KASIE HUNT, MSNBC HOST: A brief programming note before we go. Do join Brian Williams, Rachael Maddow and Nicole Wallace for a special report, "A Nation In Crisis." They`re going to take a hard look at gun violence and domestic terrorism tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET, right here on MSNBC.
That`s all for MEET THE PRESS DAILY tonight. Chuck will be back tomorrow. And "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now.
Ari good evening.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Thank you Casey and thank you at home tonight for joining us on a day of mourning. America is still reeling from two mass shootings just hours apart as you know. We have special reporting on all of this tonight. We first begin with the facts as we know in this hour and they are grizzly.
A gunman killing 22 people after sharing a racist anti-immigrant screed opening fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Another gunman killing 9 by a bar in Dayton, Ohio. For many reflecting in all this here tonight, there are no words left because what is there to say.
But today was still another Monday, people still had to go to work and talk to each other and share their grief and their thoughts and their morning and discussed this tragic, unacceptable seemingly new normal.
Well, here`s one small way to stop and reflect on how unacceptable this reality is for our nation, for each other, for our children to acknowledge this level of violence occurs regularly itself is to know it`s wrong.
In fact that`s the simple point presented succinctly on the front page of today`s Boston Globe. This is what we`ve become. This is what we`ve become because this is reality. This is how we live now. To feel that reality and to know inside that it`s wrong is to maybe understand the beginning of how to change it.
So you don`t need a newscast to also know there`s no unity on solutions for all this in America right now. Top Democrats are invoking the shootings to make a somewhat unusual call, they`re demanding Republican leader McConnell interrupt the current summer recess to hold a vote on background checks.
And as a matter of political timing that itself continues on a little bit of the shift because for years many conventional politicians in both parties actually would repeat this talking point that the first reaction to these types of mass shootings should not be any call to particular action but there must be time for fact finding and grieving.
Well, now many politicians and many Americans say no, the general facts of the problem are well known. The grieving - the time for grieving, that`s become somewhat constant. And the time for real action, long overdue.
Take this crowd here at a vigil in Dayton, last night, shouting down the Republican Governor and telling him to just do something.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Do something. Do something. Do something. Do something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: These horrific mass murders, this mass terror, these mass shootings, they also knocked President Trump off the aggressive rhetoric and political battles that he has been waging, pretty much nonstop for the past two weeks straight.
We should note part of that rhetoric included laughing off a different felony, an attempted burglary at a home of a member of the U.S. Congress so he`s off that script right now and he turned to a speech condemning white supremacy with no mention of his own past rhetoric or the calls for gun control.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate. In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. We must stop the glorification of violence in our society.
This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You heard the rhetoric there newly shifted, a call to condemn white supremacy. But that was within a speech that didn`t fully condemn the white supremacy that`s been reported out from these very shootings.
For example minutes before this El Paso shooting, authorities tell us now that the shooters writing appeared in a twisted and hate filled post online. The New York Times analyzed it and their journalists reported that it matched Donald Trump`s own words and language about immigrants.
Today we also have coming into our newsroom a rare, public, detailed statement from President Obama. As you probably know, there a lot of things that he cares about that he worked on, he doesn`t speak out every time there`s an event even a killing, even a horrific event. But he spoke out and let me tell you exactly what he said because many see it as partly a rebuke to Donald Trump.
"We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments or suggests that other people including immigrants threaten our way of life or refer to other people as subhuman."
The former President went on to say, "it has no place in our politics in our public life. And it`s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill of every race and faith and political party to say as much - clearly and unequivocally."
I turn out to our special guest tonight, Antonio Villaraigosa, the former Mayor of Los Angeles. Victoria Defrancesco Soto, professor at the University of Texas. Mr. Mayor, what are you taking from what the President, the former President just said and where we go from here?
ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, FORMER MAYOR, LOS ANGELES: I think he`s right. The role of a leader is to unite us. I was elected, the first from my community in 133 years. I understood what the role was. The role of the first is to open up the door for the rest and to create a common thread of common unity if you will, a call for unity and I think that`s what we need right now.
And it`s unfortunate that the President of the United States hasn`t been that person who makes the call that we ought to, that we`re all Americans no matter what country we come from. That whether we were born here or not, we`re human beings and unfortunately what we get from the White House is a lot of rhetoric, hateful rhetoric against immigrants as we all know.
He started his campaign focusing on Mexicans as rapists and criminals instead of people that come here like people who have come from every corner of the earth to make America what it`s always held itself out to be, a place where we welcome people.
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS & MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So when President Obama was talking about the need to recognize the humanity because what happened a couple of years ago when Donald J. Trump descended from those escalators in calling Mexicans, rapists and drug dealers is the drip, drip, drip of dehumanizing immigrants, Mexicans, people who are not your typical white Anglo Saxon Protestants started there and it has continued.
So with that dehumanization, we become desensitized. Now at the top of the show Ari, you said, we`ve just become - this is normal. You know, the headline says we`ve gotten used to this and it`s not right so in the wake of this, what we do is we need to re-sensitize ourselves and media outlets such as MSNBC and others have been telling the stories of the victims who were shot over the weekend.
A father, parents, daughter and we need to not let go this. Keep bringing up the humanity because this is the only thing that is going to push up against the rhetoric that Donald Trump, others in his party keep pushing forward that ultimately ferment this.
Yes, gun laws can be tweaked. Yes, mental health but really at this moment I think we need to focus on the rhetoric and the need to ride the ship in terms of who we are as a nation, e pluribus unum.
MELBER: Yes, you lay that out and that relates to what everyone knows and whether being diplomatic or trying to rise above certain moments, is intention with acknowledging the way that Donald Trump has traumatized the country and the type of hate he`s uncorked and what he`s appealing to and we all know what it is.
Congressman O`Rourke who of course is running for President but served as a representative for El Paso hear and is tied to it was quite strong. I think as strong as we`ve ever seen him in public on this. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Is there anything in your mind that the President can do now to make this any better.
BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What do you think. You know the (bleep) he`s been saying. He`s been calling Mexican immigrants, rapists and criminals. I don`t know like members of the press what the [BLEEP]. Hold on a second. You know, I - I - it`s - it`s these - it`s these questions that you know the answers to.
I mean connect the dots about what he`s been doing in this country. He`s not tolerating racism, he`s promoting racism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOTO: It`s that rawness, it`s that emotion that I would hope most of us feel but I don`t know if everyone necessarily feels and it`s you know, it is this emotion that we hope will push leaders to do something but ultimately it comes down to us, Ari. It comes down to voters, to individual so we`re in the midst of ramping up to a Presidential election and elections have consequences.
So is the American public re-sensitized enough, are we shocked enough to do something to make a difference at the ballot box or has this become the new normal and Ari, I wish I could tell you one way or the other definitively but I don`t know. I don`t know if we`ve become too desensitized and Donald J. Trump could continue doing what he`s doing.
I hope it`s not but it is a possibility.
MELBER: Both of you, stay with me. I want to advance our conversation here and bring in a former police commissioner for both New York and Los Angeles, Commissioner Bill Bratton, an analyst for us here at MSNBC. Thank you for joining us.
BILL BRATTON, FORMER POLICE COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK & LOS ANGELES: Right, great to be with you and Mayor Villaraigosa.
MELBER: Yes, your former boss and in handling issues like this and threats like this and an ethnic strife. Where do we go from here, commissioner?
BRATTON: Well, the good news as we focus on the bad news is that from each of these incidents, we learn a lot. FBI has recently formed a special unit to really focus on this particular problem and it`s growth and what to do about it in terms of better capabilities to detect it as it`s growing and to improve their capabilities too in detecting it early enough to prevent it from happening.
So out of the negative comes the positive. I`m reminded of the early 1990s in our country during the midst of the worst crime years in the history of our country. 1990-91. There were so many who felt that nothing could be done. And a lot ended up being down in the nineties so that New York city today, 80 percent less crime that it had back in that era.
Nobody would have believed that. Similar to these issues as I look at it and basically try to deal with the grief around the tragedy. I deal with the grief by focusing on what might be done about it going forward and I look back to the successes in the nineties and as we go forward dealing with this issue, the white supremacists, a President who is insensitive to these issues, a total do nothing Congress.
I love the nickname today, Massacre Mitch going along with Moscow Mitch of last week. The sentiment is building up against his do-nothing Congress that doesn`t want to hear anything, see anything and say anything. While the fact that that Governor in Texas last night was shouted down by his constituents is going to send the message.
We need more shouting down of politicians who just come into these things and issue their platitudes but do nothing. So moving forward, I`m optimistic that out of these tragedies, that will come a foundation to move forward.
MELBER: Mayor Villaraigosa, take a listen to what we know rings so hollow in the President`s calls today which is how he sounds normally. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think there`s blame on both sides. - and you has some very bad people in that group but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.
Democrats want to invite caravan after caravan of illegal aliens to pour into our country, that`s an invasion. I don`t care what they say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VILLARAIGOSA: I think that`s probably why Beto got so upset. Is he a racist? Come on if you walk like a duck and talk like a duck. He`s been talking like this for years now from way back from the Central Park Five and so I think what`s important is what Chief Bratton just spoke to.
The FBI apparently has now created a task force that`s going to focus on domestic terrorism, particularly white nationalist domestic terrorist. We`ve seen a connection between the white nationalist manifesto in Gilroy, though a similar attribution in El Paso. I think we need to focus on what`s going on here with respect to this group.
You mentioned that it used to be that people didn`t raise the issue of what do we do in the beginning.
MELBER: You remember that.
VILLARAIGOSA: Right and I always acknowledged that but this as was mentioned, so many of these events that happened and I think it`s appropriate for us to say particularly when the President mentioned it, this morning, what are we going to do about universal background checks.
More than 80 percent of NRA members believe that we ought to have stronger universal background checks, straw purchasers, people who buy on behalf of others, who buy legally but buy illegally for others. There are a number of things you know, assault weapons ban. I was the author of the assault weapons ban in the 1990s and some of the toughest legislation in California when I was Speaker of the assembly.
We need a national one because what happens in California, you may have a ban in California but you can go to Nevada or Arizona to pick up those same weapons so we need to do something about this and I think the chief is right.
MELBER: We`re dis out of time but while I have you, Mr. Bratton, what about folks watching at home who are afraid? Afraid for their families, afraid of when the next shooting would be? What - what is the practical advice you give folks?
BRATTON: Practical advice would be to not be afraid, to be aware. I spend a lot of time today moving around the city. Bryant Park down in Herald Square, down by Madison Square Garden as I was out on the streets and people here in New York are going about their lives, they need to be aware.
They need to be angry about this and the fact that nothing is being done once again by the leadership of this country but in the sense of fear, cannot live in fear because then fear wins. No, be aware. Good news also is law enforcement is getting better at dealing with these incidents in terms of when they happen but also getting better at trying to detect them.
The focus always has to be on the prevention rather than satisfaction that we made an arrest or we stopped it. And the good news is the efforts by the FBI for example, the efforts certainly that I`m familiar with in Los Angeles and New York, the focus of the police on precision policing to prevent and take successes with the prevention rather than a response.
You have to have both but for the public, your public, people watching tonight, millions here in New York City, go about your lives, enjoy your lives but get angry about these incidents that take so many lives to make sure that effectively you don`t take the lives of your family going forward.
MELBER: Former Commissioner Bratton, former Mayor Villaraigosa, Professor Victoria Defrancesco Soto, thanks to each of you. Coming up, there is this growing pressure we were just discussing, we have the details on what is getting to Mitch McConnell, Senator and Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand is here on THE BEAT.
Later we`re going to look more deeply at the roots of this white nationalist rhetoric where the El Paso gunman found his "inspiration." Meanwhile calls for a new counter-terrorist strategy to better prevent these domestic attack, something that Barack Obama cited.
We`re going to speak to the head of the Everytown gun reform group about where we go from here. I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: In the wake of two mass shootings, Democrats demanding an Emergency session in the Senate on gun control, calling on Mitch McConnell to end the month long summer recess and hold a vote on a Background Check Bill that passed the House early this year.
2020 Dems are also focusing on the role of Donald Trump`s race baiting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think President Trump is a white nationalist?
O`ROURKE: Yes, I do.
JULIAN CASTRO (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s given a license for this toxic brew of white supremacy to fester more and more in this country.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The President has embraced white nationalists. When white nationalists embrace him and call him their friend, you know, I take them at their word on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by Democratic Senator and 2020 Presidential candidates Kirsten Gillibrand, thanks for joining me. What do we do now.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t know what Mitch McConnell`s waiting for. I don`t know what the Republicans in the Senate are waiting for. We should be heading back to Washington now to vote on common sense gun reform.
But unfortunately the greed and corruption of the NRA and the gun manufacturers have this forever chill cold. And Ari you know, we have to be honest about what this is. I mean we really have people fueled by hate, hunting down other humans with weapons of war. That`s what we`re dealing with.
And there`s no question what should be done. We should be back at our jobs, passing legislation to get these weapons of war out of the hands of people who seek to do harm.
MELBER: As we get into how it really works on the Senate floor, is this a situation you see where Mitch McConnell`s preventing a vote that would win or is this a situation where it would be important to push forward but you don`t know whether you have the votes?
GILLIBRAND: I think he needs to push forward because I can`t imagine another just spree of gun violence in this country like we`ve seen. We`re already on mass shooting number 31 and 32 in this year alone.
And we have a President who`s been spewing hate and division, finding moral equivalencies after Charlottesville, saying there are good people on both sides. He`s spurred on this white nationalism and this racism and it`s domestic terrorism. We have to call it what it is. And the fact that Mitch McConnell won`t stand up to President Trump.
The fact that other Republicans will stand up to Mitch McConnell, I don`t know where their spines are. I don`t know where their decency is. So I`d like to have a vote to see if they`re willing to do the right thing in the face of more and more gun deaths.
MELBER: The President spoke about rebuking white nationalism today as you know. He did not address or really in any way withdraw obviously his past statements, some of which we`ve mentioned the broadcast tonight. He also raised the spectre of video games as a driver of this that`s become more common among conservatives. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR DAN PATRICK (R), TEXAS: Look at this evil act and let`s condemn it for what it is, evil. Evil and I say how long are we going to like for example, and ignore it at the federal level particularly, where they can do something about the video game industry.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We watched from studies shown before, what it does to individuals. When you look at these photos of how it took place, you can see the actions within video games.
TRUMP: We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Your response.
GILLIBRAND: President Trump should stop his glorification of violence. When he`s at a rally in Florida and he says, we don`t know what to do these undocumented people. He wouldn`t use those words, illegal immigrants and someone shouts out shoot them, he laughs.
He literally laughs. When we have protests in Charlottesville, he says there`s nice people on both sides when people are screaming racial epithets anti-sematic epithets. He is the one driving this hate and this division and so he is the personification of the glorification of violence.
I think talking about computer games, talking about issues that are not related to the fact that we have a gun violence problem in this country. First, it was mental health. Now, it`s video games. Well, let`s look, we have video games and mental health issues worldwide but what makes America different?
The reason why we have so many massive gun shooting and gun death in this country is because the prevalence of weapons. The fact that these military style weapons can get into the hands of anyone and they should be reserved only as weapons of war for our war fighters who are intensely trained on these weapons. It shouldn`t be easy for any teenager to walk into a gun shop and buy a gun, particularly an assault weapon. They should be banned and the large magazine.
To have nine people die in less than a minute, that means you`re talking about a weapon of war they can deliver a round of fire that just kills people rapidly, that`s what it`s designed for. They should be banned.
MELBER: Senator Gillibrand, thank you for joining us on this, on this sad evening, I appreciate it. When we come back, we`re going to take a deeper look at this role of white nationalism in mass shootings and what`s fueling it and we have an expert from the Southern Poverty Law Center. We`ll be back in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: Tonight investigators continue to pour over these writings, the El Paso shooter apparently posted minutes before the deadly rampage and the document clearly anti-immigration, anti-government. We should note it also criticizes both Democrats and Republicans.
And while the writer claims that the views were formed before Donald Trump was elected President, the New York Times reports that it does match some of Trump`s language as well as the recurring language that we here in politics of a "immigrant invasion."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Deport criminal aliens and keep the coyotes and traffickers are drug dealers the hell out of our country please. But how do you stop these people? You can`t. There`s - That`s only in the panhandle you can get away with that statement. Only in the panhandle.
You look at what`s marching up, that`s an invasion, that`s not - that`s an invasion. It is an invasion you know that, I say invasion, they say isn`t that terrible? I don`t care what the fake media says that`s an invasion of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This morning President Trump condemned in a scripted speech in which he called racism and white supremacy. He made no mention of his own rhetoric that you just heard, race baiting, invasion, etcetera. It comes at a time that when experts say that the number of hate groups is growing from 784 documented in 2014 to over 1000 nowadays.
And I`m joined by Heidi Beirich, an expert on extremism and white supremacy from the Southern Poverty Law Center which monitors domestic hate groups and Jason Johnson Politics Editor for The Root. Heidi, how much does what we observe and what`s been documented in the murders over the weekend fit in with these larger patterns and the rhetoric we just heard on screen?
How much does that fit in in your view?
HEIDI BEIRICH, DIRECTOR OF INTELLIGENCE PROJECT, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, unfortunately Trump`s rhetoric of invasions, his other comments about Mexicans as rapists, et cetera is speaking directly to what white supremacists want to hear.
They have responded enthusiastically to this presidency. They`ve imbibed these ideas and you know at this point, the country has more hate groups, 1020 than it has - than the Southern Poverty Law Center has ever counted.
And it just shows how this kind of rhetoric is fueling this extremism in our nation.
MELBER: Jason, building on that point, the President obviously hit some sort of new approach, emphasis or message today and people can assess for themselves as we pointed out, how it contradicts what he said before and whether it`s genuine or not.
Here is how he used to describe his view of whether this white nationalism as documented was an actual problem in United States. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you see today white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?
TRUMP: I don`t really. I think it`s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that`s the case. I don`t know enough about it yet. They`re just learning about the person and the people involved. But it`s certainly a terrible thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: Yes it`s typical word salad from President Trump. Look, we already know who he is, Ari. We know that he is a terrorist sympathizer, that he has encouraged and not changed his dialogue or his rhetoric at all that encourages these groups.
We`ve got reports coming out of the Washington Post and New York Times today saying that FBI agents feel hamstrung to go into these kinds of investigations because they believe that this might be Trump`s base and they`re going to be in trouble. The president has pulled back funding from investigating these kinds of groups.
And there`s something else I want to point out here. There`s a bill sitting in the Senate right now, Senate bill 894. It`s been signed by Sanders, and Booker, and Klobuchar and Harris that is supposed to approach domestic terrorism specifically targeting white nationalists and it hasn`t moved at all.
And Mitch McConnell hasn`t moved it, and the president hasn`t moved it, and Senator Gillibrand hasn`t even signed on to it yet. There are methods on our disposal that we can use to address these issues. The president has done nothing practical in any shape or form, either rhetoric or policy-wise to address this rising terrorism threat that is a danger to white people as much as anybody else in this country.
MELBER,: And Heidi, do you think that the nation has a decent literacy on this, the stats that we mentioned the FBI saying the majority of these types of arrests are linked to white nationalism which is to say at least with regard to suspects and we can always note legally being a suspect doesn`t mean you did anything yet or you`ve been convicted, but as far as the threat that they`re tracking is it`s not other types of domestic crime, it`s not these other extremists -- ISIS is a huge problem internationally but the numbers show that its majority white supremacy linked suspects. Do you think we have the right literacy on that or not yet?
BEIRICH: I don`t think the country does have the right literacy on that. For so long terrorism has been frame as something coming from the Middle East, from ISIS, from al-Qaeda. But the fact of the matter is the number of domestic terrorist attacks where white supremacists are accused of fomenting the violence has been on the rise.
And in 2018, every one of those domestic terrorist attacks was committed by someone who`s connected to some of these racial ideologies. So this problem is on the rise and the kind of thing that most people think about when they think of terrorism which is Islamic extremism is actually on the decline at least if you look at the number of attacks.
And people don`t connect the dots here, right. Every time there`s an attack of some sort by an extremist Muslim, the idea is that these are all connected. But when an incident happens like happened in El Paso or the attack on the MAX train in Portland a couple of years ago, or Dylann Roofs attack in Charleston, they`re seen as one offs when in fact they also are a pattern. They`re connected by the ideology of white supremacy.
Melber: Heidi Beirich and Jason Johsnso, on this important aspect of the story we`re covering, thank you very much. I`m going to fit in a break. When we come back, I have a former top DOJ official calling for domestic terror to be treated, as we were just discussing, more like the prism of international terrorism.
Also the fight for gun control and the Murdoch owned New York Post coming out with this demand to ban assault weapons.
MELBER: The FBI says most domestic terrorist this year involved white supremacy and the bureau is also now warning about copycat attacks. "The FBI remains concerned U.S.-based domestic violent extremists could become inspired by these to engage in similar acts of violence." From a new statement, FBI Director Wray has also reportedly ordered the agency`s field offices to conduct new threat assessments that could thwart any future attempts at mass shootings.
FBI officials say they`re investigating 850 domestic terror cases, 40 percent allegedly motivated by race or religion. There are many questions and debates over how do you do this, how do you monitor it. Authorities had just about 19 minutes to track down the terrorists after his anti- immigrant writings appeared online. That`s not a lot of time.
So domestic terrorism be treated more similarly to these threat assessments and rapid responses of say ISIS? Director Wray testified recently domestic terror arrests are up, they are similar to international terror, and the majority are motivated as we`ve been covering tonight by, he says, white supremacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: Just in the first three quarters of this year, we`ve had more domestic terrorism arrests than the prior year, and it`s about the same number of arrests as we have on the international terrorism side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by Mary McCord the former Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department`s National Security Division who has been advocating specifically to make the domestic terrorism treated more like it is on the international footing, and Rick Stengel a former diplomat in the Obama administration.
Mary, walk us through what it means when the director says that and he`s using the sort of the careful law enforcement bureaucratic language but he`s using that hearing which was before all this to say, hey, this is mathematically as bad as the foreign stuff that`s treated as so ominous to many Americans.
MARY MCCORD, FORMER ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, NATIONAL SECURITY DIVISION: I think it`s really important that Director Wray did give that testimony and it`s a first step in really educating the public that terrorism -- the threat of terrorism in the United States is right now greater from white supremacists and far-right violence than it is from Islamist extremist violence.
Many people I think have thought historically and certainly since 9/11 they equate terrorism with Islamist extremists. And you know as the statistics that Director Wray just mentioned in his testimony really reveal that`s not -- you know, terrorists can be someone who commits a crime of violence for purposes of intimidation and coercion and to influence government policy through intimidation or coercion regardless of their ideology, whether it`s Islamist extremism, far-right extremism far left to extremism, but of course right now the threat is from the far right.
MELBER: And so -- and so when you when you lay that out, that`s a prism of how to think about it which is useful for any citizen who wants to be informed and especially important for law enforcement. What do you think would need to specifically change at more of a policy level?
So I think it is important you know, not only just to say those words and it`s good that Director Wray said those, it`s good that U.S. Attorney John Bash today in El Paso said that the attack there was an act of domestic terrorism.
But we don`t currently have a federal criminal statute that would apply that would -- called terrorism that would apply to the crimes in El Paso. That`s why U.S. Attorney Bosch quickly said we`re investigating these as hate crimes. These are different things. Hate crimes are important and they`re like a Venn diagram with domestic terrorism, but not all hate crimes are domestic terrorism and vice versa.
And so right now, there are a lot of terrorism offenses on the books. Those apply predominantly to terrorist attacks committed on behalf of or in furtherance of the goals of foreign terrorist organizations like ISIS, like al-Qaeda.
But if it is a crime committed in the United States and it`s based on an ideology that`s not associated with a foreign terrorist organization and it involves a firearm which is what most of the attacks involve or even a vehicle which we`ve also seen in Charlottesville and elsewhere, there is no terrorism crime that applies to that.
MELBER: Because of the missing foreign nexus that the law currently makes part of the trigger basically.
MCCORD: There are a variety of crimes and there are some -- and many of which are focused on this foreign nexus. Now, I do want to be clear, there are some that would apply to white supremacist violence but it means you need to be using a weapon of mass destruction like a bomb --
MELBER: Right, you get into the WMD -- the Boston thing, yes. Which again is a sort of this -- what is the statutory trigger and how outdated is it compared to what FBI Director Wray who is --
MCCORD: What we`re seeing.
MELBER: -- yes, what we`re seeing. And he was by the way appointed by Trump, what he`s saying. Let me bring a Rick Stengel. And Rick, I`m curious of your views on everything so open season but I wanted to specifically also get your reaction to something we touched on earlier in the hour which is your old boss President Obama not only doesn`t comment much, I think he takes a certain kind of civic pride in holding back.
We know he has strong views, he could weigh in on anything. He really holds back most of the time. He spoke out after Charlottesville, he spoke out today. The significance of that as well as anything else you want to touch on.
RICHARD STENGEL, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE: Thanks, Ari. In fact, I`m going to wholeheartedly endorse what Mary was talking about. There should be a domestic federal terrorism law. In fact, I would -- I would argue there should be a domestic terrorism czar.
One of the the subtext of what Mary is advocating, a lot of other people are as well, is that we need a whole-of-government effort against domestic terrorism just like we`ve had against international terrorism. The anti- ISIS group at the State Department was under me.
There were tremendous resources from all across government not just money but intelligence and other kinds of support against that effort. We need that same whole-of-government effort against domestic terrorism, just very clear to me. They`ve been many more domestic terrorist deaths since 9/11 than international terrorist deaths here in the U.S.
As far as what President Obama said today, I mean look, I`d love him to speak out even more. And I think he was moved primarily by the rhetoric that we hear coming from the Oval Office. I mean, here, you know, President Obama was absolutely a kind of almost infallible in terms of the way he conducted himself, his own rhetoric, his own positive rhetoric about American exceptionalism and all of that, and he`s looking at his successor who is actually by his rhetoric kind of promoting a kind of what stochastic terrorism in the sense that he is basically endorsing so many of these ideas that the -- that the white militias and these white terrorists have.
And in fact, I was just -- before I -- you know, the last thing I want to say is when I was editor of Time in 2010, we did a cover story about the rise of white militias. And the FBI and DHS all said that part of the reason they were growing during that time was because they were anti-Obama, because they were white supremacists and there was a black president.
So what we have now is he`s -- Barack Obama is gone and President Trump, his successor, is fueling those movements that grew under the eight years under President Obama.
MELBER: And let me read, Rick, for you a little bit as you mentioned. The president -- former President Obama saying the El Paso shooting appears to follow this dangerous trend embracing racist ideologies. People see themselves obligated, act violently to preserve white supremacy. And he calls on better strategies both in government and tech, Richard.
STENGEL: You know, it -- I mean never in our history you know, have -- had white terrorists have someone in the Oval Office who says you have a friend here in the Oval Office. I mean, that`s basically how they interpret it. I mean, they interpret what he is doing is a kind of dog whistle of support for what they`re doing.
And even today, I mean, it`s like you know, when he reads something from the teleprompter, it just doesn`t seem to represent his personal views. And I think you know, in all the clips that we -- that you`ve shown, and when you looked at this -- I won`t even call it a manifesto, I think it`s a mistake to call it a manifesto. They are screeds, the rantings of mad men, but they echo all of Donald Trump`s rhetoric.
MELBER: Richard Stengel and Mary McCord really digging into not only how to analyze this but where some of the changes might be need to be made in policy. I appreciate both of you on this tough night. Thank you.
As we mentioned, Democrats are still pleading with Republicans saying you must stand up to the NRA. Mitch McConnell under very serious new pressure over gun control when we come back.
MELBER: Now, we turn to some action. Tonight, Democrats uniting around a very specific plan to combat this weekend`s shootings, so demanding Republicans cancel the Senators recess to vote on a gun control bill after the shootings. There tend to be a lot of criticism of a politician. Sometimes there`s even this sense they don`t do anything about these issues.
Well, what top Democrats are emphasizing tonight is not only a call for action but that they were not waiting for another shooting to act in the first place. Speaker Pelosi made gun control one of the very first votes when Democrats took back over the House, passing enhanced background checks in the longer waiting period to ensure that those checks work. And this was in February just weeks into the new Democratic majority.
So tonight you have the Democrats basically calling for a vote and noting this isn`t from scratch. It`s basically just saying to Mitch McConnell, please finally hold a vote on those very bills we already passed in the House which he has not brought to the floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And now it is time to call those senators out and say what side are you on? Are you on the side of the NRA or are you on the side of those families that are burying their loved ones today? It is that raw of a choice.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The gun manufacturers working through the NRA managed to keep Congress from doing anything. That`s corruption and we need to fight it and we need to fight it now. Lives are at stake.
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Republicans need to quite frankly get their (BLEEP) together and stop pandering to the NRA because people are getting killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Tough talk for a tough challenge. McConnell prizes his A-plus rating from the NRA, but their clear signs the rise in shootings and a more aggressive stance on gun control might be changing the politics in some places in America.
Consider that state legislatures pass more gun control laws last year than any year since after Sandy Hook that NRA fundraising was down in 2016 and 2017, and that 93 percent of Americans now back these types of background checks for gun buyers.
Now, that last figure is the most striking. If nine out of ten Americans support these checks, that logically includes a lot of Republicans and gun owners. So when we put that back up on the screen, you see a wide majority for both, 89 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of gun owners supporting background checks.
We turn now to John Feinblatt President of Every Town for Gun Safety. Thanks for joining us. How much of this in the politics is about the timing because we all understand that the time is the most intense immediately. Do you think these votes will be more likely to pass if they were held this week as opposed to say months from now?
JOHN FEINBLATT, PRESIDENT, EVERY TOWN FOR GUN SAFETY: Look, if the president is serious, he should get Mitch McConnell on the phone and tell him to bring the Senate back and have a vote today. No more tweets, no more politics, it`s time for action.
MELBER: What about -- what if -- I`m just curious what you think of the question. I think that we should be reacting right now. That`s what the American public wants. You just put up on the screen that 90 percent of Americans support common-sense gun laws. They want action.
We are experiencing a public health crisis in this country. We`re at a point that parents have to do a risk analysis when their kids ask whether they can go to the mall or go to the movies. That`s not normal. It`s time to act. And when we hear from the president and we hear from others talk of movies, the internet, mental illness, those are just NRA talking points.
You know we live in a country with 25 times the gun murder rate of any developed country in the world. They listen to the same movies. They all use the Internet. They all play the same video games. The difference is that we`ve got just two easy access to guns in this country and it`s got to stop.
I think that August is going to be a really tough month for Republicans in the Senate because you are going to have parents, and teachers, and doctors, and activists from Moms Demand Action at every town hall, at every district office, at every country fair --
MELBER: Yes, that`s s sort of -- that`s part of -- the question I`m trying to engage you on is I`m just curious because you`re in this fight and you`re an activist in this fight, is the better tack to have to get them back from recess and have this vote the week of the mass shootings and try to use the pressure that way or is it to flood the zone out there and put pressure on for weeks and then bring them back.
And the reason why I asked that is I think -- the reason why I asked that is to explain my thinking. I think a lot of viewers -- we just showed the stats. Nine out of tem people watching agree with you. So we know -- so we know that. And I`m asking --
FEINBLATT: Americans are ready for action. So the action --
MELBER: Right, I know, exactly. So given that, we`ll put it up on the screen, the logjam seems to be how do you convert 90 percent support on this issue in a way to move Mitch McConnell or whomever because in the past, Sandy Hook, et cetera, it hasn`t quite landed on winning votes. I`m curious if there is a strategy or a breakthrough that you have in mind here, given, again, in all fairness to you, most people agree with you.
FEINBLATT: Most people agree with us, but this is not a problem of the public, this is a problem of politics. And elected officials have to understand if they don`t act, and don`t act quickly, they`re going to be thrown out of office.
2020 is around the corner, and I think that the grassroots is going to make it very clear to them that they`ve got a choice. It`s a pretty stark choice. You can side with the NRA or side with the public and keep our children safe.
MELBER: And you think this is a top voting issue for people in 2020 if there is no action?
FEINBLATT: Just look at the midterms. Look at suburban swing districts and how the issue of gun safety brought out voters and were part of why the House flipped Democratic. I think the lessons are very fresh and we don`t have to go back very many months to look at that.
In states that some people thought were red and purple, in Georgia, in Colorado, gun safety candidates went into suburban districts and won and unseated Republican incumbents on the issue of gun safety.
MELBER: Well, as we`ve been reporting tonight, there`s a lot of facts on this side and there`s a lot of folks who want this to change. So John Feinblatt, we know how much you`ve been working on it. I really appreciate you letting us into a little bit of your strategy and what you`ve been working on. Thank you, sir.
FEINBLATT: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Absolutely. I`ll have you back. I appreciate it. And we will be back with one more thing.
MELBER: Thanks for sticking with THE BEAT during our coverage. We will be back tomorrow night, 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Also I want it tell you a programming note, 9:00 p.m. tonight Eastern time, an MSNBC special, "A Nation In Crisis" airs right here on MSNBC.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END