strange, who has the highly coveted backing of President Trump, and millions for Mitch McConnell`s pack, is now the underdog.

And as crazy as it seems, if Roy Moore is the nominee, Alabama could be in play for the Democrats.

Think of this is Alabama Senate for Donald Trump what Massachusetts Senate was for Barack Obama in 2009 and 2010.

That`s all for tonight. THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Good evening. Thank you, Chuck.

Today, in Charlottesville, thousands of citizens honored Heather Heyer at her memorial. Today, in New Jersey, Donald Trump hunkered down with aides who continue to stand by his more equivalence about white supremacist violence.

Heather Heyer`s family and friends spoke at her memorial today, many preaching peace and forgiveness. There was no doubt President Trump`s new charged comments hung over this gathering as civic, business and political leaders around the nation condemned the president`s argument.

President Trump`s divisive approach has united many people today, but let`s be clear that is cold comfort at a time like this.

We are witnessing the unity of horror and outrage, not unity borne of leadership or a president apparently capable of looking at this moment beyond himself.

So, we want to begin tonight not with the politics or the optics, we begin with a moral premise. Authorities say a man killed activist, Heather Heyer, without cause. She went to that rally for peaceful protest and gave up her life for it. Her parents mourning that sacrifice today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK HEYER, HEATHER HEYER`S FATHER: No father should have to do this, but I love my daughter. And as I look at all you guys, you love her too. She wanted to put down hate.

SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER`S MOTHER: They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her. I`d rather have my child. But by golly, if I`ve got to give her up, we`re going to make it count.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Make it count. That is a moral premise. Now, let`s turn to a legal premise. Authorities are treating as a one-sided attack, charging 20-year-old James Alex Fields with second-degree murder. They allege he drove his 4000-pound Dodge Challenger into that crowd of people, charges that can bring up to 40 years in prison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL THOMAS, CHARLOTTESVILLE POLICE CHIEF: Heather Heyer was struck down by a vehicle, while exercising her peaceful right to speech. While it will never make up for the loss of a member of our community, we will pursue charges against the driver of the vehicle that caused her death and are confident justice will prevail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That is how Police Chief Al Thomas is apportioning the blame, charging this driver for murder.

You will note the obvious. They`re not charging Heather Heyer or any other person for charges related to that killing.

The police chief would appear to know more about this case than Donald Trump, who said people can call this murder or not because, he went on to say yesterday, people can call it whatever you want.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can call it terrorism, you can call it murder, you can call it whatever you want. I think there is blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it and you don`t have any doubt about it either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Donald Trump has no doubt about it. But having raised the moral and legal premises tonight, let`s turn finally to a factual one.

Compared to the authorities` account of blame in this case, Donald Trump does not know what he`s talking about, but he knows exactly what he`s doing.

I turn now to the University of Baltimore Professor F. Michael Higginbotham, who is the author of Ghosts of Jim Crow; Donna Edwards, a senior fellow of the Brennan Center for justice and a former Congresswoman from Maryland and Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor.

Good evening to each of you. Donna, what have we learned now in this ensuing day as the president`s comments are basically sifted throughout the country, drawing incredible rebukes, I should note, from this bipartisan chorus at varying levels of intensity and, as I just argued, failed moral and legal test?

DONNA EDWARDS, SENIOR FELLOW, THE BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE, AND FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN (D), MARYLAND: Well, I think both as a moral matter, as you pointed out, and a legal matter, Donald Trump is on the wrong playing field.

It seems really clear to me and, as evidenced by now the departure, although he says the dismissal, of his business council that across the board Americans believe that this was a terrorist attack, that it was borne of racism and xenophobia, and it was borne of white nationalism and supremacy, and that`s it`s not acceptable.

And what I find is that today, on a day that Heather Heyer`s parents stood so tall and so forceful in support of, in defense of their daughter and showing us and them to the world that Donald Trump to this moment has not even echoed anything to that family that is grieving that had shared their daughter with the world.

And I find that as troubling as anything that he`s done and it`s really unfortunate because I think the vast majority of Americans are not in that place. We know the moral high ground and Donald Trump has not made it.

MELBER: Professor, you wrote the book on not only the legacy of Jim Crow, but what you titled the Ghosts of Jim Crow for folks who haven`t given this as much thought and folks in the north who think of this as the past, what do you mean about the ghost of Jim Crow?

F. MICHAEL HIGGINBOTHAM, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE, AUTHOR OF GHOSTS OF JIM CROW: We`ve had a long history, of course, in this country, Ari, of race discrimination and slavery, segregation.

And it was a mentality, a way of thinking, a way of looking at non-whites as less than whites, a way of separating out and discriminating against them, treating them differently.

And that mentality continues today with some Americans. We`ve certainly made a lot of progress, but if you look at things that are happening today, there`s a lot of similarities in terms of the way that people are thinking, in terms of our divided schools, in terms of our divided neighborhoods, and so those are ghosts of Jim Crow that we`re seeing. And, of course, we saw them this weekend.

MELBER: Donna, take a listen to what Jelani Cobb called for actually in this broadcast last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JELANI COBB, STAFF WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": We had thought we had reached a point where these sentiments were universally rejected. And now, within eight months of him being elected, of him taking office, we are now questioning this. So, I think that the only fitting response perhaps would be if the five living presidents were to make a statement, maybe jointly, that Nazism is contrary to American values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Donna, does this rise to that level?

EDWARDS: Well, I think already I saw a statement today issued by the two Bush presidents and I expect that more will come from our other presidents.

Very clearly, there has not been a president in modern history that has chosen to align themselves with Nazism. That`s a very bright line. That`s not something up for debate.

And I think here, Donald Trump has crossed that line and he has decided that he`s going to make common cause with Nazis, common cause with white nationalists, common cause with those who believe in white supremacy.

And I think we do have to push back on that at every single level because, if this is not who we are, then we owe it to Heather Heyer to prove that that`s not who we are.

MELBER: Joyce, you are here as a former federal prosecutor and one with an understanding of the south as well, I think, when you see a president who campaigned on law and order, who often talks tough, who can put chills down your spine when he narrates how the MS-13 gang members allegedly tried to kill people slowly to relish the murder, he seems very comfortable talking about certain types of crime.

And yet, the horror that we saw that weekend, the horror that was relived today, to some degree, in that memorial service, the killing of what authorities say was a total innocent with a car, this type of vehicular second-degree murder, according to local authorities, in your view as a prosecutor, why suddenly did the tough-on-crime president fall back on saying, well, maybe you call it a murder or call it whatever you want?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: That`s got to be the $60 million question here. The easy response for the president would have been to call this terrorism based on a radical ideology that suggests that we should kill people because of the color of their skin.

The easy answer for the president would have been to speak out against these sorts of hate crimes and to call for a full investigation by the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department.

He hasn`t done those things. And it`s an irony that today, on Twitter, we saw statements from military leaders rejecting any suggestion that people who are not of white Aryan blood are somehow less than the rest of the world, of military leaders speaking out in the name of fairness and equality on Twitter, followed by this rather remarkable divorce that business community leaders got from the president later on today.

MELBER: Well, you motioned that, Joyce. Let me ask you about that as well because we want to update on that other part of this developing story, Trump dissolving two of his economic advisory councils.

This was after these CEOs continued to resign over his response to the white supremacist violence. Top executives announcing the resignations from the Manufacturing Council, there is two of them, so it gets a little confusing.

But, today, the leaders of this so-called Strategic and Policy Forum basically said they were going to disband because of the debate and the way Trump had talked about it was a distraction.

And then, within moments, Donald Trump took to Twitter saying, "Rather than put pressure on the business people of the Manufacturing Council and Strategy and Policy Forum, I`m ending both. Thank you all."

Joyce, speaking not only as law enforcement, but, as we might say, a proud southern citizen, walk us through how far you have to go to get this many companies to basically say we`re out because they, obviously, don`t view it as politics, I think they try to stay out of politics. They seem to see this as something they just can`t countenance.

VANCE: It`s remarkable. It`s a fundamental American value, this idea of fairness, this notion of equality that we have. This president has no moral compass. The needle is spinning wildly and he doesn`t seem to know where true north is anymore.

The American business community does. And they are responsible to their customers and to their boards and it looks to me like they`ve decided to stand up and tell this president that they`ve finally found a redline he can`t cross.

MELBER: And, professor, I`m not in search of rays of sunshine, it seems to me like a pretty stormy week. But I wonder if you could reflect for us on the notion, in 2017, of America`s business leaders taking this kind of action against what they see as inappropriate leadership on race by the president, when we`ve come out of decades where it was civil rights organizers risking life and limb through boycotts, through upward economic pressure to get this kind of result.

HIGGINBOTHAM: Well, I commend these CEOs starting, with Ken Frazier, of course, for Merck, who did it three days ago. And I commend them. They`re in a long line of real American heroes standing up against racist actions.

Mohammed Ali did it. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, and I would add that Heather Heyer should be placed in that list.

I agree 100 percent with Congresswoman Edwards that President Trump not only should have reach out to the family, but he should have said this is a real American hero, embracing real American values that are enduring, like we are all equal.

MELBER: You view Heather Heyer as a potential civil rights leader or icon to be remembered?

HIGGINBOTHAM: Yes, I do. In a long line of real American heroes.

MELBER: I appreciate. On that note, Professor Higginbotham and Joyce Vance, thank you both. Donna, please stick around. I want to speak to you later on THE BEAT.

And coming up, we`re going in a different direction to fact-check the actual claims here about both sides in Charlottesville. We have an activist and pastor who was there adding facts as an antidote to what we heard last night.

Now, where did Trump actually get his talking points and his historical arguments about Jefferson. The answer may surprise you. We have a break down on that.

And what is the fight over Confederate monuments actually about? A special on THE BEAT tonight. The Charlottesville City councilwoman who helped start this entire debate and get that now infamous statue removed is here.

I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: President Trump is telling the American people the truth and the elite media hates it and the left hates it. I think we should condemn racism on both sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Newt Gingrich and other Trump supporters backing him up, taking a leaf from President Trump`s blame of both sides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(CROSSTALK)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: He`s posing the question. Let`s answer it for you. There were some instances of those counter-protesters that engaged in skirmishes.

But let`s be clear. The issue coming out of the rally was not skirmishes. It is about an alleged murder, a peaceful protester who lost her life and trying to morally equate both sides after that is wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe one side was more responsible than another for instigating the violence?

THOMAS: This was an alt-right rally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: It was an alt-right rally. That`s what it was. Organized by white supremacists for white supremacists. Full stop. No other comparisons.

So, when you say that observers were there or peace activists were there or, yes, police were there, the fact that police were there doesn`t tell you what the alt-right folks were doing.

As Congressman Lieu said last night, the president is intentionally enabling white supremacists.

Now, a North Carolina KKK group went on TV to say this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you look at people hitting people with sticks and stuff, it was all Antifa and communist people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: James Fields Jr. was being attacked as he was getting in his car. I don`t blame him for hitting people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just really hate that that girl died, but she had a choice to be there that -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I praise it because the girl - I found out later on she was a part of the anti-fascist communists. So, when a couple of them die, it doesn`t bother us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Traci Blackmon is the Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries at The United Church of Christ. She was also one of the protesters who was there in Charlottesville and spent part of Friday night locked down in a church while those rallies went on and people paraded forward with torches and violence.

I want to ask you, reverend, as we hear both sides becoming a theme, what can you tell us first factually about what you experienced and whether there`s any basis to that claim?

TRACI BLACKMON, EXECUTIVE MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND WITNESS MINISTRIES AT THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: Well, thank you first for having me on. As I`ve stated before, there is no basis for that claim.

And I ask that you ask your listeners to please hold up on the name Tyler McGill, if they are praying people, in their prayers for we hope that Heather Heyer was the only person who loses their life in this.

As a matter of fact, Tyler McGill is in intensive care right now fighting for his life, having been struck in the throat with a Tiki torch on Friday night damaging his carotid. He is now in intensive care.

Clearly, the people who came with the alt-right came with the intention of starting trouble. Their flyers promoted race war. They were very explicit about their desire to cause trouble.

And it began Friday night. The protest was for Saturday. Friday night, while we were worshipping in the church, preparing ourselves spiritually to be able to hold a peaceful, non-violent presence of love in the midst of the alt-right protest not on the park they had a permit for, but on the streets surrounding it.

On that Friday night, hundreds of white supremacists marched on the main street with torches and they were chanting blood and soil, which is a chant that goes back to the Hitler regime, speaking of racial purity and dominance. They were chanting, you will not replace us. Who is you?

MELBER: Well, reverend, let me play that and get your further response because you`re giving us this eyewitness account. And I understand they chanted that and also reportedly chanted Jews will not replace us.

We`re going to show some of that and get your response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: So, you witness them Friday night and your eye witness account is that they were physically menacing.

BLACKMON: They were physically menacing. They had torches in one hand. Most all of the ones I saw were caring torches. Some of them had bats in the other hand. They came to cause trouble.

MELBER: And the other person I want to give some coverage to, as you know, there`s so much to this, reverend, but I know you`re probably familiar with De`Andre Harris and we`re going to show some of the attacks on him, which, again, when people talk about one side or multiple sides, the account here, you`ll see him he`s on the ground and you have multiple individuals, white protesters there, he`s in the middle of the melee, I`m showing to the audience, repeatedly beaten by people in fatigues, three and four at a time.

He`s there in the middle. You see him trying to get away, blood on his face. This was an account taken by one Twitter user video posted that we got into our newsroom. Do you anything about his case and does that match what you saw in, again, group attacks on what looked like peaceful individuals?

BLACKMON: I did not see his particular attack. I did see these neo-Nazi groups, these white supremacist groups marching on people aggressively. I did witness them use shields to bust through a line of clergy, who were singing This Little Light of Mine.

I saw them with my own eyes throwing full bottles of water, full cans of soda, and spraying a liquid that I later heard that was urine. I don`t know that it was urine, but that`s what I heard. I saw the liquid spraying on people.

It was unconscionable and it is absolutely unacceptable that the leader of this nation does not have the moral courage to call this what it is.

MELBER: Reverend, I appreciate you sharing this with us and the time you`ve taken to share what you saw and your courage frankly in all this.

And I`ll mention, you were there - if the president makes a trip down there and does some of the eyewitness accounting you`ve done and wants to come on and ensure a perspective based on what he`s seen and his facts, we welcome that as well.

Thank you for your time.

BLACKMON: Thank You.

MELBER: Now, coming up President Trump`s base heard something quite particular in that press conference and Steve Bannon says he loved it. We`ll share that new reporting.

Also, this fight in Charlottesville centered around this statue of Robert E. Lee. The city councilwoman who actually led the entire civic effort successfully to remove it is here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: In his controversial press conference last night, Donald Trump pushed some bizarre theories that cherrypicked history to water down the injustice of slavery. Where did he get those ideas?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you can make an argument for Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Are you going to change the name of the Washington Monument? Are you going to -?

GINGRICH: (INAUDIBLE) slave owners.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. That`s my point.

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

How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson?

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS: At the time that he made the comment, the driver of the car had not even been identified.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s exactly right.

HUCKABEE: And nothing had been attributed to him at that point.

TRUMP: This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts.

HANNITY: The alt-left propaganda media.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We don`t know if Trump was repeating what he heard on "Fox News" or he got this all somewhere else.

Today, sources friendly to Steve Bannon are quick to credit authorship of this argument to Trump himself. Bannon praising Trump for taking it to the next level by asking where does it end, Axios reports, saying Bannon loved trumps line, "I wonder is it George Washington next week?".

Either way, that was not Trump`s line first. Conservative media figures have been making the odd argument that slavery was once common. Look at the right side of this Tucker Carlson screen where he makes the ridiculous observation that Plato and the Aztecs owned slaves.

You know what? That`s true. Plato also lived 2,300 years ago. And this clumsy attempt at amateur history work isn`t about history. It`s not about whether Plato and Jefferson were wrong to own slaves. They were.

This is a simple debate trick. If you have an embarrassing position like defending a white supremacist monument, try to get the other side to defend something embarrassing themselves, like Plato or even Aztec slavery.

But the violence in Charlottesville was not about Aztec slavery. It was about neo-Nazis defending a white supremacist statute.

I`m joined by Michael Eric Dyson, Georgetown University Sociology Professor and author of many books, including Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America. Michael, you offer what you call a sermon to white America, what is your sermon today?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: My sermon today is let`s study history. What I said in that book, Tears We Cannot Stop, is that white brothers and sisters must come to grips with white privilege, with the intimidating factors of white terror and white supremacy, and we have been face-to-face with that today.

Your point just now is extremely important. When we think about a comparative analysis of slave societies, over space and time, let`s acknowledge Plato and the like, but here`s the difference in that society and the one in which we inherited such heinous conceptions of enslavement. First of all, they were able to buy their way to freedom. Secondly, they were able to tutor the children of those who enslaved them, in order to purchase their own ultimate emancipation. And then, thirdly, when Christianity got involved in what we now know as chattel slavery, it brought the dehumanization of African-American people, according to their views, according to the divine imperative that these people be enslaved. So when you get Christianity involved, we get all jacked up.

The point is today is that trying to do as you said in the debate tactic to obscure the legitimate claims that we have on the one side, by saying, oh, this is an embarrassing thing, let`s be honest. Yes, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves but they are not Robert E. Lee. They are not Stonewall Jackson. Those were secessionists. They hated the country so much, they wanted to secede from it. And Thomas Jefferson wrote a document, the Declaration of Independence, to reinforce the value of democracy that Martin Luther King Jr. a couple of centuries later appealed to in his "I Have A Dream" speech to articulate a vision of democracy. So let`s not confuse those two.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Well, and let me -- and let me join you, professor. You make this point. We all read Jefferson in law school and history class. You can like some of what he wrote and also not like that he was involved in slavery and sexual slavery. In other words, you could clear it right out the side of the conversation and say, yes, that wasn`t a great part of him or Plato. I want Bill Kristol, a Conservative as you know, and a former Bush White House Official. His view of this was, "they started by rationalizing Trump, they ended by rationalizing slavery. Do you think he has that right or has he gone too far?

DYSON: No, I think he`s absolutely right. We know that Bill Kristol is a man of enormous erudition and also restraint and a plumb. This man has seen that his own party is you know, really dissipating from within, eroding its own moral capital, squandering it so to speak, and at the same time, refusing to come to grips with some of the most heinous manifestations of bigotry we`ve seen. It doesn`t take a lot of moral fortitude to say, neo-Nazis are wrong, white supremacists are wrong, white nationalists are wrong, anti-Semitism is wrong, anti-black animus is wrong.

So it doesn`t take much to say that the fact that the President can`t come out and say it and the fact that we start off by legitimating one thing, and then trying to redeem the entire institution of slavery to justify what`s going on now, is not only morally reprehensible, it`s corrupt. And we need to pray for this nation, that`s why we need some invigorated political leadership from the Republicans who have been cowardly in their inability to call President Trump by name and call him to account.

MELBER: Well, professor, I appreciate your points on that. One thing that you, Bill Kristol, and Steve Bannon agree on is Bannon`s statement today that this was a defining moment for Donald Trump. As you and Bill Kristol have argued, defining in all the wrong ways. Professor Michael Eric Dyson, thank you, as always.

DYSON: Thank you Sir, and no doubt about that. Thank you, Sir.

MELBER: Next, I`m going to speak to Charlottesville City Councilwoman, the one I mentioned who`s led this charge to take down the statue. Her perspective and we`ll look at which GOP leaders are actually addressing Trump by name and who are still holding back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Several cities are moving Confederate icons this week, including last night, Baltimore. Meanwhile, Donald Trump suggested it`s the people of Charlottesville who can decide whether to remove their Confederate statue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I would say that`s up to a local town, community, or the federal government, depending on where it is located.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That is up to the local town. What he neglected to mention is Charlottesville already decided to take down the statue. It all began with city Councilwoman Kristin Szakos who first posed a question about this in 2012, which she recalled in an interview.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KRISTIN SZAKOS, CHARLOTTESVILLE COUNCILWOMAN: As soon as I asked the question, there was a gasp in the room from the people around me, and you would have thought I would have asked if it was OK to torture puppies.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MELBER: She was also threatened after raising this idea, but she didn`t back down. By March 2016, another person, a local high school student, launched a petition, and the City Council created a commission to look into this, which led to a council vote in February, removing the statue. It was 3-2. So note that there was a civic process, a community debate, a vote, all peaceful without violence, which is how our democracy works. And then it was these white supremacists, using this implicit threat of violence and menacing, what we`ve been reporting on, in a way to either capitalize on the statue or if you want to buy their argument, to override the democratic process.

There was also a KKK rally in June about this, leading up to this weekend`s violence. We are now joined by city Councilman Kristen Szakos who is here with me, along with Gerald Horn, a professor of African-American studies at the University of Houston and the author of The Rise and Fall of the Associated Negro Press. Councilwoman, what do you make of everything that has happened and would you do anything differently or only hope that these violence activists would have done something differently?

SZAKOS: Well, first of all, you know, I must say that I may have been the first voice on the news to say this, but people have been saying this for years in the city that we really needed to look at whether these statues represent who we are as a city. We voted this year that they do not and so we voted to get rid of them. So at this point, I`d say that, you know, we`re still processing this weekend. It`s been overwhelming. It`s been devastating. And so we`re still trying to work through that.

MELBER: When you said you were initially threatened, what happened there? And did that affect you at all, as a -- as a leader?

SZAKOS: Well, I think, probably, the most sort of threatening thing wasn`t overt, but someone came into our driveway and put Confederate stickers on our car during the night, so it was a very clear message. They knew where we lived and the others have been more e-mails and phone calls. But, no, it doesn`t -- you know, I think when you`re doing the right thing, you do it. You don`t worry about whether people are going to not like it or not.

MELBER: Gerald, please give us your view of all of this and historically, we can put up on the screen, something that bears repeating. We`ve pointed out, many of these statues in many of these areas that were so controversial were not put up originally around, of course, the civil war period. They were put up during the Jim Crow and civil rights struggle. They were put up in a political context, much later, not, for example, in say, museum or historical, contemporaneous context, your views of all of this?

GERALD HORN, UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON PROFESSOR: Well, first of all, you have to understand the general question. That is to say, these statues were erected, not only because they were designed to express white power, but also antipathy and animosity to the newly freed enslaved population, not only because of white supremacy but because the abolition of slavery represented the confiscation of private property without compensation. And there`s nothing like a loss fortune to make people angry, particularly when that lost fortune is walking around the neighborhood acting cheeky about the matter.

Second, of all, these statues were designed particularly in from 1910 to 1920 to express animosity towards black soldiers. Dixie recognized correctly and justifiably that the turning point during the civil war was the enlistment by Abraham Lincoln of black soldiers, who ultimately were at the tip of the spear when the Confederacy was defeated. Recall that in August 1917, during the height, when these statues were being erected, you had a major revolt of armed black soldiers in Houston, Texas. This was proceeded by a fracas in Brownsville, Texas. There was particular antipathy towards black soldiers, because after World War I, when they had they had made a blood sacrifice, after that war had concluded in 1918, they came back to the United States, demanding a full package of civil and human rights, and these statues were erected to slap them in the face, to rebuke and repudiate them and to ensure that white power and white supremacy would reign forever more.

MELBER: And Gerald, you detailed that history and then we look at the types of extremist violence that does occur since the President is trying to trigger that debate. And actually, even when you look across the country, we could put up on the screen, when you have these extreme murders, this domestic violence, what you overwhelmingly see is right-wing extremism. Domestic is the most murders over a roughly nine-year period, according to (INAUDIBLE) study, followed by about a quarter, Islamic extremism and then, as you know, when they categorize this, only 2 percent of those murders accounted for by what is categorized by left-wing extremism. How does that history of violence and terror by right-wing groups or attacks against minorities and African-Americans play into this?

HORN: Well, it`s a critical element. Recall as well that the period following the end of reconstruction, 1877, leading up to the founding of the second iteration of the Ku Klux Klan, Circa 1915, was also the zenith of lynching. In light of this march that took place in Charlottesville on Friday, by these vanilla-ISIS terrorists, recall that a turning point in the struggle against lynching took place around the time of the United States entering World War I and the eruption of World War I, when a Jewish man, Leo Frank, was lynched in Georgia. That was a turning point that brought many Jewish organizations into the struggle for civil rights supporting the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, so, therefore, we should take utterly seriously the fact that these vanilla-ISIS terrorists were marching under the chant of Jews will not take our place.

MELBER: It is chilling, and it is factual, so I appreciate your history, your history lesson to us, as well as Kristen Szakos for explaining your role in this and appreciate your humility, as well. Thank you, both.

Coming up, there`s a test here for politicians, how to respond to President Trump. Who`s calling him out by name and who isn`t.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Well, the President of the United States needs to condemn these kind of hate groups. There is no moral equivalency between the KKK, the neo-Nazis, and anybody else. You`re not going to turn your back on the President, you`re going to speak clearly and bluntly and say get your act together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Governor John Kasich going in hard on President Trump, harder than many other Republicans have. And the question now, over a day out from Donald Trump`s inflammatory press conference and the moral equivalency is what will happen, not in politics, but what will happen more deeply in this country if people do not stand up. Historian Michael Beschloss, who our viewers might recognize as a very measured man, put it starkly today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, HISTORIAN: You have to look to the courts, you have to look to the Congress and you also have to look at American citizens to say, you know, wow, what was said yesterday was not right and if we normalize this, you know, this could be the beginning of the end of democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: CNBC`s John Harwood joins me. Is that a risk?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC EDITOR AT LARGE: I must say, I don`t see it as starkly as Michael does. I don`t think our democracy is in danger and I think, in fact, we`re seeing in the response of ordinary Americans, and many politicians and business leaders a reaction spontaneous and also encouraged against the sentiments the President was expressing. And he`s becoming more isolated by the moment. I do think Michael is right that the courts have a responsibility and the Congress has a responsibility and I think we have seen that, to some extent --

MELBER: John, but you --

HARWOOD: -- on issues like the travel ban, et cetera.

MELBER: Right. And I take your distinction on the democracy front. But the criticism is medium from the top leaders of the Republican Party. Paul Ryan basically only putting it broadly, Mitch McConnell, putting it broadly that he`s against white supremacy, but not addressing the President. So we`re in a Twitter era. Is it enough to only deal with neo-Nazis via sub- tweet?

HARWOOD: No, it`s not but I guess what I`m saying is that you have a bunch of Republican politicians. The reason business people were more aggressive and backed away from the President and Republican leaders have not is because business leaders don`t have run in the Republican primaries. The Republican elected officials are mortally in fear of their jobs. Now, that`s not the same thing though as saying the sentiments of the society on what President Trump had to say are being made plain. And he is being isolated in that way. Now, that`s not the same thing as forcing him out of office which is something that I think is a wrong way of way. I think if Democrats win the Congress, there will be a serious move to impeach him. And I think it`s possible that if this situation continues to deteriorate, Republicans can make his life miserable.

MELBER: Impeach him for what?

HARWOOD: The Democrats?

MELBER: Yes. You said impeach him. For what?

HARWOOD: Well, I think they would react to the results of Bob Mueller`s investigation and in a political sense, they would combine that with ways in which they`ve seen the President behave in ways that they would consider un-American and unfit for the office and they would act on that. Now, I don`t think Republicans would do that unless Bob Mueller sometime soon lays out very stark charges against the President and then I think, we`re in a difficult conversation.

MELBER: John Harwood, I appreciate your thoughts as always.

HARWOOD: You bet.

MELBER: I`ll tell you something else for the viewers. THE BEAT is a free news show. I haven`t done a lot of essays but up next, I want to speak to you about the President`s moral failing on Charlottesville.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Tonight in our breakdown of reports, i want to talk with you about trauma. We`re living through one right now. Now, what exactly is a trauma? Psychologically it`s an experience or injury that causes serious damage. In other words, a pain so intense it can`t fully be processed in the moment, so the pain continues long after the incident which caused it. Heather Heyer`s family is going through their personal pain at her memorial today. The Charlottesville community is trying to unite and heal after Saturday`s violence and the entire nation has spent days processing this weekend`s hate, until last night when that processing gave way because President Donald Trump made things much worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Donald Trump`s moral ambiguity about the violence that day and the apparently tacit support for some white supremacists was chilling. It was obviously wrong. And it was fundamentally traumatic because it prolongs and deepens this weekend`s pain because it risks emboldening criminal elements in this white supremacist movement and it was traumatic because it offers comfort and potential justification to those criminal perpetrators.

The President`s apparently spontaneous remarks also revealed that he, Donald Trump, who vowed never to be soft on crime, has now found one crime scene apparently warranting his compassion, the unambiguous crime scene where a man vowing hate, killed a woman preaching love. That is the setting where Donald Trump discovered maybe he`s soft on crime after all. There`s no way to rush healing this kind of trauma and we shouldn`t try. Before any healing there must be reckoning, there must be judgment, and there must be outrage. Today, we also learned Heather Heyer believed in moral outrage as her mother recounted at the memorial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER`S MOTHER: My child`s famous Facebook post was, if you`re not outraged, you`re not paying attention. She paid attention. She made a lot of us pay attention. Oh, my gosh. Dinner with her, we knew it was going to be an ordeal of listening and conversation and perhaps disagreement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Listening is vital right now. Listening to a mother mourning and listening to concerns around the nation, and listening to decide which of those concerns are legitimate. There are legitimate concerns. We in the press often note that. And listening for which concerns are not legitimate. And listening to the President Donald Trump, revealing himself. He is not the first American figure, of course, to traffic in hate while pretending otherwise and many people want to give them benefit of the doubt. Other people don`t. but let`s be clear. Now August 15th marks a before and after line where no intellectually honest person can claim they don`t know where Trump stands on these issues. And that`s not all. We can listen to Trump`s own aides.

Some of them say they were not surprised by this. They were only upset that Donald Trump`s apparently true views went public. Consider this galling report in the New York Times that Trump`s staff said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions the President had long expressed in private. Long expressed. For those Trump aides, apparently the problem is not coddling white supremacy, it`s getting caught doing it. Now we live in a hyperbolic era. We have to remind ourselves not every development is a turning point, not every story is breaking news. And Jefferson`s political advice is trues. Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle but some differences are about principle. It may be traumatic to confront a President violating our founding principle of equality but it is a trauma well worth tackling because of the alternatives, accepting hate or living a national lie, those alternatives are unacceptable. Thank you for watching, "HARDBALL" starts now.

END

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

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.